Three Men and a Baby
By Skylar

Ryan was ten seconds away from freaking out. The ten seconds, he figured, it would take Maxine to grab her keys, turn on the door knob and leave the house.

Re-phrase: leave him in the house. Alone.

Well, not exactly alone. That was the problem.

He followed her into the kitchen, where she picked up an apple and put it in her purse. He followed her into the living room, where she grabbed her jacket from the hat rack and put it on. He felt the panic increasing the whole time, felt out of breath and anxious. He wondered if she would stay if he faked a panic attack... or the onsets of a rare tropical disease. Dengue. He could fake dengue.

"I don't feel so good," he said in a pathetic tone.

"Nice try."

Ryan dropped the act quickly. He felt the panic return and he pressed his hands to his face in agony. "Don't do this to me," he begged her.

Maxine sighed, grabbing her keys and turning around. "Ryan, it's just a couple of hours, really. She'll be sleeping the whole time."

"But what if she wakes up," he said desperately, walking closer. "What if she wakes up and climbs out of her crib and swallows a leggo piece and dies?"

"First of all, she's 3 weeks old, she's not climbing out of anything," Valera said. "Two, we don't have any leggo games. Third, stop being a pussy!"

"A pussy?" he exclaimed. "I am legitimately concerned about the wellbeing of our daughter and you're calling me a pussy?!"

Maxine pressed her lips together, looking down and trying to remain calmed. She looked up at him and walked closer, putting her hands on the side of his face and smiling sweetly. "Baby, I need to leave this house, and I need to leave that baby behind, and I need to soak my feet into warm water for an hour or two and get a massage so that I don't end up going crazy and drowning you in the tub. And let's get one thing clear, Ryan: I will drown you in the tub. Okay?" she said adoringly, caressing his face the whole time.

He looked at her. Though she smiled her eyes looked crazy, huge bags under them from stress and lack of rest. In a flash he saw himself in the tub, disembodied, while she laughed maniacally over his corpse.

He swallowed hard. "O-okay."

"Good," she said cheerfully, kissing his cheek. "I'll be back in a couple of hours. Don't call me unless there's someone on fire, and even then... hell, don't call me."

She opened the door and walked out without looking back. Ryan stood there, looking at the door. He heard her turn on the engine, and the car let out a loud screech as she sped out of the neighborhood.

He sighed woefully, trying to cling on to the fact that she would be back. She had to be back. Maxine may be a little out there, but she would never leave him forever... would she?

Hesitantly he made his way upstairs, his pulse too quick the whole time. The house was quiet and that made him feel even more nervous. Silence was not good. It was never good. Silence is what happens before the shit hits the fan.

Ryan walked into the nursery and approached the crib, and his daughter lay there, motionless, and sleeping. She'd only been around for three weeks, and already he loved her more than anything in the world. He always had mixed feelings about fatherhood, but they melted away the first time he saw her. She was tiny and pink, had massive amounts of dark hair and Maxine's huge eyes. She was generally well-behaved, he thought, then again he'd never been around babies too much. Sure he had nieces and nephews, but he rarely saw them. This was the first time in his life he'd been around a baby this long, but still he thought she was pretty cool. He loved her from the start.

But he'd always loved her from afar. He'd never been alone with her, ever, not for two seconds. Maxine was always around, either showering or cleaning or doing other mundane stuff. She'd never left the house, and he'd never had to take care of the baby on his own. Needless to say, he was panicked.

He liked to hold her, he really did. He loved coming home from work, tired, and lying down on the couch with her sleeping on his stomach and watching TV. Those were moments in which he felt true happiness. But he'd never felt the responsibility. He never had to prepare the milk. Hell, he didn't even know how much to feed her. Maxine had been so protective of the baby the first couple of weeks, he never had the chance to learn all these things. And then suddenly Maxine woke up, stressed out and tired and in dire need of a day off, and in typical Maxine Valera fashion she couldn't sit down and plan the whole thing carefully. No. That would require her to be a normal, functioning human being with normal thought processes. Instead, he'd married a lunatic who decided to just grab her purse and go, and leave him behind without any sort of training whatsoever.

Apparently, in Maxine's mind being the father meant he magically knew everything there is to know about babies.

Except he didn't. He knew nothing. He knew how to hold her and give her back when she started crying. That was it. That was as far as his knowledge on the subject of rearing children went. He felt guilty sometimes, but Maxine had been so attached to the child it's not like she would've let him learn anyway. And now Maxine's honeymoon phase was over and he was left here, alone, with a newborn child.

He admired her again, and she seemed to be sleeping soundly. He looked around the nursery and found the baby monitor, and looking at his watch he realized the game was about to start. He grabbed the monitor and began to walk away, and she didn't seem to object to that.

Maybe it would be alright. Maybe he'd just overreacted a little, after all, all newborns do is sleep. Really, it wasn't so bad. Maybe it would be okay.

Except...

He turned around and frowned. What if something happened up here? What if the baby monitor stopped working or its batteries ran out? What if a raccoon climbed up the tree by her window and kidnapped her and he couldn't hear it because another raccoon had preemptively taken the baby monitor into the forest?

He shook his head. They didn't even have raccoons nearby. But then... what if something else went wrong? Feeling paranoid, he walked over and looked at her. She still looked fine, but something about going downstairs and leaving her there, alone, made him feel uneasy. If this was how Maxine felt those first few weeks, no wonder she insisted on doing everything herself. Apparently parenthood came with a great amount of craziness and paranoia to boot.

Ryan began to pick her up as carefully as possible, and at that moment her face contorted and her skin turned red.

"Noooooo."

He put her back down but it was too late. She opened her mouth wide and promptly began to wail. Loudly.

Ryan panicked. Had he hurt her in any way? Did he do something wrong? He tried to think of something quickly but his mind was completely blank.

"No, no, no, no, no, come on, baby," he attempted to calm her, showing her a teddy bear but her eyes were closed and she continued to wail. He picked her up again and began to rock her but she continued to cry, flailing her little arms about.

"Oh, come on, don't do this," he said desperately, rocking her back and forth, his heart beating loudly. "Come on, rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top," he began to sing but stopped, looking ahead and wondering what came next. "Um, rock-a-bye baby in the tree top," he sang again, but she continued to cry.

In a bout of desperation Ryan scurried out of the room and downstairs, where he found the phone in the kitchen. He began to dial Maxine's cell phone number but then stopped...

I will drown you.

He put the phone down quickly, but then picked it up again and dialed a few numbers. The phone rang and rang and he bounced the baby in his arms, willing her to calm down, but it didn't work.

"Hello?"

"I forgot the lyrics to Rock-A-Bye Baby!" he yelled desperately into the phone.

"What?" came Delko's monotone voice.

"The lyrics, to the song," Ryan said. "I forgot them. It's important that I know the lyrics!"

"Whoa, man," Eric said. "Where are you?"

"I'm home!" Ryan said. "And the baby won't stop crying. Maxine went out, I'm all alone with her, please help me!"

"Alright, alright, um," Eric said. "Um, rock-a-bye baby in the tree top, when the wind blows..."

"The cradle will rock!" Ryan said, excited, and continued to sing. "When the branch breaks the cradle will fall..."

"...and down will come baby..."

"...cradle and all," Ryan finished triumphantly, looking down at his daughter, but she didn't seem to care about his musical talents and merely continued to cry.

"It's not working!"

"Ryan, you okay, man?"

Ryan tried to be cool. He couldn't let Eric know how panicked he was. He would never let him hear the end of it. But the baby kept crying and he wanted nothing but to curl into the fetal position and join her.

"There's something wrong with Phoebe," he said dramatically.

"What? Is she okay?" Eric said.

"I don't know, she's crying," Ryan said.

"Babies cry, Ryan."

"I can't get her to stop." Ryan bounced the baby desperately. "Please come over."

"What? No!"

"I'm begging you, please. I don't know what I'm doing."

"And I know?"

"You're the godfather," Ryan exclaimed. "You have to step up!"

"Only if you die."

"Well guess what, your wish is coming true, cause when Max comes back she's gonna drown me in the tub!"

Eric laughed. "Alright, good luck, man."

"Delko, no!" Ryan said, sighing indignantly. "I'll give you 20 bucks."

"20 bucks to get my hands full of baby shit? I don't think so."

"30 bucks."

"50."

"35."

"40."

Ryan pressed his teeth together hard, feeling now angry. "Fine!"

"Okay, we'll be there in 5."

Ryan hung up the phone angrily and continued to bounce the baby in his arms. Stupid lyrics to the stupid song. Like any baby would be soothed by the image of her falling onto her death from a tree branch. Who wrote that shit anyway?

He tried everything as he waited, tried to get her on her mechanical swing, but that didn't do anything. Tried to sing her other songs, but if anything that pissed her off even more. She was an alarming shade of red now, tears clinging to the corner of her eyes, and every second that went by Ryan fought the urge to shoot himself in the head.

Finally the doorbell rang and he ran over, opening the door and Eric stood there with a smirk on his face.

"Thank God." Ryan opened the door all the way and frowned when he spotted Dan Cooper, walking in behind Eric. "What are you doing here?"

"We were on our way to the beach, until you had your little hormonal freak out," Eric said.

"I thought when you said we you meant you and Calleigh," Ryan said.

"Calleigh's with Valera," Eric said. "You don't even know who your wife's with?"

"Do you think I know my own name right now," Ryan said desperately, bouncing the baby in his arms.

"Aw, look at the baby," Dan cooed. "Can I hold her?"

"No," Ryan said greedily while Dan looked dejected.

"Alright, what do you want us to do?" Eric said.

"I don't know, help me quiet her down."

"Maybe she's hungry," Dan suggested.

Ryan looked at him, his eyes wide and mute.

"You do know that when baby are hungry they cry, right?"

"Um..."

"Unbelievable," Eric said, throwing his arms in the air. "You called us here to help you feed her? What do you want us to do, hold your hand and sing you earth songs while you breastfeed."

"I don't know how much to give her!" Ryan said.

"What?" Eric exclaimed. "Stick a bottle in her mouth, who cares?"

"Who cares? You know I'm seriously considering taking the godfather title away from you," Ryan said.

"Oooh," Eric mocked him.

"Where's the milk?" Dan asked.

"I don't know," Ryan said.

"Try the refrigerator," Eric said, shaking his head.

"Okay, refrigerator. We have one of those," Ryan said, making his way to the kitchen quickly. He opened the refrigerator and there were a few full bottles there. Thank God. He grabbed one, popped the top off, and it fell on the floor and rolled under the kitchen island. He began to put the nipple in the baby's mouth when Eric stopped him.

"You should probably warm it up first," Eric said.

"Right," Ryan said. He put the bottle on the counter and opened a few cabinets, looking around for a pot.

"In the microwave, Mother Goose," Eric sighed.

"Right," Ryan said, grabbing the bottle again and putting it in the microwave. He stared at all the numbers in confusion. "Um, how long?"

"I don't know," Eric said, "five minutes?"

"Doesn't that seem like a long time?"

"I don't know, you're the dad," Eric said. "Haven't you done this before?"

"No, Maxine always did," Ryan said.

Eric shook his head. "Nice."

"Hey, shut up," Ryan said defensively.

"Guys, don't fight in front of the baby," Dan said. "It'll make her cry more."

"I'll just give it a minute," Ryan said, pressing the buttons. The microwave began to glow and he looked at the baby. She was bright red and still crying and he was worried out of his mind that she would explode at any second. "She's been crying a while, do you think that's bad?"

"I think it's bad enough she looks like you," Eric said.

"Haha," Ryan said. The microwave let out a ding and Ryan opened it quickly, taking the bottle and looking at it. "How do I know if it's warm enough?"

Eric smiled. "You could taste it."

Ryan gaped. "What? Gross!"

"I bet it's no different from a cow's," Eric reasoned.

"This is my wife's breast milk," Ryan said. "That came out of her breasts."

"What, you give her head, don't you?" Eric said, smirking. "This is just... a different kind of milk."

"Don't... God!" Ryan shivered. "Don't talk about my wife like that!"

"What?" Eric said. "Oh, you drank breast milk when you were a baby, what's the big deal?"

"If it's no big deal why don't you drink it?" Ryan said.

"I will gladly drink Calleigh's breast milk if we ever have a baby, but I will not betray her by tasting another woman's," Eric said indignantly.

"Bullshit."

"It came out of your wife. You taste it."

"No!"

"Oh, give it to me," Dan said, reaching for the bottle. He put it in his mouth and the other two men grimaced as they watched him take a gulp of Valera's breast milk. Dan swallowed it and savored it for a second. "Actually, that's not bad. Always thought Valera would produce good milk."

"That is sick, man," Eric said.

"It's just like cow milk, but sweeter," Dan said. He looked at the bottle, looked at Ryan and laughed as he realized something. "I just got to second base with your wife, dude."

"Give me that!" Ryan grabbed the bottle and stuck it in Phoebe's mouth, and quickly she desperately began to suck on it. Without the stress of a wailing child, Ryan relaxed. "Thank God."

"Cool, so we're leaving," Eric said, clapping his hands.

"Wait, no!" Ryan said, feeling a little ashamed. "Could you just stay?"

"Ryan, really, enough. We have to go," Eric said.

"Fine, don't do it for me, do it for Phoebe," Ryan pleaded, walking closer to Eric. "Your goddaughter?" he added, showing Eric the baby. "Please stay with me, Uncle Eric," he said in a childish tone.

Eric looked at him. "Do you really think that's gonna work on me? That was you--newborns can't talk while they're eating."

Ryan sighed. "Come on, we'll order a pizza, we'll watch the game, it'll be fun! Fun... watching the baby. The three of us. Like an episode of Full House."

Dan narrowed his eyes at him. "Which season?"

"What?" Ryan said.

"Cause if it's anything with Vicki, you can count me right out," Dan said belligerently.

"Who the hell is--" Ryan began but then shook his head. "Look, I just need you guys to help me out, just this once. You know, the two of you may have kids some day, and I'll already be an experienced dad. I'm just saying."

Eric sighed and Dan looked at him. "He does look like he could set her on fire at any minute," Dan said.

Eric groaned. "Man, you owe me big time."

"Thank you!" Ryan said desperately.

"And you're paying for the pizza. What kind of beer do you have?" Eric said, looking around and finding a huge bag of chips in a cabinet.

"We don't have a lot of beer," Ryan replied, bouncing Phoebe slightly in his arms as she ate.

"That's okay, Dan will have some milk," Eric said mockingly.

Dan looked at him reflectively. "You know who'd produce good milk, I bet? Natalia."

"Dude," Ryan said.

"She has huge knockers. Imagine how much bigger they'll be when she gets pregnant," Dan said, smiling. "She could end world hunger."

"Okay, now you're just being creepy."

"And Calleigh--"

"No," Eric said loudly, putting his hand inches away from Dan's face to stop him from saying anything else.

"Just saying," Dan said.

"What have I told you about being a weirdo?" Eric said.

Dan sighed. "It scares women."

"Exactly. Stop it, or you'll never get laid," Eric said.

Dan sighed and walked into the living room, Eric grabbed another bag of chips and a few beers and followed him, and Ryan walked behind him slowly. He sat down and as the two other men began to tear into the bag of chips and drink all his beer, he looked down at his daughter, finding that her eyes were open and she was looking at him.

For a moment he was scared his heart would stop at any second. He felt so much love and joy just looking into her eyes he didn't know what to do with himself. No wonder Maxine loved feeding the baby and never let anybody else do it. Hell, now that he knew what it was like he was sure they were gonna start fighting over who got to feed her. It was overwhelming, the noises she made as she sucked on the milk and the way she looked at him, like she trusted him completely. It was scary that this tiny person depended on him like she did, and yet amazing at the same time.

He was also glad the guys were too busy with the remote control, cause if they ever saw him like this he'd never hear the end of it. He actually felt his eyes moisten a bit.

Finally, Eric found the game, Dan ordered a pizza, and they sat there, watching the game and eating. Phoebe suddenly pushed the nipple out of her mouth and Ryan grimaced at the mess she'd made. There was milk all around her mouth and neck, and some of it had seeped into his pants. He rushed into the kitchen, grabbed a few paper towels and came back to clean her up.

"She's done," he told the guys.

"So burp her," Eric said.

Ryan looked down at the baby. How the hell was he supposed to do that? Hit the baby? How hard? What if he hurt her? He scratched the side of his head.

"Put her over your shoulder and pat her back," Eric said, coming over and grabbing the baby. Her head swirled back before he placed her over Ryan's shoulder, grabbed Ryan's hand and patted the baby's back with it until Ryan got the hang of it.

Dan looked at them and frowned. "Hey, maybe you should..."

"It's okay, Coop, we got it," Ryan said, waving his hand dismissively.

Cooper felt rejected again but suddenly there was an amazing play on screen and the men forgot about the baby quickly as they cheered for the Gators. Everything was going great, until Ryan felt something wet and hot sliding down his shoulder and back.

"Ow, God!" He stood up, quickly handing the baby to Eric. "Oh, God, she threw up on me!"

Dan shook his head. "Yeah, I was gonna say, maybe you should put a burp cloth over your shoulder."

"Gross! Gross!"

Eric laughed, settling the baby on his legs and cleaning her up with a napkin. "Settle down, Ryan, it's just baby throw up."

But Ryan was too busy jumping in place and trying to remove his shirt at the same time. "What do I do? What do I do?"

"Take your shirt off," Dan said.

"I can't, if I pull it up I'll get throw up on my hair!" Ryan said.

"Well, there's no other option. We're gonna have to set it on fire," Eric said seriously.

"What?"

Eric shook his head. "Don't worry, we'll put it out by kicking you mercilessly."

"Oh, it's starting to smell!" Ryan said and suddenly took off running upstairs and towards the bathroom.

Eric laughed and looked down at the baby. She looked at him with her eyes wide. "That? Was awesome! Good job. I like you," he said.

"You'd think the guy would be used to it. One time my niece threw up in my mouth," Dan said, grabbing a handful of potato chips and guiding them into his mouth, making a mess in the process.

Eric grimaced at him and looked at the baby again. "Alright, now that we're alone I have to tell you this. As your godfather, it's my duty," he said. "Your dad... is an idiot. He's a loser. He's a jackass, basically. I'm sorry, I know this must be hard to hear. The good news is you have a cool mom, and hopefully you'll inherit her personality."

"Hey, don't tell her that," Dan said. "She'll develop issues."

"Growing up with Wolfe as a dad, that's pretty much a guarantee," Eric said. He grabbed the baby and settled her on his chest, kissed the top of her head and continued to watch the game.

A few minutes later Ryan came back down, his hair wet and wearing new clothes.

"You actually showered?" Dan said.

Ryan grimaced. "I can still smell it."

"It's your daughter's throw up, you asshole," Eric said. "You shouldn't find it gross."

"I don't care whose vomit, it's still vomit," Ryan said, taking his old spot. "What'd I miss?"

"Nothing, Grant's running like a girl today."

"Hand me a beer," Ryan said, catching a can of it in the air. He sat back and they continued to watch the game without interruptions. The Gators were a little slow, but Ryan had hopes for the second half. He began to wonder where the pizza guy was, when suddenly Phoebe began to fuss on Eric's chest.

"Oh, Super Dad!" Eric said, handing the baby over to Ryan.

"Oh, not again," Ryan said, bouncing the baby slightly.

"Check her diaper," Eric said.

"No way, she just finished eating," Ryan said. He set the baby down and opened up her diaper. "Nothing."

"Don't look at me, man, I didn't do anything to her," Eric said. "I may have told her you're an idiot, but if anything she looked at me like it was old news."

"Maybe she's still hungry," Ryan said, and quickly the baby's crying got louder and louder until her mouth was fully open, her skin red, and she screamed loudly.

"Oh, come on, no!" Ryan said, bouncing her in the air. "What is wrong with you, tell me!"

But Phoebe screamed and screamed and screamed, so loud that even Eric began to secretly worry. Her lips were trembling and her skin began to turn purple. Ryan thought he should call Maxine, even if she killed him, because he was sure he'd never heard the baby cry like this before.

"Maybe she has appendicitis," Eric suggested.

"What?"

"I don't know!"

"Could she really have appendicitis?" Ryan said, paranoid. "Oh, God."

"Call her pediatrician, she looks like she's in pain," Eric said.

"Oh my God, this is not happening," Ryan said desperately, bouncing her in his arms.

Dan finally sighed and stood up. "That other thing I was gonna say? You were burping her wrong."

Ryan looked at him and frowned. "What the fuck does that mean?"

"It means she has gas," Dan said.

"What?"

Dan grabbed the baby away from Ryan and placed her face down on his forearm before he began to rock her slowly. "Babies have small guts, they can't get rid of gas that easily," he explained. "That's why you have to burp them."

Ryan shook his head, watching Dan Cooper hold his daughter like she was a football. "What the hell are you doing?"

"It's in her intestines now, and it's causing her pain," Dan said.

"Poor kid," Eric said.

He and Ryan watched as Dan placed the baby on the couch and gently massaged her stomach. The whole thing was strange enough, and then Dan began to sing. "And suddenly something is holding me down. Oh, my love, Phoebe has gone away today, now the rain won't stop."

Eric frowned, looked at Ryan and mouthed a, "what the fuck?"

But Ryan was too mesmerized by the picture in front of him, Dan Cooper actually being good at something that wasn't computer related. And Phoebe actually began to calm down, until her cries subsided and she quiet down completely.

"There, all better," Dan said. He turned around and Ryan and Eric stood there, looking at him. Eric's mouth was open. "Oh, I used to be a nanny."

"What?"

"A nanny, in college," Dan said. "You know..."

"Please tell me you were hazed into it," Ryan said.

"No, it was my job," Dan said. "It pays a lot, dude. I put myself through college taking care of kids."

"So, all this time you've been awesome with kids and you didn't tell me?" Eric exclaimed. "Do you know how many women would turn to jelly at the sight of a man with a baby?"

"Really?" Dan said hesitantly.

"Oh my God," Eric exclaimed.

"It's true they say those who have it don't know how to use it," Ryan said, picking his daughter up, glad she'd returned to her original color. He felt like an asshole for burping her wrong and causing her pain, but at least he'd learned something.

"I've been taking you to the beach, to clubs, everywhere for the past three years trying to find you a girl, and all this time you had that secret nanny card you weren't using," Eric said. "Next week we're taking that baby to the park, and by god you're walking out of there with at least three girls."

"You're not using my baby as sexual bait," Ryan said.

"That baby is a chick magnet, my friend," Eric said. "And we have a man here in desperate need of a chick. It's for the good of humanity."

"I don't know how Cooper getting laid is for the good of humanity," Ryan said. "Unless he's had a vasectomy, then I guess it's alright."

"Hey, dude, I just saved your kid's life," Dan said.

"You're right, sorry," Ryan said. "You are awesome and rest assured I will be using your services some time soon."

"Whatever."

At that moment the doorbell rang and a delivery boy stepped in with their pizza. They ate happily, watching the game, or rather watching the Gators get butchered by Tennessee despite the massive amount of cursing and directions that came out of their mouths in typical male fashion. Thank God Ryan's gambling days were long behind him or he would've lost a bundle of money for sure. He didn't wanna think about that time of his life again.

"What's that smell?" Eric suddenly asked.

They all looked around, sniffing, and eventually Ryan groaned. "Oh, no."

Eric stood up. "Yup, this is the part where I go home."

Ryan looked at Dan. "Coop, I don't suppose you--"

"Sorry, dude, you're on your own," Dan said, eating his pizza.

"Crap," Ryan said. He walked upstairs, where he gathered a couple of clean diapers, anti-rash cream, wipes, and baby powder, and made his way down, where Eric and Dan were keeping their distance from the baby.

Diaper in hand and a bottle of baby powder in the other, he stood over the baby cowboy style. "Okay, what do I do?"

Dan looked in his direction. "Alright, first you need to remove the dirty diaper."

"Gross," Eric said, stepping away.

"Okay," Ryan said. He put the things down and peeled the strips off the diaper.

"Slide the top down until you roll it over her poop, and slide the other side up so the whole thing is rolled into a ball," Dan said. "Then use the strips to seal it together."

Ryan did as he was told, sliding the front part of the diaper down slowly. But suddenly Eric saw something on television that made him yell, and Ryan got so excited trying to see the play that he slid his finger inside the diaper by accident.

He looked at his hand and jumped back. "Ah! Ah! I got it on my finger!"

Eric laughed loudly.

"Which hand? Right hand is money," Dan asked but Ryan had disappeared into the kitchen, where he put his finger under the faucet and scrubbed on it compulsively with a brillo pad.

First vomit and now shit. He was beginning to resent this whole fatherhood gig. He scrubbed harder and his finger turned red, and he only stopped when he thought he was beginning to draw blood. Even then, he assaulted his finger with soap, then dipped it in Clorox, then finished off by spraying Windex all over it. Good God, he'd never be able to get it out, ever. Five years of OCD therapy, down the drain. When he rinsed everything off he found a pair of gloves and returned to the living room, where he found his friends in the same spot and his daughter on the couch, diaper wide open and displaying her shame to the world.

He quickly removed it, wiped her little bottom clean, showered a mountain of baby powder on her and put the new diaper on. He proceeded to throw the soiled diaper, along with the gloves, away.

"Game's over!" came a voice from the living room and Ryan sighed. Judging by their lack of enthusiasm, he guessed the Gators didn't score the miracle goal he'd been hoping for.

Now the commentators were talking about the game and going over some of the most embarrassing plays, and as Ryan stood there, hands in his pockets, he heard the garage door open.

"Crap, Max is home," Ryan said in a panic and began to pick everything up in a hurry. Eric and Dan helped him, picking up all the beer bottles and empty bags of chips off the floor. When they were done they returned to their original positions, trying to look normal. Ryan quickly grabbed the baby and lay her over his chest as they pretended to watch television.

"Ryan?" Maxine called out when she walked into the house.

"In here!"

She followed his voice into the living room, Calleigh behind her, and was a little taken aback by Eric and Cooper's presence.

"Wow, full house," Maxine commented.

Dan snickered.

"Hey, you look pretty," Ryan said.

"You're not saying that cause the baby's dead, are you?"

"Nope, right here," Ryan said.

"Good." Valera smiled at him. "Guess what? They removed enough skin off my feet to make a leather bag."

"Oh, that's not gross at all," Ryan chuckled.

"What are you guys doing here, I thought you were going to the beach?" Calleigh said.

"Change of plans," Eric said, grabbing her hand and pulling her onto his lap. He smelled her neck and smiled. "Mm, you smell like a hole in my wallet."

Calleigh smiled, digging into her purse and handing him his credit card back. "I hope you don't mind, we hired a couple of Austrian prostitutes for an hour."

"Well, anything to help the Austrian pimping community," Eric said.

"Who won?" Maxine asked Ryan, giving into her overwhelming urge to pick up her baby and shower her with kisses.

"Stupid Tennessee."

"Sorry." Valera sighed. "Alright, I'm gonna go feed her."

"Done," Ryan said.

She stopped, looking at him with a frown. "Did you burp her?"

"Yup."

"New diaper?"

"In place."

"Wow," Valera exclaimed, touched. "You really did all of that?"

Ryan looked at her with a smile and then looked at Dan and Eric. He felt bad, taking credit for all their work. He wanted nothing more than to raise right there and proclaim himself King Dad, but this time he thought he should come clean. "Well--"

"Yup, he's Super Dad," Eric said.

"He was awesome," Dan said.

Valera looked at them. "Really?"

"Oh, yeah, check out the diaper job," Eric added.

"He actually put it on with a bandage over his eyes and a hand tied behind his back," Dan said.

"Alright, guys," Ryan said tightly.

"That is amazing," Maxine said. "Wow, I didn't think you could do it. Guess I was wrong."

"Yeah, well," Ryan said, taking a deep breath, "I had a lot of moral support."

"Well, thank you guys, I appreciate it," Maxine said. She walked over and placed the baby in Calleigh's arms.

"Aww," Calleigh cooed at the baby. "Ryan, she looks just like you."

"Alright, Calleigh, let's not tease the baby," Eric said. "Not until she gets to school."

Maxine smiled. "Hey, if you guys ever wanna babysit, for like a day or a month or until she goes off to college."

"Alright, this is the part where we go home," Eric said, pushing Calleigh off of him and standing up.

Calleigh gave the baby back, reluctantly. "She's beautiful, Valera."

"Thank you."

"Let's go, Coop," Eric said. "Ryan, have a good one."

"Thanks, man," Ryan said and stood up to walk them to the door.

"Hey, great breast milk, Max," Dan said. "You been eating a lot of corn lately?"

Maxine frowned. "What?!"

"Nothing, he's kidding," Ryan said quickly. "Bye, Coop."

"Later, man."

They said their goodbyes and outside Calleigh caught up with Eric. "He couldn't deal with it, could he?"

"Crying like a little girl when I got here," Eric said and they walked away.

Inside, Ryan smiled at Maxine. "You do look beautiful, by the way."

"I'm starving, too," she said.

Ryan smiled. "Want some pizza?"

"Sure."

"Hey, I found a great babysitter."

"Really? Who?"

"You're never gonna believe it..."


Maxine lay in bed that night, admiring her manicure.

Though she felt relaxed and pretty now (something she hadn't felt in the last ten months) she still felt drained. Ryan was in the bathroom, brushing his teeth, and joined her minutes later.

"Hey, there's a hot lady in my bed I don't remember ordering," he said, kissing her shoulder.

Valera smiled. "I can't believe I actually left the house."

"It wasn't a big deal," Ryan said, working his way up to her neck.

"Yes it was. I freaked out in the middle of my pedicure, I was sure I'd come back and find you and Phoebe dead," she said. "Calleigh had to calm me down."

"You know, you should leave the house more often," he suggested.

"Yeah, right," Valera said.

"I'm serious," he said, looking at her. "You and Calleigh and Natalia should go somewhere next Saturday. Anywhere you want. In fact, I'll pay for it."

Valera chuckled. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah, you deserve it."

"What if we wanna go to a strip club?"

Ryan pressed his lips together, trying not to frown. "You can go to a strip club, sure."

"Great," she said.

"You're lying, though, right?"

"I don't know, it's been a while," she teased.

He smiled. "Speaking of things we haven't done in a while..."

He kissed her deeply, quickly feeling the blood rushing south of the border. Sex with Maxine was so scarce his days, the slightest showing of skin or even the most innocent touch made him hard. He moved on top of her, kissing her neck as she slid her hands inside his boxers. Maxine was good with her hands, he'd discovered during their third date. She was generally amazing in bed, but the things she did with her hands... Ryan wanted to build a monument in their honor.

She pushed him on his back and he was sure he could hear a choir of angels singing... and something else.

Crying on the baby monitor.

"Son of a bitch," Ryan said.

Valera sighed. "I'll go."

"No, I got it," Ryan said.

"You sure?"

"Yup."

Valera looked at him. "Alright, who the hell are you?"

Ryan frowned. "Honey, I got baby vomit over my shoulder, and then I dipped my finger in baby shit. Nothing scares me anymore."

"Alright. Godspeed, brave soldier."

He hurried into the nursery and approached the crib, and quickly assessed the situation. She'd been fed, burped, and diapered, and she didn't sound like she was in pain. His super deductive dad powers tried figure out what was wrong, until he spotted her pacifier a few inches away from her head.

Ryan picked it up and inserted it in her mouth, and she quickly went quiet. He smiled, watching her a few more minutes until she fell asleep and feeling proud of himself.

Happy wife: check.

Happy baby: check.

Getting laid: check, check!

Not a bad life at all, he thought. He quickly walked out of the nursery and into the bedroom, where he stopped by the door. Dropping his head he walked over to the armoire, where he found a blanket that he used to put over his sleeping wife. He sighed, turned the lamp off and spooned her tenderly.

Well, two out of three wasn't so bad.

The End