"I told you it would fit in one of your shoe boxes," Kayla told her boyfriend, adjusting the newly filled box on her lap. Size 11 Sketchers made for a fairly decent-sized box.
Ben eyed the box and it's cargo wearily. "Are you sure this is the right thing to do?"
"Yes, I am. They're cops Ben, even if they don't want it, they'll know what to do." Hands on her hips, Kayla flicked her brown hair away from her face. She was impatient to get this over with, it was the only thing to be done.
It was almost Christmas, and they'd been up all night. She was tired, drained really, and wanted to go home and sleep a little before her brother and sister got up and started screaming for presents. She'd only turned sixteen a couple months ago, and this was not what she wanted to be doing tonight. She wanted to be dreaming about the pink Ipod she'd been begging her parents for.
Ben was seventeen, but was more freaked out than she was. Still, he'd driven them to the hotel, and was driving them to the small house across from where her cousin lived. She wasn't stupid enough to leave that box at a doorstop in her own neighborhood.
The guy had lived across from her cousin since they were ten or so, and according to her aunt and uncle, he was a good neighbor. His badge deterred crime. Kayla and Shayna, her cousin, had spent most of the year they were fourteen giggling over her cute neighbor, and had been positively bummed when his girlfriend moved in. Not that they ever really believed they had a shot, but still... Then they sort of grew out of it, and met her this past Halloween when they took their siblings trick or treating to the house. She seemed very nice, and by then, both girls had boyfriends to giggle over.
"It's coming up, so stop here. I'll walk it over, and you wait here. Keep the car running," she instructed Ben.
Kayla unbuckled her seat belt, and lifted the box off her lap, easing out of the car, careful not to jostle it. She tightened her jacket against the December chill, and hustled quietly around the car, toward the nearby house. Kayla practically grew up at her cousin's house, so she knew where the openings in the fences were, and she could walk where no one would see her. It was still dark, barely three-thirty, but it was Christmas Eve--people were awake at all hours.
Finally, she saw the small greenish-gray house that sat across from her cousin's much larger dark red one. Taking a deep breath, Kayla looked around, saw no one, and hurried as quietly as she could toward the house.
Matt tried to ease out of the bed without waking Emily, but had no such luck. The redhead sensed the movement, and picked her head up. She blinked herself into conscious thought as he pulled on boxers.
"What's going on?" If some asshole took hostages on Christmas Eve, she was not going to be a very unhappy woman.
Matt smiled, she still sounded half-asleep. "Bathroom. Go back to sleep, it's still early."
Emily nodded, and burrowed again into the bed. They were free to sleep in as late as they damn wanted, and she was so going to take advantage of that.
Except that the second Matt closed the bathroom door, the doorbell rang--multiple times. Emily groaned and cursed, but got out of bed. She threw a bathrobe over her naked body, and grabbed her gun. She was not about to answer the door in the middle of the night without being armed.
She switched the lights on, temporarily blinding herself, as she made her way toward the front door. Before going to the door, she peered out a window as an added safety precaution. Seeing no one there, Emily shook her head in annoyance.
Still, she opened to door, and was surprised to see a shoe box on the stoop. 'Sketchers' was printed across the lid, which had about a dozen holes the size of a pen poked in it. Emily sighed as she realized what it probably was.
Someone's cat must have had kittens recently, and they figured people couldn't let the little things starve on Christmas. She shook her head as she picked up the box, and brought it inside. She couldn't very well let the little buggers freeze, could she? She was about to open the lid when she had another thought.
What if it was a puppy?
Matt might not like that.
Shrugging Emily lifted the lid, and nearly dropped the box in surprise. It definitely wasn't kittens or puppies.
"Oh my god."
"What? What's wrong?" Matt came into the living room, yawning and rubbing his head.
Emily held the box out, eyes wide. "I thought it was kittens."
"Oh! Wow, um, uh...where did it come from?" Matt stuttered, completely taken aback.
"Someone left him on our door stoop," Emily said softly, finally setting down the box on the couch.
She sat beside it, and pulled a tiny baby, wrapped in white towels. The baby was awake, light blue eyes open, and watching Emily. The infant appeared clean, but very young, with only the smallest bit of brown fuzz on it's head. It gurgled, and grabbed the finger Emily gave it. She turned to Matt, unable to fathom why someone left them a baby.
He stood just inside the living room doorway, and didn't know what to say. Part of him was relieved that she was as freaked out as he was, that meant they were on the same page concerning parenthood. Not yet, they weren't ready, but maybe someday. The other part of him was worried that she was as freaked out--who the hell thought leaving a baby with them would be even a remotely intelligent idea?
Swallowing down her shock and nerves, Emily went to rest the baby against her shoulder, but felt something strange. Holding the baby in one arm, she opened the towel with her free hand, and had her second shock that very early morning. She might not know much about babies, but this--this she knew was bad.
"Matt, we need to go to a hospital...right now."
"Why?" He crossed the floor, and stood behind her. "Oh shit."
The umbilical cord was still attached, and tied off with a round, black shoelace. The baby was clean, but that was as sure a sign as any that it had just been born. Emily opened the towel up a little more, and determined that he had just been born.
Matt and Emily sat in perpetual boredom, on two uncomfortable plastic chairs in busy hospital waiting room. Two hours ago, they'd rushed inside the hospital, the foundling baby boy nestled inside Emily's coat. They had no clothes for him, and she wasn't satisfied that the towels would keep him warm.
A nurse had taken him, while another insisted that Emily needed to be examined as well. She had to explain four times that she hadn't given birth, that they found the baby on their doorstep. Then began twenty questions about when and how they found the baby. After that, the nurse sent them up to the fourth floor waiting room while the baby got examined. There they'd spoken to some cops, and given statements on how a newborn came to be in their possession. Now, it was almost six o'clock, and they were very tired. Emily shifted suddenly, and stretched.
"Where do you think he came from?"
Matt sighed. "Some scared person that obviously wasn't ready to be a parent?"
Emily straightened up. "Yeah, but how do you do that? How does someone carry a child, give birth to that child, and then shove him in a shoebox and drop him off on a stranger's stoop in forty degree weather?"
Matt rubbed her back, sensing her stress. "I'm going to guess that whoever left us that baby knew we were cops, and assumed he'd be safe with us."
Emily grew quiet. "That doesn't explain it to me."
"Doesn't explain what exactly?"
"How she could look at him, look at his face, hold him in her arms, and feel how helpless he is, and then store him in a shoebox like he doesn't matter."
"Come on Em, you know the stories of teenage girls giving birth in high school bathroom, and tossing the baby in the garbage bin. Not everyone would look at him like you do, but as more as something that could wreak their lives."
"Maybe it's because I saw him and held him myself, but no matter how scared I was, I don't think I could ever do that." She stared into his eyes, her own still wide with the inability to comprehend what scared women will do with their children.
"I know you couldn't. That's why I love you." Matt kissed her, and pulled her into his arms. At least, that was one of the reasons he loved her.
"I love you too." Emily snuggled into him. Even if the plastic chairs made her ass sore, she was definately where she wanted to be on Christmas.
"I'm going to run to the bathroom, I'll be right back." She gave Matt a peck on the lips, before somewhat reluctantly pulling herself away.
Shortly after Emily left, a young nurse came into the room, carry a small blue bundle in her arms. She looked around, but didn't see a couple resembling the one described to her.
"Emily Lehman, Matt Flannery?" She called to the small crowd.
Matt started at his name, and looked around, to see a nurse was approaching him with the baby in her arms.
"Matt?" She asked.
He nodded, and shifted nervously. "Yeah, how is he?"
"Hungry." She smiled. "We're a little short-staffed, would you like to feed him?"
"Sure," Matt shifted in his seat. He was still uncomfortable with the whole thing, but felt some responsibility for the baby. He didn't make him, but whoever did left the child at his door.
The young nurse eased the baby into his arms, and helped Matt make sure he had the little boy's head properly supported. Once the baby was snug in his arms, Matt accepted the bottle from the nurse, ready to try and feed the baby. This was easier said than done, as he wasn't quite sure how to go about feeding a baby.
"I just uh...?" He gestured giving the baby the bottle.
"Try dripping a little on his lips first, then give him the bottle," she instructed patiently.
Matt nodded, and cleared his throat nervously. He did as the nurse instructed, and watched the baby move his tongue and lips to get the milk. Matt gently placed the tip of the bottle between the infant's lips, and let out a sigh of relief when he began drinking.
"See, you did fine. To answer your earlier question, baring the results of the blood tests, which haven't come back yet, he's healthy, and perfect so far as we can tell. A little small maybe--he's not even seven pounds--but not so we're worried. He needs a name though, if you and your girlfriend would like to do that. We have a call into Children's services, I don't know if you were waiting around until they came, but we haven't heard from them yet," she went off in rapid-fire.
Matt looked away from the baby to answer her. "Yeah, I think we wanted to wait, and we'll figure out a name, thanks."
The nurse nodded, and left, just as Emily was coming back in. She stopped abruptly when she saw Matt feeding the baby. She smiled.
His entire focus was directed on the baby in his arms, in fact he seemed completely enthralled. Emily had never really considered the idea of Matt with a child. Well, maybe a little that night he told her about his high school girlfriend. Even then though, she hadn't really stopped to picture him with a baby. She had to admit, she liked this picture.
"Hey, he looks hungry." She finally walked over to Matt, and sat down next to him.
"Yeah, the nurse just brought him over. She's says he's healthy, they're just waiting on blood tests. And, children's services to call back. I told her we'd wait until they did. Oh, and we get to name him."
Emily's eyebrows rose. People usually got nine months to name their children; they had a few hours to name someone else's child. "You have anything in mind?"
"Something he won't get his ass kicked for."
Emily rolled her eyes. "Oh, and here I was thinking Phinneas was perfect."
"What about James?"
"Not bad, a little biblical though."
"Good thing I didn't suggest Jesus."
"Funny. What about Kevin?" She threw out a suggestion.
"That's alright, I don't love it though."
"Wears a ski mask and kills people."
"Okay, or not."
"Doug?" Matt asked, hopefully. This was turning out to be harder than he thought.
"Eh, kind of boring." Emily shrugged.
"Uh…what about Liam?"
"Liam…I like that, sounds very Irish."
Matt nodded. "So, we like Liam then?"
"Yeah, I can see him as a Liam." Emily smiled at the baby, baby Liam. "I think he's almost done with the bottle."
Matt looked at the bottle, and it was nearly empty. "Alright, the nurse gave me that towel thing, what do I do with it?"
"Put it on your shoulder before you burp him." Emily grabbed the small towel, and set it on Matt's shoulder.
"That's tapping his back until he spits, right?" Babies really just weren't his area.
"Yes, I think he's supposed to spit some formula out." Emily didn't really know that much more than he did.
Matt lifted Liam gently, and laid him against his shoulder, tapping his back lightly until the baby hiccupped and spit. Emily helped him wipe Liam's mouth, and took the towel from his shoulder. Well, they managed that at least.
"Do you want him?" Matt asked.
Emily nodded, and opened her arms, taking Liam from Matt, and bringing him to rest against her own body. She rubbed his back, soothing him into sleep. They brought him into the hospital crying, but now he just seemed tired.
"Did the nurse say if she was coming back, or if we need to bring him somewhere?"
"Nope, I guess he's ours until someone comes back," Matt shrugged.
Emily nodded, and continued to softly rub circles over Liam's back, smiling at the baby's peaceful face. Matt wrapped an arm around her, and she rested her head against his shoulder. They watched Liam sleep until their own eyes began to droop, all adrenaline from the morning now worn off. Within half an hour, the couple was sleeping as silently as the baby they held.
"Matt, Emily," a young woman's voice dragged them out of sleep. The nurse had returned, and with her was another woman.
This woman was older, but some of that had to be wear. It wasn't often that they ran into someone who looked quite as worn out as the woman in front of them now. It wasn't so much her physical appearance as it was her eyes. Her hazel eyes clearly said that she'd seen way too much awful shit.
"This is Erica Kinney, she's with child welfare."
"Nice to meet you," Emily said, straightening up, and taking the woman's hand. Matt mimicked her movements, not quite awake himself.
"Did you pick a name for him?"
"Uh yeah, we like Liam," Matt offered.
The social worker nodded. "Nice name…alright listen, I'm going to be quick and honest about this. I can't get a foster home for an infant hours old, not this quick, not on Christmas, and he can't go in a group home. Either he stays in the hospital for a few days, or he can go home with you."
Matt and Emily looked at each other. On Christmas, the little baby deserved to feel loved and wanted. Emily answered for them, "We can take him."
"I was hoping you'd say that. How do you two feel about fostering?" Normally she couldn't let them, but she had a dozen other problems to deal with today, and well, they were FBI, that made them okay.
Matt and Emily turned to each other again. They hadn't considered fostering, really they hadn't had time to think about much. They looked at Liam, who was still sleeping nestled against Emily's breastbone.
Matt looked back at Erica. "How long do you think we'd foster him for?"
"Hard to say, it could be a week, it could be months. It all depends on how long it takes us to sort out the 'whose next in line for a healthy white baby' list." Her sarcasm wasn't lost on the couple.
There were plenty of children in the system that couldn't find homes because they were older than a toddler, weren't white, or had special needs. There was no reason there should be a waiting list.
"I think that's something we'll need to discuss before we make a decision," Emily answered for both of them.
"Fair enough, actually that's the most responsible answer you could have given me," she smiled, her first smile since they met her. "You should know, there are a few catches if you decide to foster.. One, you'd both have to come this Saturday to begin foster parent certification. Normally, I couldn't let you take the him home without being certified, but you're FBI so I know he'll at least be safe, even if neither of you have ever changed a diaper," she smiled again. "Two, I'll need to take a look at your house, and make sure it's suitable."
The negotiators nodded, not surprised by her requirements, they'd expect nothing less.
"There's one other thing you should know. If you do decide to foster Liam, and you get emotionally attached, as I'd expect you to…you'd have to be willing to give him up. When you discuss fostering, you need to talk about if you can live with that, okay?"
Emily adjusted the baby, looking down at him, considering the social worker's words. Matt watched Liam sleeping in his girlfriend's arms, and he knew they had one hell of a conversation ahead of them.
"We'll keep that all in mind, thank you," he answered.
"Good, I can't tell you what a relief it is that whoever abandoned him picked you too. Makes my job so much easier." She shook her head, looking a little less worn out than she did before.
"We're happy to help," Matt told her.
"Alright, I have to run downtown, I got your address from the cops you spoke to, and I'll be by your house tomorrow afternoon to check on Liam." She waited for them to nod, said goodbye, and took off for her next neglected, abused, or abandoned child.
The nurse began giving them a crash course in baby care, which was generally common sense information, but they were grateful anyway. Neither had ever spent much time around babies, so they'd take whatever information they could get. It certainly put what they were doing into perspective, and made it a little more intimidating.
They were really going to take this little abandoned baby home with them? With their limited experience they were going to care for him, and keep him safe? Did they really know what they were doing, or was it just impossible to say no to a helpless newborn on Christmas day?
"Hey Sherry, look what I found in donations," another nurse, a few years older than the one they'd been dealing with, approached with a sage green car seat in her hands.
"Oh great, you'll need that," she smiled pleasantly at the couple.
They nodded and realized they'd had a lot of shopping ahead of them.
Liam was lounging in his car-seat as they finally walked into their home around 11:30. They'd found an open babystore, and purchased: diapers, wipes, baby bath products, bottles, formula, a pacifier, blankets, clothing, a thick little snowsuit to keep him warm outside, and even a bassinet. That item caused them some debate. They didn't know if they were fostering yet, so didn't know if they'd actually need it. Eventually, they'd decided that if they didn't foster, it could go to whoever did, or if they didn't need it, Erica could donate it to someone who could use it. It wasn't really that expensive anyway.
Matt set down the carrier, and then their bundle of joy began to scream like a tiny little banshee. Matt's eyes widened in alarm.. Oh god, what had he done?
Emily's eyes were just as wide. This, this was what they were not good at. What did that cry mean?
Liam had been so good while they were shopping, sleeping through the whole thing snuggled inside Emily's coat, against her chest. Even when she'd dress him in the little snowsuit, and set him in the carrier, he'd been fine. They knew to expect crying of course, but didn't know how to tell what he wanted.
Then Matt smelled it. "Okay, time for a diaper change.."
He looked at Emily.
"Well, you're the woman," he answered sheepishly.
Emily raised and eyebrow and grinned. "I don't think so. This is the new millennium, men change diapers to. You take care of him, I'll work on getting this together." She waved at the box with the bassinette.
Matt grimaced, but grabbed the crying baby, the diapers, wipes, and powder, and made for the bathroom. Emily was still grinning after he left.
After twenty minutes, he entered the living with a clean, fresh smelling baby to find Emily surrounded by lots of pieces, instructions on her lap, and a piece in either hand. She'd pulled the tool kit out of the kitchen, and was attempting to get the pieces together.
Matt sat on the couch, and gave Liam, who was still crying, the pacifier they bought. He immediately quieted down, and began to suck happily. Matt sighed in relief. He was not looking forward to experiencing one of those times that there was just no way to stop the baby from crying. He knew they happened, and figured they'd both be completely at wits end at that point.
He never thought much about children, at least after that episode in high school, and generally he felt nothing compelling him to have one. But Liam? He couldn't deny there was something about the foundling that made him smile, even with the stinky diaper. And initially, seeing Emily cuddling a baby was a little startling, even unnerving, like an unexpected glimpse of a future they hadn't planned. But, watching her smile and talk to Liam as he was snuggled in her coat, that made him smile too.
He sat contentedly, holding Liam, and watching Emily put the bassinette together. He'd have offered to help, but he didn't want to wake Liam up, and well, Emily was more than capable of getting a piece of furniture together. He knew she'd tell him as much too, if he'd offered to help.
Sure enough, an hour and a half later as Matt was nodding off, she got the last piece put in.
"There, done," she announced, stepping back to show off the complete bassinette. It could rock, and had a vibrating mobile that played music and nature sounds. The sales clerk suggested it, said it was a very popular one, and that was could enough for them. Really, what did they know about bassinets?
Emily grabbed the bedding and one of the blankets they bought, and began setting it up to be baby ready. If she could accomplish this without a problem, she could take care of a baby, right?
"It looks good." Matt nodded his approval, not that he knew what a bassinette should look like. His attention then went to the decorated tree behind his girlfriend, and he laughed.
"What?" Emily asked.
"Merry Christmas." He smiled, and held out an arm to her, pulling her down on the couch beside him.
She turned to see what he was looking at, and smiled, they hadn't paid the holiday much thought after their morning. "Merry Christmas."
The remainder of the day went pretty well for them. Liam seemed to enjoy his bath, took the bottle easily again, and Emily practically melted at the sight of him in his new pajamas—a light blue footie with a baby dragon on it. Matt had laughed, he'd never seen her so…well, girly.
They agreed in the store that she could pick out all the cutesy baby animal outfits she wanted if he could pick out some bad-ass band rompers. He ended up with rompers featuring Black Sabbath, the Ramones, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin.
Emily had smiled and kissed him. She bet if he could have found one with a Mustang or other muscle car on it, he would have grabbed that too.
Liam put up a bit of a fuss when they put him down for the night, but the teddy bear mobile and music captured his attention enough to distract him. They watched his eyes droop closed, and then went and collaspsed on the living room sofa. They were exhausted from being woken up at three-thirty and caring for a baby all day, but contented together.
They took that quiet opportunity to have a glass of wine, and exchange presents. For their third Christmas together, Matt had bought Emily a necklace and earring set, and a the first few of a series of novels she loved. Emily's gifts to Matt were a leather jacket (a nice one, not a biker style), and a boxset of Black Sabbath CDs. They made love on the couch (both agreeing they couldn't do that with the baby in the same room), before crawling tiredly off to bed.
Liam woke up wet and unhappy at four-thirty in the morning, and made sure they woke up too.
"You get the bottle warmed up, I'll take care of him," Emily instructed, already throwing a bathrobe over her pajamas, and scooping up the baby.
Matt nodded, comprehending only enough to go to the kitchen and get the formula ready. They hadn't thought to get a changing table, so Emily used the bathroom counter, as they'd been doing. It was the easiest surface to disinfect.
"Shh, it's okay Li," Emily cooed, struggling to move as fast as possible changing his diaper.
Fortunately, diapers were pretty self-explanatory once you get a look at them, and neither had found difficulties with that part of baby care. She got him back in his pajamas, and walked back to the bedroom, bouncing him gently in her arms.
He spit out the pacifier when she put it in his mouth, and continued crying. Emily tried desperately to keep him happy, waiting for Matt. She rested him on her shoulder, and rubbed his back, laid him flat in her arms and rocked him, tried bouncing him again, tried walking with him, and still he cried very, very loudly.
"Matt! How's that bottle coming!"
Matt rushed into the room, bottle in his outstretched hand. "Right here, right here! God, he's got some lungs on him."
"Quick, quick," Emily said, waving her hand. "Did you test it?"
"Yep, it's not too hot."
Emily nodded, and let a few drops hit Liam's lips before offering the bottle. He stopped crying, took it, and began sucking greedily.
The sudden quiet was almost startling to the two negotiators.
Crisis averted, Emily sat back on the bed as she fed him, relief flooding her body. Matt let out the breath he hadn't known he was holding. That wasn't so bad, right? Then again, if he actually was theirs, they'd have a lot more nights like this to look forward to.
When morning finally came, they were awake before Liam, and just sat on the bed watching him sleep. His chubby little arms were above his head, which was turned, resting on one equally chubby cheek.
"We need to talk Em, Erica comes this afternoon," Matt sighed.
"I know…do you want to foster him?" Her voice was soft, almost reluctant.
"It's probably better for him to go through two homes, instead of three," he answered, thinking of Liam's future adoptive home.
"Yeah, I know...I wouldn't mind keeping him around for a while." She smiled.
"Crazy as it feels, neither would I." Matt wrapped an arm around her, and pulled her close against him.
"One of us would have to stay home with him."
"We could take turns with that. You take one week, I take the next."
Emily raised an eyebrow. "You think one of us could manage alone?"
"Maybe not the first week, but after we get the hang of it, sure. We're pretty smart competent people…"
"We didn't have plans tomorrow, did we?"
"No, just tonight, so we're free to go to the training session tomorrow, and we'll schedule in the following ones, make sure Cheryl doesn't put us on call."
"Oh god, we have the party tonight. That is going to be interesting." Emily nodded with an amused smile. Their friends were coming over tonight for their own small Christmas gathering.
"Wait until we tell them what we got for Christmas." Matt grinned, and kissed her cheek. They continued watching Liam sleep for a while longer, but then Emily needed to address the real problem with fostering Liam.
"Matt…if Erica were to take him today, I'd be upset…it wouldn't be easy to see him go. I would get over it though. If we have him for months, and then she takes him…I don't know if I can do that." Her voice shook as she spoke, and she leaned further into him.
"Yeah, I know." He'd been having the same thought.. If they took care of him for two or three months, could they say goodbye without it being completely devastating?
Liam chose that moment to wake up, and start screaming. Emily swept him up quickly, cuddling him to her chest, as if expecting Erica to come that minute, and force them to decide. She kissed his head, and followed Matt to the kitchen, where he began preparing a bottle. Emily suddenly noticed something.
"Matt, look at his eyes. They changed; they're grey now. They're beautiful."
Matt moved next to her. "Oh yeah, they did." He spoke to the baby, "Liam, when you grow up, all the girls are going to go wild over those eyes."
"Isn't he a little young for that?"
Matt shrugged. "I didn't say he'd get girls now, I said in the future."
"Whoa, okay, he needs a change," Emily said suddenly, noticing the strong scent emanating from the baby.
"Alright, it's my turn, so let's switch, you take the bottle, I'll take Liam." Matt held open his arms, accepting the baby, and handing Emily the bottle.
Now when had they learned to do that so smoothly?
He set Liam, who had quieted down upon being picked up, down on the counter, and watched him suck in his bottom lip, and kick out his legs. Matt tickled his belly, and laughed when Liam gurgled and flailed his arms.
Could he be a father? Did he even want to be a father? He'd been perfectly content with Emily, hadn't felt the drive to start a family, but now the potential for one was at his fingertips. If someone had asked him two days earlier if he wanted a baby, he'd have given them an unequivocal 'no'. But, Liam wasn't just a baby, he was their baby.
Their baby? Is that how he thought of Liam now, as his and Emily's? The idea hit him hard, and left him just staring down at the little foundling, lost in his mind.
Matt shook himself, and finished diapering and redressing Liam. As he was heading back out to the kitchen, a thought sprouted in his head. "Em?"
She was testing the formula on her wrist as he came in, and seemed satisfied that it was warm, but not hot. She handed him the bottle, brushing her hand over Liam's cap covered head. Matt slipped the bottle between Liam's lips, and let him drink happily, as he lounged in Matt's arms.
"Do you want to adopt him?"
Emily's head flew up from the baby, her eyes wide at his suggestion. It took her a minute to be able to speak. "Are you asking me if I want a baby?"
"No. I'm asking if you want Liam." Matt stood there, baby in his arms, staring straight into her eyes. Emily stared back, unsure what to say, unsure what she wanted, so she looked back at the baby.
Emily didn't know if she would have ever been comfortable deciding that she wanted a baby. The idea would have freaked her out too much to be able to make that decision. Hell, if they just decided at some point to abandon birth control she probably wouldn't be able to enjoy the sex. Not with that possibility in the back of her head. If she accidentally got pregnant a few years from now, she might be happy about it, but the actual decision to have a child was too daunting for her. But Liam wasn't her decision, he was just showed up, and the daunting decision now was to give him up.
She suddenly looked back up at Matt, fear and hope burning in her eyes, but something that wasn't quite certainty in her voice. "Yes."
Matt nodded, and swallowed the lump in his throat. "Then we'll talk to Erica about that when she comes."
Emily kissed Liam's cheek, and then gave Matt a different kind of kiss. She thrust her hands on her hips. "I should make cookies."
Matt frowned. "Why?"
"Because, mothers make cookies."
"So, how was your first day with him?" Erica asked pleasantly.
Matt and Emily sat on their couch as calmly as possible, Liam snoozing in Emily's arms. They'd dressed him in onesie with a dog on the front, and had him wrapped snuggling in a blanket. Emily pointed out that Erica might not take them seriously if they greeted her with the baby dressed in a Led Zeppelin onesie. The social worker was now sitting across from them in an armchair.
A plate of oatmeal raisin cookies–more nutritious than chocolate chip—sat on the coffee table between them.
"Good, but you know, a learning experience," Emily answered.
Matt nodded. "He had his moments, but it went pretty well."
"That's good to hear. The cops canvassed the neighborhood this morning, and haven't been able to locate the mother. I'm not going to ask them to investigate further, if she comes forward, she comes forward, if not, she clearly doesn't want to be a mother anyway."
"Fair enough," Matt answered, not sure what to say.
"Have you two thought about fostering?"
Matt shifted and swallowed. "About that, we discussed it, and we wanted to know if there was anyway we could adopt him."
Erica inhaled sharply. "That might be difficult. You aren't on the list, though I could put you on, if you like?"
The both began shaking their heads vigorously. "You don't understand," Emily told her, "we don't want a baby—we want Liam."
Erica nodded slowly; this wasn't something she expected. She needed to think about this. "Alright, before we get into this, I'm going to have a look around your home. I won't be long." She smiled, got up, without waiting for them to protest, agree, or ask questions.
Matt and Emily linked hands, and waited with racing hearts while Erica judged their home. Liam slept through it all, oblivious that his fate was being decided.
After about twenty minutes, Erica wandered back to the living room, stopping briefly at the sight of the cookies. A realization hit her, though she'd seen them before.
"Your home is lovely, and fine for a baby as young as Liam." She stopped, trying to figure out how to say what she needed to say. "It is possible that you could adopt him, but it won't be easy. Like I said, you aren't on the list, and it's a long list. You also aren't married, have had no adoption classes, you share the same dangerous job, and I get the feeling that neither of you thought much about being parents before Liam."
Matt and Emily shifted uncomfortably. Were they that bad as perspective parents?
"That being said, it's obvious you care a great deal about Liam. You brought him to the hospital and stayed until I got there, you took him home with you to give him a Christmas, you bought his necessities, as well as extra clothes, linens, and yes, I saw the bassinette, and you even baked cookies." She looked right at Emily at that.
"I don't expect you to suddenly become a happy homemaker, Emily. I don't expect either of you to change your personalities to conform to traditional parent roles. I will expect you to make changes though—if you want to try and adopt him."
The two negotiators tried not to look steamrolled, but were afraid to look hopeful. It was hard to tell if she thought they were the worst parents in the world, or the best. They squeezed each other's hands, and settled for more neutral looks.
"If I told you, I couldn't let you adopt him, would you still be willing to foster him?"
Matt nodded, but Emily answered. "Yes, we'd still like to foster him. Developmentally, it's best for him to go through as few homes as possible. He needs stability."
"Yes, he does," Erica agreed, before releasing a breath as she came to a decision. "I can hold off putting Liam in the database until I speak to my boss and vet you. I can't guarantee anything, but I will look into you as perspective adoptive parents."
"What do you need from us?" Matt asked.
"The names and contact information of your friends and family. I'll be contacting the people in your lives to learn about you. If you want to show me you're serious about caring for him long term, get some baby-proofing safety gear for your home, start thinking about a nursery, find a pediatrician you like and trust, discuss work schedules with your boss, find some books on babies and start reading up, and I'll have to send you to adoption classes as well. I know it's a lot, but I have to see that you're serious…How long have you two been together?"
They looked at each other—yep, they'd count that first three months for this. Emily looked back at Erica. "Two and a half years."
"That's pretty good. How long have you been living together?"
"A little over a year," Matt answered this time.
"We're generally reluctant to allow couples who aren't married adopt, we need to know that they are committed to each other, as well the child. Is there some reason you two haven't gotten engaged yet?"
Matt and Emily looked at each other, they weren't quite sure how to answer that one. They were just comfortable at the pace they were going. They were happy together, and both were--in their own way--committed to each other. Neither wanted to be with anyone else.
Matt shrugged. "I guess we just both know that we are committed to each other, and we didn't feel like we needed to make it official yet."
She nodded, asked them a few more questions, and then promised to discuss them with her boss. She stopped them as they were showing her out.
"One last question, if you do get to adopt him, his last name will be Flannery, right?"
Again Matt and Emily exchanged looks, and then turned back to her and nodded.
"Oh thank god. Liam Lehman just seems a cruel thing to do to a child."
They set out a spread of vegetables, crackers, dip, cheese, and little fancy appetizers on their coffee table, and had wine, and spiked and spiced egg nog ready to go. Liam was asleep in his bassinette in their bedroom, and rather than wake him, they chose to introduce him to their friends when he was ready.
"So, how was everyone's Christmases?" Cheryl asked happily, her steady boyfriend Joe sitting beside her.
"Lia's father still hates me," Duff mumbled.
"He does not, he's just overprotective, I'm his last unmarried daughter and his youngest," she insisted.
"Don't worry, Duff, I'm pretty sure Emily's dad hates me too," Matt commiserated.
"That's because he does. My father has never liked a single guy I've dated, and never will, especially one who doesn't mind my job." Emily rolled her eyes. This was one of the many reasons they'd decided to have Christmas with just the two of them this year.
"Yeah, well if I did, that would be pretty hypocritical and sexist, wouldn't it?"
"And, that's why I love you." Emily grinned and pecked him on the lips.
Frank shrugged. "Shelly's dad likes me."
His girlfriend was a petite, dirty blond kindergarten teacher, who had no expectation of fitting in with Frank's small circle of friends, but did so just fine.
"That's because you're big and armed—in other words, suitable to protect me." She patted him on the leg.
Joe shook his head. "I'm so not looking forward to that, no offense," he quickly added, looking at Cheryl.
"At this point, you only have to be a man to make my father happy. If you make me smile, he'll just consider that a bonus." Her parents made no secret of the fact that they desperately wanted their daughter to settle down.
The group was startled by a shrill cry, and six of the eight glanced around wide-eyed for it's source.
"Uh, excuse us." Emily smiled, as she and Matt got up to get Liam.
They'd changed him into the maroon Ramones Onesie that Matt picked out, which left his legs bare. Now they changed him, and Emily wrapped him up in a blue blanket, Matt tried offering him the pacifier again. Liam took it this time, and soon quieted down.
They walked back out to their friends, who were all still looking around in confusion that soon turned to shock.
"Look what we got for Christmas," Matt said jokingly.
Nobody seemed to get it, but just stared at the couple completely speechless.
"Everyone, this is Liam. He was born early yesterday." Emily smiled, and introduced their son. Yes, unless or until the state took him away, he was their son.
"You so were not pregnant two days ago," Duff blurted.
"No, I wasn't, obviously."
"Then where the hell did he come from?" Cheryl asked, clearly bewildered.
"We found him on our stoop very early Christmas morning." Matt began to explain how Liam came to be in their lives, and that they planned on keeping him there.
"So, you two actually plan on keeping this baby that someone just abandoned on your doorstep?" Frank asked.
"If they let us, we're adopting him." Matt was holding the baby now, and rubbing his back.
"Can I hold him?" Lia suddenly asked. The analyst loved babies, and was constantly playing with her neices and nephews. Duff tried not to notice because it made him nervous, but knew if he and Lia stayed together, eventually they'd have kids.
Matt nodded, and gently maneuvered Liam into her arms.
"Oh my god, he has the most beautiful eyes," Lia breathed.
Her announcement had the others out of their seats to get a look at baby Liam's beautiful grey eyes. Soon Lia had passed him to Cheryl, who held him a while before passing him to Frank, and so on, until Liam screamed in protest. Everyone had fortunately gotten a turn, but he'd had enough, and only wanted familiar arms.
Emily was closest, and scooped him up into her arms, holding him against her body, and rubbing circles in his back. His red face returned to it's natural color, and his tears dried up. Matt had a bottle ready to give him his last feeding before they bathed him, and put him down for the night. He handed it to Emily, who sat back on the couch, and fed Liam.
"So, I'm guessing Matt picked out that shirt?" Frank grinned.
"Yep, no reason he shouldn't be taught good taste in music." Matt ran a hand over Liam's head affectionately.
"So, what's it feel like to be a parent?" Cheryl leaned back, and regarded them.
Matt and Emily spoke at once, "Terrifying."
After a stunned moment, the group of friends broke out into laughter. It wasn't the adjective any of them would have expected, but probably the most realistic one they could use. They'd had no warning, no expectation of becoming parents, they just found a baby one day, and they suddenly were. If it was in their power at all, they would keep Liam, their baby boy, until he was eighteen and heading off to college.
"Oh, so you all know, the social worker will be contacting you to ask about us," Matt warned them.
"What should we say?" Lia asked.
"Whatever you think of us becoming parents."
"What if they ask about the hours of the job?" Frank frowned.
"I don't know, that we're good at time management? Just tell the truth. The hours can be weird, but we'll figure it out." Matt shrugged.
"You two realize I don't really have a choice now, I have to separate you, right?" Cheryl frowned slightly. Did they consider that?
Emily looked up from the baby. "I'm just surprised you let us stay together this long."
Cheryl smiled. "Yeah, I didn't think you guys could behave for this long."
Frank, Duff, and Lia all giggled at that, while Emily tried to look scandalized and failed. Matt laughed, and took her hand. Almost three and a half years as partners, and two and a half of those dating? No one thought they could keep their hands to themselves that long. Of course, no one actually knew about their little moments of weakness.
Emily suddenly cocked her head, and got that look on her face, the one that said she'd solved a problem. "You know that's actually a good thing. You'll only need one of us on call, the other can stay home with Liam."
Matt's face took on an amused expression. "You found the silver lining to that cloud pretty quick. You aren't going to miss me at all?"
The corners of Emily's mouth turned up in a mischievous smile. "Of course I will, I don't think my new partner will want to play footsie under our desk."
"Is that what you two do all morning?" Cheryl rolled her eyes and shook her head.
"Makes the paperwork go faster," Emily said.
"How the hell do you two ever get anything done?" Frank suddenly needed to know.
"What?" Emily asked. "We can keep our hands to ourselves, we just choose not to."
Frank chuckled. "And this is why I figured if you two ever had a kid, it would be because you both got over eager, and Emily got knocked up in a supply closest or something."
Cheryl grimaced. "Oh god, please tell me you didn't have sex in the supply closest?"
Matt shot Frank a glare. "From here on out, we plead the fifth on anything sex-related."
Their conversation continued late into the night, with Matt and Emily taking a brief detour to bathe Liam, and put him to bed in his bassinette. Fortunately, he didn't know what sex was, and was too young to actually make a memory of the conversation. They would certainly have to restrict conversation as he got older though.
Two months later, Emily held Liam in her arms as she stood at the door, saying goodbye to Erica. It was her week to stay home with Liam, and Erica had come to check on them, and report her progress on the adoption. She'd managed to keep Liam under the radar long enough for Matt and Emily to finish their fostering and parenting classes. No one was therefore able to find him in the system, and put in their own adoption request. There had also been no sign of his birth mother.
Liam had two well baby doctor's visits with the pediatrician they found, and he was as healthy as babies come, and progressing just as he should. Lia and Cheryl had planned a small surprise baby shower, so they had plenty of diapers and clothing, a stroller, toys, and a high chair. They were still working on setting up the nursery, but found furniture and décor that they liked. Erica was very happy with how things were going, and told Emily as much.
Since they'd cared for Liam for two months, and he was a happy, healthy baby, she said they had a pretty good chance of getting the adoption through. Few judges would want to upset the stability they'd built for Liam, not when their only shortcoming was not being on a list.
Emily said goodbye to Erica, and watched her get into her car, as she walked to their mailbox by the street. As she watched the social worker pull away, the tightness in her heart lessened a little more. Every day they had with Liam was one closer to the day some judge would grant their adoption request, and end their anxiety.
Emily stopped at the mailbox, and her eyes wandered to look across the street, where two teenage girls were walking out to a car. They looked similar, both had light brown hair, and Emily remembered them as the cousins that brought their younger brothers and sisters trick or treating to the house. She noticed something about the slightly taller of the girls, and her heart seemed to freeze in her chest.
She had grey eyes. Not just any grey eyes, but ones that were quite beautiful, and very familiar to Emily.
Kayla froze where she was in her cousin's driveway, and stared at the woman just across the street. She was holding a baby in her arms, and getting her mail. Kayla's throat went dry, and her nervous hands held tighter to her pink Ipod. She couldn't seem to move, she stood there frozen, watching the mother kiss her child's cheek. She watched the woman open the mailbox, gather her mail, and glance quickly at it. The woman suddenly looked across the street, her eyes roving a little before they landed on Kayla.
She seemed to look right into Kayla's grey eyes. Kayla tried to swallow but her throat was too dry. She stared into the woman's eyes, and her hands tensed as her neighbor seemed to realize something, seem to make some connection.
Oh god, she knew!
Kayla's hands grew sweaty, and her body felt hot--then the woman smiled. Kayla breathed a sigh of relief, as she watched mother and child return to their home. The woman smiled and seemed to speak to her baby, kissing him again before disappearing behind the front door.
Kayla felt her body relax for the first time in maybe a year. Whatever realization she saw in the woman's eyes, her smile said something else. It felt almost like a 'thank you'. Kayla released her sweaty death-grip on her Ipod, resting the free hand over her mouth, and just breathed in and out. There was no longer any question in her mind.
She did the right thing.
Alright this one was quite long, so consider it an apology for being so bad with updating "Falling". It's been a rough, very busy couple of months, and I'm about to move yet again, so getting this written was nothing short of a Christmas miracle. Thank you for reading, and please review!
Happy Holidays everyone!