"How did it go?" Leah asked Howie. He looked up from his desk.
"Why are you still up?"
"I heard the phone ring. I know the time difference."
"She called from his house." He said, looking at the caller ID.
Leah walked over to him, sat on the arm of the chair and slipped her arms around his shoulders. She gently laid her lips on his temple.
"I know this is hard." She said quietly.
"How can you be so calm?" he asked, puzzled.
"Why are you so upset?" she asked.
"She's involved with Nick." He said sharply.
"I know and the age difference does concern me. . ."
"Leah, he has no means of support. He's in danger with the threats. Who knows when this legal battle is going to be over? Yes, he is way too old for her. . .she's just a child." Howie sighed.
"What were you doing when you were 22?"
"This is different."
"I know." She relented. "I don't know what to tell you, How. I've always liked Nick. He was 19 when I first met him, but he's always been a good man. Perhaps a little young and foolish back then, but he still has that heart of gold he's always had."
"He's literally twice her age. He already has a child." Howie said.
"I can't argue the facts with you." She sighed.
"Doesn't this bother you at all?"
"Yes. It isn't what I want for Lexie. Her life has always been so hard; I'd like love to come easier for her." Leah said. "She and Nick are both adults. We can't force them to do what we want."
"AJ is having her car taken from her."
"AJ is hurt."
"He'll probably sell the place in L.A."
"He probably will. What are you going to do? What are you going to do if Lexie says if Nick's not welcome here, she won't come?"
"I don't know. I can't deal with him right now."
"I know. Let's go to bed." She said, taking his hand and getting to her feet.
"How did it go?" Nick asked, walking in and seeing Lexie staring at the phone. She only shrugged. "CJ is in bed. Do you want to stay here or go back to the campus?" he asked. He came to her and sat on the edge of the desk. He smoothed her hair away from her face.
"Here." She said quietly.
"Okay. How about a hot bath or shower? You'll feel better." He smiled.
"Fine." She sighed, getting to her feet. Nick stopped her from walking past him.
"It'll be all right." He said, trying to sound cheerful. She slipped her arms around him and pressed her face into his chest.
"When do you return to court?" she asked.
"Two days from now. The third." He said. "When do classes start?"
"Classes start then too." She said. "I should probably head back to campus tomorrow after dinner."
"That would be fine. CJ isn't back in school until the following Monday." He said.
"When are we going to see each other again?" she asked.
"I don't know." He said. He felt her arms tighten around his body.
"It doesn't really matter. The whole world knows about us by now."
"True." He nodded. She straightened herself up and took his hands. She gave him a quirky little smile, which he returned.
"How about lunch on Thursday? I only have one class at 9:00 and my internship is only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays this quarter." She said.
"Where?" he chuckled.
"Right on the L.A. County Superior Court front stairs. I'll bring you something." She smiled.
"That would be pretty forward." He joked.
"Only if we're naked." She smiled.
Nick talked her out of her plans for a very public lunch, but they were able to get arrangements made to meet at a local restaurant's private suite. It was only two hours, but for the next three weeks, lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays became a ritual. Unfortunately, after nursing her roommate through the flu, she got it next and on the fourth week, she had to miss both dates.
Lexie's classes continued well, even if she was dragging herself to them while she was sick. AJ's car was gone the day after she first returned to class. She had to resort to public busses, which she got away with until the first week of February and the press found her. She called Nick one more time to cancel.
"I haven't seen you in almost two weeks." He said.
"I know, I know. I'm still sick. After Gina got it, I got it, Keelie got it, Jaz got it and now the twins; Emily and Emeila have got it." She sighed.
"You've had it twice now?"
"Yep. Gina's barfing again right now too." She sighed.
"She got it again too? Is that the entire floor yet?"
"Yeah, that's everyone." She sighed.
"I'm sorry you're so sick."
"Me too. Thanks for sending Cook with some food. Keelie and Jaz ate most of it. There were the only two who could keep anything down." She sighed. "They thank you, by the way."
"Tell them they are welcome." He chuckled.
"How's CJ? How are the cases going?" she asked.
Nick gave her an update on how things had been going so far. She told him that she and her Dad had spoken a little more, but they weren't really saying anything. He called when he got the doctor bill from her flu trip to the clinic and she told him she was sick. Howie did tell her AJ put his L.A. house up for sale and that Howie offered her another car. She accepted only because it was easier to avoid the press with one. He felt for her own safety that she needed one. It was a little blander than the one AJ had given her so she was hoping she'd be able to get around easier. She told him Jake and Kevin called her a couple times to check in, and he'd been talking to Brian. Nick told her that Brian was very supportive. She told him that Kevin seemed to be, but they didn't really discuss it.
After being sick on and off for four weeks, the campus health department came into their dorms trying to find a reason. Keelie, Jaz and the twins seemed to get better, but Lexie and Gina weren't doing well. It would come and go, but both seemed to get better in the last week. Nonetheless, both Gina and Lexie were dragged down to the clinic for a battery of more tests.
"I can't believe this." Gina said, staring at the consent form. "A pregnancy test?"
"What?" Lexie asked, flipping through her paperwork.
There it was. It asked for her last menstrual cycle.
"Lex, you okay?" the perky little blonde asked. Lexie pointed to the question. "What about it?. . .oh."
"It was back in December." She whispered.
"You didn't have one in January or February? When were you with Nick last?"
"New Year's. . .no, right when we got back. It was just two days later. . .G, I can't be pregnant!" she gasped. Her heart began to race.
"Let's relax. You've been under a lot of stress. . ." Gina began.
"Gina, I've never missed. Ever! Oh, shit. This can't be happening!" she whispered harshly.
"Calm down. I know I’m not pregnant. I've got my cycle right now. It's got to be something else." Gina sighed.
It wasn't though. Not for Lexie.
She couldn't believe her ears when the doctor told her she was nearly two months pregnant. She sat stunned in his office.
What was she going to tell her parents? What about her classes and her degree? What if the press found out? What was she going to tell Nick? God! This is the last thing he needed right now! A baby? How was she ever going to have a baby right now? Seven months from now? What would AJ say?
Her hands were shaking when she dialed Nick's number that night. It was Monday and she made plans with him to have dinner Tuesday night. He promised to have CJ sent to Aaron's for the night. She hoped he hadn't noticed she was nervous.
He didn't notice on the phone, but he certainly noticed when she got there. She ate in virtual silence and didn't move from the table until after Cook announced she was leaving for the night. Nick slipped a hand onto hers as it set on the table. He laughed when she nearly jumped out of her skin.
"Sweetie, relax. I know it's been awhile. . ." he smiled.
She got to her feet and stepped away from the dinning room table.
"Nick, there's something I need to tell you. Could you come over here?" she asked, walking over the living room area.
"Uh. . .sure." He chuckled, wiping his mouth and leaving the napkin on the table. He went to the couch and sat down as she stood by the fireplace. "What's going on?" he said with a smirk. She turned to face him and he could tell she was about to tell him something serious. "Baby, what is it?" he asked, leaning forward.
"I. . .there is something I need to tell you, Nick. It's pretty important." She began. "You know I've been sick with the flu all this time?"
"It wasn't the flu. Campus Health came over to the dorm and we all had to go in for a battery of tests."
"What is it? Are you okay? Was it food poisoning or something. . ."
"Nick, I'm pregnant." She said, straight out. She tried to read his face. Gauge his reaction.
"Oh my god." He said stunned, falling back into the overstuffed couch.
"I'm sorry. There's no easy way to tell you." She said.
"Have you decided what you're going to do?" he asked.
"How could I? I haven't spoken to you yet." She said, her voice beginning to shake. In the last 24 hours, what could she decide? She didn't know what to do. She knew she had to tell him. She had to be honest with him and allow him to decide what he wanted, regardless of what else was going on in his life. "I thought we should talk about it first."
"I wasn't planning on having any more children." He began to mutter. "The future is so uncertain right now." Nick got to his feet and began to pace.
"It's still early. We can terminate. . ."
"No! Lexie, don't do that." He said suddenly. He ran up to her and took her by the arms. "Let's have it. You and me. We can do this. I didn't realize you'd be in my life, that's why I wasn't planning to have any more children."
"Nick, this is just bad for both of us. I'm only four months away from graduating. . ." she began, trying to be fair to him.
"You can quit until. . ."
"What? I'm not quitting!" she snapped, her head flying up to look at him.
"You can always go back. Let's face it, Lexie, you won't have to work with me. . ." Nick continued, not registering her reaction to his statement.
"Are you nuts?!" she snapped, stepping away from his grip. "This is my dream! I've worked my whole life for this! I studied hard in high school, I've maintained the honor roll through all of this crap with AJ, with you! I'm not giving it up!"
"Lexie, that's not what I'm saying. . ."
"I still have my post graduate studies. . ." she began, rambling.
"Maybe we should reconsider then." He said.
"I'm sorry, Nick. I don't know what I want." She said quietly. "I'm scared."
"Lex, don't be scared. I'll be here for you, regardless of what you decide." He said quietly.
"Do you want to have this baby? Is that what you really want?" she asked him honestly.
"I love you. I'd love to have children with you, but it would be wrong if we didn't consider your life and what you want. My situation isn't very stable right now." He said.
"It is a bad time."
"Yes, the timing isn't that good. I'm sorry, I should have been more careful." He said, his eyes casting down to the plush carpet below his feet.
Lexie considered this. All of it. She walked over and laid her hands on both of his upper arms. She felt his muscles flex under her touch. Suddenly, Nick felt real and more like a man than he ever had. She could feel his heart pounding in her chest. She ran her hands down his arms slowly and then pulled his hands out of his slacks' pockets. They stood infront of the dormant fireplace holding hands.
"Now, later, I guess it doesn't really matter." She said quietly with a shrug. He looked up into her eyes. "I love you."
"I love you." He whispered back. She leaned forward, rested her forehead on his chest and he kissed the top of her head. "Are you sure?"
Yes. Her heart sang. She chuckled lightly when she heard the once-still voice. She spoke its bidding, "Yes. I'm sure."
Nick and Lexie decided to wait on telling anyone until after the first trimester was over. They weighed what they thought everyone's reaction was going to be. Lexie regretted the fight with AJ and wish ed she had been able to see things from his perspective sooner. She worried that her relationship with him and Howie wouldn't recover soon enough for them to accept the pregnancy and this turn her relationship with Nick had taken. She still didn't believe that Howie had ever forgiven her for leaving the first time. She didn't have the heart to tell Nick that she didn't think her dad would ever forgive her for lying about her involvement with him.
Nick was concerned about Lexie's safety and his own inability to be more involved with the pregnancy. He was also worried about what CJ's reaction might be. She would be seven at the end of the month. He had to consider what this might do to their relationship, especially since Lexie wouldn't be moving in until after graduation. He wondered if CJ's feelings for Lexie would change too.
The evening turned to topics that were more fun. They cuddled up on the couch and began to play the name game.
"What do you think?" he asked.
"I've always liked Stephanie."
"Hmmm, Stephanie Carter." He mused. "What if it's a boy?"
"I don't know. Do you think we should come up with some good initials?" she suddenly laughed in his arms.
"AJ? BJ? CJ? DJ?!" he laughed with her.
"Sure, how about Delilah Jane." Lexie smiled.
"Delilah? No, Devon."
"Ooh, Devon Carter. That's good, we could go either way with that one. Jane for the middle?"
"I didn't realize you liked my mother that much." He teased.
"Well, we aren't exactly best friends." She sighed, "But this might go a ways toward winning her over."
"Don't you worry about my mother." He laughed, kissing the top of her head. "How about Janelle?"
"God, I've always hated that name." She said. "So did my mother, that's why she started calling me Lexie."
"Your mom did that?"
"Yeah. Did you think Howie did?"
"Yes. I mean, AJ always referred to you as 'Alexis'." Nick said.
"He did? That's weird." She shrugged. "My name is Alexandra. . .weird."
"I know, we didn't get it either." Nick said.
"How about 'Jillian'?" Nick asked.
"Jill would love that."
"Yeah, that's reason alone not to do it."
"Nick! That's mean!" Lexie declared.
"Oh, I love Jillie, she's just teases me all the time."
"Oh, poor baby. Did Jillie hurt your feelings?" Lexie teased.
"Hey, just wait. She'll turn on you some day, then you'll know what I mean." Nick warned her, laughing.
"She'd never do that. I've got the sisterhood on my side." She laughed. "So, after I move in, what do you think of building the next nursery closer to the bedroom?"
"Sure." He said.
"Why is CJ's room so far from yours anyway? I mean, I can understand the need for privacy, but she's at the other end of the house."
"That's how Christine wanted it. She didn't want to hear CJ cry. I used the monitor and would sleep down there myself when I got up with her in the night."
"She didn't get up at night? How did she nurse her?"
"She didn't. CJ was bottle fed from the moment she came home. Christine would never do it."
"Why did she really leave, Nick?" Lexie asked.
He was quiet for a moment before he answered. His mind flew back to the last conversation he had with her as he began to tell Lexie the story.
"Chris, where the hell are you? Where's CJ?" he demanded over the phone. He had come home to find Cook crying frantically, not knowing where she and the baby were.
"The baby is with Jill." Christine said.
"Jill's not at home." He said, looking at his watch.
"I took it over to her office."
"It? Chris?! What have you done? Where are you?" he demanded.
"I'm leaving, Nick." She said plainly.
"What about CJ? Chris, you can't just walk out like this! I'll move out, you can stay at the house. . ." he began.
"No, Nick. I don't want to see you or the baby." She said.
"Why? Chris, look. I know you're angry with me about this new tour, but you and CJ can come with me. I really want you to be there. . ."
"I don't want to see you or the baby again!" she snapped.
"Chris? What am I supposed to do by myself?"
"You'll be fine. You're a great father. . ."
"Chris, CJ needs a mother. We can make some kind of arrangements. . ."
"Nick, I never wanted to have the baby."
"What!?" he said stunned.
"I had it for you. You can keep it. I've got to go." She said. Nick could hear airport noise in the background.
"Chris, what are you talking about? Chris?! Chris?!" he yelled as she hung up the phone.
Cook was as stunned as he was. He knew Christine wasn't very happy here, but life wasn't unpleasant. They never exchanged 'I love you' and Nick just figured he would never, ever be in love. He had grown to accept that this would be his fate, especially after Christine became pregnant.
When Jill told him what Christine had done at her office, it was she who was able to convince him that Christine had never been happy. In the months that followed, Jill ultimately pushed him to carry on without Christine and to build his own life with his daughter.
"What?!" Lexie said, stunned.
"Even while she lived here, me and Cook took all the responsibility for CJ. My mom, Jill or one of my sisters would help out." Nick said.
"She's never kept in touch? Never asks about CJ?"
"Never. She left and hasn't ever contacted me. I heard she was with someone else in New York, but that was nearly two years ago. Brian ran into her at some event out there. I don't even know where she is now."
"What are you going to tell CJ?"
"CJ has never asked." He shrugged. "I don't know what I'll tell her. She knows other children have mothers. Maybe just thinks she and I are just the way it is for her. I don't know. She's seen pictures of Chris, but doesn't seem to care."
"Maybe she already senses it."
"Are you afraid Christine is going to come back and ask for CJ?"
"No. I was for a while, but it's been almost 5 years. I doubt she'll come back. I don't even know if she's still alive." He said. "I do wonder about her parents though. I wonder if they know they have a grandchild."
"You never met them?"
"No. It was a strange relationship, but I don't question it much. I got CJ out of it and she's the best thing I could've ever hoped for." He said.
"I can't imagine doing that, Nick. I know I don't have a world of experience here, but even when I was bouncing back and forth on what would be best for us, I couldn't imagine hurting you, or CJ, or the baby with this pregnancy." She sighed.
"You've been thinking about her a lot?" he asked.
"About Christine? Yes. I was wondering why she wasn't here for CJ through all of this. I guess I can understand her wanting to avoid you during all of this, but CJ? How could she leave her child to these wolves?"
"I'm glad CJ had you."
"I'm glad I could be here for her. I love her too, Nick." Lexie said.
"You're going to be a fabulous mother." He smiled, kissing her temple.
"Thanks. We already know what a great Dad you are." She smiled.
Lexie spent the night sleeping in Nick's arms, beginning to feel for the first time like there was a chance at a real future. They would be like a real family.
She returned to her campus life, with only Nick and her roommate Gina knowing for sure that she was pregnant. Her morning sickness carried on for another two weeks, but Gina helped her cover that up. She and Nick resumed their twice a week lunches and shared more evenings at his home. As it became more habit, it was reported less on the news.
Nick noticed a change in Lexie. She didn't hide from the press. She dealt with them straightforwardly and with her head up and with an amazing amount of self-pride. She seemed much calmer and more focused than she'd ever been. She studied, she worked, and she lived like she owned the world. Lord knows she owned his heart.
As April rolled in from March, they knew it was time to tell the families the truth. Things with AJ and Howie hadn't really improved during this time. Howie seemed less and less willing to talk. Sometimes he was just fine, sometimes he was very distant. Lexie knew better than to try to enlist her mother's help. Leah would never push Howie into anything, but standby and let him find his own way. Lexie did talk to her mother a couple times a week, twice as much as she talked to Howie. Nick and Lexie wrestled with ways to tell them. They decided to tell CJ first, then the rest of Nick's family. Nick and Lexie sat the now seven-year-old CJ down one evening.
"What is it, Dad?" she asked, looking at their serious faces. Nick started a little as she looked at him. For so long it'd been just him and her; he had almost forgotten how well she could read him.
"Well, you know Lexie has been spending more time here." He began.
"Yes." She nodded.
"And you know that Lexie and Daddy love each other and you very much."
"Yes." She nodded again.
"CJ, Lexie and I are going to be having a baby. It should be born around October 1st." he said.
CJ was silent for the longest time. She cocked her little light-haired head at him.
"Is Lexie going to stay after the baby is born?" she asked.
Nick felt the bile churn in his stomach. She knew! She knew her mother left her!
"Yes." Lexie answered for him. "I love you, CJ, and your Dad. I'm not leaving after the baby is born."
"I'm glad. I love you, too, Lexie. I don't want you to leave me and Daddy." She said quietly.
"Well, I'm not leaving."
"Promise?" she said.
"I promise." Lexie smiled squeezing Nick's hand.