Disclaimer: I don't own Flashpoint. That much is probably plainly obvious as I'm not off plotting ways to miraculously cure Parkinsons to bring dear ol' Wordy back onto the team.
AN: I wrote this because I miss my sister like cray-zay now that we're a million miles apart at school again.
This is significantly longer than my usual. But it needed off my chest. Thanks to Syuuri for beta'ing it for me and making sure I was making sense. And going in the direction I wanted it to go.
Named for this quote: Failure is a detour - not a one-way street - (Zig Ziglar)
Her life was a cesspit. A sticking waste-filled hole.
She hated her job - her sucky secretarial position with the poncy law firm where well-to-do attorneys looked down their nose at her. Or worse – down her blouse.
She hated her ex-boyfriend. For all she cared he could fall off a cliff and die, the spiteful bastard. Just another asshole in the string of bad apples she seemed to attract. He'd made the unfortunate mistake of trying to put his hands where they didn't belong – namely around her throat. And his balls had paid the price dearly. She hoped he still couldn't walk straight.
She hated being broke.
But most of all she hated having to bunk with her brother.
Living with Sam, by every definition of the word, blew. She hated having to ask him for things – having to rely on him. It only proved him right – that she wasn't capable of taking care of herself.
When she'd shown up on his door, he hadn't said anything at all. Sammy hardly ever did. She was sure the General had delivered his first addresses on duty and respect to the womb – he'd drilled it into their heads their entire lives. The rules had been clear. Those habits had been hardened by years of military service and policing. So when she'd landed on his step, duffle slung over her shoulder he hadn't said so much as one word. He merely looked her up and down, raking her over with their father's icy stare.
The surprise registered on his face only briefly. Then, like a flash, it was gone, shuttered back behind that stony expression. He hadn't said what she was sure he was thinking: Here she is. Prodigal sister comes crawling back. A pathetic failure.
That was Sam. It was all in the eyes: distain, distrust and, finally, disinterest.
It was the last place she wanted to be, damnit it, but she had 23$ and a maxed out credit card in her back pocket and that sure as hell wasn't going to get her very far. She didn't have a choice.
"Hey Sam." She said casually. Like two years' hadn't passed since she'd last seen him. "I'm in a spot of trouble Sam. Can I crash with you for a little bit?"
He evaluated her a long minute.
"Legal trouble?" He asked, standing firm in the doorway.
"Not that I know of." She supplied, forcing herself to give her most charming smile. She lifted a shoulder casually, let it fall.
He saw right through it of course. He always did. "Not that you know of or 'no', Nat?"
"No Sam. I'm not in any legal trouble. Jeez." She huffed.
He stood there a minute more. Then stepped back abruptly, letting her pass. Into the dragon's lair, she thought bitterly.
And he hadn't said another word. Just flipped out the sofa-bed and tossed her a pillow.
For a day – two – it had been fine. They skirted past each other, carefully avoiding the other, two leery strangers confined to the same small space. Sam's shifts demanded most of his time, calling him away for long hours night and day. So they'd managed to co-exist. An uneasy peace emerged.
Things hadn't always been so cold between them, Nat thought. Sam had been the one to teach her how to drive, commandeering their fathers' jeep for lessons among the flat rust-coloured roads of their rural Manitoba home. He was 20, home for his second-year reading break. She'd been a highschool sophomore who felt smothered by her fathers' oppressive need for perfection.
He'd explained, carefully, the gears and mechanisms. His hands adjusted hers on the wheel. 'Ten and two' he told her, repositioning her grip.
And how they'd flown, air whipping through the car. Above the sound of the rocks crunching beneath the treads of the worn tires, above the sound of the classic rock her brother favoured piping out of the ancient radio, above the sound of the wind whistling past them, she'd thought she'd heard him laugh.
"The world doesn't know what's it in for with you."
He never once told her to slow down – she guessed he understood that lust for the rush. And, perhaps, the need to escape – even just in your head – from the small town base that threatened to consume you.
Sam had been the one to step between her and her father when things got bad. Not that the general would ever lower himself to hitting a girl. But there were things that, to a sixteen year old girl, were every bit as painful as a slap. So when the general's temper had broken, spilling over in harsh waves, it had always been Sam standing between then. He'd make the peace. To calmly present their father with reason, to sooth that inflated ego. Somehow he'd manage to get the General to just leave her alone. Sometimes he'd gotten the brunt of their fathers' anger. And he'd always said that was what big brothers were for.
But somewhere in between then and now it had happened. She had no idea what, or why or even how. Just that something had changed. Maybe it was that a person could really only take so much disappointment. And being related to her would really eat away at that allowance, she thought bitterly. Maybe war had changed him – maybe it had just made him realize he didn't want to spend the rest of his life cleaning up his baby sisters' messes.
Sam thought she was manipulative. A cheap liar and a feckless moron. Natalie didn'thave the heart to disagree.
While things weren't easy, they hadn't been truly awkward until the day.
He left that day as the dawn had cracked over the city – off for an early morning workout before his testing, she imagined. The man was unnaturally addicted to pumping iron. Physical power and strength was a key component to a successful life – another of General Bad Asses life lessons.
Though he had been quiet – only the padding of his feet on the kitchen floor – she heard him. For a minute she'd considered burying her head in the pillow and pretending that she was still asleep – but that was the cowards' way out. Damned if she'd live up his lousy expectations.
So she'd risen on long legs and sauntered into the kitchen.
"G' Morning." She said, faking a yawn.
He cocked a brow, poised in front of the open refrigerator.
"Bit early for you, isn't it Nat?"
She shrugged. "I was awake."
She watched for a minute as he dug through the fridge, rummaging to the back.
"Aha." He said, yanking out the bag of sesame seed bagels. He examined them a minute, checking for mould. They were likely stale as rocks but, hey, pop them in the toaster and who is going to notice, right? Same old Sam, she thought.
"You want one?" He asked.
"Nah. I've got yogurt." She said.
He grimaced. She knew he hated the stuff.
He moved to toss the plastic bag back into the fridge and paused.
"Silhouette?" He asked disbelievingly turning one of the small plastic tubs over in his hand. "It's called Silhouette? Jesus. What kind of damned chick food you stocking in here, Nat?"
"It's fat free and it's delicious." She said defensively. She'd be the first to admit it actually tasted pretty vile, but considering her hatred of exercise she couldn't afford to scoff.
"My fridge hasn't seen diet freaking yogurt in a long ass time." He muttered.
"Your fridge has ever seen diet yogurt?" She joked.
He stayed silent, his back to her. But she could see the tension ripple through him. Like kicking a rock in a puddle. When he turned she saw it in his eyes: a kind of wistfulness and grief. A sliver of anger behind the blue. And then it was gone behind that mask of indifference.
"Mom said you were, uh, dating someone." She scrambled to remember the name. "Uh, Crystal right?"
"She'd love that." He let out a bitter snort. "Her name was Jules."
"What happened?" She had to ask.
"Didn't work out." He shrug impatiently. "Is it inquisition over?"
She shrugged. Whatever. If he didn't want to tell her – screw him.
"It's complicated." He sighed. "I couldn't do what she wanted me to. We'll leave it at that."
But that wasn't it, was it? She thought. Not when he had that look on his face. She'd seen that look before – when Sam had burst through the kitchen door the day Sarah had been killed, after his first tour in Afghanistan, at his friend Matt's funeral.
"You loved her, didn't you?"
He pushed a hand through his hair, pushing it back roughly. "I think I did." The words were pushed out on a sigh.
"And you let her walk away?"
"I told you. It's complicated." For a minute he looked about a hundred years old. She'd never really thought of Sam as vulnerable before.
"You want me to beat her up?" He smiled, as she hoped he would, though it didn't reach his eyes.
"She'd mop the floor with your ass."
Mop the floor with my ass? Natalie thought. He was the one who'd taught her to fight and, as her last boyfriend could attest, she was pretty damned good at it.
The toaster popped and the two slightly burnt bagel halves sprung from their slots.
"You should go. You're don't want to be late." She said, glancing over his shoulder at the tiny green numbers on the microwave.
"See you tonight." He snagged his breakfast and headed for the door.
Mop the floor …
"She was SRU." She said with surprise.
"Still is." He replied without looking back.
And with that he'd left. Off to shoot things or not shoot things, talk or not talk. Whatever it was his unit did.
She'd spent the day scouring more ads, making more calls. Redrafting her pathetic excuse for a resume. Until finally it had become too much and she'd taken a walk. Her feet had led her straight to the whiskey section of the LCBO two blocks from Sam's apartment. She hadn't bothered to resist temptation and, with the remaining dollars in her pocket, she'd bought the cheapest liquor she could get her hands on.
As she rode the elevator back to Sam's apartment she'd weighed her options.
She could ask her father for money.
3… 4… 5…
She wondered what the black market value of a kidney was. She was fairly sure they were still intact and operational. Her liver – well, she juggled the bottle – maybe not so after tonight.
Stripping. There was always stripping.
7… 8… 9… 10…
Grow the hell up and start taking responsibility.
The doors chimed as she stepped out into the hallway. She steps up the door and tests the knob. Unlocked. Sam must be home.
She turned the handle. And walked straight into a scene ripped from the pages of a terrible family sitcom. Her brother was rabidly devouring a brunette perched on the kitchen counter. They were wrapped around each other, limbs tangled in a most intimate embrace. Her dress was hiked, exposing a good length of toned thigh. And her sweater was pulled down from her shoulders.
There was a gasp – her own perhaps. She wasn't sure.
The two broke apart, spinning to look at her. The woman pressed a hand to Sam's chest shoving him away. And he stumbled back with surprise. Two pairs of eyes locked on her. Sam's were filled with horror and shock – who wanted to get caught necking by their sister after all? – and the woman's with thinly cloaked suspicion and embarrassment.
"Oh. Wow. Uhm." She cringed inwardly. What did one say in that situation.
The woman surveyed her, quick eyes raking up and down her as she yanked up the sleeves of her sweater.
Natalie couldn't help but think the woman was lovely. Points to Sam for good taste, she supposed. The face was beautiful – long nose sloping down to a sculpted mouth. Dark eyes added a hint of mystery and depth. All framed by the fall of thick brown hair, waving around her shoulders.
Finding no answers, the woman spun back to Sam angrily. His mouth opened – as if he might say something. But instead just looked away.
The woman sat there for a minute, awkwardly trapped between the two Braddocks. Nobody spoke. And then she lept off the counter, dashing past Natalie.
"Okay. Sorry. Gotta go."
Sam darted after her retreating form. "Hey. No, Jules." He called after her.
And then it had clicked.
This was the woman that Sam had fallen in love with – the one who had trampled his heart. His teammate: Jules.
Were they … Was he … ?
The phone beeped. Sam was torn, for a minute, between chasing after Jules and the page. Duty won out, as it almost always did with Sam, and he snatched up his mobile. His face drained of colour almost immediately.
"Gotta go." He said as he took off at a run.
She could hear him call her name – Jules! JULES!
She'd gathered her things for the night. Methodically shoving items back into her duffle. He wouldn't want her here when they returned. She didn't want to BE there when they returned. Not when the look in that woman's eyes had read murder. And certainly not with the image of her big brother and his lover wrapped around each other in the kitchen seared into her brain.
If she'd come any later … she shuttered at the thought. Eeww.
And so, jotting a quick note, she'd taken off, bag over her shoulder for a friends' place.
Things had slowly changed after that. One day another toothbrush had emerged beside the bathroom sink. Another, a bottle of girly shampoo. And between her whiskey and Sam's beer in the fridge were nestle two bottles of red wine. Jules' favourite, she assumed.
She tried to stay out of their way as much as possible – she wanted to give them room. Who wanted their dopey kid sister around when they were trying to woo a woman?
But sometimes she'd hear them trudge through the front door after a long shift. The clock would chime three. Jules would say something sweet or funny and Sam would laugh – a deep and rumbling chuckle. She'd wait for the click of the bedroom door. Then the loneliness would set in.
She wanted that for her brother - he'd had a hard life and he deserved all the happiness that he could seize – but it made her wonder if she'd ever feel love too. She'd thought it was just the Braddock way until now; she just didn't think they were built for those kinds of emotions. But it was clear to her that Sam did love Jules.
There was something about the way he smiled to himself while he waited for her to finish in the shower and the extra bounce in his step the day after their 'sleepovers'. It was in the way he couldn't stop touching her – the brush of his hand down her back or the way he'd tuck her hair behind her ears.
And Jules was wonderful. She was, in essence, his perfect match. His compete equal. She was smart – intimidatingly so – and compassionate. She was also fiercely independent. She didn't have a problem standing up to Sam when he was wrong – which was, in Nat's opinion, all too often.
But this was also the woman who'd broken his heart – she'd been the reason for the look on his face that morning. She'd been responsible. And Nat couldn't help but feel a protective surge for her big brother. Even if he could be kind of an asshole, he was still her Sammy.
Natalie sighed as she reached Sam's apartment building. Only two more paycheques, she told herself, until she'd had enough for a deposit on an apartment. She'd managed to make enough so far to keep the creditors off her back. She didn't dare admit to anyone how much of a hole she'd dug herself in the past five years. But things would start to turn around soon, she promised herself.
She just had to stick with it – including the awful job.
When she opened the front door, she was surprised to find Jules standing in the kitchen. There were sprigs of greenery on the counter. In bowls, clustered around the cutting board, colourful vegetables in various states of preparation.
"Oh. I didn't realize you were here." Natalie said. Or she'd have found some way to avoid coming home so soon.
Something simmered in a tall metal pot the stove – something fragant. Against her will her mouth watered.
"I was just dropping off my stuff. I'm heading out tonight." She lied. She'd wanted nothing more than to curl up on the pull out and watch The Bachelor but clearly that plan was out the window.
Maybe she'd text her co-worker Mary and see if she'd be in for a night of home-pedicures and terrible chick flicks.
"You don't have to go, Natalie. This is your home too." Jules said.
For now she added mentally.
Where the hell was Sam? She glanced towards the bathroom door but there were no sounds of the shower running.
"He's not home yet." Jules said casually. She continue to work, mincing garlic and adding it to the pan with butter. She gave the pan a quick toss. "You didn't see the news today, did you?" She asked.
Natalie shook her head. She never bothered much.
"A plane was hijacked out at the airport. They'd taken a couple dozen hostages. We couldn't de-escalate." She busied her hands, adding more vegetables to the broth on the stove.
"Sam …?" Natalie's heart paused, suspended in her chest.
"He's fine." Jules assured her. "We had to storm the plan and one of the high-jackers turned his weapon on Sam. So he had to shoot. He's with SIU right now."
"Oh." Natalie didn't know what to say. How does one respond to being told that your brother had to end somebody's life today. "Oh."
"Yeah. I thought… well. SIU can be rough. I thought I'd come by. Make dinner. I know Sam's take-out habits and I'm sure you both could use a break from Ho-Lee Chow." Jules smiled.
Natalie nodded. She understood. Dinner was a gesture – a measure of comfort: a homecooked meal at the end of a hellish day.
"I'm sure you're tired from work."
"I like doing it." Jules said. She continued to move through the kitchen checking on that, stirring this. She tossed long strips of beef in a mixture of white powder – flour, Natalie imagined – before adding them to the garlic. "We all have our way of coping with a bad day. I like to cook. Keeps the hands busy and the mind occupied."
"Right." Natalie said. She felt miserably intrusive. "Well. I'd better get going."
"You should stay. It's good to have family around after – you know. It reminds us of why we do the job."
While that might have been a pretty good bet with most people, she doubted, very much, that Sam wanted her sticking around. She was a fuck-up. Nobody wants that.
"Sam cares about you, you know? He does love you." Jules said softly.
"Your ex called last week." Jules began.
"Jake called here?" Nat interjected.
"He did." Jules smiled at the memory. "You were out. Sam answered. He listened for a minute. I could tell he wasn't impressed. And then he said 'Listen, I know you're the bastard that put those bruises on my baby sister and you're lucky she let you walk away alive. If you ever see her or touch her again I will shoot you. I am army-trained and I can hit my target from two miles away. There will be no hole large enough for you to hide in. Lose this number or I'll make sure you don't have the fingers to dial it next time.'"
She shook her head. "He feels responsible for me, maybe."
"If that's all you see then you're not looking hard enough, Natalie. Sam's not always good at saying what he feels. I know it can be frustrating. But don't think that he doesn't love you, Nat. I know he's really proud of the way you're turning your life around."
"I don't understand."
Jules smiled. "With that boy, you have to learn to read between the lines. I think that maybe, growing up like you guys did, getting bounced around, you kind of start to believe you don't need people. Getting attached gets you hurt. And saying what you're feeling makes it real. If you just pretend you don't care, you won't feel as much."
"Emotions are a weakness." Natalie muttered.
"Another pearl of wisdom from the General, I assume?" Jules rolled her eyes. Sometimes she wondered how such a spiteful man had managed to raise such a wonderful son. And such a lovely, if lost, little girl.
"He was always hard on Sam."
"I can only imagine." Looking in her eyes, Natalie saw that Jules did understand.
"I see pieces of him in us. You know? Sam's got his eyes. His hands. His smarts. I've got his chin. His temper."
"But neither of you are him." Jules insisted. "You're both capable of so much more than he ever was. Because you both have the ability to care more about others than you do yourself. "
"Do you really think so?" She wanted so badly for it to be true. Her eyes watered. She willed herself not to cry.
"I do. It's why you're so scared of letting him down. You underestimate yourself, Nat." Jules hands covered her own and squeezed.
"I like you. I didn't want to, but I do." Natalie gave a watery laugh. "You're good for him."
"I'm glad. Because I like you too." Jules laughed. She turned back to the stove now. "Why you don't you get the wine out of the fridge. You can tell me all of Sam's most embarrassing stories."
And when Sam arrived home forty minutes later they'd managed to plow through more than half the bottle
His heart was heavy and his body exhausted but that didn't stop the rush of pleasure in seeing his two favourite girls gathered together in the kitchen. Their heads were bent over the stove. Nat had been careful to avoid him as of late and he hadn't really been sure if he'd done something wrong.
They turned when he stepped over the threshold and into the kitchen.
"I heard you had a rough day." Nat said, skirting around the island. She did something she hadn't done in years: she hugged him.
He hadn't realized how much he'd missed her until that point – how glad he was to have her back in his life.
"Comes with the job. It happens." He said. "I'm glad that you're here."
Nat hugged him tighter for a second and, lowering her voice so only he could hear, murmured "You should keep her, Sam."
Sam met Jules' eyes over the top of Nat's head, one quizzical look to another. He didn't know what she'd said or done – but he was grateful.