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The Care and Keeping of Jamie Tartt

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Roy doesn’t know he’s done it until he’s already across the room, his arms full of Jamie fucking Tartt. 

He feels more than sees Jamie flinch, and it makes his heart fucking ache. He’s got half a mind to follow Beard and Jamie’s shitstain of a father out into the corridor, give the son of a bitch another fucking shiner, but again, he’s got his arms full of Jamie fucking Tartt and he won’t be letting go anytime soon. 

The lad freezes for a moment, barely a moment, and while it’s better than the flinch in some ways, in others it’s fucking worse. Makes him think of his sister, just after her shitty ex had finally left. Any time Roy would touch her shoulder, her back, go to hug her, she’d freeze. Like she wasn’t sure what to do with being touched like that, out of kindness. 

Just like that, Jamie freezes. Freezes like he's forgotten how to be touched by someone. Like he's forgotten that touch can be kind. Fuck. But Roy keeps a hold of him, won't even consider letting go. In his arms, Jamie is safe from whatever that fuckhead of a father wants to try. In his arms Jamie is safe from whatever Jamie wants to do to anyone else, or himself. 

Jamie is frozen in his arms, and that’s alright. He’s frozen, and it’s okay. He’s still in one piece. 

And then he fucking shatters.

Jamie's weight just drops against Roy's chest. He claws at Roy’s back, clinging to his jacket. His face buries into Roy’s neck, and he fucking sobs. 

He hates to say it catches him off guard. Roy unclenches his fist, opens his hand, and lays it across Jamie's shoulder tentatively. Jamie doesn't flinch, or if he does, Roy can't pick it from the way Jamie's body lurches and shakes as he cries. Roy holds him through it, clings to Jamie just as tight as Jamie clings to him. He’s here. He’s here right now, holding Jamie as tight as he can lest he crumple to the floor.

Jamie keeps sobbing and Roy keeps holding him and the rest of the team keep fucking staring and looking away and staring and looking away. It’s a fucking train wreck, he gets it, but Jamie’s been a spectacle enough for one day. 

Nate takes the initiative. “C’mon lads,” he says softly, “let’s get to the bus.” 

The team files out quietly, some lingering a moment longer, wanting to offer their own comfort but having no idea how. Any other time, they'd go for a group hug. Roy'd bite someone's arm off if they tried it right now.

Only once the room is empty does Roy feel the courage to speak. Softly, barely above a whisper. “It’s alright,” he says, “it’s okay.” His hands stroke Jamie’s back of their own accord. “I’ve got you. I’ve got you.” Jamie sobs harder at that and fuck, that's the opposite of what Roy was aiming for. But he keeps going, offering any and all comfort he can. "I'm right here, I've got you. He's not going to lay a hand on you or bad hair ever again."

"Prick," Jamie mutters against Roy's throat, but there's humour to it. Thank fuck.

"Yeah I know," he says softly, stroking Jamie's back. "I'm the prickliest prick in all the land." 

Jamie's arms tighten around Roy for a moment before he pulls away. He doesn’t go far. Roy lets his arms fall to his side, unsure what to do with them now. 

Jamie wipes his eyes and nose with the cuff of his sleeve. He still looks a right mess, so far removed from the Jamie fucking Tartt Roy recognises. 

He doesn't know what to say? What is there to say? How can he say any of the things he said just moments before, now that there's a foot of distance between them and Jamie's emotional walls are rebuilding as they speak?

He's staring at Jamie, a little fucking lost, but Jamie won't meet his eyes. 

"I've missed the bus," Jamie finally says.

Roy blink, trying to think up what opportunity Jamie thinks he's passed up, when it hits him that Jamie did miss the fucking team bus home. "It's alright. Get your kit, I'll drive you home." He doesn't wait for Jamie to argue.

He texts Keeley, tells her to meet him at the car. 

She hides her surprise well when a tear-stained Jamie Tartt follows him too. She doesn’t say anything, just gives Roy a look. At his nod, she lurches forward, wraps her little arms around Jamie’s neck and holds on for dear life. 

Jamie gives Roy a startled look, but Roy just shrugs. He takes the kit bag from where Jamie dropped it in surprise and stows it away in the boot. When he resurfaces, Keeley's disengaged from Jamie, whose eyes look redder and wet. 

Roy drives. Keeley takes the backseat with Jamie, his head on her shoulder. It should make him uncomfortable, watching the two of them so close like this. Considering everything that went on between those two before he and Keeley finally got together, maybe he should be worried. In truth though, whenever he catches sight of them in the rear-view mirror, it just makes his heart ache in the best of ways. 

Halfway home, there’s a little snore from the backseat. Roy can’t blame him, it’s been a intense fucking day. 

He’s sure Keeley notices that they miss the turn off for Jamie’s place. She doesn’t question it, and Roy doesn’t offer an answer. He just keeps on driving. 

“I think I forgot what it’s like to care about him like this,” Keeley confesses. 

“Like what?”

She shrugs, but Roy gets it. He does. He thinks he’s half-way to feeling it himself. 

“Can you tell me what happened? It’s okay if not.”

“His dad came into the rooms. His fucking shitstain of a dad. Doesn’t fucking deserve to be a father. Jamie got him good, but fuck , Keeley, it was mental."

“He punched his dad?" she hisses, incredulous. 

“Nearly had the entire AFC Richmond on him too. Lucky sod got away with a punch to the face and Beard throwing him through the doors."

"Fuck. What else?"

"What?" He catches her eye in the rearview mirror.

"Well," she gestures at Jamie's sleeping form tucked against her side.

Roy sighs. "I dunno. One moment I'm watching Jamie fucking shell-shocked after decking his dad and the next moment I'm across the room hugging him and he's crying in my arms." He turns down their street. "I didn't know what else to do."

"Shit."

"Yeah."

She’s quiet for a moment, before she says, "I'm glad he was with you. I'm glad he's with us." It says more than the words convey. 

"Me too." He doesn't realise how much until he says it.

They pull into the driveway. Jamie's still sound asleep against Keeley's shoulder. 

Between the two of them, they get Jamie's dead weight out of the car, propped up against the car door. He hands Keeley his keys and scoops Jamie up into his arms. His knees creak but he manages, carries Jamie over the threshold like a bride while Keeley holds the door.

While he's got half a mind that their bed would be much more comfortable for Jamie, Roy doesn't think his knees will handle both their weights up the stairs. He settles on the couch, depositing Jamie's sleeping form as gently as he can. 

Roy watches him sleep, too fucking sentimental for is own good. 

Keeley's arms worm their way around his middle from behind, her chin digging into his spine. "You're a good man, Roy Kent,” she tells him. 

"Didn't do this to be good."

"That's why you're a good man."

"What are we going to do with him?" He asks, and hopes she understands all the questions he's asking with it. 

"Look after him." She says it like it's the easiest thing in the world. "We'll look after him."

"And tomorrow?" And the day after that?

"We'll find our way." She squeezes him once more before she lets go. "I'm gonna make some phone calls, maybe order some tea. You fancy Vietnamese?"

"Sounds good." He turns, takes her hand, and pulls her into a hug face to face. "I love you," he says into her hair. It feels important to tell her that, so he says it again. “I love you so much.”

"I love you, too." 

He lets her go, watches her smile, turn, and make her way down the hall. 

Roy settles on the stool by the breakfast bar and starts reading his book. Doesn't get very far, every paragraph or so he finds his eyes drifting over to the couch, watching Jamie drool over one of Keeley's fluffy cushions.

Eventually, he gets sucked into the book, the mystery too engaging. He almost misses it when Jamie wakes with a start. “Where the fuck-”

“You’re at ours,” Roy tells him, closing his book and setting it down on the bench. “Fell asleep in the car on the way home.”

"Could have woken me up." The couch creaks. “I don’t need a fucking babysitter.” 

“Do I look like a fucking nanny to you?” Roy bites back. He sighs, and tries again, nicer. “Would you just sit down the fuck down? Keeley’s ordered some food, it’ll be here any second. More than enough for the three of us.” 

Jamie shrugs and settles back down on the couch. 

“She’s making a few phone calls. Security won’t let that bastard anywhere near the team or the ground again.”

Another shrug. 

“The entire team has your back. No one else is going to know. No one thinks any less of you.”

“Alright.”

“She’s also got the number of a lawyer who’s really good with-”

“Oh fuck off already! I don’t need you looking after me. Yes my dad is a fucking deadbeat, it doesn’t mean I need to be coddled like a fucking baby! It’s already bad enough the entire team fucking knows, the last thing I need is the press finding out that Jamie Tartt’s good-for-nothing daddy likes to smack him around a bit. So just fuck off already, just fuck off.” He buries his face in his hands, digging the heels into his eye sockets. 

Keeley clears her throat from the hallway. She holds up the brown paper bags in her hands. “Food’s here?” she offers with a wince. 

Roy sighs. “Thanks babe.”

She drops the bags on the kitchen bench and makes her way over to Jamie on the couch. She crouches down in front of him, gently taking Jamie’s wrists in her hands, prying them away from his eyes. 

“There you are,” she says softly, a watery smile on her face. "There's that gorgeous face. I've missed it while it was away."

Jamie sniffs and tries to turn away, looking anywhere other than at her or Roy. There's a smile waging war on his lips at Keeley's soft, silly words. Roy knows the tug too well.

“Do you remember the guy I dated before we met?” she asks, seemingly out of the blue.

“Goalie for Tottenham for a while?” Jamie answers. Roy wracks his brain trying to recall this story and comes up blank. 

“That’s the one. Do you remember what we said about him?” 

“He was a right bastard. He didn’t deserve you.”

“That’s right.” She glances over at Roy, takes a fortifying breath and continues. “He didn’t deserve me. And I didn’t deserve the way he treated me, did I? You’re the one that told me that.” 

“He never should have-”

“That’s right. He never should have. But he did. And you were the one who helped me see that, Jamie. Helped me see that I was better than he ever could ever be. But more than that, you helped me get out. You know that you’re better than your dad. You’ve known it for a while now. Let me help you get out, Jamie. Let me and Roy help you.” 

“He’s my dad , Keeley.” 

Roy jumps in before he can stop himself. “But that’s not how a dad should treat their child. He’s given up the right a long time ago to call you his son.” 

"But we can tackle any of the big stuff later," Keeley says. "It's not something you need to think about now. Now, we're going to have tea, maybe a drink, and get some rest. Anything else can wait, alright?"

She rides to her feet, still holding Jamie by the wrists. She tugs him to the dinner table, and Roy takes his cue to collect the take-away bags and three sets of cutlery. 

Together, he and Keeley set the table around a slightly stunned Jamie and begin to dish up the food. It's oddly domestic, the three of them like this, but again Roy isn't weirded out when he thinks he should be. 

They eat in relative silence, the pair of them glancing across at Jamie every so often as he pushes food around his plate. Every so often he takes a bite, almost robotically, but he's still eating something, so Roy takes that as a win. 

When they’re done, Jamie stares at his plate, unseeing. Roy can hear his thoughts gaining traction. He rises from his seat moves until he’s behind Jamie’s chair. Lays a hand slowly on his shoulder, squeezing gently. "Go take a shower,” he tells him. “Wash off the day. You'll feel better afterwards." 

He doesn’t miss the way Jamie relaxes under his hand. He lets go anyway. He finds Jamie’s kit bag where Keeley left it, by the base of the stairs, and hands it to Jamie, now standing behind his seat. “Anything you’re missing, just shout. There’s clean towels under the sink.” 

Jamie nods and takes the bag, his eyes still out of focus. Roy watches him as he takes the stairs up to the bathroom, watching each and every step for a slip or falter. 

“He’ll be alright,” Keeley assures, and Roy wonders how much of that is for her sake or for his. 

They tidy up in silence, boxing up leftovers and stacking the dishwasher. They take turns getting ready for bed in the tiny powder room downstairs, before they head up to the bedroom. 

By the time Jamie exits the ensuite, Roy and Keeley are tucked up in bed. He freezes in the doorway, unsure of what to do next. 

Roy, despite himself, takes in the sight. Jamie at least managed to find a clean pair of shorts and a t-shirt in his kit bag. His knees are no longer stained green. Jamie’s hair is damp, hanging free without all that product and that stupid little headband holding it back. It looks impossibly soft like this, and the desire to touch washes over him. He wonders if Jamie would like it, having his hair touched. Stroked. Pulled. He doesn’t follow that train of thought any further.

“I guess I’m staying the night then?” Jamie says, uncertain. “Since you’re all in bed early like a pair of geriatrics.”

Roy grunts. "The couch is made up downstairs." A lie, but it's an easy fix if that's what Jamie decides. "Or..." He trails off, can't make himself say it.

Keeley jumps in. "Or you could stay with us?" They haven’t discussed it, but it seems like the only option for either of them. Fuck, Roy loves her. Loves her more than he can say. 

"What the fuck?" Jamie blinks. 

"It's been a fucking day, alright Jamie? I'm exhausted. Just get the lights and come to bed." Roy grunts and rolls over.

Jamie is silent for a while, silent enough that Roy half expects him to fuck off down stairs and order himself an uber. "I don't understand what you want from me,” he says eventually. 

Nothing at all, not now, but that's too vulnerable, too painful to get into right now. "Was I not clear enough? Lights off. You in bed. Preferably tucked right in the middle so Keeley and I can give you a cuddle before we all go the fuck to sleep." Just vulnerable enough.

Roy can practically hear the cogs turning. "Alright," Jamie settles on. The lights flick off. He slides onto the bed, crawling to the middle. 

Keeley pulls back the covers as best she can, and manages to tuck Jamie in. 

"Better not get any ideas," Jamie warns them, "what with me being in your bed and all."

"Scouts fucking honour." 

Keeley grins. "I make no such promises." She reaches out a tentative hand for Jamie's hair, stroking it away from his face. "I do promise that that prick isn't going to get anywhere near you."

"Me too," Roy says, shuffling closer. "I'll fucking gut him if he lays a hand on you again." And he means it. He'll tear out James Tartt Senior's throat with his teeth if he comes across the prick again. Fuck. This protective streak better not mean anything. He worms an arm across Jamie's torso, his hand settling somewhere near his stomach. "This alright?"

Jamie's stomach flutters under Roy's touch. "Yeah. I still don't understand why you care."

"Doesn't matter why," Roy mutters into the pillow, tugging Jamie a fraction closer. "Just that we do."

"Get some sleep," Keeley tells them, sliding her silk sleep mask down across her eyes. "Anything else we can sort out in the morning."

It's quiet enough that they almost miss it, whispered under the covers. "Thank you." 

 

FIN