By: Girl Bard
Disclaimer: Please see Part 1
April 27, 2002
A sharp, somewhat painful poking slowly wakes me up. I try to ignore it and go back asleep, and just as I feel myself drifting off, the poke happens again, this time right between my eyes.
"Ow." I mutter, feeling a moving weight on my chest.
Uh huh. Keeping my eyes shut I lift my hands out from under the covers and tickle the small child sitting on top of me.
She immediately begins to giggle, and my eyes fly open to see her head thrown back, her brown curls bouncing all around.
Her squirming wakes Jaden up, who goes from sleeping to alert in seconds and aids in my attack on Kasey.
The two of us are no match for her and soon we have her pinned in between us.
"Stop! Stop! I'm gonna pee!" She shouts and Jaden and I exchange a look and immediately cease our tickle-fest.
She gives us an impish smile. "That always works with my mom and dad too."
I grin at her before helping her under the covers with us. She rests her head on Jaden's shoulder and sighs contentedly.
"Why are you up so early, Kasey-girl?" I ask, groaning inwardly when I see it's only 7:30 am. On the only Sunday in weeks Jaden has had off where we can both sleep in together.
She shrugs her tiny shoulders. "Couldn't sleep."
"Why not?" Jaden asks as I shut my eyes and snuggle back down into the blankets.
"I was lonely." She states and I frown slightly. She sounds so sad.
"Are you lonely now?" My wife asks, her voice drowsy.
"Nope." Kasey responds, and it's the last thing I hear before falling back asleep.
Nothing in particular wakes me this time; I feel the weight of the dogs on the foot of the bed and bright sunlight is streaming into the room.
Luxuriously I stretch, disturbing the sleeping dogs that pop their heads up and come to give me morning kisses.
Bean sighs and curls up next to my stomach, while Bella stares at me intently with her two different colored eyes before lying down with her head on my chest.
I stroke her silky ears and smile at her contented face.
Glancing at the clock, it see it's almost noon. I can't believe I slept that long, I know Jaden and I were up late with Kasey, but not that late.
I can hear them in the kitchen, and I give Bella one last pat before extracting myself from the mountain of dogs and throwing my robe over my pajamas.
After quickly using the bathroom and brushing my teeth I find my lover and Kasey happily coloring at the kitchen counter.
"Morning." Kasey calls, setting down her red crayon and climbing off of her stool for a hug.
"Hey munchkin." I ruffle her tousled hair and take in her unusual outfit. "Did Jaden let you pick your clothes?"
She nods proudly.
I smile at her before lifting her up to settle back on the stool. "Well, you did a lovely job. I love how the purple sweatshirt matches the green and orange striped pants."
"Me too." She exclaims, now choosing a purple crayon. "Purple is my favorite color."
"Mine too." I tell her, coming to stand behind Jaden who is intently coloring her own picture.
I kiss the top of her head. "Thanks for letting me sleep."
"No problem. You looked so sweet Kasey and I didn't want to wake you." She answers and I can't help but grin as she determinedly colors neatly inside the lines.
It makes me look forward to when Jaden and I have kids; I know she'll be a great mom. I could really get used to this, waking late to find my wife and child enjoying a leisurely Sunday morning.
"Color." Kasey orders, handing me a Powderpuff Girls coloring book and sliding her big box of crayons over to me.
"Yes ma'am." I mock salute her and sit with them, finding an empty page and beginning to fill it in.
My stomach rumbles. "I'm starving, did the two of you eat yet? We probably should get something before seeing Jaden's grandmother."
"We ordered pizza!" The little girl exclaims excitedly. Jaden looks up from her picture, somewhat guiltily.
"Good idea." I smile warmly at the two of them. "Pizza for breakfast sounds perfect."
"Should be here any second." My wife finishes, grinning when a knock sounds at the door.
I sit with Kasey, gazing at my beloved as the pizza guy shamelessly flirts
Yep, I could really get used to this.
I look at Grace helplessly as Kasey clings to my leg. "I don't wanna." She protests and I give my leg a little shake.
"Come on." I whine as she tightens her grip. "You have too."
"No I don't." The child whines back.
"Yes you do." I tell her patiently but firmly, like it says to do in all those parenting books.
"No I don't. I can stay here with you and Pixie-head." She whines louder.
"No you can't." I tell her with less patience.
"Yes." She stamps her foot down on my toe.
"Kasey!" Grace scolds, her hands on her hips. "That wasn't nice, please say you're sorry to Jaden."
"Sorry." She mumbles, giving me big brown doe eyes.
"No way, munchkin. That won't work. You're going home." I tell her, now with no patience at all.
"No I'm not!" Kasey yells, her little face turning red. I know we're in full tantrum mode right now, and better tread carefully.
"Kasey, you know Jaden and I love having you here, right?" Grace asks, her voice soft as she kneels down to Kasey's level.
"Yes." The child answers, removing herself from my leg. I stand back and let my wife do all the talking, there's no way in hell I'm going to be the cause of one of Kasey's tantrums.
"And you know that we love you so much that we would love for you to stay, right?" My wife adds, taking Kasey's small hands in her own.
"Then let me." Kasey says.
"Kasey-girl, your parents would miss you terribly if you didn't come home." Grace reasons and the child shakes her head violently.
"No, they don't care about me. All they care about is stupid J.J. standing up and stuff." She states, her brown eyes welling with tears.
"Kasey, that's not true." Grace responds, her voice soothing. "They still love you just as much as J.J. Parents just get excited when babies do something because they are new. Remember when we got Bella, and Jaden and I would get so excited when she learned how to sit and walk nice on a leash and everything?"
Kasey nods, intensely concentrating on what Grace is saying.
"Well, it didn't mean we loved Bean any less, it was just exciting to see Bella learn new things. Your parents are just as excited about what you're learning in school as they are about J.J. standing up. I promise." Grace finishes.
Kasey cocks her head, a doubtful expression on her face.
"Have I ever broken a promise to you?" My wife asks.
The child shrugs her narrow shoulders noncommittally.
She sighs. "Fine, I'll go home." Kasey rests her hands on her hips. "But I don't have to like it."
I can't hold back the chuckle that escapes me. This kid has got to be a lawyer when she grows up.
"Come on." Grace states before standing and taking Kasey's hand. She is trying very hard not to laugh and as she passes me she rolls her eyes.
I don't know how Joe and Diana do it, especially with two kids. I mean, right now Kasey is going through a difficult time. She was always used to having all the attention she could want and now that her baby brother is getting older and doing things like standing, taking a step here and there, etc, she isn't thrilled at all.
I don't blame her; it's hard to be in her shoes. But she's just so damn funny it's hard to take her seriously.
Grace and I chat on the drive over, mostly about seeing my grandmother earlier. She loves to visit with Kasey, but there was something about her demeanor today that left me a little unsettled. She seemed different, when we left she acted like she was never going to see us again. I have to visit her more, I go at least once a week now but maybe I'll try to go more often by myself.
Usually chatty, today Kasey sits in her seat with her arms folded and a downtrodden expression.
I do feel bad. Grace and I take her every few weekends so she has a weekend just for her, and I know it helps Joe and Di out. But I also don't want to cause any problems by making them feel bad that she doesn't want to come home.
It shouldn't be this hard.
Kids are tough.
"Kasey, you want to stop for ice cream before we go home?" I ask, turning around to look at her briefly.
She meets my eyes, a glare still etched on her fine features. "No."
I shrug and turn back around, paying attention to the road.
"No?" Grace questions before turning around herself to glance at the child. "Why not?"
"I don't have to tell you." Kasey states before looking back out the window.
"Okay." Grace says before continuing our fascinating discussion on what we need from the grocery store. Jesus Christ, we are so domestic sometimes.
I'm surprised that I adjusted so easily to living with someone, not to mention the whole wedding thing. It's like I don't even remember what it was like to be alone, and I don't ever want to know what it's like again.
We pass the neighborhood ice cream stand, which just opened for the season on Friday. It's filled with people even though the night is chilly.
"Um, Jaden?" Kasey's voice asks from the back seat a few seconds later, after Grace and I moved on to talking about when we are going to spring clean the apartment.
"Yes?" I respond, glancing at her in the rearview mirror.
"We can go for ice cream, I guess." She says, the traces of a smile on her face.
"Sure thing." I smile at Grace briefly before turning the car around and heading back.
"Whipped." Grace whispers and I shrug once more, a grin now fully plastered on my face as Kasey goes into full babble mode, telling us exactly what flavor she is getting and exactly what she wants on top of it. Immediately she is back to her old self.
Kids may be tough, but I'm tougher.
I tilt Jaden's head back to rest against my chest. "Relax." I whisper to her, bringing the wet cloth up to cascade water down her bronze skin.
The water runs down her strong shoulders and firm breasts, causing her nipples to pucker.
"You are so beautiful." I tell her as I kiss the side of her damp hair, my hands lightly grazing her skin as I thoroughly wash every inch of her.
"Yeah, if a beached whale is beautiful." She complains as I reverently hold her swollen stomach.
"If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times. You are beautiful when you're not pregnant, even more beautiful when you are." I state firmly in her ear before continuing my washing.
She sighs, content, and relaxes in my arms. It's so rare to see her like this, vulnerable yet still a pillar of strength.
My washing of her beautiful body complete, I settle down into the warm water and enjoy the feel of her in my arms as I cradle her stomach.
Our unborn child, most likely a son. A beautiful baby boy to cherish for the rest of our lives.
"What will we name him?" I ask her, my eyes lovingly gaze over her pregnant body. With my palms pressed against her stomach I can feel him inside her; moving, breathing even if I concentrate enough.
She doesn't answer me, and I assume she's fallen asleep. With a smile on my face, I join her.
Moments, or is it hours?, later I awaken; the water cold around me. Jaden is still asleep in my arms, and she too is cold. My eyes open to find darkness; it must be the middle of the night.
"Jaden." I gently shake her, trying to rouse her, but she doesn't stir.
"Jaden." I tell her more forcefully, my hands clenched around her shoulders. Still, she will not move. I scramble out of the bathtub, water splashing all around and skidding on the wet tiled floor, turn on the lights.
There is blood everywhere.
I scream, my voice echoing off the harsh angles of the tiled room. Jaden's head is lolled back, her stomach now flat and she is covered in blood.
It has mixed with the bathwater, causing the entire tub to be filled with the fiery crimson substance.
"Jaden!" I cannot move, and I'm afraid to look down at myself, knowing I am also covered with blood.
Finally, I make my feet obey me and I race to her side, smacking her face and pleading for her to open her eyes.
She does, the beautiful blue orbs bloodshot and tired. "He's dead." She tells me blankly, her hands moving to cover her flat stomach. "And I have to go with him."
"No." I plead, but it is too late. Her body is limp in my arms and I know, at that precise second, that everything I ever loved in this world has left me.
Suddenly, I am standing on the street, smoke and ash all around me. People are running for their lives but I can't move, I have to stand there and stare at the destruction all around me.
A fireman, clad in a dirty and torn yellow protective suit places his gloved hands on my shoulders. "Ma'am, you have to leave, it isn't safe here."
"No. I'm not leaving her. She's all I have and she's in there!" I shout, pointing to the collapsed tower.
"She's not coming out." He tells me, his brown eyes sad. "I'm sorry, but you have to save yourself."
"You don't know her, she's a hero, and she'll survive." I argue stubbornly, but the longer I stare at the carnage, the less hope I have.
"Please, get yourself to safety. She would want you too." He argues and I close my eyes. The debris and smoke are making them sting, and my throat feels like it's closing. I know what hell feels like, it's right here.
"I know what she would want me to do." I tell her, breaking free of his grasp and running into the disaster site. People everywhere are pushing to get out, and I'm pushing to get in. I find my way through them and run headfirst into the wrecked tower.
"Jaden! Jaden!!" I cry, blinded by the smoke and fire.
"Grace?" She answers me, her voice weak.
I'm forced to crawl on my hands and knees in order to find her, but finally I do. She is trapped under what appears to be a wall; the normally bright silver buttons on her uniform dirty and smudged. She always keeps them so shiny.
"Don't leave me." She pleads, her uniform stained by her dark blood. She is dying.
"You're dying." I tell her needlessly.
"Don't leave me." Jaden repeats and I clasp her had in mine.
"Never." I crawl under the wreckage and wrap myself around the tattered remains of her body, the thick smoke choking the life out of me.
"No!" I shout, sitting straight up in bed, the covers tangled around me.
"Gracie?" A tired voice calls to me and I snuggle back down against her safe form.
"I had horrible dreams." I tell her, wrapping my hand in her curly hair.
"Tell me." She states, kissing my forehead and pulling me closer to her.
"You died, twice. Once you were pregnant and our baby died and the next you were dying in one of the Twin Towers on September 11th and I died with you." I tell her, closing my eyes and trying not to picture the horrors I'd seen in my dreams.
She sits up suddenly, turning the bedside lamp on. "That wasn't a dream, Grace. Jaden was pregnant and she did die on September 11th, and that was over five years ago. I thought you were over her."
I sit up, the light invading my eyes and I blink stupidly for a few seconds before they adjust. Kim is sitting next to me in bed, her arms crossed over her bare breasts.
"Kim?" I ask stupidly.
She gets out of bed, obviously angry and pulls on a robe. "Five years, Grace. I've spent five years listening to you cry about Jaden's death. Five years holding your hand and helping you through it. Five years of waiting for you to realize that I loved you more than she did, treated you better than she ever could, gave you more than she would ever be willing to give. Five years! And what do you give me? Nothing." Kim turns to me, her hazel eyes narrowed in anger.
"We're finished. Get out. I never want to see you again."
"Kim, I'm sorry." I tell her weakly, unsure how to explain.
"Get out!" She screams, picking up a book from her nightstand and throwing it at me.
"NO!" I shout, sitting straight up in bed, the covers tangled around me.
"Gracie?" A tired voice calls to me and I snuggle back down against her safe form.
"I had horrible dreams." I tell her, wrapping my hand in her hair.
"Tell me." She states, kissing my forehead and pulling me closer to her.
Remembering the last dream I sit up and immediately turn on the bedside light.
"Ow, Grace!" Jaden complains, diving under the covers like a vampire.
"It's you." I close my eyes in gratitude to whatever deities made those horrible images just images and not reality.
"Of course it's me." She says, the warmth returning to her voice. She peeks out from the covers, her bangs adorably mussed.
"It's you." I state again, unable to stop the tears from welling up in my eyes. "You're here."
"Hey, hey, baby, it's okay." She seemingly knows something is terribly wrong, and as she pulls me down in her warm embrace, peppering kisses into my hair and stroking my body possessively yet tenderly.
I allow the tears to fall.
Grateful tears, for everything that she is and everything about her that allows her to love me, sad tears for all that she's endured in her life, guilty tears for having her with me when so many people have lost their loved ones, and selfish tears that are thankful she is a Boston police officer instead of one in New York City.
"What were your dreams about?" She asks, her voice sleepy.
"I'll tell you some other time." I respond, enjoying the feel of her so close to me.
"Okay." She complies, already falling back asleep.
I listen to her breathing, deep and even, and I am thankful for every breath.
I leave the lamp on.
I won't sleep anymore tonight.
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