It wasn't a decision to be made lightly. Susie made lists, pro and con. She thought about what times of year her clients could spare her for a few weeks. She brought home every parenting book the library had, even the ones that didn't apply.
When Calvin came down from his studio and found her perched on the couch in her little fortress, he picked through the titles.
"Is there something you want to tell me, Suse?"
She didn't look up. "Not yet."
He sat down on the couch next to her. "You want help? We could go upstairs and I could help. We could play tentacle monsters."
"No!" she snapped, and Calvin scooted away. "I didn't mean it like that. I just... this is a lot to take on." She held the copy of What To Expect When You're Expecting out to him. He caught sight of a heading that read "Placental Abruption" and made a face.
"See? There's too much that can go wrong. And all the time off work, and..."
Calvin dug through the piles looking for something he'd seen a minute before, almost knocking one stack over as he went. Susie grabbed for the books and held them as best she could while he pulled out the bottom one. He pumped his fist in triumph as the books tumbled to the floor anyway.
"Why don't we try this one?" he said, handing her the book.
She looked at it. The Adoptive Parent's Guide. "I don't know if that's the same thing."
"It's not a big deal, right? I mean, I don't want to raise pigs. That doesn't mean I can't have bacon."
"I don't think having a child is the same thing as having breakfast."
He looked thoughtful. "Actually, maybe I do want to raise pigs, that sounds awesome. Can I put a pigpen in the back yard? I want to train attack pigs."
"I'm pretty sure city regulations wouldn't allow us to have pigs. Maybe attack chickens."
"That just doesn't sound as exciting."
"Let's focus on getting a kid first, Calvin."
"Right!" he nodded. "Let's adopt some bacon."
The next time they stopped at Toys R Us so Calvin could look at the latest action figure shipments, they both found themselves standing hesitantly at the invisible line separating the toy store from the Babies R Us next door.
"It so... pink," Calvin wrinkled his nose.
Susie winced. "Are we ready for this?"
He looked at her and smiled. "I think we can be. How hard can it be? Even Moe has kids now."
"That's true," she smiled back, and together they wandered into the pastel wonderland.
"So..." Calvin held up a pale blue baby blanket as if he didn't know what planet it was from. "What do you think Bacon would like in a nursery?"
Finally the call came, and the woman from CPS arrived with the baby in her arms, they did both manage to call the child Ashley through the initial meeting. In fact, they lasted almost an hour after they were left alone with the child.
When the baby started crying, Susie picked her up and rocked her, cooing the way she knew mothers did it in books. She could do this.
"Calvin, will you fix Bacon a bottle?" she asked, distracted, before realizing what she'd said.
After that, it was inevitable.
"Come on, Bacon, Daddy wants to be bigger than Axe Cop. Tell Daddy a story."
The blonde toddler blew a raspberry at her dad and announced, "Princess!"
Susie poked her head in the living room and dropped her briefcase on the couch. "Not enough traffic on Dinosaur Dracula this week?"
"Dinosaur Dracula's going great, actually. I'm bring in some were-robots for him to fight. See, he can't bite them! Because they're robots." Calvin went back to moving Bacon's Little People around.
She pushed one of them over the edge of the coffee table and then picked it up and waved it. "Zombie! Zombie!" She batted at the other dolls on the table with the zombie Person, knocking them all out of the way.
Calvin looked thoughtful. "Princess Zombie, huh?"
"Don't you think she's a little young for co-writing?"
"You three are early," Calvin's mom said in surprise when she opened the door.
Bacon held Hobbes up beside her. "Four, Grandma!"
"Is that Hobbes?" his mother asked. "I didn't know you still had him."
"Calvin never gets rid of his toys." Susie was shaking her head.
"Happy Thanksgiving, Mom, Dad," Calvin greeted his parents as they came in out of the cold. "Sorry to barge in early."
"Say hi to Grandma and Grandpa," Susie said, gently pushing their daughter forward. Bacon did as her mother told her, hugging them both.
"Why are you so early?" his mother asked.
Susie sighed heavily. "My dad asked when he was going to get a real job again. I warned him I wasn't going to put up with that this year."
"... I'm going to get some air," Calvin said quickly. "Do you want to come with me, Bacon?"
"Why don't you go out to the garage and get the Christmas stuff down for me? It'll be easier on my back," his father called after them.
Without a better goal in mind, Calvin lead Bacon and Hobbes to the garage and began digging through the winter gear.
"Hey, my old sled! Come on, Bacon, do you want to go sledding? I used to ride down the ravine out back all the time when I was your age."
Bacon looked at Hobbes, who shook his head. "Hobbes says I shouldn't."
Calvin shook the dust off the sled. "Hobbes always was kind of a scaredycat. Come on." He trooped off with the sled under one warm. Bacon ran after him, curious, and Hobbes trailed behind, rolling his eyes.
The ravine itself was well behind the house. "When I was a kid, this was all woods," Calvin told her as they walked. "I used to hide in the trees here and throw snowballs at your mom."
"Because she was a girl."
"Isn't she still a girl?"
Calvin laughed. "Yeah. I probably owe her a snowball. We can get her after we go back to the house." They arrived at the top of the tall hill and looked down.
"It's pretty high, Dad. Maybe we shouldn't."
He set the sled down obstinately and sat on it, the runners sinking into the snow. "I did this all the time when I was your age. Come on."
Bacon did as he said and sat behind him on the sled, not at all convinced.
"Don't worry, you can get out of it," Hobbes said, settling into position between Calvin and Bacon on the sled. "The trick is to slide off as he starts moving..."
She followed his direction, sliding off just as the movement started, and landed harder on the snow than she expected. Scrambling to her feet, Bacon watched as her father and the sled crashed through the underbrush and then caught on a tree root, flipping into the air.
"Wow. That looked pretty cool," she admitted, but started to worry when he didn't get up. "Hey, Dad! Are you okay?"
"Please don't tell your mom," Calvin said as he struggled to stand, but it was obvious one leg couldn't hold his weight and he nearly dropped back to the ground. "On second thought, please go tell your mom."
"Mommy! Dad's at the bottom of the ravine and Hobbes and I can't pull him up!"
"Calvin, are you sure you should be outside in that cast?"
"It's not a cast, Susie, it's a boot. And you wear boots in the snow, so I should be fine.
"Come on, Dad! Or we won't have enough snowmen to defeat the squirrel army!"
Calvin smiled. "Duty calls." He kissed Susie on the cheek and ran outside.
"So Mom told me my playhouse used to be a chicken coop."
"Yep, that's true. I tried to raise attack chickens but the neighbors complained, so we decided to get you instead."
"You were louder, but since we kept you indoors the neighbors couldn't complain."