A/N: As promised, another new (old but newly finished) post-story one-shot.
The night is rapidly growing cold and foggy as Tommy walks. He's been doing this a lot lately, too much, going out at night and just wandering for hours, finding it harder and harder to force himself to return home. Jude's concern over the behavior has clearly been growing, but she hasn't called him out on it yet.
Sometimes on his way back he concocts lies to tell her, explanations that make more sense than the truth that he was just wandering around. He thinks of how he'll explain if he opens the door to her glaring and demanding he tell her where he was. He'll tell her he went to the studio to write for a change of scenery, tell her he went to the gym or met a friend or had a meeting with publicity. So far, he's never used any of the lies. He's never returned to find her angry or suspicious. Her "where were you"s never have sharp edges, though lately they've been accompanied by a little frown and increasing tones of concern. As long as he keeps replying to her texts and comes home before it gets too late, it seems she'll take his explanation that he just went for a walk at face value.
Things are good between them, and Tommy tries to remind himself of that. They've been good for a long time. They still argue and bicker often enough over small things, but it's been a long time since they've had anything he would really call a fight. Jude isn't the reason for this restlessness, the ice that's constantly in the pit of his stomach these days. He's happy, they're happy, it's just…
He hasn't had a drink, not for years. Things have been so good for so long that he's gone months without even really craving alcohol at all. He even made it through his album tour, albeit a small one, without the temptation ever getting too great. But recently it's gotten bad again, and tonight he came closer than he has in years. He stood in front of a dingy pub for nearly fifteen minutes, caught in a wrestling match with himself and unable to move in either direction. It was a text from Jude that kept his willpower intact. "Where are you? Coming home soon?" He couldn't bring himself to text her back, either to tell her the truth or to lie to her, but the thought of her disappointment if she knew where he was was also enough to pull him away.
As he walks up to the church building, he pulls out his phone again, texting Jude, "Sorry. I'll be home in a couple hours. I love you." He watches as the icon that means she's typing a reply flashes for a long time, and wonders if she's going to ask for details, or if she's angry he didn't reply earlier, but when the text comes it just says "Okay, be safe" followed by an emoji heart.
He clicks the phone off and slips it into his pocket as he walks inside and follows the signs for the AA meeting. It's a smaller group than he was used to when they lived closer to central London, maybe a dozen people standing around in the basement room. He fills a cup with coffee and takes a sip. It doesn't taste great, but it's hot, and his fingers and face ache as the blood slowly begins to return to them.
"Tom!" A cheery voice from behind him says his name, and Tommy turns to see Adam smiling at him. As it often does, the sight of the man brings a flash of memory, vague and chaotic flashes of Adam's frightened face hovering over his and the sound of sirens and being engulfed in pain.
Tommy shakes off the memory and says, "Hey," returning the smile, and Adam steps forward, clapping him on the back in a somewhat awkward one-armed hug.
"I'm glad you called," Adam says as he steps back. "Haven't seen you at a meeting in a long time."
Tommy feels a twinge of guilt and rubs a hand over the back of his neck. "Yeah, I know. But, uh, to be fair, I have been busy. For like… the last three years."
Adam grins. "That's not even much of an exaggeration, is it?"
Tommy laughs. "Not really."
"Congratulations, mate," Adam says sincerely.
Tommy's not exactly sure what specifically he's being congratulated for, it could be a number of things depending on whether or not Adam keeps aware of celebrity news, but he fingers his wedding band and nods. "Thanks, man."
"How are you?"
"I'm good. Things are really good." It's not exactly a lie, but he must frown a little as he says it, because Adam raises an eyebrow. Tommy sighs. "Really, I am. Things have been… stressful, but I am, I'm good. And still sober," he adds. "Almost four years."
Adam nods. "Good for you. I'd say you made it through the hard part, but that's not really how it works. It's why I still do this," he gestures around him to the room, "even after 10 years without a drink. I don't know if it ever gets easy, exactly. At least not permanently."
"Yeah, I'm kind of learning that."
Adam smiles and changes the subject. "How's Jude?"
Tommy hesitates, a tightness in his throat for a moment at the mention of her. "She's… good. She's great." He clears his throat, and asks before Adam can press for details, "How about you? How are your kids?"
"They're great. Growing up fast, though. Jacko's almost three now, and the girls are turning 13 in a couple of months. We'll have two teenagers and a toddler in the house, and that's…" He shakes his head and laughs. "Well, it's quite terrifying."
"Yeah, damn, I can't even imagine. Even just the 'having teenagers' part."
Adam smiles wider. "From what I hear, some day you won't have to imagine that bit." A fist clenches hard in Tommy's gut, that familiar spike of ice through him, fear congealing in his throat and strangling him for a second. Adam sees his expression and laughs. "Don't worry mate, that's a long ways off. It goes fast, but not that fast."
Tommy is saved from replying by a big, bearded man clapping his hands once and saying in a brash East London accent, "Alright folks, that's 8 o'clock."
Adam claps Tommy on the shoulder and he turns, grateful that the conversation has to end. The relief only lasts until he sees the chairs set up in a circle. Smaller meetings in this format are relatively rare but they always leave him feeling too exposed, too much like group therapy. The fact that group has been the most effective form of therapy for him, arguably the only effective method he's ever found, does nothing to stop him from hating it deeply. He feels the urge to leave, but he pushes it down. Adam is smiling at him and there's no way he could get out without being incredibly obvious, without it having to be a thing later. He thinks for a flash about faking a phone call from Jude, a reason to rush home, but he shakes off the impulse and sits. Adam sits next to him, crossing his long legs. Tommy looks down, fidgeting with his wedding ring as the bearded man addresses the group. He keeps his gaze focused in his lap as he mumbles his way through the serenity prayer.
A couple of people speak, telling stories that in places reflect his own—alcoholic parents, party culture, alcohol as a method of coping when shit gets too real, or as the only way they know to connect with people—along with a lot of the typical religious stuff he's never been able to get into. Tommy himself stays quiet, but eventually there's a long silence after the bearded man asks whether anyone else would like to share. Adam's eyes flick to Tommy and then quickly away, and he isn't planning to speak, but suddenly he finds the words, "Alright, uh, I guess I'm Tom," springing out of his mouth before he can stop them. He falters, backtracks. "I suppose I know that I'm Tom, uh…" He sighs, shutting his eyes for a brief moment, then says, "Sorry. I'll try that again. I'm Tom, I'm an alcoholic."
He rubs a hand over the back of his neck as people murmur, "Hi, Tom." Adam is smiling, and Tommy looks away, down at his hands again.
"So I've been sober for three years and nine months, almost, and tonight I…" he sighs again. "I didn't drink, but I came a lot closer than I have in a long time." He twists his wedding ring around and around his finger as he talks. "Things have been… really good. For a long time, things have been good. My career has been great, really good, better than I could've hoped, really. And I got married, a little over a year ago," he briefly holds up his left hand before bringing it back down and fidgeting with the ring again. "Things are good, my life is… I love my wife, I love my job, I love… I am so much happier than I ever thought I would deserve to be." He mumbles the last few words, still looking down.
He pauses for a long moment, then says, "So my wife is pregnant. A little over six months. Our second kid." He swallows, hard, trying to clear the lump in his throat. "We, uh, had a daughter. Caroline. She would be four and a half now, about, but she…" He clears his throat. "She died, as a baby." He reaches up, running a hand through his hair. "We lost a child and it was…" He shakes his head and doesn't finish. "I almost lost Jude too. My wife. We almost didn't make it." His voice goes thin and strangled and he clears his throat again. "I wanted another kid," he says, a little louder. "Jude, she, uh, she wasn't sure, but I wanted another baby, so I guess I… sort of pushed her? I mean, she said she wanted it too. I mean, she did want it, she does, but I'm the one who…" He sighs. "We tried for like, a year, which was really weird, you know, really ironic since our first kid was this total surprise. But anyway, I was starting to think maybe it wasn't gonna happen, we were starting to talk about seeing a doctor, trying IVF or whatever, but then we found out she was pregnant. We were happy, I mean, I was… We were… Seriously, we were really happy. And I am. But it's also like…" He shakes his head. "The closer it gets, the more real it gets, the fact that we're actually doing this, we're having this kid, it's like… All I can think about is that I'm fucking terrified." His voice is a whisper on the last word. "Because we've been here before, you know? We've been excited, we've been buying baby clothes and arguing about names and putting together a nursery and then… She got a fucking cold and then…" He swallows hard again and shakes his head, still looking down at his hands. "I almost… Or, no, you know, I did. I lost everything. And just because I've gotten so much of it back, it doesn't mean it feels safe or… I mean, fuck, if it happens again? If something happens to this kid too, I mean… I won't survive that. We will not survive that."
Adam murmurs, "Tom," in a tone that's obviously meant to be comforting, but the note of pity makes Tommy's jaw clench. He shakes his head and keeps talking.
"I can't talk to Jude about it, because she's in the same boat, you know? She's having nightmares, she's… I can't be the scared one. I was the one who said I was ready for this, so I have to make sure she believes that we're ready for this. And we are, I mean, I am! I want…" He squeezes his eyes shut in frustration. "Things are good. They are fucking good and I am happy." He pounds his clenched fists into his knees as he says it, then opens his eyes. He looks down at his fists and relaxes his hands, letting out a short laugh. "Yeah okay so… Clearly things aren't so great if I'm staring through the window of a bar for fifteen minutes trying to talk myself out of thinking it would make me feel better to go in and have a drink." He shakes his head. "It's funny, after so long that's still where my mind goes. And, yeah, so maybe it would make it easier to handle, until I sobered up and realized what I was throwing away. Or, I don't know, maybe that's part of it, too. Maybe I don't just want to drink to cope with being freaked out about the baby, maybe part of me wants to drink until I ruin it all, everything I have now. Maybe every time I have something to lose I think it would be better if I just ruin it myself instead of waiting for something else to take it away." He's actually surprised to hear the words coming out of his mouth. These aren't things he thought he'd ever admit to anyone, not even Jude, and here he is spilling his guts in front of a room full of strangers. Fucking group, he thinks to himself, shaking his head. "Anyway. I didn't drink. I called my sponsor, came here, overshared…" He laughs a little, at himself, uncomfortable. "And after this I'm gonna go home to my house and my wife and I am going to be fucking grateful because things are good and I am so lucky to be here, at this point in my life, with everything I have ever wanted, and it's gonna be fine. We're gonna be fine, and everything is fine. So yeah. That's… what I've got. Sorry for rambling."
Tommy doesn't meet anyone's eye as the bearded man wraps up the meeting, and when it's over he stands quickly, grateful. As he's throwing away his empty coffee cup, Adam comes up behind him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Hey," he says softly. Tommy turns to him and he smiles. "Thanks for sharing, Tom."
Tommy shrugs. "I, uh, hadn't really meant to say all that. I hate it when people treat meetings like their own personal therapy session, you know? I guess I got carried away."
"Nah, mate," Adam shakes his head. "It was good. It's good to get things out sometimes. People understand that."
"I guess." He shrugs again. "Anyway, it was good seeing you, man. Thanks for picking up when I called."
"Yeah, 'course. Always." Adam smiles. As Tommy starts to turn away, he asks, "Would you like me to drive you? It's cold out there, and I 'spect the wife wants you home sooner than later, yeah?"
Tommy hesitates for a second, then nods. "Yeah, thanks, that'd be great."
They spend most of the drive in near-silence, save for Tommy giving directions, but as they pull up in front of the house, Adam says, "I know how you feel, I think." He's not looking at Tommy as he says it. "Of course the part about losing a child I can't imagine, thank the Lord, but the part about having one on the way, being terrified. And the part about the impulse to destroy it all before something else can take it from you. That's a place I've been, more than once." He looks over at Tommy. "As someone who's almost destroyed his marriage a few times, both before and after I quit drinking, my advice is that you have to talk to her."
Tommy feels a twinge of annoyance at being told what to do, but Adam isn't wrong, so he nods and sighs, "Yeah, I know."
Adam looks away again. "We talk in AA a lot about the idea of a higher power. For me that's, you know, God, but I wonder if for you it isn't… her."
"What?" Tommy asks, surprised.
"Not Jude the person, obviously, but maybe your belief in your love for her."
Tommy shifts in his seat, uncomfortable with someone else, another guy, no less, talking about his feelings for Jude in such frank terms. "Uh… I guess?"
Adam looks over. "Sorry if my saying so is awkward, it's just something I noticed. Your relationship has weathered a lot of these sort of very frightful storms, and maybe knowing that can be part of what keeps you believing you're stronger than the addiction. Because it does need to be something, or you won't stay stronger. That's really how the whole thing works. And the next few months—well, few years, really—they're not getting easier."
Adam can be a bit too fervent a believer in the 12 steps at times, often sounding like he's speaking directly from an AA pamphlet, but Tommy can see the logic to this explanation. He nods, slowly. "I see what you're saying."
Adam smiles. "Well, anyway, I need to get home as well, but if you need anything, you know how to reach me."
"Yeah." Tommy nods. "Thanks, man."
As he opens the car door, Adam says, "Congratulations, Tom. Seriously."
"Yeah. Thanks." Tommy smiles a little before getting out.
When he enters the house, Tommy sees the light on in the kitchen. As he's about to call Jude's name, she comes around the corner and says, "Hey, you're back."
"Sorry," he sighs as he follows her back to the kitchen. "I didn't mean to be gone so long."
She glances at the clock on the microwave. "Four hours." Her tone is neutral, but she's frowning a little. "Whose car was that? You didn't take one when you left, I checked."
"Adam," he answers, matching her carefully casual tone.
She seems confused for a second, struggling to place the name, then a look of surprise crosses her face as she realizes. "Oh!" she exclaims, then seems to regret it, saying in a calmer tone, "I mean, oh, that's nice of him to give you a ride. I guess." The little frown returns to her face. "You said you were… just going for a walk?"
"I was. I…" he sighs. "Sorry, it's sort of complicated. I, uh, I really need to take a shower. Can I do that first and then we can talk about it?"
Jude still looks concerned, but she nods after a moment. "Yeah, 'course."
"Okay," he says with a little smile. He closes the distance between them, putting a hand on the back of her head and pulling her in for a kiss.
She wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him back for a long moment. When she pulls back, she wrinkles her nose. "Oh. You do need a shower."
He rolls his eyes. "Told you. I walked like ten miles."
She reaches out to tug gently on the lapel of his jacket, looking up at him from under her eyelashes. "Want company?"
He shakes his head. "I just need to… get cleaned up." He reaches out to stroke her cheek. What he needs, really, is a chance to clear his head, put his thoughts in order before trying to explain everything to her. "Sorry."
"Okay." She nods, and pulls away. "It's good, actually. I was about to make food when you got here. I have a date with a burrito."
He has to laugh at that, shaking his head. "Far be it from me to interrupt that."
"Don't make fun of me!" she protests with a laugh. "I'm growing a human!"
"I wouldn't dream of it," he answers, maintaining his joking tone despite the little spike of anxiety at her words. "And I'll be quick." He leans in and gives her a short kiss on the lips before turning away.
"Tommy?" Jude's voice follows him as he starts to leave the room, and he turns around. She looks serious again. "Talk after, right?"
He sighs. "Yeah."
He stands in the shower for longer than he means to, just letting the hot water run over him. Adam's words about higher powers and weathering storms swim through his head, along with one persistent memory of Caroline's little face contorted and twitching and Jude screaming, "She's my baby! She's my baby! She needs me! I have to stay with her!" as nurses forced them from the hospital room. It's been the image in his nightmares lately, too, the one burned into his memory forever. He hasn't told Jude about that either, the dreams. He shakes his head once, to clear it, and finally finishes washing his hair and turns the shower off.
Jude comes in to the bathroom as he's pulling on his T-shirt. She's singing to herself, and she smiles at him as she goes to the sink and begins to remove her makeup. He watches her and a smile spreads across his face. He walks up beside her and leans against the counter next to her. "Is that one of mine?" he asks, recognizing the song she's half-singing, half-humming.
She nods, still looking at herself in the mirror. "It's stuck in my head. I was listening to it earlier."
He laughs. "Do you listen to my music when I'm gone?"
She shakes her head. "It came up on shuffle."
"Sure," he says, fake-skeptically.
She looks at him and rolls her eyes, but she laughs, too. "You caught me. I can't go four hours without hearing your voice."
He moves to wrap his arms around her from behind, murmuring, "I thought so," close to her ear. She puts her arms over his and laughs again as he kisses her cheek. He breathes in the comfortingly familiar scent of her skin and wonders why he ever wanted to be anywhere but here.
"I do play your songs for the baby sometimes," Jude says after a moment. "Like, I put the headphones on my stomach and play your music."
He pulls back, surprised. "Seriously?"
She nods. "I mean, yeah, they say that babies start to recognize voices and stuff. I figure she hears mine all the time, but I want her to hear yours." She turns back to the mirror, wiping off the last few smears of mascara. "I only play the quieter stuff, usually." She turns and tosses the makeup wipe into the trash, and he can't see her face when she says, "With Caroline I couldn't, because back then I didn't have any recordings of you."
There's a lump beginning to form in his throat, but he swallows and jokes, "You didn't break out the old Boyz Attack albums?"
She turns back to him, smiling. "If you think I want my unborn child listening to Chaz Blackburn…"
He laughs a little. "Okay, fair enough."
"And there will be plenty of time for our kid to be embarrassed by your dorky boyband past, we don't need to start her out this early."
"Hey!" he protests.
Jude laughs. "I'm sorry."
"Telling me my kid's gonna be embarrassed by me? Damn, Harrison, too far!" He's still smiling, and he is joking, but only mostly.
"I'm sorry," she says again, turning and stepping forward to wrap her arms around his neck. "I didn't mean it." She puts a hand on his cheek, running her fingers gently through the still-wet hair at his temple. "Of course she won't be embarrassed by you. She'll think you're the coolest and most talented dad in the whole wide world." She's smiling, and he rolls his eyes, but her tone is suddenly solemn. "Hey, no. I'm serious." He meets her gaze again, and her eyes are wide and earnest. "Tommy, you are an amazing father. I mean that."
His heart clenches, and he reaches up, brushing the hair from her face before leaning down to kiss her. She kisses him back, her hand on the back of his neck. He pulls her close, weaving the fingers of one hand through her hair and slipping his tongue past her lips as they part, her breath filling his mouth. It's a long-familiar feeling, this rush of gratitude, of love, but that doesn't make the surge of emotion any less intense. He feels Jude's fingers curl against his waist, pulling him as close as her belly between them allows. He slips the hand that's not in her hair down to cup her rear, but when he gently squeezes, she breaks the kiss, tilting her head up so his mouth lands on her chin. "Tommy…" Her voice is breathless but her tone is warning. He moves his hand back up to her hip and meets her eyes, raising his eyebrows slightly, questioning. She sighs. "We're getting distracted."
"You are very distracting," he says in a low voice, leaning in so their noses brush.
Her lips twitch in the beginning of a smile for a second, but she shakes her head slightly and pulls away again. "Tom…" she says in the same warning tone.
"I know," he sighs, pulling back farther. He looks at her for another long moment, reaching his hand up and trailing his fingers lightly over her cheek. "I love you," he murmurs.
Something in his face must worry Jude, because she frowns, looking concerned. "Are you okay?"
He almost makes a joke, brushes off the question, but decides against it. Instead he just nods and says, "Yeah, I'm good." He leans in and gives her another short kiss before pulling away completely. She gives him an expectant look, but he moves to his sink on the other end of the counter, grabbing his toothbrush. She sighs, but grabs her own and looks away from him. He isn't exactly sure why he's continuing to delay this conversation—especially since his anxiety about it will only get worse the longer he puts it off—but he's filled with a kind of dread about it. He fears her disappointment or her anger when he admits he's unsure, unready, terrified. Weak.
That's really the crux of it, he realizes grimly. He wants to be the strong one, wants to be there for her, be the voice of calm and reason. She's been struggling and hasn't hid it from him. He's held her when she's woken, shaking, from nightmares of hospitals and tiny white coffins, talked her down from panic over cribs and strollers, stroked her hair as she cried into his shirt more than once in the past few months when hormones pushed her emotions over the edge. The only time he lets his anxiety show is in concern for her, how she's doing. He likes playing that role, being the one who has his shit together. He wants to be her rock, wants her to look to him as someone she can rely on.
It's foolish, really, and he knows it. Jude knows him better than anyone else ever has or ever will, and she's truly seen him at his worst more than once. He doesn't genuinely believe there'd be a situation in which Jude thinks less of him for being scared about being a dad again, but that hasn't made it any easier to admit to her that he is. Maybe it's pride, maybe machismo, but whatever the cause, it clearly has gotten to the point where pushing the feeling down isn't working anymore. Sometimes he looks at her and all he wants is for her to tell him things are going to be okay. He wants to curl up with his head in her lap like a child and cry and have her stroke his hair and tell him it's okay to be afraid, that he doesn't need to keep being strong. There has to be a middle ground, he thinks, between repressing his feelings until they drive him to drink and devolving into the frightened little boy he was never really allowed to be.
Jude spits into the sink, so Tommy does too, though he's been hardly paying attention to what he's doing. He expects her to turn and fix him with her questioning look, but she doesn't, walking back into the bedroom instead. He follows, and as she sits on the edge of the bed to take her prenatal vitamins, he walks over to pick a T-shirt up from the floor and toss it in the hamper. He turns sharply back to her when he hears her suck in a breath and give a little "oh." She has her hand on her stomach and the fear spikes in him for a second, but he quickly forces himself to relax, and his tone is neutral when he asks, "You alright?"
"Yeah." She nods. "She just kicked me really hard, I wasn't expecting it. Here, I think you might be able to feel." He walks over to sit next to her on the bed, and she grabs his hand and places it on her belly. It takes a moment, but then he feels the slight movement. "Yeah?" Jude asks, and he gives a hum of confirmation, nodding. He thinks of the first time he was able to feel Caroline kicking, the sensation utterly bizarre and incredible, bringing with it a whole new mix of joy and terror. Their as-yet-unnamed daughter kicks again and he smiles. "Tommy?" Jude asks softly after a moment. He hears the worry and the sadness in her voice and looks up to see the same emotions in her eyes. "Where were you tonight?"
He sighs and pulls his hand back, sitting up and looking away. "I went for a walk," He pauses for a second, but continues when he hears her sigh. "And then I went to a meeting. First time in a while. Too long, maybe."
He looks back to her and she nods, but she's biting her lip. "Have you…" she hesitates, and he knows what her question will be before she asks it. "Have you been drinking?" There's no accusation in her eyes, just worry, but his heart sinks a little anyway.
"No," he answers honestly. She lets out a breath, looking relieved. "Is that what you thought?" he asks, sadly.
She hesitates again. "I… I don't know. I didn't think exactly, but I… worried, I guess."
"Well, no, I haven't." He looks away, down at his hands.
"Would you have told me if you had?" she asks softly, and he looks at her in surprise, wondering if that means she thinks he's lying. "I believe you," she says quickly, correctly interpreting his expression. "That's not what I meant. I meant, if I didn't ask, and you did… slip up, or whatever. Would that be something you would tell me?"
He starts to say yes, but then he hesitates, looking away again. "Maybe not," he admits quietly. "I wouldn't… I mean, I don't think I'd lie about it, but…" but I might be too ashamed to tell you.
"I wouldn't judge you," she says gently. He stiffens a little, and she says, "Really, Tommy, I wouldn't. I would understand. I just want you to be honest about it, yeah? I want to help. I can't be here for you if you aren't honest with me. I know it's hard, that it's probably always going to be hard for you. So even if you did mess up, it wouldn't… I wouldn't think any less of you, you know?"
He stands up, unable to stem the restless tension any longer, linking his hands behind his head and walking a few paces away. "Well, I didn't, okay? I'm not lying." It comes out more harshly than he means it to, and he turns back to look at her, feeling a twinge of guilt.
"I believe you," she says again, her eyes wide. "I didn't mean to make it sound like I don't."
Tommy sits down next to her again, and speaks very quietly, not looking at her. "I…" he sighs, squeezing his eyes shut for a second before quietly saying, "I came… pretty close, today. Closer than I have in a long time. It's why I called Adam."
"I'm proud of you," Jude says softly. "That's so, so good, Tommy."
He tenses a little at the words, irritation rising in him, he fights it back. "If you hadn't texted right when you did, then I don't know. I might have."
"But you didn't."
He shakes his head a little. "But I wanted to. Lately…" He sighs again. "It's been getting bad again. For a long time I honestly didn't even crave it, but these past few weeks…"
"Are you okay?" Jude asks again.
"I'm…" He chews on the inside of his cheek for a moment, trying to decide how to answer. "Struggling, a little," he finishes reluctantly. "Maybe more than a little." He mumbles the last part, looking down at his hands in his lap.
"The leaving? The walking?" she asks gently. "You've really just been going for walks?"
"Yeah," he confirms.
"They've been getting longer."
"I know." He sighs. "I'm sorry. I just…" He stands up again, full of anxious, restless energy. "I've needed… Needed to take a break, for a little bit."
"From me?" she asks, sounding hurt.
He turns back to look at her. "No," he insists. "Of course not. It's not you, it's just…" he trails off, feeling ashamed.
"Ah," Jude says, understanding. "From the baby stuff."
"I'm sorry," he says, looking at her desperately. "I know that isn't fair."
"Because I can't exactly take time off?" she asks with a wry smile, rubbing a hand over her belly.
"Jude…" he starts, but she shakes her head.
"It's okay, Tommy. I get it. I'm not mad. You totally deserve to take a couple of hours alone if you need to. I don't even mind you being gone, honestly, it's just that… I don't know, I've been worried about you. It's not just these long walks, it's more than that. You don't seem… I just want to know that you're okay. Sometimes everything seems fine but then sometimes…" She looks up at him with sad, concerned eyes. "You can talk to me, Tommy. I want you to talk to me."
He sits back down with a heavy sigh. "I'm sorry."
She slips her hand into his, entwining their fingers. "You've been having nightmares," she says softly.
He looks at her in surprise. "You know about that?"
She nods. "Babe, we share a bed. You toss and turn, sometimes you talk in your sleep." She squeezes his hand and says, even more quietly, "Sometimes you say her name."
He looks away. "Sorry if I woke you," he says reflexively, his voice tight.
"Don't," Jude says, a little more sharply. "Seriously, don't apologize for something like that. And anyway, I get them too, you know I do." Tommy nods, but doesn't reply. After a moment, she says, "I would've asked, but didn't know for sure if you remembered them. Even if you did, I didn't want to force you to talk about something you didn't want to talk about." He recalls a few times in the past couple months, Jude asking him over breakfast after a night of particularly bad dreams, with what he now recognizes as carefully cultivated nonchalance, whether he slept okay.
He doesn't say anything for a long time, and Jude lets the silence be. Eventually he says, "I'm…" he hesitates, but finally finishes, in a voice barely above a whisper, "I'm really scared, Jude."
She squeezes his hand tightly and leans her head against his shoulder. "I know. Me too."
"I'm trying to…" his voice comes out sounding strangled, and he breaks off.
"It's okay." She puts her other hand on his arm and presses her lips against his shoulder for a moment. "It's okay to be scared of this. It's… it is, it's terrifying. I get it. I'm scared too."
"I'm sorry," he says, his voice breaking. "I know I'm the one who pushed you into this."
"What?" She pulls away, sounding shocked. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"
He looks over at her. "Just that I'm the one who said we should have another kid."
"You think that's what happened?" Jude still sounds incredulous. "You think you pushed me into having a baby?"
"I convinced you we were ready. I'm the one who wanted this in the first place."
"I wanted it too!" she exclaims, then corrects herself. "No, I do want it! You think I would've agreed to something this big if I didn't want it?"
She's starting to look angry now, and he's at a loss for words. "I…"
When he doesn't speak, she says, "We tried for almost a year, Tommy! You think I did that just because I knew you wanted a kid? I'm the one who brought up IVF as an idea! You actually think I'm having this baby for you? I love you, but having a baby isn't something you do for someone else. I want this baby, I always did."
"I didn't say that you didn't!" he snaps, standing up from the bed again to look at her. "I just… I said we should have another baby, you said you weren't sure if you were ready–"
She cuts him off. "So you said that was okay, that we could wait, that even if I was never ready, that was okay too. That's the conversation you remember as you 'pushing me'?"
He's getting frustrated now, because he was trying to apologize to her, and now she's yelling at him. "I assumed you–"
She cuts him off again. "Did you not mean that? Were you not willing to wait?"
"Of course I was!" he cries, insulted. "Jesus, Harrison!
She speaks less angrily now. "Well, so, obviously you in no way pushed me into anything."
"What I meant was that I'm the one who convinced you that we were ready, and now…" The words die in his throat and he looks at her helplessly. "I'm not saying I don't want… I just…"
"Tommy," Jude stands up and reaches out to take his hands, "it's okay. I get it. You feel like you're letting me down by not being sure."
Something clenches in his stomach, a twinge of something it takes him a moment to identify. It's an old instinct to run, to shut down, flaring for a split second at hearing his insecurities voiced. He pushes it back. "Maybe," he admits. His voice is barely above a whisper as he says, "I do have a history of letting you down, after all."
"Tommy," she chides him, looking upset. "Don't say things like that. You know that's not fair."
"Sorry," he sighs. "Old habits, I guess." A wave of exhaustion washes over him, all of the stress of the night and the conversation and the past few months hitting him at once. He squeezes her hands and then lets go, sitting back down on the bed and putting his head in his hands with another heavy sigh. "I don't know what I'm trying to say anymore." He feels her sit next to him.
After a long moment, she says, "Do you know why I changed my mind, in that conversation? Why I went from not being sure to saying yes to having another kid?" He gives a hum, but doesn't lift his head. "It wasn't just because I could tell you wanted it, it was… I thought about you and me, and everything we've been through, and I thought about how great you were, with Caroline, and I just… I could see it, you know? I could picture it. You said that stuff about making sure our future kids know about Caroline, know that we loved her, and I… You made it so I could see it. I knew it was going to be hard. I was scared, even then. But there was never going to be a point where we were suddenly ready. We lost a child. That's… no matter how long we wait, nothing will ever make that okay. I think I realized that if we wanted to have another kid after that, no amount of time was ever going to stop it from being really really hard. And I do want it, Tommy." Her voice is soft and he finally looks up to meet her eyes. "I want this baby. With you. Because I'm doing it with you."
"Me too," he says, quietly, his voice choked with emotion. "I do too, Jude."
"So it's okay to be scared. I don't know if I'll ever stop being scared. I was scared with Caroline too. Having a kid is fucking terrifying. And after…" she sighs. "I don't know what's stopping me from messing her up by being way overprotective. Like, I'm pretty sure the first time she gets a cold I'm going to completely lose it."
He hadn't even thought about that, and the knot in his stomach pulls tight again for a second. "Shit, yeah. Me too." She leans her head against his shoulder and slips her hand into his. They're both silent for a long moment before Tommy says softly, "There are worse things than having a mom who worries about you."
Jude lifts her head and smiles a little, putting a hand on the side of his face. "There are worse things than having a husband who wants to protect you." He leans down and presses her lips to her forehead, but he doesn't respond. When he moves, leaning his cheek against the top of her head, she softly says, "You don't have to, though. You know that, right?" Jude lifts her head again and they look at each other. "We're in this together. You can let me be here for you too."
"Together," he confirms. "I know."
"You can do what you need to do, if you need time to yourself or… Just promise me you'll always come home?"
He grabs her hand again and holds on tight, squeezing her fingers. "Always."
A/N: I usually try to avoid AA meetings as an expository device because it feels lazy, but this is how this came out. The title is from a song by Kerrigan and Lowdermilk that has nothing to do with the story, but gets stuck in my head every time I look at the document.