There are bridges you cross you didn't know you crossed until you've crossed.
Born to the Purple
Willow stood silently in front of the incubator and looked in awe at the tiny human being lying in the plastic box. Hope lay on her side, an electrode attached to her chest, monitoring her heartbeat. The monitors constant peep, peep, peeps were the only sounds in the room. There was also a tube running into Hope's nose helping her breathe and get her lungs to fully develop.
Watching her daughters tiny hands reaching into the air like she was searching for something or someone and her tiny chest stately rising and falling, Willow knew that she ought to feel some particular parental feelings towards this baby but she didn't feel anything special. As a matter of fact, at this very moment Willow didn't feel anything at all. She had become epidural mom.
‘But I'm her mother,' she thought. ‘Even though I'm not her biological mother, shouldn't I feel a special connection to her? Something - anything.' Her thoughts fell silent and she kept watching her tiny daughter fighting to stay alive. But what kind of a life was that?
A life on the run, a life aboard a Battlestar. Had it been wrong to want a child in such dark times? Willow asked herself. But when she and Tara had decided to start a family, things had looked... well, promising.
‘Oh what's the point, pondering that!' Willow thought angrily. ‘You'll change nothing by thinking about what if's.'
"But what if I really feel guilty," Willow whispered to herself, "guilty and that's why I can't feel a thing."
Hope started to stir, like she was having a bad dream. Willow took a step closer, unsure what she was supposed to do.
"Go ahead," came a friendly voice from behind Willow, "you can touch her."
"But she's so fragile," Willow whispered weakly, her voice thick with unshed tears.
"She's stronger than she looks," Medic Cheryl said, standing now right next to Willow. She took first her right hand, then her left and put on a pair of medical gloves, while Willow looked at her own hands like they weren't attached to her own body.
"There you go," Cheryl continued and gently guided Willow's hand through the opening at the side of the incubator.
Once inside, Willow's hand began moving on its own and very delicately touched the chest of her child with the tip of her index finger. Moving it very slowly, she felt Hope's heart beat steadily against her finger tip. On feeling her mother's touch, Hope calmed down and lied peaceful again. Willow's finger started moving again, slowly and moved up even more gently, tenderly brushing her daughter's cheek before moving over her shoulder and down her thin arm. The moment her finger reached Hope's hand, her tiny fingers closed around Willow's index finger, holding on to it with surprising strength.
Willow felt tears rising in her eyes. Then the most extraordinary thing happened. Hope's head turned slightly around and her eyes, her clear blue eyes, found her mother's green ones and the moment she looked at her, Willow became a different person entirely. It felt like a big bucket full of the most wonderful feelings had been emptied into her heart, flooded it, and gave Willow a warm feeling.
Overwhelmed by this experience of connection to Hope on such a level she never even dreamed of, Willow began to cry. They were tears of both joy and sadness that ran down her cheek. For the time being Willow forgot everything and all around her. She didn't notice the smiling Cheryl stepping away again or the sounds of the Battlestar surrounding her.
There was only Willow and Hope and for the longest time Willow kept watching her daughter, speaking to her without words. Eventually Hope closed her eyes and as she drifted back to sleep again the grip around her mother's finger lessened. But only after another quarter of an hour had passed Willow finally retracted her finger for good.
"There you are," Medic Cheryl Hamilton said with a smile. "You're late! Hope already started to get restless."
"Sorry, but I stayed a little longer with..." Willow began, then stopped. "You really think she missed me? She asked unbelievingly, "but she is so young!"
"Believe me, she knew that it was your time to visit and so got a bit restless when you weren't in on time," Cheryl said and stepped up to Willow who, by now, was standing at the sink washing her hands.
"You know Willow, physical contact - human contact is very important for babies in general and for premature born like Hope in particular."
"I know, I read about it in a book that I borrowed and that I can't return because it got blown up with Pegasus," Willow said cheerless, then she sorrowfully added, "sadly there's only so much contact possible though this opening."
She pointed with her head towards the incubator. "And Hope will have to stay in there for a long time to come, won't she?"
"Yes, she does," Cheryl confirmed, "until she weighs at least 2800 grams and is breathing on her own." Willow looked at the IV that provided Hope with that all she needed.
"However," Cheryl went on, "even though she has to be in the incubator for most of the time, it doesn't mean that she can't leave it for a few hours a day."
Very interested, Willow stopped in her steps towards Hope's incubator and looked to Cheryl Hamilton to hear what was on her mind.
"Well I remember reading an interesting article in a medical journal about cases like little Hope here," the medic went on. "It argued against having cases like Hope inside the incubator for all the time, because this way they would miss out on the all important human contact in the first days of their life."
She paused and looked around in the small room, that originally had been a storage room to the sickbay.
"Anyway, what we could do, I mean what you could do Willow.,.. excuse me just a sec, I'll be right back," Cheryl Hamilton said and left, leaving a completely confused officer behind.
Cheryl returned soon, pushing a kind of treatment chair in front of her into the room and placed it right next to Hope. She closed the bulkhead again before she turned back to Willow.
"So what you can do," she began again, "is to lie down comfortably on this chair and then I lie Hope on your bosom - your bare bosom," she added, though Willow had suspected as much. "Then I'll cover you both with a blanket and... well we'll see how things go," she finished, sounding quite content with her idea.
Willow liked the idea too, though she still felt a little anxious about it at the same time, "But isn't that kinda risky?" she asked.
"Not at all," Cheryl assured her. "I all ready spoke about it with Doc Cottle and he agrees with my proposal. I will also stay with you, monitoring Hope's vital signs all the time."
Involuntary Willow looked at the bulkhead behind Cheryl and the medic laughed. "Don't you worry. You wouldn't expose yourself. "I'll lock the door, you take your time."
"But what about your other duties?"
"Oh my shift ended twenty minutes ago," Cheryl said with a short glance on her wrist watch and before Willow had any chance to put in a word of protest she added, "and don't you worry about little old me. I'll sit down in the corner, have a eye on the control and continue to read this really fantastic romantic novel." Out of nowhere or so it seemed, she produced a book and smiled warmly at Willow.
"Thank you Cheryl," Willow said.
"You're welcome," Cheryl answered. There where no more words necessary and Willow knew that she had made another friend.
"Then let's get this party started," Cheryl said with a laugh. "I'll get the blanket and you can, well..." She made a somewhat helpless gesture around her own upper body.
"Tackle out?" Willow offered helpfully and started unbuttoning her uniform jacket.
"Would you like to have the blanket first?" Cheryl asked wit a slight blush. "You know so you can take off the rest under it."
"I'm sure there's nothing you haven't seen before," Willow laughed and put her jacket onto a sideboard right next to her cane. She then sat down on the chair, after she had adjusted the back so she would be in a sort of lying position and took off first the dark and then the light grey military issue sleeveless shirt.
For a moment she debated with herself whether or not she should take off the necklace with the identity disks as well. It felt wrong to Willow to take them off and so she decided to simply put them aside once she had lay down on the chair. Next Willow took off her boats and swung her legs on to the chair.
"Here's the blanket," Cheryl said and covered Willow up to her hip and while she started to open the incubator, Willow took of her bra of and lied down.
Cheryl turned around, holding a very tiny Hope delicately in her arms, careful not to compromise the tube providing baby with air and the wire connecting her with the monitor. Hope gave a weak whimper, like she was protesting against being taken out of her warm place. She then cautiously turned Hope around onto her tummy. Willow opened her arms.
"There you go Hope," Cheryl said quietly, "meet your momma Willow." She placed the tiny little girl on her mommies bosom, again making sure that the cable and tubes were hanging free.
Cheryl then placed Willow's left hand on Hope's back to support her, while Willow's other hand automatically cubed the tiny head, stroking it all so gently, her fingers barley moving.
In the meantime Cheryl covered them both with the blanket, letting it run just under Hope's neck, while at the same time covering most of Willow's bare shoulders. As a last thing she placed another pillow under Willow's head so she could look into her daughter's face without having to lift her head. Retreating, Cheryl turned down the volume on the monitor, before retiring into a corner behind Willow, reading her novel in the light of a small desk lamp but not without keeping an eye on the monitor or to glance at Willow and Hope with a sad smile, as she remembered her own daughter who died back home in Caprica City.
Looking at her daughter Willow was totally overwhelmed with the experience of having this tiny human being lying on her bosom. She was so light, Willow hardly felt her weight at all, only the feel of her daughters warm skin against her own. Her eyes still closed Hope lay peacefully, apparently enjoying the gently caresses of her head, as Willow's fingers brushed the soft white blond hairs. Tears ran down Willow's face, the motherly feeling grew ever stronger inside her heart, while at the same time she felt a sting feeling like Hope should be sleeping on Tara's breast now and that Tara should be here with Hope and not in a bed next door.
Five days earlier
"Willow, Willow!" woken by the whispering voice of Medic Cheryl and the gently tap on her shoulder, Willow opened her eyes again.
"Time to get Hope back into her bed again," Cheryl whispered and gently moved the blanket, so she could take the tiny baby from her mother's arms.
At first Willow wanted to protest, feeling that the time with her daughter had been far to short. But then she thought that Cheryl certainly knew when it was time to put Hope back into the incubator.
Willow put back on her bra and shirts and while she looked for her jacket she casually asked: "What's the time?"
"Almost twenty three hundred hours," Cheryl answered, closing the incubator.
"What?" Willow cried out, her mouth dropping to her chin. She soon closed it again, as she tried to wrap her mind around how much time she'd really spent with her daughter.
"But that would make it," she counted on her fingers, "four hours!"
"Yes," the medic said and handed Willow her uniform jacket. "and before you protest, I let the two of you sleep, because it was the most hopeful thing I've seen in a long time and I just couldn't bring myself to wake you."
"But won't you be total tired tomorrow morning?" Willow asked concerned.
"Oh, I've already managed with less sleep, so don't you worry Willow," she smiled.
"Thank you Cheryl," Willow said and put on her boots. She stood up and gave the medic a warm hug.
"You're a real friend, you know?"
And with that they both parted and left the room, while another medic took over for Cheryl.
Willow was just about to turn left for the visitors quarters, when she got called from behind. "Major Rosenberg!" Willow turned around to see Lee Adama walk up to her.
"Commander," she said.
"Not anymore," Lee answered and pointed to the rank insignia at the collar of his uniform. "It's Major again."
"You're CAG again?"
"Probably means that I'll be stepping down to Captain myself," Willow observed, but not lamenting the coming demotion, after all there were far important things in her life then her military rank within the Colonial Fleet.
"Actually no," Lee Adama answered. ""I've already spoken about you with the Admiral and for now he grants you leave of absence until your wife and kid are doing better. After that you'll take over as head of department for flight control."
‘Well that's a pleasant surprise,' Willow thought, though she did wonder why she didn't have to step down to the rank of captain, after all, that was the rank required for this position.
Lee Adama seemed to have read Willow's mind because he soon added, "Well Willow, with the CAG being Major, I think you would agree with me that the head of flight control should share rank with the senior pilot, shouldn't she?"
Being lost for words, Willow agreed silently.
"You did a really great job as my XO," Lee Adama went on, "and my only regret is that you won't be able to succeed me as commander of Pegasus."
"Oh that's okay," Willow assured him cheerfully. "I wasn't especially after this particular command. You know with Pegasus' past bad track record and a nick name like "The Beast", I never thought being in command of that Battlestar was the most safest place in the universe."
"I beck your pardon?" Mayor Adama asked, clearly being taken by surprise by his former XO's ‘babble attack'.
"Well look at it," Willow explained more slowly now, leaning carefree on her cane. "Since this Mercury Class Pegasus was put into service eight years ago, its first commander Caitlin Taggert, dropped dead in the CIC, cardiac arrest.
"Her successor Rupert Giles got shot by Admiral Cain, who in turn was killed by her very own Cylon prisoner." And who, according to rumour, had a sexual affair with said Cylon female, Willow didn't add, she wasn't the person to listen to rumours.
Willow paused for a bit, it felt good for her to talk about something different for a change - without ever forgetting about Tara and Hope of course.
"So where was I?"
"Admiral Cain," Lee Adama helped with a big smile on his face.
"Right," Willow said. "Now Jack Fisk, he took to big a bite out of the fleet's black market and got himself strangled in due course.
"Commander Garner, he was an excellent chief engineer, but he was not cut out for command. He died saving Pegasus, after he brought the ship and its crew into danger in the first place. And you," she added with a grin, "you were in serious danger of completely loosing your form. So why should I have wanted to command Pegasus?
"Better have my shot at commanding Galactica one day, wouldn't you agree?"
"And I though you weren't ambitious," Lee said with a laugh. "And now I think it's time to call it a night. Have some more work out to do tomorrow."
Willow grinned to that.
"But first tell me Willow, how are your wife and daughter doing?" Lee asked,
"Hope's doing great," Willow beamed, still feeling the warmth of her baby's body on her bosom. "Tara..." her smile faded. "I'm sure she'll be waking up soon."
"I'm sure she will," Lee said kindly. "She was a fine communication officer with Pegasus and from what I know about her, she's a fighter, like her wife."
"Thank you Lee," Willow said and offered him her hand. "Good night Major."
"Good night Major," Lee Adama echoed and shook her hand, then they both parted.
Another five days later, Tara had still not waken from the coma and Willow was as worried as she could be. Worried and pondering about what it would take to finally let Tara reach out to the real world again. ‘The real world!' Willow thought sadly, ‘a Battlestar on the run!' No! That wouldn't be a reason for Tara to hide herself away within her own body, Willow was sure. But then she didn't know what had all happened to Tara during those four months of occupation, or during those last moments on New Caprica before Willow arrived with the marines. Or why Dawn had been wearing an explosive belt. There could be all so many reasons why Tara wouldn't return.
Every day Willow spent several hours at Tara's side, talking to her and holding her hand and she was certain that she was pulling through. But seemingly it wasn't enough, Willow wasn't enough.
What more could she do? She didn't know, all she knew was that the answer to that question would bring Tara back to her and her daughter again.
"Evening Cheryl," Willow greeted the medic on entering the little room that had been set up especially for little Hope. "How was your day so far?"
"Stressful," Cheryl answered. "You know since the admiral revived this old military tradition: ‘the open floor' or what ever it's called and people insist on knocking the crap out of each other's brain, sickbay's been extremely busy with putting these lunatics back together again.
"Honestly Willow, I never understood what people liked about boxing in the first place but these fights; they are mostly about settling old scores. You know between those who stayed aboard the Battlestar's and didn't had to endure the Cylons occupation on New Caprica and probably lots of other bad feelings. Man!"
"Well I don't like this senseless violence either," Willow said with a smile, "but I don‘t think it's limited to just the men. I saw some pretty dented women out there too."
To that Cheryl gave Willow a weary ‘tell me about it' kind of smile. But then Willow didn't exactly care anyway. If these lunatics wanted to beat their frakking minds out, then they should do so and not bother her with it. All Willow was concerned with was the well being of Hope and Tara. Now Hope was doing great, gaining weight every day and getting close to breathing on her own. But there was still no change with Tara.
Absentmindedly Willow began unbuttoning her uniform jacket, for another one on one with Hope. ‘Tara should see that,' she thought And Hope seemed to thrive on these close moments with her mom. And from her reactions Willow could see how very important it was for the both of them, to feel each other's presence and warmth.
Several pictured flashed before Willow's eyes. Tara standing on the Raptor's wing, holding her belly, her features twisted in pain. Tara gasping for air. Tara saying: "It's too early." And most clear Willow suddenly remembered the look of utter fear in Tara's eyes. Fear that there might be something happening to Hope. Fear that Hope might not make it.
"By the Lords that's it!" Willow cried out making Cheryl jump.
"What is what?" Cheryl asked.
"Why haven't I thought of this before?" the redheaded officer said, knocking herself lightly on her forehead, with her ever present cane.
"Cheryl, before Tara lost consciousness she believed and rightly so, that Hope was in danger," Willow explained. "And even now in her comatose state, she probably feels that Hope is no longer in her womb."
"That's certainly possible," Cheryl agreed.
"It's more then that I'm sure," Willow went on, "so what we have to do..."
"Way ahead of you," Cheryl declared and was already on the phone making a call. Ten minutes later two medics wheeled Tara in on a gurney. They left after they had attached her to the monitoring equipment in the room.
Silently Willow and Cheryl went to work. While Cheryl opened Hope's incubator, Willow opened Tara's nightshirt, allowing herself for a short moment the view of her wife's bare breasts she liked to caress so much. Cheryl tenderly placed Hope on Tara's bosom and Willow covered them both with the blanket, like Cheryl had done the past five days. Then they both waited for the things to come.
The first one to react was Hope. She slowly opened her bright blue eyes and looked at the face of the new woman she was resting on. She wasn't alarmed but rather seemed to instinctively recognize her mother. Next the impulses on Tara's monitors started to change, her heartbeat went up and her brain activity increased considerably. Very slowly Tara's right hand went up and gently cupped Hope's head.
Willow knelt down at Tara's side and put her arm around her shoulder. She didn't dare to speak and hardly breathed. Too great was her fear that she might only imagining what was happening before her eyes. Very slowly Tara's eyes fluttered open and after a short confusion focused on the baby in her arms, she smiled.
Turning her head, Tara's eyes found Willow's. "I was lost," she whispered, tears running down her face. "But you found me. You both found me."
"I will always find you," Willow assured Tara, gently kissing her on her lips, crying herself.
She pulled up a chair and sat down on it. Putting her arm around Tara's shoulder again, Willow rested her head right next to Tara's and together the two mommies watched their tiny daughter Hope sleep peacefully on Tara's bosom.