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A week later, Stephen was more stable and the doctors in the unit were hopeful that he would eventually make a good recovery. Jack had tried on numerous occasions to get Jo to go and rest, but each time, she had refused to leave her son. She had barely eaten and the dark circles under her eyes showed clearly on her pale face. Jack himself had rested regularly, going to his office and sleeping on the sofa since he knew that he would be of no help to anyone, otherwise. He knew that Stephen was on the mend, albeit very slowly. Now, he knew he needed to tackle Jo.

He entered Stephen’s room to find his son sleeping and Jo watching him. Crossing to his wife, he drew her out of the comfortable chair and kept a firm grip on her as he escorted her out of the door. As she realised what Jack was trying to do, Jo began to struggle, but he had her firmly and didn’t relinquish his grip on her arm until they were in the tiny office nearby. Only once he’d shut the door firmly and sat her down in the chair, did he finally let go of her, fully expecting her to lash out at him.

Instead, he was surprised to see tears trickling down her cheeks. He knelt beside her and wrapped his arms around her, allowing her to cry her worry and anger away. Only when she began to struggle for breath did he speak.

“Please stop crying, Jo.” He heard her try to gulp back her tears and drew away enough for him to tilt her face towards his, worry showing clearly on his own face.

“I should be with him, Jack.”

“You need to rest, Jo. He’s getting the best care possible and what he needs now, is his mother to be well enough to look after him. You’ve barely eaten or slept since he was brought in and you’re still in the early stages of recovery yourself. If you don’t rest, you’ll end up back on complete bedrest in here and you won’t be allowed to see him at all.”

“No. I can’t. I can’t do that while he’s still like this. I can’t.” Jack saw she was becoming agitated and hastened to try and reassure her.

“That’s why I’ve brought you away, darling. You have to rest yourself before it gets to that stage. I don’t want it to happen to you, either, but it will if you don’t listen to me. As hard as it is for you to leave Stephen, it’s just as hard for me to watch you making yourself ill again with worry over him. Let the doctors take care of him for a few days. I promise he won’t come to any harm while you’re away from him.” Jo shook her head, but Jack stopped her, cupping her face in his hands. “You have to, Jo. You have to rest before you’re given no option.”

He rose and gently pulled her back to her feet, placing his arm around her waist. He led her through the corridors until he reached a room. Jem was watching from a distance and gave Jack enough time to help Jo undress and get her into bed before he entered quietly, closing the door behind him.

“I’ve brought you a drink, Jo,” he said, coming over to the bed. Jack moved to one side. Jo took it without question. Her body was exhausted and she had no fight left in her. Her hands trembled as she held it to her lips and Jem steadied her while she drank. When the cup was empty, he took it from her and stepped back, allowing Jack to return to her side.

“Lie down and sleep, darling.” He tucked the covers around her and watched as the draught Jem had given her took effect and she knew no more.

Jo slept for the next twelve hours. Her body was exhausted and the effects of the sleeping draught Jem had given her remained in her system. It was as it began to recede that she became restless and started to toss and turn in the bed, muttering ceaselessly under her breath. Jem had gone to begin his shift and Jack had returned to Stephen, knowing that when she did wake, Jo would want to know how he was. Thus, when the nightmare began there was no one with her.

There was no one around. She was alone with Stephen in a dark room. Instinctively, she cuddled the baby to her, trying to protect him. He began to whimper and she looked down, straining to see him in her arms. She murmured softly to him, trying to reassure him that there was nothing wrong. She would look after him. His whimpers continued, becoming more agitated by the second. She attempted to stand up but found she was unable to move from the chair. Even as she fought her bonds, a light was abruptly turned on, flooding the room with brightness. It was so bright; she felt blinded and was unable to see anything. She tried to keep hold of Stephen, but felt him lifted roughly from her arms. Even as she cried out, something was pushed into her mouth, making her gag and gasp desperately for air. Then she heard the screams. They were desperate screams. Her eyes came back into focus in time to see men pour something onto her son. The steam drifted upwards as the men in the room laughed at her terror. They continued their torture until the screams faded and she could hear them no more. Jo closed her eyes to try and blot out the scene she had just witnessed. The men turned to her now. They shook her in the chair. She tried to scream but, the gag muffled the sound. The men laughed at the terror in her eyes. They shook harder….

Jo's eyes flew open and, as the room came into focus, she saw her husband by her, worry etched across his face. Tears trickled down Jo's cheeks as she tried to move and discovered she couldn't pull herself free.

“Shhh, Jo. You're tangled in the covers. Lie still and I'll untangle you.” Jo obeyed and Jack gently pulled the sheets and blankets from around her, straightening them back up. Then he perched on the edge of the bed, taking her hand in his. He gently stroked her hair away from her face with his other hand.

“Tell me about your dream, Jo.” Jo shook her head wildly. The nightmare was too vivid for her to be able to express it in words. Jack felt her shaking from the intensity of what she’d just experienced and stood up. “I’ll get you a drink, Jo. It might help you to calm down a little.”

“No! Don’t leave me! Please?”

“I won’t be long, I promise.” Jack managed to extricate himself and disappeared through the door. Jo hauled herself upright in bed, knowing that she was unable to sleep any more. When Jack hadn’t re-appeared a few minutes later, she climbed out of bed and began to pace the room.

When Jack returned with a drink ten minutes later, he found Jo agitatedly pacing up and down. He put the drink down on the bedside cabinet and caught her before she started another length of the room. Pulling her into his arms he just held her closely, hoping he could provide some comfort. Jo rested her head against his chest and he felt her arms go around his waist. He could feel Jo trembling as he held her close and dropped a kiss on her hair before manoeuvring her gently back towards the bed. Jo was still tired and made no objection when he tucked her back under the covers. He pulled the chair up beside her and stroked her hair away from her face.

“Drink this, darling.” Jack picked up the cup and handed it to Jo as she propped herself up on one elbow.

“What is it?”

“It’s just tea.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want something to make me sleep again.”

“There’s nothing in it, Jo. I promise.” Jo reluctantly took the cup from him, sniffing the contents before she drank. When she had finished, he took it from her and replaced it on the cabinet.

“Jo? I need you to tell me about your dream.”

“I can't.”

“Yes, you can.”

“How is Stephen?”

“He's doing well. Try not to worry about him.”

“That's easier said than done. I want to see him.”

“Tomorrow.”

“No! Now! I need to see he's alright.” Jo sat up, despite Jack’s efforts to stop her.

“Was Stephen in your dream?”

“They killed him, Jack. They poured something on him and killed him. I couldn't stop them.” Tears trickled down Jo's cheeks. Jack moved to sit next to her and wrapped his arms around her.

“Tell me from the beginning.” Jo spoke brokenly as she described what had happened. Jack held her closely as he listened. When she finally ran down he wasn't surprised at her need to see their son.

“I'll get a wheelchair and you can see him for five minutes.”

“Thank you.” Dropping a kiss on her cheek, Jack disappeared to find a wheelchair, returning as fast as he could. He helped Jo into it and swiftly propelled her along the corridors to Stephen. Just before he pushed her into the room, he stopped and crouched down beside her. “Five minutes, Jo. I'm bringing you back out after that so save your breath.” Jo nodded her acceptance and Jack pushed her into the room.

Stephen was sleeping and Jo just dropped a silent kiss on his forehead holding his hand lightly, acutely aware of the fact that he was still very frail. Jack watched her and, after five minutes were up, he gently removed her hand. Jo understood his gesture and dropped it into her lap. He quickly wheeled her back to her own room where he helped her back into bed before sitting down beside her.

“Thank you.” Jo attempted to smother a yawn as she spoke, but Jack saw her.

“Get some more sleep, darling.”

“I daren't sleep. What if it comes back?”

“It won't come back, Jo. You've seen Stephen and you know he's going to be alright. I'll stay with you.” Jack made to turn the light out, but Jo stopped him.

“Please leave the light on.”

“I’ll turn the main one off and leave the lamp on.” He angled the lamp so its glow was low against the wall and turned the main switch off, plunging the room into a dim gloom. Crossing to the bed, he gently moved Jo across slightly so he could lie down beside her. Jo snuggled in to his arms, grateful for the comfort she found in them. Before long, they were both slumbering, never hearing Jem when he came to check on Jo during his rounds. He withdrew as quietly as he’d entered, not wishing to disturb them.




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