Author: Kat Lee
Challenge/Prompt: beattheblackdog Amnesty: 98: Connection
Word Count: 1,629
Date Written: 18 February 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
She woke, her eyes popping open in the dark night cutting short the long list of memories stemming from bad choices in her mind. Sometimes, like that night, it seemed to her that her whole life had been one bad decision connecting to another and more bad memories. There was so little in her life of which she was still proud and less still that actually made her happy. Vic froze suddenly, realizing that arms were around her. Looking down, she called, “Travis?”
“Hmm?” he murmured in response, snuggling closer against her back. She could feel his nose in her long, blonde hair and shoved him forcibly off, almost knocking him out of her small bed. “Hey!” he protested, barely catching himself.
She’d already rolled over and glared down at him. “What the Hell are you doing in my bed?! We didn’t sleep together again!” That was one mistake she would not make again!
“I didn’t say we did!” he snapped.
“Then why the Hell are you in my bed?!”
“Don’t you remember last night?”
She remembered a sea of confusion, guilt, and worry. She remembered not feeling so good and being so, so very tired, but then she’d been tired since before she even learned she was pregnant. She remembered him insisting of escorting her in last night, remembered him being there, leaning against her RV, when she pulled up from work. She remembered, too, that he had fixed her dinner, even providing her with sweet tea that was his momma’s recipe instead of beer, and the rainstorm that had come pummeling down about the time she’d been trying yet again to get him to leave.
She’d ended up letting him stay. She hadn’t had the heart to throw him out in that gullywasher. She had let him stay, but she hadn’t let him come anywhere near her bed, or near herself after she’d stripped down to her black tank top and matching panties. “You weren’t in my bed,” she growls.
“No. I was on the couch where you told me to stay when I heard you making noises. I came to check on you.” She hadn’t even heard the sliding door open. “You were -- “ He hesitated. Choosing his words carefully, he told her in a quiet, surprisingly gentle voice, “You looked like you were crying, Vic.”
Women never did well with pregnancies. She knew that. How many times had she watched a fellow cup get pregnant back in Philadelphia and go to freaking pieces over absolutely nothing? “I tried to wake you,” he continued, “but you weren’t responding, so I came around, sat down, and was rubbing your back.”
“Gee, Travis, that sounds so freaking stalkerish.” She had had a stalker before. She knew all the signs. She knew nothing was right about this relationship. The man shouldn’t have moved in next door. He shouldn’t be so close to her neither then or now. She should send his ass packing, but there was something in those eyes of his . . .
They were big, dark, and oh so sad as they looked upon her. Hurting him was akin to kicking a puppy that had already been wounded and only wanted to be loved, and Victoria had never been able to hurt an animal. Hell she’d never been able to hurt anybody innocent; that was part of the reason why she’d become a cop -- to try the lessen the pain in the world, especially that of its few, true innocents, not increase it.
But Travis wasn’t innocent, she reminded herself sternly. He was a jackass. He’d helped Branch kidnap and force drugs on an Indian. There was a long list of people who he had hurt, and whereas he had known Branch was hurting, he had not tried to get him help until his own ass had been on the line. He wasn’t a good man.
Yet he was the same man who was determined to stand beside her and her unborn child when there were thousands of other men who ran from their own children every day. How many women had she seen be hurt because their husbands or boyfriends were pure scum? How many children had suffered at the hands of their own father? Travis might not be a good man, but he also wasn’t nearly as bad as so many of the other lowlifes she’d seen.
He wasn’t even as bad, in some ways, as her ex. He was trying to convince her she needed to take it easy not for herself but for her child, but up until he’d learned that she was pregnant, he had never once tried to make her be anything less than what she was. He wasn’t one of those people, like so many of the men Victoria had been with in the past, who felt threatened by a strong woman. He himself admitted that it was a turn on. She was his type, because she was strong, seemingly fearless, and rebellious.
Maybe he was right, too, and she also had a type. Her ex-husband had not been that type. She needed a man who would stand beside or behind her, not try always to push himself in the front and make her take a backseat, not try to belittle her, not try to force her into becoming something she wasn’t.
“I’ll leave if you want me to,” he said, surprising her and snapping her mind back to the present. “I didn’t mean anything by it, Vic. Honest. I just want to help you and your baby however I can.”
She could almost believe that. Almost.
“But, huh,” he ran a hand through his dark, thick hair, “there is one more thing I want to say before I go.”
“What’s that?” she asked cautiously.
“I think you’re looking at this all wrong. This isn’t going to end your life. It’s going to change it, yeah, of course. But it’s not going to end it. You may need to take a break from being a cop for a while, but once the baby’s born, and you’re recovered, I see no reason why you can’t go back to kicking ass and taking names later -- if you even want to take names.”
She shook her head, feeling herself being amazed as he spoke to her. “Being strong, being a cop, is all part of you, Vickie, and you don’t have to change being you to be a mother. You don’t have to change who you are to have this baby. You -- “
“Travis,” she broke in, sensing his concern, “I’m going to have this baby.”
A grin flashed across his face, confirming her suspicion that he’d been concerned with the possibility of an abortion. God had chosen to give her this baby, and she’d do her best to see it through. But Travis was right: It didn’t have to change her, and she wasn’t about to let it.
“That’s great, Victoria! Really it’s great! And I want to be there for you every step of the way or at least as far as you’ll let me be.”
“Travis, I told you -- “
“I know; I know. I don’t have to do it. I may not be the baby’s father. I don’t care,” he said earnestly, looking into her eyes and shaking his head. “I don’t care if I’m the father or not. I already love the baby. I -- I already care for the baby, and I care for you too. Like I told you before, I know how single mothers struggle. Let me ease your struggling.”
She opened her mouth but shut it again. She couldn’t kick his puppy. All he really wanted to do -- right now, at least -- was to help. “Thank you,” she finally said.
“And I’ll leave now if you want me to.”
The rain had stopped. She hadn’t heard it since she woke. Yet now thunder rumbled again across the dark, night sky. His trailer wasn’t far from hers. She could send him away easily. “I . . . “ She bit her bottom lip and hesitated again before saying, “I think you can stay.”
“Yeah. As long as you don’t try anything.”
He held up his hand. “Scout’s honor.”
She looked condescendingly at him, knowing better than to buy that old line, but he truly did seem innocent right now. Maybe she wasn’t in her best frame of mind. Maybe the pregnancy was already screwing with her. Maybe she should have tossed him out on his ass.
But instead she turned back over onto her side and waited, listening, for him to get out of bed. He laid a warm hand upon her bare shoulder instead and slid closer to him. Carefully, he put an arm over her, but he didn’t try to feel of her breasts or stomach. He just laid there, with his front pressed against her back and his arm draped comfortingly over her.
Victoria let her eyes slide closed. There was so much she didn’t know, so much she didn’t understand, so much over which she wasn’t at all sure. She was starting to get a headache again; she seemed to keep one these days. There was just too much confusion, too much turmoil, and too much pain in her life. But there were two things -- no, three things over which she was absolutely clear: She was going to have this baby. She’d let Travis help her to a certain extent along the way unless he got too touchy feely. And speaking of feelings, his arm felt pretty damn good around her.
The rain started again. Travis held her close but not too close and not hard at all. Vickie’s eyes stayed close, and soon she was fast asleep. It was the first night in months that she would sleep soundly.