+Meine Familie -Chapter 1
teardrop193

Title

Meine Familie

Rating

PG (For now anyways

Pairing

Agron/Nasir

Characters

A few familiar faces….and at least one not so familiar face

Warnings        

                 It’s a dirty write….I haven’t edited a thing yet.
                            ANNOUNCEMENT: If you find anything that is inconsistent              or doesn’t make sense PLEASE let me know about it!


Fingers fumbled to tie up the ebony mane before turning to eye the man whom he’d given his heart to. “What? You’ve been staring at me going on ten minutes now.”

Nasir had been eyeing him in the mirror, though he wasn’t sure the German had noticed. Something plagued his mind that much was easy to see.

“O-Oh…” Agron’s stammer only served to tell him what he already knew.

Turning to look at Agron, Nasir bit his lip. The last time he had seen Agron this way was when Duro had announced he was moving in with a young woman. While he was only a few blocks away, Agron had still taken it hard. “Is it one of the kids? Is something wrong? Are you not happy anymore?” Nasir’s mind swam with the possiblities.

“No. I’m fine, and you know I’m happy with you. As for the kids, Aerlia’s asleep in her crib yet, Eva is around somewhere and Duro kidnapped Derrick for the day.” Agron’s emerald eyes grew softer as he spoke. “I was just admiring your perfection is all.”

A blush swept across Nasir’s cheeks before he paused a moment before he realized what Agron had said. “Around somewhere?” Finger tips reached up to rub his eyes. Had Agron managed to lose one of the young ones? “And Duro is kidnapping now? Why doesn’t he just have kids of his own?” Nasir didn’t intend to sound sharp but sometimes he felt like Duro saw more of his kids than he did, it seemed as though he always had one of them.

A smile played with the Germans lips as he eyed his partner, the man he had given his heart to. “She’s in her room. When I last laid eyes on her she was trying to figure out the homework you gave her.” A chuckle was emitted from between his lips at Nasir’s irritation with his younger brother. “Actually I think that’s why he’s kidnapping them so often. Katrina is expecting.”

Nasir’s eyes widened, his eyebrows meeting his forehead. “Really?” He had figured it would be awhile yet before the younger of the two brothers considered children.

“Yea, he mentioned it when he came to get Derrick.” Agron’s heart soared with pride for Duro. There was no better feeling than to watch children growand know that you had made a difference, if only for that child.

Eva had been their first. The poor girl had just lost her parents and was all of six years old when she came to stay with them. That was four years ago and the girl was finally coming out of her shell. She was however still Nasir’s girl but given proper circumstances she would open up to Agron.

Derrick on the other hand favored Agron which came as little supris. The seven year old boy was head strong and tempermental.

Then there was their sweet little Aerlia. So young and always full of giggles and smiles no matter what was going on.

“Dad?” Both men’s eyes turned to the door. There stoof the young bruenette girl. Sweet, quiet, Eva.

“Ja?” Agron’s voice was gentle as he eyed the girl. Normally he would have answered her in English but she had expressed an interest in learning German.

She paused a moment deciding what he had said before turning to Nasir. “I need help.”

Agron was not surprised by the girl’s reaction. When she needed someone to talk to or help, she turned to Nasir. On the other hand if she wanted strength and guidance it was Agron she went to. Neither had seen it as personal, it was just the way the girl was.

“With?” Nasir eyed the girl trying to decide what exactly she was looking for help with.

Agron pushed himself from the bed deciding to go peek in and see how Aerlia was. “We’ll finish this later.”

Nasir offered a nod watching the man disappear before he turn his attentions to the young girl again. “What do you need help with?”

“Well..” Eva paused as she eyed him. “I’m not sure how to explain.”

“Just speak and worry not of how it will be taken.” A smile graced Nasir’s thick lips before patting the bed beside him. It was not her school work she wished help with but something else.

Moving to sit beside him Eva’s eyes fell upon her hands folded in her lap. “It is of Vater.”

Agron? Now he didn’t know what to think. While there was tensions between them, he did not know of an issue. “What of him?” The girl had been teased severly prompting her homeschooling but he knew Agron wouldn’t hurt her, so what issue could she have?

“I-I don’t know how to relate to him. He’s always so cold with me.” The girl’s eyes turned up to look at him, tears brimming in her eyes. “I don’t think I did anything.”

“Oh Eva, you’ve done nothing. Agron is just…” He debated how to tell her what he was thinking. Agron loved her more than she knew, he just didn’t know how to relate to her. “He loves you dearly, more than you know, he just doesn’t know how to show you."


Patience (5/?)
teardrop193

***

“Izzy’s down for her nap.” Nicky offered a smile before he collapsed in the chair across from me. His exhaustion beginning to show again as he eyed me.
            “Good get some sleep then Nicky. She’s tired, you’re tired, get some sleep.”

“Nah, I’m fine Stephanie.” Even his voice said that he was exhausted. “Besides I kinda wanted to talk to you.”

“About?” I was a little shocked, Nicky and I never used the words I want to talk or I need to talk, we just did it.

“About what Isabella said.” The words hit like a ton of bricks as he spoke.

“W-What about it?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking, and maybe she’s right. Maybe it’s time we start a family.”

“Nicky,” I stopped to think about what had been said for a minute trying to decide how to respond. “I saw what Izzy went through not having her father around. It would kill me to have to put another child through that if something happened to us.”

The house stood silent before Nick’s voice broke it. “Alright.” Though his voice didn’t convince me of his position on it. “I think I’m going to lay down for a bit.”

“Okay.” I couldn’t help feeling like I’d let him down. Was this going to be what undid us? Would this be our end? In fact I found it a little funny because in the beginning Nick had been the one unsure of how he felt about kids and now here it was me unsure of how I felt about more.

The silence that followed him leaving the room killed me; this had to be the end, that I was sure of.

***

“Stephanie?” The house was quiet as I pushed the door open, bolstering Izzy up on my hip. She’d said she was going to run some errands but it wasn’t like her to be gone when it came time to find out what was wrong with Izzy.

Quinn came running ears perked, tail wagging telling me she was alone. Stephanie wasn’t here but where was she? The note on the kitchen table answered that though.

Nicky,

I’ve got some thinking to do and I hope you understand. Once I find the answers I’m looking for I’ll be back if I’m still welcome. Take care of Izzy as you adopted her, I know she’s in good hands. Please know this is hard for me to do. I love you, and I promise, I’m going to see someone we both trust to set me straight.

Love you,

Stephanie

She’d left me, in search of answers, to what question I didn’t know though.

“Izzy, you want to go watch cartoons while daddy takes care of some things?”

The little girl nodded and when I set her on the floor she took off for the living room. It always amazed me how soon they learned how to use the remote.

The sound of Dora told me she’d figured it out.

Pulling the phone from my pocket I dialed Greg.

“Sanders”

“Yea, listen Greggo its Nicky.”

“Enjoying the time off?”

“Oh you know, Isabella’s sick and Stephanie pulled a disappearing act.”

“She did what?” Greg was all business now. “You want me to see if I can track her phone?”

“If you don’t mind. I think I’ve got and idea of where she went but I’m not sure.”

“Well her phones of right now but I’ll keep trying and let you know if I find her.”

“Thanks Greggo.”

“When you go to get her, I’m going too…”

“I don’t think there will be a going to get her. Unless she wants to come home it wont help to bring her back.”

“Right, poor Izzy.”

“Let me know if you find her Greg.”

“Will do.” With that I flipped the phone shut letting my head fall into my hands. My thoughts were interrupted by the phone ringing.

“Greg?”

“No dear, it’s your mother.”

“Oh. I’m working on a trip to see you soon but,” My words were cut off by her next statement.

“I believe I have something here that’s very dear to you.”

“Yes mom you’re very dear to me.”

“Sucking up wont get you out of this mess Stephanie showed up in tears what happened?”

“I don’t know. When I left to take Isabella to the doctor everything was fine and I got home and she was gone.”

“I think maybe it’s time to come home Nicky.”

“I’m beginning to think so too.”

“Good, bring Isabella when you do. She’s gotten so big since I saw her last. Stephanie packed her a bag for you.” Oh how kind of her, I was beginning to feel like I’d been set up. “we’ll see you soon.”

Letting the phone fall to the table I let out a sigh. “As if you really left much choice.”

***

A light knock at the door told me my mother had gotten a new dog.

“Nicky!” My mother’s excitement wasn’t hard to see. “Oh my Isabella’s gotten so big.”

“Stephanie here?” It wasn’t that I didn’t love seeing my mother but I was worried about Stephanie.

“She was going to get a hotel room but we convinced her to stay. She’s still pretty shook up but I did tell her you were coming and she seemed ok.” Mom’s demeanor changed. “She’s been on the phone with another man Nicky.”

“What? Who?”

“I thought she called him Greg.”

“Oh. I work with Greg, they’re good friends.”

“Come in Nicky. Stephanie’s in the guest room, your rooms as you last left it, I’m sure you two can figure something out. She’s a wonderful girl you know.”

“I know, believe me I know. Izzy you want to go see Gramma for a little bit while I go see mommy?”

“No!” I’d never known a child as stubborn as Isabella and I could only imagine how Stephanie had been.

“Come on Isabella, we’ll go see the puppy.” Mom reached out to take her from me and hearing about the puppy she reached back.

Once I was sure she wasn’t going to play strange I started down the hallway. Letting out a sigh as I reached the guest room I knocked lightly. “Steph, it’s me.”

The terrified look face that met me at the door wasn’t one I was used to. “Nicky.” Stephanie whimpered. Her face reminded me of one that Isabella has made when she’d first met Greg. A look of absolute fear.

“Yea it’s me. Let me in baby, it’s ok. Whatever it is we can work it out.”

She pulled the door open, letting me in before she pushed it shut again behind me. I’d only seen her this broken once before but that was another story.

“I’m sorry Nicky

Star Struck (9/?)
teardrop193

“Alright, if you’re sure. It was just an offer but I can see that there’s something more to this than what you’ve let on. So I’ll just lay around here with the dogs and find something to do.” He was a little hesitant as he spoke and I knew I’d have to explain.

            “My grandfather and I don’t get a long so well. He and my grandmother were divorced when I was a little girl. I was about 4 when he moved out here, when I first moved out here I moved in with him. Needless to say within three months, I had moved out on my own. I won’t be gone long, no longer than to offer my condolences, see if there’s anything I can do and then I’ll be back.” I offered taking a sip from the mug that I’d almost forgotten was in my hand.

            “You make it sound so simple.” Nick offered placing his mug in the sink before carefully wrapping an arm around me. “You’re sure that you don’t want me to go with you?”

            “No, but I think I need to do this on my own and yet there’s a part of me that really kind of wants you to go with me just incase things should completely fall apart like they’re prone to.” I couldn’t help but sigh as I looked up at him.

            He reached down carefully brushing the hair from my eyes. “Abusive? “ I knew what he was trying to get at but yet it wasn’t true.

            “No, he just like things his way or else, and I tended to be on the yelling end of that, or else, most of the time. Sometimes it was for being a few minutes late coming in or sometimes it was my jobs and other things that got to him. We were better off living apart.” It was very true, we got along much better now that we were living on opposite ends of the city, but that still didn’t say much for our relationship.

            “We’ll then that settles it, you go on upstairs, get a shower, I’ll take the dogs for a walk and then we’ll head out.” Something told me that trying to convince him otherwise wasn’t going to be easy. “Maybe we’ll take a ride after; it’s a nice day out.”

            “Alright, I give.” I sighed finishing the last few sips of coffee and setting the mug in the sink. “But you have to promise me that you’re going to behave.”

            “I wish I could promise you that but if the reason should arise that I need to stand up for you, I will, no ifs, no ands, no buts involved.” Prince charming in an every day wrapper, exactly what I was looking for, hopefully my grandfather wouldn’t scare him off. That had been part of my rationale for not inviting him in the first place after all.

            A sigh escaped my lips as I closed my eyes shaking my head. “You’ve got to be stubborn don’t you? Why is it that all the men in my life have a stubborn gene in them?”

            “Easy Stephanie.” Nick had started to laugh. “Like I said, unless given a reason to get upset, I have no intentions of getting upset. However, I will not let any man degrade a woman that I love; it’s just the way that it works out.”

            “Alright I’m headed to shower I guess, and no you can’t come with me.” I wiggled out of his arms. It wasn’t that I was mad at him, but I was trying my hardest to get ready for dealing with my grandfather.

            “Where’s Gage’s leash?” He didn’t seem bothered as I pulled away. In fact he seemed less than phased.

            “By the front door on the table, he’s getting better about walking on it but he still pulls and tries to walk you.” Starting for the stairs I stopped for a minute turning to look at him. “When you’re done taking them for a walk you might as well put them out in the backyard.”

            “Well if you aren’t going to be very long at you’re grandpa’s then we could take them with us, stop at the park.” It was beginning to become more and more obvious that either he didn’t care about the paparazzi catching wind of us or he was hoping it would scare me away.

            “Yea, I’m sure I can get enough make-up on to cover these bruises. Let me get a shower and I’ll be ready to go.” Reaching the stairs I started up them.

            “You going to be alright while you’re in the shower if I leave now or you want me to wait and you can come with us?” The words took me a minute to process and then I realized what he was getting at. For a minute I considered defending myself but instead I gave in.

            Two days ago I was happy living alone, and now I wasn’t so sure I could manage twenty minutes alone. It wasn’t that I couldn’t do it, no I was fairly sure I still could but he was making me loose my will to. “You know now that you mention it, if you don’t mind I think I’d like to go.”

            “Don’t mind at all, in fact I was almost hoping you would since you’re used to walking the big vicious mutt.” Nick’s smirk made me laugh, was it possible he was feeling the same thing I was?

            “Alright, well give me about twenty minutes and I’ll be ready to go.” I practically floated up the stairs. If this was a dream I wasn’t ready to wake up from it.

            Twenty minutes late I was just finishing attempting to finish up blending the make up on my face. I hated wearing the stuff but I knew if I showed up looking like I had before, grampa was going to have a fit.  The chances of him believing that Nick hadn’t done it were very unlikely, and the chances that it would end well, even more unlikely. That was the last thing that I needed. This was going to go poorly enough as it was when he found out his twenty four year old grand daughter was seeing a forty four year old man.

            “You ready?” Hadn’t I locked the bathroom door?

            “Uh, yea just a second. I’ve gotta pull this matte of hair up and I’ll be good to do. Sorry I know I don t look real pretty but this is impressive compared to the normal me.” Why was it that anytime he was around, I turned into a babbling idiot?

            “I’m not planning on a photo shoot, but if you are would you let me know please? Besides you’re always gorgeous, even if right now those pretty features are hidden behind bruises.” Well that explained why whenever he was around I couldn’t stop babbling, because within a few sentences he could manage to have me mesmerized.

            “Nope, no photo shoots in my future cause I’m pretty sure you’re the only one who thinks I’m beautiful.” I watches his eyebrows meet his buzzed hair line in the mirror.

            “Obviously you haven’t paid attention to the way the guys at the bar watch you then. Cause I was pretty sure some of them were going to fall off their stools watching you walk. Besides don’t you think you’re beautiful?”

            “Pulling the hair up on top of my head so that it was in a ponytail before slipping the elastic in place as I watched him in the mirror. “Do I think I’m beautiful? No, most days I think I’m fat, pale skinned, small chested and I don’t like what I see in the mirror.”

            “You’re what a hundred and twenty five pounds?” For once when someone said it, I didn’t feel like he was criticizing me for my weight.

            “A hundred and twenty but you’re close enough.”  Turning around to face him, I pulled the sun glasses from the top of his head. “Come on, let’s enjoy the day.” I was a little surprised that as I went skipping off down the stairs, he didn’t attempt to complain that I still had his sunglasses. “Gage, come here boy.” Picking the leash up from the table where Nick had dropped it, I clipped it onto his collar. “You’re gunna be a good boy for me now aren’t you?” He just looked up at me wagging the stub where his tail used to be as if trying to say that he would be better than he had been the last time we’d gone for a walk.

            The last attempt I’d made at walking him during the day had ended up in a disaster. Midway thru our walk Gage had spotted a chipmunk and attempted to chase it, forgetting that he was still attached to my arm by the leash. He’d attempted to drag me a block before I finally got him back under control. I had ended up with a twisted ankle and a couple of scrapped knees, which had made for a fun walk home. Since then, I hadn’t attempted to take him out again; instead I let him content himself with chasing the chipmunks in the backyard.

            “Are you kidnapping my sunglasses for a reason or can I have them back? Granted the sun around here ain’t nothing compared to back home in Texas but it’s still rather bright.” Maverick was sitting at Nick’s feet patiently waiting as she did as if she knew that if she was good long enough she’d get to go for a walk. “And we can head out whenever I’ve gotta grab her leash outta the car but she’ll follow at my side that far.”            

            “No, you can have them back I suppose. Mine are around here some place but iits not really that bad out.” In all actuality I had stolen them merely to see what brand they were but he didn’t need to know that. I wasn’t in this for the money but he claimed to be a “simple man” and that was what I was going to hold him to. Which meant he was temporarily off the hook seeing as they were merely cheap knock offs and not Gucci.

            A yank at the leash in my hand told me that Gage was ready to go and he didn’t care about sunglasses.

            “Good, cause I think I’m down to just that pair.” It was hard to tell if Nick was joking or not. “You ready?” he asked before slipping the sunglasses from my hand. His hand brushing against mine, sending electric shocks through me, god was I falling for him and fast.

            “Uh, yea” Starting for the door I attempted to recover. I wasn’t ready to admit to him that I couldn’t live without him, or maybe it more I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself. After all it was like my father had tried telling me as a kid, I never really knew who a celebrity was; I only knew who they portrayed to the camera. In this case daddy was right, I didn’t know him.

            Pulling the door open, I realized that he was right. The sun was ungodly bright. Even for a late August day it was fairly nice out. If it wasn’t for the bruising that covered most of my body I’d consider heading for the pool today, but the park sounded like fun too.

            “So what’s the deal with you and your grandfather? You don’t sound so excited to be going to see him.” Nick pulled the door shut behind himself Maverick following at his side, tail happily wagging.

            I was about to speak when the phone in my pocket began to ring. Pulling it from within I pressed it to my ear after answering it. “Hello Maria.” Ah yes the joy of caller id.

            “You promised you’d call!” Maria rarely forgot about something, that was probably the best thing about her, but I’d been hoping that maybe she would this time.

            “Sorry Maria, honest I was going to call but I’ve been trying to shake this headache and I went to bed early last night.” I hated to lie to her, she was my best friend but at the same time I never shared everything with her. Then again who did?

            “So???? What’s the story? Were you really seen with Nicholas Shultz like the rest of the girls are saying that you were?” Of course she had to go back to this, I supposed I should tell her the truth but who knew who she was going to tell.

            Glancing in Nick’s direction knowing that he could hear her I watched his reaction. He merely nodded before heading for the car to retrieve Maverick’s leash. Maverick was lying at my rolling on the side walk trying to get my attention. Taking a deep breath I proceeded on with the story. “Yes Maria, it’s true. But listen, I’d like to keep this between you and I.”

            “Oh of course! I can see where you might want to keep that quiet, I wont tell a soul promise Stephanie.” There was something about how quickly she responded that worried me though, it just seemed to quick.

            “Alright, I appreciate it, listen though Maria, I’m on my way to Grampa’s so I’ll talk to you later ok?” I attempted to push the worry to the back of my mind, this was my best friend, how could I suspect that she might not mean what she had said? I was beginning to go nuts. First I thought my ex was in my home only to find that it was Nick and now this, god I needed a vacation. At least there was always this weekend, time away with Nick and Eric and the mutts, far from other people. At least I wouldn’t need to worry about the ex for a couple of days, that was always a plus.

            “Enjoy your time off Stephanie! And if you see him again, I want to hear all about it.” Marie was always the eager one, but at least she wasn’t telling me to steer clear of him because best friend or not that was advice that I didn’t think that I could take.

            “You’ll be the first to know I promise Maria.” Ok, so maybe I was lying but I would fill her in as I went, and as I decided it was necessary. After all this wasn’t just any other man, this was Nicholas Shultz, actor and star of a tv series, if anyone found out, the privacy I had come to love would be gone. For him though, I was willing to give that up. “I’ll talk to you later.”

            “Later hun.” And with that the phone line went dead. Shaking my head I returned the phone to my pocket scratching Maverick’s belly as I did.

            “So you told her huh?” I had been so lost in my mind that I hadn’t even realized that Nick had returned.

            “Yea, I didn’t feel like I really had a choice. She said that all the other girls at work were talking about it, which I’m not sure how they heard about it but I guess they have.” Turning my eyes up to look at him I shook my head. “How do you deal with it?”

            “Deal with?” He seemed confused with the sudden change in the topic of conversation.

            “The complete lack of privacy you have. Everyone talking about what’s going on in your life, who you’re seeing, speculating why you’re seeing them.” I wasn’t sure why I was sharing this with him but it seemed like the best person to ask was him.

           

            


Patience (4/?)
teardrop193

You can wake her up you know.” I was beginning to regret having carpeted floors, Stephanie moved so quietly that I never knew she was walking up on me.
            “Nah, if I do that she wont want to go back to sleep when I leave.” It wasn’t that I didn’t want to wake her, but I also knew the fight when I left would only make things harder on her.
            “Your mom called.” Stephanie turned heading off towards the kitchen causing me to follow after her to find out the rest of the story.

            “And? How’s she doing?”

            “She’s good, worried about you, mad we haven’t sent pictures lately.” Stephanie offered a shrug. “Wondering when we’re going to come and visit the usual.”

            “Let me guess, she’s worried that I work too much and get too little sleep.” Slipping past her I pulled open the fridge. “And she would love to see pictures of Isabella now that she’s gotten so much bigger. As for when are we going to visit, I’ll figure it out.”

            “And if it makes you feel any better she gave me the same lecture that she normally gives you about how you need to work less and sleep more.” She offered a smirk as she looked at me. “She’s a very sweet woman you know, just like her son.”

            “Buttering me up will not get you the $300 shoes that you want.” Of course I was only teasing as the shoes were already on their way, but she didn’t know that yet. Of course, I still wasn’t sure why anyone would want to spend $300 for shoes but after all the work she’d put into keeping the house the way that it should be on top of working and taking care of Isabella, she deserved it.

            “I already told you, I cant justify paying that much no matter how awesome they are, I’d much rather get something for Isabella.” She merely shrugged trying to make it seem like she didn’t really care.

            “I know Steph, I’m just giving you a hard time.” Pulling left overs from the fridge I pulled a bowl outta the cupboard. “And have I mentioned that I love that you cook lately?”

            “Still nursing that pot of soup huh? I told you I’d make you another pot if that’s what you wanted.” She crossed her arms across her chest as she looked at me.

            “Nobody has ever managed to make a pot of soup quite like my mother’s and yours is awfully close.” It was true she reminded me a lot of my mother but I wasn’t about to tell her that.            “You’re sure you’re going to be ok by yourself today? If not I’m sure Cath’d call Lindsey and ask her to come watch her for awhile.”

            “I’m going to be fine Nicky.” Her voice was gentle as she pulled up a bar stool at the counter across from me. “Grab me a bowl would you please? I’m not sure I’ve eaten since lunch today.”

            “So what’s this I hear about CPS being called by the way.” Taking a bowl from the cabinet I slid it across the table to her, since I’d heard I hadn’t gotten the chance to ask her about it.

            Stephanie let out a deep sigh before she looked at me. “Friggin morons.” She muttered as she looked at me. “Isabella was playing in the back yard while I was cleaning up the kitchen after lunch, the windows were open because it was beautiful outside and she asked for a cookie. I told her now and you know how Isabella is, she threw a fit. The neighbors didn’t bother to call me before they reported it as an abuse case saying I’d left her outside.” Her voice grew more heated as she spoke which made me think she was telling the truth, not that I ever thought she could hurt that little girl.

            “You should have called Stephanie, and if it’s the neighbor that I think it is, I’m really not surprised by that either. They’ve been a little on the nosey side ever since I moved in and they aren’t really the friendliest. Just don’t let it get to you because if you do, then they win.”

            “I know, it’s just aggravating. I don’t get where they come off saying something like that without even knowing the situation.” I couldn’t blame her for being upset about in all honesty. She spoiled Isabella and here they were telling her that she didn’t care about her? “Anyways CPS was out to investigate it and they’re supposed to stop back next week.” She rolled her eyes as she looked at me.

            “Shouldn’t be a problem.”

            “You cant make this go away.” She was going to be stubborn.

            “Steph, I didn’t say I would, but I know you and I know how you feel about her and I’m sure that they will be able to see that just by watching you guys together.”

            “I don’t know anymore.” Stephanie was upset and I honestly couldn’t blame her for that.

****

            “Hey Greggo.” Warrick was trying his hardest not to seem upset. We’d both decided to stop by and see Greg on our way back to work. I’d finally convinced Stephanie to get some sleep before Isabella woke up and wanted to play again.

“Hey.” Greg’s voice was still shakey as he spoke. “Don’t you know better than to wake Stephanie up just because something happened to me.”
            “She wasn’t asleep yet when I called, in fact she just went to bed a bit ago, she had a tough day.”

“Yea, she was telling me about it. Some neighbors you’ve got.” Despite the calm tone that Greg managed to keep it was easy to tell that he was not any happier about the situation then we were.

“Believe me I’ve got it taken care of. We all know that no one loves Isabella more than Stephanie.”

“So how you feeling?” I couldn’t help but laugh at Warrick’s change of subject trying to keep the subject from getting too serious.

“I’m alive which is more than I can say for Demetrius.” Greg’s voice was quieter than I was used to it being. He was normally such a vibrant and goofy person that his broken nature worried me.

            “Stop blaming yourself Greggo, I’d have done the same thing under the circumstances.” Warrick was right, I could easily admit under the circumstances I’d have done the same.

            “We do what we have to in order to come home at the end of the day.” I couldn’t help thinking about how I would have reacted. I’d have done anything to go home to Stephanie and Isabella.

            “Just shy of killing someone.” It was easy to see that Greg wasn’t going to back away from this.

***

            The sunlight coming in through the window told me that the sun had risen and the day was about to begin. Sometime during the night I’d ended up curled up on Nick’s side of the bed where I seemed to end up often when he was gone.

            “Easy beautiful.” Nick’s voice came as a surprise. It was very unusual for him to be up before me unless he was just getting home from work.

            “What are you doing home?”

            “Things went better then we figured. All of the shifts kick in to help out and we caught the morons responsible for doing this to Greg. So I figured I’d take Izzy to the park like I promised but the poor little thing came down with something.”

            “Get some sleep Nicky, I’ll take care of her.

            “Nah, it’s alright I took a couple days off. Figured you could use some help around the house, I know I haven’t been much help lately. Izzy’s in the living room curled up on the couch asleep with Dora for now but she was getting ready to come wake you up when I got home.”

            “You’re fine the house isn’t falling apart without you around, don’t worry about it. Get some sleep, I’ll be fine.” That was the one thing about Nick that bothered me the most, he tried my patience almost daily.

            “Nah, I was just headed for the shower you want to come?”

            I couldn’t help but laugh. “In more ways then one.”

***

            “Come on Izzy, you’ve got to drink something.” I was trying my hardest not to lose my temper with her. I knew she didn’t feel good but dehydration wasn’t going to help her out either.

            “No!” Instead of taking the cup from me, she cuddled closer to Nicky.

            “Will you do it for daddy?” Nick was trying his hardest to help out despite how horribly exhausted he was. He wouldn’t admit to it but that was beginning to show and I wasn’t sure how he was going to fare the rest of the day.

            “No.” The little girl’s whine wasn’t hard to understand even though she’d buried her face in Nicky’s shoulder.

            “How about a popsicle?” Well I had to give ti to Nicky, he’d come up with something I hadn’t thought of.

            “Popsicle?” For the first time since she’d woke up Izzy’s face lit up as she pulled away from him. She knew I kept some in the frezzer for special occasions and whenever it got incredibly warm out.

            “Yea, a popsicle.” Nicky adjusted her in order to get up. Even for as big as she was getting he was beginning to get pretty good at cuddling her in to carry her. “Would you like that?”

            Thought it was obvious she didn’t feel well her excitement was easy to see as she nodded. “Please daddy?”

            “Come on, let’s go get you one then.” Her carefully boosted her up on his hip before heading for the kitchen. A few minutes later he returned still balancing her on his hip only this time she proudly held her popsicle as if showing she’d won some kind of war.

            “Hmmm, seems grape must be her favorite. Personally the coconut are mine.”

            Nick just shook his head as he looked at me. “The things I miss while I’m at work.”

            “Soon you wont be missing out on anything since she’ll be in school.”

            “It’s hard to believe. Seems like just yesterday she was toddling around trying to pull stuff down.”

            “Now she just walks around and does it.”

            “Daddy?” Izzy gave up her intrest in the popsicle for a minute.

            “Yea baby girl?”

“Why don’t I have any brothers or sisters?”

            I couldn’t help but laugh as Nicky’s complexion went pale. With Isabella you learned to expect the unexpected questions and Nick obviously hadn’t learned yet.

            “W-Well.” He was trying his dambdest to come up with an answer.

            “Because sweety then you’d have to share our attention.” I’d let him squirm long enough that it was time to bale him out.

            “Oh” with that answer she was more than satisfied, after all she hated to share, as she returned to her popsicle. 


Star Struck (8/?)
teardrop193

            Heading up the wooden stairs, I couldn’t help considering that fact. There was a good chance I was beginning to find him irresistible, that much I had figured out. I was sure two days ago I was falling for him, but this was more than just a lust, this was I wanted to fall in love with him and was. That was a feeling that scared me, the last man I had fallen for was my ex and I knew where that had gotten me but Nick was nothing like him, or at least he didn’t seem to be. And yet there was a part of me that wanted to throw caution to the wind, end up happily ever after, like all the princess stories I used to read as a kid but this wasn’t a story and I wasn’t a kid anymore. I’d kissed enough frogs in the last year to know that Prince Charming wasn’t easy to find, but maybe this time I had found him. I’d never know if I didn’t risk it all, this might not be Las Vegas but I was still about to gamble it all and possibly lose everything that I had worked so hard over the last year to get.

            Yet there was a problem, what if he wasn’t falling for me like I was him? What if all I was to him was a sexual relationship and once he was done with me, he’d leave me for someone else. Just a memory of a celebrity who could have anyone he wanted and yet I still couldn’t help but put myself out there. This was going to be the chance I took, and no matter the outcome I couldn’t regret it, no I wouldn’t regret it.

            I wasn’t sure how I had managed to pick out an old pair of sweats and an over sized t-shirt that kind of matched leaving them on my bed but I had and was now standing in the master bathroom. Pushing shut the bathroom door, and flipping the lock I turned the shower on and began to undress. As I stepped into the shower, that sense of panic began to take over again. The rational side of my mind kept telling me that I was locked in my own home, hell even in a locked bathroom and nothing was going to happen but yet there was a side of me that knew that my ex had enough cronies with enough different skills that that wouldn’t matter if he really wanted to hurt me. I couldn’t help wishing that Nick was home, or at least here, considering this was by far not his home.

            The warm water that flowed over my body pounding down on my shoulders and up turned face felt wonderful though, except as it ran down the parts of my body that were bruised. I definitely felt better than I had the previous night and the night before that but while moving hurt less, it was still tender to the touch. Once I’d finished cleansing my body, I stepped from the shower, turning it off and wrapping up in a towel.

            It wasn’t until I was reaching for the door knob to leave the bathroom for my room though that I became aware of footsteps on the stairs. They weren’t the normal paws falling on the stairs that I was used to, no this was indeed footsteps. The sense of panic that I had been earlier feeling swept over me again especially as I realized that I hadn’t locked the back door again, how could I have been so stupid? Blaming myself wasn’t going to get me any closer to the answer to the questions at hand. Who was it, and what could they possibly want? It could be one of my ex’s moronic cronies, bound and determined to end me as he’d promised. I could feel hot tears against my cheeks, as I moved away from the bathroom door, until I knew who it was I didn’t want to be anywhere near them. Why hadn’t I taken Maria up on her offer to live together? Nothing like this would have happened if I had, there would be someone else home.

            A knock on the door caused me to let out a gasp, well so much for pretending that I wasn’t in here. “Stephanie? You alright?” The voice on the other side made me forget everything that I had been worried about, moving towards the door. With trembling hands I fumbled with the lock to open the door almost falling into Nick’s arms as I pulled it open. “Hey, shhhhhh what’s the matter?”  Carefully he wrapped an arm around my trembling body leading me to the bed in the bedroom before kneeling in front of me. “Talk to me Stephanie, tell me what’s the matter.”

            Sniffling as I looked at him, I attempted to pull myself together enough to talk. “I-I guess I let myself get worked up over nothing. I’m alright.” I tried forcing a smile onto my lips as I looked at him. “Honest it’s nothing really.” I couldn’t help but wrap the towel around myself tighter as I looked at him.

            “Stephanie, you’re shaking, what’s the matter? I tried calling on my way back and you didn’t answer so I figured you were asleep, so I let myself in and.” He cut himself off as he looked at me. “And I scared you half to death didn’t I.” He sighed closing his eyes for a minute. “Man, I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I figured you’d gone to bed and I didn’t want to wake you up.”

            “It’s alright honest.” I was trying to convince myself more than I was trying to convince him I was pretty sure.

            “Alright, if you’re sure.” He didn’t seem convinced as he stood up still looking at me. “Get dressed, I’m going to go let the mutts in and then there’s something I want to talk to you about.” He placed a kiss on the top of my head before disappearing.

            Pulling the bedraggled sweats on before pulling an oversized t-shirt over my head, I couldn’t help but figure that I looked like a disaster but it didn’t matter. He wanted to talk to me about something, maybe this was the end for the two of us. He’d thought it over on the way back and decided he was over me, or maybe it was something a little more up beat. I’d never know unless I went down to talk to him, so here went nothing.

            The walk down the stairs had never seemed this long, it was almost as if I was headed for my doom and finding that Nick wasn’t in the living room didn’t help matters any. “Nick?”

            “In here Steph.” Came his response from the direction of the guest room.

            Moving to the door way of the guest room I leaned against the door frame, of course he had to be shirtless. God, if he was going to leave couldn’t he just leave, not make me drool in the process. “You wanted to talk?”

            “Yea, Eric made an offer earlier today and I wasn’t going to take it, but I’m starting to think maybe it’s a good idea. He’s got a cabin just outside of Yosemite by a few miles. He’s headed up there Friday for the weekend and wanted to know if we’d like to come along. I figured after everything that’d happened to you, you wouldn’t want to go and was going to stay with you but after what just happened, I’m starting to think maybe it would be a good idea. Get you out of here for a little while, let you relax, go skiing, sledding or curl up by a nice warm fire even.” He paused seemingly waiting for my reaction.

            “Sounds like a great idea.” To myself I silently added why not, spend three days with a guy I’d never met and I wasn’t so sure I trusted. I knew Nick was trying to be helpful but I had never met Eric, merely heard of him. Taking a deep breath I decided that my best option was to trust Nick, if this was a friend of his then chances were he wasn’t a bad guy.

            “You’re sure you’re alright with it? I mean we could stay here and do something if you’d rather; I just thought I’d make the offer. Eric’s eager to meet you, but he’ll understand if you aren’t ready yet.” He pushed himself from the mattress standing before me again as he did. It was then that I realized that he was still shirtless, and I was powerless.

            “Positive.” I offered holding a hand out to him. “Come here, I missed you while you were gone.”

            “I missed you too,” Nick offered as he moved closer wrapping an arm around me. “You were all I could think about, I might sound nuts, but I think I’m falling in love with you.”

            Setting a hand against his chest I couldn’t help but laugh as I looked at him. “No, I don’t think you’re nuts.  In fact, I was sitting here thinking the same thing earlier.” The feel of his warm skin against my hand was something different for me, something I wasn’t used to. My ex had kept me at arms length at all times, that probably should have been my first indication that something definitely wasn’t right about him.

            “What?” Nick asked looking down at the hand. “Admiring again?” He asked flashing a smile as he did, it wasn’t the normal smile I was used to, there was something teasing about it. The glint in his eyes was something I wasn’t used to see, and wasn’t sure how to interrupt.

            “No, getting used to all the things I was never able to experience before, the touch of your skin under my hand, the way you look at me. So when do we leave, what should I pack, anything important I need to know?”

            “I’m suggesting warm clothes, considering that whole snow thing, other than that though, whatever you and Gage are going to need. Eric’s got a Doberman but he’s good with other dogs so everything should be fine there.” Nick moved a hand to take hold of the hand pressed against his chest.

            “I’ve never had an issue with Gage and another dog; he’s a big puppy dog who likes to play though, so certain dogs might take it as a threat. Alright, get dressed; I’m sure you’re cold.” The truth was I was mesmerized by him, and while I wouldn’t mind staying lost in this moment forever, there was so much else that we could be doing and oddly enough sex was the last thing on my mind.

            “Alright, go get yourself curled up on the couch and covered up with a blanket and make sure that the pups leave room for me hey?” He offered teasingly before raising the hand from his chest brushing his lips against it. The mere feel alone sent my heart to fluttering.

            “I’ll drag Gage’s bed out of my room, maybe if she lays on it he’ll consider laying on it too.” I carefully unwrapped my fingers from within his, taking in as many details about him as I could. “And if not then we’ll find a way to make things work with them, whither it means they end up laying on the floor or in the chair or we move upstairs.” I offered with a cheeky smirk. “Or to my room, and maybe I can convince you to stay with me tonight.”

            “I didn’t figure you wanted me to stay last night after you’d fallen asleep. You tossed and turned and acted like you were having a nightmare, but then again maybe that was how you normally slept as well.” It mystified me how much attention he had paid to me during the little time he’d spent with me last night.

            He was right, I’d had a nightmare the night before but it wasn’t something I wanted to talk about, not something I even wanted to remember but unfortunately it haunted me still. I didn’t want to tell him what it was about but yet part of me wanted to tell him at the same time, finally get it off my chest. Yet, I knew what would happen if he heard my ex had hurt me. I could see the headlines now, “Nicholas Schultz jailed for assault”, yea that would be helpful.

            “Oh, that, it was nothing.” I offered shrugging as I looked at him.

            “So you’re admitting that you don’t normally sleep that way?” Nick asked, though the fact that he still hadn’t let go of me made me think he was getting no closer to putting a shirt on. “And you’re admitting that you did have nightmares last night?”

            “I’m pleading the fifth.” I answered pulling away from him as did. “Get dressed alright? I’m going to go look for that bed.”

            “Alright,” Nick was reluctant to let go of me but he let me go as I pulled away. I hated pushing him away, I knew what that was like but I couldn’t tell him what had happened, after all the asshole ex had promised me if I ever said anything, the same would happen to me. A memory that still haunted me, but Nick would never know about it, never. It was better that way; I could do this on my own.

            A stair squeaking under my foot brought me back out of my day dream. This house had been my home for a year now, and I was still repairing things. Door locks that needed changing, stairs that squeaked, minor pluming issues and who only knew what else had been fixed since I’d moved in.

            The bed was where I figured it would be, still at the foot of my bed though Gage rarely used it; maybe now that Maverick was around he’d consider it. If not I was pretty sure Maverick would make pretty good use of it. I figured she was probably used to better but it would at least be comfortable for her. Nick’s words rang somewhere in my head, “I’m just a simple man, nothing real extraordinary about me.”

            That wasn’t true though; he knew that, didn’t he? Perhaps to himself he was a normal average everyday person but to me he was much, much more. Some way I would have to prove that to him, no matter how long it took. And the first step was getting rid of my ex, and his goonies. Nick’s offer that night in the hospital still rang in my ears, “I know a few guys who can help you take care of this.” Maybe I should take him up on that offer. “Nick?” I called moving into the hallway, thankfully the house wasn’t very big and I knew he could hear me.

            “On my way up.” Came his answer from what sounded like the living room downstairs. “You alright?”

            “Yea, I’m fine, I just wanted to talk is all.” Setting down on the edge of the bed I couldn’t help but wonder if I wasn’t about to do something I’d regret. I had to, I would never be completely happy in my life until I did. He needed to rot in jail for all he’d done.

            “Talk about?” Nick asked as he leaned against the door way. I was slightly disappointed to see that he’d put on a shirt, but part of me was glad to not have the distraction as well. The long sleeved tee fit him rather nicely and it took me a minute to form a response.

            “What that ass hole did to me.” I parted my lips with my tongue, wondering how to continue on with the conversation. “You said you knew someone who would help, if you’re still willing, I think I want to take you up on that offer.”

            “Of course, I’m still willing. Come here Stephanie. Or would you rather I come there?” There was a look in his eyes that made me understand, he really did care. I wasn’t just another fling for him, he really loved me. “Stephanie?”

            “Sorry, lost in my own world again.” I responded before letting myself fall back against the bed. “And to answer your question, you might as well come here.” A yawn escaped from between my lips as I looked up at him.

            “Get some sleep Stephanie, you look exhausted, it’s getting late.” He moved to sit on the edge of the bed looking at me as he did. For the first time as I laid there looking at him, he made my breath catch in my throat. “I won’t leave you tonight.”

            “You promise?” I wasn’t sure why I was fighting the sleep that was threatening to take over my body but I forced myself to hold my eyes open as I looked up at him.

            “Promise,” He moved up the bed leaning against the spare pillow on the bed before he held his arms out to me. “Come here.”

            Sliding up the bed, I leaned against his shoulder. There was something about being near him that always made me feel better. I knew there was a good chance that tonight would be like a lot of other nights and I would more than likely have the same nightmare I had many times before. The comforting thing about it though, was knowing no matter what, Nick would fix it. Hopefully, soon enough the ass would be rotting behind bars while I enjoyed my life.

            “Stop fighting it Stephanie.” Nick offered moving the hair that hung in my face before placing a kiss on my forehead. “I’m not going anywhere. Well not for long anyways, long enough to let the dogs out and such but I’ll come back.”

            I finally let sleep overcome me as I curled up against him allowing his presence to over come me. “Good Night princess,” Were the last words I heard him speak.

            The next thing that I remembered Nick was tightly holding onto me. “Shhhhhh you’re alright Stephanie. Come on tell me what’s the matter.” The hot tears that fell down my cheeks stung at open wounds on them. Maverick sat at the foot of the bed whining and Nick was fighting to keep Gage at the foot of the bed. “It’s alright boy, she’s ok. Come on Steph; tell me what it was about.”

            Instead of answering though, I buried my face in his shoulder. There was something comforting about his presence and right now I was just trying to calm myself down. There was no trying to convince him that this had never happened, that much I already knew but maybe I could make it appear as if it was something less than what it had really been. I felt bad lying to him but telling him the truth wasn’t going to make things any better either. “I’m alright, I-I’m sorry if I woke you. I was just having a night mare that’s all; it had to do with my ex and him breaking in.” I was having a hard time trying to form my words. The only comfort I could seem to find was that I hadn’t really lied to Nick. It had involved my ex, and perhaps he wasn’t breaking in but he had been involved in a rather criminal act. The memory was still vivid enough in my dreams that it was as if I was reliving it, on a nightly basis. Reaching down I somehow found Gage’s head in the dark rubbing at his ear. “Its ok boy, I’m alright.” I knew that if I could calm him down, he’d stop struggling against Nick and lay down.

            Gage stopped struggling against him and laid down letting out a whine as he did. He didn’t believe me anymore than Nick did when he finally spoke. “Are you sure you’re alright Stephanie? You don’t have to be afraid to talk to me about anything.” I didn’t fight him when he pulled me up into his lap, cradling me against himself.

            “I cant tell you.” The words were hardly audible even in the quiet of the night. For living in Los Angeles, it could be quiet sometimes, oddly enough. The tears started to fall again, but this time it wasn’t because I was scared, it hurt not to tell him.

            “Why cant you?” His voice was calm; he didn’t seem hurt that I wasn’t going to tell him, he seemed more concerned that someone was holding it over my head.  

            “He made me promise.” Setting my forehead against his shoulder the tears continued to fall, I couldn’t look at him. “He said he’d kill me if I ever said anything. You deserve better than me.” I attempted to pull away from him but instead of letting go when I pulled, he only held on tighter.

            “Stephanie, look at me.” Nick didn’t let me respond before he placed his hand under my chin pushing my chin up so that I was looking at him. “I wont let anyone hurt you, now tell me what all of this is about. I know he beat you, I’ve seen that much but what else has he done Stephanie? I can’t help you if you won’t tell me.”

            “No, I’m not getting you involved in this.” I somehow managed between sniffles. “I can’t go through it again.” I wasn’t really sure what I was saying at this point, after all, I relived it every night, sometimes more than once, so what was one more time? Especially if that one more time would end the hell I’d been living in for years.

            “Stephanie, I can only do so much if you wont tell me what’s going on.” He was attempting not to let his frustration show. He was failing miserably at it though and he knew it.

            “You wouldn’t even consider sticking around if you knew what happened.” It was a simple statement but I hope the point would carry.

            “No, that’s where you’re wrong Stephanie. If you wont tell me, I’m more liable to walk away.” His words were just as simple but the meaning hit hard. I was faced with a descion that seemed like either way I was going to loose. Either I relived the hell I’d lived a year ago or I lost him. Neither option seemed to have any merit.

            “Alright, fine. You want to know, I’ll tell you. Just not right now. Maybe not even tomorrow, but I will tell you.” If I was going to tell him I would have to figure out how first.

            “Alright, for now that’s a good enough answer but just remember this, I cant save you if you refuse to tell me whats going on. One of these days it will consume you.” He wasn’t threatening me, that much I was aware of, more like he was warning me. “Now try and get some sleep Stephanie.”

            After pulling away from him, I curled up against my pillow. It wasn’t the same as curling up with him but on the other hand it was what I was used to. Maybe that would help me to sleep through the rest of the night. Maverick adjusted at the foot of the bed so that she was laying with her head on my feet and Gage attempted to crawl in between us, letting out an exasperated sigh as he couldn’t manage to wiggle in.

            “Well, the gangs all here.” Was the last thing I remembered Nick saying before I drifted back to sleep.

            The more I got used to this life style, the more I became afraid of loosing it.

            The next morning I awoke alone, even the mutts were void from the bed. Pulling myself up so that I was sitting on my feet I realized I truly was alone. Straining against the noises outside I tried to figure out where in the house everyone was. I wasn’t so sure that Nick hadn’t left but that didn’t explain where the mutts had run off to.

            Crawling from my bed I let out a gasp as I realized how cold the floors were. Sometime during the night I had managed to strip off my socks and they were now lost among my blankets and sheet, but right now I didn’t really feel like looking for them. Moving into the upstairs living room the smell of coffee wafted up the stairs. Well there was an upside to the morning at least, I might be all alone other than the dogs but there was a good chance there was coffee left.

            Moving down the stairs and into the living room I paused finding both dogs asleep again on the couch.  Shaking my head I moved into the kitchen finding two coffee mugs waiting in front of the coffee pot, that was my first hint that Nick was still around. “Nicky?”

            There was no response to the call other than him wandering from the guest room phone pressed to his ear. “I guess I lied, she’s right here,” Was all he said before holding the phone out to me. “It’s your mom.”  That was when I realized it was my phone pressed to his ear and I was about to have a really interesting conversation with my mother.

            “Yea mom?” I asked putting the phone to my own ear. I was hoping she’d skip the questions about a man in my home and why he was answering my phone when I hadn’t even called to tell her that he was living with me. Which really he wasn’t living with me, so it wasn’t that I hadn’t told her about it.

            “Good morning Stephanie, I was just having a rather nice conversation with your boyfriend. And why didn’t you tell me about him?” I loved my mother, really I did but sometimes she could be, well a little prying.

            “Mom, you called for something and if I know you it wasn’t to talk about whom I’m seeing and why I haven’t told you about him yet.” Having just woken up I didn’t yet have the patience to play twenty questions with her.

            “What’s the matter, did we wake up on the wrong side of the bed? You haven’t called in a few weeks now and here I call and you’re seeing someone new and didn’t even tell me. I called to tell you you’re grandfather’s sisters are in the hospital, but it’s obvious you’re too busy to even bother to care.” Her voice sounded upset and I knew she had taken offence.

            “Look Mom, I’m sorry I haven’t called, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Nick. I’ve just had a lot going on lately that’s all. As for Grampa, maybe I’ll stop over there later on and see if there’s anything I can do.” The last thing I wanted to go and do was to go visit him but I would do so. The one thing they would have to remember though was that, these were women I hadn’t known most of my life and it would be hard to feel sorry about that.

            “Alright, and be nice to him, do you hear me?” I was pretty sure that sometimes she forgot that I was twenty four and knew well enough how to behave in the company of others.

            “Yes, mom I hear you. But listen I’ve got to finish getting ready to head to work.” Right now I was praying that Nick hadn’t told her that I wasn’t going in today. “I’ll give you a call later on when I get home.”

            “Alright, I love you.”

            “Love you too. Bye.” Once I’d hung up, I let out a sigh shaking my head.

            “Problems with Mom?” I hadn’t even noticed Nick returning to the kitchen, now standing beside me coffee cup extended out as he attempted to look innocent. “Let me guess, she wants to know why there’s a strange man all of a sudden answering your phone?”

            “No, of course that probably didn’t help any. She’s upset that I don’t call home more often, calling to tell me my grandfather’s sisters aren’t doing so well.” Taking the cup from his hand I took a sip from it making a face as I looked at him. “God, black.” Moving to the cabinet I pulled down the sugar.

            “Yes black, you mean to tell me you drink it any other way? As for your great aunts I’m sorry to hear that, you want me to go see your grandfather with you?” The concern was written in his face, whither he meant for it to be or not.

            “No, no that’s alright, my grandfather and I don’t get along very well to begin with, and I won’t be there long. Long enough to see if there’s anything I can do for him and offer my condolences. And yes I do put sugar in my coffee, cant do creamer though, that leads to being sick the rest of the day.” Turning back to look at him, I shrugged. “So yea, go on and go to work and I’ll be fine today.”

            “Ahhhhh did I forget to tell you?” Nick’s eyes had a teasing glint to them as he looked at me. “I managed to get a day off to spend with you and still be able to leave Friday.” Something told me that this had been planned long before my feet ever hit the floor this morning.

            Closing my eyes for a minute I thought about it. My grandfather and I didn’t get along enough on our own, add in a man and it could be the perfect recipe for disaster. “No, this is something I’ve got to do for myself, by myself.” 


Patience (3/?)
teardrop193

Settling in I curled up to get some sleep, there would be plenty of time to think later.

***

            “That was Stephanie.” I offered hanging up the phone and turning to look at Warrick. “She says Greg’s doing alright considering the circumstances.”

            “Well at least one of them is. The guy that Greg hit just died a few minutes ago.” Warrick’s voice was solemn as he spoke. “Greg is not going to take this well.”

            “We don’t have time to worry about that right now because the rest of them are still out there waiting to be caught. Greg may not be the last person that they do this to if we don’t work on it fast.” I couldn’t help shaking my head while I thought about it. There was very little evidence in order to find these bastards and yet they’d left so much behind as well.

            “Catherine’s in the middle of an interrogation with one of the suspects now. How’s Stephanie hanging in there?”

            “Rough. That’s about all that I can say. She’s exhausted and then on top of it she gets to try to explain to Isabella why we aren’t going to the park.” I reached up to run a hand through my hair before remembering that I’d had it cut again and instead let it fall to my side again.

            “She’ll be fine Nicky, we both know Stephanie’s a tough kid and we know that Isabella’s just as tough, they’ll both make it through.” Warrick was right, that much I knew but I couldn’t help worrying about both of them.

            “She needs to get some sleep that was the whole purpose of taking Isabella to the park today, so that she could get some sleep while the house was quiet. I cant help feeling like every time I’m not there, I’m letting that poor little girl down and she’s been let down more then enough times already.”

            “She’ll understand Nicky, we both know that.” Warrick just shook his head as he looked at me. “Just relax, you’ll take her home something she absolutely adores and she’ll be as happy as a lark all over again, you know it.”

            “I guess you’re right. So what have we got so far?” 
            “Not much. Like I said Catherine’s talking to a suspect so we’re waiting to hear what she has to say, Sarah’s working on shoe treads, Gris is kind of floating through like a ghost and well we both know where Greg is.” Warrick let out a sigh as he looked at me. “Why don’t you run home, get something to eat, check on the girls, make yourself feel a little bit better. It has to be better then sitting here driving yourself nuts.” Warrick’s voice was sincere as he spoke and I knew he was right.

            “Maybe you’re right, take a trip home to see the girls, even though they’ll both still be asleep. Call me if we get anything?”

            “Deal.”

            Grabbing my keys off the desk I pushed myself back out of the chair. “You know though, you aught to check in with your wife too.”

            “I should you’re right.” He sighed and rubbed his eyes for a minute. “I guess it’s worth a try anyways.”

            “You’ll be fine.” I offered, patting his shoulder as I walked past. “Just go home and talk to her, I’m sure that’ll make her life a little easier for her. Our job isn’t easy, but it’s even harder on the ones that we love, especially after seeing what could happen.”

            “Go see your girls. I’ll call if we come up with anything.” Warrick offered a quirky smile as he looked at me.

            I didn’t offer a response as I walked out the door. Pulling open the door of the truck I pushed myself inside allowing my head to slump against the seat for a minute, this was going to be a long few days. Putting the key in the ignition I started for home, thank god it wasn’t a long drive because if it was, I probably wouldn’t have considered coming home. Pulling in the driveway I opened the door  climbing out, thankfully we’d managed to teach Quinn to not bark whenever someone got there, because me coming home at night would constantly wake Stephanie and Isabella. Putting the key in the front door I turned the lock opening the door and quietly shutting and locking it behind myself. Stephanie claimed that she hadn’t changed much since she’d moved in but it was the subtle touches that always made me smile. Pictures of her and Isabella, Isabella’s drawings hanging on the fridge, the toys scattered throughout the house and most of all, knowing that they both slept not far away made coming home that much more exciting. Quinn came bounding to the door, stopping to look at me as her ears perked, tail wagging and her tongue lolling out of her mouth. Reaching down I pet her head before flipping through the mail sitting on the entry way table, Stephanie paid the bills without asking normally so it was rare to see one of those. Most often it was letters from her mom, mail from my parents trying to convince me I was working too hard, occasionally there was a letter from Stephanie’s ex who now resided in jail. I had to give her credit though; she dealt with it very well. She merely went out back and burned them within a day or so, never opening them to see what he had to say to her. For as much as he had once ruled her life, he was finally just a memory to her.

            “Nothing real exciting in the mail today.” Stephanie’s voice spooked me for a minute before I realized that it was her.

            “You should be sleeping.” Putting the mail back on the table I moved closer to her.

            “Couldn’t sleep, too quiet tonight. Guess I kind of missed you, you know how it is when I’m here alone.”

            “Yea, I know. I’m not home for long, just needed to get out for a little while; Warrick was headed home for awhile while we waited on results. So of course he suggested I come see how you guys were doing, find something to eat, you know the fun stuff.” There was something relaxing about her presence in the room. “And you should still be sleeping.”

            “I’m fine; I’ll get some sleep when Isabella lays down for her nap this afternoon or something. As for something to eat, what would you like, I’ll whip something up for you.” Stephanie was perhaps one of the sweetest girls that I knew, no matter what she was willing to go the extra distance to make sure that everyone else was taken care of before she even thought about worrying about herself.

            “I’ll get it Stephanie don’t worry about it.”

            “No, I insist, you’ve had a long night.”

            “And you haven’t? You worked all night plus then you came home to clean and do everything else that you normally do. Take a break, I’m not sure if you realize this or not but if you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of us.” Carefully wrapping an arm around her I placed a kiss on her forehead. “Let us take care of you for awhile.”

            “You’ve always taken care of me.”

            “Nah, you’re too independent for that. I’m going to go peek in on Isabella and then I’ll meet you in the kitchen.” I offered pressing a kiss to her forehead again before letting go of her. Moving down the hallway towards Isabella’s room, I couldn’t help but smile as I realized that Quinn had moved into her room now lying beside the bed on the floor. The frail little flame within was curled up with the teddy bear she’d gotten from Stephanie shortly after she had moved her back here. Her glow in the dark Bedtime Carebear was situated on the pillow beside her. She was at that age where everything was about Carebears and Dora the Explorer. Even her nightlight was Dora right now. I couldn’t help smiling watching her sleep as I leaned against the door frame, it would be horrible having to leave again but for now everything was perfect. 


Star Struck (7/?)
teardrop193

Letting out a chuckle I shook my head as I watched him. “Something tells me it’d take more than just a few fries to ruin those rock hard abs of yours.”

“Ah yes, I did notice that you were rather interested in those earlier.” He shook his head giving a playful smile as he looked at me. “But you’re not too bad to look at yourself. In fact you’re gorgeous, even as bruised as you are right now. I had a lot of time to think while you were unconscious the other night, to admire, and that was one thing I noticed.”

“You’ve mentioned it once or twice now.” I offered with a small shrug, “I’ve never really thought of myself as beautiful or any of the like but if you say so then I guess I’ll believe you.” It was good to see him in a better mood then when he’d called. I had been a little concerned about the way he sounded when he called, he just didn’t sound happy or like himself. I knew how weird that sounded since I hadn’t known him very long so; it was more it didn’t seem like the him I knew.

“You’d best, because it’s true, oh I should warn you that once you’re feeling up to it some of the guys from the cast want to go out for a beer. You know that whole meet you and make sure you’re not some creepy stalker type thing? I promise they aren’t too bad, a little irritating sometimes but all and all, they aren’t too bad normally. I promise I will keep them on a short leash until you’re ready to deal with the real them.”

“Oh no, sounds like fun.” I responded with a small smirk as I looked at him. “Maybe one night you guys will have to drop by the bar while I’m working.” I couldn’t help but smile as I looked at him. “They say there’s no better way to get to know me then there.”

“Nah, we want you to come with us. However you can’t be surprised if they start frequenting the bar to come and visit once they recognize you as one of their own.” He shook his head. “Sometimes they’re a strange bunch, but they’re fun. Honest they aren’t too bad. So what have you been up to today?”

“I’ve been working on a story idea.” I responded looking up at him offering a small smile as I did. “Shortly I’m going to get the laundry folded and put back in the laundry room seeing as how I pretty much live out of a laundry basket.”

“Don’t worry about it, I’ll get it folded here shortly as my repayment for not being able to watch that movie with you tonight.”

“I told you already, it’s fine.” I sighed as I looked at him. “I’ll be here when you get home tonight and besides you’ve got to remember that I’m used to working nights so I’ll probably still be up when you get in. I’ll probably crawl into bed just after you leave and be up when you get home. I mean I know that you’ll be tired and stuff when you get home but doesn’t mean I won’t be a dear and come sit with you while you fall asleep.” Giving him a small wink, I got up getting rid of the trash before heading into the laundry room. This was the one thing I was thankful about rather than having to go to the laundry mat, I got to do laundry at home. Pulling the laundry from the drier I tossed it into the basket before scooping the basket up heading for the living room again. “If you insist though I will let you help me fold the laundry.”

“Alright, I can do that, works for me.” He responded leaning over the back of the couch to look at me as he did. “As long as your definition of help is that I can do it while you sit here and keep me company.” He made every attempt to look as innocent as he possibly could, but even at that, it just wasn’t working for him.

“How about no then?” I asked as I looked at him shaking my head as I did before breaking out into laughter as I noticed that Maverick had hopped up into my spot and was trying to look innocent. “Like Owner like dog.” I responded shaking my head as I looked at the two of them laughing lightly as I did, before sitting on the floor in front of the couch setting the laundry basket on the floor as I did.

            “No, you’re not going to sit on the floor, make her get down.” Nick responded reaching to make Maverick get down off the couch, shaking his head as he did.

            “She’s fine, don’t worry about it.” I couldn’t help but laugh as I looked at him shaking my head as I did. I couldn’t help but sigh as the phone on the coffee table began to ring again. “I’m incommunicado; leave me a message after the beep.” I muttered picking it up sighing seeing it was in fact my best friend I picked it up. “Hello?”

            “Is it really true?” Maria screeched causing me to pull the phone away from my ear.

            “Is what true?” I hadn’t spoken to Maria in at least five days now; I really had no idea what she was going on about. Maria and I worked together at the bar normally but since she’d taken the week off we hadn’t seen each other since the Friday before.

            “That you were seen at the bar with Nicholas Shultz?” My eyes flipped up to look at Nick who was trying his hardest not to laugh because she was talking loud enough I didn’t have to put the phone to my ear. Well at least one of us was slightly amused by this.

            “I can neither confirm nor deny that rumor.” I couldn’t help but shrug as I did. “Maybe at a later date or time I will be able to release that information.”

            “Come on, we’re friends! Are you going to be at work tonight?” Maria continued to babble on.

            “No, Johnny gave me the rest of the week off. As for we’re friends, I’ll let you figure it out but listen Maria, I think I’m going to lie down, I’ve got one hell of a headache started.”

            “Alright, but you’d better call me later and fill me in on all the gory details understood?” Maria was wound for sound and it was easy to tell.

            “Yea, as soon as I’m feeling better we’ll talk about it Maria I promise.” I responded. “Later.” I let out a small sigh hanging up the phone. “Forgive me for that, and I’m not seeing what you see as funny.”

            “Why didn’t you tell her? Are you ashamed of me or something?” He asked as he looked at me, still laughing as he did before picking up a pair of shorts and beginning to fold them. “You know as tiny as you are I’m impressed by the length of your shorts, more curious where you get them.”

            “I didn’t tell her because she is perhaps the most talkative thing I know sometimes. If she’d known she’d have wanted to come over and it just would have been bad all over. As for my shorts, I hate my thighs, I prefer to hide them and where do I get them? That’s simple, in the fall I buy new jeans and then when it comes to be summer time I chop them off at the knee roughly and let them fray.” I couldn’t help but shrug as I looked at him. “By the end of the summer they’re in just the right shape for the next summer as long as I’m the same size.”

            “Seems like an ingenious idea. However, I must say, if you get to meet my friends, it’s only fair I meet yours as well.” He offered with a smirk as he looked at me. “I do assume after that phone call that you have friends right?” He was beginning to push his luck now, and he knew it too, the devilish look in his eyes told me that much.

            “Oh hush up and fold laundry.” I responded shaking my head as I grabbed a t-shirt and began to fold it. “Maria’s really the only friend I’ve actually got that I don’t consider just an acquaintance; I don’t really have time for a whole lot of friends.”

            “You look like you’re starting to get tired.” Nicholas gently offered as he looked at me. “You’re used to sleeping now; it’s only fair that you get a nap. It’s like you said you’ll probably still be up when I get in tonight anyways and I know that you won’t sleep while you’re alone.”

            “No, I’m fine.” I shrugged continuing to fold the clothes in front of me. The truth was, I didn’t want to miss a moment that could be spent with him, he’d already admitted that he didn’t get a lot of spare time and that bothered me, I didn’t want to miss out on a moment of the time that we did have together. “Actually I’m not really tired and I don’t normally sleep for another hour or so at least yet anyways. Normally, I’m trying to struggle through a little bit of homework so that I can go to bed.”

            “This semester’s almost over isn’t it?” He asked setting another folded pair of shorts on the pile.

            “Yup, sure is. Thank god, another week of class and then finals and we’ll be all set to go. I’ve got an online class and a Tuesday night class; it runs from six p.m. until 9 p.m. roughly. Which believe me isn’t too much fun to sit through.” That was the truth, I often times fought to sit through it; just trying to make it through was hard enough. It was a three hour long class, trying to keep my attention span working that long wasn’t an easy task.

            “We’re almost done taping this season, so maybe we’ll get to do something when you get out of class. Go away for the weekend and do something or something like that. You don’t work at the bar on Saturday and Sunday right?” He asked as he finally came around to realizing that he hadn’t actually asked that question.

            “Not normally no, we’ve got a couple of girls who can’t work week days because they’re in school all the time so they work the weekends for us and give us week girls a couple of days off. So as long as neither one of them calls in sick, I get them off.” It was then that I began to realize there was so much about him that I hadn’t noticed before.

            “Come here,” He offered as he gently patted his left knee. “Cause if you don’t, I’ll have to come down there and get you and then that would just make my life harder on me.”

            “Oh, and heaven forbid we do that. Let’s not make the mighty celebrity lift a finger to do something for himself.”  I couldn’t help but smirk pulling away as he reached down to grab hold of me and pull me up onto his lap.

            “Hey come back here,” He just shook his head before getting up grabbing hold of me before he sat back down pulling me up into his lap as he did. “Don’t you dare bite me.” He laughed as I moved my head closer to his forearm.

            “How come? We saving that for the bedroom?” I asked looking up at him, after all he’d already said that he didn’t like being tied up or being held down, so what did he like?

            “That’s completely up to you.” He responded offering a small shrug as he looked at me. “You know what I won’t do, I’m all for trying new things though.” He reached out wrapping an arm around me pulling me up against himself while he did.

            I felt comfortable burying my face into his chest offering a small smile, there was something comforting in his smell alone. I couldn’t quite pin down which cologne it was but it was one I smelled before that much I knew.

            “You really do look like you could use a nap; I’ll be here later on tonight, and I promise I wont move until I have to leave, so you can get as comfortable as you would like to.” He leaned down gently pushing up my chin before he placed a gentle kiss on my lips. “Hope you don’t mind I didn’t ask you before I kissed you.” He gave a small smirk as he looked at me.

            “I do, but I’ll let it go this time. Next time I’ll make you pay for it.” I offered before curling back up as I did. “For now though, I think you’re right and I think I will take that nap.”

            “Night then, we’ll talk repayment of such crimes later on.” He said adjusting back against the back of the couch before he gently cradled me in against his shoulder. “I probably won’t be here when you wake up but I’ll lay you out on the couch when I leave, until then though I’ll be here, I promise.”

            “You’d better be,” I murmured closing my eyes as I nuzzled in against him as I did. Within a few minutes the sleep that I had been trying to avoid over came me.

            When I awoke, I cracked an eye offering a sigh as I realized that I was curled up on the couch. He had left, he had settled me in on the couch before he did, but he’d still left. I understood his need to get back to work but yet I wished he were still here. Slowly sitting up I sighed seeing that the basket of laundry was gone; I couldn’t help but figure that he had put the laundry away.

            I had been serious about living out of my laundry basket; in fact I preferred it that way really. The laundry basket sat in the laundry room and all I had to do was pull the days clothes out of the basket set them in the bathroom so that I could get dressed in a hurry when I got up, whether it was headed out the door to work or to class. After all I didn’t really have a whole lot of time to just hang out with people. I worked Monday through Friday and went to school at the same time, so by Friday afternoon when I got home from the morning job, I was exhausted enough that all I really wanted was to curl up and go to sleep. However, even that wasn’t really an option, because I still had homework that needed to be done for the Tuesday night class and the online class that still needed to be done.

            I wasn’t complaining though, it wasn’t that I hated my life, not at all. IT was just that some days were highly stressful, and it was a stressful lifestyle, but it paid the bills. It paid the bills while my education was improving. Granted I wasn’t taking a lot of classes at one time but I was going to school, that was a start wasn’t it?

            Glancing at the clock I let out a small sigh as I realized that I had in fact been asleep nearly five hour and it was nearing seven pm. The truth was though, I felt better than I had when I’d gone to sleep. It had been quite a few days now since I’d gotten to lay down and not need to be up again to be on time to work.

            Normally right about now I would be wondering into the bar to start a seven to one shift, only to turn around, come home and get maybe five hours of sleep if I was lucky and start it all over again. The next few days were going to be enjoyable, but yet I couldn’t get used to it, that much I knew. After all, if I was going to make the rent payments and student loan payments and other things I needed to live.

            Granted Nick had already said that if I wanted to I could quit at the bar, but the last thing I wanted was him paying my living expenses. I was far too proud for that, much too proud in fact. That was something that he would eventually learn about me, that much I was sure of. And yet, I couldn’t help but think it was an enduring quality that he was willing to take care of me.

            I’d been working at that damn bar close to three years now and there were nights I seriously considered quitting, but I needed that job to survive essentially. I’d suffered under Johnny’s rein for a year and a half of that time but that didn’t mean that I had ever enjoyed working there. There were a few days where I could honestly say I had ever minded working there, and I had to admit that if it hadn’t been for that job I would have never met Nick. I supposed that should have been my reward for suffering through. The silver lining to my gray cloud.

            One of the few things I could be thankful for after enduring that hell, I supposed. The barking from outside brought me out of my day dream, the mutts were both obviously outside, Nicky must have let them out before he left. Crawling from under the blanket that had been dropped over me, I went over pulling the door open, trying not to get run over by the two of them. “Easy guys,” I couldn’t help shaking my head, they acted as if they’d known each other for forever now. Gage’d been a great dog since I’d gotten him but on occasion the neighbors complained purely because of the fact that he was a Pitt Bull. Sure he was that, it was true but even with that said he was the best dog.

            Before I’d met Nick, Gage slept with me, he took the other half of the bed, often crowding into my side. Which it wasn’t that I minded it necessarily but when he tried to push me out of bed, I minded a little. And then there was Simba and Nala, they were rescues as well. I’d had Simba since my ex tossed him on the street. Poor cat had been with him four years at that point, and I wasn’t about to let him on the streets or end up in a shelter. Nala, I’d just gotten eight months ago because Simba had decided at five am every morning I needed to be awake. I on the other hand didn’t, which was when I decided he needed a playmate.

            The bark from further into the kitchen, reminded me that poor Gage hadn’t been fed. Filling the food bowl and setting it on the floor, I began debating what to do with the rest of the evening.

            The tinkling of my phone in the living room sent me running for it. It wasn’t a number I recognized but it was local, worth answering I supposed. “Hello?”

            “Well hello there, I hear there’s a gorgeous woman here.” Nicks voice rang through the speaker on the phone. “I didn’t wake you did I?”

            “No the mutts trying to come in did that but I should be up anyways.”

            “Come on Stephanie, you’ve just been seriously injured, take the time and recover.” I could have sworn I heard a sigh from the other end.

            “And you’re at work, so you’re not allowed to be worried about me. Or well not supposed to be anyways.” I still wasn’t sure why I’d let him into my life and yet I didn’t regret it either.

            “I get spare time occasionally, you know. Besides they’re complaining it’s not dark enough to shoot. So I figured I’d call and see how you were doing.” He made it seem so innocent, not like he was being over bearing or over protective and for once I didn’t question it.

            “Not dark enough to shoot, that’s a new one. As for how I’m doing, I’m doing. I’m sore but I’ll live. The mutts are in the kitchen eating and I’m considering left overs from last night.” His cooking even warmed up was better than mine any day. Culinary wasn’t one of the skills I’d mastered.

            “You enjoyed that huh? As for not dark enough, they seem to think that if they’re filming a scene for grave yard shift, maybe it should be dark out. I’m more amused watching Eric try and find something to entertain himself.”

            “You mean to tell me it’s not workable that it’s light out at midnight?” It was time he see the sarcastic side of me or well at least a part of it.

            “Not unless you’re in Alaska in the middle of summer. Now my suggestion for you is, get some food in you, turn the TV on, curl up with your blanket and get some sleep. I hopefully shouldn’t be much more than a couple more hours.” Nick’s voice was gentle as he spoke, quiet and soothing.

            “Did you grab my keys when you left?” It had just dawned on me that the front door might not be locked, maybe it was a sense of paranoia setting in but I was beginning to panic.

            “Yep, doors locked and even if it weren’t I can promise between those two dogs there wouldn’t be anyone getting near you. I went to move you before I left and Maverick started growling.” That made me feel a little better but still I knew my ex and his druggie buddies were still out there and there was a good chance that this had only been a warning. “You want me to come home?”

            “No, I’m fine.” I tried to keep my voice as calm as it could be, “I’ll be alright, honest. Till you get home at least.”

            “Alright, if you’re sure then I’ll see you in a couple of hours. I think I’m going to find something to eat and then hopefully wrap for the night by nine but it’s been a long day so it may not go that simple. You’re sure you don’t want me to drop by instead of getting dinner?” He didn’t seem to believe me, I just wasn’t sure how to make him believe it.

            “Positive, I’ll find a book and curl up here on the couch after I eat and probably still be here reading when you get home. Don’t worry about me, just get what you need to done. You said it yourself I’ve got the dogs if something happens.” Right now I’d try anything to make him believe that I was alright. If I couldn’t make him believe that, then I knew he would show up and the chances of him leaving once he was here weren’t very good.

            “Alright, you need anything call, if I don’t answer it’s more than likely going to be Eric who answers. He’ll know where to find me; he’s not a bad guy, promise. You’ll like him, he’s eager to meet you. Anyways, I’ll see you when you get home ok?” From the looks of things it seemed as if I had managed to convince him that I would be alright.

            “Yep, see you then.” Maverick and Gage both let out a bark looking at me. “I think they’re both trying to say hello or good bye.”

            Nick let out an audible laugh. “Pet their heads for me and then get yourself something to eat. Talk to you soon.” With that the line went dead.

            Setting the phone back on the coffee table I forced myself up off the couch starting for the kitchen which brought both dogs running after me. Reaching down I pet both of their heads before pulling the fridge door, pulling out the container of left overs from the night before. “Alright guys, hop up on the couch and I’ll be in shortly.” It wasn’t quite cold enough yet to necessarily turn the heat up, chilly though but still warm enough during the day to wear shorts. At night though it was cool enough for a sweatshirt and jeans and sometimes even a blanket, tonight was one of those nights.  

            While I would have preferred curling up with that special someone and a blanket, I’d settle for the dogs and a book. Or maybe I’d do a little writing, work out some new songs or work on the story from earlier. Pulling open the fridge I pulled the left overs from last night out of it and pushing it shut.

            Five minutes later I was wandering into the living room, bowl in hand. Both Maverick and Gage lay at the foot of the couch still, an ear perking as I wandered into the room. “Well guys looks like its just going to be you and me for awhile guys. So what do you think, should we watch some TV or should we do some writing?” Neither dog acknowledged me as I curled up on the couch pulling the blanket up over myself. “Well gee you’re both a lot of help.” I muttered. Taking a bite from the bowl in my hand, it proved me right, even his left overs were better than anything I could cook. Maybe I’d have to keep him around just for that, or at least I’d let him think that. I was still intrigued by why I had allowed him into my life.

            Once I’d finished eating and getting the dishes done, I figured I’d get a shower and crawl into pjs and then maybe get some writing done, or maybe I’d be exhausted and feel like crawling into bed.

            A smile spread across my lips as I moved back through the living room heading for the stairs, both dogs lay asleep on the couch. Something told me this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, and I really couldn’t say that I minded. After all, the more play dates the two of them ended up having, the more I got to see Maverick’s human companion, a thought I wouldn’t turn down in the least.


Patience (2/?)
teardrop193

“Sounds good. Get some sleep later on hey? Gunna be a long night for me so don’t bother waiting up. Oh and Warrick just called Tina she’s on her way over.”

            “Tell him I said thanks.”

            “Alright, I’ll talk to you later on. And be careful Stephanie, the idiots that did this are still out there.”

            “Alright, Love you.”

            “Love you too.” And with that the line went dead, leaving me alone in the dark room again. The house was silent other then the sound of Quinn at the foot of the bed snoring. Pushing myself up from the bed she lifted her head to look at me as if trying to tell me that it was bed time.

            Normally I was just getting home from work right about now and getting ready for bed just in time for Nick to get home and crawl into bed with me. At least that was the way it had worked since Warrick had gotten me the job at the Mirage. And then we both managed to get a little sleep before Isabella was up and ready to play. It was so hard to believe though that soon enough she would be off to Kindergarten and in school all the time. On one hand that wasn’t a bad thing because it meant that Nicky might get some more sleep then he did now but on the other hand it meant that my little girl was growing up and that was one thing I wasn’t ready to face yet.

            Pulling on a hooded sweatshirt over the over sized t-shirt that I was wearing; I slid on a pair of jeans trying to rub the sleep from my eyes as I headed for the living room. Not much had changed since I’d met Nicky, the house still stood as it had before Isabella and I moved in other than the toys scattered across the floor, drawings on the fridge and coloring book page cut outs. I’d turned my house back over to my mother upon moving in with Nicky and she was beginning to enjoy coming to visit. The nice thing about being here was that Warrick and Tina were only a few blocks away incase something came up, and both were more then willing to take on Isabella when they needed to.

            The light knock on the front door told me that Tina had made better then normal time. Pulling it open I offered a smile. “Sorry about this.”

            “No, don’t worry about it, Warrick explained it, I completely understand.” Her bright smile came as a comfort.

****

“Stephanie?” Greg’s voice was hoarse as he spoke bringing tears to my eyes again. I had just gotten them to stop after seeing him.

“It’s me Greggo.” Gently taking one of his hands in mine, I couldn’t help but let a few tears fall. In the last year, Greg had become one of my best friends, and seeing him like this killed me. His swollen eyes hardly opened, badly scraped and beaten face and lack of mobility broke my heart.   “Nicky called when he found out what happened.”

“I figured as much.”

“Don’t talk Greg. I know it’s hard for you, but don’t talk.”

*****

“He’s going to be alright Nicky.” I was sure by now exhaustion was beginning to set into my voice.

“Good. Bastards deserve to fry for this.” It was rare that Nicky lost his temper but when he did, there was a price to be paid for it, and this was going to be one of them, I could already tell.

“You coming home soon?” I knew what the answer was going to be but I hoped for another one.

“No, I wish I was, I promise Isabella a trip to the park today, hope she understands.” That was one of the things that I truly loved about Nicky, it didn’t matter what kind of case he was up to his neck in, he was still worried about what Isabella would think.

“I’ll take her, don’t worry about it. Work happens, we both know that. Grissom was just getting there when I left.”

            “mmmmm no surprise there.” It was obvious that Nick’s mind was going a thousand miles an hour and he wasn’t really listening.

            “Listen Nicky I think I’m going to get some sleep.” I resisted the urge to add , since you aren’t listening anyways.

            “Alright, tell Izzy that I’m sorry for me hey?” Well at least he remembered that part of the conversation. It wasn’t that I blamed him for being a little out of it but it was a little irritating when he was like this.

            “Yea, I’ll take her out for Ice Cream, take her to the park, maybe if she’s good we’ll stop at build a bear and see if we cant find something for her.” There were only so many ways to pick up a little girl’s spirits when her Daddy couldn’t be around, and this was one of them.

            “I’m sorry Stephanie, if it was anyone but Greg, I’d be there, I promise.”

            “I know Nicky. When we started this relationship we knew there’d be days like this.”

            “I know, I still feel bad though. But listen Warrick just walked in so I’ll let you go so you can get some sleep. I’ll try to be home as soon as I can.”

            “Alright, love you.” Flipping the phone shut I was left with the silence of the house again. The clock on the tv box said that it was already 6 am. That was late enough that I could get a couple of hours of sleep before Isabella woke up at 9 am wanting to play.

            However I also knew what any little noises in the house would wake me up without Nicky around, it was going to be a long few hours but I’d struggle through it. After all did I really have a choice but to right now? If it wasn’t for Greg, I wouldn’t be so cool with it but for Greg I’d let it go. 


Star Struck (6/?)
teardrop193

“It’s not the first time she was around when it happened.” He offered with a small shrug as he looked at me. “Mmmm so how about we find out what’s on TV and then one of us goes to sleep and the other gets some chores done before going to sleep as well because he has to be up to shoot in the morning.” He let out a small sigh. “Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do, but sometimes it gets old. The people are wonderful, memorizing everything isn’t too bad, but it’s the constant day in and day out activities that kind of bothers me. There are days where I’m not done until midnight and then I’m up again by eight the next day to be on set by eight thirty. It’s just exhausting sometimes.”

            “Then don’t worry about the dishes, I’ll do them tomorrow when I get up, there’s no reason that you should worry about it. Get some sleep and then it won’t be such a hard thing. Honest, I know how it goes.” I let out a small sigh as I looked at him. “I get about four hours of sleep a day normally.”

            “Well, all this week you’ll be able to catch up on your sleep and you won’t have an issue for about a week or so.” He offered with a small smile before leaning over and kissing my cheek before flipping on the TV and beginning to flip through the channels. “Well look at this, Survivor’s on, which I believe means that CSI’s on next.”

            “That is normally the way that Thursday night tv would work.” I laughed lightly before reaching over and taking the remote away from him as I did. “Sorry, just borrowing it for a minute.” Pressing a couple of buttons I set it up so that it would record, that way if I fell asleep before either one got over, I’d still know what happened. “There you are you can have the remote back. I just know that I probably won’t make it until the time CSI is over is all.” A yawn was emitted as if to prove the point that I had just said. “It’s been a long day, longer than I’d imagined, even though I slept through most of it.”

            “You’ve had a rough couple of days, now get some sleep.” Nicholas said gently as he watched me. “I’ll stay with you until you fall asleep, and then I’ll be here in the house with you. I swear I won’t leave you; I won’t let anything happen to you and that I promise.”

            “I appreciate that.” I managed setting my head back against the pillows and curling up with a stuffed animal that sat beside the head of my bed on the night stand. I’d had it for years now and had adjusted to sleeping with it at night. “Settle in wherever you would like to, whatever’s most comfortable for you is whatever works best. I will warn you though if you get up and take a shower in the morning, Nala has a habit of letting herself into the bathroom to keep you company. As long as you’re lucky though, she won’t try and crawl in the shower with you.”

            “I will keep that in mind.” He responded nodding his head as he looked at me. “What about the mountain lion? Is there anything about him that I need to worry about?” He asked looking at me for a minute.

            “No, not really, he doesn’t like water, he doesn’t try and keep you company while you’re in the shower, no there’s nothing I can think of.” A yawn followed this statement which caused me to let out a small sigh as I fought to keep my eyes open. I had returned to my earlier fear, that if I fell asleep, when I woke up he wouldn’t be there anymore. It was a thought that broke my heart, I could deal with him leaving for the day but if I woke up in the morning and found out that I had dreamt this whole thing then I was pretty sure I might just give up on everything again.

            “Stop fighting with yourself already.” Nick laughed as he watched me for a moment. “You’re obviously tired, so get some sleep. I promise you, I will come back, and something tells me that Maverick will probably stay here with you and sleep because normally once she’s out she won’t wake up again even if I move out into the living room.”

            Letting my eyes close, I began to give in to the feeling that had started to sweep over me. I was tired, that I would willingly admit to, and it was time to face my fear, if I woke up tomorrow to find that this was all a horrible dream then I would deal with it then. “Night”, I said hardly above a whisper, opening an eye to look at him as I did.

            “Good night princess.” He said with a small smile as he looked at me. “Now go to sleep.”

            It wasn’t long after that that I finally drifted off into a fairly deep sleep as I laid there, sleep overcoming my body.

            The next morning the sun shining into the window was a wake up call I wished wouldn’t come, the TV had been turned off and rolling over confirmed that I was indeed alone other than a pair of fuzzy friends who were still lying at the foot of the bed.

            A small sigh escaped my lips as I forced myself to sit up looking to both dogs. “Come on yous two, let’s go outside.” With that both dogs hopped up and went running towards the door as they did.

Pushing myself up I crawled out of bed, the truth was despite the fact that I was pretty sure I was still awfully bruised looking, I felt less stiff than I had the day before. Moving didn’t hurt as bad as it did either; well that was a step in the right direction. Putting my feet on the floor, I carefully pushed myself up to them before following after them and heading for the back door and opening it watching as the two of them went scurrying out into the yard. I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched them; life was so easy for the two of them. They truly only wanted to be loved and have a companion to keep them company and if that meant that Maverick came to stay with us for a while, well then I could deal with that. After all that would mean her human companion would be around more often, a fact that I could definitely deal with.

“You always up this early?” Speaking of said human companion, hmmm I thought he’d left already, obviously not though.

“Only when the sun decides that it’s going to be my alarm clock. Thought you left already.” I responded turning around to look at him. I caught myself before I could let out the gasp that I wanted to, he was in fact “taking my breath away”.

            “Yea I’ll be heading out here shortly.” He responded pulling the towel off his shoulder and reaching up to dry his hair with it. It was then that I realized he was still shirtless. It took everything I had to not want to reach out and run a hand down his chest and abdomen. “Your phone was sitting on the table so I swiped your number off of it, figured it’d be easier to call you at lunch time if I had that. Hope you don’t mind. Dishwashers been loaded and run, dishes are put away, laundries in the drier, you’ll have to fold it and put it away but it’s a little closer to being done than you were before.” With that he pulled his shirt from where it had hung over one shoulder before pulling it on starting to button it. “What?” He asked obviously catching on to the fact that I was marveled by him.

Attempting to make a quick recovery of it I offered a smile. “No, no that’s fine, and I don’t mind putting away my clothes.” I responded as I looked at him. “By now I’m used to it.” Turning back around I opened the door letting the dogs both come running back in. “And you manage to make it to the gym when?” I asked as I spun to look at him again with a grin. I figured if I was going to drool, I might as well own up to it.

Nick laughed lightly as he looked at me. “Ahhhh so that’s what you were so interested in. As for how do I find the time, very carefully, sometimes it’s before going in to shoot, some days it’s after, other’s yet it’s a day off, or a lunch hour that’s been extended. Normally end up there about three times a week, or well I did until I decided a home gym was a good idea. Anyways, I suppose if I’m going to be on time, I should get going. My numbers on the fridge if you need anything, I’ll give you a call when we break for lunch.” He wandered up behind me carefully wrapping his arms around me before he placed a kiss on my cheek. “Take it easy today hey? Nothing strenuous just lay around.”

“Sir, yes sir.” I responded giving him a cocky smirk. “I’ll be fine; I’ll probably attempt to draw or write or something while you’re gone. Now go before you’re late, I’ll be fine.” I said before tossing my keys at him. “I’m going to lock the door, that way you can let yourself in.”

“Alright, I’m headed out then. Be good Maverick.” He called over his shoulder as he let go of me. “God knows I’d rather hold you the rest of the day.”

“I’d rather it too.” I shrugged as I looked at him. “But when you’re done tonight we’ll curl up and watch a movie, I’ll send ya with money when you get back for lunch and you can stop and pick something up on your way home or we can order a pizza or something for supper tonight.”

“Alright, see you at lunch.” He responded pulling the door open flashing me one last smile. “Be good.” And with that he was gone. Once the door was shut I wandered over flipping the lock on it as I did. The keyboard was still sitting in front of the couch on the coffee table, time to get that put away I supposed.

Moving over to where it sat I picked it up and headed for the guest bed room, bumping the door open with my foot as I did. I was relatively impressed, other than the duffle bag tossed on the floor; you wouldn’t know that a person was actually staying there. Setting the keyboard back on the stand where it belonged, I moved back to the living room. It was amazing how empty a place could seem if you were used to having someone else around. After all I rarely spent a whole lot of time home normally, occasionally a day here or there but nothing like this week was going to be.

Well, I’d been meaning to write a novel and had more than once started it; I supposed now that I had the time I might as well get some work done. Grabbing the lap top off my desk I wandered over to the couch flopping down and flipping on the TV. It seemed counter productive from anyone else but occasionally something that someone on the TV said would spark a productive idea and give me somewhere to go with a story.

Stretching out on the couch, I moved the computer into my lap laughing some as Maverick crawled up at the end of the couch. “Hey girl, how you doing?” I asked reaching down and scratching her head as I did.

It was then that it hit me, what better story to write then the one that I was living? The every day average girl dating the overly good looking celebrity.  The trials and tribulations their relationship faced, it seemed like a perfect idea and if nothing else it would be a good way to vent. “What do you think Maverick?” I asked looking down at the golden lab as her tail began to wag and she let out a short bark, her ears perking. “Well I’ll take that as you think it’s a good idea.” I responded laughing lightly as I did.

Setting to my work I began to write, figuring the first chapter or so could be written now at least.

What seemed like twenty minutes later my cell phone was ringing, picking it up from the coffee table I answered it pressing it to my ear. “Hello?” Glancing at the clock on my computer I realized that it had been closer to two hours and was now twelve thirty.

“Hey there beautiful.” Came the response from the other end. “You interested in going to get something to eat or would you rather I bring something back with me?”

In the background voices could be made out and I thought I heard one of them say “Awwww, Nicky’s seeing someone,” And him trying to quiet them down. I couldn’t help but laugh at this.

“You can bring something back with you. You know you’re going to have to listen to them for awhile right?” It was my turn to tease now, after all being the girlfriend I got that right didn’t I?

“Mmmm, if he doesn’t knock it off in the next three minutes, he’s going to need a CSI of his own.” I heard him let out a sigh before trying to keep his voice calm. “So where would you like me to grab lunch from?”

“Wherever you’d like to stop and leave him alive, I don’t feel like visiting you in jail this week. Maybe by next week my mood will have changed though.” I couldn’t help but chuckle. His keys could be heard clanking as he attempted to find the right one to unlock the car.

“How’s Mav?” He asked letting out a small sigh as he did.

“Doing well, she’s laying here at my feet.” I responded looking at her for a minute to make sure that in my writing frenzy she hadn’t moved.  

“Alright, well I’ll be there in about twenty minutes, I’m not due back until like three and it kinda sounds like we’re going to be in for a long night shooting tonight, so I guess we’ll have to put that movie on hold. Sorry…” He let out a sigh and I could hear the car start in the background. “I wish I could say that this was going to be the only time it was going to happen, but unfortunately it’s probably not.”

“Hey, it’s ok, I understand, we’ll find a day where we can do it honest. I told you, I’m willing to work around your schedule. We’ll figure something out, it’s not going to be as hard as it seems.” It was the truth, I didn’t care really that he wasn’t going to be around to watch a movie, well I did but yet I understood it at the same time.  After all, it was his job, it was what he loved to do, and I wouldn’t dare ask him not to do it.

“Alright, well I’ll grab lunch on the way home then and we can talk this through alright?” He didn’t sound like the same happy go lucky person I’d seen leave this morning. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was because he was tired or if it was the fact that his co-workers had given him a hard time most of the morning.

“Alright, sounds good. I’ll talk to you when you get here then.” I wanted to make it better for him but yet at the same time I wasn’t so sure that there was anything that I could do to make it better for him.

“Sounds good.” And then the line went dead.

I couldn’t help but sigh as I set the phone back down on the coffee table, saving the story and setting the lap top down on the coffee table beside it. “I think daddy’s having a bad day,” I said with a small sigh as I looked at Maverick. “And I kinda think maybe it’s partially my fault.”

With that the pooch hopped up moving towards me letting out a bark as she did before she began to lick at my face. There was one thing that I was sure of; anyone who said that dogs weren’t smart was indeed lying to you. Dogs are very smart creatures, they understand human emotion and sometimes I really thought that they understood how to make things better as well. In truth right now, all she seemed to want to do was try and make me feel better.

“Alright, alright enough Maverick.” I said with a tiny laugh giving the dog a little shove which caused her to bark again, which in turn brought Gage running to see what all of the commotion was about. “It’s ok boy, I promise.” I laughed reaching down to pet his head as well so that he didn’t feel like he was left out right now.

It was just a few minutes later that I could hear keys outside the door and not long after the door was opening, and Nick was walking through it. “Hey you.” He said before shaking his head as he looked at Maverick. “You’re going to become a spoiled dog while you’re here now aren’t you?” He asked shaking his head. “I ended up deciding on burgers and fries on the way back, hope that’s alright with you.” He responded bringing the bag with him as he wandered over. “Alright come on pup, time for you to get down.” He shook his head as he watched Maverick hop down and look up at him with the sad puppy dog eyes as if she were trying to ask him why she was being punished the way that she was.

“Burgers and fries are always fine with me.” I responded patting the couch beside me, before rubbing Maverick’s head. “Oh come on now, you’ve been up here all morning, you’ll be fine sitting down there on the floor. Besides, I think Gage has a nice puppy bed around here somewhere that he refuses to use now that he’s a big dog because he doesn’t seem to think he fits in it anymore. Maybe later on I’ll drag it out for you so that you don’t have to sit there on the floor.”

“You’re going to spoil her and then she’s going to hate living with me.” Nick laughed as he held out a burger to me. “Then again she’ll probably end up spending more time with you than she will with me anyways.”

“Thank you.” I responded taking the burger from him and smiling some as I did. “And you’re always welcome to stay whenever you want to; it’s been awhile since I’ve actually had company to stay in the guest room, to be honest it’s kind of nice.”

“I’ll keep that in mind; I don’t mind being in your company either. You’re a live wire but yet at the same time you’re very calm. You’re full of life and you don’t seem to care what other people think about you or say to you.” He shook his head. “I feel like you’re everything I’ve been looking for, for so long now and I’ve only known you for three days now.”

“Believe me I know that feeling well.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “And here I could have quit three nights before and never met you.” It was funny how fate worked out sometimes, really it way. I almost couldn’t believe that I had in fact almost quit two nights before. Johnny and I had gotten into a fight over a couple of minuscule things, as was normal for the two of us, and I had almost quit but something had made me stay, and I couldn’t figure out what it was, not until now at least.

            “You were going to quit?” He asked as he looked at me raising his eyebrows as he did. “How come? This doesn’t have to do with how he treated you the other night does it?” His face was concerned as he looked at me now. “I know you probably don’t want it this way but if you chose to quit there, I promise you won’t need anything ever. Don’t worry about the money, if he’s harming you in any way, get out of there.” His squared jaw clenched for a minute as he looked at me, he really was concerned about me right now.

“Johnny’s not harming me in anyway, and if we’re going to make this relationship work, you’re going to have to trust that I can take care of myself while you aren’t around. Granted there are a lot of things I can get into, but you’ll have to trust that I’ll be ok.” I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched him. “Because if not then you will end up driving yourself nuts worrying about me.”

“I do worry about you though; I worry that that scum bag will come back here and hurt you while I’m not here. I feel a little better knowing you have the dogs, but I know what I did to you. I know what he can do to you.” His eyes lowered for a minute, before he looked up at me. “Just promise me that you wont take any unnecessary risks for awhile ok?”

“Alright, no unnecessary risks.” I responded shrugging as I finished off the burger stealing a fry from him as I did letting out a small chuckle as I did. “However who gets to term whither it’s necessary or not?”

“You do, but I’m trusting that you won’t push it too far, nothing stupid or anything like that. I still think you should consider taking some time off at the bar, after the way he talked to you the other night I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he decided it was a wonderful idea to hit you. Take the fries if you want them.” He gave a small smirk as he looked at me. “Really, it’s just another trip to the gym waiting to happen, and I’d hate for it to ruin this figure.” 


Star Struck (5/?)
teardrop193

“Exactly, an average person. I-I.” He stopped looking at me confused as he did. “I guess I didn’t realize that I in any way could have such an affect on someone though.” He shook his head watching. “And thank you, like I said when I want to, I can kind of cook.”

“More than can kind of cook, this is actually amazing. God I miss home cooked food, and if I had more time I’d consider cooking more often but I don’t.” I just shook my head as I looked at him sighing as I did.

“You have a crock pot?” He asked looking at me for a minute as he did. “If so there’s a multitude of things you can do and not need a whole lot of time other than to eat and about 45 minutes to prepare. It’s amazing the things that you can do with one of those, really it is. I’ve got a recipe book at home for one; while I’m there I’ll bring it back with me so you can start looking through it. You going to be ok for half an hour or so by yourself?”

“Yea Ill be fine, I’ll be here at the piano trying to put in some real practice time because it’s not like I’ve accomplished a whole lot in that area this last week or so. I wait much longer and I’ll begin to forget everything I’ve learned so far and that would just be bad.” I shook my head falling quiet as I ate for a few minutes.

“You play the piano as well?” He asked looking at me as he did. “You’re a story just waiting to unfold now aren’t you? You just never know what you’re going to say. Is there anything else that I should know right now?” He asked thought the look on his face said that he was merely teasing as he did.

“Maybe you’ll find out some day.” I offered with a small smirk before getting up setting my plate in the sink. “Thanks it was wonderful, dishes can go in the sink, I’ll load the dishwasher later on.”

“That I can do, you want to pull out a container to put the left overs in, and then I will be off.”

“Yup, can do.” Digging through the cabinets that while they weren’t bare, they were hardly ever used, and it was almost as if they had finally found a use again. “Here you be.”

“Thanks. Now go find something to do, if it should lead you back to the piano then I’m thinking it was meant to be.” Once the left overs were in the container he put it into the fridge looking at me for a minute. “And then I’ll be back in a little while and we can do whatever you’d like.”

“It’s a keyboard but, yes I know what you mean. I wish that I had a real piano but unfortunately in this house there’s just not room for one, even a stand up one.” I sighed. “But yes that’s where I’m headed I think. Move the keyboard out of the guest room and into the living room so that it’s out of your way.”

“It’s up to you, whatever works best for you, you can leave it where it is if that’s where you’d like for it to be. Don’t let me cause you any major hassles; after all I am merely a guest in your house.”

“It doesn’t bother me to move it; I drag it out here all the time. In fact I do some of my best work out here really. I just stick the keyboard in there because it’s a little easier than trying to find somewhere to put it in the living room.”

“If you insist, it truly is up to you. If you want to play in there, then go ahead. Wont bother me, in fact I enjoy your company, I guess that was something I learned at the bar.”” Grabbing his keys he headed for the door. “See you shortly, numbers on the fridge if you need anything while I’m out and about.”

“Alright, be careful, I’ll be here when you get back.” Heading for the guest room I wasn’t too terribly worried till I heard the door shut. Then the fear I had earlier felt set in again. I would make it though, this wasn’t something I wasn’t used to, and after all up until earlier today I’d lived all by myself. Then again up until yesterday I had pretty much all but forgotten about my ex as well, perhaps that was the difference that had to be remembered here. Just move the keyboard out into the living room and then we’ll figure it out from there, after all it wasn’t going to be that long that he was gone. Picking up the keyboard I moved it out into the living room setting it on the coffee table I used as a make shift stand for it. Sitting down on the edge of the couch while I did I flipped the on switch sighing some as I did. I’d taken a year of piano when I’d first started college to keep my musical knowledge from drifting off on me. That was almost two years ago now and I was still fighting to figure it all out. It was true that I didn’t practice as often as I could have but I didn’t exactly have time to all the time either. He had asked if there was anything else he needed to know about me and of course there was, there was a many of things he didn’t know yet about me yet. All in time, all in time. 

Letting my fingers slide over the keys for a minute it finally hit me, my muse had decided that she needed to make an appearance and inspire me. Pressing down on the keys I began to quietly sing along, “There you go taking my breath away again.  All I have to do is touch you and there I go, my heart is fluttering, make me feel like I’m thirty thousand feet off the ground and still climbing.” Hmmm, it actually didn’t sound too bad, it wasn’t great but it was a start that was for sure. Grabbing a piece of paper I began to jot down the keys that I had pressed and the words before going back to try and make it further. “Just one little thing you do, and you’re driving me insane, you say you’re ordinary, I see extraordinary. Save me tonight when I want nothing more than to curl up and die tonight, Oh tonight, Hold me one more time, and tell me you won’t leave me tonight, cause for tonight all I want is to be just yours.”

Scribbling out the words as I went I couldn’t help but smile a little bit. It had been so long since I’d actually done any decent writing, and finally my muse was speaking to me again, well that was a start at least. I knew I wouldn’t get much further than this and still needed to get some work done on practicing the music that I was attempting to get through. Hmmm what was first? Elton John or Journey? I’d been working on both of them for awhile now and it was going to drive me nuts if I couldn’t figure them out. Sitting there quiet for a minute, I let out a small sigh as I could hear the rain falling against the roof. Off in the distance the rumble of thunder could be heard, a very unwelcome sound to my ears really, ever since I was a little girl I had hated thunder storms, but I hated them more while I was alone than anything else.

I was only brought out of my day dream by something furry and fuzzy brushing against my leg. Letting out a small gasp as I looked down, I couldn’t help but laugh. “What’s the matter Maverick? Huh? Don’t you like storms either puppy?” Patting the couch I waited for her to get up, I couldn’t believe what a good dog she was, even though she was used to being alone more than having company. Watching her as she just stood there I shook my head. “Well come on girl, it’s ok, I’ll let you up on the couch, even if daddy doesn’t.” Yup, he’d left her alone with me I was going to spoil her in the short time that he was gone. After all wasn’t that what baby sitters were supposed to do? Spoil those who they took care of and then send them home to their real parents? That was how it worked at work anyways.

Once she was settled in on the couch she began to look around before looking at me as if to say, well hey, where’s dad at?

“He’ll be back in a little while girl, he had to run home and get a few things so that you guys could crash here for a couple of days. It’s alright though, I promise I wont let anything happen to you, that big old bad storm wont get to you don’t you worry.”

Reaching out to pet her head, I began rubbing her head cautiously as I did. I knew that certain dogs really didn’t like to be touched and others didn’t like strangers and really after only a day together, we were still strangers to each other.  Instead of growling though she rolled over onto her back putting all four paws into the air, I took that as a sign that she wasn’t going to take me as a threat. “Well are you going to be my new buddy? Huh?” I asked shaking my head as Gage came running in and stopped looking at the two of us. “Well come here you big baby there’s room for you too,” I couldn’t help but laugh as I patted the couch on the other side of me for him to get up on.  “I can’t believe how jealous you’ll get, she hasn’t even been here two days yet and you’re already upset cause I invited her up here.”

            With that Gage hopped up on the couch beside me. “Alright now, are you both happy?” As if to answer they both curled up on their respectable side laying their heads down on their paws as they did. Letting out a small sigh I went back to debating which music I was going to play, Elton was looking better and better, harder music but I needed less of a hand span to play it. Yea, that sounded like a good plan for today, start with that and then if I had time, I’d work on Journey. Pulling the music out of the folder they were kept in I let out a sigh looking at the music, there was very little about this music that was simple, in fact none of it was, but with a little practice I hoped it would get better.

Alright so it might take a lot of practice but the optimist in me hoped it wasn’t going to be too long before I could do it, because if not I would soon be getting frustrated all over again. When I’d first started playing I’d learned how to master “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” which wasn’t so bad, so I knew that with enough practice I could do this as well. Just as I was about to start working through it, there was a crack of thunder, causing both Maverick and I to jump. Damn, that was close, and getting closer by the second I was pretty sure. I was definitely beginning to hope that Nick got back shortly, even with the dogs this close, I didn’t like being alone. The way that the thunder echoed through out the house scared me in more ways than I could imagine.

 Nuzzling in close between the dogs I let out a small sigh, they made me feel a little better about it but not by much. The pitter patter that had been the rain outside was beginning to sound like ping pong balls bouncing off the roof and windows, wonderful, that was more than likely hail instead of rain. The one thing that bothered me most though, I supposed was the fact that the wind blowing against the house caused it to creak, and each creak and groan made me think that there was someone else there.

Hearing the front door creak open though, I almost let out a sigh of relief. Thank god, he was back and safe and sound at that. “Hey you,” I called from the couch pushing myself up onto my feet as I did.

“Hey, how’s the mutt doing? I know she doesn’t do well with thunder. I suppose it’s best that it’s not still raining right now and that it’s hail or else I’d be drenched.” I wasn’t sure why but there was something comforting about his voice as he moved into the living room. “Maverick, come on girl you know better, off the couch.”

            “She’s fine, I invited her up here, she was trying to crawl up in my lap. And then jealous wanted up so I invited him up as well.” Letting out a small yawn I sighed as I glanced to the clock on the wall, already eight pm.

            “You look like you could use some sleep right now.” He offered dropping a duffle bag just inside the living room entrance way moving towards the couch as another crack of thunder went through. “You don’t like storms do you?” He asked as he looked at me obviously having known that I had jumped at the sound of the thunder.
            “No, not really I don’t.” I sighed looking up at him for a minute before looking down at the floor. “Does it show that bad?”

            “Oh no its not that bad, how’d you piano practice go?” He asked laughing as I jumped over another crash of thunder. Almost reluctantly seeming, he reached out and pulled me close. “You’re alright.” His touch was gentle; it wasn’t the normal overbearing presence of a male but yet it was still comforting. “I won’t let anything hurt you.” There was something in the way he stopped the sentence that made me wonder if there wasn’t more to it.

            “It went alright, I managed to write part of a new song and then got started on practicing but I think I’m done for the night because you’re right, I am kind of tired.” Looking up into his eyes I couldn’t help but get lost in them again, he had such a power over me and yet he didn’t dare use it over me, I couldn’t help but wonder why.

            “Well then, how about we take you upstairs, tuck you into bed and I’ll stay with you until you fall asleep.” He said still as he looked down at me placing a gentle kiss on my forehead. It hurt but I didn’t bother to tell him that, after all the last thing I wanted was for him to feel sorry about it.

            “First I’ve gotta load the dish washer and then that sounds like a perfectly wonderful idea.” Wrapping an arm around his neck lightly I’d have almost sworn he flinched, but it was possible I had imagined it. “As long as that’s alright with you that is.”

            “I’ll get the dishes, don’t worry about it, it’ll take me maybe five minutes to do anyways. I can manage it while you’re asleep, lets get you tucked in.” Without warning he scooped me up heading for the stairs. Letting out a screech I clung a little tighter to his neck, partially from the fear of falling and partially because I really just wanted to be closer to him. “I won’t let you fall, I wouldn’t let anything happen to you, I promise.”

            “Oh I’m sure you wouldn’t, however, I’m not real big on heights and even at this little distance. I don’t really like having my feet off the ground, but I’ll live with it, just means I won’t let go.”

            Once he’d set foot at the top of the stairs, he carefully set me down on my feet again. “There that better? “

            “Yes, in fact it is, now listen don’t worry about coming to sit with me or anything like that. I’ll be alright while I’m in bed, especially knowing that you’re around. As long as you’re in the house then Ill be fine to sleep.” Reaching out to brush a hand against his cheek, I leaned up kissing it lightly.

            “I want to Stephanie, this isn’t something that I think I have to do, you’ve been through hell the last couple of days, and I think you deserve the break. I’m sure Maverick will come lay at the foot of you’re bed and keep us company as long as you don’t mind it and we’ll make room for Gage, find something on TV to watch and you can curl up and go to sleep, after I’ll get the dishes washed and find somewhere to sleep.”

            “Alright, Alright.”  Letting out a sigh and turning away from him, heading down the short hall way that led to my room. Crawling up on the bed I let out a small sigh. The truth was, I was exhausted, absolutely positively exhausted at this point.

            “You’re not going to change?” Nicholas asked leaning on the door frame as he did, almost as if he wasn’t going to move closer until he was invited to.

            “No, I’m fine like this, I changed earlier on and I can live with the shorts I have on. You can come in.” I watched him a little curious about his behavior, but I wouldn’t press the issue. Patting the edge of the bed I curled up against the blanket. It was warm outside but I had a rather strange quirk that I couldn’t sleep without a blanket on me during the night. “The remotes on that side of the bed I think so if you’d like to find something on TV to watch you’re more than welcome to.”

            Leaning back he let out a small whistle that brought both dogs running stopping in front of him, they both looked up at him as if to say yes? You called? Is there something I can do for you? “Go get up on the bed.” Was all he said and Maverick hopped up on the foot of the  bed laying down before looking at Gage as if to say well aren’t you coming? He hopped up as well laying besides her looking at her as if to say alright I’m here now what did you want? Nick let out a laugh before sitting down on the edge of the bed. “She sleeps with me at night, she’s used to lying at the foot of the bed, in the middle of winter she makes a great foot warmer, but sometimes I wonder why I’m still sleeping along with just a dog.” He shrugged. “Sorry, I didn’t mean for that to seem like I was rushing it or anything.”

            “Oh, no you’re fine. There’s nights I wonder the same thing, and then I meet another idiot at the bar and remember why.” I couldn’t help but shrug as I looked at him. “Then again they’re also a pretty good reminder as to why I also don’t drink anymore.”

            “You work in a bar and you don’t drink? Not even in small portions?” He asked looking at me for a moment as he did before gently reaching over and giving me a push against the bed. “You’re never going to get to sleep sitting up you know silly.”

            In response to that I playfully gave him a shove against the bed. “You promised you’d stay with me.” I gave a small smirk and when there was no response I carefully rolled myself up and over on top of him resting on my hands and knees carefully. If I had known what would happen next, I probably wouldn’t have done it. Before I knew it he’d given me a shove causing me to let out a yelp, defensively rolling myself onto my back as I did, getting away from him seemed like the smartest idea. After all he had at least five inches on my five-five frame, add in the weight and he’d have me beat easy.

 For the first time since I’d gotten him, Gage let out a defensive snarl, the hair standing up on the back of his neck as he did.  “Easy boy. I’m sorry?” I somehow managed to say though the fact that the wind had been knocked out of me and partially because I still wasn’t really sure why he’d acted like he had. Closing my eyes I pressed my lips together fighting the urge to cry, right now I hurt, while I didn’t think he had intentionally tried to hurt me, right now I wasn’t sure.

            “No, I’m sorry.” He reached up running a hand through his hair as he did. “A-are you alright? You aren’t hurt are you?” His voice sounded fear stricken still as he spoke, but if he wasn’t going to share why he had acted the way that he did, then I wasn’t going to push it. “Please tell me I didn’t hurt you.”

            “I’m fine.” I responded opening an eye to look at him as I did though it was hard to fight back the tears. He was genuinely concerned or he faked it well, but because I always thought the better of people I was going to choose to go with the first answer.  Which in turn meant the last thing that I wanted to do was to upset him; after all I was finally happy in my life, the last thing I wanted to do was push him away. “A little sore but that’s to be expected after everything that’s happened in the last couple of days. Listen, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, I trust you enough to know that there’s a reason that you acted like you just did, but if you want to talk about it, I’m always here.”

            “I’ve never told anyone, but it’s a lot like why you aren’t the fondest of being touched.” He closed his eyes for a moment reaching up and rubbing them as he did, I’d have almost sworn that he was wiping away tears, but I didn’t press for information. I understood if he wasn’t comfortable enough with me yet to tell me, then I could understand that. “You’re sure that I didn’t hurt you?”

            “Positive.” I said gently forcing myself to sit up. “I’m fine, like I said just sore, I’ll be alright. You didn’t hurt me, no.” I was still a little shook up myself after what had just happened, after all I had learned to trust him in the short time that we’d known each other and then he’d acted like this, it was a scary thought. I wasn’t sure what had triggered it, but I did know now that it and probably anything like it was a bad idea.

            “I-I’ll leave if you want.” He’d turned his back to me to push himself up off the edge of the bed and part of me couldn’t help but feel bad. It was then that I managed to move to my knees, moving behind him and carefully wrapping my arms around him.

            “Please don’t leave,” I couldn’t help but whisper as I leaned my chin on his shoulder. “We all have our pasts, we’ve all had something happen that shaped who are today, I don’t know your story, but maybe some day I will. Until then, if I do something that bothers you, please let me know. Believe me, I understand demons haunting you from the past, I’ve got my fair share of them.”

            “I’m sorry, really I am.” He whispered reaching up and setting a hand on top of one of mine. “I guess I should have warned you from the beginning that I don’t really do well being pinned to anything or tied to anything. I’m sorry; I’m never really sure what I’ll do if it happens. I could have hurt you worse than you already are and for that I’m sorry.”

            “Stop being sorry, it didn’t happen and now I know.” I placed a gently kiss on his cheek. “No harm no foul, at least no one got hurt.” Sighing some I looked at Kilo who had begun to growl again. “Enough boy, it’s alright, I’m fine.”  He let out a dramatic sigh and laid his head back down besides Maverick again.

            “I thought you said he wouldn’t hurt a fly?” He asked shaking his head as he did. “Lay down, you really should get some sleep, don’t let me bother you.”

            Curling back up on the bed I shrugged. “He’s never acted like that before with anyone, I didn’t think that he would. Obviously though under the right circumstances, I would have to say that he definitely will. I’m impressed with how Maverick took it though.” Pulling the blanket back up over myself I set my head on the pillow watching as he turned to face me again. 


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