[Peregrinus]
 

Unseen
Part Three

by Liz



Chapter Nine
7:25 p.m.

Danny's cell phone rang.

"Taylor."

"Hey, it's Martin. We need you at work. I'm sorry."

"Okay. I'll be there in twenty minutes. I'm in casual clothes."

"Whatever, man. Just get here."

"I'm on my way."

Danny closed his phone and stood up. Turning off the TV, he walked to the breakfast bar to write a note to Jack. Finishing it, he headed to Jack's bedroom. Quietly, he walked in and set the note on the bedside table. Turning, he went to the guest room, packed up his meager things and left the apartment. In the taxi, on his way to the office, he called Anne.

"You have reached Anne Cassidy. Please leave a message after the beep. I will call you."

"Anne, it's Danny, it's around 7:30 on Wednesday night. I have to head to work. Can you call him? Just to check in...thanks."

He closed his phone and sighed.
 



9:00 p.m.

Anne had found her set of Jack's house keys and after hearing Danny's voicemail, decided to head to his apartment. She walked into the dark, quiet space. Turning on a light, she took off her coat, hat, scarf and boots before heading to find Jack.

He was dressed in shorts, lying on his stomach on top of the comforter. She sat on the bed next to him and touched his cheek. His skin felt cool to the touch. She watched him in the darkened bedroom, the only light coming from the hallway. His beard was thick, and like his sideburns, speckled with grey and white. Anne ran her hand through his thick hair and he shifted, making a noise she couldn't describe. Slowly, he turned over towards her and opened his eyes. He blinked several times and then sat up, gathering her in his arms.

"I am so glad you're here," he said, his voice shaking with emotion.

Anne couldn't speak, instead, nodding into his neck.

"How are you?"

"I'm okay; getting better. And you?" she asked.

"Tired, some pain, anxious...scared."

"What are you scared of?"

She pulled back to look at his face.

"Of losing you," he said, tears streaming down his face.

"I'm here for the long haul, buster."

He pulled her close, feeling the beat of her heart against his chest. His eyes were closed when he felt her feather-lite kiss on his eyelids. The fatigue was really tugging on his every fiber. Leaning back onto the pillows, he closed his eyes. He felt her spoon against the side of this body, her arm stretched across his belly.
 



7:15 a.m. (Thursday)

"Jack? Jack? Breakfast."

Jack opened his eyes and groaned slightly. He sat up and noticed Danny's note. Reading it quickly, he smiled before slowly getting to his feet and pulling on his bathrobe. He headed for the kitchen and the aroma of fresh coffee and eggs.

"Sit at the table. I'm giving you a little bit of eggs and toast. We'll see how you tolerate it."

"Uhm, okay, thanks."

Sitting at the table, he saw his antibiotics. He shook out a pill and swallowed it dry. Anne brought breakfast and he waited until she sat opposite him.

"Thank you," he said, in a gruff voice.

"Try it first, but you're welcome."

He sipped his coffee and sighed as he started to eat his eggs slowly.

"Damn," he said abruptly, putting down his fork.

"What?"

"I didn't make an appointment with Glenn," he said, standing to get the phone.

He dialed the number from memory.

"Dr. Bradley's office."

"It's Jack Malone. Does he have any time today?"

"Good morning, Agent Malone. He has been expecting your call. You can have the nine o'clock if that works for you."

"That's fine, thanks."

"You're welcome. Bye."

"Bye."

Jack hung up the phone and squinted at the clock on the microwave.

"I have to be at Glenn's office at 9am. I might as well do the whole thing."

"What do you mean?"

"I have to apply for a new gun. Tyler said they were replacing my vest. My watch needs to be cleaned and I have to check my ID."

"Gotcha."

"And I need to see Sam. I remember her in my dreams and ...she's never safe."

"Then you need to see her. Maybe, maybe you can take her to lunch?"

"Thank you, honey. That's a good idea."

Jack ate some more of his egg and sipped his coffee. He looked again at the microwave and then stood slowly.

"I need to take a shower."

"Don't shave."

Jack grinned at Anne before leaning over to kiss her. He limped to the bedroom, stripped, and then took a shower as she finished her breakfast and did the dishes. At eight-thirty, Jack walked down the hallway. His mildewed ID card was clipped to his jacket pocket. He wore a Nehru collared shirt and a grey jacket over jeans. His waterlogged watch was in his pocket and his wallet was wet but he hoped salvageable.

"Looking great," she said, kissing him quickly.

"Thanks, so are you. I'm glad you decided to keep some clothes here."

"Are you taking your crutch?"

"Yeah, I suppose I should."

Jack slipped on his wool overcoat and put Tyler's set of keys in the pocket before slowly walking out with Anne. They managed to catch a cab and were at the office in fifteen minutes.

"I may be a few minutes. I'll call you later," Jack said to her before giving her a quick kiss.

"Okay, take it easy today."

He smiled at her and then turned his attention to security.

"Agent Malone, good to see you back."

"Thanks, Larry. Is my ID good enough?"

The agent took it and looked at very closely before handing it back.

"Yeah, for now. I'll make a note. Maybe in a month we'll need to replace it. Have a good day, Agent Malone."

"Thanks, Larry."

Jack took the elevator up and got off on twelve. He put his coat in his office and then went upstairs to Glenn's office.

"Agent Malone, good to see you. Would you like some coffee?"

"No, thank you."

"Well then, he's waiting for you."

Jack took a breath and entered Glenn's office.
 



He walked into the elevator and pressed twelve. He had just enough energy to get to his office, he thought. The doors opened and he stepped onto his floor. Taking a breath, he went to his office. Jack took off his jacket and draped it over the back of his chair. He closed the blinds and turned off all the lights except the desk light. The fatigue was insurmountable and he lay down on the couch and closed his eyes.
 

Sam walked by Jack's office and saw the lights go out. She hesitated and then walked in. Her eyes weren't used to the darkness. She smelled him; his soap, his shampoo.

"I'm sorry I haven't called you," his voice rumbled in the office.

"It's all right."

"No, it's not, it's just that I haven't been up to it until today. How are you?"

She pulled a chair to be nearer to him.

"Fine."

"Sam, it's me. How are you?"

"I have dreams about the explosion. I worry about you."

"I worry about you, too. The doctors feel I'll be fine. I get the cast off in four weeks and then I can get back in the field."

"That's great. Oh, you should talk to Danny. I think he has the spare keys to your car."

"Thanks, I will. I just...I just need to sleep right now."

"Oh, right, I'm sorry. I'll let you sleep," she said, standing suddenly.

"Sam?"

"Yes?"

"Thanks, thanks for coming by."

"You're welcome."

She stood by the door, listening to his breathing soften to the point where she couldn't hear it. Letting herself out into the hallway, she resumed her path to get a fresh cup of coffee.
 



"You've been gone a while," Martin remarked.

"Jack's in his office. I needed to talk to him. He's sleeping, now."

"He has a ton of paperwork to fill out," Martin replied.

"Yes, he does." Viv said, looking towards his office.
 



12:00 p.m.

Jack woke up suddenly. He looked around and then realized where he was. Standing slowly, he walked to his desk and looked at the mound in the inbox. Sighing, he slipped on his jacket and walked to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee.

"Jack?"

He looked up to see Danny.

"Here are the keys to your car. It's in your slot."

"Thanks, Danny."

"Sorry I had to leave you last night."

"It's all right; really, your note was enough."

"Okay then, I'll see you later."

Jack went back to his office to start the paperwork process after opening the blinds on all of the windows.
 



12:30 p.m.

Jack's cell phone rang. With a grunt he reached for the phone.

"Malone."

"Hey, buddy."

"Hey, Tyler."

"Where are you?"

"I'm at the office."

"Why?"

"It's a dumb rule but I have to fill out requisitions for my gun, and write up the paperwork for the case that caused me to go on restricted duty before I can go on restricted duty."

"Of course. How are you otherwise?"

"Psych says I'll be fine eventually; physical is tomorrow. I'm tired; I have dreams; I have headaches."

"How's Annie?"

"We're taking it one day at a time, but I gotta tell you, Tyler, she's stronger than I am."

"No, Malone. She just hasn't let you in. Go easy. You've been through an ordeal; she has been through a life-changing ordeal."

"I understand that, Tyler, I just don't know what to do."

"Listen to her. Be patient."

"Wait, this is coming from the bachelor?"

"No, this is coming from Jennifer's brother, okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

"I'll talk to you later. I'm up to my eyeballs down here."

"All right. Thanks for calling."

"Take care, Malone. Get some sleep."

"Thanks, Tyler. You, too.

Jack hung up the phone and stood slowly to stretch before resuming his position.
 



1:30 p.m.

A quiet knock on the door broke Jack from the monotony of paperwork. He looked up and smiled.

"You do know that you aren't really authorized to be back at work? I mean not until you see your physician."

"Yeah, honey, I know that. The problem is I need to fill out the paperwork so I can do my job."

"I understand, I really do, but you need to go home. I don't mean to be blunt but you really look awful. I'm worried about you."

"Thank you, sweetheart. You're right, I don't feel well, but I'm just about to leave."

"I'm going to my support group tonight. I'll call you when I'm done."

"Great."

She looked at him, noting the circles, the grey pallour, and the general fatigue, before leaving him in his office. He finished his paperwork, picked up his coat, and then walked to Van Doren's office to drop it off.

"Hi, Jack. I didn't expect to see you until Monday."

"Catch-22. I can't work until I fill out this paperwork."

"Oh, okay. Well, then, I'll see you on Monday."

"Thanks, Paula. See you then."

Jack left her office and took the elevator to the garage. He opened his trunk and took out his suit jacket. He found his house keys in the pocket and a small leather case with photographs of Hanna and Kate. He folded his suit jacket over his arm before walking to the elevator to try to catch a cab.
 



9:00 p.m.

Although the session had gone well, Anne didn't want to go home and be alone. Instead, she found herself walking up the stairs to Jack's apartment and reaching for her keys. Letting herself in, she shivered as she realized he hadn't turned the radiator on. She took off her coat, hat and boots anyway, before turning on a table light in the living room. Anne went to the radiator and turned it on half-way. Slowly, she walked to Jack's bedroom to check on him.

He was sprawled face down on top of the comforter in his shorts. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she ran her fingers softly through his hair. She leaned over and kissed his cheek and then went back to the kitchen.

Opening the refrigerator, she noticed a bottle of wine. Twisting the cap, she poured herself a glass of Australian Sauvignon Blanc and settled in front of the TV on the sofa.
 



9:30 p.m.

Jack was on his back, caught in a dream, suddenly waking up. He lay there, feeling his heart race and trying to catch his breath, when he thought he heard something in the living room. Slowly, he sat up and walked to the bureau. He pulled out an old Yankees t-shirt and put it on. Limping out of the room, he continued down the hall. He stood in the doorway, watching the reflection of the TV on her hair.

"Hi."

Anne looked over to him and smiled.

"Hi, did I wake you?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Can I get you something?"

Jack looked at her in the dim room and wrestled several minutes for the right response.

"You, I need you."

Anne stood slowly and walked up to him. He was leaning against the wall to take some of the pressure off of his left leg, but easily gathered her into his arms. He looked into her dark brown eyes and waited for her. She gazed back at his face, taking in the circles under his eyes, the coarseness of his unkempt beard and his goofy smile. Slowly, she moved her arms around his neck and pulled him into a kiss. It wasn't chaste, but it said all that it needed to.

Standing in the doorway, they kissed and hugged until he broke off.

"I think I have to sit down."

"Let me help you."

She slid her arm around his waist as he limped to the sofa. Jack lowered himself and then carefully put his cast ankle on the telephone books. Making a decision, Anne went to the kitchen and poured him a stiff scotch with a splash of water. She handed it to him over the back of the sofa and then refilled her wine glass. Gently, she sat down next to him. They sat quietly, listening to the Discovery Channel.

"I'm sorry," he said, after several minutes of silence between them.

"Why?"

"I was selfish and didn't ask how your session went tonight."

She held out her hand, palm up. He easily took it in his larger one.

"It was difficult, but in the end I think it's a good thing. I...I didn't want to be alone tonight."

"I'm glad you're here."

He took his hand from hers, and stretched his arm along the back of the sofa. She moved closer to him and he lowered his arm over her shoulders, pulling her to him tightly. Kissing her on the top of the head, he reached his right arm to her hip, feeling her turn her body into his. He sighed audibly.

"Bored?"

"Hardly. How about blissful, Elysian, paradisiacal?"

"The 'hardly' worked for me."

Lying in each other's arms on the sofa, they both fell asleep.
 



2:14 a.m. (Friday)

She woke up abruptly as Jack's nightmare became more physical. Anne pulled out of his arms watching him until his pain was too much for her to bear.

"Jack, wake up."

He was still caught.

"Jack, wake up. We need to get some good sleep," she said loudly.

He woke up immediately and put his hands over his face.

"God, I hate this."

Anne stood and offered her hand to him.

"Please, I think if we sleep in the bed together, our dreams will stay away."

Jack looked at her before slowly putting his left foot on the floor. He sat up and finished his drink. Getting to his feet, he took her hand, allowing her to guide him to the bedroom. Jack walked to his side and set the alarm for seven. Anne got undressed and put on one of his t-shirts before joining him in bed. He rolled on his left side and pulled her close to him.

"If I forget in the morning, I love you."

"Believe me; you do not have selective amnesia."

She turned in his arms towards him, kissing him; their tongues touching for a moment. Both of them knew they weren't capable of a physical relationship right now. Instead, he rolled onto his back, and she draped half her body onto him, holding him closely.
 



7:00 a.m.

Vince Gill's voice wafted across the room before Jack had a chance to hit the snooze button. He was on his right side and Anne was spooning him from behind. Her left arm was across his chest, and her hand held onto his pendant. He sighed as he picked up her hand in his and kissed it.

"Mmmm."

"Anne, do you want to be first shower?"

"No."

Inwardly, he groaned. He shifted out of her grasp and headed for the toilet. He tugged at his clothes, turned on the water, stripped off his clothes and got into the shower. Turning around slowly, letting the water cascade down over his shoulders and onto his chest. He heard the shower curtain open as Anne joined him.

"Hi, just be careful. My balance is sketchy with the cast," he warned as the water surged over his head and face.

"Okay, stop hogging the hot water," she said putting her hands on his shoulders to help him shift positions.

He grinned, wiping the water from his eyes and watched her under the shower. He took the soap from L'Occitane that she insisted on buying. It had shea butter in it with a vague smell of lemon. He soaped up, waiting for his turn under the water.

"Switch," he growled.

"Sorry," she giggled, again finding his shoulders to help him move within the bathtub.

He stepped under the heat of the shower spray and groaned as he rinsed himself. He felt Anne's hands on him as well. Jack knew she wasn't physically or mentally ready for sex and thought about his kids to keep him from getting aroused. That and the fact that his ankle really hurt as it swelled within the cast, kept him sane.

"I'm done," he said, carefully getting out of the tub.

"Okay, five minutes," she answered.

"I'm timing you."

He toweled off and limped to his bedroom. He dressed casually again; jeans and t-shirt as he wasn't going to the office. As he was slipping his loafer onto his right foot he saw Anne step out of the shower.

"What do you want for breakfast?"

"English muffin and coffee would be great."

"Okay."

He stood and limped to the kitchen, getting things set. Fifteen minutes later, Anne came out of the bedroom in fresh clothes. He handed her a cup of coffee and then went to the toaster to retrieve her muffins. She sat at the breakfast bar and sipped her coffee, watching him.

"Are you okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, the heat of the water makes my ankle throb. I'm sure Steven will sort it out for me."

"Okay. I see Dr. Chesny this afternoon. But I'm free tonight and all week-end."

"Great. I just have this appointment with Steven. I'll drop my watch off at that jeweller on 34th and Lex. Hopefully it won't cost me an arm and a leg."

"Call me when you get home."

"I will."

He watched her eat; knowing that Dr. Siegel would want to take his blood. Looking at the microwave, he noted the time. Limping to the desk, he pulled some tens and twenties to pay for the cabs up to the doctor's office.

"I have to go, honey," he said, sticking his keys in one pocket and his watch in the other.

"Okay, I love you."

"I know and I love you too."

He leaned over and kissed her passionately. When he pulled back and looked at her, Anne's eyes were still closed to the passion.

He grinned and limped to the closet to get his top coat. Moments later, he was carefully walking down the stairs, feeling the support from his crutch.
 



"Mr. Malone, good to see you. Why don't you go back to the lab and have them draw blood. He's about twenty minutes behind."

"Okay," Jack said, limping back to the gal in the micro office assigned to take blood.

Fifteen minutes later, he was back in the waiting room.

"Jack?"

He stood and followed Dr. Siegel to his office. He sat carefully, watching where his cast foot lay.

"If your ankle hurts, put it on the desk, I've no problem with that," he said, sliding a pile of files away.

Jack slowly put his cast ankle on the doctor's desk and waited.

"I've read Dr. Aswan's report. What else has happened?"

"Did you get Glenn's report?"

"Yes, but I know you, Jack. What else is going on?"

Jack shifted to get comfortable in the chair.

"I have nightmares; I have pain in my left knee and hip and of course my ankle. I've been getting headaches."

"What, if any, painkillers are you taking?"

"Aleve; just Aleve."

"Okay, let's get to the room and examine you. They took blood?"

"Yes."

"Did you sleep last night?"

"Five hours or so."

"Okay."

Steven led him to the room.

"Everything off, Jack. Opening to the front. I need to check your stitches."

Jack nodded and began to take off his clothes. Ten minutes later, he was lying on the table with the gown on and there was a knock on the door.

"Yeah, ready to go."

"Great, Jack."

Steven gently prodded and poked, hemmed and hawed, asked Jack to breathe, cough, and move.

"Okay, get dressed and meet me in my office."

Jack nodded and slowly got dressed. He walked to Steven's office and sat slowly in the chair by his desk.

"Your injuries are healing, but you seem to be very tired. I need to look at your blood work to find out about that. In terms of your job, you're on desk duty until your ankle is up to par. Look, I understand your job, I've known you since you started at the Bureau, but you are exhausted. I can't tell if it's mental or physical. I will talk to Glenn and we will recommend a course of action. Until then, please, please, try to take it easy. I'll send the papers to the office approving you to return to work on Monday. I'll call you on Wednesday with your blood results."

"Thanks, Steven."

"You're welcome, Jack."

Jack left the office and walked west to Lexington Avenue, to a jeweller he knew.

"Mr. Malone, long time. What do you have today?"

"My watch got waterlogged. Can you fix it?"

"Wow, no kidding. Uhm, I should be able to. It'll take a while. I'm loaning you this TAG/Hauer in the meantime. I'm sorry; it's not the same as your Patek Philippe. Where did you get it, anyway?"

"My ex-wife gave it to me on our fifth anniversary."

"It's a beauty."

"Thanks, Evan. Call me when I can swap back," Jack said, taking the receipt from him.

"Of course. You take care, too. Bad time to be in a cast."

Jack smiled and walked out of the shop. He crossed to the west side of Lexington and caught a taxi home. Climbing the three flights, Jack was at his limit. He walked in, took off his coat, stretched out on the sofa, and fell asleep.
 



Chapter Ten
12:00 p.m.

The phone rang, waking Jack from a very deep sleep. He reached for it blindly.

"Malone."

"Jack? Are you okay? You were supposed to call me when you got home."

"Honey, I'm sorry. I'm okay to go back to work. Steven is concerned that I'm tired. I came home and fell asleep. I'm sorry I didn't call you."

"Well, I'm sorry that I woke your prescribed sleep. I'll see you tonight."

"Mmmm."

"Jack, disconnect the phone."

Jack hit the green button and fell back asleep.
 



6:00 p.m.

Anne walked in to a myriad of wonderful smells. Jack was in the kitchen, Vince Gill played on the stereo, and for once, the apartment was warm.

"Hey."

"Hey," he replied, not turning from the stove.

"How are you?" she said, taking off her coat, hat, and boots.

"I'm okay. How was your day?"

"Uhm, it was fine."

Jack poured her a glass of white wine and handed it to her when she walked into the kitchen. She kissed him first and then sipped the wine. Noting his casual attire, pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, she teased him.

"So, great couture-dressed chef, what are you making? Grilled cheese?"

"Funny, actually, I was interrupted earlier today, so I went to the market. Tonight, beef stroganoff for two."

"Jack, that's one of my favorites."

"I know, I remember. I thought maybe you needed a little TLC and so did I."

She looked at his broad back and listened to Vince Gill sing 'The Reason Why' seemingly answering all of the questions she had for him. Looking back into the apartment, she noted the fresh flowers on the dining room table. Without looking, she knew that he had put a bud vase in the master bath as well. Jack knew she loved flowers. Sipping her wine, she watched him cook, settling in to the music and the warmth of the apartment.

"Voila."

Jack dished two plates and brought them to the table. He lit the candles and turned off the kitchen lights. He brought a bottle of cabernet sauvignon to the table, refilling her glass before he sat down. She filled her fork and took her first mouthful.

"Oh, Jack, this is wonderful. When did you learn to cook?"

"Uhm, my mom would teach me sometimes. Then, I guess, Gloria."

"Who's Gloria?"

"She was my first girlfriend in high school. Her mom had died and we kind of hooked up. So instead of dates, we would cook for each others' families."

"That's nice."

"At the time, I would have preferred dates."

She looked at him and saw that sparkle in his eye and the smirk and couldn't resist grinning in return. They continued to eat in relative silence, just listening to Vince Gill.

"This is Vince Gill?"

"Yeah."

"It's new to me."

"He released a new album with a forty-three songs in October. Anyway, I downloaded it to my IPOD."

"I think of you as a wax man."

"I suppose I am a bit retro, but I like to think that I'm au current as well."

She grinned at him as she finished her meal.

"Seconds?"

"No, thank you," she said, looking at his half finished plate. "Can you eat any more?"

"No, I reached my limit," he said, standing to bus their plates to the kitchen.

She looked at him and saw the fatigue had returned to his face.

"Jack, leave the dishes. I'll do them later. Come sit here and listen the music with me."

Jack nodded and limped back to the living room, sitting next to her, easing his ankle onto the coffee table. She leaned into him and in moments, he was asleep.
 



8:00 p.m.

He woke up with a start. Looking around the room, he saw Anne asleep, her head in his lap. He needed to walk - now. Gently, he eased her head back onto the sofa and then stood. He felt it was hot in the apartment and cracked the window. Watching the snow fall, he felt the snow as it occasionally came into the apartment. He went to the kitchen and noticed that Anne hadn't had a chance to do the dishes. Humming to the Vince Gill playlist that was still playing, he put the leftovers into the fridge and then did the dishes.
 



9:00 p.m.

As he dried the last dish, he noticed the time. He took a sip of wine and placed a call.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Hanna, it's Dad."

"Hi, Dad. How are you? Are you out of the hospital?"

"Yeah, I'm home. I loved your card. Thank you."

"You're welcome. You're sure that you're fine?"

"I went to the doctor today. I'm allowed to return to work on Monday. My cast comes off in four weeks."

"What cast?"

"I broke my ankle."

"Oh. Kate wants to talk to you."

"Hi, Daddy. Did you get my card?"

"Yes, sweetheart, it was wonderful. I put it up on the fridge."

"That's good. Mom took us to the Lincoln Park Zoo today after school."

"Great, what did you see?"

"We saw people milking cows. And we saw baby chickens."

"That's wonderful, honey. Is Mom around?"

"Yeah, she's right here."

"Hello?"

"Hi, Maria. I just wanted to thank you for the special cards. I can't tell you how much they meant to me."

There was silence on the phone.

"Maria?"

"Jack, I...I didn't know what to do when Viv said you had been hurt. I...we have our separate lives but...Jesus, Jack I...I...still care."

He listened, looking at Anne sleeping on his sofa, and the cards from his kids that were now on the fridge door.

"I know, Maria. I know. I'll be fine. I'm on desk duty for four more weeks because of my ankle. We're looking at restricted hours. I'll let you know. In the meantime, could you send Christmas lists for the girls?"

"Of course, Jack. I'll grill them tomorrow."

"Thanks. Look I have to go and get some more sleep. I'll talk to you next week, if not before."

"Sure, Jack. Take care."

"Thanks and the same to you."

Maria hung up the phone and Jack put his into the cradle.

"Everything okay in Chicago?" Anne said, stretching.

"Yes, I'm sorry; I didn't mean to wake you."

"It's not a problem, Jack. I'm going to take a shower and then head to bed," she said, standing up and walking towards him.

"Okay, I need to finish here. I'll see you soon."

"I love you, Jack," she said, pulling him into a gentle kiss.

"I love you, too."

Anne walked to the bedroom. Moments later, Jack heard the shower running. He cleaned the counter, ground coffee for the morning, and refilled his glass of wine. Limping to the radiator, he turned it down to a quarter and then closed the window. The noise of the running shower stopped. Watching the snow fall, he smiled to himself that he didn't have to work until Monday and neither did Anne. Finishing his drink, he limped to the kitchen, set his glass in the sink, turned off the lights, and walked to the bedroom. He heard her soft breathing and saw her shape in the pale light from the window.

The bedroom was dark and, to him, stifling. He opened the window and immediately felt the cold fresh air invade the room. Pulling off his t-shirt, Jack carefully got into bed. He lay on his back, trying to unwind. Anne rolled towards him and stretched out her left arm across his chest, feeling his warmth. He kissed the top of her head and fell asleep.
 



2:00 a.m. (Saturday)

Anne woke up suddenly. Sitting up in bed, she realized she was alone. She pulled on his sweatshirt from the chair and walked out into the apartment. He was sitting in the leather chair, a glass of scotch at his side, listening to Vince Gill again. The snow was falling and he stared at it from the darkness of the apartment.

"Hi."

"Uhm, hi."

"What's going on?"

"I...I couldn't sleep."

"Obviously."

He nodded and then took a big sip of his drink. Jack looked at her, his brown eyes full, and then he turned his look back to the window, taking a breath.

"What is it, Jack?"

He reached his hand to her and she carefully sat in his lap. Bringing her hand to his lips, he kissed her and she noticed that he was shaking.

"I...I'm not always good at talking about my feelings, but I have to tell you this; it's really eating at me."

She squeezed his hand in encouragement. He nodded and took a deep breath.

"Anne, I love you without limits. I'm very sorry about the miscarriage...very sorry," he said, his voice getting softer.

"Jack, you don't have to-"

"Please, honey, it's just that I want you to know...if you want to try again, that's great and if you don't want to, that's okay too. It's just...I couldn't bear to lose you."

The tears were falling down his face now and hers as well. She wiped his eyes gently, feeling his beard and smiled. Kissing him gently, she felt his arms around her, giving her a tender hug.

"Can you come back to bed?"

He reached to her face and wiped her tears before dragging his left arm over his own eyes.

"Yeah, I think so."

She stood and helped him to his feet. Reaching for the remote, she turned off the stereo. They walked side by side to the bedroom and got into bed. It was cold and she shivered as she moved to get closer to him. He rolled onto his left aside and pulled her towards him. When his body touched hers, she melted and started to relax. He was still emotional and energized by his admission to her. She fell asleep easily, feeling his strong arm around her. Jack remembered seeing the pale daylight filter into the room before he surrendered to sleep.
 



Chapter Eleven
8:00 a.m.

Anne woke up and looked around the bedroom. Jack was lying on the opposite edge of the bed; face down, the sheet pushed down around his waist. She got up and pulled on his sweatshirt, again. Padding out to the kitchen, she turned on the coffee-maker and waited.
 



12:00 p.m.

Jack woke up, the winter sun streaming into the bedroom, reflecting off of the nearby buildings. He was alone in bed, but smelled something vaguely familiar coming from the kitchen. Heading to the bathroom, he used it, washed his hands and face and then walked back into the bedroom, looking for his sweatshirt. He couldn't find it and pulled an Office of Emergency Management t-shirt from his drawer. Jack put it on and then limped down the hall.

He stopped before he reached the end of the hallway, suddenly recognizing the smell. Anne was making oatmeal cookies. He turned and leaned against the wall, remembering when he was very young and his mother would cook. Closing his eyes, he took a breath.

"Hey, you're up."

Jack opened his eyes and wiped his face before limping towards her in the kitchen.

"And you're cooking."

He leaned in and kissed her cheek. She noted that he was upset about something, but went forward with her plans.

"Baking, but yeah. They said it was going to get to 27 degrees today as a high and then snow all night and maybe tomorrow. I went shopping."

"Great, uhm, is there anything I can do to help you?"

"No, but if you want coffee, you'll have to nuke it."

Jack stood in the quiet kitchen. He was still tired and just wanted to stretch out on the sofa for a nap.

"Yeah, let me do that."

"You look tired. Did you sleep all right?"

"I couldn't get to sleep for a while," he hedged.

She reached for his cheek, feeling the thickening beard, pulling his attention to her face.

"Remember what you said to me? We'll get through this, together, one day at a time. So today I have a treat for you."

"Oh?"

"Heat up your coffee, first."

"Okay."

He poured a cup and set it in the microwave as Anne pulled a sheet of cookies out of the oven.

"Want one?"

"Ah, no, not right now."

"Please, don't tell me you don't like oatmeal cookies."

"No...no it's just something my mother would make. Maria didn't bake, so I made cookies with the girls. Sorry, it's stupid, just a memory."

She walked up to him and pulled him into a hug.

"No, sweetheart, it's part of you; not stupid, not bad, it just is."

"Yeah...yeah, I know it's just sometimes..."

"Sometimes you get lost. I know, but this weekend, we're going to find each other."

He pulled back a little to kiss her. Jack pulled her in tighter and she responded.

"I have more cookies to bake," she said as the microwave beeped.

"Go, cook!" he said, taking his hot coffee from the microwave.

"Do you mind if I turn on the stereo?" he asked.

"No, of course not."

He turned on the stereo and his IPOD. He scrolled through the available playlists and decided on Lots of Cellos. The sounds of Yo-Yo Ma and John Williams played through the apartment.

"Good choice," Anne commented from the kitchen.

Jack stood with his coffee, looking out onto the snow. In his t-shirt, he was comfortable. He had no choice, as Anne was wearing his sweatshirt, zipped to the neck. A few minutes later, he sat in the leather chair, and stared out the window, listening to the music.
 



1:00 p.m.

Finally, the cookies were done and Anne came out from the kitchen.

"Sweetheart? Come sit with me on the sofa."

Jack looked over to her, still deep in thought. He gathered himself and stood up to walk to the sofa. Slowly, he sat down, resting his cast ankle on the table. She took the remote and turned off the IPOD, changing the routing to the TV. Suddenly, they were watching I Love Lucy.

"They're having a Viewer's Marathon."

Jack looked at the black and white imaging on the TV. He hadn't seen these images since he was a child. He watched with no amusement. Anne giggled at the show and looked at him; worried that there was no response. The episode ended and a new one began. It was the Harpo Marx episode. Anne chuckled at the opening, apparently knowing the episode. Jack remained silent until Harpo arrived on the screen. Then, very slowly, he began to unwind. He smiled, then smirked, and finally started to laugh.

Anne and Jack spent the afternoon watching the TV Land I Love Lucy marathon. No matter how hard she tried to get him to eat a cookie, he wouldn't, or couldn't, but she was happy that he appeared to be amused at Lucy.
 



5:00 p.m.

Jack stood and stretched.

"I'm going to take a nap."

"Okay."

"I'll make dinner. Wake me in an hour."

"Okay."

He walked down the hall and closed the door behind him. He walked to the bed, crawled on it, and fell asleep.
 



6:00 p.m.

He felt a warm hand investigating his beard and smiled.

"Hi."

"Hi, are you feeling better?"

"Yeah, a bit," he said, stretching.

"You're on."

"What? Oh, yeah, well at least I'm up to thinking about dinner."

"I'm hungry."

"Ah, well then, the chef has to get it in gear," He said, carefully rolling out of bed.

He limped to the kitchen and looked in the refrigerator. Opening the freezer, he saw chicken breasts. Jack pulled out two of them and immediately took them out of the plastic to defrost them in the microwave. Setting them on a plate, he put them in the microwave, set the timer and pressed start. Reopening the refrigerator, he looked at what was there. Smiling he took several things to the counter.

"Unless you're going to be my sous-chef, I would recommend leaving the kitchen."

"Yes, sir."

Anne turned on the IPOD and looked at the playlists. She chose Jimmy Barnes 'Quiet' and then sat on a stool at the breakfast bar. He stood with his back to her and listened to 'Settle For Me' before starting to chop vegetables, losing himself in the music. Turning for a moment to the fridge, he saw her watching him.

"I'm sorry, would you like a glass of wine? I'm afraid I don't have any hors d'oeuvres prepared."

"Then, wine would be fine, thank you."

With great drama, he poured her a glass and set it in front of her, before returning to his vegetables. He continued to slice and chop for five minutes until the timer went off for the chicken. Pulling it out of the microwave, he cut it into small chunks. Setting the skillet on the stove, he pulled the curry and the Canola oil from the cabinet. Twenty five minutes later, he plated his stir fry and walked to the table, which Anne had set earlier. He refreshed her drink and poured himself a scotch. Looking at her before he sat down, he smiled.

"What are you grinning about?"

"I'm grinning because you're here, we have a good dinner, and I love this song."

"What is it?"

"'Thankful for the Rain'."

They ate in silence, listening to the music, looking at each other occasionally. She finished first, and leaned over her plate, in contemplation.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

She looked up at him, seeing the fatigue in his face and something else. Reaching for his hand, she squeezed it.

"I'm not sure..."

His headache, which had started while cooking dinner, was a real thumper, now. All he wanted to do was to lie down and take some aspirin. But she needed him and so he put all of his flagging energy into her.

"I'm a good listener."

Smiling, she looked back up at him.

"Yeah, I know you are. I talked to Dr. Chesny, today. If we want to have kids we have to wait two months before we try."

"Honey, you know my viewpoint. I support you in whatever decision you make."

"I...I think I would like to have a child with you, Jack."

He stood up slowly and limped over to her. Carefully kneeling, he hugged her.

"I look forward to it. Whenever you're ready, I'll be there for my end."

Pulling back, she saw his grin before she cuffed him gently on the side of his head. He closed his eyes and took a quick breath as he reached for her.

"What? Jack, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, honey. I just have a headache. I'm going to take some Aleve. I'll be fine."

"Oh, Jack," she said, placing her hands on his cheeks.

She kissed him softly and then helped him to his feet.

"I'll go get the Aleve, have a seat."

He picked up his scotch and sat on the sofa, resting his head back on the cushions. Jack's head was pounding, as was his ankle. He sipped his scotch before feeling Anne place three Aleve in his hand.

"Thanks."

"Don't mention it."

He swallowed them dry and slugged back the rest of his scotch. She sat down next to him, taking his right hand and holding it tight. They listened to Jimmy Barnes and drifted.

"Anne?"

"Yes, Jack."

"Can I ask you a question?"

"Of course."

"Uhm, you said that we can't try to have kids for two months, right?"

"Yes."

"Does that mean we can't have sex for two months?"

"No...we...we have to wait another two weeks until I get the okay."

He opened his eyes at the hitch in her voice and gathered her into his arms.

"I'm not trying to rush you, honey. I just don't understand. I haven't done the research. Please don't cry. I'm not trying to hurt you."

She nodded wordlessly as her tears wet his shirt. He held her tightly as tears started to stream down his face, as well.

"I love you," he whispered.

"I love you, too."

He kissed the top of her head and held her tightly until he felt her relax as she fell asleep.
 



10:00 p.m.

Anne woke up in bed alone. The last thing she remembered was snuggling with Jack on the sofa. She got out of bed and walked into the living room. Cello music was playing and Jack was standing at the window, looking out onto the city.

"Hi."

"Hi," he said, not turning.

She looked at the plate on the small bookcase and noticed there was one cookie left and a lot of crumbs.

"Did you like the cookies?"

"Yeah, I do. What did you add?" He said, turning to look at her.

"Ah, you want to know the family secret?"

He pulled her into an embrace, looking into her dark brown eyes.

"I want to know all of your secrets."

"Well, nutmeg and cinnamon are the keys, here."

Jack pulled her closer and kissed her. He pulled apart away slowly, watching her.

"They're wonderful."

"Thanks. Now, why are you awake? Why did you leave me in the bed alone?"

He looked out the window until he felt her hand on his jaw, turning his face to be in her view. His eyes were dark and full. She pulled him into a tight hug.

"It's okay. It doesn't matter. Can you come to bed with me, now?"

He pulled her tighter, saying nothing. When he broke the embrace, she took his hand and led him to the bedroom. Shutting the door behind them, she watched in the semi-darkness as he got into bed. Anne crawled in next to him. She leaned over him and put a hand on his chest. His heart was racing. So slowly, she traced his beard with her hand and just as slowly, he ran a hand up and down her jaw. She turned into him softly kissed him. He responded, measuring note for note, kissing softly in the dark.

"I love you, Anne."

"I love you, Jack."

"Uhm, I couldn't sleep, before. You fell asleep and so I carried you to the bedroom. I didn't abandon you."

"Okay..."

"Sometimes I just get caught up in thinking. It's not insomnia, but I'm not sure. That's what I was doing; thinking."

"What were you thinking about?"

Momentarily he flushed and then responded.

"How absolutely lost I'd be without you right now."

Anne paused, realizing what an admission this was from him.

"I meant it when I said it before, Jack. I'm not going anywhere."

"Okay."

"Really, Jack."

"Okay."

"Come here, we're going to sleep. I love you. I'm not going anywhere," she said, pulling him into her embrace.

He took a breath and then relaxed, falling to sleep in minutes.
 



Chapter Twelve
10:00 a.m. (Sunday)

He woke up, his head resting on her belly, his left arm across her thighs. Anne noticed the change in his breathing and ran her hand through his hair.

"Mmm."

"Sweetheart, I need to get up and use the toilet."

Jack rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling. She leaned over and kissed him before leaving him in the bed. He reached up to straighten out his chain and his hand touched his mother's crucifix. Suddenly, he sat up, opened the bedside table drawer, removed his rosary and limped to the guest room. He knelt with effort and looked up to the cross that used to hang in his parent's bedroom. Jack made the sign of the cross and then started his prayers keeping track of his chants of the Lord's Prayer with his rosary beads.

Anne came out of the bathroom and noticed the empty bed. Frowning, she walked to the kitchen and living room, but he wasn't there. She ground coffee and started the coffeemaker before heading to the guestroom to see if he was there. Quietly, she opened the door and saw him on his knees chanting his prayers. Closing the door just as silently, she went into the bedroom and made the bed. Anne got dressed in a pair of sweats and Jack's sweatshirt. Walking back to the living room, she looked out the window and saw the snow falling steadily. They definitely weren't going out today, she mused. Picking up his cookie plate from the night before, Anne headed to the kitchen and waited for the coffee.
 



Jack emerged from the guest room. He felt better, but he was also somewhat anxious. He pulled on a clean t-shirt and sweats before limping to the kitchen. Anne was sitting, reading The Sunday New York Times that he had delivered to his door. He walked to her and kissed her forehead as she leaned back to see him.

"Morning."

"Morning. Coffee might have to be nuked."

He nodded absently to himself as he walked to the kitchen to pour himself a cup. Taking a sip, he felt it was fine and then went back into the living room to sit on the sofa. The paper lay between them and he picked up the magazine section, heading to the crossword puzzle.

"Do you want any breakfast?"

"Perhaps brunch at this point; thanks, but not right now. Maybe we can have some soup later."

"That sounds good. They're predicting eight inches today."

"Wow, that'll make the commute a drag, tomorrow."

"Yes, it probably will."

They went back to their individual interests of The New York Times. Occasionally one of them would go to the kitchen for a refill on coffee until it ran out. Anne switched to a nice California Cabernet and made a cheese tray with crackers.

"Nice," he commented as he looked at the softened brie on the plate.

"Have some; I heated it in the microwave."

He made a canap and ate it in one bite. Jack looked around the living room slowly, finally resting his eyes on her.

"I miss this," he mused.

"What?"

"Just hanging out with my girl."

"It's nice, having a quiet afternoon."

Jack stood slowly and took his coffee cup to the kitchen.

"Do you need anything?"

"No, I'm good, thanks."

He made himself a tall scotch with water and headed back to the sofa. He set his drink on the coffee table, and then moved the rest of the paper onto the coffee table as well. Sitting next to her, he leaned over and gave her a kiss. Afterwards, he took a sip of his drink, set his left ankle on the table, and leaned back onto the cushions. Moments later, he was asleep.

Anne finished the paper and reassembled it in order for Jack, if he chose to read it later. She had eaten the rest of the brie and crackers, as well as consuming another glass of wine. Taking her dishes to the kitchen, she came back and joined Jack on the sofa. She sat next to him, sliding her hand into his and followed his lead by falling asleep.
 



2:00 p.m.

Jack woke up, disoriented for a moment. He disengaged his hand from hers and went to use the bathroom. When he came back, he turned on the standing light next to the leather chair, picked up his drink, and then went to the kitchen to refresh it. On his way back to the living room, he grabbed the magazine and then sat in the leather chair to continue with the crossword puzzle.
 



4:12 p.m.

Anne woke up slowly and stretched, warm in their sweats. The apartment was dark, aside from the light that shone on Jack as he sat, sleeping in the leather chair. She looked at her watch and was surprised at the time. Her stomach grumbled and she went to the kitchen to figure out what they were going to have for dinner. He had mentioned soup and a sandwich, but that was for lunch. She wanted to make something substantial, since he had had one cracker, coffee, and scotch all day. Looking through the refrigerator and then the cabinets, she didn't see a hearty meal.

"Damn!"

Jack woke up in his chair and, after cracking his neck, he limped into the kitchen.

"What's wrong, honey?"

"Oh, I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't mean to wake you," she said, moving into his embrace.

"It's okay. What's wrong?"

"You haven't really eaten anything, today. So, I wanted to cook you a filling meal. But, we don't have anything filling."

"All right, so maybe we should order in. To be truthful, honey, I'm not very hungry, right now. Let's look at the menus or, if you're in the mood for an adventure, we could see if the Cub Room will be open for dinner."

"Jack, I'd rather not go out, if you don't mind."

"No problem, look at the menus and see who should come to us."

He released her after giving her several feather-light kisses on her neck.

"I'm going to check my email. Do you need to log on?"

"No, but thanks."

He nodded and then walked over to pick up his scotch. Limping slowly to his desk, he turned on the light and then his laptop. Sipping his drink, he became absorbed with his work.

"Jack?"

"What? Oh, I'm sorry, Anne. What's up?"

"I can't do this."

Something about the tone of her voice caused him to get to his feet and quickly limp to her. He gathered her in his strong arms.

"What can I do to help you?"

"I...I need some private time, I guess. I'm going to take a hot bath, would you handle dinner?"

"Of course, honey. Let me make sure that I remember, uh, no cauliflower; meat cooked well, all sauces and dressings on the side. Is that right?"

"Yes, that's perfect. Thank you, Jack."

"Wait, Anne." He called to her as she walked into the bedroom. "Look under the sink, there's small decorated box that might help you, tonight."

"Oh, uhm, okay."

Anne walked into the bathroom and shut the door. She crouched down to look for the box Jack mentioned and smelled it before she saw it. The label LUSH, said everything. She started the hot water after putting the plug into the drain. When there was three inches of water in the tub, she dropped in the bath bomb. The rose petals immediately came to the surface and the smell was wonderful. Lighting the four candles on the corners of the tub, she then turned on the radio and listened as the classical music played. Taking off her clothes, she stepped into the hot water and lay down in the tub. Five minutes later, she turned off the water and just rested in the rose scented water.

Jack looked in the freezer and found tucked in the back, two filet mignons. It would put him to sleep, but maybe she needed the red meat. In the hanging basket, he saw the red-skinned potatoes. The only thing he lacked was a vegetable. Looking again in the crisper of the refrigerator, he saw asparagus, and smiled. He looked at his watch and figured he could pull off dinner at seven. Taking the steaks out, he tried to plan the evening.
 



6:20 p.m.

Anne walked out of the bedroom in her terrycloth bathrobe, feeling warm and safe. There was a new smell in the living room and she realized that Jack was burning a cedar candle that she had given to him, giving the room the smell of a real fireplace. The table was set for dinner and a merlot sat open and breathing. The broiler was on and there was a pan with the potatoes that was just beginning to boil on the stove. Jack was standing looking out the window at the snow falling, his scotch glass in his hand.

"Hey."

"Hey," he said, walking over to her. "Nice bath?"

"Wonderful, thank you."

"You're welcome. Dinner's at seven, if that's okay with you."

"Whatever you want is fine with me. Do you need any help?"

"No, I don't think so. Why don't you settle on the sofa and watch the tube while I finish."

"Okay," she grinned, giving him a quick kiss on her way to the sofa.

Jack walked into the kitchen and started the broiler. The potatoes were a while from being cooked. He put a small amount of water into a Corning Ware dish and carefully lay the asparagus that he had trimmed earlier. He turned and leaned against the counter, listening to the mumbles of the television announcer.

When the broiler had heated, he placed the seasoned steaks in and set the timer. Jack put the asparagus into the microwave and set it for twelve minutes. He poked the potatoes and then pulled out plates. As the time passed, different courses were cooked until finally, he was ready to present dinner. He poured two glasses of wine, turned off the stove and oven and brought the full plates to the table.

"Anne, dinner's ready."

She turned off the TV and walked to the dining room table. Smiling, she sat down as Jack held her chair for her. Anne put her napkin in her lap and then picked up her knife and fork to cut a piece of steak. It melted in her mouth.

"Jack, this is wonderful."

"I'm glad you like it."

They ate in silence, but as Jack forecast, by the time they had finished the meal, he could barely keep his eyes open.

"Jack, Jack...why don't you stretch out on the sofa? I'll do the dishes."

"Yeah, maybe, thanks, Anne," he said, getting to his feet and barely making his headlong dive onto the sofa.

She chuckled and then took the dishes to the kitchen to run the dishwasher. Ten minutes later, she was cleaning the countertop and putting a stopper in the bottle of wine. After pressing the normal wash button, she picked up her glass of wine and walked back into the living room and settled in the leather chair to watch Jack sleep. He had rolled onto his back and started to shiver. Frowning, she watched it progress as his whole body had tremors. She went to him quickly, putting her hands on his face to wake him. His face was cool and clammy.

"Jack, wake up, Jack!"

He struggled briefly and then opened his eyes, seeing the fear on her face. He shivered and sat up with her help.

"Please, just hold me."

Anne knelt between his legs and embraced his broad shoulders. She felt him shiver as though he were cold. Anne rubbed his back in circles and he grabbed handfuls of her bathrobe. Jack breathed in short bursts, trying to fight the tremors that continued to rack his body.

"Easy, sweetheart. You're all right."

"So...c...cold."

"Let's get you into a nice hot bath. That should warm you up."

"No, no baths," he said vehemently, pulling out of her embrace, struggling to stand.

"Okay, Jack, I'm sorry, I forgot. Let me help you to the shower," she said, standing next to him.

"Yeah, okay, okay."

Ann slid her arm around his waist as he reached across her shoulders. They headed, side by side, down the hallway to the bathroom. She turned on the water, waiting for it to get hot as he carefully stripped off his clothes.

"Is this hot enough to start?"

Reaching his hand around the shower curtain, he nodded and carefully stepped in. He barely heard the sound of the bathroom door closing, but he did feel the temperature of the bathroom rise quickly. He faced the spigot, leaning forward spreading his hands against the wall, groaning as the hot water hit his shoulders and back. Ten minutes later, when he felt that his temperature was sort of back to normal, he lathered up his beard and started to shave. He took his time and was rewarded with a smooth face. He washed his face and body and heard the door open again. Anne put a fresh pair of shorts and a pair of flannel pajamas that she found in his drawers on the edge of the sink. She left him alone. He turned off the water and towelled off before dressing in the clothes that she had laid out. He ran his hand through his hair and then walked back into the bedroom.

Anne was sitting up in bed reading a book. She looked over at him and smiled as he limped towards her.

"Are you ready for bed?"

"What time is it?" he asked, noticing that Anne had removed his watch from the bathroom and put in on the bedside table.

"It's eight-thirty or so."

"I planned on getting to work at seven. If I go to bed now, I'll be up in four hours and I won't be able to go back to sleep. If you don't mind, I'm going to watch some TV."

"Okay."

He leaned over and kissed her. Straightening, he limped out of the bedroom toward the living room. Anne had cleaned up the kitchen and put away the leftovers. He poured himself a scotch and added some water. Changing his mind, he turned on the stereo, and assigned the IPOD to Yo-Yo Ma. He thought about reading the Times, but he wasn't sure he could concentrate. Sitting on the black leather chair, he leaned back and listened to the rich music.
 



3:00 a.m. (Tuesday)

Jack woke up and stretched carefully. He stood and limped to the breakfast bar, peering at the clock on the microwave. Smiling, he headed to the bedroom. Quietly, he opened the door and limped into the room. He could barely make out her form, curled on the right side of the bed. Closing the door behind him, he unbuttoned his pajama top and set it on the chair before carefully getting into bed. He moved to spoon against her back, sliding his hand around her to rest on her belly. She put her hand over his and squeezed.

"I didn't mean to wake you, Honey," he whispered.

"You didn't."

"Are you okay?"

She rolled towards him in his embrace. He brushed a loose strand of hair from her face and waited. Tracing his jaw with the back of her fingers, she stared back, her eyes searching his face.

"I missed you. I don't like waking up without you."

He stretched his hand to the back of her neck and with little pressure pulled her into a kiss. She answered him and gently pushed him onto his back as they continued to kiss and caress each other. She laid half on top of him, continuing to kiss his face and neck. Even her light weight on his chest was enough to remind him of the debris that buried him in the basement.

She could feel the tensing of his muscles and the swell of his arousal. In a decisive but tender move, Jack slid his arms around Anne and rolled them so he was on top. He took his weight on his elbows and brushed her hair from her face.

"I don't want to wake up without you either," he said, huskily.

He kissed her with all of the passion he felt for her, their tongues touching. She ran her fingers through his hair, reveling in its thickness. When he pulled back from the kiss, she grinned.

"Wow."

"Wow?"

"Yeah, Jack."

He kissed her neck, moving down her body. Pausing at her breasts, he kissed her with such tenderness that she began to cry.

"Honey, what's wrong? What did I do? Please don't cry."

She put her hands on the sides of his head and guided him up to her. Kissing him gently on his forehead, she looked at him.

"I love you so much, John Michael Malone. I love your tenacity, your honesty, your loyalty, and your compassion. But, most of all, I love the way you make me feel; like I'm the only other person on earth."

Jack's eyes began to fill with tears and he felt the lump in his throat, rendering him incapable of response. Blinking his eyes hard, the tears fell onto her cheeks. He leaned in and kissed the tears away. Her hands shifted to his broad back, stroking wide circles. Jack kissed her neck, paying attention to the hollow at the base of her throat. She arched her back slightly, lengthening the amount of contact between them. He kissed her chest, trailing to her left breast. She shifted her hands to his ears, tracing the way his hair fell across them, enjoying their velvety feel. He moaned softly, shifting up to kiss her mouth. Pulling away for a moment, he looked at her, smiling at her smile back at him.

"I love you so much, Anne Cassidy. I love your dedication, your feistiness, your integrity and your empathy. But, most of all, honey, I love the way you make me feel. When I'm with you all of my insecurities disappear. I feel stronger with you in my life. I love that you're my best friend and my lover as well."

"Wow!"

"I mean it."

"I know you do, sweetheart."

"Now, where was I?" he smirked.

Jack shifted his body so he was kneeling between her legs. With a careful hand, he marked a trail from her neck to her hip. He locked his eyes with hers. He caressed her breasts, one at a time, feeling her heartbeat under his touch. Anne tried to sit up, but he reached up with a firm hand and gently pushed her back onto the bed .

"This is all about you, honey."

She nodded and smiled, watching him enjoy her body. He continued to caress her gently, changing his speed, listening and observing her responses. She grabbed fistfuls of sheets as she started to move below him. His hands moved from her hips to her thighs, glancing over her center. A sound escaped her that he couldn't define, exactly, but judging by the look on her face, it was of pure pleasure. Pulling her lace-edged underwear down her legs, he let them disappear in the folds of the sheets. He touched her, so softly that she wasn't sure at first, but then he touched her again. He concentrated solely on pleasuring her. As his speed increased and her breathing became ragged, he exchanged his hand for his tongue, amazed at her sweetness. She came quickly after that, calling his name in an almost frantic voice. He moved back up to her mouth and kissed her adoringly, smelling the musk of them in the air. She reached for the waistband of his pajamas but he stopped her.

"I meant it, Anne. This morning is for you. But now, I need to get a little more sleep before I hit the shower and head to work."

She kissed him deeply, moving her hand up to caress his neck

He rolled onto his back. Anne reached for the sheet and blanket, pulling them up to cover him to his waist and her up to her shoulders. She nestled her head on his shoulder, feeling his arm hold her close.
 


Part One
Part Two



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