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when it's right

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"Go slow."

There was a certain amount of urgency in Luke's voice that didn't track at all with the words he'd just spoken, but that wasn't why Claire's lips curled up in a smile. Nor was it anything to do with the way he crossed the room in a couple of quick strides, slid one arm around her waist, took her hand in his and ever so carefully and ever so easily set her on her feet.

Well, not much anyway.

"Not much chance of anything else right now," she reminded him, gesturing with her free hand to her stomach. At eight months pregnant, her days of anything faster than a waddle were long in her past. So too, apparently, were the days of being able to stand up with ease.

"Not long to go," he assured her, not for the first time. A smile, joyful but still tinged with faint amazement came to his face as he dropped her hand, moving his to the swell of her stomach. His touch was warm through the thin t-shirt, an old one of his, and Claire shivered as his thumb stroked up and down. "You know," he said, thoughtful suddenly, "those were the first words you ever said to me."

She frowned, then she remembered an apartment in Hell's Kitchen, the creak of bedsprings as he tried to stand up, the sudden shock of knowledge that if he collapsed again, she'd have a hell of a time getting him up off the floor. It brought back another set of memories, his body convulsing under hers, the feel of a needle in her hands and this time, her shiver was a shudder. He saw it too, his hand moving from her waist to her back and rubbing gentle circles there.

Her voice was quiet, serious, when she said, "It's a hell of a first meeting story for her." His thumb moved across her stomach again and she covered his hand with hers, needing as much contact as she could get suddenly, to ground her, bring her back to the present instead of the mess of the past where she'd been hung up on Matt, where he'd already begun whatever the hell he and Jessica were trying to be, when so much of their world had been questions and uncertainty.

"How her mom saved her dad's life? I think it is." He kept his voice light and when she looked up at him, there was a soft smile on his face. "OK, maybe we won't tell her about the big ass needle in my eye..."

She laughed because she'd kept that detail from him for a long time. "Or about how you ran out on me while I was getting you some water?" she countered and he laughed too.

"Or that." She leaned into him, let her head fall against his shoulder. "Claire, all we need to tell her is that sometimes... most of the time... two people finding each other isn't always a fairy tale. But when it's right... it's worth it. All of it."

She lifted her head as he lowered his but just before their lips met, an almighty kick startled them both, made her wince, made him laugh out loud. "See?" he said, leaning back into her. "She already knows."