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Author's Chapter Notes:

Alyssa spends her first anniversary without Sean.


Chapter 20 - Table For One


            The next week leading up to Alyssa and Sean's first wedding anniversary passed by in a blur for Alyssa. Although she finally found herself beginning to adjust to not having Sean around, it did not make her miss him any less. At first, a part of her had felt a little relieved that they'd have some space between them, but after her conversation with Kim and Callie the week before, she'd done a lot of thinking about her feelings for Sean. Right before he left, she'd felt incredibly mixed up; torn between her feelings for him and her feelings for Nick. The guilt associated with sleeping with Nick had still been quite fresh in her mind at the time. Now as time passed the guilt had finally begin to subside slightly. Not to say that she was completely over what had happened between them. She wasn't sure if that would ever happen. She'd just reached a point of understanding where she was able to analyze her relationships with both men and she'd come to the conclusion that although she felt an amazing physical attraction to Nick, she wasn't sure if she could actually see them having a relationship. Sean on the other hand may have lacked that excitement and passion, but underneath all of that was really a very genuine and sweet guy; the kind of guy she knew would take care of her and be a good father someday to their children. Nick had made it quite clear that children just really weren't on his agenda which Alyssa had definite problems with. Sean may not have come off as the better man on the surface, but a part of Alyssa did truly care for him and even loved him. And she'd pissed that all away, sending him off without truly conveying that.


            Alyssa tried to keep herself as busy as possible so that she didn't have the time to dwell on her personal problems. Babysitting Gavin took up a lot of her time and energy. She found that by the time Kim came by to pick him up at the end of the day, she was completely exhausted. She wasn't sure what was wrong with her lately, but she'd come very lethargic and it wasn't as if she was doing a lot. She was much busier during the school year. Now she'd sit down on the couch for a few minutes and next thing she knew she'd be out for a little cat nap. She really needed to start taking more vitamins and eating healthier. Since Sean had been gone, she'd had little desire to cook for just herself, so more often than not she'd pick up some fast food or pop a TV dinner into the microwave if she decided to eat at all.


            Now that the day of her anniversary had arrived, Alyssa was unsure of exactly how she should feel. She'd always imagined that her first wedding anniversary would be full of excitement and romance and overall just a very special, memorable occasion. She supposed she could classify this as memorable at least. The fact that she was spending it alone while her husband was overseas was certainly something that she couldn't forget.


            Even though both Callie and Kim had offered to hang out with her today and get her mind off of Sean, Alyssa had politely declined, instead opting to spend the day by herself. She knew that it would probably be pretty lonely, but she just didn't feel like having to pretend that today was just another day and that everything was perfectly fine. Since it was a Saturday, she didn't have to watch Gavin today, so she'd pulled the covers over her head and spent most of the morning catching up on much needed sleep.


            The shrill sound of the phone ringing around 11:30 forced Alyssa to pop out of the tightly wrapped comforter she had cocooned herself and pick up the phone. "Hello?" she answered groggily.


            "Happy Anniversary baby," Sean's voice greeted her on the other end of the line.


            "Sean?" The sound of his voice was enough to completely perk her right up. "It's so great to hear from you! I didn't think that you'd be able to call today at least I wasn't counting on it."


            She could practically picture him grinning on the other end of the line. "Well, I only have a few minutes, but did you honestly think I'd let our first wedding anniversary go by without doing everything in my power to talk to you?"


            Just hearing his voice was enough to cause Alyssa to be overcome with emotion. Already she could feel tears stinging her eyes and she immediately felt stupid. God, I'm crying at the drop of a hat lately. When did I turn into such a sap? she wondered as she wiped her eyes. "You don't know how happy I am to hear your voice again. I've missed you so much and it's only been what? Two weeks?"


            "I know. I've missed you too. I hope that you're doing okay on the base by yourself. I keep thinking about you all the time. It makes the time pass quicker as corny and cliché as it sounds," he admitted.


            "That's not corny at all," she whispered. "I've been surviving. Callie, Kim, and I have been leaning on each other a lot for support since you all left. I've been helping them out a lot with the kids. I'm watching Gavin during the week for Kim while she works."


            "I hope that's not weird for you being around a baby and all that," Sean commented in a concern voice.


            Alyssa shook her head. "No, it's actually kind of comforting in a way. It makes me even more excited for you to come back, so we can keep trying."


            "Have you made an appointment to go down to the fertility clinic again by yourself to get the results?"


            "No, not yet," she replied. "Everything's just been a little crazy right now, so that's put on hold for a bit."


            Thankfully Sean decided to change the subject. "So, are you doing anything special today to celebrate?"


            Again Alyssa shook her head. "Uh, uh. It just doesn't seem quite right to celebrate without you. I'll probably get up and do some housework or something. Maybe I'll splurge and order a pizza or something tonight. Sounds exciting right? What about you? How is everything going over there?"


            "Not too bad yet. We haven't really been in any combat situations just yet thank God. I heard-" At that point the line was full of static and Alyssa found herself unable to hear what Sean was saying.


            Grr! Damn long distance service, she grumbled to herself as her voice searched for him through the muffled reception. "Sean? Sean? Are you still there?"


            "Alyssa? I can't... too well. I think... cut off." She frowned trying to fill in the blanks with the odd word or two she was able to catch as he was breaking up. "I lov-" Click. The line went dead before he could even finish his sentence.


            Alyssa stared down at the phone in frustration as her fingers dejectedly pressed the end key. It wasn't fair that the first time she'd gotten to talk to him since he'd arrived in Iraq, they had to be separated by a bad connection. And on their anniversary no less.


            Just my luck. She rolled her eyes as she slid out of bed figuring that she may as well get out of bed and at least attempt to do something productive. It was a lot better alternative than sitting around sulking all day.



            A few hours later Alyssa was standing on her kitchen in a pair of raggy sweats and a three quarter sleeved football jersey style shirt with her hair piled messily on top of her head. She was struggling to push the vacuum cleaner across the carpet when she heard her doorbell ring over the loud noise. "I'm coming!" she shouted as she switched off the vacuum and  made her way towards the front door wondering who it was She hoped it wasn't Callie or Kim or any of her other friends stopping by to check up on her. She really wasn't much in the mood for company at all.


            When she opened up the door she was surprised to see a delivery man holding a large bouquet of flowers in his arms. "I have a flower delivery for Mrs. Alyssa Robinson," he reported.


            "That's me," she told him as she took the pad and pencil from his hand and signed for the delivery the whole time wondering who they were from. Probably Sean, she thought with a smile. Even though he was halfway around the world he'd still found some way to do something special for her which cheered her up a great deal. He's too sweet.


            The man handed her the bouquet of flowers and nodded his head at her. "Have a great day and congratulations."


            "Thank you." She shut the door behind him and carried the bouquet of flowers back into the kitchen, so that she could get a vase to put them in. Once she located one she started to unwrap the cellophane paper around them until she spotted a card. Setting the flowers down on the table, she picked up the card and opened it gasping at the message that was written inside.


To Alyssa,


            Happy First Anniversary! I know that you're going through a rough time right now and I know that it's tough not having Sean here with you today, so I thought that the flowers might cheer you up. If you ever need a friend to talk to, please give me a call. I know that things have gotten weird between us, but I also don't want to lose you as a friend.


                                                                                                                                  Love, Nick


            Alyssa stood there frozen in shock. She'd never in a million years expect the flowers to have come from Nick. She knew he meant it as an innocent gesture, but after what had went on between them, the move seemed all too coincidental. She hadn't even remembered ever telling Nick the date of her anniversary. Izzy probably mentioned it to him, she deduced. She blew out a huge breath, not sure exactly what she should do. Simple etiquette told her that the polite thing to do would be to call him up and thank him for the flowers, but that would require having a conversation with him, which she was hesitant about. She'd just about convinced herself that her feelings for him were just created out of self doubt over her relationship with Sean. Now that he was sending her flowers and offering her a shoulder to lean on, those feelings of confusion were beginning to creep up on her again. Damn him, she silently cursed as she stared at the phone, wondering what to do.


            After a few moments of considering her options, Alyssa realized how dumb she was being. She couldn't hide from Nick forever and that's exactly what she'd been doing for the past few weeks. She couldn't just cut him out of her life and expect him to vanish into thin air. He was always going to be around and she was going to have to deal with him eventually. Better to clear the air between them now before the situation got any worse. Besides, if she really cared as much about Sean as she seemed to think she did, she should have no problem discussing with Nick the night they had shared and hopefully then she'd finally be able to put the ordeal to rest.


            Very tentatively, she picked up the phone and bit her lip as she dialed Nick's cell phone number. It rang a once or twice before she heard Nick answer on the other end.


            "Ahh, so you're alive after all," he teased. "I was beginning to think that you had vanished off the face of the earth. You know, I thought I was supposed to be the one to run off and not call afterwards, not the other way around. You don't strike me as much of the ‘love em and leave em' type."


            Alyssa just rolled her eyes into the air. "I'm not. I just had a lot of thinking to do. There was a lot of shit I needed to figure out." She quickly remembered her original purpose for calling and momentarily shifted the conversation. "I just wanted to thank you for the flowers. I definitely wasn't expecting them from you, but it was a sweet thing to do."


            "No problem," he told her. "Izzy told me about Sean being deployed and everything and I really thought that you'd probably be pretty bummed today. So, I thought the flowers might brighten up your day a little bit."


            Her expression softened. When did he decide to become so sweet? she wondered. "They were very thoughtful of you."


            "So, how are you holding up? You sound kind of down. Have you heard from Sean at all?"


            "I'm doing okay. As good as can be expected I guess. I'm a little lonely without him around, but I guess that's normal," she reported. "He called earlier and we talked for a few minutes, but then we got disconnected."


            "That sucks," Nick sympathized. "Please tell me that you're at least spending tonight with some friends or something though, right? Sitting at home feeling sorry for yourself is only going to get you more depressed."


            Alyssa hesitated for a moment. "Actually I'm not doing anything tonight. My two neighbors offered to keep me company, but they have their kids and right now I just don't feel like being around all that. It'll be okay though. I'll probably curl up with a book or something to get my mind off of things."


            "That's really not good," he chastised. "You need to be around other people right now. As it is I know since Sean has gone to Iraq you haven't hung out with Izzy or Teri or Tricia. You need your friends now more than ever."


            Since when is he such an expert on what I need? Alyssa wondered, taken back by his criticism. "Well, thanks for your opinion, but I'd rather be alone right now."


            "I'm coming over," he impulsively announced. "I'm coming over to keep you company and I'm going to bring you some dinner and some movies to get your mind off being alone for a while."


            "Nick that's really not necessary... I'll be fine on my own. I'm just really not up to any visitors right now."


            If Nick heard her he just kept talking as if he hadn't. "Should I bring Chinese or should I just do pizza? What are you in the mood for? And definitely a funny movie, right?"


            "Nick! I'm really not in the mood to be around anyone. You're not coming over."


            "Come on Lyss," he begged. "You can't say no because I'll just show up anyway. I'm worried about you." He paused and continued in a more serious tone of voice. "Listen if you're afraid of something happening like the last time we were together, I promise I'm not going to try anything, especially not on your wedding anniversary. That would just be wrong on so many levels."


            Alyssa was silent for a moment as she thought it over. It was so strange him bringing up the last time they were together like it was no big deal really. But he had a point there. Even he realized how fucked up it would be if they hooked up again tonight of all nights. His offer seemed genuine and completely innocent. And Alyssa figured she could use the company of someone else.


            "Come on..." He continued to whine. "I don't bite."


            "You do too, liar," she argued, with just the slightest hint of a grin.


            "Okay. You got me. But to be fair you do too sometimes. But I promise, no biting tonight."


            "Fine," Alyssa reluctantly agreed. "You can come over and keep me company, but bring Chinese food. I want chicken chow mien."


            "As you wish," he told her. "I'll be by in like another hour or so, okay?"


            "Sure." She just hoped that she was doing the right thing and not causing herself any more problems. She couldn't deal with anymore emotional turmoil right now on her plate.



            As promised, Nick showed up at her door a little more than an hour later with a plastic bag full of white square Chinese food cartons and a few movies. Alyssa had decided not to do anything extremely special to make herself look nice, since she really was definitely not looking to impress him. She had kept her sweats on from before and only added just enough makeup to hide the fact that she looked as if she hadn't really been sleeping lately. She'd already set up some plastic utensils and paper plates in the living room and as soon as he arrived and they exchanged hellos, they began digging into the food.


            "So what movies did you bring?" Alyssa asked as she scooped a large spoonful of rice onto her plate.


            "Snakes on a Plane and The Matrix," he replied, already beginning to eat.


            Alyssa rolled her eyes and groaned. "I thought you were going to bring funny movies. Like as in comedies. Not action movies."


            "Snakes on a Plane is a funny movie! Come on, what could be more ridiculous then Samuel L. Jackson saving a plane full of people from highly poisonous snakes while flying across the country? That's pure genius there! And The Matrix is just fucking awesome."


            "Yea... So fucking awesome that I always wind up falling asleep about halfway through it. So, typical of you! Only thinking about yourself," she teased in an overdramatic voice.


            Even though she was just kidding with him, Nick's reaction was quite serious. "I only think for myself? That's not the same way you seemed to feel the last time we were together."


            Alyssa was silent for a few seconds as her mind scrambled in disbelief. She couldn't believe that he'd actually brought up their hooking up so casually like that. It completely threw her off the way he'd mentioned it. She'd walked right into that one. Now if she could just think of something to say!


            Luckily Nick noticed her stunned silence and continued for her. "We can't just pretend like it never happened and not talk about it. It's going to be on the back of our minds until we do, and I don't know about you, but I find it really awkward walking on eggshells around each other."


            "You mean more awkward then the fact that we not only made out with each other in your basement, but we slept together not once, but twice at the condo that I was supposed to move into three years ago? Not to mention the fact that oh yea, we're married to different people?" Alyssa finally managed to blurt out once she found her voice.


            "I guess not," he admitted. "But we wouldn't have to do one if the other hadn't happened." He paused for a moment before asking the one question that had bothered him ever since he woke up that morning. "Why did you sneak out on me like that? What was that all about?"


            Alyssa let out a long sigh. "I don't know... I just woke up and saw what had happened and I guess the enormity of what I'd really done hit me. I was so mixed up and confused and guilty that I just couldn't face you just then. I needed time to process what had really happened. God, it was hard enough facing Sean afterwards. I really needed some time to do some heavy thinking."


            "Okay... but then how come you just continued to ignore me?" he pressed. "I tried giving you space and it was like you'd forgotten that I existed. No offense, but that's not really typical of you."


            "I didn't mean to pretend that you weren't something I had to deal with," she confessed. "The past few weeks have been emotional hell for me. First I wind up hooking up with you, which caused all kind of complications and forced me to reconsider my feelings for Sean. Then just when I'm the most confused, Sean gets deployed to Iraq making me feel even guiltier. Now all of a sudden I'm trying to adjust to a life without him for the time being and it's a really rough transition for me. I guess I just wasn't quite ready to face you on top of everything else."


            Nick placed his hand on her arm and looked her in the eye. "You can't just run away from your problems Alyssa. I know it's really crappy timing, but it happened and we need to deal with it. The way I see it, the ball is in your court here. You're the one who has the most to lose. So, what do you want to do?"


            Alyssa just looked away helplessly. She didn't like being put into this position because she honestly wasn't sure what she wanted. Plus, she wasn't sure how serious Nick was. Did he mean that if she said that she wanted to divorce Sean and be with him, that he'd be open to a relationship with her? Somehow she doubted it. Nick was more of the "let's see where this leads to" type guy. Besides, in all honesty she didn't feel like she could abandon Sean now in good faith. She'd have to wait until he returned and then see where their relationship stood. "I don't know Nick...  I know you're not a big fan of Sean's, but him being deployed really put a lot into perspective for me. He's definitely been neglecting me lately, but I don't think it's necessarily his fault. We've a lot of crap going on with the whole trying to get pregnant thing by a certain deadline thing. I kind of have a feeling that maybe when he comes back from Iraq and there's not as much pressure on us, things will get better."


            Was it her imagination or did Nick actually look a little disappointed? "So, you're saying that you want to give him a second chance?"


            She nodded. "Yea... I think I owe it to him. I mean I'll admit you and I were just incredible, but how many times can we go down the same path? I really want to keep you in m life as a friend, but I'm not sure if that's the wisest decision. Sean is my husband and I can't just walk away from him the very first time I don't feel completely satisfied. I think our best bet would be to just keep this between us and go on like it never happened."


            "If that's what you want... But it seems that no matter how many times we keep saying that we're not going to let it happen again, it does," he pointed out.


            "We're just going to have to be really cautious around each other from here on out. Like I said I don't want to lose you as a friend, so we don't have to completely stop talking, but I think it's probably best if we stay away from any kind of situation that forces us to be completely alone with each other. We should probably only hang out if there's at least one other person there, so the temptation isn't there at all."


            Nick shrugged. "We're alone now."


            "And it's my anniversary and you swore to me that you'd behave yourself," she finished for him. "If that's a problem you could always leave."


            He shook his head vigorously. "Nope. No problem whatsoever. Nothing happened between us and no more alone time. I got it."


            A hint of a smile formed on Alyssa's face. "Good. Now that we've got that over with, how about those movies? I'd like to consider this subject closed."


            "I agree." Nick got up from his seat on the couch and set up Snakes on a Plane first, since Alyssa did have a habit of falling asleep during The Matrix. As the movie progressed, Alyssa found that she was surprisingly enjoying the movie. Just as Nick promised, the plot was so ridiculously farfetched that it came off as more of a spoof of an action movie than an actual action movie. She wasn't a big fan of snakes, but the digitally enhanced creatures looked too fake to really be believable. Of course she found it too ironic not to crack up laughing when the snakes claimed their first victims, a couple who had snuck off for a quick rendezvous in the plane's bathroom.


            "Oh my God! That's too funny! Can you imagine? One minute you'll all like into the moment and then out of nowhere these killer snakes start attacking you? That was genius!" she commented as she tried to control her laughter. "How can you not find that hilarious?'


            She glanced over to Nick who was laughing just as hard as she was. "I don't know, but it's refreshing that someone shares the same sick, twisted, sense of humor that I have. I guess that's why they say not to have sex in horror movies, right?"


            Alyssa nodded her head as she tried to calm down. "You have sex in horror movies, you die. At least that's what they said in Scream but Sydney got off."


            "Oh, she got off all right," Nick snickered.


            "Nickolas! Not like that! Eww you perv..." she giggled. "I meant she got off like as in off the hook. Like she got luc- Never mind. That was another bad example. You know what I meant though."


            He smirked. "Oh, I knew what you meant, but it was too tempting to pass up."


            "Dork." She rolled her eyes at him and continued to watch the movie.


They both continued to crack up at the absurdity of it and when Samuel L. Jackson delivered his famous line. "I'm so tired of these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!" Alyssa again burst into hysterics. It made Nick realize that this was an excellent movie choice because for the first time in a long time it seemed to him as if she was genuinely smiling and laughing, which made him happy, even if it was only because of a really lame movie.


            "How much you want to bet the writers just based this whole storyline around Samuel L. Jackson saying that line?" she asked.


            "It wouldn't surprise me one bit," Nick agreed. "But it was a pretty brilliant idea."


            "Yea really..."


            Finally the movie ended and Alyssa had to admit that she'd actually enjoyed it and found it pretty damn funny. Her good mood was interrupted by Nick springing off the couch and heading towards the DVD player to switch movies. "Okay, Matrix time!"


            Alyssa groaned. "Ugh! Do we have to?"


            "Yes,' he told her. "And I'm going to make you stay awake even if I have to keep pinching you the whole way through the movie. Seriously, how do you fall asleep during this movie?"


            "I think its Keanu Reeves. He's a god awful actor and just something about him just makes me want to conk out. Like I think I have Keanu Reeves narcolepsy."


            Nick just laughed. "Wonder what it says about that one in a medical journal."


            "Seriously have you ever seen him try to do a romance movie? It's like torture. He has no personality," she argued.


            "Oh, shush you. The movie's starting." Nick focused his attention on the screen in front of him as he quickly became absorbed in the movie. Every now and then he gave Alyssa's back a little nudge to make sure she was still awake, but otherwise she was very quiet. About halfway through the movie, he tore his eyes away from the screen only to find Alyssa's head slumped against the arm of the couch and her eyes closed. It looked like she was officially down for the count.


            Nick raised his arm all ready to pinch her as he promised, but he stopped himself when he noticed her slow, shallow, peaceful, breathing. For the first time Nick noticed that she looked tired and it appeared that she was already pretty deep into sleep. Deciding not to bother her, he got up from the couch and turned off the movie. He cleaned up the remains of their Chinese food feast and gathered up all of his belongings. Right before he was about to leave, he noticed an afghan draped over the recliner across the room. Bringing it over the loveseat he gently tucked it over her sleeping body and lingered over her for a moment or two. "Night Lyss," he told her, tucking her hair behind her ear.


            Then before she could wake her up he turned around and headed out the door into the night air. Alone.