A/N Please check out my McMillan and Wife story "The Devil You Don't Know" under misc TV shows
Jennifer Hart sat on the couch staring into the bright orange flames of the roaring fire in the fireplace. She took a sip of brandy and patted her loyal mutt Freeway's head as he lay curled up in her lap. Night was always the hardest. The house was quiet and the busyness of the day had subsided. She eyed the phone on the desk and briefly considered calling him but thought better of it and took another drink then sat the glass down on the coffee table.
"Is there anything I can get you before I leave Mrs. H?" Max walked in from the kitchen, heading out to his weekly poker game with Slats, Big Miller, Ernie and his other buddies
She barely looked away from the fireplace, "No Max, I'm okay."
"You know, I don't really have to go tonight. We could play some cards. Maybe watch a movie on TV." He was at a loss as to how to help her, knowing the only thing that would help would be for Jonathan to come back home
She looked at him and smiled, "Oh no, Max. You've been looking forward to this evening all week. I'm fine, really."
"But, Mrs. H." He replied, "It's supposed to storm and I don't think you should be alone."
"Max, I'm a big girl." She insisted, "Now you go and have fun."
He sighed heavily, she was one of the most stubborn women he'd ever known, "Alright but call me if you need to. I put a couple of flashlights over on the bar just in case."
"Thanks Max." She replied
After he left Jennifer went over to the bookshelves to see if she could find a good book to read but she ended up pulling out a photo album. Returning to the sofa she opened it and began to leaf through it and a flood of memories began to rush over her. The time they went to Greece, Maui, and Paris. Then she came to the part that hurt the most. Photos of a little boy smiling on his birthday about to blow his candles, playing with Freeway, holding a trophy for pee wee baseball. A little boy whose little footsteps and laughter that once brought even more joy to their happy home but were no longer there. Laughter and joy had been replaced by pain, anger and guilt that were so powerful that even the bond Jonathan and Jennifer shared could withstand it.
It had been an ordinary day and Jennifer had taken Nicolas shopping for new school clothes. He was starting first grade and growing like a weed. They were looking at shirts and Jennifer turned her head for a minute and he was gone. She frantically searched for him and finally found him outside playing with a stray dog that had wandered into the store parking lot. Just as she called his name the dog ran off and Nicolas followed him and a car came out of nowhere and hit him. He lived a few days but his little body couldn't handle the injuries. She and Jonathan had sat by his bed in the hospital for almost a week, praying, talking to him, and hoping to love him back to them.
It was only after the funeral and things settled down that it began to fall apart. It seemed instead of comforting each other they each retreated into themselves. Jennifer letting the guilt eat at her and Jonathan silently blaming her for not keeping a better eye on him. They finally decided to take a long weekend at their cabin to try and work things out but it didn't seem to help and a few days later Jonathan decided to move out and stay at the Hart Industries corporate apartment. This was a test far greater than anything they had been through and it appeared they were failing.
She couldn't hold it in anymore and the tears flowed until her slender body was racked with sobs. After about twenty minutes she put down the album and headed upstairs to take a long, hot shower in hopes of relieving the tension in her tired body. She stood under the shower letting the hot water beat down as she prayed for strength. Strength to come to terms with losing their precious son and strength to handle what looked to be a future without Jonathan. A future once clear and bright that now appeared cloudy and uncertain.
As she got out of the shower she heard the storm beginning to rage outside. She got out one of Jonathan's pajama tops and put it on. She loved wearing them because it gave her the feeling his arms were around her but it gave her little comfort tonight. She put on a robe and headed back downstairs and as she reached the bottom of the stairs she heard a key in the door thinking Max was returning early, as he often did if he was on a losing streak. But she stopped in her tracks when Jonathan came through the door.
"I'm sorry…I didn't mean to startle you." He replied, "I just wanted to pick up a few things. I called but there was no answer so I thought no one was here."
"Oh, I was in the shower and Max is at his usual poker game." She avoided his eyes
"Well, I'll just get my things and be going." He said heading upstairs
She nodded slightly and headed into the living room. The storm was beginning to get worse and she worried about him getting back out but she wouldn't dare suggest he stay until it blew over. She fixed another brandy and sat on the bench in front of the fireplace, the fire having been reduced to mere embers. Finding herself too tired to move to start it again, she pulled her robe tighter around her as a chill filled the room.
Jonathan came back down a few minutes later and noticed her staring into the fireplace. Her normally straight posture was missing and even from her profile he could read the sadness in her eyes. He came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder making her jump.
"I seem to be doing a good job of startling you tonight." He quipped, "Would you like me to get the fire going to before I leave?"
"You don't have to…"
"It's alright." He said, "I don't mind."
She smiled slightly, "Okay."
As he put more logs on a silence hung between them but before he could finish there was a loud clap of thunder and flash of lighting then the lights went out.
"Wonderful." Jonathan muttered
"Oh, Max said he put a couple of flashlights over there by the bar." Jennifer informed him
"Okay." He got up and groped his way over to the bar and got two flashlights, "Here, hold this while I finish the fire."
Another loud clap of thunder sounded and the rain came down harder, "Boy it sure it coming down at there." She said
He got the fire started and sat down next to her on the bench, "I'll check the breakers." He got up and went into the kitchen and to the utility room returning a minute later without success, "Well it looks like we'll have to wait for the storm to pass for the power to come back on
"Jonathan I do want you to try getting out in this but please don't feel obligated to stay…" She began
"I want to." He replied, "I don't want you to be alone." He got up and went to check the phone and it was dead, "Phone's out so I'm definitely staying. I hope Max waits it out at his game. He doesn't need to get out in this either."
"I imagine he'd be calling here if he could to check on me." She replied, "I practically had to push him out the door."
He searched her eyes in hopes of finding the wife he had loved for so long but this once vibrant, happy woman seemed subdued and her once sparkling whiskey colored eyes appeared dull, lifeless, and almost vacant.
"He may not always know how to show it but he loves you very much." Jonathan said
She smiled slightly her gaze firmly on the fire, "Yes, I suppose he does. But he loves you too, every bit as much as a son."
He took his hand and gently turned her face to meet his, "Why are we dancing around what we both want to say?"
This time she searched his eyes hoping to find the husband she loved so much. The adventurer, the risk taker, the romantic who would steal her away for a surprise weekend but all she saw was wounded blue eyes.
"Jonathan." She began, "We've tried talking, remember? It didn't work."
"Maybe we didn't try hard enough." He said, "You know, there was a time when we could talk about anything."
"Yes, we could." She said softly, "But that was when things were easy."
"I know." He sighed looking at her, her face so beautiful illuminated by the flames, "But we can't give up that easy."
"You're the one who moved out." She reminded him
"I was trying to run from how I felt." He explained, "I couldn't deal with it. I miss him so much." Tears formed in his eyes
She reached out and took his hand, "I miss him, too." She paused, "I know you blame me and I blame myself. If only…" She trailed off
He put his finger to her lips, "No more blame." He said quietly, "It's time we try to heal…together."
"Oh Jonathan…I…I love you so much." She began to cry and he held her in his arms
"I love you, too." He said gently rubbing her back, "We'll get through this. It's just going to take some time."
She pulled back and looked at him, "You'll come home?"
He smiled, "Yes." He pulled her back into his arms and kissed her gently, "We have a lot to talk about."
"We certainly do." She agreed
And talk they did well into the night until they fell asleep curled up on the sofa. They talked about their son and how blessed they were to have him those six short years and that he would always be a part of them, Nicolas Edwards Hart. They even discussed the possibility of having another child, not to replace Nicolas but as a symbol of the strength of the love they rediscovered. They also agreed that it might help to talk to someone for this was just the first step back and they wanted to stay on solid footing.
Early the next morning Max returned home having spent the night at Slats to wait out the storm. The sun was shining and the birds were chirping welcoming the new day. He walked in the front door and immediately noticed the two of them curled up asleep on the sofa.
"Mr. and Mrs. H." He said waking them up, "What's going on?"
They yawned and stretched, smiling at each other, "Max, are you alright?" Jonathan asked
"Sure, I stayed at Slats to wait out the storm." He said, "Looks like I missed something."
"Max, Mr. H is home." Jennifer explained, "So how about some breakfast?"
He smiled broadly, "You got it." He replied walking into the kitchen
"Well, Darling I guess we should help him." She suggested getting up and walking past him
He got up and gently took her arm turning her around, "Jennifer, I want you to know that I never want you to be unhappy because of anything I've said or done. I don't ever want to see the light go out in your eyes again. Not because of me."
She caressed his cheek, "I know, Darling." She said, "And I don't ever want you to lose that smile because of me."
"How could I?" He asked, "When you put it there in the first place."