"I have 10 more minutes," Max said, as Kenny watched her run on the treadmill later that night. "What?"
Gym shorts and a sports bra, he thought, watching her run. "How many times have you done this today?"
She bounced along, glancing at the timer. "Twice. Do you know how good it is to run without worrying about falling over? I feel normal again."
"You're not overdoing it?"
"Kenny, I'm fine," she insisted. "Why so late tonight?"
Of course you're fine, he thought, you always are. Even when things are awful, you're fine. "Just work stuff. Don't worry about it."
She shot him a look, knowing he was trying to shield her. "Tell me."
"Max, I'm way too tired for this."
She stopped the treadmill, and wiped the sweat from her face. "Are you okay?"
"Max, I'm fine," he insisted, looking at her sweat drenched body and knotted back hair. Does she really know the effect she has on me? That look in her eye, she knows something is up. "It's been a long day, Honey. I just want to go to bed."
"Kenny?" she pressed, not liking the look in his eyes. "It's me. Talk to me."
My wife, he thought, fighting the urge to touch her. I can't think straight when she's half naked, sweaty, and looking at me like she knows exactly what I'm thinking. I can't do this without her, why can't she get that through her thick skull? "We arrested Oslo as the cult leader, and found 48 bodies on the farm her owns."
Max stared at him like he lost his mind. "Michael Oslo? The school principal?"
He nodded, thinking of the meetings she had alone with him about Samantha. He could of… "I shouldn't of sent you alone to talk to him."
She pushed him back and stared at him for a long moment. "Are we back to me being too incompetent to take care of myself? I can take care of myself, Kenny, and there was a time you used to know that. When you trusted me to have your back. I am not helpless, and I don't need you coddling and protecting me. Stop treating me like this. When did you stop trusting me?"
"Max, come on."
"No. When did I become your helpless little wife? After Josh died?"
Kenny recoiled at that. "Don't."
"Don't what?" Max pressed. "Kenny, what is going on with you?"
"I don't want to fight with you."
Max threw up her hands in frustration, doing her best to clamp down on her temper. "No, you tell me. You can't make me into someone I'm not. I can do this. I can be a mom, wife, cop, and even make that insane cake Emily's preschool gave me to do. Look at me, you know me better then anyone, Kenny, at least I thought you did. What changed?"
"What changed?" he repeated, staring at her. "Max, what the hell do you think changed?"
"Don't answer my question with another question!"
"You can't do it all!" he shouted at her. "But you think you can, right? Take on the world, run in headfirst and screw the consequences? What the hell is going to happen next time? Your Dad held a gun to your head! You want to have another baby? You almost bled to death on the table! Danny, Jen, all of it! I can't watch you almost die again…I can't do this without you!"
Max gulped back her tears and she didn't take her eyes off of her husband. "You can't do this to me. You can't lock me away from the world because you're afraid I'm going to get hurt or killed. You have to trust me because we don't have anything without that."
"It isn't about me not trusting you."
"I love you," she said quietly. "I've loved you since I was 22, and was too afraid to say it. But if this is what…I miss him too."
Max bit her lip, thinking of their son. "Protecting me won't bring him back."
"What are you talking about?"
Max reached up to stroke his cheek and smiled sadly. "I'm going to bed. I have my physical tomorrow. Good night, Kenny."
"Michael Oslo?" Jill repeated. "We've had him over for dinner."
Jimmy nodded, finishing his beer. "It wasn't what…We got him now. He isn't going anywhere. How was your day?"
"I had lunch with Max. She's doing good, Jimmy. Kenny wants her to be a stay at home mom."
"What? Max? She has her physical tomorrow. He actually told her that? Max? I told him today I wanted to talk to her about part time and he didn't…A stay at home Mom?"
Jill smiled. "She loves her kids, all four of them. She's different, Jimmy."
"She's a cop. I don't care if she pops out a new baby every year and adopts another six, it's who she is. Kenny told her this?"
"Aunt Maxie?" Samantha said, as Max made her way upstairs.
Forcing herself to not think about her marital problems, she turned back to her niece. "I thought you were sleeping."
I heard you and Kenny fighting, she thought, "I couldn't sleep."
I don't think I'm ever going to sleep, Max thought, the one person…he let me mourn Josh, he held me every night while I cried, did he ever? I don't think it'll ever heal completely, but has he even healed at all? "Yeah? What's up?"
"I think I like a boy."
Max smiled despite herself. "A boy, huh? Do I need to run a background check on him?"
"No! I mean, he's older and…I don't know."
"How much older?" Max prodded, not liking the direction this was going.
"Sixteen…I think I like Zach."
"Zach Brock?" Max asked, not sure if she should laugh or cry. "He's a junior? Yeah, you really like him?"
Max smiled. "Well, what are you going to do about him?"
"No trial," Wambaugh said. "Twenty-five to life, with a possibility of parole, and you'll get your answers."
Jimmy held his gaze, as he glanced at Georgia. "Do it."
"Parole?" Georgia sighed. "He murdered over 50 people."
"He's going to jail, and he'll die there," Jimmy stated. "We'll get your client, Doug."
"Umph," Max grunted, finishing the run and wiping the sweat away. Please, oh please, let this be okay. I can't handle failing now. Grabbing the gun from the table, she fired into the target five times. "Done."
He checked his watch and nodded. "Nice work."
Max smiled, as she caught her breath. "Am I done? Did I pass?"
He held out his hand. "Congratulations and welcome back, Deputy."
Max grinned, as he signed off on her paperwork. I'm okay, I did this…I'm healthy, whole, healed…damn it, Kenny. How can you do this to me? Just the way you looked at me when I left Emily and Lindsay with Sarah today, and she adores them. Our best baby-sitter, and you looked at me like I was abandoning our children. What is happening to us? To you? "Yeah? Wow…Thanks."
She turned around, elated and terrified all at once. "You have to do this too?"
Skeeter patted his belly. "Once a year. You done?"
"Done and cleared."
"Congrats," he said, extending his hand and watching her for a long moment. "When are you coming back? You are coming back?"
"What?" Max asked, not liking the pull in her gut. "What would give you that idea?"
"You want to get something to eat when I finish?"
Max glanced at her watch. "I have a sitter until two. Sure."
"Why?" Oslo repeated, as he sat at the table with his hands cuffed. "I was raised in it, my father, grandfather, great grandfather, were all members. All those girls had to die so we could live. They were all whores. Oh, and the boys? Stupid, only thinking with their cocks. They would bring them to the caves and the farm, it was so easy."
"How many?" Jimmy asked, thinking of the bodies they found and the suicides.
Oslo shrugged. "Hundreds. The ones on the farm, the caves, I lost count. They meant nothing, we just needed their blood and flesh."
"You ate them?"
"Some…the special ones. You can stop me, but there will always be another me."
"I couldn't let the woman who just had a baby and stroke show me up," Skeeter said before wincing as they sat down in the café. "Too soon?"
Max shook her head. "I feel pretty good these days."
"What's up with your hair?"
She shrugged, pushing back the long strands. "Kenny likes it."
"How is he? Really? He wants you to be a stay at home Mom?"
"That seems to be an ongoing discussion," Max trailed off. "I love being a mom, I really do I've thought about it, played it over hundreds of ways in my head, and….he's being such an ass about it. Last night…Ugh. You would of thought I was abandoning the kids when I went to do my physical this morning. I don't…He thinks he needs to protect me. It's so…I can't keep having the same fight. Is he okay at work?"
"He's quieter. He has been since…Is this okay to talk about?"
Max nodded. "Since Josh died? It's okay, really."
"I'm sorry we couldn't save him."
"You guys did everything you could. I know that," Max said quietly. "And I get the need to protect them, me, believe me, I get it. I don't…he let me mourn, and I don't know if he ever did."
Skeeter gulped, a bit taken back by his old friend's astute observations. "I'm worried about him."
Me too, Max thought, I want our life back. My husband, our new family, we were happy. I've loved him for so long. "I want to help him, and we've always…I don't know how to."
"No one will let him out," Kenny stated, focusing on the case and not the feeling that Max was slipping away from him. She doesn't need me, I don't think she ever did. She can do it all, she said it. "It's done."
Jimmy watched his deputy for a long moment. "I suppose it is."
Until the next one, Kenny thought. Until my wife goes after him, and gets herself killed. If she's going to be my wife much longer…she doesn't need me.
"Kenny? Everything all right?"
"What? It's fine," he lied. Call her. Talk to her. She really doesn't want to talk to me. "I'm just going to finish up my paperwork."
"Oh, there is my baby," Max smiled hefting Lindsay into her arms, as the Emily ran to her and hugged her legs. "Did she get bigger while I was out? Hi, Sweetie."
"They were angels," Sarah smiled. "How did it go?"
"Angels? These two?" Max said, setting Lindsay back in her chair. "You're talking about my kids? It went good. I'm cleared to go back."
"Are you looking for a nanny?"
Max looked up. "Are you offering? It's only going to be part time, I don't know when yet. Em and Lindsay love you, Nate and Samantha are great, I would love it. I didn't think you were looking for anything regular after the Bennetts moved."
She smiled. "I was getting bored, and part time works. Call me when you get your schedule, we'll work it out."
Max nodded. "I will, I just need to talk to my boss first." And my husband.
"I thought she would call you," Skeeter shrugged. "Yeah, she passed and crushed my times. She looks like she's doing great."
"Max is always doing great," Kenny deadpanned.
"Listen, I get you guys have been through a lot these past few years. Give her some credit, she knows what she's doing."
"Hey," Max said quietly, looking up from the disaster that was her cake later that night. "You're home."
Kenny regarded his wife for a long moment, in her holey jeans, long sleeve purple shirt and her hair braided down her back. The kids are asleep, the house is spotless, she passed her physical, and she's making a cake? "Yeah. How was your physical?"
"I passed," she said quietly. I hate this, she thought, whatever this is with us. And I hate this cake. "Ran a five minute mile."
And you didn't tell me, he thought, I heard about it from Skeeter. "When are you going back to work?"
Max bit her lip, hating the flat tone in his voice and the accusing look in his eyes. Abandoning the cake, she crossed the kitchen to him. Standing in front of him. Honesty, we've always had that. "I don't think we finished that conversation."
"I'm not up for a fight."
"Neither am I. You want me to stay home, I want to work. Can we compromise? Kenny, you have to trust me to take care of myself again."
A gun to her head. Almost bleeding out on that table. I know her…impulsive, reckless, looks after she leaps. "You're the only one I trust with our kids."
Max felt some of the fight go out of her at that. "Kenny."
"I can't do it again, Max," he said, not quite looking at her. "Not with them or you."
"You knew who I was when we got married. You really think I'm going to get myself killed?"
"I know you run in to situations head first. And it's not because I think you're incompetent and can't take care of yourself. You want to save people, I get it, but I can't sit by your bed again and wait to see if you wake up."
You can't do this to me, I love you, I need you, Max thought, I can't keep fighting with him. He's still so hurt, I can give him this…it's important to him. Me, the kids, I can do this. Soccer mom. PTA. Bake sales. I can devote my life to the kids if it means that much to him. "You have to promise me that you'll be safe out there, and that if I become one of those moms who only talks about her kids, vacuums, bake sales, diapers, that you'll shake me out of it."
"Max?" he asked, staring at her for a long moment. "Max?"
She nodded, her heart aching in her chest. I can do this, I can do this. "Promise me?"
He nodded, not taking his eyes off of her. "Max, I…You're sure?"
No, she thought, I'm not. Compromise, I won't hold this against him. I love him, our family, we've changed. I can do this. She nodded, wrapping herself around him in a strong hug. Safe, I feel so safe and secure with him. Let him heal, the same way he let me. "I'm sure. I love you, Kenny, I love our family. I want our life back."
Jimmy frowned. "She said all of that?"
Skeeter nodded. "I don't think Kenny got over losing his son. She was a wreck, every time I saw her, she was barely holding it together, when she was. She was able to talk about it, him, and I believe her. I think Kenny is giving her a really hard time about going back to work, and that the idea of staying home with the kids appeals to her a little."
"Max is a cop."
"She also has a husband who she would do anything for, and four kids."
"You took the day off?" Max asked, as Kenny wrapped her arms around her waist in the kitchen the next morning. "I wish you told me before."
"Ugh, are you going to make out again?" Samantha groaned walking in, secretly glad they weren't fighting. "Children live here."
Kenny gave Max another squeeze. "What do you say, Honey? Want to give it a go?"
He loves me, she thought, covering his hand with hers. I know that. All he wants is for all of us to be safe and happy, I can do this for him. Smiling at him, she leaned back into him. "Later? Hey, go grab your brother, I'll give you a ride this morning."
"No bus?" Samantha said with a grin. "Awesome. Nate!"
"You going somewhere?" Kenny asked, kissing her neck. "You sure about that?"
"Hmm, Kenny," she sighed, enjoying his attention. "Yeah. I need to drop them off, Em has pre-school at 11, buy some food, I need to do something about my hair, I'm not chopping it all off, oh, and tell Jimmy I'm not coming back to work. I have a full morning…and if you're off today, I'm leaving Lindsay with you."
He stepped back, watching her for a long moment. "What?"
Max smiled at him. "I'm sure she would love to spend some time with her Daddy."
It'll be fine, Kenny thought, running his hand down her cheek. I won't let her out of my sight. I've pushed enough on Max already. "Hurry back."
Kenny sat, watching his sleeping daughter. Loud, he thought, how can she be four months old? How could so much of changed? Glancing at the clock, he tried to ignore the gnawing in his gut. Max, damn it, get home.
I can't, she thought, catching sight of her reflection. At least my hair isn't as out of control, she thought, smoothing it back. Kenny loves it like this, she thought, leaning back in the jeeps seat. Stay at home Mom, doing this everyday…Oh, God, what have I agreed to? No, I can…For the kids and Kenny. I can do this. He loves us so much, he's still hurting, I can give this to him. Pushing open the door, she wasn't really sure how she was supposed to tell Jimmy. He's the father I always wanted, he's done nothing but support me and Kenny for years…How do I do this?
She looked up, feeling like the worst person on the planet. "Hi."
Jimmy studied his deputy for the second time in less then 24 hours. Exhausted, he thought, guilt in her eyes. "Max, I'm not accepting your resignation. Get that out of your head right now."
Max gulped, as they slid into a booth. "I never thought I was that transparent.'
"How did Kenny talk you into this?"
She shook her head. "He didn't talk me into anything. We made the decision that is best for us right now."
"You expect me to believe that?"
No because I don't, Max thought. "A lot has changed. I want to be there for my kids, I don't want them raised by a nanny. I'm going to do this, Jimmy. I need to do this."
"You are a cop, down to your bones. You know it, I know it and Kenny knows it."
Lie, Max thought, lie, or he'll talk me out of it. "Not anymore."
"I think you're delusional," Jimmy stated. "I'm sorry we couldn't bring Josh home to you, but doing this? It isn't going to bring him back."
Max sat back, like he slapped her. "I know that. I'd give anything to have Josh back, but…he isn't coming home to us. I can let him go and be at peace, as much as that hurts. I have four kids, we took Caro's to give them a home…I'm not who I was a few years ago, Jimmy. I have different priorities now."
"Has Kenny let him go?"
Max gulped, not wanting to deal with that subject. "No. I really don't think he has. He took such good care of me, when I was falling apart, I couldn't do the same for him then."
So you are now, he thought, by giving him what he wants. He's asking her to change who she is for him. "Have you really thought this through?"
She nodded. "Yeah…we've gone back and forth over it hundreds of times. Jimmy, I'm okay with it. I never thought I would want to be a stay at home Mom, I really didn't plan on it. I'll be okay."
"Come back part time."
"Kenny won't let you."
I think we'll have real problems if I insist on working right now. I need to be there for him now, and for our family. I'm going to do this. "It's my choice, Jimmy. You can't talk me out of it. Don't blame Kenny."
Oh, I blame him for this, Jimmy thought, watching her for a long moment. She loves him, she's doing this for him…only time will tell if they made the best choice. Believe her when she says it's what she wants. "Good luck."
"We should go see a movie or something," Zach said. "My parents would be cool with it."
Samantha nodded. "I think my aunt and uncle would be too. At least my aunt…he can be a little overprotective. It's why he doesn't what her to go back to work."
"Max is going to stay home?" Zach asked. "Does my Dad know?"
Samantha shrugged. "I think they just decided…I couldn't believe it when she agreed. It was really bad when their son died?"
Samantha nodded. "I never knew him."
Max smiled, as she watched Kenny with Lindsay for a long moment. Watching her sleep, she thought, being his overprotective self. It's going to be okay, we're going to be okay. I want this with him, and I would have another baby if we want to go that route. "Hey."
Kenny glanced up, to see her standing in the doorway. My wife, he thought, drinking her in for a long moment, never in a million years did I think I'd get a woman like her. "How'd it go?"
"I think he understands."
"Max?" he asked. "You okay?"
She smiled, despite her nerves and feeling of panic about what she just did. What she just threw away. I'm here, with my baby and the love of my life, this is what matters. This is going to work. Crossing the room to him, she wrapped herself around him in a strong hug. Holding him close, she buried her head in his chest, as his arms came around her. I have everything I want right here. "I love you."
"I love you too," he murmured, combing through her hair and inhaling the sweet scent of honey from her shampoo. "You sure you're okay?"
I will be, Max thought, I need to get used to this idea. Live it…find out who I am with it. "I'm perfect right here."
Kenny kissed the top of her head, holding her to him. She won't regret it, I'll make sure of it.