Sara Ellis prided herself on being in constant control and on being the one people came to when they were in trouble. Now that she was on the other side of those roads, she really only knew of one person that could help. None of her friends would understand, and she didn't really want them meddling in her business anyway.
It was early evening when she marched up the steps of the Burke home and knocked on the door. There was some shuffling around inside, and then she heard shouting.
“I'll get it.” That was Neal's voice. She almost turned and ran right then but that would look suspicious. Plus, it wasn't in her nature.
“Don't you dare!” Elizabeth exclaimed. “Sit back down, Mister.”
There was a rhythmic thump for a few moments before the door swung open and Neal stood there, balancing on a pair of crutches. He was wearing a deep blue t-shirt and a pair of slate gray silk pajama pants. They both hugged his muscles in a most arousing way, and she had to turn her attention elsewhere.
She couldn't see a cast or brace on the right leg that he was favoring, so she raised an eyebrow and commented, “What kind of con are you pulling now, Caffrey?”
He bristled immediately. Though they hadn't really left things on bad terms before he fled the country, he clearly took offense to her tone. “What are you doing here, Sara?”
Elizabeth saved them from digging themselves further into this antagonistic hole. She walked up behind Neal and gently tried to steer him back into the house. “Neal, please, get off your feet. The doctor said to rest your leg.”
“I'm fine,” he protested, to which Peter, sitting at dining room table with a beer and a plate of something that smelled amazing, laughed.
“Yeah, you're fine. That's why you've got a week of medical leave and then two weeks of PT to look forward to.”
“Not helping,” Neal grumbled as he crutched back to the table and sat down beside Peter.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes but smiled at the younger woman still outside. “Sara, hi. Would you like to come in?”
Sara nodded and stepped across the threshold. “Thanks. I was hoping that we could talk for a few minutes. I didn't mean to interrupt your dinner though.”
“It's fine. The Odd Couple's driving me crazy anyway.” Elizabeth pointed up the stairs. “Want to come up? I've got to gather up the towels for laundry.”
“Sure.” Sara followed her, secretly glad that they would be able to have this conversation in private. She was able to hold her tongue until they were out of earshot. “What happened to Neal?”
“Oh, it's not too bad. Somehow – Peter's been tight-lipped about the details – Neal got shot on that island of his, and then there was an infection. We didn't think the stairs at June's would be manageable, so we brought him back here until he can get around a little easier.”
Sara felt her stomach unclench a little at that, but it did nothing for the nausea that suddenly swept over her. Neal worked for law enforcement and could get shot again at any time. Then again, she'd been on the receiving end of some handguns herself, so she shouldn't throw stones. None of this was made her feel any better about her current... situation.
“Are you okay? You're looking a little green.” Elizabeth dropped the towels to grip Sara's arms.
“I'm...” Sara trailed off. “Can we sit?”
“Of course.” Elizabeth led her into the guest room, which was closest, and sat both of them on the unmade bed. “What's wrong?”
She hadn't said the words out loud yet and was very hesitant to do so.
“I'm pregnant,” she finally blurted. Her eyes dropped to her lap where her hands were tightly clutched together. Saying made it all the more real, which in turn made her doubly uneasy.
Elizabeth was quiet for so long that Sara had to look up. She was surprised to find tears shining in the older woman's eyes. “Is it-”
“Yes, it's Neal's.”
“I meant to ask if it was okay. If you were okay,” Elizabeth said. In the first few years of their marriage, she and Peter had tried to have kids, but it wasn't meant to be. Neal had eventually come into their lives, and he was handful enough. But that didn't mean that he wouldn't make a great father.
“I don't know,” Sara all but whispered. “I was careful. We were careful. I never wanted this to happen.”
“I don't know,” she repeated.
Elizabeth silently considered what to say. Finally, she went with the obvious, “You have options. Adoption, open or closed, is always a good one.”
“Not always.” Sara had briefly been in the foster care system after her parents had died. She didn't want her child to go through that, but then again, babies were the most often adopted.
“There are good families out there,” Elizabeth assured her.
Sara sat quietly for a minute, ignoring the proverbial elephant that the other woman was also reluctant to speak of. Abortion was a legitimate option, but that didn't make it a pleasant one. Sara turned her thoughts elsewhere and inquired, “Why didn't you and Peter have any children? Not that you still couldn't. I didn't mean to insinuate-”
“We tried for a while, and then we looked into adoption, but the process is long and law enforcement officers are kind of seen as a risk. They didn't really say that, but it was obvious.”
“I'm sorry.” Sara was genuinely sad that motherhood had been denied to someone like Elizabeth, who practically oozed maternal instincts out her eyes. It was all the worse that she herself had gotten knocked up unintentionally and possessed all the maternal instincts of a cockroach.
Elizabeth swiped at her eyes and waved a hand at Sara. “It's in the past now. So, are you going to tell Neal?”
“It would be wrong to keep it from him.” It was a non-answer, a Caffrey speciality that she had picked up somewhere along the way.
“Yes, it would. I've seen the two of you together, and I don't know what drove you apart, but I do know that he loves you, Sara. There hasn't been anyone serious since you. That I know of.” She paused for a moment. “This is a decision that you two should make together.”
Sara sighed. She had no idea how to even begin to break this news to him.
Elizabeth patted her knee and stood. “I'll send him up.”
“You want me to tell him now?” Sara's eyes widened in panic. Normally, she didn't do panic, but lately, it seemed to be the overwhelming state of her life. Great, now she was going to be an emotional basketcase. She was abruptly pissed at Neal for putting her in this position.
“You'll feel better once you do,” was all the advice Elizabeth could offer. She was gone from the room before Sara had a chance to respond.
Five minutes later, Neal hobbled through the door. He was sweating casually from the trek up the stairs and sounded a little out of breath when he said, “El said you had something to tell me. And that I should sit down, shut up, and listen.”
Sara laughed nervously and scooted over on the bed to give him enough room to sit near the wall where he could lean his crutches. She was silent as he got situated, grimacing as he shifted to get pressure off his injury.
Neal turned to look at her when he was done. His hair was mused, and his eyes were a little glazed and sleepy from whatever pain medication he was taking. “I've never known you to be speechless. I kind of like it, actually.”
“Haha, Caffrey.” She punched him lightly on the shoulder, but he winced and curled in on himself. “Oh, shit. I'm sorry. Are you okay?”
He was grinning when he looked up at her. “Got'cha.”
“That's not funny, Neal!” she exclaimed, trying to look annoyed, but her smile betrayed her. Damn him and his charming ways.
“Maybe not, but I got you to smile. So, what's up? Elizabeth looked like she'd been crying.”
“Yeah, I'm not sure how that happened.”
He shrugged and motioned for her to continue.
“Look, Neal, I'm not trying to trap you by this, and I'm not even asking you to be a part of it, if you don't want to.”
He, of course, got the wrong idea immediately, and protested, “I've already given you the Raphael. What more do you want?”
She glared at him and took some satisfaction in watching his expression when she said, “I'm pregnant.”
His mouth fell open, and his eyes went wide. His breathing stuttered, but he managed to get out, “What? You're what?”
“You heard me,” she replied. “Six weeks, or so the doctor told me this afternoon.”
He sat up straight, suddenly laughing. “That's a good one. Did Peter put you up to this?”
She smacked him on the back of the head this time. “It's not a joke, Neal. Don't be an ass.”
“You're seriously telling me that you're pregnant. Right now. With my child.” He was having a hard time wrapping his drug-addled mind around it all.
“Yes.” She felt like crying at his disbelieving tone of voice. Damn him and his overactive, resilient little swimmers.
“How do you think, Einstein?” She was annoyed again. This mood swing thing was going to be a killer, especially with Neal Caffrey around.
He threw his hands up in the air. “We were careful.”
“That's what I said!”
They were both silent for a moment. Neal leaned back until he was laying across the bed. “Pregnant,” he murmured, closing his eyes.
“Hey.” She poked him in the ribs, making him jump. “Don't go to sleep on me. We need to talk this through.”
“What's to talk about?” he asked. “You're going to have our baby.”
“C'mon, Neal, be realistic. With the lives that we both lead? And how we're not even together anymore?”
“You want to get rid of it?” He made a face as he said the words, as if they left a bad taste in his mouth.
“No, that's not what I'm saying,” she replied. “There's always adoption.”
“No, no way.” Neal sat up on his elbows and practically glared. “We're not putting a baby into that system. I'll take responsibility if you won't.”
“Whoa.” She held up her hands in surrender. “Where's this coming from?”
He sighed. “Mozzie. He was orphaned as a baby and never adopted. The system was hell for him. I won't let that happen to my child.”
“Neal, it's been years since...” she trailed off when he gave her a dirty look. “All right, so, we're going to do this then? Keep this baby?”
Neal pulled himself up and reached out to squeeze her hand. “Look, Sara, I'm sorry for taking off on you like that. We couldn't take the chance at contacting anyone from our lives here, but I wanted to call you. I almost did a couple of times, but Mozzie found us the perfect place to settle, and I couldn't risk that.”
“I understand,” she said softly.
“If I had known though, about the baby, then things would have been different. I would have figured something out.”
She placed her finger over his lips to silence him. “It's okay, Neal.”
“No, it's not,” he replied, sincerely.
She shrugged, not knowing what to say to that.
“If you want to try again, try to be together again, I'm okay with that.” His hands moved to cup her cheeks, and his thumbs stroked the delicate skin under her hazel eyes.
“No more secrets?”
“No more secrets,” he agreed, moving in to gently caress her lips with his. Her arms moved around him of their own volition, and she pulled him closer for a deeper, longer kiss.
Thanks for reading!