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Scratched Surface

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Scratched Surface

Jonathan had had better nights.

He woke to find himself soaking wet, with a bottle sticking him in the back and Maddy slapping his face and yelling. The yelling didn't seemed so noteworthy, quite frankly, but he was fairly sure he didn't make a habit of falling asleep in car parks.

Eventually he shook off the cobwebs and remembered that he'd had a somewhat painful encounter with a pair of thugs belonging to the suspect in their latest investigation. Fortunately, Maddy had come to ask him if he wanted to go to dinner, so he'd only lain outside in the rain for a few minutes. She helped him inside and got him some ice for his head, fussing and griping about the brutality of the upper classes and the inability or unwillingness of law enforcement to keep them in check.

A pleasant enough policeman turned up to question him about what he'd seen, who might have attacked him, and what a designer of magic tricks was doing making these kinds of enemies anyway. Maddy was uncharacteristically quiet during the grilling, and whenever he looked over at her, she always seemed to have just looked away.

Finally the officer finished, leaving Jonathan free to go home. He won the battle over whether or not to go to Casualty by insisting that he would not move of his own free will and Maddy would have to carry him inside. She drove him home, chastising him the entire way for being careless with his health. She didn't appreciate the pointed crack about her own nutritional habits, however, and simply grabbed the Aero bar he'd found in the glove box and took a bite while glaring at him.

When they arrived at the windmill, Jonathan was not at all surprised to find that Maddy intended to stay the night. He was a bit relieved, actually, not feeling entirely inclined to be alone. He did find it a bit unusual when she took blankets and pillows from his closet and made up a bed for herself on the sofa; usually she either tried to insinuate herself into his bed, or else made him sleep on the sofa. But he was too tired and sore to think about it, and just took some paracetamol and trudged off to bed.

He awoke again, this time in thankfully more comfortable surroundings, but his head was pounding. He went downstairs for more painkillers and some water, and when he emerged from the kitchen he thought he heard a sound coming from the living room. It sounded a bit like crying. Frowning in confusion, he went to look in on Maddy.

In the moonlight, he could see that she was lying on the couch with her back to him, wrapped up in his blanket. He watched for a bit, but didn't hear the sound anymore. He stood there uncomfortably, trying to work out whether he could make it back up to his room without Maddy noticing that he'd been lurking.

"Would you mind not creeping about, please?"

Evidently not.

"Everything all right?" he asked, bracing for a sharp retort.

"Yeah, of course. Everything's fine. How's your head?"

"Feels a bit like a helium balloon in a vise."

Maddy made a sympathetic face.

"And the less said about way my mouth tastes, the better." Brushing his teeth hadn't entirely removed the taste of blood.

Maddy made a rather less sympathetic face. "Yes, thank you for that." An awkward silence ensued.

"Well. I should be getting back to bed."


"Um. Good night."

"Good night," Maddy replied faintly.

Halfway up the stairs, he couldn't stand it anymore and turned around. "Look, are you angry or something?"

"What?" She sounded genuinely baffled. "Jonathan, as long as we've known each other, have you honestly ever had to wonder whether or not I was angry?"

"No, now that you mention it, it's not usually been a mystery," he admitted.

"I'm fine," Maddy assured him. "Go to bed."

"OK, well. Good night. Again." He turned to ascend the stairs once again.


Jonathan stopped, bade a wistful mental farewell to his room and his bed, and returned to the living room. As he approached, he could see for the first time that Maddy was not wearing her usual combative expression, but a more distant one. "Only what?" he asked, perching on the arm of the couch.

It took a while for her to respond, so long that he was beginning to wonder whether he should have gone for a pee before starting in on this. Finally, she began, "Only I drove up tonight, and I saw you lying there. And I couldn't find your pulse at first, and your skin was cold, and I realize now that it's just because it was raining, but..."

His stomach lurched a bit as he realized where she was going. "You thought..."

"Just for a second. You know how when you lock your keys in the car, there's that split-second right before you shut the door when you know what you're about to do, but it's too late? Well, you would know, if you could be arsed to learn to drive. Anyway, it was a bit like that. Just this sudden, cold flash of realization." She was looking past him, at a point far away. Then she sort of shook herself, re-focused on him, and continued. "Anyway, it was just then I found your pulse, and set about trying to bring you round."

This was safer ground. "Speaking of which, we need to have a little conversation concerning your methods of reviving someone who's received a head injury." He rubbed his cheek dramatically, then inclined it toward her. "Any bruising yet? Swelling?"

"Oh, shut up," she grumbled. "You're sitting there, aren't you? Not still lying about in a car park. Show a little gratitude."

"Grati-- never mind. Go on."

"Well." Maddy pulled the blanket around her a little more tightly. "You know about my mum, right?"

"Yeah. Well," he added, "the basics, anyway. Barry told me."

"Hmm, yeah. I figured he must have done, when you turned up at Gordon Hill that day. Anyway, this whole," she waved a hand about in a desultory gesture, "incident today just brought back some memories."

Jonathan shifted his weight on the sofa arm. "Yeah. I can see how it might."

They both sat there for a moment in a tense silence.

"You could have comforted me, you know," Maddy accused.

Jonathan blinked. "Beg pardon?"

"When you came and found me that day. You could have, I don't know, put an arm round me or something. Offered me your coat."

"My coat? It wasn't even cold!"

"Didn't stop you wearing the mangy thing, did it?"

"Well, if it's so mangy, why would you want it in the first place?" It was absurd, but he couldn't help himself. He was developing a knee-jerk response to Maddy's habit of throwing wobblies during sensitive conversations. Fire back first, wonder what the hell had happened later.

"I didn't want your sodding coat!" Maddy shouted, rising from the sofa. "I wanted you to wrap me up and tell me everything would be all right and just ... pretend you'd come out there to be with me and not because you needed help finding that stupid painting!"

"I didn't need..."

"Oh, thank you so much! I don't even want to hear it! Yes, I know, you figured it out all on your own, five minutes after we'd walked into Le Fley's house."

"Well, I did actually, but that's not what I meant." He took a deep breath. "It's true, I wasn't looking for you because I needed help finding the painting. I was looking for you because we still needed to put the last pieces of the puzzle together, with Melissa and her sister. Yeah, I could have done it on my own, I suppose, but I wanted us to do it together."

"Why? So you'd have a properly appreciative audience? You needn't have worried; Benjamin certainly seemed impressed."

Jonathan stood. "All right, fine. If that's the way you want it, if it's more fun for you to sit there and fabricate reasons to think the worst of me -- and it must be, because you never pass up an opportunity -- then you go right ahead. You'll forgive me if I'd rather get some sleep."

He grabbed his water glass from the table and stormed up the stairs -- well, as much as a man in his condition could storm. Thundershowered, perhaps.

Predictably, Maddy didn't give him five minutes' peace before following him. She stood in the doorway as he emphatically fluffed his pillow and settled into bed.

"Go. Away." He fixed her with his very best scowl, to which she was of course impervious.

"Did you mean it?" she asked in a subdued voice. "When you said you wanted us to do it together?"

He sighed. "Yes, I meant it. You're good at a lot of things I'm not. Like dealing with people." Smiling wryly, he added, "Besides, there are times when I actually enjoy your company. Can't honestly think why."

She smiled back. They looked at each other for a moment, then she raised her eyebrows expectantly. At his puzzled look, she inclined her head toward the bed. He rolled his eyes theatrically and patted the space next to him. She came over and sat down, leaning against the headboard.

"I thought you were dead," she murmured, eyes closed.

"I know."

"It was awful."

"I know."

You'll not have scratched her surface yet, Barry had said. If you do, you'll find a lot of protective layers. She makes it look easy, but it hasn't been.

He put his arm around her. She gave him a sharp look, which faded into wariness, then into peace as she settled in against his side.

"Did it help?" he asked finally.

"Did what help?"

"Gordon Hill. Barry said something about, what was it, confronting your pain or something."

"Oh yeah, right. No, didn't help really."

"Well. I'm sorry about that." He paused. "And about the other thing. The ... coat thing."

"Oh, that's all right," she answered sweetly. "You'll just have to make it up to me." She reached over him to turn off the lamp. "Now get some sleep; you've had a head injury, you know. What's the matter with you, staying up till all hours?" She turned on her side, back to him, then reached back over her shoulder to tug on his arm.

He shook his head and curled up behind her, smiling into her hair.