~Chapter 5~

December, three months later

The baby came earlier than planned. December first. The Bird's Nest was a wreck when Lane's water broke. She'd had bad cramps throughout the day but hadn't thought anything of it considering she wasn't due for four days. Too late, she found out the cramps had actually been contractions.

Chaos had broken out. Berta and Lucy were frazzled and running around with the kids all under foot. Eventually, in some undetected communication, they'd agreed that Lucy would stay with the kids and Berta would take Lane to the hospital. Later, they'd switch until all the kids left with their parents and then whoever was at the daycare at the time would bring Madison to the hospital with them. In the end, it was Lucy in the delivery room with Lane.

It had been the longest twelve hours of Lane's life. It had all gone fairly smoothly after she's gotten to the hospital but it had scared Lane to death. She didn't know anything about what was going on. Didn't know what to expect.

"I can't do this."

"Well it's a little late to back out now, honey."

"I'm scared, Lucy."

"I was too. But, look at all the women who go through it and live to tell the tale. Hell, most of them even choose to go through it again. Just think of the result. Besides, this'll make a great guilt trip when they're older."

Lucy talked her through it all. Making her laugh and successfully taking her mind off of the pain and what was happening below the sheet at the end of the bed. And when she'd held her baby for the first time, she knew what Lucy was talking about. It was only then that she understood the look Lucy had on her face every time she looked at Maddy.

"See what I mean? Wasn't it worth it?"

o O o

Brandon had finally found her. She'd only been about two hours away the whole time. Michelle had gotten a call from a woman named Roberta Smith, the owner of the Bird's Nest where she worked. Lane had had the baby. Both were healthy and currently resting. She'd had a girl but Ms. Smith hadn't known the name yet.

Brandon had a daughter. He was a father.

He'd wanted to leave right that second. He'd wanted to hug Lane and yell at her and kiss her and talk some sense into her and hope it stuck. He'd wanted to meet the baby. Wanted to know her name and see her with his own eyes to know that she existed. Until he saw her himself, he wouldn't be able to believe it. The last time he'd seen Lane, she'd been basically the same as always. He couldn't imagine her being pregnant and therefore couldn't imagine her having a baby. His baby.

Though, now that he thought about it, that last night made more sense. She'd planned it all. That was why she'd cried in the bathroom. That was why she'd watched him when she thought he was sleeping when really, he was making sure she was okay. And, that was why, when he'd laid his hands on her stomach, she'd fought it. She knew what she was doing would hurt him and felt guilty about it. A small part of him felt satisfaction at that realization. He'd already forgiven her, but he couldn't just excuse what she'd done. He also couldn't not see this little girl, the curiosity would kill him.

Michelle had been the one to point out that he needed to stay and finish his classes. That had been the reason she'd left, after all. And, reluctantly, he'd left her be for two more weeks but not a minute went by that he didn't picture the baby or imagine her as a mother. He could picture a woman holding a pink bundle in his arms, but her face was always blurry. His mind couldn't wrap around the fact that the woman was Lane.

o O o

Brandon slowly got out of his car and took in all that was the Berta's Bird's Nest. It wasn't very big but big enough for all the little kids he could see filing out a side door into a fenced in play area. They were followed by a tall blond woman. She looked at him curiously and frowned. He didn't know how much Lane had told these people and if they'd recognize him or not, but he walked towards the front door like he was meant to be there so as not to look like a creeper.

He stopped at the main door again. He was nervous. It was ridiculous; it was only Lane but six months was a long time and a lot had changed. Oh, and the little fact that beyond that door, somewhere in that building, there was a little girl that was half of him.

Yeah, a boy had a right to be nervous.

Brandon took a deep breath and on the exhale, pulled the door open. No turning back now.

He looked in each of the rooms he passed. There was a room set up with a bunch of bean bag chairs and blankets and pillows on the floor surrounding a tv on the far wall, a room with a big table and little chairs around it and Barbies and a kitchen set in one corner and blocks and toy cars scattered in the other. The next room down the hall was much like the one before it only the table was slightly smaller and, if possible, the chairs looked even littler and the toys seemed bigger like they'd been enlarged. On the opposite side of the hallway across from a bathroom there was a large open kitchen with a lot of counter space and connected to it was a dining area made for miniature people. The tables sat low and were strewn with colorful plates and napkins and little spill proof cups.

There was one more doorway at the end of the hall. The door didn't make a sound when Brandon pushed it open. This room had a gated area in the middle with rattles and colorful stuffed animals scattered around the floor. Little chairs on wheels and hanging baby seats were set up around the perimeter and the wall opposite the door was lined with cribs.

And there she was. She'd just laid a sleeping baby into the crib and was now looking down into another. Her hand reached inside and she had a dazed look on her face. The corners of her lips turned slightly upwards and her head tilted, watching. Brandon couldn't take his eyes off her. She looked so beautiful. Just like she'd always been, only… different somehow. Brandon couldn't place the change though.

It hit hard seeing her again. Not with sadness or longing or anger, but with wonder and awe. In that moment, any resentment he still felt flew out the window. He'd loved her all along but seeing her like this, seeing the look of adoration on her face, a look she'd never even showed him, it amazed him that the baby could do that for her. Transform her like that even when she was perfect before. He felt absolutely inadequate and unprepared. That little person could do that to her and she was only weeks old. He couldn't even do it and he'd known her for four years, dated her for two. He was also hit with the thought that he should have brought something, flowers for her, a stuffed toy or something for the baby. It was crazy but he felt just like he had when he'd picked her up for their first date.

"Laney." His voice was rough and his palms sweaty. She turned and shock crossed her face. There was ten feet between them but she still backed up against the crib. Her hands gripped the top edge behind her and she just stared at him. He took his time looking her over. He started at her head and worked his way to her toes, pausing considerably at her stomach. She looked just like she did. He couldn't see any signs that she'd carried a baby there only weeks before.

When he was done, his stare met hers once again and he deliberately walked towards her. He didn't look into the crib until the last minute. Standing next to her, he continued to look her in the eyes but as she turned to face the crib also, he caught the movement as she licked her lips.

"Brandon." Lane turned her face away to look down in the crib and reached out again. Only then did Brandon look down. Her hand was caressing the little girl's cheek, her thumb rubbing under her eyes and then along the bridge of her nose. Her eyes fluttered and he was hit with a blue stare. He was shocked to see the light grayish color. It was stunning. He looked back up at Lane.

She was still looking down. "Daisy Rebecca." Brandon looked back at the little pink bundle, at the dark hair covering her head.

"Daisy?"

"It's what you always gave me. I'd always find daisies in my locker or on my pillow in the morning after you left. I looked it up. Daisies mean innocence. Fitting don't you think? What could be more innocent?" He didn't respond. He was too busy looking at her, Daisy Rebecca. He wanted to learn everything; he didn't want to miss a thing about her. "Anyway. Rebecca's for my mom since she has your last name."

"She does?" She didn't say anything, but he caught her nod out of the corner of his eye. "Daisy Rebecca Patrick."

He finally got the courage to reach in and touch her. His hand looked so big next to her head. Gently, he ran his finger across the headband on her forehead. When he touched the corner of her lips, she opened her mouth and he smiled. Lane had moved her hand back to the railing so he used the pad of his thumb to trace her cheek from her temple to her chin all the while, little Daisy looked at him, examined him.

"Do you want to hold her?" Brandon looked at Lane. He didn't know anything about babies. Panic hit him. He was responsible for this precious girl and he didn't even know what to do. He didn't have any experience with babies. All he knew was that she was fragile and he didn't want to hurt her.

"Here." Lane reached in and tucked one hand around her head and the other around her bottom and lifted, holding her out to Brandon. He took a small step back. "It's instinctual, Brandon. You'll do fine. Just cradle your arm and I'll do everything else, okay?" He nodded and she came to him. Carefully, she lowered Daisy into the crook of his elbow. "See? Make sure you support her head." Then, she backed off and he went back to studying her. She had him absolutely enthralled. He touched her little feet and felt her toes. He was amazed at her grip when he put his finger in her hand.

"She's beautiful, Lane." When he looked up, she was standing a few feet away, tears running down her face. "Lane?"

"I didn't think it'd be like this. I love her so much, Brandon. I didn't know it was possible for me to love anybody more than I love you but I do. She's everything to me. And seeing you with her, it breaks my heart that I kept this from you. I'm so sorry."

"Shh. Come here." He wrapped his free arm around her and held her close like he had wanted to all along. "It's okay. We're okay. I love her too."

"I thought you'd resent us. I didn't want that for you or her. I didn't care if you hated me as long as you had a relationship with her."

"I don't hate you, Laney. I was angry for a while but I didn't know why you'd left. You made a mistake but I at least now know why you did it, though I don't agree it was right. I love you. I wasn't just going to stop." Lane didn't say anything. They just stood there and she cried on his shoulder while Daisy looked up at them.

"Babycakes, Lucy said something about some young man being out front? Do you know anything—" A stout red head stopped in the doorway. "Well, that explains it. Babycakes, why don't you and Daisy take this young man up to your room? I'm sure you have a lot of talking to do. I'll take over here. Go on now." This lady commanded when she talked and Brandon had the urge to obey her. Especially when she came over and herded them to the door, making shooing motions with her hands.

Up in the attic, Brandon realized this was where Lane had been staying. There was a bed one corner and directly across from it. A rocker and another of those hanging seats were set up in the other corner. Brandon sat in the rocker with Daisy while he and Lane talked. Much later, she forced him to put Daisy down and they both crawled into the bed and slept. It had to have been the best night's sleep he'd had in a long while.

o O o

Lane walked beside Brandon as he carried Daisy to his car in her infant seat. Ever since, he'd shown up the week before, he hadn't wanted to put her down let alone out of his sight. She smiled as he took his time and with extreme care, strapped the seat in the backseat and checked everything twice. When he stood again and closed the door, her smile faded and she looked at the ground, not meeting his gaze.

"Laney?" Still, she fiddled with her fingers. Brandon let out a breath and she saw his feet move as he took a step forward and wrapped her in his arms. "Nervous?" She nodded her head against his chest. "They're all going to be happy that you're home."

"And angry."

"Yeah, well, we'll deal with that then. More than likely, they're going to be upset that you didn't tell them but it'll be overshadowed by the joy that is Daisy. I don't think it's possible for anybody to look at her and not smile. We're in trouble when she gets older if she's already such a charmer." He kissed the top of her head before pulling away and opening the passenger door. "Now come on. We don't want to keep Michelle waiting. She's already making demands. Maybe we shouldn't leave Daisy alone with her, she might kidnap her."

He smiled and Lane was amazed yet again at how well he'd taken it. She thought he'd hate her for what she did but he'd surprised her. Never again would she doubt him.

AN: i was very happy with this chapter. hopefully, you'll feel the same =)

anyway, on to other news. with the help of racethedreamz, i've decided to just keep this going with random updates of random events in their lives. i do have what was going to be the epilogue partly done.