Valentine, Bishop and Martyr


CJ/Danny, Josh/Donna, Ginger/OMC, Bonnie/OMC, Margaret/Hoynes, mentions of others

Spoilers – through end of series

Not mine, never were, never will be, but they consume my soul

Feedback and criticism always welcomed

I have one, maybe two chapters that I need to write (one set in December 2009 and maybe one set in January 2010), but this chapter insisted on being written first. It doesn't contain any "spoilers" for the one or two chapters that would come first, but I am putting it in "Time out of Joint" for now.


February 14, 2010 2:00 PM EST

Cape May, NJ

Ginger pulled the one quilt about her and sat up, making sure that the other one covered her still-sleeping husband. Since tomorrow was Presidents' Day, the kids were off from school and her in-laws had offered to take the kids for the three-day Valentine's weekend; she and Rick had come to the shore, not to the big main house, but to this little guest cottage on the grounds.

She looked out at the snow falling to the ground and hitting the steel gray ocean that pounded the shore in the distance. Although it was only 2:00 in the afternoon, the sky was dark with the storm that had come down from Ontario. It was nice to be able to spend time alone with Rick, no kids ("bless you, Mom and Arnie"), no staff, just her man and herself, plenty of firewood, plenty of wine, plenty of food, and plenty of sex.

They hadn't been able to do anything for their anniversary back in December, what with all the holiday events; the extra-busy congressional session didn't help matters either. Was it really a little over two years ago that they had married in a beautiful but small candlelight service on that Saturday evening between Christmas and New Years? She remembered that the weather was bad and all the major airports were closed. Toby, Josh, Donna, Margaret, Carol and her State Department guy (now fiancé) and some others were able to make it by Amtrak, but CJ and Danny were stuck in California, the Bartlet clan in New Hampshire, and Bonnie in Indiana.

About six weeks after CJ and Danny's wedding, Matt Skinner had suggested that she and Bonnie attend the softball game and picnic planned by "The Center Cut", a group of moderate Democratic and Republican congressional representatives who had decided they were tired of the extreme wings of both parties stifling reasonable cooperation. The two of them had been working with Amy Gardner and John Hoynes, assisting them in their roles as congressional/senatorial liaisons. At first, they were hesitant; Bonnie would be leaving for California at the end of August to work with CJ and Nancy and they wanted to spend time together before she left. Then they decided that it would be a good venue to do so, and with free beer and hotdogs, how could they go wrong?

Of course, she knew who Rick was; everyone in New Jersey knew of the family, they had been a fixture there since before the Revolution. But for some reason, she had never met him. Of course, he had only been in the House for four years, taking over, in family tradition, after his father had died. Rick was now the fifth of his line to hold that office. For some reason, the family members never aspired to the Senate or to other political arenas. Apparently, the earlier generations were the same back in Britain. They had held a seat in the House of Commons practically since Runnymede, never exercising any rights to sit in the House of Lords.

In any event, when Matt introduced them, she knew about his family, about the death of his wife three years earlier, about his two sons Sev ("He didn't like 'Dick', 'Rich', or 'Ricky', and 'RJ' doesn't work because 'Junior' was my great-great-grandfather. Since he's the seventh - ") and Bryce and his daughter Chantelle.

Rick asked her to dinner the next week. Three weeks later, he asked her to a White House event, and then to meet his family.

And the rest, as the storybooks go, was a whirlwind courtship. She took an instant liking to Rick's mother, a combination of Abbey Bartlet and the Lacey Davenport character from "Doonesbury", who still had the same classic clothes she wore 50 years ago ("If you amortized it, this skirt cost me $4.00 a year"). And the woman immediately saw in Ginger the woman her son and her grandchildren needed in their lives. The kids were great, instantly accepting of her. Last August, when she heard Sev talking to President Bartlet about "my mom and my new sister", her heart swelled. Chantelle and Bryce had no real memory of Penny, but Sev did; he still addressed her as "Ginger" and she had no problem with that, but to hear him refer to her as "mom" was special.

Right before Donna's wedding two Septembers ago, when they announced her pregnancy, Matt confessed that he felt that the two of them would be good together and had planned the entire "chance meeting" without either of them suspecting a thing.

She had loved every minute of her job at the White House, but she left it behind without a backward glance and now she loved every minute of her role as wife and mother. Also, her mother-in-law was shepherding her into a more active role in the family's philanthropic endeavors, grooming her to take over when the time came (Please God, not for a long time. Her mother-in-law and Arnie were so happy, and she wanted her daughter to know her grandmother). When CJ came back east next month for Carol's shower, the two of them would meet to discuss a family role in one of "Road to a Better World's" side projects and she would have the final "yea or nay". It wasn't that big a monetary outlay, relative to the rest of the family charities, but it was more money than Ginger ever expected to control in her lifetime. She was a bit nervous about it, not only because of the money, but because it was CJ. She had barely adjusted to CJ being Chief of Staff when the change in Administrations occurred. Now she was barely used to the idea of CJ as a friend, an equal, and she was going to be having CJ approach her as a suppliant. CJ was going to try to convince her, Ginger, to commit a huge sum of money. She, redheaded Ginger from Bayonne, had certainly had her life altered in the past one thousand days.

She heard a stirring behind her. Her husband had awakened. She looked back and as he stretched, her heart filled with love for this kind, gentle, intelligent man and with gratitude to God for sending him into her life via Matt and via her past in the White House.

He ran a hand through his soft brown hair, just starting to grey at the temples, and smiled; then he reached out that hand to her and said, "Come here, funny valentine." She leaned back on the Aerobed in front of the fireplace, then bent over him and lowered her mouth onto his and she gathered the quilts about them. As they rolled over, the fire crackled, the snow fell, and the gray ocean continued its relentless lapping of the beach.

Widewater Beach, VA 4:30 PM EST

Josh Lyman sat in the rocker, cradling his son in his left arm, holding the bottle in his right. He glanced over to the bed where his wife, his Donnatella, was sprawled on her stomach, her golden hair fanned out in a half-circle over her back. He wondered if she was warm enough; maybe he should get up, pull up the covers from just below her waist, and put them over her shoulders. But then, he wouldn't be able to see that glorious molten gold hair splashed against the remains of the slightly darker golden tan she had picked up when they spent four days with his mother in Florida at the end of the year.

Outside the north-west facing window, he could see the line of clouds advancing; the front coming down from Canada would be here in an hour or so.

They had closed on the property two weeks ago. His mother insisted on giving them the maximum she could under the Gift Tax laws toward the down payment. "Why should you wait until I die?" she asked. "My family is very long lived and your father's pension will pay out until I die, as will Social Security." She told them she intended to make a similar gift next year, to help defray the principal.

The house was old, about 120 years, but the wiring, the kitchen, and the plumbing had been modernized, including the addition of a private bathroom for the largest bedroom. For some reason, the previous owner didn't put in central heating or central air, but the fireplaces and stoves were very efficient. Also, the cross-ventilation and the ceiling fans would help in the summer. Anyway, they would see how they survived and, if necessary, install a modern HVAC system.

Thanksgiving weekend, they talked long and hard about buying this place. In the end, they decided that Virginia might be a good place to make their long-term permanent home. They were only about an hour from the District. Naturally, they couldn't live here while working at their current jobs, but when the day came that they were no longer Chiefs of Staff or in similar roles, this would be perfect. This close to the ocean, the Potomac was tidal, so it was, in essence, a beach house. Summers would be fantastic (once they could actually enjoy them), autumns would be splendid, and springs would teem with life.

He looked again at his wife, watching her shoulders rise and fall with her breathing; she really must be worn out. Part of him felt pride in that, in thinking that he had exhausted her with his skills in bed earlier today. And to be perfectly honest, he did use his skills and his love for her to take the both of them up, down, and around the rollercoaster of sexual fulfillment. But he also realized how hard she was working, not only on Helen Santos' "Village People" initiative, but also with the course work she started last month. Not to mention the time needed to take care of Noah and himself.

His ego was a bit bruised three months ago when she decided against his suggestion about taking extra courses and getting a Political Science or Public Policy degree from Georgetown, opting to take the "warm and fuzzy" path at American University. However, first Danny and then later President Bartlet convinced him that she had made the right choice. The bureaucracy of federal and other employment offices, especially since a lot of them were now computerized to review qualifications, wanted to see those words "Bachelor of something" in a résumé, both for money and for title. Also, the Master's would open many more doors, bring in much more money; she needed to get that as soon as possible also.

More than once, he had heard the phrase "Donna's going places" uttered, sometimes in situations where he wasn't supposed to hear it. Three years ago, he was barely able to get his head around the idea that she would be working independently of him, not reporting to him, neither directly nor through some hierarchy tree. Now, he was beginning to sense that she might someday surpass him. The idea filled him with pride and fear at the same time. Would he be able to handle it, to give her the support she might need without feeling like an equerry, a squire? Something else to discuss with Danny sometime.

He glanced down; the bottle was empty and his son stared up at him with his mother's eyes. "We'll just have to be there for her, won't we, Noah?" he whispered, bringing the baby over his shoulder to burp him. While in that position, he reached a finger inside the diaper. Still dry. This kid had the most amazing kidney control. At first, they and the doctors were concerned, but a battery of tests revealed that everything was A-OK with Noah Leo Lyman's urinary system.

Noah made all the difference. With Noah in his life, not to mention Noah's mom, he saw things so clearly now. Jewish though he was, he understood what Paul was saying about seeing through dark glass and now seeing face to face. Yes, his role as Matt Santos' Chief of Staff was important, and, perhaps, his future role as such for Sam Seaborn would also be important. But Donna and Noah were so much more important. That was it, plain and simple.

He got up, set the baby in the crib and then turned around.

She was awake, lying on her right side, propped up on her right arm. The covers had fallen off her when she had turned into that pose. She looked like an impressionist painting made of a Playboy centerfold, erotica replacing pornography.

"Josh-u-a," she whispered each syllable of his name distinctly.

He approached the bed, drawn to her voice, to her eyes, to her body, to her love.

Washington, DC 10:30 PM EST

John Hoynes sat up carefully, not wanting to disturb the sleeping redhead beside him. The snow had glazed the window panes and muted the light coming in off the streets. It was as if he was looking at her through lace. When he woke this morning, this was definitely not among his expectations for the day. "I want to do this right this time," he prayed.

When he started seeing Margaret, first in competition with Arnie Vinick, then with the Episcopalian priest, he wondered at times why he was putting himself through all the stress. A number of other women had indicated that they would be more than willing to respond to him in the manner to which he had become accustomed since his college days.

It was in October 2007, after a late meeting with her concerning staffing his office, getting her advice on replacing Bonnie and Ginger, that he first offered to take her to dinner in thanks for her counsel. She needed to get home to her son, but accepted his second offer for lunch the next day. They were friendly for the next year or so and when he asked her to accompany him to Janeane's wedding in June of 2008, she said yes. Taking her home that evening, he asked if he could see her again. She told him yes, but also told him that she was seeing Arnie on occasion and that she was nowhere near ready for an exclusive relationship and nowhere ready for granting "privileges". If he wished to see her in this arena, under these conditions, she would enjoy his company.

Now that he had persevered, now that Arnie had found love with someone else and the priest had dropped out of contention, now that he had won her trust to this extent, he realized that she was worth waiting for and he did not want to lose her. This could very well be his last chance; it would also be his saving grace.

He knew he would need help if he wanted to have a true, mature relationship with her. Maybe the new minister at his church. The man was a widower about his age; everyone talked about how approachable he was.

He could not believe how nervous he had been; then again, he could. It had been almost two years since he had been with a woman, his longest "dry spell" since he was a sophomore in college.

The old John Hoynes would have made love to her in French, showing off his mastery of the "language of love" as well as his mastery of the mechanics of sex. This John Hoynes had stammered at the sight of her beauty.

He had been so nervous he fumbled with the condom, first dropping it and then snagging it on a nail. Initially, he had been embarrassed and then had realized it would be proof to her both of his desire for her and of his recent celibacy.

Earlier, he had taken Margaret to dinner for Valentine's Day; had brought her a bowl of forced hyacinths when he arrived. After dessert, he gave her a highly polished silver bracelet, a token of his esteem but not too presumptive.

He had made early reservations, for 6:00. Tomorrow was a federal holiday and she did not have to be at work as early as she usually did, but she did have things to do and he knew that she would appreciate the extra time to sleep, especially since she didn't have to deal with her son. The boy was spending the month in Florida with Bruno Gianelli's parents. They doted on their grandchild and had an excellent relationship with Margaret.

He was no fool, except when he thought with that body part least suited to the task. His long years of public service caused him to know exactly how much work an executive assistant did; how vital such a woman (and they usually were women) was to the person for whom she worked. There was no way he could have achieved what he had without the assistance of Janeane. When he had to resign the Vice-Presidency, and then when he realized he would not to able to finesse Bob Russell and Matt Santos for the nomination, he was as much disappointed that the woman who had supported him professionally for so many years would not be able to sit at that desk that guarded the Oval Office as he was that he would not be able to sit at the desk in that office.

He had worked with Leo for 5 years in the White House and previously when he was in the senate and Leo was Labor Secretary; he knew how much the man depended on Margaret. He was also sure that she had saved CJ Cregg's cute little butt on more than one occasion. (He decided that it was okay to recognize the existence of said butt as long as he remembered to whom that butt now belonged and that, if he were lucky, Margaret's would belong to him.)

Still, he had to just stand by and admire as Margaret had taken the opportunity handed her by Matt Santos and carved a new niche for herself. She had taken the day-to-day functioning of the west wing under her command, freeing Josh and Sam for policy management and international strategy. Then when Sam resigned to take the lieutenant governor's post in California and Matt Santos offered her the official title of Deputy Chief of Staff, she stepped right into it, quelling Josh Lyman's initial misgivings about her ability to handle the situation.

After dinner, when they had arrived at her townhouse, the steps were icing over with the snow and he kept an arm around her to help her across the sidewalk, then he had held out his hand for the key and opened the door for her. Dismissing her protests, he insisted on shoveling the steps and the walk and putting down some ice melt. Sure, the Weather Channel had predicted another 2 or 3 inches, but putting down the ice melt would make it easier for her in the morning. When he was done, the coffee she brewed was ready and they drank it, talking of inconsequential things.

When she stifled a yawn, he put down his cup.

"I should leave now."

Margaret took a deep breath. "Yes, but come back," she said.

"Ma'am?" she wasn't making sense.

"There's a late-night pharmacy three blocks west and one block north," she said, looking directly into his eyes. In heels, she was two inches shorter than he was. "I don't keep anything, so you'll need to buy - . Unless you already have; or don't want - ". She blushed and hung her head.

He couldn't believe this was happening. "I want," he said softly, crossing the few feet to stand in front of her. "And I wasn't anticipating".

She lifted her head,smiled, and joked. "Then hie thee to the chemist, sirrah!" Then, shyly, "Would you like me to just stay like this or change into something else?"

"Stay," he whispered huskily. "Three blocks west and?"

"One block north," she answered as they walked to the door.

"Lock up behind me," he ordered, as he always did when leaving her for the night. Then he kissed her hands and went on his errand.

As he reparked his car on her street, he slipped the box into his pants pocket. For the life of him, he couldn't remember what boxers he had put on when dressing for the evening. Hopefully, there weren't any rips or broken seams.

She opened the door, let him in, and then turned the deadbolt; she stood by while he took off his topcoat, and his suit coat and put them on the coatstand, removed his tie and put it in the suitcoat pocket.

She walked up to him, placed her arms on his shoulders, and kissed him. His arms went around her, hers around him.

They stood there, kissing, for several minutes. Then he shifted his right arm under her upper thighs, lifted her, and started up the stairs.

"Which way?" he asked, and she told him. And after almost twenty months of courting her, John Hoynes made love with Margaret Hooper.

San Luis Obispo, CA 8:00 PM PST

Bonnie lay in utter weariness and utter joy on the bed, her limbs unable to move, heavy and liquid like rich maple syrup against the ivory sheets. Jean-Luc lay half on her, half on the bed, kissing her shoulder and murmuring over and over, "Ah, que je t'adore, mon coeur, ah, que je t'aime, ma belle." She remembered being told that no matter how skilled one becomes in a second or third language, one usually reverts to the first when praying or doing math. In Jean-Luc's case, add making love to the list.

How glad she was that she had said "Yes" when CJ offered her the chance to come to California to work with "Road to a Better World". She remembered how scared she was when she went off to Purdue her freshman year, and that was only a few hours from home. Her parents couldn't believe that she was willing to move to Washington, let alone the west coast.

She had been a little apprehensive about leaving Washington, but she knew that she couldn't go on working with Amy Gardner. Their personalities were polar opposites and she felt as if the woman did not respect anyone who didn't mirror Amy's constant "in your face" persona. She felt guilty at first, abandoning Ginger to Amy and to the blandishments of John Hoynes, but within a few weeks, Ginger and her Rick were head over heels in love and headed toward the altar. Amy and Hoynes were looking for two new assistants to help with their liaison needs.

She had also been apprehensive about being by herself in a new town, rather than working directly with CJ in Santa Monica. However, Nancy felt she needed to be with her parents in Malibu. The Hollises were very helpful, first with advising her on neighborhoods when she was looking for an apartment and then with introducing her to the Cal Poly community.

As it turned out, people were very friendly and welcoming. CJ and Nancy were just phone calls and emails away and the work was fascinating but not anything she couldn't handle; once she acclimated, it was nice to be able to work somewhat independently of a manager. Toby, once you got used to him, was okay, but he could be brusque. Amy was also brusque, plus she tended to micro-manage. Hoynes was polite, but he had worked with Janeane for so long that he unconsciously gave her all the good stuff and relegated "busy work" to Bonnie and Ginger. But CJ depended on her to keep the folks in San Luis Obispo happy and that's what Bonnie did. Indeed, she took pleasure in the extra responsibility of dealing with the sometimes straight-laced bureaucrats of the Hollis Foundation staff.

She met Jean-Luc at a campus theatre presentation of "Tartuffe" in early October. One of the work-study students in her office was doing a dual major in French and Theatre Arts and introduced her to him after the play. He was charming and when he started asking her to dinner and movies on a regular basis, Sarita Hollis told her that she was the envy of all the single women over 25 on campus.

They became intimate in early December. By New Years', she knew that she was in love with him, but she wasn't ready to go headlong into a serious relationship, let alone marriage, the way Ginger apparently had been. However, when he had asked her to marry him, two years ago today, she found herself saying yes, but asking for a bit of time before the ceremony. Between CJ's having twins that coming May and Donna's wedding that September, she would have to deal with a lot of things, professionally and personally. Jean-Luc replied with his French-Canadian humor that he would wait forever if she didn't take too long about it and they settled on a 15-month engagement. When she took him to Indiana to meet her parents and the rest of her family over his spring break, he spent two hours with her father, outlining his plans for his professional future, wanting to assure the man that his daughter would be well provided for, and that she would be well loved. Then they flew to Canada and proudly introduced her to his father and sister.

When fate stepped in and took CJ's babies from her at birth, she was glad that she was able to give full time to "Better World" issues and that she and her mom had plenty of time to iron out all the details of a long-distance wedding. Following CJ's advice, she did allow her parents to give her the wedding of their dreams, with 12 bridal attendants, including a newly-delivered Ginger, Carol, Donna, Nancy, Cathy, Margaret, Jean-Luc's sister, and 5 cousins. She wished that CJ and Danny could have been there, but knew that the "due at any minute" baby was the most important thing in the Concannon universe at that time.

Now, married nine months, she was deliriously happy. Next week, she and Jean-Luc would close on the house they had found. His role as chair of the French department was secure at the university. Last week, the Hollis Foundation board had approved her and Nancy's promotions to assistant vice-presidents and she was recruiting a staff of her own.

She was looking forward to having their house, to planting a garden, to decorating, to nesting, to making their house a reflection of their love for one another.

She had all this, because she had moved away from Indiana, first to Washington and now to California. She thanked God for the courage to have done so.

She had studied German in high school and at Purdue, but she had picked up some French just from being with Jean-Luc. She also signed up with the local high school extension for a beginning French class. She wanted to share in every part of her husband's life. She explained to the instructor that she needed certain phrases beyond "la plume de ma tante est sur le table".

Jean-Luc stirred again. "Ah, que je t'aime, ah, que je t'aime."

"Moi aussi, mon mari. Je t'aime avec toût mon coeur, mon valentin."

Santa Monica, CA 9:30 PM PST

CJ set down the bottle, arose from the rocker, tucked Paddy back into his crib, rubbed a bit of Orajel and a drop of her brother-in-law's whiskey on her son's gums, returned to the bedroom and snuggled back into the warmth and protection of her husband's body.

In the past three years, they had indeed learned many new things, had become good at those new things.

Not that everything had been "Donna Reed" perfect. They had had the occasional disagreements and spats, even two full-blown screaming and yelling fights.

It turned out that they disagreed on a couple of local elections, on one Assembly candidate, and on a referendum on a state constitutional issue over the past almost three years.

She was even glad earlier this month to find out that they disagreed about Jean-Luc deciding to remain a Canadian national (she felt that he if was living and working here, he should seek citizenship whereas Danny felt that by remaining Canadian, he and Bonnie would have options that might prove useful in the future), because it was the first time they had argued since they found the lump in her breast. To her, it indicated that their lives were returning to normal, or rather, to whatever passed for normal for the two of them.

For the life of her, she couldn't remember what the first big fight was about, only that the first night, they both felt compelled to tell each other that although they were still mad, they still loved the other.

The second one occurred a week before they received the news about Brianna. Five drunken idiots came down the block one afternoon and started keying some of the cars parked on the street. It was one of the rare days when Steve had to be out of the neighborhood on business (defending his work for a client at the local IRS office), and Danny decided to confront the men by himself. Luckily, eight year-old Heather Jenkins ran to her house and Angela called the police, but by the time they arrived, Danny had a black eye, a cut lip, and several bruised ribs.

Jessica called CJ at her office and when she came home, the neighbors were still on the street. First, she made sure that he was okay. Then she started yelling at him. Did he think he was a superhero? Where was his common sense? She had no desire to be a widow. His son needed to have his father in his life. It was only after three minutes that she realized she should have waited until they were in the house and shouldn't have gone off on him in front of the neighbors and the neighborhood children. She apologized to him right then and there, in front of everyone, but when they were inside, she told him again how upset she was, and somehow managed to blame him for making her get so mad that she lost her temper and ended up making a fool of herself in front of everyone. And he was hurt and upset that she had humiliated him in front of everyone.

After about 25 minutes of yelling at each other, he started to laugh; she joined in. This particular fight ended up with them reconciling in a very enjoyable manner as they both admitted that they could have exercised much better judgment.

But for the most part, she was so unbelievably content with her life. She had no desire to return to the political arena. Sam asked her to sit on a state advisory board; she told him that she had more than enough on her plate with her foundation, her husband, and her son.

"Road to a Better World" was succeeding beyond their expectations; she couldn't say that the project was more important than keeping the world from war or dealing with a nuclear accident, but neither could she say that it was less important than those other accomplishments.

Nor could she believe how easily she had adjusted to motherhood; nor to how much having Paddy had meant to her life. Danny, Abbey, and some others told her that they absolutely knew she would be good at it; Toby and Josh told her they were astounded that she reveled in motherhood; most of the others fell somewhere in between.

Most of all, she had learned how to give herself totally to this man lying behind her without surrendering the essence of her self. She had had a brief glimmer of this joy long ago with Paul, but that paled in comparison with what she had with Danny. She wondered if God had sent Paul to her those long 30 years ago to let her know that this was possible, so that she didn't settle for "well, okay" all the while that God's plans wove the web to bring her to Danny and him to her.

Even on days like today, when things seem to conspire against them, they had learned to deal with things, to prioritize, to accept, to make do.

There was a virus going around, and two weeks ago, she had caught it. Also, last week had been extremely hectic, work wise, so she was tired and had tried to catch up on household chores yesterday.

The parish had held the "Valentine's Party" for married couples Saturday evening. However, because Father Luke was down with the virus, there was no separate Mass; the married folk went to the regularly scheduled Saturday evening one. When they went to Communion, she asked Danny to carry Paddy; she was afraid she wouldn't be able to manage the host or the cup with only one hand. Before the dismissal rite, Father Niko asked the "marrieds" to stand, and prayed over them, asking God to bless them and their marriages through the intercession of "Valentine, Bishop and Martyr".

After Mass, they took part in the dinner, lecture, and dancing, having dropped off Paddy with the other babies and toddlers in the care of the Teen Club.

When they got home last night, she sat down on the bed while Danny went to deal with the baby; the next thing she knew, it was 5:00 AM and she was lying next to him in her bra and underpants.

They had awakened about 8:00 this morning and exchanged gifts (she got him a Kentucky cluster ring for his right hand; he bought her the light green sapphire necklace, bracelet, and earrings she would need to match her dress for Carol's wedding in May). He had removed her bra and was about to do the same with her panties when Paddy interrupted them, making his needs known.

Then Erin called; Fiona had dropped out of university, left Dublin, and was working as a dancer ("a chorus girl, really") at a club in London. Robin was alternating between anger at his older daughter and fear for her. Aunt Sorcha kept telling them not to worry, but Erin needed to vent her own frustration and decided that her little brother would be the best sounding board.

Someone lost their brakes and rammed into the tree in Clara's front lawn, knocking it into the roof; the men of the block had to cut down and cut up the tree and make a temporary patch to the roof with a tarp. Then they had to determine when one or more of them could be with Clara when she got the estimates for repair, to make sure that no one tried to take advantage of her. ("I'm pretty good about this, myself," Clara confided to CJ, Diana, and Hannah, "but if it makes the guys feel better about themselves, I'll let them 'help' me.")

Paddy was cranky and fitful. He had started teething right after Christmas; apparently, today was going to be one of his bad days.

Hogan called to let them know that sometime in the fall, she would become Lt. Mrs. Submariner Guy. She would email a picture of the ring.

Finally, about 35 minutes ago, he stopped her as she was carrying a load of clothes to the laundry room. "Can that wait for a while?"

She set down the basket, looked toward the nursery. "If we're lucky, we have 20 minutes."

"Then let's make the most of them."

And with the love and experience of three years, they had tenderly, gently, but efficiently and quickly finished what they had started over 12 hours ago.

She reached back and brushed her hand over his upper hip and buttock. "Love you," she whispered.

He moved away from her, and, with a hand on her shoulder, carefully pressed her onto her back. Coming over her, he kissed her and spoke into her mouth.

"I thank God everyday for you, Jeannie."

March 17, 2010

Three different women sat in three different examining rooms with three different obstetrician-gynecologists, each hearing the same words.

"Congratulations! It looks as if you had a very nice St. Valentine's Day!"