Author: Bad Faery PM
AU- Joseph MacAvoy is Middlesbrough's town drunk who's hopelessly in love with Sister Isabelle French.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Angst - Father MacAvoy & Belle - Chapters: 8 - Words: 23,045 - Reviews: 82 - Favs: 17 - Follows: 27 - Updated: 05-14-13 - Published: 02-09-13 - id: 8993091
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
In the past three weeks, Belle had barely left the hospital save to fulfill her duties around Middlesbrough. She'd thought that after the first few days of Joseph's detoxification process, he'd begin to feel better. Instead he seemed to be growing worse.
"I'm here, Joseph," she murmured, wishing she could hold her rosary, but he was clinging desperately to her left hand while her right stroked over his hair and back in long, soothing strokes. "God is watching over you."
He was quiet tonight, his eyes moving rapidly beneath his closed lids. Sometimes he sobbed and screamed in his dreams, but this time he was silent although his face was contorted with pain. "You're all right," she breathed, praying that she wasn't telling a lie. The doctors had insisted that this was to be expected. "I won't let you go."
He'd been very insistent about that, even in his fits of hysteria, pleading with her not to leave him. If her presence brought him comfort, she would gladly sleep at his bedside, and that was exactly what she'd taken to doing. "I'm here."
"Belle?" His eyes fluttered open, pained and bloodshot, "You shouldn't be here."
That stung a bit, but she kept petting him. "Why not?"
He struggled to sit up, looking distressed. "Why are you here? You're good. You shouldn't be here!"
He was growing steadily louder in his panic, looking frantically around the small room. "It's all right," she soothed, moving to help him sit up, taking her place on the edge of the mattress beside him. "Where do you think we are?"
He had delusional spells occasionally where he saw beasts and demons or forgot what year it was. One heartbreaking night he'd introduced her to his parents, his face shining. Belle took both of his hands in hers and held on, trying to anchor him in reality. "Where are we, Joseph?"
"In hell," he breathed, his eyes filling with tears as he looked at her. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. It's my fault. You're here because of me. I did this to you. I didn't mean to. I didn't want-"
He dissolved into hoarse sobs, and Belle wrapped her arms around him, feeling him clutch at her like a drowning man. "Hush now. Hush, sweetheart." She rocked him tenderly, hoping he could hear her and would believe her. "You're in hospital. Do you remember? We're not in hell. We're here so you can get better. It's all right."
She crooned soothing nonsense until he stopped crying, grabbing a handful of tissues to mop off his face. Joseph looked utterly miserable, still muttering under his breath. "Shouldn't be here… You're pure… Not like me…"
"You're a good man," she promised him, unable to understand why he was so convinced they were in hell. It was hard for Belle to imagine that Joseph could have committed any sin mortal enough to damn him.
He shook his head. "I'm a sinner."
"Everyone sins," she assured him. "God understands. God forgives. He'll forgive you, Joseph. All you have to do is ask."
"I don't deserve it," he rasped, not meeting her eyes.
"Do you want me to call Father McAllister?" she offered, feeling a bit out of her depth. She was in no way qualified to hear his confession, but Joseph clung to her hands. "Why don't you deserve forgiveness?"
She half-expected him to say something about the alcohol, and when his admission came, it shocked her. "I lust."
The words felt like a slap in the face, bile rising in her throat. "God forgives," she repeated, not sure why his confession hurt so badly.
A bitter laugh answered her, a sound that didn't belong in Joseph's mouth. "Not for this," he rasped.
"Even that," she told him. However she felt about his words, he still needed her comfort. Leaning forward, she kissed his forehead. "Try to rest, Joseph."
A smothered sob was her only answer, and Belle went back to stroking his hair until he fell again into an uneasy sleep. There was no reason to be upset by Joseph's words. He was a man with a man's urges. God would readily forgive him for his impure thoughts, and she had no right to do less. Still it bothered her that he'd said "I lust" instead of "I lusted." That meant it was ongoing, and she went down the list of all the women she saw at services, wondering which one had caught his fancy. Perhaps it was someone he knew through his work, a woman Belle had never met.
A flicker of anger filled her, and she tried to acknowledge and release it. Joseph should have his lady's comfort while he went through this, but Belle was his only visitor. Had she rejected him? Was that why he was so upset? That wasn't right at all, she though indignantly. Joseph was a wonderful man, and he deserved happiness. It wasn't good for anyone to be alone.
At least he had her, she decided, glad that he seemed to find her company soothing. Maybe there was some way she could find out who the object of his affections was and bring her to his side. Reluctantly she dismissed the idea. Although she'd never tried it herself, Belle had seen enough movies to know that playing matchmaker rarely went well. She just wanted him to be happy.
Her stomach lurched at the thought of Joseph kissing another woman, and she took a deep breath, hoping she wasn't getting ill. If she became sick, he'd have no one to visit him.
Fortunately, the momentary sickness didn't develop, and she was able to spend the next week at Joseph's bedside until his doctors announced he was fit to leave. He looked terrified at the thought, and Belle didn't like it either. Joseph was still pale and in pain; he still had hideous nightmares. Surely it wasn't safe for him to be on his own.
"Do you have someone to stay with?" the doctor asked him, echoing Belle's own thought, and Joseph shook his head.
"There's no one," he whispered, shame written clearly on his face.
"There's me," Belle said solidly, feeling him clutch her hand tighter in surprise. "He can stay with me."
He stared at her in wonder as the doctor gave her a list of instructions, and Belle struggled to pay attention, her heart breaking for him. He so desperately needed a friend. At least she could give him that.
"Are you sure?" he asked once they were alone again. "I don't want to be a burden."
"You're not a burden. You're my friend," she insisted, and she finally got a smile out of him.
It wasn't until late afternoon that they finally let him leave, and even the short walk up the flight of stairs to her flat exhausted him. She'd meant to settle him on the sofa while she got him some soup and changed the bed linens, but he looked so dead on his feet that she led him directly to the bedroom. "I'm sorry I didn't have time to change the sheets. Do you mind-"
"No!" he said quickly, his eyes feverishly bright, and she left him alone to rest. Considering how tired he seemed to be, he probably wouldn't have noticed her making noise, but she tried to be quiet anyway, starting a pot of soup and curling up with a book.
She'd always shared a room at the convent, and although she hadn't been lonely since arriving in Middlesbrough, Belle couldn't deny that it felt good to have someone else with her. Food tasted better when it was shared, and her soup seemed to please Joseph. No doubt anything would taste good after hospital meals.
It was important that he stay hydrated, and she kept refilling his water glass, making sure that he drank. His body had gone through a dreadful shock. He needed fluids and nourishing food and rest, and as soon as they'd finished eating, she shooed him back to bed.
"This is your bed," he said with dismay as she tucked him in again. "I can't take your bed."
For weeks she'd been sleeping in a plastic chair at his bedside; sleeping on her own sofa would be the height of luxury. "You need rest, Joseph," she coaxed, pushing him down against the pillows. He looked around the room in fascination, taking in her books and trinkets. "I'll be fine on the sofa."
He caught her hand when she leaned over to kiss his forehead. "I don't have to stay," he told her urgently. "If I'm a bother, I'll go."
"You're no bother," she assured him, giving him another kiss. "I like having you here."
He lit up, looking so happy that her heart broke for him. "Sleep now," she coaxed. "If you need me, just call."
"Stay with me?" he asked sleepily, his eyes already drifting closed.
"Of course." She sat down beside him, leaning back against the headboard. Her bed was far wider than his hospital bed, giving her room to sit comfortably. Joseph moaned as she started stroking his hair, the rhythmic motion soothing her as much as him. Belle yawned, fighting the temptation to close her own eyes. It had been weeks since she'd had a decent night's sleep, and she was so very comfortable.
Just for a moment, she promised herself. She'd just close her eyes for a moment before going to sleep on the sofa.
When she awoke, the room was dark and there was a warm body twined around her. Belle's heart raced with panic before she remembered where she was. She'd dozed off next to Joseph in bed, and he must have rolled over in the night, wrapping himself around her.
"Oh, Joseph," she sighed, squirming to free herself enough to roll over and kiss his cheek. He whimpered at the touch, and she kissed him again, wondering if she was the only person to show him affection like this. No wonder he was clinging to her.
Her thoughts went to the woman he loved, and her stomach twisted in pain. No doubt he'd prefer to have her beside him. Although she'd shared a room for most of her life, Belle had never shared a bed, and she was surprised by how nice it felt. Having Joseph against her made her feel safe in a way that only prayer had ever affected her before.
That was all the more reason for her to leave the bed and go sleep on the sofa. Friends didn't share beds. That was a pleasure reserved for marriage, and that was not something she would ever experience. Reluctantly, she tried to disengage herself from Joseph's embrace, gasping when he tightened his hold on her with a moan of protest.
He was spooned up behind her, his hands splayed against her belly, and she could feel his warm breath against her throat. "Joseph!" she gasped, her voice sounding breathless.
Behind her, he hummed softly, then lips pressed tenderly against her neck. Belle squeaked, her stomach fluttering madly even as she realized what was happening. Joseph was dreaming about the girl he loved and had mistaken Belle for her. She needed to wake him up, needed to stop him, but his mouth trailed lower, sucking at the place where her neck met her shoulder, and she suddenly forgot how to talk.
No one had ever touched her like this, and her body felt like it had been bathed in flame. She couldn't catch her breath, couldn't move, couldn't do anything but feel. Her bones felt like they were trembling, her stomach twisting in the most delicious way.
She could feel something hard pressing against her backside, and she slammed her eyes closed, blood rushing to her face. Belle might be a virgin, but she was still well-read. She knew what that was.
Joseph was aroused. Joseph was aroused for her.
She moaned, the sound somehow hungry and far too loud as her body arched helplessly, wanting more. The noise he made in return was low and animal, and she could feel the slightest scrape of teeth against her throat as he pushed himself against her.
Sanity suddenly rushed back, and she wrenched herself out of his arms, her body aching at his loss. Beside her, Joseph moaned unhappily, tossing on the bed, and she could see that his eyes were still shut. He was lost in his dream, and she'd taken advantage. She'd sinned. She was promised to God, and Joseph loved another. What she'd done was wrong.
Crawling out of bed, she stumbled into the living room, feeling like her body was barely under her control as she fell to her knees. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned."