Should've Seen It Coming

This is the third episode in my fan-fics. It takes place a week after "One Day at a Time." This episode was written in March, 1999.
"I still can't believe that you and Kirsten are back together," Claudia said as she reached for something out of the freezer. "Man, are we out of bagels again?" She slammed the door shut.

Owen came trampling down the stairs. "Charlie, where are my show and tell things? I need them!" he whined.

"Owen, are you feeling ok? Do you feel sick? You look like you feel bad," Charlie asked concerned. He bent over to feel his little brother's forehead.

"My throat hurts a little. And I feel achy," Owen complained.

"O.K. You know what, kiddo? You're gonna stay home today. Claud?" He turned to look at her. "Will you go get Kirsten? I need her to stay home today with Owen and Diana, if she can. If not, I'll call the school and take a sick day."

"O.K." Claudia ran up the stair and knocked on the of Charlie and Kirsten's bedroom. "Kirsten?" she called.

Kirsten opened the door, pulling on the arm of her sweater. "What's up, Claud?"

"Charlie wants to know if you can stay home with Owen and Diana today. Owen's sick," she explained.

"Is it serious?" she asked alarmingly, coming out of the bedroom.

"No, no. He's got a cold, probably. He's got a sore throat and he feels achy. He'll be fine," she assured Kirsten. "Charlie just wants him to stay home and rest today. Can you stay home with him and Diana?" she asked again. She wished she could stay home and baby-sit, but she knew Charlie would never go for it. Even though she had been feeling dizzy and weak for awhile, it was probably from not eating right. She had been losing a lot of weight, too, so it was probably from that, also. After last year, it was likely that Charlie would never let her play hooky again. Oh, well. If she felt worse, she'd just go home sick.

"I'll stay with them, yeah." Kirsten's voice drowned out her thoughts. "Is Charlie downstairs with them?"

"Um, yeah. He's fixing Owen eggs for breakfast and feeding Diana." She suddenly felt lightheaded. She leaned against the wall to steady herself. Wow, that was a powerful one.

"Are you ok?" Kirsten asked Claudia quizzically.

She forced a smile. "Yeah. Just a little dizzy."

"Did you just paint your nails?" Kirsten asked cheerfully, trying to change the subject. She smelled nail polish.

Claudia looked confused. "Nope. See?" she said as she waved her hands in front of Kirsten. "No polish. Anyway, I have to go get my books." Claudia hurried off down the hall to her room.

Kirsten sighed as she walked down the stairs. "Charlie?" she called out as she walked into the kitchen. Owen was pushing some scrambled eggs around his plate with a fork. "Oh, honey, you don't look well." She bent down to feel his forehead. "No fever," she told Charlie as Owen hugged her as she picked him up. "Should I call Bailey and tell him not to pick him up from school?"

"Why bother?" Charlie sneered. "He calls every five seconds anyway." Bailey had made clear his desire to get custody of Owen, and Charlie was not happy about it. Claudia walked into the kitchen, a backpack slung over one shoulder. "Claud, will you bring Owen up to Diana's room and put him in the bed?"

"O.K." She dropped her backpack on the counter and took Owen from Kirsten. "Oh," she groaned. "You're getting too heavy for this." She walked slowly up the stairs, stopping briefly as another wave of dizziness swept over her.

Charlie waited for the two of them to be out of earshot. "Did you know that if Bailey gets custody of Owen, it might mean that Claud has to live with them so that Owen doesn't get lonely?" He sighed. "I don't know how to tell her that. I don't want to worry her anymore."

"If Bailey gets custody of Owen, you might lose Claud, too?" Kirsten repeated in disbelief.

"What?!" Claudia walked into the room. "Char, I want to stay here. Though I love Bay and Sarah deeply, they couldn't raise me well, not that I need raising. But, it wouldn't be a good situation for any of us. You and Kirsten are better for me. Hands down," she tried to convince him lovingly.

"Yeah, I know, Claud, that's what I've been saying all along. But," he said, glancing at the clock, "you and I have to get to school. I'd give you a ride, but I have to make a few stops on the way. So here's bus or cab money, whichever you prefer." He handed her the money. "Have a good day." He kissed her on the cheek.

"You, too. Bye," she said as she ran out the door.

"Did she look pale to you?" he asked Kirsten.

"Yeah. She's been looking pale and weak and really thin lately. I hope she's ok. Well, if she wasn't she'd tell us, right? Anyway, you have to get to work. I'll call Sarah and tell her about Owen, ok? I love you." She kissed him long and deep, and then reluctantly pulled away. "Bye."

He sighed. "I love you, too. Bye." She watched him descend the fifty-two steps to the car. Ah, love.

As Charlie drove out of the driveway, Kirsten walked back into the house, listening for Diana and Owen. She was so happy to be in this house again, with Charlie, with the Salinger family. Charlie had Diana to love now, and Kirsten loved her as is she was her own. He was happy. His job was stable, short and flexible hours, and the only thing that was on his mind was the whole Owen custody thing. God, why was Bailey doing this? As much as she loved him like a brother, she couldn't figure out why he was trying to make everyone so miserable. It was tearing the family apart.

Meanwhile, mornings were just as hectic at Bailey and Sarah's apartment. They didn't have time for breakfast because they had overslept. They were rushing around the apartment, getting ready.

"So, is Owen coming over after school today?" Sarah asked.

"I'm gonna pick him up, and then we're going to go shopping for a birthday present for Claud. Do you-" The phone rang, cutting him off.

"Hello?" Sarah answered. "Oh, is he ok?" Pause. "Oh, ok. I'll tell Bailey." Pause. "O.K. Bye." Sarah hung up the phone and turned to Bailey. "That was Kirsten. Owen's got a cold and isn't going to school. We're supposed to call later to see if he's up for shopping."

"O.K." He sighed. "Listen, honey, I've gotta go. Early delivery at the restaurant today. Bye. Love ya." He kissed her and ran out the door.

Sarah was left thinking by the door. She understood that Bailey wanted Owen, but she didn't understand why it had to be done this way. She didn't want the whole family to be ripped apart by this. She hoped that Bailey and Charlie could reach a compromise about this, for everyone's sake. She thought about what Charlie had said. Was she ready to raise a five year old who wasn't her own, not even her brother? She wasn't quite sure.

Kirsten went into Diana's room to check on Owen and to put Diana down in the crib. Owen was sleeping peacefully in the twin bed next to the crib. Her mind wandered to Julia and Griffin. Ever since the blizzard, they had realized that they belonged together. They found a small apartment together and Julia had broken up with Ned. To keep Ned away from both of them, they had gotten a restraining order.

At Julia and Griffin's apartment, they were leisurely getting ready for the day. "Griffin, what are you doing today?" Julia asked cheerfully.

"Uh, I'm working 'til three. I promised Claud I'd take her to the mall after school. Do you wanna come?"

"I'll see if I can get back in time. I have to notify the school about my taking incompletes this semester and that I'm taking next semester off. I have to be home for this whole Owen thing. Like, Claud I don't want our family ripped apart by some custody battle between our brothers," she explained.

"O.K. Are you sure that you want to take incompletes and take next semester off?" Griffin asked, standing up, getting ready to go.

"Griffin, I want what's best for our baby and me going to school, and all the stress that comes with it isn't going to be good for our baby." She paused. "Anyway, I need some maternity clothes from the mall, so I'll meet you at the house at quarter of three, ok?" She also stood up, getting ready to go.

"O.K. See you then." He kissed her, long and full of love. "Love you."

"Love you, too." Julia walked him to the door of their tiny apartment. She watched him leave, and then went back to their bedroom to gather her things for school. She was glad she had finally come to her senses and dumped Ned. She loved Griffin so much more. Their baby meant so much to both of them. It was like a new beginning. Whatever it was, it was strengthening their marriage, and they had burned the divorce papers. Things were hectic at home, though. This whole Owen custody battle was hurting all five of them, plus Kirsten, Griffin and Sarah. The one she was really worried about was Claudia. Those dizzy spells of hers weren't going away. Julia hoped that it wasn't serious. Her little sister was too important in the family to get sick. She hoped that Claudia would be o.k.

At school, Claudia was walking out of her first period class. She stopped at her locker, the same one she had had last year, and caught sight of a familiar face. "Salinger, that you?" She remembered that voice fondly.

"Reed?!" She threw her arms around him. "Oh, my God! It's so good to see you. What are you doing here?" She was so excited that she was practically jumping up and down.

"Hey, calm down. I was in the area, so I decided to stop by this hellhole that I spent three and a half miserable years in." He had a mysterious gleam in his eyes, and Claudia knew that he was his old self, the Reed she had known before he split.

"And what was that half a year that wasn't so miserable?" Claudia teased him.

"Why, it was the half a year that I spent as your friend," he said, feigning surprise. "Didn't you know? That was the best time I ever had." Claudia giggled. "So, what have you been up to?"

"Do you want the book or the Reader's Digest version?" she kidded.

The bell rang as he gave her a look. "Oh, sorry. You better get to class." They looked at each other uncomfortably.

"Yeah, if I hadn't cut so much last year, then I'd just leave but..." she trailed off. "But, I could get out of here by pretending to be sick," she suggested hopefully.

"Listen, Claudia, I really-"

"No, no. I haven't been feeling too well lately anyway, so it'll be good to have an afternoon off to relax," she convinced him.

"Whatever you say," he said.

Claudia waved to him as she walked away. "Wait here." She walked into Algebra II and sat down. A few minutes into the teacher's lecture on a, b, and c, she raised her hand.

"Yes, Miss Salinger?"

"Can I be dismissed? I feel nauseous," she said with a pained look on her face.

"Of course." The teacher quickly wrote a note on a piece of paper. He glanced at the clock. "This dismisses you from all of your classes." He handed her the slip of paper. "Feel better," he said as she walked out of the room. She ran to her locker and the waiting Reed.

"You clear?" he asked.

"Yup. I just have to bring this to the office. You got the car?"

"Yeah. Where do you want to go? The park? The coffee shop? Home?" He gave her options.

"Uh let's go to the coffee shop and then after a while we can go home and see Kirsten, Diana and Owen." He gave her a blank look. "Diana is Charlie's daughter by Daphne, who he got together with after the cancer went into remission. Daphne left after Di was born because she couldn't deal with being a mother. And Charlie and Kirsten are back together," she explained.

"Wasn't Kirsten, like, married?" Reed asked.

"Mm-hmm. They got a divorce when Paul didn't want to adopt." She looked around. "Let me get my books, and then we can go." She opened her locker, grabbed a couple of books, and slammed it. The two of them walked down the hallway, his arm around her.

Later, at the house, Kirsten was feeding Diana while she watched Owen sleep. It was amazing to her. They both seemed like her own kids, even though she hadn't given birth to them. The phone rang and Kirsten set Diana down in her crib, careful not to make her uncomfortable. "Hello?" she answered the telephone.

"Hi. Is this the Salinger residence?" the male caller asked.

"Mm-hmm. How can I help you?" she asked suspiciously.

"May I speak to the guardian of Claudia Salinger, please?" he asked.

"Um, he's not here right now. Can I take a message?" Kirsten asked, mildly worried. It might be the school, she thought.

"Well, she's been admitted to the hospital." Kirsten gasped. "However, I can only give out information to immediate family members. Are you a part of the immediate family?"

Kirsten took a deep breath. "I'm her guardian's fiancée. Is that immediate enough?" Kirsten hated lying like this, but she was really worried and had to get information about Claudia. Plus, it was partly true. She had just left the "ex" part out.

"Yeah, we're running tests, so I assume the family wants to be here."

"O.K. I'll get everyone together. Can you tell me anything about her condition?"

"No, I'm sorry. We're running tests to find out what's going on," he apologized.

"O.K. By the way, who brought her in?" Even in the crisis, Kirsten wanted to know who Claudia was hanging out with. It was a part of her mothering instinct for Claudia.

"It was..." the doctor paused, "a boy named Reed Isley. Anything else?"

"Nope. We'll be there soon." She hung up the phone and picked Diana up so she could put her in her coat. She tried to wake Owen up. "Owen?"

Owen stirred. "Hmm?" he moaned.

"Listen, sweetie, I need you to come with me somewhere. Can you do that?" She talked to the little boy in a comfortable way that seemed as if he was her own child.

"Mm-hmm." He yawned loudly.

"O.K. Will you come downstairs and get your coat? Come on." She took his hand and held Diana in her other arm as they walked slowly down the stairs. Owen sleepily walked to the coat closet to get his coat and Kirsten immediately strapped Diana in her car seat.

"Yeah, honey?"

"Where's Claudia? She should be home by now." He wanted to know where his big sister was.

"We're going to see her. But first, I have to call Charlie, ok? Why don't you go to the bathroom while I call him, ok?"

"O.K," he said drowsily. He walked off to the downstairs bathroom.

Kirsten picked up the phone and dialed the number that Charlie had by the phone for his school. "Hi, is Charlie Salinger there?"

"Yes. Hold on."

Kirsten drummed her fingers on the table impatiently.

"Hello?" Charlie answered.

"Charlie, listen, Claud's in the hospital. I need you to meet me there. She's gotta be in serious condition, because they would only give information to immediate family members."

"Oh, God. I'm on my way. What did they say? Oh, that's right. Only immediate family members." Charlie was as calm as he could be at the moment, considering his little sister was in the hospital.

"Actually, I told them I was your fiancée so that I could get information on her. I had to, Charlie. I couldn't not know. She's like my own daughter!" Kirsten apologized profusely.

"It's ok, I know I would've done the same thing in your situation," he assured her. "Anyway, how is she?"

"All they told me was that they were doing tests and that they thought the family should be there. I'm sorry, that's all they said." She was relatively calm, too.

"Don't worry. Just take Owen and Di to the hospital and I'll be there as soon as possible. Love ya," he said as he hung up the phone.

"Come on, Owe. Let's go to the car." They briskly walked out the door. Owen's hand in one of Kirsten's, Diana's car seat in the other. Charlie ran out of the school to get to the hospital.

At the hospital, the whole family was gathered, waiting for word on Claudia. Julia and Sarah had gotten out of school early to meet everyone at the hospital. Charlie had Diana in the snuggly on his chest. Owen had fallen asleep in one of the uncomfortable hospital chairs in the waiting room near ICU. Griffin was pacing the room, so worried that he couldn't sit down. Bailey had gone to the pay-phone trying to reach Reed, who had left after he was sure Claudia's family had been called. Julia stood up from her chair next to Sarah, to comfort her husband. Sarah then rose to go see Bailey at the phone. Charlie and Kirsten were sitting in the chairs, with Owen between them. The doctor finally stepped out of Claudia's room into the waiting room. Everyone got up and walked over to him anxiously. "Well?" Charlie prompted nervously.

"Well, we're not sure, but we've narrowed your sister's condition down to anemia or diabetes. Another couple of tests will confirm it." No one said anything for a moment.

"Well." Julia sighed. "Wow. Can we see her?"

"Yes, you may. Only immediate family," he told them, glancing at Sarah. "This is ICU, you know."

"I'll stay out here with Owen," Sarah said quickly.

"You sure?" Charlie asked her. "Because if-"

"It's ok, Charlie. I appreciate it, but we're not married or due to marry. I'll stay out here and keep an eye on Owen. Just tell her I'm rooting for her, ok?" Sarah thought that it wasn't fair, because she was just as much a part of Claudia's life as Griffin was, and he got see her. She loved Claudia like a sister, and she was really worried about her. If something happened--. No, she couldn't think like that. She needed to think positively if she was going to help Claudia get better. She had to be ok. She had to be.

"O.K.," Charlie said uncertainly.

"Well, you'll have to wait a few minutes, ok? It won't be long." With that he walked off to the nurse's station a few feet away.

Charlie and Kirsten sat down again. He turned to look at her. "I should've seen it coming," he whispered. "I mean, I should have been paying attention. How could I allow this to happen? How could I allow it to go on for so long? She may be practically 16, but I should've realized she needed more than I was giving her." He broke down, sobbing softly.

"Shh, it's ok," she comforted him. "We all feel responsible for not seeing it coming. But we talked about it this morning, Charlie. If she had thought it was bad, she would've come to us. We all misinterpreted the signs. But we can't blame ourselves, we just have to help her get better." Kirsten was crying now, too.

The doctor strode back into the waiting room. "Mr. Salinger?" Charlie looked up, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. "I have the test results." He paused courteously.

"Well?" Julia prompted. She clung to Griffin. "Please let my baby sister be ok," she whispered faintly.

"Well, her O2 levels are normal, but her blood sugar levels are very low. Therefore, we've diagnosed her with a form of diabetes. Which one, though, is something we don't know. We're not sure if it's Type I or Type II. It's too early to tell. We'll run the rest of the tests and we should know in about half an hour." He stood there a moment, then walked out to give the family some privacy.

"Wow. Diabetes." Sarah sighed. This was worse than she had initially thought.

Julia and Griffin walked toward the phone. "Wow. God, my baby sister is in there, with some chronic disease, and here I am happy as can be because I'm with my husband and pregnant with his child. Oh, I'm so worried. I couldn't deal with it if something happened to her. She-she holds our family together. Without her, we would've fallen apart over these last couple of years. She's the sane one in the family. We'd fall apart without her." By this time, Julia was sobbing.

"Shh, shh, honey." Griffin held Julia in his arms. "She's gonna be ok. She has to be." He started thinking out loud. "She's my best friend. Did you know that she always would bring me news about the family after work? Every night we'd sit in the shed drinking hot chocolate, and she's tell me about her day, and what was going on in the family. She was the only one who actually cared about me while you were away at college, dating Ned. No one else even cared that I existed, especially Charlie. She understood me, she was the only one who did, before you and I got back together. She appreciates me." He stopped his thoughts, and started soothing her again. "She'll be ok, Jule, she will be. We'll help her through it. All of us." He looked around at Kirsten, Charlie, Bailey and Sarah. "All of us."

Bailey was on the phone, trying to reach Reed still. "Man, still no answer. Least he could do is wait around to see if his friend's ok." He slammed down the receiver, and turned to Sarah. "What's gonna happen? To our family, I mean, if Claud's really sick, then we're all gonna have to change our lifestyles drastically. Claud's always been the one who takes care of the day to day stuff the best, like making sure there's enough food or that the house isn't falling down. What if she couldn't do that anymore? What would happen?" Bailey seemed so calm, but Sarah knew he was torn up inside.

"Bailey, our family has gotten through a lot. We can get through this, too. We'll get through it the same way we got through everything else. The way you guys got through you parents' death, and Julia's miscarriage, and Charlie's cancer. And," she said, stressing the word and," the way we got through your alcoholism. If we got through all that, we can get through this. All we have to remember is we've got each other."

"But we don't have each other if we don't have Claud. We need her," he said, finally letting out the tears.

As soon as the tears fell, Bailey wiped them from his face. He had to be strong for everyone else. He had to be the rock that everyone leaned on for support. Who was he kidding? He couldn't do that this time, not during this. Claudia had always been close to him, because they were a lot alike and he had showed that he cared from the first day their parents had died. Julia and Charlie had had to deal with their grief alone, but Bailey had dealt with his by helping Claudia deal with hers. That had always kept them close. Even before their parents had died, they had been closer than Claudia had been to Julia or Charlie. They were alike, so they'd bonded over that. Now, it just hurt too much not being able to do something for his little sister. He couldn't take it. But he still put on a brave face, for Owen's sake. If he wasn't doing it for one sibling, he was doing it for another. He had to protect them, and if he didn't he would surely break down.

The doctor came out of Claudia's room and went into the waiting room. "Mr. Salinger?" You may see your sister now. Two are allowed in at a time, for five minute blocks of time. So, I suggest," he started as Kirsten saw Paul round the corner out of the corner of her eye, "that you and your fiancée go in first, so you can do the paperwork when you come out. Is that ok?"

"Yes, that's fine, thank you," Charlie said, as he saw Paul coming toward them, too. "Will you get the paperwork now, so it'll be ready when we come out?"

"Yes." The doctor walked down the hall as Paul approached them.

"Well, it's good to see you," Paul said to Kirsten and Charlie. "How are you?" His question was directed to Kirsten.

"I'm fine," she told him, a smile on her face and nodding.

"So you two are engaged? That's pretty quick. Well, you guys are happy, as I can see. Congratulations." Paul was happy for Charlie and Kirsten, because he knew they loved each other, and all he wanted was for Kirsten to be happy. "I'd like to stay and chat, but I've got patients." He started to walk away. "I'll see you later."

The doctor came back and handed a bunch of papers to Bailey. "You can go in now," he told Charlie and Kirsten.

Charlie and Kirsten went into the ICU room as Claudia was waking up. As she opened her eyes, the room began to spin, so she quickly shut them.

"Claud?" she heard. "How are you?" Kirsten's voice made her open her eyes again. Slowly, she focused on Charlie and Kirsten's faces.

"Charlie?" Claudia managed to croak out. "Charlie?!"

He went over to hold her hand. "I'm here, Claud. Kirsten's with me."

Kirsten walked over to the other side of Claudia's bed. She picked up her other hand and squeezed it. "I'm here," she told Claudia softly.

"So, what's wrong with me? Why did I collapse?" She was getting her strength back and was more alert than before.

"Um," Charlie started. He looked at Kirsten. With her eyes she told him to tell Claudia the diagnosis. "O.K. Claud, the doctors have diagnosed you with some sort of diabetes. They're having another test to determine the specifics."

"O.K." She took it calmly. "When will we know?"

"In a little while. Meanwhile, you have more visitors. Griffin and Jule want to see you." He leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"O.K." She gave Diana a kiss on the forehead while he was bent over. "We'll be back as soon as we can," Kirsten said as she hugged Claudia and walked out of the room with Charlie.

Julia and Griffin walked in as soon as Charlie was out the room. Julia was shocked at first at all the machines that were hooked up to Claudia. Could her sister be hurt that bad? She quickly recovered herself and ran over to Claudia's bed. "Claud? How are you? I was so worried!"

"I'm fine, Jule, I'm fine," she reassured Julia.

Griffin came over and hugged her, too. "I'm glad you're ok," he told her tenderly.

"Yeah, well..." Her voice trailed off.

"So, what happened? They said Reed brought you in. I thought he went off to college. What's he doing home?" Julia asked, still really concerned.

"Well, Reed picked me up at school, 'cause I felt sick, so we were gonna, like, go to the coffee shop and catch up, but I collapsed on the way into the coffee shop."

"So, he brought you it the hospital? That's pretty paranoid of him. But, I'm glad that he did," she told Claudia reassuringly.

"Yeah," Claudia sighed dreamily. "Me, too."

"Claud, you don't still have a crush on Reed, do you?" Julia asked accusingly.


"O.k., o.k., I'm sorry. I just wanted to check." Julia apologized profusely.

"Well, it looks like our time is up," Griffin said, glancing at his watch. "We should probably let Bailey come in and see her."

"Yeah, he's probably really anxious to see her." Julia bent down and kissed Claudia's cheek. "Get better, Claud. I'll see you in a little while."

Griffin gave Claudia a hug. "Get better soon. We need you." Julia and Griffin walked out of her room.

Bailey came rushing into the room. "How's my little sister?"

"I'm fine," she replied coldly.

"What's wrong? What's with the tone?" he asked.

"I don't want to live with you!" she exploded. "I want to stay with Charlie. You and Sarah can't raise me. I'm not a little 'project' that needs taking care of. Owen may be your new thing to take care of, but I don't need it. He still belongs with me, Kirsten and Charlie. But, if he wants you, fine. I can live with that. But you don't have to take on me, too. You can't give me what I need. So, why don't you just give up?" She gave him a cold stare.

"Well, I think you're wrong. I think that you could do fine with us. We could give you anything that you needed." Bailey was being just a little arrogant here.

"Well, you could you deal with me getting together with Reed? Or would you just keep giving me orders instead of actually giving advice? I think that's what would happen. Sarah wouldn't, but you would, and that's all that matters. So, no, you wouldn't be good for me. Charlie and Kirsten, they listen. You don't. It's as easy as that. So, no. You couldn't give me what I needed. That's what it comes down to."

"Mr. Salinger?" The doctor peeked his head into the room. "I have the test results."

Bailey looked at Claudia. "O.K., I'll be out in a minute," he said to the doctor. He turned back to Claudia. "I'm gonna go out and find out what's going on and then Char, Jule and I will come back in and tell you together, ok?" He was trying to reassure her.

"I guess," she tried.

Bailey walked out into the waiting room. Charlie, Kirsten, Julia, Griffin and Sarah were anxiously standing in front of the doctor. Sarah was holding Owen on her hip. Bailey went over and stood beside Sarah and squeezed her other hand.

"Well?" Charlie prompted. "We're all here now, you can tell us." The tension in the room could've been cut with a knife.

"Your sister has been diagnosed with Type I Juvenile Diabetes. She was in ketoacidosis, which means her glucose was too high, so she collapsed. She'll stay here while we get her glucose level back to normal. While she's here, we'll teach her about her condition and she'll learn how to give herself daily shots of insulin. She can go home in about a week, with that knowledge. She'll have to plan for sugar and eat a very balanced diet. Any questions?" he asked the startled family.

"Um, yeah," Kirsten spoke up. "Why did she smell like nail polish this morning? Does that have something to do with her condition?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, it does. That was the acetone. Acetone builds up when a diabetic goes into keto. That should be a good indicator of if a diabetic goes into DKA. Anything else?"

"Yeah. Can we go in and see her now? She needs to know," Charlie said.

"Yes that would be a good idea. Just be out by the time visiting hours are over, which is in," he glanced at his watch, "half an hour."

Charlie, Kirsten, Bailey, Julia, Griffin and even Sarah proceeded slowly into Claudia's room. "Well?" Claudia urged them.

"Claud, you were diagnosed with Type I Juvenile Diabetes. You have to stay here until they can teach you how to handle your condition. You're gonna have to give yourself daily shots of insulin to keep your blood sugar level up," Charlie informed her.

"So, how long until I get out?" she asked. She was really calm, much calmer than last year when Charlie was sick. She had grown up a lot since then. And, now she tried to put the emphasis on everyone else, not her.

"About a week," Julia said. She saw Claudia's face fall. "But, don't worry. Someone will always be here with you," she assured her.

"How are we gonna deal with this? I mean, with Owen's problems at school and everything? Charlie, you've got Diana to worry about," she said, glancing at the sleeping baby on his chest. "Jule, you gotta worry about yourself and the baby. Bay, the restaurant is more than you can handle as it is. You don't need me adding to your problems. Sarah, you have school. Griffin, you have to work. Face it, guys... I'm gonna throw everything off balance. We can't deal with this right now." Claudia was trying to throw the focus off of her and onto everyone else. They could all tell she was playing her feelings down so that everyone else didn't have to worry. All she wanted was for them to be happy. Her feelings didn't matter.

"Claud! How could you think that we'd be as selfish to not be here for you? "Bailey asked her in disbelief. "We'd never turn our backs on any one of us, no matter how busy our lives were. We will always be there for you, no mater what. This family pulls together during a crisis. You've seen it happen many times."

"Yeah, Claud. We'd never desert you. Not for anything," Julia backed Bailey up. "That's not how we work. We will always be here for you, no matter what happens." Julia was echoing everyone else's thoughts.

"Yeah, but how will we get through this? I'm gonna mess up everyone's lives. This is my problem, not yours. You don't need to do this. I'll be fine. I will." She tried to hold back the tears, but one squeezed out. She was just trying to keep everyone from catching on to her feelings.

"That's right, Claud. You will be fine, because we'll be here with you. Any problem of yours, is ours. And we'll get through this just like we got through everything else," Griffin told her. "Together. We can get through anything as long as we are together. This Salinger family is a tough bunch and I'm sure glad I married into it." They laughed quietly and looked around at each other after Griffin finished speaking.

"Together," Charlie whispered. "We'll do it together."