Author: UA PM
In his twenty-odd years on the job, he'd never seen anything like it. Theresa/Ethan, Sheridan/Luis, and more. Rating subject to change. UPDATED 8/15/12.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 21 - Words: 78,470 - Reviews: 36 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 08-15-12 - Published: 12-12-10 - id: 6552011
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Did I ever tell you how scared I was, Mama? When I first suspected I was pregnant with Anna? Sure, I wanted her. From the moment I knew I was carrying her, I wanted her. Even before then. She was a little part of me and Ethan, and I loved her before I ever knew her.
But I was scared, terrified that I wasn't ready, that I wasn't good enough. How could I be good enough to help shape the life of such a tiny, helpless thing?
We didn't have much, Mama, not in the beginning. Just our dreams. Well, I had dreams. Ethan had plans. Not the plans made for him by Alistair or Julian or Ivy. Not those plans. His own plans, and a whole lot of determination.
When I saw that first plus sign, I thought of Ethan, sure, and how I was going to break the news to him. But then I thought of you and how far away from home I was, and how I wanted so much for you to put your arms around me and tell me it was going to be okay. It was soon, but not so soon that I couldn't handle it. Me and Ethan? We were going to be okay.
I was scared, and sometimes I still am, but I think that's okay. Anna is the best of both of us, and the day I stop being scared that I'm not good enough for that perfect little piece of me and Ethan is the day I stop being the Mama she deserves. The kind of Mama you were for me.
When the oven timer went off, Pilar closed the thin, leather-bound journal with a sigh and tucked it back into the pocket of her apron. She was just taking another silver serving platter down from the kitchen cabinets and refilling it with the last batch of warm, buttery croissants when Kay entered the room, Hope hot on her heels.
"I don't know how she does it," Kay sank into one of the kitchen chairs, picking at the crumbs littering the tray she'd retrieved from the sunroom where her mother was currently entertaining more than half a dozen old biddies (boy, had they made Luis squirm, gushing over his lovely wife and daughter, finding excuses to touch him, openly admiring his, er, physical attributes). "This is only my 3rd day, and I'm going crazy." Kay was of the fervent belief that her father was punishing her for her decision to take some time off from school by insisting she help her mother and Pilar out (officially) at the Bed and Breakfast for what amounted to chump change. Still, there were worse ways to bear the burden of her father's disappointment, she decided when Pilar placed a croissant on a saucer and set it in front of her. Hope crawled into Kay's lap and attacked the treat with her usual enthusiasm, and Kay could only shake her head. "Save some of that for me, Pest," she chastised, looking up just in time to catch a glimpse of Pilar's smile before she turned her back to them, busily refilling an empty pitcher of orange juice for the boisterous octogenarians that had arrived by bus two afternoons previous (and been the bane of Luis's existence since). "You're going to have to grow up and run this place, Hope-less, because I'm not good with people."
Pilar wisely refrained from comment, merely offered Kay a polite smile.
The twinkle in her dark eyes spoke volumes, though, and Kay didn't know whether to be offended by or appreciative of the fact that she seemed to share her opinion on the matter.
Hope wiggled in her sister's lap, trying futilely to find a more comfortable position. Finally giving up, she slid from Kay's lap and crossed to Pilar, her small hand reaching out to tug at Pilar's apron. "I want to help. Please, Pilar?"
Smiling warmly at the insistent little girl, Pilar carefully placed the silver platter in Hope's waiting hands. "Be very careful, Mi hija."
Hope's auburn brows furrowed in concentration, and she tugged her bottom lip between her teeth as she set off for the sunroom, walking very slowly, comically slowly, in fact.
Delighted ooo's and aah's soon drifted back to them inside the kitchen, and Pilar shared a meaningful look with Kay.
"Sounds like she's got her own fan club in there," Kay remarked, pushing her chair back and joining Pilar at the sink. Wordlessly, she took over the task of rinsing and drying the dishes, then replacing them in the cabinets. She looked up when she felt the older woman's eyes on her, and that familiar feeling of being studied (judged) crept back in, forcing her to clear her throat uncomfortably. "Am I doing something wrong?"
Pilar didn't answer her right away, just continued her silent appraisal. There existed so much history between her youngest son and the girl in front of her, some of it good, some of it bad, but none that could be erased. Miguel had been blind to Kay's changing feelings for him; Pilar had not. She'd seen that first painful spark of awareness, that first fervent awakening of hope, and while her loyalties lie firmly with her son, she could not discount all that she knew the girl had felt for Miguel as everyone else, even to some extent her own parents, had. The disappointment of unrequited first love had changed Kay, matured her, in ways Pilar was sure the girl hadn't realized herself yet. The past year, these past few weeks especially, had really demonstrated that.
"Pilar," Kay carefully shut the cabinet in front of her, tucked her hair nervously behind her ears as she bravely turned to meet Pilar's contemplative gaze head-on. "You didn't answer me. Am I doing something wrong?" she repeated.
"No," Pilar finally answered, shaking her head. "You are not," she smiled slightly, drying her hands on the dish towel hanging before her. "I think," she began, watching the wariness begin a slow and gradual fade from Kay's demeanor, "that you are doing a fine job. Maybe you are better with people than you believe." Kay laughed, and the smile on Pilar's face reached her eyes with the young girl's responding comment.
"That'll cost you at least one Hail Mary."
"Two," Pilar corrected her, as Hope trudged back into the kitchen, her already impossible red hair further mussed from the overly affectionate elderly hands, her cheeks pink and pinched, and the empty silver platter held in front of her like a shield. "Mi hija," Pilar relieved her of her burden and set it on the kitchen counter. "You are doing such a good job, you can take this orange juice to the nice ladies."
Hope's blue eyes grew round, and she swallowed hard, before darting a panicked look in Kay's direction.
Kay came to her kid sister's rescue, sending the little girl to the relative safe haven of the garden and Sheridan and Anna's welcome company. "I'll take the orange juice. It is my job, after all."
Hope didn't have to be told twice. The kitchen door banged closed behind her, and her sneakers slapped against the wooden planks of the porch as she raced to the steps and the promise of escape.
"Why don't you join them?" Kay proposed as she picked up the orange juice and turned to go. "I can take care of the Steel Magnolia Brigade."
Pilar murmured her thanks and lifted her hands to untie the apron from her neck. She slid her hand inside its deep pockets to retrieve Theresa's journal, and cradling it protectively close, turned to go, until Kay's clear voice calling her name stopped her.
"Thank you for…" Kay trailed off awkwardly, unwilling to lay name to the multitude of her transgressions, the actions for which she sought atonement, at least in Miguel's eyes, his mother's eyes. "Just…thank you." Thank you for giving me another chance, Kay silently told Pilar with her eyes. Somehow, she knew Pilar understood.
"You're welcome," Pilar said simply.
"I better go," Kay smiled. "Don't want to keep them waiting."
Pilar watched her go, then stepped out into the morning sunshine.
"We should have made the appointment in Castleton. What if we run into someone we know?" Gwen fretted, pulling her sunglasses down to shield her eyes from any curious onlookers in the waiting room.
Hank didn't point out that she was only drawing more attention to herself with her whole incognito act. He merely shifted in his uncomfortable plastic seat and nodded in acknowledgement to the gentleman seated across from him next to his own similarly nervous companion. He winced when the gesture earned him a pinch to the inside of his elbow. "Ouch," Hank hissed. "What was that for, Babe?"
"Don't Babe me," Gwen hissed back. "It's your fault we're in this mess."
"If I remember correctly," Hank rejoined, knowing it was her nerves speaking, for they had already settled this, agreed they were equally at fault, "you weren't exactly an unwilling participant in this little endeavor."
"Little endeavor," Gwen scoffed at him as they watched a heavily pregnant woman in her early thirties approach, one hand supporting her lower back, the other pulling her reluctant counterpart, her husband if the matching wedding band he wore could be taken as any indication, along. Gwen glared at Hank when he exchanged a sympathetic glance with the beleaguered man and crossed her arms across her chest with a huff of indignation. "There's nothing little about it."
Hank looked around at the company they kept in the waiting room, the different women in various stages of pregnancy, some even with a child or two sitting in the chair beside them, and sobered. "Maybe you're right," he reluctantly agreed.
"Maybe?" Gwen regarded him over the top of the sunglasses sliding down her aristocratic nose. "As if I haven't been publicly ostracized enough…the press is going to have a field day with this. I can't believe you're taking this so calmly. Face it, Bennett. You've gotten Cruella De Ville pregnant."
Hank couldn't help it; he smirked, earning himself another angry pinch to his elbow. "Listen. Stop it," he told her, keeping his voice low when it became apparent they were garnering way too much attention. "You're not Cruella De Ville. You're not that bad." He grabbed her hand when he saw it was on the move again, pinning it against his thigh and threading his fingers through hers. "Who cares about the press anyway?" he murmured against her temple, pressing his mouth against it in a reassuring kiss. She did, Hank knew. More than she wanted to admit, and this latest development…well, looking at it from her point of view, he supposed it could be seen as a sign of an approaching apocalypse of sorts. "This is none of their business. It's yours and mine, ours."
"Ours?" Gwen asked coolly.
"Yes, ours," Hank responded, tightening his hand around hers when she made to pull it away. "We made this kid together. We're going to guide it through this crazy, crazy world together."
"You really mean that?" Gwen studied their clasped hands then shyly, hesitantly, lifted her eyes back up to meet his uncharacteristically serious brown gaze.
"Hell, yes, I mean it," Hank vowed. "You're stuck with me for life, Babe."
"Oh, God," Gwen groaned, worming her hand free and bringing it to join her other one as she covered her face from his view. "What have I done to deserve this?"
Hank grinned to himself, confident the woman at his side would never look at alcohol the same way again. It was almost a travesty really. The uninhibited, no holds-barred version of Gwen Hotchkiss he'd taken to bed that night was something to behold, something she'd kept carefully hidden from him in all their ensuing sexual encounters. Hank wondered what it would take to uncover that woman again, now that alcohol was no longer a viable method of escape from her self-employed restraints. If he couldn't help but like this version of her, he was somewhat captivated by the version of her that had helped create his future son or daughter. Not that she would ever drag it out of him or would care. "Is that any way to talk about the father of your child?" he decided to tease instead, only to have his little joke fail on all possible cylinders when he watched her reach a new (though still quietly controlled) level of hysteria with the dawning of an unwanted (not merely forgotten but buried) realization.
"Oh my God. Father. What am I going to tell my father?"
"Any luck on the house hunt?"
Luis quickly minimized the window on his computer and whirled around guiltily to face his boss.
Sam was straight-faced, but there was a twinkle in his blue eyes, a knowing twinkle (he'd been witness to the humiliating manhandling this morning, regretfully), as he tossed the folder in his hands onto the top of Luis's desk.
That twinkle was enough to make Luis relax (somewhat), and he let out the breath he'd been holding in, considered his words, before addressing not his superior, but his friend. "None. Everything's either too big, too little, or too far out of my price range."
"The old Durkee place is up for sale," Sam pointed out the obvious, resting his hip on the edge of Luis's desk.
"It's not big enough," Luis told him. "It only has two bedrooms."
"Looking into expanding that newfound family of yours so soon, Lopez-Fitzgerald?" Quinlan cracked in passing. "You lucky sonuva…"
Luis smiled at his co-worker, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Careful, Marty. That's my wife you're talking about."
"If I'm not mistaken, Quinlan," Sam wisely intervened, "I assigned you to relieve Tina in, oh, half an hour."
Quinlan sobered, all business with the gentle reprimand. "On it, Boss."
When Sam was sure Quinlan had gone, and the only other occupants in the squad room were either engaged otherwise or studiously ignoring them, he returned his full attention back to Luis. "How's it really going?" he finally ventured.
Luis released a long, drawn-out sigh, thankful at least that he didn't have to pretend in front of Sam, that the other man knew perhaps all too well what kind of strain Luis found himself under with every day he spent in such close quarters with his wife. The only difference between them was that Sam wanted to make his marriage work, not just for his children's sake, but because he loved Grace. Luis just wanted to survive his, just until he figured out a way to make Anna his, free and clear of his sister's misguided attempts beyond the grave at matchmaking, preferably without committing justifiable homicide. "I don't know how I'm going to make it through this marriage in one piece, Sam."
Sam winced. "That bad?"
"Worse," Luis replied. "We're too different, Sam. There's just nothing there to make this possibly work. Nothing."
Sam shook his head. "My granddaughter is not nothing, Luis. That little girl is how you're going to make it work."
Luis sighed heavily. "She should be. She is. But what if that's not enough, Sam?"
"What do you mean?" Sam asked grimly.
Luis kept his voice low, but his desperation came through loud and clear. "If we don't find a place of our own soon, Sheridan and I are going to kill each other."
Super short, I know, but I was so desperate to update this fic that I jumped the gun.
Anybody still reading this story?
Drop me a line.
Feedback would be wonderful.
I'm struggling a little bit right now, but with the right motivation I know I could accomplish something, lol. At least a longer chapter.
Thanks so much for reading!
P.S. Mistakes are all mine.