Penelope groaned a little as she tried to shrug off the hand that was shaking her shoulder gently. "Go away, it's not time to get up yet," she muttered as she struggled to pull the sheets up above her head. A sweet laugh caught her attention, and she opened one eye a tiny bit to look into Erin's face, seeing that she was already looking polished and awake. "Why are you together already?"
"Because we have a church service to get to, remember? My parents always start Christmas Day with church. I tried to let you sleep as long as possible, but you really need to get up now so that we can arrive at the church on time. You don't have to put on a full face of makeup, but I thought that you might like to."
Penelope nodded a little as she sat up, a wide yawn splitting her lips as she reached out her arms towards her partner. Erin gave her a little smirk as she leaned in and gave Penelope a quick kiss before taking hold of the covers and tugging them off her body. "Erin!" she said sharply, feeling the cool bite of the bedroom air lap at her skin as she struggled to pull at least the sheet back over her body. "Come on!"
"No, darling, I'm sorry. You need to get moving, we leave in about forty minutes. You don't want to disappoint my mother, do you?"
Penelope pouted as she shook her head. "No, I like her too much already to do that. But does the church service need to be quite so early?"
Erin laughed as she shrugged. "That's usually how these services go. It was either this or a midnight service, and seeing as how you have been so tired these last few weeks, I thought that I would suggest that we go to an early morning service. Perhaps next year, we'll choose the midnight one?"
"I suppose," she replied, still not pleased with having to leave their nice, warm, bed so early. "I don't suppose…"
"That I've chosen your outfit for the morning? I have, yes. It's in the bathroom, waiting for you."
"Thank you, dumpling," she replied as she slid from the bed and closed the small distance between them, hugging Erin tightly before kissing her cheek and patting her bum. "I will meet you in the kitchen in thirty five minutes, please have tea or coffee ready, and we can just head out?"
"Of course, my love."
Those words made Penelope sigh as she nodded, slipping past her partner to head into the bathroom. Hanging over the closet door was her favorite Christmas dress, but she noticed that there was something glittery on the bodice. Drifting over there, she let out a soft gasp to see that Erin had left her an early present of a large emerald pendant. "Fuck," she breathed out as she stripped off her pyjamas before pulling on fresh undergarments and then shimmying into her dress before slipping the necklace over her head, letting it come to rest in the middle of her cleavage. Humming their song beneath her breath, Penelope quickly applied her makeup, using a lighter hand than normal, since she knew that they would be in a sacred space.
Finally, she felt ready to face the morning, and she left the bathroom and headed down to the kitchen, meeting Tabitha on the stairs. "You're up late, too?" the girl asked tiredly, and she nodded. "I love Christmas, but I don't know what I hate more – staying up late for the midnight service or getting up early for the morning service."
"Well, this is my first morning service in a number of years, so I'm just really tired. Sit next to me, and you can poke me with your elbow to keep me awake if I start to fall asleep."
Tabitha giggled as she nodded. "As long as you promise to do the same for me." Penelope nodded in return, following her into the kitchen and gratefully taking the mug of coffee from Erin's outstretched hand.
"There's not room in my car for everyone, so I was hoping that you could take Karen and Tabitha with you this morning."
"It would help if I knew where I was going, dumpling."
"Of course, I sent a text to your phone with the address already. Karen's out in your car, warming it up. I love you."
"Erin Elizabeth Strauss, you are not supposed to make me cry this early in the morning," she whispered as she went to her, wrapping her up in a loving embrace as she pressed her lips to Erin's, kissing her deeply as she struggled to keep her tears from falling. "I love you so much, my sweet dumpling. So much."
"Who knew that it would take those three little words, Penny," she murmured against her lips, and Penelope shrugged before kissing her once more. "Now, unfortunately, we have to get going, otherwise we'll be late."
Penelope nodded as she finally unwrapped herself from Erin, grabbing her coat and slipping into it before following her and Tabitha out to the garage. Everyone else was waiting for them, and Penelope gave Nan and Ken a small wave as she went over to her car and got behind the wheel, looking over to smile at Karen. "Thanks for warming up the car, Kare."
"You're welcome. I've already called up the directions for the church, but I can also just tell you where to turn, since we've been there quite a few times. Tabitha, are you ready?"
"Yep!" she chirped from the back seat, and Penelope giggled a little before backing out of the garage and following Erin as closely as she could. "Mama will drive slow enough, too, so that you don't have to worry about losing her. Is your pendant new?"
"Yes, your mother gave it to me for Christmas. I'm glad she went with jewelry, because I did, too. Mine isn't quite so extravagant, but I hope she'll be pleased with it nonetheless."
"Mom would love anything coming from you. She's much more about intent than value when it comes to receiving gifts, even though she lavishes them on other people. That's why Daddy's presents never went over well. She could tell that he didn't really put any thought into them, so she never reacted the way he thought she should. Not to change the subject, but Tabitha turns fourteen in March, and that means she can choose which parent she wants to live with, and the judge has to listen to her. We all want to live with Mom again, especially now that she has you in her life. Would you even want to stay if the quiet house of two became a louder home of five?"
"I would. Kiddos, I was shot a few years ago, and the wound was such that I would never be able to have my own kids. I was hoping that my soulmate would understand that, but it turns out she came with a ready made family for me to plug into. You guys don't resent me?"
"You make Mama happier than she's been in years. We know that rehab took a lot out of her, and that she had some fun with Rossi, but you've settled her and lightened her spirit. We knew that something was up during the summer when she kept talking about you. She only ever does that with her closest confidantes. So, we can be a family?"
"Of course we can, Tabby cat. I want nothing more than that. And since we're all girls in this car, I have to ask that, when you come live with us, knock before you come into the bedroom?"
"Of course! But be warned that Mother's Day is off limits. We come in and serve breakfast in bed, so you'll get to experience that for the first time this coming year. Welcome to the family, Penelope." She sighed and nodded, feeling much more at peace with how things were headed after their little heart to heart.