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Author's Chapter Notes:

Many thanks for the reviews as always.

Christmas passed and Jack’s wisdom in making Jo rest that day was proven when Jem commented on how well she looked. Jack just smiled and kept his own counsel. The day before New Year’s Eve, Jo admitted that she didn’t feel up to joining in all the usual festivities and asked Jack if he minded them just having a quiet night in alone.

“Of course I don’t mind. It’ll be nice to have some time to ourselves since Frieda has offered to have the twins for New Year and Robin and Daisy are staying at the Round House.”

“Are you working at all over New Year?”

“I’ll be out until mid-afternoon tomorrow, but I have New Year’s Day off.”

“So it’ll just be the three of us. Flora and Fiona are going to Frieda’s late morning and Madge has asked if she could borrow Anna to help Marie.”

“I’m sure we can cook something between us as well as manage Stephen. We can always eat after he goes to bed, then we won’t have to rush.” Jo smiled at this idea.

“I’d quite like to stay up to see in the New Year.”

“I don’t see why you can’t. It’s not as if we’ll be doing anything too strenuous and you can sleep in on New Year’s Day.”

“You’ll have to look after Stephen then.” Jo leaned in to kiss Jack and he held onto her for a few moments as he returned it. A moment later, they were split up by Stephen hauling himself up beside Jack’s legs and hitting him with a brick. Jack grabbed his arm, effectually putting a stop to his game.

“Oi! No hitting, young man.” He removed the brick from his hand and Stephen began to cry. Jo picked him up onto her knee.

“It’s not nice to hit people, Stephen. You can hurt them. Show Papa that you’re sorry.” The small boy paused a moment before launching himself at Jack and wrapping his arms around his neck. Jack hugged him back before putting him away and looking down at him.

“Do you promise not to hit again?” Stephen nodded. “In that case, you may have your brick back.” Jack handed the brick over and Stephen clambered back down. He was soon back in the corner where his toys were kept and attempting to build a tower.

New Year’s Eve was quiet as Jo and Jack had planned. Jack had told Jem that they wouldn’t be calling in on New Year’s Eve and Jem had accepted his apologies, agreeing that it was probably better for Jo to have a quiet New Year after all the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Jo slept in on New Year’s Day, Jack having slipped out of bed and rescued Stephen from his cot before he had chance to begin calling for Mamma at the top of his voice. They spent the morning playing in the lounge until it was time for his nap and Jack took him upstairs once more. Once he’d settled Stephen down, he looked in on Jo just as she was beginning to wake. He slipped back out and went to make some tea.

When he returned, a steaming mug in each hand, Jo was wide awake and had picked up her book. She replaced it on the bedside cabinet once she saw Jack and smiled up at him.

“Here you go. I thought you might be ready for a drink.”

“Thank you. Where’s Stephen?”

“He’s just gone for his nap. I put him in his cot about ten minutes ago.” Jack sat down on the bed beside her with his own mug.

“I didn’t realise it was that late. I didn’t mean to leave you to deal with him all morning.”

“It doesn’t matter. We’ve enjoyed ourselves and you’ve had chance to recover from your late night. What were you intending to do?”

“I was just going to read for half an hour when you came in. If it’s so late though, I ought to get up.”

“There’s no rush if you want to read for a while. I have some work I can be getting on with in the study while Stephen sleeps.”

“It’s New Year’s Day, Jack. You can’t do work on New Year’s Day.”

“My job doesn’t take holidays into account. It makes no difference to me if I do some paperwork while you rest some more.”

“I’m sick of resting all the time.” Jack recognised the tone in Jo’s voice and hastened to change the subject, realising that he was treading a fine line.

“What did you want to do today?”

“If it’s fine, I’d quite like to go out for some fresh air. We can put Stephen in the pushchair and walk him around the village. We’re going to the Round House for dinner this evening.”

“Is Anna watching Stephen?”

“Yes. There’s only going to be a few of us for dinner so Marie doesn’t need any extra help.”

“We’ll go for a short walk, then, since you’ve been cooped up inside for the past few days, thanks to the rain. We won’t stay late tonight, though. I’m working the early shift tomorrow so I don’t want to be up until all hours.”

“Okay. At least if you’re working early, we don’t have to use me as the excuse for once.”

“You recovering from tuberculosis has never been an excuse, Jo. I wouldn’t even dream of using it as one, either. I know how hard you’ve had to fight to get to where you are today, considering how much you’ve gone through over the past few years. I’m sure that you’ll beat it eventually.”

“Do you really think so?”

“I do.” Jack pulled Jo into his arms and kissed her hair. “I know that you’ve found it hard at times and that I’ve not been here to support you through everything. That’s not the case now, though and together, we’ll make it through.”

“I hope so, Jack. It’s so much easier now you’re back home again, though I was worried when you were so ill before I had Stephen.”

“I know you were, but it was just a matter of time before I got myself back on my feet again, as I told you at the time. It’s just taking you longer because tuberculosis is such a serious illness and you now have Stephen to deal with. He’s growing and developing as he should be, though, so there’s no need to worry about him, either.”

“I can’t help worrying, especially after what happened at the beginning of summer.”

“He’s fine, now and looks as if he’s going to be a sturdy specimen. Even the scars are fading and won’t be noticeable in a few years’ time.” Jack changed the subject. “If you don’t intend to read and rest for a bit longer, are you going to get up?”

“Yes. I expect Anna will be starting on lunch, shortly and I’d like to spend some time with Stephen before we go out this evening.”

“She was just deciding what to make when I came up with the tea. I’ve told her, that once she’s washed up, she’s to take the afternoon off after her late night last night. I thought we’d have time to get Stephen to bed before we leave.”

“We’ll need to get ready as well. Dinner is at eight o’clock, remember.”

“I’m sure we can manage between us.” Jo nodded her agreement and flung back the bedcovers. Jack rose and went back downstairs with the empty mugs to tell Anna to make a start on lunch.

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