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Author's Chapter Notes:

Many thanks for all your lovely reviews.  Much appreciated as always.

It was half past ten the following morning and Jo was packing her case. She'd spent an uneasy night and was still tired. Jem had been unable to call down to check on her since he'd had a bad case to deal with which had occupied his shift completely. She was glad to be finally going home but she worried about having to do everything herself. She felt that she shouldn't burden the others with Stephen when she should be capable of looking after him herself. She already thought that Robin and Daisy had done far more than enough since they'd come to live with her. Dropping the final few things in her case she checked round the room to see if she'd left anything behind. She remembered the rosary and delved under the pillow for it before she curled up in the chair beside the bed. Stephen was slumbering quietly in the cot and she closed her eyes, allowing the beads to slip through her fingers. The rhythmic motion was relaxing and she felt herself beginning to drift.

When Jack entered the room at eleven, he saw Jo was fast asleep. He could tell she was tired from the dark circles under her eyes. Moving quietly, he made sure everything was in her case before he shut it and turned to Stephen.

“Time to go home, son,” he murmured as he picked him out of the cot. Stephen just stared at him through big blue eyes and grabbed the finger Jack held out. Jack smiled at his son and placed him on the bed where he could wrap him up in blankets. Once he was satisfied, he placed him in the basket he'd brought and turned to wake Jo. He noticed the rosary on the floor and bent to pick it up, dropping it into his pocket for safe keeping. He knew how much it meant to Jo, especially when she felt worried or alone. That she'd had it in her hands just before he'd arrived was just further proof that she was worrying about being unable to cope when she was home. Jack shook her.

“Jo? Time to go home.” Jo attempted to shake herself free.

“It's not time to wake up yet, surely?”

“It's quarter past eleven, Jo. More than time you were awake. You're going home today.” Jo reluctantly opened her eyes and looked up at Jack. “How much sleep did you get last night?”

“Not a lot.”

“I thought as much. Come on. Let's get you both home and then you can sleep as much as you like.” He hauled Jo to her feet and helped her into her coat before handing her Stephen and the basket. “Can you manage that? It’s not far to the car.”

“I think so.” Jack walked towards the door, just as it was opened by Jem. He came across and took the basket from Jo.

“I’ll carry Stephen for you.” Jack came back and offered his arm to her. She slipped her hand through, gratefully and they set off towards the car. Jack had parked as close as he could to the maternity department in order to save Jo too much walking. When they reached the entrance he was glad he had as the rain had begun to fall quite heavily. He bade Jo to wait at the entrance with Jem and Stephen and he ran over to the car. Quickly, stowing the case in the boot, he climbed in and drove up to the entrance so Jem could place Stephen’s basket on the back seat and help Jo in beside it without any of them getting too wet. Once they were comfortable, Jem kissed Jo and waved as Jack set off for home.

Jo leaned back in the seat, her hand holding the basket next to her and watched the landscape flashing by. She found it hard to keep her eyes open and soon she was dozing as Jack drove through the winding lanes back to Howells Village and home.

When Jack pulled up outside their cottage, he saw that Jo was sleeping again. Opening the door, he woke her and she climbed out, feeling rather groggy. He picked up the basket and took her arm as they walked up the path to the door. Just as they reached it, it was opened by Daisy who tried to take the basket from Jack.

“I’ve got him safely, Daisy. Why don’t you put the kettle on while we get ourselves sorted?”

“Robin is doing that already. Shall I make a few sandwiches? It’s practically lunch time.”

“Yes, please. We’ll eat in the lounge where it’s warm.” He watched Daisy disappear into the kitchen before turning to Jo. “Let’s get into the warmth.” He gave Jo a hand with her coat and then handed her the basket while he removed his own. Together they walked into the lounge and Jo sank onto the sofa, thankfully. Stephen was asleep, so they left him to slumber on in the basket, loosening the blankets, slightly once he was in the warmth. Jack dropped onto the sofa next to Jo and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her to him.

Jo snuggled in to him, glad to be home once more. Her worries faded a little as they sat watching the flames dancing. She knew it was going to be hard to adjust to looking after Stephen and only having six hours up, but she realised that everyone was eager to help her as much as possible. She finally began to realise that things weren’t quite as bad as she feared and that her imagination had been blowing everything out of proportion again.

When Robin and Daisy arrived in the lounge with lunch, she sat up and smiled at them both. They deposited their burdens on the table and Jo stood up to hug them both at the same time. Jack looked on, happy to see Jo back at home where she belonged. When the three of them finally pulled apart he spoke.

“How about a bit of lunch? I’m hungry if you aren’t.” Robin went and poured the tea whilst the others helped themselves to the sandwiches. Jo managed a reasonable meal, though Jack noted that she was trying to suppress her yawns. Stephen chose this time to begin whimpering, so he knew that Jo would need to attend to his needs first. He watched as she picked him out of the basket and cuddled him to her.

“I’ll go and sort Stephen out. He’s hungry, too.”

“I’ve lit the fire in your room, Jo, so it should be warm enough for you,” Robin said as she came over to admire Stephen.

“Thanks, Robin. Come on, young man. Let's go and see what's on offer today." Jo walked upstairs and into her bedroom, where she found the fire burning merrily in the grate and the chairs pulled up to it. Dropping into the nearest one, she quickly set about feeding Stephen.

Once he was satisfied she changed him and placed him in the cot Jack had positioned next to the bed. He looked drowsy, so Jo covered him up and undressed herself. Soon she was snuggled under the covers and slumbering as deeply as her son.

When Jack ran upstairs to check on her, he found Jo was sleeping, though Stephen was awake and was becoming impatient at being ignored. Jack picked him out and bore him back downstairs to where Robin and Daisy were both busy with knitting. At the sight of Jack with Stephen, they both dropped their needles anyhow and clamoured to be allowed to hold him. Jack handed him to Robin as she was nearest.

“Where's Jo?” she asked as she sat down in the armchair with Stephen.

“Sleeping. She had a poor night last night. Do you two think you can manage alone with Stephen for a short while? I have a few things I need to do in the study.”

“Of course we will. It'll be nice to look after him.” Daisy was enthusiastic in her response and Jack smiled.

“In that case I'll leave you both to it. Give me a shout when he gets hungry and I'll take him back up to Jo while you two sort out a drink for us all.”

“How long is she allowed to have up, now?” Robin enquired.

“Only six hours at the moment, so she's going to need plenty of help for the next few weeks. I'm sure you two and the twins, when they come home, will be more than willing to do that.”

“We'd love to help. With four of us here there'll be plenty of time for Auntie Jo to get some rest.”

“I'm sure she'll be glad to hear it. I'll leave you to it, girls.”

Jack retreated to the study to look over some paperwork in preparation for when he returned to work. He was expecting to be allowed back at least part time as soon as Easter was over and Jo had settled into some sort of a routine. His headaches had gone at last, though he still suffered from the occasional migraine. These were becoming less frequent, but he had to remain aware that one may occur at any time. Now, he felt ready to get back to work and had been bringing home paperwork for the past couple of weeks in order to bring himself up to speed with his job. He also knew that when they did get some outside help, they would need to be able to pay for it and finances were beginning to run low as they'd had no income since Jack had been discharged. Jo's medical fees weren't cheap, either and, though Jem waived his treatment fees, they still had to pay for her maternity stay. Jack needed to get back to work in order to afford them, his assets being tied up and unavailable.

Jack worked steadily for the next hour and a half, managing to wade his way through a good portion of the pile of papers on his desk before he had to admit defeat. He knew that he couldn't spend too long looking at small print without paying for it with a headache. As he capped his pen and stretched, Daisy poked her head around the door.

“I'm just going to make a pot of tea, Uncle Jack. Would you like some as well?”

“That'd be lovely, thank you, Daisy. I've just finished, so I'll come through to the lounge. How’s Stephen been?”

“Good as gold. I think he might be getting tired, though. He's beginning to get rather fractious.” Jack glanced at the clock on the desk.

“He's probably getting hungry. His next feed is due in half an hour. Go and put the kettle on and I'll wake Jo.”

“Shall I bring yours upstairs?”

“No, thank you. We’ll come down once Jo’s sorted Stephen out.” He stood up and Daisy ran off to the kitchen to turn the ring on underneath kettle. Jack went into the lounge, where he found Robin trying to soothe Stephen. She looked up in relief as he crossed the room.

“I think he’s hungry, or tired.”

“Probably both. It’s almost time for his next feed and he’s been awake for a good while. I’ll take him up to Jo.” Jack took his son and departed upstairs. Jo was just rousing as he perched on the bed.

“Hello. What time is it?”

“Almost four o’clock. This little fellow is hungry again.”

“Four o’clock? How long have I been asleep?”

“You’ve had a good couple of hours. You were fast asleep when I came and took Stephen back downstairs and that was about two o’clock. How do you feel, now?”

“Better than earlier. I couldn’t keep my eyes open, then.”

“Sit up and take Stephen before he starts to complain.” Jo did as he asked, Jack pushing some pillows behind her for support. “How long have you had up so far today?”

“Two hours, I think. Why?”

“You should get up when you’ve finished feeding him. Daisy was putting the kettle on just before I brought him up here. I said we’d go down to have a drink.”

“That’s sounds good. I’m thirsty.”

“You need to remember to drink, Jo. Try and remember to bring some water back upstairs with you later. Have you thought about how you’re going to manage your time up?”

“Not really. I suppose I need to save an hour for during the night, though.”

“Yes. It might be better to save two. That leaves you four hours. How about you stay in bed in a morning and come downstairs after lunch and Stephen’s feed? If you come down about two o’clock, we can eat dinner early and then you can come back upstairs straight after. Hopefully, Jem will increase your time up next month and you’ll be able to spend longer downstairs.”

“I don’t have much choice, really, do I?”

“I know it’s hard, Jo, but at least you’re home again and that’s what you wanted. Normally, you’d have had to wait until you had eight hours before you’d have been allowed home. The only reason you’ve been allowed home with six hours is because Jem knew that we’d all be here to help look after Stephen while you adjust to all the changes.”

“What if Jem doesn’t increase my time up? How will I manage once school starts again?”

“Let’s cross that bridge if it occurs. There’s no point worrying about what might happen. The best thing you can do is to make the most of the time you have now and concentrate on that. Hopefully, we’ll all have a routine established by the time your next appointment comes round and then we’ll only have to add the extra time up into it.”

“I hope so.” Jo sat Stephen up and winded him before passing him back to Jack. “What did you do with Stephen this afternoon?”

“Robin and Daisy looked after him. I had some paperwork to look at, so it worked out quite well all round, really.”

“I thought you couldn’t do much paperwork, yet”

“I can manage about an hour and a half at it, now. Any longer and I can feel a headache beginning. As long as I do it in short bursts, I’m fine. I need to work at it, so I can do my job properly when I start back in a few weeks.”

“A few weeks? That’s not long, Jack.”

“I need to go back to work, Jo. Jem is desperately short staffed and we need to pay the bills somehow. At least I’m not going back to war. If that had happened, I’d have gone already.”

“I don’t think I could have let you go back to war. Not after last time.”

“I know. It’s not going to happen again. This time, you know I’ll only be at the Sanatorium and will be coming back home each day.” Jack stood up, Stephen in his arms. “This little fellow is sleeping. I’ll put him in the cot while you get yourself up. Robin and Daisy will be wondering what’s happened to us.”

Jo climbed out of bed and went to the bathroom whilst Jack settled Stephen in the cot and covered him up. As he stood back up, Jo returned and quickly dressed. Jack offered her his arm and together they headed downstairs to the lounge.

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