A/N: Hiya! Yeah, I know...Sorry...Whoops! Anyhoo..Here's part 2 :)
"Do or do not…There is no 'try'".
Master Yoda, 'The Empire Strikes Back', Star Wars
Living in the Dream II
SDS Ronnie Brooks surveys the Friday night clubbing scene from his perch in the corner with comical interest. He knows he's probably a good twenty five years older than the people both ordering and serving the drinks in here, but being an easygoing bloke, he just leans back in his surprisingly comfy chair, sipping his lemon, lime and bitters, taking it all in. Considering his beverage is almost the same price as two meat and veg dishes from his local takeout place, he plans to savour every drop of it. Ice cubes included.
SCP James Steel waves a hand in front of Ronnie's face to get his attention. The latest dubstop or whatever it is that Ronnie proudly told him it was – courtesy of his teenagers (which James secretly thinks he's probably gotten the pronunciation wrong anyway) song is blasting from the dance floor but seems to be booming from inside his head too. It's that loud in here and therefore makes proper conversation next to impossible.
He flicks his gaze over to where DS Matthew Devlin seems to be reluctantly engaged in a conversation with a young, attractive redhead, and even though he keeps gesturing in the general direction of their table, it doesn't stop her from giving him a scrap of paper and pecking him on the cheek before she finally lets him go.
James leans in closer towards Ronnie.
"I feel like I'm supervising a college dance or something! I even have the cheap suit to boot!" he shouts.
Ronnie smiles and nods slightly.
"That makes two of us. I'm tryin' not to think too much about the fact that it could very well be one of my girls in 'ere tonight! Still, even you got a few numbers didn't ya?" he can't help making a crack at James, who despite his assertion that they would stick out like sore thumbs in a place where the average age is 22, didn't stop two young women from asking him to buy them drinks, or another one from slipping him her number.
James gives him an amused look as he sips his beer.
Ronnie can see Matt making his way back over so he quickly shouts across the table to James.
"Let's just say seeing our Alesha go out for a drink with DS Markham tonight may have shocked Sunshine into dragging himself back out..to..well..here! No idea what he's thinking right now, but we'd best just wait it out!"
James' eyes widen and he frowns at Ronnie, half expecting him to crack up and say he's just having a lark.
So James sighs loudly, and then drinks the rest of his beer.
Matt is back, and both men watch as he collapses heavily next to James.
He quickly downs the contents of his third shot glass. Something dark, Ronnie's not sure what it even is.
Then he signals to a passing waitress to get them a fresh round of beers and another fizz for Ronnie.
"Matt..? You might want to slow down there a bit mate…You've got football training tomorrow", Ronnie suggests gently.
Matt nods slowly.
"So…er…what's on your mind?" Ronnie finally asks him tentatively.
All he could make out from this bizarre turn of events was that after the two of them had left CPS, and watched from their car as Alesha walked past in the cold night with DS Markham talking her ear off, Matt had turned to him and said quietly, "I'm going out. Yeah…I'm going out. Right now..You game Ron?"
Nothing about that statement should've been odd. He'd been the younger man's partner for almost three years now and everyone liked to gas about Matt's 'The Bachelor-ish' social life. Of course, it had been sometime since Ronnie had heard mention of the like.
Since he and Alesha started..well whatever it was they didn't want to acknowledge it was that they'd started. So, of course his caution radar was immediately heightened and he only wavered for two seconds before asking, as calmly as if he were asking when they were going round to the lab for results.
"Oh yeah? So where are we off to then?"
Matt had merely shrugged and said, "Somewhere I can relax. And not talk about work. Call James too maybe..? He'd probably be up for it..A change from always working eh?"
And that was that. James had been called. Still sifting through files at CPS, he thought he'd misheard Ronnie on the phone. Was he actually asking him to go…clubbing?! He had been bewildered and asked for a bit more clarification – because, well it's James, but Ronnie had just told him that Matt needed some company and it would all come out eventually. After that, and because James, despite his strong convictions on black and white outcomes, and many times clashing with those who know him best, he was, and always had been a loyal friend.
Hence, two older, overdressed, and slightly uncomfortable with their surroundings men found themselves sitting in a crowded, loud, uber popular club in Soho.
Matthew Devlin doesn't answer right away, but takes another swig of his fresh beer, then shrugs.
Eventually he looks up, his demeanor now rueful as he glances at Ronnie, then James.
"I dunno..This is kind of stupid actually. No, not kind of. It is. Sorry mate…I should've been more considerate of you, given your past.. and..yeah…Sorry James..I…Let's just go yeah?" he says, sounding three parts apologetic and twenty parts mortified as hell.
James and Ronnie say nothing but grab their coats, and James quickly throws a few more notes down on the table, signaling to the approaching waiter that they're leaving.
They end up at the bar on Barrington. It's busy too. Its Friday night in London so that's a given. But it's their usual joint so they're more relaxed here. There's no overly loud music to burst an eardrum or two. Nor is Matt having to avoid women that keep coming up to him. He now drinks a bottle of water while James orders two pizzas for a late supper.
No one speaks for a while and Ronnie waits until Matt is no longer distracted by SKY Sports football highlights on the screens above.
"Erm…So, not that we don't enjoy spending time together mate but…well, you have to admit, that was sort of random innit?" he asks him, not unkindly.
Matt squirms uncomfortably, and runs a hand over his face.
"Yeah sorry gents. Let's just say…Well…I thought..I don't know what I thought actually. But it was daft. And selfish. I don't know what came over me…Sorry to have wasted an otherwise peaceful Friday night for you both", he says quietly.
James shrugs and gives him a sympathetic grin.
"Well I wouldn't say it was a complete waste of my night Matthew. I now know more about cocktails then I ever did during my entire formative years..And I didn't even have to watch Sex and the City to brush up on the difference between cosmos and a sex on the beach either", he says drily.
Matt begins to laugh as James and Ronnie join him.
It helps to alleviate his unease, and the three men tuck into their pizza with gusto when it arrives.
Ronnie can't help it; he has to say something to put Matt's mind at rest. He and James are not complete imbeciles, they know why Matt wanted to go clubbing. Why he wanted to be out somewhere random. Where he wouldn't know anyone or, not have to think about anyone in particular more like.
"Having a friendly drink with a co-worker doesn't necessarily mean anything else will 'appen you know Son", he chooses his words carefully, watching Matt's face the whole time.
The younger man shrugs, trying to appear offhand about it.
"Yeah..I suppose. But it doesn't really matter …and anyways, I'm..happy for her", he says shortly.
He mistakes their silence for disbelieve so he talks quickly.
"I mean…well, after all the shit she's been through…The therapy…She's finally ready to be out there, meeting people and…Well, that's great. Yeah, it really is…It's just…bloody great", Matt mutters quieter now as he stuffs himself with more pizza.
James studies him closely for a moment.
"Matt..", he hesitates for half a second before speaking again.
"I am probably the last person on Earth who should be dispensing advice on…er..emotional things and such but..I think…well, I think you should tell her", he finishes.
Matt looks at him, confusion written all over his face. Cheesy, garlic stuffed crust briefly forgotten.
"Tell her what?"
Ronnie gives him a kind smile.
"Tell 'er whatever it is you want to mate. But like I said earlier; 'best not leave it too late, you don't want to be disappointed".
Matt shakes his head, then goes back to eating, only half listening to Ronnie and James' discussion about a new case they're working on, allowing his thoughts to take over his focus.
He wants to kick himself in the arse for trying to be this person he thought he could be again tonight. Going out. Pulling the birds. Having a good time. Like a free man. Telling himself he's not the type of guy with worries or commitments and the like. That was Pete and Harry's game; other people who had a missus at home. Men who couldn't stay out 'til the early hours. Who'd worry about how much they could drink before they could expect a growling later . Guys who, whenever a good looking girl came up to talk them, would guiltily ignore her for fear of being relegated to the sofa. He used to give them crap about it as much as the next man but now?
He's just realized that he's sort of, unintentionally become that chap. Okay so he is not in a committed relationship with her – not in a conventional sense anyway. They aren't lovers. Geez, they've never even held hands or touched properly! Well apart from that time..after her rape trial..and then when Pete died. Hugs, linked arms, shielding her from the crowds on the tube – normal, friendly, supportive affection is all that is.
But he can't deny it anymore; there is something there. Before they got closer, when they were just colleagues and friendly. Back when he always kept a part of himself open to flirty banter with his favourite CPS lawyer . Yes, she is gorgeous too – not that she ever goes out of her way to flaunt or use it to her advantage (even her work wardrobe is plain and sensible), but that's never really been the pull. Since he'd first met her and began working with her, he'd become attracted to the young woman who he now knew to be first-class in more ways than one. He admired her intelligence, and loved that despite dealing with awful, sometimes horrific crimes and dangerous criminals on a daily basis, she could still inspire optimism and positivity to those around her. She was kind, and above all, a good person. She could also give it back as well as he threw it out, and he had thought, even back then that she could be a kindred spirit. He had always acknowledged, even then, that she was in a different league to him but that didn't stop him being friendly. And it was safe.
Then it spilled into something more; a friendship of sorts, and Matt was pleased about it. Maybe that was what they were destined to be and that should've been that. But then, after she was raped, things just developed, and then again when Pete killed himself, she was there. The first person he wanted in his corner to talk to, even though he kept it bottled up until he'd finally gotten some closure. And she was.
He has never thought much about it before. Because it's probably not worth the drama. Or the crazy shit it may bring up. He only knows that it feels right.
Well it did anyways, until tonight when he saw the way that tosser Markham was ogling her in the CPS building lobby. The same prat who was probably sitting across from her in some expensive, wankish place feeding her some line right now. It shouldn't make him feel like this. Lost. Sad. Pissed off. He has no right to. But he welcomes it just the same.
He wishes he didn't feel like calling or at least texting her right now.
He needs a distraction.
Eventually he changes the subject to back to sports.
That'll do for now.
JCP Alesha Phillips is bored stiff. Not only that, she has been sitting in her chair, trying not to openly yawn for the last twenty minutes because she's dead tired. Which she sort of feels guilty about, since she always tries to be polite and attentive in any given situation.
Not only that but she's starving. She was expecting them to eat something decent at least, but as soon as they sat down, he had ordered for them, and they'd had four miniscule tapas serves – to share, and that was it. She keeps hoping her stomach won't betray her with a super loud growl. But then on the other hand, it may give DS Trevor Markham another hint. Her earlier suggestion to order something more filling having already been dismissed airily.
The waiter glides over to refill their glasses and she quickly puts her hand over hers, shaking her head and smiling politely.
She could've sworn he gives her a withering look, before he is off to another table.
If she hadn't been too hungry and tired, she might've had the energy to glare back at him, but instead tries not to look longingly at the two people walking past the window chowing down on kebabs.
He had taken her to a swanky wine bar in Soho and she was embarrassed to admit, the first thing she thought when she entered was that this was the same place she had told Matt Devlin one night they were coming back from a concert that if she ever suggested they come here for a night out, he was to push her off 'their' bridge.
Pricey, opulent, stuffy, and pretentious as anything, this was definitely not her type of place.
Thinking of Matt brings that strange pang back. She can't get that look he had when he saw her with DS Trevor Markham out of her mind. She wishes she could focus on Markham and whatever he's going on about instead. If only she could actually allow herself to bloody relax. To be happy that she's drinking expensive French wine. She loves wine but…
"….So then I said to him, 'I bet I could out bench press you and your mate.' It was hilarious! You should've seen his face. See, that's the problem with these blokes; too overconfident. Ah well, I showed him. Walked away with fifty quid so all in all, not a bad night.." Trevor laughs, and then he notices Alesha, sitting there, nodding politely, and managing a small smile.
"Sorry love", he says, although he doesn't sound that sorry, she muses mentally.
"..I've been harping on about my boring 'ol self all this time. So tell me, what does Alesha Philips like to do in her spare time when she's not putting all the bad guys away?"
She shrugs and sits up straighter. She hasn't said more than three sentences up till this point.
"I work a lot so…when I'm at home I tend to be a bit of a homebody – reading, pottering around with my herbs or trying something crafty. I enjoy cooking and baking things, and eating too. I love sports and the outdoors…and I'd really like to travel but…well with my job, and trying to pay off my uni loans, the adventures abroad will have to wait a bit. What else?..Oh, I volunteer at the local women's shelter once a fortnight…Oh, and I recently took up karate at the local Y which is great for fitness, self defense and meeting-"
"Did I ever tell you about the time your DS Devlin and I were tied on the leader board for advance defensive skills at the College? I tell ya, that Mick sure gave me a run for my money! Sure makes you think twice about all the preconceived notions we have about their lot eh? I'd taken karate before I joined up, and I don't think he even knew what it was, apart from watching Jackie Chan do it on telly! But there he was, dancing around like a black belt! Still managed to beat him though…Hard case", Markham interrupts her, before pausing to drain his glass.
Alesha looks at him, struggling to keep a frown off her face.
She's taken aback. Firstly because he's mentioned Matt, and secondly, it seems they have some sort of past – he sounds almost…jealous..Now that she thinks about it, the latter is sort of obvious, given their earlier uncomfortable meeting, and the backhanded comments about him.
Her surprise overtakes her desire to tell him off, not to mention the fact that he also rudely interrupted her.
She also wants to point out that Jackie Chan is Chinese and that he practices kung fu, not karate, which is actually a form of martial arts originating from Japan but she doesn't bother. He probably won't get it anyway.
Plus, her curiosity takes over.
"So you and Mat-uh, DS Devlin went through the college together?"
Markham nods, "Yeah…He and I were pretty much in competition from day one. I may not like the 'holier-than-thou' attitude he wears around his neck on a gold chain – no offence, eh? I know you all are pretty chummy, but I'll say this for him; he's not a bad one. A born copper I suppose", he shrugs.
Alesha nods, slowly digesting this information.
She can feel her heart racing. She's proud of Matt's achievements. She knows, from what little they've both shared about their backgrounds, that he's had it hard and he is not all that close with his family. Having a similar background, Alesha is able to detect the barely hidden disappointment in his voice the few times he has bothered to speak about it.
And while she can say unreservedly that she and Markham have zero in common, she does agree with him about one thing; Matthew Devlin is one of the good ones.
Markham already seems bored with the topic, so he changes it back to, you guessed it, more stories about himself.
A good forty or four hundred minutes later (Alesha stopped thinking about it after the second story about his favourite place to work out) they finally leave the bar.
"Well… the night is still young. We're in Soho…How about we take this party over there?" he gestures across the square to the row of rapidly filling up night clubs.
Pretty much the last place Alesha feels like going to right now. She is about shake her head when she squints and moves towards the curb, as if she's trying to see something.
Markham follows her over.
"What is it? You okay?" he asks.
She nods vaguely. She turns back, shaking her head in puzzlement. She could've sworn she just saw…No. It couldn't be them. Why on earth would Matt, James, and Ronnie be club crawling in Soho on a Friday night with intoxicated twenty year olds?!
It must just be her tired brain telling her to call it quits for the day.
Markham puts his hand on the small of her back. The sudden touch startles Alesha. She wasn't expecting it. And to be honest, she doesn't really like it.
She moves back slightly so he can't do it again.
He doesn't get the hint and tries once more. This time with words.
"Okay then…So how about we go someplace more…quiet?" his tone and smile conveying what he is really suggesting.
Alesha silently counts to five, and then smiles apologetically at him.
"It's been one of those days and..well, I guess I'm just about ready for bed", she says mustering up her most courteous tone.
Markham's appealing smile is back.
"Don't suppose there's room for one more person in your bed tonight?" his tone is light but he's only half joking.
Alesha fights the urge to roll her eyes at him; instead she shakes her head and crosses her arms.
She smiles at him, but her body language is pretty clear.
He shrugs arrogantly, with a look that says 'your loss' and then leads the way towards the taxi stand.
Alesha walks wearily out of the lift and down the hall towards the Ladies' Room. Still holding the now rapidly melting ice bag up to her swollen cheek, she is too busy dabbing at the dripping water on her work blouse with an already wet and tattered paper towel to see her way when she collides into someone.
"Ouuff! Watch it!" a female voice yells, clearly annoyed at being knocked into, as she irritably brushes away at a few water droplets on her dress.
"Bullocks! I'm so sorry!" Alesha says, trying not to drop her bag, coat, oh and the ice bag too. It's hard to do all of that with a bruised neck and face.
CP Janey Hill straightens up, then smoothes down her probably 800 pound merino wool dress and flicks her blonde locks off her face impatiently.
She smiles tightly, and then studies Alesha's face and neck more closely.
Alesha hastily tries to pull her collar up but of course, it's sort of torn up. Thanks to Tamika bloody Vincent.
She is about to say sorry again when she hears a voice she knows very well coming towards them from down the hall.
"Oh Janey, there you are! Great. Ron's here so we can go and get star-..Alesha..? Hi…We were just about to…", Matt Devlin has just walked up behind Janey with his coat and bag, clearly here for a meeting.
Alesha hasn't seen or heard from him all weekend. It's now Tuesday and she's just been to Cold Norton to see Tamika and her brief.
To do that 'favour' for Ron and Matt and try and get her to trust them and to talk. To convince her that this way she may have a better chance for herself.
In return, she gets mocked. Verbally, and then physically abused by the woman. Tamika sure had a deep and nasty chip on her shoulder and it was clear why now.
To say that it was an epic fail would be an understatement. But, surprisingly, despite the fight, and the outcome, seeing Tamika, studying her body language, and the way she said so much without saying more than five words tells Alesha that Matt and Ronnie's hunch is correct. She is not only hiding something, but she is very afraid.
Alesha wants to help Tamika. She sat there, across from the hunched up, silent, angry woman and for a millisecond thought, Shit, I could've been her. I could've been here. She and I are around the same age. Same back story. Same area even...But I got out. I found a way and I took it. Some…Many girls couldn't. Same life, different outcomes.
She realizes that she may be sounding a bit full of it, and self serving, but now, she's more determined than ever to take this case on.
So even though she is bruised, hurt, and sporting a swollen cheek and throat, she has already texted ahead to ask James to put her on this one, despite her (emotional) initial desire to just let Tamika rot in there. Ah yes, the heart is a tricky thing when you use it in addition to your gut and mind-
"'Lesh?!" she is jolted back to the present by Matt's voice. It's filled with worry, and quite loud for the usually quiet CPS hallway, and followed by him softly cupping her chin, as he slowly turns her face to see what's happened.
She tries to move away. Not just because it hurts physically, but because she doesn't want him to pity her. Or be nice to her. She feels like a fraud. For going out with Markham. For not telling him.
She doesn't owe him any explanation but, she wants to tell him something. She cares way too much about what he thinks. And feels about the whole thing.
He pulls her to the corner and makes her sit down on the bench in the corner.
Janey hovers in the background impatiently. Finally, she tells Matt, somewhat huffily that she'll be waiting in her office and stalks away. He doesn't even answer her, just nods, and then joins her on the seat.
He touches her face again. With both hands. They're warm. Rough…but incredibly soft and it feels…
"Oww! Matt! Stop!" she jumps back.
Her face feels sore and it sucks because it feels worse but better at the same time with him touching her.
"Sorry…", he mutters, grudgingly dropping his hands, and moving back, still staring at her.
"What happened? Did Tamika do this?" he demands to know in his usual quiet but concerned way.
She rubs her neck and sighs.
"I did tell you she is never going to be President of my fan club", she shrugs, trying to smile, "It's okay…She was angry..She is hiding something..And…Matty, I think she's afraid..For herself, for her child…But, I believe you and Ron. And I will be asking George if James and I can have this case", she finishes hastily as she struggles to stand up, and pull her bag back onto her shoulder.
Matt quickly jumps up and takes it gently from her, grabbing her coat too.
"Really?..'Lesh..I'm sorry..I didn't think this would…If it's too much for you to do this, and if she's gonna be this agro towards you then I can go again, or James can-"
She shakes her head fiercely and looks at him squarely, holding her hand out for the bag.
"No! Matt, don't worry, I've got this..I'm from Hackney…It's not my first girl fight you know", she even manages a half grin this time and it's enough to let some of the visible apprehension in Matt's face fall away.
He nods and reluctantly hands it over.
She takes a deep breath. Now or never.
"Matt..I..um..About the other night…With Markham..", she says quietly, not wanting other people to overhear them, as they walk by.
A brief look of uneasiness passes over his face and he swallows quickly, nodding.
"It was one glass of expensive wine and…well…since Jess suggested maybe I should go out, meet people and..I thought, maybe..you know, I was ready and all that..It was fine but..I..I felt like..I don't know, like it wasn't right..I get that you and Markham are not exactly BFFs either and well, I don't want you to get the wrong idea about it so I just wanted to say.. ", her voice trails off and he looks at her.
His expression is attentive now as he runs a hand through his messy dark blonde hair and gives her a wry grin.
"'Lesh, it's great that you're doing things. Socialising. Really. It's healthy and it's a natural part of life and I'm really proud of you…You don't need my approval for it you know? I mean sure, I will be there to support you one hundred percent…or to break kneecaps if they are bastards..", he pauses as they both laugh, "but seriously, if you and…Markham are on and you're happy then, so am I".
She smiles at him, and then shakes her head.
"Thank you Matty…I am happy to socialize and do my own thing…If I meet someone, then I meet someone. But one thing's for sure; it's definitely not 'on' with Markham! No way", she says with a giggle, rolling her eyes.
Matt looks at her, his heart thumping loudly now, then he reaches out for her bag again, gesturing in the direction of her office.
"That's a bit harsh 'Lesh! Don't you know that he thinks he's the Met's answer to James Bond?" he quips as he grins at her, his blue eyes flashing, all fun and cheeky.
She's missed that look.
"Ugh! Seriously?! Well your DS Markham spent pretty much the entire evening talk at me...We didn't even eat a proper meal and you know what I'm like when I'm starving! He reckons if I wanted to lose a few more pounds, I should join his gym, and he can recommend some supplements that 'might help'..Oh and he took me to that wine bar on S_ Street in Soho…You know the one…Plus, and this was a major turn off; he had nothing nice to say about you. And that's not on with me," she pronounces as she raises the ice bag to her face again, while laughing.
Matt's eyes twinkle and pauses, ignoring the sudden insane urge to do (if he still could) a back flip in sheer joy that Markham and Alesha are most definitely not a match made in heaven.
He settles for a loud chuckle instead as Alesha rolls her eyes. Clearly he hasn't forgotten what she'd said to him that night months ago.
"Do you want me to tell George we're off to the bridge now, or do you want to at least resign first so your next of kin can claim your benefits after you're gone?" he says with a hearty laugh.
She sticks her tongue out at him playfully, and then hands her bag back to him and they begin to walk down the hall.
"So..? Markham's a no go eh? That's a pity…I thought you two looked quite nice together. Sort of like 'TomKat'…You probably would've had to buy him some stacked mules at some point too I suppose…" he teases her as she swats his arm, and they laugh all the way to her office.
Matt Devlin holds his tongue as he watches Jesse moving rapidly around the shop, efficiently ordering an assistant to get one with a "slightly darker hue, because it will suit his colouring".
He has no idea what that even means and can't help wonder why he didn't just refuse the request.
An hour ago, he had been sitting at his work desk innocently doing follow up for the Thyna case when Ronnie had texted and told him to meet him and James down here. When he arrived, he'd been surprised to see Jesse beaming at all of them, barely containing his excitement at being consulted in this expedition.
Said expedition being finding appropriate attire for the ruddy benefit. Matt sighs again and waits while Ronnie and James exchange an amused look as Jesse flings different suits up against Matt then dismisses them by tossing them onto a conveniently placed chair.
Eventually, after trying on at least thirty different ones, they hit the jackpot and Jesse proclaims he's found it. Matt stares at himself in the mirror and tries not to frown. He can't help making an observation.
"What?" Jesse pauses and looks at him sharply, daring him to speak.
Ronnie discreetly shakes his head in the background, but Matt ignores him and points to the mirror.
"Erm…not that I don't like it, I mean, yeah, it looks alright and all but..mate, it's the same one as all them others I tried on innit? Isn't it..?"
He is rewarded by a barely concealed pitying look as Jesse sighs exasperatedly and turns to Ronnie and James with a look that says 'What are we do with him?!'
"Matthew…this is not just a normal pair of trousers that double for work and play a la M&S! This is a formal do and when one goes to such things, one must make an effort and all that jazz. Now..oh keep still will you?!"
Jesse tugs and tweaks here and there, as the assistant hovers and tries her best to answer while he fires off rapid questions about the outfit.
Matt looks at James and Ronnie in the mirror. They are grinning like schoolboys at his discomfort.
Scowling, he points at them.
"What about them eh?! Don't you have to give them a hard time about their suits too?" he asks helplessly.
Ronnie gives him a sly grin.
"Nah mate, James and I already have monkey suits and Jess has given them the seal of approval", he replies.
Matt glares at him and then nods, giving up.
"Great…so you two are just here for…"
"For moral support mate, you know that", Ron quips as James coughs into his hand and looks away.
Matt snorts in disbelief and grins at his partner.
"Yeah alright. Whatever".
Jesse nods matter of factly, finally done with his fussing, indicating that Matt should go and change. Finally!
Later, as they walk back towards the MIU, still laughing about Matt's shopping trip, his phone buzzes so he excuses himself to hang back and talk to Alesha as Ron and James walk on.
"Matt..? You're going to the police thing on Saturday right?" she asks, sounding distracted, as she does that multi-skilling thing she does so well. She and James are pretty bushed with the Thyna trial.
"Yeah…Roped into it and all. Actually..", he takes a breath, before going on, "That's what I wanted to ask you the other night..I was gonna ask if you wanted to go together…I mean, yeah…If you weren't already going with James…Sorry…last minute and all that but yeah.."
There's silence on the other end as she stops doing whatever it is she's doing.
"Um..Sure. That would be…great. I'd like that…Yeah okay..It's just..um...oh never mind", she bites her lip, sitting back down in her chair. Why did she have to open her mouth and say that?!
"What…? What's up?"
"Oh it's just…I heard you might have asked someone already..? And if you did, well..that's okay, I mean that's great. And it's no bother…I can just go with James and meet you all there and-"
"What? Who said that? I didn't ask anyone. I mean..I am now..I'm asking you to come with me. If you want to..", he stops talking. He's said what he needs to anyway and also because he thinks his voice sounds a bit funny and possibly like a fifteen year old boy's.
"I'd love to go with you…", she says. He's willing to bet she's smiling, and biting her bottom lip as she sits in her chair now. The thought of that makes him grin too and his heart begins to beat a tad faster now.
"Great…Okay then. Well that's sorted. How's the trial going? We've just had a word with James and he says he thinks you can get through to Tamika? That's grand 'Lesh. Marshall is a slippery, evil bastard," he says, moving on swiftly.
Alesha notices the change in the mood and matches it with a response about the case and they soon end the call.
After she hangs up she sits back, biting her lip and lets herself think about how…nice it felt, hearing him ask her out. Not that it was a date, but just..it felt different. Surely she could let herself think of it for one uninterrupted minute before logic arrives.
She suddenly remembers it's this Saturday, as in less than a week away and she's not prepared. Thanking her lucky stars for a friend like Jesse, she quickly dials his number.
After the 'hung jury' verdict into Thyna's murder trial is given out, Alesha catches Tamika's eye as she fidgets nervously in the dock. She gives her a brief smile, and is surprised to see it returned. There is no animosity and distrust in her eyes now, merely fear, worry, and maybe, hopefulness.
Alesha is not feeling well. She has a headache and something funny is going on with her stomach, but she wants to do something before she leaves. She tells James to go back to the office without her and makes her way down to the holding cells to see Tamika.
She is not sure what sort of reception she'll get this time. She hopes Tamika will be more receptive. She is not there to lay blame, or be condescending towards the poor girl. She wants to tell her that she's on her side. Tamika has gone through a lot in her young life.
They have more in common than ever now.
As they sit in the cell, she listens to Tamika talking about her three year old daughter. About her dreams to finish high school and become a teacher. And all the things she wishes she could do. But can't now.
Alesha tells her that she still can do that. If she puts her mind to it. If she helps herself. If she speaks out and assists them in putting Marshall away for a long time.
"Why are you helping me?" Tamika asks her abruptly, looking right at her. She doesn't seem suspicious now, but more…interested.
Alesha takes a deep breath and waits a moment before answering.
"I uh…work with women who have been raped", she looks away quickly.
It's still hard to say the words without feeling like she might start hyperventilating. She has had a lot of therapy and the breathing exercises help. So do her rational thoughts. But it never ever completely goes away.
But it doesn't define you. She wants Tamika to know this. And to be comforted by this.
"..I've seen what it does to them..How they lose their power…Turn on themselves…", she looks at Tamika.
"Rape can happen to anyone. And anyone can take that power back and come out the other side stronger", she grabs Tamika's hand and squeezes it hard, forcing her to turn and look at Alesha.
"What he did to you wasn't your fault Tamika. You don't have to be a victim anymore. You're a survivor", she finishes, and her tone and eyes soften as she watches the other woman begin to cry.
Eventually, she agrees to testify against Marshall and after a few seconds of silence, Tamika speaks again, somewhat shyly.
"So..'blood'..? Hackney eh?"
Alesha smiles slightly and nods, as Tamika grins at her, wiping away her tears.
"You've done well for yourself girl", she comments. No sarcasm or envious digs this time.
Alesha shrugs and pats Tamika's hand.
"And you can too Tamika. This doesn't have to be your life..Yeah?"
It's Saturday night and Alesha is slumped on the sofa, nursing a cup of green tea, hoping the terrible tummy bug of the last twenty four hours is now over. She had hardly slept or eaten since she returned from Tamika's cell last night and began throwing up, and stayed holed up in her room.
There is no way she can go tonight. She feels (and probably looks) like shit.
She looks at the dress hanging in its plastic wrapping on the back of the door and she groans with frustration.
Sighing, she reaches for her phone, dialing Matt's number.
He is feeding his cat dinner when he answers the call.
"'Lesh? How are you feeling?"
"Matty?" she speaks slowly. He already knows what she's going to say and he can hear the regret in her voice too.
"I've stopped throwing up…but I feel like crap..I'm so sorry..I don't think I can come tonight.." she finally says as she leans back on the couch, closing her eyes.
Matt bites back his own pang of disappointment too but he merely shrugs and tells her not to worry about it.
"'Lesh, the important thing is that you get better. You've had a pretty rough week, and lots of late nights so I'm not surprised you got crook. Look, I'll swing by and-"
"No!" she cuts him off, more forcibly than she means to. She sits up again and tries to speak normally.
"I mean, I don't want you to miss the function. Everyone will be there, and it's good for you to be there with the rest of your colleagues. Please… I'm fine now. I just need to rest..", she reasons.
Matt takes his time answering her.
"Well…Okay…if..If you're sure..But promise me you'll call me if you need anything okay? Anything. You hear?"
"Sure. Okay Matt. You have a great time and just give my apologies to George and Nat okay?"
"Will do. Bye Alesha".
She hangs up and tries not to let the lump in her throat give her tear ducts any silly ideas.
She did the right thing. Matt should have a good time with his friends..Meet people. Be around other people..So why does she feel sad? And a bit pissed off with herself for not saying yes, come over and stay with me?
It's good you didn't Alesha, you mustn't be that selfish…
Shaking her head, she gets up slowly and moves towards the bathroom. Perhaps a lovely warm bath and some background music will help her unwind and stop feeling so bloody sorry for herself.
Matt Devlin scans the crowd, waving and nodding at various people as he makes his way back to their table. Everyone is dressed to the nines tonight and Ronnie is on his best behavior, which everyone is certain was because of several prior 'friendly chats' courtesy of Natalie Chandler.
"Matthew Devlin!" a soft voice calls. He turns and watches as Janey Hill saunters over to him. She is wearing a shiny, tight black dress which clings to her curves, and he takes note of how nearly every man in the room's eyes turn towards to take note appreciatively as she walks by them.
"Janey Hill…How are you?" he replies warmly.
She smiles and reaches out, touching his arm slightly.
Matt looks down at her hand, then back at her, raising his eyebrow slightly.
"Sharp tux you have there…So..? Are you going to buy me a drink? Or are you just going to stand there staring at me?" she says with a flirtatious smile.
Matt smiles slightly, but then he looks down, checking his watch, then back to her.
"You look spectacular tonight Janey, and I think you know you will have no trouble finding men to buy you drinks tonight", he quips with a wry grin.
Her smile disappears momentarily, before it comes back.
"But you won't be one of those men will you?" she asks brusquely.
He inclines his head and gives her an apologetic smile.
She shrugs slightly and then turning on her heel, she walks off.
He watches her for a few seconds before he notices James and Ronnie coming up to stand with him.
"I must be daft", he mutters.
James snorts, a smile forming on his face but he says nothing as the three of them stand there for a moment in silence.
"So you're off then?" Ronnie enquires.
"Yep. Behave yourselves eh?" he answers, before patting Ron's shoulder and giving James a nod.
Then he turns and leaves the room.
Alesha is feeling loads better after the long bath, and she is standing in the kitchen trying to decide what type of food she can stomach when her buzzer sounds. Her eyes widen with shock when she see Matt standing on the front steps, still in his tux, looking up at her, holding a bag of something. He smiles and shrugs as she gives him a puzzled look.
When he enters the flat, he brings the bags into the kitchen where she's still standing leaning against the counter.
"What are you…? You're not at the benefit", she says, almost accusatory. She's feeling better, but now very hungry, irritable and she's a bit confused why he's here and not there.
Matt grins at her and she suddenly feels her knees weakening. But then she tells herself that it's probably from lack of food for almost a full day.
"Yeah well…I went and did the rounds like you said but…well.. it was sort of boring…Good grub though, they weren't wrong about that but…You weren't there..So..yeah…I'm sorry, I didn't listen to you, I came here anyway..", he stops talking and watches her smile, as she brushes away a loose strand of hair.
She doesn't know what to say. Or do. Reality biting can sometimes hurt. In her case anyways.
"You look…great. You clean up really, really nice..Posh even", she says, gesturing to his outfit with an admiring smile.
It's actually a bit of an understatement because if she is being completely honest with herself she would say he was quite honestly extremely handsome …'sex on legs' would be what Jesse would call it. And here he is, in her little flat, standing there in a tuxedo, staring at her in her trackies and old uni jersey…
He grins and then shrugs, then, he points at her dress hanging on the front door hook.
"You need to change. Put your dress on", he tells her with a twinkle in his eye.
She frowns, and then shakes her head.
"Go on…You might not be going to the do, but you're here..I'm here..slightly uncomfortable in my suit, so it's only fair you wear yours too..Who says we still can't make a real night of it eh?" he grins impishly, as he begins to unpack the plastic bags.
Alesha opens her mouth to protest. It's silly…and they're only at home after all but..then she shrugs, why not?
She grabs the dress and goes back into her room to change.
After she puts it on, she looks at herself in the mirror. Its 9 pm, and there's no point in wearing make up at home…It's not like I wear much anyway and Matt's seen me at my worst. She decides to brush her hair and then pins it up, puts on some coloured lip balm, then slipping her black sling backs on, she goes back out to find Matt.
"So I got some soup..and one order of your fave wontons in case your tumm-" he stops talking when he turns and notices her standing in the doorway.
For half a second she thinks something is wrong.
He is quiet and standing very still, holding two containers and his mouth is open.
He is staring at her. Like he's never seen her before.
Alesha suddenly feels very self conscious and she bites her bottom lip, and then tries to hurriedly pull up the strapless styled top of the dress. It's a long, flowing, and soft lilac coloured chiffon number. Which had looked quite nice when she'd tried it on in the shop but now, she wasn't sure.
"Do you think…? Is it too much..? I love the colour but..maybe it was too fitted on top…I dunno..I did mention that to Jess but you know how he is when it comes to fashion…I wanted something I could wear again you know..?...What..?" she finally stops blabbering.
Perhaps he thinks she looks ridiculous.
He walks towards her, boxes still in his hand.
"'Lesh…You…you look… amazing…Stunning really…", he finally speaks, his voice is soft and…different.
She can feel herself going red and she smiles shyly up at him.
"Really..? Um..thanks", she says.
"So.." they both say at the same time.
More silence and embarrassed smiles.
"Would you care for some recently reheated wonton soup madam?" he says with a waiter's flourish, bowing theatrically.
She giggles, then nods, sweeping past him towards the little dining table which he has set, and waits as he pulls her chair out.
Much later, still in their formal finery, sans shoes, jacket, and the bow tie, they sit side by side on the couch, with tea and biscuits watching Graham Norton interview Ricky Gervais.
Matt laughs out loud at something from the show and Alesha studies him from where she's sitting. The way his lovely blue eyes become so light when he's happy or laughing, and how his good mood is always infectious. How he taps his hands on any surface when he's thinking something through.
There are so many things she knows about him, yet there's so much more there that she'd like to.
She wonders how he can know so much about her and remember every detail, but still manage to surprise her every day.
She really shouldn't think such things. It sounds conceited. And way too hopeful.
"Matty..?" she says uncertainly.
"Mmm?" he is still laughing at something Gervais just said; as he reaches down to get some more biscuits before moving back.
"Thanks for coming tonight…I'm glad you're here", she says, leaning fully against his shoulder now, her head finding a makeshift cushion there.
Matt pauses. He is afraid to do or say anything for fear she'll move away.
He shifts slightly, so she is now nestled within his arm and shoulder.
"Anytime...", he says gently, looking down at her, then he passes her another ginger nut with his free hand and grins at her.
Alesha smiles and takes it from him, snuggling closer to him as they both turn their attention back to Norton.
For tonight she'll hold on to that thought.
A/N: Done and dusted! Sorry...it is a tad long but there was a bit I wanted to get in there..Please do drop us a line and let us know what you thought. I do love getting reviews and feedback is always welcome. Thanks for reading the update. Next one up soon.
P.S. If anyone's interested to know where I got the inspiration for Alesha's simple but I reckon tres elegant dress, I did borrow from Google and this website: imgres?imgurl= 011/0/8101195/il_340x270.456663732_ &imgrefurl= market/lilac_prom_dress&h=270&w=340&sz=17&tbnid=9_0YwFGwtzoItM:&tbnh=122&tbnw=154&zoom=1&usg=_M9bQm1lwIgXmtncKlq-d1XDibiw=&docid=cV0XCN9fzb11tM&sa=X&ei=JJFxUunHE8GgkwXxWA&ved=0CD0Q9QEwCA