Please Don't Take My Man
A/N: This is the direct aftermath of the last chapter. And the next one finally has Jensen in it. Enjoy!
+Please Don’t Take my Man
In which Jolene is a lot more patient than the situation probably warrants.
Jolene Porteus had always been a patient woman.
As the oldest of three siblings, she knew was patience was before she could spell it and being a woman in the military didn’t exactly help. So she knew, had known all her life, how to sit back and simply wait for people, for things, for what she knew would come. For karma to kick assholes off their pedestals and the universe to reward the little kindnesses she always tried to do to those that deserved them.
Meeting Linwood Porteus made that ability grow exponentially. First because he was a lot like a little kid in a toy store. The first time she’d let him stay the night, she’d found him in the morning, tinkering her toaster to only produce heart-shaped toast anymore. It had been utterly sweet and so very deranged that she’d simply sighed and dragged him back to bed, toast forgotten. When he’d been deployed to drive in Afghanistan, she’d reached a whole new level of patience. She’d spent months without a word from him, nothing but the newsfeed on her cell phone and her faith in his mad driving to hold on to.
He’d come back. She’d known that he’d come back and she’d been patient and she’d been rewarded.
And then the Colonel Clay snatched him up and she thought she should be up for canonization because only a saint could be this patient.
He didn’t call. He didn’t write. He didn’t even send life signs through buddies, like he sometimes had when he was in Afghanistan. She realized that that was because all his buddies were with him, stuck in the same shit he was, but by God, she’d have liked to know her man was alive for more than Christmas and Easter.
And then, when he came home, when he finally called over a crappy connection from the ass-end of nowhere, he told stories, so many stories, and each one of them felt like a part of him she was losing.
She was a soldier’s wife. She knew that her man would never completely belong to her. Not in this life. But the Losers, that damnable bunch of misfits, were taking him from her, crazy stunt by crazy stunt.
There was Roque, who reminded Lin of the ragged street gags he grew up amongst, angry and wild and bitter and they got along fine because Lin said the trick was to treat him like a temperamental engine, to let him rumble and spit and still take good care of him. Jolene had grown up in a nice, suburban house, not rich, but not poor and the slums and casual violence that Lin knew so well were alien to her.
There was Clay, who inspired a kind of loyalty in Lin that seemed unholy. “I think I’d follow him just about anywhere, Jo,” he told her after his first round with the Losers. “He’s just… he believes in this shit, you know? And he doesn’t just stand at the back and bellow orders. He never sends his men anywhere he isn’t willing to lead and that’s just… he’s a good man, Jo.”
High praise from a man that had spent his life in the foster system and the military, bounced around and casually discarded at every turn.
There was Snake, who was a friend, if nothing else. A friend who was there for all the things Lin wasn’t allowed to tell her about but sometimes did anyway. A friend who had the same scars and the same nightmares and that made him closer to Lin than she was, sometimes, when he couldn’t sleep.
There was the sniper, a guy named Miller that no-one in the unit liked and Jolene was glad that there was at least someone
that Lin didn’t like, someone he didn’t get along with.
And then there was Mom. She had a real name, too, Jolene hoped, but Lin always spoke of her as Mom. Mom said. Mom did. Mom kicked so-and-so’s ass. Mom wasn’t in charge of the unit but she still ruled it in the way only a woman could and Jolene wasn’t sure that, if she told Lin to do one thing and Mom told him to do the opposite, he wouldn’t hesitate, wouldn’t seriously wonder and consider.
She felt like she was on one side of Lin, pulling on one arm, and the rest of his unit was on the other side, pulling in the other direction, five against one. Four, maybe, since he didn’t consider Miller part of his unit, but still. Four against one.
She felt like she was going to lose and she hated it, hated, hated, hated because she was patient and she was loyal and she loved her husband like no-one else in the world and somehow, she was still losing him.
That wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
Lin had leave and she was stuck at her new job. She’s split from the military shortly after their wedding because it was easier. But her new civilian job was just that, new, and she couldn’t willy-nilly take a week off when Lin called and told her he’d be state-side in twenty-four hours. She was at a conference in LA and scheduled to stay there until a day before he was scheduled to leave again.
It fucking sucked.
He said it was okay, that he’d stay with the rest of the unit on base, that he’d be fine, they’d have time some other time. Except that the ‘with the rest of the unit’ was exactly what she didn’t want to hear and apparently, her grumpiness radiated from her every pore, because her boss asked, “Are you alright, Jolene?”
She shrugged, told her how it was. Husband. Special ops. Home for a week and then gone again for God knew how long. She used the word ‘suck’ a lot until her boss, a woman in her early sixties, always perfectly put together and perfectly ruthless when need be, patted her on the shoulder and said, “Well, get going then.”
Jolene blinked once, very slowly. “What?”
Christine smiled, “Darling, you’re only young once. Go back to the hotel, pack your bag and get your man. I can manage on my own and I’m sure you’ll put in the over time to work this off, won’t you?”
Jolene nodded, resisted the urge to hug the stiff woman and bailed. Forty-five minutes later she had a flight back home, was sitting in a taxi to the airport and calling Lin.
“I’m on my way home,” she said as soon as he picked up.
“I’m on my way home. Christine told me to go. I’ll be there tonight. Come home?”
He hesitated. She asked him to come home, to come to her, and he hesitated. She took a deep breath and steeled herself. “I… shit… this is… I’d love to come home, you know that. I miss you like crazy. It’s just that… It’s Mom.”
Another deep breath and she told herself patience
, told herself you love him, there’s an explanation, patience
, and he said, “We went out partying last night and she… shit, Jo, some guy slipped her roofies and we almost didn’t get there in time and I just don’t… none of us really want to leave her alone, right now.”
Relief, sympathy, anger, relief and frustration. All rolled into one. “Can’t the others look after her?”
She flinched at her own words as soon as they were out of her mouth and amended, as quickly as she could, “I didn’t mean that. I… I just miss you, too. I want you home. But I understand.”
They were silent for a minute, both torn between here and there. Patience. Jolene exhaled. “Why don’t you just bring them? All of them? I want to meet them anyway.”
Two hours after Jolene got home, luggage in one hand, groceries in the other, the doorbell rang. She was still in her smart clothes from work, barefoot and wine-mellow when she opened the door to find her husband grinning at her like she was the sun.
She vaguely registered a bunch of people standing a bit off to the side, but she really didn’t care. She flung her arms around him, kissed him with the intention of never letting go and laughed when he finally pried her off, smiling, happy, light.
“Hey, babe,” he greeted, quiet and private. Just them and she wondered how she could ever doubt this man at all, who loved her more than himself and wasn’t afraid to say so out loud.
He wrapped an arm around her waist and shoved her inside, waving for the others to follow and she got her first glimpse of them. Clay had to be the gruff white one and Roque couldn’t be anyone but the tall, dark and scarred one. There wasn’t anyone matching Snake’s or Miller’s description, but there was a woman that had to be Mom and Jolene couldn’t help but think that she really hadn’t expected this.
Military women could be as hot as any other woman and they were often fitter, but the women fighting on the front lines, the specialized and combat hardened ones tended to not look quite so pretty and small. Jesus, she was small.
Lin led them to the living room, where he point at them in turn, introducing, “Jolene, this is Clay, Roque and Mom. Guys, meet my lovely wife.”
The men were all polite grumbles while the woman smiled and held out her hand. “Kids these days. When I’m not Mom, I’m Buffy. Pleased to finally meet you. Pooch never shuts up about you!”
Jolene took the hand and thought that damnit, not liking this woman was going to be harder than she’d thought.
They had dinner and made small talk for a while before they started pulling out embarrassing stories about each other and Jolene found herself laughing so hard, she almost snorted wine. She learned that Roque really was as grumpy as Lin always said and that Mom was a mortal version of Superwoman and that, apparently, her husband didn’t call for his momma in the field, but for Jolene.
She blushed bright red at that, causing Clay to smirk and lean back in his seat, “True love,” he mused, sounding fond.
Roque smacked him on the back. Hard. “What would you know about it?”
“Good question,” Lin agreed with a laugh before Mom threw in her two cents.
“The closest you’ll ever get to a wife is Roque, Clay.”
Everyone laughed again, except Roque, who reached out in a way that suggested he was about to hit the blonde in the shoulder. Only he stopped at the last possible second, arm making a jerking motion in the air. Aborted.
Abruptly, all the laughter stopped and Jolene was left a bit lost, especially when Roque stood, grabbed his beer and said, “Thanks for dinner. Was great.”
He spun on his heel and stalked toward the backdoor, calling Buffy ‘bitch’ over his shoulder. Lin and Clay looked after him with wistful expressions and the awkward tension around the table kept rising.
“Why don’t you two idiots go join Roque in sulking in the dark while I help Jolene clean up?” Buffy suggested in the end, making a shooing motion. Lin shot Jolene a look before nodding and Clay grabbed their beers, moving outside quickly.
The two women were left alone at the table and Buffy blew a strand of hair out of her face. “Awk-ward,” she sing-songed eventually, smiling at Jolene. “Sorry about that. They’re all kind of spun up because of what happened last night.”
“Right,” Jolene jumped, cringing, “You…” She trailed off. Not sure how to phrase it.
Buffy didn’t seem to care though. “Were almost raped. You can say it. I don’t remember anything except a very stoned conversation with Roque about butterflies and hand grenades. Woke up with a killer headache this morning, but that’s it. They’re way angrier than I am and they didn’t take out all of their frustration on the poor idiot.”
“They beat him up?” She wasn’t really surprised that they had, just that the other woman was telling her. Things like that tended to stay in the unit and wives weren’t included in things like that.
Buffy snorted. “Apparently, I broke his toes before the roofies really kicked in. Let’s just say that when I saw him this morning, there was a lot more broken than his toes. He’s gonna get what’s coming to him. I just wish they’d stop treating me like spun glass.”
She pouted and Jolene understood what had happened with Roque. He’d almost hit her, in good fun, and then stopped because of, what? The last guy that had hit her? Not wanting to hurt her on top of that? Or because he thought she would splinter and break?
“Give them a few days,” Jolene suggested, because there really wasn’t much she could say.
Buffy shrugged. “Maybe. But it’s ridiculous. Statistically speaking, I save their asses a lot more than they save mine. And yet here we are. It’s not like I’m some defenseless woman.”
The fact that someone had managed to slip her drugs suggested otherwise, but Jolene knew better than to say that. “Doesn’t mean they don’t care.”
Mom rolled her eyes but then sighed and nodded, admitting that Jolene was right. To avoid having to say it out loud, though, she started stacking plates and cutlery and made her way into the kitchen with a precarious armful of breakable things. Jolene watched her go until she remembered that this was, in fact, her house and she should be helping. She grabbed the rest of the dishes and followed, finding Bfufy already running water into the sink like she was completely at home in the strange kitchen. Since Jolene had a vague idea of how many different kitchens the Losers saw in a month, she wasn’t surprised.
Still, her house. “Let me do that,” she said, stepping up next to the shorter woman.
“Only if you let me dry,” Buffy compromised. Jolene nodded and they started working in silence.
They were almost done when Buffy spoke again. “He really misses you, out in the field, you know?”
Jolene, who did know, nodded. But Buffy didn’t seem satisfied. “I don’t think you do. He’s like, constantly talking about you. Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. He feels bad every single day he can’t call you and he gets absolutely rotten when we have to lay low for longer than a week.”
Oh. Just… oh. That was… Jolene felt herself blushing while, deep in her chest, something warm and gooey unfurled.
“It gets annoying,” Buffy added, spinning a plate expertly in her hands and sounding fond, “like, annoying enough to make me glad he’s the only one with family.”
“The only one?”
“Sure. I mean, we all got family somewhere. Except Roque. I’m pretty sure Roque was spat out of hell fully formed. I got a sister out there and friends and all. Snake’s got his parents. But no-one has any significant other to go home to. Except Pooch. And he’s really, really trying to do right by you. Just thought you should know.”
Jolene nodded, swallowing around the lump in her throat and fought down the urge to hug the other woman, although she didn’t think the blonde would mind. There was, Jolene was beginning to see, a reason everyone called her Mom.
“Thank you,” she said, talking to Buffy and whoever else was listening. For rewarding her patience, for letting her have her man and for the fact that he loved her as much as she loved him. “Thank you.”