Finally, an update! Sorry, it's been so long, longer than I wanted it to be, trust me. It was a little harder than I thought it would be getting back in to the swing of things and staying focused. I hope it's up to par and that you like it.
John kept glancing back at Jessie, from the passenger front seat, as she sat quietly in the back, watching the familiar places and roads go by. They were close to the penthouse and he wanted to make sure she was alright.
"Hey," He turned in his seat to face her. "You okay?"
Jessie looked at him and half smiled. "Yeah, I'm okay." She lied of course. She was feeling everythingbut fine and the closer they got to home, the worse she felt. "Are you okay?"
"Besides feeling tired and full enough to hibernate until spring, I'm okay." John grinned. Jessie laughed and his grin turned into a full blown smile.
While John was watching Jessie, Robert was keeping an eye on the both of them. He knew John was worried about her, he could see it in his eyes, and he could see that Jessie seemed anxious and was not as all right as she pretended to be, he just wasn't sure why. He wasn't sure if it was Patrick's service, her argument with Joey, the conversation she and John had at Ray's, that had upset them both, or the fact that she was going home. Maybe it was a combination of it all. He would talk to John later to make sure he was all right and to try to ease his worries, but he wasn't sure how he could help Jessie. He knew that until she was ready, she would never give away anything she was feeling.
He smiled when John made her laugh. He wondered if they were aware of how much they really needed each other. He didn't think they did, not at the level he was seeing anyway. Right now, John was Jessie's lifeline and Jessie was John's connection to their father. The connection of love and trust, John had always wanted, not the hate and fear that he had felt in the past. It was sort of a new beginning for them both.
"Ya know," Robert looked at Jessie from the rearview mirror. "We could go to my apartment tonight. It's closer to the cemetary so we could sleep a little later. You have your room and plenty of clothes there, so you'll have everything you need and there's plenty of room for John, Bailey and Sam...and anyone else who wants to stay. It might be easier on you if you're not so overwhelmed your first day home. What'dya think?"
Jessie looked from John to Robert, the smile gone from her eyes and shook her head. "I want to go home." Not completely sure it was what she wanted, she took a deep breath and tried to keep her voice steady. "I need to go home."
"Okay Jess. I just wanted to-"
"I know." She said smiling weakly. "Thank you."
"I told Joey to finish up early today. I want him to pick Bailey and Sam up at the airport...maybe get some take-out...are you two...is that okay?" Robert was still watching her from the rearview mirror. "Brian has to take care of some business in Gloucester, it will probably take all night or I would have him do it."
"It's not a problem, it's okay. Joey and I are fine."
Robert nodded and Jessie turned back towards the window again and they drove the rest of the way in silence.
It started as soon as Robert's car stopped in front of the their building. A coldness started in the pit of her stomach and slowly spread throughout her body. Her skin immediatley broke out in gooseflesh and she shivered inwardly. Jessie wrapped her hand around the car door handle, but for a moment couldn't remember how it worked, so she just sat there as Robert and John got out. Robert knocked on the window and she jumped, but smiled.
"Everything okay?" Robert asked, as he opened the door for her.
Jessie nodded and got out. "My...uh...foot fell asleep, I was waiting for the pins and needles to stop." It was the only thing she could think of to say.
Brian's car pulled up behind them. Brian and Joey got out, both trying to hide their worries behind a smile. Brian walked up to her, put his arm around her and kissed the side of her head.
"How's my girl?" He asked quietly.
Jessie hugged him back, hoping he couldn't feel her shaking. "I'm okay. Just a little tired. " She knew that he wasn't asking how she was "physically", but she decided to play dumb and it worked.
"I bet your bed is gonna feel like heaven tonight, compared to the hospital bed you've been sleeping in, huh?
She nodded. "Definitly."
It only took a moment of standing in the living room, for Jessie to realize what a huge mistake she had made insisting that she go home. She mentally cursed herself for not staying in the hospital or taking Robert up on his offer to go to his apartment, because there was no way she was going to be able to handle staying in the Penthouse. The minute she stepped throught the door she found it hard to breathe and she had to keep reminding herself not to hold her breath. She could feel Patrick all around her and it was overwhelming, it felt like the walls were closing in on her. Voices were fading in and out around her, like she was underwater, but she couldn't make out words. A hand on her shoulder and a gentle shake, made everything clear again. Looking up, her eyes slowly found John's and she nodded when the words "Are you alright?" sounded clearly in her head.
"Sit down, Jess." Robert said pulling her towards the couch. She was very pale and unsteady on her feet. "Jessie, look at me." Her eyes were clear when she looked up at him, but her color was still ghostly white. "How do you feel?"
"Just a little dizzy. Everything just kind of hit me all at once, I'll be okay." Jessie wasn't quite sure who it was she was trying to convince, the four concerned men standing around her or herself.
John sat down next to her. "Maybe we should go to Robert's, you'll feel better there. Let's go, okay?"
Jessie shook her head. "I'm alright. I just need to lay down for a little while. I'll be okay, John." She looked up at the other three men hovering over her. "Really guys, I'm okay. It was just a little...a little too much for a minute, I just need a couple hours to get used to everything...to get used to being here, ya know...without Dad. I feel better now, honest." It was getting easier and easier to lie to them and somewhere deep inside it bothered her, but she new it was the only way to satisfy them without giving anything away.
Whether she knew it or not Joey could see right through her. He knew she was struggling to keep herself together and to keep everyone from knowing she was doing it. He knelt down in front of her, not knowing or caring if she was still angry with him, and put his hands over hers. He could feel them trembling, ever so slightly, under his and he wanted desperately to pull her in to his arms and hold her, but he knew she wasn't ready for that.
"Jessie, please...going to Robert's...that's not such a bad idea. This is too much for you right now, please..."
Looking into his pleading eyes, Jessie almost did it, she almost gave in and let go, but she regained control as quickly as she had lost it. "I'll be okay." She told him, trying to sound and show a confidence she didn't feel. "I just need some time, that's all."
Jessie started to get up, so Joey moved aside and helped her. He put hand under her elbow, pulled her up gently and waited for her to steady herself before letting go. "Jess..."
"I'm alright." She told him sternly. "Im going upstairs now...to lay down for awhile...and sleep." She knew telling them she wanted to sleep would make them willing to let her go more easily.
"I"ll go up with you." John said standing up next to her.
The only way to pacify them was to agree to John's offer, but Jessie was going to do it on her terms. "Okay, but just until I fall asleep, then you gotta come down here and get some rest too. Deal?"
John nodded. "Deal."
"And you sleep too." Jessie said stressing her words as she looked at Robert. "No sitting up worrying about everything and everybody, okay? You need to get some sleep too."
"Okay." Robert couldn't help but smile, because a little bit of the old Jessie crept back into her voice and eyes when she spoke to him.
"Promise?" She asked hoepfully.
"Yes. I'll get some sleep too, I promise."
Jessie smiled. "Thank you."
"Well, if you guys are gonna crash, we'll get out of here and get to work." Brian announced. He put his arm around Jessie and pulled her into a hug. "I probably won't make it back here tonight, Jess, but if there's anything you need, you call me okay? "
Brian kissed the top of her head and gave her one last squeeze before letting her go. "I'll see you in the morning, kid." He turned to Joey, who he could see was reluctant to leave, and put his hand on his back to urge him along. "Ready Joe?"
"Uh...yeah, okay, yeah." Joey said hesitantly. He wanted to hold her, but wasn't sure if it was something she wanted. "Jessie...I...Jessie...I'm sorry for what happened this morning and at Ray's..."
"It's okay." Jessie hugged him fiercly, quieting him. "It wasn't just you, it was me too."
"I love you." He whispered.
"I love you too."
Joey pulled back slightly so he could see her face. "She's still so pale." He thought to himself. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
Jessie smiled. "I'll be okay."
She smiled at him, but it never reached her eyes and Joey wanted to say 'The hell with it' and stay with her. He reached up and touched her cheek, then leaned in and kissed her softly on the lips. "If you need me, I'll be here." She nodded and he kissed her again. "I love you."
"I love you too. Don't worry about me, okay."
Before Joey could decide not to leave, Brian put an arm around him and gently eased him towards the door. "C'mon buddy, let's get outta here so they could get some rest. He'll see you guys later and I'll see you guys in the morning. Remember what I said." He told Jessie as he followed Joey out and closed the door behind him.
"I just need a few hours so I'm gonna set my alarm clock for three, you guys go ahead and take as long as you need. I'll wake you when Bailey and Sam get here, if you're still sleeping." Robert announced after Brian and Joey left. "Can I get you your meds, John?"
"No, thanks Robert, I don't need them right now." John put his hand on Jessie's shoulder. "Ready to catch some z's, cause I sure am."
"Yeah okay." Jessie answered half-heartedly. She just about decided she really wasn't ready for anything.
Robert moved closer to Jessie, pushed her dark curls gently from her forehead, and placed a kiss there. He lingered for a moment, his forehead touching hers. "We'll all be okay, if we stick together, I promise." Jessie nodded in acknowledgement, so he kissed her forehead again before moving away. "Sleep well, both of you."
While Jessie was in the bathroom, John walked around her room looking at the pictures that were scattered about and on the walls. Twinges of jealousy and regret moved through him as he glanced from one photo to the next. He was jealous of Jessie because, he could see it in the pictures, that she had the family life, with their father, that he had always wanted. There were family portraits, vacation pictures, and pictures of them just doing everday family things with her mother and Travis.
"They look so happy." John said to himself. He could see no fear in their eyes, no fading bruises, just happiness and love and he wondered what it would have been like to be part of that. To be part of them. He picked up a picture of Travis. The boy was grinning from ear to ear, as he sat against a tree, holding up a goody bag filled with candy. His face was painted to look like a tiger, but John could still see the similarities between him and Travis and immediatly felt regret. Regret for having never known, the sweet-faced, smiling, little boy that shared his ocean colored eyes and happy-go-lucky smile.
John put his index finger on the frame's glass and traced the outline of Travis face, absently trying to push his brother's blond curls away from his eyes. "I wish I could've known you." He whispered. "I'm your brother." John wiped at the tears that he felt roll down his cheeks. "I'm your brother." He repeated. He put the picture back in it's place and sat heavily on the foot of Jessie's bed. He was exhausted, physically and mentally.
Jessie paced the bathroom floor, taking deep breaths and saying over and over. "C'mon Jess, keep it together." She thought that being in her own room would ease things a bit, but she was wrong. She stopped in front of the mirror and looked at her reflection and winced at the person staring back at her. The loss and pain in her eyes was undeniable, even to herself, and she covered her mouth with her hand to stifle a sob that shook her entire being. She turned the water on, in case John could hear her, sat down on the bathroom floor, drawing her knees to her chest and hugging them tightly, and rocked herself as she cried.
John stared at the bathroom door. He could hear the water running, but nothing else, and he was getting nervous. He walked over to the door and listened for movement on the other side, but all he heard was water. He stepped closer and knocked gently.
"Jessie? Jessie, is everything okay?" He asked softly, trying to keep the worry out of his voice.
Jessie lifted her head up, from her knees, and wiped at her eyes. "Yeah...yeah uh...everything's fine. I'll be out in a minute. I'm just uh...I'm just washing up."
"I'm right here if you need me." John told her, sensing something wrong.
"I know, but I'm okay. I'll be out in a minute." Jessie stood up, leaned over the sink and splashed her face with water. The cold water felt good against her warm, tear streaked skin and she hoped it would be enough to hide that she had been crying. She turned the water off and dried her face with a towel. "Keep it together." She told herself and took a deep breath, to settle herself, before opening the bathroom door.
"See, I'm okay." Jessie said as she stepped out of the bathroom and almost into John.
John looked at her closely. Her eyes were red and the skin underneath them was puffy. She had obviously been crying. He touched her cheek and half-smiled. "Yeah, I see." He started to pull her into a hug, but she stepped away. "Jess, I just-"
Jessie knew the minute John wrapped his arms around her she would start crying again, so she stepped away from him and walked towards the bed. "I'm really tired." She sat down and looked back at him. "I just want to go to sleep, okay?"
"Okay." John relented. He watched as she got into bed, pulled the comforter up around her, and stared blankly up at he ceiling. "Do you have any meds to take?" He asked as he walked around to the opposite side of the bed and sat down.
"Not until later, around dinner time."
"Okay." John leaned back into the headboard and stretched out next to her. "Everything's gonna be okay...I mean, it will get better."
Jessie looked at him and nodded. "I love you." She said quietly, her voice cracking as tears slid down her cheeks.
"C'mere." John said patting his chest. She moved closer to him and rested her head in the crook of his shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her, pulling her even closer. He kissed the top of her head and pushed rogue curls form her face. "I love you too, Jess. Robert was right, ya know, if we stick together, we'll get through this okay."
Jessie nodded against his shoulder. "I know."
"Close your eyes and get some rest...I'll be right here."
"Okay." Jessie said sleepily. She sighed deeply and slowed her breathing down. She had faked falling asleep many, many times before and she was very good at it, so she was sure John would fall for it. She deepened her breaths as she slowed them and let her body relax against him.
"We'll be okay." John whispered, kissing the top of her head again.
Jessie lay quietly next to him, waiting. Waiting patiently for him to decide that she was sleeping comfortably and he could leave her, like he had promised.