A/N: The final chapter! Thanks to everyone for reading this and ta for the nice reviews. I may not stay away so long next time.
Feeling her phone buzzing in her jacket pocket, Jo impatiently rejected the call from Stevie and concentrated on her climb up this rickety staircase.
She'd hated climbing this the first time around. It was one of those workmen-only staircases that led onto the roof of a standard office building, the kind you found all over London. The trouble was, the only opportunity any police officer like herself had to see that kind of roof was when someone either decided to blow it up, burn it down... or jump off it.
Her phone buzzed again. This time she halted and answered it, aware that Stevie would just keep on trying if she didn't.
'Jo, where the hell are you? The DI's doing his nut.'
Briefly, she tried to explain Millie's experience with Pat Keller. For the first time in a while she was garbled and it took all of Stevie's patience to worm both the suspect and location out of her. By the time she hung up she'd been told in no uncertain terms to stay put until back-up arrived... just in case.
So, of course, she carried on up the stairs immediately.
The metal door at the top was ajar when she reached it. Daylight streamed in, casting a faint green glow on the railings. A brisk breeze also blew through the gap. Jo shivered despite her jacket and approached the door as quietly as possible. It creaked as she drew it open but she quickly ascertained that neither of the figures on the roof had heard it.
What she saw out there surprised her. The idea of Millie being with Ian Keller on the roof his wife committed suicide conjured a few words in her head: kidnap, abduction, anger. What she actually saw were two figures at the far end of the roof, standing closer than she had anticipated, with no ropes or bonds in sight.
Millie's face was pointed away from her towards the mass of buildings that spread across the city. She was sat on a step in front of a set of railings four rungs high. On the other side of the railings stood Ian Keller, also facing the edge, looking in worse shape than the last time Jo had seen him outside the station months ago.
Resisting the urge to go barging onto the roof Jo stayed put and watched through the gap. After a minute or so of silence Millie spoke. Her voice was trembling.
'I don't know why, Ian. She wouldn't talk to me. I tried.'
'Not hard enough.' Ian's voice was flat, lifeless even. 'I told you to go. Go.'
'I can't do that.'
Ian exhaled heavily. 'Know what Evan's favourite game was? He didn't like football, not my boy. He was a boxer, regional team. Fantastic little fighter. Training like clockwork every Tuesday and Thursday. And I picked him up usually. But that night I asked his mum to do it. That's why she felt so guilty, you see. She didn't make it on time and he walked home.'
Millie's voice was trembling. 'I can't leave you up here alone, Ian. I want you to come downstairs with me and we'll talk about this.'
He shook his head. 'Too late for that.'
As he let go of the railings Millie edged towards him. 'Ian, please.'
'Millie,' Jo muttered under her breath. 'Don't even think about it.'
A second later the situation altered dramatically. Ian leapt towards the edge, Millie lunged at the railings and Jo sped towards her. She managed to drag her back a few inches, only to have Millie scream at her.
'I have to help him. I have – '
Jo pulled her roughly away from the edge, feeling Millie's arms and chest shaking violently beneath her. The more Millie struggled, the tighter a grip Jo kept on her. When the constable finally stopped fighting she dropped onto the rooftop. Kneeling beside her, Jo wrapped her arms around the now-shivering figure and took several deep breaths. That was how Stevie found them when she rushed up the staircase ten minutes later.
It was with some reluctance that Jo had let go of Millie. The paramedic, however, had shot Stevie a look, leaving it to her colleague to allow Millie to be taken down to the ambulance. It hadn't escaped Jo's notice – or Stevie's probably – that Millie hadn't looked at her once. The gnawing in her gut that had intensified suddenly when Millie had jumped after Ian Keller was still present, but she didn't know what it was telling her now. That maybe Millie didn't want her help?
'Manson's told me to take you to the hospital,' Stevie said, snapping Jo from her thoughts. 'Bit cold up here, isn't it?'
She attempted a smile. 'Ian Keller?'
Stevie shook her head. 'Sorry.'
Jo inhaled deeply. 'Well, he got what he wanted anyway.'
'You alright? You look white as a sheet.'
'Just get me to the hospital, yeah?'
Millie was just being checked out. While Stevie returned to the station to fill Manson and Smithy in on the details, Jo went in search of the cubicle where Millie was being held. She spotted it easily enough, given that Tony was stood outside one particular curtain with his arms crossed and a troubled expression on his face.
'What's going on?' she asked when she reached him.
'She's refusing to be examined, giving the nurses a right earful.'
'That's not Millie. I should talk to her.'
He held out a hand to stop her. 'That's not a good idea.'
'She said she didn't want to see you, Jo. I'm sorry.'
Her sensitive side swayed slightly but she drew herself up. 'I'm part of the investigation team. She's talking to me, Tone, whether she wants to or not.'
Leaving him with that, she pulled back the curtain. Millie was currently in a stand-off with a stout nurse. As much as the nurse instructed her to sit down, Millie was having none of it. She kneeled to tie her shoes then stood and grabbed her jacket from the bed. Finally, she noticed Jo watching her and stiffened.
'What are you doing here?'
'You really should listen to the nurse, you know.'
Millie's face remained impassive. 'There's nothing wrong with me.'
'You've had a long night,' Jo replied, taking the argument furthest away from the one she wanted. 'So sit down and let someone look after you.'
'I don't need looking after, I just need to get out of here.'
'Millie, come on.'
'Please, don't pretend to care,' she answered sharply, pulling her jacket on.
'I care,' Jo said quietly. The nurse diplomatically slipped out through the curtain leaving them with just the reverberations of the ward to break the silence. Footsteps pounded up and down outside, rushing and lagging alternately. They both seemed to concentrate on them: Millie to avoid speaking and Jo because she couldn't concentrate on Millie anymore.
'You don't have to wait,' Millie said suddenly, surprising Jo with speech. Even though she was now talking she still wasn't looking at her. 'I can make my own way home.'
'Least you think you're going home and not to work,' Jo muttered. 'Which you're not, by the way.'
'You can't exactly boss me about, can you, Jo?' Millie's voice had an unusual bite about it. 'Besides, I've asked Max to pick me up.'
That stung. Jo tried to stop it but the words had already slipped out: 'Tell me you're joking.'
Millie shrugged. 'I needed a lift.'
'So you called Max? You knew I'd be on my way here. Why not just wait?'
The way she was acting was irrational. The fact that Max was taking Millie home was nothing compared to the fact that Millie had just watched another person kill themselves when she thought she could've stopped it. But Jo couldn't help it. The last few weeks had taken their toll on her sensible nature.
If she'd thought Millie wouldn't answer back, however, she was mistaken.
'You just told me to sit and let someone look after me,' she pointed out. 'I'm asking Max for help.'
'Why not ask me?' Jo persisted.
'You dumped me a week ago! You'll have to excuse me if I didn't feel like bothering you.'
'I didn't... I was the one who tracked you down.'
'It would've been better if you hadn't.'
'Why?' Jo challenged. 'Did you want to go over the edge with him? Because that's crap.'
Millie swept some tears fiercely away from underneath her eyes. 'I could've talked him down.'
'No, you couldn't.'
'Yes, I could!'
Growling, Jo took several steps forward then halted as Millie recoiled. The rebuttal was painful but she masked it as best she could. 'Alright,' she said impersonally, 'then tell me what happened last night and this morning.'
Millie frowned at her. 'Are you on the investigation team?'
'Yep. Even though Manson knew I had a vested interest in the case he still trusted me with it.'
'Vested interest?' the younger woman repeated.
'What do you think I mean?'
Millie seemed angry if anything. 'Why tell them now? You were ashamed to before.'
'Of course I wasn't. I just keep my personal life separate from my work, that's all. There's nothing wrong with that.'
'That ship sailed, didn't it?'
Jo was having difficulty with the expression on Millie's face at the moment. She knew her anger stemmed as much from Ian Keller's suicide as it did Jo's rejection last week but it didn't make it any easier to handle. She'd changed her mind: she didn't want Millie to stay in the hospital anymore. She wanted them to go somewhere and talk this out like they so obviously needed to.
'Okay,' she said finally, 'I'm gonna take you home and you can explain what happened. How's that for a plan, hmm?'
Millie snorted and shook her head. 'I don't need your pity.'
'Do you need Max's?' she asked before she could stop herself.
'Did I hear my name?' a third voice queried from beyond the curtain.
Jo's anger flared and died as Max stepped into the cubicle. Millie finally seemed to relax as he smiled at her. Unwilling to stay there with the pair of them, Jo pushed through the curtain. She heard Max speaking behind her but didn't catch individual words.
She had intended to walk straight past Tony but the look on his face stopped her. 'Please don't, Tone,' she muttered.
He exhaled heavily. 'You gonna be okay?'
'She's alive. Didn't have the right to expect anything more than that.'
'Do you need a lift back to the nick? Seems my services aren't required here anymore.'
'Max tell you that?'
'How'd you guess?' He smiled kindly. 'Come on, I'll buy you a coffee.'
The rest of the afternoon was a blur. Tony drove her back to the station then she was faced with a lengthy lecture from both Manson and Meadows about the personal and professional getting mixed up. She took their words in silence: it didn't cross her mind to tell them the danger was over, that she and Millie were no longer involved. Manson didn't seem to have heard her when she said it before anyway.
News had spread, thanks to Stone probably. Everyone knew, even if the only indicator of it was a glance that lingered a little too long. She couldn't bring herself to care. Stevie tried once or twice to engage her in conversation but she avoided it like the plague. It took her until the end of play before she realised Max had never returned to work. A quick word from Banksy explained he'd taken the rest of the day off.
Although she told herself she should turn the car around that was the reason she found herself driving purposefully to Millie's flat after the excruciating shift was over. She was expecting to find something: why else would she have used the code and key and not even rung the bell?
Slipping inside quietly she listened to the sound of silence from the hallway. There was no television, voices, laughter: nothing. Her jealous streak – the one she hadn't known she possessed – told her to go straight for the bedroom, and she was about to when she heard a splash from the bathroom.
She stepped into a scene that was strangely familiar.
Millie was in the bathtub, the water stingingly hot if the temperature in there was anything to go by, and she was alone. She wasn't crying this time, though she seemed numb.
Careful not to surprise her, Jo stepped over the threshold and pushed the door to. Millie heard the noise and the muscles in her back tensed but oddly she didn't turn around. Either she was bizarrely comfortable with the idea that a stranger was in her bathroom or...
Jo sighed and stepped forward. 'Can I come in?'
'You're in,' Millie replied softly.
'How long have you been in there?'
Glancing around, Jo located a towel from behind the door and stood poised in front of the bath. After a moment Millie stood, letting the water fall away from her. She stepped out of the tub and into Jo's arms. Millie's face, whether it was deliberate or not, pressed into her shoulder.
They stood like that for up to a minute until Jo felt a shiver and proceeded to wrap the towel completely around Millie before pulling away.
'Get dry,' she advised. 'I'll go get your pyjamas.'
Once in the bedroom she allowed herself a second of self-composure. Was she meant to go back in there, sort Millie out, and then leave? She wasn't sure if she went through the first two steps she could follow through on the last one.
Returning to the bathroom she handed the pyjamas to Millie and turned away politely. After a few moments Millie cleared her throat.
Jo couldn't bring herself to look back. 'I'll put the kettle on.'
When she entered the living room with two mugs she found Millie waiting for her. Any hope she'd had of them sitting in silence was quickly banished.
'What are you doing here?'
Jo passed her one of the mugs and perched beside her on the sofa. 'I just wanted to check on you.'
She glanced sideways incredulously. 'You have to ask?'
'A week ago you wanted nothing to do with me. I'm sorry if I'm a little confused.' Millie waited expectantly for an answer then shook her head. 'Fine.'
'I'm sorry,' Jo muttered.
'Not only did you break up with me,' Millie went on, 'but you avoided me for weeks beforehand. You wouldn't talk to me. I'd say you made it pretty obvious that we were over. Then you turn up on the roof and the hospital and I don't know why.'
'You want to talk about this right now?' Jo queried.
'Okay.' Taking a sip of scalding tea, Jo gathered herself, steadfastly refusing to look at Millie while she spoke. 'I've been really unfair to you. I shouldn't have got involved with you in the first place.'
'Don't start on that,' Millie murmured.
'I just meant that I should've been honest. I was happy and the second I realised that I had something to lose I...'
'Let go of it.'
'Yeah, exactly. When that junkie attacked you I knew from the way I reacted that it had gone too far. I was angry, I was scared, I was...'
Again, Millie supplied, 'In love.'
Jo flinched. 'Something like that.'
'Would talking to me have been so difficult? I mean, we've talked, Jo, about everything and anything. I don't think I've ever actually spoken to someone like I have you. It was comfortable, it was easy.'
'Too easy, maybe.'
'Is it the age gap?' Millie questioned.
Jo shook her head. 'That was never an issue.'
'How much do you know about my secondment to Nottingham?' she asked after a second.
Millie shrugged. 'It was well before my time.'
'But you've heard?' Jo continued knowingly.
The younger woman sighed. 'I know that you lost two people who were important to you because of it.'
It was easier now she'd begun to keep staring at the wall. 'When I made the decision to leave Tess I chose work over my personal life. I didn't really know I was doing it. I saw an opportunity, a way of helping someone, and I took it. And Seth... I couldn't even help him in the end. He trusted me and I let him down. I chose work over life and I couldn't even get that right.'
Millie remained quiet. Maybe she just didn't know what to say: Jo couldn't blame her for that.
'Well, anyway, I made a conscious decision when I was settled back here that I'd chosen my job once and I was going to carry on doing it. Or it meant that I'd walked out on Tess for nothing and... I couldn't hack knowing that.'
A hand removed the mug from her grip and placed it on the floor before clasping her own fingers. Jo looked over questioningly but Millie just held on more tightly.
'Why couldn't you just tell me this?' she asked.
'Because I'm a stubborn Northerner?'
Millie snorted. 'I can't deny that, can I?'
Jo squeezed her hand then went on, 'When I realised you were missing and where you were it didn't occur to me to stay put. So that's why I was on the roof. And it's lucky I was. You would've followed Ian over the edge if I hadn't stopped you.'
'Thank you for being there,' Millie said.
'Do you blame yourself for what he did?' Jo queried carefully.
'No. He was going to do it whether I was there or not. Or whatever I said. He was determined.'
'Wanted to die because of what happened to her son. I couldn't have stopped that.'
'You're looking at it logically.'
'Isn't that what you've been telling me to do?' Millie shot back.
'You need locking up if you're listening to me,' Jo quipped.
There was a lengthy pause and when Jo finally looked over she found Millie's eyes trained on her, pain etched on her forehead. Jo relented and lifted a hand to stroke through the ginger hair she was so familiar with. The kiss was a long time coming but when it happened Jo felt as though a weight had been lifted.
She awoke to a mass of entangled limbs before dawn. Despite her arm being lodged in the most uncomfortable position possible she still immediately knew she'd had the best night's sleep for weeks. Millie had obviously woken a while ago judging by her alertness but she hadn't disturbed her.
Jo cleared her throat. 'Did you sleep okay?'
'Not as well as you.'
'Maybe I needed it then.'
Millie smiled. 'Yeah. Do you want a coffee?'
'That'd be good.'
Jo turned onto her side as Mille slipped out of bed. She suddenly felt as though she owed her some privacy and, besides, abstaining from watching her was good for her own sanity. The breaking of the dawn through the thin curtains was a cool reminder that even though their problems were out in the open now they still existed. Her telling Millie why she didn't want to get involved with anyone was one thing but actually ignoring those issues and moving forward? Two different things.
Millie's succinct analysis of the Ian Keller debacle in the living room last night had confirmed what Jo had suspected – that Ian never took her against her will and she'd followed him up onto that rooftop, spending six hours trying to talk to him. For a lot of the time it was silence. He'd only really started talking towards the end.
Once the bedroom door had closed Jo rolled onto her back and sighed. This was too much like making a commitment, perhaps it would've been better if she hadn't stayed last night. They needed to talk this out – and soon.
She half-dressed, meaning top half and underwear, then padded down to the kitchen. Millie had already made the coffee and was resting against the counter in her dressing gown staring pensively into space.
'It's still practically dark out there,' Jo commented, leaning against the door frame. 'You can barely have slept.'
'I'll be okay.' Millie's voice was measured, distant even.
'I know that. I just...' She stopped, not sure where she was going with that. 'Good.'
Mille exhaled and crossed her arms. 'Jo, I'm sorry, but I'm not going through that again.'
'Going through what?' she asked. 'The Kellers?'
'No, us,' Millie replied. Suddenly she looked up, her expression determined. 'I spent weeks wondering what I'd done wrong. And I know what you're gonna say.'
'I don't know what I'm gonna say!'
'Well, you'd end up saying that you think it's best if we spend some time apart to think it over,' Millie shot back. 'I know that much.'
Jo glanced away, unable to deny that was where she would've gone. 'Alright. Have you got a better suggestion?'
'Yes, actually. Move in here with me.'
'No,' she said immediately. As Millie's hurt washed over her face, she went on quickly, 'Not here. Two people can't live here.'
She didn't know what she was saying. Neither did Millie, if the frown on her face was anything to go by. 'What are you saying?'
Eventually, Jo met her eye. 'We can't live here. It's too small, so is my place. We'd need to find somewhere big enough for the both of us.'
'Isn't that a bit like a commitment?' Millie questioned nervously.
'No?' Jo repeated. 'Why not?'
'Because I'm not pushing you into this,' Millie argued. 'I don't want you making a snap decision because you think it's the right thing to do.'
'It is the right thing to do.'
'And that's why you want to do it.'
'Yes,' she agreed. 'But... You know that I love you. I've been a miserable cow the last month: ask Stevie, she can tell you. Yes, I think it's a huge step and, no, I don't think I'd be suggesting it if yesterday hadn't happened but... Well, here we are. Is that honest enough for you?'
Millie slowly nodded. 'It's enough.'
'Okay, then.' Jo paused. 'So what's it gonna be?'
'You're moving in together?' Stevie repeated incredulously.
Jo nodded for them to keep walking down the corridor towards the coffee machine. 'Don't sound so surprised.'
'She must be insane.'
'Thanks for that.'
Stevie chuckled. 'Do you like tempestuous relationships then?'
'No,' Jo said seriously. 'We're sorted now.'
'That easy, eh?'
'Wasn't what I call easy,' she replied. Stopping at the machine, she fumbled for some change then stepped aside. 'You go first.'
'You seem a little nervous about it, if you don't mind me saying so,' Stevie observed, plopping in her coins.
'It's not that I'm nervous about,' she answered. 'I don't expect to get much support around here.'
'Well, Max is a slippery prat.'
Jo smiled. 'I'm not worried about that so much anymore.'
'Confident, aren't ya? What then?'
'Manson gave me a little warning yesterday, about the merits of workplace romances. I told him me and Millie weren't together anymore. Wasn't a lie yesterday...'
'Was this morning,' Stevie concluded, glancing over her shoulder. 'Oh, here comes the man himself.'
Jo thought she was joking until she heard a cool voice: 'Can I have a word in my office, Jo?'
'Good luck,' murmured Stevie.
It was much better to get it over with. Jo followed him upstairs and waited until the door was closed before she launched into her own defence.
'What I told you yesterday wasn't a lie. After I found Millie we... we sorted things out. Yes, we're a couple but it won't affect my job. You know me well enough to know that.'
Manson sat behind his desk waiting for her to stop talking. 'Have you finished?'
She blinked. 'Yes, Guv.'
Apprehensively, she did so.
'Right.' He cleared his throat. 'First of all, it did affect your job. Yesterday you ran out of here with some idea in your head about where Millie was and you succeeded in nearly throwing yourself over the edge of a building from what I heard.'
'No, I – '
'I haven't finished,' he interjected. 'Yes, you found Millie but you put yourself in danger in the process. I don't expect any of my officers to do that, no matter who they're sleeping with. And last month you stopped a junkie attacking her with a needle, didn't you?'
'Hold on a second,' she butted in, 'I would've done that for anybody. Even Max,' she added.
He half-smiled and sighed. 'I trust your judgement, Jo. I've just seen too many cock ups to not have my concerns.'
'Well, how about you give me a chance to prove I won't fit into that category?'
Manson studied her for a long moment. 'Is it serious?'
'We're moving in together.'
'That is serious.'
Jo just nodded. 'Well?'
'Fine,' he said shortly. 'Don't make me regret it.'
The lights were off in the living room. Several candles flickered. Jo dropped her bag by the door and stepped into the empty room. A few second and Millie appeared soundlessly behind her, wrapping an arm around her waist and nuzzling into her shoulder.
'How was your day?' she questioned.
Jo turned around, widening Millie's radiant smile. 'Two assaults, a hit and run, and a stalker. Yours?'
'Well, I was at the cordon of the hit and run. You walked straight past me by the way.' She ran a fingertip across Jo's lips. 'Did the victim make it?'
'It was touch and go but, yeah, she did.' Jo paused and inhaled the lavender scent of the candles behind her. 'What's this in aid of?'
Millie tilted her head to one side. 'Do I need a reason?'
'Yes,' Jo said without hesitation.
A hand began massaging her shoulder. Jo shrugged out of her jacket, allowing it to slip to the floor. The chill that swept over her was swiftly superseded by Millie's fingers trailing down her arm.
'Well, I wanted to make sure you hadn't changed your mind,' Millie murmured, her voice barely audible.
Jo closed her eyes and when she opened them the beautiful young constable was still standing there, a tinge on her cheeks and her teeth nibbling nervously on her lower lip.
'There's not much chance of that,' she replied.