Authors Note: This is a future fic in the More Than Friends universe, but it take places before "Is This My Life?" It's a little different from my other stories, I think, but I hope you like it.
Emma quickly tossed items into the washing machine. She wanted to get this load of the baby's clothes going before it was time for another feeding. The amount of clothing this child went through was unbelievable. Aunt Naima hadn't been kidding when she told Emma to put more onesies and sleepers on the baby registry.
As she started up the washer, Emma tried to remember the last time she had washed any of her own clothes. She looked down at the pair of gray leggings she was wearing. Possibly, she had been wearing these since Clay was spun up two days ago. If she looked closer at the spit up stains, she could probably figure it out.
This was Clay's first mission since Lanie was born a little over two weeks ago, making this the first time Emma was on her own with the baby full-time. Clay took some leave when Lanie was born, and he was a great dad, pitching in with everything except the actual feeding since Emma had to do that. Then, Aunt Naima had come by when Clay started going back to the base during the day, but now it was all on Emma.
When the text came through for Clay to report for the mission, he had looked hesitant about going. Usually Emma could see a spark of anticipation in Clay's eyes when he was spun up, but this time he looked down at Lanie in his arms and then back at Emma, and she could see the reluctance there. Although the thought of being alone with the baby made her nervous, Emma briskly took Lanie from Clay and told him to get his things together. She promised they would be fine and waiting for him to come home safe.
There was still a load of dry clothes in the dryer from yesterday. Emma began throwing them into the laundry basket to take to the nursery. As she went to pick up the basket, she heard a cry from Lanie. That signaled the end of any time Emma would have to get anything done, or possibly take a nap, because now she would have to begin the process of trying to get Lanie to eat, a lot of it getting spit up, and then trying to get her to eat some more. Leaving the basket, Emma headed to the bedroom where Lanie was sleeping in her bassinet.
As Emma entered the bedroom, she smiled. Cerberus was sitting on the floor by the bassinet, watching over Lanie. Emma and Clay had been concerned about what the retired military dog's reaction would be to the new baby. Since they had adopted him upon his full retirement from the Navy last year, Cerb had been the center of their attention, and they were worried he might not like sharing it. Instead, he had immediately become Lanie's minder, guarding her wherever she was in the house.
"Hey, pretty girl," Emma said soothingly as she picked up Lanie. "Don't cry. Mommy's here."
Lanie's bassinet was in Emma and Clay's bedroom right now to give Emma easier access to the baby during the night for feedings. She glanced at the bed, which was still unmade from this morning, and decided to sit in the chair in the nursery to feed Lanie. Emma sighed as she headed down the hall with the baby, Cerberus following along. The sheets on the bed definitely needed to be changed, but she figured if Clay cared that much, he could change them when he came home. Back when he was single, she was sure there were times he went longer between changing them on his own bed.
Emma settled herself and the baby into the upholstered rocking chair in the nursery, while Cerb stationed himself nearby. This chair was the most comfortable in the house, which made sense since it was a top of the line breastfeeding chair. She knew because she had checked it out on one of the expectant mother websites. The chair had been a gift from Ash, and she realized Clay's first instinct had been to tell his father to keep the chair, they didn't want it. But Clay hadn't, mainly because it was for Emma and Lanie. Emma would have understood completely if he hadn't accepted it, and she would have been fine with that, but deep down she had to admit, she loved this chair.
"Shh, shh, baby girl," she murmured as she untied her nursing top and freed her breast from the nursing bra.
Lanie was definitely hungry, but she kept turning her head away from Emma's breast instead of latching on. Repositioning the baby, Emma tried again. Crying louder, Lanie continued to turn her head away. Emma stroked Lanie's cheek to get her to turn her head back, but still she wouldn't latch. Sighing in frustration, Emma speculated on why she was so bad at this. Nobody mentioned how hard breastfeeding could be. All the videos and websites showed images of serene mothers and babies enjoying time together as the babies were fed. They made it look like breastfeeding was the easiest and most natural thing in the world. Emma felt like she was a terrible mother because she couldn't seem to get it.
"Come on, Lanie," Emma pleaded. "I know you're hungry."
Finally, Lanie opened her mouth and latched on. And damn did it hurt. The lactation specialist said if it hurt that much, then the baby wasn't latched correctly. Emma's eyes filled with tears, partially from the pain but also from the thought of having to break Lanie's latch and start all over again.
Emma took a deep breath, and then inserted her finger into the side of Lanie's mouth to break the suction. To show how little she appreciated Emma's actions, Lanie began bawling again, even louder. Cerberus stood up and came closer to check everything was fine.
"Shh, shh, it's okay," Emma reassured Lanie. "Let's try again." She glanced down at Cerb, who seemed concerned by the baby's crying. "Don't worry, Cerb, she's just hungry."
Emma repositioned Lanie and tried getting her to latch again. Lanie immediately turned her head and began screeching.
"Shh, shh, don't cry," Emma whispered, stroking Lanie's cheek in an effort to get her to turn her head back.
But Lanie was too upset now to feed, and Emma was close to tears herself. Resting Lanie against her shoulder, Emma gave up on feeding. She began rubbing Lanie's back and slowly rocking in the chair, trying to calm her little girl down a bit before attempting to feed her again.
Continuing to pat Lanie's back, Emma murmured softly to her. Finally, after what felt like forever, Lanie was quieting down. Emma was tempted to make another try at feeding but convinced herself to wait a few more minutes.
Lanie relaxed a little more and Emma figured it was now or never. She shifted Lanie on her lap and tried tickling the baby's lips with her nipple. This time Lanie opened her mouth and latched on with no hesitation. There was still some pain, but not as much as during their previous attempt. Emma checked to make sure Lanie wasn't sucking on her own lower lip and then watched for the suck-swallow-breath pattern the lactation specialist had gone on about. At last, they were doing it right.
Taking some deep breaths to calm herself, Emma rested her head against the chair back. She considered making another appointment with the lactation specialist, but she wasn't sure it would make any difference. The theory of breast feeding wasn't where she had problems, putting it into action was her trouble. Also, instead of making Emma feel more confident, the specialist made her doubt herself even more.
Things could be worse though. A woman she had become friendly with in prenatal yoga class was putting cabbage leaves on her breasts to relieve swelling after her lactation consultant said the cabbage would help with that. At least Emma didn't have to put produce in her bra… yet.
Gulping sounds came from Lanie as she ate. Relieved to see the baby was eating well now, Emma gently wiped away the remains of a tear from Lanie's cheek. Looking down at her little girl, Emma's heart squeezed. She still had a hard time believing this was real and she had a two-week old baby.
From the moment the nurse laid Lanie on Emma's chest after the delivery, Emma was in awe of how perfect her little girl was. Lanie had wisps of blond hair and big blue eyes, which Emma hoped stayed blue like Clay's. She had delicate little fingers and toes, and lying here in Emma's arms she looked so tiny, but having pushed her out, Emma knew Lanie wasn't that small.
Sometimes Emma was overwhelmed by how much she loved Lanie, but other times she was overcome by how much work having a baby was. She knew she could call Aunt Naima for help, but Aunt Naima had enough to do with her job and Jameelah and RJ. Also, it wasn't as if she could solve Emma's problems by magically making Emma better at breast feeding.
Would things be easier, Emma wondered, if her own mother was here to help? Maybe her mother would have helped her be more prepared for how hard this was. Emma wasn't sure, but she did think it would be a lot less difficult to tell her Mom how challenging she was finding all this. How could she tell the other wives, who all juggled with ease raising children, working, and being on their own during deployments?
She took another deep breath. Her hormones had her all over the place, and she was about ready to start sobbing here. Looking down at Lanie, Emma saw the baby was still happily feeding away. She was relieved to be getting something right.
Thinking of her Mom had Emma wishing Alana could meet her namesake. Long before she became pregnant, Emma had decided she wanted to name her baby after her mother, assuming the baby was a girl.
Early in her pregnancy, before they even knew if it was a girl or a boy, Emma and Clay had started to discuss possible names. Clay was insistent that if it was a boy, he didn't want the baby named after him. He thought their son should have his own name and not feel he had to live up to any legacy of Clay's. Worried Clay might feel the same about naming their potential daughter after her mother, Emma hadn't mentioned the idea to him at the time, wanting to wait for a better moment.
Trying to relax as she continued to feed her daughter, Emma remembered the conversation she eventually had with Clay. They had been curled up in bed together with only a small lamp on the bedside table warmly lighting the room. She had recently started feeling the little flutters of their baby moving, and Clay was resting his head on the small mound of her belly with his hand lying below, trying to feel something despite the fact it was much too early. Clay's disappointment at not feeling anything had been obvious.
"I'm sorry, babe," she commiserated, giving him a kiss on the top of the head. "In a few weeks you should be able to feel something."
"I know," he answered with a sigh. "I just feel like you and the baby have this whole connection that I can't be a part of." He sat up and pulled Emma close. "I'm jealous."
She blinked back the tears that started to well up at Clay's words. Since becoming pregnant, she pretty much cried at anything, but she was touched at how great a dad she thought he was going to be. In some ways, Emma felt he was even more excited about the baby than she was.
She smiled and gave him another kiss. "I think that's probably nature's way of making it up to me for the fact I can't have any alcohol or caffeine and that I have to push this kid out."
Clay chuckled. "Yeah, okay," he said, "I guess I'm not so jealous of all that."
They laid there quietly while Clay continued to stroke her belly. Emma decided it was a good time to ask him about naming the baby after her Mom.
"Clay?" She asked hesitantly. "Do you remember the other day when you said you didn't want to name the baby after you if it was a boy?"
"Yeah," he replied uncertainly.
"Do you feel the same way about naming the baby after other people?" She questioned, quickly adding, "I mean, would you be okay with naming the baby after my Mom if it's a girl?"
"Oh, Em," he said quietly, "I think it would be nice if we named the baby Alana. I just don't want our son to feel like he has to live up to some whole SEAL image thing. I have enough issues with my father. I don't want that with our kid."
Understanding now what Clay's concern was, Emma nodded. She knew it was important to him to be a better father than his own had been. Pausing a moment, Emma spoke again. "If we do name her Alana, we still need a middle name to go with it."
They were both quiet for a minute as they thought about names that might work with Alana.
Breaking the silence, Clay offered, "My grandmother's name was Rose."
"That's pretty," Emma reflected. "Do you want to use your grandmother's name too?"
"Actually, yeah," Clay responded, a little bemused. "I hadn't thought about it before, but I would like to use her name."
"Alana Rose," Emma stated, trying it out. "I like it."
"Alana Rose Spenser," Clay said. "That's a big name for a little baby."
"She won't always be little," Emma pointed out. "But when my Mom was small, she was called Lanie for short. We could do that."
"Lanie," he repeated. "That's nice. Then when she discovers the cure for cancer or something like that, she can use her full name."
"A scientist, huh?" Emma teased.
"Or CEO of her own company," he suggested. "Or whatever she wants."
Emma sighed. "I don't know, I can hardly imagine her being born, never mind being all grown up with a career."
"Yeah," Clay agreed. "It does seem like forever before she'll get here, but at least we know if it's a girl, what her name will be."
"Now we need a boy's name," Emma said.
"I think figuring out what the girl name will be is pretty good work for one night," Clay stated. "We should probably get some sleep. I have to be at the base early tomorrow and you're growing a baby in there," he commented as he rubbed her belly one more time.
"You're right," she nodded. She was definitely ready for some sleep.
Clay leaned over and turned out the lamp, and they settled down to get some sleep.
Sitting here now in the nursery feeding Lanie, Emma felt like that night was ages ago, and also about five minutes ago. In some ways her pregnancy had flown by, except for the last month or so. She had felt as big as a house, and all she wanted at that point was for it to be over. People had continually told her how she should enjoy her free time and get as much sleep as she could before the baby came because her life was about to change. As if carrying all that extra weight around, with a baby sitting on her bladder made it possible to sleep a lot. They were right about her life changing though. She had thought she was prepared for how much work having a baby would be, but she had had no idea.
Looking down at Lanie, Emma saw the baby's feeding had slowed. She waited, not sure if Lanie was finished or if she would fall asleep. After a couple of minutes, Lanie unlatched on her own. Emma was tempted to let her fall asleep, but the lactation specialist said it was important as Lanie got bigger to see if she'd continue to feed from the other side.
The best thing to do was burp Lanie, and change her diaper, then see if she'd eat some more. Emma grabbed a burp cloth from the pile she had left on the floor by the chair and draped it over her shoulder. Laying Lanie against her shoulder, Emma gently patted her daughter's back. After about a minute Lanie let out a burp so loud it wouldn't have been out of place after a night out drinking with Bravo Team. Accompanying the burp was a good amount of spit up.
"Well," Emma said laying Lanie across her lap and wiping the spit up from her chin, "you definitely got that from your Daddy."
Lanie stared up into Emma's face with her big blue eyes, and Emma smiled down at her.
"Let's change your diaper," Emma said in a soft voice, "and then you can try to eat some more and fall asleep. Mommy would really appreciate it if you fell asleep."
After getting her nursing bra refastened, Emma carried Lanie over to the changing table and laid her down. One thing Emma had experience with was changing diapers. As a teenager, she had babysat many neighbor children as well as Landon, Jameelah and RJ. She quickly got rid of the dirty diaper, cleaned Lanie's bottom, and then had a new one on her. The snaps on Lanie's sleeper were swiftly closed, and Emma was ready to try feeding again on the other side.
Freeing her other breast from the nursing bra, Emma eased back into the chair. Having been burped and changed, Lanie was more alert now, which Emma hoped meant the baby would latch on more easily, assuming she even wanted to eat more. Once Lanie was in the correct position, Emma tried tickling the baby's lips with her nipple. Surprisingly, to Emma at least, Lanie opened her mouth and latched. She began feeding, and Emma hoped this was a sign Lanie would eat a bit more and fall asleep.
Settling back into the rocking chair, Emma thought she could easily fall asleep herself, but she needed to keep an eye on Lanie and see how much she ate. Continuing to nurse like this was new for Lanie, and Emma needed to watch how it went.
Lanie was dozing off though, and Emma was happy to see that. Although there were a ton of chores that needed to be done around the house, she planned to take a nap this time while Lanie was sleeping. Being on her own with the baby meant Emma had no one to hand the baby off to for even five minutes, which made for some long days and nights. The exhaustion was affecting Emma, and she knew she needed to get some rest.
Lanie stopped feeding and looked to be asleep. Emma lifted Lanie gently and positioned her for burping again. After a few moments, Lanie released a much quieter burp than last time, but it was accompanied by a large amount of spit up. It was a lot more than Emma expected and most of it did not land on the burp cloth. Some landed on Emma's shoulder, and more went down the front of Lanie's sleeper. Lanie was not happy about the situation and began to cry.
"Shh, shh, it's okay," Emma crooned. "We'll get you cleaned up and in some clean clothes, baby."
Pausing to pull a fresh sleeper out of the chest of drawers, Emma brought Lanie back to the changing table and took the spit up covered one off. Lanie continued to shriek her dissatisfaction with her circumstances as Emma cleaned the spit up that had dribbled down Lanie's neck.
"It's okay, Lanie girl," Emma murmured. "You're going to be fine."
After getting Lanie cleaned and dressed, Emma sat back in the chair and tried rocking to quiet Lanie down. Emma hoped to get her little girl calmed down so both of them could get some sleep. The rhythmic motion of the rocker was soothing to Emma but not Lanie. Although her crying wasn't as loud as it had been, Lanie continued to fuss in Emma's arms. Continuing the comforting motion in the hopes it would eventually work, Emma began to sing softly as well. Still, the baby continued to weep, and Emma was ready to join her.
Emma's gaze landed on Cerberus sitting patiently, watching Emma and Lanie. "Oh, Cerb," Emma sighed. "I know you need to go out. As soon as I get her settled, I promise I'll let you into the yard." Since retirement, Cerberus had mellowed some, but he still needed to get out for exercise. Looking into the sweet dog's eyes, Emma felt like Cerb understood her predicament.
Maybe, she thought, she could get Jameelah and RJ to come by and give the dog a good workout. Although that would mean Aunt Naima would be here as well to see what a mess Emma was making of everything. Emma wasn't sure she wanted Aunt Naima to find out how hard she was finding all this.
Closing her eyes and taking a deep breath, Emma mentally berated herself for not letting Lanie fall asleep as soon as the little girl finished with the first breast. The lactation consultant had been so insistent about babies needing to continue feeding as they grew, she made Emma feel as if she had to try Lanie on the other side, but Emma understood now she should have listened to her own instincts.
Deciding the rocking wasn't working, she stopped and got up from the chair. Initially this increased Lanie's crying, but once Emma started pacing in the room Lanie's noise level returned to what it had been while rocking.
"Come on, Lanie," Emma whispered. "I know you're sleepy. Your tummy is nice and full. Go to sleep for Mommy."
She wished Clay was here with them, partially because she would love to be able to hand their little girl off to him, but also because sometimes his deeper voice lulled her to sleep faster.
Looking down at Cerb, Emma realized she could do at least one useful thing with her walking, since it wasn't doing anything to put Lanie to sleep.
"Come here, Cerberus," she called, patting her thigh.
She began walking down the hall to the stairs with Lanie continuing to sob as they went. Obeying Emma's command to follow, Cerb trotted along behind her down the hall. As they started down the stairs, Cerb walked along beside her, his tail beginning to wag frantically as he recognized where they were going.
Reaching the kitchen, Emma opened the sliders to the deck and let Cerberus out into the yard. He immediately took off for the bushes in the back to hunt for rabbits.
Their change of venue to the first floor did nothing to stop Lanie from crying. Walking up and down the length of their living room, Emma tried bouncing Lanie and rubbing her back.
"Shh, shh, Lanie," she crooned. "It's okay. You're okay."
Lanie continued wailing as if her heart was broken, and Emma debated taking her for a ride in the car. The motion of the car sometimes put Lanie to sleep, but Emma worried she was too tired to be driving. Instead, she continued on her path through the living room and around the first floor of the house.
Sonny Quinn shuffled out to the parking lot of his apartment complex. Looking longingly at his motorcycle, he heaved himself up into his old truck. Once seated behind the wheel, he massaged his left thigh.
"Damn physical therapist," he muttered as he started up the vehicle. If she had her way, he'd never be back on active duty.
Pulling out into afternoon traffic, he debated if he should be doing this. After the workout at PT this morning, all he wanted to do was lie on his couch and check out the Die Hard marathon on TNT. Nothing like some good action flicks and beer to keep him from thinking about his brothers spun up on a mission without him. Also, he didn't believe Emma would find him to be anything but a nuisance while she was busy with a newborn, but he had promised Clay he would go by the house and check on her and the baby.
Sonny's phone had rung two days ago, waking him from that day's post physical therapy nap.
"Sonny, we've been spun up," Clay announced as soon as Sonny answered the phone.
"Did the Doc sign me off for active duty when I wasn't payin' attention? 'Cause I'm pretty sure I ain't been spun up, Blondie." Sonny groused.
"Not you," Clay corrected. "Me, the rest of the team."
"And you called to rub that in, did you?" Sonny snarked.
"Stop thinking about yourself for a minute," Clay ordered. "If I'm spun up, Emma's on her own with Lanie. Jason's gone to New York for some meetings for his company, so it's just her and the baby."
Sonny grunted not sure what Clay's point was.
"I need you to go by and check on them while I'm gone," Clay clarified.
"Me!" Sonny exclaimed. "How am I supposed to be helpful? Wouldn't Naima or one of the other wives be a better choice?"
"Naima's been by, and so have some of the other wives, but I think Emma feels like she shouldn't need their help," Clay explained. "But all the feedings tire her out, and I'm worried she won't get enough sleep."
"Why don't you feed the baby sometimes to help her out?" Sonny questioned.
"I would, but I don't have the right equipment," Clay explained. "And Emma has been really resistant to pumping. I think she feels like she has something prove, like maybe she's not doing a good job as a mom."
"What!" Sonny shouted. "Don't you tell her she's a good mom, Blondie!"
"Of course, I tell her she is," Clay defended himself, "but it's not like she's told me she feels that way. I'm guessing from some things she's said. And you know how stubborn she can be. She won't call Naima." Clay sighed. "I'm worried about her on her own, Son. Please go by for me, and for your goddaughter, and make sure she's doing okay."
"Goin' for the guilt trip there, Clay, mentionin' how the baby's my goddaughter," Sonny grumbled.
"Whatever it takes. Will you do it?" Clay pleaded.
"Alright, alright, I'll do it," Sonny relented.
"Promise?" Clay prodded.
"I promise, Poster Boy," Sonny assured him.
Clay's urgency on the phone had convinced Sonny he should stop by, but now that he was pulling into the driveway of Emma and Clay's house, he wasn't so sure. What did he know about taking care of babies?
Easing himself out of the truck, Sonny decided he'd stop in briefly and then head out. He was sure Emma didn't need him hanging around and getting in the way.
He knocked on the side door and waited, figuring it might take Emma a little while to answer. Shifting his weight off his healing leg, Sonny thought he could hear noise from inside the house. Was it the baby crying?
The noise became louder, and Sonny recognized the sobbing of a miserable baby. Through the glass, he could see Emma coming through the kitchen to the door. She had the baby resting against her shoulder and was patting Lanie's back as she approached.
Emma opened the door. "Uncle Sonny?" She inquired in a defeated sounding voice that was barely audible over the baby's wails.
Sonny's first instinct was to tell Emma he was sorry for bothering her and get out of there, but then he looked closer. His honorary niece appeared exhausted. Her hair was in a half fallen out ponytail, and he thought there was spit up in it. There was definitely dried spit up on her shoulder and some other stains on her shirt and leggings. Also, he could detect circles under her eyes, and she looked to be swaying as she stood there in front of him.
Without a second thought, Sonny stepped forward, herding Emma back into the kitchen.
"Inside," he ordered. "It's chilly out here."
Following Emma into the house, he scanned the kitchen. The sink was full of dirty dishes, and there was a pile of unopened mail in a messy stack on the table. From what he could see of the living room, there was a blanket hanging off the couch and a chaotic pile of baby clothes and other paraphernalia spread across the coffee table.
He turned back to Emma, who was still trying to quiet the baby. "Emma," he said quietly and held out his arms.
Bursting into tears, she threw herself and her daughter into his embrace.
"Oh, Emma," he murmured. He rubbed her back, mimicking her motions with the baby. "Why didn't you call someone?"
"Didn't want, anyone think, couldn't handle it," she ground out between sobs.
"Nobody thinks that," Sonny reassured her. "Takin' care of a baby is hard work. It's too much for one person." He continued to rub her back while he waited for her crying to subside.
Once she was down to an occasional sniffle, Emma lifted her head from his shoulder and looked up at him. "I'm sorry I cried all over you, Uncle Sonny."
"Psh, that's nothin'," he responded. "You think this is the first time I been cried all over? Course, it's usually ladies upset that I'm lovin' and leavin' them, but they cry just the same."
A smile flickered across Emma's face at his words, but then she winced at Lanie's increased screaming.
"Now, let's go in the livin' room, and you can give that noisy little lady to her godfather," Sonny proposed. "And you can go take yourself a shower and maybe even a nap."
"Are you sure?" She questioned as they went into the living room and sat on the couch. "She won't stop crying."
"I am sure. Hand her over and go," he commanded.
Carefully they transferred Lanie to Sonny's arms, and he rested the infant against his shoulder as she continued to howl.
Having handed the baby over, Emma hesitated. "She might quiet down for your voice. I've noticed she seems to like Clay's and my father's deeper voices."
"I guess I can tell my goddaughter here a story or two to help get her to sleep," Sonny considered.
"Um, if she does fall asleep, you can put her in the Moses basket," Emma mentioned, gesturing to the basket on the floor by the couch. "Oh, I haven't let Cerb back in. I'll do that and go take a shower. Thank you, Uncle Sonny." She leaned down and gave him a kiss on the cheek and her wailing daughter a kiss on the top of head before heading back to the kitchen.
"You're welcome, Princess," he replied. "Enjoy your shower." Sonny paused and looked down at Lanie. "So, it's just you and your Uncle Sonny. You gonna keep cryin' like this or are you gonna listen to one of my stories?"
Before he could decide which story to tell, Cerberus came trotting into the living room. "Look who's come here to see us, Lanie girl. It's your doggie." He stopped patting Lanie's back long enough to reach down and scratch Cerberus behind the ears. "Who's a good boy, huh?"
Cerb tilted his head and looked at Sonny as if to ask, 'What are you going to do about this?'
"I don't know, Cerb," he answered the dog's unspoken question. "But she sure has a set of lungs on her. I think she must get that from her grandfather, because he can yell."
Cerb straightened his head as if in agreement with Sonny's assumption.
"How 'bout we walk around a bit while I tell you a story, Miss Lanie, and then you'll go to sleep," he suggested.
Sonny edged himself off the couch and stood, fearful of having an issue with his healing leg. Once he felt steady on his feet, he began walking the length of the room while patting Lanie's back. As he went, he also tried bouncing her to see if that would help. Her cries weren't as loud as they had been, and he wondered if anything he was doing was helping or if she was wearing herself out.
"There was this time in Jbad," he began. "Your daddy wasn't there. He was still a young 'un, probably in BUD/S, but your grandpa was there. We were surrounded by some bad guys. They thought they had your Uncle Sonny pinned down…"
As Sonny spoke, Lanie's cries tapered off. Taking this as a good sign, he carried on with his walking and bouncing while continuing the story.
"…but I was too smart for 'em. I slipped out 'round the back and let your Uncle Ray get in position to pin them down. Before those tangos knew it, we had 'em backed in a corner. They didn't know which way to shoot first…"
Lanie had become quiet altogether, and Sonny leaned his head to the side to catch a glimpse of her face. From what he could see, she was asleep.
"Looks like Uncle Sonny has the magic touch," he complimented himself. "And I didn't even get to the good part where we schwacked 'em and the chopper lifted us off the roof. Don't worry, Lanie girl, I'll tell you 'bout that next time."
He considered trying to put Lanie down in the basket but was worried he'd wake her up. Instead, he kept on with the walking and bouncing, giving her time to fall more deeply asleep.
As he turned to walk back across the room, Emma came down the stairs, looking a lot better than she had when he arrived. She had showered, changed into fresh clothing and her wet hair was twisted up into a bun.
"You got her to sleep!" Emma exclaimed, but in a hushed voice.
"I was tellin' her a story about one time in Jbad, and it put her right to sleep," Sonny explained. "I'd be insulted that she doesn't 'preciate a good war story, but I'm too happy she stopped cryin'."
"Now I can get the house picked up a little and some of these things put away," Emma declared.
"Uh uh, no you don't," he scolded her. "You, missy, will turn right around and go back upstairs and take a nap."
"But the house—"
"No," he cut her off, "when is the last time you got some sleep?"
"Um, early this morning for about an hour," she admitted.
"Back upstairs," he instructed her.
"But the baby," she appealed.
"Will be fine with me," he asserted. "I'll get you if there are any problems."
Emma frowned. "She'll be hungry when she wakes up."
"Then you'll feed her when she wakes up. Go get some sleep," he insisted.
"Okay, okay," Emma obeyed, heading back up the stairs. Before she reached the top, she turned back and called down. "Thank you, Uncle Sonny."
Confident Emma had gone to take a nap, Sonny walked over to the baby's basket. He frowned as he considered the easiest way to put Lanie into the basket without waking her. He decided the best thing to do was sit on the couch and then lean down with the baby.
As he situated himself in the right place on the couch, Cerberus came over to observe the proceedings.
"Cerb," he addressed his former teammate, "this is gonna be a very delicate operation."
As slowly as possible, he leaned down over the basket and eased Lanie away from his chest, supporting her with both his hands as he lowered her. After what seemed like a century, he felt the soft cushioning of the basket's interior against the back of his hands. Leaving Lanie to rest there, he slid his hands out from underneath her and sat back.
Lanie was in the basket and still asleep.
Sonny laughed to himself and spoke again to Cerberus. "Would ya look at that. Guess I do know a little somethin' about babies."
Cerb gave Sonny a steady look of agreement and then laid down alongside the basket, resting his head on it by Lanie's feet.
Sonny nodded. "That's a good boy, Cerb. You keep an eye on little miss here while I try and get some things done 'round the house."
With Cerberus watching Lanie, Sonny headed to the kitchen and began cleaning up there. He cleared the sink of dirty dishes, loading the dishwasher and starting it running, and also wiped down the counters. Then he dealt with the mail, getting rid of the obvious junk and stacking what remained in a neat pile on the counter.
Back in the living room, he folded the blanket that was hanging off the couch and draped it over the back. Next he began sorting and folding the baby clothes on the coffee table. Soon he had all the clothes organized into orderly stacks.
At this point, his healing leg let him know it was time to sit down. He sank onto the couch and rested back against the cushions. Scanning the room, he looked for any other small chores he could take care of for Emma. Satisfied there was nothing else he could do, he checked on Lanie to make sure she was still sleeping.
As Sonny leaned over to check on the baby, Cerb looked up from his position by the basket. Relieved to see Lanie was still asleep, Sonny reached over and scratched the faithful dog's head.
"You and me, we make a good team, Cerb," he declared. "Let's see if I can get a nap in before this little lady decides it's time to eat."
Once he had the pillows arranged to his liking, Sonny stretched out on the couch ready to finally enjoy his post physical therapy nap. Within minutes, he joined Lanie in slumber, with only Cerberus awake to watch over them.
Sonny was having a very enjoyable time with Candy, his favorite stripper in the Champagne Room when she started… licking his hand? He opened his eyes in confusion to see Cerberus standing by the couch. Upon seeing Sonny's open eyes, the dog gave a soft woof and nuzzled at Sonny's hand again. Before Sonny could react, he heard Lanie's soft cries from the basket.
"Our girl's awake, is she?" He asked the vigilant dog.
Groaning, he sat up and rubbed his face. Then he leaned down and carefully removed Lanie from the basket, cradling her in his arms.
"Hey there, little lady," he greeted Lanie. "Did you have a good nap?"
Lanie whimpered and turned her head and nuzzled into Sonny's chest.
"Ah, I ain't gonna be able to help you there, Lanie girl," he chuckled. "I think we need to get your mommy for that."
With the baby balanced in his arms, he carefully stood and headed for the stairs. He debated heading up, but decided his bad leg wasn't up to it with a baby in his arms.
"Emma," he called up the stairs. "You awake? The baby is ready for a feed." He waited a moment and listened for any sign of movement. "Emma," he called again, a little louder. He didn't want to shout too loud and bother Lanie.
"I'm coming," he heard Emma call back.
A minute or two later Emma appeared at the top of the stairs, looking much more rested than she had earlier. She was smiling as she came down and took Lanie from Sonny's arms.
"You look a sight better than you did earlier," Sonny pronounced.
Emma laughed. "Thanks, I think. I feel better too. I can't believe she slept so long. She must be starving."
"I guess she wore herself out with all the cryin'," he mused.
"Yeah," Emma agreed, as she headed over to couch with Lanie. "I think me being so stressed didn't help. It's like she was reading my emotions and wouldn't settle down."
Emma looked around for her nursing pillow and found it with the pile of things Sonny had placed next to the coffee table. Seeing the tidy piles of clothes on the table, she began noticing all the work Sonny had done around the house.
"Uncle Sonny!" She exclaimed. "You picked up the house. You didn't need to do that."
"Aww, I just helped you out a little. That's all," he said with a bashful smile.
"Well, I appreciate it," she told him.
Sitting down on the couch, Emma organized herself with the nursing pillow and Lanie in order to start feeding her. Sonny's eyes widened as it occurred to him what she was about to do.
"I, um, I don't need to see this," he stuttered. "How about I make some coffee? You can drink coffee now, right? Or I can get you juice, if you have it, or whatever," he continued as he backed his way into the kitchen, before he saw anything he shouldn't.
Once in the kitchen, he began opening cabinets looking for coffee and filters for the coffee maker. He could hear Emma giggling to the baby in the other room and saying something about him being embarrassed. While he was searching the cabinets, he came across a container of cookies and decided they were just the thing for a snack with the coffee. Looking at the time, he reckoned they should start thinking about something for dinner though.
"Emma," he called, "you hungry? We should probably do something about dinner."
"Um, I guess," she said uncertainly. "I hadn't really thought…"
Her voice drifted off, and he looked towards the living room as if to see what was distracting her.
"Ugh, Lanie, come on," he heard her mutter. He could also hear the baby fussing a bit more. "Please, baby," she pleaded.
"Everything okay?" Sonny questioned.
"Yeah, no, I mean, it's fine," Emma vacillated. "I just," she huffed out a frustrated breath, "I'm really bad at this, Uncle Sonny. They make it look so easy in the videos, but it's not. And I don't know what I'm doing wrong."
Sonny frowned at the coffee maker as he waited for it to brew. He wasn't sure what the best response would be to Emma's revelation. This was what Clay had been, unknowingly Sonny thought, referring to in their phone conversation.
"Are you decent?" He called to Emma.
"Hold on," she directed him. There was a pause as he heard the sound of fabric moving. "Okay, I'm good."
Grabbing the container of cookies and leaving the coffee to finish brewing, he went into the living room and sat on the opposite end of the couch from Emma. She had a baby blanket draped strategically so he couldn't see anything he didn't want to. After pulling the cover off the cookie box, he placed it between them on the table.
"Coffee's not ready yet," he explained. "I found these and thought they might be good."
She glanced at the cookies. "Yeah, Hannah made them."
"Everything okay now?" Sonny inquired.
"Mostly," she responded dejectedly. "She's eating, so that's good. It's the part where I get her started that's a problem. Sometimes it takes forever, or I have to make her start again because she's not latched right."
Emma gave a sad little sigh, and Sonny's heart went out to her.
"I get so frustrated, and I can't seem to get it right," she said wistfully.
"I suppose it's like anything. You need practice," he suggested. "Do ya think I was always the best breacher in the teams? Course not, I had to practice."
"I guess," Emma agreed halfheartedly.
"And, it's not just you," he added. "Lanie girl never did this before either. She needs to practice too."
"Maybe," she said, sounding more convinced.
"There must be someone you can get some help from," Sonny suggested. "Ya think I joined the teams knowing how to be a SEAL? I had instructors at BUD/S and other SEALs and Green Team and my bothers. They all helped me become a great SEAL."
He looked closely at Emma to see if she was getting what he was trying to tell her.
"I have a lactation consultant," she explained, "but I, um, don't like her. She makes me feel stupid."
"She makes you feel stupid!" Sonny repeated.
"Yeah, when I ask questions, she makes me feel like I'm stupid because I don't already know the answer," Emma clarified.
"Humph," he grunted. "Do you have to use her? Can ya go to some other lacta-thingy?"
A little smile ghosted across Emma's face at his name for the consultant. "I don't know. She was the one on duty when I gave birth, so that's who I got. I guess I could ask for someone else."
"I think ya should," Sonny declared. "But until ya make that call, there must be someone else. How 'bout Naima? She must know all 'bout feeding babies."
"She does," Emma agreed, "but she's busy. She has enough to do without coming here all the time to help me."
"I don't think she minds," he insisted. "I think she likes helpin' you. You're like a daughter to her."
"But I'm not her real daughter, am I?" Emma said in a tremulous voice, ducking her head down to hide her face.
Emma's words broke his heart a little. Of course, she must miss her own mother at a time like this. Why hadn't any of them thought of that?
He moved closer to Emma, and gingerly wrapped an arm around her to give her a hug. He wanted to comfort her but was still nervous about accidentally seeing something he shouldn't.
Who was he kidding? She might be married to Clay and sitting here with his baby, but in Sonny's mind the kid still hadn't seen anything he shouldn't either. And that was just the way Sonny was keeping it in his thoughts.
"Em, you know that don't matter to Naima," he assured her. "Do you think if positions were reversed and Naima wasn't here, that your mom would have a problem with helpin' Jameelah?"
"No," Emma responded tentatively.
"That's right, she wouldn't," he agreed. "Your mom would look on Jameelah and RJ like her own children, just like Naima looks on you and Mikey. I think she wants to help you out." He waited a moment for that to sink in and then continued. "We're all a team, not just the guys on Bravo, but our families too, so we stick together and help each other out. And today you need more help, but another day someone else will, and you'll help them. That's how it works."
Emma nodded, and he thought maybe he had convinced her.
"One other thing," he added, deciding to go for broke since his advice was going down so well. "I was thinkin', as Lanie's godfather, I might like to feed her a bottle sometime. Do you do that thing where you have some bottles ready so other people can feed her?"
"You mean where I pump breast milk and have it in bottles?" Emma asked.
"Um, I guess that's it, maybe," he answered. He saw Emma take a breath as if to give him more information, and he raised a hand. "I don't need no details. I just remember feeding RJ a bottle once for Naima, and I thought it would be nice to feed my goddaughter sometime."
"I haven't been, because I felt like I needed to be feeding her," Emma explained. "But, I could. It would be nice to not be a twenty-four-hour milk bar."
"I bet bein' her daddy, Clay would like to feed her too," he offered.
"Yeah, he probably would," she mused. "Oh, I think she's done eating. I'm going to have to rearrange here, Uncle Sonny, so I can burp her."
"Okay," he said, sitting up and turning away. "I'll look over here at these cookies Hannah made."
"Before you do that," Emma requested, "could you hand me a burp cloth from that pile by the cookies?"
Taking a cloth from the pile he had folded earlier, he handed it over his shoulder to Emma. He heard her chuckling as she took it from him, but he focused instead on the cookies, grabbing the one that looked to have the most chocolate chips. The sounds of fabric rustling and the baby making little noises drifted to his ears as he waited.
"Okay, we're decent," Emma declared.
He turned back from eating his cookie to see her sitting with the baby resting against her burp cloth-covered shoulder, while she patted Lanie's back. After a minute or so of patting, Lanie let out a loud burp that no sailor would be ashamed of.
"Woah," Sonny exclaimed. "That came out of our little Lanie?"
"Yup," Emma affirmed, as she wiped the spit up from Lanie's chin.
"I wonder where she got that from," he pondered.
"Her father," Emma stated.
"Hmmm," Sonny considered, "or her grandfather. He can burp pretty loud too."
Emma and Sonny looked at each other and started laughing.
"Okay," he said once they recovered from their glee, "when is the last time you ate anything?"
"Maybe late morning," she debated. "A cup of yogurt."
"A cup of yogurt," he echoed. "You need to eat more than that. You're feedin' a baby. Let's order a pizza, so we can have some dinner."
Emma grinned. "I don't think pizza is on the list of healthy foods for nursing mothers."
"Well, once won't hurt, and we'll get some vegetables on it for you," he assured her.
"Okay," she agreed. "You order it and I'll go change Lanie's diaper."
Clay drove with care in the stillness of the early morning. The sun would be up soon, but he still hadn't been to sleep. As he drove, his thoughts turned from the mission he had completed to his family waiting at home. He had a hard time believing he had a family. It seemed unreal to him that he had a house with a wife and a baby, his daughter.
When he was spun for this op, he had been worried about Emma on her own with Lanie. As soon as he had been briefed for the mission, he was able to push those concerns aside and focus on the job at hand, but once he returned to the plane, all those worries came rushing back. Now as he was driving home, he had to make an effort not to speed back to the house.
Finally, he turned onto their street. As he approached their house, he saw Sonny's truck parked to one side of the driveway. Worry shivered down his spine. Why would Sonny be here this early? He pulled his truck in next to Sonny's and parked. Nothing looked wrong, and the house wasn't lit up as if people were up and about.
He unlocked the side door of the kitchen and entered. Everything was quiet, although the carafe on the coffee maker was full of cold coffee that he guessed had been sitting there for some time. He could see one lamp lit in the living room, which looked to be occupied.
Making his way into the other room, he had a hard time controlling his laughter as he came across the remains of very different kind of party than the ones Sonny Quinn usually attended. Sonny was asleep in the middle of the couch, with Lanie lying on his chest, drooling on his shirt. Emma was leaning against Sonny's shoulder with a blanket covering her, also dead asleep. On Sonny's other side, Cerberus was curled up sleeping, with the remains of a piece of pizza sitting between his paws. On the coffee table, there were two pizza boxes with the leftovers from a meat lover's pizza and a veggie one. Alongside the boxes were abandoned plates and napkins and glasses.
Before anyone could wake up, Clay pulled out his phone and snapped some photos. He took a wide shot of the whole group, then a close-up of Sonny and Lanie, one of Emma, and one of Cerb with his pizza crust.
He was not letting that dog sleep near him any time soon. Pizza made Cerb gassy.
Deciding it wasn't too early, he texted the photo of the group and the close-up of Sonny and the baby to Jason, Naima, and the rest of Bravo. He added a message.
Quinn needs to be back on active duty ASAP, so I don't come home to this again!
Future embarrassment of Sonny taken care of, Clay went over to Emma and gently shook her shoulder. "Em, baby," he whispered. "Wake up."
Emma's eyes fluttered open. "Clay, you're home."
Clay put his finger to his lips and motioned to Sonny and Lanie.
Glancing over at the pair, Emma giggled. "He's the best godfather. He helped me out a lot today, or yesterday, I guess."
Clay smiled. "That's good. Why don't you go try to get some sleep in our bed before Lanie wakes up again to be fed? I'll wake Sonny and bring Lanie up."
Emma pushed the blanket back and stood, pausing to give Clay a kiss. "I'm happy you're home. I missed you."
Pulling Emma close, Clay gave her a squeeze. "I missed you too."
They stood for a moment holding each other, then she pulled back to look up at him.
"I was thinking," she confided, "maybe I should start pumping milk and then you could feed Lanie sometimes. If you don't mind?"
"I don't mind at all," he assured her with a grin. "In fact, I'd like to feed her."
"I'm sorry," she apologized, "I should have realized you'd like doing it too, but I was caught up in making sure I was doing everything right and I didn't think about how you might feel."
"Don't be sorry," Clay told her. "I know this has been a huge adjustment for you and a lot of work, more for you than for me."
"Yeah, but she's worth it," Emma stated.
"She is," he agreed. "Now you go get some sleep. I'll be up soon with her."
Emma nodded and gave him another kiss, then headed for the stairs.
"Sonny," Clay said quietly. "Wake up."
"Mmm, what?" Sonny groaned.
"Wake up," Clay repeated.
Sonny's eyes popped open, and he started to sit up, but then he remembered the baby was asleep on his chest and sat back. "When'd you get home, Blondie?"
"Just now," Clay supplied. He could see Sonny looking around for Emma. "I woke Emma, so she could get some sleep in bed, before Lanie wakes again. I'll take Lanie and you can stretch out on the couch. No point in going home now."
"Okay," Sonny agreed.
He carefully handed Lanie off to Clay. Once Clay had the still sleeping baby in his arms, he stepped back from the couch.
"You can use this blanket. You need anything else?" He enquired.
"Naw, I'm good," Sonny said. "You want Cerb to go with you?"
"No, no, he's fine down here with you," Clay chuckled. "Thanks, Sonny. Emma said you were a big help to her. I appreciate it."
"No problem," Sonny assured him. "I enjoyed spendin' time with my goddaughter. You're a lucky man, Clay Spenser."
Clay looked down at the baby sleeping in his arms, and he thought about Emma asleep upstairs. "I know I am, Sonny. I know I am."