A/N: God, this is scary… Well, either way, this is my first Oliver Twist-fic, and I'm basically crawling out of my skin with pure nervousness, but what the hell… Bill and Nancy are my favorite characters, so I decided it was time to go one-on-one with analyzing their relationship! Let's hope I won… (Crosses fingers)

Because I Can't Stand Everything Else

It was after one of those really bad times. When it hadn't just stopped at bruises, but he'd actually knocked her unconscious. One of those times when she'd been in bed, the headache had been red and hot and throbbing, her brain had turned into a swelling sponge that pressed against her temples.

Betsey had sat next to her bed, stroked her forehead and dabbed her black eye in lack of a real treatment method. Jack had come by to check on her, too, and he must've asked Betsey his question in the belief that Nancy didn't hear him.

"Why does she keep going back to him?"

But Nancy did hear him. In her current state, the reality slipped in and out of her grasp, she'd shifted between sleep and consciousness but kept her eyes closed all the while, because she knew that if she opened them, everything would sway around, like when she was really drunk, but so much worse, so much worse.

And she also heard Betsey's answer. On the inside of her eyelids, she even saw her shrug, the weariness in her eyes after asking herself that question so many times.

"She thinks she loves him."

Nancy would've sat up and scoffed. But just opening her eyes was big enough effort, she'd tried it a while ago when Betsey had gone to get a new wet piece of cloth, and if she sat up, the sponge in her head would swell, swell, swell until her skull cracked and it slowly crawled out onto her blanket.

Nancy still remembers that day. Just because of that answer.

She thinks she loves him.

She loves Bill. She really does.

She loves Bill more than anything else in the world. More than Betsey, more than mom when she'd still had one, more than life itself. She loves him so much that it hurts.

Bill had been the one who'd done that to her. He'd been the one who forced her to stay in bed for a whole day until she'd snapped and gotten up, despite Betsey's shrill protests. He'd done it that day, and that wasn't the first or the last time.

And Nancy goes back to him, again and again, as soon as she can step out of bed, she goes to him, sits down on his lap, places an elbow on his shoulder and presses as close to him as she dares. Hides in his thick smell of cheap liquor and dirt.

Hides from reality. Just for a little while.

Because that's what Bill is to her. He's not reality, he's a solid point. Something that will always be there, consistently, and that's very different than the reality Nancy has when she's not with him. She huddles up next to him, and he lifts his arm and puts it around her shoulders. Lets her hide with him. Protects her.

And doesn't that prove that he loves her? That she means as much to him as he does to her? Doesn't it?

Nancy asked Betsey that once. When they'd stayed up too late and talked through the yellow glow of the candle on their nightstand. And through that light, Betsey's eyes had gotten harsh, she'd leaned forward like she probably did when she saw a possible costumer, because Nancy saw straight into her cleavage.

"No, Nancy, it doesn't mean that," Betsey had said, spat out every syllable. "It means that he's a horny drunk who loves to have a good pair of tits available whenever he feels like it."

Nancy hadn't talked to her once during the following day. She should've known better in the first place.

Why would Betsey understand? Why would anyone understand?

Bill had been there whenever she needed him for twelve years. He's but a blanket around her when the boys had disappeared with all the covers to sleep in the docks, waiting for the drunks to come out from the bars so they could put their eager little hands in their pockets. Bill had let her taste his beer, he'd given her food off his plate. And that sure was nicer than Betsey had been against her, than anyone had, so how the hell could any of them understand?

So Nancy goes back to Bill, again and again. She hides from reality by clinging to his worn-down coat, because reality has done her nothing but harm this far.

She escapes reality every day in small doses, and just hopes that that's how much she means to Bill.

Although, if Nancy got the chance to enter Bill's mind, something she's been wanting to do for such a long time, she would see right away that that's not what she means to him. He doesn't let her mean that to him.

Bill could escape reality when he was with her. He could look at her, and she would open gates to a whole new world to him.

She could show him a world where you don't have to beat people up to get them to respect you. A world where it's okay to be a good person.

She could show him that. That's why he loves her. Nancy has a good heart, and Bill needs that just to remind himself that there are worlds like that. They're still out there, and he can walk in them, be a good person, with Nancy by his side.

The problem is that he doesn't dare. He can't walk in those worlds because he doesn't dare.

To be in one of those worlds, Bill has to trust the kind heart that Nancy so obviously sees in him but that he feels slipping away, further and further, more and more every day.

So instead of being in one of those worlds with her, he punishes her for her kind heart, he hates her as much as he loves her for letting a good world dangling right in front of him and not letting him in before he manages to trust it.

"Bill?" Nancy asks one night, when he's putting his shirt back on and she sits on the bed, with her blanket draped around her, feels abandoned already even though he's still there with her.

"Mm?" Bill grunts.

He won't look at her. He wants her bad enough as it is, he wants to stay in bed with her, put an arm around her waist, rock her back to sleep, hide her from the world and all the pain it's done to her.

Because she doesn't deserve it. She's a good person, she deserves to be in the good worlds. And Bill wants to be able to grant her that, but he can't. And this is the second best.

Bill deserves this, though. He knows, in some hidden place in his mind that he very rarely listens to, that he will never get to enter those places she shows him glimpses of when they're together like this. Because he simply doesn't deserve it.

The place he's with now, when he plans burglaries with Fagin and slaps around the only one that really matters, is all he deserves. Before he manages to show the last traces of goodness that he hasn't managed to repress. That makes him horribly frustrated.

"Do you love me?" Nancy asks.

She doesn't know why. Has no idea what she thought she'd achieve by asking this.

He just seemed kinder tonight. Gentler. Touching her old bruises, not kissing as violently.

Or maybe that's just in her imagination.

But weather it was or it wasn't, Bill doesn't even pretend like he heard her. He just fastens the top button in his shirt, exhales slowly and jaggedly.

Glances at her over his shoulder. Sees the ruffled hair, the eyes that stare up at him. Pleading, wanting, begging for him to answer in a way no one else ever has.

That's enough. Bill stands up, walks out the door and slams it shut behind him without bothering to look at her again.

He needed her. For a second, she needed him and he needed her, too. And the only thing that made it different from what it always is like was that they both knew it, but it's still more than Bill can handle.

He'd rather live without those worlds, those stupid fucking worlds than ever showing Nancy what power she has over him. He'd rather lose her all together than letting her know that she's the only one in this world that he actually needs, that actually can give him something more meaningful than the watches Jack and Charlie bring back from the docks.

But Bill's going to keep staring through the window of that good world. He's going to keep Nancy with him, and hope that he can borrow small pieces of her soul, and eventually have many enough pieces to live off them. Live in the good world. With her.

And Nancy is going to keep going back to Bill, and she won't think that she loves him but love him fully and truly, with all her heart, because he lets her escape reality. Even though what she escapes to is almost as harsh and cold as what she escapes from.

And it's all in the hope that one of these days, Bill's going to stay in bed with her until the next morning.

The hope, so childishly vain but still all she has to rely on, that if she dares to ask Bill if he loves her again, he might just snap at her, hit her even, but he will at least answer.

I played Sikes a while ago, and it's sort of depressing, but I got this weird understanding for everything he does. So I decided to use modern technology to give redress to a guy who's been portrayed as the bad guy for two hundred years. XD Anyway, review and make my day!