This one comes with a special hug for Dana. Hope the warm fuzzies help. Also thanks to Teej for conspiring with me on this one. Oh the havoc we could cause if we met in person.

Thanks as always to TAE, for without her these stories wouldn't be as enjoyable as they are.

Chapter 13: Life's Path


"I really appreciate this, Jim."

Jim glanced over at his passenger as they bounced along the dirt road, "Don't worry about it, Carolyn. I didn't have anything else planned for today."

Carolyn turned to face her ex-husband, "I feel bad about bugging you on your day off, but I didn't know who else to call."

He gave her one of his special smiles, "It's not a problem, really. I just can't believe the car rental company lost your reservation and wouldn't give you a car."

She sighed, "I just want to get to Wendy's house and see my new nephew," Carolyn said as she leaned back into the seat of the truck.

Jim did a double take. "Nephew? The Beanpole was pregnant? When did that happen?"

Carolyn chuckled and gave him a mischievous look, "About nine months ago, Jim."

"I know that," Jim growled in response. "How come nobody told me?"

Carolyn rolled her eyes and turned to watch the passing scenery. "You never really seemed too concerned with my family when we were married. I just figured that you didn't want to be bothered. It's not like you're expected to be an uncle or anything."

"Bothered?" Jim kept glancing between his passenger and the road. "Just because we're not married, doesn't mean..." He was so focused on his conversation with Carolyn that he didn't notice the large pothole in the road.

There was an ominous ka-chunk sound, followed by an even worse sounding clang clang.

Jim managed to not swear as he pulled his beloved truck to the side of the road. Both Jim and Carolyn climbed out and, in the time honored fashion of all men, Jim opened the hood for a look.

After a few moments Carolyn looked curiously at him, "Well, what do you think is wrong?"

Jim took a deep breath before answering. "Judging from the large oil spot on the road, I think we cracked the oil pan."

She bent down and looked under the truck, "I think I'd have to agree with you." She stood up to see her ex-husband's jaw twitching. "I'm really sorry about this, Jim."

"No, Carolyn, it's..."

"I mean it, Jim." She interrupted as she pulled out her cell phone. "I'll call a tow truck and..."

Jim placed his hand over the cell phone. "Caro! It's not your fault and don't bother with the cell phone." Then his expression softened, "Besides, there's no signal out here."

Carolyn looked at the display on her phone and discovered that he was right. She dropped her hands to her side and stamped her foot, "Damn it!"

Jim place his hands on her shoulders, "Don't worry about it. We can't be more than a couple of miles from Wendy's house. We can walk the rest of the way and I'll call a tow truck from there."

Carolyn nodded and the two started walking.

They had walked for about ten minutes when Carolyn began slipping on the rocky road. She stumbled a few times, but refused to slow the pace.

"Careful, Carolyn, this ground isn't..." Just as Jim cautioned his ex-wife, she slipped off the side of the road and came to land in a patch of mud. Jim quickly helped her back onto the road and checked her over for injuries.

She waved him off, "I'm fine, Jim, just a bruise or two."

"And a bit muddy, too." Jim said, as he watched his ex-wife try to wipe the mud from her pants and blouse.

She made a teasing face at him, "Ha ha ha, very funny. If you were any kind of a gentleman at all, you'd offer a lady your shirt."

Instantly Jim pulled his sweatshirt off and held it out towards his traveling companion. "The lady need but ask."

She tried not to laugh as she held her hands out to fend off the gift. "Eww, that old thing? I can't believe you still have that old Army sweatshirt,"

"What? It's still a good shirt. You'd be amazed at what it's good for." Jim said in defense of the hard working garment.

She crossed her arms in defiance and an attempt to hide her shivers, and tried to give him a defiant look, "Name one thing it's good for."

Jim wasn't fooled by Carolyn's look and evenly replied, "It'll be good for keeping you warm. Of course if you'd prefer to wear that wet shirt..."

She sighed in defeat and took the shirt out of his hand, "Fine."

They both stood there for a moment, neither one moving.

"Well?" Jim finally asked. "It works better if you put it on."

"I'm waiting for you to turn around," she rolled her eyes as she replied. "Geez, some gentleman you are."

"What? Oh, I don't believe this," he threw his hands up in exasperation. "I've seen you undressed before. We were married, remember?"

Carolyn just stood there with her arms crossed and her foot tapping.

Admitting defeat, Jim turned around. "You know, you used to like it when I watched you get undressed."

"I don't remember you complaining about it," Carolyn responded.

"Well, considering what it often led to… and I don't remember you complaining about it, either," Jim said, resisting the urge to peek over his shoulder.

"You realize," she said with a giggle, "this is the first time I've ever worn one of your shirts?"

"Really?" Jim replied curiously, turning around in time to see Carolyn's head emerge from his sweatshirt. "I seem to remember a certain…."

"Nope, that was your tie," She said before he could finish, as she folded her blouse with the cleaner side out and tucked it into her purse.

"Oh yeah. So it was," he said, with a gleam in his eye.

Carolyn gave him a playful swat and walked past him up the road. "Are we going to stay here all day remembering old times, or are we going to go see a certain nephew?"

Jim hurried to catch up with her and offered her his arm, "But of course, my lady. We mustn't keep the lad waiting."

She took his arm and gave him a slight nudge, "You goof."

Half an hour later the two arrived at their destination without further incident.


Wendy greeted them at the front door, "Where have you been, I was about to call the cops to go looking for you."

Jim rolled his eyes as Carolyn chuckled.

Before any of the adults could say anything further, a child's cry came from the living room.

"Oh, that must be Joseph. I've got to see the little guy," Carolyn declared and rushed towards the source of the sound.

Wendy just shook her head as her sister scooped the baby up. "Come on in, Jim, you look like you could use something to drink," Wendy said as she ushered him into the kitchen. "So what took you two so long? You look like you walked."

"Actually we did. Cracked the oil pan a couple of miles down the road," he explained as he sat at the table and accepted a glass of water.

"Ahh, I see the potholes from hell have claimed another victim," Wendy said with a laugh.

Jim blushed a bit as he tired to avoid Wendy's gaze, "You could say that. Um, could I borrow your phone to call a tow truck?"

"Sure, but it'll be a while until they get here. Trust me. They don't come this way often, but you were going to stay for dinner anyway, weren't you?"

"Wouldn't dream of missing it," Jim answered with a grin.


Wendy handed Carolyn the last of the dishes. "I'm so glad you two were able to come out tonight."

"I wouldn't have missed playing with my nephew for the world."

Wendy smiled mischievously, "Well I don't know how much you got to play with him, it seems to me that Jim played with him most of the night."

Carolyn matched her sister's expression "Yeah, he is good with kids, isn't he?"

"Uh huh," was all that Wendy said in reply.

"Oh, don't you look at me like that," Carolyn said and snapped the dishtowel at her sister.

Wendy yelped and jumped out of range, and then held her finger up to her lips, "Shhh, you'll wake them."

As quietly as possible the two sisters peeked out the kitchen door into the living room. Jim was asleep on the couch with little Joseph nestled quietly on his chest.

Carolyn smiled at her nephew and ex-husband, then looked down at the her borrowed shirt. There were a few stains and the hem looked a bit tattered in a few places, but Jim was right, it kept the wearer warm. "You'll make a great daddy some day, Jimmy, but you're already a wonderful uncle," she murmured softly as she absently stroked the front of the old sweatshirt.

Chapter 14

Chapter 12.5


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