A/N: I know what you're thinking. Another story, Shiggity you beast. Well this actually was just one I was screwing around with for fun and I gave a few snippets to SYuuri who emphatically insisted that if I didn't post it I at least email it to her. I thought I would post it despite having a bad track record of starting and stopping things (because why should she get all the fun?). I think it has a pretty unique plot and I don't think it's been done before (sorry if you did it before I honestly didn't know). So again, if you enjoy it, thank SYuuri who is responsible for like 90% of Shiggity fics.
Some few technicalities, this chapter is set directly after the episode Terror. But future chapters will have larger chronological jumps between them. I'll work this into the narrative to make it clear. Also I know in Terror it was summery weather, but for the sake of my creative genius let's all pretend it was March and Jules and Steve had coffees instead of ice cream and they were wearing coats. That's all I ask of you. Just do this one thing for me.
Oh and this story will hopefully just be 10 chapters long. Also two of the chapters will be borderline M. I'll post a special disclaimer at the beginning. And as always the whole story is rattled with swear words. So sorry.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Black Tie Affair
He's late for work. Knew he would be late for work when he woke up almost an hour late this morning. Knew he would be late for work when he went out last night with the guys. Knew he would be late for work because he went out with them the night before. And the night before. And the night before. Knew he would be late for work almost a week ago when he was out with the guys and he got a call. A call from her.
First it was a note. A piece of paper, wiggled back and forth like a loose tooth and ripped on the crease. Chicken scrawled how they make a great team. Yeah, they work well together. Two cogs in the same machine. So well they're both on the top team. So when he saw her in the restaurant, maniac with proven mental issues waving a gun in her face, it was wrong of him to want to save her. Wrong because the feelings he swallowed weren't the type of feelings he's supposed to have. He's not supposed to know how her skin feels. How her lips taste. How she creates the sexiest sound when he sucks on her neck.
So he's three drinks into a well earned buzz, listening to Spike talk about his dad's horrible homemade wine, and his cell phone goes off in his pocket. He doesn't answer the first time. Doesn't think to answer. Is more focused on getting heavily shitfaced because all he thinks about is them together. How apparently everyone else thinks they're perfect for each other. How Sarge is basically ready to walk her down the aisle. He thinks she is perfect. Was perfect for him. No one else thought so. Including her. She thought the team was more important.
And he's left to watch her swoon over some old high school acquaintance who reveals too much about her to the team on the rare occasions when they intercept him. Causes her to hide her blush by ducking her head, almost in shame. He has to be okay with her spending her well earned day off with him. Watch her get excited to see him and pretend he isn't affected in the slightest. Watch her get sucked into an open hostage situation with him. Watch her over security cameras and unhitch his breath every time a gun is raised, because Jesus, she's already been shot once. Watch her kiss him and fret over him because he's hurt. Watch his world implode.
He sort of assumes they'll be closer now. They went to high school together, survived the nuclear wasteland of The Hat. Now they basically have matching couples tattoos surfacing in gunshot wounds. It's the perfectly laid out love story and if he wasn't so fucking bitter and so fucking terrified that he'd never get to hold her again, he'd be absolutely ecstatic for them. So he quietly chugs back a quarter of his beer and laughs along with the guys at something Spike said that he didn't hear.
Then his phone goes off again and the guys stare at him and his generic ringtone. They demand he answer it because the electronic jingle is interrupting their alcoholic sport. He presses his lips, fishes the phone from his back pocket and engages the call. His beer is still in his other hand. Has to have his priorities straight.
But her voice comes in. Shaky, stuttered, large gasps between the words and in his state of half inebriation he thinks the reception inside the bar is just shitty. So he tells her to hang on a second because he can't hear her that well. And really he can't. The TVs show a menagerie of hockey, golf and horse racing. Loud rock music plays. The lights are just too dim for him to concentrate. He just got the pattern of her language down.
Outside in the eerily warm March weather he tells her to continue. She inhales. A deep raspy, wobbly ordeal he images racks her whole body and only states two words.
They hold a funeral two days later. She sits on the edge of a first row pew, pardoned and stripped. Her heel keeps popping out of the back of her slingback. Smooth, flawless shin muscle flinches every time the cold church air hits her bare sole. Her hair is wavy, falling over the reserved back of her black, long-sleeved dress. The hem billows with her timed fidget. Lace dragging through water.
He sits two pews behind her. A creaky convention made for lurching sinners. He tries not to move. Tries to pay attention to the sermon. Tries to honor Steve's life, which very well could have been sacrificed for Jules. He doesn't really believe this though, because she's too smart to do half the shit Steve the stupid paramedic did. Tries to bow his head and pray along with the congregation, but he just wants to watch her. Perched on the edge. Solitary. He's with the rest of the team. Five men in suits instead of bulletproof vests. This is what it takes. Has only ever happened once before.
Afterwards the guys semicircle surround her, try to talk to her. He imagines it's like a flashback to hanging out at lockers in a Hat high school. Except the intentions are only the best and the wheedling is concerning if she's eating, sleeping, how handling things. Funerals mute Jules. Don't just cause her to get reserved or quiet. Full out mute her. Knows it because he saw her at Lew's. Knows it because she had to go to her mom's at the age of seven and her father and brothers forgot her in the cemetery.
In sniper peripherals he keeps track of her until she finally disengages from the room. He sets his drink down on the table, excuses himself from whoever he is talking to, and follows her to the coat check. "Jules?"
She turns, hair bobs around her shoulders, waves and dips around her face. Irises dance, sway behind a veneer of unshed tears. Plump lips purse and release. Her arms cross one another, defensive. Protective.
"Where are you going?"
Eyes fall to the scuffed and frayed hardwood. Lower lip trembles. She receives her coat without acknowledging the clerk. In a small, fluctuating voice she answers. "I have to fly home. There's another funeral."
"Okay." His voice equally quiet, afraid to usurp hers because he's almost too indifferent to the situation. Emotionally he bleeds for her. Wants to hold her and comfort her, but they work too well together. Emotionally he feels guilty as fuck because he doesn't feel all that bad for Steve. But logically he didn't know him that well, he's sure he was a nice enough guy. But jumping in front of a firing gun is a gamble. Getting shot is a gamble. If surviving a gunshot wound is fifty-fifty thing and it's between Steve and Jules he'll always bet on the same number. Pray for the same outcome.
Slowly, he unhooks her coat from trembling hands, from around clenched fingers and holds it open for her to slip into. She's so close to him he can smell her shampoo, her perfume, all the fragrances knitting together on her skin thunder in his nostrils. He restrains his hands from rescuing her hair caught beneath the collar of her coat and instead concentrates on the way she casually flips it free.
"Thank you," she whispers into the crosshatched lapel fabric. Eyes observing him briefly from thick, tear clumped lashes before she walks to the door.
Four days ago now. He hasn't seen her since the bleak whiteness from the open door ensconced her frame, light bursting around her body. Hasn't seen her since she didn't give him a second glance. He tries to push her into the back of his mind, but she's in his every unconscious thought. His every moment. His every heartbeat.
Dodging and veering through the SRU, through the three different levels of stairs and semi-stairs diffusing out to only a few steps that in lesser states of perception have caused him to tumble, he RSVPs for the day shift. He's only ten minutes late. It's a pretty big red X on his record, but considering only half an hour ago he dragged his hungover ass out of bed, he considers it a victory.
"Braddock." Ed doesn't even glance up from the obvious report he's already filing. Other people don't consider it quite a victory. "You're late."
"I know. My alarm didn't go off." It's a bold faced lie. The kind his mother would grow glassy eyed at when she immediately saw through it. Wring her hands on her embroidered kitchen apron and turn away from him. The kind The General would plant a fist on his face for.
"Give him a break, Ed." Wordy nudges their Team Leader and give him a coy smile. "You know how it is sometimes."
"Yeah." Spike agrees from a few feet away, screwdriver awkwardly positioned against Babycake's treads. Apparently Team Two must've used her last night over shag again. "Samtastic hit the bottle so hard last night; I thought it said something nasty about his Mom."
Ed emits a very low, very brief chuckle. "All right Sam, just don't make a habit of this."
"No sir." He answers, still not able to shake the army leeching on to the back of his neck. It's a disease. It circulates with his platelets.
The locker room echoes with this every movement. Almost haunting in reverberations. Locker clanks, zipper hisses, clothes muffle and scuff. He gets changed in record time. He always does. Bleeding trait leftover from the army.
When he exits the locker room he can already feel the transformation. The air is different. Lighter, softer, charged. After four vacant days he began to notice the changes she brings to the SRU. He always knew them, they just became more pronounced.
She's stuck in the clear space between where Ed and Wordy stand at Winnie's vacant desk and where Spike kneels on the ground a few feet away. Triangulating. Her purse threatens to slide down her shoulder; coat sleeve bunched creating hills of wooly material. Boots leak a little bit of off brown water, the kind seen in puddles and clean rivers, from the melting snow.
Ed strides by her, by the others as they apparently catch up. The Team Leader gives him an expression. He's unsure how to interpret it, but sure Ed's base reaction is annoyance. Jules still has another four days off; she shouldn't be back to work yet so now preparations for her return to duty must be fast tracked. Or it could be because he's staring at her, and Ed knows it.
Eventually the solemn conversation between her and the others ends. Spike didn't manage to elicit a laugh, not even a grin, not even anything else than a blank mask response. She walks away, boots leading Dalmatian tracks across the floor and towards him.
The muscles in her throat and her collarbone are over pronounced by gray skin that usually accompanies illness. Her hair threads, dull in color and looks brittle in texture. Her eyes stand half open with threatening bags beneath them. It's the combination of losing someone and jetlag.
He pretends not to notice any of this. "Hey Jules."
"Hey. Do you know if Sarge is in?" Her head cranes to the side to sneak around him since he commands the hallway.
He didn't realize this and steps to the side. "I haven't seen him, but you might want to try the briefing room."
"Thanks." She swerves around. Purse yanking down her arm.
And then he waits again. Some mornings at the SRU are so disorganized. If there's not an immediate hot call or game plan, things go to shit quickly. Wordy went to restock, Spike continued with Babycakes, Ed went over drills for later once a team of five or six could be successfully confirmed, Jules and Sarge apparently talked. And he just did nothing. It's like being back in Kindergarten, there are too many things to focus on and he can't concentrate. Can't make a difference. He can hardly feel his headache anymore.
Finally she reappears as an apparition at the end of the hallway. She tries to walk right by him, but he gives her chase. A little offended, a little hurt she would just ignore him. Not even greet him after her brief sabbatical. Fingertips ghost over her swinging hand halting her immediately. "Jules."
Her hand is clammy. It flinches away like she's touching an oven element. "What?"
"Nothing." A little stunned by her reaction he takes a step back to compensate for his unwelcome disruption. Part of him wants to apologize for interrupting her march and leave it at that, but she's unbalanced. Her face is stern, but her eyebrows grow un-crooked and buoyant, denying her anger. Other emotions parading as anger. "I just wanted to see how you were doing."
"I'll tell you in an hour." She answers and flashes a half crumpled piece of paper. The corner of it being masticated by her hand. Fingernails tearing into it. "I have to go downstairs for a psych evaluation."
He groans. Feels her agony. Knows her hatred for psych evaluations courses deep. Is well earned. His nose twitches almost in disgust. "Really?"
"Yep. Sarge ordered." She shoves the paper into her purse. It's almost confetti. She sighs loudly and plows stringy bangs from her face.
Her head shoots up. Eyes dart, and narrow. "I wish people would stop saying that."
He doesn't know how to reply because the fallback response is usually another apology.
"And asking me how Medicine Hat was. It was a funeral, how do you think it was? Or if I saw my dad? I did in a pharmacy but I didn't tell him I was going to be in town and he didn't want me there so you can imagine the extreme dislike on both our parts when we just happened to meet."
"Hey, hey." His hand touches her bicep. He means for the action to calm her, but underneath his fingertips her muscle tenses to rock. She's about three seconds from wrenching her arm away and continuing her march to an evaluation. He just wishes he could tell her that he's here for her. No matter what she needs, he's here for her. But he can't because they work too well together. "It's going to be okay."
"Yeah." Arm jerks free from his grasp and she shrugs him off. Her shoulder rotates so her purse rises higher on her arm. Fingers strum the worn and giving fabric. Boots clack down the echoing hallway. "Everyone keeps telling me that too."
Next Chapter - Shit goes down. I'm not saying anymore than that because I don't want to ruin it.
A/N on other stories: Just-World Ch.6 is about half done. Sonant and Surd Ch. 2 I'm having writer's block on.