"She's four months along now."

Doogie was standing outside their bedroom door, listening. It was midnight by the time Dad came home, and Mom was already in bed.

"I wish we would have known sooner. Why didn't she say anything? How could I have not known?"

"Well, menstral cycles at her age are irregular-

"I'm talking about the rape, David! My god, my baby! How could I not know? A mother is supposed to know these things!" She started sobbing. "And I had no idea! I knew something was wrong, but-"

"At this stage, I can't say I feel comfortable with her having an abortion."

"And I'm not comfortable with her carrying a baby inside her! At her age? David, think what that could do to her!"

"She's always been small for her age," he agreed."We'll have a cesarean done," he added.

Doogie's eyes widened and he shook his head. Bad idea, Dad. You know that's a bad idea! A vaginal delivery is much safer.

"You're right, that's exactly right. I won't have her going through labor! No. No. I won't have her suffer any more than she already has." She's not keeping the baby either," she insisted.

"No, no of course not- I wouldn't dream of it."

Doogie walked in then. They were both sitting up in bed and only blinked when he entered.

"Dad, a cesearean is dangerous. And Mom, this is her baby- her body, we can't say what to do."

"The hell we can't, Douglas," Dad answered. "The hell we can't. The very thought. We are the parents, she is a minor. End of discussion."

"What if she wants to keep the baby?"

Mrs. Howser made a scoffing sound in her throat. "Doogie, your sister isn't stupid, she knows raising a baby is nothing like having a doll. And besides, why would she want a daily reminder for the rest of her life of the atrocity that happened to her? It's bad enough just to be pregnant!" She shook her head. "I won't have it, Doogie. I simply won't have it."

"But, Mom-"

"And going through labor and birth? Pardon me, Doogie, but you can have no idea what that is like. Over my dead body will she go through such an experience."

"But-".

Her voice was shrill. "Douglas, you don't have a daughter, you don't know what it's like to be a parent."

He opened his mouth to say more, but realizing the futility of it, he closed it, and without another word left the room, closing the door behind him.

**************************************************************

"You don't know what it's like to be a parent? Howser, what did you do?"

"Vinnie!" He hissed, not wanting to wake his sister, who was probably the only one able to sleep. Vinnie was sitting on his desk, apparently having waited for him to enter his room. "It's late, what are you doing here?" He stumbled over a book on the floor as he closed the door behind him.

"I've known for two days that something was up. First, no one took your sister to school this morning. Second, you left for work late. Third, your dad left for work and wasn't even heading in the right direction!"

"It's nothing, Vinnie." He didn't even bother asking how his friend knew all this.

Vinnie made a face. No, no," he shook his head with certainty. "Your father came home at an odd hour. You came home at an odd hour. Jack McGuire came to your house for dinner, and did not look happy about it. Doogie Howser, no one comes to your house for dinner looking unhappy the way your mom cooks." He hopped down from the desk. "No, no," he repeated, "there's something up in the Howser household." He looked at his friend seriously. "What is it?"

When Doogie didn't answer, Vinnie paced the floor and asked another question. "It has something to do with that stuff we found in your sister's room, doesn't it?"

The stuff in question had disappeared.

He still didn't answer.

"Your dad left the house after dinner, and drove around aimlessly for hours!"

"How do you know that?"

"He circled the house three times- how much more aimless does it get?"

Doog, come on, give. I wanna help ya here, but I can't if you don't tell me."

"It's a family matter," he answered reluctantly.

"I know that!" Vinnie slapped a hand to his forehead.

Doogie sighed. "It's private," he muttered, wishing it weren't private at all. Wishing it was all a dream, or nightmare instead.

"I'm your best friend, Doog- it doesn't get more private than that!"

He couldn't even meet his gaze anymore, and feeling suddenly drained, he sat down on the bed.

"It's bad, Vin." His voice was almost a whisper.

It's about Kid Howser, ain't it?" He grinned. Then he glanced at Doogie and his wise-cracking attitude vanished. "What is it? Does she got leukemia too? Is that what it is, she's got it?"

He looked him then. Vinnie was actually sweating, biting his lips in concern.

"No, it's nothing like that."

Vinnie smiled and slapped Doogie on the back in relief. "Well, then it ain't that bad! What, did she get suspended again? Expelled? My mom heard her cryin' up in her room this afternoon, and said somethin' was going on. See, you can't keep it from us Delpinos," he tapped the side of his head, "we know things."

He sighed again.

"Doog, what is it? You can tell me."

"It's about Jane."

"Yeah?"

Jane was his favorite, not Doogie. Vinnie would never admit it, but he loved hanging out with the non-child prodigy of the family. He and Jane were alike in their big mouths and their mischevious ways. The two truly were kindred spirits, and Doogie swore up till now he'd kill Vinnie if he ever thought of Jane otherwise, in his typical horn dog manner- no matter how old Jane got.

He shook his head.

"You're not gonna want to hear this."

"I already know it's bad, and I do wanna hear it," he insisted.

"I mean you're really not gonna want to hear it. When I tell you, you'll want to punch me in the gut- or elsewhere."

"That bad, huh?"

"I can take it, whatever it is!" He bit his lower lip with his upper teeth and looked at Doogie earnestly.

"Okay." He sighed, willing himself to be as detached as possible.

"Remember that time Jane skipped school?"

"Yeah," Vinnie's tone encouraged more information.

"Well, she didn't skip school."

This was where Vinnie was supposed to jump in and ask the obvious, "Well, what did she do 'den?" But he didn't. He waited.

Doogie blew his breath out through half puckered lips.

"Doog, come on, I'm dyin' here."

When he sighed again, involuntarily, Vinnie began shaking his head, "You keep doin' dat." He shook his head again, and sighed aloud as well.

"Vinnie, she was, she got"

"What?"

He ran a hand through his hair. This was even worse than telling Mom and Dad!

Finally, he forced the words out in one sentence just as he had earlier.

"Jane was raped."

Vinnie's mouth dropped open. "She wha-?" In the next instant his demeanor changed. He began jumping up and down with energy, punching violently at the air. "I'll kill 'im! I'll kill 'im!" He screamed. His body showed the tenacity he'd willingly attacked Tank with, when defending his best friend. But his eyes shown black with a true intent to kill.

"I'll kill the bastard! Where is he? Lemme at 'im!" He screamed, tears threatening to stream down his cheeks. "Let me at 'im!"

"Vinnie, that's not all." The calmness in his voice amazed him. He was still sitting on the bed, now simply staring at the wall in front of him. Better get this over with too, he thought.

"She's pregnant. That 'bastard' got her pregnant."

His anger vanished, and the energy left his body. Like a deflated balloon, Vinnie sank down in Doogie's desk chair.

"She's?"

And that's as far as he got. His canieving, frank Italian face crumpled in misery. The next second, he shoved a fist to his mouth and sobbed. He cried in such a way as Doogie had never seen. It was worse than a death or a funeral. He cried as if his very soul had been ripped out, and he sobbed openly,passionately- unashamed.

"The kid," he managed as he choked in a breath, "my god, the kid."

Doogie moved to comfort his friend, but Vinnie shook his head, stiffening his body with a disgusted look in his eye. Before he could wonder why Vinnie was disgusted with him, Vincent Delpino was on his feet storming courageously toward "Kid Howser's" room.

"Vinnie, I don't think that's a good idea. She doesn't want anyone to see her right now!" He hissed the words, and he still assumed the rest of the house was asleep.

Vinnie shook his head hard. "Nah, no way. No way, Howser. I know what's best for her." He stopped then and poked a finger roughly to his chest. "I know!" He insisted. Clearly the implication was that he, as Jane's brother, did not. Nor did the rest of the family- and that was what truly disgusted Vinnie. He knew that she had not been given the kind of comfort that she needed.

Then he opened her door. Jane was huddled in the corner by the window, wrapped in a blanket. She was wide awake.

When Vinnie saw her his face crumpled again, and he ran to her on the floor, sobbing anew.

"I'm sorry!" He cried, clinging to her, his face buried in her small shoulder. "I'm sorry!"

Jane held herself as stiffly as she had that morning, her mouth a pinched line.

Vinnie continued to cry unabashedly, sobbing. "I'll get him for ya! I'll kill him! I'll kill tha son of a bitch!"

"I"ll get him!" He sobbed, and took a loud breath in. "I'll get him!" He promised, his dark eyes locking eagerly onto her light eyes. But while Vinnie Delpinos eyes shown with emotion, Jane's were void of any emotion at all.

Doogie could tell she was still fighting, still trying to deny everything. But the one thing she couldn't deny broke her down first. Finally, she clung back to Vinnie, instead of the other way around. "I tried- I tried to," she inhaled, "I tried, Vinnie! I tried!"

She meant the attacker. She'd tried to fight him, to get away, and had failed.

"I know," his voice still as full of tears and sad as Jane's. "I know." He kissed the top of her head. He was fighting to be able to maintain enough control to speak. "It's not your fault!" The last word came out as a sob, as Vinnie lost it again, and began to cry. Shortly she composed herself, and sat patiently waiting for Vinnie to do the same. When he did, she announced,

"I'm not, Vinnie. I'm sick. I'm just real sick." She nodded, confirming it to herself.

Vinnie raised his head and bit his lip. Then to Doogie's shock, he put his hand to her lower abdomen feeling, Doogie knew, its rigidness. "Nah," he announced sadly, "Nah." Another sob escaped. He shook his head at her, tears streaming down his face. "You're not. You are."

Doogie realized then that she and Vinnie hardly ever spoke in complete sentences to one another. They didn't need to. They really were that close, and that alike.

Their comradery broke then. Jane pushed him away. "No! I'm sick!" She insisted.

He said nothing.

Apparently angered by his refusal to agree, she screamed again. "No!"

No response.

Her lower lip puckered, she was breathing more heavily her eyes glowing with water.

"No!" She screamed louder this time.

Vinnie just sat there, on his knees in front of her huddled form.

Doogie felt Dad's shoulder brush his arm. He looked over to the open doorway and saw both he and mom standing in the frame. He knew they'd been there for a long time.

Jane looked up then, and she was nothing but a ball of fury.

"Tell him!" She screamed at Dr. Howser. She gasped for breath. "Tell him!"

She can't even say the word, he realized.

"I'm not, I'm not!" She insisted. "Tell him I'm not!" It was like a child crying for a toy in tone , but not volume. If she'd ever cried that loudly for anything, it would have been the last sound she ever made. The problem was Jane wasn't crying for her father to give her a toy that she wanted. She was crying for him to take away the truth. "Tell him now!" She begged. "Right now!"

Dad said nothing. He just stood there, staring back at her as Vinnie had done.

When he wouldn't step in, she took matters into her own hands. She began beating Vinnie with her tiny fists. And what's more, not only did he let her, he moved closer to her so that she could happily connect with a target. "I'm not, I'm not, I'm not!" She insisted over and over, punching him with vigor. Vinnie had tears running down his face, but he made no sound. Her eyes were shut tight, and it wasn't Vinnie she was punching. Slowly the force and speed of the punches began to demish.

"I'm not," she said again, but she'd lost her previous vigor, the adrenaline leaving her.

She was gasping for breath, her shoulders heaving.

A glass of water appeared out of nowhere. Doogie grabbed it and passed it to Vinnie. He held it to Jane's lips so that she could drink. She swallowed, let out a shaky sigh and leaned against Vinnie like a broken doll.

The room was silent for a long time. Doogie thought Jane was finally falling asleep, and turned to go back to his room when she called out.

"Daddy?" She asked, her voice tiny.

Jane hadn't called Dad Daddy since she could probably remember. Doogie did though. She stopped calling him Daddy when she turned three. She thought it was more grown up to call him Dad. Or rather, she called him, "Da". She had difficulty with the second 'd'. It wasn't until they'd gone to see the movie Bambi, that she found a way to fix this problem. Apparently she had become fixated with Bambi's pronunciation of the word bird.

She came home and hopped around the living room yelling, "Bir-duh! Bir-duh! Bir-duh!" It was hysterical to her. She laughed and laughed after saying the word, and would begin all over again, hopping around and squealing. Mom smiled her approval and watched for a while, before leaving for the kitchen to make dinner. That left Doogie and Dad sitting on the couch, occasionally moving their legs in as Jane jumped past them. Finally Dad got so fed up that he folded his newspaper and went upstairs.

Jane watched him leave, mouth agape. Then her eyes lit up as a new idea came to her. She giggled and tried, "Da-duh!" instead. It worked. A smile lit her face and she crowed with happiness. "Da-duh! Da-duh!" Then she giggled, then with an exhausted exhale sank down to the floor and said in a normal tone, "Dad."

When Dad cleared his throat, Doogie was jerked back to the present.

"Yes, sweetheart?"

"Daddy, I'm not, am I?" She looked at him earnestly now, hopefully- desperately. "Not really?"

He heard Mom cry out, and as he looked she began to sob, her face buried in Dad's chest. Without taking his eyes off Jane, he answered in a tone Doogie hadn't heard him use towards her since she'd stopped calling him Daddy. He said,

"Yes, sweetie, you are. Honey, you're pregnant. You're going to have a baby."

Mom began crying louder, but Doogie was watching his sister.

Her lower lip puckered, and lips truly looked like an upside down smile, her eyes were huge. For a brief second he recognized the look as the one she gave just before she was about to tell on him and scream to-

"Mom!!!!"

Vinnie darted into the shadows as Kid Howser began the high-carrying cry of a frightened and dangerously injured child.

Katherine ran to her, saying nothing, simply holding her sobbing daughter tightly and rocking her, while sobbing freely herself.

He knew their job was done and their presense now was unnecessary. He turned after Dad to leave, and Vinnie followed wordlessly, his face still red and tear streaked, his shirt crumpled where fists had hit.