Marella pulled up in front of the house and switched off the engine tiredly. It had taken all night to clear up the mess the explosion at the lab had caused; both literally and figuratively. She had slept for a few hours at Red Star but she had decided to head home early. She was, she admitted to herself, a little worried about how Michael had coped with Nicky. She half-expected to find the house in chaos, Nicky in tears and Michael fraught with exhaustion and frustration. It was with some trepidation that she opened the front door.
She frowned. The house seemed preternaturally silent. She chucked her keys on the small table by the door, shrugged off her coat to hang it on the pegs in the cupboard and made her way down the hall. She eventually found Michael out on the patio. She paused for a moment by the French doors and stared at him in astonishment.
He had Nicky perched in the centre of the table in his carrier. The baby looked clean and happy; he was awake and gurgling at Michael who was reading the morning newspaper to him as though he could understand every word. Michael himself was dressed casually and seemed relaxed. The rest of the table was set for breakfast; a fresh pot of coffee stood well out of the reach of the baby along with a glass of orange juice, toast and jam. Brownie was chasing something in the garden; Smokey had curled up on a spare patio chair. She shook her head in disbelief at the calm domestic scene.
'Wow.' She said interrupting Michael's commentary on the stock market. 'I'm impressed.'
Michael's head whipped round to her. 'Marella.' He got up and threw his paper down. He tugged her into his arms and kissed her thoroughly much to her delight. 'I missed you.'
'I was only away a night.'
'It felt much longer.' Michael said truthfully. 'Coffee?'
'Yes.' Marella nodded. 'Please.'
'Take a seat. I'll get you a cup.' Michael hugged her briefly before he stepped back into the house.
Marella tickled Nicky and sat down on a patio chair.
Michael arrived back with the cup and poured her some coffee.
'Well,' Marella waved at the patio, 'you seem to have survived fine.' She wondered at her mixed feelings. She should be happy Michael had done so well, she admonished herself. There was no reason to be annoyed that he had coped so well without her.
Michael was smiling proudly as he looked over at her and caught the fleeting disgruntlement on her face. He rubbed his moustache thoughtfully. 'I have to admit you were right.'
'I was?' Marella asked.
'I had to call for help.' Michael confessed. ' Saint John came over and gave me a few tips.'
' Saint John?' Marella almost choked on the coffee. 'Why didn't you call me?'
'Well, I wanted to show you I could do it.' Michael said.
Marella got out of her chair and walked around to Michael. She slid onto his lap, her arms around his neck. 'You don't have to prove anything to me.'
'I know.' Michael sighed hugging her.
'I mean it's not as though we can…' Marella's voice faltered.
Michael's grip on her tightened. 'There are options, Marella, if you want us to have a baby.' He cupped her cheek. 'But I don't want you dismissing the idea just because I'm hopeless with babies.'
'Options?' Marella asked delicately.
'Options.' Michael repeated. 'We could adopt or try surrogacy.'
Marella pulled a face. 'I think when we want a baby adoption would be the way to go.'
'Adoption then.' Michael repeated. 'When we want a baby.'
Marella leaned down and kissed him. 'Oh. I have something for you. It arrived by courier this morning at the office.' She slipped out of his hold and went back into the house. She came back out with an envelope. She handed it to him and retook her seat.
Michael frowned and opened it extracting a buff folder. He opened it and scanned the contents. 'Damn.'
'What is it?' Marella asked curious.
'The FBI file on Hawke's parents.'
'Really.' Marella snatched it out of his hands. 'Your contact finally came through.'
'It's not a lot.' Michael said.
Marella glanced over the text. 'They disappeared?'
'After the birth of a baby girl.' He gestured with his cup at her. 'Obviously the sister referred to in that letter you discovered.'
'God, Michael.' Marella's eyes caught on a stark line of text. 'The FBI told them Saint John and Hawke were dead.'
'At least we have proof they were alive and were in witness protection.' Michael sighed. 'Hawke's not going to take this well.'
'I don't blame him.' Marella placed the folder on the table. She pulled at her blouse and grimaced. 'I'm going to go up and have a shower.' She kissed him as she disappeared back into the house with her coffee. He turned back to the table and almost yelped in shock. Dom was sitting across from him.
'I thought you'd gone again.' Michael said crossly.
'I did.' Dom agreed. 'I could hardly stay around with Saint John on the way.' He glared at Michael. 'And by the way what was with hitting him?'
'He hit me first.' Michael replied childishly.
'Yes.' Dom sighed. 'I guess he did.'
'Besides we have an understanding now.' Michael said waving his coffee cup.
'Sure. An understanding.' Dom repeated.
Michael considered the ghost over the rim of his cup. 'You know about Hawke's parents.'
'Yes. I do.' Dom said.
'You know where they are?'
'I told you before, Michael…'
'Lines. Blurring. I remember.' Michael said taking a sip of his drink. 'It says they disappeared after being relocated following an attempt on their lives.'
'They thought they'd lost one family.' Dom gestured. 'They didn't want to lose another.'
Michael nodded. He could understand the need to protect.
'Why didn't they come to me?' Dom asked plaintively into the silence.
'They were probably trying to keep you safe.' Michael said.
'If they had…' Dom sighed. 'They would have found the boys…'
'And they all would have gone into hiding.'
'At least they would have been together.' Dom said. 'The boys would have been with their parents.'
'They didn't do so badly having you raise them.' Michael said gently.
Dom looked at him with surprise. 'Why thank you, Michael.'
Michael smiled. 'Will you be at the cabin tomorrow?'
'For Hawke and Caitlin renewing their vows?' Dom nodded enthusiastically. 'Where else would I be? Not visible you understand. I don't want to scare anyone.'
'You seem OK scaring me.' Michael pointed out.
'Well, it's you, Michael.' Dom sighed again. 'Thanks for the pep talk.'
'I didn't realise ghosts needed them.' Michael commented. 'Besides I owed you; I'm not sure I would have proposed to Marella by now without your…er…nudge.' His blue eye twinkled.
'I've been meaning to congratulate you.' Dom said. 'Well, I'd better get going. People to see. Places to be.'
'Does this mean I won't be seeing you again?' Michael asked hopefully.
'Maybe.' Dom said with a wide smile. 'Maybe.'
Michael blinked and the chair was suddenly empty. He sighed and looked at Nicky who gurgled back at him. 'OK. I miss him.' Michael whispered. 'But let's keep that our little secret?'The baby smiled back at him and Michael decided to take that as a yes. It seemed to him he'd passed the infamous baby test with flying colours.