Warning: NSFW scenes at the end.
Over next four weeks, Emma kept Ben updated on how Grace was feeling. She didn’t make it easy on him. In her most recent update, she told him how Grace thought she was feeling the baby kick, then she would get all emotional and start crying because Ben was missing out.
That was when it hit home. By trying to avoid getting involved, he was becoming exactly what he feared. He was becoming his father. His child would grow up believing it wasn’t wanted or loved. Ben knew how horrible that felt.
Watching his father dote on his new wife and child was painful. It was as if he ceased to exist. There’s nothing worse.
Grace would be raising their baby alone. Would she have to work in a bar to support them? Would she seek comfort in the arms of the owner as his mother had done? And maybe have another child with that man? When they had their own child, his baby would feel unwanted by both his mother and father.
Ben knew Grace only had her grandmother and she was too old to be any help. Grace truly would be all alone. Maybe his child would wind up like his adopted sister Dakota at some point. With a social worker threatening to take her away from Grace. To place her in foster care. And finally place her up for adoption when she was 4 because Grace wouldn’t be able to take care of her.
Ben was devastated thinking of the possible futures that he was forcing on his unborn child by staying away. Not to mention how hard he was making it for Grace. He knew, he couldn’t stay away any longer. With his decision made, Ben took a deep breath, picked up the phone and called Grace. He was doing this. Somehow, he would just have to manage not to become his father. No matter how hard things got. He was going to be there for Grace – for both of them. If she would let him. He only hoped it wasn’t too late.
Her voice sent chills down his spine and he let out the breath he was holding. “No. It’s Dick-hay-ud. At least according to Emma.”
Grace laughed at his imitation of their friend. “Oh my God! That was perfect.”
It was so good to hear her laugh and he relaxed a little. He loved her laugh. Ben didn’t realize how much he missed it until he heard it again. At least she didn’t yell at him or hang up on him. Maybe this will work. “So, Grace,” he said, “Do you mind if I come with you to your appointment tomorrow?”
There was a minute of silence as if she were making up her mind.
“Ben, what does this mean?”
“Well, Emma has been keeping me thoroughly updated on your – uh – condition. And her assessment of me is probably right. But I think, maybe, I just needed time to process everthing. Grace…I’m so sorry I hurt you. That’s exactly what I was trying to prevent. That’s why I….” Ben stopped because he couldn’t find the words to properly explain his motives. “Anyway, I want to try…I want to be there for you…for you and the baby.”
“Our baby Ben,” she said softly.
“Our baby,” repeated Ben.
“Yes what? Our baby? Or yes, I can come with you?”
Grace sniffed before answering. “Both. Come with me.”
“Are you crying?”
“Are you okay? Do I need to come over?”
“You would do that?”
“Yeah. I will be there in 20 minutes. And Grace, I’m really sorry.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ben made it to Grace’s tiny efficiency apartment in 15 minutes. When she opened the door for him, they just stood there looking at one another. Neither one sure what to do or say. The urge to take her in his arms was powerful. He figured she would kick him out if he tried, so he didn’t move.
“Come in,” she said finally.
Ben was shocked to see her little round middle. “Thanks,” he said. “Grace, are you okay? You look really tired.”
“You try growing a baby and see how you feel!” she shot back sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, maybe this was a bad idea,” said Ben.
Grace reached out and took his hand. “No, I’m sorry,” she said and smiled meekly, “I am tired. And stressed. But I’m really glad you are here. Please Ben, don’t go.”
He reached out to her to hold her, but pulled back afraid. Instead, he just smiled. “Be careful what you ask for. I won’t leave, I promise. Unless you tell me to. We are in this together now. You aren’t alone anymore.”
“Ohhhhh,” she said as her hand went to her stomach. She looked up at Ben and smiled, “Our baby approves. It’s doing somersaults in there.”
Ben just looked at her. She wasn’t large, but there was definitely a baby bump. Could she already feel it move?
Grace took Ben’s hand and placed it on her abdomen. “Right here…feel…maybe a little foot.”
Ben thought he could feel something. He looked at Grace and was shocked. Her transformation was immediate. The tiredness from earlier seemed to have evaporated. He could swear she was glowing. God he loved her. Wait, love? No…it wasn’t possible. Was it?
Grace looked up at him when she realized he was staring at her and their eyes locked. “Ben?”
“Grace…” he said at the same time as he closed the remaining few inches between them and kissed her. He didn’t understand why he needed her. He just did. All he wanted was to be there for her and the little baby growing inside of her. To take care of them. Love? Is this what love is? If so, it was all consuming.
She kissed him back and then quickly pushed him away. “No Ben! I can’t do this again. I need all of you, or this stops now.”
Ben ran his hand through his hair. He started searching for reasons he couldn’t give all of himself to her. But he was more terrified of losing her again. “Grace, I…okay then.” Okay? he thought, Did I just say okay. Yes. Okay.
“Okay what?” she asked still looking hurt.
He let out a breath and continued before he lost his nerve. “I need you too – all of you. The truth is, I have been miserable these last four months. Seeing you and not being with you has been agony. I’m going to do this Grace. Be there for you. Be a father to our child. I want to do this. Just now, feeling our baby kick, made me want it even more.”
Ben took her hand before he continued. “But you have to help me. I have no idea how to do this. How to love someone, to be a father. And frankly, I am scared. But Grace…” Ben paused and closed his eyes for second and inhaled before continuing. He opened his eyes and she was looking at him with so much tenderness he knew he had to finish. “Grace, I think I’m in love with you.”
Ben didn’t realize he was crying until Grace reached up and wiped his tears away. “It’s okay Ben,” she said, her voice soft and soothing, “You don’t have to do it all at once. Please, just hold me now. Hold us.”
Ben eagerly pulled his growing family, into his arms. His family. That’s what this was and it felt right. His pain began to melt away and he suddenly had a new purpose. “Grace,” he whispered, “I know now. With you in my arms, I know. It’s love. I love you. I love you both.” And with that he sobbed.
Grace rubbed his back. “It’s okay to love us. Please don’t be afraid of it, because Ben, I love you too.”
“You do? How? How can you love me? I mean, it’s easy to see why I love you.”
Grace was smiling through her own tears as she spoke. “Ben, you’re not unlovable. You are like a lost puppy, trying to make friends with everyone. You would do anything for your friends…including growing cannabis plants in your closet,” she added with a little laugh.
“You are fun, smart, caring, and passionate. You are a tender and gentle lover. I promise, I will never hurt you. I don’t know who or what made you so afraid of love, but you don’t have to be afraid anymore. We have each other.” She took his hand and placed it on her abdomen. “And I have no doubt that you will be a wonderful loving father.”
“One day, when you are ready, you can tell me about it. You can share your hurt with me, and then, it won’t hurt as much anymore.” Grace laughed, “at least that’s what Gran says. If you share your hurt, it only hurts half as much. And she’s a really smart lady.”
Maybe. One day he would be brave enough to share, he thought, but not today. He pulled her to him and kissed her. He poured as much love as he could into his kiss. Grace returned his kisses with the same passion. They both urgently needed to consummate their declaration of love to each other.
Grace and their baby, that was all he lived for now. Now and forever. He would not repeat the sins of his father. He already loved Grace too much to ever fathom hurting her like his father hurt his family.
Ben stopped kissing her long enough to pull her hair down. He loved it down. Loved her.
When Grace pulled off her shirt and reached for the snap on Ben’s shorts, he stopped her. “Grace no. I don’t want to hurt you or the baby.”
Grace laughed. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t laugh. Babe, you are definitely a girl’s dream come true, but I promise, you won’t hurt me or our baby.” Grace looked at him with lust and whispered, “Make love to me Benjamin Murdock.”