Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chapter Eleven

She was just opening the door when the phone rang. Quickly she shut the door behind her and reached over to grab the cordless off the hallway table.

"Hello?" She was already out of breath and couldn't believe it. Was she really the same girl who used to run regularly?

"Vanessa. It's Jimmy Deakins. How are you doing?"

Shocked, actually, she thought. She hadn't seen Jimmy since that day in the office, when she had packed up her box. Despite her intention to go by the office on a regular basis, she had stayed away. It was too difficult to consider visiting when she still missed it so much. "Okay," she answered him. "I've been meaning to come by, but it just hasn't worked out."

"I understand." She swore she could hear him smiling through the phone. "Actually I was wondering if you might be able to swing by tomorrow morning, say nine?"

"Maybe." Bruce had found her and was rubbing his head against her leg, looking for affection. "Why? What's up?"

There was a pause for a moment. "Well, I thought we could talk tomorrow, but I guess now is fine...the brass wants you back."

She heard her own gasp, and then Deakins' chuckle. "It's no joke, Vanessa...we have more cases around here than we can handle. Another profiler in here would make a huge difference. Things have calmed down enough that we can hire you back, part time...I know you're pregnant and I thought that might work well, considering."

She made her way over to the couch and collapsed on it, feeling Bruce jump up and lay next to her. "So let me get this straight...you want me to come back part time now because the brass has finally figured out they need more people to solve cases? Are you fucking kidding me?"

"Yes. And no," he cleared his throat, "I'm not kidding."

"Fine. I'll see you at nine tomorrow."

She heard him chuckle. "Great. Nine, then."

The line went dead, and she turned off the handset. Rubbing Bruce's head, she said, "Well, boy...maybe I won't be so bored after all."


"Absolutely not. This is insane. I can't believe he even talked to you about this without mentioning it to me first!" She didn't remember ever seeing Bobby this irritated. He was pacing the bedroom in his boxers and a tee-shirt, and if he hadn't been so frustrated, she would have considered laughing.

"Okay, Dad," she teased him. "Next time I'll have the boss talk to you first."

"That is not funny, Vanessa...I thought we had already talked about this and come to a conclusion. Didn't we just discuss this a few weeks ago? How profiling right now wouldn't be a good idea for you?"

"No," she clarified. "You gave an opinion about how you felt about me profiling while I'm pregnant. We didn't come to any kind of mutual agreement."

He crossed his arms and leaned against the chest of drawers. "So you think it's a good idea for you to be working with rapists and murderers. I can see how that would be perfectly safe for a woman who's twenty-two weeks pregnant."

She pulled her legs under her. "I think it's a good idea for me to be doing something...and yeah, working would qualify."

He shook his head vehemently. "This isn't something I'm going to compromise on, Beth. The answer is no--it's not safe for you or for the baby."

She felt her face flush, angry. "Well, fortunately for me, I have control over my body and what I do with it, Bobby. If I want to work, I'll work. You don't get to tell me what to do. You're not my father and as much as you like to think so, you're actually no smarter or insightful than I am. I think I can make reasonable choices for myself. I always have before."

"This is our baby you're talking about, Vanessa! Our child! The one that we conceived, together. What are you going to do if a perp goes off the deep end and injures you? What if something happened that caused you to miscarry? Is that a chance you're willing to take?"

"I don't know, Bobby! What if I fell down on the subway? What if I got mugged? What if a fucking toilet seat fell on my head?"

"That's a show," he said wryly, "a fucking tv show."

"The point is," she clarified, "that you don't have any guarantees."

"But you can take calculated risks...and while you're pregnant, the risk is much greater."

Now her arms were crossed, legs were crossed, eyes staring him down. No doubt, she was pissed, more than he could remember her being in a long time. But it was worth it, if it changed her mind. Instead, though, she said, "You don't get it. Every day you go to your job with your badge and your gun. You deal with rapists and murderers and kidnappers and the worst of the worst. Like this baby doesn't need a father. So it's okay for YOU to take risks during my pregnancy but not me? Even when my risks are relatively minor?" She shook her head. "I don't carry a gun. I don't ride alone. Hell, I'm never even alone with a perp...there's always at least a uniform with me. I'd have more of a chance of being harmed working at the coffee shop than in the office."

He stared at her for a long moment before moving over to the bed and sitting next to her. "Ness," he said, this time more calmly, "the reality is that this baby is in your body. That stress or other environmental factors can cause damage to the fetus. We both know that. The last thing you need to be doing right now is looking at crime scene photos, smelling decomposing bodies, interrogating violent people." He looked down, at her burgeoning belly, then back to her face. "Please, honey...please consider what I'm saying. I know it's not...not what you want to hear and the way--the way I've said it probably left a lot to be desired. I'm sorry. But...but...the thought of this...of what could happen..."

She watched him now, eyes moving from hers back to her belly, then closing, tears in the corners. He had given her everything, couldn't bear to tell her no. Everything she asked of him, he gave to her freely. He always had. From the time he had first taken her under his wing, he had vowed to be her protector and confidante, friend and lover. And in that moment, she suddenly realized that denying him what he seemed to need so desperately came no easier to her than it would have come to him.

"Bobby." Her hand reached out and took his from the mattress, leading it to her stomach. She held it there, against the soft skin. "If it bothers you this much, I'll tell Deakins no. At least until she's born."

His eyes opened slowly. He looked sad, weary; it was a look she had rarely seen on him, and she realized how upsetting this conversation had been to him. How afraid he was of losing her, of losing them. Afraid enough to argue firmly and thoroughly with her. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I just can't...I can't risk it."

She nodded, understanding his fear. "Okay. I won't do it for now."

"After...after she's born...then, maybe--" He pulled his hand away from her stomach and rubbed his face, then the back of his neck. "Yeah...maybe then."


They lay in bed, side by side, not speaking and not touching.

He didn't know for sure that she was still awake, but he thought she probably was. She didn't sound as though she were asleep. Her breathing hadn't evened out, she hadn't rolled onto her side the way she usually did.

He truly regretted their argument. She was right, of course, in the fact that he had come off sounding like she was his child. He had always sworn to himself that he would never treat her as though she were somehow less than himself. She had experienced enough of that before they ever met. But the thought of her going into the office and running the risk of harm to herself or their baby wasn't something he could accept.

He was ashamed of how he had acted, ashamed of how much he needed her, and embarrassed that she knew. He had figured a long time ago that she knew how attached he was to her, but it was completely different to have it wear on his face, his words like that. He knew she acquiesced to him out of pity, and that hurt almost enough to make him change his mind. Almost.

He felt her shift in the bed. "Bobby."

He didn't answer her. He didn't know what to say.

She repeated herself. "Bobby...you didn't read to her tonight. You always read to her."

Now he rolled over, facing her. "I wasn't sure you'd want me to."

She forced a smile. "Of course I do...she would want you to...she just can't tell you yet."

Reluctantly he reached over and turned on the lamp, then picked up a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends. Flipping through, he found the page where he had left off, and began to read.

After a moment, she interrupted him. "Bobby."


"You usually put your head near my belly." Sensing his hesitation, she continued. "Babies can sense that, I think...you know, when you're close like that."

He sighed. "They can probably sense massive fights between their parents, too."

"All the more reason," she said softly.

He moved closer to her belly, then began to read once more. Two poems in, he began to rest his hand on her belly, and when he finished, he kissed her, near her navel. "I love you, sweetie. You and your mama, both."

Vanessa reached down and ran her fingers through the mass of dark hair on his head. "She knows that. So do I."

He pulled his body up next to hers, close. "Do you?" he asked. "Do you know how much I love you? How much I need you? How my life would be over without you and this baby?"

He heard her swallow, hard. "I know that's what you believe."

He shook his head. "We've both had enough loss--"

She cupped his face in her hands. "Yes. And we don't need to think about that right now." She continued to stroke his hairline, from his forehead to his ears, and somehow it was comforting to him. "I'm safe, Bobby. The baby and I are safe...you don't need to worry. We're fine. God has blessed us with this baby and the three of us will be a happy family in--what?--four months?"

He closed his eyes again, focusing on the gentle pressure of her thumbs moving against his temples. "I need you, Beth...sometimes I don't think you know how much I need you."

"I know."

"How?" His eyes opened, plaintive. "How do you know?"

She smiled softly. "Because I need you too...I need you just as much." She pressed her lips to his forehead, then pulled him against her body. His large frame pressed against her small one; one arm hooked around her possessively while the other hand came to rest on her growing belly. He lay quietly until he heard her breath even out, deep and rhythmic, and a few minutes later he joined her in a deep, comforting sleep.


He sat next to her on the subway and purposely focused on keeping his foot still. He knew it drove her nuts, how he tapped like that. Nervous energy. He couldn't recall a time he hadn't had it, but guessed he might have developed it as a child. Dodging pots and pans and angry parents and all that. It had literally kept him on his toes, made him hyperaware. It was, ironically, a huge talent that contributed to his high success rate.

He couldn't help but watch the car carefully now, with her sitting next to him. He wondered if his anxiety about keeping them safe would ever subside. How great would it be to have a father who was so worried about you that you couldn't leave the house? He'd have to get over this.

She was holding his hand. Despite their horrendous argument the night before, she had been sweet this morning, even affectionate toward him. He took it to mean she had forgiven him, forgiven his words and what she had to have read as doubt about her. He was still somewhat in awe of the fact that she had agreed not to work. For him. She had given something up for him; something she found important and precious and part of herself. And the guilt of his request was making him sick.

He'd never before asked her to give up anything. When he married her, he had vowed to give her the world. "You're everything." He had told her that, so many times both of them had lost count, and he hoped she believed it as much as he knew it to be true. The fact that he was demanding something of her--something this big, this important--didn't sit well with him. Not at all.

He had awoken early--four a.m.--and left the bed to pace. Back and forth, across the living room, in front of the couch. Thinking of probabilities. How often, or not, cops were injured. How likely, or not, she could be hurt during the next four months at work. Was he being reasonable? Was he being fair? Whose interests was he really protecting--their unborn child's or his own? Could he live with his own demands? What if she had asked him to do this? Would he have been willing and able?

He still didn't know the answers. She squeezed his hand, gently, and he squeezed hers back, a silent reminder of how much he loved her. Love, he thought. What was it about setting them free? The comparison stuck with him. She was, in his opinion, like a beautiful bird, capable of spreading her wings and flying anywhere, achieving any height, going any place in this world. And he was clipping her wings.

The train stopped and she stood up slowly. It seemed her waist had expanded quite a bit over the last week, and she was struggling a bit with the equilibrium. He kept a hand on her back, to guide her through the crowd and keep them together. She looked back at him and smiled. He knew how it worried her, that they would get separated.

Usually they took the stairs but today he guided her to the escalator and they rode up. He half expected a protest, but he didn't get one, and he realized that she was coming to terms with her rapidly changing body. The doctor had said the baby should be moving any time now, and she had told him that occasionally she felt a squirm. A wiggle. He was anxious for the time he would be able to feel her for himself. He remembered one time when Eames was far along in her pregnancy and Nate seemed to be constantly moving. She had sighed heavily and wished for the moving to cease; when he asked her if it was really that bad, she had grabbed his hand and rested it on her abdomen. He was amazed at the movements he felt through the thin cotton of her blouse, the ripples and wiggles and even a tiny footprint. He had looked at her in surprise and she had smiled tersely at him before reminding him that he could pull away and she couldn't. But something in her eyes had let him know she didn't want to pull away, and wouldn't miss a second of Nate's wiggling for the world.

They emerged in the sunlight of the early spring morning, and she caught his hand as they made their way up the street. He started to pass the coffee shop by the office but caught a glimpse of longing in her eye, and decided to stop. She was hesitant, but then a shy smile crossed her face and she followed him quickly inside. He ordered for her--a decaf latte and a piece of coffee cake to go--and shortly, they were on their way again.

They entered the lobby and waited for the elevator in silence. She had since dropped his hand in favor for her coffee. He didn't mind, given it was their workplace and he still needed to appear professional. The ride up was quick and he held the door for her. She smiled back at him, then proceeded toward Deakins' office. She was almost there when the words formed in his throat.

"Rayden--" he didn't know why it came out that way except maybe from habit, "--wait."

She turned around, a look of surprise taking over her eyes. Those almond shaped eyes he was so sure he would see on their daughter.

He reached her quickly and guided her toward the wall. "Look, maybe I'm wrong."

She shook her head immediately. "Bobby," she said, low, "we discussed all of this last night. We agreed--"

"No." He stood stiffly, awkwardly. "I demanded and you acquiesced...I don't know if I can live with that."

Her eyes were seeking out his, and after he tried to find something else to look at, he finally met hers. "I didn't do this for you," she said softly. "I did it for us. All of us."

He exhaled through his nose, heavily. "You're going to resent the hell out of me for this someday. I'm keeping you from doing what you love, what you're good at. I have no right to do that."

Her left hand went to her mouth and she began biting her pinky nail. "I won't resent you, Bobby. You're trying to be a good father and a good husband. There's nothing to be resentful for."

He looked over her, into Deakins' office, then his eyes met hers again. "Maybe there's something that can be worked out...some way we can both feel good about this..."

She pulled her hand away from her mouth, then said, "You want to join us?"

"Yeah, maybe. Unless you don't want me to."

Deakins' office door had opened and he had appeared, grinning at Vanessa's back. "Hey there, you three," he greeted. "Vanessa, you ready?"

She turned to face her old boss. "I think so...if it's all right, Bobby is going to join us...I think we need to hammer some things out, you know, what's best for the baby and all in this."

Jimmy nodded. "Sure. Come on in."

He followed her into the captain's office. If it was this hard before she was even born, he couldn't imagine what the rest of his life would entail.

Chapter Ten

She didn't think she'd anticipated Bobby's return from work like this in months. Apparently, everything Ava had told her about hormones raging crazily was true, because ever since she had woken up this morning all she could think about was sex. He had been on his way out the door, looking better than ever in his olive suit (at least in her opinion), but he had stopped to kiss her gently before he departed. She couldn't tell if he read more into the kiss than usual, like she had wanted him to, but he had smiled at her, winked, and told her he'd be back that evening.

All day long she'd been trying to distract herself with tasks. Cleaning the kitchen (remember his creativity with whipped cream that time?) or the bathroom (long, leisurely soaks in the double jacuzzi tub on the weekend), going to the market (the time she had tortured him by whispering the naughtiest things she could think of in his ear throughout the entire trip), even stopping at the coffee shop for a decaf cup (how many times had that been their afterplay?)--it all reminded her of him and of making love with him. She finally decided she'd indulge in a new bra, and maybe panties to match. For a millisecond she wondered if he would think that was less than sexy, considering her pregnancy, but decided he'd roll with it. He always had. She had figured that she could pretty much show up in anything and her husband would find her attractive, the same way she found him.

She had taken her time, torn between sensuality and practicality, and finally settled on a smooth champagne set. She wasn't a big fan of lace and remembered the day he had revealed how much he liked her underthings because they were less lacy than most women's. Despite the fact that it was a reminder he had been sexually active with many (many many?) women before they got together, she had been relieved and slightly pleased that his thoughts were along the same line as hers. The demi bra fit perfectly and she chose a high cut bikini to go with it. She knew he had a thing for thongs, but God, she couldn't stand them. And this purchase was as much for her as it was for him, she reasoned. Besides, he wasn't going to be walking around with cloth floss up his ass when all was said and done.

It had been a long day. She had texted him, letting him know what he was in for, and he had responded with a short "Can't wait". She hoped he meant it.

Maybe part of her sudden desire had to do with their first ultrasound--the pictures, the entire experience, had been nothing short of amazing--and when Dr. Anushki had assured them that everything was fine, she had felt liberated. Bobby had studied the photos carefully, had watched the film as though it were a case, until he could point out the heart, the head, and every identifiable body part without the tech's assistance. She knew he had taken the photos to work, to share with Eames and Deakins and anyone else who might want to know. His first reaction had been the same as hers. An intake of breath, a stare of amazement; then he had said, "beautiful" in the most reverent voice she'd ever heard him use. She had turned to him, then turned back to the tech, and asked if everything was okay. The tech had passed that on to the doctor, who had reassured them both that the little girl was fine.

A girl. She hadn't dared breathe it, didn't want to jinx her hopes, especially after everyone had been so certain she would have a boy. But they were having a daughter. Suddenly her fantasy of a little girl with dark brown curls and big brown eyes was a complete possibility. And she knew Bobby was thrilled. He hadn't even had to speak. It was all in his eyes.

She had spent a lot of time daydreaming in the last few days about him and their little girl. Maybe those daydreams were fueling her libido. She always found it incredibly heartwarming and sexy to see the way he interacted with children; he was sweet and loving and so, so gentle. LIke he understood them in a special, almost magical, way. It made her wonder what he was like as a child and wish she could have known him, known if he was as sweet and innocent and loving as she imagined he was.

She had changed into her new purchases and then covered herself with a satin robe he had bought for her at Christmas. She'd not had a robe since her rock star days, and was truly surprised when she opened it. He had grinned delightedly, almost wickedly, at her surprise, before suggesting she put it on. And please don't ruin it by putting it on OVER anything else, thankyouverymuch. She had no idea robes could be so...interesting...until Christmas.

She checked the clock. It was almost seven. She knew he'd be hungry when he got home, but she was hoping he'd understand and take care of her first. God knows she had been patient. She'd been counting the hours--almost twelve of them now--and it was torturous waiting for him. She was about to text him again when she heard the key in the lock. She stood up nervously from the couch. What the hell was that about--why was she nervous with her husband, for God's sake? By the time she realized it was because this wasn't her usual approach, he was standing in the room a few feet away from her.

"Well...it looks like you've had a long day," he teased, eyes wandering up and down her.

"Yeah, I guess you could say that." She stepped closer to him. "I have a surprise for you...but you have to unwrap it." She held out the edge of the tie of the robe, and he took it carefully in his hands, then tugged the thin material so it fell open.

A second later he emitted a low whistle. "Pregnancy suits you," he told her, "almost as well as that bra."

She smiled.

He continued to look shamelessly, taking his time. "It's been a long day for me too," he said offhandedly. "I got this text around ten this morning telling me I was going to have my mind blown tonight, along with a few other things..." He shook his head. "Hard to concentrate after that."

'I guess so," she commented. "That wasn't very thoughtful of someone to text you something so...explicit...especially so early in the morning."

He exhaled heavily, eyes focused on her body. "You have no idea."

"Trust me." She slipped the robe off, tossing it to the chair. "If anyone has an idea, it's me."

His eyes finally ran up to her face, meeting her own, and he smiled. "When do I get to take something off?"

"Right now," she assured him, leaning in to quickly undo his tie, and feeling his hands wander over her ass, let her mind wander into all the places she'd been resisting all day.


"Hey...Ness--" he was panting, as desperate as she was, but nervous. "Slow down...we'll get there...think of the baby."

She was moving on top of him quickly, fiercely. God, the wait had been worth it. It always was. He read her like a book; he never disappointed. He was beautiful and strong and pleased to let her lead, especially tonight. But she knew he worried. She wished he wouldn't. "Trust me," she gasped back, "it's all fine...she's fine...I'm really fine...you're super fine, and I do mean that, Goren...God I mean that right now..."

His hands were moving up and down her body, lingering on her breasts. So beautiful. He couldn't help but focus on them, want them, pull her body down to kiss and suck and nibble on her nipples. He heard a low moan escape her throat as she continued to rock rhythmically against his thrusts.

He debated, briefly, about flipping her over. Under his weight, there was no way she could writhe so quickly on him, so firmly. He could drive. But she had already come twice, and he was hesitant to mess with whatever this was, working for her. Her last orgasm had happened just after he had let her be on top. Every glimpse of her face reminded him of her complete thrill, how good she felt, and she was beautifully sexy.

They had always enjoyed an intimate and pleasurable sex life. Even from their first time, when he took his time and let her lead, it had been incredible. A mix of love and affection and intense pleasure. He'd never had that mix before. But this was different, even for her. He was used to her sudden swings in desire--he had them too, and she was more than accommodating most of the time--but three orgasms? In ten minutes? Was there something in the water?

That moan, that continually soft moan in the back of her throat, he knew she'd been serious about wanting it all day. Enough to actually go to the lingerie store and buy that getup. She was lovely in it, and he had enjoyed it, but truthfully he would have enjoyed it just as much if she had been buck naked. It all came off anyway, and within the first five minutes.

She had pulled her breasts away from him and was now reaching above him, holding the headboard with both hands. Her face was flushed, eyes closed, head back, as she moved quickly and beautifully over him. God he was hard. His hands caught her hips, trying to slow her down, to drag out the inevitable, but she would have none of it. Her eyes flew open and she leaned her face down toward his. "Bobby," she hissed, "don't stop it...please...God, I need it."

So he didn't. He gave up and joined her, his thrusts hard and quick inside her. He closed his own eyes, feeling the tightening in his belly, his groin, wanting to, needing to...his hands clutched her as he drove upward and it overtook him, the heat and the pleasure and the shuddering contractions. "Beth." It was raspy and needy and all hers.

She moved quicker than before, and somewhere in the back of his consciousness he knew she was climaxing again, and he felt even sexier knowing she had come again, with him, so quickly.

She was lying on top of him, completely spent. Finally satisfied. This was so not her, begging for it and demanding it like this, pushing him to be faster and harder and acting so dominant. She couldn't believe she came three times. The first had happened as soon as he entered her; she had cried out loudly, startling them both, and he had asked if she was all right. "Oh God," she had told him, "I'm the best I've been in a long time...God, whatever you do, please don't stop, Bobby. God." And she had ground her hips firmly against him, fully enjoying the thrill of her climax as he had begun to move slowly inside her and suckle on her neck.

His eyes were closed now, one hand resting on her lower back. She could hear his breathing starting to slow and become more steady. She wondered if he had enjoyed it as much as she had or if he had just been satisfying her.

"Was it okay?" she asked softly, and she felt his hand wander up her back to her hair.

"Amazing." His mouth curled into a knowing smile. "Pretty good for you too, huh?"

She was embarrassed. She knew he knew, and during, it hadn't seemed a big deal. But now she felt like some sort of sex addict.

As if on cue, he caught her face in his hand. "I'm so glad it felt good...so glad you feel better now...you deserve it." His finger lingered over her lips for just a moment. '"I don't think there's anything more beautiful in the world than watching you come."

Her face buried into his chest. "Thanks," he heard, muffled. "You're the best."

He smiled to himself, tracing random designs over her bare back. "Anything I can do to help," he teased, then wrapped his other arm around her, enveloping her in a hug. "Really, anything."


"Okay, so hold still...I've almost got it..." Bobby was aiming the camera at her belly, and she was trying desperately not to roll her eyes. He had read in some book about documenting the growth of the uterus every week and thought it would be a really great addition to the baby's scrapbook. She, however, was less than thrilled to have her bare belly photographed weekly over the next six months. He took three shots with the digital before saying, "Do you think we should try the recorder...just a couple minutes each month...it might make for an interesting video..."

"Uh, no." She lowered her shirt, unsure as to whether she or the baby would be more mortified by his project in years to come. "You do realize that looking at my naked belly, scars and all, is absolutely horrific to me?"

He looked up from the camera, surprised. "Um...you-you look really beautiful, you know, in these--" He brought the camera to her and handed it over. "Look."

Unconvinced, she peered at the image on the screen. Yep. Her with her shirt up. Slightly mounded belly. That was them, all right. And you could still see her scars. Damn.

"So what are you going to tell her when she asks why I have huge scars on my stomach?" She hadn't intended to ask the question, but she really hated this project, and maybe it would deter him a little bit.

"Well," he said, then cleared his throat. Obviously this conversation was making him nervous. "I guess, I guess I figured she would have asked long before she saw this in the book...I don't know...we've never talked about it but I just figured it wouldn't be a secret--"

She felt the tears coming to her eyes. "What? That some psychopath attacked me?"

"No!" He shook his head. "Ness, come on, you have to know that's not what I meant...I guess I just always thought that she would have seen them all her life so it wouldn't be a big deal...when she asks, I guess...I think it should be up to you...I guess I would just tell her that somebody hurt you, but they're gone now and can't hurt you any more."

That was much more logical than she cared to believe him to be. She roughly wiped away her tears. "Oh."

He grabbed a tissue and led her to the couch. "Hey...here." Carefully, delicately, he wiped the tears from her face. She opened her eyes when he finished, and he was smiling at her. "Hi there," he said.


"It's okay, you know...it's all going to be okay."

"We have no idea what we're doing." She felt the tears coming back.

"I know. But we're figuring it out." He carefully wiped another tear from her cheek. "You know how I'm sure you'll be a great mom?"

She sniffed. "How?"

"Because I know you want to be...more than anything. And I've seen you with kids...you're great. And you love this baby, and you read almost as much as I do." At her look of surprise, he said, "I can tell when you've been looking at my books...I don't have to be here all the time to know that."

"What if I screw this up? What if I end up being like my dad? I'm his kid too. I have so many issues that I'm reduced to tears just by the thought of her asking about the scars on my abdomen."

"You're not being fair to yourself. Those scars represent one of the most traumatic things a person could experience...it's only normal that you would have tremendous anxiety about how to tell your daughter about them." He shook his head. "We'll have lots of things to figure out...how to explain all of our families, our jobs, ourselves...but we're smart and we want to do the right thing and I think we'll figure it out, baby."

She sighed. "You have a lot of faith in us."

"So do you. You've stayed. For nearly three years."

She smiled softly. "I can't imagine my life any other way. You're the only one who's ever understood me...you're my best friend." She took his hand in hers and pressed it against her belly. "Baby makes three, I guess."

His hand ran over her slowly. "Sometimes I wonder about her...what she's feeling, what she's doing...do you ever wonder?"

She laughed. "Maybe a little...but probably not like you."

He lay his head on her shoulder. "Yeah, I'm weird that way, I guess."

"No, not weird...just thoughtful."

"I can't wait until she starts to move."

"Me either." She leaned her own head against his, resting quietly. Sometimes the companionable silence they shared was as wonderful as anything else.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chapter Nine

"You want anything? Soup? I can have her bring you a basket of crackers...maybe some bread..."

She sighed. "Okay. Bread."

He ordered a side of bread for her, to go with her juice and water. He'd been impressed at how quickly she'd given up caffeine. That alone was a huge sacrifice, but one Dr. Anushki had praised earlier. He had gone over dietary guidelines, physical fitness guidelines, sleep and stress guidelines. Bobby found himself nodding along, remembering what had been published in the books he'd read. No more pizza and beer on Friday nights, no more of those iced mochas she loved. He had already been working in the kitchen all weekend, trying to come up with new recipes for smoothies and cookies that she might enjoy. After his third attempt at a decent cookie with less sugar, she politely shook her head. "I appreciate your effort, baby, I really do," she had said, "but it's just not an option for me right now." Discreetly she had spit the cookie into a napkin and he had sighed.

Dr. Anushki had been thorough with their questions. After an examination, lots of questions, measurements, and a sonogram, he had told them their baby was ten weeks along. Ten weeks. He could hardly believe they were a quarter of the way there. They had made appointments to follow up and for the ultrasound. He was so excited it was hard to stay calm. She, however, was much more subdued. If he hadn't been so sure she wanted this, he would be wondering about second thoughts.

The waitress brought his club sandwich and her bread. Despite her protests of nausea, she quickly tore the bread apart and began to eat.

"You feeling better?" He took a bite of his sandwich.

She nodded her head. "A bit. I think I was stressed out about all the spotting...but since he says it's not abnormal, I feel better." She took another bite. "Hopefully he's right and the nausea will pass in a couple more weeks."

He smiled. "Can you believe you're almost to your second trimester? How the hell this snuck up on us like this I'll never know."

"I have a weird body." She paused for a second and lay the bread back down on her plate. He was watching her carefully and knew something was up. "I guess I was really starting to worry...you know, that maybe the assault had caused damage they didn't realize...being stomped in the abdomen probably isn't the best thing if you're hoping to get pregnant sometime."

He shook his head. "There's nothing weird about your body...nothing that isn't typical of other women. And as far as the assault...the doctor thinks everything is fine...he's reviewed your records. You trust him, right?"

"Yeah, I trust him." She picked up a piece of bread and began to tear at it again. "I guess I just worry. I worry that something could happen, or maybe all these tests are wrong..."

He caught her hand. "Our baby is going to be fine...perfect...ten fingers, ten toes...your beautiful face, your incredible brain..."

She snickered. "Oh yeah, I forgot how lacking your own brain is. And you do realize this child will look like you as well?"

He shrugged.

She smiled at him, eyes looking dreamy. It was an unusual look for her these days, and he couldn't help but smile back. "I'd love to see your hair on this child...I can only imagine a little girl with your curly hair and big brown eyes...how beautiful she would be...and so smart..."

The waitress arrived back at the table. "Can I get you two anything else?"

He knew they were making horrible googly eyes at each other. That they were the cliche picture of two people in love, who couldn't live without each and would never dream of doing so. "No," he told her, finally dragging his gaze away from his wife to look at the waitress. "We're perfect over here." The waitress shook her head and left the table.

"You embarrass me," she told him, but her eyes and her smile said something completely different.

"That's okay. It's my job." He grabbed a bite of her leftover bread and ate it with relish while she laughed softly, shaking her head.


"Ten weeks, huh? What the hell brand of pregnancy test were you using again?" Ava was changing Tristan's diaper.

"Don't ask." Vanessa sat on the bed, watching her sister and the squirmy baby. "So how long did the nausea last for you?"

Ava finished snapping the onesie closed, then picked up her son. "Eh, just the first trimester or so...then the sex set in."


Ava rolled her eyes. "Do you know anything about this process at all?" Seeing Vanessa's blank face, she said, "Look, maybe you should read some of those books your husband brings home. It's pretty normal for your hormones to go all over the place during pregnancy. A lot of women have...well, stronger desires...during the second trimester. You're done with the nausea, usually, the baby is growing and your body is changing and it's all exciting...and boom, you're feeling pretty hot."

Vanessa glanced down at herself. So far she could distinguish a tiny pudge in her middle, but it could have very well come from a few too many brownies or pizza. She didn't exactly think that she would use the word "hot" to describe herself, though.

"Its okay," Ava sat down next to her, passing Tristan over. "Soon enough you'll want to bitch slap him as soon as he gets within five feet."

Vanessa made a face at Ava. "You're just a fucking ray of sunshine, you know that?"

"I'm just trying to give it to you like it is. And anyway," she replied, checking her watch, "I have to go pick up Justin from school. Come with or stay here with Tristan? Or do you need to go?"

Vanessa held Tristan up and blew on his belly. He laughed. "We'll go with you. Is Justin happy at his school?"

"Of course...he's the king of kindergarten. He thinks he's the big guy around here, now that he's in school."

After they picked up Justin, they stopped for lunch at a local cafe. Vanessa held Tristan while Ava helped Justin order his lunch.

"So you like turkey and cheese?" she asked him after he placed his order.

"Yes...tuhkey is a good pwotein, Auntie Ness. It makes your muscles stwong." He took a sip of his milk. "Twistan can't eat yet but when he can eat, he's going to eat pwotein too."

"Guess what?" Ava interrupted him. "Auntie Ness is going to have a baby."

"Ohhh!" Justin's eyes got big. "When's he gonna come out?"

Vanessa put her diet coke back down. "Not for a long time, Justin...the baby has to grow for quite a while still."

"Probably this summer," Ava told him. "You'll be swimming and Auntie Ness will be sweating and pushing her baby out."

Vanessa rolled her eyes. "Thanks for the image. I think you've scarred all of us. How about you, Tristan?" she said, snuggling her smallest nephew. "Did your mommy just scar you?"

"Oh please," Ava responded, waving a hand dismissively. "Justin probably knows more about the birthing process than you do."

Vanessa glanced at her five-year old nephew, sipping his milk quietly. She didn't doubt it.

They ate their lunch in pleasant conversation. Justin talked about how much he liked kindergarten, who his friends were, and what they did during the day. Vanessa found herself listening more avidly than she had in the past. Justin was a smart kid, and a happy kid. As much as she and Ava had their differences, Vanessa really did admire her sister's ability to parent. When Justin talked, Ava payed full attention to him; she talked with him, looked at him, treated him respectfully. Vanessa didn't recall either of their parents being so attentive.

"How'd you learn to do that?" she asked Ava when they got back to her house.

"Do what?"

"You know...be such a good mom...listen to your kids..."

Ava thought for a moment. "I made a conscious decision I wanted to do better. And then I took classes and read and talked a lot to David." She was quiet for a moment. "Sometimes it's hard. When Justin gets really mad and tells me he hates me, or Tristan has been crying for what seems like forever, I feel like I'm terrible. But I just keep remembering that's part of all of it, and I'm doing okay. David is great too. He always tells me I'm a good mom, and he pitches in a lot." She glanced at Vanessa. "Something tells me you won't have any problem with Bobby helping you. I think he'd carry that baby for you if it was possible."

They both laughed, knowing it was probably true.

"Nessie," Ava said a minute later, as she lay Tristan down in his playpen, "it's going to be harder for you guys because neither of you had a normal childhood. You need to talk about what normal is, what it looks like, what you want it to be for your baby. Bobby has no more idea of what it is than you do. You need to make sure you're on the same page."

"He's going to be a great father," Vanessa said defensively.

Ava shook her head. "I never said he wouldn't. All I said is that life with a schizophrenic mother and an addicted father isn't normal. His ideas of normal and your ideas may be different, and you need to figure out what you guys want and expect of each other, and for that baby."

She knew Ava was right, knew that she and Bobby grappled with the idea of normalcy on regular days, in their adult lives. She felt a sudden pang of guilt in her stomach. How the hell would they ever give this baby a normal life when they couldn't even recognize it? What the hell were they thinking?

She felt Ava touch her arm, and she turned toward her. "Hey," Ava said, "I did it and you guys will too. I just don't want you setting yourself up for failure, you know?"

'Yeah. I know."

She gathered her things. "I guess I should get going...I've got some errands to run."

"Really? With no job, you're so busy?"

"No," she admitted, "so I make up stuff to get done each day...and today I'm going to the market to buy the ingredients to make eggplant parmigiana."

"Oh...I see. Bobby's favorite. You're going to cook him dinner. That's what you're doing with your life now...cooking Bobby dinner and growing a baby." Ava began to pick up the random toys around her living room.

Vanessa spun around and glared at her. "Uh, no. Bobby is making ME dinner. I happen to enjoy his eggplant very much. My job is to focus on growing the baby...just as, apparently, YOUR job is to focus on being a mommy to your two little boys."

Ava sighed loudly. "When did this happen to us?"

Despite wishing she had no idea what her sister was talking about, she knew. She knew, exactly. "I don't know...for me it happened when I lost my job. For you? Maybe when Tristan was born?"

Ava raised an eyebrow at her. "You should record again. That's not too taxing, and the NYPD has nothing to do with it."

"I'll keep it in mind." She grabbed her keys. "Thanks for lunch...tell Justin I enjoyed seeing him."

"I'll let him know. And if you have any questions about the baby, call and I'll put him on the phone."

They both grinned then. "See you later."

"See you."


"You look like the nausea's gotten better," he commented, watching her eat a second helping of the eggplant. "That's good."

She stared at him. "What?" Her voice was accusatory. "Are you trying to tell me I'm overeating or something?"

He snorted. "Relax...like I care how much eggplant you eat. You're feeding my baby anyway, so eat away. This kid is going to know its Italian roots." He sat back and took a long drink of his wine. "I appreciate you picking this stuff up, but you know it's not necessary...I could have done it, or you could have called a service..."

"Yeah...I could sit on my ass for the next seven months and be a human incubator."

He was swirling his wine, something she'd never seen him do before, and examining her closely. "You're a little testy tonight."

"And you're putting on airs." She pointed her fork at him. "It's a sad day when I have to find excitement in picking out eggplant at the market."

He smiled empathically and put his wine glass down. "I'm not trying to put on airs. Sorry. I know you're bored...I just don't want you to feel like you have to do things if you're not feeling up to it. Two weeks ago you were really sick, and even yesterday you were still picking at your food..." He rested his head in his hand, elbow on the table. This was the Bobby she knew. "Honestly, I miss you at work. A lot. I keep looking at your office and feeling empty when you're not there."

She pushed her plate away. "Me too. I miss it. I miss it every day. Two months now and I'm still banished. You know what Ava said today? She said I should start recording again."

He picked up his wine glass again. "Does she know that you've been doing that all along? Doesn't she remember that's why you bought this place instead of the little cottage she wanted you to have?"

"I think she means professionally...that's a little different...I haven't tried to make any contacts or get anything released in God knows how long."

He began to swirl his wine again, but this time it was out of concern. She could read him easily now, as he did her, and the worry on his face was clear. "Are you considering that?"

She shook her head. "No. I haven't been...and I don't want to now, not with a baby on the way. I'm just bored." She stood and picked up her plate. "It's just hard to have your job yanked out from under you. It was easier when I gave it up on my own, you know?"

He looked up at her. "Yeah." He watched her scrape the plate, then rinse it and put it in the dishwasher. "Do you want me to talk to Deakins again...see if maybe there's something else they'd let you do?"

"Something else?"

"Well...even if they wanted you back as a profiler, do you really think that would be wise? Ride alongs, all the stress, the unpredictability of some of the perps...I don't know that it's a good idea with you being pregnant."

Her arms had crossed, and he braced himself for the torrential response he knew would be coming his way.

But all she said was, "I'm pregnant, Bobby, not dying."

He was wisely quiet, following her to the dishwasher and putting his plate inside. Together they quietly cleaned the kitchen without conversation. As she finished wiping off the countertop, he caught her hand. "Hey...I know you're completely capable and competent, and I would never say or try to imply anything else." He tugged at her shirt hem. "I miss you. Every day. I'm so sorry about this."

She let go of the sponge and turned to face him fully. "Yeah, me too." She hooked her thumbs in his belt loops, as was her habit, and looked up at him. "I miss you too. Sometimes life sucks...I guess that doesn't ever change."

He pressed his forehead against hers. "Guess not," he said, "but at least if it has to suck, we can be together."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chapter Eight

Vanessa clutched the toilet again, letting the last bits of her breakfast fly into the bowl. For someone so used to vomiting so easily, this was miserable. She thought she was going to die.

Ava brought her a glass of water and a wet washcloth. "Are you sure you're not knocked up?" she asked. "Because both times I got pregnant I started barfing almost immediately."

"No," she moaned. "I took another test just three days ago. And I started last night. I'm not pregnant...I'm just sick."

Ava made a face as Vanessa retched into the bowl again. "I can't believe Bobby left you like this today. Hasn't he heard of for better or for worse?"

"I told him to go," she groaned. "He got called in at four this morning. Being a detective isn't like being an interior designer, Ava." She took the wet washcloth and pressed it on her own forehead, then squinted at Ava. Tristan was watching her from his kangaroo pouch.

Ava sat on the toilet seat. "Are you gonna lay in here all day? Is there still anything in your stomach?"

"Ahh...God...no, I don't think so." She pulled herself up slowly. "I need to get into bed."

Ava followed Vanessa to the bed and watched her climb in. "Are you hot? Are you running a fever? Maybe you should go to the doctor. If you're really sick, I'm not sure I should be here...Tristan could get sick."

Vanessa rolled over, pressing her hot face against the cold pillow. "True," she moaned. "You can go...I'll be fine."

"Have you been barfing for more than a day or so?"

"No...just today...but I was nauseous yesterday."

"Does it get better after you puke? Have you tried crackers to settle your stomach?"

"Yeah, it's better...I'll call you later. I'm sorry I'm no good today."

Ava sighed heavily. "I still think you're knocked up. You should go see your doctor. You know, you can be pregnant and still test negative. You can even get your period--"

"Thanks, Dr. Winters...I appreciate the diagnosis."

"Yeah, whatever. Call me if you need anything and your husband doesn't show up."

"Mmph." Vanessa listened for Ava's departure, then closed her eyes and let sleep overtake her.


"Hey." Bobby was shaking her. She lifted her head quickly. God, she was tired. And nauseous. "Ava called me. She said you're really sick."

"No...I'm not really sick...I just threw up. And I'm tired...I'll be fine." She waved him away. "Go back to work."

"Nope. Here, I made you some soup...some crackers. See if you can keep it down." He waited patiently for her to sit up and take the soup from him. She did so and dutifully took several spoonfuls before munching on a few crackers. He watched her eat. "So...maybe the test is wrong."

She shook her head. "You forget...I've got my period at this very moment. As we speak."

"I still think it might be good to go to the doctor."

"You talked to Ava."

"Yeah, maybe. Maybe I just think we should be sure."

She put the bowl on the nightstand and finished her cracker. "I'll keep it in mind."

"I would consider it a personal favor."

"You're paranoid."

"Maybe I'm just hopeful."

She snorted. "I think most people would call that delusion, not hope."

"Well, whatever." He brushed some cracker crumbs off the bed. "Look at it this way. If you're not pregnant, the doctor can probably give you something to help with the nausea of whatever you have...and I'm sure that would make you feel a lot better."

"I said I'll keep it in mind. I'm just tired now...I'm going to take a nap, if it's all right with you."

He nodded. "I'll call your doctor and wake you up when it's time."

She sighed. "You do that."


"So when exactly did the nausea start?"

"Yesterday morning." Vanessa knew she sounded like a robot but she didn't care.

Bobby chimed in, "Her nausea...it started yesterday morning after breakfast...she ate a little through the day but began vomiting sometime in the night. She was able to keep a small bowl of soup and a few crackers down this afternoon. She's mainly been sleeping, but doesn't seem to have a fever."

Vanessa rolled her head to look at his. She felt like a child, unable to answer for herself.

Dr. Ramirez looked up from her notes. "And how long have you been trying to conceive, now?"

Vanessa sighed heavily, but Bobby answered, "Four months...the home tests have all come back negative."

The doctor nodded, then turned to Vanessa again. "Any other symptoms? Headache, diarrhea, constipation, achiness?"

Vanessa shook her head. "My poop is fine, thanks for asking."

"She's just trying to help, honey." Bobby reached over and patted her knee. She really did feel like telling him to shove it, or at the very least, to stop touching her. The patting was just over the top.

Dr. Ramirez smiled wryly. "Have I mentioned how happy I am to see you today, Vanessa? I'm going to do a brief physical exam. It's possible you have a mild stomach virus. But I'll go ahead and run the blood test to see if everything is normal. It will also tell us if your white blood cells are normal."

"Great...so what do I need to do?"

Now Ramirez grinned. "I'll get Brenda in here to take your blood, then I'll be back to check you out."

Brenda was quick and friendly, taking the couple vials of blood and leaving with a smile. A minute later, Dr. Ramirez entered the room again. "Just sit up and relax...I'm going to listen to you."

Bobby sat patiently, watching Dr. Ramirez check his wife thoroughly. This was his first time meeting Dr. Ramirez, and he liked her. He knew Vanessa had been seeing her for quite awhile and trusted her.

When she finished, Dr. Ramirez turned to Vanessa and said, "Everything looks good from all other angles...your breathing sounds good...I don't see any signs of infection anywhere. Your stomach is...well, grumbly...but that's all I've heard, and that could be due to a lack of food, or to a mild GI illness. I'll go check with Brenda to see if your blood tests are finished...or at least the one we're waiting for." With a smile, she left the room.

A silence settled between them. Vanessa was still tired and wished she were in bed. When Bobby had woken her up for this appointment, her first instinct had been to tell him he was nuts and to leave her the fuck alone. She took a deep breath and exhaled, trying to lessen the stress she was feeling and the undeserved irritation.

To his credit, Bobby didn't speak, but sat quietly in the extra chair next to the examination table. She knew he really did have her best interest in mind. Any other guy she had ever dated would have dropped her off outside the office if he bothered to do that at all. It's why she gave up dating once she got clean. No men she ever seemed to attract were worthwhile. Bobby was a different breed, she reminded herself, as she watched him interlacing his fingers and bouncing his knee up and down.

Finally she said, "I just don't want you to get your hopes up...like we've talked about, it can take a long time...and you know me. I throw up at the drop of a dime."

He looked at her thoughtfully. "Well," he responded, "I-I think it's good to be sure." She could see him swallow under his collar and tie. "Don't you?"

"Sure." Her eyes hurt. They were so tired. And she could feel her stomach rolling around in total discomfort.

Finally Dr. Ramirez entered the room again. "Well," she said, looking first at Bobby and then to Vanessa, "I have the results back of your initial blood tests." She pulled her stool up and sat across from both of them. "Your white cell count doesn't look elevated at this time. That's good news...it generally means you don't have an infection. It doesn't rule out a mild GI virus, but it does rule out anything more significant." She paused, before looking at Vanessa. "We did run the blood test for pregnancy, and it came back positive."

The first thing she heard, after the blood rushing through her ears, was Bobby exhaling heavily. "You're sure...I've had my period..."

"It's been light...and that sometimes happens." Dr Ramirez handed her several pamphlets. "This is just some reading material I've gathered for you. I'm assuming you have an obstetrician you'll want to see?"

"Yes," she replied, "Dr. Anushki--"

Dr. Ramirez nodded. "He's terrific. You need to make an appointment as soon as possible." She glanced at Bobby. "I know you guys have been trying for several months, and while it's unlikely that you're too far along, there's always the possibility."

Bobby started laughing. "Hey, you could be on that show...you know, 'I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant' or whatever."

She shook her head. "I think I'm gonna puke."

Dr. Ramirez handed her a pail, and said, "Dr. Anushki will be able to tell you exactly how far along you are. He'll run some tests." She turned to Bobby again. "It's possible that she does have a mild stomach bug as well. Nausea and fatigue are typical of early pregnancy, but can also be part of illness. Just let her rest as much as possible for right now. Hopefully she'll get in to see Dr. Anushki next week."

He nodded, looking serious. Vanessa knew he was trying to memorize everything she was saying to him. The nausea was subsiding but, given the opportunity, she would lay down on the damn examination table and take a nap.

Dr. Ramirez patted her knee gently. "I'll see you soon, Vanessa...you guys take care." And then she was gone.

Bobby guided her off the table and out of the room. After taking care of the bill, they walked outside to hail a cab. He held the door and she climbed in, still silent.

As he sat next to her, being careful to give her room, trying to be the caring, compassionate man she loved, she leaned over and rested her cheek against his shoulder. She didn't say anything, but she didn't need to.

He caught her hand in his, and they rode silently back to the condo.


She was sleeping soundly in their bed. He figured she deserved it, after spending most of the night before with her head in the toilet.

He was excited. He was going to be a dad. Not only a dad, but the dad of her baby. He remembered when he had first fantasized about that. It had been a few months before they got married. They had been jogging in the park, and a family had caught his eye. A dad, a mom, and a baby--all in love with one another. He saw it in their eyes, and it had made him wonder if his own parents had ever looked at him with that same love and adoration. When he had turned his attention back to her, she was jogging place and smiling at him. And it had been clear, in that moment, that he could have that life. The one he had always thought wasn't possible for him. A life that included the woman he loved more than anything and a baby that they conceived together.

He hadn't told her how much he thought about it, but he had laid awake at night, imagining what their baby would look like. What it would be like to hold their baby, rock it, fall in love with someone they created together. Created out of love and passion. He would lay awake imagining looking at their child with the same expression he had seen that day in the park, the expression of a father who was clearly smitten with his own child.

He knew that for him, Vanessa would always be the one. Like his other half. She was smart and lovely and creative and funny. She was better than him, perfectly matched. That God had intervened and connected them was nothing short of miraculous. And she was pregnant now. His baby. Growing inside of his wife. It took his breath away.

He ran through a mental list of people to contact. His friends, most of whom were single, quirky, or maybe not as close as before his marriage; their friends, which he didn't want to tell without her; coworkers, which seemed to be strange people to call at eight o-clock at night to share such news. A year ago he would have called Eames, but not now. She had only been back to work for a couple of months and something about her still felt shaky. He hated having secrets from her. He'd never had them before.

That left family, and there was no way in hell he was going to call Ava and tell her she was right. That was Vanessa's job. So his family was left, and that quickly narrowed the list of calls down to one. His mother.

He hadn't spoken to her that day. Usually they spoke in the evening, or if he had a few minutes at work while he was on a case. A quick check-in, they called it, and most days it went fine. He wondered if his mother would share his enthusiasm. She had often said, not so tactfully, that she was waiting for a grandchild to visit. Maybe she would be excited by the news, he convinced himself. Maybe it would be exciting for her. He dialed the number, and waited for the nurse to put him through.

She answered the phone in her typical tone. It never got past him that she was a New Yorker through and through.

"Hey Ma," he said, "Sorry I'm a little late calling...it's been a busy day."

"I can imagine..." she replied. "How many cases are they making you work today?"

He was picking at his nails nervously. Forty-five years old and his mom still made him nervous. "I had to work a case this morning...then Vanessa wasn't feeling well, so we went to the doctor. That's really why I'm calling."

"What, is she contagious?" God bless her, he loved her dearly, but she had absolutely no tact whatsoever.

He coughed. "Um, no. I was calling to let you know you're going to be a grandmother. Vanessa's pregnant."

He could hear his mother catch her breath. "Oh my God, Bobby! That's wonderful! How far along is she? Is she okay? You know, we always have boys on your dad's side of the family...so it's likely you'll have a boy. Is she able to come to the phone?"

"She's fine, Ma. She's resting...she's been pretty tired...the doctor thinks she might have a mild stomach bug too. She goes to the obstetrician on Tuesday. That's when we'll know more."

"I can't believe it," she gushed. "I'm going to be a grandmother. I always figured it would be your brother instead of you, but I'll take it however it comes. That baby will be beautiful with a mother like that. You remember to treat her well. You treat her like a goddamned princess, Robert, you hear me?"

"Yes...yes, Ma...I will. I have to go now and check on her, but I wanted you to know."

"You're made my night, Bobby...I'm so thrilled. You tell that beautiful wife of yours to call me soon."

"I will, I will. I love you, Ma...I'll see you Sunday."

He hung up the phone gently. That had gone better than he had thought. It was so difficult for her to give him anything he needed. Maybe this baby would bridge some gaps.

He made his way to the bedroom and stripped his clothes down to his boxers, then through on a tee and flannel bottoms. It was chilly in the bedroom. He glanced at Vanessa, who was curled up in one of his oversized t-shirts and sleeping soundly. He couldn't help but smile. She was even beautiful when she slept.

Carefully he climbed into the bed with her and adjusted the sheets and blankets. A minute later he felt her head snuggle closely to his chest. He wrapped an arm around her and smiled, thinking of the fact that there were three of them now sleeping in this bed.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chapter Seven

When she got home, the lights were off in the condo, except for one small table lamp, enough to let her know her husband was already home.

She grinned to herself, then turned off the lamp and wandered through the hallway to the bedroom, where she could see light under the door. Slowly, she opened it, revealing several lit candles around the room and her husband, in his black tee and jeans, barefoot, sitting in the armchair.

"Hey, beautiful," he greeted her, and motioned for her to join him.

She kicked off her shoes and slowly made her way to the armchair. He grinned before reaching for the clip in her hair and unfastening it. "How are you today?"

"Good," she told him. "Very, very good."

He chuckled, low, and pulled her closer on his lap so that she was straddling his legs, then reached over to the end table. "I brought you something. Want to see?"

"Sure." He opened the box and revealed several pecan pralines, her favorite. "Aha," she giggled, "You're seriously trying to romance me."

He was smiling as he unwrapped one and broke the corner off. "Open up, baby." She opened her mouth and he slid the praline onto her tongue. She closed her mouth and her eyes at the same time, letting the candy melt and the flavor take over her taste buds.

"So good," she said softly.

Now he chuckled. "Yeah. In a little bit, you'll be saying that again." His eyes permeated hers, deep and dark, and he kissed her, still staring at her. "Over and over again, Beth..."

"Promises, promises."

He leaned forward to kiss her, taking his time to enjoy the softness of her mouth and the taste of pralines on her tongue. His hands ran down her back slowly, then up to her shoulders, before pulling her closer and indulging in a long, sensual kiss.

She knew he had listened to her. He was incredibly thoughtful and took his time, hands and mouth and body working in sync to excite her. She thought they were ready, but he pulled away from her grip and teased her some more, the way he had done early in their marriage, over and over, until she could think of nothing other than the blissful relief that would come with intercourse. She wrapped her body around his, whispering commands, then directives, then soft requests until he finally acquiesced to her.

As amazing as the anticipation was, nothing was as good as being pressed against him, covered by his body, moving in rhythm with him. He was right, and she told him so, moaning, "So good, so good, Bobby..." until he was groaning softly with her in agreement and they clutched each other in passionate pleasure.

After, when he gently moved off of her, she kept one hand wrapped around his neck, ensuring he wouldn't go very far. She pulled him back, close to her, and whispered, "You know you don't have to move so fast..."

He nipped her ear. "I thought you liked it when I moved so fast..."

"You're hilarious. You know what I mean."

He pushed her sweaty hair out of her face. "I'm a hundred pounds heavier than you...I'd hate to squish you into nothing."

"Heh. I'll let you know if I start to go numb."

He was smiling and leaned to kiss her on the mouth, then kiss her again. "Three more nights of this," he whispered. "Did you feel goal oriented?"

"Yes, but it was a different goal."

"Good." His hands were wandering over her again. "You remember what I told you...the contractions help the semen move into the uterus..."

She snorted. "Or I could stand on my head."

"Whatever works."

She shook her head. "Why don't you put that sassy tongue to better use?"

"If you insist..." He winked at her. "Remember, we don't have to have a goal in mind..."

"Yeah," she sighed, "I got it."


She sat on the toilet, staring at the stick, trying to contain her disappointment. Granted, it was their first time around, but she had been so sure they'd get pregnant right away. For sure, they were super active. God knows if there had been any possibility of her ovulating and his swimmers reaching a fertile egg, they would have done it. And that thought just worried her more.

She heard him knock softly on the door. "It's been three minutes..." There was a pause before he said, "It's okay if it's negative...we should have expected that...it's just the first time."

She turned the door handle, opening it, and he came in. She handed the stick to him and sighed. "I guess I was more goal-oriented than I thought."

He sank down against the wall, sitting across from her. "You said yourself it could take awhile for you to start ovulating regularly."

"Yeah, but I didn't mean it."


"So now what?"

He shrugged. "We mark the calendar and repeat the process, right?"

"I guess. Something like that." She took the stick back from him and tossed it in the trash. "Anything that's going to give me such bad news shouldn't be so expensive."

"I told you to let me get the multipack."

"I thought it would be positive." She rested her chin in her hands, elbows on her knees.

He reached over and rubbed her calf. "I know you did...and it will be, eventually. Try to think of all the fun we'll have making this happen."

"Right. Somehow I'm not so horny right now."

"That's okay...you've got about two and a half weeks to get there again."

She snorted, then stood up. "I guess I need to add tampons to the list for the store after all."


"Wine or no?" David held the bottle over Vanessa's glass. She held up a hand.

"I'll pass this time, but thanks anyway." David nodded and refilled Bobby's glass, then Ava's. Vanessa sipped her water, then turned to Ava. "So how did you get Justin to sleep so early?"

Ava smiled knowingly. "Early to rise and a super short nap makes for a tired preschooler." She picked up her wine glass, then said, "He's easy to go down, always has been, though, so he was out by seven."

David smiled wryly as he took a bite of his chicken. "Ava knows all the tricks." He chewed and swallowed, then said, "I hear you two have decided to start a family."

Bobby and Vanessa glanced at each other, then Vanessa shot Ava and nasty look. Ava held up her hands. "He's my husband...surely you didn't expect me to keep secrets from him."

"Actually, yes, we have." Bobby nodded in assent and smiled. "We're looking forward to getting that positive test, aren't we?"

Vanessa felt sicker than she had when David had first mentioned it. "Yeah..."

Ava shook her head. "You're too impatient, honey. It takes time. God, David, how long did it take us with Justin? A year or so?"

David put his fork down and nodded. "Something like that...talk about killing the romance..."

Ava chuckled, putting her glass back down. "Yes, that became the whole focus of every moment alone during that year, didn't it? Totally focused on the goal at hand." She looked at Bobby. "I know that's hard to believe."

Bobby didn't answer her. He kept eating his dinner.

"And then, once Justin came, all our time was invested in him. No more time alone. It's not like we got to rebuild the romance we had lost." David shook his head.

"Hmm." Ava was chewing on a roll now. "It's amazing we still have sex."

"God!" Vanessa exclaimed. "I'm trying to eat here."

Ava shook a finger at her. "You need to know what you're getting into. It's not any kind of picnic...once you're pregnant you'll be sick all the time and gain weight. Your boobs will hang down to your stomach, which, by the way, will never look the same again. And don't think you'll get off easy," she said, turning to Bobby. "She'll be hot all the time and won't be able to sleep. One week she won't be able to get enough of you and the next week she'll act like you have the plague. Then when the baby comes, you'll be replaced. He'll be attached to her boob. You'll be changing diapers and feeding and rocking and dressing and bathing. And by the time he's able to do any of that for himself, you'll get knocked up again." She drained her wine glass as Bobby and Vanessa stared at her. "Welcome to parenthood."

"I-I think we're only planning to have one," Bobby stuttered slowly.

"Ha," Ava returned, "I've heard that before."

Just then Tristan began to cry, and David stood up. "I'll get him." He left the dining room.

Vanessa turned to Ava. "Why are you drinking if you're nursing?"

Ava shook her head. "I'm not. Call me selfish, but I couldn't do it a second time past the first couple months. It's too fucking demanding. It's like you're an on-call restaurant, 24/7. It's awful. It's uncomfortable. He cries, and I lactate. It's gross. I've finally dried up," she noted, motioning toward her breasts. Suddenly she elbowed Bobby. "You better get over it," she told him. "I hear your partner's pregnant and due any time. She'll be leaking all over the place."

Bobby refused to look up, a deep crimson coloring his cheeks. "Eames will take care of it," he mumbled. Ava and Vanessa looked at each other and grinned.

David reappeared with Tristan and a bottle. He tilted him into the crook of his arm and began to feed him, then tried to continue to eat his dinner.

Suddenly Bobby turned to David. "I'm done eating...I can feed him while you finish."

"Sure?" David passed Tristan to Bobby. "Just stick him in your arm, at the bend, and stick the bottle in his mouth...he'll do the rest."

Bobby followed David's directions and Tristan quickly settled down, making soft sucking sounds. Vanessa watched the two of them and couldn't help but smile. She noticed Bobby was smiling too, watching Tristan eating. Ava elbowed her suddenly.

"That's why," she nodded toward Bobby and Tristan. "That's why you go through all of it...because when you look at them and they're so sweet like that, you feel all warm and gushy inside. Hey Bobby, you're a natural...you can come feed my baby anytime."

"Thanks, Ava." His voice had just a touch of sarcasm to it, but was overwhelmed with gentleness. The baby was beautiful and continued to take his bottle easily for several minutes. They all quietly watched him until he finished.

"Here," Ava said, taking him from Bobby. "I'll burp him. Trust me, you don't want that part...you look and smell too nice." She tossed a rag over her shoulder and lay Tristan on it, patting him firmly.

They spent the rest of the night playing with a wide-awake Tristan, snuggling him and rocking him and making him giggle. Even Ava laughed at their enthusiasm over her son.

When they left, David walked them to the door. "Hey," he said, low, more to Bobby than to Vanessa, "don't let her scare you off. Having kids has been great. Ava's a great mother." His eyes met Vanessa's briefly, then he turned back to Bobby. "It's all good, man. Once you get used to it, anyway."

"Thanks for dinner." Bobby shook David's hand and they left the house, neither saying anything.


"He's beautiful, Eames." Goren was sitting next to her hospital bed. Her family had finally left the room, going to gather in the newborn nursery and spend some time with the baby and his parents.

He held her hand. It was impossible to say why he felt the need to do that. Since he and Vanessa began seeing one another, he had been extremely careful to avoid any unnecessary touching of his partner. He avoided it for both of their benefits; it hadn't been such a big deal for people to gossip about their close relationship when they were both single, but he didn't want either Eames or Rayden to get hurt because he carelessly touched Eames' shoulder or held her hand. But now...it was something in her face, in her smile. He had seen the same look on his wife before, the brave smile that delicately covered the pain underneath.

Eames let out a shaky breath. "Yeah, he's perfect. Ten fingers, ten toes...Liz and Tony are really happy. Did you see them? He does look like them. It's funny how he could have come out of me looking like them." She was rambling. He let her, figuring it kept her focused on the part she could manage.

"Liz looked really happy."

Eames nodded. He kept holding her hand. "Did you see his hair? A full head, already. I guess that's typical for Tony's family. That's where he would have gotten all that dark hair. It sure didn't come from us." She forced a light chuckle. "It really wasn't that bad. You'll have to tell Vanessa...she needs to make sure to ask for drugs. I told them they could give me anything that made it easier, as long as it didn't hurt him. Five hours and it was over...it really wasn't bad at all." She tugged at the sheet covering her small body. "They said I should be home tomorrow."

He cleared his throat. "Vanessa said to tell you she'll be by when you get home. I think she didn't want..." He was going to say that she didn't want to take any time away from Alex and Nathan being together but caught himself. "Well, she was worried you might be tired."

"It's not too bad...what time is it, seven or eight? Home is a good time to visit too...but I'm glad you came by...I really wanted you to see him." The smile on her face cracked just a tad. "He's what I left you for, anyway."

He was still holding her hand. "It's nine. I guess they'll be by to check on you soon."

"Yeah. Meds and all that..." Her hand absently ran over her belly, now deflated. "But tell Vanessa it's a piece of cake. You guys will do great as soon as it's time."

He smiled at her, hoping she couldn't read the pity he was holding back. If there was one thing she couldn't stand it was people feeling sorry for her. He heard the clicking of heels behind him, and turned to see Eames' sister Liz standing behind him, beaming.

"You doing okay?" she asked her sister, then turned to Bobby. "I'm so glad you could come by. Alex tells me you and your wife are considering starting a family."

He wanted the floor to swallow him up, to take him and Liz's comment far, far away, to spare Eames the pain of having to think about what he might share with Rayden, what Eames would never have with Joe. But Eames continued to beam at him as though this were Christmas, and so he nodded at Liz. "Yes, we are." He patted Eames' hand once as he let it go, then stood. "I guess I'll leave you to rest. But congratulations." He smiled at Liz, then back at Eames, whose eyes were now brimming with the tears she had been holding back, and he knew if he tried to stay to comfort her she'd kill him. So he just told her, "He's beautiful....we'll see you soon."

He tried to imagine giving up a child. He thought of the woman he had dated overseas so many years ago, the one he had considered marrying, and tried to imagine how he would have felt if he had learned she had become pregnant and given their child up for adoption. But he knew he couldn't grasp it. He couldn't begin to imagine the gift Eames had given her sister, nor the sacrifice she had made.

The hesitation he had felt at fathering a child now seemed a million years ago. He knew Vanessa's biological clock was ticking, and he felt the pressure too. He must have done the math a million times, figuring out how old he would be when this kid graduated high school, or college, or got married, or had a child. He was forty-five. He wanted to be fair to their child. He didn't want to be confused with being the kid's grandfather.

Maybe this month they'd get lucky. If they did, he'd have to figure out a gentle way to break it to Eames. He couldn't stand the thought of hurting her. He'd never figured he'd have something so special in his life that Eames might be jealous of it. Of course, he'd never figured he'd have his wife.

Chapter Six

"Hey," he said as he entered the bedroom. She was lying in bed watching television. Some crime drama. Same as the last three days.

"Hi," she replied, keeping her eyes on the television.

He hung his jacket up in the closet and sat down on the corner of the bed, petting Bruce. He hesitated to speak, but felt the need to anyway, and before he could stop himself, he had started. "So how was your day?"

Now she looked at him, a look that read 'Are you stupid?', before responding, "Fine...and yours?"

"Okay. I missed you."

She didn't answer, but had gone back to watching television. He knew this was incredibly hard on her. She wasn't meant for a life of nothing. "I was wondering if you might like to go out to dinner tonight," he said, catching her hand in his.

Her eyes moved to their hands, and he saw what he knew he would: the tears, filling her eyes, that had been erratic but frequent over the last several days. "Not tonight," she whispered. "I'm just not able."

"Okay." He stood and pulled all his clothes off and climbed into bed with her.

She looked surprised for a minute, then said, "Do you want to do it or something?"

"Only if you do. Actually, I just wanted to be with you. I woke up wanting that and I've wanted it all day."

"Bishop on your nerves again?"

"Not particularly. I just need you."

Her face was doubtful for a moment, but he kept looking at her, until she finally met his eyes. And she read them, telling her it was okay, whatever she felt was okay, and she burst into tears and buried her face against his chest.

His arms were strong and thick, and wrapped tightly around her body, pulling her closer. He didn't shush her or tell her it would be okay or to think about the positives. He remembered after her attack, the times he would hold her and they wouldn't talk. And how it helped. He was hoping it would help now. He knew she was in pain, feeling useless, the same as he would feel if it had happened to him. Deakins hadn't been able to get anyone to budge yet, and the wait was torture for her.

He continued to hold her, feeling her tears spreading across his chest and the sobs wracking her body as her disappointment flooded to the surface. She was shaking, her body vibrating from within, but he held on and didn't let go.

The minutes passed by. Five, ten, twenty. The sobs were less frequent but still came, breaths in between. He hadn't loosened his grip, and he continued to hold her until all that was left was soft gasps and tiny whimpers, and her cheek was pressed against him, flat and wet and hot.

She finally said, "How long are you planning on staying like this?"

"As long as I need to. I have sick days accumulated."

She didn't move. He knew she was exhausted. He meant what he said, too. He would stay as long as he needed to, just like this, until his arms fell off or her cheek welded to his chest.


When he woke in the morning, she wasn't in the bed. He heard the shower running. For a second he thought maybe he was dreaming but then decided he was too chilly to be asleep.

The bathroom door was open, and he went in. She was in the shower. He could see her outline, the shampoo in her hair. He stepped in behind her and she immediately leaned back into him.

"Want help?"

"I'm about done...I figured I'd try to finish up before you needed to get in." She turned around to rinse her hair and he reached up, running his fingers through the lather, helping to get it out. She smiled at him, the first smile he'd seen in a week. "If you sit on the ledge, I'll wash yours for you," she offered, and he quickly took a seat as she began to wash his hair.

She lathered and scrubbed his scalp, then squeezed his body wash onto his sponge and began to wash him. He sat quietly, gratefully, letting her take the lead. After a moment, she directed him to stand and she finished lathering him up. "Hold still while I rinse you," she said, then took the sprayer and rinsed him off. Turning off the water, she stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a towel before grabbing one for him. "Here..." She smiled at him, then left the bathroom. He followed her into the bedroom, using the towel to dry his hair, then his body.

She had pulled on a pair of panties and was reaching for a bra when he realized she was really going to get out of bed today.

"What are we doing today?" he asked, slipping on his jeans.

She looked surprised. "You're going to work...and I'm calling the doctor...I need to go in for a gynecological exam. I want to make sure I'm doing everything I should be doing." She hooked her bra, then turned to him. "I'm going to do some laundry, maybe walk Bruce, and make some lists. You know, lists of where I'm going now...what I'm going to do with my life."

He pulled on a black tee, then sat down on the bed. "I took the day off. Whatever you want to do, we can do together."

She sat next to him. "You don't have to babysit me. I'm okay. I know I've been a complete child about all of this but I'm done...it's time to put on my big girl panties and get a grip now."

He smiled.

"So I put them on...did you notice?"

"Yes...yes I did," he joked back, and she suddenly threw her arms around him tightly.

"I love you, Bobby. I know I've been a nightmare and I'm sorry."

He hugged her back. "No worse than I would have been." He pulled her back to look her in the face, then smiled again. "Do you want to call your doctor first or go to breakfast? I thought a big breakfast is definitely needed today. It's a big day--the start of the next part of our lives together."

She nodded, a firm, quick assent, before saying, "I'll call the doctor, and then we'll go. A breakfast with more than coffee...I'm sure I'll remember this for a long time."

An hour later they were eating breakfast, large and hearty and hot. She had ordered an omelet, bacon, homefries, and toast--big, homemade pieces of a dark, cinnamon raisin bread. When her food arrived, he had laughed.

"I hope you've got enough there," he said, nodding to her plate.

"I'm hungry today," she told him, digging in. "I would think you'd be happy that I'm not eating off your plate this time."

He grinned. "You know I'm always thrilled to share whatever I have with you."

"In that case," she returned, "you won't mind giving me a piece of your sausage."

"I'll give you some sausage, but not the one on my plate."

"Gross!" She made a face. "Speaking of your sausage, my appointment is next Tuesday at three. It's okay if you can't go...she'll just do a general exam and give me information, all of which I'm sure is in the books you've already gotten."

He was cutting up his eggs and smiling to himself. "I'm glad you have embraced my decision to learn more about this process."

"Yeah, but I want you to do me a favor."

"What's that?"

"Stop pressuring me to have sex every day...it's so not romantic or sexy when you're so...I don't know...driven."

He stopped mid-bite. "You really think that..that I'm pressuring you?"

"Sometimes. I mean, there has to be a happy medium between wanting to do it out of desire and needing to do it for conception." She pushed the omelet around on her plate. "I just hate feeling like we're only doing it to accomplish a goal."

He leaned forward. "You do realize," he said in a hushed voice, "that I can't do it if I don't want you, right? I mean, there's a definite element of wanting to do it no matter what...at least for me." His fork touched hers. "Are you saying you don't want to do it sometimes?"

"No, no...I'm just saying there have been a couple of times it's seemed less like us and more like it's goal oriented."

He sat back and considered what she was saying. "I'm sorry," he said. "I guess maybe I did get carried away, initially, in looking at it as a goal."

"Well, it is...I guess I just worry that it will turn into that being the whole focus..." She took a bite of her bacon. "On a similar note, Wednesday through Saturday next week should be the prime time. So we probably want to make sure we get it in each day then."

He choked on his coffee. "I'll do my best to get it in," he sputtered, and she suddenly laughed, hard and loud. He grabbed his napkin, chortling in it too, until she finally stepped on his toes to get him to stop.

They both worked hard to regain their composure, wiping their eyes and trying to focus on their breakfasts. After a couple more minutes, he said, "I'm sorry if I haven't been romantic enough...I'll try to keep that up. I don't want this to be a chore for either of us. It seems like it should be more special, if anything." He was still interspersing his words with chuckles. She reached over and touched his fingernails. They were smooth and well-manicured. He actually filed his own nails. She had seen him do it, and admired him for it.

"I agree...and I'll try to keep an open mind." They looked at each other, and he suddenly grabbed her hand and squeezed it, as he had the night before when she had been so upset.

"I love you, Ness...more than anything. I love you."

"I love you too, Bobby. You're amazing."

"So," she said, tapping the side of the box, "I'm here to pack it up."

Deakins stood from his chair and looked at her awkwardly. "I'm sorry," he told her. "I was so sure I could make something work quickly." He shook his head and sighed. "This is a huge mistake by the brass and they know it...if and when you go back to working, have them contact me. I'll give you an outstanding recommendation."

She nodded. "I never doubted that. And don't worry...you're not getting rid of me. Just because I'm not here every day doesn't mean I won't be around." She smiled shyly at him. "I wanted you to know how much I've appreciated all your support over the years...you've been incredible to work for. I've learned so much from you, and you're such a good person. I never could have made it through everything without you, Captain."

He shook his head again. "Rayden, you're too modest. You're one of the stars of this squad and we're all going to miss you." He walked around the desk, following her to the door of his office. "I expect you to be here regularly...to have lunch with your husband and your friends...and I know Angie is going to be calling you soon. She wants to bring you dinner. You'll let us know when you're...successful...in this next venture?"

She knew what he meant and smiled. "Yeah, I'm sure you'll know shortly after we do...my partner in crime is pretty excited about the prospects." They both glanced over at Goren's desk, to see he and Bishop actively engaged in a lively conversation.

"Let me know if you need any help packing." He started to turn back to his desk, then stopped. "Oh--Eames went on maternity leave today. Just thought you would want to know."

"Thanks." She headed to her office to finish what she had started a week and a half ago. Forty-five minutes later she was done, and sat back to examine her office one last time. There was nothing left that really made the office hers, other than memories. After a few more minutes, she picked up her box and left the office for the last time.

"Hey," Goren said, jumping out his chair and bounding across the bullpen to her. "I can take the box home when I leave later, if you want."

She nodded. "Okay. I think I'm going to visit Alex for a bit."

"Tell her I said hi, and I hope she's doing well." He took the box from her, carefully setting it on his desk.

"I will. We still on for tonight?"

"It's Wednesday, right? You bet." They both smiled at each other, and she headed toward the elevator.


"So you're keeping the same ob/gyn?" Eames handed Rayden a cup of tea and had a seat next to her on the couch.

"I think so. I've been seeing her for years and she knows me pretty well. I've started on these vitamins and I'm supposed to be drinking orange juice each day for folic acid..."

"Did you figure out your ovulation schedule?"

"Yeah." Vanessa smiled and leaned back. "I feel like this is such a science experiment. I almost wonder if I should just have stopped my birth control and seen what happened, you know?"

Alex laughed. "Yeah...I know. Trust me, with this baby I became an expert on the scientific makings of conception!"

"I guess so." She put her glass of tea down. "I'm sorry I missed your shower last weekend...it was just a really bad time."

"Don't worry. I felt so badly for you. I was going to call, but Bobby told me to just give you a bit of time."

Vanessa nodded. "That was probably good advice...I was a real wreck until the end of last week...it took me several days to pick myself up again." Eames was resting her hands on her belly, as she always seemed to do these days, and Vanessa asked, "Is he moving?"

"Always...the doctor said that's pretty normal toward the end. I guess a week from now, he and I will be heading in different directions."

Vanessa hadn't thought about it that way, but she knew it was true. After Nathan was born, Eames would recover and go back to work, and he would go home with her sister and brother-in-law. "Are you sad?"

Eames was quiet for a minute. "Yes. But please don't say anything."

Vanessa nodded. "I'm so sorry, Alex. I'm just so sorry."

"Don't be. I chose this for myself. I don't regret my choices. And please--please don't feel like you have to keep your own excitement and joy from me because of this. I'm so thrilled for both you and Bobby...your baby will be so fortunate."

"Let's hope." She took another sip of her tea, then said, "Bobby wanted me to tell you he was thinking of you."

Eames smiled. "He's a great partner. I'll be so glad to be back to work--" She froze, but Vanessa nodded.

"It's okay." Suddenly she laughed. "You and I could tiptoe around each other all the time if we weren't able to handle this crap. Thank God we're stronger than that."

Eames grinned. "Wait til you see this kid. He's gonna be gorgeous...and I'll always get to say I gave birth to him."

"Oh!" Vanessa reached around, grabbing her purse, and pulled out an envelope. "I struggled with what to get you...we sent a package to your sister's for the baby, but I wanted you to have this." She handed the envelope to Eames, who looked at it confusedly before opening it.

It was a letter. Eames read it slowly and Vanessa watched her expression as she took in the words of admiration. Then she opened the gift certificate and gasped.

"I can't take this...it's too much...too generous..."

Vanessa shook her head. "Are you kidding? I want you to have it. So does Bobby."

When she had read about the spa weekend for new mothers, she had thought of Alex immediately, and before she could talk herself out of it, she had purchased the package. Alex deserved the pampering after carrying her sister's baby. She knew Eames would never be able to afford something like that on a cop's salary, nor would she spend money on something so frivolous. But now her eyes were glowing and glistening, and she wiped away a tear.

"Ness...thank you...tell Bobby thank you too. Thank you so much."

Vanessa nodded. "You deserve it, and so much more...you're an amazing woman. I'm just glad I could do it for you."

Impulsively, Eames hugged her, and Vanessa hugged her friend back. Eames was never this affectionate normally, and Vanessa wrote it off to the pregnancy hormones. For a minute, she wondered if pregnancy hormones would make her want to push people away. Otherwise, she'd probably be on top of people all the time.