Nicholas

He came home from work—that job he did so well as Joe, would have done appallingly as Charlie, hated every moment. He parked the car, opened the door, got out, walked slowly toward the walk. And the door opened, and for a sudden, sickening moment it was three and a half years ago. Joe had just gone, forever, and he was walking toward the walk, dreading the first meeting, the first attempt at deceiving another man's wife. And Jean was coming out, smiling that little smile she had for Joe alone, and any moment the smile would be wiped away, replaced by horror. The horror that had never gone away.

But this was three and a half years later, and the smile was not the smile for Joe. It was a new smile, an entirely new smile. A smile that, for the first time, encompassed him. He stood on the walk as he had stood there three and a half years ago, but this time it was different. For the first time, he had a place of his own in the world.

Jean put out her hand to him. He put his own in it.

"Do something for me," he said later, holding her close against him.

"What?"

"Nicholas. My middle name—his middle name—the name we shared. The name of his—my—our son. Call me Nicholas."

Not Joe, not Charlie. Something new and different. Both of them and neither.

"Nicholas," she said.


Author's Note: There may be one more additional chapter, from little Nick's point of view. I really should, as it was thinking about him that made me want to write these ficlets in the first place.