Unfortunately, 'perfect' wouldn't last forever.

It was a nearly two years into the twins' lives and Natalie couldn't recall the last time she'd gotten a full eight hours' sleep. She was even willing to settle for five hours! Noelle and Dylan had finally settled down in their cribs (still housed in the living room of their small apartment) and the clock beside the bed read one-thirty.

"TJ..?" Natalie grumbled as she dropped onto the bed beside him, the bedside table lamp still on but his face buried in the pillows. "Next time, you have to read them their book." The twins were old enough to say the name of their favorite book- 'Thomas' but they required the story about the tank engine be read at least five times in order for them to fall asleep

TJ groaned at being woken, turning his back to her with a protesting grunt. "No way," he muttered. He might have loved his children, but he read far too much as it stood. He was currently in the midst of editing his next novel and since his days were spent rereading his work for hours on end, the idea of reading something as simple as Thomas the Tank Engine was utterly unappealing. Yet he wasn't about to let a fight stem from it.

"...I'll watch Elmo with them tomorrow," he muttered, his words slurred by the pillow he had his face buried in. Unfortunately sleep was not so quick to return to him and he turned his head to look over at Natalie with a tired sigh. "How's her ear?" Noelle had been battling an ear infection since the previous morning.

"Better, I think..." she sighed aloud, stretching out on the bed over the covers, her heavy stare fixed on the ceiling overhead. "It's not as red as it was and she wasn't rubbing at it constantly. I guess the medication's working."

Natalie slowly rolled over onto her side to face TJ's back, slipping her arm over his side as she pressed herself to his body with a slow exhale. "I'll take them grocery shopping tomorrow with me," she offered. It was a luxury to be able to stay at home during the day but Natalie attended classes still in the mid-afternoon, slowly working towards finishing up a degree. With the amount of income TJ was bringing in, being a well-published author, there wasn't much need for additional income. However, TJ's work still required full-time concentration and it was Natalie's job to keep the twins busy and out of his hair while he made the family money.

"Thanks," he mumbled appreciatively, smiling tiredly as he gently set his hand over Natalie's. Blinking tiredly, TJ realized it was relatively early that the two found themselves in bed together and the silence outside the bedroom made his brow quirk in interest. "Are they both down?"

"Thank god," Natalie groaned in reply, tucking her face against TJ's neck as she closed her eyes and began to relax entirely. Sleep was her only goal that night and she was going to get it no matter what.

TJ grinned lightly to himself and manuvered beneath her arm to turn to face her. His hand found the side of her shirt, tucking his fingers into the elastic of her pajama pants as he grinned tiredly. "It's been a really long time," he stated pathetically at the first sign of Natalie's protesting. He knew sleep was rare and eagerly welcomed, but it had been a very long time that the twins had both been asleep so early. TJ was fairly certain they only had about an hour before one woke the other.

Natalie groaned as she tucked her head beneath his chin, following it with a whine though physically, she did little in way of protest. "Read them Thomas tomorrow and I'll consider it," she wagered with a small (yet tired) grin to herself. Elmo was nice of course, but the twins would eventually demand to hear their favorite story.

"You're impossible," he whispered with a grin as he tucked his face down to kiss her. Natalie was well aware of her powers of persuasion when it came to sex. "You could just go to sleep. I'll take advantage of you anyway," he teased as he rolled her onto her back beneath him with a low smirk.

"There's no fun in that," he shot back with a playful glare, already sliding her pants down her legs with a smile. "You promised twice a week," he reminded with a laugh to himself as he successfully rid her of half her clothing.

"Yeah...well, that's when I was getting six or more hours of sleep..." she groaned in protest over his reminder, though promptly lifted her head to silence him with her lips. She had never wanted things to turn out in such a way-she never wanted to be that kind of mom. The kind of mom who couldn't recall the last time she'd enjoyed herself with her husband.

TJ was exaggerating of course; their sex life wasn't suffering all that much. Though they had gone from a solid five times a week, it was rare that a week went by without two occurances of some intimate time between the still-engaged couple. Yet have toddler twins made the pair tired quite often and TJ missed when all day long he could look forward to nothing more than spending the night with Natalie.

Yet even he was plagued by his children when his intention was to put them out of his mind temporarily. "The twins' birthday's coming up," he mumbled against her neck.

"Don't talk about the kids right now," Natalie laughed, rolling her eyes before letting her stare settle on the ceiling. TJ was a devoted father...although sometimes too devoted.

Some glorious twenty minutes later, the monitor beside TJ's bed began to filter in sounds of someone fussing.

That sound meant they had very little time to separate the awake child from the sleeping one before they had two awake children and so TJ muttered a curse as he rolled away from her.

Natalie simply pulled the loose sheet from the tangle of covers and wrapped it around herself, laughing as she gestured for TJ to find his boxers. "That sounds like Noelle," she whispered hurriedly and started for the bedroom door to slip out into the living room. She approached Noelle's crib and found it was definitely their daughter who had awoken and gently scooping her up into her arms, she began to hush her and carry her back into the bedroom with a heavy sigh. "You want daddy?" she asked as she bounced her lightly against her chest.

TJ pulled on his boxers before dropping back into bed with a tired groan as he heard Natalie bring Noelle into the bedroom. He outstretched his arms to be given his daughter, tiredly watching them approach. "Gimme my baby girl," he said, smiling as they came closer. "What's the matter, Elle? Your ear hurting?"

Noelle reached out for TJ as Natalie handed her towards her father and once she was securely latched to his chest, she pressed her palm against her ear with a nod and vaguely twisted features. "Ear," she whined, briefly cupping her ear next before hitting it with the heel of her hand a few times, her free hand pressed against his chest.

Natalie took a seat on the edge of the bed and adjusted the sheet she'd tucked against her chest, reaching out to brush back Noelle's loose blond hair with the back of her fingertip and tuck it behind her uninfected ear.

TJ sighed, holding her gently with a hand against her back as his other hand took her arm to gently pull it away. "Don't do that, Elle. Do you want more medicine? Grape medicine?" He looked to Natalie, nodding for her to get the medication from the kitchen as he smiled. "Where's bear? -Honey, get her bear?"

Noelle smiled a bit more and let her arm be held as she jumped against his chest briefly before holding him around the neck.

Natalie rolled her eyes with a smile and left the bedroom but no sooner had she reached into Noelle's crib for her teddy bear did she hear Dylan begin to whine. "I'm not getting any sleep tonight..." she realized in a whisper and made her way to Dylan's crib to reach inside and gently tickle his stomach while he lay on his back. "Dylan..." she began in a soft voice, "Go back to sleep..." When he refused and his whining grew louder, she was forced to reach down and scoop him up as well. "Mommy's tough guy's crying?" she gasped playfully through her accusation, successful in quieting him as she made her way towards the kitchen for Noelle's medicine.

Dylan tucked his arms down and leaned forward to sandwhich them between his body and Natalie's as he mushed his cheek against his mother's shoulder. His eyes were heavy and he was quiet otherwise, but putting him down was not an option; he was seeking the warmth of her body and counting on it to lull him.

TJ reached down to check Noelle's diaper, but it was dry. "Do you want a juicy?" he asked with a tired smile, whispering to her since he knew it was past the time Natalie usually allowed sugared drinks.

Natalie was grateful for the fact that Dylan didn't opt to tangle his fingers in her hair this time as he usually did and she held him close to her chest as she made her way back to the bedroom, carrying Noelle's medicine in the same hand that she gripped Bear's arm in. "Look who else is up," she announced to TJ and Noelle as she reappeared in the bedroom and held the medicine out for TJ to take.

Noelle's attention was torn from the offer of juice as Natalie and TJ returned and she outstretched a hand towards the two of them once Natalie was seated, catching her brother's sleeve in her small fingers.

Dylan didn't stir until Noelle reached for him. TJ offered a pathetic glare in Natalie's direction. "He doesn't look up," he muttered as he slowly sat up and propped Noelle up against his chest.

Dylan pouted as his sleeve was tugged, but quickly enough he lifted his arms as he turned and wrapped his arms around Natalie's neck, his hands grabbing fistfulls of her hair as his eyes opened.

Natalie withheld a wince as her hair was grabbed and she forced a pathetic smile as she stared across at TJ, her brows arching faintly. "He was starting to cry. Oh, wait-I forgot. You don't handle them when they're crying. It's me," she sarcastically remarked as she held out Noelle's teddy bear for her to take.

"Danks," she mumbled, releasing her brother's sleeve to curl her arm around Bear's neck and hold him under her chin.

TJ stood once Noelle had her bear, shifting her to his hip as he began to walk toward the door. "C'mon, Elly," he mumbled, glaring playfully over at Natalie before lowering his voice to a whisper beside Noelle's ear as he smiled. "We'll go get you a juicy."

"Maaa..." Dylan whined, bouncing against her as he tugged at her hair.

"TJ..." Natalie began warningly as she watched him leave. She wasn't deaf enough to miss his whisper. "TJ, you know that's how they're going to get cavities..." She groaned in disbelief over his blatant disregard for any set rules in the apartment and soon enough her attention was drawn to Dylan as he pulled at her hair. "Dylan, sweetie...let go of mommy's hair, okay?" she coaxed, using one hand to reach up and gently begin to pry his small hands from her hair.

"Mummy's air," he repeated with a growing smile, his short laughter and continuous bouncing making it apparent he now thought it to be a game.

TJ took a sippie cup from the cabinet and while handling Noelle at his hip, he poured some juice into it and snapped the lid in place. He handed her the cup with a smile and poured another for Dylan before returning to the bedroom. "Dylan, buddy, do you want a juicy..?"

The only reason Natalie allowed Dylan to have juice as well was the promise of her hair being released. "You're taking care of all the fillings, root canals and veneers our kids might need," she glared.

Noelle happily held the cup in both hands, Bear still held by the neck at her elbow as she sipped.

Dylan reached out for the juice, staying happily against his mother as he accepted the juice and brought the spout to his mouth. He smiled against it as he sipped, watching his mother excitedly for the treat. "Juice!" he announced, it bubbling at his lips as he shouted the word.

TJ took a seat, shifting back to sit up against the pillows of the bed as he allowed Noelle to remain in his lap.

Though she hated TJ's instigating behavior, Natalie had to smile as she reached up with her finger to wipe the bit of juice bubbling against Dylan's lips. "Yeah. You love juice..." she gave in, leaning in to press her lips firmly to his cheek before blowing a bit to make the familiar farting noise he loved.

Noelle shrieked for a moment in laughter at the sound before turning to press her mouth against TJ's cheek in attempt to do the same, though she wound up wetting his cheek with a bit of juice more than anything.

TJ winced at the cold wet feeling against his cheek, but wound up laughing as he reached up to gently push her back. "Elle..." he groaned playfully, wiping at his cheek before quickly leaning forward to do the same to her before she could pull away. He pressed his lips to her cheek and blew, tickling her at the same time.

Noelle's laughter instantly grew and she squirmed quickly against TJ's chest as her head dropped back heavily on her shoulders, her juice still held by the handle of the cup.

"After we finish juice, we go sleepy again..." Natalie told Dylan as she pulled back to hold him at arm's length for a moment before repositioning him against her chest and getting to her feet. She began to slowly pace around the bed with him as she usually did, rocking him gently in her arms all the while as he sipped at his juice.

Dylan, however, was not so interested in going to sleep. He was sipping his juice, hitting his hand against his mom's arm to encourage her to make the sound he liked. He kept leaning forward to put his cheek against her face with a whine. "Maaa!"

Natalie's head dropped back for a moment before she leaned closer to make the noise against Dylan's cheek.

Noelle, on the other hand, had finished her juice and carelessly dropped her cup on the bed. "Sleepy here," she told TJ as she began to squirm from his arms to get onto the bed instead.

TJ gently helped her get comfortable against the bed, reaching out for Natalie to give Dylan to him. "C'mere, buddy," he sighed, smiling as Dylan reached for him. "You want your blanket? -Hon, go get his blanket?"

"TJ..." Natalie began, trying to sound pleasant in front of the children, even as she grit her teeth, "Honey...I though we decided we wouldn't let them start doing this..." she gave him a serious look, even as she slowly handed Dylan over.

"Natalie..." TJ replied as he gestured to Noelle expectantly where she lay curled up against his side with her bear in her arms. He set her sippie cup on the nightstand and let Dylan lay against his chest comfortably. With a soft smile in Natalie's direction, TJ dismissed the blanket and gestured for her to join her family on the bed. "Sh."


This material is copyright protected under the 1976 Copyright Law. Any reproduction, adaptation, distribution or public display of this work is copyright infringement and if found guilty, legal action will be enforced.

Author's Note:

Thank you to all our dedicated readers and followers! We hope you enjoyed TJ and Natalie's adventure and we look forward to seeing you comment on our other stories. xoxo Jo and Neen... the authors.

Author's Note: Please check out our newest story, One Night Stand!

Excerpt of One Night Stand, Chapter 1: A Celebration

"So what're you doing out tonight?" Gavin Hayward questioned. The attractive woman was dressed nicely and seemed comfortable in the bar's setting; perhaps she was meeting a few friends..? Shifting his attention aside briefly, Gavin quickly glanced around the bar and took notice of a couple of girls seeming to be about her age with their attention fixed on him. His smile was slow to widen, yet he let out a low laugh at the realization. She had already been with friends. "Ah," he spoke up, dismissing his own question with his lingering amused smile. "Forget I asked."

His question had been answered apparently and with a faint shrug, Ashlee nodded back over her shoulder toward her friends. "They dragged me out tonight," she responded casually, "'re out celebrating? Alone? Not much of a celebration, if you ask me..." she paused, reaching for her drink with a laugh of her own, "Want some company?" Whatever he wished to infer from her offer was fine by her-he was an attractive, single and mature man compared to what she was used to. Why wouldn't she be interested in getting to know him? Even for one night?

Gavin was surprised by her offer if only for the reason that he hadn't even been trying to get her attention in such a way. She offered nothing that guaranteed she'd even meant to leave the bar with him, yet it was what Gavin was suddenly hoping for.

"My friends just left," he said firstly to address what she'd commented on. Not more than a moment later, he leaned back comfortably and finished off his beer. Pushing it forward on the counter and pulling out his wallet to leave a few dollars for a tip, he turned to her. "How 'bout I make you a drink?" After a brief glance down at what she held and an expert eye, he offered a confident grin. "I make a killer rum and coke." Of course it was meant to be playful, but the implication that he'd meant to take her back to his apartment was clear enough.