When the President Calls

Chapter 6

Wednesday February 22nd, 2006
Waldorf, Maryland
Civista Women’s Health Center
11:25 a.m.

Sighing Sara leaned back in the chair she used whenever she saw her doctor. She still despised hospitals, and sitting on those exam beds was one of the things that she hated most of all, took her back to her childhood faster than anything else. So, she used one of the chairs instead. Today she found herself visiting her doctor for her yearly OB-GYN exam, of all the times to have it…

Shaking her head Sara shifted in her chair and sighed once more. She needed to do the laundry when she got home, and go shopping.

“Hi Gina,” Seema Medarametla began as she entered the room, drawing Sara’s attention from her thoughts.

“Hey Dr. Medara,” Sara smiled; the woman just had everyone use the first part of her last name rather than get tripped up over the rest of it.

“Well, your test results are back,” Seema began as she took a seat, Sara having arrived earlier that morning for lab work. “And I have a bit of news.”

“Oh?” Sara asked with a frown, numerous bad scenarios running through her mind.

“You’re pregnant, Gina.”

“Excuse me?” Sara asked shocked. “But…how…”

“Gina, I would hope that I don’t have to explain that to you,” Seema teased lightly. “You’re five weeks pregnant, conception date would have been…” she paused to figure it out, “around the nineteenth of January.”

“When John and Mike came home for a week,” Sara whispered. The rest of the appointment was a blur, everything going in but not registering right away, except for when Seema listened for the heartbeat. She left the appointment with a prescription for prenatal vitamins and an appointment a few weeks down the road.

At the moment though, her only thoughts concerned telling John and the rest of the family.

Wednesday February 22nd, 2006
Waldorf, Maryland
Garrison Residence
7:25 p.m.

Jen got home and was grabbing a glass of water before heading up to bed when there was a knock on her door, before she heard keys in the lock indicating it was Sara.

“Hey Gina,” Jen said as she walked into the hall, leaning against the doorjamb leading to the kitchen.

“Hey Sis,” Sara sighed as she slipped out of her jacket and shoes. “How was detail?”

“The usual,” commented Jen with a shrug as she walked into the living room and sat down on the couch. “What brings you by?”

“Saw my doctor today, as you know,” Sara began, still trying to figure out how to tell her the news as she made her way to the couch as well. “Got some interesting news...nothing bad...interesting though.”

“Interesting how?” asked Jen as she took a sip of her water.

“You're an Aunt,” Sara answered softly. “Well, officially will be in like eight months...”

“You’re pregnant?” asked Jen in shock.

“According to Medara I am,” Sara nodded once.

“You’re pregnant?” asked Jen in disbelief.

“Well, I'm still debating getting a second opinion, but I'm afraid Medara might have a hissy for not believing her,” Sara joked lightly

“You’re not kidding, are you?” commented Jen.

“No,” Sara answered slowly. Frowning slightly Sara glanced around the room. “You okay?”

“Oh my God, Gina…congratulations!” cried Jen hugging Sara.

Sara laughed as she pulled back from Jen, “God Sis, I was starting to wonder if I was going to get anything other than shock and disbelief from you. Was starting to worry about John's reaction when he finds out.”

“Trust me, you are not going to have to worry about that,” smiled Jen. “John loves kids. He’s been on me and Mike for years to make him an uncle.”

“And he needs to take a chill pill as Alicia would say. These things take time and such. I think the only reason I'm pregnant is that someone in the universe is going hey, let's pick on Gina when everyone knows she's probably the last person in the world cut out to be a mom,” Sara shrugged before laughing.

“You realize you’re in trouble right?” asked Jen, leading Sara over to the couch.

“How am I in trouble?” Sara began concerned.

“You’re about to unleash a monster when you tell my parents that you’re pregnant,” laughed Jen.

“Which is why I'm dragging you with me to go tell them this weekend,” Sara laughed. “Then again, we could just call and knowing your mom she'll jump at the chance to visit.”

“Up to you, but you’re in for it either way,” teased Jen.

“I say bring them here, I have to go tell Ron as it is cause I highly suspect they aren't going to like having me on detail now that I'm pregnant,” Sara shook her head. “Though I'm thinking of waiting to tell John till he gets home in a month.”

“I just pray that Ron doesn’t put Jack in charge,” groaned Jen.

“Oh I doubt that,” Sara laughed. “I get my way, either you'll be in charge temporarily or Pete.”

“I don’t know why you’d want to put me in charge,” sighed Jen. “I vote for Pete.”

“Because you would be good at it,” Sara laughed. “But kinda figured you'd want Pete in charge. Trust me, it's too much hassle.”

“I know, that’s why I don’t run my own team anymore,” laughed Jen.

“Sure you don't want to trade jobs?” Sara teased

“Not on your life girl,” laughed Jen.

“Figured as much,” Sara grinned. “Have more news though…”


“Well because I’m past the twenty-eight day mark, Seema was able to listen to the heartbeat…”

“Uh huh…” Jen prompted.

“There were four,” Sara shrugged.

“WHAT!” Jen shrieked. “You mean you’re having…uhh what are they called again?”

Sara laughed at her sister-in-law’s reaction. “I had the same problem…they’re quadruplets…and yes, can you believe it?” Sara asked before shaking her head. “Then again, I’m a twin and so is John…should have seriously been predicted, right?”

“Yeah…now that I think about it…” Jen shook her head. “God, John is going to flip. You know, you are just too impatient Gina, you never do things the easy way…” she teased.

“Ehh, perfectionism…it’s a pain,” Sara shrugged once more. “So then, up for a movie tonight?”

“Depends on the movie,” commented Jen.

“Well, I figured if we're celebrating, then it has to be Cinderella,” Sara winked.

“Works for me,” commented Jen as she jumped to her feet and grabbed the movie, popping it into the machine before plopping down next to Sara again.

“I'm surprised you ever need to actually put it in the machine,” Sara chuckled. “On to the movie then,” she continued before reaching over to turn off the light.

“Well, I don’t want to wear it out, now do I?” giggled Jen.

“Somehow I doubt that will happen.”

Friday March 3rd, 2006
Washington, D.C.
Subway Restaurant
12:41 p.m.

“I still can’t believe you’re pregnant,” Pat laughed as they sat down in a booth. “And with four babies!”

I can’t believe she’s not going to tell John for another two-and-a-half weeks,” Kevin countered.

“What? It’s going to be a surprise when he gets home,” Sara shrugged as she picked up half of her sandwich. “You people realized you created a monster when you started introducing me to meat three years ago.”

“No, Subway created the monster, they’re the ones who have the sweet onion chicken teriyaki sandwich I swear you eat three times a week,” Jen countered.

“Semantics,” Sara smirked.

“So how do you like being the go between now that they put you behind a desk for all purposes?” Kevin asked, since Ron learned she was pregnant, well it was more Zoey’s doing, Sara had found herself being the official contact for Zoey’s detail while Pete was the temporary head agent.

“It’s a living; right now I’m actually more concerned with keeping Alicia from going to town on a nursery. The woman is obsessed.”

“I hear that,” Jen laughed. “She’s coming to me for help convincing you.”

“Oh no, these are my grandbabies, if anyone is helping design this nursery it’s me,” Pat waved one finger in the air to accentuate her point. “And that’s on Gina and John’s timetable.”

“Thank you God, someone other than Jen is going to at least let me wait until I tell John that I’m pregnant before we turn a room into a nursery,” Sara laughed. “Anyway, I vote for Cold Stone for desert.”

“I saw that coming the moment I saw Cold Stone on the way here,” Pat shook her head before picking up her own sandwich. “So, while we’re on the subject, what are you thinking for the nursery?”

“Can I wait to find out if they’re boys or girls first?”

Tuesday March 14th, 2006
Waldorf, Maryland
Peters Residence
6:23 a.m.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” Sara called as she plodded down the stairs, Fawkes running down after her on the small ‘ramp’ created for him. “For the love of God, it’s not even seven in the morning…” she continued as she unlocked the door and opened it as far as the chain would allow. “Abbey?”

“Hi Sweetheart,” Abbey began, “I know it’s early, but can you come over to Jen’s?”

“Umm…sure…” Sara nodded before closing the door so she could unhook the chain. “Come on in; let me grab my shoes and a coat.”

Once Sara was bundled up in her jacket, with a pair of boots on her feet, laces untied, she stood and headed towards the door, locking it behind her. “What’s going on?” she asked as they walked down the hill.”

“Hey Gina, you have a following,” Alicia called while opening the door to her car across the street.

Glancing back Sara shook her head at the sight of Fawkes flapping his wings enough to get him airborne for a hop before doing so again. “Cold feet there bird?” she asked as she stopped and picked him up, he immediately climbed up her back to bury himself in the hood of her coat that was down. “Thanks Cia.”

“No problem,” Alicia called back before getting into her car.

“So, I was asking…” Sara began looking back towards Abbey as they walked around the snow towards Jen’s house.

“Jed has something to tell both you and Jennifer.”

“Okay…” Sara drew the word out in three syllables before shrugging and continuing the rest of the short journey in silence. Once inside her sister’s house, she quickly shed her jacket and shoes by the front door as always, Fawkes ending up on her shoulder as they made their way into the kitchen. “Morning Sis.”

“Morning,” Jen yawned. “That bird does follow you everywhere, doesn’t he?”

“Snuck out of the house without either of us noticing, Alicia saw him, otherwise I’d have a frozen popsicle for a macaw,” Sara shrugged as she poured herself a cup of coffee then set Fawkes down on the kitchen floor. “You’re not getting my coffee,” she told him before walking over to join Jen at the table. “Hello Jed.”

“Gina,” he nodded as Abbey joined them.

“So what’s going on that has you guys waking us up before the sun is even up?” Jen asked with another yawn.

“Leo called me this morning,” Jed began after a moment. “And I requested that I be the one to give you two the news…”

“News?” Sara and Jen echoed before glancing at each other…that had a bad sound to it.

“Girls…there’s been an accident,” he continued after a moment, still not sure how he wanted to word this.

“Oh God,” Sara whispered.

“No…” Jen spoke at the same time, the two women grabbing each other’s hand.

“I’m sorry, Mike and John didn’t make it,” Abbey spoke up quickly.

“Oh God no…” Sara choked out as Jen started to sob.

Alicia had heard the news on the radio on her way to work, and immediately turned around and headed back home. CNN had picked up the story about two Navy pilots killed off the coast of Italy, a local having had footage of the accident that took place earlier that morning. The fact that Jed and Abbey had been over at the house that early in the morning just cemented the fear that it was Michael and John. She and Thomas joined the gathering by seven, and it was Alicia who called Kevin and Patricia. By noon, they were at the house as well, as were Zoey and Charlie.

By the end of the day, CNN had a complete report on the accident, once the names were released. It had been a freak accident, an early morning routine flight. Their controls went offline and they had tried to land, but in doing so they came just low enough to crash on the deck, a complete tank of fuel due to the fact they had only taken off five minutes earlier left the plane a ticking bomb. They weren’t able to get out before the fire hit the tank. Everything happened seven hours before either woman even found out that their husbands were gone.

Sunday March 19th, 2006
Arlington, Virginia
Arlington National Cemetery
10:35 a.m.

“The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: For thou art with me; Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.”

“Psalms forty-six, one through three; God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

“John five, twenty-eight through twenty-nine says; “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out -- those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.”

“Let us pray. Dear God, as we stand beside these open graves, in this silent city of the dead, we commit these bodies to the ground, and we commit their spirits, together with every sacred interest of our hearts, into your keeping, praying that you will deal graciously and mercifully with each of us, until we too shall come to our final resting place, through the riches of grace in Jesus our Lord. Amen.”

Both Sara and Jen jumped slightly when the first of the 21-Gun salute volleys was fired, the second and third managed to make them jump both times as well. When the bugler began to play Taps, they glanced at each other; Sara’s right hand holding Jen’s left, before looking towards the two caskets and watching as the flags were folded.

“This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation, as a token of our appreciation for the honorable and faithful service rendered by your loved one,” the Chaplin spoke as he handed Sara her flag.

“Thank you,” she whispered as the words were repeated and Jen was given her flag by Michael and John’s CO as the song they had requested began to play.

“There's a flower in the smallest garden - Reaching for the light
There's a candle in the darkest corner - Conquering the night
There is amazing strength In a willing hand
There are victories - That you've never planned
There's a hero - In everybody's heart

“There's a fire inside of everybody - Burning clear & bright
There's a power in the faintest heartbeat - That cannot be denied
Go on and trust yourself - Cause you can ride the wind
You're gonna take your dreams - Where's they've never been
There's a hero In everybody's heart

“Go on and trust yourself - Cause you can ride the wind
You're gonna take your dreams - Where they've never been
There's a hero In everybody's heart”

Sunday March 19th, 2006
Las Vegas, Nevada
CSI Break Room
7:42 a.m. (local time)

“Holy crap,” Greg Sanders exclaimed, catching the attention of the others in the break room who had been doing their own thing while he watched the news on CNN.

“What?” Nick asked looking up from his report.

“One of the women who just buried their husbands, I could have sworn it was Sara…but it couldn’t have been cause this lady had black hair…but guys, I could have sworn it was her…”

“You’re seeing things Greg, might be time to lay off on the coffee,” Catherine spoke up as she went back to her magazine.

“If you say so,” Greg shook his head as the reporter continued to comment on the accident that took the lives of Commander Michael William Garrison and Lieutenant Commander Jonathon Kennedy Peters.

Monday March 20th, 2006
Arlington, Virginia
Arlington National Cemetery
11:45 a.m.

Sara didn’t get a chance to come back until the next day on her own, her first chance to talk with John alone as it were. She walked along the rows of other markers, until she approached the newest crosses. When she reached them, she placed a rose on each before standing up. “Hey you,” she began with a sigh. “God, I’m so angry with you Jonathon Peters,” she continued as she shook her head. “You promised you wouldn’t leave me…and now both of you are gone…”

Sighing once more she sunk to the ground, kneeling next to her husband’s marker. “Yeah, we both know I’m really not that upset, well, that and I know you didn’t do this on purpose. But God, I miss you John. And you too Mike,” she added glancing over at his cross. “Well, I had planned to tell you this when you got home in two days…I’m pregnant. There’s a little piece of you left here in this world after all…actually there are…there… we’re having quadruplets…” Sara paused to take a deep breath

“Our last week together…God John, how am I going to do this without you?” she asked, reaching up to brush at her eyes. “You’re supposed to be here to raise our children. That’s how we always planned it when we talked about kids. And now you don’t even get to deal with my mood swings and late night cravings and all that other crap…you’re supposed to be here to paint the nursery and sing our sons or daughters to sleep. To be there the first day of school and deal with me while I’m doing that whole freaking out over the fact my babies are starting school deal…God, can you even see me doing that in the first place? Oh John…what am I going to do now?” she whispered before letting her head fall to rest against the cross.

October 31st, 2006
Waldorf, Maryland
Peters Residence
7:59 p.m.

The next seven months passed almost all too quickly in Sara’s mind. One day she was learning she was pregnant and finding out her husband and brother-in-law were dead, the next she was here today, watching as everyone other than Jen and herself got ready for the Halloween they had planned. Which wasn’t an easy task to bear witness to in itself, since they had planned to go as Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin and Morgana in their immediate group, Zoey, Charlie, Alicia, and Thomas filling out the other ranks in Middle Ages society.

She still couldn’t believe it had been almost seven months since they lost the guys…Both she and Jen had been given time off, even with their protests. Kevin and Pat had stayed with them for a week before returning home after the funeral, and the next two weeks they switched nights staying at each others’ houses. To be honest Sara was more worried about Jen than she was herself. She was heartbroken; there was no doubt about that. She’d lost her husband and a man she considered a brother. But Jen was devastated, she, Michael, and John had been together since they were fifteen, she had twenty years with Michael, and a lifetime with John. And she’d lost both. Sara could relate, she knew what it was like to lose a twin, that was harder than loosing another sibling. But there wasn’t much either of them could do for the other except be there.

After two weeks though, they’d finally said it was time they stayed at home alone, though they both had agreed they were a phone call and ten steps away. So far the calls had happened, but no more late night trips. She and Jen had returned to work as well, back to accompanying Zoey to classes and such. Life went on…

It had been four months since Sara went on maternity leave, three since her baby shower thrown by Pat and Abbey. In the end Pat, Abbey, Alicia, Zoey, and Abby had gone to town on the nurseries after learning she was expecting two girls and two boys. For the girls, they created a winter landscape on the walls thanks to Ellie’s talent with paints. One straight out of a Disney movie, with the Princesses skating on a pond, and such. The theme had continued through the room, a snowflake mobile, collector dolls that were the Princesses on skates, set up on stands so it looked like they were skating. The whole idea had come from a Disney snow globe Alicia had seen at the Disney store when she was hunting for Christmas gifts for Jen, of Belle, Cinderella, Aurora, and Snow White skating. She had laughed though when she found out that the actual paintings of the Princesses, and they even got Jasmine in a winter outfit at that, were removable. They were done on special paper that had been carefully taped to the walls in a few strategic places so that when they were older, if they wanted, then they could remove them. For the boy’s room, they did a Pooh theme, having decided that Mickey could cause a bit too much of a complex for one of them in the future.

Sara had been thrilled by all she’d gotten at the shower for Jacqueline, Michael, Jonathon and Shanti, but the one thing that had been bothering her since that night was how distant Jen was. Sara had assumed it was because of her grief over losing Mike and John. She hadn’t thought much of it really, accepting it as Jen’s way of grieving until a month later, when Sara went into labor eight weeks early on the seventeenth of August, just as predicted. Jacqueline Patricia Peters had been born just before midnight, weighing 3.4 pounds. Michael Edward Peters was next, ten minutes after his big sister, 3.4 again. Three minutes behind him had been Shanti Diane Peters, 3.3 pounds. Last but not least was Jonathon Kennedy Peters, 3.1 pounds. Jackie and Shanti were identical with Sara’s hair and John’s jade eyes, while Mikey and Johnny had their dad’s eyes and hair; all four though had her curls. It appeared she had initially had two eggs that decided to split. They had been in NCIU for a while, before Jackie came home first on the eighteenth of September, Shanti came home the twenty-first, Mikey the day after. Johnny was the last one to come home, on the twenty-seventh. Everyone had visited to see her, but it had been Jen who had drawn Sara’s attention, Jen who wouldn’t hold her own nieces or nephews.

“Gina, are you sure?” Zoey asked drawing Sara from her thoughts.

“Zo, I told you, you guys go, have fun. I’m going to enjoy some quiet time with this angel,” Sara countered as she took her eldest daughter from Zoey. Zoey, Charlie, Alicia, and Thomas had decided they weren’t going to go to the Bartlet Halloween party, and Sara had to repeatedly tell them to go and have fun. All the work done on the costumes didn’t deserve to go to waste anymore than the four for the guys, Jen and herself were.

“I wish you were coming with, even if you aren’t coming in costume,” Zoey sighed once more.

“Go have fun Zo; it’s your parents’ party. It’s tradition to go alright?”

“Alright, well at least you and Jen can enjoy a Disney Halloween movie marathon,” Zoey conceded.

“Exactly,” Sara smiled, having her own doubts about that, but she’d let Zoey believe it. “Now go have fun, all of you,” she continued to Alicia, Thomas, and Charlie spread through the room.

“Alright, we're going. But Thomas is going to walk with you and the babies over to Jen's,” Alicia agreed.

“You guys don't have to do that...”

“No, we're pains and are going to,” Thomas argued and Sara sighed, realizing she couldn't compete with them. Ten minutes later she found herself and a bundled up Jackie, Mikey, Shanti, and Johnny in their bassinets standing in front of Jen's door while Thomas rang the bell, one of his hands free with only Mikey to carry as the girls were sharing a bassinet.

“Yes?” asked Jen when she opened the door, her voice completely devoid of any emotion and her normally sparkling eyes dull.

“Just dropping Gina off for the movie marathon, she ordered us to the party,” Thomas explained with a small smile.

“Hey Sis,” Sara continued softly.

“Movie marathon?” Jen asked in confusion.

“Yeah, the Disney Halloween movie marathon since we're not going to Abbey and Jed's party,” Sara explained quickly, mentally kicking herself for not reminding Jen about it the day before since it had been initially thrown out the day the costumes arrived. True she hadn't been expecting it to happen...but this was not a good time for it to be being asked about with Thomas present and his wife and Zoey waiting for a report that Sara and the children had made it safely.

“Oh right, that movie marathon,” commented Jen as she stepped back to allow Sara to enter the house.

“Yeah, well, we're here safe and sound, you can go to the party now Thomas,” Sara smiled as she took the diaper bag from him.

“Alright, enjoy you two,” Thomas nodded as he set Mikey down before leaving.

“Sorry, I had kinda figured you didn't want to do the marathon, but you know how those four are...” Sara sighed as she turned to look at Jen, diaper bag on her right shoulder, the bag actually resting against her back as she carefully held Jackie and Shanti's bassinet on her left side, Johnny’s on her right. “I can head back home in ten, give them time to leave if you want to just not do it.”

“Its fine, you’re already here,” replied Jen as she turned and walked into the living room.

“You sure?” Sara asked a bit skeptical.

“Its fine, Gina,” repeated Jen from where she was looking through her movie collection.

“Okay,” Sara shrugged lightly before following her into the living room and setting Jackie's bag down. “I'm going to put them in the den since they're sleeping,” she continued nodding back towards the room sort of diagonal from the living room.

“That’s fine,” commented Jen as she slipped a video in the recorder.

Sara nodded before turning and making her way to the den where she set the girls and Johnny down before going to get Mikey. She made sure they were all comfortable and warm, making a trip back to grab the bag before turning the light off and bringing the baby monitor with her in case they couldn't hear any of them over the movie initially. “Want me to make popcorn?” she asked once back in the living room and she had set the monitor down on a side table by where she planned to sit.

“Sure, there’s chips in the cupboard as well if you want,” suggested Jen as she turned on the TV before collapsing on the opposite end of the couch.

“Cider or Cocoa?” Sara called as she rummaged in the cupboard. “And regular or cheese?” she continued when she spotted both.

“Cider and regular,” Jen called back.

Sara nodded before grabbing both boxes of popcorn then making a quick decision about the drinks. She figured if they were going to do this, may as well make drinks they could really enjoy, and a quick check of Jen's cupboards and fridge showed she had everything. Grabbing two pots she set to making quick batches of homemade hot cocoa and not quite homemade cider. Ten minutes later she was walking back to the couch with a tray containing their drinks and the two bowls of popcorn.

“Be right back, there's a few bags with our names on them at my place,” Sara smiled as she grabbed her keys, figuring while she was at it she’d get replacements for a few of the supplies she’d used for their drinks, then she could always make more later if the need arose.

“No Gina! Wait,” Jen called just as Sara slipped out the front door. A moment after the door clicked shut behind Sara, Jen heard one of the babies start to cry over the baby monitor. When the baby continued to cry, Jen slowly got up off the couch and made her way over to the den, pushing the door open all the way and turning on the light, finding it was Jackie who had woken, and fortunately hadn’t woken her sister and brothers. After a few minutes of trying to get Jackie to settle by just using the stuffed Eeyore that Sara had brought with her, having moved her, bassinet and all, to the hallway to keep from waking the others, Jen gave a sigh of defeat and gave in, finally picking little Jackie up, talking to her quietly and walking around the room trying to settle her.

“Jen?” Sara called when she entered the house with two Wal-mart bags she'd grabbed to stick stuff in, only to hear Jackie. Dropping the bags by the door she headed towards them. “She wake up?”

“What does it look like,” snapped Jen as she turned to face Sara. “Here. Take her. She’s your daughter,” Jen said shoving Jackie towards Sara.

“Jen?” Sara asked as she took Jackie before watching as Jen practically ran from the room. “Shh, its okay Sweetheart, Mom's here...” Sara cooed as she turned her attention to her daughter.

After a few minutes, Jackie was back asleep and back in her bassinet, Eeyore by her side, both back in the den with the others. After double-checking that she was set, and Shanti, Johnny and Michael hadn’t woken as well, Sara left the room, flipping the light off once more and pulling the door mostly shut. “Jen?” she began as she entered the living room once more, only to spot her sister-in-law in the kitchen at the sink, staring out the window. “Hey, you okay?” she asked as she entered the kitchen, noticing the drink in Jen's hand.

“I’m fine,” replied Jen, a slightly hysterical laugh in her voice as she took another drink, draining the glass before pouring herself another one.

“Sure you are,” Sara sighed. “Jen, what's going on? What happened back there, it was as if you thought Jackie was a bomb, not a baby. Why are you so...distant now...they're your nieces and nephews for crying out loud,” Sara sighed heavier, keeping her voice down because of Jackie.

“She’s a punishment, Gina,” replied Jen sadly. “She’s God’s way of punishing me.”

“Jen...you can't believe that...” Sara asked shocked.

Can’t I?” demanded Jen over her shoulder, her back still to Sara.

“Yes Jen, why would God be punishing you?”

“Because I didn’t love my husband enough to give him the child he always wanted,” countered Jen quietly, her voice laced with pain.

Sara was shocked silent for a few moments before shaking her head lightly. “Jen...that wasn't your fault...”

“You never saw his face Gina. Every time we thought there was the chance only to have that hope dashed a week or so later. It killed him and it killed me that I couldn’t do the simplest thing for my husband,” explained Jen.

“Jen...I'm so sorry...” Sara began softly.

“I don’t want your pity, Gina,” snapped Jen.

“It's not pity,” Sara countered gently. “I'm sorry that this happened to you and Mike, because you deserved to have everything you ever wanted. I'm not pitying you...I can't explain what I'm feeling, but it's not pity, Sis. You know me better than that...”

“I’m sorry Gina, I didn’t mean to snap,” commented Jen as she finally turned around only to slide to the floor, her back against the cabinet. “You’re the only person that knows. Mike and I couldn’t bring ourselves to break our parents’ hearts by telling them.”

“Oh Sis,” Sara whispered as she slid down to sit a few feet from Jen, not wanting to crowd her. “I don't know why, but I know it isn't your fault. If anyone is to blame, then it's God himself. I wish things were different though, so very much.”

“I’ve come to accept the fact that God’s decided to punish me by not allowing me to have children of my own, Gina. It’s just hard for me to see you with them because it reminds me that you have a part of John to hold onto and all I have of Mike is memories,” Jen said as she wiped a tear away.

“In a way, Jackie is a part of Mike too. She wouldn't be here today without him,” Sara whispered.

“It’s not the same, Gina,” countered Jen.

“I know Sis,” Sara nodded. “I know it's going to take time, Jen, all I'm asking is that you give her a chance. You're her only aunt...she's going to worship you, you know? They all are…” Sara smiled softly. “Until they’re old enough to trail after you and not give you the choice, take your time. I won't push...but please don't push us all away. I've been going nuts worrying about you these last few months cause you've been so distant. Even explaining it away in my mind didn't make me miss you less...”

“I can’t make you a promise I don’t know if I can keep, Gina,” replied Jen.

“I'm not asking for a promise, just for you to think about it and try when possible. Why don't we go enjoy the movies though and stop worrying for one night?”

Jen nodded, not once looking at Sara, before pushing herself up from the floor and making her way back into the living room.

Sighing softly Sara rose and made her way back to get the things she'd left in the hallway before joining Jen once more, bag of Hershey chocolate in hand.

Monday December 25th, 2006
Anaheim, California
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel
Peters/Garrison Suite
9:25 a.m.

After their talk that night, Sara had done what she said and not pushed. And Jen was still a bit distant from her sister-in-law, nieces, and nephews; but nobody pushed her on the matter or even commented on it. It was what it was, and with time they were all sure things would get better. Thanksgiving in Norfolk wasn’t the same as it had always been, and was still hard, but they enjoyed themselves as much as possible.

The Christmas surprise from the Bartlets, Alicia, and Thomas had been the shock of a lifetime for the two women, when they’d been given a single box seven days before Christmas and told to open them then and there. Inside Sara and Jen had found tickets for Disneyland, and reservations at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel. When they had protested, they’d been informed it was their gift, for them, the children, Kevin and Pat. After that, they’d resigned themselves to it and not argued. So on December twenty-first, after Zoey finished her exams, the group made their way to California.

When they arrived at the hotel, the decorations and such put everyone in the holiday mood as much as possible, and the sight in their suite was even more festive. A three-foot tree was waiting with white lights, red ribbons and gold Mickey Mouse heads. There were even tons of ornaments, the majority of the ‘fab five’, Mickey more than the others, but also including plain red and gold balls among others. While Jen retreated to get some sleep, Kevin and Pat set to work unpacking a box they had brought with them and continued decorating the room, a wreath going on all the doors, icicle lights being hung on the banister in front of their door, Disney Christmas window decals that they’d been collecting for years going up on windows. By the time Jen woke, the rooms had been turned even more into a Christmas feeling, and gifts were piled under the tree having been shipped ahead.

Since they had so much time to enjoy just the one park instead of having four like Disney World, they didn’t even plan to hit the entire park at once, instead taking their time and simply enjoying. And with four four-month-olds in tow…it made things quite interesting. But they did do everything, with earplugs for babies during the louder events, from the special parades and shows, to making cookies at the Main Street Fire Station. They had their pictures taken in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle and on Main Street, and with characters.

For the most part it appeared that even though everyone was missing John and Mike, they did have fun their first four days, even Jen could be caught smiling every now and again by her parents, usually when watching as Sara did something with her children, or when they were having pictures taken of Jackie, Mikey, Shanti and Johnny with Santa, Mickey, Minnie, and so many others dressed up in their Christmas best. There were moments when Kevin and Pat seriously doubted the idea everyone back home had about sending the girls to Disneyland in hopes of giving them something to help with the first Christmas without the boys. They had chosen Disney because it was always Jen’s escape, and Disneyland seemed the right one because it was the only park, other than Tokyo or Hong Kong, without memories of the guys being there for either one or both women. But…all in all, it seemed to be a good thing, even when Mickey and Minnie had gone over and dragged Jen into a picture with Sara and the babies and Jen’s initial resistance was evident to all. But even she couldn’t say no to Mickey…

Christmas Day dawned bright and early, at least for Kevin and Pat. They were so used to Jen’s five am wake-up call, that they actually woke up just as Sara was coming out to steal a piece of chocolate from the dish on the coffee table, after two-am feedings. She’d joined them for a while, before heading back to bed and crashing while they set to filling stockings, other than Jackie, Mikey, Shanti, and Johnny’s that were special stockings courtesy of Disney. Sara and Jackie emerged from their room around eight, before she went back to get the rest of the munchkins, and Pat finally went in to drag Jen out of bed from the room she was sharing with her parents so no one would be woken by the babies, around nine.

During the night, along with a pile of gifts and stockings appearing, Kevin and Pat has also added a number of ornaments to the tree, which caught the eye of Sara when she first came out, and in turn did the same for Jen. The ornaments were matching in a way, white china with gold trim replicas of the classic Mouse ear hats. Little Minnie bows on some. Each had a name written in gold, Minnie ears for the girls, Mickey for the guys. There was one for every member of the family: Kevin, Pat, Jen, Gina, Jackie, Mikey, Shanti, Johnny…John and Mike. Those two were the ones that had Sara smiling at her mother-in-law before gently brushing her name along the letters spelling Jonathon, and Jen was obviously affected, none of the other adults missing her initial reaction, but she refused to let it show after that.

Stockings came first, as always, though the real fun was opening the special stockings for the kids, a Tinker Bell one for Shanti, Mickey one for Mikey, much to Sara's chagrin, a Belle one for Jackie, and a Pooh one for Johnny. Inside they found Disney cookies and other treats; and collectibles set aside to be kept for later.

There were the usual gifts; many many gifts for the babies, including a large number of Disney related stuffed animals. When almost all the gifts had been dispersed, Pat pulled two out from the back of the tree, a larger box for Sara, a smaller one for Jen.

“Where did this come from?” asked Jen tentatively as she took the box from her mother.

“Josephine contacted me a few months ago...Mike had this sent to her when he was on ship...” Pat answered softly.

“It’s from Mike?” whispered Jen, her emotions becoming quite evident in her voice. “I…I can’t…” she trailed off as she held the box back out towards her mother.

“Jen...Sweetie...would you rather I open it?” she asked softly.

Jen bit her lower lip, trying to hold in her emotions as she nodded slightly.

Pat nodded before carefully unwrapping the box, then opening it and carefully extracting the gift within. “It’s beautiful,” Pat said as she held it out towards Jen. It was a nine and half inch tall porcelain figurine of Cinderella and Prince Charming dancing together at the ball. “It’s called…”

“I know what it’s called,” Jen interrupted, as the tears she had been fighting back finally broke free. “I can’t do this,” she cried quietly before pushing herself to her feet and fleeing the room, closing the bedroom door behind her before throwing herself on her bed and giving into her tears completely.

Pat carefully moved the sleeping Jackie to a blanket on the floor from her lap, before following after Jen, leaving Kevin holding Michael and Sara debating following after her mother-in-law.

“She'll be fine, Gina,” Kevin spoke up, seeing the debate in her eyes. “Stay, besides, you need to open your gift.”

“Are you sure?” Sara asked glancing at the door to the other room.

“Gina...Sweetheart, Pat will talk to her. Open your gift, Gin, it arrived a few months ago at our house, a friend of John's sent it with a note explaining John had asked him to make it and he finished the project from a drawing John had of what he wanted...”

“Really?” Sara asked softly before glancing down at the box in her lap. Catching her bottom lip between her teeth, she carefully began to unwrap the package as well, opening the box inside, she pulled out a large shadow box, a foot or so in height, just shy of two in width, and two in depth, the back to her. Turning it around she gasped when she saw what was in the box.

Inside the box was a background painting similar to the scene from Mickey’s Christmas Carol of Mr. Fizzywig’s party, complete with characters from the movie, in proportion to the background of course. In the center of the box, there was an ivory china Christmas tree with sculpted ornaments and glittering snowflakes hanging from the boughs, toys and gift boxes encircling the base. Gold accent bows crowned the top of the tree, and there an ivory ribbon draped around the tree. There was a small knob on the side of the box, that when Sara turned it, she found it turned the tree, and two of the other figures, the turning of the tree though, revealed that there was a name written on each of the ribbons, Michael, Jennifer, Jonathon, Virginia, Kevin, Patricia…

In front and to the left of the tree was a porcelain figurine of Aurora and Phillip dancing, in her pink dress that slowly spun when the knob was turned. Across from it, in front and to the right of the tree, was the same figurine that Jen had received from Mike, Cinderella and her Prince also ‘dancing’ in a circle when the knob was turned. The top of the background picture had a painting of clouds odd enough, the only thing different from the image of Mr. Fizzywig’s in the movie. Resting on some sort of small platform that held one last figurine, Aladdin and Jasmine rode on the magic carpet, resting on a base of clouds. There was a brass plate at the bottom of the box, in Disney Font even, was written…

You opened my eyes to a whole new world when you walked into my life.

Glancing over at her father-in-law she smiled before turning her attention back to the shadow box and gently brushing her fingers across the brass plate. “Thank you.”

“We’re just the messengers as it were,” Kevin countered gently. “But you’re welcome.”

Sara nodded before glancing over at Shanti as she began to cry. “I’ll take care of her…they’re probably hungry. Let me know when Mom and, or, Jen come out?”

“Sure,” Kevin nodded before rising and helping her take the children to her room. A few minutes later Pat came out with a sad smile, Jen had cried herself back to sleep.

Monday July 30th, 2007
Waldorf, Maryland
Trinity Memorial Gardens
3:45 p.m.

After they returned from Christmas, things settled down for the most part. Charlie proposed to Zoey on Valentine's, she of course immediately accepting. The wedding was planned for December...Sara eventually returned to work, after finding a nanny who would be with the Quads during the day. Rebecca was taking college courses online, so spending all day with the four actually helped her in a way. March saw Spring Break for Zoey, and a six-month birthday party for the four. And the greatest gift of all in the eyes of everyone present. Jen finally was able to hold her nieces and nephews, even being the one to initiate it. After that, she was often with Sara after they got off work, of the four though; she had a special connection with her nephew Michael.

June past in a normal pattern, Alicia and Thomas began hosting the summer parties of old, everyone migrating to Sara's for the pool and to spend time in the rose garden. Kevin and Pat would come up on weekends, and more often than not Zoey and Charlie's weekend plans would find them at Lockbury court, often planning their wedding with Abbey at one of the houses. The elder Bartlets were frequent quests of the weekly BBQs, more so than they had ever been before the accident. July began the same way as the past months, other than the heat starting to grow worse. They were preparing for the kids' first birthday as the month wore on.

Sara had risen the morning of the 26th, a Thursday making it her and Jen's day with Zoey. Michael and Jonathon's room being the closest, she had checked on them first...Alicia had been walking to her car when she heard the scream through a window kept open during the night to let in what little cool air they got in the summer.

SIDS was the diagnosis, no explanation for why Michael had died. Both girls and Jonathon were fine, a blessing they were told. It didn't stop any of them from being devastated. Kevin and Pat came when Alicia called, she had run across the street, and when Sara didn't answer had gone to Jen for the spare key. It had been Thomas and Alicia who had to call 911, both Jen and Sara sent into complete shock.

Four days later they were burying Michael, the ceremony was beautiful, neither Sara nor Jen registering a word of it though. Everyone eventually left, heading back to the Peters' house, leaving Jen and Sara behind, both women watching as they lowered the small casket into the ground. They stayed until the white box had been completely covered. Before they left, Sara knelt down and gently brushed her fingers along the ground before she began to softly sing.

“I'll be your candle on the water - My love for you will always burn
I know you're lost and drifting, - But the clouds are lifting,
Don't give up, you have somewhere to turn.

“I'll be your candle on the water - Till every wave is warm and bright
My soul is there beside you, - Let this candle guide you
Soon you'll see a golden stream of light.

“A cold and friendless tide has found you
Don't let the stormy darkness pull you down
I'll paint a ray of hope around you
Circling in the air, lighted by a prayer.

“I'll be your candle on the water - This flame inside of me will grow
Keep holding on, you'll make it - Here's my hand, so take it
Look for me reaching out to show - As sure as rivers flow,
I'll never let you go - I'll never let you go
I'll never let you go”

Jen rarely visited after that, it was too hard, Sara was there every Sunday.

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