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Whipping Boy

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If there was one thing that Sam Braddock knew for sure it was that when his girlfriend reached a certain level of anger, she rivaled the Valkyries themselves in her fury.  He also knew that there were some days when nothing he said could make anything better.  And today had been a very bad day. 

No one had ever accused Sam of quitting while he was only a little far behind.

“Jules, it wasn’t your fault – and no, I still do not feel sorry for you.  You did more than any other person could have; the ending was written weeks ago, the second her son was killed.”

It was a miracle that when she whirled on him she didn’t pull her gun. Not that she would need it to do him some serious harm if she decided to, especially since he could never bring himself to raise a hand against her.  No matter what she might try and do to him.

“Not my fault.  Not my fault… Not my fault!  Goddamn right it’s not my fault!  If anyone is at fault here it’s you!  So sure all the time that you know what to do, how to plan, who to trust.  Well you sure as hell fucked up today, didn’t you?”

Damn, that had hit below the belt.  Sam hoped his warning to the team to stay out of the women’s locker room, despite any possible yelling they might hear, would hold.  The last thing he needed was Ed or Greg coming in and trying to talk her down from her adrenaline high.  Over the years as Jules’ friend and lover, Sam had learned the smallest nuances of her moods and how to best use his own strengths to uphold or combat them.  Today he was down range with her not as the man she loved, but the man best equipped to diffuse the situation.

Growing up with his father had given Sam a lot of baggage – positive and negative.  Along with difficulties forming lasting bonds, fear of rejection, and hypersensitivity to political facades, he had also gained a large amount of trust in his own decisions and the ability to generally ignore words spoken in anger.  The woman in front of him challenged every single one of those insecurities and strengths, but at the end of the day she was worth every difficult second.  Because of that, he was willing to give her the one thing she really needed.  A whipping boy.

And so as she continued to rage on, he stood firm and took every angry word she threw out at him.  He continued without reaction until she threw the first punch.  Carefully he put up a block, twisting around to gently wrap his arms around her while using her momentum to spin her so that her arms were trapped between their bodies.  Her fists still tried to beat against his chest, but he kept his hold tight enough to restrict her movement.

Leaning down so his mouth was near her ear he murmured soothingly, “Jules, I need you to listen to me.  We can’t do this here.  Do you hear me?  We can’t do this here – I’ll get us home and we can finish this there, but you have to hold it together for a little while longer.  You don’t want them to see you like this.  Please, just let me get us home and I swear to you we’ll finish this.”

He held his breath as her movements stilled, the tension still drawing her frame as taut as an overstretched rubber band.  At the feeling of her head inclining briefly against his chest, a little of his stress fell away.  It was a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. 

Slowly, very slowly, he released his arms from around her and stepped back, watching closely to make sure she wasn’t going to come after him again.  When she continued to hold herself stiffly aloof, he sighed softly and nodded once, maintaining eye contact.

“Can you get your stuff together in five minutes?  I’ll meet you by the jeep.”

Pulling the keys from his pocket, he flashed them in front of her, ensuring she recognized that she couldn’t leave without him this time.  Despite her skill and love of the fight in most situations, occasionally his lover got a certain look in her eyes that said she was ready to try flight for a change.  It wouldn’t be the first time she had run before he could get to her in a tense situation.

Her eyes flashed in response but she wordlessly turned and started getting her gear stored and her bag packed to go home.  Reluctantly he left her, going to face the concerned men of their surrogate family.  An unexpected perk of their relationship becoming official within the team would be his ability to come right out and deal with the situation the way he’d wanted to so many times before but been unable to because it would endanger their secret.

Walking into the conference room, Sam rubbed the back of his neck as the tension began building in it again with the pointed looks of his teammates.  Ed and Greg shared a look before the Sergeant turned to fix his level gaze on the weary younger man.

“Will you all be ready for a briefing soon, Sam?” he asked softly, well aware of the accusations his colleague had been fielding since going in to deal with Jules.  Her temper and control needs had long been stuff of legends around the SRU teams, but it seemed no one understood how deeply those things affected her.  Except for this man.

“Sarge, I really just need to get her home.  If the brief could wait until tomorrow…?” he trailed off hopefully, sneaking a quick glance back at the still closed door.

“Are you sure that’s a good idea?  She needs to understand that this isn’t anyone’s fault, especially not yours,” Ed responded.  The concern on his face brought a small smile to Sam’s thinned lips and she softly shook his head.

“She knows that already.  You make her sit and talk about it before she’s ready, she’ll bottle it up and there’s no telling when it’ll finally come out.  She blames herself but knows she shouldn’t – we all have that thing that tears us up inside no matter what we do, whether it’s guilt, insomnia, paranoia, you name it.  This is hers.  She needs to ride it out.”

The confidence in his voice surprised the older men.  They usually looked at Sam as the comic relief of the team, the impulsive hothead, the cocky attitude to cover up real insecurities.  Bringing their relationship into the open was demonstrating to the team just how many things they didn’t see inside their closest friends.  This transformation as much as anything Sam had said encouraged Greg to acquiesce with a nod that sent Sam to grab his gear and double time it to the jeep.  Never know if she might decide to hotwire the thing if he was late.

Jules appeared by the vehicle as he was stowing his bags in the back and he wordlessly took hers and set them in beside his own.  Even her icy countenance couldn’t stop the small thrill inside him at seeing their tactical bags nestled together, ready to go home.

The ride home felt interminable with the stony silence Jules maintained, something Sam knew from experience was just the calm before the storm.  Pulling up in front of her house, she was out like a shot and in the building before he could even open his door.  He hoped she made for the new punching bag this time.  They had just bought new dishes after the last set met an untimely end – although to her credit, he had been the one who first suggested they see if the resulting crash of a well-aimed pitch into the brick wall would be as satisfying as he imagined.  Luckily neither one had very expensive taste in glassware. 

Sure enough, as he entered the house he could hear the telltale sounds of her fists and feet hitting the bag.  Resting against the kitchen counter, he pulled out a container of greek yogurt and waiting for the sounds to slow.  Just as he finished the last bite, the hits began to grow fewer and further between until there was an unnatural silence hanging over the house.  Tossing the empty container, he shoved himself off his perch and noiselessly padded to find the woman he loved.

When he found her, Sam felt his heart break just a little at the sight.  Jules had sunk down to the floor, desperately clutching onto the bottom of the bag, sobbing and occasionally smacking the heel of her hand into the bright red material.  He knelt in front of her, carefully reaching out and ghosting his fingertips across the one or two cut knuckles she’d sustained from taking on the punching bag without bothering to put on gloves.  She squeezed her eyes tighter as his arms encircled her, lifting her into his embrace as her hands involuntarily clenched into his shirt.

Sam cradled her against his chest, moving them swiftly to their bedroom before depositing his precious bundle on the bed.  Toeing off his shoes he joined her, noting she’d at least remembered to remove her own before starting with the bag. Without much effort behind her hands, she ineffectually smacked at his chest as he moved in to surround her body with his own larger frame.  The soothing noises he made were utter nonsense, but the tone and sound of his voice combined with the vibrations in his chest slowly started to calm Jules out of her frenzy.

“It could have been your fault,” she muttered obstinately, pulling him closer at the same time.

“I know, sweetheart, I know,” he murmured in response.

His lips brushed across her hair and forehead, soothing against her temple before beginning to ignite a passion as they pressed lightly along her jaw, teasing the column of her neck before he lifted his head to capture her lips in a gently passionate kiss.  Hands caressing her back and slipping under her shirt to warm the skin of her stomach took her mind out of the endless circle of guilt she was trapped in, and she let her own hands bury in the blonde hair of the man she loved.  Quickly divesting her of her clothing, he lounged on his side next to her, hands and lips teasing her breasts before one hand slipped lower to brush along the juncture of her thighs.

Arching into his touch, Jules vaguely acknowledged his sharp intake of breath when he realized how wet she was for him already.  His fingertips began strumming a familiar pattern against her flesh as her breathing grew ragged, one then two of his fingers slipping inside her to massage her inner walls.  Just as she began to reach her peak, though, she felt him pull back.

Jules opened her eyes, dark irises seeking out and locking with the shockingly blue eyes that had secretly captivated her from day one.  He saw the questions in her eyes and picked up his ministrations again, holding her gaze as he felt her begin to tense in a way he knew all too well.

“You wanna come apart, baby, you gotta do something for me first.  Tell me what’s really wrong, tell me how you feel, just get it out.  We’re almost there, sweetheart, just one little thing for me.”

His voice was husky with desire, his mouth hot against her breast, and his fingers continued to slide against her to maintain her high.  And suddenly it didn’t seem like such a huge catastrophe to speak the words to him.

“I thought I had it under control.  I thought I was going to save her, but I was wrong and it all went to hell and I still don’t understand how it happened!” she sobbed out, half in remembered distress and half in pure pleasure.

“That’s it, baby girl, you just lay it down on me now, I’ll carry it for a while.  You did so good.  Are you ready to fly?”

She gasped out an affirmative and then couldn’t even think as he expertly twisted his fingers, increased the pressure of his thumb, and grazed his teeth across her nipple all at the same time.  Coming apart in his arms, she clung to him as she used his warmth as an anchor.  Moments later she began tugging his clothing off, frantic to have him inside her, making her feel real and alive again.  He complied willingly, settling into the cradle of her thighs and seeking the welcoming heat of her body.  Sliding into her always felt like coming home.

Breathlessly, the two moved against each other, perfectly in harmony as they began this climb together.  Nearing their climax, Sam moved to kiss the shell of her ear, whispering, “Tell me it wasn’t your fault.  Tell me you know that, deep inside where it counts.”

The tears streaming down her face were healing and she clutched him tighter to her as she responded, “I know it wasn’t my fault.  I do.”

“I love you, Jules,” his soft voice murmured as she fell to pieces around him.  He followed her immediately after – he would follow her anywhere.

“Copy that,” she answered as he flipped them so her body nestled into the planes of his.

“Jules,” his voice teasingly warned.

“Oh, fine,” she muttered, pretending to be put out by his insistence.  “I love you too, Samtastic.”

“Thank you ever so much, my good lady,” he exclaimed good naturedly, reveling in the feeling of holding her so securely against him within his arms.  Moments like this, he knew that no matter what they would be ok.

“Thank you, my angel,” she whispered softly, pressing a kiss to his chest as a small smile graced her lips for the first time in several hours.  Yeah, things would be just fine, he could tell.