For the past hour and a half, Jane had been at her desk, working on installing a new computer program. It was nothing directly related to police work--it was more of an organizational tool than anything. Now she could keep track of data better, file and arrange facts as needed, and create precise lists with subtexts and links to pertinent related data. She could make grids and graphs now to show patterns and statistics more clearly. She could transfer and delete information when necessary. The options were limitless. This program was going to restructure her whole file system. It was going to be an invaluable tool, and in time, more than pay for itself.
Jane's eyes fell on the receipt laying next to the small stack of installation disks. $249.95 it read. Jane glanced at her newly-gridded monitor and sighed. Who was she kidding? This was nothing but a glorified list-maker and she'd probably never use it except to make more of her "infernal" lists--as Nikki called them.
Sam grumbled something while staring at his own monitor and jabbed impatiently at his keyboard. His eyes were fixed on whatever he was reading on the screen and he didn't seem to notice Jane was looking at him.
It was getting late and things were slowly winding down, as far as police stations go. Besides the odd mugger or two being hauled in, nothing earth-shattering had happened in the past two hours. The bustle of the day had trickled down to just a couple of other cops lingering at their desks to finish their clerical duties before heading home for the night.
Might as well test out the new program, Jane thought to herself, and tapped delicately at the keyboard to bring up the necessary function.
Her current case file came up, but she quickly changed her mind about it and put it back. She didn't want to use valuable information as a test subject and risk losing something important. It would be better to just make up data.
Sitting back in her chair, Jane let her mind wander. Funny how as soon as she did, it inevitable fixed on John Clayton Jr. and stubbornly refused to think of anything else. All right. John then.
Jane leaned forward and titled her test list, 'JC: Pros and Cons'. Using her new toolbar, she numbered both sides of her grid one to ten and spared another quick glance at Sam to make sure he wouldn't suddenly appear over her shoulder anytime soon. Luckily, he seemed too mired in his own work to pay any attention to what she was doing.
In the text content box, Jane began to type. The first thing on her list was: 'the end of civilized socializing as I know it.' She then used her mouse to move the text into the 'Con' column, then sat back and surveyed her work.
Ain't that the truth, she mused. Socializing was out. She couldn't imagine ever going to a party with John, or a concert, or even a movie. They'd never go out as a couple with friends. She could never introduce him to the rest of the detectives at the station, let alone her family. As it was, she had been reluctant to introduce him to Nikki.
With John, she'd never eat out again. At least, not at the fine restaurants she frequented with Michael. Not only for the obvious reasons. Jane still recalled the first time she'd seen John. He was eating scraps of meat in an abandoned warehouse with a pack of wild dogs. There was also the glaringly obvious fact that John wasn't the type to dress up. Hell, he wouldn't even wear shoes. Maybe, later, when he became more accustomed to how things worked here in New York, she would be able to coax him into something besides stained tee-shirts and frayed cargos, but for now, Jane couldn't even picture him dressed in anything beyond that.
She could easily picture him in less, however, and liked seeing him in less too, she mused, somewhat chagrined. Okay, really, there was no denying it. The physical attraction was there. Jane quickly typed in 'handsome' in the text box and dragged it into the 'Pro' column, though the word hardly seemed to do John justice. Gorgeous, beautiful, spell-binding, mesmerizing were all better fitting, but Jane was trying to make this list as concise and factual as possible. 'Handsome' would have to do. But then she frowned deeply at the entry, and went to delete it. It didn't seem right that the only thing that appealed to Jane about John was his looks.
No, it wasn't the only thing good about John. He was, without a doubt, completely devoted to her. And in a profound, mysterious way too. His unwavering adoration of her had helped pique her interest in him. It was as strong an aphrodisiac to her as was his incredibly good looks. Jane could almost believe John loved her. In the relatively short time they'd known each other, he had risked his life for her, had suffered bodily harm because of her, and seemed more than willing to do so again should the situation call for it. He was both protective of her and vengeful for her. He simply would not tolerate anyone causing her any kind of harm.
"Devoted," Jane murmured and typed it into the text box before placing it in the 'Pro' list. She quickly added, 'courageous' and 'righteous.'
Well, 'righteous' to a point. He followed his own sense of morality and still crossed swords with the law on occasion. He was reckless and wild and downright violent when issuing his particular brand of justice.
Jane winced, remembering the sniper who had shot at her in John's clutches on the roof. John would have killed him if she had not gotten up there in time. Just the look in his eyes told her he wanted to break Reinhart in two. Literally.
'Reckless' and 'violent' went into the 'Con' column. 'Impulsive' quickly followed, as well as 'unreasonable.'
Jane went to type in 'out of control' to add to her 'Con' list, but stopped herself. John wasn't exactly out of control. She could control him most of the time. And sometimes with just a look. He truly listened to her, despite the fact she often accused him of the opposite, and sometimes he even went against his own beliefs to placate hers.
'Listens', Jane typed and smiled slightly. She added 'honest' and 'open'. These were qualities she genuinely appreciated in any man. John was at times, brutally honest, even with her, and he was so expressive and open with his feelings, Jane could read him like a book.
Books. Hmm. That brought to mind the fact that despite John's intelligence, as far as she knew, he was for the most part, uneducated. Jane added 'uneducated' to her list of 'Cons'. Maybe Richard Clayton had managed to further his education to some degree, but Jane had the feeling, whatever it might have included, it couldn't have been much. Not enough to get along in today's society. And not if he had been mute for as long as Richard Clayton had claimed him to be.
As it was, Jane couldn't even imagine having a rational adult conversation with John even though he did readily speak with her. She added that to her 'Con' list. She was certain he wouldn't understand, or be able to follow the subjects which permeated adult conversations in this day and age. He probably wouldn't even understand the choice "guy" topics. Money, politics, sports, and sex.
Sex. Then there is that. Jane paused and looked up from her computer monitor, making sure no one was close by. She typed the word 'inexperienced' and placed it in the 'Con' column. After all, it wasn't just a question of John being a virgin--though Jane was ninety-nine point eight percent sure he was. It was a question of his...awareness. Jane was pretty sure he was totally clueless when it came to...such things. Maybe he didn't even possess the emotional maturity needed to be intimate with a woman.
But he was tender, Jane thought. He touched her like she was made of fine china and was afraid she'd break under his hands. Each breath-like caress was accompanied with the most intense scrutiny and if he sensed the slightest resistance on her part, he backed off. He was very careful with her in that respect.
Jane put 'tender' in the text box and brought it over to her 'Pro' column. She sat back in her chair and sighed.
What would a life with John really be like? Sometimes she felt she had completely lost her mind even thinking about it. Something had happened between them that had evolved Jane's feelings for John into more than an honorable sense of responsibility. She didn't just care about him because he was a fellow human being suffering at the hands of injustice. It wasn't that he had no one on his side to defend him either. He had Kathleen now. Jane didn't particularly understand or like the way she felt towards John Clayton Jr. but she still couldn't help feeling that way about him.
It was all too fantastic and romantic to be considered seriously, really, she chided herself. Jane couldn't possibly have a real relationship with a man like John. Could she? She was an ambitious career woman. John didn't even have a job. Would probably never have a job. But then he really didn't need one with that trust fund, did he? How would he handle all that money on his own, however? If Jane thought John was vulnerable and needed her protecting now, how more so once he became a cajillionaire? How would someone like John adapt to a life of board meetings and stock markets? John wasn't the most compromising person. Would he even want to? John wouldn't conform for conformation's sake. He'd do what he wanted. Because of that, Jane would never be able to truly rely on him. Not in that respect.
Depressed now, Jane went through the motions of putting the finishing touches on her list. Scowling deeply, Jane printed it out and deleted the file. Needless to say, the 'Cons' outweighed the 'Pros'. Every 'Pro' was sentimental and emotionally based too. The 'Cons' were much more reasonable and intelligent. It told Jane if this was the kind of person she really was, she needed to end this...infatuation with John Clayton as soon as possible. Before her heart mutinied her common sense for good. In frustration, Jane crumpled the list into a tight wad and tossed it into the trash bin beside her chair.
"Hey, I'm heading home," she announced to Sam and stood up.
Sam acted like he could barely pry his eyes off his monitor to acknowledge her. "Have a good one. I'm right behind you," he muttered and glanced up. "Just two reports to go."
Jane smiled back at him sympathetically, and lifted her jacket off the back of her chair. She stalked towards the exit and made her way outside.
The late afternoon breeze was picking up as the sun began to set. The shadows on the street were growing longer, and everything had a slight orangy tinge to it.
Jane made her way down the block, moving against the flow of the sidewalk traffic as she headed for the parking garage at the corner of the square. Her mind was a jumble of complex considerations now and it was giving her a colossal headache. It was always like this anymore. She simply didn't know what to do. The old Jane would have. The new Jane was lost.
Cause of major confusion, Jane mentally added to her list's 'Con' column. And headaches. This whole situation was just one big pain in the--
The sound of her name seemed to waft down from the sky. Jane automatically looked up.
Perched on the roof of an apartment building, John peered down at her and smiled.
"Jane, come here!" he called.
Jane sighed. She might as well. They were still too close to the police station to meet on the street without risking detection.
"Fine. I'll come up!" she called to him from the alley off the street and started jogging up the creaky metal steps. "Sure. Stay there!" She looked up again, but John had already disappeared back over the edge.
"Inaccessible," Jane muttered to herself. Scaling buildings was the only way to get to him lately. Either that or when she wanted to talk to him, she could hope he'd suddenly show up, or be at Kathleen's. It wasn't as if he carried a cell phone. He could if he wanted to though. But it was as if he wanted to keep himself inaccessible. Typical.
When she got to the top, Jane pulled herself onto the roof and looked around. John was no where to be seen. She braced herself, half-expecting him to jump out and scare her like he so often did. For a relatively tall guy, he could move with the utmost stealth and disappear and reappear almost magically at times.
Jane sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. "John, where are you?"
"Up here," he called, his voice once more falling down upon her.
Jane glanced up yet again and saw him. He had found an even higher perch on the roof of the boiler room. Slowly Jane walked towards him, surveying her prospects of joining him there.
"All right, I give," Jane said. "How'd you get up there?"
"I jumped," John replied. Then: "I want you to come up here too. Please?"
Frowning, Jane looked around again. "I don't see how." She could have attempted to jump up and catch the ledge but something told her she'd only miss and end up making a complete graceless fool of herself.
As if sensing her self-doubt, John obligingly leaned over the side of the roof and held out his hand to her. Hesitantly, Jane took it, not sure what he intended to do exactly--if she she try jumping to meet him or what. As it was, John grasped her hand and smoothly, effortlessly lifted her up, the same way he had when he'd saved her life during their first eventful encounter. Now, he straightened and turned, positioning Jane on the rooftop before lowering her in front of him. As soon as her feet stood solidly beneath her, John released her and loped off to the opposite side.
"Over here. Look," he repeated enthusiastically, glancing over his shoulder to make sure she was following him.
Jane trudged forward. What the hell was she doing up here? Why did she even come up here? What was this...power this man wielded over her which made her do these kinds of things anyway?
John turned and faced her fully, locking his eyes on hers with a piercing intensity that not only made Jane forget what she was about to say, it shorted out all the rational thought processes in her brain. She found herself drifting towards him like a mindless zombie.
John gestured westward toward the setting sun, his eyes still fastened to Jane's face.
"I wanted you to see this," he explained. "Look out there. At the sun." He turned then and faced into the wind.
Jane had a hard time prying her eyes off his amazingly perfect profile and softly billowing hair, but she did as he asked, and found herself peering over the horizon at the setting sun. She smiled.
"Oh...it's beautiful," she breathed and moved closer to the edge until she was standing right beside him.
She didn't get the opportunity to watch the sun set very often. Tonight the sky was tinged with traces of yellow and pink, with blue undertones. Directly around the sun itself, the sky was a blaze of orange. The lights of the city were just beginning to flicker on, outlining skyscrapers and apartment complexes. Soon, the night sky would be bright with a whole different kind of illumination. The skyline would glitter like jewels set on black velvet as far as the eye could see.
Sighing, Jane spared a glance at John and caught him staring at her. She smiled a little self-consciously.
"You like it?" he asked, inclining his head towards the setting sun.
Jane nodded. "Yeah, I do." She smiled at him fully now and took a small step forward.
Funny how something so simple struck such a chord of reprieve in her. She realized her life had been sorely lacking this kind of gentle escape and this was just the thing she needed right now. Even more, romance. And what was more romantic than gazing into a beautiful sunset with a beautiful someone? She had to give John credit. He was romantic. It seemed to come naturally to him. That was something she could add to her list under 'Pro.'
"Careful," he suddenly warned, and touched her arm. He glanced down quickly, then back up again.
Jane wasn't sure what he meant until she happened to look down too, and realized she was one tiny step away from tumbling over the edge of the boiler room roof. She lurched back, somewhat startled, as John simultaneously moved towards her. Suddenly, Jane found herself encompassed in his arms with her back pressed tightly to his chest.
"I'm all right," Jane quickly sputtered and squirmed slightly to be free of his grasp. "John, let me go."
"I don't want you to fall," he countered, but eased his grip on her. He lowered his head over her shoulder and brushed his cheek against her hair.
"I'm not going to fall," Jane stated, and realized she was sounding like a protesting child. She frowned, but stopped squirming. Did she really want him to let her go? What harm could come of letting him hold her like this?
For one, it just felt too damn good. As it was, her cheeks were flushing and her skin was tingling. He was making her senses reel--reminding her how long it had been since she'd surrendered herself to a man even this much.
But his body behind her was like a solid column of soothing warmth. His arms around her waist filled her with a deepening sense of security. Once again, his sensuous proximity to her was working its magic, and her heart was overriding her head. All the credible 'Cons' of her list quickly became obsolete. They just didn't mean anything when he was so close. In his arms all her problems simply faded away. The world and its savagery ceased to exist. There was nothing but contentment and peace. There was no one but him. For a little while, at least.
So Jane settled back in his embrace, and lay the back of her head on his shoulder. She felt his mouth against her ear and didn't pull away. She couldn't pull away.
"You won't fall because I won't let you go," John whispered sweetly, and turned his face towards the setting sun once more.
Jane reached up and stroked his forearm, re-focusing her attention on the sunset as well. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see John smile.
Triumphantly? she thought cynically. No, he was just happy. For the moment, he was safe and free, and able to appreciate the beauty around him. The way he covered her hand with his, told her he considered her a part of that beauty as well. It told her that she mattered to him, and Jane knew at that moment, that one 'Pro' outweighed them all.