Chapter 8

Abi felt very uncomfortable sat outside Ben Mitchell's hospital room – mainly because he probably didn't want her there – but she would feel guilty if she left him on his own. The adrenaline had definitely worn off and her cheek hurt. Obviously, she wasn't in anywhere near the same amount of pain as Ben was, but she couldn't help imagining how much it would have hurt if Nathan had really gone for it. She was scared; he'd warned her not to tell anyone, but surely Phil would have questions. What's she supposed to tell him? 'Sorry your son was brutally beaten and nearly died, but unfortunately I can't disclose the names of the thugs who put him in hospital – good day to you, sir.' Yeah, like that would go down well.

Her fear was only amplified when she saw Phil burst through the double doors, Jay following closely behind. He looked furious, but also worried – an emotion she'd never seen on Phil before. Most of the time he just looked like a grumpy bulldog.

"Where is he?" Phil demanded. Abi ignored the way Jay was examining her with his eyes, trying to look for any collateral damage caused by Ben's brawl.

"In there," Abi nodded to the room in front of her, Phil turning his attention to the window, watching the nurse shine lights in Ben's eyes. "The nurse wouldn't tell me the damage – family only, apparently."

"Wait here," he warned Jay before stepping out of the corridor.

Jay carefully sat in the seat next to her, trying to look at her without making it obvious. She played with a loose thread on her t-shirt, feeling the awkwardness surround her. The glances from Jay turned into staring when he noticed the slit on her cheek, which made Abi self-conscious and she moved her head to try and hide it.

"Abi, what the hell happened?" He sighed, but she refused to look at him.

"I didn't see everything, but these boys were knocking chunks out of him in the alley by the park. He was nearly out of it when I saw him. Eventually, they went away, and I called an ambulance."

"Do you know who they were?" Jay asks expectantly, but Nathan's words rung clear in her head.

"Yes."

"Okay," Jay responded slowly. "Who?"

"I can't," Abi whispered, scrunching her eyes closed and biting her lip. She felt awful – his brother had been beaten black and blue and she was too scared for her own safety to tell him who'd done it.

"What do you mean you can't?" He was becoming angrier, mostly because of what had happened to Ben, but partially because these arseholes had scared her. He didn't like seeing her afraid.

"I just can't, okay? You don't want to mess with them, Jay. You'll get hurt."

"I don't care," he told her honestly. "Listen, Abi, if they've said something to you-"

"They pulled a knife on me." Jay's surprised reaction doesn't go unnoticed. Abi's surprised herself as the words blurt out of her mouth, almost as though she was testing them to see if they were true. "One minute I'm telling them to leave Ben alone and the next, I'm against the wall and he's pointing a knife at me and I'm telling him to do it." She pauses, looking at Jay finally, who's looking back at her with disbelief. She gestures lazily to her cheek. "And he did, sort of."

Jay isn't sure he's hearing her correctly – this kid pulled a knife on her and she didn't even care. It makes him feel sick, knowing that she could have been laying there next to Ben, bleeding out, with no one around to help her. Looking at the gash on her cheek makes him angry – he's going to find out who did this and they're going to pay. He just can't believe she did all this on her own, or how well she's handling it.

"Is someone coming to get you?" He asks quietly, after a long pause. She just shrugs. She'd tried calling her dad, but it went straight to answerphone. She's called her mum's work and Jodie answered, telling her that her mum had gone out to get some supplies and wouldn't be back for a few hours. Then she rang the house phone, unsurprised to find that no one answered. She refused to call Bradley, but she did try Stacie, who also went to answerphone almost immediately. She even tried Fatboy, but he was clearly too busy with Tam to answer his phone. She had no one coming for her. That was just something she needed to get used to.

Phil stepped back into the hall then, causing Jay to check himself. Phil looked at Abi with confusion, like she was a missing piece to a puzzle he just couldn't work out. He shook his head after a moment and cleared his throat, almost sending Abi into cardiac arrest with what he said next.

"He wants to speak to you."

She was cautious as she stepped into the room with Ben, very aware of him watching he every move. This wasn't a position she ever saw herself in – having private conversations with Ben Mitchell while his family waited outside. She glanced out of the large window, Jay and Phil speaking in hushed voices about something she couldn't make out. That wasn't her main concern – her main concern was how much trouble she was going to be in when her dad found out about this.

"How are you feeling?" She asked quietly, perching on the edge of the chair next to his bed. She looked as awkward as felt.

"I've been better," he responded, and Abi could have sworn he was trying to joke with her. She offered him a small smile, but mainly tried to avoid looking at him. She just wanted to get this over with and get out of here. "You shouldn't have done that today. They'll be after you now."

"Like you'd care," she scoffs.

"You're not wrong, but you did sort of save my life today, so that's got to count for something."

"Think of it as payback for searching for Oscar the other week."

"They could have killed you, you know," he tells her slowly, like she's some sort of invalid. She nods at him, waiting for him to tell her what she's really here for. "That doesn't bother you?"

"Come on, Ben. I know you didn't ask me in here to dissect my mental state," She rolls her eyes, becoming impatient.

"What they said about me being… Being…"

"Gay?" Abi fills in for him, finally understanding why he wanted to talk.

"Yeah," he, confirms, looking ashamed. It almost makes Abi feel bad for him. "I need you to keep that to yourself. Please."

"I'll cut you a deal." She already standing, pulling her hair over one shoulder. "You don't say another word about my mum or my family at school, and it'll be our little secret." He nods in response, looking relieved. "Good," she tells him, getting out of there as quick as possible.

Jay's waiting for her when she's done, leaning against the wall next to where Phil's sat.

"Jay's going to walk you home," Phil informs her, and Abi nearly pinches herself to see if she's actually awake. "Don't get used to it. It's just to be safe."

Jay and Abi walked silently back towards the square. Abi doesn't want to say anything, and Jay doesn't know what to say. He's been avoiding her for so long that he didn't even know how to apologise. He knew she was angry, and she had every right to be, but he sort of missed her despite not really knowing her. He felt like he'd finally found someone he could be himself around that day in the laundrette and then he'd blown it.

"What did Ben speak to you about?" He knew he probably wasn't going to get much of an answer, but it was a start.

"Just asked me to fill him in on a few details he was hazy on." She felt bad for lying, but a deal was a deal. It definitely wasn't any of Abi's business who Ben was attracted too – and it wasn't any of Jay's business unless Ben told him himself.

"How's your face?" He was trying to get her to look at him, but she wasn't having any of it.

"Fine."

"Abi…"

"What, Jay?" Abi was exasperated. She wanted to go home and forget today even happened, not make small talk with Jay Mitchell.

"Can we please talk? You're not being fair."

"I'm not being fair?" She laughed humourlessly, stepping towards him with vengeance. "How fair was you being when you left me that night at the laundrette and then refused to even look at me for weeks?"

"I know-" he tries, but Abi's far from done.

"I didn't even get an explanation. What did I do, huh?"

"Nothing!"

"Nothing? I must have done something, Jay. No normal person kisses someone and then, a second later, can't stand to be around them. So, what? Did you not like it? Was I not good enough?" She's inches away from him, chest rising and falling as the anger boils inside of her. Jay doesn't know what to do, he's looking all over her, trying to think of a way to make her understand. "Or did you finally realise that there's no possible way you could ever actually like little miss Abi Branning-"

He's kissing her before he even knows what he's doing, hands holding onto her jaw because he just needs her to shut up. She lets out a surprised squeak, but eventually gives in – kissing him with as much force as he's giving her. Despite what he did, she knows she's wanted this since their technically-not-date that night at the laundrette.

"I like you, okay?" He pants, his forehead resting against hers. "And that's not… It's not going to work when we're meant to hate each other." His thumb gently rubs circles on her cheek and she's looking at him so intensely that he just wants to kiss her again. "We can't be like normal couples, Abi. Someone will get hurt and I really don't want it to be me."

"So what do we do?" Her hands are resting on the back of his neck, tracing patterns that make him shiver. She knows what the consequences are for the two of them if they carry on. She just doesn't know if she cares.

"Move on," he tells her, but his hands are gripping her hips and he's running his nose against hers. He should let go of her, walk away and forget about her. But he doesn't want to. He's relieved when she doesn't pull away from him.

"I can't." And then she kisses him again.

(A/N: Hellooo! I don't know if people are still reading Jay and Abi stories since they spilt up a long time ago and Abi is no longer in the show, but lockdown has given me the change to go through some old fanfictions and get some inspiration. R&R and let me know if you want me to continue! Xx)