|Little Toe in the Water 1/1
||[Jun. 15th, 2010|12:07 pm]
Title: Little Toe in the Water
Pairing: Michelle Dessler/Tony Almeida, John Sheppard/Elizabeth Weir
Word Count: 5,220
Spoilers: None – Takes place a few years after The Perfect Dive.
Summary: Adventures in babysitting for Tony and Michelle.
Author's Note: Many many many thanks to joyfulfeather as always for the wonderful beta, and I'm sooooo incredibly sorry I haven't posted this and appreciated her hard work sooner.
The bed shook ever so slightly, but it was enough to jostle Michelle awake.
Thinking the source of the disturbance was the black lab Tony had presented to her on Valentine's Day a year earlier, she squawked and made sleepy shooing motions, hoping to discourage Jana from staying. Instead, the movement continued – the dog never followed her orders – and she sighed, nudging Tony lightly with her foot.
"Honey, make the dog get off the bed."
Behind her, Tony just grunted and tightened his grip on her torso, pressing his face deeper into her hair. He'd snuggled up behind her as soon as they'd turned out the lights and had yet to let go. She loved that he still did that.
A quiet sniffle made her realize that it wasn't the dog clambering onto the bed. Opening her eyes again, she smiled sleepily.
"What's wrong, baby girl?"
The child's eyes welled with tears, and Michelle hurriedly sat up, disentangling her arms from Tony's to lift the small girl off the ground and onto her lap. Tony grumbled at the change in position, but snuggled close again, nuzzling his face into her waist. She smiled fondly down at him before turning back to the little girl in her arms. Brushing her pale cheeks with soft kisses, she rocked, gently rubbing Victoria's back to soothe her.
"It's okay, sweetie. I've got you. Did you have a bad dream?"
Victoria nodded, clasping Michelle's t-shirt tightly in her fist. Michelle kissed her temple again and she felt Tony shift as his hand reached up and rubbed their charge's bare knee. Victoria was still sniffling, but seemed to have calmed down a little bit.
Michelle rubbed the back of her head slowly. "It's okay, Uncle Tony and I are here. Everything's going to be fine."
Victoria rubbed her eyes sleepily and Michelle nodded encouragingly. "That's it, go back to sleep. We've got you."
Michelle felt Tony nod as he agreed softly. A second later he backed away and made room for a third person between them. Once he seemed to be settled, she leaned to the side, allowing the little girl to crawl the rest of the way across her lap and curl up against Tony's chest.
"There you go, baby girl," Tony praised quietly, combing Victoria Sheppard's hair away from her face. The child sighed softly, making both adults smile. They'd spent the last three years watching her calm as soon as her father put her against his chest; it seemed that Tony would do in John Sheppard's absence.
Once Victoria seemed settled, Michelle leaned back again, reaching across her back and planting a soft kiss on Tony's lips. He smiled sleepily against her mouth, pressing back gently. When they pulled apart, he took her hand before it could retreat back onto her side, kissing her wedding ring gently.
"Night, honey," she echoed, settling on her side facing him and lacing their fingers together on Victoria's back.
"Night, little one," they murmured in unison.
As tired as she was, Michelle didn't drift off immediately. It was strange having a third body in bed with them, especially so close. Jana always stayed at the foot of the bed if Tony allowed her to sleep with them, which he usually didn't. It just felt strange having to reach across someone else to feel Tony breathe. Usually he was right there for her to touch at will.
Victoria had been staying with them for the last three days after Elizabeth had been called to Washington for a conference. Needing a break, she and John had decided to make it a long weekend. With the trip being so spur of the moment, and Teyla and Ronon also being out of town, Michelle and Tony were the next closest people to watch the little girl. She knew them, she loved them, and although they weren't used to watching her for that much consecutive time, they were doing fine. One nightmare was nothing to be concerned about, Michelle knew, but she still made a mental note to tell Elizabeth when they came to pick Victoria up.
Tony's hand squeezed hers gently, and she settled more firmly into her pillow, falling back to sleep within seconds.
~ ~ ~
Happy squeals, chirpy laughter, and a low, masculine chuckle gave her assurance that Tony was awake. She'd been out the door before either of her bed's other occupants had woken up, and she'd wondered on the drive home if they were going to be up and about when she got back. It was only eleven fifteen, after all.
She stopped in the hallway, dropping her purse and work bag before kicking off her shoes. Using the laughter as her guide, she wandered into the living room.
Her brow furrowed a little when she entered and Victoria appeared to be alone in the room. Tony didn't usually let her out of his sight, but for all she knew he could have gone into the kitchen for a drink of water. The child's face split into a smile, and she squealed Michelle's name, running to her like she hadn't seen her in months, not the few hours it had actually been. Scooping her almost-niece up, Michelle kissed her on the forehead. Victoria gave her a noisy kiss back before throwing her arms around Michelle's neck.
Michelle looked around, bouncing Victoria on her hip. She was a small girl, which meant she was all elbows and knees.
"What've you and Uncle Tony been getting into while I was at work?"
Victoria grinned, looking completely, scarily, identical to her father. She squirmed to be let down, and Michelle complied. Victoria immediately gripped her hand, tugging her insistently over to the pile of things by the far wall. Michelle saw pillows and blankets, both from the couch and her bed, books, and even two dining room chairs.
"Is a fort!"
"Looks like a pile of stuff to me," she teased.
"Hey, I'll have you know we've worked really hard on this today, Michelle," Tony groused playfully, unearthing himself from the pile of linens, nearly giving her a heart attack in the process. Tony grunted as Victoria tackled him atop the pillows, retaliating by poking the little girl's sides until she scrambled to the other side of the tent, still twitching with laughter.
Michelle glanced down at him in amusement. "So if this is Victoria's fort, what does that make you, Tony? The moat monster?"
She shrieked when Tony brandished a pillow from the stack under his head and whacked it across her knees. Taking advantage of her surprise, he pulled her down onto the floor with him. Victoria giggled and Tony turned to her, flashing a grin.
"What're you looking at, shortstuff?"
Victoria giggled again, and then yawned, crawling back to curl up against Tony's side. Rising up on one arm, Michelle reached across her husband to stroke Victoria's wispy soft hair. She'd popped her thumb into her mouth, and smiled around the digit at the gentle touch of Michelle's hand. Settling more firmly against Tony, Victoria's eyes slid shut.
After she was sure the baby was asleep, Michelle withdrew her hand, settling it instead on Tony's chest.
"No fair," she whispered. "Last night was the first time I didn't have to beg and plead to get her to sleep, and you just lie there and she passes out on you."
Tony snickered quietly. "Putting girls to sleep is an Almeida specialty, didn't ya know?"
Michelle laughed soundlessly, dipping her head and pressing a soft kiss on his nose. Her lips bumped his next, pressing closer and opening just enough to taste the fruit loops he's undoubtedly shared with Victoria. She pulled away just as Tony's tongue darted out to touch her top lip.
"Hi," she greeted quietly upon pulling away.
"Tease," he muttered, beckoning her to settle down and get comfortable against him.
"Children present," she reminded lightly, resting her cheek on his shoulder. Beside her, Tony grinned, and she felt his hand snake around her, palm settling warmly against her abdomen. She smiled into his t-shirt. She wasn't yet showing, but her husband swore he could tell. He swore he could feel his child even if it was less than two inches long.
"Everything okay at work?" he asked, reminding her of the call she'd gotten at 7 am, and the semi-frantic request for someone to come in and smooth things out. Both she and Tony had taken Friday and Monday off to stay home with Victoria, but problems had arisen despite their rather stern reminders to keep them to a minimum. Tony had been the one to go in the first time – late Friday afternoon, no less – so today was her turn.
"Just the usual. Chloe and Adam having turf wars and nothing getting done because of it. One locked the other out of the system last night, only they inadvertently locked everyone out. It was a mess."
Tony sighed. "Jack needs to rein her in. She knows Adam has issues with her and she still pushes him. Then he pulls crap like that."
Michelle nodded absently, shifting her hand to rest over his heart. Maybe he was on to something here; Tony Almeida: Sleep Aid. She was certainly relaxed enough. "Maybe you should talk to him when we go back in," she murmured, sounding a tad drowsier than she expected. Tony nodded.
"You fallin' asleep on me, Michelle?"
She yawned, shaking her head slightly. "I'll be okay."
"Sure you will, sweetheart. Why don't you take a nap? You were up pretty early."
Michelle closed her eyes, only to have them snap open again. She really wasn't that tired. She was just so… relaxed.
If Tony made fun of her, she didn't hear it.
Somewhere on the fringe of her consciousness, Michelle heard Victoria cackle at something before Tony quietly reminded her of her inside voice. Satisfied that he had things handled, Michelle let her eyes slip shut again. A few minutes later, she heard Tony yelp, only to be shushed by Victoria.
"You okay?" Michelle called quietly, rolling onto her side and peeking out from under the now completed fort wall. Sometime after she'd fallen asleep, they'd added the final sheet coverings. Across the room, Tony and Victoria jumped, heads snapping up as guilty gazes settled on her.
"I didn't mean to wake you, sweetheart, I'm sorry."
Shaking her head, Michelle yawned once before finding her way out of the fort and crossing the room. She dropped onto the couch behind Tony, squeezing his neck gently and brushing her hand through his messy hair. He never could manage to find a comb when he was just going to be bumming around at home. That was okay; she was more than a little enthralled with his messy half-curls, and she hoped that the baby took after him in that respect. There was no reason to want to sentence a child to a lifetime of frizz like her mother had.
"It's okay. How long was I asleep?"
Tony sent Victoria off to grab something – presumably one of the five million toys John had carted into the house and settled in the guest room before they left four days ago – and dropped his head back against the couch. Silently Michelle ducked, pecking his mouth gently.
"About an hour, maybe a little more. I lost track of time with you two snoring on me."
She tweaked his nose. "Well, you said you had a special gift, honey."
Tony's reply was cut off by a loud crash and Victoria's startled squeak. Both adults jumped up, finding their charge standing by a dropped toy, a sheepish but content looking puppy, and an entire plate of cookies that had been smashed to pieces. Michelle scooped up the toy and the child while Tony dealt with Jana and the ruined afternoon snack. Victoria's eyes welled up and she looked down at the cookies sadly.
"I's sorry, Uncle Tony. I dropped them," she whispered grimly, turning her face into Michelle's neck before she could let him see her cry. Michelle rocked her gently, rubbing her back and murmuring assurances that Tony wasn't mad at her. She'd dropped them, probably with a little more help than not from Jana. Accidents happened.
When Tony finished cleaning up the mess, complete with shooing Jana back into the yard, he plucked Victoria from Michelle's grasp, promising her in his most patient tones that he wasn't upset, he was just sad that they wouldn't get cookies with their lunch. Michelle watched the scene from across the room, having taken it upon herself to get lunch started. She smiled widely. He was going to be a great dad; every day they spent with Victoria just solidified that for her.
Once her tears had dried, Victoria asked to be put down. Michelle watched her wipe her eyes and square her shoulders with Elizabeth's determination before she settled in her seat, waiting patiently for the peanut butter sandwiches Michelle was making.
Sharing a grin with her husband, Michelle directed him to find something other than chips to have with their food.
"There are carrots in the fridge, grab those."
Tony started to make a face, but she raised her eyebrow and looked over at Victoria. Tony rolled his eyes in response but nodded, grabbing the carrots as ordered. He stopped behind her, bag in hand, tugging her to rest against him. She grinned, reaching back and pulling his mouth to meet hers. Dragging herself away from him just seconds later, she shoved two plates his way and pointed him to the table. Victoria was leaning, elbow propped up on the table, cheek resting in her palm, looking bored.
"Here ya go, shortstuff," Tony teased, setting her plate down in front of her.
Michelle joined them a few minutes later with her own plate, just in time to witness Victoria offering the crust of her sandwich to Tony, smiling widely through a mouthful of peanut butter. Grinning, Tony took the bread pieces from her, popping them into his mouth one by one.
While she admonished Victoria gently for talking with her mouth full, Tony gave Michelle's half-sandwich and handful of carrots a long look, raising an eyebrow.
"That's it? That's all you're having?"
She shrugged. "I don't really feel like much else."
He pursed his lips, but didn't push. She hadn't had much in the way of morning sickness so far, but her usual appetite was mostly gone. She used to eat just about anything he put in front of her; now her stomach only let her eat about half as much. She knew it worried him, but since the doctor had said everything was progressing normally he tried not to push too much.
"Milk?" Tony asked abruptly.
"Please," Michelle requested, smiling when Victoria echoed the sentiment. Tony stood, dropping a kiss on his wife's forehead, just in case she thought he was picking at her. He returned carrying three glasses – one medium sized for him, one pint sized for Victoria, and one jumbo sized for Michelle. She snorted but took the hint and drained half the glass within seconds.
"Sheppard called while you were asleep. He and Elizabeth were about to get on the plane. They said they'll head over here once they get their bags and everything."
Michelle nodded. "They really don't have to come straight here. We've had her for four days, I think we can handle an extra few hours. Right, baby girl?" she asked, reaching out to poke Victoria.
Victoria laughed, chomping on a carrot experimentally. Michelle called it a win when she didn't spit it out automatically. Victoria Sheppard was pretty much known for being a finicky eater.
"That's okay," Michelle added, touching Victoria's fine hair again. "I bet they just can't wait to see you."
Victoria beamed around her carrot. Calmly, she asked to be excused and tore off just as soon as Michelle nodded. A second or two later she ran back into the room, quickly throwing her arms around both Michelle and Tony in turn.
"Can we go play with Jana now? Please? Please? Pleeeeaaase, Uncle Tony?"
Tony chuckled, bouncing her on his knee. "Ask Aunt Michelle if I can go."
Victoria turned the wide, pleading gaze on her and it was all Michelle could do to keep a straight face. John Sheppard's famous puppy face was staring at her via his daughter. Michelle smothered a grin.
"Has Uncle Tony eaten all his carrots?" she asked, her barely contained laughter making her voice sound unusually high.
Tony waggled his empty plate at her. "Yes, Aunty Michelle," he quipped.
Her eyes narrowed. "Go play you two."
Victoria hopped off Tony's lap, grabbing his hands and directing him to move with all of Elizabeth's authority. Michelle snorted, turning her face into her hand and laughing.
"Get out here, Michelle," Tony called, closing the door behind him.
She cleared the table quickly and joined them outside. When she got there, Tony was holding Jana still while Victoria rubbed her head gently. Having Sedge at home really helped Victoria to know that it was best to be nice to the large doggy. She'd never been anything but sweet to Jana, and Jana always rewarded her with big, sloppy kisses on her face.
Today was no different; halfway through petting the dog's head, Victoria's high-pitched giggles filled the backyard as Jana licked her face. Jana took off, running a circle around Tony before tearing off to the other side of the yard. She brought a ball over to Michelle, dropping it at her feet and nuzzling against her hand.
"All these playmates, and you want me? You don't want daddy to play with you? Or Victoria? Just me?" she sing-songed, scratching her puppy's head lightly. Jana just wagged her tail in response. Like she'd expected much different. Smiling, Michelle bent down and picked up the ball. She lobbed it toward the end of the yard, sending Jana scurrying after it.
Victoria called Jana over, holding out her hand and asking for the ball. Jana nudged her hand, but didn't drop the ball. Instead she loped in circles around Tony and Victoria, trying to goad them into chasing her. Victoria took the bait, following Jana as she trotted around the perimeter of the backyard. Laughing, Tony sauntered over to the edge of the patio where Michelle was standing. She leaned into him as his arm curled around her shoulders and his lips landed on her forehead.
"You feeling okay?"
"A little tired, still. I'll be fine." She kissed his cheek quickly and returned her attention to Victoria. She was still chasing Jana, holding out a stick to trade. It wasn't working.
Michelle snorted; Jana was just being ornery now. She patted Tony's chest lightly. "Go help her out, honey."
Sighing, Tony nodded, removing his arm from her back and clapping his hands loudly, calling Jana over to them. Michelle watched in amusement as he stepped in front of her, spreading his knees and leaning over to catch the dog as she came bounding across the grass before they both got mowed down. The two of them wrestled for the ball, but Tony came away victorious. He held the jumping dog back while he handed it over to Victoria.
Beaming, Victoria threw it behind her, scrambling out of the way when Jana tore out of Tony's grip after it.
"Good arm," Tony praised high fiving Victoria. "You've been practicing. You'll be throwing fastballs in no time."
"Daddy said I should be a quartermack," Victoria argued cheerily, making both adults chuckle at her mispronunciation. Their laughter didn't faze her. The football/baseball rivalry had been going on since before Victoria was even born. Tony was firmly on the side of pin-stripes and four hundred and forty-six feet from home plate to center. John Sheppard, of course, was all about the option and the Hail Mary. Michelle hoped that once their own child was born, Tony might ease off the campaign to turn Victoria into the first female MLB player.
"Your daddy might just be right," Tony admitted, ruffling Victoria's hair. Victoria grinned again, reaching for the ball when Jana returned.
Michelle touched Tony's back, silently indicating that she was going to sit down. She stood up almost all day at work, running back and forth to Tony's office with reports; she'd rather sit when she was at home. Not to mention that keeping up with Victoria's energy was tiring, even when she was just watching. Tony nodded but tugged her back quickly, glancing sideways at Victoria to make sure everything was okay before pecking her lightly on the lips.
"You'll say something if you're not okay, right?"
She nodded, winding her arms around his neck, feeling his fingers comb into her hair possessively. Her forehead landed against his cheek. She did want to sit down, but she loved when he held her like this, too.
"I promise. I'm just tired. Baby's zapping all my energy," she murmured quietly. They mostly avoided talking about her pregnancy in front of Victoria, not wanting the girl to spill the beans before they were ready.
"You should eat more," he reminded, finally showing her how concerned he was.
Michelle nodded. "I will. I mean, I'll try."
He kissed the corner of her mouth lightly. "I'll make something good for dinner."
"You always do."
~ ~ ~
While Tony puttered around the kitchen getting dinner together, it was her job to wrangle Victoria into the tub for her nightly bath. Really, it was the fairest trade they could make; she was much more adept at handling a splashing child than a simmering skillet. Playing with Jana must have tired Victoria out, though, because she was content to push one of her bath toys around the water and let Michelle soap up her hair and body. After getting her rinsed off, Michelle drained the water and lifted her out. Victoria punched her arms through the sleeves of the terrycloth robe and Michelle wrapped a towel around her hair. It was probably the easiest bath she'd ever had.
Michelle could tell she was cold by the way she hopped up and down, huddling close as she was herded down the hall to her room. Scrambling up onto the bed, Victoria covered herself with a blanket while Michelle grabbed her clothes.
"Okay, let's do this fast and you won't be cold anymore. One, two three!"
They were both giggling by the time Victoria was dressed. Michelle smirked as she scrubbed the towel across her hair, leaving it dangling on top of her head while she went looking for a comb. On her way back she saw Victoria sneaking down the hall, calling out Tony's name for help getting out of having her hair brushed. Michelle caught up with her in the kitchen, where Tony was dangling her upside down with one arm while the other was gathering dinner plates from the cabinet.
Michelle snorted while Victoria just giggled. Tony grinned, offering her either the kid or the plates.
"C'mere you," she took Victoria from Tony's grip, pulling her upright in the process. "This'll be quick."
Ten minutes later, the girl's hair was combed away from her face, and Michelle let her have free reign once more. Even though the TV was on, Victoria chose to go find Tony again, peppering him with questions about what he was doing and why. Michelle just watched, amused, until Tony requested through a pleading look that she intervene.
"Come on, honey, let's go play until Uncle Tony says it's time for dinner. I'm feeling the need to play some 'Go Fish.'"
When Tony came in to tell them dinner was ready, he found them in the middle of the living room floor, giggling. Victoria shot to her feet, pointing accusingly in Michelle's direction.
"Aunt Michelle's cheating!"
Michelle gasped in mock horror. "I am not!"
"She looked at my cards!"
Michelle tugged Victoria into a loose embrace. "You showed them to me, silly. I think you're the one who cheated."
"Are too," she taunted, blowing a raspberry on Victoria's skinny arm.
Tony just smirked, shifting his weight and settling his hands on his hips. "Am I gonna have to separate you two?"
Victoria looked up at him, shaking her head quickly.
"Come on then, dinner's ready."
Michelle watched as Victoria ran to Tony, leaping onto him quickly. He grunted, but caught her anyway. Holding out a hand to Michelle, he helped her to her feet as well.
"So what did you make?" Michelle asked, still holding onto his hand as he led her into the kitchen.
"Just some pasta and sauce for us and chicken fingers for little miss picky here." He set Victoria down on her feet and let her take her place at the table. "That okay?"
Nodding, she squeezed his hand. "Sounds great. What would you like to drink?" She might not cook, but she could handle pouring a glass of wine.
The three of them ended up on the couch after dinner. Without much discussion, they put one of Victoria's favorite movies on, and she settled in Michelle's lap, resting her head against her shoulder. Both of them were on the verge of drifting off when the doorbell rang.
Jana went nuts from outside, and all three of them jumped. Tony extricated himself from underneath two sets of legs and disappeared into the hall. A few seconds later, he led John and Elizabeth inside. They were both smiling, and they definitely looked more refreshed than when they left.
"Mommy!" Victoria clambered out of Michelle's arms, meeting Elizabeth halfway. Elizabeth smiled widely, kissing her baby's cheek gently before turning her loose on John.
Michelle joined Elizabeth in the center of the room, hugging her gently. "Did you have a good trip?"
Elizabeth shrugged, letting Michelle lead the way to the bedroom so they could gather Victoria's many belongings. "The conference itself was tiring, but after that we had fun."
"Good. You looked like you needed a breather when you left." Michelle smirked, glancing up at Elizabeth from across the bed. Her friend nodded, a secretive smile dancing across her lips.
"Did she give you guys too much trouble?" Elizabeth laughed, lifting yet another stuffed animal up. Waggling it at Michelle, she lifted an eyebrow. "I see she managed to con another toy out of you."
Michelle pointed. "That was Tony. Not me."
Elizabeth nodded. "Uh huh."
"No, she was fine. She always is," Michelle promised, moving over to Victoria's suitcase and starting to repack the little pink bag.
Elizabeth hummed, joining her at the dresser. "So why do you look so exhausted? Or do I want to know?" she injected a little bit of humor into her tone.
Michelle glanced away, avoiding the urge to blurt out her secret and ask if everything she'd been feeling was normal. She hadn't even been able to ask Laura to ask Carson, knowing that her friend was a blabbermouth and would go on to tell everyone.
"How far along are you?" Elizabeth murmured, giving her a gentle smile to put her at ease. Michelle bit her lip, feeling herself grin.
"About eleven weeks. We've been trying to keep it quiet for a little while, you know, to give ourselves time to process everything."
An uncharacteristic squeal came from Elizabeth's lips, and Michelle found herself engulfed in a hug. She laughed, squeezing Elizabeth tightly.
"I'm so happy for you, Michelle. Are you okay? Is everything okay? Is there anything I can do?" Elizabeth's questions came rapidly, and Michelle could only nod and shake her head in response.
"Everything is okay, I guess. I haven't had any morning sickness or anything, but I just can't eat much."
Elizabeth frowned slightly, but nodded. "Have you talked to your doctor about it?"
"Tony wants me to."
"If it gets worse, you should," Elizabeth advised. "Are you taking the pre-natals?"
Michelle nodded. She'd been doing everything her OB had instructed her to. "You were tired all the time, too, weren't you?"
Elizabeth nodded. "Oh yeah. I nearly fell asleep at my desk more than a few times. It's completely normal. Some days you'll have nothing but energy, and some days you'll feel like you need to go back to sleep about ten minutes after you get out of bed."
Well, that was a relief. Michelle bent over, grabbing Victoria's slippers and tossing them into her suitcase.
"So Tony took it okay?"
Michelle smirked, nodding. "He's ecstatic."
"Mommy!" Victoria called, thundering into the room and throwing her arms around Elizabeth's waist. "Daddy says come on!"
Both women laughed, and Elizabeth's hand brushed Victoria's hair quickly.
"Alright. Can you go get your toothbrush and toothpaste from the bathroom and take it to Daddy to hold? And ask if he's gotten the rest of your toys, too, okay?"
Victoria nodded sagely, leaving the room.
Sharing a grin with Elizabeth, Michelle handed over one of Victoria's many bags.
"It's fine if she leaves something here. You're here often enough."
"Oh, but I know you won't want John to come banging on the door at two in the morning when she wants Mr. Bear."
"True." Michelle smiled.
Victoria was standing at the door, watching out one of the side windows as John and Tony loaded things into the car. While Elizabeth carried the rest out to her husband, Michelle ducked, giving Victoria a hug.
"I'm gonna miss you, baby girl. Come back and see me soon, okay?"
Victoria nodded, turning in Michelle's arms and holding on tightly. "'Kay."
The front door opened again and the three other adults came traipsing inside. Michelle pressed a kiss to Victoria's temple and stood, hefting the girl in her arms. Elizabeth smiled.
"Thank you again for watching her. I had John give Tony some money-"
"Which I gave back," Tony interjected, causing Elizabeth to roll her eyes.
"So I'm going to give it to you, because I know you're reasonable," Elizabeth teased, handing Michelle a couple of folded bills. "Kids are expensive, you'll need it," she added conspiratorially, winking. Michelle took them with a smile.
"Thought we weren't gonna tell anyone, Michelle?" Tony teased.
"She guessed," Michelle shrugged, grinning.
"Wait, what?" John sounded confused.
Michelle ran her hand down Victoria's back. "I'm pregnant."
Before John could offer his congratulations, his sleepy daughter spoke up, "Whas 'dat?"
"It means there's a baby in my tummy," Michelle explained quietly, ignoring the bemused glances of the others.
Michelle blinked. "Kind of, but a lot smaller. Right now, it's about the size of your hand."
Victoria lifted her hand, looking at it in amazement. "Wow."
Michelle nodded. "Yep."
She handed Victoria over to Tony to say goodbye, and accepted both Elizabeth and John's hug.
"Aunt Michelle?" Victoria asked as soon as Tony set her down, opening the door to lead her outside. "How does the baby get there?"
The four of them stopped, sharing startled glances. Michelle was the first to crack, laughing quickly and patting Victoria's head.
"Ask your mommy and daddy on the way home, sweetie."
Elizabeth and John both shot her a dirty look on the way out. She grinned, slinging her arm around Tony's waist and waving goodbye.