A/N: Here is the third story in the Tough universe. As I have said, there will be about 10-12 installments in this series. I do hope you will be around for them all. This story is much shorter than the last one, about ten chapters and 25,000 words. Like all of my stories, it will have it's ups and downs and hopefully show the love of this family, particularly Jamie's branch.
Thanks to Lawslave for previewing all of my chapters and providing her special branch of Jamko wisdom and to Yanks20 for helping me when I got stuck in the later chapters. I hope to hear your thoughts and reactions.
Stories to date are:
Tough - complete
In Sickness and In Health – complete
A Healing Peace - Ongoing
And Baby Makes… - Coming Soon
"Happy Birthday, dear Grandpa…Dad…" the family sang. "Happy Birthday to you!"
Frank took as deep a breath as he was capable of and blew out most of the thirteen candles on is cake, the total of the two numbers making up his age, nine and four. He got them all out except for one. "Oh, one girlfriend this year, Grandpa," Nikki laughed. She had driven down from Boston for the occasion.
The party was being held in the family home, now with Jamie and Eddie at the helm. There wasn't a single, living Reagan family member missing that day. Even Jack, who was busy as Chief of Department and Sean, who had just been promoted to Chief of Emergency Medicine at St. Victor's were present with their girlfriends. Danny's boy had taken their time in getting married. In fact, Jack had proposed to his girlfriend Rita two weeks ago.
"What kind of cake is it, Aunt Eddie?" Sean asked as he was charged with cutting the large sheet cake.
"Chocolate peanut butter," Eddie replied. "Dad's favorite. Uncle Jamie's too." Eddie kissed Jamie's temple as she passed his chair at the head of their table.
The cake was passed around and everyone dove into the luscious dessert, everyone except for Lila. She pushed the plate away and looked down at her lap.
Eddie caught the subtle movement. It was the fifth time that she had seen something like that today. Lila loved chocolate, for her to be putting her nose up at it was strange indeed. The actions didn't escape Jamie's eye either. His little girl hadn't been looking or acting herself for a couple of weeks now and if he didn't get a satisfactory explanation soon, he'd be having a chat with her husband.
While Eddie, Linda, and Erin helped to clear and Nikki and the boys set up presents in the family room, Jamie pulled his daughter aside and enveloped her in a warm hug. "You doing okay, sweetheart? You aren't eating."
"I have a little bit of a stomach bug," Lila replied. "But I didn't want to ruin Grandpa's birthday. I wanted to be here especially since we don't know if Mom's going to get called away."
Eddie's father was in a hospice just a few miles from the family home. The cancer he'd been fighting for the last eighteen months had finally taken over. He didn't have much time left. Eddie spent at least part of each day at the hospice helping with his care and making peace after nearly forty years of being divided. The last few days had been rough and Eddie had been called out at all times of the day and night.
"That's sweet of you, baby," Jamie replied. "But there are enough of us here to handle it if Mom does get called over, even if I need to go with her. Why don't you go lie down in Grandpa's room?"
Jamie had regained his ability to climb the stairs to the bedroom he'd shared with Eddie for the last fifteen year of their married life, so they had moved Frank into the study that had served as their bedroom while Jamie recovered from his stroke.
Over the last six months, Frank's COPD episodes had increased in intensity and frequency. Climbing the stairs was now a significant challenge, thus the downstairs bedroom off the warm homey kitchen.
"No, I have a gift for grandpa that I really want to see him open. I'm okay, Dad. It's Joey that needs you do to the whole Papa thing. I heard him talking to Uncle Danny about getting transferred to SVU. You know that's a huge mistake"
"I saw the transfer request," Jamie replied. "I'm going to talk to him before I sign off on it, but if this is his way of coping with what happened with Debbie then I'm going to give him my blessing."
Lila sighed. She remembered the happy, bright, beauty her brother brought to her wedding. Three months later, she'd been what the men of the family and her mom referred to as a 10-24 with special circumstances, also known as a rape victim. Lila remembered that night like it was yesterday.
Lila was dropping Frank off at home after taking him to the pulmonologist. She had taken a semester off school since getting married to set up house for Steven and her so when Frank had an appointment the same day as Eddie or Jamie had other obligations, she was more than happy to escort her grandfather around to his doctors.
"You all set, Grandpa?" she asked helping him into his recliner. She adjusted the back and foot of the seat. "You need your medicine, the wind is really whipping."
"No, I'm good," Frank replied smiling at Lila as the phone rang. She saw the caller ID flash her brother's cell phone number. "Hey, you," Lila answered. She missed seeing her brother regularly since she moved out of the family home. Now she only got to see him on Sunday if Steven was home or Joey was working on Wednesday.
"Lil, I need Mom," Joey said, his voice hoarse and cracking with emotion. "I can't get Dad on his cell. I need Mom."
"Joey, what happened? Are you okay?" Lila was always worried for her brother even more than her husband.
"Yeah, it's not me," Joey replied. "It's Debbie. I really need to talk to Mom or Dad, Lil. I need one of them to meet us at the hospital."
"And Mom left her phone again. Okay, you go to the hospital with Debbie I'll meet you and we'll get a hold of Mom and Dad, all right?"
Lila hung up the phone and looked over at Frank. "What's happened?"
"I have to go meet Joey at the hospital," Lila explained. "He got a call, Debbie was attacked and he's really upset."
Frank started to get up.
"Grandpa, no, the doctor said you have to have your rest," Lila reminded him gently. "I'll leave you with the phone and I'll call. If Mom comes home send her to St. Benjamin's okay, Joey was asking for her to come down."
"Joey treated her so well," Jamie sighed. "But I guess being around the places and the people was too much of a reminder. I'm still a little ticked off at her for breaking Joey's heart but…if it's meant to be."
Lila nodded and reached out to grab her father's arm as she felt a dizzy spell. "I think I better go get a piece of cake now. I'm feeling like I need it."
"Go sit down," Jamie told her firmly. "You're flushed. I'll get you cake and some tea."
Jamie made sure that Lila headed for the sofa before going to the kitchen. He cut a slice of cake from the opposite end. "Jamie, if you want another slice, take from the end we already cut," Eddie scolded.
"It's not for me," Jamie replied quickly. "It's for Lila, she likes the corner piece." Jamie poured her tea and put the cake and tea on a tray.
"Jamie, let me carry that," Eddie spoke up. Jamie was much better but he was not yet able to walk well without his cane. "Go sit with the kids, we'll be ready to open gifts in a few minutes."
Eddie carried Lila her cake and tea. She saw the flush in her cheeks and touched her forehead, "No fever…" Eddie had a feeling now she understood what was wrong. "If you want another piece let me know."
Jamie sat down beside Lila. Steven and Joey were across the room speaking with Danny and Jack. "You ready to open gifts, Dad?" Jamie asked Frank.
"I'm too old for gifts, Jamie," Frank laughed. "But that cake was good. DelAmico's?"
"Yeah," Jamie replied smiling. "Some things never change."
Lila at her cake and sipped her tea. She kept looking up at Steven, she was worried about the gift they got Frank. She hoped that he liked it, it was very special indeed.
When Eddie returned to the kitchen Linda was laughing, "Danny said six months in so he's probably going to win."
"Win what?" Eddie asked as she got back to putting the dishes in the dishwasher.
"Oh, Danny made a bet with Joey, Jack and Sean on how long it would take for Lila to get pregnant, and by the looks of her today, she's either got the flu or Danny won the bet."
"Well, she's obviously not ready to tell anyone," Erin broke in not wanting Eddie to get upset. She was now very sensitive to Eddie's relationship with her daughter. "When she is ready to tell us she will. She might not know yet, sometimes young girls don't know. Nikki was three months along before she even knew."
"I was two months with Lila," Eddie sighed. "If she is…They aren't ready for a baby. They are barely ready to be married." She sat down heavily in her chair.
"Tell the truth," Linda laughed. "You aren't ready to be Nana Eddie yet either. I cannot believe it, if she is having a baby, the youngest Reagan brother will be the first grandfather. I have hope now they both have girlfriends though. I might see my grandma days before my final days."
Those words were still in Eddie's head when they joined the rest of the family to open gifts. Frank received new sneakers, some new sweaters, and two compilation sets of his favorite westerns to watch on the new TV and movie player his kids chipped in to buy. Lila had Steven hold their box for the very last. Finally, Steven handed the clothing size box to Frank for him to open.
Frank smiled at Lila as he tore at the paper and opened the box to reveal a white sweatshirt. He held the shirt up, written in gold letters were the words, "World's Best Great-Grandpa!"
Nearly every member of the family let out a cheer. Joey backslapped Steven before hurrying to hug his sister. Frank reached out his hands and pulled Lila down, "This is the best present ever. When will it be?"
"Middle to late September, around our first anniversary" Lila replied. "We estimate it happened around New Years."
Lila turned toward her parents. She had worried about how they would react. Jamie stood up and reached out both arms, "Congratulations, Kitten. Are you okay? You feeling…of course you aren't that's why you were acting so funny." He turned to look at Steven, "You are so lucky you are pregnant or I was going to take you out to the garage."
"Oh, dodged a bullet there, Buddy," Joey laughed. "Dad took us out there only when we did something really bad."
"Dad, he's taking great care of me, really. Every morning he brings me hot decaf tea and cream to settle my stomach, at least when he's at home. You don't have to worry."
Lila's gaze turned to Eddie. She was so quiet, it made Lila nervous. "Mom? Are you okay? You're happy for me, aren't you?"
Eddie forced a smile, "OF course I am happy for you honey. There's no other feeling like it, you'll see." Eddie took Lila into her arms hugging her tight. She was nervous for her daughter. Lila was incredibly young, Steven had a busy job that took him away from home for days at a time…but now was not the time for worry. It was a time for joy. "You will be a wonderful mother." Eddie broke the hug with Lila and turned to bestow one on Steven.
"Congratulations…this calls for a toast. Erin, can you see if we have some sparkling cider in the fridge?"
The family toasted to Lila and Steven's impending miracle. Jamie worked his way over to Lila and raised her eyebrow, "Stomach bug?"
"Sorry, Dad, I didn't want to ruin the surprise. It's a little white lie, that's all. So you ready to be a grandpa?"
Jamie laughed, "Let's see Uncle Danny is knocking on the door of being 73 and he's not a grandpa, I just turned 60 and you're making me a grandpa."
"Trust me," Frank piped up from his chair. "There's not greater feeling on earth Jamie."
Jamie smiled, "If it feels anything like being a father, I can't wait."
"I can't believe you are not excited!" Jamie said as he applied muscle cream to his leg and foot. "Our baby is having a baby. You're going to be a grandma."
Eddie sighed, "I am happy for Lila, I really am." She climbed into bed, still in a short nightgown showing off some leg. She'd been very hot lately sleeping even though she was out of menopause for over three years now.
"So?" Jamie asked sitting up and starting to rub her back and shoulder. 'What's the problem?"
Jamie's fingers found a huge knot in her neck. "Talk to me, Eddie. Come on."
Eddie took a deep breath. "I don't know. I really don't. It's just when I heard her say she was having a baby, I thought…I'm not old enough for this. I'm not old enough for cookies and knitting and all the things that grandma's do. Am I?"
Jamie laughed, "Of course not, but my father was a grandpa before he was our age. My mom too. This isn't about becoming a grandma, this is about what happened the other night. That had nothing to do with you, Eddie. I had nothing to do with me finding you attractive or young or anything like that. I was too tired, I over did it, and you paid the price for it. I'm so sorry."
Eddie sighed, "That's not really it, either. It's not the first time that happened since the stroke, won't be the last. I think I am just feeling old and Lila, my youngest, being pregnant with her own baby, just made it all come up for me. I feel like we got robbed. I was sick, you were sick, and we aren't old yet, we're not at the age where we worry about that stuff yet, at least we shouldn't be."
Jamie kissed Eddie's hair, "Close your eyes for me and just picture Lila holding her own baby. You and me together to support her at the hospital, helping her out when Steven is working…you teaching her how to hold her baby and comfort her baby like you comforted her. Tell me that isn't one of the most precious things you can imagine."
Eddie's eyes teared up. "I can't. She is going to be a wonderful mother. I'm going to call her up and tell her again how happy I am, if I ruined that moment for her, I won't forgive myself."
"So it went off without a hitch," Steven said as he got his uniform and bag ready for his stint the fire house. "Your family was really happy, and when we tell my folks they'll be thrilled."
Lila was playing with her wedding ring, "Earth to Lila. Come in please…What's wrong? Things went great."
"My mom was upset," Lila sighed. "She was upset but I don't know why."
"Your mom is going through quite a bit," Steven reminded her. "It's got to be breaking her heart seeing her father suffering. She's got to be thinking about her own illness too." Steven kissed Lila's head. "You have got to cut your mother some slack. I know you two have your differences but…"
Lila nodded, "Maybe I just expected her to be more demonstrative than she was, maybe that's it?"
Lila's phone ringing broke into their conversation. She checked the screen, "It' my mom." Lila picked up quickly, "Mom, are you okay? Is grandpa Pete okay?"
"Yes, yes, I'm fine, Lila," Eddie assured her. "I'm just calling to tell you how excited I am to be a grandma. I know I didn't act it before, that had nothing to do with your news and I am sorry that I didn't show you then how happy I really am. Being a mom is the greatest job on earth, you are going to be terrific at it."
Lila choked up and sniffled, "Well, I would have learned from the best. I will never know how you raised Joe and me and never raised your voice at us, even being sick. I love you Mom."
"I love you, too, baby," Eddie replied with a smile. "You want to come with me tomorrow to visit Grandpa Pete and tell him your news?"
Lila agreed and planned to have lunch with her mom at Archie's before going to the hospice. When she hung up she was smiling. "There's my pretty girl," Steven smiled and kissed her lips. "Did I tell you I can't wait to see our little one? I think it's going to be a pretty girl just like you."
"I hope not," Lila laughed. "I hope he looks just like you. As long as the baby is healthy…"
Steven nodded, that was, after all, the only thing that mattered, health and happiness, two things far too precious to take for granted.