Since I don't know much about babies, this is probably happening a bit into the
future, as Scott is old enough to laugh, eat baby-food etc.
"Harley spea-ow! 'Sheequa!"
"No phones at re'ersals, ya nit."
Cy muttered a few choice phrases about obsessive boyfriends as Harley stepped away from the group.
"Aurie? Is that you?"
"That's what I said."
"I was assaulted by an angry feminist at the time. What do you want?"
"I need you to do your favorite sister a favor," Aurora chirped.
"What, I didn't know Ma was pregnant."
"No me, Harl."
"Uh… what kind of favor?"
"Aubrey is taking me out for a date tonight, and I thought perhaps you'd-"
"Call him and say you suffer from a broken neck and can't make it? Gladly."
"Don't get smart with me, little brother. I want you to babysit Scott for me."
"You are my last choice, believe me," came the unusually sarcastic reply from Aurora. "I couldn't get anyone else, even Ma and Dad were busy, and I need a night off. And don't even think about saying no, I've already dropped him off."
"You – but – what? But Mik isn't home now!"
"I know that, silly. But your nice landlady agreed to take care-"
The cell phone crashed on the concrete floor as Harley skidded out the door.
*Evil gothic doorbell sound*
Harley violated the landlady's doorbell until a very narrow-eyed Tabitha poofed up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder.
"It is quite obvious which one of you is paying the rent," she said icily while Harley waited for his heart to recover. "You-"
"Where's Scott? What did you do to him? If you've sacrificed him in some sick ritual I'll-"
"Poke that finger in my chest once more and I'll take measures of how much of your skin I'll need for my bookbinding, Goldman. What makes you think I've done something horrible to the little… thing?
"Well, Cy's little sister has told some wonky stories no one in their right mind would believe."
"I have no idea what you are talking about. Besides, babies are so overrated as spell components. Small, rude, gay men are much more sought after."
Harley backed away. It wasn't as if Aurora had had time to get much attached to the kid anyway, right?
"So the day you qualify as a man, you'll be in trouble," Tabitha finished, pushing Harley aside to unlock the door.
"Just give me Scott, okay?"
"Oh, I don't have him."
"I had to pop out for a moment, and little humans are so messy. Allen is watching it."
The images of what Tabitha could do to a baby shrunk away in fear as they were replaced by Allen giving the kid the 'third degree'. Harley jumped over to the next door and punched in the doorbell. When no one answered within one tenth of a second, he started hammering on the door.
"Oh, for the effing saint's sake, Goldman," Tabitha sighed, again pushing him aside and unlocking Allen's door with the master key. Harley wrenched the door open and raced through the apartment, following the faint sounds of baby.
As most apartments in the building, Allen's was bigger on the inside than the outside, as Tabitha didn't see why human perceptions of space should apply to her. By the time Harley found the sound-proof practice range, he was panting for breath.
"… for the chest, kid. You have to be good to hit a moving head. I'm not saying that you never…"
"Dontshootthebaby!" Harley wheezed. Allen looked up, blond eyebrows frowning slightly. Scott was sitting in a portable baby-chair, chubby hand resting on the hilt of a gun, which was held firmly by the barrel by Allen.
"Don't burst in on an armed baby, Goldman. They are heavily traumatized and unstable."
Not dignifying it with an answer, Harley took Scott on one arm, and the chair and a bag of what looked like babystuff in the other hand. Scott rewarded him with a loud wail as the exciting new toy was pulled from his hard grip.
"Oh, shush, its not like I'm the bad guy here," Harley snapped, hoisting the bag onto his shoulder."
"Oh, and who is?" Allen said, sunglasses glaring.
"Err… the bogeyman. Gotta go."
"How are babies traumatized?" Tabitha queried when they were alone. She pressed the button that made the target plate roll up so she could change it with a new.
"They walk around in diapers and people blubber to them. They are natural killers."
"Your mother didn't dare breastfeed you, did she? Damn, the kid beat my high score. Hand me the ammo."
Harley folded out the chair and placed Scott in it.
"Okay, listen kid," he said, waving a finger under the very Goldman-ish little nose. "I don't want to do this and, believe me, you don't want me to do it, but I'm going to take care of you for a few hours. This means: if you're hungry, you eat, you don't spit it out. I know how you little buggers are. If you need to do your business – hold it in until your mother is back. There are probably spare diapers in this bag, but I don't want to find out. Oh, and no crying. None whatsoever."
Scott reached up and grabbed the waving finger, blabbering happily. Harley's glaring face softened slightly, and he reached up and tickled the baby's chin. Dark curls bobbed as he giggled.
"Hey, you're practically a tiny Skids, aren't you? Just as ticklish. Okay, so we've got a deal? You'll be nice to uncle Harley?"
I just referred to myself as 'uncle', he thought. I feel old.
Scott reached out his arms, and Harley lifted him up again. "Let me take you on a tour around the mansion, hm? So this here now is the living room, but you've seen that before. Then in here is the kitchen, not very interesting since you don't eat solid stuff yet. You don't, right? Anyway, over here is the bathroom, you've seen that too. And I hope you'll forget every comment Aurora made about the contents of the shelves when she was changing your diapers in here. Then there is the bedroom, which is also pretty boring. I could make it sound more exciting, but you are underage and already traumatized enough from living with my sister. But now comes the funny part. This is uncle Mik's studio. See all the pretty colors? See them? Now see, you're allowed to laugh at this, but if I as much as smile while I'm in here – whoa. Two words, kiddo: artistic temper. Learn to recognize and avoid it."
Scott happily scrutinized a tube of paint, chewing experimentally on it. Then he dropped it, and focused on a spot of air a few inches from his nose.
"Not interesting anymore? Okay, uncle Harley – hey, I'm getting used to the name, that's good right? – I'll play a little for you and you'll go to sleep and wake up when Mummy comes. Sounds like a plan?"
Scott still focused on the spot, and started making little grunting noises.
"Oh, hey, kid, don't start choking on me, I'm already desperate. Did you eat any paint? What is wrong – whoa…"
A very peculiar smell spread in the room as Scott breathed a sigh of relief. Harley, on the other hand, had lost what little relief the peaceful tour had given him.
"Uh, kid, we had a deal on this… Shit, what am I supposed to do… diapers? Right. Diapers. I hope Aurie left an instruction video or something."
He found a few spare diapers in the bag, and carried Scott into the bathroom. Aurora had used a towel to put him on, right? Okay… towel, baby, diaper… He wondered if mothers grew an extra arm when needed as he fumbled to keep all the components of a diaper-change under control. Okay, towel on counter, baby on towel, diaper next to towel.
That, he realized, had been the easy part.
Well, the next steps seemed logical. Remove baby-pants. Remove old diaper. Run out of the bathroom to breathe. Hold breath. Return to the crime scene. Find washcloth…
Fifteen very long minutes later, the new diaper was in place. Perhaps not very elegantly put on, but Scott was merciful enough to look pleased.
"And Mik thought I couldn't handle the responsibility of having a baby," Harley snorted, closing the plastic bag with the three discarded diapers which had been used in the process. "We'll just have to talk to him about that adoption, don't you think, Scott?" he said, lifting up the baby.
Scott yawned cutely as they entered the living room again. Finding a blanket in the bag, he put Scott on the sofa. Which way were babies supposed to sleep? Something about choking stirred in his memory, but it wasn't all that clear. He'd just have to keep an eye on the kid.
Curling up in a chair, he took his guitar and started a slow, easy tune. Scott's eyes fluttered, and then closed firmly, dark lashes resting on his cheekbones. There wasn't much of Harley's side of the family in those colors, but the nose gave away the heritage.
Harley smiled and kept playing the home-made lullaby. This babysitting-thing might not be so bad after all…
to be continued