Ask any of the numerous politicians who had crossed Harry Pearce and warm was not an adjective they would use to describe him. Neither would loving, tender, or fatherly and yet; in the pale yellow nursery; this was what he was. As he slowly rocked the chair back and forth, he cuddled the little girl in his lap and continued to read Winnie-The-Pooh. Like the worn gray sleep pants and white vest he wore or the purple footsie pajamas she was in, his warm baritone voice wove the story of Pooh and his bees.

"He climbed and he climbed and he climbed, and as he climbed he sang a little song to himself. It went like this: Isn't it funny How a bear likes honey? Buzz! Buzz! Buzz! I wonder why he does? (Milne)"

Ruth stood in the doorway; basket of wash clutched in her hands; and smiled. They looked so natural; father and daughter; that she was hard pressed to believe they'd only been together a week. In her short life, Aubrie had not been exposed to many people other than Ruth herself so it was still surprising that she was so comfortable with Harry. Yes, there were moments of shyness but for the most part, she enjoyed being held and cuddled by him.

"Then he climbed a little further...and a little further...and then just a little further. By that time he had thought of another song. It's a very funny thought that, if Bears were Bees, They'd build their nests at the bottom of trees. And that being so (if the Bees were Bears), We shouldn't have to climb up all these stairs. (Milne)"

Shaking her head, Ruth stepped into the room and met Harry's eyes. He offered her a smile before turning the page of the book. As he continued to read, Ruth placed the folded clothes in the drawers, and as Harry finished the story as she pushed the drawer shut. Setting the basket on the floor, she turned and watched as he stood with their yawning daughter, her head falling to lie on his shoulder.

"Someone's tired."

"She usually conks out after we read." Stepping across the room, she lifted her hands up. "I'll just take her and put her down in the other room, let you do whatever work I'm sure you brought home."

Harry let her slide her hand along Aubrie's back but kept his grip on the girl. "Ruth, don't you think it's time she slept in her own room?"

Pausing, Ruth looked up at him. "What?"

"Aubrie has a bed in here. There's no reason for her to be sleeping between us."

"You want to leave her alone?"

"It's hardly alone when she's in the next room over." Turning his head slightly, Harry kissed Aubrie's hair before carrying her to the cot. Lying her on her back, he pulled the light weight blanket up over her chest and running his hand over her head before turning to look at Ruth. "She can't sleep with us forever, and don't you think tonight is the right night for her to sleep in her own room?"

Looking from their daughter lying in the cot to him, she frowned. "Why tonight?"

"It's the perfect night." Stepping towards her, he gripped her hand in his and lifted it to his lips. Pressing a kiss against it, he went to lead her towards the cot to say goodnight when she yanked her hand from his.

"Why? You're not getting any sex."

"What?" Confused, he lifted his eyes to hers as he reached for her again. When he'd mentioned it being the perfect night for Aubrie to sleep in her room, he hadn't been thinking about sex or anything to do with it. Much as wanted to make love to her, he knew now was not the time. Obviously they needed to talk; to decide where their relationship would be going.

He knew what he wanted. To date her as well as bond with their daughter. To eventually marry her if it was something they both wanted. And maybe even have another child in a year or two.

He'd missed seeing her grow bigger with their daughter, feeling the first flutterings of movement followed by the full kicks. He hadn't been there when their daughter came into the world so he didn't know if she'd been quiet and thus worrisome to her mother or loud and boisterous, letting everyone know she was there. He'd missed watching Aubrie nurse for the first time or changed her first diaper and he hadn't been there to worry with her for the first night alone with a small infant.

Which was all he had meant by his comment with tonight being the perfect night. Harry knew Ruth had never left Aubrie alone to sleep aside from her afternoon naps. She'd said as much the week before. Because of that, he knew Ruth would be nervous. More so with Oliver Mace unaccounted for. Add in Aubrie might be fussy at first and he wanted to be here to offer support. Distract her.

At his silence, Ruth moved away from him, her eyes narrowed as she stepped to the cot. Seeing Aubrie's eyes closed, she kissed her finger tips and brushed them against her forehead. Grabbing the video monitor receiver and moved to the hall.

Following her, Harry pulled the door shut before speaking.

"Ruth, please just stop a minute."

Turning, her eyes on fire, Ruth glared at him. "Why? Am I ruining your plans for the evening?"

"No. You're not ruining everything. Just..." grabbing for her hand, he tried to lead her towards the master bedroom.

Pulling her hand free, she turned away from him. "I'm not having sex with you Harry."

"Hells bells Ruth, no one wants to have sex with you!"

As she stopped in the hall and stared at him, he realized exactly what he had said. "Ruth..."

"I'll sleep in your office tonight and move my things there tomorrow."

There are no words he can say as she takes the monitor into his office and closes the door. He stands there for long minutes, wondering if he should go to her before deciding to let it go. As he crosses to their bed, he settles against the headboard to think.


Milne, A.A. Winnie-the-Pooh. 1926 London: Penguin Group [USA] Inc., 2009.