"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."
"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.