A/N: Because Jake and Sherry need love and because my little shipper heart went into overdrive after finishing their campaign. I'm pretty new to the RE world, so any problem with characterization, please let me know! Title taken from a quote by e.e. cummings.
Only By You
They are trudging through a dusty marketplace when she sees the stall.
It doesn't look like much—just a faded striped awning covering a table that had probably seen better days last century—and Jake would have kept on walking by without a second glance but Sherry, ever the observant one, suddenly lights up. Before he has time to utter a "what the hell?", she's bounding off towards the shadowed stall and Jake fights the impulse to roll his eyes.
He waits in the middle of the street for a moment, ignoring the stares of the locals. Even though they all know why he's visiting their backwater village in the middle of nowhere (because, come on, mutated creatures suddenly rampaging around the walls of their precious ancient town followed by two fully-loaded foreigners roaring in isn't exactly the most complex equation), they probably weren't expecting to see him looking like he does. Olive green, he has discovered, does not camouflage pieces of decaying body matter very well.
After another minute of baking in the unrelenting sun, Jake sighs and heads towards his preoccupied partner. As he enters the mercifully cool shade of the stall, he discovers what has caught Sherry's eye.
He looks to his partner and smirks. "I never would have expected you to be a sucker for flowers."
"We need something to brighten up the safe house," she retorts as she adds a bright yellow flower to an already substantial bunch clasped in her hand. "Despite what you think, guns do not make great centrepieces."
"At least you don't have to water them," he points out. "And you're not wasting cash on something that's just gonna die in a few days."
Sherry shrugs his comment off. "It's not a waste of money if you enjoy them."
"How did they even get here?" He waves a hand towards the sun-drenched village square they've just crossed, which is noticeably devoid of any thing remotely floral. "It's not like we're in the banana belt of the Middle East."
Sherry adds a few dashes of purple to her collection then nods in the direction of the vendor, who is sitting as far under the shade as he can get, flipping through a magazine. "Farid is from the capital city. Apparently his family runs a pretty big greenhouse operation and he drives around to all of the local villages to sell their flowers." Jake doesn't bother to ask how she knows this. She has a way with people and her uncanny ability to get a life story out of anyone is something he's gotten used to.
She looks at him suddenly, her eyes widening as if a thought has just dawned. "Wait a second, you don't seriously think there's something wrong with them, do you?"
He doesn't say anything, surprised and a little unnerved that she's got him figured out so well. They've only been official partners for the last two months (two of the happiest months he's had in forever, not that he would admit it anyone, even under threat of death) but it already seems like she can read his mind. "You got to admit, flowers in a place like this, and some of our favourite Neo-Umbrella friends taking a vacation just outside, hell, it just seems kinda strange..."
He trails off as her smile widens and before he can backtrack , she's giggling, her blue eyes shining through the grime and sand and remnants of dead mutant smeared on her face. "Oh, Jake, I can't believe you think flowers would cause an outbreak!"
There's a flush creeping along his cheeks that has nothing to do with the heat. "Go ahead and call me paranoid, but who knows what new strategies those fucknuts have come up with. I wouldn't put it past them to infect puppies and kittens if it meant upping their kill count."
Sherry is practically beaming at him now, her smile wide and infectious and, despite the fact she's looking at him like this because she thinks his theory is utterly ridiculous, damn if it doesn't want to make him smile too. "Look on the bright side, even if they are infected, neither of us has to worry too much."
He can't argue that point and Sherry knows it. He's just glad that she doesn't know how much of a hold she's got on him, that if she were to tear up right then and there, he'd have bought the whole stall just to see her happy. So he bites his tongue for the time being (which, for once, is easy to do since he's exhausted and dying of heatstroke and even his brain is too tired to do much more than guide his feet home) and decides that maybe the flowers aren't so bad after all, not if they make her smile like that.
"You know, we could have used that money for something else," Jake says later, watching Sherry fiddle with the last few flowers of her bouquet. They're sitting at the kitchen table, both freshly showered and changed into clothes that don't reek of death and rot and he's feeling better than he has in days, probably in part because the gleam of happiness hasn't left Sherry's eyes. He doesn't really want to think about why his partner's happiness seems so tangled with his own because if he starts thinking about it, then he starts thinking about those feelings and the last place he needs to think about those feelings right now is here, with her just within arm's reach and looking good enough to eat.
"You're like a dog with bone about this," she sighs. She's twirling a white flower in her fingers as she examines her masterpiece. "Okay, fine, what would you have spent it on?"
"An ice cold beer or three, for starters. Some ammo might have been nice too, since we dumped most of it in that last B.O.W. we ran into." His lips quirk. "A camel. The guy in that last town seemed pretty eager to make a deal."
"Alcohol is illegal here and we've officially cleared this village of the threat so we don't need any more ammo," she reminds him before plunking the final flower into its place. He doesn't see the reason why it needed to be placed in a specific location rather than just somewhere (it's a flower, not a bomb or, you know, something important) but she's smiling again and he almost forgets what she's talking about in the first place. "And good luck getting a camel past American customs, even with our clearance. Last time I checked, they don't fall under the 'bioterrorism' category."
"Have your ever smelled their breath? I'm pretty sure they'd qualify on that factor alone."
"No, I haven't and I have no intentions of ever smelling one, thanks." He watches her give the jar a few turns then she leans back, apparently satisfied with her work (he can't, for the life of him, figure out why this angle of jar makes any difference from the last one, but he chalks this up to Sherry being a girl and therefore being a different species). "There," she says triumphantly. "All finished. Even you, Jake Muller, have to admit it looks pretty."
You look pretty, he wants to blurt out but he's smarter than that and if (or when) he does tell her how beautiful she is, he's sure as hell not going to say it like a seven year old boy with his first crush. So he gives the flower arrangement a quick once-over, then shrugs a shoulder. "Looks like a bunch of soon-to-be-dead flowers in a jar."
Sherry laughs. "You're so poetic. I think they look perfect and even if you can't see it, they definitely make this place brighter."
"Why do you like flowers so much?" Jake asks, curiosity getting the better of him because he actually hasn't seen her get this excited over a thing before.
Her features soften as she cups her chin in her palm and for a moment, the happiness fades and is replaced by shadows of memories that he only knows the barest details of. She's been slowly telling him things about her past, mostly things about her time in the lab when she was younger and from their time in China. His own experiences in that godforsaken lab have given him some reference for what she went through but thinking about a young, wide-eyed Sherry Birkin going through the constant battery of gruelling tests makes him want to punch someone (preferably that Simmons dickhead, dead or not).
"I guess it all started when Claire was allowed to visit me. She'd bring me flowers sometimes—nothing fancy of course, just a small bunch now and then. Once it was a plant, an African violet I think, but I wasn't allowed to keep it. I was never allowed to keep the flowers or plants for very long, because the scientists didn't want to contaminate the lab environment." She laces the last few words with a heavy dose of sarcasm and Jake wants to grin at her but all he can do is feel his heart clench in his chest as he gets another glimpse into the bleak life of the lab rat that Sherry had been. "Eventually, the flowers started to represent the outside world and the freedom that I didn't have and I promised myself that when I finally got to start living my own life, that I would buy myself flowers every chance I got."
"So your first paycheck bought out a whole flower shop?"
She shoots him a wry grin. "No, it went towards a microwave. But I do try to buy flowers when I know I'm going to be home for a while so I can enjoy them as long as I can."
"This had better not be your way of telling me we're stuck here for a while," Jake groans in mock horror, trying to lighten the mood because damn it, if he hears any more, he might just give in to the urge to pull her into his arms and tell her over and over again how wonderfully brave she can be. "A few more days here and I really will buy that camel just so I can escape this hellhole."
"Don't be such a baby," she chides him. "I already let head office know that we're ready to be pulled out. A jeep should be here in the morning to pick us up."
"You always think of everything, Supergirl," he comments lightly. "And since you took care of the paperwork, I guess I can rustle up some grub for dinner."
She frowns. "What do you mean? I haven't done any paperwork—"
He gets up quickly from his seat, sensing that if he stays any longer, said paperwork might be thrown in his face. "I know you'll do it, because I always leave it until last minute and you can't stand it when it's half-assed and covered in coffee stains."
On a sudden impulse (which he later blames on her story about the flowers and thinking about her going through government-sanctioned torture and mostly because she's frowning at him), he reaches into the bouquet, plucks out a sunny flower and tucks it behind her ear.
"You owe me big time," she mutters darkly, but there is a slight flush to her cheeks and he lets his fingers linger just behind her ear for a moment, fighting the not-so-sudden urge (because it's an urge he always seems to have whenever he's within five feet of her) to see if her lips are really as soft as they look.
"I'll add it to the list," he promises insincerely and before he jumps into even more dangerous territory than the one they just shot their way through earlier, he lets his hand drop and swaggers towards the door, hoping to high hell that the old woman down the street is willing to barter for more of her tasty stew and doing his best to banish all thoughts of his petite partner from his mind.
Later the next day, when they're waiting for the helicopter to pick them up from the blisteringly hot tarmac on the top of a skyscraper in the capital city, he catches sight of something yellow and flower-like peeking out from a pocket in Sherry's bag and a sudden warmth that has nothing to do with the desert heat spreads through him until he's grinning like an idiot.
When she turns to him to ask a question, she sees his expression and narrows her eyes in suspicion, but he doesn't care. For the first time, he finally has an inkling proof that she might like him as more than just a partner, which is a surprise because who knew a dinky flower could give someone hope?
He forgets about the flowers for a while. They get back to America only to be faced with the usual bureaucratic bullshit of meetings and reviews and reports and he has to do some paperwork after all, which he gripes about for days. Then—because time fucking flies, he's discovered, when you're not freelancing and actually employed in a job that has things like a schedule and benefits and vacation pay—they're being briefed on their next mission and have to focus on new problems like supplies and research and getting in touch with contacts, most of which he leaves to Sherry (except for the guns and ammo—those he considers his area of expertise).
A few weeks later, he finds himself in the middle of a forest near the border of Edonia, trying his best to track down some stray J'avo that have been causing problems for the locals of a nearby town (and who may be operating out of a base camp—which might not even exist—that the D.S.O. wants wiped out). He doesn't like this mission, solely due to the fact that he and Sherry have had to split up in an effort save some time and gain more ground in their hunt. He's stuck on side of a gorge, she's somewhere on the other and he bristles at the idea that's she wandering these gloomy woods alone at the mercy of whatever machete-wielding pricks might catch sight of her. The rational part of his brain tries to point out that she's probably a lot better off than he is. If she gets stabbed, she'll survive it just fine. He, on the other hand, is not equipped with magical powers of regeneration (he's only got a packet of those pills that taste like ass and they certainly won't fix multiple stab wounds) and for all of his super strength, that won't help him as much if his hands get chopped off.
"Found anything yet?" Sherry's voice crackles to life through his earpiece. Even with the static, he can hear the fatigue in her voice.
He kicks at a branch in his way and watches with satisfaction as it goes tumbling over the edge of the cliff. "Nothing. Abso-fucking-lutely nothing."
"Great." He can hear her sigh. "I'm getting pretty close to the rendezvous point. What's your ETA?"
"Can't tell you right now. Too many trees in my way and I'm not seeing any sort of narrowing in the gorge from where I'm standing."
"Well, don't take too long. We don't have a lot of daylight left."
She's right about that. The light is dim in the forest but it seems to be getting a little dimmer with every step he takes. Cursing under his breath, he picks up his pace, sweeping through the dense thicket of branches and tree trunks and veering further into the woods in an effort to find something, anything, that might have made this impromptu tour of Edonia's natural wonders actually worth the effort.
A thick wall of bushes blocks his way and he's too pissed to care about going around them so he brings his head down and his arm up and charges through (at this point, if he stumbles headfirst into a goddamn J'avo colony, he'll be over the fucking moon because he really wants to shoot something instead of worrying like a frightened schoolgirl about his partner's welfare). His foot catches on a root in the midst of his mad dash and suddenly he's hurtling through the underbrush, tumbling head over heel until he breaks free of the branches and lands on soft ground.
It takes him a minute to readjust his balance and his vision and when it finally returns and the world stops spinning, he realizes that he has found something after all.
Stretched out before him is a clearing, a small patch of grass and sunlight hidden amidst the dark trees. But more importantly there are flowers. Yellow and pink and white and lush and scented and the first (and only) thing he can really think about is what Sherry would do if she could see it.
He briefly considers radioing her and telling her to make her way over but instantly rejects the idea. Their rendezvous is at the narrowest part of the gorge and from there, the town is only a short walk back. There's no way in hell he's putting her at any more risk of attack, Supergirl or not.
On an impulse, he plucks a daisy from it's stem and hides it in his coat pocket because he's sucker for big blue eyes and thinks that she might appreciate a little sunshine after a long day of trekking through mud and dead leaves. He stands up, brushes petals and dirt from his coat and heads towards the other side of the clearing but as the darkness of the forest looms before him, an idea takes hold and he turns right back around.
The flowers don't stand a chance. They are haphazardly ripped from their stems and shoved into the growing collection that he's clutching protectively in his hand. He goes about the task with grim determination, hoping to high hell that he is actually alone in this place and there's no one with a camera in hand taking damning pictures of Jake "Can Kill People With One Punch" Muller picking flowers for a girl. But even if someone now has evidence of his dying manhood, he still thinks it will all be worth it just to see the look on Sherry's face when he hands over his prize (he can admit it—now that he's reached this new low—that he really does love her, he's in love with her and that he'd honestly do anything for her).
The bouquet is nearing its completion and Jake is admiring his work when the quiet woods start to get noisy. Branches start cracking and bushes rustle and eerie grunts echo through the trees. He has just enough time to reach his gun before the J'avo swarm the clearing (those mutated asshats ruin everything).
There are a five of them, peanuts compared to some of the hordes he's had to fight before. Feeling confident, his gun finds its marks quickly, felling three of them in rapid succession. He has to duck from an incoming swipe of a blade though, causing the fourth shot to miss and catching one of the mutants in the arm. As the tentacles emerge from the J'avo's remaining stump, Jake rolls away only to have the other remaining J'avo kick the gun out of his outstretched hand.
Swearing, Jake regretfully ditches the flowers he's been so good at protecting and jumps to his feet. He ducks and dodges and lands a few solid hits on the one, all the while doing his best to keep an eye on the Freakish Arm J'avo just off to his right. With some effort, he manages to get a good solid roundhouse kick to his opponent's face and as soon as the J'avo goes down, Jake stomps down on the mutant's head with a satisfying crunch.
He whirls around, ready to face the last remaining douchewad who ruined Sherry's surprise, when something goes wrong (later he thinks its probably the brains coating the sole of his boot that does it because brain matter is fucking slippery) and he feels his foot slide out from under him just as the tentacle arm shoots towards his face.
Time stands still for the briefest of moments and he swears he hears Sherry calling out but he doesn't have time to register what direction her voice is coming from (he doesn't even have time to blink) before the J'avo takes full advantage of his altered balance, grabs him by the neck and smashes Jake into a tree.
Everything is out of focus.
At least, it is when he opens his eyes again and it takes a shake of the head before the room around him sharpens and becomes recognizable. For the briefest of seconds he panics, thinking he's back in some top secret laboratory (because the last time he woke up like this, with an IV in his arm and machines beeping around him, he sure as hell hadn't been put there to get better), but he calms down when sees the normal hospital decor of ugly pastel walls and curtains that no self-respecting Neo-Umbrella peon would be caught touching.
There is something else that he can see, something white and just barely in his view. Gingerly, he reaches up to his nose, feels around the bandage covering it and gives it a prod (and then curses because poking a broken nose is probably one his stupider ideas). There's also something around his chest—some kind of binding—and he hopes that he hasn't broken too many ribs because, shit, those things take forever to heal and if there's one thing he hates, it's having to sit still.
The nurse that bustles in moments later is a large woman, all hefty shoulders and wide hips and big hands that look like they can crush someone's skull, and as she comes at him with a bottle of pills and a glass of water, he can see the determined, no-nonsense look in her eyes.
She does give him some information. He's currently in an American military hospital outside of Warsaw, has been here for two days, and she doesn't know anything about his mission because she keeps berating him for his apparently crappy motorbike skills. She tells him he's lucky to have gotten away with nothing more than a broken nose and bruised ribs (he's just relieved they're not broken) and he is forced to swallow a pill to keep her happy. She gives off a sort of Ustanak vibe and he doesn't really feel up to testing her limits, not when all he's got is a flimsy hospital gown and his hands and even then he's not sure if he'd be up for a fight because fuck, his whole body is starting to ache like crazy.
He finds out he is getting discharged right away when she plunks his clothes at the end of the bed. She tells him to get moving, an order that he happily complies with because Nurse B.O.W. also informs him that his partner is waiting for him on the other side of the door. The thought of reuniting with Sherry is enough to propel him through the extremely painful act of putting on clothes (he's happy to see that his favourite coat made it through the fight okay, although it looks a little dirty and doesn't smell so hot) as fast as his bruised body will let him.
Jake's fully aware of how pathetic he is when it comes to his partner (it's why he spent those seven months after China 'freelancing' a few test runs of his abilities for the D.S.O., why he took an actual job with fucking paperwork rather than heading back to his free and easy mercenary lifestyle) but he's decided he really doesn't give a shit anymore. The burly nurse lets him out of the room, stuffing a bottle of pills and some release forms into his pocket before he leaves, and he's instantly greeted by the much more pleasant sight of Sherry pacing anxiously in the hallway.
Her whole face brightens when she sees him and he opens his arms just in time to catch her in mid-run as she throws her arms around his neck. He buries his face into the hollow of her neck, breathes her in (she smells of coffee and hospital and just faintly of citrus) and feels her arms tighten around him. Sure, she's pressing right up against his battered chest and it aches like hell but he's willing to fight the pain if it means getting to hold on to her a little longer.
He manages a smirk (it only hurts a little if it's just the corner of his mouth). "What? No flowers?"
"Sorry, they don't have a gift shop here." She pulls back, scanning his features, checking to make sure that—despite the nose—he's in one piece. "You really gave me a scare this time," she says, her voice soft and her eyes accusing.
"Now you know how I feel every time you go running off without me," he replies seriously. A faint blush steals across her cheeks and she lets go of him (probably because they're in a military hospital and American military frown on things like hugging).
"Come on, the D.S.O. want you out of here now, before the officials start asking too many questions. I'm not even sure they bought my motorbike accident story anyway but it was the only thing I could think of."
She leads him out of the building and to a small rental car and even though he has a high pain tolerance, he can't stop the grimace when he has to crouch down to get in (because European vehicles were made for midgets and not for tall men who have been nearly broken in two). As they wind through the countryside, he rests his head against the back of the seat and closes his eyes while she brings him up to date on what had happened in the forest.
"I reached the rendezvous point soon after I radioed you. I was only there for a few minutes when the J'avo went racing and in the direction you were supposed to be coming from. They moved pretty fast but I managed to keep up with the ones at the back." He can hear the old worry in her voice as she relives those moments and he's touched that she was so worked up over him. "A few of them hung back so I had to take them out first, or else I probably could have reached you in time. You have no idea the sound it made when you were thrown...how awful it was to hear that crunch."
Before he has a chance to open his eyes and reach out a hand, she inhales deeply and continues on, her voice more composed. "Anyway, after you fell to the ground, the J'avo managed to get you under his foot but I shot him off of you before he could do too much damage. Then I radioed our contact and the agency and got you out of there as fast as I could. Luckily the military hospital was close by and in range for the helicopter, otherwise we would have had to wait in that town for a week before the D.S.O. could get us out safely."
She starts talking about some of the new threats the D.S.O. has added to their list but he's too tired and too sore to do more than make noncommittal noises. She also brings up their impending flight date and he is relieved to hear they won't be boarding a plane for a few days because he doesn't think he deal with the pain of airports and planes and tiny seats right now. So he settles deeper into his seat and lets his mind drift and can't help but think of Sherry waiting in those woods with his broken body, sitting among the flowers she loves so much.
As soon as they're inside the apartment, he tosses his coat to the side and staggers over to the couch. He collapses on it with a groan and Sherry stands by the door, hands on hips, her lips pursed. He recognizes her bullheaded stance and groans again.'"I think you need another dose of meds."
He flings an arm over his eyes (how the hell can eyes even hurt like this?) and tries to ride out the next wave of pain that is plaguing his battered body. "I think you're wrong."
"Jake," she says his name with a mixture of annoyance and steely resolve. "Don't argue with me. You can barely move. Just take the meds."
He wants to be a jackass but she's right. And he's even man enough to admit it (to himself) a little pain relief would be a welcome change "If you want me to have them so much, you'll have to bring them over here."
"You're impossible sometimes." He hears her shuffling around. "Where did you put the pills? And you had better not say you hid them in the car just so you can escape to the bedroom and lock me out because I will seriously knock down the door if you do."
She knows him so damn well and he wants to laugh and hug her at the same time (he really does hate taking pain meds because they make his brain fuzzy and he can't stand losing any control over his own body). Instead, he flails his free arm in the direction of his coat. "I think it's in one of those pockets, the one with the papers."
There is more shuffling and then, out of the blue, it stops. He doesn't take much notice at first, but when the silence stretches on, he drops the arm over his eyes and looks to see what has happened to his partner. "Hey, you get lost in there or something?"
Sherry comes over to the couch and slowly places the medication and a bottle of water on the table near his head. He's expecting her to shove a pill down his throat (because if there's one thing he admires about her, when she's determined to do something, she will make sure it gets done) so he braces himself against the cushions and waits for the lecture.
It never comes. Instead, she sits on the edge of the couch, facing him (her hip is practically touching his and he can feel the heat of her thigh all along his chest), her hand curled protectively around some precious object. He squints, trying to make out her expression but she's kept it carefully neutral. "What's the matter, Supergirl?"
"You know, after the J'avo were all dead, I had to wait with you for a while before our contact picked us up." She's looking at her hands as she speaks and he wonders what's changed her mood. Something's up though, so he decides the smartest course of action is to wait and see what she says (because Sherry is honest and wears her heart on her sleeve and when she doesn't show emotion it's usually because she's trying not to let her feelings bubble over). "I couldn't help but notice that you had found a really pretty place in the woods. There were flowers everywhere around us and all I could think was how nice it would have been if you'd found it earlier so I could have had a chance to pick a few."
He remembers the clearing well, remembers his ill-fated bouquet that had to be flung to the ground in order to save himself. There was something else too, something he should remember, but in his pain-addled state, he doesn't want to think too hard. In fact, the pain is so bad even the meds look tempting and he breaks down and pops one under Sherry's approving gaze.
She waits until he finishes the water then holds out her clenched hand. "I...I found this in your pocket."
Her fingers unfold to reveal a wilted daisy. A few petals are missing but surprisingly, even after everything, it is still in pretty decent shape and still looks cheery even though it's definitely been through the ringer.
"Huh." Jake blinks. "I forgot about that."
"I'm not trying to pry or anything," she adds hastily, blushing as she keeps her eyes on the sad little flower. "It's just...I guess I didn't realize you actually do like flowers."
He knows she's giving him a way out, knows she's allowing him to make a hundred excuses as to why he has a daisy in his pocket. For a moment, he even considers using one of them, ranging from the sentimental ('it reminds me of my mother'), to the most idiotic ('I dunno how it got there, it must have been a J'avo'). But as he takes a deep breath, he knows that he can't fall back on flimsy excuses because he doesn't think he can live with himself for being such a fucking coward that he can't tell the only girl he's ever loved what he'd do to see her happy.
So with a smile that reaches his eyes (he doesn't know how his face softens when he smiles at her, only when it's at her), he closes her fingers over the daisy again. "Actually, I picked it for you. I had a few more ready too, but our favourite masked friends screwed up my floral arrangement."
Sherry's reaction is not what he's expecting (not that he knows what to expect, because, seriously, he's a guy and the only women he's been around have been mercenary types without a single soft edge in their soul). Her eyes lift to his and he sees them shining, except they're not shining from happiness but from tears welling up and brimming over and streaming down her cheeks.
"Aw, shit," he mutters. "I didn't do it to make you cry—"
He doesn't get a chance to say anything else because she's suddenly dropped the daisy and is throwing her arms around him—her face tucked into the crook of his neck as she sobs—and hanging on for dear life. He holds her just as tightly, rubbing a soothing hand over her back as her tears soak through his shirt. Since comforting someone isn't a skill he's had practice at, he can only murmur to her, telling her it will be okay (because he has no fucking clue why she'd be crying if there wasn't a problem, he just hopes to hell it's not because she's depressed by the now obvious fact that he likes her as more than his work buddy).
Eventually, after what feels like an eternity, she lifts her head up and meets his worried gaze. He is surprised (and thrilled) to see a genuine smile on her lips and in her eyes and the tears finally gone. "You went to all that trouble just to get flowers for me."
It's a statement, not a question, but he feels a need to answer it. "Well, yeah. It wasn't really any trouble though until the damn J'avo showed up." And, because she hasn't run away or yelled at him or told him to forget it, he raises an eyebrow (at least, he thinks he does, it's hard to tell even with the meds lessening the ache in his face). "But I did get my face rearranged for it and so far, the only reward I've had is being bossed around and pills shoved in me. Not exactly what I was hoping for."
It's a challenge, and for a tiny moment, he wonders if he should have done it like that, laid it all out there for her to either accept or reject. There isn't any time to regret it though, because her answer becomes loud and clear when she leans in a little closer, moving her hands along his shoulders and up his neck in a torturous, teasing caress. Her voice is barely a whisper when she asks, "What were you hoping for?"
"Not a broken nose, that's for sure." His eyes drop involuntarily to her lips, a glance she must notice because she edges closer on the couch."Something a little more...friendly. And soft."
Her smile melts into something infinitely more tender that causes his heart to twist. She looks like she wants to say something else but she's so close he can feel her breath on his cheek and fuck it, he doesn't want to play any more games, he just wants her.
He swiftly closes the gap between them, slanting his lips over hers and feeling, for the first time, just how soft Sherry's mouth is as his hands come to rest in her silky hair. Their lips brush again and again in a delicate dance that is, at first, teasing and testing until he can't take it anymore and opens his mouth and deepens the kiss.
She responds eagerly, hitching a leg over his until she's straddling him and angling deeper for more and he's more than happy to comply with her request because, shit, he's wanted this forever (since their unexpected layover in the log cabin) and he can't get enough of the way she feels. She tastes like honey and coffee and the warmth of her body is setting his on fire wherever they come into contact. Needing to feel more, to have more, his hands leave her hair and trace the delicate contours of her body before finding her hips so he can pull her even closer (screw his ribs and his nose because kissing Sherry is better than any pain medication) until he's wrapped around her and she's entwined around him.
It has to stop though, because they both need to breathe but he refuses to let go of her and she seems to have no intention of releasing him so they rest their foreheads against each other as their breathing slowly evens out.
He's the first one to speak, because he can't keep his mouth shut for more than five seconds unless it's happily occupied with other things. "If one flower gets me that, I'm going to have to buy a whole damn greenhouse for you."
"Why don't you work on healing and staying out of serious trouble instead?" Sherry counters. "I can think of even better rewards once you're back to your old self."
They both know what she means. He's in no shape (however careful he might try to be) to manage much more than kiss her right now. Just another shitty outcome to blame the J'avo for, but right now he figures he'll just have to suck it up. Besides, what's waiting for him is going to be worth the wait, however painful that wait might be.
She smiles, probably seeing the resignation in his face, and brushes a feathery kiss along his temple. "You need some rest, Jake. Come on, I'll help you to bed."
"I'm not going to bed unless you're joining me," he retorts stubbornly and is pleasantly surprised by the half-smile she sends him in response (it's kind of sexy and he curses his broken body one more time for not being ready and able even though he's so damn willing).
"Of course I'm going to have to sleep next to you—it's the only way I can be sure you're actually relaxing." She clambers off of him, holds out a hand and helps him to his feet. If he had any thought of trying with her, that idea is crushed because damn it all to hell, the pain shooting through his body would have been enough to send him whimpering back to the couch if Sherry wasn't already pulling him towards the bedroom.
He's a little embarrassed by how quickly he passes out (he doesn't even get a chance to see her undress before his eyes close, the traitors) but there's something oddly comforting about falling asleep with someone beside you. And when he wakes up in the middle of the night as the pain medication wears off, he finds the water and the pill bottle beside the bed and a warm body curled around him and thinks that for once in his life, things have finally gone his way.
After he takes two pills (the bottle says maximum two and if Sherry's going to keep her arm around him and her head on his chest, as nice as it is, he'll probably need the extra kick), he catches sight of the same crumpled daisy on the dresser by her side of the bed. There are words that should be said, he thinks drowsily, but he has a feeling that Sherry knows why he had picked flowers for her and it has nothing to do with getting in her pants (well, only a little) and everything to do with the fact that she's given him so much more than he could ever give her.
Bringing her flowers once in a while, he thinks before he drifts off to sleep, is the very least he can do.
(That, and worshipping every inch of her body, heart and soul, which he plans on doing as soon as he can deal with pressure on his chest without medication and without the urge to cry like a girl.)