A/N - First off, major apologies for the extended vacation. I swear, I was only going to take the last week of school off, and maybe the first week of break, but then I added a week to the beginning and took the second week of break as well, and then the first week of school was tough too, and now here I am, posting a craptastic chapter after over a month off. I suck! Anyway, I promise, only one more week of Brad, then they are blowing off this storyline and going on to better and more exciting things.


As soon as she got the office, she called John, warning him to stay on his guard, that Brad had contacted her again. When she returned home, six hours later, she found him fuming.

"He still harassing you? Because I will hunt him down and make him wish that he'd never laid eyes on you."

She threw him a look that said she wasn't impressed with his bravado. "John, he helped bring Gibson home. We are in his debt."

"And what exactly does that mean? You don't owe him anything, Monica."

Her head tilted to the left and she rolled her eyes at him, her smile disappearing into a more serious countenance. "There is no reason for you to be jealous. And if you're implying that I would even consider his offer, I'm rather offended."

"Of course I'm not," he said, his body language not supporting that statement.

"We owe him, alright? He put his neck on the line to rescue Gibson, and he paid more money than I can even imagine just to hire him for a few months. Yes, it's an absurd sum, but that doesn't mean he gets his absurd request granted."

"So he was just repeating more of what he'd said before," John replied, looking cockier than usual. He was also raising his volume uncomfortably high for the hushed conversation they were having within sight of their family, so she pulled him from the kitchen into the foyer.

"Well, yes, honestly, he was. But I'm really not seeing why you're so upset, not if you truly believe I would never accept his offer."

"Course I believe you, Mon. I just don't trust him. Hell, ever since you first told me about him, I thought he was no better than dirt, just scum."

She thought back to that night, when she'd finally admitted to John who she was seeing. It had been towards the end of her relationship with Brad, maybe the last year they were together. John had failed to respond to all the times she'd asked him out, and one night, after one too many beers, she let it all come out. She'd known that her reasons were multi-faceted, that she wanted John to feel jealous, that she wanted to shock him, and that she'd also wanted someone to confess her secret to, someone who would forgive her and console her. The alcohol had made it difficult to understand what he really felt, but he'd taken it in stride, which was not her goal at all. In fact, if it had done anything, it had caused him to pull away from her. She didn't know then if it was because he saw her as attached to someone or if he was angered by her behavior. It wasn't until she'd left Brad that John began to warm up to her again. And now, suddenly, he was jealous, even though he denied it.

After an prolonged period of silence, he narrowed his eyes. "What?" he asked with frustration. "What aren't you saying?"

A smile of incredulity crept onto her lips. "Do you realize how much I wished you'd get jealous back when I was with Brad?"

But instead of smiling in return, he turned away, taking the stairs two at a time and closing the bedroom door a little louder than normal. She sighed and walked into the living room, finding three sets of curious eyes on her. She waved it off, to the two who understood, and settled down on the floor with Vera and Gibson, who were playing a board game.

As dinner was being finished, John finally returned, wearing a façade of normality, though she knew perfectly well that he was still being eaten up by Brad's return, even though she couldn't comprehend why. The evening progressed as normal, conversations were had, Vera was bathed and put to bed, and the four of them watched a program on TV. And at the same time as usual, John said he was ready for bed, headed upstairs to get ready, and Monica walked with her father to his room, spending a few minutes chatting before saying goodnight. She kissed Gibson on the forehead, reminding him to turn down the volume of the TV and not stay up too late, went through her nightly bathroom routine, then checked on her daughter, and finally, with a deep breath, opened the door to her bedroom.

Her husband sat on the edge of the bed, a John Grisham novel open before him. He stood up and for a moment she mistook the look in his eyes for anger. But instead, he grabbed hold of her neck, his lips on hers, his other hand sliding into her jeans and grabbing her ass. He pressed her against the door, his pelvis grinding against hers, and after a brief moment of delightful shock, she deftly unzipped his jeans, slipping her hand inside, feeling his quickly stiffening cock in her hand. Within seconds he was fully hard and he pulled her hand away, stripping her of her shirt and roughly pushing her bra up to expose her breasts, which were soon being licked and teased with his tongue and teeth. Her slacks were unbuttoned and left to slink down her legs, piling at her feet. In a matter of seconds, the rest of their clothes were shed, and he hooked his arm under her leg, pulling it up, rubbing his cock against her slick opening and pulsing clit before finally sliding in.

"You're going to hurt yourself," she started to say, but he cut her off midsentence with another fierce kiss, pumping into her with such dexterity as to suggest he fucked her like this on a regular basis. She didn't mind in least, but when they fell against the door so hard that she was sure the noise had echoed through the whole house, she managed to convince him to move to the bed. He continued to be rough, operating outside of his sexual norms, taking her from behind, rubbing her clit hard and fast, until she climaxed, her head buried in a pillow to keep from crying out. He hadn't stopped for her, and she knew he wasn't close, but she needed to pull away.

"I'm not finished," he said, his tone strangely incensed.

"Just… give me a second. I don't know what's gotten into you, but I like it. Trust me." She rolled over to look at him, his eyes wild. It scared her, not because she was afraid of him, but because she'd never seen him like this. She knew it was jealousy, though she could not understand why. There was little to do at the moment but pull him into her embrace and let him get it all out of his system.

As he continued to fuck her with wild abandon, she did her best to give him the attention he needed while her mind pondered the situation. She loved her husband, there was no dispute there, and she loved him in bed, even though she found him to be rather "vanilla." He knew very well that she wanted more, but it was outside his comfort zone, so he claimed. Everyone she'd ever slept with had some sort of kink, herself included, and she wasn't really sure what to make of his preference for the missionary position and his near inability to come without looking at her. She chalked it up to love, though, and didn't spend much time fighting him for more, as he always made sure she left the bed satisfied.

Lovemaking had also never been about dominance; neither one of them could easily be the called the top or the bottom. They switched back and forth constantly. Sure, there were moments sometimes when one would claim dominance over the other, but nothing compared to what he was doing now with her body, contorting her, moving her, pinning her down. She trusted John, of course, as there was a foundation of trust built from eight years together as a couple, and nine years previous as friends. But she'd never accepted this of any of her lovers before… except for Brad, and that realization gave her insight into what was happening in the bed now.

Those thoughts trailed off, though, as her body began to respond again. She took control from him now, a little tired of his bullshit and less than patient with his hang-up over Brad. He didn't give up control easily, though, and she fought against him, placing his hands on her hips, threatening to tie them to the bed frame if he didn't stop moving them, keeping him at the pace she set, hoping that he would realize that there was nothing else in that room but the two of them. It took a while, but he finally let go. She felt the tension in his body and the room slide away.

For several minutes, they lay in a tangle of sweaty arms and legs, contemplative. Monica wasn't sure if she wanted to speak to him about his problem with Brad. Obviously he felt threatened and he was over compensating by doing things to her he must have insinuated that Brad had once done to her. The conversation would be best saved for another day, she thought, and she turned off the light and pulled the covers over them, settling into him for the night.

He took hold of her shoulder, kissing it along her back and up her neck, and she grabbed hold of his hand, pulling it tight around her, letting him know that she wanted to be there, wrapped in his embrace.

Her eyes had just closed when he cleared his throat to speak. "Monica," he said softly, "I've been thinking a lot about something, something I know you don't want to talk about."

"Yes?" she asked, suddenly nervous what her husband could possibly have been pondering and for how long.

"It's about having another kid. I know you don't want more, but I was thinking 'bout what you said a few months back, 'bout how if there was an accident, I'd have to stay home with him or her."

She couldn't answer, her throat tight with uncertainty.

"'Cause I do still want more. At least one more. Do you think, maybe, for me, you would be willing?"

The question left her bewildered. "Is this about Brad?"

"God no. I said I've been thinking about it for a while."

"But you brought it up tonight. And you can't deny that you are not yourself tonight."

"So maybe there's some tension, but it ain't the reason."

"Then what is?" she asked.

"I just… feel like we're giving up. You know, we can fight this thing, but I worry that it'll be bigger than us, bigger than we can imagine. I worry that we… we won't all survive."

She chewed on the statement, trying to understand his fears. And then she understood. "Is this about Luke?" she asked, her voice gentle. "Are you worried that we'll lose Vera?"

The question was more pointed than he expected. Yes, the thought did lurk around the darker corners of his brain, goading him to imagine a world without her.

When he didn't answer, she knew she was right. He was a man who knew the horror of losing one's only child, and of course he would be afraid it would happen again. Losing Luke had cost him so much more. Without a child, he and Barbara were no longer a family, just a married couple. And without that child, they did not know how to function any longer together. Losing Luke meant losing Barbara.

"You worry that if something happens to Vera, you will lose me too. And right now, Brad's presence is making you fear that you will lose me. I think the fear of one type of loss is making you dread another. Neither one is valid, John. I'm only going to say this one more time, but even hell could freeze over and I wouldn't leave you for Brad. Vera will be fine too. And another thing I'm saying for the last time, I'm not having another child. I'm not discussing the subject, I'm not going to argue the subject, I'm not even going to consider the subject." She waited in the darkness for his response.

"I'm sorry," he finally said, his voice tired.

"It's nothing you need to apologize for. You have your own fears and insecurities, and I understand them very well. I don't hold them against you. You would not be you without them."

She bade him goodnight and he lay there, listening to her breathing finally slow into a sleeping rhythm. How in the world had she been able to analyze him to such a degree? How had she figured out things he hadn't understood until that moment? It scared him sometimes how well she knew him. He doubted Gibson, when he was able to read minds, could have deduced so much.

In the morning, as she stood in the kitchen, picking at the plate of huevos rancheros John had made, he told her that he was coming with her to Starbucks.

"I'd rather you not," she said, giving him a look.

"Sorry, that's just the way it's gonna be."

"And who's going to watch over Gibson?"

"He's coming with us."

Gibson looked up nervously.

"I don't think that's safe. He shouldn't be going out in public at all. At the very least, not until he can read minds again."

"We'll call Rogelio and have him sit in the car with him. I just want to talk to Mr. Follmer."

"Who's Mr. Follmer?" asked Vera.

Monica shot her husband another look, this one warning him to watch what he said. "No one important, love, just someone I know. Finish your breakfast. It's almost time for school."

When she returned from the school run, she was disappointed to find that John was still preparing to accompany her. Gibson looked pained. His adolescent dislike of being in the middle of their disagreements had never gone away, and though he didn't want to admit it, he was terrified of stepping outside into the silent world. It still spooked him to be cut off in such a way.

By this point, Monica had decided she was finished speaking to her husband. She walked to the garage, ignoring him as she followed behind and as he entered the car. She spoke only to Gibson, instructing him to hide on the floor in the backseat, beneath the dark blanket John had brought along.

At the office, Rogelio joined them, sitting calmly in the front seat, ready to drive away if need be, while she and John walked to the coffee shop. The look on her face had grown angrier, her eyes full of fire, her nostrils flaring, her jaw tight.

Sure enough, Brad was there, sitting at the same table, with the same drink and newspaper. But as soon as he saw John, his relaxed postures stiffened and all traces of a smile disappeared.

She was about to whisper to John to be nice, when he suddenly marched over to the table, slamming his hands down on it, getting right into Brad's face. "You need to leave my wife alone," he said, his voice fierce. The entire café became hushed.

Monica put a hand on John's shoulder, pulling at him. "John, don't make a scene."

"You stop harassing her," he said, with greater intensity.

"I think, Mr. Doggett, that you are the one harassing me. I only came to talk to Monica, to finalize some minor details of the business arrangement," he said, flashing his trademark smile to the onlookers.

"The hell you are!"

Already he'd worn out his welcome, and a barista began to make his way over to ask them to leave.

"John, enough. Let's step outside. You're drawing too much attention."

He looked up to see the nervous barista and the shocked faces of the patrons. "Fine, outside."

But no sooner were they outside, than he grabbed him by the lapels and pushed him into a wall.

"Stop it, John," Monica said, her face beside his, her hand on his chest, gently pushing him away. "Brad, are you ok?" she asked, more to piss off John than out of concern. He nodded and brushed himself off. "No more accosting me, no more following me. If you want to talk to me, I'm assuming you know where I live."

"You can't invite him into our home."

"It's my father's home, first and foremost, and I'd rather he come there than play the coward in the shadows. I have nothing to fear and I think you need to see with your own eyes that I've moved on. Also, it's a safe place to talk. Friday night, my father's home. The four of us, Gibson included, will discuss how to resolve this situation."

He agreed to the proposition and they parted ways. But as soon as they returned to the car and released Rogelio from his duties, she laid into John. "Showing yourself to be that threatened by him only makes him think that there's a reason for you to be threatened. You've got three days to get your act together." With that, she left him and walked into her office.