Author's Note: And a million years later, here it is! Again, thank you all so much the kind words and encouragement you've given me throughout this story. It was such a pleasure to write and I am so sad to see it come to an end.
You'll see that this story is made of a series of flashbacks - the main story is Lindsey's POV but the flashbacks are mostly Sam and Andy's POV. It should be pretty easy to figure that out but I just didn't want to confuse anyone!
Disclaimer: I do not own Rookie Blue.
"Goodnight moon, goodnight cow jumping over the moon, goodnight light and red balloon, goodnight bears, goodnight chairs, goodnight kittens, goodnight mittens, goodnight clocks and goodnight socks," Lindsey paused reading to look down at the baby in her lap. "This is a really dumb book," she said. The little boy just grinned up at her and clapped his chubby little hands together, making Lindsey laugh. "But you don't care, do you?"
The little boy giggled some more and then snuggled back down against her chest, slapping his hand against the book.
"Okay, okay," Lindsey said, starting to rock in the chair again and picking up where she left off, reading quietly, "Goodnight comb and goodnight brush, goodnight nobody, goodnight mush, and goodnight to the old lady whispering 'hush', goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight noises everywhere. The end."
The little boy made some noise that kind of sounded like he was repeating, "The end."
"That's right Will, the end," she said, pressing a kiss against his dark, downy soft baby hair. "And that means it's time for you to go to sleep."
She didn't get up right away to put him in his crib, she just rearranged Will so that he was lying on her chest and continued rocking him to sleep, pushing off the floor with the very tips of her toes. Since she'd gone off to university she rarely got to snuggle with him so when she came home she tried to get in as much time as she could.
Not that she would tell her aunt and uncle that.
It was better if they thought she was still squeamish about the whole idea of babies and diapers and burp cloths and in general, she was. Other people's kids were noisy and messy and slobbery and she had very little patience for them, but as far as she was concerned, her little cousins could do no wrong.
Especially when they had just gotten out of the bath and were warm and clean and had that sweet baby smell, cuddled right up against her and half asleep – especially then.
When she looked down she could see Will's long eyelashes fluttering against the soft skin of his cheek. One of his warm, fat, baby hands had landed on her shoulder and he fiddled with the neckline of her shirt as he nodded off. She could feel the way his little body slumped against her and eventually she heard his soft snores in her ear.
Careful not to wake him, she gently lifted him and settled him into his crib, covering him with his blanket and putting his favorite stuffed animal – a dog with big floppy ears that was beginning to show the signs of wear and love – next to him. Instinctively Will reached out and tucked the dog under his arm.
Lindsey patted Will on his diaper-covered bottom until she was certain that he had fallen asleep. She turned on his lullaby bear and as soft music filtered through the room she switched off the lamp on his dresser and made her way out, taking the monitor with her.
She padded down the hallway, her footsteps dulled by the thick carpet her uncle had put in for just that reason, and pushed open the door on the far end; Ben, her four-year-old cousin, sat in the middle of his room in his superman footie pajamas, playing quietly with his train set.
He didn't notice her right away so she watched him for a second before making her presence known. He was a spitting image of his dad – skinny with dark thick hair and dark eyes that twinkled when he laughed and little dimples that dented his cheeks when he grinned. Lindsey had asked her aunt once if it bothered her that Ben didn't look more like her side of the family. Her aunt just shrugged and said with a wicked grin, "Your uncle's pretty smoking hot. Kid's lucky to look like him." Lindsey cringed and rolled her eyes. "'Course," her aunt continued, letting out a resigned sigh and looking down at her son, "At some point we're gonna have to do something about that unibrow."
In many ways Ben acted just like his dad, too – he was quiet and serious and could play by himself for hours without a problem. In other ways he was more like his mom – he loved to be outdoors and when he did talk to someone, he liked to scramble right up into their lap and hold their face in his little clammy hands.
"Hey buddy," Lindsey said, tapping lightly on his door. "Did you pick out a book?"
The little boy looked up her and nodded, pointing to a large canvas-covered photo album on his bed.
Ben was just starting to figure out that his parents and Lindsey had been around before he was alive; when she came home from school one weekend last month he'd asked her probably half a dozen times if she remembered when he'd been born and when she said yes he'd gotten this contemplative look on his face, his brow furrowing just like his dad, as he tried to out it all together.
("He found your photo album," her aunt told her before they left, rolling her eyes with mock exasperation. "We've gone through it twice a day for last couple of weeks, so get ready for that.")
"You want to look at the pictures?" Lindsey asked, moving into the room.
Ben just nodded, climbing up onto his bed.
"Alright," Lindsey said, lifting the heavy book and pushing back the blue striped sheets so Ben could crawl beneath. She set his pillows up against the headboard and then dropped down beside him. Ben pulled the covers back up over their legs and then curled against her side as she draped one arm around him and opened the album across their laps. "Where do you want to start?" she asked, flipping through the pages.
"The beginning," he answered, his words slightly warbled because he was still having trouble with his consonants. "Christmas."
("That's from you," her uncle told her aunt one time after trying to get Ben to say Toronto. Her aunt scoffed, "Whatever, you just didn't talk 'til you were five.")
"Okay," Lindsey said, turning to the very first page of the book and the very first picture she had taken. Andy and Sam grinned back at them from the picture – Andy's grin wide and bright and Sam's slightly more subdued. His hand was lost somewhere in Andy's hair
"This is the very first Christmas your parents and I spent together," she told her cousin, tracing the Christmas tree in the background with her finger. "Right after I came to live with your uncle."
"Because your mommy died?" Ben asked.
Lindsey sucked in a breath and then nodded, "Yeah buddy, because my mommy died."
At first they hadn't tried to explain how everyone was related to Ben but one day when they were all sitting around the dinner table he asked out of the blue, "Is Lindsey my sister?"
Andy looked up from spooning cereal into Will's mouth and she and Sam glanced at one another and then over at Lindsey, a silent conversation taking place and a decision made. "No buddy," Sam said eventually, slowly explaining, "Lindsey's your cousin and her mommy was my sister. But Lindsey's part of our family just like you are and just like Will is and your mommy and I love her just like we love you guys."
Ben nodded thoughtfully and stabbed his plastic fork into a mound of macaroni and cheese. He took a bite, chewing carefully and after he swallowed he asked, "Where is Lindsey's mommy?"
"Lindsey's mommy died, sweetie," Andy told him gently. "You know how Grandpa went to heaven?" Ben nodded. "Well, Lindsey's mommy is there with him."
"Oh," Ben said sadly, his thin shoulders slumping and his forehead wrinkling. He looked over at Lindsey and told her sincerely, "I'm sorry Lindsey."
Lindsey smiled a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes. "Thanks buddy."
Giant crocodile tears welled up in his eyes and his chin quivered as he looked back over at Andy. "Are you going to die, mommy?"
"Oh, sweetie," Andy said, quickly standing up to round the table and wrap her arms around her distressed son. "I'm not going anywhere."
Lindsey noticed she didn't answer the question, not really.
Ben seemed to accept Lindsey's answer and moved on without another comment about it, flipping the page over. The next couple of pages were a series of pictures from the day after Christmas, when Sam had taken Lindsey to the lake to play around with her new camera. There were a few of Sam walking around, kicking rocks with his hands shoved into his pockets – it had been a bitterly cold day – but Lindsey's favorite was one where she had been trying out the auto timer and had set the camera up on a picnic table. Neither had been ready when the times went off and in the picture Sam was staring at the camera with a confused expression on his face, eyes squinted and creased around the edges and mouth hanging half open, and Lindsey was laughing and rolling her eyes at him.
Lindsey thought it captured their relationship at that point perfectly.
"That's the picture on Daddy's desk," Ben said, pointing at the next picture. That was one they had been ready for – Sam's arm was slung around Lindsey's shoulder and her arm was around his waist and they were both grinning broadly into the camera. Later, when Lindsey had been going back through her pictures, she'd printed three copies out and framed one for him for Valentine's Day. It sat on his desk at work. Her copy was on her bulletin board at school.
"Yep, it is," Lindsey said.
"And this one," Ben said, pointing at a picture of Andy holding a large moving box, grinning broadly, "Is when mommy moved in with you and daddy."
They had a fight or something, Lindsey wasn't sure. She just knew that one day Andy was there and the next day she wasn't and her uncle was making up lame excuses about it. "She's just catching some extra shifts," he told her one night, a few days in to Andy's mysterious absence from their lives. "Everything's fine."
Later that night, long after she was supposed to have gone to bed, she snuck downstairs for a snack. There was a glow coming from the living room so instead of ducking into the kitchen she plodded down the hallway and found her uncle sitting on the couch, legs stretched out on the coffee table. A blanket was thrown haphazardly over his lap and he was absently twirling a glass of brown liquid in his hand.
He didn't notice her standing there; it appeared that he was super interested in the show that he was watching, some late night infomercial about a fancy blender that could probably liquefy steel. His eyes were fixed on the television and kind of glossed over, like he had been forgetting to blink.
Lindsey cleared her throat to get his attention.
She had to do it again before he finally looked up.
"Oh, hey," he said, tiredly scrubbing a hand over his face and blinking rapidly. He set his drink down. "What are you doing awake?"
"Just wanted a snack," Lindsey answered, crossing her arms and not moving from her spot. "Why are you still up?"
Her uncle shrugged and in the light reflecting from the television, he suddenly looked much, much older. "Just awake."
He could make up all the excuses in the world – something was going on, something that drained all the color from his face and deepened the wrinkles around his eyes. Lindsey tilted her head towards the kitchen. "I'm gonna make some popcorn, you want any?"
"You're supposed to be asleep," he reminded her. Then, not giving her the chance to reply or argue her case, suddenly agreed, "Yeah, I'll take some."
Lindsey nodded and pushed herself off the wall, "Be right back."
When she returned three minutes later she plopped down beside him on the couch and set the bowl of popcorn in between them.
A new infomercial came on, this time one about designer Snuggies.
Andy had gotten them all Snuggies one night when Sam had been out "doing a favor for a friend". At least, that was how it was pitched to Lindsey. She doubted very seriously that it was some innocent favor, what with how anxious and fidgety Andy had been the entire night, clutching her phone in her hand like a lifeline.
"It's a blanket with arms," Andy told them when the package arrived, pulling the material out of the box. "I'm not really sure why you both think you're too cool for it."
She even bought a dog one, just in case.
Sam quickly switched the channel over to an infomercial for the Magic Bullet.
They watched in silence, each taking fistfuls of popcorn and popping the kernels one by one into their mouths. Lindsey hazarded glances over at her uncle occasionally but he was blankly staring at the TV. On screen, the sales people were making salsa in three seconds.
Finally, when she couldn't take it anymore, Lindsey asked, "So, you guys break up or something?"
He tensed immediately but then he visibly forced himself to relax and adopted and easy tone. "We didn't break up," he answered, digging into the popcorn bowl and lifting an entire handful to his mouth.
Lindsey studied him carefully, watching for any tells. The twitch of his jaw muscle before he began chewing was a good one. "But you are in a fight?" she prodded.
Sam cut his eyes over to her. "We had a disagreement," he admitted.
"Adult speak for fight," Lindsey muttered, turning her attention back to the TV. A moment passed and then she asked, keeping her eyes glued in front of her, "You okay?"
Her uncle was quiet for a second and then she heard him swallow, making a harsh noise in the back of his throat. "Yeah," he said, "It'll be fine. She's just taking some time."
She nodded even though she didn't really believe him. The popcorn bowl was empty so she leaned forward and set it on the coffee table before scooting over to her uncle, close enough that their shoulders bumped together.
He looked over at her, eyebrows raised. They weren't exactly affectionate – a quick hug here and there – and the instinctiveness of the gesture surprised Lindsey herself. Sam waited half a beat and then lifted his arm across the back of the couch, letting her settle in against him.
It reminded her of when she was little and would ask him to watch a Disney movie with her. He protested every single time, but every single time he let her put one in and then scramble into his lap to watch it.
"You should just ask her to move in for real," Lindsey advised, curling her legs up and pulling the blanket over her. Andy practically lived with them anyway – until that week Lindsey couldn't remember a day that had gone by when Andy hadn't been there. She yawned and rested her head on his shoulder. "That way she can't just leave whenever you two fight."
Sam let out a sad snort of laughter, ruffling her hair. "I wish it worked that way, kid."
Lindsey just shrugged. "You never know."
Apparently it did work that way, because two days later Andy was back and three days after that they were moving some of her things into the house and loading the truck up with the rest of her stuff to be put in storage.
Lindsey was pretty sure her stuff was still sitting there, even though they'd moved houses when Ben was born.
"Why is mommy crying?" Ben asked, looking down at another series of pictures.
Lindsey grinned, recognizing the set immediately. Andy was sitting on the sofa, crossed legged with her hands over her mouth and tears in her eyes. "Those are happy tears. That's when your daddy asked your mommy to marry him," she told him.
He would have done it differently if it had been just him and Andy. He wasn't sure what he would have done – maybe taken her away, gotten down on one knee in the middle of the woods or somewhere overlooking the city – either way, it would have been different.
But then he took Lindsey with him to pick out the ring and she spent the whole car ride there and back chatting his ear off about different ways he could propose, all of which gave her some role in the event. At some point between leaving the house and coming back, he pushed all of his vaguely defined ideas into the back of his head and started brainstorming with her. As long as the end result was the same, Andy saying yes, he figured it didn't really matter how it happened.
Three weeks later, after Lindsey gave him a convincing "man up" eye roll at dinner the night before, Sam caught his niece's eye across the living room and nodded towards the stairs, putting the plan into motion.
Lindsey hopped off the couch and scrambled towards to her room, unsuccessfully trying to tamp down a grin.
He had just been waiting for the right time, really, and between long shifts at work and Luke and Jo's recent engagement the opportune moment hadn't exactly presented itself.
"Please don't ask me to marry you anytime soon," she had murmured quietly to him as they took their seats for parade the day the wedding invitation appeared on the bulletin board. Jo wasn't one for conventional etiquette apparently. "It would look petty."
Sam couldn't have cared less how it would look. "What makes you think I'm going to ask you to marry me?" he shot back, just as quietly.
"Oh please," she said, rolling her eyes with confidence he wasn't sure she was faking. "I should have made you give me a ring before I moved in with you."
Sam snorted at that. "Don't like living in sin?"
"Don't like living in sin right in front of your niece," she clarified, taking a long sip of her coffee. "We're both probably going to hell."
He hummed in response. "Probably."
Best called for their attention then and they both turned in their chairs and looked forward. A couple of minutes passed, Best detailing a homicide that had taken place the previous night, before Sam felt Andy's sharp elbow dig into his side. "Wanna know what I'd say?"
He glanced over at her but she refused to meet his eye, keeping her gaze trained ahead. The corners of her mouth were twitching upwards. "I don't know," he replied slowly, trying to keep his voice even. "Do I?"
Andy just shrugged, her lips sliding into a full, toothy grin. "Guess you'll have to ask."
They had talked about it other times, of course, mostly in vague or teasing terms, and Sam was about ninety eight percent certain that they were on the same page. Still, his heart rate sped up and his hands got a little damp when he thought about actually asking her.
He didn't have time to get nervous though, because in no time he could hear Lindsey bounding back down the stairs. "Hey Andy, you want to see my photography project?" she asked, coming into the room. She was playing it cool, like it was just any other homework assignment, but Sam could read the excitement under her nonchalant question. He hoped that if Andy picked up on it she would just pass it off as nervousness or anxiety about the project, nothing else.
Andy, who had been sprawled out on the sofa with one hand absentmindedly reaching into the bag of chips sitting on the ground, quickly licked the Dorito crumbs from her fingers and sat up. "Yeah, of course," she said, crossing her legs so her bony knees stuck out to the sides and patting the spot beside her. "You've been talking about this thing for weeks now, I can't wait to see it."
Lindsey plopped down and handed over the portfolio she had put together. It really was for a project at school. Or, at least, part of it was.
"Have you seen it yet?" Andy asked Sam, opening the cover of the book.
"Yeah," he said, watching intently as she slowly flipped through the pages. "Lindsey showed it to me the other night."
Andy nodded silently in response, not even bothering to look up at him. "Lindsey, these are really beautiful," she eventually muttered, sliding her finger across the edge of a page. Each photo showed a close up of an object in their house, some more abstract than others. As pages progressed a larger image was taking shape made from the photos being layered together – Andy already knew it was all going to come together to look like the front of the house, she'd seen Lindsey wrestling with how to make it work for almost a month, but seeing it actually happening was really, really impressive.
The second to last page was an actual photo of the house, saturated with color while all the rest had been in black and white. "This is really great," Andy said, taking her eyes off the book and smiling over at Lindsey.
Sam found himself holding his breath as she casually turned to the last page. She wasn't looking when she did it – she was distracted and still talking to Lindsey – and when she finally did look down it took her a moment to make sense of the image.
It showed a glistening ring sitting on the porch railing, the sunlight reflecting off the diamond and causing a lens flare to stretch across the photograph.
Her forehead wrinkled and Sam watched as different emotions flickered across her face; confusion, realization, excitement, nervousness…"Oh," she breathed, her eyes widening. She was quiet, staring at the picture for a moment. When she finally looked up, Sam was holding the real thing.
He asked her again later that night, when it was just the two of them and she was flat on her back, legs wrapped around him and hands clasped together above her head. Her eyes had drifted shut and when he stilled they flew open again, bright and wide, meeting his in the darkness.
When he didn't say anything right away her eyebrows drew together and she started fidgeting impatiently beneath him. "Sam…" she whined, half whimpering, half laughing. "C'mon."
He dropped down to his elbows and the added weight made her stop squirming around. He waited until she was perfectly still and then leaned down, nudging her nose with his. "Marry me," he whispered, his voice hoarse, not sure if he was asking or telling or just… wanting hear her say yes again.
Probably it was all of those things.
Andy's face broke into a wide smile. "Okay," she whispered back. She tightened her grip on his hand and the ring dug into his finger.
The wedding had been exactly what Lindsey expected from her aunt and uncle – small but full of warmth and love. Lindsey and Traci were the bridesmaids and Oliver and Jerry were the groomsmen. Sam got choked up when Tommy walked Andy down the aisle.
Lindsey didn't actually understand marriage, couldn't imagine saying yes to one person and committing to be with them for the rest of your life, but every time she looked at pictures from the wedding she found herself wanting it. Wanting to meet someone that made her as happy as her aunt made her uncle.
"Pretty dress," Ben whispered, looking at a picture of Andy in her wedding dress.
Lindsey nodded. "Your mommy was beautiful."
"You look pretty, too," Ben told her, flipping over to the next page. "Like a princess."
"Well thanks, buddy," Lindsey said, laughing as she wondered what movies he'd been watching and if her uncle knew about it.
"Who's the guy with the funny robe?" Ben asked, already moving on.
"Ah," Lindsey said, "That's the judge that let your mommy adopt me." The picture showed Sam, Andy and Lindsey with the judge. Lindsey was holding her certificate of adoption.
"What does that mean?"
Lindsey thought about it for a second before answering, "It means that even though your mommy isn't really my mommy, she promised to take care of me like she was."
The first time she brought it up, he brushed her off.
They were on their way home from a funeral – an officer from fifty-one that Sam had gone through the academy with – and she was, understandably, shaken. The guy had a wife and three kids and one on the way and had been shot during a routine traffic stop. "Sam," she said, brushing out the wrinkles in her skirt, "If something happens to you, what's going to happen to Lindsey?"
Sam flicked his dark eyes over at her, considering, and then looked back to the road. "Nothing's going to happen to me," he said firmly.
"You don't know that, we both have dangerous…" Andy tried to argue, but he cut her off.
"Nothing's going to happen," he repeated, in a tone that told her to leave it alone. "You don't need to worry about it."
They hadn't been married at the time, so there really wasn't anything that Andy could do, legally at least. She didn't bring it up again until they had been married for almost a year.
"We have to talk about this," she told him late one night. Her hands were folded over her chest and she was and staring at their bedroom ceiling. Earlier that afternoon they'd watched Children's Aid take two little girls into foster care after their mother had been killed during an attempted car jacking.
Sam groaned and rubbed at his eyes. "Andy, she's going to be eighteen in three years…"
"A lot can happen between now and then," Andy insisted, propping herself up on her elbow. "If, God forbid, something happened to you they could take her away from me. I mean, I know we're married but I'm not her mom, I don't really have any rights here." She paused for a beat. "I know you don't even want to consider it, but we need to. I need you to."
"It's in my will that you'd be her guardian," Sam told her. "You know that."
Andy rolled her eyes, "Yeah, but you know how easily that can be contested. What if her birth dad found out and wanted her back? Or what if we have other kids and the courts decide I can't handle it?"
He was quiet for a moment and then let out a heavy sigh and dropped his head to the side to look at her. "So, what're you suggesting?"
"Adoption," Andy said. "I've looked it up and since we're relatives it shouldn't be too hard. Of course, it is kind of expensive but I think that we can swing it."
Sam blinked, staring at her in surprise. "You want to adopt Lindsey?" he asked slowly, punctuating each word like he had to think about them, like he'd never even considered the idea before.
Andy's brow furrowed. "Yeah," she said, "I mean… As long as Lindsey's okay with it. I haven't said anything to her because I wanted to talk to you first, but because she's over twelve she has to give her consent and agree to be interviewed."
"I don't even know…" he paused and ran his hand through his hair. "I'm not sure how she's going to feel about it."
"I know it's complicated," Andy acknowledged, "And I've thought a lot about it because I don't want her to think I'm trying to replace her mom or anything like that – I just… I want to know that she will be taken care of, and adopting her would make sure of that."
"It does make sense," Sam agreed.
There was a stretch of silence and Andy could practically see the wheels turning in Sam's brain as he thought it over. "Do you think Sarah would be okay with it?" she asked quietly. Sarah was still the elephant in the room that Andy hesitated to bring up; it was ironic, really, how greatly their lives were affected by the woman but how little they actually talked about her.
Sam pressed his lips together and after a moment replied evenly, "I think she'd want Lindsey to be with someone that loved her."
"Well, then I guess we can talk to Lindsey about it, unless…" she hesitated. "I mean, unless you're not okay with it."
"No," he said, sitting up quickly, "Of course I'm okay with it, I just never thought that you'd…" he broke off, waving a hand in the air.
"That I'd want to?" Andy supplied.
"Well," Sam admitted, staring at her hard like he was gauging her sincerity. "Yeah. It's just… it's a big responsibility."
Andy pursed her lips and gave him a look that was somewhere between irritation and pity. "Sam," she said, sitting up and pulling the sheet with her, "How long have we been together?"
He scratched the back of his neck, thinking. "Three years, about."
"Three years," she repeated, "And you're still acting like Lindsey's a burden I didn't readily sign up for." She smiled at him reassuringly and he smiled back, a twisted half grin he got whenever he liked the idea of something but was still unsure about it. She reached across the bed and put her hand over his. "I want to. I really, really want to."
His smile evened out.
"Blue for boy," Ben said, pointing at a new picture that showed cupcakes covered with blue frosting.
"Yep," Lindsey replied, "That's when we found out that you were going to be a boy. Your mommy made blue cupcakes for everyone."
Ben wrinkled his nose. "Mommy made them?"
"Uh huh," Lindsey confirmed.
He looked puzzled for a second and then looked up at her, asking seriously, "Did they taste good?"
Lindsey let out a burst of laughter. Even at his young age he knew who the cook in the family was. "They were delicious," she informed him.
It took five months to get pregnant with Ben, which in the long run really wasn't that much time but Andy had never been very good about waiting. When she had decided she was ready, she had been ready for it to happen right then and hadn't really considered that it might take a while.
She tried not to worry, she really did, but that last negative test sent her straight to the internet to look up every tip she could find. "You've got to hold my legs up in the air," she told Sam a couple of weeks later, before he had even started breathing normally again.
"What?" he panted, chest still heaving.
"I'm serious," she said, lifting her legs, "It's supposed to like… you know, help move things along."
He laughed at her for a full minute before obediently getting to his knees and circling her ankles with his fingers. He pulled her legs up and over his shoulders, still grinning despite the fact that she was pouting up at him. "This okay?" he asked, running his hands down her thighs.
Andy blew the hair off her face, trying not to sound flustered. "Yeah, that's good."
"How long are you supposed to stay like this?" he asked, casually skating his calloused fingers over her stomach and down her sides, taking advantage of the helplessness of her position and tickling her.
"I don't know," she answered while she squirmed and slapped his hands away with a breathless giggle. "A few minutes."
His hands curled around her thighs and finally settled there. "Well," he said, looking down pointedly and then winking at her. "I've got to say, this is one helluva view."
"Shut up," she demanded and then, because she couldn't help it and because he was grinning at her and because the whole thing was just kind of absurd, she burst into laughter. "I know this is stupid…"
"No, hey," he interrupted her, squeezing her leg and then reaching down to take her hand, interlocking their fingers in a tight grip, "We're making a baby, right? It's not stupid."
She found out a few weeks later – her period was a couple of days late and she was so jittery that Traci made her take a test right in the middle of their shift. For a fleeting moment after the second line darkened Andy thought she was going to throw up right then and there and it had nothing to do with morning sickness – just sheer panic as the reality of it, of a baby actually growing inside of her, set in in. Then, a fraction of a second later, relief washed over her and she felt more elated than she could ever remember feeling in her entire life.
Somehow, someway, she made it through the rest of her shift. She didn't even bother showering before heading home and was more than a little disappointed that the house was dark and quiet when she got there.
Making her way quietly down the hall and into their room, she found Sam propped up against the headboard, sound asleep and snoring softly, a quiet, reassuring hum that echoed throughout the space. It looked like he had tried to wait up for her – the lamp next to the bed was still on and there was a file opened on his chest - but just hadn't been able to. Andy sighed and let her eyes sweep over him, reading glasses still on and mouth hanging open just slightly. The nervous excitement she felt, like she'd had nine cups of coffee without anything to eat – straight caffeine surging through her veins, was a stark contrast to his calm and peaceful sleeping form.
She lifted the file off of him and gave it a cursory glance, knowing what she was probably going to find.
Just as she suspected, it was his notes from the undercover operation targeting Anton Hill.
Hill had been arrested in Ottawa three weeks earlier after a minor traffic violation exploded into much larger and more serious charges, including trafficking of drugs and persons, fraud and tax evasion. It was turning into one of the most extensive cases to be tried in a quite some time and the prosecutors' office was working closely with Toronto's Guns and Gangs division, and specifically Sam, to put their case together.
Andy laid the notes on the nightstand and turned off the lamp before slipping her clothes off and climbing into the bed next to him. She slid underneath the covers and scooted up close him. Instinctively he curled his body around her's and wrapped his arm around her waist, pulling her against his chest while grumbling something she couldn't make out. His body was warm and familiar and she tucked herself closer, threading one of her legs between his.
She debated waking him up, knowing that he would absolutely want to know but also knowing that she would be just as pregnant in the morning and could tell him then. It was impossible to go to sleep – her thoughts were racing a million miles an hour and no matter how many times she tried to count backwards from one hundred her mind kept drifting back to the fact that she was pregnant.
With a baby. Their baby.
She still couldn't wrap her mind around it.
A few moments passed, it could have been a couple of minutes or it might have been an hour, and Andy felt Sam move behind her.
"Hey," she whispered hopefully, just loud enough for him to hear if he had woken up.
His grip tightened around her and when he answered his voice was sleepy and scratchy, "Hey."
"Did I wake you up?" she asked, trailing her fingers over the arm settled at her waist.
She felt him shake his head and he dropped a kiss on her shoulder. "No," he said, starting to fiddle with the strap of her tank top. Andy smiled into the darkness as he pushed it down her arm.
"Did you have a good day?" she forced herself to ask.
He hummed noncommittally, brushing her hair out of the way so he could press his lips against the back of her neck. "You?"
She grinned, about ready to burst and thankful that he couldn't see her face. "Yeah, it was good."
"Good," he echoed, sliding his hand down the side of her body and settling it over her stomach, fingers dipping below the waistband her underwear.
"I'm pregnant," she blurted out, unable to hold it in any longer.
It came out a lot faster than she meant for it to. Behind her, he went absolutely still and silent as he absorbed what she said.
So silent, in fact, that after a couple of seconds she flipped over so she could face him and asked, "Did you hear me?" His face was bathed in orange light filtering in from the street and he was staring at her with a look that she'd never seen before – "Sam?"
He pushed himself up on his elbow and Andy shifted beneath him so that she could get both hands on the sides of his face and smooth her thumbs of his stubbly jaw. His lips were beginning to twitch with a slow smile and his eyes were starting to twinkle. Happy, she recognized. He was definitely happy. "Yeah?"
Andy nodded, feeling excitement bubble in her stomach, "Yeah."
Sam looked down at his hand and spread his fingers out experimentally, covering her whole belly with a kind of reverence that made her dizzy. She could feel a flush creeping up her neck and she sucked in a sharp breath, suddenly ridiculously nervous about what he was going to say. When he finally looked back up at her his entire face had lit up with an incredible full smile, eyes squinting and cheeks dimpling, and he let out a soft chuckle, shaking his head.
"What?" she asked, starting giggling along with him even though she wasn't sure why either of them were laughing.
"Legs in the air, I can't even…"
"Hey," she protested, tugging on his hair, "It worked, didn't it?"
Sam was still shaking his head when he carefully lowered himself down and brushed his lips against hers, soft and friendly. "I love you," he murmured, his eyes open and honest.
Andy grinned up at him so broadly that she thought her cheeks were going to split. "You better, since I'm going to be the mother of your child and all."
She didn't think that it was possible for him to smile any harder than he had been two seconds before.
Turned out, she was wrong.
"And that's when I was in mommy's belly," Ben said, giggling as he looked at a series of maternity pictures Lindsey had taken for Andy.
"You were," Lindsey told him. "I remember the first time I felt you move in there."
Ben's eyes widened, "You do?"
"Mmmhmm," she said, nodding her head. "You kicked my hand like it was a soccer ball. It was the day I took these pictures."
"You remember that?"
Lindsey remembered, but not necessarily because it was the first time she felt Ben move. The night before the pictures were taken had been the first and only time that Lindsey had pulled the "you're not my mother" card during an argument with Andy. She still cringed just thinking about how much of a brat she'd been.
Sam was gone – Anton Hill's trial had finally started up and he'd been called up to testify on a Friday and ended up having to stay through the weekend to finish up on Monday. He had known that having to stay was a possibility but that didn't help the mood he'd been in when he called Andy to tell her he wouldn't be coming home. She knew, why he was irritated; she was eight months pregnant and he didn't want to be five hours away in case something happened, she'd barely convinced him to go in the first place, but of course he wasn't going to admit that was the issue. Instead, he grumbled about the collective and individual incompetence of every single person involved with the trial.
When she was able to get a word in, Andy assured him that she and Lindsey could manage a weekend alone just fine.
Then she hung up the phone and cried for ten minutes.
Once she pulled herself together she went to Lindsey's room to tell her.
Lindsey was getting ready for a party she was going to later that night – Sam had given her permission to go before he'd left and Andy was fairly certain he'd been distracted when she'd asked.
Andy pushed open the cracked door and leaned against the frame. Lindsey had been digging through her closet and she jumped when Andy called out, "Hey."
"Don't bother knocking," Lindsey mumbled under her breath, head still buried in the mess of clothes on her floor.
Andy barely refrained from rolling her eyes. Lindsey had been… challenging lately. Andy understood, she really did, she'd definitely had her moments when she was Lindsey's age and she hadn't been dealing with a new baby on the way that was getting ready to disrupt everything that had become normal in the last couple of years.
Instead of responding, Andy entered the room and made herself comfortable on the bed. Lindsey looked up and eyed her warily but in the end didn't say anything.
"You're uncle's not coming home tonight," Andy told her, settling back against the mass of pillows at the head of the bed, "He's stuck in Ottawa 'til Monday."
"'Kay," Lindsey answered distractedly. She pulled a sweater off of a hanger and held it in front of her, looking in the mirror.
"That's pretty," Andy offered, even though Lindsey hadn't asked her opinion.
Lindsey made a face and threw the sweater on the bed. "It makes me look like I'm a flat-chested twelve year old."
It didn't, but Andy wasn't going to argue with her. "Okay," she replied slowly, watching as Lindsey pulled a couple more sweaters out of her closet and quickly disregarded them as well. The girl kept shooting glares over at her and Andy knew she wanted her to leave, but she had just gotten comfortable and hauling herself up off a bed wasn't the easiest thing to do any more, so she ignored the pointed looks and stayed where she was.
Lindsey's purse was on the bed near Andy's knee and something inside caught her eye. She used her foot to push the purse up so she could get a better look.
"What the hell are these?" Andy asked, pulling out a small sample box of condoms.
Lindsey quickly whipped her head around and when she saw what Andy was holding her eyes went wide at first and then they narrowed into outraged slits. She crossed the room and filched the box out of Andy's hand. "Condoms," she snapped, shoving them back into her purse. "Not everyone wants to get knocked up."
Andy's eyebrows shot up at the jab but she tried to force herself to remain calm. "Are you having sex?"
"What do you care?" Lindsey asked, tucking her hair behind her ears in a way that made her seem very, very young.
Andy was careful to keep the bite out of her tone. "Well," she said evenly, setting her jaw. "You're only sixteen."
"Oh please," Lindsey snorted, yanking a top over her head, "Plenty of kids my age are doing it."
"I don't care about what other kids are doing," And told her genuinely. "I care about you."
Lindsey just huffed a laugh as she circled a scarf around her neck. "Oh, okay."
Andy felt a prickle go up her spine. "Lindsey," she said, lowering her voice, "I don't want you to get hurt."
Lindsey swung around and faced Andy straight on, like a standoff. "Well, I've already done it," she admitted, no emotion whatsoever. "So you don't have to worry about that."
Andy blinked, trying not to let the surprise and disappointment show on her face. She took a deep breath and asked, "Was it James?"
James was, or had been – Andy was fairly certain they had broken up – Lindsey's boyfriend.
Sam hated him.
The muscle in Lindsey's jaw jumped as she clenched her teeth. "Yes."
"Couple of weeks ago," Lindsey answered, folding her arms in front of her chest.
Andy nodded slowly, processing the information. "I thought that you guys broke up?"
"We did. After."
"Did he, um…" Never in her life had Andy felt more at lost for words, "Did he make you?"
Lindsey rolled her eyes up to the ceiling, like Andy was honestly the stupidest person she'd ever met. "No he didn't make me."
Andy swallowed hard, relieved. "Okay, good," she said. "That's good. So, if you're broken up… what are the condoms for?"
Lindsey actually smirked. "Well, there is a party tonight."
"And you're going to do what?" Andy asked. "Hook up with some random stranger?"
"It's not that big of a deal," Lindsey argued, teenage stubbornness mixed with desperately wanting to sound nonchalant about something that, at her age, was anything but casual.
"It IS a big deal, Lindsey," Andy said, unable to keep her voice from rising. "It's a big deal. Just because you have sex one time does not mean that it is not a big deal…"
"Why do you care?" Lindsey yelled back, matching Andy's volume. "Just stay here and read your stupid baby books and don't even worry about what I'm doing."
Andy exhaled sharply. She knew that Lindsey was upset about the baby but could never get the girl to talk about it, it had just been simmering beneath the surface. "You are not going to that party."
Lindsey grabbed her purse off the bed. "Uncle Sam already said I could."
"Oh," Andy shot back, "And you think if he knew what you were planning to do he would just let you go?"
"What are you going to do?" Lindsey challenged. "Call him?"
Andy knew that Sam would absolutely, unequivocally lose his shit, which would probably just make the entire situation worse. She pushed herself up off the bed, no small feat when you're carrying around thirty extra pounds, and stood in front of Lindsey. She schooled her expression into a stern copper stare. "Your uncle isn't here and I'm telling you, you cannot go."
Lindsey huffed and fixed Andy with a withering glare. "Well, you're not my mother," she replied coldly, "And I don't have to listen to you."
Before Andy could reply Lindsey darted around her and left the room. Andy stood frozen in her spot and when she heard the front door slam shut she closed her eyes with it, totally defeated.
Three hours later the phone rang and Lindsey's meek, slurred voice asked Andy if she could come pick her up. Andy quickly jotted down the address and pulled her coat around her big belly and climbed into the truck.
Lindsey was, as Andy knew she would be, almost completely out of it when she got to the party. Hannah Shaw helped her out to the truck. "Do you need a ride home, Hannah?" Andy asked, strapping the seatbelt across Lindsey's waist.
"No," Hannah answered, rambling nervously, "I've got my mom's car and I'm totally sober, I promise, I haven't had anything other than soda. I don't drink and normally Lindsey doesn't either, I don't know what got into her tonight and I am so, so sorry…"
Andy was right next to the girl and didn't smell even a trace of alcohol on her breath. She put a hand on her arm, stopping her. "It's not your fault, Lindsey's not your responsibility," Andy said. "Just go home, okay?"
Hannah nodded and shot a worried glance at Lindsey who was slumped against the center console. "Is she going to be okay?"
Andy sighed and looked at her niece. "Yeah," she said after a moment, slamming the door shut. "She's going to be fine."
The next morning Andy woke Lindsey up with a glass of water and a mug of coffee.
Lindsey groaned and pulled a pillow over her head.
"Wake up, kid," Andy said, scooting onto the bed beside her. "It's almost noon."
Lindsey just groaned again.
"How do you feel?" Andy asked, pulling the pillow off her head. Her face was pale and her hair was damp with sweat.
"Like I'm going to die," Lindsey answered, licking her dry lips. "Hurl first and then die."
"Oh, yeah, well… that's what happens," Andy replied unsympathetically. "Which do you want first?" she asked, gesturing to the beverages.
"Water," Lindsey said, pushing herself up. She took hold of the cup with both hands and brought it to her lips, downing almost half of it in one long gulp.
Andy quirked an eyebrow, amused. "Thirsty?"
Lindsey drank some more in response. When she emptied the glass she handed it back to Andy, suddenly looking sheepish. "Are you, uh..." she pushed her hair off her face. "Are you going to tell Uncle Sam? About last night?"
"Well," Andy said, tilting her head to the side thoughtfully. "You know I told you that you could tell me anything, but I also promised your uncle that I'd tell him if I thought you were in trouble."
"I didn't have sex," Lindsey blurted out quickly, her cheeks flushing with color. "Last night or… you know, before. I haven't had it all."
Andy's forehead wrinkled and she jutted her chin out. "Huh," she breathed, trying not to sound too relieved. "Why did you say that you did?"
Lindsey brought her hands up to her face and let out a long sigh. "I was mad," she admitted, pressing her fingers to her eyes and shaking her head. "It was so stupid. Uncle Sam was supposed to take me driving and then he canceled at the last minute to go to one of those baby classes you guys have been going to and it just… it made me so mad."
Andy could understand – one thing they had tried to be very careful about was making sure Lindsey knew she was just as important to them as the baby was. "I'm sorry he did that," she said, "I didn't know that you guys had plans."
"Yeah, well," Lindsey shrugged and then admitted, "I went over to James' house while you guys were gone and we got like… really close but I stopped it and told him I wasn't ready and then a couple of days later he broke up with me." She sighed and dropped her head, mumbling miserably, "God, I'm like every bad after school special ever written."
"No, sweetie, you're not," Andy assured her, wrapping her arm around the girl. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. Anyways, I thought that maybe I could get back at him for breaking up with me last night and make him jealous or something," Lindsey said, "But well, you know how that ended."
"I have to tell your uncle about the drinking," Andy told her, scrunching her nose.
"Yeah," Lindsey said, her shoulders dropping with acceptance. "I know. He's going to be so mad."
Andy nodded. "Yeah, probably." She waited a beat and then offered, "But I won't tell him about the other stuff on one condition."
"What's that?" Lindsey asked, ready to agree to just about anything.
Andy turned so that she could look Lindsey in the eye. "When you are ready, you'll tell me."
Lindsey blushed, "Andy…"
"I'm serious Lindsey," Andy said. "My mom wasn't around when I needed someone to talk to and I don't want you to have to go through some of the same stuff I did. And, you know, what I said last night is true. Sex is a big deal and your first time IS a big deal, no matter what anyone else tells you and no matter how many other kids are doing it."
"I know it is," Lindsey said, smoothing out her blanket.
"And," Andy continued, "Your uncle would probably want you to think that all boys are horny idiots only after one thing, and while that is definitely true of some of them, it's not…" she paused and shook her head, "It's not true of all of them. And it is worth it, trust me it is worth it, to wait until you find someone that cares about you."
"I know," Lindsey nodded.
Andy caught her gaze and held it. "So do we have a deal?"
Lindsey's lips curled into small smile. "Deal," she said.
"Good," Andy nodded sharply.
They sat quietly for a moment until Lindsey eventually said, "I'm sorry about what I said to you last night – about you not being my mom."
"Well, I'm not your mom," Andy replied. It was still tricky figuring out exactly what their roles were. "And I know I'm not, but you still kind of have to do what I say."
"I know," Lindsey said, squinting up at her. "I'm sorry."
Andy smiled and combed her fingers through the girl's unruly curls. "It's okay. I forgive you."
"Am I in trouble?"
"Oh yeah," Andy said, drawing out the "oh" and nodding, "Big time."
Lindsey groaned and pulled her comforter up over her head.
"You're grounded for a month – no cell phone, no parties, no boys. Definitely no boys,"
Lindsey sighed, knowing that if it were her uncle her punishment probably would have been worse.
"And," Andy wasn't finished. "You have to get dressed and take those stupid maternity pictures of me today so that your uncle won't be here to make fun of me."
"Okay," Lindsey said. "Can I drink my coffee first?"
Andy handed it over and Lindsey hummed a sound of appreciation before taking a sip. There was another stretch of silence – more comfortable this time - broken only when Andy gasped and put her hand on her stomach.
"What?" Lindsey asked, alarmed.
"Nothing," Andy said, wincing in discomfort, "He just kicked me, that's all."
Lindsey glanced down at Andy's belly and then back up at Andy. "Can I feel?"
Andy tried not to show her surprise – Lindsey had never once asked to feel the baby move and really, until that point, hadn't shown much interest in the baby at all. "Yeah, sure," she said, grabbing Lindsey's hand and resting it where she had felt him move. "Wait just a second…" as if on cue, the baby kicked again.
"Wow," Lindsey breathed, feeling a swift bump against her hand. "That is so weird."
"Totally weird," Andy agreed, grinning.
Things didn't magically get better after that – Lindsey was still jealous over the new baby at times, even though she knew it was stupid, and sometimes she still fought with her aunt and uncle, but looking back on it, Lindsey was almost glad for the fights – it made them seem normal. Families fought, people argued, kids got grounded… in some weird way Lindsey was thankful for it.
And a year and a half later, when Lindsey was ready (with Mark, ironically, the kid she'd hid from in the grocery store), she did talk to Andy.
"That's me!" Ben exclaimed, pulling Lindsey from her thoughts. He was pointing down to the first picture taken of him – a naked, screaming little baby on one of those hospital scales. It was taken literally two minutes after he was born. He hadn't even been cleaned up yet.
"Yep, buddy," Lindsey said, looking down at the picture and wrinkling her nose. "That's you." She turned to the next page, "And that's all of us with you."
It was a common enough picture – proud parents holding their new baby – but Lindsey could vividly remember it being taken.
As soon as they were ready for visitors it seemed like the entire room swarmed with officers from her aunt and uncle's division and at one point, after she'd finally relinquished Ben back to Andy, Traci held up a camera. "Family picture!" she said, motioning Sam over to Andy's bed.
Lindsey tried to shrink back into the corner, not certain she was to be included in the picture. She was, after all, not their biological child.
"Wait, wait, wait," she heard Andy say, glancing around the room. "Where's Lindsey? She's got to be in the picture, too."
"Lindsey, sweetie," it was her uncle, waving her over. "Come 'ere. We're taking a picture."
It was like the sea of officers parted for her as she made her way to the bed and when she reached them Sam, from the other side of the bed, threw his arm around both Lindsey and Andy's shoulders, pulling them all together. "Alright," Andy said, holding Ben who was wrapped up like a burrito, "We're ready now."
They flipped through some more pictures, Ben's first Halloween and Christmas, and Lindsey told him everything that she could remember about his costume and about the presents that he had gotten. They kept going until Lindsey stopped at another picture, taking a moment to remember when it was taken.
"What are we doing there?" Ben asked.
"That's the first time you went camping," Lindsey told him.
It looked like any other happy family picture, but if someone spent any time studying it they'd be able to tell that Sam's smile was forced and exaggerated while Andy's smile was hollow and her eyes lacked any sort of spark.
They lost a baby when Ben was almost two.
Andy was twelve weeks along when they learned that there was no longer a heartbeat and after waiting a few days to see if her body would miscarry naturally, she had to have surgery to remove it.
It was, without a doubt, one of the most devastating things that Sam had ever been through, not necessarily because of his own grief but because he had to watch Andy walk through it without any way to make it better or ease her pain.
She broke down at the doctor's office when they didn't hear the heartbeat through the Doppler or see the little blinking heart on the sonogram machine (actually, she started tearing up in the waiting room, "I don't know, Sam, I don't know – I just think something's wrong") and then on their way home silent tears trailed down her face. She tried to pull it together in the driveway, wiping her cheeks dry and asking if her makeup looked okay. It was a mess – streaky mascara or something was smudged under her eyes and right above her lip her skin was rubbed raw - but Sam told her she looked beautiful anyway, and meant it.
Lindsey was there when they walked into the house – it was during the first few weeks of summer so she had just gotten out of school – and Andy made Sam tell her what had happened, afraid that she'd get too choked up to do it. Lindsey's face fell, completely stricken, and tears filled her eyes as she hugged her uncle first and then Andy, repeating over and over, "I'm so sorry."
There was nothing else to say, really; nothing that could make it better.
Andy didn't cry again until later that night when they were alone in their room, clinging to him with her arms wrapped tight around him and her face pressed into his neck.
Sam didn't see her cry much after that; he could hear her sometimes, through the bathroom door, quiet sobs that were almost drowned out by the noise of the shower. He would knock and ask her to let him in, but she never did.
Andy took off a week of work after her surgery, but Sam was only able to get a couple of days – he was thankful she had the time to rest and heal but he worried about her constantly and felt like he was moving through a fog. He had the very unpleasant task of telling everyone what had happened and dealing with people's sympathy, while he appreciated it, was not something he enjoyed. Work, which before had been his escape from anything that might be going on at home, seemed incredibly pointless and he counted the minutes until he could get home. Everything was blurry, like all of his sensations were dulled, and he gave himself headaches trying to concentrate on what people were saying to him.
Frank had to have noticed but instead of putting him on desk duty he paired him with Oliver for a solid week; Sam tried to remember to thank him for that – there was no way he would have made it through the week with someone else.
"You wanna talk about it, brother?" Oliver asked at the beginning of every day.
Sam crossed his arms and looked out the window. "Nope," he said, and Oliver dropped it. Then, on the fourth day, "I can't get her to eat anything."
Oliver nodded slowly, mulling it over. "Did you try that Thai takeout place she likes?"
"No," Sam admitted, letting out a heavy sigh and rubbing his temples. "I didn't even think of that."
"Worth a shot," Oliver replied.
Andy ate half a carton worth of pad thai that night – it was a step, more than she'd eaten all week.
She was still good with Ben, attentive and present to his needs. She rocked him for hours at night, long after he fell asleep and sometimes long after she would fall asleep. Sam would find them both in the rocking chair in the nursery, Ben's sweaty toddler body sprawled limp across Andy's chest and both of them with their mouths hanging open slightly. He would pick Ben up and put him in his crib and then walk Andy back down to their bedroom, steadying her as she stumbled down the hall.
Possibly the most concerning thing was the fact that she didn't want him to touch her – ever since the first night when she'd wrapped her arms so fiercely around his neck that he wondered if she was actually trying to climb inside of him, she hadn't wanted to be touched at all. Or seen without her clothes on. She went so far as to change in the closet one night.
Sam would have been irritated but every time she flinched away from him or rolled to the edge of the bed it absolutely broke his heart. He knew that she was hurting, not just emotionally but physically hurting, the way she pulled her knees up to her chest and squeezed her eyes shut – he'd seen that look before and knew what it meant – but instead of getting him to spread his hand out over her stomach or rub her back, she wouldn't let him help. It was completely foreign to him, not being allowed to touch her. Never, in all of their time together, had she ever shut down like that – most of the time it was the opposite and they found comfort in each other when things got bad.
He thought it would get better when she went back to work, but it didn't. She walked around like a shell with this empty, vacant smile on her face so that people wouldn't ask too many questions. She did her job and did it well, but she lacked any excitement or drive to go the extra mile or just look one more time, the kind of puppy-dog enthusiasm that made Sam want to simultaneously roll his eyes and jump her bones.
It was just… It was bad enough to lose the baby and yes, he was sad about that, but losing Andy was killing him.
So, one day he called Lindsey and told her to go to the store and get camping supplies – a tent and whatever else they needed – because they were going to pack up as soon as they got home and head out for the weekend. Andy didn't seem too thrilled with the idea but she went along with it, traipsing through the campground with Ben on her back until they found the perfect spot. She took over then – getting the tent set up, lighting a fire, teaching Lindsey how to hang their food from a tree so the bears couldn't get it. For a brief second, her face lit by the orange and red light from the fire, Sam saw the old Andy return.
Then, later when both Ben and Lindsey were snoring away, Andy whispered into the night, "Sam?"
Sam blinked, trying to adjust his eyes so he could see her in the dark. "Yeah?"
She sniffled. "I'm cold."
Her voice was so small and so quiet. He sighed and ran a hand over his face. "You want me to get you a sweatshirt?"
"No," she said, and he heard her sleeping bag unzip. "Just… can you come over here, please?"
He unzipped his own sleeping bag and rolled over to her, scooting up right behind her back. She was warm all the way down the front of his chest and she slid herself just a fraction of an inch closer, nestling into the curve of his body. He curled one arm around her waist and then, when she didn't protest, hesitantly slid his hand under the hem of her shirt and smoothed his fingers out over her warm stomach. When he felt her relax into him he dropped his head onto her shoulder and let out a breath he'd been holding in for a month. "Is this okay?" he asked, mumbling into the crook of her neck. She nodded and the bump of her ponytail hit him in the face. "Okay," he said, trying to stay very still. "Okay."
When she'd gotten the pictures from the camping trip back she pulled out the family picture and asked Andy if she could put it in the album along with a couple of others – one of Ben splashing around in the lake wearing only his diaper, holding on to Sam's hand and one of Sam and Lindsey bending over the fire, trying to make S'mores.
Andy took the picture from her and stared at it for a moment. She smiled sadly and Lindsey worried for a second that she might cry, but then this peaceful expression crossed her face. "Yeah," she said, handing it back. "Life happens. It's not like we can change it, we've just got to stick together and move forward. It's a good picture."
Lindsey smiled sadly looking down at it, remembering just how sad her aunt had been. In a way it brought them closer together – Lindsey had been home after Andy's surgery and they'd spent hours and hours watching movies and bad daytime television. They didn't really talk about it but Lindsey knew that sometimes it was enough just to be together.
Andy – when she'd first come into their lives – had been able to comfort Lindsey in a way no one else really had; she'd sit with her all day and she'd listen when Lindsey wanted to talk and she'd talk when Lindsey didn't want to. Even though the circumstances were different, Lindsey just hoped that she'd been able to provide the same measure of comfort.
She was away at university when Andy found out that she was pregnant with Will and while Lindsey had been worried that the same thing might happen again, she couldn't remember ever being more excited for her aunt and uncle.
Lindsey flipped the page over to the next group of pictures – her graduation from high school. She was about to tell Ben all about it when she felt a heavy weight on her arm. When she looked down she saw that Ben had fallen sound asleep. She smiled and carefully extracted herself from the bed, gently lowering Ben's head down to his pillow. He had a stuffed animal he slept with just like Will did – a soft, worn elephant cleverly named Mr. Peanut – and when Lindsey tucked it against him he reflexively wrapped his thin little arms around it. Pulling the comforter up to his chin, she brushed his hair off his forehead and pressed a kiss there. "Goodnight buddy," she whispered, slipping out of his room.
She switched over a load of laundry, making sure to turn the annoying signal off, and then went downstairs to watch television until she heard her aunt and uncle come in the back kitchen door.
"Hey Lindsey," Andy called across the open room. "We're home."
They made quite the pair; aside from a little gray at his temples, which Lindsey thought didn't look that bad, kind of distinguished actually, her uncle hadn't aged at all since she first came to live with him and her aunt was still one of the prettiest women that Lindsey knew. Having kids had softened her features a little and underneath her black wrap dress her belly was already swelling with baby number three.
("Look at this," Andy whined, standing in her closet as she tried to decide what to wear that evening. She took a deep breath and pushed her stomach out, framing her bump with her hands. "I'm barely three months along and I look like I'm halfway through the second trimester."
It was true – she was definitely showing sooner with this baby. "Well…" Lindsey said, scrunching her nose, "I mean, you did just have Will."
Andy yanked a couple of dresses off of the rod. "Yeah, I know," she huffed. "It's your uncle's fault."
"Pretty sure you were there too, sweetie," Sam called immediately, almost automatically, from the bathroom.
Andy froze and narrowed her eyes, letting her jaw drop open in disbelief. "Really babe?" she yelled back. "You really want to get into this right now?"
"I'm just saying, it's not like I made that kid all on my own," Sam retorted, like they'd had the argument before. Lindsey wasn't sure why they bothered acting upset about it – it wasn't like either of them was anything less than thrilled about having another baby.
Andy came out of the closet, hands on her hips. "Yeah, but you were definitely the one that was supposed to…"
"Alright then," Lindsey interrupted her, suddenly feeling very awkward. She popped off the bed and made her way to the door. "I'm just gonna go get started my laundry."
"Hey, wait, hold on," Andy stopped her, holding two dresses up and switching off which one she held in front of her. "What do you think?"
Lindsey considered it for a moment and then told her, "Black one, definitely.")
"Were the boys okay?" Sam asked, throwing his wallet and keys into a bowl on the counter and pulling at his tie. "Ben didn't give with you any trouble about bedtime did he?"
Lindsey pushed herself up off the couch and went to sit on one of the stools. "No, they were both great," she said, resting her elbows on the counter and crossing her ankles. "Will went to sleep right away and Ben made it to the graduation page of the photo album before conking out."
A smile spread across her uncle's face, "Oh, yeah. He loves that thing."
"I'm sorry we made you babysit your first night home," Andy told her, holding on to Sam's hand as she pulled off her heels. "I'm sure it's not exactly how you planned to spend your Christmas break."
"Aw, it's no problem," Lindsey said, waving her hand and shrugging. "I missed the little rugrats. How was the party?"
"It was great," Andy beamed, "I actually got your uncle out on the dance floor this time."
"No way," Lindsey scoffed. "I don't believe it."
"I did, I swear," Andy insisted, grinning, "Michael Bublé does weird things to him."
"Yeah, it had nothing to do with your finger digging into my ribs," Sam remarked, rolling his eyes as he unbuttoned the top button of his dress shirt.
Andy threw her head back, laughing. "I'm gonna go check on the boys and put on some sweats," she told them. "You guys up for a movie?"
"A Charlie Brown Christmas is on in twenty minutes," Lindsey told her, watching her walk towards the stairs.
"Perfect!" Andy called back, gathering an armful of toys on her way up steps.
When Lindsey looked back at Sam he grumbled, "Why do we watch that stupid movie every year?"
"It's tradition," Lindsey answered simply, shrugging. "Besides, do you really want to argue with her?"
Sam laughed and shook his head, "That hormonal mess? No way."
"She'd kill you if she knew you say that," Lindsey told him. She could imagine it – how red Andy's cheek would turn and how she'd probably snap, "I'm not hormonal, I'm pregnant."
"Well then," he said, winking at her, "Let's not tell her I said it."
Lindsey just laughed and hopped off her stool. "I'm gonna make some popcorn, want some?"
"I'm good but you know Andy'll want some," he said, fussing with the buttons on his cuffs. "I'm just going to change, I'll be back in a minute."
"'K," Lindsey replied, already digging into the pantry to retrieve the box of popcorn.
"It's good to have you home, kid," he said, ruffling her hair as he passed by. "It's not the same without you."