Janie presses her lips together to stop them from quivering. “Yes, sir.”
“Atta girl. We’ll do everything within the law to keep your dream-catching ability a secret. However, it’ll likely come out that you were at that party on assignment and working undercover for me. We’ll need your story and your drug-tester sheets as evidence. If the perps are too stupid to plead guilty once they see the pile of evidence we have, we’ll go to trial and your cover for Fieldridge assignments will probably be blown. But you need to tell the truth if asked, and we’ll deal with it.”
Janie’s eyes widen. “So, um, if my cover is blown . . . will I . . . will you . . . ”
Captain smiles. “You’ll still have a job. No worries. Martha had a few close calls too, but her secret was never revealed on the stand. Defense attorneys don’t know about dream catchers—They never think to ask the right questions. So, let’s not fret about that right now, okay? I want you to take a little time off to relax and rejuvenate until school’s out.” Captain swivels in her chair and continues seamlessly, “And, Cabe, I’ve got some minor assignments for you starting Monday after school. Alone. Is that clear?” She looks at both of them.
“Yes, sir,” Janie and Cabel say in unison.
“Will you two be able to work together again in the future, or do I have to reconfigure my plans?” Captain asks bluntly.
Janie looks at Cabel. Cabel looks at his shoes.
“Yes, sir,” Janie says finally. Daring Cabel to answer.
“Of course,” Cabel says. He doesn’t look at Janie.
Captain nods and shuffles the papers on her desk. “Good. Janie, see if Cobb or Baker or Rabinowitz is out there to give you a lift home. I’ll talk with you soon.”
“Yes, sir.” Janie stands up, her face burning. Feeling like a baby in front of Cabe. She flees out the door, leaving Cabel and Captain standing there, and decides to walk home rather than beg for a ride.
She doesn’t get far before Cabel’s car whizzes past her, snow flying in his wake.
Janie glances longingly at the bushes, wishing for a place to hide.
Cabel lowers the passenger window and peers out at Janie. Smiles grimly. Bites his lip. “How about a ride, Hannagan?”
Janie nods coolly and gets in. Knows they’re going to have to talk sometime if they’re going to keep working together. “I can walk from your house so it’s not too much trouble for you,” she says civilly.
They ride in silence the entire way.
Cabel pulls into his driveway.
They get out.
Stare at each other for a minute, until Janie looks away, emotions welling up. She’s angry. Still doesn’t understand why he broke up with her so suddenly. Feels like it was because the teachers touched her. Wants to know the truth. But doesn’t want to get shot down again. “Thanks for the ride,” she finally says.
When he doesn’t speak, doesn’t move, she turns slowly and starts walking home.
“Wait,” Cabel says.
Janie’s been waiting. Waiting for answers. Waiting for him to admit that he can’t touch her because she’d been violated by the creeps. Janie doesn’t want to wait anymore. She walks faster.
He hesitates, and then runs after her. Stops her in the middle of the road. “Come inside with me,” Cabel says. He looks tired. “Please. We need to talk.”
Janie’s eyes flash, but she follows him inside. Maybe at least she’ll get some answers.
Janie sits on the edge of the living-room chair, leaving her coat on. She takes a deep breath and decides to get it over with. “You have three minutes to tell me that it’s not because those bastards touched me.”
Cabel reels. “What?”
Janie looks at her watch.
Cabel begins to pace.
“I can put up with the pacing,” Janie says after a minute goes by. “I can put up with you having some issues you need to work out. I can even put up with you saying you just don’t love me. I mean, I thought this weird dream curse would probably keep me from ever having a relationship, so I guess I’m lucky it lasted as long as it did. But when you suddenly decide you can’t touch me anymore immediately after a bunch of jerks try to rape me, well, I just need to know if you are really that horrible. And if you are, it’ll be a hell of a lot easier for me to walk out of here in”—she checks her watch—“one minute and twenty-four seconds.”
He stares. His face is fraught with emotion. He walks over to Janie, kneels in front of her. His hands quiver as he touches her face.
She watches him solemnly. Gives him a chance.
“Janie,” he finally says. “Is this the way it’s going to be with you?”
Her eyes flash angrily as she squints at her watch. “What? Stop changing the subject. You have one minute to say it’s not because they touched me. Is it? Is that really it, Cabe? They touched me, and now I’m violated, and you can’t stand to think of being with me again?”
“Oh god. You’re serious?”
Janie’s voice pitches higher. “Thirty seconds.”
“Would you even believe me if I said it?” He’s breathing hard. Stands abruptly and turns his back to her. His fingers rake through his hair.
“Fifteen seconds.” Janie’s voice is even, now. She stands up to leave.
He whirls around and grabs her arm. Pulls her to him. Kisses her hard, tangling his fingers in her hair. His tongue darts into her mouth and finds hers, tasting her, an oasis in the desert, his body urgently pressing against hers as his hands caress her neck.
Janie stands frozen for a moment, and then she moans and reaches for him. Cabel slips her coat off her shoulders, and it falls to the floor, and he lifts her up, holds her until she wraps her legs around his waist. His lips move to her neck and strain at the buttons of her shirt.
“Time’s up,” she says, gasping.
He lifts his lips from her skin. Runs his hand over her body. A button falls to the floor, bounces, and rolls under the chair. He walks, with her still attached, to the couch and sits with her on his lap. “Janie. Oh god, I can’t do it,” he whispers, and holds her tightly. Squeezes her. Just like she loves. “Janie,” he says again. “I’m so messed up. Such an idiot. I’m sorry. No. I mean, the answer is no, it’s not because they touched you. I just didn’t know if I could handle this. You’re too . . . I don’t know. You’re dangerous! I couldn’t handle it. Couldn’t handle loving you.”
“What the heck does that mean? You didn’t seem to have a problem being in love before. What happened?”
He gives her a miserable look. “What if I love you, give you everything I have inside me, open my heart up, and something horrible happens? What if you did get raped? It would change you so much, Janie. Change you forever. What if you get sucked into a dream while you’re driving again? Have you thought through the consequences? To you? To others? To me, for god’s sake. Janie, my father—He lit me. On. Fire. In that instant everything changed. I became a different person. Crap like that changes you. It scarred me, fucked up my life,” he says. “In a bunch of ways.” Cabel fingers the scars through his shirt as he talks. “I haven’t let anybody inside since then, except for you. It’s hard, Janie. It feels impossible. And then you go off being all reckless and shit. . . . ” He takes a breath. “I needed safe, but I fell in love with you. Now I’m having a really shitty time deali
ng with the thought that something could happen to you. That you could change too. And I’d lose you.”
Janie, jaw dropped, blinks. “You have a really funny way of showing it.”
“I know. I . . . I’m fucked up. I thought it would be easier this way, you know? To take a break. It’s just . . . It isn’t . . . ” He struggles for words. “This is intense, Janie. It scares the hell out of me. I wanted you to be my safe thing. No serious risks; just some simple dream stuff for Captain. Nothing like what you went through with Durbin! I mean, who the hell thought that would be your next assignment? God, wonder what comes next . . . ”
“So you broke up with me because you couldn’t handle it if I changed or got hurt or left you. Is that what you’re saying? Doesn’t everyone have to take that risk? Do you still love me or don’t you?” Janie’s lip quivers. She thinks about all the changes that will be happening to her in the next years, and feels Cabel slipping away again.
“I’m saying I love you and I’m still learning. . . . I want to learn how to deal with that. All I know is that I thought this break would help, but all it’s doing is making me batshit crazy.” Cabel pauses. Smiles weakly. “So, um, can you please just not do anything dangerous? Isn’t life bad enough when you can’t control what the nightmares do to you? Do you really have to take even more risks?”
Janie smiles ruefully. She wraps her arms around his neck and rests her head on his shoulder. Thinking. “What if I do get hurt? Or if something . . . happens to me. Will you stop loving me?” she asks quietly.
“How could I?” Cabel strokes her hair. “But I have to learn how to handle the feelings that come with that. I’m just not used to caring about something, about someone, so much that it hurts. Not like this.”
Janie is quiet, thoughtful. “Did you know that you were the first person I ever remember saying ‘I love you’ to? I don’t even remember saying it to my mother. Which is really sad.”