This is the final instalment for this short story. Thanks for the reviews, I hope that you have enjoyed it, despite the subject matter.
Disclaimer: I do not own City Homicide or its characters.
The house was full of people. She wished that they would just leave, so that she could be alone.
She didn't want to see anybody, she didn't want to talk to anybody. All she wanted was to curl up in bed, with Nick's pillow, hugging it to her chest, inhaling his smell, thinking about his voice, picturing his face.
She was frightened of forgetting what his voice sounded like, forgetting what his touch felt like. She didn't want to forget the way that his strong hands felt. She thought about the last time that they had made love. She didn't think that it would be the last time.
Nick's parents, his brother and sister were in the living room with the others. Jen knew that she should spend time with them, that their loss was also great, but she couldn't bring herself to go to them. She didn't think that she was able to provide any sort of comfort to anyone else at all. Her pain was too great.
She felt physically ill with the loss of him. She couldn't eat, she couldn't drink. She was only sleeping because of the pills. She welcomed sleep, when she could dream of him, dream that things were the way they had been a few days ago, before her life had changed irrevocably. Changed in the most horrible way.
She hated waking up from her slumber, because each time, she awoke to a nightmare. This was hell, and she was living it.
Tomorrow was the funeral. She had gone along with the arrangements, staring vacantly while the funeral director spoke. Stanley had asked her if she was happy with what had been organised. She didn't care. What did it matter what they did, what the service was like? Nick was gone, nothing would change that. A nice service would not bring him back to her.
They sat around the table, laughing. Allie was paying out on Rhys yet again, and Duncan chuckled as he swigged on his beer. Nick sat next to Jen, his arm around her. His other hand held hers, beneath the table. He squeezed tightly.
"Allie, give it a rest" Rhys whined. "You have to disagree with everything I say, don't you?"
"Yeah, well, that's 'cos you're always wrong. The sooner you admit that I'm right, the easier your life will be!"
"Golden rule of women, mate" Nick laughed. "They're always right, even when they're not".
Jen hit him on the arm, chuckling. "Is that so? Don't you start!" He kissed the top of her head, pulling her towards him.
It was clear to the others how in love they were. They fit together perfectly, and were so happy, and good fun to be around – their happiness was infectious, and Allie found herself warming slightly to Rhys, despite her best intentions.
"So Jen" Duncan began, taking another sip of his beer. "Have you sorted out Nick's place yet? Got rid of all that junk he's had laying around?"
Nick raised his eyebrows questioningly. "What junk?"
"Come on Nick, you're a hoarder! You collect bits and pieces of everything."
"Yeah, but I'm a tidy hoarder"
Jen placed her hand lovingly against his chest. "He is actually very tidy, Dunny. And I don't mind his collecting things. They all tell a story..."
Nick looked at her tenderly, and planted a soft kiss on her lips. He adored her, and it was obvious to everyone.
"You guys are completely nauseating" Allie stood up. "Anyone for another drink?"
Nick stood, grabbing Jen by the hand and pulling her up with him. "Nah, we've gotta go. Got dinner plans." Jen raised her eyebrows at him in surprise. What plans?
He led her outside as she asked him what plans they had. She hadn't actually pulled anything out for tea, and she had hoped that they would just grab something on the way home. Nick pushed her up against the side of the car and took her in his arms, kissing her passionately. His hands slipped up inside her blouse and she gasped in surpise. "I'm crazy about you, Jen" he whispered against her mouth. "Let's get out of here."
"What about dinner?" she asked against his neck, as his lips nibbled at her ear, his hands still working their magic on her body. "What about it?"
She smiled at him and kissed his hand as they pulled apart, getting into the car. She sighed contentedly. Life was perfect.
She sat through the service numbly, feeling almost as if she were having an out of body experience. It had been a full Police Service, their colleagues in uniform providing a guard of honour for Nick's casket. Jen had sat in the church, staring at the floor, Duncan on one side gripping her hand tightly, and Simon, who had come back to Melbourne for the funeral, sitting on her other side, his fingers entwined with hers. She couldn't look at them. She didn't want to speak, because she was frightened that she would dissolve into a flood of tears, and they would never stop.
People gathered back at Nick and Jen's place. Stanley had organised some ladies from his church to provide refreshments, and they had done a wonderful job. Jen was conspicuous by her absence. When they arrived home, she had gone straight to the bedroom and curled up on her side on the bed, one of Nick's jumpers in her arms, snuggled against her chin.
Bernice Waverly asked after her. Duncan shrugged his shoulders. "I don't know ma'am. She doesn't really want to be around people. She just lays on the bed all day."
"Yes, well that's not healthy. Believe me. Who's staying with her?"
"We've been taking it in shifts, ma'am. One of us is always around."
Bernice smiled warmly at Duncan and placed her hand on his shoulder. "One day, Jennifer will be thankful that she has such good friends and that you were here for her."
They sat on the couch next to each other, his arm draped around her shoulder. She held his hand. They had just finished watching a DVD, and Jen was feeling content and somewhat sleepy. "Where are we going Jen?" Nick's question caught her off guard, and, she felt, slightly ruined the serene moment. She looked up at him, curiously, suddenly feeling very awake. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, what do you want? We've moved in together, what next? I'm just trying to get it clear in my own head, I like to know where I'm going. Where do you see us, say, in five years time?"
"I don't know." She was embarrassed. "Um...married, I hope."
He smiled. "Good. We're on the same page, then. What about kids? You said before you weren't ready for a family..."
"Well, I hope that in five years time I'll have one" she laughed. "I'll be forty, for god's sake!"
Nick took her face in his hands. "So, kids are on the agenda then?"
"I guess so." She sounded unsure. Not that she was, she was just embarrassed about the conversation they were having. She knew that Nick had wanted those things, and she did too, now, but it was not like he had asked her recently. She was scared of admitting that she wanted kids and marriage if he had changed his mind...
"So" He kissed her softly on the cheek. "If you want a family by the time you're forty, we better get a move on,then. Maybe we should start trying...for a baby, I mean."
Jen smirked. "Hold your horses, Nick! I don't plan on being knocked up and unmarried, you know!"
Nick kissed her again. "Well, these things can take time. I still think we should start trying..."
Jen laughed loudly. She had spent most of her adult life trying hard NOT to get pregnant, the idea that she should now be trying to get herself up the duff was hilarious to her. "Nick, I'm not going to try to get pregnant until I have a ring on my finger!"
He nibbled her neck whilst she giggled delightedly. "Well, maybe I better get a move on, then, don't you think?"
Duncan knocked softly on the bedroom door. "Jen, can I come in?"
When she didn't answer, he decided to go in anyway. He found her laying on the bed. He sat down next to her and placed his hand on her shoulder. "Jen. You can't stay in here. You can't keep yourself hidden away from everybody. It doesn't help. I should know."
Jen turned her head to stare at him. "How did you do it? How did you get up everyday and live?"
He regarded her with sombre eyes. "I don't know. But you do. Because you don't have a choice. When Claire died, I isolated myself from everyone. It didn't help, it made things worse. 'Cos I was left alone with my thoughts, and some of them were thoughts that I didn't want to be having."
The tears began to stream down Jen's face. "I don't think that I can do this..."
Duncan took her in his arms. "You can, Jen. You can. Right now, it probably feels like you can never do anything again. But one day, you'll think of Nick and instead of crying, you'll smile. I'm not saying it won't hurt, because the hurt doesn't ever go away. You just learn to live with it a bit easier. "
"Duncan, I love him so much" she wailed, her head buried against his chest. He stroked her hair tenderly. "I know you do, Jen. We're all here for you. You don't have to do this on your own."
Duncan stood and reached his hand out to her. She stared at it, the tears coming freely now, the sobs racking her body. She reached out and took his hand, and slowly, he led her out into the room of the living.