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It Won't Be Like This For Long

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It Won’t Be Like This For Long

One day soon we’ll look back laughin’
At the week we brought her home
This phase is gonna fly by
So baby just hold on
‘Cause it won’t be like this for long… Darius Rucker

 

 

Hospital. Car seat. Hospital.

Logan’s gaze moves from the sliding glass doors of Neptune Memorial to the backseat of the Audi where Veronica’s adjusting the five-point safety harness around the baby. “Do you think she’ll sleep for the entire ride home?” she asks, backing from the car and straightening. “Maybe I should sit– what’s wrong?” A slight frown puckers her brow.

“I keep waiting for someone to stop us,” he admits, rubbing the back of his neck. “To realize they’ve made a mistake and there’s no way Logan Echolls and Veronica Mars should be allowed to leave with a baby.”

“Well, she IS ours.”

“Yeah, but…” He looks over Veronica’s shoulder at the sleeping baby. She’s so tiny and helpless and… completely terrifying. “Aren’t there child welfare laws to protect them from the clueless?”

Veronica’s frown morphs into a smirk. “Is the fearless fighter pilot afraid of a wee little baby?” His gulped yes makes her grin. “It’ll be fine.” She carefully shuts the car door, leans against it to make sure it’s closed tight, and peers through the window, confirming an undisturbed baby. “She’s only going to sleep, eat, and poop, just like last night.”

Her calm is not reassuring. “If you say so.”

“I’ve read the parenting books and we’ve got the internet and, if we get desperate, we can call my dad.” She curls her fingers under the handle of the passenger door, pulls it open, and asks, “What could go wrong?”

Everything - is his answer, but since she obviously means the question to be rhetorical, he keeps it to himself.

They make the twenty-five minute drive from hospital to house in quiet. Veronica doesn’t even mock him for driving too slow, or for his constant checks of the rearview mirror. He knows she’s in pain, and—if the heavy eyelids and yawning are any indication—she’s also exhausted.

He pulls the car into the driveway and turns off the engine. “Do you want me to–” His question’s cut-off by the deafening wail from the backseat. “I guess she’s hungry.”

Fully-alert now, Veronica snaps off her seatbelt, and scrambles from the car. “But she just ate before we left the hospital.”

Logan shrugs. “Diaper?”

Veronica shoots him a look as she tries to disengage all the belts and buckles strapped across the baby. It all looks more complicated than the inside of a cockpit, but she manages to free the now-screaming Wyatt from her car seat. “Get her stuff and meet me inside.”

“Yes, ma–” At her glare, he chokes down the rest of the word ma’am.

Standing silent, he watches until they disappear into the house, and then unloads Wyatt’s ‘stuff’ i.e. all the hospital freebies Veronica jammed into an oversized tote bag. He wraps the nursing pillow around his neck yoke-like, balances two jumbo boxes of impossibly small diapers in his free hand, and closes the trunk with his elbow. Heading inside, he follows the crying to their bedroom.

Veronica has wasted no time; she’s stripped off the baby’s pajamas and is busy putting on a new diaper. “I’m going to try feeding her again. Give me that boppy-thing.” She waves at the u-shaped pillow around his neck. “And find me one of her t-shirts.”

He upends the tote bag on the bed, weeding through the assortment of nursing pads, pacifiers, wipes, blankets, and clothes to find a clean, pink onesie. Logan hands the shirt to Veronica. “Maybe she’s not getting enough food?”

“Well, it’s not like I have ounce measurements on my boobs.” She finishes fastening the multitude of snaps on the onesie and tugs the mitten cuffs over Wyatt’s hands. Logan frowns. Tie the arms in back and it could be a baby straight-jacket.

“Do you want to try giving her a bottle?”

Veronica doesn’t even bother with a response. Picking up the baby, she cuddles her close, rocking and patting Wyatt’s back until the screaming mutes to crying, and then subsides into tiny whimpers, and finally silence. “Can you take her while I change?”

They make the transfer without any fussing. “Hey there, jellybean.” Logan continues the patting and rocking, mimicking Veronica’s rhythm. “You know you’re not supposed to give your mother a hard time until your like sixteen and arguing over boys and makeup, right?”

Wide, unblinking blue eyes stare at him.

Logan lifts her foot and kisses her tiny toes. “I’m sure you’ll give her a run for her money, but be warned, her size is deceptive.” He glances at Veronica, smirks. “She’s like a tenacious little pitbull.”

Veronica rolls her eyes. Leaving her pajama top unbuttoned, she climbs into bed, and props pillows against the headboard. She repositions, adjusts and plumps the pillows in search of comfort. When she’s finally satisfied, she holds out her arms for Wyatt.

After giving her the baby, Logan clears the bed, and covers Veronica’s legs with the blankets. He kisses her forehead. “Need anything?”

Yawning, she shakes her head.

Liar. Logan can run through an entire list of things she needs and won’t ask for. At the top is probably her pain pills and a nap. He clicks on the bedside lamp and turns off the bright overhead.

“Are you trying to make me fall asleep?”

That’s the plan. “No, I’m trying to make WYATT fall asleep.”

“Well, it’s working,” she says with another yawn.

Skeptical, Logan looks at the baby. Her eyes are closed, but there’s no slowing to the sucking and swallowing, and her little fist kneads Veronica’s breast like she’s ravenous. “Eats like her mother.”

The lack of sarcastic comeback tells Logan what he needs to know. He watches them for a few more seconds and then returns to the car for Veronica’s suitcase. After securing the bottle of Vicodin, he stops in the kitchen to make her a sandwich. Midway through spreading peanut butter on bread, the crying resumes. Louder and angrier than before.

Foregoing the jelly, he slaps another slice of bread on top, grabs a glass of milk and the pills, and rushes down the hall. Veronica’s leaning over the co-sleeper trying to give Wyatt a pacifier. He sets the food on the nightstand. “What happened?”

“I don’t know!” Agitated, Veronica tosses the unwanted binky on the bed. “She fell asleep so I put her down and she started to scream.”

He eyes the bawling infant. “Do you think there’s something wrong?”

“How should I know? All her cries SOUND THE SAME.” Frowning, she bites the corner of her mouth, and chews her bottom lip. She surveys their dresser and the items from the hospital as if searching for an answer. Marching over, she snatches up a blue-and-pink striped receiving blanket and spreads it on the bed. “Can you get me my laptop?”

Dutifully, Logan bounds from the room and double-times it to her office for the computer. When he returns, Veronica is unsuccessfully trying to make snug folds around the wriggling, crying baby. “Here, you take this, and I’ll finish,” he offers.

Veronica relinquishes the swaddling to boot up her laptop, but she doesn’t cede control. “You fold up the bottom next, and don’t try to straighten her legs.”

Even if he was supposed to, straightening Wyatt’s kicking legs would be impossible. He holds her arm down to her side and pulls the bottom up, folding it over her shoulder.

“It needs to be tight.” No longer content to issue stage directions, Veronica abandons the computer to help him finish rolling and tucking and folding Wyatt into a cotton cocoon.

Logan scoops her off the bed, and cradles her head in his palm, starts to gently bounce. “Is this what they mean by snug as a bug in a rug?” He makes soft shushing noises until her warbling cries fade.

Veronica sits on the bed, pulls the discarded pacifier out from beneath her leg, and tosses it on the nightstand next to her sandwich. “Thanks for my snack.” Scooching back on the mattress, she reclaims her comfortable spot, and takes a bite of the peanut butter sans jelly. She lifts a corner of the bread, wrinkles her nose. “It’s crunchy.”

“That’s all we have. Do you want an omelet instead?” Her head tilts like she’s considering, and Logan tries to sell it. “With cheese and bacon?” Anticipating what is bound to be a yes, he returns Wyatt to the co-sleeper. The crying is instant. Loud and insistent like an ignored car alarm.

Dropping her sandwich on the plate, Veronica leans forward to peer over the edge of the bassinet. “Swaddling is supposed to work. Think we did it wrong?”

Logan doesn’t see how - it’s not that complicated. “Maybe she doesn’t like it?”

Veronica huffs in frustration, grabs the computer and Googles–how to swaddle your newborn–clicks the video link. The man totes the ‘happiest baby on the block’ method of swaddling and generously refers to the bawling infant as “a little fussy.” Veronica watches the two minute video twice.

“See? You’re supposed to LIKE being swaddled.” Veronica angles the laptop screen so Wyatt can witness the happy, quiet baby in the video. It doesn’t have any effect. Actually, Logan’s pretty sure Wyatt’s cries get LOUDER. Her scrunched face turning red with the effort. Veronica looks ready to cry along with her.

“You should take your pain pills and get some sleep.” Logan leans over the side of the co-sleeper, untucks the burrito-folded blanket, and picks up the baby. Turning her on her side, he holds her to his chest. “Wyatt and I will bond.”

Relief spreads across Veronica’s face—forehead unwrinkling and the pinched lines around her mouth disappearing—and then she bites her bottom lip, anxious. “Are you sure?”

“It’s not my first time being yelled at by a tiny, angry blonde.” And from the way Veronica glares at him, it won’t be his last. “Get some rest,” he amends, kissing her temple. “I can hold down the fort. You’ve done more than your share of the work already.”

She smiles, corner of her mouth quivering in a way that proves even HER endurance has limits, and sinks back on her mountain of pillows with a sigh. He grabs the laptop, which is autoplaying the fourth in a series of apparently-unrealistic swaddling videos, and carts both it and his still ‘fussing’ daughter out of the room.

Halfway down the hall, the cries climb in volume, thin and shrill like the howl of some small exotic animal. He sets the laptop hurriedly on the foyer console so he has both hands free to pat and rock.

“Got her looks and my impulse control, did you?” he asks stroking a palm along her tiny back and marveling that an actual human being can be this small. “Good thing this household will be liquor cabinet and Aston Martin free.”

Wyatt grumbles but subsides, head tilting to rest on his shoulder. “Hey, what about we try out that sling thing, huh? It’s what all the best-dressed dads are wearing, they tell me, and you know how particular I am about clothes. Or rather, you DON’T know yet, because you’re twenty-eight hours old, but if you’re anything like your mother you’ll catch on quick.”

She grunts, opening her mouth over his pec–maybe she’d enjoy a third dinner. Carrying her into the nursery Veronica nested all over like shopping was going out of style, he says, “Sling first, then bottle. Believe me, I’m familiar with the Mars appetite, but I like to do one thing at a time so I can do it well. Blink if you agree.”

A small fist flails, catching him beneath the jaw, and he says, “Okay THAT you got from me. But thumb on the outside and put your weight behind it, or you’re really only hurting yourself, jellybean.”

“So this is your room.” He spins in a slow circle, supporting her head so she can see the soft green walls and classic Winnie-the-Pooh decals. “Every comfort money can buy and I’ll let you in on a secret we with our inherited wealth seldom admit… money can buy a LOT. Anyway, we hope you like it here, because incompetent though we may be, we plan to keep you for the whole eighteen years. Don’t worry about the crib, I promise to put it together well before it’s needed.”

Last-minute packages are spilled across the waiting crib mattress; he locates the sling, still boxed, and grabs the already-assembled bouncy chair for good measure. “Right, diaper bag is… in the kitchen, if my sleep-deprived memory is correct. Afraid you’ll have to settle for formula just this once. The milk factory is enjoying a well-earned nap, and that thousand-dollar breast pump has yet to earn out.”

Wyatt emits a squawk, and he grins. “Elitist already, huh? I like it. Only the finest formula for you m’dear, cross my heart. And the bottles, I promise, are top of the line.”

It’s relatively simple to haul his catch into the living room; the harness on the bouncy chair isn’t nearly as intimidating as the car seat. He straps her in snugly, since her head has a tendency to loll. She watches him with bright, curious eyes as he rips open the sling-box and withdraws what looks like a Lawrence of Arabia cape.

“Fabulous.” He twists yards of soft grey fabric between his hands, trying to picture how they might comfortably cradle an infant. “I can build a lean-to in ten minutes flat, and survive drown-proofing with flair, but this definitely wasn’t covered in survival training.”

Remembering the computer, and the YouTube videos it can access, he books back to the hall. The minute Logan clears the living room door, the screeching resumes…louder, now, as if she’s got a forty-year-old opera singer’s lungs hidden in that six-pound frame.

His mouth shapes the word fuck but he manages not to say it, since begin as you mean to go on. In one move, he swoops up the computer, pivots, and heads back to the world’s smallest drill sergeant before she can wake her exhausted mother.

Wyatt’s gaze locks on him when he reappears, and her screeches seem to GAIN intensity–short, sharp bursts of offended noise like she’s chewing him out, pissed-off-Mars-style. He can’t help but laugh, bends way, way down to kiss her forehead; this decreases the noise level from ‘beyond furious’ to ‘baleful’.

“Cleary this chair is substandard,” he says, bouncing it with one foot as he types, thanking god his Naval-aviation career taught him fine-motor dexterity and multitasking. “I’ll be letting you speak to the manager’s manager about it, since those screams of yours could make anyone do ANYTHING.”

There’s a video from the sling-maker’s website in the list, so he plays that; follows the directions of the world’s most monotone Earth Mother as she expertly drapes the thing around herself and deposits a Betsy Wetsy inside. Wyatt’s chair harness unbuckles, thankfully, with the press of one latch. But when he deposits her in the supposedly-cozy nest he’s fashioned, it closes around her like an Invasion of the Body Snatchers pod, and she disappears from view.

“Shit,” he says, breaking his own rules as he shoves fabric aside, and rescues his daughter from the evil-but-kitten-soft depths. He tucks her against his chest, struggling to remove the strap from around his neck without garroting himself. And just like that, again, she quiets.

Light dawns at last in his badly-undercaffeinated brain.

“It’s not about independence at all with you, is it?” he asks, tilting her far enough back to study her face. She blinks at him, mouth twisting, and emits a complacent squawk. “You couldn't care less about swaddling versus freedom–you just want to be HELD.”

He traces a finger along her brow, marveling at how, despite her tininess, he can already see Veronica in her face. Her little hand flails, opening like a starfish. Smacks against his pinkie and closes on it, gripping him tight. And he’s had enough experience falling in forever-love to recognize the emotion washing over him.

“If that’s what you need,” he tells her, serious. “It’s what you’ll always get. I’m here for you, jellybean. In this house, you’ll be treated like the queen you are.”

Wyatt grunts, wiggling closer, and he says, “Yeah, that’s nice to know, huh? And it’s a nice house too, don’t you think? I mean I realize it’s your first, but you’ve already proved you’re discerning.”

“Ah-na-na-na,” she says, and he says, “I completely agree. And it’s just dawned on me that this is MY first real home, too, so I think we must just be…really, really lucky.”

He settles back into the comfortable sofa, making the infant equivalent of an easy chair out of his leg and arm. Wyatt cuddles in, eyes starting to drift closed, and he smiles.

“This parent thing isn’t too difficult - you just need to stay this little,” he tells her, reaching for the remote. Clicks the TV on and hits mute, activating the subtitles with his thumb.

By the time he’s got the search menu up, she’s almost asleep, drowsy gaze still fixed on his face.

Logan flips through the channels. “What should we watch? Easy Rider?” He glances at the baby; with a sigh, her eyes shut at last. “Too soon? Okay, what about The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly?”

The title ‘Parenthood’ stops his channel-surfing. He hits the info button: Steve Martin’s character is driven to be the best father he can be because of his dissatisfaction with his own childhood.

Logan smirks. “Looks like we found the perfect movie,” he tells her, and settles in to watch.