Sheelagh had been to hell and back, how she'd got through it was nothing short of a miracle. Patrick had left her, her beautiful baby girl had died and although they tried, her children and work colleagues found it hard to know what to say to her anymore. She was full of pain, more pain than anyone was truly able to imagine.

She sat alone in the sergeants office, hiding behind the mountain of paperwork piled on her desk, it was a barrier between herself and the world, it was a reason, and excuse to not do things. It was probably wrong, how was anyone supposed to get to know her, how was she supposed to pour her problems out to anyone if she wouldn't even socialise with them.

The paperwork wasn't that urgent, it could wait. She didn't want it to wait, it was surprising there was so much of it left really, the amount of time she spent with it. The truth of it was, she sat there, away from everything, protected, as though they were sandbags and she was living in an air raid. That was how she felt sometimes, she'd just be picking herself back up from the last blow and then another bomb would drop.

The office door creaked open, Sheelagh didn't look up, she didn't really care who it was or what they wanted. The figure walked over and sat down on the opposite side of her desk. She still didn't look up.

"Sheelagh?" Des said quietly

"What?" She snapped

"Talk to me"

"There's nothing to say Des"

She still didn't take her eyes off her paperwork. She made it quite clear she didn't want him around her. Des didn't know what he was supposed to do, he tried to talk to her, after all he was hurting too, so he knew how she felt.

"Sheelagh, please, I…"

" Des, unless it's work related, please leave"

"Shee, pl.."

"Des! Just go"

He stood up and walked to the door, pausing for a moment to look at her, she was so pale and fragile, he wanted nothing more than to hold her, kiss her, and tell her everything was going to be alright. But he couldn't, he couldn't because she wouldn't let him, he couldn't because he didn't know everything would be alright.

After they'd broken up, Sheelagh had become very quiet and introvert. There wasn't much that made her smile, and nothing held any interest for her anymore. She didn't want to come to work each day, she'd rather just stay in bed and sleep, but even though that was how she felt, it wasn't her, it was her nature to keep busy, she knew that moping around feeling sorry for herself would solve nothing.

Seeing Des everyday made it worse, every time she saw him she saw Niamh, it made the pain all the more real. She could get a transfer, she'd thought about it enough that was for sure. All of her emotions seemed to contradict each other, she wouldn't leave because she didn't want Des out of her life. For all it hurt, he reminded her what real love felt like, how sweet and intoxicating , totally exhilarating it was. She would never admit it to anyone, but Des was the only one keeping her going. Her kids still needed her, she knew that, but being needed wasn't the same as being wanted. They blamed her for the divorce, rightly so, it had been her fault. But at the end of the day, she was still their mother.

Des loved her desperately, there wasn't a moment went by that he wasn't thinking of her and how to make it right between them. He put his heart on the line every time he spoke to her. Time and time again she shattered it, but the memories repaired it, building it up again for another fall. There had been no one else, for either of them, Des knew if the feelings he had for Sheelagh didn't go away, there never would be. She made him something that he'd never been before, he'd always been 'a man' by womanising, that was basically it. Now, the thing that made him a man was the woman that made him whole, the woman he loved.

She walked home after work, a long, lonely journey, the same one she took everyday, with an occasional walk down by the river. She gazed out over the water, envying the freedom and carelessness of the animals that lived on it. The ducks, they could swim around all day and when they were sick of it, they could just fly away, they had no cares, no responsibilities, no worries. She sighed.

Des walked by the river too, he just liked the way it was a world apart from work. It gave him space to think, mainly about Sheelagh, but also about the fire, it still haunted him, tormented him and left him believing that losing Sheelagh and his only daughter dying were punishment. But surely it was his punishment, why did Sheelagh have to suffer?

He looked along the riverbank and saw Sheelagh sitting on a bench staring blankly forward. He walked up to her and sat down. She didn't move, her gaze was fixed firmly on a swan. Des looked at her, then he looked at the swan. Wild, beautiful, elegant and graceful, just like Sheelagh he thought to himself.

Her hands lay clasped together on her lap, Des reached out and held them. She looked up at him. She was tempted to get defensive and snatch her hands away from him, but she couldn't. She couldn't find it in herself to fight, not this time. Des noticed, he'd prepared himself for her rejection, but something was different now.

"Shee…" He said gently

"Don't say anything Des, if you want to stay you can stay, but I'd prefer it if we didn't talk." She whispered

"OK"

They sat there in silence. A tear rolled down Sheelagh's pallid cheek, it didn't go unnoticed by Des. He gave her hands a final squeeze and let go. Her heart sank, she thought it was going to leave, she wouldn't ask him to stay, being weak was one thing, but admitting it was quite another, and she wasn't prepared to do it. More tears fell. Des had no intention of going anywhere, he was just freeing his hands up so he could hold her. He gingerly put his arms around her, she didn't resist, so he pulled her close and let her cry into his jumper. She sobbed helplessly, she'd vowed to herself that it was something she wouldn't do, but being strong was getting harder and harder. Des stroked her hair, clutching it and breathing in the sweet smell that he'd missed so much. Sheelagh felt a warm drip on her forehead, it ran down the side of her nose and joined into one with one of her tears. She looked up to see Des with tears in his eyes. She didn't know what to say, so she reached up and wiped a tear away.

For all there was so much Des wanted to say, things he'd been forced to keep bottle up inside for months, he said nothing, this was a moment he'd been craving for months he wasn't going to risk it for anything. Whatever he wanted to say could wait. Sheelagh broke the silence that she'd enforced

"Des, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry" She cried

"Hey, it doesn't matter" He whispered

"It does, I've shown you no respect and no concern, all I've done is think about myself."

"Sheelagh, it doesn't matter. If anyone should be sorry it's me."

"Instead of ignoring you and telling you to leave me alone, we should have been sticking together, we've both lost our daughter, we're both feeling the pain, we should be supporting one another." She tried to explain

Des just held her tighter. Talking about Niamh made his tears fall heavier. Sheelagh clung desperately to him, why had she pushed him away for so long when she wanted few things more than to have him there?

The rain began to fall, one of those summer storms that follow the glorious weather. The kind that clear the air.

The air between them was certainly clearer. They sat there in the rain, they were soaked to the skin, but they made no effort to move.

After half an hour the rain stopped. They were still sat there. Sheelagh was the first to move. She released her grip on Des and looked into his eyes

"Come on" She said gently

"Where?" Des asked

"Your place"

"Why?"

"Because we're freezing cold and soaking wet, and I think I need a cup of tea."

Des smiled at her, he stood up and helped her to her feet. She stretched and began to shiver.

They began to walk to Des's house. The streets were empty, no one in their right mind would be out when the weather was taking a turn like that. Sheelagh reached out and took Des's hand. He looked down at her, she was just concentrating on where she was going, she didn't look up at him. He squeezed her hand gently, she squeezed back. And they kept on walking. They arrived at Des's place, he opened the door for her and let her in.

"You remember where everything is?" He asked

Sheelagh nodded, and walked off to the bathroom for a shower. Fifteen minutes later she returned, wearing his dressing gown. He smiled

"Always did look better on you" He said

"Des…" She replied

Sheelagh frowned slightly, Des wondered if he'd crossed the line. Then she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him, she'd done nothing but surprise him that evening. He kissed her forehead.

"I'm going to go and get a shower now" He said

"OK, do you want your bathrobe back?"

"No, it's ok. I have a spare one. You'll still be here when I get back won't you?"

"Yeah, I'm not going anywhere."

"Good." He smiled

Sheelagh wandered into the kitchen and made a cup of tea, she looked in the fridge, the cupboards, the freezer, they were all bare. She went to the bathroom and poked her head round the door

"Des I'm going to the shop, there's no food!"

"OK"

"I won't be long"

"Good!"