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Dueling Baby-sitters

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II. December 2009

Matt presses the bell at his brother’s house and takes a step back on the snow-covered stoop, gazing at the door expectantly. He can hear the faint stirrings of the family within, rushing about to get ready, and a wry smile pulls at the corners of his lips. This isn’t exactly how he’d expected to spend his Friday night this week, but he couldn’t complain. He loves spending time with his niece.

The door is pulled open with a rush of air. “Hi!” Robin greets him. Her expression is pleasant, if slightly confused. “Come on in! I’ll get Patrick for you.”

Matt lifts a brow as he crosses the threshold, but doesn’t have a chance to reply before Robin is off again, disappearing into the back bedroom, calling for her husband to come to the door. What, does he have to vet me as a baby-sitter or something? he wonders, shaking his head. He pulls off his hat and scarf, hanging them together with his coat. He’s the one who asked, after all.

“I’m sorry,” comes the breathless apology from his sister-in-law, who’s just stepped back into the family room.

Matt turns, sending an appreciative glance over her. Robin looks absolutely gorgeous, decked out in a slim black dress and dripping in diamonds.

“Patrick needs more time in front of the mirror than I do, apparently,” she adds, rolling her eyes. “So, what’s up?”

“You tell me,” he replies with a grin, walking towards her and reaching for her hands. “You look amazing! I hope he’s taking you somewhere expensive – you deserve it, after putting up with him for an entire year of wedded bliss.”

“Hey,” booms another voice, “I heard that!” Patrick walks into the room, still fiddling with his tie, and presses a kiss to Robin’s temple. “Don’t think I have to bribe this woman to be with me.”

Robin smiles, wrapping her arms around her husband’s waist, and for a moment, Matt sees their picture-perfect happiness on full display. “I wouldn’t dream of it,” he murmurs. It’s still hard for him to believe his playboy brother has settled so easily into wedded life, but he won’t begrudge him the pleasure, even if he doesn’t quite understand it himself.

“So what are you doing here?” Robin asks, glancing back at Matt.

“Oh, didn’t I tell you?” Patrick interrupts, drawing his wife’s gaze. “I asked Matt to come over and baby-sit for Emma tonight.”

Robin frowns. “You did?”

Patrick furrows his brow, obviously not expecting her dead-panned answer. “Yeah,” he replies, pulling away slightly. “Is that a problem for you?”

Matt tenses as he watches the exchange. Its times like these that he still feels like an outsider, even though he’s been in Port Charles for nearly a year. He’s always gotten along with his sister-in-law (Patrick, not so much), but knows Robin can be very protective of her daughter. He’d been surprised when Patrick had asked him to baby-sit, and had only assumed that he’d cleared it with his wife first.

Obviously, this isn’t the case.

“Well, no,” Robin begins, but before she can continue, there’s a knock on the door.

“Evening, family,” Maxie announces, sweeping into the room before she’s granted entrance. “Where’s that adorable little girl? I can’t wait – ”

She stops short when she realizes there’s an extra person standing in the family room. Her eyes narrow as she stares at Matt, her hand forming a fist against her hip. “What are you doing here?” she demands to know, none too pleased to see him.

He smirks. “Patrick asked me to baby-sit,” he informs her, none too subtle as his eyes rove down the length of her and back. As always, she looks smoking hot, even halfway out of her winter coat. In fact, he muses, allowing his gaze to linger appreciatively on her chest, it probably adds to the effect.

Maxie sets her jaw, drawing his gaze north. “Well, Robin asked me to baby-sit tonight,” she says dismissively, “so you can just run along.”

Me?” Matt returns. “I’m not the one dressed for clubbing. Why don’t you leave?”

Maxie huffs an exasperated sigh, turning her attention to her cousin. “Robin?” she pleads.

“Patrick?” Matt echoes, looking at his brother.

“Geez, maybe you’re the ones who need the sitter,” Patrick remarks dryly, glancing from Maxie to Matt.

“Come on, you guys,” Robin sighs, rolling her eyes, “it was just a mix-up. One of you stay, and one of you leave, but it doesn’t matter who, okay? We know you both love Emma, and we trust her with you.” She sends a pointed stare in Maxie’s direction. “Both of you.”

Maxie bristles, but doesn’t back down. Matt shrugs, folding his arms over his chest.

Patrick joins his wife in the eye-rolling before glancing down at his watch. “Look, we’re going to be late if we don’t get going,” he says, directing his comment to Robin. He wraps his arm around her shoulders. “I don’t want to miss having you all to myself for a couple of hours.”

Matt glances at Maxie from the corner of his eye, and can practically see her melting. They’re good, he considers, even more impressed than before with their ability to bring out the ooey-gooey, as if on cue.

“Okay, okay, okay,” she mutters good-naturedly, “we’ll work this out. You two deserve some time to yourselves, and maybe you can get started on a sibling for my favorite niece?” Before Patrick or Robin can respond to the bold request, Maxie is behind them, practically pushing them out the door.

“You’re going to be okay?” Robin manages, pulling on her coat.

“Of course,” Maxie assures her. “Emma’s sleeping, isn’t she? If she isn’t, she should be, at this hour!”

Patrick and Robin exchange an amused glance.

“This will be a piece of cake,” Maxie continues. “Now go!”

She waves as the two finally depart, huddling together against the bite of the December breeze. She draws the door closed, but doesn’t shut it completely. She turns to face Matt again, her joyous expression promptly falling.

“You can leave, too,” she tells him tersely, putting her hand on her hip as she leans against the ajar door.

“I don’t think so,” he rejoins. “Patrick and Robin may be deluded into thinking you’re competent, but I’m not. What do you know about taking care of kids?”

“What do you?” she shoots back incredulously. “You can barely even get a date with a woman, much less anything else.”

He smiles, which only infuriates her more. He likes it when she’s fiery, and he suspects she does, too. “That may be,” he contends, allowing her insults to roll off his back, “but I do have a pediatrics rotation under my belt.”

“Oh, goody!” she exclaims, her entire expression alighting with sarcastic glee as she pushes the door closed and walks towards him. “You must be an expert at changing diapers, then.”

“Actually,” he corrects her, “that’s more in the department of obstetrics…” His voice trails off as she continues walking, straight past him, heading down the hallway. He follows her to Emma’s room, where she quietly opens the door and slips inside.

Generally, he doesn’t like it when she suddenly stops arguing/flirting with him, but his upset is short-lived as he observes her now. She’s calm and quiet as she approaches Emma’s crib, reaching down to softly stroke the little girl’s dark hair. Emma stirs slightly at the brush of her fingers, but Maxie doesn’t coo or cuddle in response. Instead, she continues the gentle caress, her own head tilting indulgently as she checks to make sure the baby isn’t tangled up in the sheets or blankets.

Matt can feel his breath catching his chest, his hand closing around the door handle. He continues to watch her, even as she ignores him, because he knows what a rare chance this is, to see her softer and more vulnerable side. Maxie’s always been proud of her abrasiveness, and, aside from amusing him, it makes him wonder…

What secrets does she keep?

How badly has she been hurt, to build a wall around her emotions like that?

And what does she see in that little worm Spinelli, to let him in when she shuts the rest of the world out?

Emma awakens and begins to whimper. Maxie carefully picks her up, cradling her in her arms, and suddenly Matt is hit with a vision of his own idea of domestic bliss. He hasn’t given much thought to having children before, but Maxie certainly presents an alluring case.

She turns back to him and smiles, gentle and warm and not doing a thing to break his fantasy. She doesn’t seem to be offended by him following her or watching her; all the opposite, in fact. His heart gains traction in his chest as she approaches, her expression tranquil and charming.

“You can stay,” she concedes softly, throwing him completely off guard as her eyes meet his directly. “On one condition.”

“And what’s that?” he asks, returning her promising smile with one of his own.

“That you take diaper duty,” she replies, pressing Emma against his chest. He sputters as he feels the warm, wet spot gathering against his shirt.

Maxie laughs. “Happy changing!” she teases, patting him on the shoulder as she waltzes out the door.