First, sorry for taking so long to update and thanks a million for the reviews, favs/follows and PM's. I'm truly grateful to all of you who have continued to read this and give me feedback and encouragement. For those of you who want me move on and write Peter/Jackie, just give me 2 more chapters and then we're onto that ship and I'm pumped about writing a love story without the kind of angst/issues that we have to deal with here. Just stick around a little longer. Special thanks to: Sprout76 who was not only the 100th reviewer for this story but also let me use one of her ideas way back in Ch. 3 and who has put some great Zennie stories on this site - can't wait to see how you end keep yourself alive. And also to Mr. Green37 who's been super fun to PM And share ideas - the glueing is so inspired by you. ;)
Ch 16 So far away - part II
February, 14, 1980
"Doll?" Laurie questions. "Who is that?"
"No one." Pause. "Get bent."
"Not you. Let me go to the office and call you back."
Jackie answers at the first ring. "Puddin'?"
"Yeah, Laurie's just nosy as we hell and you're kinda early with our call. What's up doll?"
"Well you know… I got this really thoughtful present delivered just a few minutes ago."
"That so? From who?"
"Yeah. You wouldn't know how he got his hands on a used Zeppelin T-shirt to wrap around my unicorn collection and the most beautiful promise ring, would you?"
"No idea. Sounds like sucker to me. But I suppose he did pull breaking and entering so he has some hope yet."
She laughs wholeheartedly. "I always did like a bad boy."
She giggles. "Maybe I love him, how about that?"
"I love you and my presents, even if two are technically mine already and one of them is a used T-shirt. Do I have to wear it?" she asks sassily.
He can't help the laugh that escapes his mouth. "I thought you wore it and missed it."
"Fine, I did."
They talk and tease each other some more and he thanks her for the present she sent. They discuss what the promise ring means, but try to keep it light. They had a rough few days after the long conference call with Dr. Johnson and Dr. Carter and though not everything is resolved, they made a lot of progress and are trying to enjoy some lighthearted calls and get to a new normal.
That night Jackie sleeps in his old Zeppelin t-shirt. Her and Peter had left all Hyde and Monica related things in Peter's old apartment before he moved to her house. In all honestly she hadn't dared to put the shirt on since Sam showed up. But now she could get everything back. She promised herself she would get every little good thing from their relationship back. For now she was happy to have this much with her, even if her Puddin' never revealed just how he had broken into her house and Peter's old apartment. The little criminal.
February 26, 1980.
They had an intense phone session with their therapists that morning. Dr. Carter and Dr. Johnson did a great job, but Hyde and Jackie know they won't be able to hash everything out until they saw each other in person. For now they keep their 5pm phone calls. This time they don't even try to keep things light.
"I… " Don't say I don't know. "I just kept waiting for you to realize that you could do better and leave."
"You've told me and the doctors that and how it's because of your mom. But you've never said why you thought I was like her, Steven. I know I made mistakes and the 'get off my boyfriend' thing hurt and so did my summer of choosing myself. But I was never cruel. I was immature and liked being the center of attention, but I told you I loved you so many times and I was always always faithful," she states fighting the quiver in her voice. "Michael even made us godparents and admitted we were good together. Why did you keep waiting for me to leave? Why... when all I ever talked about was... staying and... committing to each other?" she mumbles. "I'm not Edna…. I just… why?"
He takes a breath to cope with the sounds that he knows are accompanying tears. He wants to say the right thing so bad but now has to fight the knot in his own throat. "Please don't cry. I… it wasn't you, doll. It was all chicks."
"Even Donna?" she asks, as she regains her bearings.
He sighs. "That's different, she's a friend. And I know at some point I wanted more. But when I liked Donna it was just because she was one of the guys, but with girl parts."
"Great," she huffs as she clears the last of her sniffles. "I'm never gonna be that."
"And I don't want you to! Man, Donna's not what I need. If we had started dating four years ago we would have gone on a downward spiral so fast even Red wouldn't have had time to say dumbasses! Me and Donna are similar, but in ways that aren't good for a relationship. Man, when we hurt we become destructive jerks and together we would have been horrible. She needs someone like Forman and I need you. I only need you."
Jackie smiles slightly and says, "Fine. But you still haven't answered my question."
"I know, Jackie. It's just… growing up with Bud and Edna and then only her… I used to try you know. I tried being good enough for them to love me. I even got good grades when I was little. I remember I won a reading star once, but they never cared. They never loved me, never believed in me or even cared if I was fed or looked decent. And after he left, Edna… never gave a shit if I was okay or if one of the uncles she brought home took my shit or yelled or roughed me up… then she ditched me, just like he did. I got over it, I swore I would never try for anyone again."
"I'm so sorry that happened to you, Steven. I-"
"Not your fault. Look, you need to know that I always fought emotional shit and when we were kids and I went for it with Donna, it wasn't real. It was convenient and cool and made sense at the time. But with you… you inspired these thoughts and feelings and I had to fight the instinct to just give you what you wanted so hard. Somehow you didn't get affected by all my crap and had the power to drive me crazy. And it scared the shit out of me. Because I knew if I let it happen and tried and it didn't work and I wasn't good enough, it could break me."
"I was scared too! I know what it's like to try and be let down! Prettiest ballerina, best grades in middle school, youngest varsity cheerleader, none of it made a difference! My parents never spent time with me and then they left me too! But I didn't-"
"I know, doll. And I wasn't finished."
"Okay. I know we are the same in many ways. You may not have dealt with Bud and Edna, but Jack and Pam did a number on you. And then Kelso and I made it worse. And for that I will always be real sorry. But Jackie man, you have to understand I started to close myself off when I was so young, just a kid who could do nothing but disappoint his mother and slowly I gave up on the love thing… until the only thing left was a cynic. Then you show up and I felt this stirring. From the moment I saw you, something happened to me… and it pissed me off and I acted like the kid that pulls the braids of the girl he likes and I burned you and kept asking Kelso to break up with you so you would go away, so the thing that you stirred would go away with you and I turned to Donna and you know how that went. Then you pushed me to friendship but I still pretended you had no effect on me… when we went to junior prom and you kissed my cheek... all I wanted to do was kiss you senseless and never let go. But instead I told you not to do that and then pushed you to Kelso. And it fucking killed me every time he put his hands on you, but I ignored it and nailed Pam Macey and any other chick I could to forget. Jackie, I've had feelings for you since I was fifteen years old but I couldn't admit I wanted you until after our friends caught onto our summer thing and you admitted you wanted to stay with me. Even then, I still didn't want to focus on a future with an us because having all those hopes and feelings for someone… reminded me of when I tried with Edna and Bud. It made it… so hard to cope with what we had because I thought love meant going through that shit. I know I was wrong, but that's how I felt. I don't know how you put yourself out there the way you do. But I know, that makes you more special than any girl I've ever met and I hope all my shit makes sense and answers your question because… it's the truth and… yeah."
"Yes, puddin' it does."
"Good, just… I'm done being scared and running and nailing someone else to try to forget. I will never touch another woman because… this thing between us… goes deeper than the love I craved from Edna as a kid or how I much I care about my friends or the Formans or my real dad and sister. This is something I can't live without." They're quiet for a while. "Jackie, I'm ready to put myself back in that place like when I was little and willing to try. I'll try for you… if you let me."
"Puddin', I want to let you... so much. The thing is… now I understand wanting to close off because I got hurt bad and I'm scared, so scared. But I'll let you try one more time, one last time. Steven, if you betray my trust again, it's done forever. I'll ask Peter, Zilla, Russ and old man Abbott to kick your ass so bad you won't be able to even think for days and when you are able I'll get Red to put his foot up your ass and then I'll find a way to move on."
"No, don't Jackie me. This is the last time and unlike before we'll go all the way and talk everything through like we've been doing, that's what I need. Just keep trying like this and stick around because… I finally have hope again... hope that we can get to that place where we trust each other because I know we are good together puddin' pop. I want to be enough for you to get past your worries and fears and the need to run and forget me because you're enough for me. You're all my heart has wanted since our Kelso and Donna free summer... just don't leave me again, please."
"Never… never again 'nilla, I swear. I'm dumbass that didn't realize the truth in front of him for so long… You're it doll, you're all I've wanted since I laid eyes on you."
"Puddin' pop, I love you."
"Me too, cherry pie, me too."
She giggles. "Yeah?"
"Yeah, but… after everything I did… can I ever make it up to you? What can I give you that you couldn't get with someone else that doesn't have a history of causing you pain?"
"You. Give me, you. And someday a home, not a mansion, just a good home like the Formans, for our family… with a little boy… that has your hair, your eyes, your nose."
March 5, 1980
"So how does it feel to leave Point Place?"
"It's only a few days at a time."
"Come on puddin', aren't you excited to make it big in music television?"
He laughs. "Whatever. Dad just really wants Angie and I to take lead on this. And Laurie has learned how to deal with the day to day of the store pretty fast and for some reason Leo actually does what she wants. I think it's the bitchiness. Makes him follow orders better than he does with me."
"Hey, I was a bitch and he never did half of what I asked!"
"Beats me, man. It's Leo."
She laughs. "True. So tell me again what you will be doing?"
"Dad has a team there already brainstorming collaboration ideas with the MTV people. He just wants Angie and I there to make sure all is running smoothly. We're meeting in L.A. but will travel where things take us. They have things moving in L.A., New York and are thinking about Chicago and maybe somewhere in Florida. I don't know, but dad thinks this music television thing will just keep getting bigger and bigger and he wants a cut and to make sure the doors are open for artists from all sorts of backgrounds."
"Steven, that's so exciting! But… does that mean you'll be too busy to call?"
"No. I told dad and Angie I don't care what's on schedule, I'm calling you 6pm eastern time no matter what."
"Ahh, my puddin' pop loves me."
March 11, 1980
"So, they named you treasurer?"
"Yes, can you believe it? Treasurer of the Fort Lee welcome and emergency funds for the next three months."
"It is! We need to raise enough money to keep the welcome trips, like when Diana came to get us, and in case families face hardship. Like when the husbands get deployed and don't make it back home. The Army helps with the funeral and lots of stuff with insurance and relocation and what not, but we keep money aside to help families start over once they're home."
"That's… really good doll."
"Yeah. But it's tough knowing that... if there is another war Peter and Zilla could go, like Russ went to Vietnam. They told me they'll get deployed sooner or later to bases or covert missions or something."
"Even during peacetime?"
"There are still smaller conflicts around the world and the cold war. It's a bit scary. I don't love Peter that way, but… he's my best friend… right up there with Donna and Fezzie, and Zilla is a great guy too."
"I know doll. But they'll be prepared, that's why they train, right?"
"Yeah. Speaking of training, Peter's is hoping to make Lieutenant and take an assignment in Fort Lewis after he's done here. We'll go home in July and he'll be on his way to Tacoma within a couple of weeks. He said he's forgiven Russ and made peace with all the Monica drama, but he's not ready to be close to everything for long. But Zilla is trying to get stationed in Wisconsin or Illinois."
"Laurie would like that. I think half the town is surprised she's kept her panties tightly on and no boys have been in and out of the store or her place."
"Don't be a jerk. She's trying and Zilla is smitten. You should give her time off so she can come with Russ and Donna next week."
"Jackie, I'm still in L.A."
"But you'll be back by then."
"And head to Chicago. Remember? Spring break at Kelso's?"
March 16, 1980
"So how did it go?"
"It was awesome! I can't believe I'm taking a college class. Jackie Burkhart, Accounting 101 student. Who would have thought?"
"Doll, you can do anything and you're good at that stuff. My books sucked when I did them alone, at least compared to when you helped. Mason said so."
"Really? That's what old man Abbott said when I started helping him. I'm good at making things pretty and accounting books are nicely organized numbers. Anyway, I just did this to make sure I keep good track of the Army wives money. They've been really great. And Peter said maybe when we go back I should ask to help with the books at the bar again. The old man will take me back as a bartender in a jiffy, and I can ask to help with the books and schedules. Leah says they all miss me, even if the old man never admits it."
"Makes sense. I miss you... like crazy."
"Me too puddin' pop, so much."
"Maybe you can keep going to classes at the college in Kenosha. Get your degree and all and do my books too."
"You think I can get through college?"
"I think you can do anything."
March 30, 1980
"So how happy was Mrs. Forman that you went back early?"
Hyde lets out a small laugh and smirks. "She made everyone's favorites for breakfast the three days we were all in town. And Kelso brought Betsy, Leah and Felix this morning for his last day here."
She laughs. "Oh she must have been over the moon and Red must have loved the full house. Hope he didn't threaten poor Michael with a foot in the ass."
"Oh Red had a great time," he says with a snigger.
"Felix didn't realize Eric's GI Joes are off limits and shared them with Betsy. Forman looked ready to pass out when he saw her chewing on one of his precious toys and Felix gave another one to Kelso because Betsy had already pulled the arm off. That's definitely his daughter. Red laughed his ass off."
Jackie giggles. "It's cool you guys went home."
"Not like Chicago was that different. Kelso tried to turn his place into the basement except we had to sleep on sleeping bags. Otherwise same old. Forman twitching, Kelso getting glued to his fridge and Fez eating crap from the floor and a couple of circles. So might as well be in the actual basement you know."
"How was your last day with Donna and Russ?"
"Fine we took them to eat out by the beach before we headed to the airport."
They're quiet. "Doll, what's up?"
"I… you know I thought it would be hard to manage class and the wifes club and still have time to hang out with Donna. But… I told you Peter and Russ took over Maddy, so I had plenty of time."
"And I just… I missed her, which is stupid since she was right here but while Russ was here, him and Peter bunked in the smaller bedroom and dragged Maddy's crib in there so we could have girl time and all. And I did have fun. Donna let me put proper makeup on her and we went out and I made her buy non-lumberjacky clothes and she's over the moon I'm taking a class at the Community College. She was great, but… I'm mad at Peter."
"I… he's trying to help me and he's told me that I'm going to have to let go of things and focus on my future and you and my friends but… I'm mad!"
"Did you want to stay with him?"
"Sorry, stupid, just... what's wrong?"
"Maddy! I know she's not really mine but urhhh! I've been the one watching over her for months! Feeding her, holding her, changing her diapers, worrying and not sleeping when she gets a cold or an ear infection. Peter has been here and he loves her and helps as much as possible but he has training and work so in the end I've been the one responsible! I'm the one the sitter, the doctor and all her new baby friends and their moms know! I'm the one that put her in the dress that made her our Valentine's day princess and who bathes her so she smells like sunshine every day and knows how to deal with her hair that can now be put in tiny pigtails and… how am I gonna give her back? I want to give her back so she can have a father who changed for her because he loves her. I know she still adores him and being with him will be good for her as long as he lives up to what he says he wants to be for her, but… how am I supposed to go from having taking care of Maddy as my first priority every day to just… nothing? That's what it felt like when Russ was here… I had so much extra time and… nothing to do but hang out with Donna but if it happens again with no Donna here… I don't know."
April 2, 1980
"You still fighting?"
"No. He's my best friend and… we can actually talk and he gets why I'm upset and now… I get that it is what it is. It just… hurts."
"It's okay." He can hear her taking a deep breath. "I'm the one who asked him to give his brother another chance. I want Maddy to be happy with her dad. And… I talked to Peter and Dr. Johnson some more and I think… some of this anger and anxiety and hurt is… the baby... our baby."
"Jackie?" he asks, hearing her hard gasps. "Breathe doll, just take deep breaths. Jackie?"
"Yeah," she breathes out.
"I need you, puddin'."
"Come to New York. I'll be there next Tuesday and stay for two weeks. It's close enough and I'll pay for your ticket."
"Steven, I have school and Maddy. Peter is helping with a new unit; taking them on the field for five days including the weekend and Russ can't come from Wisconsin on a whim. We'd have to clear it with the social worker."
"Then bring Maddy with you. Do you have to clear you travelling with her?"
"Then do it, 'nilla. Come see me."
"Don't you have work?"
"I'll tell WB that Angie has to work alone the days you're here. Doll, you said it yourself, we have to talk and figure everything out. Let's do it."
"Okay. I'll talk to Peter."
"Puddin'... thank you."
"Anything for you, doll."
April 10, 1980. LaGuardia Airport.
He paces by the arrivals door. The flight from Richmond should be here any minute and he's excited and terrified all at once. He can't wait to see her, but he knows they'll have some heavy issues to work through and a baby to watch after. That makes him nervous in a different way. The last time he held the little girl she was so… small, soft and it was just… something else... holding someone so vulnerable and dependent on you. Would it have felt that nerve racking to hold his own kid? Would he have just known and been connected like Russ seemed to be with his daughter?
And then there was no more time to think because they were there. Her hair was longer and she looked bolder... strong and comfortable with the baby secure on her hip and a diaper bag hanging off the opposite shoulder. But she was still his doll, mismatched eyes big and lively, glossy lips, and bouncy step in her tall brown boots and snug bluejeans. He couldn't help the smirk that appeared on his face as he waved to get her attention.
"Hey, doll," he said as she stood in front of him.
"Puddin' Pop," she answered. Then she was in his arms, baby and all. "I missed you."
April 11, 1980. Central Park Zoo.
They walk leisurely. He holds their sodas and hot dogs as she pushes the stroller. Every so often she turns to him to take a bite from the hot dog in his hand. Then her eyes shine in exuberance. "Bears! Okay, those are strong and fierce and can be scary, kinda like Steven. But as cute as the teddies in your room! Like Steven."
Hyde snorts. Leave it to Jackie to compare him to a zoo grizzly and a teddy bear all while keeping the baby wrapped around her little finger. That seems to be a new natural thing for her. She's fed Maddy, set-up her playpen in the hotel room, read her books to get her to sleep, and generally been all over whatever she needs. And Maddy has smiled and waved her arms in joy as Jackie yaps and yaps about being in New York, the skyscrapers, the hotel, Steven, baby food, the Empire State, the Statue of Liberty and now the animals and clock and sculptures at the zoo, everything and anything.
"Are you listening to me?"
"Sure. You want me as your teddy bear?"
She rolls her eyes at him then smirks. "You were caught up in staring at me because you looove me."
He scrunches his face in denial. "Whatever." She looks at him and pouts. "Fine! You're hot."
April 11, 1980. The Plaza Hotel.
Hyde watches her from the door while she sits on the bed, right next to the playpen. "As the Dwarfs dance with joy the Prince carries Snow White off to his castle where they lived happily ever after." Jackie gets closer to the playpen and kisses the top of the baby's head. She looks at Hyde and smirks at the softness on his face. No one can resist Maddy. That's my girl. She points to the small living room space. They exit the bedroom together and Jackie slowly closes the door behind them.
"She's perfect, isn't she?"
He shrugs. "She's kinda cute." Then he takes a breath and says, "You're a really good mom, doll."
She sighs and sits on the couch. "But, I'm not her mom."
"Yes you are. Maybe not permanently, but… I've seen shitty moms and..." He sits next to her and takes her hand. "Jackie, what you're doing for that baby… it's amazing."
She squeezes his hand. "I… I guess I keep thinking of what Pam would do… like hand her over to some nanny or cringe if she throws up or has buggers and stuff like that and I try to do the opposite." Hyde raises an eyebrow at her. "Not that I haven't cringed… the first time I changed her poopy diaper… Peter can still laugh for two minutes straight from remembering that disaster." She smiles slightly, but stops as she notices him stiffening. "Steven?"
"He's my best friend."
"Doll… he's more… he's your husband." She rolls her eyes. "I know it's not real and I have to let you be friends. It's part of the deal with Mercer."
"Right because when my fake husband gives you an ultimatum you finally listen! But you obviously can't do that for me!" She says standing away from him.
"I did do that for you! I went to Chicago, didn't ?" He also stands.
"And assumed something I didn't do!"
"I know! Okay! I know! It's just... Kelso, Mercer… I know they are just friends to you, especially Mercer but..."
"But what!" She looks livid. "I dared to lose my virginity to Michael years ago! I dared to marry Peter to keep Maddy safe with us! Or is it that I dared to sleep with him? One time when I was drunk and heartbroken because the people I loved left me all alone! Is that it, Hyde?"
Her yelling and using his last name irritates the hell out of him and makes him want to argue, but he takes a deep breath. "Whatever."
"Don't you zen me, you hypocrite! You tell me the truth! Tell me how me having a past with two men who aren't you is not okay but it's totally "cool" for YOU to have a past with a bunch of girls! To go screw nurses! Date biker chicks! And bring a stripper wife into our lives! All out of stupid spite!" She looks like she's either going to kick his ass or cry and deep down he wants to stop this and apologize and make it better but…
"It's not the same! Those girls meant nothing! SHE meant nothing!"
"YOU married her! YOU stayed with her! And YOU rubbed it in my face! She meant something!" she yells. The words taste like bile and she can't stop the tears. She sits on the couch, looking to the floor, covering her face and worried they'll wake the baby.
"Fuck!" he paces at first. He looks to the door then shakes his head. He breathes, sits next to her and takes his glasses off.
"Don't touch me."
"I'm sorry… please." She still won't look at him as she cleans tears off her face. "I… Red is right, I'm dumbass."
"A jealous dumbass."
"Yeah. I'm jealous. I don't want to be. I know it always just gets me in trouble, but Dr. Carter says I have to feel it and face it. Jackie… I'm really sorry. I shouldn't have brought up this crap." He kneels in front of her. "Please let me explain and face it, doll."
She finally looks at his contrite eyes. "Explain."
"I know you have never betrayed me. I know I have no right to question anything and that I'm lucky you consider me as your boyfriend after all the crap I've put us through. But… I'm telling you the truth… those girls… Samantha… they're all gone, Jackie. They came and went and meant nothing and I couldn't care less if I ever see them again." He gets close to her so their foreheads touch. "Jackie, if Samantha showed her face and tried to get me back, I would tell her to take a hike and leave us the hell alone because she never compared to you. I didn't care about her and she didn't care about me. But Kelso and Mercer… they love you." She tries to move, but he has his hands on her waist and keeps them close. "Jackie… you're not the kind of girl that enters someone's life and can leave it like nothing happened. Kelso and Mercer may not be in love with you, but they love you. They care. And you care about them. And I don't know how to deal with that because… I don't get how they're not in love with you because I could never stop. A man not in love with you after having you… makes no sense."
"Steven… you're not competing with them. Do you get that?"
He nods. "I just… why me? Kelso is a moron, but he would've tried for you. And out of us, Mercer is the better man."
"It's not about better or worse. Peter has been an amazing friend. The best. But the two of us don't need each other. I love YOU." She takes his hand and puts it on her heart. "He can give me comfort and friendship and understanding, but this… I've never felt this for anyone else. Just you, Steven. Only you. Him and Micheal are a part of my life and I could never kick them out of it. But I am in love with you. Can you please, please try to live with that and move forward."
He nods. "I'll try. I swear I'm trying doll… I'm just... sometimes I lose it, but I'll try like I've never tried before." They stay holding each other for a while.
"That's all I want. Fight for us Steven. Just fight for us."
He nods. "I'm sorry."
"No it's not. Jackie, I got jealous because he's seen you like this." She looks confused. "He's seen you with Maddy, changing diapers, feeding her and probably lots of stuff that I have no clue about. And… " He looks so sad and vulnerable. "It should have been us… if I hadn't fucked everything up... it would have been us. And I'm an ass because you've probably thought the same about HER. But the thing is… it's on ME. I should have gotten to see you turning into a mom. I should have been the one to laugh at you changing your first diaper. The one next to you at the Thanksgiving adult table with a baby in our arms."
She's crying now. "Puddin'..."
"It hurts that I fucked that up and anger is easier… so it pissed me off that he's been there. He got to sleep with you and give you hope when you needed it most. He got your friendship and your name next to his in a marriage certificate. And he got to see you all this time and I'm just getting a glimpse now and… it's nobody's fault but mine! And I'm sorry. I'm so sorry I fucked us up and left you and our baby… I'm… I abandoned our baby like Edna and you lost it and I'm..." And for the first time Jackie sees a tear come from the eyes of Steven Hyde and…
"No. Don't." She mumbles and pulls him to her fiercely. "I… made… you've made mistakes… but… I should have told you." She sobs on his shoulder. "I should have… told you."
The rest of the night is a blur. He holds her as she tells him everything. From the minute she thought she might be pregnant to the night she woke up bleeding to the moment her tears dried and she tried to pretend it didn't happen. He tells her he was scared. That seeing Forman and Donna's wedding go up in flames rattled him. That getting a new dad and the store and all the sudden changes made him think he didn't know anything. How he was clinging to being single and young and trying to do teenage crap because everything else changed without him having any control and he was scared shitless to grow up. She confesses she was the opposite. Desperate to grow up and leave the uncertainty of living with her mom. How she was so scared Pam would leave before she was done with school and she wanted to be married so she could go with him. And it's awful and heart wrenching to put everything out there, but also… cathartic.
"I've never told anyone that much about… the baby. I… I told Peter some and the doctors some… but I've never been able to say everything. But you… it was yours too… you can know."
He kisses her forehead. "Thank you, doll. I… I'm-"
"Please, don't say you're sorry." She looks up at him. "I know you are. I'm too. I wish it hadn't been that way. But now… I want to move on. I… we'll remember, but I don't want to feel this guilt anymore. And I don't want you to feel it either. You know Russ asked me to make sure Maddy's pediatrician checks a lot of things because Monica and him still did some drugs when she was pregnant and after she was born and he feels like crap about it now that he's clean… but they still had her and so far… Madds is fine and… the doctors… they all say sometimes things just happen and… I swear puddin' once I knew I was pregnant, I didn't smoke or drink at all or anything like that… so I have to believe... it's not my fault or yours or anyone's and so do you. Please."
"Okay. Alright, doll."
They fall asleep on the couch. Holding onto each other for dear life yet feeling stronger and more hopeful than they've been in a long time. Tomorrow they'll head to the airport and say good bye but they're moving forward.
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