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"I'm feeling more alone

then I ever have before..."

Brick - Ben Folds Five





"Are you okay?" Joey asked softly as he sat beside Chris and dropped his hand on the older mans knee.

"Yes." His voice said, while his every ounce of his heart and soul screamed "no."

Joey patted his knee then gave it a squeeze, wondering if his friend would ever be the same again. "Do you want to go out? Get some grub or something?"

"No." Chris shook his head and pulled his knees to his chest, knocking Joey's hand out of the way in the process.

Joey pursed his lips and frowned with worry as he watched Chris' arms go around his legs and his chin dip between his knees. "If you - "

"I'm fine Joe." Chris mumbled into his jeans.

"Yeah… I know." Joey lied. "I'm just sayin… if you need to… I don't know… talk or something."

"I don't." Chris had yet to meet Joey's eyes. "Go pick up Bri. This is your weekend, right?"

"Yeah." Joey said softly as his eyes fell to the floor. It was his weekend with his daughter, but suddenly he didn't want to go get her. She was his life, his whole life… but bringing her back to the house might be harder on all of them than he was willing to admit.

"Give her a hug for me." Chris voice broke as he tilted his chin lower and rested his forehead against his knees. Joey couldn't be certain, but the shaking of his shoulders said he might be crying.

If the right words were out there, they escaped Joey's mind as he put his arm over Chris' shoulders and held him in a one armed hug. "I'm sorry man." Joey whispered. Chris didn't move or respond and Joey's heart broke at the sound of his breath being exhaled in one shaky movement. "I'll call Kelly and tell her I can't take Bri this weekend."

"No." Chris said, barely audible through his knees.

Joey kissed Chris' temple and let his lips linger for a moment in a brotherly embrace. If it were possible for Joey to take some of the hurt, he would. He'd always handled emotional stuff like this better than Chris, and he felt like he deserved it.

An hour later Joey opened the front door with his crumb covered daughter in his arms and her three bags hanging precariously from his free hand. He dropped the bags in the hall, then let the baby loose. "Stay here punkin." Joey tried to grab her arm before she toddled away, but she'd spotted Chris on the couch and was making a beeline for her favorite uncle.

"Ceee." She said in her tiny voice as she patted his shoe with an innocent and excited smile.

"I'm sorry. Hang on." Joey scooped Brianna up and started out of the room.

"No, wait." Chris unfolded himself and looked to Joey with red rimmed eyes and swollen lips. "Can I…?"

"Chris, it's okay. I'll take her upstairs."

"Let me hold her." Chris nodded and extended his arms to take the baby. She happliy dove into his arms and he held her close. She giggled into his neck as Chris used one arm to support her bottom and let the other rest on the back of her head. He leaned back into the couch so that she was laying on his chest, and stroked her baby fine curls.

All twenty three pounds of her was a warm bundle of unconditional love, Chris' heart beat against his chest wall as his face crumpled and he cried into the little girls pink overalls. Gently, almost without thinking, he began to rock backward and forward in a hypnotic motion.

Joey was at Chris' side almost without moving, with his arm over Chris' shoulders holding him close. They rocked together with the baby between them, shameless tears falling down their manly cheeks. Chris for his loss and Joey for his friend. Brianna wiggled and baby talked for a minute before sinking into the comfort of her uncles arms, letting her little fingers rake open and closed on his shoulder through his shirt.

"I'm sorry." Joey whispered. "I'm sorry."

"Me too." Chris nodded. He just wanted to hold Brianna forever. For a moment, a brief moment, a few hours at the most… he'd floated above cloud nine thinking he'd have his own little piece of him to cuddle and rock to sleep every night. "I wanted it."

"I know." Joey's hand found the back of Chris' head and patted him like he would Brianna when she was upset.

"Why didn't she?" Chris whispered, but his voice cracked anyway.

"I don't know Chris." Which was an understatement. He couldn’t even fathom why not.

"It's not fair."

"No." Joey shook his head. "It's not." He held his friends closer as his daughter closed her eyes and began to doze off, content in the warmth of her father and uncle.









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Copyright 2002, Amy Lynn