Disclaimers, or lack of them: See Part 1
My thanks as always to my beta reader, Barbara Davies. Her work can be found on her page, Barbara Davies.
There has been some comment on what I refer to as a vest. Here in England when we refer to a vest we are describing a small garment with no sleeves, a teeshirt-like garment, the kind that Bruce Willis wore in the Die Hard films. I've been told that a vest in the US is a button-up garment, which we call a waistcoat. So there we go, a common language, divided by a large body of water:) My thanks to the readers that pointed this out to me:) midgit
Jo parked the Merc outside her front door and looked to her left at the hunched figure.
"Looks like a lot of pain," she said to the blonde, who raised her head wearily and looked out of the snow-smeared window.
Rocky was clutching her injured arm, the hand of her right arm cradling the elbow of her left, supporting it.
"I'm sure Leo should have strapped you up. We'll find something when we get in."
"Is this where you live?" Rocky asked, as Jo opened her door.
"Yeah, this is it. Stay there while I open the front door."
Jo keyed in the security code and pushed the door open, pushing across a doorstop to make sure it didn't close again as she went back to help Rocky out of the car.
"Alright then, let's get you inside."
She eased the injured girl out of the car, and steadied her as she swayed. Jo pulled the jacket more securely around Rocky's shoulders as they made their way through the now heavy snow into the house.
At the threshold Rocky stopped. "I can't."
Jo's arm was draped gently around the smaller girl's shoulder, taking care not to rest heavily on the injured one. "You can't what?"
"I can't go in."
Jo turned the blonde carefully, so that her back was against the opened door. She held her by the tops of her arms, her hands feeling the shaking through the leather jacket which was still draped about her shoulders. "Rocky, there's nothing to be afraid of in there. It's my home, and you're welcome here."
Rocky looked to her right, up the short flight of stairs that led to Jo's home. "It's been so long," she said, her eyes fixed on the door at the top of the stairs. "I've been out there so long." She looked back into the bewildered blue eyes. "I'm not sure I can do it, Jo."
Jo shook her head gently. "I'm trying to understand. Really I am." She took a deep breath, her hands gently running up and down the shaking arms. "I just want you to be warm for a while. Warm and comfortable. With no worries, no pressures. Just you and me."
Rocky's head slumped forward. And with a gentle hand, Jo lifted her chin, her own eyes watering when she saw the fear that misted the girl's green eyes. "What do you say?"
Rocky closed her eyes. "Ow?" she said, and wiped away the tears that started to fall, a small smile finally gracing her features.
"I need to call Leo," said Jo, and turned the girl, walking her slowly up the stairs. "I think I may need to sue him."
"Jo, he did more than could be expected." She waited as Jo pushed open the door at the top of the stairs and felt Jo push her gently into the warmth of her home.
"This way," said Jo, and led her into the lounge, sitting her on the sofa. "I'm going back down to put the car in the garage and get your painkillers from the glove compartment. Just sit tight." She pulled the jacket from Rocky's shoulders, and threw it over a chair, leaving the blonde alone with her thoughts.
When Jo returned, she found Rocky standing in the middle of the lounge holding her arm tightly. "What's the matter, is it hurting more?"
Rocky shook her head.
"So what is it?" She walked towards the girl, placing the pot of pain pills on the low coffee table.
"My boots are dirty, but I can't reach to take them off." Rocky peered at the boots in question, hating the small dark smudges they had left on the spotless carpet.
"Come on, sit down."
Rocky peered at the ivory coloured sofa. "Jo..."
"It's okay, don't worry. Please, sit down before you collapse." She could see the signs of strain in the pale face, and didn't want this to be more of an ordeal for the girl than it needed to be.
Rocky sat, still holding on to her injured arm.
Jo knelt at her feet and started to pull off the scruffy boots.
"Jo, you don't need to do that." Rocky peered down at her, but sat back quickly when pain seared through her shoulder.
"Yes I do," said Jo, and cupped the back of Rocky's calf with one hand while easing the boot off with the other. She repeated the procedure with the other foot.
"There," she said, sitting back on her heels. "I'm going to find something to strap up that shoulder with." She climbed to her feet and left the blonde alone again.
When she returned, she handed Rocky a glass of orange juice and a pill. "I think it's okay to take another now."
Then Jo picked up the phone and dialled a number from memory. It rang for a while before it was answered.
"For Chrissake, Jo, now what?"
"Leo, how did you know it was me?"
"Because no-one else would think they could get away with waking me twice in one night. What is it?"
Jo sighed. "I'm worried about Rocky's shoulder. I think you could have done more."
"Of course I should have bloody well done more. I probably should have x-rayed it, I probably should have packed you both off to the local hospital. I put it back in, and I gave you some pain pills. Both could get me struck off if it became public."
A long sigh from the doctor. "So what was bothering you?"
"Shouldn't it be strapped up?"
"Actually, yes. I meant to tell you that. I didn't really have anything there that would do. Not in the office anyway. Yes, get a scarf or something, and strap her arm across her stomach. Not too tight, just to stop it from moving around. But saying that," he continued, "every day, just get the shoulder moving a little. Not so it causes her huge amounts of pain, just to keep the muscles from seizing up."
"Cold is good. Ice, like I said before, or a packet of frozen peas, inside a tee-shirt."
"Ok, Doc. Thanks."
"Can I please go back to sleep now?"
"Yeah, good night, Leo."
Her answer was the dialling tone, so she replaced the phone in the cradle. When she turned back towards her guest, she found Rocky valiantly trying to keep her eyes open. "Be right back," she said to the sleepy woman.
She found a scarf, not quite remembering where it came from, or whether it was even hers, and returned to the lounge. "Right then, let's see if we can work this out." She eased Rocky's good arm down, supporting the injured one as she wrapped the scarf around it, and then wound the make-shift sling around the blonde's neck, being careful that the weight of supporting the arm wasn't put upon the injured shoulder.
After she finished, she looked at her friend, who returned her look with sleepy green eyes. Jo sat in the corner of the sofa and gently pulled the unresisting woman around, so that she leaned back against her chest. Then she reached down and picked up the bag of frozen peas that she had taken from the freezer. She thanked her housekeeper briefly, as she wrapped them in a thin tee shirt and eased the package below the scarf and onto the injured shoulder. With Rocky reclining, there was not so much pressure on the sling, and so the package sat snugly without causing the blonde further pain.
"I can't sleep here." Rocky's voice was slurred, no doubt testament to the pain pills she'd just taken.
"Just rest for a while," Jo whispered into soft hair.
The blonde head nodded slightly. "Okay, but I won't be able to sl...." she said, as she fell asleep.
Jo tightened her grip on the small blonde, buried her face in her hair, and fell asleep herself, a smile of contentment on her face.
Jo woke with a start, taking a moment to reorient herself. A blonde head rested on her chest, the gentle rise and fall of the smaller woman's chest indicating she was still deeply asleep.
The tall woman tried to stretch beneath the comfortable weight, but found she couldn't. And, for the umpteenth time in the past few days, she found herself stiff and uncomfortable after spending too long sleeping on the sofa.
She eased herself to a sitting position, the girl in her arms, still soundly asleep, sat up with her. With great care, she managed to get out from beneath the blonde. Holding the seemingly boneless girl, she reached across, took a large plump cushion from the armchair, and put it behind Rocky, then settled her on it. She made sure that the injured girl's arm was in a comfortable position, and then with a long lingering look at her guest, she made her way upstairs to the bathroom.
After a short visit to the bathroom she went into her bedroom, shedding clothes as she went. She selected some looser items from drawers and the wardrobe. Pulling on a pair of sweat pants, and a large tee shirt.
Then she went back downstairs, and, after putting her head through the lounge doorway to check on Rocky, made her way to the kitchen, filled the kettle and turned it on.
Jo slumped on the chair at the small kitchen table. She felt like she'd slept only a few hours for the past few days, though she knew that wasn't so. Up until the previous weekend, her life had been completely undemanding. She'd had fun, and thought little of the consequences. And now, a woman who she'd had no knowledge of only days ago was the focus of her entire life. For the first time in her life she was putting someone else's wellbeing before her own. And in a strange way, it made her feel worth something. She'd never felt that before, she realised. Never thought of herself as some kind of benefactor. She knew she would have a time of it, trying to persuade Rocky to let her help her. What must the blonde think? Here was some crazy rich woman babbling on about dreams, and premonitions. But hadn't Rocky said she felt something too? So maybe it wasn't so crazy. Maybe this was the point in her life when her reason for being was fulfilled. She certainly hadn't found the purpose of her existence up until that point. Unless you count.... No, she decided not to go there.
The kettle automatically turning itself off startled her slightly, and she wearily stood and retrieved a couple of mugs from the small cupboard. She smiled as she saw the two objects in her hands. Even subconsciously she was already thinking of her and the girl now asleep on her sofa. She suspected Rocky would sleep longer so she put one mug back and put a tea bag into the remaining mug.
It was then that she heard the cry. Forgetting the tea, she rushed back into the lounge, finding the girl struggling to sit up.
Rocky's face was glistening with the effort, white as chalk. "No!" she screamed, her good arm flailing in front of her as if to ward off an imaginary attacker.
"Rocky, please." Jo tried to approach the distraught woman carefully, not wanting to scare her further. Because that's what she saw in the pale face: fear, pure unadulterated terror.
Rocky was weakening, and Jo managed to get hold of her arm and gently push her back down onto the sofa. But that just seemed to galvanise the blonde, and she pushed up against her apparent attacker, crying out in rage and pain as she did so.
Jo knelt beside the sofa, one hand holding Rocky's good arm, the other stroking her face.
"Hey, what's all this about?" she asked, watching the eyes darting beneath tightly shut eyelids. "Sssh, you're safe here." She pushed damp hair off Rocky's forehead.
"No, not again. I can't..." Rocky pushed up again, but was weakening. "Please, don't.... I can't..."
"Rocky, baby. It's Jo, you're safe here." Jo kept repeating the phrase over and over, and eventually the blonde started to relax. Jo thought she was probably exhausted rather than convinced that she was safe. As she waited for Rocky to be still again, she traced a thin scar that ran for a couple of inches above a pale eyebrow.
She felt Rocky's shirt and realised it was drenched with sweat. She knew she had to get the girl out of her clothes, and to do that she would have to wake her.
"Hey there," she said, and took a limp hand in her own, rubbing the palm with her thumb. "Rocky?"
Green eyes fluttered open and tracked dazedly to Jo. For a moment, utter confusion was evident in the pale face, then she recognised the woman smiling warmly at her, and the small body relaxed once more.
"I'm..." Rocky croaked and coughed, wincing against the pain in her shoulder.
"Stay still; I'll get you some juice."
Rocky did as she was told, passing a shaking hand across her sweat-drenched face. Her head was thumping and she knew she'd had one of her nightmares - they always left her shaking.
"Here you are," said Jo as she reappeared, a glass of orange juice in her hand. She placed the juice on the low coffee table and helped Rocky to sit up.
Rocky slumped back against the sofa, holding on to her injured arm with her good one once more.
"Painful?" Jo asked as she handed Rocky the juice.
Rocky merely nodded, taking the juice from Jo and quenching her raging thirst. "Not used to this," she said as her voice returned.
The tall woman eased herself onto the sofa, next to her friend. "Used to what?" She took the glass from Rocky, noticing the shaking in the small hand.
"The warmth ... made me sleepy."
Jo shrugged. "That and the pills." She took a deep breath. "You okay?"
Rocky had been gazing at her, unashamedly staring. "Yeah." She looked away, suddenly finding the fire extremely interesting.
"Rocky, you were screaming." Jo reached out and once again took a shaking hand into her own. "And now you're shaking."
"Just confused when I woke up there. That's all." She closed her eyes against the throbbing headache, which was intensifying rapidly.
"You were terrified, Rocky." Jo gripped the hand tighter as Rocky attempted to pull away. Then she reached across with her free hand and cupped a flushed cheek. "You're hot, your clothes are drenched through. We need to get you changed into something dry."
Panic-filled green eyes turned towards her.
"Hey," said Jo quickly. "There's nothing to be afraid of. Just let me help you."
Rocky's head dropped. "This is really hard." She looked back up into gentle blue eyes. "I've been alone so long. Haven't had to depend on anyone."
"And I've never had anyone depend on me. But then," she leaned forward, brushing her lips against the blonde's, "I've never cared about anyone else before."
When she leaned back she saw Rocky's eyes were shut, a dreamy look on her face. But Jo put that down to the drugs. "Come on," she said. "Let's get you out of those clothes."
Green eyes snapped open, and Jo winced. "That sounds all wrong doesn't it. I don't mean it like that. Well.... I mean, I would like... it if you would...." Jo sighed long and hard. "Look, I'll help you for as long as you need me. But if you're not comfortable with something, just say. Sound good to you?"
Rocky nodded shakily, and allowed herself to be carefully pulled to her feet. "Come on, I'll find something for you to wear."
Jo headed up the stairs, smiling to herself when she heard the blonde following.
Rocky stood outside Jo's bedroom, watching as her friend rifled through her drawers trying to find something for the smaller woman to wear.
"This might do." She held up a plain white tee shirt, which was large even on her. She estimated it would come down to the smaller girl's knees. She threw that on the bed and opened a smaller top drawer, throwing some briefs onto the bed next to the tee shirt.
Rocky was still standing outside the door. "You can come on in."
Rocky entered, looking around the room as she did so. "This is nice."
"Thanks." She took the blonde gently by the shoulders and pushed her down onto the bed. Rocky was too tired to resist, and sat quietly watching with sleepy eyes as Jo started to undo the knot holding the sling in place. She held the injured arm in place as she threw the scarf into a corner. "Okay, let's think about the best way to do this. Hold on."
She ran down the stairs and looked through the drawers in the kitchen, finally finding what she was looking for: a large pair of scissors.
Rocky hadn't moved, and she knelt down again in front of her. "The shirt should be easy to get off, but the thermal will be more difficult," Jo said.
Rocky nodded, bending her good arm as Jo eased the shirt off. "We'll leave the thermal on for now. I think we'll do the trousers next."
"No." The word was little more than a whisper.
Jo ducked to see into watery green eyes. "Rocky? Sweetheart, we need to get you out of these damp clothes."
"It's ok, I'm used to it."
"But tonight you don't have to be used to it. And tonight you're sick. And tired. And hurting." She ran her fingers through damp blonde hair. "Please?"
"You don't understand." Tears squeezed from between tightly shut lids.
"What don't I understand?" She waited patiently, but Rocky just shook her head. "Hey," she whispered and got up from the floor and sat beside the sobbing girl on the bed. She carefully put her arm around Rocky's shoulders and gently pulled her against her chest. Jo supported her injured arm with one hand, the other rubbing the heaving back. She rested her cheek against blonde hair and let the girl cry herself out. When she was finished she pulled away from Jo, and looked up at her with tired green eyes.
"Are you going to tell me what's wrong?" Jo asked, wiping away tears with her fingers.
Rocky nodded, and pushed her hair out of her eyes. "It's just.... My clothes, they're .... Well, they're dirty."
Jo cocked her head to one side, waiting for Rocky to continue.
Rocky took a deep breath. "I don't get to change very often."
Realisation hit Jo, and she felt suddenly ashamed that she had put the girl thorough this without thinking about it.
"Did you think that would bother me?"
Rocky shrugged. "Everything you have is so nice." She looked around the room, at the quilt and at the clothes Jo had put out for her to wear. "So clean."
"Rocky," she said, pulling the pale face back so that Rocky was looking at her again. "I didn't think twice about bringing you back here. I know where you've been living for the past five years, and I know the consequences of that. I'm not going to judge you because you have dirty trousers on." She smiled, relieved to see the smile echoed in the face of the blonde. "So, will you let me help you?"
Rocky nodded her head, and stood shakily. Jo stood as well, and they faced each other for a moment. Rocky looked suddenly very vulnerable, standing there in her thermal vest and huge trousers.
Jo turned her attention to the old leather belt which held the very large pair of trousers up. There was no button or zip, and once they were lowered Jo was faced with another similar pair of trousers. "Okay, step out of them."
Rocky did as she was asked, and waited while Jo struggled with the button fastening the top of the second pair of trousers. "The button's stiff," she said as she managed to get it open.
"Army surplus," said Rocky. "I always tried to get it if I could."
Jo cast a quick glance up as she lowered the zip of the trousers and pulled them down.
Many times before, she had undressed women in this room. But how different this occasion was. This time there was no ulterior motive. There would be no seduction, no night of blinding passion.
"Sexy, huh?" said Rocky with a small smile. She looked down at herself, now dressed in her thermal vest and long johns.
Jo sat back on her heels. "Looks good to me." She smiled up at the blonde, pleased to see that she appeared to be relaxing. "Ready?" she asked, hooking her fingers in the waistband of the long johns.
Rocky nodded, and the white garment was pulled down over slim legs. Rocky stood now in nothing but a white vest, dark blue briefs, and thick, grey army socks.
So Jo had decided that there would be no passion in this particular disrobing exercise. She swallowed hard, seeing the shapely legs only inches from her face. "Um, there you are." She stood quickly, and picked up the scissors. "I'm going to have to cut the vest off."
Rocky had started to shiver, and Jo knew it was time to start hurrying. She didn't believe the girl was cold, but knew the ordeal was starting to take its toll on the blonde.
"I'll cut it from the back," Jo said.
Jo turned the blonde and carefully started to cut the vest from the hem to the neck. When it was open at the back, she pulled it forward and off. Trying hard to avert her eyes from the expanse of creamy white skin in front of her, she reached for the tee shirt lying on the bed. She opened the neck and drew it over the blonde head.
"Can you get your arm through?" she asked.
Rocky tried, and, as the shirt was so big, she managed it with comparative ease. When she was in the tee shirt, Jo turned her and retrieved the makeshift sling. Positioning Rocky's arm against her stomach, she refastened the sling.
"There, how's that?"
Rocky smiled up at her; there were tears in her eyes. "Thank you," she whispered.
"Come on." Jo pulled back the quilt and urged Rocky into the bed. "You get some rest. I'm going down to get one of your painkillers."
Rocky snuggled into the thick quilt, her eyes fluttering closed as her head hit the pillow.
When Jo returned, Rocky was asleep, so she lay on top of the quilt next to her friend. For a long moment she watched her sleep.
"When you wake, you will tell me about your nightmares," she told the sleeping girl, smoothing away the soft blonde hair from a warm forehead.
She settled down beside Rocky, lying on top of the quilt, and kept watch. She lay in wait for the demons that had come for the girl on both occasions she had slept in Jo's presence.
And when they came, she would chase them off.
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