The Kitten, the Witches and the Bad Wardrobe - Willow & Tara Forever

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 21st 2020)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2020 2:29 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 405
Sorry Shelby! I had actually hoped that I could "provoke" other readers into feedback with my little jab - but I had planned to soften it with a Wink-Smiley which I forgot.

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I'm just going to start burning off these chapters with daily updates. It's clearly not the right time for it, but I couldn't anticipate we'd be in the climate we're in now. I thought I might have the next installment finished by the time this one finished up but I'll just have to keep working on it.

Thanks Laragh, I really appreciate that! :bow (Although I feel kind of bad now for messing up your schedule). I'll try to give feedback every day and promise not to complain about a gap between this story and the next installment (will it be still in the confidential-verse?)


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 21st 2020)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2020 6:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:22 pm
Posts: 4499
Topics: 40
Will's redemption

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Dibs! :whip (That starts feeling a little ridiculous since all the other readers are too lazy to comment, but still...)


:laugh shots fired!

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Very cute dog! Is he your own?


He's a dog I found when looking at what kind of dog would be suited to them, so I don't know him personally, but his energy poured off me in waves so I knew he was the one!

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I really hope Tara won't demand that they give Woofy away before they take the babies home in the future. It would break JJ's and Robyn's hearts - but I wouldn't put it past Tara considering her current attitude of putting the babies above anyone else...


I can undoubtedly reassure you that this won't be happening. (kids who grow up with pets tend to be healthier actually!)

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Oh boy, and I was hoping things would improve once Tara can visit the babies herself...


Swings and roundabouts.

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Yay for Becky being there for Willow and Tara!


Always was :)

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:cry Poor Willow! She is really in a bad place, suffering emotionally but thinking she doesn't have the right to do so because in her eyes Tara has it so much worse.


She's still in the first days, everything is very raw. They'll have weeks of this, she'll settle.

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Judging from Tara's self reproach at the end of the chapter I'd say she is only blaming herself / her own body - but it's understandable that Willow has the feeling she's mad with her somehow when Tara so totally distances herself from her... :cry


Especially given what happened immediately before. It's a painful situation.

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Thank goodness for Becky! I'm wondering if we will see more of Buffy, Alice and the others before the story ends. I realized that apart from Becky, Xander and Anya the members of the "extended family" had only dumb rolls in this story until now. I would like to see more of them, maybe in some lighter chapters before the end.


Everyone will feature before the story ends.

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For example I would love to see Angel come to Willow and ask for advice on the best way to propose to Buffy and Willow afterwards cheering for him when Buffy and Angel tell them all about their engagement (some storyline I always imagined for a confidential sequel...I hope you don't find it weird that I do imagine stuff you might write in the future :blush).


It's not weird! I wish I'd known I would have tried to work it in. I have a different nugget of story written for those two...and the engagement wouldn't fit right in the context, but could happen later. Leave it with me!

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Yes she is! I'm extremely worried that Willow might suffer an emotional breakdown if Tara keeps her almost fanatic "only the babies matter!"-attitude and leaves the stress of trying to keep the whole family functioning to Willow alone... Hopefully it doesn't have to come to this to "wake Tara up".


What you'll see in the coming chapters is the difference between someone who is capable of holding it together in the face of such adversary and someone who isn't. But you need to remember, Tara isn't 'sleeping', she's suffering and mental health is not a game of logics.

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I actually took it as a good sign that Tara worried about Willow's wellbeing at first. But it bothered me that the fact that Willow sometimes has to take care of their other kids instead of the babies came as an afterthought for Tara.


Don't make the mistake of thinking both of these can't be true :)

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Willow really doesn't get a break, does she? Not only is she replaced in the physical care for her wife, but when it comes to beeing there for her emotionally as well... :cry


Also important to note that her feeling replaced does not necessarily mean that it's Tara's intention to replace.

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Well, at least Tara made some effort for the kids...


Gonna have to pull you up on this one. Do not make the mistake that Tara is being petulant or moody here. I think you need to reconsider the absolute crushing trauma she's been through just days before and is ongoing with the separation from the babies. I don't know if you've ever struggled with mental health (I hope not!) but making herself look nice for the kids took absolutely ever ounce of effort she had and is actually a monumental event since she's not only struggling mentally but her body was ripped apart too.

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I know Tara suffers but her attitude is starting to piss me off! What does she think Willow should do with the kids, put them in a taxi to drive to their grandparents alone so she can stay in the NICU with the babies?!


I refer back to 'mental health is not a game of logics'...

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:cry My heart breaks because Tara feels she failed the babies and because she totally distances herself from Willow! Now I'm wondering how she will act when she can finally get to the NICU herself - will she then send Willow away to care for the other kids because it's "her turn" with the babies?


I can guarantee you one thing, the person Tara is considering the absolute least out of everyone in all of this is herself.

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Right now I start to think along the lines of "Things fall apart, they fall apart so hard!" when it comes to their marital relationship... I'd never expected it would come to this in a confidential story.


They haven't fallen apart completely. They can find the missing pieces again.

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And in this moment my heart broke for little Robbie too!


Everyone has a unique place in this misery and it's not easy for anyone.

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Could you give a hint how much more chapters it will take before the bright light at the end of the tunnel? Because I could really use some bright side in these dark corona times instead of more heartache! Maybe you could post the other "tough chapters" at shorter intervals (every two days or something) so the more happy times come sooner?


As mentioned, I'll move to daily updates.

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Thanks Laragh, I really appreciate that! :bow (Although I feel kind of bad now for messing up your schedule). I'll try to give feedback every day and promise not to complain about a gap between this story and the next installment (will it be still in the confidential-verse?)


You are a valued reader and feedbacker so I take your opinion seriously. And yes, it's another family confidential. There will be FC3 and FC4 (each will be shorter than the last, according to my outline anyway) then a final one-shot which will be the last in the series.

Thanks for your feedback!

Finey_McFine

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For the record, I’m not being lazy about commenting *coughs- Wil’s Redemption -coughs* I am, however, lazy about going upstairs to type it out on my computer. I just want to make sure we get these facts straight.... :punish :laugh


:lol I know you're reading and I very much appreciate it!

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Ps. I REALLY hate trying to do it on my phone or iPad.


Typing anything on length on mobile sucks, and that's before factoring things like quote marks and formatting! Sometimes when I wake up int he middle of the night to write down notes I've thought of I'll end up with the most clusterfuck of unformatted-formatting and it pains me to fix it.




Update Directly Below

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

Check out my finished fics

The Love… SeriesTwo For Joy/21+InevitableFC2: AOTHFC3: TBUFC4: ANB


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 21st 2020)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2020 6:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Chapter Eighteen




“OW!”


Willow snapped her hand up as the knife she was using to cut the crusts off Robyn’s sandwiches for her lunch sliced through her finger.


She watched the starchy-white bread turned red in spots as her blood dripped down. She sighed before rinsing it under the faucet.


That’s what you get for wielding a knife on no sleep, she said to herself. She’d get to bed earlier tonight.


Who was she kidding? She wasn’t sleeping anyway.


She tossed the sullied slice of bread into the trash and was met with Woofy standing at his bowl, looking up at her pleadingly.


“Early riser this morning today too, huh Woofs?” she asked as she bent down to pick up his bowl to fill, “I hope JJ remembered to feed you last night.”


“I did.”


Willow looked across the kitchen as JJ entered, frowning.


“I did, Momma, I replaced his water and everything!”


“I believe you,” Willow soothed softly.


JJ walked over, still in his jammies, and took the bowl to fill with kibble. When he was finished, and Willow had gotten Robyn’s blood-free sandwich into a baggie to keep fresh, he stood in front of Willow and scratched his bed-tousled hair.


“Momma?”


Willow put her hands on JJ’s shoulders. He was getting so tall.


“Yeah, bud?”


JJ frowned.


“I tried to get Robyn up…but she was all wet.”


“All wet?” Willow asked in confusion, then let out a low groan, “Dammit!”


She quickly looked at JJ.


“Don’t tell your grandparents I said that. Are you okay to get your own breakfast?”


JJ just nodded and Willow rushed upstairs to Robyn’s room. Robyn still had Stripey clutched tightly against her chest but was in that fitful state between being asleep and being awake. It just took one pat of her butt, as Willow felt around to confirm her suspicions, for her to rouse and look up at Willow with her big, sleepy turquoise eyes.


“I all wet.”


Willow used her arm to wrap around Robyn and pluck her from the bed.


“You had an accident, baby. It’s okay, it happens sometimes,” she comforted, kissing Robyn’s mop of messy hair, “Let’s give you a little bath.”


She brought Robyn to the bathroom and undressed her from her sleep romper while the tub filled just enough to sit her in.


Robyn weaved her arms around the water, then looked up sadly.


“Wan’ my ducky.”


Willow paused and looked at Robyn for a moment.


Her dad and Michelle went above and beyond in making this place a home for their grandchildren, but ultimately, it wasn’t. As if there weren’t enough changes going on for the kids at the moment, she’d plucked them out of their home too.


“You can have ducky for your bath tonight, okay?”


She quickly washed Robyn down before another complaint could be made and distracted her with a towel monster she made to chase her back to her bedroom, to many giggles.


She tried to bask in the moment and let those giggles reverberate around her brain.


“Come here little bean. What would you like to wear today?”


“Ooh-nee-cohns!” Robyn replied, clapping her hands together.


Willow looked through the limited shirt options tucked away in the drawer.


“You can have a magic carrot or a family of bears.”


An angry furrow appeared on Robyn’s brow.


“Wan’ ooh-nee-cohns! An’ ducky! An’—”


Willow tried to best to stop the tantrum before it could start and just pulled Robyn’s cold body against her and enveloped her in a hug. This is what Tara would do, she thought.


Robyn fought it for about fifteen seconds but eventually realized the hug was much more pleasant and nuzzled into Willow’s neck.


Willow held on for a whole minute, for herself as much as Robyn, then silently dressed her in the magic carrot and whatever pair of pants came to hand first. As Robyn pulled her socks on, Willow kneeled in front of her.


“Hey, hey, c’mere,” she said, helping secure the sock over Robyn’s ankle, “Remember, you need to tell an adult if you feel like you gotta go potty okay?”


Robyn nodded resolutely and Willow gave her a little smile.


“Help me get these sheets off the bed so we can clean them.”


Robyn carried her soiled sheets down to the washer importantly and pressed the start button on the machine when Willow lifted her high enough to push it. They washed their hands together and returned to the kitchen, where Robyn ran over to JJ to climb all over him while he poured her some cereal.


Willow finished cutting up some apple for Robyn’s lunchbox and left both boxes in the fridge.


A while later, Ira appeared in his work suit, turning down his cuffs. Michelle was close behind him, securing her sweater over her shoulders.


If Willow didn’t know any better she thought there might have been some hanky panky going on, but honestly, she’d seen enough of that for several lifetimes the one time she and Tara had caught them on the couch.


Her couch.


She shuddered and tried to hide it.


“Um, there’s coffee in the pot. Woofy is fed and I made the kids’ lunches.”


“You know I don’t mind making them,” Michelle said kindly.


Willow nodded.


“I know, but you guys are doing so much. Taking on me and the kids, even Woofs. It’s too much,” she swallowed and shook her head, “I’m really sorry, but Robyn had an accident last night. I’ve cleaned everything up, the sheets are in the washer.”


Ira and Michelle shared a concerned glance.


“Is that the first accident she’s had since being potty trained?” Michelle asked gently.


Willow looked down into her own cup of coffee.


“Yes.”


She looked over at the kids, who were making Woofy give the paw for fruity pebbles, the kind of cereal Tara would never have allowed before school if she was here.


But she wasn’t.


And Willow was doing her goddamn best.


And having hypothetical arguments in her head, she thought.


“I think I need to move home,” she said eventually, “You guys have been so incredibly amazing, but they’re back in school and they need as close to a regular routine as I can give them. Work is being great and told me to take as long as I need so I’m just going to have to work out a schedule of when I can be at the hospital and when I need to be at home with them.”


Her voice got obviously choked at the end and Ira came over to put himself between her and the kid’s line of vision. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders.


“You’re not alone, darling.”


“Let me make your dinners at least,” Michelle offered, “I’ll be cooking for us anyway, so it’s just a little extra. I can drop them at your doorstep, don’t even have to come inside.”


Willow waved a hand in front of herself.


“You’re both welcome inside any time, that’s not the issue.”


“What if we moved into your house for a while?” Ira suggested casually, “So the children are in their own surroundings.”


“And I can keep doing pick-ups and drop-offs,” Michelle added in quickly, “It’s one my way, anyway. Tara and I take the same route.”


Willow looked up with glassy eyes.


“Really? You’d do that?”


Ira pulled Willow into a hug.


“We’d do anything for you all, bubbeleh.”


Willow reached back to massage the back of her own neck.


“I can’t ask you.”


“You didn’t, we offered,” Ira said resolutely.


“And we mean it,” Michelle said softly.


“We’d already discussed it, in fact,” Ira revealed, “We’ve been watching you run around trying to have the right clothes and books…it’s silly, really.”


Willow exhaled a slow breath.


“You’ll have to take our room. We were going to do up the second attic bedroom someday but right now it’s just storage and — CRAP, I haven’t even thought about the nursery! It’s half set up, there’s stuff everywhere and their cribs aren’t even put together!”


Ira looked very momentarily unimpressed at the slipped (minor) expletive but had the good sense not to say anything. He kissed the top of his daughter’s head just as Willow had kissed her daughter’s that morning.


“It’s not a concern for right this moment.”


Willow’s phone alarm went off in her pocket and her eyes turned to panic stations.


“I’m sorry, I have to go. Tara’s doctors don’t wait around. Can we talk about it later?”


“Of course, darling,” Ira nodded and patted Willow’s back as she dashed off.


She rushed over to kiss the children goodbye.


“Bye kids, I love you. Have a good day at school!”


“Can we see Mom today?” JJ asked and Robyn started bouncing from where she was sitting on the floor.


“Mom-mee, Mom-mee!”


Pain visibly etched over Willow’s features. She didn’t know what answer to give them when she didn’t even know herself.


“You can definitely video chat.”


JJ looked down and Robyn was distracted enough at the excitement of video chatting to realize that meant she wouldn’t get to see her mother.


“I’m sorry bud,” Willow kissed JJ’s temple, “Everyone is doing everything they can to get her home.”


JJ looked over and nodded quickly, almost scared. Willow frowned at the reaction, but she had to go.


“Goodbye,” she said and stood again, “Bye Dad, bye Michelle. Thank you so much for everything.”


They both waved her off and Willow left her half-full coffee in the sink before rushing out to the car.


She thought she’d put enough of a buffer into her timing to get to the hospital with some breathing room, but she had not anticipated the build-up of an accident that made her creep bumper-to-bumper quite literally to the door.


She found herself resenting that the ambulance was getting to the hospital quicker and had to seriously tell herself to get it together.


Finally, she skidded into Tara’s room a couple of minutes past the hour, out of breath and red with stress.


“Willow,” Tara said in relief, though it came out harsher than she meant it from the build-up of worry.


Willow quickly came over to Tara’s side, eyes apologetic.


“Tara, the traffic, I’m so sorry. Have they been, did I miss them?”


Tara lifted her hands to put over Willow’s but her fingers just fell back down onto the bed instead.


“No,” she said, shaking her head, “I think they’re next door. I can hear lots of talking when it’s quiet.”


Willow hushed up and sure enough, there did seem to be a lot of chatter coming between the wall.


Willow took in a grateful breath and tried to relax her shoulders.


“How are you feeling?”


“Anxious,” Tara replied, gnawing on the corner of her thumb.


No, duh, Willow thought.


“What about your body—”


Suddenly that gaggle of voices became a lot more obvious as a senior doctor, whom Willow didn’t even know if she recognized her or not considering how many medical professionals she’d met over the past few days, led a team of more junior ones into the room.


She introduced herself quickly as the head of the Obstetrics department. They had met before, but it had been in the immediate aftermath of Tara’s surgery and all she and Tara remembered was the deep, aching sorrow of Tara being told she couldn’t go to the NICU. They hadn’t ben coherent enough to ask many more questions.


Willow did recall her name though, now that she could place the doctor.


Dr. Beaver.


In some back recess of her mind, she heard Robyn’s giggle and managed a little smile of her own.


She watched Dr. Beaver lift Tara’s chart and begin to converse with her team. Willow recognized a lot more of the terms in this round of medical Jeopardy! — mostly because she kept herself up half the night looking up all of the broken parts of her wife and babies wondering if she could somehow put them back together.


Finally, Dr. Beaver turned her attention fully back to Tara, while every one of the junior doctors scribbled furiously.


“Suffice to say, you gave the delivery team quite the challenge. You had an overdistended uterus because of your twin pregnancy and your gestational diabetes causing acute polyhydramnios, an excess of amniotic fluid. It caused pre-term labor and post-partum hemorrhage, quite a severe one. They performed a total hysterectomy which resolved the immediate blood loss and any additional tears haven’t progressed with medication intervention and monitoring. Can I examine your incision site?”


Tara removed the blanket from the lower half of her body and the doctor peeled away the bandage to look.


It looked angry and painful to Willow, but apparently not to the doctor.


“Looking very well. I am extremely pleased with that,” she said and continued to have a gentle feel up under Tara’s breasts, “Have you had any issues expressing?”


Tara glanced down to where her breasts felt like two boulders sitting on her chest.


“M-My supply hasn’t been co-operative. I’ve been trying to use the pump and dumping what I get but I think because I know it’s being dumped, it just won’t come. When will my milk be safe for them?”


That hit Willow like a ton of bricks.


She felt so guilty. She hadn’t even considered how Tara must be feeling with swollen breasts and no baby to feed. She’d forgotten about the process entirely. Tara had been self-expressing, alone? Crying, probably, imagining where it should be going.


God, she felt like an asshole. She’d been through breastfeeding, she knew what it felt like, especially those early days. But she knew the babies were being fed so, like the hand sanitizer on Robyn’s hand, the notion of breastfeeding had poofed entirely from her mind, wrung away before she could even consider it. Tara must have been so uncomfortable on top of all of the other pain.


“Let me review your medications,” Dr. Beaver picked up the chart again, “Hmm. Tara, I don’t see anything here that would interact with your breast milk. We always try to prioritize that when utilizing treatment, especially when prematurity is involved. Was it the NICU that rejected it?”


Tara frowned.


“I-I don’t know. It just gets taken away to be analyzed.”


Realization dawned on the doctor’s face.


“I see the misunderstanding. You’re expressing into a small test tube correct?” she asked and Tara nodded, “It’s not being taken to analyze. It’s being delivered to the NICU to your babies. I’m sorry this wasn’t adequately explained to you.”


“They’ve been getting my milk?” Tara asked with tears filling her eyes as she looked over to Willow, “They’ve been getting my milk.”


“I heard, baby,” Willow replied softly, caressing Tara’s upper arm with her thumb.


She knew how much that must have meant to Tara psychologically if she still thought her body had ‘failed’ the babies. God, that was something Willow needed to get on top of soon too. Tara couldn’t go on thinking like that.


“All colostrum up to now, all the better for them,” Dr. Beaver smiled, “Your milk should be ready to come in. You can discuss with the NICU nurses about organizing a pump and a lactation consultant to come up with a plan for you going forward.”


Willow heard Tara’s breath catch in her throat.


“Does that mean I can go up?”


Dr. Beaver held her hands up cautiously.


“I need to do a physical exam.”


She called for a nurse to assist and pulled the curtain around so it was just the two of them and Tara for the examination. Willow remained on the outside of that curtain and felt just as awkward as all of the juniors, looking at her feet while she waited for it to be opened again.


Eventually, the nurse pushed the curtain back as the doctor pulled off her gloves.


“As long as you remain in the wheelchair for the moment, I’m happy to take you off bed rest. If everything goes okay with some limited movement, we would look into starting to get you up and about and then discharge. But absolutely no heavy lifting. If it’s over 10 pounds I don’t want you even looking at it or putting any undue strain on your body.”


Tara’s nails clawed the sheet beneath her as she began to shake with anticipation.


The doctor looked at Tara’s chart one more time to make sure Tara’s temperature was normal that morning, then lifted her head and nodded.


“Can I go now, can I go right now?”


“I’ll call up to NICU and get a wheelchair right away,” the nurse said, appropriately expedient as she left the room.


Tara’s hands shook in front of her as she looked over to Willow.


“I can see the babies.”


Willow took a step forward and blurted everything she’d been trying to keep patiently inside while the doctor was there.


“Tara, I’m so sorry I haven’t helped you express your milk.”


Tara looked bewildered.


“What?”


“I didn’t think about it, with the babies and the kids…” Willow trailed off, shaking her head, “But I’m so sorry.”


Tara waved a hand.


“It’s fine, I took care of it.”


Willow opened her mouth.


“I—”


“Willow, who cares?” Tara cut Willow off, and it stung a little.


“Right,” Willow swallowed, nodding, “Yeah, no, of course. Let’s just get you upstairs.”


Obviously, that was Tara’s only priority right now. How could anything else be?


The nurse returned, wheeling a wheelchair with various supplies sitting in the seat.


“For the NICU, we have to change your bandage and clean any exposed skin. We need to get that catheter out too.”


She donned a pair of gloves.


“Because you’ve had that inserted for a few days, you’ll have to wear something for extra padding in case of inadvertent leaks—”


Tara felt like the universe was conspiring against her or that she was in one of JJ’s video games trying to figure out how to dodge the obstacles.


“I don’t care if I have to wear a yeti costume, I just want to see my babies.”


Willow winced but the nurse just smiled understandingly.


“Then let’s get you up there.”


The nurse worked quickly in readying Tara who just tried to keep her breathing steady so she didn’t jump right out of her skin. Finally, when she was ready to be moved to the wheelchair, the nurse and Willow got either side of her to guide her into the seat carefully.


Tara made an impatient jerking motion trying to drop in quicker.


“Hey,” Willow said quietly but firmly, “If you overdo it, you’re going to end up stuck back in the bed.”


“I know that, Willow,” Tara snapped back.


Willow sighed and Tara did allow herself to be guided instead of trying to speed it up but her whole body was trembling excitedly when she finally settled.


She was sore and uncomfortable and worn out and hormonal but this was the most elated she had felt in her entire life.


Willow pushed Tara out of the room and Tara felt incredibly small in her chair. She hadn’t seen outside the four walls of her room since waking from surgery and she’d barely moved either apart from when the nurse came in to massage and exercise her legs. She hadn’t realized quite how much of an invalid she felt until being surrounded by people moving around with ease.


She kept her eyes down, so much so that she didn’t even realize they were crossing into an elevator until Willow turned her around and she watched the doors close.


Her heart sped up.


She closed her eyes until she heard the ding of them opening again, repeating the same mantra in her head.


Lily-Emily-Lily-Emily-Lily-Emily-Lily-Emily


Her heartbeat slowed to the sound of the names but she could still feel her blood rushing past her ears. She remembered blood rushing past her thighs and then being held down in a bed as her body fought for what was torn from her.


Her breathing was on the cusp of becoming ragged when a hand on her shoulder brought her back into the moment.


“Tara.”


She looked like she awoke from sleep with a gasp, but it was just from being so deep inside her own mind.


She wasn’t in the elevator anymore.


She was in a new department with a long corridor and in the distance, she realized she could see the L-shaped window into the NICU.


She gasped again when it hit her how close she was to seeing her babies on something other than Willow’s phone screen.


Willow continued to wheel her toward it and it took all of her strength not to jump right out of the chair. At the entrance, a nurse approached and bent down so she’d be on Tara’s level.


“It’s very nice to meet you, Tara. I’m Genevieve, I’m one of the nurses who’s been taking care of your twins.”


Tara pulled her searching eyes away from the window to look at the woman.


“Thank you so much.”


“No need to thank me,” Genevieve smiled, “We just have to go through a hand-washing procedure and then you’ll be brought right in.”


Willow brought Tara to the sink and stepped aside to wash her own hands. The soap stung her finger where she’d cut it that morning and it occurred to her that she may need to cover it.


“Um,” she looked over to Genevieve, “I cut myself earlier.”


“Oh,” Genevieve replied quickly, “Let me get that wrapped up.”


She quickly brought Willow to the nurses’ station while Tara made sure to thoroughly wash her hands free of any hospital germs that might harm her precious babies.


Genevieve wiped Willow’s finger with more antiseptic — which again, ow, Willow thought — and then pulled a latex cover over it down to her middle knuckle.


“Nifty,” Willow said as she wiggled her finger, then bounced it up and down in front of Tara, “Grr. Argh.”


Tara actually cracked a smile and it lifted Willow’s spirits to a place it hadn’t been since this all began.


She closed her hands around the handles of the wheelchair while Genevieve entered the code to get in the door.


“Ready to meet our girls?” Willow whispered.


“More than anything,” Tara breathed softly.


Willow rubbed Tara’s shoulder gently and began pushing her inside as soon as the door opened.


Tara felt that same sense of being overwhelmed that Willow had when she’d first been in here. There were so many tiny babies and she was eye-level with all of them. Her heart ached but it ached more for her own tiny babies.


She didn’t need to see their nameplates to know when she was where she needed to be.


“Lily,” she inhaled and exhaled at a quick pace, “Emily.”


In one long second, she took in everything she could; Lily’s slick of red hair, Emily’s teeny fingers. Both of their chests rising and falling.


Though the big tube in Emily’s throat was even more confronting in person.


“Hi sweeties,” she said softly and started to lift a hand toward each of them but pulled back.


“You can touch them,” Willow encouraged.


Tara looked back at Willow like she was a small child seeking reassurance. Willow wasn’t used to being in that position with Tara but just nodded that it was okay.


Tara reached an arm out either side of her and slipped both hands passed the openings in the incubators. With her fingers shaking, she settled them against each baby’s arm.


“Hi girls. Mommy’s finally here.”


Tears started streaming down her face. Willow bent down to put her hands on Tara’s knees.


“Good tears?”


Tara could only nod.


“I know,” Willow soothed softly as she watched her wife go through the same emotional rollercoaster she had the night the twins were born. She felt someone tap her shoulder and the mom of the boy ‘next door’ handed her a pack of tissues, “Thank you.”


She pulled one of the tissues out and dabbed Tara’s face for her so she wouldn’t have to relinquish the new hold she had on the babies’ skin.


“They’re so little,” Tara commented with a choked voice.


“They’ll grow,” Genevieve said helpfully, “Especially if you’re able to keep expressing for them.”


Fresh tears formed in Tara’s eyes and she sniffled as she looked back and forth between her babies.


Genevieve decided to give her a few minutes and went off to attend to other duties while Tara acclimatized to life in the NICU.


Willow watched Tara try to take in everything and for the first time truly felt like everything would be okay.


Eventually.


“See, baby? They’re wearing their hats. I-I wasn’t sure which one to give them but well, Lily is bigger and…”


She trailed off thinking of how she’d read baby joeys spend six months in their mother’s pouch, thinking Tara would not appreciate that comparison being made.


“So, um, yeah. So I gave Lily the panda hat and Emily the koala.”


“I see,” Tara replied, raising her hand a tad and choking back a tear when she ever-so-carefully touched Emily’s cheek, “Hi my little koala bear.”


She turned her head and did the same to Lily.


“Hey, panda.”


Willow stood up and went around to the other side of Lily’s incubator to put her hand in on the other side. She lightly held her hand over Lily’s heart.


“We’re both here, panda. We’ve got you.”


Genevieve returned at that moment, smiling.


“Good timing. I spoke to one of the doctors and he believes Lily might be ready to try some kangaroo care.”


Willow gasped while Tara took a moment to process what had been said.


“We can hold her?” Willow asked, voice near trembling, “Skin to skin?”


Genevieve nodded, the bright smile on her face indicative of someone happy to have good news.


“She’s as stable as we could hope her to be at this point. Kangaroo care can only help with that.”


“Good girl,” Willow whispered under her breath, stroking Lily’s arm.


“When?” Tara croaked out, finally understanding what was happening.


“Right now,” Genevieve replied, looking just as excited as they were, “If you’re ready?”


“As ever!” Willow replied enthusiastically and Tara could only add a swift nod of agreement.


Genevieve went to get a blanket and another nurse to help with the transfer while Willow came to stand by Tara, rolling back and forth between her heels and toes.


“You’re our lucky charm, baby!”


The whole situation felt far from ‘lucky’ to Tara, but she didn’t care to argue the point at that moment in time.


The new nurse came over with the blanket and looked between them.


“Who is…?”


“Oh,” Willow replied a little breathlessly, feeling her heart sink and soar all at once, “Oh, Tara. Absolutely, Tara.”


She took a step back chivalrously and stood behind Tara so she could still crouch down close enough to touch Lily over Tara’s shoulder.


“We have to closely monitor her temperature to make sure she stays warm enough,” the new nurse explained, “Do your best to keep her in the position we put her in.”


Tara nodded diligently if a little impatiently also.


The nurse moved back to the incubator to aid Genevieve in wrangling all of the wires so Lily could be lifted out.


As Willow waited with bated breath, Tara looked up and tugged on Willow’s sleeve.


“Will you hold Emily’s hand? I don’t want her to feel alone.”


Willow felt more of the heart-sinking feeling this time.


“Oh. Yeah.”


She quickly tried to shake herself out of it.


“Yeah, of course.”


Her heart clenched as she watched Lily be lifted into the air, her first glimpse of her daughter not surrounded by plastic walls. Her eyes were strained from looking so hard, but she wouldn’t let Emily down and she quickly had her hand in there to touch her little face.


“Momma’s here,” she whispered, lost to the endless beeping of machines.


Tara’s eyes were also painfully strained as it all happened in slow motion. She watched her tiny baby, whom she’d known for minutes and forever all at once, be lifted into the air like an anointed one. She was gently cradled as she was brought toward Tara’s chest.


All of a sudden the slow-mo crashed into double time for Tara and there was a little warm bundle tucked between her breasts and a blanket wrapped around them both and finally, FINALLY, she was holding her baby.


She burst into tears which must have startled Lily because she did as well. As soon as that frail little wail hit Tara’s ears she felt a fullness in her breasts that hadn’t quite happened before and two big wet patches appeared right in front of the blanket.


Tara started to laugh through the tears and the gentle shake of her upper half seemed to soothe Lily, who settled down and started to nuzzle into this nice, new warm place. Her cheek rested on Tara’s breast and her lower lip smacked against the top.


Genevieve peered over to make sure Lily was sitting right.


“She smells your milk,” she said encouragingly to Tara, “And she’s seeking your nipple, that’s good. You can rub a little milk on her lips.”


Tara cautiously reached under her shirt to squeeze a little milk between her fingers, which she rubbed onto Lily’s mouth. She tried to suck on Tara’s finger, so Genevieve put her hand under Lily’s head from above the blanket and helped guide her more toward the nipple.


Lilly kept trying but her little mouth would fall away before completing the motion.


Genevieve just smiled at Tara.


“The coordination of her sucking, swallowing, and breathing isn’t quite there yet but we will do everything to facilitate getting both of them to a point where they can feed from you. In the meantime, you can keep expressing so they get your milk.”


Tara nodded; she was determined to do that.


“The doctor downstairs said I should talk to a lactation specialist to get a pump.”


“We’ll organize that,” Genevieve replied and nodded downward, “They’ll tell you this kind of contact is the best milk stimulation you can get.”


“No kidding,” Tara chuckled, actually enjoying the swollen sensation in her breasts.


“I’m going to replace the blanket so she doesn’t get wet,” Genevieve replied discreetly.


Five long feet away, Willow tried to stand on her tip-toes to see if she could get a better view but it was pretty futile.


“What’s she doing?” she called over a bit helplessly.


“Being,” Tara replied softly as her unbroken gaze remained downward, “Just being.”


Willow breathed softly. That was good enough for her, for now.


It was Tara, ultimately, who ended up faltering first and had to release Lily back to the incubator so she could return to her room to sleep, but only after several hours of feeling tiny baby breaths on her breast healing her soul.


She was so exhausted that Willow and the nurse had to lift her right into her bed from the wheelchair. Willow was glad; it lessened the trauma of having to leave the NICU for the first time.


She kissed Tara’s forehead and checked her watch.


She could get home to help JJ with his homework and play with Robyn for a bit if she left now. She gnawed on the corner of her thumb, caught between her two sets of children but decided to head homeward while she had the chance. Well, to her Dad’s house.


She got into the car and got her glasses from the glove compartment to stem the headache that had been pushing at the corners of her brain since the moment she realized Tara was stuck in the elevator.


Michelle’s car was, expectedly, in the driveway when she got to their house. Willow parked on the curb so her car wouldn’t block Ira’s space when he got home.


She knocked politely, though she did have a key to let herself in and out at some of the less sociable hours she’d been keeping.


Michelle answered it and smiled at her.


“Oh Willow. You’re home early.”


“I want to spend some time with the kids,” Willow explained as she stepped through, but noted the dishcloth hanging over Michelle’s shoulder, “But I want to help too. Can I make dinner or do dishes or something?”


Michelle smiled kindly toward the living room, where two familiar voices were having an exchange.


“You can go in there and do what you came home to do.”


“Thank you,” Willow replied and hugged Michelle for a moment, “We held Lily today. Well, Tara did.”


“Oh,” Michelle replied in surprise, holding up her hands to cover her mouth, “Darling, that’s wonderful. How was she?”


“Tara or Lily?” Willow asked with a quiet chuckle in her voice, “Tara was so happy to get up there to see them. It was just…killing her.”


Michelle nodded sympathetically.


“Anyway,” Willow continued, clearing her throat, “She wore herself out just staring. But Lily hung on so well. She maintained her temperature and heart rate. She’s really thriving.”


Michelle reached out and squeezed Willow’s upper arm.


“And how’s Emily?”


“…stable,” Willow said with a hint of sadness, “Which is great, incredible even. It’s just hard to see her so frail when…”


She stopped and shook her head.


“We just have to give her some time.”


Michelle hugged Willow again before turning to go back to the kitchen. Willow pulled herself together and approached the living room.


“Robyn you can’t grow up to be a dolphin,” JJ intoned patiently.


“Wy?” Robyn asked with an innocent cock of her head.


“Hey, kids!” Willow greeted enthusiastically as she walked into the living room with them.


JJ was sitting at the coffee table, half-doing his homework while conversing with Robyn as she lay on the floor wiggling about, but sat up happily when she saw Willow.


“Mom-mah!”


“Hi Momma,” JJ said in a rush, “Is Mom okay, are the babies okay?”


Willow came over and kneeled on the floor. She put a hand on his back.


“Yeah buddy, everyone is okay,” she said softly, and hugged Robyn when she crawled over, “Guess what you guys? Mom held Lily today. They do this thing called kangaroo care where you hold the baby close like a kangaroo does with a little joey.”


“‘woo care?” Robyn asked curiously.


“You wanna see how, Robbie?” Willow asked encouragingly, “Get your dolly.”


Robyn toddled off to pick her baby doll up from her small corner of toys. It was small but still took over a chunk of the room. Willow was reminded of how much they were taking over the house and how much she needed to bring them all back to their own.


Robyn presented her doll to Willow, who carefully laid it down like it was a real baby to undress it.


“See, first we have to strip them down to their diaper. The baby’s skin is on your skin and that makes them feel a lot better. Like how a hug makes you feel better. Take your top off, honey.”


Robyn gladly took the opportunity to whip her t-shirt off and though she was left in a little vest, Willow didn’t try to take that off. She had Robyn hold the doll to her chest and made a blankie with the discarded t-shirt.


“And then we make a little pouch with a blanket and get the baby all cozy inside!”


JJ looked over excitedly.


“Seahorses do that too! Except it’s the Daddy seahorse who hold the babies in their pouch,” he explained knowledgeably, then frowned, “I don’t know who does it if the baby seahorse has two moms. It doesn’t say in any of the books.”


Willow frowned a little too but tried not to show it.


“You wanna try, Jake?”


JJ nodded and took his top off too. Willow showed him how to hold the doll securely and how to keep the blanket in place.


“You have to make sure your arms are resting at the sides, otherwise it becomes too hard to keep them up,” Willow said, smiling as she remembered holding both Robyn and JJ like that when they were as many days old as the twins were now.


She’d known the curve of their little bodies so intimately. She only knew Lily’s hand that way, having stood for hours just to feel that tiny grip. Emily, she knew even less. Just the tiny length of her tinier arm or how her chest rose with assisted breath.


“Mom-mah, I be dol-fin when I gwowed?” Robyn asked and pulled Willow out of her thoughts by dropping into her lap and winding her for a moment.


Willow blinked several times and looked down at her daughter.


“Why do you want to be a dolphin?”


JJ was pulling his shirt back on beside them and rolled his eyes.


“Because I told her I wanted to be a marine biologist and she wants to be a dolphin so we can be together forever.”


“Aww!” Willow replied, squeezing Robyn and smiling at JJ, “Marine biologist is new.”


JJ’s eyes shone with the excitement of a new hobby that only childhood could bring.


“Gramps took us to the aquarium at the weekend!”


Willow felt a pang of guilt that she didn’t even know that. She did her best to conceal it.


“Did you guys have fun?”


She happily let both kids babble in her ear, a welcome relief to her own thoughts.


JJ had a few math questions left on his homework, which she was eager to help with and threw out some verbal problems for them both to fight over solving afterward. Despite the obvious discrepancy in knowledge, JJ whispered answers to Robyn and ‘let’ her win, which made Willow send him the proudest of smiles.


When Michelle called them to dinner, Willow hung back to give him a hug, which he folded into — not a given these days, but they were in private.


“You are the best big brother. Do you hear me?”


“Momma,” JJ groaned but was smiling.


Willow pulled away with a kiss to his temple, but he tugged her back by the hand.


“Momma?” he asked unsurely, “Can I see the babies again?”


Willow sat on the arm of the couch.


“Your sister is too little, I think,” she said with a frown, “It’s too scary. What did you think when we visited it before. Did it look scary?”


JJ shook his head.


“It just looked like my little sisters. They were all wiggly.”


Willow cupped JJ’s ears and gently pulled him in against her chest.


“I’m going to talk to the hospital and arrange something okay?”


She kissed the top of his head and stood with her arm around his back.


“Let’s go eat dinner. I think Grandma made spaghetti and meatballs. Sure smells like it, huh?”


“And garlic bread!” JJ replied enthusiastically.


They walked into the dining room, where Robyn was already enthusiastically slurping up spaghetti. Willow smiled at Michelle as she took a plate.


“Wow, eating dinner when it’s actually served. Feels like a banquet.”


“Ira called, he’ll be late home,” Michelle replied as she sat opposite them, “But he insisted we eat without him.”


“Save some garlic bread for Gramps,” Willow said when JJ started grabbing at it.


“I put a plate aside already,” Michelle said with an easy smile.


It all smelled amazing to Willow and tasted even better — almost as good as Tara’s, even though Willow suspected they were working from the same recipe.


When everyone was finished, Willow was quick to jump up.


“Please let me clean up,” she said as she picked her plate up, “The kids will help, right kids?”


Both kids threw some side-eye and Willow noticed Robyn’s entire face was stained with sauce.


“Robbie, c’mon, I’m going to have to give you a pre-bath wash!”


“Sketti,” Robyn beamed a messy mouth from ear to ear.


“Come on,” Willow sighed, taking Robyn’s hand with her own.


JJ followed with his own plate and Willow decided to excuse him from wash-up but told him to get his Grandma whatever she wanted. Willow planted Robyn up on the counter beside the sink and wiped her mouth, to much protesting giggles. Willow found herself joining in on the giggles and dabbing Robyn in different places.


“Only one diagnosis: a real bath.”


“Mom-mee give bath?” Robyn requested while kicking her legs.


Willow stiffened and sighed.


“Baby, Mommy is still in the hospital. She has to get better before she comes home.”


Robyn smacked her lips together with a smile tugging at the corners.


“Wing wing?”


Shit Willow thought. She should have made sure to organize a call for the kids. She could try to call Tara now but her phone was undoubtedly dead without Willow there to remind her to plug it in.


“How about tomorrow morning before you go to daycare?” Willow offered gently.


Robyn’s face flickered with anger, then scrunched up entirely. Her fists banged on the counter.


“Mom-mee! NOW!”


Willow tried a reasoned tone.


“Robbie—whoa!” she barely got her daughter’s name out before she had to yank her hands out of the sink to grab Robyn as she jumped right off the high counter, “Hey! You don’t just jump off like that! You know that!”


Robyn twisted out of Willow’s hands and threw herself on the floor.


“Wan’ Mom-mee!” she wailed, kicking and screaming, “Wan’ Mom-mee!”


Willow got onto her knees and tried to reach out but Robyn slapped her away.


“NO!”


Willow spotted Michelle hover in the doorway and held up a hand.


“It’s okay, I’ve got it.”


She sat on the floor with her legs out and just waited, silently. It took less than a minute for Robyn to crawl, still crying, into Willow’s lap. Robyn reached down and grabbed a pacifier from her pocket, which she immediately began to suck on.


Willow brought her knees up and held Robyn in a hold, not unlike the one she’d watched Tara hold Lily in.


It made Willow’s eyes prick with tears.


“It’s not fair that Mommy and the babies aren’t with us. We’re missing part of our family.”


Willow had nothing else to say.


None of the parenting articles Tara had sent her ever covered something like this. She just cocooned Robyn between her chest and knees until she was calm again.


“Let’s go have a nice bath and read some stories.”


Robyn didn’t even take out the pacifier while she was being bathed and Willow didn’t try to make her either. It only took one story for Robyn to nod off, overcome by her emotional exhaustion.


Willow wished she had the same luxury. She quickly finished the dishes, grateful to feel like she wasn’t unloading everything on their parents, and returned to the living room where Michelle was knitting and JJ was explaining every basketball move in a game playing on the television.


Michelle seemed so enrapt and enamored with his sportscasting, Willow didn’t even suggest JJ change the channel.


“Is it okay if I head back to the hospital? Robyn is asleep.”


Michelle seemed surprised to see she’d entered the room and smiled softly.


“Of course, Willow.”


Willow smiled back and tapped JJ’s shoulder.


“Give me a hug,” she requested and JJ turned in his beanbag to give her one, “Brush your teeth and be good for Grandma?”


JJ’s eyes turned wide and he nodded quickly.


“I will. Right now!”


“When you go to bed, buddy,” Willow chuckled and ruffled his hair, “I love you and Mommy loves you. I’ll be here when you wake up.”


She stood again and offered a brief wave before heading out and to the door. Just as she pulled it open, it was being pushed on the other side and Ira stepped through the threshold.


“Oh, Dad. I was just heading out.”


Ira wrapped his large frame around Willow.


“I meant to be home earlier but good news, I can now take some personal leave! How is everyone?”


“Tara got to come up to the NICU and hold Lily,” Willow explained succinctly, “They both did really well.”


Ira’s hand covered his heart.


“And young Emily?”


Willow slowly frowned.


“Um, yeah…we just have to give her some time.”


Ira squeezed Willow’s upper arm.


“She’s a Rosenberg, it won’t take her long to catch up.”


Willow just nodded.


“Listen, Dad, I wanted to talk to you about your offer earlier,” she said, the words falling out of her mouth awkwardly, “It’s so generous. But it’s too much. I do need to get the kids home, though. I’m going to look into hired help.”


Ira dropped his briefcase and took Willow by both arms.


“Willow, please, allow us to do this for you,” he said emphatically, “I was not there for you when I should have been.”


Willow shook her head.


“You don’t owe this to me.”


“It is not about owing. You are a parent. Tell me you wouldn’t do this for your child,” Ira replied, looking straight into Willow’s eyes, “I’ve already put in for my leave. So I can sit at home and read my newspaper or I can be the kind of father you always deserved and help you through this. I know what my preference is.”


Willow swallowed.


“It’s not just you that I’d be asking.”


“It would be me too,” Michelle piped up quietly from the living room doorway and walked toward them, “Who also owes Tara a great deal for times forgotten. And would do this anyway because you’re our family, Willow.”


Willow’s shoulders sagged. It would alleviate so many of her worries.


“We’ll take it day-by-day, yeah? Hopefully, Tara will be home soon. And you have to promise you’ll tell me if it’s too much or not working for you? I can’t deal with any more drama.”


“We promise,” Michelle smiled and Ira nodded too.


Willow nodded gratefully, tearful.


“Okay. Thank you. We can figure it out tomorrow maybe.”


“Why don’t you let us move the children over and you just worry about coming and going from your own house instead of this one,” Ira suggested, “I won’t be working anyway.”


Some tears escaped from Willow.


“Thank you. I um…I should, uh…”


Ira stepped aside with a smile and Willow swiped at her eyes and said goodbye quickly.


She sat in her car for a minute or two, took off her glasses as the pressure on her head seemed to have lifted and driven straight back to the hospital. She could do the route in her sleep by now.


She checked in on Tara, who was still fast asleep, so Willow just made sure her phone was plugged in to charge, her arms weren’t cold and she had a glass of water next to her if she woke up thirsty.


With another little kiss to Tara’s forehead, she went back up to the NICU where she was buzzed in by Genevieve.


“Hello, again Willow. Back before shift change? Did you have some questions?”


“Yeah. One,” Willow replied, lifting herself onto her toes, “Is there any way possible that I could hold Lily?”


Genevieve looked at Willow sympathetically.


“As long as she doesn’t get upset.”


“Of course,” Willow nodded quickly, almost jumping on the spot.


Willow washed up in the sink thoroughly and said hello to Emily while Genevieve fetched a blanket. Willow had to unbutton the front of her shirt but she didn’t care if she had to sit there buck naked at that moment. A second nurse returned with Genevieve and carefully they did the transfer so Lily was sitting between Willow’s breasts.


Willow gasped as they were both wrapped in the blanket and she understood Tara’s fascination with just staring and feeling that little heartbeat against hers.


“Momma’s here,” she whispered as Lily’s hand blindly clawed and touched her, “I love you.”


The nurses smiled and left Willow alone to her time, though obviously staying close by.


Lily’s eyes opened, able to take the dim light of the nighttime NICU lighting and looked straight up at Willow, her eyes a pale hue of blue that already made Willow feel like she was looking at Tara.


Willow was captivated and didn’t break that gaze for a second.


After a few moments, she began to hum quietly, so quietly it almost couldn’t be heard at all, but she knew Lily heard her.


Willow had never felt more seen in her entire life.


“Hush, little baby, don't say a word. Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…”

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 22nd 2020)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:00 am 
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Chapter Nineteen




Willow walked into Tara’s hospital room, surprised to find it empty.


She looked around in confusion as if her wife could be hiding under the bed.


“Tara?”


A toilet flushed and the bathroom door opened, where Tara tentatively walked back the few feet to the bed.


Willow's eyebrows gently rose on her head.


“Hey, look at you all walking around unaided!”


“I didn’t break my legs,” Tara replied a bit snarkily.


Willow frowned.


“No, I know but…” she trailed off and shook her head, “It doesn’t matter, it’s great to see. How are you feeling?”


Anxious, exhausted, alone, Tara thought.


“Fine,” Tara said.


Willow’s brow creased and she stepped toward the bed to help Tara get back up.


“Baby—”


“Good morning Mrs. Rose—” a voice entered the room before a body, but then Dr. Beaver walked in and smiled pleasantly when she saw them both there, “Mesdames Rosenberg-Maclay.”


“No lab-coat wearing shadows today?” Willow asked good-naturedly but Tara scowled at her.


“Willow,” she chastised under her breath.


“No, I appreciate the laugh,” Dr. Beaver held up an acquiescing hand, “I’m not on official rounds yet. I just came to say we’re ready to discharge you.”


Willow almost leaped out of her skin.


“Really?” she asked, a huge grin spreading across her face, “She can come home?”


Tara swallowed deeply.


Dr. Beaver nodded, standing at the foot of the bed as she crossed her arms loosely over her chest.


“I’m pleased with your progress, especially now that you’re back up on your feet. You’ll need to keep resting and you’ll be limited in your activities but there’s no reason you can’t rest at home where I’m sure you’ll be much more comfortable.”


“I-I need to get to the babies,” Tara asked with a lump of panic stuttering her voice.


“You can still get around by wheelchair for any distance you feel you’re not able to walk,” Dr. Beaver reassured, “You’ll need to come back to get your staples out in about two weeks and we’ll do a wound review but as long as you keep up with the anti-inflammatories and pain medication as needed there shouldn’t be any complication.”


Willow was physically bouncing on her toes.


“When can she go?”


“I’ve signed off the papers. Pharmacy should be ready by lunchtime,” Dr. Beaver smiled at Willow, then came up alongside Tara and placed a hand on a bed near Tara’s hand, “You’ve been exceptionally brave during a very hard blow being dealt to you.”


She looked at Tara with admiration.


“So remember — rest, absolutely no heaving lifting or driving and listen to your body if it’s saying enough is enough.”


She looked between them easily.


“We’ll give you all of the information, don’t worry.”


“I’ve read up all about it,” Willow nodded diligently, “She won’t even have to lift her own cup of tea.”


Tara looked up between Willow and the doctor, who pushed herself away from the bed.


“You can go on up to the NICU. I know you're eager. We’ll send a call up when we’re ready to discharge you.”


“Great!” Willow replied eagerly, rushing over to the corner to unfold the wheelchair that was leaning against the wall there, “Thanks, Dr. Beaver!”


“Thank you, doctor,” Tara echoed quietly as the doctor left.


Willow popped open the wheelchair and wheeled it over to the bedside.


“Can you believe I got through this whole stay without laughing at her name once?” she asked as Tara shot her some side-eye as she carefully got out of bed and into the chair, “Okay, without laughing out loud?”


She squeezed Tara’s shoulder and pushed Tara out the door, so excited she felt like popping a wheelie right there and then, but she resisted.


They went up to the NICU and went through the hand-washing procedure; the same routine of soaping and cleansing their arms that they both went through multiple times a day.


Willow offered a cheery hello to every nurse and parent she passed. She gave a particularly big one to nurse Genevieve.


“Tara gets to come home today!”


“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Genevieve replied, returning a big smile.


“How are the girls doing?” Tara asked as she was wheeled between them and put a hand in each incubator.


“Getting stronger,” Genevieve replied with an encouraging nod, “No big changes, no overnight events. The doctors will be around soon to discuss the next steps.”


Willow moved around to each incubator to put her hand in on the opposite side to Tara and greet the twins for the morning.


After a little while, she removed her hands and came up behind Tara, putting her hands on Tara’s shoulders, making her jump.


“I’m going to leave you with the girls and go get a few things ready for you coming home.”


Tara paled and turned her head frantically to Willow.


“How will I feed them?”


Willow frowned.


“Huh?”


“I-I’ve been using the pump in my room for them,” Tara explained in a rushed, panicked tone.


Willow’s frown deepened at how frantic Tara had become so quickly. She came around and kneeled in front of her.


“I’m sure you can still use the pump.”


“But what about when I’m at home?” Tara asked, her chest rising faster with every word, “I have to pump every couple of hours.”


Willow shook her head to herself; feeling so stupid for not thinking of it.


“Of course,” she nodded quickly, “I’ll go buy you one right now.”


Tara’s jaw tensed.


“It has to do both sides like the one here does.”


“I’ll go find out the exact model they use here and buy you one for home,” Willow replied, taking both of Tara’s hands as Tara closed her eyes, “Okay?”


Tara nodded, eyes still closed.


“Okay.”


“Okay,” Willow breathed softly, “Don’t worry about a thing, okay? I love you.”


She stood and pecked Tara’s cheek then made her way back through the NICU and out to hunt down whoever was in charge of the breast pumps.


A few hours later she pushed into their house with her arms laden down with bags.


Ira popped his head out from the kitchen and quickly strode across to help her.


“What’s all this?”


“Needed a breast pump,” Willow huffed as she followed her father back into the kitchen and dropped the bags on the island, “I had to go to SEVEN baby stores just to find the damn thing.”


Ira looked down, a little flustered.


“Oh, well, of course.”


Willow got a glass from the cabinet and filled it with ice and water from the fridge. She took a big gulp and sighed.


“Tara’s going to be pumping a lot so I’m going to need you to ix-nay that icky face when she’s doing it. She really doesn’t need to be made to feel uncomfortable in her own home.”


“Of course,” Ira nodded diligently, then looked at Willow curiously, “Wait. Is Tara coming home?”


Willow’s smile lit up her face.


“Yes, they told us this morning. I needed to grab some other stuff too to make her comfortable but I’m going to go collect her soon.”


Ira clasped his hands together.


“Oh, this is wonderful.”


Willow left her glass in the sink and came to stand with her father.


“Dad, you and Michelle have been an absolute godsend. I don’t know how I would have coped, how the kids would have…”


Ira unclasped his hands and held them in front of him, smiling softly.


“I know. It’s time for us to go home.”


Willow nodded a couple of times.


“I’ve actually been sleeping pretty well on the couch but she needs her bed.”


“Will she be able for the stairs?” Ira asked with concern.


“Slowly at first, but yes,” Willow confirmed, “It will be a good way to get her strength back up.”


“Well, you are not to worry about meals. I’ve batch cooked and frozen enough for two weeks,” Ira said with a helpful pep in his tone, “And Michelle will have no problem collecting Robyn in the mornings for daycare. And if there is anything else we can do…”


“I know, Dad,” Willow looked up and found herself getting choked, “Truly. Thank you so much.”


Ira kissed the top of Willow’s head.


“I’m going to go change the sheets so Tara has fresh ones to get into.”


Willow burst out laughing.


“What happened to you?”


“A good woman,” Ira replied with an uncustomary wink.


“Ain’t that the truth,” Willow chuckled as they turned together to go up the stairs, “Are you wearing an apron?”


“Do you think it’s slimming?” Ira asked back and they laughed together.


Together they changed the sheets and then went through the bedrooms and did the same in all of the kids' rooms so that Tara was coming home to a spick and span house that smelled like fresh laundry.


Willow paused at JJ’s old room, what should be the twin’s nursery, and looked at all of its bareness. She had everything that was needed to build the nursery, except maybe some new paint, but it was all sitting in boxes in the storage half of the attic bedrooms.


She thought she had more time.


She could only bear to look for a second; there were other things to focus on. More expedient matters.


Like getting Tara home.


Tara always (reluctantly) needed to rest during the afternoon so Willow figured it was about the right time to get over there and bring her home to settle in. Willow could actually feel her legs tingling with excitement when getting into the car knowing she was coming back with Tara.


She hadn’t been lying when she said she’d been sleeping well on the couch; it was her couch and she was able to nab Tara’s pillow, which smelled like her wife and was some small comfort to fight the nightmares. With the news of Tara coming home and something akin to a good night’s sleep on her back, she felt positively spritely.


She hugged her father and thanked him again for all of his help and promised she’d be in touch soon. She then ran around, fixing up the last few necessities before jumping into the car to head back to the hospital. It was her happiest ride yet.


Practically humming, she stopped by Tara’s unit first to check if the discharge papers were ready, which they were. Willow took everything she needed, thanked the nurses, and then made her way to the NICU where she scrubbed in and went over to Tara who was holding Lily tucked up against her bare skin.


It was such a beautiful sight for Willow and she stopped for a moment to appreciate it.


“Hey,” she said softly as she approached and looked over Tara’s shoulder to peer in at the bundle, “Hey little girl.”


She reached in and tickled Lily’s cheek, then quickly moved off to the side to put her hand in with Emily. She noticed the incubator had been angled to face Tara better, but she didn’t think much of it.


“Hey, koala bear.”


Tara looked up and smiled a real smile, one which had scarce graced her face since the night she gave birth.


“Willow, look closer.”


Willow frowned in confusion and wasn’t sure exactly where she was supposed to look closer. She peered into the incubator and tried to look past all of the tubes and wires. It took a moment for her to see it, but when she did, she gasped.


“Her eyes are open!” she said, almost jumping up and down on the spot; only her arm still in with Emily stopping her at all, “Her eyes are open!”


She bent down to look in from the side and got as close as possible to look at the little open slits on her daughter’s face; weakly held open but alert behind it all.


“Hey, Emily. Hi. It’s Momma. Hi. Oh, you have your Mommy’s eyes.”


She glanced over and met Tara’s gaze for a moment.


“Strong.”


Tara visibly swallowed and looked back down at Lily.


Willow focused back on Emily and stayed so long in that hunched position that her knees creaked with dissent when she finally rose again, having seen Tara’s whole body start to slump.


“Hey. It’s time.”


Tara wanted to protest but she was physically unable. Willow called the nurses over to get Lily back into the incubator — it was time for her feeding anyway and Tara had expressed that morning for them. It didn’t stop the front of her top becoming soaked when Lily let out a little wail as she was being transferred.


“Got you the pump you wanted,” Willow whispered to Tara, mostly to distract them both from the heartbreaking sound, “With extra…bottles.”


They both held Lily’s hand, either side, as she settled back down, and only when Tara’s head was close to bobbing on the spot did Willow start to push her away.


She nodded gratefully to the nurses tending to the twins and brought Tara out of there so she could get her rest.


Tara woke in the elevator and clutched her chest with a gasp.


“Hey, it’s okay, just bringing you to the car,” Willow reassured, “You’re not holding Lily, don’t worry.”


Tara’s eyes twitched as the elevator doors opened and her whole body bristled when they first got outside. It felt like a long time since she’d felt air and it was so cold compared to how hot the hospital was kept.


Willow had preempted this of course and settled a blanket around Tara as she helped her into the passenger seat of the car.


“There you go, baby. I’ll turn the heat up as soon as I start the car.”


She kissed Tara’s cheek, who pulled the blanket up tighter and shifted uncomfortably at how the seat felt under her.


It felt surreal to step out onto their driveway at home when she’d been trapped inside the hospital walls for so many days. Everything felt open and vast and overwhelming. She quickly tried to take a step toward the house but was immediately reminded of her limitations and had to work to hide the flash of pain on her face from Willow.


Willow, thankfully, was off in a little ramble as she flicked through the keys to let them inside.


“…and I wasn’t sure if you would want to go to bed or stay up but both rooms are ready for you wherever you’ll be most comfortable.”


Tara took a tender step over the threshold and held her arms to her chest. Everything looked…the same.


Why didn’t it feel the same?


Tara finally realized Willow was looking at her expectedly and she used some muscle memory to replay the babble.


“Oh. I’ll, um…I’ll stay up to see the kids.”


Willow nodded and rushed into the living room to make sure every pillow was perfectly fluffed.


“I got you lots of pads, the big ones so you wouldn’t have to go up and down to the bathroom so much and I got new hot water bottles and one of those donut pillows and, and a shower chair so you can shower all on your own!”


Tara gently sat onto the couch, feeling the familiar sag of where it had yielded to her body every day for so many years. But now it just felt like it was sucking her body from her as an emptiness gaped between her legs.


“Thank you, Willow. That was very thoughtful,” she said sincerely and tried to adjust into something akin to comfortableness, “Could I get that pillow, actually?”


Willow nodded quickly.


“Yeah, of course!” she said and rushed off to get it, returning moments later with it in her mouth, inflating it, “Yuwahsmlanuch?”


She popped the tab out of her mouth, sealing it.


“You want some lunch?” she tried again, “I think there’s plenty of shakshuka and frozen knishes in the freezer.”


Tara’s eyebrow arched and Willow just smiled as she passed over the pillow.


“My dad cooked for us.”


“That was incredibly kind of him,” Tara replied and tried not to look as awkward as she felt as she situated the pillow beneath her, “Where is Robyn?”


“Daycare,” Willow replied with a nod, “It’s just…easier to keep sending her. Good for her to keep her routine, too. Michelle’s been picking her up and dropping her off and she said she doesn’t mind continuing.”


Tara frowned.


“I can…”


Willow just shook her head.


“You can’t drive for a few weeks, baby. Because of the—”


“Yes,” Tara interrupted quietly, “Of course.”


“But it’s okay. Because we have a really great family who will help. We’re okay, okay?” she said with a reassuring smile and nod, “Let me go see what kind of nosh I can get for you.”


Tara rested her head back and closed her eyes, suddenly feeling exhausted all over again.


It felt like just a second when Willow’s voice stirred her, but it must have been a lot longer since she had a plate in her hand with a cup of tea.


“Okay, I whipped you up some matzo brei but he actually put some brisket in the oven so dinner is all—” Willow stopped as she noticed she was rousing Tara from sleep, “I’m so sorry.”


“It’s okay, I’m hungry,” Tara replied sluggishly, actually forgetting for a moment the situation she was in until her breasts began to ache, “And I need to pump.”


Willow quickly left Tara’s lunch down on the end table beside her.


“I’ll get you the pump.”


Tara looked down at the cinnamon tea; the drink she’d had every day of her pregnancy and looked down at her belly, still rounder than before but with none of the swollen fullness of when her two little babies had been in there.


Safely.


Her eyes glazed over with tears as she felt like such a useless mother, unable to do the one basic thing she was supposed to do for her children. She took in a large gasping breath when she heard Willow’s footsteps on the stairs and quickly grabbed the pump when it was presented to her so she could at least do something for them.


“Tara, are you okay?” Willow asked with a frown.


Tara didn’t quite meet her gaze.


“Willow, you need to bring this back to the hospital when I’m done.”


Willow’s brow creased uncomfortably.


“Didn’t they say we can keep it in the freezer and bring it in in a cool bag?”


“At nighttime, but I want them to have fresh as much as possible,” Tara rushed off quickly.


Willow slowly sat down on the edge of the coffee table.


“I don’t want to leave you here alone. What if you needed something?”


Tara’s breath quickened but she hid it.


“I can walk. I just have to be careful.”


Willow reached to scratch her ear, considering it.


“I guess JJ will be home soon. And I would like to hold Lily today,” she said with a little pained pang in her tone, “Keep your phone on?”


“I will,” Tara nodded quickly.


Willow stood up on the spot and bent down in front of Tara, leaving her hands in Tara’s lap. She looked at her longingly.


“We missed you, Tara.”


Tara felt like her whole body was quaking with the feeling of despair trying to crush her.


“I missed you too.”


Willow smiled and put the plate back in Tara’s lap.


“Eat your lunch. Keep your strength up.”


Tara just nodded quickly and waited tensely to the sound of the whirring pump. She ate what she could because she knew her body needed fuel to produce milk and in a back corner of her mind she remembered the promise she’d made Willow not to do anything to risk their family. She couldn’t fail them all again.


When the pump finished, she busied herself with securing the bottles and putting the little labels the NICU had printed for them to make sure they knew which milk to use. She secured it in the little cooler and called up to Willow to tell her it was ready.


Willow made sure Tara was set up with everything she might need and made off with the cooler and a triple kiss to Tara’s cheek, which made Tara’s eyes flash with guilt.


As soon as she heard Willow’s car pull out of the driveway, her body jerked as she stopped tensing every muscle and a breath released in a strained exhale.


She closed her eyes tight, shook her head, and clenched her jaw, but it did nothing to stop the tears that began to flow down her cheeks.


She silently cried herself into sleep again and actually got some real rest despite the less than restful feelings that had prompted it.


She felt okay when she woke up, though wished she’d asked to go with Willow now. That was until she realized she’d been woken by something and it was the shouts of young children. She looked out the window and saw the school bus driving off, then the sound of a key in the door.


“Gramps?”


Tara felt her heart skip with something other than dread.


“Jake?”


“Mom?!” JJ’s voice called out from the hallway, followed by the thump of his backpack on the floor as he ran in and saw Tara, “Mom!”


His voice and eyes were lit up but he seemed to remember just short that he couldn’t jump all over Tara. Instead, he fell into the seat beside her and wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled his head into her chest.


“Mom!”


“Hello my boy,” Tara greeted softly, kissing the top of JJ’s head, “I missed you so much.”


She ignored the fact that his squeezing was still a bit tight because it felt so warm.


“I heard you’re being the best big brother.”


JJ pulled his head back excitedly.


“Are the babies here too?”


Tara swallowed a lump.


“Not yet, sweetie,” she shook her head, “Not yet.”


“Oh,” JJ replied sadly, “But you are?”


He looked so hopeful and Tara felt a peace settle over her.


She hadn’t failed them all.


There was someone here she could still ‘mom’. She took his cheeks in her hands.


“I’m here, little love. Let me get you a snack.”


“No, I can do it!” JJ replied, jumping up quickly. He made a move to go out the door, then ran back to hug Tara again, gentle and tender, “I’m so glad you’re home, Mommy.”


Tara closed her eyes, hiding a different kind of tear this time.


She hadn’t been ‘Mommy’ in a while.


She closed the hug and felt the love from her sweet son and kissed the side of his face several times.


This was what she’d promised. This was what she had to remember in those worst moments when she didn’t want to keep the promise at all. She tried to pretend those never existed.


“Me too, Jakey. Me too. Do you know what happened?”


JJ nodded under Tara’s chin and looked up.


“Momma told me you got your baby bag out when the twins were born so we have to be really careful in case you get poked and bleed inside. Don’t worry Mom, I’ll protect you.”


He hugged her again, then pulled away and smiled.


“Do you wanna challah roll, Mom?”


Tara cracked a smile at Ira’s obvious influence. She had a lot to thank him for.


“I’m okay honey, I had lunch not too long ago. You go get one for yourself.”


JJ hurried off into the kitchen and when he returned minutes later he had a glass of milk in one hand and a challah roll in the other piled high with Nutella. Tara let it go because that big smile was still plastered on his face as he sat on the floor at the coffee table and really, she hadn’t been here. She didn’t know what had been allowed.


Behind JJ, Woofy followed and Tara suddenly realized he must have been home the whole time, which of course he was. Where else would he be?


“Woofy,” she said in surprise, and he came over and jumped on the couch beside her to say hello, “Where was he?”


“In the back yard,” JJ answered around a big mouthful of bread.


Tara scratched Woofy’s head and he put his chin on her thigh, showing his appreciation.


“I didn’t know, I would have let him in.”


“It’s okay, Mom, he likes it back there,” JJ looked back with chocolate smeared on his lips, “I think he has a crush on the dog next door.”


Tara found herself amused at the thought.


“The little sausage dog?”


JJ nodded.


“Yeah, he pokes his head through the fence to see her. Maybe they can have puppies!”


“Sorry honey, but Woofy was neutered,” Tara let him down gently, “That means he can’t have any puppies.”


Woofy put his paw over his nose in dissatisfaction at the reminder.


“Oh,” JJ replied sadly, “Poor Woofs. I think he wants to be a Daddy.”


Tara looked over at JJ curiously.


“Why do you think that?”


JJ shrugged one shoulder as he dipped some challah in his milk.


“He just thinks it looks cool,” he surmised and popped the last bit of his snack into his mouth, “Will you help me do my homework, Mom?”


“Of course,” Tara replied and found herself going on autopilot, “Bring your dishes to the sink, please. And wash your face.”


JJ smiled even wider and jumped up to do everything he was instructed, apparently thrilled to do so.


Some normality.


He came back with his backpack and sat where he was before, at Tara’s feet. Whilst Tara helped him pick out his trapezoids from his parallelograms and gently petted Woofy, she surprised herself at how normal she felt too.


When JJ was finishing up there was another key in the door and Woofy’s head rose in alert and he jumped down to investigate. There was a shrill, excited squeal that Tara recognized and found her own heart speeding up with excitement.


Michelle walked through into the living room, where Robyn was squirming to get out of her arms.


“There’s my little bean!” Tara said affectionately, turning her body softly toward them.


“Remember gently, like we talked about,” Michelle encouraged as she set Robyn down but held her by the back of her overalls so she didn’t run and jump at Tara.


She helped Robyn climb up onto the couch and into Tara’s lap without incident and pressed a kiss to her niece’s cheek while she was close.


“So glad you’re home sweetheart. Willow called me. She’s on her way back too. She asked me to take the brisket out of the oven.”


“I can—can’t, can I?” Tara started and swallowed as she was reminded yet again of her broken body but Robyn didn’t let her dwell too much as she vied for attention, “Hi baby, I see you. Mommy is so happy to see you.”


Michelle snuck off to take care of dinner after kissing JJ hello.


“Mom-mee, Mom-mee, Mom-mee!”


“Robbie, Robbie, Robbie,” Tara countered sweetly, “Don’t bounce on me, good girl.”


Her voice was gentle but that swirling feeling of being out of control was starting to settle over her again as she realized how catastrophic an excited foot to the gut would be.


In all the jostling, Tara noticed the pacifier hooked onto Robyn’s shirt. She clutched it in confusion.


“What are you doing with this?”


Robyn’s cheeks suddenly went red and her nostrils flared angrily as she snatched it back.


“MINE!”


Tara’s weary eyes widened.


“Don’t snatch, Rob—”


“No!” Robyn screamed, having gone from 0 to 100 in less than a second.


Tara had to bring her arms in front of her to protect her middle from attack at the way Robyn was blowing up.


“Robyn stop, you’re going to hurt me.”


“Robyn STOP!” JJ screamed and pulled Robyn right off of Tara to the floor, where she began to kick and scream and cry.


JJ looked up at Tara with concern.


“Mom, are you okay? Did she hurt you?”


“No, sweetheart, I’m okay,” Tara replied though her heart was hammering in her chest.


“Tara?” Michelle asked from the doorway, having rushed in when she heard the screeching.


“I’m okay, she didn’t kick me,” Tara said, gently pressing her own stomach as if to check.


The front door slammed and then Willow was in the room, trying to assess the chaos.


“What’s going on?!”


JJ stood between Tara and Robyn helplessly.


“She almost kicked Mom.”


Willow’s eyes flew to Tara.


“Are you okay?!”


“Yes,” Tara affirmed for the third time but was more focused on her daughter in hysterics on the floor, “But she’s not.”


Willow quickly hurried over and plucked Robyn up into her arms.


“C’mon Robbie.”


She brought Robyn out of the room and Tara noticed as they passed that there was a small, darker patch on the seat of Robyn’s overalls.


The crying subsided as they went upstairs and the others were left in a tense room.


“JJ, will you help me in the kitchen?” Michelle asked just to break it, “The table needs to be set.”


“No,” Tara said suddenly and brought herself to a ginger standing position, “Thank you so much for everything, Michelle. But I can set my table. I can do that, at the very least.”


She looked at Michelle as surely as she could and Michelle nodded that she understood. She came over to kiss Tara’s cheek again.


“On the end of the phone if you need us,” she said, keeping Tara’s gaze for a moment.


Tara nodded sincerely.


“I can never thank you enough,” she said, her voice starting to break, but she reined it in.


“You never have to,” Michelle smiled back, “JJ, I’ll see you soon. I think Grandpa is bringing you to basketball this weekend.”


“Bye,” JJ waved, hovering close to Tara.


She left again and Tara put an arm around JJ’s shoulders.


“Mom, I don’t want to go to basketball this weekend,” he said when she was out the door.


Tara frowned.


“Why?”


“I-I wanna be here if you need help,” JJ gulped.


Tara’s eyes closed and she stood in front of JJ and cupped either ear to angle his head to look up at her.


“I want you to go to basketball. Okay? I want you to.”


JJ kept Tara’s gaze and finally nodded.


“Okay,” he agreed eventually.


“Okay,” Tara smiled, “Will you help me get dinner on the table?”


“Yeah,” JJ agreed easily, “I can carry the big pot. Gramps showed me how to use oven mitts!”


“Your grandpa is full of surprises,” Tara replied, ruffling JJ’s hair.


Carrying nothing heavier than a single plate at a time, Tara set the places for dinner while JJ beamed at being a little chef and carrying all of the food dishes in. Willow brought Robyn back downstairs, changed into her pajamas early, which was unusual because she could be a messy eater, but Tara didn’t question it since Robyn was quiet again.


Robyn padded over to Tara in the dining room and looked up with her big, bright blue eyes.


“Mom-mee I sowwy.”


Tara glanced at Willow, who fell, exhausted, into her seat and started to dish up. She looked back down at Robyn and stroked her strawberry-blonde locks.


“It’s okay. But you can’t hit or kick anyone ever, especially not me right now. I have a big owwie inside my tummy and it could make it lots worse. Do you understand?”


Robyn nodded diligently and Tara smiled at her.


“Do you want to sit beside me?”


Robyn nodded even more eagerly this time and dragged her chair over to sit beside Tara in her booster seat.


She picked up a piece of brisket in her hand and started chomping on it.


“Mom-mee, yu go ‘way ‘gain”?


“No baby. I’m not going away again,” she said softly, “And please don’t speak with your mouth full.”


Robyn just leaned forward to grab more meat and as she did so, Tara noticed some crinkling behind her jammie bottoms. She reached over and touched it, then frowned.


Dinner was uneventful, mostly Willow filling the kids in on how the babies were doing with lots of questions from JJ. Willow cleared the heavy dishes away when they were finished while Tara got the kids' small bowls of ice-cream and left them to watch some cartoons together.


“Willow, can I talk to you?” Tara asked as she walked into the kitchen, closing the door behind her, “Why is Robyn in a diaper?”


“It’s just a pull-up,” Willow said defensively, then turned to face Tara and massaged the back of her own neck, “She’s been having some accidents. And some tantrums.”


“I noticed,” Tara said pointedly, crossing her arms over her chest, “I thought we got rid of binky months ago.”


Willow’s body was tense and alert for a few seconds, then just completely slumped.


“I’m sorry, Tara. I’ve been trying my best,” she said, her voice near tears.


The tone snapped Tara to attention and she suddenly felt overcome by the same emotion.


“I’ve been so focused on the twins, I’ve completely neglected my other children.”


Willow looked up sharply.


“Tara, no,” she said, striding over to take Tara’s hands, “You’ve been recovering from an insane birth and major surgery. You couldn’t be here. Nobody thinks less of you for it.”


Tara rubbed the heel of her hand against her eyes, which were now starting to leak.


“JJ’s turned into an adult, Robyn’s gone back to being a baby! Everything is falling apart so hard.”


Willow shook her head quickly from side to side.


“It’s my fault. I took the easy routes, I let Robyn have her binky because it shut her up for a second,” she said, tears forming in her eyes now too, “Okay, that’s the truth. I’m the one who neglected them.”


She threw her hands up.


“This is so hard. I feel like I don’t have enough limbs with all of the directions I’m being pulled. I don’t know how to take care of all of you! I keep swinging from highs to lows. I couldn’t wait to get you home and now I can’t stop crying.”


Willow heaved some sobs into her hands and Tara didn’t know how they’d gotten to this point so fast. Her hands hovered helplessly over Willow. She couldn’t actually deal with this on top of everything.


“Can you do a schedule?” she blurted after a few moments.


It had somewhat of an effect, as Willow was surprised enough to look up to question it.


“Huh?”


“C-Can you draw up a schedule?” Tara repeated, rubbing her temple.


“A-A schedule?” Willow asked, brow furrowing.


Tara nodded.


“So we have the time we need with all of the kids.”


Willow’s brow slowly evened out.


“I could make a schedule,” she nodded, her eyes beginning to light up through the glassy tears, “Color-coded with different colored pens!”


Tara breathed a sigh of relief. Some part of her brain still knew how to help Willow.


Your wife.


“I think that would be helpful.”


“Yeah, I can do that,” Willow nodded quickly, taking in deep breaths to calm herself, “I’m so sorry about Robyn. I dropped the ball.”


Tara nodded understandingly.


“We’ll just have to work with her. We’ve already overcome it with her, we can do it again.”


Willow’s eyes filled with fresh but less frantic tears and she extremely gently enveloped Tara in a hug.


“I needed you home so badly.”


Tara closed her eyes and closed the hug.


My wife.


“I needed to be home, apparently,” she said softly and spent the next minute genuinely trying and failing to ignore the sudden aches in her breasts, “I’m sorry, Willow, I have to pump.”


Willow wiped her eyes and pulled away from the hug.


“Of course,” she nodded, smiling again, “No, I feel so much better. We can do this. We just need to get a little more organized. Which I am so on top of! I’ll start a schedule right now!”


She squeezed Tara’s hand once more and didn’t see the way Tara’s spine jumped in fear.


“Everything’s going to be okay.”


Tara just nodded and repeated it in her head, hoping if she did it often enough that she would believe it.

_________________
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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 22nd 2020)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:09 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 405
Dibs to chapter 18! :whip
Quote:
But you need to remember, Tara isn't 'sleeping', she's suffering and mental health is not a game of logics.

I did mean the "waking up" figuratively of course (I had thought about writing "snap out of it" but that sounded too negative in my head).
And I don't hope for logics from Tara but that she will soon regain the empathic feelings needed to realize that a) Willow is suffering as well, to the extend that she is teetering on the edge to emotional breakdown and b) that their kids need their mothers as well and if she demands of Willow to stay every waking moment with the babies in the NICU then the kids suffer because both their mothers are absent.

Quote:
Gonna have to pull you up on this one. Do not make the mistake that Tara is being petulant or moody here. I think you need to reconsider the absolute crushing trauma she's been through just days before and is ongoing with the separation from the babies. I don't know if you've ever struggled with mental health (I hope not!) but making herself look nice for the kids took absolutely ever ounce of effort she had and is actually a monumental event since she's not only struggling mentally but her body was ripped apart too.

I didn't think that Tara is petulant or moody. I meant that I was glad that in this occasion Tara managed to shift her priority from the babies to the kids, making the effort to look and act as "normal" as possible to reassure them.
Luckily I didn't have traumatic experiences or an illness that caused me to struggle with my mental health. But my mom has a manic depression and although I know I should (logically?) excuse / understand (verbally) aggressive manic behaviour against me I can't help feeling hurt by it, getting angry about it and occasionally wondering if she really couldn't behave differently if she just "tried harder". (Fortunately her last bad manic phase happend years ago).
So excuse me if I seem to be too impatient with or insensitive towards Tara.

Now to the newest chapter: I'm so happy for Tara and Willow because Tara was finally able to see and touch the babies in the NICU and both of them could hold Lily in the "kangaroo care"! :bounce

Quote:
If Willow didn’t know any better she thought there might have been some hanky panky going on, but honestly, she’d seen enough of that for several lifetimes the one time she and Tara had caught them on the couch.


Her couch.


She shuddered and tried to hide it.

:laugh I love the phrase "hanky panky"!

Quote:
Willow did recall her name though, now that she could place the doctor.


Dr. Beaver.


In some back recess of her mind, she heard Robyn’s giggle and managed a little smile of her own.

:laugh Tiny comic relief for Willow.

Quote:
That hit Willow like a ton of bricks.


She felt so guilty. She hadn’t even considered how Tara must be feeling with swollen breasts and no baby to feed. She’d forgotten about the process entirely. Tara had been self-expressing, alone? Crying, probably, imagining where it should be going.


God, she felt like an asshole. She’d been through breastfeeding, she knew what it felt like, especially those early days. But she knew the babies were being fed so, like the hand sanitizer on Robyn’s hand, the notion of breastfeeding had poofed entirely from her mind, wrung away before she could even consider it. Tara must have been so uncomfortable on top of all of the other pain.

Poor Willow, already tearing herself apart in her desperate need to care for Tara, the kids and the babies at once and now beating herself up for overlooking another aspect of Tara's hardship.

Quote:
“They’ve been getting my milk?” Tara asked with tears filling her eyes as she looked over to Willow, “They’ve been getting my milk.”


“I heard, baby,” Willow replied softly, caressing Tara’s upper arm with her thumb.


She knew how much that must have meant to Tara psychologically if she still thought her body had ‘failed’ the babies. God, that was something Willow needed to get on top of soon too. Tara couldn’t go on thinking like that.

I too fervently hope that the knowledge that she has been nurturing her babies with her milk since they were born will help Tara with her recovery. But I worry a bit that Willow puts this new responsibilty on her own shoulders when maybe Tara can only be helped professionally (through therapy) in this regard.


Quote:
Tara lifted her hands to put over Willow’s but her fingers just fell back down onto the bed instead.

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“Willow, who cares?” Tara cut Willow off, and it stung a little.

Quote:
Tara made an impatient jerking motion trying to drop in quicker.


“Hey,” Willow said quietly but firmly, “If you overdo it, you’re going to end up stuck back in the bed.”


“I know that, Willow,” Tara snapped back.

It hurts my heart that Tara obviously shies away from physical contact with Willow and that she is so impatient / short tempered with her. So I still hope that her empathic feelings towards Willow will return soon now that she is able to visit the babies and might be discharged from the hospital in a couple of days (if I understood Dr. Beaver correctly?).

Quote:
So I gave Lily the panda hat and Emily the koala.”


“I see,” Tara replied, raising her hand a tad and choking back a tear when she ever-so-carefully touched Emily’s cheek, “Hi my little koala bear.”


She turned her head and did the same to Lily.


“Hey, panda.”


Willow stood up and went around to the other side of Lily’s incubator to put her hand in on the other side. She lightly held her hand over Lily’s heart.


“We’re both here, panda. We’ve got you.”

Aww! :bigkiss I want to believe that Mrs. Potts smiled down from heaven at this moment...

Quote:
“Mom-mah, I be dol-fin when I gwowed?” Robyn asked and pulled Willow out of her thoughts by dropping into her lap and winding her for a moment.


Willow blinked several times and looked down at her daughter.


“Why do you want to be a dolphin?”


JJ was pulling his shirt back on beside them and rolled his eyes.


“Because I told her I wanted to be a marine biologist and she wants to be a dolphin so we can be together forever.”


“Aww!” Willow replied, squeezing Robyn and smiling at JJ,

I raise Willow's Aww to an AWWWW! So cute!

Quote:
She sat on the floor with her legs out and just waited, silently. It took less than a minute for Robyn to crawl, still crying, into Willow’s lap. Robyn reached down and grabbed a pacifier from her pocket, which she immediately began to suck on.


Willow brought her knees up and held Robyn in a hold, not unlike the one she’d watched Tara hold Lily in.


It made Willow’s eyes prick with tears.


“It’s not fair that Mommy and the babies aren’t with us. We’re missing part of our family.”


Willow had nothing else to say.


None of the parenting articles Tara had sent her ever covered something like this. She just cocooned Robyn between her chest and knees until she was calm again.

:cry

Quote:
“Listen, Dad, I wanted to talk to you about your offer earlier,” she said, the words falling out of her mouth awkwardly, “It’s so generous. But it’s too much. I do need to get the kids home, though. I’m going to look into hired help.”


Ira dropped his briefcase and took Willow by both arms.


“Willow, please, allow us to do this for you,” he said emphatically, “I was not there for you when I should have been.”


Willow shook her head.


“You don’t owe this to me.”


“It is not about owing. You are a parent. Tell me you wouldn’t do this for your child,” Ira replied, looking straight into Willow’s eyes, “I’ve already put in for my leave. So I can sit at home and read my newspaper or I can be the kind of father you always deserved and help you through this. I know what my preference is.”


Willow swallowed.


“It’s not just you that I’d be asking.”


“It would be me too,” Michelle piped up quietly from the living room doorway and walked toward them, “Who also owes Tara a great deal for times forgotten. And would do this anyway because you’re our family, Willow.”

I love Ira and Michelle! Their help really is essential in keeping our beloved core family "over water" in these stormy times.

I was wondering how long Willow and Tara can afford not working financially - from what I gather you aren't paid while you can't work because you're sick or take leave from work to care for sick family members in the USA? If so I hope their savings are still enough after they had to pay for 4 rounds of IVF...

Quote:
Willow gasped as they were both wrapped in the blanket and she understood Tara’s fascination with just staring and feeling that little heartbeat against hers.


“Momma’s here,” she whispered as Lily’s hand blindly clawed and touched her, “I love you.”


The nurses smiled and left Willow alone to her time, though obviously staying close by.


Lily’s eyes opened, able to take the dim light of the nighttime NICU lighting and looked straight up at Willow, her eyes a pale hue of blue that already made Willow feel like she was looking at Tara.


Willow was captivated and didn’t break that gaze for a second.


After a few moments, she began to hum quietly, so quietly it almost couldn’t be heard at all, but she knew Lily heard her.


Willow had never felt more seen in her entire life.


“Hush, little baby, don't say a word. Momma’s gonna buy you a mockingbird…”

Aww. That almost had me shed a few (good) tears... :flower


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 23rd 2020)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:57 am 
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And dibs to chapter 19! :whip
I don't have time for detailed feedback this time because I REALLY have to return to my work.
But I really felt for Tara for feeling so "alien" in her own home, still thinking she failed the babies and in the end feeling that she neglected her other kids on top. And then my heart also ached for Willow because she felt that she let Tara / the whole family down because she couldn't prevent Robyn from regressing partially into earlier toddler state.

Quote:
“I could make a schedule,” she nodded, her eyes beginning to light up through the glassy tears, “Color-coded with different colored pens!”


Tara breathed a sigh of relief. Some part of her brain still knew how to help Willow.


Your wife.

Quote:
Willow’s eyes filled with fresh but less frantic tears and she extremely gently enveloped Tara in a hug.


“I needed you home so badly.”


Tara closed her eyes and closed the hug.


My wife.


“I needed to be home, apparently,” she said softly

I hope that's the start to recovery for them as a couple.

Quote:
She squeezed Tara’s hand once more and didn’t see the way Tara’s spine jumped in fear.


“Everything’s going to be okay.”


Tara just nodded and repeated it in her head, hoping if she did it often enough that she would believe it.

And then there is this reminder that they still have a long way to go...


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 23rd 2020)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 5:00 am 
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Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs to chapter 18! :whip


Woot!

Quote:
I did mean the "waking up" figuratively of course (I had thought about writing "snap out of it" but that sounded too negative in my head).


No, I understood and I meant 'sleeping' figuratively too - to suggest that it's a wilful display from her that she's refusing to wake up from.

Quote:
And I don't hope for logics from Tara but that she will soon regain the empathic feelings needed to realize that a) Willow is suffering as well, to the extend that she is teetering on the edge to emotional breakdown and b) that their kids need their mothers as well and if she demands of Willow to stay every waking moment with the babies in the NICU then the kids suffer because both their mothers are absent.


She doesn't even have that empathic feelings for herself right now - she actually doesn't even have them for the kids. She has a lot of fear and guilt and anguish. This is coming out differently to those she's interacting with, but they all stem from the same place.

Quote:
I didn't think that Tara is petulant or moody. I meant that I was glad that in this occasion Tara managed to shift her priority from the babies to the kids, making the effort to look and act as "normal" as possible to reassure them.


My bad, I read it wrong (like oh, at least she's doing that when she's not bothering to be nice any other time). Entirely my fault.

Quote:
Luckily I didn't have traumatic experiences or an illness that caused me to struggle with my mental health. But my mom has a manic depression and although I know I should (logically?) excuse / understand (verbally) aggressive manic behaviour against me I can't help feeling hurt by it, getting angry about it and occasionally wondering if she really couldn't behave differently if she just "tried harder". (Fortunately her last bad manic phase happend years ago).
So excuse me if I seem to be too impatient with or insensitive towards Tara.


You have every right to be hurt and angry by aggressive behavior from anyone regardless of their diagnoses. For the record, I'm also manic depressive. I take my medication and I do work to try and limit my episodes but it's not always possible. But I've acted in the past in ways I would never act or want to act in the present, when I'm medicated and generally stable. But my illness still affects me every day and stops me from living a 'normal' life (career, partner, kids, etc) I say all of this for context but the point is while mental illness makes us behave in ways we don't like, there is a context to when it's reasonable to reach a point of frustration or impatience with someone over it. I can't make that judgement with you and your mother (only you can) but I can tell you it's not fair to reach that point with Tara is the mere beginning days and weeks of her struggling with this.

Quote:
Now to the newest chapter: I'm so happy for Tara and Willow because Tara was finally able to see and touch the babies in the NICU and both of them could hold Lily in the "kangaroo care"! :bounce


Such an important milestone!

Quote:
:laugh I love the phrase "hanky panky"!


It is a great phrase. It's probably the most 'clean' explicit term there is!

Quote:
:laugh Tiny comic relief for Willow.


You take it where you can get it!

Quote:
Poor Willow, already tearing herself apart in her desperate need to care for Tara, the kids and the babies at once and now beating herself up for overlooking another aspect of Tara's hardship.


It's just so difficult and there's no easy answer for anyone.

Quote:
I too fervently hope that the knowledge that she has been nurturing her babies with her milk since they were born will help Tara with her recovery. But I worry a bit that Willow puts this new responsibilty on her own shoulders when maybe Tara can only be helped professionally (through therapy) in this regard.


They'll have to work that out. And they will.

Quote:
It hurts my heart that Tara obviously shies away from physical contact with Willow and that she is so impatient / short tempered with her. So I still hope that her empathic feelings towards Willow will return soon now that she is able to visit the babies and might be discharged from the hospital in a couple of days (if I understood Dr. Beaver correctly?).


I refer to what I said a few quotes up with this. It's not an overnight process when those feelings have gone for everyone. Willow is just a 'safe' person to take it out on which means somewhere in there she knows Willow loves her. Its not fair, but it will work out and make them stronger.

Quote:
Aww! :bigkiss I want to believe that Mrs. Potts smiled down from heaven at this moment...


I like to think so too

Quote:
I raise Willow's Aww to an AWWWW! So cute!


Robyn sure knows how to brighten up a moment.

Quote:
I love Ira and Michelle! Their help really is essential in keeping our beloved core family "over water" in these stormy times.


They truly have been!

Quote:
I was wondering how long Willow and Tara can afford not working financially - from what I gather you aren't paid while you can't work because you're sick or take leave from work to care for sick family members in the USA? If so I hope their savings are still enough after they had to pay for 4 rounds of IVF...


So in general they're very comfortable financially. They have good salaries, Willow especially, and Tara's has built up over the years. For the moment, Tara is a government worker and has both sick leave she has taken (which can be for a number of weeks with government assistance) and maternity leave to follow. Willow is a federal worker and has taken maternity leave, though it is without pay. She'll take that for three months and they'll be okay to survive that without much impact financially. They had already planned for Tara to take three months maternity leave so if they both utilize holiday pay it's not too big of an adjustment. They are also both valued workers in their jobs and have bosses that will make it work for them however they can.

Quote:
Aww. That almost had me shed a few (good) tears... :flower


After everything, I'll happily take good tears!

Quote:
And dibs to chapter 19! :whip


WOOT!

Quote:
I don't have time for detailed feedback this time because I REALLY have to return to my work.


I appreciate you sneaking off to read! :D But don't worry, the update will always be sitting here, waiting :)

Quote:
But I really felt for Tara for feeling so "alien" in her own home, still thinking she failed the babies and in the end feeling that she neglected her other kids on top. And then my heart also ached for Willow because she felt that she let Tara / the whole family down because she couldn't prevent Robyn from regressing partially into earlier toddler state.


It all feels like such major dysfunction...it's a lot to process.

Quote:
I hope that's the start to recovery for them as a couple.


It's a start to something...not so much a road to recovery but a meandering lane.

Quote:
And then there is this reminder that they still have a long way to go...


There is...but there's also somewhere to go to.

Thanks for your feedback!

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 23rd 2020)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Chapter Twenty




Tara walked through the doors of the OB/GYN unit at the hospital, rubbing her nose as that sterile hospital smell infiltrated it.


She gave her name at the desk and sat in the waiting room while she waited to be called, trying to keep her eyes down.


She didn’t like the memories this place elicited.


She didn’t like to remember, but it overcame her sometimes.


Like right now, when the bulb was flickering overhead just like it was on the night her babies were pulled from her body.


Every part of her body would grow tense and then the memories would flood; feeling like they were coming from nowhere even though she’d spent whole minutes concentrating so hard on trying to ignore them.


They swirled in a flash of fluorescent lights with strangers screaming and her body falling out of her from the inside.


She could feel it now; the pressure between her legs of everything bottoming out no matter how hard she squeezed them together.


“Mrs. Rosenberg-Maclay? Mrs. Rosen—”


Tara recognized her name being called but she could only snap out of it long enough to stand.


“I-I need to use the bathroom.”


“The doctor—” the nurse called after her but Tara was gone, moving too fast to be comfortable, into the restroom.


She pressed her back behind the door and took in big gulping breaths just to get the air into her desperate lungs. Tears pricked her eyes and one solitary soldier fell down her cheek. She took in a long breath just to steady herself and quickly wiped her eyes with her sleeve. Slowly pushing herself away from the door, she moved over to the sink to use a paper towel to blot her eyes. She felt a tugging between her thighs and a painful stretch across her abdomen and just held onto the sink for a moment to allow her body to forgive her for her swift movement.


She felt like she’d been in there for an hour as she nervously walked back to the waiting area but the nurse had only a kind smile for her.


“The doctor is ready to see you. Room 12A. You can go right in.”


Tara nodded gratefully and gently but hastily made her way down to room 12A, knocking politely and waiting for a ‘come in’ until she entered.


“Tara,” Dr. Beaver greeted warmly, extending her hand to shake, “How are you doing?”


Tara shook the doctor’s hand, then reached across her own body to hold her opposite arm nervously.


“I’m fine,” she said quietly.


“How are the twins?” Dr. Beaver asked as she indicated for Tara to take a seat and did the same too.


Tara just nodded.


“They’re okay too.”


Dr. Beaver leaned forward invitingly.


“What about you? How are you feeling?”


Tara swallowed.


“I-I don’t mean to be rude but I need to get back to the NICU.”


Dr. Beaver gave a soft smile and an understanding nod.


“Let’s check that incision,” she said, donning gloves as she stood and brought Tara over to the examination table, “No excess pain or swelling?”


Tara settled herself and closed her eyes so she wouldn’t have to see her wound.


“N-no.”


Dr. Beaver peeled the bandage away and gently palpated the area.


“Any trouble urinating?” she asked, “Bleeding?”


Tara shook her head and Dr. Beaver looked at her sympathetically.


“Discharge is normal, or the sudden urge to go. It should settle, don’t worry.”


Tara looked lost, then blushed as she realized why the doctor was saying that.


“S-Sorry I kept you waiting.”


“It’s not a problem,” Dr. Beaver waved a hand and offered another kind smile, “I’m going to take these staples out, they look like they’re ready to pop. Well done at keeping the area clean.”


Tara paused and blinked.


“M-My wife,” she said softly, “She’s been doing it.”


She looked down.


“I forget to.”


Dr. Beaver gathered her equipment and nodded.


“It’s a lot to have gone through what you went through. It’s great to have such a good support system.”


Tara just swallowed silently. The doctor prepared her for when she would start to pull the staples, but it wasn’t that bad. She found the brief flit of pain a welcome distraction from that new flickering light and seriously, could this hospital not afford a single working bulb?


She closed her eyes again.


She hated snapping like that, even in her own mind, but her impulse control on reining it in had dialed back to zero.


Before she knew it, she had a smaller bandage on and the doctor was washing her hands.


“You’re healing great, Tara. You can follow up with your regular OB/GYN in about six weeks as long as no issues crop up between now and then,” she said, flicking the excess water off her hands into the sink, “We’ll be in another new year by then. Funny to think about. They just keep flying in.”


Tara got herself into a sitting position.


“Thank you, Dr. Beaver,” she said as she stood and tidied herself up again quickly, eager to get back upstairs.


Dr. Beaver just smiled.


“And thank you for being the only patient to never once laugh at my name.”


Tara forced a smile and Dr. Beaver looked sympathetic.


“Keep well, okay?” she said sincerely and nodded toward the door, “Go see your babies.”


Tara repeated her thanks and quickly made her way out of the unit and back up to the NICU, where Willow was sitting on a chair between the incubators, with a hand stretched into each.


She stood up quickly when she saw Tara coming, offering her the chair.


“What happened? Is everything okay?”


“Everything is fine,” Tara replied quietly, “She took the staples out.”


“Oh, that’s great,” Willow smiled, but it started to turn downward, “I wish you’d let me come with you. Hold your hand.”


Tara shook her head.


“Someone had to be here with them.”


Willow opened her mouth.


“Someone always—”


“Just…please, Willow,” Tara said, exasperated, “Can you move so I can put my hands in please?”


Willow acquiesced and silently stood aside with a frown.


It was becoming a feature she felt on her face far too often.



Willow weaved her way through the NICU and was relieved to see none of the doctors were gathered around Emily’s incubator yet.


“Sorry, I’m late. Work was in a bind, needed me to talk the temp through something. Is everything okay?”


“Just waiting,” Tara said quietly from where she was standing over Emily with a hand in to touch her.


“Phew,” Willow replied and looked over at Lily, who was sleeping in her newly converted bassinet.


It was a recent adjustment from the incubator, just the day before, and Willow was still fascinated by how freely she could touch and watch Lily move. Every wriggle was a revelation.


Lily was sleeping but Willow couldn’t help touching her in her new favorite way — a splayed hand right over her middle. Lily twitched at the contact and though Willow felt a little guilty when she saw her little eyes opening, she also kinda didn’t.


“Hey, Lil. Hi, panda bear,” Willow gushed, very gently shaking her hand in a light tickle.


Despite just waking up, Lily seemed to enjoy her Momma’s playing and let out a little gurgle that could be interpreted as a laugh. It wasn’t actually one, of course, she was still much too little, but it felt like one to Willow’s ears and heart.


“Tara, did you see her giggle?”


Tara looked over from the other incubator. Her eyes were heavy and her hair was a mess but she was there for her girls and that was all that mattered.


“Are you giggling, Lily?”


Lily’s gaze fell away and she fell back asleep pretty quickly. Willow took her hand away and looked over at Tara, noting the hunch of her back as she looked over Emily.


“Do you need to sit honey?” she asked softly.


Tara shook her head.


“No, I want to be here in case she needs me.”


Willow opened her mouth but closed it again. Arguing was pointless.


Instead, she stood behind her wife in the hopes Tara might lean back against her instead.


Soon after, a doctor and two nurses approached and surrounded Emily’s incubator. There were little pleasantries — not that they were unpleasant but they were here with a job to do. Genevieve was one of the nurses and did smile and say hello, which Willow returned and Tara did her best to acknowledge.


The top was lifted from Emily’s incubator and Willow was struck by how different it was to look in at her than it was at Lily.


Emily was quite still and her breathing so obviously mechanically controlled. She still looked tiny in her little diaper and her skin was missing the flush of pink of her sister’s that made her seem so much more alive.


“Hey, koala bear,” Willow said softly, swallowing deeply.


Tara must have been having similar negative thoughts to Willow as Willow suddenly felt the weight of her wife’s body as Tara leaned back against her. Willow put her hands on Tara’s upper arms and held them there.


The doctor asked both nurses multiple questions to make sure all of the checks had been performed. Finally, when she was satisfied, she looked up at Willow and Tara.


“We’re going to try and extubate her now so we can transfer her to the C-PAP machine. This will mean she’s breathing more on her own but still with assistance. This may not be successful and if so, we will have to put her back on the ventilator.”


Willow’s hands squeezed Tara’s upper arm and she exhaled with a nod and Tara nodded quickly too that she understood.


They adjusted the incubator to complete flatness and gently moved Emily’s little head so it was angled upward. The tape holding the tube in her throat was removed and Tara winced as it peeled away from her baby’s thin, delicate skin.


The tube was pulled and the area around Emily’s mouth was suctioned and then a plastic mask was placed over her to keep her breathing while the C-PAP was moved into place. It was more plastic tubes, but situated over her mouth and not down her little throat.


“C’mon, Em,” Willow whispered, her foot fidgeting nervously.


It felt like a long time for them to get everything in place but in reality, it wasn’t. Finally, they heard the beeping of Emily’s heart and respiratory rate continue in a steady rhythm. They watched Emily’s chest rise while also witnessing her little tongue moving around her mouth.


“Take a few seconds with her,” Genevieve advised while she helped the other nurse check Emily over from the other side.


Tara quickly stepped forward and as soon as she touched Emily’s arm, her little eyes tried their best to open. Tara laughed quietly, hiding a cry.


“Hey, baby girl.”


“Hey sweetheart,” Willow said from right behind her, reaching it to stroke Emily’s leg where she really only got touched during diaper changes because it wasn't easy to reach down there from the armhole in the incubator without the fear of dislodging one of her many wires, “It’s Momma and Mommy.”


It was just seconds but it was precious.


The doctor removed her gloves.


“The procedure was successful. We’ll continue to monitor her. If her stats remain steady for the next 24-48 hours it will be an excellent sign, but do be prepared that sometimes we have to return the infants to ventilation.”


Tara gulped and Willow nodded this time.


“She can do it. I know she can,” she said resolutely.


Tara looked at Willow with tears filling her eyes and then back at Emily.


“That’s a mini-resolve face if ever I saw one.”


That broke Willow and she looked away to bury her face in her hands.


Emily was settled back into her incubator and Tara fell back into a chair, her legs almost completely going from under her.


Willow swiped at her eyes but no other parents looked at her strangely. They were all in the exact same position. Everyone’s sleeves were wet with tears as their own babies progressed and regressed.


She put her arm back into the incubator as she was accustomed.


“You got this koala bear,” she whispered with a sniffle.


Emily’s eyes were still struggling to stay open and Willow looked right into them until they finally closed for good and her fast little heartbeat settled into a somewhat slower, restful one.


“Thank you,” she said to the nurses and doctor who were finishing writing up what they needed to.


“Thank you,” Tara echoed with a deep sigh.


They were both watching the machines like a hawk, ensuring Emily’s respiration rate stayed where it needed to.


They stayed in that tense state, not even realizing they were doing it. Hyper-vigilance had become a natural state of being.


“It’s time for Lily to have a feed,” Genevieve approached after giving them some time to recover from the trauma of watching your baby go through any kind of procedure.


Willow glanced over to Tara. She would have loved to hold Lily for that but she thought she ought to be gracious.


“Do you want to give her the bottle?”


“I know it’s been a big day but do you want to try breastfeeding again?” Genevieve suggested gently, “I think she’s up for it. Her sucking reflex has really developed and she’s been taking the bottle without issue.”


“Of course I’ll try,” Tara replied, her chest rising fast like Emily’s.


She loosened her shirt so Lily could be placed on her chest. Willow quickly wrapped the blanket around them like she’d learned to when it had fallen off one day and Tara had started screaming in a panic that Lily would lose heat.


Tara settled Lily, nestled at her breast. She looked down at her little girl growing stronger and stronger each day and desperately hoped her body wouldn't fail her tiny baby again.


She expressed some milk with her fingers to encourage Lily and gently rubbed it on her lips. Lily tried to wrap her lips around the tip of Tara’s finger, so Tara quickly guided her nipple there instead. She’d done this so many times that she had the rhythm down and usually at this point Lily would essentially kiss Tara’s nipple several times before getting too tired.


This time, though, Tara felt the oddest suctioning sensation and then her milk flowing, but not to a tight, painful end as she’d gotten used to when waiting to pump.


Her eyes widened and she looked up between Willow and Genevieve.


“I-I think she’s doing it.”


“She is?!” Willow practically squealed and came to look over Tara’s shoulder, “Good girl!”


“Don’t distract her,” Tara chastised, terrified Lily would suddenly pop off and this wonderful rush would end.


“Sorry,” Willow whispered and stayed with her chin perched on Tara’s shoulder.


Genevieve ensured Lily was latching correctly and helped adjust her position slightly so she was most comfortable.


Both Willow and Tara couldn’t keep their gaze off Lily’s still weak but spirited eyes jumping between them as she fed from the body that bore her for the very first time.


Where their hearts had been pounding with dread just minutes before, now it was fluttering with all kinds of excitement.


Such was the capricious adventure of life in the NICU.


They took joy where they could get it.


And this moment had it in abundance.



Tara stepped into an elevator and watched the doors close.


When nothing happened, she realized she needed to press the button for her floor but she couldn’t for the life of her remember where she was going. She looked down and around for guidance and was immediately alarmed to see her belly extended out past her feet.


And it kept going.


As her belly got larger and larger, the space between the walls started to get smaller and smaller. Her arms cradled her stomach and she arched her body to protect it as much as she could.


“Let me out! Let me out!” she screamed, but no sound came.


She crouched down on her knees, hunched over into a ball, desperately crying until she found herself somersaulting and suddenly she was flat on her back with just a flickering, fluorescent light overhead.


She tried to lift her head to look around but she couldn’t. She was pinned in place by some invisible force. She could hear, though.


Cries.


Weak, little cries that barely rose enough to carry through the air, but Tara’s ear was tuned to them.


Little cries that needed her, that called to her but no matter what she did, she couldn’t get to them. She screamed again, but this time sound did come out. She screamed so loud she smashed the glass in the mirror she was suddenly standing in front of.


Through the broken shards, she saw a reflection of herself in a shimmering, pink top sitting squarely on her shoulders. The pink version of her started to speak.


“You think you know…what's to come…what you are. You haven't even begun.”


The pieces of glass fell away and Tara was looking through the window of a vast wasteland; desert for miles. She took a step forward and a bald man with glasses stepped in from the side, holding up two slices of cheese. He grinned and shook the cheese before retreating again.


Tara stepped onto the sand and looked around for something in the nothingness.


Finally, her eyes caught something in the abyss.


She saw two graves.


A panda hat sitting on one and a koala on the other.


Before she could even gasp, she woke up in the middle of doing just that, her heart hammering and her brow sweaty.


Her insides were churning and only the thought of her legs going out from under her if she tried to move stopped her from running to throw up.


She glanced over at Willow, who was drooling a little but it didn’t make Tara smile like it usually did.


She laid back down and brought her pillow over her head to drown out the deafening silence.



Tara sat beneath an old table that JJ had once used for a lemonade stand and cried into her knees.


The basement was dark and cold — she hadn’t been down there in so long that she hadn't known the bulb had blown and she also suspected there was a draught coming in from a leaky window.


These were real thoughts, about home improvement, she had as she cried because she didn’t even know what she was crying about.


She had plenty to cry about, of course, with her two tiniest children miles away from her being cared for by people other than her just because her body couldn’t keep them safe for as long as it should have.


But she didn’t even think she was crying about that anymore. The urge would just hit her like a punch to the gut that made her eyes water uncontrollably.


She’d come to like this spot as her crying getaway; the basement was far away that no one could hear her and this little table stopped her from getting too out of control. If she was getting too worked up, she would bang her head and remind herself she needed to get back into control.


As she sniffled from the nose resting between her knees, she suddenly heard the sound of a door opening and then saw a stream of light from above.


“Tara? Are you down there?”


Tara shook her head quickly and swiped at her cheeks.


“Coming!”


She twisted herself out from under the table and continued to rub her cheeks with her sleeves. With three quick breaths, she came up the stairs. Willow put a hand on her shoulder and Tara bristled but hid it well.


“What were you doing in the basement?” Willow asked with an amused grin.


“L-looking for, um,” she cleared her throat, “Extra bottles.”


“Oh,” Willow said in reply, “Did you find them?”


“No,” Tara replied quietly, “I-I may have to go back down.”


“We can just buy some more, don’t worry about it,” Willow smiled, “Everyone has been in touch asking if they can bring dinner.”


Tara frowned.


“Dinner?”


“Turkey and stuff, I guess but they’re obviously not going to pull it off as well as you,” Willow replied sweetly, “They’re getting together, but I told them we couldn’t this year, of course.”


“Right, for Thanksgiving,” Tara nodded as if she’d actually remembered the date, “Oh, what a shame. I-It would have been great to see everyone.”


She wondered if her lie sounded as obvious in real life as it did in her head but Willow just nodded.


“Well, I was thinking of dropping Robbie over instead of my Dad taking her. Have a day with her cousins, give them some peace. They’ve babysat every day this week. I know they say they don’t mind but…”


Tara swallowed. She felt so guilty about wanting to be in the NICU all of the time and so guilty when she wasn’t there.


Everywhere she turned she was smacked with guilt, guilt, and more guilt.


“What about JJ?”


“He’s coming to the NICU, remember?” Willow said with an arched eyebrow, “I met with the sibling coordinator and she said Robyn was too little to come in but JJ could visit if I thought it was appropriate…which I did? We talked about this.”


Willow reached out to Tara’s arm again.


“Maybe you should take a day at home to res—”


“No,” Tara gasped and her whole body tensed for a moment, “I-I just didn’t sleep very well last night. I’ll get some tea and I’ll be fine.”


Willow nodded understandingly.


“Yeah, you look a little tired. I guess this isn’t what either of us thought maternity leave would be like,” she said with a sad smile that she tried to turn hopeful, “I hope you sleep better tonight. Is it pain?”


Tara shook her head and averted her gaze.


“Weird dreams.”


“Well, at least you didn't dream about that guy with the cheese,” Willow chuckled as she walked away, “I don't know where the hell that came from.”


Tara followed Willow with a frown.


“Hey kiddos, let’s get ready,” Willow called out and walked into the living room where JJ was hovering over Robyn drawing a picture, “What are you drawing there, Robbie?”


In place of a handprint turkey, there was a crudely drawn heart with lots of vaguely-people-shaped squiggles. Robyn pointed at every one of them proudly.


“Das Em’lee an’ das Lil-lee an’ Mom-mah an’ Mom-mee an’ Jay-Jay an’ Wobbie! An’ Woofy!”


“This Thanksgiving they’re in our hearts,” JJ explained the origins of the piece, “But next Thanksgiving they’ll be right here with us.”


“That’s exactly right, buddy,” Willow smiled and reached over to ruffle his hair. “Are you looking forward to today?”


JJ’s eyes lit up.


“Do I really get to come in and touch them and say hello?”


Willow nodded and Robyn started to frown, feeling left out.


“Me say ‘lo!”


“We’ll do a video chat with you okay, Robbie?” Willow said in a soft tone.


“Wing wing,” Robyn agreed happily and bounced on her butt.


“Come on Robs, let’s go pee-pee before we leave,” Willow said encouragingly and held out her hand.


Robyn crawled over and Willow tried to lift her into a standing position.


“You know how to walk, come on.”


Robyn tucked her feet back in behind her and giggled as Willow was forced to swing her forward.


A little while later they were driving to Xander and Anya’s house in the minivan. Tara, in the passenger seat for the foreseeable future, had gotten quite used to their upgraded wheels and the space it provided but now all she did was desperately try not to catch sight of the two empty car seats in the second row.


“We need to stop and get a pie or something,” she said as she gazed out the window.


Willow looked over with a wry smile.


“You honestly think there’s one left on the shelves anywhere in the greater Buffalo area? In the greater NEW YORK area?!”


“Me make mud pie, Mom-mee!” Robyn offered brightly from the back.


Tara looked over her shoulder and smiled softly at Robyn’s eager grin.


“Thank you, sweetheart.”


“Just don’t put it on the BBQ this time,” Willow added pointedly, then added on quietly, “Even if it was funny to watch Xander bite into a mud burger.”


They arrived at the Harris household and Willow stepped out first to bring Robyn inside. Tara looked around at JJ, who seemed to be looking a bit longingly outside the window.


“Do you want to go in and have Thanksgiving with your cousins? It’s okay if you do.”


JJ turned his gaze back on Tara.


“No, I want to meet the babies, Mom.”


Tara swallowed a small lump and with it, her own sense of failure. She reached back to run her hand over JJ’s head.


“They want to meet their big brother too,” she said softly, “I’m not sure how long you’ll be allowed to stay. Momma will have to bring you back here later for a bit probably.”


JJ’s eyes bugged out of his head.


“So I get to meet the babies AND have turkey?!”


Tara smiled and curved her hand around to cup JJ’s chin.


“Sweet boy.”


Willow came back down the driveway and back into the driver’s seat, strapping herself in.


“I tried to give them money, but they wouldn’t take it. Can you believe that? Anya refused money! She once asked Xander if they could convert to Judaism because she thought the gold coins we gave the kids on Hanukkah were real and she’d get some too!”


“She stole mine and got mad when they were chocolate,” JJ supplied from the back.


Willow gestured back indicatively and chuckled as she started the car again.


“I’m sure she’s just itemizing a bill to make sure she includes everything.”


“Do you have to be so rude about her?” Tara snapped, lifting her hand to rub her temple when a steady thump had become resident, “It’s been years, can you not just get along?”


The car was silent for a long second.


“Sorry,” Willow said eventually, through a gulp, “I was just kidding around.”


Tara didn’t respond.


Willow checked out JJ in the rearview mirror, who was looking down and rubbing his hands against the seat.


She cast her eye back to Tara, now looking out the window glumly and silently drove ahead. She turned on the radio to the station she knew JJ liked and sure enough, after a few minutes, he started singing from the back. Willow smiled that he was completely unselfconscious about the fact that he was tone-deaf and enjoyed The Spice Girls.


They got to the hospital and Tara rushed ahead, prompting Willow to call out to her to wait up for them. Inside, they stood outside the elevator to bring them to the NICU floor. There was a ‘ping’ and Tara’s breath caught in her throat.


Her eyes were already twitchy and ashamed. There was no room for the dread bubbling inside.


“I-I’m going to take the stairs.”


She turned toward the stairwell and Willow nodded at JJ.


“See your mother’s commitment to exercise?” she complimented gently, “She takes the stairs every time we come here even after having surgery. It helps her get stronger.”


“I like climbing stairs!” JJ replied eagerly and hurried ahead to take them two-by-two.


Willow followed behind them and softly put a hand on the small of Tara’s back. Tara glanced over and Willow just kissed her cheek. Tara looked down to hide the tears and continued up the stairs.


JJ was full of wonder as they arrived in the NICU, holding both of their hands and jumping between them like he was two years old again, all but begging them to swing him.


He was fascinated by the scrubbing-in procedure and felt like a doctor he’d seen do the same on TV.


Willow bent down to his level just before they entered the main room.

“Hey, you have to be really quiet in here, okay? All of the babies are sleeping. And your sisters are in these big boxes and will probably be sleeping too.”


“I know, Momma,” JJ replied impatiently.


“And you can’t touch anything,” Willow continued seriously, “The equipment is all very delicate. Mouth closed, hands by your sides, okay?”


“Like when Gramps takes me to temple?” JJ asked with another nod.


Willow frowned.


“Yeah, I had that rule too,” she said, shaking her head, “You try to open the Ark one time…”


She smiled at JJ.


“Just stay by us and be very, very careful, yeah?”


JJ nodded again quickly and visibly tried to withhold his excitement but still bounced on the tops of his toes. A nurse finally came to let them into the NICU and Willow stood behind JJ to guide him as he took in the new place. She knew how odd a feeling it was to first step in.


His head roamed around the whole, large room; taking in all of the incubators and various machinery hooked up to them. Tara went straight over to the twins; seeing them alive and breathing alleviating her anxieties for whole seconds before new ones could set in.


Willow took the journey with JJ slower, so as not to overwhelm him.


Finally, they made it to the girls’ spot beside the window. Willow stood him between them.


“Lily, Emily, meet your big brother,” she said softly, “Jakey, meet your little sisters. This is Lily and this is Emily.”


“H-hi,” JJ said, a sudden nervous catch in his voice.


He just about remembered Robyn being born but he was able to hold her and rock her in her chair. His curiosity leaned more toward the fear end of the spectrum when he wasn’t sure how to explore.


Tara saw the little quiver in his voice and recognized it quite evocatively. She put a hand on his back and rubbed gently.


“You can put your hand in and give them a little rub.”


JJ’s eyes shot to Tara fearfully and the kindness so innate in her was able to shine through her eyes.


“It’s okay. I’ll do it with you.”


He hesitated, then nodded trustingly and let Tara enclose his hand in hers to put through the opening to stroke Emily’s arm. When that went successfully, they went to the other side to do the same to Lily and suddenly JJ was full of enthusiasm and questions about the machines and what they were doing.


Thankfully his other mother was an Encyclopedia Willanica on all things NICU and brought him around to explain in the least-scary way what everything did.


Tara found herself relieved that she didn’t have to take on his emotional labor too. This only made the guilt gnawing at her insides take a stronger hold. She sought out a nurse to help her get Lily set up for some kangaroo care; the one thing she could do where she actually felt like she was doing something for one of her children.


JJ was captivated watching Lily be lifted through the air as if it was Rafiki holding Simba up on Pride Rock. Getting to the age where he was starting to get reticent about nudity, he didn’t even blink when Tara exposed her chest for Lily to be placed on.


“Can I look, Mommy?” he asked shyly as he peered in from over her shoulder.


“Of course,” Tara replied softly, “Holding her like this helps her grow big and strong. My skin keeps her warm and I can feed her from my breast.”


“Like how Momma fed Robbie from her boobies?” JJ asked, eyebrows lifting together.


Tara smiled and nodded.


“Exactly.”


“Cool,” JJ breathed and gasped when Lily suddenly latched her mouth around Tara’s nipple, “Did she bite you?!”


Tara pursed her lips to stop a laugh.


“No, sweetie, she just has to hold on so she can eat.”


JJ watched Lily’s hat pat Tara’s breast.


“She’s so little.”


A while later, Willow returned from wherever she’d disappeared to and bent her knees in front of JJ, a bright sparkle in her eye.


“Guess what?”


JJ looked at Willow expectedly, who just grinned wider.


“Do you want to hold Lily like Mom is? Right against your body?”


There was no forehead left for how high JJ’s eyebrows rose into it.


“Really?” he asked, the high pitch of his squeal the only thing keeping it from being so voluminous that it bounced off every wall, “This is best Thanksgiving ever!”


Tara, on the other hand, had furrowed her brow so much it was nothing but lines.


“I-I don’t know if he can…”


Willow just smiled.


“I checked with the nurses. They said it’s okay as long as it doesn’t cause her any distress,” she reassured and looked down at JJ again, “If her machines start to beep too loud buddy, we have to stop.”


JJ nodded excited and with two eager heads looking right at her, Tara swallowed and peeked down at Lily.


“O-of course.”


They got JJ a bigger chair that he couldn't slip off from and he took his shirt off. The nurses helped with the transfer and Willow had to kneel around JJ from the front to make sure she was being held exactly as she should.


Tara covered herself up and stood to go spend some time with Emily. She was reminded of how much of her time she spent in contact with Lily since she could do kangaroo care with her. Yet again she was overcome with guilt.


She held Emily’s hand and closed her eyes when there was a little squeeze. Emily was really only starting to do that and it was a split-second distraction from finding herself jealous of her own son and the much-needed sibling bonding.


She was so lost in her own self-flagellation she didn’t hear Willow calling her name until a passing nurse put a hand on her shoulder to get her attention.


“Tara,” Willow said softly, smiling out through the window, “Tara, look.”


Tara lifted her head in that direction and was surprised to see each and every one of their friends and family members gathered in the hallway with the kids holding a homemade sign saying Happy Thanksgiving. They were all smiles and waves.


Even Robyn was waving curiously and didn’t seem so distraught to see her baby sisters this time, a little bigger and with less wiring overtaking them.


Tara blinked several times and heard a phone beep.


“Tara, look!” Willow said moments later, shoving her phone under Tara’s nose.


Tara pulled back to try and see what Willow was trying to show her. Pictures of a nursery, somewhere. It looked vaguely familiar but she didn’t understand.


“They did it up for us,” Willow said, choked up, “I haven’t had a chance and all the Amazon stuff was flat-packed and…”


Tara realized that the room was vaguely familiar because it was in her house.


That was wrong.


Wrong, wrong, wrong.


Willow looked out to the crowd and mouthed ‘thank you’. They all smiled and waved some more.


Willow had tears in her eyes as she looked back to Tara, but not the same droplets of anger and sadness that were pricking at Tara.


“We have the best family.”


Tara made herself smile back with those tears hidden in her eyes.


She looked out at the kind faces.


They truly did.


So why did she feel so alone?

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 24th 2020)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2020 11:00 pm 
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Chapter Twenty-One




Willow greeted the nurses warmly as she made her way through the NICU after taking a brief break to get some lunch.


She felt good as she crossed the room, sharing a smile of solidarity with the other parents as she went by and one of sympathy with the new parents, of which thankfully she wasn't any longer.


Today was a good day.


She’d slept great last night, in sharp contrast to Tara who had spent the wee hours staring up at the ceiling and counting sheep made up of the dark cloud hanging over her that wouldn't seem to leave no matter what she did or what emotional umbrellas she sought shelter under.


“Look at my big girl,” Willow gushed as she stood over Emily’s incubator and put a hand in to touch her arm, which had enough flesh now that Willow couldn’t see the veins lying beneath any more, “Are you going to breathe all on your own today? Are you, koala bear? It’s okay if you don’t but we’d really love it if you did.”


Emily moved her mouth around a little and Willow took that as a sign she was practicing.


“That’s my girl.”


She lifted her hand and stroked Emily’s head but quickly heard tiny noises of protest from a few feet away.


She looked over to Lily squirming in her open crib and quickly splayed her other hand out over Lily’s stomach.


“I hear you, I haven’t forgotten you,” she cooed quietly, “You’re the all-seeing, all-gurgling baby since you got out of that incubator.”


Lily kicked defiantly and Willow smiled.


“Where’s your Mommy, huh? Did she finally listen and go home to get some sleep? Those bags under her eyes are bigger than your whole heads.”


“I just went to the bathroom,” Tara’s voice came from behind and Willow came close to toppling the incubator when she jumped, “And thanks.”


“Jeez!” Willow replied, catching her breath, “Don’t sneak up on me like that when I’m handling baby at both ends.”


“Don’t tire Emily out,” Tara replied quietly, “She needs all of her strength.”


Willow withdrew her hand from Emily’s incubator and looked over her shoulder back at Tara contritely.


“I-I didn’t mean—”


“The doctors are coming,” Tara interrupted without meeting Willow’s gaze.


Willow looked up and spotted the team weaving through the NICU toward them. It never ceased to be an intimidating sight, no matter who it comprised of. Today it was a woman and a man in white coats, flanked by Genevieve and a second nurse.


Willow moved to stand beside Tara, putting an arm around her shoulders to support her. Tara was too tired to argue, and as long as she kept her eyes open and out of the darker recesses of her mind, it was actually quite pleasant. A moment of connection that had been so hard to find anywhere while lost in her own void.


She was a half-second away from leaning into Willow when suddenly the doctors and nurses all turned toward them and she had to focus back on what was happening.


“Moms, any concerns?”


All at once, Tara had to break away and step forward.


“Her stomach is slightly swollen.”


“Probably the air caught in there from the C-PAP,” the woman doctor mused and looked toward Genevieve, “That shouldn’t be a problem once she’s off the C-PAP machine. Let’s remove it manually before we begin, for her comfort.”


Genevieve and the younger male doctor went about attaching an empty syringe to one of the tubes coming from Emily. Neither Willow nor Tara really saw much of the procedure as the attending doctor stood in front of them to talk them through how the next few minutes would go as they tried to get Emily breathing without assistance.


They knew the routine.


All previous attempts up to this had been an immediate failure.


Finally, they stood back enough to let the professionals get on with their work. Willow retook her position holding Tara.


They were both shaking.


Everything felt so still and quiet with the background NICU noise just continuing on as if something momentous wasn’t occurring. It didn’t take long at all for Willow and Tara to get a glimpse of Emily not obstructed by people or her perfect little face not obscured by that big mask that had been helping her breath up to now.


Tara clutched Willow, who held her tighter as the seconds ticked by, agonizingly slowly this time. It was a real rollercoaster of emotions and they both felt resulting nausea.


That stillness came upon them again where everyone seemed to be holding their breath. So too, it seemed, was Emily, as the silence was broken by several of the machines beginning to beep loudly.


Willow took a step forward and looked down at Emily from above.


“Come on baby girl, you can do it.”


Both Willow and Tara tried to delicately rub her feet to stimulate her, as they had every other time, trying to ignore the pain of watching their daughter’s lips turn blue.


“Sats are dropping,” the second nurse advised.


They waited again, then the attending shook her head.


“We need to go back in.”


“Wait,” Genevieve cut in and the doctor looked over at her sharply.


“Nurse Fletcher, you know I value your opinion but we need—”


Suddenly, Genevieve turned to Lily’s little crib and lifted her right out. Lily seemed excited to have some movement and gave tiny, little kicks to show it.


Willow and Tara were completely taken aback and were only more stunned as they watched Genevieve place Lily in the incubator alongside Emily. Just moments later, the brash beeping returned to the regular, steady sound that had become synonymous with this place.


Lily’s more mobile fist rubbed against Emily’s arm and then their little fingers clutched each other.


“She’s stabilizing,” the younger doctor said in surprise.


The attending looked at Genevieve with a look between an arched eyebrow and a blooming grin and started to gently examine Emily with her stethoscope.


“T-thank you,” Tara swallowed deeply as she looked at Genevieve.


“Just a hunch,” Genevieve replied softly, “We’ll have to keep monitoring her closely, but every step forward is a positive one. Even if she has to go back on the machine, every bit she does on her own is good. This is a great step.”


Willow nodded gratefully and squeezed Tara with tears in her eyes.


“Look at our girls together, Tara.”


“I see them,” Tara echoed softly.


They stood there just staring downward, watching their two little girls interact with each other for the first time since leaving the womb.


At some point, Genevieve came up beside them again.


“I just discussed it with the doctor and if Emily keeps her sats up we can try her with kangaroo care later today.”


Tara’s face suddenly fell.


“Sh-She hasn’t liked being moved before now,” she said, her whole jaw tensing, then trembling, “Her heart rate dropped out every time we tried.”


“We know, but today is another triumph in a long list of stabilizations for her,” Genevieve advised softly, “It will be supervised, if she’s at all distressed we’ll settle her. The sooner we can get that going, the better.”


Tara’s eyes filled with tears and she looked down.


“I don’t want her to have to go back on the machine.”


“But if she could tolerate it, that would help her stay off the machine,” Willow said with a sure nod, “Your skin to keep her warm, your heartbeat to steady hers. Look how much it’s helped Lily.”


She held Tara’s arm softly.


“We can hold them together.”


Tara slowly nodded.


“J-Just give her a chance to get used to this breathing thing.”


“Give them a chance to get used to each other,” Willow replied with a soft smile, “I bet they’ve missed each other.”


She looked back down at her two girls wiggling in each other’s proximity with some gurgles from Lily and teeny, tiny quiet lip smacks from Emily.


“They look like they’re having a good chat.”


Tara looked down at the sight and smiled properly for the first time in a while.


“They look perfect.”



Tara tried to gently guide Emily’s tiny mouth to her nipple and tried not to feel the crushing weight of defeat when she was refused yet again.


“Come on, sweetheart. Just try it out. You like my milk. You have it every day.”


She expressed some onto her fingers and brushed her lips with it, but that only made Emily refuse her more and seek out her bottle. Tara sighed and relented, picking up the bottle on standby and settled back on the chair to feed it to Emily.


A few minutes later, Willow returned carrying Lily on her shoulder, looking proud as punch.


“How did it go?” Tara asked, lifting her gaze to them.


“Aced her hearing test, that’s my girl,” Willow replied proudly as she kissed Lily’s head before settling her back in her bed, where a little Christmas angel had been stuck next to her name.


She wiggled Lily’s belly — like a big bowl of jelly, she thought to herself — and watched as her daughter gave something close to a smile. She was just on the brink of it, Willow was sure.


She turned back to Tara and Emily, who was gustily sucking down her bottle.


“Look at her go. She’s sure got this catching up thing down!”


“I-It’s great,” Tara replied with little enthusiasm.


It was great, honestly, that she was feeding by mouth at all but Willow knew Tara was disappointed she hadn’t been able to start breastfeeding yet.


She sat down on the feeding couch beside Tara and rubbed her back in circles.


“She’ll get the breastfeeding thing soon. She’s just so busy catching up on everything else. Have you seen how she’s maintaining the heck out of her temperature during feeds? And all that weight gain from the bottles!”


Tara pressed a warm baby cheek against her breast and looked down sadly.


“Lily just caught on so quickly.”


“I know but she’s a different baby,” Willow reasoned.


“I know that,” Tara returned harshly, then swallowed and looked down again, “Sorry.”


She’d been saying that a lot lately. Willow tried not to add to her obvious stress by doing anything but nod silently in response.


“Want me to burp her?”


Tara just nodded back and finished up the bottle before carefully passing Emily over to Willow and turned to cover herself up. She gently cupped Emily’s head and kissed her tuft of soft, red hair; a novelty and privilege she didn’t take for granted.


She left Willow to do the burping and walked the few feet to her other daughter’s bed.


“Hi Lily,” she cooed and Lily cooed a little back.


She grabbed Tara’s finger and for a whole second Tara experienced bliss.


The next time she looked away from her wiggling daughter was only when her presence was summoned as Genevieve came over to their little corner of the NICU that had become their second home.


“Great, I was hoping to catch you both together,” she said with a winning smile, “We had our multidisciplinary meeting and we’re hoping your girls might be home for Christmas.”


She paused and glanced at the little dreidel adorned to Emily’s name on her crib, smiling some more.


“And Hanukkah.”


“Really?” Willow’s eyes bugged and only Emily fussing reminded her of what she was doing. She stood and brought Emily back to her crib so she could stand by Genevieve and Tara.


“W-what?” Tara asked in surprise.


That wasn’t news she was expecting.


“They’re really doing well and are on track to pass all of the standard tests we’ve been conducting with over the past few days. The last thing we need them both to complete something called the car seat challenge,” Genevieve explained, “They just need to sit in a car seat for a while so we can monitor them for any apnea, bradycardia, or oxygen desaturation and be sure they’re safe to travel home.”


“When can we do that?” Willow asked eagerly.


Before Genevieve could answer, there was a shrill bleeping to their left and all of their attention was drawn over there. Tara crossed the small space first and gasped as she took in Emily’s appearance.


“She’s going blue!”


Willow was by her side in a millisecond and went into action mode. It had been a while, but she remembered what to do. She rubbed Emily’s foot and in just seconds Emily responded to the stimulation and took in a breath, making her sats rise quickly.


“She just forgot to breathe for a second,” Willow exhaled through a breath, “She just forgot. She’s still little.”


Tara’s hand came up to cover her own eyes.


“She’s not going to come home with Lily now,” the crying evident in her tone if not on her face.


“But she will come home,” Willow replied softly but as soon as she tried to touch Tara’s shoulder, she was shrugged off and Tara turned away.


“I-I need to use the restroom.”


“Tara—” Willow started to apologize or reassure, even she didn’t know, but Tara just kept walking.


Genevieve hung back until she was gone. She checked Emily quietly and looked over at Willow.


“This isn’t catastrophic. This is still quite normal in preemies to experience momentary destabilizations, even when it’s very intermittent. You did the exact right thing. You reacted quicker than I did. And you were also right, she just forgot for a moment. Nothing more serious than that.”


Willow just nodded sadly and Genevieve looked sympathetic. After a moment, she continued talking while busying herself between both Lily and Emily.


“Do you have extra support at home?”


“Yeah, we do,” Willow nodded, feeling her whole heartbeat return to normal as Emily’s hand curled around her finger, “Everyone is being fantastic. Taking care of our other kids and helping with meals and stuff.”


Tara returned then with red but not puffy eyes and Willow slumped in relief.


“Tara,” she said, gently lifting her finger so Tara could see Emily holding on tight, “Everything is okay. See?”


Tara swallowed and nodded, then looked contritely between everyone.


“S-Sorry if I was rude.”


“You got a fright,” Genevieve said gently, “If you think you might benefit from someone to talk to, we have staff available for that.”


“I talk to Willow,” Tara brushed her off, untruthfully.


Genevieve turned them ever-so-slightly toward the other bed so they had a little bit more privacy.


“Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger.”


Tara bristled and made about checking Lily’s diaper.


“I don’t have time. The babies need me.”


Genevieve backed off and with a slight bow of her head.


“The offer is open.”


Tara just nodded and changed the clean diaper so she wouldn’t have to look up until the nurse was gone.



Willow rolled back and forth on her heels as she looked on excitedly as Lily was prepped for her car seat test.


“I feel like holding a sign up saying ‘Go Lily’ and waving it above my head.”


“It will be a long two hours if you do that,” Tara replied and Willow smiled curiously because that kind of sounded like a joke, something scarce from her wife’s mouth lately.


She chose to believe it was.


Little electrodes were placed on Lily’s chest but she took it all in her stride, used to things being placed and pulled from her.


“Good girl,” Tara comforted quietly from nearby.


A little sensor was placed on Lily’s foot and she was strapped into the car seat. She wiggled around and got used to being in this new position, but didn’t cry or seem uncomfortable.


“So now we just…wait?” Willow asked a bit dumbly after a second.


“Now, we wait,” Tara exhaled a long breath.


And so they waited and watched the nurse watch Lily. Lily didn’t care for any of their gazes and fell asleep pretty quickly.


Willow opened her mouth to speak a few times, but thought better of it and tried to count down the minutes instead.


It startled them both when the nurse finally stood and they both hovered close as Lily was de-probed and returned to her bassinet. She did fuss this time and Tara went to soothe her.


Willow hovered over the nurse, dangerous close to entering his personal space until he finally turned with a smile.


“She did as well as can be. Maintained all of her vitals as we hoped.”


“Yeah!” Willow replied, victory punching the air and rushing over to wiggle Lily’s belly, “You did it, baby girl!”


Tara’s heart was racing but she wasn’t sure it was in the same way as Willow’s.


She did her best to smile.



Willow watched Tara gnaw on the corner of her thumb while Willow tried to change Lily into new clothes.


“Tara, this is a good thing. It’s an amazing day.”


She smoothed the little gown down Lily’s body and picked her up to show Tara.


“Look how pretty she looks in royal blue,” she said and held Lily in the crook of her arm, “Not that you should base any of your value on looks, but you really do look so cute. Yes, you do. Yes, you do.”


She tickled Lily and that smile threatened itself on Lily's face again.


“Let’s get you to your ceremony, little miss.”


She nodded for Tara to follow her and Tara secured the blanket holding Emily to her chest better so she wouldn’t flash the whole NICU with her movements. Emily was sleeping soundly in there and feeling her little breaths against her breast was something of a comfort to Tara. Even if the baby wouldn’t feed from her still, which frustrated and upset her each time they tried.


They walked to a small treatment room that had been decorated like a graduation ceremony, complete with little podium and chairs set up with some of the other families of the unit already sitting with happy smiles for them.


Willow gave little, grateful waves to them for showing up and proudly showed off Lily in her little graduation gown and hat that Willow had maybe, possibly, specifically bought online for the occasion.


One parent pressed play on an old CD player and the opening notes of The Graduation March began playing.


“Walk with me,” Willow whispered to Tara with a smile.


Tara kept her head down.


“You just do it.”


Willow frowned for a moment but fixed a smile back on her face as she walked Lily down the aisle, up to the little podium where Genevieve was waiting. The nurse couldn’t help but smile too at Lily’s little rigout. She did these little ceremonies weekly but this was the first time she’d seen a baby come toward her in a cap and gown.


She nodded diplomatically as they got to her and the music was stopped.


“Today is a special day. Today, at 7 weeks and 5 days old, Lily Lisa Rosenberg-Maclay is graduating from the Mercy Hope Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and is going home to her family.”


There was a quiet clap so as not to startle either baby; just the tips of fingers against tips of fingers.


“Lily is a very special little girl. Not just a daughter, but a blessing.”


Willow pressed a kiss to the top of Lily’s head.


“Not just a sister, but a twin.”


Tara held Emily closer to her and swallowed deeply.


“And not just a baby, but a fighter.”


Another little clap rang out.


“Today she returns with her mothers to their home with their big brother Jacob, their big sister Robyn and their fur brother Woofy.”


There was a little chuckle but Tara’s eyes were downcast.


“We all await the day very soon that her twin Emily will join them.”


Tara closed her eyes so the tears wouldn’t be visible.


The ceremony finished and Willow moved Lily’s little tassel to the other side, where Lily scrunched her face up in dissatisfaction at how it tickled her cheek.


A few photos were taken, which Tara managed to stand up for, and then it was all over and they were suddenly faced with the fact that Lily was free to be taken out of there by them for the very first time.


Tara sat back by Emily’s bed and rocked her gently on her chest, looking completely and utterly drained.


“Will you let me know you got home safe?”


Willow spun around with Lily in her arms and her little rolled-up diploma/discharge certificate in Willow’s mouth as she’d been trying to put Lily down to redress her again.


“Wha…?” she said, muffled, then dropped the diploma from her mouth into the edge of her hand curled under Lily, “Why do I need to let you know? Aren’t you coming?”


Tara looked up, exhausted.


“Willow, Emily would be here all alone. Her twin is leaving, I’m not leaving her too.”


“Ever?” Willow asked, perplexed.


Tara shifted uncomfortably.


“I can sleep on the feeding couch. I’ve already checked.”


Willow had not been anticipating an affirmation answer to her question.


“Tara, we have three other children.”


“Don’t you think I know that?” Tara snapped, her tone momentarily betraying her guilt of not being around for JJ and Robyn and now Lily too, with her pain at her utter sense of failure for putting them all in this position, to begin with.


How could Willow not see how she was being torn apart from having to choose?


Her eyes clouded and she retreated into herself with a softer but still pained tone.


“I’m all that she has.”


“No, you’re not,” Willow stated, her words popping with anger, “I’m her mother too.”


Tara just continued patting Emily in a steady beat; something she could control; something she could focus on.


“I’m not arguing with you about this.”


Willow’s eyes twitched and she put Lily back down in her bed and removed her little square graduation hat so she could safely move about while they spoke.


“Well we’re arguing about something because this can’t go on,” she said, turning back to face Tara, “I’m concerned about how you’re processing all of—”


Tara looked up sharply.


“Do. Not. Psych. Me.”


Willow threw her hands up.


“Psych you?! Tara, it’s been a decade, I don’t even remember anything from my degree! I’m not psyching you, I’m wifing you!”


They were loud enough now to draw looks from other parents and staff and Tara made her intentions about ceasing the conversation clear by turning her whole body away.


Willow sighed and her neck dropped, dejected.


“Tara—”


Emily let out a little cry.


“Sssh, baby, it’s okay,” Tara comforted with a rock, “Mommy’s here. Mommy’s not going anywhere.”


Across town, Ira sat patiently as Robyn plastered pink, glittery eye shadow all over his cheeks in the living room of the Rosenberg-Maclay residence while Michelle went around the room, and the rest of the house, cleaning already clean surfaces.


They both stood to attention when they spotted the minivan pulling into the driveway but shared concerned looks when no one was forthcoming.


Ira jumped when his cell phone buzzed in his front pocket and quickly fished it out.


“Willow,” he read from the screen right as he answered and lifted the phone to his ear, “Do I not see your car in the driveway?”


“You do,” Willow’s voice came from the other end, “But I have a little passenger in the back and I need to make sure I’m coming into a quiet house.”


“Oh, Michelle, it’s happened, she’s here,” Ira squealed like a little girl, “Turn off the television, quick!”


He grabbed the remote himself and turned it off, which made Robyn stomp her foot grumpily.


“Hey, Ganpy! I-a watch’in that!”


“Robyn, would you like to help me make lunch?” Michelle redirected her quickly.


Robyn looked up with mischievous eyes.


“‘Nana bwead?”


“Only if I have my chief banana musher,” Michelle smiled and offered a hand.


A much smaller one was slapped into it and she skipped along as Michelle brought her out to the kitchen.


Ira lifted his phone back to his ear.


“All quiet, Willow.”


The line went dead and Ira quickly made his way to open the front door for them.


He stopped at the mirror in the hallway to check his tie was straight and then stood at the door to wait.


Willow appeared moments later holding Lily in her arms, wearing a new panda-themed romper to match her hat. She smirked as she saw Ira’s face.


“Suits you, Dad.”


Ira lifted a hand to his cheek and blushed when it pulled away with the pink glitter on it. He quickly swiped it off with the hanky in his pocket.


“Is it just you here?” Willow asked as she stepped over the threshold.


“Michelle took Robyn into the kitchen so you could come in in peace,” Ira replied absently as his hand lifted to touch the baby, but thought better of it and let it drop again.


Willow nodded and stood in the middle of the hall, gently turning Lily so she faced out. The light was nice and dim so it didn’t strain her eyes and she had a little eyeball of this new place. She hadn’t known anything but the walls of the NICU for weeks…forever as far as she was concerned.


“Well baby girl,” Willow said, though she sounded more dejected than such an occasion should elicit, “Lily, this is your home.”


She turned back to Ira and offered a smile.


“And this is your Grandpa,” she said as she dropped a kiss on Lily’s head, who was still just taking in her surroundings, “Or your Zayde. I think he’s still holding out hope that one of you will call him that.”


Ira crossed his hands over his heart.


“Oh, can I hold her?”


Willow’s brow furrowed.


“I don’t mean this insultingly, but have you washed your hands?”


“Yes, of course,” Ira nodded his head, “I’ll go rewash them, just to be sure.”


Before Willow could say that it was okay, he was taking the stairs almost two-by-two, as JJ would, though with a slower roll of his hips.


Willow bounced Lily gently in place and wandered into the living room. There was a welcome home sign hanging over the fireplace made by the children the night before with a messily but lovingly drawn lily flower and panda face on it.


Willow sank onto the couch and couldn’t help but feel empty inside.


“This is it, panda bear.”


Thankfully she wasn’t left to her own brooding silence for long as Ira returned and eagerly stood on the spot with his hands out hopefully.


Willow nodded for him to sit down beside her, which he did promptly. Willow gently transferred Lily over to him, who kicked her legs against his hairy arms as they tickled her.


Ira started making cooing faces and gave the gentlest of kisses on top of Lily’s brow. Her face scrunched. She wasn’t used to stubble.


Ira saw her peering eyes and laughed.


“Oh, she’s just like you,” he said, holding a finger out for her to hold onto, “She’s so alert.”


“She looks like a newborn, but she’s been around a while,” Willow reasoned with a sigh.


Ira spent a few more minutes acquainting himself with Lily, who tolerated it mostly because she liked how his big hands cupped her bottom so fully and made her bounce.


“How are you going to introduce Robyn?” Ira asked as he pulled a funny face that Willow couldn’t help but smile at because she’d been pulling the exact same one.


She registered her father’s question and sighed again.


“I really thought Tara would be here for this,” she muttered under her breath.


Ira’s gaze moved away from the baby for the first time since he’d locked eyes on her.


“Is she not coming?”


Willow held up a hand helplessly.


“She won’t leave Emily,” she said, closing her eyes for a moment while feeling her jaw tense, “I need to bring Robyn in soon before Lil gets fussy and needs a bottle or starts screaming.”


“We’ve been telling her all about hand-washing and practicing it,” Ira supplied helpfully, “And she and JJ have been holding her baby doll and asking if they’re doing it right. Well, JJ asks and corrects Robyn.”


Willow released a slow breath.


“Thank you, Dad,” she said, her tone breaking for a moment, “Really. Truly. Without you…”


Ira cradled Lily in one arm and reached out the other to squeezed below Willow’s shoulder.


“That is what family are for.”


Willow nodded and ducked her head to hide the tears.


She really thought Tara would be here for this.


“Can you hold her for another minute while I go get Robyn?”


“I think I can manage that,” Ira replied softly.


Willow stood and looked down at her father staring so adoringly at Lily. It felt such a long time coming and yet so hollow without Emily in the other crook of his arm.


She turned away and walked out to go into the kitchen, where Robyn was sitting on a stool flinging a fork repeatedly into a big, plastic bowl. She didn’t look up but Michelle did, excitement evident in her eyes.


“Hi Michelle,” Willow greeted with a soft wave and came up to the island, “Robbie. I have someone special for you to meet.”


“I busy Mom-ma!” Robyn replied importantly.


Michelle started to take off her apron.


“I think we can take a little break, sweetie.”


Robyn threw the fork into the bowl and climbed down before Willow could even try to lift her. She threw her arms upward.


“Haveta wash hands!”


“That’s right,” Michelle praised, “Will we show your Momma your song?”


Willow watched as Robyn was brought to the sink to soap up her hands. Michelle sang softly for her.


“Wash, wash, wash your hands, soap will make them clean! Scrub the germs ‘til they fall off—”


“Germs go down d’dwain!” Robyn finished proudly and waved at the sinkhole, “Bye-bye germies!”


Willow looked at Michelle gratefully and bent down to dry Robyn’s hands.


“Do you know who’s here?”


Robyn nodded once.


“Wobyn and Gwamma and Mom-ma!”


Willow had to smile at the literalness.


“There’s someone else here.”


Robyn’s eyes shone curiously.


“Mom-mee?”


Willow shook her head.


“Jay-Jay?” Robyn tried again.


“Lily,” Willow said softly, “Lily came home to see you. Like we told you. Would you like to say hello?”


“Me wave Lil-lee?” Robyn asked, her feet turning in excitedly.


Willow shook her head.


“No baby, she’s here, not behind the window anymore. You can hold her.”


She waited a moment for it to sink it before offering her hand.


“Ready to meet your little sister?”


Robyn put her hand in Willow’s and let herself be led into the living room. Ira smiled at her warmly as she came in and presented Lily to her.


“Look who’s here, Robyn.”


Robyn looked up at Willow unsurely, who sat her on the couch next to her grandfather. Robyn poked Lily’s foot, who kicked back, making her giggle. Moments later though, Lily began her anticipated fuzzing and then let out a wail.


Robyn’s bottom lip started to wobble.


“She no like Wobbie!”


“No, no, that’s not true,” Willow reassured quickly, “See, sometimes babies just cry. You cried too before you were a big girl.”


Robyn didn’t look convinced and Willow suddenly had a brain wave.


“She brought you a present!”


She recalled the Before Times, when terms like cyanosis and endotracheal tubes had not yet entered their lexicons; when they were reading normal pregnancy books anticipating a normal pregnancy and had picked out toys for Robyn to be gifted from the babies to ease the transition.


She rushed out of the room and went into the closet in the hall. After a frantic flittering of her eyes around the place, she finally spotted two stuffed toys on a shelf and grabbed one. She hurried back to Robyn, who she knew could go from zero to catastrophic meltdown in moments, and presented it to her while Ira tried to soothe Lily.


Robyn took the little panda bear with a big R on its belly and looked between it and Lily.


“Like Li-lee head,” she put together and Willow smiled.


She was glad now she’d bought Panda and Koala stuffed toys for this occasion, way back when; before they ever became nicknames. It was a lack of inspiration on her part at the time, as she happened to glance at the hats while she was online shopping, but now it felt inspired.


“That’s right, you match.”


Robyn brought the stuffed toy against her chest.


“Tank yoo Lil-lee,” she said quietly.


Willow took Lily from Ira, who tried hard not to look distraught at the loss.


She patted Lily the way she knew she liked and brought Robyn onto her lap.


“Why don’t we sing her a lullaby?” she suggested, “What does Mommy sing you?”


Robyn sniffled.


“Sunshine.”


Willow smiled sadly.


“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me hap-py when skies are gray,” she sang, soft and cheerful as Lily quieted in response, “You’ll never know dear, how much I love you, so please don’t take my sunshine away.”


“‘way,” Robyn finished with Willow and looked at Lily skeptically.


“See, little bean?” Willow said, “You can pat her head gently.”


Robyn brought her hand close to Robyn and Willow helped show her how to touch.


On contact, Lily smiled.


Willow gasped.


She looked between them and felt a tear form in her eye.


“You’re a great big sister, Robyn.”


Robyn beamed.


“Me gweat big sistah.”


“That’s right,” Willow grinned and nodded.


Robyn suddenly leaped from the couch.


“Ganpy I GWEAT big sistah!”


The sudden movement and noise set Lily off again, but Robyn was too busy hanging out of Ira to care.


Willow looked down at Lily and moved arms as Michelle approached with hers outstretched.


“If you’d like I can…”


Willow had gotten so used to having the babies to herself and Tara; she hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be to share them.


“Thank you,” she said with a soft swallow, pressing three quick kisses to the side of Lily’s head before placing her in her waiting grandmother’s arms.


Willow didn’t see her again for hours as Ira and Michelle traded her off and dealt with Robyn in the in-between so Willow could sit and just rest, though it didn’t feel like resting.


It felt like hard labor by way of thinking.


What did coming home with just one baby really mean?


How did her immediate future look?


She couldn’t go to the NICU all day as she had been, she needed to take care of Lily AND Robyn AND JJ and she’d have to care for Lily overnight and was Lily only going to be bottle-fed until Emily could come home and would she only see Tara for minutes a day and what the hell was going on with her wife?


She sat silently, feeling like she was suffocating.


She tuned back into her surroundings when she heard the front door open and then JJ skidded in, dropping his backpack on the floor.


“Are they here, are they here?”


“Hey JJ,” Willow said, needing a moment to adjust, “Yeah, honey, Lily is here.”


JJ hurried up to Michelle, who had just finished giving her a bottle. He tenderly touched her cheek.


“Hi Lily, it’s JJ, do you remember me? I held you in the room with all the windows. I’m your big brother.”


“And me GWEAT big sistah!” Robyn added on from where she was playing with her panda bear toy on the floor.


JJ shook Lily’s little hand and she curled it around her finger. JJ beamed and looked around the room, then over at Willow.


“Where’s Emily?”


Willow leaned forward on her arms.


“Remember we talked about how Emily has to stay another little while in the hospital?”


JJ looked grief-stricken.


“You said ‘maybe’.”


“Well ‘maybe’ is ‘really’ now,” Willow replied sympathetically, “But—”


JJ suddenly burst into tears, surprising everyone.


“Where’s Mommy?”


Ira quickly started moving Robyn along the floor.


“Robyn, darling, show me that little bear you have there. Let’s make him a snack, yes?”


“Is pan-dah, Ganpy! Eat leaves!”


Michelle stood with Lily to follow them and left Willow with JJ, whom she pulled into her arms.


“Sweetheart.”


“Is it my fault?” JJ sobbed, “Did I do something wrong?”


Willow shook her head.


“No, Jakey, it’s not—”


JJ hiccupped loudly.


“I was a good boy and I listened and I helped with Robbie and—”


Willow stopped and reached out to hold JJ’s face in his hands.


“Oh honey,” she said softly, “Did you think you had to do everything right or the babies wouldn’t come home?”


JJ’s eyes creased and he nodded.


Willow’s eyes closed but she avoiding letting any of the tears threatening to fall spill out


“You are not responsible for this. The babies…it’s out of everyone’s hands, even mine. Even Mommy's.”


JJ sniffled and Willow had heard that sound too many times from too many people that she loved that day.


“Even God’s?”


“That might be a question better suited to your grandfather,” Willow reasoned slightly helplessly and moved to squeeze JJ’s shoulders, “You don’t have to worry about any of this, okay? Everything will be alright. And our whole family will be together soon.”


JJ looked at Willow with sunken, vulnerable eyes.


“Promise?”


“I promise,” Willow replied emphatically.


She wiped his eyes with her thumbs and kissed his forehead.


“You okay?”


JJ nodded and fell into Willow’s arms for another hug.


“Everything is okay, buddy.”


A minute or so into the embrace, the door opened a crack and a ringing phone sound came through.


“Willow, sweetheart?” Ira said through the crack, “Tara is calling. It’s the second time.”


Willow’s eyes widened and she jumped up to grab the phone from him.


As she ran off to answer, JJ scuffed his shoe against the floor.


“Gramps, can I talk to you?”


Ira smiled softly.


“Let me give your grandmother the baby.”


“I-I could hold her,” JJ offered quickly, then added on shyly, “I’m allowed.”


Ira smiled some more and brought Lily in for JJ to hold.


Just a few minutes later, Willow came in like a hurricane, gathering up her things.


Cognizant of JJ sitting beside him but also noting he was completely absorbed in his baby sister and all smiles again, Ira cleared his throat.


“Willow, is everything alright?”


“I have to go to the hospital,” Willow answered quickly as she looked around desperately for the phone she was holding in her hand.


Ira stood sharply and strode over to Willow.


“What’s wrong?” he asked gravely.


Willow looked up with the same sunken, vulnerable face that JJ had looked at her minutes before.


“I don’t know. Tara was hysterical, I couldn’t understand a word she was saying.”


To his credit, Ira remained strong for her.


“You go. We’ll take care of the children.”


“Lily needs another bottle in an hour and she doesn’t like getting her diaper changed so you have to be quick and there’s a pacifier in the diaper bag but we’re really trying to avoid using them if possible because it’s been such a hassle getting Robyn off it but—”


“Go, darling,” Ira interrupted gently.


Willow stopped, nodded once, and made a beeline for the car. On the doorstep, she met someone about to knock.


“Hi Rose, bye Rose! Door’s open!”


She sped off as a Willow-tornado and was in the car and out of the driveway in thirty seconds.


Rose watched her go, a little startled, and finally turned herself around again. She moved the dishes in her arms to one side and put her hand on the door to push it open and walk inside.


“Hello?”


She stepped in and closed the door behind her just as Michelle’s head popped out from the doorway.


She looked confused for a moment then moved a hand over her heart, looking like she’d seen a ghost.


“Rose McAllister as I live and breathe,” she said as she stepped forward and a smile bloomed on her face, “Tara told me you had reconnected but I haven’t seen you since…”


Rose ducked her head for a moment.


“It’s been a long time.”


She let the moment pass as quickly as it came.


“Tara mentioned Lily was coming home today,” she explained and held up the two dishes in her hands, “I thought she might find it hard to leave Emily. I just brought some meals so they wouldn’t have to worry about cooking. Is everything okay? I just saw Willow running out of here.”


“We’re not sure exactly,” Michelle answered cagily, “But I’m sure everything is okay. Thank you for bringing the food.”


She took the dishes from Rose and smiled again.


“Would you like to meet the baby?”


“Not if it’s an imposition,” Rose replied courteously.


Michelle just nodded her head to invite her further into the house and dropped the dishes off in the kitchen before bringing her to the living room.


“Hi Rose,” JJ said eagerly as he looked up, “This is my baby sister. Her name is Lily.”


“Hello JJ,” Rose said as she perched on the side of the chair next to him and smiled as Lily slept, “She’s beautiful.”


“Oh, you already know each other?” Michelle asked cheerily.


JJ nodded.


“Yeah, Rose is Grandma Lisa’s wife.”


Michelle smiled and put a hand on JJ’s back.


“Oh no, sweetheart, you’re confused.”


“Nuh-uh!” JJ replied indignantly.


Michelle’s brow furrowed and Rose inhaled a long, slow breath as she met her gaze.


“We should have a chat.”


An hour or so later, JJ had lost some affection for big brotherhood when confronted with helping change his first diaper, Ira was dreaming about two fingers of Macallan 18 and some peace and quiet and Rose had left with promises to return after the holidays, leaving Michelle sitting very still and quiet with a slightly shocked look on her face


The front door opened and nobody really reacted except Ira who braced for a door slam that would wake Lily, which thankfully didn’t happen.


This all changed when Willow appeared in the doorway. Ira sat up sharply and Michelle looked over with a gasp, suddenly remembering why they’d been landed with babysitting duties to begin with.


“Willow, what’s happened?”


Willow just smiled.


“Look who we have…”


She stepped aside and Tara was there with Emily on her chest. Both Ira and Michelle gasped.


“Mom-mee!” Robyn yelled excitedly and Emily made some noises in response.


“Mom,” JJ said, rolling up onto his feet and hurrying over, “Is that Emily?”


Tara nodded and bent down so JJ could see her. She was like Lily but smaller, he thought.


“I thought she wasn’t coming home ‘til later.”


“It’s a Chrismukkah miracle,” Willow grinned.


“Oh, a miracle indeed,” Ira said, covering his mouth with his hands as he approached with Lily and took a good look at Emily, “What beautiful darling girls. Home safe.”


“She just has to wear this monitor to keep track of her heart and breathing but she’s home,” Willow said, motioning to a little cuff around her ankle “But we’re home. We’re finally home.”


Ira looked like he might cry.


“Oh, congratulations. This calls for a toast. I have a bottle in the car!”


Willow took Lily and she and Tara made their way to the couch so they could sit with the kids together as a whole family for the first time.


Michelle went to get glasses and pour the kids some juice so they could participate.


On the couch, Robyn and JJ crawled either side of their mothers and peered at their new baby sisters.


“What do you think?” Tara asked Robyn as she helped her caress Emily’s face.


Robyn smiled with stars in her eyes.


“I think me gweat big sistah.”


Tara kissed her forehead.


“The best.”


Ira and Michelle returned and handed the glasses of red wine and grape juice.


“To home,” Ira submitted cordially.


“To home,” Willow and Michelle returned with Tara saying it quickly behind them.


As they clinked glasses, Woofy joined in on the toast and howled.


JJ jumped up to take the set of doggy antlers from under the tree to put on him.


“It’s barkmas!”


Everyone laughed and the dull, exhausting energy of old was completely expelled for new excitement.


While JJ ran around after Woofy, who kept coming over to cautiously sniff a baby foot before retreating again. Finally, he licked Lily’s foot and JJ called him away but Lily didn’t cry, she made her little scrunchy almost-smile face again.


Willow caught it and lit up with the memory of the real one. She leaned into Tara.


“Lily smiled.”


Tara’s face jumped to attention and she looked down at Lily, who was going off to sleep again.


“W-what?”


“At Robyn, earlier,” Willow said as she took a sip of wine that tasted like heaven after not being allowed any so she could be on call to go to the hospital, “It was the cutest thing.”


“A-are you sure?” Tara asked with a gulp, “She’s still very young.”


“Definitely,” Willow grinned, then cocked her head at the look on Tara’s face, “Are you okay?”


Tara turned away and nodded quietly.


“Of course.”


Willow frowned.


“Did I upset you—”


“No,” Tara interrupted, not able to bear the guilt pressing down at the concept of ruining this moment for them, “No, everything is great.”


She nodded again as if to convince herself.


They were finally home and things could finally get back to normal.


She hoped.

_________________
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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 25th 2020)
PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2020 3:28 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 405
Dibs to chapter 20! :whip
I will read chapter 21 later today because I don't have time to right now, just wanted to leave a short feedback to yesterdays chapter:

First yay for the positive development of the babies, with Lily no longer needing the incubator and being able to drink from Tara's breast and Emily getting of the ventilator! :bounce

But I'm extremely worried for Tara who apart from short moments in which she feels hope or even joy about those positive developments seems to be almost drowning in guilt, despair and traumatic flashbacks! And the saddest thing is that she isn't willing and/or able to confide in Willow or any other of her family members, instead crying and suffering in secret! :cry

Tara's dream was scary (with quite a few nods to canon). I was a bit unclear about that passage:
Quote:
Through the broken shards, she saw a reflection of herself in a shimmering, pink top sitting squarely on her shoulders.

Do you mean a tiny version of Tara (like some "little angel / devil on the shoulder")? Or a "normal size"-version of herself which she couldn't possibly carry on her shoulders sitting there as if she were carrying a little kid?

Quote:
She saw two graves.


A panda hat sitting on one and a koala on the other.


Before she could even gasp, she woke up in the middle of doing just that, her heart hammering and her brow sweaty.


Her insides were churning and only the thought of her legs going out from under her if she tried to move stopped her from running to throw up.


She glanced over at Willow, who was drooling a little but it didn’t make Tara smile like it usually did.


She laid back down and brought her pillow over her head to drown out the deafening silence.


What a horrible ending to the dream - and once again so sad that she doesn't seek Willow's comfort here, waking her or at least seeking her embrace.

Quote:
“Hey kiddos, let’s get ready,” Willow called out and walked into the living room where JJ was hovering over Robyn drawing a picture, “What are you drawing there, Robbie?”


In place of a handprint turkey, there was a crudely drawn heart with lots of vaguely-people-shaped squiggles. Robyn pointed at every one of them proudly.


“Das Em’lee an’ das Lil-lee an’ Mom-mah an’ Mom-mee an’ Jay-Jay an’ Wobbie! An’ Woofy!”


“This Thanksgiving they’re in our hearts,” JJ explained the origins of the piece, “But next Thanksgiving they’ll be right here with us.”


“That’s exactly right, buddy,” Willow smiled and reached over to ruffle his hair.

AWWW! :bigkiss

Quote:
“And you can’t touch anything,” Willow continued seriously, “The equipment is all very delicate. Mouth closed, hands by your sides, okay?”


“Like when Gramps takes me to temple?” JJ asked with another nod.


Willow frowned.


“Yeah, I had that rule too,” she said, shaking her head, “You try to open the Ark one time…”

:lol

So great that JJ got to do the "kangaroo care" with Lily too! (Unusual "flat terrain" for Lily :wink )

And yay that the gang put up the nursery, I was hoping for something like that when you mentioned last chapter that it was still barren.

Quote:
That was wrong.


Wrong, wrong, wrong.


Willow looked out to the crowd and mouthed ‘thank you’. They all smiled and waved some more.


Willow had tears in her eyes as she looked back to Tara, but not the same droplets of anger and sadness that were pricking at Tara.


“We have the best family.”


Tara made herself smile back with those tears hidden in her eyes.


She looked out at the kind faces.


They truly did.


So why did she feel so alone?

I really don't understand why Tara feels sad and angry because the others assembled the nursery. She can't regret that she and Willow didn't get to do it themselves, can she - considering that at least Tara wouldn't be physical able to do that for quite some time?
I suspect that Tara doesn't have a clue why she is feeling this way about it either...she really needs professional help in my opinion.

Maybe if Rose would visit her (still somehow "apart" from "the family" but some kind of motherly influence nevertheless) she could convince her to seek that kind of help.


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 25th 2020)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2020 2:40 am 
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And dibs to chapter 21! :whip

Yay, welcome home Lily and Emily!!! :applause :bounce

Quote:
Willow and Tara were completely taken aback and were only more stunned as they watched Genevieve place Lily in the incubator alongside Emily. Just moments later, the brash beeping returned to the regular, steady sound that had become synonymous with this place.


Lily’s more mobile fist rubbed against Emily’s arm and then their little fingers clutched each other.


“She’s stabilizing,” the younger doctor said in surprise.


The attending looked at Genevieve with a look between an arched eyebrow and a blooming grin and started to gently examine Emily with her stethoscope.


“T-thank you,” Tara swallowed deeply as she looked at Genevieve.


“Just a hunch,” Genevieve replied softly, “We’ll have to keep monitoring her closely, but every step forward is a positive one. Even if she has to go back on the machine, every bit she does on her own is good. This is a great step.”


Willow nodded gratefully and squeezed Tara with tears in her eyes.


“Look at our girls together, Tara.”


“I see them,” Tara echoed softly.


They stood there just staring downward, watching their two little girls interact with each other for the first time since leaving the womb.

Quote:
She looked back down at her two girls wiggling in each other’s proximity with some gurgles from Lily and teeny, tiny quiet lip smacks from Emily.


“They look like they’re having a good chat.”


Tara looked down at the sight and smiled properly for the first time in a while.


“They look perfect.”

Aww, how wonderful that the reunion with Lily stimulated Emily into breathing on her own! :bigkiss

I loved that the NICU does that graduation ceremony for the babies who are discharged! Great idea of Willow to get Lily a tiny robe and hat for the occasion (I trust that she got a set for Emily too). Hopefully some of the other parents made pictures for them. I hope that they'll hold another ceremony for Emily later once it's certain her vitals stay stable and she can stay at home.

Quote:
“Willow,” he read from the screen right as he answered and lifted the phone to his ear, “Do I not see your car in the driveway?”


“You do,” Willow’s voice came from the other end, “But I have a little passenger in the back and I need to make sure I’m coming into a quiet house.”


“Oh, Michelle, it’s happened, she’s here,” Ira squealed like a little girl

:laugh So cute when Ira goes into "girly mode" as Grandpa!

Quote:
Haveta wash hands!”


“That’s right,” Michelle praised, “Will we show your Momma your song?”


Willow watched as Robyn was brought to the sink to soap up her hands. Michelle sang softly for her.


“Wash, wash, wash your hands, soap will make them clean! Scrub the germs ‘til they fall off—”


“Germs go down d’dwain!” Robyn finished proudly and waved at the sinkhole, “Bye-bye germies!”

Awww, so cute! :bigkiss

Quote:
“See, little bean?” Willow said, “You can pat her head gently.”


Robyn brought her hand close to Robyn and Willow helped show her how to touch.


On contact, Lily smiled.


Willow gasped.


She looked between them and felt a tear form in her eye.


“You’re a great big sister, Robyn.”


Robyn beamed.


“Me gweat big sistah.”


“That’s right,” Willow grinned and nodded.


Robyn suddenly leaped from the couch.


“Ganpy I GWEAT big sistah!”

AWWWWW squared!

And now to the tough parts of the chapter: Tara's mental state is apparently getting worse instead of better.
Quote:
“You got a fright,” Genevieve said gently, “If you think you might benefit from someone to talk to, we have staff available for that.”


“I talk to Willow,” Tara brushed her off, untruthfully.


Genevieve turned them ever-so-slightly toward the other bed so they had a little bit more privacy.


“Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger.”


Tara bristled and made about checking Lily’s diaper.


“I don’t have time. The babies need me.”


Genevieve backed off and with a slight bow of her head.


“The offer is open.”


Tara just nodded and changed the clean diaper so she wouldn’t have to look up until the nurse was gone.

Sad that Tara doesn't see how seriously she needs help.

Quote:
“Willow, Emily would be here all alone. Her twin is leaving, I’m not leaving her too.”


“Ever?” Willow asked, perplexed.


Tara shifted uncomfortably.


“I can sleep on the feeding couch. I’ve already checked.”


Willow had not been anticipating an affirmation answer to her question.


“Tara, we have three other children.”


“Don’t you think I know that?” Tara snapped, her tone momentarily betraying her guilt of not being around for JJ and Robyn and now Lily too, with her pain at her utter sense of failure for putting them all in this position, to begin with.


How could Willow not see how she was being torn apart from having to choose?


Her eyes clouded and she retreated into herself with a softer but still pained tone.


“I’m all that she has.”


“No, you’re not,” Willow stated, her words popping with anger, “I’m her mother too.”


Tara just continued patting Emily in a steady beat; something she could control; something she could focus on.


“I’m not arguing with you about this.”


Willow’s eyes twitched and she put Lily back down in her bed and removed her little square graduation hat so she could safely move about while they spoke.


“Well we’re arguing about something because this can’t go on,” she said, turning back to face Tara, “I’m concerned about how you’re processing all of—”


Tara looked up sharply.


“Do. Not. Psych. Me.”


Willow threw her hands up.


“Psych you?! Tara, it’s been a decade, I don’t even remember anything from my degree! I’m not psyching you, I’m wifing you!”


They were loud enough now to draw looks from other parents and staff and Tara made her intentions about ceasing the conversation clear by turning her whole body away.


Willow sighed and her neck dropped, dejected.


“Tara—”


Emily let out a little cry.


“Sssh, baby, it’s okay,” Tara comforted with a rock, “Mommy’s here. Mommy’s not going anywhere.”


I can totaly understand that Willow got angry here - very unfair of Tara to say that she is everything Emily has. And Tara, you REALLY need someone to psych you - but it should be a professional and you have to decide to seek that help.

I strongly suspect Tara is lying to herself why she didn't want to leave the NICU - not for Emily's sake (at least not alone) but because it feels somehow like a "safe place" for Tara. In the NICU she hardly has to communicate with anyone and all that is expected from her is holding and feeding Emily and changing her diapers but with a constant "safety net" of machines, nurses and doctors.
Back at home she'll have to divide her attention between all 4 children, interact with Willow and frequently Ira and Michelle and think about household stuff either. I guess she's - subconsciously - terrified of that and that is the reasom why she went totally hysterical when she was told that they can already take Emily home after all.

So right now I'm assuming "crash position" because I expect that sooner or later Tara will break down at home - I'm just hoping it won't be so bad that she has to be put in a mental health clinic but that some ambulant therapy at a psychiatrist will be enough to help her.


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 25th 2020)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2020 4:00 am 
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Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs to chapter 20! :whip


I should call you butter because you're on a roll!

Quote:
I will read chapter 21 later today because I don't have time to right now, just wanted to leave a short feedback to yesterdays chapter:


I really appreciate that you took the time, thank you :)

Quote:
First yay for the positive development of the babies, with Lily no longer needing the incubator and being able to drink from Tara's breast and Emily getting of the ventilator! :bounce


Hard fought and well deserved.

Quote:
But I'm extremely worried for Tara who apart from short moments in which she feels hope or even joy about those positive developments seems to be almost drowning in guilt, despair and traumatic flashbacks! And the saddest thing is that she isn't willing and/or able to confide in Willow or any other of her family members, instead crying and suffering in secret! :cry


Tara is in an extremely vulnerable state. It' so hard to see the light.

Quote:
Tara's dream was scary (with quite a few nods to canon). I was a bit unclear about that passage:

Do you mean a tiny version of Tara (like some "little angel / devil on the shoulder")? Or a "normal size"-version of herself which she couldn't possibly carry on her shoulders sitting there as if she were carrying a little kid?


Sorry, badly worded on my part. I meant the pink shirt sat squarely on Tara's shoulders.

Quote:
What a horrible ending to the dream - and once again so sad that she doesn't seek Willow's comfort here, waking her or at least seeking her embrace.


She'll find her way back there.

Quote:
So great that JJ got to do the "kangaroo care" with Lily too! (Unusual "flat terrain" for Lily :wink )


:lol yes, it must have been weird for her too!

Quote:
And yay that the gang put up the nursery, I was hoping for something like that when you mentioned last chapter that it was still barren.


Quote:
I really don't understand why Tara feels sad and angry because the others assembled the nursery. She can't regret that she and Willow didn't get to do it themselves, can she - considering that at least Tara wouldn't be physical able to do that for quite some time?


Comes back to the logics. It's not logical to be upset that she couldn't decorate the nursery but it still feels very real. It also represents another 'failure' on her part. She should have been able to do it but she couldn't because her body let her - and everyone else - down. (in her mind)

Quote:
I suspect that Tara doesn't have a clue why she is feeling this way about it either...she really needs professional help in my opinion.


I agree.

Quote:
Maybe if Rose would visit her (still somehow "apart" from "the family" but some kind of motherly influence nevertheless) she could convince her to seek that kind of help.


You might be right there...

Quote:
And dibs to chapter 21! :whip


:)

Quote:
Yay, welcome home Lily and Emily!!! :applause :bounce


Finally!

Quote:
Aww, how wonderful that the reunion with Lily stimulated Emily into breathing on her own! :bigkiss


I read about this kind of stuff really happening and I think it's amazing!

Quote:
I loved that the NICU does that graduation ceremony for the babies who are discharged! Great idea of Willow to get Lily a tiny robe and hat for the occasion (I trust that she got a set for Emily too). Hopefully some of the other parents made pictures for them. I hope that they'll hold another ceremony for Emily later once it's certain her vitals stay stable and she can stay at home.


There was definitely pictures made though it might be a while before Tara is able to look back at them fondly. That's a good idea about them doing a stay-at-home ceremony for Emily! Maybe an extension of a welcome home part kinda thing. It's not going to fit into the timeline of this fic, but you can imagine it being done!

Quote:
:laugh So cute when Ira goes into "girly mode" as Grandpa!


Being a Grandpa has absolutely let him live out his excited parent mode.

Quote:
And now to the tough parts of the chapter: Tara's mental state is apparently getting worse instead of better.


It is. Sadly.

Quote:
Sad that Tara doesn't see how seriously she needs help.


Painful, even.

Quote:
I can totaly understand that Willow got angry here - very unfair of Tara to say that she is everything Emily has. And Tara, you REALLY need someone to psych you - but it should be a professional and you have to decide to seek that help.
'

Right on all counts.

Quote:
I strongly suspect Tara is lying to herself why she didn't want to leave the NICU - not for Emily's sake (at least not alone) but because it feels somehow like a "safe place" for Tara. In the NICU she hardly has to communicate with anyone and all that is expected from her is holding and feeding Emily and changing her diapers but with a constant "safety net" of machines, nurses and doctors.
Back at home she'll have to divide her attention between all 4 children, interact with Willow and frequently Ira and Michelle and think about household stuff either. I guess she's - subconsciously - terrified of that and that is the reasom why she went totally hysterical when she was told that they can already take Emily home after all.


I think you're very wise and have her pegged. It's not just a huge adjustment for the babies (who are so little they take things like that in their stride) but for them to settle back into normality. Normality is terrifying when you don't feel normal anymore.

Quote:
So right now I'm assuming "crash position" because I expect that sooner or later Tara will break down at home - I'm just hoping it won't be so bad that she has to be put in a mental health clinic but that some ambulant therapy at a psychiatrist will be enough to help her.


Well, I'll say this - I have no intention of separating Tara from her family again.

Thanks for your feedback!



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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 25th 2020)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2020 4:00 am 
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Chapter Twenty-Two




Tara’s eyes drooped, desperate for sleep.


Of course, it was 10 am and not 10 pm where sleep might be welcome and she couldn’t just fall asleep on the spot when all of the family was here.


So she sat slumped into the couch with barely-able-to-keep-open eyes and tried to drown out the once-joyful sound of her children playing with their new toys on Christmas morning.


She was teetering somewhere in the existence of delirium when suddenly a loud sound cut through everything with a sharp trill.


Tara’s lethargic eyes became as wide as saucers and she dropped from the couch onto the floor on all floors and flung herself toward where Emily and Lily were laying on their mat on the floor.


“Emily,” she screeched as she repeatedly ran her finger up and down the sole of her youngest daughter’s foot, “Emily, breath!”


Emily’s face was scrunched in distaste at the loud sound but then Tara heard several distinct puffs of breath and took in a long breath of her own.


Emily was breathing.


So why was the alarm still going off?


She moved her hand up to Emily’s ankle and realized the cuff was gone. She looked all around and spotted Robyn holding it, looking a bit shocked.


Tara grabbed it off of her.


“You can never take this off of her, ever.”


Robyn made a small pout.


“I play, Mom-mee.”


“You can’t play with this!” Tara replied, pained and drained.


Robyn’s lower lip protruded.


“I sowwy Mom-mee.”


“She didn’t know, Mom,” JJ cut in from behind, his brow furrowed too.


Tara was dangerously close to tears.


“We told you both!”


She wasn’t loud but the tension was palpable.


“She’s just little,” JJ replied a bit timidly, “She didn’t mean it.”


Just then Willow skidded in with just one sock on, having abandoned getting dressed mid-way through.


“What’s going on?” she said, falling toward them all the same way Tara had, “I heard the alarm.”


With shaking hands, Tara secured the cuff back around Emily’s ankle.


“Robyn took the cuff off,” she said quietly, with a tensed jaw.


Willow could see the quake in Tara’s movements and the scared look on Robyn’s face. JJ looked frustrated and maybe even angry and that startled her all the more.


She reached for Robyn and held her gently in her lap.


“Okay, Robyn, we don’t touch that. It keeps Emily safe and she has to wear it all the time. You won’t ever touch it again, yeah? Promise?”


“I pwomise Mom-ma, I sowwy!” Robyn burst into tears and buried her face into Willow’s chest, “I ‘urt Em-lee?”


“No, baby, Emily is okay,” Willow comforted, turning Robyn around to show her the babies wiggling happily again, “Look, she loves the little dinosaur you drew her up on her mobile.”


Willow waved the little homemade picture they’d clipped on when Robyn drew them as thank yous to the babies for giving her the new panda and koala bear toys they’d ‘gifted’ her. She’d chosen to draw them a dinosaur and a shark, which didn’t quite offer the same cuddly motif as the rest of the animals on the mobile, but they were drawn with love, so up they went.


“Give your baby sisters a kiss, a nice gentle one,” Willow advised, leaning down with Robyn so she could press her mouth to Emily and then Lily’s forehead, “Good girl, now give your Mommy a hug.”


Robyn looked up at Tara with her big, blue eyes and slowly crawled into her lap, where Tara closed the embrace gently. Willow patted Tara’s back and Robyn’s back at the same time.


“Everyone got a little fright but everything is all okay.”


She looked over to JJ to see if he needed any reassurance but he was already going back to his games console.


“Robbie, you wanna play two-player?”


Robyn smiled and sprang out of Tara’s arms.


“Yah!”


She toddled away happily, all forgotten, but the slightly confused look on JJ’s face directed toward her hit Tara right in the heart.


Never had she felt like a bigger piece of shit.


Willow guided Tara back up to the couch and exhaled.


“I know, my heart stopped when I heard it too. It’s okay, though. Take a breath.”


Tara tried but nothing seemed to be able to fully fill her lungs.


It appeared as though she was breathing normally again though, as Willow suddenly turned to her excitedly.


“Close your eyes.”


Tara frowned. Did Willow not realize how big a request she was asking?


“Close your eyes,” Willow insisted playfully.


Tara realized Willow just meant for a moment and so obliged.


Something was quickly placed in her lap.


“Open.”


Tara opened her eyes and looked down at an envelope atop a wrapped gift.


“Willow, I…” she stopped and swallowed, swamped by guilt, “I didn’t get you anything.”


“You mean apart from the two mini-mes?” Willow smiled down at the floor then back up at Tara tenderly, “You gave me everything.”


She pressed a long kiss on Tara’s cheek.


“Open it, open it!”


Tara turned it over in her hands, trying to beat the shake, and managed to open it. There was a sweet verse to a wonderful wife inside. Tara felt nothing like one.


She let the card fall to the side and unwrapped the gift. It was a frame, one she recognized because Willow had already given it to her once before. Exactly one year ago.


Except this time, it had a photo inside.


Lily and Emily in their crib together for the first time, sleeping peacefully, finally home.


Willow smiled down at it.


“I told you that that’s where we’d put the very first photo of our new baby. I just didn’t know it would be babies.”


Tara gulped.


“T-thank…thank you, Willow. That’s very sweet.”


“And it’s not even the best part,” Willow replied excitedly, “I’m giving you a day off! Whenever you choose. You get to go and do whatever you want. I’ll take care of all the kiddos, don’t you worry. They won’t even know you’re gone.”


Tara swallowed.


That sounded about right.


She couldn’t blame Willow for not wanting her around.


She also couldn’t even fathom the thought of leaving the babies for an hour, let alone a day.


“T-Thank you,” she said eventually, quietly.


“You’re welcome,” Willow replied, though with a small frown.


She sat back on the couch to look at the new toys spread out over the floor.


“God bless my Dad, huh? I’ve barely had a chance to even think about the holidays. He had it figured out before I even asked! He even organized Christmas presents, though it probably killed him.”


Tara nodded swiftly.


“Y-yes, yes,” she said, feeling so inconsiderate, “I’ll thank him.”


Stupid Tara. Should have done that already.


Willow’s eyes averted to the children.


“Hey Robyn, Jake,” she said mischievously, “I think Rudolph left presents outside.”


The kids both looked at each other and jumped up, making a beeline for the door.


“Put your shoes on!” Willow called after them and grinned over at Tara, “Okay, that one is on me. I got them snowball shooters!”


She stood up excitedly.


“Are you coming? We can wrap the babies up warm.”


“No, no,” Tara cleared her throat and shook her head, “I think they should stay inside. I-I don’t want one of them to get accidentally hit. And the other neighborhood kids will probably join. I don’t want the babies getting sick.”


“Yeah, okay,” Willow shrugged one shoulder, then nodded outside, “You mind if I…?


Tara nodded.


“Go ahead.”


She preferred to be on her own anyway.


When it came to her emotions, misery did not love company.



Tara’s eyes opened from their state of exhaustive non-sleep into the dark room.


She could hear it.


Not even a sound.


A pre-sound.


It was barely audible, but she could hear it.


She sat up and swung her legs out of bed, all the movement she needed to be able to reach into the first bassinet where Emily was sleeping. Her eyes honed in on Emily’s face and adjusted quickly to make out her features.


About three seconds later, Emily's eyes popped open and her mouth opened to cry. She didn’t get a chance to though as Tara already had her in her arm and comforting away the cry that never had a chance to form.


“That’s my girl,” she whispered as she rocked her gently.


After a moment there was a small stream of light that rose over Tara’s head and settled there. Tara looked over her shoulder and saw Robyn idling in the doorway, twisting around on her ankles.


“Robyn, go back to bed,” Tara said quietly.


Robyn stayed there, grinning cutely.


“You heard me,” Tara repeated firmly as Emily started to fuss, “Bed. Now.”


Robyn’s brow furrowed and so did Tara’s.


“Robyn, bed!”


Willow woke up during the exchange and with a sleepy look between the two deduced what was going on and threw the blanket off of her to go catch Robyn’s hand and lead her out of the room.


“You gotta just bring her back without words,” she said on her return and as her eyes fought the urge to close, she spotted the muted outline of a frown on Tara’s face, “It’s okay, you haven’t been here so much. We’ve let her co-sleep on her demand her whole life, she’s still getting used to having to stay in bed.”


Tara ducked her head.


She’d always been the one to lead their parenting and now she was making rookie mistakes.


Her jaw clenched painfully.


Willow didn’t see it as Lily decided to join the late-night party with a small cry.


“Come here Lily-pad,” Willow cooed as she picked her up, “Let me get you a bottle.”


“I can feed her,” Tara cut in quickly.


“Oh,” Willow replied, turning in the bed, “Do you want to swap?”


Tara’s breath caught.


She looked down at Emily, tiny and frail in the crook of her arm and over at Lily, more robust but chomping for her breast.


How was she supposed to choose?


They both needed her and she wasn’t enough.


She just wasn’t enough.


Both babies were quickly moving from quiet mewing toward needy crying.


“Tara?” Willow pushed.


Tara blinked and found some part of her cognizant enough to try and react to the situation.


“N-No,” she said eventually, her voice somehow sounding normal despite the doom trying to jump up from her throat, “No, just feed her. I-I’m trying to get Emily to latch.”


Her heart tore in two.


Willow chuckled, an unnerving and undermining sound to Tara’s ears.


“3 am is not the time to try and get Em on the boob,” she said, leaving Lily beside Tara as she jumped up again, “I’ll go get the bottles.”


As soon as Willow left the full-blown screaming did indeed start and Tara quickly tried to juggle both babies to comfort them.


“Okay, sweetie…okay, Emmy, I’ve got you. I’ve got you, Lil, I’m—”


She put them both on their backs and kneeled on the floor in front of them so she could address them both.


“Okay sweethearts, it’s all okay.”


She was barely holding in her own tears so seeing their little faces streaming with tears was not helping her overwhelming sense of failure.


“Please babies,” she whined as her mind flashed back to being in the delivery room with all of the screaming and shouting and Lily’s little cry as she was taken away.


Her eyes tried to rapidly blink away the tears so she wouldn’t stain her daughters’ cheeks with any more of them but it didn’t work. Everything was spiraling and she felt like she did back in the delivery room; wanting to run but locked down.


She couldn’t run then but she could now and her feet were moving before her brain even knew what was happening. She threw herself into the bathroom and then the shower cubicle with her knees up and her breath barely coming at all.


Some short blur of time later, she heard a yell.


“Oh my god!”


Basic mothering instincts kicked back in and Tara hurried back into the room, where Willow was using the nursing pillow to feed both babies their bottles. The crying had stopped but it still rang in Tara’s ears.


Willow looked over sharply as she navigated both hands trying to feed.


“Tara how could you leave them in bed alone like that?! They could have fallen or suffocated!”


Tara looked like she’d been slapped.


“I-I’m sorry, I…”


“What were you thinking?!” Willow exploded, then her shoulders slumped.


Tara made much the same motion.


Everything was so loud but so lonely.


“I'll go,” she said quietly, heading for the door, “I'm very sorry.”


“Wait! Go?” Willow called in distress, “I, you just put the babies down wrong. It-it was just a mistake. I overreacted. You were just going to the bathroom.”


Tara hung her head; she didn’t deserve sympathy.


“I-I’ll go prep more bottles for later.”


She didn’t give Willow a chance to respond and went straight downstairs, past the bottle sterilizer, and kept going all the way down to the basement to cry.



Tara pushed her food around her plate while everyone else at the table happily gobbled theirs.


“Rose, this chicken casserole is delicious!” Willow grinned, putting her hands over her stomach, “You come to visit us, bring gifts AND lunch? You’re welcome back any time!”


Rose chuckled.


“It’s very simple but I’m glad you enjoyed it. Did I even see Robyn eat her broccoli?”


Robyn looked down at her plate, shocked at its deceit by presenting a vegetable as something yummy.


“Can we go play the swingball Rose brought us?” JJ asked with an eager face and empty plate, “Please, please, please?!”


Willow smiled.


“Oh alright. But everyone has to bring their plate in first!”


The kids happily cleared the plates and JJ dragged the box with the game in it out to the front yard.


“Tara, I’m, uh, guessing you don’t want to come with?” Willow asked cautiously.


Tara looked up and seemed surprised that not everyone was at the table anymore. She blinked twice and tried to recall what she’d been asked.


“Babies,” she croaked out.


The babies were fast asleep but Willow just nodded.


“‘Kay. Rose, do you want to come?”


Rose smiled easily.


“Why don’t I keep Tara company with the babies. I haven’t gotten my eyeful of cuteness yet.”


Willow nodded again and went to join the kids in the front yard.


“Will we retire into the living room?” Rose suggested.


Tara nodded. She stood and lifted one of the babies' car seats and seemed startled when Rose went to take the other.


She closed her fist by her side and swallowed.


Not for the first time that day, Rose glanced at Tara with concern.


They carefully brought the seats into the living room and Rose sat in the armchair opposite Tara on the couch.


Tara had her hands clasped between her knees and her gaze downward.


Rose went back in forth in her mind what to say, but eventually just spoke what was on her mind.


“It’s hard, isn’t it? You think your body will go back to normal once you’ve given birth but it doesn’t,” she said sympathetically.


Tara looked up unsurely.


“I-I guess.”


Rose nodded gently.


“The mind either,” she said nonchalantly, “You feel permanently altered from something so momentous as childbirth. It does come back to normal, though. Changed, yes, enhanced some might even say but you feel like a real person again.”


Tara’s jaw trembled.


“…d-do you?”


“If you nurture it,” Rose replied sincerely, and nodded for several seconds as she considered her next words, “Your mother struggled with post-natal depression.”


Tara’s eyes widened and Rose looked off fondly as she always did when discussing Lisa.


“She loved you so much the ache of anything happening to you was too much to bear. And she just couldn’t reconcile that such a perfect little bundle like you would need to be cared for by someone as imperfect as herself, as she saw it.”


Tara reached across her chest and clutched her opposite shoulder.


“W-what happened?”


Rose held a hand up sadly.


“Well, we weren’t as wise back then as we are now. They called it the baby blues and said it would pass. Thank god I had a friend who was a psychiatric nurse and was able to get your mother in to see someone without your father finding out.”


She looked for Tara's reaction, who's eyes were darting back and forth. Rose sighed wistfully.


“Such a long time ago. But she would always say she was so happy she got help before she missed out on too much of your infancy.”


She held Tara’s gaze with a smile until Lily started to stir and almost as soon as she started to cry, Emily followed.


Tara blinked heavily.


“They're hungry.”


Rose stood.


“I think that’s my cue to give you some privacy. Unless I can help in any way?”


Tara shook her head, gaze down again.


“I have my pillow.”


Rose quickly crossed the room and gave Tara a brief hug.


“If only we knew back then what we know now, eh?” she smiled sadly and kissed Tara on the forehead, Thank you for having me. “It's been so great to see you all.”


She looked at Tara for another second, then nodded and retreated out toward the front door.


Tara sank back down onto the couch but didn’t have time to think.


The babies needed to be fed and that's all she had the energy to care about.



Tara sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at the twins sleeping in their bassinets.


Staring, really.


Making sure she could see every breath.


She wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting there now, but the twins hadn’t woken up again yet so it couldn’t have been hours.


Willow came into the bedroom and went into the bathroom to use the facilities.


“JJ wants to go to the park to play basketball with his friends,” she called from inside, followed by the sound of a toilet flushing, and then Willow came back out, wringing her hands, “I thought we could wrap everyone up and have a family walk.”


Tara was too exhausted to even look up.


“No, Willow, I don’t want the babies to go outside yet. They weren’t even supposed to be born yet. And it’s flu season.”


“Any other excuses?” Willow muttered jadedly under her breath.


Tara’s eyes just grew more dejected but no one could see but the floor.


“The doctors said to keep them inside. They’re still too little.”


Willow sighed. They did say it would be okay if they were wrapped up and had minimal human interaction, but Willow was tired too; too tired to argue.


“Okay,” she replied with a nod of her head and an attempt at a cheerful upswing in her tone, “How about you take JJ and Robyn to the park and I’ll stay with the little ones?”


Tara rolled her neck.


“Just let him walk to the park if he wants to go. It’s only a few blocks, he brings Woofy there sometimes.”


“I think that’s considered monster parenting these days,” Willow joked and missed Tara’s shoulders shriveling as she sat beside her, “So I get why the twins can’t go outside but why haven’t you gone outside since we brought them home? I know you don’t have diabetes anymore but exercise is still good. Or even just some fresh air? I thought you could take me up on my gift for a day off and go to the holiday sales and treat yourself or something.”


Tara felt the breath start to come quickly in her chest.


“I can’t go. They need me,” she answered with a gulp, “They cry every ten minutes and there’s spit-up all over me and I still can’t get Emily to latch on so I can’t feed them together unless they both use bottles and I want to breastfeed Lily and I’m just completely and utterly failing at all of this—”


“Okay, Tara,” Willow replied with a sigh and Tara realized she’d only said that second portion of her sentence in her head despite it feeling like she was screaming it out loud, “I’m still exhausted from all the night feeds. Robyn’s having a nap. I’m going to go tell JJ he can go out and try to rest on the couch too. Call me if I don’t wake up when they do, okay?”


“Okay,” Tara answered, hollow.


“Okay,” Willow answered in much the same tone, hesitated, then left.


Tara continued to stare.


It was near to their wake time, she could tell by the little fists they were making.


At some point Robyn wandered in, trailing her blankie behind her and rubbing her eyes sleepily.


“I thirsty.”


“Your sippy cup is by the couch,” Tara answered on autopilot.


Robyn walked over, cutely turning her feet in.


“Don’ wan’ watah.”


“Then you can’t be that thirsty,” Tara replied like a drone.


Robyn frowned and turned her attention to the babies. She reached out and Tara caught her arm.


“Robyn, don’t touch them.”


“I say ‘lo,” Robyn replied cheerily, “‘Lo Em-lee, ‘lo Lil-lee.”


She reached out again.


“I told you not to touch them,” Tara said harshly and pulled Robyn back by the waist, “They’re sleeping.”


“I say ‘lo! I GWEAT big sistah,” Robyn argued like this forgave all sins and tried to twist out of Tara’s grip hard enough that she kicked one bassinet, though thankfully not either baby.


Tara felt her breath leave her body as she watched Robyn’s foot marginally miss Emily’s head and pulled her away, screeching.


“Goddamn it Robyn, can you just do what you’re told for once!”


Robyn fell on her butt, stunned.


Mommy never, ever shouted at her.


It was a bit of a game as to how to next press Momma’s buttons but Mommy never EVER shouted at her.


She looked up at Tara and with a wobbling lip, burst into tears.


The babies awoke with all of the commotion and Tara backed up against the wall. She slowly fell down with her knees up against her chest and she began to sob too.


True to her word, Willow was climbing the stairs within thirty seconds of the twins waking to help.


She wasn’t prepared for the scene she was confronted with.


She rushed to Robyn first to check for injury.


“What the frilly heck is going on?”


Tara barely looked up as she croaked out a response between tears.


“Willow, I need help.”


“Yeah, I—” Willow started to respond to the chaos but stopped when she actually saw the sorrow embedded deep on Tara’s face.


All at once, she saw what she’d hoped wasn’t there; what was so hauntingly present.


It was her turn to fall onto her butt, stunned as it hit her like a gust of hot air, except it chilled her to the bone.


Tara didn’t need help, she needed help.


She swallowed to get some moisture in her mouth.


“I-I know.”


She blinked several times and looked down shamefully.


“I know.”


Finally, her ears tuned back into all the screaming and she started to look around. She stood and physically lifted Robyn out of the room because she was the easiest to control right now. Robyn's tears stopped pretty quick when Willow placed a plate of cookies and her iPad in front of her.


Willow returned to the bedroom where everyone had stopped crying and Tara was sitting by the babies, gently rubbing their legs to calm them — or herself, Willow wasn’t sure — down.


“Okay, I let her have unlimited screen time so she’s happy and quiet. I put on old episodes of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood to lessen the guilt.”


Tara didn’t respond even after Willow waited.


“Tara?” Willow prompted after another moment.


Tara seemed startled that Willow was back in the room and held her hands up meekly.


“I-I’m just playing with them.”


Willow frowned.


“I know.”


Tara’s eyes grew downcast and her voice meek.


“Please don’t take them away from me.”


Willow dropped to her knees.


“Tara, no one is taking them away from you.”


Tara looked up with tears filling her eyes.


“Please don’t take Robyn. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”


Willow felt her blood run cold at the broken tone of her wife’s voice.


“Tara, what happened?”


“I shouted at her,” she replied, barely able to get the words out as she rubbed her eyes, “Everyone was so loud and she almost kicked Emily and I lost it, like him, I was like him and I don’t deserve her or any of you but please don’t take them away from me, please.”


Willow’s shoulders slumped and she held her hands up in the air, shaking her head.


“Baby, nothing like that…no one is…the kids are…Robyn doesn’t even…she’s two, she’s forgotten already, all she’ll remember from today is a belly full of snickerdoodles.”


Tara’s head dropped into her knees again and she continued to cry.


Willow felt her heart break.


“You are not him. And we’re gonna get you some help,” she promised, “And I’m going to stop putting my head in the sand. I-I thought when we came home things might get better but…”


Tara just cried and now Willow was the one who could do nothing but stare, helpless.


The babies began to fuss.


Willow looked over at them and blinked rapidly.


“Shit, they need a bottle. Shit.”


She started to stand, then moved back down and reached out for Tara’s hand.


“Uh…um…a-are you gonna be okay for a minute?”


Tara snatched her hand away, afraid.


Willow saw the panic spark in her wife’s eyes.


She visibly deflated.


This was even worse than she thought.


And she’d been ignoring it.


She frowned, deeply, but she had to go get those bottles.


“I’ll be back as soon as I can.”


She jumped up then and ran out quickly, her brain trying to process many things at once, most notably: where do we go from here?


Minutes later, after popping her head in on Robyn who was living up to the promise of forgetting any trauma as she giggled away with the screen, Willow returned upstairs still shaking a bottle in each hand.


Willow noticed the crying had stopped yet again before she got to their room but didn’t know why until she saw both of their mouths were already busy.


She stopped in her tracks.


“Whoa.”


Tara looked up with red cheeks and shocked eyes.


“I-I was just holding Emily while I fed Lily and she just did it.”


Willow slowly sank to her knees in front of them all and watched both twins feed from Tara for the very first time. She watched how Emily’s little mouth latched onto Tara’s breast as naturally as Lily’s — like she’d been doing it forever.


She looked up and Tara’s chin was on her chest again as she sobbed.


Willow reached a hand out but thought better of it this time.


“Are they good tears or bad tears?”


“I don’t know anymore, Willow,” Tara said with a hiccup, “I never know anymore.”


Willow wasn’t sure how many unbroken pieces of heart she had left.


“Darling,” she said softly, feeling desperately helpless when Tara seemed to averse to being touched, “You don’t have to hide these feelings. A-and I’m not ‘psyching’ you, I swear. If I was, I would have realized how bad things are a lot sooner.”


Tara wiped one eye on the shoulder of her shirt.


“I don’t want to feel like this anymore.”


“I’m going to organize someone for you to talk to,” Willow replied quickly, “Okay?”


Tara didn’t really react.


Willow swallowed.


“You have nothing to be ashamed of.”


Tara looked down at her two babies taking nourishment from her.


A brief flit of color in her otherwise gray-scaled world.


She found the strength she needed.


“Okay,” she agreed with a sniffle, “I’ll talk to someone.”


Willow nodded, unsure if she felt relief or anxiety at the prospect.


“And soon.”

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 26th 2020)
PostPosted: Sun Apr 26, 2020 9:15 am 
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20. Not one Much for the Timber
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Ha! Dibs.

A lot of me not commenting regularly has been because I didn't want to rail on Tara. I get that she has postpartum depression, it was obvious, but nonetheless annoying. Kudos to Willow for being incredibly patient and kind throughout. Tara owes her big time and not just for the last couple of months, but for the ENTIRE pregnancy as well. It has definitely been a rough ride all the way around and for everyone involved. I was mostly annoyed because, after all these years, Tara is still treating Willow like the junior partner. When Willow has been the responsible party holding everything together.

Yesterday, I was in the middle of writing feedback when the power went out. :gnome Anyway, before I lost the feedback, I actually said, "I hope Rose shows up and points it out to them." #JMT lol I really felt like everyone else was just too close to really see what was going on or they were just afraid to say anything. I think they figured Willow and Tara already had enough on their plates.

What's happening with Tara also goes deeper than the postpartum, it just brought it all to the surface. These things have been simmering and seeping out little by little for years. I remember a couple of specific instances: Once in college when she was sick and kept pushing herself to the point of exhaustion and then again after college when she did something similar and ended up in the hospital. *I think I'm remembering that right. If not, :punish Tara definitely needs to learn how to say "when."

In this last chapter, I think what got to me the most, was JJ being the most mature person in the room and protecting his sister. Tara seriously owes him not only an apology but an explanation as well. Putting your child in the position of going up against his mother to defend his sister, not so great for the kid. Those kinds of things tend to stick with kids, but I hope it doesn't with JJ.

Anyway, on a lighter note...

Quote:
“Come here Lily-pad,” Willow cooed as she picked her up, “Let me get you a bottle.”
:rofl PERFECT.

I know everything will work out and not just because it "has to." It'll work out because they love each other.

-S.

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 26th 2020)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2020 12:29 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

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Second dibs :wink - I raise my Indiana Jones hat to you, Shelby.

This chapter was painful to read with Tara's suffering risen to the highest level so far. But it's always darkest before the dawn and I have hope that things will improve now after Tara and Willow have both realized that Tara needs professional help.

Quote:
“Your mother struggled with post-natal depression.”


Tara’s eyes widened and Rose looked off fondly as she always did when discussing Lisa.


“She loved you so much the ache of anything happening to you was too much to bear. And she just couldn’t reconcile that such a perfect little bundle like you would need to be cared for by someone as imperfect as herself, as she saw it.”


Tara reached across her chest and clutched her opposite shoulder.


“W-what happened?”


Rose held a hand up sadly.


“Well, we weren’t as wise back then as we are now. They called it the baby blues and said it would pass. Thank god I had a friend who was a psychiatric nurse and was able to get your mother in to see someone without your father finding out.”


She looked for Tara's reaction, who's eyes were darting back and forth. Rose sighed wistfully.


“Such a long time ago. But she would always say she was so happy she got help before she missed out on too much of your infancy.”


She held Tara’s gaze with a smile until Lily started to stir and almost as soon as she started to cry, Emily followed.

Quote:
Rose quickly crossed the room and gave Tara a brief hug.


“If only we knew back then what we know now, eh?” she smiled sadly and kissed Tara on the forehead, Thank you for having me. “It's been so great to see you all.”


She looked at Tara for another second, then nodded and retreated out toward the front door.


Tara sank back down onto the couch but didn’t have time to think.


The babies needed to be fed and that's all she had the energy to care about.

Thank goodness that Rose told Tara about her mom's post natal depression and that she overcame it with professional help - I think that got stuck with her and helped her realizing and voicing to Willow later that she needed help herself.

Quote:
Tara seemed startled that Willow was back in the room and held her hands up meekly.


“I-I’m just playing with them.”


Willow frowned.


“I know.”


Tara’s eyes grew downcast and her voice meek.


“Please don’t take them away from me.”


Willow dropped to her knees.


“Tara, no one is taking them away from you.”


Tara looked up with tears filling her eyes.


“Please don’t take Robyn. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”


Willow felt her blood run cold at the broken tone of her wife’s voice.


“Tara, what happened?”


“I shouted at her,” she replied, barely able to get the words out as she rubbed her eyes, “Everyone was so loud and she almost kicked Emily and I lost it, like him, I was like him and I don’t deserve her or any of you but please don’t take them away from me, please.”

:cry So heartbreaking that Tara feels that her biggest fear (turning into a violent parent like her father) is coming true and that she would be seperated from all of her children "as punishment".

Quote:
Willow felt her heart break.


“You are not him. And we’re gonna get you some help,” she promised, “And I’m going to stop putting my head in the sand. I-I thought when we came home things might get better but…”


Tara just cried and now Willow was the one who could do nothing but stare, helpless.

Quote:
“Uh…um…a-are you gonna be okay for a minute?”


Tara snatched her hand away, afraid.


Willow saw the panic spark in her wife’s eyes.


She visibly deflated.


This was even worse than she thought.


And she’d been ignoring it.

Quote:
Willow reached a hand out but thought better of it this time.


“Are they good tears or bad tears?”


“I don’t know anymore, Willow,” Tara said with a hiccup, “I never know anymore.”


Willow wasn’t sure how many unbroken pieces of heart she had left.


“Darling,” she said softly, feeling desperately helpless when Tara seemed to averse to being touched, “You don’t have to hide these feelings. A-and I’m not ‘psyching’ you, I swear. If I was, I would have realized how bad things are a lot sooner.”


Poor Willow, feeling so utterly helpless and guilty that she didn't realize Tara's depression sooner.
I strongly recommend that Willow should talk with a psychotherapist as well to help her deal with her feelings of guilt and helplessness and the traumas she suffered during and after the early birth.

Quote:
Tara looked up with red cheeks and shocked eyes.


“I-I was just holding Emily while I fed Lily and she just did it.”


Willow slowly sank to her knees in front of them all and watched both twins feed from Tara for the very first time. She watched how Emily’s little mouth latched onto Tara’s breast as naturally as Lily’s — like she’d been doing it forever.

Yay, go Emily! :applause

Quote:
Tara looked down at her two babies taking nourishment from her.


A brief flit of color in her otherwise gray-scaled world.


She found the strength she needed.


“Okay,” she agreed with a sniffle, “I’ll talk to someone.”


Willow nodded, unsure if she felt relief or anxiety at the prospect.


“And soon.”

Yes Tara, such an important decision! I'm proud of you!


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 26th 2020)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Finey_McFine

Quote:
Ha! Dibs.


Ha! Well done :D

Quote:
A lot of me not commenting regularly has been because I didn't want to rail on Tara. I get that she has postpartum depression, it was obvious, but nonetheless annoying.


It's absolutely fair to see her reactions as annoying. Depression is just as hard on the partner/family. But apportioning blame really doesn't help the situation.

Quote:
Kudos to Willow for being incredibly patient and kind throughout. Tara owes her big time and not just for the last couple of months, but for the ENTIRE pregnancy as well. It has definitely been a rough ride all the way around and for everyone involved.


See, I don't see anyone owing anyone anything. They went into it together and by any stretch, Tara has suffered the most throughout it all. But I also don't see that mindset helping because it sucked for them both and they should just be trying to move forward together.

Quote:
I was mostly annoyed because, after all these years, Tara is still treating Willow like the junior partner. When Willow has been the responsible party holding everything together.


Now that's a reasonable issue they should be talking about/dealing with. Eventually.

Quote:
Yesterday, I was in the middle of writing feedback when the power went out. :gnome


Oof. I remember way, way back when I first starting posting fic I would write feedback in the text box here on the KB. At one point I went from writing a few lines of feedback to going through it quote by quote like I do now. It obviously took longer and one of the first few times I would click away to the main point to reference something or to look up a google search or something and then when I went back the page of feedback auto refreshed itself, losing everything. This happened THREE TIMES in one session until I got the message. So frustrating though.

Quote:
Anyway, before I lost the feedback, I actually said, "I hope Rose shows up and points it out to them." #JMT lol I really felt like everyone else was just too close to really see what was going on or they were just afraid to say anything. I think they figured Willow and Tara already had enough on their plates.


#JMT Yes she was the only one close enough yet far away enough to intervene at all. Also, she's the only one who has maybe dealt with it before (with Lisa). There's possibly an argument that Sheila got post-natal-depression that she never got over/treated for (ironic considering her profession) and it contributed to her bad relationship with Willow, but if Ira didn't see it then, he won't see it now.

Quote:
What's happening with Tara also goes deeper than the postpartum, it just brought it all to the surface. These things have been simmering and seeping out little by little for years. I remember a couple of specific instances: Once in college when she was sick and kept pushing herself to the point of exhaustion and then again after college when she did something similar and ended up in the hospital. *I think I'm remembering that right. If not, :punish Tara definitely needs to learn how to say "when."


Here's my take, Tara didn't get anywhere near the amount of therapy she needed way back in college. She basically got enough to stem the panic attacks and then completely underplayed her need. Why did she stop? Because she didn't want to take the resource away from someone else. Sound familiar? She devalued herself so much, for so long; it's so ingrained that she doesn't even see it. She's been able to coast on it as a relatively healthy woman but you point out the places where her cup has runneth over. Willow recognizes Tara tends to put herself last but only really gets frustrated when it starts to affect the family/kids or it's an emergency situation. I'm hoping all of this finally makes her confront a lot of repressed emotions.

Quote:
In this last chapter, I think what got to me the most, was JJ being the most mature person in the room and protecting his sister. Tara seriously owes him not only an apology but an explanation as well. Putting your child in the position of going up against his mother to defend his sister, not so great for the kid. Those kinds of things tend to stick with kids, but I hope it doesn't with JJ.


I hope it does stick with JJ. I hope it gives him an empathic view on mental illness. I hope it shows him people make mistakes and can make up for it. I hope he learns that mothers are human too.

Quote:
Anyway, on a lighter note..

:rofl PERFECT.


:D

Quote:
I know everything will work out and not just because it "has to." It'll work out because they love each other.


They love each other endlessly and that is a huge motivator, but they have to be willing to work too.

Thanks so much for your feedback!

Will's redemption

Quote:
Second dibs :wink - I raise my Indiana Jones hat to you, Shelby.


Image

Quote:
This chapter was painful to read with Tara's suffering risen to the highest level so far. But it's always darkest before the dawn and I have hope that things will improve now after Tara and Willow have both realized that Tara needs professional help.


There's light there and she will get to where she needs to be.

Quote:
Thank goodness that Rose told Tara about her mom's post natal depression and that she overcame it with professional help - I think that got stuck with her and helped her realizing and voicing to Willow later that she needed help herself.


I think it put the notion in her mind. Tara hadn't really considered it before.

Quote:
:cry So heartbreaking that Tara feels that her biggest fear (turning into a violent parent like her father) is coming true and that she would be seperated from all of her children "as punishment".


It's her worst nightmare and part of what stopped her seeing what was going on with her. (or denying it)

Quote:
Yay, go Emily! :applause


Seeing the babies thrive can only be good for Tara.

Quote:
Yes Tara, such an important decision! I'm proud of you!


That's good! Keep that in mind...

Thanks for your feedback!



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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 26th 2020)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2020 6:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Chapter Twenty-Three




“Bye Robbie, bye Ella! Have a good day!”


Robyn skipped away happily to join Alice and Ella in their car. Robyn was a GREAT big sister but even she was getting sick of all of the crying. They were swinging by the Harris’s to get Pixie and have a ‘girlie’ day out. Alice’s idea, something about needing a day away from men.


Willow would have to rebuff any gender stereotypes later. They needed the space today.


Ira and Michelle had already brought JJ to his basketball game and the babies were sleeping off a milk coma. She passed by them sleeping together in their crib and smiled at Emily’s dreamy face. Her cries had been less high pitched since she was able to feed from Tara instead of the bottle and even though it was the same milk, Willow swore she was sleeping just a little bit more deeply afterward. And with that adorable milk-drunk face.


She hovered for a moment watching them. These moments — or the ones where Robyn’s tongue would poke between her teeth as she laughed at something or when JJ would spin around in a victory dance and cheer when he taught Woofy a new trick — were the moments of joy Willow hung onto between the ever-present lingering fear for her wife’s mental state.


She noticed now, when Tara would sneak off to cry and wondered how long she hadn’t noticed before.


She wondered if she should go down to her and comfort her or leave her alone.


She wondered how she didn’t seem to remember a damn thing about the four years of study she put into dealing with situations like this.


Or why she hadn’t changed her major, to begin with when she didn’t need to suck-up to her mother anymore but that was an old regret weaving itself into the new ones.


She checked her watch and leaned down for a moment to inhale from the babies’ heads. Another moment to get her through. When she’d had her fill, she continued into hers and Tara’s bedroom.


Tara was sitting on the end, staring downward.


She was doing that a lot lately too, Willow noticed.


Mostly at the twins, but sometimes at nothing at all.


“Tara?” Willow called softly to ease her out of whatever trance she was in.


Tara slowly blinked and looked up. Willow walked further into the room.


“Our parents are coming over to watch the twins once JJ goes off with the team after the game…” she trailed off and bit her lip before continuing gently, “You’re gonna have to get dressed, honey. We have to leave soon.”


Tara looked down at her pajamas stained with various baby fluids — it didn’t matter how dark a place your mind was in, your babies still needed to be taken care of.


She looked back up at Willow, pale and twitchy.


“I-I was thinking, m-maybe I should delay the appointment.”


Willow frowned.


“Why would you delay it?” she asked, sidling over to sit beside Tara, “I had to use my best Resolve Voice on the nice insurance agent on the phone to get you in so quick.”


Tara looked down again.


“I can’t leave the babies.”


Willow closed her eyes. How did you appeal to the irrational when it was very rational and real to the other person?


“They won’t be on their own,” she tried to reassure as optimistically as she could, “My dad dotes on them and so does Michelle. Says they’d be happy to babysit any time, even overnight.”


Tara shook her head.


“But they don’t know them very well. Their habits.”


“Good opportunity to learn,” Willow pressed.


Willow suddenly felt the tension from where Tara’s hands were curled under the mattress and pressing in harder and harder.


“They don’t know their cries and they don’t know their schedule and what if Emily’s alarm goes off? They didn’t do the CPR class and—”


Willow quickly kneeled in front of Tara and looked up at her.


“Okay, everything’s okay,” she soothed and tried to guide Tara into a long breath, “What if I stay with them and we’ll ask Dad to drop you off instead?”


From her vantage point, Willow could see the deep creases form around Tara’s eyes.


“Do they know where I’m going?”


“No,” Willow replied softly, “But you have nothing to be ashamed of.”


“So you keep saying,” Tara replied in an echo of a whisper.


“It’s true, Tara,” Willow said, trying not to let her own emotion out in her voice, “And if this were you talking to me in the same position, I know you’d be saying the same.”


Tara’s shoulders remained hunched.


“I don’t want him to know.”


Willow opened her mouth.


“What about—”


“No,” Tara cut her off before she could even finish.


Willow nodded once. She’d just have to figure out another way.


“Okay, we’ll bring them with us,” she said easily and held a hand up before Tara could object, “They won’t be outside or touching other people. They won’t get sick. And they can’t even read yet so they’ll have no idea where we are.”


Willow thought maybe, perhaps Tara smiled an inch.


“Okay?” she asked gently and got a quick little nod in return, “Okay.”


Tara flicked a finger against the corner of her eye.


“Where are they?”


“In their crib,” Willow answered.


Tara winced and then frowned.


“I don’t like them in there.”


“In the nursery?” Willow asked with a confused frown, “Their room?”


Tara bristled. While she was very grateful for the help and having a room to bring the twins home to, it wasn’t how she’d planned it to look.


She thought they had more time.


It was a 12x12 foot reminder of her failure.


“I-I better get dressed.”


Willow nodded and stood.


“I’ll call Dad and tell him he can go out with the team if he wants. He loves it.”


She turned on her heel and headed back downstairs to pick up her phone and called her Dad to tell him the change of plans. When she hung up, she went into the kitchen to pour a fresh cup of coffee for herself. Holding it between both hands, she leaned back against the counter and just closed her eyes for a moment.


Another moment. She had to hang onto these moments.


She opened them again when she felt a slight pressure on her foot. She looked down and spotted Woofy staring back up at her, sitting at her feet.


“JJ will take you for a walk later buddy. You gotta take care of the house for a couple of hours this morning, okay Woofs?”


He continued to stare at her and she sighed.


“You drive a hard bargain.”


She put her cup down and opened the pantry to get a couple of Woofy’s treats. She bent down and fed each to him.


“Payment in snausages as per your contract.”


She fed him the last one and scratched between his ears.


“You’re a good boy.”


Woofy hopped into his bed and curled up happily while Willow washed her hands and drained her coffee.


She made her way back upstairs, rocking back and forth on her heels to stretch her legs. Her calves had been given a break from the constant stair-pounding to prepare bottles since Tara had been able to feed them both, though Willow felt guilty that she wasn’t helping at all on that front anymore. She offered to help with intermittent bottles but Tara was adamant they only fed from her and burst into tears the one time Willow had tried to insist.


The twins were awake but just quietly mewing. They were pretty good at that, especially Emily, and only cried if they needed something or were startled. Willow figured it was a hangover from the NICU and having the ability to cry distorted in their early days. It broke Willow’s heart and she always tried to make sure she never left them long enough that they’d be awake alone for too long.


“Okay, babies, we are going on a car ride,” she announced as she placed a hand on Lily’s belly and shook gently, one of her favorite games— Willow swore she’d laugh if she could, “Your very first one together.”


She brought over some clothes to change them into.


“Maybe you’ll be like your big brother and fall asleep as soon as the keys hit the ignition. I got very familiar with the 24-hour Dairy Queen over on Kenmore Ave after he was born. They called him the Blizzard Baby.”


She started to dress Emily in a little pink and white striped sweater that had once belonged to Robyn as a newborn.


“Gotta get you nice and warm to brave the elements for a whole seven seconds.”


“I-I need to feed them before I go,” Tara’s voice came from the doorway, and Willow did well not to jump.


“Right!” Willow said, spinning around, “Leaky boobs are not the best start to psychoanalysis. I had a whole class on it back in college. The only thing worse than leaky boobs is leaky boundaries!”


She trailed off with a chuckle and moved away to give Tara some space to gather the twins up.


“I will start a shopping list,” Willow said instead, to sound helpful and held her hands up when Tara glanced over at her, “Don’t worry, I’m not bringing the twins to the market. I’ll do it online. Do you need help?”


Tara quietly shook her head as she got the babies settled on the feeding pillow. Willow backed up against the wall and brought out her phone to bring up the supermarket website and browse the offers.


“Any requests?”


“No,” Tara answered, actually sounding serene for a change as she gazed down at her daughters and they stared back.


Willow added a few more things to the list.


“I know we’re running low on shampoo…need to check on the tampon situation. A lot of the lights you use built up while you were pregnant but I can’t really use—”


There was a sound; a hiccupping; sob-like little sound but it confused Willow because she knew the babies’ mouths were otherwise occupied.


She looked up and saw Tara had started to cry and was looking straight up to the ceiling so her tears wouldn’t flow down onto the babies.


Willow quickly pushed off the wall and rushed over.


“What’s—” she frowned and then it suddenly evened out and she went ashen, “Oh, Tara, I’m so sorry.”


She dropped to her knees in front of Tara.


“I’m so, so, so sorry. I-I forgot. That was so insensitive.”


Tara said nothing, just cried; big wracking sobs that shook her whole body and gave the twins a milkshake.


“Wh-What can I do? Should I take the babies?”


“No, they’re feeding!” Tara screeched, so shrill it made Willow fall backward, “Call Becky.”


Willow’s face scrunched.


“Huh?”


“Call Becky!” Tara insisted.


“Okay, okay!” Willow scrambled for her phone and put the call through, “BeckyIt’sWillowTara’sReallyUpsetAndSheWantsToTalkToYouOkay?”


Willow stuck her phone up against Tara’s ear since both hands were occupied holding the twins.


Tara held between her ear and shoulder and started blubbering. Willow quickly ran out, feeling like she was intruding.


She went into their bedroom, closed the door, sat on the end of the bed, and had a little cry to herself. She only needed a minute to pull herself together, though she’d regret her faux pas for weeks.


With everything else going on, Willow had just plain forgotten that Tara had had a hysterectomy.


Apparently, Tara hadn’t.


How could she?


And how could Willow be so dumb?


She continued to kick herself for burdening her wife when she already had so much else to deal with.


She didn’t eavesdrop but she did loiter outside the room to wait until she could hear Tara was off the phone. When she was, Willow knocked on the open door and came over to retrieve her phone, which had slid down into Tara’s lap.


“I-I’m so sorry, Tara.”


“Just forget it,” Tara replied quietly and her voice sounded hollow again, “Can you burp Lily please?”


“Yeah,” Willow replied, hurrying over to take her.


They finished prepping the babies together, donning their jackets to get the few feet to the car but took them off again for safety once in there.


The car ride was silent. Willow tried to crack a joke or two but Tara clearly wasn’t in the mood and Willow couldn’t blame her.


She pulled up at the curb outside the therapist’s office when the little mechanical voice told her that they had reached their destination.


Tara looked out the window and placed her hand against. It fell away and she gulped nervously.


Willow took Tara’s hand and squeezed comfortingly.


“Everything will be ok—”


Tara snatched her hand back.


“I-I gotta go,” she said, her entire deflated demeanor now jumpy and twitchy.


She opened the door and got out quickly.


“We’ll be waiting, I love—” Willow started but the door was promptly slammed shut, “You.”


The noise disturbed Emily, who started to cry.


Willow sighed and pulled off the curb.


“Who feels like a Butterfinger Blizzard?”


On the street, Tara pressed the buzzer multiple times to get into the building she needed to be in. There were other people on the street and she was sure they were looking at her strangely. After what felt like an age, but was really only about fifteen seconds, it opened and Tara tripped inside as she’d been pushing on the door.


This didn’t help matters.


Her breath was really becoming laborious now. She couldn’t quite get it to meet her lungs and each one felt heavy in her chest.


She took a wobbly step towards the reception desk and suddenly wished she could just shrivel into obscurity. Her body did its best to comply, her shoulders visibly shrinking as she willed it to move forward.


When she got there, the friendly receptionist looked up and smiled. She moved a file off to the side and gave Tara her full attention. Tara didn’t want it.


“Hi, can I get your name?”


“T-T-T,” she tried and was so close to bursting into tears “T-T-Tara…”


The receptionist looked sympathetic and Tara felt her chest tighten so much she thought she might collapse.


“Mrs. Rosenberg-Maclay?” the lady said as she looked up the patient list for the day, then grew concerned when she looked back to Tara, “Are you okay? Can I get you some water?”


Tara felt it again, the unsquashable need to flee. She couldn’t control it. Where she couldn’t get her feet to move forward before, now she couldn’t get them to stop as she sped through a door that led to the restroom.


She wanted to splash her face, to tell herself to get it together, to walk out and apologize. Instead, she curled herself into a ball under the sink while clutching her chest and wondered if this was how she died.


About a minute or so later, the restroom door swung open and a woman in her late thirties with shoulder-length blonde hair and wearing a tailored pantsuit and glasses stepped in. She looked around and once she had determined there was no one else there, she strode over to Tara and kneeled in front of her, a foot or two away.


“Tara? I’m Erin Moss, you have your appointment with me today. Tell me what you’re feeling right now.”


This was a perfect stranger but Tara actually found comfort in that.


“Chest,” she replied, hoarse as she pressed her palm there, “Hurts. F-feels fast. A-and my hands are tingly. Can’t breathe.”


Her whole body tensed.


“A-and it f-f-feels like the c-ceiling is about to cave in.”


“Have you experienced these feelings before?” Erin asked in an even tone.


Tara just nodded.


“You’re having a panic attack, Tara,” Erin continued in a soft, assured voice, “You’re safe and I’m here to help you through it.”


Tara’s eyes creased emotionally and she started to lose what little piece of control she had left, but Erin remained calm in her tone as she coaxed Tara through it.


“I’m going to do a breathing exercise with you. It’s okay if you can’t follow straight away. This will pass. I’m here to get you through it. We’re going to inhale for four seconds. You just join in when you can. We’re going to inhale for four seconds.”


Erin probably repeated those four seconds twenty times before Tara was able to catch on, but Tara did catch on and Erin was very quickly able to move her through to exhale until they were in a steady rhythm.


Erin still wasn’t in any rush and didn’t deviate from their pattern until Tara’s body had unfurled itself and her hands had stopped visibly shaking.


“Do you feel able to come through to my office?”


Tara quietly nodded and Erin let her get herself up and led her back out of the restroom and straight through to her office. She showed Tara where she could sit and silently placed tissues and water on the small table in front of her.


She sat opposite Tara with her leg bent over one knee and after a short pause, spoke.


“When you want to, tell me how you’re feeling in your body now.”


Tara slowly drank the whole glass of water back.


“My eyes sting a bit and everything feels heavy.”


She didn’t even realize she was speaking in full sentences again.


“Is this how you usually feel after this occurs?” Erin asked.


Tara opened her mouth, then paused and closed it again.


“It usually feels…like it’s still there. Just bubbling under the surface of my skin. It never quite goes.”


Erin noted something on the legal pad sitting on the arm of her chair.


“And is it still there now?”


Tara seemed surprised as she considered the question and her own body.


“No.”


“When did these episodes start?” Erin asked and sat patiently to wait for an answer.


Tara closed her eyes. She exhaled.


“Just in the past few weeks.”


Erin nodded.


“And is it your first experience of panic attacks?”


Tara shook her head.


“When I was younger, there were a few, um…episodes,” she frowned at her words, “But not since college.”


“Did you seek help at that point?” Erin asked, her consistently soft tone making Tara ease back into the couch without even realizing it.


Tara nodded.


“Yes. I had therapy for a few weeks. I-I was able to resolve a lot of childhood issues and i-it didn’t happen again, except…”


She frowned some more.


“Willow and I had a fight, back then. A-and it was kind of rough and I had one after that. But that was it.”


“And who is Willow?” Erin pressed gently, pen poised.


“My wife,” Tara replied quickly and it disconcerted her for a moment how much she felt able to pour out to someone who didn’t even know who Willow was, “But they weren’t like this, before. Back then, I felt lost and scared. Rooted to the spot. N-Now I want to run, I want to—”


Her face started to crumble all of a sudden.


“I-I want to leave my babies,” she sobbed and dropped her face into her hands, “But I don’t want to leave my babies, I love my babies!”


Erin gently pushed the tissues toward Tara.


“You might feel lots of emotion or think lots of thoughts during an attack that don’t come from a real place. They come from your adrenaline response, they come from the fear. They don’t represent how you really feel.”


Tara plucked a tissue out of the box and rubbed each eye with it.


“I know that. M-My wife, she studied psychology. She says she doesn’t remember but she always—”


She suddenly burst into fresh tears and her whole body slumped toward her knees.


Erin allowed her the time and space to do so.


“What’s upsetting you right now?” she asked when some minutes had passed.


Tara cried harder and had to fight to get anything other than noise out.


“I-I think i-it’s when she touches me.”


“When who touches you?” Erin clarified.


“Willow,” Tara sobbed, “I…feel…wrong…all of the time. But it’s only when she touches me that I…”


“When Willow touches you, you feel that’s what's triggering the panic attacks?” Erin deduced from what she was hearing.


Tara could only nod through eyes hidden with tears. Erin inhaled a soft breath and let it out again.


“When you’re ready, take me back.”


Tara looked up, helpless.


“T-to where?”


Erin uncrossed and crossed her legs again, settling back.


“To wherever you feel this all started.”


Close to an hour later, Tara sat back on the sofa with a single tissue crumpled in her hand ready to catch any tears, but it remained dry.


“Our time is nearly up,” Erin said softly, “How are you feeling about everything we discussed today?”


“A-A little shocked, I think,” Tara replied, her voice raw but clear, “I know all about post-partum depression…I see a lot of clients with it. But it never occurred to me that I could…”


“The illness can trap the brain in self-doubt,” Erin mused thoughtfully.


Tara nodded slowly.


“I’m still reeling a bit from the PTSD part,” she admitted, swallowing, “PTSD feels like it’s for war vets o-or rape survivors. Not someone who just gives birth.”


“Trauma doesn’t have a restriction on who it pervades,” Erin replied, meeting Tara’s self-deprecating gaze, “The birth you describe was incredibly traumatic. And the separation from your newborn children afterward could only compound it.”


Tara bit on the inside of her lip.


“But why is Willow the thing that…” she paused, frustrated with herself, “She’s been through just as much as me. Her wife and her babies were taken…and she took care of everything at home while I’ve just fallen apart. And I’m not scared of her like I was scared of my fath—”


Her voice caught and she had to promptly shut up to control herself.


Erin wrote something and looked back at Tara.


“You say specifically that it happens when she touches you. That your mind goes back to the birth.”


Tara nodded and Erin gently raised one eyebrow.


“Did she touch you during the birth?”


“She held my—” Tara held up her hand and paused. She flashed to her hand being grabbed in the car and immediately her mind when back to the birthing room with the lights and the screaming and Willow holding her hand tight enough to leave marks. Tears filled but they didn’t fall, “She held my hand.”


She sobbed again at the injustice of it all.


“She doesn’t deserve this.”


“You don’t deserve this,” Erin replied softly, “Nobody does.”


Tara’s eyes creased.


“I’d like to continue our sessions if you would also be willing,” Erin continued and Tara surprised herself with how quick she was to nod, “Good.”


She sat forward.


“And I’d also like to discuss medication. Your sleep state, in particular, is giving me concern but I really think you would get benefit from starting on anti-depressant medication.”


“I-I’m breastfeeding,” Tara replied unsurely.


Erin nodded.


“There are some options we can discuss.”


A few minutes later, Erin was pulling a prescription sheet from the pad as she led Tara to the door.


“Collect these from the pharmacy and take your first one tonight right before bed.”


“A-And they’re safe to take for the babies?” Tara clarified.


Erin nodded.


“They leave your body quickly so there’s no time for a potent dose to get into your breast milk overnight,” she reassured, “I’ll consult with your NICU doctor about the anti-depressants but do consider your own needs and if you’d be willing to stop breastfeeding if it’s ultimately not recommended. What you're struggling with usually responds very well to medication.”


Tara just pursed her lips and Erin nodded again.


“We’ll talk in our next session. Thank you for coming today, Tara. I know it was difficult.”


Tara just nodded and left with a quick goodbye. Her mind was reeling with a lot of new information to process. She signed a form with the receptionist and made her next appointment and walked back out of the building a lot calmer than when she’d walked in.


The minivan was waiting right where Willow promised and Tara let herself in on the passenger side.


“Hey!” Willow said and it was obvious how nervous she was too, “How’d it go?”


Tara glanced back at the peacefully sleeping babies and pulled the door closed. She looked over at her wife.


“We have a lot to talk about.”



Willow hurried back down the stairs and into their living room, where Tara was sitting with her pharmacy bag beside her on the couch.


“They stayed asleep somehow. Must be all that good car juju.”


“Must be,” Tara echoed quietly with her palms pressed together between her knees.


Willow perched on the arm of the couch and waited. When Tara said nothing, she decided to instead.


“Was she nice? She got good reviews. The best, actually.”


Tara nodded.


“Yes. Very. I’m going back to her next week.”


“Awesome!” Willow replied, a little bit of relief flashing across her face, “So you got some meds?”


“Sleeping pills,” Tara replied tiredly.


“Oh that’s good,” Willow nodded, almost too quickly, “That’s really good. I know you haven’t been…”


She stopped on a sigh.


Tara’s knees gently bounced up and down.


“She said if I feed the babies right before I take them it won’t be too present in my milk when the next feed comes around.”


“Great!” Willow replied again, rubbing her hands on her thighs, “And there’s still lots of milk in the freezer if we need it.”


“I like feeding them,” Tara cut in.


Willow frowned slightly.


“I know you do.”


Tara felt those negative thoughts she could identify a bit better now creeping in.


“S-She suggested maybe I try anti-depressants too.”


Willow nodded eagerly.


“Oh, cool! I mean, yeah they have a really good response rate with—”


“But taking a pill every day is a lot different than taking one for a few nights,” Tara interjected.


Willow frowned again.


“Oh, well, yeah, um—”


“It could get into my milk and harm the babies, especially since they were premature,” Tara explained, “It’s too much of a risk to let them have possibly contaminated milk.”


Willow nodded slowly.


“So we’re switching to formula? That’s okay—”


“What? No,” Tara looked at Willow like she was crazy, “I’m not taking them.”


Willow did a double-take.


“But the doctor recommended them.”


“But it’s not an option,” Tara countered.


Willow’s eyebrows gently rose on her face.


“Not to be, um, pedantic here, but it kinda is?”


Tara looked up and Willow could see how sunken they were from this position.


“I just got Emily to take me.”


“I know,” Willow replied empathically as she slid down onto the cushion beside Tara, “I do. But Tara she wouldn’t recommend them if you didn’t need them.”


Tara looked sad but resolute.


“It’s not an option.”


“It is an option!” Willow replied in frustration and made herself take a calming breath, “The babies, they need you to be well, okay?”


Her eyes grew glassy.


“We need you to be well.”


She tried to hold Tara’s hand but Tara snatched it away. She stood up and walked away before she could get triggered again, but Willow didn't know that and just saw her wife taking one step backward after the giant steps forward they'd taken this morning. Two steps forward and one step back was a subversion she would normally enjoy but that step backward felt like a dinosaur foot had made it.


She watched Tara's back disappear, getting further and further away from her and she had no idea how to close the chasm.


“I’m sorry, Willow. I really am.”

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 27th 2020)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2020 7:09 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 405
Dibs! :whip
I loved your Indy Smiley, Laragh!

Two steps forward, one step back really sums the chapter up quite accurately. I'm glad that Tara and the psychiatrist Erin seem to have "clicked" right from the start and that Tara has enough trust in her that she is willing to continue the therapy.

Quote:
N-Now I want to run, I want to—”


Her face started to crumble all of a sudden.


“I-I want to leave my babies,” she sobbed and dropped her face into her hands, “But I don’t want to leave my babies, I love my babies!”

:cry

Quote:
“S-She suggested maybe I try anti-depressants too.”


Willow nodded eagerly.


“Oh, cool! I mean, yeah they have a really good response rate with—”


“But taking a pill every day is a lot different than taking one for a few nights,” Tara interjected.


Willow frowned again.


“Oh, well, yeah, um—”


“It could get into my milk and harm the babies, especially since they were premature,” Tara explained, “It’s too much of a risk to let them have possibly contaminated milk.”


Willow nodded slowly.


“So we’re switching to formula? That’s okay—”


“What? No,” Tara looked at Willow like she was crazy, “I’m not taking them.”


Willow did a double-take.


“But the doctor recommended them.”


“But it’s not an option,” Tara countered.


Willow’s eyebrows gently rose on her face.


“Not to be, um, pedantic here, but it kinda is?”


Tara looked up and Willow could see how sunken they were from this position.


“I just got Emily to take me.”


“I know,” Willow replied empathically as she slid down onto the cushion beside Tara, “I do. But Tara she wouldn’t recommend them if you didn’t need them.”


Tara looked sad but resolute.


“It’s not an option.”


“It is an option!” Willow replied in frustration and made herself take a calming breath, “The babies, they need you to be well, okay?”


Her eyes grew glassy.


“We need you to be well.”


She tried to hold Tara’s hand but Tara snatched it away. She stood up and walked away before she could get triggered again, but Willow didn't know that and just saw her wife taking one step backward after the giant steps forward they'd taken this morning. Two steps forward and one step back was a subversion she would normally enjoy but that step backward felt like a dinosaur foot had made it.


She watched Tara's back disappear, getting further and further away from her and she had no idea how to close the chasm.


“I’m sorry, Willow. I really am.”

Like Willow I'm extremely concerned that Tara refuses to take the anti-depressants just because she would have to stop breast feeding. I'd say Tara's priority should be to regain her full mental health. Many mothers can't give milk to their babies and they turn out well - best example inside their family: JJ. I guess Tara somehow takes strength from feeling that she is indispensable when it comes to breastfeeding the babies. But she should realize that she won't be there for any of the kids if her mental state gets so bad that she has to be committed to a mental hospital.

I'm also a bit worried that Tara obviously hasn't told Willow that her touching her (especially taking her hand) triggers the traumatic memories although she told Willow after the appointment that they "have a lot to talk about". Knowing that would help Willow understand why she constantly shies away from her touch.

Now back to home office for me.


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 27th 2020)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs! :whip
I loved your Indy Smiley, Laragh!


There's actually a whole bunch of different ones! It was fun to google.

Quote:
Two steps forward, one step back really sums the chapter up quite accurately. I'm glad that Tara and the psychiatrist Erin seem to have "clicked" right from the start and that Tara has enough trust in her that she is willing to continue the therapy.


It's so important to get on with your therapist so this was actually a really great step for Tara

Quote:
Like Willow I'm extremely concerned that Tara refuses to take the anti-depressants just because she would have to stop breast feeding. I'd say Tara's priority should be to regain her full mental health. Many mothers can't give milk to their babies and they turn out well - best example inside their family: JJ. I guess Tara somehow takes strength from feeling that she is indispensable when it comes to breastfeeding the babies.


Breastfeeding represents a lot to Tara beyond the actual benefits. It's something that her body can do, it makes her feel useful, it connects her to the babies (she blames herself for missing their first days and fears it will cause lifelong attachment issues). So it's a lot to ask her to stop, but she absolutely should if she needs to.

Quote:
But she should realize that she won't be there for any of the kids if her mental state gets so bad that she has to be committed to a mental hospital.


It's so hard for her to see prioritizing herself as beneficial for everyone.

Quote:
I'm also a bit worried that Tara obviously hasn't told Willow that her touching her (especially taking her hand) triggers the traumatic memories although she told Willow after the appointment that they "have a lot to talk about". Knowing that would help Willow understand why she constantly shies away from her touch.


I think Tara intended to tell Willow but when they were at odds about the breastfeeding she kind of shrunk back into herself.

Quote:
Now back to home office for me.


Hope it's going well for you!

Thanks for your feedback :)



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 27th 2020)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2020 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Chapter Twenty-Four




Willow came out of the main bathroom and saw JJ holding a bowl of Cheerios and a glass of orange juice and Robyn jumping up and down trying to open the door of Willow and Tara’s bedroom.


She hurried over before Robyn could make contact.


“Kids, no. Mom is sleeping. Later, okay?”


“But the p—” JJ started to protest.


“I know,” Willow cut in quickly, “But the babies kept us up late last night and Mom needs to sleep, okay?”


The bedroom door opened and Tara squeezed herself out, closing it again.


“I’m not sleeping,” she said, indicating she’d heard the whole conversation, “The babies are.”


JJ thrust his breakfast offerings up at her, which Tara took in confusion.


With her heart breaking, Willow leaned over and discreetly whispered to Tara.


“It’s your birthday.”


“Oh,” Tara replied, her brow line evening out, “Oh!”


“Happy Birthday, Mom!” JJ said eagerly.


“‘ap-ee bir’fay Mom-mee!” Robyn clapped her hands and kicked her feet at the same time.


Tara cleared her throat and kneeled down to put an arm around them both, the bowl and glass still held precariously in her hands.


“Thank you,” she said sincerely and kissed each of their heads, “This is really great. I love you both so much.”


She stood and Willow encouraged the kids toward the stairs.


“You guys go make a card for later, okay?”


They went off happy to have completed their mission and Willow relieved Tara of the dishes.


“I’m sorry. They were so eager.”


Tara shook her head softly.


“It was very sweet,” she replied and reached up to brush some hair from her face, “I forgot what day it was.”


Willow tried to keep her face neutral as if she wasn’t remembering ringing in the New Year alone or that it had been the first time ever that they didn’t partake in their tradition of the first things to be said to each other being Happy New Year/Happy Birthday.


“Yeah, you passed out last night,” she said, managing to remain chipper, “Which is great. That you’re sleeping. Now.”


Tara just nodded.


“If it’s my birthday then it’s Alex’s birthday as well.”


“Jesse is going to pick up Robyn and JJ on the way to the party,” Willow explained.


“Oh, that’s kind of him,” Tara returned, tucking some hair behind her ear.


“Yeah. I think he and Alice are fighting, he seemed grateful to have an excuse to leave early,” Willow breathed and swallowed, “Did you sleep well?”


Tara paused.


“I…slept,” she answered cagily.


The sleeping pills were making her get some forced shut-eye in the immediate aftermath of taking them but she would be roused after a while by the babies and then would then be awake all night in a groggy state. So she was getting some sleep, but not any rest.


Especially when just existing felt exhausting.


Willow took a step forward.


“Tara—”


“I’m too tired to fight, Willow,” Tara said jadedly.


“Well, um, I’ll get rid of this stuff,” Willow replied and felt awkward about the fact that it still felt so awkward between them.


It was a whole seven-layer cake of discomfort.


Tara nodded again and returned to the bedroom, probably to stare some more.


Willow downed the juice, feeling like she needed the sugar rush and went into the bathroom again. She intended to toss the cereal down the sink but she ended up sitting on the edge of the bath and eating it instead, wondering what new way she could try to convince Tara to try the anti-depressants without getting into another argument about it.


With a lone Cheerio staring back at her sadly, she went back downstairs and busied herself with getting the kids ready for the party. She was busy wrapping up the Build-Your-Own-Mug Lego kit they’d gotten for Alex when JJ came up by her side.


“I can wrap it, Momma.”


“Oh, thanks,” she replied as honestly she had been struggling, then frowned, “Wait, why?”


JJ shifted uncomfortably on his feet.


“Last year Aunty Anya said it looked like you wrapped it with your feet.”


Willow looked unamused but stepped aside for JJ to finish the wrapping. She helped Robyn get her shoes on and played This Little Piggy to elicit some giggles.


“Now, you guys be good today at the trampoline park‎,” she said as she did up the buttons on Robyn’s coat, “Uncle Xander is in charge.”


She leaned into JJ.


“Make sure she thinks the big kids are going to a soft play area too, okay?”


“Got it, Momma,” JJ replied with a nod and a smile toward Robyn.


A car beeped outside and Willow opened the door and waved to Jesse.


“Bye kids. Say a big huge Happy Birthday to Alex from Aunty Willow and Aunty Tara!”


The car drove off and Willow closed the door again. Just as soon as she made a step to go get some coffee, the bedroom door burst open from upstairs and Willow was met with a cacophony of shrill screaming.


“Double explosive diaper situation,” Tara explained as she hurried down the stairs, the handles of a bassinet closed in each hand, “They won’t stop wailing. I think they’re really uncomfortable.”


“On it,” Willow replied, hurrying over to relieve Tara of one baby.


They changed the babies and they washed the babies and put them in new clothes but nothing seemed to stop their crying, which wasn’t like them. They had no fever and their cries weren’t high-pitched but they were constant and miserable.


“Why won’t they stop crying?” Tara groaned, near tears as she bounced Emily in her arms, “They won’t eat, they won’t sleep!”


Lily had hushed for about twelve seconds when Willow put her in her car seat to rock, so she took Emily to do the same. Emily too quieted for a few seconds but quickly joined back in again when there was no more movement.


“Tara, you have to let me take them out! In the stroller, in the car, just anything that moves!”


Willow reached out to her wife desperately.


“Please, Tara!”


“Don’t touch me!” Tara shrieked, bewildering Willow.


Tara felt her breath catch and tightness begin on her neck as if someone was choking her.


Her hand flew there and she had to breathe in twice to be able to speak.


“Fine!” she said through a tensed jaw, feeling her control over her own body slipping with every passing second, “Fine! Take them, take them! Anywhere, I don’t care, just make it stop!”


Willow promptly stood up and picked up each holder of the car seat but paused at how frantic Tara looked.


“I don’t want to leave you like this.”


“Just go!” Tara insisted, tears pricking her eyes.


She didn’t even feel like she was the one shaking anymore; it was like an earthquake was going off beneath her feet.


Willow walked past and out the door to bring the twins to the car and hopefully settle them.


Upon hearing the door bang, Tara fell to her knees and started to cry. Beginning to feel too out of control, she tried to do some of the breathing exercises she’d been taught during the session with Erin.


It wasn’t working, or it wasn’t working fast enough to her frantic mind, so she tore her purse apart to find her bottle of sleeping pills. Erin had said she could take one if a panic attack got too much but she hadn’t because she was too worried about her milk.


Right now, she felt as on edge as she ever had.


She had to use Robyn’s sippy cup to swallow it and sat back on the couch, just catching her breath.


Gradually things slowed, first in her body and then in her mind. She realized a little too late that she needed to get herself upstairs to bed. She wobbled as she stood.


On the stairs, she stumbled and fell onto her knee about halfway up.


In the hall, Woofy stood to attention from where he had been curled up.


The pill bottle was still closed in Tara’s palm, so she used her other hand to get herself up and dragged herself up the last few steps and into the bedroom. She fell back onto the pillows and promptly passed out.


Woofy poked his head in the door, having followed, and sniffed the air. He pushed the door open with his nose and came up to the bed. He lifted his front paws onto the bed, licked Tara’s hand, and when there was no response, whimpered.


A little while later, Willow opened the door and walked in with two sleeping babies in their car seats.


Immediately, from the top of the stairs, Woofy began barking.


Willow grimaced.


“Ssssh, Woofs! I just got them down.”


Woofy barked again and jumped down two steps.


“Woofy!” Willow hissed and Woofy ran back upstairs and looked at her intently, “What is it?”


He barked again and Willow winced. She put the car seats down gently and followed Woofy upstairs.


“What is it?!” she asked, more annoyed than anything else.


He ran into their bedroom and barked. Willow pushed the door open fully and was relieved to see Tara was getting some sleep.


She walked over and sat next to her on the edge of the bed, resisting the urge to touch Tara’s face. She still looked fretful; the way she’d looked for so many weeks now.


She reached for the blanket to put over her when she spotted the pill bottle in Tara’s hand.


The empty pill bottle.


“Tara?” Willow asked in alarm as she grabbed the bottle and turned it upside down as if the pills inside would suddenly appear, “Tara!”


She jumped up and began violently shaking Tara.


“No, no, no, no, no, no, no!” she wailed as she went into full-blown panic mode, “C’mon Tara!”


Getting no response, she grabbed two fistfuls of Tara’s shirt and physically dragged her across the room into their bathroom. She dropped to the floor, grabbed Tara’s head, and forced her fingers into Tara’s mouth.


Tara began to groggily resist.


“Get it out, c’mon!” Willow yelled.


Tara’s head dropped forwards against the seat and Willow pulled her phone out and called 911.


“I need an ambulance! My wife, she overdosed on her sleeping pills! I don’t know how many but she emptied the bottle! Send someone, please!”


She gave them the address and pulled Tara to her again, finally succeeding in getting Tara to vomit.


“C’mon Tara!” she coached, “Come on baby, get it out! Don’t do this, baby!”


She could hear the twins starting to scream again but she had to be focused on Tara, who was now laying disorientated with her cheek on the toilet seat. Willow started slapping her cheek gently.


“Tara, wake up! C’mon baby, please!”


She started to cry as she stroked Tara’s hair.


Shortly after, she heard a male voice call out.


“We’re upstairs!” Willow yelled and stood up quickly.


A male paramedic appeared after following Willow’s voice.


“Ma’am your children are unattended downstairs.”


Willow nearly felt a vein pop.


“I KNOW THAT!”


“My colleague is attending to them,” the paramedic replied with a practiced calmness that was unnerving nonetheless, “What did she take?”


Willow found the bottle and shoved it at him.


“How many?”


“I don’t know,” Willow threw up her hands, “Okay? I don’t know! Can you just help her!?”


The paramedic bent down to assess Tara and radioed down to his partner to bring up the stretcher. Willow was told to go down to the twins, so she did, despite her heart still racing a mile a minute.


She watched Tara being brought out and loaded into the ambulance. She grabbed two fistfuls of her own hair as she watched the blue lights flash off the street. She quickly grabbed her phone again.


“Dad, Dad, I need you to come over right away! Right now, they took her off in an ambulance! Please Dad, right now! I have the kids, I can’t leave them but I have to go to the hospital! Please, Daddy!”


Ira showed up to the door, flustered, six minutes later.


“What happened, is it Emily?”


“No, it’s Tara!” Willow cried, her cheeks stained with her tears, “It’s just the twins, can you handle the twins?”


Ira looked around, a little bewildered and spotted the babies in their car seats, thankfully quiet again.


“Yes, of course.”


Willow grabbed her purse.


“I-I left some of their milk in the fridge and the diaper bag is in the living room. Robyn won’t be home until later, JJ either, they’re at the party. I, I don’t know if I’ll…” she stopped and gulped, “We’ll be home.”


Ira stood in front of Willow and grabbed her upper arms.


“Willow, what happened?”


Willow dropped her chin and began to blubber.


“Tara…she took too many pills and…”


“W-what?” Ira asked, shocked.


“S-She’s been struggling and they gave her sleeping pills and she took them all,” Willow cried, “I’m sorry, Dad, I have to go!”


She sprang out of the hallway and ran to the car.


Through torturous traffic, Willow finally made it to the hospital and flung herself at the triage desk.


“H-Hi. My, My wife was brought in. Tara Rosenberg-Maclay. Is she okay?!”


She’d had to ask that question far too often for her liking in the past few months.


Behind the triage nurse, a man in a white coat put down a chart.


“I got this one, Genie,” he called over and curled a finger at Willow, “Come through.”


Willow pushed off the desk and ran through the automatic doors when she was buzzed in.


“My wife, is she okay?” she asked in a rush as she read the nametag, “Dr. Gordon. Is she conscious?”


Dr. Gordon nodded.


“She’s awake. And she’s going to be fine.”


Willow let out a shaken breath.


“Oh thank god,” she said, clutching her chest and doing her best not to cry, “W-What happens next? Can I see her?”


“Well…” Dr. Gordon replied, elongating the word, “You can take her home.”


Willow’s brow creased.


“Wait…we can just go home?” she asked, then lowered her voice, “She took an overdose.”


Dr. Gordon shook his head.


“She didn’t…actually.”


Willow did a double-take.


“Huh?”


Dr. Gordon sighed.


“When she was brought in we were going to pump her stomach but she came around enough to get us to stop. She was able to explain that she’d only taken one pill — her last one. We verified this with the pharmacy. She was due a refill at her next appointment with her psychiatrist. She never took more than one pill.”


Willow looked like she’d been slapped in the face.


“B-But…” she trailed off meekly, “But the dog was barking.”


The doctor said nothing but the look he gave Willow told her she was the one he thought was barking, barking mad.


“It’s a standard response to commit someone to a 72-hour psychiatric hold in these situations but given her story checks out, we’re happy to release her.”


Willow’s breath suddenly started to come in short, angry bursts.


“So you’re telling me I dragged my post-natal-depression-riddled wife across her bedroom, forced my fingers down her throat while she was under the influence of a sleeping pill, violently made her throw up, threw her into an ambulance dazed and confused, had her brought to the same hospital where the depression-triggering event happened so she could beg not to get a tube shoved down her throat and even more of her stomach contents bought up, almost got her locked away for 72 hours, away from her children in a hold that could affect her career…all because she just needed a little help taking a nap?” she asked, close to shrieking, “On her birthday?!”


“She also sustained a bump to the head. Presumably during the…forced emesis,” Dr. Gordon replied without any tact, which he seemed to realize pretty quick off of Willow’s look, “But entirely superficial, no lasting effects.”


Willow pinched the bridge of her nose to stave the tears.


“She’s been through too much. Enough has to be enough!”


Dr. Gordon just bowed his head.


“I’ll get the discharge papers ready. She’s in room 4C.”


Willow’s head fell back against the wall and she closed her eyes.


This was the lowest she’d ever felt.


She wanted to sink down on that wall and crumble into oblivion but more than that, she wanted to just know she’d done right by Tara. So she pulled herself together, reminding herself she was the only one of the two of them who could pull themselves together at that moment. She walked around until she found room 4C.


She lingered in the doorway. Tara looked so frail; curled up, pale, despondent.


Tara looked up when she sensed movement and their eyes locked. After a moment, Tara turned on her side with her back to Willow.


Willow’s heart broke in two.


But she stood up straight. She’d take whatever beating she had to. She would be strong.


“They said we can leave,” she said, her voice echoing around the room, “I’ll just…I’ll wait outside.”


She wandered back out and sat on one of the little plastic chairs attached to the wall.


A few minutes later, Tara appeared with her head held down so Willow didn’t try to push any conversation. She didn’t know what to say, anyway.


She wordlessly led Tara out of the hospital and hoped that Tara couldn’t see the pitiful looks being sent their way with her head down like that.


The car ride home was torturous in a new way for Willow. It wasn’t even her own sense of hopelessness; it was that Tara was lost. And for the first time ever, Willow couldn’t find her.


When they got home, Tara marched straight past Willow and Ira to check on the babies in the living room.


Ira spun himself around in confusion and approached Willow, whom he immediately wrapped his arms around.


“Darling, what happened?”


“Misunderstanding,” Willow swallowed repeatedly, “Just a…misunderstanding.”


She could have easily fallen apart in her father’s arms like that, but she didn’t.


“Were the twins okay?”


Ira nodded.


“A little fussy at first. I sang a few songs you enjoyed as a youngster,” he replied, then added on fondly, “They seemed quite partial to Frère Jacques.”


Willow exhaled softly.


“Thank you, Dad. I really appreciate it.”


Ira offered a smile.


“I can stay and help with anything you need.”


Willow shook her head.


“No, Dad. I’ll take care of my family. But thank you. So much.”


She hugged him again and waved him off and then turned back to look at the living room door.


She took a step forward, then hesitated.


Inside, Tara had a tiny baby hand wrapped around a finger on each hand and was staring again.


This time, she wasn’t monitoring their breathing or their heart rate or their facial muscles for the faintest sign of distress.


This time, she was staring into their little faces and realizing how much she had to live for.


Not just survive, but live.


The door suddenly burst open and Willow came in, clearly in the middle of a pace that she had started out in the hall.


“I’m sorry, I’ve been standing outside the door for twenty minutes trying to figure out if I should just leave you alone because I know you hate me right now, deservedly so, or if I should be fighting to show you that I won’t leave no matter what. I don’t know to do what you want, or what you need, or even which is which! But I love you, I love you so much and I just want you to feel safe. How do I make you feel safe? To feel able to confide in me? I’m trying Tara, but I just, I just need to understand!”


Tara stared at the ground for a moment, then looked to the side slowly. Her voice was physically raw from the afternoon’s ordeal.


“Y-you’re not the one I hate.”


Willow stopped, her brow furrowing deeply.


“Huh?” she asked, utterly bewildered, “Who?”


Tara’s gaze finally lifted to Willow.


“Me.”


Willow’s eyebrows raised and she sank down to sit on the floor by Tara, right in front of the couch. Tara’s eyes filled with tears as she continued to look at Willow.


“I h-hate that you thought I could do that. T-that I could leave you a-and the kids like that. I hate that I’m a person you don’t know any longer. I hate how I’ve been treating you.”


The tears fell.


“I hate that I can’t be the wife you deserve.”


Willow started to shake her head


“Tara, no…”


Tara sniffled.


“And it’s not even this, it was before I gave birth. This whole pregnancy I shut down. I don’t even remember the last time we made love.”


Willow had to blink several times; that wasn’t a topic she’d felt conflicted about at all.


“You had a lot going on, physically, I completely understood and I still understand,” she replied emphatically, “I don’t care about that.”


Tara's eyes dropped vulnerably.


“If someone had called you from the future and told you we wouldn’t have sex for six months, what would you have said?”


Willow took in a slow breath, wanting to give appropriate consideration to the question.


“I would have asked ‘does Tara still love me?’ A-And if the answer was yes, then I would have said ‘whatever it is, we’ll get through it’.”


She held that breath in her chest.


“Is the answer still yes?”


Tara’s head swung up to Willow.


“More than anything,” she said as new tears journeyed down her cheeks, “I was ashamed, Willow, that’s why I didn’t talk to you.”


Willow averted her gaze and Tara frowned.


“What is it?”


“You talked to Becky,” Willow replied quietly and it felt so petty even coming out of her mouth.


Tara looked away, then nodded.


“I just knew at that moment that she understood. It was too much to explain to you and I was feeling so much already.”


Willow gathered she was missing some key information here but it wasn’t the time to ask.


“I don’t quite understand,” she admitted, then nodded several times, “But I am glad you were able to reach out to someone during a bad moment.”


“You just want me to reach out to you too,” Tara replied softly, finally understanding how much of a communication breakdown they’d let fester between them.


“I just want you to know that you can,” Willow replied with softly creased eyes, “I thought…I thought you blamed for all of this.”


Tara frowned.


“Why would I blame you?”


Willow looked down.


“Because I gave them permission,” she said in a quiet voice, then glanced up when she sensed a confused look being returned, “I gave them permission to take your womb.”


Tara was silent.


“I didn’t actually know that,” she paused for a moment, “But Willow…yes, it’s hard for me to have that taken away…but they had no choice. You had no choice.”


Willow’s eyes sprung with tears.


“What about the voicemail?”


“What voicemail?” Tara asked in confusion.


Willow ran her sleeve over her eyes and looked down shamefully.


“I-I left you a nasty voicemail about not picking up Robyn before I knew what had happened back in the elevator.”


Tara could only shrug one shoulder.


“I never listened to it. It probably deleted after seven days. Who cares? You were upset. Everything you’ve done for us since says a lot more. I-I’m the one who should be blamed. For lashing out, pushing you away.”


She swallowed deeply.


“It was traumatic for us both and I've been acting like it was just me,” she exhaled and looked at Willow, “A-and I haven’t told you everything.”


Willow scooted a little bit closer and sniffled.


“I love you, Tara,” she said, keeping Tara’s gaze constantly, “Nothing could ever change that. You can tell me anything.”


Tara nodded and took a few steadying breaths.


“You know I was…diagnosed with post-partum depression.”


Willow nodded slowly.


“We never actually talked about it, but yeah, I gathered.”


Tara drew her lower lip into her mouth to moisten it.


“I was also diagnosed with PTSD.”


Willow’s head reeled.


“Whoa,” she breathed, then closed her eyes for a second and lots of little moments flashed through her mind, “Of course.”


“And I’ve been having panic attacks,” Tara continued while she had the gumption.


Willow exhaled. She didn’t know it had gotten to that level.


“Like at college?”


Tara nodded.


“Not exactly the same, but yes.”


Willow held up a hand helplessly.


“I’m so sorry I didn’t…”


Tara forced herself to turn her head back to Willow.


“Honestly, Willow, this is part of why I didn’t tell you. I knew you’d blame yourself and I would blame myself for you blaming yourself.”


“And we’d be stuck in a stupid blame cycle that helps exactly no one,” Willow finished with an understanding nod, “Especially you.”


She paused.


“But I still have to say I’m so sorry about today.”


Tara’s eyes clouded for a moment. She had thought it was a nightmare at first.


“It was…horrible, really,” she stopped and swallowed, trying to put it out of her mind, “But I know why. You thought I’d really…”


Willow’s eyes grew glassy.


“I’m so glad you didn’t.”


“I couldn’t,” Tara sniffled and Willow helped her wipe her nose this time with Tara’s hands still full of baby grip, “But there is something else.”


“Whatever it is, I support you,” Willow replied with quick but sincere conviction.


Tara met Willow’s gaze and kept it, even when her eyes glazed over.


“Y-you,” she said, her jaw tensing, “You trigger them. T-the panic attacks.”


Willow felt a lot of things upon hearing that but managed to keep them in check.


“Something I do or say?” she asked, and her voice did betray her a tad by growing high pitched at the end.


“When you touch me,” Tara admitted and it was clearly hard for her to know how much it must hurt Willow to hear, “You were holding my hand so tight, or, or, I was holding your hand so tight during the birth. But now, when you do that…”


“You go back there,” Willow nodded, a lot more things clicking into place, “Now I understand why you got so upset earlier.”


She held her hands up.


“I get it. No touching without permission.”


“I’m going to work on it in therapy,” Tara promised, “It’s not fair. Your touch healed me. It’s always healed me. And now…”


More tears fell as she looked at Willow vulnerably.


“I miss you so much.”


“I’m still here,” Willow promised back and started to lift her hand to touch Tara’s face, remembering at the last minute to retract it, “I’ll just relearn how to show you without it being triggering. Whatever you need, anything you need to get better. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got you, Tara.”


Tara very slowly let out a breath and looked at Willow.


“Every time I—” she stopped and took a breath, “Even when I'm at my worst…you always make me feel special.”


Her eyes creased.


“How do you do that?”


Willow smiled easily. She didn’t have an answer for a lot of things, but she did have an answer for this one.


The thing that had always bubbled between them; under their skin; consuming and uniting them.


“Magic.”


Tara offered a watery smile.


She looked over at the sleeping babies, then slowly back at Willow. She nodded repeatedly, little jerks of her chin, still wet with tears.


“I’ll take the pills.”


Willow’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.


“You will?”


Tara nodded.


“I need them. We need them. The kids need them. I need to be me again. I’ll call right now and ask them to send the prescription to the pharmacy. They said they’d be open today.”


She looked down at her hands and Willow quickly understood Tara needed to be holding onto the babies for strength. She brought her phone out so she could find the number, which she dialed and held the phone to Tara’s ear. Tara put through the request with the receptionist and was asked to hold for Erin.


A minute or so into the conversation, a slow, teary smile spread on her face and she nodded at Willow.


“Speaker,” she whispered and Willow obliged in turning it on as Tara spoke again, “C-Can you repeat that please?”


Erin’s voice came through.


“I said I had my consultation with the twins’ doctors and since neither of them suffers from any impaired metabolite efficiency, she’s happy for you to continue breastfeeding while taking the anti-depressants. They’ll keep an extra eye on them to assuage any fears but you can be quite reassured it is safe for you to continue doing so.”


“Thank you so much, doctor,” Willow said, tears flowing too since Tara was too overcome to speak, “We’ll collect the pills for her right away.”


“See you next week, Tara,” Erin said warmly.


“See you next week,” Tara said with a hiccup, and Willow put the phone down.


She got Willow to dab at her eyes then rested their foreheads together. It was as close contact as they'd had in a while.


“Happy New Year, Willow.”


Willow would have burst out crying if she wasn’t already.


“Happy Birthday, Tara.”


As they lapsed into silence, they suddenly heard a muffled yapping. Willow looked over her shoulder and realized it was coming from the kitchen. She jumped up and walked in that direction.


“Woofy. My Dad must have put him in there,” she said as she picked up the step to let him out, “He was the one who led me to you, he thought…”


She opened the door and Woofy came barreling out and galloped toward Tara.


Willow stepped back into the living room and swallowed deeply.


“He thought something was wrong too.”


Woofy leaped all over Tara, licking her face and pawing her. Tara turned her body so he wouldn’t disturb the twins.


“Oh, it’s okay,” she comforted as little whimpers came out between licks, “You’re a good boy.”


“You are a good boy,” Willow agreed as she sat beside Tara again and gently eased him away from her, “Okay, yeah, you’re a good boy. Snausage?”


She produced a treat from her pocket which Woofy took between his teeth and curled up between their laps, happy. Willow kept petting him and gifted an occasional scratch between the ears.


“Even though we got him in such sad circumstances, Woofs has been a godsend with the kids through all of these. I watch him, he keeps them grounded playing with them and learning tricks.”


She didn’t realize just petting him was doing the same for her, keeping her thoughts clear after all of the drama of the day.


“I think we should talk to them,” Willow said, looking to Tara with a slightly creased brow, “The kids? Age appropriately, of course, but…you have nothing to hide. I know I keep saying that. But I think it could be good for them to understand. That you have an illness and that it’s not their fault and that you will get better. But there will be good days and bad days and it’s okay to feel sad on the bad days.”


The dark thoughts plagued Tara immediately telling her she was letting them down, that she was ruining their childhood. But then there was a little bright spark of a thought that was their mother and she was human and that showing her humanity was part of showing them how to be good humans too. And that her mother had gone through this and shown her some of the only humanity that she'd known of her childhood.


“I think you’re right,” she said in a soft, echoing voice, “I think you’re right.”


She looked over at Willow.


“I might cry.”


“It’s fine for them to see you cry,” Willow replied softly, “To know that it’s okay to cry. No different than when Mrs. Potts died.”


She remembered how open and honest Tara had been then. Careful not to overwhelm them with her tears but able to communicate the emotion.


It was a striking parallel to how she could see Tara now, clearly ashamed, withdrawn, terrified to express or emote the same feelings.


It made it all the more important to have the conversation. And Willow would aid it however she could because all that mattered now was supporting her wife and her family and—


She suddenly burst into tears.


“And I might cry too because this has all been really scary,” she blurted and hastily wiped at her eyes, “But you know what? We’re strong. Strong like an Amazon, like you always told me. So we will get through it. Even if we have to shed a few tears along the way.”


Lily let go of Tara’s hand after falling asleep and Tara twisted so she could dab Willow’s eyes this time.


Willow crumbled all over again at the tenderness.


Tara looked at her, then nodded gently in the other direction.


“Hey. C’mere.”


Willow was confused because they were already pretty close, but she scooted in closer anyway.


Tara looked over the sleeping babies.


“Look at that. We did that.”


She paused and gently let Emily’s hand go.


“I’ve spent so much time looking at them and not enough time appreciating them.”


Willow sniffled.


“They are ridiculously cute. And you’re right, we should appreciate them now because they have my genes and they’re going to be running rampant with curiosity by the time they’re eighteen months old. Look at how Robyn is and that’s your genes.”


Tara laughed and Willow realized it was the first time she’d heard it in a while. A smile blossomed on her face.


“That is a very beautiful sound.”


Tara looked over slowly. After looking at Willow’s eyes for a moment, her gaze dropped to Willow’s lips. She felt a tiny spark of desire that hadn’t been there in a while.


“Can I kiss you?”


“Yeah,” Willow breathed without hesitation and met her more than halfway.


The kiss was soft and chaste but sweet and sincere and grounded them just a bit better than petting the dog (no offense to Woofy intended or taken).


Willow’s hand lingered over Tara’s head where the little bump was sticking out, the only physical hangover of the whole ordeal earlier. It looked red and sore but also that it would heal and with that Willow knew they would heal too.


She remembered at the last second not to touch but did speak.


“I love you, Tara.”


“I love you, Willow,” Tara answered and closed her eyes, “The kids will be home soon. Let’s do this for another minute.”


“What’s ‘this’?” Willow asked for clarification.


Tara left the softest of pecks on Willow’s lips.


“Appreciation.”

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 28th 2020)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2020 12:38 am 
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Dibs! :whip
Quote:
Willow’s breath suddenly started to come in short, angry bursts.


“So you’re telling me I dragged my post-natal-depression-riddled wife across her bedroom, forced my fingers down her throat while she was under the influence of a sleeping pill, violently made her throw up, threw her into an ambulance dazed and confused, had her brought to the same hospital where the depression-triggering event happened so she could beg not to get a tube shoved down her throat and even more of her stomach contents bought up, almost got her locked away for 72 hours, away from her children in a hold that could affect her career…all because she just needed a little help taking a nap?” she asked, close to shrieking, “On her birthday?!”


“She also sustained a bump to the head. Presumably during the…forced emesis,” Dr. Gordon replied without any tact, which he seemed to realize pretty quick off of Willow’s look, “But entirely superficial, no lasting effects.”


Willow pinched the bridge of her nose to stave the tears.


“She’s been through too much. Enough has to be enough!”


Dr. Gordon just bowed his head.


“I’ll get the discharge papers ready. She’s in room 4C.”


Willow’s head fell back against the wall and she closed her eyes.


This was the lowest she’d ever felt.

Of course Willow beats herself up for this (quite in character for her and she has blamed herself so much already for what happened to Tara in the last 2 months). But I think her panicked assumption was totally understandable considering that she has witnessed her wife falling deeper into depression for the last weeks (although she realized what it was only a few days ago), that Tara was in a totally frantic state when she left her, that Woofy's dog instincts had him in alarmed mode, that Tara couldn't be really roused from sleep even with force (that must be some sleeping pill) and on top of all that that she still clutched the empty pill bottle in her hand (not something you normally do when you take a sleeping pill before going to bed). And I think if that doctor had known all of those facts he wouldn't have thought that Willow is "mad" (or some hysteric overreactor or something).

But although this incident was horrible for Willow and Tara (thank god the kids weren't at home to witness it!) it turned out good because it prompted Tara to FINALLY confide in Willow and Willow telling Tara about some of her guilt in return. Never before has a talk been so much needed between them, I think. And I feel like quoting the whole talk but that would be silly, so I'll just pick out my favourite parts:

Quote:
“I’m sorry, I’ve been standing outside the door for twenty minutes trying to figure out if I should just leave you alone because I know you hate me right now, deservedly so, or if I should be fighting to show you that I won’t leave no matter what. I don’t know to do what you want, or what you need, or even which is which! But I love you, I love you so much and I just want you to feel safe. How do I make you feel safe? To feel able to confide in me? I’m trying Tara, but I just, I just need to understand!”

So brave of Willow to go in there certain that Tara "hates her right now" (meaning: is furious with her) but begging Tara to tell her how she could help her. That probably was the last prompt Tara needed to be ready to tell her about her PTSD and everything else she kept from Willow before.

Quote:
Tara stared at the ground for a moment, then looked to the side slowly. Her voice was physically raw from the afternoon’s ordeal.


“Y-you’re not the one I hate.”


Willow stopped, her brow furrowing deeply.


“Huh?” she asked, utterly bewildered, “Who?”


Tara’s gaze finally lifted to Willow.


“Me.”


Willow’s eyebrows raised and she sank down to sit on the floor by Tara, right in front of the couch. Tara’s eyes filled with tears as she continued to look at Willow.


“I h-hate that you thought I could do that. T-that I could leave you a-and the kids like that. I hate that I’m a person you don’t know any longer. I hate how I’ve been treating you.”


The tears fell.


“I hate that I can’t be the wife you deserve.”

:cry This hurt to read but I feel it's important that Tara voiced her feelings of self-hatred to Willow.

Quote:
Tara's eyes dropped vulnerably.


“If someone had called you from the future and told you we wouldn’t have sex for six months, what would you have said?”


Willow took in a slow breath, wanting to give appropriate consideration to the question.


“I would have asked ‘does Tara still love me?’ A-And if the answer was yes, then I would have said ‘whatever it is, we’ll get through it’.”


She held that breath in her chest.


“Is the answer still yes?”


Tara’s head swung up to Willow.


“More than anything,” she said as new tears journeyed down her cheeks

I trust Willow knew that Tara still loves her but I understand that she has the need to be reassured by Tara here because somewhere deep in her mind she probably asked herself the question "Does Tara not love me anymore?" when Tara acted so distant, short and one might even say cold with her.

Quote:
“You just want me to reach out to you too,” Tara replied softly, finally understanding how much of a communication breakdown they’d let fester between them.


“I just want you to know that you can,” Willow replied with softly creased eyes, “I thought…I thought you blamed for all of this.”


Tara frowned.


“Why would I blame you?”


Willow looked down.


“Because I gave them permission,” she said in a quiet voice, then glanced up when she sensed a confused look being returned, “I gave them permission to take your womb.”


Tara was silent.


“I didn’t actually know that,” she paused for a moment, “But Willow…yes, it’s hard for me to have that taken away…but they had no choice. You had no choice.”


Willow’s eyes sprung with tears.


“What about the voicemail?”


“What voicemail?” Tara asked in confusion.


Willow ran her sleeve over her eyes and looked down shamefully.


“I-I left you a nasty voicemail about not picking up Robyn before I knew what had happened back in the elevator.”


Tara could only shrug one shoulder.


“I never listened to it. It probably deleted after seven days. Who cares? You were upset. Everything you’ve done for us since says a lot more. I-I’m the one who should be blamed. For lashing out, pushing you away.”


She swallowed deeply.


“It was traumatic for us both and I've been acting like it was just me,” she exhaled and looked at Willow

Very important that Willow told Tara about those fears. I already suspected that Willow feared Tara was angry with her because she gave her permission to the hysterectomy. And this voicemail message was one of this seemingly little things that Willow can get totally worked up about when she doesn't talk about it with Tara right away.

Quote:
“I get it. No touching without permission.”


“I’m going to work on it in therapy,” Tara promised, “It’s not fair. Your touch healed me. It’s always healed me. And now…”


More tears fell as she looked at Willow vulnerably.


“I miss you so much.”


“I’m still here,” Willow promised back and started to lift her hand to touch Tara’s face, remembering at the last minute to retract it, “I’ll just relearn how to show you without it being triggering. Whatever you need, anything you need to get better. I’m not going anywhere. I’ve got you, Tara.”

:flower I love that Willow managed to immediately overcome her own hurt she must have felt at the revelation that her touch triggers Tara's panic attacks and found those beautiful words to reassure Tara of her constant love and support (I have to admit that all of a sudden that Sonny and Cher song "I got you babe" popped in my head).

Quote:
“Every time I—” she stopped and took a breath, “Even when I'm at my worst…you always make me feel special.”


Her eyes creased.


“How do you do that?”


Willow smiled easily. She didn’t have an answer for a lot of things, but she did have an answer for this one.


The thing that had always bubbled between them; under their skin; consuming and uniting them.


“Magic.”


Tara offered a watery smile.

:bigkiss Canon-easteregg! And so fitting even without any supernatural element in your world because the love those two have really is magic.

Quote:
She looked over at the sleeping babies, then slowly back at Willow. She nodded repeatedly, little jerks of her chin, still wet with tears.


“I’ll take the pills.”


Willow’s eyebrows shot up in surprise.


“You will?”


Tara nodded.


“I need them. We need them. The kids need them. I need to be me again.

Yes Tara! Such an important decision, again I'm so proud of her! Learning that she can still breastfeed the babies was an unexpected bonus.

Quote:
She got Willow to dab at her eyes then rested their foreheads together. It was as close contact as they'd had in a while.


“Happy New Year, Willow.”


Willow would have burst out crying if she wasn’t already.


“Happy Birthday, Tara.”

Aww! :flower I almost shed some happy tears!

Quote:
“Woofy. My Dad must have put him in there,” she said as she picked up the step to let him out, “He was the one who led me to you, he thought…”


She opened the door and Woofy came barreling out and galloped toward Tara.


Willow stepped back into the living room and swallowed deeply.


“He thought something was wrong too.”


Woofy leaped all over Tara, licking her face and pawing her. Tara turned her body so he wouldn’t disturb the twins.


“Oh, it’s okay,” she comforted as little whimpers came out between licks, “You’re a good boy.”

I just realized that Woofy has his own trauma: his late "Mommy" going to sleep (maybe after feeling "a little woozy" and stumbling to her chair) and never waking up again even when he nudged and licked her, whimpered and barked. So no wonder he was so alarmed when Tara stumbled into bed and he couldn't wake her.

Quote:
“I think we should talk to them,” Willow said, looking to Tara with a slightly creased brow, “The kids? Age appropriately, of course, but…you have nothing to hide. I know I keep saying that. But I think it could be good for them to understand. That you have an illness and that it’s not their fault and that you will get better. But there will be good days and bad days and it’s okay to feel sad on the bad days.”


The dark thoughts plagued Tara immediately telling her she was letting them down, that she was ruining their childhood. But then there was a little bright spark of a thought that was their mother and she was human and that showing her humanity was part of showing them how to be good humans too. And that her mother had gone through this and shown her some of the only humanity that she'd known of her childhood.


“I think you’re right,” she said in a soft, echoing voice, “I think you’re right.”

I totally agree. My parents never told my brother and me about our mother's illness when we were kids. We only found about it later when we were adults. Actually my parents still don't like to talk about it - but they are from a generation were mental illnesses were "hushed up".
They'll have to be especially careful with JJ I think - he might easily "cling to" Tara, feeling responsible for her emotional state when he knows she's mentally ill. But I hope the pills will improve her state soon enough so he won't have to constantly worry about it.

Quote:
“And I might cry too because this has all been really scary,” she blurted and hastily wiped at her eyes, “But you know what? We’re strong. Strong like an Amazon, like you always told me. So we will get through it. Even if we have to shed a few tears along the way.”


Lily let go of Tara’s hand after falling asleep and Tara twisted so she could dab Willow’s eyes this time.


Willow crumbled all over again at the tenderness.


Tara looked at her, then nodded gently in the other direction.


“Hey. C’mere.”


Willow was confused because they were already pretty close, but she scooted in closer anyway.


Tara looked over the sleeping babies.


“Look at that. We did that.”


She paused and gently let Emily’s hand go.


“I’ve spent so much time looking at them and not enough time appreciating them.”


Willow sniffled.


“They are ridiculously cute. And you’re right, we should appreciate them now because they have my genes and they’re going to be running rampant with curiosity by the time they’re eighteen months old. Look at how Robyn is and that’s your genes.”


Tara laughed and Willow realized it was the first time she’d heard it in a while. A smile blossomed on her face.


“That is a very beautiful sound.”

Yay for the "strong like an amazon" quote and for them just taking "a mental step back" and truly appreciating the miracle of their (now fully developed and healthy) babies.

Quote:
After looking at Willow’s eyes for a moment, her gaze dropped to Willow’s lips. She felt a tiny spark of desire that hadn’t been there in a while.


“Can I kiss you?”


“Yeah,” Willow breathed without hesitation and met her more than halfway.


The kiss was soft and chaste but sweet and sincere and grounded them just a bit better than petting the dog (no offense to Woofy intended or taken).


Willow’s hand lingered over Tara’s head where the little bump was sticking out, the only physical hangover of the whole ordeal earlier. It looked red and sore but also that it would heal and with that Willow knew they would heal too.


She remembered at the last second not to touch but did speak.


“I love you, Tara.”


“I love you, Willow,” Tara answered and closed her eyes, “The kids will be home soon. Let’s do this for another minute.”


“What’s ‘this’?” Willow asked for clarification.


Tara left the softest of pecks on Willow’s lips.


“Appreciation.”

Yay for the kiss :wtkiss which showed that kissing doesn't trigger any panick attacks in Tara! They should make good use of that knowledge and kiss at least six times every day - I'm sure Dr. Erin would agree with me! :wink And they should test other forms of touching (embraces, shoulder massages etc.) to find out the "safe" ones so they can rekindle their physical intimacy (in a chaste way first).


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 28th 2020)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2020 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs! :whip


Yay!

Quote:
Of course Willow beats herself up for this (quite in character for her and she has blamed herself so much already for what happened to Tara in the last 2 months). But I think her panicked assumption was totally understandable considering that she has witnessed her wife falling deeper into depression for the last weeks (although she realized what it was only a few days ago), that Tara was in a totally frantic state when she left her, that Woofy's dog instincts had him in alarmed mode, that Tara couldn't be really roused from sleep even with force (that must be some sleeping pill) and on top of all that that she still clutched the empty pill bottle in her hand (not something you normally do when you take a sleeping pill before going to bed). And I think if that doctor had known all of those facts he wouldn't have thought that Willow is "mad" (or some hysteric overreactor or something).


Well as she started to be roused, Willow accidentally banged her head on the toilet seat which made it a lot harder.

But I also think Willow's reaction was totally justified. The doctor didn't know the circumstances of course, which only made Willow feel more isolated and stupid.

Quote:
But although this incident was horrible for Willow and Tara (thank god the kids weren't at home to witness it!) it turned out good because it prompted Tara to FINALLY confide in Willow and Willow telling Tara about some of her guilt in return. Never before has a talk been so much needed between them, I think. And I feel like quoting the whole talk but that would be silly, so I'll just pick out my favourite parts:


It was sort of a 'rock bottom' situation. Tara could see that Willow was concerned and that her issues were really affecting the home but for Willow to actually believe Tara would do that? It was a punch of reality to the gut.

Quote:
So brave of Willow to go in there certain that Tara "hates her right now" (meaning: is furious with her) but begging Tara to tell her how she could help her. That probably was the last prompt Tara needed to be ready to tell her about her PTSD and everything else she kept from Willow before.


I agree! When Tara is able to look back on all of this clearly, she's going to be so overcome with how much love Willow has displayed for her.

Quote:
:cry This hurt to read but I feel it's important that Tara voiced her feelings of self-hatred to Willow.


Aching for them both but you're right, so important.

Quote:
I trust Willow knew that Tara still loves her but I understand that she has the need to be reassured by Tara here because somewhere deep in her mind she probably asked herself the question "Does Tara not love me anymore?" when Tara acted so distant, short and one might even say cold with her.


Compounded with the secrets Willow herself was keeping (those fears expressed just a little later about Tara blaming her) I'm sure she did wonder maybe not does Tara love me, but does she still love me enough to forgive me?

Quote:
Very important that Willow told Tara about those fears. I already suspected that Willow feared Tara was angry with her because she gave her permission to the hysterectomy. And this voicemail message was one of this seemingly little things that Willow can get totally worked up about when she doesn't talk about it with Tara right away.


And the thing is, she couldn't bring it up right away. There was waaaaaay too much going on. And she couldn't delete it - I really didn't want her to do that because it would have felt dishonest and she would have felt compelled to confess anyhow.

Quote:
:flower I love that Willow managed to immediately overcome her own hurt she must have felt at the revelation that her touch triggers Tara's panic attacks and found those beautiful words to reassure Tara of her constant love and support (I have to admit that all of a sudden that Sonny and Cher song "I got you babe" popped in my head).


This put that video of Ellen and Portia singing that song in my head - have you seen it? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgLB7Ej3LQM) I can TOTALLY see Willow and Tara doing that (maybe in my Inevitable verse where they're more likely to be on a talk show :lol)

Quote:
:bigkiss Canon-easteregg! And so fitting even without any supernatural element in your world because the love those two have really is magic.


One of my favorite lines from the show because it works on so many levels and so can work in almost any AU they're put in.

Quote:
Yes Tara! Such an important decision, again I'm so proud of her! Learning that she can still breastfeed the babies was an unexpected bonus.


Tara deserved a win.

Quote:
Aww! :flower I almost shed some happy tears!


Shed them! I want all the happy tears! :D

Quote:
I just realized that Woofy has his own trauma: his late "Mommy" going to sleep (maybe after feeling "a little woozy" and stumbling to her chair) and never waking up again even when he nudged and licked her, whimpered and barked. So no wonder he was so alarmed when Tara stumbled into bed and he couldn't wake her.


And the house he was (briefly) in before also abandoned him. Poor Woofs is deserving of the huge love he's going to get in their home.

Quote:
I totally agree. My parents never told my brother and me about our mother's illness when we were kids. We only found about it later when we were adults. Actually my parents still don't like to talk about it - but they are from a generation were mental illnesses were "hushed up".


I'm sorry to hear that. It's so tough when you can't understand/rationalize that behavior. I very much believe we should be open and honest about it.

Quote:
They'll have to be especially careful with JJ I think - he might easily "cling to" Tara, feeling responsible for her emotional state when he knows she's mentally ill. But I hope the pills will improve her state soon enough so he won't have to constantly worry about it.


I think this is where the age appropriate stuff comes in. Not overwhelming him, just explaining.

Quote:
Yay for the "strong like an amazon" quote and for them just taking "a mental step back" and truly appreciating the miracle of their (now fully developed and healthy) babies.


Much needed!

Quote:
Yay for the kiss :wtkiss which showed that kissing doesn't trigger any panick attacks in Tara! They should make good use of that knowledge and kiss at least six times every day - I'm sure Dr. Erin would agree with me! :wink And they should test other forms of touching (embraces, shoulder massages etc.) to find out the "safe" ones so they can rekindle their physical intimacy (in a chaste way first).


:laugh I agree, all of the kisses they can handle!

Thanks so much for the feedback!



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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 28th 2020)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2020 5:00 am 
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NOTE: Forever and Always, I thank my bestest pal DarkWiccan for supporting me and being my friend, but particularly this chapter for allowing me to take their experiences of parenthood and immortalize them (badly) forever in our shared passion, family fic (and just fic in general)

Epilogue coming at you tomorrow!



Chapter Twenty-Five




Tara kept a brisk pace as she walked around the neighborhood.


Spring was nearing but it was still chilly and a fast walk kept her warm.


Also because a fast walk worked almost as well as the car at getting the twins to nod off and sure enough when Tara peeked into the stroller, they were out cold. They weren’t actually cold, of course, because Tara had them well wrapped up but they slept peacefully curled up close to each other.


“Good afternoon Tara,” a woman said, slightly out of breath as she approached Tara on the sideway, swinging handheld weights as she continued to walk on the spot when she stopped.


“Hi Jackie,” Tara greeted, slowing the stroller but still gently rocking it back and forth, “How are you doing?”


“Getting out of the house to clear my head of all of the college acceptance nerves with Jason,” Jackie replied, blowing a piece of hair up from her brow, “Jason has high hopes and the high anxieties that go with it.”


“Oh, I’m sure he’ll get in where he wants,” Tara smiled kindly.


Jackie smiled too.


“He does well in school. Always a very curious boy.”


Tara had to work hard to keep the smile on her face as she tried not to blush remembering Jason as a little pre-pubescent boy peering in their window on the day they’d arrived in the neighborhood while she and Willow were ‘christening’ the living room floor.


“Very curious.”


Jackie just nodded and turned herself so she could look into the stroller.


“Oh, they’re getting so big.”


“They’re right around average for their age, which is excellent for them,” Tara replied proudly, “Especially Emily.”


Jackie smiled again and pushed off her feet.


“I better keep going. Good to see you, Tara.”


“Bye, Jackie,” Tara answered and propelled the stroller forward again while lapping up some of that winter sun making a rare appearance.


She finished her circuit and as she approached the house, she spotted a moving van pulling away from outside Mrs. Potts’s house. She reached into the babies just to prolong time long enough for it to move off completely. Left on the lawn were two men, one a bit younger than her with sandy-colored hair and the other middle-aged with salt-and-pepper, with his arm around the other.


Tara raised her hand in a wave and the men gave each other a look of pleasant surprise and waved back.


Tara chuckled to herself and pushed the stroller back to the house. She left it in the living room so the twins could keep napping and got herself a glass of water. From her purse, she retrieved a cylindrical pill bottle and slid one of her anti-depressants onto her palm. She tossed it in her mouth and chased it with some water, then took a moment for a slow breath.


“Okay,” she whispered to herself as she rolled her neck from side to side, “Yoga time.”


She went back into the living room so she could supervise the twins while she did her session. She got her mat from the hall closet and unrolled it on the floor in front of the television. She followed a DVD on-screen but she knew the routine so just had it on mute.


While she was in the middle of a warrior pose, she spotted the school bus pull up, and then JJ was running up the driveway waving back to his pals.


The door opened and his bag dropped and he skidded into the living room.


“Hi Mom,” he greeted then went to peer into the stroller and whisper, “Hi babies.”


“Hi Jakey,” Tara greeted while trying to hold a plank, “Did you have a good day at school?”


“Yeah,” JJ nodded and rocked back on his heels, “Did you have a good day, Mom? Or a sad day?”


Tara smiled softly at that nervous, eager little face that looked so like Willow sometimes.


“I had a good day, sweetie,” she reassured as she moved onto a side plank, “Do you want to do some yoga with me?”


“Yoga is easy, it’s just slow karate,” JJ replied and started to chop the air.


Tara chuckled and fell back onto her elbows to catch her breath.


“I left you a snack in the fridge.”


“Thanks, Mom!” JJ replied as he scurried off to eat.


“And don’t eat the chocolate pudding, it’s for dessert!” Tara called after him.


She finished up the DVD and sat up to do some general stretches. A few minutes later, JJ returned sucking on a straw in a juice box with chocolate smeared all over his mouth.


Tara looked at him dubiously.


“Did you eat some of the chocolate pudding?”


“No,” JJ replied unconvincingly.


Tara had to try very hard to grin. She stood up and turned him toward the stairs.


“Go wash your face.”


JJ swiped at his face and looked guilty for a moment before obliging in going upstairs to clean it.


Tara checked the time and knew the twins would need a diaper change soon so she also went upstairs to grab some extra supplies.


In the nursery, she closed her palms around the side of one of the cribs and smiled. After a few weeks in therapy and on the medication, she’d gotten both the whim and the energy to finally change the nursery around to how she would have designed it given the chance. The room flowed better, the light brightened it all up and Tara was able to walk in and out breezily knowing exactly where everything she needed was.


“Mom, can I play outside with Woofy before I do my homework?” JJ asked as he met her in the hallway as he left the bathroom.


“As long as you get it done,” Tara answered, “Try not to hit any balls against the walls, it scares the twins.”


“Okay, Mom,” JJ agreed and sped past her down the stairs.


Woofy jumped out of bed and eagerly ran behind JJ when he saw his ball in JJ’s hand. They went out to play and almost immediately a ball banged against the wall. Emily started to wail first but Lily was grumbling soon after.


Tara heaved a big sigh and shook her head as JJ looked through the bay window contritely.


“Come here, sweetie,” Tara lifted Emily out onto their mat on the floor, then brought Lily to join her, “I know. Mommy’s here. Everything is okay, my girls.”


They were soon distracted by the animals and shapes hanging from the mobile overhead and Tara’s singing. Tara cycled through a few old favorites as she changed them — Ira was right, they were quite partial to Frère Jacques, and Tara looked forward to teaching them some French in the future.


Their little personalities were starting to come out already and she was noticing the differences between them, like how Lily loved songs that were fast and energetic and Lily liked to be soothed by soft lullabies.


“Okay babies it’s tummy time!” she said enthusiastically and gently turned them over and grabbed a nearby toy and waved it at them, “Look what Mommy has! Are you gonna grab it? Who’s gonna get it first?”


A few hours later, on her way home from work, Willow checked on Robyn in the rearview mirror.


“What did you do at daycare today, Robbie?”


“I make squiggle,” Robyn answered with a bounce of her head.


“Was it blue?” Willow asked and turned onto their street.


“No!” Robyn shook her head.


“Your favorite color is blue,” Willow countered.


Robyn’s cheeks puffed up and her hands bent at her hips in the seat.


“My fav’ite colah is ice cweam!”


Willow frowned.


“Ice-cream isn’t a color.”


“Yah, is,” Robyn insisted with a knowledgeable nod, “Ev’ting is colah.”


Willow smirked to herself.


“Tiny Tara.”


She pulled up in the driveway and helped Robyn out of her seat before bringing her inside.


Robyn ran to where she heard Tara pottering in the kitchen. She started to run at Tara but stopped at the mat where the babies were and kissed each of their heads.


“‘lo bubbies, is yur GWEAT big sistah!”


“Hi Robbie,” Tara greeted and bend down to gather her in a hug, “Did you have a good day?”


“Yah!” Robyn agreed easily, “Miss yu!”


Tara attacked Robyn’s face with kisses.


“Mommy missed you too and I love you so much.”


Robyn hung out of Tara with her arms around Tara’s neck.


“Wobbie loves Mom-mee!”


Tara wrapped her in a fresh hug.


“Come here, little bean,” she said and let herself have a moment of appreciation, “Okay, go wash your hands for dinner.”


She patted Robyn’s butt as she left and stood back up.


“Do I get a welcome like that?” Willow grinned as she left her purse on one of the stools.


Tara opened her arms invitingly and they each held on tight.


Willow pulled back and kissed Tara, slow and lingering. She closed her arms back around her wife and then frowned in confusion as she spotted a note stuck on the fridge behind them.


“Why does the fridge say ‘tampons’?”


Tara looked over her shoulder and back at Willow.


“Oh, you’re low on them,” she answered easily, “I noticed when I was looking for my nipple cream.”


She looked embarrassed.


“And, um, add nipple cream to that list. Forgot to write it. Can I still blame baby brain?”


Willow looked sympathetic and picked up the little pen stuck to the fridge with a magnet to note it down.


“What can I help with?”


“Get the twins ready for dinner?” Tara requested.


“Gladly,” Willow replied with a smile.


“Hey, guess what?” Tara asked as she popped a piece of carrot in her mouth, “New neighbors moved in.”


“Yeah?” Willow asked as she started to bend down to the babies.


Tara smirked.


“We’re not the only gays in the village anymore…”


“Oh good, we haven't had a meeting on The Agenda in months!” Willow quipped and smiled over her shoulder at Tara, “Guys or gals?”


“Two guys,” Tara answered with a smile, “Our age. Ish. If you average it out.”


“Do they want a baby?” Willow asked with a wink, “We have an extra.”


She put her hands on each of the babies’ stomachs and gently shook them to produce giggles.


“I’m only joking. How are my girls, huh? Did you miss your Momma? I missed you. Yes, I did. Yes, I did.”


She put Lily over her right shoulder holding her there with her right hand and used her left hand to get a grip under Emily’s shoulders and with a quick movement of her right hand for leverage, she got Emily over the other shoulder.


“Hah! Baby deadlifts. Arnie ain’t got nothing on me.”


Tara smiled and waved at the babies as they looked over Willow’s shoulders at her.


Willow brought the twins upstairs and into the main bathroom. Robyn was in there, standing on the step that allowed her to use the sink.


“What are you up to?” Willow asked suspiciously.


Robyn did jazz hands.


“Mom-mee say wash handies fuh dinnah.”


“Oh. Good girl,” Willow smiled at her, “You wanna help Momma bath the twins?”


Robin put her index finger against her chin and looked off in thought.


“Ummmmm…” she pontificated for a long moment, then jumped off her step, “Nope.”


She walked away and Willow sighed. She supposed not everyone could find the same joy in Emily learning to splash as she did. She wished she’d asked Robyn to tug down the towel for her though.


Upon a quicker look, the towel was already on the floor — nice and crumpled up from Robyn’s use. With her arms getting sore, she brought the twins into hers and Tara’s bedroom where a mat lay ready for them to rest on from when Tara was putting laundry away up there.


She set the babies down and hugged herself to stretch her exerted muscles.


She was already exhausted.


The babies started to roll in opposite directions and Willow had to put an arm across them to stop them.


Lily started to make sounds of protest at her positioning.


“I hear ya,” Willow cooed softly, “I wouldn’t like being held down on the floor either.”


She grinned.


“Unless Mommy was doing it.”


Her nose scrunched distastefully.


“You didn’t hear that!”


Since Lily was fussing more, as was usual, Willow undressed her first. As she wrapped up the suspiciously dry used diaper and tied it in a bag to take out after, she took off her sweater and stayed just in a tank top to stop any splashing incidents during bath time.


Feeling like she’d outwitted either babies’ curious hands, she picked Lily up to hold against her chest, which usually avoided her escalating into a full-on scream.


It worked; Lily happily snuggled into Willow and for a moment Willow had a perfect moment of bliss.


A perfect, warm moment of…


“Ahh!”


Willow realized that warmth was not stemming from a place of maternal love but from between her daughter’s tiny legs and straight through her thin tank top, pooling above the waistband of her pants.


“She’s peeing!” she called out to no one in a blind panic, “Tara! She’s peeing! Tara!”


Tara’s footsteps were quick on the stairs and she burst into the bedroom in alarm.


“Willow, what’s—”


She took one look at the scene, Lily’s stream still steadily sticking Willow’s top to her skin, and burst out laughing.


Willow looked over at her incredulously.


“Stop laughing and help me!”


“The bathroom is two feet away!” Tara got out through giggles and Willow looked over to the door to their en suite and ran in.


Still struggling to contain the laughter, Tara kneeled before the mat to undress Emily.


“You won’t pee on Mommy, will you?”


She kept her diaper on until she got into the bathroom, just in case.


“Some help you were,” Willow said indignantly from under the shower spray, where she was standing with Lily in her arms.


Emily giggled, a bit of a rare treat, and Tara smiled.


“Emmy’s with me on this one.”


Willow couldn’t keep up the grumpy face so she just stuck out her tongue and they switched babies.


Tara dressed Lily in her nightwear and then did the same with Emily while Willow dried off and changed into new clothes.


The twins didn’t really need much readying apart from that as they usually just lay one in each of their mothers’ laps while Willow and Tara did their best to eat with a spoon.


Tara brought the dish of tuna casserole into the dining room and served it up on all of the plates while the kids ran in and started to demolish it. She went to help Willow bring the babies in and then everyone was eating hungrily around the table.


When they were finished, Tara asked JJ to bring in the chocolate pudding and arched an eyebrow at him.


“I wonder what those spoon marks are from.”


“I wonder too,” JJ replied with a shrug.


Tara couldn’t help but grin this time.


“Okay everyone let’s do our new game! I want to hear roses and thorns,” Willow said when dessert was spooned out, “My thorn today was getting stuck in traffic this morning. And my rose was getting to come home and see all of you guys!”


“I rose is alllllll my fwiends pway barbies tu-day an’ I torn is, ummmmm…stinky boys!”


“With you there, sister,” Willow replied and held up a hand to fist bump, which Robyn knocked her whole open palm against and giggled.


“Jake?” Tara asked.


“Um, my thorn is I got some of my math questions wrong on my pop quiz and my rose is the chocolate pudding!”


Tara reached across the table and squeezed his hand.


“It’s okay to get things wrong sometimes. Everyone does,” she said softly and he smiled gratefully, “Well, my thorn was that I felt overwhelmed this morning when both of the babies were crying but my rose is that I actually listened when I told myself I could handle it. And I could.”


Willow reached over with a smile and rubbed Tara’s shoulder.


“We’re proud of you.”


“Yeah, mom,” JJ nodded, “Can I change my rose?”


Tara nodded.


“Seeing you smile was my rose,” JJ said shyly.


“Aww!” Willow replied sweetly.


“That is very nice, JJ,” Tara added with a warm look, “My boy, I love you so much.”


She took a moment of appreciation as she looked around the table.


“Okay kids, bring your plates to the sink please,” she said when she felt herself get a little misty-eyed.


Not to hide it, just to move forward.


“Bedtime soon, Robbie. You can play for thirty minutes before your bath.”


The next couple of hours were the hectic chaos of ferrying the children to bed and settling the twins for the night. Finally, exhausted and in bed themselves, Willow and Tara pulled the blanket up over them.


Tara glanced over at Willow as she turned her iPad on.


“It’s our anniversary on Friday.”


Willow smiled across as she put her glasses on.


“I know.”


Tara swallowed deeply.


“I was going to suggest something but I’m afraid if I say it out loud that I can’t take it back.”


Willow paused, put her iPad down on her nightstand, and gave her full attention to Tara.


“What if you said it with no strings attached?”


Tara tucked some hair behind her ear nervously.


“I-I wondered if we could get the kids to go on sleepovers and have a night alone?” she said, swallowing again, “All of the kids.”


Willow’s eyebrows shot upward.


“Really? You’d let the twins go on an overnight?”


Tara looked away, then back at Willow with creased, wet eyes.


“It’s really hard.”


“I know it is,” Willow replied tenderly and started to reach out to her but remembered in time and retracted her hand, “And if that’s too much, that’s okay. We’ll have a family anniversary dinner, it’ll be great.”


Tara’s hands fidgeted against the blanket.


“Maybe we could put our parents on standby?”


Willow nodded, trying not to seem too eager.


“Yeah, they’d love it. Dad is always asking and they’ve watched them for a couple of hours a few times before so they know their routine.”


She watched the hesitation play out across Tara’s face and gave her a gentle look.


“No matter what, I love you so much, Tara.”


Tara leaned over and gave Willow a soft hug.


“I love you too.”


She wanted this. She could do this.


And she could listen to that voice.


She just had to keep reminding herself.



It took Tara forty minutes to complete the ten-minute walk from Ira and Michelle’s house back to her own because she kept looping around to try and spy on them.


Once she thought she saw Ira drop one of the twins through the window and nearly sprinted inside, but when he picked up the fallen object again she saw it was just a doll he was waving about.


Teetering way to close to the edge of crazy, but at least able to recognize it now, she finally made herself keep walking all the way home, where Willow should be unloading their dinner picked up from their favorite restaurant in town. She walked in the door and backed up against it.


She closed her eyes.


She smiled.


She did it.


When she opened them again Willow had wandered out from the kitchen and was staring down at her phone with a dazed look on her face.


Tara pushed off the door and frowned with concern.


“Willow?” she asked, stepping toward her wife, “What’s wrong?”


Willow slapped her phone against her palm.


“Mrs. Michelson died,” she said, still in disbelief, “Her lawyer just called me.”


Tara’s chest visibly deflated.


“Oh, Willow.”


She reached out and clasped Willow’s arm, moving up to rub her neck and shoulder. Willow threw a hand up.


“I’ve been expecting it,” she said with a gulp, “It’s not like it’s sudden.”


“It's always sudden,” Tara replied softly, “Oh darling, I’m so sorry.”


She kissed Willow’s forehead then again on the lips. Willow returned it for a moment and when it stopped their foreheads moved to rest against each other.


“I-I’m gonna have to go to Sunnydale,” Willow stumbled over her words, trying to work it all out in her head, “Say goodbye.”


Tara nodded with Willow.


“And I’ll be right there with you.”


Willow’s eyes filled sadly.


“Oh, no, Tara, you don’t have to—”


“And I will be right there with you,” Tara repeated, insistent.


A single tear fell down Willow’s cheek. She took both of Tara’s hands and mouthed ‘I love you’.


She accepted Tara’s comfort for a moment, then stood up straight with a long sniffling inhale.


“I’ll have to figure out stuff…tomorrow,” she exhaled it all out again, “She would want me to have tonight.”


She squeezed Tara’s hands.


“She would want us to have tonight.”


Tara looked at Willow for a long moment before nodding in agreement.


“What do you want to do? Do you want to eat?”


Willow’s body suddenly felt very heavy.


“Maybe we could just sit for a minute?”


“Of course,” Tara replied and they broke only one set of hands to walk into the living room together.


On the table was a bottle of champagne and two flutes. Willow picked it up and held it heavy in her hand.


“I-I bought this for us. I thought since you won’t be feeding the twins until tomorrow that it would be okay. But now…”


“We could toast to her life,” Tara suggested gently, “Or just leave it. Whatever you want.”


“No, I’d…” Willow paused and smiled, albeit sadly, “I’d like that.”


She nodded to herself once, then twice, and got ready to open it. She popped it off with both thumbs and laughed when some spilled over. She poured two glasses and handed one to Tara.


Tara held hers up reverently.


“To Ruth.”


Willow breathed in slowly.


“To Ruth,” she answered with sad acceptance in her voice, “Our daughter’s namesake and the only true mother I’ve ever known.”


They clinked glasses and each took a sip.


Willow decompressed for a moment, then when Tara lifted her arm invitingly, she snuggled into her wife’s side.


With a glass of champagne fizzing through their blood, after months of no alcohol and a similar amount of time since they hadn’t had a single child to take care of, they both promptly passed out right there on the couch.


At some point in the middle of the night, Willow woke them both and got them upstairs to bed but even pajamas were too much to aim for and they both just dropped their pants and slept in their shirts.


It was well into the morning before either roused and again it was Willow who roused first. It was nice to be woken by Tara’s even breathing and not a screeching baby. Though sometimes Lily woke her up laughing and that was just as good.


Emily laughed sometimes too but it always quiet and one-on-one like she was sharing it just for you.


Willow glanced at the clock and rolled her shoulder blades happily. It was the latest number she’d seen upon waking for a while.


She rolled onto her back to stretch out fully and when everything had popped satisfactorily she turned her head to look at Tara’s sleeping face.


Willow hadn’t even realized how fretful it had become until Tara had finally settled back into a better sleep routine and she remembered how peaceful her wife looked. Especially in the mornings when the sun would strain through the blinds and make it look like a halo resided over her.


Now that Tara was letting her help bottle feed the twins at night, there had been a few mornings Willow had sat with a baby in her arms watching her wife sleep with the early morn sun radiating in on them and thought life couldn’t get much better than this.


Or when Tara would fall asleep as they were feeding side-by-side on the two-seater recliner they'd bought for the nursery. They’d spent a small fortune on it but it was worth every penny when one of the babies wouldn’t settle without the other one with them, usually Lily since Emily took a little longer to feed.


Once, both of the babies were running small fevers and restless and wouldn’t stop crying. It woke up both JJ and Robyn who ended up coming in and they all snuggled in together and eventually fell asleep until morning.


It was a nice image for Willow to retain as she thought of her loss yesterday.


And there was a nice image to enjoy right at this very moment with a whole night’s sleep cushioning her brain in a delightfully lazy haze.


Tara must have realized she was being stared at because after a few minutes her eyes twitched and then opened, sending pools of sweet blue warmth toward Willow.


Tara raised her hand and let it fall onto Willow’s thigh.


“Hi love,” she greeted with some adorable morning gruff, which she cleared with a swallow and looked at Willow tenderly, “How are you feeling?”


Willow understood what was being asked.


“Sad,” she said with a tight curve of her lips, “But…okay. I am. Or I will be. But, yeah. I’m okay.”


She exhaled softly.


“I’m bummed her store won’t be there anymore though. Feels like a piece of my childhood is being ripped out.”


“It was probably costing her to keep it open,” Tara replied softly.


Willow frowned.


“Which kinda makes it all the sadder. All that love she put into it.”


Tara turned herself onto her side and brushed her hand over Willow’s collarbone.


“You know what else she put all of her love into?” she asked and looked down pointedly, “You.”


She pressed her lips against Willow’s.


“And she will live in you every day.”


Willow smiled and realized what she said before was true; she was okay. Or would be. Either way, she knew she wasn’t alone.


She picked at Tara’s crumpled blouse and laughed.


“Look at us,” she said, shaking her head, “Still in our clothes from the night before. So much for ‘having tonight’.”


“A full night’s sleep is the best gift you could have given me,” Tara replied with a wry smile.


“Ditto,” Willow grinned, then bit down on her lip, “But I did get you something.”


She tossed herself over and opened her nightstand drawer pulling out an envelope. She turned back and handed it to Tara.


“Happy Anniversary.”


“Thank you,” Tara replied sweetly and opened it up.


When she pulled out what was inside, she burst out laughing.


“What?” Willow asked with a confused frown, “It’s for the spa you like. You can have a full day of treatments while I watch the kids.”


Tara placed it down between them, rolled over to her nightstand and took out a similarly decorated envelope.


Predictably, the inside was similar as well.


“Hah!” Willow cackled with a huge grin, “I think this is the old married lady equivalent of when two people plan to propose at the same time.”


She smiled at Tara.


“I guess we’re doing a ‘couple’ day,” she said and arched one eyebrow, “If you’re okay with leaving the kids again…”


Tara took a calming breath.


“Can we wait a couple of weeks so I can psyche myself back up?”


“Absolutely,” Willow replied sincerely, then lowered her voice to a whisper, “And I’m so proud of you.”


She leaned in and Tara moved in the rest of the way to nuzzle their noses.


Willow sighed luxuriously.


“How do you feel about a leftover carbonara breakfast?” she asked in a seductive voice, “I’ll even crisp up the garlic bread the fancy way, not in the microwave.”


“Don’t you set my toaster on fire again,” Tara replied with a messy arched eyebrow, “Sounds like something that could be pushed to brunch…”


“Mmmm,” Willow replied and they leaned together again but met at the lips this time.


They both turned on their sides and their bare legs brushed together. It was the closet contact they’d had in a while and both shivered when they felt the connection of thighs.


Tara had to drag herself away on the night gasping breath.


“Willow, I’m—” she stopped and cleared her throat as she looked Willow in the eyes, “I’m so sorry but I’m…just not ready to have full sex yet.”


Willow was quick to reassure.


“Tara, that’s f—”


“It's not you or us,” Tara cut her off to continue, “It's me. I've been working so hard on my ‘mind stuff’ I haven't been able to work on my ‘body stuff’ yet.”


Willow took a moment to think before she replied.


“Do you remember how much big doofuses we were back in college. Me mostly, admittedly, but remember?”


Tara blushed lightly.


“Yes.”


Willow nudged Tara’s knee.


“We worked it out then and we'll work it out again,” she said, resolute and secure, “I don't care how long it takes.”


Her hand lifted to cup Tara’s cheek but faltered at the last second. Before she could take it back, Tara grabbed it and put it down gently on where it was supposed to be. She nuzzled into Willow’s palm.


“I’m not afraid of you touching me anymore,” she whispered with their gazes locked, “So I don’t want you to be afraid of touching me anymore either.”


Willow’s heart sped up even from the simple contact.


“It doesn’t happen anymore? When I touch you?”


“I still get flashbacks,” Tara replied evenly, “But I know how to deal with it now. Stop it from escalating.”


She turned her head in and kissed where she had nuzzled.


“But I’m ready to change my associations. Build up new memories…”


Willow smiled softly.


“Just slow.”


“Just slow,” Tara confirmed.


Willow waggled her eyebrows.


“Well as you know…” she said in an over-the-top suggestive voice, “I’ve always liked it slow.”


Tara pursed her lips but a smile still broke out across her face — slowly, of course.


“Is Dream Tara still putting out, at least?”


“Oh, daily,” Willow grinned.


Tara laughed and planted a kiss on her wife’s lips.


“Happy Anniversary, Willow.”


Willow rubbed her thumb over Tara’s face, remembering what it felt like to feel her cheekbones.


“Do you remember our anniversary this time last year?” she asked with a chuckle, “We didn’t think we’d have two four-month-olds in a year’s time.”


Tara just shook her head with wide eyes.


“Both anniversaries last year were not…” she paused and her jaw clenched, “I was so upset about not getting pregnant for our February anniversary…we just ate pizza, not even good pizza…and did we even acknowledge our wedding anniversary while we were in the NICU?”


“I don’t think we did,” Willow shook her head.


Tara caught Willow’s eye again and felt some tears start to fill her eyes.


“I got so lost.”


“And this time I couldn’t find you,” Willow said wistfully, “You had to find you. But I’ve been here waiting with the light on all along.”


“I’m here. I’m here now,” Tara promised with another soft kiss, “And I’m not going anywhere.”


Willow smiled and they kissed again.


“I think I see it now,” Tara whispered into the kiss, “The light.”


She placed a palm over Willow’s heart.


“Right in here. I had to look past my own shadow to see it.”


“I love you, Tara,” Willow whispered back.


“I love you, Willow,” Tara said with all of the adoration her heart was able to express, “And our lovely children who are probably driving their grandparents crazy.”


Willow smiled, acquiescing.


“You want to go collect the kids?”


Tara did, truthfully, but she also didn’t want this pocket of joy to end.


“We should have a couple of non-sleeping hours to ourselves.”


Willow nodded agreeably.


“What do you want to do?”


Tara looked over her shoulder at the light shining through the window and then back at her wife.


“Appreciate that sunny day.”


“I'm all for some appreciation,” Willow agreed fondly, “Mostly for my strong, brave wife.”


“Funny,” Tara smiled, “I was thinking the same thing.”


They shared a loving look, then Tara rubbed Willow’s leg.


“Let’s have that day off you gave me for Christmas. And my belated gift back can be me as your company.”


Willow beamed.


It was so moving to hear Tara say something where she held herself in high esteem.


Tara stood with her hand stretched back.


“C'mon. Let's go.”


Willow closed her hand in Tara’s and followed.


It didn't matter where.


The direction was superfluous.


All that matter was how they moved toward it.


Side by side.


Finally walking toward the light again.


It didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be more shadows and it didn’t mean that every step would be easy but the footprints they left in the sand would always be together.


They took their first step on this new meandering of their well-worn path; knowing that where there's light, there's shadow but accepting it for what it was.


Remembering always that shadow passes but light remains.

_________________
Amber Benson killed me once.

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 29th 2020)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2020 7:11 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 405
:whip Dibs! :whip
So that already was the last chapter?
I'm so glad that Tara has found her way back into the light and both are strong again as a couple!
Quote:
Lily started to make sounds of protest at her positioning.


“I hear ya,” Willow cooed softly, “I wouldn’t like being held down on the floor either.”


She grinned.


“Unless Mommy was doing it.”


Her nose scrunched distastefully.


“You didn’t hear that!”

:lol
Willow getting peed on was funny, reminded me of the very first time they changed JJ's diaper! :laugh
I like that they apparantly do the "rose/thorn" thing every day. Something Tara picked up from her therapy with Erin, I guess?
Quote:
Willow reached over with a smile and rubbed Tara’s shoulder.


“We’re proud of you.”


“Yeah, mom,” JJ nodded, “Can I change my rose?”


Tara nodded.


“Seeing you smile was my rose,” JJ said shyly.


“Aww!” Willow replied sweetly.

AWWW squared! :bigkiss

I'm proud that Tara had the strength to spend a whole night and half a day without the twins - that's a huge step for every mother but for her even more so.
Quote:
Now that Tara was letting her help bottle feed the twins at night, there had been a few mornings Willow had sat with a baby in her arms watching her wife sleep with the early morn sun radiating in on them and thought life couldn’t get much better than this.


Or when Tara would fall asleep as they were feeding side-by-side on the two-seater recliner they'd bought for the nursery. They’d spent a small fortune on it but it was worth every penny when one of the babies wouldn’t settle without the other one with them, usually Lily since Emily took a little longer to feed.

Also a great improvement for Tara that she felt "secure" enough in her mother role to share the feeding of the babies with Willow again.
Quote:
Tara held hers up reverently.


“To Ruth.”


Willow breathed in slowly.


“To Ruth,” she answered with sad acceptance in her voice, “Our daughter’s namesake and the only true mother I’ve ever known.”

I'm sad about Ruth's passing which leaves Willow without her original "mother figure" (although she kind of has two "moms in law" with Michelle and Rose).
Quote:
“I’m bummed her store won’t be there anymore though. Feels like a piece of my childhood is being ripped out.”


“It was probably costing her to keep it open,” Tara replied softly.


Willow frowned.


“Which kinda makes it all the sadder. All that love she put into it.”


Tara turned herself onto her side and brushed her hand over Willow’s collarbone.


“You know what else she put all of her love into?” she asked and looked down pointedly, “You.”


She pressed her lips against Willow’s.


“And she will live in you every day.”

:flower Aww, well put Tara. I have this silly notion now that maybe Willow inherited the book store from Ruth (although I don't know what she would do with it if she did).

Quote:
Her hand lifted to cup Tara’s cheek but faltered at the last second. Before she could take it back, Tara grabbed it and put it down gently on where it was supposed to be. She nuzzled into Willow’s palm.


“I’m not afraid of you touching me anymore,” she whispered with their gazes locked, “So I don’t want you to be afraid of touching me anymore either.”


Willow’s heart sped up even from the simple contact.


“It doesn’t happen anymore? When I touch you?”


“I still get flashbacks,” Tara replied evenly, “But I know how to deal with it now. Stop it from escalating.”


She turned her head in and kissed where she had nuzzled.


“But I’m ready to change my associations. Build up new memories…”


Willow smiled softly.


“Just slow.”


“Just slow,” Tara confirmed.

I'm very glad that Willow won't have to restrain herself from touching Tara anymore.
Quote:
“Well as you know…” she said in an over-the-top suggestive voice, “I’ve always liked it slow.”


Tara pursed her lips but a smile still broke out across her face — slowly, of course.


“Is Dream Tara still putting out, at least?”


“Oh, daily,” Willow grinned.


Tara laughed and planted a kiss on her wife’s lips.

May I kindly remind you of the smutty bonus features you promised me some time ago? :wink

Quote:
Tara caught Willow’s eye again and felt some tears start to fill her eyes.


“I got so lost.”


“And this time I couldn’t find you,” Willow said wistfully, “You had to find you. But I’ve been here waiting with the light on all along.”


“I’m here. I’m here now,” Tara promised with another soft kiss, “And I’m not going anywhere.”


Willow smiled and they kissed again.


“I think I see it now,” Tara whispered into the kiss, “The light.”


She placed a palm over Willow’s heart.


“Right in here. I had to look past my own shadow to see it.”


“I love you, Tara,” Willow whispered back.


“I love you, Willow,” Tara said with all of the adoration her heart was able to express, “And our lovely children who are probably driving their grandparents crazy.”

:flower :bigkiss

Quote:
Willow closed her hand in Tara’s and followed.


It didn't matter where.


The direction was superfluous.


All that matter was how they moved toward it.


Side by side.


Finally walking toward the light again.


It didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be more shadows and it didn’t mean that every step would be easy but the footprints they left in the sand would always be together.


They took their first step on this new meandering of their well-worn path; knowing that where there's light, there's shadow but accepting it for what it was.


Remembering always that shadow passes but light remains.

:flower What a beautiful ending! :wtkiss

I'm looking forward to the epilogue tomorrow.


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 29th 2020)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2020 4:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Will's redemption

Quote:
:whip Dibs! :whip


Woot!

Quote:
So that already was the last chapter?


Yep. She had to move forward.

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I'm so glad that Tara has found her way back into the light and both are strong again as a couple!


I promised, didn't I?

Quote:
:lol
Willow getting peed on was funny, reminded me of the very first time they changed JJ's diaper! :laugh


:lol yes! Lily and her big brother have something in common.

Quote:
I like that they apparantly do the "rose/thorn" thing every day. Something Tara picked up from her therapy with Erin, I guess?


I like to think they decided to do it on their own. Maybe researching how to help kids deal with it all.

Quote:
I'm proud that Tara had the strength to spend a whole night and half a day without the twins - that's a huge step for every mother but for her even more so.


The twins are still pretty young - Tara is definitely to be commended for pushing herself.

Quote:
Also a great improvement for Tara that she felt "secure" enough in her mother role to share the feeding of the babies with Willow again.


Little steps...but you can see why the time jump was needed.

Quote:
I'm sad about Ruth's passing which leaves Willow without her original "mother figure" (although she kind of has two "moms in law" with Michelle and Rose).


Practically, Michelle and Rose offer much of a consistent mother role in Willow's life as it is right down. But Ruth did a lot in her time and Willow will mourn that.

Quote:
:flower Aww, well put Tara. I have this silly notion now that maybe Willow inherited the book store from Ruth (although I don't know what she would do with it if she did).


:wink

Quote:
I'm very glad that Willow won't have to restrain herself from touching Tara anymore.


They are too :)

Quote:
May I kindly remind you of the smutty bonus features you promised me some time ago? :wink


Did I promise? :P I still have them but I don't really know what to do with them. Maybe I could turn them into a one-shot? I'll have to give it a think.

Quote:
:flower What a beautiful ending! :wtkiss


Thank you!

Quote:
I'm looking forward to the epilogue tomorrow.


I hope you enjoy it!

Thanks so much for your feedback!



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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (April 29th 2020)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2020 4:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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NOTE: Thanks to everyone who read this and who still have love for these characters all these years later! Big thanks to MotherD, NorthernLass, Will’s redemption, DaddyCatALSO, Finey_McFine & taranwillow4ever for taking the time to leave feedback!



Epilogue



Six Years Later


Tara walked through her office after printing some documents and sat back into her chair - the ergonomic one Willow had always wanted to buy her and she'd finally allowed.


She looked around at the suspiciously at the empty cubicles nearby.


“Where are Alice and Michelle?”


One of their two new fresh-out-of-college recruits, Joshua and Brandon, popped up from behind his partition.


“They cut out early,” Josh said and then Brandon suddenly appeared from the other side.


“You should too.”


They happened to be identical twins and Tara may have been a little biased in hiring them. They weren’t bad at the job, they were quite caring in fact, but they did need a little bit more professional molding.


“Thanks, boys, but I think I’ll stay and catch up on some paperwork,” Tara replied pointedly, and started to repeatedly press the screen’s buttons on the computer that hadn’t been replaced for the entire time she’d been working there, “If my computer will co-operate.”


She looked under her desk to see if the power plug was loose but it was stuck right in. After a few more attempts to produce any kind of screen movement, she threw up her hands.


“Okay. IT isn’t going to come out this late. I guess the universe is telling me something.”


She stood and grabbed her purse.


“I need those foster action plans on my desk by 10 am.”


“You got it, boss!” Brandon saluted, then when Tara was sufficiently far enough away not to hear, he continued, “She’s not even going to be here tomorrow. Can you say automatic extension?”


“How’d you make her computer stay off?” Josh asked.


Brandon held up a cable that led nowhere.


“Dummy plug.”


“Old school,” Brandon complimented and held up his hand for a high five, “Nice.”


Out in the car, Tara switched through some radio stations as she pulled out of the parking lot.


“Speaking at the White House today, President Warren—”


“The moon mining mission today hit a snag when—”


“The fate of upcoming movie Avatar 4 has again been called into question after allegations that—”


Finally, some Destiny’s Child played on the oldies channel and Tara left it there to play in the background as she drove.


It was a nice time to leave work; the sweet spot between when schools got out and when offices started to close up. The streets were relatively clear and she could sing along with how Bootylicious she was without a care in the world.


When she got home, she was surprised to see Willow’s car already in the driveway.


She parked up beside it and let herself into the house.


“Willow, are you home already?” she called out as she closed the door, “Did you remember to pick up Lily’s Ritalin? I rescheduled our therapy appointment like you asked…”


She trailed off and paused.


Something was off.


All of the doors were closed, for one.


She took a step inside and noticed a post-it stuck to the pole at the base of the stairs, telling her to go up. It was in Willow’s handwriting.


“…Willow?” she called again, but everything was eerily quiet, “Kids?”


When there was no answer, she resigned herself to whatever plan her mischievous wife and kids were up to.


She made her way upstairs, passing photo frames on the wall along the way.


A picture of Lisa and Rose lived there now, along with one of Ira and Michelle all dressed up in black and white respectively, and photos of Mrs. Potts and Ruth.


A collage of Lily and Emily’s first photo in their crib; JJ and Woofy getting a rosette at the local dog show; Robyn winning her first soccer league; Willow and Tara cutting a ribbon outside a store.


There were photos of them all together, of course. Some were taken from holidays like their Christmas card one year of them all wearing their animal hats so lovingly knitted by their missed neighbor. Some were taken on vacations or Halloween; the most prominent one from the twins' first birthday when Willow had pulled off her Cat In The Hat theme and fulfilled her dreams of dressing the them up as Thing 1 and Thing 2.


Tara had to give it to her wife, it was all that the neighborhood talked about for weeks.


Upstairs, a new trail of post-its led Tara to hers and Willow’s bedroom. Inside, a gown cover lay across the bed with a note that said ‘wear me’.


Tara unzipped it and her brow furrowed when she saw it was her wedding dress, which hadn’t even been out of the back of her closet in many years.


“What on earth…”


She took it from the bag, where another note was pressed to it saying ‘just wear me’ and she had to laugh.


“Alright, Willow,” she said with amusement but wasn’t sure it was going to fit after decades and babies and surgeries (and plenty of wine and cheese too).


She undressed down to her already-matching bra and panties and stepped into the dress with a slightly bracing look on her face. To her surprise, it fit like a glove.


She turned around in it and smiled as it swished around her ankles, then held her bust, which she still filled out nicely.


“Wow,” she whispered to herself as she smoothed her hand over her stomach.


After putting on the shoes that were left out for her — white heels that were thoughtfully supplemented with gel insoles — she followed instructions to go back downstairs. This time she heard another very familiar voice say ‘wow’.


“Oh my god, Tara,” Willow’s eyes glazed from the foot of the stairs, where she too was donning her wedding dress, “You look amazing.”


She held her hands out for Tara to take and helped her down the last step.


“And yes I did remember the Ritalin,” she grinned, “AND Emily's inhaler, before you ask. I have got this parenting thing down too, you know.”


Tara gestured Willow up and down, speechless at how beautiful she looked.


“Willow, what the heck is going on?”


Willow made a little pout but her eyes were dancing playfully.


“You don’t remember?”


Tara gestured between them.


“I think I would remember…whatever this is.”


Willow grinned and looked up wistfully.


“‘On our…20th anniversary, Willow Rosenberg-Maclay, will you—”


“Marry me again,” Tara finished softly.


Sudden images flooded her mind of being on one knee as she ‘proposed’ again in their bedroom while Willow was pregnant, after Willow getting all in a fluster when she thought she’d lost her ring but Tara had just taken it to get cleaned. It had been a moment, just a passing moment between them that Tara hadn’t put any stock in. But Willow had.


“I can’t believe you remember that.”


“I’ve been planning it ever since that day,” Willow smiled tenderly, “And guess what? It’s our 20th anniversary today.”


Tara felt tears spring to her eyes as she realized what Willow had done. She lifted her hands up a bit helplessly.


“My hair—”


“Looks amazing since you became a brunette?” Willow grinned, “Hard agree.”


She placed her hands on the back of Tara’s neck and rested their foreheads together.


“You have never looked more beautiful.”


Tara smiled through glassy eyes and gently pulled the fabric at her hips.


“I can’t believe this still fits me.”


Willow just smiled and didn’t bother to tell Tara that she’d had both of their dresses altered.


It didn’t matter.


It wasn’t important.


“Are you ready?”


Tara raised an eyebrow.


“Ready for what exactly?”


“Our wedding,” Willow said with mock-exasperation, as she opened the kitchen door, “Now…we have to share a best man.”


Inside the door, JJ stood awkwardly filling out his suit as he’d gone through yet another growth spurt in the time between when Willow had bought it from him and today. His teenage face bore the shapely features of the adult he was becoming but his youthful smile betrayed his young age. A typical bout of acne confirmed it.


Tara’s hands covered her mouth as she saw him all dressed up.


“And a bridesmaid,” Willow continued, pushing the door open enough to see Robyn, her wild strawberry-blonde locks flowing right down her back and her scuffed and dirty sneakers kicking out from under her pink dress, “But we do get a flower girl each.”


Willow let the door open fully where Lily and Emily were standing; Lily jumping back and forth on her heels and Emily with her arms bent behind her back, swaying from side to side and her glasses sitting a little bent on her face. They each wore white dresses with poofy skirts and had a basket with pink and white flowers on their arms.


“Oh look at all of you,” Tara said, holding her face as she looked back and over them all repeatedly before putting her fingers against JJ’s cheeks, “My handsome boy.”


“Moooommmm…” JJ protested but didn’t twist out of her grasp like he had done many, many times before.


Lily jumped for Tara’s attention, spilling a few petals.


“Mommy you’re getting married and I’m gonna be your flower girl and Momma says I can have as much cake as I like and it’s chocolate cake and do you like my dress and—”


“I love your dress, Lil,” Tara replied softly, moving down onto her knees, “And yours, Em. Did you pick it?”


Emily nodded keenly.


I picked it,” Lily jumped it, then glanced sideways, “Emily helped.”


“I’m sure you both picked it,” Tara replied with a serious nod, “And you both did a great job.”


She kissed both of their foreheads and pivoted to Robyn, giving her a half-smile.


“Wearing shorts under there?”


Robyn gave the same smile back.


“Can’t play soccer in a dress, Mom.”


“Or you could go one day with a little break from soccer,” Willow called from behind, “But if you insist, then not in front of the guests. Only in the front yard…”


Robyn opened and closed her mouth mockingly while Willow spoke.


“Don’t mock your mother,” Tara chastised but she was still smiling.


“Hey!” Willow protested from behind, “What are you doing?”


She dropped to her knees and grabbed Robyn from behind.


“Are you mocking me with silly faces?” she said in the same kind of mocking tone, “Are you? Huh?”


She started to tickle Robyn, who began giggling uncontrollably.


“Oh no…” Tara said, lifting her arm up shakily as if she couldn’t control it, “I think it’s catching…!”


Her arm flew forward and caught Lily and then her other arm did the same to Emily. She pretended to fight it but lost and started to tickle them too.


In fits of laughter, Robyn tried to twist out of Willow’s arms.


“JJ save me!”


JJ cracked a smiled and after a requisite eye roll, he moved to intervene but Willow was too quick and caught his sensitive ankles.


“Hey!” he yelped and grabbed it, “Can we get on with this so I can eat?”


Willow released Robyn with a kiss and stood up to face JJ.


“I’m sorry, has it been whole minutes since you last cleared out my fridge?”


“Leave him alone,” Tara added, making her way back up to a standing position again, “He’s a growing boy.”


“I’m a growing boy,” JJ teased Willow and stuck out his tongue.


Willow stuck hers out back and then smiled at Tara.


“You ready?”


“No,” Tara laughed, “Not even slightly. But I’ve never wanted to do anything more.”


Willow nodded to JJ who stepped up and opened the sliding door to the back yard. He pressed a button on his phone and the opening bars of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Book of Love’ began to play.


“Oh, Willow,” Tara said, placing a hand against her heart as she remembered the first time they got ready to walk down the aisle to that song.


“Em, Lil, go,” Willow pushed their backs gently, “Like we practiced.”


Lily and Emily walked outside and turned toward where the ceremony was set up. There was a little aisle of red carpet laid out and meandered between rows of chairs that led to a wooden chuppah. It was carved with small hearts, Ws and Ts and was strewn with garlands of pink daisies.


The other half of the yard had empty tables laid out in an L shape with white tablecloths and there was an additional table already piled generously with bottles of alcohol and a big bucket of ice underneath.


Big outdoor heaters surrounded the area in a semi-circle and roof lights hung down from the house, just starting to glow warmly as the sky very slowly turned from blue to purple.


Emily made her way down the middle aisle, shyly averting her gaze from anyone as she gently threw out some petals. Lily did a cartwheel, losing the entire contents of her basket in the process and then did somersaults until she reached the end.


Once at the front, Michelle pulled Emily onto her lap and Ira kept a loose grip on Lily while she bounced around excitedly.


Inside, Robyn clung out of JJ’s arm as they started the same walk. They managed to pull it off without incident and broke off to wait either side of the chuppah for their parents.


Willow held out her hand for Tara and Tara took it.


“Let’s do this all over again.”


On a perfect romantic swell, they stepped out together and every one of their friends and family, who were sitting out there on a Tuesday afternoon just to celebrate with them, stood and clapped. Even Garrett and Will from across the street had clearly taken time off of work to be there.


Tara felt misty-eyed and smiled at everyone gratefully.


The song finished before they got to the front but only by a couple of steps. It allowed everyone to settle while Willow and Tara situated themselves under the canopy.


Tara’s eyes roamed over the chuppah, admiring it, then they finally settled again on Willow. Both sets of hands clasped each other and they shared a smile.


Tara waited a moment, then looked around, expecting to see a celebrant of some sort.


“There isn’t one,” Willow said upon recognizing Tara’s confusion and understanding immediately where it stemmed from, “I didn’t get a celebrant because I don’t need anyone to guide me in telling you how much I love you and how much every second of the last twenty years has been more than I ever could have dreamed.”


Tara swallowed some emotion and smiled. Willow tugged Tara’s hands gently.


“Tara,” she started reverently, “My Tara. I forgot my vows the first time around because I was so overcome with the fact that this beautiful woman was standing in front of me about to become my wife. So this time, I wasn’t going to leave it to chance. I employed some help.”


Robyn skidded in front of them.


“Mom, you light Momma up whenever she’s in the room.”


Lily took the spot and pulled at the skirt of Tara’s dress.


“Mommy your eyes are so pretty that Momma spends days lost in them,” she reiterated proudly, “I don’t know how you can get lost in eyes because they’re not very big but Momma said I had to say that exactly right so I practiced and I got it right, didn’t I Momma?!”


“You sure did baby,” Willow complimented softly.


Tara winked at her and Emily came up to stand shyly between them.


“M-M-Mommy,” Emily started and looked back to Willow, who gave her an encouraging nod, “M-Momma loves you so much. She, she can’t even count. A-And she knows a lot of numbers.”


Everyone laughed and Emily smiled softly at the reaction.


“That was perfect, Em,” Willow whispered.


“Great job, sweetie,” Tara added to her and squeezed her hand as she passed.


Willow mimed ‘so much’ to Tara with her hands while JJ stepped forward.


“Mom,” he said, his voice still a little too deep for his face, “Momma asked me to say that spending all of these years loving, honoring, and cherishing you has been the biggest privilege of her life.”


Willow and Tara smiled at each other.


“But we want to hijack this to say…”


All of the kids rushed to stand with JJ and spoke in unison.


“We couldn’t ask for better Moms!”


“Ohh!” Tara said, holding a hand to her heart and stepped forward to hug them all.


Willow did the same while holding back tears and there were a few more claps from the seats.


The kids ran off to sit in the front row with Ira and Michelle and Willow took Tara’s hands again.


She took a short breath and smiled.


“Okay. So, one thing I can handle myself: the numbers. As established, I know a lot of them.”


Tara raised an eyebrow, intrigued and Willow retained a wide smile.


“Four kids. Three homes. Two cities. One dog.”


Woofy barked from inside the house and everybody laughed. Willow kept her face fixed on Tara.


“‭631,152,000 seconds. ‭‭10,519,200‬ minutes. 175,320 hours. 7305 days.” ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬


She stepped closer to Tara so the fronts of their shoes touched.


“One life. One heart. One soul. One love,” she said, getting choked up for a moment, “My love.”


She took in a deep breath to stave too much emotion overwhelming her.


“Twenty. Years,” she said emphatically, squeezing Tara’s palms, “And we’re only getting started. That I can vow to you. For infinity.”


There was a small round of claps and then Tara cleared her throat.


“Well, unlike some people, I’ve only known this was happening for the past ten minutes or so and have nothing prepared.”


More laughter followed while Tara took a minute to compose her thoughts. She finally just looked into Willow’s eyes and knew what to say.


“When I met you, I could never imagine what was waiting for me twenty years down the line. Where we’d live or what we’d do or…” she stopped and looked to the front row, “The wonderful family that we’d make.”


She looked back at Willow.


“But what I did know, even in that first spark of meeting, was that you would still be in my life. That you would be my life. When you looked at me I saw the future in your eyes. And when you look at me now I still see the future,” she said as her smile radiated across her face, “My love. My light. My everything. My always. You have my heart. It’s yours forever. It doesn’t just beat for you, it beats with you. I will continue to walk with you, side-by-side, through the shadows and into the light until it beats no more.”


She lifted Willow’s hands upward and kissed each one.


“That I can vow to you. For infinity.”


They shared a lingering grin that stretched across their faces.


“Can we get our ring bearer?” Willow asked.


JJ whistled and Woofy came running out in a little doggie tux with a ring pillow tied to his back. He sat between Willow and Tara’s feet and accepted plenty of pets for pulling off his stunt. Willow took the ring box secured on his back and popped it open, revealing two white gold bands with five brilliant round cut diamonds and smaller diamonds going around the rest of the band.


Tara’s eyes widened considerably.


Willow took one out and pushed it onto Tara’s finger.


“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”


Tara swallowed a lump and with a slight shake in her fingers, took the second ring, admiring its heaviness, and pressed it onto Willow’s finger.


“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”


Willow left the ring box down again and took Tara’s face in her hands to plant a smooch on her lips.


After lingering a moment, she pulled away and stomped her foot on the piece of fabric obscuring some glass near one of the chuppah poles.


“Mazel tov!” everyone called to the sky.


“Shalom!” Buffy’s lone voice rang out followed swiftly by, “God-DAMMIT! AGAIN!”


Willow giggled and Tara leaned into her ear.


“Nice bling.”


“I thought you’d like it,” Willow grinned, “Don’t say I don’t take care of you.”


Tara took Willow’s face in her hands this time and kissed her repeatedly; soft kisses that lingered and promised and reassured all at once.


Willow paused, briefly, aware they still had an audience. She looked out to the crowd.


“Um, there will be caterers with food shortly but please help yourself to drinks at the drinks table, and thank you so much, everyone, for coming!”


“Thank you!” Tara echoed and gladly let Willow pull her off into a corner, accidentally pushing her into her own rose bush, “Willow! You disrupted my soil.”


“Oh what a horrible slight I have made upon you, however, could I rectify it?” Willow grinned sarcastically.


She placed her palms under Tara’s shoulders, who held Willow at her waist.


“Sorry. You know I get thorny about my roses.”


Willow waggled her eyebrows.


“And you know I get horny when you speak thorny to me.”


They giggled together and for a moment looked like those two blushing kids sitting in a swan boat waiting for the other to kiss them.


With twenty years of confidence and love to bolster them, neither waited for the other this time.


Just like on their first wedding day, they stayed kissing in the shadows while the party started without them, and just like on their first wedding day, they were interrupted. But they only had themselves to blame for this one, since they had produced the interruption in question.


Robyn came over and tugged on both of their dresses.


“Ew gross,” she said with her lips curling up in disgust upon seeing what they were doing, “Moms, can I go with Nana Rose to the market? She says one of the heaters melted all the ice.”


“Goddammit,” Willow blew out some air in frustration, “They told me it would be fine in the insulated bucket!”


Tara held up her hands to calm Willow.


“It’s okay. It’s just some ice. It will be replaced soon,” she said with a reassuring nod to Willow, then looked back down at Robyn, “Don’t pester her for candy.”


“No promises,” Robyn called back as she ran off, holding her dress above her ankles, “Her Tesla produces so much less CO2, I need the sugar to fuel the glee at not destroying the environment!”


Willow rolled her eyes and smiled at Tara. She offered her hand.


“We have a little social justice activist on our hands. Let’s go enjoy our party.”


“Willow, everything is beautiful,” Tara replied softly, “I’m so touched you’ve done all this without me even knowing.”


Willow winked.


“That’s the benefit of marrying a younger woman.”


Tara’s lips sloped up on one side.


“You’re not any younger than me than the last time we got married.”


“I’m in a whole different decade,” Willow protested indignantly, her chest puffed out.


Tara arched her eyebrow.


“You’re going to be 40 in a couple of short months too.”


“So let me lap it up until then,” Willow grinned and winked again.


She squeezed Tara’s hand and they walked back around the rosebush into the party. JJ had put some music on now and the caterers were unpacking the food onto the tables, laying it full with eggplant parmesan, roast beef, and mashed potatoes, mac’n’cheese, lasagna, a few different kinds of salads and an assortment of desserts heavy on the chocolate. It was twilight by now and the fairy lights were really starting to glow.


As they stepped back in, Ira was quick to clear his throat and let his voice fill the yard.


“Ahem,” he caught everyone’s attention and brought his arm around to gesture at the couple, “Mrs. and Mrs. Rosenberg-Maclay. For the second time.”


From wherever they were standing, all of the guests started to clap and a few threw in some hollers and whistles.


Willow waved like she was the queen and Tara blushed but smiled in gratitude at everyone. She smiled up at Ira and patted his bowtie affectionately.


“Ira, you look so dapper.”


“It was an honor to again witness your vows,” Ira replied fondly and linked arms with Michelle, who he looked at adoringly, “And even lovelier to have my wife on my arm this time.”


“You look stunning, Michelle,” Willow complimented her red and gold patterned attire, “That is a gorgeous dress.”


Michelle bowed her head bashfully.


“I missed the first one. I had to make up for it.”


“And we’re both so grateful to be here,” Ira added, placing a hand on his heart, “And to have our health.”


“I ordered you a special low-salt meal,” Willow said to Ira, rubbing his arm, “We’re so glad to have you here too.”


At that moment, Will spun Tara from behind and gestured up and down her dress.


“You look fab-u-lous!”


“Oh please, tone down the homo in front of the straights,” Garrett said, holding a hand up with a chuckle, “They’re not equipped.”


Ira and Michelle smiled and nodded but did creep off to the side.


“Never tone it down,” Tara replied, hugging them both and touching each of their bowties, “So dapper. Thank you so much for coming. We need to have dinner again soon, it’s been too long.”


“We haven’t seen you since our celebration for Jodie Foster’s birthday,” Will nodded seriously.


Willow grinned and swung her whole body into it.


“The Agenda needs an update. I say we demand better parking outside the Y. I feel like I live in that parking lot ferrying all the kids to their activities,” she quipped, then spotted something over all of their shoulders, “Oh, help needed!”


“She’s so cute when she overplays that joke,” Will said with genuine affection, holding his hand against her heart.


Tara reached out and touched his arm.


“She thinks it’s really funny, don’t tell her.”


Willow hastily made her way across the yard when she spotted Rose had returned with the ice and was trying to angle the nearest heater away from it.


“Thank you, Rose. I thought I had everything figured out but thermodynamics foiled me again.”


“It’s no problem,” Rose smiled as some of the kids came up to steal ice to throw at each other, “The cashier did look at me oddly as to why I was buying thirty bags of ice in the middle of winter, though.”


Willow’s hands flew to her hips as if she had pockets.


“Oh, I’ll pay you back.”


Rose held up a hand.


“As I said, it’s no problem.”


Tara excused herself at that moment and came up to hug Rose.


“Rose, thank you so much for coming. We haven’t seen you in so long! You’re so busy touring the country giving your talks. The kids miss you. And we miss you.”


Rose smiled bashfully.


“Starting the Lisa Monroe Foundation for Automobile Safety would have been pointless if I missed out on Lisa Monroe’s daughter’s nuptials. She would never forgive me.”


“She was a very forgiving sort,” Tara smiled and Rose seemed far-away for a moment.


“Yes, she was,” Rose nodded and raised the glass she’d poured while they’d been talking, “And she finally put my retirement to good use so cheers to her.”


Willow handed Tara a glass of wine and kept one for herself, which she clinked against Rose’s glass.


“Cheers to Lisa,” she said as she beamed at Tara, “She gave me my wife.”


“Cheers to Mom,” Tara answered wryly, “She gave me my life.”


“Here in spirit,” Rose said wistfully with every ounce of love that had never left her, “And she did always enjoy a spirit.”


Willow’s eyes grew wide.


“Could she speak to ghosts?”


Rose laughed loudly, a real hearty laugh from her belly.


“No, honey, but she sure could charm a bottle of vodka.”


“Oh,” Willow replied sheepishly, “And with that I back away slowly.”


As she did so, Robyn came bounding across the yard with her soccer ball in hand.


“Pixie, wanna come play with me?”


Pixie, whose tiny frame and elfin features suited her name, whipped her long, pink-hued blonde hair back over her shoulder.


“Dropkick!”


Robyn complied and booted the ball toward Pixie. Unfortunately, her aim was off to the left, and Anya got it right in the back of the head. She spun around, irate.


“You two and that dratted ball! I have enough balls flying at my face every night!” she put it under her arm and looked down sternly at the girls, who were trying not to giggle, “I’m partner at my firm now, don’t think I won’t sue just because you’re small humans and I birthed one of you! Xander, tell them to stop kicking me with the ball.”


Once again backing away from an awkward situation, Willow found Becky and waved on approach.


“Hello, Principal Hardy.”


Becky rolled her eyes to herself.


“When are you going to stop greeting me like that?”


“When it stops being funny,” Willow grinned.


“So six months ago when I got the job?” Becky shot back.


Willow stuck out her tongue and looked over Becky’s shoulder where her father and Brian were sharing a beer and in deep discussion.


“I thought when my dad retired he and Brian would stop talking shop all the time.”


“Are you kidding?” Becky laughed loudly, “Ever since Brian took over Ira’s role in the company, they have like weekly phone calls. It’s a big step up for him, he wants to get it right.”


“Will he switch off when you go on your cruise this summer?” Willow asked with a hopeful pep in her tone, “I know you spent a lot of money.”


Becky smirked and sipped on her drink.


“He has to — the signal onboard is awful.”


Willow chuckled and clinked their glasses together. As she did so, Lily suddenly pounced on her from nowhere.


“Momma, I would never poke you in the eye so hard that it falls out. Even if you were really mean to me, I'd never do it! Where’s Zayde? Never mind I see him!”


“Err thanks kiddo…” Willow replied as Lily sped off as quick as she’d come, “I think…”


Becky arched an eyebrow.


“Your kid is strange.”


Willow watched Lily skip up to Ira and start to dance with him.


“Occasionally. But not callous. You gotta give her that.”


Both Willow and Tara had to spend some time moving around the party just so they could thank everyone for coming, but kept an eye on each other and eventually met back up at the drinks table for a refresh, where Buffy was also filling her glass with seltzer.


“Where are the twins?” Tara asked as she cast her eye about and saw Robyn playing with Ella and Pixie but not them.


“Playing dress-up,” Willow answered, pointing to just outside the kitchen door where they’d dragged their dress-up chest.


“Of course, our Halloween babies, what else?” Tara smiled, grateful to take a break from everything for a moment, “I’m surprised you’re not in there with them.”


Willow mocked being aghast.


“Do you hear how my wife speaks to me?” she asked Buffy, “Like I’m her fifth child!”


“You asked for a reward chart last week so you could have more TV time,” Tara replied with an arched eyebrow.


“She watches so many gardening shows,” Willow defended herself to Buffy.


“You can watch your shows on your iPad,” Tara countered.


“I like to snuggle!” Willow replied with an indignant raise of her chin.


Buffy smiled between them.


“You guys just don’t get less cute, do you?”


Willow smiled and Tara blushed but was smiling too. She tucked some hair behind her ear.


“How are you, Buffy?”


Buffy nodded eagerly.


“I’m great, thank you.”


Tara smiled again.


“Where’s Angel?”


Buffy waved a hand about.


“He couldn’t get here until after dark.”


Tara nodded and brushed her fingers against Willow’s arm.


“I’m going to get some food, I’m famished. Does anybody want anything?”


Buffy and Willow both shook their heads. Tara went off to get a plate and Willow poured herself more wine.


“Top you up?” she offered, reaching for some bottles at the back, “Is that white wine or gin?”


Buffy suddenly stalled.


“Um…” she stopped and swallowed, “Just seltzer, actually.”


Willow frowned.


“There should be something you like, I practically cleared out the liquor store.”


Buffy pursed her lips.


“Actually…” she opened and closed her mouth, then her brow furrowed unsurely, “I’m pregnant.”


Willow dropped the bottle in her hand but thankfully it just spilled a little and didn’t smash. She put it upright and spun around to Buffy.


“What?!”


Buffy reached across herself and rubbed her opposite arm.


“I wasn’t going to say anything. It’s your day.”


Willow’s mouth hung open, stunned.


“Is this…happy news?”


The smile slowly spread across Buffy’s face.


“Angel actually smiled when I told him.”


“Ahh!” Willow screamed happily and drew attention, but it was quickly lost again, “Buff, I’m so happy for you.”


She threw her arms around her friend.


“I didn’t think you wanted kids.”


“It wasn’t planned. It just happened,” Buffy said with a shrug, “I’m nervous about doing it at our age. Do you know they call it a ‘geriatric pregnancy’? Way to stick the boot in.”


Willow shook her head.


“You’re scrappy,” she said reassuringly and reached out to squeeze Buffy’s arm, “Your baby will be too.”


She breathed in and out, still smiling but her nose scrunched.


“Does this mean I’ll have to lunch alone in the office cafeteria in a few months?”


“You could eat with Jesse,” Buffy suggested, looking glum for a moment, “He always looks sad these days.”


Willow frowned too and looked over her shoulder for Jesse, spotting him with Xander, Becky, and Tara getting some food.


“Xander, that chuppah is so beautiful. Thank you so much for making it for us,” Tara gushed, rubbing Xander’s arm gratefully, “How’s the business going?”


“Sales are good. Got in good with some Mom groups before Christmas who wanted personalized Christmas Eve boxes and cleaned up. And I love it,” Xander grinned as he helped himself to a third slice of lasagna, “Working with my hands, working with the wood. No running after perps so I can eat whatever I want.”


He grinned boyishly at Tara who smiled and thanked him again, then excused herself to eat.


The two men found seats too and Jesse nodded at Xander to continue the earlier conversation.


“You don’t have a cool partner to work with anymore though.”


“Well, sometimes Alex helps,” Xander replied affably.


Jesse bumped Xander’s shoulder.


“Just feed my ego, would ya?”


“I sure do miss ya, bud,” Xander replied in an exaggerated manner but there was a warmth there too.


Jesse scoffed.


“At least my new partner doesn’t bring in leftover pizza for lunch.”


“I always offered you a slice,” Xander replied with a grin, then noticed Jesse’s attention wasn’t quite on him any longer, “How’s the co-parenting going?”


Jesse blinked several times and looked back at Xander.


“Good, finally,” he sighed deeply, “Hence actually showing up to the same event together.”


“Good for you, man,” Xander replied, patting Jesse’s back, “Thinking of getting back out there?”


Jesse watched Ella across the yard do a few turns in the air, showing off her ballet moves.


“I think I’m gonna keep my focus on my baby girl right now.”


Xander grinned and stood.


“And I think I’m going to focus on more lasagna.”


As he went off, Jesse nodded to Becky, sitting behind them.


“You like the black-eyed peas?”


Becky shrugged one shoulder.


“I liked Behind The Front but I thought Monkey Business was regressive. I think I stopped paying attention after that.”


Jesse held up his fork with a little beige bean stuck between the tines.


“I meant the salad.”


Becky smiled self-deprecatingly.


“The salad is not regressive. The salad is modern and broadly developed in flavor.”


Jesse grinned in much the same way.


“You’re whipping out those English degree words on me.”


Becky chuckled and chased some bulgur wheat around her plate.


“You know, if we’d been the ones to hook up, we’d be Aunt Becky and Uncle Jesse.”


Jesse arched an eyebrow sharply at the thought.


“You terrify me.”


Becky cocked her head, then nodded.


“Fair.”


Xander returned with his plate piled high just as Ella came in from the other side and pulled on Jesse’s arm.


“Daddy, Daddy!”


“Yeah munchkin?” Jesse smiled, picking her up from the spot and throwing her a few inches off the ground like she was a baby again.


Ella giggled and tugged on his hand.


“We’re playing Frozen.”


“Will that thing never die?” Jesse asked Xander, then slicked a hand back through his hair, “You need a Kristoff?”


Ella’s face scrunched.


“…we need a Sven.”


She pulled him off the chair and Xander waved his fork about after him.


“Be the antlers,” he yelled, “BE THE ANTLERS!”


As she was throwing her paper plate in the trash can, Tara spotted Alice standing alone and took the opportunity to say hello.


“I wondered why you’d snuck away from work earlier,” Tara grinned as a greeting but they weren’t alone for long as a man, 6ft tall with broad shoulders and salt-and-pepper hair and older than them all by about ten years, came to stand alongside Alice and handed her a glass of white wine.


Tara cleared her throat awkwardly.


“Oh, hi Dennis.”


“Tara,” Dennis greeted cordially, if lacking a little warmth, “It was a lovely ceremony.”


“Oh, thank you,” Tara replied sincerely and gestured around, “It’s all still a bit surreal. But such a lovely surprise.”


“I was worried the two boys would let the cat out of the bag,” Alice said in a disapproving tone, “I told Michelle not to tell them but she said she needed them to help.”


“Those two cretins you’re always talking about?” Dennis asked derisively, “Why did you hire them again?”


Tara raised a hand awkwardly.


“I did, actually.”


“Tara’s my boss now,” Alice replied with a curt look in Dennis’s direction, “Remember?”


“Right,” Dennis nodded with a completely obvious pointed look back, “Since she went back to school.”


“Yes, she got her masters,” Alice said with a forced smile.


“The one you got at the start of your career,” Dennis muttered and Alice dug her elbow into his side.


Tara tried hard not to let a flush come up over her face.


“Not really a boss,” she waved her hand in front of her.


“Well, yes, really,” Alice replied tersely, then tried to (fake) laugh it off, “You know she chooses to sit out at the desks with us when she could have her own office?”


Tara felt the little wiggles of tension shooting out from everywhere and just shrugged.


“It’s easier to pass around files and whatnot.”


“And that is why you deserve to be boss,” Alice replied in a grudging tone and tossed back the rest of her wine before holding up the empty glass, “Happy Anniversary.”


“Thank you,” Tara replied sincerely but couldn’t help but feel sad.


Thankfully, Willow came up to her and said two words that were sure to cheer her up.


“Family photo.”


“Oh, okay,” Tara replied quickly, “See you guys later.”


She waggled her fingers in a wave and went with Willow to where she’d corralled the kids together to hopefully stay still for a few seconds.


“Okay kids, stand in front! JJ, you’re gonna need to crouch a little. Your hair looks fine! Lily, stop doing bunny ears on your sister. Robyn, no soccer ball! For five seconds, please! Okay, say cheese!”


The flash went off and they got a few more for safety before the kids disbanded again, springing back to their own corners like they were elastic bands being flung off.


Tara looked at the photos on the screen and smiled at how she thought that their little family was so complete.


Emphasis on thought.


Willow peered over Tara’s shoulder to look at the photos too and smiled. Those were ones for the wall. She put her hands on Tara’s shoulders and rubbed gently.


“How are you holding up? Need a seat?”


Tara shook her head dramatically.


“Have to make sure I can keep up with a younger woman.”


“Oh, you can keep up,” Willow murmured into Tara’s ear, “But if you’re not interested in sitting…”


She gently spun Tara around and offered a hand.


“My dance?”


Tara smiled and took the proffered hand. Willow led them out onto the dance floor — the grass — and settled her hands on Tara’s waist. Tara put her arms behind Willow’s neck and smiled as Willow kept a steady gaze on her.


“What?”


Willow blinked slowly.


“I can’t take my eyes off you.”


Tara smiled and pecked Willow’s lips.


They swayed on the spot.


“Our limo will be here soon,” Willow said with an intriguing grin.


Tara’s brows rose into her hairline.


“Limo?”


Willow smirked.


“You think I was going to bring you to the airport in a Prius?”


“Airport?!” Tara asked, her mouth hanging open.


Willow nodded quickly.


“Yeah, we’re actually going on our honeymoon the night of our wedding this time. Call me old-fashioned.”


Tara’s eyes bounced with excitement.


“Where are we going?”


Willow gave nothing away.


“You’ll see.”


“Are we going to California to check on the bookstore?” Tara guessed.


Willow looked insulted.


“You think I’d take you on a business trip for our honeymoon?”


Tara frowned.


“Are the kids coming?”


“Well, since Spring Break doesn’t start until Friday, I thought we’d have a few days to ourselves and they could follow,” Willow said, then added on quickly and pointedly, “I say ‘thought’ but it’s happening so there’s no point arguing.”


Tara was feeling perpetually surprised.


“What about Woofy?”


“Jesse offered to take care of him,” Willow replied with a smile, “Think he’s looking forward to the company.”


Tara smiled sympathetically but then it grew a little exasperated.


“Are you really not going to tell me?”


Willow chuckled.


“Put it this way,” she said and spun Tara, holding her waist from behind for a moment, “Jamaican me crazy with all these questions.”


Tara’s eyes widened as she was spun back to her previous position and her hands settled behind Willow’s neck.


“You’re really splashing that bookstore money.”


Willow shrugged.


“And why not? We’re finally making decent profits. Who knew adding booze was the way to get people to visit a book store in the 21st century?”


Tara pecked Willow again.


“You did, my smarty-pants wife.”


“It's an ethanoly, epeolatry experience,” Willow rattled off her tagline with a grin and a laugh, “But seriously though, yeah Bibliosmia is doing well…but I did all of this because you deserve it. And we deserve it. Everything we’ve gone through, all of the hardships and the trauma and moments where I know we both felt on the brink and still…”


She stopped and inhaled a long breath. Her eyes were glassy on fixed on Tara.


“Still I can’t take my eyes off you.”


Tara’s answering smile lit up her face, with a little help from the fairy lights Willow had strung from the roof.


“Baby…”


Willow beamed.


She loved it when Tara called her ‘baby’.


They embraced and put their heads on each other's shoulders.


They stayed there and swayed to the music, lost to the rest of the party, feeling like they were walking on air.

The End

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (Complete)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2020 11:13 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 405
Last dibs! :whip :bounce :applause :eatme


Last edited by Will's redemption on Fri May 01, 2020 12:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (Complete)
PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2020 12:45 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 405
What a great epilogue! I loved the time warp (although the down side of it is that we'll never see anything of the twins as toddlers).

Quote:
“You got it, boss!” Brandon saluted, then when Tara was sufficiently far enough away not to hear, he continued, “She’s not even going to be here tomorrow. Can you say automatic extension?”


“How’d you make her computer stay off?” Josh asked.


Brandon held up a cable that led nowhere.


“Dummy plug.”


“Old school,” Brandon complimented and held up his hand for a high five, “Nice.”

:laugh I really hope we'll see more of these two guys in the next stories.
Quote:
Out in the car, Tara switched through some radio stations as she pulled out of the parking lot.


“Speaking at the White House today, President Warren—”


“The moon mining mission today hit a snag when—”


“The fate of upcoming movie Avatar 4 has again been called into question after allegations that—”

I'm too lazy to try to calculate in which year Tara and Willow will turn 40 - can you just tell us which year we have in the epilogue?

Quote:
“Did you remember to pick up Lily’s Ritalin?

So Lily has ADHD?

Quote:
A picture of Lisa and Rose lived there now, along with one of Ira and Michelle all dressed up in black and white respectively, and photos of Mrs. Potts and Ruth.


A collage of Lily and Emily’s first photo in their crib; JJ and Woofy getting a rosette at the local dog show; Robyn winning her first soccer league; Willow and Tara cutting a ribbon outside a store.


There were photos of them all together, of course. Some were taken from holidays like their Christmas card one year of them all wearing their animal hats so lovingly knitted by their missed neighbor. Some were taken on vacations or Halloween; the most prominent one from the twins' first birthday when Willow had pulled off her Cat In The Hat theme and fulfilled her dreams of dressing the them up as Thing 1 and Thing 2.


Tara had to give it to her wife, it was all that the neighborhood talked about for weeks.

Great that Willow pulled the "Cat in The Hat" theme through - I guess she was the Cat, but what costumes did Tara, JJ and Robyn wear?
Yay that Ira and Michelle got married! So my hunch was right and Willow did inherit the book store - so great that they chose to keep it (although they must obviously have a manager who runs it for them).

Quote:
“Willow, what the heck is going on?”


Willow made a little pout but her eyes were dancing playfully.


“You don’t remember?”


Tara gestured between them.


“I think I would remember…whatever this is.”


Willow grinned and looked up wistfully.


“‘On our…20th anniversary, Willow Rosenberg-Maclay, will you—”


“Marry me again,” Tara finished softly.


Sudden images flooded her mind of being on one knee as she ‘proposed’ again in their bedroom while Willow was pregnant, after Willow getting all in a fluster when she thought she’d lost her ring but Tara had just taken it to get cleaned. It had been a moment, just a passing moment between them that Tara hadn’t put any stock in. But Willow had.


“I can’t believe you remember that.”


“I’ve been planning it ever since that day,” Willow smiled tenderly, “And guess what? It’s our 20th anniversary today.”


Tara felt tears spring to her eyes as she realized what Willow had done.

AWWW! :flower Like Tara I totally forgot about this playful second proposal - so wonderful that Willow pulled it through and has planned to all along.
I am a bit surprised that Tara obviously also didn't remember that it's their anniversary, and the 20th to boot. I would be a tad miffed about that if I were in Willow's shoes - but good thing Willow isn't so the day isn't spoiled even a teeny bit.

Quote:
Tara smiled through glassy eyes and gently pulled the fabric at her hips.


“I can’t believe this still fits me.”


Willow just smiled and didn’t bother to tell Tara that she’d had both of their dresses altered.


It didn’t matter.


It wasn’t important.

So cute that Tara didn't come to the obvious conclusion that the dress must have been altered to still fit - and another proof of Willow's love that she doesn't tell her.

Quote:
Willow held out her hand for Tara and Tara took it.


“Let’s do this all over again.”


On a perfect romantic swell, they stepped out together and every one of their friends and family, who were sitting out there on a Tuesday afternoon just to celebrate with them, stood and clapped.

:flower Sigh! Let me get my hanky ready...


Quote:
Tara waited a moment, then looked around, expecting to see a celebrant of some sort.


“There isn’t one,” Willow said upon recognizing Tara’s confusion and understanding immediately where it stemmed from, “I didn’t get a celebrant because I don’t need anyone to guide me in telling you how much I love you and how much every second of the last twenty years has been more than I ever could have dreamed.”


Tara swallowed some emotion and smiled. Willow tugged Tara’s hands gently.


“Tara,” she started reverently, “My Tara. I forgot my vows the first time around because I was so overcome with the fact that this beautiful woman was standing in front of me about to become my wife. So this time, I wasn’t going to leave it to chance. I employed some help.”


Robyn skidded in front of them.


“Mom, you light Momma up whenever she’s in the room.”

Quote:
“Mommy your eyes are so pretty that Momma spends days lost in them,” she reiterated proudly, “I don’t know how you can get lost in eyes because they’re not very big but Momma said I had to say that exactly right so I practiced and I got it right, didn’t I Momma?!”

Quote:
“M-M-Mommy,” Emily started and looked back to Willow, who gave her an encouraging nod, “M-Momma loves you so much. She, she can’t even count. A-And she knows a lot of numbers.”

Quote:
“Mom,” he said, his voice still a little too deep for his face, “Momma asked me to say that spending all of these years loving, honoring, and cherishing you has been the biggest privilege of her life.”


Willow and Tara smiled at each other.


“But we want to hijack this to say…”


All of the kids rushed to stand with JJ and spoke in unison.


“We couldn’t ask for better Moms!”


“Ohh!” Tara said, holding a hand to her heart and stepped forward to hug them all.


Willow did the same while holding back tears and there were a few more claps from the seats.

:flower :bigkiss Sniff! So lovely! Great idea of Willow to include the kids in the saying of her vows, and of the kids to include their own love declaration at the end.
Quote:
“Okay. So, one thing I can handle myself: the numbers. As established, I know a lot of them.”


Tara raised an eyebrow, intrigued and Willow retained a wide smile.


“Four kids. Three homes. Two cities. One dog.”


Woofy barked from inside the house and everybody laughed. Willow kept her face fixed on Tara.


“‭631,152,000 seconds. ‭‭10,519,200‬ minutes. 175,320 hours. 7305 days.” ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬


She stepped closer to Tara so the fronts of their shoes touched.


“One life. One heart. One soul. One love,” she said, getting choked up for a moment, “My love.”


She took in a deep breath to stave too much emotion overwhelming her.


“Twenty. Years,” she said emphatically, squeezing Tara’s palms, “And we’re only getting started. That I can vow to you. For infinity.”


:flower So sweet and adorably quirky - and impressive with the big numbers!

Quote:
“Well, unlike some people, I’ve only known this was happening for the past ten minutes or so and have nothing prepared.”


More laughter followed while Tara took a minute to compose her thoughts. She finally just looked into Willow’s eyes and knew what to say.


“When I met you, I could never imagine what was waiting for me twenty years down the line. Where we’d live or what we’d do or…” she stopped and looked to the front row, “The wonderful family that we’d make.”


She looked back at Willow.


“But what I did know, even in that first spark of meeting, was that you would still be in my life. That you would be my life. When you looked at me I saw the future in your eyes. And when you look at me now I still see the future,” she said as her smile radiated across her face, “My love. My light. My everything. My always. You have my heart. It’s yours forever. It doesn’t just beat for you, it beats with you. I will continue to walk with you, side-by-side, through the shadows and into the light until it beats no more.”


She lifted Willow’s hands upward and kissed each one.


“That I can vow to you. For infinity.”

AWWW! :flower Tara is quite the wordsmith that she came up with this lovely speech on the spot (I dimly recall she did the same at the proposal as well).
Quote:
“Can we get our ring bearer?” Willow asked.


JJ whistled and Woofy came running out in a little doggie tux with a ring pillow tied to his back. He sat between Willow and Tara’s feet and accepted plenty of pets for pulling off his stunt. Willow took the ring box secured on his back and popped it open, revealing two white gold bands with five brilliant round cut diamonds and smaller diamonds going around the rest of the band.

Woofy in a tux, so cute! And wow to the rings - they're really doing well financially, obviously!

Quote:
After lingering a moment, she pulled away and stomped her foot on the piece of fabric obscuring some glass near one of the chuppah poles.


“Mazel tov!” everyone called to the sky.


“Shalom!” Buffy’s lone voice rang out followed swiftly by, “God-DAMMIT! AGAIN!”

:rofl She probably did that at Ira's and Michelle's wedding too, right?

Quote:
“The Agenda needs an update. I say we demand better parking outside the Y. I feel like I live in that parking lot ferrying all the kids to their activities,” she quipped, then spotted something over all of their shoulders, “Oh, help needed!”


“She’s so cute when she overplays that joke,” Will said with genuine affection, holding his hand against her heart.

Can you explain to us straight readers where the joke is supposed to be in this at what the Y stands for? The Y-chromosome, perhaps, making it a lesbian joke?

Quote:
As she did so, Lily suddenly pounced on her from nowhere.


“Momma, I would never poke you in the eye so hard that it falls out. Even if you were really mean to me, I'd never do it! Where’s Zayde? Never mind I see him!”


“Err thanks kiddo…” Willow replied as Lily sped off as quick as she’d come, “I think…”

:lol Where on earth did the kid get that idea? Yay for Ira that Lily (and maybe Emily too?) calls him Zayde.
By the way I think it's funny that although the twins have Willow's genes Lily basically is a Mini-Willow but Emily a Mini-Tara.
Quote:
“Where are the twins?” Tara asked as she cast her eye about and saw Robyn playing with Ella and Pixie but not them.


“Playing dress-up,” Willow answered, pointing to just outside the kitchen door where they’d dragged their dress-up chest.


“Of course, our Halloween babies, what else?” Tara smiled, grateful to take a break from everything for a moment, “I’m surprised you’re not in there with them.”


Willow mocked being aghast.


“Do you hear how my wife speaks to me?” she asked Buffy, “Like I’m her fifth child!”


“You asked for a reward chart last week so you could have more TV time,” Tara replied with an arched eyebrow.

:haha
I LOVE that Willow can still turn from wife and mother to big kid in a second!

Quote:
“Where’s Angel?”


Buffy waved a hand about.


“He couldn’t get here until after dark.”

Reinforcing my sun alergy theory... :wink

Quote:
“Actually…” she opened and closed her mouth, then her brow furrowed unsurely, “I’m pregnant.”


Willow dropped the bottle in her hand but thankfully it just spilled a little and didn’t smash. She put it upright and spun around to Buffy.


“What?!”


Buffy reached across herself and rubbed her opposite arm.


“I wasn’t going to say anything. It’s your day.”


Willow’s mouth hung open, stunned.


“Is this…happy news?”


The smile slowly spread across Buffy’s face.


“Angel actually smiled when I told him.”


“Ahh!” Willow screamed happily and drew attention, but it was quickly lost again, “Buff, I’m so happy for you.”

Yeah, me too! Can't wait to see Angel turning into a proud papa, talking in baby voice and playing tea party with his baby girl or something!

Quote:
“You could eat with Jesse,” Buffy suggested, looking glum for a moment, “He always looks sad these days.”


Willow frowned too and looked over her shoulder for Jesse, spotting him with Xander, Becky, and Tara getting some food.


“Xander, that chuppah is so beautiful. Thank you so much for making it for us,” Tara gushed, rubbing Xander’s arm gratefully, “How’s the business going?”


“Sales are good. Got in good with some Mom groups before Christmas who wanted personalized Christmas Eve boxes and cleaned up. And I love it,” Xander grinned as he helped himself to a third slice of lasagna, “Working with my hands, working with the wood. No running after perps so I can eat whatever I want.”


He grinned boyishly at Tara who smiled and thanked him again, then excused herself to eat.


The two men found seats too and Jesse nodded at Xander to continue the earlier conversation.


“You don’t have a cool partner to work with anymore though.”


“Well, sometimes Alex helps,” Xander replied affably.


Jesse bumped Xander’s shoulder.


“Just feed my ego, would ya?”


“I sure do miss ya, bud,” Xander replied in an exaggerated manner but there was a warmth there too.


Okay, I didn't see that coming - Xander quitting the FBI to become a carpenter. Well, he's happy so good for him.
But I'm sad for Jesse because on top of being seperated from his wife and therefore seeing his daughter much less he "lost" his partner (who's also his oldest friend) and sees him only occasionally at family gatherings instead of every work day.
So Jesse and Alica are divorced or at least seperated for quite some time already - you hinted that all wasn't well between them in the last chapters but I hoped that would pass. I guess there has to be some shadow in the future, and this and Alice's apparant "transformation" into a less likeable character clearly is a shadow for the whole family.

Quote:
“Tara’s my boss now,” Alice replied with a curt look in Dennis’s direction, “Remember?”


“Right,” Dennis nodded with a completely obvious pointed look back, “Since she went back to school.”


“Yes, she got her masters,” Alice said with a forced smile.


“The one you got at the start of your career,” Dennis muttered and Alice dug her elbow into his side.


Tara tried hard not to let a flush come up over her face.


“Not really a boss,” she waved her hand in front of her.


“Well, yes, really,” Alice replied tersely, then tried to (fake) laugh it off, “You know she chooses to sit out at the desks with us when she could have her own office?”


Tara felt the little wiggles of tension shooting out from everywhere and just shrugged.


“It’s easier to pass around files and whatnot.”


“And that is why you deserve to be boss,” Alice replied in a grudging tone and tossed back the rest of her wine before holding up the empty glass, “Happy Anniversary.”


“Thank you,” Tara replied sincerely but couldn’t help but feel sad.

:cry Very sad! So Alice did turn into one of those people who drag their new boyfriend / girlfriend into their old friend circle although it's awkward for everyone because they're friends with "the Ex" as well. Worse still, she begrudges Tara her promotion out of envy and obviously bitches about that with her boyfriend. And the "happy anniversary" toast obviously wasn't sincere either. WTF? :fit I hope Alice will come to her senses again!

Quote:
She waggled her fingers in a wave and went with Willow to where she’d corralled the kids together to hopefully stay still for a few seconds.


“Okay kids, stand in front! JJ, you’re gonna need to crouch a little. Your hair looks fine! Lily, stop doing bunny ears on your sister. Robyn, no soccer ball! For five seconds, please! Okay, say cheese!”


The flash went off and they got a few more for safety before the kids disbanded again, springing back to their own corners like they were elastic bands being flung off.


Tara looked at the photos on the screen and smiled at how she thought that their little family was so complete.


Emphasis on thought.

Oh, now I'm intrigued! So you're planning another addition to the core family? I would love to have toddler cuteness again in the next story - maybe another boy for a change? I just hope it will come in "the normal way" with Willow having another baby and not by some tragedy (like Buffy and Angal dying in an accident and Willow and Tara raising their baby or something).

Quote:
She gently spun Tara around and offered a hand.


“My dance?”


Tara smiled and took the proffered hand. Willow led them out onto the dance floor — the grass — and settled her hands on Tara’s waist. Tara put her arms behind Willow’s neck and smiled as Willow kept a steady gaze on her.

Canon easteregg!
Yay that Willow arranged a second honeymoon with a family trip afterwards - and to Jamaica, nice! I just hope Alice won't try to "take over" the office while Tara is on vacation - I count on Michelle to stop any "mutiny".

Quote:
“You’re really splashing that bookstore money.”


Willow shrugged.


“And why not? We’re finally making decent profits. Who knew adding booze was the way to get people to visit a book store in the 21st century?”

So it's a bookstore / bar?
Quote:
“It's an ethanoly, epeolatry experience,” Willow rattled off her tagline with a grin and a laugh, “But seriously though, yeah Bibliosmia is doing well…

The slogan and the name are adorable quirky as well.

Quote:
but I did all of this because you deserve it. And we deserve it. Everything we’ve gone through, all of the hardships and the trauma and moments where I know we both felt on the brink and still…”


She stopped and inhaled a long breath. Her eyes were glassy on fixed on Tara.


“Still I can’t take my eyes off you.”


Tara’s answering smile lit up her face, with a little help from the fairy lights Willow had strung from the roof.


“Baby…”


Willow beamed.


She loved it when Tara called her ‘baby’.


They embraced and put their heads on each other's shoulders.


They stayed there and swayed to the music, lost to the rest of the party, feeling like they were walking on air.

The End

:flower And such a perfect end!!!

Laragh, I thank you so much for the wonderful story!!! :bow :bow :bow
Although some of the chapters were tough to read because of the hardships our beloved couple had to go through, I loved your story immensely! As promised, I will patiently wait for the next part of their journey - and try to imagine what adventures our "limited number of mothers" - even more outnumbered now - will face next. :wink

At last I adress the other readers again: comment on Laragh's story one more time and join in my celebration of Laragh's writing genius!

LARAGH, LARAGH, LARAGH!!! :applause :applause :applause :bow :bow :bow


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (Complete)
PostPosted: Fri May 01, 2020 3:08 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Will's redemption wrote:
I am a bit surprised that Tara obviously also didn't remember that it's their anniversary, and the 20th to boot. I would be a tad miffed about that if I were in Willow's shoes - but good thing Willow isn't so the day isn't spoiled even a teeny bit.


I will of course reply to everything when I can but I just wanted to highlight this - Tara did not forget their anniversary! Willow had probably organized a dummy dinner or something to throw her off the scent so Tara assumed they were celebrating that evening. The thing she didn't remember was the bedroom proposal.

Also - it's 2025 :)

And the Y is the YMCA - maybe an American coded joke there, but not a gay one :lol

The 'gay' joke was the one about the Agenda - something bigots claim we have 'the gay agenda' when in reality our agenda is just to live our lives as the normal people we are.

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential Episode II (Complete)
PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2020 5:57 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Will's redemption

Quote:
Last dibs! :whip :bounce :applause :eatme


Wahoo!

Quote:
What a great epilogue! I loved the time warp (although the down side of it is that we'll never see anything of the twins as toddlers).


Maybe Willow has some old home movies she would let you watch!

Quote:
:laugh I really hope we'll see more of these two guys in the next stories.


I'd love to feature them but I'm not too sure how they'll fit in yet

Quote:
So Lily has ADHD?


She does.

Quote:
Great that Willow pulled the "Cat in The Hat" theme through - I guess she was the Cat, but what costumes did Tara, JJ and Robyn wear?


I always figured Willow would have JJ bag Cat status and Robyn would be Sally and Tara the fish - but I think when the fish bowl belly idea was gone Robyn would have wanted to be the fish. So maybe Willow would have taken over Sally's role and Tara could be in the shadows as Conrad.

Quote:
Yay that Ira and Michelle got married!


They did!

Quote:
So my hunch was right and Willow did inherit the book store - so great that they chose to keep it (although they must obviously have a manager who runs it for them).


They do, multiple in fact but Willow probably goes out about once a quarter or so.

Quote:
AWWW! :flower Like Tara I totally forgot about this playful second proposal - so wonderful that Willow pulled it through and has planned to all along.


Willow's a sneaky one! :)

Quote:
So cute that Tara didn't come to the obvious conclusion that the dress must have been altered to still fit - and another proof of Willow's love that she doesn't tell her.


It didn't matter. It wasn't important. Willow doesn't care and I don't think Tara does either.

Quote:
:flower Sigh! Let me get my hanky ready...


Fanfic waits for no hanky

Quote:
:flower :bigkiss Sniff! So lovely! Great idea of Willow to include the kids in the saying of her vows, and of the kids to include their own love declaration at the end.


They were instrumental - they had to be a part of it.

Quote:
:flower So sweet and adorably quirky - and impressive with the big numbers!


Willow knows her stuff.

Quote:
AWWW! :flower Tara is quite the wordsmith that she came up with this lovely speech on the spot (I dimly recall she did the same at the proposal as well).


I always think of Tara as walking poetry so this fits.

Quote:
Woofy in a tux, so cute! And wow to the rings - they're really doing well financially, obviously!


They are - Tara went back to school and has a much higher role, Willow's job has always been high-income and now the bookstore is doing well too.

Quote:
:rofl She probably did that at Ira's and Michelle's wedding too, right?


:lol yes! She got the trifecta!

Quote:
:lol Where on earth did the kid get that idea?


Her own strange mind!

Quote:
Yay for Ira that Lily (and maybe Emily too?) calls him Zayde.


Yes, they both do!

Quote:
By the way I think it's funny that although the twins have Willow's genes Lily basically is a Mini-Willow but Emily a Mini-Tara.


I like to think they're their own little people. Robyn has Tara's genes and while she's broadly artistic, she's outspoken and sometimes intolerant. But yes, there is definitely a lot of nurture vs nature going on!

Quote:
:haha
I LOVE that Willow can still turn from wife and mother to big kid in a second!


I love Willow's big-kid-ness

Quote:
Reinforcing my sun alergy theory... :wink


That's actually a really good idea, in this verse though I kind of put it down to being a workoholic.

Quote:
Yeah, me too! Can't wait to see Angel turning into a proud papa, talking in baby voice and playing tea party with his baby girl or something!


I do think Angel would be a proud papa!

Quote:
Okay, I didn't see that coming - Xander quitting the FBI to become a carpenter. Well, he's happy so good for him.


I think he needed a change and this was a positive one.

Quote:
But I'm sad for Jesse because on top of being seperated from his wife and therefore seeing his daughter much less he "lost" his partner (who's also his oldest friend) and sees him only occasionally at family gatherings instead of every work day.


I think Xander and Jesse still hang out plenty. Definitely after the divorce, Xander would have been with him loads.

Quote:
So Jesse and Alica are divorced or at least seperated for quite some time already - you hinted that all wasn't well between them in the last chapters but I hoped that would pass. I guess there has to be some shadow in the future, and this and Alice's apparant "transformation" into a less likeable character clearly is a shadow for the whole family.


Some people become bitter...and it's a sad road to end up on if you can't pull yourself out of it.

Quote:
:cry Very sad! So Alice did turn into one of those people who drag their new boyfriend / girlfriend into their old friend circle although it's awkward for everyone because they're friends with "the Ex" as well. Worse still, she begrudges Tara her promotion out of envy and obviously bitches about that with her boyfriend. And the "happy anniversary" toast obviously wasn't sincere either. WTF? :fit I hope Alice will come to her senses again!


Me too! It's a nasty situation to be in for everyone.

Quote:
Oh, now I'm intrigued! So you're planning another addition to the core family? I would love to have toddler cuteness again in the
Quote:
next story - maybe another boy for a change? I just hope it will come in "the normal way" with Willow having another baby and not by some tragedy (like Buffy and Angal dying in an accident and Willow and Tara raising their baby or something).


No tragedy, I promise

Quote:
Canon easteregg!
Yay that Willow arranged a second honeymoon with a family trip afterwards - and to Jamaica, nice! I just hope Alice won't try to "take over" the office while Tara is on vacation - I count on Michelle to stop any "mutiny".


You can be sure Alice would be squarely reprimanded if not fired were she to try such a thing.

Quote:
So it's a bookstore / bar?


It is!

Quote:
The slogan and the name are adorable quirky as well.


Willow's responsible for one and Tara's responsible for the other.

Quote:
:flower And such a perfect end!!!

Laragh, I thank you so much for the wonderful story!!! :bow :bow :bow
Although some of the chapters were tough to read because of the hardships our beloved couple had to go through, I loved your story immensely! As promised, I will patiently wait for the next part of their journey - and try to imagine what adventures our "limited number of mothers" - even more outnumbered now - will face next. :wink


I know I made this one tough but I'm SO HAPPY you stuck with me! It means the world!

Quote:
At last I adress the other readers again: comment on Laragh's story one more time and join in my celebration of Laragh's writing genius!

LARAGH, LARAGH, LARAGH!!! :applause :applause :applause :bow :bow :bow


:blush I cannot thank you enough for all of your support! There are no words to express how much they are appreciated.

:wtkiss forever

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The Love… SeriesTwo For Joy/21+InevitableFC2: AOTHFC3: TBUFC4: ANB


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