Chapter 1: Chapter One
“Can I get you anything, Megan?” Amelia asks, returning to the living room with a turkey sandwich and glass of water for her husband.
“I’m not really hungry,” Megan says, closing her eyes and focusing on her breathing exercises. She’s reclining on the couch, wrapped up in sweats and a wool blanket despite the heat being on, quite literally staring into space.
Amelia feels more than hears Owen’s sigh of pain, of hurt, from her place behind him. “Are you sure? I can make anything you want?” She chuckles slightly, trying to lighten the mood. “Well, I wouldn’t exactly say anything .” Megan doesn’t respond, but she hopes the joke curved the corners of Owen’s mouth, even just a little bit.
Megan keeps her eyes closed, attempting to stay calm. She shakes her head. This is all too much--being back. There is so much destruction in her brain. There is so much that has changed in her mind. And then there’s her brother who is not the man she left. And Riggs, the man who bruised her heart. And Amelia, practically a stranger and caregiver all at once. There is no reprieve for the living, she thinks.
“Alright,” Amelia says, more to herself than anyone else. She takes a seat in the bay window, curling her legs under herself and turning her eyes to the television. She doesn’t know the show--it’s not like she can focus too much on it anyway with all that’s going on--but she looks there for the sake of staying busy.
The room is silent, clothed in tension and things left unsaid. It’s ten minutes before another word is spoken, this time by Owen’s raspy voice. “Amelia,” he says, waiting for her to return his attention. When she looks at him, he continues. “You can go.” At the look of hurt on her face, he hurries to correct himself. “I know you were going to FaceTime with Charlotte today. It was in the calendar.”
“I really don’t have--”
“Go,” he says, gently but firmly, leaving no room for discussion. She’s spent the last week in the hospital with him and Megan. She’s sat by his side as he held Megan’s hand, willing her to wake up. She drove them back and forth from their home to Madigan every day. She called work and took off the next two weeks for the both of them, not taking no for an answer. She drove him to appointments for his PTSD, and today she started taking Megan as well. She needs a break, too. She needs a time to process things. She has given that gift to him and he only thinks it’s fair to return the favor. Because that’s what he and her do: they always look out for each other. “We’ll be okay.”
She’s worried, but she knows that Owen is just as stubborn as her when he sets his mind to something. She nods and tells them to call her if they need anything, before walking into their bedroom, closing the door part-way. She grabs her laptop from her nightstand and sits at the edge of the bed, one leg tucked beneath her and the other hanging just slightly above the hardwood floor. She logs in and presses Charlotte’s contact, then waits for her to answer.
After three rings, Charlotte answers, looking out of breath. “Sorry,” she says, her smile wide at finally seeing Amelia’s face once more. It has been months. “The triplets thought it would be a great idea to take off down the street on our walk.” Amelia raises her eyebrows, having missed the stories of her nieces and nephews in LA. “Is it really so horrible to put your kids on leashes?”
Amelia chuckles, the sound lighter than it’s been in a long time. “It is.”
“Damn it.” She smiles at Amelia before jumping into updates and a line of questioning Amelia can’t dodge.
“So she’s staying with you now?” Charlotte asks after the two have thoroughly caught up.
“In our guest bedroom.” Amelia lets out a deep sigh. “She needs to be here, with us right now. I’m the one who suggested it,” she says. “But I’m worried about Owen. He’s blaming himself for her spending ten years in hell. For giving up on her. And, with her here, he seems empty .” Amelia shakes her head, trying to find the words to explain the shift in his behavior. “All he keeps saying is that Megan isn’t herself. He can’t get past it.” Charlotte nods on the screen, prompting Amelia to continue. “And I’m trying to help him, but I don’t know what to do. I try to do whatever I can, but what if it’s not enough? What if I’m not enough? I don’t want to make things worse.”
“Hold on just a second there, Amelia,” Charlotte says sternly. “You can only do the best you can do. You can’t worry about doing something wrong. You do that, you start second-guessing yourself, and then you really won’t be able to help him.” Amelia, noticing the validity of Charlotte’s statement, agrees with her friend’s point.
“I just,” Amelia wipes her eyes. No tears have fallen and yet her eyes feel wet and weighed down. “I’ve hurt him so much, Charlotte.” She tilts her chin up toward the ceiling, her mouth falling open as she tries to control her tumultuous emotions.
Charlotte’s straight back softens at Amelia’s heartbroken words. “I know you guys are in a better place right now, supporting him with all that’s going on, but that doesn’t mean your problems went away.” She’s not going to deny that Amelia is right. It wouldn’t do anyone any good. Charlotte then tilts her head in a way Amelia knows all too well. It’s a look that’s not quite pity, but a sense of knowing. She’s been where Amelia is now and she doesn’t want her relationship to implode any more than it already has. She has lived through that; she has already made those mistakes. “People like us,” she begins, “we don’t have the luxury of hiding our emotions. That bites us in the ass,” she finishes. Amelia feels a single tear drop at her friend’s words--the words that mimicked Charlotte’s words of wisdom when Amelia was pregnant with her little boy. Amelia makes eye contact with Charlotte once more, letting herself begin to feel the pain she’s locked inside of her for so many months. The months of running need to be over. “Amelia,” Charlotte sighs, soft and tender. “I know you’re helping him, but you should also talk about your baby and you leaving. You can’t hide forever. You need to grieve and he needs to know. Marriage isn’t a one-way street. He trusted you with his sister. Now it’s your turn to have a little faith in him. The man you love. The man you married.” Charlotte gives her a small smile, nodding slightly as if affirming her words.
Amelia sniffles, wiping her eyes with the edge of her fraying sweater. “I don’t know if I can do it,” Amelia says, her voice cracking with the intensity of the emotions swirling within her. That part of my life--”
“You can.” Charlotte is sure, confident even. “You’re strong, Amelia.” She turns her head when she hears one of her children calling her. “I have to go,” she says sadly. “Georgia needs me.” Amelia nods in understanding. “Trust me. Talk to him.” And, within mere seconds, Charlotte waves a quick goodbye and clicks out of the app, and Amelia is once again acquainted with her own face. She closes her laptop and takes a few deep breaths. Talking to Charlotte always puts things in perspective. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to hear, though. It’s probably the reason she didn’t call or check in all those months she spent apart from Owen. She wasn’t ready to deal with the reality of it all.
She’s still lost in her thoughts when she hears a rhythmic tap-tap on the bedroom door. She turns her head from her seat on the foot of the bed, raising her eyebrows in question, when she sees Owen standing just before the threshold. “Megan went to take a nap. She took some medication to help her sleep,” he says. Amelia nods in acknowledgement. “May I come in?” he asks, seemingly hesitant.
She chuckles, trying to put on a good face. “It’s your room, too,” she says. He nods in agreement, but still seems hesitant to enter. “Is everything alright?”
He exhales deeply, the sound resonating within her very veins. “No, not really.” He takes a few steps forward, eyes averted to the ground. She waits for him to continue, not wanting to push him more. She knows he’s already put a lot of faith in her since she came back and she doesn’t want to make things worse. She can’t ask for more than he’s already giving her. “Nothing is alright.” He finally moves his gaze, allowing his crystal blue orbs to meet with hers, and she’s relieved to find no anger lying in their depths. He seems sad, not angry, and she can work with that. She can be here for him.
She scoots over on the bed, letting her feet hang over the edge, and pats the space next to her. He complies, grateful for her show of willingness to talk, but not sure where to begin. Luckily, she takes the leap for him. “How much did you hear?” When his startled eyes immediately reconnect with hers, she chuckles. This time it’s genuine. “You have a terrible poker face.” She smiles ever so slightly.
“I heard enough,” he answers. A red blush begins to creep up his neck, but she’s not mad about the eavesdropping.
Looking down to her fidgeting fingers, she lets out a sigh. “I had a son.” He nods, remaining silent. He turns to face her, only catching her profile, but keeping his eyes locked on her anyway. She’ll meet his eyes when she’s ready. “I told you that once.” She begins to trace her pointer finger over the lines of her left hand. “I don’t really talk about it much. I mean,” she lets out a harsh, unforgiving laugh, “I never even told my brother. Or my mother.” She shrugs, and her eyes turn upward, toward the ceiling. His heart breaks at her words, to know how she had struggled alone. “My baby had anencephaly.” She lets out another breath before meeting his eyes. Her baby blues are watery and her heart is constricting with pain, but she knows she needs to do this. “I carried him to term and, when he was born, I held him.” She sucks in a wavering breath. “And then he donated all of his organs.” She sniffles and smiles through the pain. “And I don’t talk about it.”
He nods, reaching his palm out to cup her damp cheek, rubbing his thumb over her cheekbone. He recognizes the words he said to her about Megan and, undoubtedly, he understands how hard this is for her to talk about. “I didn’t like talking about it before I gave birth. Or after. It was that year that I relapsed, before I was pregnant. And my son’s dad,” the words catch in her throat. “His dad was the man who I loved, the one who overdosed. I woke up from this incredible high to find him dead.” Her lips are quivering as she’s trying so desperately to hold back the sobs threatening to escape. “And this baby. This baby was supposed to be a miracle. A piece of him left for me to love.” She leans further into his grasp, closing her eyes. “And he was. My baby was a miracle to all those other moms and kids.” She opens her eyes once more and finally a sob rips through her defenses. “But sometimes I wish,” she chokes on her words, “sometimes I wish he was a miracle for me, you know? And then I feel guilty about it because he was, he was a miracle, and I did love him, so much. I still love him. I’ll always love him.” The words seem to pour out of her mouth, having been trapped inside the confines of her body for far too long.
He brings his other hand to her cheek, now holding the delicate curves of her face in both his hands, wiping the tears away as they fall. He murmurs sweet nothings, letting her cry, just looking into her eyes and reassuring her that he’s here. He is here for her.
It’s another five minutes before her words are coherent enough to make sense of, her sniffling an “I’m sorry” as her eyes close in embarrassment. She just said some of the worst things and thoughts of her life and she doesn’t want to face him now. She doesn’t want to see his opinion of her change. All this time, she was running from this, and now it is all out in the open. It’s rather terrifying.
His eyebrows furrow at her apology. They had never apologized for sharing before, for feeling too much. His body aches at how far they still have to come. “There is nothing to be sorry for.” She looks into his eyes at his words, her expression wary. “Mia,” he croons, “there is nothing to be sorry for.”
“How can you say that?” she whispers.
“Because it’s the truth.” He removes his palms from her cheeks only to grab her hands. He grips them tightly, wordlessly trying to give her strength. “It’s okay to miss what you never got the chance to have. It’s okay to want him here.” He smiles tenderly. “You are already a great mother. To your little boy,” he adds. “You were always right about that.”
“I didn’t hold him until he died,” her voice breaks on the last word. “I let them take him out of my arms. I gave him up.”
“And I’m sure that was the hardest thing you ever had to do.” A few more tears trek down her cheeks and he leans in to kiss them away. It’s the first time his lips have touched her skin since they’ve begun to reconcile and it makes her breath catch. “You did it for all those other kids and parents. You did it for your son to live on.” He leans their foreheads together. “You did it so you could survive it, too.”
He feels her shaky breath against his chapped lips, and he is grateful she is working through the pain. She never grieved, that much he is sure of, but she is getting the chance to do so now. “Thank you,” she murmurs. She closes her eyes and takes a few seconds to feel his support, his presence, his strength. Opening her eyes, she meets his gaze. She’s not done yet.
“I didn’t tell you.” She takes a deep breath, letting it filter out of her rounded lips slowly. “Instead, I ran.” She watches the hurt flash across his eyes. “I didn’t do it to hurt you, but I did it. I should have talked to you.” He concedes with a nod, otherwise still silent. “I really do want children,” she confides. She thinks she sees a glimmer of hope in her husband’s eyes. “But I’m really scared to have children,” she says, voice thick with emotion. “And I knew you were so excited about me possibly being pregnant, but all I felt was relief that the test was negative. And you were right.” His eyebrows raise in question. “The longer I didn’t open the door, the easier it became to stay inside,” she clarifies. “It did become easier. I had all this time on my hands to think about why we wouldn’t work and why I was just ruining your life--” He opens his mouth to dispute her, but is silenced by a raise of her hand. “I was wrong,” she finally settles on the words. “I love you,” she says, voice ringing with sincerity. “And I should have leaned in. Not out. I will spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to you if you’ll let me.” Her entire body sags as she finishes her apology, and she looks even tinier than usual. “I’m done now,” she says, her cheeks tinged red.
His eyes soften, his head tilting to the right, the look he always gives her when his empathy and compassion take over. “First,” he says, “you did hurt me. You ran. And even though you told me not to blame myself, how could I not? You didn’t talk to me. I didn’t know what happened.” She nods, dropping her eyes in shame. “The people closest to you are the ones who can hurt you the most. Sometimes, you hurt the people you love. We’ve both had our share of faults in this relationship.” He uses his pointer finger to gently lift her chin up. Once he locks eyes with her, he whispers, “But I love you, too. So much. And I want to fight for us.” He leans down, pressing a soft kiss to her rosy lips. There’s a slight twinge of pain as his chapped lips brush over her salty ones, but it doesn’t deter him. It’s been too long; they’ve gone long enough without this.
Things aren’t perfect, but this is a start. He’s here. She’s here. They’re both a little broken and bruised, but they made vows. Even more, they have love. So much love. They are going to make it through the storm. He’s sure of it.
Hello! Thank you for all the lovely reviews and kudos. I decided to make this a multi-chapter fic, kind of a hiatus fic, because I loved it so much. I hope you like it!
“Breakfast is almost ready,” Amelia says, her voice quiet, when Owen pads through the kitchen to their half bath. Megan is still asleep and she doesn’t want to wake her. She knows that sleep is essential to her recovery--her physical recovery at least. The trazodone given to her at the hospital seems to work, blocking out the symptoms of Megan’s PTSD long enough for her to rest. It does leave the woman with a bit of a hangover in the morning, but for now, it’s worth the grogginess. She deals with enough pain during the day; she doesn’t need it at night, too.
Amelia sighs, letting her shoulders slump after Owen disappears behind the bathroom door. She flips the waffle maker and taps her fingers idly on the granite counter, nodding her head slightly with the beat of her nails. She needs to move, to stay busy, because otherwise, she will fall apart.
She doesn’t know what to do or how to act. He’s not doing much better. They have talked, talked for the first time in months, about their marriage, and, yet, the world is not yet righted. There are a million times a day that they fall back into their old habits, their ease with each other evident, only for the moment to be abruptly shattered. Their hands will brush as they prepare dinner, him cooking the food while she’s chopping the vegetables, and, for a second, it feels normal . They are the same people they’ve always been. And then he pulls away, and she feels cold. She gets it, she really does, but it doesn’t make things any easier. And today is no better. To go from the intimacy of pouring her heart out the night before, to his tender embrace and warm lips, to the sterility of mere roommates is a shock to her system. It’s as if someone is playing with the temperature controls to her body: building her up to a comforting warmth of love and affection and then chilling her blood until there’s only pain in her bones.
But she can’t fall apart. That much is certain. Her husband needs her. So does his sister.
So she makes his coffee without a word, pouring him a mug from the pot and adding a little cream and a teaspoon of sugar, just the way he likes it. When he comes back out, walking into the kitchen once more, he’s a little startled by her offering. She hands him his coffee and he wraps his hands around the warm ceramic, breathing in the delicious aroma. He takes a quick sip, smiling gently at her remembrance. She always makes his coffee just right. She has a way of making everything just right , he thinks.
He takes a seat at the island as she turns back to finish the last of the waffles. He watches her quietly, his eyes glued to her back, her form tiny and lost in the oversized shirt she’s wearing. It’s not his, he notices, and it pains his heart to be reminded of their current circumstances. She would hardly ever wear her own clothes to bed, even when they first started dating. They are farther apart than they have ever been, taking steps back to near-strangers. Except they aren’t strangers. And he isn’t sure how to rectify those contradictions.
“Can I help?” he asks. He can’t keep sitting here and contemplating their new now. He’s not ready; he’s not strong enough.
Amelia turns her head, her body still facing forward, when she says, “Nope, I’m almost done here.” She wants to make a quip about how he would know that if he hadn’t spent the last five minutes staring at her, but she stops herself. Bantering is still off the table. She turns back around and closes her eyes and clenches her stomach at the thought. Bantering was part of what she loved about him. It was a staple in their lives and now it is gone. Maybe not forever, but it is still gone. She hadn’t realized how much she missed their style, their love for one another, their intimacy, until she was back in their home and in his presence.
He nods and moves to open the paper, reading the sports articles first. They don’t occupy his mind as well as he had hoped, but they at least make him appear busy. Instead of one hundred miles an hour, his brain is now at eighty. It’s a start, at least.
When the light on the waffle maker turns green, Amelia presses the lock button and carefully lifts the lid. She quickly picks up the waffles with the tips of her fingers and drops them hastily onto the plate, muttering while leaning from foot to foot. He can’t help but chuckle at her antics. “You know,” he says, catching her attention, “if you would use the spatula like a normal person, you wouldn’t burn your hands every time you made breakfast.” She turns around, this time fully, to see his easy smirk.
“I did not burn them,” Amelia says, trying to tamp down her smile. She holds her hands up, palms facing him, as if she’s pleading the fifth. “See?”
He chuckles once more, shaking his head at her nonsense. He stands up, pushing the bar stool back in before grabbing three plates from the cabinet and setting them on the counter. Amelia sets aside a few waffles for Megan, placing the plate in the oven, before making her own plate. She pours a copious amount of syrup and whipped cream, offering to do the same for Owen as he leans back, moving his plate out of her reach. He backs away slowly, a smile still on his face, holding the plate above his head. “You are not ruining my breakfast,” he says.
“Ruin?” she scoffs. “How about making it even better?”
“No,” he says, laughing slightly, his back now against the kitchen island as she continues to make her advances. “That’s practically a dessert.” He scrunches his nose. “Way too sweet for seven A.M.”
She keeps walking closer, her hands reaching up for his plate despite knowing she can’t reach it, and he has to smile. This is so them that the smile reaches his eyes. When she finally gives up, pouting and arms crossed over her chest, Owen laughs at her childish nature. And when she stomps her foot, he places his food on the counter behind him and wraps his arms around her waist. Her arms are still crossed, pressing against his abdomen, but he knows she’s not really mad. Once he’s comfortable holding her in his arms, his eyes meet hers. He knows that he stared into her eyes last night, but he still feels starved of her affection. He begins to lean down, eyes locked with hers, his lips millimeters from her own, when they hear Megan shut the door to her room. He pulls away quickly and takes his seat at the counter once more, averting his eyes from his wife’s tiny frame. She takes a deep breath, trying to calm her nerves, and follows to sit beside him. She tries not to feel disappointed or embarrassed, but it’s of no use. She misses her husband. She misses who she is with him. And then the guilt creeps back in and swallows her whole for the actions she’s taken, and she resumes her silent self-loathing.
“It smells good,” Megan says, entering the kitchen.
Amelia forces a smile. “There’s some for you in the oven. I wasn’t sure when you would wake up,” she says. “I can get them for you.”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Megan’s voice is quiet, but sure. “I can manage it.” She tries to chuckle, but it comes out more like a grimace. A sound of pain and emptiness rather than one of good humor. She grabs her plate and puts just a smidge of syrup on it, not wanting to upset her fragile stomach. She hadn’t had much food, or variety of food, during her captivity. Enough to keep her going and alive of course, but not much more than that.
As Megan takes her seat next to Owen, she says, “I didn’t know you cooked, Amelia.”
The corners of Owen’s mouth turns up at that, and Megan raises her eyebrow in intrigue. “Only waffles and pancakes. Sometimes pasta.” Amelia’s chest begins to redden with her blush.
“I might have burnt pasta a couple times,” she says quietly, her eyes frozen on her breakfast.
Megan lets out a light breath of air, almost like a breathy laugh, and Amelia takes it as the progress it is. “More than a couple,” Owen corrects, his eyes playful.
“How do you burn pasta?” Megan chimes in.
The blush covering Amelia’s chest creeps up onto her cheeks as well. She shrugs, refusing to meet their eyes. “By not paying attention,” Amelia says, more like a question than a statement. She doesn’t want to tell her sister-in-law, whom she just met, that the distractions were always sex. With Owen. So, really, it was all his fault.
Owen leans to his left, his breath tickling her ear, as he says, “Oh you were paying attention all right. Just not to the pasta.” He pulls away, easily masking the suggestiveness on his face as he resumes eating his waffles. Amelia struggles to regulate her expression and breathing, but to no avail. She shakes her head, trying to reign in her thoughts. Now that she is with him, she can’t imagine spending so long apart. She has no idea how she did it. She lets out one last breath, then picks up her fork and gets to work on her untouched meal. When she looks up again, finally meeting her sister’s eyes, there’s a little spark in them she hasn’t seen before. She blushes even more at the realization that her sister has probably guessed her distraction. But as quickly as it appeared, the light goes from her eyes and Megan turns away, her eyes dark and troubled.
The rest of the morning is rather slow and uninvolved--the three residents occupy the same space but barely interact, at least not meaningfully. “I think we should leave soon,” Amelia says a few hours later, standing up and tossing the magazine she was reading onto their coffee table. “There will probably be traffic.”
Megan turns slightly, nodding, still distant. Owen looks from his sister to his wife and back again. “I can take her.”
“Owen,” Amelia sighs, “it’s fine. You’re still recovering, too.”
“I can take her,” he insists, referring to his sister’s therapy appointment.
Amelia shakes her head at his stubbornness. “You haven’t driven since you found out, and you’re still spacing.” She shrugs on her coat while Megan heads to her room to put on shoes and a sweater.
Amelia interrupts him. “How about I drive and you come with?” Amelia ties a scarf around her neck, dreading the cold she’s sure to face. “She’s more comfortable with you anyway,” she adds.
Owen nods, finally agreeing to the most logical solution. He knows he shouldn’t be driving, but he doesn’t want to leave his sister. He pulls on his leather jacket and slips into his shoes, which were left by the door. A few minutes later, Megan walks back into the living room, her gait slow and awkward, but moving nonetheless.
The ride to therapy is not long, but the stop and go of conversation is tedious. When they arrive, Owen and Amelia walk Megan in before going back to the car to wait for the hour to be up. It’s no use to go back home--they would just have to turn around and come right back. Sitting in the car, Amelia leans back, trying to level her breathing and rest her eyes. The rain and wind from outside is taking a toll on her, and between the weather and her home life, she’s not sure how much more she can take.
“She used to be different, you know.” Owen’s soft words break through the haze of her brain. She turns her head, still resting against the headrest, to face him more directly. He continues once he knows she’s listening. “I know I’ve been saying that a lot.” He chuckles a bit self-consciously. Her eyes soften at his pain and she reaches out a hand, placing it on his knee in an offer of silent comfort. He exhales deeply before continuing. “She used to be funny. Making jokes all the time. Real sarcastic.” He chuckles. “Always giving me crap.” He turns to face his wife further, his eyes wet with the tears he refuses to shed. “You would think she was the older sibling. Always looking out for me, teasing me, trying to make me do better.” He shakes his head, trying to clear the pain from his thoughts. Amelia rubs her thumb across his knee, keeping a steady pressure there. She knows there’s still more to be said. “And now, now she’s just…” He closes his eyes, blowing a steady stream of air through his puckered lips. “Now she’s just empty.” A single tear drops and she moves her other hand to wipe it off. “I miss her,” he whispers.
Amelia moves both of her hands to cup his cheeks, turning her small body around in the chair, now fully facing him. Rubbing her thumbs along his cheekbones, she says, “I know.” She nods her head, letting him take his time processing his emotions. “I would be worried if you didn’t miss her. Who she used to be.” She stares into the deep abyss of his eyes, silently begging him to understand that his grief is normal. “She probably will never be exactly who you remember her as.” As his eyes seem to shatter in grief, she is quick to continue. “But she will come back. We will help her come back. She won’t be this shell of a person forever. She won’t be exactly the same, but she will come back to you.” Amelia leans her forehead against his. “I promise,” she breathes, praying to a God she’s not sure she believes in for a miracle. Owen needs a miracle.
He leans forward, nudging his lips closer to hers. She is more than willing to adhere to his request, moving forward to meet his lips. The kiss is slow and unhurried, full of love and tender longing. He breathes deeply into the kiss, his lips gently running over hers, until they both need some air. Pulling back, he rubs his thumbs over her cheeks, before disentangling himself from her embrace. She tries not to feel disappointed--it’s rare that they separate so quickly, often they love to remain in each other’s presence for as long as possible--but she can’t help the gnawing in the pit of her stomach. He hears her sharp inhale, her uneasy breathing, and he closes his eyes to maintain his composure. “I don’t want to upset you,” he says.
“What?” she asks, confused.
“I know you want us to be back to normal.” She goes to object, but he shoots her a small smile and stops her in her tracks. “Or something of the like. I miss our intimacy, too. I won’t lie about that.” He sighs, reaching out his hand to hold hers. “I just, there’s so much going on. And we were apart for so long. I think we need to take things slow. Rebuild our foundation and all that.” He chuckles. “Look at me using the metaphors now.” The corners of her lips turn up ever so slightly at his comment. “I do want us to work,” he says, motioning between the two of them. “But I think the best way to do that is to go slow.”
She nods. “I can understand that.”
He turns to face her, his leg hitting uncomfortably against the center console. He uses his free hand to lightly run his fingers through her hair, smiling as she leans into the caress. “I’m not saying we can’t kiss or hug,” he says, a blush rising on both their cheeks. It wasn’t often that they had discussed these things; they had just always happened naturally. “We need to pace ourselves. We need to get back to the normality of it all.” He tilts his head, his eyes boring into hers. “I don’t want us to go further than that until we’re on the same page. We’ve been through too much, we love each other too much, to do anything before we’re connected emotionally as well.”
She sniffles. She knows he’s absolutely right, but it still brings tears to her eyes. How did she let it get this far? “I want that, too,” she whispers. “And we’ll get there?” He hears the unmistakable waiver of her voice, her insecurities peaking through.
His eyes soften further as he nods his head. “We’ll get there.” He leans in to press a final kiss against her lips, gentle and over before it really started. “I promise. We’re not finished yet.”
She nods. “We’re not finished yet.”
So, I won't lie-this chapter is angsty. There's also talk of PTSD in addition to the angst. But, the next chapter is a bit fluffier and the one after that is really fluffy. I hope you still enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Two days later, Amelia and Megan are getting ready to leave as Owen finishes cleaning up their lunch of sandwiches and chips. “I’ll be back soon--probably by 2 o’clock,” Amelia says unnecessarily. He knows how long it takes to get to the hospital and back, but any excuse to talk to him is one she’s taking nowadays. He nods as he places the dishes in the sink, turning on the faucet. Amelia sighs, but still shoots a smile in her sister’s direction, holding the door open for them to leave.
Once in the car, Amelia turns on the radio and lets the quiet music fill the awkward lapses in conversation. “It will be okay,” Megan says quietly. It’s so quiet that Amelia doesn’t realize Megan is talking to her and not just mumbling to herself. Megan repeats it, turning her head slightly although still not meeting Amelia’s eyes.
“Excuse me?” Amelia’s eyebrows furrow.
“You and Owen.” Megan fiddles with her fingers in her lap. Amelia looks over once they’re parked in the hospital lot and notices the movement, feeling oddly relatable. It’s a habit she often catches herself doing.
“You don’t have to worry about us,” Amelia says quietly. Megan already has enough to deal with, their marriage shouldn’t have to be one of them. “We’re worried about you. We want you to get better.”
Megan sighs, her entire upper body sagging as she continues to stare into her lap. She chuckles, a self-deprecating laugh that grates on Amelia’s very soul. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be okay,” she whispers. She takes a deep breath before letting it out slowly, trying to keep her breathing exercises in mind. “But it’s not the same for you two.” Megan directs her eyes to her sister, her smile sad, but present. “You two still have a chance. To work things out and continue your lives together.”
Amelia gives Megan a teary smile, laughing despite the gravity of the situation. She reaches out a soft hand, placing it on Megan’s knee. “I am grateful that you’re here and trying to help us. But it’s our crap, not yours.” She rubs her thumb comfortably atop Megan’s jeans. “It’s more important that you get better. Take some time for you. You need it more than we do.” Megan begins to object; however, Amelia is quick to continue. “Because you will get better. You do have a future, Megan.” She removes her hand and lightly pats her sister’s shoulder, tilting her head slightly. Amelia’s eyes are soft and open, and she’s relieved when Megan meets them, not happy, but also not lost in the abyss.
“Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it,” Megan whispers, her voice cracking partway through.
Amelia nods, offering her silent support. “I know.” She sighs. “But you will.” Amelia moves to unlock the doors to the car, Megan slowly pulling herself out of her seat. They walk into the hospital together, Megan standing closer and closer to Amelia as herds of people pass. Amelia sends her a smile, reassuring her that all is okay, that she is safe and these people will not harm her.
“Hello, Megan,” Dr. Howell says, voice bright and cheery. “Dr. Campbell just wanted you to get some more tests. Diagnostics. She said that she told you she wanted you to see another therapist, too? Someone to help with issues other than PTSD?” Megan nods. “Okay. We can talk about it more inside.” The doctor turns to Amelia after ushering Megan inside her office. “Does she have your phone number? The appointment will be a while, what with the tests and intake. We could call when we’re finished.” Amelia nods and agrees with the plan, knowing that this is not a regular therapy session and, therefore, the timing is difficult to anticipate. She then waves a goodbye to Megan and heads out to the car. The ride home is quick: there isn’t traffic and it’s not like her and Owen live far from the hospital anyway. It would be too difficult with the nature of their careers to do so.
When she opens the door to their home, she finds it immaculate. The dishes are cleaned and put away, the floors vacuumed, the tables dusted. It smells strongly of cleaning supplies and Amelia wrinkles her nose at the unpleasant scent. “Oh, you’re back,” Owen says, walking into the living room.
“Yeah,” she says, “they said it would be a while so I shouldn’t wait around.” She shrugs. “I told you I’d be back.”
He nods. “It was just a statement, Amelia. Not a critique.” He moves to finish dusting the bookcases.
“And you’re cleaning?”
“Mmhmm.” He sprays some Pledge.
“I need to do something,” he mumbles. “I can’t do anything for her or go anywhere and I just need to be able to do something .”
She nods, surprised at the ease of his confession. “Okay.” She heads toward their windows. “But if you’re going to keep cleaning, we’re going to have to open the windows. I hate the smell of cleaners.”
He chuckles. “I know,” he says sadly. Almost like he’s lost something. She chooses to ignore the plea in his voice, not wanting to disturb their unstable intimacy, instead walking around the house and opening all the windows. It’s a rare day in Seattle, she thinks, seeing how there are barely any clouds in the sky. It’s not supposed to rain and the cool breeze feels good against her face. She breathes in deeply, letting the air warm her soul. She used to do this a lot in LA. Sometimes she misses it. The windows open almost every day, the smell of the sun and the earth so pure, so calming.
Once she walks out of their bedroom, the last room on her list, and into the kitchen, she pours herself a glass of sparkling water. “Can you pour me one?” Owen asks, leaning the mop against the kitchen wall, having just finished mopping the floor of their half-bath.
“Sure,” Amelia pulls down another glass and pours him some water, then hands him the glass. He sips it, his tongue tingling at the familiar taste and bubbles. He never used to drink sparkling water, but ever since Amelia had brought him some on the night of their first kiss, it’s grown on him.
“It’s a mess in here,” he comments, speaking of the whole house.
She chuckles. “Well, we’re busy people. And you know me,” she smirks, “I’m not the best cleaner.”
He doesn’t share her enthusiasm. “Not like you were here anyway,” he mutters. He doesn’t realize he’s said it out loud until her eyes cut to his, wide and a bit nervous. He shakes his head. “It’s nothing.” He turns his eyes to the floor before taking another sip of his drink. “Forget I said anything.” He doesn’t want to upset their fragile relationship any more than she does.
Amelia nods, chugging her water until it’s empty and she’s in need of a refill. Once she’s filled her glass back to the top, she sighs. “Maybe we should.” At Owen’s confused glance, she elaborates. “Talk about it.” Her stomach is churning--she has always been the one to run, to avoid facing the issue, but she doesn’t want to run now. She can’t. And at some point, they need to talk about his anger toward her. The anger he has every right to hold.
“--I know, I know.” She shakes her head, averting her eyes to the ceiling. “Now that I want to talk, you think I expect you to just drop everything and do it, but when you wanted to talk I shut you out.” She opens her mouth and exhales, trying to control the flood of emotions. This isn’t about her hurt--it’s about Owen’s. Once her voice is more stable, she continues. “I just, I want this to work.” She motions to the two of them.
“I do, too,” he whispers, his voice wavering.
“And it’s about time I listened to you for a change.” She finally meets his eyes and sees the struggle there--the war between leaving the comfort of now in the name of progress or continuing as though all is well and their world hasn’t fallen apart. After a few seconds of tense internal debate, he nods his head in the direction of the living room. She follows him, taking a seat on the opposite end of the couch so that they can see each other clearly without falling into the trap of touching or kissing before their conversation is through.
They sit in silence for a few minutes, both breathing heavily and occupied by their own thoughts. By the time Owen speaks, Amelia is already halfway down the rabbit hole, considering every possible bad outcome this talk could have. She loves being a surgeon, but this part, the part where she can consider every outcome and all potential complications, only proves to fuel her raging fears. “Why did you leave?” She snaps out of her trance at his question, but only to furrow her brows. “I mean, I know why. You were scared and you felt guilty,” he sums up quickly. “But why did you leave instead of talking to me?” His eyes meet hers and the pain hidden inside them tears her to shreds. She squints, trying to formulate an answer. “Truth.”
“I always tell you the truth.”
“No you don’t. Not all of it.” His palm runs over his face as he tries to keep his despair as that, despair, and not let it become anger. “You tell me half stories and information or just run away.” his voice becomes louder and he’s losing his battle to stay level-headed.
She takes a deep breath and tries to remain calm. He is upset and rightfully so. “I don’t know,” she shrugs. “I always run. I’m a runner.”
He laughs, cold and bitter. “That’s it?” He stands up, pacing back and forth across the area rug. His voice raises. “Just because it’s the way you’ve always done something doesn’t mean it’s right.”
“I never said it was,” Amelia says, looking into his eyes. “But I don’t know. I panicked and I ran.”
“Then you should have come back when you got over it.”
“I didn’t get over it!” Amelia yells, standing up and taking a few strides to meet his body. Standing close to one another, Amelia keeps her voice level. “I left because I was scared to talk about my past. I hate talking about it. It was an awful time and there are so many things I’m ashamed of. So many things that kill me to talk about.” A few tears drop against her will and she hastily wipes them from her cheeks. “And then I didn’t want to face you after being gone so long. I didn’t want to tell you about my fear about pregnancy and I didn’t want you to leave me.” She lets out a breath, holding back her sobs as she finally admits the truth to herself. She didn’t want him to leave her. It is easier to leave than to be left.
However, he is not brought to tears by her confession. Instead, he takes a step back, giving himself space. His eyes harden and his jaw sets. “You thought,” he asks lowly, “that I would leave you?” He shakes his head. “Because you were scared? Because you weren’t ready?” She meets his eyes, about to correct herself, to explain, but he isn’t having it. “You really think that little of me?” He turns around, walking toward the other end of the room. He leans his head against the cool wall, his hands braced beside him, fists clenched. He takes a few deep breaths, knowing that punching the wall is not going to do him any favors. “That’s rich, coming from you.” She hears the malice in his tone and shrinks further into herself, wrapping her arms around her waist. “You, who is always leaving me, thought I would leave you?”
“--You think I would leave you because you didn’t want a baby?” He scoffs, hitting his fist lightly against the wall, not enough to do damage but enough to make a sound Amelia jumps at. He turns back around, facing his wife. His heart aches at the brokenness her sees there, but he has to keep going. If they don’t, they’ll just be back here tomorrow.
She doesn’t know how to deal with the attack. That was not her intention at all, to doubt Owen’s love for her. She attempts to curb her thoughts, to think rationally, but her mouth is open and spewing words before her brain can catch up. “You did with Cristina,” she bites. If he’s going to strike low, so will she.
She sees his anger multiply, as well as the sorrow behind it. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” he seethes.
“Really? I wonder why?” She walks closer to him boxing him in, his back against the wall. She’s tiny, but strong. “Maybe because you don’t tell me everything either. You say I only give you half stories or don’t tell you at all? You do the same thing,” she says, poking his chest with her manicured pointer finger. “You never tell me anything! Only when I’m having a breakdown do you even consider talking to me about your crap.” She shakes her head, her lips wavering despite her resistance to crying.
He rolls his eyes. “Not everything needs to be talked to death.”
“Do you even hear yourself?” Her eyes are wide with incredulity. “I don’t tell you enough, but we shouldn’t talk about everything. What the fuck, Owen?” He’s about to answer, to yell some more, this fight far from being over, when a door slams in the distance.
Before she can think, he’s pushing her down on the ground, practically landing on top of her. “What--” He places a hand over her mouth, shushing her harshly, as she squirms in his grasp. His body is heavy and strong, and she’s having a hard time accepting his weight.
“Did you hear that?” he asks, his voice barely audible. Amelia nods, grunting under his weight. “They’re coming.”
“What? Who’s coming?”
“Keep your voice down,” he scolds, holding her tighter.
“Owen, it was just--”
“--I said quiet.” He finally turns to look into her eyes, his stare firm. But there’s something else there, too. She knows Owen, she knows his eyes, and these are not his eyes. They’re watery and hardened, giving off the appearance of glass. And his stare: his stare is empty.
She closes her mouth and regulates her breathing. He’s lost in a sea of memories and she’s not sure how to help. Within the next few seconds, Owen rolls off his wife and she can finally breathe without pain. He tugs her wrist for her to follow him, army crawling to the area in front of their couch and behind the coffee table. She follows mutely, still working on a plan of action. “We’ll wait here.” His head is beneath the coffee table and she mimics his position. “For backup.”
“Owen,” she reaches out her hand to touch his face, but he pushes her away.
“What are you doing?”
She sighs, resigned to helping him come back without touch. “Owen, do you know where we are?” He rolls his eyes, annoyed by her question. “Owen?” When his eyes continue to flit in every direction, nervous and full of energy, she decides to continue without his answer. “We’re at home. We’re at home in Seattle. Right now we’re in our living room. Just a few minutes ago the wind picked up and came through the window, which made the bathroom door slam. We’re safe. You’re safe.” He continues to ignore her, and she can see the adrenalin running through his body, the vein in his forehead pronounced and his fists clenched. So she repeats herself. Again and again, the monologue becoming practiced. Her voice becomes a whisper as she gently inches toward him, until she’s within a hair’s breath of his face. She repeats herself once more before his mind finally takes stock of the situation and his eyes clear from the haze. His breathing is fast and labored, but Amelia can tell that it is more from relief than fear. When his breathing settles, he asks, “Why are you here?”
Amelia’s stomach drops, feeling the pain of losing her husband all over again. She slides out from under the table and sits with her back leaning on the bottom of the couch. She pulls one knee up and wraps her arms around it, trying to stop the tears from falling. She isn’t alone for long, however, because Owen joins her on the floor, no longer under the glass of the table, within seconds. “No, no,” he says, his voice quiet as he reaches out a hand to place on her knee. She turns to him when she feels his hand lightly rubbing circles there. “I’m, I’m glad you were here. I don’t like to be alone when they happen. When I come out of them.” She lets out a tiny sob before closing her mouth and forcing the rest of her anguish to stay buried within. “I just, Amelia,” he pauses, “you shouldn’t be so close. When they happen, you know what I do. I could have hurt you.” His own tears begin to stream down his face as he reaches his free hand up to cup her cheek.
“I wasn’t going to leave you alone.” She meets his eyes, her blue orbs mingling with his drooping ones.
“--No buts. You needed me. I might not always do a good job of it, but I want to do better. I love you and I am here for you,” she breathes, her voice full of sincerity.
He leans his forehead against hers, his hand tangling in her now-messy tresses. “Thank you,” he whispers, his words tickling her lips. “I love you, too.” He opens his eyes and stares into his wife’s beautiful ones, showing the truth of his statement. He pulls away, removing his hands and turning to sit facing forward instead of facing his wife. With his back against the couch, he sighs. “I haven’t had one this bad in a long time.”
She nods. “There’s a lot going on. A lot of reminders.” He murmurs his agreement without saying much more. “Should I call Dr. Campbell?”
“No,” he says. “I’m fine.” She doesn’t seem convinced. “I’ll see her later this week. I already have it scheduled.” She relents, but still asks if she can get him anything. “A new brain would be nice.” She chuckles, her chest still constricting with his pain.
“I’m good, but I’m not that good.” He spares her a tiny smile. “How about some water?” She reaches to grab one of the glasses on the coffee table. She doesn’t remember whose is whose, but it doesn’t really matter. She hands him the glass and he takes it with shaky hands. He takes a few small, controlled sips, obviously trying to mind his stomach, which is still churning. Amelia exhales and offers to get him a blanket and some tea.
“I’m fine.” He turns his head slightly, meeting her eyes once more. “I will be.” He reaches out a hand, unsure if she’ll take it with all that’s been said.
She holds on without hesitation, the corners of her lips turning up. “Of course, I’m going to hold your hand.” His eyes betray his surprise at her adept reading of the situation. “I love you. Even when we’re fighting.” She squeezes his hand just a bit, proving her point.
“Same goes for me.” He brings her hand up and kisses her knuckles. “We really have a lot to work on,” he says.
“Yep,” Amelia agrees. “But we can. Work on it, I mean.” He nods, happy to see her so confident about it. “I’m so sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you.”
He tilts his head. “I know. I don’t think I realized how much it bothered me until today.”
She nods. “We bottle things up.”
“Maybe we should get over that,” he says. He smiles at her as she remembers the first time she said that.
“Yeah. Maybe see a counselor.” She grips his hand tighter. “For the both of us.”
He thinks about it, turning it over in his head a minute before answering. It didn’t work with Cristina, but Amelia is not her. He is not the man he was back then, either. “I’m willing to try.”
She exhales, snuggling into his side as a few more tears cascade down her ruddy cheeks. They aren’t perfect, they aren’t anywhere near done working out their issues, but they love each other and have taken another step. There’s so many steps to this journey and they know that sometimes it will hurt, sometimes it won’t be pleasant. But in order to make things work, they have to fight. Amelia and Owen sit like that for a few minutes, his arm wrapped around her shoulder as his fingers lightly dance across the skin there. They stay like that until they hear a steady series of knocks on the door. They both turn to each other, confused as to who their visitor is, before Amelia offers to check. She knows Owen is fighting fatigue and isn’t exactly in the right place to talk to anyone.
She walks to the door, wiping her eyes despite knowing it won’t get rid of the evidence of her crying. Her mascara had run and her eyes are puffy and swollen. She unlocks the door and is quite surprised to see the woman standing before her. “Hi, Evelyn.”
And right across town, as Megan comes out of her appointment, phone in hand, she’s just as taken aback as Amelia. “Hi,” she says, her voice catching in her throat, “Nathan.”
Thank you so much for all your support! You guys are amazing. Thoughts are much appreciated!
Welcome to chapter four! You guys have been AMAZING with comments and likes. Thank you so much for all the support!
This skips around a lot to cover several relationships.
TW: Mention of suicidal ideation.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Mom?" Owen comes up behind his wife, his hand covering hers where it rests on the door frame. "What are you doing here?"
"You didn't honestly think I wouldn't come to see my daughter, did you?" Her voice chokes on the word, the word she, for so long, considered to be missing from her vocabulary. "Now are you going to let me in or am I going to stand here in the wind?" She raises her eyebrows and the two hurriedly step back, feeling awkward when, in reality, it just took them by surprise. "Thank you," she says lightly, walking in and handing her windbreaker to Owen. He hangs it up on the hook before offering to get her a drink. Once he leaves for the kitchen, Amelia and Evelyn both sit down.
Amelia is fiddling with her thumbs from her place in the bay window when Evelyn pulls her from her thoughts. "She used to do that." She motions to Amelia's nimble fingers. "Megan," she says, voice soft and full of emotion.
Amelia chuckles, trying to relieve the tension surrounding the room. She only knows Evelyn from a few visits and, in addition to that, her mother-in-law picked one of the worst times to show up unannounced. Sure, she didn't hear the screaming, but it's clear as day that her and Owen had been fighting. "I actually noticed that earlier today." Evelyn smiles, small but sure.
"Here, Mom," Owen says as he hands her a glass with ice and soda. He then walks over and hands Amelia a water. She smiles in response to him knowing what she needs without words, before taking a sip. Her throat is definitely grateful for the soothing liquid. Owen takes a seat one cushion down from his mother on the couch, then taps his knees a few times lightly, waiting for someone to speak. When he realizes no one is about to do so, he sighs. "How are you? Are you okay?"
"Oh, shush, I'm fine." Evelyn takes a sip of her cola, shaking her head. "I had a bit of a scare, but all is well."
"You had a nervous breakdown." Owen says, shaking his head at his mother's downplaying of the situation. "You were suicidal."
She waves her hands as if fanning away his concerns. "Like I said, a bit of a scare. It was John who got worried. I would have been fine on my own." She scoffs at the eight days of medical treatment. "You can't say anything these days without people thinking you're a danger to yourself."
Amelia stands up, joining Owen at the look of anger and hurt on his face. She knows he's explosive when angry, but now is not the time. He is scared, and rightfully so, but they all need to tread carefully nowadays. She wraps her arm around his waist and leans her head against the tender skin of his neck. Whispering into his ear, she says, "It's going to be okay." He relaxes slightly in her embrace and she smiles before turning her eyes back to Evelyn.
"Well, we're glad you're here now."
Evelyn smiles. "As am I." She lets out a soft breath before asking her next question. "Where is Megan?"
"She's in therapy," Amelia says. "I'm waiting for her to call so I can pick her up." Amelia shrugs. "She's at the hospital and I wasn't sure about leaving her, but it's customary to let the patient," she shakes her head, "I mean, it's right downtown and it's so close-"
"-Amelia," Mrs. Hunt says, holding up a single hand to silence her rambling child, "I understand." She chuckles. "I know we haven't been around each other often, but I promise I'm not one to judge." She winks. "Most of the time."
Amelia lets out a tiny laugh at the comment, feeling like a weight has been lifted. She's not used to having parents like her. And yet, somehow without the time or intimacy to back it, her mother-in-law has given her a chance.
"Hello...Nathan." They stand in awkward silence for a few minutes, near the reception desk, both unsure of what to do or say. Megan is trying to regulate her breathing, the unexpected visit causing her undue anxiety.
"I came to visit you," Nathan finally says, stopping abruptly after his sentence. "Tried," he says more quietly.
"I didn't know."
"Owen didn't let me see you."
She chuckles, a dark laugh. "Some things never change." He wants to laugh along, but the faraway look in her eyes make him think better of it. She closes her eyes and brings her left hand to her head. She can feel the pulsing behind her eyes-the headaches are so frequent now. "So you chose to stalk me instead?" It comes out harsher than she intends.
"No." He shakes his head. "No, no, I promise-" The words die on his tongue. "I just saw you walking out and figured it was fate or some random calling of the universe."
"I didn't think you believed in all that."
"You've got me second-guessing everything." He sighs, leaning his arm against the desk.
"What do you want to ask me?" He looks surprised and she's a bit pleased because of it. "I can see it in your eyes."
"I was thinking about it." He sniffs and she doesn't think the tiny action coming from him is as cute as she used to think it was. "Thinking about asking you how you were." She scoffs and he nods. "But I realized there was nothing to say to that."
She nods, agreeing with his point. "Thank you for caring, though," she thinks to add.
"I've always cared about you, Meg."
She wants to say more, to dispute his claim and talk about the crap that was the end of their relationship, the horrors she's been through that prove that things are hardly ever just okay and happy and sunshine and rainbows. But she's too tired to make the point. So instead she nods politely and tells him that Amelia is coming to pick her up. He frowns, but bids his farewell and, for the first time in five minutes, she can breathe normally again. She texts her sister's number and goes outside to wait for her car. The fluorescent lights aren't doing her headache any favors.
Luckily, Amelia pulls into the drop-off bay within ten minutes, equipped with a bottle of aspirin she didn't even ask for. "How'd you know?"
"I'm good at reading people, too," Amelia says, chuckling lightly. Megan smiles, a genuine one, and gratefully swallows two pills with a bottle of water.
She has her eyes closed and is tuning out the world when Amelia's voice breaks through the haze. "I have to warn you." Megan turns her head, eyes slightly panicked. "Nothing bad," Amelia is quick to correct. "I just don't want to blindside you. Your mother is back at the house."
Megan lets out a breath. Her mother is someone she can handle seeing. It will still be different, it will still be weird, but, like it is with Owen, there is comfort in her presence as well. There is a familiarity she desperately misses.
Back at the house, Evelyn tilts her head at her dear boy. Amelia had just left a few minutes prior, after spending a minute cleaning up her appearance in the bathroom mirror. "What?" Owen says. He knows that look. He's perfected that look. He gets it from her.
Her eyes soften further. "Have you been sleeping?"
He sighs, eyes turned downward. "Barely," he mumbles. "Better with Amelia than without her." He thinks of how much more he sleeps now that she is here, sharing their bed. It’s platonic of course, but her presence is enough to soothe him.
She smiles. "She's good for you." She reaches out a hand to pat his knee. "I've always liked her."
He chuckles, shaking his head lightly. "I'm glad she gets your stamp of approval."
"Hey," she says, a smirk on her face. "I may not see you often, but I know people. She's a good one."
"She is," he agrees.
"But sometimes even the good ones can break your heart." She whispers the words, so quietly, so gently, as if afraid the words will cut him. He turns his eyes back to hers, his irises slightly glassy. She moves her hand to cup his right cheek, rubbing her thumb there. "It's okay to be hurt. And scared and angry. To be whatever you feel. It's okay," she presses a tiny kiss to his nose, just like she used to do for him when he woke up from nightmares as a child. Removing her hand and pulling back, Evelyn shrugs. "Life isn't always easy. You guys will get better, though. You two love each other so much. Talk to her. Just don't stop talking." She shoots him a smile. "If you're still able to talk, you can still fix the relationship."
He nods, about to add a few more of his thoughts, before the door opens. They must have sat in silence for longer than they thought. "We're back!" Amelia announces cheerfully. She's trying to bring a little light to the darkness that has become their lives.
Megan follows quietly, her eyes locked on the floor. Evelyn walks up to her slowly, saying hello and how she's missed her baby girl as to alert her to her presence. Slowly, Megan lifts her eyes to meet her mother's watery ones. They're sad and full of an anguish she's never seen her mother wear, but they are home. "Can I hug you?"
Megan lets out a shuddering breath, nodding her head rapidly. She reaches out to pull her mother into a bone-crushing hug despite the loss of muscle mass. She buries her head against her mother's neck, the gray hair tickling her damp cheeks, as she sheds several tears. Sometimes you just really need your mom.
"We'll leave you two be," Amelia says, walking out of the room with Owen. Once they're in their bedroom, Amelia exhales. "That went well."
"Yeah," Owen breathes, "really well." He smiles, walking closer to her. He grabs her hands and holds them tightly between the two of them.
He waits for Amelia to say the words, the words he knows she's begging to say. She doesn't disappoint. "We're okay, right?"
He leans his forehead against hers, his eyes dancing with her crystal blue orbs, the sincerity evident. "We're okay." He pulls away, but not before placing a soft, open-mouthed kiss on her forehead. "We're going to fight. And get upset. Things aren't always going to be perfect."
"You can say that again."
He chuckles lightly. "But that doesn't mean we don't fit. As long as we want to be together, we will find a way to make it happen. I know we will."
She lets a few tears drop, but they are tears of relief and not of pain. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
The next morning, as all the family is eating breakfast, Amelia tells her mother and sister that her and Owen are going out for a little while today.
"We are?" Owen asks.
"Yes," she nods, "We have a counseling appointment together."
"Oh, okay." He's actually relieved-he wants them to start working toward a better tomorrow as soon as possible. He's even happier that Amelia was the one to take the first step. "I didn't expect something so soon."
"I called in a few favors." She then frowns. "As long as that's okay with you?"
"Yeah, no, it's fine." He nods, smiling. He grabs her hand and holds it tight in his underneath the breakfast bar.
"I think it's a great idea," Mrs. Hunt says. She turns to Megan. "It will give us a little time to catch up to, if you'd like." Megan simply nods, still silent. Her mother pats her back lightly. Her daughter may be different now, but that doesn't change the fact that she is her mother and she loves her with all that she's got.
They finish up their breakfast of pancakes and sausage within the next ten minutes and, an hour later, Amelia and Owen are making their way out the door. "Where is it?"
"It's on Market Street," Amelia answers as she slides into the passenger seat. "I'll put it in the GPS. I just know it's relatively close and she's a vetted counselor."
"Great." She turns on the GPS and places it on the dash, before settling more into her seat. The ride over is quiet, a kind of tense quiet, that is so unusual for the two lovers. However, it is to be expected. Therapy can be a scary place. Admitting your fears and talking about the pain is never easy, but often necessary.
Amelia's right, and the place is just a short drive away. Despite the tension, they walk in holding hands, keeping their expressions neutral. "Hi, you must be Dr. Hunt and Dr. Shepherd." They nod, both politely shaking the woman's hand. "I'm Carolyn Powley, but you can just call me Carolyn. Are you ready to step into my office?" She motions for them to enter. Once inside, they take a seat on the couch. "How are you feeling?"
Amelia wants to roll her eyes at the question-they're here so they're obviously not fine-but she fights against it. She wants this to work. "We're pushing through." The corners of Owen's lips turn up at the words that had signaled the beginning of his love for her.
"Pushing through isn't really a feeling," Carolyn says gently, a knowing smile on her face.
Owen decides to take the leap. "It's been...difficult." He grimaces. "My sister is back. She was missing for ten years." He notices the carefully controlled expression on their therapist's face. "She's staying with us now." He then looks to his wife, squeezing her hand. "I had a PTSD episode yesterday. It was pretty bad."
"So there's a lot going on," Carolyn says.
"You could say that," Amelia says. "We're also having issues. I," she pauses, closing her eyes. "I left for a few months. I just moved back in."
"I see." Carolyn nods, closing the folder on her lap. "You two made the right choice, coming here. I'm glad you want help. You can get stronger, you know? We'll work on it." She gives them a comforting smile.
The two let out a breath simultaneously, relieved to hear the words from a professional. With doubts and insecurities, it's nice to have someone on your side. "Why don't we start with your marriage? Amelia, why did you leave?"
"Can I get you anything?" Evelyn asks.
"No, I'm alright," Megan says, yawning.
"You should go to sleep, honey. You're tired."
Megan sighs. "I'm always tired." She rubs her eyes. "I can't sleep 24/7. I need to do something."
Evelyn smiles, rubbing her daughter's back. "How about a movie?"
Megan smiles. "That sounds nice."
Evelyn then goes to grab some drinks as Megan goes to the living room to pick out a movie. When Evelyn joins her after a few minutes and notices Megan lost in thought, she becomes worried. "Honey?"
"Too many choices," she whispers. Her eyes are welling up with tears and her hands are shaking. Evelyn recognizes the anxiety and is quick to join her daughter on the floor.
"Would you like me to pick?" Megan nods, sniffling. She hates this, this shell of a person she's become. However, it is what it is. And even the irrational feelings, she can't help but react to.
Evelyn scans the collection, pulling out Enchanted. She figures it's a lighthearted movie, safe for children (Owen and Amelia must've had the movie for their nieces and nephew) and, therefore, it is also safe for Megan. She slips it into the DVD player and holds out her hand for Megan to grab to stand up.
"I got you some water and crackers," Evelyn says, pointing to them on the coffee table.
"Thanks, Mom." She sits onto the couch, her eyes still watery. "But I really just want to watch the movie and lay with you. Is that okay?"
Her heart breaks at her daughter's hesitance. "Of course." She sits down, placing a throw pillow on her lap and patting it for her Megan to rest her head. Then she pulls a soft, crocheted blanket on top of her daughter's body, warming her up and making her feel secure. "Better?"
"Well, I think we can end on that note." Carolyn smiles, standing up to shake hands with her clients once more. "You guys did great work today. Thank you for trusting me with all that."
The two nod, feeling lighter despite the heaviness of the topics discussed. "We'll continue this next week?"
"Yes, please," Owen says.
"Alright, I'll put you down in my book. "Same time?"
"Sure," Amelia answers.
"Great, it is all set," she says cheerfully. "Remember to keep working on your communication strategies and start having those ten minute talking sessions before bed each night. Okay?"
"Sounds good." Owen wraps his arm around Amelia's shoulders. "And thank you for getting us in so quickly."
"Well," she chuckles. "Dr. Wallace was very insistent." She opens the door, her smile wide. Amelia makes a mental note to thank Sheldon a million times over later today. "I'll see you next week!"
"Next week," Amelia says with a nod.
They are finally pushing through.
Thoughts? Comments? Lots of fluff coming your way next chapter!
A huge, huge thank you to everyone who reviewed. You guys are AMAZING. The third section is rated M. Seriously, it's NSFW.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"So, how did your homework go this week?" Ms. Powley asks, looking at the couple expectantly.
Amelia turns to Owen. She's always the one to talk, and she wants him to have a say in this, too. She wants him to know she hears him. "Really well, actually," Owen says, almost surprised. Amelia looks at him, her face contorted in faux anger. He merely chuckles before turning back to their therapist. "I thought it would be hard. I'm not a talkative person, generally."
Amelia nods along with his statement. "I am."
Carolyn Powell smiles. "But you guys compromised. Owen talked more than he normally does and Amelia talked less. Or, at least, within a set time period," she says gently. The two nod in agreement. "Now that," Carolyn says, "is a marriage." She looks between the husband and wife, their enthusiasm at the acknowledgement of their improvement palpable. "Give and take. Finding a way to live together, be together, love together." The corners of her lips turn up in a bit of a smirk. "Which brings me to my next homework assignment." The two are in sync, raising their eyebrows at the suggestiveness of her tone. "You guys have known each other for quite a while, but you never really dated. Only shortly. And then you were married or fighting or dealing with other issues," she summarizes. "I think we should change that."
Amelia furrows her brows. "How?"
"This week, I want you two to go on a date. A real date. Don't just put in a movie and call it a night."
"I think we can manage that," Owen says, turning to face Amelia.
"Think of it like a first date. Get to know each other again."
Amelia snorts. "Sorry, sorry," she says, waving her hand. "This will be our third first date," Amelia says, turning to Owen. The corners of his eyes are crinkled with happiness, too.
Carolyn chuckles. She has so much hope for them-she can see how much they love each other. "Then third first date it is." She clasps her hands in front of her. "And I'll see you next week."
"Next week," Amelia says, standing up. "We'll be here."
"You better," Ms. Powell teases.
Owen grabs Amelia's hand and the two exit the office, taking their time walking back to their car. "So what should we do for our date?" Amelia asks as she clicks the unlock button on the car.
He tilts his head, thinking for a second. Sliding into the passenger's seat, he makes his decision. "That's for me to know," he pauses to move closer to her ear, "and for you to find out," he whispers. She shivers, too aroused for her own good. She hates how much she craves the intimacy they don't have back yet; she mourns for the intimacy lost. Shaking her head as she tries to shake her thoughts, she turns on the car. The drive home never seemed longer.
"Will you at least tell me how fancy this is?" Amelia whines. She's standing in front of her closet, staring at her wardrobe, and honestly has no idea what to wear. It's been three days since their last counseling appointment and Owen has, somehow, already arranged his so-called "perfect" evening.
He chuckles at her childish frustration. She's practically stomping her foot with her arms crossed over her chest, an adorable pout gracing her face. "Just, dress nice." He shrugs.
She huffs at his lackluster response. "You are no help."
He shakes his head and takes a few steps toward her, wrapping his arms around her waist. He leans his chin on top of her head, and just holds her close for a few moments. She savors the return of some of their affections and, for that reason, just relaxes into his easy embrace, her frustration melting away. "Wear the black one. Right there," he points.
She smirks. "Yeah?"
"Definitely." He kisses the side of her head and walks out of the bedroom and toward the kitchen. She lets out a nervous giggle, something she's been devoid of for too long, and slides the dress off the hanger. She shucks off her pajamas-it had been a relaxing day at the house-and gently tugs the dress over her head. It falls halfway down her thighs, and only barely so, with a daring v neckline just appropriate enough for the public eye. She grabs her pair of double band wedges that give her just enough height to reach Owen's mouth. She brushes the thought from her mind, it's a first date after all, and instead goes into the bathroom to do her hair and makeup. She gives her hair a slight wave and sprays it to withstand the fog and rain, then throws on a pair of colorful dangly earrings for a pop of color. In the end, she's satisfied with the look. And Owen? He's more than satisfied.
"Wow," he stutters as she walks down the hallway, "You look amazing." She smiles, blushing. He's seen his wife dressed beautifully tens of times before, and she looks stunning on a daily basis, but she still never fails to take his breath away. He closes the gap between them and holds her by the shoulders, eying her up and down. "I won't be able to look away," he admits.
She smirks. "I was hoping you wouldn't anyway." She presses a kiss to his cheek. "Ready?"
"Ready." He takes her hand and leads her out the door, waving a goodbye to his mother and sister who are going to have a girl's night complete with a restaurant dinner and stroll in the park. Afterward, they are going to visit Evelyn's house and Megan's old room, as long as Megan still feels up to it.
He makes a show of opening her door and Amelia has to curl her chin into her chest to stop him from seeing her blush. He's always so formal, so chivalrous, and it's times like these when she can't get enough of it: of feeling special and wanted. "Are you going to blindfold me?" she teases.
"I thought about it." He gives her a dirty wink. "But I figured it's a bit much for a first date." He then shrugs. "Plus, you're awful at directions so I doubt you'll guess where we're going." It's true-she lives by her GPS- and she can't help but laugh along with him, both of them comfortable in each other's presence.
"Uncool," she says. He knows she's joking.
On the way to the restaurant, the two are mostly quiet, just content to watch the scenery and listen to the gentle thrums of the radio. Amelia's still spacing out, looking at the gorgeous bay sitting just to her right, when Owen whispers, "We're here." She turns around in shock, looking from the bay to the restaurant to her husband.
"We're eating here?"
He nods. He opens his door and steps out before coming over to her side and helping her out as well. She's smiling, wide and bright. She's even more in awe once they enter the restaurant, the Palisade, and are seated in a secluded, dimly lit area overlooking the Elliott Bay. "Owen," she breathes. "This is so," she shakes her head, "so perfect."
"I was hoping you'd like it." He takes a seat and she does the same, sitting across from one another so that they can see each other's eyes all evening. "They serve seafood, for the most part."
Her eyes soften, her bottom lip quivering. "Lobster?"
"I was thinking the same thing." He reaches across the table to hold her hand, lightly running his thumb across the skin there. "We need a better ending for that night anyway."
She pushes away any feelings of doubt, of hurt, and smiles. She wants them to rewrite that memory, too. The waitress takes their orders within minutes, coming back to the table with ice water. "Can I get you anything else to drink?"
"No, thanks," Owen says, speaking for himself.
He looks to Amelia. "Oh, no thanks," she says. She had been momentarily surprised by his lack of order. Once the waitress leaves, she whispers, "It's okay, you know. If you want a drink."
He smiles, soft and tender, before shaking his head. "Not tonight. Tonight's just about us. I don't want any liquor to be involved." She returns his smile as her heart melts at his words. She doesn't care if he drinks, as long as it's not in excess, but to hear him say that means the world to her.
"I love you," Amelia says without thought.
"I love you, too." He leans over the table to press a chaste, but sweet kiss on her ruby lips. Right here, right now, there are no boundaries or issues. There are no walls dividing them. It's just them, Owen and Amelia, together as they were always meant to be. And, for once, he doesn't feel like life gets any more perfect than this.
After a luscious meal of lobster, mashed potatoes, asparagus, and more breadsticks than either want to admit to eating, the drive home is full of a peaceful quiet. They're stuffed and, therefore, content to just drive along the road, idly holding each other's hand, simply breathing deeply.
Once they walk to the door, Amelia slides the key in and gives it a harsh turn. When she hears the telltale click of the lock, she goes to push the door open, only to be stopped by Owen. She turns to him with her eyebrows furrowed. He meets her eyes, their blue orbs dancing together so easily, and says, "A good first date should end in a kiss, don't you think?"
She grins, a blush creeping up her neck. "Oh, yeah," she says. "It really should."
He chuckles at the game they're playing before tilting his head down to reach her lips. The kiss is tender, sweet, and all too short, so he goes in for another. And another. Within minutes, they're making out on their front porch like two love-struck teenagers. Amelia moans as Owen's tongue invades her mouth, and his pants tighten at the wanton sound. He pushes her back against the door, taking it in stride when the door pushes open and they're stumbling into the living room. Owen keeps backing her up until she's leaning onto the arm of the couch. She can't move back any further, and she's desperate for him to be closer. She's not against the wall so she can't pull him in; she's practically about to fall over the arm of the chair with the way things are currently going. She decides it's probably easier that way so she pulls him back, both of them falling onto the couch. She welcomes his weight resting against her body although he tries to shift most of it off her. She kisses him harder, pulling him impossibly close. It's magical and she's loving every second of it until, that is, Owen pulls away.
Her eyes still closed, she tries searching for his lips; when she can't find them, she finally opens them. She meets his blue orbs that are practically black with desire, and she asks him why he stopped. "Not here," he murmurs. "Not our first time back together. I want it to be special." Her heart thumps even more wildly at his confession and she leans up to press a quick kiss to his lips.
He shifts off her, holding her hand to help her up, and slowly leads her back to their bedroom, their eyes never leaving one another's. When they finish the short trip to their room, Owen closes the door and gently lays Amelia back on their bed. He hovers over her, his legs on either side of her hips and presses another kiss to her plump lips.
He then moves to kiss her cheeks, her eyelids, the shell of her ear, basking in the shiver he gets from her. He moves from the her ear to the sensitive skin of her neck, kissing and sucking his way down, ever so gently. It's too much and not enough all at once. He kisses her neck and then goes up the other side, ending at her ear once more. "I think you're wearing too many clothes," her whispers.
"God, yes," she says, bringing her hands down to pull the dress off herself.
"No, no," he says, taking hold of her wrists and placing them above her head. "Let me." She trembles at the command and relaxes her arms high above her head. His hands nudge her to turn onto her stomach and she complies easily, more than willing to help him out. He grasps the zipper and pulls it down tantalizingly slowly, leaving kisses on each new exposed section of skin. When he finally reaches the bottom, she's knows she's soaked through her panties. She pulls her arms out of the sleeves, but leaves the rest of the removal to him.
"Turn over, love," he murmurs. She does as he says, effortlessly rolling onto her back and placing her hands above her head. He takes pause, looking at her spread out before him, completely comfortable with him. She's in a black push-up bra and matching panties, both no-nonsense, and it makes him love her even more. He knows her, and she didn't expect this tonight.
He reaches underneath her to pop open her bra, and she tingles at the sensation. He tugs off the material, latching onto her left breast the minute it's free. She groans at the sensation, her back arching off the bed as he sucks relentlessly. His right hand comes up to tease her other breast, tugging her nipple. She feels him suck, long and deep, a sucking she can feel in her bones, on the top of her breast before switching sides. She's panting now and her panties are more than soaked through and she's pretty sure he can smell her arousal because suddenly his game is even more intense.
Once he's thoroughly dealt with her breasts, he lifts his head and catches her lips for a battle of wills, tongues raging, mouths connecting over and over again. Despite being breathless when she pulls away, Amelia still threads her fingers into his ginger locks and pushes him down further, clear in her intents. He chuckles, but decides he's teased her long enough. He scoots down, his lips ghosting over her mound. She groans, trying to push him closer and he obliges, placing a long, sucking kiss atop the fabric. Her head falls back, but she still wants more.
Unfortunately for her, Owen decides to move from his place and instead dot kisses on her curved hipbones. She squirms, the sensation all too much, as he leaves bruises in his wake. "Owen," she whines, lost in heedy desire.
He chuckles. "I know." He looks up at her, meeting her eyes once more, as he pulls her panties down inch by inch. His gaze is so intense, she's lost in his sea of blue, when he leans down to take her in his mouth. He takes a long lick, all the way from her ass to her clit, the sensation so mind-blowing she can't keep her eyes open any longer. Her legs fan out wider as he works his tongue in circles around her clit, easily slipping one and then two fingers inside her wet heat. He moves his fingers in and out, his mouth now sucking on her clit, when she falls over the edge. He hears her breathing stop, transcended in time and pleasure, before all the air in her lungs is released in a gentle whoosh. He smiles from his vantage point, her eyes closed in bliss and her body beyond relaxed.
"Now that," she exhales, still trying to catch her breath, "is worthy of a wow." He grins, easing her down from her high, finally pulling his fingers out of her. She watches in a haze as he licks her juices off his fingers and can't help letting out another moan. She's so tender down there and, yet, she's already becoming aroused again. He smirks, having known exactly what he was doing, and slides his body over hers until their lips match up. He kisses her deeply, harshly, thoroughly, and she moans again at the taste of herself on his chapped lips. Her hands move to his hair, pulling and tugging as the sensations overtake her. In turn, his hands cup her cheeks, pulling her mouth even closer.
When they finally break apart for air, Amelia pants, "Now you're the one who's wearing too many clothes." She roughly pulls his suit jacket off and tosses it on the floor somewhere, honestly not caring where it ends up. Her nimble fingers make quick work of his tie and button-up shirt, and she shucks them somewhere in their room, too. He can't complain, though: they've waited so long for this.
He helps her by pushing down his trousers, kicking them off as she plants open-mouthed kisses along his bare chest. She licks and sucks and swirls her way down his abdomen, stopping just before his boxers. She teases along the rim of the fabric, just long enough to get him to moan and start calling her name impatiently. Finally, finally, she hooks her fingers under the boxers and slides them down his legs, allowing him to kick them the rest of the way off.
Then, without warning, she takes him in her hand, rubbing up and down, pumping him. He groans at the contact, straining against her nimble fingers as she swipes a drop of precum off the tip of his cock.
"Amelia?" he asks, looking into her eyes.
"Please," she nods quickly, removing her hand and gripping his large shoulders. He lines himself up and, without pretense, slams his length into her, reveling in her half-moan, half-scream of ecstasy. They develop a rhythm quickly, his cock sliding in and out of her easily. She moans as his cock brushes her g-spot, and when he brings his mouth to hers and rubs his thumb over her clit, she comes hard. And, with the feeling of her walls spasming around him, he falls over the edge seconds after, pumping into her until he feels like all the life has been sucked out of him.
Still connected, he lays on top of her at her prompting. He's heavy, but she wants his weight on her. She doesn't want this to end yet. Their breaths mingle and the intimacy is startling and second-nature all at once.
After another few minutes of basking in their afterglow, Owen shifts off his wife and pulls out of her. "I'm going to go clean up," he whispers. She nods, still too dazed to move. She feels cold without Owen next to her, but he returns quickly with a damp washcloth in hand. Her eyes begin to water as he cleans her gently and meticulously before placing a kiss on her right hipbone and taking his place beside her once more.
"That was-" Owen begins.
"-So great," Amelia finishes.
Owen simply nods. "My god," he says, turning on his side to face her. "I love you so much."
She throws her arm over his waist. "I love you, too. Forever," she murmurs.
"Forever and always," he corrects.
"I'm exhausted," Amelia says, breaking the moment and causing Owen to chuckle.
He turns to his bedside to look at the clock. "It's only eight thirty."
"Time is a social construct," she refutes, giggling at her own comeback.
And just like that, the hot and heavy becomes easy intimacy. After all, it's Owen and Amelia: two lost souls who found they fit too well for it to be by chance. They're always going to make it. There's no doubt about it.
Please leave your thoughts, if you so desire :)
Thank you guys for being so kind and sweet. You guys keep me going. Also, if any of you can guess where I got the title from, I'll give you a sneak peek of the next chapter :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Do we have to?" Amelia whines, putting her arm in front of her eyes as Owen flips the light switch.
He chuckles at her childishness. "Yes."
"Like really, really have to?"
"Yes, like we have to go or we'll lose our jobs." He walks over to her side of the bed and bends down, pressing his warm lips to her forehead. "You have to wake up," he murmurs. "We've been gone for three weeks." He gently pulls her arm from its place shielding her eyes. "They're going to file missing persons reports if we don't go." He tugs her hands to get her to sit up. She complies albeit begrudgingly.
Sighing, Amelia sits up and stretches. She knows they have to return to work-they've been gone for longer than they thought possible and the hospital board has been more than accommodating, but it's time to go back. It's time to go on with life and leave their bubble of relative solitude. Evelyn will be staying with Megan and the timing is just right to get back in the groove. Still, Amelia isn't ready to give it up quite yet-her and Owen have just started making great leaps in their intimacy, both feeling so close, like they're on the same page. She wants to revel in it a little longer before reality gets in the way.
He goes into the bathroom to take a shower, and Amelia stands up slowly, still exhausted. She wipes her eyes, trying to rid the sleep from her soul, before trudging to the kitchen. At the coffee machine, she opens the container of grinds and sets to making a fresh batch. They're going to need a lot of coffee this morning.
"Hello to you, too," Megan says, chuckling lightly when Amelia jumps at the unexpected voice. Amelia turns around.
Evelyn hits Megan's arm playfully. "I told you not to scare her."
"You know what I meant when I gave you that look," Evelyn admonishes. She can't find it in her to be mad, though. It's one of the first times she has seen Megan be the person she used to be. "How are you, dear?" she asks Amelia.
"I need coffee," Amelia groans.
"It's only seven-thirty," Megan says. "She doesn't really wake up until nine or so. Half-human until then. That is, unless she's pumped for a surgery."
Amelia thinks she kind of nods, but doesn't say more. "Leave her alone," Evelyn says.
Megan shrugs, taking another sip of her chamomile tea. "She's my sister. Of course I'm going to tease her." Through her morning haze, Amelia smiles, her heart warming. Megan has never referred to her as a sister before. It's as if everything is finally falling into place, the way it is meant to be. Megan then chuckles, her voice turning low and suggestive. "I'm sure you can go join Owen and make it a great morning."
"Megan!" both Amelia and Evelyn say, shocked. Amelia's face is burning up, the flush spreading down her neck and chest. She's usually not worried about talking about these sorts of things but this is her husband's mother and sister, both people she is still getting to know.
"Hey, it's true." Megan takes a bite of her buttered toast. "We all know it."
Amelia chooses to answer this by turning back around to face the coffee pot, staring at the liquid dripping into the carafe. She hears Evelyn and Megan murmuring behind her but allows herself to tune it out.
When Owen walks in two minutes later-his showers are always short and efficient without Amelia joining him-he notices the tense atmosphere. His wife is gripping the counter tightly, steadfastly avoiding eye contact with everyone, not even turning as he enters. On the sidelines, Megan is smirking and Evelyn is just shaking her head. "So I obviously missed something," he admits.
"You missed me embarrassing your wife." He furrows his brows for Amelia is not easily embarrassed, then hears Megan continue. "I said she could make the early morning better with sex." Megan shrugs, her smirk widening as Owen, too, turns red.
He clears his throat. "Oh." Amelia turns to face him, raising her eyebrows in silent agreement. He hears the ding from the coffee machine and thanks God that he has been saved by the bell. He needs something to do with his hands. Work will definitely be a welcomed reprieve from this morning, he thinks. He had forgotten how blunt Megan could be sometimes; it will take some getting used to.
Megan's mood shifts from playful to quiet and back again for the rest of the morning, but the smile never leaves her face. Sometimes it dims, but it's nice to see her looking lively again. The therapy and counseling must be working.
"You want to go for a walk?" Evelyn asks.
Megan shrugs. "It's pretty nice out." She glances out the windows; for once, it's rather sunny.
"Then we'll go," Evelyn says. She slips on her shoes and watches Megan get up to do the same. Megan also throws on a fleece jacket, her body weight still below normal and her tendency toward the cold still great. Evelyn shoots her a sympathetic smile, but quickly moves on, not wanting to upset her daughter.
Once outside, the two head behind the house, toward the woods, to take a walk around the quiet, unpopulated area. "Wow, it's beautiful out here," Evelyn says, looking around at the tall trees. The leaves are rustling a bit in the wind and several squirrels are darting up and down trees. The grass is soft under their feet and the sun is warm on their faces.
"Yeah," Megan begins, "it's almost like we're in a different city." A tender smile forms on her face. They walk a few more steps before she adds, "It really is beautiful." Evelyn nods. It's a peaceful walk and she's enjoying every second of it. It's like an escape from their harsh reality.
"I don't want to spoil the mood," Evelyn says quietly, prompting Megan to turn her head. She raises her eyebrows for her mother to continue. "I just, how are you feeling?"
Megan's smile drops ever so slightly, but it remains on her face. "I'm getting there. I feel okay right now," Megan says.
"Is it getting any easier?"
"My headaches are less frequent now, only about twice a day." She scuffs her feet against the brush. "My stomach is keeping the food down most of the time, so that's a plus."
Evelyn nods. "Anything else?"
Megan turns her hardened eyes toward her mother's softer ones. "I still get nightmares. The medicine helps, but sometimes it just traps me there. I can't wake up, I can't escape," she confides. "I'm locked in that, that hell," she breathes out, trying to contain her tears.
Evelyn's heart breaks at her daughter's soft words. There is so much left to come back from. There is so much still lingering within her mind.
"Okay," she says. She doesn't want to say she understands because she clearly does not. She was never in a position like Megan's. It seems rude, callous even, to suggest as much. Thinking it over for a moment, Evelyn says, "I could call Amelia's mother." She stops walking and faces Megan. "Owen told me once that her mother was an army nurse. Had some natural sleep remedies." Evelyn shrugs. "Could be worth a shot."
Megan squints a bit, thinking. "I don't know if that's such a good idea."
"Why not? We're all family."
Megan tilts her head, uncomfortable to be the one sharing this information. "Amelia hasn't really spoken to her mom." She shrugs. "As far as I know, at least not since the wedding." Megan nods at her mother's surprised face. "I heard her and Owen talking about it. Before you came," she says.
"Oh, that is awful," Evelyn says, upset for her newest daughter. "I knew Carolyn didn't come to the wedding but I figured she must have been really sick or couldn't get back in time due to the short notice."
"Nope," Megan sighs. "She chose not to come."
"Well, that," Evelyn shakes her head frustratedly, "is not right. It's her daughter. Getting married." Her eyes well up with emotion. "That must've been so hard for Amelia."
Megan nods. "Owen's trying to get her to reach out again, even just to air her grievances."
"That's a good idea. She might need the closure." Evelyn reaches out to squeeze Megan's hand. "But he shouldn't push her too hard. It's a thin line."
"True." Megan juts her head back in the direction of the house. "Should we head back?" Noticing the fatigue in her eyes, Evelyn agrees. They walk back slowly, savoring their unhurried pace, and come through the back door about ten minutes later.
"I'll grab some water. Want anything to eat?"
"I'm okay, thanks," Megan answers.
Evelyn walks back to the kitchen, filling two glasses with water, and carrying them back to the living room. She hands Megan one with a small smile. Just as she's about to sit down, however, the phone rings.
She walks back into the kitchen and grabs the only home phone, pressing the accept button. "Hello, this is Evelyn speaking."
The voice on the other end sounds surprised. "Hi, Evelyn." She recognizes it immediately.
"Hi, Nathan, sweetie. How are you?"
"You know, hanging in there. Pretty well," he corrects. "And yourself?"
"The same. Grateful for every second of the time I have with her." He doesn't need to ask who the her is.
"I understand." She hears him take a deep breath through the phone speaker. "I was actually calling to talk to her. I saw her the other day, but we were kind of rushed."
Evelyn nods, agreeing verbally. "I'll go ask her if she's up for a conversation."
She walks back into the living room and covers the speaker with her palm. "Nathan is on the phone. He's wondering if he can speak with you." Megan's face drops at the mention. Evelyn is a bit confused, she never knew why the two broke up, just that her daughter left her a teary voicemail before she disappeared, and wants to help. "I'll tell him to call another time."
Megan's breath catches, but she shakes her head. At first tentative, the shake then becomes definitive. "No, I should talk to him. Have to sometime," she says, her eyes still filled with dread.
"Do you want me to stay?"
"No thank you," she says. "This is something I have to do alone." Evelyn nods, handing the phone over to her daughter and bids a quick farewell. She's going to sit out on the front porch.
"Hi," Megan breathes into the phone, her voice shaky.
"Hi," he says feeling rather relieved. "I didn't know if you would answer."
"Yeah, well, I'm here aren't I?" It comes out a little bitter, but under the circumstances, she doesn't care. "What do you want?"
"Want? I don't-I don't want anything from you. I just-"
"You obviously want something. Otherwise you wouldn't keep trying to get ahold of me."
Nathan sighs. "Still not one to beat around the bush, I see."
She scoffs. "Nope. Even more so now. I don't want to waste any time."
His heart stings with the reminder of her captivity. "I'm not trying to get back together with you."
"Good," she seethes.
He doesn't comment: he knows what he did was inexcusable. "I just, one day I hope to gain your forgiveness." She chuckles, low and dark. It's something so sinister, so filled with pain, that it makes him want to crawl out of his skin when he hears it. All he can think to do is explain himself. "I know I'm the reason you got on that helicopter. I know that I hurt you. I know that I need to prove myself to you again."
She sighs, her bitterness morphing into sadness and fatigue. "I don't blame anyone for what happened to me," Megan clarifies. "I can't. No one could have known. I didn't know." She regulates her breathing, keeping it level. "I just don't forgive you for cheating." Losing focus on her breath, the puffs become short and labored. "Because I don't know why. Why did you do it?" she whispers, her voice cracking. She sniffles, trying to compose herself. He doesn't answer immediately and she soon realizes that he's not going to answer at all. Gaining power in her voice she says, "When you can tell me that, maybe we can move forward." She nods her head despite the fact that he cannot see her and hangs up the phone. She's in pain, so much so she wants to curl into a ball and disappear, but she made it through the conversation. Maybe, just maybe, she is starting to heal.
Meanwhile, outside, Evelyn takes out her phone and the address book she snagged from the kitchen. Finding the number, she carefully dials it and waits for the line to be picked up. Four rings later, she hears the friendly woman answer on the other end. "Hi, Carolyn."
Owen and Amelia arrive home around seven-thirty that night, hand in hand. "It's nice to see you two so happy," Evelyn sighs, a hand over her heart. "That's all I've ever wanted for you." She meets Owen's eyes and they soften. "I made dinner," she announces.
"Smells good," Amelia pipes up. "I'm starving." She walks into the kitchen to grab a dish and puts the spinach quiche and some vegetables on her plate. Owen follows, noticing that the other two already ate.
"It is good," Megan says in response to Amelia's statement. Yawning, she says, "But I need to go to bed. First day I haven't napped and it's kicking my ass."
The other three adults chuckle at her crudeness. Evelyn stands up and goes to the medicine cabinet to grab her daughter's sleeping pills. She takes one out and grabs a glass of water before handing them to her. "Thanks," she says, quickly swallowing the little white pill. "I'm going to head to bed."
Evelyn hugs her goodnight and plants a motherly kiss on her forehead. She hates to see the little joy, the little progress Megan had made today, disappear from her features as the medicine sets in. She knows that it's necessary, but sometimes it feels like losing her all over again.
When Owen and Amelia sit at their small round table, Evelyn excuses herself as well. "I'm going to take a bath and settle down for bed. It's been a busy day." The two nod, Owen kissing his mother's cheek, before she leaves the room.
As much as they need their family, it is nice to have some time alone, strictly husband and wife.
"How was your day?" Owen asks as Amelia digs into her food.
She swallows her first bite, the taste just as wonderful as it smelled. "Pretty easy. Just a few aneurysm clips today. They were ones I would have let Edwards do."
He nods, pressing his lips firmly together. "Are you okay about that? I mean, you really liked her."
Amelia shrugs, blowing out a heavy breath. "She was like my right-hand man. She was perfect. She would've been a great neurosurgeon." Amelia looks up to meet her husband's eyes. "I liked teaching her."
"I know you did. You were are a great teacher." He moves his left hand to grab her's across the table. "You still are."
She sniffles. "At least I got to say goodbye." He agrees, eating a few more bites of quiche. He appreciates the home-cooked meal. "What about you?" Amelia asks, changing the subject. "How was your day?"
He swallows, washing the food down with a few sips of his water. "It was fine. No major accidents so a good transition day." She nods, squeezing his hand tighter.
"I am ready to get back into it," Amelia admits, turning her bright eyes back to his.
"Honestly?" he begins, "Me, too." He smiles, his eyes alight with happiness. He then decides to tease her. "But I mean, are you sure you're ready? You really didn't want to get up this morning," he jokes. "Maybe you should be a freelance agent. Work from home."
She disentangles her hand from his and playfully slaps the back of his hand. "I will never be a stay-at-home mom," her mind jumps to something he hadn't even considered. "I have to have work and a family. Not one or the other," she confides.
The sparkle in his eyes and the large grin he sports makes her comment, while still quite a while down the road, absolutely worth it.
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“Family therapy?” Owen asks. “Don’t we already go to enough therapy?” he grumbles as he and Amelia settle into bed that night. Amelia chuckles, but he sees the insecurity in her eyes, the waver to her not-so-lighthearted laugh. “What I’d do?”
“Nothing,” Amelia brushes him off before shutting off the light on her nightstand.
“Amelia,” he drags her name out and she knows he means business. He’s worried and upset. He doesn’t want her to keep secrets from him. To hide away pieces of herself, little cutouts until there is nothing left of who she is and who he loves.
She sighs, burying her face into his chest. “It’s just,” she takes another deep breath, trying to find the willpower to say this. She doesn’t want to know what will happen if he says yes. “Do you not like therapy? Do you not want to go?”
He tilts his head, confused at her question. He shrugs and she feels the movement from her place on his chest. “I wouldn’t exactly say I like it but that doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in it.” He presses a light kiss to her hair. “I don’t want to stop going.” Then, worried, he asks, “Do you?” The therapy has been doing wonders for their relationship and he doesn’t want them to regress.
“No, no,” Amelia is quick to answer. “I just,” she thinks over her words carefully, “I know it’s not really your thing--”
“The talking.” She chances a glance at his eyes. They’re more confused than angry. “I know you say that my talking makes you feel like you’re on a job interview or something.” She laughs to cover the tension. It’s been a while since they’ve had a late night conversation.
“Oh,” his voice is rough, scratchy. “I think we should go. To therapy I mean. It’s good for us.” He kisses her forehead and turns over, rolling onto his side. She wishes he would have said more, would have assuaged more of her fears, but the forefront of her mind becomes occupied by his simple action instead. He always sleeps curled around her or with her on his chest. He doesn’t necessarily like her spooning him--she found that out about two years back. She doesn’t like the break from their pattern of intimacy and, yet, can’t bring herself to confront him about it. So, instead, she holds her breath to keep the tears at bay, the feeling of loss taking over once more, and turns to her other side. She curls her arms around herself and hugs tightly. It will be a restless night.
Evelyn is the first to wake the next morning, and she cooks up a hearty breakfast of cheese and vegetable scrambled eggs, hash browns, and toast. Just as she’s turning on the coffee machine, sure that the rest of the house will be up at any minute, Amelia walks into the kitchen. “Good morning,” she says through a yawn.
“I’m surprised you’re up this early on your day off,” Evelyn chuckles. “I was under the impression you were not a morning person.”
Amelia shrugs. “Depends on the day. My brain can’t seem to pick one or the other.” She sits at the island, relaxing further at the smell of her favorite coffee brewing. “I could get used to this, though.”
“Having someone to make me breakfast and coffee.” She shoots her mother a smirk. “I like being catered to.”
Evelyn laughs, a sweet and joyous sound. “Then I might just have to set up camp here forever,” she says, clearly joking.
Amelia agrees in jest. “Oh, yeah.”
The two ladies smile at each other. Owen walks in, but chooses not to ask. After last time, he’d rather not know. “Smells great, Mom,” he says instead.
She snaps her head toward his, surprised at his entrance. He really is light on his feet. “Oh, well you guys can help yourself. I’m sure Megan will be up shortly.”
“Up now,” Megan corrects as she strolls into the kitchen. “And starving.”
“Then get a plate,” Evelyn commands. Then, softer, “I’m glad your appetite is coming back.”
Megan nods. “Me, too.”
In turn, each family member grabs a plate and loads it up with warm, delicious goodness and takes a seat at the island. They eat in relative silence, consumed by their food, before starting their morning routines. Megan’s family therapy appointment is at ten, and they don’t want to be late.
Once they arrive at the hospital, Dr. Howell greets the group with a friendly smile. “Hello!” She moves aside so they can enter. “I’ve met all of you already, so why don’t we get down to business.” Amelia and Megan look at ease, fine with the suggestion as neither are much for small talk, while Carolyn and Owen look a bit uncomfortable. “Family therapy is often an important and integral part of recovery, especially in terms of patients with traumatic pasts. I just want to make it clear that this is a safe place. No one is being attacked here. We’re all on the same team.” The group nods. “Megan, would you like to start?”
“Sure,” she fiddles her thumbs. “I want to say thank you, to all of you.” All three go to interrupt and she raises a hand to shush them. “Thank you for being the best family I could ask for.” She meets Dr. Howell’s eyes and, with a silent nod of encouragement, continues her statement. “I just, sometimes I feel like you pity me.” She shrugs, her gaze turning to her lap. “I get it. There is so much wrong with me and with what happened to me. But I need your support, not your sympathy.” She turns to Amelia, grabbing her hand unexpectedly. “Thank you, Amelia, for giving me that. You always seem to understand.”
Amelia is touched, and she squeezes Megan’s hand a little tighter. “Any time. I know it sucks to have people feeling sorry for you.” She pulls Megan into a one-armed hug.
Megan turns to her mother and brother. “It might take me some time. No, it’s definitely going to take me time.” She nods to affirm her statement. “But I’m getting there. I’m trying. And I miss the old us. I know we can’t get it back but we can try to get close.”
Evelyn nods. Owen agrees, saying, “I didn’t know I was doing it. I’ll know what to look for now.” Megan sends him a grateful smile. “I miss the old us, too,” he admits. He blushes a bit and turns his eyes toward his hands. The sentiment, however, is clear.
“Now,” Dr. Howell begins. “Is there anything anyone else would like to bring to the table?” Owen raises his hand slightly to get the doctor’s attention. “Yes, Owen?”
He turns to Megan, facing her directly. “Are the nightmares getting any better?”
Megan shudders at the reminder, but takes a deep breath and nods. “The medicine usually helps. Sometimes it traps me there, though.” She shrugs, trying to stay calm and not get swept away in the memories.
“What about the herbal tea? Did it help?” Evelyn asks.
“Yes,” Megan says, almost surprised. “I wasn’t sure it would be able to do anything but it helped with the nightmares. And if I did have a nightmare I could wake up and get out of it.”
“What tea?” Dr. Howell asks, making a note in her file.
Megan turns to her mom, unsure. “Valerian root,” Evelyn says.
Owen furrows his eyebrows. He hasn’t heard that since--he shakes his head, his temper flaring. “Did you call her?” He looks to Evelyn accusingly.
“Call who?” Amelia asks.
Evelyn lets out a breath. “Yes.”
“Why would you do that? That was not your place.” His voice is raising. She had no right to interfere like that.
“Call who?” Amelia asks, raising her voice to break through the awkward tension between mother and son.
Owen raises his eyebrows, silently telling his mother she better fess up. She sighs, turning to Amelia, a tender smile on her face. “Your mother, dear,” she says.
And in an instant, Amelia’s face blanches. “What?” Her voice is low and shaky. She doesn’t like the vulnerability peaking through. It’s uncomfortable and makes her skin crawl to feel such a thing. “Why would you do that?”
“Well, I remembered that she worked for the navy and thought she might have suggestions for nightmares,” Evelyn says.
“Anything else?” Amelia meets her eyes as to know she’s telling the truth.
Evelyn hesitates. There is more, but she doesn’t want to say. However, Amelia’s harsh gaze makes the words flow freely. “I wanted to talk to her about you.”
Amelia shakes her head. “You had no right--”
“--and the wedding.”
Her words catch in her throat. She can’t deal. This is not what she expected when she came here today. Dr. Howell steps in. “Maybe we could take a short recess to gather our thoughts and then we’ll talk more about this?”
Evelyn and Owen nod; however, Amelia shakes her head. “No, I’m fine,” she lies. She doesn’t want to handle this right now. Her mother caused her so much hurt; she can’t think about it just yet. And then, on top of it, the sneakiness of her mother-in-law, the feeling of distrust, is blinding. “Let’s keep going with the session.”
As they walk out to their cars, Megan and Evelyn in one and Amelia and Owen in the other, he asks, “Did we really have to schedule two sessions in one day?”
Megan chuckles, patting her brother on the back, but Amelia’s stomach churns. She wishes he didn’t hate it so much. That he didn’t hate working through their issues with her. “We can cancel.” Her voice is quiet as she tries to keep it level.
“No,” Owen says, shaking his head. Amelia’s heart lifts up a little. “It’s too late. We’ll be charged for the session regardless. Might as well go.” Amelia’s heart sinks again. It’s hard, she thinks, being the one who needs support in a relationship, being the one who’s a mess.
“Well we’re going to stop at a place for lunch and then we’ll be home.” Evelyn unlocks her car.
“Hope you guys have a good session,” Megan adds, climbing into the passenger’s seat.
The couple mumbles their thanks and heads off to their next appointment: couple’s therapy. Amelia doesn’t touch the radio system at all during the drive and, although it concerns him, Owen decides to let her have her space. If she doesn’t want extra noise it means the noise in her head is already too loud. Besides, therapy always has them talking for the entire hour anyway. They could both use a break.
When they walk into the office, Carolyn greets them warmly. “How was this week?” she asks, taking a seat in her chair as Owen and Amelia take the couch.
“Really good,” Owen answers, nodding to himself. “It seems like we’re back. A lot more things are normal now.”
“Well, we’re back at work.”
“Nice,” Carolyn smiles.
“We’re getting along better. We’re joking like we used to.” He tries to explain the shift without using the word intimacy, still new to the idea and role of therapy. He’s not ready to confess that much yet.
“That’s wonderful to hear.” Carolyn turns to Amelia. The smile on her face drops slightly at the other woman’s features, the uncomfortableness radiating from her very being. “Do you not agree, Amelia?” she asks gently, her expression soft. Owen shifts his gaze to his wife, eyebrows furrowed.
“Amelia?” he asks, a silent question on his lips.
She twiddles her thumbs. ‘No, you’re right.”
“Amelia,” Carolyn begins, “I only ask two things of you here: to be honest and to try. This is a safe place. You can tell us what’s bothering you.” She folds her hands in her lap and waits for Amelia’s whispered words.
“I do feel like it’s better.”
“But,” Owen says.
“But I feel like, sometimes,” she modifies, “we’re just kidding ourselves.” Owen tilts his head further, but Amelia isn’t looking up from her lap. The knot in his stomach twists some more. “I mean, we’re so different. How do we fit?”
“We’re not so different.”
“Yes, we are,” she says, raising her voice. She’s frustrated that he’s not getting this, even though she know’s she’s not making much sense. She turns to meet his eyes, a stormy blue. “I’m a mess,” she says, as if it is an all-encompassing point.
“I am.” She stands up, pacing a bit. There’s too much nervous energy--it’s consuming her from the inside out. “And you’re, you’re--”
“I’m what?” He’s becoming frustrated. He doesn’t know how to fix this and she won’t say anything. He needs her to say something.
“God! Don’t you get it, Owen?” Her palm goes to her forehead as she continues to pace back and forth. “You’re perfect! You’re always perfect. You’re family’s always perfect. I can’t deal with it anymore.”
“I told you I wasn’t perfect--”
“One time! And every other time I see you, you are this vision. This perfect, unattainable man who I shouldn’t fit with. Who, one day, will realize I’m not worth it or good enough.” She shakes her head, averting her eyes to the ceiling to keep the tears at bay. “And your mom? She thinks she’s perfect too. Fixing what’s broken.”
“I don’t agree with what she did, but she does want the best for you--”
“See--perfect. Everything is with good intentions. How do you stay mad at that?” She releases a high-pitched laugh and follows it with a muffled scream of irritation. “But guess what? My family isn’t perfect either. My mother chose not to come to our wedding. She chose not to walk me down the aisle. Damn it, you’ve gotta understand how messed up I am. I just can’t with the Mr. Perfect anymore. All day, every day, I just can’t do it.”
“So what? You want some time apart? You want a divorce?” His voice is loud and uncontrolled. He can’t stand the thought of losing her.
“I want to have said all I needed to say and that not have been your answer,” she says, her voice dropping dramatically. It hurts, it hurts so much.
She grabs her purse and leaves the room, refusing to stop at Owen’s calls. He pays the therapist quickly and sets out to find her, but by the time he gets to the front of the building he has no idea where she’s gone.
A few blocks down, Amelia slows her hurried pace. She’s still breathing heavily, so many emotions coursing through her tiny body, but can’t catch her breath. She tries to take a few deep breaths and finally controls her voice enough to call a cab. Once she’s secured a ride, she texts Owen that she’s finding her own way back and not to worry--she’s staying with Maggie and Meredith for the night. She knows he’ll be mad, furious even, and yet she can’t bring herself to change her mind. She’d stay in one of their guestrooms but Megan and Carolyn are already occupying both. She holds herself tightly as she waits for her ride, knowing that this is the point of no return. What they said could not be undone. The issue is, can they still move forward in spite of it?
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The next morning, Amelia walks through the door, stepping quietly as to avoid waking anyone up. She jumps when Owen startles awake, not having noticed him sleeping on the couch. She doesn’t understand what made him choose the small couch over their oversized, especially comfortable, bed, but that’s for another time. Right now she has to get her breathing back under control--he really scared her. “I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I didn’t think you’d be home.” He lets the words trail and it’s clear, in a sad, resigned way, that his statement didn’t just mean this early in the morning.
Her entire body slumps, her shoulders sagging, and she drops her purse on the ground. The contents come loose, but she can’t bring herself to care. She slowly lowers herself next to him on the couch and whispers, “Can I tell you a secret?”
He doesn’t understand what’s happening, but he nods regardless. He’s becoming accustomed to his wife’s surprises.
“I couldn’t sleep without you next to me.” Her voice is low, quiet, but not sad or scared. She’s not running.
“Can I tell you a secret?” She nods and he leans over, his breath tickling her ear. “I couldn’t sleep either.”
She chuckles at his confession, spurring his dark demeanor to crack and some light to shine through. He chuckles, too. “So you made it worse by sleeping on our couch? Which, by the way, is not as comfortable as the sales person made it sound.”
“Are they ever?” he asks with a laugh. However, when he takes another breath, his face becomes serious. “I don’t like to sleep in our bed without you.” He sighs. “Especially when we’re fighting.”
Her face drops, her heart plummets. She loves this man with all that she is and she knows he feels the same about her. “I’m sorry.” He shakes his head, but she reaches out a hand and gently grasps his elbow, making his stop and listen. “I let my emotions get the best of me. I made a rash decision.” She sniffles.
He sighs, moving his arm from her grasp and wrapping it around her shoulders instead. Then he pulls her close. “Your emotions are part of what I love about you,” he confides. She turns to meet his eyes, the confusion evident in her cerulean orbs. “Sometimes I feel so out of touch with mine. I mean, the PTSD doesn’t help, but in general I feel that way. Sometimes I just feel so lost. And you, you always know what to do. You have enough logic and emotion to get through any situation. I really love that about you.” Her eyes soften in time with his, each word mending her bruised and torn heart.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m a mess.” She chuckles, a self-deprecating sound. “I am a mess. I’ve always been the mess in my family. Really wherever I go.” She tilts her head, blowing out a heavy breath. “You,” she motions to this very persona, “you are always so put-together, so perfect.” She nearly chokes on the word that caused them so much pain. “Sometimes I’m afraid you’ll get tired of my messes.”
“The chances of that are highly unlikely,” he jokes. However, she doesn’t laugh along.
“I don’t have the best luck.” She sniffles, bringing her hand up to wipe the tears falling down her ruddy cheeks. “I mean, I’m a damn neurosurgeon,” she says, as if that should explain everything. At Owen’s furrowed brows, she elaborates. “I’m a neurosurgeon and my dad got shot in the head. I’m a neurosurgeon and my brother died from a brain injury. I’m a damn neurosurgeon and my baby was born without a brain.” Her words are choppy and only become more so as her tears begin to fall more rapidly. Her heart feels like it’s bleeding, so very fast, so very painfully, and she can’t stem the wound.
“Hey, hey,” he murmurs, gently repositioning her. Amelia’s legs slide over his lap as he pulls her closer to him, wrapping her in a tight hug. It’s a bit of an awkward angle, but the support is so necessary that she doesn’t care. “Look at me.” He tilts her chin up, meeting her stormy eyes. “You are not a mess. And maybe your luck is bad. It sucks that all that happened. So much.” She can’t help but chuckle at Owen’s crass term, something he reserves for the most severe of cases. “But I’m not going to stop fighting. I hope you won’t either.” She nods along, sniffling slightly. “I love you, Amelia. I really, really love you.” He emphasizes each word with a kiss to her nose, her forehead, her cheeks, and finally her lips. “You’re not perfect, but I love you even more for it. Because I’m not perfect either. I need you in my life.”
She appreciates his tender words--the way he has with words when he is finally able to articulate them is breathtaking, intoxicating. “You’re a lot more put together than I am.”
“No, I’m not,” he admits, gently tucking a strand of loose hair behind her ear. “You think you’re a mess because you say what you feel. But you show it. You don’t always filter and I think it’s great. Because you’re honest. You don’t pretend. I need somebody in my life like that. I need you .”
Her breath catches at his confession. “Really?” she whispers, still unsure and insecure.
He nods, his head tilting in the familiar way that brings comfort to her very soul. “I’m not all put-together. Well, maybe I am.” He pauses for a second. “If you mean put-together with duct tape and bandages, probably.” She hits his shoulder lightly. “But there are so many scars, so many things I can’t seem to shake. Things I’ve said and done.” He shakes his head, trying to keep the thoughts from invading his fragile mind. “I’m not perfect, Amelia.”
She opens her mouth to release the emotions building up inside her, and looks up the ceiling. “I believe you. But it’s so hard, so hard to feel like that.”
“I know.” He kisses the top of her head. “I know. But just because I keep things inside doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I’m not very good with emotions. I’m still working on that, on sharing. It used to make me uncomfortable when you questioned me because it was so new, but now I love that about you. You make me a better person than I was yesterday.”
“I feel the same way about you.” She sniffles once more, then pinches her fingers around the bridge of her nose. “I’m sorry I ran yesterday.” He nods in agreement. He was so worried. It hurt him to see her run. “But I had my time and I can’t sit around in my fear anymore. So, yes, I ran, but I want to come back. It was never meant as a forever, just as a time to cool off when we didn't have a guest room available.”
“We have kind of become an all-encompassing, amenities-included Inn.” The corners of his eyes wrinkle in happiness. “I’m glad you’re done running.”
“Me, too,” she agrees. “I love you,” she breathes against his lips.
“I love you, too.” He wraps his arms around her waist and allows her to shift on his lap until she’s facing his directly, her knees bracketing his hips. She leans forward, connecting their lips in a soft kiss. He pulls her closer, deepening the kiss with his probing tongue, gently exploring her mouth. She moans into his embrace and it only urges him to kiss her more deeply. Her hands move to his hair and her fingers tug and pull at the reddish strands. He’s about to suggest they move this to the bedroom when they hear a door shut behind them. Amelia startles, her teeth bumping his lip and she quickly apologizes. “I’m fine, I’m fine,” Owen says.
“You’re bleeding,” she says, looking closer. “God, I am such a klutz.”
He chuckles. “Kiss it better?”
“You are incorrigible.”
“But you still love me.”
“For what reason I do not know,” she jokes. Nevertheless, she places a tiny, sweet kiss to his upper lip.
“Sorry to interrupt,” Evelyn chuckles, knowing she caught the pair in a heated situation. Owen smiles slightly, but Amelia’s smile lags behind. She hasn’t spoken with her mother-in-law about the phone call yet. Owen, sensing the need for another conversation, one he isn’t privy to, excuses himself with the promise of preparing breakfast before Amelia’s eleven o’clock shift.
Once Owen leaves the room, Evelyn twiddles her fingers. “Amelia,” Evelyn begins, clearly hesitating. She finally bites the bullet and asks. “May I talk to you for a minute?”
Amelia nods without saying a word. She motions to the seat on the other end of the couch. Evelyn agrees graciously, settling down and taking a deep breath. “I am sorry. I overstepped. I know that.”
Amelia’s voice is quiet and controlled. “Then why did you do it?”
“Because she’s your mother.” She sees Amelia’s eyebrows raise. “And a mother should be there for her daughter. I wanted her to make amends, to see how wonderful everything you are doing is.” She sighs. “But it wasn’t my place. I am sorry.”
Amelia nods, accepting the apology. “Thank you.” She tilts her head, finally meeting her mother’s eyes. “It’s just, it’s a delicate subject for me.”
“But I know you did it because you care. And that also means a great deal to me.”
Evelyn smiles, moving one cushion closer. She reaches out her hand and takes Amelia’s in hers, smoothing her thumb over Amelia’s delicate fingers. “I will gain your trust back,” she says with a smile.
“I don’t trust people easily,” Amelia admits. “But I want to trust you. So I’m going to try.” She shrugs. “I’m going to try to let you in.”
“As will I. Try that is. To try to fix what I have broken.”
“You wouldn’t be the first.” Amelia thinks back to all the people who lost her trust and never got it back, all the bitter endings and tainted beginnings.
“Maybe not,” Evelyn concedes, “but I care too much to let you go so easily. I love you, sweetheart. You’re just as much a daughter to me as Megan. Never forget that.” She moves her hand to pat Amelia’s cheek, then gets up and heads to the kitchen.
“I won’t,” Amelia whispers once Evelyn is out of earshot. “I can’t.” She thinks of how much she has riding on this relationship, one that is so special to her although being relatively new. It’s more than she’s willing to part with.
Finally, she gets up from the couch and abandons her thoughts, walks into the kitchen and takes a seat at the island. “Oh, I love waffles,” Amelia says, rubbing her hands together as Owen pours more batter into the machine.
“Well, they’re not as good as yours, but they’re edible,” Owen says with a chuckle. Amelia blushes at the compliment, before waving him off.
“No one’s as good as me,” she jokes.
Sensing the light atmosphere, Evelyn joins in. “She’s got a point.”
Amelia smirks. “I’m just awesome,” she adds. She likes being able to hide embarrassment with confidence. Owen gives her the ability to do that in a way she thought she’d lost when she left LA.
“What’re you all so happy about?” Megan asks, strolling into the kitchen in her pajamas, her fleece bathrobe tied around her to keep her warm.
“How I’m a kickass, world class catch,” Amelia uses her words from years before.
Megan chuckles. “And not afraid to let people know it.” She shakes her head. “You forgot loud,” she teases, groaning in mock exasperation.
Owen is quick to blush and apologize. “Sorry we woke you.”
“Yeah, sorry,” Amelia adds.
“I’m glad you were sleeping well, dear,” Evelyn says, ruffling her daughter’s sleep-matted tresses.
“Me, too.” She doesn’t mention the tea or herbs, not wanting to start another fight when everything seems so peaceful. She’s missed this--the peacefulness of everyday life.
“We have waffles.” Amelia points to the dish near the waffle maker, the plate filled with golden deliciousness.
Megan moans lightly. “Definitely worth being woken up for.”
Amelia agrees, lifting her hand up for a high five. It’s going to be a good day. They can feel it in their bones.
Megan drives with Amelia to the hospital, grateful for the ride to her therapy appointment. Owen will pick her up, but it’s nice to spend time alone with Amelia. Her filter sister is quite the entertainment...she’s also quite the sweetheart. “I’m sorry family therapy turned out to be a bust,” Megan says after Amelia finishes a riveting story about losing a pig when she was little.
“Don’t be,” Amelia shrugs. “You said what you needed to. Things happen. Trust me, things always happen in group therapy.”
“You sound like you’re speaking from experience.” Megan doesn’t want to pry, but the words seem so tried and true, so raw. “I don’t mean to intrude,” she adds quickly.
“You’re not,” Amelia cuts off what would soon become her sister’s rant. She looks over while they’re stopped at a red light. “I was a drug addict. Oxy,” she confides. “And I’m an alcoholic. I’ve been to rehab twice before and it’s a struggle.”
Megan reaches over to touch Amelia’s hand on the steering wheel. “Thank you for telling me.”
“Of course. It’s managed now, but it’s a hard time in my life.”
“I get that,” Megan says, obviously referring to her own mental state.
“Hey, we’re pushing through.” Amelia shoots Megan a bright smile, pearly whites and all.
The two laugh at her statement as they pull into the hospital parking lot. By the time they get out of the car, the mood is a lot lighter in spite of Amelia’s confessions.
“See you later,” Amelia waves goodbye to Megan as they part ways.
“Yep. Have a good day.”
Amelia smiles, walking off in the direction of the pit. She has no surgeries scheduled today so she knows it’s better to be productive than waiting for Bailey to chew her out. Interestingly enough, an MVC comes in and presents Amelia with three surgeries and two consultations, more than filling her time. She doesn’t wish anyone harm but she loves the rush the surgeries--all of them push-to-the-limit--bring her.
By the end of the day her feet are sore and her back aches, but both are a good pain. She lost herself in her work today for the first time in quite a while and it felt amazing. She smiles to herself, happy she’s finding her groove after the horrible months of nothingness, of being lost.
When she pulls herself in their front door at eight o’clock, expecting each member of the household to be off doing his or her own thing, she becomes rooted to her spot in utter surprise. The lighting is low and soothing, the table is set with tall candles and their fancy china, and the smell of cinnamon and vanilla flows over her nostrils as candles around their home flicker softly. “What is all this?”
Owen looks up from his reading and smiles, standing up from the couch to greet his wife. “Welcome home,” he murmurs, leaning in for a tender kiss. She pulls him in for another, this one even softer, before Megan clears her throat.
“Right here, guys,” she says, chuckling when they pull apart with red-tinged cheeks. “Hate to spoil the romantic atmosphere, but we are staying for dinner.”
Owen shakes his head at his sister’s comment, saying, “The table is set for four, Meg.”
“I know. I’ve been here the whole time,” she refers to him setting up. “I just thought Amelia should know, too.”
Amelia smirks. “Will I never get my husband back to myself?” she jokes.
“Hm, nope, don’t think so.” Megan’s smile widens. “We happen to like him,” she motions to her and Evelyn who has since entered the room.
“You two are so alike,” Evelyn grouses. Her daughters are a force to be reckoned with.
“They keep us on our toes,” Owen says before leaning in to press a teasing kiss to the shell of Amelia’s ear.
“I’m happy you guys are here. Really,” Amelia says. “It’s nice to have a family here.”
She doesn’t catch it--she’s too occupied by the lure of food and conversation with his sister--but the smile on Owen’s face radiates such joy. Because, for the first time, Owen realizes that he got his wish. He’s always wanted a family and they are one: him and Amelia are a family. His mother and sister add to it. There’s enough love to be happy right now, with the way things are. He can’t wish for anything more.
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Dinner is good--roasted turkey, vegetables, and mashed potatoes--and the entire family is satisfied by the time they clear their plates. “That was delicious,” Evelyn says, patting her son on the back.
“So good,” Amelia and Megan chime in.
“Better than yours?” Owen teases.
“I think we both know I can’t cook to save my life.” Amelia chuckles, patting her lips with her napkin.
“I want to hear you say it,” he coos, leaning closer to her ear. She feels the suggestiveness of his presence, his breath tickling the shell of her ear. “Say it.”
She shakes her head, trying to cover her blush, but, from the look of glee on Megan’s face, she knows her wish hasn’t been granted. “You’re a better cook,” she whispers.
“Louder,” Owen jokes.
Megan chuckles. “Enough with the dirty talk,” she says, content to watch them blush further. Owen looks a mess, his face red and his hands slightly shaking. “And the bedroom eyes.”
“We were not--”
Megan interrupts Owen. “Yes, yes you were.” She stands up from her chair, shaking her head. She grabs her plate and glass, ready to walk to the kitchen as the others move to do the same.
Once Megan is out of earshot, Evelyn says, “You really were.” If possible, Owen blushes even further. Amelia can’t help but react similarly. Yes, she’s usually the one making the jokes, but it’s another thing to make them in front of her new mother and sister.
“Universe get me out of this,” she mutters, causing Evelyn to laugh and Owen to crack a smile in agreement.
As if the powers that be heard her plea, her phone rings from its place on the living room couch. “Saved by the bell,” Megan calls from the kitchen.
“Seriously,” Owen says, “did you summon it or something?”
Amelia’s eyebrows are raised before she settles for a shrug. “It’s a talent of mine,” she plays along.
She quickly places her dishes on the kitchen island and runs back to the living room, grabbing her phone to read the alert. “Ugh,” she groans. It’s a sound heard all the way in the kitchen, her head tilting back in annoyance. “I’m being paged.”
“I didn’t think you were on call tonight,” Owen says, eyebrows furrowed.
“I’m not.” She rubs her eyes. “Or I wasn’t .”
“What’s happening?” Megan asks, walking in to join the couple.
“I have an emergency surgery. Another surgeon is on call, but he’s apparently sick.” She scoffs. “More like doesn’t want to go back to work.” Owen knows who she’s talking about--he used to have trouble with this attending back when he was Chief--but chooses not to comment.
“What can I do to help?” he asks instead.
“Do the surgery for me?” She pouts, her bottom lip jutting out just a bit.
“Well, sure he could,” Megan begins, “it’s not like it’s brain surgery or anything.” She laughs at her own joke and Owen rolls his eyes.
Amelia sighs. “I guess I have to go. Nothing you can do.” She moves to pick up her bag, stuffing the things that had fallen out back in. She goes to straighten her hair in the bathroom and apply a light lip gloss, trying to perk up her appearance after a long day. “I’m gone,” she says, walking out the door after a kiss on the cheek from Owen and waves from her mother and sister.
Once the door closes behind her and the three hear her car rumble to life and back out of the driveway, Owen sighs, turning to face the others in the room.
“Really can’t plan anything with you two,” Evelyn jokes.
“Life of a surgeon,” Megan says, knowing all too well the amount of time and dedication it takes, what one must give up in order to follow this career path. She doesn’t regret it and she knows Owen and Amelia don’t either, but sometimes it would be nice to have a little more stability in their lives--a nine to five job with no on-call hours, a schedule you could stick to always.
Owen simply nods his head, his thoughts very similar to his sister’s. “But at least we finished dinner.”
“Which was delicious, dear,” Evelyn says, patting him once more on the shoulder.
“We can save dessert for when Amelia gets back,” Megan says with a shrug, knowing Owen will wait.
“I’m not sure when that will be. You two can have some if you like.” He doesn’t want to keep them waiting just because he is.
Megan looks between her mother and brother, contemplating her next move. “How bad would it be if I ate without her?”
The other two chuckle, shaking their heads. “Go ahead, really,” Owen says again.
“Good, because it smells amazing.” She walks into the kitchen and cuts herself a piece of the warm, double fudge brownies, taking a bite before it even reaches her plate. “Mmm,” she groans. “Can I live here forever?” she jokes. Her brother is quite the chef in a way she never was.
He chuckles slightly, not wanting to say more. He loves his sister here, but he knows one day she will have to move on. She’ll recover and want her own space, her own life. As much as he is wishing for her wellness to make an appearance, he is not ready for her to leave just yet; he’s spent too much time without her already.
Shaking the thoughts from his mind, he asks if they want to bring dessert to the living room and watch something on tv.
Evelyn agrees, grabbing herself a slice of the gooey goodness while Owen grabs some napkins and three bottles of water. In a few minutes, they’re all seated in front of the television, Megan snuggled up with her mother under a blanket and Owen leaning comfortably against the arm at the other end of the couch. He grabs the remote and flips to a family movie channel, hoping for something good to be on.
“Oh, I love this movie,” Evelyn states, a smile growing on her face. “Such a sweet story.”
“What is it?” Megan asks.
“ The King and I .” She wraps her arm around Megan’s shoulders and pulls her close, relishing in the contact she still feels deprived of. Sometimes she can hardly believe her daughter is here, alive and breathing and in her arms.
Megan nods before adjusting her head on Evelyn’s shoulder, breathing in her mother’s familiar scent of peppermint and light dusting of perfume. They watch the movie which, luckily, only began a few minutes prior and settle into a comfortable silence. Occasionally, Evelyn would tell a memory of watching this with her mother and sometimes Megan would chime in with a witty comment in response to the plot, but for the most part there’s a quiet peacefulness.
When the first commercial break comes, Evelyn turns excitedly to face her children. “What do you think so far?”
“It’s only just started, Mom,” Owen begins, shaking his head. “I don’t know yet.”
She shakes her head--her son always needs to be sure, to take his time with something, before he says a word. “Well, do you think it’s interesting?”
“I mean, sure, but it’s just--”
He’s cut off by the alarmed look on his mother’s face. Her breathing stops and her eyes widen. “Megan?” she calls softly. “Megan,” she says again, this time more forcefully.
He’s afraid of what he’ll find but he moves from his spot on the couch and sits in front of the two women. Megan’s eyes are blank, glossed over, the dropped brownie staining her off-white shirt. She’s not moving but her breathing is so rapid it seems that she’s shuddering without allowing a muscle to twitch. “Megan?” he asks.
She has yet to respond and both adults are becoming worried. “Owen, what’s happening?” Evelyn asks, her voice wavering. The words are sodden, basically dripping with the tears she refuses to shed. “Owen,” she repeats.
“I’m not sure yet. I think she’s having a PTSD episode. They’re different for every person,” he explains. This is not how he generally reacts but it could very well be the way Megan does. He doesn’t know what to think or do. He is usually the one in the middle of the situation, not the one taking stock and finding a solution. He takes a second to mentally thank all those who have taken care of him at his most vulnerable, at his most dangerous.
He places his rough hand on the jean covering her knee, hoping it will draw her to consciousness. Instead, she sits up ramrod straight, refusing to acknowledge him. He calls her name a few more times, but with no luck, moves to hold her hand. The second his calloused fingers meet her dry and cracked ones, she pulls away, scooting further into Evelyn. However, that movement only clues her in to the fact that she is in another’s embrace and she flinches, pushing her mother off her scrawny body. When her mother doesn’t let go immediately, she starts flailing, arms swinging and feet kicking. She gets Owen in the nose before he can move back from the strong force of her calf and his back hits the coffee table hard. He groans and feels the blood start to drip from his nose, before he finally sits back up.
Megan has moved away from them now, huddling on the edge of the couch, silent tears streaming down her face. Evelyn had let her go easily, not wanting to make matters worse, but now she’s not sure she should have. Her baby girl looks so little, so frail , all alone in a huddled mass of limbs. It is not the Megan she knows.
Pinching the bridge of his nose, Owen says, “It’s alright, you’re okay, you’re in Seattle, you’re at home,” over and over again. His voice is soft, a whisper treading lightly, and he’s not sure she’s hearing him at all. However, with the third uttering of the phrases she starts to scream. She covers her ears with her shaking palms and yells at the top of her lungs, begging to be let go, to be left alone. She’s crying and shuddering so hard she can barely catch her breath, but she can’t stop. Owen stops talking, hoping to calm her down, but the silence claws at her insides. She squirms and pulls at her clothing, scratching her skin, screaming louder. There is no escape. There is never an escape.
Another five minutes pass before Owen realizes he can’t bring her out of this. He dials 911, knowing he can’t drive her to the hospital himself--it’s too much--and is told the ambulance will arrive shortly. By the time he ends the call, Megan’s arms are dripping with red, her nails scratching angry bites into her skin as Evelyn tries to stop her. Megan’s eyes are closed and the minute she feels Evelyn hands grab hold, she screams louder, kicking and hitting once more.
Owen tries to regulate his breathing, knowing it won’t help if he’s a wreck too, but it’s of no use. The tears are clouding his vision as he helps his mom hold Megan’s arms away from her delicate skin. Once he has a steady grip on her arms, he allows his mom to take his place and moves to grab her kicking feet. They’ve already hit the coffee table and knocked over a glass vase, the cut stinging. He tries to pull the shard of glass out but it’s wedged too deep and he can only keep her still by using both hands to hold her legs.
Her face is red with exhaustion, her cheeks tear-laden and her lips cracked due to the salt of her tears and the intensity of her cries. Luckily, the ambulance arrives after eight minutes and the EMTs carefully transport Megan into the truck, securing her with a safety belt. “We only have room for one passenger,” Eddie, a man Owen has come to know well through his work in the Pit, says.
Evelyn looks to her son and he nods. “You go,” he says. She needs this, he knows she does. She’s already felt guilty enough about missing her daughter’s arrival--her stint in the psychiatric hospital proved that--and he can’t have her feeling suicidal again. She needs to be there, right there, for Megan.
She climbs into the truck and takes a seat, her eyes swollen and tired. Owen follows in his car, not sure how he makes it to the hospital unscathed, let alone alive, and takes a seat in the psychiatric intake waiting room, ignoring every staff member calling out to help him, to check in on him. The fight is long from over.
He’s still slumped over in the uncomfortable wooden chair with glazed-over eyes and blood on his blue button-up, face, and arms when she finds him two hours later. “I just heard,” Amelia says softly, sitting beside him and wrapping her arm around his shaking shoulders. His exhale of breath is somehow both heavy and trembling at the same time. She waits for him to speak, but he does nothing of the sort. He cries and he cries as she holds him. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t here for you. What can I do?” she says after ten minutes of silence. Her plan to be there for him more than ever is already harder than she imagined. He shrugs as more tears make their way down his face. He doesn’t know what to do, what to ask her to do. He’s just so lost. He’s in so much pain.
“It hurts,” he finally says, his deep voice rough and ragged.
“I can imagine,” she says, thinking back to his panic attack not too long before.
“I’m sorry,” he says, trying to shake the water tracks from his cheeks.
“You’re sorry?” She’s utterly confused. He has nothing to be sorry for. “For what?”
“For this happening to me too.” She realizes he’s speaking of his PTSD. “For putting you through this.”
“Don’t do that.” She’s firm in her command. “It’s not your fault. You have an illness. You can’t do anything more than you’re already doing. Don’t blame yourself.”
“I didn’t know what to do,” he admits. “I couldn’t help her.”
“You tried to anyway,” she soothes, bringing a hand to his red locks. She tugs slightly, combing her fingers through his hair. “What do you think prompted the episode?”
“My fault.” His voice is soft, but loathing. She can practically feel him beating himself up about it. “Army commercial came on the tv.” He only realized it post-arrival, the memory coming back to him once he entered the hospital.
She sighs. There is nothing safe in this world. “You didn’t mean to.” She whispers the same words she did when Owen told her about Megan’s disappearance. “You didn’t mean to.”
“But I did. Again.”
“No, you didn’t.” She pulls him closer.
“I should have known. I should have been more careful. Put on a movie on DVD. Something.”
“Owen, you couldn’t have known. Things happen.”
“And Megan is hurt because of it. Because of me,” his voice cracks on the last word.
“Enough of that,” she says sharply. Amelia pushes back to have enough room to tilt his chin up. She forces him to meet her eyes, their blue orbs dancing together in sorrow, in regret. “You didn’t mean to. You got her here. She will get through this. And so will you.”
He takes a few breaths, sniffling. “How do you do that?”
“Know exactly what I need to hear. Say it so it pushes through all the...all the darkness?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugs. “How do you do it for me?”
Their conversation ends there and she pulls him to the bathroom to run his hands under some warm water and soap. She does the same for his nose, bandaging it tightly, noting that it does not need to be rebroken. She finds him a pair of hospital scrubs to change into and hugs him tight. They need each other. Always.
Now the blood is washed off, but the memories will long remain. They’re sure of it. The fight is long from over.
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This is shorter than usual because I was having trouble putting pen to paper. I hope you still enjoy it!
“You really don’t have to do this, Evelyn,” Amelia says, rubbing her mother’s shoulder.
“I know, dear.” She gives Amelia a tender smile. “But it’s time.” She picks up her small suitcase and kisses both her son and daughter on the cheek. “You guys have let me stay here long enough. You have to live your lives and I have to live mine.” She chuckles. “Actually use the apartment I’m paying bills for.” Amelia gives her a soft smile.
“Well, you’re always welcome to come back,” Owen says. Evelyn pats his stubbled cheeks. “I love you, honey. And so does this young woman,” she motions to Amelia, causing her to blush. “Take care of her.”
“I’m trying,” he affirms.
She pulls him into a hug before doing the same with Amelia. She whispers, “Take care of him, too, even if he pretends he doesn’t need it.” When Evelyn meets Amelia’s eyes once more, the promise there is evident.
She disentangles herself from Amelia’s arms and backs out, reminding them that she will pick up Megan tomorrow and bring her home to her apartment. “Don’t visit tomorrow because she’ll probably be tired, but maybe the next day?”
Owen nods. “We wouldn’t miss it.”
Evelyn gives him a tender smile and finally closes the front door behind her. When she’s gone, her car backing out of their long driveway, Owen sighs. Amelia turns to him, rubbing his upper back gently. “What’s up?” She can imagine he’s feeling lonely, but she wants him to say it, wants to give him the opportunity to express his feelings without her jumping to conclusions.
“I don’t know what I’m feeling. It’s messy up in there,” he points to his head, joking. “Everything is changing so much.”
Amelia nods in understanding. She pats his back one last time and asks him if he wants to sit on the couch. He does, nodding slightly, pulling her tightly into his arms once he’s situated. She leans her head on his broad shoulder, snuggling into his neck, his scent, so familiar, warming her heart. He sighs deeply.
“Megan’s in the hospital and I know she’s safe and taken care of. But I hate that she has to be there at all. And my mom is gone now because she has her own life. And I miss them,” She nods against the tender skin of his neck. “But,” his words are soft, almost as if they are muffled. She turns, pushing back to see his eyes--she’s not sure of what he’s getting at. It’s unusual for that to happen seeing as they communicate without words so easily. “But,” he repeats the word, struggling to get the rest out, “but I’m almost...happy” he chokes on the word, “to have the house to ourselves again.” He shrugs, turning his eyes away from her gaze in shame. “It’s awful, I know,” he scoffs.
She moves away from his embrace and he slumps further into the couch in dejection. She’s quick to shake her head at his silent assumption, moving to cup his cheeks and forcing his eyes to meet hers. Staring deeply into his cerulean orbs to make her words known, she negates his statement. “You are allowed to feel that way. It is not awful. It’s normal.” She chuckles. “Someone told me that once. Someone I trust completely.” The corners of her lips turn up despite his face remaining a mask of pain and self-loathing. She hates seeing him so down, so upset. She wants to see his humanity and yet it also scares the crap of her. She takes a deep breath and focuses on the man before her. “You are not a bad person. You love your mother and sister, but they are both safe. Your mom is in a stable place and your sister is well taken care of by the hospital. You don’t have to worry about them because they’re safe. It’s hard to come home and be worried about what you’ll walk into. It’s hard to walk on eggshells all the time. You’re okay with them not staying here because they’re safe and in good hands. And, with them not being here, it gives you a chance to breathe and heal, too.”
He is awed by her speech, her words hugging the darkest depths of his soul. His eyes are watery, but they are tears of love and acceptance. “I want to see her. I want her here, I thought I did. But it’s also nice to have the house to ourselves again.”
Amelia nods. “She will visit. All the time, I bet.” She smooths her thumbs over his cheekbones. “And she’ll be happy living with your mom for now. I think that, sometimes, it hurts her to see you in so much pain, to show you her pain.” She presses a tender kiss to his lips. “You seeing her is much the same. You Hunts are too caring for your own good.”
A small chuckle escapes his lips, barely there, but Amelia can see it. “Megan always has been like that, even with her sass.” He exhales. “Just like you,” he says, pushing a lock of her soft, brown hair behind her ear.
She smiles, leaning into the hand that tucked her hair back, feeling safe and warm and happy in his palm. She relishes in the difference between their temperatures, his body always warmer than hers. She loves the feeling of safety it brings, the love it projects. “Like you.”
Her eyes become a little glassy. “Well, I’m a Hunt, too, right?”
His tears fall harder as his hands wrap around her neck, pulling her even closer. “Of course you are.” His thumbs rub at the base of her scalp, moving tenderly, as he connects his lips with hers. It’s gentle and rough all at the same time, the urgency behind his display of love palpable.
Their lips separate only for them to reconnect lightly, chastely, a few more times before he finally pulls back, gently rubbing his fingers through her silky tresses. The moment is soft and pure, some uninterrupted time so long lost, no worries of anyone walking in on them. Simply put, it’s bliss.
The quiet is calming, words unnecessary, unbroken until the unceremonious grumbling of Amelia’s stomach. She blushes at the timing before Owen’s stomach seems to answer in accordance, growling as well. The blush turns into a chuckle that he can’t help but take part in.
After a minute, she whines, “I’m hungry,” with a dramatic pout gracing her lips.
She hits his shoulder lightly. “So are you!”
“What are you? Eight?”
She places a hand on her heart in mock seriousness. “In spirit.”
He gives her a hard laugh, delighting in the lightness of their evening. They need it; they deserve it. “You could make dinner tonight,” he says, his eyes alight with mirth.
“If you trust me with the stove,” she jokes, referencing the time she burned pasta...and meatloaf...and basically everything. “Or the microwave.” He winces at the memory of her thinking microwaving chocolate chips was a great idea. “Cook for me?” she asks, her puppy dog eyes on full display.
“How about we cook together?” He hadn’t considered the idea up until now--he usually cooked everything except breakfast (it’s her specialty after all)--but he thinks it could be fun to do it together. Very husband and wife-like, if he says so himself.
Amelia groans, sticking out her bottom lip. “Can’t you?” Her voice is sugary sweet.
He shakes his head, patting her ass, and shifts her onto the couch to stand up. Once he’s standing, he offers his hand. She groans, muttering something about stubborn husbands, but she takes his hand regardless and stands up without much of a fight. He leads her into the kitchen and doesn’t let go until he goes to check the fridge for supplies. Usually, he’s so on top of their pantry and food stuffs, but it’s been too crazy lately to keep up. He notices that they have some chicken and some parmesan cheese, as well as garlic and breadcrumbs. “We could make baked chicken.”
“You can make baked chicken,” she says cheekily.
“Nice try.” He sets the chicken on the counter and takes out the other spices and toppings. After he grabs the casserole dish, he asks her to open the chicken and set it in the pan.
“Umm,” Amelia squints her eyes. “I don’t like touching raw meat,” she says with disgust. “It’s slimy.”
He rumples his nose in distaste, her choice of words not exactly preferable for food prep. “Okay, then I’ll do that and you can add the coating.”
She shrugs, resigning herself to her fate, and hops off the island stool to come around to the far counter. After he places the first chicken breast in the dish, she randomly throws in garlic, cheese, oregano, and paprika. He’s usually more precise, but he considers Amelia helping without poisoning them success enough. She adds some breadcrumbs and lets him flip the meat on the other side to do the same thing to the back. She smiles when he handles the meat without her having to ask. He always knows what she needs, whether it be something small or large.
He had set the oven to preheat after getting the casserole dish, so it only took a few minutes for the beep to signal that the oven is ready. He places the dish in the oven and tells Amelia to set it for thirty minutes, then washes his hands. Grabbing the bag of salad from the fridge, he dumps some into two bowls. After she washes her hands, she sets to cutting some tomato and cucumber. He adds some sunflower seeds and takes the dressing out, waiting to add it so the salad doesn’t become soggy.
Finally, Owen heads down the hall to take a shower while Amelia putters around the house straightening up and putting their guest rooms back together. He will do the swiffering and vacuuming in the morning while she takes her shower.
Not long after, they make some baked potatoes and finish the salad, placing it on the table next to the chicken. It’s a nice meal and, once it’s over, they sit together to watch their favorite show, cuddling close. And, when night rolls around, Owen slowly leads her back to their bedroom, eyes locked and hearts fluttering, ready to make good, sweet use of an empty house.
Ahh, so after adjusting to my new jobs and dealing with all the crazy, I finally got time to write. I felt that this chapter was necessary for their healing. I hope you like it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Do you have to go?” Amelia whines, grabbing onto his muscled arm.
He chuckles. “Yes, I really have to.”
She doesn’t let go of her grip, instead tightening her fingers even further. She’s too warm and sleepy to move out of bed, but she is still putting up a fight. “But you’re my personal space heater,” she complains.
“Really?” he asks. “Is that all I’m good for?”
She grins, a wide, tooth-heavy smirk. “Not the only thing.” She raises her eyebrows. “The sex is pretty good, too.”
He pretends to be offended. “What about my charming personality?”
“Charming, Owen, really?” She chokes out between laughs.
He leans gets back onto the bed, only in his boxers, and brackets his knees around her hips, arms on the side of her face, boxing her in. She meets his eyes, hers filled with child-like glee, and tilts her head ever so slightly as encouragement.
“Just tell me you love me.”
She pretends to zip her lips, desperately trying to hold back her giggles, before he takes her hand in his and brushes her knuckles against his lips. “Amelia Shepherd,” he growls, “tell me you love me.”
She closes her lips together, holding back a grin, trying to think of why there is a tickle in the back of her brain, something feeling off. At her look of playful resistance, he laughs, quickly leaning up on his knees and bringing his hands down to her ticklish sides. She squeals at the sudden onslaught, kicking her legs without really being able to move them due to his position. He continues his attack until she’s out of breath, before dipping close to her ear and saying, “Tell me.”
She shivers as his breath tickles her ear and exhales deeply. Looking into his eyes, the sincerity ringing from their deep abyss, she whispers, “I love you, Owen.”
He nuzzles his nose with hers, breathing in her scent of lilac and vanilla. “I love you, too, Mia.” He then carefully moves off her, getting off the bed and heading to their on-suite bathroom. He hates that he has to leave this, their quiet home, but work is work.
From her place on the bed, Amelia sighs in bliss. She loves Owen. She loves this life. And she hopes with all her heart that he knows that.
Throughout her day off, Amelia putters around the house, cleaning up this and that. She dusts the shelves around her home and washes all the sheets on their bed. Then, realizing the guest room sheets have been used, she washes both sets of those, too. She swiffers and vacuums before finally settling down on the couch with a glass of sparkling water and her new (month-old) book. Around six, Owen texts that his shift is over, and she smiles that it’s relatively close to his scheduled clock-out time. She then sets to ordering Chinese for dinner, extra noodles for him and extra soy sauce for her.
When Owen walks through the door at six-thirty, he’s greeted by the wonderful sight of his wife lazing on their sofa, her hair in a messy bun and her face bright and make-up free as her eyes quickly read pages of her novel. “Hey,” he whispers, crouching beside her.
She jumps a little, startled just a bit, entranced by her book. “I didn’t hear you come in,” she says.
“That,” he grimaces, “makes me kind of nervous.”
She chuckles, closing her book and patting his stubbled cheek. “Don’t worry, I had the door locked all day. I just opened it for you.” He smiles in response and pecks her cheek.
“What’re you reading?”
“ No One Cares About Crazy People, ” she answers, showing him the cover. He squints. “It’s about schizophrenia and mental health as a whole through a parent’s perspective. Very interesting.”
“Isn’t it a bit dark?”
“Yeah,” she concedes. “But it’s a great read. I love it.”
“Then that’s all that matters.” He leans in to catch her lips, slowly moving them with his, bringing his calloused hands up to cup her soft cheeks.
“This is a nice way to come home.”
“You never left,” he says with a chuckle.
“Well, nice way to be greeted when you get home.”
He nods, kissing her tenderly once more. Her hand goes to the back of his head pulling him closer, closer, until they finally need to break apart for air. He’s about to say more when the doorbell rings, signaling their food has arrived. He goes to the door and pays while she grabs some silverware and sodas from the kitchen.
Meanwhile, he sets up their food on the coffee table, easily separating his usual from hers. It’s been awhile since they’ve done this--ordered Chinese and kicked back, happily married and free from work constraints--but they carry it out as if no time has passed at all. It’s comforting, almost like this was always meant to be their life, their lives irreversibly intertwined.
She sits down on the floor and he mimics her, shoulders touching as they open their respective foods and eat right from the container. “How do you do that?” she asks, pointing to his use of chopsticks with her fork.
“Practice,” he shrugs.
“When I do that it all falls out.”
“Because you never position your fingers the right way.”
“It’s hard,” she whines.
He chuckles, putting his food down to ruffle her hair. At the feeling of his fingertips gliding through her hair, gently tugging her elastic band out, she sighs. “I’ll teach you one day,” he says.
She turns to face him, her smile gentle. She wants him to know how much she cares, how much she wants that. “I hope you do.” She leans her head on his shoulder, foregoing her food for the moment. “You know that right?” Her voice is soft, timid even, and it causes him to tilt his head and move hers back. He wants to see her eyes. The look of confusion prompts her to continue. “That I want us to have a future together.”
“A real life,” he confirms.
She nods. “I don’t think I’ve told you that enough. Or showed you enough.” She exhales deeply, staring into his eyes. “And I want you to know it. Because, Owen, I love you so much.”
He leans forward to press a short kiss to her lips. “I love you, too, but where is all this coming from?” He’s happy to hear her share her feelings for him so freely, allowing herself to be vulnerable with him, but it is still unexpected. They’ve been doing really well lately. He doesn’t know what makes her feel the need to emphasize this point now.
She’s silent for a minute, but the careful probing of Owen’s eyes give her the courage she needs to continue. “You called me Amelia Shepherd this morning,” she says quietly, avoiding his gaze as a red flush creeps up her neck.
He tilts his head in confusion, trying to understand. He knows Amelia has a habit of telling stories while leaving out key details and information. “Hey, look at me,” he prompts, using his finger to angle her face up, her eyes meeting his once more. “You can tell me anything.”
“I know, I know.” She takes a deep breath. “It’s just.” She looks back down at her lap for a few moments, then returns to meet his gaze. “You’re going to think it’s stupid.”
“I doubt that.” He had rarely heard Amelia ever say something stupid. Crude maybe, but not stupid. “Try me.”
She sighs. “You called me Amelia Shepherd. Shepherd instead of Hunt,” she finally adds.
He furrows his brows as the words wash over him, taking it all in. However, her worry is unnecessary because, before long, a large smile spreads over Owen’s face. She smiles to match his and before she can understand what is happening, he leans in to dot tiny kisses all over her face. Amelia giggles as he does so, leaning further into his butterfly caresses. When he finally pulls back, he asks, “You really want to take my name?” in subtle disbelief. He’s always been a traditional guy, but Amelia has never been a traditional girl.
She nods, fast and sure. “Owen,” she shakes her head, “how do you not know that you are the best thing that’s ever happened to me?” She brings her hands to his cheeks, smoothing her thumbs over his broad cheekbones. “You mean everything to me.”
He can’t help but press another kiss to her lips, savoring the intimacy of the action. “I always hoped so.”
“I do, I really do.” Her eyes become watery as she says the next words. “And I’ve done a lousy job of showing it. I was still running. Owen,” she breathes, “I don’t want to run anymore.”
“I’d really love it if you didn’t,” he admits. “It’s too hard to watch you leave.”
“I’m sorry for running. I’m going to try my best to never hurt you again.” Her eyes are filled with passion, a passion he loves so very much.
“That’s not realistic,” Owen says, forcing her to keep her eyes locked on his. “We’re two adults who are going to fight sometimes. Just because we’re married doesn’t change that. Sometimes we’ll disagree or say things in the heat of the moment. I agree we should reduce those instances to a minimum, but they’ll never go away completely. We’re going to fight sometimes. It doesn’t mean we love each other any less.”
He pulls her into a tight hug. “We may not always like each other, but we’ll always love each other.”
She sniffles. “You promise?”
“I promise.” He runs his fingers through her now-loose tresses, breathing in and out, deeply, calmly.
After what feels like an eternity, Owen pulls back. “I love you and I know you’re trying. I can see it.” He gives her a soft smile. “You don’t have to change your name, though. Not for me. I know how important the name is to you.”
She smiles at his concern, at his knowledge of her. “I want to do it.” She chuckles. “It’s funny, you know. I used to hate being a Shepherd. Not because of my parents. They were great. My mom did so much for us after our dad died. She was everything.” She shakes her head, trying to keep her tears at bay. “But it was hard with Derek. He was always the best, the standard, the trademark. I was always just his little sister.”
“You are so much more than Derek Shepherd’s little sister.”
“I know you see that, but other people don’t or didn’t. It wasn’t like he tried to hide it either. I loved him, but god was he arrogant.” She gives a watery chuckle. “And he made sure I knew how much better than me he was all the time.” She sniffles.
“But that’s not the truth. It never was. You guys were different, in personality, in work. You have taken on cases that I’m not sure Derek could have solved. You have creativity. You believe in the magic. You care about the patients more than your surgical prestige. That’s where you’re different.”
Her body quivers as she tries to suppress the tears. Her voice wavers as she says, “You really think so?”
“I know so.” He wipes away the few tears escaping her eyes with the pads of his thumbs. “Even before we got together, I knew that. I saw that in you. Don’t think I didn’t notice something different about you until that time in the chapel.” She inhales shakily at the reminder. “You were on my radar long before that.”
She exhales, a sound emanating from the combination of breath and tears. “Really?”
“Remember the time you came to Seattle for Mason’s mother?” She nods at the remembrance of her horrible tumor--the one she and Derek invented a procedure for that gave his mother a little more time. “It was then that I really began to take notice of you.”
Her look of incredulity makes him chuckle. “Not like love at first sight. I mean, all PG, I was married after all.” She stiffens at the mention of his last marriage. She knows Cristina came before her, but some of the jealousy still lingers. His hand rubbing her back allows her to relax, though. “But you were trying so hard to save his mother even when it seemed impossible. Even when Derek didn’t think it could be done. You fought for what you believed in and you cared about your family and friends. It was like seeing a piece of myself in someone else, someone who, in every logical sense, was a stranger to me. It was special. You are special.”
She sniffles once more, leaning her head on his chest. “You know the surgery didn’t last.”
“It helped until she became sick again.” She sighs. “We only gave her more time, not a lifetime.”
“But it’s a lifetime she wouldn’t have had without you.”
He feels her tears soaking through his shirt, but he doesn’t mind. He simply continues to rub her back. “And the time you came before that, after the shooting.” She nods at his pause. “I thought it was so great you were fighting for your family. So, yes, it was the second time that I became intrigued by you, but not the first time I noticed you.”
Her heart warms at his confession. She wishes she had been able to take notice of him sooner. “The first trip was basically a disaster,” she confides. “Derek didn’t want to see me.”
“Did it at least end well?”
“I mean, yeah, eventually. He told me he just didn’t want me to have to deal with his pain.” Amelia maneuvers her body to sit on Owen’s lap. “But we were fighting for most of it.”
“At least there were some good points,” Owen, always the optimist, says.
“True.” She chuckles, trying to contain her laughter at the thought that popped into her head.
“Tell me,” he says, tickling her sides.
She chuckles. “I was just thinking about how another highlight of that trip, at least at the time, was sleeping with Mark Sloan.”
“You slept with Mark?” his voice is high and incredulous.
She nods timidly. “One time!” She holds up her pointer finger. “Well, one night.”
“I can’t believe--”
“I used to be a lot more sexually available,” she settles on. “And I wasn’t in a steady relationship and sleeping with him was like a rite of passage for me and my sisters.”
“I just,” he can’t find the words. “Here we’re having this heartfelt conversation and now you’re talking about sleeping with another man. Mark no less.”
“Hey, he wasn’t that bad. He got better with time.” She lightly hits his chest. “Besides, you asked.”
“And now I’m regretting it.”
She smiles. “It was before we were together, before I knew you.” She leans up to capture his lips in a hot kiss, pulling back only to smirk in his direction. “And you are so much better.”
“Really?” he asks. “Maybe we’ll test that theory later.”
“Oh, I think we will have to.” She leans in for a couple short kisses. “After all, we are scientists.”
He chuckles at the terrible dirty talk, nipping gently at her ear. “So Mark, huh?”
“Yeah,” she shakes her head. “Which means that two men I’ve slept with are dead.” He remembers her mentioning Ryan a few weeks ago and rightfully assumes he was the other man. “What does that say about me?”
She chuckles darkly, but the pain is evident in the sound. “The only thing it says is that you’ve experienced too much struggle and pain in your life.” He meets her eyes. “Nothing more.”
“You’re too good for me, you know.”
“No,” he shakes his head. “We’re a perfect fit.”
She laughs at his cheesiness. “Mark was Derek’s best friend. He was always at our house all the time. Sometimes he even gave me more respect than my own siblings.” She takes a deep breath in, then slowly lets it out. “Now they’re both dead.” He knows she’s referring to Derek. “I miss him,” she says, her voice just barely above a whisper.
“I know,” he hugs her close.
“So at work,” she changes the subject slightly, “I’ll still be Shepherd. Because it’s my family. It’s Derek and the kids. It’s my mother and father. My sisters.” He nods against the top of her head. “But at home, I want to be a Hunt.” She says it with such finality that Owen has to lean back to meet her eyes. “I’m so happy to be married to you.”
He smiles, a weight lifting off his shoulders that had been there so long he forgot it was weighing him down. Amelia continues shortly after. “I want to have your name. I want to have the same name as our kids.” He doesn’t comment on her admission, but, on the inside, he is overjoyed. They are taking steps together, steps to get better and live a long, happy life. She, however, easily reads the joy on his face. “Yes, our kids. I do want kids.”
“I know. But I also know it’s scary.”
She nods. “My whole life has always been one thing after another getting ripped away from me. My brother. My father. My baby. My job. My escape with drugs.” She sighs. “Everything.” He holds her hand as she continues. “I’m so afraid to want anything anymore.”
“I know you’re afraid.” His voice is soothing, comforting. “So we’ll take our time.”
“I do want this.”
“I know. But it takes time. One day, when you’re ready, we’ll talk more about it.”
“What if I’m never ready?”
“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” He cups his palms around her cheeks. “But if you want this, I don’t think the fear will last forever. Fear can only last so long when you have so much hope for something,” he says wisely.
“And they’ll be a Hunt, too,” she says resolutely.
“We’ll be the Hunt family,” he agrees.
“And we’ll be happy?” Amelia asks quietly.
“I’m already happy,” Owen confides.
“Good. Because I am, too.”
Comments give me joy :)
Thank you SO much for your patience and support. Seriously, you guys make my day. And thank you for your concern about me updating this story-I had to take a bit of a break due to the stress of my schedule right now. But, it was not in vain! I found my love of writing for myself again. It works out well for readers too-this time apart allowed me to get over 6,500 words written :) I hope you like it!
Side Note: This chapter contains some smut, but the smut I write depends on the emotions I'm trying to convey. In this sense, it is more intimacy than the sex, so a little different from Chapter Five's reconciliation.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“What time are we visiting your sister?” Amelia asks, lazing on the couch with her morning cup of coffee and a medical journal she’s in the process of catching up on.
“Owen,” she chuckles, “I know you want to go. She got out a few days ago and you’ve given her time.” She pats for him to sit beside her, placing her medical journal on the coffee table. Once he’s seated, she pulls him to lay on her lap, gently running her fingers through the ginger strands. “I want to go, too.”
“Of course. She’s my sister.” She tugs a little on the strands, rubbing his scalp to bring him comfort.
“You’re the best, you know that?” Owen asks, turning to look up and meet her eyes.
“I’ve been told once or twice.” She giggles as he tickles her side to continue her confession. “I may have also said it myself once or twice.”
He chuckles, gripping onto her elbows to pull her close, resting his head against her toned stomach. “I love you.”
“I love you, too.” She bends down to press a tiny kiss to his forehead. She breathes in for a few seconds, remembering his smell and warmth, before she finally whispers, “It will be okay. She will be okay.”
He stiffens beneath her momentarily before relaxing into her embrace once more. “Last time I--”
“--Did everything you could to help her. She needed more.” Amelia presses another butterfly kiss to his head. “She knows that. Evelyn knows that. I know that.” She moves her arms to wrap around his solid frame. “Now it’s up to you to know that.”
He sighs, breathing deeply, relishing in the comfort of his wife. “Thank you.”
“Anytime,” she says with a smile.
They decide to leave within the hour, quickly showering and throwing on some comfy clothes, grateful they finally have a day to visit her. Since Megan had been released, they’d been on a bender in the hospital or, at least, it had felt that way. It seemed like every disaster possible was striking--people were getting hurt left and right. Amelia knew Owen was desperate to see his sister as soon as she got settled in his mother’s home and the lack of availability only made his stress worse. It was one thing to worry about your sister’s safety, but another to contemplate everything that could or did go wrong, to evaluate every action and misaction. She knew that was in Owen’s nature and yet it still hurt to see him cause himself so much pain.
After a few minutes in the car, Owen’s phone rings and Amelia picks it up after his prompting, their hands interlaced over the center console. “Hello?”
“Oh, hey, Amelia,” April says, the chipper in her voice unmistakeable.
“Hi, April. Owen’s driving,” she quickly explains. “Need something?”
“I just wanted to invite you guys to Joe’s tonight. We just decided to go because this shift is already brutal,” she chuckles.
Amelia turns to Owen, asking him the question after telling April to give her a moment. He smiles, seemingly happy with the idea, before his words betray him. “I don’t know. I mean, things are good for you right now--”
“Owen,” she tightens her grip on his hand, wishing she could meet his eyes. “I’ll be fine.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. Let’s go see our friends.” It’s the our in her statement that convinces him and he nods easily. “April,” Amelia says into the phone, “we’d love to. What time?”
After getting the details from April, Amelia hangs up, right in time seeing as Owen is pulling into his mother’s apartment complex.
Once they arrive at Owen’s mom’s door, the traffic having been a grueling start and stop for the last thirty minutes, Evelyn opens the door with a warm smile and two tender hugs. “How are my kids doing?” she asks lightly.
Amelia smiles at the easy words, the sincerity in her word choice evident. “I’m alright. Tired,” Amelia says with a shrug, “but what can you do?”
Evelyn nods as Owen confirms her statement. “Life of a surgeon.” He then lets out a troubled breath. “How is she?”
“She’s doing alright,” Evelyn says gently. “Hanging in there. A little spooked by the whole situation, but what can be expected?”
“Is she eating?” he asks. “Drinking? Going to her meetings?”
“ She is right here,” Megan says, walking up behind her mother, dark circles rimming her eyes, “and she can hear you.” Her words sound annoyed but her eyes are bright. It tells Owen all he needs to know. “Not sleeping well,” she begins, “but I’m pushing through.”
Amelia nods, pulling Megan into a loose hug. Her body is still too thin and fragile for sharp, heavy movements and Amelia doesn’t want to hurt her. “We’re so happy you’re home again.”
Megan wraps her arms around her sister, pulling her brother into the hug, too. “Me, too. I’m sorry I freaked out,” she whispers, her mouth in the crook of Owen’s neck.
“Don’t be,” Owen says, patting her back. “I was just worried.”
“Seriously, you have a disease. It’s not your fault,” Amelia adds.
“Thank you,” Megan breathes before finally pulling back and leading the way to the living room couch. She curls into the side of the couch, a wool blanket wrapped around her body, as she gets more comfortable.
Owen and Amelia decide to share the recliner to the left, Amelia sitting on Owen’s lap, her arm wrapped around his shoulders. “I’ll go make us some lunch,” Evelyn declares, seeing the rest of them sitting comfortably.
Owen shakes his head. “You don’t have to do that, Mom.”
“Oh, hush,” Evelyn says. “I want to.” She ruffles Megan’s hair. “You guys talk.”
After she heads for the kitchen, Owen is the first to speak. “I’ve missed you.”
Megan smiles, a small but sure upturning of her lips. “Same here.” She shrugs. “But it was time. You guys have done too much for me already.”
“Seriously!” She shakes her head, pointing to Amelia. “Amelia didn’t even know me and had to live with me and my crazy for all that time.”
“Megan,” Amelia chides, “it didn’t take me long to love you, let alone like you.” Her words are pure and Megan’s heart swells. This woman already means so much to her. She knows Owen made the right choice, choosing her. “And, for the record,” Amelia continues, “you are not crazy.”
“You sure?” Megan jokes.
“Trust me. I’ve seen crazy--I’ve been crazy--and you are not it.”
Megan chuckles, intrigued by Amelia’s admission but, not wanting to push, decides to move on with the conversation. “Well thank you. I’m glad you’re my sister.”
With those words, Evelyn walks back in, smiling brightly. Her family is complete: Megan, Owen, and Amelia are her lovely children and their love for one another is so evident. “Where’s John?” Amelia asks politely.
“Working,” Evelyn says. “But he’ll be back soon.”
“I hope we catch him.”
Evelyn chooses her words carefully, knowing Owen is still a bit sensitive about the subject. “Oh, there’s always time for that. He would like to see you again, too, I’m sure.” She then places the sandwiches on the table. “It’s not much,” she motions to the turkey and swiss on rye bread, “but I haven’t been to the store.”
“It’s great,” Owen says, grabbing a sandwich and napkin for Amelia, then one for himself. Megan sits up to reach hers, too, leaning over the table as to avoid crumbs.
“I always make a mess,” Megan says with a chuckle as Amelia looks at her strangely. “I tried to be better in your house, but I also wasn’t eating much, so…” She shrugs, taking a large bite. Amelia simply shakes her head. Her sister becomes more endearing by the day.
They finish lunch about fifteen minutes later, Owen and Amelia offering to do the dishes and then insisting despite Evelyn’s protests. Meanwhile, Megan turns on the tv and finishes a few of her physical therapy home exercises, not wanting to forget until she’s too tired to complete them.
“Megan, do you want to take a nap?” her mom asks, noticing the fatigued look on her daughter’s face. She knows how hard it is for Megan to sleep, especially in the dark of night.
“No, it’s okay.” She says, a yawn betraying her words.
“Meg,” Owen says, walking back into the living room, “take a nap. We’ll be back.”
“Yeah,” Amelia adds, “you can’t get rid of us that easily.”
“Wouldn’t want to,” Megan says with a smile.
“Take a rest,” Owen insists.
She yawns again. “Okay, I guess it might be a good idea,” Megan concedes.
Owen walks over and wraps her in a gentle hug, Amelia following to do the same. “See you soon.”
Megan nods at her brother’s words. She bids her farewells and excuses herself to the bathroom while Owen and Amelia head out.
However, when she returns, she finds they still have yet to leave. “What’s wrong?” she asks before finally coming close enough to see why Owen’s face is all hard lines and rough planes. “Nathan,” she whispers, wrapping her blanket more tightly around her frame.
“What are you doing here?” Owen asks again, clearly agitated.
“Like I said, I came to see Megan. To check on her.”
“You’re not welcome here,” he seethes.
"Owen, let him in," Megan says, her voice barely above a whisper. She's nervous but determined. She wants to speak with him if he's ready. Not only did she promise him that much, but she needs to hear it herself. She needs to close that dark time in her life of not feeling good enough, of being used.
Owen breathes deeply, unhappy. However, he feels Amelia's hand grip his a little tighter, silently giving him the necessary support to let his sister be her own person. He is not her keeper and as much as he wants to protect her, he can't shield her forever. He squeezes her hand right back and shoots a tight smile over to his sister, noticing she is doing the same. Sometimes it surprises him how alike they are, even after all this time.
He steps to the side to allow Riggs to enter and gently closes the door behind him at Amelia's persistent tugs. She is just the push he needs. "I don't like this," he says.
"I know." She meets his eyes, bringing her palm up to cup his cheek. It's the comfort he is longing for.
Inside, Megan shifts so that she is once again sitting up on the couch, leaning against the arm rest, a pillow soothing her back. Her hands are shaking slightly, her voice hoarse, when she says, "So, you're ready to talk?"
He nods, carefully sitting on the other end of the couch, staying out of her space and yet still being close for the difficult conversation. "How are you?" he stalls. He's genuinely curious, but it's a diversion and she knows it.
"You know, one day at a time." Megan moves on quickly. "You were going to tell me why." She doesn't feel the need to elaborate. They both know the words left unsaid.
"I...cheated," his thick accent is made thicker by the emotional constriction of his throat, "I did that because I was drunk--"
"--That better not be your only answer," she scoffs.
"It's not." He swallows hard. "I was drunk and she was there." He notices her flinch and wishes he could ease the pain, but he knows it is not possible to ease it while simultaneously causing it. "I had just found out my brother had died--"
She sits stunned, her hand raising for him to stop speaking. "Your brother..." she trails off, trying not to be assaulted by the wave of emotions overtaking her tiny body. Nathan and his family had always been a part of her life, ever since Owen and him had become friends. They were family.
Nathan simply nods, trying to rein in the tears begging to fall.
"I didn't know."
"I know. I never got the chance to tell you." He sniffles, averting his eyes to the ceiling. "I kept trying to call you and you wouldn't pick up. I needed you." He doesn't say it to be mean, but to explain his mindset on that tumultuous evening. "And I was mad that you weren't there. I went to the bar for a while and had too much to drink. I was all but crying to the bartender when she stepped in and offered to lend a ear." He shakes his head, the memories making him feel both devastated and dirty. "As soon as it was over, I felt like I ruined everything. I hurt you." She nods, acknowledging her pain, before motioning for him to continue when ready. "Then I felt even worse. I felt like I couldn't breathe, like the world was burning around me and I was the one to set it on fire." His unusually poetic words make her heart break a little more. "I couldn't lie to you. I never had and I wasn't going to start. I couldn't do that, too."
"And this time I answered," she guesses correctly.
"Yeah. And you know the rest."
She pulls in a shuddering breath. "But you don't."
"You don't have to--"
"--It's only fair," she says resolutely. He has to know the end of the story. "You told me and I was so hurt, so mad, I didn't know what to do. I called my brother." Nathan nods, having heard from Owen almost immediately after the other had hung up with Megan. "He wanted to kick your ass," she says, trying to lighten the mood. It doesn't do much good. "I wanted to get away for a while. And I got my chance when the emergency call came in. I told him I wanted to go, I needed to go, and he agreed." She holds back tears as her fears threaten to assault her once more. "And you know the rest."
"I'm so sorry." He begins to reach out his hand before retracting it after a second thought. He wouldn't want to be touched right now if their places were reversed. "For everything. For hurting you. For cheating. For pushing you onto that godforsaken plane."
"You couldn't have known," she whispers. "Sending me on that plane, you didn't mean to."
"I still did." He runs his fingers through his hair, roughly tugging at the strands. "And I don't know if I'll ever forgive myself for that."
Later in the day, just around 7:30, Amelia and Owen walk through the door of Joe’s, the bells jingling at their entrance. They spot their friends in the back of the bar, having expected them to already be there due to their somewhat late arrival.
He lets go of her hand, greeting Joe and walking to the pool tables, when she takes a deep breath, trying to gather the courage to do what she’s about to do. She is trying to push herself to be more vulnerable with him. She is doing it at home, but it’s not enough. She needs to do it in public too--she needs him to know how much she loves him. She was never one to care about PDA, but those were her party days. Those were the days she cared more about her physical needs than her emotional ones; she cared more about release than the man she was with. However, it’s always been difficult to be open to Owen’s advances in public. At first she’d had trouble because of Meredith’s loyalty to Cristina and Derek’s big-brother tendencies. And then it was something more. She was afraid to let him in, to make them public, to make them real . She fought tooth and nail to maintain her walls, her dignity, without him turning her to mush. She fought to keep him at a distance, whether it be from her past or her fears, so that he didn’t have the potential to destroy her. Now she thinks her work was fruitless, even destroying in its own nature. Because Owen is her rock, her safe place, the man she loves, and she can’t keep him at arm’s length. She’s been working on it at home and now it is time to work on it while out with their friends as well.
Breathing in and out to calm her racing heart, Amelia reaches for her husband’s warm, solid hand. When she gets ahold of it, she leans into his side, her head resting against his shoulder lightly. He turns in surprise, his eyes questioning, but she only smiles. He deserves this so very much.
He takes her smile in stride, feeling his love for her balloon in his chest. He doesn’t understand how it’s still growing--he’s never experienced a love like this before--but he’s so happy. He uses their joined hands to pull her closer into his body before disentangling them and wrapping his arm around her waist. “Hey,” she and Owen greet simultaneously as their friends come into view. They’re in the back of the bar, shooting pool and playing darts. Ben’s a little sloppy by now and Maggie’s not doing much better, but Meredith, Nathan, Jackson, April, and Arizona seem more than alright. They smile at the couple’s entrance, Maggie stumbling over her words as she mentions how cute they are. Meredith’s smile is small and polite before looking away quickly and diverting her attention to the television hanging on the wall. Amelia tries not to feel hurt--she knows Meredith hates the reality show playing on the screen--but her heart still stings.
Owen, looking down as he tries to meet her eyes, notices the shift in her mood immediately. “Hey,” he whispers, his breath tickling the hair next to her ear. “Are you alright?”
She nods, forcing a smile onto her face. “Yep.”
“Do you want to leave? Is it the drinks?”
She shakes her head, comforted by his unneeded concern. “No, I’m fine with that.” She sighs, correcting her statement. “I’m fine. Everything is fine.” He knows she is lying and she can tell by the look in his eyes that this conversation is not over. However, for the sake of being in public, Owen simply squeezes her tighter and continues their walk to the pool table.
“Want to play?” April asks from her place before the dart board, grabbing the darts from the last game. “Buy in is ten bucks.”
Owen looks to Amelia and when she only smiles, he nods. “Love to. Have to defend my title.”
April chuckles. “More like redeem yourself from your epic fail last time we played.”
He grimaces at the reminder of that drunken night, just a week after Amelia had left, and instead shrugs. “You’re on.”
Amelia sees his tenseness, but chooses not to comment just yet. He spared her and the least she can do is return the favor. All of these things could be discussed later. She walks over to the pool table, tapping the green felt. “Who’s ready to get their asses kicked?” she asks in jest. Nathan grins, racking the balls, grinning at her playful arrogance.
“Losers pay winner $50 bucks?” Nathan asks.
“You better have the cash on you.” She smirks, picking up her cue.
It’s about twenty minutes later and both games are going strong--darts playing three rounds to determine the winner and pool just taking a while between witty comments and pauses for bathroom trips and more drinks.
When it’s her turn, Amelia notices Owen’s eyes on her, watching her lithe figure move around the table, her calculating glance determine the perfect shot, and her steady hands moving delicately at the same time. She adds a little sway to her hips, spurred on by his attention, smirking at him over her shoulder right before she takes the winning shot. “Ha!” she says, throwing her hands up in victory. “Pay up.” She holds out her hands to the men, a gloating smile on her face.
A few minutes later when her money is in hand, Amelia feels Owen’s calloused hand caressing her lower back, just beneath the hem of her shirt. He bends down so that his breath tickles the shell of her ear. “Looks like we’re both winners.”
She tilts her head up to meet his eyes, the teasing glint evident in her cerulean orbs. “Really?” She leans on her tiptoes to reach his ear, mimicking his previous position. “Well maybe we’ll also both be winners tonight.” Her words are seductive and he can’t help but fall under her spell.
She chuckles, biting her tongue with a smile on her lips. “We better.”
"Another drink?" Nathan offers the tray of vodka tonics to Meredith and Amelia.
"No thank you," Amelia says, waving her hand politely. She thought everyone knew by now that drinking is a definite no for her, but apparently not everyone had gotten the memo. It's kind of reassuring in a sense, to know that not all her secrets are exposed and being discussed. It feels private, safe almost, in a weird sort of way.
"No thanks." She shakes her head, holding her hand in front of the tray. "I've had enough. If I have any more," she jokes, "I'll keel over from alcohol poisoning." She pats Amelia on the back rather sloppily. "And then Amelia will have to take my kids."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Amelia, sober and alert as ever, turns her head to Meredith as Nathan quickly removes himself from the situation under the guise of handing out the remaining glasses.
"Just that I don't need you raising my kids." Meredith shrugs, unaffected by her harsh words.
"Would that be such a bad thing?" She doesn't want to feel hurt by this for Meredith surely doesn't mean it the way she is taking it, but Amelia can't help it. Of course Meredith wants to raise her own kids. It's just the way she's saying it, Amelia hopes.
"Well," Meredith begins, "you're you." She throws a few peanuts from the table bowl into her mouth.
Amelia nods slowly, taking it all in while trying not to cry. Does her own sister think that little of her? "Um," she shakes her head, willing the tears to dissipate, "I have to go."
She waves a polite goodbye to the others, quickly grabbing tightly onto Owen’s muscled arm and pulling him in the direction of the door. He’s confused and calls out some goodbyes with a few waves before removing himself from her grasp and wrapping his arm around her shoulder instead. “When we said leave soon, you really meant it,” he jokes, pulling her into his side and hugging her there tightly.
She doesn’t answer and the lack of teasing worries him. What happened to his adorably sexy wife from just a short while ago?
“Hey,” he says, stopping her before he unlocks the car. “What’s wrong?”
She sends him a smile, one he clearly sees right through due to the expressiveness of her eyes, and shakes her head. “Nothing. I’m just tired. Wanted to get out of there.”
He sighs, placing his keys back in his pockets. “Truth.”
“--Amelia,” he chides, “didn’t we just talk about how we can tell each other anything?” Her heart breaks at his hurt-filled words. “Let me in.”
She sniffles, looking to the ground and avoiding his eyes. “I know,” she says quietly. “I know.” She lets out a deep breath, trying to control her breathing. “Just, not here, alright? I can’t do this here.”
He wants to push her, but he considers her promise of later as being good enough. So he simply pulls out the keys and unlocks the car, opening the passenger side door for her. He didn’t drink tonight either, so he knows it’s safe for him to drive. Besides, it’s not like he planned to drink anyway--Amelia hates driving his truck and this was their ride of choice for the evening.
The ride home is silent save for some light background noise streaming over the radio. It’s something that worries him even more: Amelia is not usually a silent person unless engrossed in a surgical plan or upset. Knowing her hospital schedule has been more trauma than planned procedures lately, he can only assume she is hurt. Unfortunately, he isn’t wrong.
When they finally walk in the door about twenty minutes later, Owen drops the keys in the bowl by the door and hangs up his jacket before gently offering to take Amelia’s as well. She doesn’t protest, allowing him to shrug off the leather material easily; however, she is still quiet and lost in her own world in spite of their physical connection.
Once he removes her jacket, she walks to the kitchen and sets a full kettle on the stove, boiling water for some tea. She feels that she needs it and thinks Owen wouldn’t mind the soothing liquid either. She tries to control her breathing, willing herself to push past the pain of Meredith’s words, as she hears Owen puttering around their bedroom, no doubt changing into pajamas. She wants to follow him, to rip herself out of these clothes so tainted by the disgust she holds for herself, but she can’t bring her legs to move. She’s rooted to her spot, too caught up in the whiplash of emotions experienced tonight to do much of anything.
By the time Owen walks back to the living room, sitting on the couch and turning on the game (which game she’s not sure), the kettle is whistling and she pulls it off the heat. Amelia pours the steaming water into their Mr. and Mrs. mugs, then places a sleepytime tea bag in hers and a green tea bag in Owen’s. She adds some honey to both and a little milk to hers before carefully carrying the mugs into the other room and setting them on two coasters.
“Thank you,” Owen murmurs, hugging her to his side as she takes her seat beside him. He blows on the liquid and then takes a grateful sip as she does the same. And then he waits. He waits for what seems like hours for her to open up, for her to explain their hurried exit, trying with all his might to be patient despite being absolutely terrified about his wife’s state of mind.
After fifteen minutes, he finally sighs and gives in to his desire to talk. “Was it the bar? I knew we shouldn’t have gone,” he berates himself, worried about causing her pain and setting her back in her recovery.
She looks up in surprise, meeting his eyes. “What?”
“Are you okay? Do you need to go to a meeting?”
She shakes her head, her furrowed eyebrows smoothening as she understands his fears. She rubs her thumb over his cheek. “Owen, I’m fine. I’m not going to drink.”
“Well I didn’t think you were, I just didn’t know if you were thinking about it.”
“Thanks, but I’m alright.” She presses a chaste kiss to his lips before turning back to the television. She still has no idea what’s going on--she never did learn to follow football--but it’s a distraction she wants to be enveloped in.
Owen breathes a sigh of relief at her words, happy she’s not in a state of mind too troubling, but is still worried. He’s not ready to let this go. He uses his fingers to tilt her chin in his direction, staring lovingly into her eyes. “Then what is it?” His words are gentle and kind, so kind and gentle that her breath catches as her eyes become watery. “Hey, hey, hey,” he soothes, “what’s wrong? What did I say?”
“Nothing,” she says, sniffling. “It’s just, you’re you. You care so much.”
“Of course I do. I love you.” He presses a lingering kiss to her forehead.
She relishes in the action, leaning further into his embrace. “You make it sound so easy.”
“What?” He’s confused--yes, they’re a perfect match, but nothing about them has ever been easy. They’re way to complicated for that. They’ve worked hard to get to where they are now.
His brows furrow as his lips curl into a smile. “Well, it is.” He rubs his nose with hers. “It didn’t take me even knowing you to like you, much less love you when I got to know you.”
She lets out a wavering breath, her eyes still closed. “Not for Meredith,” she whispers, hiding her face in the tender crook of his neck.
“What do you mean?” He doesn’t want to jump to conclusions and he’s used to Amelia telling half stories by now. He needs all the details to respond properly.
Speaking into his neck as Owen tries to ignore the soft touch of her lips on his skin, Amelia says, “She doesn’t love me. Or at least doesn’t like me.” Her warm breath tickles his neck. “She thinks I have fleas,” she says with a sniffle.
“What?” He doesn’t know how to respond to her last statement--what the hell? Instead of pursuing that conversation, he shakes his head and forces her chin up from its hiding place. “Who gives a damn what Meredith thinks?” To him, Meredith is just Meredith. They’d grown a bit closer through Cristina, but barely so, and they were never really friends. Sometimes he just thinks she’s going to do what she’s going to do, no matter the cost to others.
She whimpers and the sound breaks his heart. Her voice is then so low he has to strain to hear her next words. “She never liked us together. Didn’t think I was good enough for you.”
Instead of pain, anger rises in his chest. Although usually even-tempered, Owen is brutal when it comes to protecting the ones he loves. “Again, who cares what Meredith thinks? She’s not us and she certainly isn’t me. She doesn’t know how I feel.”
He feels her tears falling gently against his neck and hugs her tighter to his side. “But maybe she’s right. Maybe I’m not good for you. I always hurt you.” She feels his body tense and senses his reply, so she speaks quickly. “She just wants to protect you. She promised she would.”
Owen rolls his eyes at that godforsaken promise Meredith and Cristina made all those years ago. He wants to scream--he isn’t some toy, some belonging, especially not to the twisted sisters. “And I told her time and time again that she is not my keeper.” He brushes his fingers through Amelia’s soft, wavy tresses. “I love you. So much.” He plants a kiss to the crown of her head, breathing in the slight scent of lilacs.
She’s silent for a few minutes and he would wonder if she had dozed off it hadn’t been for her wavering breaths panting against his neck. After what seems like an eternity, she finally speaks up, her voice quiet and timid. “She doesn’t think I’d be a good mom.” She sniffles so softly, it’s almost like she’s a small child herself, caught up in the big bad world of adulthood. “She told me tonight.”
He lets out an angry sigh, finally understanding her weird behavior while leaving the bar. “She had no right--”
“But she did. She can say whatever she wants. And maybe she’s been right all along--maybe all I’m doing here is just making messes. What if I really do destroy everything I touch?” Her words are muffled by the tears choking her vocal chords and, within seconds, he’s had enough.
He forces her face out from its hiding place, staring deeply into her crestfallen eyes. It is so hard for him to imagine her not seeing herself as the world sees her, as he sees her. She is sweet and loving, strong and badass. She is a force to be a reckoned with, a force to be loved. “No, she’s not right. She doesn’t know you. Not the real you. She’s never cared to find out.” He leans his forehead against hers. “You are more than I could have ever hoped for in my life.” He brings his voice down to a whisper. “And you will be a great mother,” he says resolutely.
She sniffles, her eyes watering with his confession. Her emotions are a mess, bouncing back and forth between reality and her mangled self-esteem. She wants to believe him, but Meredith’s words still linger in the back of her mind, taunting her. “How are you so sure?”
He smiles as if he knows a secret she doesn’t, tucking a strand of her dark curls behind her ear. “Because you already were an amazing mom.” Her tears fall at his words, his remembrance, his belief in her. “You still are. He’s not here right now, but you love him so much.” He kisses the tip of her nose. “And you will be an amazing mom to any children we may or may not have. I believe in you.” He lets out a tired, loving breath before pulling away just enough to smooth his thumbs over her ruby, tear-stained cheeks. “Why does it matter that Meredith can’t see that?”
Her body shudders with the weight of her emotions. “Because she’s family. She’s my sister.”
“Sometimes family isn’t always the best thing for us. Sometimes they hurt us.”
“She’s all I have left of him.” She doesn’t need to specify who she’s speaking of.
“You once told me that there was good in there because they loved them.” She nods, her nose brushing against his face due to their close proximity. “But if she isn’t ready to show you that, it might be time to keep her at arm’s length. Don’t cut her out of your life, but don’t bend to her every will. You’re not the one who needs to apologize all the time. Let her work up to coming to you.” He chuckles, a sad but hopeful sound. “Your sanity depends on it.”
She chuckles with him, also sad but strangely relieved. It’s like she needed that reassurance, that permission to let go of her need to be close to Meredith. And he gave it to her. “I love you, Owen,” she breathes against his pink-tinged lips. She ends her statement with a poignant kiss, putting all her sadness, relief, and utter gratefulness into the intimate gesture.
He reciprocates quickly, letting her take the lead. Their mouths move with each other easily, sliding up and over with tender caresses. Owen brings his hands up once more to cup her cheeks and she moves her slender palms to his elbows, holding him to her. They remain in this embrace for quite some time, their lips and breaths unhurried.
When they finally pull apart for some much needed air, taking in a few deep breaths, their eyes communicate it all without words: their love, their connection, their heady desire. With a swift nod of her head, Owen lifts her into his arms, holding her bridal style as if she is fragile, breakable, delicate beyond words. And, in his mind, she is--she is too good and pure, she needs to be protected.
She giggles lightly at his grand gesture, hugging her arms around his neck as she dots kisses under his chiseled jaw. He carries her carefully to their bed, laying her down at the foot before slipping off her pinching heels. He rubs the red of her skin, then kisses up the length of her toned calves. When he reaches the edge of her salmon silk dress, he tickles his fingers there, delighting in her easy smile and shuddering breath. He places a few kisses along the hem, then tugs it up, slowly revealing her sheer panties and toned stomach. His mouth moves to kiss a path up higher, his lips moving with the rising of her dress, until he pulls it over her matching bra. “Lift your arms,” he whispers, his breath tickling the area between her breasts. Amelia lifts her arms without question, raising her chest slightly as she does so, shivering at the brush of the stubble of his beard against her sensitive spot.
He pulls the dress over her head without pretense, her bra following, before guiding her arms above her head. His lips tease over her nipples as she lets out a loving sigh, dutifully keeping her arms in place. After her breasts are thoroughly stimulated and she’s begging for more, he lifts his head to meet her bright eyes. He thinks he could get lost in them forever.
Without another word, simply communicating all too well without them, Owen slides down her body and gently tugs the panties down her legs. She shivers as his lips grow closer to her heat; however, she stops him before he makes his final descent. Looking up in confusion, he’s met with her tender gaze and her arms coming to grip his cheeks in her palms. She uses her grip on him to tug him up, kissing him languidly until one hand snakes down his chest to his manhood. He gasps in surprise at her cold touch, but relaxes almost instantly as she guides him into her.
With their foreheads leaned together and their gazes locked, he pushes into her, filling her, completing her. They sigh simultaneously before their lips lock once more as he begins to move. It’s slow and tender and so intimate to watch the look in the other’s eyes. It’s too much and not enough all at once.
Soon enough, Amelia’s walls are tightening around him and she’s moaning breathy sighs of his name and loving affirmations. Her fingers thread through his hair as she pulls him closer, deeper, and picks up the pace ever so slightly, wanting him to come with her.
As the spasms of her pleasure pick up, he feels the tightening in his groin. And, within seconds, they both come tumbling over the edge, holding onto each other for dear life, his face pressed into her hair and her pressing open-mouthed kisses into his neck.
They stay curled up in each other for a few more minutes, Amelia pulling Owen closer, pressing his weight into her slender frame. She loves this part. The part where it’s only the two of them, lost in their own world, floating in bliss. The part where she sees him as nobody else does. He feels much the same.
When he finally rolls to the side, easing himself off his tiny wife, Amelia follows him. She nuzzles into his chest, slipping one foot between his legs. He shivers at the familiar chill of his wife’s body, wrapping his arms around her strong shoulders.
They sit in pleasant silence for a bit longer until Owen whispers, “Let’s go to LA.”
“What?” she mumbles, still cocooned in his warmth and lulled by the promise of sleep.
“Let’s go to LA. See the people who have always loved you. Remind yourself of that.”
She sits up from her place on his chest, propping her head on her arm still resting there. “You’re serious?” she asks, noticing the determined glint in his eyes.
He nods. “We have the time.” He shrugs. “Besides, I’ve never met them. It’ll be good for you, for us.”
“You really want to do that?”
She laughs, a teary-filled laugh. “You know you’re the best, right?” She leans up to press a kiss to the underside of his jaw.
“So we’re going?” he asks.
And even after all he's done for her today, he still knows how to make her day even better.
Thoughts? Comments? Love ya!
I KNOW I TOOK A MILLION YEARS, but I finally got the time and motivation to write this chapter. There was so much I wanted to explore and I hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you haven't watched Private Practice, there are spoilers below. Also! "Lean In" has officially passed 100 pages :D
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” Amelia says, smiling, giddy from the adrenaline running through her veins.
Owen turns in his seat next to her on the plane and chuckles at her child-like nature peeking through. “I’m happy we are,” he says, squeezing her cold hand in his warm ones. He tugs her hand to make her a little closer after lifting up the center armrest. She nuzzles her head into the side of his neck.
“Hot towel?” the flight attendant asks gently.
“We’re good, thanks,” Owen says after Amelia shakes her head.
“I love flying first class,” Amelia sighs into the tender skin of his neck. He chuckles.
“So I’ve heard.” She had made sure he booked them first class tickets and hasn’t shut up about the wonders of it since.
Luckily, their trip is quick and painless, with refreshments and old movies to keep them cozy until they land in LA. They grab their luggage after an hour of waiting and then pick up the rental car. “Where to?” Owen asks once behind the wheel of the black sedan.
“Seaside Health and Wellness,” Amelia says. “They’re probably all working.”
He doesn’t question her, saying it’s a Saturday, knowing the drill with doctors. She plugs the address into her phone and sets it on the dash, knowing he doesn’t need to see the map to know where he’s going while she would have to if the situation was reversed. Due to LA traffic, it takes them another hour to make it to the practice; however, Amelia knows they’re still here. She points to all their cars in the parking lot, ticking them off easily, amusing Owen ever so slightly.
When they walk in, he delights in seeing Amelia basically skip to the elevator, pressing the button for their floor. The ride up is filled with Amelia bouncing out of her skin, so excited to see her other family. He wraps an arm around her shoulders, happy just to see her happy.
They walk into a quiet lobby, but this doesn’t seem to faze Amelia. She grabs his hand and pulls him into the kitchen area, where seven people are gathered around the center table, chatting amongst themselves.
Charlotte is the first to notice Amelia and Owen’s arrival and quickly shoots up out of her seat and wraps Amelia in a firm hug. Addison and Naomi join in happily, squeezing her tight. “Okay, okay,” Amelia chuckles, “let me breathe.”
They pull away slowly, bemoaning her request, before the men come over from talking to Owen and give Amelia a squeeze themselves. The women move to introduce themselves to Owen, apologizing for ignoring him.
“You guys had to catch up,” he says with a smile, meeting Amelia’s eyes. “No worries.”
“We miss our girl,” Addison affirms.
“Ohh, oh, oh,” Violet says, finally joining the party, “who have we here?” she motions to Owen, waving politely.
“Amelia’s more-than-a-sex-buddy-guy-friend,” Charlotte jokes, chuckling. She knows it’s so much more than that, but she wants to keep the mood light and teasing. It’s nice to have their old dynamic back. A spark is missing with Amelia gone from the practice and their everyday lives.
“Charlotte!” A flush creeps up Amelia’s cheeks.
“You have a bit of a filter now, Amelia,” Violet chuckles in response.
“Didn’t I tell you I was going to bludgeon you to death with a reflex hammer if you said the word ‘filter’ one more time?”
“Not quite. Only if I told you to filter again.”
“Same difference,” Amelia rolls her eyes in mock offense before pulling her friend into a hug.
“I’m a little lost,” Owen says, scratching the back of his neck.
Amelia turns around, looking guilty. “Sorry. This is Dr. Violet Turner and, Violet, this is my husband, Owen.”
She reaches out her hand. “So we finally meet,” she says with a smile.
“And about the other thing,” Amelia blushes. She trails off as the others smirk around her from their place at the table.
Violet chimes in, “Amelia used to never filter.”
“I think I know what you mean. I still see it sometimes.”
“You think you see it now,” Sheldon laughs, “imagine her back then.”
“Yeah, I seem to remember Amelia saying things like ‘are you okay with her screwing your ex-husband?’” Naomi shakes her head.
Addison raises her hand to gain everyone’s attention before clearing her throat. “Or, ‘shut up, bitches, I need to get laid.’”
Amelia turns even redder as Owen turns his head, looking at her amusingly. “In my defense,” she brings her shoulders closer to her ears, “those were my party days.” Her lips turn down slightly as almost everyone raises their eyebrows. “And I hadn’t had sex in like two weeks.”
“Oh, right. I’ll never forget when you propositioned me for sex saying that ‘you have two highs, sex and surgery and there aren’t any brains that need cutting into,’” Sheldon says.
“You what?” She can tell Owen is a little flustered, not having expected the change of events. She sees the telltale glint of jealousy in his eyes.
“It was a long time ago,” she says as she pats his shoulder. “Besides, he turned me down.”
Sheldon nods, feeling a bit uncomfortable having let the words slip so easily from his mouth. “Anyway, Amelia used to never filter.”
“I can see that.” Owen’s eyes are still a little hard, but after Amelia leans her head on his broad shoulder, his tense posture becomes relaxed. “Anything else I should know about you?”
Amelia shrugs. “Probably a lot.” She looks a little guilty and he feels his heart drop a little at the secrets she is keeping but, looking into his eyes and leaning up on her tiptoes to get closer to his ear, she says, “But not for long. We have time.” She nuzzles slightly into his tender neck and, for a moment, he forgets that he was ever worried about them.
They startle out of their trance, however, at the quiet ‘awws’ and Charlotte’s ‘oh, shut up.’ Owen blushes a bit and, for the first time, Amelia feels similarly. These people knew her filterless days, her sex rants, her almost naked form, and yet she had never given a second thought about it. But, now, with Owen right beside her, she does--she cares. Because this is real, with a hurricane of emotions behind it, with love in her very soul. It matters .
“It’s nice to see you happy, Amelia,” Addison says, standing from her seat and walking toward the two love birds. When she gets closer, she whispers something just for Amelia’s ears, but Owen still catches a snippet of it. “I’m so proud of you.” She pulls Amelia into a tight hug, holding her close to her heart. “I love you so much.”
“I love you, too,” Amelia whispers, her voice catching slightly in her throat from the raw emotion of a sister’s love. She pulls back, chuckling. “I knew you were my favorite sister for a reason.”
Addie’s smile grows large, her eyes beaming. Owen can’t help but feel his heart swell up at the sight of his wife and her sister so happy, so in-sync. “Hey,” Charlotte says, hands on her hips. The three turn to face her, eyebrows furrowed. “I’m a little offended. What happened to us being Junkie BFFs?”
Amelia laughs, a light, carefree laugh that brings a smile to Owen’s face. It’s been too long since he’s heard that sound. “You will always be my Junkie BFF, even though we’re both clean now.”
“Better be,” Charlotte says sternly.
“Never better.” Amelia turns to Owen. “He helps me through.”
“I’m happy to hear that.” Charlotte circles her arm around Cooper’s shoulders. “Thank you for that,” she says after turning to Owen. “Amelia told me about the time you helped her after Derek died.”
“I should’ve done more.”
She sighs. “We always think that after the fact. You did what you could. This time it was enough.” Amelia nods in agreeance with Charlotte’s words, nuzzling into Owen’s side once more.
“Now, enough of this,” Naomi says with a smile. “I’m sure Owen and Amelia have a few things they want to do while they’re here in LA that do not include us.”
“We can stay--” Owen begins, only to be interrupted by Sam.
“--No, go. We can meet for dinner later.”
“Sounds great,” Addison says. “That is, if we can all find sitters.”
“I can find a few nurses to help out.”
“You can’t contract the nurses after-hours,” Violet says with exasperation.
“I pay them,” she throws her hands up.
“Yeah, and it seems like a demand from their boss so they say yes,” Violet says. Cooper chuckles only to be hit lightly by Charlotte.
Jake rolls his eyes. “Don’t worry. We’ll find someone.” He smiles. “Go, have fun. We’ll see you later.”
Amelia’s about to protest when Addison nods and pushes them out the door and toward the elevator. “Go, we’ll be fine. I’ll text you.”
“Okay,” Amelia concedes, taking Owen’s hand in hers. “See you later.”
“Yep.” Addison waves goodbye. “It was nice to finally meet you, Owen!”
“Same to you,” he says, a little overwhelmed by the whirlwind of the past hour.
When the doors to the elevator shut, Amelia turns to Owen with a grin. “So, whaddya think?”
He only grins in response, pulling Amelia into his side. It’s a great start to a much-needed trip.
A while later, treading carefully, Owen says, “Maybe we could go visit the cemetery?” He doesn’t want to pry, but he knows that the grieving process is long and hard. Sometimes you need to have closure, a closure he isn’t sure she ever had.
“My baby doesn’t have a grave,” she sniffles. She swallows the lump in her throat. Looking down, she kicks the grass beneath her feet. “I donated his organs.” She shrugs. “Everything. It was experimental at the time, skin donations and all that, but I convinced them to try. ”
“Oh,” he says gently.
“Yeah, oh ,” her voice is quiet.
He stops moving, his grip on her hand stopping her as well. He then tilts her chin up and looks directly into her crystal blue eyes. “You guys gave everything you had. That’s something most people couldn’t even imagine.”
She sniffles. “I know most organ donations still allow for a funeral, but there were so many kids, Owen. So many kids who needed help.”
“And you helped give it to them. He gave it to them.” Owen brushes a strand of hair from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear. “It’s okay, Amelia. You’re not a bad mom for doing it.” He reads the fear in her eyes so easily. “You may actually be a better mom because of it.” At her furrowed brows and teary eyes, he continues. “You know the pain of losing your child.” A few tears fall at his words and he’s quick to wipe them away with the gentle caress of his lips. “You made it so fewer parents had to feel that. You gave them everything they could have ever imagined.”
If she wasn’t so upset, she would smile at how similar they are, how they are made for each other, even while miles apart. He understands.
“Thank you, for being here,” she whispers.
“I wouldn’t miss it.” He walks them a few steps to the right, next to a large oak tree, and pulls her to sit down, leaning her back against his chest as his arms wrap right under her breasts. He lets out a deep breath, breathing in the sunshine and serenity around him. He feels her shift, becoming more comfortable, then do the same.
“What are you thinking about?” Amelia asks after he’s silent for far too long.
“I just blabbered my whole life story,” she whines, exaggerating a bit. “Come on, let me into that head of yours.”
“It’s nothing, really. I just was wondering.” He pauses. “How do you not have PTSD after all that? After your dad? Your baby?”
“Oh.” She scrunches her eyebrows. “I’m not really sure. I mean, not everyone gets it. But Derek did used to say I’d get scared a lot after my dad died.” His questioning gaze prompts her to continue. “Whenever there was a loud noise, like a gunshot, I kind of freaked. Derek told me that I got my hands on these firecrackers and set them off in the backyard until I didn’t jump anymore.”
He lets out a shuddering breath, thinking of the all the pain and tragedies she’s experienced in her short lifetime. Derek really didn’t know how much his sister dealt with when he said he wanted to protect her. To not let her know his pain. It makes him a little bitter to think about it.
“What just happened?” she asks, noticing his body had become tense. She turns her head to meet his eyes.
“Nothing, just that you’ve been through a lot in your life. I wish you didn’t have to.”
“Me, too,” she agrees. “But then I worry that I would’ve never met you.”
“You know, the butterfly effect of it all.” She sighs, interlacing their fingers. “If Derek didn’t marry Addison, I would’ve never moved to LA. If I hadn’t moved to LA, I would’ve never met Ryan or had our baby. If Ryan hadn’t died, I wouldn’t have gotten sober. Then I wouldn’t have met James and he would’ve never proposed.” He nods along with her verbal spewage. “Then I wouldn’t have freaked and ran to Seattle. So Derek would never have given me his spot at the hospital and I would’ve never met you.”
“That’s a good way to think about it, I guess.” He thinks for another minute, pondering her revelations.
“Sometimes it’s the only way I can think about it. It’s all a bit too much,” Amelia says. “To think about all that pain,” she takes a shuddering breath, “I need to know something good has come of it.”
Owen hugs her tighter, planting a small kiss on the top of her head. She feels him nuzzle there and she relaxes further. Deciding to lighten the mood, Owen says, “You came to Seattle because James proposed?”
She chuckles, hitting his chest lightly. “I wasn’t ready. He was great and I needed him for a while. But I think I needed him for the wrong reasons--to help me heal, but not to love forever. Plus, you know me, I’m a runner.”
“Don’t I know it,” he tries to keep the bitterness out of his voice. “But you’re working on it.”
He continues, rubbing his fingers through her silky tresses. “I’m glad you didn’t run from me.”
She sighs, breathing in his scent. “I was more ready for you. I chose you. I choose you,” she whispers against his collarbone.
“I love you,” Owen breathes.
“I love you, too,” she says before pressing a tender kiss to his jawline.
They sit like that for another few minutes, just comforted by each other’s presence before agreeing to move on with their day. For the rest of the afternoon, the two visit some LA attractions and enjoy walking along the beach before returning to their hotel and cleaning up for dinner.
At six thirty, they arrive at the venue to find their friends already seated. Making their way back to the large, rectangular table, they wave and smile. “Long time, no see,” Owen jokes.
“I know,” Addison plays along. She stands up, embracing them both in a tight hug. Afterward, all three take their seats and place their drink orders.
“How are the triplets?” Amelia asks.
“Still crazy. I told you they need leashes, right?” Charlotte says. “I mean, they get into everything.” She shakes her head. “But I love ‘em.”
Amelia can only chuckle. “They’re part you and part Cooper. What did you expect?”
She tilts her head as Cooper lets out a hearty laugh. Then, Charlotte continues. “Mason says to tell you he hopes you still look good and not like a druggie.”
“Charlotte,” Addison says under her breath, hitting her on the arm. “Inappropriate.”
Amelia takes a deep breath--it is always hard to confront her past mistakes, especially the colossal one she made not too long ago. The one she regrets so deeply. “I guess it’s not a surprise he picked up on it. He was young, but he was always perceptive.” She lets out a sigh.
“We tried to keep it from him,” Addison is quick to add. “We tried replacing the word drugs with tacos. He saw right through it.”
“Not surprising.” She lets out a sad chuckle, trying to lighten the mood. “And with you as a mother, who would’ve expected him to say anything else tonight?”
“Hey,” Charlotte scoffs. “I’m a good mother. Most of the time.” She smiles.
“Yeah, a lot better than any of us expected,” Violet adds, twirling the straw in her soda.
“Thanks,” Charlotte drawls. “Same to you.” Violet only smirks in response.
“And to prove that we are not horrible parents,” Cooper begins, “he also said that he misses you and wants to see you before you leave.” He shrugs. “He wants to see you even more if you make your famous milkshakes.”
“I can’t believe he still remembers that,” she says in awe. “That was like one time, forever ago.”
“He loves you, Amelia,” Naomi says gently. “All the kids do.”
“Yeah, you were always the favorite aunt,” Addison adds.
The corners of Amelia’s lips turn up and she leans her head on Owen’s shoulder, relishing in his presence. He responds by wrapping his arm around her waist, a smile painting his face as well. These are the people his wife needs in her life. “I’m so glad Amelia has you,” Owen says, carefully meeting everyone’s eyes as his flit around the table.
They smile, nodding gratefully. “We love her,” Addie says simply. “We always wanted the best for her.”
“Thanks for that, too. For taking care of her when she lost loved ones, when she relapsed, everything.”
Jake nods. “I know how you feel. My wife had an addiction, too, and even though she’s passed, I still keep in touch with the people who tried to keep her clean and safe.” Owen nods in understanding, feeling a connection with the man. He hopes they can get some time alone to talk during this trip. He feels it might help him understand his wife even more.
“They kept trying even when I blew them off and cursed them out. When I used every upsetting thing in their lives against them.” Amelia releases a deep breath, simultaneously feeling anxious by the subject and comforted by letting it all out. They had never really talked about the aftermath together save for one group therapy session and, on top of that, Owen never heard the extent of her relapse. He had heard bits and pieces, her jaded confession included, but there was so much more to it.
Noticing that Amelia was trying to prolong the conversation and be open for once, Violet decides to chime in. “It’s okay, we laughed it off.” At Amelia’s furrowed brows, she continues. “You were kind of attacking us like a rabid, cornered dog.”
“Seriously, guys,” Amelia can’t help a small chuckle. “I’m glad that’s what I was to you.” She shrugs. “I do remember feeling cornered though.” She disentagles herself from Owen and faces him. “I walked into work one day and it was a full-blown intervention, no patients in the office, a group leader, and people stopping me from getting on the elevator by threatening the police.”
His smile drops a bit at that statement, but he doesn’t run. She knows he isn’t the runner in the relationship. He stays. “For using drugs?” he clarifies.
At Amelia’s nod, Charlotte elaborates. “More for writing prescriptions for her own drug use.”
Owen’s eyebrows raise, not expecting that.
“I was in a very bad place.” Amelia looks down in her lap, ashamed. “I had been drinking for a while and it was becoming a bit obsessive. Then my friend committed suicide.” Owen’s eyes soften and she adds, “Huntington’s.” She shakes her head to clear the tears from her field of vision. “It only went downhill from there.” Owen nods, hating how much his wife has struggled and yet knowing how strong she is because of it. “The night of the intervention, Ryan overdosed. I went to rehab the next day.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through that,” he whispers, tucking an errant curl behind her ear. She nods sadly before meeting his eyes. The devotion and promise to love her and all her flaws, all her past, shines so clearly, she’s sure everyone can feel the intensity. She blushes at the blatant show of affection and then sees the surprised looks on Charlotte and Addison’s faces, unaccustomed to her shy ways. Loving someone changes everything, she thinks.
Clearing her throat, Amelia puts on a smile and pushes past the pain. “Why don’t we discuss something a little more lighthearted?” she asks.
She’s interrupted, however, by their food arriving. “Looks delicious,” Owen states.
“We used to love this place,” Sheldon nods to Amelia.
Owen tries to tamp down his jealousy, but can’t help but feel a little frazzled by the man before them. He knows Sheldon had feelings for Amelia while she did not, but he can’t stand the thought of another lusting after her even if it was years ago. Violet, noticing the dark look in Owen’s eyes, continues. “We all love it. Great memories for us here.” She struggles to highlight another moment, one free from jealous connotations. “We came here after I published my book.”
The group chuckles, some of them rolling their eyes. “Once we made peace with it,” Charlotte snickers.
“Wait, what happened?” Owen asks, unsure of the subject matter.
“I wrote a book, well it was a diary first--” Violet begins only to be cut off by Sheldon.
“--Until she added more of us in it.” He squinted. “Like explaining how you had cheated on me with Pete.”
“And calling me a cheater,” Addison adds.
Amelia scowls, but it is more playful. She’s moved on. “Basically calling me a whore.”
“I did not--”
“--You did,” Charlotte shrugs. “It was your turn to filter.”
“That’s what I said!” Amelia laughs.
Owen shakes his head. “How are you guys laughing about this?”
“We’re over it. And we already threw back our insults.”
“Yes, I remember telling you guys to let it all out,” Violet says. “Never doing that again.” They all smile fondly, thinking back on it with good humor.
“But, to be clear, I was not a whore.”
“I never meant for it to seem that way! I meant more sexually promiscuous,” Violet clarifies, her hands covering her face.
“Yeah, just because a person wears crop tops and high heels to work doesn’t make her a whore,” Charlotte says as Violet continues to blush.
“You wore what?” Owen can’t help but chuckle, thinking of how wild his wife used to be.
“It was a phase.”
“A hot one, though,” Addison adds. “I have a picture somewhere on my phone,” she says, scrolling through the device. When she finally locates it, she passes it to Owen and takes another bite of her fettuccine.
Owen looks down at the photo and a huge smile crosses his face, his eyebrows raising. “This was at work?”
She looks over his shoulder, then nods. In the photo she is wearing a white crop top with khaki capris and platform heels. “I liked it.” She shrugs, enjoying Owen’s amused reaction. “And I didn’t want to be short.”
He laughs. “You are short.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve made some peace with it,” she says. “I wear sneakers now.”
“How was this even allowed for work?”
“LA baby,” she says, deepening her voice in jest.
“And,” Naomi interjects, “she was too brilliant to fire.” Amelia smiles at the rare compliment. “I mean, if I recall correctly, you just walked into my office and told me to hire you.” The friends chuckle at the classic Amelia. “Because, in your words, you’re a kickass, world-class catch.”
Amelia buries her head in Owen’s neck, feeling comforted by his arm wrapping around her shoulder, rubbing gently. Noticing the difference in her actions while living in LA and while being in Seattle, Owen makes a mental note to talk more about that later, in the comfort of their own home.
Taking pity on her, Cooper changes the subject to the triplets and their wild ways, paving the way for Addison, Naomi, and Violet to chime in about their kids. Before long, parenting discussions and pictures are exchanged. Recordings are laughed at and dessert is served. No one asks Amelia and Owen about kids and for that Amelia is grateful. They know her history all too well. “I miss my little mush,” Amelia coos, looking at yet another picture of Henry.
“He misses you, too.” Addison takes her phone back, sliding it into her purse. “You should see him tomorrow before you go.”
“I will,” Amelia says decisively. Owen nods along, more than happy to spend some time with the children. “I am his aunt after all.”
“Right. That was a condition of me being pregnant or adopting a kid. Even though I divorced Derek, you would always stay my sister.”
“Damn right,” Amelia says as Owen pays the check, refusing to let anyone else see the bill. But, even with the distraction of paying, Owen still smiles. It is so clear that every single person here cares for his wife. She needs this. He’s glad she has it.
That night, both Amelia and Owen crash in their luxurious king bed, barely having the energy to change into their pajamas. It had been a long, emotional, and, yet, still wonderful day. So, when morning comes, they wake up slowly as the sun shines through the hotel’s large windows, bathing them gently in the soft light, completely at ease and unhurried.
Owen wakes first, relishing in the oft-missing sun of Seattle, breathing deeply. He throws his hand behind his head and just relaxes, listening to the soft breath of his wife and the gentle warmth coming off her. He turns onto his side to see her, pushing back the hair from her eyes, just staring at her beauty. He likes to watch her in times like these, where she’s so calm and at peace. Where she seems so young and naive, not hurt and weighed down by the world. He’s happy he’s the one privileged enough to see her in such a state.
“Hey, creeper,” she whispers, startling him out of his reverie. She peeks one eye open, a smirk already forming on her face. “Having fun?”
He blushes, but continues to play her game. “Oh, yeah,” he nods.
She chuckles. “Weirdo.”
He shakes his head, bringing his lips close to her ear. “Does that make you Mrs. Weirdo?” He presses tender kisses there, moving toward her face. He kisses around the perimeter of her face, her cheeks, eyes, and nose, but leaves her lips. She moves to meet him for a kiss, but he only chuckles and moves lower, onto her chest, unbuttoning her top. She has a feeling they’re not going anywhere for quite a while.
Two hours later, when they’ve finished their morning fun and had showered and dressed, they check out of the hotel and pack their things in the rental car. Then, they set out for Addison’s house. “I used to live there,” Amelia says, referring to Addison’s home. “First with Addie and then without her.”
“Really? I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah, we really were sisters.” She shrugs. “ Are sisters.”
“Sounds like it.” He takes one of his hands off the steering wheel and holds hers tightly. “I hope we get to see her more.”
“We really should. This trip reminded me how much I miss them.”
“They’re great people.” He kisses her knuckles, then releases her hand to turn into the driveway.
As soon as they get out of the car and start to walk to the door, Henry comes running out, shouting, “They’re here! Here!” He barrels into Amelia, hugging his arms around her legs, his face pressed into her stomach.
She hugs him right back, bending down to meet his eyes. “You’re so big, little man!” She hugs him again.
“I missed you,” he says.
“I missed you, too.” She lifts him into his arms, slightly struggling under his weight, but not daring to say anything.
“Is this your marry guy?” Henry asks, pointing to Owen.
She chuckles. “Yes, this is Uncle Owen.” Owen smiles and waves, walking a few steps closer. Henry gives him a toothy smile. “Me Henry,” he points to himself.
“Nice to meet you. Aunt Amelia has told me so much about you.” He ruffles the toddler’s hair.
Then, scrambling down his aunt, he runs inside, telling Amelia he has something to show her. Owen and Amelia simply chuckle and follow him, loving his enthusiasm.
Once they make it through the door, Addison greets them, apologizing for Henry’s loud welcome. “Addie, you know I love it,” Amelia says. “He is quite the bundle of energy, though,” she adds.
“You would think he’s a Hurricane Amelia child and not mine,” Addison jokes.
Amelia nods and, for once, the reminder doesn’t sting. It feels almost natural, unburdened by pain.
Jake walks up behind Addison and smiles, saying his hellos. “I know Henry and Addison want some Amelia time,” he says, turning to Owen, “so what do you say me and you head out back?”
“Sounds great,” Owen says after an encouraging nod from Amelia. He makes his way to the back of the house and pushes open the sliding glass doors while Jake grabs some glasses of iced tea and a bag of chips from the kitchen. Within minutes, Jake joins Owen on the lounge chairs, stretching out.
“So, how’re you?” Owen begins, not knowing where to start having just met the man.
“I’m good. You know, busy as a father and doctor.”
“I get that.” Owen shakes his head. “Our lives are never boring.”
“Tell me about it.” He pauses, taking a sip of his tea. “What about you? Do you want kids?”
Owen is a little startled by the bluntness of the question, but he understands it’s with the best intentions. “Yeah,” he says, sighing. “I’ve always wanted a big family.”
“Amelia always said that, too. Before her son,” Jake says quietly, recalling Addison mentioning it once or twice.
“I can’t imagine the pain of losing your child. And I’m waiting for Amelia to want this, too. But, if it never happens, I’m okay with that. I didn’t used to be, but Mia is all I want.” He takes a sip of his drink, shrugging. “So we’ll see.”
Jake smiles, grateful that Amelia has such a loving and caring man in her life. “You’re good for her.” He swallows a few chips before continuing. “James was good. I pushed her to go out with him.”
“You did?” Owen doesn’t know where he’s going with this.
“Yeah. He was a nice, decent guy. Amelia needed that.” He turns to face Owen once more. “But, after a while, it was clear that it was the easy choice, not the right one. She needed more. She needed someone who pushed her and made her better.” He crunches a few more chips as Owen’s brows relax. “She needed someone who she loved so much it terrified her. With James, that wasn’t the case. But, with you…” he trails off. “I’m glad she has you.”
Owen lets out a breath he didn’t know he was holding. “Thank you. That means a lot. I just love her so much, I wouldn’t know what to do without her.”
“She may not say it as often as you do, but she feels the same. I can see it.” He blows out a heavy breath. “I was her OB and I saw how closed off she became to everyone during and after the pregnancy. She was afraid to let anyone in. But you gave her a chance to do that.”
“I just hope I’m doing enough.”
“You can only do your best. Are you doing that?” Owen nods. “Then you are the best thing for her. Believe me, my wife was an addict. She went through a lot of the things Amelia struggled with. I wish I could’ve done more for her. But I did my best and that has to be enough.”
“She died. Overdosed on the bathroom floor. I was devastated. I still miss her.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to--”
“It’s alright. It was a long time ago. It’s part of the reason Amelia and I connected when I first joined the practice. So reach out to me if you ever have questions or need someone.”
“Thank you,” Owen breathes. “I appreciate it.”
“And Amelia is in a good place. We can only try our best to keep her there. I think she wants to stay there. My wife was too far gone.”
“I hope so.” He takes another swig of his drink.
“I know so.”
A few hours later, after stopping by to see Mason and the triplets, Owen and Amelia have boarded the plane, and are reclining in their seats and staring into space, waiting for the aircraft to take off. “I like your friends,” Owen says, twirling a strand of her hair.
She pulls away from him. “You better not mess up my ponytail,” she jokes. He rolls his eyes playfully, huffing out a ‘fine.’ “They like you, too,” she says.
Owen’s voice becomes low, “Some like you a little too much.”
She hears the playful jealousy in his tone. “Sheldon’s found real love. She died a few months ago. He knows now that we weren’t real.” She taps a rhythm on his bare forearm. “It’s fun to joke though.”
“They’re really good people.” Owen moves his gaze to meet her eyes. “We definitely need to visit more.”
“Agreed.” They stay quiet for a few minutes as the stewardess reviews the safety protocol. When she’s finished, Amelia continues. “Thank you for bringing me back.”
“Isn’t that my job?” He presses a tiny kiss to her temple. “To bring you back when you’re feeling lost?” She murmurs her assent, nuzzling into his side.
They stay like that, wrapped in each other’s arms, for a few more minutes, before Owen laughs lightly and brings Amelia out of her daze. “I think the best part of this trip was seeing how you were before you came to Seattle.” She chuckles, shaking her head. She has a feeling she knows what he’s getting at. “I mean, you should bring some of those crop tops out for wear once we’re back home.”
She lets out a laugh. “I was young and wild then.”
He whispers into her ear, “No saying you can’t be that again.”
She chuckles at his suggestiveness. “Oh, you think?”
“But for my eyes only,” he amends.
She chooses to tease him. “I may have one or two things in the back of my closet.”
He playfully nips at the shell of her ear, delighting in their little game. “How have I not heard about this until now?”
She smiles and they continue on for the rest of the flight, alternating between sweet affection and near-raunchy teasing. And she’s reminded yet again of how much she loves this man, how much she loves them . She’s glad they have the rest of their lives to be like this. She couldn’t have wished for anything better.
Thank you for all your comments. They were so kind!! Feel free to let me know your thoughts for this chapter as well!
Sooo...I took a million years. Thank you for all the encouraging comments and messages. They mean so much to me. I had been going through a difficult time and couldn't find it in me to write (either emotionally or due to time constraints), but I have found it now! I hope you understand. Thanks again for being both patient and kind!
P.S. One more chapter to go!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Later that night, after unpacking and reopening the house, Amelia and Owen are sitting on their sofa watching a movie with a medical theme, delighting in the humor of pointing out medical inaccuracies, when Owen turns to Amelia on a commercial break, clearly bothered by something.
She tilts her head up from its spot on his neck and furrows her eyebrows, silently prompting him to clue her in on his inner turmoil.
“So you and Sheldon?” he finally forces out.
She shakes her head, not at all bothered by his curiosity. “Totally one-sided. I think,” she grimaces, “I think I even told him I would never love him back when I was in withdrawal.” She shudders at the pain she had caused him. “I shouldn’t have done it in the way that I did.” She shakes her head. “I might’ve propositioned him, but I was different then. I was reckless.” Amelia holds his hand. “I didn’t love him, though. I mean, of course I loved him as a friend--he was my rock for a long time--but not romantically.”
“I guess I can’t fault you for that,” he says, feeling better that the feeling wasn’t mutual. “We all have a past. I sure as well know I do.”
“I’m not too proud of mine.” Amelia looks down at her fingers, twiddling them easily.
“Why?” He furrows his brows, shifting away from her in order to meet her downcast orbs.
“Owen, come on.” She huffs, trying desperately to keep the tears from her eyes. “You know why.”
He shakes his head. “No, I don’t. Do you really think my past is so pristine?” He takes the worrying fingers in his hands, slowing her movements by enveloping them in his strength, his warmth. “I told you about choking Cristina and you’ve seen my PTSD.”
She nods, pressing her lips together firmly. “PTSD is not your fault. Neither is what happens because of it.” She shrugs, her eyes watery. “Me on the other hand, I spiral. I make choices that hurt people.”
“You think that I haven’t made choices that have hurt people?” Owen looks up to the ceiling, knowing he has to follow-up his statement but unsure of how to do so. “I have,” he confides, “hurt people.”
She closes her eyes. “Owen--”
“No, you seem to have it in your head that I have a perfect past. And I don’t know why.” He huffs, sightly aggravated but trying to keep his cool.
“Not the PTSD. Me, making my own choices, that’s what I’m talking about.” She looks down at her fingers once more and he simply tilts her chin back up. He can’t bear to say it out loud, but it needs to be said. She needs to know. “I always thought Cristina would change. She’d come to like family more and her job a little less. Or at least find room for both. But that never happened.” He blows out a strained breath. His eyes turn upward. “She wanted an abortion and had one. I was angry. And hurt.” She hears the tears in his voice, but also the edge behind it. That there is more to the story. She holds his hand, trying to bring him back. She feels him relax ever so slightly, but he still does not meet her eyes. “And I didn’t forgive her. I let my anger get the better of me.” She furrows her brows, trying to follow his train of thought. “I cheated.” He says it so lowly, so full of remorse and disgust that she barely hears the words.
She leans away slightly, not sure she heard him correctly. “What?”
He meets her eyes and she can’t help but see all the answers written there. She turns away, her eyes burning from the harsh truth of it all, missing the darkening pain of his gaze. She breathes in and out, in and out, trying to control the panic rising in her throat. She fights the urge to run. She fights it with all of her being. Taking one last breath, she levels her head and turns back into his arms, snuggling into his side. He looks over in surprise, having expected the very worst, but he is not mistaken: she is right at his side, grasping his bicep, her pointer finger tracing delicate lines over his chest. He takes a second to revel in the comfort, too afraid to say anything, for it to all go away, when he hears her whisper.
It’s his turn to question her. “What?”
“I’m sorry that you were hurt so badly.” She meets his eyes. “And that you chose to act in the way you did.” She shakes her head.
“It was my fault.”
“Yeah. You chose to do it. And that’s unforgivable.” She says it without malice, just quiet honesty. He nods, looking away before he loses his cool and breaks down. He has buried that for so long, tried to do everything in his power to repent, to erase. But it can’t be undone. There is no making up for it. “But I know you. You have been trying to make things right even though you can’t.” She uses her finger to turn his head back toward her. He can’t believe how easily she read his mind, how easily she gets him. “And that means something to me.” She shrugs, chuckling thickly through the emotion. “Almost everything.”
At her words, his eyes tear up and his cheeks scrunch as he tries to hold back. She raises her hands to cup his cheeks. He flinches at the cold contrast of her skin and she can’t help but smile bashfully. “I don’t approve of what you did, but you are not your past. A little, maybe. Some things. But there is so much more. I love you, Owen. The Owen I know now. The Owen I want to know in the future. That hasn’t changed.” She brings their lips together softly, slowly, just barely moving her lips against his. It’s not enough and all too much at the same time. She, however, pulls back after a few seconds, knowing they should talk more.
“I don’t know if I deserve that,” he mumbles into the crook of her neck.
“Do we ever really deserve anything?” He pauses at her insightful reply only to hear her continue. “Maybe it’s just the love we have for each other that allows us to forgive.” She takes a deep breath, a bit lost in her own flurry of thoughts. “I mean, how can you forgive me for all I’ve done? It’s the same thing.”
He squints, trying to understand her logic. “Just because I forgive you for something doesn’t mean you have to forgive me. I understand if you don’t.” The pain makes his voice gravelly, but he means what he says. If she doesn’t, things will never be the same and he will have to accept that. Then, shaking his head, he adds,“And having an addiction is not a choice. Your choice was to recover and to fight every day to stay well. Your father and brother dying were not your choice. You reacted to something horrible. That’s normal.” He meets her crystal eyes. “There’s nothing to forgive.”
She pulls her upper lip into her mouth, struggling to hold back the river of tears. Breathing heavily, she says, “Maybe not. But also, maybe you’re wrong.” Her shoulders shift up, tense. “Derek blamed me for a long time. Putting my mother through hell when my father died. Messing with their lives. Lying.” A few tears slip down her face and she’s quick to wipe them away. “I chose that life.”
“Did you not hear a word I just said?” Owen pulls her trembling hands into his large, warm ones, holding them tightly. “Addiction is not a choice. And neither are the circumstances that brought it on.” He shakes his head, silently mourning all the pain in her life. “You are better now. That’s what matters.”
“Three times. I have fallen off the wagon three times.”
“And each time you got back on.” He kisses her forehead. “Honey, you’re so strong. I’m sorry more people couldn’t see that.”
She gives a watery laugh, thinking of all the hurt she’s endured with family and friends. “Sam and Meredith never saw it that way. Derek either.”
“But Addison did.” His eyes bore into hers. “Charlotte did.” He rubs his thumbs over her hands. “Your mom did.” He pulls her close. “I did. So many people did. That’s what important. That they saw your pain and your strength. That they stood by you.”
She removes her hands and wraps them around his neck, finally letting the emotions running through her body spill out. And, as if on cue, Owen does the same. Their bodies are wracked with sobs, their tears wetting shirts and their breathing hitting each other’s necks uncomfortably, but they never stray from each other’s embrace. And that’s enough. Enough to keep them going.
After some time, the two make a simple dinner of pasta and sauce, then retire to their bedroom for more movies and snacks. The past few weeks have been both stressful and busy, so it is a necessary reprieve--they easily relish in the indulgence.
Halfway through the movie, Owen turns to Amelia, once again ready to talk. Amelia, although surprised, decides to enjoy his mood to share, smiling to herself.
“I used to play this game with my mom when I was little,” Owen confides. She looks over in curiosity, unused to Owen mentioning his childhood. “I never talked much, so she made it into a game.”
“How do you play?” Amelia turns her body away from the tv to her husband beside her. She’s intrigued by this seemingly random memory.
“It’s basically rock, paper, scissors. Whoever wins get to ask the other one a question that they have to answer honestly.”
“Oh, can I go first?” She clasps her hands in front of her. He wants to point out that she’s breaking the rules of the game, but she looks so adorable that he chooses to indulge her. Nodding, he waits for her question. She thinks for a moment, tilting her head from side to side, before grinning. “When did you first know you loved me?” She looks proud of herself for asking such a question, smirking triumphantly.
He chuckles, ruffling her loose tresses. “That’s an easy one.” She raises a single eyebrow and he continues. “I knew you were going to destroy me from the time you offered to be there for me if I needed someone.”
“Destroy you?” She can’t help but snort.
“Yeah. Make me fall head over heels for you when I didn’t think I was ready to be with someone again.” He shrugs. “You broke my resolve.”
“I am rather convincing,” she says with a smile.
“But I knew I loved you when we went out for coffee after you told me about your son in the chapel.” She raises her eyebrows, shaking her head, but he’s quick to affirm his statement. “I did. I wasn’t ready to admit it to myself at the time, but it doesn’t make it any less true.”
It’s been a few minutes since Owen grabbed Amelia’s hand in a show of solidarity, and they still haven’t said anything. However, it is a peaceful sort of quiet, a calm and welcoming one, not stifling in the least. It’s reflective and safe, comforting. He turns his head to meet her eyes and, hearing him shuffle, she looks up easily.
“You want to get a coffee?” he asks, gently.
He smiles lightly. “Do you want to get a coffee. With me.”
She looks shocked for a moment, but quickly gathers her composure. “Sure.” She doesn’t know what to think, he’s her boss after all, and she is not looking for pity. Nevertheless, she has the feeling pity is not what he’s going for despite her recent confession.
“Great.” He stands up and offers his hand, taking her soft palm in his calloused one. She takes it with minimal hesitation. “How about the coffee shop down the street?”
She smiles, thinking it sounds much better than the hospital coffee she was expecting, then nods. “I love that place.”
“Me, too,” he smiles. He leads the way, grateful she doesn’t move to pull away out of the sanctity of the chapel. It being a relatively nice and breezy day, the two decide to walk instead of drive, enjoying the simple peace of each other’s company.
When they push open the door of the shop, the bell jingling over their heads, they both breathe in the deep, delicious scent of cinnamon and coffee. It’s comforting. “What can I get you two today?”
Amelia orders first. “I’ll have a vanilla latte. With cinnamon please.”
Owen looks at her a little incredulously, before laughing. “That’s what I usually order.”
She chuckles. “Seriously? Mr. Army Man usually orders a frilly latte?”
“Hey,” he tickles her sides, “I happen to like lattes.”
She giggles at the sudden onslaught, shivering at his touch. “Okay, okay, I’ll leave you be.” His hands move from her sides and her giggles die down.
“Anything else for you?” the cashier asks.
Owen shakes his head, then looks to Amelia. She grins. “Chocolate cake?” She turns to the cashier. “Please.”
“Coming right up.” He rings them up, Owen insisting he pay the bill as Amelia pouts, and the man hands her the heated cake before the barista begins their drink orders. She smells the heavenly goodness and smiles, toothy grin and all.
“You look happy,” he comments, chuckling slightly.
“Have you seen this cake? There’s a lot to be happy about.”
“If you say so,” he says. They grab their drinks and find a table in the corner, with windows overlooking the street.
“Try some!” She shoves a spoonful of cake near his mouth. When he puts up a faux fight, she pouts, pushing it even closer. “Pleaaasse.”At her soft words he finally relents and allows her to push the fork further into his mouth. “Isn’t it good?”
“Delicious,” he says around the food.
She chuckles, slapping her hand over his mouth. “Don’t talk with food in your mouth.”
He rolls his eyes as she continues to laugh. When he finally finishes chewing, she smiles and removes her hands. “But yes, it is delicious.”
“Seriously?” Amelia giggles, sure he’s exaggerating.
Owen nods resolutely.
He chuckles, pushing a strand of chestnut hair behind her ear, then grazing his thumb along her temple. “That’s the point.” Her eyebrows furrow and he’s quick to elaborate. “I was happy doing nothing with you. Just being with you was enough.” He shrugs. “And we barely knew each other so I expected the feeling to grow with time. We were already so comfortable with each other. It was natural. We just seemed right.”
Amelia tries--unsuccessfully of course--to hold back her smile. Her heart is so full by his words that she can’t help but lean in for a soft, tender kiss. It says so much more than her words ever could.
Pulling back, she whispers, “Now I really have to win.”
“Hmm?” he says, her words pulling him out of the stupor their connection left him in.
She smiles. “To hear that again, I have to win.”
He simply smiles, rolling his eyes in jest. “And the moment is broken.”
She laughs, hitting his arm lightly. “I am competitive by nature. You know this.”
“Don’t I ever,” he says. “Ready?” He holds out his fist, ready to play. She nods, matching his hand, and quickly loses with her paper to his scissors.
She pouts. “Your turn.”
He chuckles. “Don’t sound too happy about it.” He thinks for a minute, recalling a moment from earlier this weekend.
“We’ve missed you,” Addie says, ruffling her son’s hair.
“I’ve missed you, too.”
“Auntie Amelia, you has to come more.” Henry nods his head along with his words, affirming them.
“I have to come more?” she corrects gently. “I know, Buggie,” she says, bending down to his level. “I miss you too much to stay away.” She pulls him into another tight hug.
He snuggles into her neck, holding her close. Seeing her on FaceTime was not the same as having his aunt all to himself at his house again. She might have left when he was a toddler, but he still has all the fun memories with her and the same warm feelings as before. He will never forget that. “Then why are you away so much?” His voice is low, and not sad, but clearly missing her presence.
From Owen’s place on the couch watching the football game with Jake, he tries to tune into the conversation more closely. He can tell that Amelia is thinking and choosing her words carefully, a little bit of a struggle for her, just by the quiet tenderness in her eyes. “Auntie Amelia needed to leave for a while. She didn’t want to leave you, but she needed to find herself again.”
“I needed to start over. Find out what I like and love and want.”
“Like legos? I like legos.”
Amelia chuckles. “Yes, stuff like that.” She bops his nose, leaning her forehead against his. “But just because I’ve been away doesn’t mean I stopped loving you. I miss you,” she says, just loud enough for Owen to hear the tenderness in her voice, the sincerity of her words ringing true. She sniffles and he thinks it just makes her all the more endearing.
“Forever and ever?”
She nods. “I’ll love you forever and ever.”
“You and Henry seem close,” he says.
Amelia decides to push his buttons. “Is there a question somewhere in there?”
He tilts his head at her antics. “How did you guys get so close?” He really just wants to know more about her time in LA, her life before moving here and seemingly throwing the old to the wind.
“Well,” Amelia begins, looking deep in thought, a bittersweet smile on her face. Owen’s not exactly sure what to make of it, but she connects the dots for him soon enough. “Addie wanted to get pregnant for a long time. She was practically obsessed with it, she wanted it so much.” She looks into her lap, twiddling a bit with her thumbs. “Then she had some trouble adopting and then she was trying surrogacy. I even offered to be her surrogate at one point.”
“Yeah,” Amelia says with a huff of breath. “I wasn’t really on-board with the surrogacy idea--I don’t even remember why I was against it then--but I wanted her to be happy. She didn’t take me up on it, though, which was good I guess since I was already pregnant with my son. I just didn’t know it yet.” He tries to meet her eyes once more, but she’s gone back to staring into her lap.
“Oh,” is all he can think to say.
“Yeah. She told me later that, at the time, she hadn’t thought I was good enough.” He frowns--it seems so unlike the Addison he met this weekend. “Later on, she admitted that to me. Then she told me she was wrong. And that, if anything ever happened to her, she’d want me to take care of him.”
He nods. That sounded more like her. “I’m sure it hurt to hear that, though.”
Amelia nods, a single tear trekking down her cheek. “Yeah.” She shrugs. “But I didn’t have much time to be upset about it because she told me right after how they took Mark off life support.” Owen simply moves to rub her back, trying not to feel guilty about the death of his friend and colleague. “She loved him. And he was a brother to me. It was like a kick to the gut.” She leans more heavily into his hand, relaxing at the soothing motions. She then shakes her head. “But that’s not what you asked.”
“No, I want to tell you.” His heart warms at the notion of her wanting to share herself with him. “When I found out my baby wasn’t going to have a brain, I wanted nothing to do with Addison or Henry. She had gotten him right around the same time I found out.” She sniffles. “I was so angry and I took it all out on them. And Addison saw that. She told me that if I needed a person to hate, she would be that person.” Owen resumes rubbing her back and she’s grateful for the subtle comfort. “I fired her as my OB. I wouldn’t even let her in the delivery room.”
“I can only imagine how hard that must have been for you. I’m sure she understood that, too.”
“Yeah, she did. We’re in a much better place now.” She chuckles. “Actually, when I was about to deliver, she forced her way into the room and refused to leave. I realized pretty quickly how happy I was to have her there. She held my hand and sat behind me, holding me. I listened to her more than Jake, who was my OB at the time.”
He nods. “I’m glad she was there for you.”
“Me, too.” Amelia sniffles again. “After that, I was pretty insistent on being with Henry. And Addie and I made up.”
“You needed time to grieve and she gave it to you.”
“She did. I love her and Henry so much. I miss them all the time.”
“We’ll have to visit more,” Owen says. He doesn’t want to ask why she hadn’t visited more since moving to Seattle. He knows she was trying to start fresh, trying to build things better, and LA had, for a long time, been too painful for her.
“I would like that,” she says, using the sleeve of her shirt to rid her cheeks of the tear tracks left there. “Can we play again?” she asks, ready to move on. Owen nods, giving her a smile and a tight squeeze for sharing something so difficult.
“Rock, paper, scissors,” they both chant, grinning.
The round ends quickly and Amelia’s “Ah!” echoes throughout the room when she wins. She wiggles in her spot for a short victory dance. “I win.” She turns her eyes toward her husband, a mischievous glint residing there. “Why are you jealous of James?”
He’s startled by the question and stutters an, “I’m not.”
Her eyes widen. “You so are!” She shakes her head. “I knew it!” She had just wanted him to confirm it. “But why?”
“--Don’t ‘Amelia’ me. I’ve been wondering for a while.”
Owen sighs. “What do you think?”
Amelia shrugs. “If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking you.”
He sighs yet again. “I mean, I guess because you loved him. You were engaged to him. Why wouldn’t I be jealous of that?”
“Owen,” Amelia rolls her eyes, “you don’t have to be jealous of James.” She adds, “That was all in the past.”
He sighs, scratching the back of his neck. “Yeah, it’s fine, I know.” He turns back to the movie on the screen, trying to mask his affected facade.
“You had a wife,” she says quietly, sniffling ever so slightly while presenting a joking front.
He turns to her, noticing that she is just as affected as he is. Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, he pulls her close. “So you do know why I’m jealous.”
She shakes her head against his neck, burrowing there. “No, I don’t.” She pauses for a second. “James really helped me. He helped me find myself again and be comfortable with another person. I was terrified after Ryan, after my baby.” She sniffles, a few tears wetting her husband’s neck. “And he’ll always have a special place in my heart for being that person for me. But I didn’t stay forever. I didn’t marry him.”
Owen’s breathing slows at her confession, at her drawing a clear line between him and James. It’s enough to push the words from their confines within him. “Thank you for telling me that.” She nods against his neck, still tense. “And I know you were scared when he proposed and being here made you want something different.” She’d told him as much. “And I know that I didn’t do the same. It took me a little longer. I sometimes take a little longer,” he admits. “But I do know this: I don’t think I ever really knew what love was until I met you.”
She looks up, disentangling herself from his body, her carefully-controlled expression blank. “What?”
“When I married Cristina, I thought I loved her. I thought that we were what love was. But we weren’t. You and I, we have more love than I could have ever imagined. I know that now. I know what love is and what love should be like, feel like.”
“Owen,” Amelia murmurs, her hands reaching out to grasp his cheeks. Her eyes are watering again and she’s sure her palms are as sweaty as her face is blotchy, but she can’t find it in herself to care. All she can do is smile. “I love you. So much.”
Leaning his forehead against hers, he whispers, “I love you, too. So much.”
And, just like all the times before, that’s enough for them. Enough to last a lifetime.
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