Title: Catching Rainbows
Author: Vesper (Regina)
Warnings: adult themes, brief violence
Category: Story, Romance, Angst
Keywords: Jimmy Bond, Yves Adele Harlow
Spoilers: Jump the Shark, All About Yves
Summary: Gotta stand still to catch rainbows. Sequel to "Chasing Shadows."
Disclaimer: "The X-Files" and "The Lone Gunmen" are property of 20th Century Fox.
Archival: Permission to Archive Central. All others, if you wish to archive, please link to my website. Please keep all my headers intact.
A/N: Started November 23, 2002, finished March 23, 2003. I hope it was worth the wait :) Although this is mainly a sequel to "Chasing Shadows" it will help greatly if you've also read "Johnny Bravo and the Nagel Woman."
Song credit: "Black and White" by Sarah McLachlan
Dedication: To Amy Jonas and Evashin91, because they faithfully and generously reviewed this at FF.net, even when they didn't have to.
Blue-eyed boy meets a brown-eyed girl,
oh, oh, oh, the sweetest thing,
you can sew it up but you still see the tear.
Oh, oh, oh, the sweetest thing...
--"The Sweetest Thing" by U2
She heard a voice ask, "Has this woman checked in here?" She felt her heartbeat start to thud faster and stopped her quick passage across the stone floor of the small hotel. She knew that voice, had heard it whisper in her dreams for as long she'd been gone. She slowly turned toward the front desk and saw the broad back and dark blond hair of a man she never thought she would see again.
She didn't wait for the clerk's answer, just turned and walked at a sedate pace to her room, resisting the impulse to hurry, even though she only had a few minutes to gather what she needed, before the knock would come at the door, before he convinced someone to open it. The last thing she needed was to draw attention.
Once in her room she tumbled everything into a large bag she threw onto the bed. She muttered to herself as she stuffed her meager belongings down in the bag, "God, Jimmy, why you, why now, why me?"
Yves thought she'd left that life behind, yet here he was, intruding on the life she couldn't escape, looking for her. Well, he wouldn't find her. He'd find an empty hotel room and an open window. That was all she'd leave him.
Yet an impulse drove her back to the front of the hotel. She couldn't leave just yet, not without at least seeing his face. She sat in the tiny cafe across the street and waited to see him leave. She didn't have to wait long.
He came out of the hotel and for twenty seconds she had a clear view of his face. He hesitated in front, before walking away.
He looked fatigued, worn around the edges. She didn't have the time she wanted to absorb the possible meaning of that. She heard a voice, behind her, say, "I should tell your father you're here."
She said, "Go ahead and tattle, Stagle. I'll be gone before you or he can track me."
The man appeared in front of her line of vision and sat down opposite her. He was a tall man with dark hair and a thin, facile mouth that could and was displaying a sardonic twist of a smile.
He said, "I'm just warning you, Lois."
"For what reason? You'd think you would have learned your lesson. Must not have been pretty, when my father found out you let me go."
"The mistake was getting caught. I don't intend to, this time."
"You always were his lapdog." The scorn in her voice didn't seem to affect him.
"And your..." he paused and leaned forward, "what was I to you?"
"A mistake I don't care to repeat, so if you'll excuse me." She stood to go, but hesitated when he said, "I assume you know Abner's latest plans."
"And I assume you know I'll do everything I can to stop him."
He stood up, saying, "Good luck." He walked past her, sweeping a hand along her cheek. "Don't worry, my dear, I won't tell your father you were here."
She cringed back from his touch and set her jaw tightly. She refused to look back at him, even though she heard his soft chuckle as he left.
After that, it was simply a matter of finding information, tracking, and planning. Yet she never expected her plans to bring her back into contact with the four men she'd alternately foiled and helped. When she heard Jimmy shout after her on the campus, she realized she'd sorely underestimated his tenacity.
She didn't want to look at his face, because she knew what she'd find there, so she ran. When the Lone Gunmen found her she knew Jimmy wouldn't be far behind.
He'd changed. The Jimmy she knew before--before--didn't wear this look of having seen too much. The innocence was stripped from his eyes.
She'd done that. She'd done it and though she wished it were possible to take the last year back, to erase the grief in his eyes, she couldn't. Too much had passed since she kissed him goodbye.
She had never understood his eternal optimism, his instinctual trust of people. She didn't understand why he had expended a year of his life, when he could have just let her go. She didn't want to face the truth of what she'd always suspected. So she'd pushed, he'd broken, and she knew she would never be able to mend the damage.
She had no right to lay claim to what he offered, not with her mess of a life, not when she knew he was too good for her. He represented everything her life had never been.
She said all the words that would push him away, deliberate honesty, cruel in its bluntness. Even after all that, he kissed her and she remembered a dark night and knew it was, however unconscious on his part, retribution. The caress of his hand was a burning reproach.
She'd made her choices long ago, planned her life, but watching him leave, dejection visible in his shuffling step and his bent head, her heart still ached for the loss of something she couldn't have.
By the time she reached the street he was nowhere to be seen.
She'd made her choices. This one was irretrievable.
She is dreaming.
It is raining outside, a thunderous summer storm, drenching the green countryside. Lois is sitting in a bay window, knees drawn up to her chest, watching the rain patter the leaves of the large oak just outside.
Her mother won't let her go out, she says the lightning makes it too dangerous. Lois waits, patiently, for the rain to stop, before darting outside. She stops on the steps of the house, inhaling the fresh, sweet wetness and looks into the sky. The clouds have cleared with the incredible swiftness of a summer rain and there in the sky hangs the most vibrant double rainbow she's ever seen.
Rainbows are promises, her mother told her the first time Lois ever saw one.
Lois watches a ten-year-old Yves chase the rainbow. She runs, trying to catch it, attempting to put her hands in the evanescent colors, to see if they feel as liquid as they look, but she can't reach it. No matter how far or fast she runs, she never catches up to it.
She turns to her companion standing beside her and says, "She'll never catch it, will she?"
The blond man answers, "Not if she keeps running, Lois."
She asks, "Do you think she ever will, Jimmy?"
He replies, "Gotta stand still to catch rainbows."
Yves opened her eyes. The only light in the room came from the moonlight shining soft silver against the walls, and a clock with a faint red glow of numbers.
"Got everything, Mom?"
"Of course, Michael," came a voice from behind the open trunk door of a burgundy Chevy Cavalier. She slammed it down, the escaping air ruffling her shoulder-length ginger curls. "Thanks for looking out for me." She chucked the ten year old under his chin.
He said, disgusted, "Aw, mush." He looked up, way up, at the man standing beside him. Michael said, "Your turn, Uncle Jimmy."
Jimmy folded his sister in a hug that she practically disappeared in. He released her and said, "Come back soon, Jess."
"I'll only be gone for a few days, Jimmy, you know that." Jessica smiled, stood on her tiptoes and kissed him on the nose.
He rubbed his nose. "Jess!" he protested, in a tone not too different from Michael's.
She winked at him and said, "Now, try not to feed him too many pizzas, okay?"
Michael shuffled back and forth, kicking up the melting snow. He complained, "It's cold out here. I'm going back inside."
Jimmy grabbed him, pulling him back as he started past him. "Hey," he said, "get back here. Give your mom a hug."
"Oh, all right."
He hugged Jessica, who bent to kiss him on the cheek. "Love you," she said.
"Love you too, Mom." Embarrassed, he ducked his head and darted back into the house.
Jessica said, "I'm gonna miss him."
"Hey, he knows you gotta go do this. He'll be all right. You know, you could have done this without having to go to him."
"Stop worrying, Jimmy. Yes, I could have, but that's not what Bonds do, do we? We face up to our mistakes, stare them in the face."
"I wish I could go with you."
"Then who would look after Michael? You have to stay here." She gave him a swift poke in the chest. "Besides it will give you a few days to coach with him, without me hovering."
Jessica waved at the house, where Michael had pushed back the curtains and was watching them. He waved back.
Jimmy picked up the only remaining piece of luggage, a small black bag and placed it on the backseat of the car. He slammed the door shut and said, "There you go. All set."
He opened the driver's side door and she slid in, slamming the door. She rolled down the window and looked up at him.
"See you later, Jimmy."
"Promise you won't let Sean--"
"I won't. Promise. Bye, Jimmy."
She rolled up the window and drove away.
"You'd do this to your own father."
Abner Runce turned from gazing out the window of his study to face his daughter. It was raining outside, cold water on the verge of sleet. He was a tall man, with hair gone salt and pepper, pale skin, and a sharp-angled face. His ice-blue eyes only added to the first impression of hardness.
Yves gritted her teeth. "You ceased to be my father a long time ago."
He raised his eyebrows. "I tried to be a good father. I wanted you to be my daughter."
She shook her head. "I didn't want to be yours."
He inclined his head. "I remember. Your mother always said I'd lose you. But, you've made me proud, in your own way. Strong, independent, as lovely as your mother."
"You made my mother's life a living hell," she said with quiet precision, "and I refuse to have you ruin mine."
"That's why they're out there?" He gestured past her to a thick, carved wooden door. "Couldn't do it alone, could you?"
"Enough. It's time to go."
He nodded and gathered his coat from where it had been hanging on the back of a heavy wood and leather chair. He swung it around, threading his arms into the thick woolen folds.
Yves opened the door leading out, revealing a group of armed men wearing dark jackets, the yellow initials of F.B.I. standing out in sharp contrast.
She said, "Agent Perkins, he's all yours."
Agent Perkins, a middle-aged man with carrot red hair, moved forward and behind Runce, binding his hands with handcuffs.
He pushed Runce forward, walking him forcefully through the door. Yves followed after them, gathering her coat around her in preparation for the cold.
The freezing wind tore at them all, the thick coats they wore providing little protection. Yves unfurled her umbrella, using it as a shield against the rain, which had finally turned to blinding sleet.
Runce called back to his daughter, "Lois."
She struggled through the rain to walk beside him. His attending agent walked a few paces ahead, leaving Yves to hold her umbrella over herself and her father.
He looked at her, and she puzzled over the sudden softness in his eyes. He said, "Bury me beside your mother."
She said, "What?" but the word was drowned by the sound of a single gunshot.
The sounds of the agents' shouts faded, as Yves fell to her knees beside her father, his blood staining the snow-covered ground, seeping warmly into her dark clothes.
"Daddy?" she whispered.
All she heard was the ragged in and out of his fading breath.
Her voice was harsh, "Who? Who was it?"
Abner's eyes closed.
"Hey, Uncle Jimmy, Johnny Bravo's almost on."
"Don't want to watch it right now. Watch it with Jess."
At that, Michael turned to look across the room at his uncle, giving him a disbelieving stare. It was wasted. Jimmy was hidden behind a newspaper.
Michael stood up and walked across the living room, saying, "She's napping." He plopped down next to Jimmy, and stuck his head into the space between the newspaper and Jimmy. "Hey, why are you reading the obituaries?"
Jimmy shut the paper with a loud rustle, folding it up.
"No reason," he said.
"Oh come on, you're lookin' for stuff, just like those Lone Gunguys or whatever."
"Lone Gunmen," Jimmy corrected.
"Yeah." Undaunted, Michael continued eagerly, "So, did you find anything, like more info about that water car or stories about Mulder or, or, or--"
"I was just reading the paper."
"Uh-huh," Jimmy mimicked.
"You really miss them, don't you?"
Jimmy nodded and looked down, fiddling with a corner of the newspaper.
"Umm, Uncle Jimmy?" The hesistancy in Michael's voice brought Jimmy's head up. It wasn't often Michael was unsure in his manner.
"Why did you come to live with Mom and me?"
A brief flash of pain flickered through Jimmy's eyes and he looked down. Michael continued unaware, "Mom wouldn't tell me. She said I should ask you."
The white stones that spread as far as the eye could see were sad, beautiful testaments to the heroes of America. Jimmy and Michael had trekked through the snow to the three grave markers. Michael had knelt to look at each memorial, before coming to stand beside Jimmy.
They both stood in front of the three gravestones, head bowed. Here, the ground was still covered with pristine snow, and the two bare-limbed trees just beyond created a stark landscape, no less beautiful for its barrenness. A bird landed on the branch of one tree, uttered a warbling note and was silent again.
Jimmy said, "Not what you thought it would be, huh?"
"I shouldn't have brought you here."
"It's okay. I wanted to see."
Jimmy started back toward the dark blue Ford Explorer, Michael trudging a few feet behind him. He caught up to Jimmy, walking beside him.
"Hey, Uncle Jimmy, can we go play football in the park?"
"What? Yeah, sure."
They walked on, both involved in their own thoughts, until Jimmy caught sight of some movement out of the corner of his eyes. When he turned to look, all he saw was a dark figure against the horizon, a woman, walking away.
Michael was tossing a football up and down, the ball coming dangerously close to hitting the ceiling of the kitchen.
"Watch it, Michael, or you'll put a hole in the ceiling."
"Mom, you tell me that every time and I still haven't done it yet."
Jessica hid a smile and said, "Well, there's always a first time." She flipped a hamburger.
Usually Jimmy helped her while she made dinner, but today he was conspicuously absent. He and Michael had come in from their trip to the park, both ruddy from the cold and looking like "mud monsters" as Michael had put it. She'd sent them both to clean up and that was the last she'd seen of Jimmy for an hour.
She heard a thunk and wrenched her attention back to Michael. He was looking at the football and when he noticed her staring at him, he hid it quickly behind his back.
"Sorry," he said.
"Put the ball away, it's almost time for dinner anyway. Hey, Michael, where'd Jimmy disappear to?"
Michael shrugged. "I don't know. I think he's upstairs."
"Michael, what happened while you were out?"
"Nothing. We just played football, that's all. Why?"
She turned off the stove and piled the hamburgers on a plate. She handed the plate to Michael and said, "Michael, would you get out the vegetables and chop them up for me?"
He made a disgruntled face. "Do I have to?"
She narrowed her eyes at him, giving him a mock glare. "Yes. I have to go talk to your uncle for a few minutes."
As she walked through the living room, through the small hall that led to the stairs, she could hear Michael clattering through the silverware. She stopped at the foot of the stairs, and called back to Michael, "And set the table!"
The door to Jimmy's room was open and she could see him sitting on the edge of his bed holding a beaten up photo, wallet sized. She leaned against the door jamb.
"Are you all right, Jimmy?"
She came in, shutting the door partway behind her, so if Michael came upstairs she'd hear him. She sat down beside him.
"What happened while you were out?"
He shrugged. "Michael and I played football."
"That's Michael's story, Jimmy. Don't lie to me. I'm the one that knows, remember? Besides, you were never very good at it."
He sighed and said, "Michael asked why I'd come to live here, so I told him."
"You told him about Yves?"
He shook his head, "No. I can't. I mean, I tried, but I couldn't. So I told him when the Lone Gunmen," he swallowed, "I didn't have a place to stay, so I came here. He told me, he wanted to see them, so we went to Arlington. She was there."
Jess said, "Oh, Jimmy," and her voice was full of sympathy. "What are you going to do?"
"I'm gonna find her."
"You know, Jimmy, I've never interfered in any of your decisions, but I remember when you called me. You were a mess. I really don't want you to go through that again."
"I have to know, Jess, if this is it. You didn't give up until you had to."
She sighed and rested her head against his shoulder.
"Sean cheated on me, Jimmy, that's why we divorced. Not because I wanted it, but because he broke my trust. I don't want to be devil's advocate here, but she's done the same. Even if you find her, no matter how much you love her, it might not be enough."
"Sometimes it can be," he countered.
She stood up and pulled on his arm, but he didn't budge. "Come downstairs and have dinner, Jimmy."
When he still didn't stand up, she let go of his arm and walked to the door. She pushed it open, but hesitated a moment in the doorway. She looked back at Jimmy.
"I just want you to be happy, Jimmy."
He nodded. He said, "I know."
A Sarah McLachlan song was on the jukebox, the soft voice accompanied by slurring guitars and soft drums. The sound drifted through the bar, much like the cigarette smoke, hazy, liquid, sadly sensuous.
a distant chord,
on the outside is forgotten
the constant need to get along..."
Yves was talking into a tiny silver cell phone.
"No, I haven't seen him, but I know he comes here." She listened, an impatient expression settling on her face. "It's only a matter of time, Agent Perkins."
A man sat down beside her at the bar, and she spared him a quick glance. A stereotypical businessman, grey pinstripe, loosened tie. Yves brought her attention back to the phone. "All right. I will." She clicked the phone shut and put it away in a pocket of her coat.
The man beside her had ordered a beer. He took a sip of it and asked, "Tough day?" He took out a cigarette and lit it. He offered her one and she noted the gold band on his left hand.
She said, "I don't smoke and I don't cheat."
He gaped at her, before crushing the cigarette in front of her and turning away. She heard him mutter a curse, but she didn't pay attention.
She sifted her fingers through the crumbled tobacco and whispered, "Whatever else I've done, I won't start now."
She sensed someone else sit down beside her and looked over.
He said, "Hello, Yves," and it was as if she'd seen him just yesterday, instead of over ten months ago.
He continued, "Didn't think I'd find you, did you?"
She winced at the accusation in his voice. She looked down at her drink and said, her voice weary, "I wasn't exactly hiding, Jimmy. No reason to now."
"I know you were there, at Arlington, Yves."
She felt anger start to rise and snapped, "I didn't know you would be. Why are you here?"
Instead of home with the boy, she wanted to say, whatever family he is to you, but she knew better than to jump to conclusions. The kid was too old to be Jimmy's son, but the resemblance....
The muscles tightened along Jimmy's jaw-line as he clenched his teeth. He said, "I, God, Yves, you can be so, so--"
"Cold? I thought..." she drew a deep, shuddering breath. She could feel the start of the slow burn in her throat, and the heat in her eyes. "Jimmy, I thought we said our goodbyes. Now you show up, and expect-- I can't go through this again. I can't have you just...."
She blinked and her tears fell. She looked down, wishing he would just leave. Let her be alone.
He moved, reached out a hand to touch her face, but she shied away.
His voice was soft with incomprehension. "What happened to you, Yves?"
"You." She met his gaze. "You happened. There are no other men like you, Jimmy. I should know. If you're just here to find out what I was doing there, there's no reason I can give you but the truth. They were something special, the closest thing to friends I ever had." She shook her head. "I really didn't know you would be there."
"Would you still have come, even if you'd known?"
"I came here, didn't I? Yves, I don't blame you, not for anything."
"This isn't fixable, Jimmy. You know that, and I know that. There's this gulf between us now and all this pain, and all the forgiveness you might give me isn't going to make it better."
"I could give you more if I knew you would accept it."
He wouldn't offer unless he were free. She searched his face, seeing no lie in his eyes, seeing the same emotion she'd seen that day in the coffee shop. Except it had changed, become lived with and accepted, not as blind as it once was and for the first time she allowed herself to wonder what his life had been like since she'd last spoken to him.
He reached out, smoothing the wetness from her cheeks. She kept still, barely breathing. He cleared his throat, the sound like a crack of a whip in the silence that had wrapped around them, all the other sounds forgotten.
The song on the jukebox finished and another one started.
Jimmy said, "I came by to, to tell you I read the obituary. I know about your father. All the things that kept you hiding-- they're over, right? You have nothing keeping you from--"
"Just because my father's dead, doesn't mean it's over. There are things you don't know about, Jimmy, things I need to finish."
"Things I wouldn't understand," he stated and she could hear the faint tone of bitterness laced through it.
"No, Jimmy, things that would get you killed. No matter how cruelly I treated you in the past, I wouldn't want that to happen. You don't know how I wish I could take back some of the things I said to you, but no matter what I would say it wouldn't erase any of it."
"I'm sick and tired of hearing excuses, Yves. Tell me exactly why--"
"My father was murdered, Jimmy, right in front of me. I know who did it and I'm trying to find him. That's why, because no matter how much I would wish it, I can't change my life! Now, if you'll excuse me."
She grabbed her leather coat and slipped off the stool.
"Yves--" he called after her.
She swung back around, saying, "I can't take your caring right now, Jimmy," but he over spoke her.
"How long before you stop running, Yves?"
These words, so close to her dream, caused her mouth to fall open. She would call it coincidence, but it wasn't. It was knowledge. He knew her so well. Always had.
He continued, "Because, it's only so long before I stop waiting for you to stop." He shook his head, his face resigned, "You know where to find me."
He walked past her, and she knew he didn't want her to follow. She'd pushed too hard, once again. But as she stood there, watching him go, it occurred to her that no matter how angry he'd sounded, he hadn't said goodbye.
Yves stood in the enclosed porch, her hand poised to ring the doorbell. She looked around the small space, noting the plant pots, full of dirt, but empty of plants. Too cold to grow anything outside, she thought. There was a white wrought metal table, with wicker chairs. An oil lantern was set on top of the circular table, along with a candle she suspected was citronella.
It suited him, this two-story brick house in the suburbs of Newark, New Jersey, the unassuming nature of it all, the normality. She didn't belong here.
She dropped her hand and turned to go. She heard the creak of the door behind her and turned back to find herself face to face with a diminutive, green-eyed woman with a spray of golden freckles across her nose.
They looked at each other for a moment before the woman said, "What are you doing here?" Her coat was open, and Yves noticed that she was wearing hospital scrubs beneath.
"I'm, I'm looking for Jimmy Bond. I'm Yves Harlow." The woman raised her eyebrows. "But you already knew that, didn't you?"
"I'm sorry," she said, not sounding sorry at all, "but you just missed him. Was there a reason you were looking for him?" She looked down, buttoning her coat.
"No. Thank you." She turned to go, but the woman said, "Ms. Harlow."
Yves couldn't think why this woman would call her back, but she stopped anyway.
"Is there really no reason, or do you not trust me with that reason?"
Yves stared at her, incredulous at the nerve this woman had. "Excuse me, but who are you?"
"Jessica Lewis, Jimmy's sister."
"His sister? So, the boy..."
"Michael, my son. Jimmy told me he found you, talked to you."
"He never told me he had a sister."
Jessica tipped her head, a brief nod. "You probably never asked. He told me about you. You treated him despicably, you know." She said it so coolly, that Yves almost didn't catch the anger underneath, but it was there nonetheless.
Yves said, "I don't have to--"
"Yes, you do," Jessica interrupted. "You owe me that much. I had to pick up the pieces, so you can listen to what I have to say. I don't know you, I don't really understand your reasons for breaking his heart, but don't come here wanting to see him, for 'no reason'. He wants a clear yes or no from you and even then he might not give up. I love my brother dearly, and I can't stand the thought of you playing with his heart."
"Jimmy knows all my reasons--"
"Does he really? You won't let him in. Let me tell you something, Yves, Jimmy will love you forever. He's like that."
Yves looked away, and Jess said, sounding more sincere this time, "I'm sorry, I can be too blunt, sometimes."
"Something you and Jimmy share in common," Yves said dryly. "Have you said your piece?"
"Almost. I just have one question."
"Did you ever care for him at all?"
Yves looked down.
Yves looked up again, her face hard. "You don't have the right to ask me that question."
Jessica smiled, a wide, friendly smile, and it so baffled Yves it wiped away her anger, leaving a confused expression.
Jess said, "Of course not, but I think I got my answer anyway. It was good to meet you, Yves. I got what I needed to say out of my system. I hope it wasn't too hurtful. If we meet again, call me Jess. I hope we do--we can work on being friends."
"We might not, you know."
"Then again, we might."
Yves nodded and said, "Have a good day, Mrs. Lewis."
Stagle was sitting in one of the booths of the bar, a plate of buffalo wings in front of him. He looked up as Yves slipped in beside him and placed a small silver pistol against his arm.
His backbone stiffened and he said, "Haven't changed your weapon of choice I see. Come to seek revenge?"
"I've come to seek justice, Stagle, nothing more."
"This is your brand of justice, killing me right here?"
"I've killed before, Stagle, I can do it again."
"And be no better than your father."
"Or you. But it's because of my father that we're here right now, isn't it? Why did you do it?"
"He asked. It was the least I could do. He always realized that eventually it would come to that. I was just following his orders."
She said, her voice tight and on the edge of tears, "I never wanted that for him."
"So the heartless child has a heart after all."
She leaned in close and hissed in his ear, "Not that you ever cared." She sat back. "I'm not my father. You don't deserve his fate."
"You think you can intimidate me?"
"Take a look around. There's no need. My father may have intended for you to escape, but he didn't take me into account."
He gave her a questioning look. When her meaning sank in, he cast a glance around, noticing for the first time the watching faces of several men.
"What is this?" he demanded.
He stood up violently, knocking over a glass of water. At the same time, Agent Perkins and the other agents also jumped to their feet.
Stagle stared at them, made a choice and ran for the door. In his haste he slammed the door outward, encountering a brief resistance. Stagle tore past the man, who stumbled back and shouted after him, "Hey, watch where you're going!"
He turned his attention back to the inside of the bar, only to find himself face to face with Yves.
She said, "Jimmy?"
He had no time to respond before she said, "We need him."
That was all it took for him to crash back outside into the street. The sidewalk outside, at midday, was full of enough people to make finding Stagle difficult.
Yves, who had followed closely after Jimmy, was the first to point Stagle out.
Stagle was barreling through the people on the sidewalk, leaving a trail of cursing men and women.
Jimmy took after him, followed by Yves and the F.B.I. agents. Stagle glanced behind him, saw them, and stumbled on a slick patch of ice. Swiftly catching his balance again, he hurtled forward, heading toward a pay for parking lot.
Stagle didn't look back again, concentrating on escaping. His focus was on reaching his car, but the moment he skidded to a halt in front of it, he was jerked around, coming face to face with Jimmy.
Stagle said, "Who are you?"
From behind Jimmy came a shout from Yves.
"Don't let him go!"
Jimmy turned Stagle so that he faced the car and pinned him there, holding Stagle's arms tightly together. Jimmy heard the clack of Yves' steps on the concrete, closing the few feet remaining between them. Agent Perkins was just a few steps behind, his pistol drawn.
They stopped beside Jimmy. Jimmy ignored Stagle's attempts to struggle loose, keeping him against the car. He asked, "What's going on, Yves?"
She didn't get a chance to answer before Stagle twisted around, jammed an elbow in Jimmy's side, drew a gun from his jacket and pointed it at Yves.
Perkins leveled his own gun at Stagle, shouting, "Drop it!"
Yves said, "You don't want to add another count of murder to your charge, do you?"
Stagle said, "What do I have to lose?" He tightened his finger on the trigger.
Yves heard Jimmy shout, "No!" She saw a blur out of the corner of her eye and then nothing, as an explosion of stars bloomed brightly at the edges of her eyes.
The first thing she heard after the ringing in her ears and the black fog at the corners of her vision faded away was Perkins calling for an ambulance. There was an agent standing over her, asking if she was all right. She stood up and when he offered her a hand she latched onto it, feeling another black wave of dizziness threaten to sweep her under. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying not to succumb to it. When she opened them, everything seemed brighter than before. She saw Perkins standing over a prone Stagle.
She said, "Jimmy?" and then saw him. He was lying on the pavement, an agent kneeling beside him, a hand pressed against Jimmy's chest, red seeping out from between his fingers.
She didn't feel the agent catch her as she passed out.
"Jimmy!" Yves gasped, opening her eyes to the brightness of early morning sun. It filled all the corners of the white, pebbled ceiling. She could smell the old, bitter scent of sterile bandages and antiseptic and realized she was in a hospital.
She heard a woman's voice say, "He's okay."
She recognized that voice and tried to turn her head to it, meeting resistance. She brought a hand up to feel the brace encircling her neck. She whispered, "Jessica?" hardly believing that she'd heard correctly.
Jess' face, green eyes turned hazel with concern, appeared over Yves. "How are you feeling, Yves?" she asked.
Yves didn't even register the question, her focus on only one thing. She asked, "Where's Jimmy?"
"I.C.U., but he'll be all right. His doctor says the bullet passed clean through, but it'll take some time for him to recover."
Yves tried to sit up and Jessica placed a hand on her shoulder, keeping her down. She said, "You might not want to do that. You were pretty severely concussed. We were afraid you might have a head fracture."
"He saved my life."
"I know. Agent Perkins told me."
Yves looked away from Jess' honest face and the concern still present there. She murmured, "I wouldn't blame you if you hated me now."
"I don't hate you," Jess said, her voice soft and Yves looked back to her, trying to see if Jess was lying. Jess continued, "I know you love him, and I know you never meant for this to happen. You were just trying to protect him, weren't you? I can't hate you for something Jimmy chose to do, but I can't lie to you, either. If he wasn't all right, I would."
Jess stopped there, closing her mouth tightly, as if she were afraid of what she might say next. Her lower lip trembled and she looked away from Yves, toward the window.
Yves said, "It's going to take some time to come to peace with you, isn't it?"
Jess nodded. She drew a deep breath and let it out. She said, "I should let you get your rest."
She started to walk toward the door, but Yves said, "Jess, wait."
Jess stopped, looking back at Yves.
Yves said, "I'm sorry."
Jess' eyelids flickered. She nodded, then said, "Try to sleep, you really do need your rest. I'll let you know of any more news."
"Could you stay? Talk to me?"
Yves answered, "Everything I never asked about?"
"Just sign here," said the nurse. Yves took the clipboard from him and signed her release papers.
The nurse said, "Thank you," took the clipboard from Yves, and left the room, brushing past Jessica.
Jessica looked back at the nurse and then to Yves. She said, "That was just--"
Yves nodded. "Seems they don't want me anymore."
"You weren't going to leave without finding me first, were you?"
"No, of course not."
"You better not have been. If I recall, you made me a promise not to leave until this was settled, no matter what."
"I don't break my promises, Jessica."
"Good. I came to tell you--Jimmy's awake. I was just talking to him. He wants to talk to you now. So, come on, I'll show you where he is."
Jessica started to walk on, but stopped when she realized Yves wasn't following her.
"Now is not the time for doubts, Yves. Just come with me."
This time Yves followed her.
Jessica left her at the door to his room and Yves stood hesitantly at the entrance. Jimmy had his head turned, gazing out of the window and Yves had a moment to observe him. His skin was so pale, the ashen color of severe trauma.
He turned his head and saw her. He said, "Hey, Yves," and that was all, but it undid her. All the memories of the times she'd been the cause of harm to him, however indirectly, and this last, almost fatal incident, combined to cause tears to well in her eyes.
She said, her voice unsteady, "I am so sorry, Jimmy, so very sorry." She swallowed hard, trying to regain control, succeeding in some small measure. She blinked, determined not to allow the tears to overwhelm her.
She heard him say, "I'm not."
When she focused her eyes back on him, he said, "You might have been right, but I'm not sorry at all."
"You should be, Jimmy."
"I could never be, when will you start believing that?"
She looked down, unable to meet his probing gaze. She didn't want to say, didn't want to admit that the past few days had taught her to believe, to accept that he really did mean everything he said to her. Yet, no matter how she tried to evade it, the one truth was that Jess was right--he would love her forever.
"I do, Jimmy, how can I not?" The admission came easier than she had expected, but she still couldn't look him in the eyes, those infinitely caring eyes. "You've proved it to me, over and over again, but I still don't understand." She looked up at him, her courage returning, wanting to see if he would answer this one question with all the candor she'd come to depend on. "How can you love me?"
And he answered it. "Because I just do, Yves. Because you need to be."
She felt a tear fall and wiped it away.
She said, fighting around the lump in her throat, "I don't know if I can take what you're offering me."
"What's to keep you from taking it?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all. I have no excuses left. You wanted this to be over and it's over and...I don't know what to do."
"Start over," he said, as if that was all it would take.
She laughed, a choked, agonized laugh. "That simply, Jimmy? Forgive and forget?"
"Why not? We have before, remember? Pax, Yves?"
"One word isn't going change everything, Jimmy. It takes time."
"I have time, do you?"
It was such a simple question on the surface, but Yves knew how much it really meant. She knew he'd been avoiding asking it, because it meant that she had the power to completely alter their lives.
She walked to the side of his bed, sitting down beside him, as close as she could. She reached out, taking his hand from its resting place at his side, and clasped her fingers through his, careful not to disturb the I.V. attached there. She said, "This is the second time you've saved my life, Jimmy, you realize that?"
"And I'd do it again."
The image of him, lying on the ground, his shirt soaked in blood, flashed through her mind. She said, "You almost died, Jimmy." Her voice cracked, unexpectedly, and she looked down, at their joined hands.
"You would have," he said, with an intensity that let her know, more than anything else, that he wouldn't have cared if he lived or died, as long as she was safe.
She said, with an eerie calm that widened his eyes, "If you had died, Jimmy, I wouldn't have been able to live with it."
"What are you saying, Yves?" he asked, agitation clear in his voice.
"I don't know what I would have done, Jimmy. Without you...I would have been left with nothing." She held his stricken gaze, saying slowly, "I've had too much time to think about it, wondering...." She closed her eyes, and heard him say, "You're scaring me, Yves."
She opened her eyes. "I'm sorry, Jimmy. I just want you to understand how much, how much you really mean to me. I didn't know, Jimmy, how much I cared for you until--" Her breath caught in her throat. Her mouth trembled a little, but she continued, "Until I saw your life seeping away. In that instant, I knew. I need you. More than anything. It's taken me too long to admit that. I've wasted so much time, Jimmy."
He separated his hand from hers and reached out, touching her cheek. She could see the pain that effort caused him in the way he clenched his jaw, but he fought past it.
He asked, "But that's all in the past, right?" and she could hear an edge of desperation in his voice.
She reached up to grasp his hand and brought it to her lips, kissing his fingers softly. She said, "Yes, Jimmy, it's all in the past."
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