Title: The Morning After
Author: Amy Jo
Feedback address: email@example.com
Date in Calendar: 26 December 2004
Summary: It's the morning after Christmas in the Willows house.
Advertisement: Part of the FSAC04
Disclaimer: anfiction is for fun, not for profit. Sue me all you want, I don't own anything anyway.
Note: I bet you read the title and thought I was going to write something naughty, didn't you? Not this time, ladies.
Dedication: Dedicated with great affection to my sweets. You inspire me in more ways than you will ever know.
The Morning After
“Baby,” came a muffled sound from underneath the pile of blankets, “let mommy sleep for another hour, okay?”
Deep, even breaths and the gentle rise and fall of the blankets indicate that the woman underneath them has already slipped back into dreamland. Undeterred the young girl tiptoes to the other side of the bed, giving the body laying there a shake.
“C'mon c'mon,” Lindsey pleads urgently, “wake up.”
Not noticing any change the young girl tries again, shaking the supine form harder and raising her voice. “Get up, get up!”
Groaning at the injustice of being pulled from a deep slumber, Sara finally begins to stir in unwelcome wakefulness.
Voice still raspy with sleep Sara mumbles, “Alright, alright. I'm up.”
Grinning widely, Lindsey pulls on Sara's arm. “C'mon Sara.”
“Shh, Linds. You'll wake your mother.” Still not quite awake, Sara allows herself to be pulled from the warm cocoon of the bed and follows Lindsey.
Not missing a step, Lindsey leads Sara out of the bedroom. 'I already tried. She wants to sleep for another hour.”
“How come I don't get to sleep for another hour?” Sara asks, almost whining.
Lindsey mumbles something about 'adults' and continues to pull Sara toward the living room.
At the bottom of the stairs, Sara stops letting Lindsey lead her around the house. “Munchkin, what exactly are we doing?”
“Duh, Sara. We're going to make mom breakfast,” Lindsey tells the brunette as if she was supposed to know.
“We are?” Sara asks, confused.
“Yeah. She loves those waffles you make, you know.” Lindsey tries pulling Sara toward the kitchen again.
Still not moving, Sara asks, “If we're going to make her breakfast, why'd you try to wake her up?”
“Because I wanted to make sure she would still be sleeping while we were cooking.”
Sara lets Lindsey lead her into the kitchen as her sleep-addled brain tries to wrap itself around Lindsey's logic. Thinking coffee might help her wake up and feel a little more human she opens the refrigerator to grab the coffee grounds.
“Uh, okay,” Sara agrees even though she still doesn't understand Lindsey's actions. “Coffee first, then breakfast.”
As she prepares the coffee, Lindsey starts pulling things they will need out of the cabinets and refrigerator. Just as the coffee maker starts dripping Sara turns around to see that Lindsey is ready to begin making breakfast.
“Can I at least have a cup of coffee and read the paper first?”
“Will we have breakfast done before mom wakes up?” Lindsey looks doubtful.
“Promise, munchkin,” Sara says ruffling Lindsey's hair as she passes by on her way to the front door to pick up the paper.
Two cups of coffee and four sections of the Las Vegas Sun later, Sara was finally ready to call herself human and start the day. Lindsey apparently has some sort of plan for how she wants today to go and, for now at least, Sara is willing to play along.
Reaching for the mixing bowl and the ingredients she needs, Sara turns to Lindsey and asks, “So why is it so important for us to make your mom breakfast today?”
Looking very much liker her mother, Lindsey's brow wrinkles the slightest bit in thought and her lips purse together in concentration. Looking confused she tells Sara, “It's Christmas.”
Thinking two cups of coffee obviously wasn't enough to match wits with a ten year old, Sara tells the young girl, “Lindsey, honey, Christmas was yesterday.”
“Not for us. Both you and Mommy had to work yesterday.”
Sara stops preparing breakfast when she hears the sadness in Lindsey's voice. Lowering herself to the floor, she reaches out and brushes an errant lock of hair from the young girl's eyes. “Are you sad that Mommy had to work yesterday?”
“Yeah,” Lindsey answers, her voice barely a whisper.
Sara pulls Lindsey into a hug. “You know your mom wanted to be here with you more than anything, right?”
From the doorway of the kitchen, Catherine watches smiling as Sara comforts her little angel. Sara is the first person to admit that she's not very good with kids, but Catherine sees that as a front; a way for Sara to keep herself detached. From the way Sara cares for her daughter, Catherine knows that Sara has a big heart and a soft spot for children. Or, at least, for her daughter. Deciding to let Sara and Lindsey have their moment of bonding, Catherine goes back upstairs to pretend to be sleeping for whatever her two favorite girls are planning for her today.
No one in the kitchen noticed the appearance, and subsequent disappearance of the blonde at the doorway as Sara tried to explain the young girl why her mother missed Christmas morning with her.
“Your mommy really wanted to be here with you yesterday. Greg, Nick and Warrick all worked really hard to try to get her home to you. But we needed your mommy's help to put the bad guys away.”
It's too much to expect a ten year old to understand the responsibilities of a job like Catherine's and when Lindsey only hugs the brunette tighter, Sara immediately starts thinking of a way to make sure that Catherine is home for her daughter next time. Cliché as it is, crime doesn't take holidays, but really, how difficult could it possibly be to get one member of the graveyard shift a night off?
Only mildly understanding Lindsey's apparent distress, Sara keeps brushing her hand through Lindsey's hair not sure how to best comfort the little girl. Lindsey isn't crying, but she is clinging to Sara as if there is some kind of salvation in her arms.
“It's okay to be sad, munchkin,” Sara tries to soothe the girl before her grip tightens even more and becomes suffocating. “I'll make sure Mommy is there next time.”
Lindsey pulls away with sniffle, “Can you do that?”
In her most serious tone Sara replies, “I will do everything possible to have her here for you.”
Lindsey seems satisfied with that answer and steps away from Sara. All Sara hears in response is a quiet, “Thanks.”
“C'mon munchkin, let's make mom some breakfast,” Sara says, standing up.
As they start to make breakfast for Catherine, Sara makes a mental note to ask Catherine if she knows why Lindsey wanted to do this so badly today. Asking the young girl again doesn't seem like a good option, Sara doesn't want to see her get upset again, but it seems clear that there's something special about what they are doing today.
Thirty minutes later, just a little more than an hour after Lindsey dragged Sara out of bed, the brunette found herself carrying a tray loaded with waffles and coffee up to the bedroom. Lindsey stayed downstairs, preferring to watch one of the dozens of Christmas movies still airing on TV. Sara wanted Lindsey to come with her, to explain to Catherine why Sara was bringing her breakfast. It seemed important to Lindsey and Sara wanted to understand without having to ask the young girl again.
Carefully balancing the tray by holding on with one hand and pushing it into the wall with the other, Sara turns the doorknob and quietly opens the door. Grabbing the tray with both hands Sara steps into the bedroom, looking up from the tray to see Catherine sitting up in bed. Back pressed into the headboard, eyes fastened on a book in her hands, Catherine looks up slowly as Sara crosses the room.
Sara realizes that Catherine must have been awake for quite a while when she sees the blonde hair is no longer disheveled from sleep and her eyes no longer have that glazed look of someone who just woke up. Again feeling like she missed something obvious, Sara tries not to show her surprise and confusion as she steps closer to the bed.
“Uh …” Not sure how to explain that she is bringing Catherine breakfast in bed, something she hasn't done before, Sara speaks haltingly, “Uh. Lindsey and I made you breakfast.”
“I know,” Catherine says softly, her smile practically lighting up the room.
“You know?” Sara asks, looking confused even as she balances the tray across Catherine's legs.
“I came downstairs a little bit ago and saw you two in the kitchen.”
Sara begins to wonder if she doesn't need more than two cups of coffee to have a coherent conversation with anyone. Catherine is smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary; Lindsey is downstairs happily watching Christmas movies instead of diving into the plethora of presents still waiting to be unwrapped, a half-hour ago her mood was subdued and quiet, but now Sara can hear her laughter, even in the bedroom.
“Why didn't you say anything?” Sara sits at the end of the bed, giving Catherine plenty of room to get comfortable and eat her breakfast.
“The two of you were kinda having a bonding moment,” Catherine's eyes light up in laughter at the shocked look on Sara's face. Pointing a fork covered in layers of waffles and dripping syrup, Catherine smiles and says, “Well you were.”
“I'm not sure I'd call it a bonding moment.” Sara looks uncomfortable at the thought.
“What would you call it? Damn these are good.” Gathering up more syrup for her next bit of breakfast, the blonde elaborates, “What I saw was you trying to comfort Lindsey, giving her a hug to make her feel better. And I saw her hold on tight, accepting the gesture. I think that's a bonding moment.”
Not coming up with a way to deny Catherine's rationalization, Sara sits quietly watching Catherine.
“What was Lindsey upset about?” Catherine takes a sip of her coffee, thankful that Sara remembered to use sweetener instead of real sugar; there's enough sugar in her breakfast.
Still puzzled by Lindsey's behavior, Sara answers with a question of her own, “Why do you think Lindsey wanted to make you breakfast today?”
“You're not avoiding the question are you?” Catherine asks, suddenly worried that Lindsey might be upset about something that she doesn't want to confide in her own mother about.
“Not entirely,” Sara's answer is vague enough that despite the reassuring hand Sara has placed on hers, Catherine's worry only increases. “Why would this have been so important to her?”
Despite the sadness in her eyes Catherine smiles when she answers, “This is something she used to do with her father. With our job, I can't always get out of work on Christmas. On the years when I had to work Christmas morning, Eddie and Lindsey would wait to celebrate Christmas until the next day. When things were good, Eddie and Lindsey would let me sleep in while they made breakfast. They'd serve me breakfast in bed and Eddie and I would talk while Lindsey watched Christmas movies downstairs.”
Which, to Sara, sounds exactly like what happened this morning. Understanding more of Lindsey's sudden shift from happy to sad and concerned, Sara utters a dismayed, “Oh.”
Waiting for Sara to continue, Catherine remains silent, now only absently picking at her breakfast. When no explanation is forthcoming, she prods gently, “Sara?”
“I asked Lindsey why it was so important that we make you breakfast this morning. She told me because it was Christmas, and I said that Christmas was yesterday. She told me that today was Christmas for us, because you and I had to work yesterday. I thought she was sad because you had to work on Christmas, but …”
Sara's voice trails off and Catherine finds herself once again waiting for an explanation, but Sara seems to have retreated into her thoughts.
“I hugged her because I thought she was sad you couldn't be here for her yesterday. I didn't know that this was a family tradition, that I was intruding on a family moment.”
Surprised at the amount of sadness in Sara's voice Catherine drops any pretense of eating and moves the tray quickly to the other side of the bed. Sliding up next to Sara, Catherine holds Sara's hand with one of hers, using the other to cup the brunette's chin and tilt her face upward.
Wanting to leave no confusion about what she is saying, Catherine holds Sara's gaze and speaks softly, “Sara, you're not intruding on a family moment. Lindsey wanted you to do this with her. She may not have been ready to deal with the memories of doing the exact same thing with her father, but I assure she wanted you there. She's been asking me for weeks if I thought you'd help her make me breakfast this year.”
Sara's eyes close when Catherine's grip keeps her from lowering her head, “But …”
When Sara doesn't move but rather seems to shrink further into herself, Catherine continues, “Sara. Look at me Sara.”
Sara's eyes slowly open and lock with Catherine's, her breath hitching at the intensity she sees looking back at her.
When she's satisfied that she has Sara's complete attention, Catherine tells her sincerely, “You didn't intrude on a family tradition. As far as Lindsey and I are concerned, you are family.”
When Catherine kisses her, Sara tastes waffles, syrup, coffee and the salt from her own tears. Family.