by Katrina McDonnell

The front door opened and he had to restrain himself from running to her.

Slow steps...okay, a bit faster. It'd been thirty-four days since he'd touched her.

"Hey, Legs."

Startled eyes blinked at him, her half removed coat trapping her arms against her body. "What are you doing here?"

"Just the thing a guy wants to hear on his return from the trenches," he quipped as he helped free her.

"I thought you were away till mid next week?"

"I moved a meeting forward." Danny hung up her coat, before slipping his arms around her waist and pulling her back against him. "And I've missed you long enough."

CJ twisted around until they were facing each other. "I've missed you, too."

"You okay?" He traced the lines of exhaustion that had burrowed into her face during his absence, also noticing her slightly sallow complexion.

She kissed him in reply.

He went along with her distraction, but repeated his concern when she stopped. "CJ?"

"It's just been a busy couple of weeks." She ran her fingers through his hair, purring, "And you haven't been here to distract me from work."

Something wasn't right; she was trying too hard. And as his hands rested on her hips, he realised she'd lost weight. "You eaten?"

"Yeah. Had something at work." A toothy smile. "How about I go and have a bath and then we can..."

Squirming as her fingers trailed down his chest to his pants zipper, he pushed her away. "Go."

And tried to dismiss her look of relief as a trick of the low light in the hall.


"I'm never taking an assignment that lasts longer than a week again," he mumbled against her lips as he rolled them over.

"We can cope with a week."

But they both knew he would. It was the ultimate irony that since he'd left the White House Press Corps for her--for them--they'd seen far less of each other, even with living together. He was a reporter, not an editor, and, without a regular beat, he went where they told him. And they weren't wasting his experience.

"Relax." He noted the tension in her body as one hand pushed up her nightie and caressed the sensitive skin at the top of her thigh. "I've so missed touching you."

Her hands cupped his face as he stared down at her. "I love you," she whispered.

Replying with a deep kiss, his other hand wandered to her breast and honed in on her--

Mutual yelps of pain forced them apart.

"CJ!" He sucked on his lip, metallic tasting fluid trickling into his mouth. "You bit me."

"You squeezed too hard." She cradled her breast and pulled away as he reached towards her.

"I didn't touch you any harder than normal," he defended.

"Yeah, well, my period's nearly due and I'm sore." Her nose wrinkled, twisting her mouth. "I'm really not in the mood for this."

"Okay." His libido screamed in frustration, and a little voice protested that she was always horny as hell just before her period. But he shut them out. "I'm sorry."

"Sometimes surprises don't work out." She shrugged. "I could do with an early night."

"You want me to sleep on the couch?"

Tracing his swollen lip with her finger, she shook her head before ducking it. But not quickly enough to hide the tears.

"Hey." Careful not to squash her breasts, he pulled her against his chest, rubbing her lower back as his other hand tangled in her hair. "I'm not angry."

"It's not that. It's just..." A gulping sob shuddered through her body. "I'm really tired."

He kissed her forehead. "Shhh." Lowering them to the pillows, he lay flat on his back with CJ's head resting over his heart. "Go to sleep, Sweetheart."


Birds singing, music on the clock radio, coffee dripping, bacon sizzling, CJ whispering in his ear...those were the sounds he liked to start the morning with.

Not heaving punctuated by sobs.

They met in the hallway and it took all his will not to engulf her in his arms. "You okay?" Stupid thing to ask when she looked like hell.

"Yeah." She pressed her hand to her mouth and gulped. "Something I ate."

He followed her to the kitchen, watching as she poured a glass of ginger ale and grabbed a cracker. The familiarity with which she performed the tasks formed a pattern with the pieces from the previous night and, without pausing to doublecheck the resulting image, he blurted, "Are you pregnant?"

The stiffening of her shoulders was enough to confirm he had the right picture.

She drained the glass and placed it in the sink, before grabbing another cracker and heading back towards the bedroom.

"CJ." He hurried after her.

"I have to go to work."

She tried to slam the bedroom door, but he shoved his foot in the way. "When were you going to tell me?"

"There's nothing to tell."

"What? You were hoping I wasn't going to notice that your stomach was growi--" He couldn't describe the look she gave him, but it was enough to clue him in. Grateful he hadn't eaten breakfast yet, he whispered, "Oh. When?"

She disappeared into her closet. "Tomorrow," was the muffled reply.

"No wonder you weren't happy to see me last night." He lowered himself to the bed and stared at his hands, looking for something, anything. "We still need to talk."

"No, we don't."

"CJ!" He couldn't keep the growl out of his voice.

She pointed at him as she flung her suit on the bed. "This was why I wanted it done before you got back."

"Well next time I'll call before I come home early." He reared up, hands curling into fists, and she took several steps back. "How much notice do you need?"

"Do you want kids?"

The question in her calm briefing voice threw him. "What?"

"Do you want to be a father?"

He had the distinct feeling that everything balanced on his answer. "It's not that simple."

"Yes." She turned her left palm up. "No." Right palm. "One little word."

Her hands were at stomach level. He forced his eyes back up to her face. "It's never one word."

"Of course. You're a writer. Why use one when you can--"

"Shut up, CJ!" He turned away from her and stalked around the foot of the bed, needing to put space between them before he did something they would never recover from. "Don't you dare stage manage this--us."

She crossed her arms over her chest and tilted her chin up. But he detected a slight tremor in her jaw line and knew she was biting the inside of her lip. He was breaking through.

"How long have you known?" He held up his hand to cut off her protest. "It does matter."

"Three and a half weeks."

His gasp was audible as he thought of all their phone conversations and emails, and not even a hint. "So it obviously wasn't so simple as one little word."

Her gaze dropped to the bed and she shuffled her feet.

"CJ?" He thought he'd heard a mumble.

She looked up, but didn't meet his eyes, instead staring out the window over his shoulder. "It was that simple...for me."

"I don't--I don't understand." He watched her hands fluttering in front of her chest and tried to detect some kind of message. Either he was incredibly dense or his CJ decoder ring had expired during his travels.

"I loved being around Hogan when she was little, but I was also relieved when I could hand her back." She finally met his gaze. "I've never wanted kids."

He tried to keep his own feelings, not that he knew what they were, under control. "Then why are you still pregnant?"

Glancing at the clock on the bedside table, she replied, "I have to get ready for work."

"No." He had to keep her talking, knowing from experience how difficult it was to get her going again. Taking several steps towards her, he pointed his index finger downwards and stated in an unequivocal tone, "We're doing this now."

He could only watch as she folded in on herself, a marionette with cut strings. She slumped, missing the edge of the bed and sliding onto the floor.


She flinched from his touch and tried to push him away, her face hidden by her hair as she shook her head.

He sat down cross-legged in front of her and placed his hand on her ankle. And waited. He knew when to push and when to back off.

After a few minutes and a couple of deep breaths, she raised her head from her knees. "I'm happy with my life, with us. I miss you when you're away, but I like that we're not in each other's pockets all the time."

He nodded in agreement. They'd worried they were both too independent and set in their ways to live together. But they were happy, and his work trips always seemed to come up when they were starting to get on each other's nerves.

"A baby--it'd change everything--" She faltered. "And I don't think for the better."

He squeezed her ankle in support. "It would change everything. Whether for better or not, we wouldn't know until after."

She swallowed, hard, and brushed her hair behind her ears. "And by then it would be too late to send it back."

"True," he whispered, reality seeping through the cotton wool surrounding his brain. "It's a one-way proposition."

"Do you want kids?" She was watching him intently.

"I like the idea. Especially with you."

She nodded. "That's what I thought." And tried to stand.

"Hey!" He tightened his hold on her ankle while grabbing for her wrist. She had no choice but to return to the floor. "You asked. And you don't get to walk away before I'm finished."

"But will you?"

"Will I what?" Her leg trembled under his hand, translating her real fear. And he had to choke back a wave of anger before he could speak. "You think I could leave you? Look at me, CJ."

Her eyes only met his for moments at a time. "You want kids. All I've been able to think about is after it's gone."

"I would've got married years ago if kids were that important. I had opportunities." He grasped her chin and moved his face closer to hers. "I like the idea, but that isn't our life."

"Are you sure?" She finally held his gaze.

He saw their child in her face, her eyes, and his chest tightened. But the image faded as the certainty that they would not survive such a radical change to their relationship burnt through the shock and fleeting dreams.

He released his hold, and placed his palms gently on her cheeks. "Yes," he whispered. "You're right. This is us and a baby doesn't--can't fit."

"I'm sorry." She leaned her forehead against his.

Tears ran between his fingers. "Don't. But you should've told me."

"I didn't know how."

He sucked in a deep breath and asked on the exhale, "What time tomorrow?"

"Eleven." She paused, before gripping the backs of his hands. "Come with me?"

"You don't have to ask." It would take more than words to ease her fears and only time would help him process the myriad of emotions. But they would do this together. There had never been any other choice.

She chewed on her bottom lip, before whispering, "I love you."

And then her hands were on his cheeks and his tears between her fingers.


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