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.
Jo rolled over as she woke, and found herself face to face with an angel.
Rocky was lying on her back, her face turned towards her host. Jo felt a pressure on her hand and looked down to see a smaller one gripping it. Craning her neck to see the clock beside the bed, she found it was close to noon.
She was surprised that the girl had slept so long. She'd expected the night demons that haunted the small blonde to pay her a visit during the night. But she saw that the sleeping face looked relaxed though pale.
She enjoyed the moment, feeling free to watch the girl sleep. Her gaze fell upon soft lips slightly parted in sleep. She remembered the photograph she'd had, how she'd studied it in great detail, committed to memory every facet of the face before her.
The she looked down at the small hand curled around her own. The image blurred and Jo blinked her eyes rapidly, confused at the appearance of tears.
Her gaze returned to the pale face of the blonde, to find misty green eyes regarding her thoughtfully.
"Hi," said Rocky, concern evident on her face. "You okay?"
Jo nodded, swallowing tightly. "Yeah, I'm fine."
They regarded each other for a long moment, the blonde not moving from her reclined position. Nor did she move as the dark-haired woman dipped her head and brushed her lips briefly against those of the smaller woman.
Jo pulled back, looking for any discomfort from Rocky. The small hand left her own, and she felt a pressure on the back of her neck, pulling her back down. Trying to keep the majority of her weight off the blonde, she gave in to the gentle tugging. The meeting of their lips was more insistent this time, the contact more solid. Both sets of breathing became ragged, and it was a small gasp of pain from the smaller woman that made Jo back away.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, pushing dishevelled blonde hair off Rocky's face.
"It's alright. Just forgot about it for a moment then."
Jo chuckled and stood, walking around the bottom of the bed. She sat on the edge of the bed to Rocky's left, and handed her the pain pill she'd put there the night before. "You'd better take this now." She helped her sit up and gave her the glass of orange.
"I'm going to pop out for a while. Is there anything you want me to get you?"
Rocky shook her head, peering into the bottom of her now-empty glass.
"I'm going to go to the chemist, get some dressings for your side. I'm sure I could get some water-proof ones, then you could have a bath, or a shower."
Green eyes looked confused. "My side?"
"Yeah, you have a couple of stitches in it."
Jo shook her head. "What happened exactly?" She stood and went to her wardrobe, pulling out a pair of jeans.
"At the leather works?" Rocky asked.
Jo looked up from the drawers she was rifling through and nodded.
The brow beneath the fair hair furrowed as Rocky thought back to the previous night. "I was looking for wood," she began. "It was colder than usual, and I needed a lot to make sure the fire lasted through the night. I wasn't really concentrating and just about walked into a bunch of guys. I think it was a drug deal." She looked up to find wide blue eyes regarding her. She shrugged. "I ran, back into the factory. I hid from them, and they gave up. I was back in a part of the factory I've never been in before. When I tried to get back out, I fell through the floor," she finished in a matter-of-fact voice.
"Something must have gone right through your jacket and everything else to have cut your side," said Jo, hopping from one foot to the other as she pulled her jeans on.
"I didn't know it had. I hit the bottom pretty hard, and I knew I'd hurt my shoulder. I managed to get to my feet, and I found an old rusty ladder. I think I was down in the boiler room or something. I got out; the old boys found me and went and got Edna. Don't remember much after that."
Jo pulled on a sweatshirt. "Well, Edna got in touch with me, and more by luck than judgement, I managed to find the factory." She sat on the edge of the bed and pulled on her boots. "Right, then," she said, standing. "I'll be as quick as I can. Is there anything you need before I go?"
"No, I'm fine."
Jo hurried over to the bed, leaned down, and kissed Rocky on the forehead.
"Thanks for looking after me," said the blonde.
Jo's answer was a dazzling smile, and then she was gone. Rocky listened to her footsteps as she descended the stairs, and then heard the front door close. She snuggled back down into the quilt and drifted off to sleep again.
Rocky woke with a start. She knew she hadn't been asleep long, but the nightmare had come quickly. She had the same feeling of panic as always, the tightness in her chest and the thumping pain in her head. She tried to rise, but quickly fell back onto the bed, the pain in her shoulder excruciating. She knew she couldn't take another painkiller for a while, so she eased herself carefully out of bed, and made her way to the bathroom.
As she exited the bathroom she heard a buzzing noise. She carefully descended the stairs, the pain in her shoulder making her dizzy. She went into the lounge and then the kitchen. The noise sounded again, and she followed the noise until she found a grey box with a flashing red light on it at the top of the stairs. There was a small black button next to the red light. Below the black button was a white button, with the word `open` on it.
The buzzer sounded again, causing her to take a step back. Maybe she had to do something, maybe there was a security system and Jo had forgotten to reset it. Had she set it off by walking through the house?
Again the buzzer sounded, and this time she pressed the black button next to the flashing light.
"Jo?" the tinny voice asked. It was a woman.
Rocky remained silent, staring at the box in horror.
"Jo, you've changed the bloody code. Open the door."
Rocky backed away from the wall, holding her injured arm with her right hand.
"Come on, Jo. It's been days. I know you didn't mean what you said."
Rocky approached the box and spoke into the small holes at the top of it. "Jo's not here," she said quietly.
"What? Who the hell's that?" There was silence for a moment. "Look, sweetie, whoever. You just push the little white button and let me in. Then we'll see about finding you the exit door. You obviously don't know the rules. If Jojo goes out then you're meant to be gone before she gets back. It's a kind of rule with her little sleepovers. I'm surprised she didn't explain to you." There was a sigh. "It's just good fortune I came along before she returned; saves everyone a lot of embarrassment. Now, be a good girl and open the door." She waited. "Come on, sweetie. Be good and open the door. Now don't start thinking you're any different from any of the other sweet little things she has up there."
"She told me to wait," said Rocky, more to herself than to the disembodied voice. She slumped against the wall and slid down it, staring up at the talking box with tear-filled eyes.
"Very well. You just believe that. But when she tires of you, remember this little chat. And I'll be here, waiting to give her what you couldn't."
Rocky listened to the sound of footsteps and then a car door slamming. She struggled to her feet, and went in search of her stuff.
Jo parked the car in the garage and reached across for the large bag of shopping she'd put on the passenger seat. Then, taking the stairs two at a time, she made her way up to her home.
It was silent in the house, and she guessed that the blonde was probably still asleep, so she climbed the next set of stairs to the upper level.
The bedroom was empty, the quilt pulled back, and the tee-shirt and the scarf she had used as a sling were in a heap on the floor.
She picked up the tee shirt, and ran out of the room. "Rocky!" she shouted, throwing down the garment and descending the stairs quickly. She went into the kitchen, and then the lounge.
Rocky was nowhere to be found. She had gone.
"Shit!" was all Jo could manage, as she ran down the stairs and out into the courtyard, using her remote control to open the garage door. Once inside the car, she gunned the engine and sped out into the cold, damp day.
She automatically headed for Whitechapel, that being the only connection she had with the girl. And she hadn't gone far before she saw a familiar hunched figure, her gut clenching as she saw the people that passed her giving her a wide berth. She parked the car slightly ahead of Rocky and got out.
The blonde was struggling so much with her two bags that she didn't notice Jo until she almost walked into her.
"Rocky?" said Jo, putting out a hesitant hand to stop the girl's unsteady progress.
Rocky looked up at her, and Jo was alarmed at the pale, sweaty face and glazed eyes that met hers.
"Rocky, you're ill. What d'you think you're doing?" She tried to take the two heavy bags from the shorter woman, but Rocky pulled away from her.
"Leave me alone, Jo," she said, staggering back so that her arm collided with a wall. She gasped in pain, dropping one of her bags.
Jo made a grab for her as the blonde's knees buckled, and they both ended up in a heap on the wet pavement.
"Oh God, Rocky. What were you thinking?" Jo's voice was strained as she tried to keep her friend from toppling onto her side.
"What's wrong with her?"
Jo turned to see a policeman exiting his patrol car.
"Is she bothering you?"
Jo tore her eyes from the blonde, stood and faced the officer. "No, she's not bothering me. I'm trying to help her."
The policeman looked from her to the crumpled figure on the pavement. "Has she been drinking or taking illegal substances?"
"No!" Jo's tone was somewhat outraged, and the policeman raised his eyebrows in a warning gesture. Jo sighed. "No," she said again, calmer. "She's not well, and I'm trying to help her. Will you help me get her into the car?" She pointed to the Merc, its indicators still flashing, parked illegally on double yellow lines.
"Wouldn't you rather I called an ambulance, Miss?"
"No, really. She's a friend. I can help her."
The policeman turned his back on her and for a moment Jo thought he was just going to walk away and leave her. But then he reached into the car, said a few brief words to the driver, and returned, pulling on a pair of gloves.
A small crowd had gathered around the slumped figure by the time the policeman reached down and pulled Rocky none too gently to her feet.
Seeing an expanse of uniform filling her vision, Rocky pulled back. But in her weakened state she was no match for the man, who was a good few inches taller than Jo. Her guided her towards the Merc and put her into the passenger seat. Jo threw her bags into the boot, thanked the policeman, and quickly sped away.
Jo pulled savagely on the handbrake as the traffic in front of her came to a halt. A delivery wagon had stopped, and the driver jumped out. He didn't seem to have any concerns that he was blocking the road, and disappeared into the shop he was obviously delivering to.
Jo shifted in her seat to face her passenger. "What were you thinking, Rocky? Look at you, you're in agony." There was not much sympathy in her voice.
Rocky didn't answer, just pulled off her hat and threw it into the back of the car.
"I told you I wouldn't be long."
"I know." Rocky's voice was strained; the pain in her shoulder had intensified, and she was feeling nauseous.
"So why did you run? I really don't understand. I thought I'd made it clear you were welcome in my home."
Rocky gingerly supported her injured arm. "I don't want to be a burden, cramp your style."
"My style?" Jo was incredulous. "What are you talking about?"
"I don't want to be in the way." The blonde turned pain-filled green eyes on the driver; the pain wasn't all physical. "If you want to take someone back to your place, I wouldn't want to stop you doing that."
"Rocky what are you talking about?"
Rocky looked at her. Tell or not tell? Well, she wouldn't be around Jo much longer. "You had a visitor."
"I don't know, a woman."
Jo closed her eyes. "Did you let her in?"
"No, I spoke to her on the intercom thing."
Jo took a deep breath, suspecting who Rocky had spoken to. "So what did she say?"
"Why is it so important?" asked Rocky quietly.
"Because it drove you out of my home!" Jo's voice rose, causing Rocky to shrink back. Seeing the movement, Jo reached out, placing a gentle hand on a trembling thigh. "I'm sorry. I think I know who you spoke to."
"It doesn't matter." The blonde looked down at the hand on her thigh.
"But don't you see, it does. Whatever this person said to you caused you to leave. I want to know."
A blast of a horn behind her made her look up to see that the car that was parked opposite the delivery wagon had moved and she could now drive through the gap.
Rocky missed the warmth of Jo's hand on her thigh, and looked across at the driver, taking in the tense lines of her face. "I shouldn't have gone like that." Jo didn't look at her, but Rocky saw the muscles in her face shift as she clenched her jaw. "I'm sorry, Jo. You've done so much for me. I shouldn't have believed her."
Jo sighed loudly. "Whatever it was she said was probably true. Up until a couple of days ago, I didn't care about anyone." Jo steered the car off the road, coming to a stop in a small side street. She took the car out of gear, but left the engine running. She turned to face Rocky. "I want to help you, Rocky. I've never done anything to help another soul in my life. There are people I know who would laugh in your face if you told them I was helping you. The person you talked to today was one of them. I'm asking you to trust me. Will you do that?"
Rocky bowed her head and nodded. "I shouldn't have doubted you." She looked up and reached across and took Jo's hand. "I'm sorry."
Jo gave her hand a squeeze. "Let's go home."
She put the car into gear, and pulled out into the traffic again.
As Rocky hadn't really got that far, it was only a few minutes before they arrived back at Jo's home. But when they arrived there was an unpleasant surprise awaiting them.
"Trixi," was all Jo said, as she got out of the car and walked around to help Rocky out. Trixi had unfolded herself from her own car as the Merc glided into the courtyard.
Rocky looked a state. Her hair was in disarray and her face was pale and pasty, testament to the pain she was feeling. She concentrated hard on not falling to the floor as she stepped out of the car, and didn't notice the tensing of her friend.
"Oh. My. God. What is that?" Trixi stared in utter disbelief at the woman Jo was helping.
Jo ignored her and opened the door to the house. She turned to Rocky and ducked her head. "Can you get upstairs? There's something I need to do." Rocky nodded. "Ok, you go on and go sit in the lounge; I won't be long." She watched the blonde as she slowly climbed the stairs, then turned to the woman who was leaning casually on her car.
Trixi was smiling and shaking her head. "Oh, Jojo. Even for you, this is kinky."
"I think you'd better leave, Trix. Before I do something we'll both regret." Jo's voice was low as she approached the woman.
Trixi folded her arms across her chest, the smile never leaving her face as her sometime lover came to within inches of her. "Jo, baby, if you had told me you wanted something a little younger, I could have helped you. Found you something at least a little more hygienic."
Jo's hand didn't move that quickly, and Trixi didn't flinch as the taller woman's fist took hold of the front of her very expensive Kashmir coat. "Listen to me," she hissed. "I'm helping a friend. Something alien to you, I know. But I want you to try very hard, and just maybe you'll be able to believe that I can. Now, I want you to go away. Find one of your other little friends to play your games with."
Trixi placed her own hand over the one pressed into her chest. "She won't satisfy you the way I do, Jo. You know that. She won't let you do the things I let you do." Trixi smiled, seeing the blue eyes close. "Admit it, Jo. You want me. Now."
Jo pushed her away, and took a step back. "No more." Jo backed further away.
Trixi followed, like a panther stalking its prey, looking very much as she did the first night they'd met. The blonde had spotted Jo, made her a target, and later that night had taken her home.
She reached out an immaculately manicured finger and traced the tense jawline. "Jojo, why so tense? You know I have a cure for that."
Jo was standing with her back against her own car now. She reached up and took the hand into her own, pulling it to her lips.
Trixi smiled a smile of triumph, but it soon left her lips as her fingers were bent back. "Jo! Stop it!" she screamed as the pain in her hand drove her to her knees.
Jo bent to speak into the ear of the now sobbing blonde. "I'm not going to fight you, Trix. I want you to go and get in your car and drive away." Again the voice was a low hiss. "I don't want you to come here again, because if I see you anywhere near me, I will hurt you." She gave the woman's wrist one more savage twist before releasing her.
Trixi scrambled to her feet. "You bloody pervert," she cried as she got into her car. She lowered the window as she started the engine. "This isn't the end of this," she screamed as she drove from the courtyard.
Jo stood in the drizzling rain and looked down at her shaking hands. Then she got into her own car, and drove it into the garage.
Suddenly the need to be with Rocky was overwhelming, and she took the stairs two at a time in her effort to get back to her houseguest.
Rocky was sitting on the sofa again; she had obviously not even had the strength to remove her jacket. She turned weary eyes onto Jo as the tall woman rushed into the room.
Jo dropped to her knees in front of Rocky. "Are you in a lot of pain?"
Rocky nodded, "My fault though." She looked into the blue eyes of her friend. "What happened downstairs?"
Jo sighed. "I told Trixi to stay away."
"I don't want to cause trouble between you and your friends."
"Trixi wasn't what I would call a 'friend'. We slept together, that was all." She looked up at Rocky, waiting to see the disgust in her face.
"So you used each other?" asked the blonde.
"I suppose we did."
"Did you enjoy sleeping with her?"
"Yes, I did."
"But you didn't want to be with her?"
"Not in a relationship, no."
Rocky chewed her bottom lip. "Are you in a relationship with anyone else?"
"No, I'm not."
"Do you want to be?"
"Yes, I do."
Rocky smiled. "Anyone I know?"
Jo chuckled and shook her head. "Why aren't you angry? I just told you I sleep with someone I'm not particularly fond of because they're good in bed."
"It's not for me to be angry. How can I be angry with someone who is changing their whole life to keep me safe."
"I'm not...." Jo began.
Rocky raised a hand. "So you regularly help homeless people?"
"You know I don't."
"Exactly my point." She reached down and took Jo's hand. "I'm glad I'm the one you're saving."
Jo smiled. "Come on." She got to her feet and then helped Rocky. "I got some waterproof dressing for your wound. I want you to have a nice relaxing bath, and then we'll have something to eat. How does that sound?"
She took Rocky's jacket and hung it in the hall, then turned the blonde in the direction of the stairs.
In the bedroom, Jo gently turned Rocky to face her. "Do you want a painkiller?"
Rocky shook her head. "No, not yet, they make me sleepy."
"Okay. Listen," Jo searched for the words. "I'm going to help you undress. Are you okay with that?"
Rocky considered her reply. "I can't manage on my own, and I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have helping me."
"I was worried; you've been so independent for so long."
"I know, and I thought it would be hard, letting someone else do everything for me."
"Is it? Hard, I mean." Jo pushed Rocky gently back onto the bed, and started to take off her boots.
Rocky looked down at the top of the dark head. "No, it's not hard." She smiled. "I'm enjoying it actually."
Jo looked up at her, a lopsided grin gracing her features. "Well, don't get too used to it." She reached for the tattered shirt, the only thing Rocky was wearing beneath the jacket. She unbuttoned it very slowly, and when the last button was undone, she sat back on her heels. "You okay?" she asked quietly.
Rocky nodded, and Jo pushed the shirt back off the slim shoulders, being careful not to jar the injury.
Rocky watched Jo's face as the shirt fell onto the bed behind her. She watched Jo's eyes leave her own and drop to take in her naked form. She watched in fascination as Jo's eyes almost changed colour, and her mouth dropped open.
"Jo?" she asked, feeling strange that she felt no embarrassment being under this woman's scrutiny.
"My God, you're beautiful," gasped Jo, looking back up at her. "But I knew that all along."
Jo leaned forward, her lips meeting Rocky's, her hands going to the waistband of the tatty trousers.
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