mom and dad @livepoultryfreshkill
mom and dad

Tom presses his nose into the back of Shiv’s neck. “Do you want kids?”

What?

“Do you want kids,” he repeats, “with me.”

“Do you want kids,” he repeats, “with me.”

Now?

Tom huffs a laugh into her shoulder. “No, silly. Just,” he sighs, almost comical in its wistfulness, overdramatic in that Wambsgans way. “someday. Together.”

Shiv considers not responding. She knows he wouldn’t push it again. She knows he would let her ignore it, that he would understand why she would.

She loves Tom, she realizes, distantly, like she has before; the way it comes to her every now and then like he’s a string tied around her finger to remind her that she can feel. That she can love. Not like a normal person, not even a little, but… She can. He can, too. It slips her mind because it’s so unbelievable, this idea that love is as real as dirt, that it isn’t like anything she planned for it to be. It slips her mind, as most things do, her emotional object permanence, or lack thereof, leaving her like a sociopathic toddler. It slips in her mind, between the millions of thoughts blending into one another, falls between the cracks into dusty shadows, but it is there. It is always there. Tom, is always there.

She has been quiet for a while now. Tom wouldn’t say anything if she just fell asleep; just press a kiss to her bare shoulder as her breathing evens out under the comforter. She pictures it. She wants to repay him for this hypothetical kindness, for the way he made her so certain of what he would do. She will give him what she can. It is not much, because she is still so afraid. But she is giving.

Why are you asking?

“No real reason, just a thought that danced across the plains of my mind.” Shiv snorted at that.

You’re so weird.

Tom gasps, sitting up slightly to put a hand to his chest in faux-indignance. Shiv snickers. “WEIRD? My own wife, my light and my life, thinks I’m WEIRD?” Tom’s Minnesota accent peeking its head out makes Shiv full-on giggle now.

She feels guilty about avoiding the question. She knows: Shiv is afraid of motherhood, she knows, she does not understand it. She has a life, she has a career, she is not fit for motherhood, she is not accustomed to it, it is not what she knows or will ever know. She knows ruthlessness. She knows neglect. She knows how to bite the hand that feeds you until it feeds you more, she knows how to punish another person for caring, she knows how to beckon and push away like she knows how to breathe. She knows Tom would make a wonderful father.

Tom is looking down at her and playing with her hair. He is smiling. He is not her father, and, by proxy, she is not her mother. She is not anyone’s mother. She does not want to be.

I don’t want to, and she’s sorry, and she’s proud of herself for telling the truth, have kids. I don’t want to have kids, ever.

“Okay,” he says, and she wants to cry, just a little, because he sounds so goofy and his hands are so big and she feels so safe.

You would have been a good father, though.

It’s a promise. She is telling him he doesn’t get to be a father, because she is telling him he is hers. Tom Wambsgans belongs to Shiv Roy, as so many and so little things do. The world will fall apart, Waystar will fall apart, Shiv and Roman and Kendall and Logan will fall apart, into pieces, lives will shatter, and Tom and Shiv will still be in this bed. He will always have his hand in her hair. He will always say “okay.” Shiv will always be a little girl in some ways, a side effect of never being one, and Shiv will always want her Daddy in some ways, a side effect of never having him, but Shiv will never want this. She has this. She doesn’t need to wish for it, because it is here.

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