Thank you, Patsan, for the MM AU fest! Here's a little fluff as my contribution!

Baby 101

"Mmm . . .Matthew. Matthew." He didn't move, and Mary reached over and gave him a little shake. Why couldn't he hear George? She always, well, almost always, woke up with the first whimper. "Matthew, come on, wake up. Matthew!" And this time, she gave him a shove.

That did the trick. "Wha . . .?" He lifted his head and looked over at her? "Whaswrong?" She sighed in exasperation. "George is waking up, it's 2:15, you're supposed to take this feeding. Remember?"

"Oh, right, right." Matthew pulled himself up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Right." He sat there a moment, head down. George was getting louder.

"You're falling asleep!" Mary gave his back a poke.

He hauled himself off the bed. "Ok, right. You get some sleep."

Sleep. This was all about her getting more sleep. What had Tom called it the other night? It's Baby 101, mate! The dad always does the two o'clock feeding, so the mum can get some real sleep.

The problem was, she was awake, and Matthew was sleep walking. She watched him stumble out the door and down the hall to the nursery. Then his gentle voice: "Hey, buddy. . .it's all right, shhh, shhh. . ." He was so good with him. Always talking silly talk and singing nursery rhymes. Although, she noticed, she didn't hear too much of that at the moment, as he changed the nappy. She heard him out in the hall again, padding down the stairs in his bare feet. George was fussing now.

"The milk's in the freezer. Run it under hot water," she called out. "Don't use the micro!" Had he heard her? Microwave ovens don't heat liquids evenly—you could scald the baby or damage the milk. He knew that, but would he remember?

She sighed and lay back, pulling the duvet up. She could hear George winding up now. They had tried this last night, and George had been howling by the time Matthew got the bottle warmed. She had had to hold onto the mattress to keep from jumping up. She just didn't see how this was going to help her sleep more.

The thing was, she really didn't mind getting up for the "two o'clock," which could actually come anytime between two and three. For some reason, she always felt quite awake then. Matthew, on the other hand, was dead to the world at this time of night. But the other evening, when Sybil and Tom had been over—George was really crying now. Hurry, hurry, hurry, what is taking you so long?

Sybil and Tom had come over with Mairead and Henry the previous Sunday. Nearly three, "Sybbie," as Mairead was almost always called because she looked just like Sybil, gently patted George's head, then sat on the floor and colored contentedly, getting up now and then to check on her new cousin. Henry, nearly two, needed a bit more supervision, and Sybil and Tom took turns keeping him entertained. He was happily playing with blocks at Tom's feet. Mary had to admit that Sybil might be a bit of a earth mother at times, but she had two of the best behaved children that Mary and Matthew had ever seen, and they were always taking notes for future reference for George.

And Sybil had been right: once Mary stopped trying to nurse George on a schedule and just fed him when he was hungry, he had established his own schedule, and everything had gotten easier. But at six weeks, she was still nursing round the clock, of course, and it showed in the dark circles under her eyes and her constant yawns at four in the afternoon.

"But Matthew's doing the feeding around two o'clock to give you a break, right?"

Mary and Matthew had looked at each other uneasily. "Well, no, he's not," Mary had answered. "The truth is, the last thing I want to do, after nursing all day and night, is pump milk. And don't worry," she added, "I'm not going to use formula." She and Sybil did agree about that.

"What!" Sybil had exclaimed, leaning forward. "Haven't you used the electric pump I gave you?"

Mary made a face. "I used it once, and I felt like a cow." Matthew snorted. She elbowed him, finishing, "I'd rather just do the feedings."

"Mary! It's really quite easy and very quick. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel if you can just get some sleep. And it's such a good way for the father," she looked pointedly at Matthew, "to bond with the baby." She sat back and looked at Tom, who continued on cue.

"Sybil's right. It's Baby 101, mate! The dad always does the two o'clock feeding so the mum can get some real sleep. I loved that time with our two."

"Matthew has bonded with George. . ."

"Well, we can certainly try it," said Matthew, who was in fact, holding George against his chest throughout the conversation, the rise and fall of his breathing having lulled him to sleep.

It had been so hard on him, Mary knew, when he had had to go back to work, after his three weeks at home, and leave George. He didn't know she was listening, when he went into the nursery to say good bye that first time. His voice had broken as he told him how, just because he wouldn't be with him, it didn't mean he didn't love him every minute of every day. Bond with the baby! He spent every waking minute with George when he was home. "Matthew's exhausted, too, you know. Working long days—his cases piled up while he was out—and then coming home and helping with George." Sybil and Tom didn't look at all convinced.

The Bransons soon left, and, snuggled next to each other on the couch, their feet intertwined on the coffee table, Matthew had brought it up. "I'm happy to do the two o'clock, really I am," he said, George still asleep on his chest. The thing was, the feeding Mary really dreaded was the one around six in the morning. That's when George often didn't go back to sleep now. But then they were all up together, Matthew getting ready for work, George awake, it was really lovely family time-except that Mary felt like she had sand in her head. She would feed him again about eight and put him down. That's when her day should really start but she often had to crawl back into bed, she was so tired by then. But, all right, she had agreed, Matthew could do the two o'clock. Maybe if she got some sleep, the six o'clock wouldn't be so bad. And Sybil was right again: it really hadn't taken that long to get enough milk for a few day's supply. (She still felt like a cow.)

Except here she was, hanging onto the mattress for the second night in a row. George's cries were in full throttle. What was wrong with Matthew? How hard is it to heat up frozen milk? Had he used the microwave after all? Had he burned George?

Mary threw off the covers and ran down stairs; George's cries were simply frantic now. She turned into the dark living room, and for a minute, her mind couldn't make sense of what she saw in the moonlight that filtered through the shear curtains. Matthew was lying on the couch, holding a flailing, purple, George, who was propped up against his thighs.

A bottle of milk was on the coffee table.

"What. . .are you doing?"

Matthew's eyes were half closed. "I'm letting the milk warm up."

Mary made a kind of strangled sound and grabbed George. Matthew didn't move. She stomped upstairs to the nursery. Idiot, idiot, idiot! She collapsed into the glider rocker—whoever had invented this chair had earned a window seat in heaven—and guided George's frantic mouth to her breast. He settled quickly, and she closed her eyes and rocked, feeling his feet treadle as he nursed. I'm letting the milk warm up! We're not going to try this again, don't worry, George.

Twenty minutes later, she put George down and went back to bed. Matthew was apparently still down on the couch. Well, good, she would probably kill him if he were up here. She lay back and tried to fall asleep but was too wound up. I'm letting the milk warm up! Oh, she would be telling this story at dinner parties when George was grown with children of his own.


The next thing she knew, Matthew was putting George in her arms. "I think he needs his mama," he said softly and kissed the top of her head. Automatically, she held George's head to her breast and felt her milk let down. She leaned back, relaxing, then opened her eyes, confused. She looked at the clock. It was 7:55. Had George not awakened at six? "Matthew?"

He came back in the bedroom, tying his tie. He was dressed for work. He was also an idiot, she now remembered.

"Did he sleep through the six o'clock?" she asked hopefully.

"George didn't, and I didn't, but you did," he smiled, sitting down on the bed and caressing George's head. "I got him up and fed him a bottle—no, not that bottle," he assured her hastily, as he saw her look of alarm. "I threw it away. And this one," he continued sheepishly, "I warmed up properly. He didn't want to go back to sleep, so I kept him company. I think he's forgiven me, and I hope you can. I'm so sorry—I was just so sleepy." He stroked her cheek, smiling ruefully.

And suddenly, Mary remembered that time when George was about ten days old, and she was so exhausted, in bed at eleven in the morning, and Matthew had brought him to her to nurse, and she had said, almost in tears, "I can't, I just can't, I have to sleep, take him away, he's got to wait." And somehow, Matthew had managed to keep him happy enough for another hour while she slept. When he finally brought him back, George was, well, he was not a happy baby. She had felt so guilty-still felt guilty-but she had been so tired. Sleep.

"I do forgive you, but I shall tell this story for the rest of your life."

"I would expect nothing less." He kissed her tenderly. "How about this. How about I feed George at six, and if he doesn't go back to sleep, I'll tend him. Look, I've even managed to get some breakfast and get dressed. Then, I'll bring him to you when I need to leave for work, or when he seems to want to eat, whichever comes first."

"That would be just lovely," Mary smiled, then added, "Baby 202."

Matthew quirked an eyebrow.

"Baby 101 is other people telling us what we need to do. Baby 202 is when we figure out what we need to do."

He laughed and kissed her again and then kissed George's head. "You are a wise professor."

"Mm," she said closing her eyes. Sleep.

I just want to add that the milk left to warm up on the coffee table is a true story. . .You can't make something like that up!