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Kim Pritekel

Part 17

"The sun's coming up," Christine said, glancing out the window. She ran her hand absently through Willow's hair. The blonde lay between her legs, head resting on the singer's stomach.

"Mm," Willow responded with a contented sigh. "Are you tired?" She turned her head, chin now resting on the flat stomach. Christine looked down at her, other hand tucked behind her head. She shook her head.

"Interestingly enough, no."

"Me, either."

Christine groaned and growled as she stretched, taking the blonde with her as her body arched.

"How do you feel?" Willow asked, getting herself settled again.

"Hmm," Christine sighed, thinking, hand still playing. "happy, content, satisfied. Sore." Willow chuckled at that last one, totally able to sympathize.

"Who know?" she whispered, climbing up to lay beside the brunette, blonde head resting on her shoulder. "I feel like I could run out to the streets right now and tell the world how much I love you." She raised her head, smiling down at the beautiful woman smiling up at her.

"I know what you mean. Not entirely sure how wise that would be, but I do understand. Come 'ere," she pulled the blonde even closer, wrapping her arms around her, slowly pulling Willow's body atop hers, blonde head tucked under her chin. Christine smiled, unable to stop it. She felt like a different person, reborn. She felt like writing all those corny love songs people love to listen to, finally able to understand the lyrics behind them.

"What are you smiling about?"

Christine looked to see Willow looking at her, a smirk curling up one side of her mouth. The singer shook her head, embarrassed.

"No. It's nothing."

"Bull honkey. After everything we've been doing all night, I see no reason why you'd be suddenly shy." Just to prove her point, she playfully nipped one of the singer's nipples, making Christine yelp in surprise.

"Alright. I was just thinking that finally all those stupid songs make sense. And all those Meg Ryan movies I hated to watch. Now I feel like popping 'When Harry Met Sally' into the DVD player."

Willow chuckled, completely charmed. "God, I love you."

"I love you, too."

"We are saps, aren't we?"

"'Fraid so."

"Ah, well," Willow laid her head back down, sighing in utter happiness. "The world will just have to get used to us."

They were quiet, both lost in her own head, mainly replaying the incredible turn of events over the past twelve hours.

Willow kept seeing pivotal moments in the night- a sigh, a kiss, or a look of rapture on Christine's face. Her body was too sore to relive any of it, but it still burned at the thought. Nothing could have prepared her for what it was actually like to make love to the woman beneath her.

Yes, their first night together after Adam's death, had been amazing. But it paled so vastly to the night and morning they'd shared. She had never experienced anything like it. Not even with Kevin.

"When is Rachel bringing Emma back?" Christine asked, inadvertently breaking Willow's train of thought. The blonde smiled.

"How did you know she was with Rachel?"

"A simple matter of deduction. You wouldn't trust her with anyone else, plus you mentioned Rachel had stopped by for a few." Christine's chuckle reverberated through the blonde's body.

"Yes, well, I couldn't very well say, Rachel came by to pick Emma so we could be alone as I seduced you, now could I?"

"Might have been fun," Christine pulled the blonde to her, her gentle kiss quickly deepening, so passionate. However, though the spirit was certainly willing, the flesh was sore and chafed.

Pulling away after some minutes, Willow smiled. "What do you want for breakfast?"


"What?" Willow finally asked, holding the charts she'd just grabbed to her chest. She eyed the doctor, brows knit suspiciously.

"Well, I'm just trying to figure out who put some Tinkerbell dust in your Wheaties, because honey, you've been practically floating for the past week." Maureen Halston said with a wide smile.

"Oh," the blonde grinned.

"See? There it is again." The doctor leaned against the nurse's station counter, genuinely curious and happy for the sweet nurse with the even sweeter baby girl.

"Well, it's. It's just that I'm happy, I guess," Willow said, beaming.

"That's obvious. I think you could power all of Oklahoma City with that mega watt smile you've got going. Come on, tell me your secret."

Willow looked around, making sure no one was listening, then turned back to the older woman who had helped her through so many things, both personally and professionally.

"Okay, but you can't tell anyone, Maureen, okay? It's still kind of under wraps."

"Alright," face becoming serious, the pediatrician waited.

"I'm in love," the blonde beamed.

"Oh, honey! That's wonderful!" she gathered the younger woman in a quick hug. "Who? Kevin isn't back in the picture is he?"

"Oh, no," Willow waved that idea off. "That ship has sailed. No, it's with someone who is the most wonderful, kind, generous person I've ever met," she couldn't keep the smile from her lips. Just the mere thought of Christine made her all warm and fuzzy inside.

"That's hard to find."

"Certainly all in one person. Plus, she loves Emma. Heck, I think she almost spends more time with my daughter than I do!"

The smile froze on the older doctor's face. "She?"

"Yeah," Willow gushed, "remember Christine Gray, that friend of mine who was here when Emma was born?"

"The singer,"


Maureen nodded her understanding. "Well, uh, Willow, I must say I'm happy for you." She gave the blonde another quick hug, then hurried away as her beeper vibrated against her leg.

"Thanks," Willow grinned, almost skipping as she headed to the little seven year old boy's room, Alex, that she'd been looking after for the past few days. Even seeing the little man, so tiny in a big bed, couldn't dampen her spirits. Nope, she'd found not the fountain of youth, but the fountain of eternal happiness, and oh didn't that constant stream taste good.

She giggled silently at her own naughtiness.


"I can't believe you're doing this, Christine," Rachel said, holding up a ratty old t-shirt. Scrunching her nose, she tossed it to the trash pile.

"Why? It's just a bunch of old shirts and pictures," the singer said, rifling through her file cabinet.

"Well, that may be true to you, but to some fan out there, not so much."

Christine shrugged, about to reply when Willow chuckled, grabbing Christine and Rachel's attention.

"Honey, tell me why when I look at this I see Tiffany singing 'I Think We're Alone Now' in a mall somewhere?" the blonde asked, holding up the old denim jacket, a few holes ripping their way through.

Christine laughed, turning back to the folders of pictures- publicity shots or stills, and old music. "That's probably because you did."

"What?" Rachel asked, walking over to her friend and taking the jacket from her hands, examining it. "Tell me you didn't know Tiffany," she said dryly.

"When you're in the business for a long time," Christine let the sentence die off, a grin on her face. The blonde rolled her eyes.

"Don't tell me you knew NKOTB, too?"

"Who?" Willow asked with wrinkled brow.

"Nice group of boys, actually," the singer said, nodding. It was Rachel's turn to roll her eyes in exasperation.

"Who the heck is NKOTB?" Willow asked, hands on hips as she looked from one woman to the other.

"New Kids," Christine said absently, lugging a particularly thick stack of pictures onto her lap, sorting through them.


"I had the biggest crush on Jordan Knight," Rachel said, her voice wistful as she hugged the jacket to her chest.

"Who didn't?" Christine mumbled.

"And you actually will admit that, Rach?" Willow grinned.

"Oh, I wouldn't talk, blondie. Which one were you more into- Gunner or Matthew?" the redhead asked, fiery brow raised.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Willow said, quickly turning away. Christine snickered.

"So do you plan to sign everything?" Rachel asked, turning the conversation back. She started to toss the jacket into the donation pile when Willow tugged the jacket out of her hands, tossing the jacket to the trash pile.

"Wait! Hold the phone!" Christine snatched it out, holding it protectively against her, glaring. "This is not leaving this house," she fairly growled.

"Christine," Willow said, hand back on hip. "the thing is disgusting. It's worn, halfway ripped to shreds, and you are not wearing it in public."

Rachel watched, utterly amused, her head bouncing back and forth between the two women.

"Yeah huh. It stays with me. I have a lot of memories in this jacket." She caressed it lovingly.

"What, of bubble gum angst? Honey, that thing is ancient."

"Then so am I," Christine said, eyes boring into the blonde's, daring her to try and take it from her again. Willow sighed, throwing her hands up.

"Fine. Keep it. Whatever."

"Thank you," and just to tick the little blonde off a bit more, Christine put it on. Green eyes rolled, but turned to the pile of clothing she had been going through.

"It's funny," the singer said, moving back to her pile of pictures. "you don't realize how much shit, I mean crap, you have until you have it all shipped to you." She chuckled, looking at all the boxes that were scattered around the music room, clothing draped over her piano, boxes stacked against the wall.

"Well, that's what happens when you've got a castle to fill," Rachel grumbled, breaking down the box she'd just emptied, and tugging her box cutter out of her back pocket to start on another one.

"Castle," Christine snorted.

"Well, I still think it's wonderful that you're willing to donate all this stuff to the hospital's auction, honey." Willow walked over to the brunette, moving the pile off her lap, and sitting in their place. Christine wrapped her arms around her.

"Thanks, babe," she said against the blonde's lips before taking them in a soft kiss. Rachel rolled her eyes.

"You know, at first it was cute, but now you two just piss me off," she said, opening the flaps of her new box. Christine and Willow looked over at her.

"Why?" the blonde asked, absently fingering the neckline of Christine's shirt.

"Because Connor isn't that way with me! Do you really think he and I make out all the time? Hell, even when we were first together we didn't do it as often as the two of you do."

Christine eyed Willow, finding a very curious blush sweeping the blonde's features. The trio grew quiet when they heard a car pull up just outside the building. Willow jumped from the singer's lap after a quick kiss, walked over to the window.

"Who is it?" Christine asked, grabbing her pile of pictures for a third time.

"Not sure. I'll be right back." The blonde made her way outside, knowing that Troy and his agents wouldn't have let this guy in the Cadillac through if he weren't important.

"Good afternoon," he said, slamming the heavy car door closed, shielding his eyes from the bright, June sun.

"Hi there. What can I do for you?"

"You know these guys, too?" Rachel whined, holding up a snapshot of Christine with the Rolling Stones. The brunette chuckled, shaking her head.

"No, not really. I just happened to bump into them while in London doing a show about ten years ago."

"Wow," Rachel breathed, looking at the pic, her mouth watering as she looked at Mick Jagger, smiling hugely next to the beautiful singer. "Can I have this?" Christine chuckled again.


"Oh, thank you!" About to run over to the singer and give her a big wet one, the redhead stopped in her tracks, the door in the music room flinging open, and a very angry little blonde flying in.

"That bastard!" she yelled, voice muffled by the soundproofing. She threw something onto the floor, face red, tears of anger beginning to leak.

"What is it? Sweetie, what's wrong?" Christine was immediately on her feet, rushing over to the upset blonde, taking her in her arms.

"I hate him," Willow cried, clutching the taller woman.

"Oh, Wills," Rachel sighed, brows draw as she read over the papers she'd picked up. "I can't believe he's doing this,"

"Who's doing what?" Christine asked, looking at Rachel over Willow's head. Blue eyes looked up to meet her own.

"Kevin's going to try and take Emma."

"What?!" Christine's eyes flared, making even Rachel shudder.

"How can he do this?" Willow cried, taking the papers from the redhead's hands, re-reading them.

"He's not. We will fight this," the singer said, making sure the blonde saw her determination.

"I can't believe this," Willow whispered, tears brimming in her eyes. "He's citing me as an unfit mother on moral grounds,"

"What?" Rachel flew over to her friend, reading over her shoulder. "That's crazy."

"I don't understand," the blonde said, shaking her head, bringing pleading eyes up to Christine's very somber ones.

"I have some calls to make," the singer said, her voice cold, sharp. With that, she walked over to one of the boxes, quickly dug through it, bringing out a small, black book, then was gone.

Willow turned to her friend. "How can he do this to me, Rachel? He didn't even want this baby,"

"I know, honey. I'm stunned. Truly, I am. I never figured Kevin to sink this low. And moral grounds," Rachel's brows drew, confusion filling her eyes. "I don't get it."

"I honestly don't, either." She set the papers on the piano bench, not wanting to look at them another moment. "Come on," she said, taking a deep breath. "let's get all this cleaned up."


Willow felt her palms sweating and wiped them on the thighs of her jeans. She swallowed, glancing at her watch. It was eleven thirteen, and the plane was due in at a quarter after. Soon.

She walked around the area for the flight's baggage claim, trying not to pace, but failing. Finally, at twenty after, as agreed upon, she raised the sign she'd marked the night before.

Looking nervously through the increasing crowd, people gathering around the claim, voices getting louder with greetings and concerns.

"Hello." Curt, to the point. Willow's head jerked around until she saw a beautiful woman standing before her. Her dark hair was long, naturally curly, swept over her shoulders. Her large, brown eyes were capped by finely arched brows, a no nonsense expression upon her face. Her white, open collared button up was partially hidden underneath a light-weight, dark gray blazer, form fitting.

Christine got me Bette Porter for a lawyer.

"Hello. I'm Willow Bowman," the blonde held her hand out, which was quickly taken in a cool, well manicured one.

"Jennifer Barnes."

Willow hid her smirk, tossing the sign with the woman's name on it in a nearby trash can. The brunette looked her up and down, seeming to be sizing her up.

"A perfectly innocent angel. This could work," she said, her voice hard edged, very confident. With that, she walked over to the carousel, grabbed her rolling suitcase, and breezed past Willow, head held high, her perfume wafting in the air behind her.

"Okay," Willow breathed, hurrying to catch up.

"Here's the deal, ladies," Jennifer said, leaning over the table where a myriad of papers were scattered. She stared into the eyes of all three in turn. "Yes, Nicole will be the 'official' counsel, as I have no license to practice in this god forsaken state, but it will be me that you all listen to," large brown eyes pinned Nicole Martinez to the spot. The other lawyer had already been briefed on this, and after some reasoning, she agreed to be the mouthpiece.

"Agreed," she said, leaning back in her chair, running a hand over her short, black hair.

"Good. Kevin sounds like a real prince, and I think he's going to take the lesbian angle on this, use that to try and take Emma. But," she help up a manicured finger, a grin spreading across her features. "he wasn't counting on me,"

Willow looked at Christine, worried, but received a calming squeeze of the hand in return.

Jennifer turned those doe eyes, belying her hard as nails interior, at the blonde. "I want you to tell me everything about this guy. And I mean everything. I want to know what he was like in the sack. I want to know how many times a day he takes a shit on average. Arguments you had, and their running themes. I want his background, family ties, all of it."

"Okay," Willow agreed, blowing out a breath.

"Good. Nicole talked to his attorney this afternoon, and it looks like they're wanting to hit court by the end of the month. That gives us three weeks to prepare for the fate and future of your daughter, ladies." Jennifer stood, tossing her hair out of her face. A very slow, sly smile crept across her lips. "One other thing, ladies-" she looked at both Willow and Christine, making sure she had their full attention. "I need to know everything little skeleton you have in your closets. No surprises from this asshole, got me?"

"What are you thinking?" Christine asked, after driving for fifteen minutes in complete silence. She glanced across the Jeep at the blonde before returning her eyes to the road.

Willow sighed, looking out the passenger window, watching the hot, June day pass by. She shook her head, chewing on her lower lip.

"I don't know. I just don't know."

"She's good, I promise you that. Only the best, Willow."

"I know," the blonde blew out, glancing at the singer. "Why does it have to be this way? How is it that I now hate someone I used to love so much?" It wasn't really a question so much as a thought out loud. She felt so sad, her heart so heavy. And angry.

"I don't know, baby. I really don't. It's selfishness on Kevin's part. Perhaps even a way of getting back at you." Christine shrugged, reaching over to take the blonde's hand, cool fingers quickly, and tightly wrapping around her own. "I'm so sorry he's doing this to you."

"Me, too. What if he wins? Then what? He knows nothing of babies." She laughed bitterly. "Emma is now almost four months old, will be on the twenty-second of this month, and he's never even seen her! His damn mother sent me a congratulations card, but do you think he could? No, that would have been too much goddamn trouble!" her words got louder with each thought that paraded through her troubled mind. "He doesn't want to be Emma's father, he wants to control me! Well fuck him!"

It was a moment before Willow even noticed they weren't moving anymore, and that Christine had pulled off the side of the road.

"Hey, hey," the singer said, pulling Willow into her arms. As soon as the blonde realized she was in Christine's embrace, she broke. The tears fell hard and heavy, her entire body shaking almost out of control. She was so devastated and scared. "Shh, baby, I know." Christine squeezed her eyes shut, her own fears rearing their ugly head. She knew deep down that Kevin wouldn't stand a chance of taking the baby completely, though ... what if?

She couldn't think of that now. She had to be there for Willow, and stay strong. She caressed the soft blonde hair, waiting for the tears to abate.

"I swear to you, Willow, I will not let him take her from you. I'll do anything in my power, anything at all." She pulled back slightly from the blonde, wiping at her tears with her thumbs, ducking a bit so green eyes were looking into blue. "Anything. I don't care how much it costs, what it takes, you understand? I love her, too," she whispered, laying a soft, gentle kiss on tear-streaked lips. She could taste Willow's salty pain. "Anything."

Willow stared at the singer, her heart swelling with love and gratitude. Finally she nodded. "Okay."

"I love you."

"I love you, too." Willow hugged her close, taking all the strength that was offered her, holding it close to her heart. "I can't lose her, Christine. I can't."

"I know. I know."


Jennifer looked from the blonde to the brunette and back again.

"Is there a problem?" she asked, hand on hip, other hand resting on Nicole's desk.

"I can't do that," Willow said, her voice quiet. "Kevin's father's drinking hurt him badly. I can't throw that in his face, Jennifer," she shook her head. "I can't."

Brown eyes studied her for long moments, beginning to make Willow feel like she was a lab rat, waiting for either the cheese or the shock.

"I see," the attorney said, her eyes never leaving the blonde as she slowly made her way around the desk, noticing she was beginning to fidget nervously. "You don't feel right about dragging Kevin's family through the mud, and bringing up painful memories for him, is this correct?"

"Well, yeah," Willow said, though she felt like she'd given the wrong answer to a test. She really was not fond of Jennifer Barnes.

"Hmm, well, let me tell you something," the brunette stood before her, inches apart. "While you're conscience is eating at you for bringing up a bit of dirty laundry about your ex husband's father, your ex husband is trying to ruin your name, question your character and life style. Yes, Mrs. Bowman, that's what his case is based on," she said, seeing the shock in her client's eyes. "Somehow he's heard of your relationship with Christine, and he's pissed. He's pissed because that's a crime against his manhood, and now he wants revenge. Did I mention he's pissed?" she raised a brow. "How pissed?" she leaned in close. "Pissed enough to take your daughter from you."

Willow gasped, stomach roiling with revulsion, though she wasn't sure who it was aimed at more- Kevin, or Jennifer Barnes.

"He's pissed enough to not give a damn about your feelings. He's not thinking about what this will do to you, Mrs. Bowman. No, he's thinking with that thing between his legs, and his perceived zing." She paused, letting her words seep in. She knew Willow didn't like her, and that was fine. But when it came down to it, she was going to win the case, and keep that baby where she belonged.

"I need some fresh air," Willow said, her voice thick with nausea. She made her way out of the small office, sucking in lungfuls of fresh air, the sun almost blinding her.

"Honey, what's wrong? What happened in there?" Christine said, hot on the blonde's heels. "What's the matter?"

"I don't like her, Christine," Willow almost yelled, turning on the singer. "She's so, so, ... mean." It sounded childish, but it was the only word that came to mind.

"But she's right, Willow," Christine said softly, resting her hand on the blonde's shoulder, which Willow shrugged off.

"No, no, my morals might be called even more into question," she seethed. Christine was stung, looking as though she'd just been slapped.

"What did I do?" she asked, hurt.

"It's because of those goddamn magazine articles!" Willow hissed, leaning toward the brunette. "He saw those. He confronted me on the one about Texas, and then no doubt he saw the one of me half naked!"

Christine was stunned, taking a step back from the blonde, unsure what to do or say. "That wasn't my fault," she murmured, in a daze.

"Wasn't it?" Their eyes locked in a battle of wills until finally Christine slowly shook her head, heartsick.

"And you say Jennifer is mean." With that, she turned and walked away, headed toward the parking lot, digging her keys out as she went. Willow was frozen in a spell of anger, fear and self-loathing. She couldn't speak the words she badly needed to say, nor could she move to stop Christine from leaving.

So she sat, right there on the stone planter outside Nicole's office building. She saw the Jeep roar out of the parking lot, still unable to move.

She wasn't sure how long she'd been there when she felt rather than heard, someone sit next to her.

"Lover's quarrel?" Jennifer asked, voice dry. Willow whirled on the attorney, green eyes ablaze.

"Haven't you said enough for one day?" she seethed, feeling her blood boil by the unaffected expression on the other woman's face. Brown eyes lazily met hers.

"We need to talk, Willow," she said finally, her voice quiet.

"I have nothing to say to you, Miss Barnes. You're here to do a job, and I know that. Beyond that, I have nothing to say." She stood, stunned when a hand reached out and tugged her back to the planter.

"Sit down and shut the hell up for a minute."

She was too stunned to do anything else. Once the attorney saw she had the small blonde's full attention, she continued.

"Listen, you don't care for me, I get it. But what you have to understand is that your best interests are my priority, and if that means playing dirty, I will. Kevin isn't going to hold back, Willow." She looked into the blonde's eyes, realizing what a lovely color they were. "He's going to pull out every trick up his sleeve to win." She turned slightly on the planter so she was facing the other woman more. "For him it's about winning; it's not about Emma. Understand?"

Willow glanced out over the parking lot, sighing. She nodded. "I understand."

"I'm not trying to make you angry, either, Willow. I just need for you to understand the severity of this."

Willow met her eyes, nodded her understanding. "Is he going to take her from me, Jennifer?" the question was very soft, filled with fear of the answer. Jennifer smiled, white and brilliant, turning her face from beautiful to stunning.

"No," she said simply, but with the utmost conviction.

"God, I hope you're right," Willow blew out, standing from the planter.

"You and Christine really need to stay strong in this. It's going to be hard. I've seen it tons of times."

"Yeah, we will." The blonde looked down at her shoes, scuffing at the sidewalk. Jennifer of course didn't miss this.

"Ride skip out on you?" she asked, voice back to its usual dry cadence.

"Something like that." Willow sighed.

"Well, I don't know her, only met her a time or two at various parties and such. Come on." Jennifer picked up her briefcase and headed toward the parking lot, not even bothering to see if the blonde was following. Unlocking her rental car, she spotted Willow slowly ambling up to the Taurus. Their gaze met over the top of the car. "Stay strong," the attorney said, then dipped her head inside.

The Jeep led clouds of dust down the side streets of the outskirts of town. She passed field after field, crops whizzing by the open top, her hair flying, whipping her in the face. She plowed over those roads, Jeep shimmying over the large rocks embedded in them, her hands gripping the wheel with fists of iron.

She had shut her mind down, acting on pure instinct, which told her to drive like a mad woman, taking turns at dangerous speeds, two of the Jeep's wheels trying to leave the ground at one point. That one had gotten the brunette's attention, and she'd taken the next turn slightly slower, but only slightly.

It wasn't working. No matter how hard she pushed the memory out, the harder it pushed back in. The look on Willow's face, her eyes so angry and cruel.

Was it just her fear talking for her? Even so, it had ripped into Christine like nothing else. She had no idea what to think. She was doing everything in her power to be there for the blonde, hire the best attorney possible, and help Willow through this. All for what? To have her entire life thrown back in her face?

Christine bared her teeth, swinging around another curve, the Jeep screeching in protest.

Yes, Willow was angry and frightened, she thought again, but yes, there may been some damage done.

"She didn't even stop me from leaving," Christine growled, jerking the wheel again, the Jeep shuddering in the new direction. It hadn't been an act of manipulation to leave, but if only Willow had done something, anything. Surely she didn't really blame the singer for this?

It was well after dark when the Jeep pulled up in front of the lit farmhouse. Christine cut the engine, then just sat behind the wheel, thumb tapping a tuneless beat, chewing on her lower lip. She glanced up at the house, wondering if Emma was asleep yet. Probably. Then she wondered what Willow was doing.

Guilt flooded her as she remembered driving away from Nicole Martinez's office, stranding the blonde. She'd obviously gotten home okay, but still.

With a tired sigh, she hopped down from the Jeep's open cab, taking a step toward the house, then stopping, glancing over at her music room. Needing more time, she headed in that direction instead. Unlocking the door, she pushed through, clicking on the light as she did, closing the door softly behind her.

Willow leaned her head against the window seat upstairs, pulling her knees closer into her body. She watched as the woman she loved stepped away from the Jeep, then disappeared into her music room.

The blonde wasn't terribly surprised, but it still hurt, though mainly because she knew she was responsible for it.

No clue what to do, go to her, leave her alone, go to bed. No, that wasn't an option. Green eyes darted over to the large bed that she knew would be horribly empty that night. Sighing again, she unfolded herself, standing and heading out of the bedroom door. She heard quiet noises coming from Emma's room, so pushed the bedroom door open further, widening the sliver of light on the opposite wall.

"Hey, sweetie," she cooed, looking down at her very alert daughter, laying on her tummy, holding her head and shoulders off the mattress, trying her best to hold herself up on her arms. "Look at you!" Willow gushed, awed and inspired all over again, for about the billionth time that day. "Momma's strong girl."

Chuckling, Willow swiped at the string of drool that ran from Emma's mouth to the bed. Wiping the baby's mouth with the sleeve of her shirt, she headed out of the room, toward her own bedroom. She needed Emma near as loneliness closed in around her.

The last notes fading into the darkness beyond, Christine gently closed the lid over the keys, running a hand across its polished surface, then standing. The singer's back creaked as she stretched, making her gasp as a sharp pain settled between her shoulder blades from hours sitting, playing.

She walked over to the door, dousing the light as she opened it, then quickly closed and locked it behind her. It was a beautiful night, stars glittering like diamonds on black velvet. A lover's night.

Sighing heavily, she opened the front door, closing and locking it as well, then made the slow trek up the stairs.

She had managed to achieve what she'd strived for- play until she was too exhausted to think or see straight. Her body wavered; threatening to fall over on the staircase she climbed, hand on the sturdy banister. The house was quiet, as it was past three in the morning. No doubt Willow had gone to bed hours ago, and now Emma was sleeping through the night.

Thinking of the baby, whom she hadn't seen all day, she eagerly tip toed over to the bedroom, surprised to see her bedroom door fully open, and her crib empty. Not hard to figure out where the baby was, Christine leaned against the doorframe that led to the bedroom she shared with the blonde.

Willow lay on her back, head to the side, chest rising and falling in even, peaceful breaths. Lying upon that chest was Emma, lying on her stomach, mouth open. A single arm was wrapped protectively around the baby, and Christine felt her heart melt. It was so beautiful to see, so endearing, charming, and painful.

Willow looked so sweet, the woman she'd fallen in love with, but her harsh words came back to her all over again.

Shaking her head, Christine took a deep breath, one last look at the two most important people in her life, then she slowly turned, heading toward the guest bedroom.


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