"So what happened to you last night?" Nicole asked as Brady set a plate loaded with food in front of her. "I got up to go to the bathroom and you were gone."
"I took Pookie for a walk. I guess we were outside for longer than I realized." He filled her glass with milk before taking a seat, "Did you need something?"
"I just wanted to thank you." She glanced at her plate, "Are those apples?"
"I remembered how much you liked that big pancake at that restaurant in Chicago. I don't know if this is exactly right, but I found a recipe on the Internet that sounded pretty close."
"You didn't have to go to so much trouble." She cut off a small piece, blowing on it before popping it into her mouth. Her eyes rolled back in her head, "Oh this is good."
"Glad you like it." He laughed to himself while she plowed through her breakfast. When Nicole finished he nudged her milk towards her, "Don't forget the calcium."
"Of course not." She flashed a smile at him, "Thank you. This was really sweet. I don't think I've ever been pampered like this in my life."
"You deserve it." Squeezing her hand gently Brady added, "Now, why don't you work from home today and pamper yourself a little bit?"
Her lips pursed Nicole said contemplatively, "Well I don't have any meetings..."
"There you go." He watched her drink her milk while he cleared the table, "I just have the one this afternoon. We can go someplace nice for lunch and then you can take a nap."
"A nap?" She struggled to her feet, "I'm pregnant, not a toddler."
Brady laughed, "I know you're not a toddler. But you are in your last trimester and I could swear the doctor said something about resting in the afternoons. Come on, you know you get sleepy after lunch."
"Can we have Mexican?" She eyed him curiously, "For lunch I mean?"
"If you like." He shrugged, "It's up to you."
"Okay, you never want Mexican." She grimaced, "What's going on here?"
"Nothing." He smiled, "First rule of surviving life with a pregnant woman is to always let her pick the meal. Now, go ahead and get your work out of the way so you can relax later."
"Mm-hmm. Brady, are you...." Her phone ringing interrupted the moment. Still looking at him suspiciously Nicole turned to grab it, seeing a familiar number on the display she sighed, "I think I'm going to have to take a raincheck on lunch. I was supposed to talk to EJ last night before I fell asleep."
"He can wait." Caustically he added, "Why spoil a good day with a bad guy?"
"I can't just ignore him." She turned on her phone, "EJ, it's me...I'm sorry about last night. I fell asleep much earlier than I planned. I'm...uh...I'm working at home today. Yeah, that sounds fine. I'll see you when you get here."
She hung up and turned to Brady only to be met with "Don't even think about asking me to leave. If he wants to see you so damned bad, he can do it with me sitting right here."
"I wasn't." Nicole smiled wistfully, "This protective thing? It's sweet. But, you know you don't have to get in the middle of this right? When I ran to you for help that day; I was angry and typical me...too self-absorbed to think of the possible consequences for you."
"I'm not scared of a weasel like EJ."
"I knew you were going to say that." Laying her hand against his cheek, Nicole said softly "You're starting to make me want more than I can have from you Brady."
He caught her hand in his, kissing her palm he said fervently "You can have whatever you want from me."
"Including some space to sort things out with EJ?"
"I'm not saying that I want you to leave." She squeezed his hand, "Just hang out in your room while he's here."
"With the door open." Brady growled, "And if he gets loud..."
"You can throw him out." She smiled, "I'll even hold the door open for you."
"I'm going to go hop in the shower. He should be here in an hour or so."
While Nicole was in the bathroom Brady busied himself rearranging the furniture so that EJ would be forced to sit in full view of his bedroom door while he was in the apartment. A knock at the door had him charging across the room to snatch it open as he snapped, "You're early."
"For what?" Philip glanced at his watch, "I didn't even know I was on my way over here until I parked the car."
"Sorry, I thought you were EJ." Brady waved a hand dismissively, "Pay no attention to my imitation of a raving lunatic. What's up?"
"I'm a father."
Perplexed Brady replied, "Okay. I knew that already...wait does this mean you're thinking about trying to get Tyler back?"
"No...yes. I don't know." Stuffing his hands in his pockets, Philip stared at the ceiling "I wasn't actually talking about him. Or Claire. Chloe's pregnant. I think. We don't know for sure yet, but even if she isn't...I want her to be. And that's a problem."
Brady blinked in confusion, "You're going to have to let me in on at least part of the conversation Phil, what are you talking about?"
"Chloe's late. And she was going to do one of those home tests, but then we decided to be sure and just go to the hospital for a blood test. We should know in a couple of hours." He frowned, "And there's all this stuff that I do that's probably not good for a kid. And we're not married."
Brady leaned against the door frame, "Well you could get married. And stop doing the stuff that isn't good for kids right?"
"Yeah. I could do that. Except some of that stuff is really nuts. And I don't know if I can really stop doing it."
"What are you doing?" Waving him into the apartment Brady added, "Besides working too much?"
"I don't sleep a lot. I have nightmares so I only sleep long enough to get by and Chloe thinks that's a bad thing." Looking around the apartment Philip frowned, "This is the first time I've really been here since...well since everything happened. No, that's not right. I come here every time I sleep too long. I hate it here."
"Okay." Brady glanced up as the bathroom door opened, pitching his voice so that Nicole would hear he asked "Would you like to go someplace else to talk?"
"No." Philip spun in a circle, "Chloe keeps talking about facing things that scare her and I think...I think I need to be here. I was mad at her that day, did I ever tell you that? I was so pissed about you and the whole time she was in hell."
"You had no way to know." He caught Nicole's eye as she headed for her room, smiling slightly when she mimed a hug he added, "It's over now."
"No it isn't." Philip strolled into the kitchen, staring at the garbage can he said "She thinks I insist on all the safety measures because I have a problem. And I do. But, she cries in her sleep. Every fucking night. And it's my fault. Because I was too busy with my wounded pride to use my brain."
"It's not your fault." Brady clapped a hand on his shoulder, "Dude, if you need to take a swing at me? Do it. Hell, take a dozen. But you have to stop beating yourself up. Forgive yourself man. Chloe never blamed you right?"
"Right. She thinks I'm a hero. Her knight in shining armor."
"You were." Nicole piped up from her room, "We've talked about it a few times. While you're trying to stuff her into a bubble she's regaining her confidence because she knows you're always willing to be there for her. I have to say the idea of a guy that would do what you did...okay so you didn't figure it out right away. Big whoop. It's not like it was the most obvious conclusion. You came through in the end. That's what matters."
"Exactly." Brady spread his hands, "Now, instead of beating yourself up for things you can't change how about you do something productive?"
"I...uh...I promised Chloe that I'd go talk to someone. Do you think this counts?" Philip stared into the distance as he added, "I have to admit I do feel a little better."
"I think that all depends on how you sleep tonight." Hoisting himself onto the kitchen counter Brady added, "I have to say though...just maybe you should finally go to those meetings at the VA hospital."
"Now you sound like Chloe." Philip met Brady's gaze, "Thanks for letting me spew. It helped. A lot."
"No problem." Brady leaned forward to murmur "I'm sure I'll be bending your ear in a few hours. Now, why don't you go find out if you're having a kid?"