Author's Notes: After watching Never Let You Down again, I had to write what I thought may have led up to Jules's speech at the end of the episode. This starts at the end of One Wrong Move.
Disclaimer: The show Flashpoint and its characters were created by Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern and belong to them and its respective 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.
While Others Walk On By
It took several minutes and a couple of repeats of her name for Jules to realize Wordy was even talking to her. She'd buried her head against his uniform as if closing her eyes to the reality of the situation would mean that Lew wasn't really….That it wasn't true. Sort of like a child who thought hiding his eyes hid him from the rest of the world. Or maybe it had more to do with the fact that she couldn't stand to see what one person's hatred had done to her team. Either way, if she opened her tightly closed eyes, all she would be able to see would be black Kevlar and she was okay with that at the moment because the scene playing behind her closed eyes was no fun.
"Jules?" Wordy's tone was soft and reassuring, much like she'd heard him use with his daughters when they had scraped knees or other minor injuries. If only this was just a scrape that a little peroxide, band-aid, and a kiss could make better.
Though she'd rather keep her eyes hidden from the pain that currently surrounded her, she opened them and blinked back the tears that threatened to overwhelm her. She stepped back, not quite meeting his eyes and nodded. Okay? Right, cause seriously they were all okay knowing that their friend and teammate had just been blown apart by a land mine not two hundred feet away. That they - minus Spike whose back had been to Lew at the time - had seen his body flying through the air as the force of the explosion flung him away like a rag doll.
She wasn't sure what she should focus on. Her eyes kept trying to stray back to the last spot her friend had been alive but she didn't want to look and know Lew wouldn't be walking away. She didn't want to look at the crumpled form of Spike, his own grief so raw and palpable. Though Sarge was kneeling next to him, consoling the inconsolable, it seemed wrong to intrude upon his grief. She didn't want to look at either Wordy and Ed and see the same look of disbelief that had to be on her own face. She wasn't sure where Sam had gone. He'd walked away the moment the land mine exploded.
She didn't blame him; nobody liked to be wrong and Sam was usually no exception but in this case, he hadn't wanted to be right either. It couldn't have been easy for him even though he'd known Lew the least amount of time. Aside from Spike as their demolitions expert, Sam had the most experience with the effects explosives could have when not defused in time. And perhaps he had the most experience with Death itself. She knew about his sister's death when he was nine and about his friend's death in Afghanistan that had led to him coming to SRU. Not to mention the untold number of other soldiers in his and other units that had died in battle. Now Lew. Now one more person's death that he hadn't been able to prevent. No, she couldn't blame him for walking away from reality.
They trained for every contingency but not this one. Hell, at times it felt like they trained on how to train. But this wasn't something you could prepare for or ever be ready for. How do you train on how to deal with the loss of a friend in the line of duty? How would someone write the manual on how to feel and how to react?
Flashes caught her attention and she looked over to where the uniformed officers were keeping the public at a safe distance. Some had turned away in horror at what they had just witnessed but others had their cell phones out taking video of everything. Reporters that had arrived were busy snapping photographs of the carnage. It had been their flashes that caught her eye. Bile rose in her throat. Carnage that used to be someone she joked with in the weight room, of someone who was always up for a challenge whether it be rappelling down the side of the building or running the obstacle course or just coming up with the most outlandish story when the team went out for drinks. Carnage that only moments before had been more than just a co-worker. Carnage that had been her friend. And yet people were snapping pictures like it wasn't someone's life that had just been taken. Something snapped in her.
"You've got to be freakin' kidding me. They're taking pictures?" She started toward the yellow tape that kept the photographers at a distance. If she had to smash every single one of those cameras to stop them she would. And if she had to smash some faces in the process, well, then all the better.
As if he instantly knew what she was thinking, Wordy lunged forward and grabbed her by the waist and swung her around so the crowd was to her back. She wanted to struggle against his hold. Wanted to demand that he release her and then help her put a stop to the gawkers, the people who were acting like this was all just a show and not someone's life that had been taken. But instead she allowed him to carry her to the command truck. Once inside the privacy of the four steel reinforced walls she allowed herself to break down completely. Allowed the sobs that had held themselves at bay for as long as they could to burst forth like too much water pressing against a dam.
Wordy simply turned her in his arms so that her head was buried in his chest. Allowed her to cry out the hot scary tears of anguish and shock. His own tears made tracks down his own cheeks before dropping into her hair below him. They stood like that like for several minutes, together yet separate in their shared grief.
The door to the command truck opened again and Ed stepped inside. He put one hand on Wordy's shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. The other hand hovered at Jules's back. He wanted to offer her comfort as well but held back. Things had been a little strained between them since her return to the team, a strain he was mostly responsible for after he'd vocally suggested that Donna should be allowed to remain on Team One in Jules's place.
"Team Four is assuming command of the scene and we've been released. Sarge wants us to head back to HQ and wait for him there. I've got to find Sam; once I do, we'll ride back together. Wordy, you okay to drive Jules and Spike back?"
Wordy nodded, almost expecting Jules to bristle at the implication that she needed someone to drive for her; that she wasn't okay enough to do it herself despite the fact that she was still shaking almost uncontrollably in his arms. But Jules simply drew back from his embrace and to her full albeit short height.
"Wait for Sarge? Where's he going to be?"
Ed sighed. "He's going to remain on scene until the coroner arrives and then he's going with Commander Holleran to inform Lew's parents about what happened. He doesn't want them to hear about it from anyone else."
Jules paled even more than she already was. She hadn't thought about the fact that someone would have to show up at the Young's door to tell the couple that their son had died in the line of duty. She usually saw them once a year at the birthday bash they always insisted on throwing Lew every year even though he'd tried to tell them that he was a grown boy and that they didn't have to go to the trouble. If anything, his protests always made them go even more all out the next year. She loved watching them together; it was more than obvious how close they all were. Certainly closer than she was to either her dad or her brothers. This was going to devastate them. She drew in a shaky breath.
"We should stay. Be here for Lew as long as we can and then go with Sarge to tell Lew's parents." The professional in her emerged just enough to hide the fragile emotions that were just barely contained.
Ed shook his head even though he silently agreed with her. "We can't do anything for Lew here. And as for his parents, we will be there for them but not right now. It's better if the news comes from Sarge and that they have their privacy to process the information. Later, when it's not so raw for us or them, we'll be there for them. I promise."
This time he did reach out and thumb away a large tear drop that seemed content to hang on at the corner of Jules's right eye. The gentleness of his touch was almost too much for her and her lower lip began to quiver again. He nodded; she was a lot like him in many ways; she could compartmentalize but only if she could remain at least partly detached from the situation. He lowered his hand.
"How's Spike?" Jules pushed her feelings aside to think about her teammates. There would be plenty of time for her own emotions in the hours and days would follow. She couldn't do anything to help Lew now but she could be there for the rest of the team.
Ed just slightly shook his head but didn't give an audible answer. He didn't need to; they all knew Spike wasn't okay. None of them were okay but this would hit Spike worse than any of them. He and Lew were best of friends; they'd just gone on vacation together. Was it only this morning they were joking and showing off pictures of that trip?
Reaching up, Jules patted Wordy's Kevlar covered-chest that was slightly damp from her tears. She knew he'd interpret it as a thank you for allowing her to break down on him the way she had. She pushed past both men and exited the truck.
Ed looked at Wordy. "Before you join them, call Shelley; let her know you are okay. The press won't release any names until the department clears the information but you know at least part of the story has been released. She needs to hear your voice and you need to hear hers. I know I've never needed to talk to Sophie as much as I did when I called her before coming in here. You and me, we're luckier than the rest of the team. We've got a support system to go home to tonight. Spike's got his parents but it's not the same. But Sarge, Sam, Jules, they've got nobody waiting at home to comfort them."
Wordy nodded reaching for his phone. He was pretty sure Shelly was probably walking a rut into the floor. No matter how many times he'd told her not to watch the news while he was on duty, she couldn't help herself. She wouldn't call and check on him though; not wanting to wonder if he didn't answer if it was because he was too busy or if he were unable. Ed indicated that he would take care of the rest of the team while Wordy took the moment to take care of himself.
After leaving the truck, Jules strode purposively toward Spike who was still kneeling on the ground where he'd collapsed seconds after the explosion. She also purposively avoided looking toward the mob of reporters that she was sure had grown in the brief time since Wordy had pulled her away. Sarge rose from his position next to Spike as she approached. He gave her a quick hug and a kiss on the temple. He didn't ask her if she was okay to which she was grateful.
"I've been trying to get him to one of the SUVs but I don't think he's even hearing me. I don't want to force it but at the same time, he doesn't need to be here. Maybe you can reach him."
She nodded. She lifted her head slightly to really take in Greg's expression. His eyes showed his shock and pain where the rest of his face remained passive. She knew him well enough that he was taking this loss personally. One of his own had died on his watch and that made him responsible even if he had been as helpless as the rest of them. But his own pain would have to wait until the rest of his team - his family - was okay. Their eyes held each other for a long minute, each offering and taking strength and comfort from the other. Greg broke the contact first, nodding toward Spike.
As Team One's sergeant walked off to be the boss they all called him, Jules took his former position next to Spike. One small arm went around his back and with the other, she ran her fingers through his short hair. For a moment it didn't seem that he even registered her presence but after a moment he looked at her, his eyes almost pleading with her.
She frowned. "What?"
"Pinch me, hit me, do something to wake me the hell up. Cause this has got to be the world's sickest idea of a nightmare. It can't be real. Wake me up so I can go back to a world where my best friend isn't… isn't…" He couldn't bring himself to say the word any more than she could.
It was definitely the world's sickest idea of a nightmare but not one they could wake up from. If only they could, she'd wake them all up and never let anyone fall asleep again. "Spike, let's get in the truck. Wordy's going to drive us back to HQ."
Spike just shook his head. Jules took it as a positive sign that he did seem to be responding to her more than he'd apparently done for Greg. "Can't just leave him here. He deserves better. He deserved better but I let him down. I could have saved him; should have saved him." His voice cracked slightly at his last remark.
Jules frowned. "Spike, you didn't let anyone down, least of all Lew. If anyone could have saved him you would have. But it wasn't possible."
Again, he shook his head. "I could have done it. The water transfer would have worked. He just didn't trust me. Why didn't he trust me?" He looked at her, his eyes still pleading for what she couldn't give him.
Jules's jaw dropped in stunned silence. Is that really what he thought? "Spike, that's got to be the shock talking. There's not a one of us that doesn't trust you completely, Lew especially."
"Yeah, that's why he stepped off the mine and got himself blown up; cause he trusted me. Nice try but I'm not buying."
Jules frowned. "Good, cause I'm not selling you anything. What Lew did had nothing to do with not trusting you. It had everything with him wanting to make sure you stayed safe as well. He didn't want to put you at risk. Come on, there's nothing more we can do here. Let's go back to HQ."
Spike slowly rose and Jules was happy to see she'd actually reached him. Instead of heading toward the truck, he slowly turned and started back toward the explosion site, back to where what was left of Lew lay waiting for the arrival of the coroner. Jules frowned.
"Spike, where are you going?"
"I can't leave him. He should have friends stay with him."
That was the worst thing he could do. Jules was pretty sure no one would let him get even remotely close, especially with the rest of the mines still in the area. On the off chance that the cool pants got him close to the scene, there was no way he needed to see his friend in the condition Jules could only imagine that Lew would be in after the explosion.
But she was also pretty sure that any overt attempt to dissuade him would be pointless. So she did the next best thing. She nodded and fell into step beside him. "Okay, let's do this."
Spike stopped and looked at her. "I didn't mean you. You shouldn't get close."
Jules shrugged. "Lew was my friend as well. You just said he should have friends with him."
"I didn't mean you." Spike realized how that sounded and quickly amended. "I don't mean you aren't his friend but you can't go with me. It's not safe. Yeah, land mines are stable until they are armed but who knows what that explosion might have done to the other mines. They could be waiting to go off at any second."
"You're planning on going downrange." Jules pointed out.
"Yeah, but that's…" Spike broke off. He knew if he finished that statement he'd suddenly find himself downrange of Jules's temper. Not something he wanted to do on a good day and the last thing he wanted to do on the worst day of his life. He changed tactics. "Jules, you don't want to see Lew this way. An explosion like that would have…well, let's just say it's not going to be pleasant."
Again Jules shrugged. He already knew the arguments she had for him but maybe he'd listen to them better if he offered them first. "Maybe, but I'm not going to let you do this alone. So if you are going to wait with Lew until the…until they take him away, then I'm going to wait with you."
Without another word, Spike changed directions once again and climbed silently into the back seat of one of the SUVs. Wordy was already standing at the front of the truck, watching them. He looked from her to Spike who was almost attacking the seat belt as he dragged it across his shoulder and fastened it. With a slight shrug, she took her place in the front passenger seat and put her own seat belt on.
The ride back to HQ was quiet. Nobody felt like talking and within seconds, the silence became all encompassing. Jules stared out the passenger side window at the passing scenery. It seemed like every light turned red just as they approached, forcing Wordy to stop next to a different random car full of different random people, happily oblivious to the loss they were suffering. She wanted to jump out of the SUV and pound on the window of each car full smiling happy people and scream at them that they shouldn't be happy, that nobody should be happy. Didn't they know that a great guy had sacrificed himself to protect another? How could they be so blissfully ignorant?
Wordy pulled into the garage and turned off the engine before turning to look at his two friends. Ed had been right, just hearing Shelley's voice for a couple of minutes had soothed his own emotions enough that he could handle the next little bit of time until he could go home. She'd been devastated to hear what had happened even though he could hear just a smidgeon of selfish relief that it hadn't been him in her voice.
"Ed and Sam should be right behind us. I guess we should head upstairs to wait for Sarge." Wordy offered, breaking the silence at last. It wasn't that he really wanted to intrude on the thoughts of his two companions but at the same time, had to say something before the silence drove him insane.
Jules jumped slightly in her seat next to him as if she hadn't expected him to speak. Spike didn't react at all, too engrossed in the path his thoughts had taken him to even be aware of his surroundings. Wordy reached over and took the young woman's hand in his own and offered it a quick squeeze. They had a silent conversation that only years of working closely together could establish the ability to do. A conversation in which Wordy encouraged her to go on upstairs and let him have a try at wrenching Spike from his shock and grief. To which Jules reluctantly conceded, knowing they were all feeling the effects of losing Lew but that Spike had to be feeling it the worst.
Winnie stood as soon as Jules pushed the door open and entered the room. The tear stained tracks on the dispatcher's face said she'd pieced together what had happened even though they had been careful not to really say anything over the radios that would confirm the death of one of their own. Her eyes pleaded with Jules to tell her that her fears were wrong and that she'd been crying over the death of a co-worker for no reason. Jules shook her head and kept on walking.
It wasn't that she didn't want to talk to Winnie. More that if she filled the other woman in on what had happened, she'd probably lose herself in her emotions all over again. That was something she wasn't sure she could handle. She pushed over the door to her locker room. She kicked at the lockers several times before throwing her whole body against it and sliding down to the floor burying her head in her raised knees. She sat there for several minutes breathing in and out through her mouth to try to keep from sobbing all over again.
"Jules?" Winnie's voice filled the locker room, her tone uncertain.
"Yeah, Winnie?" She didn't bother to look up. She was pretty sure the dispatcher had been sent to check on her and the quicker she could reassure her and then by extension everyone else, the quicker she could be alone. But did she really want to be alone? Before Winnie could reply, she looked up into the concerned eyes of the other woman.
"Ed sent me to tell you that he, Sam, and Wordy are going to be in the briefing room when you are ready to join them."
It didn't escape Jules's notice that Spike's name had been conspicuously absent from that list. She frowned. Had she missed something important while cowering in the locker room. She pushed up from her spot on the floor. "Spike?"
Winnie frowned, a fresh tear running down her face. Though she worked with all the teams, she couldn't deny that Team One was her favorite. Such different personalities that all fit together like pieces of the same puzzle. A puzzle that was now irrevocably missing an integral piece. "He…I've never seen…" She took a deep breath. "He left."
Jules shook her head. Spike wouldn't just leave; they needed each other more than ever right now. Right, need each other so much that your hiding in the locker room when you really want to be surrounded by those who understand and share your pain.
Her own protests hit her like a sucker punch to the gut and she followed Winnie out of the room on shaky legs. Before they parted company - Winnie back to the dispatcher's desk and Jules to join the guys in the briefing room - Winnie reached over and gave Jules's arm a tiny squeeze. Jules paused at the door to watch the three men before they noticed her presence.
Ed was sitting at the table, his head bowed and resting on this hands that had found purchase resting on the table top. Sam was pacing back and forth like a caged animal in the far corner of the room. Even from a distance she could see his jaw was rocking with barely contained anger. And Wordy was watching over both men alternately ready to intercede if either should show signs of needing or wanting a comforting word. Jules felt connected with each of them. Their responses to a shared grief might be different: she turned inward in her grief; Ed would hide behind his professionalism until the job was over and only then would he allow himself to break; Sam would rail against the world and everyone in it until he could make sense of what had happened; and Wordy, bless his sweet, compassionate heart, would be there to comfort them all until he had nothing left to give. Maybe Spike hadn't been able to stay because after losing his best friend the best way he could cope with the tragedy was to push everyone else away at least temporarily. And it would be temporarily because they wouldn't allow anything else.
Wordy noticed her first. Immediately his arms opened for a hug and she gratefully stepped into his embrace to take it. They weren't just teammates, this was a family and they were hurting. After pulling away, Jules perched on the edge of the table and looked at Ed. "Winnie said Spike left." She left her question unspoken. Was he okay? Of course he wasn't okay but she knew if she had asked, they would understand what she meant.
Ed nodded as if she'd asked it anyway. "There were too many reminders around here and I think the walls were immediately starting to close in on him. I told him he was welcomed to stay, that we wanted him to stay but if it was too much right now he could leave. He changed clothes and left, apologizing the whole time."
"He's blaming himself." Wordy continued. "That's all I could get out of him in the SUV. He thinks it's his fault Lew died. That he should have or could have done something that would have saved him."
"It was a damn land mine." Sam practically growled from where he was pacing. "That's got to be the most cowardly way to kill someone. You never see it until it's too late and your death certificate is signed the moment you step on it. Only a coward would set traps around a bomb and then kill himself before he could pay for his crimes. There was nothing that could be done to stop it. Lew knew that."
Wordy frowned. "Yeah, well Spike believes he could have done something. No offense but he is our demolitions expert. Maybe he knows more about it than you do. Maybe his idea would have worked. At least that's what he's thinking."
"And if had tried, we would be standing here mourning the loss of two friends instead of one. That's why Lew stepped off. He couldn't let Spike take that risk." Sam countered, throwing himself into a seat at the end of the table.
Fresh tears slipped down Jules's face that she didn't even bother to wipe away. She could still hear Spike's anguish musing that Lew hadn't trusted him. Wordy was right, Spike was the demolitions expert but Sam was right that if he'd tried the results would have been disastrous. But what about the rest of them? "We should have done something. Instead of standing around arguing with each other about whether Spike should try his idea, maybe we should have been thinking about Lew and how to save him. Maybe if we'd listened to Spike and supported his idea openly over the radio, Lew would have felt more confident we were going to save him. Instead, it's like Sam was right, we signed his death certificate from the moment he stepped on the mine."
"We could sit around here all day and argue what ifs and if onlys but it won't change the what did. Lew is gone and no amount of second guessing is going to bring him back. I wish it would." Ed's voice was even, calm and professional but the defeated sound of pain was still evident. "We're going to have to debrief at some point but I don't think this is the right time. Our emotions are too raw and we need to do this as a whole team."
"But we aren't a whole team any more." Jules pointed out. "Without Lew, we're not whole." She pushed off the table. "I'm going to change and hit the workout room. Maybe if I turn up the treadmill high enough and run fast enough, I can outrun the pain. Even if that's not possible, I can't just sit here until Sarge gets back."
As she left the room once more, Ed looked first to Wordy and then to Sam. "I think she has a good idea. Anybody else?"
The other two men nodded and joined Ed as they left the room.
- FP - FP - FP -
Greg sat at the head of the briefing table looking down instead of at his teammates sitting around him. It hadn't been easy telling Mr. and Mrs. Young that their son was dead any more than it had been to watch the coroner bag what was left of Lew's body to take to the morgue. But facing the remaining members of his team sans Spike and Lew to inform them of what their friend's death was going to mean for the rest of them was perhaps the hardest of all. So hard that he'd abdicated the responsibility to Commander Holleran. The chief stood off to the side, looking both compassionate to what they were going through and yet the tough commanding officer at the same time.
"No doubt this is the hardest day Team One has ever faced. You lost a teammate and a friend today and that's not a pain that will go away on its own. I am truly sorry for your loss. Constable Young's parents are making funeral arrangements in conjunction with the department chaplain and we anticipate the funeral to be the day after tomorrow. Team one will be relieved of duty until after the services. Tomorrow however, Dr. Luria will be here heading up the crisis management team. You will all be expected to meet with her at some point in the next 24 hours for an initial stress debriefing but she will also be providing grief counseling for all of you. Also tomorrow I will begin setting up recruitment trials. Constable Sabine has agreed to fill in until a new Team One member has been selected. My door is always open if you should need anything during this difficult time."
No one said anything until the man had left. Then Ed shook his head. "So in 72 hours max we are supposed to have our heads back in the game enough to do our jobs?"
Greg nodded. "And 5000 hours still wouldn't be enough time. When he first told me I wasn't happy about it but then I realized he had a point. We can't avoid doing our jobs forever. Yes we need to grieve but the longer we don't do our job the harder it's going to be when we do. We all know Dr. Luria isn't going to let us in the field if she doesn't truly think we can handle it. After she meets with us, if she thinks its necessary, she'll request additional time, either for individuals or the whole team."
"So what do we do now?" Sam asked.
"Go home. Be with your families, your friends. Find a healthy way to deal with your grief. If you need someone to talk to before meeting with Dr. Luria tomorrow, call me; I'll be available."
"What about you Boss? What are you going to do?" Wordy asked, his concern evident. He remembered what Ed had said about Sarge, Jules and Sam not having family to go home to.
"I'm going to check on Spike and then I'm going to do exactly what I suggested that each of you do. If I need to talk to someone I will call someone just like I want you to do. We're going to be okay because we're going to take care of one another. It's what family does."
- FP - FP - FP -
A light drizzle had begun as night had settled over the city. It didn't appear to be stopping or even inconveniencing the people walking along the sidewalk. Jules absently ran her finger along the rim of her nearly empty cup as she stared disgustedly out the window at the passersby. Everyone seemed to be in a great spirits which was a sharp contrast to her own darkening mood. When one young couple pressed themselves against the outside window she was seated at to indulge in a heated kiss, it took everything in the young woman not to pound on the window at them and tell them off. It was as if the whole world was thumbing their noses at her and the rest of the team, defiantly enjoying life when theirs was falling apart around them.
A steaming bowl of soup was slid in front of her as well as a fresh beverage. She looked up to see Sam sliding into the other side of the booth she was sitting in. He nodded toward the bowl. "You shouldn't drink on an empty stomach."
She rolled her eyes. "It's a double double with skim milk. I doubt it's going to go straight to my head."
"True but the caffeine might keep you awake all night."
Despite her protests she picked up the spoon and took a dutiful bite. She was sure it was as good as always but it just tasted like color water to her. But she took another spoonful just the same. Then she washed it down with a sip of the fresh coffee. Clam Chowder and double double with skim. He hadn't forgotten her preferences. She glanced over at him where he was attacking his own Chicken Tuscan Panini. "What makes you think I want to sleep tonight? Every time I blink I see Lew flying through the air after the land mine explodes. How much worse would it be if I actually close them for longer than a spit second? I don't want to keep reliving that moment; living through it was bad enough."
"Copy that." Sam spoke softly, almost like he too was lost in his own thoughts. "But it's going to be a tough couple of days; you'll make yourself sick if you don't eat and don't get sleep."
As if to prove he was completely off base, she held up another spoonful of the chowder and took another bite. Then she lowered the spoon again. "Why are you here?"
It wasn't an accusation, just idle curiosity as to what brought him to the Tim Hortons on the other side of town as his apartment and so close to HQ. The same question could be asked of her, she knew. There were other places, even other Timmy's, much closer to her own home yet she'd found herself inexplicably drawn here to this one because it was the one the team frequented the most due to its close proximity to HQ.
"I didn't want to go home to an empty apartment. Didn't want to call up any friends that I'd have to explain what happened today in order to explain my mood. So I just started driving around the city; I don't know maybe hoping to outrun my thoughts along the way. I saw your jeep parked out front and decided I didn't want to be alone any more. Do you mind?"
Jules shook her head. "Wordy invited me to dinner with his family; I think he was worried about me going home alone. I turned him down partly because I thought he needed the time alone with Shell and the girls and partly because I really didn't want to be around people. I did go home, tried to lose myself in chores I'd been putting off around the house but the walls started closing in on me and I had to get out. So I came here where I could be around people yet be totally alone at the same time."
Sam nodded and started to pick up his meal to leave. She frowned. "What are you doing?"
He frowned. "You just said you wanted to be alone."
"I thought I did. But then you sat down and it felt right. God, Sam, what are we doing? We can't be together but right now there's no one else I want to be around."
"Jules, we stopped being lovers not friends. Nobody can fault us for that can they? Is it wrong for two friends to comfort one another after losing another friend? Sarge even said we had to take care of one another because its what family does."
She nodded, not sure if she agreed that it was okay for them to find comfort with each other but unable to deny that something felt right for the first time since early that morning and she didn't have the strength or the will power to give that up. For a few minutes, they ate in silence. Once her chowder was finished and Sam had polished off the last of his Panini, they continued to sit there, not talking but needing each other's presence.
A horn honking outside the coffee shop caught there attention. A SUV had stopped at a red light and was apparently carrying a group of women celebrating the end of singledom for one of the occupants. Said occupant had her head sticking out of the sun roof wearing a veil and screaming out to a group of guys that it was her last night of freedom if they felt lucky. The guys started calling out their phone numbers and then running after the vehicle as the light turned green and the SUV sped off with a squeal of tires.
Jules shook her head. It just seemed wrong to her that everyone else seemed so happy after everything that had happened. It seemed so unfair. Once again she played with the rim of her second cup of coffee that she'd finished off as she ate the chowder. She glanced back over at Sam. "I can't believe Holleran is starting the recruitment trials so soon. What's he thinking? You can't replace a teammate the way you can a wrecked vehicle."
Sam thought back to the recruitment trials after Jules had been shot. He'd been against them arguing that Jules was going to make a full recovery and be back so what was the point? This time there was no chance that Lew was going to return. It wasn't just a temporary replacement they'd be looking for but a permanent new member. Would that make it easier or harder?
"I guess he's got to think about the bigger picture." Sam replied. "Doesn't make it any easier. You're right. How do we give someone a fair shot when we know exactly why we're having to recruit someone new?" He nodded toward her empty cup. "Want another?"
She nodded. He left the table long enough to go back to the counter. He returned with two more cups of coffee and a box of 40 count of chocolate glazed Timbits. Jules raised an eyebrow. Sam shrugged.
"You said you didn't want to take a chance on dreaming. What better way to stay awake than by overdosing on caffeine and chocolate. Besides, this way, we can sit here all night and probably not get run out of here."
She reached for one of the Timbits and bit it in half. She was glad he hadn't gotten the apple fritter Timbits that they usually enjoyed around headquarters. Correction, the ones they would enjoy if Lew didn't get a hold of them first. Lew was the only she'd even known that could practically eat a whole 40 count by himself. Had Sam gone with the chocolate glazed because he hadn't wanted to remind her of Lew or because he really thought the chocolate would keep them awake, or because he remembered she'd once commented at work that it might be nice to branch out and get the chocolate one day?
She finished off the Timbit she'd started and looked over at Sam. For maybe the first time since she'd insisted that they had to break things off, she really looked at him. It was clear he was trying to mask the pain he was feeling. She lowered her eyes. "Spike's not the only one who's feeling guilty about what happened. You do as well."
Sam nodded. He'd just popped a whole Timbit in his mouth so he chewed and swallowed before replying. "I know there was nothing any of us could do to change the outcome of what happened. I know that. There was nothing we could have tried that would have made a difference. Spike's going to realize that when he has a chance process everything and get a better perspective. But yeah, I feel guilty. I walked away from the team when the team needed me to stay. Who does that?"
"Someone who realized he had to take care of himself first or he'd be useless to anyone else. You think we blame Spike because he couldn't stick around this afternoon after we got back to HQ? Of course we don't. We all knew how much he was hurting and respected his need to get away and lick his wounds in private. What, do you think because you are the rookie, you can't be allowed a moment as well? You shouldn't feel guilty for taking the moment you needed. You walked away but you came back. You're here now when I needed someone to keep me grounded. To keep me from wallowing in my own guilt."
Sam looked confused. "What do you have to feel guilty about?" He wanted to leave his side of the booth and join her on hers. Wanted to take her in his arms and offer her comfort. But he knew if he did, that line between lovers and friends would be blurred and they might both have real reason to feel guilty.
"I was so caught up with arguing with you and Wordy and everyone about what Sarge should and shouldn't allow Spike to do, that I was blind to what was really happening right in front of me. We all knew what the inevitable outcome was going to be but instead of saying the things that should have been truly important we acted like he wasn't even there."
Sam shook his head. "Jules…"
The door opened and a group of rowdy teenagers entered the coffee shop/restaurant. After getting their order, the teens crowded into the booth behind Jules laughing and telling jokes that would probably have gotten their mouths washed with soap had their mothers had opportunity to overhear them. Jules gritted her teeth and her hands clenched together into two small white knuckled fists.
"It's not fair. It's like life just keeps carrying on for everyone else and it shouldn't. Lew's… He's…" Even hours later, she couldn't bring herself to say the word.
"He's dead, Jules." Sam said it for her, his blue eyes reflecting his own pain. A pain that was made worse when she visibly flinched at the word. Despite this, he pressed on. "It's okay to say it."
She shook her head. "No, it's not. It can't be okay cause it shouldn't have happened. But it did. We'd already decided it was going to happen and instead of using what time we had left to say goodbye we were too busy worrying about whether it was going to take Spike as well."
Sam closed his eyes and leaned back against the booth. He understood that kind of guilt, that kind of pain, all too well. How many times had he wished for just a few more minutes with someone he had lost just so he could tell them the important things he never got a chance to say? He opened his eyes again. "You'll get a chance to say goodbye at the service."
Fresh tears filled her eyes and her lower lip quivered. "It's not the same. People should hear the good things while they are still alive to appreciate it. Why do we wait until its too late to say the important things? Why do we wait until it doesn't matter?" Why hadn't she told Lew what a great friend he'd been? Why hadn't she made sure he knew that they all loved him and that they'd take care of Spike after he was gone? Why had she waited until she was saying goodbye to Sam to tell him she loved him?
Sam didn't have an answer. He reached across the table and covered one of her tightly clenched fists with his larger hand. She shook her head but didn't pull her hand away. "It's like time stopped the moment Lew lifted his foot off that mine. It stopped for him; it stopped for Spike; it stopped for me; it stopped for everyone. Only it started back for everyone else while I'm still suspended in that moment. I'm still sitting there waiting for a miracle that's not going to happen; a miracle that will mean that we'll show up tomorrow for that debriefing with Luria and Lew will be waiting for us with a box of Timbits he's already eaten half of. The world started moving again but I'm stuck waiting for someone to tell me everything is going to be okay."
Forgetting his earlier reservations, Sam stood up without releasing her hand. He moved around to her side of the booth and slid in next to her. Without a thought to the consequences and what anyone who might see them might think, he pulled her into his embrace and held her close as her sobs once more overtook her. His own eyes pooled with tears as he held her shaking body close to his. Leaning in close to her ear, softly he whispered the words she wanted to hear.
"It's going to be okay, Jules. I promise, it might not seem like it now but everything is going to be okay."
She nodded. She accepted the comfort of his arms and the warm of his breath against the side of her face. They were friends now and not lovers and that's all they could be and remain on the same team. It had to be that way because she couldn't stand to lose another teammate even if it was only to another team. But for tonight, she could accept what he had to offer in the way that it was intended. She would accept all that he had to offer but she couldn't accept his promise that it was all going to be okay because she couldn't see how it could be.
- FP - FP - FP -
"But I do know what it is like to lose some body, who had absolutely no business dying, and not to have a chance to say good-bye," Jules leaned over the edge of the cliff grabbing hold of Zoe. Ed was beside her also trying to prevent Zoe from going over the edge if Sam and Leah weren't able to secure Dale. She felt a hand grabbing her by the belt and knew Ed was also keeping her from slipping as well. She continued. "and to be disgusted with people for just walking down the street like the world is the same place, that if you have just done something different, he still might be here."
Below the cliff, Sam's face was grim. He recognized most of her words as being the same she'd either confided to the team in their informal debriefing the day Lew died or that night in Timmy's. He'd sensed something was still bothering her in the days that had followed but he hadn't pressed the issue. That night they'd been able to connect at a level they hadn't been at since the night she'd dumped him but the connection had lasted only for that night. They'd gone through the grief counseling and he'd thought everything was okay. Surely if Dr. Luria had sensed any lingering pockets of unresolved grief, she wouldn't have let Jules return to active duty. But he should have known better than any of them that Jules was good at masking her feelings from even the people closest to her.
Now wasn't the time to focus on that, however, not when they had a subject to contain and a hostage to save. Jules managed to reach through the grief and guilt that Dale had built up over the disappearance of his daughter and they soon had him contained and Zoe safely over the edge. Once Sam was back on solid footing, he left Leah and Wordy to handle Dale and he made his way up the path to where Jules and Ed had led Zoe moments earlier. He waited until Ed had walked away before approaching his former girlfriend.
She wiped at her eyes and breathed out through her mouth. She'd found common ground with the subject as Sarge had told her to but at the cost of letting her teammates know just how much Lew's death was still affecting her. "Sam, not now okay? Please?"
He nodded. He should have listened to what she was not saying but he hadn't. Should have recognized that her reticence in the recruitment trials had meant something. Should have heard more that morning when she'd cut Leah off with a terse "We're good" when Leah had offered to be a listening ear if they'd wanted to talk. Should have but he hadn't. But he would now.
"Coffee and Timbits after shift?"
She nodded at his invitation. She started to walk away to join the rest of the team now that Sarge had arrived. Before she could walk more than a couple of steps, Sam's voice stopped her.
"Jules, everything is going to be okay."
Once again, she nodded. This time she might even believe him.