Author's Note: ANOTHER story involving Jackie, but this time the focus is actually more on her for once. Just a little something that popped into my head when I wasn't feeling too happy and needed something cute. So, here you have it. Tom and Jackie being adorable. There's obviously been time between this story and "Knocking". Since Jackie and Sebs work at the same office Tom still interacted with her, and thus got more used to her being around. The rest I think you can pretty much get for yourselves. CUTENESS AWAY! Needed especially after the angst of that other one...
He looked so lost. Like a little mongrel puppy that had followed you home and was waiting for you to just up and take care of him as he sat on the couch. It was so cute that it almost bordered on painful. Jackie had gotten to her apartment around her usual time and had expected to come home to an empty, quiet, environment after a rather hectic day at the office. People just seemed to be getting more and more incompetent. Well, it had certainly been quiet when she'd arrived home, but it was definitely not empty. She'd jumped a little at first having not expected to see a man sitting on her couch, but she relaxed as she recognized him. Tom was no stranger to her, but she had believed that he was going to stay with Sebs for most if not all of the week. That's what he had said anyway. That's what had been agreed to.
"Hey, something the matter?" she asked as she took a few steps closer and placed her bag on the ground. "I thought you were staying with Sebs."
"I was," he replied, eye staring down into the depths of the carpet. There was hollowness in his tone that made him sound even more pathetic, as if his posture wasn't doing that for him enough. "He didn't do anything…I just got lonely, so I went for a walk then I ended up here. I'll leave if you want me to."
"No, no…it's not that. I was just surprised. You're not looking so hot."
"I'm not feeling it either. My back…" Tom lifted his hand and indicated to his usually sore side and looked over at Jackie, but the confusion of his stare had been replaced with physical pain and unwanted hurt. The woman didn't have to say anything to know that he wasn't faking it. When Tom's back hurt it hurt like hell.
"Did you take anything for it?" Jackie asked as she pushed a piece of hair behind her ear keeping her tone casual but firm, almost motherly. There was only a certain amount of toughness someone could get away with when dealing with Tom. Go past it and things got really ugly really fast.
Tom looked at her angrily for a second and shook his head. "Why wouldn't I? I'm not a masochist or anything. When'd I become a masochist? You're not into that are you?"
Jackie rolled her eyes. Tom was clearly in a mood of some sort and she hadn't mentally prepared herself for any of his "strange" today. Not that she minded it, but she usually liked a little warning before being assaulted by his presence. "No, I'm not," Jackie shrugged as she sat down on the couch, leaning into it, her own tired muscles appreciative of the opportunity to do nothing. "Don't ya think Sebs is going to wonder where you are?"
"Nah, I'm a big boy." Jackie furrowed her brows and Tom arched his. "I left him a note. Jeez, I'm not stupid. Is there a stupid bug going around that you think I've caught?" Shaking his head he leaned back into the couch as well, but winced as he did so and shifted accordingly. "You're usually not so suspicious of me. What's different about today?"
"You normally don't pick my lock and show up unannounced. You know, if it's going to become a thing I could just get you a key."
"It's more fun this way. Gives me something to do."
Tom sat up once more, making a strange, breathy, whimper as he did so. Jackie suspected for half a second that he was about to just up and leave right then and there. It wouldn't be all that surprising. Tom had a habit of getting up and going like he had places to be and people to see. She supposed it was some way of distracting himself, but she never dared press the issue. As well as she knew him there were still so many layers in that head of his that she was sure neither she nor Sebs could truly unearth.
However, he did not leave but continued to lean forward until his torso was between his thighs (as much as it could be anyway. Tom was fairly flexible, but he was far from being a contortionist) with his arms hanging limply so that his knuckles touched the ground.
"What on Earth are you doing?"
"Giving myself head," he replied gruffly through couch and his own legs.
"I thought you didn't like the idea of that," Jackie half laughed, and Tom picked up his head for a moment, just long enough to reply.
"I know I won't bite my own dick off. This is different." He smiled briefly and then resumed being a ragdoll. Jackie just "hmm'd" and squeezed her couch cushion thoughtfully. At least he wasn't in so much of a bad mood that he couldn't joke. It was a good sign if she ever saw one.
Jackie wasn't quite sure what triggered it, but before she knew it she reached her hand over to rub his shoulder, a now familiar gesture between the two of them. She half expected him to lash out and bite her since Tom could be so temperamental about touch. Sometimes he was the most loving, touchy, clingy, person it was nauseating, and other times he was just as likely to chew you out verbally for brushing past him without his consent. It was always a toss up, and Jackie realized that attempting to touch him now when he was hurting was probably not the smartest move, but of course life didn't have a rewind button.
However, instead of tensing, Tom's body seemed to only become more limp. Jackie was equal parts surprised he could get limper and surprised that he hadn't turned into awkward, squishy, jell-o mush.
"That feels s'good," he breathed, his words loose and almost inseparable from each other.
"Aw, does the tough guy like to get his back rubbed?"
"N…yes. Yes, he does. Please don't stop. It feels good." Jackie moved her hand away, and almost instantly Tom's head picked up. "Ah, c'mon, that's not very nice. I'm stiff and sore as hell, and you're gonna be mean to me?"
"Calm yourself, diva. I was only going to suggest that if I'm going to do this you should probably be on your stomach or something. I can't imagine sitting like that is terribly comfortable." Tom arched his back momentarily before sitting back up. The pain he was feeling didn't appear to have subsided any, and Jackie was briefly sorry for saying anything.
"I'm too big for your couch," he mused, lip curling up to reveal his teeth, and what sharp teeth he had, as he spoke. Was he baring his teeth or just being odd? It was hard to tell. "You know…to stretch out like I want to with you there."
"Funny thing about that," Jackie smirked. "I think I have a bed that you could sprawl your lazy ass in."
Tom wrinkled his nose and snorted. "I know that. I was joking."
"Then I suggest getting up off your rear, and stop making it so hard for me to be nice to you."
"But I don't wanna move," the man whined, his voice becoming thin and pathetic.
"I'm helping you. Now, get yourself in bed so that I can make you feel better. It's my job ya mule."
"Yeah, yeah, ok…" Tom groaned as he lifted himself up off the couch, taking as much time as seemed humanly possible. Jackie would have shoved him playfully in the right direction, but she'd seen him on similar days with similar pains. She was all for a bit of teasing, but she wasn't cruel. A playful shove would have felt anything but pleasant.
Tom made his way slowly, and Jackie followed just behind him though it was hard to keep from stepping on his heels so she ended up just walking next to him. As if on cue he leaned toward her, putting some of his weight on her but supporting himself for the most part. It definitely made walking a bit more awkward but not impossible. She had to move away to open the door, and Tom had to right himself quickly so as not to fall on his side and possibly cause further damage to himself. He looked something like a spindly-legged baby animal trying to walk for the first time, and Jackie almost laughed but opted to turn around and give the man a helpful nudge.
"Yeah, I'm fine. Sorry. Didn't expect you to move."
"What? Thought I could open doors with my mind?"
"You know what I mean…"
"I'm not sure I do."
Tom tilted his head and made an indifferent face for an answer. Obviously going off on one of his usual tangents was just not happening, and Jackie was a bit disappointed. He made some of the most interesting points when he did so. He continued his little vow of silence as he removed his weight from her and sat on the bed, the mattress giving in under his weight, whatever it may be. He wasn't the largest person on the planet, but he was surprisingly dense. Jackie sometimes joked that he must have been composed of lead or something like that. Tom didn't find it nearly as amusing as she did, but he was usually a good enough sport to laugh.
"You think you might have bruised it?" the woman asked as she pointed to Tom's back, and the man shrugged, or at least did something that had the essence of a shrug.
"I don't think so," Tom replied. "It's not like I do much of anything anyway. But you know how sometimes you get those bruises that seem to come from nowhere? Maybe I got beaten up by a ghost."
Jackie shook her head. It was so hard to read Tom since his joking tone and his serious one had a habit of overlapping at the most inopportune moments. She decided he was simply making some kind of weird joke. Tom didn't believe in ghosts. Well, he didn't last time she checked anyway, which was never.
"Well, if you might have bruises I think we should check. Can't really see through your clothes."
Tom hugged his arms around himself and pouted. "It's cold in your apartment today. I don't think you'll have to check."
"Cold has nothing to do with bruises. I just don't want to hurt you anymore than you are. Come on now…it'll be just like going to the doctor."
"I hate the doctor," Tom half growled.
"I know, but you like me don't you?"
"Yeah, I do."
"Then off with the shirt. I'm just taking precautions."
"You and your precautions…"
However, Tom didn't put up anymore of a fight and removed his sweatshirt. Some old, faded, navy thing, that looked like it might have had words at some point, but at this point only had the tiniest of fragments of the message it once displayed. He was a bit slower with his t-shirt, a red one, which was unusual since he seemed to shy away from that color, preferring cooler, calmer, colors or white. Jackie moved closer and pulled it up over his head like one would do for a child.
"Thanks. My arms didn't feel like working properly."
"Don't worry about it," Jackie shrugged, her back turned to him as he placed his shirt neatly on her dresser beside his sweatshirt. She turned to say something, but stopped as her eyes fell on her friend. "Jesus Christ…"
"What? What is it?" Tom asked, voice suddenly panicky, his eye wide with a wave of worry.
"You practically glow in the dark! Have you gotten paler?" Instantly Tom's worry gave way to annoyance, and he scowled. "Oh, don't be like that, Casper," Jackie smiled.
"That wasn't funny." Tom crossed his arms defensively over himself, covering up the patch of dark hair on his chest that was made only more visible by the fairness of his skin. "You did that on purpose. You don't think I did anything to my back did you? You just wanted to make fun of me." And then, there it was. The lost, kicked, puppy face that had greeted Jackie when she'd first arrived home. She'd hurt his feelings.
"Oh, you know I wouldn't do that. I was just trying to play around, Mr. Grumpy." Tom's expression didn't change. "Ok, ok…stop looking at me like that. I'm sorry."
"Are you really?" Tom breathed letting his arms drop, his question lacking any and all enthusiasm. Jackie thought of those documentaries she'd watched on wolves about exposing their softer, more vulnerable, parts to show submission, but she shook it from her mind. As much as Tom was bizarre he wasn't a dog.
"I'll make it up to you," Jackie assured him as he took a seat on the bed behind him, her eyes on his back. No bruises that she could see, and she doubted that he had done anything. The man really was pale as anything, and he bruised like a damn banana. No, looked like his back was just being fussy of its own accord. She couldn't help but feel like that was entirely unfair. As if the guy wasn't beat up enough already. Awkward small scars on his back that would never go away. "Well, I don't see any more damage than usual."
Tom whimpered like he had before. "Still hurts though…"
"I'm sure it does. So, why don't you lie down, and I'll do my best, ok?" Tom responded with another whimper sound, but it sounded more accepting and less ambiguous than the other as he moved into a face down position. He turned his head to the side, good side facing Jackie, and he was watching her, albeit lazily as if he had the minimum amount of energy required to be awake. "What hurts the most?"
"All of it."
Jackie almost replied sharply, thinking he was just being difficult, but that suspicion quickly dissipated. Tom didn't look like he was joking. Jackie winced at the thought. Poor guy must have really been hurting. She was sure he wouldn't appreciate the unsanctioned pity, but she couldn't help it.
Cautiously she brought her hands to his back, as she really didn't want to make it any worse. Tom cringed for about half a second as she started, but she could feel him relax under her touch as she tried to work out the tension in his muscles. Jackie figured something must have been bothering him for him to tense up like he was, which only exacerbated the back problems he already had. She wanted to ask him what was on his mind, but his expression had evened out, and he looked half asleep. Whatever it was he wasn't thinking about it. No sense bringing it up when he was feeling good. That would have just been mean.
"Any better?" Jackie asked, her voice low and back to motherly. Tom nodded his head awkwardly against the mattress and made a muffled agreeing noise. It felt strange sitting in the position she was, and Jackie moved onto her knees. "Tom, don't freak out or anything. Just moving, ok?" Tom didn't even bother moving this time, and not even the sound he made seemed to carry any meaning. Carefully, the woman moved over the man, straddling him while holding herself just above him as she continued to work out the kinks, and saying there were a lot of them would have been an understatement. She couldn't help but wonder how Tom had even managed to get around, and she was quietly impressed. She knew he was stubborn, but his apparent ability to put his physical pain to the side when he had somewhere to be or something to do was both incredible and a bit unsettling. Tom was stronger than he let on. It was almost threatening. Not almost. It was.
"You know, it's not my legs that hurt, but I'd imagine yours are starting to."
"Hm?" Jackie hadn't expected to hear Tom say anymore, but as she looked up she caught his eye. He was watching her again with what looked like concerned indifference. "Oh, no. It's fine."
"No, it's not fine. Just because I hurt doesn't mean you should too." Tom's voice was suddenly forceful, and Jackie wasn't sure whether or not she wanted to challenge it. "You can sit as long as it's not on my back. I don't mind."
"Tom, that doesn't seem like a very good id-"
"You can sit as long as it's not on my back. I don't mind," Tom repeated firmly. It would appear that he was no longer in a mood to be argued with. Jackie could feel him tensing up again so she decided to do as he said. It felt a little weird, but with some shifting, Jackie found herself sitting relatively comfortably on the back of her friend's legs. He didn't look like it bothered him any, but she was careful to check his face. Not even a flinch.
She continued where she left off, and once more she could feel Tom relax until she hardly felt any resistance from him at all.
"Tom?" There was no response, and Jackie slowly moved from his back and sat next to him. His eye was closed and he was snoring quietly. He'd fallen asleep. Jackie smiled fondly and shook her head as she grabbed a pillow. Moving his head carefully, she placed the pillow under it and pat the man's head affectionately as he buried his face into the soft object unconsciously. She got up and grabbed a blanket, placing it over him as she remembered him mentioning that he was cold. Once she was sure Tom was comfortable she removed herself from the bed, quietly changing out of her work clothes and into more casual attire.
Closing the door behind her she returned to her living room, grabbing her bag off of the floor, and pulling her phone out. There was a message on it. It was from Sebs. He was concerned as he should have been. Finding his name under her contacts, Jackie called him up.
"Jackie, I was wondering if you'd got my message," Sebs answered, his tone taking on its usual neutral. Had she not known him it would have passed as that, but he was a bit anxious. Tom had told what to listen for one time, and she hadn't forgotten.
"Yeah, and you don't need to worry. He's here and unharmed. Promise."
"He'd better be," Sebs replied, his voice slipping toward actual emotion, this time threateningly relieved. "I want to trust him, but you know…"
"Yeah, I know. Don't worry about him. He's asleep now, and I'm pretty sure he's going to be out for a while."
"You know I can't stop worrying."
Jackie paused for a moment, taken aback by the genuine emotion on the other side of the conversation. "Yeah, I'll tell him you were wondering where he'd gotten off to," she replied, careful as to not sound surprised. Sebs had every right to worry about Tom. He'd known him longer than she had, and he'd seen Tom through things Jackie had only heard stories about. She knew she could never truly understand, but she knew she could accept it.
Jackie waited from silence on the other end before hanging up. It was early yet, but she was already exhausted. She couldn't be upset though. Tom was out cold and some level of happy, Sebs wasn't in the dark anymore, and she could finally take a breather. Despite all the headache it caused she was glad to have their friendship. What was a little weirdness among friends? Nothing had been broken, and as much as it could be all was right in the world.