Chapter 12

It was in the very early morning that Aracely woke up, even before her alarm. Not feeling up to work, she groaned as she rolled over in bed to reach across her end table for her phone to call and leave a message that she wouldn’t be in that morning. She knew there were no appointments other than routine lab work and house visits but she could manage them the next day. Falling back into the bed, she sighed and stared up at the ceiling silently.

“You’re loud when you sigh,” Jason mumbled, his eyes opening slowly.

“Sorry,” she replied shifting so that she could look up at him. “I’m sorry Jason.”

Sitting up, he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “I know sweetheart,” he half yawned. “I’m sorry too. I shouldn’t have gotten angry like that. It was bad enough that Steve went off on one.”

“He was right though,” Aracely said quietly. “I shouldn’t have convinced you to let it go on for this long.”

“No… but I’m my own man Ace, I let you convince me. This is on both of us,” he replied, taking her hand and giving it a squeeze. “You do have a point about the meddling, and maybe your relationship with Saunders would have lasted longer if everyone didn’t put pressure on him. But he was making you unhappy, you told me so yourself.”

“Jason, the relationship was on its way out long before you and them I think. It was one of the reasons why I dragged the engagement out as long as I did. He was pissed for years that I wouldn’t get married yet,” she sighed. “All everyone knows is what they saw when we were out in town. They don’t know what happened here or when we were alone.”

“Then tell me,” he said, “Because even if they just saw you in town or at the practice, they saw enough to know something was wrong.”

She looked around and away for a moment before turning back at him. “He was right. It was you,” she replied. “When he proposed, I was happy, I really was, but even before we moved here I had reservations. Eric changed after the move, never welcomed from day one.”

“Honey, we live in a small town that doesn’t warm to strangers well,” he explained, “Its a sad truth, one that we all should work on, but you of all people should have expected it. You weren’t particularly welcomed with open arms by a lot of people yourself.”

“No, I believed that because he made me happy that they would accept it and not one person did. Do you know what my parents said the first day when I brought him over in the beginning? My mother asked me ‘What about Jason?’ I don’t put all the blame on Eric the way everyone does. True, I had my own reservations because I was still emotionally attached to you – I always was – but I wasn’t about to wait forever for you either.”

“And nor should you. I made the choice to leave, I told you that I expected you to move on and find someone, I hoped you’d find happiness,” he explained, “But Eric didn’t do a lot to change the towns opinion of him either. I mean think about it. He took over the practice, forced the only Doctor that these people knew for decades out of his business. He began isolating you from the people you were here to help as well as your friends and family… hell of a way to change peoples minds…”

“I don’t deny that, but frankly, I’ll admit I didn’t try to discourage him either after awhile. I was disgusted with the way people treated him at the same time of his treatment of others. I just didn’t want to argue so I stayed silent. Please, can we just forget him?” she pleaded.

“I’d like to, Ace… I really would. In fact a pretty big part of me wants to erase the last 10 years, rewinding to the moment before I got on the bus to boot. But I can’t do that. And you can’t forget him until you make peace with that fact that if I didn’t choose to leave the marines and come back into your life, you could have married him and continued living a silent life. The people in town, your friends, your family. They saved you from that life, and you repay them by condemning the behaviour so ultimately.”

He took a deep breath and squeezed her hand. “I’m not saying this to be cruel and I don’t want you to feel bad. Just think about what I’ve said. And talk to your friends. Tell Hayley and Lisa how you feel, tell your parents. Don’t hide the fact that you are or were upset with them because of what happened with Eric.”

“Oh my parents know. We talked it out as soon as I told Eric it was over,” she replied. “But I’m more worried about Hayley now, than anyone or anything else.”

“Don’t be worried,” he said softly, “I caught up with Steve and we had it out. I convinced him to let you go to Hayley and talk things out with her. I’ll probably tell Lisa and my Mother.”

“I’ll do it, but will need to get the nerve up to approach her. Maybe ask them to come early Saturday morning, or something.”

Nodding, Jason squeezed her hand again. “If you want me to be there, just say the word. We can talk to her together.”

“Are you going to your parents today?” she asked, thinking out loud.

“Wasn’t planning on it. I figured we’d need some time to talk to Hayley and Steve first,” he explained, “And then afterwards, we’d need some time to ourselves.”

“We should just get it over with too. Otherwise I’ll be walking on eggshells all week. Maybe have your family over for dinner tonight?”

“Are you sure you’re up for it?” he asked before kissing the back of her hand. “I mean, a lot has happened over the last few weeks, especially lately. Are you sure you don’t wanna slow down and catch your breath?”

“May as well get it all out there and done with. The sooner we do, the sooner things can calm down. Of course, I ask that we convince them that you are staying in the guest room. Otherwise it could be a hundred times worse,” she pointed out.

“Well, there is one sure fire way of convincing them of that,” he nodded, “This is still your place baby, so feel free to say no, but how do you feel about having a few firearms in the house?”

Aracely raised an eyebrow. “You got a secure locker for them?” she asked. “And how do you suggest we convince them? Other than keeping your clothes in the drawers and closet there?”

“I’m a Marine, my dad’s a Marine, my Grandpa’s a Marine. They’ll know I’m serious about staying in the guest room because my weapons are there. A soldier doesn’t sleep too far away from his weapons,” he explained. “And don’t worry, they’ll be secured well enough.”

“I’m not worried as long as they are locked up. So by all means. Do you have a locker or do you need to go into town for one?”

“My Dad built a pretty sturdy one for the apartment,” he explained. “That’s where I’m storing them now.”

She nodded. “Okay. I suppose with your grandfather living there now, you might want to get them soon.”

“I was planning to move my stuff gradually, but if you want me to make it quick, I can start this morning,” he explained, a small smile curling his lips. With all the madness going on, moving in with Ace gave him a warm feeling.

“Gradual is fine too. Just anything to convince them that we want to keep it quiet and slow, apart from living under the same roof at least.”

“Relax, we’ll sort it all out,” he smiled. “Now let’s leave our troubles aside for a while, I want to snuggle.”

She chuckled as she settled back down, relaxing against the bed and his body. She could feel her eyes drift closed for some more much needed sleep.

With a satisfied smile, Jason just held her and enjoyed doing so for a while. Even as teenagers, he loved to just hold her while she slept, he loved watching her sleep, period. It wasn’t long before he too closed his eyes and succumbed to his physical and emotional fatigue once again.

It was just after noon that Aracely woke again. Looking over, she smiled at seeing Jason still asleep. Carefully slipping out of the bed, she went in the bathroom to wash up and dress before heading downstairs to make something light for breakfast, or rather lunch, and call the Quinns about having dinner by her house that night.

Jason awoke sometime later, instinctively reaching out for Ace who was nowhere to be found. He swung his legs out of bed with a yawn and headed for the bathroom.

Moments later, he emerged, his bladder emptied. Today was going to be a very difficult day. They would no doubt face some difficult questions and would have to work hard to mend some fences, but he was sure that they’d be able to do it, once everyone heard their reasons why they wanted to keep their relationship a secret for as long as possible.

As he journeyed downstairs, he was greeted by the dogs, wagging their tails happily as he approached. Bending down he scratched them both behind their ears before venturing into the kitchen.

“Hey,” Aracely greeted from her seat at the counter as she worked on a cup of coffee. “Your parents are coming over tonight.”

“You called them already? Work fast, don’tcha,” he grinned before kissing her cheek softly, “What time are we expecting them?”

“I asked if they could come about 6:30, that way your dad has a little time to relax when he gets home from his work and I can freak out a little more.”

“Don’t freak out. They’re my parents, they love you,” he smiled.

“With your dad already knowing, I know he will work to keep your mom calmed down. It’s Lisa that I’m worried about,” she sighed.

“Look, I love my family, you know that. And what we did… or planned to do, may have been wrong, but we had the best intention. They do need to leave us alone so that we can see where this relationship goes. And I’ll tell them so myself. If they’re going to be angry, they’ve also got to accept some responsibility,” Jason explained, squeezing her shoulder reassuringly.

“All I know is, I love you Ace. There’s nothing they can do or say that’ll change that. If they have a problem with how I conduct my relationships, they can talk to me. I won’t let them put all the blame on you, me or us. Okay?”

“Yeah. Well they are coming either way. I need to go into town to get some more stuff for it. Is there anything you want or need that I can get for you?” she asked, finishing off her coffee.

“Not off the top of my head. I can go with you though, if you like?” he offered with a small smile. She was still hurting, and would be until the issue with Steve, Hayley and their families was resolved. He just wished he could do more.

“I think I’ll be fine. I kind of need you to make sure that everything is good for the weekend so that if something needs to be replaced, we can do that instead of waiting until the last minute.”

“I’ll check, double check and re-check the lists we made,” he nodded, his smile broadening. “Y’know, you would’ve made a helluva drill sergeant.”

Aracely looked at him and raised an eyebrow. “That’s not funny,” she deadpanned.

“Would you cheer up… look, our friends and families might be mad at first, but they’ll understand and they will be happy that we’re together,” he sighed. “Relax, will you.”

“I am relaxed. I just didn’t think that joke was funny,” she replied as she stuck her tongue out at him. “I’m going to get dressed and head out. You sure you don’t want anything?”

He looked at her with a devilish smile. “Well…”

“No,” she grinned back before refilling her cup and made her way back upstairs and went about her regular business.

Following her up, he said “At least let me help you get undressed…”

“I’ll never get out of the house if you do,” she laughed as she looked in her closet for something to wear.

“Well… you shouldn’t be so damn irresistible,” he grinned as he wrapped his arms around her waist and began kissing her neck.

She laughed as she tried to push him away. “If I say that you can come with me, would you let me get ready?”

“Kiss first?” he smiled, turning her to face him and locking his eyes on hers.

“Sure,” she smiled and leaned up to kiss him softly. As she pulled back she hummed happily. “Now may I get dressed?”

Reluctantly, Jason released her. “I suppose….” he replied before stealing another quick kiss and darting out of the room. “I’ll see to the dogs,” he called from the stairs with a triumphant laugh.

Aracely only chuckled to herself as she settled on jeans and tshirt before taking them into the bathroom to shower and change. By the time she was done, she was ready for another cup of coffee and head out the door. “So did you want to go? Or are you staying?” she asked as she poked her head into the basement room where he still sat with the dogs.

“Oh, I’m coming,” he smiled as he left the dogs to play with their toys and headed outside with her.

“Fine then. My truck, I’m driving today,” she replied as she opened the garage doors to head out as she had left the truck outside overnight.

“Yes Drill Sergeant!” he replied with a chuckle.

“Don’t do that,” Aracely replied glaring at him. Once they were settled in and on the road, she glanced over. “Do you want to go to your parents first or to the store?”

“You’re driving,” he smiled, “I figured you’d want to go to see Hayley too… so we can go to the store last.”

She sighed and looked out the window thoughtfully. “How about I drop you off by your parents. You break the news to them and I go talk to Hayley. Maybe she’ll be less violent if I go alone.”

“If that’s what you think is best… now I’m regretting not bringing my body armor,” he sighed before smiling. “Lisa may very well be violent too.”

“She already had the kid so pray he’s in her arms and away from everyone else so that she has no one to pass him off to easily. I have a very pregnant friend to contend with. You got the easy one,” she pointed out.

“Ten bucks says Lisa hits me,” he grinned as he noticed they were heading straight for his parents.

“Twenty that Hayley tries to kick me and/or throw a phone or lamp at me,” she countered.

“Oh, you are so on,” he grinned.

It wasn’t long before they arrived at the gates to the Quinn’s land and the truck came to a stop. “Wish me luck,” he smiled as he unclasped his seat belt and opened the door.

“I got my cell phone with me if you need a quick pick up to take you to the hospital,” she replied. “I’ll call you when I leave Hayley’s.”

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