Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: Sam Lomax said: "John Paul, I am begging you, please get some help." And that was why he found himself, two days later, hunched on the stairs of his darkened home, clutching the telephone in his shaking hand and listening to a man named Mickey…
WARNING: Contains non-graphic discussion of male rape, which is canon for both characters.
Notes: Never thought I'd write this. This fic sprang from a "what if" conversation and wouldn't go away.
John Paul had dialled the number three times before he got through. The first time he'd bottled out, slamming the receiver down as soon as his fingers finished dialling. He had walked up and down the front room, arms alternating between hugging himself and fidgeting at his side, hating himself for his cowardice. It felt like his heart would never stop racing.
He tried again over an hour later and met with an engaged tone. He hung up and sat on the stairs for a long while. His heart still beat frantically in his chest, as if he were running up a hill not hunched on the staircase.
He made himself call one last time. And this time it picked up.
A recorded message played. "We're connecting you to Survivors."
John Paul waited through another couple of rings and then a man's voice said, "Hi, this is the Survivors helpline." His words were spoken in a rough London accent but his tone was gentle. "My name's Mickey."
Silence met Mickey Webb's greeting. That wasn't uncommon. A lot of callers, so used to not speaking about what had happened to them, simply didn't know how to start.
"I understand how difficult this is," Mickey said, "and you don't have to say anything you don't want to. We have 30 minutes but you can hang up at any point, OK? Even if I'm in the middle of a word." He knew the importance of placing the control of the conversation on the caller. "But if you want to talk, I want to listen."
There was a stifled hitch of breath. Young. Broken. He was probably a first time caller, although you could never accurately guess, even with a hundred years of experience. Mickey remembered making his own call, so long ago now, to this very helpline. He knew the tremendous amount of courage it had taken to even pick up the phone.
"I know it probably doesn't feel like it right now, but talking helps."
A shakily drawn breath was his only reply.
"Are you safe?" He asked, another priority, just as important as control, but for other reasons, "right now? Where you are, is it safe?"
"Yeah," the word was barely audible, "I'm…" a gasp of breath, threatening to be a sob, "I'm at home."
"Yes." Then a choked sob and a strangled "no," that Mickey could barely make out. The hard won admittance filled Mickey with dread.
"No?" He repeated, concerned now for the young man's safety.
The man on the end of the phone went silent.
"You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to, OK? I'd just like to make sure you're safe." Mickey explained, trying to put as much reassurance in there as possible. "That it's OK for you to talk, if that's what you want."
A drawn breath and a long pause and then, "my son…he's upstairs…" the words were strangled, "…in his cot."
Mickey's eyes flicked over to the picture that he propped up against the computer screen when he manned the phone lines – the smiling faces of his two beautiful girls and his gorgeous baby boy – to ground him in their reality and felt his heart twist in his chest. He couldn't imagine what coping with everything that Martin Delaney had put him through and care for them as well.
"I don't…I don't know what to say."
"You could tell me what happened or how you feel, if you can."
John Paul's fingers tightened around the phone, knuckles going white. His heart pounded loudly in his chest, the vibrations so sharp and harsh that his whole body shook. He felt… He felt…
He didn't want to say how he felt, because saying it aloud would mean hearing it. And he didn't want to hear it. Better to keep it inside, hidden away, where he could try to pretend it didn't exist.
Mickey continued talking; gentle words of encouragement spoken with the same inflection of authoritative care that marked Sam's conversations with him, reassuring him. Mickey sounded as sure and as certain as Sam had on the night it happened: This was not your fault.
But he still found it impossible to believe. Finn was no more than a mere child. He was a grown adult. In school, he was responsible for his students – in loco parentis – and his actions had consequences for them. This was a consequence for Finn's and it had to come from him, from his lack of teaching experience, his lack of authority, his weakness in lessons…
A sob broke free from his chest, loud and sudden.
Mickey's voice fell silent for a moment then began again, even more softly and gently. "I know how hard that is to believe right now."
"But it isn't your fault. It's never your fault." Mickey told him. "Nothing you said or did, or didn't say or didn't do, caused this to happen." But he knew how difficult that was to believe, not so much with the head which could in time look on the events logically and agree that it wasn't your fault, but with the heart that stubborn clung to the belief and made you hate yourself for it long after the head would have made peace with it.
The young man on the end of the phone continued to cry. His sobs sounded harsh.
"Do you need a minute?" Mickey asked. "I can wait."
There was sound that might have been confirmation, then shuffling and finally sniffing.
When he judged that the young man's breathing was a little more even, he asked, "Um…?" wishing the caller had given his name and was about to ask if he was OK when he spoke.
"John Paul." His voice was shaking. "My name is John Paul."
Mickey smiled. The name did more than give Mickey something to call him. It was a sign of trust.
"John Paul." Mickey repeated in his London accent. "I'd like to hear what happened to you, if you want to tell me."
A stab of fear went through him.
"But only if you want to tell me, OK?"
It had been so hard telling Sam that day, he'd almost bottled out, but she finally coaxed him to say the words. He hadn't said them since and had cut her off whenever she was about to say them.
"I get the feeling you do want to tell me." Mickey said. "It's OK if you can't. It takes time."
"I was…" he managed, then bent his head, let out a slow breath until his lungs hurt from the compression, "…raped." The word came out on the last dregs of air left. His heart clattered, labouring for oxygen.
"I'm glad you felt you could tell me."
"Last month… It was last month and it still-" The words jammed up in his chest. "I just want it to stop."
Mickey remembered that vividly still. How the pain of it just ate away inside you, never dulling, never ceasing. He remembered the desperate wanting for just an hour or two without feeling like that – a lull in storm, like taking co-codamol for a migraine in the sure and certain knowledge that it would eventually wear off – where he could gather his strength again to keep going. But medical science had yet to provide an emotional pain killer.
He talked John Paul through some CBT techniques, but as good as those were, they always felt to Mickey like the psychological equivalent of the little Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke. Great for a small personality leak, but pretty much useless against the torrent of rape trauma.
And when he was done, Mickey became aware of the time.
"John Paul, our 30 minutes are nearly up."
There was something that might have been an "OK."
"You can call again, if you need to, or we can arrange face to face counselling."
"OK." A shaky breath sounded. "Bye."
"Stay well, John Paul."
Then there was the dial tone.
Mickey's house was dark when he got home. Andrea, their nanny, had long since gone to bed in the spare room but she'd left a mug with a splash of milk and sugar and a teabag in it next to the filled kettle with a note that said "boil me." He smiled and clicked the kettle on. He really didn't pay her enough.
He heard sounds upstairs and went up to his bedroom. Jackson was standing up in his cot and offered a four toothed grin at the sight of his father. Mickey scooped the boy up and hurried back to finish making his tea. Little Jax put his thumb in his mouth, laid his head against Mickey's shoulder and gave every indication that he was intending to spend the night there.
Mickey thought of John Paul as he sipped his drink. He hoped he was OK, hoped his son brought him as much comfort as Jackson did.
After he'd finished and dumped the mug in the sick, Mickey climbed the stairs and then checked on the girls. Lily had curled into a ball while Violet was sprawled out, their sleeping positions as different as their personalities. Their faces however were as identical as it was possible for twins to be and every day they looked more and more like Liz.
She was living in Portsmouth now, with her aunt, and according to Andrea, she Skype'd the kids after playgroup on most weekdays. But that wasn't being their mother. Not really.
Mickey then walked into his bedroom and gently laid Jackson in his cot. He gave a whine of protest but didn't waken. They'd had this boy to save their relationship – if he could call the ill-considered events that they'd fallen into after Liz had been released from prison a relationship, sleeping together for comfort leading quickly to a pregnancy – but the terrible post natal depression Liz suffered after his birth had finished them.
He thought of John Paul again. He had sounded young, as young as Mickey had been when Martin Delaney had devastated his life, younger maybe. His pain had sounded so raw, so fresh, so…familiar…
Mickey sighed as he sat down on the bed. It happened this way sometimes. Something about the caller's voice would pierce through the carefully constructed professionalism and hit home. And as much as it kept him up at night, he wouldn't ever stop volunteering.
John Paul sat, he didn't know how long, in the darkness of his home, forehead pressed against the knees he hugged to his chest. Tears and mucus had dried sticky and unpleasantly on his cheeks but he didn't even move to wipe it away.
Crying sounded from upstairs. John Paul lifted his head.
The crying continued.
He slowly uncurled his limbs, feeling them ache with stiffness, and got up. He walked up to his bedroom and stood in the doorway. Matthew was standing up in his cot, face red from crying. The little boy held up his arms to be picked up and his cries began to form a "dad-dad" sound.
John Paul leaned back against the door before sliding down it to hunch on the carpet.
Matthew stuck one chubby arm through the bars, trying to reach his father, and his cries grew loud.
John Paul screwed his eyes shut and covered his ears.
Mickey leaned down and brushed the backs of his fingers against Jackson's baby soft cheek. His kids gave him such strength.
"Be strong, John Paul." He said aloud.