A/N: Thanks for your reviews; sorry for the delay as always.
The next morning, Johanna was awakened by the morning sunlight hitting her in the face. She kept her eyes closed, reluctant to turn her back to the window when she was so comfortable in her spot. She could smell her husband's scent on the sheets and she allowed it to fill her senses while sleepily wondering how awkward things would be between them because of it…but then again, she hadn't told him that he could sleep in bed with her in the first place.
He'd probably expect her to be mad…but she wasn't. How could she be mad when he had been there in the midst of her nightmare? How could she be mad when he had held her, murmuring words of comfort as she cried herself back to sleep? It had felt so good to be in his arms even though she had been upset. Johanna breathed deeply, stretching her hand out in search of him; wanting nothing more than to touch him…to let him know that she wasn't mad that he had climbed in bed with her. But her hand found only empty sheets that no longer held his warmth.
Johanna's eyes opened, seeing the empty space next to her. Her heart thudded against her ribs as she sat up; her eyes searching the room but finding it void of his presence. There was no note on the nightstand…and her phone was laying forgotten in the living room. Jim was gone…again. Tears filled her eyes before she could even think of heading them off. How many times was he going to break her heart before she learned not to give in too easily? She pulled her legs up against her, lowering her head as she let her tears fall. She was lost in her thoughts and the new hurt spreading across her heart and didn't notice the bedroom door being pushed open.
"What's wrong, sweetheart?" Jim asked gently as he moved to her side.
Her head jerked upwards at the sound of his voice. Before she could form a response, he was wiping her tears away. "Did you have another nightmare?" he asked.
"Yeah," she said with a nod; not wanting him to know that she had thought that he had left her again.
"I'm sorry," he murmured. "You seemed like you were sleeping peacefully when I woke up so I wanted to make you breakfast. I was just coming in to wake you."
"You made breakfast?" she asked as she tried to get her emotions back under control.
Jim nodded. "Yeah; but it can wait for now; it's keeping warm. Do you want to talk about these bad dreams you were having? Is it because I'm here?"
Johanna shook her head. "No; I don't want to talk about it and you being here doesn't have anything to do with it."
"Does it happen a lot?" he asked; having a feeling that her nightmares involved him and the lie they had been living for so long.
"Sometimes," she murmured, her gaze lowering to the sheets.
"Are you sure you don't want to talk about it? Maybe they'd go away if you did," Jim suggested as he took her hand.
"No…not today. I should get up...you made breakfast. Will it be okay for a few more minutes?"
"Yeah, go do your morning routines," he told her. "I have it keeping warm in the oven."
She nodded. "I'll be there in a few minutes."
Jim squeezed her hand. "I'll be in kitchen."
Johanna wiped away the remaining moisture on her cheeks and pushed herself out of bed as her husband headed back for the kitchen. She made her way into the bathroom, breathing deeply as she tried to settle herself. He hadn't left her…and if she had just gotten up and gone to the bathroom, she would've seen his overnight bag pushed up against the door of the linen closet. She raked her hands through her hair; how long was it going to take to get over the fear of him disappearing again?
Jim waited patiently in the kitchen until he heard her footsteps and then he hurried to get the plates out of the oven and onto the table. He grabbed the coffee pot and poured them each a cup a cup of coffee, adding cream and sugar to hers as she liked…at least he hoped she still liked it the way he remembered. Her footsteps were closer and he looked up in time to see her cross the threshold of the kitchen, still clad in her daisy printed nightgown but she had pulled her thin black robe on to cover her arms. "Are you ready to eat?" he asked, a small amount of nerves making their presence known in his stomach and he couldn't help but feel ridiculous for it.
"Yeah; I'm ready," she said softly as she moved to the table, noticing the three red roses lying next to her plate. "Where did these come from?"
"I bought them this morning," Jim told her. "I went into town to get them…and bacon because you didn't have any."
Her eyes closed at the sight of bacon on her plate beside the scrabbled eggs; a pang racing through her. She hadn't had bacon on her plate since sometime in early January 1999 and she wasn't sure she could eat it now either.
"Is something wrong?" her husband asked.
She swallowed hard. "I…uh…I just…I haven't bought bacon in a long time."
His brow furrowed. "Why?"
"Because it was your favorite," she allowed herself to admit. "I just…I couldn't look at it and I couldn't eat it. It's stupid, I know…but I just couldn't."
A weighted breath slipped across his lips; he was already blowing this again. "I'm sorry, Jo…I wouldn't have gone and got it if I had known it would upset you. I'm sorry."
She shook her head. "It's not your fault. It's mine for allowing myself to have a stupid aversion like that."
"It is my fault," he replied; "And I'm sorry…for that aversion coming to be and for giving it to you this morning. Upsetting you wasn't what I was going for."
"I'm not upset…it's very sweet of you to make me breakfast. You didn't know…and maybe it's time I got over it."
"I'm still sorry."
"It's okay," she said, conjuring up a small smile for him. "Why are there three roses instead of just one?"
He sighed a little, feeling like a fool as he looked at the bacon on his own plate.
"Jim?" she murmured as she picked up her fork; "Please don't worry about the bacon. It's fine. Tell me why you gave me three roses?"
Jim took a drink of his coffee, allowing the hot liquid to soothe the lump he had in his throat. "The first one is the one I should've brought you last to apologize for last week…and the second one is to apologize for forgetting to bring the rose."
"And the third?"
He reluctantly met her eye. "That's to apologize for being presumptuous last night when I got into bed with you. I didn't ask if I could…you were more asleep than awake when I walked you to bed. I'm sorry; I know I probably crossed a line."
"Did I say I was mad about it?"
"No; but I figured I better have the rose anyway just in case."
"I'm not mad about it, Jim…but if you thought I would be; why did you do it?"
"Because I didn't want to let you go," he said quietly. "I was falling asleep on the couch with you…it's been a long time since I got to hold you…and I just didn't want to let go. I just wanted to be next to you…and then you woke up in the middle of the night from some bad dream and I thought maybe it was a good thing I was there…but then I thought you might think differently this morning."
"Why?" she asked quietly as she picked up a forkful of eggs.
"Because…you know…that starting over thing," Jim answered. "I'm not entirely sure what I'm allowed to do or not do…and I keep in mind that you might not want me that close yet….there have been those touching issues."
"I let you get close to me on the couch," Johanna replied; her eyes on her plate for the moment, hoping that she wasn't rushing things despite the fact that she had given in to the urge to curl up against him the night before as they watched TV. "I told you that you could stay here."
"Yeah…but you didn't tell me where I could sleep."
"So you slept where you usually do when you're here," she said with a slight shrug.
"Yeah…but…you're not used to me sleeping there anymore," he replied; hating that it had ever become that way.
"It's not like you tried to take my clothes off," Johanna remarked.
Jim shook his head. "No, I didn't do that…if you asked me to I would, but you didn't ask."
"I don't recall you always asking before," she couldn't help but quip.
"True…but it was always an unspoken mutual agreement and I know you haven't given me any green lights for anything like that."
"No, I haven't…not at this point," she told him; not wanting him to think that she didn't still want him in that way; she did…but they couldn't rush into that right now.
"I know…and I respect that," Jim replied; "And I don't want you to think I was being pushy or trying to work up to it…so I thought I better apologize for being presumptuous."
"I don't want an apology for it," Johanna told him. "I'm not mad…and I know we didn't discuss sleeping arrangements…and that we do need to start over in a lot of ways…but…"
Emotion tugged at her, stinging her eyes as she blinked rapidly. "But…I was glad you were there last night. It felt good…despite having a bad dream in the midst of it."
"I was glad to be there too…especially when you had a bad dream," he said quietly. "It was always my job to make those go away for you…and I have a lot of time to make up for in that area."
She gave him a small smile. "I know…and I don't want to give you mixed signals…but just because it was alright last night doesn't mean that I'm going to just rush through this…it doesn't mean…"
"It doesn't mean that I can come home," Jim finished for her. "I didn't think for a minute that it did…no matter how badly I want it."
"I want it too," she replied; "I swear to you that I do…but we have work to do before that can happen, Jim. We have to start over like I said."
"I know," he replied with a sigh of resignation. "I can't promise you that I won't get impatient once in awhile."
"You always were impatient," Johanna remarked. "It's not like it's something new…but I can't promise that there won't be moments when I feel like I need to pull back a little so that I don't rush into something before I'm ready."
He nodded. "You always were like that…that's why it took us three years to get together."
"No; that's why it took us three years to sleep together…the rest of it was you."
Jim considered that for a moment. "Okay; I'll give you that one."
"Like you had a choice."
He smiled a little as he picked up a piece of bacon and took a bite. "It's good to see that you haven't changed, sweetheart."
Something swept across her features that he couldn't quite identify as she met his eye. "I have changed in some ways…at least that's what plenty of people tell me," she said quietly.
"If you have; it's not going to be anything that makes a difference to me," Jim remarked with conviction. "You're still my girl, Jo."
Her throat tightened. "I hope so."
"You are…I know we have a lot to make up for…but I'll make it work, I promise."
She didn't doubt his determination, but she suddenly felt awkward; unsure of what to say or do now that she had given him an inch. She didn't know how to do this…she was afraid of moving too quickly…afraid that he'd give up on her after awhile.
"Is the breakfast that bad?" Jim asked; desperate to break the silence that had fallen over them while she pushed her food around her plate.
Her head jerked up. "What?"
"You stopped eating…is it that bad?"
"No, of course not," she replied. "It's good…I just haven't had much of an appetite lately."
"I guess I'm to blame for that," Jim replied.
"Not all of it…I've had things on my mind even before you showed up that day."
"What kind of things?" he asked.
"Trying to find some way to feel better," Johanna admitted. "Feeling like I'm stuck…wanting to break free of some things…wanting people to respect what I think and feel and the way I am."
"Who isn't respecting you?" Jim asked. "Is it me?"
"No…it's not you…it's a lot of people but it isn't you."
"You can tell me," he encouraged; "Just like you always did."
She pondered that for a moment; she was the one that told him he needed to start acting interested in her life. "It's mostly work," she admitted.
"Who's bothering you at work?"
"A lot of people," she said with a scoff.
"I need names; is it the goon?"
"He's on the list," Johanna said with a nod. "Sharon is a lot of it."
Jim nodded. "Does she know?"
"I'm pretty sure she's aware of the fact that she annoys the hell out of me but she doesn't care," she remarked.
"No," he said with a quiet laugh. "I meant does she know about me?"
Johanna shook her head. "No; I haven't told anyone at work yet. I don't know how to tell them at the moment…and then with the way things have been the last week; I thought maybe it was best that I hadn't. I didn't know if you had changed your mind about me or not."
"I could never change my mind about you, Jo," he murmured. "You never have to worry about that."
"But I do," she said, meeting his gaze; "What if I have changed in some ways?"
"It doesn't matter…I'm sure we've both changed in small ways…but it isn't going to make me stop loving you."
She hoped that was true but she refrained from commenting by taking another bite of her breakfast. Jim noticed that she hadn't touched the bacon on her plate but he didn't say anything; desperate to keep the conversation in somewhat safe waters.
"Are you going to tell them?" he asked.
"Of course…I just haven't decided when but it'll be soon," Johanna remarked; although she was dreading it.
He wanted to ask how she thought they'd take the news but he thought better of the question; it was one best kept to himself. "So what's the deal with Sharon?" he asked; reminding himself of that lesson he had learned long ago about showing interest.
"Same thing as always; she thinks she can run my life better than I can," she said, a slight edge in her tone as she stabbed her fork into a piece of sausage. "Only it's worse now than ever."
"Maybe it's time you stop putting up with it. I know you've been friends since you were seventeen…but, sweetheart; sometimes Sharon hasn't exactly been the best friend you needed."
"I know…I guess it's hard to let go in some ways when it's been that long…but lately it's all I think about…just cutting her off and being done because I just can't stand the way she acts anymore."
"Is she still with Phil?"
"Of course…although she's already caught him having an affair once…and I've heard affair number two is in the works. Jeff told me that; he spotted Phil and his new assistant out somewhere and he said it wasn't professional at all."
"I hate to tell you this but it wouldn't be Phil's second affair," Jim remarked. "He had one long ago…a short lived one, but one none the less."
"I don't remember the exact date but it was the early nineties."
"Why didn't you ever tell me?"
Jim shrugged. "It wasn't my business. I didn't approve of it; don't think that for a minute…but I just wanted to pretend I didn't know in case he got caught."
"I'm not surprised that he's done it before," Johanna admitted. "He just seemed like the type."
"Oh he is…I guess that hasn't changed."
"No; definitely not."
"I'm sorry that Sharon has apparently gotten worse with age," Jim commented.
"Me too…but I probably should've figured it would end up that way."
"Who else is bothering you?" he asked as he took another bite of his breakfast.
"Mark," she said with a sigh of disgust.
"What does he do that upsets you? I know you did tell him to go to hell on the phone that morning at the hotel when he called to see why you weren't at work."
"He called to accuse me of lying to Sharon about why I wasn't at work…and yeah, I did…but it was my business and how do they know if I felt well or not? They're not in my body."
Jim nodded. "That's true; they don't know how you feel and they have no right to call you a liar just because you were fine the day before; you can be fine one minute and have the flu or something the next. It's not so unheard of. What else has he done though?"
"He just annoys me…they all do. It's not important."
"It is to me," he replied. "I want to know…just like I always wanted to know. If people are hurting you, I need to know about it."
"Mark…and to some extent, Cathy; well…they're more people who think they should police me. If I don't show up in the office by the exact moment that he thinks I should, he calls Katie. They all call Katie…and I hate that. Any time I do something they don't like, they call Katie…like she's my mother. He polices my case load; tells me if he thinks its too much…or passes me over for cases that are my specialty if he thinks I have too many cases to handle in his opinion. There was a case I wanted last fall…I wanted it really badly; it was a case involving maids suing a hotel and I've had success with that kind of case before…"
"I remember," Jim said with a nod. "You did several cases like that involving maids, you had a reputation for it…when we were at Roche, there were several of them that sought you out after the first wins in that vein."
Johanna nodded. "Yeah…I wanted it…and the jackass wouldn't give it to me. He said with my case load at the time it would require me working extra hours and I'd get too run down and so on and so forth. So he gave it to Adam Lancaster…and he blew it…so I went behind Mark's back and went to the maids in question and told them I'd be more than happy to handle their appeal…which I did…Mark was pissed."
"Did you get the appeal?"
"Did you win?"
She glanced up from her breakfast and smiled. "Of course…because I actually found the evidence to back up the claims unlike Adam who thought they were just a bunch of fanatical feminists. Mark didn't even care that it was a big win, not only for the maids but for the firm…he was just pissed that I took the case without his permission."
"Why would he be this way?" Jim asked. "It doesn't make any sense. Why does he try to keep control of your caseload?"
Johanna hesitated; she didn't want to tell him about her spirals…if she did, he might look at her differently and too many people already did that. She didn't want her husband to think she was weak and needy too.
"Jo?" he prodded.
She shifted slightly in her chair. "I tried to drown in work for a period of time after you…" she trailed off.
"It's not so unusual for a person to do when they're going through something."
"I just needed something to focus on…just thought if I was constantly focused on work I wouldn't have time to dwell…but I dwelled anyway…and I drowned in work a little too well."
"What do you mean too well?"
"It caught up with me."
He eyed her. "In what way?"
She sighed deeply and raked a hand through her hair; this conversation was getting too close to full disclosure. "I had to take some time off, okay?"
Jim nodded; reading between the lines to drop the topic. His wife had secrets and she wasn't ready to share them with him. It annoyed him in a small way but he supposed that he couldn't blame her. She was unsure about things…maybe she was afraid that it would change the way he felt about her.
"Mark thinks I'm not the person I used to be," Johanna said softly; breaking the silence that had fallen over them. "But I don't think they're the people they used to be either…at least when it comes to me. They think that because I didn't take losing you well that I am…someone that needs to be watched and pitied and reported. They've been hounding me for years to date…to get over you…to quit wearing my wedding rings…but I couldn't do those things. They think I'm bitter…and maybe in some ways I am…how can I not be? But everything else they think of me I don't feel I deserve."
"Why do you let them get away with it?"
"I don't take it lying down…at least not for awhile now…but maybe in the beginning there were times when I felt like I deserved it so I didn't say anything. Of course it doesn't seem to matter if I say anything or not…they look at me the same way. It's not everyone…Maggie and Sally and Isabelle; they treat me the same as always; so do a few others that I've been friends with for a long time. Your friends treat me the same as always; they've never changed in any regard toward me even when I wasn't at my lowest points. But the friends I work with…they don't treat me the same."
"Maybe they're not your friends, Jo."
She gave him a small smile. "I think that all the time…I've even said it once or twice but they think I'm just being a bitch."
"They're not your friends," Jim repeated; "And I think you know it…it's just hard to cut those ties…but you have to put them in their place, Sassy," he told her with a smile; "And then I'll come punch Mark for you…and the goon too…because he needs to learn that he can't have my wife."
"I'm almost tempted to let you."
"Say the word and it's done, sweetheart."
"If it gets too bad, I will…and I'll pay your bail," she said lightly.
"I'm not worried," he replied; giving her a grin.
Silence settled over them once more as they finished their breakfast and Johanna figured that she should probably even things out a little even if it did hurt to ask about his life in Virginia. "Did you like your job in Virginia?" she asked; her tone quiet, her fingertip tracing the rim of her coffee mug.
"Not being in the courtroom took some getting used to," he admitted; shifting a little as he hadn't expected her to ask about his life in Virginia. "But once I got used to it; I did like it…it was different but familiar all the same. I like doing the case building and letting someone else have the stress of presenting it."
"That's mainly what Jeff does now; consulting and case building. He told me I should keep it in mind."
"It's not bad work…a little less stressful knowing it's going out there without your name attached to it."
"I remember your speeches about cases having your name attached to them when we were working together," she said wryly.
Jim smiled a little. "Don't worry; you always took me down a peg when I'd start that."
She nodded. "I pretty much had to…I didn't want you to be impossible."
"You always kept me balanced, Jo."
"Not always," she said with a shake of her head. "There were times when I couldn't get through to you."
"I guess that's true in some cases…but your victories are far more than your losses."
"Did you like the people you worked with?" Johanna asked.
"For the most part…one of the higher ups reminded me of Stanley though and that wasn't pleasant."
"I wouldn't think it would be."
"It must be some kind of law of the universe that every firm have a creature like Stanley."
"I shudder at the thought," Johanna said before taking a sip of coffee. "You had friends at work?"
"I didn't really get close to people, Jo."
"You had to have talked to someone."
"I guess you could say that I had a few friends."
"A best friend?"
He shrugged. "He wasn't Jeff but Chuck was good to watch a game with or play golf with…things like that…but like I said…he wasn't Jeff."
"Nobody can be Jeff," she quipped.
"True," he laughed before turning serious; "And no one can be you."
"No one can be you either," she murmured before getting up from the table to clean up from breakfast.
"What are your plans for the day?" Jim asked as he finished his coffee; allowing her the space she seemed to need as she made herself busy at the sink.
"I don't have any…what are your plans?" Johanna asked cautiously.
"I thought that if you didn't mind, I'd take a walk around the property since it's been awhile."
"Why would I mind? It's your home."
"It's ours," he replied.
"It's yours…it came from your father."
"Yes…and I gave it to you…"
"But you're not…you're still here so it's still yours."
"It's ours," he repeated. "You're my wife and it's ours."
"I don't mind if you want to walk around," Johanna told him.
"You could come with me," he suggested. "It's a nice day out; not too hot."
She thought about it for a moment and then nodded. "Alright…after breakfast is cleaned up and I change."
He smiled; that little spark of hope growing a little brighter. "No hurry, sweetheart."
Jim was feeling pretty good about things late that morning when he and Johanna made their way back to the house. They had walked further than intended but things seemed more relaxed between them as they spoke of unimportant things, admiring views and answering the occasional question about a friend or relative. They had avoided more serious topics…he had even gotten her to laugh a few times and it had made his heart swell with happiness. Johanna had even allowed his hand to slip into hers once he had gotten up the courage and attempted the move when they were half way back to the cabin.
It had felt good; there was no doubt about that; even with that subtle feeling of awkwardness hanging over them. He figured the more time they spent together, the sooner that feeling would go away and he was looking forward to that…all the while trying to remind himself not to rush and not to push.
As they made their way into the house, the sound of a phone ringing met their ears. "That must be your phone," Johanna remarked as she kicked her shoes off by the door.
"It is," he replied; moving to the coffee table where he had left it. "It's Mom."
"Oh God, I hope nothing's wrong," Johanna replied as she hurried toward her own phone that was on the stand; checking for any missed calls as he answered his phone.
"Mom, what's wrong?" Jim said as he answered the call
"Where are you, Jimmy?" Elizabeth asked. "You left here yesterday and I haven't heard a word from you."
He heard the undertones of anxiety in her voice and he kept his tone gentle. "I told you I'd be gone overnight."
"Well you could've called to say you were safe!" she exclaimed. "I've been worried sick."
"I'm sorry, Mom. I didn't mean to make you worry."
"Where are you?"
"It doesn't matter."
Elizabeth was quiet for a moment. "Did you go back to Virginia?"
"No, I haven't gone back to Virginia! That's the last place I'd want to be."
"Then where are you?"
He sighed deeply. "I'm at the cabin, Mom."
"I told you to leave her alone!"
"Well you should know that I don't always listen to you," Jim replied; watching Johanna as she laid her phone back down; the panic easing from her body.
"How does she feel about your intrusion?" his mother demanded to know.
"Well, she didn't shoot me so I guess she was okay with it," he remarked.
"She didn't call me this morning either," Elizabeth stated.
"That's my fault," Jim told her; "I haven't given her a moment's peace since she got up this morning. Do you want to talk to her now?"
"No; she went up there to get away, I shouldn't expect her to call every few hours…and I don't…but she usually does call in the morning."
"She's fine…I'm sure she would've called if I hadn't distracted her."
Johanna grimaced. "Tell her I'm sorry; I did mean to call."
"She's sorry, she did mean to call," Jim repeated to his mother. "I told you, it was my fault."
"It's alright; tell her not to worry. When are you coming home? Are you coming home soon?"
"Is something wrong?" he asked.
"No…I just want to know when you're coming home. I don't want you to be gone too long."
He got the picture; the longer he was gone, the more his mother worried that he'd disappear again. He didn't want to leave but he knew he was going to have to. "I'll be home this afternoon, Mom…I promise."
"Alright," Elizabeth said; her tone normal and free of anxiety. "I'll make dinner for you; can you be here by dinner time?"
"Yes…I'll be there before so I can help you."
"Okay; I'll see you in a little while."
"See you in a little while," he told her before saying goodbye and ending the call.
"Is she okay?" Johanna asked.
"Yeah; she was just worried," Jim said; regret stealing across his face.
She gave him a small smile. "She wants you to come home though."
"I made her worry…I didn't mean to…but I guess I better go."
"Jo," he murmured; feeling torn.
"It's alright, Jim," she assured; "She didn't know your plans and this is all new so she's worried…and I don't want her to be overly worried…you should go to your mother; prove to her that you are coming back…and next time she won't worry as much…especially if you give her better details."
He sighed. "I know…it's just that…today was off to a good start."
"I'm not mad at you for needing to go."
"I know…I just…"
"I know," she murmured. "But it's okay…Liz needs you this time…and I promise I'll call her later too."
He nodded; hating that he felt like he had found some footing and now he had to leave. "I guess I better get my stuff."
"Do you want me to make you a sandwich or something to take with you since you're not going to get lunch?" she asked. "I have some leftover chicken."
"If you don't mind," Jim answered; figuring it would prolong things a few minutes longer. "I'll take a soda too if you can spare one."
"I wasn't going to send you off with no drink," his wife remarked. "I'll get your lunch ready to go while you get your stuff."
He watched her head for the kitchen before he forced himself in the direction of the master bedroom. He wasn't upset with his mother…but he wished she had better timing.
Jim shifted awkwardly as he stood at the trunk of his car; his hand rubbing the back of his neck as he regarded his wife as she stood a few feet away; her arms crossed over her waist and a somewhat unreadable look on her face. He wasn't sure if she was glad that he was leaving or if maybe she wanted him to stay…or perhaps she wasn't sure what she preferred. He couldn't read her like he usually could and that thought bothered him; he had always been able to read her…at least more often than not…but now it was like a part of her was somewhat closed off and he wasn't sure what to do in the face of it. Was it part of what she meant about starting over? That there were parts of her that he had to relearn? He didn't know…and he wasn't entirely sure how he was supposed to do this but he would; somehow he would figure it all out and win her back. There was no alternative option.
"Will you be okay here?" Jim finally allowed himself to ask; hating to leave her behind despite the fact that she had been there before his arrival.
Johanna nodded. "I've been alone here before…I was alone when you got here."
"I know…but…you might get lonely now that you had company."
"I've been here alone many times," she replied; "As for loneliness…well…it's not something new to me."
Jim nodded. "I know…and just in case you don't know it; it's not something new to me either."
"I didn't say it was," she said softly.
He met her eye. "I've been very lonely without you, Jo…it's part of why I didn't want to leave you last night…why I didn't want to give up holding on to you last night."
"Do you think I don't know that?" Johanna asked; keeping her tone soft. "Why do you think I'm not angry about where you chose to sleep? Don't you think it tells you a little bit about my loneliness?"
"I guess it does," he admitted; "But I also know what you said this morning."
"Telling you that it's not going to be a habit right now doesn't mean that I don't want it to be one when the time is right. I told you…it's going to take time."
Jim was really starting to hate that word although he knew that it was only the truth; it was going to take time. He breathed deeply; meeting her eye once more. "How long are you staying here?"
"Until the morning," she answered. "I'll leave around six-thirty. I have a client coming in at ten."
"Why don't you just come back today? You could come to dinner," he suggested.
She shook her head. "I want to stay like I planned…we had dinner last night."
"We used to make it an every day occurrence."
"I know...but not right now," Johanna murmured.
"Will you be at Mom's tomorrow?"
"I don't know," she said honestly. "It'll depend on if I have to stay late at the office. Sometimes I think I'm going back to nothing and end up going back to some state of chaos. There shouldn't be anything to delay me…but that doesn't mean something won't come up."
He had a feeling that she'd make sure that something would come up and keep her away from his mother's house the next evening despite things having been somewhat comfortable between them all morning. "Is this you pulling away?" Jim asked.
"No; it's me being honest…and yeah, I'm also being cautious…because I don't know if my heart can take being broken again."
"I'm not here to break your heart," Jim replied. "I'm here to win it back."
"It's never been taken from you," Johanna answered.
"It feels like it has been," he admitted; "But I'll do what I need to do to get us back where we belong…I'm not giving up on you, Jo."
"You don't think I want you to, do you?"
He wasn't entirely sure; sometimes he felt like she wanted the same things…but then she'd pull back a little…shy away and he wouldn't be quite so sure. "I hope you don't want me to."
"I don't want you to give up…I never gave up on you," she told him.
"It seemed like you had in the first few text messages last night until I realized that you were drinking," Jim remarked.
She gave him a small smile. "It wasn't my finest hour…and even though it was probably stupid…it worked; you did answer."
Jim smiled. "Yeah; it did work…good thing we didn't have that in the 70s; I would've really been in trouble back then."
"Sometimes I think about that," Johanna admitted. "I think about what if we had all these things back then…I think maybe we were better off without it in some respects."
He nodded. "Yeah; I agree in a lot of ways…but our 1970s texts probably would've been gold."
"Oh I'm sure," she said with a soft laugh. "But you know, I liked slamming the phone down back then…I can't do that with a cellphone."
"You still have a landline though," he remarked; prolonging the inevitable moment when he'd have to get in the car and leave.
"Yeah…but mainly people call me on my cellphone."
He shifted on his feet once more; shoving his hands in his pockets. "What if I called you on your cellphone?"
Johanna looked at him oddly. "What about it?"
"Would you answer?"
"I'm sure I would…unless you've pissed me off, then I probably wouldn't answer."
"I'd have to call you on the landline then so you could slam the phone down for old times sake?"
A hint of a smile curved her lips upward. "Would you?"
He grinned. "Just for you, sweetheart. You know…you could call me too."
"The last time I tried, you didn't answer…you weren't even answering texts."
"I'm sorry…it won't happen again," Jim replied.
"I guess time will tell about that," Johanna remarked as she swayed on her feet a little; unsure of what to say or do…part of her wanting him to stay…another part of her wanting some time to process the fact that they'd spent an evening together and all morning without him running out on her like he had at the bar. She didn't know how to do this anymore than he did.
"Will you let me know that you got back okay?" he asked; feeling like his time of prolonging things was running out.
Johanna nodded. "Yeah; I can do that….let me know that everything is okay when you get back to Liz's."
"I will…I guess I better go…I don't want her to think I'm not coming like I said."
She gave him a small smile of understanding. "It's best not to keep her waiting."
"No, I shouldn't do that…but I wish I could just stay here with you," he allowed himself to admit.
"Maybe next time," she said slowly; "With prior notice to Liz so she knows where you are and when you'll be back."
That small spark of hope within him grew a little brighter. "Yeah; that would be good," he said, moving closer to her. He leaned in to capture her lips in a kiss but she turned slightly; his lips landing against her cheek. A disgruntled sigh escaped him before he could stop it; her gaze meeting his.
"I guess I'm a little gun shy about you kissing me," Johanna admitted; "Last time I let you I didn't hear from you for a week…so let's just take it a little slow for now."
"It wasn't going to be that way this time," Jim remarked.
"I want to be sure of it."
"Jo," he breathed.
She moved forward, laying her head against his chest as she allowed herself to wrap her arms around him in an embrace. He didn't move for a moment, but when she didn't pull away, he allowed his arms to wrap around her tightly as he brushed a kiss to the top of her head. It wasn't exactly what he wanted but it was enough for the moment.
"I know it's not what you want," she whispered; knowing that she had disappointed him by not allowing him to kiss her. It wasn't that she didn't want it…she did…desperately; but she felt that she had to be cautious right now.
"It's enough for now," he replied; holding her tighter.
She tightened her own hold on him without meaning to as she breathed in his scent, committing it to memory once more; some small part of her still afraid that he'd disappear again, leaving her shattered once more. It was why she had to be careful…it was why she couldn't rush into things no matter how badly she wanted to.
Jim closed his eyes as he nuzzled her hair for a moment. "I better go," he said quietly; emotion clawing at his throat. If he didn't go now, we wouldn't go at all…and then his mother would worry…and he'd feel pushy again with his wife.
Johanna gave a nod and then carefully extracted herself from his arms. "Be careful," she told him.
"I will…I'll let you know that everything is alright."
"Okay…I'll let you know that I'm back in the city tomorrow," Johanna replied.
Jim studied her for a moment longer and then forced himself to get in the car. He hated to leave; things felt somewhat easier there…but she needed time; wanted them to start over…and he had to respect that whether it was what he had dreamed of or not. He put the key in the ignition and started the car, glancing out the windshield at her as she remained in place. She gave him a wave, a small, strained smile on her lips and he wondered if she was thinking back to that day in 1999 when she had watched him drive away before she and Katie had gotten into her car for their girls day. The ache of the memory filled him; making him recall how he had glanced back at his girls in the rearview mirror, praying they wouldn't be separated for long…and yet it had been much longer than he had ever thought it would be. Now he was here…and his daughter hated him and his wife was quiet and cautious; unsure what to think of him in this unsettled state of their world. It was almost too much to bear; and with that thought in mind, he returned her wave and put the car in drive, needing to drive away from the pain and the heartache…and yet wishing she was in passenger seat beside him at the same time.
Johanna lingered outside until she couldn't see his car anymore; that feeling of loneliness he had mentioned creeping up on her. She hadn't expected it to hit so quickly…but then again why shouldn't it? Seeing him drive away only made her think of that morning in January when she had watched him drive away for some reason…maybe some part of her had known that something was wrong and she had brushed it off. Maybe she had missed the signs; it wasn't the first time that thought had crossed her mind.
She turned and headed back to the house; the serenity she had managed to capture there when she had arrived didn't feel quite the same now. Being alone didn't have the appeal it did twenty-four hours ago. Johanna forced herself to swallow back her emotions; she was being ridiculous…he'd only been gone a few minutes…she'd be fine. Lonely but fine…like she'd had to be for so long.
"I was thinking," Sharon stated early Monday afternoon as she lingered in Johanna's office after dropping a file on her desk.
Johanna tensed; wondering if she really wanted to know what her secretary was thinking. Chances were that it wasn't anything she'd like and truth be told, she wasn't exactly in the mood to hear it. She hadn't slept well the night before; the bed had smelled like Jim and she kept reaching for him only to wake up and find him gone…and in her sleepy state, it brought back those old memories and she had to grab her phone and open up her text messages just to reassure herself that he had indeed been there and that he had let her know that he had gotten back to Elizabeth's safely. It had been a long night…so much so that she had gotten in the car at five that morning and headed back to the city a little earlier than she intended.
"Jo," Sharon said; her voice carrying a tone of annoyance.
"What?" Johanna asked, focusing her attention once more.
"What is with you? You have your head in the clouds more often than usual here lately," Sharon remarked.
"It's nothing," she replied. "What were you saying?"
"I said I was thinking."
Johanna nodded. "Good for you; thinking comes in handy for doing your job."
Her friend smirked at her. "Don't be a smart ass."
"I'm not really in the mood today to play games, Sharon; just get on with whatever it is so I can tell you no and we can move on with life."
"I was thinking that since your lunch dates have dried up the last several days that maybe we could go to lunch…"
She wasn't really in the mood for company but she didn't want to hurt her friend's feelings. "I guess we can do that."
"Good," Sharon smiled; "And I thought that Calvin could go with us as well."
Her jaw tightened, anger flicking across her face. "Forget it; I'm not going."
The secretary sighed as she flicked a piece of lint from her blouse. "Come on, Jo; despite as cruel as you've been to him; Calvin is still interested and would like to take you out. I thought maybe if it was more like a group setting that it would make it easier for you this time and you'd see that he's really not a bad guy at all and maybe you'll give him a chance."
"No, Sharon," she said firmly. "I've made it more than clear that I'm not interested."
"I don't see why not. Obviously you're fine with dating since you've going out with you brother-in-law and Jeff…which I still think is sick. So why can't you try dating someone who doesn't have an attachment to Jim?"
"Because I have an attachment to Jim," she snapped. "I'm not dating anyone."
"Why? Did you already dump Andrew and Jeff?"
"No; but the statement stands so drop it."
"Give me a reason why you can't give anyone else a chance," Sharon replied. "Jim would want you to be happy."
"I'm a married woman, Sharon. You should know that since you were in the wedding and I assure you that Jim doesn't want me to date."
"I really doubt he left a note in the will specifying that you never date," her secretary retorted; "As for your wedding, yes, I know I was in it…just not as maid of honor like I thought I would be."
"You didn't deserve the title," Johanna replied. "And you still don't."
Sharon sighed deeply. "I don't know why you think it's such a betrayal that I want you to be happy."
"There's nothing wrong with my life," she shot back; although it did feel like her life was in a shambles at the moment. "You don't get to say what makes me happy."
"There is something wrong with it," the secretary retorted. "You've become a bitter, lonely person…you act like some Civil War widow who wears black the rest of her life because she thinks that's the proper thing to do."
"I wear different colors!" Johanna exclaimed; wishing that she wasn't wearing a black dress at the moment.
"It was a figure of speech, Jo; you used to be able to discern those things. You've spent thirteen years folded up into yourself, brooding, moody and denying yourself any chance of being happy…and for what? You act like you have to carry the title of widow like some badge of honor."
Her jaw tightened once more; her hand curling into a fist. "Drop it, Sharon."
"Just come and have lunch with me and Calvin; let him show you that it's not so bad and what a nice man he is…and he really has to be one to still be interested in you with the way you treat him. It's okay to like something that has no connection to Jim."
"I said no! I'm not interested. Since you like Calvin so much, you date him. He's your type."
"From what I hear, being married doesn't stop Phil when someone catches his eye."
"Leave Phil out of this. That lunch with his new assistant was perfectly innocent."
Johanna nodded. "Yeah, that's what you said about the last one and then you found out it wasn't."
"You just want to change the subject because you're set on finding a clone of Jim so you can play pretend for the rest of your life."
"I don't need a clone," she hissed.
"Oh really? Well if you're so against Calvin; then why not let John Parker take you out sometime. He's always been interested in you too."
Johanna rolled her eyes. "For God's sake, why? I'm an average looking woman in her early sixties with reading glasses and a daughter in her thirties. It's not like I'm prime merchandise anymore."
"In our age bracket you are. You're available; that's all the matters."
"I'm not available. Like you, I'm a married woman."
Sharon shook her head. "I know you don't like hearing this but you're not married anymore…you haven't been married for over a decade now."
Her anger grew; mixing with her raw emotions and her nerves that had been on edge for days. "I am a married woman," she repeated.
"Jim is dead," Sharon said firmly. "He's not coming back."
"That's what you think," she said with a bitter laugh.
Her friend eyed her oddly. "What's that supposed to mean? He's gone, Jo."
"No, he isn't!" she yelled; the words spilling from her lips before she could stop them.
Sharon stared at her. "Johanna…you know he's dead."
Her hands began to shake; emotion surging forward but she did her best to hold back the tears that pricked her eyes. "No, he isn't. He's alive. I'm still his wife and I'm not dating anyone."
The secretary continued to eye her warily. "You know that isn't possible, Jo. Have you been drinking again?"
"I'm not drunk."
"Did you take something?" Sharon asked. "Is that what's going on with you? Are you taking some kind of pills?"
"No!" Johanna yelled. "I'm not a drunk and I'm not taking drugs. Are you insane?"
"No; but I'm starting to think you are," her friend retorted. "Jim is gone…we both know that."
She shook her head. "No, he isn't. He's alive; his death was staged by the FBI to keep him safe. That day I went to the precinct, he was there…he's back."
"Oh my God; you've finally lost your mind," Sharon stated.
"I have not! I know who my husband is and he was there, right along with his agent. Even his mother has identified him."
"You have to be on something to be having these kind of hallucinations…or you're having a psychotic break. Either way, you need to get some help…I'm going to help you."
"I don't need your damn help," she said angrily. "I'm telling you the truth. Jim is alive. I've seen him. I've talked to him. I just spent part of the weekend with him at the cabin!"
"You know that can't be true, Johanna. Something's wrong…those kind of things don't happen outside of books and movies. We need to get you to a doctor."
"I don't need a goddamn doctor; I'm telling the truth whether you want to believe it or not!"
"If it's true; does Katie know about this miraculous resurrection?"
"Yes, she does…she was with me at the precinct," Johanna said; her tone razor sharp. "Quit looking at me like I'm crazy because I'm not. He's alive; I'm his wife and that's all there is to it."
Sharon turned away and headed for the door of the office, opening it and stepping outside just in time to see Mark crossing the threshold.
"Mark, I think we need to call a doctor or something," Sharon stated.
"Why?" he asked; concern on his face as his gaze flicked between the two women.
"I think she's finally snapped," Sharon said seriously. "She thinks Jim has returned from the grave and that she spent the weekend with him."
Mark glanced at Johanna. "Jo," he said carefully; "You know you went to the cabin alone over the weekend…you know Jim wasn't there."
"I told her the truth," she ground out. "He was in witness protection and now he's home. That's why I was called to the precinct…and Sharon knows Katie's Captain called me because she's the one that answered the phone. Jim is alive. I think I know what my husband looks like."
"We should call someone," Sharon whispered.
"I think you're right," Mark said quietly; "I don't know if there's any bringing her back from this one. I'm just not sure who to call. Get Cathy up here, maybe she has an idea."
Johanna didn't like the sound of that so she slammed her office door shut and quickly turned the lock before Sharon could grab the doorknob. They thought she was crazy…they wanted to call doctors and have her hauled away. Good God, what had her life become? She wondered as they called out her name on the other side of the door. She hurried to her desk and grabbed her cellphone; Katie wasn't going to be happy about this but she needed her to come help her out of this one…before she ended up being carted off to the nut ward.
This wasn't exactly how he had planned to spend his day, Jim thought to himself as he was once again in the office of the medical examiner that his daughter was apparently friends with. Dr Parrish had called a short while ago and asked him to come in; telling him that the results were in and that she wanted both he and Kate to have the piece of mind of watching her open the envelope so no one would think the results had been tampered with. He wasn't necessarily worried; he knew without a doubt that Katie was his child and if that piece of paper said otherwise; well then he'd know that someone somewhere had indeed tampered with it…and they would pay dearly when he found them. He sighed deeply; waiting for his daughter to sweep through the doors so they could get this over with. Dr. Parrish probably thought he was somewhat unsociable since he hadn't said much but not saying much was a habit he had picked up over the years. It looked like it was going to be a difficult one to break.
He glanced at his watch; he'd been there for twenty minutes already. "Are you sure she's coming?" he asked as he met Lanie's eye.
"She'll be here," Lanie replied. "She's not about to forget about this."
"Forget what?" Kate asked as she swept into the room; her stride determined and her eyes never flicking toward him once.
Her friend smiled. "He was worried that you weren't coming."
"I had something to wrap up first," Kate remarked. "Let's get on with this, Lanie."
"Where's your mother?" Jim asked. "I thought you'd want her here for this."
"Why do you care?" his daughter retorted. "You've been ignoring her."
"I talked to your mother over the weekend," he replied.
Kate gave a bitter laugh. "That's a lie; Mom went to the cabin for the weekend. Try again."
"You've never heard of the phone?" Jim asked tartly; refraining from mentioning that he had visited his wife at their mountain home. He would've loved to have said it, just to wipe the smug look off her face but he kept his mouth shut for Johanna's sake. "She even texted this morning to let me know that she had gotten back to the city safely."
"I don't believe you…not with as upset as she's been," Kate replied.
Jim fished his phone from his pocket and quickly pulled up Johanna's text from that morning. "There it is," he said, turning the phone for her to see. "That is your mother's phone number; isn't it?"
Kate's jaw tightened. "Yeah…but it's a pretty blasé text."
"Yeah; one she didn't have to send but she did…because I asked her to. I think that proves I've been in contact with her…not that I have to prove that to you. I just thought you'd want her to be here to hear the results."
"She's at work," Kate said, a bite to her tone. "She didn't want to come see it done so I figured she wouldn't be interested…besides, she's missed a good bit of work lately because of you…she's probably getting behind."
"I doubt that; your mother always finds a way to keep up with things. It's just her nature."
"Don't go acting like you're some authority on her," she shot back.
Jim eyed her sternly. "I've known her for nearly forty years…I think I know more about her than you can imagine."
"You haven't known her the past thirteen years; that is if you are who you say you are," Kate retorted before turning her attention back to Lanie. "Come on, Lanie; open the results so we can get this over with."
Lanie opened the envelope and pulled out the documents; reading over them carefully before approaching the two people she was sharing a room with. She met Kate's eye, keeping her tone gentle. "He's your father, Kate," she told her, laying the paper on the table in front of her. "There is absolutely no doubt about it."
Kate stared at her for a long moment; deep down she had known it would turn out this way…but still there had been that glimmer of doubt…that feeling of wanting him to be a fraud so she wouldn't have to deal with the hurt and pain of knowing her life had been a lie. "Are you sure, Lanie?" she asked quietly.
Lanie nodded. "Positive…you can't get a better match than the one that's on that paper, Kate. There's no possible way that he isn't who he says he is."
Jim accepted the paper that Lanie slid across the table to him and he glanced at it for a moment, feeling vindicated although he had hated to go through with this in the first place. He glanced at his daughter, seeing her staring down at the paper in front of her, her hands curled into fists on the table; he cautiously stretched his fingers toward her hand, curling around it gently. "Can we talk now, Katie?" he asked.
Kate jerked her hand away from his touch. "Talk about what?" she asked angrily. "How easy it was for you to look us in our face and lie that day; saying you'll meet us for dinner and you knew damn well that you wouldn't be there? How you just let us believe this for thirteen years and never once tried to tell us…"
"I couldn't," he ground out; frustration flickering in his veins. "I couldn't risk endangering you both.
"Danger found me anyway…maybe I could've dealt with it faster if you had been around providing some clues."
"I never wanted you involved in this, Katie; you can't really think other wise. Do you think I felt good seeing your face on the news last summer…finding out that you had been shot because of this? That was one of the worst moments of my life…knowing I had my baby girl's blood on my hands. I wish it had been me…if I could've traded places with you, I would have, Katie. I would've never hesitated."
"You could've came back then," she hissed.
"The F.B.I. said I couldn't…they said it was too dangerous…that I could cause you to get hurt again."
Angry tears filled her eyes. "Sounds like an excuse to me. If you wanted to trade places, then you should've came…maybe we could've drawn them out and it would've been over then instead of several months later. Even once an arrest was made you still didn't come home…because dotting your I's and crossing your T's with the F.B.I. was more important than getting home to your wife and daughter. You could've at least had us notified…you could've done anything…or better yet, like Mom always says; you didn't need that damn promotion you were chasing. All of this over a fucking promotion that you didn't need but you were never satisfied; it had to be bigger cases, better cases, better position…just like Mom said. Was it worth it!?"
Jim bit back a few sharp retorts and counted to ten in his head before meeting her eye. "No; it wasn't worth it…and if I had known that it would end this way, I would've never taken that case and never chased another promotion, Katie. My job wasn't worth losing everything I love. It wasn't worth you getting hurt; it wasn't worth my wife grieving for thirteen years. I swear to you, that if I could go back and do it over…I'd quit before I took that case. You have to believe that."
She shook her head. "I don't believe it…you'd just tell yourself to be smarter and do it differently. You'd think you could have it all and it would just end the same way."
"I didn't go into that case thinking this was going to happen," Jim said; his tone quiet but firm. "I just thought it would be like every other case…maybe a little more interesting; but a standard case like all the others. I would've never taken it if I had known all the harm it would do in the end. I love you. I love your mother…I would never willing leave the two of you. It killed me inside to lie to you that day…but I had to protect you. I had to protect my wife. I couldn't take a chance with the two of you…and I wanted the chance to come back home to you. I want us to be able to have a relationship again. You're my daughter…I still love you as much as I always did. I'm still the same person you knew and loved."
Kate eyed him. "I'm not so sure about that."
"Give me the chance to prove to you that I am. Let's go have lunch; let's talk…you can yell at me all you want. I can take whatever you want to throw…just don't shut me out, Katie. I'm your father."
"You were," she said; her voice trembling. "I don't know who you are now."
"Katie," he sighed.
Her phone rang, making her flinch and she hurried to pull it from her pocket. Her brow furrowed, seeing her mother's picture on the screen. "It's Mom," she muttered before accepting the call. "Hello?"
"Katie; I know you're at work and I hate to bother you," Johanna said; her words rushed and tinged with anxiety.
Kate tensed, instantly going on alert. "What's wrong, Mom?"
"I need you to come down to my office. I know you're probably busy…but I need you to come."
"What's going on?" she demanded to know as she fished her keys from her pocket. "What's wrong? Do I need to bring backup?"
"No; nothing like that," Johanna replied; "I was stupid…I told them…I told them about your father so they'd leave me alone. They think I'm crazy…and I mean the literal kind of crazy. You should see the way they looked at me…the things they were saying. One of them will probably be calling you any minute. I locked myself in the office…because as much as I hate to admit it; I'm a little afraid of what they might try to do to me. I have the gun, so I'm definitely not being committed against my will…but…I know you don't like me to pull that out of my purse."
"You're rambling," Kate said; some of the tension easing from her body.
"I know…it's just that I feel stupid needing you to come down here and tell them that I'm not insane…but I do…and if you'll come straighten this out; I promise not to ask for grandchildren for a few weeks and I won't ask you to come to dinner for awhile either as compensation…and you can have that pair of shoes of mine that you've been wanting to steal out of my closet ever since you saw them."
"I don't need compensation," Kate replied; "Just stay in your office until I get there, okay? I'll straighten things out."
"I'm sorry, Katie; I know you're working," Johanna murmured. "I do hate to bother you."
"I'm actually on a break so it's fine," she assured. "Just stay in the office, I'm on my way, okay?"
"Okay. I love you."
"I love you too. I'll be there soon."
Kate ended the call and shoved her phone back into her pocket; glancing at Lanie as she did so. "I have to go; my mother needs me."
"We'll talk later," Lanie said as she nodded.
"What's wrong with Johanna?" Jim asked; worry coursing through him.
"Nothing; I'll take care of it," Kate remarked as she turned to move away from the table.
"She's my wife, Katie!" he exclaimed; anxiety gnawing at him. "I have the right to know if something is wrong. Is she sick? Is she hurt?"
"It's nothing," she snapped. "I said I'll take care of it…just like I've taken care of things for the last thirteen years!"
"Do you really think I wanted it that way?" he asked. "Because if you do; you're crazy. I never wanted this, Katie. I never wanted to hurt you or your mother and I damn sure never wanted to leave either one of you…and I never wanted you to get caught up in this thing…and I didn't want you to get hurt. That eats at me every day of my life."
"Good," she said, her throat tightening with emotion. "Because you did leave us…we did get caught in it…and we did get hurt. I might've taken a bullet but that seems mild every time I look at Mom. Every time I look at her and see the pain in her face…every time I have to look at her and think about how she hasn't really lived in years because she couldn't ever find peace or the ability to let you go in even the smallest ways."
"Do you think I've lived?" he asked. "They may have kept me alive but I didn't live, Katie. My world was here…I didn't have anything in Virginia. All I wanted was to be here."
"And yet even when an arrest had been made, you didn't hurry home," she shot back. "No; you set there for several more months before finally crawling back."
"I was following the orders I was given by the FBI," he ground out. "How many times are you going to bring that up? I wanted everything to be taken care of legally before I got here; you can't blame me for that."
A stubborn look stole across her features. "Yeah, actually I do," she remarked. "If I had been kept away from the people I loved for that long, I would've run the second that bastard was behind bars…but you didn't."
"Kate," Lanie said gently. "Your Mom is waiting for you; you better go."
She nodded. "Yeah, I better go."
"Not until you tell me what's going on," Jim said, blocking the door. "Tell me what's wrong with Johanna."
"She told her colleagues about you," Kate said sharply. "Now they think she's crazy and want to have her committed so she's locked herself in her office until I get there to tell them that she's not crazy."
"I'll go to her," he stated. "I'll take care of it."
"No, I'm going. She called me," his daughter said firmly. "You'll just make it worse."
"She's my wife," he said angrily. "I can go to her if I want to."
"If she wanted you, she would've called you…but she didn't," Kate replied; and he couldn't help but feel that she was taking pleasure in the words. "She called me…just like always…because I'm the one who's been picking up the pieces all this time. This time she had a choice and she still chose me," she said before pushing past him and through the door.
Anger washed through him as he shoved his copy of the test results into his pocket. She acted like he had left on some whim…like he had something better to do and didn't care about who he hurt in the process. He cared…it had killed him inside to do this to them but he had to keep them safe…had to be able to come back to them. He cared more than she could imagine; why didn't she get that? He loved them both; nothing had changed in that respect. But his daughter didn't want to listen…and he was starting to think that she never would. She wasn't interested in giving him a chance; it hurt…just as her words had hurt. It was true, Johanna could've called him…but she hadn't. On one hand, it was logical for her to call Katie instead of him…but the side of him that wasn't quite so practical couldn't help but feel a sting from that too. He had thought that they had made progress at the cabin and yet she didn't call him when clearly she needed help.
Jim pushed the door open with an angry shove of his hand; Katie thought she was the boss of things and she wasn't…he didn't have to take orders from anyone anymore and if he wanted to go to Johanna's office, he would. After all, what did he have to lose?
Kate got off the elevator at the law firm and made the trek to her mother's office with a purposeful stride; seeing the curious glances of clients and other attorneys at the sight of her gun and badge on her belt. Her emotions were all over the map thanks to the test results in her pocket and now she had to untangle the mess her mother had gotten into by picking today to reveal the fact that her husband had returned. She sighed softly…this wasn't her mother's fault. She hadn't known that the results were in…and she had a feeling that it had taken some effort to get her to let the cat out the bag; and if she knew her mother like she was sure she did…it probably involved someone asking her out or telling her she needed to date. She just had a gut feeling that somehow the topic of dating was involved and now that her mother could once again be classified as a married woman she'd be quick to put the excuse to work.
"Can I help you with something?" and older man asked, making Kate pause halfway to the office.
"No, thank you," she replied. "I know where I'm going."
The man looked her up and down, his eye lingering on her badge. "I hope you have a warrant; we are bound by attorney-client privilege," he stated with a sniff.
Kate's brow rose. "I don't think I need a warrant to see my mother; and I assure you that I'm well versed on attorney client privilege since I'm not only a cop but the daughter of two lawyers. Not that it's any of your business; I'm here on a personal matter."
"And just who is your mother?" he asked.
Her jaw tightened, in no mood to play games. "Johanna Beckett. Who the hell are you?"
"Johanna?" the man repeated.
"Yes; now who are you?"
"Calvin Stonebridge," he said, puffing up a bit as he did so.
"Oh," Kate said with a nod; "You're the one who can't take no for an answer."
"You're the man who won't stop harassing my mother for a date," Kate said; dropping the words with an edge to her tone. "It looks like I get to clear up two problems while I'm here. She's not interested in you and she never will be. You're not her type. Go find someone else because it's never going to be her; she's made that very clear. So this is your one warning, Calvin; leave my mother alone or you're going to be sorry."
"Are you threatening me?"
"No; I'm telling you how it is. Leave her alone. Now if you don't mind and you're through being nosy, my mother called me and asked me to meet her and I want to get to her. Have a nice day," she said with a biting smile that lacked warmth before she turned and continued on her way.
"I should've guessed you were Johanna's daughter," he called after her. "You act just like her."
Kate tossed a smile over her shoulder. "Thanks; I look like her too. I take great pride in all of it."
He stalked off in the opposite direction and Kate rolled her eyes. "Asshole," she muttered; coming closer to her mother's office, hearing the din of voices inside. She sighed deeply and crossed the threshold, making her way to the closed door of the inner office just past Sharon's desk.
"Katie," Sharon said; "I'm so glad you're here. I really think your mother has a problem…"
"A serious problem," Mark added. "We were just about to call you."
She ignored them both as she knocked on the door. "Mom; it's me. Come on out and we'll straighten this out."
The lock in the door turned and Johanna slipped into the outer office, shooting her daughter an apologetic glance; silently saying she was sorry for needing her this way. Truth be told, Kate was sorry too…sorry that things had apparently been so bad the past thirteen years that her mother's word couldn't be trusted like it had been long ago. It made her angry; angry that her mother had spiraled so many times that no one trusted her any longer but she forced the feeling back for the moment. It wasn't really her fault…it was Jim Beckett's fault.
"Your mother has finally snapped," Sharon stated, drawing her out of her thoughts. "She thinks Jim is alive and that she spent the weekend with him."
"She hasn't snapped; he is alive," she retorted; and then the rest of Sharon's statement settled into her mind, making her turn toward her mother. "What do you mean you spent the weekend with him!? I thought you went to the cabin alone!?"
"I did go alone," Johanna replied; "And he wasn't there the whole weekend…he just kind of showed up late Saturday afternoon."
"Why?" Kate asked.
"Well…" Johanna began to say and then trailed off; needing to be careful with her answer. "It's a long story; can we talk about it later when I'm not in danger of being committed?"
Kate's jaw clenched as she silently counted to ten in her head. "Oh yeah, we're definitely going to talk about it later."
"This can't be true," Sharon exclaimed. "Things like this don't just happen. Where has he been? Who did you bury? You actually believe this story? What kind of nonsense have you both gotten caught up in?"
Kate sighed deeply. "Look, he came to the precinct with the agent from the FBI who was handling his case. Mom saw him first, she identified him. I saw him; his own mother has seen him and identified him."
"They say everyone has a twin…" Cathy said skeptically.
"I know my husband when I see him," Johanna shot back.
Kate wrapped a hand around her mother's wrist, silently asking her to be quiet. They didn't need to draw more attention to the office.
"This has to be some kind of fraud," Mark stated. "They probably think they can take your mother for everything she's worth…and being that she is very vulnerable when it comes to the topic of your father; it wouldn't be hard for them to do."
"I'm not stupid, Mark!" Johanna exclaimed; shaking off Kate's grip. "Do you think I just blindly accepted him? Do you think I didn't ask any questions? Because I did. I asked him things only he and I would know…and even then, I went to see him that night and quizzed him on every piece of personal history I could think of!"
"You went to see him that night!?" Kate exclaimed. "You said you talked to him on the phone!"
"I didn't want you to get mad that I went to see him by myself. I know you had doubts…and I wanted to be one hundred percent sure. I had to make sure…not just for me, but for you, Katie. I had to talk to him again…and I had to do it in person."
Anger flicked across her face. "When I called you the next morning and you weren't home…were you in his hotel room?"
Johanna cursed herself for letting too much information slip in front of Katie. "Yes," she confessed. "I was tired and it was very late and I ended up falling asleep on the couch in his room," she said, not wanting to say she had been in his bed. Katie would probably kill her if she said that even if she had slept in it alone.
"So you've just been going around lying to me ever since he got back," her daughter retorted.
"No, not really. I did lie to you that morning because I didn't want to upset you but I haven't lied to you about anything else. I did tell you what's been going on in regard to him and I; and I did go to the cabin and I went alone…and I intended to be alone the entire time. No, I didn't tell you he came by…because I haven't had a chance. I left you a message this morning telling you I got back safely…we didn't talk. I assume you were getting ready for work."
"I was…but it sounds like we have a lot to discuss," Kate said sharply.
"Not as much as you think," Johanna remarked.
"Are you sure this is legitimate, Katie?" Mark asked. "This all does sound suspicious."
"Do you think I'm a damn rookie?" Kate asked. "Do you think I haven't checked it out? I've checked out everything I can check and so has my team and a few contacts I have in other agencies. Everything is just the way we've been told; and if that isn't enough for you; here are the DNA results proving that he is indeed my father," she said, pulling the paper Lanie gave her from her pocket and unfolding it for them to see.
"You got the results?" Johanna asked.
"That's where I was when you called."
"Do you feel better now that you have undisputable proof?" she asked; "Even though I told you that he was your father."
"Now is not the time for I told you so, Mother…especially when I came down here to rescue you," her daughter said, cutting her a sharp look as she did so.
"Sorry," Johanna muttered; her fingers reaching for the paper and reading the results; "But I did tell you so…I know who I was sleeping with in the seventies…and eighties…and nineties…"
"I get the picture, Mom. Your faithfulness wasn't in question; it was the man in question."
"Are you okay?" Johanna asked.
"No! I haven't been okay since this started. How are you okay?" she asked her.
Johanna scoffed. "Really? You think I've been okay? I'm not okay. My life is in a shambles again and I'm trying to put it back together."
"With him?" Kate asked; "Because it sounds like you've been sneaking around, Mom."
Johanna's eyes narrowed. "Sneaking around is what teenage girls do. I'm a grown woman, Katie. I don't have to have permission to see my husband. No, I haven't told you every moment that I've seen him…because I know it upsets you and I'm afraid you'll push me away. I don't want to be in that situation. Now I said we'll talk about it later."
"I hate to interrupt," Cathy stated; "But I just don't understand any of this. It sounds like some bad Lifetime movie."
Kate breathed deeply and resigned herself to telling the entire story. Her mother was right; their lives were in shambles…again…and she wasn't sure how it would ever be alright again.
Jim pulled up just down the street from Johanna's office, second thoughts beginning to make him doubt if he should be there or not. What if Katie was right and it just made things worse for her? What if she didn't want him there and he pushed his way in…undoing the progress he had just made over the weekend. Sure it didn't feel like much progress but something was better than nothing, he thought to himself. His heart and mind were at war with each other; instinct making him want to rush in, fix the problem for her…make it all go away; and yet that logical side of his brain telling him that he needed to be cautious…needed to be wary. He couldn't move too fast; couldn't push. She had allowed his unannounced visit at the cabin…hadn't gotten angry over him crawling into bed with her; but this setting was different. This was her office; she might not want him to show up unannounced here.
He blew out a breath, wishing things weren't so difficult. Years ago, if someone had been giving his wife a hard time; he would've just stormed into her office and took care of it…and when she'd tell him that she could take care of herself he would've smiled and kissed her, agreed that he knew she could but that it was his job. It would've been over in a matter of moments. But this wasn't the past…this was the very precarious present. He wanted to take care of the problem…but he couldn't risk upsetting her. With that thought in mind, he picked his phone up from where it laid on the passenger seat and tapped out a text to her, hoping she'd read it and respond.
"I know what's going on at your office; I was with Katie when you called. I wanted to come with her but she told me no. I'm outside the building though; I'm more than willing to come in and take care of the issue…but only if you want me to. Do you want me to come in?"
Jim laid the phone down while he waited for the reply if one even came. He closed his eyes, a headache building above his brow. If Katie thought he didn't hate himself every day for taking that case for a promotion; she was wrong. He did hate himself…more than she and Johanna could imagine. What he wouldn't give to go back in time and undo it…but that wasn't an option. Everything felt hopeless at the moment; he knew he had made a mistake taking that case…made a mistake in being driven for that promotion; and every now and then he wondered if he had made a mistake in coming home. Katie hated him; she wasn't going to give him a chance. Johanna didn't know what to do with him and he could tell that she wondered if she really knew him at all. It hurt; it hurt in more ways than he imagined that it could…and yet he couldn't go back to Virginia. That night at the cabin with Johanna curled against him had gave him determination despite his doubts. He needed to be able to hold her again. He needed to get his life back on track. The phone chimed and he picked it up to read the message.
"No; I don't think you should come in right now," Johanna had answered. "It might just make it worse…and I'm not saying that to hurt you…I just think it would be best at the moment."
He believed that she didn't want to hurt him…but her answer stung him anyway. There had been a time when she had always wanted him there…and now she had learned to deal with things without him. Oh he knew she had always been able to deal with things on her own; and she did a lot of times…but there was always something somewhere that he could fix for her or resolve…and this time he had been told no.
It felt like another kick to the gut even if she hadn't meant it to be…and he had already been kicked by their daughter. He sighed deeply; dropping the phone back onto the seat without sending a reply. Jim turned the key in the ignition and put the car in drive; he wasn't needed there…he wasn't sure he was needed anywhere.
Johanna slipped her phone back into the pocket of her blazer, hoping she hadn't hurt Jim by rejecting his offer to come inside. She just felt that it was best if he didn't…her colleagues were already being a bit hostile; Katie was already mad at her and she wasn't sure she could take another person being added to the mix even if it was Jim. He hadn't replied to her message…which probably didn't bode well. She frowned a little; listening to the din of voices swirling around her. She hoped this wasn't going to derail the tiny bit of progress they had made over the weekend. She did want things to get better with her husband…she needed things to get better. She had been perfectly content at the cabin for the most part…but then Jim had came and when he had left…she had found herself lonely and it had been a hard feeling to shake. Having him there had unleased so many longings…so many things she couldn't have right now.
Johanna sighed and paced the room, moving to the window as Katie continued to convince the skeptics in the room that she had thoroughly checked everything out. She was tired…too many thoughts and feelings racing through her mind…and now she had said too much in front of Katie and she'd have to explain all of that. She didn't like the thought of it…not that she had anything to hide…but she shouldn't have to explain herself and what she did. Couldn't anyone just trust her anymore?
"Johanna," Sharon snapped, breaking into her thoughts.
"What?" she said, as she turned back to the group.
"You're not seriously thinking of taking him back, are you?" her secretary asked in horror.
"He's my husband," she said firmly; "Not some jilted lover."
Sharon's eyes widened. "I think you have it backwards; you're the jilted lover…the jilted wife."
"He didn't leave me to have some affair," Johanna said hotly. "He left me to keep me and his daughter safe. He left me so that he could stay alive."
"He left you to save his own ass," Sharon retorted; "And it looks like he did it easily enough. Why come back now? Is he bored with what he had in Virginia and decided he'd come back to what's familiar?"
"He came home because it was safe for him to do so," Johanna shot back. "He doesn't have anything else in Virginia."
"Oh please," the secretary scoffed. "You don't really believe that he's spent the last thirteen years being a saint and perfectly faithful to you do you?"
"I don't have any reason to doubt his word."
Sharon shook her head. "You really are crazy…that or stupid."
"That's enough," Kate stated; "My mother isn't stupid. Remember, that's her name on the door, not yours, Sharon."
"Big deal, she has a law degree," Sharon stated; "It doesn't mean she isn't stupid in other aspects…like this one."
"It's none of your damn business what I do," Johanna retorted. "He's my husband and I love him…we have things to work out…but I'm not going to just slam the door in his face."
"I think I would," Cathy commented; "I mean how can you just pick up where you left off after all this time?"
"Did I say we were picking up from where we left off?" she asked. "We both know we can't do that; it's impossible. It's why we have things to work out…why we have to get to know each other again."
"Does he know you've been dating his brother and his best friend?" Mark asked. "I have a feeling he won't like that."
"I've never done anything with either one of those men," Johanna shot back; "And again, it's none of your damn business."
"I think you're making a big mistake getting involved with him again," Sharon remarked. "Now that you have some closure, you should move on to greener pastures."
Johanna eyed her firmly. "You listen to me, Sharon, and you listen good. I am not going to just throw my husband aside like he's yesterday's garbage just because he had to do something that neither one of us liked. I am not going to date any of the goons that you think I should. I'm not saying that I don't have a lot of work ahead of me…but if I can fix my marriage, I will do so…and I don't care who likes it and who doesn't…because you haven't been in my shoes and until you have been; don't you tell me what to do or what to think or how to feel."
"I don't think it's a decision you should make so lightly, Johanna," Cathy told her; a mixture of pity and sympathy coloring her voice as she regarded her like a child who had lost her favorite toy.
"I haven't made any decision lightly…just like I haven't allowed him to move home with me. He knows I'm not rushing into anything and he respects that…just like he did when we started out thirty-nine years ago. We always wait for each other; it's just how it is."
"Yeah, well, I still say he wasn't waiting alone," Sharon replied. "You can bury your head in the sand all you want but a man isn't going to be faithful for that amount of time with his wife out of sight and out of mind."
"You can think what the hell you want," Johanna told her; "But it's not going to change anything. It's my life. It's my business and I'll thank all of you to stay the hell out of it and quit acting like I'm some little toddler who needs taken care of! I am a grown woman; fully capable of making my own choices and decisions. I don't need all of you telling me how to live my life, what I should or shouldn't do and so on and so forth. Just stay the hell out of my business."
"We only get in your business because we care about you, Johanna," Mark stated; "Although sometimes you make it difficult. We're your friends, we just want what's best for you…and you always act like it's such a terrible thing. You never used to be like that."
"Yeah; because before Jim left, you never treated me that way," she shot back; "But every year it gets worse and worse. Why do you think I'm retiring? It isn't just because I'm tired of the job…it's also because I'm tired of putting up with all of you and your meddling and acting like you're my parents instead of the friends you used to be."
"It's not like that at all," Cathy said; "And really, Jo; you ought to think about your own behavior for all these years. If people treat you differently it's because you've changed so drastically. I mean every time we turned around you were drowning in one way or another and you wouldn't get any help for it so we had to help you the best way we can."
"Stop!" Kate exclaimed; "Just stop! Mom, I have to admit that when you said you wanted to retire that I didn't think it was all that great of an idea but I said I'd support you anyway…but after all of this this afternoon I want to beg you to retire. Please, please, get the hell out of here and away from them before they drive you insane," she told her. "Because I see now that they are a big part of any problems you do have. I get it now, really I do; and I'm sorry I didn't see it sooner. Please retire…or freelance or go back to teaching or just be retired; whatever you want, but I'm begging you to get the hell out of this firm."
"Katie!" Sharon said with a shocked expression. "How can you say that?"
"Because I've been here in this room with all of you for less than an hour and I want to throttle all of you!" she exclaimed. "I can only imagine what it's like for her all day every day."
"I'm retiring, Katie," Johanna assured her. "September first. If I could go sooner, I would but I can't get my caseload wrapped up until the end of August. It's definitely happening though. I promise. I'm beyond ready to be done with this place."
"Good," Kate said; rubbing her fingers across her brow. "I have to be getting back to work; are you going to be okay here?"
"Yes," she said with a nod; "Will you be okay?"
"I'll be fine," her daughter replied; "And don't worry; I ran into the Calvin person in the hallway and told him to leave you alone so I killed two birds with one stone with this trip. He said I act just like you."
"Good; then my work is done," Johanna quipped. "And I appreciate the backup on that one; he doesn't like to take no for an answer thanks to Sharon."
"You might have to find a new friend once you're retired," Kate suggested.
"Maggie will be home by then."
"Good to know I'm so easily replaced," Sharon retorted.
"Who's fault is that?" Johanna asked. "Go file those papers like I told you to this morning. Mark, Cathy; you two can get the hell out of my office too. I've had more than enough of all of you today."
The three people glared at her and headed for the door, murmuring between each other as they went. "Looks like you're not going to be popular today," Kate commented.
"Wouldn't be the first time."
Kate blew out a breath. "Let's go out for dinner tonight…nowhere fancy; somewhere with tons of comfort food and milkshakes and everything is bad for you but you don't care."
"That sounds nice…but it's my night with Liz; I haven't been there in days," Johanna replied.
"So? Her son lives with her; he can tend to her for a night. I need you to go with me tonight," Kate insisted. "We have things to talk about, remember? And besides…I just want to, okay?"
Johanna nodded. "Okay. What time?"
"I should be able to make it by six," Kate replied.
"Are we meeting or should I pick you up from work…or do you want to pick me up?"
"If you're staying here that late, you can pick me up," her daughter replied. "I could call you when I'm ready."
"Alright," Johanna told her. "I'll stay late; I have some things I can get caught up on and with the building being mostly deserted by five, I may actually be able to concentrate."
Kate gave her a small smile before giving her a hug. "Okay; it's a date then."
Johanna held her tightly. "I'm looking forward to it…it is just the two of us this time…right?"
"Yes, I promise."
"I meant no offense."
"I know, Mom. It's just us this time…I don't want anyone else there."
Johanna pulled back and kissed her cheek. "I'll see you in a little while then. Be careful."
Kate nodded. "I'll call when I'm ready. Don't let them get to you anymore…keep the door locked so you don't have to deal with it."
"Good idea; I think I'll do that until they leave for the day. I'll check in in a little while and let you know how it's going."
"Alright," Kate told her before heading to the door; "If you need me to come back, I will."
"I don't think it'll be necessary, but I appreciate it."
Kate slipped across the threshold and Johanna returned to her office, pulling her still silent phone from her pocket and frowning at it. Why did she have the feeling that she had offended her husband without meaning to?
Elizabeth Beckett moved toward her son late that afternoon as he sat on the sofa and pulled the bottle of beer out of his hand. "You're turning into your father; needing a drink every time something doesn't go the way you think it should," she remarked as she sat the bottle on the coffee table.
"Where do you think I learned it?" Jim asked as he leaned forward and picked up the bottle again.
"Oh I know where you learned it; I just think you should be careful about it."
"I'm not even drunk, Mom."
"No…but it's the first thing you went for when you got home and that's your second one."
"I think I've earned the right to drink," Jim muttered. "I prove to my daughter who I am and she still doesn't want to talk to me. She hates me…and I get that but I just want to fix it…I want to be in her life."
"You have to give her time. Katie isn't one to be rushed. You need to let her anger burn off before you try again."
He scoffed. "I don't know if she'll ever burn all of that off. Johanna wouldn't let me come help her today."
Elizabeth shifted in her chair to see him better. "She didn't tell you no to hurt you."
"But it did hurt me," he admitted. "I went there to take care of it for her and she chose Katie over me."
"Jimmy; if you had gone in there it would've made things worse and we both know it. I highly doubt that Johanna said no to offend you."
"Things were going so well at the cabin…maybe she's not ready for things to go well. Maybe she's not ready for me to be in her life here…it was fine away from everyone but now that we're back in the city; she's going to pull away."
"I don't believe that at all."
"She's not coming to dinner now is she?" he retorted. "It's her night and she's not coming."
"She's not coming because Katie wants her to have dinner with her," Elizabeth said firmly. "That's a rare occasion these days so I'm not surprised that she jumped at the invitation. They haven't seen much of each other since you came home; they need some time together. There are times when Johanna isn't here every Monday; sometimes things come up or she has some work function to attend or a late meeting with a client or Katie gives her the time of day. She knows I understand."
"I still think it's a little convenient," he muttered after taking another sip of beer. "She's going to pull away…she's going to do to me what I did to her at the bar."
"I don't think so," his mother argued.
"I guess we'll see about that," Jim remarked; but he had a feeling that he already knew the answer.
A/N: Kate and Johanna's dinner will be in the next chapter!