Numb Like Her

Chapter 27

The next day, she was still and quiet, not moving much except to breathe. She sat on Medda's bed and stared out the open window, listening to the children playing in the street, her tired swollen eyes barely open.

Jack wanted to close the window; just glancing out to scan the street made him anxious, but when she looked at him and he saw her worn face, he reluctantly left it alone.

He left her on the bed, her gray eyes staring at the brick wall across the street, and he went into the living room, closing the door behind him. He turned and saw the boys still there, sitting on the couch and the floor, looking up at him with the same tired eyes he'd seen on Talia's face.

It was the first time Jack had left her room since last night and the Newsies had stayed in the living room, waiting. They read his face quietly and could tell he had not slept all night. They had listened to her crying and sobs but did not hear Jack except for a quiet gentle humming. They had fallen asleep on the floor, stretching out their exhausted bodies, and Medda had slept in her office down stairs.

Medda was busy in the kitchen, cooking whatever she could find in her pantry and made them all coffee. She handed a mug to Jack, looking at his face; he was pale and spent. She placed her hand on his cheek and smiled gently. He took the mug from her, feeling the warmth between his hands, but he did not drink it. He didn't want anything; he felt as though he were in a haze.

"How is she?" David asked quietly.

Jack jerked to attention and looked at David's concerned face. Jack shrugged, "Yesterday she was cryin' her eyes out and now she hasn't said anythin'. I dunno." He rubbed the back of his neck.

"Maybe she's just tired?" Mush said.

"She has ta be," Kid Blink said as he yawned. Medda refilled Kid Blink's mug.

"All tha same," Spot said carefully, looking up at Jack, "I don't think she should be left alone."

Jack's jaw tightened. His thoughts flashed to the bleak morning on the docks, her eyes cold as she had jumped into the water, ready to let go…. He hadn't thought about that.

"I'll go stay with her," Medda said as she put the metal pot on the stove, running her hands over her skirt. "You get some sleep, Jack."

He shook his head and she sighed, "Just thought it was worth a try."

Medda went into the bedroom and Jack looked past her, seeing Talia before the door closed.

He leaned against the wall next to the door, rubbing his face.

"What do we do, Jack?" David asked. "If Rockefeller is after you, we need a plan. And if he's lookin' for her-"

"He won't find her," Jack snapped, turning to face his friends. His face was hard as stone. "Not while I'm here. Let 'im try ta take her again."

"We can't just watch her every minute of every day, Jack," David said calmly. "No one can live like that."

"Ya got any betta suggestions?" Jack asked irritably as he went to sit next Kid Blink, dropping his head as he leaned against his knees. Kid Blink squeezed the back of Jack's broad neck, feeling the tension.

The day passed slowly as they waited for the doctor. Talia did not get out of bed; she only propped herself up with pillows. Medda made her tea and soup and soon the sick dizzy feeling in her head went away. Medda helped her to the bathroom and helped her wash in the tub. The water burned her and Jack had rushed to the door when he had heard her cry out. He stood by the closed door and listened and when he didn't hear anything, he shuffled back to his seat next to Kid Blink.

Jack finally got some sleep and Medda had Toby bring Talia's things into the living room. She played with the idea of turning the dining room into an extra bedroom…she wasn't going to let Talia stay another night in the other apartment…

The boys took turns sitting with Talia, sometimes talking with her and other times just sitting with her, watching over her as she slept. They could see she felt safe. And when Mush and Kid Blink sat with her, for the first time since she had been brought in, they heard her laugh. Kid Blink and Mush were sitting on her bed Indian style telling jokes and stories. Talia tilted her head back when she laughed and the boys lit up in response. They told her the funniest stories they knew, anything to keep the smile there.

"And—after Spot paid Race, he found out that they had bet on the same damn horse," Kid Blink said, laughing until his face was red. "Race just called it by a different name—had Spot fooled!"

"Ya should've seen his face when Spot found him," Mush said, wiping away a tear. "Almost started a war between Manhattan and Brooklyn."

Talia leaned back on her pillows and gripped her stomach, her laughter filling the apartment. The muscles in her stomach did not like her laughing but all the same, she was glad the boys were here. She felt somewhat happy as she watched Kid Blink and Mush, laughing and pushing on each other.

The door opened and Spot stood in the doorway, glaring at the two boys.

"I was not fooled, ya bum," Spot said angrily. His light eyes flashed up to Talia and he grinned, "I was merely tricked by a nitwit."

"Takes a nitwit ta trick a nitwit!" Race yelled from the dining room.

Spot bolted from the door and they could hear him chasing Race through the apartment, the floors and walls shaking.

"Boys!" Medda scolded but they kept running, chasing each other around the couch and the bed that had been brought from Talia's room. Jack and the others were carrying in furniture, putting them in the dining room. David smiled at Jack when he heard Talia's laugh. Jack craned his neck, looking at her. He hadn't heard her laugh in so long; the sound was almost foreign to him.

"BOYS!" Medda thundered as Race jumped over the couch to dodge Spot.

Mush, Kid Blink and Talia roared with laughter and Race appeared in the door way, beaming at his own cleverness.

The doctor came by around three o'clock. He smiled gently at the girl on the bed and asked her to try to walk around the apartment, to sit and stand, and do other tasks that only required little exertion. Jack watched on with a stone-like expression as Medda helped her out of bed. The boys stood by his side in the living room, looking just as nervous.

She walked fine but the look on her face and the pain in her eyes said otherwise; the area between her legs…her lower stomach…Jack couldn't think about it. She put on a brave face until she reached the door to the hallway, leaning against it, panting. But she kept trying and tried the stairwell.

"I can't," she gasped. She had only made it to the third step and had felt the tender sting of her wounds…it felt as if they were ripping open all over again. What had they done to her? She couldn't remember.

Jack bounced lightly down the steps to her side.

"No," she protested as he reached for her.

"Don't be stupid," he muttered.

He put his arm around her waist and the other behind her knees. He glanced at her face before lifting her, turning to see Medda standing at the door. He took her back inside but once he reached the living room, she told him to put her down and she limped to the bedroom. She held her hand at her stomach and rested on the bed, her face tight as she winced, trying to block out the pain.

The doctor glanced at Medda. And Jack saw it.

Only Medda was allowed in the bedroom with the doctor. The boys waited outside, silent with their ears perked, listening to the low voices as the doctor examined her. When the doctor came out, they jumped to their feet and watched him and Medda go into the hallway, closing the door behind them.

The boys listened for a moment and Jack glanced at the bedroom door, swallowing.

"'ey, Jack," Race said gently. "We're…gonna go check in with Kloppmann, see tha boys an' tell 'em how she's doin'…yeah?"

Jack read Race's face and clapped his shoulder, "Yeah. You guys be careful."

"We'll be back around ten," Spot said. "I'm not ready ta remove my services yet…ya know?"

Jack smirked tiredly at his friend, "'s all good, Spot."

"We'll see ya in a bit, Jack," Kid Blink said as he squeezed Jack's shoulder.

The others said goodbye to Jack and left through the window, closing it behind them before bounding down the fire escape.

Jack locked the window and made sure that it wouldn't budge.

Jack saw her on the edge of the bed. She was leaning over her legs as she stared down at her thighs, her feet barely touching the wooden floor. He closed the door behind him and sighed, rubbing his face for the twentieth time that hour.

He stuffed his hands into his pockets and shuffled over to her. He glanced out the window, seeing the sunlit street and the growing late afternoon shadows. The weather was beginning to change; the days were cooler.

He looked back to her, her long dark hair almost brushing her lap.

"So?" He asked. His voice sounded loud in the quiet bedroom, the clock ticking away on the bureau. "What he tell ya?"

"I'll never have children," she said emotionlessly. She looked up at him and he searched her clear eyes. He had a strange feeling that she was gauging his response.

"I already knew it," she said nonchalantly. "But hearing it from him…"

She shook her head, shaking off the feeling. Jack watched her carefully, trying to read between the lines.

"He said I shouldn't dance," she said breathlessly, suddenly feeling the stab of reality. Her fingers tightened on the bed sheets. "The wounds…inside me…he said I should've died from the blood loss."

Jack's head snapped up and he read her solemn face.

"He said I'll be able to walk and do…normal things soon, with time. But he said dance might be too much," she whispered, rubbing her thighs through the material of her nightgown. "But he's wrong," she declared. "He has to be."

She sounded panicked, short of breath. And she was; Jack knew she needed something to keep her busy and occupied. It was what she needed to distract herself, especially now.

She stood up slowly, ignoring to pain inside her and looked at his face, his serious eyes staring at her.

"He can't tell me what I can and cannot do," tears were in her eyes and her lips shook. "No one can; if I can walk, I can dance. They can't… take that from me."

"But ya need ta get betta," Jack said quietly to her.

She looked away angrily and closed her eyes tightly. She sat back down on the bed and he could see her spirit sinking.

He took a step closer to her and touched her chin, tilting her face up to his. He read her eyes for a moment, seeing the determination.

"Get betta," he demanded. "That's all you can do right now."

As she looked up at him, her hard face softened and he knelt in front of her, running his fingers through his hair.

"You're taking all this better than I thought you would," she said softly.

He kept his eyes down on his hands, his fingers restless, "'s what ya see on tha outside."

Her lower abdomen ached and he heard the sharp intake of air through her mouth. He looked up and saw her face, pale.

Without thinking, he placed his hand on the side of her thigh, watching her.

"I'm fine," she said.

"Nah," he said as he stood up. "Lie down."

She pushed herself up the mattress, he helped her so that she wouldn't have to strain herself, and she rested against her feather pillow, her face turned away from him. He leaned over her, looking at the bruises on her neck.

"Ya need anythin'?"

She shook her head quickly, not looking at him.

He leaned over her and saw that she was staring at the chair next to the bed, the chair he had sat in when Toby had brought her in.

"'s matta?" Jack asked quietly.

"I—" her voice was husky and she was angry for some reason. He sat on the edge of the bed.

"You'll heal," he said. "'s just takes time-"

"No," she said sharply. "It's you."

He was silent and she turned her face to him. Her eyes were red and she glared at him.

"I don't know what to do with you; you care too much for your own good. And now, because of me…"

He stared at her, watching her frantic eyes move over his face.

"It was harmless at first," she said. "But now…You're in too deep, Cowboy."

His brows furrowed and he stared at the white bandages on her wrists. She was scared for him, he could see it in her beautiful face. She was trying to distance herself from him, for his own good, to save him, remembering Rockefeller's threat. He thought about what she had said yesterday, the terrified look on her face; the closeness to him was scaring her. But he didn't care.

Slowly, he put his hand on the other side of her, leaning over her. She looked up at him and he took her arm in his other hand. He slowly brought her wrist to his face and he pressed his lips to the soft skin below the bandage. Her skin was warm and it was the first time he'd really been close to her intimately since she had been brought back. He suddenly felt the sweet relief of being able to touch her, to have her near him.

He wondered if this was alright for her, if it was too much. He glanced at her gray eyes and though her face was hard, she did not stop him.

His lips trailed down her arm, his hair brushing her shoulder as he kissed each bruise, each mark that didn't belong. His other hand lightly pressed against her waist, holding her to his side.

"Ya ever think," he mumbled into her neck, "That I wanna be here, in too deep? That maybe ya really didn't have a say?"

He lifted his face and read her gray eyes, staring back at him. But he dropped his face to the base of her neck and gently formed his lips around the curve of her collar bone.

"I think ya don't want ta admit it," he said into her skin. He glanced up at her, feeling the rise and fall of her chest. "You're in too deep, too."

She watched him as he kissed the exposed skin of her chest. His lips were soft and cool, leaving her skin tingling. But she forgot about the pain inside her, her frustrations, her anger. She just watched him and her muscles relaxed. She knew what he was doing and did not want to stop him. He knew her condition and wouldn't try anything, not for a while.

She had never seen him be so gentle. Though his lips were softer than the cotton sheets beneath her, he still had the "disposition of Jack Kelly", the dark and hard exterior that no one could get past. She wondered if he would ever let her in. But maybe he thought that about her, too.

He kissed her all over. He removed her nightgown and saw all of her, her beautiful curves and the horrible attacks that had stayed on her skin. He kissed her stomach, his lips and tongue tasting her as he trailed down to her lower abdomen. He kissed the small round cigar burns inside her thighs and the finger nail scratches around her hips. He kissed the bruises on her ribs and her breasts, erasing the bite marks that he hoped would fade away. After he kissed her wounds and scars, he didn't see them anymore; it was just her, like she had been so many days ago.

He felt her fingers in his hair and he looked up from her left arm, reading her eyes. Her fingers laced through his light brown hair, watching his handsome face.

Between her legs, she ached, ached for Jack, but she fought away the pain. She was surprised she could feel anything, but for Jack she did. But she just wanted to feel his skin against hers, no walls or fears. She wanted the night they had first been together, on the wooden floor, nothing but the warmth of their skin between them.

Jack lifted himself and brought his face up to hers, suddenly trapping her lips with his. His mind went blank and all he could feel was her. This is where he had wanted to be; this had been the only thought in his head as he had searched for her; here, with his lips on hers, something he had only gotten to do a few times. With her fingers still in his hair, she placed her other hand against his side, feeling his breathing as their lips moved against each other. He felt like he couldn't get close enough.

Soon the light outside faded and the sunlight grew dim and changed into night. Breaking his lips away from hers, seeing the time that had passed outside, Jack lied down next to Talia, his bare chest against her back as he wrapped his arm around her protectively, pulling her to him. He had removed his shirt but not his pants. Though he felt that she would be okay, he was not ready to be that intimate yet, even if it was just them lying next to each other.

He got under the sheets with her, her naked body pressed tightly to his. And they lay there, only feeling each other. He had waited to see if it was too much for her but she rested her head in the crook of his neck and shoulder and did not discourage his fingers from lightly touching her skin.

He stared out the window, listening to the noises of the city outside, listening for anything to make him tense.

His hand every now and then would trail up and down her side, his fingers raising bumps on her skin. Even though it was painted with dark bruises, she was still soft. His hand formed around the curve of her hip almost in a possessive way. She didn't mind.

He pulled the sheets over them and as he settled behind her, he slowly kissed her shoulder. He glanced up to the window, his breath hot on her skin as his light eyes scanned the window pane, waiting.

He couldn't see that she was staring at the window too.

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