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If I get hurt again (I'd take a lifetime to repair)
She can feel Tracy's eyes on her, curious and sympathetic at once. It irritates her, for some reason. She whips her head around and glares at her. "What?"
"Nothing," Tracy says, quickly, moving her gaze back to the telly. "Just...thought you might want to talk, that's all."
"I already told you what happened." Vanessa's really trying not to take this out on Tracy. She's had a hard week herself.
"All you said was that you and Charity had a row and she broke up with you."
"And that's all there is to tell." She can't explain any of it to Tracy without betraying Charity further, and she's definitely not going to do that. She'll never forget the look on Charity's face as she stood behind that police officer. She never wants to see that look again. She never wants to feel this way again.
"Yeah, okay." Tracy bumps her shoulder with her own. "But if you do want to talk about it, you know I'm here, yeah?"
Vanessa lets out a slow breath through her nose and nods, managing a quick smile at Tracy. "I do. Thanks."
"Good. 'Cause you've been brilliant through this whole thing with Phil and David." Tracy wraps an arm around her, pulling her in and kissing her head. "So I want to be there for you too."
It's the kind touch that does her in. She turns her face into Tracy's shoulder and sobs, barely hearing Tracy's words of comfort.
A little later, after she's got herself back under control and evaded Tracy's questions again, there's a knock on the door. Vanessa sighs. It'll probably be Rhona and she really doesn't want to face anyone else right now. Tracy nudges her.
"Don't you want to get that?"
Vanessa sighs. "Can't you?"
"It might be Ch-"
"It won't be Charity," Vanessa says, immediately. "Charity's...busy." That thought makes her feel physically sick and she closes her eyes, trying desperately to banish the thoughts of Charity writhing under some faceless bloke from her mind.
"Well, she might've finished whatever she was-"
"Look, Tracy, it's not her, alright?" Vanessa snaps. "So will you please just go and ans-" The door opens.
"I'll let myself in then, shall I?"
Vanessa's stomach twists at that voice and she's up on her feet before she can even think, turning to see Charity standing in the doorway to her living room. Gorgeous as ever, though a little worse for wear, and swaying slightly on her feet. Tracy also stands up and moves so that her arm is pressing against Vanessa's, a solid comforting presence by her side.
"Oh good. Maybe you can tell me what the hell's going on," Tracy says, flicking a thumb at Vanessa. "Because this one has barely said a flaming word all afternoon."
Charity lifts an eyebrow at Tracy.. "No? I'm surprised at that, if I'm honest." Her eyes slide over to meet Vanessa's. "That's your thing, i'n't it, Ness? Telling all and sundry about my business?"
"Charity," Vanessa begins, already feeling the tears start to well in her eyes. "I've said I'm s-"
"Yeah, yeah," Charity waves a dismissive hand at her. "Always sorry, you, aren't you?" She takes a few steps into the room, stumbling. Tracy moves forward and grabs her biceps, keeping her upright.
"You alright?" Tracy asks, frowning as Charity jerks out of her hold, stumbling again before leaning on the back of the couch for balance, head hanging heavily forwards.
"How much have you had to drink?" Vanessa asks, a flash of the wine bottle in Charity's hand earlier coming to her mind. Charity lifts her head slowly, her eyes are hard and mocking when they come into view.
"You're one to talk." The words are slow and slide into one another. "I seem to remember prising a bottle out of your hands two or three nights running not so long ago."
"I never said-" Vanessa presses her lips together. Whatever she says now is going to be the wrong thing. "Look, just...sit down, okay? I'll make you a coffee."
Tracy's looking between them in concern. Vanessa had thought when she told her that her sister didn't particularly think that the row was serious. She suspects Tracy thought they'd kiss and make up before the night was out. Well, now she knows they're well past that.
"No, I'm not stoppin'," Charity says, standing up to her full height again, attempting a smug smile. "I came to tell you something and then I'll be off."
"Look," Tracy begins, moving so that she's slightly in front of Vanessa. "I don't know what's going on between you two, but she's been bawling her eyes out all afternoon, so if you've just come to be narky at her-"
"Who's being narky?" Charity throws her arms out. "I'm a proper ray of sunshine, aren't I babe?" She winks at Vanessa.
"Tracy, can you just...give us a minute?" She reaches over and squeezes Tracy's arm when she doesn't move. "Please? We'll be fine."
"She can stay if she likes," Charity says. "All I came to tell you was that I didn't sleep with whatshisname earlier."
Vanessa's heart starts thudding in her chest; the hope that she'd refused to acknowledge springing back to life.
"What?" Tracy barks. Vanessa keeps hold of her arm in case she thinks about squaring up to Charity. Tracy spins to look at her. "What's this she's on about? Sleep with who?"
Vanessa ignores her, eyes locked on Charity. "Didn't you?" she breathes. For a second, she thinks she sees her Charity, the Charity who makes her laugh and holds her when she's upset and isn't going anywhere. But then she's gone, and this hurt, spiky creature is back in her place.
"No." Charity folds her arms over her chest. "An' I don't know why you even deserve to know that...but...well, there you go."
"Is someone going to tell me what's going on?" Tracy demands.
"Tracy, please, just...just go upstairs and give us a minute eh?" Vanessa pleads.
For a bit it looks like Tracy might be about to disagree, but eventually she lets out a sigh and heads for the stairs. She turns back to look at Vanessa. "Just yell if you need me, okay?" Vanessa nods and Tracy climbs the stairs.
Looking back at Charity, Vanessa gives her a tentative smile. "What made you change your mind?" She regrets asking the moment the words are out of her mouth. She doesn't need to know any more details than she currently does.
Charity shrugs. "He was boring me rigid. Kept talking about exercising and that. One of them health nut types."
"Right," Vanessa nods. "Well. Thanks for telling me."
Charity lets out a scoff, her eyebrows lowered, confused. "I don't even know why I did."
Neither does Vanessa, but the fact that she did is causing all kinds of flutterings in her chest. Even after everything, Charity came over here to make sure Vanessa knew she didn't sleep with anyone else. That has to mean something.
Charity moves to lean against the staircase, but misses by quite a margin and stumbles until her back hits the spars. Vanessa moves towards her, but stops short of touching her.
"Look, please, please just sit down before you fall down, eh?" She tries to keep her voice gentle, to make a request rather than give a command.
"M'not stoppin'," Charity says again. But she walks around Vanessa, her strut hampered by uncooperative legs, and throws herself down on the sofa, pushing herself into the corner against the cushions Vanessa had piled there earlier. She sighs and closes her eyes.
Vanessa just stands and looks at her for a moment. She looks so at home sitting there, like she belongs here in Vanessa's home. Like she belongs with Vanessa. But she's not stopping. Because Vanessa ruined everything. She broke them.
"I'll, uh...I'll make you a coffee." A half-hearted grunt is the reply, and she turns away, blinking back tears. She heads to the kitchen and flicks the kettle on, getting out a mug and fixing it the way Charity likes it. She glances over a couple of times but Charity's just staring at the ceiling.
When it's ready, she heads back through to the living room and bends to place the mug on the coffee table. Before she can stand back up, Charity reaches out, catching hold of her right hand. Not wanting to discourage the contact, Vanessa crouches by Charity's knees, looking up at her. Charity's not looking at her. Her gaze fixated instead on the compression bandage binding her wrist.
"I hurt you," she says.
"It was an accident," Vanessa tells her, quickly, watching Charity's thumb as it rubs over the bone in her wrist. "You didn't mean it. It's fine."
Charity's eyes slowly come up to meet her own. "You hurt me," Charity says, her lip trembling.
"I know." Vanessa's throat thickens and she turns her hand under Charity's, grasping her fingers. "I know I did. And I know sorry doesn't...doesn't take it back or make it better. But I don't know what I can do."
"Nothing," Charity says, shrugging one shoulder. "S'done. Can't change it now."
"I just wanted to-" Vanessa casts around for the right words, the words that'll make Charity see. "I just wanted you to feel safe. I wanted him to be put away and you to know you were safe and he couldn't hurt you like that again."
"I was safe," Charity tells her, eyes clearer than they were a few moments ago. "I was safe with you. I felt safe with you. That's why I...I said all those-" She sighs and shakes her head. "Not now."
"Oh God." A sob erupts from Vanessa's throat and she covers her mouth to keep the next one in. "Charity, I-"
"I thought it was gonna be you, you know?" Charity whispers, blinking too slowly. Every word scrapes another layer off Vanessa's already tattered heart. "I thought you were it."
She forces herself to speak past the rawness in her throat. "Charity-" But Charity puts a clumsy finger over her lips, shaking her head. Her eyes drift closed, her finger slowly sliding off Vanessa's mouth.
"We could've had it all, kid."
Vanessa covers her face with her hands and weeps silently as Charity begins to snore.
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