Cry Little Sister Ch. 04byRushette©
First off, as always, much thanks and gratitude go out to SoCalCynic for being awesome and editing this yet again. Really, it wouldn't read half as well as it does if it weren't for him.
Sorry that there was a little bit of a delay on this, guys. Unfortunately life tends to get in the way every so often. So without further ado, here's chapter four.
Jill half hoped that Rory would still be in the hallway when she opened the door to leave the next morning. He wasn't.
She rode the elevator down to the lobby, her sea bags piled onto a luggage cart, her eyes downcast, not quite focused on the carpeting. Jill couldn't help but wonder if she would ever be able to look at the hotel the same way, or even return to Elitch Gardens again.
Once Jill finally made her way downstairs, Casey took one look at her sister-in-law and pulled her into a big, pregnant hug. "I'm so sorry, hon," she whispered. And without another word between the two of them, Casey checked her out and led her out to the Jeep. She even passed Jill a pair of sunglasses to hide her red eyes from the world.
They beat the furniture delivery to the apartment by all of three minutes. After that it was a long, complex dance of getting everything into the right room, set up just the way Jill wanted it. The TV came around noon, along with some Geek Squad guys to set up all of the electronics she had purchased the previous day.
Jill was grateful for the whole complicated mess. It made it difficult to remember just how empty and hollow she felt inside.
Jason joined them around one, freshly showered from practice but looking a little hung over. Casey explained softly that he had been out with the notorious O'Brian until late: "Your brother will be feeling too bad to notice that you're not exactly feeling great either."
Jill shot her sister-in-law a grateful smile. "Thank goodness for small miracles," she whispered hoarsely, her throat still raw from crying all night.
The next few weeks did nothing for Rory but prove just how heartbroken he was over Jill. Even Kellan, eternally positive, nice guy Kellan, had called him an idiot. You knew things were bad when Kellan Quaid was screaming at you for being an asshole.
Jason didn't go easy on him either, but he at least had an idea of what Rory was going through, having gone through a similar slump when he first met Casey years ago. Though he, too, had called Rory a bonehead for not telling her that he loved her.
He just felt so lost. Rory was trying, really trying, to move on. He had even gone out with some of the guys one Friday night; Colby Mac had been raving about a new strip club for weeks. Some random blonde there expressed interest in bringing him home. Two months ago he would have gladly complied, but now all he could think was that she wasn't nearly as beautiful as Jill.
And now, every time he looked out of the window at his apartment, he saw that damn Ferris wheel and remembered what he lost. Who he lost.
Rory had grabbed the keys to his apartment a million times to make his way upstairs to see Jason before he would remember that he too, had left. He and Casey had moved into the new house and he wasn't about to go bother them there, not with the new baby coming so soon.
So he moped. He went on his road trip, and it was the same damn depression in a different city. So he came back and just moped some more.
A month after Jill left, Rory started to consider buying about fifteen cats to keep him company. And that was when he knew he was going crazy. Grasping at straws, he called Kellan and begged him to come over the next day and barbecue after their team meeting. Anything to avoid being alone.
"I can't, man, and neither can you. We're all going over to LeBlanc's for the party, remember?"
"Oh shit, I completely forgot," Rory moaned. It was like he was losing his damn mind.
"Don't worry about it, man. Want me to put your name on the gift I got them?"
Leave it to Kellan to actually buy them a house warming present, the thoughtful bastard. "That depends, what did you get them? I don't want to put my name on another damn fondue set with you."
Quaid actually laughed at that. "First of all, don't knock fondue because it's fucking delicious; Forte told me that they use that set all the time. And secondly, you really are fucking out of it. It's not a house warming party, it's a baby shower. I got them these impermeable changing mats. My sister swears by them."
"You are way too practical, you know that, Quaid? Sure, put my name on it, but I think I'll stay home," Rory eventually conceded. The idea of being around all that happiness was suddenly nauseating.
"You can't stay home, you sad asshole, it's Casey's baby shower. LeBlanc knew she would never have one otherwise, so he's throwing it as a surprise party and he would never forgive you if you didn't go. Even his sister is going to be there, you have to come."
Rory cheered a little at the thought. He wasn't much in a partying mood, but the idea of going over to Jason's house and hitting on his sister a bit cheered him. Watching Jason get all worked up was going to be just plain fun. And after everything with Jill, some fun was exactly what he needed.
Not that he would ever try to actually get into the girl's panties. He may be a womanizing asshole, but he was fiercely loyal to his friends. Bros before hoes, and all of that.
"Fine, I'll be there."
"You want me to what?" Jill stared daggers at her brother from over her laptop. "Jason, I need to be studying! I have two papers that are due in less than two weeks, and I have like, three books to finish by Wednesday. I cannot go to a fucking party!"
Jason exhaled audibly. "You're coming, Jillian Emily LeBlanc. I've barely seen you since me and the guys came over and helped you paint. And if you come, then I'll finally admit that you were right, that we should have found a time to come over before the furniture and everything was delivered."
"About time you admit that, but it's not like I've been avoiding you! I've been busy trying not to fail my first semester at college!"
It was only a half lie. Jill had thrown herself into her studies, but she had also been dodging everyone as much as possible since that last disastrous night at the hotel. If she didn't have school to focus on, she'd likely still be in a sobbing heap on the floor of her bedroom. It was especially hard not to think of Rory when she was lying in bed at night, desperately trying to fall asleep; it reminded her too much of their first night together.
Jill avoided Jason's appraising glare by returning her focus to the computer. "I miss you, Jilly Bean. It was bad enough when you were overseas, but it's even worse now, not seeing you when you're just a few miles away. Please come, for a while? I'll make sure you're home by nine to study."
Jill huffed out a sigh. He was playing the guilt card, and he fucking well knew it. "Fine. But don't expect me to enjoy it."
Jason laughed loudly. "I never expected you to. You are my anti-social little sister, after all. Now go get dressed and let's go. Do you have any idea what I'm risking by being here to pick you up myself?"
Jill shut the door to the bedroom behind her and stared at her open closet. As always, her eyes first zoomed in on the white dress that she had worn just a month ago. Had it already been that long? The wound still felt so fresh, she felt she could barely breathe.
The thought of wearing the dress again was painful. But maybe you can make a new memory wearing it, she reasoned. Then it won't hurt so much every time you see it. It can be the dress you wore for Casey's baby shower, and not the dress that makes you ache for Rory.
She jumped when Jason pounded on the door. "We will miss the surprise if we never leave."
"Sorry." Jill's voice cracked, so she tried again, louder. "Sorry! I'll be ready in a minute."
She stripped and slid into the dress without giving it another thought, pulling her hair from the ponytail and shaking out her curls as she slipped into some sandals. It took a few moments to lock her pain away for later, when she was alone again.
"You have to wear something else," Jason said when she stepped out of her room.
"Because half the guys on the team are going to be hitting on you if you wear that."
Jill laughed out and physically turned her brother around and marched him to the door. "We'll miss the surprise if we never leave," she said, imitating his tone from earlier. "I've grown up and I can handle myself around men now, Jason. It's about time you learned to deal with it."
"Just stay away from O'Brian, okay?"
"Don't worry big brother. I won't flirt with your man crush," she laughed as she locked the door behind them.
How did Kellan rope him into picking up Casey? Oh yeah, he had insisted that it would be less work than actually going to the house and helping Jason set up.
"Jesus, O'Brian, you look like shit."
"Why thank you, Casey!" he laughed back. "And you are glowing as usual."
The pregnant woman's face lit up at the compliment. "You know, Rory, you can actually be charming when you want to be."
"And when you say things like that, I can almost forgive you for stealing my best friend," Rory shot back with a smile.
"Speaking of which, where is my darling husband?" she asked as she piled into his car. "Why isn't he the one picking me up from the spa?"
"He forgot his wallet at practice. So instead of making you wait, he called and asked if I would mind picking you up and meeting him back at the house. I think we're supposed to get dinner, or something." He tried his best to sound nonchalant, but he had never been that great of an actor. Rory stole a glance at her and she just beamed back at him, seemingly oblivious.
God, she looked so happy. It only focused his attention on the ragged hole in his chest.
"So she got to you that much, huh?" Casey commented casually.
Rory could feel his face crumple for a moment before taking a deep breath and rearranging his features into something neutral. "You can say that," he murmured as he sped along.
He did like Casey. She actually was pretty perfect for Jason. But she was so damn observant sometimes. He suddenly wanted the drive to be over as soon as possible.
"Oh Rory, I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I'll be fine." Sometime in the next decade, he added silently.
"Would it be easier to hear about my birthing class and the inevitable physical pain that I'm going to go through? Because that was really disturbing. And then you won't be hurting alone."
Rory chuckled. "You'll get no pity from me, you did it to your own damn self. Though Jason had a hand in it too, I suppose."
"You can say that again."
"Is he going to be in the room for the birth?"
Rory could almost hear her jaw clamp down as he said it. The question had been going around the locker room for months now, some of the older guys chipping in with their own gruesome childbirth horror stories.
"He will if he knows what's fucking good for him," Casey muttered under her breath, making Rory laugh again.
"He'll be there, Case. It's his baby, too. You know, he refuses to tell me the names you guys picked."
"John-Michael for a boy. Anna Jillian if it's a girl, but he's convinced that it's a boy."
"Of course he is," Rory replied through gritted teeth. Just hearing a name so close to Jill's further ripped open the wound in his chest.
Thank God they were just around the corner from the house. And then Casey would be so preoccupied that he wouldn't have to see the look on her face anymore.
Pity. She pitied him.
"I've been there, you know," she whispered. Rory didn't know how she picked up on his pain again, but she did. So fucking observant. "You have to try to move on. Or you'll drive yourself crazy wondering what your life could have been, so much so that you lose any life that you had before her."
They pulled into the driveway. When Rory still didn't respond, she gave him a smile and patted his hand with hers. "At least try to have fun at the party tonight, please?"
"Party?" Rory sputtered. "Who said anything about a party?"
"Please, O'Brian. Jason and I have been together for over three years now. He can't pull off surprises as easily as he used to."
"How did you figure it out?"
Casey pretended to think and then her face broke into a smile. "It didn't help that Colby Mac called a few weeks ago and asked what I wanted for the baby shower. Now let's go have some fun, shall we?"
Rory shook his head in disbelief as he got out of the car and made his way around it to help Casey out. No need to be observant when Colby was fucking up the surprise all on his own. Casey led the way into the house, and he had to hand it to her, she actually looked shocked when everyone yelled 'surprise!'
The LeBlanc's new house was filled to the brim with people, most of whom he knew but a few he didn't immediately recognize. The crowded living room steadily emptied as the guests spilled into the spacious backyard where the food and the bar were set up. As he stood in line for a beer, Rory briefly wondered if Jason would turn the backyard into a rink for his kids someday.
"Good to see you didn't fuck that one up, O'Brian," Kellan mock whispered from his side, joining the queue for alcohol.
"What exactly did you do to help set up, Quaid? You didn't tell me the whole thing was being catered."
Kellan actually faked a pained look before laughing. "I had to supervise! And make sure the food wasn't poisoned, of course."
Rory made it to the bartender first, ordering his longneck before Kellan did the same. He leaned his back against the chrome of the bar, surveying the crowd.
A flash of a white dress caught his eye and his heart dropped into his stomach. Get a hold of yourself, asshole.
But then he saw the blonde curls tumbling down the woman's back and a very familiar heart-shaped ass. The blood drained from his face directly to his groin as his stomach lurched. Could it be ...? Rory chugged his beer down and set it on the bar.
"You look like you've seen a ghost, O'Brian," Kellan piped up from next to him.
"I think I have," Rory murmured. "Excuse me, man."
"Since when do you excuse yourself?" Kellan called out after him, but Rory barely heard him, too intent on making his way across the yard to the woman in white.
He was a man on a mission. It couldn't be her; it was impossible. She left over a month ago. But he had to be sure, for his own sanity.
The woman's back remained towards him, but he could see that she was talking to Casey. His eyes met Casey's as he approached and he watched as she whispered something to the other woman.
And then she turned to face him, and time stopped.
"Prepare yourself, honey, because here comes God's gift to women," Casey whispered to Jill.
"O'Brian," she murmured before calling out to him. "Rory, come meet Jason's sister!"
Jill's heart stopped for a moment at the mention of the name Rory, then she mentally shook herself. It couldn't be him, she reasoned as she turned to face the infamous O'Brian. The statistical possibility of it being the same Rory was ...
Oh my God, it's him.
She choked on the beer she was nursing and spit it out on the grass, leaning over so she didn't stain her dress. Rory politely didn't comment. Jill compensated by chugging down the rest of her beer.
Those warm chocolate brown eyes found hers and she melted. There was no trace of anger, no trace of hurt or pain, just relief. Absolute, blessed relief. Then his face changed into a neutral mask, and she fought to do the same once it dawned on her. It would be very, very stupid to reveal anything here.
"Hi," he extended his hand and flashed her a smile, the same wicked one that had all but seduced her at the bar weeks ago. "I'm Rory O'Brian. And don't believe a thing that Jason and Casey have told you about me."
Jill's responding laugh neared hysterics, but she recovered and quieted her outburst quickly. Her heart hammered as Casey momentarily saved her from responding by introducing her. Oh, if only she knew. "Rory, this is Jill. She just moved here for UC-Denver's pre-med program."
"Pre-med, eh?" Jill just blushed and nodded, still having trouble finding her tongue.
"Oh, Mac just showed up! I've gotta go say hi, I haven't seen him in what feels like months. You behave, O'Brian, you hear me? You can bet that Jason is watching you like a hawk right now." At that Casey waddled off.
Rory saved Jill from responding by speaking again. "I don't know about you, stranger, but I could really use another fucking drink. Shall we?"
Another nod later and she was following him across the lawn and to the bar. He ordered them each a beer. "I'll be damned, your brother is watching us right now."
Jill rolled her eyes and blew out a sigh, finally finding her voice in her exasperation with her brother's protective urges. "I'm not surprised."
"It's going to be the second hardest thing I've ever done, but I'm going to walk away from you now." His eyes met hers and she found herself frozen, helpless in his stare. "I'm sure I'll have to answer to Jason someday, but that's not going to be today. And I don't want to do anything to raise his suspicions. One way or another, though, I'm taking you home tonight. We have some talking to do."
It wasn't a question, but she still felt the need to respond. "Okay." She took a quick sip of her beer as a question popped into her head. "Wait!" Jill whispered urgently, grabbing Rory's arm as he started to walk away. Electricity shot through her body at the sudden contact and she quickly dropped his sleeve. "What's the hardest thing you've done?"
His eyes bored into hers as he responded. "Leaving the hotel that night." And at that, he kept his word and left.
She wasn't surprised when her brother approached not even a minute later. "Please tell me he behaved himself."
"He was a perfect gentleman, Jason. You have nothing to worry about."
"Oh, good. Nothing kills a party faster than murder. Come on, you have another twenty-something teammates to meet."
Jason proceeded to march her around the yard, introducing her to everyone from baby-faced nineteen-year-olds to veterans in their late thirties, all nothing but polite. Kellan stayed by her side when Jason was otherwise occupied.
Jill couldn't help but wonder if Kellan stayed close because she had already met him when he helped to paint her apartment, or if he was there because Jason had ordered him there.
Despite her general discomfort in social situations like this, she surprisingly enjoyed herself. After a month of 'what if's, of doubting her decision, she could finally answer some of those nagging questions. It was as if she were too relieved to feel awkward. Because somewhere, Rory was waiting for her, ready to take her home when the opportunity presented itself.
"So how long have you known O'Brian?" Kellan asked when they found themselves alone in one corner of the yard. Those partygoers with small children had already left, citing bedtimes. Some of the older players jokingly gave the same reason, though a good bit of the crowd still remained.
Jill's heart stammered. She compensated by taking a long sip of her drink. "We just met tonight," she lied quickly. "Though I suppose I've heard enough from Jason and Casey that's it's almost like I already know him ..."
"No you haven't," Kellan cut in kindly. "You two know each other from somewhere," he mused, more to himself than Jill.
She looked up and caught Rory's gaze from across the yard, fighting a smile as she did. It apparently dawned on Kellan right then and there. "Oh my God. You're fucking in love with him!" he all but accused in a low tone.