"She was so close, Micks. You could practically hear it on the tip of her tongue. And then that-that daft idiot just showed up outta nowhere and was so bloody thick that she opened up her gob and just-just…eerrgh!" Martha fumed as she paced the hallway, completely out of sight and earshot from Rose and John.
"Babe…y'need to calm down, 'kay? I'm disappointed, too, but you blowin' your top off is not gonna help anythin'. Plus, I'm sure she didn't mean to barge in and ruin anythin'. Cut her a lil' slack."
Martha stopped mid-pace. "How can you keep so calm about this? Don't ya realize what she's done—what's gonna happen?!"
Mickey let out a deep sigh. "No, babe—what's she done?"
"She's only just ruined everythin'! Y'know Rose—she's gonna clam up again. She had just worked up enough nerve and now…eerrgh!"
"Martha, you do realize that this isn't YOUR relationship, right? They have to get through this on their own terms and at their own pace—even if it is painfully slow to the point of madness."
Martha pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at it as if it had personally wronged her. Quickly putting it back to her ear, she huffed, "I can't talk to you when you're like this!" and hung up on him.
Unfortunately, Martha's instincts were right—Rose did clam up. In that split second, it was desire versus fear and, per her usual, fear won out. Rose had never been so confused or uncertain of anything in her entire life—at least, not since her parents' death. She could see what she wanted—he was right there waiting beside her. But, it was as if there was a glass pane between them and no matter how fiercely she beat and clawed at it, no matter how many cracks or splinters appeared—she just couldn't break through it to reach him; and that hurt more than any physical pain she could ever experience.
As the days passed, Rose's condition continued to improve rapidly. As Dr. Bradley had theorized, they were able to remove the chest tube after two more days, and her scans and vitals showed that her body was on its way to a full recovery. She still experienced quite a bit of pain at times—due in part, to the few broken ribs and also due to the fact that her body had sustained such a severe trauma.
Adding to her pain was the fact that John hadn't come to the hospital in several days. Although he always made sure to call her frequently when he wasn't there, Rose was still frightened that their...awkward moment the other day had finally caused John to draw away from her. She was terrified that one of her worst fears was going to come true, and there would be no one to blame but herself.
After a little over a week, Rose was cleared for release, and Martha was the one to drive her home. Rose had secretly hoped that John would be there as well, and when he wasn't, she felt more than a little disappointed and sick at heart. It seemed to add weight and validity to her fears. The car ride was oddly quite as Rose stared out the window, her mind a raging storm of thoughts and emotions about John, and her frustrating and seemingly ingrained sense of fear.
What is wrong with me? Why can't I just let myself lo-… God, I can't even say how I feel in my head.
Burning tears of frustration rimmed her eyes, and Rose could feel Martha's eyes on her as she used her thumb to wipe at her tears. She turned and looked at Martha.
"Just say it."
Rose sniffed and scoffed at Martha's question. "C'mon, I know you. Y'have something ya wanna say, so just say it. It can't be any worse than what I've already said to myself," she said with faint bitterness in her voice.
"Don't be like that, Rose. Why don't ya talk to me 'bout it instead of beating yourself up, yeah?"
Rose turned her head back to the window as she lost the struggle to hold back her tears. She felt Martha gently squeeze her hand and she turned her tear stained face back to meet her gaze.
Martha pulled the car off to the side of the road. Her voice was soft and warm, beckoning her gently. "Rose. We've always been able to confide in each other. And we've been through the worst imaginable and made it through—don't shut me out now. Don't close yourself off."
Rose choked on her tears and let out a ragged breath. "I-I'm so messed up, Martha. I can't…I can't let go of-of…God, I don't even know what to call it! Fear? Stupidity? I want to tell 'im how I feel, but I can't even say it to myself! I-I was tryin' to tell 'im that day in the hospital, but then that nurse came in. Y'know the sad part? I actually felt somewhat relieved and I don't even really know why! How twisted is that? I mean how screwed up am I that I actually felt that way? That I can't tell 'im…but I wa-want…I-I…what if I l-lose 'im?" Rose broke down and began sobbing uncontrollably. Martha immediately unbuckled her seatbelt and pulled Rose into her arms as best she could. Rose clutched at her desperately, sobs wracking her body.
Martha kissed her head and pulled back just enough to make eye contact with her. "I'm not gonna say I understand what you're goin' through, 'cause I don't. I'm not even gonna pretend like I have the answers. As much as I like to think I have some kinda control in this, the truth is I don't. You're the only one that can do anythin' bout it. You and 'im. You're gonna have to try—really try—to let 'im in. He needs to know what's goin' on. If not, you're only gonna hurt 'im, and I know you don't wanna do that."
Rose could only nod her head, tears still streaming down her face. She wiped her face and tried to put on some semblance of a smile. "Let's just go home."
Despite all of the uncertainty surrounding her, Rose was certain about one thing-she was anxious to see Tony. Though she had wanted to see him, the three of them had decided it was best if Tony remained at home. They were concerned that seeing Rose battered and in hospital would be too frightening for him. Since they wouldn't be seeing each other, Rose had made sure that she called him every day, even calling some nights to read him a bedtime story. Barring the occasional sleepover he would have at a friend's house, they hadn't spent any significant time apart since he was born, and Rose was ready for their separation to come to an end. Martha and Rose headed up the path, and as she reached the door, Rose took a bracing breath. As she opened the door, her eyes instantly focused on Tony, seeing only him. His brown eyes widened as he saw her, and he smiled brilliantly. Unable to wait any longer, he ran towards her as she tried her best to lower herself to hug him. Tony threw his arms around her and squeezed, causing Rose to sharply inhale and grimace. Tony stepped away and looked at her worriedly.
"Did I hurt ya?" he asked, his eyes wide and fearful.
Rose smiled through her pain. "No, sweetheart. I'm just still really sore at times. I've missed ya so much Tony Bear," she said through now present tears and pulled him into another hug, this time not caring whether or not she was in pain.
Rose looked up from their embrace and for the first time noticed who all was in the room—Mickey, Martha, Donna, Jack, and…John. She let out a quiet breath of relief that his absence was finally over. Finally disentangling herself from Tony, Rose stood and eagerly greeted everyone. When it came to John, she smiled at him and hugged him tighter than the rest, placing her hand on the back of his head as they embraced.
"I'm so glad you're here," she whispered in his ear.
When they parted, he beamed at her and Rose felt something within her stir.
They all went into the living room, and Tony took his usual place on the floor with his toys. Martha and Mickey sat on one end of the couch while Donna and Jack took the other end. This left the loveseat for John and Rose. They exchanged bashful glances, and sat down together somewhat awkwardly. Jack and Donna got the ball rolling and began catching Rose up on what had been going on with them. As the conversation began to evolve, Rose moved her hand hesitantly and sought John's hand—never once making eye contact as she did so. She held her breath till she felt his fingers curl around her hand and felt his eyes on her. A small smile played on her lips though she still didn't have enough courage to return his gaze.
More time passed and Rose was content at being in familiar surroundings, finally feeling some sense of normalcy return. As the evening progressed, Mickey turned to her.
"So Rose, since you're back home, ya feel like makin' us some dinner? Lasagna sounds good."
Martha slapped him upside the head, eliciting peels of laughter from everyone. Mickey grimaced and rubbed his head.
"Oi! I was jokin'! C'mon—like I'm really gonna ask her to cook."
"Actually, we should be going," Jack said as he stood up, Donna right behind him. "As much as I'd like to stay, I have some work I need to finish, especially if I want this promotion to go through."
Donna rubbed his back reassuringly. "You're worrying over nothing. Of course you're gonna get it—you're brilliant."
Jack flashed a cocky smile. "Well, that is true," he said, giving her a kiss that was rather tame for him. They said their goodbyes as Mickey and Martha walked with them to the door.
"Are…are you stayin'?" Rose asked John quietly, finally turning her gaze towards him. She quickly downcast her eyes when they met his.
"Do you want me to stay?" he asked her, slight uncertainty in his voice.
Rose nodded and John squeezed her hand, causing her to look up and see his soft and comforting smile.
"So…," Mickey said as he and Martha popped back in, "How's Chinese sound?"
They all agreed and in short order, they were all sitting leisurely in the living room eating dinner. Despite Tony's pleadings, Martha put him to bed not long after finishing dinner. When she rejoined them, Mickey suggested a movie, and they all began to argue good naturedly about what to watch, resulting in John and Mickey winning the deciding coin toss. Halfway through the movie, Rose felt herself starting to doze off. She knew she should excuse herself and make her way to her room, but John's arm had made its way across her shoulders and she was feeling completely at peace next to him. Rose continued to inwardly debate what she should do, but never came to a conclusion—she had already fallen asleep.
John felt Rose curl in to his side and place a hand on his chest, causing him to look down and see her sleeping face. A smile of contentment appeared on his face and he gently stroked her arm. John honestly couldn't remember how his arm had even made its way around her, but it was a more than pleasant realization. Martha started to yawn excessively and finally excused herself to go to bed, leaving Mickey, John, and a sleeping Rose.
After a few moments of silently watching the movie, Mickey turned to John.
"I never really thanked ya for all you've done. I know Martha did that day ya came to watch Tony. Even though that was from both of us, I want to tell ya myself. Thanks for all of it."
John gave a small smile and nodded his head. "You're welcome. And I need to thank you for letting me be a part of your lives."
Mickey returned his nod with a smile and turned his attention back to the screen. After a few more moments, he spoke again.
"Y'know she cares about you, yeah?"
John turned his attention immediately to Mickey, knowing to whom he was referring.
"I'd like to think so. At least, I hope she does," he said, giving a lingering gaze down at Rose.
Mickey turned his head to look at John.
"Rose…she hasn't had it the easiest. None of us really have. I heard she told ya 'bout Jimmy."
John's eyes darkened at the recollection and he nodded his head.
Mickey continued, "She didn't really see anyone after 'im. Mainly just stuck with me and Martha. Then when Pete and Jackie died…well, we made our own lil' world. But even then, I had Martha. Rose—she hasn't let anyone near her since. Not once. But you? You're the only one who's ever gotten close to her, and that wouldn't happen unless she felt somethin' pretty strong for you. And I've seen you two 'round each other and believe me—she's never looked at anyone the way I've seen her look at you. Not even when she thought she was head over heels for that stupid git."
John considered this for a moment before asking, "Why are you telling me this?"
Mickey sighed, "'Cause I consider you a friend. And I love Rose—her family practically raised me. But I know she's goin' through some stuff. Not sure what exactly and even though I have some ideas, that should be somethin' you two talk about. But just…just don't give up, 'kay? 'Cause if what ya feel for Rose is even half of what I feel for Martha, then I know ya'll never forgive yourself if you don't do everything ya can to be with her. And ya'll never find anyone who can even come close to what she means to you."
John was silent for a few moments before he spoke again. "Thanks, Mickey."
"If ya really wanna thank me, never mention to Martha that we had this conversation."
At seeing John's confusion, he added, "I might have told her in so many words to butt out."
John chuckled at that, careful not to wake up Rose. Both men turned their attention back to the screen, but John couldn't pay attention to what was happening. He was too preoccupied with thinking about what Mickey had just divulged to him. He hadn't planned on ever giving up on Rose, but he'd be lying if he said that he wasn't more than a little frustrated at the stop and start of their relationship—if you could even call it that. But Mickey's words had given him hope that maybe they he and Rose weren't that far off from finally being with each other. He looked down at Rose's sleeping face again and put his other arm around her, causing Rose to move in closer to his side. He became lost in his thoughts and hopes of what could—no—would be and found a new rush of determination. It wasn't long though before his own eyes became sleep laden and before long, he fell asleep, Rose still in his arms—where she belonged.