Due to unforeseen circumstances, Janna (wiccanbotanist) is unable to post her story for our series. But fear not, we won't let you down! I did a pretty spreadsheet, therefore we must stick to the schedule. The chart said there will be a fic twice a week until Christmas, and by jove we will give you a fic twice a week.
I'm very pleased to present our guest-writer for our Sing a Song of Christmas series, who has bravely stepped in and written a wonderful and warm story for the holiday season. I won't spoil it further, but would like to express our thanks and appreciation for Kaia.
Sunset found Tara exhausted as she climbed the stairs to check on her 4 year old son. She found him in his jammies, sitting Indian-style in the middle of his bedroom, brow furrowed, deep in thought. In his hands she saw 3 cd cases and she recognized the Christmas Carols collection he had received from Giles earlier that morning.
Tara leaned on the door frame as she watched the redheaded boy looking back and forth from the color-coded, neatly stacked cds in front of him, to the ones he was holding.
Tara sat down on the floor next to her son. "You look busy, little man, need any help?"
The boy's features softened as he climbed onto his mama's lap. "Mama, I'm trying to arrange my new cds. Mom told me that B comes after A and C comes after B, but..." his little voice trailed off.
"But what, sweetpea?" Tara held her son tighter, pressing her lips to his temple.
The little boy turned in his mother's embrace, throwing his arms around her neck and pressing his little mouth to her ear. "I don't remember what letter comes after C," he whispered only for Tara to hear.
Tara smiled against his shoulder. The child was an overachiever, a trait he had certainly picked up from Willow, even if she wasn't his biological parent.
"What happened to the color-coded system, Jimmy?" Tara remembered fondly the nights her wife and son spent in Willow's study deciphering the mysteries of organizational skills and different colored pens.
"But...I, the colors are for kids! I'm a big boy now, Mama." He crossed his arms and pouted, earning a chuckle from her mother.
"Yes, you are, sweetie." Tara picked up a neglected CD. "Did you like your CDs? Do you wanna sing a carol before going to bed?"
"Um...I don't know, Mama, some of the songs are not very nice." The child disengaged from his mother's embrace and picked up a CD case and handed it to Tara.
"Which one, little man?" Tara asked, confused.
"The one with the swords and the blood and the tin soldier. It's scary." The little boy frowned.
Tara reached out and caressed the boy's freckled cheek and smiled. "You're right, it's not a very nice song if you miss the meaning of it. Do you know what the meaning of that song is, Jimmy?" The boy shook his head.
"It's a song about peace. About how sometimes people lose their way and end up hurting people, but in the end they realize that what they did was wrong and ask for forgiveness."
"But the bad guys killed everyone! It was too late to ask for forgiveness, Mama." Jimmy stared into his mother's blue eyes, confused.
"It's never too late to ask for forgiveness, sweetie," Tara moved a strand of red hair away from the boy's eye.
"If someone hurts you or Mom, I'll never forgive them!" He frowned and crossed his arms over his chest.
Tara smiled warmly. "How about we tuck you in and I tell you a story? Then we can talk about forgiveness some more, okay?" Tara stood up and took Jimmy's small hand in hers. "Unless, of course, you're too big for a bedtime story," she raised an eyebrow.
The boy gave her a half smile. A few minutes later he was comfortably tucked in and resting his head on Tara's lap. "What book are we going to read?" he asked, his gaze on the bookcase by his bed.
"Not tonight, Jimmy. Tonight you get a family story," she said as she ran her fingers through her son's silky hair.
"A family story?" The boy sat up, his green eyes wide open.
"When I was a little girl, we used to live on a farm..." Tara bent to plant a kiss on the boy's head as she continued her storytelling. Fifteen minutes later, Tara was staring at her son as he sat framed against the headboard. She had told him, in simple words and not much detail, about the alleged Maclay women's 'curse' and the means of damage control enforced by the men in her family, especially her father. Tara also told her son about the way Willow stood up to James Maclay and how she found a new family in the Scoobies. She could feel the boy's internal struggle and in that moment she doubted the wisdom of her decision to let him know about his grandfather.
She knew she needed to give Jimmy a few minutes so he could come to terms with the new scenario before continuing with her story. There was a lesson to be learned after all and the boy needed to understand the pain in order to grasp the real meaning of what she was trying to show him.
After a few silent seconds, he turned to her, his voice fragile and small. "What happened after he left, Mama?"
Tara sighed, relieved. The look in her son's eyes told her that he understood, and that he was going to be alright. She patted her lap, motioning for her son to lay his head back down and continued lightly smoothing his hair.
"We didn't hear much about them until a few years later. By then your Mom and I were already married and I was pregnant with you." She glanced down at her lap and saw the boy smile. "A week before you were born we got a call from your uncle Donnie..."
Willow sat by a very pregnant Tara as she handed her a cup of herbal tea. "Drink it baby, it'll help your stomach settle." Immediately she placed her hand on her lover's tummy, not wanting to miss any baby kicks.
"Oh, puh-lease!" Anya rolled her eyes. Willow turned to face Anya on the opposite couch.
The former demon took a sip of her coffee. "That's a reeeally sweet gesture Willow. I bet you think it will make up for all the bloating and constipation Tara is enduring to bear your progeny." She took another sip before turning to Tara. "It won't, though. You'll only feel better after that thing pops out of you. After, not during. Labor is hell."
Willow's jaw dropped and she blinked a few times before shaking her head.
"Anh, honey, please be nice to our hosts. I wanna try Tara's pumpkin pie." Xander smiled affectionately at his wife.
Willow glared at him. She was about to reply but was interrupted by the ring of the telephone.
"Saved by the bell," the redhead sighed before getting up to answer.
Tara shook her head, laughing. "I swear to the Goddess, Anya. You're gonna end up giving her a heart attack one of these days. And you know who's gonna face the wrath of the blond wiccan if I end up raising my child alone."
The laughter died as soon as she saw the pale face of her lover, who was slowly walking towards her, cordless phone in hand.
"Willow, what is it, honey?" the blond asked, worried.
Willow handed her the phone. "It's your brother. He asked for you, but he wouldn't tell me what he wanted."
Tara slowly extended her hand, taking the phone from Willow's hand as she stood. "I'll just g-go..." she said, pointing the device in the direction of the kitchen. Willow nodded and sat on the couch watching her wife's back disappear into the kitchen.
"Now that was weird and uncomfortable," Anya spoke up.
"Anh, please." Xander replied. "Are you ok, Will? What was that about?" He moved to sit by his childhood friend.
"I have no idea Xander, we haven't heard from Tara's relatives since they were here... and we all know how that turned out."
A muffled sob drew their attention toward the kitchen. Willow bit her lip and looked up to the opening kitchen door. Tara was pale and tears were running down her face. Willow jumped off the couch to hold her wife.
"What happened, sweetie, are you ok?" She pulled back to look into Tara's eyes.
Tara shook her head and buried her tear stained face in Willow's neck. "It's dad. He's very sick. Donnie says he may d-d-die soon."
"I'm sorry, baby. What else did he say?" Willow cradled Tara's cheeks in her palms and brushed the blond's tears away with her thumbs, worry evident on her face.
Tara tried to speak, her lip quivering. "Dad wants to see me, Will." A sob wracked Tara's body and she hid her face on Willow's shoulder.
Xander saw Willow hold her wife closer and whisper something in her ear. Sensing that the women needed some privacy, he motioned for Anya to stand.
"Willow, Tara, I think you need some time alone. We'll be home if you need anything. All you have to do is call and we'll be here, ok?" He moved to hug his friends and placed a kiss on Tara's cheek.
Anya stood by the two women wringing her hands and looking uncomfortable before blurting: "I'm sorry about your dad, Tara. I hope he gets better soon even though I think he is a big fat jerk."
"Anya!" Both Xander and Willow yelled at the former demon.
"It's true!" Anya replied before turning to face Tara. "Even though I personally would have wished him a lifetime of ingrown hairs, you never did. That's what makes you such a nice person who doesn't deserve to have a father who was so mean and dishonest. I still hope he gets better, because I think that maybe you do, and you deserve to get something from him that you want."
Tara raised her head and managed a grateful smile.
A few minutes later they were alone, still holding each other.
"Are you alright?" the smaller woman asked.
Tara looked up, eyes still filled with unshed tears, and nodded weakly. The memory of her younger self, sitting alone in a dark corner of her room, thoughts plagued by fear and shame, hit her hard. Goosebumps started forming on her arms and legs and she hid her face in the safety of Willow's chest.
"Aww, baby. Remember when you told me I didn't always have to be strong? Well, the same goes for you. This would be a good time to let me be strong for you, ok?"
Tara choked back another sob and leaned into her lover's embrace, nodding her answer against Willow's shoulder.
Willow leaned in and gently kissed Tara's shoulder. She softly stroked Tara's lower back and cradled her love in her arms. Willow felt desperate. Desperate to help; desperate to be strong for her wife in the ways Tara had always been for her. Desperate to convey, through touch, that she was going to help; that they could do this together. When she felt Tara relax, Willow wrapped her arm around her wife's midsection. "Why don't we go lay down, baby? I'll hold you and we can talk about this?" She saw the blonde nod again and Willow gently guided her towards the stairs.
When they reached the bedroom Willow pulled the covers down and motioned for Tara to sit on the edge of the bed. She brought Tara a cool washcloth for her swollen eyes and smoothed her hair back from her forehead.
"Sweetie?" Willow's tentative question was met with an intense gaze. Tara stared into the green of Willow's eyes. She slowly reached out and ran her fingers through the soft, red hair and smiled. Just like that first time, during her 20th birthday, Willow made her feel safe.
Willow watched emotions dancing in Tara's eyes. She wasn't very happy with the thought of Tara returning to this place she had walked away from so long ago. Willow knew that she would do everything in her power to protect Tara from experiencing that ever again, but she understood the conflict. Willow knew this woman, and knew Tara would never forgive herself if she didn't get closure. They had to talk about this, it was Tara's decision to make. Willow resolved to help Tara in whatever she decided to do.
Tara understood the conflicting thoughts in Willow's mind. "Donnie said dad wanted to see me and I...I think I need to see him, too. But I'm so scared, Will," she said as tears continued to streak down her face.
"Anything. Anything you need to do Tara, I am going to support you 100%. I will go wherever you want; support you in any way you need. Anya was right, you do deserve to get something you want from your father and I want to help you get that."
Willow took Tara's hand and placed a gentle kiss on her palm. "Nothing can hurt you anymore. Or the little squirt in there," she patted Tara's belly. "I won't let anything happen to either of you, sweetie, I promise." She kissed Tara softly on the lips.
"I love you, Will. And I need you with me for this," Tara squeezed Willow's hand, timidly asking for reassurance.
"If you think I'm gonna let you out of my sight, Mrs. Rosenberg, you've got another thing coming," Willow smiled before tucking a strand of hair behind Tara's ear and kissing her nose.
"I really meant it when I said I love you, Will," Tara shifted closer to Willow.
Willow's heart soared as she held her wife closer. "I know, baby. I love you too. Now let's get you to bed, ok?" Tara nodded.
Willow gently removed Tara's slippers and assisted her into her comfiest pair of pajamas before helping her lay on her side under the covers. Willow took note of how easy it was to help her lover change -- all of Tara's bohemian pregnancy clothes buttoned up the front. Willow's thoughts whirred and she filed the information away in her brain under factoids that might make caring for their unborn child easier.
Willow tucked a fluffy pillow under Tara's swollen belly before changing into her own sleep wear. "Tara, sweetie? Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything?"
Tara let her eyes drift shut. "Yes, Will, I'm comfortable, thank you. Can I, um...would you mind maybe holding me for a little while?"
Willow smiled and felt her chest tighten with the intensity of love she felt for this woman. "Of course, silly. That was my plan all along!" Willow climbed into bed and snuggled up close to her wife, wrapping her arms around her swollen belly. She felt Tara let out a content sigh and close her eyes.
Willow hesitated for a moment before asking the question that plagued her mind: "When do you wanna go see your dad?"
Tara snuggled further into Willow's gentle embrace before replying. "I think we can leave in a couple of days. Right now I just wanna stay here in your arms for a little while..." she whispered.
"Your wish is my command." Willow replied, pressing her lips to the silky warmth of Tara's hair and closing her eyes.
Willow slowly parked the SUV close to the neglected front porch and turned the engine off before letting out a tired sigh. She had been driving all day in the rain that turned occasionally into snow and she was sore and exhausted. Tara hadn't said much during the last hour and Willow assumed that the proximity of her childhood home, and the associated memories, were having a deep effect on her. Willow turned to face her silent wife, whose eyes were currently fixed on the door. She then noticed Tara's knuckles turning white from the tight grip she had on the door handle.
"Tara?" Willow's concerned inquiry wasn't enough to get her wife's attention. Gently, she reached for Tara's left hand and wrapped it in hers. The blond turned slowly towards her, her eyes glistening with unshed tears.
Willow's heart sank. "Are you sure you want to do this, baby?"
Tara nodded gently and squeezed Willow's hand tighter. Years of memories were crashing into her mind and fighting for dominance. Her lower lip was trembling and while she was unbuckling her seat belt she felt a wave of nausea arise from the pit of her stomach.
Willow ran her fingers through Tara's hair before placing a kiss on the blond's sweaty forehead. Tara met her gaze and what she saw in those blue eyes almost paralyzed her: she saw a lost little girl struggling to do the right thing.
The moment was interrupted by the front door opening to reveal a thin-bearded man carrying a shotgun. The man approached the driver's side fast and knocked on the window. When Willow lowered it she could see Donnie's features in the heavy rain. He looked surprised, but then set his gaze on his sister and his face seemed to soften.
"Tara, you came," he stated. His voice sounded strained but relieved. "Why don't you and your... friend come in. It's cold out here."
Tara nodded and Willow pulled the parka hood over her head and raised the window. She reached for an umbrella on the backseat, swiftly getting out of the car. She opened the umbrella and jogged to the passenger's side where Tara was already getting out of the car. Willow held the umbrella over their heads and gently guided Tara towards the porch, Donnie following close. He opened the door for them and took their coats. It was then that he noticed Tara's bulky belly.
"You're pregnant?" he asked, his blue eyes open wide in shock.
"That would be the understatement of the century, Donnie," Tara replied, a little harshly. She chastised herself for her reaction, they didn't need a confrontation right now. She tried to change the subject. "Where's Dad?"
Donnie blinked; he still hadn't recovered from the shock of seeing his pregnant sister. He shook his head as if trying to brush off the questions raiding his brain. "He's upstairs in his room," he pointed his chin in the direction of the stairs.
Willow felt lost. She wasn't sure what Tara expected from her in this situation, so she decided to be ready for whatever her wife needed. She stuck her hands on the back pockets of her jeans and rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet, watching the exchange between brother and sister. Then she saw Tara take a few tentative steps towards the stairs. She looked from Donnie to Tara again, until Tara's voice caught her attention.
"Will, come on," and she extended her left hand towards the redhead.
Donnie tried to object, "I don't think..." he was silenced by a pair of blue eyes glaring at him. Defeated, he raised both his hands and turned to disappear into the kitchen.
Willow was surprised at Tara's strength. It wasn't until she took her wife's hand and noticed the slight trembling that she realized how hard this was for her. She gave the hand in hers a reassuring squeeze and mouthed 'I love you'. Tara smiled and guided them both up the stairs.
Willow walked beside Tara, her eyes taking in the surroundings. This was where her lover had grown up, this was the place that saw her become the person that she was now. She stopped walking when they got to a closed, large oak door. Sensing Tara's trepidation, she turned to face her. She knew that it was time, and the thoughts she had been holding on to for the duration of their long drive came welling up to the surface.
"Baby, listen to me. There is something I need to remind you of before you go through that door, ok?"
Tara looked into the impassioned eyes of her beautiful wife and nodded for her to continue.
"Tara, you're not the frightened little girl he once knew. You're a smart, kind, caring, strong, beautiful, sexy and amazingly strong woman now. One I'm extremely proud of," Willow kissed Tara's lips. "And you have me and our little squirt here to take care of you, so you're not alone. He can't hurt you anymore."
The words found a way to Tara's heart and eased her fear. Willow was right, she wasn't alone anymore and her father was an old, sick man... there was nothing to be afraid of.
Tara stood up straight and raised her hand to knock on the door before opening it. The room was illuminated only by the dim light of the nightstand lamp. Tara stepped into the room, with Willow in tow but had to blink a few times to adjust to the darkness of the room.
Tara let go of Willow's hand and moved closer to the bed where James Maclay was laying under the covers. His eyes were closed and his labored breath was raspy and ragged. She moved her hand to touch his, but stopped in mid-air. Instead, she decided to softly call out to him.
Blue-gray eyes fluttered open and widened at the sight before them. The old man tried unsuccessfully to sit up and Tara moved to help him. He looked extremely thin and pale, his face appeared coarse with prominent cheek bones and deep wrinkles. He motioned for Tara to give him some water from the glass beside his bed. After taking a few sips from the glass he caught Tara's hand between his own bony ones.
He spoke in a trembling, strained voice. "I'm glad you're here, Tara. I, I've missed you."
He then focused on Tara's pregnant belly. "You're with child, where's your husband?"
Tara turned to face an expectant Willow, who was still hidden by the darkness of the room. "Willow's right here, Dad."
"Willow?" The man squinted his eyes to look at the red-headed girl that had just stepped into the light. He remembered her from the Sunnydale fiasco when he tried to get Tara to come back home with him. "Ah, you." He turned back to his daughter. "What I meant was where is the father of my grandchild," he looked into his own reflection in Tara's eyes.
Tara remained silent for a fraction of a second before softly nodding in Willow's direction. "Willow is my wife and we're expecting this child together. If you have a problem with that then I don't see how our child could possibly be your grandchild," she stated, firmly. She saw the redhead relax and she turned to her father, her face the picture of calmness.
James was about to reply but decided against it. In front of him was a woman, not the girl he used to degrade. And that woman looked determined, strong... happy. And a grandchild? This was a blessing he had not anticipated. The thought made him happy, and it brought back the reason why he had asked for her in the first place. He was dying, there was no use in denying it anymore. If he expected his daughter to hear his apology for all the pain he had caused her, then he needed to prove to her that he loved her in spite of a lifetime of abuse.
He remained pensive for a few minutes. He then looked at his daughter and her chosen partner before sighing. "Willow?" he called. "Come closer, child. I can't see you in that light."
Tara let out the breath she didn't know she was holding and motioned for Willow to move closer to her. She understood what her father was doing and how hard it must have been for him to take that step. She appreciated the gesture for what it was: a peace offering, a hope to maybe erase some of the mistrust that was keeping them apart.
He looked at the smaller woman at his daughter's side. "You're a beautiful young woman, Willow. Please take good care of my daughter and my grandchild."
Willow couldn't believe what she was hearing. Was this the same man that had suddenly appeared in Sunnydale demanding his daughter to go back home with him? The same man that had made her lover believe she was a demon for so many years? Now this very same man was paying her compliments and asking her to take care of her family? She didn't understand and, while her first reaction was to take Tara's hand and run away, she knew her lover needed to do this. She could be supportive. So Willow took a deep breath and did what she had vowed to do a few days earlier.
"I'll do my best, Mr. Maclay." She took and squeezed Tara's hand before turning back to the man in front of her. "You can count on that."
The old man gave her a hint of a smile and nodded. "Thank you, Willow. You have no idea what that means to me."
He noticed Willow's protective posture towards Tara. "I know you don't know me well, and I am sure you have good reasons to want to stay by Tara's side. But I would like to ask a favor of you, there are a few things I need to talk about with my daughter, and if it is ok with you I'd like to do it in private? Would you mind asking Donnie to show you to Tara's old room? I assume you're both staying for the night; it wouldn't be wise to drive in this rain. I would love the chance to show you some hospitality. I am afraid I didn't make a good impression the last time we met."
Willow almost panicked. The thought of leaving Tara alone with this man was against each and every one of her instincts. She turned to face the blond silently asking for guidance. Tara's nod and the calm strength Willow saw in her blue eyes calmed her panic. Tara knew what she was doing, and Willow would give her the space to do it.
She kissed Tara's cheek. "I'll be downstairs. If you need me, just call, ok?" And with that she let go of her wife's hand and walked out the door.
Tara stood there, watching her lover leave until the voice of her father brought her back to the task at hand.
"Pull a chair over here and sit closer, child. There's something I need to say to you." He waited until Tara was comfortable before carrying on. "Tara, as you can obviously see, I'm dying."
Tara tried to object, but was effectively stopped by her father's weakened voice.
"I don't have much time, Tara. Please hear me out?" he pleaded and Tara nodded.
"You may be thinking that the proximity of death scares your old man and is making him do this, and you're probably right." He stared ahead, his gaze lost. "You know your father, Tara. I'm not a man of words and I guess what I'm trying to say is," he gulped. "Tara, I...I 'm sorry." The old man's eyes filled with tears but he held up his hand asking to be allowed to continue.
"I know I don't deserve your visit, but I am so grateful you came." He choked back a sob. "I treated you wrongly, child. I was wrong, so wrong. And I lost my only daughter because I was stubborn and hurtful." Tears fell freely down his face.
"I am a dying old man. I have these long days to think on my life and all I can think of every day is how truly sorry I am for how I treated you. I know I don't deserve your forgiveness. It would be wrong for me to even ask for it after how I treated you." He sobbed. "But Tara? You deserve my apology and to know that I am filled with regret over how I treated you."
He moved to touch her hand. "And now you are here ...and I swore that if I ever got the chance to talk to you again; if you ever gave me that chance, that the first words you heard from me would be an apology. Tara. I am sorry. So very sorry." He held his daughter's hand to his lips.
Tara was torn. She had never seen her father like this, so vulnerable, so human. She sat on the edge of the bed by his side.
"Oh, Dad." She tried to swallow back the tears, unsuccessfully. "I never really thought I'd see the day when you'd admit all of this." She sobbed. "And you have no idea how much I wanted you to say these words."
"I love you, Daddy, I always have. All I ever wanted was to be your little girl, and for you to love me. But you kept pushing me away, telling me I was useless, that I was not worthy of being loved." She sniffed. "And you hated the magic. It was the only thing I had left of her, and you tried to take it away from me."
James Maclay realized the extent of the pain he had put his daughter through. "You are my daughter and I should have treated you with love... but I failed. I failed you, I failed your mother and I failed myself and it is my greatest regret." He wept.
Tara kissed his forehead. "Thank you, Daddy, for telling me this. You don't know how much this means to me."
He opened his arms, welcoming her, and they hugged for a long time. When they separated, James stared at Tara's belly.
"May I?" He tentatively asked. Tara took his weak hand and placed it on her belly.
He was rewarded with a strong kick that brought happy tears to his eyes. Tara was going to be a mother. James was moved, he didn't think he'd get a chance to meet this little human being, but he wanted to give his grandchild something to remember him by. "Before you leave, there's something I want to show you," he stared into his daughter's eyes. "In my closet, top left drawer, there's a small box. Can you please bring it to me?"
Tara moved to retrieve the wooden box and handed it to her father before sitting on the edge of the bed. She saw the old man lift the lid and take a small tin soldier from it, which he handed to Tara.
"This was my favorite toy as a kid. I want you to have it." He placed the soldier on Tara's palm. "Maybe, if Willow's ok with it, you can give it to your child?" His voice was small, pleading.
Tara looked at the toy in her hand and closed her hand around it, tears flowing freely from her eyes. "I'm sure Willow will love it, Dad. So will your grandchild."
James wiped the tears from his eyes. "I think you should go to bed, Tara. I'm a little tired, and you must be tired too."
"You're right, I am. And I'm sure Willow's worried." She stood up. "I'll see you in the morning?"
Tara smiled at the thought of her lover pacing back and forth in her old room. "I should probably get back to her before she starts chewing on her fingernails."
"Yes, dear. I'll see you in the morning. Now go get some rest."
Tara nodded and left the room. She reached her old room and opened the door to find Willow meditating on the floor. The redhead looked tired and Tara approached her slowly, trying not to startle her. When she was close enough she placed her hand on the crown of Willow's head and massaged her scalp. She saw the corners of her wife's mouth turning up before her eyes fluttered open.
"You're back." Willow stretched and rose to her feet to wrap her arms around her wife. "Everything ok with your dad?"
"Yes, sweetie. Everything's ok." She disengaged from the embrace to placed the tin soldier on her nightstand. "Why don't we go to bed and I'll tell you all about it?"
Several hours later the women were awakened by a loud knock on the door.
"Tara, wake up! It's Dad." Tara recognized her brother's voice and got out of bed as fast as she could. Willow followed her closely into James' room and watched her kneel by his bed and check for his pulse. He was obviously not breathing.
Tara turned to his brother, tears trailing down her face. "When?"
Donnie helped her up and held her close. "A few minutes ago. He was having a hard time breathing and all of a sudden he just stopped," his voice sounded fragile and small.
Tara let herself go in her brother's embrace, reduced to a sobbing wreck. She cried bitterly for the loss of the father she had just found.
Three days later Willow was sitting comfortably on the recliner by Tara's bed, holding a small, sleeping, red-headed newborn in her arms. She kept tracing the baby's nose with her fingertips, or placing little kisses on his soft baby hair. She was about to start counting the fingers on his little hands when she heard a soft knock followed by the sound of the knob turning. She sat up to see Buffy's face peaking from behind the door and she promptly held her index finger to her mouth so that the slayer would know Tara was sleeping.
Buffy entered the room followed by Dawn, Xander and Anya who were carrying multiple teddy bears and 'It's a boy!' balloons. Dawn swiftly maneuvered around her sister to beat her to the baby and Willow hesitatingly relinquished her precious cargo.
The rest of the gang gathered around Dawn and the little boy, who by now was awake and making gurgling noises. Suddenly, the baby let out a loud burp, eliciting a heartfelt laugh from all the Scoobies.
Willow, remembering her slumbering wife, attempted to make her friends keep quiet. But, it was too late, the blond was already trying to sit up. Willow moved to assist her wife and placed a gentle kiss on her pale lips before sitting on the bed next to her.
Anya decided to address the newly awakened mother. "Xander said it'd be polite of me to ask you how you're feeling, but I think it's pretty obvious considering how pooped you look."
Xander looked like his head was about to explode as he threw his hands in the air. "Anh! You know what? I give up, from now on I won't even try to make you understand human social interactions. It's not like you ever listen to me, anyway."
Tara laughed and five heads turned towards her. "Actually, I feel great. I don't know what they're giving me for the pain, but right now I'm the happiest woman alive!" She took Willow's hand and kissed her palm.
Willow tucked a strand of hair behind Tara's ear. "I find that hard to believe, Mrs. Rosenberg, since you've just made me the happiest woman on the face of the earth." She punctuated her statement with a tender kiss on Tara's nose.
"Oh please, will you stop it already with the cuteness? I want to hear the gory details." Dawn replied after taking Willow's place in the recliner.
"Yes! How come we go home to change after being here for almost 20 hours and the baby pops out three minutes after we leave?" Buffy asked in mock indignation.
"Not to mention that we never got to change." Xander added.
Willow pinched her nose, feigning disgust. "That is evident, Xander Harris." She smiled.
The brown-eyed man stuck his hands in his pockets. "Says the woman in the not-so-pristine scrubs and blood-stained shoes."
The exchange was interrupted by the cries of a hungry infant. Dawn handed the baby to Tara who moved to untie her gown. Seeing Tara's milk swollen breast about to be exposed nearly caused Xander's eyes about to bulge out... and Anya swiftly moved her hands to cover them.
An embarrassed Xander moved to the door. "Ladies, I'm gonna go get some coffee. I'll be back in..." he looked at Willow who was currently showing 10 fingers up. "Ten. Ten minutes. I'll...I'll see you all later."
Dawn laughed at Xander's cuteness. She turned to face the new mommies. "Have you thought of any names, yet? If so, we'd like to know. There's money involved, you know." She sat on the edge of her seat enthusiastically awaiting their response.
Willow and Tara shared a knowing look. They had discussed this on the way home from the Maclay's farm. Tara looked at the three expectant women. "I can't believe you're all betting money on our son's name!"
Willow laughed before taking her wife's hand in hers. "May I, sweetie?"
Tara squeezed Willow's hand and nodded. "Go ahead. Do the honors, baby."
Willow cleared her throat and puffed out her chest. "My lovely wife Tara and I are proud to present you our firstborn son, James Rosenberg-Maclay."
End of Flashback
The boy got out of bed and walked to his small desk where he kept some of his toys. He rummaged through the drawers until he found what he was looking for. He cradled the old tin soldier in his hands and walked back to lay on his bed by his mother.
"So that's why you named me after grandpa." The redheaded boy snuggled close to his mom.
Tara smoothed his hair back. "Yes, Jimmy. Do you understand why I told you this story?"
"I think I do, Mama." he wrapped his little arm around Tara's leg. "People can realize they've made mistakes and ask for forgiveness, no matter how big the mistake was."
Tara caressed her son's back. "Yes, little man. We all make mistakes and we all have a chance to forgive and be forgiven."
"And forgiveness makes us better people, Mama." The boy stated with endearing conviction.
Willow had been watching the exchange from the doorway for the last couple of minutes and chose this moment to make her presence known. "That's right, squirt. It absolutely does." She walked over to the bed to kiss her son's temple.
"I came to kiss my favorite son goodnight," she ruffled his hair. "It's time to go to sleep."
He rolled her eyes at his mother. "Mom, I'm your only son..."
Willow laughed. "Does that mean you can't be my favorite?" She pinched his nose and watched him smile his mothers tucked him in.
"Goodnight, Mama. Goodnight, Mom." The boy waved his little hand to his mothers.
"Goodnight, Jimmy." The women replied before turning the lights off and closing the door.
Jimmy brought the tin soldier to his lips and whispered in its ear. "Goodnight, Grandpa James." He set the toy on his nightstand before drifting off to sleep.