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UAgirl
8.9.10, 2:40 PM
Obviously, I have no willpower. ;)

Besides all the other dangling WIPs I already have out there, I've been slowly working on this little fic whenever I get stumped with something else. Seriously, I have a whole computer full of these babies. This one is currently the only one I have completely outlined though.

I'm in a posting kind of mood, and I don't have a finished chapter of Believe yet, so this is what you get.

This fic is a departure of sorts for me.

Just read it, and you'll find out why, lol.

A few things first: pairings included in this fic--Antonio/Beth, onesided Beth/Luis, onesided Antonio/Sheridan, Sheridan/Luis, mentions of Theresa/Ethan, Beth/Hank with eventual Gwen/Hank. If any of those are not to your liking, this isn't the fic for you. Ratings will also range from G-R, with an overall average rating of PG-13.

I hope you give the fic a shot. :D

Now, for a brief overview.


Title: A Mother for Emily
Rating: this chapter, PG tops; overall, hmm, PG-13?
Warning: nekkidness (interesting how that's been happening a lot lately in my fics, lol)
Characters/Pairings: Beth/Antonio, mentions of Sheridan/Luis
Word Count: 672
Summary: Antonio stares at the wand as if willing it to disappear, the damning plus sign mocking him. He swears it literally burns in his hands, and it’s crazy, but he can almost physically feel his world changing direction, traveling along a different axis.






A Mother for Emily






Prologue




A Loaded Smile





Beth can’t help it; she flinches away from Antonio’s touch when he trails his knuckles up and down the length of her naked spine. Her hands tucked tight around her knees, she ducks her chin down, sighing without thought when she feels the soft pressure of his lips against her neck. Her voice a hollow whisper, she stares outside the window, where the snow is drifting down, transforming Harmony into a winter wonderland, and asks a simple enough question. “Aren’t you tired?”


“Hmm?” Antonio snakes his arms around her waist, pulling her back against him, though she doesn’t relax, curling further into herself, a tiny defensive ball. “Of what?” he finally asks, propping his chin upon her narrow shoulder, his breath whispering against her ear.


Beth shifts slightly in his arms, and her eyes are glittering in the yellow lamplight that bathes the room in muted pastel tones. “Being second best,” she explains.


Antonio tenses, pulling back instinctually. “We won’t always be second best,” he tries his best to be convincing. “Sheridan and Luis…they’re never going to make it. They’re too different. They have too much standing in their way. When they give up, when they decide the fight’s not worth it, we’ll be there. Waiting. Sheridan will be mine, and Luis will open his eyes and realize it’s you he wanted all along.”


Shaking her head softly, Beth withdraws from his loose embrace, bending down to grab her robe from where it had fallen earlier, carelessly into the floor. “You’re wrong.”


“I’m wrong? Beth, what has gotten into you?” Antonio pushes himself up from the bed, the hardwood floor cold beneath his bare feet.


Tracing figures in the frosty window pane with her fingertips, Beth doesn’t answer him right away. When she does, she still doesn’t meet his eyes. “I used to think that. I used to think that when everything was said and done, Luis would come back to me, love me instead of her.” Dropping her hand to her side, she absently plays with the sash of her robe. “You didn’t see them, Antonio. You weren’t here the first time. I was stupid not to realize it then, but the first time Luis thought he had lost Sheridan…he’s never been that way about me. Nobody has.”


“Beth, I…” Antonio fumbles awkwardly for the words to make her hurt go away.


“It’s okay,” Beth lets him off the hook. “I knew the score when we started this. You love her too. At least you think you do, enough to want to take your brother’s rightful place in her life, enough to want to play father to a baby that isn’t yours.”


“You love Luis,” Antonio reminds her. “You always have.”


“The Luis I love doesn’t exist anymore,” Beth tells him. “It’s taken a long time, but I think I’ve finally figured that out.”


“Where is this coming from?” Antonio frowns, pulling his clothes on as she stares at him for several long minutes, sadness mixed with a new emotion shining in her damp eyes. “Just yesterday…” He watches as she reaches into the pocket of her robe and pulls out a slim white wand. Somewhere in the back of his mind, alarm bells go off, and he feels his throat grow dry, making further speech impossible. “Beth,” he somehow manages to force her name from his lips.


Beth places the wand carefully in his hands and stands on tiptoe to kiss his cheek then pulls slowly away.


Antonio stares at the wand as if willing it to disappear, the damning plus sign mocking him. He swears it literally burns in his hands, and it’s crazy, but he can almost physically feel his world changing direction, traveling along a different axis. Beth’s quiet voice finally cuts through the foggy haze.


“Yesterday, I wasn’t someone’s mother.”


He finally looks back up at her, and it’s like he’s seeing her for the first time. She shrugs at him, wearing a solemn smile.


“Today I am.”

























So...what did you think?

Interested in reading more?

Don't let the fact that I have so many stories in progress (way too many) put you off, please. This fic is completely outlined. Posting of chapters depends on inspiration and my time to do so. Additionally, I have this fic in my rotation of fics to work on so each story/readers is treated fairly (I do still have readers, I think, lol), but sometimes unexpected inspiration strikes, and I find myself working on something I haven't touched for months/years (case in point...I have about 200+ words written of a new chapter of Angel).

Let me know what you think. :)

Until next time.

Shae

iLoveET
8.13.10, 7:55 PM
I'll post it here so you know I am reading it!
Nice start!!

UAgirl
8.15.10, 12:33 PM
Here you go, folks. :D

The posting mood continues, and since this is the only other finished chapter I have at the moment (the rest are in various states of unfinished, lol), I'm going to jump the gun a little bit and post it. I had hoped to space the chapters out a little bit, but we already established that I have little to no willpower. ;)

So, without further ado, here's your chapter one.

Enjoy!


Title: A Mother for Emily: Chapter One, Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Rating: G, PG tops
Warning: (off-screen) character death(s)
Characters/Pairings: Beth/Hank friendship, Sheridan/Luis, Kay, peripheral Miguel/Charity, peripheral Theresa/Ethan, Eve, Gwen
Word Count: 2,925
Summary: She’s suddenly wiped out, bone-deep exhausted, and she wants nothing more than to lie down with her daughter in the quiet of her own bed and dream of a reality Alistair Crane hadn’t allowed her to have.






Chapter 1





Boulevard of Broken Dreams



“Emily,” Hank singsongs in a goofy voice, “smile for the camera.”

The baby stubbornly refuses to reward her godfather with the smile he craves, reaching down with her chubby, uncoordinated fingers and pulling at her white, lace-edged socks with more determination than one little being should have. When she finally succeeds, and one tiny white sock drifts to the wooden bleachers below, she happily grabs at her foot, pulling it to her with the unnatural flexibility that only children (and professional gymnasts) possess and sucking her toes into her mouth.

“Emily,” Beth scolds halfheartedly, prying the infant’s foot from her mouth. She gratefully takes the sock Hank has rescued, and with his help, puts it back on the tiny, squirming foot. “Thanks,” she murmurs to Hank, not sure if she’s thanking him for helping out with the sock or for keeping her company.

Amidst catcalls and hearty whistles, Luis and Sheridan are sharing their first official dance as husband and wife. They are not alone, though. They are joined by their infant son Alex, just a few months older than his cousin, and he is all squeals and happy laughter, the golden king of the court.

Beth smiles at the happy little family, but her smile is sad. Though the seat beside her is not empty, the wrong body is filling it.

Hank seems to read her thoughts, snaking a comforting arm around her waist and pulling her and Emily into his side in a hearty hug. He doesn’t offer well-meaning platitudes. There’s been enough of that in the months since Antonio’s death. He merely offers himself, hoping that is enough.

Laying her cheek against the silky sheen of her daughter’s dark hair, Beth thanks him with her shining eyes. She doesn’t feel the wetness on her cheeks until Hank gently wipes a tear away with his thumb.

“Make a wish,” he says cheekily, earning a soft laugh from her.

Beth grabs his hand and gives it a squeeze as she teases, “Eyelashes, Hank. Not tears.” The twinkle in his brown eyes says he knows, but he keeps up the charade, and Beth lets him. She discreetly brushes at her tears and takes another look at the joyous couple in front of them, the decorations that have made the Youth Center virtually unrecognizable. “Whose idea was it? To have the reception here instead of the Seascape?”

“Believe it or not, Sheridan’s,” Hank says, mimicking the baby who is gleefully blowing drooling raspberries at him.

Beth swipes a finger across her daughter’s chin, watching her large doe eyes widen further still when Hank reaches a hand over to affectionately tweak the button nose. When the action launches Emily into a fit of gurgling laughter, Beth can only smile, her earlier sadness fading to the background. “She loves her uncle Hank.”

“Her uncle Hank loves her,” Hank replies, scooping the little girl from her mother’s arms and swinging her up into the air, eliciting even more infectious smiles and giggles. From the corner of his eyes, he notices Beth frown, lifting a hand to her brow in a gesture that has become commonplace to him over the last several months. “Her Majesty here will take care of me,” he tells Beth. “Go take something for your headache.”

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” Beth dryly responds, already standing up on unsteady feet to descend their lofty perch.

“Me?” Hank grins back at her. “You’re the one that’s been hitting the punch again, Wallace. You know that stuff’s spiked.”

Beth rolls her eyes at him, grasping a handful of her skirt in one hand and holding the other hand out slightly for balance. When she makes it to the bottom of the bleachers safely, she looks back up to find her daughter and her best friend in a heated competition, apparently to see who could make the silliest face. From the looks of it, Hank is winning—much to Emily’s obvious delight. She starts when she hears Kay’s voice, filled with affectionate sarcasm.

“I think they’re at the same developmental level.” Kay tugs self-consciously at the thin spaghetti strap of her dress, and she canvases the Youth Center, scowling slightly at the various couples now joining Sheridan and Luis on the dance floor.

In a far corner, arms wrapped tightly around each other, Miguel and Charity are seemingly oblivious to their surroundings. Likewise, Theresa and Ethan are coupled, gently swaying to the music more than dancing, too preoccupied with the small boy that clings to Ethan’s neck.

A pang of kinship has Beth reaching out to the young girl, and she knows she’s a poor substitute for the one Kay wants to impress, but she tells her anyway, “You look very pretty tonight, Kay.”

“Thanks,” Kay mutters, her gaze flicking down to the sparkling skirt of her dress and back. Uncomfortably, she returns the compliment. “You too.”

Though the sentiment is nice, the delivery could use a little work. Still, Beth simply smiles in response, or grimaces, because Kay is looking at her a little strangely, and suddenly, she feels the need to explain herself. “Migraine,” she reveals, touching her hand to her brow again.

“Those suck,” Kay commiserates with her. “I’m sorry?” she offers lamely.

Beth pats her arm in reassurance. “Keep an eye on those two, will you? I swear, every time I turn my back, he’s into something else.” Kay’s grin hints at hers and Hank’s shared heritage, and Beth can’t help the feeling of warmth she feels for the girl in that moment. “I’ll be okay,” she states. “Nothing a little water and aspirin can’t cure.”

Kay dutifully climbs the bleachers to join Hank, and the music changes to something faster.

The uptempo beat makes Beth’s head pound even more, and she escapes into the sanctuary of the much quieter bathroom, immediately fumbling for her purse. Her hands pause, however, when she realizes she isn’t alone. Behind one of the closed stall doors, she hears what sounds like muffled sobs. Worried, she wonders, “Is everything okay?” Her only answer is a quiet sniffle, and Beth turns to the sinks, opening her purse and withdrawing a bottle of aspirin. Shaking a couple of pills loose, she swallows them dry, coughing slightly. She winces, the action doing nothing to help the steady throb of her headache, and she is surprised to discover the identity of the crying woman.

Gwen Hotchkiss’s brown eyes are red, verging on swollen, and her mascara is a mess.

Beth watches the other woman pull a handful of paper towels from the dispenser out of the corner of her eyes and lift them to her face. When she promptly crumples again at seeing its state, Beth turns to her and kindly lies, “Really. It’s not that bad.”

Gwen chokes back a laugh through her tears. “If by not bad you mean hideous, you’d be right.” She twists the paper towels in her hands, tossing them into the trash. “I can’t go back out there looking like this,” she finally sighs.

“No,” Beth agrees. “You can’t.”

“It’s settled then,” Gwen leans heavily against the sink. “I’m staying in here until Sheridan and Luis leave on their honeymoon, and this place is locked down for the night.”

“You could do that,” Beth smiles slightly. “Or you could let me,” Gwen eyes her with tearful curiosity when she hesitates to finish her thought, “help.”

“Are you a miracle worker?” Gwen runs a knuckle beneath one of her eyes. “I’m a complete wreck.”

“No, you’re not,” Beth teases, snatching a handful of paper towels and holding them under some running water before she moves closer, stopping just in front of Gwen. “You’re just half a wreck.” She dabs the edge of one of the paper towels against Gwen’s flushed skin, eradicating the worst of the evidence of her breakdown. “Weddings tend to have that effect on some, people like you and me. One person’s Heaven is another person’s Hell.” When she takes her focus away from repairing the damage done by the other woman’s tears, she’s somewhat surprised to find a pair of shamed brown eyes staring right back at her. “What?” she murmurs softly.

“I’m so stupid,” Gwen answers her.

“Why?” Beth wonders.

“Ethan just dumped me. He wasn’t…he didn’t…” Gwen struggles to find the right words, words more delicate than the harsh truth, but she’s at a loss. She finally settles for paltry words of sympathy. “I’m sorry. About Antonio. I’m here, being selfish, and you’re helping me, and I’m just…sorry.”

Beth ducks her head, pulling a tube of mascara from her purse instead of acknowledging Gwen’s condolences right away. “Try not to blink,” she instructs, quietly applying the makeup. When she is satisfied with the results, she meets Gwen’s eyes. “You weren’t just dumped,” her brows knit as the other woman’s concerned face blurs slightly in front of her. She looks down again, closing her eyes momentarily. “You lost so much more.” Beth frowns when tears start to fill Gwen’s brown eyes again at the indirect mention of the daughter she’d lost, and she wants to apologize for saying the wrong thing, but she isn’t given the opportunity.

With great determination, Gwen refuses to let the tears fall. “Everybody else seems to have forgotten about her but me.” Clutching tightly to the hand that Beth offers in comfort, she continues, “And it hurts, seeing Sheridan and Luis with their beautiful little boy and Theresa and Ethan with Little Ethan and you with that adorable little girl…I just want to hold to hold her, hold my baby, and I can’t.” She pulls her hand away from Beth’s and stares down at it. “These hands are never going to hold Sarah. Thanks to Theresa, they’re never going to hold another child of mine again.”

Beth understands the bitterness; she feels it herself. She tries to offer a bit of hope in the face of Gwen’s sadness, “They can still hold other children, love and care for them.”

Gwen, though, refuses to be consoled. “It won’t be the same.”

“Maybe not,” Beth concedes. “I’m not trying to say Sarah can be replaced.”

“Aren’t you?” Gwen asks, though logically, she knows that’s not what Beth’s suggesting at all, and she tells her so, in a quiet, broken whisper, “I know.” The smile she attempts fails, and she reaches out for Beth’s hand again, squeezing it gratefully. “Thank you,” she murmurs, twisting her head around to look at her reflection in the mirror. “I almost look human again,” she jokes.

Fragile and too human, Beth thinks. To Gwen, she merely responds, “You look fine.”

This time Gwen pretends to believe the lie. Outside the bathroom, a Spanish tango starts to play. Both women know what that means. Letting go of Beth’s hand, Gwen glances in the direction of the door. “I think I’ll make my escape now.” She pauses in her tracks when Beth calls out to her softly.

“You should come by the Book Café.” When Gwen looks confused by the invitation, she elaborates. “I’m there. If you ever want to talk.”

The offer brings about a small miracle; it makes Gwen smile. “I might take you up on that sometime.” Nodding at the door, through which they hear more cheers and raucous catcalls, she says, “I better…”

“Go,” Beth finishes for her. She watches as Gwen does just that, slipping quietly through the door on near silent feet. Turning to study her own reflection in the age-old glass, she hopes she makes it. She frowns at the tiredness written plainly on her face, and the furrowed brow against the pain that has made its return in the other woman’s departure. Without realizing she is doing it, she grabs onto the porcelain sink for support and closes her eyes against the wave of dizziness lapping at the edges of her consciousness, a wave she quickly quells, hearing the bathroom door open again. She opens her eyes to find Eve Russell staring at her in concern. When Eve doesn’t immediately say anything, Beth reassures her, echoing her words from the day before, when she had sat on a cold examining table letting Eve shine a penlight into her eyes. “It’ll pass. It always does.” She remembers the tests Eve had run, the tubes of blood, the endless questions. “They’re just migraines.” She doesn’t know who she’s trying to convince more: herself or Eve. “I’ve had them forever. In fact, I think I’m going to cancel that appointment for the CT scan. I don’t have anybody to watch Emily, and…” She stops, realizing she’s babbling, and Eve is still watching her with that face, the one that makes Beth’s heart stutter and skip a beat.

“Simone will be glad to watch Emily for you,” Eve finally speaks, her voice worryingly gentle, softly strained.

Something in her voice compels Beth not to argue when she insists she keep the appointment. She shifts gears in an effort to push back the inexplicable feeling of dread of what tomorrow may bring. They’re just headaches, she keeps telling herself. To Eve, she suggests, “Maybe they can go by the park. Emily likes to feed the ducks.”

Eve touches her shoulder when she moves to leave. “I’ll tell Simone.”

Beth says her goodbyes, promises once again not to cancel the appointment, and steps back into the midst of the party, now in full swing. She lingers in the shadows, watching Luis’s and Sheridan’s passionate dance, until the song ends and the lights come back up. Squinting slightly at the bright lights, she makes her way back to Hank, only to find him alone.

“You’re back,” Hank says, sounding relieved. “I was beginning to think you’d found some unknown portal to another world or something.”

Rolling her eyes at him, Beth glances up and down the bleachers, “Where’d you hide her, Hank?”

Hank just shrugs in response. “I don’t know where Her Majesty crawled off to.”

Beth raises a skeptical brow at him, knowing her daughter has yet to completely master that milestone, despite much hard work and effort.

Grinning at her, Hank says, “Relax, Mama Bear. Kay took her to see Pilar and Alex. The dueling droolers are probably living it up as we speak.” Eyeing her suspiciously, Hank remarks, “You were in there an awfully long time.” When Beth doesn’t respond, he reveals, “When I saw Ethan Crane’s ex sneak out of there looking like hell, I started to get a little bit worried. If you hadn’t have come out when you did…”

He leaves the rest unsaid, and Beth draws her own conclusions. “What? You were going to rescue me?” She smiles, the pain of her headache fading to the background in the face of his utter silliness and concern.

“Maybe,” is all Hank says in his own defense.

Beth playfully swats away his hand when he lifts it, aiming to tuck her hair behind her ear. “I’m a big girl, Hank. I don’t need you to take care of me.”

“What if I want to?”

Without fully meaning to, Beth laughs incredulously.

The twinkle in Hank’s brown eyes recedes and his smile dims.

Softening when she sees his hurt reaction, Beth grabs his arm and wraps it around her. With a sigh, she lowers her head to his shoulder in apology. “I didn’t mean that.”

“You did,” Hank answers back, his breath stirring her hair. “Maybe you don’t really need me,” he decides. “But Her Majesty does.”

“She does,” Beth agrees. “Come over tomorrow. Dinner and a play date.”

“I can’t,” Hank regretfully declines. “I promised Sam I’d help move Jess into her dorm. What about lunch when I get back? Just you, me, and Emily?

“Sounds good,” Beth murmurs, pulling back and lightly pressing her fingers to her temples. She notices Hank watching her out of the corner of her eyes. “What?”

Against his better judgment, Hank blurts, “You look beat.”

“Thanks,” Beth mutters sarcastically. Catching sight of her daughter and the growing group of admirers surrounding her and Alex where they hold court with their grandmother and the newlyweds, Beth admits honestly, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.” And it’s not just because she doesn’t want to be there when Sheridan throws the bouquet. She’s suddenly wiped out, bone-deep exhausted, and she wants nothing more than to lie down with her daughter in the quiet of her own bed and dream of a reality Alistair Crane hadn’t allowed her to have.

Hank gives her knee a squeeze. “Then we’ll go.” When Beth seems torn with indecision, he tells her, “I’ll collect Her Majesty and say our goodbyes then I’ll walk you home.” Conspiratorially, he tells her, “I’m not exactly looking forward to the garter toss. This gives me the perfect excuse to miss it.”

Beth smiles at him. Softly, she goes along with his plan. “Okay.”

“Give me five minutes. Ten tops,” he tells her as he helps her down the bleachers. He kisses her forehead and gently pushes her toward the nearby door, turning around and distracting Luis when he sees him approaching them.

Beth slips away, and she finds herself counting the stars while she is waiting for him. It takes closer to fifteen minutes before he appears at her side with her sleepy daughter cradled to his chest, but she doesn’t say anything and neither does he. She just tucks her hand in his and lets him lead them across the deserted street toward home.









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Thanks for reading!!!