Chapter Ten: Culmination

She managed to keep a nearly normal life. Her job at the Lux Atlantic remained as steady and as prolific as it had always been. Her apartment was as cozy and as blue as it had always been. Her father still called her every night to check up on her. The only difference now was Jackson.

She never quite found the words to tell her father how she had come to carry Jackson's child. As far as he knew, she had been raped again, although she refused to say more on the subject other than who the father was. As the months went by, her stomach became rounder and her smile fuller. Cynthia told her that she was the most beautiful mother she'd ever seen.

Jackson would surprise her with visits to her apartment. She would unlock the door, place the groceries on the kitchen counter and walk into the living room, where she would find Jackson sitting with legs crossed in the comfortable arm chair, nose stuck into a different book every visit. One night it was The Grapes of Wrath, and some night the next week it might be He's Just Not That Into You. There was no predicting Jackson, and Lisa figured that was the way he liked to be perceived.

And after a night of rolling together as one beneath her sheets they would lay silently, one might almost say calculatingly. Jackson might tell Lisa what job he was on this week, anywhere from plotting assassinations in Africa to scouting out a new location to hide his lackeys. He knew that he could trust her now, but how far was yet to be tested.

One night in particular, Lisa's fourth month to give a closer estimation, she forced Jackson to face her as she asked, "Are you going to ask me to marry you?" His answer was a quick, almost scathing laugh sealed with a long kiss. She woke up the next morning to an empty bed and a ring set with a shining diamond on her nightstand. She wore the ring, and the fiery stares from passers-by, accusing her with their eyes of being another stupid single mother, slowly ceased. She still couldn't bring herself to wear it around her father.

The questions did crop up about the ring and about her nights in captivity. Had she been tortured? Did she know he had escaped from prison? Was she afraid that if he'd kidnapped her twice, a third time wouldn't be out of the question? Whose ring was it? Did the father run out on her? When did she have the time to get pregnant?

When the questions pressed down on her too hard to bear, she finally went to her father. She told him everything. The kidnapping, the murder of Gerard, the ransom call, the first kiss-- and that she had shared a bed with Jackson. As she told him, she felt the old fear, the old hate resurface, and she shook all over, reveling in her father's warm embrace. He didn't say anything for the longest time, and Lisa wasn't sure whether that was better or worse than any harsh words. In the end, he kissed her on the forehead and asked if she had seen Jackson after he had escaped from prison. She couldn't lie. He asked if she was going to keep the baby. She said yes. He kissed her forehead again.

She could wear the ring after that.

Jackson never mentioned marriage, and she knew that she would never have said yes even if he did. She knew Jackson too well to think he might even consider it. The ring was a formality, nothing more. She could never had married him-- some of the fear remained in her, too much to share a life with him; he would never settle to one place, and the three of them would always be on the lam; conmen don't marry: they're married to their jobs-- they were too different for marriage. But he continued to appear intermittently at her apartment, and she continued to invite him to her bed.

After another month, she told him that she thought it unsafe to continue their "habits" in fear of what might happen to the baby. She was surprised that Jackson took the news badly. She didn't see him for another four weeks. During the weeks of solitude, Lisa began pulling out the Baby Name Books, half wanting to seriously look for names and half to giggle at the ridiculous names that started with "U." She was reading through one of the books when Jackson returned after his long absence.

He stood at the open window, silent and staring with arms folded across his chest. There was a line of blood running from his temple to his chin. She glanced up from the book, halfway through the T's. His face was a mix of emotions-- anger, which she was used to, stubbornness, and also a tiny hint of something akin to guilt.

"How is she?" Jackson asked at last, his voice almost staccato in the cold air drifting in from the open window. Lisa looked away, back to the baby names.

"How are you so sure that it's a she?" She asked as calmly as she could. As much as she hated him for leaving her alone, she wanted him close and tangible beside her. But she didn't let this on, of course.

"I was there for your ultrasound," he said quietly. He still hadn't lost the last of his rasp. "You like the names Dawn, Celina and Robin. Your Daddy Dearest still calls you every night. And you cry when you look at the ring."

Lisa gave a humorless dry laugh.

"You're still watching me," she said with a hint of sadness. "Keeping tabs to make sure I don't rat you out?"

He let the silence soak in.

"How is she?" He asked again. Lisa ran her hand over her bulging stomach.

"She's fine."

Another uneasy silence coated them, and Lisa looked down to the baby names to avoid the shaking in her hands.

"I got these for her," Jackson said at last. Lisa looked up as Jackson reached into his pocket to reveal three classical CDs: Mozart, Vivaldi and Beethoven. "It's supposed to be good for babies to listen to Mozart." He walked over to place them on the arm of the chair next to her. He lingered, and Lisa produced a kitchen towel seemingly from thin air to wipe the blood from his face.

"Don't die, Jackson," Lisa's voice caught, staring at the torn skin at the edge of his scalp. He looked up suddenly at the concern in her voice. "She needs a father, even if it's only once and a while." Jackson studied her face, then darted in to kiss her.

"I think I can do that," he said after breaking contact. He was climbing back out of her window before she could find her voice to say goodbye.

That was her sixth month.

The cold deepened as the winter tore on. Jackson's visits were few and far-between. One night he came to her with blood soaking the front of his white shirt, blazer torn to shreds and nearly half of his right ear missing. He nearly collapsed after stepping through her window. The pregnant woman dragged him to the bed and cleaned and dressed his wounded ear as best she could. The blood on his shirt seemed foreign for the most part, but a long knife cut from navel to mid-torso took the longest to clean. Every few hours she checked his wounds and changed his bandages throughout the night. They slept in the same bed again, but Lisa's mind was far from pleasure. When she woke, he was gone again.

She had her baby in April. The rains were long and hard that spring, and there was no exception on that day. She was at lunch with her father when the contractions started. They were at the hospital in less than ten minutes. She was lucky: her labor was quick, though definitely not painless. In those two hours of labor, she cursed Jackson, the day she met him, what he'd done to her. But the cry of the healthy baby brought tears of joy to her parched eyes. It was her child, and she brought it into the world. It was hers to love and care for, hers -- and Jackson's.

As she cradled the child in her arms, watching it breathe with each moment, loving it more each time, she saw that the baby had Jackson's wide blue eyes. She had Jackson's black hair, although the newborn only bore tiny wisps. It had Lisa's nose however, and tiny baby lips. She had the nurse bring in a small CD player and they listened to Jackson's Mozart CDs until the both of them fell asleep.

They got to go home the very next day. Lisa had converted the guestroom of her two-room apartment into the baby's nursery, painted in a soft neutral yellow. Lisa never liked the stereotype of "pink-for-girls, blue-for-boys." The crib was soft and downy, every sharp corner padded lovingly with cloth and rubber. The mobile was of clouds and rainbows, twirling overhead the sleeping child. Lisa watched her quietly, as if in awe. She knew he was there before he stepped forward into the light.

"How is she?" He asked. It was his question, asked at almost every visit. He tried his best to sound uninterested, utterly failing. Lisa smiled at the newborn before turning to its father.

"She's fine," was all Lisa said. Jackson stared at the crib, unable to see his child from his vantage point. And yet, he seemed unable to move any closer. He ran a hand across is forehead, fingers touching the scar at his hairline.

"What-" He broke off, as if catching his breath. "What did you decide on for her name?"

Lisa looked almost lovingly at the man, then took his hand in her own,pulling him slowlytoward the crib. He stared down into it, at his daughter.

"Vivian," Lisa told him.

Jackson could find no words, biting his lower lip ever so slightly. His grip on Lisa's hand intensified, but she didn't care. She leaned her head against his neck, wanting nothing but to fall asleep with him beside her once again. He tensed, leaning forward to peer into the crib. Vivian was sleeping soundly.

"Could I . . ." His hesitancy brought Lisa's eyes back to his. "Could I hold her?"

Lisa watched the swirling, hidden emotions in his eyes, then nodded slowly. She reached delicately into the crib and relinquished the tiny Vivian from its grip. She didn't wake, though she stirred. Jackson held out his arms, looking to Lisa for direction.

"Make sure to hold her head and neck up," she said softly. "Cradle her head in your elbow and hold her bottom with your other hand." Jackson opened his cradling arms and was suddenly holding the tiny, fragile baby.

His face changed then, softened. Lisa told herself that she had never seen that face before, but she knew that she had. The moment after Jackson had shot Gerard, when he sat beside her, held her, stroked her hair-- He wanted to protect her. As Jackson watched the sleeping child in his arms, Lisa knew that he wanted and needed to protect the girl. Just as he wanted and needed to protect his sister. He slowly turned his back to Lisa and the crib, just watching the little girl. Then came his voice, low and almost sad.

"And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King,

Have grown so tired of the same old thing."

He sang the entire song for his little girl. She never once woke up.

Jackson stayed that night. And he was still there when Lisa woke.

AN: Last... Chapter... OMG, I think I might die. But, yeah, the reason I'm ending this story early is because the point of this story was to tell about Lisa and Jackson falling in lerv and all that good stuff, not about what happens later. And I ended this chapter so quickly because I didn't want to drag out her pregancy because that would get very very boring. I hope this wasn't dissapointing to anyone, but, then again, I can't please everyone. BUT! A great majority of you have asked for a sequel, and I think I shall do just that thing! So, I'll start writing the sequel today! If anyone has any ideas they'd like to impart, they can tell me via review. And I hope I don't upset anyone... -weeps- ANYWAY! Some special announcements:

hilby: My whole family comes from a farm in Ohio, so I know all aboot creepy country folk. And I'm sowwee I killed off Collins. It had to be done. I don't think I made it evident, but in my mind he had a little crush on Lisa. That's why he shoved her to the ground and saved her from falling and whatnot. Poor guy. Just wanted some lovin'. I wish I had candy. I'll jus have to steal some from my 3-year-old brother. Bwahaha. Hope you enjoyed this chappie! I'm handing out belated Halloween e-candy, so have an e-Resee's! Much love!

signs fan: Hooray! That's what I was trying to get across was that Lisa is the only person who can wear him down like that. Mine isn't one of the longer fics (some have 25+ chappies!) but I'm glad to see I'm one of the only ones who's thought to give her a baby. Thanks foryour reviews, and I hope you enjoy this last installment of Taken! Have an e-Reese's!

katanaXfire: I thank you muchly for going out of your way to review. A lot of people say that this is one of the best fics out there, and I'm really flattered, even if I'm not so sure about that. My faves list has some pretty great ones. But yeah. Hehehe... Pile/pyramid of reviews. That's a great metaphor. Thanks again, and I hope you like the ending I've cooked up here. Help yourself to my stash of e-halloween candy.

Trentaholic: The thing I hate is when fics drag on forever and ever and never end or even culminate in the broadest sense. I didn't want this fic to do that so I wrapped it up when it felt like it needed to end. After all, the main conflict that needed to be solved was the feelings between Lisa and Jackson. And won't this baby be just the most adorable thing with two adorable parents? I can't stand the cuteness! I'm-a cook up a sequel for you, my friend! I hope you liked the wrap-up and don't crucify me! Have some e-candy, friend! Happy reading!

A.R. Bellance: Don't belittle yourself! I take all adivce to heart, even if I don't employ all of it. I totally see your meaning and I don't take any offence by it at all. I, too, feel as if I needed more substance but couldn't find any in my ravaged brain. And you may feel I rushed Lisa's pregancy too, but as I said above, I pretty much wanted to skip all of the boring parts and get onto the stuff that mattered. It is an epilogue after all. But I am listening whenever someone gives constructive critisism, so you just keep on keepin' on, friend. Despite being a tad rushed, I hope you enjoy the finale!

Ashley: If our updating rounds are so synchronized, you'd better be updating soonly my good friend. Just kidding. I'd hoped to get across the feeling at Jackson wants to protect Lisa. (I think it'll play a big part in the sequel) It's kinda his thing, like he has to protect her, like he can't not protect her. I don't know how else to word it... I hope I don't sound like an idiot when I said that... But yeah, little Vivi has to be the cutest baby ever. I decree it so. Have some e-candy from Halloween, my friend, and I hope to see a new chappie of yours up soonly! Much love!

Jack E. Peace: Best? Are you sure? Hmm... Well, thank you so very much! I was hoping to just mess up everyone's minds with Lisa getting shot and the role-reversal in the hospital and all that jazz. I hope the wait wasn't too long on this chapter, and I'm hoping it won't be too long to wait on the sequel since most are asking for one. I won't make you wait forever, I promise! Much love and e-candy to you, friend!

And to everyone who didn't get a shout-out-- I LOVE YOU! Reviews are what keeps me going sometimes, and every single review I got through the entire process really gave me a booster. I give tremendous props to all of you and I hope that this little fic hasn't been too terrible for y'all to get through. Again, I so totally love everyone who reads, reviews, what-have-you. I hope to drag most of you along to the sequel, but if I don't: It was a fun ride and I loved having you all along. Much love to everyone. Happy reading!

The Shoeless One