Though they only lived about ten minutes away from Boeshane's Tavern, the journey home felt interminable. The silence was strained and the tension palpable, almost bordering on smothering. James tried repeatedly to capture Rose's attention, but to no avail. She persisted in keeping her eyes fixated out the window, tears and droplets mixing as they trailed down her face. Though he couldn't see her face, James knew she was in pain and he fiercely chided himself for being the cause of it. At one point, he put his hand over hers but the gesture fell flat as she allowed her hand to remain still, ignoring his touch even though she desperately wanted it. Despite her lack of response, James' hand remained steadfastly on top of hers. He'd had a brutal awakening today and he was not about to give up on anything, even if it was over something as small as handholding.
It wasn't too much longer before they finally arrived home. James pulled the car in front of the house and hurriedly went to help Rose out of the car. It was fortunate that he was quick on his feet, because Rose already had her door open and was attempting to exit the vehicle on her own despite the lingering pain in her ankle. He reached his arms out and caught her as she teetered to the side. Her eyes flitted upwards and momentarily locked with his before she turned them downward again.
"Thanks," she mumbled weakly.
"Of course," he said with a soft smile. He braced an arm around her as she tried to hobble towards the steps. She accidently put pressure on her foot and hissed as a sharp pain radiated through her already throbbing ankle.
Instinctively, James' arm tightened around her as he heard her pain.
"Rose, let me—"
"'M fine, James. I just wasn't paying attention," she said halfheartedly.
She took a few more hobbled steps before she again pressed on her ankle, this time resulting in a more intense pain. James refused to hear anymore of her weak excuses. Once again, he lifted her up and cradled her to him. It felt natural to be held by him, completing her in a way. However, the hurt in her heart prevented her from relishing the rather intimate gesture.
"James, please put me down. I'm fi—"
"Hush," he commanded, though his tone was anything but harsh.
In spite of herself, she settled into his embrace, allowing herself a fleeting moment of contentment. Somehow, James managed to unlock the door and still securely hold onto her. They entered the foyer and he closed the door with his foot. For a moment, he remained fixed in the middle of the foyer as if trying to determine what direction to take.
Rose was still sopping wet and the cool air circulating through the house was beginning to chill her.
"James…I'm wet; I'm cold; and I'm tired. I just want a hot shower and a kip. So, just put me down and you can go do…whatever. No sense in wasting your time waiting on me—I can take care of myself," Rose said in mild defeat.
This was a new emotion for her. She had always been a fighter—never one to back down from challenges or perceived impossibilities. On the island, she had fought day in and day out for three years, never once giving up though the circumstances at times seemed insurmountable. Even when she lost her grandfather, the worst time in her life, she had never felt defeated. But now—now she was confused and hurt and everything came crashing in on her from all sides. The only emotion left standing was defeat, and she loathed it.
James looked at her in utter bewilderment and incredulity at such a statement. This wasn't the Rose he knew.
What have I done to her?
"First off—I'm never wasting my time when I'm with you. And second—I know you are more than capable of taking care of yourself, but maybe I want to take care of you. Ever think of that?"
Her eyes flashed with hope before she quickly pushed it away. She looked off to the side and fidgeted nervously in his arms.
"Yeah…well…," she trailed off, unsure of how to respond to that.
James sighed softly and made his way up the stairs. He took her into their room and gently let her down in front of the door to the en suite.
"I can manage from here," Rose said softly.
James frowned at her. "Rose, you can barely walk. Just let me—"
"No…really. I can manage. Just…if you could get me some of my clothes from Donna's room, I'd 'preciate it," she said, turning and closing the door before he could argue the subject.
James stared at the door for a few moments before running a hand through his hair in frustration. He wasn't frustrated with her in the slightest; it was all self-directed. He heard the water turn on and finally tore himself away from the door, and went to Donna's room. He saw his shirt, the one Rose had worn last night, lying on the bed. He smiled as he remembered the sight of her. Granted, he'd been a ridiculous prat at the moment; but the vision of her still took his breath away—then and now.
He walked over to the shopping bags that were obviously Rose's and began looking for something to give her to wear. He searched through a couple of bags before a certain pink one caught his attention. He looked over his shoulder towards the door, almost as if he was a little child afraid of being caught red-handed. He gingerly picked up the bag and began searching through its contents, his eyes widening as he did so. He felt a warm blush creep up his neck as he realized just exactly why Rose had chosen to sleep in his shirt last night and not in something she bought.
The small remaining rational part of his brain began to chastise him. Oi! Quit gawking and focus!
Reluctantly, he put the bag to the side and continued with his original search. He finally found a bag of denims and pulled out a pair, and then reached over and picked out a shirt from another bag. He realized she would need undergarments and began looking for a bag containing those—steadfastly avoiding the pink bag from earlier. He quickly found what he needed and went back to the en suite. He turned the handle to enter, but the door remained closed. It had been locked.
It can't be locked. Maybe it's just jammed…
James tried again but was met with the same outcome. She'd locked the door on him. It felt like a blow to the stomach. Before the whole island fiasco, they'd been together for four years and she'd never once locked the door on him—even after the times they'd rowed. He was pulled from his wounded thoughts by the sound of the water turning off. He could hear her moving around, grumbling in pain, and it tore at him inside that he couldn't get to her. He heard her approach the door and he took a small step back as she opened it. She was wrapped in a large terrycloth towel, hair wet and clinging to her neck and shoulders. She looked so fragile and childlike.
James awkwardly cleared his throat as he handed her the clothes.
"Here you go."
"Thanks," she said softly, taking the clothes and holding them to her damp body.
James tugged nervously on his ear. "I, uh…I tried to come in to help you but the door was…locked."
Rose kept her head down and nodded. "Yeah, I locked it."
"You…you've never locked me out before," James responded, the pain in his voice apparent.
"I never had a reason to," she said softly.
Those words knocked the wind out of him.
How could I have not seen things clearly? How could I have hurt her like this?
Rose turned back into the bathroom and closed the door, again locking it behind her.
"Rose," he started as he tried to turn the knob. He sighed when it wouldn't budge. He remained pressed against the door. He was not giving up. The source of his whole world was behind that bloody door and he was not just going to walk away.
"Rose? Rose, please unlock the door," he earnestly pleaded as he jiggled the handle.
"Fine," he sighed. "If I have to do it this way, then fine... I'm an idiot. A daft, bloody, ridiculously dense idiot. I…I should have taken care of everything the moment I saw you. Weelll, maybe not the exact moment I saw you…maybe the minute after we snogged each other senseless."
He was fairly certain he heard a chuckle at that last statement, but it became quiet again.
"I went up to the room and started to tell her, but the words just couldn't come out. For all my brilliant gob, I couldn't get more than 'We have to leave' out. I didn't even give her a chance to ask questions. I just grabbed the luggage and left. I…I—"
He heard Rose fiddle with the lock and he stepped back. The door slowly opened and Rose stood before him, fully dressed and leaning against the frame for support. There was a look of desperation in her eyes.
"Why…why didn't you—"
"Tell her?" James finished.
Rose faintly nodded her head.
"I don't know…," he answered but then changed his mind. "No, no that's not true. I do know."
Rose's eyes sought his and filled with terror that his next words would shatter her world.
James ran a hand angrily through his hair and let out a harsh breath. "It's because I'm a coward. That's what it boils down to," he finally admitted to her, to himself.
Relief flooded Rose's features and she silently released the breath she had been unconsciously holding.
"You're not a—"
"No…don't try to placate me. It's the truth. And then I said those things to you…I was cruel. I deserved more than just that slap. I just couldn't get past the idea of someone else being with you for all those years. Just the idea that he was there when I couldn't be…and when I saw him, I went mad. I tried to find out how he felt about you and…just the little bit he told me made my blood boil. Then when you brought in that blonde fellow to pose as Jack, I thought I'd show you. But when that, that—," James took a steadying breath as his rage began to brew again. "When he hugged you, when he looked at you…I've never wanted to strangle someone so much in my life."
Rose bit her lip to hide a traitorous smile. James saw it though, and it spurred him on.
"I saw…," he took a hard swallow and continued, "I saw the way he looked at you and I know you care for him. But when he said he wanted you…I've never been so terrified in my life. Because after all of my stupid blunders, you could've easily said yes. And the thought of you choosing to leave me hurt worse than thinking I'd lost you accidently. I know I don't deserve you…I've never deserved you and especially now after everything. And Reinette…"
She looked at him, her eyes wide and shining with unshed tears.
James ran a hand through his hair again. "I was so tired of being lonely. Every morning, I woke up and felt this…void, and I was just so desperate for the pain to stop. But even when I was with her…it never stopped; it never went away. And that's because she wasn't you. You're what I need—what I've always needed. I need you more than anything in life. It nearly killed me when I thought you were gone forever. The…the only thing that kept me from surrendering was knowing I still had the girls. Every day, I got to look at them and see you, see the perfect gifts you gave me. But when I saw you in the lobby, I felt…I felt alive for the first time in three years. You're the most important part of who I am and without you—I'm not whole…and I never will be. Rose…please…please forgive me," James begged, his eyes blazing with passion, with sincerity.
Rose stood before him completely transfixed and silent. A few tears broke free and trailed down her cheeks.
Panic overtook James as she formed those syllables, and he cut her off.
"Rose, I'm begging you. I'll—"
Now it was her turn to cut him off. "No, I can't stand like this much longer. My ankle's killin' me, and how am I s'posed to kiss you if you're all the way over there?"
James stood there for a moment, mouth slightly agape. As realization sank in, a brilliant smile overtook him and in two strides he was holding her. He cradled her head and pulled her to him, desperately kissing her. She instinctively threw her arms around his neck, threading her fingers through his hair and quickly surpassing the intensity with which he started the kiss. Time was instantly suspended and neither of them knew how much had passed by as they desperately clung to each other.
However, the moment was abruptly cut short.
"Daaaaaddddyyy!" resonated through the room followed by two little hands tightly clutched around his leg.
James and Rose broke apart, both trying to discretely catch their breath as Sarah looked up at them curiously. James adored his children, but he was highly annoyed with having his time with Rose cut prematurely. But on seeing her smiling face and wide eyes, he put his agitation at bay.
"Hi, sweetie," he said, looking down and smiling affectionately at her. He moved a step back as he heard footsteps approach, Sarah still attached to his leg.
"You lil monkey," Rose teased her, eliciting a string of giggles and monkey calls from the little girl.
Zoe appeared at the door followed by Donna. Donna took in James and Rose's expressions and surmised what had been transpiring before Sarah's intrusion. Looking at them, she raised an eyebrow but didn't ask any questions. Instead she held up her hand, holding James' mobile.
"You dropped this in the hall. Looks like you have several messages," she said, tossing it to him.
He caught it and quickly accessed his voicemail. Donna made eye contact with Rose and gave her a small knowing smirk, causing Rose to bite her lip and blush. Donna snorted at her "caught schoolgirl" reaction. James turned to Rose, his expression a mixture of concern and confusion.
"'S everythin' okay?" she asked concernedly.
James furrowed his brow before looking at her and smoothing his features.
"Not sure. Sally left like eight messages telling me that I need to get over to the hospital." On seeing the worry in her eyes, he smiled at her. "I'm sure it's nothing. I'll pop over there and find out what it is and then take care of 'you know who' once and for all."
Rose smiled and nodded. He grinned at her and captured her lips in a soft kiss.
Sarah disengaged herself from James started running through the room with Zoe. "Daddy loves Miss Tyler. Daddy loves Miss Tyler," the two girls began to singsong, causing James and Rose to chuckle.
"You bet I do," he affirmed while Rose grinned at him. He turned to leave, then remembered that she was injured. "You want me to help you downstairs, love?"
She shook her head. "No, I'm good. I'm just gonna have a quick lie down. See you soon, yeah?"
"Yeah," he said as he gave her another quick kiss and headed for the door, Donna slapping him upside the head as he walked by her.
"Oi! What was that for?"
"You bloody well know why!" she retorted and the two of them walked off bickering.
Rose smiled and sighed contentedly. She took a few small steps over to the bed and after pulling back the covers, sank into plush mattress. Zoe and Sarah quickly got in beside her, snuggling close to her. Finally feeling at home, Rose closed her eyes and before long drifted to sleep.
This had gone on long enough. It was time to deal with the situation at hand and finally set this matter straight. No one was expecting them, which is what made this the opportune time to have it out. The silence was unceremoniously shattered.
"You and I need to talk."