Hi guys. Uhm. This chapter was a struggle for me. Mostly because I didn't want to write it and say goodbye to this story. I hope you enjoyed the ride. It's been quite a journey. I appreciate everyone who read, who reviewed, who edited and made suggestions. I appreciate it all. I can't believe the road's coming to an close. But I suppose everything ends eventually. Again, y'all have been wonderful. Thanks for your patience and your kindness. - Panda
14 months later.
Sam groggily stumbled into the kitchen, yanking shut the shades against the glaring rays of the summer sun. Night shifts always threw off his schedule. He leaned across the kitchen counter, reaching into a cupboard for a plastic bowl. He shook the cereal box, pleased to hear kernels rattling against the cardboard. He hadn't run out yet. Score one for Team Braddock, he thought. Pouring it, he reached into the fridge for the milk
Twisting the cap of, he recoiled at the smell. Glancing down at the date printed in weak black letters against the plastic jug, he noted that it had expired. Two weeks ago. He supposed he'd been so busy he hadn't really noticed.
Eh. He thought, looking down at the sad, stale flakes. He'd eat it dry.
Crossing he ankles he reached to the remote for the TV. In the corner of the counter, the small set buzzed to life, flickering for a moment before he tapped its antennae and the picture resolved.
A blonde reporter in a form-fitted red suit filled the small screen. Her lips, painted the same scarlet as her jacket, curved in a small smile. If you could get past the killer curves and angelic face, you'd note, as Sam did, the ambitious flint to her eyes. The sharp, smug satisfaction.
"Vivian Snellgrove, here at the Ottawa military courthouse where former General Henry Braddock is being tried today, for charges of corruption and embezzlement. You may recall, little more than one year ago, the standoff which brought these injustices to light."
Sam's stomach gave an angry and violent churn. Disgusted, he dumped the contents of his bowl into the garbage can.
"Sam!" The front door crashed open. There was a burst of footsteps, like gunshots. Jules shot through the kitchen door. "Sam!" She launched herself at him.
Laughing he caught her, lifting her off her feet and twirling her around in a narrow, dizzying circle. "I know. I'm excited too. The bastard's getting what's coming to him." He pressed a smacking kiss on her upturned face. He was careful to keep it light – keep it simple and friendly. Just a few more months he reassured himself, carefully stepping back. With any luck, it would be just a handful of months. Not that much longer to wait. He hoped.
Not much longer until he could kiss her like he wanted. Until he could run his hair through her hair. Until he would wake one morning with her beside him. He'd feel her skin against his. God it was driving him mad.
He memorized the fit of her body against his, burned into his brain, before slowly and regretfully stepping back.
"What?" She asked, brow wrinkling with concern as she seemed to take in what he'd said. "What are you talking about?"
"My father." He replied automatically, nodding towards the small screen. "What are you talking about?" He asked.
"Your father? What about your father?" She glanced over at the TV where the station had switched to archive footage of the Vaughann home where Sam had been held hostage. Zeb's voice murmured, on low volume, about protecting his brothers-in-arms. "His trial started today! I'd completely forgotten!" She exclaimed.
Sam reached across the counter, flicking the TV off. "It doesn't matter to me anymore. It's been over for a long time. What were you saying?" He asked. She was practically glowing with excitement – the energy radiated through her.
"They're creating a Team Six!" She said breathlessly. She leaned up, pressing her lips to his again – just one greedy little kiss – she couldn't stop herself. Wouldn't for another sixty years. "They've asked me to be lead negotiator."
The grin was immediate, spreading across his face until he was sure it would split in two. Was it truly possible for anyone to be so happy? He wondered, his heart leaping in his chest. "Starting when?" He brought her hand to his mouth, pressing his lips to her palm. Thank god, he thought. Thank god.
"Day after tomorrow. They're giving me Donna as lead tactician, Beckett from Team Two and Richard from Four. Recruiting for their replacements and the other three positions on my unit start Monday."
"That's amazing." He swelled with pride. Sergeant Julianna Callaghan. There could be no doubt that she deserved it – every single inch. She was the most scarily competent woman he'd ever met and, when lives were on the line, there was no one he trusted more.
He'd waited for such a long time, biding his distance. Knowing she was doing the same. He'd held back, trying to trim the feelings so they wouldn't show. They wouldn't get in the way. They wouldn't strangle him with need. And the fight had been exhausting. And now, quite simply, he didn't have to. The relief staggered him.
"We won't be on the same team anymore." She said slowly. She had to suppress the urge to scruff her feet.
"Nope." Sam said. He yanked her against him – hard. The kiss was bruising – blistering. The heat shot through him, burning bright. The taste of her ripped through like an explosion, dragging him under. Her hands twined in his hair, lips urgently pressing him on. He had a hunger for her - a gnawing kind of need.
"I waited for you Sam." Jules said, resting her forehead against his, brown eyes hidden beneath the heavy fringe of lashes. He placed his hand on her heart, feeling her chest struggle to rise with each ragged breath. Her pulse pounded beneath his fingers, straining against his hand. He could hear the rasp of his own unsteady breaths, faintly, and knew he was no better prepared for this than she was.
"I know." He said, simply. And it hadn't been easy for either of them - working alongside each other. Seeing what you couldn't have, there in front of you, every single day. The breathless moments after shots were fired waiting to hear those two little works: no harm. Each day falling just a little bit more and a little bit faster. And each day having to reign it back just a little bit harder.
He pressed his lips to hers again. Gentle, this time, and soft. His hand cupped her face, lifting it to his, his thumb gently trailing a circle against her jaw. Her hands pulled him close and the feel of his skin against hers was enough to set blood on fire, raging through her veins. It flooded her. The need, the want and, best of all, the love.
"I love you Jules." He murmured, burying his face in her hair as he crushed her against his chest. Face pressed to his shoulder, her lips curved in a smile.
"I'm scared." She said, looking up at him – brown eyes on blue.
"Me too. A little bit." He admitted.
"I don't want to screw things up. I'm not very good at relationships."
"Neither am I." He shrugged. "But we'll make it work."
"You think so?"
"Yeah. I want a life with you – a family and a home, Jules."
Her hand instinctively fell to her stomach. She imagined what it would be like to reach down one day and feel a life there. To watch her belly swell with their child. His hand joined hers, locking fingers.
"I do too." She murmured.
"We've waited long enough Jules." Sam said, smiling. "Let's leap before we look, Jules. Let's be brave."
"I'm ready for it this time. We both are." She said, rocking back on her heels. "Let's do it." Rising up on her tip-toes she pressed her lips to his. It was more than a kiss. It was a promise.