**ADDED AUTHOR'S NOTE 25/8/13: Okay, please don't judge me for this fic. I wrote it when there was no Bread fandom and I was playing with ideas of how Joey and Martina might work- it was only my 2nd Bread fic, the first being the experimental sketch 'Another Day Down the DHSS.' There are still some things I like about it, but at the same time I'm slightly embarrassed by the shamelessness of a lot of it and by the fact that I got the series wrong based on the DVD publications but insisted I was right. It actually was series 4, my bad. I apologise for all of this.
I'm going to leave this fic up for now, but if it disappears or gets rewritten, I, in my temperament, probably got rid of it so it didn't affect the reputation of my other fics. I also think the title is totally unsuitable so it may change later. Thank you for listening to my rant.**
I was rewatching Series 5 the other day when I had this idea. Remember the episode (I think it was Episode 10) where Shifty came to the DHSS some time after he split up with Martina (his second visit since) and he kept going on about him being 'hurt too', then Billy came in and was all tactless and simple, then Shifty had another go at her and at the end of the scene Martina looked like she was about to cry? Well, I suddenly had this vision of how I wished that scenario had ended, and here it is. With, of course, a slight flavouring of Joey/Martina. Features a little bit of nice!Joey the way he was in episode 6 of this series towards her.
Many thanks to Torie Rilistkrytcat for encouraging me to write and post this. Also, she's in the middle of another Bread fic which should be coming soon.
Martina found herself somewhat grateful for the tactless Billy Boswell and his repetitive refrain of 'I'm parked on a double yellow line!' He, at least, wasn't deceitful like the rest of them, didn't try any tricks- possibly because he was too stupid. It wasn't the fact that she found Billy's long, long list of outgoings, far longer than his list of incomings, amusing- it was just the fact that if she had to listen to him, it meant a few seconds of safety before Shifty launched round two of his emotional assault. She didn't want to have to see him on the other side of the desk, didn't want to have to hear his voice, so nauseating to her now, after the way he'd treated her. I told you when we met I wasn't cut out for all that 'death us do part' stuff, he said every single time they met nowadays, as if that made everything all right, as if that could make up for the hurt he'd caused her.
'I have to go- I'm in dead dead trouble and I'll be dead dead broke,' Billy jabbered, getting up abruptly in the middle of filling in a form. 'Come on, Shifty!'
Oh, no. Martina got less than a second before Shifty was firing horrid sentiments at her again.
'I have a right- a right to explain!'
'Next!' she called desperately, but to no avail.
'Why is it always the woman that hurts? I'm hurt too, you know. You think I like being alone? You think I haven't spent hours…days imagining us in your flat, all warm and whispering and naked…'
Martina sat, the shock of Shifty's words crashing over her like avalanche after avalanche, the embarrassment of what he was saying mingled with a feeling she thought she'd long since gotten rid of. Humiliation- how dare he say things like that in front of everyone? Loss. Sadness. She thought she was over this- thought she didn't care about how shamelessly he'd used her. And the fact that he had the nerve to say he was upset- to throw it back in that passive-aggressive sort of way- it sent spikes of anger coursing through her veins. The mixture of terrible emotions was making tears prick at the corners of her eyes.
'Do you think I like being a nameless sod with an empty heart and an empty life?'
'Excuse me! Would you mind talkin' about your empty life and your empty heart some other time?' A bald, moustachioed man snapped at the irritating Irishman. 'Only I've got an empty wallet and the pubs'll be empty in five minutes!' the man went on, and finally, thankfully, Shifty grudgingly admitted defeat and sloped off.
Martina wanted to sink down into her chair in relief- at least something was going right today.
'Where's me money, you?' Or not. The tears of exasperation came prickling back again. First the nasty woman shoving the papers back at her with a 'sod the form, I'll rob a bank', then that idiot Billy Boswell jabbering on and on, Shifty's horrible, humiliating comments about her and her flat and now this. Most days she could be tough, she could talk down any aggressive dole-scroungers- and she was good at it too- but not today. Not after Shifty had so thoughtlessly opened all her emotional wounds just as she thought they'd healed.
She couldn't even try to stand her ground. She pushed a form over the counter, praying he'd fill it out quickly and go, trying to keep her thoughts off the abuses he hurled.
With a last 'you people think you're God almighty' the moustached man was off, shoving the chair to the side as he stomped back out the door.
Martina took a few deep breaths, trying to steady herself and calm down.
'N-ext!' she croaked out, mentally kicking herself at how pathetic her voice sounded.
Pull yourself together.
She was determined that by the time the next applicant sat down in that chair she would be stony-faced and composed once more. She took another breath. The chair legs squeaked as they scraped the floor. Fabric rustled as someone sat down. Martina looked up.
And all her determination to stay calm dissolved.
'Greetings!' Joey Boswell said cheerfully.
Martina burst into tears.
She was beyond embarrassment at this point- she'd needed emotional release since her latest confrontation with Shifty and the appearance of yet another Boswell had pushed her to her limit.
She sobbed into her hands unashamedly. Why her? Why did everything bad in life have to happen to her? She knew she should be just getting on with whatever pathetic, deceitful claim he'd come about but the thought of having to look at Joey Boswell brought on a fresh round of tears.
Even ice queen DHSS clerks couldn't take it sometimes.
After a few moments Martina became absently aware of something brushing through the curled tips of her hair. She slowly dragged her face away from her hands.
Joey Boswell was watching her, his blue-green eyes filled with concern. One hand was outstretched over the counter, offering her a folded white handkerchief.
'You're supposed to make us cry, not the other way round...'
Martina said nothing.
'I'm sorry, sweetheart,' he said softly. His face was serious, no trace of his trademark obnoxious, lopsided smile. She'd only ever seen him like this once before- when she had first split up with Shifty. He'd been very… understanding about the whole thing- he hadn't mocked her, but listened to her, even volunteered some of his own past heartbreak at her request.
'You've obviously had a time of it,' Joey continued, 'if you don't wanna talk to me just now, I can go to another counter…'
She shook her head stubbornly and snatched the handkerchief from him, muttering something through her mucus-thick voice about needing to keep an eye on him. Joey waited, saying nothing until she was finished blowing her nose.
'What d'you want?' she demanded bitterly.
He didn't answer, just reached across the desk and took her free hand in both of his. The action startled her a little.
'Listen, has Shifty said somethin' to upset you?' his teeth set. ''Cause if he 'as, I'll…' She raised a hand to stop him there, shaking her head even though both of them knew that was precisely why she was upset. Again she found herself somewhat surprised. He didn't like seeing people hurt her. That was…oddly gallant of him.
'Look, I'm sorry about him, sweetheart, he just doesn't think,' Joey took the handkerchief from her hand and gently dabbed at the tears under her eyes. 'Never has, that one. We thought when he came back from…well, we thought he'd changed, but…he's always been like that. Especially where women are concerned.'
Martina wasn't exactly sure whether she was shaking from the slight shock of Joey Boswell's gestures or the sting that the mention of Shifty and his vile ways brought on.
'I did try to warn you…'
Martina's eyes widened and she abruptly sat up straight. 'When?'
Joey gave a little shrug. 'Well, remember when I said I'd come to give you some advice, and then I asked if he'd collected his money…'
A vague recollection of the incident flashed through her head. She hadn't quite worked out what he was after that day, he'd never actually said.
'That was you trying ter warn me?'
'I never got that far, did I? You told me- quite adamantly, mind- that no-one could pull the wool over your eyes, and I…saw fit not to intervene any further.' His normal Joey Boswell-ness was starting to creep back into his tone, flavoured with just a sprinkling of I-told-you-so-type vibes. It was this that allowed her to find her strength of mind.
'What do you want, Mister Boswell?' she said again, trying to stare him down. A leftover tear, however, chose that moment to make its escape and she found she just couldn't.
'I'm sorry, sweetheart,' he repeated, his voice dropping back to its earlier level of gentleness. 'You don't deserve this. Look, the thing you've got to understand about Shifty…'
'I don't want to discuss this, Mister Boswell,' she cut him off sharply. 'Now will you kindly tell me the reason for your visit?'
'Perhaps tomorrow, dear lady,' Joey sighed, 'when you're in the mood to fully appreciate my brilliant scheme.' That crocodile grin flashed out at her for just a moment before his face turned serious once more.
'If you ever do need to talk about it,' he said, slowly getting to his feet, 'call me.' He picked up the handkerchief, pressing it into her fist and kissing the top of her hand. 'Okay?'
Martina really didn't know what to say now- not that there was any need- Joey was already halfway to the door. She blinked a few times, as if dispelling a hallucination, then looked down in mild confusion at the white hanky she was still clutching.
His phone number was on it.
Sorry for my shamelessness. I just really think there should have been something between them. They had a lot more chemistry in the scenes they had together than either of them had with Shifty or Roxy. And I always liked the episode where he was being really nice to her when Shifty lied about Grandad and they broke up, and I wanted there to be more scenes like that.