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Draw Down the Moon

Draw Down the Moon 11

Dana held his hand while they drove home. John ran his thumb over the inside of her wrist and watched the dark city roll past the window.

“I want to take you to a hospital,” she said at last, her voice soft. “I want you to have an electrocardiogram and an MRI scan.”

“Dana—”

“But instead, I’m taking you home. Against my better judgment, we’re just going home and you’re going to get some sleep, and I’m going to schedule your physical for a few months early. And I’m going to ask your doctor to pay close attention to your blood pressure and your stress level.”

It seemed like too much bother to him. He was as healthy as an ox. “Are you mad at me?”

She didn’t answer for a moment. “No.” Another long silence while he tightly held her hand, then, quietly: “I just can’t lose you, John.”

“You’re not going to.”

“Can you promise me that?”

Something in her voice said it was more than a rhetorical question. He studied her profile in the dark and said, “I promise nothing’s going to happen to me until we’re both old and doddering. I promise I’ll only die of old age.”

She gave him a tight-lipped smile. “I worry so much about you.”

“Stop that,” he said, gently smoothing his fingers over the back of her hand.

“I’m serious.”

“D’you think I’m kidding? Stop worrying about me.” He went on rubbing her hand. “I love you and I’m not going anywhere.”

“John, we both know the odds—”

“I’m well aware of the odds, and according to the odds I should be dead a dozen times over. But I’m still here. I have a great partner to watch my back, I come from a long line of long-lived men, and my wife won’t feed me red meat anymore.
I’m set.”

“The red meat is for both of us,” Dana said, but she was smiling. He smiled too and squeezed her hand.

“Are we going to pick up Will at your mom’s?”

“There was a small change of plans. Mom said it would disturb Will too much if I get him up so late, so she came over instead. She was half-asleep on the couch when I left.”

“Oh,” John said. “Do you want to stop and get something to eat?”

“You’re hungry?”

“Those pretzels weren’t filling, but not really. We haven’t gone to a diner in the middle of the night for a long time, is all.”

During her pregnancy John had often accompanied her to quench her cravings. She’d hungered for tacos, bacon, mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits with sausage gravy, popcorn greasy with butter— and that was just for one meal.

Dana chuckled but said, “You need to rest.”

“I can rest later, if you’re hungry.”

She shook her head. “I’m not. I just want to go home.”

“All right.” He looked out the window again, once more absently stroking the soft skin inside her wrist.

After a few minutes more she said, “I had a phone call yesterday from an old friend of yours. Mrs. Kersh.”

“Oh? How is she?”

“Fine. We chatted for a few minutes. She mentioned wanting to give us a party.”

“Yeah. D.D. Kersh said that she wanted to a week or so ago. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you—other things came up.”

“I told her no—but if you want her to—I mean, you know her better than I do.”

“She’s a really nice woman. And Kersh isn’t all bad, really. He’s gruff but he’s not the enemy.”

“Do you want her to give us the party, John?”

“Yes,” John said quietly. “Our friends want to celebrate us, Dana.”

“Your friends.”

“Our friends,” he repeated. “Our friends, our families. People are happy for us, Dana. They’re happy for you.”

“They feel sorry for me. Knocked up and abandoned—”

“People like you a lot more than you think they do.”

“They thought Mulder was a crackpot and that I was nuts for sleeping with him.” She glanced at John and added, “Long before I actually was.”

He couldn’t deny that—he’d heard plenty of rumors before he actually met Dana, but he’d dismissed most of them as petty exaggerations. The truth as he knew it was both simpler and much more complex.

Her vein pulsed beneath his thumb. He said, “Lisa’s a good woman. I think you’d like her if you gave her half a chance. I worry about you getting too isolated.”

“I’m not isolated,” she muttered. They were approached their neighborhood now: familiar houses reposed in the dark, lit only by street lamps.

“Name three of our neighbors.”

“There’s Mrs. McKay next door . . . and the Gordons on the corner . . . and . . . across the street, they’ve got that little girl with the pigtails . . .”

“The Wickhams.”

“See?”

“If you get to worry about my health I get to worry about you not having enough friends. I think you’re an easy person to love.” He grinned at her. “But I kinda have an inside scoop.”

She thought about it while she pulled into their drive behind John’s truck. She turned off the engine and said, “If I accept her offer and we have the party—if I hate it, if I’m really not comfortable, will you promise we can leave?”

“Yes,” he said. “Absolutely.”

Dana looked down at the steering wheel and said quietly, “Okay. I’ll call her in the morning.”

“Betcha five bucks we have a lot of fun,” John said, his tone light. She was taking this far too seriously—it made him nervous.

“I’ll take your word on it,” Dana murmured and got out of the car.

Mrs. Scully was not asleep on the couch like John expected her to be. This was not what Dana expected either, it seemed: she hurried up the stairs, calling, “Mom?” in a soft but urgent voice. She stopped at their half-open bedroom door, and then pulled it shut.

“She’s asleep on our bed.”

“It’s so late, I’d hate to wake her,” John said.

“But you need to rest, John.”

“So do you.” He put down his suitcase by the door, took of his jacket and holster, and took her hand. “C’mon.”

“John,” she protested, but followed him down the stairs. “Where are we going?”

“How long has it been since you’ve stayed up and talked until dawn?” He led her to the back porch and drew her onto the lounge chair with him.

“It’s been a long time,” she said as she leaned back into his arms. “Mm . . . this is nice.”

“Mm . . .” John agreed, burying his nose in her hair. She was warm and yielding, comforting as a blanket during a thunderstorm. She was wearing a soft knit dress shaped like an overgrown t-shirt, and the skirt draped over their legs as they got comfortable in the lounge chair.

“But you do need sleep,” she murmured as she reached back to bring his arm over her ribs.

“I’ll sleep later.” The night was still dark, but he felt dawn approaching and it assured him. A new day would come. All would be well then.

“What did you want to talk about, if you’re not ready to sleep?”

“Oh . . . Stuff.” He stroked her belly.

“Mm.”

“How have things been while I was gone? Quiet?”

“Uh-huh. Quiet.” She shivered and pressed herself closer to him as a breeze blew over them.

John shut his eyes and breathed deeply, opened them and gazed at the night-black sky. “Good.”

She hummed again, nuzzling her head against his arm.

He watched the stars for a while, rubbing her stomach and stroking her arm, until he couldn’t keep it to himself any longer. “Dana? What are you afraid of?”

“Nothing at all, baby, now that you’re home.” She raised his hand to her mouth and kissed the back.

“I’m serious. Is there something that worries you that I should know about?”

She was quiet a moment and plucked at his sleeve. She said, “Three things. Losing William, losing you, and my cancer coming out of remission.”

“Oh, honey . . .” He pulled her closer and kissed the back of her neck. He was familiar with the scars there—one he had made himself, one that protected her life—but they never failed to break his heart. He buried his nose in her hair and whispered, “Are you ever afraid of me?”

“No. No, never,” she said as she turned over to look at him. They had to rearrange themselves again so she could lean against his chest and stroke his face. Her expression was serious. “I’ve never been afraid of you, not for a moment. Why do you ask?”

“I keep thinking about John Wilkes.”

“You’re nothing like that man.”

“But I could be.”

“No, you couldn’t.”

John grunted and touched her cheek. “It just seems so easy to go over that edge, you know?”

She shook her head. “No. That ‘edge’ isn’t even in you. I know you, John. I know your heart. I trust this heart.” She laid her fingers on his chest, and bent her head to kiss him. John ran his fingers through her hair but couldn’t relax enough to enjoy her touch.

“Amy Wilkes trusted her husband and look where it got her.”

Dana raised her head. “Okay. But where in your history do show the behavior of an abusive man?” John sighed and shifted uncomfortably, and Dana said, “The fact that you worry about it is a good sign. You understand that true strength isn’t in oppression but in kindness. That’s the measure of a man, John.” She studied his face, kissed him and laid her head on his shoulder, holding him close. “Do you want to know something else I love about you?”

“Besides my big feet?” He smiled against her hair.

“I love your big feet.” She kissed his chin. “And I love you because I know you’re going to raise my son to be a man just like you.” She raised her head again to look into his eyes. “The world needs more men like you, John. Needs them badly.”

John swallowed the lump in his throat, drew her down for another kiss, and kept his hand cupped on her cheek as she laid her head on his shoulder once more.

* * *

He slept a little, and dreamed he was searching for Luke in the Hoover bui
lding. He could hear Luke calling “Find me, Daddy! Find me!” with laughter in his voice, but every time he caught a glimpse of Luke the boy would disappear around another corner.

He awoke with a start, jostling Dana enough for her to murmur and shift. The back porch was starting to warm up with the morning sun, and birds chirped in the surrounding trees. Dana was still wrapped up in his arms, her head tucked beneath his chin. John gave her a quick squeeze and wondered if he could get up without waking her, to check on Mrs. Scully and the baby.

The back door opened and Mrs. Scully peeked out. “Oh, thank goodness,” she said. “I was so worried when I saw it was morning and you hadn’t woken me. Have you been out here all night?”

“Just since we got home from the airport. Is William awake yet?”

“No, not yet. Is Dana still asleep?” John nodded. “Well,” Mrs. Scully said after a moment. “Should I bring the baby out here before I go?”

“You’re not leaving already?”

“I wasn’t planning to stay the night,” she said. “I have a lunch date later.”

“John?” Dana murmured, lifting her head. She rubbed her face, blinking. “Is it morning?”

“Yes,” John said, gently smoothing the sleep from her eyes. “Take a minute.”

“We slept outside.”

“Yes, we did.”

“Okay,” she said and yawned. “Oh, hi, mom.”

“Hello,” Mrs. Scully said, sounding amused. “William slept through the night last night.”

“Oh, good. He’s been doing that more regularly lately.” She pushed herself off John’s body and slowly sat up. “Mm. Three hours of sleep is not good. I feel like I’m wrapped in wool. What are you smiling at?” she added, frowning at John.

“You’re so cute in the mornings.”

“Yeah, I’m adorable,” she said tartly, getting to her feet, and she went into the house.

“She misses her coffee,” John said to Mrs. Scully, who smiled in understanding.

* * *

Dana had called John bullheaded more than once, but she could be even more stubborn.

“You need bed rest and that’s final. I’ll cuff you if I have to.”

John put his hands over William’s ears. “Not in front of the baby, Dana!” He grinned at her when she blushed, and let William pull his hands away. “And you need sleep as much as I do. I at least slept on the plane.”

“I don’t have a head injury—”

“I have a bump. That’s not a head injury.”

“—nor have I fainted for no reason within the last six months.”

He tickled William, who was propped against his bare chest, and said, “I feel fine,” which made Dana smile in triumph.

“Bed rest,” she said, rising from the bed and closing her robe. She had changed clothes once her mother left, but William wanted to be fed before she could take her shower. “I have some errands to run this morning, so I’ll take William out of your way.”

“I could watch William.”

She paused on the way to the bathroom. “Are you sure? I shouldn’t be gone too long.”

“So it’s perfect. We’ll nap together and if he wakes up I’ll keep him amused.”

Dana thought about it a moment, then nodded. “All right. Thanks. Will you—would you mind calling Lisa Kersh, too? About the party?”

“Sure, but what if she has girly questions to ask you?”

The water started in the shower, but he still heard her snort. “Sure. Like I’ll know the answers better than you.”

John laughed and William twisted back to look at him, his face breaking into a smile. John kissed his head and got out of bed, holding the baby with one arm. “So,” he said to the shower door, “if she wants a Caribbean-themed party with teal and pink decorations and lots of flamingos, that’s okay with you?”

“You said she has good taste.”

“I’m teasing you.”

“Back in bed, John.”

“Will you come too?”

She opened the shower door to talk to him, and he tried not to be distracted by her flushed cheeks and bare, wet skin. “It’s daytime, John. I have things to do. I have to go to the store and work in the garden and do some ironing—”

“If you come with me back to bed you know I’ll stay there.” He grinned at her. “We need a honeymoon. Badly. We need a couple days when we can just . . . indulge.”

“Eventually, I promise.” She closed the shower door again. “When Will’s old enough for me to leave him alone for a few days.”

“Grow up faster,” John whispered into William ear, loud enough for Dana to hear, and William chortled, wiggling in his arms.

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