Challenge #00967-B236: STEVEN!

“I may have accidentally sort of adopted five cats.”

(Prompt from CallMeGallifreya on Tumblr)

Baby Rose was investigating the nutritional quality of her own fist again. Connie gently encouraged her to chew on the pediatrician-recommended teether that her mom insisted all babies loved.

Rose gnawed on it once, twice, and then looked up as if to say, Why would you betray me like this, mother? and promptly spat it out.

"Yeah," she sighed. "Try telling Gram'ma that. You try telling gram'ma. No, I don't like dat teether, Gram'ma. I likes my own fistses. And Mommy's fingies. And Dada's fingies."

"Da," said Rose, around her mouthful of fingers.

She looked up and around. Steven was nowhere in sight. "Where is Dada?"

Rose blew bubbles with her spit and reached in an odd direction. The only thing that way was the gardening supplies, and they were already stocked up.

Maybe he was 'encouraging' some of the seedlings.

"If Dada is making the vines play games again, Mommy is going to be cross," Connie singsonged as she maneuvered the shopping cart.

Rose greeted this news with giggles and happy flailings. She apparently loved the faces Connie made when she was angry at Steven. And nothing shorted out anger like a giggling baby.

The gardening section was suspiciously bare of Stevens. Odd. Rose had never been wrong about where her father was. Connie tried again. "Where's Dada?"

Rose reached for the wall. Weird.

She got out her phone and dialed her husband. Absently wheeling the trolley back around to the entrance of the store.

"I'm on my way back," said Steven when he picked up.

"This isn't a Gem thing, then?"

"No. No, it's fine. I promise. I just had to... um... fetch... a few things. Like real quick."

There he was, coming to the store at an angle that would have him returning from the parking lot. Connie raised an eyebrow at him, earning a nervous grin.

"And why would you run off and abandon your wife and child like that?"

"Um..." All these years, and he was still a terrible liar. "I... uh... had a little... thing? And it wasn't real important, you know. Like... uh... just a little thing? Nothing I needed to haul you and Rose around for? Besides, you were still deciding on baby food... um... and I figured... I'd... have... time?"

Rose was giggling. Evidently her father's faces when he tried to lie were hilarious as well.

Connie sighed. "We all know how this is going to go. And I, for one, would like to do it without the tears."

Steven went bright red. "...sorry about that," he mumbled.

She tapped her foot. "I'm still waiting."

"Um." Steven fidgeted, twiddling with his hair. He looked down at his sandals. Out the shop door. Up at the ceiling. Down the baby aisle. "You remember that big storm?" Hair, sandals, door, ceiling, aisle. "When I had to close the restaurant late?"

Rose was laughing up a storm. She loved these moments, the little sadist.

"Mm-hm," Connie made a little move-along gesture.

"Funny story. Heheh... Turns out... someone had put a box of kittens in our dumpster? Um. And they were like newborn?"

"Steven..." Connie sighed. She knew where this was going. Without a doubt.

Now he started gabbling. "Okay, soItriedtotakethemtoashelter, butthesheltersaidtheycouldn'ttakethem, soItookthemtoavet, andthevetsaidtheycouldput'emdown, butthey'rejustbabies, soIaskedhowtolookafterthemand--"

"Steven..." she warned.

"I... may have... accidentally... sort of... adoptedfivecats?"

Connie facepalmed. At least now she knew where the extra cash was going.

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