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A Life Worth Living

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Jo starts running down the stairs, but draws to an abrupt halt when she hears Kate singing to herself in the kitchen as she fries off some sausages, apparently none the worse for wear considering they only got three hours of sleep last night. It takes her a moment to recognise the song, because although Kate’s voice is passable, she’s singing it without any musical accompaniment, but when Kate gets to the chorus, the penny finally drops and Jo has to purse her lips to stop herself from laughing out loud because, apparently, her sex is on fire. She tiptoes down the rest of the stairs and then sneaks a look around the kitchen door, and her smile gets even wider when she sees Kate dancing between the kitchen counter and the hob, using a metal flipper to tap out an imaginary beat against her thigh. It’s absurd, really, because even with the knowledge that the OCG are out there, pooling all of their resources into hunting them down – right now, at this moment, Jo feels privileged, not persecuted.

She’s forgotten what it’s like to be the cause of someone else’s happiness, to have someone’s face light up when she walks into a room. Her Mum was always so pleased to see her whenever she got home from school, probably because Jo’s youthful exuberance was a distraction from the memories she’d been left to wrestle with in her absence, but then Tommy arrived on the scene, and Jo’s Mum could barely look her in the eyes anymore. Her presence only seemed to aggravate or provoke Tommy and she quickly learnt to walk out of rooms, instead of walking into them, so she wouldn’t have to hear him rant about being sick of looking at her miserable, ungrateful mug.

At work, she would hear everyone talking and laughing good-naturedly from outside of her office, but as soon as she strolled into the bullpen, the chatter would abruptly die down and people would snap to attention. Even though her team would offer her polite smiles and a smattering of laughter on the rare occasions she tried to lighten the atmosphere or crack a joke, she knew that their respect would never extend to friendship. They never invited her for drinks after work, or to birthdays or wedding receptions. Buckells always got an invite, though, because apparently being a good-time guy who was game for a few laughs made up for his utter incompetence; made him a more desirable boss than someone who was driven to get results and make sure things were done right the first time…when she wasn’t being forced to deliberately get them wrong. Jo told herself it was for the best, that maybe if her team all secretly thought she was an aloof, uptight bitch, when they found out the truth about her, it would feel more like a foregone conclusion than a bitter betrayal. Even Farida stopped looking happy to see her when she got home from work and it didn’t take long for her warm welcomes to be overshadowed by suspicion, accusation and hurt. 

Jo will never forget the first time Kate poked her head around her office door, told her everyone else was heading to the pub after work and asked her if she wanted to come along, even though Jo could see the rest of the team trying to hide their looks of dismay while she did it. Kate must have seen the doubt on her face, because she’d stepped into her office, closed the door and said conspiratorially, “I’ll tell you what, boss. How about I sack this lot off and we go somewhere else, just the two of us?” Jo’s initial reaction had been wary – because she thought the only reason Kate could possibly want to spend time with her outside of work was to mine her for information – but then Kate started to look embarrassed, to apologise for overstepping, and she’d found herself hastily agreeing.

She’d sat across from Kate, feeling shy and awkward, and knew it was only a matter of time before Kate realised the reason why she always got straight down to business at work was because she didn’t know how to do the social stuff - she didn’t know how to behave around friends, because she’d never really had any. She drank her wine more quickly than she should have, but Kate made her feel at ease, encouraged her to open up a little and acted like she was genuinely enjoying her company. Jo kept waiting for Kate to make her excuses and leave and, when Kate returned from the bathroom, she fully expected her to receive a phone call from one of her friends, bailing her out, but before Jo knew it, it was 10.45pm and she was the one who finally called it a night, citing their need to be in a fit state for work the next morning. When Kate hugged her goodbye, Jo held on to her for a fraction too long and hoped she didn't look as flustered as she felt when she pulled away.

When she arrived at the station the next day, she half-expected the bullpen to be abuzz with rumours about poor, pathetic Jo and her failed relationship, so desperate and lonely that she treated what was meant to be a pity outing like it was a date, but she was greeted with the usual nods of acknowledgement until her eyes sought out Kate, whose grin was warm and welcoming. Then she’d stepped into her office and there was an almond croissant and cappuccino waiting for her on her desk, accompanied by a post-it note that said, ‘Thanks for last night - I had a great time,’ and she’d caught Kate’s eyes through the glass walls of her office and Kate looked like she meant every word. Jo hadn’t known whether to feel elated or blink back tears, but she’d settled for a nod of thanks and a small smile. She’d tried to distract herself with reviewing a witness testimony, until she snuck another look at Kate’s desk and realised Kate was regarding her affectionately as she shook pastry crumbs off her paperwork. Even then, in spite of the little thrill of excitement she’d felt when Kate went bright red and promptly swivelled her chair back around again, something inside her head was chanting: this can’t be real, she must have some kind of ulterior motive, what would someone like her ever see in someone like you?  

Now, she expects Kate to blush again when she walks into the kitchen and catches her mid-performance, but Kate just stops singing and shoots her a megawatt grin, eyes twinkling with a fondness Jo’s still trying to fathom. When Kate returns her attention to the sausages, Jo crosses the distance between them, embracing her from behind and standing on tiptoes to plant a kiss on her cheek.

“Thanks for washing up,” she murmurs, noting that all the evidence of last night’s meal has disappeared.

“No worries. I think you might need to save these sausages from cremation, though, because the little buggers keep rolling all over the place and I can’t get them to brown evenly like you do.”

Jo regards her with amusement, but Kate doesn’t relinquish her grip on the flipper when she reaches out to take it from her, she just uses it to tug Jo towards her instead, drawing her into a lingering kiss. Jo’s forced to shake the frying pan haphazardly with one hand while the other threads through Kate’s hair, still damp from the shower, but then she finally musters the willpower to pull away.  

“You’re going to upstage Chris with dance moves like that,” she informs Kate, who laughs, remembering Chris’ mortified expression when Jo walked in on him proudly demonstrating his flossing technique.

“I’ve got nothing on the gaffer. You should’ve heard him belting out ‘I Did It My Way’ at the Christmas party a couple of years back. Me and Steve were crying with laughter. I’m pretty sure we were the only ones left by the time he finished. I’ve got the video on my phone; I’ll show it to you sometime.”  

Kate’s talking about a future Jo still can’t quite bring herself to believe in, but the offer still makes her smile.

“What kind of music are you into?” Kate asks her, retrieving some butter from the fridge, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything playing in your car.”  

“I don’t usually listen to it, to be honest,” Jo confesses. “It was such a big part of my life growing up, but now so many songs remind me of my Mum…and of him. Back then, music was my way of drowning everything else out, but now it just makes it all come flooding back, you know? The amount of times I’ve put on the radio and turned it straight back off again…”

“I do the same with songs that remind me of Mark. Especially our wedding ones.” Kate shoots her an easy-going smile, like she can sense that Jo doesn’t want to put a dampener on the mood.

“What did you choose for your first dance?” Jo asks curiously, trying and failing to picture Kate in all of her bridal glory.

Kate pulls a face.

“I wanted something energetic, something that would get everyone out of their seats and make them laugh, but Mark was adamant he wanted that Foreigner song – ‘I’ve Been Waiting for a Girl Like You.’ You know - ” Kate proceeds to sing the chorus in an exaggerated falsetto, while Jo snorts into her glass of orange juice - “So I had to stand there cringing while he crooned into my ear. And the tempo was so bloody slow, so we were just stood there swaying back and forth like a right pair of numpties.”

“So what song would you have picked?”

“I don’t know. With the benefit of hindsight, probably ‘Highway to Hell.’”

“Kate!” Jo exclaims, but she’s laughing.

“‘Should I Stay or Should I Go,’” Kate adds for good measure, and Jo flicks her lightly with a tea towel. She takes the sausages off the heat and Kate takes the pan from her, adding them to the bread she was just buttering.

“Mum always had the radio on,” Jo confides, her expression suddenly wistful. “I think she needed the noise to distract her from whatever was going on inside her head. As soon as I got home from school, she’d start blasting the golden oldies and we’d dance around the living room until the grumpy old git next door started banging on the wall with his walking stick.”

Kate’s smiling along with her. “She sounds like a lot of fun.”

“She was,” Jo confirms, but her smile falters a little when she recalls what fuelled her mother’s high-spirited behaviour, “But looking back, I think she was drinking a lot.”

“But she looked after you properly?” Kate hedges, looking like she’s not sure whether she should be asking the question or not.

“For the most part.” Jo’s planning to leave it at that, because the bite she’s just taken of her sausage sandwich is already starting to stick in her throat, but Kate’s looking at her with that expression, like she knows there’s a lot more to the story and she’s waiting for her to fill in the gaps.

“Were you happy growing up, Jo? I mean, before…” Kate trails off, and Jo can see that she desperately wants her to say yes, wants to believe that there was at least some period of her life where she didn’t have to struggle and suffer. But she promised to be honest, so she settles for levelling Kate with a pointed stare.

“Do you really want me to answer that?”

Kate hesitates for a moment, looking conflicted. “Only if you’re comfortable talking about it.”

“I think I’d rather snuggle up on the sofa and watch some trashy daytime TV,” Jo admits, and to her relief, Kate immediately drops the subject, even though she looks a little disappointed.

“Phil and Holly it is then. The weather looks like it’s going to take a turn for the worse anyway. Just let me grab the phone in case Steve tries to get in touch.”

Kate returns with a blanket and then they’re trading quips about the weird and wonderful guests on This Morning and at some point, Kate puts a cushion on her lap and Jo lies down, fighting to keep her eyes open while Kate’s fingers absent-mindedly comb through her hair. To anyone else, it would probably be a boring way to while away the morning, but to Jo, it’s a rare glimpse of contentment.

“Mum did her best,” she tells Kate quietly, during an ad break, and Kate’s hand briefly stills against her shoulder, before resuming its earlier ministrations. “But she’d only just turned sixteen when she had me. She was still a kid herself. And she had to go through it all on her own. Knowing what I do now, it’s a miracle she managed to hold it together for so long.”

Jo finally understands why her Mum always needed a dram of whiskey to help her sleep at night, why it would take her days to re-emerge from her bedroom after she received a phone call from home, why she would crawl into Jo’s bed late at night and sob against her shoulder, but never tell her what was wrong. The only time her Mum ever lost her temper was when Jo demanded to know the identity of her father - when, for once, Jo refused to heed Samantha’s pleas to drop the subject and kept pushing for answers. The slap across her face made her cheek smart and her ears ring, but it was the shock that ultimately left her reeling. Her Mum had never laid a finger on her before and never did again, but Jo will never forget the broken look on her face when she told her, your father is everything that’s bad about this world, Jo, and you are everything that’s good, and I don’t want you to be infected by his poison like I was.

“It can’t have been easy for you, either,” Kate points out, dragging her back to the conversation, “Being raised by someone that young, with no support network.”

You have no idea, Jo thinks, but she doesn’t say it out loud. “Everyone assumed she was my older sister and when they found out she wasn’t - that we lived in a dingy little council house by ourselves - Mum was the talk of the town. She’d never even had a boyfriend, and strangers in the street were calling her a whore.”

“It would’ve been hard not to take it to heart at that age, too,” Kate observes sadly, and Jo nods.

“She was feisty, though. She gave as good as she got, but it didn’t always help her cause. Or mine,” she notes with a wry smile, “That old man I mentioned earlier - the one who used to complain about how much noise we were making? Well, apparently four-year-old me was prone to asking him, “what the fuck are you looking at?”

Kate lets out a bark of laughter, clearly conjuring up visions of a pint-sized, potty-mouthed Jo.

“I obviously didn’t know what was going on at the time - Mum did her best to shield me from it all - but once I started school…” Jo falters, remembering the colourful array of insults that were hurled at her in the playground, how she’d asked her Mum what some of the words meant only to watch Samantha’s face fall and her eyes well with angry tears. “Well, like they say, kids can be cruel. Even when they don’t have a bloody clue what they’re talking about. And their Mums were just as bad. They all looked down their noses at us.”

Kate mutes the TV, giving Jo her undivided attention. 

“I’m sorry, Jo. That must have been tough. For both of you.” Kate reaches for her hand, and Jo gazes down at her slender fingers - the fingers that drove her to distraction until the early hours of this morning - and she’s grateful for the momentary interruption, for Kate’s ability to dull the pain, so sharing her story feels less like cleaving open a raw wound and more like a gradual blood-letting. 

“We were on welfare during the Thatcher era so, needless to say, money was tight, and I’m definitely not going to tell you what my nickname was at school, because it was mortifying,” Jo admits, with a hollow laugh, “But I never got invited to anyone’s house for tea and no-one ever wanted to come to ours. Which was probably a good thing, because Mum had a hard enough time making sure I had enough to eat, let alone anyone else.”

She doesn’t tell Kate that her Mum had to resort to washing her clothes at the sink using soap and water, that she was often faced with the prospect of having a cold bath or not having a bath at all, and she frequently chose the latter. If nits were ever doing the rounds, Jo was always considered the likely culprit. But she’s not going to risk ruining what’s left of her sex appeal by telling Kate that she used to be known as Dirty Davidson.

Still, even without the finer details, Kate looks thoroughly depressed, so Jo gives her a gentle nudge.

“Come on, Kate, it’s not like I grew up in a Dickens novel. It wasn’t all bad. Mum never lost her sense of humour and she went out of her way to make me feel like I was loved, and wanted, which must have been hard for her, given the circumstances. She used to make up funny names for the other kids, tell me they were only mean to me because they were jealous of me, because I was prettier and cleverer than they were. And at the time, I think I actually believed her.”

“Well, she wasn’t wrong,” Kate informs her softly, and Jo rolls her eyes, even as she shoots Kate an indulgent smile.

“Was there ever anyone else on the scene, or was it always just the two of you?” Kate asks, and Jo finally sits up, leaning against the back of the sofa and tucking her knees against her chest.

“It felt like it was us against the world until I got to secondary school, but then I was out of the house for longer and I think it got harder for her to stave off the loneliness, so she started dating.”

Jo’s being tactful, because the sound of her Mum gagging and retching through the paper-thin walls while some guy grunted obscene words of encouragement at her was about as far removed from romance as she could imagine.

“I think she was hoping to find someone who would step up and support us, but the blokes she got involved with were only ever after one thing,” she observes bitterly, “And I was always the one who had to pick up the pieces when they left her crying on the kitchen floor or refusing to get out of bed for a week. I just couldn’t understand why she kept going back for more. Even I could see she was hoping against hope, and I was just a kid.”

It’s hard to hide her revulsion when she remembers the revolving door of Glasgow’s finest. Men who made her clothes stink of weed and cigarettes, men who raided the fridge and ate the dregs of food that were meant for her, men who made her feel so uncomfortable she’d hide in the playhouse at the park until their cars finally disappeared, even if it meant staying out until midnight.

“It’s not uncommon for girls with your Mum’s background to look for love in all the wrong places,” Kate observes, and her expression remains warm and sympathetic.  

“I know,” Jo says quietly, “But understanding the psychology and living the reality are two different things. I tried so hard to keep a low profile at school, to avoid any unwanted attention, and sometimes she made it impossible. I’d walk up the corridor and someone would shout, ‘Jo’s Mum’s putting the prossies out of business because she keeps giving it away for free.’ It was hard to keep on walking when all I wanted to do was turn around and punch them, you know?

Kate winces at that. “I’m not sure I could have taken the high road.”

“I didn’t. At least, not all the time,” Jo admits sheepishly. “One time, a boy in my year cornered me when I was walking home from school, dragged me into an alleyway and asked me if I was as easy as my Mum. He tried to put his hand up my skirt, and I just snapped. Went completely feral for a minute. I didn’t realise how much rage was there, bubbling under the surface, until I started lashing out at him, and he got thirteen years’ worth of it. I knocked seven shades of shit out of him.”

“Good,” Kate informs her matter-of-factly, and she looks perversely proud. “He deserved it.”

“I didn’t stop shaking until the next morning, when he told everyone he got jumped by some kids from a school down the road. Thank God, because I never would’ve forgiven myself if I’d been suspended. I always thought school was our ticket to a better life, you know? That’s why I worked so hard, made sure I was predicted As in all of my GCSEs, so I could get a good job and get us out of that place. I kept telling Mum, “one day, we’re going to have a fully-stocked fridge and run as many hot baths as we like and we’ll go on holiday and you won’t have to waste your time on these twats anymore,” but then Tommy showed up…”

Kate’s not looking at her anymore, she’s staring at her hands, and Jo realises with a sinking feeling that maybe she’s already said too much.

“I bet you wish you’d never asked now,” she jokes, trying to lighten the mood. “I’m sorry, Kate. I’ve never talked about this stuff before and now it’s all just spilling out but I don’t want you to sit there feeling like you’re in an occupational health session. I’ll make us a drink.”

Jo gets up, but then Kate’s pulling her back down again, and it’s only then that she realises Kate’s eyes are shining with tears.  

“It’s not that, OK? I’m so glad you’re opening up to me because I want to get to know you, Jo - all of you. It just makes me so bloody angry that all of that stuff was happening to you and not one person cared enough to stop and think, maybe that kid needs help.”

“It made me angry for a while, too,” Jo admits quietly, “But then, I guess I never asked for it.”

“Do you have any idea how incredible you are? To go from that kind of upbringing to the woman you are today?” Kate asks her, but Jo shakes her head, because whatever stature she had, whatever respect she held, is non-existent now, and it was all built on a web of lies anyway.

“What, a disgraced former DSU destined to spend the rest of her life in witness protection, hiding from the criminals she conspired with?” she asks sardonically. “Mum would be so proud.”

“You said it yourself, Jo, there was a time when you believed your Mum when she told you that you were exceptional, and you still are,” Kate informs her steadfastly. “Whatever Tommy did, whatever he said, it was designed to beat you down and control you, but that little girl who felt like she could take on the world is still in there somewhere.”

No, she’s not, Jo inwardly retorts, she’s still crying and screaming and trying to figure out how to get her Mum’s body back over the bannister. “You don’t know what it was like, Kate. The bastard always seemed to know how to hit where it hurt. He’d buy me all of the things Mum was never able to afford just to make her feel inadequate. And then he’d invite me to come and live with him right in front of her, say he could give me the life I deserved, because I was special and I shouldn’t have to struggle to survive, and she was a worthless piece of shit who would always drag me down.”

Jo sucks in a ragged breath, remembering the anger his words provoked, remembering how she’d told him to get the fuck out of their house, how he’d held his hands up in mock surrender and said he was only telling her the truth and that deep down, she knew it.

“I’ll never forget Mum’s face when he said I must have spent the past fifteen years wishing I could trade her in for a better model, wishing she was more like the other Mums, and I felt sick, Kate, because there were times when I did,” Jo admits, and she can’t stop a few tears from leaking out now, can’t hide the shame and the guilt. “I always thought that was why Mum killed herself, you know? Because she thought there was some truth to what he was saying, that there was some small part of me that wanted to go with him, just to get away from her.”

“Oh, sweetheart, no.” Kate’s hand is warm against her arm, and the term of endearment echoes in Jo’s ears, strange and foreign. “Anyone in your position would be looking for a way out, dreaming of a better life, but that doesn’t make you a bad person.”

“But I didn’t want to go with him,” Jo informs her furiously, face contorting with repulsion, “He turned my stomach. Even when he was promising me the world, I could see straight through him. I could see it in the way Mum looked at him, how she flinched every time he came near her. I hated him.”

“Because you were smart, Jo. Even at fifteen you figured out his MO, realised that he was manipulating you.”

“I kept telling him I didn’t want his gifts, kept asking him to leave us alone, to stop talking about Mum like that, until he finally showed his true colours. And when he realised he wasn’t going to break me, he started on Mum instead and…” Jo trails off, shaking her head as the tears become too insistent to ignore. “I can’t do this. I’m sorry, Kate, I just can’t.”

And then she’s doing what she couldn’t do all those years ago – running away, pushing open the back door and gasping for air.

“It’s OK,” Kate’s saying, and then Jo’s suddenly ensconced in her warmth. “Shhh. It’s OK. I’ve got you.”

Jo’s lost track of the number of times Kate’s been forced to do this, hold her close and wipe away her tears, murmur words of reassurance that feel like they’re resonating at the time, but clearly they’re not, or else she wouldn’t be doing this again, ruining what could have been a perfect morning by dumping more baggage on Kate’s doorstep.

“I’m sorry, Kate.” The tears stop falling more quickly this time, and maybe that’s some small kind of victory. “I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to talk about the past anymore. Can we just - ”

“OK, Jo, but I need to ask you something first.”

Kate’s touch is soft, but her tone is persistent, and Jo pulls back to look at her, at her sombre expression and inquisitive eyes, and recklessly thinks, why the hell not, let’s just get it all out of the way in one fell swoop, until Kate says the words,

“Bobby Johnson.”

“No,” Jo immediately retaliates, because she already knows what Kate’s going to ask, and that’s one item in her warehouse of horrors that she isn’t prepared to retrieve.

“Steve said he got the impression Bobby’s role in that ambush was personal and, when I told you Bobby wouldn’t give Steve any details about what happened between you that night, you looked relieved,” Kate points out, and her voice is steady and non-judgemental as she softly asks, “He did a lot more than just ‘cop a feel,’ didn’t he, Jo?”

And then Jo feels nauseous, because Kate knows - clearly she knows - that she lied to her again or, at least, she didn’t tell her the complete truth, but it was only because she was worried the truth would make Kate look at her the way she’s looking at her now.

Her head moves in something that vaguely resembles a nod, and she watches Kate’s cheeks turn ashen and her jaw set in a grim line.

“It’s not what you think – ” Jo starts to say, at the same time Kate says,

“You don’t have to give me the details, Jo – ”

“He touched me - made sure his grubby little fingers got their fill - but he didn’t rape me,” she blurts out, before she loses her bottle completely, “At least, not in the way you’re thinking. He tried to force me to give him oral sex – ”

Kate squeezes her eyes shut. “Jo, I don’t – ”

“But I… I bit him. Hard. As hard as I could.”

And then Kate’s eyes fly open again. “You mean, you bit his – ”

And Jo nods, and she has the irrational urge to laugh at the look on Kate’s face, a look that’s caught somewhere between disgust and satisfaction, but then she’s retching because she can still remember his taste, his smell, and how somehow, the coppery tang of blood seemed so much better than the rancid alternative. Kate rubs her back and smooths her hair away from her face as she pukes her guts up all over the grass, just like she heaved into the toilet basin that night, before she brushed her teeth and scrubbed her tongue until her gums were raw. It takes her a moment before she can speak again and, somehow, Kate’s still there, still right beside her, and now the worst bit’s over with, she thinks maybe she can finish the rest of the story.

“He was screaming bloody murder and he would have killed me, Kate, if Tommy hadn’t come running upstairs. Tommy saw me slumped against the wall with blood pouring out my nose and my top ripped open and he laughed. He laughed. Told Bobby to put it the fuck away and get a move on and then they both just left me there, on the floor. Bobby never came back to the house again after that, though.”

Kate’s quiet and her hands are shaking and Jo wonders if she’s just completely destroyed the trust they somehow managed to re-build, if Kate feels like she lured her into bed under false pretences, before she knew where Jo’s mouth had really been. The thought is too much to bear, so she excuses herself to brush her teeth, and Kate’s hand runs over the length of her back, but she doesn’t stop her from going. Jo rinses her mouth out and stares at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, hoping one day she might recognise the woman looking back at her, but her toothbrush clatters into the sink when she hears Kate start bellowing her name. It’s urgent and desperate and Jo immediately knows it has nothing to do with what they’ve just discussed, that something’s wrong. She catapults down the stairs, sees Kate on the burner phone, and she knows, even before Kate says to her in a commanding tone that feels so different from the affection Jo’s become accustomed to,

“We need to go. Now.”

And after the initial adrenaline rush subsides, Jo feels an eerie kind of calm wash over her because she always knew this would happen, that this could never last, and fear’s always been more familiar to her than freedom. She watches Kate grab the car keys and sprint towards the Land Rover, and she doesn’t bother to close the cottage’s door as she runs after her, hot on her heels.

Kate’s anything but calm, though, as she frantically turns the key in the ignition and they both breathe a sigh of relief when the engine starts the first time. Then Kate’s flooring the accelerator, compulsively scanning the horizon as she bombs down the narrow country lane, clearly frustrated that the Land Rover isn’t capable of going as fast as she wants it to – as they need it to.

Jo listens, chewing her bottom lip, as Steve gets the sharp end of Kate’s agitation.

“How far behind us? What do you mean, you don’t know?... I thought you and the gaffer were the only ones who knew our location?... Like sitting ducks… It’s not a getaway vehicle, Steve, it’s barely roadworthy. We’ll be lucky if we aren’t pulled over for a traffic violation… I can’t get on the bloody motorway, we’ll stick out like a sore thumb… We’ve just had to leg it out of there without any provisions… We don’t even have any cash, mate, Brian was sorting it all… I don’t know what we’re going to do when we run out of diesel… OK, so where the hell are we supposed to go? I don’t know the roads, I don’t have GPS, and the battery on this phone isn’t going to last for long… How the hell am I supposed to commandeer someone else’s car, Steve? I don’t have my warrant card! They’ll call the bloody police, won’t they?... Just sort something, Steve. Quickly. And get my license to carry renewed.”  

Kate hangs up, and then slams the heel of her hand against the steering wheel in frustration.

“Brian’s dead. Steve thinks they’ve tortured him into giving up our location,” she informs her abruptly, and Jo can’t stifle a horrified gasp, but Kate doesn’t even look at her, she’s still scanning the roads ahead of them, looking for any signs of danger.

“How did they track him down?”

“They must have infiltrated the witness protection programme, planted an officer on the inside. Someone who knew about Brian’s assignment. It wouldn’t be the first time.”

Jo knows what Kate’s referring to and she tries not to think about how Tommy died because, although it seemed like a fitting end for him at the time, it’s not one she wants to repeat herself. She takes a deep breath and then steels herself for what she knows she needs to say next.

“If it comes to it, Kate, you need to give me up, OK? I know they’ll agree to trade my life for yours, so give me up and then get the hell out of there. Josh needs you.”

“And I need you, so that’s never going to happen,” Kate informs her, and Jo looks out of the passenger window, so Kate can’t see how much those words mean to her, especially after her revelations this morning.

“These past few days, Kate, they’ve been the best I’ve ever had, and it’s enough for me, it really is, so - ”

“Well, I’m sorry, Jo, but it’s not enough for me. Not by a long shot,” Kate interjects, and her tone somehow manages to sound terse and tender at the same time. “And if this morning’s taught me anything, it’s that you’re a fighter, so we’re not giving up now, OK?” And then Kate’s hand is reaching across the gearstick, enveloping hers, and she finally glances in Jo’s direction. “OK?”

“OK,” Jo whispers, and for the first time since she was sixteen and protecting her mother - and then Max - from Tommy’s abuse, it feels like she has something worth fighting for.