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Calm Before Your Storm

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The night had ended on a good note.

The Harding family, and Judy of course, had all gathered around the TV eating take-out food and sharing way too many jokes. Both Jen and Judy had a little too much to drink, as per usual, but it had been a long time since Jen had seen her boys so happy. And quite frankly, Judy too.

Sure, Judy always seemed like the happiest person in the room but beneath all that, she always looked so empty. Like there was always something missing behind every smile that bloomed on her plump lips, or the laughter that erupted from deep inside her stomach. She never really mentioned it around her, because she knows Judy has been through a lot and wouldn’t ever want to make something out of nothing. Besides, it wouldn’t be like Judy to admit anything is bothering her, but it didn’t stop Jen from wondering.

As for the boys, they were the happiest they could possibly be. Charlie and Henry actually managed to be on their best behavior for the first time in what felt like forever. No petty arguments or anything. Henry had fallen asleep with his head draped on his older brother’s shoulder, and Charlie had knocked out around the same time.

It was good for Jen too, of course. It was the first time she had been able to simply breathe, and enjoy the pleasures of being a Mother, and somebody’s best friend. In fact, she hadn’t once thought about Ted throughout the entire night. She presumed that was a good thing, even though afterward she did feel a pange of guilt deep down in her chest. Like somehow, being happy without Ted was wrong. Judy had tried her best to reassure her that it was all apart of the healing process, but Jen just shook it off. But as much as she wanted to admit that Judy was wrong, she wasn’t. Jen was in fact getting used to living without Ted. She was healing, and she could feel it within her bones. She just didn’t know if she was ready to take that extra step. To be ready to say goodbye to Ted for good, even after all of the shit she found out about him. He was her whole world just months ago, and now everything was just so fucking different. She often found herself wondering how things would be if he were to come back home that night. Would he have told her about the affair? Left her and the boys? Left her and took the boys? Those kind of questions truly made her think.

Nonetheless, the night was fucking amazing to say the least. Jen and Judy both shared one last glass of wine before they went back to the comfort of their own rooms, leaving Charlie and Henry wrapped up in blankets on the living room floor.

Jen fell asleep within moments of her crawling into bed. It was probably the fastest she had ever fallen asleep since Ted died, actually. Maybe that was just because of the liquor, or the long ass day that was now finally over, or just the simplicity of knowing that she wasn’t alone, and that Judy was just in the studio. Whatever it was, it was enough to knock her out cold. And it was nice.

That was until she was woken up only two hours later to horrifying screams coming from God knew where. And once it became evident that it was indeed, Judy’s screams, she bolted up, rubbing her eyes quickly and switching on her own lights. And before she even knew it she was already speeding down the stairs. A sleepy Charlie awaited her downstairs.

“What’s going on, Char? Is she okay?” Jen asked as she grabbed the nearest sharp object she could reach which was a metal trophy that Charlie won back in his baseball years.

Charlie shook his head in reply. “I-I don’t know! I just woke up and heard screaming. I don’t think anyone is here?! Should I grab my gun?”

Jen blinked twice. Gun? What fucking gun? Not now, Jen! She said to herself. Twisting the dull metal trophy in her hands that couldn’t hurt a fucking fly, she got ahold of herself. “No, just.. take Henry upstairs and lock the door. I’ll see what is going on.” Jen said hurriedly. “ And do not even think about following me. You take care of your brother, understand?”

Charlie nodded quickly, pulling Henry into his arms and rushing upstairs.

Jen quickly, but quietly made her way to the guest house. Faint cries could be heard from outside the door, and her heart pounded like a hammer deep inside her chest. She took a deep breath before finally breaking the glass door, the glass completely shattering onto the floor below her. And as she peeked inside, there was no one. No one but a tossing and turning Judy, who was now screaming louder than ever. “Don’t take them away! Please!” She choked on a sob. “You can’t take them away, she’s okay! She’s breathing!”

Jen quickly realized what was going on and her heart completely dropped. She was having a night terror.

Judy had talked about having them in the past, and how Steve hated it when she would wake up in absolute tears but she never thought it was so severe. She stepped in through the broken glass carefully and approached Judy’s bed quickly. She climbed in next to her and gently brought her arms around the woman. “Hey,” Jen spoke softly as another faint sob ran past her best friends’ lips. She rubbed her arms soothingly, and finally grasped Judy’s hands in her own.

“No, no!” Judy responded immediately, using her full force to try and push Jen away, but Jen only pulled her closer.

Jen ran her fingers though her hair, softly. She was never good at comforting people, ever. “I’m here, hey... don’t be scared. Everything is okay, you’re okay.” And finally, Judy opened her eyes into Jen’s and she nearly cried just seeing the fear and heartbreak written all over Judy’s face. “I got you.” Jen said, wiping away the newly brimmed tears that threatened to fall from Judy’s eyes.

Judy let out a sob into her best friends shoulder, finally letting out everything that had been pent up inside. “I’m so sorry,” She whispered brokenly, because she really, truly was. She was sorry for tearing Jen’s life apart, and then sorry for causing such a ruckus so late at night. What time was it, even? “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”

Jen’s eyebrows furrowed in concern. “Shhh, don’t be. It happens. Just breathe, alright? I’m not going anywhere.” Jen reassured her with an encouraging smile that Judy could still see amongst the darkness.

Judy nodded, and took a couple deep breaths, nearly choking on all of the sobs that were unwillingly escaping her at once. But Jen didn’t once let her feel embarrassed, or like she had somehow did something wrong. After all, she didn’t get to choose when shit like this happened. She could understand why Judy felt that way, though. From what Jen had heard, Steve hadn’t ever been as generous.

Usually, Judy had to do this all on her own. Gather her own tears, and find her way to the bathroom just so she could cry her heart out and Steve wouldn’t have to hear one second of it. She wasn’t used to this, and she didn’t deserve this. Not after all she has done to Jen.

Jen let her lips rest on the top of Judy’s forehead, trying her hardest to comfort Judy with all that she had. For a couple minutes, they didn’t say one word. Every sob that came, Jen endured and every tear that fell, she wiped away. “I know, babe.” Jen sighed, because she did. She knew it more than anyone.

“It just hurts so much.” Judy managed to say, her voice shaky. “I want it all to go away.”

Jen hummed in response, and gently began to rock her back and forth in attempt to wash away her sorrows. “Me, too. I’m sorry this has to happen to you. I’m sorry I didn’t know it was this bad, if I did...” Jen wants to say that she would never let Judy sleep alone but, it seemed far too intimate than what they were used to. And what she felt for Judy was deeper than words could ever describe. “None of this would’ve happened.” She chose, instead.

Judy only nodded into her shoulder, now clinging to Jen with every part of her limbs. It felt as if she were to let go just for even a second, she’d fall back into that horrible terror.

“I saw them.” Judy choked out.

“Saw who, honey?” Jen asked her, holding her still now.

“My babies,” Judy spoke. “All five of them. They were so beautiful.” She cried out, and Jen’s heart broke in two for her friend.

Jen nodded, and offered her a sad smile, trying to stay strong for her. “Yeah?” Jen replied and Judy nodded again. “Would you like to tell me about them?”

Judy squinted her eyes tightly, taking another deep, shaky breath. “My first baby girl, Faith. She is tall, like her Daddy. And her hair is a dirty blonde, just like yours, Jen.” She told her and Jen has to take a deep breath of her own to prevent tears from falling. She had to stay strong for her friend. “And then there is Xavier, and the curls that bounce on top of his little head whenever he j-jumps...” Judy stammered on that last sentence.

Jen’s fingers tucked the curly locks of the brunette’s hair behind her ear. “Like these?”

She only nodded in response. “And then there is Pearl, with her blue eyes and endearing dimples that poked out of her cheeks whenever she smiled.” Jen then brought her hand to Judy’s face, and caressed her warm, now pinkish complexioned cheeks gently.

Judy watched Jen in complete awe in how she was approaching this whole situation. Who knew Jen had the power of being so gentle with somebody? She never would’ve thought it would be one of her strong-suits. Or maybe Judy was just an exception.

Jen’s fingers danced across her whole face. Her nose, her forehead, the tiny bags that hung below her eyes, and her lips. Her beautiful, full, pink lips. And she didn’t even notice just how long she had been staring at them until they parted just beneath her fingers, her thumb nearly slipping onto Judy’s tongue. Fucking Judy, such a little tease even when she was crying her heart out only moments ago. And just then, Jen realized that the moon was now shining right down on Judy’s face, her smile now more evident than ever. Jen stifled a giggle at the idiot smile that then bloomed on her own lips at the view in front of her.

“What about the other two?” Jen asked her, laying her head down on Judy’s pillow, and making herself more comfortable. Judy’s smile then faded, and Jen instantly regretted asking. “Sorry, you don’t have to-“

“Then there were my two babies. And in the dream, they were perfectly healthy with smiles perfectly painted on their faces. And Steve was there too, with his arms around us.” Judy had to pause, and shut her eyes in the process before what she was about to say next. “He told me he was proud of me. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to hear,” Her voice broke and Jen squeezed her hand. “And then in an instant, the nurse was pulling them away from me, my babies a dark shade of blue. They were dying, they died and it was... is all my fault.” Judy wept, and Jen shook her head, bringing her arms back around her best friend once more.

Jen’s breath hitched, and an involuntary tear found its way down her cheek. “It’s not, Judy. You know that.” She assured her but Judy only shook her head. “Look at me.” Jen demanded, returning her hand to Judy’s cheek. Judy’s eyes peeked open enough to see Jen’s face amongst the darkness, her vision blurry and her head beginning to ache from crying so much. “It was never your fault. Please, don’t you ever say that again. There was nothing anybody could’ve done, including you, yeah?” Jen tried compromising with her, but Judy didn’t say a word. “And I am so, so proud of you, Judy. So fucking proud of you.”

Judy’s face crumpled upon hearing those words. Sure, she’s heard those words before but never had someone ever said them knowing the effect it had on her. “Thank you. Thank you so much, Jen and I’m so sorry, again.”

Jen shook her head. “Stop apologizing, you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. You’re the most amazing person I know, and you could never hurt a fly. Let alone kill someone.”

Judy swallowed thickly, but chose not to say anything. If only she knew. This was such a fucked up situation that they were in. How could Judy continue to live this way? It just felt so wrong. She didn’t know how she was going to live without Jen, and she wasn’t ready to know. She wasn’t ready to see Jen’s face when she learned the truth. The thought of losing her, and Jen resenting her for the rest of her life was just too much for Judy to even bear. It wasn’t fair. Jen is the best thing that could’ve ever happened to her, and meeting someone like that hardly ever happened.

They stayed like that for a couple more moments, and Judy being in the comfort of her best friends arms, she felt sleep welcoming her. And she silently prayed that Jen wouldn’t leave, and that they could stay that way forever. Maybe not tomorrow, or the next day, but she needed Jen like this tonight. She felt safer this way, and like if anything were to happen, Jen would be there to soothe her right away.

“Hey. Jude?” Jen whispered. Judy’s eyes blinked open into hers, as if she hadn’t just been on the verge of deep sleep. “I need to check in on the boys, I told Charlie to wait upstairs with Henry just in case somebody had broke in and was trying to hurt you.”

Judy only nodded, but made no attempt to let go of her. Jen shifted her leg in order to detach herself from the woman, but Judy only pulled her closer.

Jen chuckled softly. “I kinda need you to participate in letting me do such.” But Judy, yet again, failed to comply. “Hey, I’ll be back. Don’t worry. I’m not going to let you sleep here alone.”

A smile bloomed on Judy’s face at that. “You promise?” She mumbled.

Jen rolled her eyes and giggled at the ridiculously adorable woman who was nothing but insufferable. But nonetheless, adorable as fuck. “I promise.”

Judy groaned dramatically and slowly unwrapped her arms from around Jen, rolling over to the other side of the bed. “You better hurry up.” Judy told her.

“Yes Ma’am.” Jen replied sarcastically, slipping on her shoes and carefully making her way out of the studio through the broken glass door.

Judy’s eyes widened at the sight of the shattered glass everywhere on her floor, just great. How loud must she have been to have sounded like she was being brutally murdered? God. She rubbed her eyes, and closed her eyes once more. But she couldn’t, and wouldn’t fall asleep until she had Jen back in her bed. There was no way. When these terrors would happen over at Steve’s, it would take her at least a week for her to return to sleeping normally. So, even days after she would have them, there was always this crippling anxiety that would haunt her at night anytime she tried to close her eyes.

Just as Jen promised, she was back in no longer than 20 minutes. This time, dressed in better sleep attire. And now that she was ensured that both Henry and Charlie were safe, she wanted nothing more but to sleep. Judy dramatically opened her arms for her as soon as Jen stepped into the room, and Jen clumsily fell onto the bed right next to her, both of them collapsing into a pit of laughter.

And this, this is what felt like home. This is what Judy had always dreamed of having her whole life. Something that she never felt in eight years with Steve. And it fucking terrified her that it could be ripped away from her at any moment. She didn’t want to feel that way anymore, but all she could do was hold on to Jen for however long she could, whenever she could. Take advantage of moments like these. Judy came face to face to her, and hesitantly placed her hand on top of Jen’s waist because truth be told, she needed to be reminded that Jen would still be there when she closed her eyes, and that she wasn’t going to slip away from her anytime soon.

Jen sighed at the little contact, and tried not to fall in love how natural it felt to have her hand resting there, as if she had always done it. Jen drew closer to Judy, and let herself relish in the comfort she, herself felt just being like that. It was much better than sleeping alone, she came to realize.

“Thank you for this.” Judy spoke amongst the silence a couple moments later. Jen hummed in response, sleepily. “Seriously, Jen. I mean it.”

Jen opened her eyes and found that Judy was already looking at her. “Yeah well, I wouldn’t want you waking the whole house again.”

And although Judy knew that Jen was only teasing, because that was just how she was, she still couldn’t help the little sharp pain that shot through her heart. Her eyes averted from Jen’s and she became a little more tense. “Right.” She said under her breath, and brought her hand back to her side, tears already beginning to brim in her eyes.

‘Get ahold of yourself, Judy.’ She thought to herself, clearing her throat and closing her eyes once more to avoid any more conversation. She swallowed thickly, and mentally kicked herself.

Jen didn’t even register how her words had affected Judy until her hand had left her waist, Jen had simply gotten too comfortable. Stupid Jen. She always had to mess everything up, but she wasn’t going to let Judy get away that easily this time. Because tonight, Judy needed every piece of comfort that Jen had to offer. The woman had been screaming at the top of her lungs just a little while ago, and it was too soon to make a remark like that. She knew it was really insensitive of her.

Sighing, Jen’s hand snuck back beneath the covers, and guided Judy’s back it’s original spot on her waist and rested hers there in the process. “You’re welcome.” Jen tried, again. This time, treading more carefully. Judy found her eyes again. “There’s no place I’d rather be.”

And it was true.

Judy’s eyebrows furrowed at that, and as if it was even possible, she shifted a little closer to her. Jen opened her arms a little wider so that she could feel the comfort of Judy’s warmth. It was a rather cold night and Judy didn’t have many blankets that provided much heat for a cold night like that one.

Jen grinned at how beautiful the brunette looked like that. It was absolutely adorable. Judy herself, was absolutely adorable. She brought out a part of Jen that she never thought could’ve existed within herself until now, a soft and gentle side of her and she couldn’t tell if that was a good thing or not quite yet. After all, anyone could use it against her if they really wanted to, but if she knew one thing, Judy would never do that.

Jen inhaled sharply when she felt Judy’s hand move and arms encircle her waist. And it didn’t feel weird, again, it felt oddly natural if anything.

“Sorry, is this okay?” Judy asked, suddenly feeling a little tense again.

Jen smiled, and tilted her head to meet Judy’s eyes. “This is perfect.” She assured her. And it was. It was unusual, yes, but that was only because Ted was never like this. He wasn’t gentle, nor intimate in any way. They both kept to their own side of the bed, as far apart from one another as possible. There had been times when Ted would occasionally shift closer to her in the middle of the night, but never did he touch her, or embrace her. Nothing of the sort. So, yes, having Judy like this was different but it wasn’t bad, it was everything.

Judy appreciated this, she really did. If it weren’t for Jen being there with her, she wouldn’t have even considered going back to sleep, let alone being in the dark all by herself. It warmed her heart to see this part of Jen. The nurturing, soothing Jen rather than the explosive, impulsive Jen that she, and everyone else was so used to seeing every single day. She didn’t mind those parts of Jen, after all that’s what made her, her. It was the pure simplicity of knowing that those parts were only the half of it.

‘Sleep, Judy...’ She told herself. It was already late, and if she didn’t close her eyes, the morning would come and she’d have to watch Jen leave her. Judy exhaled sharply, feeling frustrated with herself for not being able to do just that. Sleep.

“Everything okay?”

Jen’s voice released her from her own thoughts. “Huh?” Judy responded, trying to ignore the lump that had just formed in her throat at the question.

“You just seem a little... tense. I mean, is there anything I can do?” Jen asked, because if there was one thing she knew about Judy, it was that there was always something with her.

Judy blinked one time, then twice, three times, her jaw hanging open as if words were going to just magically fall into them.

‘Say something!’ Judy’s mind yelled.

Finally, she cleared her thoughts with a shake of her head. “Yeah, no, everything is fine it’s just umm,” She paused, debating on whether or not she truly wanted to ask Jen what she did. “Never mind. Just forget about it.”

Jen rolled her eyes in response, she hated when Judy tried to dismiss her feelings or hide them for that matter.

“Judy.” Jen said sternly, but more gentle nonetheless. “Tell me.”

Biting her lip, she took a deep breath. “It’s just that I sleep better when someone is... holding me.” She confessed, almost shamefully with closed eyes, afraid of how pathetic Jen must’ve thought she was in the moment.

“Oh.” Was Jen’s only response.

And it wasn’t that Jen was uncomfortable with concept, she had just never thought about doing it before. That was usually the man’s job in all of her relationships. Then again, she’d never even been in a bed with a woman. She’s never done any of this with another woman other then Judy.

Judy swallowed the lump in her throat quickly, wanting to avoid making an even bigger fool of herself than she already had. “Like I said, just forget about it. It’s stupid. You’ve already done more than I could’ve ever asked for tonight.” Judy told her, turning around to face away from the blonde.

Judy was fucking embarrassed to say the least. It wasn’t everyday or... ever, that Jen did this type of thing so she cut her some slack. Plus, Jen didn’t take her for the “cuddling” type.

The conversation had ended there, she was sure Jen had mumbled something to her a little while afterwards but she didn’t hear, nor did she want to know. She just wanted to sleep, now. Without thinking about the woman that was behind her, Jen’s hot breath now tickling her neck, she tried to focus on anything else.

Then, all of a sudden she felt her best friend start to shift, and for a moment Judy thought that Jen was about to get up and leave her by herself, but that idea was quickly put out of her mind when she felt two, strong but feminine arms surround her waist in what felt like an instant.

Jen quickly found herself extremely nervous, and a little scared that she was going to do the wrong thing, or touch her the wrong way somehow.

Was she doing this right? Would Judy tell her if she wasn’t? Was this a good idea? Should she have just left it alone like Judy said?

Thoughts raced through her mind, and it felt like chaos, but through it all it also felt like peace. Just knowing that Judy was in her arms like this, and that nobody could bring harm to her put a smile on her face, and a warm feeling in her stomach that she couldn’t explain.

Sure, it was a different sensation to Judy and like Jen, not at all what she was used to. Steve’s arms were strong and tough, and she always felt protected when in his embrace. But in Jen’s arms, she felt loved, and safe, and calm. Jen’s tender body was pressed up against her back, and her face buried in her neck, and this was what felt right. And in that moment, Judy truly believed that nothing could ever top that feeling.

With that, Judy finally closed her eyes, and waiting for her with open arms, welcomed sleep.

They stayed like that for the entire night. Jen waited for Judy to fall asleep first of course, just like Judy had done that one night on the phone. All the way asleep. And at some point during the night, it had occurred to Jen just how far they have come since then. Who would’ve known this woman would end up meaning so much, too much to her? Those were Jen’s last thoughts before she finally closed her eyes as well, and let sleep take over.

Fucking, finally.

Morning came much quicker than Jen had anticipated.

She had plans to get up early and run some errands, maybe do a little back to school shopping with boys but when she woke up to the beautiful vision of Judy cuddled up next to her, her heart absolutely fluttered. At some point during the night, Judy must’ve turned back around because now here she was, her head resting on Jen’s chest and her arms tucked away somewhere beneath the sheets, and their legs entangled with one another. And every now and then, she’d hear a faint, quiet snore pass the brunette’s lips. It was yet another thing about Judy that was absolutely fucking adorable.

She never really knew waking up to someone could feel so good until she woke up next to Judy.

Jen’s face inched closer to her best friends, and she gently pressed her lips against the tip of her tiny nose. Judy made a little face, which made a smile curve upon her own and giggle quietly. She brought a hand to Judy’s cheek, and caressed it gently, taking in the absolute beauty of the woman lying next to her. She tucked a loose strand of Judy’s hair behind her ear and sighed.

What was she even doing? What was this? And why did everything with Judy always feel so natural, like they might as well have done it a thousand times before?

She closed her eyes, and cleared her throat in attempt to gather herself, but she obviously didn’t do it quiet enough seeing as Judy then began to stir.

A loud yawn escaped Judy as the arms that had once been lost beneath the sheets stretched out from above the both of them. Her eyes finally fluttered open, and then there was Jen. The beautiful woman who had stayed with her all throughout the night, just to make sure that not another thing happened to her. It felt oddly good to see Jen’s face first thing in the morning. New. New was the word. It was a good kind of new, the kind of new you didn’t expect, but was wonderful nonetheless.

It was then that Judy realized Jen’s hand was resting upon her cheek, and her fingers were gently caressing it. “Good morning to you too.” Judy spoke, daring to break the silence.

“That it is.” Jen responded, biting her lip playfully and then dropping her gaze. “Uh... sorry.” She added, realizing what she was doing and quickly dropping her hand from the woman’s cheek, clearing her throat in the process.

Judy’s smile faded at the loss of contact. They were still very much touching, their limbs completely tangled together but it was much less intimate. Or at least, it wasn’t the same. Judy didn’t respond, because what was she to even say? And why hadn’t Jen left yet? She thought to herself.

And after a beat or two, Judy finally spoke.

“You know, you don’t have to feel obligated to stay. I know you have things to do.”

Jen frowned, and shook her head. “I... don’t- I know. I just, wanted to make sure you were alright is all.” She replied, her words all coming out scattered and extremely rushed. She took a deep breath before continuing. “Sorry if I made it weird.”

Judy mentally kicked herself for mentioning anything at all, because if anything Jen was always the one person she felt the most comfortable with and she didn’t want her leaving in the first place. Not now, really ever. She just didn’t want Jen to feel like it was her job to take care of her. If only it was possible for them to stay like that forever. Maybe then Judy wouldn’t have to worry about Jen turning her back on her, or waking up choking back her tears. Just maybe she’d be a little more content.

So, Judy smiled and the same front she always put on returned. “Not at all, but we should probably get up. The boys are going to wake soon and I’d like to make you all breakfast.”

Jen only nodded in response, but like Judy the night before, made no attempt to move.

“Just 5 more minutes?” Jen suggested in such a way that made Judy giggle and throw her head back into the soft pillow that they had both shared the night before.

Judy rolled her eyes and returned to her original position in Jen’s arms. “10.” Judy replied smugly, placing her head on Jen’s chest. “Maybe 15.”

-