Sorry about the really late update – I've had loads of D of E practise and stuff, and a few exams so I've been really busy with other stuff.
Tom's eyes flickered open, adjusting to the bright light that was bursting through his bedroom window. He tried to move his arms so he could let out a yawn, but found it wrapped around someone else's body. His hand was lying carelessly across her waist, resting on her bare flesh, and every time he shifted his hand, tingles went shooting down his fingers. Nikki Boston, he thought with a smile, what a girl, and what a night. He looked down and saw her pretty much lying across him, the duvet of his double bed spread up to her chest.
He almost physically melted at the sight. She was so beautiful. Not that he hadn't noticed it before, but her history and the way she acted now made so much more sense. She fitted together properly now, all the pieces were connected. He brushed his hand across her back, and then ruffled his hair into a reasonable style. Her legs were completely entangled with his, and it seemed, by the bright daylight, that they had been pretty comfortable sleeping like that for a few hours.
While she was still asleep, her exhales of breath tickling his chest, Tom took some time out just to think. Whilst it had been a rash move, he was completely sure that he didn't regret anything that happened last night/this morning, and he wasn't going to let its importance and meaning just slip away either. He knew that he wanted her, and he wanted to be with her; now he might just have her, and he's certainly not letting her go.
Sometimes, he feels deeply guilty for having relationships with other women after what happened to Izzie. He knows she would have wanted him to move on, but in the beginning, it felt wrong. When she died, it made him wake up and realize that he wasn't Superman, and he couldn't always protect the people he loved. When Sam died, this only reinforced the idea in his head.
But being with Nikki felt so right. He had felt romantic feelings towards other women in his past, but none of them really compared to how he felt right now. He wished he could freeze this moment, and stay in it forever, never having to get up and return to school (even though today was Saturday so he could do whatever the hell he wanted), never having to work or worry. Just having to stay here, and love Nikki Boston. Which wasn't exactly difficult.
Next to him, the woman in question began to stir and her eyelids fluttered open delicately, like the moment a butterfly took flight and its wings sprang to life. Nikki's piercing blue-green eyes shot directly onto his face, and she smiled sleepily and mumbled, 'Morning,' into his chest. He looked back down at her, and whispered, 'Morning to you too.' He gently kissed her forehead and Nikki rolled off of Tom and pulled the sheets up to her chest. Feeling exhausted, Nikki closed her eyes again and drifted back into sleep. Tom just stared in wonder, seeing how perfect she looked, and resisting temptation to turn and kiss her again.
After about ten minutes, Tom got up, threw on some jeans and a shirt, ran downstairs, and made the two of them a cup of strong coffee, especially just to wake Nikki up. When he got back, seeing she was still asleep, he then chucked a pair of tracksuit bottoms at her face. She groaned in a quite masculine tone and then opened her eyes again, this time looking a little bit more alive. 'Do we have to get up?' she moaned tiredly, rubbing her hand across her eyes to wipe away any sleepy dust from her face. Before Tom could give her a reason why he was dragging her out of bed, the front door suddenly slammed open and someone yelled up the stairs. 'Dad, I'm home! Where are you?' Josh called?
'I'm erm, upstairs, in my room,' Tom called back hesitantly, unsure of what to say.
'What still? It's half twelve you lazy git,' Josh called back, laughing slightly, and the couple strained their ears to hear him quietly walking up the stairs towards them.
Nikki locked eyes with Tom, both utterly startled. 'Tom,' she hissed, almost silently, with a look of severe panic in her eyes. She didn't mind other people knowing what had happened, but she didn't want Josh to find out like this – what she had had in mind was sitting down and speaking to him about it, and making sure it wasn't a big surprise and it didn't trigger anything within him. 'Tom, what do I do?'
Tom's face was a bit of a battleground, and he could hear every singular footstep that Josh took towards them. He turned back to Nikki, who was still lying in his bed, slightly lacking in the clothing department. 'Just erm, hide under the covers, and I'll divert him downstairs or something. Quickly!' Tom whispered, forcing away a little smirk as Nikki rolled her eyes at him and delved under the covers. To kind of hide her completely, Tom stood in the doorway of his room, just as Josh appeared in the hallway.
'Hiya dad, me and Finn are just going to go round Lauren's and then head off into town for the day,' Josh explained reasonably, dressed in just jeans and a t-shirt, with his curly black hair hanging in his eyes. Even though he had made a quick quip about Tom sleeping in late, it was obvious that he had only woken up within the last hour. Probably watching films and eating crap all night, Tom thought fondly.
'No problem mate, I'll see you later than,' Tom said hurriedly, shifting to stand in the middle of his doorway so Josh couldn't look past him at all. But his swiftness and position just raised suspicion within Josh, who instantly knew that his father was hiding something from him.
'What are you so tense about then dad – got someone hiding in there?' Josh asked jokingly, but from the look of terror that quickly fleeted across his dad's face, he knew that someone actually was in there. He had no idea who it was, but Josh quickly ducked underneath his father's arm which was leaning against the frame of his door. Tom yelped quickly, but Josh could see there was someone underneath the duvet, and could hear said person's heavy breathing.
Before Josh could ask who it was, Tom pulled at his t-shirt collar, but it was too late. Josh quickly caught sight of the blue shirt and black trousers on the floor, and recognized them as belonging to the English teacher who his father had been crushing on for the past few weeks. He raised his eyebrows slightly and then said, 'Nikki, I know it's you,' like he had guessed the correct answer in the big game they were playing.
Nikki, shifting under the covers, breathed out heavily and pulled her head out from underneath the stuffy duvet and sat up against the backboard of the bed, making sure the sheets were completely covering every part of her apart from her shoulders, neck and head. 'Hey Josh,' she said tentatively, giving him an unsure smile, not knowing what his reaction would be. Josh looked back and forth between his father and Nikki, and eventually smiled back at her.
'Hey Nikki – sorry, I've got to head off, I'm going out with Lauren and Finn,' he said conversationally, and Nikki just nodded in incredulity. Josh walked out of the room and said bye to his dad before walking calmly down the stairs and exiting through the front door.
Tom and Nikki caught each other's eyes once again, and suddenly cracked up laughing. She pulled on her underwear and trousers off the floor, and then buttoned up her completely creased duck egg blue shirt. She walked across the room towards him, and almost fell into his arms, wrapping him into a huge embrace, hugging him tightly like she had last night when talking about her past. 'That went better than I hoped,' she whispered into his ear, and he nodded, kissing her on the temple, the only part of her face that he could reach.
They reluctantly pulled away from one another, and Tom offered up, 'Do you want me to give you a lift home or do you want to stay…for a while?'
Nikki considered for a while, but then decided that maybe the former suggestion was probably best. She didn't want to dive into this too quickly and ruin what they had. Frequent little moments was a better idea right now than long meetings together. 'I wouldn't mind having a lift home, thank you,' Nikki explained, hoping Tom would understand what she meant, and she wasn't trying to push him away in this situation.
'No problem,' Tom said cheerily, offering Nikki his hand and leading her down the stairs towards the front door. Outside, it was raining heavily, so they ran to Tom's Astra, flung the car doors open and leapt into the seats. All of a sudden, it hit Nikki that she wasn't in control anymore. Last night had been wonderful, but could she really cope with this sort of thing? She wasn't sure anymore. She wasn't really sure who she was anymore.
About ten minutes later, Nikki jumped out of the car outside her house, pulling her bicycle from the back of Tom's car and let herself into the house without even saying goodbye. Tom watched in bemusement, and considered following her, but after everything that had happened, maybe she needed space. She had told him a lot of personal stuff, and whilst last night had been…amazing, he wasn't sure that she was coping very well.
Nikki slammed the front door shut behind her and then ran up the stairs of her tiny house and into her bedroom. She peered out of the window just in time to see Tom carefully pulling away, and giving her a friendly beep. She smiled slightly, but then sank into her double bed, and pulled the covers all around her until she was completely submerged beneath them. She didn't know what was wrong with her – she had some sort of lousy commitment issues, but she had to see Tom every day of every week. What the hell had she done? But confidence had been instilled in her somehow, and emerging from underneath her quilts, Nikki jumped to her feet and then crawled underneath her bed and pulled out a small box.
It was Nikki's war.
She hid everything from her past inside here. Photographs, newspaper articles, her medals and certificates, tokens of the uniform she had burnt. Pictures of her and Charlie, her and her regiment. The laces from her boots she had bought by selling her engagement ring. Wedding photographs. She had never looked at the innards of this box since she had made it – it had been four years. With shaking hands, her fingers trembled and quivering so much that the lid of the box almost flew off, Nikki opened the box and looked inside. Tears formed in her eyes as she shifted through the years, ink stains appearing on her fingertips as she rifled through some of the pictures.
Finally she reached the bottom of the box, where there lay a small, scrappy bit of paper with a mobile number of it. Nikki knew it off by heart, but had never dared to call it, even when the inevitable had happened. This was so difficult, but she had to do it. She grabbed her mobile from her bedside cabinet, and slowly typed in the numbers on the aged bit of paper.
One ring. One opportunity to hang up. Two rings. Two opportunities to hang up. On the third ring, Nikki was about to press the red button when a young child answered the phone, with another one yelling and running around in the background.
'Hello? Who is it, do you want me to get daddy?' Nikki's hand shook violently, and she clutched the phone tightly to her ear and shakily replied, 'Yes please.'
The phone went silent for a few moments. Nikki's brain was whirring magnificently, and she felt dizzy, and then a man picked up the phone and said, 'Yes? How can I help?'
'Hi Mister O'Shea, this is Nikki Boston,' she announced slowly.
The voice on the end of the phone went silent.
Nikki took a deep breath. She summoned up all of her courage, more than she needed last night, more than she needed for working at Waterloo Road, and more than she needed to carry on after leaving the Army and walking out on her ex-husband. Tom had given her the strength to be able to do this, and now she just needed to do it. It had been four years. 'I know you know who I am. I wanted to say sorry for your loss, and sorry it's been a few years. Charlie was a great woman, and I just wanted to say…'