Erin had never really considered exactly how long she was going to take off work. She had been visiting with Shay at least once a week over the past few months and had even pitched in to help on a particularly difficult case. She had started trying to get to back to her pre-pregnancy level of fitness the week Shay had been born. Nothing major just taking Shay for walks to the park or around the shops. She progressed from walking to jogging and then eventually to running. With Shay now three months old she was back to being able to run five miles. Erin hadn't mentioned returning to work, she was certain Kelly would want her to stay home a while longer. With her stuck at home he could expect to receive daily visits from his two beautiful ladies. He delighted in seeing his daughter. Shay recognised him immediately and smiled every time she heard his voice. He loved spending time with her as she wriggled and stretched to try and figure out how to coordinate her limbs. Erin loved watching them spend time together and knew that it was the small moments like these she would miss if she returned to work. Not really sure how to handle her conflicting feelings she decided to talk with Hank. She planned her visit for late in the afternoon hoping they would be finished for the day. Erin was right, the team had been dismissed and all that remained were Olinsky and Voight, both sitting at their desks working away.
"Hey, what you doing here so late?" Hank asked surprised to see her.
"Just thought I'd drop by and run something past you" She answered taking a seat, Shay was sleeping soundly in the baby carrier on her chest.
"Sure, what is it?" He asked closing the folder he had been reading.
"I just need someone to talk to about coming back to work, you're my boss so I figured that was a good place to start" She explained, he was so much more than just her boss.
"You want to come back already?" He questioned slightly surprised, he knew she'd have a hard time staying away but at the same time she really seemed to be enjoying motherhood.
"I think so, I'm not sure though" Erin said hoping he would tell her what she wanted to hear, returning to work would not make her a bad mum.
"Why do you want to come back?" He asked, if she wasn't working for the right reasons she was useless to him and the rest of the unit.
"I love Shay and every little smile makes my day but I look at this city and now more than ever I want to make it a safe place. I want to put away criminals so Shay will have a safe city to grow up in" She answered taking her time to make sure he knew how seriously she was considering the possibility.
"Well I'm happy to have you start whenever you're ready but there's plenty you need to organise. I'm guessing you haven't talked to Kelly" He said with a knowing look, she nodded in response. "He deserves a say in the matter so you need to discuss it with him first. Then there's the issue of what to do with Shay, it's a big deal leaving your baby with someone. I don't want to hear any more about it until you've had time to think about it and talk it through then we'll figure it out" He advised sounding unusually wise.
"Thank you" Erin said, she always trusted his judgement and this was no different.
"That's what I'm here for" He said with a smile.
"I know, sometimes I forget how good you are to talk to" She said rubbing Shay's back to try and keep her asleep. Clearly Shay thought she was missing out on something.
"Is she awake?" He asked noticing Erin's attention shift immediately to the baby when she showed the slightest sign on waking up.
"Yeah, I think she wants to say hello" Erin answered unclipping the carrier, she removed Shay and handed her to Grandpa Hank.
"She's getting big" He commented, he hadn't held her since lunch a fortnight ago.
"She really is, the doctors are really pleased with her" She shared particularly proud of her daughter.
"Good, now take her home to bed" He said handing the baby back.
"We'll talk soon" Erin replied before leaving Hank alone in his office. The car trip home was quiet, Shay couldn't help but fall asleep even if it was only a five minute drive. Erin decided to think about her return to work more seriously then discuss it with Kelly after his shift on Friday night, she would cook dinner and talk about it properly.
Friday arrived quite quickly, Erin stayed in deciding it was too cold to venture out. She hated dressing Shay in multiple layers because it restricted her movement and she got grumpy if she couldn't self soothe by putting her fist in her mouth. They had a quiet day, Shay was happy as long as there was music playing and Erin finally managed to finish her crocheted blanket. Kelly arrived home while Erin was still preparing dinner so he gave Shay a bath then put her to bed. They talked quietly until dinner was ready then moved to the table to eat.
"What's going on?" He asked knowing she always premised serious discussions with his favourite meal.
"I love that you know me so well" She answered shaking her head. It was sad but true that she'd never thought of herself as being deserving of such an amazing relationship.
"I don't know you well enough to know what you're thinking" He said knowing that she was hesitating because she predicted he wouldn't agree with whatever she was planning.
"I want to go back to work" Erin replied knowing there was no point in delaying further.
"Really?" He asked not sure she was being serious.
"Yes" She answered with a great degree of certainty, she'd clearly thought it through.
"Are you sure? You haven't really spent any time away from Shay" Kelly said trying to be the voice of reason.
"I know I'll miss her, I'll just have to find a really good childcare place. You'll look after her when you're not on shift won't you?" She questioned.
"Of course. I'm not going to stop you going back to work but I think you need to be sure. Why don't we go out one night and get someone to watch Shay?" He suggested.
"A test run to see how I handle separation?" Erin asked, though she really hadn't spent more than an hour without Shay over the last few months.
"Something like that" He answered not sure if she liked the idea.
"Okay, I'll organise something for next week" She agreed.
"I don't think it'll be an issue" He said sounding confident, she didn't know if he was being honest or just supportive.
"We'll find out" She said effectively ending the conversation. They ate in silence for a while then discussed a rescue Kelly had made on shift.
"You sure you'll be okay?" Erin asked again knowing she had bombarded Dawson with a lot of information in the last few minutes.
"We'll be fine, and I have your number so don't worry" Dawson confirmed, she had been more than willing to babysit Shay.
"Call me if you need anything" Erin added as Kelly physically pulled her through the door.
"I will" Dawson called before closing the door.
"Still want to go back to work?" Kelly checked, he didn't want to be mean but she already looked stressed and they weren't even out of the building.
"Absolutely" Erin answered, even though she was feeling conflicted she didn't want to show it. They made their way to the restaurant and Kelly pretended not to notice when Erin took her phone to the bathroom. She stood in the cubicle debating whether or not she should call Dawson. She felt like she was in withdrawal, hands shaking ridiculously as she held her phone. It took a few minutes but eventually she convinced herself that Shay would be fine, Dawson was a fully capable paramedic after all. With this thought in mind she returned to the table. Kelly knew she was struggling but was also aware that she was the one who wanted to go back to work.
"She'll be fine" He said unable to bear how pained Erin looked.
"I know" She replied trying hard to smile.
"We can go home if you want" He suggested.
"No" Erin said determinedly. Erin struggled at times but managed to get through the rest of dinner without even looking at her phone. She knew Kelly was testing her when he suggested they go for a walk. It didn't turn out to be a bad idea, the lights of the city made for a beautiful view. They talked about small, stupid things, ice cream flavours and the posters they had had on their bedroom walls growing up. Finally Kelly was satisfied that Erin would be able to handle a day back at work and they returned home. Dawson had had an easy evening with Shay sleeping half the time.
"She was amazing, almost makes me want one" Dawson said, she had been considering the possibility of having a baby once she married Casey and the time with Shay was great practice.
"Good" Erin said trying to sound disinterested, she waited until Kelly was forced to take Shay from Dawson then said goodbye before she let out a sigh of relief. Erin now knew she was capable but did she really want to? The city needed her but Shay needed her more. Maybe she should leave it a little longer.
What do you think? Should Erin go back to work or stay at home with Shay?