“You’ll be eating through a straw rest of your life.“ Tommy Lee Royce snarled, delivering another painful kick to Catherine’s side. She gasped and spat up blood, whimpering, and then she stepped on her wrist, full force. The pain was blinding as her bones cracked. “You’ll need someone to wipe your arse for you.“ He laughed in a mad, cruel kind of way.
“Catherine…“ A voice cut through the fog of her senses. A hand on her shoulder, far too gentle to belong to the man that had caused her so much pain, shook her awake. “CATHERINE!“ The police sergeant came to with a start, she slapped away the hands that only sought to comfort her.
“Fuck…“ Catherine’s heartbeat was thundering in her ears, she was disoriented, she threw the duvet back as if it was holding her down and captive, her head was spinning.
“Catherine.“ Arms wrapped around her trembling frame. “It was just a dream, you’re okay.“ The voice was calm and reassuring, the soft London accent sounded so foreign to Catherine as she finally pulled herself out of her vertigo.
“Shit, sorry, oh God, I’m so sorry…“ She mumbled as she grabbed on to her girlfriend’s arms. Then, remembering her profession and dislike for blasphemy, she winced and apologised again: “And sorry, again for… fuck…“ Catherine buried her face in her hands and rubbed herself fully awake.
“It’s okay, calm down, take a deep breath,“ Jane Oliver instructed, nesting her head against the police sergeant’s back. “You’ve had a nightmare, you’re safe,“ she reassured her and pressed a kiss between her shoulder-blades.
“Safe? What does that even mean?“ Catherine huffed.
“You’re in no immediate danger,“ Jane retorted calmly and eased her grip on her once she realised her breathing had returned to normal.
“Right…“ Catherine nodded, pulling away a little. She was uncomfortable and sticky with sweat. She needed to change her shirt.
“Was it…?“ The vicar asked gently and she needn’t carry on for Catherine to answer:
“Yeah, course it was…“ she retorted more brashly than perhaps necessary as she realised in dismay that they were at the vicarage and the only spare clothes she had was her uniform for tomorrow. She would have to bring some of her things around, so long as Jane didn’t mind…
“Well, you have a range of traumatic experiences to choose from, I wouldn’t want to presume,“ Jane gave back, watching her girlfriend intently.
“Wise arse…“ Instinctively, Catherine wrapped her left hand around her right wrist, the one that Tommy Lee Royce had broken by brute force. The shooting pain was psychosomatic of course but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt. Jane reached out and took her hand, made her let go with the other, and she pulled it towards her lips. She placed a soft kiss just above her pulse point and Catherine gave a soft, involuntary sigh. Jane was so gentle, so kind, she was still not used to the small gestures of comfort that made her heart a little lighter.
“Is there anything I can do?“ she asked.
“Nothing you’re not already doing.“ And that was the truth. Jane Oliver had taken up the difficult task of rebuilding Catherine Cawood, bit by bit. Most people in Catherine’s life expected and needed her to be strong. A leader at work. A caretaker at home. A pillar in the community. Jane didn’t need any of that from her. She had her own strength, the strength of her convictions and the confidence that she had the Almighty on her side. It astounded Catherine, time and time again, how much the vicar had to give. She had asked her about it once, about how she did it, how she didn’t run out of patience, of strength and quite frankly of fucks to give. And Jane had smiled and said that all she wanted to do was serve: the people, the community, her God. And - if Catherine let her - her too. She would look after her and she did.
“Come here…“ Jane said softly, as she spotted the tears pooling in her girlfriend’s eyes.
Catherine nodded and took a deep breath. There was no point in putting up a front and pretending to be strong. Not here, not with Jane. She moved a little closer again and lay down, resting her head on her lap. Jane leaned back against the headboard getting comfortable and ran her fingers through her hair, stoking out knots that sleep had tangled into her thick blonde mane. Funny, Catherine thought, how she was so much taller and more imposing than other woman, but when they were alone like this, when it was just them and Catherine’s demons, she felt like Jane was like a fortress around her. She took comfort in her calmness, her incredible capacity for kindness and quiet strength, she felt more secure, more grounded than she ever had.
“You know people are scared of me,“ Catherine mused, closing her eyes.
“Let them,“ Jane chuckled, brushing her hair from her face.
“It makes it easier. When people don’t get close to you… to hide all the… shit that's going on in your head…“ the police sergeant admitted.
“I know…“ the vicar nodded without judgement. “You let me in, though…“
“Didn’t have much of a choice…“ Catherine chuckled lightly. “You might not have taken my nightmares yet but you sure as hell have taken my senses and G- fuck knows what else…“ She rolled onto her back, head in Jane’s lap still, as she looked up to her. “You’ve taken my heart an’ all,“ she said sincerely and Jane smiled.
“I can’t take anything from you, Catherine, no-one can. If I could I would have taken your nightmares. As for everything else, well… you must have given that freely…“ She cupped her cheek and brushed away some stray tears with her thumb.
“I don’t mind giving my heart to you, I know you’ll look after it…“ Catherine said and reached up, touching her fingers to her cheek, almost to make sure she was real and here, with her.
“I try to,“ Jane smiled and turned her head, pressing a kiss to the palm of her hand right there.
“I love you, you know… mad as that sounds…“ Catherine breathed. She could hardly believe her luck. All the nightmares, the pain were forgotten, at least for a time when Jane answered:
“I love you too, Catherine.“