She was met at the front door by a tired looking Kristen. With her hair pulled back in a messy bun and her shirt stained with god knows what, Lindsey’s girlfriend looked beautiful. And young. Sometimes Stevie hated her for that.
"Oh, um, hi," Kristen said, a slender hand resting on the door handle as she looked curiously at the newcomer. "I just need to go make a call that I’ve been putting off but I think Lindsey’s in Will’s nursery if you want to…"
She nodded. Yes, of course she wanted to see him. See them.
"Sorry about the mess; it’s been a bit hectic around here lately. We knew you were coming over but, well…"
"I can imagine," Stevie smiled hesitantly, still slightly uncomfortable around this woman who seemed to have so securely tied Lindsey to her with the promises and chains and hopes of family. "So, the nursery is?"
"Upstairs. First on the left."
Muted blues and greens, tiny pictures of teddy bears on the walls, a stuffed dog (her present, pride of place, made her pleased) sitting on a rocking chair. And Lindsey.
He was facing away from her as she entered the room, his body swaying slightly side to side. His awkward attempts at gracefulness made Stevie smile widely and she cleared her throat, alerting him to her presence. Her eyes met his briefly before dropping to the carefully wrapped bundle in his strong arms. Standing in the doorway, she watched as his eyes flickered between her and the baby, softening as they looked at the latter. Oh. He gestured for her to come closer and she did so, clutching the edge of her blouse with restless fingers.
She’d had time to prepare herself for this so why did she feel like a boulder was suddenly pressing down on her heart as she watched Lindsey smile as his newborn son yawned and stretched in his arms? God. When she was younger, when they’d both been younger, she’d sometimes thought they might get married someday, might even have a baby. He’d always enjoyed playing with children and she treasured the memories she had of babysitting various young cousins with him on family vacations and before they moved to LA. Over the years though, just as she’d become used to the idea that they would never be able to be in any kind of real, lasting, stable relationship, Stevie had also come to think of the both of them as alike in their forever unmarried, childless states. And now that had changed. And would change him. It was inevitable.
When he’d first told her that Kristen was pregnant, he hadn’t been thrilled by the prospect of impending fatherhood. It confused things, messed things up, ruined any chance of seeing their burgeoning renewed sexual and romantic relationship blossom into anything more. Now, though, as Stevie watched him rearranging the small green blanket more snugly around his son’s squirming body, she knew this was the end of the line for them. He was so obviously in love with his son.
And that was a love she couldn’t and wouldn’t compete for. Ever.
"Stevie, come here. Look," he whispered in a soft tone she hadn’t heard for many, many years, beckoning her closer as she stood a few feet away, still hesitant. How much of Kristen would she see in William? How much of Lindsey? Or would she see only dashed possibilities of times past? Would she see what could have been hers?
She stood by Lindsey’s side, their shoulders touching, as she gazed into the face of the newest Buckingham. His mouth was small and puckered, his eyes squinting up at her, a small thatch of dark hair. He was gorgeous. Beautiful.
"Would you like a hold?" Lindsey asked his musical partner softly, obviously unsure of this whole situation. They’d covered a lot of territory over the years - bitterness, anger, jealousy, betrayal, passion, hurt, joy - but this was just something so far beyond anything else that every step, every word was tentative and mindful.
Stevie paused for a moment before leaning up on her toes to press a soft kiss to Lindsey’s unshaven jaw. “Absolutely. I’m so proud of you. He’s an absolute angel.”
What seemed like an eternity later (she couldn’t help noting every glancing touch between them as Lindsey placed his child gently in her arms) Stevie was holding William, protectively cradling him as she cataloged everything about the experience in her mind.
"I can’t stay for long but I just wanted to, well, see him."
"I understand," he pouted. "And the poor old father gets neglected…"
"I might struggle to cradle you in my arms like this, Linds."
"We could always try," he smirked, reaching an arm around her to brush back some hair from his son’s forehead. She stilled as she felt him standing half behind her, his chin resting on her shoulder as he gazed at William. "I never knew it would feel like this, Stevie…"
"Overwhelming. Like sunshine. Like everything’s just right," he answered, the awe and wonder in his voice both welcome and painful to hear for her.
"I’m happy for you," she ventured, trying to keep any hint of the rising tears out of her tone. Feeling his soft lips press once, twice to the side of her neck, she winced. "Lindsey, don’t… We can’t…"
"I’m not, I’m not. I just… Sometimes I wonder, you know… What it would have been like…"
She turned her head to look at her ex-lover sadly, shaking her head in a plea to stop whatever he was going to say next. They’d always had a silent policy to not dig too deeply into their past (except within their songs) and, except for an explosive argument in 1987, had mostly avoided anything that would make current circumstances even harder for them.
"I know, I know, I shouldn’t be saying it but…"
She stopped the words with a quick kiss, a passionless peck on the lips, all she would be able to allow herself from now. He stroked a long finger along her bare arm and sighed heavily. “Lindsey, treat them well, okay?”
"Yes, I know." She gestured for him to take William from her arms. "You do have a little bit of goodness and responsibility in you, no matter how deep it’s buried," she added teasingly, smiling wistfully as he kissed Will’s hand as it stretched out towards him.
"As always, Stevie, your ability to compliment and flatter your oldest friend astounds me." She watched quietly as he placed the mewling newborn into the bassinet before turning back to face her. "I think he needs a feed. I should probably go and find Kit…"
Smiling, he took her hands in his, the touch as familiar and warm and comforting as always. “Thank you. For coming to see us.”
"Wouldn’t miss it for the world. I’m only feeling a little shortchanged that I didn’t get to see you struggling to change a diaper or try to stop him screaming."
"Yeah, how terrible for you…" he joked as Stevie looked down at their joined hands. "Come visit anytime, okay?"
"Maybe. It’s just…"
"I know it’s different now but I still need to see you, Stevie, speak to you."
"So I can’t come over and ignore you for the sake of playing with young Mr Buckingham, the newer and more adorable model?"
"I’ll be forced to pout at you for extended periods of time if that’s the case."
"A hardship I couldn’t bear. Don’t worry," she said, releasing his grip so she could lightly touch his cheek. "I’ll always be willing to play with you."
Lindsey grinned and turned his head so as to kiss the exposed palm of her hand. “I love you.”
"I love you too, old man."
"Fatherhood will keep me young."
"Just remember that in two years time when your hair’s gone totally grey and you’ve endured seven sleepless nights in a row because your toddler is being a horror. He’s bound to be, you know, with your genes…"
"Oh, ha ha ha. As witty as ever, darling."
"You know I never change."
He looked her over slowly, a smile creasing his eyes and making his mouth upturn. “As beautiful as the day I met you.” Trying to control her emotions, Stevie left the nursery, Lindsey following close behind her. “I’ll walk you to the door then I’d better fetch Kristen before the kid dies of starvation.”
"Poor daddy’s already wrapped around Will’s little finger, isn’t he?"
Lindsey grinned happily. “Seems that way.”
"And you’re happy about it."
"Never been happier."
She could see from the look in his eyes that it was true. And that was painful to acknowledge. Stevie turned to walk to her car but stopped as she felt Lindsey’s arms wrapping around her, holding her to him. His breath was warm on the side of her face and she shuddered. “Lindsey…”
"I’m so sorry, Stevie, so sorry…"
"It’s for the best, I know it is…"
"Yeah. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. We both know that."
"We never had a chance, did we?"
"Maybe we had too many and we just became too laidback about there always being more…"
"God…" The words choked in her throat and she scrunched her eyes tightly shut as he pressed his lips to her long, blonde hair.
"Maybe one day we’ll get another chance."
"Not in this lifetime, Lindsey, not now."
"I miss you."
"Send me pictures of him. Please. I need to see him. Because he’s part of you. And I love…"
Her pleas were swallowed by his murmured reassurances and it took several moments before she allowed herself to pull away from Lindsey.
"Be happy, Stevie."
She’d definitely try.