Disclaimer: The characters do not belong to me. No money is being made and no infringement is intended.
A/N: Big thank you's to Keiko and maleta for beta'ing.
WARNING: CHARACTER DEATH AHEAD. If the idea upsets you, then you probably shouldn't read this story.
I look at John, giving him a chance to change his mind. His gaze is fixed on the figure lying on the autopsy tray. I take a deep breath and pull back the sheet.
John stands completely still for a long time. Then he brushes his finger along her cheek, gently, as if he's afraid he might wake her. He caresses her hair and I feel like I'm intruding; yet it's as if he's forgotten I'm there.
He loves her. I knew that before, but I never really thought about it. This is the kind of love you only read about. I don't think he'll ever get over her.
Damn it, I'm crying again.
John bends down and presses his lips to hers. I hold my breath, half-expecting her to smile and open her eyes.
She doesn't, of course. This isn't a fairytale.
When John straightens, I see his cheeks are wet with tears.
"She's so cold."
I don't know what to say to that.
"She doesn't like being cold."
John pulls the sheet up to cover her again. Then he looks at me. "You should be with Nikki. She shouldn't be alone."
He turns to go. "Wait, what about you? Where will you go?"
He shrugs and casts a glance at the sheet. "What does it matter now?"
"I can drop you at home."
"Home was wherever Jane was. I no longer have a home."
As he disappears through the doors, I wonder if I'll ever see him again.
He doesn't want to believe me. He stands there, his face blank, shaking his head. I nod, blinking back my own tears. This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do.
Damn it, Jane, why did you put me in this situation?
John grabs me by my lapels and inhales. It's funny; lately it's been easy to forget that he grew up in the jungle. But now there is something so primal and fierce about him that I feel a flicker of fear. I know he can smell her on me. Her fear. Her sorrow. Her desperation.
"I'm sorry, John."
He releases me and steps backwards. His face twists in an expression of agony.
"No. No. NO!"
He lashes out, tipping the armchair over, then picks up a vase and hurls it at the wall.
"No, you're lying!"
I wish I was. "John."
"Tell me you're lying!"
I say nothing. John throws a lamp and knocks the coffee table over. Then he turns to me and slowly raises his head to look at me. Something has changed – I can't quite put my finger on it.
His eyes . . . There's an emptiness that wasn't there before. He approaches me again and I do my best to hide my apprehension; this is not the man I know. He takes my hand and raises it to his nose. His eyes never leave mine.
"I can smell her blood on you."
I push aside the memories of Jane and nod.
"Who did this?"
I know immediately what he wants to do and I don't blame him. I wanted to do the same thing.
"He's dead, John."
John nods and releases my hand. His expression is unreadable.
"I want to see her," he says.
Nikki opens the door and smiles. "Oh, hi, Sam. Jane's not here. But come in, I'll get you some coffee. I've just made a fresh pot."
She continues talking as she leads me to the kitchen. "I'm supposed to be working on a paper, but it's boring as hell. I'm glad you're here – I could use the distraction. What brings you 'round anyway? Don't tell me Jane's in trouble again."
She pours coffee for both of us then hops onto the counter and looks expectantly at me. I can't do this. I can't.
I put my mug down and meet Nikki's curious gaze. "Nikki, I don't know how to say this. It's Jane. This morning we were – It shouldn't have happened—"
Nikki's smile fades. She slides off the counter and slowly comes towards me. "Sam? What are you talking about?"
"Jane was shot, Nikki."
"But she's okay, right? Right?"
I don't say anything and Nikki's hands fly up to cover her mouth.
She answers her own question. "No, she's not. If she was okay, you'd be at the hospital instead of here."
"Nikki, I'm so sorry."
Nikki blinks a few times and grabs hold of the counter to steady herself. Then she moves past me into the living room and looks around, as if she expects someone else to be there.
Shit. I haven't even thought about how I'm going to tell him.
"Did she know? I mean, was she in pain? Did she know what was going on?"
Her blood on my hands. Telling her she'd be okay. "It, uh, it happened very quickly."
Nikki wipes the tears from her cheeks. "This isn't a dream, is it?"
I shake my head. Nikki dashes to the bathroom and I hear her throw up. A movement at the window draws my attention.
"What isn't a dream?"
We decide to toss a coin. "Heads," I call as Jane flips it. She smiles and shows me it landed on tails.
"Luck of the draw. I'll go in." She holds out her hand. "You sure you just want a Coke?"
I nod and place a five-dollar bill in her palm. "Yep."
She climbs out the car and enters the convenience store. Barely a minute passes when I suddenly remember that I'm supposed to be eating healthy. I get out and enter the store, and walk right into an armed robbery.
Jane and a young Hispanic kid are facing each other, their guns drawn. The old man behind the counter looks terrified.
"Put the gun down." Jane is calm, her tone measured so as not to spook the kid. His back is to me and I slowly reach for my gun.
"No one has to get hurt," Jane says.
The kid shakes his head. He's nervous, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. I know from experience that nerves can be dangerous.
"Put the gun down, real slow."
"I can't do that," Jane says, and everything goes to hell.
A woman in one of the aisles screams, startling the kid. He fires. Jane fires. I fire.
The kid crumples to the floor. There are two entrance wounds, one in his chest, one in his back. He has an exit wound from Jane's bullet. I feel for a pulse and shake my head. He's gone.
I look at Jane, surprised to see her on the floor too. I reach for my phone as I rush to her side. Giving the address of the store, I add, "We have an officer down!"
Jane struggles to sit. I press my hand to her stomach to stop the bleeding.
"You'll be okay," I say. "Everything's fine. Just hang in there."
"Sam . . ."
There's so much blood. Too much for one person, surely?
"John . . . Tell John . . ."
"Tell him yourself. You're going to be fine."
She manages to smile, though it takes an effort. She knows how bad this is; I can see it in her eyes.
"The ambulance is on its way. Just hang in there. Stay with me, okay?"
This isn't fair. This shouldn't be happening.
"Come on, Jane! Stay with me!"
"You're looking cheerful this morning," I observe as Jane gets into the car. She flashes me a smile and her cheeks redden with the hint of a blush.
"Good morning to you, too, Sam."
"I don't suppose your mood has anything to do with the mysterious Mr. Clayton?"
Her eyes widen as she feigns innocence. "Richard Clayton? Now why would you think that?"
"The other Clayton." I pause. "Your jungle boy."
I shake my head in mock disgust. "You've got it bad."
"You have no idea what you're talking about."
I laugh. "Sure, Porter."
She says nothing for a while, then glances sideways at me and casually says, "He spent the night."
I reflexively slam on brakes. The taxi driver behind me lets loose with a string of curses. Jane chuckles.
"You may want to start moving before you cause an accident."
"You slept with him?"
"We literally slept, Sam. Get your mind out the gutter. It was nice. It felt . . . comfortable. Right."
I have to admit the news isn't completely surprising. And, believe it or not, I'm glad things are going well with Jane and John. I'm happy for her. John's a nice guy. Strange, but nice. And I know there is nothing he wouldn't do for Jane.
"So, when's the wedding?"
Jane rolls her eyes. "Sam."
"I need to make sure I'm free that day. And I need to find a date – Hey, is Nikki seeing anyone?"
Jane gives my shoulder a light punch, but she laughs. It's good to hear her laugh again. These past few weeks have been stressful.
"Okay, for that, you owe me a Coke." I see a convenience store up ahead and pull over. When Jane smiles and takes out a coin to flip, I know this is going to be a good day.