"It's cleaner than I thought it would be," Jackie commented as Robbie let them into his flat.
He gave a low laugh. "I'm not always messy; every so often I have been known to clean up after myself."
"That doesn't sound like the Robbie Ross I know and love," she teased him in reply. "I've been here a few times and it's never as immaculate as this."
He gave a small shrug. "Obviously I've seen the light to my slobbish ways and I'm a changed man."
"Bullshit," she snorted, her lips curling into a smile
Giving an almost mocking sigh, Robbie replied, "I can't win, can I?"
"Nope, never," she answered back quickly.
"Ah well in that case I suppose there's no point in trying to defend the numerous ways I've changed and I should just get on with the grand tour."
"The grand tour of a flat I know almost as well as my own?"
"Perhaps the living area but you've yet to be shown the bedrooms, and that is where the real magic happens," he shot back quickly, arching his eyebrow, trademark smirk in place.
"In that case my only hope is that you've changed the sheets in the guest bedroom."
His smirk faded, replaced by a wide grin and loud laugh, he was glad to see the old Jackie rear her head, she was never without a comeback. "Now there's that sparkling wit that I can't live without," he teased her warmly.
Her small smile flickered slightly the words tugging at memories she'd much rather forget all about. He appeared to have realised the effect his words had had and she watched as his colour faded slightly, and he shifted uneasily, she knew he was searching for a response and she hated that he felt like he had to placate her. Forcing her smile back into place she patted his arm briefly, telling him, "Well for the next few days you're going to have it in abundance."
Robbie's smile reappeared at those words. "Good," he replied firmly, draping his arm lightly around her shoulder. "So I'll show you the bedroom then."
"The spare bedroom," she reminded him teasingly.
"Spoilsport." Leading her into the clean but slightly sparse looking spare bedroom he placed her bag onto the bed and asked, "You wanting a hand to unpack?"
"No, I'm sure I'll be ok," she reassured him.
"I'll order us some dinner then, how does pizza sound?"
"Perfect," Jackie smiled. "Stuffed crust?"
"Of course." He turned to leave, hesitating at the door before moving back towards her. She shot him a confused frown but he felt her relax when he gave her a hug – mindful of her ribs – as he told her, "It's good to have you here, Jacks, and you know you can stay as long as you want."
She gave a small laugh, although it was more subdued than her norm, replying, "That's good to know but I'd hate to cramp your style."
"You never could."
As Robbie flipped open the pizza box and dropped down into his seat, he noticed a small frown flicker across Jackie's face. "You're not going to bring up plates again, are you?"
Laughing, she replied, "Knowing how you feel about eating takeout out of anything other than its original container but what I was going to say is that maybe I didn't think through us ordering pizza." She held up her bandaged hands as proof of point.
Robbie got to his feet and keeping his tone light told her, "Well despite the fact that it feels wrong, I'll get you a plate and some cutlery so that I don't have to sit and watch you starve in front of me-" His smile dropped again as he remembered that was exactly what Greg Martin had done, he saw from her expression that she was thinking the exact same thing. "Jackie, I-"
She held her hand up, silencing him. "Don't, I don't want to hear any apologies and I don't want you walking around on eggshells all the time. I'm not going to forget overnight, I know that but I don't want to be treated like some damaged invalid either."
He gave an almost sharp nod, his eyes studying her closely, he knew her well enough to know that sometimes pushing her to talk didn't help matters, in fact if anything it would have the opposite effect. "Ok then," he replied firmly. "But you still won't be able to reach up for those plates on your own, going to need a big strong man to help you," he teased.
Her lips twitched. "Oh, do you have one around here then?"
With that remark the tension from the room evaporated and placing his hand against his heart, Robbie told her, "How you wound me!"
"I'm confident that you'll make a full and speedy recovery."
"I'm not sure."
"Pizza will help," Jackie reassured him. "If you ever getting the plates down that is."
Rolling his eyes good naturedly, Robbie passed her a plate, replying dryly, "I'm still not eating pizza of a plate, not when it comes in one."
"I didn't expect any different from you. Cutlery?"
"Second drawer on your left." He pulled out her chair, watching as she slowly and painstakingly sat down. Taking her plate he asked, "How many slices?"
She raised her eyebrow at him. "Robbie, if you put four slices of pizza on that plate at once then how do you expect me to be able to cut anything up?"
He looked between the slices of pizza and the plate, replying, "With difficulty." His mouth quirked again and he added, "Just think if we were romantically involved I could feed you it."
"If we were a couple I would have most likely have murdered you by now, although if you don't hurry up and pass me that plate I might just do it anyway."
Robbie couldn't sleep, his brain just couldn't switch off, the events of the last week running through his head as though they were on some God awful loop. He flipped over onto his right side, staring at his bedroom door, unable to relax when he knew Jackie was just through the next wall. He'd spent years pushing down any feelings towards her other than friendship, he'd ignored them and if he'd ever been pushed on the subject he would have denied that there was more than that between them with every fibre in her being. But all those feelings had hit him with the full force of a ten tonne truck when he'd seen her lying on that bed.
He couldn't believe he'd been as stupid as to fall in love with the one woman who would never have him, he knew that without a doubt. Jackie would never take a risk on him, her walls were firmly up, she knew him too well, had seen the way he slept around, the way he backed off from any sign of commitment and she would never believe that he would change it all for her. Squeezing his eyes shut he tried to will himself to forget about it, to force himself to sleep, his feelings didn't matter, hers did and he could not have picked a worst time to realise just how deep his feelings for her ran. After what had happened it would be wrong of him to confess all to her, not when she was at her lowest ebb, and he wouldn't do it, no matter how much he wanted to.
His eyes shot open as he heard someone moving about his living room. Bolting upright he was out his bed in seconds and striding towards the door, flinging it open as he stepped out. It was the smash of a glass that he heard first before he looked up and saw Jackie's wide, shocked eyes. "Heard something," he mumbled as an explanation, "thought I better check it out, didn't mean to frighten you."
"Guess I'm jumpier than I thought I was," she admitted after a moment, "I just...I couldn't sleep and I thought that maybe a glass of water would help, didn't mean to wake you."
"You didn't," Robbie told her, "you weren't the only one who couldn't sleep and you're not the only one who's jumpy."
Jackie's mouth quirked into a humourless smile, replying, "Ironic, isn't it? He's dead and still we don't relax, we're acting like he could appear back at any second."
He moved closer to her. "But he can't, we just need to remember that."
"Easier said than done."
"Yeah." Her eyes flickered over him, noticing that he was only in his boxers and a cotton t-shirt, he must be freezing, she decided. "Look I'll clean this up, you go back to bed."
"Leave it, we can get it in the morning, anyway I'm not that desperate to go back to staring at the ceiling. Come on, we can sit down and I'll pour us a whisky."
"Robbie your kitchen floor has glass all over it."
"That's alright, I don't keep my whisky or the glasses for it in there," he replied with a self satisfied grin. "And that glass will still be waiting for us in the morning."
Sighing and rolling her eyes, Jackie couldn't find it in herself to continue such a pointless argument and instead stepped over the mess, careful not stand on any of the small slithers that decorated the floor. Moving over to the sofa she lowered herself down and watched as he sloshed a generous measure of whisky into two glasses and passed her one before dropping down beside her. "Thanks," she muttered.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Robbie asked after a moment.
"Talk about what?" she asked, hoping that just maybe Robbie would drop the subject.
"About why you can't sleep, you look knackered, Jackie, like you haven't slept in a week."
"Cheers," she muttered, taking another sip of whisky before adding, "I haven't slept that well since..." She sighed and gave a bitter laugh. "I can't even say it, how stupid is that?"
"It's not stupid."
"Yes it is, I'm a police officer I should be able to talk about what happened."
"Just because we deal with these situations more than most it doesn't make us immune to them, to what they make us feel." He looked at the way she was hunched over, perched on the end of her sofa, so tense and so unlike herself. He placed a light hand on her shoulder, asking her softly, "Talk to me, Jackie?"
She bit down on her bottom lip, staring ahead of herself for a few seconds before she finally told him, "When I was in that room I didn't sleep, I couldn't, didn't shut my eyes until near the end of it all, but he did. He'd lie down next to me and just fall straight to sleep." Her lip curled as she added, "Just having him next to me made my skin crawl and even now when I know he's not there I still feel like he is. That empty space next to me, I just see him in it." She relaxed back into the sofa slightly and turned her head to look at him. "That sounds stupid, doesn't it?"
In that moment Robbie wanted nothing more than to drag Greg Martin back from the deepest circle of hell and beat him to a bloody pulp. "It's not stupid," he ground out.
"It's definitely pathetic."
He moved closer to her, his hand wrapping over hers. "Jackie, you are the least pathetic person I know. Other people would have just given up in that situation, but you didn't."
Taking in a shaky breath, Jackie admitted quietly, "Oh but I did."
Robbie frowned, shaking his head vehemently. "No, Martin told us that you fought him, that's how you got all the bruises, so you didn't give up."
"Maybe not at first but at the end," she nodded, "I did give up. I was so tired, everything hurt and I couldn't see another way out and I knew that if I closed my eyes I wouldn't wake up again...So I closed them."
His breath caught at that admission, he'd never expected to hear those words come out of her mouth, Jackie had always been a fighter. "But we were looking for you," he told her, his voice quieter than usual, weaker.
"I didn't think you'd find me, didn't see how you could," she confessed. "I couldn't take it anymore and I hate myself for it."
His heart thudded uncomfortably in his chest. "I'd never have stopped looking for you," he admitted quietly, his grip on her hand tightening, the words to tell her how much he needed her sitting on the tip of his tongue and in an attempt to keep them from tripping out he added hastily, "None of us would have. And you were sick, Jackie, you fought as long as you could."
"I'm not sure I did."
"Is that what's bothering you?"
"And because you feel like he's still there."
She rubbed at her eyes with her free hand. "Partly."
"Ok, anything I can do to help?"
Jackie smiled, this one reaching her eyes as she leaned back fully into the cushions, letting his arm drape across the back of her shoulders so that her head rested on his chest. "The fact that you want to help is enough," she replied.
They sat in silence, the time passing comfortably and Jackie could feel the heat of his body seep through his thin t-shirt, could smell the shower gel off his skin and for once that prickly feeling that had seemed to cover her entire skin for the last week now didn't completely disappear but it lessened slightly and for once she could shut her eyes and just let herself drop off.
Robbie watched as she fell asleep, shifting slightly so he could gently ease the empty glass from her fingers, placing it on the table across from them. He didn't want to move her, didn't want to disturb the rest she so obviously needed. So slowly and carefully he stretched back across the sofa, bringing her with him so that none of his weight was on her ribs. His own eyes felt heavy now and knowing that she was safe, that no-one could hurt her when she was here with him he let himself relax and just fall asleep.