Beta credit goes to Sarah, Joey. and Amy.
Shae handed Wallace her duffle bag, then turned to Veronica and Logan. "Okay, I made up the guest room for you guys. The list of emergency contacts is on the fridge. I woke up Noah to tell him what's going on, but the poor thing was half asleep. He did murmur something about Logan and Mickey Mouse pancakes."
Logan smiled as if he'd just received a golden ticket. "Good to know my pancakes won the kid over."
"Are you sure about this, Veronica?" Wallace asked his friend warily.
"You sound like I have zero experience with kids," she defensively replied. "I've babysat before you know, and I do have a little brother who thinks I'm the greatest sister on earth when he comes during his summer breaks."
"Hunter's not struggling with potty training, V," Wallace replied. "I just want you to know what you're dealing with."
"We'll be fine," she said, waving off his concern and trying not to feel offended by his lack of confidence in her to keep his son alive while he was away. He was just being an overprotective papa, she reasoned with herself, and she had plenty of experience with one of those growing up. "You guys have enough to worry about. Please don't worry about Noah."
Wallace sighed and gave a smile. "Okay, but please don't take him on stakeouts."
Veronica tilted her head to the side and crossed her arms. "What do you take me for? The kid has to be at least five before that's even an option."
Wallace nodded and snickered. "I know, I know I'm going a bit overboard, but we never left him like this before, you know."
"Noah's in safe hands man" Logan said as he draped his arm around Veronica's shoulders.
"We know he is," Shae said, "All kidding aside, thanks again you guys for running over here and staying with him." She turned to her husband and let out a weary breath. "We should get going."
Once the Fennels left, Veronica and Logan went to check on their charge with Pony trailing behind them. They soundlessly peeked into Noah's room. In the soft beam of light from the hallway, the sleeping boy looked like a peaceful angel cuddled up with his favorite stuffed rabbit in his crib.
Maybe it was the precious moment or maybe it was her exhausted, fogged up head, but Veronica thought the next few days would be a piece of cake.
She was wrong.
"I want Mommy!" Noah screamed standing in the middle of his room clad only in his Huggies Pull-Ups, shaking his head and squirming out of her reach as she tried to get him dressed.
The morning had started off with all smiles and giggles over Logan's Mickey pancakes, but as soon as breakfast was over Noah became antsy, turning toward the front window and door, wondering when his parents would come back.
"Your mommy went to see your grandpa," Veronica said in a calm tone, trying for the fourth time to get his PAW Patrol shirt over his moving head. "He got hurt, remember?"
The toddler's bottom lip quivered. "I—I want Daddy."
"He's with your mommy," she tried to explain in simple terms that he could understand. "They're helping your grandpa right now. And Uncle Logan and I are here to help you while they do that, Noah, but I need you to help us by being a good boy and put on your clothes. Can you do that for me, please?
"No, no, no!" Noah hollered and shook his head before making a beeline toward the doorway
So much for reasoning.
"Ah, where are you going, buddy?" Logan asked as he scooped the tyke up and walked into the room.
"I want Mommy and Daddy," Noah whined, trying to wiggle out of Logan's arms.
"He won't put on his shirt and pants," Veronica informed her husband.
"Well, I get those days too," Logan said looking straight at the toddler man-to man. "Sitting around in your undies all day does have many pros. You can watch cartoons and pig-out without getting your clothes dirty, but it also means we can't go to Chuck E. Cheese later."
Noah's eyes became wide.
"Tell you what," Logan went on, "if you get dressed, we can try to get your mom and dad on Facetime before we go get pizza. What do you say, buddy?"
A big smile burst out across the kid's face and he gave a nod.
"Bribery, huh?" Veronica sent Logan a slight smirk a half hour later as they sat at the kitchen table that looked out over the living room. Noah had calmed down after a five-minute video chat with his parents. Wallace and Shae promised him that they would be home in a few days and told him to be good for Auntie Veronica and Uncle Logan. Now the toddler was happily cuddled up with Pony watching cartoons.
"Hey, when in doubt, use what you know will work," Logan said and shrugged, nodding toward the content child on the sofa as if to say he won the first battle of the World War of Tantrums. "The kid can't say no to Chuck E. Cheese."
Veronica took a sip from her mug of coffee and then said, "Promising treats for good behavior may work for pets, Logan, but it only makes for spoiled rotten children, you know."
"Ah, but Noah isn't our child. We're only the fun babysitters here, Veronica." Her husband gazed at her a moment as if he discovered some hidden message in her eyes. "Unless we are talking in terms of our future children, that would be a different matter entirely" he said, his voice keeping with the same light tone, but it seemed forced.
"Good to know," she simply said before steering the conversation into safer territory as she stood up. "Speaking of fun and children, will you be able to hold down the fort with this child while I run some errands?"
Logan gave a nod. "And by errands, you mean working the Anderson case?"
"I want to track down Balotelli and find out how involved he is with Donna Anderson," she said as she poured the remaining contents of the mug down the drain, trying to ignore the nagging thoughts in the back of her mind. Was Logan serious now? Veronica wondered. This was the first time he brought up the future and children since before the bombing.
Initially, it had come as a relief to her. They'd managed to bypass that winding road of uncertainty in therapy. The notion of having a baby came with a whole other set of baggage she hadn't wanted to unpack yet until last night. Why did Wallace have to joke around about the pitter-patter of little feet? Now she pondered why Logan had gone radio silent on the subject for over a year.
She shook away such thoughts and stuck to the topic at hand. "And then I'll do a quick drive-by the lieutenant's place and see if I can snoop around a bit."
"Can you do me a favor?" Her husband raised both his brows and smirked as he stepped in front of her, putting his own mug in the sink.
"Which is what?"
"I doubt Wallace would appreciate me having to take Noah to bail you out, so please don't get arrested for breaking and entering."
"I'll do my best." Veronica smiled and kissed him, keeping their future uncertainties at bay for now.
When Veronica pulled up to Balotelli's bungalow, it wasn't the ex-con and present paramedic she saw come dashing out the door, chasing after a golden retriever.
It was Donna Anderson.
Her shiny brown hair seemed to dance in the breeze as she laughingly called after the dog while he ran through the sprinklers. Gone was the drab, grief-stricken woman worried about her missing child.
What the fuck?
Veronica slammed her car door, watching the woman's eyes meet hers as if she'd been caught on the wrong side of the tracks.