Time for Chapter 2! This one brings in some new faces and some shenanigans, without which this fic would be sorely incomplete. Enjoy!
It was a sunny, but chilly early-spring day when the two were both free next, and Jo slipped on her trademark grey hoodie and sweatpants before jogging the route to Lightning's apartment. The rain clouds gathering overhead caused the sky to match her outfit, and Jo barely managed to reach the apartment building before rain started coming down, not that she would have minded. She did bring her hoodie for a reason, after all. She quickly tracked down Lightning's apartment and knocked on the door after double checking the number on it against the slip of paper she had brought with her. "Hey, Brightning," she called. "I'm here for that routine thing."
A few moments passed and no response came from behind that door. Jo raised an eyebrow and knocked once more. "Open up, it's me, Jo. From the gym? Hello?"
Another moment of silence passed. Jo tried a third time, this time knocking entirely too loud for the hallway she was standing in. "Open the damn door, Lightning!"
When still no one answered, Jo decided she was going to do things her way. "You know what? Fine. But if this is some stupid challenge, I'm going to blow you away. Just you watch." She loudly kicked the door and stormed out of the building, pulling her hood over her head as she ventured into the spring shower pouring down on the small town. She circled the building and found what she assumed was the window to Lightning's apartment. She jumped up and started climbing the fire escape in an attempt to reach it and climb in to give Lightning a whack upside the head. She reached the window to see an empty living room, littered with protein bar wrappers and football memorabilia. "Yep, this is his place alright," Jo grumbled as she grabbed the edge of the window and strained against it, trying to open it up. When it stuck in place, Jo cursed under her breath. "Of course it's locked. Why the hell not?" Jo tried to force the window open, but made no progress at all. She smacked the glass in frustration, causing her to pull back and yelp in pain.
She got to thinking about an alternate course of action, but before she could think of an idea, a voice sounded, loud, commanding and sudden. "Hey you! What do you think you're doing up there?"
Jo turned to see two police officers glaring up at her from just outside their blue and white car. The two officers looked like polar opposites, one being bigger and the other being thin and short, but both had their hands near their waists, cautious as to what was about to happen. "Oh no, it's the popo," Jo muttered to herself. She raised her hands in the air slowly and started stepping towards the ladder. "Hey, gals!" She said, trying not to sound suspicious.
"We got a call about a noise disturbance in this building, and we get here to witness a wanna-be break in in progress," the smaller officer said with a shake of her head.
"Now step down from the fire escape and no one else has to get hurt," the bigger officer said.
"Whats that supposed to mean?" Jo snapped as she started her trek down the ladder.
The first officer put her face in her hand. "MacArthur, it's supposed to be 'get down and nobody has to get hurt.'"
"What? We weren't gonna hurt her?" The second officer, apparently called MacArthur asked.
"This is off to a good start," Jo snarked as she reached ground level.
"Alright then," MacArthur said, walking towards Jo. "Now that you're down, come to the station with us."
"You're not gonna hurt me, are you?" Jo asked. "I'm promise I'll cooperate, officers."
MacArthur put her hands on her hips and nodded. "Don't worry, my partner here is like, eighty-five percent of my impulse control, so as long as Sanders is around, we won't hurt you."
"Thanks for that," Jo said with an eyeroll. She reluctantly let Sanders handcuff her and toss her into the patrol car. As it lurched and started heading towards the police station, Jo struck up a conversation with the two officers. "So uh, I know you hear this a lot, but I can explain why I was up in that fire escape."
"You're right, we do hear that a lot," Sanders said.
"And we're not interested," MacArthur continued as she took a haphazard turn at a freshly-red light. The poor sap she cut off honked at her and she growled in their general direction. "Hey, don't honk at a cop, buster! You're lucky we already have one culprit in this squad car or you'd be so dead!"
Jo snickered in her seat, starting to like this louder cop. "Well I'd like to tell my story anyway, because I had no intention of breaking into that apartment."
"That's what it looked like you were doing," Sanders said, unconvinced.
Jo insisted on telling her story, periodically getting interrupted by MacArthur's road rage. When she was finished, Sanders turned in her seat to look at her skeptically. Before she could comment, MacArthur cut in, as Jo assumed she was prone to do. "Nice alibi, still breaking and entering."
Sanders shook her head. "Okay, we'll contact the owner of the apartment and ask him if your story holds up. If it does, we'll let you go free."
"Thank you," Jo said. "Although, knowing Lightning, he'll have completely forgotten about our plan."
MacArthur nodded along. "Guys. Can't live with 'em."
A moment passed where Jo and Sanders just looked at MacArthur.
"...Shouldn't that end with a 'can't live without them?'" Sanders asked.
"Nah," MacArthur shrugged. "You just can't live with 'em."
"Well then," Jo said. "I agree. Mostly."
"Mostly?" Sanders asked.
"Mostly. Lightning is the only guy not to hold my gender above my head at the gym, though I suspect it's mostly because he's dumb as a sack of bricks."
"Ooh, you get those comments too, eh?" MacArthur asked.
Jo nodded. "'You can't do that because you're a girl' comments? Yeah. I always get remarks about how my exercise regimen is unladylike. It's total bull."
"I know, right?" MacArthur agreed.
"Preach it girl," Sanders said with a nod.
"You just gotta ignore those guys," MacArthur said. "We're all pretty unladylike around here. Hell, we're cops! And you know what else is unladylike?"
"What is that?" Jo asked.
"Sleepin' with women. Boom." MacArthur held up a hand, offering a high-five to Sanders. Sanders didn't take the offer, leaving the hand hovering in the air awkwardly. "...What?"
"You don't just share that intimately personal detail with our convicts," Sanders said, shaking her head.
"Oh. Sorry." MacArthur put her hand back on the steering wheel and the rest of the ride was carried out in silence. When they reached the station, Jo was escorted into one of those temporary holding cells and told to wait while Sanders went back to the apartment to verify her alibi by asking Lightning about it. The time in the cell was long and tedious, but Jo managed to pass the waiting period by chatting with MacArthur about their favorite exercises, her time in the police academy, and a few other miscellaneous topics. Finally, MacArthur decided to ask Jo some stuff. "So, eh, we interrupted your date, huh?"
Jo narrowed her eyes at MacArthur. "Don't you dare use that word. We were going to plan a new routine, and then I was gonna go home and sleep. It was not a date."
MacArthur scoffed. "Huh. From how you sounded when ya talked about the guy, would ya blame me for assumin' that?"
Jo raised an eyebrow. "I...sounded like something?"
"Oh yeah, you sounded kinda like how I do when I tell perps about how great my partner is." MacArthur nodded confidently. "You got it bad, sister."
"Do not," Jo insisted. "Let's talk about something else now."
"If you insist," MacArthur shrugged. "What are you trainin' for? A girl like you can't just be workin' out for kicks an' giggles."
Jo puffed out her chest in pride as she answered. "I'm working to get into the Olympics."
"Oh yeah? What for?"
Jo gave a shrug. "Weightlifting, track, you name it really. I'll take anything they can give me at this point. Mostly. I wouldn't be caught dead ice dancing."
MacArthur suddenly jumped from her spot. "I know, right? Every damn Olympics manages to produce ice dancers more annoying and pansy-like than the last and it pisses me off! It's not even a real sport!"
Jo cracked a smile. "I know! And all those sequins? Ugh. That's the only part of the Olympics I actively avoid watching."
MacArthur looked like she was about to say something more, but the door behind her opening interrupted her. Sanders walked in, with Lightning following closely behind. Sanders had her arms crossed. "Are you guys bonding over a mutual hatred for ice dancers?"
"How'd you know?" MacArthur asked.
"We heard your impassioned rant from the entrance to the station," Sanders explained. "You need to stop giving your life story to every person we bring into custody. One of these days you're going to offend an actual pair of ice dancers. Again."
"Hey, that Josee girl got offended when I looked at her wrong. And she deserved it for botching Canada's chances at a gold. Again." MacArthur looked away angrily as Sanders approached Jo's cell with Lightning.
"So this is the girl we caught outside your apartment building. You know her?" She asked the vacant-looking guest.
In response, Lightning nodded. "Yep, that's her alright. Why were you tryin' to break into my house, Jo?"
"Because you weren't answering," Jo said as she crossed her arms.
"Maybe I wasn't home?" Lightning suggested.
"That was the time we decided on," Jo shot. "It's not my fault you weren't home."
"It was?" Lightning asked.
"Yeah, we said five-thirty."
A moment of silence passed during which Lightning awkwardly looked toward his wrist. "It wasn't five-thirty, was it?"
"It was," Jo said with a nod.
"But my watch said it was four-thirty! I thought I had time to go grocery shoppin' before you got there." To illustrate his point, Lightning held up his wrist watch and showed it to Jo. Sure enough, it had the wrong time displayed.
"Lightning," Jo said, trying to remain calm.
Jo continued while the cops were giggling in the background of the conversation. "Did you set your clock forward an hour last night?"
"Why would I do that?" Lightning asked, bewildered.
"Because last night was daylight savings time, you idiot!" Jo cried, throwing her hands in the air.
"It was?" Lightning tiled his head to the side, continuing to be confused by Jo's outbursts.
"God, you're hopeless, Brightning."
After they shared a nice, healthy laugh, the cadets decided to come back into the conversation. MacArthur went ahead, wiping a tear from her eye. "Okay, okay. Now was she allowed in your place or not? We got jobs to do, buddy."
Lightning took a moment to respond, but finally shook his head to clear his confusion up. "She's fine. I guess it's my fault you're in here, huh?"
"Gee, you think?" Jo crossed her arms and shot Lightning a glare. "Now get me out of here so I can do what I wanted to do today."
Sanders shrugged. "It's good enough for me. And less paperwork for later. You're free to go, Jo." She opened the door to Jo's cell and motioned for her to step out.
"Thank you," Jo said.
Lightning cracked a cheesy grin. "Hey Jo, I'll race ya to my place."
"Oh, you are so on, Sha-Numbskull!" The two didn't even wait until they got outside to bolt in the direction of Lightning's apartment as if being chased by a very fast, angry grizzly.
MacArthur chuckled as they ran off. "Ah, young love."
Sanders rolled her eyes. "Yeah, alright. Let's get back on the job, okay?"
"Sure thing," MacArthur said, making her way back to their squad car. "Say, we should probably go to that gym sometime. It sounds like a barrel of fun. Which one did she say she went to, again?"
"Um, the only decent gym in this town?" Sanders responded.
The rest of the day consisted of Jo explaining certain exercises to Lightning and helping him plan out a decent routine. After checking and correcting every clock in his apartment, they parted with a promise to start the new regimen the very next day at noon sharp. The start of the plan was bumpy, as is to be expected of new workout schedules, and the hardest part was getting through the first three leg days, which were a lot of having to listen to Lightning whine about how this new routine was stupid and Jo's weights were obviously fake. However, once things started falling into place and they became accustomed to this new plan, things started going a lot smoother. Lightning found himself having a lot more endurance on leg day and Jo found herself catching up to Lightning in pretty much every other area. However, the more time passed, the less Jo found herself really caring. The more time she spent working out with Lightning, the more she would catch herself looking forward to seeing him and talking with him more.
Their heated rivalry didn't simmer down at all, but the friendship brought on by it was growing more each day, which surprised Jo. She didn't bond with Tyler or even Brick nearly as fast as that, and she had known them for years. What was so different about this boy who was about as bright as a burned-out light-bulb?
The answer came one Friday when an unexpected but familiar duo came in through the front doors of that gym. That is to say, they weren't the answer, but they sure did help a lot in reaching it. MacArthur put a hand on her hip and looked around, inspecting the place. "Hmm, yep, it looks mighty fancy alright. I can't wait to get started!"
Sanders took a moment to examine the area too before she nodded in agreement. "It's been a while since we've had the time to go to the gym."
Before they could get far, they were approached by Jo. "Oh hey, didja come to arrest me after all?"
Tyler and Brick, who were nearby, overheard Jo's jest and dropped their dumbbells, Tyler's landing on his foot. As Tyler curled up on the ground, Brick approached the three girls. "A...after all? Jo, what happened?"
Jo shrugged. "Oh, you know, I ran into some trouble. These ladies here almost arrested me. No big deal."
They shared a laugh as Brick looked between them confused. MacArthur put a hand on Jo's shoulder. "But nah, this time you're good. We're here to get ripped!" She dropped her bag and struck a pose that involved kissing her flexed muscles. Jo laughed at the similarity to Lightning's first real action when he joined the very same gym not too long ago.
As if sensing a potential flex-off, Lightning sprinted over to the steadily growing group and struck an even more ridiculous pose. "You never have a gun show without inviting Sha-Lightning," he said in that annoyingly bombastic voice of his. The two continued flexing at each other like a pair of exotic birds showing off their feathers for each other.
Finally, MacArthur resumed a normal pose with her arms crossed. "Very impressive," she said with a smile. "How're your glutes, though?"
In response, Lightning raised an eyebrow. "My...what did you just call me?"
"You'll have to forgive him," Jo said. "He's not big into the leg muscles or really anything on his bottom half."
"Hey, I care about my—"
Jo didn't let him finish his sentence. A hand to the mouth and a kick in the shin solved that problem.
Sanders and MacArthur looked at each other awkwardly. "Anyway..." Sanders started, "we'll just...go get ready to work out."
"Booyeah!" MacAthur pumped her fists in the air and they went to the locker rooms to change.
The day wore on, Jo and Lightning doing their regimen while occasionally seeing the cadet duo, who were trying a little of everything that day, just to get a feel for all the machines. It wasn't until they were in the locker rooms again that Jo managed to strike up a normal conversation with them. As they changed, they mostly talked about how the different machines felt, what the gym did right and some things that weren't so great. Finally, MacArthur brought up a subject Jo was hoping she had forgotten about. "So, how about that Lightning fella, huh?"
"What about him?" Jo asked, not quite following.
"You still totally like him," MacArthur teased.
"What? I do not!" Jo crossed her arms defiantly. "He's my rival. We inspire each other to work harder. There's nothing more to it than that."
Sanders shook her head. "MacArthur, I think we should drop it." Just before Jo could extend her thanks, Sanders continued with, "I think she meshes well with the military kid."
"That Brick guy?" MacArthur asked.
"Oh hell no!" Jo spat, even angrier than before. "Brick's a nice guy and all, but he's way too wimpy for my tastes. I don't need a man, but if I wanted one, it would be a man who takes charge. Not Soggy Brickhouse out there." She didn't even need to mention that Brick was already with someone, as Sanders had thankfully dropped the subject.
Unfortunately, MacArhur hadn't. "So you mean like Lightning?"
Jo rolled her eyes. "Oh please."
"Look man, I totally agree with you on the don't need a man thing," MacArthur started. "But if you did, I'd say go for that Lightning before someone else snatches him up. He seems nice. And you two obviously enjoy each other's company so much."
Jo stood, ready to leave. "Thanks for the advice, but I think I can handle my own love life. Or lack thereof."
MacArthur shrugged. "Hey, I'm just tryin' to help."
Despite herself, Jo managed to give MacArthur a smile. "Thanks. I appreciate that you're willing to help a stranger you arrested once."
"No problem!" MacArthur said happily. "You seem nice."
"You do too, Gluteus. Maybe I'll see you two around sometime. I'd love to kick your asses at...well, anything."
"Oh, you are so on!" MacArthur said, shooting up from her seat.
Sanders laughed and put a calming hand on her partner's shoulder. "We'd like that, Jo. See you around."
"Back atcha, Isles. Keep an eye on Rizzoli for me, alright?" With that, Jo left the locker room and headed for the entrance to the gym. There, she saw Lightning, also heading out for the day. "Oh, hey Sha-Doofus," she greeted. "See ya right back here on Monday?"
"Yeah, as usual!" Lightning said. He turned to leave, but suddenly, Jo remembered everything MacArthur had said about Lightning in a rush of a...strange emotion she hadn't felt before. She didn't really...want Lightning to leave.
Before she could think better of it, she found herself calling to him. "Hey Lightning!"
From about twenty feet away, Lightning turned, confused. "What?"
Jo jogged to his side so they wouldn't have to yell across the street like a couple of morons. "So, er, does it have to be Monday?"
"What do you mean?" Lightning asked. "Don't tell me my rival's takin' a break on me!"
"No no! I wasn't thinking of later." When Lightning didn't respond, she sighed. "What if we saw each other sooner?"
"You mean you wanna come back here tomorrow? Or Sunday?" he asked, still not quite getting it.
"I mean, it doesn't have to be at the gym," Jo said.
"Girl, you're confusing me."
Jo slapped her forehead. "You're impossible. Forget it. I'll see you on Monday."
She turned to walk away, frustrated with Lightning's density, but was stopped by his hand on her shoulder. "Uh, Jo? Are you sayin' you wanna hang out this weekend?"
She turned and cracked a grin. "Hey, he can do math after all."
Lightning raised an eyebrow. "What...what does math have to do with anything?"
Jo shook her head. "Continue with your train of thought, Brightning."
"Uh, anyway..." Lightning scratched the back of his head awkwardly. "I'm free tomorrow night. Wanna catch a movie or somethin'?"
"That sounds suitably barf-inducing. Catch ya tomorrow." With that, Jo and Lightning parted ways for the night, unlikely friends turned into...something else.
Whatever they were, they had a movie date the next night.
And how did they decide who paid for everything? By seeing who could do the most push-ups in thirty seconds, obviously.