Disclaimers: This story belongs to me so I don't give permission for it to be posted somewhere else under a different title, change in names or storyline.
Sex: But of course! J
Note: There will likely be somewhat graphic violence in this story, as part of it takes place during war times.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com .
Part 20 - conclusion
Kate watched as Megan stepped off the military flight and onto the tarmac, Christian cradled in her arms. She was followed by Rob, who was on crutches and was being helped down the narrow flight of stairs by a uniformed Marine.
"He's so thin," Danni commented softly from where she stood next to Kate. "And Christian has nearly doubled her size, it seems."
"Babies grow so fast at this stage," Kate agreed, looking at her granddaughter, who was now more than two months old. A wide grin broke out on Kate's face when Megan spotted her, her cries of happiness reaching out to a mother and drawing her in.
Danni quickly followed as Kate ran to meet Megan halfway from the plane to the stairs leading up to the airport.
"Mom!" Megan cried, accepting the tight - though careful - hug that her mother gave her.
"I missed you two!" Kate exclaimed, eyes closing as she hugged her daughter, Christian securely between them. She pulled away and looked into very tired eyes. "How are you, sweetie?" she asked softly, brushing a few strands of Megan's hair out of her daughter's face.
Megan gave her a brave smile. "I'm glad to be home."
"Hello, my baby!" Kate cooed, taking Christian from Megan's arms and hugging her, then covering her small face with kisses.
Rob finally made his way to the reunion, partly glad to see everyone, but in truth, wanting nothing more than to just go home and shut out the world. "Hey, Danni," he greeted, extending a hand out towards her.
Danni looked down at Rob's formal greeting of a handshake then dismissed it, grabbing him in a careful hug. "It's good to have you home."
Rob gave Danni a small squeeze then pulled away. "Thanks."
Danni studied Rob's eyes, concern clouding her own.
Munson ME, August 1969
Megan sat back in her chair, a satisfied smile on her face and hand on her stomach. "Mom, that was absolutely fantastic. I haven't had a good, home cooked meal in way too long. Having an infant definitely takes up your time." She drained the rest of her Coke. She glanced over at Danni, smiling as she watched her making crazy faces at Christian, whom she held in her arms, making her smile.
"I'm glad you liked it, sweetie," Kate said, turning her gaze to Rob, who sat quietly, his fork wandering around his plate as he picked at his food. She exchanged a quick, knowing glance at Danni then turned her attention back to Megan. "I heard from one of my students that the newspaper is looking for someone."
Megan's eyes lit up. "Are you serious!?"
Kate nodded. "I'm not sure what they're looking for, but I know it's a reporter of some sort. I don't have class tomorrow, so if you want, I can watch Christian if you want to go down there."
"Rob can watch her, Mom," Megan said, tossing a glance to Rob, who stared down at his plate.
Dinner finished, Danni helped Rob carry Christian's diaper bag out to the car while Megan and Kate said their goodbyes. Megan squeezed her mother tightly to her before pulling away.
"I'll see you later, Mom."
Kate nodded then tucked her bottom lip. Finally, she decided to speak her mind. "Honey," she began. "I need to know that everything is okay. With you and Rob. I know it's not my business, but-"
"We're fine, Mom," Megan assured, though she was unable to look her in the eye. She shrugged, twisting her wedding ring on her finger before meeting her mother's eyes. "He's just having a hard time right now."
Kate didn't speak for a moment, reading Megan's eyes. "Okay," she said finally, giving her daughter a comforting smile. "Okay. I'll see you later."
Megan hurried out to the car, where Rob had already gotten himself settled in and was waiting. "See you later, Danni."
Danni accepted the hug and returned it. She looked down into Megan's face. "If you need anything, anything at all, just let us know, okay?"
Megan nodded. "Okay. Thank you."
Danni watched Megan climb into the car and then the car drove off. She felt before she heard Kate's presence beside her. She draped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her up against her side. "Something's wrong," she said quietly.
Kate nodded. "I think so, too." She let out a heavy sigh. "Come on, let's go inside."
Kate turned and headed back into the house, her mind busy with unspoken worry. She'd seen her daughter just about every single week, sometimes several times in a week. Megan had become quiet and reserved, their conversations somewhat stilted and, it seemed, secretive from Megan's end.
Kate walked to her study, which was a guest bedroom Danni had turned into somewhere Kate could work. She pulled her chair out from her desk and sat down, staring blankly at the papers she still had to grade. She folded her hands together as she rested them on the desktop,
"Hey," Danni said softly, stepping into the room and over to Kate. She rested her hands on Kate's shoulders. "You okay?"
Kate sighed and nodded. "Yeah."
Danni smiled, placing a kiss on top of her head. "No you're not. Talk to me." She began to run her fingers through Kate's hair, which she knew Kate loved.
Kate sighed again, this time in pleasure, as she rested her head back against Danni's stomach, eyes closed. "I'm just worried, Danni."
"About what?" Danni asked, continuing her ministrations.
"Ohhhh, you have exactly four hours to stop that," Kate purred, making Danni smile. "What's happening between Megan and Rob." She opened her eyes and looked up at Danni. "I look at him and it's like looking at someone else. More than once I've wondered if it's a doppelganger who came back, and not the Robby Jamison that I've known for almost five years."
Danni placed a kiss on Kate's lips then moved around to the side of the desk, pulling up a chair to sit in. "Because he's not."
Kate met Danni's gaze. "What do you mean?"
"I haven't spoken to him yet about what happened, but from the severity of his injuries, I can promise you they were life-changing. It's not his physical differences Rob is facing right now, Kate; he's facing all the ways war messes with you mentally and emotionally."
"But you're fine. Yes, you had a bit of a setback in Chicago, but you're fine."
Danni gave Kate an understanding smile but shook her head. "After we were attacked and I was let out of the hospital, I had to get back on duty; we had an entire base to rebuild from the attack. After that, I re-enlisted to go help rebuild Europe after the war ended. After staying busy with that for five years, I came back and drowned it all in an alcoholic haze. Once I got myself together, my world became building F&H Industries. I've never sat idle, Kate. Right now, and for the past three months, that's all Rob has done. He's had plenty of time to dwell."
"So, why doesn't he make something of himself? Why doesn't he use his business degree? Why does he allow this to continue to stew?" Kate asked, her eyes pleading.
"Why did you stay married for twenty-two years?" Danni asked evenly.
Kate wanted to be angry at the question, but she realized the anger would be at herself. She remained silent for a moment as she looked down at her hands, which fidgeted in her lap. She took a deep breath, letting it out as she looked back up at Danni. "Because I was caught up in stagnation; it was what was easier to do."
Danni nodded. "Exactly." She leaned forward and kissed Kate on the lips. "I've got a few dishes to finish up in the kitchen."
Kate nodded absently at Danni's words, her mind still reeling over their conversation about Rob. She sat in her office for a long time, her heartbreak and fear for her daughter very real. Finally, she ran her hands through her hair, realizing she was tired. She pushed up from the chair and headed out of the office, switching off the light on the way out.
The dogs were lying at the foot of the bed when Kate entered the bedroom, Danni already undressed and in bed, flipping through a magazine. She glanced up when Kate entered, setting the magazine onto the bedside table. She watched as Kate stripped out of her clothing and, naked, moved to the bed. She was amazed that even now, after the almost full year they'd lived together, she still thought Kate was the most beautiful woman in the world. Every day Kate amazed her a little bit more, and made her love her a little bit more.
"What?" Kate asked, turning to face the bed as she pulled down her side of the covers.
Danni smiled and shook her head, though the desire and adoration was more than clear in her eyes.
Kate chuckled, flicking off the overhead light as she climbed into bed, immediately pulled in to cuddle next to Danni. She sighed in contentment, placing a kiss on Danni's neck before she settled her head against her shoulder. "You know it's funny," she said softly.
"What's that?" Danni asked, trailing her fingers up and down Kate's back.
"There are still times that I can't believe we're finally together. I think I had pretty much convinced myself that it wasn't going to happen, you know?"
Danni chuckled. "Oh yeah; I know all about that."
"It reminds me of when I was sharing that house with all those girls back in San Diego. There were times - months and even years after I moved out of my parents' house - when I'd be sitting there, and it would suddenly hit me all over again: oh my gosh, I've got my own place!" She smiled at Danni's laughter at that. "I think it's the same thing with us: oh my god, I've actually not got Danni, but we're living together!"
"Do you have any regrets?" Danni asked, running her hands over every part of smooth flesh she could reach, just because she loved the feel under her hands.
"No," Kate answered honestly. "Even George, though I wish I hadn't stayed married to him for so long. But, I'm so grateful to have Megan, and I know my life wouldn't be the same without her. So, no: well, other than the not-married-to-George-so-long part."
Danni kissed her lips. "It all worked out, and it'll all work out with Megan and Rob. Either he'll come around and stand up to be a man in his own life, or he'll walk out and leave. I'm not saying that's a wonderful option, but at least it'll leave Megan free to have a life, and not be forced to live with the incredibly unstable person Rob is right now."
"Do you think it would help if we talked to Rob?"
Danni shrugged a shoulder. "I don't know. He may just feel like a caged animal if we do. I think Megan needs to lead this dance, baby. She's a smart girl and a strong girl; she'll decide what to do when the time is right for her."
Dr. Ronnetta Wilson looked at the bared stump of Rob's leg, dark brows drawn. She looked up from where she sat on a low stool to examine the limb. "Have you been using the prosthetic that was fitted for you?" she asked, using gentle fingers to touch the un-calloused flesh.
Rob, who sat on the end of the examination table in a hospital gown sighed with irritation. "It's uncomfortable."
"Of course it is, Rob. It will be until you get used to it. It's no different than a builder who uses tools all day; the skin of the hand isn't meant for hard labor right out of the box, so eventually calluses form." She patted his leg. "It's no different than this situation here."
Megan sat in a chair in the corner but said nothing. She watched, absently bouncing 7 month old Christian in her arms, who wanted to get down and try and crawl around the new territory. She was often amused at how fearless her daughter was.
"Let's get this on you," Dr. Wilson said, pushing to her feet. She grabbed the prosthetic leg from the table where Rob had set it upon entering the office. "For the benefit of the doubt, let's make sure the fit is still perfect." Once again she resumed her seat on the stool. "Sometimes," she explained as she strapped the leg on, "as flesh and bone heals from such deep trauma as an amputation, things can resettle as new flesh grows." What she didn't tell Rob was that she knew damn well the discomfort was solely from lack of use.
Rob watched as the doctor attached the fake leg. A pirate. He felt like a goddamn pirate with his peg leg. All he needed was an eye patch and a really good scowl, which wasn't so hard for him to come up with these days.
"Alright," Dr. Wilson said. "Go ahead and stand.
Megan had only seen Rob use the prosthetic leg a few times since he'd gotten it three months before. It was amazing to see him up on two legs again, even if one was as big around as a broom stick. She turned Christian in her arms so the baby was looking out at the examination room.
"Look at daddy," she said, pointing. "Look how tall he is!"
Christian blew raspberries and cooed, small arms waving uselessly in the air.
Rob heard Megan and Christian behind him but didn't turn to look at them. Personally, he wished Megan had gone to work today rather than babysitting him at the doctor's office.
"The fit is fantastic, Rob," Dr. Wilson commented, rolling the stool around to see it from all different angles. She looked up at him. "The problem here is you. You have got to utilize this opportunity for normalcy. I don't want to hear about you being crutch or wheelchair dependant, do you understand? There is absolutely no reason for that." She stood and walked over to Megan. "He needs to be using this prosthesis for at least one to two hours a day, Megan. At least until he gets used to it, then it can be worn for several hours in a day before fatigue sets into the bone and muscle. Alright?" Long ago in her practice Ronnetta had learned that if she wanted something to be done, she went to the wife.
"Yes, Doctor. Thank you."
"You're welcome." She smiled down at Christian and tweaked her nose. "What a beautiful baby."
"Thank you." Pride shone in Megan's eyes, as in her mind, Christian was the most beautiful child who ever walked the earth. Left alone with Rob, who shrugged the gown off his shoulders and was reaching for his clothing, she sighed. "Want some help?"
"Nope." Rob managed to get the right leg of his pants on, but was struggling with the left. "Dammit! Can you get this goddamn pant leg on, please?" he barked.
Megan pushed up from the chair and handed Christian to him. "No need for the language, Robert. Your daughter is right here."
"Yeah, and my daughter can't even say her own name. I'm not worried about her picking up on a bad word." He watched as Megan carefully tugged the pant leg over the prosthetic leg. "See why it's easier to not have that damn thing on?"
Megan looked up at him. "Rob, you put your pants on exactly once in a day. You walk around and are mobile all day. I hardly see the comparison." She patted his thigh. "All done." She walked over to the chair where she'd been sitting and grabbed all of their coats and Christian's diaper bag. "Get her bundled up, will you?"
Rob did as he was asked as Megan shrugged into her own heavy coat. She took the baby from him when he was finished, giving him a chance to get himself ready.
Rob said nothing as he slid off the exam table, tugged his jacket on then followed Megan out of the office. "Are you going back to the paper today?" he asked as they stepped out into the cold, November day. Luckily the shoe that had been attached at the end of the prosthetic had good tread, because the snows had already started.
"No," Megan said, tugging her coat tighter around her as a harsh wind washed over her. "Damn, it's cold. Mom, Danni and I are going to look for some Christmas decorations today." She glanced at Rob over her shoulder. "Do you want to go?"
"Not particularly," Rob muttered.
Megan stopped suddenly, Rob nearly running into her. "This is Christian's first Christmas, Rob. Tell me you're not going to be an ass and ruin this for her?"
"Watch your language, Megan," Rob warned sarcastically. When he got nothing from Megan in return but the hard, expectant look she'd already been giving him, he sighed, his breath crystallizing instantly. "Megan," he began, voice quiet. "She is 7 months old and will never remember this Christmas anyway; what does it matter if I'm there or not?"
"What does it matter?" Megan asked, deeply hurt. "Rob, Christmas used to be our favorite time of year. Don't you remember when we used to talk about it all the time, the things we wanted to do with our kids over Christmas? All the traditions we wanted to introduce them to and even start new?"
Rob couldn't look into Megan's pleading eyes, so he looked out into the parking lot. He knew he was hurting her, and though that wasn't the purpose, he couldn't help it. It just didn't matter to him. Nothing did.
"Megan," he sighed, "I'm not really into it this year, okay?" He made himself look at her. "I'm sorry and I don't mean to hurt you, but I'm just not. Being around all that shit is the absolute last thing I want to have to deal with. Seeing Kate and Danni and their lovey dovey bullshit makes me want to hit something sometimes."
Megan brought a hand up to swipe at a tear that was beginning to fall. "Yeah? Well, being around their 'lovey dovey bullshit' makes me want to cry because once upon a time we were like that, too. I still want that with you, Rob. I want my Rob back. I want the guy who cared about me, and who would have cared about his daughter. The guy who wouldn't allow hid infant daughter to lay around in soaked diapers all day."
"I said I was sorry about that," Rob muttered, feeling like the asshole that he knew he was. He could feel his own guilt and self-hatred begin to burn.
"Yeah you did, but you still don't give a damn about us." Megan turned and headed towards the car as her tears really began to come. Christian was getting cranky in her arms.
Rob followed, albeit at a slower pace due to the inexperience with the prosthetic. "I'm not perfect, Megan," he called to her.
"Neither am I, Robert," Megan called back, getting Christian buckled safely into her car seat. She closed the door and walked around to the driver's side, knowing Rob wouldn't be able to drive with the prosthetic. "And I don't expect you to be, either. What I do expect out of you is for you to be a human being with a heart."
Rob slammed the door once he was settled into the passenger seat. "This is ridiculous and is going nowhere," he muttered, staring out the window as Megan got them on the road.
"Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, because you know what?" She glanced over at him to see his stubbled profile. "You're the only one who is giving up on you and your life. Everyone else here: me, my mom, Danni and even Christian, love you and want you whole again. You are the only one who is stopping the healing process, Rob, and I'm not going to let you blame me for this anymore."
Rob looked over at her. "What do you mean?"
Megan pulled up to a red traffic light then met his gaze. "I mean take responsibility for your own life. You want to shut me out, fine. You can try and figure this out on your own, then. When you're ready to deal with things and to be a man about it, I'll be here." Rob continued to stare at her, shocked. "You have an excuse for everything, Rob. Today: you try and tell Dr. Wilson some lame crap that the prosthetic is uncomfortable, blaming and inanimate object for your own stubbornness! You won't go get a job because you say there's no one to watch Christian. Well, Danni has offered, my mom only teaches part time, so she's offered. Hell, Mrs. Sherman down the street has watched the baby for us before when I've taken you to the doctor, and even she has offered! Dammit, Rob!" she exclaimed, slamming her hand on the steering wheel, months of hurt and frustration coming to the surface.
Christian began to cry in the backseat, startled and frightened by Megan's sudden outburst of anger.
"Shit," Megan whispered, pulling the car off to the shoulder of the road. She reached around from the front seat and stroked Christian's foot. "It's okay, baby," she cooed. "It's okay."
Rob stared out the window. "Nice one."
Megan glared at him. "Fuck you, Rob."
He looked at her, shocked. Never, in all their time together had Megan spoken to him that way. "You think you're so perfect, Megan; the perfect mother, the perfect daughter, the perfect goddamn reporter. Oh, and let's not forget the perfect wife."
Megan could only stare, her stroking hand stilling. "I never said that," she whispered. "I have never once said I was perfect and I sure as hell am not perfect in this situation. I'm living with a man I don't recognize, don't know and don't really want to know. I don't know what to do with you, Rob. I don't know what you want from me or what you need from me because you won't talk to me. You won't let me in. Hell, we haven't even made love since before you left to ship out. You've been home for five months."
Rob said nothing, his jaw muscles clenching and unclenching.
Knowing that this wasn't over but Christian was finally calmed down, Megan got the car back on the road and headed home. Quietly they unloaded the car of both baby and all the baby's gear. Megan got Christian fed, changed and set her on the floor, as she had begun to crawl in earnest over the past couple weeks.
Rob flopped down in the recliner that he'd practically lived in for five months, immediately un-strapping that damn fake leg.
"Danni has offered to help you find something where you can use your degree, especially since it's in business," Megan muttered from where she'd thrown the freshly-washed and dried clothing on the couch before they'd left for the doctor. She began to fold the clothing and place it neat piles.
"Of course she did," Rob sighed. "Danni is, after all the all-knowing Oz."
Megan looked at him. "What?"
"Come on, Megan. According to you, Danni is the end all be all to life as we know it. After all, she gave you a job when times were hard. Hell, she gave us this house," he said, arms opened wide to indicate the living room where he sat. "By golly, she has even played wifey to Kate, mommy to you and grandma to Christian." He turned hard eyes on her. "She's perfect, Megan. She can do any and everything, including leap tall buildings in a single bound. I bet if she put her mind to it, she could probably grow a cock and play husband to you, too!"
Megan was stunned, literally taking a step backwards as she felt she'd been punched in the stomach. "I can't believe you'd talk about her that way," she breathed. "I can't believe you, period."
She threw down the shirt she'd been folding and walked to Christian's bedroom. She quickly shoved clothing in the diaper bag, as well as extra diapers. Storming back into the living room, she dropped the bag by the door then went in search of the baby, finding her over by the archway that separated the kitchen from the living room.
"Come on, baby," she cooed, trying valiantly to keep her anger in check so as not to upset the baby. Christian whined as she was picked up, but Megan ignored it as she got her ready to go.
"Where the fuck are you going?" Rob yelled from his chair, now regretting that he'd removed the prosthetic, because his crutches were on the other side of the room and it would take some time and effort to get over to them.
"Away from you," Megan muttered, buttoning Christian's coat and tugging her own on. Grabbing the diaper bag and standing at the door, Megan turned back to where he still sat in his chair. "I need time away from you to decide what's next for me and for Christian."
With those cryptic words, Megan was gone, leaving Rob to curse at the empty house.
Danni set the lid down on the crock pot, smiling at the fragrant aromas that escaped with the steam. She'd put on a pot of chili that morning, intended for dinner. She lowered the temperature slightly then stood in the center of the kitchen, hands on hips as she tried to think about what else needed to be done.
"Okay, let's see," she said, "I've done laundry, made chili," she ticked off on her fingers, "finished the Olson project and headed to the store." Nodding in satisfaction of a production day, she headed through the living room, intending to stop in the bathroom for a shower when the doorbell rang.
A glance at the Grandfather clock told her it was too early for Megan and the baby, but was surprised all the same to see that was exactly who it was. "Hey, sweetie!" she greeted, giving Megan a tight squeeze then taking the baby from her arms. "I hope you don't mind just hanging out for a bit." Danni led them into the living room. "I stink and need a shower."
"That's fine," Megan said quietly, walking past Danni to set Christian's bag on the couch. Danni?" she said, back still to the older woman. "Is it okay if the baby and I stay here for a few days?"
Danni felt her stomach drop. She gave Christian a kiss on the forehead then set her down on the floor to crawl around to her heart's desire. All her favorite toys were already waiting for her.
"Of course you can," Danni said softly, walking over to where Megan stood. "What happened?"
Before Megan could stop herself, she turned and buried her face in Danni's neck, the tears hot and fast.
Danni was stunned, but recovered quickly, wrapping Megan in a tight, comforting and protective hug. She cupped Megan's head in her hand and placed a soft kiss on top of her head, saying nothing as she sensed Megan really needed to get this initial burst of upset out. After a few moments, she began to calm down. "Are you okay?" Danni asked softly, rubbing soothing circles on her back.
Megan nodded, but didn't pull out of the hug. She felt so warm and comforted. "You give the best hugs, Danni."
Danni smiled, squeezing her a bit tighter. "Well, when you grow up with brothers, you learn the art of the bear hug."
Megan chuckled as she finally pulled away, her face red and, eyes and nose wet. "God, I'm a mess," she sniffled, voice thick from her upset. She snagged a tissue from the box on the table and cleaned herself up.
"Come sit down with me and tell me what happened," Danni directed, patting the cushion next to where she sat down on the couch. Megan plopped down next to her, glancing over to see what her daughter was doing before she rested her head against Danni's shoulder, an arm enfolding her own.
"How is it that after you came back
from the war, you managed to become something great, Danni? Why
didn't you wallow in self-pity and b.s.?"
"Who said I didn't it?" Danni asked softly. "The truth is, I remained in the Navy for another five years after the war ended. Why? I was hiding. I'd already lost your mom, so figured I'd stay awhile." Danni smiled at her own 22 year old's reasoning. "When I got back, I wallowed alright. I was a gutter drunk, Megan. I didn't care about anything or anyone except myself and self-destructing."
"Was that before or after you saw my mom when I was a baby?" Megan asked softly, calmed by the soothing tone of Danni's voice.
"After," Danni admitted. She wanted to add that that was what sent her into an emotional downward spiral, but didn't feel it was pertinent to where this conversation was going. "Rob is in the middle of that blackness right now, sweetie."
"But you fought it!" Megan protested, looking up at Danni.
"I did. But it took time and determination. And," she added, holding up a finger for emphasis. "I'm going to let you in on a little secret that folks - especially the menfolk - don't like to admit or talk about. Women are inherently stronger creatures emotionally. We have to be. In my opinion, a woman can handle ten times what a man can when it comes to the heart or ego. I think it's hardwired in us to bounce back and move on. For men, it's not so easy."
"And, you think that's what's happening to Rob now?"
Danni nodded. "I do. I saw it a lot with the guys that were in my unit during the war and after."
Megan let out a long breath. "I don't know if I can keep doing this, Danni. I just don't know. We got into a horrible fight today, and he said some truly horrible things. I don't want Christian to grow up in that kind of environment. My mom and dad may not have fought like Rob and I are, but it was still extremely unpleasant. I promised myself I'd never ever do that to my own child." She sighed, dropping her hand on her lap in exasperation. "Look what I've done."
"Stop." Danni hugged Megan to her side. "You're trying to do what's best for all three of you and should be commended for it, not condemned: especially by you." She gave Megan an encouraging smile.
"So, you're saying I should leave his stupid ass?"
Danni chuckled with a shrug. "That's up to you, Megan. Nobody can make the decision but you. Personally, I think you should beat the crap out of him with one of his crutches, but that's just me."
Megan laughed at that, and it felt good. "You're terrible!"
"You know, your mom tells me that all the time." Danni sighed dramatically. "I'm telling you: between the two of you, my ego is taking a bruising."
Megan grinned. "Yeah, but you're a woman and can take it, remember?"
Later that afternoon, Kate arrived home, surprised to see Megan's car in the driveway. She walked into the house, only to be intercepted by Danni.
"Come with me," Danni said quietly, taking Kate by the hand and leading her to their bedroom, where she closed the door.
"What's going on?" Kate asked, able to see the concern in Danni's eyes.
"Megan has been here for a few hours, now. She's pretty upset still, though has calmed down considerably. Her plan is for her and the baby to stay here for a few days while she sorts some things out."
"Rob," Danni said simply, knowing that said it all.
"I'll kill him," Kate growled, irritated when she saw Danni's smile. "This isn't funny, Danni."
"No baby, it's not. But, calm down, Mamma Bear. Megan is upset enough and doesn't need your anger on top of her own." She studied Kate's eyes for a long moment, waiting until she saw the understanding in them that she needed. "Okay?" she clarified once she did.
Kate sighed and nodded. "Okay." She accepted Danni's hug and kiss. "Where is she?"
"Feeding Christian in the kitchen."
Kate left the bedroom and went to join her daughter and granddaughter. "Hi, sweetheart," she said, kissing Megan on her forehead and caressing Christian's soft blonde hair. "Bad day, huh?"
Megan sighed with a nod. "You can say that."
"I'm sorry. You guys are welcome to stay as long as you need to, Megan. If you need anything from us, just ask."
"Well," Megan grinned, a little sheepish. "I was so angry when I left that I didn't even grab any clothes for me. Do you think Danni would mind going back to the house and picking some up for me? I don't want to see him right now."
"I'm sure she won't mind, sweetie. I'll ask her."
Danni drove slowly through the storm-covered streets of Munson, a fresh batch of snow due later that night. She saw that Rob's truck was parked outside the Jamison's house, and was filled with a mixture of relief and dread. Megan had given her a key, unsure if he would be there to let her in or not.
Parking at the curb behind Rob's snow-blanketed truck, she let out a deep breath then pushed out of her Jeep, bracing against the cold winds that met her. She made her way up the walkway and to the front door, raising a gloved hand to knock firmly. Nothing. She knocked again and then a third time. She was beginning to become concerned when finally the door swung open, a beer-scented Rob standing on the other side.
"What?" he slurred.
Danni stood straight, wanting to use her height to let Rob know he was no threat. "I've come to get some things that Megan forgot," she said evenly. She wanted this to go as smoothly as possible.
Without a word, Rob hobbled away from the door on his crutches, leaving the door open for Danni to enter or not. He sank back into his chair and grabbed the bottle of beer he'd been drinking when she knocked.
Danni entered the living room, shocked to see the collection of empty beer bottles that littered the coffee table and floor. "Having yourself a little party?" she asked.
Rob smirked. "You could say that." He eyed her, unsure if Megan had told her what he'd said earlier. Probably; after all, it was like Megan to run home to her two mommies.
"Would that be a pity party?" Danni asked, standing at the center of the room with her arms crossed over her chest as she looked over at him.
"Fuck you, Danni. What the fuck do you know about fucking anything?" Rob threw back the last of the beer then tossed the bottle to the floor, a half-drank six pack next to him.
Danni felt the anger that she'd had all day, but had kept down for Megan's sake, boil to a dangerous level. "What the fuck do I know?" she asked. "What the fuck do I know about what?"
"About anything!" Rob barked. "About this!" he indicated his leg, the useless lower part of the pants leg tied off at the end the stump. "You have this perfect life, the perfect fucking life. What the fuck does some SeeBee know about real fighting? On a real ship, no less." He snorted, opening another beer. "You built fucking roads on Paradise-fucking-island."
Danni's jaw muscles clenched and unclenched as she fought a losing battle inside herself. "I know plenty," she growled, her voice low and dangerous. She met narrowed eyes. Without another thought, she tore her winter coat from her shoulders, letting it fall to the carpet at her feet. Turning her back to Rob, she tugged her sweater over her head, leaving her standing in only her bra.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Rob asked, shocked by the move. Suddenly, he was presented with Danni's back and the gnarled, white and red flesh that covered it. He was struck silent for a long moment, unsure what to say.
Danni said nothing as she tugged her sweater back on and grabbed her coat. Turning back to Rob, she swallowed, pushing the shame of her own scarred body down. "I know plenty," she said again. "I got that when a bomb went off one hundred feet away from me as I covered the body of my best friend who had been riddled with bullets so badly that his guts were sliding out of the holes."
Rob stared, suddenly feeling very sober. "Oh," he said stupidly.
"So, don't sit there and think you're the only person who's ever been affected and changed for life by war, Rob. You're a selfish son-of-a-bitch who is drowning in your own pity. You've got what most people would kill to have when they go through something like that: a wife who loves and adores you and who would die for you. You've got a mother-in-law who sees you as her own son, and a daughter who would love to know her own father, rather than cry whenever she's in his arms."
Rob glared, the only thing he could do in rebuttal to Danni's truths.
"Now, I came here to get some clothes for Megan. You've got the time it takes me to get those clothes and load them in my Jeep before I expect an answer from you."
"An answer for what?" Rob asked.
"An answer on whether you're going to be man enough to pick yourself out of the gutter and be a husband, father and productive member of this world. Or, whether you're going to be man enough to give Megan the freedom to find happiness again. Either decision you come to, I'll support, as long as you've got the balls to back it up."
Rob was left stunned, feeling cold and very alone as he sat in his chair.
Danni stormed into the couple's bedroom, closing her eyes and leaning back against a wall as she tried to get her heart to stop racing and her anger to calm. When she'd walked in and saw Rob sitting in that chair, covered in beer bottles, she saw herself twenty years before. She couldn't help but wonder if it would have been different had Kate been in her life and could have given her strength, just as Megan had tried to do for Rob. Was it better in the end that Kate hadn't been there? Hadn't had to see Danni at her lowest? Would she have lost Kate as Rob was in danger of doing with Megan now?
Blowing out a heavy breath, she quickly went to the drawers Megan had instructed her to go to, pulling out enough outfits for three days. Clothing slung over her arm, she headed back outside, not even giving Rob a second glance as she did. She loaded the clothing into the back of her Jeep then went back into the bedroom for the pair of boots Megan had asked her to grab. This time, however, before she hit the front door, she heard Rob say her name.
Stopping, her hand on the knob of the front door, Danni turned to Rob, who hadn't moved a muscle. "Yes, Rob?"
Rob stared straight ahead at the wall across from him. "Will you tell me what happened? Why your friend was shot?"
Danni was surprised by the quiet request. "Of course. But, why don't I tell you about that after you tell me what happened to you?"
Rob's head snapped over to look at her, his eyes wide with fear and panic. He swallowed hard, sweat suddenly breaking out across his forehead. He could see the determined look in Danni's eyes and knew there was no way out of it. "Alright."
USS James, 1969
"Come on, boys. Are you telling me you don't have nothin' more than that?" Walt asked, grinning at his fellow poker players.
"Shit, I fold," the sailor on his right said.
Walk turned to the man sitting across from him, a newbie named Russ Rosenburg. "Come on, Rosie. You gotta have somethin'."
Rob lay in his top bunk reading a magazine that Megan had sent to him in her latest care package. He glanced over at the poker game the guys were playing from their bunks. From his perspective he could easily see over Walt's shoulder and to his hand of cards. "Don't trust him, Rosie," he tossed out. "I'd toss in another bid."
"Fuck you, Jamison!" Walt bellowed, making the other guys laugh.
"I up you," Rosenburg grinned.
"Asshole," Walt muttered, tossing a glare over his shoulder at a grinning Rob.
"Hey, that's what happens we get sick of losing to you all the time," he prodded.
"Yeah, yeah," Walk muttered, taking the cigarette out from where it was tucked behind his ear and tucking it between his lips without lighting it. "What'cha got, kid?"
Suddenly, the ship was rocked, some of the cards from game sliding off the bunk and to the floor. The men looked around the room then at each other. Another jolt followed by the shrill scream of distant alarms.
"What the hell?" one of the sailors said, rising to his feet. Like most the other guys, he was dressed in only an undershirt and boxers.
The loud speaker out in the hall squawked to life. "All hands on deck! All hands on deck!"
Rob felt his heart lurch, but tossed the magazine aside and jumped down from his bunk that he was nearly tossed off of during the last jolt. He joined his fellow sailors in the mass chaos as all men rushed for the stairs to the upper decks. The higher they went, the louder the shrill alarms became and the more yelling and screaming they heard.
As Rob made it to the top deck, he gasped when he saw half a man's torso lying in a pool of blood and internal organs on the deck. He quickly tossed the image from his mind as he grabbed a weapon and ran to find the alarm.
Fighter jets swarmed overhead like bees, with pretty much the same sting and sound. He raised his weapon and fired at the low-flying planes, screaming with the power of the weapon as he did. He was gratified to see some of his hits spark on the metal of the planes, but none went down, unfortunately.
Magazine empty, he tossed the gun to the deck and grabbed a weapon from a man, his head nothing more than a pin cushion for bullets, then ran on.
"Jamison!" one of the superior officers bellowed above the engines and chaos when he saw Rob. "I need you to go man the gun aft!"
"Yes, sir!" Rob yelled in response then took off, trying to avoid both alive and dead sailors, as well as the splintering trail as the jet's bullets tore up the wood. Just in front of him, a man's head literally exploded like a melon as firepower ripped through it. "Fuck!" Rob cried as he slipped on the gore that followed, landing hard on his side. "Jesus," he gasped, picking himself up from the mess.
Back on the run again, Rob ignored the pain in his hip and leg from the fall, sliding in behind the gun and training his sights on the best place to start firing. He held the powerful gun in both hands, his entire body a quaking mass under the incredible power and his ears ringing as the huge shell casings clattered on the deck around the gun.
He yelled out in victory as he saw one of the fighter jets explode in mid-air from his attack on it, the heat of the fire actually caressing his face and lit up the night. "Die, fucker!" he yelled, quickly returning his attention back to the other planes, swiveling the massive gun to follow their progress and fire upon them.
He helped another sailor bring down a second airplane, the two men meeting gazes for the briefest of moments before they each turned back to the enemy. Something inside Rob told him to turn back in the original direction he'd been shooting. When he did, his eyes grew huge. A fighter jet was coming right at him, obviously out of ammo, as the guns were silent.
"Oh shit," he muttered, realizing the man was going to use his own plane as a weapon. "Shit!"
Rob jumped out from behind the gun and ran with all his might, the engines of the approaching plane deafening. Time slowed down as his legs and arms pumped hard, his lungs burning with terror and exertion. The plane plowed into the deck, right where Rob had been sitting seconds before. A giant fireball lit up the night, it's heat and flames licking the deck behind Rob's feet and finally under them, encasing Rob's body in its deadly embrace seconds before Rob threw himself to the right, into a stairwell. The wall of fire whooshed by the opening of the compartment, but not before igniting Rob's entire left side, sending him tumbling down the metal flight of stairs and into blackness.
Munson ME, 1969
"I've never been so terrified in my life," Rob whispered, pale and trembling as he relived it. "God, so terrified..."
Danni, who sat on the coffee table in front of the recliner held Rob's hands during the telling of his story. She felt her own tears bubbling at the surface, but when Rob's eyes began to shine as his own tears welled, her own fell. "It's okay, Rob," she whispered.
"No," Rob whispered, the words breaking as the tears fell in earnest. "No."
Danni moved to kneel in front of the chair, taking Rob in strong arms. Rob let it all go then, sobs shaking his entire body as he clung to Danni, finally allowing himself to feel the pain, terror and loss. Danni held on tightly, her own sobs joining his.
"They never had a chance!" Rob cried. "Jesus!"
"I know," Danni murmured through her tears. "I know."
After a long moment, Rob began to calm down, his tears drying and eyes feeling heavy and filled with sand. He pulled away from Danni, sniffling and wiping his face on the sleeve of his sweatshirt. "I'm sorry," he murmured, feeling foolish.
"You have nothing to be sorry for," Danni said, handing him a napkin she'd grabbed from the dining room table, using the second to wipe her own face and blow her nose. "You need to get this stuff out, Rob."
Rob nodded, blowing his nose. He finally met Danni's gaze. "I know. It's just..."
"I know. It's a nightmare you don't want to relive, but you have to. Especially with Megan."
Rob let out a heavy breath as he sat back in his chair. "She probably really hates my guts, huh?"
Danni shook her head. "Nope. She thinks you're a bit of an ass right now, but nothing that can't be fixed. If you want it to be, that is."
"We had a bath, yes we did!" Megan exclaimed to a freshly-bathed Christian, who giggled in her arms. "We did, we did, we did!" Megan bounced with every declaration.
Kate chuckled as she let the dogs in from a long romp outside. It also gave her the excuse to scan the horizon; no sign of Danni. She wondered exactly how long it took to pick up a few items of clothing. Unless, she grinned to herself, Danni had taken her advice and had beaten Rob with one of his crutches.
Her musings were short-lived when she saw headlights bouncing over the snowy terrain in the distance. She smiled, recognizing the sound of Danni's Jeep. "She's back," she called to Megan, closing the door and heading over to the living room where a warm fire had been built.
"Good. I was beginning to worry," Megan admitted, setting Christian on the floor on her butt in a sea of her favorite toys. "The roads out there are nasty ugly."
Within moments, footsteps could be heard on the front porch, as well as boots kicking the top step to loose all the snow from the soles. The door opened and Danni stepped through, followed by Rob, who walked on two legs, uncertainty in his eyes.
Megan stood from where she'd been squatting in front of Christian, her face taking on a cold mask of anger as she looked at him. "What's he doing here?" she asked Danni coldly.
Danni said nothing, instead grabbing Kate by the hand and leading her to the kitchen, wanting Rob the privacy he deserved. Kate didn't fight Danni, but she did shoot Rob a disapproving glare before leaving the living room.
Feeling like he was on enemy territory again, Rob blew out a breath. He took his time removing his jacket, wanting to give himself a chance to think of the perfect thing to say to Megan, who still stood staring at him, fire in her eyes. Finally, he knew there was no more time to stall, so he walked over to her, a slight limp in his gait.
"Hey," he said quietly, his voice contrite. Megan said nothing, so Rob knew this was all his to fix. Any and all impassioned speeches he could have prepared would have not been as effective as the simple words he finally managed. "Megan, I'm sorry. I love you and Christian more than I can ever tell you, and I want to fix this." He cleared his throat as emotion tripped him up on the last few words. He tried again. "I want to fix this."
Megan looked into his eyes and she saw it: she saw the man that she'd met so long ago when they were both still in school. She saw the vulnerability within those eyes, and she saw the fear. "Rob," she said softly, a hand reaching up to touch his cheek when she saw those very eyes fill with unshed tears. "Rob." She pulled him into a hug, Rob returning it immediately, nearly crushing her to him.
"I'm sorry," Rob blew into her hair. "I'm so sorry."
Megan squeezed her eyes shut, holding onto Rob so tightly her arms ached. "I love you."
Those three words made him hold her even tighter. "I love you, I love you, I love you." He pulled back just enough to give her a hard, lingering kiss before pulling her back into his arms again. "Please be patient with me," he whispered. "I'm going to try as hard as I can. But please, be patient with me."
Megan nodded. "I'm not leaving you, Rob. Just don't leave me again."
He shook his head. "No. Never again."
Finally, they pulled apart, sharing a knowing smile between them then a soft kiss. Megan noticed her mother and Danni peeking around the corner. "Get in here you two," she laughed, bringing a hand up to wipe at the tears that were in her eyes.
Kate hurried over to Rob, taking her in her arms and squeezing him tightly. "Welcome home, Robby," she said into the hug.
Rob accepted the hug and returned it, nodding. "Thank you." He left a kiss on her cheek then hugged her again.
Danni watched, feeling like she'd never felt before. There was so much love that filled the room and the house, and her life. She'd never known it was possible. Even as Megan rushed over to her, thanking her over and over again, Danni couldn't believe that this was her life, this was what all that pain had led up to. Life was a strange thing.
Munson ME, 1970
The sun shone brightly down on the June day, the skies clear and blue, not a cloud in sight. The property around Danni and Kate's home had been turned into a wedding dream: bouquets of flowers were strung all along the lattice archways that had brought in, satin ribbons blowing slightly in the soft breeze. Rows of chairs were set up on either side of the ivory carpet that had been rolled out to lead up to the altar, where Danni stood waiting, dressed in an ivory-colored woman's cut suit.
As she stood next to the man simply called The Minister, her heart was pounding in her chest, palms sweating as she waited. She felt someone nudge her shoulder and glanced at The Minister, who was a hippie friend of Megan and Rob's from California. His long hair flowed down his back and the round-lensed sunglasses he wore were perched on his nose. He was dressed in a tie-died priest coat replete with Roman collar.
"Pretty groovy, man," he murmured, bumping Danni's shoulder again.
Danni grinned with a nod. "Pretty groovy."
Another of Megan and Rob's friends sat on a stool off to the side, a guitar in his hands. He looked out over the seated crowd, including Carol and Frank and Helen and Jonathon, waiting for his cue.
Kate stood just inside the house, her own heart beating wildly in her chest. She was dressed in a simple but beautiful ivory dress that reached to mid-calf and showed off beautiful shoulders and arms.
"Are you ready, Mom?"Megan asked softly, her hand resting on her six-month pregnant belly. She, too was dressed in a simple but beautiful dress.
Kate nodded. "I think so, yes."
"Good, 'cause here we go," Rob grinned. He held out his arm to Kate's right hand while Megan held hers out to Kate's left. "Here comes the bride."
The door to the house was opened, which was the cue for the musician, who immediately began to play the familiar tune. Megan leaned down a bit and whispered into her 14 month old daughter's ear.
"Remember what I said, Christian. Walk slowly to Grandma Danni." With a kiss to her head, she patted the toddler's behind and sent her waddling down the aisle on baby-bowed legs, ribbons in her blonde hair.
When the gathered crowd saw her, they cooed at her adorable dress and adorable nature. The little girl was to lead the wedding party into the ceremony, though halfway down the ivory carpet, she decided it would be better to plop down on her diapered butt.
Danni watched, amused, as was the chuckling crowd. "Christian!" she called softly. "Come here, baby. Come to Grandma Danni. Come here..."
Christian wasn't going to budge, so Danni quickly hurried out to get her. She was just about to reach the baby when she spotted Kate, escorted down the aisle by Megan and Rob. She stopped, breath catching in her chest. Absently, she reached down and grabbed Christian under the arms and pulling her to her hip, her gaze never leaving the beauty that was making her way to her.
Kate returned Danni's gaze, her heart racing for a whole new reason, now. They had decided that neither would show the other what they were wearing for the wedding, but only what color to get.
"She's so beautiful," she whispered.
Danni hurried back to her place by The Minister, Christian still in her arms. Her face fell into a soft smile of adoration as finally, Kate reached her. Rob took the baby from Danni's arms so Danni could take Kate's hands in her own, Rob standing up for Danni, Megan for her mother.
"What it is, cats," The Minister grinned at the wedding party. "Welcome to this most groovy of events for these two foxy ladies I got before me who want to make the ultimate in hitchin' proclamation!" He grinned as the crowd cheered. "Alright now. The Universe gives me the power and pleasure of uniting Danni and Kate, so that they may live on in this fab crib they got here, and be happy and in love. It's all about love, cats."
Danni and Kate, who were facing each other smiled at his words, Danni's thumbs caressing the backs of Kate's hands. I love you, she mouthed, which made Kate's smile grow.
"So, with all that said, let's get down to business.' The Minister turned to Rob. "Kate's ring." Once Rob had handed it to him, he handed it to Danni. "Repeat after me."
Danni nodded then slid the ring halfway onto Kate's ring finger.
"I, Danni take foxy Kate to be my wife, lawfully said so by the Universe and love."
Danni smiled at the vows. "I, Danni take foxy Kate to be my wife, lawfully said so by the Universe and love." She slid the ring on the rest of the way.
"Lemme have Danni's ring." The Minister accepted the gold band with inlaid diamonds from Megan, and handed it to Kate. "Repeat after me. I, Kate take foxy Danni to be my wife, lawfully said so by the Universe and love."
Kate slid the ring halfway onto Danni's ring finger. "I, Kate take foxy Danni to be my wife, lawfully said so by the Universe and lots and lots of love." She grinned up at Danni, the collective crowd chuckling. She slid the ring on the rest of the way.
"By the power divined in me, I now pronounced you two as Mrs. and ... well, I guess Mrs. Felts! Kiss your bride, you two!'
The crowd cheered as Danni took Kate and dipped her before leaving a lingering kiss on her lips. She righted a laughing Kate, who took her into a tight hug.
"Let's party, baby!" The Minister proclaimed.
"You think you can handle me?" Danni asked quietly as they turned to face their cheering guests.
"Ohhhh, yeah," Kate assured, taking Danni's hand in hers.
They began to walk back down the aisle, the crowd throwing wood shavings at them from Danni's workshop, making the two laugh. "Let the games begin, woman!" Danni grinned.
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