It was 6am and Paddy was lying awake contentedly watching Rhona feed Leo. Suddenly the spell was shattered by the unexpected sound of the phone ringing. It had made him jump and his sense of calm turn to concern; he wasn't on call so who could be ringing him at this time of the morning. He reached for the phone, anxious now to find out. He didn't recognise the male voice on the other end of the line, but his message had him leap from his bed and give a hurried explanation to Rhona as he dressed. Five minutes later he was in his car and heading to Hotton, to the police station.
The phone call had come from there, from an officer who'd been friendly with Donna, Marlon's ex; he knew of the family, knew a certain member of the Dingle clan had recently been in court and felt compelled to let his family know that he'd spent the night in a police cell. Aaron would be released soon, had been asked if he wanted to make a call, if he wanted to ask someone to come pick him up, but had refused. Being very aware of Aaron's recent history the officer hadn't been happy to just let him go, was concerned about him and so had phoned his home address.
He was so relieved he had, now he could make sure the lad got home safe. He'd thought he was home, tucked up in his bed, he should have checked on him before going to bed himself but Aaron had snapped at him earlier in the evening for fussing, told him to back off and he'd decided to give him some space, he wouldn't make that mistake again.
He'd been told that Aaron had been arrested for being drunk and disorderly! He was struggling to get his head around that. He'd never seen the lad drunk, but he supposed he could understand why he'd got in such a state. He was trying to numb the pain, escape the guilt he was feeling, doing it his way, alone! He wasn't letting any of them in, not letting any of them help, determinedly pushing everyone who cared about him, who loved him away. He was so scared for him, they all were, they didn't know how to reach him, how to stop him self-destruct, but they were going to have to find a way, they weren't prepared to lose him, they loved him too much.
The bed... no you couldn't call it a bed it was more like a bench... was unbelievably hard not to mention cold. He'd woken up thinking he was lying on concrete. It wouldn't be the first time he'd slept rough, surrounded by nothing but fresh air and litter. But he'd opened his eyes to find four walls around him, had found himself in a room that was strangely familiar... that was because it wasn't the first night he'd spent in a police cell... and it probably wouldn't be the last!
He could remember being brought here, and he had a tangible reminder of his undignified arrest... his eyes were still stinging from the spray used to subdue him. He'd stopped fighting then and instead started calling the police all the names he thought guaranteed to get right up their noses. They hadn't taken the bait though, they'd just let him rant, had ignored all his insults, and all the time telling him to calm down which had just served to make him more angry.
He could remember banging on the cell door at one point, yelling still more abuse, his throat left dry by his actions, his already bruised and bloody knuckles taking more punishment. They were hurting badly right now, were smarting and stiffening up, he'd punched a wall, vented some anger on it because it just happened to be there, because the man he was angry with wasn't, and never would be, not now. And whose fault was that? Who was the cause of this endless nightmare? Whose actions had broken so many hearts and shattered so many lives? His! Yet he was still walking about a free man... well he would be when 6:30am came. The cell door would open and he would walk free again.
They'd got it wrong; the twelve nameless faces had got it so very wrong. They'd had the power to lock him up for at least ten years but they didn't. What was wrong with them? He'd killed someone, took their life, he'd committed a crime, he should have been punished for what he'd done, made to pay... but no, he'd been patted on the back and sent home.
They obviously hadn't been listening to Jerry's testimony, he'd exposed him as a bully, a thug, a nutter, his a convincing take on his son's lover...and it had all been true. He had been a bully, a thug, he'd lost his head countless times, he'd done some awful things in his time. He'd tried to change, had wanted desperately to change and for a little while he had. First Paddy and then Jackson had helped get his life in order and him on track, but not even their love and determination could stop him from messing up, stop him from doing stupid things. His biggest mistake not understanding or acknowledging his feelings for Jackson, not until it was too late, not until the damage done was irreparable.
Everyone kept on forgiving him, gave him chance after chance, and they'd all been ecstatic at the verdict, everyone except Jerry of course. They'd either hugged or kissed him, smiles and relief lighting up their faces. But the verdict hadn't made him happy, he hadn't felt any relief. He'd been shocked by it at first, he kept thinking he was dreaming or that he'd heard wrong. Now he'd accepted it as reality and he was angered by it, and anger had once been his closest and only friend.
An officer had earlier brought him a cup of tea and he was sipping on it now, he'd also encouraged him to phone home but he hadn't wanted to do that, what Paddy didn't know wouldn't hurt him. No he'd catch the bus home, try and slip in unnoticed, he was actually quite good at doing that.
He couldn't face Paddy's or Rhona's or anyone's concern for that matter, he didn't deserve it. He couldn't face a barrage of questions either, that was guaranteed to set him off, no he just wanted to be left alone.
He could hear footsteps now, they stopped outside his cell, seconds later the door was opening and he was being told he needed to collect and sign for his stuff before leaving. He hadn't had much on him, just his house keys, money and mobile. It was all there and he tucked it all back into his hoody pockets as he headed out into the morning sunshine.
Seeing Paddy was there waiting for him should really have been of some reassurance, of some comfort, but it had only irritated him, so had his softly-softly approach. He'd rather he give him a bollocking. He'd quickly turned the exchange into a one sided argument, angrily rounding on the older man, finally storming off but not before lashing out with his foot and kicking Paddy's drivers side door in... well he'd asked for it!