DISCLAIMER: I own none of the characters mentioned in this story - they are the property of Fox and 24
CATEGORY: fluff, Jack/Teri, way-pre-Day 1
AUTHOR's NOTES: Because it's nasty outside, I need to post this to brighten my mood. :) I'll miss next week's post, but I'll get it up on Sunday or maybe late Saturday night. Hope everyone has a great weekend! And, as always, thanks to sardonicynic for taking a peek at this and telling me that the sweetness didn't make her too nauseous.
Teri leaned against the doorway, eyes half-closed, breathing evenly. The light from the window in the living room cast a silver-blue glow over Jack as he rocked Kim, doing his best to calm her down.
After almost thirty minutes, it wasn’t working.
She yawned and pushed herself away from the jamb. “Do you want me to take her?” she asked quietly, still recovering from the yawn.
Jack turned his head and Teri caught the exhaustion in his eyes. He held Kim tightly, bouncing his upper body in an off-beat rhythm in an effort to lull her back to sleep.
“It’s not working – nothing is working,” he whispered, turning back to Kim as a new burst of tears emerged. “I rocked her, I checked her diaper, I tried to get her to eat something – I sang.”
Teri smiled as she stepped behind him, resting her cheek on his bicep. “I know – I heard,” she said dryly. “I can take her,” she offered again, closing her eyes as she let her hand wander aimlessly up his back.
“No – it’s okay, I gotta figure out how to do this.”
“Well, loosen up, Rambo – she’s not a machine gun,” she mumbled.
Teri gave the tense muscle between his neck and shoulder a quick squeeze. “Hold her a little softer – she might not be comfortable.”
“Shit, I forgot,” he breathed, loosening his grip immediately. “I didn’t want to drop her.”
Teri reached for one of Kim’s flailing hands and the baby latched onto the finger with a fierce grip.
Focused on the new toy she had in her hand, Kim stopped crying for a moment and squirmed in Jack’s arms to get a better view of what she was holding. She looked up in Teri’s general direction and made an effort to smile, drool slipping out the side of her mouth.
“How’d you do that?” Jack whispered, watching in amazement as the two of them interacted.
“You just have to be calm,” Teri explained, holding her focus on the baby, moving her finger a little to keep Kim entertained. “Babies can tell if you’re upset – they can feel it and they get upset, too.”
Jack nodded and forced himself to breathe deeply, trying to smooth the fraying in his nerves. It was hard to do when he was so tired.
“You want to go sit on the couch?” Teri suggested.
Nodding once more, Jack followed, waiting for Teri to arrange the throw pillows around the arm. Once he was settled, Teri nestled in beside him, pulling her feet up and tucking them under her robe.
“It’s chilly – you’d better dress warmly before you head down to the docks,” she commented absently before turning to face him. “Honey, why don’t you go to sleep? You have to be at work in a few hours – I can take her.”
“It’s okay. You always have to take care of her. Besides – I’m awake now.”
Jack rearranged the baby blanket around Kim’s feet, thinking she might be cold, but she kicked them off quickly, starting another round of fussy tears. He patted her diapered bottom with one hand and even reached for her white-knuckled fist like Teri had done, but Kim wasn’t biting.
Teri let him try, holding back for another few minutes before Kim’s screeching was too much to tolerate. She gave him a look this time instead of outright asking for her, and Jack reluctantly handed the tiny bundle over.
“Sorry,” he apologized, moving the pillows he’d been leaning on to support Teri’s arms.
“It’s all right. Sometimes you just have to try something else – it happens to me all the time when you’re at work,” she said quietly, shifting Kim in her arms until she got comfortable.
Jack swallowed, unable to imagine that scenario at the moment, especially when Kim’s tears were already subsiding. “I just…I feel like I never know what to do,” he confessed quietly, letting the pads of his fingers brush over Kim’s curly, blonde mop of hair.
Smiling down at their daughter, Teri leaned over a little, giving Jack a light nudge in his ribcage. “You’re doing fine.”
Jack’s soft snort was easy to hear in the quiet of the apartment.
“I’m serious,” Teri contended. “She’s a fussy baby – she’s stubborn and wants things immediately and she reminds me so much of someone else I know,” she added, her words holding a tone of amusement.
She felt his stomach jump and knew that he’d held back a laugh, so she’d gotten the desired result. “Listen,” she started, “you do everything that you can to provide for your family, you’re there for her when she needs you, when I need you, you dote on her like I’ve never seen – you’re a perfect father. She’s always going to cry, Jack, but you’re always going to be there when she does. We can’t ask for more of you.”
He smiled softly and tilted his head so it rest gently against Teri’s.
He wasn’t so sure if trying hard actually meant much when he didn’t think he was doing anything right in the first place. The only thing he knew to do was not what his father had done – it didn’t leave him much to go on. He let his hand play absently in the short locks of Teri’s hair, missing the length she’d chopped off. “I look at you and her together and I can’t stop myself from thinking how lucky I am that our daughter has such a great mom,” he whispered.
Teri leaned her head against the arm that he had draped over her shoulders and kissed the back of his hand. “Thank you, Jack,” she said warmly, reaching up to intertwine her fingers with his. His skin felt rough, calloused and dry from working in the briny water all day.
“She’s learning so quickly. You should see how excited she gets when I talk about you,” she mused, looking up with a smile.
“Uh huh – I’ll say ‘Kimberly, Daddy’s coming home,’ and her face just lights up. She’ll start kicking her feet and squealing – it’s adorable. She favors you,” Teri added after a moment.
Looking down at Kim’s dozing eyes, Jack took in her tiny features and tipped his head downward. “She’s definitely got my hair.”
“I won’t argue with that.” Teri pulled her hand out of Jack’s and rest it carefully on Kim’s head, running the fine locks between her fingers. “Speaking of hair, do you want me to cut yours? I’ve never seen it this long before.”
Jack sighed and ran his now-empty hand through the shaggy tangle on his head, leaving the hair sticking up in every possible direction. “I know, I just haven’t even had time to worry about it. Maybe Saturday? I don’t have to go in until noon.”
Teri adjusted Kim against her arm and rolled her shoulders. “Honey, could you get me a glass of water, please?”
“I knew you were good for something.”
Jack arched an eyebrow at her and sighed. “So that’s why you married me.”
Teri squeezed his ass when he stood up and gave him a devilish grin. “No – I married you ‘cause you’re a good roll in the sack. Everything else is just an added bonus.”