Chapter 30

If someone had told Annette that doing cartwheels and jumping up and down would induce her labor, she wouldn't have thought twice about trying. Every pregnant woman reaches a point where frustration and desperation lead them to imagine drastic actions…like reaching in there themselves and yanking the baby out.

Annette had passed that point weeks ago.

Unfortunately, after a doctor visit that left Annette on strict bed rest until the labor, there was not much she could do except lie in bed and wait. Oh, and go crazy all the while. Thomas was taking no chances with her condition, and had even requested time off from work to stay home and stalk every minute of Annette's life, making sure that she was comfortable and completely immobile. He'd even gone so far as to inform Jonathon and convince him to talk to Anne.

He called every chance he could. It always made her heart jump in shock whenever he talked about the baby, as if he truly cared about its well-being. They hadn't had a chance to talk about they were going to do once the baby was born. While Annette desperately wished that Jonathon would accept the child as his own and treat him (or her) like a son (or daughter), she also knew she had to be realistic. He would be warm, loving, and nurturing to her baby, like an uncle but not a father.

A small part of her still kept its fingers crossed that maybe, just maybe, Jonathon would be the one man in infinity that would love her child as his own. She tried not to think about what would happen after the birth, but with nothing else to do except lie in bed and do nothing, it was all she could do.

A frustrated sigh escaped her lips as she slowly turned onto her side, wedging a pillow between her legs to prop up her right leg. She could hear Thomas moving around the apartment, cleaning and humming a Police song. Rolling her eyes, she reached over to the phone and dialed a number to one person who could entertain her for a while.

On the fifth ring, Claire finally picked up, throwing out a 'hello' in between gasps for air.

"What were you doing?" Anne asked curiously.

"Oh get your mind out of the gutter, I just got back from running. Carl got me addicted to his damn exercise routine," she grumbled good-naturedly.

"Carl, huh?" Annette rolled onto her back as it was starting to ache once more. It seemed that lately nothing was comfortable. Hell, even breathing was a laborious task sometimes. "So I guess things are going well with him, then. I'm glad to hear."

"Oh Anne," Claire sighed dreamily. "He treats me like a queen. I swear, he has got to be the craziest man on the face of the planet. He knows all about my issues with booze, and yet, he understands, you know? It's like, nothing I could have done would make him think any less of me. It's so marvelous, but it's so fucking unbelievable at the same time. I'm scared that any minute he's going to show up and be like, 'this was all just a lapse of sanity. You're too fucked up. Goodbye.' Ah," she shrieked and laughed at the same time. "How are you doing, girlie?"

"I miss my feet," Annette whined. "And my back hurts like nobody's business. I feel like an obscenely large heifer."

"Oh I don't care about that," Claire remarked jovially. "How's that boy-toy of yours?"

"Jonathon?" Anne may not have seen Claire at the moment, but she knew that her friend was nodding happily and readily drooling. "Oh he's fine….He asked me to move in with him, you know." As expected, Claire shrieked in excitement. She made a noise to let Anne know that she demanded more details. She explained the surprise visit and how she'd finally spilled the beans about her past. By the end of her story, all Claire could do was sigh dreamily.

"Sounds like the man of your dreams. I say you snatch him up before he loses patience and decides to leave you high and dry."

"Claire!" she scoffed in shock. "You suck at giving advice."

Claire's hearty laugh rang through the speaker of the phone before she responded. "I was joking, geez. Look, the way I see it, this here is your opportunity to get the hell out of Seattle and start something for yourself. You want a relationship with Jonathon, but by the sounds of it, you're scared shitless about actually being in a relationship…and I'm not talking about your joke of a relationship with that asshole, Christian."

They talked a little bit longer before Thomas appeared in the doorway to let Annette know that lunch was ready. Anne nodded that she'd heard him and turned her attention to the woman on the other end of the phone. After saying goodbye and a promise to Claire that she would visit as soon as she could, Anne slowly rolled off of the bed and toddled into the kitchen.

Lunch was a simple affair, and after helping Thomas clean the dishes, he offered to give her a foot massage. Not one to deny a free foot massage, Anne jumped as much as she could in eagerness before throwing herself on the couch and letting Thomas work his magic. They chatted about nothing in particular, until Anne decided to share her thoughts about Jonathon's offer to Thomas.

He was silent for a minute, staring at a nondescript spot on the carpet before shifting his eyes to his friend on the couch beside him. She was absolutely glowing, he thought, as he took in the way her eyes lit up like candles and how she absentmindedly would rub her stomach. The glow that surrounded her was not just because she was about to become a mother. No, it was something more, something that he hadn't seen in her in a very long time.


Annette was brilliantly happy. She'd been through hell and high water just to survive, let alone have a life of her own, and now she was finally getting what she deserved. So who was he to impede on her happiness?

"I think that it's a great idea. You deserve to be happy, and if he makes you happy, then I give you my blessing. But," he hesitated for a moment, his nimble fingers working on her calves, "are you ready for such a commitment? I mean, is he? He does realize that when he asked you to move in with him, that you weren't just bringing yourself but a baby?"

"I know. God, do I know. I told him that, too. I mean, a baby needs room, and how much room is it going to have if all we have is one room in a small house? I love Jonathon more than anyone in the world, but I love my baby more than life itself. Whatever choice I make, is for their best interest."

"So what did you tell him?"

"I told him that I had to think about it; I wasn't going to say 'no,' but I wasn't going to jump into something head first without testing the waters, so to speak. God, I sound like a sourpuss. I'm probably ruining the one good thing I've got going for me." When she felt the baby kick, she smirked and retracted her statement. "Okay, the second good thing I've got going for me."

Thomas was satisfied with her answer. At least she was trying to be rational about Jonathon's offer. It was important to lead your life with your heart, but following it blindly only hurts you more. Once Thomas had thoroughly massaged Annette's feet and calves, he stood up to stretch and help Annette off the couch. He had a firm hold on her forearm as he eased her into a sitting position, and then guided her up to stand. Just as he was about to let go, Anne's own arm shot out and clutched his shoulder painfully.

Her eyes were wide in shock, and slowly, ever so slowly, both their gazes shifted down to the floor and onto the dark, wet spot on the carpet. Just as slowly, their eyes met in hazy understanding. Annette's breath was quick and sharp, to the point of hyperventilation. There was a growing ache inside of her, and as the pieces finally started falling into place, Annette's small delicate hand flew to her mouth in shock.

Her water had broken.

Thomas was amazingly calm as he helped her sit on the couch before he began flying through the apartment, grabbing bags and folders and papers. Once Annette was at the end of her eighth month, all three had sat down and planned a procedure for what to do should she go into labor. It was methodical and precise, and after experiencing so many emergencies, neither of the three were willing to go into another dangerous situation without a primary and a backup plan.

The pains were slowly increasing in intensity, leaving Annette breathless and hot. It felt as though she were being torn into two pieces from the inside out. Her hand was still on her stomach, but now she was holding onto it as though the tighter she held on, the more it would ease the pain.

It could not have been more than ten minutes before Thomas came back with the bags in one hand and the manila envelope with all her medical information jammed inside her purse. He eased her up off the couch and led her slowly and gently into the foyer. Snatching his keys out of the key basket by the front door, he turned off the lights and guided her into the hallway.

Everything was whirling past in blurs of images and garbles of sound. Her entire focus was on dealing with the pain. She'd never felt anything like it before in her life. It felt like hours had passed before Thomas pulled into the hospital parking lot. He ran to find a wheelchair, and then rushed back to the car with a nurse in tow. Lights glared down at her from the pristine white ceilings, and indiscernible voices buzzed in her ears. She was gripping Thomas's hand as tight as possible, clamming up tighter with each passing contraction.

Her breaths were ragged and hard to control. She knew she had to focus on what was happening; she knew her panicking wouldn't be good for her heart. Not wanting to make the predicament any more grave, she pictured a calm and quiet environment instead of the hectic medical room she was in. She imagined hearing the sound of crickets at dusk, and the smell of a nearing storm as though she were standing outside. The sky was a myriad of faint pink and brilliant oranges and reds, and the sticky heat of a Georgia summer engulfing her like a warm blanket.

Who was she kidding? She wanted…no, she needed drugs.

"Annette? Annette, how are you feeling?" a deep, elderly voice asked.

"Like I'm being torn into two," she cried out. Her wild eyes flew to the doctor standing near the end of her bed. He was slightly hunched from his years, and his hair had thinned into a light crown of snow white downy hair. His nose was sharp and extreme, but his warm brown eyes held compassion and empathy.

"I wish we could, Annette. After looking at your medical history, I think it would be best if we did a Cesarean instead of a vaginal delivery. I don't want to put any unneeded strain on your heart, and I certainly don't want to put the baby in a situation that could become more dangerous than it already is. Your friend Thomas is at the nurse's station right now filling out the necessary paperwork, but once he comes back, we'll get this started and before you know it, your baby will be here."

Annette only nodded, rolling her head to the side and bearing down a cry as another contraction ripped through her body. Thomas returned shortly with a cup of ice, and gave her a few pieces to suck on while he held her hand and waited for the nurses to come in and lead her into the delivery room.

"I can't believe you're going to have a baby, Annie," he said, looking at her in awe.

"I know. Did you call Steven?" she asked, grateful for the small break in contractions. She was hot and sweaty, and her hair was already plastered to her forehead and neck. Her eyes were bloodshot and her face pallid and cool, but Thomas thought she looked amazingly beautiful and courageous.

He nodded. "What about Claire? You definitely need to call her or I'm never going to hear the end of her whining. I promised her that I would call when I went into labor."

"I already called her, and she said that she was getting the first plane ticket over here. She even mentioned something about a Carl?"

"Her boyfriend," she sighed. "I wish they'd hurry up."

No sooner had she made the comment, two nurses walked in and began to prepare Annette for surgery. Rolling her down the hallway, Thomas kissed her salty forehead, wished her luck, and then fell back to wait in the lobby. As much as he wanted to be there for her, he knew that it was best if she went through it alone.

Terrified, was the best way to describe Annette's feelings. Although she was in pain and barely lucid, she was terrified. This moment was going to change her life forever, and as much as she pretended to be calm about it, she was downright going crazy in worry and fear. The doctor was mindful of her fear, and patiently explained everything he was doing as he performed the surgery. The medication had numbed her body from the pain, and all she could feel was the intense pressure as the doctor moved around inside her body, searching for the baby.

"Okay, Annette, there's going to a lot of uncomfortable pressure, but that's just me working the baby out of your body." As warned, the pressure was uncomfortable. Closing her eyes and biting her lip in anticipation, she felt the swift release of pressure and then the beautiful piercing shriek of her baby making its presence known in the world. "Congratulations, Annette, you have a handsome baby boy. Would you like to hold him?"

Annette only shook her head, too choked up with tears to say anything. She wanted the first image of her child to be when he was clean and completely hers to hold without a nurse taking him away after a few seconds. The doctor continued to work to remove her placenta, and as quickly as he had opened her up, he sewed her wound and wrapped it in bandages.

She was given oxygen to help her breathe, and after a short wait, she was wheeled into a private room. Completely exhausted, she fell into a light sleep before being jolted awake by the door swinging open; Thomas and Steven walked in, deliriously happy. It took her a moment to clear the haziness fogging her mind. Steven arranged a bouquet of flowers and a balloon that proclaimed, "It's a boy!" on the table by her bed before giving her a huge hug; she smiled warmly at her two friends.

"Have you seen him yet?" she asked, her voice scratchy and thick.

"No, have you?" She shook her head. They talked for a few minutes before a knock on the door interrupted them. A portly woman poked her head through the door, and smiled at Annette before moving back behind the door. As it swung wider to allow her to enter, Thomas and Steven gasped at the small bundle lying in the basinet that the nurse was pushing further into the room. The closer the basinet crept towards the bed, the more the knot grew in Annette's throat. By the time the baby was right beside her, Thomas and Steven were cooing in joy. Peering through the basinet, Annette saw her baby for the first time.

The nurse deftly lifted the bundle up and into Annette's arms, easing a pillow onto her lap to reduce some of the pressure on the wound from the baby's weight.

Annette lost all emotional control. Sobbing, her shaky hand tugged at the blanket, mesmerized by her son's sheer existence. She created this little person inside of her body, and now Annette was finally able to see him. The tears would not stop flowing, and as much as she wanted to enjoy having her son, safe and healthy in her arms, it still hurt, knowing that her son's father would never welcome its existence. Christian would never appreciate the miracle of having a son, not like Annette would. Every fiber of her being ached with the knowledge that her son was unwanted; Christian would never be there for his son, just like he had never been there for Annette.

Clutching her son as close to her as possible, Annette swore that she would never let her son feel what it was like to be abandoned and alone the way she had been. With Thomas and Steven softly trying to comfort Annette, she promised that she would become the mother she'd never had.

"What are you going to name him?"

"Jacob Dylan," she whispered. Her eyes refused to leave her son's face. Perfect, Annette thought to herself. He had a mop of fair blond hair that stood covered his head in small ringlets. His round face and heart shaped lips reminded Anne of a cherub, with its rosy cheeks and dusty pink eyelids. The baby cooed softly, moving around in Anne's arms. As he opened his big, luminous eyes, Annette saw that they were a murky blue. She secretly hoped that Jacob would have Christian's bright hazel eyes.

Without a doubt, Annette was head over heels in love with her son.


It felt so good to be back home. The past two weeks had gone well for them, and Donna had promised a lengthy time off after the tour so that they could rest up and enjoy their newfound success.

After "unpacking," which consisted of dumping all his clothes out of his suitcase back onto the floor where they had first been, Jonathon flung himself on the lumpy twin sized bed shoved against the wall, and fished out his cell phone from his pocket. Looking through his call list, he was disheartened to see that none of his missed calls were from Annette. For the first week after his visit, Jonathon made it a point to call as often as possible, but as the gigs became more demanding and with it, crazier after-parties, he'd guiltily forgotten to call his girlfriend.

His surprise visit hadn't ended the way he'd wanted it too; Annette was still frustratingly wary.

She loved him, he loved her, in his book there shouldn't have been any more discussion about where they stood; Annette wasn't as anxious to make up for lost time. In fact, she still seemed dead set on wallowing in the past. It'd surprised the hell out of him when she'd bared her past the first night he was there. Recalling the anguished hopeless look in his girlfriend's eyes when she'd told him about her problems, well, it had certainly given him nightmares the following nights. What she'd gone through was unimaginable, and as much as Jonathon wanted to help her deal with it, he didn't know how; that uncertainty was the most frustrating for him.

With a newfound resolution to make the leap, Jonathon dialed quickly and pressed the phone to his ear with baited breath.

One ring.

Two rings.

Three rings.

"Hi! This is Steven," pause, "and Thomas. We're unable to come to the phone right now…"

"Aw dammit," Jonathon growled. It seemed that lately neither one of the two men had been home to pick up their phone. Usually at least one person was there, and after making sure that Annette would stay with them once he left, Jonathon knew that Annette had to be there.

He tried again.

And again the answering machine picked up. Still determined to get a hold of someone, Jonathon tried Annette's apartment phone number and was greeted by an unfamiliar female voice answering immediately after the first ring.

"Hello?" he called out.

"Yes, who is this?" the woman brightly asked.

"Yeah, hi, I was wondering if Annette was home? This is her boyfriend, Jonathon."

"Oh," the woman drawled out in amusement, "so this is what the famous Jonathon Wild sounds like, and boy, do you sound cute."

"Thanks, I guess. So, is Anne there?" This woman was certainly quite a character.

"I'm afraid Anne isn't here right now; she has a doctor's appointment."

"Is everything okay?" he asked, suddenly sitting up in alarm.

"Oh no of course it is. This kind of appointment is just routine to check how the little one is doing and to make sure they were both doing well."

"What do mean?" Jonathon suddenly got the strange feeling that he was missing an important piece of information.

"Jacob," she replied as though the answer was obvious. "Oh…"she sighed in comprehension, "I'm guessing she didn't tell you."

"Lady, I have no idea who the fuck Jacob is or what you're talking about."

"I hope Girly doesn't kill me for telling you before she got the chance, but she went into labor a week ago and gave birth to a little boy, Jacob Dylan."

"She did?! Why didn't she call me?"

"I'm sure she didn't want to worry you. Look, I have dinner cooking on the stove right now and I'm about to burn it to a crisp. I'll tell her you called and to call you back?" Claire warily eyed the hissing pot that had begun to bubble frantically.

"I'll just call her later tonight. Thanks," Jonathon scowled. He hung up without saying goodbye and then threw his phone against the wall in anger. Taking a deep breath, he rested his elbows on his knees and held his head. Things were not going well. He was to the point that he just didn't know what to do anymore.

He was beginning to lose faith.

He stayed in his room the rest of the day, turning down Travis and Rick's offers of hitting the bars to celebrate their success.

All Jonathon wanted was to be alone.

He didn't have enough money to fly up there and see her, so any chance of talking to her personally was out the window. Maybe he could call her? But what if she was too busy with the baby? What if she'd realized that it was best if they just accepted what will never be and move their separate ways? Jonathon wasn't stupid; Annette had a child to think about now and he wasn't sure she'd agree to living in a small, cramped room with him and two other men; Rick wouldn't take too kindly to having a baby in the house.

After warring in his head for over an hour, he relented and called Anne one more time.

She picked up after the second ring, and Jonathon could immediately sense how tired she was. "Hello?" she sighed, not even having the energy to sound somewhat conscious and alert.

"Anne, it's Jon. I think we need to talk."

"Oh, um…okay. What about?"

"How's Jacob doing?" he decided to ask. It wasn't the best way to start the topic, but the longer he held onto the phone and listened to the baby crying in the background, the angrier he became.

"Did Thomas tell you?"

"No; Claire did. I called earlier and she told me. I'm grateful she thought I was important enough to know what the hell was going on in your life, since you don't seem to think so." Wow, he thought to himself, could he be an even bigger asshole?

"Jon, please…I wanted to tell you, but I knew that if I told you, you'd drop everything to be here. I would've felt so guilty for dragging you away—yet again—from your obligations, your work."

"That's bullshit, Anne. I thought I meant something to you, and you consciously keep me out of the loop? A whole fucking week!?" he was raising his voice now, and his breaths were harsh.

"Jon…God, please calm down. You don't have to talk to me like that," she said calmly if not a bit upset. "I'm sorry, okay? Jacob has kept me up all night since I brought him home, and I haven't had a lot of sleep, and I'm…tired…and I…don't know wh-what to do." To her credit, Annette was not trying to squeeze remorse from Jonathon, but after having only moments of sleep all week and barely having any time for herself, she was exhausted and at an emotional breaking point.

"Aw shit, Anne, please don't cry," he mumbled into the phone. "I'm just a little pissed off that I wasn't there with you…for you. I love you, Annette. You have to trust me on that, and well…maybe I was a bit impatient with the whole 'will you move in with me' bit."

"No," she sniffed, "it's okay. I just…I don't know if I could handle everything right now with the way I am. It's so much harder taking care of a baby than everyone thought, I just…I think that maybe we should just, follow our own agenda right now until I can handle everything." Her hands were shaking, and as much as she wanted to think and rethink everything, Jacobs's wails in the background were the pressing reminders that she had to do the best for her son now…not the best for herself.

It felt like an eternity before Jonathon responded, and when he did, his voice betrayed the hurt and turmoil that he tried to mask in its tone. "Fine. If that's what you fucking want."

"It's not what I want, but…it's what's best. I love you, Jonathon, I want you to know that, okay?" her heart was breaking into a million infinitesimally small pieces all around her.

"That's such bullshit, Anne." Feeling the merciless burn of scorn and anger, he lashed out. "But if that's what you want," he mocked, "then that's fucking great. You know what though, don't bother coming back to me when you realize what a fucking mistake you're making. I'm done having to go through hoops for you. I'm done…with you."

He'd hung up before she could say a word.


"Wow, man, don't you feel old having your own place now?" Travis asked, brusquely dropping the last box onto the living room.

Jonathon merely shrugged as he took a huge gulp of water. The day had been sweltering and made the move all the more unbearable. Travis, Rick, Miguel, Donna, and Rae had all agreed to help Jonathon move his belongings into the small house.

It wasn't the biggest house, but it had it's charm, and it was one of the few that Jonathon could afford without going bankrupt in the process. Although his commitment to the band was first priority, Jonathon had been able to work during his spare time at the same bar with Rae. She'd been kind enough to put in a good word for him, and the money had been enough to help him put a down payment on the house and afford the mortgage.

For a starter home, it was perfect for Jonathon. With two bedrooms and one and a half bathrooms, there wasn't much besides the eat in kitchen and living room. One bonus had been the spare room over the garage that became the music room, housing Jonathon's growing collection of kits.

He'd grown tired of sharing a house with Travis and Rick, and it had become all the more cramped when Travis's girlfriend, Alex, moved in with them after being kicked out by her former best friend. The drama had been at an all time high with Rick complaining of the girl-product invasion in the bathroom and the fact that now all the men were forced to put the lid down and no longer walk around in their boxes. Alex had nearly had a conniption when she'd walked into the living room to see Rick in his briefs and tube socks.

Unfortunately for Rick and Jonathon, she was Travis's soul mate (according to Travis), and was not going to be leaving any time soon. Taking the initiative, Jonathon quickly began looking for a place of his own. With the price of apartments being damn near ridiculous, he'd realized that a house was more for his money and began trying to find something that he wouldn't have a problem maintaining while he was gone on tour.

Flopping onto the couch with a deep groan, Jonathon closed his eyes and prayed for a break from the heat. The windows were wide open to air out the rooms, and the air conditioning had been left off to save electricity. Miguel sat on the floor across from the couch, silently watching his friend and playing with a string hanging from his shorts.

"Quit checking me out, dude."

"It's creepy that you can tell that I'm looking at you."

"You're still looking at me." His eyes stayed closed, his body sinking even further into the couch with fatigue.

"Have you called her?" Miguel asked, knowing that the topic was not something Jon wanted to talk about.

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Have you called her? You know, apologized? Shit man, it's been four months since you all but told her to fuck off. When you gonna give and just call her?"

"She doesn't want to talk to me, Mickey. I fucked it up so bad…I don't blame her for not wanting to talk to me."

"Well how are you so sure? I mean, you don't know for sure. What if she really wants you to call her? What if she wants to call you, but she doesn't know if you'd want to talk to her? You got to at least try, man. There's too much here to lose."

Growling, Jon swung himself up and into a sitting position. His eyes were narrowed in annoyance and…fear, perhaps? He'd never told anyone what had been said during THE phone call, only that they'd decided to go separate ways.

"Look, Mickey. I said some really fucked up shit that night, and well, I pretty much told her that I was done with her for good." He scratched the back of his head and wiped the sweat covered hand on his pants.

"You still love her?" It was worth a shot…even one in the dark.

Jon said nothing. He merely looked at his best friend for a moment before getting up to finish unloading the truck.

The guys decided to have beer and pizza for the first official "dinner" at Jon's place. Rae had even skipped out on work and stayed to hang out with her friends. Donna and Miguel were arguing over the last piece of the supreme pizza while the rest of the gang talked and joked over embarrassing moments that day.

When Donna realized that it was practically midnight, she immediately rushed the guys out, saying that it was late and that they were all tired from the day's events. Rick was the only one to argue with her, insisting that he didn't need his mother anymore; he was a grown boy and could determine his own bedtime. Donna merely ignored his protests and dragged him by the hair.

Rae opted to stay with Jonathon. As one of Jon's closest friends, she'd noticed that the past few months had been hard for her friend. He might not have shown it, but Rae was intuitive enough to know that something was bothering him. They quietly cleaned up the mess in the living room, and after agreeing to a smoke on the porch before heading to bed, Rae finally spoke up.

"Something bothering you?" she mumbled, holding her hand to shield the lighter. The wind had picked up slightly, and the night was cool and fresh, opposite to the day's heat.

"Nah, I think I'm just tired and over-whelmed. I feel so fucking old right now. I have my own house, now. How strange," he chuckled mirthlessly.

"Eh, we all got to grow up at one point or another. I'm conveniently delaying mine. Being a grown-up is too much fucking work."

"You want another beer?" Jon asked.

"Are you trying to get me drunk so you can have your way with me?"

Jon barked sarcastically, "I didn't need to last time."

"I didn't know you back then. I thought I was doing me a favor. Now I know I was only helping you out, not me."

"Whatever," he scoffed before heading into the kitchen. He re-emerged with two bottles of beer and handed one to Rae. "Thanks for helping me move-in. It would've taken me longer if I'd had no one to help me."

"The guys were here, too." Jon's look was all the answer she needed. "Of course, they each carried one box the entire day and complained mostly about the heat…bunch of pussies, they are."

"I know." Jon reached over to grab another cigarette and accidentally spilled his beer all over his friend. "Oh shit!"

"Great! Now I smell like sweat, ass, and BEER. Whoever wouldn't want to fuck me smelling like this is insane," she sarcastically cried out, shaking her hands dry of the sticky beer.

"I got a pair of shorts and a t-shirt somewhere in the room."

"'Somewhere in the room,' that helps a lot. You want me to bring you one, too?" Rae gestured to Jon's shirtless chest. "It's getting kind of cold, wouldn't want you to catch pneumonia."

"I think I'm man enough to handle it," he retorted.

"Oh how you like to boost your ego," she yelled before running inside to avoid Jon's shoe heading for her head.

Chuckling to himself, he finished off his cigarette and chugged the rest of his beer before going inside. After a quick shower, he went straight to bed and fell asleep.

It felt like seconds had gone by before Jon was woken up by the sound of…a doorbell? Groaning at the inhumanity, he looked at his cell phone on the floor to see that it was 5 in the morning. Refusing to get up, he stayed immobile, pretending that there was no one at the door. He heard Rae yell that she was 'on her fucking way,' and then listened to the door being thrown wide open and banging against the wall. Obviously Rae was not a morning person.

He must have fallen asleep again because the next thing he knew, Rae was yanking the covers off of him and telling him that he had to get up.

Jon told her to fuck off and reached for the blankets.

Rae smacked the back of his so hard that his face flew even deeper into the mattress. He hadn't bothered to "make" his bed, a simple blanket to cover him was enough. After a battle for the blanket, he finally surrendered and trudged downstairs while Rae crashed on his bed.

What a friend, he thought.

The sky was barely lightening up by that time, and Jon had to squint to see where he was going. After stubbing his toe twice on boxes placed in his way, he reached the living room in relatively one piece. Flicking on a floor lamp, he covered his eyes with his hands before adjusting to the light. The sight before him left him breathless.

Annette was sitting on the couch, cooing softly to a small bundle held tightly against in a strange looking baby carrier. He heard the baby gurgle in response, and despite his complete lack of involvement, Jon couldn't help but smile.

Realizing that there was someone else in the room, Annette looked up, she herself surprised to see Jonathon standing there. She quickly moved to get up, supporting the baby and holding the tiny hand that jutted out of the carrier strapped to her chest.

Her eyes were red-rimmed and slightly swollen; her hair was a mess. His eyes had a will of their own as they drank up the vision of the woman in front of him now. She'd lost weight, he could tell by the bagginess of her pants and the fact that her collar bone was severely sticking out. Her face was more skeletal, and the bags under her eyes were a testament to the exhaustion her body felt.

Annette took the opportunity to study him as well. A quick look showed him to be nearly the same. It was when she looked him in the eyes that she realized that his suffering was not physical, not like hers had been.

He licked his lips nervously, unsure of what to say.

"I'm sorry I woke you."

"Don't apologize. I needed to wake up, anyways."

"You hate waking up early," she called him on the lie.

"You're right. I'm going to make some coffee." He turned on his heel and made his way into the kitchen. It took a few minutes to dig out the coffee pot, and even longer to find the coffee and filters. Finally, he pressed the 'on' switch and went in search of his cigarettes. Pulling one out, he lit it up and looked up at Anne.

"I'm sorry, but do you um—I…"she started hesitantly, looking down at the now sleeping baby.

"Oh, right. Shit, I'm sorry." He immediately threw the cigarette in the sink and flapped his arms to blow away the remaining smoke.

They both went back to the living room after Jon poured himself a cup of coffee, and sat on the couch, each one consumed with their thoughts of where to begin.

"How have you—"

"I'm so sorry—"

They both chuckled with embarrassment before Anne waved at him to continue. "How have you been?" he asked again.

"That's a complex question. I guess I've been doing okay. Jacob's been, well, definitely an experience. It's been hard, but I guess I wouldn't have it any other way."

"Yeah. He, um, he seems like a cute kid," Jon added, trying desperately to think of something to say. No, there was a lot he wanted to say…but how?

Anne smiled down at the blond infant, "He's a blessing and a curse, but I love him. How have you been?"

"I can't complain. We're on a nice break right now, but I'm sure that will all end soon enough."

"Your girlfriend seems nice. I thought I'd gone to the wrong house but then I double checked the address Donna gave me, and well, the woman at the door said you lived here, so…"

"Yeah, this is my house. Wait, no…Rae isn't my girlfriend," Jon replied, sipping his coffee. It scalded his tongue, to the point that he winced, but he pushed it aside, letting the burning liquid practically burn its way down his throat and into his stomach.

"Oh, I thought she was your girlfriend," Anne mumbled.

"No, she's just a friend. She just stayed over because, well…she was too lazy to drive back to her place."

"Oh, I see."

They sat together in silence until Jacob started fussing. Her attention immediately shifted to the infant, and Jon watched silently as Anne pulled him gently out of the carrier and into her arms. She hummed softly and rubbed his back, jumping slightly to soothe the baby.

Jon was enthralled in her every moment.

There was a grace, a confidence that he'd never seen in Annette before she'd had the baby. Every moment was precise and confident, like she didn't need to second-guess what she was doing because she knew EXACTLY what to do, what to say, how to act. Her face was peaceful, content even, as she slowly lied Jacob down on the couch and reached into the bag by her feet. Seeing the bag brought a thought into his mind.

"How did you get here?"

"I caught a flight out from Seattle last night." She quickly changed Jacob's diaper, redressing the infant in the plush, yellow outfit and focusing on her actions.

"Why?" he asked slowly.

"Can you hold him, for me? I just have to throw this away and wash my hands."

"Oh, I don't—" Jon objected, only to shushed by Annette as she placed her child into his arms. "See, you're doing fine." She rushed out of the room towards the bathroom right across the kitchen.

Jonathon had never felt anything like it in his life. Looking down at the small person in his arms, he was instantly pulled towards the baby almost by an invisible thread. Touching Jacob's hand, the baby reflexively clutched Jon's thumb and looked straight into the man's eyes.

Jon could not deny that Jacob had his mother's vivid blue eyes.

Almost as quickly as he'd been placed in Jon's arms, he was being taken away again, and rocked gently in his mother's arms. Jon merely sat on the couch, completely spellbound by the ethereal vision of the woman before him.

"You've changed so much," he found himself saying. Anne stopped briefly to look at him, confused by his remark. "You're different."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know, but I know you've changed…for the better, I think."

"T-thank you," she smiled, truly pleased with the compliment.

"I've been an ass, Anne. A complete and total ass."

"No, you had your reasons."

"That's not the point. I had no right to say that to you, and I've been kicking myself over that phone call since the second after it happened."

"You said what you felt, Jon. I can't hold it against you."

"Why did you come back, Anne?" he asked, standing up so he could look at Anne directly. "Why did you come back?"

At first, she refused to meet his gaze, instead looking at the walls, the couch, the windows, Jacob…anything and everything. The baby was still fussing a little bit, but his grunts were mostly left unheeded.

"Look at me, Anne. Please." He could only hope against hope, that maybe…just maybe…

The look in her eyes said everything.


A.N: So sorry for the wait. Thank you for reading. I truly and wholly appreciated all the reviews and helpful messages to motivate me to finish this story. Thank you.