A/N: So, this took a while to write, and most of you probably know why. So I apologise for this taking so long.
Gerry woke up when the low sun poured in the window, and he quickly recalled the past twenty-four hours. Meeting a young woman with cancer. Sandra giving him in trouble for his belated return to work. Her lips crushing into his. Taking Sarabeth home. Hearing Sandra crying. Holding her tight straight through the night.
She was still in his arms, still fast asleep. Her buried his face into her messed up blonde hair, inhaling the smell of strawberries and cream from her shampoo. He was confused. He knew he did feel something for her. He knew he felt that electric spark when she kissed him. He knew it killed him when he had to see her cry.
He didn't want to let her go. He didn't want to watch her crucify herself for cutting herself off from any kind of relationship. He could feel her squirming in his arms, waking up groggily. "What time is it?" she asked, her voice tiredly slurred.
"Quarter to six," he smiled into her hair. She groaned, and he knew she didn't want to be awake at this time of the morning. "You feeling any better?" he checked, but he was pretty sure of what her answer would be; it was evident that she didn't want to live a life on her own anymore.
"Not particularly, no," she replied slightly bitterly. "It's actually no wonder nobody comes anywhere near me. I'm a bloody stroppy cow sometimes." Gerry laughed to himself, remembering the numerous times he'd been on the receiving end of her infamous ill temper.
She looked up at his face, trying to find the source of his amusement. Their faces were barely a couple of inches apart. He could see every tiny flaw on her bare skin – most of it probably caused by her crying – and he could see every fleck of colour in her eyes. Every shade of blue that made them so deep, so appealing. "Gerry, I'm so sorry about yesterday. I was lonely, I was upset, and I shouldn't have put you in that position."
"It's alright," he reassured her. Something Steve mentioned when they first met suddenly popped into his head: marriage. He didn't think she ever had been married, but there was a lot he'd got wrong about her before. So now he found himself asking: "Have you ever been married?"
He saw the shock in her eyes, and he watched her very briefly freeze. She regained her composure quickly. "Yeah, once upon a time. Years and years ago. Ended in divorce, of course," she sighed.
"Of course," he muttered grimly. "What happened?"
"Just sort of, you know, fell apart. By the end all we did was argue," she explained, tears coming to her eyes at the mere memory of her experience in marriage. He did all he could do and softly pressed his lips to her forehead.
He met her eyes, and he didn't even know what to feel anymore. Sandra didn't take sympathy, comfort or kind words very often. She was the type to sit and suffer in silence, and punish herself internally if she saw fit. But he didn't doubt his feelings for her anymore; he loved her. He had actually been stupid enough to fall in love with his guv'nor.
This time he knew what he was doing. He understood this, and he'd actually stopped to think about what was happening. This time he was making the move, and she wasn't clinging to him in some kind of attempt to have some intimacy back in her life. This time, when he so gently kissed her, he was making a conscious decision to stay with her. If she wanted him, of course.
She kissed him back, and it was slower and gentler than yesterday but just as intense. Like she was actually enjoying the moment. He felt her hand on his chest and her lips moving perfectly in time with his. It wasn't long before she was leaning over him, and his hands were on her waist. It was like they were designed for each other. Perfectly coordinated for each other.
Her golden blonde hair fell into his face, and his hands slid down to her hips. And then suddenly they broke their kiss at the sound of stumbling and retching. Sandra leapt off of him without a second thought and ran to the source of the commotion, not even bothering to put her jeans back on, just running in her vest and pants. Gerry threw on his shirt and jeans and followed her to the bathroom, where Sarabeth sat on the floor after throwing up into the toilet.
Sandra was pulling Sarabeth's hair round to the side, rubbing her back. He wondered for a moment why Sandra had never had children. It was quite clear she would have made a good mother.
Gerry went to get a glass of water for Sarabeth, and as he travelled down the stairs, he really did wonder why Sandra had never been all that bothered about her lack of a family. Was it that she thought she would be useless as a mother? Was it because of what she'd gone through as a teenager, and since then as well? He knew one thing, though: Sandra would never screw up parenthood a spectacularly as he own parents had done with her. One had committed suicide and the other one had lied to her about it for three decades.
When he got back to the bathroom, Sarabeth was back on her feet, lightly supported Sandra. He handed her the water, and caught Sandra's worried glance at him, returning it. He knew what she was thinking. She was thinking this girl shouldn't have been living on her own with this condition. She was sicker than she'd told them.
Sandra took her back to her bed, pulling the duvet over her body. Sarabeth said nothing. She didn't have the energy to say anything. "Do you want me to phone you in sick to work?" Sandra asked, a hand on the girl's forehead, partly gauging her temperature and partly as a comfort. Sarabeth just nodded, exhaustion blatantly obvious in her face.
Sandra took Gerry by the arm and guided him down the stairs. When they got to the phone in the living room, she turned to him and said, "If we hadn't been here, you do know what she would've done, don't you?"
"Yeah," he nodded grimly. "She would've done the same as you. Gone to work, cancer or no cancer." He looked for the number for Sarabeth's work and read it out to Sandra. She put it on speaker. "Greencore Maltings," a man with a mixed accent answered the phone. Like he'd lived here for many years, but originated from America or Canada. The twang was still in his voice.
""Hi," Sandra greeted him. "Sarabeth Johnson, she works for you? Modern apprenticeship?" she checked before proceeding.
"Yes," he said, confusion creeping into his voice.
"This is Sandra Pullman, a friend of hers. She can't come in today, I'm afraid. She's very ill," she explained, and Gerry just let her do the talking, his arm around her waist.
"Is she alright?" he immediately asked, and Sandra looked at Gerry helplessly. He could tell she was struggling with what to do. She didn't want to interfere, but she also believed Sarabeth's employer had to know about her illness.
"She's not in any immediate danger," she allowed, her diplomacy and police training kicking in as she allowed him to know just enough to put his mind at ease but not enough that he knew everything. "I'll get her to speak to you tomorrow morning," she promised.
"Alright, then," he sighed. "Give her my best, will you?"
"Of course," she answered. "Bye."
The line went dead. Sandra looked around at Gerry, and he noticed she really was quite upset about this. "I don't like this," she warned him. "I don't like this one bit. She's seventeen, she's very ill and she has no-one."
"I know, Sandra," he groaned. "I don't like it much either. When she was so ill this morning, it was like watching-"
"One of your own kids?" she finished for him. He knew what was coming now. "You know, it was like she was mine. I felt this strange need to protect her, to help her in any way I could. I've never felt like that before. Not about a child. Not about a teenager I barely know. I can't leave her on her own, Gerry. It would be cruel. She would have to live with this every day on her own, never having anyone to comfort her or help her when she gets sick, because this is only going to get worse. I don't want to abandon her," she asserted.
"We won't abandon her," he promised softly, pressing a quick kiss into her lips. Then it hit him; Sandra had wanted a family. She just never trusted herself to put them first. But she had that maternal instinct to drop everything and run when a child needed her. Because, as much as she pretended otherwise, and as mature as was, Sarabeth was just a child.
"Swear to me, Gerry," she demanded slightly desperately. "I mean it. I know what it's like, what it does to you. My dad died and my mum's kept her distance ever since. I know how it feels to have as good as no family. I don't want that for her."
"I swear we won't abandon her," he whispered to her, pulling her into a tight hug. In her attempts to convince him, she had actually opened up a little about her parents, and what their actions, or lack thereof, had done to her.
He was surprised slightly when he she held him tight; she never really allowed her vulnerabilities, her flaws and her weaknesses to show. But today was a new day. A new Sandra. A new Gerry. A new era.
Hope this is OK!
Please feel free to review and tell me exactly what you think!