Title: I Know How He Feels
Category: TV Shows » Days Of Our Lives
Author: And The Moment's Gone
Language: English, Rating: Rated: T
Chapters: 1, Words: 8,411

Warnings/Spoilers: AU after Chloe's return to Salem after faking her death.

Summary: I know how he feels, how strong his touch can be, when he believes it's real. I've been there. And I know how he feels

Official Disclaimer: All Days of Our Lives characters and plots belong to Corday and the NBC. I do not hold stock either the man or the company. Chloe Lane, Brady Black, and any other character featured are NOT mine. The title, summary, and lyrics come from the Reba McEntire song I Know How He Feels and I don't own that either.

She snuck in through the garage door, resetting the alarm the second she was in the house and dropping her two carry-on bags right there in the hallway beside the dryer and at least having the sense to lay her laptop and briefcase on top of the washer. Two more steps down the hall, and she pushed open the bedroom door slowly. It didn't creak as she was expecting, although somehow she knew that the second she stepped into the room, she would undoubtedly wake someone up.

Instead Chloe grabbed the bags off of the washer and headed across the living room into the kitchen, mindful to set the timer on the coffee maker before replacing the filter and checking the water level. She knew if she left it to the person lying in her bed, there would be no caffeine to say 'good morning' to.

For a split second she thought of going upstairs. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that if she woke the sleeping child there, she was never getting to bed. Slowly, that seemed to be her only speed that night, Chloe shut off the kitchen light and padded across the great room again, to slip into the door she had left open.

"Are you home?"

The voice from the bed was gruff and lazy from hours of sleep. And when the man sat up, Chloe couldn't help but to watch the smooth plane of his stomach and the way his hair fell over his face. "Go back to sleep Shawn." She whispered as she abandoned her pinstripe suit pants on the floor in favor of valor Capri's and her short-sleeved lace top for a pink silk camisole.

But Shawn just shifted to the left and drew back the covers as if to offer her a spot. "How was your trip?" When Chloe sighed and joined him, he offered her a second feather pillow and when she declined he pulled it back underneath his head.

"It's four AM on a Saturday." Chloe whined, pulling the covers over her shoulders and settling into the bed as if she hadn't seen it in months. She had to admit that that was the worst part of being president of a company, spending weeks at a time in hotels and inns. "We'll talk about this after we've had coffee."

It was almost like that was the end of it. Shawn faced the grand windows and Chloe blinked a few times, looking at the bathroom door. He snorted a bit, keeping them both awake before he seemed to nod. "Okay."

The alarm didn't wake her. In fact it didn't even go off. When Chloe pulled herself from bed shortly after eight she realized that Shawn must have forgotten that she had asked him to set it before he went to bed. She didn't feel like showering, she had jumped in and out of one before she had left the hotel the night before, and although she was fairly certain she was dirty after the plane ride with Nicole, she didn't quite have the energy to start the water and wait under the warm spray.

Instead she decided that she should wake up. Coffee had always been her salvation from nights that were too long and sleep that short. The flavor of the week was hazelnut, and as she slipped from the bed to throw on her bathrobe, she remembered that she would have to get some more soon. Her bedroom door opened without its usual creak, and she flipped on the television and played with the channels for a moment before settling onto CNN while she wandered into the kitchen and poured herself a steaming mug of liquid energy.

She stood in the breakfast nook for fifteen minutes, staring at the television when Shawn finally emerged from the bedroom, his wet hair standing on end as he ran a towel over it and pulled at the hooded sweatshirt he had grabbed from her closet. Chloe beat him to the kitchen and handed him the glass of his morning dose of orange juice.

"Good morning sunshine." He couldn't help but smile as Chloe groaned. She wasn't a morning person, yes she could pretend, but Shawn just found it funny the way that Chloe ran a hand through her hair and shook her head at the sound of his voice.

"Why is it you're super sunny at eight AM and I'm dragging?" She asked as she helped herself to a second mug.

Shrugging, he offered nowhere near helpful, "jet lag?"

Chloe lowered the mug and turned to face him. "Bite me."

"Shut up and drink your coffee." He warned her, the smile never leaving his face. Not many people were able to see this side to Chloe since the time she dubbed 'the incident,' and Shawn suspected that it was only during unguarded moments at home that she allowed herself to not feel sorry for the fact that she had made it on her own.

"What time did Joy get to sleep last night?" The question broke the silence, and once again, Shawn was amazed at how Chloe had taken charge of her life, her own personal idiosyncrasies be damned.

"Well Mom," He started out, watching her raise an eyebrow his direction. "After the fifth of Jack that Belle gave her; I let her watch a few of the pay-per-view porns on one of the channels between 324 and 350." Chloe sighed and Shawn knew that he should just stop where he was. Unfortunately, Chloe wasn't smiling; therefore he still felt he had work to do. "You know the educational ones?" He offered smiling as the amusement curled Chloe's top lip. "And then I loaded her up with chocolate and caffeine and I think I passed out around three, leaving her to run with scissors."

Without missing a beat, Chloe scooted past him. "So you two got popcorn crumbs in my bed and fell asleep to Finding Nemo around what? Eleven?"

"I think it was closer to ten forty-five." Shawn checked the watch on his wrist as if it would actually help him determine the time he had fallen asleep the night before.

"Way to live on the dangerous side Brady."

Shawn scoffed at his best friend and laughed when she threw her hair over her shoulder and pretended to ignore him. "I'm married to a Jan, Chlo." He reminded her harshly. "I don't think I need any more danger in my life."

And it was true. After Jan had come out of her coma, she had been a completely different person, somewhat. She wasn't as brash or argumentative, and for the most part, she worked to mend the bridges she launched napalm at before she kidnapped him and blackmailed Mimi Lockhart. She had even gone as far as to throw Mimi and Rex and engagement party to apologize to them for the harm that she had done. Jan and Belle still didn't get along, but as far as Chloe was concerned it was a completely different matter.

"You've got a point there." She nodded, turning back around and leaning against the edge of the counter. Had it just been she and Shawn in the house, she most likely would have perched herself up on the counter by now, but she was trying to set an example for her sister, even if the younger Wesley child wasn't awake yet. "I brought you back that CD you wanted; the one from that new group from Atlanta?" She snapped her finger as she groped for the name.

"Forney?" He supplied for her.

With a wave of her hand, Chloe sighed. "Sure." She huffed lightly. "It was in my junket packet." She reached into her briefcase that had been moved onto the kitchen counter at one point in time or another. "And I stole Brady's copy of the new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, so –"

"I have never in my life seen you with one?" He offered, fixing himself another slice of toast and filling his coffee mug.

She took it from him without asking, and he just poured himself another. "Naturally," she decided, as if they had had this conversation before. "Besides I think it's the same one Nicole got in hers so he won't be without."

He wished he didn't have to make the obvious joke. "Is that bitterness I hear in your voice?" He asked off-handedly, earning a dishtowel to his rear for the joke.

"No." She barked. "I'm just tired."

Shawn gave her his patented 'yeah right' smile and concentrated on his breakfast. "So other than getting my crappy CD in your junket kit, how was your trip?"

Chloe knew she would have to give him the truth, Shawn Douglas Brady knew her better than even Belle did these days, and there was no way she would be able to avoid it. "I got on a plane with Brady and Nicole, I slept in the suite right next to them, and I was forced to eat almost every single meal watching her feed him from the chef salad's she barely forced down three bites of that I can guarantee that he hated." She bit her lip when she realized that she had given him ammunition for another 'I told you so' and then decided that her coffee was much more interested in the story than he was and continued. "Then I had to get back on the jet with them, on little to no sleep mind you, and now I'm home just to be annoyed by you."

Somewhere inside he doubted that he had ever heard anything more depressing. "Did anything good happen on this trip?" He asked curiously.

Chloe's mood changed again, almost too rapidly for Shawn to note the change. "We signed three new artists and I bought most of Joy's Christmas presents already." She said happily, changing the subject yet again. "Anything new in the life of Police Deputy Shawn Brady?"

"Not really." Shawn decided. "Jan decided that she wants kids."

"It's been almost five years, Shawn." Chloe had no empathy. "You knew that would come sooner or later."

"I was hoping for much, much later."

She sighed as harshly as she could force herself. "Men." She muttered under her breath. "How was Joy?"

Yet again Shawn marveled at how much like Belle Chloe had become as she changed the subject yet again. "Just like she is every time you arrange for Belle and I to tag team her while you're gone."

"You say 'angel,' and I'm going to kill you." Chloe pouted. "She's never like that with me."

There was no other explanation than the truth for Shawn. "She just loves us more." He informed her, as if it were one big secret.

"Damn it." Chloe's hand hit the counter with a forceful thud and Shawn jumped before almost running to Chloe's side of the island to see if she had hurt herself. "Belle's having that luncheon for Brady and Nicole today isn't she?"

By the tone Chloe gave him, Shawn was almost certain that the younger woman would rather stab her own eyes out with a rusty nail than attend the mini gala that his former girlfriend had planned to celebrate, for the third time, her older brother's engagement to Nicole Walker former Kiriakis. "You know if you skip it we won't hold it against you?" He tried to assure her.

"Easy for you to say," Chloe's hand jerked through her hair, and she wished she had brought something out of the bedroom in which to tie it up with. "You don't have Kate Black telling you that it looks bad for the company."

"You slept with him for next to two years, Chlo." He reasoned. "You are his soul mate –"

Her hand clamped over his mouth before he had time to register that she had done it, and Chloe's eyes burned a hole through his head as she warned him. "I would appreciate it if that phrase is never uttered in my home ever again."

Shawn honestly looked confused for a second. "What?" He asked, his mind returning to his previous statement. "Soul Mate?" And when Chloe flashed him another dagger with her pure cobalt glare he hardened his own eyes. "Or is it the 'you and Brady' part that you're having trouble with?"

"That was almost seven years ago." She came close to shouting, wishing that for once, Shawn didn't try to make her think of everything that she was missing. One year apart before her accident, and then four after she had come back from the dead, and her life was spinning once again. "A lot has changed since then." She told him gently. "Please drop it."

"Sure." He smiled, placing his mug on the counter next to hers. "But only because you asked nicely."

"Do you remember what Belle said was 'appropriate attire?'" The subject was officially dropped, and they were back to their usual morning after banter.

Shawn honestly took a moment to think. "I think she already laid out yours while she was here." He offered, hoping that he was right. He would catch Hell from Chloe if he had gotten even one of Belle's mental memos wrong when repeating it back to her. "It's hanging on the back of the bathroom door."

"How is she?"

It took him a moment to remember which of the many 'she's' Chloe was talking about. "Complaining that she's tired and her feet are swollen."

"That's what she gets for getting knocked up." She laughed at how truly unsympathetic she had become just by waking up. "At least I did it the smart way."

"Waited for your parents to die in a car crash so you could get one already potty trained?" Shawn offered, knowing that had he tried to make it sound more serious, Chloe would now be a puddle on the floor.

"Yep." She said almost cheerfully. "I never do things half-way." She set her mug back on the counter and looked out across the bar counter that separated the kitchen from the living room, her mind already coming back to how she had wound up like this; a single mother of one with no parents and a career that took up far too much of her time. At least the house was beautiful. She told herself carefully, wiping a tear from her eye before closing them.

She had found it almost six months after her reconstructive surgery, after an exceptionally nasty run-in with Nicole. She went for a drive to clear her head before returning to her parent's house and came across the land on the outskirts of town. The real-estate agent who was holding the open house had told her that it had been originally commissioned for a wealthy man as a wedding present for his grandson, and the second she stepped inside; she knew it was just what she needed.

The three bedroom, two bath country house sat in the middle of a five acre lot had a refined rustic look to it with its large windows and spacious outside layout. There was an inset porch on the front and a deck in the back that connected to an oversized covered gazebo on the end of the house. It was the gazebo that had attracted Chloe to it in the first place. And the inside matched the out perfectly. Vaulted ceilings and open archways made her feel freer than she had ever felt since her accident.

The master bedroom was located downstairs through a hallway to the right of the living room. The master bath had just been equipped with a Sanijet pipe-less whirlpool tub large enough to most likely hold her entire family. The kitchen was on the other side of the house, with a butcher block built into the island and cherry wood finish on all of the cabinets. Two sets of stairs converged halfway up the center landing to lead upstairs, one coming from the hallway the master suite was on the other side almost positioned in the middle of the entryway. There was a large family area at the top of the stairs with two bedrooms down a hall to the left and a bonus room to the right that she was told could be refit to create two separate rooms.

She had gone to the bank and made her offer directly after leaving the house.

Nancy had helped her move a week after that.

Three weeks after that she had gotten the one phone call that no one ever wants. Her parents had been in an accident. And her sister was alone in New York.

So Chloe had done the only thing she could do. She and Belle cleaned out her parent's penthouse, rented a U-Haul and moved Joy out to Salem to live with her. Thanks to Belle and her brother she had gotten a job at Basic Black, working as a sort of personal assistant for John, and within two short years, when John decided to expand the music division, Chloe had been made President of the Black Label. Sharing creative control with his son and cutting her way into the music business as a force to be reckoned with.

Shawn watched her jump as the phone rang, cutting off her memories and when she cursed, he had to cut the smile off of his face. It didn't last long.

"You get that," Shawn grinned, watching her check the caller ID. "I'll go wake up the Sleepy Monster." He watched her mutter in frustration before turning to the stairs.

"Tell her if she's dressed in half an hour I'll take her to breakfast before we have to go to the Penthouse." Chloe hit the button on the cordless and pulled the plastic up to her ear. "Hello?"

"Hello Ms. Lane."

Chloe knew for certain that she didn't have time for this. "Good morning Lindy," She said gently, trying her hardest not to take her frustrations out on the poor woman. "What's up?"

The woman on the other end of the phone laughed carefully, not too certain what the mood was going to be set at for this conversation. "Mr. Black wanted me to call and make sure that you made it home safely this morning."

"Of course he did." Not for the first time since John had convinced her to take the position as President of the newly founded Basic Black music label, Chloe cursed the man's oldest child. Only Brady Black would be at the office the Saturday after getting home from a business trip, especially when he should have been getting ready for the party that his sister was holding in his honor. "Is he available?"

The voice sounded mechanical as she searched for the button to transfer the call. "Hold on one moment please."

One click of the line later and Chloe could almost feel his presence over the phone. "Brady Black." He said confidently, no doubt sitting behind his desk with a French Vanilla cappuccino in his hand.

"It's Saturday, Black. " Chloe snapped, trying to be civil. "Go home."

Brady couldn't help the friendly laugh that escaped his lips. "And a good morning to you too, Chloe." He took a sip of his coffee and leaned back in his chair, almost certain that this was going to be an interesting conversation. "You made it home all right?"

"Of course I did, Dad." She muttered under her breath, wishing that she had just let the machine pick up the phone to begin with. "And now I'm getting ready to take Joy to breakfast before we have to be at the penthouse for your party." She ran a hand through her hair and poured herself another mug of coffee and almost drained it in one gulp. "Is there something I can do for you?"

Her sarcasm only caused Brady to smile wider. "Not really," he decided. "I was just calling to make sure that you were still alive. You looked a little tired on the plane and I was worried."

"That's nice Brady." He could feel her irritation and somehow Brady didn't understand how he was the cause of it. Chloe knew that he just wanted to make sure she was safe; there had been no underlying tones to his gesture. Then again, lately it didn't take more than the sound of his name for her to become irate. "I need to go."

"Chloe." He started, knowing before the full word was out of his mouth that she would cut him off.

And cut him off she did. "Bye now." She quipped as she mashed the end button and dropped the cordless onto the counter. Taking a deep breath, Chloe forced the tension out of her limbs.

"Do I even have to guess who you just hung up on?" When had Shawn appeared in the kitchen again? And why hadn't she noticed?

"You can if you want." Chloe had residual irritation seeping from her as she realized that Shawn was purposefully trying to bait her.

"I'm only sure he was just trying to be nice."

"I don't do nice, Shawn." Chloe said harshly, pulling the piece of bread out of the toaster. "Least of all to him." She dropped the toast on the plate. "Least of all today." The plate was almost thrown at him and he was glad that he was used to Chloe and her tantrums. "Now where's the damn dress?"

Little feet announced a third person to the room; and seven year old Joy Wesley smiled sleepily, both eyes still closed. "Morning."

Her eyes softened almost immediately, and Chloe kissed her sister on the top of the head. "Good morning sleepy head." Shawn didn't miss the 180 that turned Chloe into the single mother. "Do you want me to braid your hair today?"

Joy took the glass of apple juice out of Chloe's hand and smiled. "No thank you." She opened one eye cautiously, peered into the glass and shut it again. Then she took a sip and shook her head. "I want to wear it down."

It still amazed Chloe that she had done so well with Joy. "At least go get your pins so we can get it out of your face." Joy set the half-finished glass of juice next to the half-eaten toast and turned. "I think there are still a few in my bathroom, in the drawer with my hairbrush." Joy raced from the room and Chloe returned to her task of cleaning off the kitchen island. "You know you're welcome to come with us."

He shook his head, almost wishing that he were able to ride with her, to help with a day like today. "Jan's expecting me at home so we can ride to this thing together." Chloe flashed him a half smile and he took the toast off of the plate she was throwing into the sink. "She's taking her job as... whatever of honor very seriously."

"Matron." She said carefully, sounding almost as if she was scolding a child. "Matron of honor."

"Weddings are for women anyway." Shawn shook his head, taking a last bite of his toast before shoving his cell phone into his pocket and trying to fish his keys out of the bowl that Chloe kept hers in. "I don't need to know this stuff." He kissed Chloe on the forehead and then scooted out of the room.

"Men." She muttered again, before taking her hairbrush out of her sister's hand and making quick work of the thick head of hair in front of her. She set the brush on the counter and turned Joy to look at her. "Did you have fun with Shawn and Belle?" She asked, playing with wisps of Joy's hair to make sure it looked perfect.

Joy nodded and smiled slowly. "Can I wear my new dress today?" She asked slowly, watching a slight confusion fall over Chloe's features.

For a second, Chloe wanted to call Belle and demand to know why the younger Black insisted on cleaning out every single kid store from Salem to Paris to outfit her younger sister. Then she sighed when she realized exactly which dress Joy was talking about. Then she frowned. Finally Chloe could add something to her list of things she was actually allowed to be upset about today.

"So Aunt Jan dropped your gown off while I was gone?" She asked, knowing full well before her sister nodded that it was completely rhetorical. Of course Jan dropped the dress off, and apparently she had shown it to Joy when she had done it. "Sorry, Monster." Chloe shook her head. "You can't wear that dress until February." She watched her sister begin to pout and held up her hands. "You're the one that wanted to be in the wedding, Joy." She pointed out and almost gave up. "Why don't you wear something that your Aunt Belle bought you while I was gone, and you can model the flower girl dress for me when we get home?"

She hadn't agreed before Joy took off across the kitchen and her small feet raced up the stairs. "I'll take that as a 'yes.'" Chloe said to herself turning back to her briefcase, smiling briefly when she noticed the chocolate bar and Excedrin that Shawn had obviously set out before he left. She opened both, swallowing two pills dry and then finishing off her coffee before taking a bite of her chocolaty goodness on her way back to her bedroom.

It was going to be a long day.

Three hours later, Chloe readjusted the strap on her sister's dress before knocking again on the door to the Black Penthouse. She was allowed one last calming breath before the solid door was pulled open, and Phillip Kiriakis smiled down at her from the other side. "Chloe." He said shortly, pulling her into a hug and whispering gently into her ear. "All of the mocha chocolate chip you can eat if you're civil."

When she pulled away, his smile was comforting again and she gave her best reassuring smirk in return. "I'm always civil." She reminded him, taking Joy by the hand and trying to move the child into the Penthouse. "Why don't you go find your Uncle Shawn?" She asked Joy after a moment, spotting Shawn sitting in the dining room looking bored between Belle and his mother, with his younger brother squirming in his lap. "I think Zack might be there."

At the sound of her best friend's name, Joy winked up at Chloe and started to run off, only to catch herself and readjust to a brisk walk.

"You've done well." Phillip told her after a moment; both of them watching as Joy politely interrupted into whatever it was that Belle was telling Shawn and his mother, and magically seemed to release the older and younger male Brady's from having to listen.

"I did, didn't I?" She asked him in return, allowing a true smile to brighten her features. Over the years they had been together, Chloe and Joy had truly become a mother-daughter pair, first in action, and then by law when Chloe adopted shortly before their first Christmas together. Although she still remembered Nancy and Craig Wesley and she understood that biologically Chloe was her sister, she still saw Chloe as her mother. "Thankfully I haven't had to do it alone." She pulled Phillip into a hug again and discretely wiped a tear from her eye.

There was a tap on her shoulder, and Chloe turned just in time to be pulled into another furious hug. "Get your own husband." Belle warned playfully, swatting Phillip on the arm when he scoffed.

"You can keep him." Chloe allowed, just as playfully. "Been there, had that." She reminded her best friend, taking a drink from the pregnant woman and turning back to scan the room. In the far corner, her eyes met Brady's and both nodded to acknowledge each other.

"Although it seems she's looking to steal someone else's." Shawn slid behind Belle to avoid being hit, and Chloe's eyes shot him a warning.

Rex joined the group and kissed Chloe on the cheek in greeting. "He's not married yet." He returned, pulling his wife into the conversation, more or less against Mimi's will.

Chloe didn't understand why they seemed to want to joke about her relationship with Brady Black. They had been perfectly content to subtle hints before Brady announced his engagement to Nicole Walker, but now it had turned into a full on contest to see who could drive her insane first. "That's enough." She admonished bluntly. "If I'm supposed to be civil, you four are supposed to be mature." Chloe ran a hand through her hair, curled as per Belle's instructions, and she bit her cheek as she sauntered away from the group, weaving in and out of the investors, family members and friends to appear just to her bosses right between him and the door to the balcony. "Good afternoon."

Another swig of his champagne, and then another, and Brady finally managed to find his voice. "Good afternoon Chloe." He smiled, the hand that had once been around his fiancé's waist now resting in his pants pocket. "How are you today?"

"The answer I gave you earlier when Lindy called still applies." She warned him, her tone just as cheerful as ever, and even a delicate smile plastered on her face. If she had actually been looking, she would have seen Nicole pause. "I have those figures for you John."

With her attention diverted, Brady allowed himself to actually observe just how fine Chloe perceived herself to be. Her confidence came from her outfit today; anyone who actually knew her would be able to pick that out. A natural beauty by some trick of genetics, Chloe, who was normally trying to pull of casual Friday every day at the office in jeans, seemed almost out of place in the black Sue Wong cocktail dress that even Brady had a hard time imagining her buying for herself. Her hair had simply been left down, curled into a fountain of chocolate behind her and most definitely by force of habit her make-up had been kept light. As she argued by-lines and figures with his father, he had to admit that even out of her element, his ex-lover was stunning.

Then a tug of his arm brought him back to the woman at his side, and almost sheepishly, Brady kissed Nicole lightly before she wandered off in search of a drink and her bridesmaid. "I only asked you to work this up last night, Chloe." He heard his father say. "How on Earth did you manage to get it done and sleep before the party?"

"I was lacking good company on the plane." She smiled, throwing Brady a knowing look and turning only slightly to accept another drink from Shawn, who had plastered himself at her side the moment they both noticed Brady watching her. "And with the merger with Stone Records in negotiations, the sooner the better."

"No more office talk." Kate Roberts scolded, taking her drink back from her husband and playfully admonishing Chloe with her eyes. "We're here to celebrate, not to debate billboard charts and advertising plans." She leaned over to kiss Brady on the cheek and laughed. "You're boring one of the guests of honor."

Without missing a beat, Chloe's eyes lit up. "I thought that entertaining him was what his bride-to-be was for?" She asked snidely, realizing the second it was out of her mouth that she should have thought before she spoke. "I'm sorry." She said immediately, her eyes pleading with Brady to simply accept her apology and not make a scene.

"Now, now…" Brady mock scolded her, sliding a hand around her shoulder and leaning in to flash a furtive smirk. "Just because your last date was to 'The Murder of Roman Brady' doesn't mean the rest of us have to be bitter?"

Her hand itched to slap him. Not only for bringing up the terrible night of Kate's botched wedding to Roman, but for reminding her of exactly whom her last date was with. Instead she simply finished her glass in one swallow and peered up at Brady with hooded lashes. "Disastrous weddings seem to run in the family then, Black." She said as sweetly as she could manage. "It's a shame that the biggest one at yours will be the bride." She wormed her way out of his grip, apologized to Kate and took off across the room in search of Belle, and possibly more champagne.

From the shelter of the balcony, where he had retreated with Rex and Shawn once Chloe had made her verbal slip, Phillip held up a crisp on hundred-dollar bill and frowned. "I say Nicole never walks down the aisle." He handed the money to Shawn, who scribbled Phillip's prediction down on a napkin before pocketing both it and the money.

"You honestly think she's going to let Chloe ruin her wedding?" Rex asked carefully. They watched the room now with disinterested fascination. "That woman is like commando-bride, no small detail overlooked." Off his brother's sigh he did too. "I mean it's scary how much she knows about when and where Brady and Chloe even breathe each other's air."

Across the room, Chloe hoisted Joy onto her hip and Phillip caught the smile that brightened Brady's face at the action. "Nicole doesn't stand a chance." He said again, surer now than when they had first started taking bets six months ago.

"That was just too much fun, Monster." Chloe deposited Joy on the couch before dropping to it herself and handing the younger girl the remote. "Promise me we never have to do it again." She kicked off her shoes and used her left foot to scoot the coffee table close enough for her to prop her feet on.

They had made it through the rest of the party without incident, Chloe choosing to hide out in the kitchen with Mimi and Shawn, and Joy tiring herself out weaving in and out of the guests with Zack Brady and Jack Deveraux Jr. Finally at ten after five, after all of the official guests had departed, and most of the trash was taken care of, Chloe scooped up the half asleep Joy off of the couch and had been allowed to leave only after promising that the youngest Brady boy could spend the night with them at her house.

"What are you and Zack going to want for dinner?" Chloe asked her couch companion after a minute. She still had to finish straightening up the living room and start laundry before she could start on the office work that John Black would kill her for bringing home with her so soon after her business trip. Then she thought of what Sunday would bring, and crawling up underneath her covers and praying the world would end seemed like such a good idea.

There was Joy's indoor soccer game after church, and then Chloe had her weekly lunch with her friends while Joy spent time with her two favorite friends at the Brady House. She had made the mistake of promising Kate that she and Joy would join them for the family dinner at Rex's house. And to top it all off, it was her turn to make cookies and brownies for Joy's first grade class's Chocolate Day this week. Taking a deep breath, Chloe took the remote out of Joy's hand and hit mute before dropping it down onto the couch. "Earth to Monster?" She asked in a sweet singsong voice, almost pouncing on Joy and tickling her sides.

Kicking and giggling, Joy squirmed in her seat on the couch. "I didn't hear you." She coughed out, trying to find a place somewhere out of Chloe's reaches.

"Dinner," Chloe let go of the younger girl and took a moment to dig through the couch cushions that had been kicked to try to locate the remote. "Meal that comes after lunch," she clarified, "You and Zack?" She finished and couldn't help but to giggle at the way Joy's face scrunched up. "No, you're not getting pizza again, and I was told you had McDonald's twice while I was gone." She made sure to add quickly, watching the little light bulb go off in her sister's head.

Their expressions seemed to match for a split second, before Joy crossed her arms in front of her to truly mimic her sister. "Anything else?" She asked slowly, making sure that what she requested would be on the approved food list. When Chloe shook her head the grin got wider. "Pancakes!" She shouted as she snatched the remote back and turned the volume back up.

Closing her eyes, Chloe smiled. "Pancakes," she said slowly, trying to remember if they had everything needed for pancakes. "I think I can manage that." She decided at last, making a mental note to call Shawn after she stood up and ask him to pick up some syrup and fresh fruit before he dropped his brother off at her house. "Pancakes a la Lane," she proclaimed, slapping her hands on her knees and forcing herself to stand. She waited a beat before taking the remote back and shutting the television off completely. "Did you want bacon and eggs too?" When Joy threw her a pout and nodded, her little hand seeming to reach out for the remote. "Go make sure your room is clean." She told the younger Wesley. "And by your room, I mean your playroom and the family room that most likely has your stuff all over it too."


Joy took her time getting off of the couch and wandered up the stairs while Chloe righted the throw draped across the top of the couch and set the television remote next to the DVD player remote on the coffee table, and pushing that back to where it belonged. "And change your clothes!" She shouted as an afterthought. She grabbed the cordless phone off of its base next to one of the armchairs and literally tossed her shoes in the direction of the hallway that led to her bedroom. She absently dialed the number with one hand while the other ran through her hair, scratching the back of her scalp as she groped for a reason not to start her laundry.

"'Ello?" Shawn balanced his cell phone on one shoulder and his brother's overnight bag on the other as he finished retying Zack's shoes and managed to stand, almost all at the same time.

"I need a favor." Chloe said immediately.

"No," Shawn corrected. "You need to get laid." He told her simply. "But since he's engaged, you're picky and Janwould physically kill me..." Shawn held his breath and waited for the sigh that he knew would be coming.

To appease him, Chloe sighed, blowing more air out of her mouth than she really should have. "Can you swing by the market and pick me up some fruit and syrup?" Shawn shrugging on the other end was almost audible. "Joy decided that she wanted pancakes for dinner tonight, and we're out of syrup and berries."

"Pancakes a la Brady?" Shawn asked hurriedly. "I'm not even going to use the obvious joke here, Chlo."

She honestly could have killed him right then and there. "Strawberries, blueberries, and nothing fat free." She reminded Shawn, as if he didn't either go with or shop for her at least once a month. He had become a permanent fixture in her house since she had started going on business trips more often. They had found that it was easier to move one adult for a week rather than a week's worth of seven year old. "And if you wouldn't mind, I think you finished off the milk."

"It was Belle." Shawn snapped defensively, before taking the time to wonder why Chloe blaming missing milk on him and not the four-month pregnant woman was offensive to him. "But sure." He agreed, kissing his mother on the cheek before moving his brother out of the door. "Strawberries, blueberries, nothing fat free and milk?" When he didn't hear her correct him, he laughed. "We'll be there in fifteen."

Chloe hung up the phone without saying good-bye, setting it back on its base and smoothing out the wrinkles in her dress. She headed straight to her room, finally getting the energy to start laundry, and right as she stooped to pick up her heels, she noticed that her bags were still in the middle of the hallway, one having toppled over to rest on the side of the washer. Plopping herself onto the floor, Chloe just picked things straight out of the bag and either dropped them into the hamper, or threw it in the direction of her room to be placed in the dry clean only bag.

Once she had most of her things sorted out, Chloe picked herself off of the floor, dropping the first load of whites into the washer and added the bleach. She absently filled and threw in the Downy ball and stooped to pick up the basket, dropping it onto her bed before moving into her bathroom to pick up the other basket that was no doubt filled mostly with her guests' clothing. They always joked about how Shawn and Belle had their own corner in her closet, and both had been given drawer space for their nightclothes and unmentionables in the smaller of her dressers. In Chloe's opinion it just made it easier for when they stayed to watch Joy.

The doorbell rang right as Chloe deposited the second hamper on the bed with the first, and she was once again filled with annoyance as she tried to understand why someone with a key and a standing invitation didn't just walk right in.

"The door also opens from the outside." She instructed playfully, pulling the door open fully and stopping. "Change in plans?" Chloe inquired after a second, looking down at the tear stained face of Jack Jr. standing beside her best friend.

"It's a long story that I'm not going to be explaining in front of anyone under the age of twenty one." Shawn ushered both of them into the house, handing Zack and Jack the bag of fruit and the bag containing syrup and ice cream respectively. The milk was deposited into Chloe's outstretched arms, and when the boys took off to the kitchen, all Chloe allowed was her eyebrow to rise.

"Abigail is in the process of being murdered by her parents." He explained the best he could as they walked side by side into the kitchen. "They got the phone call to go get Jack right before we left. I couldn't leave the poor kid with Mom and Dad."

Chloe opened the refrigerator and cleared a spot for the milk, taking the ice cream that the boys had just dumped into the fridge, bag and all, and put it in its rightful spot in the freezer. "It's fine." She decided; laughing at the way the boys just stood on the other side of the island watching her. "Joy's upstairs guys," she dismissed. "I'll shout for dinner."

When it was just the two of them again, Chloe pointed to the panty door. "So what did Abby do exactly?" She asked as she pulled the canisters of flour and sugar out of the cabinet above the stove range. She set them down on the island and pointed to the spice rack before pulling the milk out again. Shawn set the salt and baking powder down next to the Toll House semi sweet morsels and he reached into the cabinet under the island for a large mixing bowl as Chloe pulled the frying pan out of its hiding place and heated the range.

"It seems that my second cousin has come home from Stanford pregnant." He informed Chloe as he mixed the batter, seeming to be paying more attention to the food than his conversation. When he heard Chloe gasp, he smiled. "But - and this is what is causing the uproar at the Deveraux household - she has yet to introduce this man to any member of the family nor does she intend to. Apparently they do not have any interest in seeing each other socially again, and Abby is even refusing to tell her parents his name."

Chloe took the mixing bowl from Shawn and stirred it once more for good measure before dropping a generous mixing spoon full onto the pan. "In other words, Abby had a one night stand with a man she doesn't like, and is afraid to tell her parents about it."

"Didn't I just say that?" Shawn shrugged and grabbed her rectangular handled serving platter out of the dishwasher, Chloe took it with the hand that didn't hold the spatula, and set it to her right. "Jack is furious, and I think it's taking all she has for cousin Jen not to have a nervous breakdown." Chloe dished up the first batch of pancakes and Shawn took the bowl back from her as she took the frying pan from his hand and cracked an egg from the carton he had set within arm's reach.

It was like a dance that they had perfected years ago, when she had become a single mother to Joy, and there was always at least one of her friends bordering in her house. The Diva had learned to become a short order cook, a maid, a nanny and a cheerleader all at once, and as Shawn watched her scramble eggs with one hand and blindly reach for the turkey bacon behind her with the other, he realized that no matter the circumstance, Brady Black was a fool to pass this woman up.

Chloe dropped the pan full of scrambled eggs into a serving bowl, and reached for the batter again, handing the frying pan full of bacon off to Shawn. "If Abby needs a place to hide…" She offered slowly, taking a sip of the beer that Shawn had opened for himself and finishing off the batter in the bowl. "I think Casa Wesley can spare the room."

"I'll call her tonight and relay the message." Shawn smiled when Chloe slid between him and the range to get to the sink on the other side without walking around the island. Almost as an afterthought he added: "Does the Casa Wesley offer include me?"

"What'd you do to piss off the wife this time?" Chloe asked none too nicely. "I mean you just spent the last three days here, so it must have been big." Shawn handed her the empty frying pan and Chloe rinsed it off in the sink along with the skillet. "Joy!" She shouted, looking directly above her. "Dinner!"

Three sets of footsteps could be heard racing down the stairs, and Chloe laughed as the kids skidded to a stop just before running into Shawn. "Set the table Rug Rats." He commanded, handing the plates to Joy, the silverware to Zack and the Rubbermaid pitcher of Kool-Aid to Jack. He grabbed the plate of pancakes in one hand and the platter of bacon in the other and couldn't help but smirk when he realized that Chloe had managed to clean and chop the strawberries without him noticing and now she was holding a sectioned off party tray with all of the assorted goodies piled high restaurant style as she juggled the bowl of eggs, syrup and two beers in her other hand.

"You dump those on the floor and I'll tell you why Jan is pissed." Shawn tried to bargain, laughing at her triumphant smile when she successfully set down her load and stuck her tongue out at him.

"You're going to tell me anyway." Chloe said triumphantly, dishing out the kids' food and allowing them to fix their pancakes how they wanted them before she even touched her own empty plate.

Shawn piled the food high and frowned. "You're not going to like it."

"I already figured that one out." Chloe pretended to snap. "Just tell me what it is and who you did it with."

Shawn reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out his wallet, handing the small folded envelope to Chloe and eyeing the children in warning. "Phillip started it." He said defensively, holding his breath.

As she read the top line, Chloe put her fork back down on the plate and stared. "Shawn Douglas Brady." She shouted, standing up quickly and pulling Shawn from his seat. "Eat all you want." She told the kids. "And I want you guys to decide what movie you want to watch."

"Can we order Pay-Per-View?" Joy managed to say without bursting out of her chair.

"Depends on how much food is left on your plates." Chloe countered, still dragging Shawn out of the breakfast nook and through the kitchen to the formal dining room. "Of all the not funny things in my life right now you bet on this?" She snapped, throwing the paper at him and smacking him on the chest when she decided that the paper was too light. "How dare you!"

Shawn bent and retrieved the bets and the money off of the floor. "It's all in good fun." He countered.

"It's just hurtful." She turned her back on him and ran a hand through her hair. "To bet on Brady's life like that-"

His eyes bugged before he could stop them, and then Shawn coughed. "Okay…" He frowned, trying to mask the utter confusion. "I should be ashamed of myself because I'm betting on the outcome of Brady's wedding?" And when Chloe nodded, Shawn frowned again. "I'm not in trouble because Phillip, Rex and I are acting like you're a man-stealing harlot; I'm in trouble because I'm betting on the marriage of a guy that you won't speak to without a double barbed insult?" When Chloe glared at him, Shawn nodded. "Just checking." He shrugged, shoving the list and the wad of hundred dollar bills back in his wallet before heading back into the kitchen, leaving Chloe to stand in the dark all by herself.

This is an old story that I have finished and am not going to post. If you like it at all, leave me a note.