Author's Notes: So, yeah, not exactly a chapter for Growing Up Too Fast but sort of a one-shot companion to it. It can stand alone if you aren't reading GUTF but if you are, it explains the picture Johnny stole from Jules's house in Chapter 42. For those hoping for another chapter for GUTF, my only excuse is that with the holiday I didn't think I could do it justice as it's going to be a pretty heavy chapter. Hope this suffices.
Continuity: This story takes place sometime after Cost of Doing Business but before Priority of Life.
Disclaimer: The show Flashpoint and its characters were created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern and belong to them and its perspective networks. I am making no money off this story and it is for entertainment purposes only. However, this particular story is my creation and should not be used without my express written permission.
On the Outside Wanting in
"Okay Team, don't forget the Police Service Gala is in three days. I hope you've gotten your fancy duds out of mothballs." Sgt. Gregory Parker announced at the end of shift debriefing.
Jules frowned. "What are you talking about? We're scheduled on shift that night. We'll be in uniforms in case we get a call out."
Ed chuckled. "You didn't think we'd make the Law Enforcement Professional of the Year work on the night she gets her award did you? I thought you would have realized you at least would be off. But Commander Holleran decided that it was important that the rest of the team was there to support you and congratulate you and not have to risk being called out right at your big moment. So he rearranged our shift with Team 3."
Greg nodded. "We would have said something earlier but we didn't get the official word that it was a done deal until today. See everyone tomorrow."
The team dispersed with the guys all heading into their locker room. Jules silently went in to her own. She sat down on the bench in front of the lockers and blew out a frustrated breath. Her phone buzzed on her hip and she pulled it out. There was a text message from Sam.
She sighed. Nothing in the message that would give anything away to anyone who might accidentally pick up one of their phones and see their messages. Everything having to be so careful lest anyone picked up on their secret. It was bad enough that Sarge knew. Bad enough they were putting him and the rest of the team in jeopardy. She started typing.
They'd gotten so used to sending secret text messages that they'd gotten it down to a shorthand. She knew he'd understand that she wasn't sure but would tell him later. She could even anticipate his next message would be him asking where they would meet. In the time she had Sam had secretly resumed their relationship, they had perfected their routine. They came in separate vehicles so that they didn't raise suspicions. At the end of the day when they left, still in separate vehicles, they would go in opposite directions, just as they would if heading to their respective homes. Along the way one or the other would detour and end up at the other's place. They would usually determine whose via a cryptic text message. Sure enough the phone immediately chirped again.
Knowing how she was going to have to spend her evening she should tell him neither. Though they tried to spend as much time together outside of work as they could they both understood that sometimes real life had to take precedence over their secret relationship. Still she was feeling grumpy enough from Sarge's announcement that she needed the pick-me-up she knew she'd get from Sam's presence even if it was just long enough to explain to him why she had to cancel their plans for the night. In her mind, she calculated which place would put her closer to the destination she needed to go. Her finger lightly tapped the one letter answer and sent the reply.
She smiled. The first time she'd seen the four numbers staring at her on her phone she'd been confused until she looked to see what letters you got from those numbers. H-U-G-S. She could almost feel his arms around her in a quick embrace as she did every time she received this particular text. Her step was a little lighter as she grabbed what she would need for a shower.
Ten minutes later she was leaving the locker room. She didn't even glance at the men's locker room even though she wondered if Sam had left yet or not. It wouldn't do for anyone to misinterpret a look and think something was going on between them. Actually, since there WAS something going on between the two of them, it wouldn't really be a misinterpretation.
As she made her way down the stairs, her thoughts drifted to the upcoming gala. Ed had asserted that he figured she would have anticipated being off duty for the event. She couldn't see how he would even come close to thinking that. She loved the gala, the people who planned it each year always pulled out all the stops into making a fun evening full of food, drink - if you weren't on duty, and good music. It was the talked about event of the year. She just preferred attending in the comfort of her uniform.
It didn't take long for her to make the drive to Sam's apartment building. As she parked and climbed out of her jeep, she could see Sam leaning against his bike like he was waiting for her. He joined her and with a hand on the small of her back led her into the building. He waited until they were in the stairwell before he pushed her gently up against the wall and gave her a long, spine-tingling, make-your-toes curl kiss. Once he pulled back, he smiled down at her.
"I've been wanting to do that all day."
"I've needed it all day." Jules admitted. "And as much as I would love to follow you upstairs so we can pick up where we just left off, I can't. You heard Sarge this afternoon, there's only three days until the gala. I was so sure that I was going to be on shift and in uniform that I haven't shopped for a dress yet. I'd put it off but I may have put it off too long as it is. It'll be a miracle if it can be altered in time and I'll know it'll have to be altered because look at me, they don't make clothes that fit me without being altered."
She was rambling so quickly that Sam had trouble keeping up with her. He kissed her once again then pulled back. "Breathe, Jules. It's not a big deal Relax, we can go shopping. It's not that big a deal. To be honest, I need to buy something to wear as well. We can go together. I'll help you pick out something perfect and you can do the same for me."
Jules stared at him for a moment. "I'm don't know which surprises me more. That you are willing to go clothes shopping with me or that you don't already own a suit."
Sam smirked and shrugged. "Thus says the woman who doesn't have a sexy little number in the back of her closet for just such an occasion? It's not like I have a reason to get all dressed up. Usually if the situation calls for something special I'm usually wearing either my military or police dress uniform. And as for shopping with you, it'll mean you get to model the dresses for me. And if you need help with zippers or something, then well…" He trailed off but his meaning was clear. She slapped at his chest in mock severity. He laughed. "So, are we doing this?"
Jules nodded reluctantly. "I really hate clothes shopping. It's just another reminder that I'm short and…"
"Perfectly perfect just the way you are." Sam quickly assured her. "We'll find me a suit and you a dress and after the torture that is shopping is over, I will treat you to whatever you want for dinner."
Sam held out his hands to take her keys and then led her back to the jeep. Once they were on the road, he glanced over at her. "How have you gotten out of needing a dress for the gala before now? You've been at SRU a lot longer than I have; I can't believe you've had the misfortune of being on shift every year when it rolls around."
Jules shrugged, looking out the window. "If I'm not scheduled I volunteer to take someone's shift who is. Usually I have plenty of takers. Can't drink if you are on shift and there are plenty of guys who don't want to turn down free booze."
Sam shook his head, confused. "Why though? I would have thought you'd like the chance to get all dressed up and show the world what a beautiful woman you are."
Jules snorted. "Yeah, cause I've given you that indication when? Seriously Sam, I had to fight really hard just to get my spot at SRU. I had to prove that I could do this job just as well as anyone else and yeah I know everyone does but it was so much harder for me because I was a woman and there were no women at SRU, not then. Even after I made the team I still felt like I was on the outside looking in. A part of the team but not really. People watched my every move waiting for me to mess up. Sometimes I still feel that way."
The pain in her voice cut him to the core and shocked him as well. "Jules, you can't feel that way. You're the heart of the team. Everyone loves you and counts on you…"
Jules looked out the window. "That didn't stop me from having to re-earn my position on the team after I was shot though, did it? Sam, I trust the team, I really do. I don't feel like I have to prove anything to any one of you, but everyone else? Hell, yes. I didn't even realize the double standard was still there until Ed got shot earlier this year. There was no talk about him not getting his spot back it was his the moment the doctor cleared him for duty. I'm not blaming Ed, please don't think that, but you've got to admit the double standard is there."
"And yet you are the one getting the award, not me, not Ed, not any other man or woman who will be sitting in that room. You. You were chosen because you have proven that you can do this job just as well as anyone else and probably better than the majority of the people who will be there."
"I know I should think of it that way but it's hard to let go of years of insecurities. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud they choice me and I can't even say how much the award means. Still I wish I didn't have to get up there wearing a dress."
"So you think by showing up in uniform you can make them forget that you are a desirable, beautiful woman? I hate to tell you this but not even that uniform can do that."
- FP - FP - FP -
"How about this one?"
Jules glanced up from the rack of dresses she was looking at. Sam was holding up a red dress. Her eyes opened wide. It had a plunging neckline that extended all the way down to the waist. Even with her diminutive size she wasn't sure there was enough material to sufficiently cover her butt. She could also tell from the halter top construction that the dress was backless. She blushed almost as red as the color of the dress.
"In your dreams, Braddock."
He grinned and leaned forward so he could whisper in her ear. "Jules, in my dreams even if you started off wearing that dress, you wouldn't be wearing it for long."
Her blush got even deeper and she automatically looked around to make sure no one was paying them any attention. Sam straightened and nodded toward the dress again. "So?"
"Not a chance in hell. I'd be too embarrassed to even show up wearing this; it's a wardrobe malfunction waiting to happen. Not to mention that I'm more than a little lacking when it comes to the assets needed to pull off a dress like that."
Sam replaced the dress on the rack and glanced around before pulling her in for a quick hug. "Jules, trust me when I tell you that you are lacking absolutely nothing when it comes to pulling off that dress or any others. But we'll keep looking."
There was something wrong with each dress he picked out that he'd finally gotten an idea of what she'd say before he ever showed it to her. Then he found it. A beautiful hunter green that would look perfect with her complexion. It was simple and understated but would fit her in all the right places. It was sleeveless but with wide enough shoulders that she wouldn't find it revealing. All that would show of her chest was just the briefest keyhole peak. It was long enough to reach her knees but would still show off her legs. He smiled; it was perfect. Now to convince her.
"Sam, if it's another…" She broke off her interruption as she turned to look at the dress he was holding. She smiled. "It's perfect."
Sam smiled as well. He offered her the dress. "Then I guess you should model it for me."
- FP - FP - FP -
"Sam, can you?" Jules indicated the zipper as she held the front of the dress to her chest with one hand and swept up her hair with the other. Sam nodded as he buttoned his blue shirt. Crossing the room, he let his fingers trail down her bare back until he reached the zipper. He zipped it up and then kissed the tender spot at the juncture where her neck and shoulder met. "I still can't believe it fit perfectly without having to be altered."
"You look beautiful." He whispered in her ear. "Perfect dress for the perfect woman."
The huskiness of his voice and the warmth of his breath caused her to shiver just a little. He turned her around so she was facing him and kissed her warmly. She allowed herself to get lost in the kiss for several long minutes before pulling away.
"Sarge will be here soon. We should finish getting ready." She moved off to the bathroom so she could put her make up on.
Sam nodded and watched her go. He wanted to touch her as much as he could now because he knew that once Sarge picked them up, he'd have to go back to just being Sam the co-worker instead of Sam, the man fortunate enough to share her bed. He thought about her admission to him the day they brought the dress about how she felt like she was on the outside. It was the way he was feeling about tonight. Like he was on the outside of the festivities, allowed to look but not really participate.
He should be used to it by now; keeping his feelings for Jules hidden when they were around the others. Still the pressure seemed greater knowing they were going to be surrounded by people who didn't know them. If he asked her to dance, even if she'd danced with Spike and Raf and even Ed, would it look like he was just another teammate or would people assume it means more?
"I'm glad Sarge is picking us up. We won't have to answer any awkward questions about why you are here." Jules called out from the bathroom.
"Yeah, it's great." Sam agreed as he picked up the maroon tie they'd bought to go with the navy pants and suit jacket. He slipped it under the collar of his blue dress shirt and started to tie it but found he was all thumbs. Jules emerged from the bathroom and laughed at his attempts. She brushed his hands away and proceeded to tie it for him. He shook his head. "How do you know how to do that?"
"Father and four brothers, remember? It comes with the territory. Ready?"
He nodded and grabbed his suit jacket before following her down the stairs. Greg arrived a few minutes later. His expression was grim. "I need to talk to you both before we leave. I found out this afternoon that Dr. Toth will be coming to the gala. Now I know I don't have to tell you that he's probably going to be watching you both very carefully looking for any sign that you two are romantically involved. Now since the three of us know that you are, we've got to make sure there's nothing that will indicate it in your behavior tonight."
Jules frowned. "Sarge, aren't we careful in keeping our relationship quiet? Has there been any indication in our work that something is going on?"
Sarge shook his head. "No, but we're really not looking for it either. Toth will be. Every look, every touch, every word. If there's anything thing there, he'll see it."
"Great, nothing like a little pressure to ruin a good night." Jules grumbled. "What do you want from us, Sarge? What are we supposed to do, act like we hate each other? We can't even be friends?
Greg shook his head. "I didn't say that. I'm worried. All Toth needs is a reason…"
"Then we won't give him one. I'll won't go." Sam suggested.
Jules's eyes widened. "No, you have to be there. The award might be mine but I know it wouldn't have been possible without the whole team supporting me and that includes you. You should be there. I want you there."
Sam lowered his head. "I want to be there. You have no idea how proud I am of you. I want to see you accept that award. I want to be the loudest person cheering and the first on my feet to give you a standing ovation. But that's the reason why I shouldn't be there. I react the way I want to and Toth's going to know. And I can't not react the way I feel."
Jules turned to Greg, her eyes pleading. "Sarge, tell him he has to be there."
"I hate it but I think he's right." Greg agreed quietly.
"But it's mandatory." Jules protested but she knew she was losing the argument.
"Tell them I got sick at the last minute." Sam suggested. He hated the hurt look he was seeing in Jules's eyes but knew it was what needed to be done. He hugged her tightly.
She tried one more argument. "But you brought a suit…"
"And I'll be here wearing it when you get home and we'll have our own celebration here. We knew when we decided to give this another go that it wouldn't be easy. This is one of those prices we have to pay for being together."
- FP - FP - FP -
In the end Greg got Jules to leave without Sam. Sam watched them going thinking about how beautiful Jules looked even when she was unhappy. He knew she'd bounce back from her disappointment during the drive. Sarge would work his calming magic and have her feeling better. She would arrive at the gala and their friends would surround her with love and laughter and she'd have no choice but be her usually warm and sunny self, at least on the surface. Unfortunately, there was no one here at the house to do the same for him.
For forty five minutes, he tried not to think about how every guy at the gala would admire how beautiful she looked, how they would want to dance with her. He tried not to think of Toth posing subtle probing question after question trying to find anything that could be used against them. Jules would be able to bear up under his scrutiny better than he could. He'd always worn his heart on his sleeve when it came to her. When it came to trying not to imagine her accepting the award, he lost his battle.
He locked up her house and climbed on his bike. He drove straight to the convention center where the gala was being held. He wouldn't go in, but he could watch through the windows, wishing he could be there. All he had to do was make sure no one noticed him. He wasn't worried about people looking out and seeing him through the glass. The room was too well lit and the outside was too dark, creating more of a mirror effect for those on the inside.
His eyes immediately found her, just as he imagined, surrounded by their friends and co-workers. Sophie had a cameral out and was snapping pictures right and left. He'd have to get Jules to ask for copies later if she hadn't already. His eyes never left Jules; she looked so beautiful but he could see in her eyes how much she was missing him. He wished he could let her know then he smiled and pulled out his cell phone. He hoped she would catch on to what he was saying. He typed out a quick message and read back over it before sending it.
Sorry I got sick and had to miss seeing you get what you deserve. Nobody can say you are on the outside looking in any more.
A couple of minutes later, he saw her reach in her small black handbag and pull out her phone. She read the screen and he knew she'd understood when she discreetly started to look toward the windows as if searching. Before she could do anything more, everyone started moving to their seats. He watched a little jealously as Spike put his hand to the middle of Jules's back to lead her to her seat.
Greg approached the podium; Sam knew he'd been selected to introduce Jules and present her with her award. Then she'd taken the podium. Sam wished he could hear what she was saying. But then he saw that Sophie was holding her camera up and realized she was recording it. He'd have to get Jules to ask for a copy of that as well. He could hug Sophie right then.
After Jules finished her speech, she returned to her seat. She was fanning herself like she was hot. When she started toward the door, Sam realized she must be using the excuse of being hot to come outside. He met her at the door and pulled her to a quiet area where no one was likely to see them. She hugged him tightly and then kissed him.
"I'm so glad you came. Are you sure you won't come in?"
He shook his head. "I don't think it would be wise. You shouldn't stay out here too long either or someone will coming looking."
Jules looked up at him. "Can I have at least one dance?"
The music could just faintly be heard drifting out into the dark of the night. Sam nodded and took her in his arms as they began to sway to the music. For that moment, all the world was perfect.