A/N: Insert the usual song and dance here. Honestly, if you haven't been following the CATverse already and know how to get to the timeline, wtfh are you doing here?
"Come on, Kitten. Say 'mommy'. Say 'mommy'," the Captain said from her spot on the floor in front of the toddler who was currently sucking four of her fingers into her mouth. "Say mommy, you little ingrate. I squeezed you out--"
"Captain," a warning voice came from across the room, belonging to Al, who had yet to look up from her newspaper. "Play nice or we'll take your toy away."
The Captain pouted as Kitten thumped on the floor with the fist not occupying her mouth. "She's almost one and a half. She should be talking by now."
"Don't push," Techie put in, doing her best 'wise Jedi master' face. "She'll talk when she's ready."
"She'll talk when she's ready, not when you are," Al said, cutting the Captain off quite effectively.
"I was talking long before the age of one and a half, you know," the Captain said, looking at her child forlornly. "What if there's something the matter with her?"
"There is absolutely nothing the matter with her, she will talk when she's ready," Jonathan Crane snapped, speaking from the entrance to the common room with his arms crossed over his chest. "Despite dazzling odds to the contrary, she's proven on more than one occasion that she is smarter than the average toddler." He glared around at the other occupants of the common room. "And I sometimes wonder if she's smarter than the average adult. Have you forgotten what time it is?"
The Captain's eyes got big suddenly and she scrambled up off the floor. "We didn't miss it, did we? DID WE MISS IT?"
Crane didn't even bother to glance at his watch. "You have twenty minutes to get to the theatre. Ample time to steal a car and screech into the parking lot, I'm sure."
In a flurry of sheets of newspaper, books and baby toys, all three women were dashing for their rooms, coming out with their coats (Techie was hopping up and down, trying to tie her shoe whilst she was in motion) and running for the door.
"Don't forget to feed her, change her, you know...like...the usual baby type stuff."
"We'll be back by ten!"
"You still have the emergency number, right? I mean--"
"Need I remind you that I am not a teenager? I am perfectly capable of taking care of the child without any complications arising that I am not equipped to handle." He muttered under his breath, "Unlike some people."
"Don't make any long distance phone calls, young man."
"Oh, and Squishums? No boys."
The door slammed shut and Crane flopped on the worn out thrift store sofa, long legs crossed at the ankles and arms crossed over his chest as he regarded the small girl on the rug in front of him who was artfully chewing on a rubber duck.
"You're almost as much trouble as they are, you know," he murmured, knowing full well he was only saying the words to try and convince himself of the truth they held...
Which he knew good and well was nonexistent.
Kitten was a more agreeable companion than the Captain, Al and Techie were, and if it got them out of the lair for any length of time, he'd agree to just about anything, including babysitting. She wasn't all that much trouble, really...she was a good baby as far as babies went, and going on what little experience he had with small children. She didn't cry often, didn't demand much--only the bare necessities and a hug here and there--so he really didn't mind. He sometimes even allowed her to sit in his lap when he worked in the lab and the glittering test tubes filled with a myriad of interestingly colored liquids always kept those little eyes utterly fascinated.
And speaking of the lab...he had some reading to do. The latest medical journals had cost him a pretty penny and they were sitting in his laboratory gathering dust when they could've been in his hands, the information contained therein being devoured by his mind and processed the way a well tuned engine processes oil.
He yawned and stretched, scratching his head as he got up off the sofa and ambled for the lab door.
A high pitched wail came from behind him the moment he turned his back to Kitten and he paused in mid-step.
"I'll be right back," he said, glancing over his shoulder at the child covered in tears and snot, screaming at the top of her lungs.
One thing he always neglected to mention whenever he was weighing the pros and cons of Kitten was that she was inexplicably attached to him. Oh, she was a wonderful, quiet creature as long as he was in sight, but she was more likely to have a fit if he were out of the room...
And if he were alone with her without the stooges to distract her while he went about his business, she wailed.
As soon as he turned back to her fully, the crying ceased, leaving her red in the face but looking hopeful.
Looking very put upon, he walked up to the tiny beast, hands on his hips as he stared down on her.
Just like her mother and her companions, she wasn't intimidated by his best 'Do not start with me, young lady' face.
To the contrary, Kitten looked up at Crane with those big watery blue eyes, reaching for him with chubby little baby fingers in silent plea for him to pick her up, and just as he was about to roll his eyes, sigh heavily and relent to her, she gurgled and giggled and uttered something that made him scowl.
It was somewhat garbled, but it was decipherable enough for him to understand what she said and frown in response. "That had to be your first word, didn't it?"
The child just giggled and bounced in place, still flexing her fingers at him, repeating her newly discovered means of communication.
"Squish! Squish, Squish, Squish!"