Jackson smirked as he drove down the unfamiliar road, glancing every few seconds to a hastily written address taped to the dash of his car. He mentally counted the numbers of houses as he passed them, the curve of his lips falling with each that didn't match. But Jackson had waited a long time for this; a few more minutes would hardly be a sacrifice.

Then he spotted it, more by its appearance than the brass numbers nailed to the front wall. The house was small enough to accommodate her loner spirit, and on the outside it was everything cheerful and uncorrupted. The whole of it was white, but a light blue trim melded the top to the roof. Yet the grass, although it wasn't overgrown, had not been watered or even properly taken care of. There were a few rose bushes off to the side that looked pathetic—wilted, brown, and sickly. Jackson wondered if she still worked as hard as she used to. Her lawn could be excused if she still had so little time on her hands.

The garage wasn't open, but a car—her car, he presumed—was parked in the driveway. It wasn't the same one he had seen her drive to the Lux Atlantic day after day, but rather a newer model that must have cost good portion of her salary. Jackson frowned. She had never been frivolous with her money. Then again, it had been over a year.

Not just a year, Jackson thought. Thirteen months and fourteen days, exactly. That's how long it had taken for him to reconstruct his damned existence, and how long it had taken for him to come back for her. Was she expecting him? he wondered. It was likely. After all, he had meant it when he said, "I may have to steal you."

She must have thought about him in their time apart. But what did she think? Perhaps she thought about him with a great, plaguing fear. No, not fear, Jackson reasoned. She hadwon the last round, and that was cause for arrogance. So was that how she thought back to her time with him? With triumph? It was certainly possible. But maybe there was another way in which she thought about him. Maybe, when the nights were cold enough, and she was lonely enough, she thought about the way he had felt the red flesh of her scar. Did she imagine him trailing the wound with parted lips, imagine her tongue entwined with his? Did she wish for the opposite side of her bed to be warm with his imprint? Did she long for him?

None of these questioning thoughts were new to Jackson. They hadn't been new for thirteen months and fourteen days.

His car had stopped. He leaned slightly forward, peering through his window and into hers. And then, for tiniest moment, he saw her. She raced from one end of the living room to the other, grabbed an object off a lamp table, and fled back out of his vision. Jackson had always been able to keep his emotions in check, had never wavered unless he wanted to, and so he damned the way his heart leaped at the sight of her familiar features and bouncing red curls.

"Leese." It wasn't more than an unconscious whisper.

Lisa came back into view, but this time she carried something completely alien to Jackson. It was baby. The tiny thing rested contentedly in her protective arms, and he could only stare, astonished and confused, at the scene before him. Lisa stared sweetly down at the thing she held, and then grinned at someone who was too far from the window for Jackson to see. A man emerged, tall with sandy brown hair, and he said something to Lisa that made her laugh.

Jackson's stomach twisted. She had laughed with him too, once.

But who in the hell was this man? A friend? Surely Lisa wouldn't… and then Jackson put two and two together. Man. Baby. Lisa. Home.

Jackson froze. For a second it was too hard to take in, almost incomprehensible. The thought that Lisa would have moved on with her life had never occurred to him, and why? Because he couldn't move on without her?


Jackson clenched his teeth, making his jaw line stiff. The hand that had been leisurely resting on the steering wheel was now tightly clenching the rubber, so much that his knuckles turned white. He could feel his own hatred permeating the air around him; hatred for her, for her attachments, and for the year now wasted.

They were no longer in his sight, but moments later the man stepped out of the door and into the wealthy car. Jackson glared at his form, trying to find fault, and unconsciously comparing himself to this stranger that Lisa…that she…

Jackson growled, and slammed his first on the top of the steering wheel. He thought, very seriously, of ramming his own car into the man's. It could be an accident, a hit and run, a death he could smirk at. But no, his focus was on Lisa now. She had betrayed him, and she would pay.

"No, no, shhhh," Lisa cooed. "Shhh." She bounced the baby gently in her arms, but when its incessant crying refused to cease she sighed and laid the tiny thing down on her bed. "I'll be back in just a minute," she said, piling pillows around the baby so it wouldn't roll off in her absence. "And I'll bring you some milk. That sounds good, doesn't it?" It only shrieked louder, and so she hurried out of the room.

Out in the kitchen, Lisa dug through the diaper bag, and managed to pull out a milk bottle and a clean diaper. After placing the plastic in the microwave, she sank against the counter and watched the seconds tick down. "Fun fun fun," she muttered with a slight sarcastic smile.

"Alright, Rach," she said from the hallway, giving the baby its nickname. "Your daddy brought your favorite brand of milk, so—" She came into the room, and the bottle fell to the floor, completely forgotten. Lisa shrieked, tears forming quickly and even spilling down her shaking face. There, dressed as impeccably as ever and staring coldly down at her, was Jackson Rippner. Rachel was nestled quietly in his arms, her eyes open and staring ahead.

"Shhh," Jackson said, feigning concern, "You'll make her cry." Lisa just shook her head, then, grabbing hold of what composure she had left, demanded harshly through her tears that he give her back.

"She's just a baby," Lisa pleaded. "She has nothing to do with any of this."

"Really?" Jackson asked, narrowing his eyes. "Nothing?"

"What do you want? You want your revenge? You want to kill me?" Lisa spat.

"At the moment," Jackson mused, but seriously, "I don't know."

Lisa took a step forward, her arms itching to touch the child, and it was then that Jackson noticed the lack of metal and diamond around a specific finger. "So, he wasn't man enough to marry you?" Jackson asked, eyebrows raised slightly as he motioned to her ring finger.

"What?" she blurted, features narrowed in confusion.

"I must say, though," he carried on, "Rachel here doesn't look a thing like you. Takes after her dad, then, does she?"

"I should hope so," Lisa responded in annoyance, and crossed her arms.

"Well, it seems you've managed to get life back to normal, even after our little fiasco," he said, taking in the room with an air of approval.

"Yeah, sure," she replied, but the sadness in her tone caught Jackson off guard. He looked back down at her, icy blue eyes bearing into her darker ones.

"What, not satisfied with the fam?" he quipped.

"Stop asking me questions, Jack. You came here for a reason, now tell me what it is." With every word that fell from her dark cherry lips she crept closer, her feet inching towards the man and his tiny hostage.

"I just wanted to talk, catch up, the usual. I must say, though, Leese, you surprised me. Two years. Two years and you still wouldn't date, but now? You gun me down and one year later you have a kid." He looked almost painfully down at the thing in his arms, and then his eyes found hers. Lisa was shocked at the emotion she found within his stare. It was anger, yes, but something else, something softer. It was longing.

Lisa didn't know what to say, and so she reverted into an argument. "You need to give her back," she said slowly.

"Whatever you say, Leese," he said, and turned around, placing the child in the pillow made crib. Lisa peeked around him, skeptical of his obedience. But he faced her, child-free, and began coming forward. Lisa backed up, flat against the wall, and glanced around the room at everything but Jackson's face.

Lisa groaned inwardly, and bit her lip slightly as Jackson neared. She had to find a weapon, she had to—

"You disappointed me," he whispered, running a gentle hand over the top of her hair. He was too close, too intense. Lisa shifted nervously.

"Did I?" She tried to sound cocky.

"Mmhm," Jackson said softly, continuing to stroke her curls. His eyes never ceased their focus on her.

"What are you doing?" she demanded, but her voice ended in a whisper. His hand trailed off her hair until his fingertips were grazing down her arm. Then he took her pale, smooth hand in his and guided it to his throat, where he unbuttoned his collar. She tried to jerk away, but he held onto her hand with a harsh persistence, until she felt the hard red scar that had surfaced on his neck. Jackson leaned his head back, eyes closed, as she fingered the mutilated flesh with a strange softness.

"You got me a few times, too," she said quietly.

"I know," he replied, looking up to her forehead, almost expecting the bruises and cuts to appear new and vivacious on her skin.

He came closer, wanting something from her, from her lips, but he didn't dare to take it. Everything was wrong now—every thought he had had about her, every one he knew he would continue to have. Wrong, even for him.

Jackson back away suddenly, nearly nonchalantly, and Lisa stared, bewildered, as he exited the room. She followed him for a few steps. "What are you doing?"

"Leaving," he replied.

"No revenge? No death? Nothing?" She was mocking him.

"Not this time," he replied. Every step towards the door weighed on him until he felt utterly sick at the prospect of having Lisa out of his life forever. No more beatings, no more sarcastic remarks, or—

"She's not mine," Lisa called hesitantly from the doorway. Jackson stopped.


"Rachel…She-she's not mine." Jackson raised his eyebrows, and Lisa blushed. "She's Cynthia's."

"Cynthia's?" Lisa nodded. "And the man?"

"Her husband." Jackson felt ill with himself for feeling such overwhelming relief. Without a second thought he stalked up to Lisa, took her roughly by the shoulders, and crashed his parted lips onto hers. Lisa eyes shot open in shock, but she barely fought, and instead wrapped her fingers around his neck. Every startling emotion she had seen in his eyes—longing, pain, and lastly, relief—was being poured into that kiss. When his tongue slid along hers she could feel him wanting her, needing her, wanting her…

Jackson pulled away. They both stared at each other, two sets of eyes mirroring the same reaction. Then he turned and abruptly fled to the door. Lisa stared, open mouthed and surprisingly hurt.

"I'll be back when you're done babysitting," he said, then smirked and closed the door behind him.

A/N: Yeah, if I were you I'd be thinking, "What in the hell…?" I'm sorry guys, but I had to get this odd plot idea off my chest. It's terribly out of character, I know, but I hope you survived reading it. Don't worry, a new chap of Conditional will be up soon. Thanks!