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It Takes a Village

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Sophie is nearly six months old and doesn’t sleep through the night. And as such, neither do Donna and Tanya.

It certainly doesn’t help that Donna’s guru and boss, Sofia, seems to think that Sophie will be popping teeth any time now. So when she is awake, the baby is a Grade A Terror.

There isn’t a peaceful moment in the Sheridan-Leigh household.

They walk around like zombies, eyes glassy and hair a mess as they stumble from room to room. She doesn’t think she’s showered in four days. Tanya has no concept of time any more. She can’t remember the last time she ate a vegetable. And she knows that Donna has it even worse.

Who’d have thought that pushing the baby out of a small opening would be the easy part?

“It’s a good thing I love you, Sophie. Nobody else would still be alive after keeping me up for what feels like three days straight.” Tanya is rocking Sophie gently in her nursery while Donna quickly feeds and brushes down Hector the Horse.

“I know you’re uncomfortable, sweetheart, but your mother and I can’t go on like this.” She presses a kiss to Sophie’s forehead to take any sting out of her words. “I thought she was going to fall asleep in her oatmeal this morning. And while that would be a great moisturizer, it’s not exactly a high quality face mask.”

Sophie whimpers and wiggles in her arms, and Tanya takes that as an agreement.

She knows that she talks to Sophie like she’s able to have a conversation, but part of her could never get behind the baby talk. Not for babies, and certainly not for pets. After all, Sophie is a person. And best of all, she’s one of Tanya’s people. So she deserves respect.

“Tanya, we have a guest,” Donna calls up the stairs, bringing Tanya’s sleep starved brain back into the present.

Rather than call back and risk startling Sophie, she wraps the girl tighter in her blanket and heads down.

She is not surprised when she sees Sofia at the door, her arms full of a large basket filled with food. Tanya almost weeps at the sight of a cucumber.

“I thought you two might be wasting away up here. I brought you many homemade meals, as well as fresh ingredients.” Sofia looks between the two of them with something like disapproval.

“We can’t take this,” Donna objects, shaking her head at the other woman, and Tanya masks a grimace.

“Thank you so very much, Sofia. I think all of us are getting a little sick of plain porridge.” Tanya steps in, using the manners that Donna seems to have forgotten. “Donna, please take the basket to the kitchen. I’m sure Sofia doesn’t want to carry it any longer after her trek up the hill.”

Donna looks like she might protest again, but at Tanya’s look, she acquiesces. She takes off toward the kitchen without a word, leaving Sofia and Tanya to follow after sharing a look.

“How is my little angel?” Sofia asks as they watch Donna moodily begin to unpack the provisions in the basket. Tanya’s mouth waters as she watches Donna shove some of Sofia’s famous moussaka into their fridge.

“A little cranky, I’m afraid. She’s still not sleeping through the night.” Tanya shifts Sophie in her arms so Sofia can see the face of her eponym. “So neither are we.”

“The teething hasn’t helped,” Donna grumbles from behind the fridge door, moving jars around with barely concealed anger.

Sofia hums, stroking a finger over the bridge of Sophie’s nose. She casts a brief glance in Donna’s direction and then rolls her eyes toward the heavens. “I have an idea that might help.”

And honestly, Sofia could have recommended selling her voice to a sea witch and Tanya would have agreed. Or throwing all her fancy clothes into the ocean and wearing nothing but a burlap sack. Or continuing to only eat porridge for the rest of her life. Anything, really. Luckily, Sofia suggests less drastic measures.

“Give the girl to me,” Sofia says, holding her arms out. “You two look like you need some sleep. Maybe sleep and a stiff drink, no?”

“We couldn’t ask that of you, Sofia. You already do too much,” Donna protests, but the yawn that overtakes her is too powerful to deny. Tanya can see her eyes water from across the room.

“Hand her over.” Sofia’s tone brokers no nonsense, and Tanya passes her Sophie as Donna shuts the fridge door roughly. “Diaper bag?”

Tanya grabs the bag from where it hangs near the door and passes it over to the strong willed Greek Woman. As she passes her, she can see Donna squaring up for a fight.

“Sofia, please. It’s not necessary. We can handle her; I can handle her. She’s my daughter.” Donna looks close to tears, her hands clenching into fists as she struggles to keep them at bay. Tanya wants to pull Donna into her arms, but hesitates in front of Sofia.

“Yes, and I am her namesake. I will watch the angel for a few hours and return her to you before nightfall. Take care of yourself, Donna.” Sofia brings her hand up to Donna’s cheek for a brief moment, wiping away a stray tear, before she marches out the door.

As soon as the woman has disappeared from sight, Tanya moves to take Donna into her arms. She wraps herself around the shaking shoulders of her girlfriend and pulls her against her chest.

“It’s okay, sweetheart. She’ll be back in just a few hours.”

“I know, Tanya, but Sophie... I don’t want to let her out of my sight. She’s my baby girl. Ever since I found out about her, she’s been the part of my life that makes me smile. I just want to be a good mom to her.” Donna turns in her arms and presses her face into Tanya’s neck, hiding herself away, but Tanya still feels the tears against her skin.

Gently rubbing circles on Donna’s back, Tanya speaks softly. “You know, Donna, it’s alright to accept help. It takes a village, as they say.”

“I know, I do. But babe, whenever somebody else has to look after her, I feel like a failure.” Donna’s hands grab fistfuls of the fabric of Tanya’s robe, pulling herself tight in an attempt to ground herself. “Whenever somebody has to remind me to eat, or drink water, or sleep, or shower, all I can feel is guilt. I should be better, I should take better care, of both of us. I’m her mother.”

“Yes, but most mothers have a lot more support than you do. I don’t mean to make you upset, darling. But it’s important that you remember that you’re not going through this alone. You have people you can rely on. Like Sofia.” Tanya pauses, her hands stilling as well. “Like me.”

Donna lets out a shuddering sigh and her voice is thick with emotion when she speaks. “I just forget sometimes.”

“I know, sweetheart. That’s why I’m here. To remind you.” Tanya rests her head on top of Donna’s, her eyes falling shut for a moment.

They sway slightly, standing in the kitchen, alone for the first time in six months. And Tanya is too exhausted to feel anything but content.

That moment of contentedness is broken when Donna pulls out of her embrace, giving Tanya a look that’s half exasperation and half loving. There’s still an obvious sadness, but it’s less pronounced. “That’s not the only reason.”

“Oh, yeah?” Tanya cocks her eyebrow, watching her girlfriend closely, but not without mirth.

Leaning in with eyes full of mischief, Donna whispers, “You make an incredible bed warmer.”

“Is that all I am to you?” The eyebrow climbs higher, but Tanya can’t fight the grin that pulls at the corners of her mouth. “Simply here to be used for my exceptional body heat?”

“No.” And Donna is serious again, her eyes earnest and wide. “You’re so much more. I don’t know if I could do this without you.”

“Sure you could, Donna. You’re an amazing mother.” She presses a kiss to Donna’s forehead. “You’d just be an amazing mother with a much colder bed.”

They chuckle for a moment, reveling in the ability to just stand and talk. But soon the yawns return and their eyelids are heavy.

“Speaking of the bed...”

Donna nods, casting a lingering glance towards the door, but grabs one of Tanya’s hands and threading their fingers together.

“Come on,” She says as she begins to pull Tanya to the stairs. “Breakfast can wait. I think we both need a real sleep. And I always sleep better next to you.”

“You always say the sweetest things,” Tanya replies, half in jest.

Donna smiles back at her as they ascend, and that smile is still there when they crawl into bed. Donna’s eyes are already closed when her head hits the pillow, but Tanya takes a moment to appreciate the view. The sun is shining brightly through the curtain-less windows, but Tanya doesn’t mind terribly as she watches the beams fall across Donna’s tanned skin.

“Stop staring and get over here,” Donna mutters, not even bothering to open her eyes.

Tanya rolls her eyes, but does as she is bid, and Donna promptly curls up around her. As Donna’s head settles on her chest, Tanya’s hands begin to comb through the wayward curls. Donna hums, a pleased but sleepy sound.

“Sleep now, sweetheart. The world will still be here when you wake up,” Tanya says softly, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

Donna mumbles something that sounds vaguely like “I love you” and Tanya repeats the sentiment with a smile. As breathing evens out in sleep, Tanya fights the exhaustion for a little while. She focuses on the feeling of Donna in her arms and the warmth in her chest before finally succumbing to a much needed sleep.