tj_teejay: (Chris reading book)
[personal profile] tj_teejay
Characters: Adam Rove and Joan Girardi
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Het
Summary: A week after Carl Rove's death, Adam and Joan spend the night at his place.
Character Age: 22
Joaniverse: Butterflies, takes place the same night as the last scene of chapter "These Things"
Author's Note: I'm posting this one with a special dedication to [ profile] anaithis , even though she won't read this until much later. I hope you get well soon, my dear! Adam and Joan send happy and curing vibes too.

It was dark outside, and a feeling of unfamiliarity tingled at the back of her mind as Joan slowly awoke. She gazed over to her left, and realized that the crumpled bedclothes she was lying in weren't her own, neither was the bed they belonged to. She suddenly remembered last night, and the act that had bonded her and Adam in a way they had not bonded before.
The side of the bed where he had lain was empty, the sheets cold. The digital display of the alarm clock on the nightstand showed 03:10. She fumbled for the briefs and top she'd worn last night and went to look for him.
She found him in the kitchen, sitting on one of the wooden chairs, staring into nothingness with only the dim light above the stove illuminating the room.
She stopped in the doorway, leaning against the doorframe. "Adam?"
He looked at her, his gaze lingering on her face for what felt like half an eternity.
"Jane, what are we doing?"
She didn't know what she had expected to hear from him, but it wasn't this. What was he asking? "Are you having regrets? About last night?"
He got up and his hand went into his hair to linger there for a few, desperate seconds. "I... I don't know. No," he stammered. "It's just"
A few silent seconds passed. "It's what?"
His body sagged a little. "It's like... it's like things were finally falling into place. You know, like finally I could stop looking over my shoulder to wait for the next blow. Dad seemed happier than he's been in years, the new treatment really helped a lot with his back pain and I thought maybe it would all be okay, maybe I could stop worrying. And then"
He stopped, sucked in a breath, and Joan knew he was still trying to make sense of it all.
"And then," he tried again, "then last week happened, and suddenly I'm here with you, and I"
She took a few steps closer to reach out for him, but he met her gaze and the look in his eyes stopped her. Was he saying this hadn't been a good idea? Had she pushed him in a direction he didn't want to go? He had seemed so confident, so enamored last night.
"Adam, if you need more time..." she whispered.
"No. No, I just... I'm a mess, Jane."
She gave him the smallest of sad smiles. "You know this might sound strange, but I'm glad you are."
He looked at her, surprise in his dark eyes.
"Do you remember how I was when Judith died?"
"Yeah, you were so stoic and determined. You handled it a lot better than any of us did."
"Yeah, I really put on a good show, didn't I? The truth is, I cried like a baby most nights. I missed her so much. I know Kevin and Luke were hovering outside my door a lot those nights. They never came in, but I really wished they would. Maybe I wished even more that you would be there, would hold me, whisper to me that things would turn out okay, even if I wouldn't have believed it then."
He swallowed, and she saw his reaction. "No, Adam, don't feel guilty. We just weren't... we were so young, things were so different then. Right now, I just want you to know that I don't care if you're a mess or confused or just... I'm here for you, I'm here if you need me. It doesn't have to be physical or permanent or..." She trailed off.
He looked at her for a long moment, almost too long. "I... don't know what to say to that."
She moved closer and stood next to him. "Then don't say anything."
They stood there, quiet, for a long time. When Adam broke the silence, his voice was low and tinged with sadness. "Jane, I... I've tried so hard, but I can't remember."
She turned her head and looked at him.
"I can't remember the last thing I said to him. I've gone over and over it in my mind, and it's like that morning's been erased from my mental hard drive."
She knew immediately that he was talking about his father.
He went on. "You know, it was probably something really stupid, like a conversation about breakfast sandwiches. Or some story he read in the paper, or the shopping list for the next day. I just wish... I just wish it would have been something meaningful. There are so many things I still wanted to say to him, so many things I wanted him to tell me about Mom."
"They always say that dying very suddenly and unexpectedly is a blessing. What people sometimes forget is that that's so much harder on the people that are left behind. And now you're here, trying to deal with it all, but have you ever considered his point of view?" she asked softly.
He looked at her, confused.
"From what you've told me, he never saw it coming. Have you ever thought about how it would have been if he'd regained consciousness? If he realized what was happening, if he would have seen you worried and scared at his side in his last moments?" She drew in a breath. "Maybe that would have been worse for him."
She realized that it needed a minute to sink in. He looked at her questioningly. "Am I being too selfish when I keep wishing I could have had a chance to say goodbye?"
"No," she said in a low voice. "No, that's not selfish, that's human. You did what you could to support your father. You took care of him, you made sure he was as happy as you could make him. You went through so much together, and I know he loved you and he was grateful for everything you did for him. And even if you couldn't tell him in those last moments that you loved him and didn't want to lose him, he knew all that."
Tears were starting to prickle behind Adam's eyelids, and when he blinked, they dislodged from his eyelashes.
Joan saw it but didn't move. "Sometimes doing something meaningful is worth more than telling someone the most meaningful words you can think of."
He hastily wiped away the tears on his cheeks with his hand, but she reached out and gently took that hand away from his face. "It's okay. It's only been a week and you haven't even had time to rest ever since that night. It's okay to be sad."
His voice sounded almost angry. "I don't wanna be sad anymore. I don't wanna cry anymore." New tears ran down his face as the words tumbled from his mouth.
She moved to stand in front of him and gently drew him into an embrace. He didn't resist and buried his head in the crook of her neck. She whispered in his ear, "Adam, it's okay to grieve. It's okay to miss him. It's okay to have regrets. And it's okay to keep hoping it was just a bad nightmare you're going to wake up from."
She could feel him crying silently and she softly stroked his back. "I know it doesn't sound like much right now, but tomorrow you'll find the strength to get up again and get through another day. And another, and another. And eventually, it'll feel again like you can take it all on without it being a constant struggle."
They stood like that for a few minutes, until he calmed down. When he lifted his head again to wipe away the tears, she smoothed out a few strands of his hair that stood up from the fitful sleep he had roused from earlier.
Their eyes met and in a composed voice he said, "You asked me if I was having regrets. About tonight."
She nodded slowly.
"I don't." He waited a long moment. "Do you?"
"No. None."
It was like something clicked and an invisible force drew them closer. Their lips met, caressing each other softly and hesitantly at first. Joan could taste the salt from his tears on them and pressed hers onto his more fervently. He responded just as eagerly.
They separated breathlessly. Her face suddenly became serious and she took a step back. "I don't know if this is such a good idea. Maybe we need to let this sink in for a day. Maybe I should go home."
He reached for her hand. "Please don't go," he whispered.
"Are you sure?"
He smiled. "Yes, I'm sure."


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