Disclaimer: Pretty sure we've already established that I own nothing but the plot bunnies.
Author's Note: Once again, I apologize for the long delay. I'm currently in the process of trying to write a novel and the first draft is almost done, so that's been consuming most of my free time. I would like to say that I'll try and update more frequently, but I only have a month of school left so everything is beginning to get hectic. So maybe in a month when I'm back on summer break I'll be able to sit down and do some real work on this. Until then please bear with me and my sporatic updates. This chapter officially concludes the story arc dealing with Wash's cature. But I can promise you that's not the only card I have up my sleeve for this story. :) Enjoy!
She's sound asleep when he leaves the next morning. He has a meeting to go to, but he steps into her room before he leaves just to be sure she's okay. The night before she had cried in his arms until she was too weak to even stand, and in the end he'd had to carry her back to her bed. He had sat beside her until she fell asleep before carefully tucking the blankets around her. Now he watches her for a moment as she sleeps, half-expecting her to jerk awake from another nightmare the way she did her first night back. She had woken up screaming, and it had taken Ayani a good twenty minutes to calm her down. Taylor has a feeling the nightmares are still there, hiding beneath the surface. Wash has just gotten better at hiding them.
His meeting goes much longer than he expects, and Lucas is already back from school by the time he finally arrives.
"Hey, Dad!" he says, sticking his head out of his room. He has a pair of plastic goggles on his head, and Taylor is too afraid to ask what exactly his son is concocting on the other side of the door. Lucas has displayed a strong aptitude for chemistry, and after seeing how much he enjoys it Ayani told him that as long as he doesn't set anything on fire and it all stays in his room (smells included) he can carry out whatever chemical experiments he wants provided that he takes the proper safety precautions. With the exception of one weekend the whole apartment smelled like rotten eggs, Lucas has done a fairly good job of keeping up his end of the deal.
"How was school?" Taylor asks.
"Great!" Lucas says. "I got a one hundred on my algebra test. And my science fair project is almost finished. You're still coming, right?"
"I wouldn't miss it," Taylor confirms. Lucas' grin widens. "How's Wash doing?"
"I dunno," Lucas says, a slight frown creasing his forehead. "She's in her room with Mom. They've been in there a long time."
"I'll go check on them," Taylor says. Lucas nods.
"Dad?" he asks. "Is she gonna be okay?"
"She will," Taylor promises. "It's just gonna take some time." Lucas nods and disappears into his room, closing the door behind him.
Taylor makes his way down the hallway to the door to Wash's room. He gives a small knock before carefully opening the door. Wash and Ayani are sitting on the bed with their hands joined. They both look up as he comes in. Ayani's eyes are red and Wash has obviously been crying. She quickly wipes her face with her sleeve when she sees Taylor.
"Hey," he says, not knowing what else to say. Wash quickly gets to her feet, obviously embarrassed that he's seen her cry twice now in the past twenty-four hours.
"I, uh, told Lucas I'd help him with his science project," she says awkwardly. Ayani stands beside her and pulls her into a hug, which Wash reciprocates. For a moment Taylor isn't sure if she'll let go. But finally she does, and Ayani gives her a kind smile that she manages to weakly reciprocate. Then she carefully steps around him and out the door. A moment later they hear the door to Lucas' room open and shut and then the muffled sounds of Lucas talking excitedly.
"How is she?" Taylor asks his wife. Ayani shrugs and comes to stand beside him.
"She's been through a lot," she says. "But she's strong. Give her time."
"Did she tell you what happened?"
"Some of it." Ayani's eyes are pained.
"You want to tell me?" Taylor asks. She shakes her head.
"When she wants you to know, you will," she says quietly. "But right now she doesn't. She needs you to respect that."
"Okay," Taylor says quietly. It hurts a little that Wash would tell something to Ayani and not him, but he understands.
There comes a loud noise from Lucas' room that sounds suspiciously like a small explosion. Taylor and Ayani exchange a look.
"We better go make sure they don't destroy the apartment," Ayani says with just the slightest hint of sarcasm. Taylor laughs.
... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...
They all eat dinner together that night the way they always do when Taylor and Wash are home. Ayani has somehow gotten her hands on enough canned apples to make a pie, which is absolutely delicious. Halfway through desert, Lucas looks up with a grin on his face.
"I know a joke," he says. Ayani and Taylor exchange a look, knowing that it will probably be a geeky one.
"Okay, shoot," Taylor says.
"What do you call it when you divide an apple's circumference by its diameter?" he says. His barely-restrained grin tells them all just how cheesy this is going to be.
"I have no idea," Taylor says. He looks over at Ayani, but she just shrugs. Wash's face is carefully stoic, but she's obviously listening.
"Apple pie," Lucas says proudly.
Ayani smiles and shakes her head. It takes Taylor a bit longer to figure it out. He's just about to comment when he's interrupted by a small noise that sounds suspiciously like a snort. He and Ayani both exchange a look, but the noise didn't come from either of them. Together they look over at Wash. She's looking down at her plate with her fork in her hand and a trace of a smile on her face. As they watch she looks up and meets Lucas' eyes. His grin widens at the sight of her and then hers widens at the sight of his. Then Lucas starts laughing and all of a sudden Wash is laughing with him. It's the most beautiful sound Taylor has ever heard. He looks back at Ayani to see that her eyes are wet and there's a big smile on her face. Then she starts laughing too and Taylor can't help but join in.
As they sit around the table together laughing so hard they're about to cry, Taylor suddenly knows without a doubt that they really are going to be okay.
You guys know the drill. :) Reviews will make my day, and they also make me feel increasingly guilty for not updating sooner.