Deirdre opened the door of her apartment to admit her brother and Joan both, a quick grin flashing across her features. Hi! Joan was giving Jase the patented Evil Eye and Dee couldn’t help the silent sigh as she closed the door behind them.
“Hey, Squirt!” Jase rumbled lazily, pulling her into a one-armed hug after she closed the door. “You ready for the drive home? Joan’s pissy and it’ll be a great time to shove her in the back seat and make her listen to Christmas tunes.”
Deirdre gave a querying look at her best friend as Joan practically snarled. Rolling her eyes at her brother, she stepped out of his embrace and moved to push Joan through the apartment and into the bedroom. “Stay there,” she ordered him, and then she shut the door to close him out of the conversation.
Leaning back against it, she watched as Joan walked over to the double bed and dropped down onto the edge of it. What gives, Joanie? she asked, her dark eyes worried. She was floored when Joan dropped her face into her hands and burst into tears. She could count the number of times she’d ever seen Joan cry on one hand — and both of them had been pretty horrible.
Moving swiftly, the tiny redhead wrapped her arms tight around Joan and held on for dear life while the brunette sobbed her heart out. Deirdre didn’t know what to make of the storm of emotions, and all she could do was make sure that the sounds didn’t pass into the living room where she could hear her brother making himself at home. The television popped on so that he could watch the news while he waited out whatever mysterious girl-things were going on behind closed doors.
The tears were unusual enough in themselves but the fact that Joan raised her eyes finally to meet Dee’s and said flat out in a husky tone, “I don’t know what to do,” floored Deirdre. Joanie always knew what to do — or at least, she faked it real well.
Dee kept her ‘voice’ very low and asked softly, “What to do about what, Joan?” She could tell that whatever was going on, it was serious. “What’s wrong? Are you sick? Has Jase done something?” She offered the possibilities that sprang to mind immediately, but she was honestly clueless.
“I’m pregnant,” Joan blurted out.
Deirdre pulled back in shock, her eyes wide. What?!
Joanie nodded, disconsolate. “Yeah. That was pretty much my reaction too,” she told Deirdre with a watery attempt at a smile. “What the heck am I going to do?”
The first thing that popped into Dee’s mind was rather rude. Is it Jase’s?
Joan shoved her, nearly right off the corner of the bed where they sat. “Yes, you jerk!” she hissed.
Deirdre held up her hands in a conciliatory manner. Hey, I was just asking! she protested. It’s not like he’s the only guy you’ve dated! Even as recent as …. well, the summer? Deirdre had to stop and think. When was the last time Joan had talked about dating?
“I haven’t dated anyone but Jase since September, Dee,” Joan told her tiredly. "I just… " She shrugged. “We’ve never been able to make it work more than a few months at a time, though. And I found out right after you guys stopped the monoliths, so at least I didn’t have that whole panic to worry about. But…” She scrubbed at her face with both hands. “Christ, Dee. I don’t know what to do.”
Well, for God’s sake, tell him! Deirdre retorted, her expression incredulous.
Joan snorted. “Why? So he can do the Right Thing and marry me? So we can both be miserable and totally screw up a kid together?”
Deirdre was reeling in shock. “Are you honestly so messed up in the head that you don’t know that man loves you?” she asked, her low voice filling the room.
“I know he loves me, Dee!” Joan objected, her tone still weary. “That’s never been the problem. The problem is that we can’t live in the same space without damn near killing one another. He drives me crazy, I drive him crazy, and we fight, and then we don’t talk for months.”
The redhead was quiet for a long time, and then she reached out and hugged Joan tightly. “You have to tell him,” she murmured in her friend’s ear. “He deserves that much from you, Joan. If you don’t want to marry him, that’s your decision, and I’ll back you all the way. But … don’t keep my brother from his baby. Please?”
Joan leaned her head on Deirdre’s shoulder and started to cry again. “I won’t. I just… I don’t want him to hate me, Dee. I didn’t do this on purpose… and I sure as hell didn’t do it to trap him.”
“We’ll get through it,” Dee murmured, holding Joan tightly for another long while. When she finally pulled away, Joanie looked bedraggled and exhausted. Deirdre couldn’t help the half-amused smile that accompanied her concern. Let’s go home. Dad’ll know how to do this, okay? He’ll help.
Shaking her head with a deep sigh, Joan looked down. Shame clouded her features. “I don’t want him to think badly of me.”
Deirdre touched her best friend’s chin with her fingertips and met her eyes. “You know better than that. I think you’re crazy with hormones or something,” she said firmly. “Wash your face. Let’s get everything packed up. I have to take the bike and follow you. I’ll tell Jase to let you catch a nap on the way, okay? Just…. don’t worry about anything right now. Relax. It’s Christmas and we’re going home, Joanie.” She offered a small smile. “And whether you marry my brother or not, now there’s no way in the universe you’re not family. So get over yourself.”
Joan gave a watery chuckle. It was going to be okay. It had to be.