Diana and Christie's 10th wedding anniversary party was a success, if the amount of empty glasses, plates and serving trays around Neal's old apartment and terrace was anything to go by.
He had insisted that they have the party at the same place they had celebrated their marriage, and since June had sold him the house when she'd retired to Paris with her daughter and granddaughter several years ago, he had the power to make that happen. Elizabeth's best New York team had transformed the fourth floor into a gorgeous soiree.
Now the last of the guests had left and all that remained was family. Peter and Elizabeth, Jones and his wife Vivian, and Neal and Sara were all sitting on the terrace, enjoying the perfect summer night and watching as Diana and Christie animatedly described their most recent vacation disaster which involved the gorgeous Irish countryside, a broken down rental car, and a farmer on a tractor offering assistance.
Neal laughed softly so that he wouldn't disturb the toddler draped across his chest, sleeping despite the noise her mothers were making. Charlotte, Charlie for short, was the spitting image of Diana with the charm of Neal and the kindness of Christie. Everyone doted on her, but none more so than Neal, who'd swiftly and unapologetically fallen in love with her as soon as she'd been placed in his arms.
He looked over at Sara and found her watching him with a fond smile on her face. She'd been back in New York for six years, having taken over as VP of Sterling Bosch after a successful stint overseeing their London offices. They hadn't started dating right away, but now they'd been married for eighteen months. He grinned back at her. "What? Do I have something on my face?"
"No. You're such a natural with her, that's all." She leaned close to whisper it to him and give him a kiss.
"She makes it easy."
"Well, you do spoil her."
He chuckled and shrugged one shoulder. "She makes that easy too."
"Neal," she said, maintaining eye contact with him, "I'm pregnant."
His jaw fell open, and he sat up so fast that he almost woke Charlie. She huffed and squirmed against his shoulder but didn't open her eyes.
"What's going on over there?" Peter, as always, zeroed in on Neal's sudden movement.
Sara blushed and looked around at their friends. Everyone was giving their full attention to the Caffreys, and it was uncomfortable being the center of attention at a party that wasn't for them. She hadn't meant to blurt it out like that, but there was no taking the words back now. He just looked so damned cute cuddling Charlie.
Diana grinned and pointed at Sara with the hand that wasn't holding a wine glass. "You're pregnant!"
"What? How did you-"
"Oh, please. You haven't had a drink all night, and that's pretty much the only thing that would make Neal react like that."
"I'm sorry, Diana." Sara turned even redder as she rushed to apologize. "I didn't want to tell anyone during your night, but Neal was sitting there with Charlie, and I couldn't keep it in any longer."
Diana waved the apology away and got up to give Sara a hug. Christie, Elizabeth, and Vivian followed suit, and soon the four women were huddled inside the apartment with more wine, talking babies and themes for remodeling a bedroom.
Peter and Jones moved to chairs closer to Neal's, and Jones got each of them a fresh beer. "This calls for a toast. May the young Caffrey be as pretty as Sara, as smart as Neal, and as easy for Peter to catch if he or she makes an escape."
Peter guffawed and Neal smiled at the words. He glanced inside the apartment and caught Sara watching him again, looking concerned this time.
"Neal?" Peter squeezed his friend's shoulder, having obviously picked up on something too. "It's going to be okay."
He nodded but was glad that Charlie was still in his arms because she provided a good distraction right then when she blinked her eyes open and whined. She wasn't really awake, but the unfamiliar nighttime surroundings were enough to upset her. When she started to cry, he excused himself and made his way through the apartment toward the door.
"I'll take her," Christie said, intercepting him.
"It's okay," Neal replied. "I've got her. Go back to the girls." He neatly sidestepped her and carried the sniffling three-year-old downstairs to the guest bedroom with the toddler bed. Aside from the Wednesday night dates that Neal and Charlie had been having since she was born, he and Sara kept her one weekend a month so that Diana and Christie could have alone time.
It didn't take long to get Charlie back to sleep and situated, but Neal was hesitant to rejoin his friends. He needed some time to sort through the mixed feelings that he was having about Sara's announcement. It wasn't that he didn't want to have kids; they'd talked about it at length before getting married and afterwards. He just-
"Hey," Diana's quiet greeting interrupted his thoughts. She placed her hand on his back and rubbed a circle between his shoulder blades. "How're you doing?"
He opened his mouth to reply, but it was a strangled sob that came out. She immediately turned him so that she could pull him into her arms.
"It's okay, Neal. It's going to be okay."
"I don't… What if… If something…"
"Shhhh." Diana led him to the bed and sat them both down so that they would be more comfortable. "Sara said that she's over the three month mark, and the doctor has given her a clean bill of health so far. She's taking care of herself, and everything looks good. She even has an ultrasound picture, when you're ready to see it."
Not long after they were married, Sara had gotten pregnant, but it had been a stressful time with her work and Neal had trouble adjusting to the marriage, and everything had snowballed on them very quickly. However, Neal had returned to therapy, and Sara's work situation improved. Now, they had a standing couple's counseling session at least once a month, and both were healthier for it.
"I don't know what I'd do if something happened to her," he said, into Diana's shoulder as he was reluctant to release her still. Sara had very nearly hemorrhaged to death, and Neal had been beside himself with the uncertainty of it. It had taken Diana and Peter hours to calm him down.
Diana frowned at his words. They'd made a vow to each other, a long time ago in a dank cell, that they would always be honest with each other, so she had to be honest now and acknowledge the possibility that something could happen to his wife. "I'll always be here for you, and so will Christie and Peter and El, Jones and Viv. If something happened, we'd help you get through it, but I think everything will be okay. I really do."
He pulled back so that he could look into her eyes. "Yeah?"
She smiled gently and nodded. "Yeah."
Neal released the breath that he'd been unable to exhale since Sara had given him the news and felt his muscles start to unclench and relax as well. He slumped into Diana's arms again, taking comfort from her once more.
Six months later, after twenty hours of labor, Sara delivered a healthy baby girl, Ellen Victoria Caffrey, named for the woman Neal thought of as a mother and Sara's own mother. Neal couldn't stop smiling, even after he fell asleep in the chair between the bassinet and Sara's hospital bed, with his feet propped up on the edge of her mattress and his head tipped onto his own shoulder. It looked uncomfortable as hell, but no one had the heart to wake him once he finally nodded off.
Diana lingered after Peter and Elizabeth had gone home for the night so that she could make sure that everything was okay with the Ellis-Caffrey family. Neal had grown more and more anxious the closer Sara's due date came, and he'd been up for the better part of forty-eight hours until he'd given in to the fatigue half an hour ago.
"Diana?" Sara spoke loudly enough to be heard but low enough to keep from waking her husband or daughter. She'd been napping on and off since the delivery, but she still looked and felt exhausted.
"Do you need something before I go?"
"Neal's okay, right? I mean, he's been so…" strung out, amped up, off his rocker, but she didn't want to say any of those things. It was sweet, in a way, that he was so excited and so terrified at the same time. On the other hand, she was pretty sure that he'd very nearly had a heart attack by the time little Ellen had arrived.
Diana's eyes darted to Neal before returning to Sara's face. "He's fine. He's happier than I've ever seen him." She leaned closer and emphasized, "Ever."
Sara reached out and caught Diana's arm. "I love him, Diana, and I want him to be happy. I want to make him happy." Later, she would blame the meds for her uncharacteristically maudlin behavior.
Diana blinked at the intensity of Sara's words. "I know, and you do. You and Ellen." She pressed her lips together and sat on the edge of Sara's bed. They were friends, but Neal's closeness with Diana had always been a wedge between them. "Sara, Neal's come to me less and less since you and he got back together, and even less still since you got married. He trusts you; he loves you; he's happy."
"You think so?" Sara wasn't sure she believed Diana, but she'd always known her to be forthright.
"I do." Diana smiled and squeezed Sara's hand. "Get some rest. The first rule of being a new mom is to sleep when the baby sleeps."
Sara gave her a tired smile and a nod. Then, she rolled her head to the side so that she could see Neal's sleeping form and before closing her eyes and drifting off.
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