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

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 17th 2020
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2020 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Chapter Twelve




Willow stared blankly ahead as she drove down a generic, gray highway; so far away from the plush green and azure blue that had been either side of the road in Hawaii.


And the screaming and screeching going on in the back of yet another rented minivan was a far cry from the peaceful silence of cruising along with Tara in that zippy red Mustang.


All she could see was gray, gray, gray with the occasional pop of color as another car passed by.


She was so zoned out she didn’t even realize the endless chatter was being directed at her until Tara grabbed the wheel of the car from beside her.


“Honey!”


“Huh?” Willow shook her head back to attention.


Tara pointedly animatedly ahead.


“The exit!”


Willow saw the sign for their exit barreling toward them with just seconds to react.


“Shit!” she yelled as she took the turn with screeching tires for a soundtrack.


Everyone bounced around for a minute, then Willow blew out a breath as they evened out again.


“I didn’t say that.”


Everyone was quiet and Willow hated it so much more than the inane chatter.


“Willow,” Tara said quietly.


“Yeah, I know, Tara,” Willow shot back, way too harshly.


She flipped the radio on in frustration.


Finally, the sign was approaching. The one that made her bristle even still when she saw it.


‘Welcome To Sunnydale’.


‘Enjoy Your Stay’, it mocked her.


In truth, she had enjoyed her little breaks to check up on the store in the past. Sure, it wasn’t exactly a city break or cozy getaway but she loved what they’d made of the bookstore and it truly didn’t bother her if she ran into her mother because she could just walk away.


She’d mourned that relationship long ago.


But having the kids here…it was a whole new level of antsy.


She was starting to think this was a really bad idea.


The cruel things her mother had said to them on their last meetings still rang in her mind — they didn’t sting anymore, they didn’t feel much of anything but some sadness for the whole situation but they were harsh and dismissive. And she would not let her children hear them or think for one second they weren’t legitimate or a real family or that the twins had some sort of elevation above the rest just for being ‘hers’.


This was a really, really bad idea.


Just as soon as she thought it, Tara’s hand came to rest over her tight knuckles. Willow glanced over and Tara mouthed ‘everything will be okay’ and just as soon as the words had been not-spoken, Willow was okay again.


Okay, still a little bit antsy but not the wound ball about to pop like she had been just seconds before.


She exhaled and nodded with a soft smile as some familiar landmarks started to pop up.


“Well, kids, here it is. The old hunting ground.”


“Y-You went hunting?” Emily called forward unsurely.


“No, sweetie, it’s just a phrase,” Willow reassured, “This is where I grew up.”


She started to point out the window.


“That’s where I got coffee on my way to school and oh, hey, that’s where I actually went to school and…” she paused for a moment, “Well apart from the bookstore that’s just about all of the places I went as a kid.”


“When can we see the bookstore?” Lily asked curiously.


“After we check into the hotel, honey,” Tara answered and reached across to rub Willow’s shoulder.


Lily sat forward as much as the seat belt would allow.


“If this is where you grew up, how come we’re not staying in your house?”


Willow’s shoulders tensed again but Tara was there to rub it away.


“Well, sweetie…” Willow started to reply, not quite able to find the words she had rehearsed so much in her head, “You, um, you guys know that I don’t really um…well, the thing is, me and my mother, well…see, we don’t speak. So we can’t stay there. But it’s okay because the hotel is really…well, it’s stay-able and it has a pool. And you’re in California so you can actually swim in January.”


Lily slowly sat back and seemed content with the answer.


Emily, however, wasn’t.


“Momma?” she called out in a bit of a timid voice, “How come you don’t speak to your Momma?”


Willow swallowed.


“My mother,” she began, clearing her throat once and finding her words, “Doesn’t talk to me. And she doesn’t talk to me because…she doesn’t like that I married another woman.”


“Why does she care?” Lily asked in confusion.


“That’s a very good question, panda bear,” Willow smiled sadly, “And the answer is: ‘I don’t know’. But she does. And you know what sucks about that most?”


She looked in the rearview mirror at each and every one of them, even the boys who were hard to make out all the way in the back.


“It means she doesn’t get to know how amazing all of you kids are. Because you all are the best thing to come out of mom and I getting married.”


Tara glanced back to see how that was all sitting and noticed Emily looked troubled.


“What’s up, koala? What are you thinking?”


Emily’s eyes were in her lap.


“I-I didn’t know moms could stop talking to their kids.”


Willow looked stricken.


“Emily,” she called back softly, “No matter what, me and Mommy will never, ever stop speaking to you. Or stop loving you.”


Stopped at a light, she reached back and outstretched her hand.


“Pinky promise.”


Emily hesitated, then wrapped her pinky around Willow’s and shook.


“What about me?” Robyn piped up with a grin.


Willow gave her a cautious look.


“Just don’t blow up any dams, okay?”


“What about if we talk about her?” Lily was back to questioning, “Should we call her ‘Grandma’?”


Willow opened her mouth but closed it again to consider it.


“I don’t think she deserves that title,” she said, glancing at Tara to confirm her support, “But it’s up to you.”


Robyn leaned forward, her eyes alight with mischief.


“Can I call her—”


“NO,” Willow and Tara answered resolutely together without needing to hear what the option was going to be.


Robyn folded her arms over her chest and sat back with a pout.


They parked at the hotel and the girls all rushed out excitement to see the pool. Kayden’s eyes seemed to be everywhere, checking out the cool Californian architecture but JJ’s eyes were down and his hands were stuffed in his pockets.


“JJ, you’ve been quiet,” Tara asked gently as she slid the door of the minivan closed behind him, “Are you okay?”


JJ looked up and made a non-committal motion.


“Uh-huh.”


Tara patted the back of his shoulder gently. She suspected this had to do with that girl JJ had been spending time with. She didn’t envy being a teenager heartbroken over a vacation fling.


“We’re here if you need to talk.”


He sighed but it was lost on the wind.


Willow gave him and Kayden the key to their room and she had Tara bring the girls up to their family room.


There was a brief tussle between Robyn and Lily over who would take the single and who would share one of the two doubles with Emily but Robyn won over seniority or height or possibly threat of tattle. As long as it wasn’t violent, Willow and Tara stayed out of it with those two.


Willow threw their case into the small space at the bottom of the closet.


She felt Tara’s presence before she felt the strong arms being wrapped around her body from behind.


A little kiss was pressed to her ear and then a sweet voice spoke into it.


“Do we need to bring the kids at a particular time?”


“Um,” Willow replied, closing her eyes to gather her thoughts, “Not really, but I’d like to get them in and out before the evening clientele start to come in. They’re a bit more rambunctious than a small town wine and book bar tends to go for.”


Her shoulders relaxed as the scent of Tara’s shampoo wafted through her nose.


“Well, it’s only lunchtime,” Tara crooned softly in Willow’s ear, “So why don’t I take the girls off for a swim and some food — in that order, in case you’re worried about cramps — and let the boys do what they want to do for a while. And you can just take a breather.”


Willow smiled and leaned back into Tara’s embrace.


“You would think they’d had their fill of swimming.”


“Pool swimming is entirely different to ocean swimming, Momma,” Robyn said knowledgeably and got resounding nods from the other two.


“Will they have pool noodles?” Lily asked excitedly.


Willow just smiled.


She helped get the kids changed into swimsuits and goggles and kissed Tara on the cheek as she hoarded them all out of there and up to the roof.


Willow sat on the end of hers and Tara’s bed and did as her wife advised; took a breather.


She placed her hands on her thighs and did some inhales and exhales but that didn’t quite quieten her mind so she hoisted her legs up and crossed them under her instead.


There.


That felt like a more mindful pose.


It worked enough for Willow to realize she couldn’t spend the rest of the day and night here feeling like she was feeling. This was supposed to be a positive experience.


And she was over 40 years old for god’s sake, she could deal with this like an adult.


She walked over to the desk and picked up the pencil sitting there before tearing a piece of paper from the little notepad.


She wrote her words quickly and succinctly.


In town, best we don’t see each other, ignore me if you see me and I’ll do the same. Willow.


She nodded.


That would do it.


She asked for an envelope at reception, stuck her note safely inside, and got into the car. It took a moment to remember what color and model she was looking for with all of the cars they’d cycled through over this vacation but it was the only mini-van in the lot so it stood out pretty distinctly.


She put the envelope on the passenger side and drove out quickly before she lost her nerve.


Willow rarely drove to this part of town when she came out this way. It was just easier. But there was something nice about driving down the old streets and remembering some of the fun she’d had as a child.


The dirt she’d dug up to test the soil with her home chemistry kit and the trees she’d used to calculate the angle of the sun. The pavement where she’d scraped her knee when doing her own little running experiments of relativity.


Finally, she pulled up outside the house; her house. Her mother’s house.


Her eyes cast a furtive glance toward the envelope and with one long, deep breath, she plucked it from the spot and left the car.


Walking with purpose, she strode down the driveway like she was a delivery driver on a busy Saturday night. She popped the letter through the letterbox, nodded once definitively, and turned to leave.


Then the door opened.


Willow turned back around and looked in surprise.


“Oh. Um. Hi.”



When Tara came back to the room with the girls wrapped up in towels and in a state of giddy exhaustion from all of the pool shenanigans — they did have pool noodles and they were primarily used to catch each other by the neck to dunk the other person — Willow all but leaped across the entire length of the room.


“She moved!”


Tara physically jumped back in surprise but caught herself with her hand against her heart.


“Girls, go wash off in the shower. Then I’ll bring you to get burgers and fries.”


They all ran off on that promise and Tara dropped the beach bag by the door.


“Can you repeat that?”


Willow leaned forward on her toes, putting all of her energy into that spot.


“Sheila. She moved. She doesn’t live in Sunnydale any longer.”


Tara looked surprised.


“Oh.”


Willow smiled.


“Every time I come here, I brace myself,” she said, gesticulating all around her as she laughed, “And she hasn’t even lived here since before we opened the store!”


Tara could tell Willow was verging on hysterical and took her hands between them to help ground her.


“Where did she go?”


Willow felt the squeeze of Tara’s fingers and instantly calmed.


“Got a professorship at Stanford. At least that’s where her mail is being forwarded by the lovely new family that lives at her house,” she explained, smiling sadly for a moment, “Living her best life. Good for her because it was a pretty sad one.”


Tara looked sympathetic.


“Why didn’t your Dad know? He would have told you, surely?”


Willow shrugged one shoulder.


“I’m guessing she’s hiding extra income to keep getting alimony or…I don’t know,” she sighed, “And honestly, I don’t care. I’ll tell Dad, but I don’t really care what he does about it.”


Her shoulders slumped down.


“This is a relief. I can come back here without being all avoid-y,” she said with the relief she spoke of evident on her face, “I feel like I’m the one all het up on pool endorphins.”


Tara lifted her hands to Willow’s face and cupped each cheek.


“I’m so happy for you to have this burden lifted.”


She pressed her lips to Willow, who pretty much melted right on the spot.


Willow pulled Tara into a hug without breaking the kiss until they naturally parted and Tara closed the hug.


When they pulled apart, Willow was smiling easily.


“I am now fully ready to engage in family time. Did I hear you say burgers and fries?”


Tara nodded.


“I saw some fast food place on the way in. Doublemeat—”


“Palace, yeah,” Willow finished and grimaced, “No.”


One of Tara’s eyebrows rose.


“Oh?”


Willow shook her head.


“Just no.”


Willow was normally the one to feed the kids food of questionable nutrition so if she was saying no, it was definitely no.


“Any suggestions?” she asked hopefully.


The not-so-stellar eating options for downtown Sunnydale flicked through Willow’s mind.


“The store serves some food. We could do a little quality control spot check,” she grinned, but it faltered, “That sounded sexier in my head.”


“I promised them burgers and fries,” Tara replied, frowning.


“We’re the owners, we’ll demand it,” Willow replied surely, then had to laugh at the look on Tara’s face, “Chill out, we have an Angus burger and sweet potato fry dish on the menu. Remember last year I got sent that big box of frozen burgers to approve?”


Tara did; specifically eating burgers for three nights in a row and forgetting what burgers were supposed to taste like when asked to grade them. They had been good though, and she was happier to give the kids decent meat and ingredients.


She smiled.


“I’ll text the boys.”


She messaged JJ and Kayden to meet them outside in 15 and then she and Willow had to try and quickly corral the girls into clothing.


Willow and Tara exchanged a look of exhaustion but smiled a special smile for each other, one that said: whatever happens, this day will end with us curled up together.


When the girls were finally dressed, dragging themselves from hunger, they all went downstairs and met up with the boys.


JJ still seemed a bit mopey but Kayden looked so happy one might even mistake him for an extrovert.


He asked Willow some stuff about the eclectic building styles but Willow didn’t have much information to give him, though it didn’t stop him from looking so starry-eyed. It was nice to see him so excited about something.


The bookstore was just off Maple Court so they walked a couple of blocks around the epicenter of Sunnydale culture to get there.


Outside there was a new sign with the new name — Bibliosmia, a word which described the smell and aroma of a good book, found by Tara as they spent weeks trying to find a perfect fit — but in the shop window, there still remained: ‘Ruth Michelson, proprietor, est. 1942’. But now above, it bore Willow and Tara’s names and an ‘s’ had just about been fitted in after ‘proprietor’.


“What do you think guys?” Willow asked with some nervous excitement.


On the other window, there was a big display that said ‘Read. Sip. Chat.’ and an old, distressed-wood table with a single chair sat there with an open bottle of wine and books in various positions.


Willow opened the door and smiled as she inhaled that scent. Even after all that had changed here, that smell was still the same.


Tara stepped inside after the kids and had a good look around.


It hadn’t actually changed much since the opening, which Tara took with pride as she’d had a heavy hand in helping design the layout.


It still very much had a cluttered bookstore feel because that was very important to Willow but once you pushed past the initial rows of bookcases, there was an elevated clearing littered with recycled seating and a half-moon bar. If you walked to the opposite end of the store, there was more seating but it was in the form of beanbags and soft furnishings.


Sitting from high above, close to the ceiling, a portrait of Ruth hung to watch over them all.


As she always did, Willow smiled sadly as she looked at it.


“I wish I’d introduced you kids to Ruth,” she said, putting as much arm as she could around them all, “She was deserving of ‘Grandma’.”


JJ rolled his eyes but nobody saw it.


As they were having the moment, a woman came down the three steps from the seating area. She was plump and wore a short black bob and wore a t-shirt that said ‘my other car is a broom’.


“Willow,” she greeted warmly, walking over to kiss Willow on each cheek and then moving away to embrace Tara warmly, “Tara. Long time.”


“Hello Marla,” Tara replied warmly.


“These must be the children!” Marla said with a keen smile for them all, “It’s nice to finally meet you all. I hear about you all the time!”


The kids all smiled politely but Lily tugged on Willow’s pants.


“Momma, I’m hungry.”


“Right,” Willow replied quickly, “Marla, could we get the burger all round here.”


“Absolutely,” Marla nodded quickly, “Eat and relax.”


She brought them through and Willow was surprised and pleased to see a couple of tables were actually filled despite it being a weekday just after the holidays. One was a lone diner — reading a book from the ‘library’ section where people could borrow one of their more battered books unfit for sale to read while they ate or just curl up in a beanbag with — and the other was a male/female couple in glasses who were enjoying a coffee and sharing one of their huge book-shaped black-and-white cookies.


The gang took the big bench seat at the back; normally used to seat a few people family-style, so it just about fit their family.


Willow caught Marla giving a little pep talk to a younger man behind the bar and guessed he might be new because she didn’t recognize him from last time.


He smoothed out his shirt and approached confidently, perhaps faking it more than was really there.


“Hi, I’m Julian. May I take your drinks order today?” he offered with a winning smile, “If you wish I can recommend a wine.”


Willow looked to Tara with an arched eyebrow, who shrugged and smiled easily.


“Sure,” Willow smiled too, “Go ahead. We’re having the burger.”


Julian nodded quickly and stood more importantly.


“For a classic ground beef burger, I would suggest a Syrah or you might enjoy a Cabernet Sauvignon. If you enjoy a Malbec, I would recommend a bottle from a cooler vineyard such as Mendoza that will have a higher-than-normal acidity to compliment the dish.”


Willow smiled; she couldn’t fault a word of that.


“We’ll take two glasses of the Cabernet Sauvignon.”


The kids called out various shades of soft drinks and minutes later they were delivered with two very pleasant glasses of wine that perfectly accompanied the burgers that were brought to the table not long after that.


Everyone ate hungrily and thankfully it was a decent meal. Willow wanted to make sure she got the name of relish they were using because she wanted to use it at home.


Once refueled, Lily was eager to get moving again.


“Momma, can I go read a book?”


Willow lit up. Lily had never been the biggest bibliophile in the family.


“Absolutely, Lil,” she encouraged eagerly and put a finger to her lips, “Just remember in the book section we have to be quiet okay?”


Lily bounced off to see how many books she could stack on top of each other.


Emily suggested to Kayden that they find a book on art to read together and Robyn was curious when she saw some audiotapes in the library section on the civil rights movement.


JJ’s phone beeped and he stood up.


“I’m going for a walk.”


He pushed off without another look and Willow arched her eyebrow at Tara.


“Has he finally discovered teenagedom?”


“Perhaps, the pitfalls of it,” Tara said sympathetically, just as Marla came over to check everything was to their liking, “Marla, you are doing a fantastic job. This place is thriving.”


Willow slid over on the bench.


“Come sit for a minute. I’m the boss, you’re allowed,” she grinned good-naturedly, “Tell me all the latest developments.”


Marla took the seat and rested her arms on the table.


“Oh, since we last saw you…well, we serve Butterbeer for Harry Potter-themed birthday parties now and we started a trivia night every month, oh and we do story-time every week now with a drag troupe from the city. Oh, and we even just booked our first wedding,” she professed with a grin because that had been her own personal ‘get’, “They’re coming from out of town just for it. A couple of kids, they met here during college when they both came here to use the textbook recycling program.”


Willow smiled proudly across the table.


“All Tara’s idea.”


Tara waved a hand bashfully.


“And I’m about to sign the papers on a second wedding,” Marla continued proudly, “Smaller but much higher budget. It’s a second wedding for them both so they want intimate but glamorous.”


“Glamorous,” Willow asked with an arched eyebrow, “We’re considered glamorous?”


Marla looked quite smug.


“We’re quite popular with the Thursday evening high society population of Sunnydale. Cordelia demanded to sample the menu despite being here every week but once that’s done, we’ll be looking to hold the reception in the summer.”


Willow stalled.


“Cordelia?” she asked, her eyes slowly widening, “As in…Chase?”


Marla nodded evenly.


“Formally Doyle, soon to be Groosalugg but yes, Cordelia Chase.”


“Groosalugg?” Tara asked unsurely, “Is that…Swedish?”


Marla offered a pained nod.


“Something like that.”


Willow’s mouth opened and closed again.


“Does she…happen to know who the owners are?”


“Oh yes,” Marla nodded with a knowing smile, “She tried to blag a discount by saying you were friends in high school.”


Willow laughed, slowly at first, then so hard she actually had to bend over.


“You know what? I wish her a happy second marriage,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes and slipping her hand into Tara’s with a wink, “Not everyone is as lucky as me first time around.”


From a distance, Julian called for Marla’s attention and she departed with another smile and quick hug for each of them.


Both Willow and Tara grinned proudly at each other.


“This place is doing amazing,” Tara said softly, “You are amazing.”


“It’s all Marla and the gang,” Willow waved her hand, then looked downward, “Sometimes I wonder if Ruth would be rolling in her grave about all the changes I made.”


“No, darling,” Tara shook her head surely, “She would be so proud.”


Willow still looked unsure, so Tara came around and sat next to her.


“Listen to me,” she said, taking both of Willow’s hands in hers, “I. Am. So. Proud. Of. You.”


She wanted to punctuate each word with a kiss but did it with a smile instead.


Willow smiled. She understood.


“Wanna go make an ‘us’ indent in one of those beanbags like I always dreamed about as a kid?”


Tara smiled softly.


“I’d love nothing more.”


Hand-in-hand, they walked across the store with only eyes for each other and sat into one of the beanbags together.


They almost immediately stood back up.


“Oh my god,” Willow groaned lightly.


“Oh, no,” Tara said, holding her hands at the small of her back, “I’m 42 years old. My back is not able for that.”


“And those are good beanbags! We spent a fortune on them,” Willow grumbled, then had to smile, “That teaches me not to relive childhood memories.”


She cocked an eyebrow at Tara.


“Wanna go get another glass of wine?”


Tara’s lips sloped seductively on one side.


“I could be tempted.”


They drudged back up to a more intimate place setting in the café where they had a better view to watch over the girls and ordered two more glasses of wine.


“To Ruth?” Tara suggested when they arrived.


Willow nodded.


“To all the real mothers out there.”


She clinked her glass against Tara’s.


“And to knowing I have the best one by my side every day of my life.”

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 21st 2020
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2020 12:14 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 360
Dibs! :whip

Quote:
She was starting to think this was a really bad idea.


The cruel things her mother had said to them on their last meetings still rang in her mind — they didn’t sting anymore, they didn’t feel much of anything but some sadness for the whole situation but they were harsh and dismissive. And she would not let her children hear them or think for one second they weren’t legitimate or a real family or that the twins had some sort of elevation above the rest just for being ‘hers’.


This was a really, really bad idea.


Just as soon as she thought it, Tara’s hand came to rest over her tight knuckles. Willow glanced over and Tara mouthed ‘everything will be okay’ and just as soon as the words had been not-spoken, Willow was okay again.


Okay, still a little bit antsy but not the wound ball about to pop like she had been just seconds before.

Willow's anxiety is totally understandable - I too feared a chance meeting with Sheila and her causing a scene. Another great proof how in tune Willow and Tara are with each other that Tara immediately knew that Willow needed her silent support in this moment and was able to make her feel better instantly.

Quote:
Tara glanced back to see how that was all sitting and noticed Emily looked troubled.


“What’s up, koala? What are you thinking?”


Emily’s eyes were in her lap.


“I-I didn’t know moms could stop talking to their kids.”


Willow looked stricken.


“Emily,” she called back softly, “No matter what, me and Mommy will never, ever stop speaking to you. Or stop loving you.”


Stopped at a light, she reached back and outstretched her hand.


“Pinky promise.”


Emily hesitated, then wrapped her pinky around Willow’s and shook.

:cry How sad that Emily feared that her mothers could stop speaking to her too, even if it was just for a few moments. I'm glad that Willow was able to ease her fear right away and that Robyn gave some comic relief afterwards.

Quote:
She placed her hands on her thighs and did some inhales and exhales but that didn’t quite quieten her mind so she hoisted her legs up and crossed them under her instead.


There.


That felt like a more mindful pose.

Uff - I'm about Willow's age and my old knees wouldn't allow me to comfortably take and hold that pose... :wink

Quote:
It worked enough for Willow to realize she couldn’t spend the rest of the day and night here feeling like she was feeling. This was supposed to be a positive experience.


And she was over 40 years old for god’s sake, she could deal with this like an adult.

I'm glad that Willow found the courage to go to her mother's home and that it led to her finding out that Sheila moved out of Sunnydale.

Quote:
“This is a relief. I can come back here without being all avoid-y,” she said with the relief she spoke of evident on her face, “I feel like I’m the one all het up on pool endorphins.”


Tara lifted her hands to Willow’s face and cupped each cheek.


“I’m so happy for you to have this burden lifted.”

I second that. Great that from now on Willow can bring her family for a visit to Sunnydale without any lingering trace of fear.

The bookstore / winebar sounds awesome, I would really love to visit it. Is it a real place you visited or read about?

Quote:
“I wish I’d introduced you kids to Ruth,” she said, putting as much arm as she could around them all, “She was deserving of ‘Grandma’.”


JJ rolled his eyes but nobody saw it.

Hm, I'm wondering what JJ's problem is - I can't imagine it's (just) heartache about having to part from Cleo... :hmm
Did he somehow find out that their "Nana" Rose and Lisa actually didn't raise Tara together as two moms? But if this were the case I'd be surprised that he hasn't "confronted" his mothers with the knowledge...

Quote:
Once refueled, Lily was eager to get moving again.


“Momma, can I go read a book?”


Willow lit up. Lily had never been the biggest bibliophile in the family.


“Absolutely, Lil,” she encouraged eagerly and put a finger to her lips, “Just remember in the book section we have to be quiet okay?”


Lily bounced off to see how many books she could stack on top of each other.

:laugh So cute, Willow being all elated believing that Lily wants to read while she really just wants to build a tower out of books.

Quote:
“Groosalugg?” Tara asked unsurely, “Is that…Swedish?”


Marla offered a pained nod.


“Something like that.”


I choose to assume that Marla's nod is pained because the guy acts unpleasantly and not because she is prejudiced against (northern) europeans...

Quote:
“Does she…happen to know who the owners are?”


“Oh yes,” Marla nodded with a knowing smile, “She tried to blag a discount by saying you were friends in high school.”


Willow laughed, slowly at first, then so hard she actually had to bend over.


“You know what? I wish her a happy second marriage,” she said, wiping tears from her eyes and slipping her hand into Tara’s with a wink, “Not everyone is as lucky as me first time around.”

Wow, bitca-queen C really has some nerve to pretend to be a friend of Willow in the hope to press the price. But I'm glad that Willow is able to "make her peace of mind" with her.

Quote:
“This place is doing amazing,” Tara said softly, “You are amazing.”


“It’s all Marla and the gang,” Willow waved her hand, then looked downward, “Sometimes I wonder if Ruth would be rolling in her grave about all the changes I made.”


“No, darling,” Tara shook her head surely, “She would be so proud.”


Willow still looked unsure, so Tara came around and sat next to her.


“Listen to me,” she said, taking both of Willow’s hands in hers, “I. Am. So. Proud. Of. You.”


She wanted to punctuate each word with a kiss but did it with a smile instead.


Me too! :applause I wouldn't mind kissing Willow too to convince her (well, maybe on the cheek) but I wouldn't want to face Tara's wrath.

Quote:
“Wanna go make an ‘us’ indent in one of those beanbags like I always dreamed about as a kid?”


Tara smiled softly.


“I’d love nothing more.”


Hand-in-hand, they walked across the store with only eyes for each other and sat into one of the beanbags together.


They almost immediately stood back up.


“Oh my god,” Willow groaned lightly.


“Oh, no,” Tara said, holding her hands at the small of her back, “I’m 42 years old. My back is not able for that.”


“And those are good beanbags! We spent a fortune on them,” Willow grumbled, then had to smile, “That teaches me not to relive childhood memories.”

:rofl

Quote:
“To Ruth?” Tara suggested when they arrived.


Willow nodded.


“To all the real mothers out there.”


She clinked her glass against Tara’s.


“And to knowing I have the best one by my side every day of my life.”

Awww! :bigkiss :flower


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 21st 2020
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2020 4:00 am 
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Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs! :whip


All hail!

Quote:
Willow's anxiety is totally understandable - I too feared a chance meeting with Sheila and her causing a scene. Another great proof how in tune Willow and Tara are with each other that Tara immediately knew that Willow needed her silent support in this moment and was able to make her feel better instantly.


They've been together a long time - I love their synchronicity:)

Quote:
:cry How sad that Emily feared that her mothers could stop speaking to her too, even if it was just for a few moments. I'm glad that Willow was able to ease her fear right away and that Robyn gave some comic relief afterwards.


That's a big thing for a little girl to contemplate I think...you can see why it's difficult for them to discuss their horrible parents!

Quote:
Uff - I'm about Willow's age and my old knees wouldn't allow me to comfortably take and hold that pose... :wink


Relevant! :D

Quote:
I'm glad that Willow found the courage to go to her mother's home and that it led to her finding out that Sheila moved out of Sunnydale.


I second that. Great that from now on Willow can bring her family for a visit to Sunnydale without any lingering trace of fear.


It's a fantastic development for her! All she has to stress about is profit and loss reports from now on :)

Quote:
The bookstore / winebar sounds awesome, I would really love to visit it. Is it a real place you visited or read about


Not a specific place, but the kind of places do exist and I thought it was the perfect set up for them!

Quote:
Hm, I'm wondering what JJ's problem is - I can't imagine it's (just) heartache about having to part from Cleo... :hmm
Did he somehow find out that their "Nana" Rose and Lisa actually didn't raise Tara together as two moms? But if this were the case I'd be surprised that he hasn't "confronted" his mothers with the knowledge...


All will be revealed...

Quote:
:laugh So cute, Willow being all elated believing that Lily wants to read while she really just wants to build a tower out of books.


What she doesn't know won't kill her :laugh

Quote:
I choose to assume that Marla's nod is pained because the guy acts unpleasantly and not because she is prejudiced against (northern) europeans...


More like frustration at trying to pronounce his name correctly while trying to be professional and courteous!

Quote:
Wow, bitca-queen C really has some nerve to pretend to be a friend of Willow in the hope to press the price. But I'm glad that Willow is able to "make her peace of mind" with her.


Could you expect anything less than her?

Quote:
Me too! :applause I wouldn't mind kissing Willow too to convince her (well, maybe on the cheek) but I wouldn't want to face Tara's wrath.


You would get some serious 'nobody messes with my girl' vibes!

Quote:
Awww! :bigkiss :flower


:)

Thanks so much for your feedback!



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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 21st 2020
PostPosted: Fri Jul 24, 2020 4:00 am 
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Chapter Thirteen




As Willow let herself in from work, she met JJ in the doorway.


He walked right on out, barely pushing past her.


“Oh, hey—” she started, then looked over her shoulder to call after him, “Hello to you too!”


She walked further inside until she was in the doorway looking into the living room, where the girls were doing their homework around the coffee table.


She waved and smiled but didn’t linger so she wouldn’t distract. She knew Tara had a hard time getting Lily to sit long enough to do it all most days.


She went into the kitchen where Tara was stirring her big pot. She was always stirring in that thing; it was the only one big enough to feed them all, particularly since Kayden had come to live there.


“What’s got you working out those guns tonight?” she asked cheerily as she left her purse on a stool and came around the island to pop a kiss on Tara’s lips.


She smiled when she felt Tara smile into the kiss and looked down into the pot of deliciousness.


“Cheeseburger pasta. JJ’s favorite,” she noted with a pointed eyebrow as she broke away to get a glass to fill with ice and water, “He has been in a stinker for weeks. What gives?”


“I’ve tried talking to him,” Tara sighed, “He’s blocking me out. I was thinking of taking him for a drive and a chat.”


Willow leaned her elbows on the island.


“On the plus side, if he’s not talking to us, he can’t ask for money.”


“Willow…” Tara chastised softly.


“Tara…” Willow returned in a playful mocking tone.


Tara’s lips quirked up on one side and she leaned over enough to meet Willow for a kiss.


“What can I do?” Willow asked as they parted and was passed a salad spinner.


A little while later, they, Kayden, and the girls were sitting around the dining table watching their food go cold.


“We should eat,” Willow said softly when another unanswered call went to voicemail, “He probably just lost track of time.”


Tara looked around at the sea of hungry faces and just nodded quietly.


She didn’t each much.


It was hours later, with everyone else in bed, when they finally heard the key in the door. Both Willow and Tara ran out from the living room, where they had been pacing.


“JJ!” Willow exclaimed, throwing her hands up, “Where have you been?”


JJ shrugged his backpack off his shoulder and rolled his eyes.


“It’s not past curfew.”


“Weekend curfew! And less of that attitude, mister,” Willow replied with a stern frown, “You didn’t come home for dinner.”


“You know that’s all we ask,” Tara said in a soft, concerned tone, “Or at least let us know if you won’t be here.”


“Our pasta went cold,” Willow added indignantly, “Your mom made is especially!”


“And we were worried,” Tara pressed, folding her arms across her chest.


JJ didn’t meet either of their gazes.


“I was shooting hoops.”


“You do that every day. You couldn’t take a break to at least let us know you’d be late?” Willow asked, having to work at keeping her tone down so as not to wake the rest of the house, “It’s the second time this week you’ve come home late without telling us.”


JJ physically pushed past them both.


“I don’t need this.”


“Hey!” Willow said sharply, spinning around to look at his retreating back, “We’re talking to you.”


JJ reached the top of the stairs and turned away toward the steps up to his bedroom.


“Well, I’m not talking to you.”


Willow's closed fist flew up and Tara had to put a hand on her wife’s shoulder to stop her from running after him.


“Tara!”


“I know,” Tara replied, soft but steady, “But whatever is going on isn’t going to be resolved by us stamping up behind him.”


Willow slowly deflated and Tara moved to rub both of her shoulders.


“Let him sleep. We’ll deal with him in the morning. Things always look better in the morning.”



Things did not look better in the morning.


By the time breakfasts were eaten and lunches were made and a last-minute kerfuffle surrounding a missing permission slip and a near-meltdown from Lily, neither Willow nor Tara realized JJ had already left for school until it became obvious Kayden needed a ride.


“I cannot believe he went off without you,” Willow muttered as she unlocked her car for Kayden to sit in, “Do you know what the hell is up with him?”


Kayden stayed silent. He didn’t, honestly, but he did know JJ spent a lot of time on the phone lately and to one particular sandy-haired person. He didn’t want to rock the boat, though. JJ had always treated him like a brother, even if he had been more distant lately.


He just shrugged.


Willow’s mouth became thinner.


She dropped Kayden off at the high school and continued on to work, still muttering under her breath.


At the office, she had a tidy little pile of cases to distract her and allow her mind a break from the anger to focus on some hotshot who got too cocky defrauding the market.


Just before lunch, she heard a knock on the door and pressed the door release button so whoever it was could come inside.


She turned in her seat just as Jesse stuck his head in.


“Uh, Will? We have a…situation.”


A few minutes later, while Willow was sitting in shock, her phone rang. She answered it on autopilot and immediately heard Tara’s panicked voice.


“I just got a call from the school.”


Willow’s eyes closed.


“Let me guess. JJ cut.”


There was a pause on the other end.


“Willow, what’s going on?”


Willow dropped her head into her hand.


“We need to meet up. Now.”


Tara’s silence held enough fear for them both.


“I’m coming over there,” Willow said, already grabbing her purse, “Can you meet me in the lobby?”


Tara answered with a shaken affirmative and Willow had hung up by the time she reached the elevator.


She drove over to Tara’s office building because she was going to have to drive afterward anyway and nabbed a rare parking spot right outside.


At least something was going right for her today.


Tara was anxiously pacing in the lobby when Willow got there.


“Willow,” she said through a sharp breath, barreling toward her wife, “What the hell is going on?”


Willow took Tara’s elbow and brought her off to the side where it was somewhat more private.


“Okay. We got a call to the office that someone was attempting to visit your father in prison. Jesse knows a guy over there and he keeps tabs on him for us.”


Tara’s brow furrowed.


“Honestly, Willow, I don’t care if he’s found some groupie, I’m more concerned about J—” she started but then her forehead started to even out in terror, “No. No, no, no, no, no.”


“They’re not letting him in,” Willow said firmly, keeping Tara’s gaze in a strong lock, “Or out, for that matter, until I get up there to kick his ass home.”


Tara’s cheeks were red and her eyes flashed between anger and fear.


“I’m coming too.”


Willow squeezed Tara’s upper arm.


“You don’t have to. Jesse already offered to come with me to drive JJ’s car home.”


“I’m coming,” Tara repeated firmly.


Willow sighed silently. She’d anticipated that, but she didn’t like it.


“Okay,” she nodded quickly, “I’ll organize cover for the kids. Meet me at home in twenty.”


“Fifteen,” Tara replied sternly and began to walk away to the back of the building to access the parking lot.


Willow massaged her own neck as she walked back to her car.


Tara was already home when she got there, meaning she definitely broke the speed limit, making fruit skewers and ants on a log for the kids when they got in from school.


She looked as normal as any other day Willow came in from work to see her wife in the kitchen, except she could visibly see the shake in Tara’s hands, even from across the room.


Willow wasn’t too keen on how she was wielding that knife.


She came over and gently put her hand over Tara’s hand, easing it down.


“I’ll finish this. You go to the bathroom. We have a bit of a drive ahead of us.”


Tara just nodded.


“Who’s going to be here for the girls?”


“Dad,” Willow said reassuringly, “He’s going to pick Kayden up too. His afternoons are always free these days, as long as his golf game doesn’t go on too long.”


The levity didn’t seem to help Tara, who walked off in a daze.


Willow could kill her son for bringing all of this up again for them.


How had he even found out?


This and many more questions plagued her during the uncomfortably silent two-hour drive to the penitentiary.


Tara didn’t speak, not once, not even when Willow addressed her directly. She just stared out the window with a look Willow couldn’t identify on her face.


Which was scary for Willow, because she thought she knew all of Tara’s faces.


Approaching the penitentiary made them both tense. The security gates, the barbed wire, the knowledge that Tara’s father was skulking around far closer than could ever be comfortable.


The security guard at the entrance kindly directed them to the right building and Willow pressed the buzzer to be allowed in. Directly inside the door was a long hallway, behind a locked door, and an entrance area with small plastic seats and a desk hiding behind perspex glass.


Slumped on one of the seats, JJ sat with a scowl on his face.


“Jacob,” Tara said with relief and bounded over there to hug him, whether he liked it or not.


Willow stayed back a few feet, unsure if she could offer such a warm embrace. She looked to the officer sitting behind the desk.


“Thank you.”


“Can I see some ID ma’am before I release him?” the officer asked with an important nod of her head.


Willow fetched her driver’s license and FBI ID and slid them under the little slot for the officer to examine. She did and handed it back accordingly.


“Free to go, ma’am. But just so you know, we don’t allow visitors to just walk in off the street, or unaccompanied minors to visit without a guardian.”


Willow’s lips grew thin again. She didn’t need to be told that.


“Has the prisoner been informed that there was a visitor for him?”


“No, ma’am,” the officer shook her head, “The prisoner has a notation on his file. All visitor requests go out externally for approval. And, uh, it’s not visitor day.”


Willow just nodded again.


“Thank you.”


She went over to her wife and son.


“Come on,” she said insistently.


She wanted them all out of this place, now.


She grabbed JJ’s arm and dragged him outside.


“I don’t know what imbecile thoughts were going through your mind but you are in such big trouble, mister!”


JJ hoisted his arm away aggressively.


“He’s my grandfather! That I didn’t even know about!” he shot back angrily, “Cleo said if I felt I needed to know, then I should go! So I did!”


Willow looked bewildered.


“Who the hell is Cleo?!”


“The girl from Hawaii,” Tara spoke quietly as she caught up behind them.


JJ gave Tara a strange look.


“How do you know?”


“I spoke to her parents when I saw you both spending time together at Christmas,” Tara answered, crossing her arms over her chest as she muttered quietly, “…one of them is very nice.”


“You knew about this?!” Willow asked in disbelief, then pivoted her anger back to JJ, “You’re letting some girl from Hawaii make reckless decisions for you?!”


“She lives in New York City,” JJ replied petulantly.


Willow threw her hands up.


“I don’t care if she lives in Timbuktu!”


Tara physically got between them both.


“Stop it,” she said, somehow managing to shriek in a tone so quiet her voice barely carried farther than a few inches around them, “Both of you. Right now.”


Both of them did. Tara heaved out two short breaths and looked at Willow.


“Drive your car home.”


Willow gave a short nod and withering look in JJ’s direction.


“Come on, Jacob.”


“No,” Tara said, putting a hand on JJ’s chest to keep him where he was, “You’re coming with me.”


“Tara—” Willow started to object but Tara held her hand up.


“Willow,” Tara said pointedly, “We’re sticking to the plan. I’m taking him for a drive.”


Tara’s Resolve Face was the only one fit to beat Willow’s, so — reluctantly and keeping eyes on Tara and JJ the whole way across the parking lot — Willow got back into her car and waited.


Tara directed JJ over to his car and held out her hand for the keys. JJ dropped them in her palm with a scowl and grudgingly got in on the passenger side.


Tara sat in on the driver’s side, adjusted the seat and belted herself in. She looked to JJ to do the same, who did it with all of the angst befitting of his age and all of the petulance of someone younger than any of his sisters.


Tara silently started the car and drove out of there with a courteous wave for the security guard.


It took exactly 27.3 miles of staring out at country roads for Tara to feel her fingers loosen enough on the wheel that she thought she could speak without anger.


“Cleo was right,” she said, clear and direct though she didn’t take her eye off the road.


JJ glanced away from his angry staring out the window for the first time.


“Cleo was right,” Tara repeated in a heavily disappointed tone, “But only half so. If you felt you needed to know about my parentage, you should have come to me. Not…whatever research you did to lead you here. Not cut school and come here, to this place! Not shut me and your mother out every time we’ve come to you to try and work out what was going on with you!”


Her nostrils flared as she clutched the wheel tight again, blinking rapidly to overcome the sudden rush of emotion through her.


JJ looked at her with trepidation, not used to seeing her lose her cool for anything. He turned his body toward her but his arms stayed loosely crossed on his chest.


“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”


Tara held a hand up helplessly.


“How do you tell a little boy that his grandfather is in prison? A man he’s never known, never will know?”


JJ’s foot kicked angrily.


“I’m not a little boy anymore.”


“You’re still my little boy,” Tara countered and looked over at JJ with such unwavering love that it made him glance away guiltily.


JJ tried to lower himself in the seat but his long legs only allowed him so much scooting. His eyes moved about fitfully as his own thoughts bounced back and forth until he suddenly straightened back up sharply.


“I know that he shot a cop,” he explained, throwing a hand out demonstrably, “But it could have been a dirty cop, maw! There were no trial details! Maybe he was being framed, maybe—”


“He shot your mother,” Tara cut him off plainly.


JJ’s mouth clamped shut.


Tara continued to stare straight ahead.


“He raised his gun,” she said calmly, “At me.”


She swallowed deeply.


“He pulled the trigger,” she continued, “At me.”


Her heart was so loud it was in her ears.


“And then your Momma jumped in front of it.”


Her knuckles were white now.


“And it missed her heart by millimeters.”


Her cheeks flushed with all of the blood rushing to her head.


“So maybe now you know why we didn’t make this a bedtime story.”


Her eyes pricked with tears.


“Because it was the worst thing to ever happen to me.”


The quiver in his mother’s voice was the harshest punishment JJ could ever receive.


“Mom,” he said helplessly.


Tara swallowed repeatedly and blinked heavily several times.


“You don’t remember, but Nana Rose wasn’t always in our lives. I only found her again when I was pregnant with the twins,” she said to JJ, whose eyebrows lifted in surprise, “And the love story — the version you know, the only relationship of my upbringing that actually contained love — was Rose and my mother. And it was a lot nicer for you to believe than to know of that awful man who only ever took from me and my family.”


JJ looked down but was still bristly.


“You told Kayden.”


“I did not,” Tara replied quickly, surely.


“You told him you had a father,” JJ countered petulantly.


Tara closed her eyes for the briefest of moments before focusing back on the road.


“We went through a similar experience with a father figure in our life that should have been loving and wasn’t. You can’t understand—” she stopped when JJ turned his body away from her, “And you never will if you’re not willing to listen.”


“I’m LISTENING,” JJ blew up, throwing up his hands.


“Then listen to this,” Tara replied curtly, “The man you were so desperate to see today is not your grandfather because he is not my father. And the moment you decided to go behind our backs to seek him out you lost any moral high-ground you think you had.”


JJ’s jaw tensed as he looked down.


“And do not shout at me,” Tara added firmly, holding a finger up, “I put up with enough of that growing up with him.”


JJ slowly deflated, like a balloon left to die after being forgotten at a party.


“What did he do to you?”


Tara swallowed.


“It would be impossible to condense years into one conversation,” she said, her eyes flashing with memories she’d long since buried, “But he scarred me. Physically and emotionally. He struck me and taunted me and starved me and—”


“STOP,” JJ cut in, physically clutching his stomach as his own eyes filled with tears he wouldn’t allow release due to stubbornness, “I get it, okay?”


“Do you?” Tara asked, looking at him directly when they stopped at a light, “Do you understand the kind of man that you were so determined to meet that you didn’t for one second consider why we kept him a secret in the first place?”


JJ’s arms crossed over his chest again but he looked contrite.


Tara let another few miles of rolling fields pass by before speaking again.


“Where did you go on Monday?” she asked and caught JJ glancing at her guiltily for a brief second, “When the school called to tell me you weren’t in class, they asked if you had the same illness you had on Monday and if it was contagious.”


JJ tensed.


“I can take a wild guess given how late you came home that night,” Tara began to answer her own question, “You went to New York City.”


She looked at JJ to confirm what she was saying.


“To see Cleo.”


JJ had paled considerably now.


“…we met halfway.”


Tara just nodded.


Not another word was spoken until they pulled into the driveway. JJ unbelted to bolt because the silence had been absolute torture but Tara caught his leg.


“Wait up. You’re grounded for a month.”


JJ’s head flew around, his eyes bugged.


“A MONTH!?”


He’d never actually been grounded for any more than a weekend and even then he’d gotten early release when he finished cleaning out the basement for them.


“You cut school twice,” Tara nodded seriously, “You drove halfway across the state without telling us and you tried to visit a prison behind our backs, so yes, you are grounded for a month. I will drop you to school and pick you up every day, you can go to basketball practice and games but any other hoop time is in the driveway. No TV, no games console, no phone.”


JJ shook his head and tried to leave the car again.


“One more thing.”


“I’m not allowed to pet Woofy either?” JJ asked sarcastically.


Tara arched an eyebrow.


“Don’t make me take back what I’m about to say by giving me attitude.”


JJ frowned unsurely.


“You may have limited contact with Cleo,” Tara said, holding up a hand when JJ’s eyes widened, “When, and only when, we meet her.”


JJ’s brow slowly furrowed.


“How are you supposed to meet her?”


“I’ll be speaking to her parents,” Tara answered with a nod and glanced away for a moment, “The nice one hopefully.”


JJ squirmed uncomfortably. Tara was unrelenting.


“She is clearly an influence in your life and I would like to get to know anybody whom you hold such a high opinion of.”


JJ scowled again.


“She’s not going to come here just to get yelled at.”


“When have you ever known me to yell?” Tara asked with that eyebrow arched again, “I also know better than to try and keep you apart. You are responsible for your own behavior and that’s why you’re being held accountable. So you can shape up and show some maturity by introducing your girlfriend to us or you can continue to pout like a child and be treated as such.”


JJ’s cheeks flushed.


“Fine. Can I go now?”


Tara held out her hand. JJ’s scowl only deepened as he all but threw his phone at her and hurtled out of the car.


“Don’t you dare slam that door,” Tara called out and JJ thankfully did have the sense to know better.


Tara exited the car on her side and exhaled a long breath. She felt arms come over her waist from behind and leaned back into them.


“Oh, Willow.”


“Are you okay?” Willow asked and Tara could only silently nod.


They didn’t get much of a chance to take a breather as the twins ran out into the driveway to pull them inside and show them their latest creations and babble about their school day. Both Willow and Tara did their best to act like nothing was wrong and thankfully dinner was leftovers so there was little to prepare.


It felt like a long, long evening as they prepped everyone for bed and the following day until the couple finally met again in their bedroom.


“I—” they both started at the same time and smiled, despite everything.


Willow’s smile, however, was pained.


“I have more bad news.”


Tara’s eyes sunk.


“What?”


Willow nibbled on her thumb nervously.


“I mentioned to Xander on the phone that we’re going down to the cabin in a few weeks.”


“And?” Tara prompted.


“He kind of took it as an invitation,” Willow blurted out at once, “Booked a cabin too.”


Tara groaned.


“Didn’t you mention it was for our anniversary?”


“Yep,” Willow nodded quickly.


“But you were going to ask if the girls could have a sleepover,” Tara said helplessly.


“Now they don’t have to,” Willow replied with fake chipper, “Because we’ll all be at the cabin together.”


Tara was too tired for this.


“Fine,” she threw her hands up, “Fine. The kids love it up there anyway, we might as well bring them. You better book the family cabin instead of our delightful little love nest.”


Willow put her hands on Tara’s upper arms and rubbed up and down.


“You need a hug,” she said softly.


Tara gently pulled Willow in by the waist.


“I need this.”


She landed her mouth on Willow’s and kissed her deeply. Willow willingly gave everything back and stumbled gently into Tara’s arms.


“Wait, what was your thing?” she asked as they parted.


Tara sighed.


“Oh.”


She swallowed and composed herself.


“I spoke to the Pierez’s,” she said with a definitive nod, “They weren’t too happy to hear from a stranger that their daughter cut school this week and got a train hours away to meet a boy they barely remember from vacation. I think I learned a lot of new swear words in Spanish.”


Willow arched an eyebrow and Tara just shrugged.


But I did convince them we’re better off making friends than enemies of the kids. It sounds like they were together when they were JJ and Cleo’s age so they probably have a unique perspective. Anyway, they agreed they’d rather they be together in the open than hiding together in the bushes.”


Willow frowned.


“What does that mean?”


Tara looked back at Willow with another sigh.


“It means we’re going to New York City.”



“This still feels like we’re rewarding him.”


Tara flung the excess water from her hands after washing them and went over to the paper towel dispenser.


“Willow, don’t you want to properly meet the family of the girl our boy is dating? I do,” she said as she waved her hands about to find the sensor, “I only chatted with her mothers very briefly in Hawaii and that was just to make sure they were aware of things so they wouldn’t miss any shenanigans.”


Willow frowned contemplatively.


“What were they like?”


Tara breathed softly.


“One called me a troll and told me to get out of her sun because she was getting her tan on,” she answered honestly, “The other one said she hopped Cleo didn’t pop a hip.”


“Doing what?” Willow asked in confusion, then her eyes widened in horror when she saw Tara cringe, “DOING MY SON?!”


She threw her arms in front of her petulantly.


“I hate them already.”


“Willow,” Tara chided softly, “We have to be nice.”


Willow shook her head.


“He better not think he’s going up the Empire State building or seeing a Broadway show.”


“One of Cleo’s mothers acts on Broadway,” Tara answered, then added bashfully, “I, um, Googled her.”


Willow arched an eyebrow.


“Find anything juicy?”


Tara smiled cordially.


“It seems they’ve led an eventful life.”


Willow frowned skeptically.


They exited the airport bathroom and gestured for JJ to come back from the bench he was sitting on opposite the bathroom.


They’d all come through JFK quite a few times on the way to vacations but actually leaving it was a first for them all.


Willow and Tara had always talked about a visit when they lived in Boston but life went on and finances got in the way and they never had. Buffalo, and Rochester when growing up for Tara, had always been quite a bit enough away to dissuade any casual road trips.


JJ sat in the front seat of the cab as they drove into the city and craned his neck about to take in all of the large buildings and flashing lights.


There were occasional glances out the windows from the back seat but Willow was busy on her phone and Tara was retouching her appearance with a little hand mirror.


No one was paying attention to the taxi driver, but that didn’t stop him going on a long rant about salami vs pepperoni on pizza.


“I’m just saying,” he threw his hand out the window and gave the finger to someone as they beeped at him, “One’s for a hoagie, one’s for—”


“STOP!” JJ suddenly exclaimed and the cab screeched to a stop, thankfully with no cars behind it.


“No way, bucko,” Willow said sternly from the back, “We go there, we go back. No stop-offs. This isn’t a vacation.”


JJ looked into the back pleadingly.


“I-I just want to get some flowers for her moms.”


Both Willow and Tara glanced out of the window where a flower shop was displaying its wares brightly on the street.


Willow glanced at Tara who gave her a sincere nod.


“Fine,” Willow sighed.


JJ jumped out before permission was taken away again. He spent a few minutes talking with the vendor before returning to the cab, fighting with a bunch of lilies to fit in the seat with them.


The cab driver looked at him skeptically and pulled away from the curb again.


“Like I was saying, it’s all about the surface area of the meat relative to the bread…”


He droned on some more until he pulled to a stop again.


“And don’t get me started on chorizo—”


“Thanks!” Willow cut him off and shoved some bills at him as she followed Tara out of the car.


The driver noted his tip and smiled.


“Hey, no problem lady!”


On the street, JJ looked all around the quiet street, so different from the bustle in the heart of the city they’d just driven through. The street was all redbrick residential buildings with vibrant green trees and picturesque street lamps.


Right outside of the building they’d been dropped at, a doorman stood and gallantly swung the door open for them to walk inside.


JJ went in first with Willow and Tara at his heels.


The lobby was grand and elegant, all sleek with marble finished surfaces. A concierge sat behind a big round desk and waited patiently for them to approach. JJ did and couldn’t help but smile a little excitedly.


“Uh, the Pierez’s. 402?”


“Name?” the concierge asked.


“JJ—Jacob,” JJ corrected himself a bit gruffly, “Jacob Rosenberg-Maclay.”


The concierge made a discreet phone call, then nodded.


“You can go on up, sir,” he said cordially and nodded as Willow and Tara came up behind him, “Ma’ams.”


They stepped into the elevator and JJ checked his appearance in the mirrors on all three walls.


“Snazzy,” Willow commented on the gold plating.


“It’s a very nice building,” Tara added with a gentle smile.


They stepped off on the top floor and JJ’s eyes were quick to follow the numbers on the door to the right one. He knocked quickly and took a step back, fixing the skinny tie he’d spent the whole flight adjusting.


When the door opened, his eyes became heart-shaped.


“H-Hi.”


“Hi,” Cleo smiled softly.


Tara raised her hand in greeting to the other two women, a tall blonde woman and shorter Latina woman.


“Hello again. Thank you so much for having us.”


“Anyone who likes sweet lady kisses is welcome in our home,” the blonde woman said sweetly, “I'm Brittany and this is my wife Santana. You already know Cleo, it seems.”


JJ managed to pull his attention away long enough to thrust the flowers at the women.


“Cleo said you like lilies.”


Brittany accepted them gratefully.


“Because they’re the lesbians of flowers.”


“Maybe that’s why we named our daughter after one,” Willow quipped a bit apprehensively, “Hi I’m Willow.”


Brittany glanced at her wife knowingly.


“The lesbians of trees.”


Willow frowned unsurely.


There was some form of introductions from Willow and Tara but JJ couldn’t recount a single word of it. His eyes just hopelessly followed Cleo until she managed to drag him over to the couch for a little privacy.


JJ glanced over his shoulder unsurely at the congregation of moms.


“Are you also terrified about what they’re talking about?”


“Nah,” Cleo brushed off easily, “My Mom says the only thing I did wrong was not telling them I was cutting school because they didn't know where I was. She says she would have driven me to meet you.”


“Really?” JJ asked, his mouth opening slightly in disbelief, “I wish my parents were that cool.”


Cleo smiled smugly.


“Well, your mom’s father is in prison. That’s pretty cool.”


JJ’s face suddenly fell.


“No, it isn’t.”


Cleo’s body writhed unsurely.


“It’s not like he even killed that cop.”


JJ looked down. Cleo put a hand on his knee and he looked up again.


“It wasn’t a cop.”


Cleo frowned.


“What?” she asked with her eyes narrowing in confusion, “The article I found for you said it was an FBI agent.”


“FBI analyst,” JJ corrected with his body slumping forward, “As in my Momma.”


“WHAT!?” Cleo exclaimed loudly, only narrowing missing gathering attention onto them, “Why didn’t you tell me that?”


“My phone use is supervised!” JJ hissed quietly.


Cleo’s face set like stone.


“I feel like going what my Mami likes to call ‘all Lima Heights Adjacent’ right now.”


JJ’s eyes lit up with delight, and perhaps something more.


“Really?”


“That’s my man’s Momma!” Cleo puffed her chest out.


JJ grin turned dopey.


“I’m your man?”


Cleo put her hand on JJ’s cheek and his eyes closed softly.


When they were closed, he could pick out Tara’s voice; warm and gentle and kind. She knew it was her who had convinced Willow to do this.


“There’s more,” he said, his green eyes opening with a shimmer, “He was abusive to my Mom growing up. Like, bad.”


Cleo looked troubled and JJ’s heart sank.


“I don’t think…that he did…that…but…she cried, Cleo. I-I made her cry. I don’t ever want to do that again.”


Cleo put her arm around JJ’s back and pulled herself into him. They hugged for several peaceful moments until a voice called over to them.


“Cleo, baby,” one of Cleo’s mothers — the nice one, Brittany — said, all childlike and enthusiastic, “Come have lunch with us. We want to meet the boy who makes you feel like chocolate pudding doing a handstand.”


“MOM!” Cleo protested loudly, her pale cheeks flushing red as her head swung around to glare at her mother.


She let her fingers twine with JJ’s and gave him a gentle tug to join her in walking across the apartment to the dining table where the food ordered from a local deli had been laid out for everyone.


The pastrami looked great, but so did everything in this place. It had very modern decor, all glass, and sleek lines, but there was a lot of warmth in the artwork and furniture. JJ felt intimidated and welcome all at once.


He said ‘thank you’ when the potato salad was handed to him and gave nervous but perfectly polite answers to the questions he was asked. Cleo's darker-toned mother, in both looks and spirit, Santana, didn’t look like she was convinced JJ was good enough for Cleo, but JJ wasn’t sure he was either, so told her they had some common ground. That one even produced a smile. Or a smirk, at the very least.


After everyone had eaten, Cleo was able to snag JJ away again under the guise of washing the dishes together. They had a dishwasher, of course, but it was a lot more fun to get their hands dirty.


“You did great,” Cleo bumped her hip on JJ’s, making him blush, “Do you think your parents will ever get over what happened and like me? Your Momma's got a killer death stare.”


“I don’t know,” JJ answered honestly, “But Mom wanted to have this get-together, so maybe?”


Cleo nodded silently.


“Uh, babe?” JJ asked as he handed off a plate, “Could you tell me where the bathroom is?”


Cleo nodded toward the hallway.


“The closest one is right down the hall.”


JJ smiled gratefully and hurried out.


Cleo cleaned the same plate over and over again just so she wouldn’t finish and they’d be able to continue. She smiled stupidly at her own thoughts; she wasn’t sure she’d ever actually washed a dish at all before today. They had a dishwasher. She looked down at the plate, wondering if she was even doing it right.


“Need a hand?”


Cleo nearly dropped the plate at the unexpected voice but managed to compose herself as she turned around to face Tara.


“Oh,” she gulped nervously, “JJ just went to the bathroom.”


Tara smiled kindly.


“He’s probably checking his hair. He might be a while.”


She stepped up and picked up the dishcloth JJ had left there, beginning to dry a knife.


Cleo had a wild thought that she was trying to be intimidating, but Tara’s demeanor was so gentle she shook her head of it. Plus, Tara moved onto a spoon pretty quickly.


She stayed tense and silent until Tara spoke.


“Thank you for having us in your home.”


Cleo’s mouth opened and closed.


“Oh, it’s…I mean…um…”


“You and JJ are so young,” Tara smiled fondly, ignoring Cleo’s stuttering, “I know at that age…even though I didn’t have her…I still could have used my mom.”


She moved onto a cup, giving her more surface area to cover.


“I bet you still need your moms sometimes too.”


“Not for everything,” Cleo defended, “Some things…some things are not for moms.”


Tara nodded easily.


“You’re JJ’s confidante. I wouldn’t ask you to go against that,” she said sincerely, “But sometimes there are things you, or even he, aren’t privy to.”


Cleo’s face grew ashen.


“I wouldn’t have…” she glanced at Tara with a pained face, “If I’d known…”


Tara’s eyelids flickered with emotion at her past having obviously been shared.


“That’s my point,” she said definitively, “We’re not the worst parents in the world. Maybe encourage him to come to us if he’s having an issue involving us. He always has in the past. And I have no interest in competing. I just want what’s best for my son.”


Cleo scowled but had the good grace to direct it to the floor.


“And you don’t think that’s me.”


Tara shook her head.


“I don’t think that at all.”


Cleo looked up in surprise.


“That one is not my call to make,” Tara continued softly, “It’s his. He’ll have my support no matter what. He always has.”


JJ returned at that moment and stalled upon seeing the two ladies in there.


“Oh. Uh…”


Tara put the well-dried cup down and stepped aside.


“Your mother has promised to show me her album of cats once she and Willow stop discussing differential equations.”


“Oh…” Cleo replied, a pained look on her face, “That’s…that’s a long album.”


Tara nodded cordially.


“I’m sure it’s delightful. I always wanted a kitty.”


She left them to it and rejoined the adults.


JJ mouthed ‘what just happened?’ to Cleo, who shrugged but seemed pleased.


Perhaps thankfully for Tara, they only got halfway through the ‘Kitten Around’ album before they needed to leave for the airport.


At the door, everyone said goodbye politely. They would never be best friends, and each couple thought the other was odd in different ways, but it was friendly.


As they were leaving, Brittany shoved a tube of something from a wicker basket on the table near the coat rack.


“Here. We give it to all of our guests.”


Tara took it and turned it in her hand to see what it was.


“Oh,” she said with a soft exhale, “Yeast infection cream.”


The mean mom — though it felt wrong to call her that now…Santana, Tara reminded herself — crossed her arms across her chest.


“I got a lifetime supply for a commercial I did once.”


Willow snapped her fingers.


“That’s where I recognize you from!”


Santana gestured down herself with a smug smile.


Everyone said their goodbyes and when Tara saw JJ and Cleo hovering awkwardly, she tugged gently on her wife’s sleeve.


“Willow,” she called softly.


“What?” Willow asked with a frown.


Tara turned her head to the side indicatively and took Willow’s hand to pull her around the corner to wait at the elevator. Willow spluttered in protest.


“Rewarding, Tara!”


Tara gave Willow a look, who sighed and relented.


JJ didn’t push his luck and jogged around the corner about two minutes later with a winning smile and flushed cheeks.


Even Willow had to smile. But she hid it. It was easy when moments later they heard a yell of:


“Oh and never forget, I have razorblades hidden in my hair!”


JJ looked appropriately terrified but that smile returned to his face again when Cleo's head popped around the wall.


“That's just Mami being Mami. She's kidding…usually.”


“No I’m not!”


The elevator door opened and Willow ushered her family in quickly.


The sun had gone down and so during their ride back to the airport they were treated to views of the glistening lights of the city that never sleeps. JJ was mesmerized. The smile never left his face once.


Once they were on the plane, he leaned forward in his seat to the two seats in front, where Willow and Tara were sitting.


“Moms?”


They both looked back at him.


“Thank you,” he said sincerely.


Tara smiled and Willow looked at him wryly.


“You’re still punished.”


“I know,” JJ answered with a resigned nod, “Can I listen to music?”


Tara took JJ’s phone from her purse and handed it back to him.


Willow looked at her incredulously.


“It’s on flight mode,” Tara said quietly with a smile that said ‘chill out’.


Willow looked sheepish and leaned back in her seat.


“I’m surprised you even know what ‘flight mode’ is,” she replied with some faux haughtiness, then looked over at Tara quizzically, “Her parents were a little kooky, right? It’s not just me?”


“Some people say that about us,” Tara replied and Willow looked offended.


“First trip to New York City and I didn’t even get a pretzel.”


“Maybe we could come back someday,” Tara shrugged softly.


“He’ll certainly be wanting to,” Willow threw her shoulder back indicatively, “We need to establish a lot of ground rules.”


Tara nodded.


“Yes.”


“No gallivanting off on flights of fancy,” Willow said sternly.


“Definitely not,” Tara agreed.


Willow threw Tara some side-eye.


“Why are you so calm?”


Tara turned her head toward Willow and looked at her adoringly.


“Because I keep thinking about what we would have been like if we’d met on vacation at 16.”


Slowly, very slowly, Willow’s face broke out in a smile. She glanced behind to make sure JJ wasn’t listening.


“I would have chartered a plane,” she said conspiringly, “And there’s only a small chance my parents would have even noticed.”


Tara put a hand on her heart.


“You would have chartered a whole plane?”


“A spacecraft even,” Willow nodded seriously.


Willow put her hand on Tara’s arm and squeezed.


“Maybe there’s an alien Willow and Tara out there somewhere.”


Tara smiled easily.


“A Willow and Tara for every world.”


Willow sighed happily.


“That sounds like heaven to me.”


Tara nodded and very slightly arched her eyebrow.


“So let’s remember he feels that way too.”


“We have over twenty years on him,” Willow argued with a serious nod.


Tara leaned in and pecked Willow’s lips very softly.


“I loved you like this the moment I set eyes on you.”


Willow’s lip curled up in distaste.


“Crap,” she said sheepishly, “Me too.”


Tara covered Willow’s hand and squeezed.


“Let’s meditate on that for a while.”


Willow nodded and smiled tiredly.


“Does that meditation involve some head-on-shoulder action?”


Tara cocked her shoulder alluringly, or at least alluring to Willow.


“Shoulder is ready and waiting.”


Willow rested her head there and mumbled happy noises.


“Your shoulders are so soft,” she said in appreciation, “They feel like they just walked out of an 80s movie about an empowered woman.”


“Feel better?” Tara asked gently as she put her opposite arm around Willow’s waist to hold her in that spot.


Willow locked arms with Tara. She could stay in that spot forever.


“Right here? I feel perfect.”

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 24th 2020
PostPosted: Mon Jul 27, 2020 4:30 am 
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Dibs! :whip

Considering that until recently JJ obviously was a "well-behaved" teenager, he sure messed up big time in this chapter.

Quote:
“Has the prisoner been informed that there was a visitor for him?”


“No, ma’am,” the officer shook her head, “The prisoner has a notation on his file. All visitor requests go out externally for approval. And, uh, it’s not visitor day.”

That is a relief. We wouldn't want Tara's father trying to contact her now or something like that.

Quote:
“I know that he shot a cop,” he explained, throwing a hand out demonstrably, “But it could have been a dirty cop, maw! There were no trial details! Maybe he was being framed, maybe—”

This naive hope that his grandfather is innocent and was falsely convicted is proof that JJ is still a child (even if he thinks he's a grown up). I can imagine that he even hoped that he could somehow help his grandfather proving his innocence (like in some movie).

Quote:
“Cleo was right,” Tara repeated in a heavily disappointed tone, “But only half so. If you felt you needed to know about my parentage, you should have come to me. Not…whatever research you did to lead you here. Not cut school and come here, to this place! Not shut me and your mother out every time we’ve come to you to try and work out what was going on with you!”


Her nostrils flared as she clutched the wheel tight again, blinking rapidly to overcome the sudden rush of emotion through her.


JJ looked at her with trepidation, not used to seeing her lose her cool for anything.

Quote:
“So maybe now you know why we didn’t make this a bedtime story.”


Her eyes pricked with tears.


“Because it was the worst thing to ever happen to me.”


The quiver in his mother’s voice was the harshest punishment JJ could ever receive.


“Mom,” he said helplessly.

Quote:
You can’t understand—” she stopped when JJ turned his body away from her, “And you never will if you’re not willing to listen.”


“I’m LISTENING,” JJ blew up, throwing up his hands.


“Then listen to this,” Tara replied curtly, “The man you were so desperate to see today is not your grandfather because he is not my father. And the moment you decided to go behind our backs to seek him out you lost any moral high-ground you think you had.”


JJ’s jaw tensed as he looked down.


“And do not shout at me,” Tara added firmly, holding a finger up, “I put up with enough of that growing up with him.”


JJ slowly deflated, like a balloon left to die after being forgotten at a party.


“What did he do to you?”


Tara swallowed.


“It would be impossible to condense years into one conversation,” she said, her eyes flashing with memories she’d long since buried, “But he scarred me. Physically and emotionally. He struck me and taunted me and starved me and—”


“STOP,” JJ cut in, physically clutching his stomach as his own eyes filled with tears he wouldn’t allow release due to stubbornness, “I get it, okay?”


“Do you?” Tara asked, looking at him directly when they stopped at a light, “Do you understand the kind of man that you were so determined to meet that you didn’t for one second consider why we kept him a secret in the first place?”


JJ’s arms crossed over his chest again but he looked contrite.

Good thing that Tara insisted that she'll drive home with JJ instead of Willow. This conversation with her surely had more impact on JJ than a "shouting match" or angry silence with Willow would have had.

Quote:
“What were they like?”


Tara breathed softly.


“One called me a troll and told me to get out of her sun because she was getting her tan on,” she answered honestly, “The other one said she hopped Cleo didn’t pop a hip.”


“Doing what?” Willow asked in confusion, then her eyes widened in horror when she saw Tara cringe, “DOING MY SON?!”


She threw her arms in front of her petulantly.


“I hate them already.”

:laugh Oh boy! Thank goodness Tara had this first encounter with Cleo's mothers instead of Willow, otherwise things might have gotten ugly in Hawaii... :wink

Quote:
“Anyone who likes sweet lady kisses is welcome in our home,” the blonde woman said sweetly, “I'm Brittany and this is my wife Santana. You already know Cleo, it seems.”


JJ managed to pull his attention away long enough to thrust the flowers at the women.


“Cleo said you like lilies.”


Brittany accepted them gratefully.


“Because they’re the lesbians of flowers.”


“Maybe that’s why we named our daughter after one,” Willow quipped a bit apprehensively, “Hi I’m Willow.”


Brittany glanced at her wife knowingly.


“The lesbians of trees.”


Willow frowned unsurely.

:lol Brittany is weird! I didn't think flowers and trees had sexual orientation...

Quote:
“I feel like going what my Mami likes to call ‘all Lima Heights Adjacent’ right now.”


JJ’s eyes lit up with delight, and perhaps something more.


“Really?”


“That’s my man’s Momma!” Cleo puffed her chest out.


JJ grin turned dopey.


“I’m your man?”


Cleo put her hand on JJ’s cheek and his eyes closed softly.

Awww, so cute! :flower

Quote:
“You’re JJ’s confidante. I wouldn’t ask you to go against that,” she said sincerely, “But sometimes there are things you, or even he, aren’t privy to.”


Cleo’s face grew ashen.


“I wouldn’t have…” she glanced at Tara with a pained face, “If I’d known…”


Tara’s eyelids flickered with emotion at her past having obviously been shared.


“That’s my point,” she said definitively, “We’re not the worst parents in the world. Maybe encourage him to come to us if he’s having an issue involving us. He always has in the past. And I have no interest in competing. I just want what’s best for my son.”


Cleo scowled but had the good grace to direct it to the floor.


“And you don’t think that’s me.”


Tara shook her head.


“I don’t think that at all.”


Cleo looked up in surprise.


“That one is not my call to make,” Tara continued softly, “It’s his. He’ll have my support no matter what. He always has.”

Tara is not only a great mom but will also be an awesome mother in law! But I'm sure Willow will "come around" soon, too.

Quote:
As they were leaving, Brittany shoved a tube of something from a wicker basket on the table near the coat rack.


“Here. We give it to all of our guests.”


Tara took it and turned it in her hand to see what it was.


“Oh,” she said with a soft exhale, “Yeast infection cream.”


The mean mom — though it felt wrong to call her that now…Santana, Tara reminded herself — crossed her arms across her chest.


“I got a lifetime supply for a commercial I did once.”


Willow snapped her fingers.


“That’s where I recognize you from!”


Santana gestured down herself with a smug smile.

:rofl How embarrassing for Cleo that their moms "brag" about this "milestone" in Santana's carreer to all their guests!

Quote:
Willow threw Tara some side-eye.


“Why are you so calm?”


Tara turned her head toward Willow and looked at her adoringly.


“Because I keep thinking about what we would have been like if we’d met on vacation at 16.”


Slowly, very slowly, Willow’s face broke out in a smile. She glanced behind to make sure JJ wasn’t listening.


“I would have chartered a plane,” she said conspiringly, “And there’s only a small chance my parents would have even noticed.”


Tara put a hand on her heart.


“You would have chartered a whole plane?”


“A spacecraft even,” Willow nodded seriously.

Again AWWW! :bigkiss :flower

Quote:
“So let’s remember he feels that way too.”


“We have over twenty years on him,” Willow argued with a serious nod.


Tara leaned in and pecked Willow’s lips very softly.


“I loved you like this the moment I set eyes on you.”


Willow’s lip curled up in distaste.


“Crap,” she said sheepishly, “Me too.”

:laugh


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 24th 2020
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs! :whip


Woop!

Quote:
Considering that until recently JJ obviously was a "well-behaved" teenager, he sure messed up big time in this chapter.


He sure did.

Quote:
That is a relief. We wouldn't want Tara's father trying to contact her now or something like that.


He will never get the time of day in this verse again!

Quote:
This naive hope that his grandfather is innocent and was falsely convicted is proof that JJ is still a child (even if he thinks he's a grown up). I can imagine that he even hoped that he could somehow help his grandfather proving his innocence (like in some movie).


He definitely got caught up in it all and with Cleo encouraging him (misguidedly but not nastily) it definitely could seem like a movie.

Quote:
Good thing that Tara insisted that she'll drive home with JJ instead of Willow. This conversation with her surely had more impact on JJ than a "shouting match" or angry silence with Willow would have had.


Both, probably (with Willow) and yes, it was Tara's right to have that conversation!

Quote:
:laugh Oh boy! Thank goodness Tara had this first encounter with Cleo's mothers instead of Willow, otherwise things might have gotten ugly in Hawaii... :wink


:laugh probably!

Quote:
:lol Brittany is weird! I didn't think flowers and trees had sexual orientation...


Brittany is definitely weird and she is beloved for it

Quote:
Awww, so cute! :flower


:)

Quote:
Tara is not only a great mom but will also be an awesome mother in law! But I'm sure Willow will "come around" soon, too.


She will have no choice!

Quote:
:rofl How embarrassing for Cleo that their moms "brag" about this "milestone" in Santana's carreer to all their guests!


Any achievement is a good achievement in that household!

Quote:
Again AWWW! :bigkiss :flower

:laugh


Glad you liked their conversation at the end :D

Thanks so much for commenting!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 24th 2020
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 5:00 am 
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Chapter Fourteen




“One cell phone, blue.”


Willow put the cell phone onto the kitchen island and reached into the box in front of her again.


“Two games controllers, black.”


She took the final thing, or set of things, out and placed them with the rest.


“Keys, silver with various different colored covers and one fob, black.”


“Do we have to do this?” JJ asked, pained.


Willow lifted her chin haughtily.


“You were so eager to go to prison before, this is how they treat people there.”


JJ gathered his confiscated items in his arms.


“I’m not grounded anymore. Aren’t you supposed to forgive and y’know, forget?”


Willow arched an eyebrow.


“Will I forget you snuggling up with me and Mom on Saturday night to watch My Best Friend’s Wedding?”


JJ scowled as he walked away.


“You shouldn’t shame me for not indulging in toxic masculinity.”


“My brother!” Robyn grinned and lifted her hand to high five him for that, but he apologetically indicated his hands were full, “Catch you later.”


“My sister from another mister!” JJ winked back at her.


“Don’t call her that!” Willow called after him with a frown.


Robyn swung herself onto a stool.


“Got any hop juice?”


Willow kept frowning.


“Why would I give you a beer?”


Robyn shrugged one shoulder.


“…I didn’t know that meant beer. It just sounded good on this western they showed us in school.”


“It is,” Willow smiled, “Which you’ll find out when you’re 21 and not a day before.”


Robyn rolled her eyes.


“Don’t do that,” Willow chastised with quiet frustration.


Robyn rested her chin on her upturned palm.


“Why? What have you ever done for me?”


Willow’s mouth dropped indignantly.


“I’m the one who rubbed lotion into your butt crack when you had chickenpox!”


Robyn visibly cringed.


“Gross.”


“Not to mention, oh, I don’t know, carrying and giving birth to you?” Willow continued, crossing her arms on her chest.


“Did I ask you to do those things?” Robyn countered in a mocking tone.


“You begged for the lotion actually,” Willow replied petulantly, but when she paused, she started to smile fondly, “You were only three. The twins were still babies so Mom had to bring them to your grandparents until you were better. JJ already had the pox but you were a grumpy little thing so he stayed with Alex while you were sick. It was just you and me.”


She leaned over the island and took Robyn’s hands.


“You used to sleep all curled up like a kitty when you were little. And that week you slept all curled around my leg. I’d wake up to you rubbing my foot against your belly where most of the spots were.”


Robyn, surprisingly, didn’t force her hands away.


“That was real? I thought I remembered a dream.”


“You remember that?” Willow asked softly.


“Kinda?” Robyn replied unsurely.


Willow smiled some more.


“You were really little,” she said and tapped Robyn’s hands, “Are you all packed for the cabin?”


Robyn nodded quickly.


“I like the cabin. All the furniture is recycled wood.”


“Hallelujah,” Willow threw her hands up.


Robyn rolled her eyes but turned her back to walk away first.


“Make sure you pack my tofu dogs!”


Willow looked pained as Tara passed by Robyn and joined Willow in the kitchen.


“Is she on a vegan kick again? You know she always throws in the towel the first time we order pepperoni pizza!”


“No,” Tara replied in a calming voice, “We talked about it and agreed to be meatless two days a week as a compromise.”


Willow looked unimpressed.


“I’m not eating a tofu dog.”


Tara gripped Willow’s arms and pressed their lips together.


“You don’t have to. I’m bringing them for her for the BBQ. Along with plenty of regular, good old fashioned American hot dogs. Which probably has far more questionable ingredients than the tofu dogs.”


“Ignorance is bliss,” Willow smiled cheerily.


Tara put her arms around Willow’s neck.


“Did you officially lift JJ’s grounding?”


Willow nodded.


“Warden Willow carried out her duties.”


“Ooh, I could be interested in that,” Tara grinned and pushed her hips against Willow, who grinned back.


They hugged for a moment and Tara popped another kiss on Willow’s cheek.


“Is the car packed?”


“Just have to get the girls’ things,” Willow replied, pushing off the island, “You’d think we’re moving up there permanently with the amount of stuff I’ve lugged into the car. Well, honestly…Kayden did a lot of the lugging. But I pointed him in the right direction.”


“Of the car?” Tara grinned.


Willow stuck out her tongue.


Tara winked.


Willow smiled.


“Have we got medications and Emily’s inhaler?”


“In my purse,” Tara confirmed, “With my Epipen. We’re all good to go.”


“And we’re not even late!” Willow threw her hands up in delight, “Let’s grab those tofu dogs and hit the road!”


Forty miles or so south of home, every window in the minivan was rolled down and the lucky few sitting right beside them had their heads hanging out of them.


“How does something vegan smell like a stinky pig?!” Lily exclaimed distastefully.


“Yeah, like a stinky pig that hasn’t been abused!” Robyn shot back, holding her crossed arms as close to her face as possible so she could bury her nose in them.


“Robyn, enough,” Willow said sternly through the mirror, resentful that she needed both hands on the wheel and couldn’t use one to plug her nose.


“Sweetheart, we spoke about the preaching,” Tara called back gently.


Robyn’s brow furrowed glumly.


“They started it.”


“I’ll try one of your Tofurkeys, Robyn,” Kayden said kindly, though his eyes blinked repeatedly as he tried not to inhale inward.


Robyn dropped her arms and looked at him gratefully.


“Oinkers and Piggie Smalls thank you.”


Willow shook her head and muttered to Tara.


“I knew it was a bad idea letting her adopt those pigs.”


“You approved her bi-annual spending forecast,” Tara replied pointedly with an arched eyebrow.


Willow pouted, unimpressed.


“Are we there yet?” Lily called impatiently from the back.


“Halfway kiddo,” Willow advised with a sigh.


“Who wants to play a car game?” Tara suggested, to lift spirits.


“NO,” was the resounding answer except for Kayden and Emily who offered a sweet ‘Me’ and ‘I do, Mommy!’ respectively.


It only took about three minutes of The License Plate game for everyone in the car to be pointing and shouting at each new car that passed by and playfully fighting over who saw it first.


Moods had been lifted as they arrived at the state park where their cabin home was to be for the weekend. Willow looked out sadly as they passed by the 1-bed cabins where she had Tara had originally been booked into for a steamy weekend away for their anniversary.


She could just see the big, comfy bed with Egyptian cotton sheets and pillows made of cloud. The big, open fireplace with the plush rug in front of it made for lying on to absorb the warmth and the warm cedarwood walls that bounce so delightfully against that red, silk robe of Tara’s as it slipped away from her body…


She sighed.


Well, the fireplace would still be in the big house, she guessed. That was some consolation.


She drove up a hill to the family cabins and a particular set of three. Outside the first, the Harris family were unpacking their wares and outside the third, Alice, Jesse, and Ella were doing the same. As Willow parked up, she spotted Becky and Brian exiting the third house to help with the final load. All that separated each house was some shrubbery.


“How did this go from a cabin for two to a cabin for…nineteen?” Willow looked at Tara longingly.


Tara playfully tapped Willow’s nose.


“You told Xander.”


Willow rolled her eyes.


“Who told Jesse, who told Becky, who was overheard by Buffy,” she sighed, then looked up curiously, “Hey, these cabins are three-beds…Wouldn’t that mean Jesse and Alice are sharing since they all went in on the one house?”


Tara put a finger against her lips and Willow quickly nodded.


“Alright kids,” she said as she opened her door, “Get haulin’!”


“Why do we have to do?” Robyn asked grudgingly.


“Because it’s the only benefit of having five kids,” Willow returned with a grin.


The doors slid open and Woofy jumped out, delighted with all of the new grass and shrubs to sniff and mark. He went into full zoomies when Aurey appeared from the other house, all long limbs, and excited drool as she barreled toward him.


Everyone grabbed a bag or cooler and made their way toward the house. Tara picked up the last cooler and thrust it at Willow, smiling sweetly.


“It’s the only benefit of having a wife.”


Willow stuck out her tongue and Tara arched an eyebrow. Willow blushed.


Seven people did empty the car pretty quickly and Willow left the car open to air out.


“To-frickin’-furkey.”


Xander came out of his house and waved at Willow.


“Howdy, neighbor!”


Willow couldn’t help but smile. They hadn’t all been together like this in a while and it was supposed to be a nice weekend, weather-wise. There were some lovely walks in the area and they’d brought bikes for the kids. There were waterfalls and playgrounds and even fishing facilities, which is why Xander had been so eager to come, Willow knew.


“Howdy,” Willow returned with a smile, “Where are the—”


Just then Pixie came skipping out and over to their yard.


“Hi Aunty Willow,” she greeted with ethereal happiness and Willow once again wondered how that child could have come out of Anya.


“Hey Pixie-sticks,” Willow smiled with a wave and looked back to Xander, “Going fishing?”


“Taking the boys first thing,” Xander answered excitedly.


“Better you than me,” Willow returned with a grin.


Anya came out of the house upon hearing a conversation and walked over with her arms crossed.


“Can you believe they didn’t give us a discount when we brought so many people here?”


“Um, what now?” Willow asked in disbelief, “You didn’t—”


“At least the bed seems sturdy,” Anya continued as if Willow hadn’t spoken, “We’ve moving onto page 69 of our new book and you know that will be a good one. Where’s Tara? I want to tell her about page 69.”


“She’s quite familiar already,” Willow barked back.


“She’s read it too?” Anya’s face lit up and she walked through the gap in the shrubbery to follow Pixie into the house.


Willow shot Xander a firm ‘look’.


“Um, honey?” Xander called after her, “Tara probably needs a chance to unpack.”


Anya threw her hands up and came back.


“Oh, alright. 69ing can wait.”


Willow’s back teeth clenched together but she raised her hand and forced a smile.


“See you later! The missus will make me sleep on the couch if I don’t help her unpack.”


Xander grinned goofily.


“Don’t want to miss out on that sturdiness.”


Willow offered a placating smile and quickly retreated.


“Hey Beck,” she called over the yard as she went in the door as Becky was coming out, “Glad you and Bri were able to make it too.”


“Cheap bed, why not?” Becky asked with a smile, “Jess just wants payment in beers, which happens to be a currency I’m very familiar with.”


“Do I get a referral fee?” Willow asked cheerily.


Maybe this weekend wouldn’t be so bad after all.


Becky winked.


“I always pay my debts.”


Willow chuckled and went into the house.


She stood in the hallway and just enjoyed her surroundings for a moment. There was something very grounding about standing in a log cabin with the windows open, appreciating the sights and sounds and smells of nature.


“I WANT THE BED BY THE WINDOW SO I CAN SEE IF ANY FAIRIES COME TO VISIT!”


Lily’s unique brand of screech ripped through the sounds of nature and Willow forced a smile as she ascended the stairs to referee.


“Okay, all of you, OUT!” she instructed, waving her arms in the direction of the door, “Go have a pebble finding competition or sniff some flowers or something. Do you know how many kids would kill for this kind of—Robyn, you’re standing in front of a mirror, I can see you mocking me.”


Robyn’s mouth promptly clamped shut and she ran toward the door.


“Let’s go play hide and seek in the trees!”


Willow caught Emily’s wrist as she followed the rest of them out. Willow bent down to her level.


“Emmy, do you want the fairy bed?”


Emily’s eyes grew troubled and she glanced at the laughing going on outside the door, heading for the stairs.


“You can have it if you want it,” Willow said with a reassuring nod, “You didn’t pick the bed in Hawaii or California.”


Emily’s bottom lip shook for a moment before she glanced at the window and back at Willow, eyes full of wonder.


“I want the fairy bed, Momma.”


Willow smiled and rubbed Emily’s back.


“Go play with your sisters and Pixie. Don’t forget to get Ella!”


Willow put Emily’s Winnie the Pooh backpack on the bed closest to the window. She put the other two bags belonging to Robyn and Lily on the other beds to close the matter once and for all.


She walked past the boys’ room but their bags had been abandoned in place of exploring so Willow continued on to the master bedroom in the back.


“Where did they get this fairy thing from anyway?” she asked Tara, who was neatly folding away their clothes for the weekend.


“I’ve been telling them bedtime stories about the fairies who live in the woods here,” Tara smiled and Willow felt a bit of fairy magic in the air at how she lit up the room.


“That’ll do it,” Willow’s head bobbed in response, “We’re going to have to leave some dust or something around now.”


Tara lifted a little baggie of glitter from her case. Willow grinned.


“Always prepared. Were you a girl scout and never told me?”


Tara got a flash of something on her face and looked down at the shirts she was folding.


“No,” she answered quietly, a little bit hollow.


Willow winced. She came over and put her hand on the small of Tara’s back.


“I’m sorry, Tara.”


“It’s totally fine,” Tara replied and looked up with a little trying-to-be-reassuring smile.


Willow swallowed.


“I know things are probably still raw since…”


Tara moved away to put the clothes in the dresser.


“Honestly, I’m just relieved JJ seems to have learned his lesson.”


“We still need to be careful now that he has privileges back. I understand Cleo is important to him but she’s not an excuse for any bad behavior.”


“I’d like to spend more time with her,” Tara replied definitively, “Maybe she can come up to visit.”


Willow’s eyebrow arched.


“And stay in which room exactly?”


Tara gave Willow a pleading look.


“Let’s not ruin this nice weekend, okay?”


“You brought it up,” Willow returned with a sigh as she looked out of the window, “Sun is going down. Buffy and Angel will be here soon with Liam. You better hurry down if you want to capitalize on those toddler snuggles before he goes to bed.”


She smiled at Tara and came over to help her unpack. Once that was done and the cooler was emptied into the fridge, Willow popped open a bottle of wine and poured two glasses, which she brought out to Tara sitting on the little patio in the front.


As she walked out, Angel’s SUV pulled up on the curb. All of the windows were tinted so they didn’t see Liam until Buffy freed him from his car seat and he came barreling toward them on uneven legs.


“Aunty Ta-wa!”


Tara picked him up just as he jumped into her arms.


“Hey, he’s getting better at pronouncing my name.”


“We’ve been working on it,” Buffy called out in a tired tone from the car, “Think you could…?”


“Go ahead,” Tara smiled at them and then back down at the boy, “Hello Mr. Liam. How are we doing today?”


She swung him around the place and elicited much giggling.


Willow smiled watching them and then somehow found herself convinced to get on all fours in the grass to be the red-maned lion that he and Tara had to tame.


“Good look for you, Will,” Buffy grinned as she came back down to lock the car.


Willow rose to her feet with a few indignant creaks.


“I will have you know I played the part of The Cowardly Lion himself in my drama class’s production of The Wizard of Oz in college.”


Buffy looked skeptical and Willow sighed.


“Okay, I read lines with the Tin Man. Once. Because he was standing behind Tara and I could secretly check her out.”


Liam toddled over to Buffy, rubbing his eyes.


“I think somebody needs a bottle and a bedtime story, huh?” she asked him sweetly after plucking him up, “Say night-night to Aunty Willow and Aunty Tara.”


“Nigh’-nigh’,” Liam replied agreeably, and sleepily.


“Night-night, Liam,” Willow and Tara said at the same time.


Buffy disappeared back into the house and Willow and Tara retook their seats on the patio. Willow smiled as she clinked their glasses together. It was a rare moment of peace with the kids off playing and the other adults finalizing things in their houses.


“This is what I imagined when I first booked a cabin for us.”


“Well let’s savor it,” Tara replied with an answering smile.


Willow looked sheepish.


“Because the kids will be back in twenty minutes; filthy and demanding food?”


Tara chuckled.


“Because we have this moment and we should live in it.”


Willow looked at Tara and found new love filling her heart. Like the universe, it just seemed to keep expanding and expanding.


Tara recognized the look and smiled alluringly.


“I love to see those flames dance.”


Willow was helpless to stop it.


“Burn, baby, burn.”



“Uncle Xander, it’s not gone bad, it just hasn’t been formed by churned cruelty.”


“Well it needs to churn itself all the way over the edge of my grill, little lady,” Xander replied to Robyn jovially, “Sorry, kid. Can’t get that stank into the burgers.”


Robyn scowled and marched away, indignant.


Willow weaved through the crowd of everyone gathered in their back yard, though with only small bushes separating the houses it was easy for there to be overflow.


Everyone was in little groups chatting and the kids were playing and it felt very much like a party back home but with a much better view. Green grass, trees for miles and if you were quiet you could hear a waterfall falling into its pool nearby.


Of course, right now it was completely drowned out by the chatter but Willow enjoyed the buzz of conversation and happy squeals from the girls and Liam who was lapping up all of the attention.


Willow caught Tara’s eye, who was caught up in apparently heated conversation with Anya involving lots of hand gestures and body movements, to see if she needed a drink or saving, but Tara just smiled gently in Willow’s direction and dodged Anya as she did a body roll in Tara’s direction.


Willow was happy to stay away.


She walked across the yard to where Kayden was sitting in the grass, running his fingers through the blades. As she got closer, she saw he was playing with a ladybug.


She lowered herself onto her knees beside him.


“You know ladybugs aren’t bugs — they’re beetles.”


Kayden looked up with a shy smile.


“And when they lay eggs, some of them don’t have an embryo. They’re little snacks for their babies when they’re born,” he said and looked excited to be able to continue, “And they have two sets of wings. One in their shell for protection and the other ones to fly.”


Willow smiled fondly.


“You are a nugget of information.”


Kayden shrugged his shoulders bashfully.


“I did a report in sixth grade.”


Willow smiled some more and patted Kayden on the shoulder.


“Come on, nugget,” she said, slowly straightening up her knees again, “Let’s get some burgers before Xander has one too many beers and starts to burn them.”


On their way, they passed the other boys.


“Your girlfriend is so hot,” Alex fanned himself as he looked over JJ’s shoulder, who was showing off pictures on his phone now it was back in his possession, “Isn’t she hot, Kayden?”


Kayden stalled.


“Oh, umm,” he gulped but recovered quickly, “O-of course.”


JJ flicked onto a new photo and Alex ran around in circles.


“DUDE! How can she like you?!”


Willow frowned, annoyed on many levels, and patted Kayden’s back before going off to the grill by herself.


As she approached the grill, the men were all huddled together sloshing beers and being generally macho as they stood around burning meat.


“Am I a piece of lump charcoal baby?” Jesse said with deep intonation, “Because my wood is sure hard.”


They all started laughing, even Angel gave a smirk, and Xander snapped his tongs in the air.


“Damn girl! Was your dad a grill master? Because you are sizzling!”


“Heaven must be missing an ambrosia salad!” Willow piped up as she walked into their space.


They all looked at her blankly. Willow gulped.


“‘Cause it’s the food of the gods? And BBQ food? Like oh, you’re a goddess? And heaven is…missing…your…salad.”


She frowned, then looked down and thrust her plate forward silently.


She received two burgers from Xander and quickly moved off to fix them up the toppings station. When she looked back into the yard she spotted Tara on her own and took the opportunity to get her attention.


Determined to redeem herself, at least in her own mind, she approached Tara with her chin raised high.


“Do you sleep on your stomach?”


Tara frowned.


“What? No. You do though.”


Willow floundered, not anticipating that answer.


“Uh… Um… Can I?”


“Can you what?” Tara asked, looking at Willow in bewilderment.


“Sleep on your stomach?” Willow asked with a sheepish creak in her voice, then pouted, “I was trying a line.”


“You don’t need a line,” Tara replied with a slightly arched eyebrow, “You just need your face.”


Ira must be a grill master because Willow felt her insides sizzle.


“Now there’s a line.”


Tara winked.


“And I didn’t even tell you where you need your face to be yet.”


Willow blushed and giggled.


“I knew I should have just been hanging out with you all along,” she said, perching her butt down and holding the plate between them, “Burger?”


She picked at one of the burgers.


“They put on extra cheese because of my cheesy attempt at a pick-up line. They think they’re so funny. I should have pushed Xander into the waterfall when we were there earlier.”


Tara accepted some food from the plate.


“Do you remember why we’re down here at the cabins in the first place?”


Willow looked up and smiled.


“Of course,” she said, leaning over to press a long kiss to Tara’s cheek, “Happy Anniversary.”


“Happy Anniversary, my love,” Tara returned sweetly and smiled out at the party, “We didn’t do too badly for ourselves, huh?”


Willow leaned her head in on Tara’s shoulder and kissed her neck.


“All because a girl plucked up the courage to ask another girl to hold her hand.”


Tara held her hand up and Willow took it proudly.


They each ate one-handed so they didn’t have to part and even stood together in unison when they decided to walk back over to the grill, where most of the adults had congregated to sit and eat. They refilled their single plates and pulled up seats to join the conversation.


“I just want her hair but also her face and body and accent and just everything about her?” Becky said to Alice, gesturing up and down her upper body as she held an empty plate on her lap.


“Becky’s going through a Margot Robbie phase,” Brian informed Willow and Tara with a fond smile.


“Hey, me too,” Jesse cut in and chuckled, “Probably not in the same way.”


Alice frowned and quickly looked away.


Becky flicked her hair back and grinned across the group.


“Everyone knows the only chick I would ever bang is Tara.”


“She is the only non-celebrity on Becky’s list,” Brian supplied helpfully, “David Tennant…Lebron James…Tara.”


“Not only is she stealing my wife, but she’s also stealing my favorite Doctor,” Willow replied indignantly, “I’m surprised you haven’t made it a threesome.”


“I’ll take David and Lebron in a threesome,” Becky smirked, then winked and lifted her glass in a toast, “I want Tara all to myself.”


Tara blushed and raised her glass. Willow slapped her wrist down.


“Don’t cheers that!”


She frowned at Tara, then gestured wildly off to the side.


“Oh, look Kayden has his guitar!” she very purposefully jumped conversations, “Please son, save me from this nightmare.”


Kayden blushed as all of the attention suddenly turned on him.


“Um, I wanted to sing a song for you for your anniversary.”


“That’s so sweet,” Tara beamed, quickly turning her chair around to face back into the yard.


Everyone else did much the same.


Kayden hadn’t really anticipated the utter silent attention he would have for this but surprisingly, it didn’t make him want to back away.


He looked to Tara shyly.


“I know you like The Beatles so I hope you like this one,” he adjusted the guitar on his knee and smiled at Willow, “Maybe somewhere else in the multiverse they’re called The Ladybugs.”


Willow put a hand over her heart and smiled.


The kids had all crawled back for the show and the little girls were sitting around Kayden’s feet.


Kayden smiled at them and started to play.


There are places I’ll remember all my life, though some have changed. Some forever, not for better. Some have gone, and some remain.”


Willow took Tara’s hand again and squeezed tight. They didn’t need to look at each other and wouldn’t, giving all of their attention to Kayden.


People swayed as he played and though his cheeks were red under the moonlight, Kayden’s smile was splitting his face.


…for people and things that went before. I know I’ll often stop and think about them…in my life I’ll love you more.


His eyes flittered from Willow and Tara to the girls and JJ, who had actually put his phone down long enough to listen with a grin and finally to the wider group and back to Willow and Tara.


In my life I’ll love you more.



“Herrugh!”


Willow heaved the heavy trash bag full of empties into the can outside and blew out a puff of air.


Everyone had gone home nicely tipsy with promises of returning in the morning to help clean up but Willow knew there was somewhere between jack and none of that actually happening. She definitely didn’t want to be trying to run around after some wayward napkin while they were trying to corral the kids into getting ready to go in the morning so she’d just smiled all pacifying like and did the clean-up herself.


Even Tara had sneaked out on her.


She did a last check of the yard and turned off all of the lights before returning into the house. Dishes would have to be done in the morning after breakfast anyway, so Willow decided to leave what was there.


As she made her way into the hallway, intending to go upstairs and see if Tara was still awake, she noticed shadows bouncing off of the walls coming through the doorway into the living room.


She peered into investigate and her breath caught.


Tara had found her.


Just as Willow had imagined.


Fire roaring, plush rug, red satin robe.


Willow gulped.


“I didn’t know you brought that.”


Tara lay on her side on the white rub with the low flicker of flame from the small fire she’d set lapping behind her. Her head rested on her upturned palm, one ankle was turned provocatively over the other and she bore the smirk of a plan well executed.


She hooked a finger and curled it toward herself. Willow took the instruction like a magnet being pulled.


As Willow sank onto her knees, Tara reached into her bra under her robe and produced a piece of paper folded into a small square. She held it up between two fingers.


“I want to show you my list.”


“Is Becky top of it?” Willow asked with an unamused look on her face, “With her non-jellied-belly and lack of surgery scars and boobs that weren’t sucked dry by a helpless infant.”


Tara held out the square for Willow to take.


Willow took it and with skepticism, slowly unfolded it. Scribbled everywhere, in different sizes and even different styles, was Willow’s name. Over and over and over again.


Willow’s smile bloomed. She leaned over Tara and kissed her, hard.


Tara fell onto her back and pulled Willow on top of her. As they kissed, she started to unbutton Willow’s sweater.


Willow pulled back during a gasp.


“Here?”


“They’re asleep,” Tara whispered, the fire lighting up her grin, “And I got some tips earlier.”


Willow grinned back.


A little while in, Willow’s clothing was loosened and her mouth was engaged on Tara’s neck but her body grew stiff when she heard some sort of crashing.


Her head popped up.


“What was that?”


“The fairies,” Tara replied wryly and Willow giggled, followed swiftly by a moan.


As the single lit fire log dimmed to almost nothing, Tara tugged a breathless Willow by the hand.


“We should go upstairs. We need the bed for the sturdiness if we’re going to do page 69 properly.”


Willow’s eyes popped.


“That wasn’t page 69?”


Tara smirked again.


“Not even close.”


Willow looked overwhelmed.


“Then what was that?”


Tara winked as she stood.


“All me.”


Willow scrambled up and ran after her wife as fast as she could.



In the middle of the night, JJ slept on the bottom bunk in his and Kayden’s room because he hadn’t been quick enough when they arrived to grab the top.


He’d just laughed and said ‘alright dude’ when Kayden had claimed it because he hadn’t really seen Kayden have the confidence to do something like that before.


He slept with his arm thrown at an angle above his head, holding his phone in case he got a message from Cleo.


However, it wasn’t vibrations that woke him up.


It was licking on his face. It wasn’t unpleasant given the dream he was rousing from but when he crossed the threshold from sleep to wake, he started to splutter.


“Wha—Jeez, Woofy, get off me!”


He gently batted Woofy away, who started to bark incessantly.


“Can’t you hold it?” JJ whined when Woofy began pawing at him desperately.


He grumbled and threw the blanket off. He walked over and put his hand on the doorknob.


“Ow!” he exclaimed and shook out his finger in annoyance.


He pulled the ajar door open fully.


He gasped.


“Oh shit!”

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 28th 2020
PostPosted: Tue Jul 28, 2020 10:52 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 360
Dibs! :whip
Quote:
“Wha—Jeez, Woofy, get off me!”


He gently batted Woofy away, who started to bark incessantly.


“Can’t you hold it?” JJ whined when Woofy began pawing at him desperately.


He grumbled and threw the blanket off. He walked over and put his hand on the doorknob.


“Ow!” he exclaimed and shook out his finger in annoyance.


He pulled the ajar door open fully.


He gasped.


“Oh shit!”

:shock What a cliffhanger! Do I assume correctly that the cabin is on fire and JJ burned himself on the heated doorknob? If I'm right thank god that Woofy woke JJ up! I hope the whole family will be able to evacuate on time without any injuries!
Was the fire caused because some sparks from the fireplace flew onto the nice plush rug Willow and Tara left in front of it (probably too close)? If so I really hope their liability insurance will cover the damage! It would be a shame nevertheless if their memory of this anniversary would be tainted forever by the guilt of accidentally causing a fire.
I would be grateful if you could post the next chapter early so I don't have to fear for the wellbeing of our beloved family for 3 days! :pray

The rest of the chapter was very nice. I loved Willow's performance of "Warden Willow" and that Tara felt inspired by the title:
Quote:
“Warden Willow carried out her duties.”


“Ooh, I could be interested in that,” Tara grinned and pushed her hips against Willow, who grinned back.


Quote:
“You were only three. The twins were still babies so Mom had to bring them to your grandparents until you were better. JJ already had the pox but you were a grumpy little thing so he stayed with Alex while you were sick. It was just you and me.”


She leaned over the island and took Robyn’s hands.


“You used to sleep all curled up like a kitty when you were little. And that week you slept all curled around my leg. I’d wake up to you rubbing my foot against your belly where most of the spots were.”


Robyn, surprisingly, didn’t force her hands away.


“That was real? I thought I remembered a dream.”


“You remember that?” Willow asked softly.


“Kinda?” Robyn replied unsurely.


Willow smiled some more.


“You were really little,” she said and tapped Robyn’s hands

A heartwarming surprise that Robyn didn't reject or make fun of Willow's trip down memory lane but shared it with a fuzzy "first memory".

If Robyn insists on eating stinky tofu dogs in the future, they should only buy and transport them vacuum packed. :wink

Quote:
“I will have you know I played the part of The Cowardly Lion himself in my drama class’s production of The Wizard of Oz in college.”


Buffy looked skeptical and Willow sighed.


“Okay, I read lines with the Tin Man. Once. Because he was standing behind Tara and I could secretly check her out.”

Ahem, sorry to point out an inconsistency in your story telling but as I already mentioned I'm rereading CC at the moment so I recall clearly that the only production of their drama class was "Death of a Salesman"...

Quote:
Willow smiled as she clinked their glasses together. It was a rare moment of peace with the kids off playing and the other adults finalizing things in their houses.


“This is what I imagined when I first booked a cabin for us.”


“Well let’s savor it,” Tara replied with an answering smile.


Willow looked sheepish.


“Because the kids will be back in twenty minutes; filthy and demanding food?”


Tara chuckled.


“Because we have this moment and we should live in it.”


Willow looked at Tara and found new love filling her heart. Like the universe, it just seemed to keep expanding and expanding.

Awwww! :bigkiss :flower

Quote:
Tara recognized the look and smiled alluringly.


“I love to see those flames dance.”


Willow was helpless to stop it.


“Burn, baby, burn.”

I was all smiley reading that passage - but after I read the end of this chapter and my assumption I took from the cliffhanger I feel that is some mean foreshadowing...

Quote:
“You know ladybugs aren’t bugs — they’re beetles.”


Kayden looked up with a shy smile.


“And when they lay eggs, some of them don’t have an embryo. They’re little snacks for their babies when they’re born,” he said and looked excited to be able to continue, “And they have two sets of wings. One in their shell for protection and the other ones to fly.”

Interesting information.

Quote:
“Heaven must be missing an ambrosia salad!” Willow piped up as she walked into their space.


They all looked at her blankly. Willow gulped.


“‘Cause it’s the food of the gods? And BBQ food? Like oh, you’re a goddess? And heaven is…missing…your…salad.”


She frowned, then looked down and thrust her plate forward silently.

:laugh Poor Willow! That reminded me of Tara's "insect reflection" joke in the canon episode "Family".

Quote:
Determined to redeem herself, at least in her own mind, she approached Tara with her chin raised high.


“Do you sleep on your stomach?”


Tara frowned.


“What? No. You do though.”


Willow floundered, not anticipating that answer.


“Uh… Um… Can I?”


“Can you what?” Tara asked, looking at Willow in bewilderment.


“Sleep on your stomach?” Willow asked with a sheepish creak in her voice, then pouted, “I was trying a line.”


“You don’t need a line,” Tara replied with a slightly arched eyebrow, “You just need your face.”


Ira must be a grill master because Willow felt her insides sizzle.


“Now there’s a line.”


Tara winked.


“And I didn’t even tell you where you need your face to be yet.”


Willow blushed and giggled.

:lol So cute!

Quote:
“I know you like The Beatles so I hope you like this one,” he adjusted the guitar on his knee and smiled at Willow, “Maybe somewhere else in the multiverse they’re called The Ladybugs.”


Willow put a hand over her heart and smiled.

Yay that Kayden now feels secure and happy enough in the family to crack some "inside jokes". I liked the snippets of the song he played, what's the title?

Quote:
She peered into investigate and her breath caught.


Tara had found her.


Just as Willow had imagined.


Fire roaring, plush rug, red satin robe.


Willow gulped.


“I didn’t know you brought that.”


Tara lay on her side on the white rub with the low flicker of flame from the small fire she’d set lapping behind her. Her head rested on her upturned palm, one ankle was turned provocatively over the other and she bore the smirk of a plan well executed.


She hooked a finger and curled it toward herself. Willow took the instruction like a magnet being pulled.

:drool

Quote:
As Willow sank onto her knees, Tara reached into her bra under her robe and produced a piece of paper folded into a small square. She held it up between two fingers.


“I want to show you my list.”


“Is Becky top of it?” Willow asked with an unamused look on her face, “With her non-jellied-belly and lack of surgery scars and boobs that weren’t sucked dry by a helpless infant.”


Tara held out the square for Willow to take.


Willow took it and with skepticism, slowly unfolded it. Scribbled everywhere, in different sizes and even different styles, was Willow’s name. Over and over and over again.


Willow’s smile bloomed. She leaned over Tara and kissed her, hard.

:bigkiss :flower :wtkiss

Quote:
A little while in, Willow’s clothing was loosened and her mouth was engaged on Tara’s neck but her body grew stiff when she heard some sort of crashing.


Her head popped up.


“What was that?”


“The fairies,” Tara replied wryly and Willow giggled, followed swiftly by a moan.

No idea how that crash could be related to the fire that in my assumption will break out later - but I sure would prefer an outside cause for it to having to blame Tara and Willow for it.

Quote:
As the single lit fire log dimmed to almost nothing, Tara tugged a breathless Willow by the hand.


“We should go upstairs. We need the bed for the sturdiness if we’re going to do page 69 properly.”


Willow’s eyes popped.


“That wasn’t page 69?”


Tara smirked again.


“Not even close.”


Willow looked overwhelmed.


“Then what was that?”


Tara winked as she stood.


“All me.”


Willow scrambled up and ran after her wife as fast as she could.

I love vixen Tara! I'll just try to hold onto the happy thoughts of what happened "off screen" between them before and after their retreat to the bedroom instead of worrying how they are all going to escape the fire without injury (or an asthma attack from Emily because of the panic) until you post the next chapter.


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 28th 2020
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Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs! :whip


Woop!

Quote:
:shock What a cliffhanger! Do I assume correctly that the cabin is on fire and JJ burned himself on the heated doorknob?


Perhaps...

Quote:
If I'm right thank god that Woofy woke JJ up! I hope the whole family will be able to evacuate on time without any injuries!
Was the fire caused because some sparks from the fireplace flew onto the nice plush rug Willow and Tara left in front of it (probably too close)? If so I really hope their liability insurance will cover the damage! It would be a shame nevertheless if their memory of this anniversary would be tainted forever by the guilt of accidentally causing a fire.


All will be revealed!

Quote:
I would be grateful if you could post the next chapter early so I don't have to fear for the wellbeing of our beloved family for 3 days! :pray


Oh alright, for such a loyal reader...and this doesn't end on a cliffhanger so hopefully it will be easier to wait for next week for the next chapter!

Quote:
The rest of the chapter was very nice. I loved Willow's performance of "Warden Willow" and that Tara felt inspired by the title:


They have enjoyed handcuffs in the past...

Quote:
A heartwarming surprise that Robyn didn't reject or make fun of Willow's trip down memory lane but shared it with a fuzzy "first memory".


She's not all hard edges!

Quote:
If Robyn insists on eating stinky tofu dogs in the future, they should only buy and transport them vacuum packed. :wink


A lesson learned.

Quote:
Ahem, sorry to point out an inconsistency in your story telling but as I already mentioned I'm rereading CC at the moment so I recall clearly that the only production of their drama class was "Death of a Salesman"...


The only one that was mentioned :wink

Quote:
I was all smiley reading that passage - but after I read the end of this chapter and my assumption I took from the cliffhanger I feel that is some mean foreshadowing...


:devil

Quote:
Interesting information.


Ladybugs are an interesting bug!

Quote:
:laugh Poor Willow! That reminded me of Tara's "insect reflection" joke in the canon episode "Family".


Fellow dorks and I love them for it.

Quote:
Yay that Kayden now feels secure and happy enough in the family to crack some "inside jokes". I liked the snippets of the song he played, what's the title?


In My Life

Quote:
No idea how that crash could be related to the fire that in my assumption will break out later - but I sure would prefer an outside cause for it to having to blame Tara and Willow for it.


Well...you'll see.

Quote:
I love vixen Tara! I'll just try to hold onto the happy thoughts of what happened "off screen" between them before and after their retreat to the bedroom instead of worrying how they are all going to escape the fire without injury (or an asthma attack from Emily because of the panic) until you post the next chapter.


Those are good thoughts to hang onto.

Thanks for commenting!



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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 28th 2020
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 6:00 am 
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Chapter Fifteen




“Oh shit!”


JJ shielded his face from the intense heat that suddenly pummeled into him. His eyes were momentarily blinded by smoke.


With no time to recover, he threw himself back into the room and started to shake the bed frame.


“Woofy, go wake moms!” he said, then louder when Woofy continued to look at him unsurely, “MOMS!”


Woofy sped off and JJ covered his mouth and nose while putting his hand on Kayden.


“Kayden, wake up! Wake up! NOW!”


Kayden woke up gruffly and held his head up.


“What’s going on?”


And then he saw the smoke.


JJ yanked him clean off the bed.


“Come on, we gotta get the girls!”


He ran back out to the hallway and stumbled back at the force of the thick, black smoke pummeling through the air. He peered over the railings and could see flames licking the floor below. Holding his arm over his mouth again, he barreled through the smoke towards the girls’ room.


“Emily, Lily, wake up!” he shouted as he came and rattled their beds, “Robyn, get up, get up!”


The girls all woke up and rubbed their eyes. JJ swooped both Lily and Emily up in either arm like he would when he was pretending to use them as weights to make them giggle. No one was giggling now.


“There’s a fire. We gotta get out of here!”


“Dumb joke,” Robyn started to grumble and turn over in bed but then she smelled the smoke that had come in when JJ barreled through the door.


Robyn looked at JJ with deep, scared eyes.


“JJ?”


“Come on, kid,” JJ said quickly, “We have to get out of here NOW!”


Robyn quickly nodded and almost tripped over her feet trying to get up.


“Everyone cover your mouths!” JJ instructed and the girls all pulled their pajama tops over their faces.


Even Lily was too scared to speak.


JJ hurried everyone back into the hallway just as Willow and Tara were running from their room.


“Kids!” Willow spluttered and coughed as she grabbed onto each of them.


“Where’s Kayden?” Tara asked, her eyes roaming desperately to see through the smoke.


JJ looked around in confusion.


“He was…he was with me…”


Tara gulped. She pushed JJ’s back.


“Go, get your sisters out, go!” she instructed, then picked Robyn up for Willow to hold, “Take Robyn, I have to find Kayden!”


“Tara,” Willow looked at her, afraid.


But there was no time.


“Willow, go!”


Tara turned on her heels, covered her mouth, and ran back down the hallway.


“Kayden!” she called, able to physically hear the flames now as they burned the place to the ground fiber by fiber, “Kayden!”


From the floor where JJ had accidentally deposited him, Kayden’s head rose and his eyes narrowed, hazy and confused.


“…Mom?”


Tara burst into the boys’ room and found Kayden on the floor. She bent down and tried to help him up.


“Come on, love. We have to get out of here.”


She hurried him up. He tried to move his arm and his head reeled back with pain.


“OW!”


Tara looked at him with fretful concern.


“Come on, honey,” she insisted and pushed him all the way to the narrow staircase, “Go, go, go!”


Jaded and still a little confused, Kayden got down the stairs as quickly as he could.


The sight below promptly sobered him.


Everything was ensconced in flames and the smell of burning was so pungent it made him gag. The smoke was even thicker and even blacker down there and that prompted Kayden to run as fast as he could out of the front door, swinging on its hinges.


“Kayden!” Willow screamed with relief and threw her hands around him as he ran over to where they were all gathered.


Everyone was out there now, not just Willow and JJ and the girls, but the inhabitants of the houses either side, all standing feet away from the burning house in their pajamas, shocked.


Kayden got that pain in his arm again but he didn’t object to Willow hugging him.


“Momma,” he breathed, wondering how he had never realized before how fresh clean air felt.


Willow rubbed his back for a second, then two. Then her breath started to become ragged.


“Where’s Tara?”


Kayden spun around in alarm.


“She was…she was right behind me.”


JJ suddenly stood to his full height.


“Mom?” he called, which swiftly turned into a screech, “MOM!”


“MOM!” Kayden screamed, tears pricking his eyes.


Both he and Kayden took a step forward at the same time and both Jesse and Xander anticipated this and grabbed them each around the middle from behind before they could go running back into that burning building on the brink of collapse.


Thankfully, nobody thought to grab Willow.


“TARA!” she screamed as she ran back into the house, watching as the flames crept up the stairs they’d all run down moments before but now were nothing but a death trap, “TARA!”


She covered her mouth and tried to look around but the smoke was so thick.


“TARA,” she screamed again, muffled but there was no answer.


It was so hot Willow could feel her sweat evaporate as soon as it formed. Each breath singed her esophagus.


Panic rising in her throat, she made a step toward the stairs in case Tara was trapped up there.


And that’s when she saw her.


Tara, lying unprotected and unconscious at the base of the stairs with the handrail from the staircase pinning her down.


Willow dropped to her knees and tried to lift the handrail off, but it only served to burn her hands. She rolled her sleeves down over them and tried again but it just wouldn’t budge.


It was too heavy.


Willow couldn't push her nor pull her nor drag her nor save her.


Tears stung her hot cheeks as she wondered whether to abandon Tara and run back outside or abandon her children and lay down right there to die with her love.


Instead, she just kept on trying to lift the rail.


That was her answer, she supposed.


And then, by some force of god, the handrail lifted. Willow looked up sharply and saw that that force of god was Alexander Lavelle Harris The First.


“You grab her head, I’ve got her legs,” Xander called through the haze, “One, two, three!”


Willow cradled her precious wife’s head and together she and Xander ran out of the building with Tara swinging between them.


As Willow stepped over the threshold, the whole place rattled and then the second floor crackled and sagged into the first, leaving a pile of burning rubble right at the spot that the stairs met the floor.


Right where they’d been moments before.


“MOM!” both Kayden and JJ were still screaming and rushed over when Xander and Willow brought her over to a safe spot on the grass.


“Is she okay?” JJ panted.


Willow held her hands up helplessly.


Anya marched up and started smacking Xander on the chest.


“You big stupid, stinking idiot!” she screeched, pummeling him in the chest, then throwing herself around him, “My hero.”


Willow had fallen onto her butt beside Tara, her hair singed and black marks against her cheeks. She sought Tara’s hand and tried to catch her breath.


She could hear sirens somewhere behind the rushing of her own blood but then suddenly there was a fresh tussle of commotion in the ground.


“Where’s Woofy?!” Robyn exclaimed, the breath catching in her throat, “WOOFY!”


“Woofy!!” the twins called out and then everyone was joining in.


“C’mon boy!” JJ called and did their special whistle.


Willow couldn’t bring herself to tell them how it looked in there. She closed her eyes and new tears formed.


Then there was a cheer.


Willow opened her eyes again and saw Aurey barreling toward them, holding Woofy by the scruff of his neck in her mouth. The white of his markings looked a little ashy but he was otherwise unharmed.


“Good GIRL!” Jesse said with a thick lump of emotion in his tone as he bent down to pet Aurey, “You’re the best girl!”


Robyn dropped to hold Woofy close to her and only let go when the others demanded a turn.


The sirens got closer and Willow finally saw the flashing lights of an ambulance coming up the road. Moments later she had to move over so the paramedics could load Tara onto the stretcher and then there was a hand on her shoulder and another paramedic was asking if she was okay.


Finally, she snapped to it.


“My children,” she said croakily and coughed to clear her throat, “My children.”


She jumped up and walked back to them. She grabbed Emily.


“She has asthma,” she looked over to Kayden, who was holding his arm limply over his chest, “He hurt his arm.”


The paramedic nodded.


“Everybody who was in that building needs to be checked over. But I’ll take these two in with me.”


Emily looked up at Willow and burst into overdue tears.


“Momma,” she wailed quietly.


Lily was still stuck in shock, her mouth open but no words coming out. Robyn and JJ both looked queasy.


“Was it the fairies?” Emily cried, rubbing her eyes with her hand, “Did I do something wrong? Was I bad?”


“No, Emmy…” Willow replied as her head dropped into her hands helplessly.


Kayden looked around quickly. Tara was halfway down the road in an ambulance; the other adults were all consoling their own scared children or in Becky and Brian’s case, guiding the fire truck in.


JJ usually took over big brother mode at this point but he seemed to be in shock. So it was Kayden’s turn to step up.


“No Emily. It’s not your fault.”


Emily looked up with glassy eyes and sought reassurance.


“Was it an evil fairy?”


Kayden shook his head.


“I don’t think so, Em. It wasn’t anybody’s fault.”


Emily looked away and Kayden felt like he’d failed.


“And the fairies, they helped us all get out,” he suggested with a quick nod.


Emily looked back at him slowly.


“They did?”


Kayden nodded.


“Yeah, they told Woofy to wake us and helped Aurey find him when he got lost.”


“Really?” Emily asked, her tears drying up.


“Of course,” Kayden replied as if it was obvious, “Dogs and fairies can speak to each other.”


Emily looked over at Woofy, who was licking Robyn’s face. She smiled as if there wasn’t still a burning building crumbling into nothingness behind her.


The fire brigade got there and instructed them all to move away so Willow quickly organized who was going to bring JJ, Robyn, and Lily to the hospital while she rode in with Emily and Kayden on the second ambulance. But then Lily found her voice and flat out refused to be separated from Emily so she came with them too.


“Let your brother sit down,” Willow instructed as she moved Lily from the collapsible seat over to the gurney with Emily.


Willow had to stand at the back and hold onto some spine boards to stay steady. The paramedic looked over everyone but didn’t seem too concerned.


“This will need an x-ray,” he said, nodding at Kayden’s arm, “But there’s no symptoms of dangerous smoke inhalation. What about you? How long were you in there?”


“I had to go back in,” Willow swallowed, her voice trembling, “But I feel fine. My hands just sting a little.”


The paramedic indicated for her to turn them over. She did.


Even Willow was shocked by how bad they looked. Raw and cut up and singed red and black. Deep blisters forming.


They didn’t even hurt.


Kayden’s face scrunched when he saw her and he physically blocked her from Lily or Emily’s view.


Willow swallowed and turned them back over while the paramedic wrapped them up in gauze.


Lily giggled when she saw them.


“You have lobster hands, Momma!”


“Yeah, kiddo,” Willow smiled weakly, “How’s everyone doing?”


“That was scary,” Emily said quietly and Lily agreed with a heavy nod.


“It was very scary,” Willow replied, swallowing again.


“Is Mommy going to be okay?” Lily asked with an anxious twist in her voice.


Willow just nodded and the girls started to yawn, their disruption of sleep starting to catch up with them. They ended up curled up together on the gurney and the paramedic was kind enough to lift them into a shared wheelchair which he pushed into the ER when it was apparent neither Willow nor Kayden could.


They were all brought right in and the girls were transferred to a bed together. Thankfully, as a regional ER, it wasn’t all that busy and there was a three-bed room free for them all to wait in. Willow used her lobster hands to pull back all of the curtains so it was open for them all.


She stopped in front of Kayden’s bed and put her gauze claws on Kayden’s cheeks.


“Are you okay?”


Kayden looked down, then up again and nodded.


“You were very brave,” Willow said gently and Kayden’s eyes filled up with tears.


“I-If it wasn’t for me…”


Willow tilted his head up and looked into his eyes softly.


“If it wasn’t for you, we never would have known that our family wasn’t complete yet.”


Kayden’s eyes spilled with tears and Willow held him to her chest.


She was starting to feel the pain in her hands now but hid it well.


“Is Mom here?” Kayden asked meekly.


Willow looked over her shoulder as if Tara might just appear. She gulped.


“I think so. I’ll go—”


Just then a woman in a lab coat came in and looked between Kayden and Willow and then the sleeping girls quickly.


“Okay. I’m Dr. Garcia. Let’s get you all seen to.”


Willow started walking toward the door.


“I just need to go find my—”


“Oh, no, ma’am you need to stay right here,” the doctor replied with a resolute shake of her head, “I need to tend to those burns and get you hooked up to an IV right away.”


Willow reluctantly let herself be led back to the middle bed.


“My son hurt his arm and my daughter has asthma,” she said quietly.


The doctor nodded toward each of the other beds.


“I’ll check them over right away.”


“Do you know if my wife came in?” Willow asked, trying to keep the tremble of fear out of her voice for Kayden’s sake, “We were all in the fire but she was in it the longest, and she got knocked out.”


Dr. Garcia had Willow lie back so she could put a line in.


“I haven’t seen her. She may have been taken straight up to the burns unit.”


Willow closed her eyes.


“Heart rate’s going up,” Dr. Garcia muttered to herself as she placed the pulse oximeter on Willow’s finger.


“I’m just worried about my family, okay?” Willow replied and tensed her jaw as new pain throbbed in her hands.


The doctor nodded understandingly.


“I’m going to get some pain meds for you and your son and I’ll be back to check you all over, make sure you haven’t inhaled any dangerous amounts of smoke.”


She went out again and returned with an emesis basin. An orderly pushing a wheelchair accompanied her. She left the dish on the table between Willow and Kayden’s bed and handed Kayden two pills and then a plastic cup of water for him to swallow them.


“Mr. Jackson here is going to take you to x-ray,” she said with a smile as the orderly came over with the chair.


Kayden looked apprehensive.


“It’s okay,” Willow reassured, “It only takes a second and doesn’t hurt a bit.”


Kayden nodded slowly. He knew that; it wasn’t his first trip to the ER. But it was the first one where he wasn’t afraid to go home after.


The orderly brought him away while the doctor pushed a syringe into Willow’s IV to deliver her some pain medication.


“Rate your pain from 1 to 10?”


“Six,” Willow answered, swallowing to keep some moisture in her mouth, “But I got shot through the heart once so I have a pretty high threshold.”


Dr. Garcia arched an eyebrow.


“Literally or figuratively?”


“Literally,” Willow nodded as she held her palms out to be looked at, “Though technically it missed the heart by a few millimeters.”


“I should think so,” Dr. Garcia replied, shaking her head, “You’ve got some nice second-degree burns here. Any medical conditions I should know about? Any other parts of your body shot up?”


Willow shook her head.


“Okay, then,” Dr. Garcia replied evenly, “I’m going to redress these and then have a little look at your chest. Those pain meds should be kicking in.”


Willow nodded slowly.


“Yes. Pain easing…so sleepy.”


Dr. Garcia lay Willow down.


“Just let me make sure you haven’t inhaled too much smoke. Any coughing or shortness of breath? Tightness, headache?”


Willow blinked heavily and shook her head.


“No, I feel fine.”


The doctor checked Willow’s eyes, nose, and throat and listened to her chest. She nodded in satisfaction.


“Your hands will take a few weeks to heal but they should recover with limited damage. I hope you have someone to be your hands until then.”


Willow was suddenly very awake.


“Tara!”


“Your wife?” Dr. Garcia guessed and Willow nodded, worried, “I’ll see if I can get a status update once I’m done here.”


She put her stethoscope back around her neck.


“I need to wake your little girls again and check them over. Especially the one with asthma. Was she given her inhaler at the scene?”


Willow shook her head helplessly.


“No, all our stuff…”


The doctor nodded sympathetically.


“Of course. But nothing in the ambulance?”


Willow looked ashen.


“They said she was okay. I-I didn’t…I didn’t think…”


The doctor stepped back so Willow could go to them.


Willow instinctively went to touch them and had to pull back awkwardly.


“Lily, Emily,” she called gently, “We’re in the hospital. The nice doctor lady here is going to make sure you’re both okay. Wake up, good girls.”


As they roused, Kayden was wheeled back into the room. His arm was in a sling now.


Willow came over and again went to hold his face, but couldn’t.


“My poor boy,” she sympathized instead.


“It doesn’t even hurt that bad since I took the painkillers,” Kayden shrugged softly and looked down to hide blushing cheeks at the attention.


Dr. Garcia caught Willow’s eye and brought her to the corner.


“I’m going to put her on a nebulizer to be safe. We don’t take any chances with kids.”


Willow’s mouth hung open in surprise and her eyes cast furtively toward Emily, who was playing Pattycake with Lily. They were both sleepy but seemed fine.


“Is she—”


“Has no signs of distress,” Dr. Garcia reassured, “But her oxygenation isn’t where I’d like it to be. I just want to exercise caution.”


Willow just nodded quickly.


“Of course.”


“Has she used one before?” Dr. Garcia questioned.


Willow held one hand up but saw her bandages and dropped it again, feeling silly.


“Not since she was tiny. They were premature, they spent some time in the NICU. Emily was on a ventilator.”


Dr. Garcia nodded quickly.


“I’ll be right back.”


Willow took a second to compose herself, then went to perch on the edge of the bed the twins were sitting on.


“Em, the doctor’s going to come back with a little machine. It’s just going to make sure your lungs are nice and clean. It won’t hurt a bit, I promise.”


Dr. Garcia came back with the nebulizer and showed it to Emily, who eyed it hesitantly.


“Sometimes the mask can seem scary,” Dr. Garcia said, holding it against her own mouth, “But it’s just plastic, see?”


She cleaned it with an alcohol wipe and let Emily have a good look at it as she adjusted the bed so Emily would sit upright.


Willow dropped a kiss on top of Emily’s head.


“Momma’s here, baby.”


Kayden wheeled himself over with one hand.


“I’m here too, Emily.”


“Me too!” Lily said, patting herself in the chest with both hands, “See, I’m right here, right beside you like we’re those twins who are stuck together!”


“Siamese,” Kayden supplied.


“Yeah, salamis!” Lily exclaimed eagerly, “We’re salami twins!”


She put her hand in Emily’s and held on tight. Emily looked between all of them and then at the doctor as the mask was placed over her mouth.


“Take slow, deep breaths,” Dr. Garcia encouraged, “Good girl.”


“You’re so brave sweetheart,” Willow said softly, doing her best to physically comfort Emily with her body while her hands were out of action.


“You look cool, Emmy, like a soupy diver!” Lily said keenly, “Like you’re gonna go ‘splore all the oceans and find lotsa fish, even the super scary ones that live at the bottom and are all slimy and ugly and…”


Sometimes that chatter had Willow begging for reprieve but right then she was happy that Lily always seemed to know exactly what Emily needed to not feel scared. It had been that way since before they could even speak when they put Lily in with Emily while trying to get her off the ventilator. After that, they would put Lily in bed with Emily when she wouldn’t settle and she calmed each and every time.


As Emily went through her treatment with slow, even breaths that Willow silently guided her in by sitting behind her and doing them too, the doctor retrieved Kayden’s x-rays and put them under the viewer.


“That’s a clean break you’ve got there, mister.”


Willow glanced up furtively.


“He plays guitar…”


Kayden seemed surprised by Willow’s concern and frowned at himself.


“And he will again,” Dr. Garcia said, whipping the x-rays down again, “In six weeks when his cast comes off. I’ll get Reggie to take him down.”


She hurried off again and Willow envied whatever put that pep in her step.


“Do you want me to come with you?” Willow asked Kayden softly.


Kayden did, honestly, but he didn’t need her too. Not like Emily needed her right now.


“No,” he shook his head softly, “It’s just a cast. I’ve had one before.”


Willow’s eyes grew pained. There was a lot of Kayden’s past she’d asked Tara not to tell her. Now she felt like to wanted to know it all, needed to know it all, just like she did the medical history of all of her children.


“We love you, Kayden.”


Kayden’s mouth open but it got stuck there.


The orderly from earlier returned and Kayden blinked at him slowly, remembering the doctor’s words.


“Is your name really Reggie Jackson?”


“JJ LOVES Reggie Jackson,” Lily briefly dropped her talk of bottom feeders to interject that fact, then returned to an imitation of a sea cucumber as if she never had stopped at all.


The orderly was an older gentleman and clicked his tongue as he fixed his hands around the arms of Kayden’s wheelchair.


“Now, I’ll tell you, I’ve been RJ many more decades than Mr. NBA Superstar,” he said in a low, earthy drawl, “I earned my own name, don’t you think?”


Willow fell back into a breathing pattern with Emily and before long Dr. Garcia came back to finish off Emily’s treatment. She had to cough up all of her secretions into a tissue and Willow wished she could rub her daughter’s back.


But then Lily was doing it without needing to be asked and Willow couldn’t have been prouder.


“I love you girls so much. You’re both being so brave.”


“Where’s Mommy?” Lily asked and started to look weary again now that Emily was OK again.


“Um…” Willow started but before she could say anything else, the door to the room opened and Robyn and JJ were standing there, looking utterly forlorn.


“Jake, Robbie,” Willow gasped and strode over to them.


“Aunt Becky brought us,” JJ explained as Willow put her arms around both of them, which was difficult given the height difference.


JJ looked startled at Willow’s bandages.


“Momma, your hands.”


“They’ll heal,” Willow reassured calmly.


JJ’s eyes were sunken and skittish as he looked around the room.


“Where’s Mom? Where’s Kayden?”


“Kayden is getting a cast put on,” Willow said, keeping that nice low tone.


“He’s with Reggie Jackson,” Lily added helpfully.


JJ’s eyes squinted.


“What?”


“The orderly,” Willow explained quickly.


“What’s wrong with him?” Robyn asked, her bottom lip quivering in the most vulnerable display of emotion she’d exhibited in years.


“He broke his arm,” Willow explained and both Robyn and JJ looked stricken, “It will heal. We will all heal, okay? Everybody is okay.”


JJ suddenly looked around desperately.


“Wait…where’s Mom?”


“Where’s Mom?!” Robyn added immediately through a gasping breath.


“The doctors are treating her,” Willow said, finding it in her to keep the calm despite wanting to know the answer to their question just as much, “You two need to get the once-over too. Come sit down.”


She brought them over to the other beds and a nurse came in to do vitals and take blood before the doctor, who seemed to be their personal concierge at this point, checked both of them thoroughly and came back to Willow as she swung her stethoscope back around her neck.


“Any more children to come out of the woodwork?” she asked with a smile and appreciated that Willow tried to smile back, “Everybody is fine. You’re all very lucky.”


Willow exhaled slowly in relief.


“You’ve been so kind and helpful and I hate to—”


Dr. Garcia put her hand on Willow’s upper arm.


“I’ll go find out what I can about your wife.”


Willow almost burst into tears from the kindness.


“Thank you.”


She slunk back to the kids and checked over Robyn and JJ herself just to be sure. Neither of them would look at her.


Kayden was wheeled back in with a fresh cast on his arm and on his heels, Dr. Garcia returned and took Willow aside.


“Your wife was not brought to the burns unit. Her burns are superficial,” she said with her own little relieved puff of breath, “She’s cut and bruised. She’s in CT right now to see if her ribs are bruised or broken but she’s going to be okay with time and rest.”


Willow’s bandaged hands flapped about as she tried and failed to clutch her heart.


“Can I see her? Is she awake?”


Dr. Garcia nodded quickly.


“The pain medication has her in and out but I’ll come to find you when she’s back.”


She left and Willow stood in the middle of the room to reassure all of the kids that Tara would be okay. Just as she was starting to settle everyone down, the door opened again and a new bed was wheeled in.


Tara was lying in it, asleep with cuts on her chin and cheeks, bruising on her neck, and soot across her forehead.


“Tara,” Willow gasped.


“Mom,” JJ jumped up and Robyn scrambled to follow him while Kayden shot out of the wheelchair.


“Ah, ah, ah,” Dr. Garcia said from behind the orderly pushing Tara in, “I’m letting her come in here because I’m trusting you all to follow instructions.”


She stood importantly in front of everybody as the beds in the room were moved closer together to accommodate the fourth.


“She has a lot of bruising and she needs a lot of rest. You can all stay since at least three of you need ongoing attention and it’s a three-bed room but no touching or climbing or anything like that, capiche?


“Understood,” Willow replied solemnly, “Thank you so much.”


Everyone naturally gravitated toward Tara and stood around her bed, just staring.


“Momma?” Emily whispered quietly.


“Yeah?” Willow replied, just as quiet.


Emily looked down and stuffed her hand into the pocket of her footy pajamas.


“I kept some of the dust the fairies left in my pocket,” she looked up at Willow earnestly, “Should I sprinkle it on Mommy?”


Willow swallowed.


“Sure, honey. Go ahead. Just don’t touch mommy, okay?”


Emily pulled her fist out of her pocket but she didn’t have the height to reach over Tara’s body, so JJ lifted her and she sprinkled the tiny bit of glitter Tara had left on the windowsill as proof of the fairies visit.


Almost immediately, Tara twitched.


“It’s working!” Emily said in delight, “The fairy dust is working! The fairies still like us! They’re waking Mommy up!”


Willow felt her heart speed up.


“Don’t touch, remember. Mommy’s got lots of big owies.”


Everyone held their breath as Tara’s eyes started to sluggishly open.


“Hey, Tara,” Willow greeted softly, going back to her calm tone, “Everyone is here.”


Tara’s eyes darted in alarm


“No, no, everything is okay,” Willow reassured quickly, “You’re okay, we’re all okay. Everything’s going to be okay.”


She put her arm gently over Tara’s waist. She met Tara’s eye and though it was clouded, she knew they connected so she poured all of her reassurance into that look.


“Don’t try and move. You’re all busted up. Nothing some time and rest won’t cure. Sleep, baby. We’re all here for the night. Everyone is okay. Everyone is okay.”


Tara drifted back off to sleep and Willow took in a long, slow breath.


“Everyone needs some more sleep,” she announced, “Lil, Em, come on. You can share the bed again.”


She got them settled as best she could without hands and moved onto the next bed.


“Kayden, sweetie. You need to keep that arm safe. Come sleep here.”


Kayden looked between all of them.


“Um, there’s not enough beds.”


“I’m taking a chair bro,” JJ said gruffly, “I’m not hurt. Take the bed, man.”


“Kayden, honey, we’re all tired, can you please take the bed?” Willow asked, her tiredness starting to come out in her voice.


Kayden lay down on the bed and using his good hand to pull the blanket around himself.


“Look at us, one hand and none,” Willow smiled tenderly and kissed his forehead.


She moved to the last bed.


“Okay, Robbie, up you get.”


Robyn was a stark white color.


“No, Momma, I can’t.”


Willow frowned.


“What do you mean you can’t?”


Robyn’s breath caught.


“I just want to sleep on the chair okay? You sleep in the bed.”


“Robyn, don’t be silly,” Willow said and folded her arms by her hips, “I am your mother. You’re sleeping in the bed.”


Robyn swallowed nervously. She got onto the bed and tucked herself up tight.


“I’m little, see? You can fit too.”


Willow assessed the bed.


“Well, if I can fit, JJ can fit.”


“Naw, maw,” JJ shook his head quickly, “You made me eat all my vegetables. I’m a big, strong boy. Won’t fit.”


He sat down in the none-too-comfortable hospital chair and kicked his legs up on Lily and Emily’s bed.


“I’m good.”


“It’d be really cool if everyone shut up so we can sleep,” a voice piped up.


“Robyn,” Willow automatically chastised.


“It wasn’t me,” Robyn whispered.


Willow looked over her shoulder.


“Lily,” she said in the same tone and sighed, “Okay. Let’s get some sleep everyone.”


She gently got herself onto the bed with Robyn, keeping her arms straight down so her hands were safely over her torso.


“JJ, can you…?”


JJ flicked the light off and as the sun started to rise outside the hospital, inside the Rosenberg-Maclay family got some much-needed rest.



Willow woke first, or rather she was woken to have her bandages changed.


The nurse was kind, and quiet to allow the others to keep sleeping. They had the rare privilege of having a ‘suite’ to themselves and they could all use the last few precious minutes of sleep before they’d have to wake and be checked over again before discharge.


As the nurse carefully redid Willow’s bandages, she started to wonder how they were going to manage. Willow wasn’t going to be able to drive and Tara wouldn’t for a while either, even if her ribs were only bruised and not broken.


JJ would have to get them home.


And home…who was going to cook and clean?


And suddenly all of that seemed trivial as Willow felt a morning call of nature and she realized she wasn’t even going to be able to do that by herself. She looked at the nurse, stricken.


“H-How do I go to the bathroom with these things?”


The nurse turned Willow’s hand gently.


“When you’re discharged, the bandages you’ll have on will give you some freedom to move your fingers. These parts up here that aren’t burned. You should have enough dexterity to wipe. You’ll want to wear skirts and dresses. I hope you’re visiting from somewhere warm.”


Willow frowned, glum.


“Buffalo.”


The nurse looked sympathetic.


“Um, what about now? While I’m bandaged up like this?” Willow asked with a light blush.


The nurse smiled kindly.


“I can assist you.”


Willow nodded slowly.


“Well, I’d definitely rather you than one of my children.”


Willow carefully stood so as not to wake Robyn and walked with the nurse across the floor to the bathroom. She did what needed to be done with appropriate assistance and thanked the nurse.


“Do you think I could get some more painkillers? I’m starting to feel the throbbing again.”


The nurse brought Willow straight to the station to have the pain relief authorized and used a syringe to send it straight into Willow’s veins.


Just before she wandered back to the room, Dr. Garcia passed her.


“I’m going off shift but I’ve recommended discharge for all of your children. You can go too once we’ve given you instructions on how to care for your burns.”


“What about my wife?” Willow asked with concern.


“Once she’s been signed off by the neuro team, she can go too. But she won’t be up for much for a while,” Dr. Garcia advised, “Those ribs are nicely bruised.”


Willow nodded.


“I’ll take care of her…somehow. You’ve been really kind. Thank you.”


Dr. Garcia nodded tiredly. It was always nice to hear that at the end of a long shift.


Willow went back to the room and the kids had all woken up, but just. Emily was still rubbing her eyes. Willow flicked on the light and it flickered annoyingly. Kayden used his cast to shield his eyes.


“Sorry, guys,” Willow apologized, “But it’s time to get up anyway. The doctor says we can all go soon. How’s everyone feeling?”


JJ stood up and stretched his back out with a groan. Robyn rolled over and went back to sleep and the twins both sat up bright and bushy-tailed like they’d had a full night’s sleep.


A nurse came around to do the last round of vitals and Willow noticed Tara starting to wake during hers. She came and sat next to Tara’s bed and rested her bandage claw over her wife’s arm.


Tara’s hand twitched and then automatically bent at the elbow and reached up to caress Willow’s arm.


“Hi, baby,” Willow said softly, “We’re still in the hospital. Everybody is still okay. We can all go home soon.”


Tara’s eyes flicked open heavily and it took a moment for them to adjust to the bright lights and white walls.


Willow’s words registered and she tried to sit up sharply. She fell back down against the bed with a moan of pain.


JJ stepped forward in alarm but Willow put a hand up and glanced at him to say it was okay.


“No, baby,” Willow soothed softly, “You’ve bruised your ribs up pretty bad. Nice easy breaths and slow movements.”


Tara took in some soft breaths and opened her eyes again. Willow was smiling at her.


“Everyone is okay.”


Tara swallowed and coughed, wincing again.


“Kayden…”


“I-I’m here,” Kayden’s voice piped up from his bed, “Mom.”


“Broke his arm but now he just has a cool cast to get signed by all the, uh,” Willow added and shook her head, “Anyway, you’re okay right honey?”


“I’m totally fine,” Kayden confirmed.


“Can I hear a chorus of ‘fines’ here please?” Willow requested.


Everyone called off that they were fine and Tara’s shoulders gently slumped with relief. She felt around for Willow’s hand but frowned when she couldn’t find fingers.


She looked over and after blinking to let her eyes focus, saw what Willow’s hands were encased in. Her eyes shot up to find Willow’s.


“Like my new look?” Willow joked with a soft smile, “They just got a little burned on the stairs. Doc says they’ll heal right up and I only have to wear these things until we leave the hospital. Which will be today! The kids can leave now and we’ll be able to leave in a few hours.”


Tara’s eyes were pained and she reached out weakly to take Willow’s claw tenderly between her hands.


Willow leaned in and kissed Tara’s dry lips.


“Everything is okay,” she breathed into Tara’s mouth and kissed the corner.


As she pulled away to smile reassuringly at Tara, she saw the door opening from her peripherals. When she looked over, she spotted Xander walking in with tired eyes but an ever-present smile on his face.


“Hey. How’s everyone doing in here? Wanted to check in before my ride gets here.”


In one fell stride, Willow pushed back her chair, stood up, and all but ran at Xander, throwing herself around him as she tried to hold on to his back with her claws. She kissed Xander’s cheek three times in quick succession before her weak grip made her plant her feet back firmly on the ground.


She held Xander’s face and looked as deeply into his eye as she’d only ever looked at Tara before.


“Thank. You.”


Xander swallowed deeply and wrapped his arms around Willow. When they pulled away, Willow swiped at her eyes with her bandages and returned to Tara, whose brow was creased in confusion.


“Xander saved you,” Willow explained, her eyes filling with fresh tears but a smile staying prominent on her face, “You were knocked out and I ran back in but I couldn’t get you out from under the piece of wood that had fallen on you. He ran in after me and lifted it off you so we could carry you out.”


Tara’s head turned toward Xander and her eyes filled as well.


“Thank you,” she said in an echoing tone, her voice raw from the ordeal and it being her first chance to speak properly, “Are you hurt?”


Xander held up his index finger.


“One splinter,” he said with a grin, “Hurt myself more sitting in one of those little plastic chairs waiting to be seen.”


There was a sudden pained sob from somewhere in the room and it took everybody a moment to realize it was JJ because he was trying to hide it.


“JJ…” Tara said with concern, sitting up and suppressing her pain.


“Hey man,” Xander clapped an arm around JJ’s shoulders, “We all know you would have gone in there to save your mom if we’d let you.”


JJ rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hand.


“It’s all my fault!”


“No, honey…” Tara started to reply.


“Yes!” JJ cut her off, “I knocked over the grill!”


Everyone paused for a moment.


“What?” Willow asked.


JJ wiped the corner of his eye with his sleeve.


“The signal inside the house was so bad,” he said, shame-faced, “So I sneaked out when you guys were cleaning up to call Cleo but by the time I got back the house was all dark. I couldn’t see anything and I knocked into the grill and it was still warm!”


He looked away.


“I was just going to blame a raccoon or something but the coals must have started the fire! It’s all my fault!”


“No, it’s not!” Robyn suddenly blurted and buried her face into her hands as she sat on top of her bed, “It’s my fault! I just wanted to try one of my Tofurkey dogs that nobody would cook so I came downstairs when I thought everyone was asleep to microwave one. But then I heard a crash so I ran back up to my room and I left the microwave on! It’s me, it was all me.”


Willow stood up.


“Stop it, both of you,” she instructed, holding a claw out toward JJ, “You. You didn’t start the fire. That grill was on the other side of the yard. At worst, you singed some grass.”


JJ seemed shocked and was completely still.


“And you,” Willow pointed her other claw at her daughter, “Robyn, that microwave was flakier than a tub of nutritional yeast.”


Robyn smiled softly at the reference as Willow continued.


“It wouldn’t stay on for more than 30 seconds any time I tried the whole weekend. There’s no way you turbo-nuked your tofu dog into burning the house down. We would have smelled it before we noticed any smoke.”


Robyn and JJ both closed their eyes with relief.


“I-It was me.”


Willow spun around at her wife’s voice.


“Tara?”


Tara blinked up at Willow.


“I set a fire. And I forgot to put the spark guard up when I went to bed.”


Willow slowly sank back into her chair. Even paler than before, she looked up at Xander.


“Xander, are you heading back? Can you get someone to drive our minivan in to collect the kids?”


Xander nodded.


“Of course.”


“Kids, give your Uncle Xander a hug,” Willow instructed and they were all quite happy to swarm him with hugs.


There were lots of ‘thanks Uncle Xander!’ and ‘we love you Uncle Xander!’ as Xander basked in some well-deserved love and Willow and Tara looked at each other, fraught.


Outside, Jesse pulled in his SUV and turned off the ignition. His head turned and fell back onto the headrest. He smiled languidly at the person in the passenger seat.


“Somehow after the night we’ve all had, you still look beautiful.”


Alice’s cheeks tinged pink and she glanced away.


“I’m no Margot Robbie.”


“Wouldn’t want you to be,” Jesse drawled easily, “Margot Robbie isn’t the mother of my child.”


Alice slowly looked back up, her brow creased.


“What are we doing, Jess?” she asked in a shaken tone, “This back and forth? I was enjoying it, getting close to you again but I don’t know where I stand. And maybe I don’t deserve—”


Suddenly Alice was cut off as Jesse leaned across the car and pressed his lips to her.


Electricity buzzed between them; both of them feeling a crackle as Jesse pulled away again.


“All I know is that when I was watching that house burn down, it was you and Ella I wanted to know was safe.”


Alice blinked several times and slowly smiled.


“Why does it always take someone we love going into the hospital to get our act together?”


“Let’s keep it together this time,” Jesse suggested with an affectionate crease of his eyes.


Alice reached across to grip Jesse’s arm.


“Move back home. I know it’s quick but—”


“No,” Jesse replied easily, and for a moment, Alice was crushed, “I want somewhere new. A fresh start. Somewhere you can throw a housewarming party with wine and cheese and a basement where I can have a man cave hidden away and you won’t ever have to clean up empty beer bottles.”


Alice’s grin almost broke off of her face.


“Screw the wine and cheese. Pop me a tab on a Bud light and put the game on.”


“No can do,” Jesse shook his head with the same grin, “No woman of mine can have that awful a taste in beer.”


They came together again in numerous kisses with laughter breaking out between them.


Then there was a knock on the window and Xander stumbled back, startled as he saw what was going on inside.


“Whoa there,” he said as Jesse opened the door and jumped out, “Am I interrupting?”


“My man,” Jesse said, swinging his arm to pat Xander’s back and bring him in for a hug.


“Xander,” Alice said, stepping out on her side and looking out over the car, “Anya has been beside herself. We said we’d watch the kids so she could come in but they were scared, they needed their mom.”


Xander smiled wearily.


“I could use their mom right about now too.”


Jesse slapped Xander’s back again.


“Let’s get you back there, buddy.”


“Hero,” Alice called with a twinkling smile.


Back in the hospital room, Willow and Tara were trying to figure out who could do what tasks to get the kids ready to leave. Tara had to do everything that needed a signature and Willow had to bring the kids out to be collected by Becky. Willow then returned to Tara, who was quietly crying.


“Darling,” Willow said softly as she quickly came over to sit next to her wife, “You weren’t the only one there. I didn’t put the guard up either.”


Tara wiped her eyes on the corner of her gown and Willow wished she could be the one to do it.


“They’re going to sue us, Willow,” Tara cried softly, “That could bankrupt us!”


“Ssh,” Willow comforted gently, “It doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is everyone is okay.”


She rubbed her claw on Tara’s arm.


“What have we learned in therapy?” she asked and made sure Tara had her gaze, “We can’t worry about the things we can’t control.”


Tara closed her eyes and blinked away her tears.


She placed hands on Willow’s claws.


“Your poor hands,” she said with a gulping echo, “You ran back for me?”


Willow leaned her head in close to Tara’s; resting their foreheads together.


“Of course I did, Tara.”


Tara exhaled softly and then they inhaled together.


Just breathing.


A new nurse then had helped Willow earlier came into the room and asked Willow to sit on a bed for vitals.


“Who will be tending to the bandages going forward?”


“Me, of course,” Tara replied without hesitation.


“Baby, you’re pretty busted up,” Willow said with a frown.


“I can do it,” Tara insisted, “I don’t need to use my ribs for that.”


“Baby…” Willow replied, touched but also concerned.


“It only hurts to breathe,” Tara said softly, “But I always breathe easier with you.”


Her breath caught.


“Without you, I wouldn’t breathe at all.”


Tears filled her eyes but she fought hard to stop them from falling so she could prove she was up for the job. Very slowly she got out of bed and used her IV pole for leverage to walk over and learn how to wrap Willow’s hands.


Willow went to help several times but Tara was insistent that she was okay. She felt bruised from the inside out but Willow had literally run through fire for her, so this was the least she could do.


The nurse unwound one of Willow’s claws and Tara took a painfully sharp breath in when she saw the angry blistering.


“Oh, Willow,” she said softly and looked up sincerely, “I’ll be your hands.”


Willow was in some pain but managed to smile.


“I know.”


She kept Tara’s gaze.


“And I know you’ll do a good job. Because you’re already my heart. And my heart has been full since the moment I met you.”

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 29th 2020
PostPosted: Wed Jul 29, 2020 12:59 pm 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 360
Dibs! :whip
Thank you for hearing my plea and posting this chapter today! :bow
Thank god - and Xander and Woofy and Aurey - that they all got out of this inferno alive, although it was a very close call!

Quote:
Willow couldn't push her nor pull her nor drag her nor save her.


Tears stung her hot cheeks as she wondered whether to abandon Tara and run back outside or abandon her children and lay down right there to die with her love.


Instead, she just kept on trying to lift the rail.


That was her answer, she supposed.


And then, by some force of god, the handrail lifted. Willow looked up sharply and saw that that force of god was Alexander Lavelle Harris The First.

Poor Willow, this decision she had to made but couldn't really (which I totally understand) feels horribly close to the decision Tara demanded from her to choose the babies' lifes over Tara's if it ever came to that.
Thank God that Xander came to the rescue! Then again I probably shouldn't be surprised that the fairies chose him as the hero to save Tara, considering that he is the father of a Pixie... :wink

Quote:
Anya marched up and started smacking Xander on the chest.


“You big stupid, stinking idiot!” she screeched, pummeling him in the chest, then throwing herself around him, “My hero.”

For once I can totally understand how Anya is feeling - luckily I never was in such a situation.

Quote:
“Where’s Woofy?!” Robyn exclaimed, the breath catching in her throat, “WOOFY!”


“Woofy!!” the twins called out and then everyone was joining in.


“C’mon boy!” JJ called and did their special whistle.


Willow couldn’t bring herself to tell them how it looked in there. She closed her eyes and new tears formed.


Then there was a cheer.


Willow opened her eyes again and saw Aurey barreling toward them, holding Woofy by the scruff of his neck in her mouth. The white of his markings looked a little ashy but he was otherwise unharmed.


“Good GIRL!” Jesse said with a thick lump of emotion in his tone as he bent down to pet Aurey, “You’re the best girl!”

Awww! So great that Aurey saved her best friend (dogwise) out of the burning house!

Quote:
“Was it the fairies?” Emily cried, rubbing her eyes with her hand, “Did I do something wrong? Was I bad?”


“No, Emmy…” Willow replied as her head dropped into her hands helplessly.


Kayden looked around quickly. Tara was halfway down the road in an ambulance; the other adults were all consoling their own scared children or in Becky and Brian’s case, guiding the fire truck in.


JJ usually took over big brother mode at this point but he seemed to be in shock. So it was Kayden’s turn to step up.


“No Emily. It’s not your fault.”


Emily looked up with glassy eyes and sought reassurance.


“Was it an evil fairy?”


Kayden shook his head.


“I don’t think so, Em. It wasn’t anybody’s fault.”


Emily looked away and Kayden felt like he’d failed.


“And the fairies, they helped us all get out,” he suggested with a quick nod.


Emily looked back at him slowly.


“They did?”


Kayden nodded.


“Yeah, they told Woofy to wake us and helped Aurey find him when he got lost.”


“Really?” Emily asked, her tears drying up.


“Of course,” Kayden replied as if it was obvious, “Dogs and fairies can speak to each other.”


Emily looked over at Woofy, who was licking Robyn’s face. She smiled as if there wasn’t still a burning building crumbling into nothingness behind her.

That almost had me teary eyed, Kayden instinctively fully taking on the role of the big brother in this moment and restoring Emily's faith in the good fairies. I feel that is one of the good things coming out of this catastrophe, Kayden fully slipping into the family puzzle as son and brother (also indicated by him calling Tara and Willow Mom and Momma since Tara found him dazed in the bedroom).

Quote:
“You were very brave,” Willow said gently and Kayden’s eyes filled up with tears.


“I-If it wasn’t for me…”


Willow tilted his head up and looked into his eyes softly.


“If it wasn’t for you, we never would have known that our family wasn’t complete yet.”


Kayden’s eyes spilled with tears and Willow held him to her chest.

:bigkiss

Quote:
“Your hands will take a few weeks to heal but they should recover with limited damage.

I really hope she will regain full dexterity and sensitivity of her hands. It would be sad if she couldn't fully feel touching the skin of her wife and kids (and all other things, but those are the most important for her surely) in the future.
My heart ached for Willow for not being able to soothe her kids by touching and caressing them with her hands.

Quote:
“Momma’s here, baby.”


Kayden wheeled himself over with one hand.


“I’m here too, Emily.”


“Me too!” Lily said, patting herself in the chest with both hands, “See, I’m right here, right beside you like we’re those twins who are stuck together!”


“Siamese,” Kayden supplied.


“Yeah, salamis!” Lily exclaimed eagerly, “We’re salami twins!”


She put her hand in Emily’s and held on tight.

Awww, "salami twins", so adorable!

Quote:
“Momma?” Emily whispered quietly.


“Yeah?” Willow replied, just as quiet.


Emily looked down and stuffed her hand into the pocket of her footy pajamas.


“I kept some of the dust the fairies left in my pocket,” she looked up at Willow earnestly, “Should I sprinkle it on Mommy?”


Willow swallowed.


“Sure, honey. Go ahead. Just don’t touch mommy, okay?”


Emily pulled her fist out of her pocket but she didn’t have the height to reach over Tara’s body, so JJ lifted her and she sprinkled the tiny bit of glitter Tara had left on the windowsill as proof of the fairies visit.


Almost immediately, Tara twitched.


“It’s working!” Emily said in delight, “The fairy dust is working! The fairies still like us! They’re waking Mommy up!”

Awww again! I'm glad that Emily fully believes in wellmeaning fairies again - and that the fairy magic woke Tara. :wink

Quote:
“Hey. How’s everyone doing in here? Wanted to check in before my ride gets here.”


In one fell stride, Willow pushed back her chair, stood up, and all but ran at Xander, throwing herself around him as she tried to hold on to his back with her claws. She kissed Xander’s cheek three times in quick succession before her weak grip made her plant her feet back firmly on the ground.


She held Xander’s face and looked as deeply into his eye as she’d only ever looked at Tara before.


“Thank. You.”


Xander swallowed deeply and wrapped his arms around Willow. When they pulled away, Willow swiped at her eyes with her bandages and returned to Tara, whose brow was creased in confusion.


“Xander saved you,” Willow explained, her eyes filling with fresh tears but a smile staying prominent on her face, “You were knocked out and I ran back in but I couldn’t get you out from under the piece of wood that had fallen on you. He ran in after me and lifted it off you so we could carry you out.”


Tara’s head turned toward Xander and her eyes filled as well.


“Thank you,” she said in an echoing tone, her voice raw from the ordeal and it being her first chance to speak properly

Quote:
“Kids, give your Uncle Xander a hug,” Willow instructed and they were all quite happy to swarm him with hugs.


There were lots of ‘thanks Uncle Xander!’ and ‘we love you Uncle Xander!’ as Xander basked in some well-deserved love

YAY! Xander deserves all the gratitude and love they're showering him with! He really is the hero of the whole extended family!

Quote:
“What are we doing, Jess?” she asked in a shaken tone, “This back and forth? I was enjoying it, getting close to you again but I don’t know where I stand. And maybe I don’t deserve—”


Suddenly Alice was cut off as Jesse leaned across the car and pressed his lips to her.


Electricity buzzed between them; both of them feeling a crackle as Jesse pulled away again.


“All I know is that when I was watching that house burn down, it was you and Ella I wanted to know was safe.”


Alice blinked several times and slowly smiled.


“Why does it always take someone we love going into the hospital to get our act together?”


“Let’s keep it together this time,” Jesse suggested with an affectionate crease of his eyes.


Alice reached across to grip Jesse’s arm.


“Move back home. I know it’s quick but—”


“No,” Jesse replied easily, and for a moment, Alice was crushed, “I want somewhere new. A fresh start. Somewhere you can throw a housewarming party with wine and cheese and a basement where I can have a man cave hidden away and you won’t ever have to clean up empty beer bottles.”


Alice’s grin almost broke off of her face.


“Screw the wine and cheese. Pop me a tab on a Bud light and put the game on.”


“No can do,” Jesse shook his head with the same grin, “No woman of mine can have that awful a taste in beer.”


They came together again in numerous kisses with laughter breaking out between them.

Double YAY! :applause :dumbo I'm so glad those two found their way back to each other! :bigkiss Ella will be overjoyed!
Now I just hope that after all the injuries are healed Willow and Tara will be able to concentrate on the good things which came out of this catastrophe instead of letting the bad memories taint their anniversary in the future.

Quote:
“I-It was me.”


Willow spun around at her wife’s voice.


“Tara?”


Tara blinked up at Willow.


“I set a fire. And I forgot to put the spark guard up when I went to bed.”


What a shame that my suspicion was right! :cry The only thing that would have been worse if one of the kids truly had been responsible. Poor JJ and Robyn, believing that Willow, Tara and Kayden getting hurt was their fault. And poor Tara and Willow for really having to feel guilty, even if it was just negligence.

Quote:
Willow then returned to Tara, who was quietly crying.


“Darling,” Willow said softly as she quickly came over to sit next to her wife, “You weren’t the only one there. I didn’t put the guard up either.”


Tara wiped her eyes on the corner of her gown and Willow wished she could be the one to do it.


“They’re going to sue us, Willow,” Tara cried softly, “That could bankrupt us!”


“Ssh,” Willow comforted gently, “It doesn’t matter right now. All that matters is everyone is okay.”


She rubbed her claw on Tara’s arm.


“What have we learned in therapy?” she asked and made sure Tara had her gaze, “We can’t worry about the things we can’t control.”

From this interaction I fear they don't have an insurance that would cover the damage caused be their negligence? I'm wondering how you will get them out of this mess. Is it too much to ask for that the park owners have a fire insurance that fully covers the damage if one of the guests causes a fire (so long as it's not intentional)?.

Or maybe Anya as a lawyer can "nicely convince" >:) the owners not to sue if she can point out that they broke some law by not installing fire alarms in wooden cabins meant for human habitation or something like that?

Quote:
“It only hurts to breathe,” Tara said softly, “But I always breathe easier with you.”


Her breath caught.


“Without you, I wouldn’t breathe at all.”

Quote:
“Oh, Willow,” she said softly and looked up sincerely, “I’ll be your hands.”


Willow was in some pain but managed to smile.


“I know.”


She kept Tara’s gaze.


“And I know you’ll do a good job. Because you’re already my heart. And my heart has been full since the moment I met you.”

:flower :bigkiss


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 29th 2020
PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2020 6:00 am 
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Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs! :whip


:bow

Quote:
Thank you for hearing my plea and posting this chapter today! :bow


I will always do my best! Sometimes it might not be possible if there's no gap in my schedule to do final edits and stuff but you are an extremely loyal reader and I appreciate that so greatly.

Quote:
Thank god - and Xander and Woofy and Aurey - that they all got out of this inferno alive, although it was a very close call!


It was close, too close! As close as the shooting, though thankfully there was some reassurance a bit quicker!

Quote:
Poor Willow, this decision she had to made but couldn't really (which I totally understand) feels horribly close to the decision Tara demanded from her to choose the babies' lifes over Tara's if it ever came to that.


Horrifically confronting and with little time to ponder. Though even if the afterlife Tara would have never forgiven Willow for choosing her!

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Thank God that Xander came to the rescue! Then again I probably shouldn't be surprised that the fairies chose him as the hero to save Tara, considering that he is the father of a Pixie... :wink


:laugh Yes!

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For once I can totally understand how Anya is feeling - luckily I never was in such a situation.


And hopefully never will be!

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Awww! So great that Aurey saved her best friend (dogwise) out of the burning house!


Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity - she is the dog of an FBI agent after all!

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That almost had me teary eyed, Kayden instinctively fully taking on the role of the big brother in this moment and restoring Emily's faith in the good fairies. I feel that is one of the good things coming out of this catastrophe, Kayden fully slipping into the family puzzle as son and brother (also indicated by him calling Tara and Willow Mom and Momma since Tara found him dazed in the bedroom).


It's a very important shift and in other circumstances might have taken a lot longer since in this kind of situation, everything has to go at Kayden's pace. So I'm glad in that sense that they got the shock to the system needed to acknowledge that Kayden is family, every bit as much as the rest.

Quote:
I really hope she will regain full dexterity and sensitivity of her hands. It would be sad if she couldn't fully feel touching the skin of her wife and kids (and all other things, but those are the most important for her surely) in the future.
My heart ached for Willow for not being able to soothe her kids by touching and caressing them with her hands.


You and I are on the same page with this one!

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Awww, "salami twins", so adorable!


:)

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Awww again! I'm glad that Emily fully believes in wellmeaning fairies again - and that the fairy magic woke Tara. :wink


Sometimes its nice to believe (even if maybe it was all the voices and bodies moving about that made Tara come to... :wink)

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YAY! Xander deserves all the gratitude and love they're showering him with! He really is the hero of the whole extended family!


He absolutely is!

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Double YAY! :applause :dumbo I'm so glad those two found their way back to each other! :bigkiss Ella will be overjoyed!


They had to! I'm never one for an unhappy ending. Bitter sweet sometimes maybe, but if you're meant to be in my verse, you will be!

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Now I just hope that after all the injuries are healed Willow and Tara will be able to concentrate on the good things which came out of this catastrophe instead of letting the bad memories taint their anniversary in the future.


In the distant future? Nah, their anniversary will always be special. One awful one won't change that. In the immediate future? Well, it's stressful...

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What a shame that my suspicion was right! :cry The only thing that would have been worse if one of the kids truly had been responsible. Poor JJ and Robyn, believing that Willow, Tara and Kayden getting hurt was their fault. And poor Tara and Willow for really having to feel guilty, even if it was just negligence.


It is an awful lot to get the head around, huh?

Quote:
From this interaction I fear they don't have an insurance that would cover the damage caused be their negligence? I'm wondering how you will get them out of this mess. Is it too much to ask for that the park owners have a fire insurance that fully covers the damage if one of the guests causes a fire (so long as it's not intentional)?.


They personally don't have liability insurance, no. I don't think most people do, unless they run a business. Do the park owners have insurance? Oh absolutely. But that doesn't mean they still won't go after the perpetrators, unfortunately.

Quote:
Or maybe Anya as a lawyer can "nicely convince" >:) the owners not to sue if she can point out that they broke some law by not installing fire alarms in wooden cabins meant for human habitation or something like that?


Anya would be a rottweiler, you're right!

Thanks so much for your feedback!



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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (July 29th 2020
PostPosted: Tue Aug 04, 2020 6:00 am 
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Chapter Sixteen




Tara grabbed her old nursing pillow from when the twins were little from its spot on the couch beside her and quickly pulled it over her ribcage when she felt a sneeze coming on.


Her first few sneezes after waking from the fire had been some of the most painful moments of her life but she got a tip before leaving the hospital about utilizing the nursing pillow as a buffer and very quickly sneezing, coughing, and even standing had become a lot more tolerable.


From the kitchen, she heard Willow calling her name and braced herself to stand.


“Coming, sweetheart. Don’t try to pour your own juice again!”


Tara cautiously stood and gently walked toward the kitchen, where she could still hear Willow saying her name.


“Willow, I’m coming!” she called, trying hard to stem any frustration as she arrived, “What is it?”


Willow was sitting at the island with her laptop open and looked over her shoulder when Tara got there.


“Oh, I wasn’t talking to you.”


Tara bent her arms softly at her hips.


“If you’ve taken another lover named Tara than your type is even more narrow than I thought.”


Willow smiled. She gestured Tara over.


“The voice recognition system on my laptop was driving me crazy so I developed my own.”


She used her minimally bandage-free fingertips to press a button on her laptop. A computer-generated woman’s head popped up that looked eerily similar to Tara.


“How may I assist you?” it asked.


“I call it TARA,” Willow grinned, “Technological Articulation Resolution Application.”


Tara arched an eyebrow.


“I hooked it up to the virtual assistant,” Willow continued excitedly, “TARA, dim the lights.”


The lights dimmed and Tara settled her arms across her chest.


“You developed a system you can tell what to do and named it after me?”


Willow nodded eagerly. She leaned in toward her wife.


“Do you want to give me a smooch, Tara?”


“I am an automated application,” the voice spoke from the laptop, “I am not capable of physical affection.”


“So I’m not completely replaceable,” Tara added dryly.


Willow hooked a finger in the air and curled it for Tara to get closer. She kissed Tara softly.


“I didn’t mean for you to get up. How are you feeling?”


“I’m getting used to the pain,” Tara replied evenly, “Learning how to take easier breaths. It’s helping with the panic that starts to rise anytime I think of the crapstorm that’s heading our way.”


“I know,” Willow breathed softly and reached over to brush the backs of her fingertips on Tara’s cheek, “How bad are we talking panic wise? Should you move up your therapy appointment?”


“It’s not that bad,” Tara reassured, “And we’d have to pay a rescheduling fee. We can’t be throwing away money right now.”


“I know that Tara but your health is more important,” Willow replied insistently.


“I know,” Tara replied softly, “I know it took way too long for me to get that, but I do now. I promise I’ll speak up if I need help.”


“My health barometer is at full capacity,” the laptop spoke, “I have a full battery and am free of viruses.”


Both Willow and Tara looked at each other and burst out laughing.


“Oh, no,” Tara wheezed as she clutched her ribs, “Laughter not good.”


“Oh, baby,” Willow replied sympathetically, “Let’s get you back on the couch.”


Willow helped Tara back into her chair, though her help was mostly just following her inside. She used the back of her arm to inch Tara’s pillow closer to her and her mouth to pull Tara’s blanket over her.


“Oh, honey,” Tara said tenderly, “Thank you.”


She smiled as Willow settled beside her.


“Both of us home from work in the middle of the day and we can’t even fool around.”


Willow smirked lasciviously.


“I mean technically I don’t have to use my hands…”


Tara ducked her head and looked back at Willow.


“That’s a very alluring offer but you drive me too wild. My body can’t take it.”


Willow sighed deeply.


“Foiled by my own damn sexiness yet again.”


They laughed together and the same kind of smile settled on their faces.


“Can you even remember the last time we had whole hours to ourselves?” Willow asked wryly.


Willow watched Tara stare off into space and grew a little concerned.


“Tara?”


Tara’s head swung toward Willow.


“Sorry, I was trying to remember.”


Willow giggled.


“Exactly. It’s always Robyn’s soccer or JJ’s basketball or Lily’s piano or Emily’s art class or Kayden’s therapy.”


Tara smiled, exhausted just at the thought but there was plenty of fondness mixed in there.


“What we signed up for,” she mused thoughtfully, just as Woofy jumped up on the arm of Tara’s chair, as if he knew not to jump into her lap, “Can’t forget this little guy. I think he takes care of us more than we take care of him though.”


She scratched behind his ears and he happily settled on the spot.


“…he’s started calling us moms,” Willow said after a moment, then frowned, “Not Woofy. I’m not hallucinating on the pain meds.”


Tara reached across and brushed her palm over Willow’s wrist.


“I know who you mean,” she said softly, “I didn’t want to call attention to it.”


Willow looked up with a speck of uncertainty in her eyes.


“You’re cool with it right?”


“More than ‘cool’,” Tara replied, her smile lifting on one side, “It’s the only silver lining in all of this.”


Willow looked down at her lap.


“You know, all of this, the fire…” she paused and slowly met Tara’s gaze, “It’s really got me thinking.”


“I know what you’re going to say,” Tara replied quickly.


Willow’s eyebrows lifted on her face.


“You do?”


“Yes,” Tara nodded, then nodded once more surely, “And…yes.”


A slow smile spread on Willow’s face.


“Really?”


“Yes,” Tara smiled and nodded again, “Of course.”


Willow got bouncy on her seat but Tara had to hold her hands out.


“But it’s not our decision.”


Willow sat somberly in her chair again.


“Right.”


She slowly cocked her head at Tara.


“So…when do we ask him?”



“Um scuse me can everyone listen?” Lily called politely and flashed her teeth in a happy smile.


Her voice didn’t quite carry across the whole of the back yard and she started to bounce nervously when nobody paid attention to her.


“Um…”


“Listen the hell up!” Robyn yelled across their, and several yards over.


“ROBYN!” Willow and Tara said sternly, in unison.


Robyn just shrugged; everyone was listening now. Her methods had merits.


The quiet chatter among the crowd — the whole gang, even Angel as well as Ira and Michelle and a select few neighbors — died down and everyone focused on Lily. Lily was standing on a storage box being used as a podium and bounced up on her toes excitedly with all eyes on her.


“Um, today we would like to resent, I mean present, Aurey McNally with the Bravest Dog In The World award for recusing our dog Sir Woofington Rosenberg-Maclay The First from the fire.”


“That’s not his name,” Robyn scoffed from the side.


“Yeah, it is!” Lily threw back petulantly.


Robyn crossed her arms on her chest.


I named him.”


“You don’t even remember!” Lily shot back.


“That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen!” Robyn returned and from the sidelines, Willow winced.


“Emily,” Willow whispered, gesturing for her to bring the medal she had in her hands up.


Emily placed the medal over Aurey’s head, who even ducked her head to accept it and stood proudly as it hung over her neck.


“My girl!” Jesse hollered and threw his arm over Alice’s shoulders and threw her a wink, “My other girl.”


Ella looked up with a pout and Jesse grinned and he stroked her hair.


“Blessed am I amongst women.”


Back on the podium, Lily clasped her hands together.


“And we would like to present Sir Woof—” she paused when she saw Robyn rolled her eyes and only her mothers’ unrelenting gaze on her stopped her from sticking out her tongue, “Woofy with being the Bestest Good Boy award for waking JJ.”


JJ placed a smaller medal over Woofy’s neck, who was pleased with any attention.


“And finally,” Lily popped her words excitedly, “We want to present…”


She looked down to read from her hand.


“Alexander, um…uh…Lav…uh…Lav-uhl?…um…yeah.”


She looked back up and flashed her teeth again.


“Uncle Xander with the Bestest Uncle In The Whole World And Saving Mom From The Fire And Um Just Being Really Cool award.”


“I was looking forward to being called a good boy,” Xander grinned as he kneeled to accept a medal that Kayden managed to get on him one-armed.


“Later!” Anya shouted from the crowd.


There was an uncomfortable chuckle around the yard.


Lily jumped off the podium.


“That’s all I got.”


Everyone clapped — except Willow, who approached Xander instead for a hug.


“It’s not personal that the dogs went first, Xand. Thanks for being a good sport.”


“You could have sprung for the real gold,” Anya commented as she bandied the medal about, “Oh well. We can use it in our Olympic role play.”


“Okay,” Willow smiled to conceal a groan, “I’m not on enough pain meds for this.”


She pivoted and walked away with a rub of her arm on Xander’s arm; her primary way of expressing affection until she got her bandages off. She weaved between Robyn and Pixie running off with a soccer ball and Aurey and Woofy zooming around with the medals waving in the wind until she was stopped by two people she hadn’t seen in a while.


“Will, Garrett!” she said warmly and did the lean-in hug she was becoming accustomed to, “You live six houses away, it might as well be six miles. I can’t keep up with your social lives.”


“It’s a blessing and a curse,” Will said with a glint in his eyes, “But I can’t say which curse amongst polite company!”


Garrett bumped Will’s shoulder and Willow chuckled. She spotted Kayden walking by with his plate heading for the grill that Buffy was running and nudged his hand.


“Kayden, have you met Will and Garrett?” she asked, standing behind him and kissing the back of his head, “They just live across the street. We’re due a good catch-up. We haven’t been to yours since your Donna End-Of-Summer Soiree last year.”


“It’s nice to meet you, Kayden,” Will offered his hand and narrowed his eyes just slightly at Kayden, “Are you in the high school?”


Kayden nodded politely.


“Yes, sir.”


“Oh please, I only like being called sir in—” Will started, then both Willow and Garrett kicked him and he blushed, “Anyway. It’s good to meet you too, young man.”


“Very nice to meet you,” Garrett echoed.


Kayden looked back at Willow.


“Can I go get more potato salad?”


“Of course,” Willow smiled and nodded.


Will watched Kayden go and looked down his nose at Willow.


“You’ve acquired another one in the meantime. Are you going for a full synchronized swimming team?”


“Something like that,” Willow replied easily.


“He’s a nice boy,” Garrett said with a kind smile, “…you guys are the best thing for him.”


All of their eyes averted at what was being unsaid.


“Show me these,” Will thrust his hands out to take Willow’s arms, “A lesbian without her hands. It’s like a Greek tragedy.”


“The doctors say I’ll get pretty much full function back,” Willow replied, twisting her hands around indicatively.


Garrett put his hand on Willow’s upper arm.


“Scars are so in these days.”


“Yaas, Seal is everything,” Will agreed with a definitive nod, “I’ll take a kiss from that rose any day.”


Willow grinned.


“You should put that on the agenda.”


Will and Garrett looked at each other, then back at Willow fondly.


A while later, when everyone had a plate and had found a seat made of whatever they could perch their tush on, Willow was in the kitchen smiling at how well they’d pulled off their get-together without her hands or any kind of lifting from Tara.


“Uh, Willow?”


Willow lifted her mouth from the straw in her glass of Dr. Pepper with a sheepish smile.


“Hey, Angel,” she said with a welcoming nod, “How nice to see you in the daylight.”


“Been working less. Trying to,” Angel replied with his hands in the pockets of his slacks, “Can I speak to you?”


“Sure,” Willow nodded, “Thinking of upgrading the wheels? Rose has some pretty good contacts if you’re interested. She took me to a Ferrari dealership a few months ago and if I wasn’t certain it would break my marriage up, I would have signed the dotted line then and there.”


“No,” Angel shook his head, then paused, “Maybe. But later.”


He turned his back to the door and looked over his shoulder suspiciously for a moment. As he turned back, one hand came out of his pocket and with it, a ring box. He popped the lid and held it out for Willow to see.


Two silver rings with intricate designs sat with each other. They were newly shined.


Willow looked up and slowly smiled.


“Angel, I’m flattered but do you really want to take on all of my children? We come as a package deal.”


Angel shifted uncomfortably and Willow reached out to touch the rings. She looked up at Angel with an arched eyebrow.


“Does this mean what I think it means?”


Angel gave a slight, almost imperceptible nod.


“They belonged to my parents,” he explained and looked down at the rings yet again, “You’re her best friend. Do you think she’d like it? Or should I get her a real diamond?”


Willow put her arm on Angel’s arm, which made him bristle uncomfortably but he didn’t move.


“I think,” she said with an affectionate tone, “That you’re her best friend. And that you already know the answer to your question.”


Angel pulled his ring box back, closed it, and put it back in his pocket.


“Can I intrude on your party?”


“You wanna do it right now?” Willow asked in surprise.


Angel nodded once.


“Been feeling like…” he paused and considered his words, “Seizing the moment a lot lately.”


Willow nodded slowly, understanding.


“Well, please, hijack away. Give us all something to gossip about.”


She wanted to hug him but resisted because he seemed nervous enough already.


“Go get ‘em, slugger,” she tried instead though sensed that didn’t inspire much either, “I do have one tip…”


A few minutes later Willow walked back out into the yard.


“TARA! Cue romantic music and turn the solar lights on.”


“Damn lady, that’s your wife! You could say please!” Robyn shouted loudly.


“Robyn,” Willow hissed, blushing under all of the stares suddenly coming her way, “You know who I’m talking to.”


Robyn’s tongue poked out between her teeth.


“Yeah, but they don’t.”


She ran away giggling before Willow could react. Willow held her arms up in frustration and had to let them fall back down by her side.


She took a breath and walked over to Tara, who had a real chair with arms for her to rest on. Willow kicked over an upturned crate and plopped herself down beside her wife.


“Perfect. Front row seats.”


“To what?” Tara asked with an arched eyebrow.


Willow grinned.


A minute or so later, Angel began his walk across the yard to where Buffy was adding extra potatoes on the grill.


Angel took her hand from behind and she turned and leaned into him. He kissed her on the head.


And then he dropped to one knee.


“Angel?” Buffy asked in confusion, “What are you doing?”


“A little hush please,” Willow murmur-shouted to the rest of the group.


Once again silence descended. Angel kept his gaze focused on Buffy.


“I know you’ve always wanted me to be seen more. Out of the shadows. That’s why I want to do this now, in front of everyone you love.”


He reached into his pocket and held up the ring.


“I was going to give this to you before now. I thought of it, often.”


Buffy smiled at the ring, still not quite putting together what was happening.


“It’s beautiful.”


“My people, before I knew you,” Angel started to explain and Willow had to give him credit, he didn’t break stride once, “They exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It’s a Claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty. And the heart…well, you know…”


Buffy’s eyes widened as she finally figured out what was going on.”


“Wear it with the heart pointing towards you,” Angel encouraged, “It means you belong to somebody.”


He lifted his own hand and showed he was wearing his own ring.


Willow had her fingertips on Liam’s back and gave him a gentle push.


“Go, buddy. Just like Aunty Willow told you.”


Liam happily toddled over and stood between them.


“Mama, will you mawwy Daddy?”


Buffy shrieked, her hands flying up to her face.


“Oh my god! Of course, I will!”


Angel got his arm around Liam and stood with him. He held out the ring.


“Put it on.”


“You puh ih on, Daddy!” Liam giggled and some actual color filled Angel’s cheeks.


He put the ring on Buffy’s finger and they all embraced.


“Yeah!” Willow called out with a grin, stomping her foot against the ground since she couldn’t clap, “Go Angel!”


There were lots of whoops and hollers and even a tear or two was shed. All of the couples shared a kiss, including Becky and Brian. Becky threw a wink at her boyfriend.


“Don’t get any ideas, mister. I wouldn’t change a thing,” she smiled tenderly, then lifted and dropped her eyebrows, “You can buy me some new just-because-I-love-ya earrings if you want though.”


Brian smiled back.


“You must be due a new pair of pearls.”


Becky pursed her lips because the joke she wanted to make was definitely not appropriate for all of the young years scooting around this place.


Hours later when the crowd had dispersed and the kids were pooped from all of the cleaning up they were forced into doing with injured moms unable to help much.


Still, they both tried. Willow came into the kitchen after using floor scrubbers on her feet to clean the floor and saw Tara standing at the sink, doing dishes.


“Babe, don’t exert yourself,” Willow warned softly.


“It’s just dishes,” Tara replied with a soft smile, “I like to feel useful.”


Willow sneaked up behind Tara and leaned against her back while closing her arm loosely around Tara’s waist so her hands hung limp.


“That went even better than expected. We had an engagement and everything! Though I’m glad my bandages will be off before any of the kids’ birthdays roll around. I would not like to be hands-free for one of those.”


“Oh, I’m so happy for Buffy and Angel,” Tara’s smile was evident in her voice, “Was she expecting it?”


“Not at all,” Willow smiled softly, “I knew before she did, which is weird. Angel asked me for advice.”


“He clearly wanted it to be right for her,” Tara nodded as she strained the last plate, “He’s a sweetie. Oh, we’ll have to get new dresses for the wedding.”


“I think they’re keeping it small by all accounts,” Willow replied, nuzzling her nose into the back of Tara’s neck, “Neither of them have family around…it’s sad really.”


She exhaled softly.


“It’s a bad situation when I’m getting my jollies from nosing your hairline.”


Tara pulled the plug and dried her hands before turning to Willow.


“Actually, I think I might be ready to sleep lying down again.”


Willow arched an eyebrow.


“Don’t tease me.”


Tara rubbed Willow’s hips with her thumbs.


“I love to tease you,” she leaned in and pecked Willow’s lips, “But I’m not teasing you about this. My ribs are much better. I don’t even need the painkillers anymore.”


“Well I will be glad to get rid of that monstrosity of a pillow that was keeping you upright in bed,” Willow shook her head, “With it’s soft, comfortable arms replacing my soft, comfortable arms.”


Tara kissed Willow’s lips again.


“Nothing could replace your soft, comfortable arms. I can’t wait to be back in them.”


Willow leaned in and pressed her nose against Tara’s.


“Sounds like we just scheduled ourselves a snuggle.”


Tara lifted her hands to Willow’s face and held her cheeks as they kissed.


They both smiled and Tara left a final kiss on Willow’s mouth before parting.


“Are we going to…?”


“Oh!” Willow replied quickly, “Yes! Yes. Okay. I’ll um…”


She gestured broadly and her arms fell by her side.


“We’ll ‘um’,” Tara said a calm voice, “Together.”


Willow smiled easily. She offered her hand and had to pull it back.


“Still getting used to that.”


Tara put her arm around Willow’s shoulders and appreciated the help to get up the stairs, especially when they continued up the second flight up to the attic.


Tara knocked on the panel door and waited for a ‘come in’ before she pulled the door enough for her and Willow to step in.


“Nugget, can we speak to you for a minute?” Willow asked as Tara closed the door over again.


Kayden had been sketching one-handed but put his sketchbook aside when they’d walked in.


“Um, yeah, of course.”


Willow and Tara sat on his bed together while he stayed at his desk, with his chair turned politely toward them. Before either Willow or Tara could say anything else, Kayden’s knee started to rock.


“Was I rude to those guys? Going to get potato salad?”


Both Willow and Tara exchanged confused looks, but Willow caught up first.


“Oh, no, sweetie, not at all,” she reassured quickly and looked to Tara to explain, “I introduced him to Will and Garrett.”


“Oh, it was so nice to see them for longer than five seconds waving across the street,” Tara said with a smile.


Kayden pulled at the fraying threads on his sling.


“A-are they a…a couple?”


“Yeah, honey,” Willow nodded while crossing and uncrossing her ankles, “They moved in when the twins were just little. They call themselves their fairy godfathers.”


“They’re the ones who gave the twins the glitter ball in their room,” Tara added.


“Yes, we’re very Jane Fonda them,” Willow said with a waved of her arm, resulting in an arched eyebrow from both Tara and Kayden, which looked adorably learned, “What? Only they’re allowed make gay icon puns?”


“Anyway,” Tara continued easily and looked back at Kayden, “We wanted to talk to you about something.”


Kayden suddenly looked gray.


“You’re not in trouble,” Tara reassured quickly, “Not at all.”


“Definitely not,” Willow shook her head, “We just wanted to talk to you about, well…”


She shared a smile with Tara.


“Well, Kayden, we wanted to see how you’d feel if we…asked to adopt you?”


The room suddenly went very quiet.


Willow gulped. Tara felt her hopes dashed but wanted to ease the shocked look on Kayden’s face.


“You have to know that whatever your answer is, nothing will change.”


“Yes,” Willow nodded quickly, sensing what Tara was doing, “This is your home. Nothing will change that.”


Kayden’s head reeled back and snapped in place.


“Don’t you stop getting paid if you adopt me?”


Willow and Tara exchanged confused looks.


“What do you mean?” Willow asked, slowly dragging her gaze back to Kayden, “Are you worried about college? Because we’ll have the same in your account as all of the others by the time that comes around. That won’t change.”


Kayden frowned.


“Huh?”


“The money the state pays us to foster you,” Willow explained slowly, “We put it in a college fund for you.”


Kayden’s eyes widened considerably while Willow kept speaking.


“And we add the same amount to it that we add to all of the kids’ accounts plus we’ve been diversifying a bit to make up the time we’ve missed,” she stopped herself and waved a hand, “It’s boring business stuff but you’ll have what you need. So don’t worry about that.”


Willow and Tara looked at each other and Tara braced herself as her eyes found Kayden again.


“But know that it’s okay to say—”


“Yes.”


Kayden felt like his brain was short-circuiting with all of this information but then his eyes blinked open and all he could feel from these women; this house; this family.


His family.


“Yes,” he repeated quickly as if the idea was about to be snatched away, “Please. Yes. Yes. Please.”


Tara stood and reached to touch Kayden’s face.


“Darling, you don’t have to say please. It would be our honor.”


Kayden threw himself at Tara, whose breath left her lungs quickly and with a soft ‘oof’.


Kayden backed off and looked stricken.


“Mom, I’m so sorry.”


“It’s okay,” Tara comforted him, holding his face, “I barely felt it. They’re getting better.”


She kissed his forehead.


“And you can think about this for as long—”


“No,” Kayden interrupted, politely, “I don’t need to think about it.”


Willow stood and embraced Kayden from the other side.


“We love you, Kay.”


Kayden’s eyes closed and he started to cry.


Willow kissed his head and Tara rubbed his neck.


“We don’t need a piece of paper to tell us you’re our boy,” Willow said softly, “But we’re going to get it anyway. Just to be safe.”


“Because you are,” Tara added.


She pressed three kisses to Kayden’s temple.


“You are safe.”



Tara sat in the waiting room at the hospital and flicked through a magazine.


She wasn’t really paying attention, so got up to get a cup of water from the cooler. She didn’t take for granted the zero pain she had upon standing after so many weeks limited by her bruised ribs.


The only negative was that without the physical pain to focus, she was growing even more worried about when the people who ran the cabins were going to get in touch about the damages and just how much they would be.


They’d just promised Kayden college and that wasn’t a decade away, it was just a couple more years. JJ would be going off even sooner and all of their children had come accustomed to their hobbies and vacations and days out and the latest gadgets. She and Willow had worked hard for it. And now one stupid mistake could ruin it all.


They were all okay, she had to keep reminding herself. They were all okay. Alive.


The door to the treatment room opened and Willow walked out, bandage-free.


Tara stood up and strode over.


“Show me.”


Willow turned her hands over. The skin was blotchy and there were some rough skin and patches of indentations but they were healed.


Tara brought Willow’s hands up to her face and kissed each palm.


“Beautiful,” she whispered reverently in their own little corner of the hospital.


Willow’s eyes suddenly filled with tears.


“I was worried I would lose sensation,” she said with a sniffle, “That I wouldn’t feel it when I touch you or the kids. But I felt that. I felt all of that.”


Tara kissed Willow’s eyes, then offered her hand.


“Let’s go home.”


Willow took it and held on as tight as she ever had before.

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (August 4th 202
PostPosted: Wed Aug 05, 2020 3:07 am 
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6. Sassy Eggs

Joined: Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:01 am
Posts: 360
Dibs! :whip

Quote:
They personally don't have liability insurance, no. I don't think most people do, unless they run a business.

That's different in Germany because a private liability insurance is pretty cheap here (about 100 € a year = ca. 120 $).

Quote:
“The voice recognition system on my laptop was driving me crazy so I developed my own.”


She used her minimally bandage-free fingertips to press a button on her laptop. A computer-generated woman’s head popped up that looked eerily similar to Tara.


“How may I assist you?” it asked.


“I call it TARA,” Willow grinned, “Technological Articulation Resolution Application.”


Tara arched an eyebrow.


“I hooked it up to the virtual assistant,” Willow continued excitedly, “TARA, dim the lights.”


The lights dimmed and Tara settled her arms across her chest.


“You developed a system you can tell what to do and named it after me?”


Willow nodded eagerly. She leaned in toward her wife.


“Do you want to give me a smooch, Tara?”


“I am an automated application,” the voice spoke from the laptop, “I am not capable of physical affection.”


“So I’m not completely replaceable,” Tara added dryly.

:laugh Bye SIRI, hello TARA!

I loved the Award ceremony!
Quote:
“Um, today we would like to resent, I mean present, Aurey McNally with the Bravest Dog In The World award for recusing our dog Sir Woofington Rosenberg-Maclay The First from the fire.”


“That’s not his name,” Robyn scoffed from the side.


“Yeah, it is!” Lily threw back petulantly.

Yeah small minded Robyn, that's certainly the name the fairies call him! :wink

Quote:
“And finally,” Lily popped her words excitedly, “We want to present…”


She looked down to read from her hand.


“Alexander, um…uh…Lav…uh…Lav-uhl?...um…yeah.”


She looked back up and flashed her teeth again.


“Uncle Xander with the Bestest Uncle In The Whole World And Saving Mom From The Fire And Um Just Being Really Cool award.”


“I was looking forward to being called a good boy,” Xander grinned as he kneeled to accept a medal that Kayden managed to get on him one-armed.


“Later!” Anya shouted from the crowd.

AWWW! and :rofl

Quote:
As he turned back, one hand came out of his pocket and with it, a ring box. He popped the lid and held it out for Willow to see.


Two silver rings with intricate designs sat with each other. They were newly shined.


Willow looked up and slowly smiled.


“Angel, I’m flattered but do you really want to take on all of my children? We come as a package deal.”

:lol

I feell honoured that you took up my idea that Angel could ask Willow for help with his proposal to Buffy and brought it to life in your story! :bigkiss
Quote:
“Angel?” Buffy asked in confusion, “What are you doing?”


“A little hush please,” Willow murmur-shouted to the rest of the group.


Once again silence descended. Angel kept his gaze focused on Buffy.


“I know you’ve always wanted me to be seen more. Out of the shadows. That’s why I want to do this now, in front of everyone you love.”


He reached into his pocket and held up the ring.


“I was going to give this to you before now. I thought of it, often.”


Buffy smiled at the ring, still not quite putting together what was happening.


“It’s beautiful.”


“My people, before I knew you,” Angel started to explain and Willow had to give him credit, he didn’t break stride once, “They exchanged this as a sign of devotion. It’s a Claddagh ring. The hands represent friendship, the crown represents loyalty. And the heart…well, you know…”


Buffy’s eyes widened as she finally figured out what was going on.”


“Wear it with the heart pointing towards you,” Angel encouraged, “It means you belong to somebody.”


He lifted his own hand and showed he was wearing his own ring.


Willow had her fingertips on Liam’s back and gave him a gentle push.


“Go, buddy. Just like Aunty Willow told you.”


Liam happily toddled over and stood between them.


“Mama, will you mawwy Daddy?”


Buffy shrieked, her hands flying up to her face.


“Oh my god! Of course, I will!”


Angel got his arm around Liam and stood with him. He held out the ring.


“Put it on.”


“You puh ih on, Daddy!” Liam giggled and some actual color filled Angel’s cheeks.


He put the ring on Buffy’s finger and they all embraced.


“Yeah!” Willow called out with a grin, stomping her foot against the ground since she couldn’t clap, “Go Angel!”

Wonderful! :bigkiss :flower So romantic and cute and with the funny element of Buffy taking so long to realize that Angel is proposing although him kneeling down should have made it obvious right from the start! Great idea of Willow to let toddler Liam ask the actual proposal question for Angel!

Quote:
“Well, Kayden, we wanted to see how you’d feel if we…asked to adopt you?”

Quote:
“Yes.”


Kayden felt like his brain was short-circuiting with all of this information but then his eyes blinked open and all he could feel from these women; this house; this family.


His family.


“Yes,” he repeated quickly as if the idea was about to be snatched away, “Please. Yes. Yes. Please.”


Tara stood and reached to touch Kayden’s face.


“Darling, you don’t have to say please. It would be our honor.”

Quote:
“We love you, Kay.”


Kayden’s eyes closed and he started to cry.


Willow kissed his head and Tara rubbed his neck.


“We don’t need a piece of paper to tell us you’re our boy,” Willow said softly, “But we’re going to get it anyway. Just to be safe.”


“Because you are,” Tara added.


She pressed three kisses to Kayden’s temple.


“You are safe.”

YAY, that almost drove me to happy tears! Kayden is going to become a Rosenberg-Maclay officially! :banana :applause :dumbo
Now I fervently hope the judge Tara insulted won't try to sabotage the adoption somehow...

Quote:
Tara brought Willow’s hands up to her face and kissed each palm.


“Beautiful,” she whispered reverently in their own little corner of the hospital.


Willow’s eyes suddenly filled with tears.


“I was worried I would lose sensation,” she said with a sniffle, “That I wouldn’t feel it when I touch you or the kids. But I felt that. I felt all of that.”


Tara kissed Willow’s eyes, then offered her hand.


“Let’s go home.”


Willow took it and held on as tight as she ever had before.

:flower I'm very relieved that Willow regained full feeling in her hands!


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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (August 4th 202
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2020 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
Ms. Moderator Fantastico
User avatar

Joined: Sat Feb 21, 2009 1:22 pm
Posts: 4406
Topics: 38
Will's redemption

Quote:
Dibs! :whip


Queen!

Quote:
That's different in Germany because a private liability insurance is pretty cheap here (about 100 € a year = ca. 120 $).


That is a good system!

Quote:
:laugh Bye SIRI, hello TARA!


Exactly!

Quote:
I loved the Award ceremony!


Awesome!

Quote:
Yeah small minded Robyn, that's certainly the name the fairies call him! :wink


A rose by any other name...

Quote:
AWWW! and :rofl


:D

Quote:
I feell honoured that you took up my idea that Angel could ask Willow for help with his proposal to Buffy and brought it to life in your story!


I was honored you thought so much about my verse that you had such ideas! It was about time for them to get hitched anyway, I think :)

Quote:
Wonderful! :bigkiss :flower So romantic and cute and with the funny element of Buffy taking so long to realize that Angel is proposing although him kneeling down should have made it obvious right from the start! Great idea of Willow to let toddler Liam ask the actual proposal question for Angel!


I think she thought it would never happen and her brain took a minute to catch up!

Quote:
YAY, that almost drove me to happy tears! Kayden is going to become a Rosenberg-Maclay officially! :banana :applause :dumbo
Now I fervently hope the judge Tara insulted won't try to sabotage the adoption somehow...


Everything will work out, don't you worry.

Quote:
:flower I'm very relieved that Willow regained full feeling in her hands!


Me too <3

Thanks so much for your feedback!



Update Directly Below

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 Post subject: Re: Family Confidential 3: The Boy Ultimatum (August 4th 202
PostPosted: Fri Aug 07, 2020 5:00 am 
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Ms. Moderator Fantastico
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Topics: 38


Chapter Seventeen




Tara watched Kayden run his hand up and down his cast, tapping it nervously in spots.


She leaned over in the little plastic hospital chair to whisper to him.


“Do you want me to come in with you?”


Kayden tried to keep his arms still. His eyes followed the tile on the floor.


“I’ve had it done before.”


Tara loosely stretched her arm around the back of his chair.


“Do you want me to come in with you?” she repeated softly.


Kayden swallowed then his eyes glanced furtively at Tara and he nodded.


“Kayden West,” someone called and Kayden looked up apprehensively.


Tara put a gentle hand on Kayden’s back and stood with him. They walked into the treatment room at the pediatric hospital, which had lots of smiling animals adorning the walls and equipment, including stitched into the breast pocket of the doctor who was smiling cheerily at them - the doctor and the monkey.


“Getting your cast taken off today?” the doctor asked with a laugh that threw his head back enough to see his nose hair.


Kayden nodded.


“I am Dr. Gabe and we’ll have this thing off in a jiffy,” Dr. Gabe said as he fetched the small handheld saw, “Now it may sound real, but I promise you, this thing can’t cut skin at all. I’ll show you!”


He rubbed it against his own skin to demonstrate but it didn’t help the nervous tapping of Kayden’s foot.


Kayden knew the saw wouldn’t hurt him, he had felt it before. But it didn’t stop the memory of his uncle sitting beside him as he got his previous cast off, a cast there because of him, calling Kayden names because he flinched once.


Then he felt Tara’s fingertips over the back of his hand.


“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,” she sang softly, “Beautiful boy.”


She didn’t look at him on purpose, knowing he’d be embarrassed, and Kayden felt that little shiver on the base of his spine that he’d come to recognize as love.


“Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,” Tara continued to sing, acting like she was just humming nonchalantly into the room all the while holding Kayden’s hand loosely on top, “Beautiful boy.”


The cast was off in seconds and Kayden’s arm naturally floated up. He smiled.


“Cool.”


“All done, young man. Now don’t go jumping out of any more planes!” Dr. Gage said chirpily.


Kayden offered a weak smile and Tara thanked the doctor as they walked back out.


In the hallway, Kayden stopped abruptly when he saw someone he knew walking toward him.


“Oh hey…Dylan.”


“Hey Kayden,” Dylan lifted his hand in a wave as some of his sandy-blonde hair fell into his eyes, “Hey, you got your cast off.”


Kayden lifted his arm and looked at it as if it had regrown itself.


“Oh, yeah,” he said, then looked up with concern, “Are you okay?”


“I get a lot of ear infections,” Dylan shrugged, “I’m just here for a check-up.”


“Dylan!” a female voice called from further down the hall.


“Gotta go,” Dylan smiled easily, “See you at school.”


“Bye,” Kayden lifted his hand, then let it fall back down awkwardly by his side.


He continued walking out. Tara fell in step with him.


“Who was that?”


“Hmm?” Kayden murmured, then look up at Tara, “Oh, that’s Dylan. He’s in my Chemistry class.”


“I see,” Tara replied with a little smile tugging on her lips.


Back in the car, Tara belted up and put the key in the ignition but didn’t start the car.


She looked at Kayden.


“I have an idea,” she said in a conspiring tone, “Let’s play hooky.”


Kayden arched an eyebrow.


“Really?”


Truly, Tara had the afternoon off of work anyway, but revealing that would be no fun.


“I’d like to take you somewhere special to me. Are you up for it?”


Kayden nodded slowly. Tara smiled.


“Let’s go.”


She flicked on the radio to be a soundtrack for their journey and she and Kayden naturally harmonized the songs they both knew together. It was such a fun, lighthearted ride that Kayden became extremely confused when they pulled into the parking lot of a small graveyard.


Not wanting to be disrespectful, Kayden didn’t comment and just followed Tara as she led them to the middle of the graveyard.


Tara kneeled and picked up some pebbles to lay on the gravestone.


“Hi, Mom.”


Kayden noted the name engraved and blinked.


“Oh.”


Tara encouraged Kayden to kneel down with her and he did.


“This is my boy,” Tara smiled, “Isn’t his hair cool?”


Kayden ducked out of Tara’s fussing but smiled.


Tara held her hands up.


“I wanted to bring you here because it’s important to me. I get a lot of comfort and closure from visiting my mom here. It helps when I get that sadness of missing her.”


“Y-You feel like that?” Kayden asked with a gulp.


Tara nodded.


“I do,” she said slowly, tenderly, “Do you?”


Kayden looked away.


Tara put a hand on his shoulder.


“You don’t have to answer that. I just want you to know that if there’s ever any place you want to visit, we’ll take you.”


Kayden slowly looked up.


“Anywhere?”


Tara nodded once, surely.


“Anywhere.”



They stood in the heart of a Chuck E. Cheese in the midst of arcade games, amusement rides, and animatronic displays that seemed far too terrifying to be child-friendly. The smell of grease was stomach-churning and the constant high-pitched screams of giddy children was ear-piercing and soul-destroying.


“She’d take me here on my birthday,” Kayden spoke for the first time since they’d arrived, “Invite everyone from school. Spent a fortune.”


He paused and looked at Tara awkwardly.


“My, um…”


“Your mom?” Tara suggested gently, “You can call her your mom. If you can have two moms, you can have three moms.”


Kayden looked at Tara, conflicted.


“But she wasn’t,” he said, his brow a deep furrow, “Not the kind I needed. We couldn’t afford places like this. She spent all of the money in one afternoon and then I had to steal food to eat for the rest of the month.”


His eyes shut tight and his mouth thinned, having said too much. His eyes cracked open again, near tears.


“Do you think I’m bad? Do you not want to adopt me anymore?”


“Kayden, of course we want to adopt you,” Tara replied in as gentle a tone as she could manage while still being heard about the racket, “Why would I think you were bad?”


Kayden dropped his gaze to hide that they were filling up.


“For stealing?”


Someone in the rat mascot suit sauntered over and thinking perhaps Kayden had additional needs, tried to put a smile on his face with a hug and dance. Tara very politely rebuffed him and brought Kayden to a bench outside the building.


She let Kayden have a moment as she looked away.


“I had to steal once,” she said eventually, the first time she’d ever told anyone, even her therapist — even Willow. She looked back at Kayden, who was slightly shocked, “It was a bad week. My father took the few dollars I had to feed us. If it was just me, I would have starved until I got a school lunch the next day but if he didn’t get his dinner on the table, well…”


She swung her head toward Kayden with a sad smile.


“So I stole the cheapest thing I could find — some top ramen. All 10 cents worth. And I cried about it for weeks. Months. I thought I’d never get to meet my mom in heaven.”


She placed a hand on Kayden’s knee.


“So, no Kayden, I don’t think you’re bad. I think you’re good. You survived. And I think that’s great.”


Kayden rubbed his palms together in front of him.


“I guess she survived too,” he bobbed his head and closed his eyes, “Until she didn’t.”


He looked through the glass window at all of the happy kids jumping about.


“But she tried to give me a happy memory.”


His head fell down and when he looked up again, his eyes had cleared.


“I’m ready to go now.”


Tara put her arm around Kayden’s shoulders.


“I love you, Kayden.”


Kayden leaned his head on Tara.


“I love you, Mom.”


Tara smiled and kissed Kayden’s head.


As they got back into the car, Kayden’s head cocked curiously as he took a last look at the Chuck. E. Cheese building.


“It’s a cool building.”


“Hmm?” Tara asked as she slid the belt across her body.


“It’s a cool building,” Kayden repeated, “Tudor Style. Revival probably.”


Tara’s lips sloped up on one side.


“You’re really getting into your buildings.”


Kayden shrugged bashfully.


“They’re so expressive.”


They got home a few minutes before Kayden would normally get off the bus, or he and JJ would get home if JJ wasn’t staying after school for basketball.


“I have something else I want to talk to you about,” Tara said as she turned the car off, “How would you feel if we told everyone that we’re officially adopting you?”


Kayden opened his mouth to reply, then shut it again as he lingered on one word.


“Wait…”


Tara grinned.


“We filed the papers this morning before I picked you up from school.”


Kayden’s lower jaw started to tremble.


“Really?”


Tara reached out and held Kayden’s face.


“It will take a few months but it’s happening.”


Kayden’s face broke out in a slow grin. He quickly nodded.


“Yeah. I wanna tell people. Especially…”


“Your siblings?” Tara prompted.


Somehow, Kayden’s smile got bigger.


“Yeah. I want to tell them.”


Tara leaned over and kissed Kayden squarely on the forehead.


Later that evening when Willow had returned from work and Tara had finished ferrying Robyn to soccer practice and the twins to drama, they were just waiting for JJ to return home so they could start dinner.


“I swear if that boy is halfway to Schenectady again…” Willow muttered and Tara gave her a look that urged patience.


Not too many minutes later, the sound of the key in the door delighted everyone at the dinner table. JJ sauntered in and took his seat.


“Jacob,” Willow clicked her tongue.


JJ grabbed a dinner roll and took a bite.


“Am I late?”


Willow looked unamused and Tara pushed her chair back.


“I’ll get dinner.”


Robyn rolled and tossed her napkin across the table.


“Thanks for making us all wait.”


“I’m sorry, usually coach comes in and tells us he has to lock up the gym,” JJ held his hands up, “I didn’t know it was so late.”


“I bet he was calling Cleo,” Lily said, twisting in her seat and making kissing noises.


JJ mocked her tone and when Tara returned with the casserole dish, she shot him a look and he straightened up in his seat.


Tara served everyone and they all dug in hungrily after the delay. When they had finished and Willow was dishing out slices of apple pie, Tara pulled her chair a little closer to the table.


“Momma and I would like to talk to all of you.”


Robyn and Lily shared a look of mutually assured destruction and JJ braced himself.


“Kayden, do you want to tell everyone?” Tara asked gently and everyone’s shoulders dropped in relief.


Kayden’s cheeks turned pink.


“Um, well,” he said, licking his lips to rid the dryness, “I’m being adopted.”


The table grew silent.


“No!” Robyn broke first, her face tight with anger.


“Robyn,” Willow said softly, frowning.


“No!” Robyn continued angrily, “I don’t want him to leave!”


“We don’t want Kayden to leave!” Lily and Emily said in unison.


JJ’s brow furrowed into a v.


“Why can’t we adopt him?”


“We are,” Tara clarified quickly around the table, “We’re the ones who are adopting him.”


The other kids all looked around wide-eyed then suddenly jumped up and piled on Kayden with various frequencies of squeals.


Willow and Tara shared a big smile and Tara took Willow’s hand atop the table.


Tara mouthed ‘I love you’ and Willow mouthed it back before leaning in to meet her wife for a kiss.


She nuzzled Tara’s ear and kissed there too.


“Thank you.”


“For what?” Tara asked softly.


Willow smiled easily.


“For making our family truly complete.”



All five kids got together outside the door of Willow and Tara’s bedroom.


Kayden had his guitar strapped over his body and was holding it at the neck.


JJ was holding a tray with breakfast a step up from the soggy bowls of cereal and burnt toast offerings of old. Well, the toast was a little burnt but that was because someone — the culprit was still at large and not talking — changed the setting on the timer. But the scrambled egg was top notch if JJ did say so himself and he’d covered up the burned bits of the toast with avocado and strategically placed bacon.


Robyn was holding a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, so fresh that she’d almost woken her parents up early from screaming when a little bit of juice got onto a paper-cut on her finger as she put it through the juicer.


Emily was holding a small bunch of hand-picked flowers in her hands — picked from their neighbor’s garden by Lily when Emily got upset at the prospect of plucking any of Tara’s flowers — and Lily held a rectangularly shaped gift.


“Okay, Lily, open the door,” JJ said with an indicative nod of his head.


Lily reached up and tried to twist the knob, but it was locked.


“Why is it lock—” JJ started, then closed his eyes and grimaced.


“Ugh, gross,” Robyn whispered under her breath.


“What?” Lily asked, clueless.


Kayden was blushing and looking at the floor.


“I-I guess it’s cool that they still—”


“NO!” JJ and Robyn cut him off sharply.


Kayden shut up.


Lily bounced up and down in frustration.


“What are you guys talking about?!”


Suddenly the doorknob jiggled again but none of them were touching it. It opened and Tara peered her head out. Her eyes widened when she saw all of them.


“I’m sorry kids, I forgot,” she cleared her throat and tucked some hair behind her ear, “Just, um…just wait one minute.”


She closed the door again and both Robyn and JJ shared unamused glances. Less than a minute later, the door opened fully.


Willow looked thrilled — and a little red — as her breakfast tray was laid upon her with her flowers and gift. She already knew what it, the same thing she got every year. A photo of the kids. Four smiling faces, except this time it was five with Kayden actually offering a smile for the camera. It would be in a frame adorned with shells or macaroni or, like one adventurous year, love heart candy that appeared to have nibbles in it.


Willow quickly opened it with a beaming smile. Buttons this year. She put it on her nightstand to replace last year’s.


“I love it. Thank you all. This looks delicious!” she enthused as if she couldn’t see the entire top half of the toast was cremated.


“We gots an extra present for you this year, Momma!” Lily said keenly.


“You do?” Willow asked, perking herself up in bed.


Tara sat back in the bed and shared a smile with Willow.


The kids all looked to Kayden, who straightened up smartly and started playing some opening notes on his guitar.


Having grown up in the 90s, Willow recognized The Spice Girls immediately.


Robyn was the first to sing and Willow actually had to remind herself how sweet Robyn’s voice was because she barely used it. It was one thing she had undoubtedly inherited from Tara.


She used to be my only enemy and never let me be free. Catching me in places that I knew I shouldn’t be


Robyn smirked at Willow, who could only smile back.


Every other day I crossed the line, I didn’t mean to be so bad. I never thought you would become the friend I never had


Robyn ducked her head in an unusual display of shyness but raised it again to finish off her verse.


Back then I didn’t know why… why you were misunderstood. Momma, so now I see through your eyes. All that you did was love!


Suddenly Lily and Emily started screeching and Willow loved all of her children dearly but it was quite a jarring contrast.


Momma, I love you! Momma, I care! Momma, I love you! Momma, my friend! You’re my friend…


The words were so sweet that Willow didn’t care an ounce that her eardrums had almost been burst.


JJ slid in smoothly next and was bouncing on the spot to the melody Kayden was producing.


One might think it was one of the little girls that had chosen such a song from such a band to sing but Willow knew that it was JJ who had begged to go the Spice Girls reunion tour as a child.


I didn’t want to hear it then but I’m not ashamed to say it now… every little thing you said and did was right for me. I had a lot of time to think about, about the way I used to be. Never had a sense of my responsibility


He looked at Willow with sincerity as his hair flopped in his eyes.


Back then I didn’t know why… why you were misunderstood. So now I see through your eyes… all that you did was love!


Lily and Emily were up again.


Momma, I love you! Momma, I care! Momma, I love you! Momma, my friend…


You’re my friend[I],” JJ tried (and failed) to harmonize but didn’t let his off-key screech deter him, “[I]You’re my friend.”


For the last verse, Tara swung up and stood behind the kids with her arms around them all as best she could as they all sang as a group; sweet and scratchy voices joining together. Willow could hear the harmony in her heart if not her ears.


Momma, I love you! Momma, I care! Momma, I love you! Momma, my friend! Momma, I love you! Momma, I care! Momma, I love you! Momma, my friend!


Willow’s hands pressed against her own cheeks and she looked at her family in awe.


“Oh, you guys, that was the best birthday gift I’ve ever gotten! Come give me hugs! Who wants some scrambled egg?”


The girls all piled onto the bed, narrowly missing turning the sheets into a kaleidoscope of egg and orange juice, and the boys hung back, cool and collected but close enough to steal pieces of fruit from each other.


When somehow, miraculously, the whole meal was consumed without spilling, Willow was dragged downstairs by Lily and Emily to show her the elaborate birthday card they’d made with the leftover buttons from the photo frame with a few macaroni shells thrown in for good measure. The card was almost too heavy to open.


Tara made some real breakfast as Willow’s plate hadn’t been much at all shared between seven, plus Woofy who showed up when he smelled bacon.


Tara served up a stack of pancakes but let everyone come in and get them as they wanted.


Willow was able to drag herself away when all of the kids had their faces drenched with maple syrup and held out her own plate with a smile.


“Happy Birthday to me,” she said as Tara put a heart shape onto her plate, “Thank you, baby.”


“You are quite welcome,” Tara smiled easily, “Did you like your song? Kayden learned it just for you.”


“Aww,” Willow replied with a warm look on her face, “They were amazing! We could go on the road! The Rosenberg-Maclay family band.”


She thought about it and frowned.


“Never mind, I don’t even like driving with all of them in the car to Costco, never mind going on tour.”


“Still traumatized by that Costco trip, sweetie?” Tara asked as she chopped some strawberries for Willow’s pancake.


“You mean the never-ending warehouse of disorientation and ill-timed pajamas?” Willow pouted, “I lost Lily somewhere between the 100 packs of puppy pads and the tubs of peanut butter bigger than my head. They called me over the PA system and told me to come to collect my abandoned child!”


“I know, honey,” Tara soothed softly, “You don’t ever have to go back to the bad place again.”


Willow looked at Tara dubiously.


“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were mocking me.”


Tara slid the strawberries onto Willow’s plate with a sweet smile.


“Lucky you know better.”


“Mmm,” Willow replied, unconvinced but smiling, “I love when my birthday falls on a weekend. What fantastic capers have you got planned for me?


Tara frowned.


“Willow, you told us not to plan anything.”


Willow’s face slowly fell. Yeah, she’d said that, but she said it every year. It was as much a tradition as the photo frame and mediocre (but lovingly produced) breakfast.


“Oh yeah,” she covered, “No, yeah, of course.”


“You can go to Costco for me if you’re bored,” Tara teased lightly.


“Haha,” Willow replied, none too amused, “Do I at least get cake?”


Tara’s brow creased.


“You said pancakes would be enough.”


Willow nodded quickly.


“And they are. They’re delicious. Thank you.”


She pressed her best approximation of an I’m-totally-not-disappointed kiss to Tara’s cheek.


“Is there any whipped cream?”


Tara pushed off the counter to go to the fridge.


“That I can supply.”


She got the can of whipped cream and gave two little squirts of eyes to accompany the chopped strawberry mouth.


“Perfect,” Willow smiled and picked up her fork and knife to eat.


The morning stretched out into the afternoon and it became obvious to Willow that Tara really hadn’t organized any family outings or events or much to mark the day at all. They’d at least go out for dinner that evening, she figured.


“Ooh, that’s a great deal on meat,” Tara said as she flicked through a grocery store circular, “That’s perfect for the meatballs tonight.”


Willow’s bottom lip thrust up in a slight pout. Tara’s spaghetti and meatballs were top class and worthy of many a chef’s kiss, but it was also a regular meal in their rotation.


Willow shook her head to herself; she was so blessed to have the wife and family she had and here she was complaining because all she was getting was a home-cooked meal.


Tara’s phone rang and she excused herself to take it and Willow took the opportunity with the kids otherwise engaged and playing to enjoy control of the remote.


She was only five minutes into a recording of Married At First Sight when Tara returned, hurriedly pulling her coat over her body.


“Willow, I’m so sorry. I have to go out on a call.”


Willow let her feet fall to the floor.


“I get it, it’s your job.”


Tara quickly grabbed her purse.


“I need you to run an errand for me. I’m sorry, but the sale ends today and we really need the extra meat with both boys eating us out of house and home and the cabin stuff still looming.”


“Okay,” Willow agreed with a somewhat forced smile, “Where am I off to?”


Tara grimaced.



Willow stood in front of the sprawling warehouse; it’s red, white, and blue motif inspiring not patriotism but trepidation.


“My old nemesis,” she said with an evocative steeliness, “We meet again.”


“Who are you speaking to?” Lily asked as she swung Willow’s hand back and forth.


Willow looked down at her daughter.


“Death,” she answered in a resigned tone, “Of my sanity.”


She gripped Lily’s hand tighter and brought Robyn along on the other side.


“Why do I have to hold your hand?!” Robyn protested with embarrassment, “Emily is younger than me!”


“Emily does what she’s told,” Willow countered as she dragged them both across the parking lot with Emily was being flanked by the boys behind them, “We’re going in, we’re getting all the meat our arms can carry so we don’t have to come back here and we’re going back out to the car, understand?”


“Yes, Momma,” all of the kids droned together.


They entered the superstore and Willow winced at the fluorescent lights. Between shelves and carts, the sound of metal humming and hitting against each other was constant. Lots of people looked lost; others were climbing the giant metal shelves to reach something higher.


Salvation, perhaps.


Willow closed her eyes and cursed her own diminishing of her birthday that led to this.


“Come on, kids. In and out!”


Willow’s plan fell to shit about forty-five seconds into the journey.


She sped around a corner, far away from where she was trying to get to and caught Lily by the waist.


“I told you not to run off!”


Lily’s eyes were lit up excitedly.


“They have tires!”


Willow dragged Lily back, throwing a hand up.


“Of course they do. What kind of reasonable shop wouldn’t sell tires right next to the grape jelly?”


“Momma, why don’t you just get the meat and we’ll go wait,” JJ suggested with an exaggerated sigh.


Willow put the heels of her palms against the side of her head. She didn’t really like leaving all of the girls with the boys because they could be a handful but she was legitimately scared one of them would pull something heavy down on top of themselves or she’d see them go rolling back on the inside of a tire.


“Okay, but NOT in the parking lot!” Willow replied quickly, “Go get milkshakes at the McDonalds next door. I’ll send you cash.”


The girls started clapping excitedly and Willow felt guilty for feeling glad that she could see them retreating.


She fought her way through the maze of lost souls and Godzilla-impersonators until she found the meat section.


She bought enough ground beef to feed an army — so probably three days or so for Kayden and JJ — and joined the checkout line that seemed to stretch longer than it had taken her to get there.


She felt she’d aged 10 years and not just the 1 when she finally got back to the car and filled the trunk with her bags.


Just as she was about to take her phone out to call JJ, she saw arms waving from across the parking lot.


“Maw!”


“JJ?” Willow asked, quickly locking the car and hurrying over to him, “Where are the others?”


JJ’s hand was on his chest like he’d been exerted.


“Maw, I messed up.”


Willow felt a shot of fear tingle at the base of her spine.


“What happened?”


JJ clutched his head and began walking around in fast circles.


“Momma, I messed up so bad.”


Willow grabbed JJ by the shoulders.


“Jacob, what happened?!”


JJ’s jaw trembled.


“I didn’t mean to push her.”


Willow’s breath was beginning to grow ragged.


“JJ, who? What? Where?!”


JJ made wild motions with his hands.


“She wanted to climb the stairs and I thought it would be good exercise and I picked her up to use as a weight like I always do at home and I just sprinted too fast and she just went over and—”


Willow had JJ by the scruff of her shirt and would be lifting him off the group if he wasn’t so much bigger and heavier than her.


“Jacob, who?!”


JJ gulped.


“You gotta come quick.”


Willow thought she might throw up. She ran with JJ past the McDonalds, around the bend of the following street, and into the back of a residential building. JJ rattled the ladder on the fire escape.


“Up here, up here,” he said desperately.


With lioness agility, Willow leaped for the ladder and started to climb it with abject terror making her fingers nimble as she clawed for the next bar. Finally, she pulled herself over the wall to the roof and collapsed on the other side. Her eyes darted all around, ready to pounce on whatever daughter was in need of her.


The scene was not what she was expecting.


Instead of an unconscious daughter or spilled blood or limbs twisted in directions limbs should never be twisted in, there were blankets and flowers and a little unmanned bar in the corner. There were fairy lights strewn above, an area of fake grass and lots of various garden furniture ranging from flat seats to plush couches. Beneath a canopy was a swing and on it, Tara was sitting, smiling, waiting for her.


Willow’s eyes blinked rapidly.


“What’s going on? Where’s—”


“Happy Birthday, Momma,” JJ’s voice called out with a booming laugh and when Willow looked back, JJ was swinging from the top of the fire escape.


Tara stood up gracefully from the swing and walked over to help Willow up.


“You didn’t truly think I’d organized nothing for your day, did you?”


Slowly, reality dawned on Willow and she was able to take a breath.


She looked all-around at the intricate and elaborate decoration.


“This is incredible,” she said on an exhale, then looked at Tara and came close to punching her arm, albeit gently, “But seriously, Tara, why did you tell JJ to make me think he’d killed one of our daughters?!”


“He did WHAT?!” Tara exclaimed and looked over sternly at JJ, “I told him to tell you he dropped his phone on the fire escape.”


JJ looked like a deer caught in the headlights.


“The twins said I needed to feel it so I found new motivation. Had to sell it, moms!” he explained with a keen smile and held his hand up, “Key me! Gotta get the rugrats home.”


Willow huffed out a breath and tossed JJ the keys.


“Get that meat in the fridge!”


A faint call of ‘on it’ was heard as JJ descended back down.


Willow placed a hand over her heart.


“Wait, are they going home alone?”


Tara put her hands on Willow’s arms and rubbed up and down.


“Rose is waiting at home. She just texted me to confirm. Everything is just fine.”


Willow took a final, long breath, and her whole body deflated in relief.


“That boy.”


“It’s my fault,” Tara nobly took the blame, “He was just supposed to drive you over here and tell you to meet me up here. I was the one who started making an elaborate plan when I heard you mention Costco. It was so nearby, it was perfect. I just wanted you to be a smidge stressed to make the payoff better.”


She held two fingers a half-inch apart.


“This much. That’s all.”


“Tara, this is such a sweet surprise,” Willow reassured quickly and leaned in to hug Tara, “Our son did always have a flair for the dramatics. Takes after his mother. You did light up the stage during our college drama classes.”


Tara’s nose scrunched


“Let’s not rehash that period of our relationship.”


“Right,” Willow agreed readily and took a good look around, “Who’s completely fabulous roof are we invading, exactly?”


“I rented it on Roofbnb,” Tara explained giddily, “Will and Garrett told me about it. You rent out roof spaces for parties. But I thought you might prefer a party for two.”


“You thought correctly,” Willow replied and followed Tara back to the swing where Tara was pouring two flutes of champagne.


Tara handed one over and they clinked glasses.


“Come sit with me. Enjoy this magnificent view.”


“Already doing it,” Willow grinned as she looked Tara up and down.


Tara blushed and smiled.


“But what about that sunset?”


Willow settled back on the swing, tucked under Tara’s arm.


“Stunning,” she said as she ran her hand over the soft cushioning, “I’ve always wanted a swing like this for the porch. We could do this every night.”


“We do,” Tara whispered softly and kissed the top of Willow’s head.


After the scare that had gotten her up there, Willow was completely relaxed and content to be in this moment. This was what she’d meant when she’d said she wanted to do nothing for her birthday. This kind of nothing. And of course — of course — Tara had understood that all along. Willow was a fool for doubting.


She wondered if that meant there was still—


“Do you want your cake before or after dinner?” Tara asked and Willow grinned from ear-to-ear.


“Both!” she exclaimed giddily, for a moment looking exactly like Lily had on their last birthday with her red hair swishing over her shoulders and her tongue sticking out between her teeth in the exact same way.


Tara smiled and cupped Willow’s cheek. She leaned in and pressed a soft kiss to Willow’s lips.


“I love you so much, wife of mine.”


“Wife of mine,” Willow murmured on Tara’s lips, “Come lie with me, and let’s watch the stars reveal themselves.”


Leaving the insulated bag with food from Willow’s favorite restaurant and the cool bag with the cake sitting there, Tara followed Willow over to the blanket and they lay down together with their heads on the provided pillows.


They were quiet, just enjoying each other, as the sunset became a night sky and allowed the stars to twinkle above them.


“Remember how we used to do this?” Willow asked softly as she rested her head on Tara’s shoulder.


“I do,” Tara smiled softly, linking their fingers between them as she rested her head on Willow’s, “I do.”


Willow nuzzled Tara’s shoulder.


“Show me Short Man Looking Uncomfortable. I always feel sorry for the guy. Lost up there in the cosmos, short and uncomfortable. I keep waiting for a stellar lady of appropriate proportion to come along and help him into a more comfortable position. It can happen. The stars are always moving, you know. Finding a new place in the sky.”


She exhaled slowly.


“Of course, by the time we saw it, they would have already died. Gone. Poof.”


Tara kissed the top of Willow’s head.


“You’re just one year older, sweetie. The cosmos isn’t calling you home just yet.”


“Does it scare you?” Willow asked, holding Tara’s hand a little tighter, “Getting older?”


Tara looked out at the sky she’d laid with Willow under twenty years ago and knew she’d be lying with Willow again in another twenty years and another twenty after that and so on until their transformation to dust had long since ceased.


“I don’t think of it like getting older. I think of it like another rotation around the sun with you. About cementing our place in the universe forever — together,” she said as she rubbed her thumb on Willow’s skin, “Short Man Looking Uncomfortable will get his day. Right now we have ours. Having more of it doesn’t scare me when I already know it’s infinite.”


Willow slowly smiled and snuggled closer to Tara.


“Somehow you made me love the stars even more,” she said as she identified a crooked, curved line of stars that she would forever know as the constellation of 'Tarasubridere'.


'Tara smiling down'.


Forever.


And if that didn't take her fear of getting older away, nothing would.

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Amber Benson killed me once.

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The Love… Series ... Two For Joy ... Inevitable ... FC2: AOTH ... FC3: TBU


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