A/N: I've never liked Ms. Davis, so she appears a bit catty in this chapter. I hope you enjoy it. Chapter 37 of my JAG story, Let's Be Us Again will be up this weekend. Thanks to Jan for her excellent and rapid work as a proofreader. Thanks to Paula for her assistance in the writing of this.
For other exciting Army Wives fics, check out Empty Nest by lildramaqueen10.
Jaylynne and the Sherwoods will be back shortly in a story titled Baby Steps. Review for a sneak peak.
The first few weeks of Jaylynne's life flew by for Frank and Denise. It seemed she'd only just come home and now it was the day of her Christening. It had been a busy day for the entire family, but their hard work paid off tenfold. Little Jaylynne looked so adorable in her frilly white dress with tiny matching shoes and bonnet. She really was a beautiful baby with her father's fair skin and blonde hair and her mother's dark eyes and delicate features. She'd been so well behaved during the ceremony except when the chaplain actually performed the baptism. Then she fussed so much Denise had to bite her lip to keep from laughing at the death glare Frank was giving Chaplain James.
After the ceremony Denise and Frank hosted a party for all of their guests. Jaylynne was such a good natured baby she didn't mind being passed from one well wisher to another; she was perfectly content as long as she was being held upright and could check out her surroundings. Her father was another story. He was quiet most of the night and stayed pretty much to himself when he could. Since Jaylynne's birth, he'd missed Jeremy more than he'd ever had before and for some reason he didn't feel Denise even remembered him and that hurt him more than he could imagine.
Frank silently went to Jeremy's room after everyone had left. Denise busied herself feeding the baby and giving her a bath. Just before she was ready to put her into her crib she called for Frank. He loved to love all over Jaylynne before she went down for the first half of the night. Most nights he got up to give her a bottle when she cried in the middle of the night, he enjoyed that one on one daddy-daughter time with her.
Frank heard Denise call for him, sighed and went to the nursery, "Hey, there's my pretty girl," he said picking up Jaylynne out of Denise's arms but didn't even look at her, he couldn't, not right now.
The baby cooed at her Daddy, she was well on the way to being a Daddy's girl. She coughed a little bit as Frank kissed her cheek and wiggled in his arms. That tiny cough had been with her for a couple of days but so far she was okay. Still, it worried Frank.
"Hey princess, what was that? Daddy's girl isn't getting sick I hope," he said kissing her on the forehead.
She coughed again, and choked just a little bit before cooing at her Daddy again and giving him a beautiful smile.
"Oh goodness, that was a big cough for such a tiny girl. There's that smile I love so much," he cooed at his infant daughter. "That cough's getting worse, you going to do something about it?" he asked Denise while still keeping his focus on Jaylynne.
"If she's still coughing in the morning I'll take her to Mercer," Denise told Frank. "Do you want to put her down?"
"Yeah, sure," he said still not making eye contact with his wife; he put Jaylynne down in her crib. "Goodnight princess, Daddy loves you," he said kissing her head then turning and leaving the room quickly.
Denise went to join Frank on the couch after she changed into her nightgown. She went to snuggle up to him.
He moved away slightly but still didn't say anything, just stared straight ahead.
Denise tried again; Frank had been rejecting her at every turn lately. At first she thought maybe he was doing it avoid hurting her after she gave birth to Jaylynne, but lately unless he was spending time with the baby and she happened to be there, he didn't seem interested. She found that disconcerting, had she lost her appeal to him? She leaned over and tried to kiss his lips.
He turned away from her kiss. "Frank, what's wrong? Did I do something?" she asked.
"No, Dee, I'm just tired," he lied. The thought of Denise in his space was starting to repulse him. He couldn't figure out how Jeremy's own mother could put him out of her mind. She hadn't cried for their son since the funeral, he'd cried for their son every day. He got off the couch and went to get a beer, it was the fifth drink he'd had that day.
"Frank, you sure you're okay? You've had five of those today, that isn't like you," she asked pressing on trying to get him to tell her what was bothering him.
"We had a party today, Dee. A man can drink in his own house during a party, can't he?" Frank asked carelessly popping open the drink and draining nearly half of it in one gulp. "You think Jaylynne will be okay?" He wanted to change the subject, to get her off of his back and avoid having to confront her.
"Yeah, she'll be fine, it's probably just a cold or something," she answered him, she was still concerned about him, he never drank like this. "TJ and Finn were both sneezing the last time we were at Roxy's. I left quickly with her but still, she might have caught something."
"I'm taking her to the doctor in the morning to be sure," Frank declared and emphasized the "I" in his statement. "I think I'll sleep in her room tonight."
"Frank she is okay, babies get sick, it's not a big deal I'm sure it is just a cold," she told him. "Besides, you won't be able to get comfortable in there." Denise cozied up to him again, "Anyway, I thought maybe tonight we could have some time together. The six weeks are up, and we haven't even..."
Frank moved away from her not even looking her direction. "Dee, I'm tired and Jaylynne is sick, I'm going to go to bed," he said.
Denise stared after her husband, she didn't understand why he was acting this way and it hurt her to feel like she was losing him. She slid down the wall until she was seated on the floor, then put her head down and began to cry.
Frank went to their bedroom and lay down heavily onto the bed. How could she not miss Jeremy? How could she have just forgotten about their son? He could hear her start to cry as he walked away from her but he just couldn't turn back and go to her even though he knew it was the right thing to do. Denise's tears had always penetrated the armor around his heart and he couldn't let that happen this time, he just couldn't.
Denise checked on their baby and found her sleeping peacefully, she was wheezing a little bit, definitely time for the doctor. Again, her father was another story. Frank was in their bed, his back rigid and his breathing off pattern. She slid into bed beside him and tried yet again to demonstrate affection hoping he'd give her something in return. She missed him, she missed his arms, and she missed his friendship.
He shrugged her off but stayed silent, he couldn't talk to her right now, he couldn't even look at her, it infuriated him.
"Frank, please talk to me," Denise pressed. "Are you deploying? Is that what this is about? Is Michael sending you to the field to train instead of here?"
"No Denise, just drop it!" he said, she winced, she knew when he said Denise instead of Dee or one of the other pet names he had given her, he was upset.
"No, I won't drop it, Frank. You've changed since Jaylynne was born and not for the better. You drink alone, you never smile unless it's at her, you haven't kissed me in over a week," Denise reminded him. "What did I do that's so wrong? Is there someone else? Another woman?"
"No Denise, GOD, do you honestly think I would cheat on you," he said becoming angry.
"I don't know, maybe? You walk around this house and act like you hate me. You won't touch me, you won't kiss me. I know about Major Davis, you think I don't but I do," Denise said finally confronting him about his rumored tryst. "I checked the post records, she's been on post since three weeks after Jaylynne was born, that's when you started acting like this."
"Denise, she has nothing to do with this, I haven't talked to her since we were in Iraq and how did you find out about that," he asked her voice raising.
"Pamela," Denise replied. "Chase Moran was in camp that day, he saw her leaving your barracks," Denise told him. "But considering the mistakes I was making at the time I kept quiet about it, but now..." Denise shrugged.
"Denise, Jordana and I have nothing going on, and Moran has a big mouth and needs to mind his own damn business," he said almost yelling at her. Irritated even further, he got up and began to pace the room.
"Why are you being so defensive?" Denise asked him. "I wouldn't blame you, I had an affair, we worked it out but if it helps you to have some kind of payback..."
"Denise, God, you really think I want payback?" he said looking at her. "Okay, whatever, believe what you want, I don't give a damn," he said throwing his hands in the air, getting angrier with each passing moment.
"Keep your voice down, you'll wake the baby," Denise hissed at him.
"Okay this is crazy, I'm leaving," he told her grabbing his jacket and leaving, he stormed out the front door slamming it behind him.
Denise couldn't do anything but sit on the bed and cry. She'd lost her son and buried that pain every day to help ease Frank's grief, and now she felt like she was losing her husband. It made her sick.
Frank made his way to a bar on post and went inside for a few drinks, he couldn't take looking at Denise right now and he needed a release.
Sitting at a table alone in the corner was Jordana Davis. She smiled when Frank walked in and went over to him. "Lieutenant Colonel? Nice one, Sherwood," she said in greeting.
"Thanks, Jordana. When did you get back?" he asked her. She was very beautiful.
"Three weeks ago," she replied. "Rotated in to confer with the Division command on the new pressure detected parachutes. How's your boy? He's probably a Corporal by now or is he in OCS?"
"No, sadly he is no longer with us, he died about eight months ago," Frank said hoping she wouldn't ask how.
"I'm so sorry, Frank," Jordana purred. "How are you? How's your wife or are you not together? I heard rumors but..."
"Denise and I are still together. We have a six week old daughter, Jaylynne," Frank told her sipping his drink.
Jordana knew men like Frank Sherwood, she knew how deeply he'd cared for his son and she knew the chink in his armor. "I guess she wanted to fill that void pretty quick, huh. It was admirable of you to give that to her, just put him behind you like that."
"No I haven't forgotten about him, I miss him every day, so much it's kind of unbearable at times," he whispered, confiding in the woman who was now sitting across from him.
"And Denise?" Jordana asked. "She doesn't miss him?"
"No not really," he admitted to her.
Jordana reached across the table and took Frank's hands. "I'm so sorry, Frank. I can't imagine what you're going through. But I'm here if you need a shoulder, an ear, I'm here."
"Thank you," he said squeezing her hand.
"You wanna get out of here?" she asked. "Take a drive?"
"Yeah, sure," Frank agreed without thinking anywhere that wasn't here was good enough for him. "Let's go."
Jordana knew how to play soldiers, she was an expert at it, and Frank Sherwood was the only one who'd ever escaped her web. Not again. She drove past the Ft. Marshall cemetery and up to a bridge overlooking the yard. She pulled the convertible over and sat on the railing letting her long legs dangle over the side. "I come up here to think about them," she whispered. "All the boys who'll never be men; the world lost huge when it lost your son. If he's anything like you..." She reached out towards Frank who was beginning to crack thinking of Jeremy.
"I miss him," Frank told her choking back tears.
Jordana opened her arms and let Frank fall into them. "I know," she whispered. "I know, and I can't imagine how hard it has to be at home, I can't imagine a mother not grieving for her child. I'm so sorry for all the pain you're going through Frank."
Jordana didn't say anything, she didn't have to do anything, Frank was sobbing in her arms and she was comforting him, it was only a matter of time. A cell phone rang disrupting the moment, Jordana reached down and lifted the object. It was Frank's phone but he was too lost to notice, "Major Davis," she said into the receiver as if it was her phone that had rung.
"Who is this? Where is Frank? Why do you have his phone?" Denise asked completely shocked and quite angry that some other woman was answering Frank's phone with her name.
"This isn't a good time," Jordana replied. "You'll have to call back." She hung up and turned the ringer off.
Denise tried to keep her head. She needed to get in touch with Frank, Jaylynne was getting worse and she didn't want to take the chance of waiting until morning when their baby girl was struggling to breathe and burning up with fever. So she called the one person who knew Frank almost as well as she did, Michael Holden. The phone rang twice before he answered. Denise had never been so relieved to hear his voice in her life. "General Holden ."
"Michael, I'm sorry to call so late but I need your help, Jaylynne is sick and I called Frank to tell him but I didn't get hold of him," she said lying about the last part, she didn't want to put shame on Frank.
"Okay, Denise, calm down. Do you want me to go looking for him?" he asked her.
"I have to take Jaylynne to Mercer. She's not breathing right, she has a fever, and I need Frank," Denise said beginning to cry. "I need him."
"Okay, calm down take her to Mercer to get her checked. We will meet you there as soon as I find Frank," Michael assured her.
Denise thanked Michael and packed the baby to rush her to the hospital.
Claudia Joy went to Denise while Michael searched for Frank. He tried the O Club, the gym, and finally, the cemetery. What he saw angered him beyond belief. Frank Sherwood, nestled in the arms of the newest officer on the Post while his baby daughter was being rushed to the hospital. Still, it wasn't a time to lose his temper.
Michael parked his truck and went over to where they were sitting. "Frank!" He said getting the light colonel's attention with his authoritative tone. "Denise needs you. Jaylynne is very sick - she's taking her to the hospital." Michael didn't even acknowledge the woman, now was not the time to ask questions, there was a sick baby who needed her daddy, the inquisition could wait. But, it would surely take place.
Frank swiped at the tears on his cheeks. "Sick? How sick? Why didn't Denise call me?"
"She said she called but couldn't reach you. She said she's running a high fever and having a hard time breathing. You need to go to her. NOW."
Frank didn't need to think about this, he followed Michael to the car leaving Jordana behind him staring after them. She wasn't about to give up, she followed him to the hospital.
Frank and Michael arrived at Mercer, Frank ran inside where he went to the front desk. "I need to see Jaylynne Sherwood; her mother brought her in a little while ago. She's only a little baby," Frank said somewhat out of breath. The nurse recognized Frank and knew he was an officer and a highly respected one at that. If he wasn't satisfied, there would be consequences. She checked the computer, "She is in PICU Colonel. Take the elevator to the second floor, make the first right and go on back to the nurse's station. Someone will take you to them," she said politely.
Frank followed the instructions and ran to Denise when he saw her. She was pacing and wringing her hands as she worried about her baby girl. "Dee!" Frank called to announce his arrival.
She turned and saw him coming toward her, "Oh, Frank, this is awful. She can't breathe, she's got a fever, she looks so tiny and helpless," Denise said beginning to cry now that Frank was here and she felt safe.
Frank wrapped his arms around Denise and held her, "I've got you. I've got you, it's gonna be all right. Stop your crying, it'll be all right."
She wrapped her arms around him and held on for dear life. "Frank I hate this, she is so sick and there is nothing I can do about it, I feel completely useless," she said still crying, but not as hard as she had before then.
"She'll be okay, Denise," Frank tried to reassure her.
"I hope so," she said still crying but trying to gain composure.
"Why didn't you call me, Baby?" Frank asked. "When she got worse, why didn't you call me? I'd have come home."
"I did call you," Denise said pulling back from his arms just enough to look at his eyes. "You didn't answer then it went to voicemail." Now wasn't the time to get into the Jordana argument.
Frank was about to check when the doctor came out, "Sherwood?"
They both looked at him. "Is she okay? Is my baby girl okay?" Denise asked trying to think like a nurse and not a mother, though she struggled with that.
"Let's step to the side and talk about this the doctor suggested. "Colonel, it'd be a good idea if you took hold of your wife."
Frank quickly wrapped his arms around Denise, now she wasn't just scared, she was terrified. "What is it Doctor?" Frank asked him.
"Looks like a bacterial pneumonia," the doctor replied. "Her lungs are filling with fluid and can't expand properly. I suspect it was a cold at first then the bacteria attacked once her system was depleted. The next couple of hours will tell us a lot more on prognosis. She's a very sick little girl."
Denise turned in Frank's arms and sobbed into his shoulder, he held her tight "Doctor, can we see her?" Frank asked.
"Yes, she's on a ventilator to help her breathe, but she's not dependent on it," the doctor explained. "You can touch her if you want to as well, but she's got a lot of tubing around her so I'm sorry you can't hold her. If you'll follow me."
Frank put an arm around Denise and they followed the doctor, when they went into the room, Denise turned into Frank, scared to look at what her daughter looked like. She'd seen sick babies before, but none of them were hers.
She looked like a little doll laying in the isolette. Her little eyes were opened and she looked right at Frank and moved her little hand.
"Dee come on look, she's okay, she's looking for her momma," he told her running a hand through her hair to ease her fear and his own.
Finally Denise looked at her. "Hey princess, Mommy is so sorry for not bringing you sooner, I should have listened to your daddy," she cooed at her infant daughter.
It was hard for Frank to watch her lying so helpless, he went to her and reached through the little hole to touch Jaylynne. "She's so hot, Denise. What if..."
"What if what Frank?" she asked reaching to touch her baby's tiny feet.
"What if she doesn't get well?" Frank's voice wavered thinly.
"Frank, don't think like that, we need to stay positive, we can't lose her," Denise said and started to cry again, she was terrified she was going to lose another child, she couldn't bear to see that happen.
They watched their baby until she fell asleep, then her doctor came in again, "You need to go on home now. We'll call you if there is any change, you can come back in the morning to see her."
"I can't leave her, she needs me," Denise said tearing up turning to Frank. "Frank I can't leave her, she needs us here," she said to him holding tears back.
"We've got to do what's best, Dee," Frank said gently. "And she needs us to be strong. They'll call us, okay, honey? Let's go. We'll come back as soon as it's morning."
Denise took one last look at her daughter, tears now running down her face, but she allowed Frank to lead her from the hospital.
They arrived home half hour later and Denise couldn't hold back anymore she had to tell him she knew he was with Jordana today. They walked into the house and sat on the couch, "Frank, why were you with Jordana tonight?" she asked him.
"I went to the club for a drink, she was there," Frank replied. "And I shared some things with her, about how I've been feeling and she was there for me, Denise."
"Why did she answer your phone and say you couldn't talk when I called to tell you I was taking Jaylynne to Mercer?" Denise asked getting angrier by the minute with his answers.
"She didn't answer my phone, her..." Frank stopped. "It might have been mine I guess. I don't know which one it was."
"It was yours and she said you couldn't talk right now and hung up on me! What were you doing that you couldn't answer your own phone Frank," she asked him.
"Not important," he said swallowing the familiar pain down his throat.
"The hell it's not Frank, I'm your wife, I deserve an explanation!" She said now in full on yelling mode, something Denise rarely achieved.
"All right fine!" he exploded. "If you must know I was in her arms, Dee. I was in her arms crying for my son!"
"Why Frank? Why were you with her and not here? Why would you turn to another woman for comfort when all this time I have been right here?" she asked him.
"Because she...she understood, Denise, she said she knew how I felt, how much I hurt," Frank said starting to cry just thinking of his pain on the bridge. "And you don't."
"Excuse me? How can you say I don't understand? In case you've forgotten I lost him too Frank," she said not believing he thought she didn't understand his pain.
"I'm not the one who forgot, Denise! You are! Ever since the baby was born you don't even miss him, it's like he was never even here," Frank threw at her sitting down heavily on the sofa. "I miss him so much sometimes I wake up thinking I'm having a heart attack because my chest aches so much for him, then I remember I'm not that lucky, I get to live the rest of my life in this agony."
Denise sat on the other end of the couch "Frank, I haven't forgotten; I miss him every second of every day. I hear that gunshot and it feels like it's ripping through my heart, but I hold it in until I'm alone because I know you are hurting and I don't want to make you hurt worse," she whispered feeling tears sting her eyes.
Frank looked at Denise and saw the emotions on her face. "I thought having Jaylynne would help me, but it made it worse. I'm so afraid I'll hurt her like I hurt Jeremy. I wanted to die with him, Dee," Frank confessed. "Sometimes I still do."
"Frank, no don't say that. Losing him hurt bad enough, I couldn't bear to lose you both," she said her voice cracking.
Frank reached for her, but didn't take her to his arms. He wanted her to come on her own. She scooted into his arms immediately; she needed the comfort as much as he did.
In each other's arms the both cried. Frank spoke first after a long time, "I'm sorry, Denise, about tonight. Nothing happened, she just held me while I cried for him. That's all, I'd never have done anything more."
"I know Frank, and I'm sorry for jumping to conclusions, it just made me crazy thinking I was losing you to another woman," she said hugging him tight, never wanting to let go.
"I love you, Denise," Frank whispered in her ear. "I'd never love anyone like I love you."
"I love you too, more than anything," she whispered back looking up at his face into his eyes.
They continued to hold each other until the house phone rang shattering the silence. It was after 4 in the morning, it could only be the hospital.
Denise moved from her husband's embrace and grabbed the phone. "Sherwood residence," she said a bit nervously.
"Mrs. Sherwood, this is Dr. Wilson. You need to come back to the hospital right away. Your daughter isn't doing very well," he said flatly.
Denise turned white as a ghost and hung up the phone turning to Frank. "We have to go to the hospital," Denise said already pulling on her shoes and grabbing the keys.
Frank drove as fast as he safely could back to the hospital, by the time they got to the PICU Jaylynne's isolette was surrounded by medical personnel. It was clear they were engaged in a battle for this baby's life. All Frank and Denise could do was wait until finally one of the nurses turned and went to the terrified parents.
"Colonel and Mrs. Sherwood, here's where we are with Jaylynne. A little while ago she started fighting her vent and her temp shot up to about 105. We cooled her down but her breathing was still really sketchy though that seems to have stabilized as well. We're sorry for making you rush over here but she seemed much worse, then suddenly better. I haven't seen anything like it in all my years in the PICU," the nurse told them. "You can see her now."
Frank and Denise went to their baby. She was wide awake and seemed to be staring off into space, only there didn't seem to be anything that would catch an infant's eye. Frank went to her crib and reached in to touch Jaylynne's foot but she was still enamored of the spot on the wall. Denise moved around to the other side of the bed and the baby started to fuss, her mother was blocking whatever had her interest. Frank studied his daughter then smiled at his wife. "My grandmother did that just before she died. I bet she...Jeremy's watching out for his sister. I just know he is."
Denise wasn't sure but if it comforted Frank to believe that she nodded, "Maybe so, honey. Maybe so."
Three days later Denise and Frank brought baby Jaylynne home. In her nursery, they put up a picture of Jeremy in his uniform the day he deployed to Iraq. "Now he can watch over her all the time," Frank said with a smile as he kissed his daughter goodnight. "We'll tell her all about her big brother."
"She couldn't have a better guardian angel," Denise agreed as she turned on Jaylynne's mobile, switched off her light, and left her baby to her dreams.