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Chapter Thirty-two
Hand in Hand

"I sleep, but my heart waketh..."
~ Song of Solomon 5:2 ~

Silence hugged Madison as she opened her eyes and saw the morning sun play on the ceiling. Her gaze drifted down to the man sleeping at the end of the couch, just one whole cushion away.

Slumped on one side, one arm under his head, the other draped over his stomach, Terry had the look of someone who wasn't exactly comfortable but was still managing sleep. His lightly messy hair, the half open mouth as he snored, the beard just showing on his chin-- it all made her long after Terry. She cozied with her pillow and watched him, the small moments as he stirred and shifted and then fell back to sleep.

Everything made her happy; he could have scratched his nose, and she would've sighed with delight.

Madison glimpsed down at her gray T-shirt and saw the butterfly. She was a newly born butterfly and her wings were trembling with longing for the sky.

How she wanted to fly. To be where she belonged.

Pushing back her blanket, and hoping she wouldn't wake him, Madison crawled across the cushion separating his space and hers. She paused when Terry's snore grew a little louder, then edged closer to him when he kept on sleeping. Careful not to jostle him, she settled against his arm and hugged his shoulder ever so lightly.

This was her sky.

A snore caught in Terry's throat and she looked up to see him struggling against sleep and surprise.

"It's only me." She touched his face and he relaxed. "Sorry, Terry."

"It's okay. For a minute, I thought you were someone else." He yawned, then broke into a groggy smile when she felt the stubble on his cheek. "I can't even begin to tell you how good that feels, Maddie. You might want to stop."

She touched her cheek to his and let his beard scrape against her skin.

"Maddie--"

"Please, just one kiss. Just one?" He didn't try to stop her, and they kissed until she had to push away. Her hand clutched his shirt, but she pushed away and hugged his shoulder while Terry struggled without her. He was awake now, and he deserved more than what she'd just given him. "I know what you've said already, but you're going to be sorry you married me, Terry. I just know you are."

"Cut it out."

"I can't help it."

"Don't do this to yourself." His voice had a sleepy tug to it, an inviting closeness that made her want to crawl inside one of his pockets, just to always be near him. "We went into this trusting God, so let's not panic, okay?" Terry took a deep breath and she could see him collecting his thoughts. "We're about to leave this hotel suite, and I want us to do it in faith. God got us this far, didn't He?"

Madison nodded.

"That should give us reason to hope for the future. We've got a Bible full of promises to feed our courage with, and as far as you and I are concerned..." Terry took a moment and Madison could see his determination grow. "If God shows us that you can't be intimate, that it's not a part of His plan for us, then that's what we'll accept. I will accept it, Maddie. I'll love you, and cherish you, and I believe God will bless us. I also believe He has more in store for us, but even if He doesn't, as long as God gets what He wants from us, then who am I to complain? I'll have your love, and that won't change what I have in my heart for you." Terry touched her cheek and let out a long breath. "Are we in agreement? I don't want to wake up one morning to find you've left me because you thought it was for my own good."

A lump pushed down Madison's throat. She nodded in agreement as Terry's hand went back to her shoulder.

"No more talk about my being sorry, okay? Unless I tell you differently, you're to assume I'm outrageously happy, just as I am. Married to this sweet woman right here."

She bit her lip.

"Whatever it takes, Maddie. We're going to do this together."

He was speaking so earnestly that when he stopped, she pulled close and kissed his chin. He had such a nice chin, but he had a nice forehead too, and so she kissed that, as well. The ear closest to her was so handsome, so distinguished-- it needed a kiss, too. In fact, it was so handsome, she gave it several.

His lips parted, his head came down, nibbled her earlobe and Madison giggled. His face was scratchy but fun and his breath tickled her neck.

Nervous laughter filled Madison, but couldn't get out.

His hand moved across her back, from one shoulder to the other, and she tried not to pull away from his touch. Another man, a very different man flashed before her and she blinked to keep him away. She wanted the man holding her right now, not him. Never him. She pulled Terry close, and Terry's lips grazed her neck. Pain flashed before her and Madison squeezed her eyes shut.

Little tripwires set off inside of her, tripwires of memory and emotion.

Her eyes stung, she willed herself to stay where she was, to endure the closed in heat, but before she could dig in and endure, she noticed things letting up. The tripwires weren't being set off anymore. She wasn't being touched.

Madison opened one eye, then the other, then looked up and saw Terry watching her in concern.

"Are you all right?" he whispered.

She nodded. She was feeling better with each passing second.

"Why didn't you tell me to stop?" Terry sighed when she didn't have a ready answer. "I don't want you to suffer. Next time, say stop, and I will. I'll honor that word, but Maddie, I need you to say it, or I won't always know what you're feeling."

"Terry, if I don't say stop, then I don't expect you to."

"I want you to tell me. I don't want to keep going."

"But how am I going to learn to fly if I don't endure some hard things first?"

"Maddie--"

"I have to be willing to risk myself, or I'll never learn."

Groaning, Terry dropped his head back and stared at the ceiling. It took him time before he could speak, and when he did, he sounded cautious.

"I don't want you to hurt yourself. You'll learn to fly, but don't hurl yourself off a mountain before your wings are ready, okay?"

"Thank you, Terry."

He looked at her. "Tell me-- please, tell me when you need me to stop?"

"I will."

She could see his concern grow again. "Unless it's one of those times you've decided to gut it out?"

Madison thought it over. "Whether I gut it out or decide to stop is my decision, isn't it?"

"Yes, it is," he sighed, "which only proves we need good communication in this relationship. Just because you're not telling me to stop, doesn't mean I won't, if I think I'm hurting you. If you want me to hold you more, then talk to me. Okay?" Terry waited a beat, grunted when she nodded "yes," and looked as though he were trying to calm himself when his phone rang.

Madison thought he could use the interruption, and reached into her pocket for the phone.

She came up empty.

"Sorry, I forgot to give it back to you after we came in from the balcony." Terry grinned a little as he dug the phone from his slacks, took a quick glance at the screen then started to turn it off altogether. "It's all right. No one I can't get back to some other time."

"Before you turn that off-- when does our plane leave?"

"Seven thirty."

"Then you might as well leave the phone on." She pointed to the clock, and Terry shook his head.

"That can't be the right time. It can't." He puffed out a breath, leaned forward on the couch and punched the phone icon on his screen. "I'd better make sure the others are ready. Which is more than I can say for us. They're probably up and have already eaten breakfast, and here we are, sitting around like we have all day. Hey, John?"

Madison smiled as Terry talked to his friend.

Nothing like a little panic to get your mind on something else.

While Terry sorted things out on the phone, Madison grabbed what she needed from her upright suitcase, then ducked into the bathroom. Though she'd only brought one pair of jeans, after she changed into a fresh white T-shirt with yellow daisies, she felt some satisfaction that she didn't look as rumpled as before. She washed her face, brushed her hair, then came out to find Terry still talking to John about their plans for the trip home.

"Okay, we'll meet you in the hall in ten minutes," Terry said, and hung up. "AJ had breakfast with John and Izzy, but I'm afraid we don't have time to order anything. We spent all our time this morning, on the couch."

Madison smiled, and Terry moved around her to the suitcase under the table.

"There's leftover strawberries in the fridge," Terry said, yanking some clothes from his duffel. "I suggest we take the box with us, and eat a few berries on the way to the airport so we won't have to leave on an empty stomach."

"I'll get it." Madison went to the fridge, pulled out the pretty box, then went about the suite gathering all their things. Coats, sweaters, Jane Austen, her purse-- she stuffed everything but the candy into their luggage so they wouldn't get lost, then put on her shoes. "Don't forget to put the knives back," she called to the bathroom.

A muffled, "Thanks," came from the closed bathroom door.

"What about the dirty dishes in the kitchen?" she wondered out loud.

"Housekeeping will take care of it." The door opened, and Terry came out in blue jeans and a navy T-shirt, looking more casual than when he'd arrived. He shoved his clothes in the duffel, pulled out his electric razor and switched it on while he glanced about the room. "Do we have everything?"

"Uh-huh. I checked."

"I can't believe I didn't keep track of the time better than this." Terry moved back into the bathroom and left the door open.

Curious, she followed and looked inside.

"We have enough time to make it, but still. Another half hour, and I'd probably be booking another flight."

Madison leaned her head against the door.

"I need to finish this up." Terry paused as he caught her reflection in the mirror, and a lopsided smile tilted his mouth. He groaned, then pushed on with his shaving. "You're distracting me, Sweetheart."

Smiling, Madison hugged herself, and went to wait for him on the couch. When he came out and put the razor away, all the lovely stubble was gone.

It was such a pity.

While Terry went into the kitchen to make things right with the hidden silverware, Madison carried their luggage to the door and did one last check of the suite. She picked up the box of chocolate as Terry came from the kitchen, and smiled at him.

"I think that's everything." He gave a final look about the place. "Are we ready to go?"

When she nodded, Terry took her hand and said a prayer for their trip home. Then he picked up their bags, she opened the door, and they stepped into the hall with Madison clutching their strawberry chocolates.

She felt a bit sad, leaving a place where she'd been so happy, and Madison tugged at Terry's arm.

"Take a picture?" she begged, and he grinned, opened the door a moment to snap a photo of their former hiding place.

He showed her the screen, and she felt better.

As he closed the door the second time, voices came down the hall-- familiar ones that sounded relaxed and happy and not at all intimidated like yesterday when they had come up in the elevator.

Abby and Jake were the first Madison saw, and then Izzy, and John. Everyone was smiling, and when Madison pinned the box of candy under one arm so she could hug Izzy, she noticed Izzy was carrying a glossy white bag.

"Oh, Izzy! Did you see it last night?" Madison excitedly hugged her friend, and almost bumped into Abby. "Did you see the moon? Wasn't it wonderful?"

"I'm afraid I missed that." Izzy returned the hug, then moved back and smiled at Madison. "Look at you, you're throwing off light of your own. It must've been a record-setting moon to make you glow this bright."

"Terry took me out on the balcony, and Izzy, it was so wonderful. I-- it was just wonderful."

Izzy gave an understanding look, squeezed Madison's hand, and moved aside as a couple tried to get past them down the hall. Before they got in someone else's way, Terry started the group in the direction of the elevator.

Then John nudged Izzy as though they had a secret to tell, and Abby smiled, and Jake grinned.

"Last evening," Izzy said as they neared the elevator doors, "we bought some things for the kids as a surprise--"

"Mom," Abby rolled her eyes, "just tell them!"

"We bought some things for the kids," Izzy said patiently, as they stepped into the elevator, "and while we were shopping, John had an idea, so he went off on his own to see if he could get something done on such short notice."

"Mom--"

"I'm getting to it, Abby." Izzy smiled, and handed the bag to Madison. "This is for you and Terry, and it's from all of us."

"It was Dad's idea." Abby looked around Madison's shoulder and grinned. "I guess sometimes even Dad can be romantic."

"There's nothing like offspring to keep one humble." John chuckled as he tapped the console and the elevator started its descent. Izzy gave John a hug and he slung an arm around his wife in an easy show of affection. "Go on, open the bag," John coaxed, and Madison smiled.

Madison looked up at Terry and saw him grinning ear to ear.

The white bag was glossy and heavy. Not sack-of-potatoes heavy, but heavy enough to suggest something important. Re-pinning her box of chocolates under one arm, Madison opened the bag. She saw glittery silver tissue, pushed it aside and pulled out a porcelain picture frame. It had tiny bluebirds decorating the edge, and cursive at the top that read, "Mr. and Mrs. Davis." The photo was the one John had taken just after their wedding, when they'd stood under the arch for their picture and Madison had placed Terry's hand on her side, and Terry had kissed her hair.

It was a quiet moment that had been saved because someone had been there to take their picture.

The elevator doors slid open but Madison couldn't move. The look on Terry's face in the photo said so much, his heart was so full in the picture, she wanted to melt into a puddle of happy tears.

She and Terry had many moments like that in the hotel suite, but now she had a picture to prove it.

One she could look at and hug whenever she wanted.

"Maddie--" Terry coaxed her along with the others, and without being conscious of it, her feet stepped from the elevator. "It was thoughtful of you guys to do this. Thank you. It means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to Maddie."

Madison nodded, her eyes fixed on the couple beneath the glass. They looked so happy, so normal, she wanted to cry.

She showed Terry the picture and he smiled, and looked a bit concerned.

"You'll stay calm?" he whispered.

She nodded and hugged the picture to her chest. He kissed her forehead, slipped the box of chocolates from her arm so she wouldn't have to hold them anymore, and handed it to Abby. As he went to the front desk to pay their bill, Madison took another peek at the photo.

"What's this?"

Madison glanced over and saw Abby looking over the heart shaped box.

"May I?" Abby asked, and Madison smiled and nodded. When Abby lifted off the lid, the expression on Abby's face made even Izzy smile. "Wow. These are some fancy strawberries."

"Terry and I didn't have breakfast, so we thought we'd try to eat a few on the way to the airport. They have to stay refrigerated, so we can't take them on the plane."

"Happy eating." Abby served the box to Madison.

"If anyone wants chocolate dipped strawberries, help yourself." Madison took one and looked over a good place to take a bite. "Terry ordered a big box, and even after I fed him several, we still had all this leftover."

She looked up in time to see Abby exchange a smiling glance with Jake. The young couple made no remarks, but both picked out some candy. Izzy passed out tissues from a packet from her purse, and John went to the front desk to pay for their room service.

"Dad ordered dinner for us last night, and we watched two movies. One for the girls, and one for the guys. We had a good time." Abby looked as though she was savoring each bite of her strawberry, and laughed when Jake needed another tissue from Izzy. After picking a second candy from the box, Abby looked thoughtful. "Madison? Do you mind if I ask you something? It's more along the lines of a favor, than really a question."

"Okay."

"Would you mind it very much--" Abby sighed, paused and seemed to be trying to find the right words. "Would it be okay with you if my sisters, and Jake and I, called you Aunt Madison?"

The question surprised Madison. Her hands started to tremble, and she gripped her sweet picture frame so it wouldn't drop from sheer joy.

"I don't mind."

"Really?" Abby beamed. "I didn't think you would, but I wanted to ask first. It didn't seem right to just start calling you that without asking."

"Thanks, Abby. It's an honor. It really is."

Abby smiled in delight, and took a bite from her candy.

The men came back and John's eyes popped wide when he saw the box they were eating from. Abby pushed the box John's way, and when he balked, Izzy gave him a taste from her strawberry.

"Where'd this come from?" John asked, as they started for the glass doors.

"Uncle Terry and Aunt Madison." Abby moved out of the way as Terry and John handled the luggage and Jake hurried to wipe his hands and help.

John paused a moment as Abby said the words, "Aunt Madison," and John glanced at Terry. The men smiled, and Terry nodded as though that was the way things should be. It made Madison warm inside, and she looked at her picture again to see if it was still as she had last remembered it-- her with Terry at her back, and him giving her a one-armed hug from behind.

It was. It hadn't changed at all.

"Maddie?" Terry smiled when she looked up, and he helped her into the waiting taxi. Abby passed him the chocolates, and he passed it to Madison.

Madison didn't care about food anymore, only their picture, the one that said, "Mr. and Mrs. Davis" at the top in glorious detail. It wasn't stamped on, but looked to be painted in by hand, probably by the person who had sold John the frame.

"I'm glad you like it." Izzy's voice sounded, and Madison looked about and realized Terry was sitting beside her in the taxi, and beside him was Izzy, and John. "When John showed us how nicely the picture had turned out on his phone, he said he had to do something about it."

The taxi was moving, but Madison didn't care. She moved the box of strawberries to Terry's lap and kept gazing at the photo.

"It's perfect, John. Thank you for this."

She looked up, and John smiled at her and helped himself to a strawberry. Terry looked at the photo, ate some candy and kept silent, but Madison could feel his happiness even though he was trying to keep her calm. Terry leaned his head against hers, sighed, and ate his makeshift breakfast in silence and she knew he was happy.

They were a Mr. and Mrs. now.

Mrs. Madison Davis; Mrs. Terry Davis. Madison tried different ways of saying her name, but she liked Terry's best. She loved the sound of his name, and what it stood for. She touched the edge of the picture frame where the "Mr. and Mrs." had been painted and heard Terry sigh.

"I hope you're staying calm," she teased.

Terry nuzzled her ear, and it tickled so much, she fought back a giggle.

"Easy," he whispered and backed away.

She sucked in some air, nodded that she was calming down and Terry looked apologetic. She probably shouldn't have teased him, though-- not if she wasn't ready to giggle in front of John and Izzy.

"Are we done with the candy?" Terry asked.

She nodded, and Terry put the lid on.

"With everyone's help, we managed to finish most of it, though there's still a few left. How about I offer it to the driver when we get out?"

"Terry, isn't it a beautiful picture?"

"Yes, it is." Terry sat back and wiped his hands on a tissue Izzy passed him.

"Isn't it just wonderful?"

He smiled, and nodded.

"Terry--"

"Let's remember to breathe, Maddie."

She nodded and he reached for the duffel at his feet.

"If you're ready, I'd like to pack that. We can take it in our carry-on, but I'd like to bury it in some clothes so it won't break when we push it into the overhead bin."

Taking one more look, Madison gave him the precious frame. Terry slid it between some clothes, padded it with underthings, then zipped the bag shut.

"What if it breaks?"

"Then we'll have to send John back to get us another."

At this, John laughed and Madison tried to settle down. To breathe, to relax and enjoy the ride. She hugged Terry's arm, took his hand in hers and watched the traffic outside her window.

This was so much better than holding onto a button for dear life, and trying not to drop it somewhere along the way. Hand in hand was so much better.

The taxi pulled to the curb and everyone started to get out with their bags. Madison's hip ached, but she refused to let a little pain ruin her morning. She watched as Terry paid the driver, tipped him, then offered him the unfinished box of candy. Though Madison couldn't hear what the man said, she could hear him laugh, and saw him accept the strawberries.

She hoped he liked the few pieces left, and was glad she'd saved the ribbon. It was something to remember the candy by, besides the cavities she was probably getting from not having brushed her teeth after their hasty breakfast.

People moved past them on the curb and Madison stayed close to her family until Terry had taken care of both taxis. Then she glued herself to Terry's side so close her shoes kept stepping on his. A nip here, a scuff there, but they were both wearing sneakers and Terry didn't seem to mind. He only smiled and moved them through the busy airport to where they needed to be.

He was so wonderful, even in this crowd she had to remind herself to breathe.

She didn't mind the lines, or when she had to step inside a machine that searched her, for life was happy. Life was good, and it was easy to not feel the need to cut, or to even think about cutting.

She'd heard about vacations before, and she felt like she was coming back from one. Her first ever. It was like she'd done a real hard thing and had been rewarded, and it felt great, but now she was going back to life. Or what life would be like now that things were different.

"Maddie, your limp is worse." Terry slowed as they moved down a long corridor. "We forgot your painkiller this morning, didn't we?"

"It's okay. I can take some after we're on the plane, and we're almost there."

She stuck so close to Terry as they moved inside the cabin, she stumbled a little when she stepped on his heel. He looked behind, and when she smiled, he kept moving.

John and Izzy's seats were further up the aisle than hers and Terry's, and AJ's were across the row where Madison couldn't see. Terry explained this was a busier flight, and it had been harder to book their seats together. Her disappointment was softened though, when Terry once again offered her the window seat.

She took it happily.

"You're getting to be quite the traveler," Terry joked as he lifted his duffel into the overhead bin. "Do you want to get your painkiller out before I put your suitcase up?"

She nodded, unzipped her bag as a young man came to their row and claimed the aisle seat. Hurrying so they wouldn't get in the way, she pulled out her purse, closed the bag and Terry didn't waste time putting it into the bin.

The man smiled at her and she busied herself with trying to find the painkiller. It was probably in her purse.

How she wished the stranger would stop smiling.

"You got a boyfriend or something? because I'm available." He was about to say more when Terry took the seat between him and Madison. "Oh. Sorry." He was young, maybe even fresh from his teens, and Madison struggled with her prejudice against men to work up some pity. "I didn't see you. Really."

"It's okay." Terry sounded of good humor, though the man must've been staring at Madison and nothing else, not to have seen Terry.

She half didn't believe him, but then, his embarrassment had sounded real.

"I don't suppose you're her uncle?"

"We just got married."

"Oh. Wow. Congratulations."

"Thank you."

"Yeah, I'm thinking about taking the plunge one of these days." The man sniffed as Madison found her bottle of acetaminophen. "I just need to find the right one, you know?"

"I know." Terry watched as she pulled off the cap, and nudged her elbow. "Izzy bought water after we came through security."

"That's all right." Madison downed the pills so Terry wouldn't get up and leave her alone with the man. Her hip was hurting after all that standing in line, and she needed the relief. The seat belt sign was already on, so it was too late, anyway.

Then the man started to talk, and talk, and Madison tried not to listen. Some of the things he said were so shockingly personal, she felt like an intruder just sitting there. He began to be so frank, Madison wanted to stuff fingers in her ears and shout the National Anthem. Men were animals and this one was proving it. She wanted to tell Terry that, when Terry pulled out his smartphone, plugged in some earbuds and passed it to Madison.

Thank you. Escape.

She turned up the volume and the stranger was no longer a problem. A few minutes later, she felt an earbud tug away, and Terry joined her.

The man had stopped, and except for their earbuds, their row was finally quiet. When Terry winced, she realized just how high she'd turned up the music to get away from the man. She mouthed, "sorry," and took it down a little, and Terry smiled, and closed his eyes.

For the rest of the three and a half hour flight, they listened to music and audiobooks, and when they preferred quiet, kept the audio off but the earbuds in, and the man left them alone. Only when they had to get ready to land, did Terry shut off his phone and put it away.

Through her window, Madison watched the ground rush up, and smiled when she saw the runway beneath them.

"You people getting off here?" the man asked.

"No, our trip isn't over." As Terry spoke, the engines revved and the plane began to slow.

You couldn't talk without nearly shouting, and it stopped the man from easily asking more. When the plane came to a stop at their gate, and they could take off seat belts and start collecting their carry-on luggage, Madison breathed a sigh of relief.

She wanted off this plane.

The man gathered his things, shook hands with Terry, and before leaving, gave Madison a long surveying look that had Terry moving between him and Madison.

He put his hands up in mock surrender, then sauntered down the aisle with his bag slung over one shoulder.

Terry's jaw was working, but he said nothing and watched until the man had left the plane. Terry let out a heavy sigh and she could see him shaking off his anger.

She affectionately bumped Terry's shoulder, and he smiled.

"Thanks," he sighed, and he started to look about to make sure they had everything.

As Izzy and John came by, Terry and Madison joined them in the aisle, and AJ waved to them from a few people behind.

"Ready for lunch?" John grinned as they filed into the corridor. "One o'clock is later than we usually eat, but better late than never."

"I'm ready." Terry, as well as John, looked as though they knew the airport, and Madison and the others followed them through the crowds. "There's a pizza joint around here that was decent. Nothing special, but it was good eats."

"Yeah, where was that?" John looked about, and Abby shot a glance to her mother.

"There's a salad bar ten feet away, and they're searching for pizza." Abby sighed but followed after them when Terry spotted the restaurant he and John had wanted. She looked tired and ready to eat, even if it wasn't exactly the healthiest meal around.

When they had ordered an extra large pizza with "the works," and were waiting at their table, and Madison was busy getting the sweater from her suitcase, Jake asked something that got everyone's attention. Madison had missed the question, but from everyone's looks, it had been important.

She bit back her impatience and tried to follow what was going on.

Something big was about to happen. She could feel it.

"Abby and I talked about it on the plane," Jake went on. "Since you and Aunt Madison are married now, we were wondering if it was no longer necessary."

"No, I admit it isn't." Terry sighed. "I've loved having you with us, though. And I appreciate what you and Abby have done. You really helped me out. I owe you."

"That goes for me, too," Madison smiled, beginning to understand.

"You kids put your lives, as well as your careers, on hold for your family," John put in, "and we're grateful."

"We'll try to make it up to you," Izzy nodded.

"Hey," Jake laughed, "you don't owe us a thing. This family is a unit. We pull together. You've impressed me with that often enough, and I've seen the way you've raised Abby." Jake shook his head. "When one part of this family has a need, we all do what we can to help out, and when one of us has a milestone, we celebrate with them. The fact Uncle Terry thought to invite Abby and I with Dad and Mom, only proves my point. This family is close."

"We can still be close from our house," Abby smiled.

"It's a short walk." Izzy looked as though she were comforting herself, as well as the others. "It's much shorter than a cross-country flight to San Diego."

John nodded, and looked grateful. "Much shorter."

It took a moment for Madison to realize what this meant.

AJ wouldn't be in Terry's bedroom anymore.

And Terry would be in the living room, sleeping on the end of the couch, when he should be in his room, sleeping on his bed.

And it was Madison's fault.

She needed him in the living room, not in some far away place down the hall, but the memory of him slumped sitting up on the couch, hit her hard. She would have him do that? For the rest of his life?

It made her want to cry.

She loved him too much for that.

He should have his room back, even if it meant she had to endure the ugly dreams without him.

The pizza was being served and she shoved the words back into her heart and kept them for later. She'd tasted what it could be like with him, and it made this decision all the harder.

They prayed, then started in on lunch.

A foot nudged hers beneath the table, and she looked up from her untouched pizza and saw Terry watching her.

"Try to eat."

She nodded, and though her heart was heavy, she was able to get down a slice of pizza. When he coaxed her to eat one more, she just couldn't.

He would fight her about the room-- she knew he would. He wouldn't want to move back in, but she'd make him see it was for his own good, and began to form the argument in her mind, and the comebacks for when he resisted.

Terry nudged her foot again, and she looked up.

"Do you want to take a walk?" he asked.

She nodded and started to get up even before he had a chance to pull her chair out. The others looked puzzled, but didn't ask questions as Terry wiped his hands on a napkin, then pulled away from the table.

"We'll be back in a few minutes. Save us some pizza?"

John nodded, and took a drink from his soda cup.

Hugging herself, Madison led Terry from the restaurant and into the noisy terminal. She didn't want the others to hear, and Terry acted as though he understood.

"Okay, Maddie." Terry pulled a hand free from around her middle, then gently tugged her closer to his side so they could talk more in private. "I think I know what this is about." He looked at her. "This is about AJ moving out, isn't it?"

She nodded.

"What's on your heart?" he asked.

"You should move back to your room."

"Without you? Not going to happen."

"But you can't sleep sitting up forever."

"Granted, but I'm not leaving you in the living room while I sleep down the hall."

"But, Terry, it's for your own good."

"No, you are for my own good." Terry touched her chin and she couldn't help but bubble over into a smile. "I don't know how we'll arrange things in the living room yet, but we'll figure something out."

She wanted to fight him some more, but he was an awfully good convincer.

"Am I really, Terry? Am I really for your own good?"

He looked about, and so did she, and it didn't seem like anyone was paying them much attention. His lips touched her, and she leaned in and kissed him. He tasted like "the works," like pepperoni and cheese, and lots of zingy spices she couldn't name, and when he pulled away he was smiling.

"We'll find a way to make it work. Agreed?"

She hugged his arm with everything she had. "I agree, Terry."

"Okay, then. Let's get back to the others before they eat our lunch." Terry squeezed her hand, and they strolled back to the restaurant while Madison's heart overflowed with love.

She could eat now.

* * * *

Thankfully, there was no young man on the connecting flight to Syracuse to stare at Maddie, a fact which made Terry deeply grateful. He was newly married, probably a bit jealous of her right now, and he was glad for the peace and quiet. The elderly woman in their row occupied herself with a book, and between the book reader, and a napping Maddie, it made for a tranquil flight.

It was a good time for thinking, for trying to work out their problem. And it was a problem. They had more than one, actually, but the sleeping sitting up was the most pressing.

There was no way, short of physical torture, that he'd ever admit to Maddie how he'd passed last night. His back was sore, he'd kept waking up and shifting to try and find a comfortable position, and the thought of going through all that again tonight, was disheartening. Napping sitting up was one thing, but it was hard to get deep, recuperative sleep when you kept waking up every few hours. It appeared she'd had an easier time of it than he had, and for that, he was extremely thankful.

But he had to work something out. A sleeping bag?

Terry rubbed his eyes and looked at the woman beside him. If he had to have a problem in his life, she was most definitely worth it.

He passed the rest of their flight in thought, and prayed for wisdom.

When they began their descent, Terry woke Maddie. The flight had only lasted two hours, but the green outside his window announced they were nearing home and he was eager to see the kids again. While he enjoyed aspects of travel, he enjoyed being home with his family even more.

The wheels touched down, and Terry felt the eagerness of someone ready to be home. He waited as they taxied to their gate, sighed when he could take off his seat belt, and smiled when John spoke up from across the aisle.

"Anyone mind if we grab some food and eat in the minivan on the way home? That way, we get back as soon as possible."

"Sounds good to me," Jake said with a yawn.

There weren't many people on board and it wasn't hard for everyone to stay together.

Terry knew this airport inside out, as did John, and it didn't take long before they were back in their coats and heading into the parking garage. Though everyone looked tired, he could tell they were happy, and that seemed especially true of Maddie.

While they waited in the garage as John unlocked the minivan, Maddie leaned her head against Terry's shoulder, and her sigh told Terry a lot of what she was feeling.

"You're much more relaxed than when we left," Terry smiled.

"I feel relaxed."

"Good." Terry kissed her nose. "That's very good."

Everyone climbed inside the vehicle-- AJ in the back, Maddie and Terry in the middle row, and John and Izzy up front.

Terry slid the side door shut.

"Everyone's in, who's coming in," Terry said to the driver, and John started the engine.

"We are going to pick up the kids, tonight, aren't we?" Abby asked, as Terry and Maddie buckled in. "I know Dad has to drop us off first, then put in the boosters, but you are going to pick them up, tonight, aren't you?"

"Sounds like separation anxiety," John chuckled.

"I mean it-- we are going to pick them up, tonight?"

"That's the plan," John said, as the minivan wound through the airport lanes.

The conversation went back and forth and Terry wanted to get home. He was tired, and wouldn't mind climbing into bed for some shuteye.

Oh, yeah. No bed.

Terry sighed and looked out the window. He wasn't complaining. His body might be, but his heart sure wasn't.

A hand took his, and he looked down to see slender fingers intertwined with his strong wide ones. He looked up to see Maddie watching the view out her window, so she hadn't done it out of pity. It was just Maddie, being Maddie.

If it didn't trigger any flashbacks for her, he'd haul a sleeping bag out from the garage.

Sleeping bag or not though, he counted himself a blessed man.

After they ordered hamburgers at a drive-through, John stopped in the parking lot long enough to eat his meal, then started the hour and a half drive home while the others ate. They were pushing to get home, for everyone was tired and Abby wasn't the only mother wanting to see her munchkins.

Not feeling very hungry, Terry ate half his food, then stuffed the remains into the bag and leaned back to rest his eyes.

* * * *

Someone was tugging at his hand, and by the gentle pressure, Terry knew it was Maddie.

"Terry? Terry, we're home."

Her voice, her kind soft voice made him sigh. He opened his eyes and she smiled so sweetly, Terry wanted to pull her close for a kiss.

"We're home," she said again, and he nodded.

As Jake opened the side door, Terry looked through the front dash and saw an early night sky.

"I called Agatha, so she knows to expect us." Izzy turned and looked into the back of the van, gathering trash from their dinner as she went. "She said the kids are excited about their surprise."

"That reminds me--" Terry climbed out, then helped Maddie outside-- "what did you get them, anyway?"

"What else? Toys."

Terry laughed, and tried to fight off his tiredness. Everyone else was tired, and he had gotten a nap. That had to count for something. He collected Maddie's suitcase, his duffel, then started for the house with Maddie beside him.

Something caught his attention, and Terry glanced up at the night sky and laughed.

"It's our friend."

She looked up and smiled.

"The moon's followed us home, Maddie." Terry couldn't help yawning. He put down the luggage to unlock the front door, when noise down the street made him pause.

"Hey!" Vince, their neighbor and Terry's fishing buddy, jogged into view, his face one huge grin. "Is it true? Did you do it?" When Terry nodded, he was pulled into a giant bear hug. "Oh, man! Congratulations!"

"Thanks, Buddy." Terry returned the man-hug, then winced as Vince started to hug Maddie.

She extended a hand instead, and though it took Vince by surprise, he shook it and smiled, then turned back to Terry.

"You're still on for the wedding here in the bay, aren't you?"

"We are, and don't worry-- you're invited."

"Good, I'll be on the lookout for the invitation." Vince clapped Terry on the shoulder. "Maybe we could take the girls out in the boat sometime, and get in some fishing? Susan would love the company, and then she'll leave us alone so we can catch something besides weeds. What do you say?"

A lump formed in Terry's throat. Terry nodded, and tried to speak.

"That'd be great."

"Congratulations, Buddy. I'm happy for you." Vince shook his head, smiled, and walked back into the darkness for home.

"Terry?" Maddie touched Terry's hand and it took him a moment to answer.

"That's never happened to me before. I was just included in a social invitation as a couple. And it wasn't because Izzy set me up on a date, or Dick, who's like family, is inviting us to a party. That was Vince, who's just one of the guys." Terry turned to Maddie, and in the glow of the outdoor security light, he could see she didn't quite understand. The others were coming up with their luggage, and since Terry didn't want to explain in their presence, he hurried to unlock the front door.

"Who was that-- Vince?" John asked, as they moved into the dark house.

"Yeah, he wanted to congratulate us."

"Word must be getting around," John sighed.

Terry turned on the light, and while Izzy exclaimed how good it was to be home, it occurred to Terry that John was right. Most of Three Mile Bay must've known about their trip into Las Vegas, for Vince to have been able to congratulate them like that.

Maybe it was for the best. After the gossip about him and Maddie, it was probably a good thing that everyone now knew they were married.

When Terry woke from his thoughts, he noticed Maddie staring at the living room couch.

She didn't look happy.

As John and Jake went to the garage to start taking boosters seats out to the minivan, Terry went to help.

He would face the couch later.

* * * *

It had taken her a moment to understand the importance of what Terry had been trying to tell her, for she valued social invitations from women much more than she did from men. But she did get it. She had made Terry into a couple, one who could be invited to "take the girls out in the boat," or whatever else his buddies did as couples.

She was glad Terry was getting something out of this. Something besides the end of that couch.

Leaving her things in the living room, Abby headed into the hall.

"Well," Izzy sighed, "if Vince knows, then everyone in church tomorrow is going to want to congratulate you and Terry." Izzy smiled and started for the hallway. "I'd better unpack before the children come home, and want their surprise. Do you feel all right?"

Madison nodded. It wasn't exactly the truth, but it was the way Izzy had meant it-- she wasn't sick.

"Things will look better in the morning, when you're not as tired. All this travel is enough to drag anyone down." Izzy gave her an encouraging smile, then went to unpack.

Would things look better in the morning? Madison wasn't so sure.

She sank onto the couch, and prayed-- no begged, for wisdom. She needed help, then remembered God sometimes had His angels sitting behind desks. Wondering if it was too late to call and get an answer, Madison dug out her phone and punched Carol's number.

Carol had said to call if Madison needed her, and right now, she did.

The number answered on the second ring.

"Carol, it's Madison. I don't know what to do. I'm praying, and I still don't know what to do."

"First, take a deep breath." Carol's steady, unhurried voice calmed Madison and she took that deep breath. "Let me sit down and get comfortable so we can talk."

"I'm sorry for bothering you."

"It's no bother. This is what I'm here for."

"To be bothered?"

Carol laughed, and Madison could hear people sounds in the background, then a door shutting, and then quiet.

"Let me get over to this chair, and sit down. Now. Let's talk."

Taking another deep breath, Madison explained the past wonderful two days-- the wedding, the hiding, the airplane rides, (she left out the young man), then Terry sitting up all night on the couch. And now they were home, and she was facing Terry sleeping sitting up again, and she didn't know what to do. It was a mess.

"Terry deserves better than this, Carol, and I don't want him to sleep like that for the rest of his life!"

"First, let's ask what your goals are?"

"To marry Terry--" Madison's eyes darted about the room and even though she saw no one, she cupped a hand over the phone and whispered as quietly as humanly possible-- "have sex, and have his baby."

"Do your goals include a traditional bed?"

Madison took a long pause. She knew Terry loved her, that he'd do whatever it took to make this marriage work. She didn't doubt that. He loved her, and she loved him. And like him, she would do whatever it took.

Including an actual bed.

"Yes, my goals include that."

"Why?"

"Because if we were switched around, and he had trouble sleeping on a bed, he'd do that for me." Madison gathered her legs under her, and hunkered in her coat, even though someone had turned the heat on in the house. "When I said--" Madison caught herself from talking too loudly and hushed her voice as low as she could-- "when I said my goals, deep down, I meant a bed. I meant all the ugly things I don't want to face, but I have to face them. I can't sleep on the couch forever."

"So what are your goals?"

"To be with him on a bed." Madison groaned. "But that doesn't help, Carol. I'm so stupid. I get sick to my stomach just thinking about beds, let alone being on one again with a man."

"If someone came to you, and told you they'd been sexually abused and chained to a bed for years-- since they were a child-- how do you think that person might feel about being intimate on one, later in life?"

"Like they wouldn't want to."

"Would that seem reasonable to you?"

"Yes."

"Would you call the person stupid?"

"No."

"Then maybe you might want to cut yourself some slack."

Wet spilled down Madison's cheeks, and she palmed it away before Izzy or Abby came back into the living room and asked what was going on.

"Thank you, Carol."

"That's quite all right."

"But what should I do about tonight?" Madison fished the handkerchief from her jeans pocket. "What should I do?"

"That depends on what you're ready for."

"I'm not ready for bed." Madison knew it, but it didn't solve her problem. "Terry has to sleep somewhere though, and I don't want him in another room."

"Take a deep breath." Carol's steadiness once again calmed Madison. "I'm going to ask some questions, and let's see if the answers don't suggest a solution. Think carefully before you answer, okay?"

"Okay." Madison blew her nose.

"Which is worse: the blankets, or the actual bed, itself?"

"The bed."

"Terry laying down, going to sleep, or the bed?"

"The bed."

"Please think about that."

"I am. It's the bed-- it'd be worse."

"The mattress or the bed?"

"The bed, though it doesn't make the mattress much better. Izzy slept on an inflatable mattress, and it was all right, but that wasn't real, and she was a woman. A real mattress isn't a whole lot better than a bed."

"Okay, now we know a few things that can help us."

"Like what?"

"We know that Terry doesn't have to sleep sitting up, blankets are just fine, and his bed shouldn't be made on a mattress."

"But--" Madison thought about what it ruled out, but then realized what it ruled in. "He could sleep on the couch. But I'm on the couch. There's only room for one on the couch, and I'm not ready for anything else yet, so that puts me back where we started. Unless of course, Terry sleeps sitting up!" In horror, Madison clamped a hand over her mouth. She'd said all that much louder than she'd intended. She looked about, saw no one anywhere, and prayed Izzy or Abby hadn't heard any of that.

They probably hadn't-- they were too busy doing their own things, but still. That had been close.

"Let's just breathe and relax. Have you prayed lately?"

"Yes, just before I called."

"Then let's look at this again."

Carol hadn't finished speaking, when Abby came into the room with two suitcases and a bag. Then Abby went back into the hall, brought in one more, and piled it with everything else. Looking distracted, she stepped back and noticed the phone. She motioned that she'd keep quiet, and ducked into the kitchen.

"I don't see how my problem is getting any better, Carol. By faith, I suppose it is, but by sight it's staying exactly the same."

A second later, Izzy came into the living room, saw the phone and mouthed the word, "Terry?"

Madison shook her head, and Izzy nodded that she would be quiet, and ducked into the kitchen. It struck Madison how very much alike the mother and daughter sometimes were.

"Let's not give up," Carol said, and it made Madison so glad that Carol was her friend. "What if you--"

"You're what?" sounded from the kitchen.

While Carol talked, Madison hunkered down on the couch.

"You're moving out, tonight?" Izzy came into the living room and stared at the pile of suitcases and things Abby had left. "Sweetheart, what about Ricky? What about your house? You haven't fully unpacked, yet." Izzy saw the phone, motioned Abby back into the kitchen, and Madison tried to talk a little quieter so she wouldn't disturb mother and daughter.

"Sorry, that was Izzy and Abby."

"That's okay." Carol spoke with a smile in her voice. "I was only suggesting that you might talk to Terry. Is he around? Can you talk to him about what sleeping arrangements are available?"

Before Madison could answer, the front door opened and four munchkins tried to crowd through at the same time. Debbie managed first, then Lizzie, then Ruthie, and Ricky trailed in the back with his firefighter.

Madison fully expected a stampede for their mothers, but to her utter delight they came to the couch and wanted hugs.

"Jake said we had a new aunt!" Debbie said, eager to go first.

"Thank you, thank you," Madison dropped her phone and hugged each munchkin, hugging even Ricky, who seemed at first too much of a guy to need one, but at last relenting when his aunts got one and he alone was left standing. "Thank you so much. Oh, it's good to be home."

Ricky nodded in little boy agreement, and yawned.

Movement in the kitchen doorway caught Madison's eye, and she looked up to see Izzy and Abby smiling like they hadn't wanted to interrupt.

"I hadn't realized how much I missed them until just now," Madison admitted.

"You're allowed," Izzy laughed, and came into the living room to be tugged in three different directions until all three girls had been hugged and kissed and each one had told their momma about what they had done since the last time they had seen her.

Ricky was scooped into Abby's arms, and even though he was getting big, he looked content to stay there and talk to his momma.

Loaded down with backpacks and a small suitcase, Jake came through the front door, took one look at the scene and grinned at Madison. "Home sweet home." Jake edged around the family, saw his and Abby's luggage and nodded in approval.

As Jake made his way to the hall, Terry stepped inside.

The sight of Terry had Madison digging around the couch cushion for Carol.

"Terry just came back," Madison whispered into the phone. "Maybe I should talk to him now, like you said."

"If you need to, call me."

"Thank you so much."

They hung up, and not a moment too soon, for Terry waded through the family, moved to the couch, and sat down beside Madison. He opened his mouth to start talking, but Ruthie came over and presented something to Madison.

"I forgot. This is for you." She held up a sheet of paper covered with stick figures. "It's us. This is Daddy and Mommy, Abby, Jake, Debbie, Ricky, Lizzie..."

"Who are these?" Terry asked with a smile.

"That's you and Aunt Madison. And that's me, and that's Three Mile Bay. The water's green because Lizzie hogged all the blue and then when I got it, it broke in two."

"What broke-- the water?"

"No, the blue crayon." Ruthie smiled. "Can I see the ring again?"

Terry held up his hand and she grinned.

"Can I try it on?"

"It won't fit," Terry said apologetically, and Ruthie handed the picture to Madison.

"Thank you." She gave the little girl a hug. The hug felt nice, and it must've felt nice to Ruthie too, for the girl hopped onto the couch and scooted beside Madison. "What did you do while we were gone?" Madison asked.

"A LOT." Ruthie spoke like some tired soul about to collapse. "Mrs. Hopkins kept us REALLY busy."

Terry laughed. "Well, thank you for taking the time to draw this for us. With your aunt's permission, I'd like to post this on the fridge."

Madison nodded, and Ruthie eagerly climbed down and went with Terry into the kitchen to see it posted.

When Terry and Ruthie came back, Ruthie seemed to have forgotten the couch and went to her mom and sisters and started to ask about the surprise. Ricky asked to be put down, Jake came down the hall, John stepped in from outside, and as Terry sat down on the couch beside Madison, John saw AJ's luggage.

"What's this?" John asked.

"Maddie, I'd like to talk to you." Terry tried to keep his voice low, but John's question had Terry looking up.

"Are Abby and Jake moving out right now?" John asked, and Izzy nodded, "yes."

"It's okay, Dad." Jake spoke up before Abby did, and Abby looked relieved. "Abby and I already talked this over. We've got it handled."

"You've been talking, huh?" John chuckled, but didn't look surprised. "I'm backing off, but don't hesitate to ask if you guys need help unpacking, or moving furniture. There's no shame in admitting you need a little help."

Jake smiled. "I'll remember that when it's time to unpack the aquarium."

"They're leaving?" Debbie looked thunderstruck.

While the house moved about them, Terry moved closer to Madison on the couch. She took his hand, and hid her face against his shoulder until his breath tickled her ear, and his whisper coaxed her to look up.

"Maddie, I need to talk to you."

"So do I."

Terry took off his coat, and it prompted Madison to do the same.

"I was wondering," Terry breathed deep, as if he was about to ask a big thing, "do you think a sleeping bag would hurt you? Do you think it would trigger flashbacks?"

"Terry, I have to tell you something."

He looked pained that she hadn't answered his question, and she saw patience move his features as he forced himself to listen. This had to do with his question-- it really did-- he just didn't know it yet.

"I called Carol."

"You did? When?"

"Just now. I told her we got married, and she helped me to think some things through."

"That's good." Terry was being patient again. He was tired, but he was patient, and Madison tried hard to hurry.

"She asked me questions about how I feel about beds, and we came to some conclusions." Madison saw Terry's face perk up. "It's the bed, and a real mattress that aren't so good for me, but there can be blankets and you can sleep laying down."

For a moment, it didn't look as though Terry understood.

"When we rule things out, it can rule other things in."

"Oh." Terry nodded. "I see. So a sleeping bag would definitely be in." Hope reached his eyes, then his mouth tilted in a half smile as the thought sank in. "A cot could even work. Or am I wrong?"

"Are cots those things you fold out? I think I've seen them on TV. They would work, but Terry, they didn't look very comfortable."

"Or," Terry smiled, "a couch. I could sleep on a couch."

"You mean laying down? I thought of that," Madison nodded, "but I'm already using the couch. It wouldn't solve anything. You'd have to sleep sitting up again."

"No, no. You don't understand." Terry nodded to the luggage on the floor. "AJ is moving out."

"So?"

"So--" Terry was grinning so hard Madison was starting to, as well, even though she didn't know why-- "we move into my room."

Madison felt her grin start to slip. "But there's a bed--"

"Maddie, we take out the bed, and move in two couches."

"Two?"

"One for you," he smiled, "and one for me."

"Two?" Madison gulped hard. "But what would people think? Wouldn't that make us crazy?" As she said the word, "crazy," she thought about what Carol had said, and wondered if it would be all right to cut themselves some slack.

Would that be all right?

"Maddie, I meant every word when I said we were going to do whatever it takes. I wasn't kidding. If this is what it's going to take, then I say we go for it."

"Okay, Terry."

"Okay?"

She nodded.

"It'll be me and you in one room." Terry was speaking in hushed tones the others couldn't overhear, though they were too busy with AJ moving out to notice a whispered conversation. "We're going to have to iron some things out so we're comfortable, but Maddie, I think we have a chance of this working. What do you say?"

"We were all right in the hotel suite."

"This will be smaller," he warned.

"We can make it work, Terry."

"And if we can't," he sighed, "then we'll have to think of something else. But, Maddie, for a shot at having some privacy to kiss and sleep on a couch, I'm willing, if you are."

Privacy to kiss. She bit her lip until it almost bled. It was true. They didn't have much privacy here. In fact, they had none at all. It was the living room, after all, not a private space.

She nodded, and hugged his arm. "I'm willing, Terry."

His mouth moved behind her ear, he planted a kiss, and she melted like butter on warm homemade bread.

It sounded wonderful, like their own home version of a hiding place, only this one, they wouldn't have to leave the next day. She looked about and saw John and Jake hauling suitcases from the house, while Abby held open the front door.

"Need help?" Terry offered, and John shook his head.

"Stay where you're at," John said, and the door closed behind them.

On the floor, the children sat pulling small stuffed animals out of a gift bag. There was one for each of them, and they began deciding who got what while Izzy tidied the room and kept an eye on the little ones. It seemed no one had been paying the couch much attention, and Madison was grateful.

"Terry?" she squeezed his hand. "How soon can we get the couches moved in?"

"It won't be tonight, but don't worry-- we'll get it done as soon as possible. I have a question for you, though. Do you want me to sleep in day clothes?"

It took Madison a while to think about that, but she finally shook her head. He was still Terry, no matter what he wore.

With a sigh, she tucked her head against his shoulder and watched the children divide the stuffed animals. Ricky got the horse-- which Firefighter Stan quickly learned to ride, Debbie picked the desert owl and named it, "Sky," Ruthie wanted the huggable panda bear with the sweet face, and Lizzie celebrated when she got to keep the calico cat with whiskers. They were happy and busy with their surprises, and it only added to Madison's joy.

The room she couldn't go into because it had a bed-- the room that belonged to Terry, would soon be hers, as well. He was making changes just for her, and it made her more determined than ever to prove herself a butterfly.

* * * *

When John had finished helping take AJ's things to their house, and John had come back for Ricky, the triplets argued that it wasn't bedtime yet.

"It's past bedtime, but that's not the point," John said as Ricky gathered his toys. "His parents want him to come home."

"But this is home," Debbie sighed.

John gave his little girl a you-know-better-than-that kind of look, and she fell back on the carpet in defeat.

"You'll see him tomorrow." John coaxed his grandson along as Terry grabbed his coat and headed to the door with them.

John looked to Terry, his brows raised in curious question.

"I need a sleeping bag from the garage."

"What about the inflatable mattress?"

"That's not going to work."

"Okay." John didn't press for further explanation, but made sure Ricky had his coat, then stepped outside with Ricky and Terry.

If John wondered whether Terry would be in the sleeping bag from here on out, John didn't ask, so Terry volunteered the information. John nodded and listened, and looked relieved, and again, John didn't press for more. John lingered before they parted ways-- John to take Ricky the short distance to the little yellow house, and Terry to get the sleeping bag from the garage.

Night spread above them, and in the light of Terry's friend, the moon, Terry could see John's face.

John was thinking.

"The office is bigger."

"What do you mean?"

"There's not much space in your room for two couches, but you could do that in the office." John nodded slowly. "Switch rooms-- you and Madison take the office, and we move our office into your room."

The offer was stunning. Terry shook his head, but John stopped him.

"Think about it before you turn it down. I'd rather work in a smaller office, than have you move out. Abby and Jake are just over there, but if you and Madison move away, it's not going to be that close. Think about it. I have to take this munchkin home." John patted Ricky on the shoulder, and they started for the yellow house.

It wasn't going to happen, of course, for Terry wouldn't let it. He would get two couches into his room if that's all that fit in there, but it had been a kind offer by a dear brother.

As Terry moved into the garage and thought it over though, he began to measure the room in his mind.

His room had officially been the guest room, and that meant it wasn't very big, and it didn't leave much space for the kind of arrangement he'd been considering. Terry grabbed his sleeping bag, and even though he couldn't do anything about the move until the day after tomorrow-- Monday-- located the measuring tape, then headed back into the house.

As much as he refused to move the office, he couldn't have Maddie crawling over a couch to get through the doorway.

In the living room, Maddie was dressed in her pajamas and robe, and making her bed on the couch. When she saw the sleeping bag, she looked sorry for him, but he didn't have time for that. He dropped the bag on the floor, moved into the hall, turned into his bedroom and made a quick survey.

"Terry?" Maddie hid in the hallway, unable to look inside. "What's wrong?"

"I don't know if we can easily fit two couches in here." Terry fed out some measuring tape. "John just offered to switch the office with this room so we can put in the couches, and I'm beginning to think we might have to."

"Don't we have enough room to do it here?" Maddie asked hopefully, and she waited while Terry measured.

"There won't be much room for foot traffic. We'll probably have to walk sideways just to get from one side of the room to the other, and depending on the size of these couches, you might be squeezing just to get in and out the door." Terry sat on the edge of the bed and tried not to let it overwhelm him. "This isn't going to be easy, Maddie."

"It's only temporary." Her voice came from the hall. He couldn't see her, and Terry pictured her by the doorway, hugging herself, trying to stay calm.

He pushed up from the bed and joined her.

Sure enough. Hugging herself.

"What do you mean, temporary?" he asked, pocketing the tape measure.

"I'm going to-- to--" Maddie stopped cold when Izzy came out from the girls' room, then disappeared into the master bedroom.

Terry smiled to coax her to calm down. "It's okay."

"I-- I'm going to sleep on a bed, Terry." Her voice wasn't steady, and it was just barely a whisper, but he did hear each word and it sent him for a loop. "I can't right now, but that's my goal. To sleep on a bed. With you."

Terry stepped back. He looked Maddie in the eye and she looked down at the carpet.

"It's one of my goals."

"When did this happen?"

"Tonight. Carol and I talked it over."

"So the couch thing is--"

"Temporary," Maddie nodded.

"Oh." Terry scratched the back of his neck. In a way, he'd kind of assumed she'd sleep on a bed in the far distant future, and in a way, he hadn't. Until she said it, he hadn't let himself believe it, and now that she had, he felt taken aback. "Is this something you want, or do you feel like you have to?" he asked. "We can move the office, Maddie-- or better yet, we'll renovate and make the bedroom larger, if need be. I just want to make sure you don't feel like you're being pressured. I can get by with a couch."

She nibbled her lip, looked at him and then came close and buried her head in his shoulder. He loved it when she did that. It made him feel so close to her, like she trusted him with her heart, as well as her body.

Her breath warmed his shirt, and Terry closed his eyes.

"I want this, Terry."

He breathed deep, touched her blonde hair and caressed it until he heard her breath catch. He stopped, pulled away and kissed her lips just as someone came down the hall.

"Don't tell--" Maddie buried her face against Terry's neck.

For the life of him, Terry didn't know what he wasn't supposed to tell.

"You kids ready to turn in?" John smiled.

"Kids?" Terry laughed as Maddie leaned even more into his shoulder. "Thanks a lot."

Chuckling, John shook his head and moved past them. He paused, looked back, and nodded to the bedroom. "Give any more thought about switching rooms?"

"I think we'll pass." Terry rubbed Maddie's shoulder. "We'll make do with where we're at. Thanks, though."

"You're sure? We can always add on a room, or push out a wall and make yours bigger. If you change your mind, let me know." John gave him a solid look before going into the triplets' room, and Terry knew his friend had meant it.

John was like that.

Maddie put her lips to Terry's ear. "Thank you."

"For what?"

"For not telling him the couches were temporary."

"Why not?"

Maddie looked flustered. Her eyes darted down the hall, then back to Terry. "Because," she cupped her hand to Terry's ear and whispered so faintly he strained to hear her, "if he knows about the bed, then he'll know we're going to have sex."

"I won't tell him," Terry promised, and kissed Maddie on the forehead. If it made her feel better not to say anything, then Terry wouldn't-- not that John and Izzy wouldn't be able to guess for themselves when the couches were moved out that progress was being made.

Terry gave his wife a hug, and while she went to the office bathroom, he went to the living room to dig his pajamas out from the duffel. He saw the picture frame, and set it on the end table. They would move the photo later, but for now, he wanted it where Maddie could see it before she went to sleep.

His heart full, Terry headed to his old room to change. Abby had left things clean and organized in there, a trait she'd likely picked up from Jake, for she hadn't been that way as a child.

By the time Terry had changed and brushed his teeth, he found Maddie already dressed, and tucked in on the couch. She must've been racing like the wind to beat him to the living room, for even his sleeping bag was rolled out and waiting for him beside the couch. She'd laid out a layer of blankets, then his sleeping bag and a pillow, and then another blanket, and he had to admit it looked comfortable despite the fact it was still the floor.

He grinned, went over and turned off the lamp and noticed Maddie had already clicked on the night-light.

She was wide-awake, and tracking him-- or pretending not to, and he tried not to notice. It was hard not to be aware of it though, especially when she turned onto her side and watched as he climbed into his sleeping bag.

Then he felt it. Or rather his feet felt it.

He heard her smother a laugh.

"Okay, what'd you put in here?" Terry reached into the sleeping bag, felt something slick and pulled it out. In the dim light, he recognized the wrapping paper.

He checked the couch.

Maddie had pulled the blanket over her head, and he grinned when she peeked out. Just for that, he took his time untying the ribbon holding both ends of the gift closed. What a huggable woman she was. He pulled off the card, read the handwriting, "You are loved," and knew she had to have had these things wrapped ahead of time to be ready so quickly.

"You are loved right back," he told her, and pulled off the rest of the wrapping paper.

An electric stapler. Not a large one, but still, very nice.

"Wow, thanks."

"Do you like it?"

"Yes, I do."

"Can you use it?"

He smiled, feeling they'd had this conversation before. "Absolutely. It's nicer than the one John and I have right now."

"Am I helping?" Maddie asked.

"Pardon?" Terry put aside the stapler, and started to climb into the sleeping bag.

"Am I helping you in your job?"

"This is definitely a help-- Whoa, what's this?" Terry pulled something out from under his bedding, and Maddie buried under a pillow with a smothered giggle that had him laughing. "Maddie, how are we supposed to sleep if you keep pulling stunts like this?"

The gift was round and heavy, and he half wondered if it might be the staples that went with his brand new stapler. But they wouldn't be round, and this heavy. He tore off the paper, and found a plain, ordinary looking white mug. He smiled, was ready to thank her for the gift, when he turned it over and saw bold words on a banner proclaiming, "World's Greatest Sweetheart" on the side.

Terry felt his face grow warm.

"It's meant to be a holder-- to put pencils and pens and things in," Maddie came up from her pillow and smiled at him eagerly. "I know you already have one on your desk, but I thought maybe you might need another."

He looked at her in all her sweetness, and he couldn't speak. He sucked in a breath, unable to say everything in his heart. There simply weren't enough words in the English language to say what he felt. Maddie reached a hand over the edge of the couch, and he grasped her fingers and gave them a "thank you" squeeze.

He held up the mug, nodded his thanks to her, and she smiled.

It'd take some guts to put that mug on his desk, but he would. For Maddie, he would.

"What about our good night kiss?" she asked.

He smiled, moved closer to the couch and gently kissed his wife.

"See you in the morning," he whispered hoarsely.

She kissed his nose, and he pushed away with a huge smile as he went back to the sleeping bag.

"Are there anymore surprises in here?" he asked, his voice breaking a little as he climbed inside.

"No, but there's more in the office bathroom."

He paused, then kept going, not wanting to even consider what else might be waiting for him. She'd evidently been trying to help him out in his work, and he thought it incredibly sweet of her. And helpful. Honey sweet, milk chocolate sweet, and just plain Maddie sweet.

"I love you," he breathed, and she whispered the words back to him.

In the quiet, Terry prayed with Maddie for a peaceful night, for blessings for their family, and for each other. Then with Maddie fighting back sleep, he got comfortable in his bag and let himself drift off.

* * * *

It had been a hard day, one of those days that made Connor lose faith that mankind had any hope at all of getting its act together. Sitting in a parked car to document the comings and goings of an unfaithful husband could do that to you. The man's wife had suspected the affair, and had hired Connor to prove it.

He had. The video of her husband leaving a place he had no moral right to be, would confirm her suspicions and most likely end a twenty-seven year marriage.

Sometimes Connor hated this job.

Leaning back in the worn vinyl chair, Connor rubbed his eyes and glanced at the office clock. It was nearly midnight on a Saturday night, and here he was, putting the finishing touches on a report that would break the heart of his client.

Some men just didn't know when they had it good.

The phone rang and Connor blinked to stay awake. He hoped it wasn't his client, for the report wasn't ready to turn in yet.

He checked caller ID, and groaned.

Biting back any number of things he could say, Connor picked up the phone and answered with a smile.

"Hey, Tim. What's up?"

"I'd like to try again."

Connor squeezed his eyes shut. Not again. Please, not again.

"I thought we agreed, Tim. It's a wild goose chase. We simply don't have enough information."

"I'll pay you--"

"It's not about the money. We've been over this ground until I swear I've been making a career of this one case, and there's nothing. Nada. Zip."

"One more time. Just once more, and then I give my word I'll go away."

Knowing Tim, he could believe that. He could also imagine Tim going to another private investigator with his problem, for he knew Tim wasn't the kind to leave it alone. He might leave Connor alone, but that was about as much as Connor could expect.

"One more time. Email me as much as you've got-- any leads you've collected since the last go around, and I'll get on it as soon as I can."

"Thank you. Find her, and I'll name my baby after you."

"Yeah, yeah." Connor sucked in air, wished Tim good night, and quietly hoped he could settle this case once and for all.

He hoped tracking down this one person wouldn't define his entire career, that by the time he was old and dottering about with a cane, he wouldn't still be searching for Madison Olivia Jones.

Connor had to hand it to him.

For someone who'd never met his older half sister, Tim was one dedicated brother.


"Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."
~ Luke 11:9-10 ~

end of chapter