Nikki-verse. Following "Child's Play."
Derek sighed heavily as he pulled into the parking lot, spotting a familiar red Fiat, parked close to the school's entrance. He smirked and pulled in next to it, saluting a teacher who was leading a line of children in from the playground. He was one of them, now. A teacher. He could totally do stuff like that. Of course high school was slightly different than elementary, but well. Elementary teachers were a breed all their own.
He walked the familiar trek into the front office, smirking when he spotted Sheldon Schlepper reading an issue of a Ripley's Believe it or Not! magazine. "Trying out for a world record, Schlep?"
Sheldon looked up and frowned. "Huh?"
"The reading material's changed since last week," Derek clarified, slapping Sheldon's outstretched hand in greeting.
"Oh, no, I brought this from home." Sheldon tucked it into the pocket of his sweater vest. "I only read it when I'm here, and I'm almost done. I might have to get a new one."
Derek blew out a breath. "Greta?"
Derek collapsed into a chair next to Sheldon. "Like clockwork, man."
"I'm not too sure, dude," Sheldon said, deadpan. "But I think our children might have behavioral issues."
"No really?" Derek replied. "I thought they were just psychotic."
A harried-looking secretary emerged from the inner office, face creasing when she saw Derek. "Mr. Venturi?"
"Anita!" Derek greeted with a smirk. "How's the haps?"
"Mrs. Simon is almost ready for you," she replied primly, taking a seat at her desk and darting her eyes around, looking like she'd like to jump out of the nearest window.
"I dunno why you've gotta play me like that, Anita," Derek said, mock-pouting. "I thought we had something special."
"If you'd just wait a few minutes, Mrs. Simon will see you," Anita said through gritted teeth.
"It's Casey, isn't it? I mean, I know I'm married, but I'll tell you a secret…" Derek leaned forward. "She doesn't call me at work nearly as much as you do." Sheldon snorted a laugh.
Anita managed a frigid smile. "Very nice, Mr. Venturi."
"Level with me, secretary to teacher-slash-parent – you just like me more than anyone else, right? It's not Nikki at all?"
"I wish it were so, Mr. Venturi," she replied dryly. A mechanical beep sounded from her phone and she immediately straightened in her seat. "Mrs. Simon will see you now."
Derek grinned. "Don't look too excited now," he said, standing.
"You too, Mr. Schlepper."
Sheldon rose his eyebrows, shooting his eyes to Derek's. "Oh, shit."
"Wait, wait, Nikki and Greta got in trouble together?" Derek exclaimed. "Oh, this can't be good."
"Mrs. Simon will explain," Anita said meaningfully. "Now."
"You wound me, Anita." Sheldon bumped Derek's shoulder and he turned. "Dude."
"Dude," Sheldon mocked, pushing open the principal's office door with his foot.
"Hey, if they wrote lyrics from Phantom of the Opera all over the desks again, I'm so blaming you," Derek said. "And Casey keeps her nails real sharp when she's pregnant on purpose. That's all I'm saying."
"Phantom of the Opera is a classic," Sheldon said, sounding wounded.
Derek rolled his eyes. "Whatever."
"Daddy!" Nikki Venturi escaped her teacher's grip and immediately ran to Derek, arms wrapping around his legs. "Daddy, it wasn't my fault, I swear!"
Derek picked up his daughter with a groan, frowning at her appearance. Her hair, which had been gathered into a neat ponytail that morning, was rumpled and ratty, hairclip long lost, and her clothes were dirty and ripped. "Okay, Nicks, calm down."
Greta Schlepper, as dirty and rumpled as Nikki, pouted from the grasp of her own teacher. "Nikki, you are such a liar! A liar and a drama queen!"
"Hey, now," Sheldon said, walking over to retrieve his daughter. "What's this all about?"
Mrs. Simon, principal of North London Elementary school, spoke up from behind her gargantuan desk. "It seems that your children, Mr. Venturi, and Mr. Schlepper, got into a fight today during recess. Mrs. Cuthbert," Mrs. Simon nodded to Greta's teacher, "and Miss Moore witnessed the fight."
Miss Moore spoke up. "I don't know what the fight was about, but I found them wrestling around in the dirt. Neither of them were hurt, but they didn't stop yelling at each other for fifteen minutes after we separated them."
Derek frowned. "Nikki, why were you fighting with Greta? She's your best friend."
Nikki harrumphed. "Ask her," she said haughtily, and buried her face in Derek's neck.
Sheldon looked at Greta. "Greta?"
Greta stuck out her chin. "Nikki's stupid," she said simply.
Sheldon sighed. "That's not a nice thing to say, Greta."
"I don't care," she said petulantly. "Daddy, can I go home? They won't let me go back to the class room."
Mrs. Simon nodded at the teachers, who slunk out of the room. "Okay, Mr. Venturi, Mr. Schlepper, here's how this works. Both of your children have numerous disciplinary reports on their records. This incident is the fourth this month, and the first that included a physical altercation."
Derek rolled his eyes. "What, the time when Nikki put thumbtacks on that kid's seat didn't count as an altercation?" Sheldon nudged him. "What? Oh. Never mind."
"What I'm saying is," Mrs. Simon talked over Derek pointedly, "is that this kind of misbehavior simply cannot be tolerated here at South London. I'm afraid I will have to suspend both Greta and Nikki for the rest of the week."
Greta let out a wail. "I don't wanna be supended!"
"Suspended, honey. And it just means you won't be able to go to school."
"Oh. Does that mean I can watch Spongebob tomorrow?" Sheldon opened his mouth, shook his head, and closed it again.
Derek sighed heavily, hoisting Nikki higher up in his arms. "Look, Mrs. Lymon – "
"Okay. Nikki's not a bad kid, she's just really wild," Derek said. "And she and Greta are usually good friends, I don't know what this was about, but…"
"Shut up, stupid-head!"
"You shut up! You're stupid!"
"Girls!" Sheldon pulled Greta back with a hand, and Derek winced. "But, do they really need to get suspended? They're great kids, and…" he looked to Sheldon for support, who shrugged. "You know. My wife will kill me."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Venturi, but we have a very strict behavioral policy, and we've made numerous exceptions for your daughter already."
"You could make another exception for the tuition I pay you people," Derek grumbled.
"What's tunition?" Nikki asked.
"Probably something stupid," Greta grumbled.
"NO, YOU – "
"Anita will be happy to give you the paperwork on the way out," Mrs. Simon interrupted. "They can return to school on Monday."
Derek shook his head, frustrated beyond words, and grabbed Nikki's backpack from the floor. "All right. Jeez."
Nikki peeked from over her father's shoulder and stuck out her tongue at Greta. "Stupid!" she stage-whispered.
"Double stupid!" Greta whispered back, glaring petulantly.
"Stupid times infinity," Nikki said back, voice gaining volume.
"You can't use stupid times infinity before I say times stupid times a million, stupid!" Greta exclaimed, stomping her foot.
"Nikki, cut it out." Derek switched her to the other hip, leaving the office before Sheldon and Greta. "God help me."
"Seriously Nikki, this has got to stop. Do you realize that I'm coming into your school every single week? I leave around eleven o'clock every single day, without even thinking about it."
Nikki shifted in her seat, pouting as she stared out the window. "It was Greta's fault."
Derek sighed. "How is it Greta's fault, honey? What were you fighting about?"
"She was being stupid."
"Okay, yes, stupid. I am hearing stupid loud and clear, babe. Gimme something else to work with."
Nikki sighed dramatically. "I can't talk about it right now, Daddy. I'm too distaught."
"Do you just say distraught?" Derek asked incredulously, staring at his daughter in the rearview mirror.
"It's Uncle Sheldon's word of the day. Duh."
"Uh huh." Derek shook his head, swerving onto the exit ramp to his neighborhood. "So I guess you and Greta were friends long enough today for her to tell you the word of the day."
Nikki's expression turned stormy once more. "I'm not going to talk about Greta anymore!" she declared.
Derek sighed. "Fine."
"Daddy, you're speeding!"
"How do you know I'm speeding?"
Nikki rolled her eyes. "Because you're going too fast."
Derek grumbled indignantly and slowed down. "You've hit a rock bottom when your six-year-old gives you driving tips."
"You shouldn't speed, Daddy. It causes ac'dents."
"I knew we should've sent you to public school," Derek groaned.
"I know, I know. My kid got suspended." Derek nudged Nikki inside the house, juggling his stack of papers from work with her backpack, holding his cell phone nudged into his shoulder with his chin. "I am aware that she is only six years old, Larry, thank you for reminding me."
Nikki plopped down on the couch. "Daddy, is Spongebob over yet?"
Derek glared at his daughter. "Yes." He dropped the backpack on Nikki's lap. "Go put that away. Now." Nikki pouted and raced up the stairs to her room. "Larry, it's only a study hall. Okay, yes, I know that the Knicks game is on at two, but it's a study hall. No, I don't know who's in it…because I don't memorize class rosters on study halls, Larry!"
Derek collapsed on the couch, his head falling backward to rest on the cushions. "Look, would you just help me out? My kid got into a fight, so I've gotta talk to her, and I haven't even called Casey yet…because she's eight months pregnant! And she's Casey! I'd like to prolong the explosion for as long as possible, thank you."
Derek quieted and listened to the reply on the other side of the line. "Thank you," he said finally, breathing a sigh of relief. "Yeah, I owe you one. Thanks."
He cut off the call, taking a second to rub his temples. Eyes closed, he let his hand fall to the couch, enjoying a moment of silence.
Then, a crash sounded from upstairs and he jumped.
"I DIDN'T DO IT, DADDY!"
Derek's mouth opened and closed, no sound emerging. He gestured helplessly in the air, making choking sounds. "Nikki, get down here!"
Nikki raced down the stairs, dragging Dam the Dog behind her by his collar. She pushed the dog in front of Derek, who thanked God they'd found a pet willing to take enormous amounts of abuse uncomplainingly. "Dam did it! He pushed my bookshelf all over by himself – Dam, what were you thinking? Bad dog!" Nikki scolded, shaking her finger in the shaggy dog's face.
Dam looked at her uncomprehendingly and started to scratch at his ear with his back paw.
"You make so many messes, Dam. Jeez, didn't your mother teach you any manners?" Nikki exclaimed. "Go, go to your room." She pushed at Dam, who whined and lay down on the floor. "Go!"
"Nikki, cut it out. Dam's fine."
Nikki looked up at him, eyes wide. "I didn't do it, Daddy."
"You don't do a lot of things," Derek said. "Whenever something happens, you blame it on someone else."
Nikki looked down at her shoes, sniffling a bit. "I don't mean to."
He sighed. "Okay, come here."
She leaped up onto Derek's lap, knocking the wind out of him. "I'm sorry, Daddy!"
"Oof, Nikki – "
"I'll clean it up, I promise."
"Okay, okay, Nikki." Derek shifted, moving Nikki to a more comfortable position on his lap. "Now, look. I need to talk to you about what happened at school today."
Nikki's eyes widened again. "It was Greta's fault!" she said quickly.
"It was both your faults, Nikki," Derek said sternly. "You shouldn't fight with anyone, ever, let alone your best friend."
"Some best friend," Nikki scoffed.
"Don't say that, Snicks," Derek chastised. "She is your best friend, whether you're fighting right now or not."
"That doesn't make any sense, Daddy," Nikki said, wrinkling her nose.
"Okay, Nikki, look at it this way. You love Dam, right?"
"Of course I do!"
"Do you still love him even when he does something bad, like when he – " Derek cleared his throat. "…knocks over the bookshelf?"
"And your mom and I still love you when we get angry with you," Derek went on.
"I'm not seeing your point, Daddy," Nikki said, crossing her arms.
"Nikki, you love Greta, just like we love you or you love Dam. So even when you're fighting with her, she's still your best friend."
Nikki pouted. "But she called me stupid."
"If I recall, you weren't exactly silent yourself, young lady."
Nikki sighed and rolled her eyes. "Fine," she said dramatically. "I'll apologize and make up with Greta. Okay?"
"Okay." Derek scooted her off his lap. "Right after you clean your room."
"Nik-ki," Derek shot back. She rolled her eyes and turned to go upstairs. "What were you guys fighting about, anyway?"
Nikki turned around and glared at her father. "It's a secret," she said haughtily, then raced up the stairs to her room.
Derek sighed, shaking his head. "Jesus Christ."
Casey Venturi came through the front door of the house with a huff, dropping her coat and briefcase on the floor, kicking off her shoes and leaning down to rub in the instep of her right foot.
She frowned, looking up. "Derek?" She hopped slightly, moving into the living room to see her husband on the couch, papers waiting to be graded spread out on the coffee table. "Hey, player. What are you doing home so early?"
Derek laughed a little nervously, rising up to greet her with a kiss. "Um, well, funny story." He brought her down to sit next to him. "I could ask you the same thing."
Casey rolled her eyes, pushing a stack of papers aside to rest her feet on the table. "They seem to think I need to take it easy. Plus I yelled at a client."
"He totally had it coming," she grumbled. "What are you doing here?"
"Well…" a bang sounded from upstairs and Casey jumped. "Ignore that."
"Ignore what?" Casey said warily.
"Um…" the bang echoed through the house again.
"What is that?"
"Nikki is, uh, cleaning her room," Derek said. "AKA, playing basketball."
"Nikki is playing…" bang. "…basketball. In the house. At two in the afternoon."
"Yeah, well." Derek shrugged. "You look beautiful, by the way. Did you change your hair?"
"Derek, why are you and Nikki home early?" Casey eyed him suspiciously.
"God, have I ever told you how hot you look in your work clothes? Seriously, you look good enough to eat."
Casey pushed him away from her neck, glaring. "Derek."
"Casey." Derek held out for two seconds and then folded beneath her stare like a wet napkin. "Nikki got suspended."
"She can go back on Monday!"
"Our…six-year-old…got suspended," Casey said slowly.
"Yes," Derek said warily.
Casey's feet hit the floor with a thump. "I think I'm going to faint," she said weakly.
"Breathe," Derek commanded, laying a hand on her back. Another bang sounded from upstairs and Casey jumped. "Nikki! Cut that out!" he called.
Derek sighed in frustration. "Just breathe, Case. Close your eyes." He vaulted over the back of the couch, jogging halfway up the stairs. "Nikki…"
Casey jumped again, one hand to her heart. Her pulse beat rapidly and she moaned, leaning forward to rest her forehead on her knees.
"Nicole, cut that out, I mean it!"
"YOU SAID – "
Casey heard a muffled thump and a door close sharply. She shook her head, hearing another loud bang, followed by lots of short, muffled thumps, signifying the basketball bouncing across Nikki's floor.
The door opened again and Derek came down the stairs, followed by a petulant Nikki, who perked up upon seeing her mother. "MOMMY!"
"Nikki, Nikki – " Derek grabbed her before she could jump on Casey. "Mommy's not feeling too hot right now."
"What's wrong with her?" Nikki twisted in Derek's arms. "Did you do something to her?"
Casey snorted a laugh and Derek's mouth dropped open. "No! Why would I do something to her?"
"I'm just tired, honey," Casey said, reaching out her arms for Nikki. Derek gently handed her off and sat down next to her, hand moving to the back of her neck. "Nikki, why did you get suspended today?"
Nikki sighed. "Because I fought with Greta."
"Why did you do that?" Nikki shrugged, rolling over to flop down in the cushions next to her parents. "Nicole," Casey said seriously.
Nikki scrunched her face up. "Greta said that Hannah Montana's real name was Macy, and I knew it was Miley, Mommy!"
"Oh God, that's what they were fighting about?" Derek exclaimed.
"Nikki, was that really something worth fighting over?"
Nikki blew out a breath. "No," she said shortly.
"I don't think so either." Casey stopped to marvel momentarily at her own calm. Maybe pregnancy hormones weren't such a bad thing. "Honey, we've got to stop this, okay? You need to follow the rules at school, even if you don't like them. We can't keep coming and getting you every week." Casey paused, seeing her daughter's focused attention on what looked like Casey's lap. "Nikki? Are you listening to me?"
Nikki was staring at her mother's enlarged stomach with wide eyes. She looked up at Casey slowly. "Mommy…you're fat."
Casey choked on air.
"Nikki – she's, um, okay." Derek smothered a laugh and leaned forward. "Nikki, don't say that, that's mean."
"She is!" Nikki pointed to Casey's stomach. "That wasn't there BEFORE! Mommy, what have you been eating?!"
"Nikki – "
"Are you sick? I don't think it's normal!" Nikki bent down to her knees and tried to lift Casey's shirt to peek underneath it. "Do you have one of those two-more things? Do you need to go to the doctor?! Daddy and I will take you to the doctor – "
"Nikki, honey, honey," Casey regained her wits and grabbed the little girl's shoulders. "I don't have a tumor. I'm fine, I'm perfectly healthy. Nothing's wrong."
"But Daddy said you didn't feel good!" Nikki wrestled her arm away to feel Casey's forehead, eyes widening. "Mommy, you're all sweaty! I think you have a tempture!"
"Nikki, I'm fine!" Casey said, glaring at her laughing husband, who was absolutely no help. "I was just at the doctor last week. I'm healthy, okay? Don't worry," she reassured.
Nikki was not to be deterred. "Why were you at the doctor? Are you sick? Do you need medicine?"
"Well, I'm – " Casey broke off uncertainly, looking back at Derek. "I'm not sick, sweetie, it's just that I, um." She glared at her husband. "Help me out, here."
Derek leaned forward. "Nikki, your mom is pregnant," he said bluntly.
Nikki looked at him blankly. "Pregnant of what?" she asked.
"Um." Derek frowned. "What?"
Casey looked at Derek. "What?"
"That's what I just SAID." Nikki crossed her arms.
"Do you mean…president of what?" Casey said slowly.
Nikki rolled her eyes. "Duh."
"Pregnant, not president," Casey replied. "President is when you're in charge of something, and pregnant is something different."
Nikki raised one eyebrow. "Okay, so what's a pregnant?"
"Well…" Derek trailed off. "Casey?"
Casey shot him a dirty look. "Nikki…it means you're going to have a little brother or sister."
Nikki wrinkled her nose. "Ew. Why would I want one of those?"
"Oh, well…" Casey bit her lip. "Derek?"
"You probably wouldn't want one," Derek said. Casey slapped him. "Ow. What?"
"Daddy complains about Uncle Edwin all the time," Nikki said matter-of-factly. "And Aunt Marti, and Aunt Lizzie – "
"Daddy complains about everybody," Casey said. "So you can't use that."
"I do not," Derek griped.
"You do too – "
"Hellooo!" Nikki's face creased. "Why do I have to get a brother or sister?"
"It just happened, sweets. We didn't um, plan it." Casey cleared her throat. "Honey, this is a good thing. You'll have somebody to teach and to help…someone to tell your secrets to."
"I can't tell my secrets," Nikki said, scandalized. "Then they wouldn't be secrets!"
"You'll have someone to play with," Casey said. "I mean, not right away, but sooner or later."
Nikki eyed Casey's stomach warily. "I can play with him?"
"Him or her." Derek nudged the little girl. "No basketball until he's at least four, though."
"Five," Casey said.
"Four and a half," Derek finished.
Nikki nodded decisively. "I guess that's okay," she said slowly. "But only one!" She pointed at her parents menacingly. "Just one! That's it!"
"Got it," Derek said, saluting her. Casey nodded seriously.
"Good. I have to go call Greta. Don't have my brother until I get back," Nikki ordered, running off to her room.
"Or sister!" Casey called after her. She collapsed back into the couch and sighed. "Oh my God."
"I told you, Case. Public school."
"That school is the best in the province," Casey complained.
"Whatever." Derek slid his arm around her shoulders. "They hate us."
"Nooo…" Casey protested weakly.
"Yeah, they do."
"Well, okay, yeah." Casey sighed. "What are we gonna do about this week? It's only Wednesday, and I can't miss any work, what with maternity leave coming up."
"You should be on maternity leave now," Derek said pointedly.
Casey waved a hand dismissively. "Uh huh, right."
"Uchh. Well, I can't miss work either." Derek shook his head. "We'll ask Dad and Nora."
"They just had Nikki last weekend, though."
Derek shrugged. "We have to work. Marti just started her new semester…Lizzie and Emily are working, Sheldon's got Greta to deal with…and no way do I trust Edwin with Nikki. In any capacity."
"Sam?" Casey asked hopefully.
"He's in New York until next Thursday, remember?"
Casey sighed. "Mom and George it is."
"Mommy, where are we going after this?"
"Honey, you're going to Grandma and Grandpa's for the day while Daddy and I go to work."
"Can we get ice cream?"
"You just had breakfast," Derek said.
"So did you," Nikki shot back. "I want chocolate!"
"No ice cream, Nikki," Casey said sternly.
A mournful sigh came from the back and the two parents momentarily relaxed.
"I am not!"
"Oh God," Casey moaned as they pulled into the driveway. As soon as the car stopped she wrenched the car open, leaning over and throwing up into the grass.
"EW!" Nikki shrieked.
"Nikki," Derek warned. He hopped out of the car, going around to the passenger's side to help Casey out of the car. "Are you okay?"
"I don't know," Casey moaned. "Maybe I'm carsick?"
"You don't get carsick."
"Maybe the baby does."
"Can someone let me out of here, please?!"
"Her Majesty is calling." Derek rolled his eyes and popped the back car door open, unbuckling Nikki's seat belt. "Could you maybe try and be a little polite once in a while? Please?"
"I am polite." Nikki hopped down and went to Casey's waist, wrapping her arms around her protruding stomach. "Mommy, if the baby is making you sick, maybe we just shouldn't have it."
"A little late now, honey." Casey winced. "And you're pressing on Mommy's bladder. Crap." She wrenched away and ran inside the house.
Derek sighed and swung Nikki up into his arms. "You're a charmer, Snickerdoodle."
Nikki scrunched up her nose. "A snake charmer?"
Nikki smiled happily. "I'm okay with that."
Nora hovered nervously over Derek's shoulder, wringing her hands. "Maybe we should take her to the hospital."
"No, no hospital, Mom! I'm fine, it's just…" Casey broke off on a gasp.
Derek brought his hand to her neck, brushing the wisps of hair away from her face. "Maybe Nora's right, Case."
"It's just Braxton-Hicks or something."
"Casey, for the love of God – "
"Ow." Casey grabbed onto Derek's arm, nails digging into her skin. "Oh, ow, ow, ow – "
"Ow is right," Derek said, wincing. "Hospital. Now."
"Why does Mommy have to go to the hospital?" Nikki asked. "What's a hospital? Can I come?"
"You stay here with Grandma." Derek glared at Nora, who shut her mouth before the protest came. "We'll call you if anything, uh, major happens."
"It's probably just Braxton-Hicks," Casey said weakly. "Oh God, kill me." She moaned, one hand on her stomach.
"Breathe!" Derek grabbed her shoulders. "Breathe."
"Okay." She took a deep breath, locking eyes with him, and nodded. "Breathing."
"Come on." He helped her up and Casey grabbed his shoulders, leaning heavily on him. "Car."
"Call me when you get there," Nora fretted, following them to the door.
"Bring back a present!" Nikki commanded.
(Two hours later.)
"When are Mommy and Daddy coming back?" Nikki was sitting on the counter in the kitchen, head leaning back against the cupboards. Her legs were swinging back and forth and hitting the wood cupboards below periodically.
"I don't know, sweetie," Nora said. She had rubber gloves on and was cleaning in an attempt to not worry. It wasn't really working. "I mean, they said they'd call, but they haven't called yet, and you know, it really doesn't mean anything that they haven't called yet or anything. Really." She laughed nervously and scrubbed at the faucet. "I'm sure they'll call."
Nikki looked at her grandmother warily. "You're weird," she said.
(Four hours later.)
"Nora, how long were you in labor with Lizzie?"
"Eighteen hours," Nora mumbled.
George nodded. "And how long was Abby in labor with Derek?"
"Twenty-two," Nora said. "He was a special case!"
"How long was Casey in labor with Nikki?"
Nikki piped up from her grandfather's arms. "Thirty-one!"
"Okay, I get it. We'll wait." Nora huffed and turned around to head back into the kitchen. "I'm cleaning."
"We'll help?" George offered.
"Don't you dare!"
(Eight hours later.)
"Mom, I swear to god I'm going to come over there and tie you down if you don't stop calling me."
Nora was pacing up and down the living room. "Eight hours, Lizzie! She hasn't called – she said she'd call! I mean, what kind of person goes off to have a baby and says she'll call and then doesn't call? I mean it's just common sense – "
"Grampa, she's being weird again!"
(Nine and a half hours later.)
"Grandpa, why are we going to the hopsital? You said we s'posed to wait for Mommy and Daddy to call."
"Because your grandma is weird, Nikki."
"What the hell are you guys doing here?"
"Don't sound happy to see us or anything, son."
"DADDY!" Nikki ran into Derek's arms. "Gramma's being weird."
"What else is new?"
Nora slapped him. Hard. "Do you have any idea – "
George pulled her back before she could do anything too damaging. "How's Casey."
Derek grinned. "Six centimeters."
Nora slumped in relief, then straightened back up. "Oh my God, six centimeters!"
"Six cenmeters of what?"
"Nothing. Wanna see Mommy?"
"YES, YES, YES, YES – "
"Um, okay, Nikki. Thanks." Derek grabbed her hand in a high five, laughing weakly. "Great."
"Great." She smiled happily and grabbed his hand, dragging him down the hallway. "So seriously, six cenmeters of what?"
"How long has it been?"
George checked his watch. "Three hours. Plus ten minutes since the last time you asked."
"Oh." Nikki swung her feet and blew a raspberry. "Grampa, what's a bathtard?"
George did a double take, throwing a nervous look at the old woman on the other side of the waiting room. "Um, what? Where did you hear that?"
"Mommy said it to Daddy when she was screaming and stuff, he said he was a bathtard and she was gonna cut him off – she says that a lot – "
"Um, it's a grown up thing."
"Why do grown ups say that all the time?"
George thought of Marti and gave his standard answer. "Because we can."
Nikki rolled her eyes. "Fine." She kicked at her seat. "How long has it been now?"
"It's happening, it's happening!"
George caught his wife around the waist. "Breathe."
Nora shook her head, smiling widely. "She's in labor!"
"Hasn't she been in labor since nine this morning?"
"No, no, she's having the baby right now." Nora made one of the cute faces where her eyebrows rose up to the top of her forehead and her mouth stretched out.
"Gramma, are you being weird again?"
"Gramma is being so weird!" Nora exclaimed, picking Nikki up. "We are all weird and your mommy and daddy are just about to get a brand new weird person, too!"
"The baby's here? Finally?" Nikki rolled her eyes. "Finally."
Nikki peeked over the edge of the bed, eyes wide. "Mommy, where'd your stomach go?"
Casey gave a weak chuckle. "The baby was my stomach. I had the baby and now I'm thin again." She frowned. "Well, mostly."
"Don't even start with the fat thing," Derek groaned. "How many gyms did you join after Snicks was born?"
"Hush and bring that kid over here." Casey held out her arms and grinned. "Seriously, gimme."
Derek bent down and handed the baby over to Casey, turning his head to reach out for Nikki. "Come here, sweetheart."
Nikki walked slowly over to her father, hands clasped tightly behind her back. Derek picked her up and let her lean over Casey's shoulder to look at the baby, sleeping peacefully in the small blanket.
"Nikki," Casey said. "Meet Benjamin."
Nikki tucked herself into Derek's chest, watching her very new baby brother with awed eyes. "Wow." She shivered a little. "He's all wrinkly."
Casey laughed. "Yup."
"He looks okay." Nikki looked up at Derek. "I guess we can keep him."
Derek chuckled, locking eyes with Casey. "Yeah, we're gonna keep him."
"Yeah." Nikki wrinkled her nose, cocking her head. "Can I play with him now?"
Three weeks later, in the middle of Young and the Restless, Casey Venturi's cell phone rang. She waved at Emily, who looked up from her Benjamin-trance and muttered something incoherent. "I'll get it."
Emily cooed at Ben, trying her hardest to get a smile out of the baby – when her attention was captured by whoever Casey was on the phone with.
"Yes?" Casey sighed. "Okay, what for?" Casey nodded. "Okay. Now? Sure." She flipped it closed and snorted once.
"Did something happen?"
Casey shrugged. "Nikki got expelled."
Emily blinked. "For what?"
"Firecrackers? On the roof, and…" Casey shrugged again. "Can I borrow your car?"
Emily held out her keys and sighed.
THE END. Kind of. Whatever.