*Spoilers for Fix You. Jess and Chris-centric short in several parts.*
Rosewood Short – Part 1
Rain murmured over the house, sighing in the eaves, whispering against the window panes, chuckling through the gutters and spilling over where autumn leaves had gathered. The roses – all her pretty, thorny roses – bowed low, rich blossoms heavy with crystal drops, thorns scratching at the side of the house. Over the top of Chris’s head, through the window, she watched Lake Allatoona, its surface slick as brown glass, its edges lapping high in the grass, overflowing its banks. It wouldn’t end, the rain. And no one wanted to do much of anything except drink, and talk, and play billiards. Her inn was full. She heard the muted clack of pool balls from far down the gallery. Caught a snatch of laughter from the sun room, the music of it heavy with wine. Old floorboards creaked overhead. Footsteps thumped on the grand stair. She imagined she heard the pages of books rustling, the shift of ice cubes melting in glasses, the crackle of fire logs, the contented sighs of guests warming their toes in front of the hearth. Her inn, her beautiful Rosewood Inn was at full capacity. The place Chris had resurrected for her was thriving. But he, her man, looked more broken than she could have thought possible.
“Chris.” Jessica pushed through the heavy butter lamplight to get to him, a hand settling in the dark unruly spikes of his hair. “It’s not the end of the world.”
He didn’t respond; his lashes flickered as he studied the grain of the table.
Jess teased her nails along his scalp, his hair thick and plush as it slid through her fingers. There were raindrops in it. “Baby.”
“Eight weeks,” he said numbly. “And that’s not counting PT. It’ll be months before I can work again.” He stared at the opposite wall and she watched the muscles in his throat work as he swallowed. He needed to shave. The hanging lamp above the table did unforgiving things to the lines around his eyes.
“You’ve had surgeries before,” she soothed, hand still working through his hair. “This one won’t be any harder than the others.”
She said that, but this was the first surgery she’d been involved with. When the call had come in, while she’d been at the store with the kids, and one of Chris’s subcontractors, Phillip, had explained the sound his knee had made when her husband slipped off the scaffolding and hit their client’s floor…Her pulse had lodged in her throat; she’d been shaking too badly to drive and had sat in the parking lot, Tyler asking, “Aren’t we going?” and Maddie babbling in the backseat while she tried to wrangle her panic.
She’d never felt that way about Dylan.
She’d never felt that way about anyone save her children.
But Chris didn’t need her panic, only her support. “Think of it as the vacation you won’t take for yourself,” she said. “You can get more than three hours of sleep.”
“I don’t need sleep,” he said, petulance edging into his voice.
“Well…baby.” She sighed. “You hurt yourself. You don’t exactly have a choice at this point.”
That pissed him off. He tensed, muscles locking. Jess felt the energy rippling under his skin.
The role reversal was beyond strange. He was the laid back one, always, and she was the uptight perfectionist. She hadn’t, she realized with a start, ever seen him vulnerable. And the way he was limping around, miserable, with an eight-week recovery outlook, definitely counted as vulnerable. He was chafing under the thought that she’d see weakness in him.
“Are you worried about money?” she asked.
“Are you worried about the inn?”
“Are you worried about me?”
She sighed again. “You don’t have to worry about any of those things.” What she had to say next wasn’t going to help the situation, but she’d learned the first time around not to withhold pertinent information. “And you have to go ahead with the surgery – ” He grumbled something. “And go through all your therapy like the doc says. No half-assing it. The sooner the better. You know why?”
He didn’t answer.
Jess took a deep breath. “My doctor’s appointment this morning? Yeah…I’m…I’m pregnant again.”
He stopped breathing.
“Don’t panic,” Jess said in a rush. “Don’t get stressed.”
After a moment, he took a huge breath. “You are?”
She smoothed his hair and it sprang back up against her palm, prickly against her skin. An ironic smile threatened. “Eight weeks along.”
Chris leaned into her, his heavy shoulder against her hip, and he heaved an exhausted sigh. “This damn leg,” he muttered, glancing down at his right knee.
“Don’t be so hard on it,” she said. “It got you out of the army.” And brought you to me. “Besides,” she said, “it’s not like we won’t have tons of help…”