How Nice Is Too Nice?

Author’s Note: So some more of the explanation needed to come in this one. The whole thing just sort of followed after the initial question.

How Nice Is Too Nice?

Darren shifted the baby in his arms, hoping Fi had gotten some sleep on that couch. He hadn’t managed much between the baby and the bed—he knew why she’d avoided it. One side smelled like her, the other like Richard’s obnoxious cologne, and while Darren could almost get used to having her scent nearby, the idea of what a married couple had done in that bed kept him from getting too comfortable, even when he was on top of the sheets. He should never have traded her for the couch. Still, Fi needed the rest more than he did.

She was only now coming around after all, and she’d always been more of a morning person, someone who faced the day head on and never seemed to sleep in. This wasn’t like her. He sat down across from the couch, hoping they still had a while before the crying resumed.

“So I feel a bit foolish asking this now, but what’s her name?”

Fi put a hand to her head. “She doesn’t have one.”


“I thought Richard just didn’t bother to tell me, but when I talked to the social worker, I was told that all the hospital had—even on the birth certificate—was ‘Baby Girl Burns.’ Richard’s name is on there as the father, and the mother’s name is there, but either they hadn’t decided or that bastard really thought I was going to forgive him and wanted us to pick it out together, but they didn’t give her a name. I just keep calling her ‘Girlie.’”

“No name.”

Fi glared at him. “Don’t give me that. I am not getting attached to that child. I refuse to do that. It’s… I’m not that masochistic, okay? Maybe if I’d had an affair, too, or needed to make up something to Richard I might feel differently, but I didn’t… I was the one that put up with treatments and tracking cycles and maximizing the possibility—I was the damn incubator, and when he couldn’t get me to work, he found another, so I am done. Besides, as messed up as Chloe supposedly was—I don’t know that she was; that’s just what he told me—she’s got to have family somewhere that would love to have their grandchild or niece or whatever relation she might be to them in their lives.”

Darren grimaced. “Fi, I never said—I just… You could do better than ‘Girlie,’ that’s all.”

She sighed, leaning her head back against the couch. “I don’t want to. I feel like such an idiot for letting Richard talk me into watching her in the first place, but then if I hadn’t agreed, the baby would be dead, too, so I can’t blame myself too much for that. Then I let the social worker’s comments get to me and volunteered to take care of her until they had someone else because I don’t have a bunch of extra kids but do have everything a baby needs here. I don’t understand. Since when did I become a doormat? Do I have walk all over me written on my face? Or my back?”

“No, but you’re a good person, and that’s part of your problem.”

“Nice guys—or girls, I guess—finish last?”

“Something like that.”

She closed her eyes. “When do you have to be at your next merger or whatever it might be? You should probably get some real sleep—”

“Now who’s got an ulterior motive?”

She grimaced. “I… I have to sell the house. I can’t afford the mortgage on my salary, and I need to start packing my stuff and I need to get rid of everything Richard had, and since I’ve been taking care of the baby, I haven’t gotten anything done.”

“You want help?”

“I can’t ask you to do that.”

“You can let me volunteer, though.”

She opened her eyes, biting her lip. “I shouldn’t. It’s just that the idea of asking Ransom for help with this…”

“You would never have a life again, I know,” Darren said, reaching for the bottle when he saw the baby’s eyes open. He let a bit dribble into the girl’s mouth, and she didn’t cry—yet. “I am surprised that Richard ever managed to get close to you with the way Ransom always hovered around. He didn’t like the idea of you growing up, that’s for sure.”

“Well, you know, with Mom and Dad working all the time just to make ends meet, he was more of a parent to me than either of them. He just… never learned to stop filling that role and let me breathe. I know I hurt him when I told him to back off, and things were never the same after that, but I couldn’t take it anymore.”

“Moving across the country and marrying some guy he’d never met was what hurt, not being told to back off.”

“The disaster my marriage became is going to convince him that he was right. I won’t be able to get rid of him this time. He’ll have me moved in with him before I get a word in edgewise, and I don’t want to be the pathetic aunt who can’t take care of herself. I’m stronger than this.”

Darren nodded. “Agreed, but if you try and keep all of it from him forever, you won’t ever win that battle. I’m all for you handling it on your own, but only if you turn around and tell him everything after you’ve settled. He needs to see that you’ve overcome it. That’s the proof he needs that you can take care of yourself. It won’t be easy for him to accept even then, but if you let him find out from someone else—don’t look at me like that; I never said I’d tell him—he’ll see that as something it isn’t.”

She smiled. “He’s been interfering in your life, hasn’t he?”

“You know your brother. He’s never liked the amount of traveling I do, especially since I’m afraid of flying. He thinks I should settle somewhere, take a different position with the company, have a stable relationship for a change…”

“If you’re happy with the way your life is, what business is it of his?”

“I just keep telling myself it’s because my sister drew the line at four kids. He wants another, but she’s done, and so he extends that instinct to the rest of us, whether we want it or not.”

She laughed. “Yeah, that sounds about right. Why haven’t you sabotaged your sister’s birth control yet, then?”

“Kind of hard when she got her tubes tied.”


“Sorry. I forgot—they wouldn’t have discussed that with you, not with all the trouble you had getting pregnant and then not being able to keep the babies when you did… I shouldn’t have brought it up at all. That’s just… insult to injury.”

Fi shook her head. “No, it’s fine. I’m… I’d basically come to terms with never carrying a baby of my own before this. I just wish that deciding I was and telling Richard that I thought we should adopt hadn’t meant he’d do this to me. I’d finally understood that it wouldn’t matter if the child wasn’t ‘mine.’ I could still love one that didn’t come from me, and it took a lot to accept that, but he turned it around and twisted it…”

“You are so much better off without him. And so is this little girl.”


“I’m sorry. I won’t lie. I hated him, and he had no business being a father. He wasn’t even mature enough to be married to you.” He grimaced. “Um… speaking of immaturity… Someone needs a diaper change, and I’m thinking you should do it.”

She rolled her eyes. “Nice.”

“Hey, you know me. I’ve always pawned off the diaper changes. Uncle Darren does everything but diapers and baths. I’ll feed them, I’ll be a jungle gym, I’ll walk the floor with them at night, but I will not change any diapers.”

“If not for the fact that it would be cruel to her, I’d make you keep her until you caved.”

“Yes, but you’re too nice for that.”

“Story of my life,” Fi muttered, lifting the baby out of his arms. “Gotta stop being so nice.”

“No, you don’t. It’s what makes you who you are.”

Next: A Strange Route to the Truth

Back: Instincts

Beginning: The Loss of Eight Years

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