The next day passed in a haze of exhaustion for Brianna. She'd slept only in snatches between dispensing meds and juice and cleaning up various forms of human waste, as well as laundry and comforting the little ones. She'd lost track of how much she actually slept, or when she ate last. She only knew what time it was because she kept track on her chart.
Needing to replenish her supplies, Brianna stumbled downstairs and into the kitchen. She set a pot of coffee brewing while she gathered what she needed. Halfway through her first cup, the gate buzzed, but she ignored it, as well as the opening of the door.
Jon and Richie dropped their bags in the foyer, their energy depleted. Sore throats had turned into headaches and vomiting during the flight home.
"What's this?" Richie wondered when he saw Brianna's chart on the table.
Too tired to even look at it, Jon shrugged. "Honey? We're home!"
Hoping he was bringing help and not more work, Brianna dragged herself into the foyer. One look at the two men dashed her hopes. "Oh no. Not you guys too!" Their pale faces and glassy eyes told her she had two more patients to add to her roster. She sighed and pointed to the stairs. "Into bed. Both of you."
Neither of the men were about to argue. It was all they could do to carry their bags upstairs. Brianna made new columns in her chart, gathered her supplies and followed.
She found Jon face down on their bed. She left some juice on his night table and went to check on Richie. He had managed to undress before he collapsed.
"Do I need to call someone in L.A. to let them know you won't be home for a few days?"
He shook his head. "My mom. I was supposed to be visiting with her."
That would explain why they didn't drop him off in L.A. on their way home. "Okay, I'll call her. There's juice there if you think you can get it down."
Brianna did a quick check on the kids.
"Is that Dad home?" Stephanie asked sleepily.
"Yes, with Uncle Mookie. They're both sick too."
"Welcome to the party."
Brianna shook her head as she got Jon undressed and returned downstairs. Some party. More like the morning after. In her office she looked up Joan's number.
"Hi Joan, it's Brianna Bongiovi."
"Oh hello dear, are the boys home yet?"
"Yes they are, and all with the flu. That's why I'm calling. I've got Richie tucked up in bed here."
"Oh no! You should have sent him here. You don't need to deal with that and risk exposing the kids."
"It's okay." Brianna assure her. "The kids are all sick too. Adding another one is not a problem." She smiled wryly. "At least he can get himself to the bathroom so I don't have to find another bucket."
"Oh you poor thing. That's not fun. Is there anything I can do to help you?"
"No, I stocked up when the kids started dropping so I think we're okay."
"Don't forget to rest as much as you can." Joan reminded the younger woman. "You won't be able to help anyone if you get sick too."
"I know. I'm trying."
"Well, don't let Richie give you any grief! And make sure you call me if you need anything."
Brianna chuckled, "I will. Thanks Joan."
That night, the young kids fevers finally broke and the spewing stopped. Over the next couple days they recuperated quickly. The same could not be said for the big kids. Between Richie's moaning and Jon's whining, Brianna decided she'd rather deal with four sick kids than two sick manchildren..
"Stop whining or I'll smother you with a pillow." Brianna warned her husband as she straightened the bed. Fevers made him a restless sleeper, which was part of the reason she was sleeping elsewhere.
"I just want to cuddle." Jon pouted.
Brianna left the room, returning a minute later with one of Romeo's big teddy bears which she laid down beside him. "Here. Cuddle this."
"It's not the same. I don't know why you're not sleeping here where you belong."
"Because I'm trying to limit my prolonged exposure to the germs. If I get sick who's going to look after you? Now get some rest." She smoothed back his hair and bent to kiss his forehead.
Jon grumbled, but his eyes drifted closed. When she looked back at him from the doorway, he had clutched the bear under his chin and was already asleep.
It was another couple days before the men were over the worst of it.
Brianna was in the kitchen when Jon appeared, showered and freshly shaven. "Hey there! Feeling better?"
He grunted and sat on a stool at the island. "Coffee."
She smiled as she poured him a cup and handed it to him. "How about some breakfast? Maybe some poached eggs and bacon?" Her smile grew when he shuddered and scowled. "Stomach not up to that yet? How about scrambled eggs and toast? Or do you just want toast or maybe cereal?"
He considers that for a moment while he sipped. "Scrambled and toast. Please."
Knowing how how was before his coffee, she stood at the stove quietly while she cooked his eggs.
The click of Jon's mug hitting the countertop was loud in the room. "Bri....this isn't working for me."
She froze, her stomach sinking. She'd heard those words from the man who was her husband before. That time it was his explanation for screwing around on her. She didn't believe that was the case this time. What does he mean by that? We've only been married a few months! Swallowing heavily, she took a deep breath. "What isn't working for you?"
"You here while I'm on the road. Amanda's not doing a bad job, but she's not you. I don't want to go through another marriage where I'm separated from my wife for months at a time." He frowned. "But the last few days have also shown how much the kids need you here."
Breathing normally again, Brianna set down the spatula and turned to lean on the counter across from him. "So we're right back to square one. I can't be in two places at once, so what do we do?"
"You know, for two of the smartest people I know, you two can be pretty dense." Richie commented as he entered the room and headed for the coffee pot. "Mmm. That smells good."
"Okay Dr. Sambora, what are we being dense about?" Brianna asked a little sharply as she rose and walked over to put bread in the toaster.
But Richie didn't take offence at her tone. He reached for a plate, scooped out the cooked eggs and cracked more into the pan. "What's the key to any successful marriage? The romantics will tell you it's love, but that's only part of it. The realists will tell you it's patience and compromise."
"Okay, I'll buy that." Jon nodded. "So how do we compromise?"
"Well, this is going to take some compromising on the kids part as well." He warned. "Have you got a copy of the tour schedule handy?"
"In the office. I'll go grab it." Brianna was curious about what Richie saw that they hadn't. Returning, she spread the sheets out on the counter.
Richie studied them for a few minutes. "Okay. Off the top of my head, I'd say Brianna tours with us for the east coast shows while the grandparents or someone stays with the kids, then Brianna stays home for the west coast shows."
"And what about Europe?" Brianna asked.
"Once we're out of school we go with you." Stephanie suggested as she entered the room, having obviously heard enough of their conversation to understand the topic.
"You'd really be okay with me going on tour for a few weeks?" Brianna needed to be sure.
"And what about your brothers?"
Stephanie shrugged. "They'll survive."
"No!" Jesse disagreed from the doorway.
"No!" Jesse cut his sister off. "We need her here. Mom never went on tour."
"Jesse..." Jon began, but Stephanie beat him to it.
"Because she didn't want to. She hated all the paparazzi and living out of a suitcase and the craziness of tour life. She told us she'd done it when they were younger, but she'd had enough and preferred to stay home with us. But that was Mom's choice. Do you remember what Grandma told us when Bri and Dad started dating?"
Jesse frowned, but nodded. "That Brianna isn't Mom. She doesn't have the same likes, wants and needs and we shouldn't expect her to do things the same way Mom did."
Brianna's brows rose in surprise and she exchanged a glance with Jon. He just shrugged.
"Right." Stephanie agreed. "So if it makes her - and Dad - happy that she goes with him for part of the tour, then we have to support that. It's not forever. It's only for a few weeks. We'll survive." She paused. "We've found happiness as a family again Jess. We can't be the cause of that falling apart."
Jesse sighed, but nodded.
"You're doing what?" Lisa shook her head vigorously, sure she must have misheard her sister-in-law.
"I'm having the family over for dinner on December 27th." Brianna repeated.
"The whole family?"
"Yes. Both families actually."
"Okay. I have to ask. Why?" Lisa shuddered at the thought of the drama and arguments that could arise at any gathering where Edward was present.
"Because I want to have all of my family in my life with everyone getting along. And I'm hoping being around Jon's family and seeing how they interact might get Father to ease up."
Lisa hesitated. "You you really think that will happen?"
Brianna sighed. "No, but I live in hope."
"You're a brave woman." Rachel murmured to her sister-in-law as she entered the house on the Navesink. Both of Brianna's sisters-in-law kept their families away from Edward as much as possible.
"Brianna, the house looks beautiful!" Sara exclaimed.
"Thanks." Brianna had taken more time than usual decorating the house for Christmas. Jon had wisely kept quiet and helped when he was asked. She watched her father carefully for his reaction. Seeing him glance around and nod, she let out a relieved breath, her hopes for a peaceful evening growing.
It lasted all the way until dessert.
"Fantastic meal Sunshine." Matt patted his stomach and eyed the pie in front of him. "I vote you have the next family get together too. You know, to give Mom a break."
Carol rolled her eyes, but smiled at Brianna.
"I agree." Tony spoke up from further down the table. "Maybe when you guys get back from Europe?" He pouted. "I still wish you were coming to the west coast with them Sunshine."
Brianna smiled. "Maybe next time. This is the compromise we can all live with right now."
"What are you talking abut Brianna? Are you going on tour after all?" Sara frowned. "I thought you were staying home with the children."
"Just for part of it. I'll stay home for the west coast shows, Carol and John are going to stay with the kids while I join Jon for the east coast shows..."
"Then we're all going to Europe!" Jake finished with a grin.
"So everybody sacrifices a little, but no one sacrifices a lot." Sara summed up the plan with a nod. "Sounds like a good compromise."
"It's not a sacrifice to care for your home and children." Edward argued.
"No, but it's not a crime to want more." Carol spoke up. "Being a wife and mother is wonderful, but sometimes, especially as the kids get older, it takes more to feel fulfilled."
"My daughter was raised to know better. My daughter..."
"Is now my wife!" Jon interrupted his father-in-law before he said something that started World War III. He could sense Brianna's tension even from the other end of the table and knew he'd see pain in her eyes. This had to stop! "Her goal now is not to make you happy, but to make me, the kids and most of all herself happy!" He struggled to control his temper. "Edward, I get where you're coming from. But you've raised a smart, very capable and compassionate woman. She has always put the needs of the kids and me above her own. I love her and I want her to be happy. I also want her with me as much as possible. That makes me happy. Now, I would love to have you as part of our family, but I won't stand by and listen to my wife being belittled and demoralized, especially by her own father! So if you want to be a part of our lives, our family, you have to understand and accept that the decisions Bri makes will be what she feels is right for herself, and our family. You don't have to agree with them, but you do have to keep your criticism to yourself or you will not be welcome here."
"Edward please!" Sara reached out to grip her husband's hand.
The room was silent as everyone held their breath waiting for Edward's response.
Edward eyed his son-in-law, his wife, and finally his daughter. "At least this time you found a man who'll stand up for you and beside you instead of taking the first opportunity to toss you aside. I can see that he loves you and you seem to be happy with him and his family."
"I am. Very happy." Brianna assured him.
"That's all I ever wanted for you. I'm still not convinced you will be long term, but as long as you're happy, I'll keep my reservations to myself." He looked at Jon again. "But at the first sign she's unhappy, this truce - and my silence - is over."
Jon nodded curtly. "Understood."
Breaths around the table were released as the tension eased and everyone dug into their desserts and conversation resumed. The rest of the evening was as relaxed and peaceful as Brianna had hoped it would be.
Standing at the front door waving their guests off, Brianna waited until the last car pulled away, then turned and threw her arms around her husband's neck. "I love you so much! My hero! Thank you!"
Jon hugged her tight. "After everything we've been through....that you helped us get through...did you really think I would stand by and let him treat you like that?" He leaned back to look in her eyes. "You've helped us become a happy family again, Golden Eyes. For that and everything you do for us, I will always defend and protect you. I love you."
They turned back towards the house to find Stephanie and Jesse standing in the doorway.
"That was pretty awesome Dad." Stephanie praised him.
"Yeah. Way to go." Jesse added.
"Thanks." Jon looked around as his smiling family. "Just taking care of business."
The Bongiovi's were good at that.