Unmentionable

Description: There's only one thing Eric and Tami Taylor don't talk about. An FNL fanfiction set prior to season 1. One-shot.

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Julie is ensconced in her bedroom as usual. It's after nine, and Tami doesn't know if her daughter is awake or asleep, but it's quiet in there. The ten-year-old has an official nine o'clock "bedtime" most nights, to allow the adults the run of the house and the command of the television and, on occasion, a love-making session not under any threat of interruption, but when Julie actually goes to sleep is another matter. She often sits up reading until ten or eleven, but she knows better than to venture out unless it's to use the hall bathroom.

Tami now stands in the master bathroom, preparing to wrap the pregnancy test in half a roll of toilet paper before she buries it in the trash. From outside the door comes her husband's unexpected voice. He was watching game tape when she left him in the living room, but now he's just outside the door asking if he left his Sports Illustrated in there, and when the knob turns, and the door starts to open, she pushes back against it, yelling, "I'm in here!" but not before he sees what's in her hands. As he pushes the door the rest of the way open, she finishes wrapping it and tossing it in the trash. She should have locked the door.

"What the hell?" he asks, stepping in. "Was that a pregnancy test?"

"I was just late a few days. I thought I should check. It's negative. I'm sure my period'll come soon."

"Why didn't you tell me you thought…I could have waited with you."

"I thought it would probably be negative, and I didn't want to get you worked up."

They started trying for a second child three years after Julie was born. A year after that, Tami got a fertility test and made Eric get one. For the next year, there was the tracking of cycles, ovulations tests, Tami lying still with a pillow under her bottom for thirty minutes after sex, Eric drinking a shot of espresso thirty minutes before sex, a cup of tea a day, every trick in the book, until one day Eric said, "Enough. Enough. I'm done with this bullshit. This isn't romantic. I just want to make love to my wife. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't."

They didn't talk about it for a full year after that. Then, four years ago, she asked if he wanted to stay open to the possibility or if she should go back on the pill, just in case. He said, "Clearly it isn't going to happen."

"But…if it did?" she replied.

"I'm open," he said.

So she didn't go back on the pill, but it wasn't as though she checked in with him after that. Like him, she just began to assume it wasn't possible.

They can talk about almost anything, and they do talk about almost everything, but not this. It's too painful. It's been four years since they've said a single word about it. She has no idea if he still wants another child. She isn't even sure how she feels. What was that emotion that just clinched her stomach when the test came out negative? Relief or regret?

She took the test it in secret because she thought if it was negative, it would be better buried. Better to do it herself, in private, than to watch him get all worked up as he waited alongside her – because he would get worked up, whether in fear of being burdened or in hope of being blessed. She can recall too many other tests, too much pacing, too many of his weary sighs, and that one time, when they were so sure, so sure it would be positive, and the blue minus sign appeared at last, and he put his fist through the drywall of the bathroom, apologized, and went for a long walk before returning and patching up the hole.

"Are you a'ight?" he asks now.

"I'm fine," she says, her voice hitching on some unidentifiable emotion. "It's what I expected of course. I was just late, and I'm usually not. It was a fluke. That's all."

She pushes past him and crawls in the bed. If he's left the TV and lights on in the living room, he ignores that now. He slides in after her, pulls her back against his chest, and holds her tightly. "I love you," he says.

She desperately wants to ask him, If you had been waiting with me, what would you have wanted? A plus or a minus? But she can't ask. She can't open that old doorway to pain. She just can't. And she doesn't think he wants her to.

"I love you too," she says. "I'm not on the pill, you know. Do you want me to go back on?"

"Do you?"

She is the one to say it this time. "Clearly it isn't going to happen."

"Then don't bother. The pills gave you headaches, right?"

"Yeah."

He kisses the top of her head and neither of them says anything more.

They can, and do, talk about almost anything. But not this. They won't talk about it again for the next five years.

The next time she is late, she will make sure Eric is out of the house and the door to the bathroom is locked when she takes the test. When it comes back positive, she will go to the clinic to have the results verified. And when she tells him, on the hotel balcony, while he is preparing to pursue his dream job in Austin, she won't know how he is going to react. She'll be nervous he doesn't want the baby, but confident he'll do his duty; afraid he'll be upset, but certain he'll resign himself to it. And when he smiles that night, and asks her to repeat herself, his face a little paled, for a brief moment she won't know if it's his happy smile or his nervous smile, his contented smile or his fearful smile, until he laughs, and kisses her, and tells her he loves her.

But tonight there is silence. No smiles, no laughter. There is, however, this one consolation - the warmth of his body, pressed against hers, his arm draped over her waist, his nearness as they both lay awake, unspeaking, long into the night.