Your words they mean just a whisper
Your face is so unclear
I try to pay attention… your words just disappear.
'Cause it's always raining in my head.
Forget all the things I should have said.

Stacie and Steve had finally finished cleaning the house after her family had left after the Thanksgiving festivities and she plopped down on the couch exhausted.

"So when are you decorating for Christmas?" Steve quipped.

"Next Christmas" Stacie chuckled.

"Oh come one Stace, you have to decorate for Christmas! What kind of human being are you?"

"A practical one, if it's going to be just me here Steve, what's the point?" Stacie's eyes followed him as he plopped down beside her. She was thankful he had been there for her these past several weeks, he had gotten her through a lot and wasn't looking forward to him leaving in a few days. He had tried to take her back to Texas, but she wouldn't hear of it. She wanted some peace and quiet before all the hustling with the baby came around. She was sure Mark would be coming out here as much as possible to see that the baby was developing, her parents, her sisters, her brothers, Steve. In 3 weeks she'd be sailing into her second trimester, and life as she knows it now would cease. It worried her some about being a single mother, but she knew she could do it; and Mark would be a great daddy. Hell, Mark was a lot of things, but a dead beat father wouldn't be one of them. Stacie stirred from her thoughts by her doorbell, she gave it a puzzled look and turned to Steve.

"Are you expecting anyone?"

"No lil mama.." Stacie rolled her eyes, he'd been calling her that since a few days after she told him she was pregnant. Stacie threw the door open and was startled to see Mark there.

"Mark?"

"Hey… um… Merry Christmas?" Mark held up some Vogue Roses to her, almost as if it was a peace offering – she actually was shocked that he remembered her favorite flower. She took them and motioned for him to come inside, and noted the shocked look on Steve's face but mouthed "Shut it" before Steve could say anything.

"What brings you here, Mark?" Steve stood up and shook Mark's hand, Mark's face a little apprehensive as to why Steve was here.

"The baby."

"Not Stacie?" Stacie rolled her eyes as she found a vase to put the flowers in, Mark wasn't exactly on Steve's best side right now.

"Well, yeah… her too."

"Uh huh… well why don't you have a seat?" Stacie sighed and returned to the living room, it was going to be a long and interesting evening.

"Actually, I need to bring in some things… if you don't mind." Mark looked over to Stacie, she stuttered because she wasn't used to him asking for permission, and surely he wasn't planning on staying here?

"Um, ah… no?" Mark turned on his heel and Steve followed close after him, Stacie wasn't sure if it was to help or investigate or both; either way she was thankful that Steve was leaving tomorrow and hoped Mark didn't intend on staying too long. She flopped down on the couch and rubbed her temples with her hands.

"I uh… brought you a few things…" Stacie looked up at Mark, he was carrying a car seat, baby toys, baby clothes, maternity clothes, a diaper bag and thing of diapers. Stacie couldn't get a word out she was so shocked and humored. She never envisioned Mark like this and it was actually kind of cute, all be it funny. She covered her mouth with her hand when she felt a grin tugging at her lips.

"Mark, the baby won't be here for months… we've got time…"

"I know… I went in just to get a few things and left with half the store…"

"No kidding… at this rate, I won't get a shower."

"What does bathing have to do with this?"

"A baby shower…"

"Oh.. yeah… do you not like them?"

"No! I love them… it's just.. sudden and unexpected."

"Yeah, like you dropping in," Steve chided coming through the doorway carrying Mark's bags, it looked like he intended on staying for a while.

"Um, Mark? How long are you staying in Vermont?"

"I thought, maybe until the baby is born…" At first Stacie wanted to protest, but then she saw something in his eyes she hadn't seen in a long time and it was happiness and excitement. Mark was elated about this baby, and she couldn't tell him no; besides she had told him he could be as involved as he wanted.

"That sounds great." She watched as his body came down with relief, poor guy, he didn't always think things through.

"I should have called… but… well…"

"It's fine, lets bring your things in… set those down…"she motioned to the all things baby items he was carrying "and get you settled. You'll have to sleep in the living room, Steve has the guest room."

"I can stay at a hotel until I find an aparment."

"Lord, Mark. This house is huge just stay in the guest quarters, no need on you pissing your money away."

"Are you sure?"

"What are you going to do, get me pregnant?" Stacie stood up and stretched ignoring Steve's watchful eye and continued, "besides with doctor's appointments and me being here by myself and you wanting to be involved, why not?"

"Only if you don't mind, the minute it gets weird, I'm out."

"As if this isn't weird enough?" Stacie almost regretted saying that when she saw pain flash in Mark's eyes, but she decided she was done with formalities and being nice. Now it was really beginning to sink in that Mark was going to be in her life, the rest of her life whether she liked it or not.

Mark looked up at the ceiling as he lay in the guest bedroom of Stacie's. She had it nicely decorated, hell her whole house was nicely decorated. It was like something you'd see out of those fancy home magazines. She had antiques, comfy furniture, stylish prints. It was nothing like his ranch, his ranch was big and spacious. Stacie's house was big but full of pictures, knick knacks, and had enough floral decorations to fill a church for a Sunday wedding. But if anything it felt like home, not a house; he smiled to himself as he heard her in her room singing in the shower and closed his eyes, remembering this was how he woke up most days when they were together.

He had only been here a few days and found himself cautiously tip toeing around Stacie, to make sure he didn't overstep any of the boundaries she had thrown up – and he reasoned it was rightfully so. Other women that he had thought he had gotten pregnant or in Michelle's case, lied about it all together, he was jumping the gun and ready to marry them. Stacie wasn't expecting that of him, and it kind of threw him for a loop. This wasn't how he envisioned having a family, but Steve had made it clear as crystal what to expect from Stacie the day Steve left a few days ago.

"Don't expect anything." Steve said. The men were sharing a few beers on the front porch while Stacie had gone to get groceries. Both wanted to go with her, but she firmly had said no, anytime anyone else went to the grocery store with her she spent more than she wanted too. She had a list and she was sticking to it. So Mark moved to the front porch to wait on her, and Steve soon followed and sat with him bringing out a six pack.

"What do you expect her to do Mark?" Steve asked him, "Just drop her life that she's built, without you, and start over. She tried to have a life with you and you some how… it still bewilders me how… but you fucked that one over."

"I don't like who I am without her."

"Well I like her just fine, with or without you. Seems like you're having an identity crisis."

"What?"

"Mark, are you dumber than an ox? The girl is secure in who she is. She knows who she is, and if anyone happens to be in her life it's by her own accord. Not because someone is twisting her arm or manipulating the situation. I know how badly you want a family and all that Hallmark Channel shit; but the way you've gone around it is wrong. You want marriage, but you hate commitment. Isn't that why you cheated on Stacie so many years ago?"

Mark grew quiet, he didn't like where this was heading but knew he had to hear it.
"Look, so you fucked it up. Maybe that's why she's having the kid, to make you a better man for it. But the only relationship you need to fix is the one with yourself. How the hell can you love someone, especially someone like her, and not feel secure in yourself?"

"Since when did you become a philosopher?"

"Two failed marriages ago…"

Mark sighed and took a long sip of the beer and knew this one would be his last one. Steve brought up a few good points

"Mark?" Mark stirred from remembering his and Steve's conversation and looked at Stacie standing in the door way. He sucked in a breath, her hair was damp and drying to fit her naturally wavy hair, she had on an oversized sweat shirt and some ill fitted sweat pants, but she was absolutely adorable to him. He fought the urge to get up and kiss her on the forehead like he had so many years ago.

"Y.. yeah?" He felt his voice catch in his throat.

"Want some ice cream?"

"Sure." Mark moved off the bed and grabbed his sweat shirt throwing it over his bare chest and followed her down the hall way down the stairs through the living room and into the kitchen. Mark watched her silently and could see the apprehensiveness on her features. While she had her moments of being happy with the pregnancy he had caught her twice crying, he never pried as to why and he just let her be; but he was sure that she was a bundle of emotions and confusion – or maybe it was just her hormones changing. But he knew her enough to know that she was scared, her life had always been well thought out and planned – everything had its place and was in its place; this was not in her plans.

He had also been thinking a lot lately about what Steve had said. He couldn't force anything with Stacie, and in the back of his mind he knew that any chance they had dimmed a while ago; but regardless he knew he had to work on himself, if at least for the babies sake. He had already ruled out drinking and was winging himself off of snuff; now he was going to try to mend the bridge with Stacie, granted the bridge was still there, but it was broken and missing pieces and he knew it was his responsibility to fix it.

"Hey Stace… are you up to talkin' tonight?" Mark watched her still her movements from scooping the ice cream out and her eyes caught his.

"Sure… what's on your mind?" He knew she knew that this was going to be a heart to heart, she had this intuition about him that no one since his mother had matched.

"I just feel like I need to apologize… for a lot of things I've done. I feel like maybe we wouldn't be where we were if I hadn't…" Mark swallowed, admitting he was wrong was difficult for him, "cheated on you." Mark could feel his heart beat thudding in his temples, that was the first step to mending the bridge and maybe the hardest steps. He watched as she slid his bowl of ice cream towards him and moved around the bar to sit beside him, bringing her ice cream with him. He had a feeling it was going to be a long evening.

Stacie knew he was going to say something that meant a lot to him, but she wasn't expecting an apology. While she had forgiven him years ago she knew he needed to hear it now. She figured this would happen, the reality would sink in that he would have a child and he needed to straighten himself up, the first clue that he was straightening up was the case of beer in the fridge that had gone un-touched the past couple days. Regardless of what people said or thought, Mark was a easy guy to read if you just knew the language that he was.

"I forgive you Mark. I did a long, long time ago." She sat down beside him and look him in the eye smiling softly at him.

"I figured as much… It's just, you know…"

"Regrets are a hard thing to deal with... but don't dwell on it too much. You'll be worth nothing to anyone if your mind stay constantly in the past." This was advice Stacie kept on telling herself to keep moving forward with Mark. They were better off this way than together, in all honesty any chance they had were gone and they didn't have the time to dilly dally, they had a baby on the way and they needed to get their shit together so that they could be the best parents they could be to this baby.

"Do you think it's a boy or a girl?" Mark asked, stirring Stacie from her thoughts.

"I don't know," Stacie shrugged, "Steph knew with both of hers, but I think it's too early for me to tell anyway…"

"Can you feel anything?"

"Well, my boobs are too sore to touch, I'm nauseous almost all day and after I eat I get this rock hard stomach. But as far as baby movement, no. It's too early." Stacie laughed as Mark looked at her belly like she was carrying some sort of alien. She knew what he wanted, so she gently grabbed his hand and placed it on her belly. "They're in there Mark…" Stacie saw Mark smile genuinely for the first time and she could almost swear she saw a tear in his eye.