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What We've Built

Chapter Text

“A little higher, babe,” April said, spooning the last bit of yogurt into her mouth from her place on the rocking chair. She leaned backward and let the chair rock, her feet wrapped in warm socks and resting on the ottoman. The yogurt sat propped on her eight-months-pregnant stomach as she ate, watching her husband set up the nursery. They were getting down to the wire, and April figured they probably should've done this already, but they still had some time. It was barely into the first week of October, so they had at least another month to go before the baby’s due date.

“How’s this?” Andy held the mobile up a few inches higher above the beautiful wooden crib, glancing at April for approval. She looked up again and nodded, while Andy began to screw the device in place. “It was so awesome of Ron to make this crib for us,” he said, as the mobile was set and began to spin.

Andy stepped back to admire his handy work, wiping some sweat from his forehead and looking satisfied.

“Yeah, it was,” April nodded. She glanced around the room. All the furniture was pretty much set. Crib, changing table, rocking chair, mobile; they had almost everything they needed. Leslie had insisted on throwing them a baby shower, much to April’s chagrin. However, it ended up being pretty cool (as April would later admit to Leslie and only Leslie), and they managed to get some really awesome stuff for the baby.

Andy had done amazingly. Aside from the crib, which was a gift from Ron, Andy had managed to put everything together entirely on his own. She wouldn't soon forget the morning she’d woken up to the sounds of him moving around in the nursery. Quietly peering in the doorway, she’d watched him putting the changing table together in his tee shirt and boxers. Pieces were scattered everywhere, and Champion was watching from a spot under the window, but Andy was too into the work to notice April watching him. She’d tip toed back into bed with a huge smile on her face, and fell asleep thinking about how she had the best husband in the world.

That had been nearly a month ago, and now they were almost ready.

In a corner propped against the wall was April’s hospital bag. Originally unsure of what to pack, she’d thrown in some of her clothing, one of the baby’s new blankets, and some snacks at Andy’s request. It wasn’t until Leslie had come to visit—and had a subsequent freak out when she saw the (lack of) useful items in the bag—that April repacked it with Leslie’s help. Now she was fairly sure it was good to go in case they had to make a quick dash to the hospital ahead of schedule.

“All that’s left to do is paint the walls,” Andy said, looking around.

“Babe, we agreed we can’t do that until we find out what the baby is, and I wanna be surprised. I thought you did too?”

“I do! I super do, I just wanted to make sure, you know, we can agree on something when the time comes,” he said, walking over to her and rubbing her shoulders. “I really wanna paint something awesome, though…you know, like a mural or something.”

“We’ll figure it out,” she said, leaning forward to stand. Without hesitation, Andy took her hand and helped pull her to her feet. “I can’t wait until this,” she gestured to her stomach, “is gone. It’ll be nice when I can walk again without waddling.”

“It’ll be awesome when I can pick you up and carry you again, too,” Andy said, pulling her into a side hug. “Not that I can’t lift you, I’m super strong, but I know I’m not supposed to,” he added, looking at her quickly to make sure she understood.

She chuckled and stood on her tip toes to kiss his cheek. “C’mon, let’s go get lunch. I’m already hungry again.”

Chapter Text

“Honey, someone’s here,” April nudged her husband in the arm when she heard the faint knock on the door.

They were squished together on the couch, having woken up for the sixth time that night by a hungry, bawling Jack, when April finally trudged downstairs to sit in front of the TV while her son nursed like a professional eater. Andy joined her for sympathy, but he’d immediately passed out cold. A grumbling April had no such luck, and so at seven o’clock in the morning after a night of little to no sleep, she thought it all too fair that Andy should answer the door.

The knock came again, and she shoved Andy harder.

“Ow!” he said irritably. “Honey, come on…” he started to roll over before April used her feet to push him gently off the couch.

“Andy! Go answer the door!” she said, exasperatedly. “Why the hell someone is here at this hour is beyond me, but I’m not answering it. Jack finally fell asleep,” she pointed to their newborn son, pressed against her chest, his tiny eyelids twitching as he slept.

Andy’s face suddenly changed as he woke, and he looked nervous. “The door,” he said, standing up slowly. “Right.”

“Andy, who is it?” April narrowed her eyes at him. He looked uncomfortable, and tried to crack a smile. She noticed he had that look, the “I’m Andy ‘the worst secret keeper’ Dwyer” look. The knock sounded for the third time.

“Okay, honey, you know how we both agreed we wanted a really awesome painting on the baby’s wall before he was born, but we didn’t know what yet because we wanted to wait?” he said quickly, looking at the door and back at her.

“Yes…”

“And you know how we both agreed we didn’t have the artistic ability to paint anything really awesome and we wanted to get someone in here to do it, but it was so expensive so we’ve been waiting…and putting it off?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Well, I….sorta hired someone…who agreed to do it for free,” he smiled at her and walked to the front door.

“Babe, who?” she eyed him suspiciously.

He just looked at her, mouthed “I’m sorry,” and opened the door.

There stood Garry Gergich, brushes in hand and decked out in a giant painter’s smock. He smiled kindly when he saw April and Andy, and stepped into the house. “Morning you two, great to see you both,” he said brightly. “April, you look lovely as always!”

If April’s face wasn’t frozen in complete shock, she would have woken up her son with the outburst boiling beneath her surface. She turned her head mechanically toward Andy with a look that could kill, and back to Garry, who was bouncing on the balls of his feet happily.

“This is a nightmare,” she said quietly to herself. “It must be a sleep-deprived nightmare.”

“Come on Garry, I’ll uh…show you upstairs,” Andy stole a quick, frightened glance at his wife as he led the older man up to Jack’s room. April opened her mouth in a silent scream, but was distracted as Jack decided to wake up and begin his own howling screech for breakfast.

Chapter Text

“Garry?” April scoffed, one hand pushing Jack’s stroller and the other clutching a thermos of coffee. “Garry? Of all the people in the world, you choose Garry to paint our son’s room? In our house? Andy, the man has to stay overnight!”

“Aw, I know babe,” Andy said, trying to keep up with her brisk, angry pace, while still holding on to Champion’s leash. “He’s pretty good though! Remember all those other times we’ve seen his stuff?”

The image of a centaur galloping through the woods—with the top half of Leslie Knope—appeared in the forefront of April’s mind before she shook her head in frustration.

“UGH,” she pushed the stroller harder and sped up, leaving Andy to play catch up as Champion stopped at yet another tree along the park’s waking path.

“Honey! Wait,” he called after her. “I’m sorry!” he shouted, and he kinda was. But not completely, because no matter how April felt about Garry Gergich, Andy knew Jack was going to have an awesome mural on his wall. And he felt proud of himself for making that happen.

 

TWO DAYS LATER

 

April had to admit that the walls looked beautiful. She stood next to Andy in the doorway to the finally finished nursery, while Jack slept peacefully in his father’s arms. It took nearly three days for Garry to finish the walls, and April had nearly exploded with frustration close to twenty times, but it was finally done.

Garry stayed over two nights to get the walls done—two frustrating, endless nights—and nearly drove April to stay in a hotel. Andy was also suffering, but that was mainly due to April withholding any type of physical contact from him out of both frustration and retaliation until Garry had left.

“He did a great job, didn’t he?” Andy said, craning his neck around to get a full view of the artwork. “Garry really went for it.”

Three of the walls were mostly solid paint. They ended up choosing a dark, midnight blue, all leading up to the main mural wall with the rocking chair in front of it. This wall was April’s favorite. There was no way she’d admit to Garry that she was absolutely in love with it…but she was.

All they’d told Garry was that they wanted something to represent their son, who was born late on Halloween night. Creepy (as requested by April), but not too creepy for a baby (according to Andy); something Jack could keep until he got too old for it.

So Garry did what he was told.

On the wall was a beautifully painted scene of a black and blue night sky overlooking a dark hill, complete with clouds, stars, and a huge yellow harvest moon. In the foreground was a creepy looking tree, with several pumpkins painted around it, one of which was a jack o’lantern. The stars branched out slightly onto the adjacent walls and faded into the deep blue color of the rest of the room. April’s favorite little detail was actually hard to see unless you looked closely. Painted in the trunk of the tree, almost like it was carved there, was the lettering “A+A” encircled in a tiny heart. She had the tiniest smile when she’d pointed it out to Andy.

“I wanna hate it, I really do,” April shook her head. “But I can’t.”

“See babe?” Andy grinned. “It was a great idea, wasn’t it?”

“I’ll give you this one, Dwyer,” she said, only half seriously. “Sorry I got so mad at you. Just, you know, Jerry—Garry, whatever, was the last person I’d expect to have at my house for almost three days.”

“I know babe,” he kissed her head. “I totally get it.”

“Did he sign it?” April peered at the bottom of the mural.

“I don’t think he did,” Andy shook his head. “Before he left, he told me he figured you wouldn’t wanna see his name every time you looked at the wall.”

“Yeah, kinda half true, anyway,” April nodded. “I guess it wouldn’t have been the worst thing, you know…”

“He must’ve already left DC by now,” Andy looked at her, shrugging.

“Well, when he comes back for the next one, he’ll just have to sign his name twice,” she said, taking Jack into her arms and turning to walk away.

Andy nodded, not really comprehending what she said…until he did. His eyes growing huge, he turned and bolted after her.

“Wait—what? Honey? What do you mean ‘the next one’?”

Chapter Text

The sound of the key jiggling in the door, followed by a slow creak as it was swung open caught April by surprise. She sat up, pressing herself against Andy’s chest, her eyes wide and looking around nervously when she heard the voices.

“Babe,” April nudged her husband in the ribs and whispered in a frantic voice. “I thought you said Ben was gonna be out tonight?”

Andy was also frozen, breathing very slowly. He had a confused look on his face and shook his head quickly as the voices became clearer with each word they spoke. “Dude, he was! He told me, and I made sure!”

“—so glad we could finally do this,” they heard Ben say, followed by a metal clinking sound as he tossed his keys on the counter. “I left some Pinot in the fridge and Leslie made this awesome chocolate trifle.”

“Oh Ann, I’m so happy you decided to come over,” came Leslie’s ever-chipper voice as the front door closed behind them. “Nothing like a night of drinking and dessert to help forget a bad time.” Leslie must have been getting the wine glasses, because April and Andy heard the sound of glass clinking together and the refrigerator opening.

“Thanks you guys…it’s been really rough getting back into the dating game. I really needed a night like this.”

April scrunched up her face. Ann. Ugh.

“What the hell are we supposed to—“ April covered Andy’s mouth as he started to panic. Yes, they were stuck under a blanket fort in the living room. Yes, they were using Ben’s comforter. And no, they had nothing on. April actually thought it was a bit funny, but at the same time didn’t want to think about seeing their faces if they were discovered like this. It would have been ten times more hilarious if it was just Ben—again. She had to think of a plan.

“Hey Champion,” Ann said, and from the sounds they could hear, April guessed Ann was petting their dog in the kitchen where he was finishing his bowl of dinner.

“Where are April and Andy?” They heard Leslie ask Ben as she put out some dishes.

The sound of a cork being pulled from a wine bottle was loud and popping.

“I’m not entirely sure,” Ben said. “I thought I heard them say they had plans tonight or something…but then again, who just fed Champion?”

“Their car was in the driveway,” Ann said curiously.

“Babe,” Andy looked at April, his eyes dark in the low light of the blanket. “What do we do right now?”

“I’m thinking….I—“ she paused, and looked around. “Andy, reach out carefully and grab my phone. It’s on the coffee table.”

“Uh..okay, let me see if I can…reach it…” Andy stuck his arm out at a weird angle and slowly crept it up the side of the coffee table, trying to stay out of sight. He exhaled with relief when he felt the cool plastic of the phone case in his hand and pulled it back under.

“Thanks babe,” April took it from him and furiously began typing out a message.

“Who’re you texting?” Andy whispered, turning side to side to listen for the sounds of someone approaching.

“Just wait,” she said, and hit the send button.

A few seconds passed before they heard a phone go off from the kitchen.

“Oh,” said Ann suddenly. “Weird, I just got a text from April…” she looked at the screen and then quickly up and out the window. “Dude, she just sent me a message saying someone broke into my car!”

“What?” Ben put down his wine glass with a “clink” and Leslie did the same. April could hear the sounds of the front door opening again and footsteps as (hopefully) all three of them headed outside to check on Ann’s car.

April stuck her head out as little as possible. Happily noticing that they all fell for it, she gestured for Andy to quickly get out and follow her. They made a mad dash for their bedroom. Halfway there April turned around again, ran toward the kitchen, and grabbed the wine bottle and two glasses. She was grinning as she ran after Andy and sprinted through the doorway to their bedroom, Andy closing it with a snap.

“Babe, you’re a genius! You’re so smart!” Andy picked her up and spun her around. “We forgot to take down the fort though,” he said, smiling.

“Who cares,” she said, pouring them both a glass of wine. “It’s Ben’s comforter. Let him deal with it.”

“And our clothes?” Andy said. “I think we left them on the couch.”

April shrugged. “Don’t need ‘em.”

They heard voices again as Ben, Leslie and Ann came back into the house. Ann was complaining about something.

“—what the hell she was thinking, because that seriously wasn’t funny. I mean, I can handle all the pics she sends of her and Andy making out…whatever, I get it. I’m thrilled for them, but now she’s pranking me?”

“It’s just April,” Leslie said, exasperatedly. “At least no one really broke into your car.”

“Yeah, that’s what import—“ Ben stopped short. “Where are the wine glasses? And the wine?”

“Babe, why is your comforter in the living room on the floor? Is that Andy’s shirt?”

Even from behind the closed door they could hear Ben’s loud sigh of frustration. Andy and April both took huge sips of wine to hold back their laughter as they heard Ben say loudly, “Again?”

Chapter Text

“You’re the best baby in the galaxy,” Andy said, lifting his three-month-old son high into the air and back down again to rest on his chest. “I love you so much.”

He was lying on the nursery floor, holding Jack above him and moving him through the air like an airplane. The baby smiled and gurgled at him, clearly enjoying his newfound height.

“Is that so, big man?” Andy smiled at his son, bringing him down again to his own face and planting a squishy kiss on Jack’s cheek. The baby gurgled louder. “You like your nursery? You may not believe me, but your old man put most of it together. Except for the crib. Uncle Ron made that one. But I did pretty much the rest, and I think it looks awesome.”

Andy loved these little moments with his son. Just the two of them, man-to-man. Normally he was the one listening to someone else give advice, or talking about life, so it was awesome to be the one that someone was looking up to for once.

“Sometimes I still can’t believe you’re really here,” Andy whispered, as Jack started to chew on his own hands. “You’re awesome…literally the best. I can’t imagine not having you around, buddy. So weird to think that not long ago you didn’t even exist…”

Jack squeaked and reached forward to play with his father’s beard, little drool-soaked hands grasping at the small bits of stubble on Andy’s cheeks. Andy laughed and made silly faces at the baby. The sound of the shower stopping abruptly made him pause and look up.

“So, when your mama comes out of the shower, you wanna give her your Valentine’s Day gift?”

Jack made a little sound and stretched his arms out, reaching for Andy. Grinning, Andy nodded and took that for a “yes”. 


“Yeah, let’s do it.”

Standing back up, Andy took his son and together they snuck into the spare room. There, in the middle of the floor, was a brand new work desk. It was simple and plain, but large enough to hold a lot of things (and maybe some photos of Jack, Andy and Champion too, Andy imagined). Andy had spent the afternoon putting it together at Leslie and Ben’s house to hide it from his wife. He’d asked Ben if he could come over with Jack the previous day—while April was celebrating “Galentine’s Day” with Leslie, so she had no idea—and Andy was proud of his own cleverness.

April hated Valentine's Day. She always had, really, and they never did gifts for each other. This year, however, was the first Valentine’s Day they had Jack. And if April didn’t want a Valentine from her husband, she would get one from her son. She couldn’t say no to Jack—or at least Andy was hoping she couldn’t. Sometimes he couldn’t tell.

She’d been talking about how she needed a proper work desk and maybe a home office so she could work from home somedays, especially with Jack being so young. Well, Andy figured he could make it happen. They had two extra bedrooms in their house, so one of them could be an office, no problem.

For the finishing touch, Andy had added a large red bow and a framed photograph. It was of their first picture taken together as a family from the night Jack was born.

“Okay, perfect,” Andy said, taking his position in front of the desk with Jack in his arms.

“Babe,” he heard April call. “Where are you guys?”

“Spare room,” he called back, trying to suppress the glee in his voice.

“What are you guys doing?” April stopped short when she pushed the door open, half dressed with wet hair still dripping from the shower. Her eyes went wide when she saw the desk, and she looked quickly to her husband and son standing in front of it. “What’s this?” Andy could see her lips curving up into a smile.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, babe,” Andy said, holding Jack out to her. “This new work desk is from Jack. Now you can have a place to get stuff done when you work from home. Just like your desk at the real office.”

She reached out and took Jack in her arms. Walking over, she ran her hand along the smooth surface of the desk. She picked up the framed photo and looked at it for a whole minute before saying anything, a real smile on her lips now. Kissing Jack on the cheek, April turned to give Andy a hug.

“Thank you,” she said simply, leaning her head on his chest. Andy grinned and wrapped his arm around her.

“So, you like it?”

“Mm-hm,” she nodded.

“I know you don’t like Valentine’s Day, but…Jack wanted to get his mom something,” Andy told her.

“Did he? And when did he find time to build it?” she asked him, bouncing a gurgling Jack in her arms.

“Uhh…yesterday, I think,” Andy scratched his neck and shrugged. “I dunno babe, I think our kid’s a genius or something.”

“I think he is. And so strong too,” she said, smirking. “He’s gonna be strong, and great at building things, just like his dad.”

“Yup, sure seems like it,” Andy nodded.

“Thank you baby,” she kissed Jack’s head. “And thank you, too.” She stood on her toes to give Andy a light kiss on the lips.

“Breakfast?” Andy said, gesturing toward the door.

“Yes, definitely,” April nodded, before turning to look at him nervously. “Wait, did you—“

“No! I didn’t try to bake, I promise. I bought some cookies while you were in the shower,” Andy assured her, taking her hand as they walked down the hall.

“I have a gift for you too,” April said, after a few seconds of silence.

“Aww, babe, you didn’t have to get me anything,” Andy shook his head.

April turned at the bottom of the stairs, giving Andy that look, biting her lip the way she always did that drove him absolutely crazy. “You'll have to wait until Jack takes his nap to open your gift, though.”

Andy decided at that point that this was definitely gonna be the best Valentine’s Day ever.

Chapter Text

April should have seen the signs earlier. It really started when Jack began to wake up crying several times a night emitting these little gasps, unable to fall back asleep. When he did, he would snore, which was odd for him. His appetite had decreased in the last few days, Jack often saying that his throat hurt. He was also more tired than usual, naps stretching at least an hour longer than they should have.

She began to realize her son was feeling off one Sunday night right before bed. He was clingy, agitated, and uninterested in the block tower his father had been working on with him for the past hour. He was far from his happy, bubbly three-year-old self, and it made her feel uneasy. She watched him slump down into his father’s lap, snuggling into his chest and resting his head on Andy’s shoulder, where he immediately dozed off, sucking his thumb. He hadn’t sucked his thumb since he was one year old.

“Babe, I don’t think Jack’s feeling too great,” Andy said, cradling his son against his chest. “He’s not usually like this.” Andy kissed the boy’s head and rocked him slowly. Jack just snuggled up harder, grabbing a fistful of Andy’s shirt in one tiny, clenched hand.

“Yeah, I was thinking the same,” April agreed, nervously. “Do you think he feels warm?”

“Not too much, no,” Andy replied. “He wasn’t even interested in the blocks, and building is his favorite.”

“We’ll check him tomorrow.” April stood up and began gathering the toys scattered across the living room floor. “Let’s get him to bed.”

Andy nodded, slowly getting up off the floor and carrying the sleeping toddler to his room.

 

The daycare called at nine forty-five in the morning. April left the conference room to take the call when she recognized the number, her heart pumping a bit quicker in her chest.

“Hello, Mrs. Ludgate-Dwyer?”

“Yes, I’m here,” April said.

“Hi, it’s Mrs. Porter, the daycare nurse. How are you?”

“I’m fine, thanks. Um, what’s going on?”

“Nothing serious ma’am, just calling to let you know that Jack’s not feeling too well. He’s been having a bit of a tough day. I looked him over, and he seems to have a sore throat, and he keeps pulling at his ears. Seems to me like he’s got an ear infection. I wanted to call to let you know we’ve contacted your husband, and he’s picking him up right now.”

“Oh,” April sighed. “Yeah, he’s been acting off lately. He was fine this morning, though. He had yogurt for breakfast and ate it all, and he didn’t seem upset or anything.”

“Yes, sometimes colds get worse as the day progresses.”

“What can I give him for an ear infection?” April grabbed the nearest pen and sheet of paper, ready to write the name of the medicine down.

“Actually, and I told your husband too when I called him, I’d take him to the doctor’s to get his throat checked out. His mouth is red and his tonsils look swollen. It might be strep throat, but it might not be anything serious. Either way, before he can come back to daycare I need to be sure he’s not carrying anything the other children can catch.”

“His tonsils? Is that normal for a toddler?”

“Yes, children usually start to have tonsil problems as early as three years old. It’s not uncommon, so don’t worry.”

“All right, I’ll call his doctor.” She bit her lip nervously. “Is Jack OK?”

“He’s just a little teary, keeps asking for Mommy and Daddy, but I told him his daddy will be here soon. I gave him a popsicle for his throat. Oh—I think your husband just arrived.”

“Okay, thank you.” April hung up. She finished the meeting, and asked to take a half day. She decided to call Jack’s pediatrician to see if she could grab an appointment for that afternoon.

 

“Don’t worry babe, I’m sure he’s fine,” Andy said soothingly, as the family sat in the waiting room of Jack’s pediatrician’s office.

“I know, he’s just never been this sick before—“ April rubbed her son’s back as he clung to her, clutching his favorite stuffed dog. Andy rocked a sleeping Alexandra in her car seat on the floor next to his chair.

“It’s just his tonsils, it happens all the time,” Andy squeezed her hand between the chairs and she smiled at him.

“Jack?”

April exhaled nervously, she and Andy standing up when the nurse called Jack’s name, and made their way into the exam room.

 

“Yes, it’s definitely his tonsils!” the doctor announced, looking into a reluctant Jack’s open mouth.

There had been tears, screams, arms and feet flailing, but finally Andy and April had managed to calm their son enough to get him to sit still for the doctor to check inside his mouth. Luckily it didn’t take long to diagnose him.

“So he has to have them removed? In a hospital?” April looked apprehensively at Andy, and back at the pediatrician. The doctor looked at them kindly.

“Is he your first-born?”

“He is!” Andy nodded enthusiastically.

“Why?” April looked at the woman, prepared to defend herself lest anyone try to insult her parenting skills.

“It’s just easy to tell. First time parents worry about a lot of things, especially when it comes to their first baby’s health.” The doctor smiled at them. “Don’t worry, it’ll be an in and out procedure. You can stay the whole time, and he’ll be done before you know it.”

“I—OK, yeah, we’re a little nervous,” April admitted. “When can Jack have it done?”

“How about Wednesday? The procedure only takes about twenty minutes.”

April looked at Andy for affirmation. He nodded.

“Sure,” April replied, hugging her son tighter against her.

“Great,” the woman said with a smile. “Now, let me give you this list—it just talks about what to do the night before the surgery and the for the recovery after.”

April took it, scanning it quickly.

“And just think Jack,” the doctor said to the boy with a smile. “Mommy and Daddy will have to give you all the ice cream you want! Won’t that be awesome?”

Jack nodded his tiny head against April’s neck before hiding his face.

“Hey, Dr. D,” Andy asked quietly as the family started to walk out the door. “Can I get mine out too?”

“Andy come on,” April shook her head.

“But babe, ice cream!” he whispered, pointing to the sheet of instructions.

 

April watched her baby boy fall asleep the night before the surgery, and couldn’t help but tear up. She was feeling all kinds of emotions and she blamed it on stress, but Andy wasn’t buying it.

“Aww, honey, you’re being such a mom right now,” he said with a grin, as he led his teary-eyed wife out of Jack’s bedroom.

“Stop it! Am not!” she retorted, hastily wiping the tears out of her eyes.

“It’s OK, I get it!” Andy smiled, wrapping an arm around her as they headed back downstairs.

“He’s…just our baby, you know?” She looked at Andy and shrugged. “I just, I dunno, I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Don’t explain, honey. I get it,” Andy nodded, kissing her head.

“Aren’t you worried?” she looked at her husband with arched eyebrows. “I mean, you’re usually the one who gets all emotional and stuff…”

“Dude, of course I’m not worried! He’s gonna be fine!” Andy said reassuringly. “Trust me.”

April shook her head. “Whatever you say, babe. Bet you tear up tomorrow when they try to separate him from us in the hospital.”

 

If April had bet any money on Andy’s reaction the following day, she’d have done very well. All it took was for Jack to start getting upset when the doctor walked into the room, and Andy was told to place him on the little kid-sized stretcher before her husband’s eyes got red and watery. Jack screamed, reaching his arms out, his eyes puffy and cheeks wet, and Andy nearly lost it when his little boy started calling for Mommy and Daddy, but once the doctor ushered them out and told them not to worry, they had no choice but to sit in the waiting room until it was over.

April took hold of Andy’s hand, giving it a squeeze. “You OK, babe?”

Andy sniffed and wiped his eyes with his free hand. “Wha? Oh, who, me? Yeah I’m cool. Yeah, so cool right now.” He nodded.

April kissed his cheek. “It’s OK to cry, daddy.”

“I’m not crying.”

“Sure.”

“I’m not.”

“Whatever you say. I’m gonna call the daycare and check on Allie.”

“I’’m just gonna sit here, and not cry,” Andy called after her, as April pulled out her phone and walked a few feet away to make the call.

 

“All set mom and dad!” the nurse called them into the recovery room about forty minutes later.

Jack was fast asleep in the little bed, looking absolutely fine. April smiled and let out the tiniest sigh, while Andy sniffed loudly. Jack’s pediatrician was waiting for them.

“He’ll be up soon,” she told them. “He did great. When he wakes up, he needs to drink lots of fluids. He should be OK to go home in a couple of hours. I want you to keep him home the rest of the week, so he can rest and relax. He might feel a little dizzy for the rest of the day, so make sure he doesn’t tire himself out.”

“Thanks so much,” Andy said, shaking the woman’s hand.

April kissed their little boy’s head, pushing aside his hair. “I can’t believe our baby had his tonsils out.”

“I know,” Andy replied. “He seems too young, doesn’t he? Looking at him like this…” Andy rubbed his own eyes again. “Man, I can’t wait to get him home.”

“I know, babe. Neither can I.”

 

That night, April and Andy tucked Jack in together, after a huge bowl of chocolate ice cream for dinner. As predicted, Jack was extra tired, and didn’t want to be anywhere his parents couldn’t be seen. He had spent the evening watching TV with them, squished between the two of them and his baby sister. Andy was thrilled when Jack decided to play with his building blocks again, taking it as a sign that his boy was feeling much better. It had become sort of a ritual with them, building things with blocks or legos before bedtime, and April knew Andy felt bad whenever Jack wasn’t up to it. He looked forward to this special time with his son.

“Night, baby,” she said softly, kissing him on the head.

“Night big man,” Andy said, doing the same. “Let us know if you need anything, okay?”

Jack nodded, his little eyes already beginning to close. Andy and April backed out of the room, closing the door behind them.

“So, um, let’s go watch TV then?” Andy shrugged.

“Yeah, sure,” April glanced quickly at the door to Jack’s room before they headed down to the living room.

Only a half hour of television had passed before Andy stood up, a distracted look in his eyes.

“I’ll be right back, honey. I’m gonna go check on Jack.”

April smirked at him. “Don’t wake him up, OK?”

“I won’t, I won’t…” Andy sprinted up the stairs. “Be right back!” he called.

April watched the clock. Five minutes, ten minutes, then twenty minutes passed before she stood up herself and turned the TV off. Andy still hadn’t come back, and now she was curious. She had an idea what happened, but wanted to see for herself. Making her way up to her son’s room, she peeked inside the door, smiling instantly at the sight.

Andy was curled up next to Jack in Jack’s new “big boy bed” he’d gotten only a few months ago. It was full sized, perfect for April or Andy to snuggle their boy at night when they read stories before bed, or tired mornings when Jack had them up earlier than they planned. Right now, Jack was cuddled up against his father (who was completely passed out), resting his head against his son’s.

April climbed in on Jack’s other side, slipping under the covers and curling up next to her two boys. She’d been super nervous about the surgery—she wasn’t afraid to admit it. And Andy had been too. It was inevitable, and as the years passed she understood that all the things people warned her about being a mom were true. She still made it her mission to be the creepiest cool mom ever, that wasn’t going to change. But for now, this was fine too. Now she got to enjoy the biggest reward of all, and that was totally making the whole over-emotional mom stigma she had always hoped to avoid completely worth it. And April Ludgate-Dwyer had never been happier.

Chapter Text

“Sweetheart, you OK?” Andy leaned over in bed, his face a mere inches away from April’s ear. She could feel his breath on her cheek. Eyes still closed, she nodded, clutching a pillow to her stomach. “Ya sure?”

“Mmhm,” she mumbled. “You know, just the usual, feel like I’m slowly dying, all that fun stuff.”

“I know, babe.” He sunk deeper into the sheets and wrapped her in a hug, breathing in the familiar scent of her hair.

“I just wanna stay in bed all day,” she sighed, turning to face him and snuggling into his chest.

“Well, it is Saturday, so we can totally do that,” Andy assured her.

“I think we should—“ April stopped short, a funny look on her face, before darting out of bed and running to the bathroom. Andy sat up and watched her go, and only a minute later heard her vomiting in the toilet.

“Honey?” he scrambled after her and came to a halt in front of the bathroom. April was leaning over the toilet, clutching the sides, her face pale and tired-looking. Andy ducked down next to her, rubbing her back.

“Andy,” she sighed, leaning back against the wall. “This sucks. Remind me why I let you do this to me again?”

He scooted against the wall beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “Well, for starters, it’s because you’re the coolest wife in the world,” he said, pushing some of her hair behind her ear. “Also, because you love me, and I love you, and we’re both gonna love our super awesome baby.”

“Fair enough,” she said, leaning into him. “We’re only two months into this nine-month hell. Ugh, I can’t do this.”

“Yes, you can,” Andy smiled at her. “You’re April freakin’ Ludgate-Dwyer, and you can do anything.”

He stood, and bent down again, only to gently scoop her up into his arms. He carried her back to bed and carefully set her down onto the soft mattress.

“I’ll be back, all right? I’m gonna get some stuff to help you feel better.”

“No, Andy, just stay with me,” she whined, her face already buried in the pillows.

He set the small trash bin next to the end table, so April had easy access in case she needed it. After a quick kiss on the head, he dashed toward the door. 


“I’ll be back, just rest. I promise, I’ll spend the whole rest of the day with you, babe.” He disappeared down the stairs.

April grunted in frustration and tried to make herself comfortable, shifting pillows and kicking at blankets with her feet. She was too busy being frustrated at the whole annoying (and totally not amazing, if anyone asked her) process of carrying a little demon spawn in her belly to notice that she was slowly drifting off to sleep. She smiled to herself as she closed her eyes, imagining a baby with Andy’s goofy grin and perfect green eyes as she fell asleep.

 

April woke a couple of hours later, unsure of how long she’d been out. She looked to her right, and Andy was there, lying next to her and laughing at something he was watching on the computer.

“Hey babe,” he said, smiling. “Feel any better?”

“A bit,” she leaned over to give him a kiss on the cheek. “What’d you do while I was sleeping?”

Andy closed the laptop and climbed out of bed, hurrying around to the other side to offer April his hand and help her down. She took it, grinning at the simple, unnecessary gesture her husband was always so inclined to do.

“Well, I actually went to the store while you were sleeping…” Andy said with glee in his voice. “And I think I know how to help you with the warning sickness.”

“Morning sickness, babe,” April corrected him.

“Right,” Andy smacked his forehead with his hand. “Anyway, I want to show you what I did.”

He led her down into the kitchen and to the refrigerator, opening it with a flourish.

Inside the usually sparse compartments and spaces were a myriad of items that April would normally wonder why on earth anyone would need, but since it was Andy, she let him explain before asking questions. He pointed to a shelf where about two dozen bottles of water sat.

“First off, babe, you need to drink more water. Like a lot more. So, I present to you, your very own water shelf. And I bought this,” he stepped around the kitchen counter and held up a giant water cooler, “to go next to the bed, so you have easy access to water whenever you need it!”

She smiled at him and crossed her arms. Andy turned his attention back to the refrigerator.

“And here, we have a shelf of ginger ale soda, because, you know, I guess ginger ale helps settle your stomach or whatever. And I got this thing.” He held up an odd, brown vegetable looking item, like a potato that had been twisted into all kinds of shapes. “The lady at the supermarket told me I should get real ginger, because apparently it helps, but honestly babe, this thing looks disgusting.” He tossed it in the fridge without a second thought.

“Totally does,” April agreed with a nod.

“Also,” he closed the fridge and pointed to a bowl of lemons on the countertop. “I read that whenever you start to feel nauseous from weird smells, you’re supposed to like, smell the lemon, and the citrus scent helps you feel better! Isn’t that awesome? Science is so great…”

April smiled at her husband, who was grinning at her with his signature smile and white teeth. Andy was clearly waiting to see if he’d done the right thing. Arms still crossed, she sauntered over to him and leaned against his chest.

“Anything else I should do, babe?” She asked with a soft voice, looking directly into his eyes and not breaking contact.

Andy stared down into her lidded eyes and swallowed, clearing his throat. “Uh, y-yeah,” he said, suddenly distracted by the way she was looking at him. “It said on the—the website that you need lots of rest, and relaxation…and…stuff.”

“Mmhm, I think I do, definitely,” she said, wrapping her arms around his waist.

“Right,” Andy nodded, a flush creeping up his neck. “I was going to get a bath going for you, if…if you want one,” he said quietly.

“I think that would definitely help me relax,” April nodded. “You know what else would help me relax?”

Andy shrugged, looking around for the answer as though it was right in front of him.

“If my husband, who is definitely the best husband in the world, would get that bath ready for me. And then help me out with that, too.” She bit her lip and glanced up at him.

Andy’s mouth hung open before his eyes lit up with understanding. He scooped her up and made for the stairs, going as fast as he dared while carrying his pregnant wife. He couldn’t help but agree with her. She could probably use all the help she could get.

Chapter Text

“Mom, guess what?” Jack came running around the corner, looking at his mother with that excited gleam in his eyes, reminiscent of his father’s.

“What, baby?”

“Mooom, why d’you still call me that? I’m not a baby, I’m gonna be eight in a few weeks!”

“Sorry kiddo, but you’re always gonna be my baby, so you’re just gonna have to deal,” she said, setting down the box labeled “Halloween Decorations” on the kitchen counter.

Jack let out an exaggerated sigh and continued, “So, guess what Dad’s making to put in the yard for Halloween?”

“What?” She eyed her son suspiciously. This could either be really awesome, or really unsafe. With Andy, there was sometimes no in-between.

Jack grinned before bursting out with, “A scarecrow!”

“Oh!” April let out a breath and continued unloading the box, tossing some fake spider webs to the side and digging deeper to reach the fake severed limbs. “That’s awesome honey, sounds great.”

In a way she was relieved. The year before, Andy had gotten red paint and decided to paint a “bloody trail” up the walkway, culminating in a display of “dead zombies” on the front lawn, fake scattered brains and all. It was kind of horrifying. April thought it was awesome, although they barely got any young trick or treaters, and a few parents had made some off-hand comments about “going too far” when they’d dropped their children off for Jack’s birthday party.

“Right now Ally and Melly are helping him stuff one of his old shirts in the backyard,” Jack said. “Dad told me to come see you because you know where the fake blood capsules are.”

“Why does he need fake blood?”

“Because the scarecrow is gonna have his head hanging off!” Jack said, practically bursting with excitement. “It was attacked by a zombie and chopped off, but the blade didn’t go all the way through! Isn’t that cool, mom? We’re gonna smear it all over him!”

On one hand, April was so proud of her son right then and there that she could’ve started to cry. On the other, she felt like she should probably say something to Andy about how they shouldn’t scare neighborhood kids anymore. It kinda sucked, because before she had kids of her own, she would’ve had no problem with it. In fact, she encouraged it. However, three kids later, plus lots of classroom visits and birthday parties, and stupid boring chats with the other parents made her realize that there were some creepy things they just had to let go. The last thing she wanted, the very last thing, was for her son to be labeled at school as a freak, or weird, because of something she and Andy did. She’d been there as a kid. She hated it. She was not going to let him go through the same thing.

“You know, I think I wanna see this scarecrow first,” she said, ushering her son out the back door. “Get an idea of what we’re dealing with.”

In the backyard, Andy was sitting on the lawn with what looked like a pile of clothes in his lap. The two girls were on either side of him, fistfuls of hay in their tiny clenched hands. Andy’s concentration was evident on his face as he finished with the scarecrow’s pants and moved onto its shirt, one of his old flannels that was so threadbare she was surprised they hadn’t gotten rid of it sooner. She watched them happily, smiling to herself before Melody looked up and noticed she was there.

“Momma!” she yelled happily. “Scarecrow!”

Andy looked up and smiled at his wife, waving her over. “Babe! Come here, check this out! It’s awesome!”

Jack joined the three of them again and took his place next to Allie, watching his dad work with excitement plastered all over his face.

“Wow, this is great,” April said honestly, surveying the work they’d done so far. “Where are you gonna put it, babe?”

“The front lawn, of course!” Andy said simply, like he’d never heard such a question. “Where are the blood capsules?”

April was ready to explain that maybe this year they should hold back a bit, take the creepiness down a notch…everything she hated to admit, thinking it would be for the best. Instead she paused. She watched her three kids looking excitedly at the soon-to-be scarecrow, eager to help out. She saw Andy looking at her with that lovable, giddy look on his face, filled with playful innocence and complete excitement over this activity he was sharing with his children who he loved more than anything.

She watched Jack explaining rapid fire to Allie about how the scarecrow would look once they stuck it on the pole, and his plans to make a scary sign to put next to it, warning trick or treaters about what happens when you get too close to a zombie.

Screw it. Halloween was their holiday.

“Oh—forgot them. I’ll be right back!” April turned and ran back to the house to find her and Andy’s stash of fake blood. She knew just how much they’d need to make it look really grisly.

 

“Wow, April…this year you guys really outdid yourselves,” Leslie said slowly, glancing up at the bloody, zombie scarecrow that adorned the front yard of the Ludgate-Dwyer house. “I thought you said you were gonna…you know…tone it down?” Trick or treaters weaved their way in between them, occasionally glancing up at the display. Some looked a little timid, but most would stop and stare in amazement, taking pictures and posing in front of it.

April nodded proudly, adjusting the veil of her Janet Snakehole getup. “It was all Andy and the kids,” she explained, putting the cigarette holder between her teeth. “I just watched, really. And I changed my mind.”

“Well, it’s…more tame than last year’s, I guess,” the blonde nodded. This year, Leslie and Ben decided to go as a waffle and bottle of syrup. Somehow, Leslie managed to sew the costumes by herself outside of work. In typical Leslie fashion, they were perfect.

“Where’re the triplets?” April asked, looking around for her own three and their father.

“Oh, you know…they’re too cool for trick or treating now. Went out with friends.” Leslie shrugged, looking a little sad. “How’s Jack enjoying being an eight-year-old?”

“I think he’s loving it so far,” April replied, waving her family over after spotting them at a nearby house.

“Hey honey!” Andy (or rather, Burt Macklin) rushed over, carrying Melody, who was dressed as a princess. Ben was leading Allie the witch and Jack the zombie-ghost over. “We got sooooo much candy! I think it’s because our kids are the cutest kids on the entire planet,” he added, tickling his daughter’s belly as she squirmed and giggled.

“Yeah, that’s great Andy, but d’you think you’re done now?” Ben asked, laden with two heavy bags filled to the brim with sweets. “I don’t think you could add anymore without these bags exploding.”

“Uncle Ben, why are you dressed up like a bottle of ketchup?” Jack asked innocently, his eyes darting mischievously to his mother’s. April snickered.

“I’m not—hasn’t this kid ever seen a bottle of syrup?” Ben asked, holding his hand up in the air in exasperation. “I know he’s seen syrup before, now come on!” Leslie shook her head and gave her husband a sympathetic look, but even she couldn’t hide her smile.

“What d’you guys say we go inside now and have cake?” April asked, patting her son on the back.

Jack punched he air. “Yeah, birthday cake! This is the best day ever. I love having my birthday on Halloween!”

“Cake!” Andy said excitedly. “Let’s go, let’s go, come on come on come on!” He lad the way back up to their house, April scooping up a tired Allie in the process. She glanced at the zombie scarecrow and caught up with Andy as they headed up the walkway.

“Great job on the scarecrow, babe,” she said. “I love it. Super creepy.”

“Aww, thanks honey. We worked really hard on it. The kids wanted to impress their mommy. They know how much you love Halloween.”

“Yeah,” she nodded. “Hands down, best day of the year. Can’t wait to see what you come up with next Halloween.”

“I don’t know babe, this was pretty good. Think we can top it?”

“We wouldn’t be us if we didn’t.” Smirking, she closed the front door behind them.

Chapter Text

“Are you guys sure you want to take the kids on this thing?” Ben asked April cautiously, as the Pawnee Commons “Halloween Spook-tacular Hayride” rolled up in front of the waiting crowd.

Groups of people weaved their way around them, as children in costumes, volunteers, and dressed up festival game operators explored the Pawnee Commons’ latest community attraction. The whole park was decked out for Halloween, and by the looks of it, the entire town had arrived to take part in the celebration. At the center of the festival was the haunted hayride that went beyond the park, looped back around and finished where it started. Most of the children on this ride, (and Ben hadn’t failed to notice) were much older than six or four years old.

April glanced at the tractor and back at Ben quickly. “Yes, Ben,” she rolled her eyes at him. “I already told you, the kids love stuff like this. Stop worrying,” she held onto her daughter’s hand tightly as Alexandra craned her neck around to get a better look at some kids in costumes who were taking their seats.

“Mommy, a vampire,” the little girl announced, pointing a tiny fist at one of the kids. Allie was dressed head to toe as a mermaid. However, as she was Andy and April’s daughter, the mermaid also had fangs, claws on her fingers, and spider clips in her sandy-colored hair.

“Mmhm,” April glanced at the costume, and shook her head. “Why would any parent want their kid to be dressed as a cute vampire? They’re not supposed to be cute.” She turned again at the sound of fast feet and saw Andy hurrying over to them, their son Jack trailing along in his father’s wake.

“Honey, all set! Got our tickets, we’re good to go!” He smiled and scooped his daughter up into his arms, turning her so she could get a better look at the kids who were dressed up.

“Mom, why didn’t you and Dad dress up for this?” Jack asked, brandishing his “mummified pirate” sword and giving it a few practice swings in the cold Pawnee air.

“Because Auntie Leslie forced—I mean, asked—your Daddy and me to volunteer at this event, even though she knows how much we love Halloween and only came back to Pawnee this time because of it.” April gave Ben a big, fake toothy grin. “And don’t worry, buddy. In one week on the real Halloween we’ll definitely dress up.”

“Sorry guys, I know…she kinda roped all of us into it, I mean…when Garry personally asked her to come and run the event she couldn’t exactly say no,” Ben shrugged.

“Mayor Gergich,” Andy laughed. “Ha! I can’t believe he’s still running the city!”

“Roped who into what?”

All three adults turned their heads at Leslie’s voice as she arrived, carrying one-year-old Melody in her arms. The little girl’s face was sticky with cotton candy.

“Nothing babe, just admiring the festival!” Ben said quickly, avoiding her gaze and reaching out to tickle the little girl’s belly.

“Oh, Leslie’s back, let’s go, let’s go!” Andy said, just as excited as the kids looked.

April took her son’s hand and the family hurried to grab a seat on the ride, and Andy shouted back as they went, “Thanks for watching Melody, Leslie!”

“Have fun!” Leslie and Ben waved, then turned to head back in the direction of the volunteer booth.

The little family took a seat in the back of the tractor so they had a full view of everything behind them. Andy and April sat with Jack between them, Allie snug on her father’s lap. Both children looked beyond excited.

“I hope we see some really scary stuff,” Jack said, looking around hopefully.

“I bet we’ll see some super awesome stuff, buddy,” Andy nodded at him knowingly.

The ride suddenly jutted forward, and off they rolled down the path. The tractor was packed with people, all chatting amongst themselves excitedly. The way ahead was especially dark, the small hills and flat patches of grass on either side only illuminated by an eerie orange or purple light.

“I wanna see some zombies,” Jack said, looking around.

“We will, I bet we’ll see all sorts—“ April was cut off as one of the costumed monsters popped out of the bushes on the side of the tractor, jumping eerily close to the side of the ride. Several people screamed. April even felt herself jump, which Andy was certainly not shy about pointing out.

“Aww, babe, that’s so cute,” he chuckled. “You actually got scared.”

“Did not,” she leered at him, before turning her attention back at the road. Andy couldn’t help but notice that she scooted closer to him anyway, squishing Jack in-between them.

The next creature to pop out actually ran alongside the road next to the tractor for almost a whole minute, dressed as some sort of werewolf-like monster. A kid much older than Jack shrieked and started to cry.

Andy glanced at April, and he noticed she was looking at him with the same slightly concerned expression. They hadn’t exactly imagined how their children might react to this. Normally Jack and Allie were fine around costumes and masks, but they'd never been on a haunted hayride before where people popped out and actually tried to scare you. Some of these creeps might really frighten them, and April got an uneasy feeling in her stomach about it. She knew her children loved Halloween, but she, and certainly not Andy, never had any intention of terrifying them with any of it.

“You OK, big man?” Andy asked Jack, giving him a gentle pat on the back and glancing down at him as a mummy crept behind the tractor, following at a brisk pace and moaning.

Jack looked up at his dad and nodded, before turning his attention back to the mummy, a curious expression on his face.

“How about you, beautiful mermaid?” Andy asked Allie. The little girl was slung over his shoulder, her arms wrapped around his neck, one hand playing with the collar of his flannel shirt.

He felt her nod against him, and heard her yawn a second later.

After ten more minutes and several more of these encounters, now accompanied by a spooky soundtrack, Jack suddenly started to laugh. Andy and April looked at their son and then each other, both of them looking just as confused.

“Baby, what’s so funny?” April asked him, the corners of her mouth turning up into a smile.

“Mommy, these monsters aren’t scary,” Jack said with a giggle.

“They’re not?” April raised her eyebrows and glanced at her husband, trying to hide her own grin. Andy just shrugged at her.

“No,” Jack shook his head. “They don’t have any blood or nothing, no guts…just silly looking masks. The stuff you and Daddy wear and put in the yard is much scarier.”

“Buddy, not one of these guys scares you?” Andy grinned at Jack.

Jack shook his head. He pointed to his sister, “Look, Allie fell asleep.”

Sure enough, their daughter had dozed off in Andy’s arms. Now Andy and April both started to laugh, too.

“Well,” Andy said, rubbing his son’s shoulder. “I guess when we get back we’re just gonna have to find something super scary to make up for it, aren’t we?”

Jack nodded. “Yeah, maybe make our own haunted hayride,” he said, looking at his mother hopefully.

April leaned down to give her son a hug. “You’re right,” she nodded. “We will definitely make up for this, and give you the best, scariest haunted hayride ever.”

Jack looked thrilled. Andy reached behind Jack and took his wife’s hand, smiling wide at her. She could only shrug and try to hold back her own laughter.

For the remainder of the ride, Andy, April and Jack laughed about every creature that tried to scare them and failed. Andy looked at their son proudly, obviously thrilled that his boy loved Halloween as much as his mom and dad. April was just glad Jack understood the importance of a good, scary costume.

As they shared ideas about creating their own haunted hayride, April thought to herself happily, “When you’re lucky enough to have your first child born on Halloween, the standards have to be pretty high.”

They were definitely up to the challenge.

Chapter Text

Andy gripped the cold bedsheets and twisted himself awake, groaning when he saw the numbers bright and large on the digital alarm clock. The time read five in the morning. Sadly, he realized he actually had to wake up in another hour or so, get ready, and put on a fancy suit. Him, Andy, in a fancy suit. To go to his office, where people would be asking him all kinds of important, work-related questions where he was expected—no, required—to give important, work-related answers.  He didn't know how the heck he'd managed this far to begin with.

The apartment (or flat, as his boss Eddie called it) he was living in during his time in London was modest, but very comfortable. He attributed it to his new connections with the Covington family, and the fact that Ben's job was so important, so Andy was important by association. It had silky sheets, large floor to ceiling windows, a huge TV and every amenity he could possibly need. However, there was one thing the apartment didn't have. And that was his wife. Andy would live in a dumpster during his time here if only she could be with him. Hell, he’d lived in a pit for the better part of a year at one point. At least a dumpster had a cover.

To say he missed April was an understatement. If it was hard to stay behind the first time as she boarded the plane that would take her back to Pawnee, leaving her a second time the night of Ben's 90’s themed birthday party had been tortuous.  They'd managed to have a glorious nineteen hours of time together, taking advantage of it in ways that kept Andy's heart racing whenever he would think back to that wonderful day.  It was with a heavy heart he left her as the taxi drove away from their house the final time, and he watched her small form getting further and further away as he stared out the back window.

His cell phone pinged and he grabbed it eagerly, no longer able to sleep. He was expecting a good morning message from April, especially since today was Halloween, their absolute favorite day of the year. His face fell when he realized it was just an email detailing the day's work schedule from his team.

"It's fine," he thought to himself.  "She didn't forget."  Ben told him Pawnee was five hours behind anyway, so technically April would be just getting to sleep right now.  He sighed and stared at the background photo of the two of them and Champion, their three-legged wonder dog, and the homesickness doubled.  He wondered how she was going to celebrate without him, and without their usual yearly pranks.  No trick or treating, no candy, no egging Larry's house...  He couldn't even be there to join Leslie's Parks Department Halloween party. Then he felt worse when he thought that maybe she would do those things anyway, without him. He sighed, closed his eyes, and tried to get in one more hour of rest before he had to be up for good.

 

Andy wasn't able to go back to sleep. After closing his eyes and feeling no more tired than before, he just laid on his back and stared at the ceiling. Pulling himself out of bed an hour later, Andy let his boxers drop to the floor and he padded slowly to the bathroom.  The shower was a nice relief, although temporary, from his swirling mess of thoughts.  It definitely wasn't as fun without your super hot wife to join you, as they often did most mornings while getting ready for work.  Still not completely used to his new, fitter physique, he stared down at his own newly muscled stomach and felt like he was viewing someone else’s torso. It was strange. All from giving up beer for a month (and exercise, but he often forgot to tell people that part). April had taken a little while to get used to it. At first, he sensed she didn’t like his new look. She would often drop little hints about liking him just the way he was before. That changed, however, not long after she realized the certain benefits of his newfound stamina and endurance, and the comments stopped immediately. Andy stared at the floor as the water cascaded down and around his head and chest, pooling in a soapy, swirling pattern before disappearing down the drain forever.

He didn't often get jealous or anything, (at least he hadn’t in a long, long time) but every once in a while he wondered if April missed him as much as he missed her.  Of course, that was stupid. She definitely did.  They told each other so every night over Skype.  Still, the thought weighed heavily on him, more so now since he'd failed to become a cop.  She said she was proud of him anyway, and that she was sure he'd find something else.  Was this even what he wanted to do? What if April met some guy while he was stuck here, and she was there, and they became friends, and this friend just to happened to be awesome and amazing and have a great job and lots of money. “Wait, no,” he thought, frustrated with himself. “That isn’t April. She doesn't care about stuff like that. That’s not going to happen. Stop being stupid.” He gave his body one more rinse before stepping out, wrapped himself in a towel, and headed back to the bedroom.

It was super important of him to make this work.  He had to do it for himself, to prove he could bounce back and hold a real job; for Ben, because he refused to let Ben down after he’d given him this opportunity, and most importantly for April.  She was, and always would be, who he was basing every decision on going forward in life.  Some weird, instinctual gut feeling, or whatever, would often take hold and his need and desire to protect and provide for her was all he would think about. He refused to screw this up.  He loved her, and she loved him, but how many times could someone still love another person if all they did was fail?

He shook his head. He was thinking ridiculously stupid thoughts right now.  At least that's what April would tell him, were she here. God how he wished she were here.  He picked out an outfit for the day, in accordance to the list of "fancy" clothing combinations April had written down for him, and got dressed as the sun was rising.

As he ate a slice of stale pizza for breakfast, he was startled when his phone suddenly went off again.  Grabbing for it in his pocket, he read the text message and a tiny smile crept across his face.

Morning, babe, & Happy Halloween <3
I love you, see you on Skype tonight.

Andy smiled and stared at the words for a few moments, about to type a response when another message popped into view.

btw, I'll be wearing the special costume I bought.  And no, it's not the same one I'm wearing to Leslie's party.  This one's just for you.

Andy grinned and felt that warm flush creep up his neck, into his face.  Maybe this Halloween wouldn't be so bad after all.

Chapter Text

Guest after guest poured into Tom’s Bistro after the show had come to a stunning and spectacular close. Winding their way through the ever-growing crowd, they ordered their drinks at the bar, high off the success of the entire Unity Concert.

Andy was beside himself; he’d never felt such a rush from a performance before. The very essence of it felt like it was seeping through his veins and it was a feeling he simply didn’t want to let go of. This night was definitely one of the best he’d ever had. It was absolutely perfect, and it was all thanks to his amazing wife.

“You’re the greatest wife ever,” he said, staring at her longingly. “I wish I could marry you all over again.”

His eyes traveled to her mouth, watching as April rolled her lips and grinned at him. April was perfect, and she needed to know it every chance he could show her. So when the idea hit him, it felt like the most obvious thing in the world.

“Let’s get divorced!” he suggested with a gasp, wondering why he hadn’t thought of it sooner. “That way we could get married again!”

April didn’t even wait before responding. “Yes,” she replied, her eyes wide and staring into his. “Let’s do it!” Her smile was enough of a confirmation that maybe the suggestion was a good one.

“You want to?” He had to be sure, just in case.

“Yes!”

“We should do that, right?”

“Yeah, totally!”

“We’re getting divorced!” Andy leaned forward to kiss her, the buzzing of the crowd at Tom’s Bistro growing in volume as the celebrations lasted long into the night.

 

April soon began to realize they’d had quite a bit to drink at Tom’s afterparty. Maybe it was after she led Andy into the wine cellar with his shirt practically hanging off, kicking out a highly affronted Craig and telling him to come back in five minutes. Or perhaps it was when Ron was trying to talk to Andy about something, and all he could do was smile and nod, causing the older man to cock an eyebrow and shake his head. Either way, it was enough that they had to get a ride home from Donna, which was saying something.

Stumbling up the walkway to their house, Andy fumbled in his pockets for the keys and April just giggled nonsensically beside him.

“Babe,” she laughed, “You’ve always got like, the best ideas.”

“Aww, thanks babe,” Andy slurred, as he tried to stick the key in the door. “Ha, stupid key’s too big…”

“No no, let me show you,” April’s small hands closed over his as she guided the key into the lock, and after a haphazard wave to Donna as she drove away, the two of them hurried into the house and closed the door.

Andy tossed the keys somewhere to his right, and immediately turned his attention to April. Scooping her up in his arms, he leaned in to kiss her, and she returned it passionately.

“I can’t believe we’re gonna get married again!” he said, sounding like an excited, overgrown kid. “This time, maybe we can get married on a boat…or on a merry-go-round! Or, or—”

“Or onstage at one of your Johnny Karate shows!” April gasped, and giggled out a high pitched sound that surely would've made her scoff at herself had she been sober enough to hear it. “Or in a forest, just me you and Champion…”

As she listed suggestions, Andy carried her to their room, nodding enthusiastically at each idea. “Or maybe we can just invite our closest friends instead of a huge dinner party like last time,” he said thoughtfully.

“I don’t care, I just wanna marry you again.” She pulled at his shirt sloppily as they fell back on the bed together. Andy just nodded, and from that point on the conversation would have to wait.

 

Maybe it was something about the way he was always so loving with her, the way he was never less than gentle unless she asked for it. Perhaps it was the way he grasped her hand, or kissed her neck, or rubbed her back in a slow massage. It could be the way he whispered “I love you,” every chance he could, with every stolen breath and deep sigh. Maybe it was just because no one in the world was meant to fit her like he did, meant to love her like he does, meant to stay with her forever like he would. April wasn’t exactly sure why she started to change her mind, but she was absolutely sure of the fact that she’d never let him go, not even for an instant.

Coming down off the alcohol had made her start to rethink things. She didn’t want some paper that legally broke them up to be filed and stored away in a public building, even if it was only temporarily. She didn't want to spend a minute of her life not married to him now that she knew how amazing their lives were.

She didn’t want to look back on the past three years and have them voided out even if it was only for a minute, because those years were theirs, and she refused to insult the memory of them even if it was just to try to prove how much they loved each other.

“Babe,” April’s voice was tired and scratchy as she pressed against his side, her hands tucked warmly away between the both of them.

“Hmm?” Andy was just as sleepy. His eyes were drooped, exhausted from a night of celebrating and drinking, accompanied by hours more they’d spent together, alone, far into the early hours of the morning.

“Babe, I have to tell you something,” she said quietly.

Andy opened his eyes and sat up a little straighter, turning ever so slightly so he was completely facing her. His hair was a mess, sticking out at odd angles all over. His face was flushed and tired, and he looked completely spent. She figured she must look just as messy.

“Are you OK?” he asked seriously, running a hand down her side.

April nodded and smiled at him. He was always concerned that one day he’d hurt her by accident and she wouldn’t tell him. He was always sweet like that.

“I don’t want to get divorced,” she said, suddenly aware of how small her voice sounded.

Based on her tone, Andy must’ve been expecting something much more serious. He seemed so relieved that he actually laughed.

“What?” April looked at him, suddenly self-conscious for reasons completely random and surprising. She knew he wasn’t laughing at her, but she was so exhausted and at the moment she felt too vulnerable to think about it.

“Hey,” he pulled her to him immediately, kissing her head. “We don’t have to do anything, babe,” he said, rubbing her arm. “Not if you don’t wanna.”

“It’s just…” she shrugged. “I don’t want anyone breaking us up, even if it is just to get married again. I like us the way we are.”

“Honey, that’s fine,” he said quietly. “We won’t.”

“Are you sure? I know you were so excited about it…”

“Yeah, of course I’m sure!” He smiled at her. “Super, one hundred percent sure,” and she knew he meant it. “I don’t want anyone breaking us up either! I just thought it would be cool to get married again, because I just love you so much.”

She smiled, leaning in to kiss him. “I love you too,” she said softly.

They sat in silence for a few moments, listening to each other breathe and Champion’s light snores from his bed in the corner.

“Babe,” she spoke up quietly, breaking the silence.

“Yeah?”

“You’re, like…the best husband. I just wanted you to know, because I know I don’t say it enough.”

Andy draped an arm over her and laughed, pulling the blanket up to their shoulders. “April, you say it tons of times…and believe me, I know.”

“But, you know…it would still be a funny prank to play on Leslie and Ben and tell them we got divorced, just to see their faces.”

“Oh! YES, I love that idea!” Andy said excitedly.

“Awesome,” she said, closing her eyes to finally get some sleep. “We’ll plan it more in the morning. I can just picture their faces.”

“Sweet,” Andy kissed her head and closed his eyes too. “You’re so good at pranks, babe.”

No, there would be no divorces in their relationship, not even temporary ones. Pretend ones? Well, that was a whole different matter…

Chapter Text

There was a certain aura about the old Parks Department as Andy and April strolled around, greeting old friends, interacting with children, and of course, showing off their own beautiful boy to anyone who’d stop and say hello. Yes, the place certainly looked different, but in many ways it was very much the same. No matter how many times you moved the furniture around or painted the walls, nothing would ever truly change the things that happened here, the memories that were made, or the relationships that were formed.

April broke away for a minute and walked around alone, taking it all in. Leslie and Ann were scheming together about having some sort of arranged marriage for their children. Chris kept flashing some weird watch at his own face and Ben seemed genuinely interested. It must’ve been some sort of nerdy tech gadget, so she didn’t bother to inquire. Donna and Tom were talking together about Donna’s non-profit work, and Garry was pouring champagne into glasses for the toast. Ron was speaking to his daughters, who April couldn’t believe were already so grown from the little girls she’d met all those years ago. If she wasn’t worried about interrupting him, she’d go over to join in their conversation.

Sometimes, time goes by too fast.

After a few more moments alone, April meandered back over to where her husband was standing, quietly rolling their son in his stroller.

“Hey,” she smiled at him, twisting her arm through his to grab his hand.

“Hey,” he smiled back, his eyes turning up at the ends and looking genuinely happy to be around all his old friends, and the place where their relationship began.

“It’s been so long since we’ve actually been in this building,” she whispered, glancing around at the place. “It’s changed.”

Andy nodded, pushing the stroller back and forth. “It has. We’ve all changed too,” he added, looking around at everyone. His voice dropped down to a whisper. “I mean, dude, Chris has like, grey hairs! Lots of them!”

She chuckled quietly. It was true. There they all were…all in one place at the same time; most of them with children of their own. They’d had little get togethers over holidays and weekends in the last several years, but nothing of this type of emotional significance before.

“Okay, here we go, get your champagne for the toast!” Garry swooped by holding a tray, balancing the little flutes of golden liquid rather professionally for someone who was always known for being a constant klutz.

“Well,” April thought to herself. “Garry apparently changed too.”

“Be right back, babe,” Andy kissed her cheek, and hurried off to grab them drinks.

April ducked down to Jack’s level and pushed back the little boy’s hair. He was sleepy in his stroller; beginning to nod off from the excitement of the day and all his interactions with their old friends. She smiled as he yawned and clutched one of his toys to his chest.

“Hey baby,” she whispered. “This is where it all started. This is the place I fell for your dad. It was right over there.” She pointed to a little table not far from where her old desk used to be.

Standing up, April placed a hand vaguely on her stomach. She wasn’t showing much at the moment, partly thanks to her outfit choice. However, as of right now, Donna and Ron were the only two who knew their secret. Then again, when the others saw her drinking anything other than champagne, that was sure to raise a few flags.

“Here you go, honey,” Andy returned, handing her a flute of what looked like orange juice. It had a single strawberry, just like all the others. “I had to ask Garry specifically for it.”

“Ew, did you tell him?” April scrunched up her face and frowned.

“No, but he winked at me, which was weird,” Andy shrugged and scratched his beard. “I think we’re still in the clear.”

“C’mon,” she took his hand and they went to join their friends.

 

April wound’t say she cried during Leslie’s toast, but in truth, her eyes did feel a bit misty. Coming back to Pawnee wasn’t supposed to be getting her this emotional. Then again, she was pregnant, so that might be half the reason. She cried a lot lately, usually over stupid things.

She sat with Andy by one of the computers and leaned into him, pushing her head up under his chin.

“Andy,” she said casually, tapping at his fingers. Glancing at the screen, she noticed he was checking his e-mail to make sure he didn’t have any upcoming Johnny Karate gigs for the weekend. She leaned over and kissed his cheek.

“Hmm?”

“I was thinking, you know, since everyone is here for once, all in one place…maybe we can stay another night? We don’t have to leave tomorrow, right?”

Andy turned to look at her and smiled. “I thought you said you didn’t wanna stick around, babe?”

“I might’ve, yeah…”

“You said something to the effect of, ‘I wanna say hi, and bye, and leave’ if I remember correctly,” he was grinning wide now, like he caught her in her own trap.

“So what if I did?” she shoved him playfully. “I just…wanna stay another day. Jack’s never really spent a lot of time here and I want him to see the place we met and fell in love,” she said, looking at the ground, before adding quickly, “And the woods where I used to sacrifice voodoo dolls as a kid.”

“Babe, you’re so adorable and creepy…I love it,” he said, pulling her into his lap. He used a hand to brush back her streaked hair. “You know what those glasses do to me,” he added in a low rumble. “How can I say no to the most beautiful wife ever?”

She leaned over and gave him another kiss, and this one lasted much longer. She could taste the champagne on his lips. “You’re the best,” she added.

“Awesome,” he laughed. “I may need your help changing the plane ticket thing, babe…I’m not too great with stuff like that.”

“Let me handle that part,” she said, placing her hand over his on the screen. It was worth whatever fee they’d be charged, she’d decided.

 

“Really, April?” Leslie looked and sounded thrilled. “You guys decided to stay for another day?”

“Yep,” April nodded, helping her friend sweep the paper plates and cups into a trash bag once the reunion was all but over. “We’re gonna stay one more night and most of the next day. We wanna show Jack more of Pawnee while we can.”

“That’s…that is just beautiful,” Leslie sniffed, her emotions from earlier coming back in full force. “You know, you’re welcome to come out to dinner with me and Ben, and Chris and Ann tomorrow night.”

“I think I’ll pass on that. But we’ll see you during day, OK? Promise.”

The two friends hugged, Leslie hanging on tightly even amid April’s soft protests.

“You guys…” Leslie sighed. “You and Andy just continue to amaze me.”

“Thanks, weirdo,” April replied, smirking.

“I can’t believe you weren’t sure about wanting children, and look at you now. Don’t think I’m not gonna plan you a second baby shower, by the way,” Leslie added, looking at April out of the corner of her eye.

April looked up quickly. “What? What’re you talking about?”

“It’s been a long time, April, but it hasn’t been that long,” Leslie winked at her, before bringing a finger to her lips and whispering, “Shhh!”

April grinned and shook her head, as Andy approached with Jack, all packed and ready to leave.

“Ready to go home, babe?”

Home was the cabin she’d bought from Ron all those years ago. No matter what, they’d always have a place to call home in Pawnee, and April realized she liked that very much. She turned and took Andy’s hand, and together they looked around the parks department building one more time.

“Yeah,” she said, nodding. “Let’s go home.”

Chapter Text

“We get to like, take home one of those pictures, right? Like, the black and white ones? The one that looks like a big glob of something in a bubble?” Andy gestured with his hands, a concentrated look on his face as he tried to explain to April what he was talking about.

“The sonogram photo?” April smirked at her husband, putting down the totally not overwhelming parenting magazine—it was all they had to read, anyway—and took his hand.

“Yeah! That’s what I was trying to say…the sonogram,” Andy nodded happily, squeezing her hand gently while leaning over to give her a quick kiss.

“Yeah dude, of course we do,” she laughed.

“Sweet.”

The waiting room only had one other couple in it. They sat a little ways down the aisle of chairs from where April and Andy sat, waiting to be called. From the look of the other woman’s stomach, she seemed as though she could give birth at any minute. April studied her with a curious expression for a moment before turning her attention back to Andy.

“Excited?” She looked at him, even thought she already knew he was. He’d been ecstatic since over a month ago, when she woke up too sick to move, only to run to the bathroom and puke for an hour straight. After ruling out food poisoning, April realized there could only be one reason why she felt like she was literally dying, and she felt stupid for not realizing it sooner.

It had been two months since April told Andy she wanted to have a baby. At long last, after years of him wondering, waiting and asking, she just literally jumped him one morning out of the blue and told him she was ready. He’d checked with her several times, just to be sure. He had to be sure. Once he was positive, and he knew she really wanted this too…

The easiest way to describe it was that they were trying…very hard…and often.

So, Andy had run to the store that morning and came home with not one, but five pregnancy tests, and dumped them out eagerly on the kitchen counter. She would never, ever forget that day.

 

ONE MONTH EARLIER

 

“Ok, I peed on them…they’re all in the bathroom,” April said, wringing her hands nervously as she walked back to where Andy was waiting in their bedroom, leaning against the wall. Her stomach was in knots, and not because of the morning sickness. April spent the entire two minutes pacing back and forth while she waited.

“Babe, c’mere,” Andy pulled her to him, and wrapped his arms around her soothingly. She let herself get lost in his embrace, pushing her face against his chest. “You OK?”

“I’m fine,” she said in a tiny voice. “I’m just…you know, freaked out a bit.”

“Me too!” Andy smiled. “But in a good way!”

April nodded and pulled away, leading him to the bathroom. “Time to check.”

She heard Andy take a deep breath behind her as she walked to the sink. She closed her eyes as she lifted the three little sticks, (she ended up taking three, since Andy practically bought out the little pharmacy near their house) and only opened them again when she knew the tests were right in front of her. Looking down, she took a breath and saw one test with a plus sign, another with two pink lines, and another that simply read “pregnant” in the little boxed area. Her heart did a strange skip in her chest as she twirled around, trying to keep her face neutral.

“What is it?” Andy said, suddenly looking nervous. His face fell when he looked at her. “Oh…they’re all negative, aren’t they?” he said, his shoulders slumping automatically and his eyes looking sad. “It’s ok…we can just—“

“I’m pregnant,” she said softly, her face breaking into a smile.

Andy’s head shot up and he looked at her, his mouth twitching. “What?”

“Babe, I’m pregnant. I totally am. Look,” she held the sticks up for his inspection.

Andy paused for only a moment, like he was digesting what she’d said very slowly, waiting for it to sink it. Then he completely lost it. His eyes filled with tears as he grabbed her and pulled her into him, burying his face in her hair, wanting so bad to laugh and cry and shout at once, from the sounds he was making. April wrapped her arms around him and stayed there, until she felt her own eyes getting too watery for comfort and looked up at him.

“I love you so, so much,” he whispered, sniffing loudly. “You really have no idea how happy I am, babe.”

“I love you too,” she told him. “And I have a bit of an idea.” She leaned up to kiss him, and to April, it was one of the most amazing moments they’d ever shared.

 

“April?”

A nurse called her name, making the both of them jump and stand up quickly. April immediately grabbed Andy’s hand as they followed the woman to the exam room to wait for the doctor.

“Oooh, what’s this do?” Andy asked, once the nurse had left the room. He picked up a long smooth stick and examined it, as April laughed from her reclined chair.

“Probably some weird tool they use to look at all the alien babies,” she said, affecting her voice with a creepy accent. “It’s probably planted here to spy on the humans,” she laughed.

“Ha! Babe, you’re so cute when you say creepy things…” Andy put the tool down and took a seat next to her, right as there was a knock on the door and the doctor entered.

Everything seemed to be happening rather fast, because in only a matter of seconds, her doctor was switching on the monitor screen where a wide, black expanse of space took up most of the image.

“I don’t see a baby,” Andy said seriously, squinting at the screen as he held April’s hand. “Are you sure that’s her stomach?”

“Well, it’s not her stomach, it’s actually her uterus,” the doctor said professionally, and moved the probe around more until she stopped again. “There you go! Right over here,” she took a pen-like device to the screen and pointed to a black, circular-shaped area of the image, in which a tinier, grayish blob sat, looking sort of like a peanut. Moving the stick over another inch, the room came alive with a tiny, continuous beating sound. “There’s the heartbeat. Just like I thought, about eight weeks along.”

April was frozen, transfixed on the screen and the sounds. All she knew was the image. It was like nothing else in the room existed, just the tiny baby that she was seeing for the first time. The heartbeat drummed on; a tiny pitter-patter magnified to huge proportions through the machine, and April felt a single, unexpected tear roll down one of her cheeks. Turning her head to look at Andy, she held his hand as tight as she could.

Andy had never looked so awestruck before at anything, not in the entire time she’d known him. Possibly not even looking at her had he ever stared at something so intensely. She watched as tiny tears ran streaks down his face silently, while he refused to tear his gaze away as his mouth hung open.

“Andy,” she said softly, tugging at his hand.

He stirred, blinking twice, before looking at her with the biggest smile she’d ever seen.

“This is awesome,” she said simply. And that was enough. She knew he understood. Words weren’t her thing; they never were. But that seemed to be all he needed.

“Congratulations! I’ll print out the image.” Her doctor’s voice was barely registering to either of them, lost in this moment together. The two of them, and the tiny baby who’s picture was up on screen.

 

The car ride home was an excited one. Andy’s emotional build-up had finally gotten the better of him, as he cried, laughed, and talked with April about all the amazing things that were in their future. For the most part, she was proud for not working herself into a mess over her nerves, because they were certainly in the back of her mind. Somehow, like he was always so inclined to do, Andy just made it all make sense. And it was perfect.

“We have to remember this day,” he said, as they closed the door to the house behind them.

“We have the picture,” April said, taking it carefully out of her purse and propping it up on the mantle. She actually loved how weird it looked. Plus, the fact that it was her and their baby, and a special bond that just the two of them would always have… it just resonated with her in a strange and beautiful way.

“No, I mean of us,” Andy said, coming up behind her and staring fondly at the picture. “and Champion. We need to remember the day we saw the first picture of our baby.”

“We can totally make that happen, babe,” she said, smiling as she led Champion out in the backyard. “Grab your phone.”

Andy followed obediently, and went to join April, who was kneeling on the warm grass next to Champion. Spring was finally starting to make an appearance, and it was beautiful.

Holding his phone out, they both leaned in, with April pulling Champion into the shot.

“Got it,” Andy said happily, gazing at the photo.

April smiled. “Guess we’re gonna have to go buy a couple of frames.”

“Uh-huh,” Andy nodded, placing an arm around her waist.

“You know what else we get to do?” April raised her eyebrows at him. As much as she wanted to keep this just between the two of them and enjoy it for a while, she was looking forward to what else they had to do just as much.

“What’s that?”

“Tell everyone,” she grinned, her eyes darting up at him.

Andy’s excitement was hard to contain. “Awesome,” he smiled, and his eyes were as warm as the sun.

All the waiting, all the worry… “It was so worth it,” April thought to herself, truly feeling at peace.

Chapter Text

The colorful lights glowed on the branches of the Christmas tree; the tall evergreen decked out with ornaments of all shapes, sizes, and materials. The ones closest to the bottom were mostly hung by the kids, as was apparent due to the uniform height and seemingly unbreakable nature the little objects had to them.

The middle level bore all the sturdy, no-so-Christmassy items that April demanded went up with the rest of the decorations. Items such as Jack’s first pair of baby boots, one of Champion’s favorite chew toys, and a set of three tiny frames, each containing a baby photo of one of her children—these things held an important place on the tree that she originally couldn’t have cared less about putting up. Her children loved it though, and that included her husband, so of course she would never deny them this.

The top tier held the most precious and delicate ornaments of all—those gifted to them by family and friends that weren’t meant to be touched by children, rather kept as keepsakes to cherish every Christmas they spent together. A glass snowflake from Leslie, a crystal guitar from Donna, a whittled wooden sled from Ron… April was OK with those things.

“Babe,” Andy counted the gifts under the tree, yawning wide. It was late, and they were finally done setting up for the morning. All that was left was Melody’s dollhouse. “Hand me the box, would you?”

April slid the heavy cardboard box across the floor, as she lay propped up against the recliner. Champion slept soundly at her feet. “Don’t forget to eat the cookies, Santa,” she mumbled, her eyes closing.

“Oh, crap…I forgot.” Andy hurried over to the kitchen counter and shoved the cookies in his mouth, leaving just one behind with a bite taken out of it, and downed half the glass of milk. Wiping his mouth on his hand, he hurried back to the rug.

“You don’t have to set it up, you know,” April said, shaking her head and smiling. “We can do it tomorrow after the kids open the gifts.”

Andy looked at his wife, horrorstruck. “Of course we do, honey. She’s two! She needs to be able to dive right in and play. What’s magical about a dollhouse in a box?” He dumped the contents out and grabbed the directions, putting on the pair of glasses he saved for times like this.

April bit her lip, and shrugged. “You’re right, babe,” she smiled. “I’m sorry, you’re much better at this Christmas stuff than I’ll ever be.”

“There was nothing more awesome,” Andy said, as he began connecting the pieces together. “than waking up on Christmas morning, and going outside to see a newly built basketball net.” He turned the pages of the directions carefully. “Or a box of building blocks that my mom and dad would set up into something like a spaceship, with a note from Santa that said, ‘Andy, hope you enjoy these—now go build something amazing.’”

April watched him work, dedication reading all over his face as the dollhouse slowly came to life in his hands. Honestly, it was the only thing their two-year-old had really asked for.

“Babe, why don’t you get to bed,” he said, not looking up from his work. “The kids will definitely have us up early tomorrow.”

“No, I’m good here,” she said softly, watching him work.

He looked up at her for a moment with a smile, his eyes glinting, before turning back to the pieces laid out in front of him.

April knew she was very, very lucky. Sometimes she still couldn’t believe he was all hers.

 

THE FOLLOWING MORNING

 

“MOMMY! DADDY! UP, UP, UP!”

April blinked herself awake as she felt the tiny weights jump down onto the bed. Glancing at the clock, she saw that it was six o’clock in the morning. Andy wasn’t kidding when he said they’d be up early.

Reaching out to snuggle the first kid she could grab, she pulled Allie to her and kissed her nose. “Merry Christmas, Princess,” she said.

“Merry Christmas Mommy! Up, up!” the four-year-old tugged at her mother’s hand.

Andy made a show of pretending to be asleep, only to grab out at Melody when she came too close the bed, still snuggling her favorite stuffed animal. She giggled when Andy lifted her high into the air.

“Merry Christmas, Angel,” Andy said, squeezing her into a hug. “Where’s your brother?”

April and Andy looked around; no sign of Jack anywhere, until their heard his excited voice carry up the stairs.

“SANTA CAME!”

Both girls let out a shriek, and took off down the stairs to find their brother and the gifts.

Andy let out a long sigh and turned to his wife, a sleepy smile on his face and his hair a mess.

“Merry Christmas, babe,” he leaned in and kissed her softly on the lips. April returned the gesture, cupping his cheek in her hand before they got up to join their children.

 

April would remember many things about that Christmas morning: her kids’ smiles and excited giggles as they saw all the gifts under the tree, their faces when they saw that Santa had indeed come and eaten the cookies and milk left out for him. Also, the epic wrapping paper fight they all had once each gift had been unwrapped, ducking behind furniture and crawling on all fours to avoid a crumpled ball to the face. Most importantly, April would remember the look on Andy’s face as he watched Melody run excitedly to her dollhouse, completely in awe that this entire, amazing little structure belonged to her. It was precisely what she wanted. She’d firmly planted herself there for most of the morning, playing happily, and even happier when her father came to sit down next to her and she handed him a doll to join in the fun.

April’s heart was unbelievably full, and she didn’t think she could feel any more grateful. She was proven wrong once again when, after a wonderful day of celebration, gifts, food, and friends, she slipped into bed with her husband and he smoothly and swiftly wrapped a tiny silver necklace around her neck, featuring one charm for each of their children’s birthstones.

She could barely conjure up the words to say, and was torn between scolding him for breaking the no-gift rule they’d long had in place since the kids were born, or jumping his bones because it was the single most romantic gift she’d ever gotten.

Without a doubt, the latter turned out to be the better choice.

Chapter Text

"Oh my God...buddy...please go to sleep," Andy tried to plead with the tiny baby in his arms, who only stared up at him with large dark eyes and a neutral expression, not the least bit as tired as his father hoped. Andy loved being a dad more than anything, but he’d never been more exhausted in his life.

It was four-thirty in the morning, and Andy was holding up his end of the bargain he and April had undoubtedly struck when Jack was born not three months ago: she woke to feed him, and Andy would take him after if he refused to go back to sleep.  It was a great plan, but at the same time, Jack rarely liked to go back to sleep.

He bounced his son in his arms, stifling a huge yawn.  

"Your old man is so tired right now...what can I do to make you sleepy?” He rubbed Jack’s back, hoping it would help.

Andy had done two extra Johnny Karate birthday appearances the previous afternoon. It had been a while, but every now and then he'd don his blackbelt and guitar to make some kids happy.  He may not have his TV show anymore, but he still loved to play the part. He was definitely paying for it now, though.  He felt like his body was gonna fail him at any given moment.

He'd tried singing, he'd tried bouncing on the huge yoga ball Leslie gave them, he’d even tried rocking Jack in the rocking chair while the white noise machine played in the background.  It was no good.

“I need to eat something," Andy muttered, more to himself than Jack.  He carried him to the kitchen and placed him in his swing, setting the dial at a gentle side-to-side motion.  "Sit tight for a minute buddy..."

Grabbing the easiest thing he could think of, cereal and milk, he slumped down at the kitchen table and ate, watching Jack stare at him.

"Sorry dude," Andy shrugged at his son.  "This food’s all for your dad."  He looked down into his bowl momentarily, spooning a large amount of sugary puffs into his mouth, when he heard light breathing.  He craned his neck up to look at Jack, and realized he was finally, miraculously, asleep in his swing.  “Finally," Andy sighed, finishing the last of his cereal and walking over to his son.

He'd never moved so quietly before in his life.  Every step felt like a land mine could go off at any given moment.  Grabbing a pillow from the couch, Andy spread out on the floor next to the swing and immediately drifted off.

 

"Andy!"

"Mm...w-wha?"

“Babe, you’re on the floor.”

Andy's eyes popped open and he realized exactly where he was.  His body felt stiff as he sat up, groggy and disoriented. Looking around, it was light out, and April was standing over him, holding Jack in one arm. Champion padded over and began to lick his face.

"Oh...babe, I’m sorry,” he pet their dog as he spoke.  “Must’ve passed out down here.  Jack was having a hard time, and when he fell asleep in the swing, I didn't wanna move him."

April shrugged. “It’s fine," she said, patting Jack on the back.  "He just ate so he should be good for a bit.  I'm just gonna put him back in the swing while you pull yourself together."  She flashed him her signature half-smile.

"Thanks," he scratched his beard and yawned. Jack babbled sounds at him from his place in the swing, as Andy stood up, bending his arms high over his head and down again. “We had fun last night, didn’t we bud?”

“Andy,” April’s voice was low. When he turned to look at her, she was standing in front of the open refrigerator. “Where’s Jack’s milk?”

“Huh?” Andy stared at her, genuinely confused. “His milk? Honey…is this a trick question? I mean, it’s…you know…” he pointed with his hands to his own chest, and then back at her, looking slightly uncomfortable. “You’ve got it.”

“No,” she sighed. “The milk that took forever for me to pump yesterday. The milk that’s supposed to be in the fridge for you to use in his bottle when I go back to work tomorrow!”

Andy’s face was blank for only a moment, before his eyes got huge and he realized what had most likely happened. “Oh no,” he mumbled.

“Andy…” April glared at him from the kitchen. “Don’t say what I think you’re going to say—“

“Okay, honey…first of all, listen,” he said, backing up behind Jack’s swing. It was a cheap trick, but he knew she wouldn’t try to come after him if the baby was between them. Since she’d had Jack, April had developed these new instincts he could only attribute to being a mother, and part of it were these bouts of strength she could muster up at random times. Half of the time, Andy was terrified of her when she was like that, and half the time he wanted to drop everything and pull her into bed with him. It was insane. “I didn’t know what it was.”

“Andy!”

“It was in a mason jar!”

“Because we ran out of those stupid plastic baggies!”

Andy opened his mouth to retort, but he came up completely empty. There was no winning this one. He’d messed up. He stepped out from behind Jack’s swing and walked over to his wife.

“I’m super sorry babe,” he said, averting his eyes. “I was so just tired…and hungry, and I wasn’t paying attention.”

April’s eyes softened as she let out a frustrated sigh. “Well,” she crossed her arms. “Was it any good?”

Andy looked up, unsure. Maybe she wasn’t as mad as he thought.

“Um, yeah, it was great,” he grinned. “I couldn’t really tell the difference. I mean, it was a bit different, but…it was with cereal, so…”

“Dude,” April shook her head, playfully smacking him on the arm. “From now on, don’t drink the milk if it’s in a mason jar.”

“Noted.”

April laughed softly, as she reached around his waist and hugged him. Andy planted a kiss on her head, relieved.

“Maybe that’s why he was staring at me the whole time I was eating the cereal,” Andy thought out loud suddenly, glancing down at April. “He knew it belonged to him.”

“Doubt it babe, but sure,” she reached up to play with his ears. “Let’s go with that.”

Chapter Text

“Ready babe?” Andy gave April a supportive smile as he handed her the phone. They were squished together on the couch, April curled up by his side under her favorite blanket.

“No.”

“We’ve gotta do this.”

“I know…”

April had been putting off this particular task for an entire week now. It had been four and a half months, and the time had finally come to tell Leslie that she and Andy were expecting their fourth child. It wasn’t as though she didn’t want Leslie to know. That couldn’t be further from the truth. However, when you relayed information such as this to Leslie Knope, you had to expect the explosion of emotions that would follow. In truth, April was just exhausted. Between the tiny human taking up residence in her stomach, her growing responsibilities at work, and their three other children, she was lucky if she could stay awake past eight every evening.

“If it makes you feel better, I’ll get on the phone with you,” Andy smiled, rubbing her back soothingly. “I’ll take over if things get overwhelming.”

“Okay,” April breathed deeply, and dialed the number. “You promise?”

Andy nodded, his face bright with excitement.

“I get to tell them this time,” April warned him. Andy usually had a habit of blurting out the good news before she was able to finish the sentence.

“Yup, I know,” he nodded enthusiastically, drawing an imaginary line over his lips.

Smiling at her husband, April hit the speaker button and waited. It only took two rings before she heard the other line pick up.

“April!” Leslie’s voice came through as exuberantly as ever, as thought she had been expecting the call for hours.

“Hey Leslie,” April said cautiously.

“Hi Leslie!” Andy shouted at the same time.

“Both of you? This is fantastic! Oh, I’m so glad to hear from you guys, it’s been forever! How are you? How are the kids? How’s work? And when are you coming to visit?”

“Well, we’re—“ April was cut off as they heard shuffling on Leslie’s end.

“Wait, wait! Guys, I have Ben here too!”

“Hey you two,” came Ben’s voice, not a second later.

“Hey Ben,” they replied simultaneously.

April frowned at Andy and shrugged. Andy silently gave her the thumbs up.

“So, to what do we owe this amazing phone call?” Leslie asked excitedly.

“Well,” April sighed. “Andy and I were just calling…because we have something we wanted to share with you.”

There was a brief pause on the other end of the line, and they both heard Leslie inhale sharply.

“Leslie…” April rolled her eyes and waited.

“Oh boy, ohhh my God,” Leslie started. “You guys…is this one of those calls where I’m gonna be crying by the end of it?”

“Honey,” Ben interrupted his wife’s near panic-attack. “How about we just let them finish before we get ahead of ourselves?”

“You’re right babe, you’re so right…” Leslie agreed. They could hear her clearing her throat.

“We wanted to tell you…” April continued. “Don’t freak out, okay? We wanted to tell you that…Andy and I…we’re having another baby.” She looked at Andy as she spoke and he was grinning from ear to ear, holding his hand tightly over his mouth.

Leslie’s cry of pure joy was probably loud enough to wake the kids from their naps, had they been in the immediate vicinity. April was grateful they weren’t. It’d happened before.

“YOU GUYS,” Leslie shouted, and immediately the choking sounds and tears began. “This is the most amazing news I’ve heard in so, so long.”

“Yeah, we’re super excited,” Andy chimed in, glancing at April.

“Congratulations you guys,” Ben said. “Wow, four kids…You’ve finally gotten us beat,” he added, laughing.

“We’ll always have you beat, Ben,” April scoffed, shaking her head as she smirked at Andy.

“When’s my new godchild due?” Leslie sniffed loudly. From what they could tell, she had immediately switched into planning mode. April and Andy could hear her rifling through some papers as she spoke.

“August or early September,” April told her.

“Wait a second,” Leslie paused. “April, you’ve been pregnant for four months, and you’re just telling me?”

“We didn’t,” Andy jumped in, seizing the opportunity to take over the conversation. “We would’ve loved to have told you guys sooner,” he said, taking April’s hand. “But April and I wanted to wait…you know…make sure everything was smooth before we told anyone.”

“Makes total sense,” Ben agreed.

“I’m so behind,” Leslie said, sounding panicked. “I have so much planning to do now. It’s not every day you get a fourth Ludgate-Dwyer baby…”

“Planning?” April shook her head. “Leslie, we’ve done this three times already…”

“Well, April’s doing great,” Andy cut in. “I’m taking care of her. She’s not traveling though, so we’d love to see you guys, but you’ll have to fly out to DC.”

“Listen to you, Andy!” Leslie said happily. “Always a dutiful and caring husband. You guys are the greatest.”

“He is,” April said suddenly. “He’s the best husband ever.”

Andy turned to stare at April, his eyes sparkling with admiration, as more sniffling could be heard over the phone.

“No more crying!” April shouted into the receiver.

“I know, I know, you’re right. This is amazing. Okay, well, in honor of this beautiful moment, I’m going to start another baby quilt! I’ll call you guys tomorrow to talk about flights to DC. Get some rest, April! Don’t let her lift a finger, Andy!”

“Bye guys,” Ben said. “Talk soon.”

“Bye,” April hung up, and tossed the phone onto the coffee table. She leaned back into Andy’s chest and immediately curled up. “Done,” she sighed.

“Done,” Andy echoed, gently placing a hand on her stomach.

“Wasn’t so bad,” she yawned.

Andy shook his head and adjusted himself to make April more comfortable. “It wasn’t,” he agreed, leaning down to kiss her forehead.

“Thanks for being there,” April mumbled. She didn’t need to say it so often, but she did anyway. In truth, she just liked hearing his response.

“Hey,” Andy rubbed her hands between his own. “I always will be.”

The best thing about it was that she knew Andy always meant it. He would always be there for her, and that simple reminder made everything in life worthwhile.

Chapter Text

It took quite a bit of effort on Andy and April’s part to get all three of their children sitting still on the couch in the living room. Yes, there was a bribe involved…something to the effect of Andy promising the three of them that they could have some candy if they “listened to Mommy and Daddy” for a few minutes while paying “super good attention.”

Now, he and April sat across from them, April on the coffee table and Andy kneeling in front of it to better reach their eye level.

“Daddy, why do we have to sit here?” Allie asked, squished between her older brother and younger sister.

“Mommy and Daddy have something really fun and important to tell you guys,” Andy started, glancing at April for support.

April nodded beside him, her hand on the back of his shoulder. “We do,” she said.

“Are we getting a new pet?” Jack asked, his eyes wide and excited in only the way a nine-year-old’s could.

“No, although,” Andy turned again to his wife. “Babe, that would be—“

April interrupted him with a pointed cough and he turned to continue.

“No, um…that’s not what we wanted to tell you,” Andy shook his head.

“You all have been getting so big,” April started, looking at each of her children and smiling. “And Daddy and I know you do such a great job of being a good brother and sisters to each other.”

“You’re the best kids in the whole universe,” Andy nodded.

“So we wanted to tell you…” April bit her lip. “That Mommy is going to have another baby soon. You three are gonna have a new brother or sister.”

Andy glanced quickly at each of the children, trying to read their faces. They remained silent for only a breath before all three exploded into conversation at once.

“Not another sister,” Jack shook his head. “A brother will be fine, though.”

“Yay Mommy!” Allie clapped her hands. “Is that why your belly is so round?”

“No babies,” Melody shook her head frantically.

Andy opened his mouth to speak and stole a peek at April. She was biting back a smile.

“Buddy, we don’t know if Mommy will have a boy or girl…we can’t control that.”

Jack shrugged. “There’s not enough boys in the house, Dad.”

Andy wasn’t sure how to respond to that one. Instead he turned to Allie, and gave her a huge smile. “You’re excited, right princess?”

“Yep,” she replied happily. “I love babies…you and Mommy should have ten more babies.”

“One’s plenty,” April replied, chuckling. “And yes, Mommy’s got a baby in her belly.”

Andy turned then to Melody, who was sitting in the corner of the couch with her arms crossed and a little frown on her face.

“Hey, what’s wrong honey?” he reached out and tickled her knees, but she just pulled them up against her chest.

“No more babies,” Melody shook her head again, her black hair swaying.

“Honey, don’t you wanna be a big sister?” April asked, leaning forward.

“No,” the three-year-old mumbled.

April looked at Andy and the two of them were momentarily at a loss for words. This wasn’t exactly how they’d hoped it would go. Then again, Andy thought, two out of three isn’t bad.

The first time, Jack was too young to really comprehend that he was getting a sister. The night Andy brought him to the hospital to meet Allie, he was only two years old, and he was more curious about this new little creature that was taking up a lot of his mother’s time and made too many noises, rather than being jealous or upset.

The second time, Jack and Allie were genuinely excited to have another sister. Allie had immediately snapped into “little mommy mode” and followed April everywhere, trying to help take care of Melody as best she could. She had exhibited Andy’s compassion and outgoing friendliness from day one.

Melody was as much like April in looks as she was in personality. She’d always been a little more reserved than her older siblings. If truth be told, Andy knew that she loved being the youngest. It wasn’t hard to see why she would be the tiniest bit upset. She’d never known what it was like to have a younger sibling, and she was old enough now to understand the process better than the other two had been in the past. Like her mother, she was never a fan of change.

“Come sit with me, baby,” April held her arms out and Melody scooted off the couch, climbing up into April’s embrace and clinging on tightly. April rubbed her back, whispering something only the three-year-old could hear.

Andy, meanwhile, took a seat between his two other kids. Allie climbed onto his lap and began telling him some of her favorite names for her dolls “they could use to name the new baby,” while Jack listened, making Andy promise that he wouldn’t have to share his bedroom.

April stood, carrying Melody out of the room while continuing to rub her back. Andy sat forward nervously.

“Babe, you shouldn’t be lifting—“

“I’m good, Andy,” she said softly, and she brought her daughter upstairs.

Andy sat for a while on the couch, pulling out the sonogram photo and showing the kids, who were very interested in the strange-looking “alien” baby, as Jack referred to it.

“You guys gonna be big helpers to Mommy when the baby comes?”

“Yes,” Allie said immediately, practically bouncing with excitement.

“Sure, I guess so, even if it is another girl,” Jack agreed, shrugging. “I guess it’s kinda cool being the only brother.”

“That’s the spirit, bud,” Andy high-fived his son. “Now, I’m gonna go check on Mommy and Melly, so,” he reached into his pocket and pulled out the promised candy: two lollipops. “Hang tight for a bit.”

He made his way up the stairs and down the hall to their youngest daughter’s room. The door was open a crack and Andy could hear April talking to Melody from outside. He peeked through the gap to check on them, catching more of their conversation.

“…that’s why we need you, baby. You’re so important to your daddy and me,” April said softly as she rocked Melody in the rocking chair. Their daughter was holding tightly to April’s shirt, her little eyes droopy and tear stains on her cheeks. “You’re gonna be the best big sister in the whole world. You’re always gonna be my baby, though.”

Andy smiled, watching the two of them for a while longer.

“I’m gonna need so much help from you, because you’re such a big girl now,” April continued. “Do you think maybe you’ll want to help when the baby gets here?”

Melody nodded her tiny head very slowly, but nodded all the same.

“That’s my girl,” April whispered. “Who else will teach the new baby everything about animals? No one loves animals as much as you do.”

“You love animals, Mommy,” Melody said softly, ending her sentence with a huge yawn.

“Not as much as you, baby.”

Andy watched as their daughter’s eyes drooped completely closed, and April carefully placed her in the bed to let her nap. She leaned down to give Melody a kiss before heading for the door, and Andy backed away so as not to appear like he was watching them as he had been.

“I know you’re out there,” April said quietly, as she pulled the door open and stepped into the hallway. Andy stepped out from the bathroom across the hall and grinned sheepishly.

“Hey, sweetheart,” he said, running a hand through his hair. “I was just…you know…bathroom…”

“Dude, I saw you out there through the crack in the door. You’re not a small guy.”

“Oh.”

“So how are Jack and Allie?”

“Excited,” Andy admitted proudly. “They’re already thinking up names. ‘Champion Number Two’ and ‘Princess Cupcake’ seem like the frontrunners so far,” he chuckled.

“Hmm, I like those,” April laughed, kissing his cheek. “They both have a nice ring to them, for sure.”

“How’s Melody?” Andy gestured to the room.

“She’s gonna be fine eventually,” April said. “I just don’t think she’s especially excited about such a huge change. It’s gonna be so different, babe. We’re going to need to figure out a lot of things.”

“I know,” he pulled her into a hug, his large hands rubbing her shoulders. “We will.”

“In the meantime,” April added, resting her head against him. “We’re gonna probably need to get another dog.”

Andy’s eyes went wide and he broke away for only a minute to look at his wife. “Honey! For real? Wait, why now?”

April looked embarrassed. “I kinda…promised her.”

“Ha!” Andy pointed a finger at her triumphantly. “And you tell me I’m the one who makes promises that I shouldn’t!”

“Andy, she was so sad,” April sighed. “I couldn’t handle it. I’m pregnant and my stupid emotions are out of whack. And it’s your fault for putting another baby in me.”

“It was fun, though, wasn’t it? I mean, I’d put a baby in you all the time if I could.”

April tapped his chest playfully and pulled him by the hand toward the stairs. “I guess we’d better get back downstairs,” she said. “I’m gonna start checking the shelter websites for dogs.”

“Well, honey, think of it this way,” Andy said, following her. “We told the kids…that part’s done. Now we need to tell Leslie.”

April turned to face him with wide, brown eyes. “Honey,” she said slowly. “that’s another mission for another day. One emotional breakdown at a time…”

“You need to relax, babe,” Andy suggested, placing his hands on her shoulders and gently kneading with his palms. “I think a good idea would be for me to just run you a bubble bath, and you know, maybe put the kids to bed a little early…and…I dunno. I can help you relax,” he shrugged, looking around innocently like he was admiring the walls. He tried to act casual but he knew his eyes always gave him away.

“I think that might help,” April rolled her lips, closed her eyes, and leaned her head back against him. “Oh…actually, I know it will. Especially if you continue doing whatever you’re doing with your hands. Good plan babe… I’m counting on you.”

“Sweet!” Andy punched the air and hurried to join the kids in the TV room. His family was growing. It was exciting, and honestly the coolest thing in the world. Now he also had a bubble bath with his smoking hot wife to look forward to…and that was almost just as cool.

Chapter Text

"I love you," she mumbles against his lips, as her arms snake tightly around his neck.

Andy smiles against her mouth, feeling her words and tasting them for himself.  "Love you too, babe."

He makes a twirling motion with his finger, and April obliges with a tiny smile, turning in his lap as Andy leans back against the arm of the couch. Immediately, his hands go to her hair, and April sighs appreciatively as he begins to run his hands and fingers through the dark, shiny locks.

Andy always loved playing with her hair, and April quickly learned to appreciate the dexterity and strength of his musician's hands.  He was always gentle, always loving, and knew just how to get her relaxed.  He was simply the most amazing husband in the world.

"Good?"

"Mm, the best," she pulls the blanket up over herself to keep warm, and between that and Andy's body heat it's like a furnace just for her.  Tucked between his legs, she's never felt more comfortable.

"Jack asleep?" she mumbles with closed eyes.

"Yes," he separates the pieces of hair and runs them through his fist.

"The girls too?"

"Mmhm."

April only smiles, resting her hand on her stomach as she feels the telltale kick of a little foot from inside.

"Babe," she reaches up with her free hand, only to pull Andy's down under the blanket and place it where the movement is.  His hand practically takes up one whole half of her stomach, but it's warm, soothing, gentle and absolutely perfect.

"There she is," Andy whispers near April's ear.  "Wants to stay up with mommy and daddy."

"She?" April cranes her neck around to look at her husband. "What makes you think it's a she?"

"Don't know honey," he says with a grin. "Just a feeling. A strong one."

"We'll see," she laughs, shaking her head.

"Bet I'm right," Andy chuckles, as his fingers tickle and play at the nape of her neck.

April giggles, quickly covering her mouth so as not to wake the kids.  "Cheater," she laughs, bending her head all the way back to peer at him upside down.  "You know I can't move once I'm in this position.”

"Yup, I know," he says mischievously. "That's the point." He kisses her forehead.

As the kicking subsides, Andy's hands return to her hair, braiding and unbraiding strands.  Then, after several more minutes spent in silence, his movements still.

"Babe?  You tired?  Wanna get to bed?"

"No," she sighs. "Wanna stay right here."

She hears him laugh, and then he resumes his work.  She didn't know when they ended up falling asleep, but at some point April wakes up after more kicks from the baby.

Andy is already fast asleep, one hand around her waist and the other tangled in her hair.

Closing her eyes, April eventually settles back into his chest.  Being this happy was a wonderful feeling.

Chapter Text

“Ready to be a princess, Daddy?”

“I can’t wait, honey!”

A lazy Saturday afternoon was underway in the Ludgate-Dwyer house. Andy was on kid duty, which as far as he was concerned, was the best way to spend his day. Today his daughters were giving him a makeover. What better way to occupy his two girls while their very pregnant mother was taking a nap?

“Hold out your hand, please.”

Andy obeyed his daughter, and Allie began to slowly paint his fingernails pink. He didn’t know how she managed to get her hands on a bottle of nail polish, and he didn’t ask. Sometimes it was best to just go with it. However, he made a mental note to swipe it from her room when he put her to bed, lest she decide to give herself a manicure when he wasn’t looking.

Melody stood on her tip toes behind her father, a tiny comb in one hand while she worked a brush through his hair. She was dressed in her best princess gown; a bright pink play dress April had wanted to burn immediately. Since it was a birthday gift from Leslie, Andy had eventually talked her out of it.

“Daddy needs princess hair,” the four-year-old said confidently.

“You know,” Andy said, as he sat cross-legged on the rug. “I was a princess once before.”

“Who made you a princess Daddy?” Allie asked, as she finished with the nails on his left hand.

“It was Zoey and Ivy, when they were a little older than you. You remember them, right munchkin?”

“They’re Uncle Ron’s daughters,” Allie nodded, switching to Andy’s right hand.

“That’s right. I was Princess Rainbow Sparkle,” he chuckled.

Melody sighed behind him.

“Daddy! If you were already a princess, you can’t be a princess again…you have to be a queen instead,” she said, clipping a barrette in his hair.

“I’m a queen now? Sweet!”

“Yes, Queen Daddy of Puppy Palace,” Melody giggled, placing a crown on top of his hair for the final touch.

“Oh, I like that one, honey. Awesome name.”

A sudden movement in the hallway made all three of them to look up.

“Jack!” Allie shouted, as their older brother passed by the open bedroom door. “Come be a princess with us!”

He peeked his head back in for a minute and laughed when he caught a glimpse of his father’s makeover.

“No thanks,” he shook his head.

“Please, please, please pleeease?” Melody whined.

“Yeah, please buddy?” Andy grinned. “It’s fun…”

“I don’t think so dad, but you guys look like you’re having fun so I’m gonna go—“

“Pretty please Jack-Jack?” Allie said, flashing her sad green-eyed stare at him. That look always worked on Andy, and Allie knew it. It was kind of impossible to say no to.

Jack looked back toward the stairs leading to the first floor and sighed, before stepping into the room and sitting on the floor next to his father.

“Yay!” both girls shouted together.

Allie immediately pulled out some sparkles and Melody grabbed another crown. Andy clapped his son on the back.

“Thanks buddy,” he whispered. “You’re the best big brother around.”

“Yeah, yeah…” Jack mumbled. “Now I really hope Mom has a boy this time.”

“Jack’s new name is Princess Jack-o-lantern of Puppy Palace,” Allie said, wrapping him in a feathery purple boa and handing him a fairy wand.

“Wow, what’s going on here?”

All four of them turned to see April standing in the doorway. Her eyes were still tired, but she had the biggest smile on her face as she watched them.

“Mommy!” Melody ran to her mother and hugged her legs, while Allie followed, bounding after her sister.

“Hey my beautiful girls,” April bent down carefully, her huge stomach slowing her down. She wrapped them both in a hug.

“Honey! How was your nap?” Andy asked, hurrying over to help her back up.

“Great. Thanks for watching them for me,” she said, grinning when she got a closer look at her husband’s face and hair. “Wow, babe…love the new look.”

“We’ve got some talented daughters,” Andy nodded, gesturing to Jack, who was in the process of taking off the feather boa and crown.

“You look great, bud,” April laughed.

“Mommm, no I don’t,” Jack blushed, tossing the crown onto Allie’s bed and untwisting the feathery mess from around his neck.

“Hey, so what d’you guys say I order us some pizza for dinner?” Andy suggested, scooping Melody up and putting her on his shoulders. “Sound like a meal worthy of a princess, or what?”

“Yes!” Allie shouted, jumping up and down. “Pizza!”

“All right then,” Andy nodded, taking April’s hand as they left the room.

“Andy,” April looked down at his hand. “Is that nail polish?”

“Honey, it’s Queen Daddy of Puppy Palace,” he corrected her. “And yes, it is.”

Chapter Text

“What the hell could his teacher possibly want to talk to us about?”

April paced around the kitchen, their nine-month-old daughter slung around her chest. She stroked the baby’s black wispy hair as the little one held her own bottle, relaxing comfortably against her mother’s chest. Glancing at her husband, Andy was busy putting dishes away after they’d finally managed to get Jack and Allie down for the night.

It was news to April when she came home from work that day. Andy was sitting in the TV room, their two older children running about, playing with the pile of toys that had seemingly taken over the house and invaded every nook and cranny of space. She knew something was up from the moment he looked at her when she walked through the door, a confused expression on his face.

“I don’t know babe, that’s what she said when I went to pick him up this afternoon,” Andy shrugged, closing the cupboard and tossing the dishrag over one shoulder. “I asked her if we could talk about it then, but she wants you there too.”

April ran her hand through her hair, her body tense as she continued to gently bounce Melody in the baby bjorn. This wasn’t exactly how she wanted an already stressful day to end. Andy must’ve seen how anxious she looked. He was by her side in a second, his strong hands massaging her shoulders as he peered down at her.

“Hey,” he said, smiling. “Don’t worry about it. He probably just painted the teacher’s chair red again, or something awesome like that. Nothing a free Johnny Karate appearance can’t fix.”

“I guess,” April bit her lip. “Did Jack say anything when you asked him about it?”

“No,” Andy shook his head. “He just shrugged, and said he didn’t know what his teacher was talking about.”

“He’s a good kid, Andy. He wouldn’t do anything wrong…right? He’s only five.”

“I dunno babe,” he half-smiled. “I mean, didn’t you used to do some pretty messed up stuff—“

“Andy!” she smacked his arm lightly. “That doesn’t help!”

“Sorry,” he grinned. “Look, we’ll find out tomorrow afternoon. I’m sure it’ll be fine. Don’t lose sleep over it.”

“Easier said,” she muttered.

 

April met Andy in the parking lot of the preschool at ten to noon, just as they were instructed. Andy carried a sleeping Melody in her carseat, walking slowly so as not to disturb her. Daycare wasn’t as much of a necessity with their third born, not since Andy had been spending more and more time working from home.

He gave her a quick kiss by way of greeting, lifting the car seat higher as they walked up the snowy steps into the preschool, and down the hall to the administrator’s office.

“We’re here for a meeting with Miss Salisbury,” April said to the receptionist. “Jack Ludgate-Dwyer’s parents.”

“One moment please,” the woman said, dialing a number.

It didn’t take long before they saw Jack’s teacher coming to get them, ushering them into a conference room down the hall and gesturing to the seats in front of the desk. Andy placed Melody’s carseat by his own chair, and April sat next to him, arms crossed tentatively.

“Thank you for coming Mr. and Mrs. Dwyer,” the woman said, folding her hands on her desk in front of them. “I’m not sure if Jack told you why I’m meeting with you, but—“

“No, he didn’t,” April interrupted, immediately going on the defensive. She hated stuff like this more than anything. “Why are we here?”

“Well,” Miss Salisbury continued, as April felt Andy’s hand gently grasping hers between the seats, giving her a light squeeze. April knew it was meant to be comforting, but at the same time, it also told her to calm down.

“Well, as you know, this Wednesday is Valentine’s Day,” she said.

April nodded. “Uh-huh.”

“Like we do every year, our students make valentines for their mothers,” Miss. Salisbury reached under the desk and pulled out a folder.

April eyed it warily. She had a strange feeling she knew where this was going.

“While every other child in the classroom did the assignment, in what one could say, the ‘correct’ way, although they are children and there is no real correct way per se—they each have their own strengths and creative skills—your son handed this in. He refused to change it.”

She slid the project across the desk. April and Andy both leaned forward to get a better look. On a little white canvas was a splattering of dark colors, ranging from blue to black to green. In the center, a white construction paper heart was painted completely black, torn in half, and glued to the canvas. In the bottom corner, Jack’s scribbly handwriting read “Mommy,” right next to his own signature. April and Andy both looked at each other.

“Well,” Andy began, scratching his neck uncomfortably. “Our boy just…he’s…I just don’t see anything wrong with this,” he finished, looking at April.

“Neither do I,” April added firmly, looking back up at Miss Salisbury. “I think he went above and beyond, actually.”

“I mean, the assignment was to make a valentine, right?” Andy shrugged. “He made one.”

“Well, we were just a little concerned,” the woman said. “When we asked him why he made his this way, he kept telling us ‘Mommy doesn’t like valentines.’”

“I don’t,” April shook her head.

“She doesn’t,” Andy repeated, glancing at his wife.

“So you both…have no problem with this,” the teacher looked from April to Andy hopelessly, holding her hands out in front of her.

“No,” Andy shrugged. “Not at all.”

“Nope,” April tapped her foot on the floor. “Anything else?”

“Is there anything going on at home that might be stressing Jack out?” Miss Salisbury added finally, looking slightly defeated.

April loved her children more than anything in the world. One of the things she loved most of all was how they each had their own little personalities, traits of which were apparent even at their young ages. Her little boy was always in tune with exactly how she was feeling. It was something she knew he inherited from his father, and it made her proud. He was an amazing son, a fantastic big brother, and she couldn’t be prouder. He’d obviously learned in his short five years of her dislike for the sappy holiday, and he was simply reacting to her feelings.

“I think the only thing that stresses him out is when he’s not allowed to be himself,” April replied, with more than a little bite in her tone. “I think he gets anxious when he’s forced to do something the same way everyone else does, when he clearly doesn’t feel comfortable with it.”

It wasn’t entirely far off from the way she often felt as a kid growing up. She swore she’d never make the same mistakes as her parents.

“I just had to ask,” Miss Salisbury said. “Procedural…you understand, I hope.”

“Is he a good kid in class?” Andy asked. “I mean, is there anything else we need to know about?”

“Well, no, nothing else. Jack’s a very well-behaved child and does all his other work. He’s got a few good friends and he gets along with all of them just fine. He’s helpful and kind.”

“That’s all we needed to hear, then,” Andy smiled, looking at April for confirmation.

April nodded. “So, can we take our son home now?”

“Take him home?” Miss Salisbury looked confused. “He still has two more hours to go, but if you want…of course you can—“

“Great,” April stood up, shouldering her bag. “We’re gonna take our daughter home too. She’s in the three-year-old room.”

“Hey, thanks for the chat,” Andy grasped Melody’s car seat, making for the door.

 

April headed out back to the yard, watching the children play through the chain-link fence. It was a sea of colorful puffy jackets and hats, with the occasional glove or mitten left on the ground, as boys and girls chased each other on the snow-covered asphalt.

She spotted her son right away. He was throwing a ball around with a few of his friends, laughing and smiling the way a five-year-old should. He looked so happy, she couldn’t help but grin.

Jack looked up as she opened the fence, a wide smile splitting his face as he ran toward her. She knelt down, catching his hug in her arms and holding him tightly.

“Hey buddy,” she said, ruffling his hair. “You wanna come home with Daddy and me?”

“What about school?” Jack asked, looking around confusedly.

“Well,” April pretended to be thinking hard. “Daddy’s getting Allie right now…and we were thinking that the five of us can head home and watch a movie…maybe make some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches…”

“Don’t you have work, Mommy?” Jack stared up at her, his dark eyes narrowed.

“No baby,” she smiled. “I’m done with work today.” She took his hand, leading him out toward the parking lot. “By the way,” she stopped, pulling the valentine out of her bag. She saw the look on his face change from happy to anxious.

“Mommy, I didn’t do what the teacher asked me.“ He looked panicked. “She wanted me to make you a valentine and you don’t like them and I didn’t want to make you sad—“

“Hey,” April interrupted, kneeling in front of him again. “I love it, munchkin. It’s the best valentine I’ve ever gotten. I’m so, so happy.”

Seeing Jack’s eyes light up just then…to April, it was the best thing she’d seen all week.

“You like it for real?”

“Really, for real,” she nodded, pulling him into another hug and kissing his head.

“Babe!”

April and Jack turned to see Andy, laden with backpacks, car seat, and a wide awake Melody in his arms. He was leading an excited-looking Allie toward their car, smiling at his wife and son.

“Come on baby,” April took her son by the hand. Together, they walked to meet the rest of their family.

Chapter Text

“Andy!” April’s shriek of a giggle rang out as she twisted beside him in bed. “Dude, stop it!”

Andy’s hands moved quicker than ever, reaching for every exposed bit of skin. He laughed along with her, wrapping his hands around her waist and lifting her above him on strong, sturdy arms.

“Shhh,” he grinned. “You’re gonna wake Jack.”

Their bedroom was dark, the streetlamp outside providing the tiniest illumination. Jack had cried himself awake three times so far, and April was on the verge of passing out. Andy wasn’t making things much easier, but she couldn’t say she minded.

“If I do, it’s your fault, you know,” she pushed his chest with the flat of her palms. “You know how I feel about being tickled.”

“I know,” Andy kissed her cheek. “I do it anyway.”

April laughed, falling against him in a tired pile of limbs. “You love making me giggle like an idiot,” she yawned.

“You need to relax,” he whispered, rubbing her shoulders. “So if that’s what it takes, honey. Plus, I do love your giggle sounds.”

She smiled, rolling beside him and curling up into his chest. Andy reached for her hand, entwining his fingers with her own.

“You think he’s okay?” she asked softly.

Jack had just gotten over an ear infection that lasted the better part of two days. Even with the doctor’s assurance that he was fine, she couldn’t help but make herself sick with worry.

“Yeah, I do.”

He brought her hand to his lips, gently kissing the tips of each finger with a featherlight touch. The sensation made her squirm beside him.

“Mmm,” she hummed her approval, and Andy chuckled. “Now that you can do as much as you want.”

“You got it, babe.”

Chapter Text

“C’mon princess, you can do it. Walk to daddy!”

The giggling toddler lurched forward on wobbly legs, her little mouth a wide smile. She made it a mere three steps before tumbling to the rug, her little diaper-clad bottom taking the brunt of the collision.

Andy rushed forward, scooping his daughter up in his arms and planting a kiss on her head. “Good job, sweetheart! You did so good. I’m so proud of you!”

“Da da,” Allie replied, her little hands exploring his scruffy cheeks as he sat back down on the rug.

“That’s right,” Andy smiled.

“Three steps is pretty great,” April pointed out, walking over and taking a seat beside them. It was hard to watch quietly from the doorway when you literally had the best husband and kids around.

“Mommy’s here!” Andy turned Allie so she was facing her mother. When she saw April, the eleven-month-old’s face lit up. “Now try and walk to mommy.”

April held her arms out wide, ready to catch her daughter. Allie wobbled as she stood, letting go of Andy’s fingers and taking one step forward in her mother’s direction.

“C’mon baby,” April smiled.

Allie took another two steps, her tiny body swaying where she stood. Meanwhile, Andy whispered encouragement from behind her. Another step forward, and another quickly after, and Allie closed the short distance between her parents, looking immensely satisfied with herself as she fell in to April’s arms. Andy punched the air triumphantly.

“You did it!” April laughed, stroking the baby’s sandy-colored curls. “Great job, honey! Mommy and Daddy are so proud of you.”

“So, super proud!” Andy smiled, crawling over to join his wife and daughter. “Before we know it, she’ll be following Jack around.”

“Oh God,” April leaned into her husband, while Allie crawled off in the direction of one of her toys. “Two kids walking around, destroying everything in their path.”

“Yeah,” Andy leaned down and planted a gentle kiss on her forehead. “But you wouldn’t have it any other way, would you?”

Sometimes he just knew her too well.

“Guilty,” April chuckled, the both of them basking in the undeniably awesome feeling of being parents.

Chapter Text

"Andy, it's so late..."

"I know, babe...gimme a minute."

"Ugh," April grumbled, covering her head with the pillow.  She was seriously exhausted, and her husband wasn't making things any easier on her. Talking to her pregnant stomach was cute, and she definitely loved it.  She just didn't always love it at one in the morning, after a long night putting down three other kids and getting some last minute work done before her maternity leave started.

"We have your room all ready,” Andy kissed her belly, making her twitch from the ticklish sensation.  “Uncle Ron spent a month working on it, so you don't have to share with your sisters."

“Andy…” April smirked, hiding her face. If he got even the slightest inclination that she was enjoying herself, they’d literally be up all night.

“Your dad spent all afternoon putting the crib together again,” Andy continued, one hand resting on her side while his cheek pressed against her stomach. “So it’ll be all set when you—“ He stopped short, as April felt a huge kick from within.

She lifted her head up, trying to get a better look. From her vantage point she could barely see the top of Andy’s head.

“Babe?”

“She just kicked me!” Andy couldn’t hide his smile. As hard as he tried to look taken aback, April knew he loved it.

“Well, that settles it,” she grinned. “Even the baby’s tired.”

“Fair enough…” Andy laughed, kissing her belly once more. “Goodnight to both my girls,” he added. He wrapped her in his arms as they settled under the blankets.

“Night, babe,” she whispered. “I promise you can talk to my belly all you want in the morning.”

“Deal.”

Chapter Text

“Babe! Babe, there he is!” Andy stood up in the bleachers, pointing toward the football field like an overexcited teenager. April chuckled softly, patting his arm before pulling him back down beside her.

“I see him,” she smiled.

“I can’t believe it,” Andy shook his head. “Jack’s first football game…babe, our kid is playing football. Football!”

“I know,” April nodded. “He worked hard for this.”

And he had. From the time Jack was old enough to hold a football, his father had been teaching him the ways of the game, hoping that someday he’d get to see him play for real. Now, it was finally happening, and Andy was beside himself.

“I mean, the coach is gonna put him in, right? He has to. He’s one of the tallest kids on the team—“

“Honey,” April wrapped her arm through her husband’s. “He’s a freshman…don’t expect him to be chosen more than the older kids.”

“I know, I know…” Andy nodded. “I just really hope he gets a chance.”

“He will. And if he doesn’t, I’ll just set a raccoon loose in the coach’s office.”

Andy leaned into her gently, kissing the side of her head. “Aww, honey…I love when you say weird stuff like that.”

There was something amazing about seeing your first child and only son nearly grown and playing ball on a real team. April couldn’t say she wasn’t sad. Her little boy was growing up entirely too quickly, and she wanted time to slow down. At fourteen years old, he was already taller than her, and growing taller every day.

Although, the joy she got from watching Andy watch Jack…that was something entirely different. It made the whole “growing up” thing worth it. Just to see his face, eyes misty and grinning from ear to ear as he watched his boy doing something he’d always dreamed of.

Still clutching Andy’s arm, April leaned over to plant a kiss on his shoulder. Andy turned, his smile a mile wide, as he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her close.

“He’s not so little anymore, huh?” Andy whispered.

“No,” she shook her head. “He’s definitely not.”

And April knew it would be okay.

Chapter Text

“Okay, this sucks,” April peered at the chicken roasting in the oven, squinting as she was met with a cloud of smoke. “Andy, I don’t think this is right.”

Andy didn’t look up as he chopped some red potatoes, taking his time to cut them into perfect fourths before tossing them into another glass baking dish. “I don’t know, honey…I think we’re doing okay.”

“The chicken isn’t cooking the right way! The skin’s not getting crispy like it’s supposed to… Ugh, why did you have to tell Ben and Leslie we’d make them a home-cooked meal? We should've just ordered Chinese or something!” She tossed the oven mitts onto the counter with a sigh.

“Because I dunno, I thought it’d be nice?” Andy scratched his neck, adding the last of the potatoes to the dish. Taking the container of salt, he poured a generous amount on the spuds, followed by a heaping handful of pepper. April was pretty sure he didn’t have any idea how much was too much.

“What can I do now?” She looked around their kitchen, which at the moment looked as though a bomb had gone off in the middle of it.

“Uhh,” Andy thought hard as he slid the dish of potatoes in the oven underneath the chicken. “Why don’t you get the salad ready?”

“Leslie hates salad. And so do you,” April pointed out.

“I know babe, but Ben likes it. And I guess at nice dinners there’s always a salad.”

“Where did you learn this?” April smirked, grabbing the pre-bagged salad from the fridge.

“I watched some cooking shows last night after you fell asleep,” Andy blushed slightly. “I thought it might help.”

April laughed, wrapping her arms around his waist as she kissed his cheek.

“You continue to surprise me, Dwyer,” she shook her head before going back to the salad.

 

“That was delicious, you two!” Leslie said, as the four of them sat finishing their meal. “I can’t believe you guys made such an amazing dinner all by yourselves. I was even temped to try the salad.”

“Well, we told you we’d cook for you, so…” April shrugged, taking a sip of her wine.

“Yeah, we definitely cooked,” Andy said, laughing a little too loudly. “Me and April, in the kitchen…cooking dinner…”

“That chicken had some of the best spices on it that I’ve ever tasted,” Ben pointed out. “What did you use?”

Andy swallowed hard. “We…uh…”

“Special family recipe, Ben,” April interjected, gently nudging Andy’s foot under the table. “Sorry, we can’t share our secrets.”

“Well, it was perfect,” Leslie said. “My dessert won’t compare, I don’t think.”

“Oh, I’m sure it will,” April laughed uncomfortably. “Honey, why don’t you help me get it ready in the kitchen?”

“Right,” Andy stood quickly. “Be…uh…right back.”

April sighed as she hurried to retrieve Leslie’s double fudge cake from the refrigerator. Of course, she’d made it herself. Leslie was the best baker they knew.

“That was close,” Andy turned to her.

“Yeah, but it worked,” April pointed out.

As they grabbed cake, dessert dishes and clean forks, Andy shoved the burned, blackened remains of their first chicken deeper into the trash. April hid the receipt from the prepared grocery store dinner in the drawer, giving her husband a quick high-five in the process.

Some things are just better left unsaid.

Chapter Text

“Oh man! Look at that shark!” Jack Ludgate-Dwyer pressed his face and hands up against the glass of the giant floor-to-ceiling water tank, as the large creature swam ominously by.

The ridiculously hot July afternoon didn’t stop the aquarium from being overrun with families. It was literally packed.

Allie stood quietly next to her brother, her eyes transfixed on the many colorful fish that shared the tank.

“That’s awesome, buddy,” Andy nodded from behind them, while Melody, the youngest, clutched his hand. She wouldn’t move closer than two feet.

“What’s wrong, baby?” April rested her hand on her heavily pregnant stomach as she slowly made her way over to where the rest of her family stood.

“I don’t want to get any closer,” the little girl whispered, eyeing the sharks nervously.

“Why? They can’t touch you, munchkin,” Andy smiled at her. “See?” He lifted her up high so she could get a better view, tapping lightly on the window. “They’re stuck behind the glass.”

The four-year-old blinked nervously. “Jack said if I got close enough they’d break through and eat me,” she said softly.

April and Andy both turned to look at their son.

“What?” Jack shrugged.

“Don’t tell your sister those things!” April scolded him. “Especially since they aren’t true.”

“Yeah Jack, not cool,” Andy added.

“I was just having fun with her,” he rolled his eyes. “She believes everything.”

“She’s four,” April pointed out sternly.

“Sorry,” Jack mumbled. “Hey, I’m gonna check out the stingray tank.” With that, he sped off across the wide, exhibit-filled room.

“Wait for me,” Allie called after him, her sandy blonde curls bouncing in her ponytail as she ran.

Andy put Melody down and continued holding her hand as they walked. With his other arm, he pulled April close. “How you doing, babe?”

“Fine,” she replied, shrugging. “As good as I can be for someone who’s spending the day at the aquarium on their due date.”

“Are you sure you want to stay here? We can always come back,” Andy whispered. “I know it’s hot, and uncomfortable…and there’s a lot of walking involved. I just want you to feel okay.”

They took a slight risk coming to the aquarium on the date their fourth child was due to arrive. April didn’t seem to be worried, but Andy still felt as though he had to be on high alert the entire time. The last thing he wanted to happen was to have his wife go into labor in front of dozens of fish tanks.

“I’m fine,” she assured him. “We promised the kids we’d do this today…it’s probably the last thing we’ll do together before the baby comes. Plus, when have any of our kids ever arrived on their due dates?”

“You’re right,” Andy nodded. If one thing was true about their children, they weren’t known for arriving on time. Jack was nearly a month early, Allie was two weeks early, and Melody was one week late.

“Mommy, you don’t want to have the baby here,” Melody piped up, staring at the large tank of glowing jellyfish. “It might get eaten by a shark.”

“Jack was just kidding. The sharks don’t eat people…but yes, you’re right honey,” April smiled. “Definitely not here.”

 

“Daddy, can we get a penguin?” Allie asked her father as they watched the little black and white birds waddle around their watery tank.

“I wish,” Andy sighed. “That would be so awesome. But unfortunately no…”

“Snowcone would have someone to play with who likes the cold as much as he does,” she pointed out.

“Snowcone’s a dog, baby,” April chuckled. “I don’t think he’d get along with a penguin.”

“Someday,” Allie told them. “I’ll get my own penguin, and we’ll live in an igloo so it’s always cold.” With that, she turned to go find Jack.

“What’s next on the map, babe?” April asked.

“Um, we still didn’t check out the seal show, or the beluga whales…”

As Andy spoke, April stopped short and winced, rubbing a spot on her lower belly.

“Hey, you okay?” Andy asked immediately, leading her to a nearby bench. He kneeled in front of her, taking both her hands in his.

“I’m fine,” she nodded. “Just a stupid cramp.” She stroked the hair behind his ear. “Babe, you’ve need relax. Enjoy this place with the kids and don’t worry about me.”

“I know, you’re right,” Andy nodded, standing up again. “Can’t help it though. I just don’t want to have to call an ambulance while we’re here, you know?”

“I know,” she smiled. “You’re the best husband ever.”

 

“How do they train seals to do all those tricks?” Jack asked, as the five of them left the little aquarium theater an hour later.

“Lots of practice,” Andy replied. “And the seals get food if they do the right thing.”

“Kind of like when Mom gives you your special treat for doing the right thing, Dad?” Jack stared at his parents seriously, his face unchanging.

April laughed out loud, as Andy’s eyes went wide.

“Um, kind of,” Andy replied quickly. “I…don’t…um… Hey! Let’s go check out the touch tanks…I hear they’ve got some awesome stuff in there.”

Jack continued as they headed to the next exhibit. “I mean, I’ve heard Mom telling you you’re gonna get a special treat sometimes, but you never tell us what it is…”

“Daddy gets extra dessert,” April said quickly, glancing at her husband. “After dinner, when you kids go to bed.”

“Why does he get to have extra?” Allie demanded, her hands on her hips. “We never do!”

“Because he’s a grown up,” April said, with a finality to her voice that her children knew all too well.

Allie rolled her eyes in a way that would rival her mother, and took Melody by the hand. Together, they followed Jack’s lead to the tanks.

“Babe, thanks for the quick thinking,” Andy laughed.

“No problem,” April grinned. “I mean, your ‘special treat’ is what resulted in us having a fourth kid, so…it’s always worth it.”

Andy pulled her in for a kiss. “Always,” he agreed.

 

Driving home later that evening, Andy peered in the rearview mirror. The girls were both fast asleep, clutching their new stuffed animals. Jack was playing on his hand-held video game. It turned out to be a pretty successful day, and no babies were born in the process.

April dozed in the passenger seat next to him, a soft smile playing on her lips.

“Honey?” Andy whispered.

Her eyes fluttered open, and she stared at him sleepily. “Hmm?”

“I had an awesome day today with you and the kids,” he said happily.

“Me too,” she smiled, reaching for his hand.

“And as much as I love doing things with the five of us…I really can’t wait until we’re six.”

“Me either, babe,” she gave his fingers a squeeze. “I really, really can’t wait.”

 

Later that night…

“Andy?”

Andy blinked himself awake, his eyes unfocused and his mind hazy as he stared at the alarm clock. It read ten past three in the morning.

“What’s up babe?” He turned to face her. April was sitting up in bed, holding her stomach.

“Um…so…yeah…I think I’m having this baby.”

One day past due… It was a new Ludgate-Dwyer record.

Chapter Text

The glow of the television cast a soft light in the otherwise dark living room. It was evening, the sky fading to dark through the windows as the last of the sun’s rays disappeared beyond the horizon.

April lay with her head smushed up against her husband’s shoulder, her body swimming in one of his favorite hoodies. Her hands were tucked under his arm as she tried to focus on whatever meaningless television show they were watching.

“Babe,” Andy tapped her knee softly, craning his neck to give her a quick kiss on the side of her head. “You know, if you still want to go out to dinner, we should probably get going.”

“In a minute,” she muttered softly, only grasping his arm tighter.

It had only been two days since Andy came back from London. Two days since the hardest stretch of time apart they’d had to endure had finally come to an end. April hadn’t left his side since.

It was hard, trying to pretend like she had been doing okay. In truth, she felt lonely, depressed, and a bit unsure of herself while he was working across the Atlantic. She was so happy for him, because he was doing something important and worthwhile, but at the same time she went to bed every night dreaming of his return, only to wake up even more of a mess because it hadn’t been real.

Now though, he was finally back where he belonged. She never wanted to be apart from him again.

Andy tugged his arm out of her vice-like grip, only to snake it around her shoulder and pull her close. “You wanna stay here instead?” he asked, a smile playing on his lips.

“Yeah,” she said softly, nodding against his strong chest. “I want to stay home…with you. Like this.”

“Say no more,” Andy replied.

Lifting her easily, he stretched out on his back along the length of the couch, propping his head up on a pillow. Gently, he tugged April down to lie flat across his body, until she was perfectly aligned with him and resting her head in the crook of his neck.

“Better?” he grinned.

“So much better,” she smiled.

Andy grabbed his cell phone and quickly ordered a pizza, while April breathed him in fully, memorizing every scent like it was the first time.

“God, I missed you,” she said finally, turning her head further into him. “You have no idea how much.”

“I think I have a bit of an idea,” Andy said softly, rubbing her shoulder. “It wasn’t exactly easy for me either.”

“Promise you won’t leave me again?” April asked.

“Promise,” Andy nodded. “Promise you won’t leave me ever?”

“Promise,” April kissed him softly, one hand moving up to caress his cheek.

The television forgotten, Andy wrapped both his arms around her back as he responded to her kiss, the remote control thumping to the floor.

Few things in life were as good as this, April knew. And this was one thing she never, ever wanted to be without.

Later, when the two of them were naked, wrapped in a blanket and eating pizza, she knew she had never been happier with her life. Everything was just the way it should be.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe we’re doing this,” April mumbled, lacing up the ugly pair of bowling shoes. “What are we, like fifty years old?”

Andy laughed beside her, grasping a bright green bowling ball from the available selection.

“Babe, bowling’s the best!” he said excitedly. “I bet you’ll be great.”

“And since when are you a bowler?” she replied, standing with her hands on her hips, watching her husband get into position.

“Since I was a kid,” Andy shrugged. “I’m pretty good, too.”

“Oh yeah?” April smirked. “Well, let’s see your skills then, Dwyer!”

“You better prepare to be amazed!” he grinned. Taking a running step forward, Andy released the ball down the lane. It rolled at top speed, colliding with the pins and knocking half of them down.

“Hmm,” April looked at Andy, who was staring at the pins with his brow furrowed.

“Okay, so I haven’t bowled in a little while. I’m out of practice, that’s all.”

“I bet that’s what they all say,” April shook her head, making sure to pat him on the back as she passed him to take her turn. “Let me see if I can kick your ass.” She bent her arm back, and hurled the ball forward.

April’s ball wasn’t as fast as Andy’s, but it certainly went straighter. Crashing into the center of the pins, all ten were knocked down as she spun around, a wide smile on her face.

“Lucky shot, babe!” Andy muttered, flashing her a smile.

“Oh, I don’t think so, Dwyer.”

“You’ll see, I’m awesome,” Andy strode forward to take another turn. This time, he pumped his fist in the air as he bowled a strike. “Woo! Told you, honey! I knew I was still good!”

“Now this is getting interesting,” April pointed out, striding forward. “Why don’t we make it more interesting?”

“How so?” Andy grinned, his eyes flashing with his signature excitement.

“If you win,” April said, tugging Andy down a bit by his collar and kissing him on the nose. “You get to pick the movie for tonight—“

“That’s it?” he raised his eyebrows. “I mean, that’s not exactly exciting…”

“I wasn’t finished,” April pointed out. “You get to pick the movie, and you also get to pick what you get to do later…to me.”

His mouth dropped open slightly, momentarily stunned into silence. April knew his mind was racing, thinking about the possibilities.

“Uh,” Andy said, his face getting that semi-glazed look she knew so well. “W-what happens if you win?”

April bit her lip. “If I win, I get to decide what to do with you.” She lifted her hand holding the ball. “Sound fair?”

“Sounds more than fair,” Andy nodded.

“Great, so it’s a challenge,” April winked at him. “I’ve already got some ideas…”

He just stood there, watching her bowl an eight point hit with a dumb smile on his face. April knew it would be a win-win tonight either way…and so did he.

“We need to order a pitcher of beer,” Andy said, as he bowled another strike. “I think we’re gonna be here a while.”

Chapter Text

“Seriously babe, I don’t know what the big deal is!”

For what felt like the hundredth time that evening, Andy paced in front of the television, stealing glances at his wife as she sat on the couch. Arms crossed, April stared straight ahead, stony-faced, her lips tight in a grimace.

“Can you at least tell me what I did wrong?” Andy asked, turning to face her and sinking down to his knees. He rested his hands on her legs, drawing little circles with his finger against her jeans.

April turned, wrenching free from his grip, until she could swing her legs up onto the couch. She turned her head the other way, barely making a sound.

“Is this because of the whole Ann thing?” Andy asked, sitting down heavily on the carpet. “I was helping her out.”

“Helping her out?” April finally spoke, her hair whipping around as she faced him. “What part of going to her place and staying for an hour is helping her out?”

“She needed someone to help her move some stuff,” Andy tried reasoning with his wife. “She was bummed about the whole Chris thing, and I thought it would be cool to help out.”

“She could have asked anyone else other than you,” April spat, glaring at him.

“What are you so mad about?” Andy asked, spreading his arms out. “Babe! It’s been like, years since she and I were together. You’re my wife! What makes you think I’d ever think anything else?”

April released her arms from their death-grip cross, and hugged a pillow to her chest.

“We had plans tonight, Andy,” she said softly. “It’s our friggin anniversary, and you decided it would be a better idea to spend the afternoon helping Ann.”

Andy’s face fell. It wasn’t like he forgot about their wedding anniversary. On the contrary, it’s all he’d been thinking about all week. He’d planned on taking April out somewhere nice, maybe watching a movie later, eating lots of ice cream and having lots of sex. That was his perfect night.

Then he saw how sad Ann looked at work, and he couldn’t help but check to see what was wrong. After all, just because they weren’t together (and Andy was grateful she’d dumped him every single day, or else he’d never have met April) didn’t mean they couldn’t be friends.

She needed help moving some furniture around…stuff Chris had done that she wanted back to normal now that they were broken up. So of course, he offered to help. But he wouldn’t soon forget the look on April’s face when he told her he was going to ride home with Ann that evening to help her with her project. April had been angry at him since.

“Honey,” Andy said, reaching forward and taking her hands in his. “I’m sorry. I know how much you were looking forward to tonight—“

“Anniversaries are stupid,” she muttered, looking down at her hands.

“Ours isn’t,” Andy assured her, bringing her hands to his lips. “I love you so much,” he said softly. “C’mon, let’s go have dinner. I wanna take my beautiful wife out and celebrate how much I love being married to her.”

April’s mouth twitched a bit. Finally, she met his eyes.

“No more going to Ann’s house?” she asked softly.

“No more,” he nodded. “Promise. If she needs any more help moving anything, I’ll make Jerry do it.”

April smiled, and for the first time all evening, Andy felt relieved.

“Love you,” Andy whispered, leaning in to give her a peck on the lips.

“Love you too,” she rolled her eyes, grabbing his hand.

“Hey, I got you something,” Andy stood up suddenly, tugging her up with him.

April looked at him curiously, one hand on her hip. “What is it?”

“Hang on,” he said gleefully, dashing into their bedroom. Reaching under the bed—which was his preferred hiding spot—Andy pulled the small package out and hurried back to his wife. He held it out to her proudly.

“Andy—“

“Open it!” he grinned.

April unwrapped the little object carefully, tossing the old Christmas-themed wrapping paper to the floor. In her hands she held a tiny photo album.

“What’s this?” she asked, flipping through the pages. The first five were filled with some of Andy’s favorite photos from the wedding, one year ago. The rest were blank.

“I thought we could maybe start a new tradition?” he smiled, looking down at her. “Starting tonight, every year on our anniversary we can take a picture, and put it in the album.”

April ran her fingers over the photo of them standing under the arch of flowers, holding hands and facing one another.

“Did you think of this all on your own?” she asked, grinning up at him.

“Um…well,” he coughed. “I had a little…a tiny bit of help.”

“Leslie?”

“Maybe,” he shrugged.

“Dork,” she reached around his waist, pulling him to her in a tight hug.

She would always be his priority. That would never change.

“Happy anniversary, babe,” he whispered, kissing her head. He felt her grip him tighter, and Andy smiled.

Chapter Text

April was pretty proud of her morning accomplishments. Getting up so early on a Sunday had become increasingly easier, now that she had a child to attend to. Long gone were the days when she and Andy could sleep the weekends away. Today though, it was perfectly fine. Wonderful, even. Today was a day to celebrate.

It was much easier carrying a breakfast tray when your son could walk. April kept her eye on Jack as he hurried as fast as his little legs could carry him, trying to keep up with her quicker strides. Just as she’d hoped, Andy was still fast asleep in bed, snoring soundly.

“Go wake daddy, baby,” she whispered, pointing to the bed.

Jack blinked at her, his little face wide with a smile that matched his father’s, as he tried to climb up the side of the bed. He was nearly two years old, but he still had a bit of a problem hoisting himself up.

“Hang on, honey,” she laughed, putting down the tray to lift him. “There you go.”

Jack crawled forward, staring at his sleeping father the entire time. Once he made it to the headboard, he reached a tiny arm up and patted his dad on his cheek, giggling at the scratchiness of his beard.

“Dada,” Jack chirped loudly, as April looked on, barely containing the grin on her face. “Dada!”

Andy’s face twitched, before he slowly opened his eyes and blinked several times.

“Dada hi,” Jack smiled, lifting his little hand in a wave.

“Morning, buddy!” Andy grinned happily, sitting up straighter as he pulled his son onto his chest. “What’re you doing here, huh? Come to wake your old man up?” He kissed the baby’s forehead, rubbing his back as he held him.

“Mama,” Jack turned to look at his mother, who was still standing by the wall holding the tray.

“Babe!” Andy’s smile, if possible, became even larger. “This is the best wake up call I’ve ever gotten.”

“Happy Father’s Day,” April smiled, as she placed the tray in front of her husband.

“Woah,” Andy stared at the food. “Is this all for me?”

The tray was laden with a stack of six pancakes, bacon, eggs, coffee and orange juice. April couldn’t believe she and Jack had managed to do it all without destroying the kitchen, but then again, she was getting increasingly better at cooking. In the corner of the tray was a little card in an envelope.

“It is,” April nodded, sitting on the edge of the bed. “Jack made it for you.”

“He did?” Andy kissed his son on the head, while Jack stared wistfully at the syrupy pancakes in front of them. “He’s pretty awesome. Probably the smartest kid around.”

“Yum?” Jack looked up at Andy, pointing to the tray.

“You wanna share with me, buddy?” Andy asked, cutting a piece of pancake and holding it out to his son. Jack reached for it quickly, devouring it in one bite.

“Well, we’re pretty familiar with that appetite,” April shook her head. “Don’t let him fool you. He already had some earlier.”

“I don’t mind sharing,” Andy shrugged, breaking off piece after piece and giving it to Jack. “If it means breakfast with my favorite boy.”

“Glad you like it,” April pushed herself up beside the both of them, leaning in to Andy’s shoulder.

“You didn’t wear yourself out doing all this, I hope?” Andy looked at her nervously, giving her hand a squeeze.

“No, it’s nothing,” April assured him. “It was fun, actually. The kitchen’s a bit of a mess, but…it’s fine. Why don’t you open your card?”

“Oh! Right,” Andy said. He picked it up carefully, trying to avoid any wayward syrup and eggs from Jack’s hands. Inside were Jack’s handprints, done in blue paint. There was a little message, written out in April’s handwriting.

“Thank you for being the best daddy ever. I love you! Love, Jack”

“Thank you, big man!” Andy hugged his son tight. “You’re so awesome. I love this.” Turning to April, he smiled, his eyes shining with all the love in the world. “Honey, thanks so much. You’re the best.”

April just shook her head. If it weren’t for Andy, she wouldn’t have any of this. She thought about that often…about all the paths they’ve taken since the day they met. She would never be able to fully explain her love for him the way she would’ve liked, but she hoped little things like this could help. On this one special day dedicated to fathers, she needed to be sure he knew.

“I can’t…y’know…I don’t know. Just know that you mean everything to Jack and me,” she said softly, leaning over to kiss his cheek. She placed one hand on her still-flat belly. “And next year we get to celebrate with two kids, so that’s gonna be pretty awesome.”

“Couldn’t do any of this without you,” Andy said softly, turning his head so he could kiss her lips, covering her hand with his own.

April wrapped her arms around him, as Jack squirmed between them, now reaching both hands into Andy’s food and eating whatever he could.

“Love you,” April sighed, finally breaking away.

“Love you too,” Andy leaned in for one more peck.

“You’d better eat your food before our kid finishes it all,” April nodded down at Jack, who was fist deep in the scrambled eggs.

Andy laughed loudly. It wasn’t long before April joined in, the three of them smushed together in the large bed. It was perfect, it was wonderful…and she was amazed every single day that this was her life.

Chapter Text

“Andy,” April muttered, her face in her hands. She stared at the smoking car engine before them, pulled over on the most random road in Pawnee.

“Yes?” he asked, staring at the wide, dark expanse ahead.

“When you said you needed to get the car fixed,” she said, pointing to the open hood and the mechanisms underneath. “Did you mean fixed as in ‘we need to get the oil replaced in the next three months,’ or ‘we cannot drive this deathtrap without risking our lives’ fixed?”

Andy looked at her nervously, trying to smile. “The…uh…the second one.”

“So what was going through your mind when you thought it would be a good idea to drive to a new restaurant that seems to be located in the middle of no where with our broken down car?”

She was doing everything she could not to scream in frustration. She didn’t think there was any way her day could get any more annoying.

“Sorry babe,” Andy said, hanging his head. “I didn’t know how bad it was…I had no idea this was gonna happen.”

“Andy…”

“Look, I just wanted to take you somewhere nice,” he said sadly. “Leslie recommended this place, so I figured it had to be good.”

It was true. Leslie would not stop talking about the “fancy and romantic” restaurant Ben took her too. Finally, Andy gave in and asked her where it was. He had kept it secret for most of the ride, until April literally had to pull it out of him. She hated most surprises. Even worse, she hated secrets she wasn’t part of.

April crossed her arms and glanced at her husband. She knew he meant well. He always did.

“Babe, I’m not mad at you,” she sighed, walking up to wrap him in a hug.

“You should be,” he mumbled. “I’m an idiot. Can’t even take my wife out without screwing it up.” He looked at the ground miserably.

There it was. Just like that, the guilt came pouring in. She hated seeing him like this. It broke her heart in more ways than one. Now, she felt like a jerk.

“No, you’re not,” she shook her head. “C’mon, we’ll figure this out.”

April took him by the hand and led him back to the car, where she whipped out her phone.

“Okay, so we’ll call Triple A, we’ll tell them where we are, and they’ll get us out of here,” she said, giving his hand a squeeze. “See? No big deal.”

“But babe,” Andy looked around. “Where exactly are we?”

“You don’t know the name of the road?”

He shook his head.

“Okay then, new plan,” she hopped out of the passengers seat.

“Where’re you going?” Andy looked at her quizzically. “Honey, it’s dark out there!”

April looked back the way they came. The road was pitch black and quiet. There were literally two streetlights, one of which was flickering.

“If ever there was a time I needed a piggy back ride,” she glanced at him with a smirk. “Now would be it.”

Andy grinned, dropping to his knees. “Of course,” he nodded. “But what are we gonna do?”

“We’re gonna walk down the road we came,” she pointed. “Until we reach the street sign.”

Andy looked apprehensive as April climbed on his back. She wrapped her arms around his neck tightly, nudging his head with her own.

“I’m gonna need my strong husband to protect me, though. Feeling up to it?”

“Are you kidding?” Andy said, his grip on her legs tightening. “Always.”

 

Later, when they were back at their house, sharing several cartons of Chinese food and beer, April snuggled close to her husband. She couldn’t keep the smile off her face.

“What’s so funny?” Andy asked, pulling her against him.

“Nothing,” she shook her head. “I just think I had more fun getting lost in the middle of no where with you than I ever would have at that stupid restaurant.”

Andy grinned. “Me too, babe,” he chuckled. “For sure.”

They’d never been a typical couple. If there was one thing April was sure of, it was that she was one hundred percent okay with that.

Chapter Text

Andy slumped his way into the house, completely exhausted from his weekend workout at the gym. He definitely loved being in shape. He had lots more energy for all kinds of things. He looked better, and most importantly he felt better.

But sometimes staying fit just really sucked. He didn’t like getting up at six in the morning. Even worse, he hated leaving April. Especially when she was so adorably curled around him like she so often was while they slept.

“Babe, I’m home,” he called to a seemingly empty house. Champion padded toward him, and Andy bent down to scratch his ears like always. “Babe?”

“Hey,” she called out to him, yawning as she walked out of their bedroom.

Andy’s eyes immediately went to her outfit. She was dressed in nothing more than the shirt he tossed off when he woke nearly two hours ago to head out. It was huge on her, coming down to just below her panties. Panties she probably didn’t have on, anyway.

“Hey,” he grinned, striding over to her in three huge steps and pulling her in for a kiss. “Morning, honey.”

“Morning,” she wrapped her arms around his broad back, feeling for his newly flexed muscles.

“So,” he mumbled, running his lips over her neck. “Any particular reason you’re wearing my shirt?”

“Well,” she said, shrugging in an exaggerated fashion. “You leave so early to go workout. I miss you. Who am I supposed to cuddle up against when you’re not here?”

He secretly loved when she wore his clothes. Yet he also loved to tease her about it, which was almost just as fun.

“I don’t know,” he shook his head.

“Maybe I should find another guy to take your place while you’re gone?” she teased, wagging her eyebrows at him.

He knew she was just messing with him like he did with her. But it still never settled well with him when she brought up doing anything with anyone other than him.

“Wait,” he shook his head, sliding his hands down around her waist. “No, I don’t think that’s a good idea—“

“I mean, no one will be the same as you, of course,” she purred, kissing up his neck, making his head spin.

She certainly knew what made him tick.

“No way,” he shook his head. “I’m awesome.”

“You are awesome,” she nodded, biting down gently under his right ear.

“Wanna go cuddle some more, now that I’m home?” he asked.

“I’ve got a better idea,” she said, pulling him back toward the bedroom. “You’re super sweaty. I think a long shower is just what you need.”

“I like the sound of that,” he nodded frantically. “Babe, you've got the best ideas.”

“Mmhm,” she nodded. “But first, let’s finish up that workout.”

Andy grinned, his stomach doing that flip-flop he still felt whenever he was around her. “Like, I said babe…best ideas.”

Chapter Text

Internships were stupid. Ben was stupid.  Washington DC was stupid.  Everything was completely and utterly stupid.  

Why she thought this was a good idea was beyond her.  What part of traveling to this sweltering, dumb city for such a useless internship had seemed like a good idea to her?  April honestly didn't know, but she did know that she didn't want to be a part of it any longer.

It shouldn't have been a big deal, honestly.  She learned long ago not to let things get to her, especially after four hellish years at Pawnee High surrounded by hundreds of morons who she would silently curse as she walked through the halls.

So when that little group of interns came over to her, asking her to join them for a drink after work...she did what she always did.  She hissed at them and mumbled weird words until they walked away.  She had no time for their petty, privileged conversation.  Honestly, the only reason they probably wanted to hang out with her was because she was friends with Ben, who was their boss, and they all knew that.  What better way to suck up, right?

All she really wanted was Andy.  She missed him more than she ever thought possible.  And even though she acted otherwise when they had their nightly phone call, promising that she was doing great and everything was awesome, in reality she was miserable.

She couldn't bare to tell him the truth.  It would do way more harm than good.  The last thing he needed to do was worry about her when he just started to get some real work as Leslie's assistant.  Who was she to put her problems on him and distract him from a job he so deserved?

She tossed her phone onto the too-small bed in her too-lonely apartment, and opened her one carton of Chinese food while she waited for her phone to ring.  Pawnee and DC were in the same time zone, but April often found herself finishing work before Andy these days.  She wasn't surprised...Leslie was a freak of nature who liked to work after five. That meant Andy did too.

After a few bites she put the carton aside, her appetite gone.  Instead, she flopped down onto her comforter and waited.  She wasn't used to sleeping in such a small bed.  Andy's huge body would never fit here, and that thought made her ache even more.  She missed the way he held her as they slept, and the way she would snuggle into his soft torso when she was cold.  She missed his scratchy kisses at all hours of the day, and their little sojourns to some well-hidden closet during lunch time (or any other time, really).  Worst of all, his absence reminded her what it was like before they were together.  Those days she spent angry, miserable and alone.

Her phone went off suddenly, catching her off guard.  Snatching it up quickly, she tried to keep her voice level.

"Hey babe," she said cheerily.  

"Hi honey!" he said, honestly happy about his life at the moment.  "How was your day today?"

"How was yours?" she countered.

"Oh it was great!" he laughed.  “I mean, it started off bad. Chris had me training to become a cop, and I sorta passed out on the track. But then I did way better, and Chris got all weird and depressed about something.”

"Sounds awesome," she said flatly.  And honestly it did.

"Yeah, and then last night after I hung up with you, Champion and I played tug of war with a pillow."

At the mention of Champion, her heart ached even more.  She sighed, her breath shaking slightly.

"I'm happy you're having such a great time," she said.

"Hey," Andy quieted, his voice suddenly serious.  "April, is everything okay?"

"Yeah...of course it is.”

"I don't believe you," he said, and she could hear him letting himself into their house.  "Talk to me."

She couldn't hide it anymore.  She was going to lose her mind if she did.

"I hate it here," she finally admitted, breaking down.  "I hate this stupid city and this job.  I hate everyone and I wish I never agreed to this."

Now her voice shook with each word, and she could feel the wetness on her cheeks.

"April," Andy said softly.  "Hey, it's okay.  Listen to me, you're going to be all right.  What happened?"

"I miss you," she said, her voice tight and constricted.

"I miss you too, babe," he said.  "I miss you so much.  But if you've been feeling this way, why haven't you told me?"

"Because," she sighed.  "Because you don't need to worry about me.  You don't need to have to deal with my problems.  They're all stupid, anyway."

"You're problems are never stupid," he said seriously.  "Don't ever say that.  I'm always here to talk to you. Hey, you know what?  I'll come down there tomorrow, and--"

"See?  This is why I didn't want to tell you!" April said, flustered.  "You shouldn't have to come and save me every time I have a problem.  You've got your own job and life to worry about!"

"Your life is my life," he said, almost as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.  "I couldn't care less about my job if it means making you feel better."

She knew he meant every word.

"You're...just...you're the only person I can trust," she whispered.  "I don't wanna be around any of these stupid fake people."

"I know, honey," he said.  "You're so awesome though.  I know you're kicking ass as vice president of Ben's company."

She didn't feel like explaining to him how very wrong he was about her job description.  Instead she just smiled.

"Thanks," she muttered.

"I love you so much," he said.

"I love you too," she replied.

"I'm gonna come visit you next weekend, okay?  Promise."

"Really?"

The thought was comforting to her.  She just had to get through another week and a half, and he'd be here.  

“Totally. And I promise, when I get there we are gonna have so much sex we're not gonna leave your bed. In fact, we might just break it.”

April laughed out loud at that, wiping her wet cheeks with her palm.

"You're the best," she said, hugging the stuffed three-legged puppy he sent her to her chest.

"I'm never gonna be as amazing as you, babe."

"Love you," she said again.

"Love you so much."

Honestly, she had no idea what she would do without him.  

Chapter Text

“Come over here and make me.”

“What did you just say?” Andy asked mischievously, standing in the walkway to the kitchen with a huge smirk on his face.

“You told me to come to bed, so I said come over here and make me,” April crooked a finger at him, beckoning him in the most overly seductive way she could manage at such a late hour. Honestly, the whole thing was ridiculous, but it had been too long since they’d fooled around like this and she sort of needed it.


“Oh-ho,” Andy raised his eyebrows. “Ms. Snakehole is being difficult, is she?” He stepped forward two feet, crossing his arms tightly to make his muscles bulge even more. April had to hold back a laugh at his efforts.

“Janet Snakehole takes orders from no one,” she replied in that horrendous accent, propping herself up on the counter top. “Not even Burt Macklin.”

“I know I’m getting older,” Andy said dramatically. “The FBI has done a number on me. But Burt Macklin is the only one who can give Ms. Snakehole what she needs,” he purred, stepping forward another couple of feet. “What she needs…and what she so desperately wants.”

Well, he certainly was right about that. She wanted nothing more than for him to throw her on her back and go to town.

“You’ll never have my body!” she yelled, remembering to keep it down because, well, the kids were all sleeping upstairs.

“Oh I will,” Andy as Macklin pounced, grabbing her around her waist and pulling her to him in such an exaggerated kiss that she had to chuckle against his lips.

That chuckle morphed into a tiny moan as her character melted away, and then they were just Andy and April again, kissing passionately in the kitchen. His tongue pushed into her mouth, and she accepted it gratefully, running her hands through his hair. His hands toyed with the drawstrings of her pajama pants, tugging until they were loose enough that he could slip his hand under the elastic band.

Wrapping her legs around his torso so she was tight against him, April was just starting to feel that tell-tale stiffness against her thigh when a yell from the hallway knocked them both back into reality.

“Oh God, gross!” Jack yelled, and they caught a moment of his disgusted face before he turned around and hurried back up the stairs. “Stop being weird!” he called down to them once he had reached the second floor landing.

“Sorry honey!” April yelled, suppressing a laugh.

“Yeah, sorry buddy,” Andy shouted. “But mom and dad need to have fun sometimes too!”

All they got in response was another disgusted exclamation from their teenage son while the both of them laughed, before quickly resuming their previous position. After all, it wasn’t like the same interruption would happen twice.

And they did have a perfectly clean counter to utilize.

Chapter Text

Few things in April Ludgate-Dwyer’s life left her speechless with happiness. Her husband was one of them, and he always would be. Her love for him was matched only by his love for her in return, and she honestly didn’t think she could possibly care for him more than she already did.

Then he gave her the greatest gift in the world. He gave her Jack.

The tiny newborn was pressed against her chest as she rocked in the glider, quietly nursing at some ungodly hour in the morning. April stroked his cheek with her finger as he ate, making sure he was warm during the cold November night.

Any part of her that ever said she didn’t want children seemed like a laughable joke now. Every time she rebuffed Andy’s suggestions, dodged questions from friends, or pushed her own insecurities to the back of her brain, she thought one thing was for sure: children were not for her. How very wrong she turned out to be.

She loved watching Jack as he ate. It was mesmerizing in a way, knowing that she and only she could do this job. It felt as though her true purpose had finally shown itself, and she wouldn’t trade it for anything.

As she peered down at their boy, his big brown eyes stared back at her. They were her eyes for sure, as was his hair and his coloring. But his nose, his mouth…even his ears were all Andy. She absolutely loved that about him.

“Babe!” she heard the heavy footfalls from the hallway, Andy’s nervous sprinting loud and clumsy in the dead of night. He burst through the nursery door, out of breath as though he’d just run a mile. “Oh my God, there you are!” he panted, hurrying over and sitting down on the floor beside her chair.

“Where did you think I was?” she asked, reaching out to rub his cheek.

“I dunno,” Andy shook his head. “I woke up, and you were gone, and usually you bring him to our room when he needs to eat. I think I was having a bad dream or something, because I freaked out and thought something happened to you both.”

April smiled, shifting Jack to her other breast as the baby boy squirmed in her arms.

“We’re just fine,” she looked down at him, as he gripped her shirt in his tiny Mouse Rat onesie. “I know you get worried, but you’ve gotta calm down, okay?”

“Yeah, I know,” Andy nodded, reaching out to stroke Jack’s little fist. “You guys are gonna be the death of me,” he laughed softly. “Or whatever the heck Ben and Leslie always says about their kids. Guess I’m still getting used to everything.”

She laughed, trying to keep herself from shaking and disturbing her tiny little demon baby. One thing was for sure—if he didn’t eat enough, he was cranky as hell. Just like his daddy.

“You have no idea how beautiful you look right now,” Andy said softly, leaning back to look at the two of them. “Every time I look at you with him…you just look, I dunno, you look perfect.”

“He’s perfect,” April replied, as Jack unlatched and yawned wide.

“We did good, didn’t we?” Andy grinned.

“We definitely did,” April brought Jack up to kiss his cheek. He was her world now, hers and Andy’s. She wouldn’t have it any other way.

Chapter Text

Andy checked his phone repeatedly that morning, waiting for some sign of April. It was weird. Usually they carpooled together now—one of the perks of being a super awesome couple, he liked to remind himself. Today though, when he texted her to let her know he was on his way to get her, he received only four words in response.

Go without me today.

Confused, Andy had stared at the text message for three whole minutes before he gave her a call. She didn’t answer. Instead, he received another message not a minute later. This one was even shorter.

Call u later.

After that he’d gotten really confused, but he continued on to work like usual and waited patiently for that call to arrive. Now it was lunch time. Still no call, and still no April.

He wracked his brain for something he might’ve done to make her mad. After all, they had only been dating for two weeks now. It had been the best two weeks of his life, as far as Andy was concerned. It just wasn’t like her to bail on him like this, so naturally he assumed he’d already screwed up.

He tried to remember all the things he’d done in the past couple of days. It couldn’t have been when he put gum on the shoeshine chair just as Kyle was sitting down. She'd laughed at that for like an hour afterwards. Was it because he got her a coffee with cream instead of milk? That didn’t seem like something she’d get mad about either.

Now his stomach felt sick, and it definitely wasn’t because of the four hotdogs he’d eaten for lunch. Or it could’ve been…Leslie always told him never to trust the hot dogs served in the City Hall cafeteria.

“Hey, Leslie?” Andy knocked on her office door.

“Andy!” she smiled happily, looking up from a stack of papers. “What can I do for you?”

“You haven't heard from April, have you?” he asked, glancing back toward her empty desk.

Leslie frowned. “No, I haven’t. Have you asked Ron? He would know better than me.”

“He’s not there,” Andy shrugged. “I think he went to lunch or something.”

“Sorry,” she shook her head. “Try giving her a call.”

“Great, thanks,” he gave her a small smile as he backed out of her office.

Now this was getting weird. He returned to the shoeshine stand, hoping to distract himself with his work. No one was waiting for him, so no work to take his mind off things. Everyone must be out to lunch.

“Screw this,” he said to himself, pulling off his apron and tossing it over the counter. He pulled the chain over the empty chairs and ran to the parking lot.

 

“Hello?” Andy called, knocking on the door to April’s house not ten minutes later. “April?” There were no cars in the driveway. Both her parents must have been at work, or wherever they go during the day. He honestly had no idea. “Babe, it’s me! It’s Andy!”

He turned the doorknob, and surprisingly it was unlocked. Remembering to take off his shoes—because her parents were oddly strict about that—he hurried up to April’s room.

“Babe?”

Her bedroom door was closed, so he knocked once before slowly entering. She was there, lying on her bed and clutching a pillow to her chest. She looked so tiny, curled up in a ball on a mattress that looked too big for her. She merely stared straight ahead, not even turning when she heard him enter.

“April,” Andy walked over, sitting on the corner of the bed. “Hey! What’s going on?” he stared at her nervously. “Why didn’t you call me? You feeling sick?”

Slowly, she turned to look at him. Her eyes were tired and puffy, and it looked at though she’d been crying.

“Hey,” he said softly, lying beside her and pulling her into his arms. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing,” she said, burying her face in her own pillow. She didn’t pull away from him, which he took as a good sign. But he’d never seen her like this before. She looked fragile, scared even, and it shook him.

“It’s not nothing,” he stroked her hair. “C’mon, you can tell me. I’m your boyfriend now, remember?”

“That’s just it,” she sniffed, turning her body to face his. “You’re my boyfriend, and you’re just…you’re awesome. And you don’t need to deal with me when I’m like this.”

“Like what?” he asked.

“Like,” she rubbed at her eyes. “I don’t know Andy…I can’t explain okay? Sometimes I just get like this. Sometimes I just don’t want to be around anyone, or anything. I can’t get out of bed some days, because I feel like none of it matters.”

“None of what matters?” he asked, resting his forehead against hers.

“Life?” she shrugged.

He stared at her silently for a moment, her large brown eyes reflecting back at him, scared and confused.

“First of all, you matter more to me than you’ll ever know,” he said. “How um…how often do you feel this way?”

“I dunno,” she shrugged. “Every once in a while, I guess.”

“Why didn’t you tell me how you were feeling this morning?” he asked.

“Because…you don't need to be around me feeling sorry for myself,” she said, looking away. “There’s no way you’d want to stay with me if you knew how pathetic I could get.”

“April, stop,” Andy pulled her closer. “Don’t say stuff like that, okay?”

“Why? It’s all true, anyway.”

“No it isn’t,” he shook his head. “You’re like, the most awesome person in the world to me. You’re the coolest, the best, the funniest person ever. If you feel this way once in a while, that doesn’t…y’know…change anything about us.”

“It should,” she said firmly, pressing her face into the pillow. “No one ever bothers with me when I’m like this. My own parents don’t even get it. I usually deal with it alone, so I’m used to it. No one wants to be around me.”

“I always want to be around you,” he said, hoping she could tell how serious he was being. “Happy, sad, mad…hopefully not mad at me, though,” he gave her a small smile, and she returned it. “Anyway, you don’t have to hide from me, not ever, okay?”

April nodded, resting her head on his shoulder. “Andy?”

“Hm?”

“Just so you know…everything that doesn’t make sense about me, um…it makes sense when I’m with you. So, just…thank you for being you.”

“That’s good, right babe?” he asked nervously.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “That is really good.”

“Awesome.”

She sat up slightly, only to give him a soft kiss on the lips. Andy’s insides buzzed, even at that tiniest bit of contact.

“Do you wanna come back to work with me?” he asked, after a few minutes had passed in silence. “We can play a prank on Jerry if you want. I think I still have some of those toy snakes I bought at Food and Stuff.”

“Do we have to?” she asked. “Can’t you stay here with me?”

Andy thought about it for a moment. No one was really waiting for him at work, anyway. And if he missed out on a bit of cash, it was worth it to be with April.

“Dude, totally,” he grinned.

“Thanks,” she whispered, grabbing her quilt and pulling it up over the both of them.

He stared at her as she snuggled up to him, and felt the strongest urge to just blurt out how much he loved her. It was no secret, and it came as no surprise to him. He loved April Ludgate. Honestly, he’d loved her since day one. Would she freak out if he said it? Was it too soon? Maybe…but right now, as he kissed her forehead and they turned on her little television to watch some crappy daytime game show, all he wanted to do from this point on was prove to her that he would always be there for her…no matter what.

Chapter Text

“I don’t know if I can do this, babe.”

April sat on their bed, her gala gown laying beside her in its plastic bag from the store, while her heels sat in their box on the floor. Andy was busy getting dressed, his suit half on and his pants still unbuckled.

“Honey,” Andy said, hurrying past her to their bathroom, most likely looking for his cufflinks. “C’mon, we talked about this. The kids are gonna be fine.”

Their youngest daughter, Melody, wobbled around the room, excited by the newly discovered use of her legs.

“What if they’re not?” April said, lifting the baby up into her lap. “We can always back down, you know. Tell them one of us got sick.”

“Mama,” the little girl squeaked, tugging on her mother’s bracelets.

“April,” Andy walked back over and sat beside her on the bed. “This is a super important night for the Foundation,” he kissed her head. “You need to be there. They’re all gonna be looking for you.”

“But the kids have never had a babysitter who wasn’t someone they knew,” she muttered. “They’ve been so attached lately, and I still hate the idea of leaving Melody with a stranger. She’s only a year old.”

Andy glanced down at their daughter, smiling at the way she cuddled her mother.

“Laura isn’t a stranger, April,” he said comfortingly. “She’s your boss’s daughter, and it was really awesome of her to offer to sit for us. She’s sixteen. I think she can handle three kids. Right princess?” He tickled Melody’s belly, eliciting a high-pitched giggle from the baby.

It really was awesome of her, and April knew it. Especially since Leslie was unavailable for the first time in practically ever, and April didn’t trust anyone else.

“I know, but she’s a stranger to the kids.”

Andy took both her hands in his and kissed them, giving them a slight squeeze.

“It’s going to be fine,” he promised her. “Now let’s get dressed, okay? We’ve gotta leave soon.”

 

She took a deep breath as she came down the stairs, finally dressed and ready to go. All appeared to be well at the moment. Jack and Allie were coloring at the kitchen counter, a bowl of popcorn being shared between them.

Andy followed a moment after, carrying Melody in his arms. April gestured for him to follow her lead. Now was as good a time as any to talk to the kids.

“Hey guys,” April said, joining them in the kitchen. “Can you listen to Daddy and me for a minute?”

Jack looked up, a confused expression on his face.

“Why are you all dressed up?” he asked, putting down his markers.

“Remember we told you the other night that Mommy and Daddy had somewhere important to go to for Mommy’s work tonight?” she asked, looking from Jack to Allie.

“Uh-huh,” Jack nodded.

“Well, Daddy and I have to leave in a little while. We won’t be back until after you go to bed.”

“So who’s gonna watch us?” he asked, looking at his father.

“Auntie Leslie coming?” Allie asked, hopeful.

“No honey,” Andy said. “Auntie Leslie was busy tonight. Remember we told you about Mommy’s friend Laura? She’s going to come play with you instead. She’s awesome, though! You’re going to have a great time.”

“No,” Allie shook her head. “Don’t want you to go away,” she said loudly, putting her crayons down hurriedly and hopping off her stool. She ran to Andy, grabbing at his legs. “Don’t go.”

“It’s only for a little while,” he said, glancing at April, who by now was already starting to lose her composure. “We’ll come and see you in bed when we come home, I promise.”

“No!” the little girl shouted, hiding her face in the fabric of his suit.

“Yeah, we don’t want you to leave,” Jack added, crossing his arms. “We don’t want someone else, we want you or Auntie Leslie!”

“We understand,” April said, walking over to hug him. “We get it, baby…but we have to go. We talked about this. I promise you’ll have a good time. I even bought some cookies for you to have later if you and your sisters are good, okay?”

“Can’t we come too?” Jack asked. “We can be good.”

“Yeah, we come too,” Allie added.

“You guys know how much we would love for you to be able to come with us…but you can’t this time,” April shook her head.

By now, Allie’s eyes were getting teary. Andy looked at April hopelessly. She didn’t doubt that he thought it would smoother than this.

“Look,” he said. “We’re gonna need you guys to help Laura take care of Melody, okay? You guys have to be the big brother and sister and show her what to do.” With his free arm, he pulled Allie in for a hug. “Can you do that for us?”

Allie sniffed, hugging her father tightly. Andy glanced at Jack, who gave him a stiff nod.

“That’s my big guy,” Andy smiled. “You’re the man of the house while I’m gone, okay? You need to help as best you can.”

“Can I stay up late until you get home?” Jack asked hopefully.

“That’s not part of the deal,” April said, sitting beside Andy on the floor. “But I’ll tell you what. When I check in later in the night, if Laura says you’ve been good and helping out, you can stay up an extra hour. Okay?”

“Okay,” Jack nodded.

“Thank you,” April hugged her son, planting a soft kiss on his dark head of hair.

“Okay princess?” Andy asked Allie. “Sound good to you?”

“Yes,” she said softly.

Andy wiped the tears from her eyes with the pad of his thumb, kissing her and then her sister.

“Love you guys,” he smiled.

 

Several hours later, April and Andy returned home. Laura was doing some homework at the kitchen counter, but otherwise all was quiet.

“Hey,” April said, kicking off her heels and tossing her purse on the counter. “How was everything?”

“Great,” Laura told them. “They were all so well behaved. They ate their dinner, watched some TV, had some cookies, and drew some pictures all before bed.” She pointed to a small stack of construction paper on the coffee table.

“Awesome,” Andy grinned. “So they didn’t give you any trouble?”

“No,” Laura shook her head. “They were a bit sad when you left, but other than that, it went really well.”

“Melody wasn’t fussy?”

“Nope, she went right to sleep.”

April let out a sigh of relief. “Perfect.”

“Hey, thanks for watching them for us, Laura,” Andy said, taking some money out of his wallet and paying her. “We really appreciate it.”

“Anytime,” she shrugged. “I wish all the kids I babysit were as good as yours.”

As Andy saw her to the door, April rifled through the drawings. Even at five years old, Jack was getting very good. However, there was one drawing in particular that nearly made her burst into tears.

On a white piece of paper was a figure, who obviously had to be her, holding a smaller figure with the same dark hair and eyes. Around them were several hearts, and in his messy kindergarten handwriting were the words “Me and Mommy” in blue lettering.

Wiping at her eyes, she carefully took the piece of paper and brought it to her room, tucking it in the mirror of her bureau. When Andy joined her not long after, having checked on all the kids, he was surprised to see her crying.

“What’s wrong?” he asked worriedly, hurrying over to the bed. “Babe! What happened?”

“Nothing,” she shook her head, pulling him in for a hug. “It’s nothing, Andy.”

“You don’t just burst into tears for nothing,” he said seriously.

She pointed to the drawing wordlessly. Taking one look at it, Andy’s face split into a grin.

“So these are happy tears then?” he asked, and the relief on his face was obvious.

April nodded. “We’ve got the best kids,” she said softly.

“We totally do,” Andy replied, shrugging off his suit jacket and loosening his tie. “And tomorrow we’re gonna spend all day with them to make up for tonight. Does that sound good?”

“Yeah,” she said, hugging him close. “It really does.”

Chapter Text

Another boring day at Pawnee’s City Hall was underway. For April, there was nothing to do but work…which in her case, wasn’t really work at all. In any case, being Ron’s assistant was a better job than most, because he honestly didn’t expect much of anything from her. As long as she kept people away from his office, he considered it a job well done.

Today though, there were no phone calls coming in, no annoying townspeople clogging the bullpen, and nothing to really do. Even the fun of bugging Jerry had lost some steam. Leslie had been glued to her office phone all day long, dealing with some Parks crisis or something boring like that. Tom was no where to be found. Donna was busy playing solitaire on her computer.

So, without waiting for an answer, April said to the room at large, “I’ll be back later.”

No one so much as batted an eye.

Now, smiling as she made the trip toward Pioneer Hall, April knew there was at least one person who she could have some fun with.

As she stopped to grab two coffees, her temporary good mood was dashed when she saw a sight that made her blood boil.

Stupid Ann Perkins was walking down the halls, heading in the same direction that April was headed. She had her stupid hospital scrubs on, and her dumb hair was tied back into an ugly bun. April scoffed, silently mocking the nurse.

If Ann thought for one minute that she was going to get to Andy before April did, she had another thing coming. She grabbed the coffees and hurried off without paying, running through corridors and nearly knocking Kyle down to the floor in the process. She was pleased to see that Ann was no where in sight when she finally reached the shoeshine stand.

“Ludgate!” Andy called happily when he saw her, sitting up and tossing the magazine he was reading to the floor. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” she shrugged, trying to hide a small smile. “It’s super boring at work today, so I thought I’d come visit. Maybe we can make fun of people’s hair cuts as they walk by again?”

“Totally!” Andy grinned, as April sat in the shoeshine chair next to him. “It’s pretty dead over here too. It’s like no one wants their shoes shined today.”

“Here,” she said, handing him the coffee. “Got this for you.”

“Sweet!” he took it from her, raising his hand for a high five in the process. “You’re the best.”

She tried to act like that comment didn’t just make her whole morning. Then again, the blush creeping up her neck would probably give her away.

“I got extra whipped cream for you,” she pointed out.

“You know me so well,” he shook his head, taking a huge sip.

“So, guess what Ron said to Leslie this—“

“Hey Andy,” a cheery voice said from off to the right. “Oh, hey April…didn’t see you there too.”

April turned around, an angry grimace on her face. Sure enough, Man Perkins had arrived.

“Hey Ann!” Andy said happily. “What’s up?”

“Nothing,” she said. “I just wanted to stop by and say hello. See how things were.”

“Things are great,” April rolled her eyes. “Super swell. Hey, don’t you have like bed pans to clean out or something?” she deadpanned.

“No, actually,” Ann sighed. “My shift just ended.”

“Then why don’t you head on home,” April said. “I mean, you don’t work here, so…”

The nurse stared at her with uncertainty—or maybe it was flat out dislike, April wasn’t sure—before she turned again to Andy.

“I just wanted to tell you what a great job you guys did at the Valentine’s dance,” Ann said. “Really, that was one of your best shows.”

“You think so?” Andy said, his eyes lighting up. “I dunno, those songs were pretty weird. I mean, a bunch of old ladies wanted to set me up with their granddaughters, but other than that it was hard to tell.”

“No really, it was great—“

“Hey,” April interrupted, turning to face Andy. “You’ve got something on your cheek.”

Sure enough, a small splotch of whipped cream was caught in the scruff on Andy’s face. Throwing a glance at Ann as she leaned forward, April reached up and gently wiped it away with her thumb, making sure to cup his cheek in the process and linger there for as long as possible.

Andy stared at her the entire time, his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open. His face was warm. As she pulled her hand away, April sucked the cream off her thumb.

“Mmm,” she bit her lip. “You were saying, Ann?”

Ann just stared at the both of them, her face a mixture of confusion and—dare April think it—jealousy.

“Nothing,” the nurse shook her head. “I’ll catch you guys later.” She walked away without another word, glancing back over her shoulder hurriedly when she reached the end of the hallway.

“So, um,” Andy stammered, clearly unsure what to make of the situation. “Y-you…what were you saying?” he asked, absentmindedly rubbing at the spot on his cheek.

“Oh,” April shook her head. “It was nothing.”

“Oh…right,” he nodded slowly.

April picked up Andy’s discarded magazine and hid behind the pages. Over the top of it, she could see him staring at her. His eyes were soft, and his face was definitely a bit red, but she could see the small smile on his lips.

Honestly, that was all she could have hoped for.

Chapter Text

Andy's hand brushed over the empty spot beside him in bed, looking for the usual slender body that he loved pulling against him.

Well, technically not slender at the moment.  April was eight months pregnant, and her belly was anything but tiny right now.  Although, he wouldn't dare say something like that to her face.  He liked his own face too much the way it was.

Instead, he climbed out of bed and stretched, stifling the huge yawn that woke a sleeping Champion up from his bed on the floor.

"April?" Andy called in a sing-song voice, as he made his way slowly down the stairs.  "Babe?  You up?"

"Couch," she called out to him.

"Why are you up so early?"

When he arrived in the TV room, he was surprised to see her sitting in the middle of the sofa, her hands resting on her swollen stomach and her head staring straight down.  

"Um," Andy scratched his neck.  "Honey...what're you looking for?"

"Nothing," she shook her head, moving her hands around and resting them in different positions.

"Okay, um...you want me to get you something, or—“

"Come here," she said, finally looking up and waving him over.

Andy did as he was told.  Taking a seat facing her, he crossed his legs on the couch cushion so he was mimicking her position.

"Here," she took his large hands and placed them on her belly.

Andy smiled, waiting.  Sure enough, he felt movement.  Only this time it wasn't the usual kick here or there.  It was full-fledged turning and shifting, so much so that it felt insanely surreal.  He stared up at his wife with wide eyes.

"Wow," he said, his voice barely a whisper.

"I know," she nodded.  "The baby's been doing this all night.  I couldn't really sleep."

"Does it hurt?" Andy asked curiously. It may have been a dumb question to some, but hey...his wife was growing a human—their human—and it was something he needed to understand as well as he could.

"No," April replied, still transfixed on her stomach.  "Not at all."

"That's awesome, honey," Andy said sincerely.  

"It is," she nodded.  "It's like...I dunno.  It's the best feeling," she said simply.

"One more month," he grinned, leaning forward and kissing her.

"One more month," she smiled.

Andy leaned back along the couch, resting his head on the pillow and gesturing for April to join him.  Grinning, she shifted so she could lay with her back against his chest, snuggling into his huge torso while Andy pulled the quilt up over them.

Still, he noticed that the entire time she couldn't keep her hands away from her belly, eventually falling asleep that way.

He couldn't have been happier about a single thing right then if he tried.

Chapter Text

More than ever this year, Andy had been looking forward to Thanksgiving. Sure, he loved the food. Who didn’t? He loved the football. He loved seeing loved ones. But this year, he was looking forward to one thing most of all: Jack was coming home from college for at least five whole days.

It had been hard having his first born and only son away for his first year of college, and Andy wasn’t afraid to admit it. April had obviously had a tough time, but Andy was suffering more than he ever thought he would. Eighteen years of seeing your kid every day, and suddenly he was just gone…it didn’t sit well with him.

April and the girls were originally going to come with him to the airport to pick Jack up, so the whole family could be together again. Then, Emma caught a cold, so April had no choice but to stay home with them.

Now, as Andy walked through the automatic doors where all the other arrivals were scheduled to appear, he couldn’t keep the smile off his face.

It didn’t take long for Jack’s tall figure to appear on the escalator, his hair dark and messy under his baseball cap. When he spotted his father, he gave him a small smile and a casual wave.

“Hey!” Andy all but hollered when he saw his son, striding forward and pulling him into a backbreaking hug. He didn’t care if it was embarrassing. Hell, he didn’t care about anything at the moment except the eighteen-year-old in front of him who almost matched him in height and had been gone for far too long. “My God, it’s so good to see you, buddy,” Andy said, patting Jack on the back before finally releasing him.

“Hey dad,” Jack grinned. “Yeah, it’s good to see you too.”

Andy noticed how tired his son looked. There were dark circles under his eyes, and he looked a little less than lively. He chalked it up to the college workload.

“You feeling okay?” Andy asked, looking him up and down.

“Yeah,” Jack shrugged. “Fine. Just tired.” He looked around. “Where’s mom?”

“Emma’s sick,” Andy explained. “Mom’s home with her, and she nearly forced me to stay home instead. Her and your sisters are all waiting for you back at the house.”

“Cool,” Jack nodded, slinging his bag over his shoulder.

 

The car ride home was a relatively quiet one. Andy asked the typical questions. How was school? How hard are the classes? How’s football? Meet any awesome people?

Jack mostly responded with one-word answers, which to Andy, was a little odd. His son was quiet like his mother, but the two of them always had great conversations together.

They pulled into the driveway, and no sooner had the car stopped than April ran out the front door and pulled her son into her arms. It was laughable how much taller he was than her now, but that still never stopped her from calling him her “baby.”

“Oh my God,” she looked him up and down, just as Andy had. “Stop growing!” she gave him a playful shove before hugging him once more.

“Hey mom,” he returned her embrace, the smile returning to his face once more.

“C’mon,” she grabbed his wrist and led him to the front door. “Your sisters can’t wait to see you, and I wanna hear everything about the stupid far-away college you insisted on going to that only lets me see you once every few months.”

 

It took forty-five minutes straight of hugs, questions, and talking before Jack was finally allowed to head to his room to relax. April was beside herself that her little boy was back home, and insisted on ordering three of his favorite pizzas for dinner. Still, Andy could’t shake the feeling that something was off with their son.

“Babe?” he said, as April hung up the phone. “You think Jack’s okay?”

April looked at him, her eyes narrowed. “Why wouldn’t he be?”

“I don’t know, I can’t place it,” Andy rubbed his neck. “He doesn’t seem like himself, is all.”

“He just got off a plane,” she pointed out, grabbing some plates and napkins and placing them at the kitchen counter. “He’s tired.”

“I know,” Andy nodded. “Just wondering, I guess.”

“Go check on him if it makes you feel better,” she suggested, walking up and pulling him in for a hug. “Really babe, he’s probably just tired.”

April was probably right. She typically was when it came to the kids. This time though…it was more than that. It was something Andy had recognized in himself when he was Jack’s age, and he wasn’t going to just sit by and let it be.

He knocked softly on his son’s bedroom door and waited.

“Yeah?” a voice called from inside.

“It’s me,” Andy said, his hand on the doorknob. “Can I uh…come in for a bit?”

He could hear Jack sigh from within. After a few seconds, his voice called out again.

“Yeah, sure…”

Andy opened the door to find Jack lying on his back in bed, casually tossing a football a few feet in the air and catching it again. He didn’t look up when his father entered. He didn’t even move at all.

“Hey,” Andy said, pulling the desk chair over by the bed and sitting down. “Is everything okay?”

“Why?” Jack asked, staring straight up, eyes following the football.

“Because you’re not acting like yourself,” Andy said flatly. “I’m your dad. I think I deserve a little credit when it comes to telling that something is wrong with one of my kids.”

Jack sat up, finally meeting his father’s stare. Andy couldn’t help but notice that his eyes were a little red.

“I can’t talk about it,” Jack mumbled, immediately staring down at the floor.

“You can talk to me about anything,” Andy reminded him. “You know that.”

“Not this,” Jack replied.

“Jack,” Andy said, more serious than he’d been in a long time. “You can talk to me. What’s wrong?”

Jack sighed, running his hands through his hair. He looked absolutely miserable now.

“Fine. I was seeing this girl the past few months,” he started.

“Uh-huh,” Andy nodded, listening intently.

“She…we um,” Jack groaned, leaning back against the wall on the other side of his bed.

Andy had a gnawing feeling in the pit of his stomach. He thought he knew where this was going, and for the first time in forever, he was glad that April wasn’t there in the room with them.

“We had…we…y’know,” Jack sighed again.

Andy felt his insides clench. His son was an adult. He was eighteen years old, no longer a child. He could make his own decisions, and it would be out of his or April’s hands. But still, nothing could really prepare him for hearing what Jack was saying.

“Right,” Andy nodded, trying not to make this more awkward for his kid. “Did you…um… Were you, y’know, safe?”

“Yeah, of course we were,” Jack said quickly.

Andy breathed a sigh of relief. He knew Jack was smarter than that. “So then…what happened?”

“Literally two days later, she tells me she doesn't think we should see each other anymore” Jack muttered. “She just breaks up with me, and then I found out yesterday she’s dating another guy on my team.”

Andy nodded. He knew all too well what this felt like. Now, everything made sense.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” he said sincerely. “That’s…that really sucks, believe me. I know, from personal experience.”

“But why though?” he asked, sitting up again and tossing the football across the room frustratedly. “Why did she break up with me like that? After…after everything…”

“Buddy, listen—“

“I mean, what does that say about me?” Jack asked, his eyes wide. “Am I not good enough? What makes that other guy so much better than me? Am I that shitty of a boyfriend?”

Andy could feel his pain, and he hated it.

“No way,” he shook his head. “Not in the slightest.”

“I don’t get it then.”

“Jack, you may not know this,” Andy began, choosing his words carefully. “But the same thing happened to me when I was your age. Well, actually younger.”

“With who?” Jack asked.

“A girl I went to high school with,” Andy said. “She dumped me too, and…I gotta say, I felt the same way you did. I thought there was something wrong with me, that she hated me for some reason or other.”

“So what happened?”

“I moved on,” Andy said simply. “Yeah, I was torn up about it for a while. I mean, why wouldn’t you be? But I moved on. If I got hung up on every girl I ever dated, I would’ve never met your mom. Hell, thanks to stupid mistakes I made when we first met, I almost blew it with her, too.”

“For real?” Jack narrowed his eyes. “You almost blew it with mom?”

“Yeah,” Andy nodded. “And that was because of my own stupidity, but in your case, it’s not. I know you, and I know you would never disrespect a girl. Your mom and I have taught you better than that.”

“It still sucks,” Jack pointed out.

“I know,” Andy nodded. “I’m assuming…um…she was your first…um,” he couldn’t quite get the sentence out. It was already awkward enough.

“Yeah,” Jack nodded quickly. “She was.”

“Right,” Andy nodded. “It’s gonna be fine, buddy. Believe me, there will be plenty of other girls,” Andy paused. “Well, hopefully not plenty…I mean, you don’t wanna get that reputation. Point is, you’re young. You’ve got lots of time. Break ups suck, but you’ll get over it.”

“Yeah,” Jack said softly.

“So, I’ll um…I’ll leave you alone for a bit, okay? Let you get settled.” Andy stood up, making for door.

“Wait,” Jack called him when his hand was on the knob. “Don’t leave. Everyone…they all always leave.”

Andy paused, staring at his son. He turned and sat beside him, pulling him into a hug.

“I’m not gonna leave. Your mom’s not gonna leave, and your sisters are not gonna leave. We’re all gonna be right here, okay? I promise.”

“Okay,” Jack nodded. “Just...wait till I go back to school to tell mom, okay?”

“Do you not want me to tell her?” Andy asked. Hard as that would be, he would honor his son’s wish if that’s what it took to make him feel better.

“You can tell her,” Jack shrugged. “She’ll get it out of you anyway. She always does.”

Andy nodded. “She certainly does.”

“Thanks dad,” Jack said, a small smile finally making its way back on his face.

“Anytime, big man,” Andy grinned.

“Love you.”

There would never be a feeling like hearing those words from your own children, Andy knew that for a fact. If he could be proud of anything in this world, it would be the children he and April were raising.

“Love you too,” he smiled.

Chapter Text

April glanced around the house, trying to keep an eye on her youngest daughter. The little brown-haired, green-eyed child was a tiny ball of energy at barely two, and with all the people and commotion around them she found it increasingly difficult.

She didn’t like to think that part of it was that she wasn’t as fast as she used to be. Screw that. She was going to live forever.

“Emma,” she called, as the little girl dove under Leslie’s dining room table, seemingly chasing some kind of imaginary animal. “Baby, come here, will you?”

Emma crawled out on all fours, giggling loudly. April’s chest swelled at the sight. Emma had the same full laugh that her father did.

“Honey,” April said, picking her up and slinging her onto her hip. “I need you to take it easy, okay? There are a lot of people here right now, and—“

“Your friends?” Emma asked, wrapping an arm around her mother’s neck.

“Yes, they’re all my friends, but still. There’s a lot going on. Why don’t you find your sisters and play with them?”

“Won’t let me,” Emma said. “Play with big kids.”

“They won’t let you play, because they’re playing with the big kids?”

“Uh-huh,” Emma nodded.

“Well, your mama will talk to them, okay? Until then, you can stay with me.”

“April!”

She turned, and Leslie was striding toward her with a glass of wine. She accepted it gratefully, downing most of it in the first sip. God knows she was going to need it.

“You have no idea how happy I am that you, Andy and the kids all made it,” Leslie beamed, patting Emma on the back. “Ann and Chris and the kids are on their way. Ron’s in the back firing up the steaks and burgers. I just can’t believe we managed to pull this reunion together.”

“I’m not surprised,” April rolled her eyes. “You rescheduled it like five times until all of us could make it.”

“True,” Leslie paused. “Still! Enjoy yourself, okay?” The sound of the doorbell startled her, and then her face lit up. “Oh! Ann’s here!”

She hurried to the door. April stood there silently, still holding her daughter. Yay, the Perkins-Traeger clan had arrived. Now April would have to fake a smile for the next twenty minutes of conversation.

Still, it was strange to be all together again like this, here in Pawnee. Leslie was soon going to begin her eighth and final year as governor of Indiana, so her time spent in Washington DC with the Ludgate-Dwyers had been less than the usual as of late. Now, they all gathered here at her and Ben’s home. Aside from the fact that it had been a few years since she’d seen some of them, it was like nothing had changed.

Well, they were all older now, but that was beyond the point.

April was about to be off in search of her husband and older children—she had a hunch they were all in the pool out back—when Leslie was by her side once again, leading none other than Ann Perkins. April was pleased to see how many more grey hairs Ann was sporting since the last time they’d seen each other, before Emma was even born.

“Look who I found!” Leslie grinned, tugging Ann by the hand.

“Hey April!” Ann said, cheerily as always, but still keeping her distance. She knew better than to try to hug her. “It’s been what, like three years? You look great!”

Ugh, sometimes it was hard to hate her.

“Hello Ann,” April replied in her usual bored demeanor. “You look…not terribly old.”

“Nice to see you too,” Ann smiled. Her eyes fell on Emma, who by now had hidden her face in her mother’s shoulder. “Is this Emma?”

“Yes,” April nodded, smiling for real now. “Say hi to the old woman, honey.” She stroked her brown curls, but the girl remained silent.

“Hi Emma,” Ann said softly, trying to sneak a peek.

Emma turned her little head so she was facing the two other woman, and raised one shaky hand in greeting.

“Oh my God,” Ann shook her head. “She looks just like Andy.”

“I know,” April said proudly.

“You should see Allie,” Leslie said. “If there was ever a female Andy…”

“Where is Andy, by the way?” Ann asked.

“Probably in the pool with the other kids,” April said. “We were just heading over there now.”

“Great! I can’t wait to see them,” the former nurse said. “Chris and the kids must be out there too…they disappeared outside somewhere when we pulled up.”

 

Leslie watched her two closest girlfriends walking together toward the back door of the house. She was so proud of April. The nineteen-year-old, sarcastic, apathetic intern she’d hired all those years ago had blossomed into a beautiful, hard-working, loving woman, and Leslie was honored to have been around to watch it all unfold.

She’d often talk with Ben about April and her family. About how they were doing after the latest phone call, what the kids were up to, how Andy was… It hurt that Leslie hadn’t been around to babysit the kids as often as she’d liked anymore. With her job, it just wasn’t as easy traveling back and forth from Pawnee to DC on a constant basis. Luckily, April and Andy rarely liked to go out without their children, so it was less of an issue.

She was proud of April. She always would be.

 

Andy climbed out of the pool, dripping wet and laughing loudly. His kids certainly knew how to gang up on their dad. Three against one in water ball? Not totally fair, but they certainly kicked his butt. Now, keeping a watchful eye on them from the side, he took a seat in a pool chair and leaned back to relax.

“Daddy!” Allie called from the water. “Come back in with us!”

“I’m taking a break, honey,” he said, smiling. “I’ll be back in a bit, okay? Hey, I think your Uncle Tom wants to play, though.”

Andy pointed to the chair on the other side of the pool, where Tom was stretched out in his new designer swimsuit, basking in the sun. It only took a moment for Jack to toss a soaked water ball his way, drenching him.

“Dude!” Tom sat up, water flying everywhere. “Not cool, man,” he said to Jack. “Just because we’re the same height now, doesn’t mean—“ His words were cut off as another ball hit him square in the face. This time, Andy laughed out loud.

“Sorry Tom,” Andy smiled, coughing a bit from the laughter.

“Your kids are evil, man,” Tom shook his head. “This swimsuit cost me four hundred dollars.”

“Isn’t it supposed to get wet?” April scoffed, walking over to her husband and handing him a beer.

“No!” Tom shook his head like he couldn’t believe she would ask such a thing.

“Lame,” she shook her head before taking a seat on her husband’s lap.

“Yeah, lame,” Jack repeated, laughing as he swam to the other end of the pool.

“Thanks, babe,” Andy said, twisting the cap off. “Where were you just now?”

“Talking to the she-beast,” she replied casually, settling between his legs while she leaned back across his broad chest.

“Oh…Ann,” he nodded knowingly.

“Then I got caught talking to Chris for like fifteen minutes on my way outside. He was trying to tell me why I should wear one of those stupid things on my wrist to track my heartbeat, and then I had to run away when he wasn’t looking.”

“Sounds about right. Although knowing my heartbeat was on my wrist would kind of freak me out, not gonna lie, babe,” Andy said, shaking his head. “Anyway, it’s crazy seeing everyone here, isn’t it?” He looked around.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “It is.”

“Mama, Daddy!” Emma hurried over, clutching a dripping cherry popsicle in her hand. “Look!”

“Aw, awesome,” Andy grinned. “Cherry is my favorite too, sweetheart.”

“Did Auntie Leslie give you that?” April beamed.

“Yep!”

“Did you say thank you?”

“Yep!” Emma said again, sitting down in the warm lawn beside her parents.

“Good job, baby girl,” Andy smiled.

“The kids look like they’re having fun,” April glanced out at the three of them, swimming around in the pool like they’d never had such a great time outside before. Ann’s kids—who by now were in college with the triplets—had joined them, as well as John Swanson.

Andy could’t help noticing that his wife was smiling the entire time.

“Ugh, being around all these people is making me weak,” she huffed, suddenly annoyed.

“Aw, honey,” he kissed her head. “That’s not true.”

“Andrew, April,” Ron handed the both of them a plastic plate with some food fresh off the grill. The older man took a seat in the unoccupied chair beside them, wiping his face on his apron.

“Thanks Ron. Hey, isn’t it a bit hot for long pants?” Andy asked, glancing at Ron’s outfit.

“I don’t wear shorts, son,” Ron replied.

Andy didn’t press the matter.

“I just came over here because I wanted to bring you some food, and to tell you both what a fine family you’re raising,” he said, clearing his throat. “Well done, honestly.”

“Thanks!” Andy said happily.

“Thank you,” April replied, getting that same stiffness in her voice that Ron often did when he was trying to hide his emotions.

“Your children are polite, smart, and they don’t hide behind electronic devices like most kids I see these days. You should both be very proud.”

“We are,” Andy nodded earnestly. “We really are.”

“Well,” Ron cleared his throat again. “I’m gonna get back to the grill. God knows if I left Ben in charge of the food, we’d all lose our appetites.” He stood, nodded at the both of them, and walked back.

“That was nice,” Andy said, finishing his burger in nearly three bites. “Ron is so awesome.”

“Yeah,” April nodded. “It was.”

 

The years had aged Ron Swanson. That didn’t slow him down in the slightest, but it did give him more time to reflect on certain things. He was a man of few words, and his thoughts were his, and his alone.

He had never doubted that Andy and April would make their marriage work. Of all the people he’d worked with in the past, the two of them were high on his list of people he’d most certainly not hate being around. Long before he had daughters of his own, he saw a daughter-figure in April. He never openly admitted it to her, or to anyone really, but they all knew. She knew too, because he always got the same feeling reflected back at him when she was around.

Yes, he’d been a bit concerned when the two of them decided to get married spur-of-the-moment like they did, but as he’d told Leslie long ago, it was no one’s business but their own. Andy was a childlike goofball, but he liked the man. He always had. He knew he would be there for April no matter what, and that was all that mattered.

Now, he looked on as the two of them raised a family of their own. They were doing things the right way. Their children were going to be brought up smart, healthy and loved. And one of the fears Ron had always had in the back of his mind was squashed the minute those two became parents for the first time: April was going to be just fine.

 

At some point, Andy knew he had to pull his kids out of the pool to get them to eat. You’d think they’d never went swimming before, with the fuss they made. After promising they could go back later, Andy managed to have them all sitting calmly, enjoying Ron’s cooking.

By now, April was off talking to Donna and Joe about the Foundation and Donna’s involvement, so he found himself sitting alone at the moment, with Emma dozing in his arms.

“Hey stranger,” Ann called out to him, taking a seat on his right under one of the shady backyard trees.

“Hey Ann,” Andy smiled at her, adjusting his daughter’s position so he could sit up straighter. “How’s it going?”

“Great,” she said, her smile wide. “I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve seen you guys. We haven’t really gotten a chance to talk.”

“I know, it’s been a while,” he nodded. “And it’s hard, even at a party like this. I mean, the kids are running around everywhere. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of them all. I’ve got them all in one place at the moment,” he grinned, gesturing to Jack, Allie and Melody, still enjoying their food. “And the little peanut here is about to fall asleep,” he pointed to Emma.

Ann paused, staring at him and his little girl. From the look in her eyes, you’d think she was lost in thought. Finally, she shook her head and met his gaze once more.

“You and April have a beautiful family,” she said.

“Thank you,” he said proudly. “I think so too.”

“You’re just…you both are really great parents. You’re so good with them,” she gestured to Emma, who blinked her bleary eyes and turned her head to nuzzle Andy’s shoulder.

“It’s easy,” Andy shrugged. “They’re the best.”

“Did you ever think you’d have four of them?”

“No,” he laughed. “I didn’t even think we’d have one, to be completely honest.”

“Aw, come on,” Ann laughed. “April didn’t want kids? We’re still talking about the same April, right? The April who never lets her kids out of her sight for more than a minute? The April who I actually saw giggling with your daughter Melody not ten minutes ago? I don’t believe it.”

Ann never did understand April, Andy knew. And of course April would never open up to Ann the way she would for Leslie. Ann had no idea how long it took for April to come around to the idea of kids, and he wasn’t about to reveal his wife’s personal thoughts.

“Well,” he sighed. “We’re lucky, that’s for sure. I’m lucky.”

“You are,” Ann nodded. “I’m just really happy for the two of you, and how far you’ve come since your pit days,” she added, a tiny smirk on her face.

“We don’t talk about those days,” Andy laughed. “My kids don’t need to know their dad lived in a pit.”

“Fair point,” Ann agreed. “Anyway Andy…I’m glad you guys came and I got to see you. Your daughters are beautiful, and Jack looks like he’s going to be as tall and handsome as you.”

“Thank you,” Andy said, and he meant it.

 

Ann never once looked back on her life choices with regret. Everything she’d done, everything she’d been through, it had led her to where she was now. She was a mother. She had the most supportive partner she could ever ask for in Chris. And of course, she had a friendship that would never falter with Leslie.

Watching Andy now though, she’d be lying if she said she didn’t sometimes think what would have happened if she stuck it out with him. Not because she wanted to, because God knows that would never have worked out. But what if in some strange, alternate universe, it had? Would he have changed for her the same way he’d changed for April? Would he have given her children that he loved as much as the ones he had now?

And Andy certainly loved his children. That was obvious. The way he acted around them, the way he spoke to them…the way he and April gazed at them with so much love and affection in their eyes. It was remarkable, because she would never have expected it from either of them all those years ago. The goofy man who’d fallen into the pit because he was drunk, then lived in said pit for months on end so he could be close to her…that man was gone, never to return. Now, he was a loving father, a doting husband, and a trusted friend.

She couldn’t have been happier for them.

 

“So, April,” Donna grinned, keeping herself cool in the heat with an expensive looking silk fan. April figured “Treat Yo’ Self” days were still alive and well whenever Donna and Tom got the chance. “You’re quite the mom now, aren't you?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” April asked, narrowing her eyes playfully. “Ugh, I’m not a mom like the way you said it…like I’ve got a minivan and mom shorts and spend my days making ham and cheese sandwiches. I’m an awesome mom, who also happens to be an immortal witch.”

“No, no…that’s what I meant,” Donna assured her with a laugh, sipping a martini. “You and Andy…you’ve really got the whole family thing down pat.”

“Well,” April bit her lip. “Yeah, I guess we do.”

“I don’t know,” Tom joined them, his expensive bathing suit dry once again. April had half a mind to shove him into the pool for laughs. “You seem pretty mom-ish to me. I mean, you guys do have a big car.”

“Shut up, Tom,” April huffed, shaking her head. “We have four kids! How the hell else are we supposed to travel with them? It’s not a damn minivan, okay? It’s an SUV.”

“But really though, really…four kids? Four?” He shook his head. “Have you guys lost your mind? I mean, were they all planned, or what?”

“Tommy,” Donna shook her head.

“I know you don’t mean to sound like an ass, Tom, and for that I’ll let what you just said slide,” April warned him. “To answer your stupid question, yes, we wanted all of them and none of them were a surprise. Every time the occasion called for it, Andy and I had really awesome, loud, vigorous sex until we conceived a kid. Does that answer your question?”

“Ugh, yeah, and then some,” Tom grimaced.

Donna laughed loudly, spilling some of her drink. “Get it, girl!”

April was pleased with herself for that one.

“You gonna have any more?” Donna asked curiously, wiping the tears from the corners of her eyes.

“No,” April shook her head. “We’re done. I’m maxed out.”

“Mommy!” Melody came running up to her mother, stopping short when she saw Donna and Tom.

“Hey baby,” April’s entire demeanor changed when she addressed her daughter, turning to kneel until she was at her eye level. “You remember Donna and Tom? I think the last time they saw you was a few years ago.”

“Wow, she’s a legitimate mini-you!” Tom laughed. “Right down to the half-scowl she just gave me.”

“Hey pretty girl,” Donna said, waving to her. “You certainly are beautiful.”

Melody shook her head slowly, suddenly tight-lipped.

“She’s shy,” April said gently. She took her daughter’s hand and held it soothingly. “What’s up, honey?”

“Can I get some ice cream?” Melody asked. “Uncle Ben is making sundaes for dessert.”

“Did you eat your dinner?” April asked.

“Uh-huh.”

“So if I ask your daddy later if you finished everything on your plate, he’ll tell me the same thing?”

“Yes, I promise!” Melody said. “Daddy even said he’s gonna help scoop them!”

“Okay, go ahead,” April smiled, watching her six-year-old scurry away. When she stood up again, Donna and Tom were both smirking at her.

“What?”

“Such a mom,” Donna laughed, and Tom joined in not a minute later.

 

Okay, Tom knew he had to work on some of the things that popped out of his mouth. Lucy always reminded him to think before he spoke, and he had to admit, he was bad at that.

He knew April wasn’t really mad at him, though. That’s just the way April is. Or the way April used to be, because right now the April he knew from years and years ago was no where to be found. Now, he saw a changed woman. A woman who wouldn’t take anything from anyone. A mother who would kill for her children, a wife who would sacrifice anything for her husband. In all the ways Tom had struggled to change as he matured, trying to become less selfish and living for others besides himself, April had done so in spades.

Maybe being a parent changes you. Tom wasn’t sure. He did know that children were not in the cards for him and Lucy. They were happy the way they were, and had discussed it many times. If his encounter in the pool with the Ludgate-Dwyer demons was any indication, he just wasn’t good with kids. That was okay though. Donna and Joe felt the same exact way, too. The four of them would even get together for their annual “child-free” bash, which was really just a huge adult sleep over with lots of champagne, wine, and expensive food.

Andy and April though…two of the most child-like people he’d ever known…now he couldn’t ever imagine them without their children. The older boy was probably going to grow big enough to kick anyone’s ass. The girls were probably all going to have the same deadpan snark as their mother, complete with feigned interest in anything and everything.

Tom had a distinct feeling that Andy and April were perfectly fine with all of it.

 

Andy had no problem at all helping Ben make the ice cream sundaes. Actually, he had a bit of an ulterior motive. Why not make one giant one for himself after everyone else was taken care of? It was the perfect plan.

Then, his master plan was interrupted by Garry, which was the last thing he needed at the moment.

“Andy,” the older man said, shaking his now completely white head of hair. “You don’t know how thrilled I am that you get to experience the joy of having daughters. Isn’t it just the best? My Millie’s little girl—Angie—she just turned eight years old, and I’m never tired of it. Not one bit.”

“Yeah,” Andy nodded, trying to end the conversation quickly. Really, all he wanted was that ice cream.

“Then, you know, they grow up,” Garry continued. “It happens so fast. They grow up, start dating…and before you know it, you’re walking them down the aisle.”

Andy felt a funny feeling in his stomach that had nothing to do with ice cream now. He didn’t usually listen to a thing Garry said, but for some reason this was resonating with him pretty hard. He didn’t want to picture his girls that old. Not now, not ever…but Garry was right, and it was inevitable.

“You know,” Garry said, suddenly more serious. “If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s to be grateful for everything you’ve been given. Did I ever tell you that Gayle and I had two miscarriages before we had our first daughter? It was rough, but we were patient, and we were blessed with the beautiful family we have today.”

Andy didn’t know that. Really, he didn’t ever think to ask Garry about his family. Suddenly, he felt terrible. All those times the Gergich family had tried to contact him and April after they had gone though the same hell…when April was four months pregnant before they had Melody…if only he’d known.

“Just cherish every moment, Andy,” Garry patted him on the back happily. “It’ll all happen in the blink of an eye. And you and April, jeez, you’ve got four of the most wonderful kids I’ve ever known. I spent ten whole minutes talking to Allie about her favorite breed of dog. She’s a smart one, your daughter, and so polite. You guys must be proud.”

“Yeah,” Andy said slowly. “We really are. Thanks Garry,” he smiled. “That means a lot. Really, it does. Congrats on your newest grandkid, by the way.”

Garry nodded, his smile a mile wide, as he hurried off again to find Gayle.

Andy watched him go, lost in thought. Sometimes, Jerry—Larry—Terry—Garry Gergich made a lot more sense than they gave him credit for.

 

Garry was old. The years were passing quickly now. He loved every minute of it though, because each year brought him new joys. He never once looked back with regret.

Just when he thought his children couldn’t get any better, they had children of their own. When he thought his job couldn’t get any better, he became Mayor of Pawnee. Just when he thought his friends couldn’t get any better, they were constantly celebrating new milestones in their lives and careers, and he was happy for them.

Watching Andy as a father was simply wonderful. Three beautiful daughters, just as he and Gayle were blessed with. And on top of that, they were fortunate enough to have a son as well. Oh, he could tell him so many things, but part of the fun of it was figuring it all out on your own and being surprised. Garry didn’t want to take that feeling away from anyone.

He was so, so thrilled for them, and for everything they had to look forward to.

 

“Babe?” April felt two strong arms wrap around her from behind, pulling her into a warm hug as she stood under the nearest tree.

“Hey,” she leaned her head against his biceps, closing her eyes.

“Hey,” Andy whispered against her ear, kissing her quickly. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing,” she replied lazily. The heat was starting to make her feel drowsy, and now that the sun was setting on their little party, there was a calm, soothing aura about it all that only added to her sense of peace. “I was watching the kids a little while ago, but they ran off following John.”

“Yeah,” Andy breathed softly, his mouth against her ear as he slightly swayed with her on the spot. “Emma sleeping?”

“Mmhm,” April nodded. “Partied out. She’s sleeping up in the guest room.”

They stood there for a few minutes in silence, listening to the voices of their friends as they carried out through Leslie and Ben’s large back yard. There was such a tranquility in the air, and the faint light from the porch decorations cast the perfect glow on the scene.

“I love you so much,” Andy said, his voice soft against her skin. “I’m glad we did this.”

April spun in his arms, wrapping her own around his waist. “Love you too,” she smiled. “Same here…glad we came.”

“Apparently everyone things we have the best kids in the world,” Andy said, not looking away from her eyes. “I mean, they’re totally right.”

“Duh,” she laughed, standing on her tip toes to kiss him softly.

Andy closed his eyes, leaning into her kiss. They broke apart soon after, and April pressed herself against him, resting her head right over his heart.

Taking her hand, he led her to the empty hammock between two of the larger trees. Once he was situated comfortably, he gently pulled her in next to him.

“Comfortable?” he asked.

“Always,” she replied.

He wrapped one arm around her to keep her warm. The two of them stared silently up at the clouds, where the stars were slowly brightening up the dark purple sky. April wasn’t a religious person, and neither was Andy. They never had been. Still, she liked to think that somewhere up there, miles and miles away in some beautiful place, her daughter she never knew was happy, healthy and thriving. Andy’s father, who never got to know the lives his sons would go on to lead—maybe he was up there too, and they were watching their family down below.

She hugged him closer, and she could feel his arm around her tighten. No words. Just the two of them together, just like they would always be.

Chapter Text

“What could you possibly see in me?” April yelled, her voice a shrill shriek. Tears ran rivulets down her cheeks, as she punched the pillows on their bed furiously, tossing one across the room to crash into the wall in an explosion of feathers.

Andy ignored her protests to leave her alone. He wasn’t going to do that, not while she was like this. No, he was going to ignore the pillows and other soft objects being thrown his way, and he was going to hold her in his arms, rock her until she was calm, and whisper words of praise to her. Because that was what she needed, and that was what she deserved.

So he did just that.

“No,” she wailed, her tiny form struggling in his arms to be free of him, yet slowly getting limper and limper until the rest of her energy was gone. “Just leave Andy,” she cried softly. “You need to find someone better than me…I can’t do this, I can’t even be a real person—“

“Shhh,” he said, brushing his lips across the side of her neck over and over. His arms held her tight, but never making her uncomfortable. Slowly, he loosened his grip so she could easily free herself if she wanted to. He would never restrain her like that—not unless he thought she could hurt herself. “Don’t say that. Never ever say that.”

“I…f-fuck,” she hiccuped. “I can’t do this.”

“Do what?” he asked soothingly.

“I c-can’t ever just be normal. I can’t d-do anything right.”

“Not true,” he shook his head against the back of hers.

She turned in his arms until he was practically holding her like a child, clinging to him as though her life depended on it.

“If you leave, I’ll understand,” she whispered, closing her eyes.

“Not ever leaving,” he shook his head again.

She didn’t need long, drawn out conversations at times like this. All she needed was him near.

“To answer your earlier question,” he added a few moments later. “What do I see in you? Everything, April… I see everything in you. You’re my everything.”

He held her until she had fallen asleep in her own tears, never leaving her side. Not even when she woke up, hours later, red-eyed and achy. No, he would never leave her side.

Chapter Text

April ran her fingers through Melody’s dark, silky hair, meticulously weaving the pieces in and out. All three of her daughters had beautiful hair. Even little Emma, who was barely two months old, had a fine, brown silk covering her little head.

Of course, April loved messing with her own hair. Whether it be braiding it over and over, only to unweave it to start anew, or her husband running his big, strong hands through it to message her head, it was awesome.

She didn’t know when this little weekly tradition began, but every Friday this is what she did in the early hours before school while the kids ate breakfast. First Allie, then Melody, and both went to school with the most intricate designs she could come up with.

This morning, Allie was sporting a french braid. Melody was just about to receive a second thick braid going down her back, tied off at the end. And for the first time in forever…Jack got in on the fun too. He quietly sat, finishing some homework while he ate his toast. He didn’t seem the least bit fazed.

“I think I hear daddy,” Melody said, putting down her cereal spoon and tilting her head toward the door.

“That’s him,” April replied. “I think he’s gonna be surprised when he sees how pretty your hair is.”

“And Jack’s,” Allie added.

“And Jack’s,” April nodded, with a grin.

“Oh, babe,” Andy shuffled into the kitchen, yawning wide. “Thank you so much for letting me sleep in this morning.” He kissed her cheek as he took a seat next to Jack and Allie.

“Don’t worry about it,” she said casually, finishing Melody’s hair.

“Woah,” Andy looked at his two girls, exaggerating his shocked expression. “You two have the most beautiful hairstyles I’ve ever seen!” he grinned. “Who’s the talented hairdresser?”

“Mommy!” Allie chuckled, pointing to April, who now held little Emma in her arms as she sat with her family.

“I should’ve know,” Andy nodded. “Jack, don’t they look—“ he stopped short, staring at his son. His face was confused by the time he looked back over at April.

“What’s up?” April asked casually.

“Did—did you braid his hair?” Andy asked, looking at the side of Jack’s head, where the tiniest of braids was done above his ear.

Both little girls burst out laughing. April just sipped her coffee and shrugged.

“He wanted to be part of the fun,” she said.

“Buddy…your hair looks…um,” Andy searched for the right word. “Fancy?”

Jack snorted back a laugh. “Thanks, Dad.”

“Well, his hair’s getting so long,” April sighed dramatically. “I figured, why not?”

“Guess it’s time for a haircut then,” Andy patted Jack on the back. “One question babe,” he looked back at her.

“What’s that?”

“Can you do mine, now?”

Chapter Text

One of the great things about Ben finally moving out was the freedom that Andy realized he and April now had. Honestly, they never really did have this place to themselves. When he’d first moved in, Burly was living here. Then, when he and April got married, Burly moved out, and they needed help with rent. Ben came along, and since then it had been the three of them. Four, if you counted Leslie.

For the first time in what felt like forever, the two of them were able to lounge around the living room in nothing but underwear. They could watch whatever they wanted, play whatever music they wanted, and Andy’s personal favorite…they could literally do it anywhere they wanted.

Not that April didn’t ignore Ben’s protests to keep it confined to their room, but at least now it was less stressful if they decided to utilize the couch, the counter, or the bathroom.

That awesomeness aside, he was really looking forward to tonight’s movie night. He was in charge of getting the pizza and drinks, April was in charge of the popcorn and ice cream. It was perfect.

“What are we watching?” he asked excitedly, as the two of them cuddled up under one of the many stolen comforters from Ben’s old room.

“Tonight it’s one of the movies I stole from Ben’s stash. It actually looked pretty cool, so I thought we’d try it. It’s called ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ and I heard it’s awesome.”

“Sweet!” Andy pumped his fist in the air. “Let’s put it in!”

It was only ten minutes into the movie that April sat up, pushing the comforter aside and leaning closer to the TV screen. Her face was set—serious, confused, and a little shocked. Andy didn’t see what the big deal was…all that was happening was some guy—he figured he was the main character—was dancing around some planet, and all of a sudden he was fighting off these bad guys who were apparently looking for him.

“Honey?” Andy sat up with her, gently prodding her arm. “What’s wrong?”

It took a while for her to say anything. Finally, she turned to him, her the corners of her mouth turned up.

“You didn’t tell me you had a fucking twin!” she narrowed her eyes, although she was still smiling the entire time.

“What?”

“Look at that guy!” she pointed to the character on screen. “He looks just like you!”

“Who? The Star Lord guy?”

“Yes!”

April grabbed the remote and paused the screen, right on a close up of the actor’s face.

“I don’t see it,” Andy scratched his neck uncomfortably.

“What do you mean you don’t see it?” she asked incredulously.

“Well, for one,” Andy pointed. “Look at that guy! He’s ripped!”

It was true. Whoever the actor was, he was in amazing shape. Andy was no where close to his physique.

“So? You’re hotter than he is,” she scoffed.

“Thanks babe, but…I doubt it,” Andy shook his head. “Second, his hair is like, longer than mine…and he’s got these sideburns, and…” he trailed off. Honestly, he couldn’t think of much else. April was kind of right.

“See! This is great,” she laughed. “It’s like I’m watching you in the movie or something. Look at his face. All his features are the same. God, this is so hot.”

“I’m sure you’d rather I looked like that,” Andy said softly.

April looked at him. She shook her head, sliding one leg over his own so she was facing him in his lap.

“No way,” she whispered, taking his face in her hands. “There’s only one guy I need and he’s right here…already in nothing but his underwear, which is perfect right now for what I have in mind…” she pulled him forward, kissing him softly.

Andy forgot about his doppelgänger for the moment. Honestly, for the next twenty or so minutes, they forgot about the rest of the movie, too.

Chapter Text

Alone.

The word bit at her like a rabid animal, scratching and clawing its way up her sides until she was consumed by it.

There, in their bed, which provided the only comfort and solitude she could want right now, she pulled the blankets up to her neck and buried her face in the pillow that smelled like him.

“I just want to be alone right now.”

“Okay,” he’d said, without questioning her. He never questioned her when he knew she was this serious. Instead, he just walked away and left the house, and she heard the car roll down the driveway.

Now, she missed him so much, and it was her own damn fault.

She thought about calling him and telling him to come back home, to curl up in bed with her and stroke her hair and tell her he loved her. Tell her everything was going to be okay. She picked up her phone and stared at the screen, before thinking better of it and tossing it onto the pile of clothing on the floor.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered to no one. I wish you’d come back.

Come back to what, though? A wife who fell apart at the smallest thought? A wife who was going to become a mother in nine horrifyingly short months? Why was it that their little demon child who was no larger than a blueberry at the moment was scaring her so badly? They were elated when they found out. Now, she was scared.

She closed her eyes, and tried to sleep.

 

She thought it was a dream when she felt the large, warm body slip into bed beside her. When he wrapped his strong arms around her and kissed her head. Maybe he thought she was asleep? She certainly thought she was dreaming, because why on earth would he want to be near her at all?

“It’s okay to be scared,” he whispered, his fingers playing at her bare stomach. “I’m scared too.”

She didn’t say anything in return. Instead, she pulled him closer, kissed his lips softly, and hoped he would forgive her.

Chapter Text

April’s stomach was in knots as her little family drove away from the Foundation. The night hadn’t gone exactly to plan. Everything seemed intent on blowing up in her face, and she wondered if she deserved it.

Of course, Andy reminded her that she didn’t. Now, he drove them home, occasionally glancing in the rear mirror to peer at the three kids sitting silently in the backseat, each of them looking sulky.

The awkward silence remained until they reached their home, where Andy ushered the kids upstairs to get ready for bed after a half-hearted “goodnight Mommy” from each of them. April sat miserably at the kitchen counter, writing an apologetic email to her boss.

She didn’t know what had gotten into them. The three of them were always so well-behaved, especially at important events like this one.

 

Earlier…

“You guys really embarrassed me tonight,” she said, standing in front of her children, all three of them looking miserable. “You guys were supposed to show my boss and coworkers how good you are, how well-mannered you can be, and instead, you spent the whole night chasing each other around and knocking over anything that happened to cross paths with you.”

“We didn’t mean to, mom,” Jack said, not meeting her eyes.

“Jack started it,” Allie added, glaring at her older brother.

“I don’t care who started it!” April yelled, angry now. “Tonight was a really important night for Mommy’s work, and now I wish I left the three of you at home.”

Melody’s eyes filled with tears. She glanced at her father, who stood next to April silently, his arms crossed. He looked just as uncomfortable as the kids did.

“Daddy,” she whined, “Sorry—“

“Don’t say sorry to me, honey,” he shook his head. “Say sorry to your mommy.”

“Sorry Mommy,” the three of them said in unison. That was right before they piled into their car and headed home.

 

Andy joined her in the kitchen after the kids were put to bed, quietly massaging her shoulders as she finished typing.

“You okay?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she shook her head miserably. “I don’t know what to feel right now.”

“Well, c’mon,” he helped her stand, her large, pregnant stomach pushing all her momentum forward. “No need to be uncomfortable.” Carefully, he guided her upstairs, hands on her shoulders all the way to their bedroom. Once there, April kicked off her heels and flopped onto the bed.

“I sounded like my parents,” she sighed, feeling even worse at the thought.

“Honey, as much as we like to think they are, our kids aren't well-behaved all the time,” Andy reminded her, helping her remove her tights before rubbing her feet.

“Still,” she grumbled. “I sounded like one of those moms I hate.”

“It needed to be said,” Andy replied.

“Do you think this is my fault?” she asked, sitting up a little. “I mean, am I working too much? Is it because I’ve been too preoccupied?”

Andy looked at her thoughtfully. “I don’t think so,” he shook his head.

“Maybe it’s because of the baby,” she flopped back down. “They’re mad because I’ve been so busy with work lately, and now there’s a new baby coming in two months and they don’t know how to deal with it.”

“Hey,” Andy scooted up the bed until he was beside her. “I’m sure that’s not it. They were just…I dunno…having a bad night. And all three of them know they did something wrong, because they all felt guilty when I was putting them to bed.”

“You think they hate me?” she asked in a soft voice, staring into Andy’s eyes.

“No way!” he shook his head frantically. “You did the right thing, they know they were misbehaving, and everything will be fine in the morning. I promise.”

Somehow, he always managed to make her feel better.

“Okay,” she nodded, the tiredness setting in.

“C’mon, let’s get you changed into something more comfortable.”

A tiny knock on their door startled the both of them. April looked at her husband, who only shrugged.

“Come in,” she said.

Jack pushed the door open, a glum expression on his face. He stood there in the doorway, his hands behind his back.

“Sorry for starting the fight with Allie and Melly, Mom,” he said sullenly, staring at the floor. “Sorry we got you in trouble.”

“Thanks Jack,” April said, smiling softly. “And you didn’t get me in trouble this time, but you could have. I just hope you understand what an important night this was for my work.”

“Sorry,” he said again, turning to head down the hall.

“Hey,” April called after him. “Love you buddy. That doesn’t change.”

Jack glanced back over his shoulder, his eyes a bit brighter. “Love you too,” he said, before hurrying back to his room.

“See?” Andy grinned. “They could never hate their ma.”

April sighed, sliding under the covers. She only hoped Andy was right. For now, she was going to hold onto the precious time she had with them while they were young. When they were teenagers…well, that was a whole other matter.

Chapter Text

"What did you just say?" April stared at her husband, her hand frozen in the air and clutching a spoon full of Jack's rice cereal.  Their son grumbled angrily, in only the way a baby could, staring at his stationary cereal that his mother seemed to have forgotten about.

"I said, do you trust me? Like, when I go out and do stuff without you.”

"What kind of ridiculous question is that?" she laughed, remembering her task and sticking the spoon into her five-month-old's mouth.  

"I dunno," Andy shrugged, tossing aside the magazine he was reading at the breakfast table.  "I was just reading an article—“

"In that trashy Cosmo magazine?" she laughed.  "Babe, that magazine is so dumb.  You can thank Ann for signing me up for a subscription.  For some stupid reason she thought it would be a good gift.  It's filled with totally stupid advice and articles."

Andy blinked at her, confused.  "But...I dunno…I guess it says most wives don't actually trust their husbands, like when they tell them where they're going and stuff, and who they're hanging out with.  And I wanted to be sure that's not how you were feeling."

April shook her head.  Her husband was beyond sweet, but sometimes he could be easily swayed.

"I promise you, babe," she said seriously.  "I absolutely, one hundred percent, totally and completely trust you."   She finished feeding Jack and lifted him out of his high chair, switching instead to one of his bottles.

"Thank God," he sighed, smiling wide.

“Plus, you rarely ever go out without me, anyway.”

“That’s because I love you,” he grinned.

“Love you too. Now, do me a favor and toss that magazine in the trash," she shook her head.

"Well," he smirked, picking up the magazine again.  "There's an entire section about...um," he stared at Jack, before thinking better of it and simply showing her the pages he was talking about.

April took the magazine from him, and her eyes went wide as she stared at the selected pages. Finally, she put it down and looked up at him.  

"Okay, well," she bit her lip.  "Maybe we can, you know...when Jack goes down for a nap, I wouldn't be opposed to trying...some of that stuff."

"Awesome," Andy pumped his fist in the air.

April laughed.  She had to remember to let Ann know that she did take something good from that stupid subscription.  And to describe it to her in great detail, too.  

Chapter Text

It had taken about an hour or so of movement beside him before Andy had to finally sit up and check to see what the issue was. April was usually a pretty good sleeper, especially when they were cuddled together like they so often were. Tonight though, she’d squirmed away from him, and the tossing and turning hadn’t stopped since.

“Babe?” he asked groggily. “You, um…everything okay over there?” The clock read one forty-five in the morning.

In the dark he could see the outline of her body beside him, now turned onto her left side. She was breathing deeply in and out through her nose.

“Kind of,” she grumbled, and he could hear her sharp intake of breath when she tried to turn and face him. “Shit,” she groaned.

“What’s wrong?” Now he sat up straight and turned on his bedside lamp. April had her eyes shut tight, clutching at a spot on her lower right side.

“I don’t know,” she said, her teeth clenched. “I was having these stupid little pains all afternoon, and now they’re so bad that they woke me up like an hour ago.”

“Why didn’t you tell me you were getting pains?” he asked her, reaching a hand out to brush over her side.

“Because it wasn’t—ow!” she cried, as his hand applied the tiniest bit of pressure to where the pain was. He yanked it back quickly.

“Sorry! Sorry, honey,” he said immediately, now nervously tossing the blankets off his legs as he scooted closer. “Really, I didn’t mean it—“

“It’s fine,” she muttered, sighing heavily. “I think I just need to sleep it off, I—“ she was interrupted by the pain again and curled her legs inward, stuck in the fetal position.

“We’re going to the hospital,” Andy announced, jumping out of bed and searching for his clothes. “I’m taking you right now, babe.”

“No, I’m fine! I hate hospitals…we can wait till tomorrow and we’ll go see a doctor—“

Andy put his hand against her cheek. She was undoubtably burning up.

“We’re going,” he said firmly, finding his pants and stumbling into them. He grabbed his own shirt, and found a pair of April’s sweatpants. Carefully, he tried to help her into them, trying to move her as little as possible.

“Andy,” she groaned. “I can’t move…”

“I know,” he nodded, kissing the side of her head. “Let me help you, okay?”

Luckily she was already wearing one of his large tee shirts. The outfit would have to do.

“I don’t want Ann as my nurse,” she said, as Andy lifted her into his arms and carried her out the door. “I’ll take anyone except Ann, okay?”

“Okay,” Andy smiled, carefully placing her in the front seat and fastening her seatbelt for her. He didn’t even realize until that moment—she was clutching the little three-legged stuffed dog he’d given her while she was in Washington.

 

The emergency room was packed when they arrived. Apparently, the middle of the night was everyone’s favorite time to send themselves to the hospital. Andy checked April in, trying his best to fill out the confusing paperwork while she leaned against him at the reception window. She swayed on the spot, her eyes closed.

“Tell us what’s wrong, honey,” the receptionist asked.

When April didn’t answer, Andy stepped in instead.

“She said yesterday afternoon she was getting these pains,” Andy pointed to April’s side. “And then a little while ago, she woke up from sleep because she said they were getting worse. Even when I touched her lightly she said it hurt,” he looked at his wife nervously. “She’s all warm, too.”

“Are you nauseous, dear?”

April nodded, lifting her head to glance at the woman quickly.

“All right, it’s going to be a little while,” the woman said. “As you can see, we’re a bit packed. Just take a seat and we’ll call you when it’s your turn.”

“Thanks,” Andy said, leading April to two little chairs in the corner of the room. She curled up in his lap instead, tucking herself into his warm torso.

“How you holding up, babe?” he asked.

“Still hurts like hell,” she replied.

He absolutely hated seeing her like this. Especially when there was nothing he could do. All he could really try to do was make her comfortable.

“Here,” he pulled his jacket open and wrapped it carefully around her torso like a blanket. Together, they waited silently in that little ER as the minutes ticked by…and all Andy could hope was that it was nothing too serious.

 

“April Ludgate-Dwyer?” a man called her name, and for a minute Andy almost missed it. It had been nearly three hours before they were called, and watching the people ahead of them disappear into exam rooms one by one had made him sleepy. Eventually, he’d dozed off in the chair. When they’d looked up, they saw that it was none other than Doctor Harris…the same, miserable doctor who’d treated Andy’s broken legs, among many other ailments.

“About freakin’ time,” April groaned, as Andy placed her carefully on her feet. She linked her arm with his for balance as they followed the physician into the little white room.

“It’s okay, honey,” Andy said comfortingly. “We’re gonna get you some pain meds now, and you’ll feel awesome again soon. I promise.”

Dr. Harris made them recount the same story they’d told the receptionist. How April was feeling off, how the pains and gotten worse…the fever, and now the nausea too. Frankly, it was tiring. April looked beyond annoyed, and Andy merely listened and tapped his feet nervously from his chair.

“Have you ever had your appendix out?” Harris asked, monotone and bored-sounding as usual.

“Ew, no,” April grumbled.

“What—what’s an appendix?” Andy asked nervously.

“This little useless bit of your intestine,” Harris replied, not bothering to look up from his chart. “It sometimes gets inflamed, and when it does you need to get it removed before it bursts.”

“What happens if it bursts?” he asked.

“Best case scenario, we remove it and clean up the area, you get some medication and you go home in like a week.”

“What’s worst case?” Andy asked, now getting sweatier by the second.

“You die,” Harris shrugged.

You die?

“Oh my God!” Andy stood up quickly, hurrying to the exam table where April was perched, still clutching her side. “Dude, do something then! Her appendix could burst any minute!” He had no idea why this doctor was being so calm about it, but it was starting to piss him off. His wife was in pain, and apparently she had an intestinal bomb that was ready to explode.

April gave him a tired smile, before she turned her attention back to Doctor Harris with a scowl.

“So, we gonna figure out if I need this stupid thing out or not?” she asked. “I don’t really wanna die, you know.”

“You need a CT scan. Then we’ll know for sure,” he closed his folder and gestured for them to follow him.

 

Andy was allowed to wait just outside the scan room. They’d tried to send him to the waiting room where all the others sat, waiting for loved ones to finish up procedures. He refused, and Dr. Harris just rolled his eyes and told them to let him stand there as long as he didn’t interrupt or touch anything.

April had been in there now for fifteen minutes. He was starting to get antsy, and his stomach was in knots. He was about to ask the nearest nurse what was taking so long, when the door opened and April was wheeled out in a chair by the technician.

“Well?” Andy asked, hurrying over and taking his wife’s hand.

“Dr. Harris will be with you as soon as he reviews the scan. I’ll just wheel her back to the exam room—“

“No, I got it,” Andy took over, grabbing the handles of the chair and pushing her down the hall. “You okay, honey?”

“Mmm,” April grunted softly, resting her hands on her side. She’d changed into one of those hospital gowns—with Andy’s help—and the pain had gotten so bad that she’d stopped talking all together.

“You’re doing great,” Andy smiled, helping her out of the chair and back on the exam table once they reached the room.

“Why is this taking so long?” she muttered, reaching for his hand.

“I don’t know,” Andy shook his head. “But it’s okay, I’ll be right here.”

“I hate this stupid—“

“It’s appendicitis,” Dr. Harris announced dryly, striding into the room.

Andy’s stomach flip flopped. He glanced quickly at April, who simply looked annoyed.

“So, her appen—thing…it didn’t explode yet?”

“No,” the doctor replied. “We’re gonna operate in a couple hours, but she’ll be fine until then. We’ll give her something for the pain to keep her comfortable.” He turned without another word and headed out the door.

Andy sighed with relief. He grabbed April’s hand and squeezed.

“You okay?” he asked, his voice shaky.

“I’m fine,” she smiled, returning his grip. “I just can’t wait for this whole stupid thing to be over.”

Andy could see her shift uncomfortably, trying to downplay how much pain she was actually in.

“You want me to go get someone?”

“No, I’m fine,” she said again and shrugged. “Really, I’ll be okay.”

 

They had to wait only a little longer before she was moved to an actual prep area. There, she was given an IV of painkillers that worked wonders for her comfort, and Andy was relieved. Although, only one thing would ease his mind, and that was the knowledge that everything went well and they could head back home again when it was all over.

“Babe,” April grinned at him, her smile unnaturally large as she leaned back into the pillows. “Do you think we’d,” she giggled. She actually giggled. He knew it was the pain meds talking. “…we’d get caught if we went to one of those empty storage closets, and—“

“Honey,” Andy said kindly, sitting beside her. “You’re not getting up from this bed, okay? You need your operation, remember?”

“What? No, I don’t! I feel sooooo good!”

“I know, baby,” he nodded. “You’re going to feel even better soon, I promise.”

He’d never seen her loopy like this before. He’d seen her drunk, he’d seen her sleepy, but this was a whole other level. It would be adorable if his stomach wasn’t so uncomfortable.

“You’re so cute, you know that?” April smiled again—really, she hadn’t stopped—“I’ve got the most smiley, warm, soft husband in the world. Hey, let’s get out of here! Let’s go get some ice cream or something!” She looked at him so eagerly.

“Soon, I promise,” Andy said softly. “We—“

“All right, let’s do this,” Dr. Harris pulled the curtain aside and began prepping April’s bed to be wheeled to the operating room. “Andy, if you could head to the waiting room…”

“Okay, one minute,” he took both her hands in his, and leaned forward to kiss her forehead. “I’ll be right out there waiting for you, okay?”

“Okay,” she grinned.

“You’ll do fine. I love you,” he added, starting to sweat nervously as his body lost most of its motivation to move.

“Love you,” she said in a sing-song voice.

Andy smiled nervously, gave her hands a kiss, and slowly released them, watching as her bed was wheeled down the hall by Harris and two nurses. Now, he had no choice but to wait.

 

The waiting room was stuffy and uncomfortable. Andy had no idea why they kept it so warm in there. Several times he stood up and paced across the small space, checking his watch intermittently. Now he was hungry, but he was too nervous to eat. He was tired too. It was going on six hours that they’d been at the hospital, so they really hadn't gotten any sleep.

He really had no reason to be nervous either. It was a simple procedure, one they performed several times a day, every day. It was routine.

“Andy?”

He looked up at the sound of his name, and Ann was by the door of the waiting room, staring at him in surprise.

“Oh, hey,” he said.

“What are you doing here? Is everything okay?” she sat beside him in an empty chair.

“Yeah,” he nodded, rubbing his neck. “I guess…April is getting her appendix out.”

“Really? When did you get here?” Ann was dressed in freshly cleaned scrubs. Her shift must have just begun.

“We came to the ER last night,” he replied, checking his watch again. “We’ve been here for hours…”

“Yeah, they take a while if you’re not practically dying already,” Ann nodded. “Why didn’t you guys text me?”

Andy looked at her.

“Never mind,” Ann shook her head. “I get it. That’s very…April, I suppose.”

“Yeah well,” Andy sighed. “I just wish they’d hurry up.”

“How long has she been in there?” Ann asked.

“About forty-five minutes now,” Andy replied. It felt much, much longer.

“Oh! She’ll be done any minute. Those things are simple. Don’t worry.” She stood. “Let me know if you need anything. I’ll come by again later, okay?”

“Um, maybe you should come by when she’s like…still loopy,” Andy said.

“Got it,” Ann nodded, and gave his shoulder a quick squeeze before heading back to her shift.

Andy was about to start pacing again when a nurse called his name. Heart pounding, he sprung up off his chair and rushed forward.

“Andy?” she said again.

“Yeah, that’s me… Um, how’s April?”

“She’s great,” the nurse replied. “She’s in the recovery room right now. The procedure went perfectly.”

“Oh,” Andy breathed out, his head feeling lighter. “That’s great…thanks so much. Can I see her now?”

“Give us fifteen more minutes, and I’ll come back and bring you to the recovery room.”

“Okay,” he nodded, and sat down again. His worries were slowly slipping away. It was over, and she did well. He couldn’t wait to bring her home. He was going to have to call Leslie to tell her. April was going to need recovery time, and he was going to be there for every minute of it.

Fifteen minutes later, he smiled when he saw her. She was asleep, lying comfortably in bed with her IV still in providing fluids. She looked peaceful, and he was beyond relieved that she wouldn’t be in any more pain. He took her stuffed puppy out of his pocket and placed it next to her. Then, he pulled a chair up beside her and waited.

 

“Andy?”

Andy put down the magazine he was reading and turned to his wife. She was staring at him sleepily.

“Hey,” he smiled, stroking her hand as it lay atop the sheet. “How you feeling?”

“Good,” she smiled back at him, her eyes droopy. “Am I done?”

“You are,” he nodded. “All done and in the recovery room.”

“Good,” she sighed, closing her eyes. “When can we go home?”

“Well,” Andy said. “You can go home tomorrow.”

“What?” she opened her eyes again, visibly upset. “No, no…I don’t want to stay here overnight!”

“I know honey,” he said. “You can go home first thing tomorrow morning, I promise. They want you to stay to make sure everything stays smooth.”

“Ugh, this sucks,” she whispered.

“I know,” he said again. “I’m just so, so happy you’re feeling better, and I want you to be all set before you come home. Plus, I called Leslie to let her know, and you get to take an entire week off work!”

“Really?

“Uh-huh,” he nodded excitedly. “And I get to stay home with you!”

A smile returned to her face at his words.

“That makes this whole thing slightly better,” she said.

“Yup, and we get to stay in bed all week,” Andy added, kissing her softly. “You, me and Champion, just like you always love.”

“That sounds perfect,” April sighed.

“It really does,” Andy agreed. “Don’t worry babe. I’m going to take care of you.”

Chapter Text

Jack groaned as he unzipped his backpack, letting his school binder drop onto the kitchen table with a dull thud. For a sixth grader, April noticed that he always had a lot more homework than his sisters. Not that he couldn’t do it…but sometimes she felt like he was being overworked for his age.

She watched him from the stove, where her pan of hot water was just about bubbling over. Slowly, she poured it into a mug and added some tea.

“Everything okay?” she asked, walking around the counter to join him at the table.

“I hate homework,” Jack shrugged. “I’d rather be outside playing ball.”

“You know the rules,” April reminded him. “Homework first, football second.” It was a necessary rule. April loved her two boys, but she knew that if given the chance, Jack would be out playing football with his father from the moment he got home until after dinner.

“I know, I know…” he sighed, taking a notepad and pencil out and placing it on the table. “Mom?”

“Yeah, baby?”

“I’m gonna need you and dad’s help for this assignment.”

“Oh yeah?” April’s curiosity got the better of her. “What is it?” She leaned in, staring over her son’s shoulder.

“Well, this month we’re focusing on family and stuff…y’know, ancestry and where we’re from and stuff like that. My teacher wanted all of us to interview our parents.”

“Oh,” April said. “Okay then, that’s not a problem. Let me find your dad.”

Andy had been busy upstairs with the girls, getting one of his weekly “makeovers” courtesy of Allie and Melody. By the time he came downstairs, his hair had so much glitter in it, he was leaving a trail.

“Sorry,” Andy laughed, holding two-year-old Emma as he joined them at the table. “Got quite the stylists upstairs.”

“You look great, babe,” April smirked at him. She turned to her daughter, stroking her little hand as she grasped Andy’s tee shirt. “Did you help make daddy pretty?”

“Uh-huh,” Emma smiled, reaching for her mother.

April pulled her daughter onto her lap. “So, what do you need to know, Jack?”

“Okay,” Jack had his notepad ready, checking the questions on his worksheet. “Um, so…we’ll start with the easy stuff.”

“Awesome,” Andy nodded. “This could be kinda fun, buddy.”

Jack just gave his dad a small smile, reminiscent of his mother’s, holding his pencil poised above the paper.

“First question is…where did you grow up? Mom, you can go first.”

“Pawnee, Indiana,” she answered. “My dad was born there, and my mom came there from Puerto Rico when she was four years old.”

“Okay awesome,” he turned to Andy. “Dad?”

“Pawnee, Indiana, just like your mom,” he grinned. “My parents were from there too.”

“You were born there too, you know,” April added.

“Really?” Jack looked at her. “I thought I was born here?”

“We were visiting home,” Andy added, smiling at April in the process. “You arrived a bit early.”

“Huh,” Jack nodded. “Cool. Okay, so next question…Mom, how many siblings do you have? Well, I already know this one…just Auntie Nat, right?”

“Uh-huh,” April nodded. “It was always just the two of us.”

“Dad, how many brothers again?”

“Six of them,” Andy replied. “I’m the youngest.”

“That’s a lot,” Jack’s eyes widened. “I’m glad I don’t have six sisters. I mean that in a good way,” he added quickly, glancing at his parents.

“We get it,” April assured him, grinning at Andy.

“What memory from your childhood stands out the most?” Jack continued on. He stared at April expectantly.

“Umm,” she played with the curls at the end of Emma’s hair for a moment. Honestly, she couldn’t think of much. “Probably when I visited Puerto Rico on a family trip. That’s where a lot of my Spanish really sharpened up. My parents wanted me and your Auntie Natalie to be bilingual, which was actually pretty awesome.”

“Will you teach me, mom?” Jack asked eagerly.

“Of course I will,” she nodded. “We’ll start on that soon…you and your sisters.”

“Awesome! Okay, Dad…same question.”

“My best memory…” Andy trailed off, lost in thought. “Probably when my dad took my to the store and bought me my first guitar,” he grinned. “I’ll never forget that. We always had to do stuff with all my brothers, but that day it was my birthday, so only I got to go. It was awesome.”

Jack turned to his mother once more. “Are you more like your mom or your dad?”

April scrunched up her nose, shaking her head at the question.

“Honestly Jack,” she sighed. “I’m like neither. I’m more like your great-grandmother, to tell you the truth. I’m nothing like my mom or dad.”

“I’ll write that down,” he shrugged. “Dad?”

“Oh, I think I was totally like my dad!” Andy said excitedly. “He loved music. He played guitar too, and your grandma told me he used to be in a band when he was younger. He also loved football and baseball, just like you and me.”

“Cool,” Jack nodded. “I didn’t know grandpa played ball.”

“Oh yeah, he loved it!” Andy said excitedly, his face lost in the memories. “When he wasn’t playing his guitar, he was outside playing ball with us.”

“Just like you and me,” Jack said, repeating Andy's words.

“Yeah,” Andy’s face softened as he looked at his son. “Exactly.”

April smiled from behind her mug of tea. It made her heart swell more than anything to watch Andy and Jack together…this question and answer session was no exception.

“Can you tell me more about grandpa when I’m done with this interview?” Jack asked eagerly.

“Totally!” Andy’s face lit up. “Maybe when we’re outside playing catch—“

“After he finishes the rest of his homework,” April warned, despite the smile on her face.

“Oh, of course babe,” Andy nodded enthusiastically. “Jack, you heard your mom.”

 

April had never been able to relate to her parents, and the rest of Jack’s interview merely proved that point. They were just so different from her, it was useless to try to find similarities. She didn’t feel bad about it. That was the way it was.

Yet the one thing she always wished was that Andy had gotten more time with his own father. She wished her children could have met their grandpa, could have seen where Andy got so much of his good from. It wasn’t fair that he was taken so soon from his family, and she knew Andy thought about it often. More so since he had children of his own.

One thing was for certain: that never once stopped him from being the best father in the world. Not one little bit.

Chapter Text

Andy glanced at the bedside clock, a tiny groan escaping his lips. Only forty-five more minutes until he had to be on his way back to the airport and on a plane to London once more. His short-lived visit back home had made it nearly impossible to want to leave again, and now, with his beautiful wife snug against him with her arm wrapped around his torso, it wasn’t getting any easier.

Their attempt to spend the last couple of hours together resulted in them bailing on Ben’s roller skating birthday bash, which honestly, neither of them cared much about. All Andy wanted was to be alone with April.

He stroked her bare back, his fingers merely grazing over her skin as he stared straight up at the ceiling. He could hear her soft, half-asleep breaths as she continued to fall in and out of sleep after their latest (and last, until next time) quickie at home. The thought made him sad.

You can do this…you can.

April had no idea how lousy he was feeling about everything. He’d flat out lied and told her everything was great, which he hated to do, because he never lied to her.

“Andy,” she whispered, catching him off guard.

“What’s up?” he replied softly, continuing his swirling fingers along her back.

“You’ve got to get ready to go,” she said, although he could hear the sadness in her voice.

“No, I’ve got time,” he said, even thought she was right, and he really needed to get going.

“Babe, you’ve still gotta shower, get dressed and call a taxi,” she kissed his chest.

“Honey, I don’t want to go back,” he said quietly. “I don’t think I can say goodbye to you again…” He really didn’t think he could. His stomach hurt at the thought of it. It felt like it was merely an hour ago that he was surprising her at the Parks office.

April sat up a bit, leaning on her elbows. She stared at him, her expression soft.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he lied. “I just…want more time.”

“I do too,” she said. “But only a couple more months, and we’ll be back together again.”

Now he could see the redness in her eyes, the signs she’d been trying to hide from him as they lay there together.

“You okay babe?”

“Yeah,” she looked away from him, snuggling against him once more so she could hide her face.

“I’m gonna miss you,” he said, mostly to himself.

“I’ll miss you too,” she said. “But we’ll Skype every night, just like we have been. And I’ll send you stuff in the mail to remind you of home.”

“What kind of stuff?” he smirked.

“I dunno, tapes of weird recorded chanting, taxidermy possums…stuff like that,” she shrugged.

“You’re so weird, baby” he chuckled. “I love you.”

“Love you too,” she kissed him softly before she sat up, this time for good. “C’mon…you’ve gotta get in that shower.”

“Come with me,” he suggested. “Let’s stretch this time out as much as possible.”

She smiled, rubbing his flat stomach that he still wasn’t completely used to.

“You have the best ideas,” she said.

“I’m not as smart as you, though,” he added.

“You’re smart in the ways that matter most, Andy,” she told him. “There’s nothing better than that.”

He really, really didn’t want to leave her again.

Chapter Text

"Are you sure about this?" Andy squinted at the open sliding door, then back at his wife, who was in the process of stripping down to her underwear.

"Totally sure."

"But...it's raining outside," he blinked a few times, unsure where this was going.

"I know," April grinned at him, kicking her shorts off and sending them flying across the room.  She sprinted through the open door, spreading her arms out wide as the clouds continued to open, and she was drenched in a matter of seconds.

Andy watched from the doorway, his mouth slowly turning up into the smallest of smiles as he watched his wife.  She had been feeling so down these last few days...about work, about her purpose and her future career, and now for the first time in too long she looked at peace.

The water soaked her hair, cascading down her front and back in little streams.  Eyes closed, and a genuine smile on her face, she stood there looking beautiful as ever.

Andy slowly peeled off his shorts until he was standing there in his boxers.  His shirt joined April's in a pile on the floor.  Then only a moment later he was beside her, wrapping her in his arms from behind as the rain poured over the both of them.

Who was he to stop her from this happiness?  If anything, he needed to share it with her.  And that's precisely what he did.  

Chapter Text

As soon as the door to Jack’s room was closed, April took off like a madwoman. She ran down the hall, down the stairs, through the foyer and into the living room, ending with a sprinting jump onto the couch next to her husband, where she immediately climbed into his lap and faced him.

Andy barely had time to smile before she was holding his face in her hands and kissing him hurriedly, as though they hadn’t seen each other in months.

“Finally asleep?” he managed to grunt out, his words heavily muffled by her lips and the ferocity with which she was kissing him.

“Mhm,” she replied simply, now reaching around the back of his head and tangling her fingers into his curls.

It’s not like it had been forever per se, but honestly, if you were to ask either of them, they’d both say that it had been too long since they’d had any real solid alone time together. At least since their son was born barely a month ago. Since then, it had been hurried quickies or lazy toying with each other in bed, which had mostly resulted in one or both of them falling asleep before anything really happened. That wasn’t counting the two weeks postpartum where April wanted nothing to do with sex at all, leaving a confused and mildly frustrated Andy to call Ben and ask if this was normal behavior.

April had to admit, being a mom was tough, tough work. She loved every minute of it, but it was exhausting her.

Now she was practically clay in his huge hands, her skin hungry for him and wanting so badly to take advantage of the little time they had before their little demon spawn of a child wailed over the monitor for more food, or a dirty diaper that needed changing.

“Andy,” she hummed against him, as his lips broke away from hers to explore the pathway down her neck. “Missed this so much.”

“Me too, babe,” he replied, gently teasing the sensitive skin just under her ear with little pecks of his lips. “I love you.”

“I love—“

As if on cue, Jack’s shrill cries interrupted their moment. They broke apart as April slumped back, a deep sigh escaping her lips.

“Um—“ Andy chuckled, tugging April forward to give her one more quick peck on the lips. “Till next time, babe.”

“Till next time,” she sighed, hopping off the couch and heading toward the stairs.

One of these days they’d have some real alone time, even if it meant calling Leslie to take her up on one of her thousands of offers to babysit.

Until then, she had a job to do.

Chapter Text

April wondered if Andy was going to back out of their plan. She watched him as he threw a random assortment of clothing into a backpack, finally taking her small pile and shoving it in until the bag looked fit to burst. He had excited enthusiasm on his face, and a huge smile that hadn’t faded since she made her suggestion.

They were really doing it. They were going to the Grand Canyon.

She stood by the broken sliding glass door—honestly, they’d fix it when they came back—waiting for him to come back out of their bedroom.

“Snacks?” Andy called from the other room.

“I’m on it,” she replied, grabbing another, slightly smaller bag and rifling through their meager supply of food in the cupboards and fridge. For good measure, she filled a ziplock bag with some of the many grilled cheese sandwiches they’d made only an hour or two earlier.

“Oh babe, I’m so excited!” Andy said happily, finding his sneakers and slipping them on his feet. “I can’t believe we’re gonna do this!”

“I know,” she grinned, tossing him the snack bag so he could put it by the door with their other supplies. “So, I guess that means you’re still totally into the idea?”

“What?” Andy looked up at her after checking to be sure he had his wallet. “Babe, of course I am. Are you?”

“Definitely!” she nodded. “Just checking, you know?”

The smile returned to his face in an instant. Striding to where she was standing in only a few large steps, he took her face in his hands and kissed her, a long, soft meeting of their lips that left April a little lightheaded. Andy pulled away a few inches, as his hands slid down until they were comfortably around her waist.

“What was that for?” she asked, smiling, still feeling the burn of her cheeks even after being with him all this time.

“Because I love you,” he whispered. “And because…y’know, it’s the end of the world, right? We might die tomorrow.”

“Dork,” she chuckled, standing on her toes to reach him again, her arms wrapping around his neck in the process. His kiss was warm, like the rest of him. His lips were hot—or maybe that was her own heat reflecting back at her. Either way, everything around her melted away to nothing as Andy lifted her up under her legs so she could wrap them around his waist. Slowly, he carried her to their little bedroom, where he gingerly dropped her onto the mattress.

“Andy,” she let out a little laugh, still grasping him. “We need to leave.”

“We’ve got time,” he shrugged. “The world is going to have to wait for us.”

Yes, she thought, as he was on top of her once more and that mouth of his made her forget much else. It would have to wait.

Chapter Text

It probably wasn’t a good idea to herd all four children to the airport. Andy was a pro at balancing his kids, but in reality, they probably could have waited just as well at the house. He just missed his wife too much to spend another hour without her.

April was due to return from one of her longest business trips in a while. Two whole weeks away from home. It was rough, but they got through it.

It helped that most of the kids were old enough to understand. At fourteen, Jack was a pro at this. Even Allie and Melody were better than they used to be. It was six-year-old Emma who had the most trouble. Although, Andy certainly didn’t mind the extra snuggles she requested. The crying was a whole different issue. Thankfully, it was over now.

“When is mom’s plane getting in?” Jack asked, hitting the touch screen of his phone and not bothering to look up.

“Soon buddy,” Andy said, checking his watch. “She should be landing now…”

“We gonna go get dinner after this?” Allie asked, looking just as bored.

“Of course, princess,” Andy nodded. “Not until we all give your ma a huge hug, though.”

Melody held tight to Emma’s hand, standing beside their father without a word, taking in the sights and sounds of the busy airport.

“Okay, she should be coming!” Andy announced excitedly, pointing to the escalator from which April would be descending. “Keep looking up, guys.”

Jack stood up, standing beside his father. He was only a few inches shorter than him, and he was catching up quickly. Andy knew he was trying his best to hide his emotions…after all, that was apparently “cool” when you were a teenager. But deep down, he knew Jack was eager to see his mom again.

When April appeared, Andy could see her smile spread from ear to ear at the sight of her whole family waiting for her. She rushed off the moving steps, straight into Andy’s open arms.

“Oh my God, honey,” Andy hugged her close, kissing her passionately, totally forgetting that his children were all watching. “We missed you so much…”

“Ewwwww,” Melody shook her head, turning in the other direction. “Daddy!”

“We’re in public, you guys,” Jack sighed, totally used to this by now. “People are staring.”

Emma, who apparently had enough of her mother being gone, grabbed at the two of them until they broke apart. April bent down to scoop her into her arms.

“Sorry guys,” Andy shrugged. “I missed your ma just as much as you all did, ya know.”

April hugged all of her children in turn, letting them know how much she missed them, kissing them each on the head.

“I’m never taking such a long trip again,” she promised them. “It’s way too hard being away from all of you.”

Andy hugged her tightly, grabbing hold of her luggage as the family made their way to the exit. They were finally all together again, exactly the way it should be.

Chapter Text

There was nothing like a boring day at the Parks department to make time feel like it was slowly sliding by. April groaned as she glanced at the clock. It was only ten-thirty…she felt like she’d already been there for hours.

She glanced over to her husband’s desk, adjacent to the window of Leslie’s office. Andy was staring intently at the monitor’s screen, his tongue between his teeth, trying to enter some sort of boring information into a spread sheet for her.

April didn’t want to break his concentration. This was the first time Andy really felt like he was doing some important work as Leslie’s assistant, and she didn’t want to mess that up. At the same time, she desperately needed to get out of her own funk.

Screw it, he could use a break too.

She opened up a blank e-mail and began to type. When she was finished, she clicked send, and glanced over at Andy’s desk, waiting.

It only took a few moments before she saw him glance to the corner of his screen, where the little notification undoubtably popped up. He smiled, glanced her way, and looked back to read. She watched his face turn from a pleasant grin, to wide-eyed shock, before his mouth turned up into the biggest smile she had seen all day.

He looked up at her again, his eyes droopy. She only smirked back. Then, he began to type. Her e-mail notification chimed at the corner of her screen. Grinning wide, she opened it.

Pretty dirty words for ten-thirty in the morning, babe, was all it said.

She laughed to herself and began typing out a reply, glancing over at him periodically. This time, she went into greater detail about what she wanted to do to him come lunch break…making sure not to leave anything out. She sent it with a heavy click of her mouse.

Now, Andy looked up at her with hungry eyes, his fingers typing away furiously on the keyboard. It was like he’d come alive in a matter of minutes, shifting in his seat uncomfortably as his body gave in to its obvious reaction to her words.

People began to flutter in through the office. Tom, talking to Donna about something trivial as they both sipped lattes, Jerry, tripping over his own two feet and spilling his coffee and donut all over his desk. Even Leslie emerged from her office at one point, strolling over to Andy’s desk and asking him how everything was going with the data entry, to which he gave a dry, clipped laugh and crossed his legs awkwardly in his seat.

Finally, April received the long awaited e-mail, much lengthier than the first. As she read though it, she could feel herself getting warmer—too warm for her to sit still much longer. She could tell her face was getting red, and she looked up at her husband with what she could only assume was lust-filled desire. His words were so explicit, even for him, that she had to minimize the screen for fear of any of her coworkers peeking over her shoulder. All things he wanted to do to her in return. He had that same meaningful look as he stared right back at her.

In a matter of seconds, they both stood up at the same time, rushing toward each other. Grabbing her hand, Andy called out to Leslie in a hurry.

“Boss, we’re taking an early lunch. Be back soon,” and without waiting for a reply, he pulled her out the door.

Slamming the door behind them in the first abandoned office they could find—Ann’s office, which was perfect in April’s mind—Andy kissed every inch of bare skin he could find. He cleared the desk with one swoop of his arm, and laid April across it, his mouth never leaving hers.

She leaned up into him, instantly forgetting how sucky the day had started out. As of now, as Andy’s belt buckle was unclasped and his pants fell to the floor, this was one of the best days ever.

Chapter Text

“ANDY!”

April’s voice came out as a shriek, causing Andy to spring into action. A million things went through his head at once. Was it Jack? Allie? April? Were they hurt? He sprinted up the stairs and went straight for the bedroom.

There, April was on her knees on the rug by the closet, rifling through the folders that contained all their important documented information. They rarely took them out, unless they needed to for one reason or another. Luckily, Jack was sitting beside her, playing with one of his favorite toys, while Allie was half asleep in the bassinet by their bed.

“Honey,” he panted, rubbing his neck. “Is everything okay? I got super scared something was wrong.”

“What is this?” she asked, brandishing a sheet of paper in his face. Her eyes were wide with shock.

Reaching for it to get a better look, he saw that it was Jack’s birth certificate. He raised his eyebrows, confused.

“What’s wrong with it?”

“Why does it say his birthday is November first?” She stood up now, shaking her head. “He was born on Halloween.”

Immediately, Andy felt the blood rush to his face. He blinked once or twice, trying to think of what to say. Jack looked from his mother to his father, his little expression more confused than ever.

“My birthday is on Halloween,” he said, looking back to his mother. “Right, Mommy?”

“Right, baby,” April leaned down to kiss Jack’s head. “Someone made a mistake at the hospital, that’s all.”

Andy nodded in agreement, his nerves going haywire. Of course he’d known about the “mistake” all along. He personally told—okay, threatened, maybe—Dr. Saperstein into changing the date. It was only a matter of seven minutes. What was the big deal anyway? The doctor had agreed, but apparently all was not relayed to the hospital records department, or whoever wrote this stuff down.

“That’s so weird!” Andy feigned shock. “I mean, that’s crazy, right honey? What a mistake…we should probably call them to fix it.”

April narrowed her eyes. Gently, she asked Jack if he could go play in his own room while she talked to Daddy. Once his little head had disappeared down the hall, she turned back to Andy. “Why aren’t you as upset about this as I am?”

“Of course I am!”

“No,” she said. “You’re doing that thing you do when you’re lying to me.”

“What thing?”

“You’re getting sweaty and you keep rubbing your neck,” April pointed out. “Andy, tell me what’s going on.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Andy shook his head. “I’ll get on the phone with the hospital right now, and I’ll fix this.” He tried to walk out of the room, but April was too quick.

“Andy!” she stood up, tugging on the back of his shirt. “Hold it.”

He spun around, a forced grin on his face. “What’s up?”

“You knew about this, didn’t you?” she said softly.

“What? No, I—“

“Andy!”

He sighed, clearly defeated. “Okay. Yes, I knew.”

“Babe,” April stared at him, shaking her head. “He’s three years old! Three years! You’ve known about this all this time and didn’t tell me?”

“It was supposed to be fixed!” he said. “Really babe, it was! Why are you looking at his birth certificate, anyway?”

“I need it to register him for school! And what are you talking about?” she asked, flopping down on the bed and tossing the birth certificate beside her.

“I mean, when Jack was born, I saw that it said he was born a little after midnight. I caught Dr. Saperstein while you were sleeping, and I made him change it. I guess…something must have gone wrong.”

April looked equally upset and intrigued. Andy figured that was better than angry, at least.

“How did you get him to change it?”

“I…maybe threatened him a little,” Andy said sheepishly.

“You threatened Dr. Saperstein?”

“Well yeah, sorta,” Andy nodded. “I mean, I guess you can say I did.”

April crossed her arms, looking around the room. Andy could tell she wasn’t sure what to say.

“Honey,” Andy grasped her shoulders gently. “Our boy was born on Halloween. I don’t care what anyone else says. That’s all that matters, okay? And we’re always going to celebrate his birthday on Halloween.”

April nodded stiffly, finally meeting her husband’s eyes.

“Fine,” she said. “I’m never telling Jack about this, by the way.”

“Neither am I,” Andy smiled.

“Couldn’t have arrived a few minutes earlier, could he?” April shook her head.

“He wasn’t ready, I guess,” Andy shrugged. “Don’t worry, babe. He’s our Halloween Jack o’lantern, and that’s never gonna change.”

Chapter Text

April closed the fridge with her foot, balancing the little two-tier cake on a serving tray. Carefully, she made her way through the house, which was easy at the moment as everyone was outside in the back yard. Usually there was a kid, or one of their toys, or sometimes even the dog to trip over.

She joined them, her little family and the few friends who made the trip to DC to celebrate Emma’s first birthday. Her daughter sat in her high chair decorated especially for the party, a happy, chubby one-year-old who had no idea the commotion was all for her. Andy was seated beside her, carefully feeding her bits of party food.

It was a sight April wouldn’t soon forget. Her older children played nearby, running and laughing in the hot summer air, weaving in and out of the small group of the old Parks crew that joined them. In a way, it was bittersweet. This would be the last “first birthday” they would be celebrating.

“Cake!” Melody shouted happily when she saw her mother heading over with the tray. At once, April’s children gathered around their baby sister. Their guests joined them too, as Leslie took out her newest Gryzzl camera to capture the moment.

“Happy birthday sweetheart,” Andy kissed Emma’s cheek as the designated “smash cake” was placed in front of her.

Emma stared at it, unsure what to do at first, before bursting into a fit of giggles while her parents sat on either side of her.

April watched as Andy glanced over at her, his smile a mile wide. Such happiness would never be found elsewhere.

“Our baby is one,” she said softly to him.

“I know,” he nodded, reaching around the back of the chair for her hand. “Emma, you like your cake?”

Emma laughed again, before quickly sticking both fists into the center of the cake. She pulled her hands away, sticky and covered in frosting, and tentatively brought them to her mouth. It didn’t take long for her to get the hint. A moment later, cake was everywhere.

April watched with a warmth in her heart, a feeling that she never knew before she had children. It was something entirely different from anything she’d ever felt, and she loved it.

“Mama,” Emma waved her little hand up unexpectedly, catching April on the mouth and covering her with vanilla frosting. The one-year-old let out a shriek, looking over at her father for approval.

Andy burst out laughing, a loud, genuine chuckle that made his eyes shine. April couldn’t help but join in.

“C’mere,” he said, still laughing, as he pulled her to him from behind the high chair. He met her mouth in a kiss, covering himself in the sticky cake so the both of them matched their daughter.

Later, months later, as April tried to put together one of the many photo albums of their family in a way that would make Leslie proud, she stumbled upon that very moment from the party. She and Andy and Emma, covered in frosting and laughing. Their older children were off to the side, the smiles on their faces obvious even in the photograph.

She framed it, placing it on her bedside table. Later that night, as Andy wrapped her in his arms and the both of them drifted off to sleep, her dreams were filled with her family. Her wonderful, perfect, amazing family.

Chapter Text

This was going to be as awkward as awkward could get, April just knew it.

Ron and Diane were already waiting for them at the restaurant. April hadn’t been too keen on Andy’s idea from the very beginning. Neither was Ron. She and the Parks Director tended to have these things in common.

Seriously, a double date?

She had no idea what Andy was thinking, and the opportunity to talk him out of it was gone as soon as Diane had gotten wind of the plan in the Parks Department the previous Wednesday afternoon.

“Babe,” she whined, tugging on his arm as they made their way over to the table set for four. “Why did you suggest this?”

“I thought it would be fun!” Andy laughed, grabbing her hand and tugging her along. “C’mon babe, we never go on double dates.”

“That’s because I hate double dates,” she said quietly. “You know I don’t like to spend time with anyone other than you.” That last part was certainly true. Andy had only just gotten back from London barely a week ago, and April wanted him all to herself to make up for those three, long lonely months without him.

“I know,” Andy said, patting her hand as they came within earshot of Ron and Diane. “When we get home, I’ll make sure to make the rest of tonight extra special, I promise. Hey guys!”

“Hello,” Diane said, almost as cheerily.

“Hey,” April said shortly. She nodded at Ron, and he did the same in return.

“Andrew,” the older man stuck out his hand to shake, which Andy returned with fervor.

“Ron was just telling me about the time you boys played football at Lucas Stadium,” Diane smiled, nudging her husband in the side. “That must have been quite the time.”

“Oh, it was amazing,” Andy nearly shouted. “Best day of my life.” He glanced at April, and quickly corrected himself. “Well, aside from marrying you, honey.”

“Yes, it was quite the day,” Ron looked around, waving a waiter over to their table. “We’d like to order our food now,” he said, without a moment’s hesitation.

Two steaks, one salad, and one burger were placed in front of them not long after. In the meantime, April had remained relatively silent while listening to Diane tell long stories about life as a Vice Principal, and Andy telling equally long stories to match about the things he used to do in high school. Honestly, it was the last topic she felt like discussing.

Ron seemed to feel the same way. He was already halfway through his second steak when there finally seemed to be a lull in the conversation.

April sipped her wine, leaning sleepily against Andy’s arm. With any luck, it would be time to leave within the next ten minutes or so.

“Well,” Diane sighed. “Next time we do this, we definitely have to bring the kids along.”

“Why’s that?” April asked, suddenly curious.

“They absolutely adore Andy,” Diane smiled. “I’m surprised he hasn’t told you.”

April looked at her husband, a small smile on her lips. She knew Andy was good with children, but he never told her about Ron and Diane’s daughters before. Andy just waved the comment away sheepishly.

“I’m sure I’m not as fun as their regular babysitters are,” he chuckled.

“I don't know about that, son,” Ron spoke up, placing his fork in his empty dish. “They really enjoy your company. You don’t know how often they ask if you can babysit them when we go out.”

“Really?” April looked from Andy to Ron.

“He’s got a way with kids,” Diane shrugged. “Better than any sitter I’ve ever seen. Any time they come to visit the office, they go straight to wherever Andy is.”

April couldn’t believe what she was hearing. Maybe she just never noticed. She often split her time between the Parks Office and Animal Control headquarters, so maybe she just missed them every time…

“They’re great kids,” Andy said. “Lots of fun, and super imaginative…who wouldn’t want to babysit them?”

April could see that look in Andy’s eyes. The one he got whenever the idea of having children of his own crossed his mind. She couldn’t do anything about that…not right now at least. But…

“Hey,” she turned her attention to Ron and Diane once more. “If you guys want, we can babysit anytime.”

“Really?” Diane and Andy spoke at the same time.

“Yeah,” she said. “We’ve got fun stuff at our place…or if you’d rather we come to you, that’s fine too.”

“I mean,” Diane looked at her husband. “John’s still an infant…would you be okay if we left him with you too?”

“Totally,” April nodded. “Babies are no problem, right babe?”

Andy was looking at her like he could never imagine anything so wonderful. It made her blush.

“Right,” he said, reaching for her hand under the table. “Absolutely. We can’t wait.”

“Thank you, you two,” Ron said, a small smile under his mustache. “I’ve told Diane that I wasn’t too fond of our last couple of sitters. One girl had no idea how to use a phone without a touch pad, and the other somehow managed to burn a bottle of baby formula. Suffice to say, we haven’t had much luck.”

“We’ll be fine,” April said, smiling now just a little. “Honestly, we’re looking forward to it.”

 

Leaving the restaurant after one more round of drinks and a few slices of cake later, Andy and April walked hand in hand to their car.

“Honey,” Andy said slowly. “Why’d you offer to babysit for them? I didn’t think you liked being around kids all that much.”

“I never said that,” she shrugged. “Plus, they’re Ron and Diane’s kids. That already means they’re not horrible.”

“I know, but…I dunno, just seems like something you’d hate.” He held the car door open for her.

“It’ll be great,” she pulled him down by his shirt to give him a quick kiss. “Now c’mon, let’s go home. I remember you promised we could spend the rest of the night completely alone.”

Andy grinned, hurrying to take his seat on the driver’s side. The entire way home, he kept glancing over at her, his eyes warm and full of love.

April smiled to herself as they drove the short distance back to their place. This double date turned out to be better than she ever could have anticipated, and she was okay with that.

Chapter Text

April wasn’t sure what to expect when she and Andy walked through the door to Ron and Diane’s house. It seemed like a whirlwind of motion all at once, from the girls screaming “ANDY” at the same time, and pulling him into the living room for an immediate makeover, to Diane telling her John’s feeding schedule and what she’d need to know. It was simply hectic, to say the least.

By the time Ron and Diane had finally left, her husband was already channeling his alter ego, “Princess Rainbow Sparkle.”

“Babe,” he called her. “Check me out! Don’t I look great?”

April stared, mouth slightly open. It was the most ridiculous thing she’d ever seen, and she was married to the man for goodness sake. She’d seen plenty of ridiculous things since they’d been together.

“He looks fabulous,” Zoey nodded approvingly.

“Yeah,” April nodded, trying to keep her mouth straight. The last thing she wanted to do was laugh out loud. She had no idea if these little girls would take offense to that or not. “He looks great. Love it.”

“Babe, you wanna go next?” Andy asked hopefully.

“No,” April shook her head. “I’m good. I’m gonna go check on John.”

“All right, but you’re missing out!” he called after her.

April walked slowly up the stairs to the nursery. Few photos lined the walls as she passed. She could just imagine Ron and Diane arguing over how much of their family they would showcase in their home. It must have been quite the compromise. Ron hated any photos that would give away too much personal information, and April knew that way of thinking didn’t end inside these four walls. Diane was always able to talk some sense into him, at least.

John was fast asleep in his wooden crib. His room was simple and impressive all at once. All the furniture was beautifully crafted by none other than Ron himself, from crib, to changing table, to bureau, to rocking chair in the corner. There were no high-tech fancy noise machines or video baby monitors, just the nighttime sounds from the open window and a little lamp giving off a faint light.

Peeking over to glance at him, April smiled. He really was adorable, but she wouldn’t admit that to anyone else. She wasn’t horrible with kids either. In fact, she seemed to get them without really trying. She was just about to turn and go back downstairs, when John started to squirm in place. It was only another moment before the squirming turned to whimpering.

Now she was a bit nervous. The last time she had held a baby…honestly, she had no idea. When Natalie was little? Even then, she was only a bit older, and she didn’t remember it. Taking a deep breath, she reached over and picked the small little bundle of baby up, and cradled him the way she always saw other women do. He didn’t completely stop fussing, but it helped.

“Hey,” she mumbled, unsure what to say exactly. “You hungry? Should we go get you some food?”

John blinked at her, his large blue eyes clear and his brow slightly furrowed.

“Okay, I know…I don’t exactly know what I’m doing, but you need to help me out here. Deal?” Tightening her grip, she carefully made her way down the stairs and into the kitchen.

Andy and the girls were coloring by now, each of them dressed up as a princess. Her big goof of a husband was sprawled out on the rug on his stomach, tiny crayons between his huge fingers as he tried to stay in the lines. When he heard her come downstairs, he look up and smiled.

“Hey honey,” he said. “What’s—hey, you’re holding the baby!”

“Yeah, so?” she shrugged.

“You said you weren’t gonna,” Andy pointed out. “You told me you would make me go get him.”

“I changed my mind. He’s hungry.”

Andy didn’t say anything more, but that smile remained on his face as April turned to the fridge.

 

“Who wants popcorn?” Andy shouted a little while later, probably a little louder than he intended. Zoey and Ivy were bouncing in place, cheering loudly and grabbing onto Andy’s hands as he went to fetch them their snack. “Then maybe we can watch a movie?”

“Yes, movie!” Ivy screamed. “Princess movie!”

“Can we have juice too?” Zoey asked. “Mommy lets us have juice when we watch a movie.”

Andy turned to April, who was curled up on the couch, still holding John in her arms as he slowly worked his way through his bottle. She didn’t look away, but she could see him still smiling that goofy smile at her.

“Honey, can I give the kids juice?”

“It’s a little late for that much sugar,” April pointed out. “But I guess a half a cup each won’t hurt.”

“Sweet! Babe, can I have some too?”

“Andy,” April laughed. “Are you really asking me that?”

“Right,” he shook his head. “Duh, of course I can. You want anything?”

“No, I’m fine,” she shook her head. Since when did she care how much juice a kid gets to have, anyway? Maybe all this baby stuff was melting her brain…

As they settled down, bowl of popcorn between them and juices all around, both girls cuddled up on either side of Andy. April didn’t mind sharing him this time around—it was too adorable to refuse. As the movie started, and once they were sure both girls were fully committed to the television, Andy turned to her.

“You haven’t put that baby down once in the last hour,” he whispered, tucking some loose hair behind her ear.

“It’s fine,” she whispered back, checking to be sure that John had finished his bottle. Turns out, he had, and he’d fallen asleep in the process. “He’s easy.”

“You look really good holding him,” Andy added a little more softly, before turning his attention back to the animated characters on screen.

“I look like any normal person with a baby,” April brushed the comment off.

“No, you look perfect,” he said.

April could feel herself getting warmer, and she shifted uncomfortably in place. Even if she looked good, and even if she kinda sorta loved the position she was in right now, it wasn’t going to make her jump on the baby train any time soon. As much as she knew Andy wanted that—and God, she knew he did—she wasn’t ready to take that step. It hurt knowing how much he wanted it, knowing she couldn’t give that to him…but it just wasn’t the time.

 

By the time the movie was over, the girls were already half asleep. Now it was April’s turn to help them get ready for bed. Carefully, she handed a sleeping John to Andy, who reached out for him excitedly.

“Night Andy,” Zoey said sleepily.

“Yeah, night,” Ivy chimed in.

“Night girls,” he said, as the both of them gave him a big hug. “Thanks for a fun time tonight!”

April helped them find their pajamas, tucked them into their matching twin beds, and even read them a story. To her immense shock, she didn’t hate one moment of it, and neither did the girls. She thought they’d immediately brush her aside and ask for Andy instead, but they never once complained. She was about to turn out the light and head back downstairs when Zoey stopped her.

“April?”

“Yeah?” April turned to face them once more, her hand on the door knob.

“Do you and Andy have any kids at your house?”

“No,” April smiled and shook her head. “We have a dog, but that’s it.”

“Oh,” Zoey yawned. “You’d make a good mommy.”

“Thanks,” April whispered, letting the little girl’s words float around in her head.

Andy was talking baby gibberish to John when she finally made it back to the living room. He looked like a natural, totally in his element. She couldn’t help but grin like an idiot as she watched him.

“Hey honey,” he said, not looking away from the baby. “How’d it go?”

“Fine,” she sat down next to them, curling into Andy’s side. “They’re so good. They let me read to them and everything. I got to use some pretty freaky voices, and they loved it.”

“Yeah, they’re great,” Andy agreed. “This little guy’s great too. Check it out!” Andy held one of his fingers out for John to grab, which he did immediately. His tiny fist barely closed around Andy’s pointer finger. “He’s got an awesome grip.”

“You had a lot of fun tonight, huh?” April asked, using his shoulder as a pillow as she watched the baby stare up at him.

“God yeah!” Andy replied. “I’d do this all the time if they let us.”

April could feel a weird pull in her stomach. A mixture of nerves and quiet longing that would easily come and go as quick as a thought.

“We’ll definitely do it again,” she assured him. “I had fun too.”

“That’s great to hear, babe,” Andy grinned. “Kids are awesome.”

“Yeah,” she nodded sleepily, watching as John began to doze off against her husband’s strong, warm chest. “They’re pretty great.”

Chapter Text

April groaned, loud and angry from her place from the sofa. The stupid internet was acting up again for the third time this week. No longer did Ben the nerd live with them, so no longer did they have someone boring to figure this stuff out. It was down to the both of them, and April rarely felt like it. And Andy…well, he was more likely to set the house on fire than to rewire computer hardware.

“Babe!” April tossed—a little too forcefully—the laptop across the couch where it landed with a dull thud on the opposite pillow. “I hate this stupid house and the stupid internet!”

“Aw honey, it’s not a big deal. We can always watch TV,” her husband smiled, unbothered by the inconvenience, as he rummaged around in the kitchen for a pan.

“It is a big deal when you’re trying to do something on the computer and it isn’t working,” she grumbled.

“C’mon, cheer up babe. I’m making pancakes for dinner. How awesome is that?”

April didn’t know how awesome it was going to be, especially since Andy’s cooking skills hadn’t really improved that much as of late. But she was feeling lazy and the usual takeout was boring, so pancakes were the next best thing.

“Ugh,” April crossed her arms and leaned back into the couch.

“Just gotta open this flour, and we’ll be in business,” Andy said, his brow furrowed in concentration as he tore into the bag. “God, why do they have to make these bags so weird…”

Barely a second later, the bag indeed opened up. Rather, Andy tore it open so forcefully that flour flew everywhere, including Andy’s entire top half, the counter, the floor and the stove. Everything within a two foot radius was dusted in the fluffy white substance.

April craned her neck up at the sound, her mouth open in silent surprise.

“Oh…well, shit,” Andy chuckled sheepishly. “That’s not exactly…um…yeah…”

“Oh my God,” April laughed. “Babe…” She walked the short distance to join him in the kitchen, surveying the scene before her. It was a complete and utter mess, there were no other words for it.

Andy paused for a moment, before joining in with April’s laughter. He stared at her with that all-too-familiar, mischievous gleam in his eyes.

“What?” April thumbed away a streak of flour from his cheek.

“You’ve just awakened the fury of…the pancake ghost,” Andy said, dropping his voice low and opening his arms wide.

“Andy…” April backed up warily, her mouth a tight, thin smile. “Seriously babe…”

With a loud, echoing roar, Andy bounded forward to grab her in his arms. April took off, laughing and screaming as she dodged furniture and pillows. Champion merely watched them lazily, far from the commotion in his dog bed by the couch.

“You can’t stay away!” Andy called, leaving a trail of floury footprints in his wake. “You’re no match for me!”

April was slowing down now, truly no match for his size and surprising speed when he actually needed to be fast. Turning by the bathroom door, she stumbled a bit, and Andy pounced. He had her cornered, grabbing her around the waist and lifting her up and over his shoulder.

“No! Put me down,” she laughed loudly, inhaling the flour in the process and totally ruining her clothes. Honestly though, she didn’t care.

“No way,” Andy replied, spinning her in place. “I caught you fair and square.”

“What are you gonna do with me now?” Her legs kicked in the air as she was bent over his shoulder.

“Hmm,” Andy thought. “Haven’t really figure that out yet.” He carefully let her down, but kept a firm grip on her waist the entire time. “I have an idea, for starters.” He leaned forward, and planted a powdery kiss on her lips, his nose rubbing against hers and transferring even more of the white substance to her face.

April leaned into it, pulling back after a few seconds. “Does this mean you turned me into a pancake ghost too?”

“Yup, all it takes is a kiss,” he said proudly.

April chuckled softly. “Guess we’d better go clean up then. I think ghosts can take showers too, can’t they?”

“Oh yeah,” Andy nodded vigorously. “They take them together all the time, I heard. But what about the kitchen?”

April glanced over his shoulder. It really was a total mess.

“It can wait,” she shrugged. “This is more important.”

“Awesome,” he grinned, lifting her bridal style and heading to the bathroom.

Honestly, she forgot all about the internet after that.

Chapter Text

She’s so perfect…God, she’s beautiful.

Andy watched April emerge from that little side room, her simple white dress looking better than any extravagant wedding gown ever could. His gaze never roamed from her face, and at once, he felt the tears welling in the corners of his eyes. He didn’t care who saw him cry, all that mattered was April.

In a few minutes she’s gonna be my wife.

She made the short walk to where he stood, under the arch of flowers in the tiny living room of Burly’s house. She smiled, that smile she only reserved for him, as she raised her hand to meet his high-five.

I love her so much.

He held her small hands in his as the Justice of the Peace read from her book. He could feel himself shaking slightly, but not from nerves. Never nerves. It was all excitement. Yes, he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her too. Every single minute…and that’s precisely what he told her.

I’m always gonna protect her. Nothing will ever harm her. She’s mine, and I’m hers, and that’s how it’s meant to be.

The kiss was a sweet one, but he wanted nothing more than for all these guests to disappear and leave the two of them there together, alone, so he could kiss his wife the way he truly wanted to.

His wife…

Through the sound of the guests clapping, her dark eyes bore into his. At once, he grabbed her hand and led her back down between the chairs to his makeshift bedroom. Once the door was closed securely behind them, he lifted her up into his arms and kissed her properly.

I can’t believe I get this forever.

She wrapped her arms around his neck, twirling her fingers in the curls on the back of his head. She tasted like vanilla, and smelled like cinnamon and flowers, and her lips against his were soft and perfect.

People were probably wondering where they went, but he didn’t really care. From the way she was pressing herself against him, she didn’t seem to care either. His mouth trailed down her neck in quick little kisses, and she let out the tiniest of giggles…it was music to his ears.

“I love you,” he said simply.

“I love you too.”

That’s all he needed for the rest of his life.

Chapter Text

Halloween 2022

They drove home in mostly silence, the streets nearly empty save for the occasional drunk teenagers trying to get a few more last minute celebrations in.  All the young trick or treaters had gone in for the night, probably counting their candies at the foot of their beds.  

Andy threw his wife the occasional glance, but she merely stared ahead, chewing on the tip of her prop cigarette holder.  He usually had no problem reading her expressions, but this time he got nothing.  

"You have fun tonight, babe?" she asked suddenly.

"Huh?  Oh, yeah," he nodded, as they approached their neighborhood.  "It was fun."

It wasn't totally fun though.  The triplets would have made it more fun, and spending additional time handing out candy might have been a great alternative to an adults-only Halloween.  But the night was over now, and April seemed firm on her earlier stance.  

 

They slipped into bed that night, all earlier discussion forgotten as they ended their favorite night of the year in each other's arms, tired from their role playing and subsequent physical celebrations.  

Andy pushed himself closer as April snuggled back into him, drawing the covers up and gripping his wrist to pull his arm over her side.  She sighed as she fell asleep, a happy, sated look on her face.  With a kiss to her temple, he pulled her in closer, but there was no sleeping for him.  At least not for a couple hours.  

Maybe one day she'd change her mind.  Maybe one night, she'd purposefully forget to take her pill, because she was just as into the idea as he was.  Maybe one night, but not now.

He loved her, and that was all that mattered, regardless of how he felt.  

 

Halloween 2023

He told her it was okay to be a little scared.  Hell, he was too.  He clutched her hand in both of his, kissed her lips when she wasn't screaming in pain.  He kept her forehead cool with a damp cloth.  It was the least he could do when he otherwise felt so useless, while his wife was literally bringing their child into the world.

Tears leaked down the corners of her eye lids, and between contractions she looked at him, searching for relief.  

"I love you," he kept telling her.  "You're doing so amazing."

She could only nod, her voice long gone, and give into the yell tearing from her throat.

Then he was there, tiny, pink and screaming louder than his mother had been, and Andy forgot all the things he ever thought were amazing in this world, because nothing compared to this moment.  

The look in April's eyes was the finishing touch.  She was crying a little, streaking the demon paint on her face while Andy grabbed the sides of her head and kissed her, their happy tears mixing in a salty mess.

"Thank you," she whispered, as their son was laid across her chest.

"No," Andy shook his head.  "Thank you.  I love you so much."

And he did, so incredibly much.

Chapter Text

Andy rubbed his hands across his patchy facial hair as he paced back and forth in the living room. The little object on the coffee table seemed to stare back at him almost mockingly, reminding him of his failure. He’d never seen such a badly wrapped present in all his life. He was truly horrified by the look of it. He didn’t have wrapping paper, so he used a paper bag. There was no tape, so he used super glue. It was going to be a disaster.

“Babe?” April’s voice carried through the house as he heard the front door open and close, the smell of pizza wafting through the living room. “Got dinner.”

“Hey birthday girl,” Andy turned to her and smiled, quickly shoving the present under the couch cushion.

“Hey,” she placed the pizza on the coffee table and kissed him quickly on the cheek. “Let’s eat, I’m starving.” She sat on the opposite cushion, to Andy’s immense relief.

He nodded and took a careful seat beside her, gingerly picking up a slice of pizza and staring at it for before making a move. From the corner of his eye, he could see his wife watching him.

“Dude,” she put down her slice. “Is everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah,” Andy nodded. “Fine.”

“You’re not eating,” she pointed out. “You love pizza. What’s wrong?”

“Nothing!”

“Andy, tell me,” she said sternly, grasping his shoulders to make him face her. “You are so bad at lying.”

He sighed, reaching under the cushion to grab the gift. He stared at it with a frown and held it out to her slowly.

“What’s this?”

“Happy birthday, honey,” he said softly.

She gave him the tiniest of smiles as she picked at the wrapping.

“Look, I’m sorry it’s not, you know, awesome or anything…I know we’re trying to save money, and the shoeshine stand hasn’t exactly been super busy lately—“

“Andy—“

“I know it sucks. I didn’t know what to do, and I wasn’t going to not get you something, I mean you’re the best wife in the world and you deserve everything and—“

“ANDY!”

He stopped mid sentence to stare at her.

“Did you make this?” she stared at the object in wonderment.

“Yes…”

“I love it,” she said. He couldn't help but notice how wide her smile was.

“You—you do?”

April couldn’t stop looking at her gift. It was a badly carved piece of wood in the shape of a dog…or at least Andy had hoped it looked like one. It was supposed to be Champion, and he’d worked with Ron on it for the better part of two weeks.

“When did you have time to make this?” she asked, running her fingers over the dog’s wooden nose.

He grinned sheepishly. “Well, remember how I’ve been going to all those extra band practices?”

April leaned forward and threw her arms around his neck. “I love it, and I love you,” she whispered. “Thank you so much. You’re the best husband ever.”

Andy felt a wave of relief as wrapped his arms around her back, slowly pulling her into a tight hug.

“Love you too,” he muttered into her hair.

Andy knew he wasn’t wealthy, or the smartest guy around…but as long as he had the love of his wife, he’d never felt richer. And God, he loved her so, so much.

Chapter Text

April watched him sleep, the sun barely up yet on that cool Pawnee morning. Andy’s chest rose and fell slowly, little tiny breaths escaping his lips each time. Unable to control herself, she smiled, with no one to see her happiness. That was fine, she was just glad to have him back.

Andy had returned from London the previous afternoon—for good this time—and he was beyond jet-lagged. That didn’t stop the celebrating, which continued long into the night. Now, he was practically out cold and down for the count, but there was something in watching him sleep so peacefully. Home, safe, with her and Champion, the way it was supposed to be.

She ran her fingers along his muscled arm that she still wasn’t completely used to, and he twitched in his sleep. Her smile only grew wider. Her eyes traveled to his messy hair, which had grown considerably longer since he’d been away, noticing the way it curled at the ends.

The feeling of having him home again was a million wonderful things, but beyond everything right now it was comfort. The feeling of having his body beside her once again, after weeks and months of sleeping in their large bed alone, was everything to her.

“Andy,” she whispered his name, feeling guilty for waking him but at the same time needing to hear his voice. “Babe…”

“Hmm…” he rolled over in his sleep, facing her.

“Hey,” she reached out and cupped his cheek with the lightest touch. “Andy?”

“April,” he whispered, the ghost of a smile on his lips. “Y’okay?”

“Yeah,” she smiled, inching closer until she was curled up against him.

“Good…that’s good,” he sighed, still blissfully half-asleep. “Love you honey.”

“Love you too,” she replied, pulling his arm over her side so she was flush with his chest. “So happy you’re home.”

Chapter Text

“Ooooh, honey, this one!”

April glanced at the two-story, brick-fronted house. Her eyes were wide, taking in the cozy, comfortable looking home, until they roamed over the price on the tiny sign stuck in the lawn by the path.

“Andy,” she said with a sigh, “this house is way out of our price range.”

Her husband’s face dropped, and she gave his hand a slight, comforting squeeze.

“Really?” he looked it up and down before meeting her gaze. “I mean, it’s awesome though.”

“It is,” April nodded. “But we need something we can afford…something we won’t be paying off until we’re dead.”

“Okay,” Andy grinned, returning the same pressure to her grip. “Let’s keep looking.”

April wasn’t picky, but she did have a few rules when it came to their new home in DC. For one, it had to be a place within their budget. The last thing she wanted was for them to be in serious debt. They didn’t have a whole lot of money as it was, although her new job would come with a more than decent pay check, and Andy had saved up quite a bit from his stint as Johnny Karate. Another thing, it had to have a backyard. Not only for Champion, but for Andy, who was very much a kid in his own right. Finally, it had to have more than one bedroom because…

April shook her head and continued to walk.

“Check this one out,” she said, pointing to a house a couple of streets over.

It was smaller than the previous one, with nice, large front windows and a fenced in back yard. A small path led the way to the front door, curving around to the little entrance through the fence in the back and out of sight.

Andy smiled, giving it the once-over. Turning to April, he looked strangely serious.

“You like this one, babe?”

“I kinda do,” she shrugged, glancing at the realtor’s number on the sign. “I mean, only if you do.”

“I like whatever you like,” Andy shrugged.

“No,” April turned him toward her. “Andy, I’m serious,” she said. “You need to really like the house. I mean, who cares what I think?”

“I do,” he said, his face confused and concerned all at once. “I mean, it doesn’t matter to me, as long as you’re happy.”

“I’m the one who made us move out here,” April said softly. “If it weren’t for my stupid job, we’d still be living in that awesome asylum house, and I know you loved it there—“

“Honey,” Andy pulled her into a hug. “I’m gonna love wherever we live, because you’ll be there. That’s all that matters.”

April knew he was serious. She wrapped her arms around his torso, leaned her head against his chest and took a deep breath.

This was going to work.

Chapter Text

Being drunk was fun.

Being drunk with your husband was a million times more fun.

April giggled, sitting in Andy’s lap against the stage after the election party had come to an end, and the ballroom was clearing out. All their friends were hilariously wasted, especially Tom, who had somehow climbed to the top of one of the podiums and was doing some sort of tap dance to a song Donna was singing.

Andy was staring down at her, his eyes soft and goofy, and slightly glassy from the alcohol, but she didn’t care. She pulled him toward her in a kiss and laughed as they broke apart.

“Hey, c’mon,” she whispered, pulling him by his tie as she stood up.

“Where—where we going, babe?” he swayed slightly, catching his balance.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Somewhere else.”

“Cool,” he nodded, hiccuped once, and high-fived Ben, who was on his way back from the men’s room.

April led him down a corridor and through a closed door. The room they ended up in was tiny, but filled to the brim with extra folding chairs and portable folding tables.

“Are we gonna like…do it in here, or what?” Andy chuckled.

“No,” April shook her head. “I mean, I don’t know. I think we had too much to drink.”

“Yeah,” Andy nodded again. “Think so too…”

“I just wanted to…to get away from everyone for a minute, y’know?”

“I know,” Andy replied, swaying slightly. “C’mon, let’s sit.”

“I really, really love you,” she said, her head spinning. “You’re the best…best husband ever. And the coolest rockstar ever…”

“Aww, thanks babe,” Andy pulled her into his lap again as he took a seat in an abandoned chair. “You’re the coolest too.”

“I really think you should become a cop,” she added. Even in her drunken state, it somehow made sense to her. Andy would be perfect at it, and it would definitely be something he’d enjoy.

“Really? You think I could do it?” he looked at her more seriously now, his eyes hopeful.

“Yeah,” she kissed his nose. “You could.”

Andy didn’t say anything. He appeared to be lost in thought. Then again, it was hard to tell, because her eyesight was a bit fuzzy at the moment.

“Babe,” Andy spoke up finally. “I think maybe we should go get some food. I’m starting to see double.”

“Yeah,” April slid off his lap. “Leslie said something about JJ’s…but first, let’s go egg Bobby Newport’s car.”

“Best ideas, honey,” Andy smiled as he scooped her into his arms and started making his way back to their friends.

Chapter Text

“Why do you keep pushing me away?”

Andy glanced at his wife. She was pacing back and forth in the kitchen, the phone clutched against her shoulder as she simultaneously set the table for dinner. She didn’t want to admit it, but he knew she was upset.

“I know, but I’m your mother, and you’re still my kid. I don’t care how old you are.”

He could hear a raised voice on the other end and tried to make out what was being said. No luck.

“Well, what about the following weekend?” April sighed. A pause, and finally she seemed to take a breath. “Fine. You better promise me, Jack.”

A few more words, and then she hung up. Turning away from Andy and toward the sink, he watched her shoulders slump and begin to shake. He jumped off the couch as fast as he could—frankly, not as quickly as he used to, and pulled her into his arms.

“Babe, it’s okay—“

“He doesn’t need me anymore,” she sniffed, staining his plaid shirt with tears. “He said so himself.”

“He would never say that and mean it,” Andy stroked her hair.

“No, he means it,” she whispered.

“Is he coming this month?”

“He promised he would.”

“April,” Andy kissed her head. “Our son is gonna keep his promise, even if it means I have to drive down to that damn college of his and drag him here kicking and screaming. I promise.”

She smiled slightly, wiping her eyes on her sleeve before continuing setting the table.

 

Andy didn’t end up having to drive to Michigan to retrieve their son, but a well-placed phone call the following day was enough to prompt him to visit sooner, surprising his ecstatic mother in the process and enduring the many hugs she had to offer him as a result.

Chapter Text

What a dork.

He was her dork, though. Her big, soft, goofy, chubby, adorable dork, standing there, throwing little plastic rings at sticks to try and win her a prize. It was absolutely sickening and sweet in the best way possible.

She never would have found herself at the stupid Harvest Festival if Andy wasn't there with her. Sure, Leslie would have been beyond disappointed if she didn’t show up, and more than a little part of April would have been reluctant to make her boss that upset, but having him here made all the difference. It was just that much better.

April watched him, real concentration on his face, as though winning her one of those stupid, cheap stuffed bears that were barely worth the amount of dollars spent playing to win one was life or death. His throws were getting more calculated, and she could see him looking at her out of the corner of his eye, as though he would lose her if he wasn’t good enough. She never wanted him to feel that way, because she wasn’t going anywhere.

He made her feel so safe, so warm and happy. She wasn’t going to give up that feeling. Not to mention, the way he looked at her made her stomach do all kinds of embarrassing things and turned her face a shade of pink she’d rather not know about.

“I’m gonna win you a million teddy bears,” he assured her.

“Well, I want a billion teddy bears,” she smirked.

“Well, that’s a little unrealistic,” he frowned. “This is a hard game. Two million.”

She felt that warmth bubbling up again. “Deal.”

It was more than that, though. She was never sure of much in her life, because most things, most people, disappointed her. Andy was so different, and she had to let him know. She had to be sure that he understood he was the only one who ever made her feel this amazing about herself, about life in general.

She pulled him toward her by his lanyard, meeting his mouth in a quick, sweet kiss. He smiled lazily as they broke apart, and her eyes never left his.

“Hey,” she said. “I love you.”

Chapter Text

“Do your parents care?”

April tilted her head up sleepily, her eyes bleary and barely open. Andy was shirtless and slightly sweaty, but he was wide awake. If it weren’t for the fact that she was so damn attracted to him, she’d be annoyed that he was waking her up after she’d literally just fallen asleep.

“Care about what?” she asked, her voice low and tired.

“Care that I’m sleeping here…in your bed with you.”

“They don’t care, because they don’t know.”

She heard him scratch his neck. He usually did that when he was uncomfortable, or confused. It was the first time he had stayed over her parents’ house with her. Usually she was the one to join him in his tiny room at Burly’s place, but Burly got annoying sometimes, and it was even worse when his girlfriend stayed over. Plus, sleeping on his mattress on the floor wasn’t exactly comfortable.

“What d’you mean they don’t know?”

She sighed, and sat up to face him. Her bed wasn’t particularly large, and Andy certainly wasn’t small, so she felt herself pressing against his side in the process. Even after nearly a month of dating, that small brush of skin against skin gave her goosebumps.

“I mean they went to bed hours ago, and they assumed you would eventually go home.”

“But I didn’t,” he said, matter of factly and with a grin.

“Dude, that’s the point,” she chuckled, as she sunk into the pillows once more. “I don’t want you to go anywhere.”

“Good, because your bed is so much better than mine,” he laughed. “I guess that’s because mine’s just a mattress, but it beats sleeping in the dirt.”

“Yeah,” April nudged his shoulder playfully. “I’m sure it does.”

“D’you mind if I eat something?” he asked, after a lengthy pause. “Doing it kinda makes me hungry afterwards.”

“Fine,” April settled back under the covers. She could hear him rustling the bag of chips they’d torn open hours ago, and the loud crunching that followed. “One rule though…you need to eat them over there.” She pointed to the far corner of her room.

“Why?”

“Andy, I love you, but you’re the messiest eater I’ve ever met. You’re getting crumbs all over my bed, and it’s hard to sleep, let alone do it, when you’re rolling all over pieces of food.”

“That’s fair, babe,” he nodded. Kissing her quickly on the head, he slid out of bed and did as he was told. April couldn’t help but smile into her pillow.

Andy certainly wasn’t neat, or even freshly showered most of the time. He didn’t have table manners, he was always hungry, and he sweat more than was probably normal. But she loved him, and loved having him there with her. So much so that when his warm body left her side, she absolutely hated it.

“Andy?”

“Hmm?” he stopped munching to look back over at her.

“Come back.”

“But I thought you said—“

“Just come back,” she rolled her eyes.

“Will do,” he bounded toward her like an eager puppy, sliding back into his spot. April felt that immediate warmth return, and only then did she slip back into an easy sleep.

In the morning, it didn’t matter that her bed was kind of disgusting. Having him there made up for everything.

Chapter Text

When Andy heard the front door close with a soft snap, he knew his wife had to be home. She was early, so it was either a good day, in which she finished up quickly, or a bad day, in which she had to get the hell out of there. The door hadn’t been slammed, so there was that. Either way, he continued to amuse the tiny three-month old laying on her blanket, while their two and a half year old son ran in circles around them.

“Daddy, hear Mommy,” Jack chirped, holding his “Star Lord” action figure high in the air as he continued his circling. They’d watched that movie again—Guardians of the Galaxy—and Jack had become obsessed. He seemed to think his dad was the main character…Andy still didn’t see the resemblance.

“Yeah, that’s your mom,” Andy replied, blowing a loud raspberry on Allie’s stomach and eliciting a tiny giggle.

“Andy?” he heard her calling him, her light footsteps making their way up the stairs.

“Nursery,” he called, not taking his eyes off the baby.

April appeared in the doorway, a tired, worn-out look on her face. She smiled wide when she caught sight of them, as Jack dropped his toy and made straight for her arms.

“Hey baby,” she grinned. “Were you good for your dad today? Did you help out with your sister?”

“Uh-huh,” Jack nodded enthusiastically before returning to his toy.

“That’s what I like to hear, buddy,” April ran her hand through his hair before dropping down beside her husband, immediately leaning against him.

“Hey,” he kissed her briefly on the lips. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” she shrugged. “Today was just…rough. Lots of meetings and dumb stuff like that…just a bit overwhelmed.”

“Aw,” Andy wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “Well, you’re home now, so let’s just relax.”

“Easier said,” she sighed.

When Allie started to fuss, Andy scooped her into his big arms and sat up. He saw April watching him, staring with that loving look she always got when he interacted with their children. She remained seated on the floor, her knees drawn up to her chin.

“What?” he asked, giving her a side-smile.

“You’re so fucking adorable,” she mumbled, careful not to let Jack hear her choice of words. “And I just love watching you with them.”

Andy chuckled softly, extending his hand to help her up. She accepted it, not letting go even when she was standing again.

“C’mon,” Andy squeezed her hand. “Let’s go take advantage of the fact that you’re home early. Couch snuggles sound pretty good right about now, babe.”

“I love that idea,” she nodded. “C’mon Jack.”

Jack bounded after them, still holding his toy high in the air. Andy handed Allie over to April and lifted their son up. To his delight, April was already looking much better. Her smile had returned and she seemed less tense.

“Who’s the best mommy in the world?” he asked Jack, as they made their way to the living room.

“My mommy!” Jack replied excitedly.

“That’s right,” Andy nodded. “The best, best mommy ever.”

Chapter Text

April couldn’t believe their luck right now.

The two of them, alone for the first time in months. No kids—all four of them were staying with her parents. Just her and Andy in their little Pawnee cabin for an entire night…and it was amazing.

Well, it would be amazing, if Andy didn’t stop worrying about the kids.

“…packed enough bottles for Emma, I mean she’s eating more now, so I don’t know if I should’ve added another…”

“Andy,” she sighed, trying to get him to focus as they huddled together on the couch.

“…Jack’s been fighting with Allie a lot this week, and I told him…”

“Babe,” April tried again. His arm was around her, and she was pressed against his side, but his mind was elsewhere.

It was absolutely wonderful having Andy home with the kids most of the time. While she was at work, he handled them, and that meant that he knew the basic day-to-day routine with the four of them better than she ever would. It sometimes made her a bit sad knowing that she was missing out on so much, but her job was her job, and their kids couldn’t be in better hands.

“…thinking that maybe I should call your parents and tell them—“

“ANDY.”

He stopped short, facing her quickly. She stared at him, exasperated, exhausted, and wanting desperately to stop talking about their children for one night and to make out with him hardcore at that exact moment. Yes, they usually got some alone time after the kids went to bed. But it wasn’t nearly the same as having total, uninterrupted privacy for an entire night.

“What?”

“Stop worrying. Stop talking about the kids. Look around,” she waved her arm in the air. “We’re alone. When was the last time we were alone like this?”

He blinked twice. “I dunno, babe…”

“Exactly,” she smiled. “You can’t remember, and neither can I.”

“I know, I just wasn’t sure if I should have told your parents about—“

“Andy,” April was grinding her teeth now. “the kids are fine.”

“Oh, um…right. You’re right, honey.”

“Now shut up and kiss me.” She moved over and seated herself in his lap, linking her arms around his neck.

Andy’s smile returned in full force, and his eyes softened and focused entirely on her.

“Sorry,” he whispered, bringing his mouth close enough to barely brush against her lips. “I know, I need to relax.”

“You do,” she could feel his stubble rubbing against her chin. “We both do.”

“Well, let’s start that right now,” he smiled.

“Good plan,” she nodded, as her eyes slowly closed.

“Awesome,” Andy muttered.

It was the last word spoken for quite some time after that.

Chapter Text

“Dad, why does Uncle Ben have to watch the Super Bowl with us?”

Jack slumped back against the couch, his arms slack by his side and his face the same shade of annoyance that his mother often exhibited.

His father smiled, setting out bowls of chips, popcorn, and pretzels, all the while checking to see how much longer until the pizzas arrived.

“Because,” Andy said, mussing Jack’s hair. “It’s nice to spend a day like this with friends. Plus, the triplets are coming. You haven't seen them in a while.”

“Yeah, but Uncle Ben doesn’t get football,” the ten-year-old tugged at his Colt’s jersey that matched his father’s. “He’s not even a Colt’s fan!”

“I know, Buddy…”

“I told you we shouldn’t have invited him,” April sighed, carrying a tray of crackers and cheese from the kitchen, while their daughters followed, juice boxes in hand. Everyone in the family—down to one year old Emma—had a Colt’s jersey on. Andy had insisted. It wasn’t every year that Indianapolis went to the Super Bowl.

“Ugh,” Jack groaned. “Mom’s right.”

“Mommy’s always right,” Allie chimed in.

“Well, that’s true,” Andy chuckled. “Come on guys, it’s gonna be an awesome day!”

 

“I’m confused,” Ben said, an hour later. “Why did they just get those points?”

“Because,” Jack said, exasperated. “They went for the field goal instead of the touchdown!”

“Oh. But—“

“Ben, dude,” Andy sat forward, his hands on his knees. “I know you like, don’t typically watch football because you’re into numbers and other nerdy stuff—which is cool!” he nodded frantically, while Jack shook his head back and forth in disagreement. “But, if you don’t get the game now, I don’t think you’ll get it ever. So just sit back and watch.”

“Andy, come on,” Ben chuckled. “I think I know a bit about football—“

“TOUCHDOWN!” Jack and Andy both screamed at once, standing up unexpectedly and nearly making Ben fall to the floor.

“You’re right,” Ben sighed, as Andy high-fived his son happily. “I don’t think I’ll ever get it like the two of you do.”

“Football isn’t for everyone Uncle Ben,” Jack said, matter-of-factly.

Andy didn’t think he’d ever felt prouder to share a moment with his son. Then again, when the Colts won a couple of hours later, he felt pretty awesome then too.

Chapter Text

The sun crept over the other houses on the neighborhood block, casting a bright ray of light across the bedroom. It was early, it was quiet, and it was warm. April could have slept like this forever.

Not to mention, she may have been the tiniest bit hungover from celebrating Galentine’s Day with Leslie the previous evening, but who was really keeping tabs on that?

Then, when Andy’s big, muscular arms tightened around her, everything got even better.

“Morning,” he mumbled, voice dry from sleep. Slowly, he kissed up the back of her neck, coming to rest on the spot just behind her ear. The spot that literally made her squirm. The same spot that basically turned her to putty in his hands.

“Hey,” she grinned, her eyes still closed as she felt herself tense up and relax again, grabbing for his hand while he remained pressed up behind her.

“So, how are we not going to celebrate Valentine’s Day today, babe?” he asked, his mouth a fraction of an inch from her skin, planting soft kisses and making her burn with the best heat. “Y’know, because you hate it so much.”

“Ugh, it’s the worst,” she purred.

“It’s early,” he kissed her neck. “The kids are still asleep.”

“It’s too early,” she sighed, but turned around in his arms all the same so she was facing him. “But I can make an exception since we’re totally not celebrating the stupid holiday.”

“Awesome,” Andy chuckled, as he leaned in to kiss her. She returned it excitedly, reached around him to run her fingers through his curls. She could just feel his grip tightening around her back, while one hand caressed the side of her face, the two of them determined not to break the deepening kiss—when the bedroom door slammed open.

“MOMMY!” Jack screamed happily, bounding forward and scaling the bed in one quick jump.

Andy had never moved away from her so quickly, scrambling to untangle himself from her while he pulled the covers back over them. April sat up, running a hand through her hair as she tried to catch her breath.

Their kid couldn’t have had worse timing, and always woke up way too early, but she loved him too much to care. He was only three years old, so she doubted he knew what was going on not five-seconds previously.

Jack climbed over his father to seat himself between them. “Happy balentine’s day,” he said, handing her a drawing.

“Thank you baby!” April smiled wide, holding out the folded construction paper card in front of her.

“It’s a monster,” Jack said proudly, pointing to the crayon-drawn images. “He’s eating all the balentine candy, because you don’t like them.”

“Did you draw this all by yourself?” April pulled their son into her lap and held the card up for Andy to see.

“Uh-huh,” Jack nodded.

“I love it,” she kissed his head. “Thank you.”

“Daddy,” Jack turned to his father. “You like it too?”

“Yeah,” Andy replied, still a little dazed from the energetic interruption. “Awesome job, buddy!”

“Can I be your balentine, Mommy?”

“You absolutely can, baby,” April pulled him into a tight hug. “Is your sister awake yet?”

“No,” Jack shook his head.

“Okay, why don’t you go downstairs. I’ll be down in a minute, and we’ll make the best monster pancakes ever, okay?”

“Okay!” Jack climbed back over his father and hopped off the bed, running out the door quickly. Once he was out of sight, April turned to her husband and laughed.

“We need to get a lock for this door,” Andy muttered, scratching his neck.

“Yeah, we probably should,” April nodded. “C’mon, I promised him pancakes.”

“Babe,” Andy sat up a bit, kissing up her neck. For a minute, she melted into his arms once more.

“To be continued,” she grinned, pulling away from Andy with one more kiss—and God, what she wouldn’t give to be able to stay—and slowly climbed out of bed. “The kids are waiting.”

Andy sighed heavily, falling back against the pillow. “You’re right, but…damn it.”

“Don’t worry,” April warned him. “Janet Snakehole has big plans for Burt Macklin tonight. You know, to not celebrate Valentine’s Day.”

“Oh yeah?” Andy perked up immediately, grabbing his shirt from the floor beside the bed.

“Uh-huh,” April took his hand and pulled him toward the door. “Macklin won’t be disappointed.”

“Babe,” Andy smiled wide. “I can’t wait—“

Their daughter’s cries rang out from the nursery, interrupting them once again. Andy pulled away, a defeated grin on his face.

“Tonight,” April reminded him, with one more quick kiss.

“Tonight,” he repeated, turning to Allie’s room.

April smiled to herself as she headed downstairs to start breakfast. She loved hating this stupid holiday.

Chapter Text

November 2024

April was initially curious when Andy had bolted back out the door mere minutes after they’d arrived home after Jack’s one year doctor’s check up. When she’d asked him where he was going, he promised he’d be right back. She didn’t bother to question him…he looked way too excited, so she knew it had to be something good.

Now, as she finished giving Jack his lunch, she heard the front door close again and Andy’s heavy footsteps as he hurried back into the kitchen.

“Care to explain?” she said, wiping their son’s face clean with a towel.

“Dada,” Jack smiled at his father, as Andy cleared a space on the counter and took out three spoons.

“Hey Buddy,” Andy kissed his son’s mess of dark hair, already as black as his mother’s. Out of the shopping bag, he pulled three small pints of ice cream: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

“Andy, what’s this?” April asked.

“I’ve been waiting for Jack’s doctor to give us the okay for months,” Andy said proudly, uncapping each of the pints and taking out the whipped cream. “She said Jack couldn’t have any diary until he turned one year old.”

“Andy, I just gave him the healthiest lunch ever,” April pointed out. “Now you want to stuff him full of ice cream?” She never cared much for worrying about how healthy their meals were, at least when it came to her and Andy. Not that they only ate junk, per se, but she took extra care in what went into her son’s body above all else.

“I know babe, but I’ve been waiting for this day forever. I’m not gonna give him a lot, just a taste to see which one he likes best.”

April sighed. “I’m not gonna stop you,” she smiled, scooting over as Andy pulled up a chair beside Jack’s high chair. “Go for it.”

“Okay,” Andy grinned, applying a dollop of whipped cream to each pint. “Vanilla first,” he said, spooning some up and holding it out to Jack’s mouth.

Jack stared at his father curiously, blinking rapidly as the frozen treat met his lips.

“It’s cold, sweetheart,” April said gently. “Cold,” she repeated the word again, slowly, trying to get him to understand.

Hesitantly, Jack opened his mouth wide enough for Andy to give him a spoonful. He swallowed it, and no sooner had it gone down that he smiled wide. “More?” he asked.

Andy pumped his fist in the air triumphantly. “He likes it!”

April couldn’t help but laugh. She kissed her husband on the cheek, and pointed to the pint of chocolate. “Try this one next. This one’s Mommy’s favorite,” she looked at Jack.

Like the first time, Andy scooped a bit of chocolate on the tip of the spoon and gave it to Jack. The one-year-old made a face. Obviously, the chocolate wasn’t as sweet as the vanilla.

“No,” Jack shook his head.

“He doesn’t like it,” Andy chuckled. “It’s okay Jack, Daddy doesn’t like chocolate ice cream either.”

“I still say you’re crazy,” April shook her head. “Maybe he’ll like it more when he’s older.”

“Okay, I saved the best for last,” Andy said happily, spooning up some of the strawberry. “This one’s Daddy’s favorite…”

They both watched as Jack tasted the final flavor. He started back at them, his dark eyes darting back and forth between his parents.

“I dunno babe, I think he’s—“

Jack sneezed, and whipped cream flew everywhere. Andy and April were both momentarily stunned, faces and hair flecked with the white, sweet concoction.

“Uh-oh,” Jack squeaked, reaching out for more of the vanilla.

April burst into laughter first, and Andy followed not long after. Safe to say, Jack was definitely a fan of ice cream.

Chapter Text

During the summer, on the rare occasion that April had a weekday off from work, she would spend the entirety of it with her kids.

She missed them terribly when she was working, and even more when she had to go on a week-long business trip. They missed her too, and Andy somehow always managed to keep them from having three consecutive meltdowns over her absence. She hated having to go, but with three energetic kids and one newborn, they had a lot of mouths to feed. The money was good, so she always went into the office with that thought in mind.

On this particularly hot, sunny day, they decided to visit one of the kids’ favorite parks. It was always busy, especially just before or after lunch time. With school out, the place was swarming with children and their caregivers.

April watched with a smile as her three oldest played, while simultaneously checking emails on her phone and nursing Emma beneath the shade of some fancy wrap Leslie had gotten her. Initially April refused to do it in public, but after begrudgingly accepting the gift from Leslie, she realized how easy it was. It also gave her the opportunity to yell at people whenever they made the occasional comment under their breath about how “inappropriate” it was to do in front of people.

She watched the other mothers curiously. There seemed to be a pack of them who met here daily. They all knew each other, and all of them could have cared less where there kids were located, lost in their conversations about nail salons, book clubs, and who recently joined the local country club. April hated them all.

She and Andy certainly weren’t poor. In fact, between April’s new promotion, Andy’s “Johnny Karate Studios” work, and his occasional kid’s birthday gig, they were doing well for themselves. They were fortunate enough to have a nice house, and live in a safe, suburban area. They could feed and clothe their children, and that’s all April cared about. That, and the fact that the bills were paid every month. Sure, Melody and Emma eventually would wear Allie’s hand-me-downs, but that’s the lot you’re often cast as a younger sibling. Naturally, Jack didn’t have the top quality name-brand clothing or sneakers some of the other kids in his class often had, but he never wanted for anything. He was happy. Her girls were happy. That was all that mattered to her and Andy.

So when she overheard these woman talking, worrying about what to wear to the next “Mommy’s Wine Afternoon” at so-and-so’s house that weekend, or how their children won first place at their club’s “Kid’s Golf Championship,” April could only roll her eyes.

They reminded her of the girls she grew up with in her school who never gave her the time of day. The ones who teased her relentlessly and called her names, ultimately causing her to hate her entire high school experience. She only hoped that her children would never have to endure the same misery. It was a thought that often kept her up at night in the form of a panic attack, usually only calmed in the arms of her husband at some ungodly hour in the morning.

“Mommy?” Melody came back to the bench April was sitting at, her dark, curly hair messy and her knees covered in dirt. “Those girls won’t let me play with them,” she pointed over to a little play area beneath one of the slides.

Sure enough, three girls about Allie’s age were grouped, laughing together and making faces at any other kid who tried to approach them. April looked around for their mothers, and wasn’t surprised in the slightest to see that they were the same women who’d had their backs turned to their children since they’d arrived.

“It’s okay baby,” April said soothingly, reaching for the girl’s hand. “You don’t need to play with them, they look boring anyway. Why don’t you play with Jack and Allie?”

The four-year-old shrugged, and slid up on the bench beside her mother. April glanced down and saw that Emma had fallen asleep. Rearranging herself, she placed Emma back in her stroller and pulled Melody onto her lap.

April kissed her cheek. “Let’s just hang out here for a bit. Mommy’s done with work for now.”

Her daughter frowned. “You’re supposed to have a day off today, Mommy,” she pointed out.

“I know, I know,” April said, feeling guilty for bringing her work phone in the first place. “I promise, I’m—“

“DADDY!”

Allie had noticed first, running at full speed toward the area the grass met the mulch of the playground. Andy had arrived, and once he was spotted there was no stopping their children. Melody squirmed off April’s lap and joined her sister in the beeline for their father. Even Jack, who was “too old” for stuff like this, hurried over with a smile on his face.

“Oh no, you got me!” Andy cried, falling on the soft grass as his girls tackled him, giggling all the while. “No, no! Not Allie the tickle monster! She’s the worst!” he laughed, and the kids laughed along with him.

April couldn’t suppress her own joy at his arrival. Even after all these years, seeing him walk into any room made her feel the same giddiness she’d felt since the beginning.

By now, some of the other kids and parents alike had turned their heads at the sound of her family’s voices. There were even a few whispers of “That’s Johnny Karate!” and “No fair, I wish he was my dad!” April couldn’t help but swell with pride.

“Babe!” he called out to her beneath the pile of their kids. “They got me!”

“Oh no!” she yelled, in mock fear.

She watched as the group of mothers eyed her, occasionally darting their eyes toward Andy. Whether they were jealous or annoyed, April didn’t know, or care for that matter. She joined her family and greeted her husband with a kiss, resulting in an immediate “Ewwww,” from her own group of children.

“I finished up work early,” Andy explained, sitting up and holding his two daughters in his lap, one under each huge arm. “I wanted to come hang out with you guys at the park.”

“We’re glad you did, right guys?” April said.

“Yeah!” Jack nodded happily. “Hey Dad, I brought my football. Can you play with me?”

“And me!” Allie said quickly.

“And me too!” Melody added.

“Woah! Slow down guys,” Andy stood, lifting his girls with him. “I’m gonna play with all of you, I promise!”

After another brief kiss from April, he followed Jack’s lead to the grassy field area adjacent to the swings. April took her spot on the bench again, slowly pushing Emma’s stroller back and fourth to calm the squirming infant. The other women were still watching her, and April could only smile.

She had everything she would ever need right here, and she felt like the richest woman alive.

Chapter Text

It started with a cough. At least that’s what Jack remembers in all his four-year-old wisdom. Mommy had been fine one day, and the next, she was coughing and sneezing, and didn’t want to play with him like she usually did. That was the part that made him feel the worst.

Daddy said it would be okay, and that she was just feeling a little sick. Her belly was huge because she was having his new baby brother or sister soon, so she was even more tired because of that. Really, Jack realized, he didn’t like when Mommy was feeling this way.

“I’m fine baby,” she’d said to him, as she rested on the couch one night while he was curled up next to her. He hadn’t let go of her hand for long time while Daddy was busy getting his little sister ready for bed.

“Why are you sill sick?” he had asked her. “You took medicine and saw a doctor. You’re s’posed to feel better.”

“It’s okay,” she’d told him. “Sometimes Mommy feels this way, but I’ll be better soon.”

But she didn’t get better. Instead, she got worse.

 

Daddy was scared, and Jack knew it. No matter how many times his daddy tried to tell him he wasn’t, Jack knew he was lying. Mommy always told him that they were a family, and they should never lie to each other, so he didn’t know why his dad wasn’t telling the truth. He could tell, because his dad wasn’t silly like he usually was. He didn’t play ball with him so much, he didn’t make his pancakes into funny shapes. He spent a lot of time upstairs in his and Mommy’s room, where Mommy had been spending most of her time now.

Jack was scared too, because last time his mommy was sick with a baby in her belly, she went to the hospital, and then the baby was gone. He didn’t want that to happen again.

One night, he climbed out of bed because he couldn’t sleep. Mommy’s coughing kept waking him up, so he tip-toed down the hall to his parents’ room. The door was open a little, and he peeked inside. Mommy was still awake and Daddy was holding her, still looking sad while he kept his arms around her. Mommy just kept coughing, until Daddy had to jump up fast and get her some water.

Jack moved out of the way quickly. He didn’t want his dad to see that he was awake, so he hid behind the door of Mommy’s home office and waited while Daddy got her some water from the bathroom sink.

“Here honey, drink this,” he heard his daddy say.

“Thanks,” his mommy said. Then they started talking about stuff he didn’t understand as he listened.

“I don’t want to go back to the hospital again,” his mommy sounded like she was going to cry. “I want to be home, with you and the kids—“

“Babe, I know,” his daddy said. “I’m just wondering if it would be better for you than staying here. They have all that stuff there to make you better—“

Then his sneeze gave him away. His dad sat up, and looked over to where Jack was hiding. Jack heard large footsteps coming closer, and then a shadow was blocking the light from his parents’ room.

“What’re you doing out of bed, buddy?” his daddy asked him, standing big and tall in the door.

“I can’t sleep,” Jack told him. “Mommy’s coughing…”

“I know,” his dad did that thing where he sounded like he was breathing out really slowly, and rubbed his fingers on his forehead like when he was thinking. “C’mon, I’ll tuck you back in.”

Jack didn’t want to go back to bed, though. He wanted Mommy.

“Can I stay up with you?”

“No,” his daddy shook his head. “Sorry Jack, you need to go back to bed.”

 

When Auntie Leslie came to visit for a few days, he knew things were even worse.

Allie had been crying all day because she wanted Mommy and Daddy. Jack tried to be brave for her like his daddy told him to, but it was no good. No matter how many times Auntie Leslie told her that their mommy needed to rest so she could feel better again, Allie just cried harder.

Jack wanted to cry too, but he didn’t. And he didn’t tell anyone, either.

“I’m so sorry sweetheart,” Auntie Leslie said, holding Allie’s squirming arm. “Mommy needs to be alone upstairs.”

“No!” his baby sister cried. “Want Mama!”

“Why can’t we see Mommy?” Jack asked, because he needed to know. It didn't seem right.

“She’s very sick, and her doctor said she might get you both sick too,” Auntie Leslie explained. “She just needs another day or two.”

“Why does Daddy get to see her?” he asked. It wasn’t fair that Daddy got to see Mommy and he couldn’t.

“Because,” his auntie stopped, and she looked like she was thinking. “Daddy needs to take care of Mommy, and I’m here to help take care of you.”

Jack didn’t want to hurt his Auntie Leslie’s feelings, but he really wanted to tell her that he didn’t want her right now.

“Daddy!” Allie yelled, and sure enough, their daddy was coming downstairs.

Jack saw that he looked very tired, and he wasn't smiling big like he always did. He did smile when he saw them though, and that helped make Jack’s belly stop hurting so much.

“Hey munchkins,” their daddy said, kneeling on the ground and opening his arms wide.

Allie ran to him, still crying, and hid her face in his shirt. Jack walked over, but hugged his daddy tightly anyway. Their dad’s strong arms always made him feel better.

“Can we please see Mommy?” he asked, when Daddy finally let them go.

Daddy’s face looked sad again. “Right now Mommy’s sleeping, buddy,” he said. “She needs to rest so she and the baby can feel better.” Allie still held onto him, making those sniffing sounds she made whenever she was crying. Daddy kissed the tip of her nose, and she gave a tiny giggle, even though she still had tears.

“I miss her though,” Jack said.

“I know,” their dad said. “I know you do. I promise you can see her soon.”

 

The next day, Jack nearly cheered when his daddy said they could see Mommy. There were rules though, and Jack didn’t want to break any of them. He didn’t want his mommy to get even more sick, so he listened very carefully.

“I know how much you want to hug and kiss Mommy,” Daddy said. “I know how much you guys miss her. But we have to let her rest, okay? She’s still sick, but the doctor said you can come see her now. You can’t jump all over her, because we don’t want to hurt her or the baby.”

“Okay,” Jack said, holding Allie’s hand outside the door of the room.

“Okay,” their daddy smiled. He pushed open the door and Jack followed him, tugging Allie along.

Mommy was in bed, resting on some pillows. She looked very tired, but when she saw them, she smiled big. Jack had said he wasn’t gong to cry at all, but he couldn’t help it. As soon as he saw his mom, he burst into tears and hurried forward.

“Hey,” she said, and her voice didn’t sound at all like how his mommy’s voice was supposed to. It sounded like she needed to take a drink of water really bad. “Hey, don’t cry baby, it’s okay…it’s okay…I’m fine.”

Allie was crying too, trying to climb up on the bed next to her. Jack knew he promised his dad that he wouldn’t jump on her, but he couldn’t help it when he climbed up and curled up next to her.

“Hey,” she whispered, and Jack felt her hand brushing the top of his head. “Jack, Mommy’s gonna be fine, okay? The baby too, we’re both fine. I’ll be all better in a couple of days, I promise. I missed you guys so much…”

Even Daddy looked like he was going to cry, Jack noticed. He helped Allie climb up, and he watched Jack and Allie hugging their mommy, and his eyes got all wet like Jack’s had a few minutes ago. Mommy looked up and whispered something to their daddy, and he just nodded and smiled.

“You guys want to stay here with me for the rest of the day?” she asked, hugging them both close to her chest.

“Yes,” Jack sniffed, rubbing his wet eyes.

“Yeah,” Allie squeaked on Mommy’s other side.

“Okay, that’s exactly what we’re gonna do,” Mommy said.

“Daddy too?”

“Definitely,” his mommy nodded.

“Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” his daddy said, climbing up beside Jack and scooting close.

Jack felt really sleepy then, and wrapped one arm around his mommy’s big belly. He rested his head against her side and yawned. His little sister was already half asleep, and seeing her like that and being with his mom again made him realize just how tired he was.

His belly wasn't hurting anymore, and Mommy and Daddy’s bed was always so soft…

“You gonna be here when I wake up, Mommy?” he asked, as the room around him got all fuzzy and his eyes felt heavy.

“Of course I will,” she laughed. “Are you gonna be here when I wake up?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Awesome,” she kissed his head, and Jack hadn’t felt that happy in a long, long time.

Chapter Text

Peeling the covers off herself at four in the morning to get up wasn’t something April ever wanted to do. Leaving the warmth of her husband’s arm—always securely tucked over her side—was definitely the worst. She was cold, she was groggy, she was exhausted beyond belief. She didn’t know why she agreed to do this.

Then, like always, seeing her squirming six-month-old smile in greeting when she walked into the nursery, chubby legs and arms flailing in his own little way to say hello, reminded her exactly why she agreed to this. Just like that, it didn’t matter how tired she was, or that she had to get up to get ready for work in another two hours. Her son needed her, and she would do absolutely anything for him.

In truth, he’d simply flipped over in his sleep. Jack was just beginning to roll over, and hadn’t yet totally mastered rolling back over when he undoubtably flipped onto his stomach. His pacifier was off to the corner of the crib mattress, and his whining because of his situation was what had awoken her in the first place.

“Hey baby,” she smiled at him, reaching for the soother and popping it back into his mouth. She carefully turned him back onto his back and smiled as his toothless, pink gummed mouth split into a grin that reminded her eerily of his father’s. “Mama’s gotta get some sleep, sweetheart.”

Jack giggled at her, waving his arms triumphantly in his readjusted position. His dark eyes never left hers. She’d never admit it to anyone, but she could stare at him for hours and she’d be the happiest person alive. So, instead of leaving him to go back to sleep, she picked him up and carried him back to her bed.

Back when she was pregnant, friends and acquaintances alike would often tell her how having a baby changes you. How life as you know it stops, and suddenly you are living entirely for that new little being you created. She didn’t really believe them, because she didn’t really want her life to change. She wanted them to remain April and Andy, the one difference now being that they had a kid. They were still gonna be awesome and amazing, and totally not lame adults.

The scary thing was, as soon as Jack was placed on her chest that late, chilly October night, she realized one thing: every single one of them was right.

“I am different now,” she’d told Leslie and the she-beast Perkins when they’d both come to visit her and Andy and Jack a couple of months back. “So what?”

Both women had laughed and joked about the things April had said in the past, pointing out how much she loved her son like it was some bet they had going. Of course it was nothing of the sort. The both of them were extremely happy for her, and for Andy, to the point where Leslie burst into happy tears when she accidentally walked in on April breastfeeding her son.

She was different, and it was the best.

She climbed into bed with Jack clinging to her chest, his little hand resting against her neck as his eyes already began to close. The shuffling around seemed to have woken Andy, because she could feel his arm moving beneath the blanket, reaching for her. Andy had changed too, but he was always meant to be a father. His love for life grew and multiplied more than she ever could have imagined. He was even more attentive, more caring (if that was possible), and more protective than ever. He wasn’t nearly as heavy a sleeper these days. The slightest noise or change caused him to wake up and check on his wife and son, and he wouldn’t fall back to sleep until he knew they were both okay.

“Honey?” his scratchy voice called out to her as he blinked back sleep. “You…um…okay?” She could hear his yawn.

“Mmhm,” she said, resting back against the pillow with Jack across her chest. “Jack decided to come visit us.”

“Oh,” Andy yawned again. “Awesome…I love when the little guy comes to sleep with us.”

“Yeah,” April whispered, kissing Jack’s dark, silky soft head of hair. “Me too.”

Chapter Text

“Babe, when I went to pick up Melody today, Katie’s mom asked me if I could help out with her daughter’s birthday party next Thursday.”

April looked up from her work, her glasses perched on the tip of her nose as her fingers were poised above her laptop, mid-sentence of some boring e-mail she was writing.

“Like with Johnny Karate stuff?” she asked.

“No,” Andy shook his head as he cleared the table after dinner, scraping uneaten bits of food off the kids' plates into the trash, so used to this routine by now he could do it in his sleep. “Like, just to help set up and stuff, and maybe help out with the kids. She said I’m the only dad who’s tall enough to hang decorations and stuff like that,” he shrugged.

“Uh-huh,” April crossed her arms. “Yeah, I’m sure that’s all it is. It’s not like she has a husband to do that…or, y’know, chairs to stand on,” she rolled her eyes. “And who the hell has a kid’s party on a Thursday afternoon?”

“Yeah,” Andy sighed. “I dunno… She said it would be easier because all the kids can come over after school for a couple of hours.”

“That sounds boring.”

“I know,” Andy sat beside her at the little kitchen table, bringing a beer for each of them. “I wasn’t going to, but when Melody heard her friend’s mom ask, she got all excited at the idea of me being there. You know how shy she can be, especially if it’s a drop-off party. If it means she’ll have fun, then maybe it’s for the best?”

April smiled. Andy was always thinking of their children first.

“Yeah,” she said softly. “I think Melody would like that.”

“Awesome,” he leaned in and kissed her cheek. “You’re the best.”

Of course April didn’t like it when Andy was ogled by the other school moms when he went to pick up or drop off their children, or the countless other times they flirted with him when he was one of the many parent chaperones at a field trip or during a kid’s birthday party. Kids flocked to him, and rightly so. He was amazing. He was born to be a dad. He was Johnny Karate for God’s sake.

This was the lot she was cast as his wife, because that was the deal they’d made. Since their fourth was born, he’d had to cut back on some of his studio work, and that was fine. April was going to be the primary worker of the two of them, while Andy was part stay-at-home dad and part whatever else he could be. Not to mention, April hated most of the other school moms and despised any time she had to interact with them. It worked out.

It worked out, because every single day, she got to come home to him. Every single night, she fell asleep in his arms, the stresses of the day fading away with that first touch. Every single morning, his face would still light up when she woke next to him. Four kids and many years later, he still loved her just as much. Nothing had changed, and nothing would ever change.

“No, you are,” she said, leaning into him. “Really Andy…you’re literally the best dad around.”

“Well, then we can both be pretty awesome,” he suggested.

“Sounds good, babe,” she nodded, closing her laptop and climbing into his lap.

They sat there, sipping their beers and listening to the sounds of the TV faint in the living room, as the kids slept upstairs.

“Hey,” Andy said suddenly, and April lifted her head off his shoulder to look at him. “You don’t think she was asking me because she’s got a crush on me or something, do you?” he asked, like he’d only just figured it out. “Because if so, that’s kinda not cool…”

“Andy,” April laughed. “I’m sure that’s exactly what it is. But don’t worry. I think she know’s I’ll come find her if she tries anything.”

“Aww,” Andy laughed as he kissed her. “I love it when you get all creepy, babe.”

Chapter Text

“Andy—“

April could barely get any words out. She was wrapped tightly in her husband’s embrace, his face tucked deep into her neck as he held her. He barely spoke since he’d burst into her office at the Foundation, making a loud, singular sobbing sound before enveloping her in his body.

“Dude, what’s wrong with you?” she asked, pushing against him to break free for probably the first time ever. “You can’t just barge in while I’m working, my boss might see—“

“You’re okay,” he croaked out, refusing to let go.

“Of course I’m okay,” she said, confused. “Babe, why wouldn’t I be? What’s going on?”

“Is the baby okay?” he asked, resting his hand on her stomach.

“Andy,” she held tight to his shoulders and made him look up at her. “What the hell is going on with you?”

Andy took a deep breath. “I was on my way to meet you for lunch and there’s something going on right outside the building,” he stammered. “There are ambulances and police men everywhere, and I dunno…my first thought was that something happened to you.”

April put the pieces together immediately. “There was an accident right outside earlier,” she said softly. “We saw it from the window.”

“Why weren’t you answering your phone?” he asked, staring into her eyes like he was afraid she would disappear if he looked away. “You…it rang and rang, and when I called your office, no one answered.”

“Babe, it’s okay,” she kissed him softly, if only to calm him down. “I’m so sorry. My phone’s dead and I went to charge it, but the car accident took down a pole, and the power’s out for my building. I can’t even charge my stupid phone until they get it fixed. They’re working on it right now. I should’ve found another way to contact you, but there’s been so much commotion, and I’ve been in meetings all day…” she sighed.

Andy seemed to be calming down. April leaned against his chest, or at least as far as her stomach would allow, and reached her arms around his back to pull him closer. The past few weeks had been almost as hard on him as they’d been on her. She was about to enter her third trimester, and something had set Andy off. He was constantly worrying about her and their baby, to the point where she knew he wasn’t getting enough sleep.

“You don’t…you have no idea how scared I was,” he said slowly. “For a minute…for literally a minute, until I came up here, I thought…I thought you were dead.”

April understood completely. She’d had those dreams before.

“I’m not. I’m fine, the baby’s fine.”

Andy nodded and held her tighter. He didn’t speak again for a few minutes after that, and April just let him hold her close. After all, that’s what he always did for her when the situation was reversed.

“Hey,” she said after a few minutes. “Listen, um, let’s take the rest of the day off. My feet are killing me and this massive spawn of yours has been kicking the shit out of my insides all day.”

That idea seemed to bring Andy out of his trance, and he glanced down at her stomach before nodding swiftly.

“I love you so much,” he said, and in that moment April knew his admission of love was entirely serious. Not that it ever wasn’t, but…

“I know,” she took his hand. “I love you too.”

Chapter Text

“I swear, I’m gonna strangle her Andy…”

“Sweetheart, take a deep breath, okay?” Andy said slowly. Normally he’d try to reach out and do something soothing, like put his hands on her shoulders or something husbandly like that…but right now, his arms were occupied with their beautiful baby boy, and Andy simply couldn’t look away.

“…thinks she can tell me how to take care of my kid—“

“She’s a nurse though,” Andy said, his eyes never leaving Jack’s. “She’s done this a billion times, I bet, and she’s seen it all.“

April spun on the spot, her hospital gown flailing as she stared daggers at her husband. “Are you taking her side?” She practically breathed fire as she spoke.

“No!” he said, cradling the baby closer to his chest as though she might jump at them. “Babe, I’m just saying…she said it was normal for him to be a little fussy when you first try the whole breastfeeding thing. It’s not you.”

“‘There’s nothing wrong with giving him a bottle…’” April mimicked the older nurse, who quite honestly, had done nothing wrong at all. She was only trying to help. But if there was one thing Andy knew about his wife, it was just to let her ride this type of anger out. The doctor said her hormones were still going to be out of whack, anyway. “Who does she think she is? My body was made for this, I think I can handle it.”

“Honey, I think Jack wants to eat—“

“—stupid hospital…we never should have come here. Why didn’t I realize it? This is where stupid Ann used to work, so of course it sucks—“

“April…”

“WHAT?”

“Jack wants his mama,” Andy said, a large smile on his face as the little bundle of baby squirmed in his arms and continuously stuck out his tongue. “He’s doing that tongue thing again. It means he’s hungry.”

April’s expression softened in a millisecond when she looked at their son. Carefully, she took him from Andy and seated herself on the hospital bed. Jack didn’t seem to have any nursing issues at the moment, and Andy watched the relief wash over her.

“Andy,” she whispered. “He’s eating. See? That dumb nurse didn’t know what she was talking about.”

“I know sweetheart,” he said, kissing her head as he watched. “Y’know…” he laughed softly.

“What?”

“Sometimes you’re scary when you get mad, April…but right now, you’re so damn cute,” he shrugged.

“I’m not cute,” she leaned into him. “I’m terrifying, okay?”

“Sure honey,” he nodded, lovingly watching the two most important things to him in the world. “Whatever you say.”

Chapter Text

“Andy, we need to turn the car around…this was a bad idea.”

“Honey!”

“No, really, this isn’t gonna work.”

“They’re your parents!”

“They’re gonna make a big deal about it, or worse, hug me.”

Andy shook his head. He knew how his wife felt about going to visit her parents, which ranged from indifference to mild amusement. This particular visit was more on the anxious end of things.

“Babe, listen,” he said, reaching for her hand as he turned onto the street where her parents still lived. “They’re the last people to know about this. Don’t you think that might make them feel bad enough? If you don’t tell them in person, I think it’ll break their hearts.”

April glanced at him, her free hand automatically going to her stomach where the smallest bump pushed her shirt out, finally starting to show.

“I know,” she sighed. “It’s just…”

“I know, babe,” Andy kissed her hand. “I’ll be right by your side the whole time.”

 

“Zuzu!” Rita Ludgate pulled her daughter into a hug when she opened the door to find the two of them there. April took it in stride, throwing Andy a sideways glance that spoke volumes about her level of comfort. Andy knew to step in when she gave him that look. “What a nice surprise! What on earth are you two doing here?"

“Hey mom,” Andy grinned, stepping forward to hug his mother-in-law (who insisted he call her ‘mom’ since he married April all those years ago) while April slunk away to the side. “We’re in Pawnee for the weekend and we wanted to drop by.”

“Is that Zuzu?”

Andy heard April’s father, Larry Ludgate, off in the background.

“Yes, she and Andy decided to surprise us!” Rita said. “Come in, for goodness sake!”

Andy placed a reassuring hand on his wife’s back as she followed her mother through the door.

 

“So,” Rita placed a tray of snacks on the coffee table as they all sat in the living room. Even Natalie had appeared from upstairs somewhere, quietly joining them but saying nothing. “Tell us how everything’s going! We’ve been wondering when you two kids would come visit us!”

April huddled against her husband on the smaller couch, resting her head against his chest. She glanced up at Andy, and he took his cue.

“Everything’s great!” he said, honestly. Because it was. Because his life as he knew it was amazing, and it was only going to get better. “We’re doing awesome. April’s kicking ass—sorry—“ he glanced at his in-laws sheepishly, “—kicking butt at her job. And I’m still doing Johnny Karate shows here and there.”

“That’s wonderful,” Larry beamed.

“Also,” Andy continued, squeezing April’s hand slowly. “We’ve got something pretty awesome to share with you guys…”

April’s parents exchanged curious looks.

“You wanna tell them?” Andy whispered.

April sighed. She wished Andy would just do it, but then again, he already told his own mother… She sat up a little and tried her best to smile.

“We’re, um…”

Rita and Larry stared at her excitedly. She could tell they already had an idea where this was heading. Natalie was perched on the edge of her chair, trying not to look interested but failing.

“We’re pregnant, or whatever…”

Their shouts of happiness were enough to drown out April’s groan as her parents hurried forward to squeeze both her and Andy in a tight embrace.

“Zuzu!” Rita cried, wiping her eyes on her sleeve. “This is the best news we’ve ever gotten!”

Larry Ludgate must have shaken Andy’s hand for nearly a minute straight, congratulating him on his upcoming journey into fatherhood.

“You’re pregnant?” Natalie’s eyes were wide. “So I’m gonna be an aunt? Gross.”

In the middle of it all, April felt a bit overwhelmed. She didn’t know how to react, so instinctively, she felt around for Andy’s hand. Once she felt him holding on, only then could she calm down a bit.

“When are you due, honey?” Rita asked, once they were finally sitting down again.

“November,” April replied, still trying to force that smile.

“How are you feeling?”

“Good.”

About a dozen other questions followed, and April could feel herself starting to shut down. Andy knew to take over at just the right time.

“She’s been great,” he said, sitting forward at once. “Doctor said she’s super healthy, and so is the baby.”

“That’s wonderful,” Larry said. “This calls for a toast.” He disappeared into the kitchen and they could hear him rummaging around, before he arrived with five glasses, a bottle of champagne, and some ginger ale for April. “To our beautiful daughter, her wonderful husband, and our grandchild to be!”

 

“They were really happy, you know,” Andy said, once the both of them were driving back to the little cabin in the woods. “Even Natalie seemed excited.”

“I know,” April said, watching the trees pass.

“It was nice to tell them in person, don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” she sighed. “You were right, okay?”

“Honey,” he smiled. “I know you don’t have the best relationship with your mom and dad, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them so happy. You did that for them, and they love you.”

“Ugh,” she reached for his hand, that ever-present anchor to safety. “You’re who I love. You, and this little demon baby.”

“Aww,” Andy beamed at her. “You love our baby.”

“Dude, of course I do,” she rolled her eyes. “I’m not that much of a monster…”

“I know, sweetheart.”

“I just…I didn’t do this for anyone else, okay? I did this because I wanted a baby with you. I don’t care about telling a million people.”

“April, I know,” he said again. “Believe me, I know. I know you. You wouldn’t do anything you didn’t want to.”

“Andy?” she said, her voice soft.

“Hmm?”

“I am glad my parents are happy. And I’m glad we got to tell them in person.”

She knew he understood. His smile was all the confirmation she needed.

Chapter Text

On one of those very rare occasions when April would arrive home early from work, she tried to get as much housework done as possible. Although she refused to call it such, because housework was boring and chores were for loser old people, which she most certainly was not.

Yes, three out of her four children were in their teens, but she wasn’t old. Neither was Andy. They were going to be young forever.

The sound of the front door opening caught her attention, followed closely by Andy’s booming laugh and the lighter chuckles of her sixteen year old daughter Allie and her friend. He’d picked them up after school where they’d been working on some sort of history project.

“Honey?” he called.

“Living room,” April answered.

He greeted her with a kiss, as though he hadn’t just left her to go pick them up not a half hour ago. Allie scoffed, finally at the age where she no longer found their physical affections gross, but rather embarrassing. Poor Jack still hadn’t gotten over the time they were reprimanded by a security guard for a heavy make-out session in the parking lot of the school, waiting for him after football practice.

“Mom, we’re gonna work on our project a bit more in my room,” Allie said, slinging her backpack over her shoulder.

“No problem,” April said, as Andy disappeared into the kitchen.

Allie’s friend watched Andy go, and April couldn’t help but overhear her comment…

“Your dad’s hot,” she whispered, grabbing Allie gently by the wrist. “Like, he’s totally one of those d—“

“Don’t say it,” Allie interrupted, horrified. “Tessa, he’s my dad! Gross!”

April bit back her laughter as both girls hurried up the stairs, just in time for Andy to emerge from the kitchen with a freshly baked cookie in his hands.

Okay, so April liked to bake. That still didn’t make her old.

“Mmm,” Andy groaned appreciatively. “Babe, you’re so good at cookies…”

“Andy,” she rolled her lips. “Our daughter’s friend thinks you’re hot.”

He nearly choked on the piece he was chewing. “What?”

“I just heard her with my own ears,” April shrugged. “Allie was horrified.”

“Well,” he sighed. “Guess I’m still pretty good looking for an old dude.”

“You’re not old,” April nudged him.

“I’ve got grey in my hair, though,” he chuckled, pulling his wife closer.

“Yeah, and so do I,” she rolled her eyes.

“Admit it, I’ve still got it,” he wiggled his eyebrows at her, and she shoved him playfully.

“Okay,” she said. “Date night tonight. I wanna see which one of us can get the most free drinks, just like we used to. That ought to prove we’ve both still got it.”

“Is that a challenge, Mrs. Ludgate-Dwyer?”

“Uh-huh,” she leaned up on her toes to kiss him, just as she heard a disapproving tut from the hallway.

“Seriously,” Allie shook her head. “Can you guys just please keep your hands off each other for like, a minute? God.” She walked past them into the kitchen to get snacks, refusing to meet their eyes.

April smirked, before bursting into quiet laughter. Andy followed a second later. Honestly, it was hard not to be all over her husband. He was hot, he always would be, and he was all hers. No matter how old they got, he was still the same guy she fell in love with…and every single day was amazing.

Chapter Text

The animal shelter had just opened when their car pulled into the lot. Despite warnings from their parents, all three of the Ludgate-Dwyer children nearly barreled out of the vehicle before either April or Andy had unclasped their seat belts, eager to find a new family member.

“You’re sure you wanna do this?” Andy asked his wife one last time. “I’m cool if you’re cool, babe. But we’re gonna have a new baby in a couple months and now a new dog—“

“I promised them, Andy,” April said seriously, running her hand over her large stomach. “I can’t go back on it. Plus, I think a new dog will be good for the kids.”

“Okay,” he smiled and leaned forward to kiss her cheek, while Melody pulled impatiently at her father’s legs. “Let’s go, munchkins!” he grasped her tiny hand followed Jack and Allie.

Their children led the way down the cages, passing the cats that were staring at them from against the wall, tails swaying back and forth curiously. According to the employee at the front desk, the dogs were kept in the back.

“Remember,” April said for the second time that day. “We have to all agree on our new family member, okay? This is a family dog, so we all have to like him or her.”

“Right Mommy,” Allie said, checking out the dogs one after the other, while Jack nodded his head silently.

There were about a dozen there, an informational sheet hanging from each kennel door with a brief history on the dog.

“Hmm,” four year old Melody went from kennel to kennel, and although she couldn’t read, peered at the pieces of paper with interest. “What does this one say, Daddy?” She stood in front of a large doberman, who lifted his head and sniffed her hand. She pulled it back, giggling.

“His name is Stone,” Andy read off the sheet. “He's five years old…energetic…not good with children,” he read, before glancing at Melody and quickly pulling her away from the cage.

“He won’t bite,” the employee said, emerging from the front area and startling them all. “It just means he’s too rambunctious for a home with younger kids.”

“Oh,” Andy sighed in relief.

“Do you have any puppies?” Allie asked.

“Afraid not,” the man replied. “We don’t get many puppies in here…mostly stray or abandoned dogs, or ones that need to be re-homed.”

April placed a gentle hand on her daughter’s back. “Remember what we talked about, baby? We want to give a grown up dog a home, okay? That’s what mommy and daddy did with Champion.”

“I miss Champion,” Jack muttered sadly. “Are there any three-legged dogs here?” he looked at the man hopefully.

“No,” the employee replied, staring at their son like he had two heads. “Haven’t ever seen one of those…”

Jack scoffed, sounding much like his mother. “Well, they're real. We had the best one ever until he got too old…”

“Hey,” Melody was down at the end of the row, staring into one of the kennels with a smile on her face. “Look at this one! He's all furry!”

April joined her daughter. Behind the door, staring up at them with two bright, blue eyes was a black and white Siberian husky. Melody giggled as it licked at her hand from between the metal.

“Wow sweetheart,” Andy, Jack and Allie joined them. “Pretty dog, huh?”

The Siberian panted, its pink tongue bobbing up and down as it stared.

“He’s beautiful,” Melody whispered, her dark eyes wide.

“He's new too,” the man told them. “Just came in last week. Apparently he was more work than his previous owners imagined. Huskies aren't easy for first time dog owners…this one’s only a year old.”

“How are they with kids?” Andy asked.

“Great with kids,” the man replied. “The more kids, the better. They're just very energetic and require a lot of attention.”

“Can we get him Mom?” Jack asked eagerly, sticking a hand though he bars. “Please?”

“Yeah, pretty please?” Allie and Melody echoed.

April looked over at Andy, who smiled and shrugged. Then she turned back to her children.

“He’s not quite as old as some of the other dogs in here,” she said softly. “I was hoping we could adopt a little older,” she rolled her lips thoughtfully.

“I know honey,” Andy said, standing beside her. “The kids really seem to love him, though…and to be abandoned by your first family because all you wanted to do was play all the time? That totally sucks.”

April looked from her husband to her children. “You guys promise you're all gonna help with him?”

“Yes!” the three of them said in unison.

April thought about it. Soon to be four kids, one new puppy, and a husband who often acted like both…what could possibly go wrong?

She sighed. “Okay.”

The cheers that erupted from her kids and her husband combined was loud enough to make their new addition howl happily from behind his kennel door.

 

“So what do we name him?” Andy asked, as their little-big family drove home, their new dog secure in his crate in the second row of seats.

“He's a snow dog,” Allie said. “That's what that guy said.”

“How about a snow name?” Jack suggested.

“Snowcone!” Melody shouted suddenly, giggling a bit.

“Snowcone?” April asked, smiling wide.

“Yes!” Melody said. “Daddy, you love snow cones.”

“I do, angel,” Andy nodded. “I think that's an awesome name. What do you guys think?”

“It's good,” Jack said.

“Yes!” Allie clapped.

“It's settled?” April said. “Snowcone?”

“Yes!” All three kids cheered at once, while their father pumped his fist in the air.

“Okay then,” April peered at the little faces the back seat, where her children beamed up at her, smiling like this was the best day of their lives.

Yes, they made the right decision for sure.

Chapter Text

April’s hysterical phone call rattled Andy to his core. It had been a perfectly normal afternoon up until that point. He was watching cartoons with his eight-month-old, the little girl nearly asleep on his chest as they snuggled on the couch. He'd just finished a pretty decent lunch he was proud to say he cooked up on his own. All was going great, and then his cell phone had to ring.

Melody must have sensed the fear in her father’s voice, because she started to whine in his arms.

“Honey,” he said, pacing the living room frustratedly. “Slow down, what’s wrong?”

“It’s Allie,” April sounded like she was in tears. “She had an allergic reaction to something at school and she couldn’t breathe, and they had to rush her to the children’s hospital—I’m on my way—Andy, I’m about to lose it right now—“

“Baby, it’s okay,” he said firmly. “It’s going to be okay, I promise. I’m getting ready right now and I’ll meet you there.”

He put Melody down, safe in her play pen, while he scrambled to get ready. April was too scared to hang up, so he balanced the phone on his shoulder as he moved.

“Andy,” and there was real fear in her voice now. "Our baby girl's probably terrified and I’m not there—“

“It’s going to be fine, I promise—“

“Who’s with her right now?” April wailed on the other end. “Who’s gonna wait with her? She’s only three years old!”

“April,” Andy paused in his tracks. “Where are you right now?”

“Speeding to the damn hospital,” she said, her voice shaking.

“I need you to calm down,” he said, slowly and clearly. “I need you to take a breath. I’m going to get my sneakers on, I’m going to drop Melody off next door, and I’m going to meet you there. All right?”

He heard April take a shaky gulp of air. “Y-yes,” she said.

“Okay.”

 

During times like these, Andy was grateful for the neighbors they had. Next door to them was an elderly couple who adored the kids, and they never hesitated to do a last-minute babysitting job. They were both retired, and they had a ton of grandkids who left piles of toys there. Safe to say the Ludgate-Dwyer children usually felt right at home, so long as their parents were there too. He’d have to chance it and hope that Melody’s developing nervousness around anyone but him and April would hold off for the time being.

He’d called them as soon as he hung up with April, and less than ten minutes later Andy kissed Melody goodbye and sped toward the hospital. Jack was safe at school—he’d have to deal with that later—so right now, his priorities were Allie and his frantic wife.

April was waiting for him in the emergency room, standing and running to him as soon as he walked through the automatic doors. Tears stained her cheeks, her face red from crying.

“Shh,” he hugged her to him tightly, planting kisses on her face and the top of her head. “Babe, it’s okay. I’m here, and we’re gonna be fine. Everything will be fine,” he whispered. “Where’s our baby girl?”

“She’s with the doctor,” April muttered, still not letting go of his jacket. “Nobody is being any help!” she glared at the receptionist, raising her voice in the process. “They told me to wait out here—“

“Excuse me,” Andy walked up the receptionist and knocked on the counter with his fist to get her attention.

“Can I help you?” a young woman asked.

“We need to see our daughter,” he said simply. “Alexandra Ludgate-Dwyer…she was brought in from her school in an ambulance.”

“She’s with the doctor right now,” the woman said, checking her information. “As soon as he finishes checking her over, I’ll send someone for you—“

“No, we need to see her now,” Andy interrupted, his voice changing over to that way he only got when he was being totally and completely serious about something. “She’s three years old and alone. We’re not waiting. We’re her parents and we want to see her.”

“Okay…” the woman picked up her phone and dialed a number. “Wait here for one more second, I’ll let them know you’re coming—“

“C’mon babe,” he said, reaching for April’s hand. She walked over quickly, wiping her eyes with her palms.

 

When she saw her parents, Allie burst into fresh tears. She sat up, tiny in the large bed and baggy hospital gown, and reached for her mother. April swooped in, pushing past the doctor checking her heartbeat and cradled her daughter in her arms, whispering reassurances to her that Andy couldn’t even hear.

Andy felt a wave of relief at the sight of his baby wide awake, although she was covered in red blotches that left her skin looking like a patchwork quilt.

“It’s okay baby,” he joined the two of them, wrapping big arms around the both of them while Allie quietly cried and April took deep, steadying breaths. “Mommy and Daddy are here, okay?”

The doctor introduced himself, asking them to take a seat. April opted for staying in the hospital bed with her daughter, never once letting go of her while Allie held onto her mother tightly. Andy stood protectively next to them, leaning against the bedrail.

“Did you have any idea your daughter was allergic to fish?”

"How would we?” Andy asked. “She’s never had fish before.”

“Well, according to the teacher who called the ambulance, she was sitting next to another child who was eating fish sticks in his lunch box. Supposedly she thought they were chicken nuggets and asked to try one. She broke out in hives, her mouth and cheeks got swollen, and she was having a hard time trying to catch her breath, so they dialed 9-1-1 immediately.”

“What happened when she got here?” Andy asked, glancing over at his daughter. She was staring at him with sad, green eyes, her little lip still trembling. It hurt beyond words to see his baby so scared.

“We gave her an epipen, and the swelling went down immediately and she started breathing regularly again. We’re gonna do a couple of tests and then she can go home in a couple of hours.”

“What are the tests for?” April asked.

“Just to check for other allergies. We’ll have those results for you in a day or so. I’ll leave you three alone for a little while. Call if you need anything.”

“Thank you,” Andy sighed. The doctor left the room, and Andy turned to his girls with relief on his face.

“Daddy,” Allie peeled herself away from her mother to reach her little arms for him, and he scooped her up immediately, kissing her nose and her cheeks like she loved, kisses that usually made her giggle. She’d never hugged him so tightly. “You weren't here and I kept asking for you! I was alone, Daddy…”

God, it broke his heart hearing her words.

“It’s okay,” Andy whispered, rubbing her little back. “We’re gonna stay with you and we’re not leaving your side. I promise.”

He climbed into the hospital bed with Allie still clinging to him, and April curled up next to the both of them.

“I’m tired, Daddy,” Allie mumbled, her eyes drooping as her thumb went to her mouth.

“Sleep baby,” April whispered. “Mommy’s gonna sleep right next to you and Daddy, okay?”

Andy pulled them both close, the heavy weight in his chest growing lighter with every minute. There would be a time when he and April would sit down and talk to her about how she should never eat someone else’s food, but now wasn’t it. Now, all that mattered was that Allie was okay, and that she was breathing fine, and they could go home soon.

 

Later that evening, when Jack was home from kindergarten and Melody was picked up from the neighbors’ house, they all snuggled together for a movie on the big couch in the TV room. April clung to her daughter, while Allie was too exhausted to really do anything other than doze off in her arms.

They got ice cream before dinner, because if Andy knew anything it was that that’s what you do with the people you love, especially when one or all of them is upset.

They broke their rule of “no kids sleeping in mom and dad’s bed” for the night (even though they really sucked at reinforcing it in the first place) because April wanted to keep an eye on Allie as she slept, and the little girl was still pretty shaken up.

She burrowed deep in the large comforter, her little hands curled up at her chest with her back tight against her mother’s stomach, while April smoothed back her soft curls. Andy rested one arm over the both of them, until they all fell into a deep sleep and the stresses of the day were long forgotten.

Chapter Text

“Andy, please?”

“Babe…”

“Please, I don’t want to go… You know how I feel about family stuff.”

“It’s my mom, honey. She wants to see her grandson…”

April groaned loudly, grabbing the pillow next to her and placing it directly over her own face to muffle her yell. Next to her, nearly two year old Jack stared at her curiously.

She couldn’t really argue with him, because he had a point. Andy’s mother rarely got to see Jack outside of Skype or Gryzzlchat, and they were only in Pawnee for a short while before they had to head home. Tomorrow they had the Parks reunion to surprise Leslie back at City Hall. Today she had to visit her mother-in-law.

“It’ll be a great time to tell her about the baby!” Andy said cheerfully, digging through the suitcase they packed for an appropriate shirt to wear.

“I don’t want to tell anyone,” she mumbled, playing with Jack’s little feet. “I want to keep it a secret until he or she is born and then we just show up with a new baby and yell ‘surprise’ at them.”

“That sounds really awesome, babe,” Andy said, pulling the shirt over his head. “but it probably won’t work once your belly gets huge.”

She sighed, because he was right.

 

Andy’s mother welcomed them in with lots of hugs and kisses, pulling Jack into her arms immediately and whisking him off to see some of his cousins. Sure enough, three of Andy’s six brothers were there along with their wives and children. All of Jack’s cousins were older than him by at least ten years, so he was babied in every sense of the word.

April forgot just how big Andy’s family was. To top it all off, his mother’s house wasn’t exactly spacious.

“He’s precious,” Andy’s mother said, kissing Jack on each cheek over and over. “He looks…well…” she looked at her daughter-in-law and son several times over, before smiling wide. “He looks like a good combination of both of you, although my Andy never had such dark hair or eyes.”

“He gets that from his mama,” Andy said proudly, pulling April into a side hug.

April smiled as best as she could. As much as she liked her mother-in-law, the Dwyers were a large, loud bunch, and she never felt more suffocated than in their presence.

It wasn’t long before Jack felt the same, walking back over to where his parents sat on the couch and reaching out to be picked up. April scooped him up in her arms without a second thought while Andy chatted with one of his brothers.

“So what’s new?” Andy’s mother asked. “Tell me all about you three.”

“Well,” Andy glanced at April. “Tomorrow we’re meeting up with all our old Parks friends.”

“That’s nice,” she nodded.

“Jack is doing awesome,” Andy went on. “His doctor said he’s in the ninetieth percentile for his hight, and I don’t know exactly what that means except that he’s pretty tall for his age.”

“That’s totally what it means, babe,” April assured him.

“Sweet,” Andy nodded. “Well, he’s probably gonna be super tall like his old man.”

“That’s wonderful,” his mother smiled. “He’s a gorgeous little boy. It’s a shame I don’t get to see him more often.”

“Yeah,” Andy sighed.

“Well,” his mother stood. “April dear, will you help me in the kitchen while I get the snacks ready?”

The question caught her off guard. There were plenty of daughters-in-law to choose from, and April figured she was the least qualified to help with any sort of lunch spread. So when Andy’s mother addressed her, April just blinked for a moment before quietly transferring Jack to Andy’s lap and followed her into the kitchen.

“What’s new with you, dear?” her mother-on-law asked, as she filled a tray with multiple sandwiches. In the Dwyer home, snacks oftentimes meant entire meals.

“Um,” April grabbed some napkins and cups. “Well, you know, same old. Work is work…”

“I just wanted to tell you,” his mother went on. “I’ve never seen my Andrew happier than he is right now.”

April looked up, meeting her eyes for the first time. “Oh,” she smiled softly, a blush creeping up her cheeks. “Thank you.”

“You’ve given him so much, dear. Every time I speak to him on the phone, he spends the entire conversation talking about you and now about that little boy out there. He’s over the moon about his life, and I wanted to say thank you for that.”

“It’s nothing,” April shook her head. “Andy’s amazing… You should be proud of him, because you obviously did a good job.”

“I regret that I didn’t always give him enough attention,” his mother said sadly. “He has all those brothers and with his father gone, I was working all the time or taking care of his grandmother…always so busy.” She sighed loudly. “But since he met you, I’ve never seen him so…fulfilled.”

April felt warm in the face. She watched her mother-in-law take the tray of sandwiches back to the living room, and she waved Andy over when she caught his glance.

“What’s up honey?” he asked, setting Jack down by their feet.

“Let’s tell her,” April said, smiling wide.

“Really?” Andy looked thrilled. “Right now? You sure?”

“I’m sure.”

“Mom!” Andy called his mother back over, waving her into the kitchen. “C’mere for a second!”

“What’s wrong?” Her face looked worried.

“Nothing is wrong!” Andy put an arm around April’s waist. “We just wanted to tell you something pretty awesome!”

“What?”

Andy glanced down at April, and she gave him a nod.

“We’re having another baby in like six months!”

Andy’s mother’s mouth dropped open, and her eyes filled with tears. At once, she threw her arms around her son and daughter-in-law and pulled them into a tight hug, kissing both their cheeks.

“I had a feeling,” she said, once she released them. She wiped a tear away with her finger. “When you both walked in here,” she turned to look at April, “there was something different about you. You were glowing—not that you’re not always beautiful dear, because you’re gorgeous—but you had a way about you and I was going to see if you said anything…and I’m so, so happy I was right!”

“We’re happy too,” April said softly. “We’re really, really excited.”

“Oh, so am I,” Andy’s mother beamed.

“Listen, um,” April said, gripping Andy’s hand tightly. “We have an extra room in our house that’s just sitting there. If you ever wanna come visit for a couple of weeks so you can see Jack, y’know, just come over.”

“I’d like that,” she said.

“Yeah,” April nodded, as Andy kissed his wife’s head. “So would we.”

Chapter Text

“Andy! Hand!”

“On it!”

Her husband gripped her, intertwining his fingers with hers as April felt that rush of pain coming back, coursing through her pelvic region. This one was about thirty seconds long, and it was a big one.

“Remember to breathe,” he told her soothingly.

She wanted to yell at him, but she just couldn’t. Not when he was doing everything he could to make her comfortable. She wanted to scream about how she was probably going to have to push another large-headed Dwyer baby out, about how she was starving because she couldn’t eat anything due to the pain, about how she was going to punch him in the face if he kept telling her to “breathe” when that’s all she’d been doing for hours now.

She couldn’t, because there was so much love in his eyes that it made her feel guilty, even as the contractions took over. Instead, she just nodded until the wave had passed, and she was gripping him until her knuckles turned white.

“Okay,” she groaned, falling back on her pillow to take a breather. “Shit, that sucked.”

“You’re so awesome,” he kissed her knuckles.

“Seriously,” she mumbled, staring at him though heavy, exhausted eyes. “How did I let you to persuade me to do this again?”

Andy laughed. “If I remember correctly honey,” he said. “You were the one who told me Jack needed a brother or sister. Don’t get me wrong, I was super thrilled you did—”

“Now is not the time to contradict me, Dwyer…”

“You’re right, sweetheart,” he nodded. “I love you so much.”

The hospital in DC was so much larger than St. Joe’s back in Pawnee. April liked it a lot better, and not just because you could turn the corner and not run into someone you knew. It was cleaner, there was no Dr. Saperstein making dumb labor jokes while you were trying to push, and there was a play area for Jack for when Leslie inevitably brought him to meet his new sibling.

It was just all around better.

“Fuck!” she cursed loudly, grabbing the bedrail with her other hand. “Okay, I take it back. I want an epidural. Andy, get me an epidural!”

“Babe,” he looked at her nervously. “The doctor said it was too late to get one now, remember?”

“I know he said that but I don’t care,” she shook her head. “Try anyway! Bribe him! Offer to put on a free Johnny Karate show for his kids! Andy, you have no idea how much pain I’m in right now—“

“Okay,” he quickly pushed the button to call the nurse in. “I’m so sorry, honey—“

She didn’t have time for an epidural, because Alexandra Ludgate-Dwyer was born ten minutes later. And thankfully, to April’s immense relief, she had a normal-sized head.

 

“Oh, she’s gorgeous…”

Leslie stood on the other side of the bed as April rested. She was exhausted, happy, and so in-love with her new daughter that she could barely remember the pain she’d gone through only hours earlier.

Andy sat in the chair, cradling Alexandra in one arm while Jack sat on his knees, nervously peering at the newborn wrapped in several layers of blanket.

“Thanks Leslie,” Andy beamed, never taking his eyes off her.

Andy had cried for a good half hour after she was born, so happy to have a daughter that he didn’t know how to compose himself. He went on and on about how Jack was going to be the best big brother in the world.

Big brother Jack arrived with Auntie Leslie only after they’d gotten settled, the two-year-old’s eyes wide when he climbed up nervously into his father’s lap and met his little sister. He didn’t say much, but he smiled, and that was all April needed to feel better about it.

“So we’ll call her Alexandra?” Leslie asked.

“Allie,” April replied. “I like Allie for short.”

“Beautiful,” Leslie nodded. “Andy, she looks just like you.”

“Yeah, she does,” April nodded. “She’s got his eyes.” Where Jack’s eyes were dark, nearly black, Allie’s eyes were clear and green. Just like Andy’s.

“I’m just happy she’s here,” Andy said softly, taking a finger and rubbing the tip of his daughter’s nose.

“Me too,” April rolled her eyes. “I’m glad she’s not punching the crap out of my uterus anymore.”

“How was labor this time around?” Leslie asked.

“She did amazing,” Andy said, finally looking up from his children. “She was just…incredible, Leslie. You should have seen her.”

“No, really, you shouldn’t have seen me,” April shook her head. “I don’t want to imagine anyone but you in the delivery room with me, babe. That’s gross…and I was a wreck.”

“A beautiful wreck,” he added.

“I agree with Andy,” Leslie grinned. “A beautiful, shining, wonderful mother of two.”

Mother of two has a nice ring to it, April decided. As she looked at her little family gathered there with her, at Leslie who was practically a mother to her, her heart couldn’t have felt more full.

She had a pretty perfect team.

Chapter Text

The dorm room was smaller than Jack remembered it from the tour. Two beds, both lofted high enough that a desk sat beneath each one. He placed the last of the cardboard boxes on the desk to the left, stepped back, and sighed.

“That the last of it?”

His father’s voice startled him, and Jack turned around quickly only to take a breath.

“Yeah,” he nodded, stuffing his hands in his pockets.

Andy smiled, rubbing a hand over his gray facial hair. “Good…I was starting to think we packed you too much stuff.”

Jack chuckled. They certainly had packed a lot. His mother made sure he had absolutely everything he needed, to the point where he was afraid she went overboard. “Where’s Mom?”

“Your ma’s with the girls outside at the car getting a few more things…they’ll be right up.”

Jack nodded. This was the start of something incredibly new, and he finally felt ready. As he began to unpack the closest boxes, his father took a moment to look around the room.

“Your Uncle Ron wouldn’t be too happy about these loft beds,” Andy said softly. “He always said bunk beds were bad for good wood.”

“Everyone in college lofts their bed, Dad,” Jack said, rolling his eyes. “It makes more room.”

“I know,” Andy grabbed the nearest box and started to help unpack. “Still.”

As Jack watched his father unload the boxes, it was the first time he noticed that he actually looked a little sad. Up until that point, it was his mother who’d been losing it every other day for the entire month of August. He knew they weren’t too thrilled that he’d be going so far away, but it was simply because of distance. Michigan was his first choice, and he got in. Why wouldn’t they be happy for him?

“Hey,” his mother knocked on the outside of the door, followed closely by his three sisters. Each of them carried a brand new sweatshirt, featuring the University of Michigan logo. “Here,” she said, tossing him one.

“Wow, thanks,” Jack said, holding it up. It was huge, but judging by the way he was growing, he’d reach his father’s height in no time.

“Here babe,” April tossed another to Andy. “Figured we can all support your school, even if it means we look like one of those lame families who match everything in the process…” she smirked, working her own sweatshirt over her head.

“Thanks honey,” Andy smiled.

“Also…” April handed him a huge care package. It was plastered with stickers featuring various landmarks and places in DC. “This is from Auntie Leslie and Uncle Ben. There’s like, a ton of food and stuff in there.”

“Awesome,” Jack nodded appreciatively.

“Jack,” Emma said, “when will you come back home again?”

“I dunno,” Jack shrugged. “Maybe next month?” From the corner of his eye, he could see his mother flinch a little. Out of everyone, she’d taken his moving away the hardest. Try as she might to keep it to herself, he knew how sad she was feeling about it.

“Don’t worry honey,” Andy said. “Jack will visit soon. He’s got a lot of learning to do first.”

The little family stood there, taking up much of what was already such a small amount of space. They all looked a bit unsure of themselves and what to do next.

“Well,” Jack said. “I mean, I can handle it from here I think.” He looked around. “My roommate said he’s not going to be here until late tonight, so you don’t have to wait.”

“How will we know if he’s weird?” Allie asked, looking around the room, unimpressed. “I mean, you’re gonna have to live with this guy for a year, Jack. What if he sucks?”

“He’s not going to suck,” Jack said firmly.

“Don’t you want help unpacking everything?” April asked, looking around a little desperately. “We can help you. You know…get you settled. You can pick the good bed before the other kid gets here.”

Jack watched his mother, saw the pink mistiness of her eyes and the way she fidgeted her hands. He saw his father discreetly reach for her, putting a reassuring hand on her back and rubbing circles there to sooth her. He’d seen that action many times.

He hated that she was so torn up about this, but it was just something he needed to do. If they didn’t leave now, he was sure it would be harder on them later.

“I think I got it,” he shrugged. “We brought everything up. All I gotta do is unpack it.”

Truthfully, it wasn’t as though they hadn’t made the most of Jack’s last week at home. They did everything together, spent every free moment together as a family, and just this morning they’d gone to breakfast after the nearly five hour drive over. Now he needed time to decompress, be alone for the first time in his life, and the longer they stayed, the tougher it was for him too.

April looked up at Andy, a silent plea to her husband to try to talk some sense into their son. He only gave her a look in return, a knowing, calming look, until she turned back to Jack and sighed.

“Okay,” she said, taking a deep breath. “If that’s what you want to do, that’s fine.”

“Thanks Mom,” Jack said. “Thanks for everything. I’ll be fine, I promise.”

“We know you will,” Andy nodded. “You’re gonna do awesome.”

Jack felt a strange lump in his throat, and he tried his best to ignore it. “So, um…I guess I’ll see you all next month?”

“Bye Jack,” Allie came forward to hug her older brother, followed swiftly by Melody and Emma. The four of them stood there together, Jack so much taller than all of them, until they broke apart. A glance back at his parents told him his mother was only a minute from completely breaking down.

“See you,” Melody said.

Emma sniffed lightly, and Andy put a strong, reassuring hand on her shoulder.

His mother took a deep, steadying breath, and moved forward to pull her son into a tight hug. Much like his father, Jack was nearly a head taller than her, but she stood on her tiptoes just the same as she gave him a shaky kiss on the cheek.

“Stay safe,” she whispered, real tears staining her cheeks now. “Learn everything you can, okay? Be smart. If I find out you’re not taking it seriously I’ll drive back up here and drag you home, and you can go to college five minutes from our house.”

“I will, Ma, I promise,” Jack said, and then she finally let him go, quickly wiping at her eyes.

Then Jack turned to his father. Andy tried to be as stoic as possible, Jack knew, but he was failing. His eyes were misty pink like April’s, and his voice was gruff as he pulled Jack into a hug.

“Take care, and like your ma said, be safe.”

“I will.”

“Play hard, okay? I wanna hear all about your practices. We’ll come back up as soon as you have your first game.”

“Promise?”

“I promise,” Andy said. “We wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Then, just like that, with a final wave and a few more “Goodbyes,” they were gone. Jack was on his own for the first time in his life.

 

April clutched Andy’s hand nearly all the way home. She didn’t eat when they stopped half-way back at some obscure diner for dinner, only pushed the food around on her plate.

She could tell Andy was trying to keep it together. At least he was doing a better job of it. She felt like a wreck. The older girls seemed okay, but Emma, who’d always had the hardest time adjusting to change, was moody and sad up until they arrived back home. April didn’t expect anything less from her ten-year-old.

It wasn’t until their daughters went to bed that night, and April was searching the house for her husband, that she realized just how shattered Andy was.

She found him out on the back porch, his guitar in his lap, strumming idly. She didn’t recognize the tune, but it sounded sad. When he turned to face her, she could see the wetness in his eyes.

Without a word, she walked over and climbed into his lap. Andy put the guitar beside him and held her tight. They didn’t need to speak, only hold each other. Her head rested over his heart, and like always, the steady beat kept her calm.

Their first baby had gone away, but not forever. He’d be back in a month, or they’d visit him. Either way, they’d see each other. April knew it would be hard, knew it would suck in the worst ways, but she was beyond proud of Jack for taking this step. He was going to do and learn so much, and just the fact that she and Andy could provide that for him was enough.

Chapter Text

Even after all the years that had passed, April never once considered either herself or Andy old. Their hair might be grayer, they might not be as fast as they once were, and yeah, maybe their bodies weren’t as resilient as they were in their younger years. But they certainly weren’t old people. Not in the slightest bit.

She turned her head to focus on the beautiful sight before her, interrupting her daydreaming. Her reality was far better, anyway.

“Gramma,” the little black-haired girl cried out, waving from her place on the top of the slide. “Gramma, look at me!”

April smiled, giving the three-year-old all her attention. “I see you, sweetheart,” she called up. “Show me how brave you are!”

“I want Papa to come up here with me too,” she said, pointing to the bottom of them slide.

There, Andy was crouched down with the biggest grin on his face. The lines in the corners of his eyes were more pronounced than ever, but the smile would never change.

“Papa’s going to catch you,” April said, pointing to Andy. “Okay Janie?”

“Can you come up, then?”

April opened her mouth, then closed it again without a word. She looked to her husband, unsure what to say.

There was so much of their son Jack in his little girl. From the moment April and Andy visited the hospital and saw the tiny little baby wrapped in so many blankets, April fell in love all over again. It was a different type of love, though. There was the love she shared with her husband, and the love they discovered the moment they became parents…but there was something special about love for a grandchild that she couldn’t describe. Maybe it was because she never imagined she’d be this lucky in life in the first place.

“Honey,” Andy said, his voice playful. “You heard her, she needs her Gramma to help her out!”

“Andy…”

“Please Gramma!”

April walked over and stared up into those beautiful, dark brown eyes. Eyes she shared with her grandmother, eyes they shared with Jack. It had been hard to resist them when their own son was little. Now, it was even harder to resist their granddaughter.

“Okay,” she sighed, slowly climbing the rungs on the ladder to reach the top of the slide.

“Yay!” the little girl cheered, clapping her hands.

When April reached the top, she scooped her granddaughter up and maneuvered so she could sit her in her lap. “You ready, baby?”

“Yeah!”

“You ready down there, Papa?” April asked.

“Sure am,” Andy nodded. “C’mon,” he opened his arms wide. “I'll catch my girls, don’t worry.”

“On three,” April whispered. “Okay?”

Jane nodded.

“One, two, three!” April pushed off, and the two of them slid quickly down the slide, landing right into Andy’s open arms. He laughed, tumbling back into the grass at the foot of the slide, April and Jane in his arms. The little girl clung to her grandparents, giggling loudly.

“That was awesome!” Andy said, kissing Jane’s cheek. “So proud of you, honey! You’re so brave!”

“Gramma’s brave too,” Jane said seriously.

“Of course she is, you’re right,” Andy nodded solemnly, winking at his wife.

April beamed at him. She knew seeing him as a father would be the most amazing thing in the world, but seeing him as a grandfather was just as wonderful. With their children all grown up, Andy had feared they’d never get the chance to do these types of things again. Becoming grandparents renewed that opportunity.

“I’m hungry,” Jane said suddenly, yawning wide.

“Tired too, it looks like,” April said, helping her granddaughter stand up and brushing the grass off her little jumper. “Lunchtime?”

“Yay!” Jane cheered happily.

“Good thing,” Andy stood up slowly, stretching his back muscles with a groan. “I think we could all use a break. I’m getting old, munchkin,” he said to Jane.

“No, Papa,” she shook her head, taking his hand in her right and April’s in her left. “You’re not old.”

April looked at Andy and smiled. Their eyes met, and she could tell he was thinking the same thing.

They’d never be old, but they’d always be pretty awesome.

Chapter Text

The thunder boomed above their little DC neighborhood one evening just before bed time. The storm came upon them without warning, preceded by pouring rain that quickly turned the streets outside their house to tiny rivers before the first bolt of lightening had even flashed across the sky.

Andy had barely caught a glimpse of the little head of dark hair as his daughter zoomed past him on his way out of the bathroom. She ran down the hallway and into her bedroom with a slam of the door. Confused, he looked at his wife, who was just returning from tucking Jack and Allie in.

“She’s scared,” April whispered, tilting her head toward Melody’s door. “She doesn’t like storms since that big one we had last month.”

“Oh yeah,” Andy said, remembering that night like it was yesterday. The tree outside their house had snapped a branch, and the heavy piece of wood and leaves had smashed their front window. Melody had been near traumatized, sitting on the couch right below that very window, and since that night hadn’t shown her face during any weather that was more than a light rainfall. She’d typically crawl into her parents’ bed if it was during the middle of the night, but sometimes she’d hide under her own bed and wait it out.

“Andy,” April sighed, cradling an infant Emma in her arms. “Go talk to her, okay? I’ve got to feed Emma and I just got the other two down.”

Andy nodded, planting a kiss on his exhausted wife’s temple. April had been working overtime lately and he wanted to help her in any way he could. “No problem, honey,” he said. “Dad to the rescue!”

April smiled and retreated to their bedroom to nurse their youngest, while Andy took a deep breath and knocked on Melody’s door.

“Who is it?” he heard the frightened four-year-old ask.

“Daddy,” he replied.

“Come in,” she mumbled, her voice muffled by the closed door.

Andy opened the door and looked around. He already knew she was under the bed, but he made a point of searching the closet, the bureau drawers, and even her dollhouse before he ducked down to the floor. He was met with a pair of brown eyes that were nearly identical to April’s staring out at him, terrified.

“Close the door!” she squeaked, pointing to the open door behind him.

“Oh, sorry sweetheart,” Andy said, turning to correct his mistake. “Better?”

“Uh-huh,” she nodded.

“Can you come out for me?”

“I can’t,” she said. “I’m scared.”

“Of the storm?”

Melody nodded.

Andy smiled at her. “You know that you’re safe inside the house, right munchkin?”

“No, I’m not,” she said. “The tree broke the window and it’s gonna happen again. Uncle Ron had to come and fix it and it was super scary.”

“Honey,” Andy said. “That was an accident, and it was super windy that day. It’s not gonna happen again, I promise.”

“I'm not coming out,” she grumbled.

Andy sighed, and sat on the floor with a grunt. “Okay, well, if you’re not gonna come out how can I sing you my goodnight song?”

“No goodnight song tonight,” she said.

“What?” Andy feigned shock. “No goodnight song? Wha—are you serious?” He could hear her giggle a little bit, and he smiled. “Well, okay then…” He scooted toward the door, although he had no real intention of leaving. He knew his daughter too well for that to work.

“Wait!” she called out to him, and Andy turned around.

“Yes?”

“Please sing me the goodnight song?” she said softly, her little head and hands just visible now beneath the bed.

“Of course I will,” Andy said, laying on his belly so he was level with Melody’s face. “But you need to come out of there first.”

“Okay, fine,” she sighed. Andy reached under the bed and caught her under the arms, pulling her carefully out and into his lap. Melody scrunched up her face, staring at the window by her bed nervously. “Jack and Allie laughed at me,” she sniffed. “They said I was afraid of everything.”

“They did?” Andy frowned. “Well, I bet they didn’t tell you that the both of them used to crawl into Mommy and Daddy’s bed whenever they heard thunder when they were your age, did they?”

“No,” she shook her head.

“Know who else is afraid of thunder?” he asked, his voice suddenly a low whisper.

“Who?” she whispered back.

“Your mommy,” he said.

“Really?”

“Uh-huh,” Andy grinned.

At that moment, a flash illuminated the sky outside the window, and Melody hid her face in Andy’s flannel. Andy wrapped his arm around her and rubbed her tiny back.

“It’s okay,” he soothed her. “Honey, it can’t hurt you. You know what the storm is afraid of more than anything in the world?”

She shook her head, staring up at him with teary eyes.

“Your daddy,” he said simply.

Melody smiled.

“Okay, so where were we?” he said, lifting her up in his arms and moving to close the curtains on the window. “Oh yeah,” he sat on her bed, holding her in his lap. “the goodnight song.”

 

April was lying in bed by the time Andy arrived, Emma fast asleep in the bassinet beside her. Andy slipped under the covers and curled up against her.

“Is she okay?” April asked sleepily.

“She’s fine,” Andy whispered, kissing his wife’s cheek.

“You’re such a good daddy,” April sighed. “Thank you for handling that situation.”

“No problem, babe,” he yawned. “That’s what daddies are for.”

Chapter Text

“April…” Andy called out to his wife in a sing-song voice. He hovered above her ear, his lips barely inches away. “Honey, time to get up.”

April groaned and pulled the blanket up to her ears. She was pale and grouchy, and Andy was just the tiniest bit hurt that she didn’t seem as eager to wake up that morning as he did. It was her first morning back home after a week-long work trip, and they had a million plans. The first thing on the schedule was a big family breakfast.

“Honey?” he rubbed her arm. “You okay?”

“No,” she mumbled. “I feel terrible.”

Andy blinked. “How so?”

“I just feel dizzy and nauseous…and every time I move my head feels like it’s getting hit with a hammer.”

Andy frowned. April was fine the night before, and she didn’t complain at all any time they spoke over the phone or on Skype with their son during her week away.

“I’m sorry babe,” Andy said, kissing her head. “We don’t have to go to breakfast if you don’t feel like it.”

“No,” April sighed and sat up. “Jack has been looking forward to this, and I know you have too.” She stretched and leaned against Andy’s chest, yawning wide. “I can’t believe of all the mornings to feel so lousy…”

“Mama?”

Both of them turned their heads toward the door. The little cry from down the hallway made April smile, and Andy gave her another quick kiss before she stood to go fetch Jack from his room. Her plane had arrived so late the night before, Jack didn’t get to see her when she’d finally gotten home.

“Coming baby,” April called, walking on shaky feet.

“You sure you’re okay?” Andy asked again.

“I’ll be fine,” she shrugged.

As she walked away, Andy couldn’t help but notice that she looked different too. Maybe he was imagining it, but something seemed off.

 

“You’re not hungry?” Andy stared at April’s untouched breakfast.

April shook her head, sipping her mug of coffee as she watched Jack devour his favorite chocolate-chip pancakes at their preferred breakfast diner, a nice little place they’d discovered not long after they moved to DC. It couldn’t compare to JJ’s Diner back home, but they had to take what they could get.

“Yum,” Jack said, giggling as he ate.

“I missed you both so much,” April said, reaching for Andy’s hand across the table. “I hated being away.”

“Missed you too babe,” Andy nodded. “so, so much.”

“Mama home,” Jack said simply, now drinking his milk.

“So what should we do after this?” Andy said excitedly, pushing his empty plate away. “Museum? A park? The Smithsonian? Jack’s never been…” he looked at April expectantly.

April bit her lip. She looked upset.

“Okay, now you’re starting to make me nervous honey,” Andy said, his nerves bubbling up. April wasn’t acting like herself, and at first it was just odd. Now it was concerning.

“I’m sorry babe,” April said. “I’m just so exhausted. I don’t think I can do any of those things right now…I sorta just feel like sleeping.”

Andy squeezed her hand. “Hey,” he smiled. “it’s okay! I get it, you’re tired. You just got back. We have tomorrow too, so maybe today can be a rest day.”

“Thank you,” she smiled at him. “I’m really sorry. I know how much you were looking forward to having fun all day.”

“Hey,” Andy said. “As long as the three of us are together again, I’ll be happy.”

 

Andy watched April sleep. He was tucked into bed beside her, carefully stroking her bare arm with the tip of his finger. Jack napped while she did, and with nothing else to do, Andy decided maybe he’d join her. He wasn’t tired though…in fact, he was too worried about her to relax.

He just couldn’t figure out why she was acting so odd. At first he thought she was just worn out from her trip and the plane ride, but then she didn’t eat all day. Then he thought she was sick, but she didn’t have a fever or the chills. Then he thought she was mad at him because she didn’t seem like she wanted to be touched, but she assured him that wasn’t the case at all and insisted she just needed to rest. He’d felt better for a moment, until he remembered that he needed to get to the bottom of this. It just didn’t add up.

He tried to think back to the weeks right before she left. Nothing out of the ordinary had happened, except they’d spent a lot of time together. Andy smiled fondly at the memories, remembering how they took every opportunity they could while Jack was asleep or napping to “make up for all the time they’d be missing,” as April put it. That had been some of the most awesome sex they'd had in a while.

It wasn’t as though they didn’t get any alone time, but it hadn’t been as easy as it used to be since Jack was born. Now, their baby wasn’t a baby any longer, but he still used up a lot of their energy. Between April’s job and their son she was often tired, but this was on a whole new level…

Then it hit him. He couldn’t believe it took him this long to figure it out.

“Oh my God…” he sat bolt upright. The abrupt shift in the mattress woke April up, and she rolled over and faced him nervously.

“Andy!” she breathed. “What the hell? What’s wrong?”

“Honey,” his eyes were wide as he stared at her. “I think you might be pregnant.”

April stared at him for several seconds before she frowned. “What?”

“I think…you’ve gotta be…I mean, it all makes sense! Babe, you’re pregnant!”

“Andy,” she paused and rolled her lips like she was thinking it all over. Then her eyes went wide.

“You see what I mean?” he said, pulling her against him into a hug. “Baby! You can’t eat much, you’re nauseous, you’ve got a headache…you yelled at me when I touched your boobs before you fell asleep—“

“Yeah, because they hurt,” she rolled her eyes. Then she looked at him. “Oh my God…I think you’re right.”

“We’ve got to buy a test like right now,” he shot up out of bed and pulled his jeans on. He hadn’t felt this excited in a long time. “I’m gonna go to the store—“

“You want to do this now?” she smiled.

“You bet I do,” he nodded, nearly tripping over in his attempts to step into his sneakers. “I know it babe, I feel it.”

“You feel it?” she chuckled. “I’m the one who should be saying that…”

 

Andy waited outside the bathroom while April took the test. He’d never driven to the pharmacy and back so quickly, and he was nearly bouncing when he’d hurried through the door and back to their bedroom. They knew Jack would be waking from his nap at any moment, so they had to make this quick.

He was just about to knock on the door when April emerged, holding the plastic stick in her hand and covering the result window.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she shook her head. “I didn’t look yet…”

“Then let’s look!” he said excitedly.

“Andy,” she said slowly. “If this is what we think it is…I mean, you want this, right?”

He couldn’t believe she was asking him that. He’d never wanted anything more in his life, except maybe Jack the first time around.

“Honey,” he wrapped his arms around her. “No matter what that test says, I’m going to be fine. But if it says we’re gonna have another kid…well, I’ll be so friggin excited I don’t know what I’ll do.” He looked at her. “All that really matters is that you’ll be happy.” He kissed her forehead. “Will you?”

“Yeah,” she nodded quickly. “Yeah, I definitely will be.”

“Okay,” he whispered.

Together, they both looked down as April uncovered the test.

In that moment, Andy learned what it was like to fall in love all over again.

Chapter Text

As the years wore on, April and Andy became increasingly busier. Three young children, a fourth on the way, and her demanding job meant they rarely had time for get-togethers with old friends anymore, at least ones that weren’t a quick drink or interrupted by a needy child.

So when the opportunity came for April and Andy to get together with Leslie and Ben for a child-free evening while the Governor of Indiana just happened to be visiting DC, they jumped on it. The kids were put to bed, the drinks were poured, the snacks were put out, and they could forget for a moment that they had responsibilities.

“You look beautiful, April,” Leslie beamed, staring at her old friend with red eyes. “Pregnancy looks amazing on you.”

“Ugh, stop,” April shook her head. “I do not. My ankles are starting to swell and I’m huge.”

“No, you’re perfect,” Leslie sighed. “Ben,” Leslie called out to her husband from in the kitchen, “tell April how perfect she is!”

“You’re perfect?” Ben replied, confused.

“She is,” Andy agreed, sipping his beer. “God, my wife is so hot...”

“Thanks babe,” April said, as she walked—or waddled, depending on how you looked at it—over to the couch and sat next to him. For now, the days of her sitting in his lap were gone, at least until the baby was born. “Ugh, a few more weeks…”

“Who do you think this one will look like?” Leslie asked, sitting beside her husband.

“Hopefully Andy,” April said immediately.

Andy shook his head. “No way babe,” he said. “I hope this one looks like you.”

“I think so far you’ve got a pretty good mix in your other three,” Ben said, pointing to some of the photos on the coffee table. “Jack’s a good mix of both of you. Allie is all Andy and Melody is definitely all April.”

“So true,” Leslie nodded. “All of them are gorgeous and this baby will be too. You just never know what you’ll get. Sonia is the only one of our three who looks even remotely like me.”

April shrugged, leaning into Andy. His hand stroked the side of her belly in careful circles, over and over. “Maybe this one will have Andy’s eyes,” she said. “Allie has his beautiful green eyes, and so far she’s the only one.”

“You have the most beautiful eyes I’ve ever seen,” Andy said immediately. “I love your eyes, babe.”

April grinned and leaned in to kiss him.

Ben cleared his throat. “Okay, okay…let’s not conceive baby number five before number four is even born.”

“God Ben…don’t be such a prude,” April rolled her eyes.

“Seriously,” Leslie looked at them curiously. “Will you guys have any more after this?”

“No way,” April shook her head and looked at her husband.

“We’re done,” Andy agreed, although like always, April could tell he never liked to say never. If it was up to him they’d have a hundred kids.

Ben looked slightly relieved. “Well, four is a great number.”

“I’m just so proud of you both and how far you’ve come,” Leslie said, holding back tears.

Before April could stop Leslie from getting even more emotional than she already was, a little voice from the hallway interrupted the conversation.

“Mama?”

All four adults turned, and Melody was standing at the entrance to the living room, holding her stuffed animal and rubbing her eyes sleepily. Her hair was a nest of curls and knots and she swayed on the spot, barely awake.

April sat up. “Hi baby,” she smiled. “What’s wrong?”

“I can’t sleep,” the four-year-old mumbled.

“Okay, c’mere,” April patted her lap, and Melody stumbled over sleepily and climbed onto her mother’s knees.

“Hi sweetie,” Leslie beamed at her. “I’m so happy I got to see you tonight!”

Melody raised a tired hand and waved, before turning to hide her face and snuggle into Andy’s chest. April’s belly was far too big for her to get as close as she’d like to be.

Andy kissed her head, resting a protective hand on her back.

“The best parents,” Leslie said softly, her eyes filling with more tears. “Ben, does’t this make you want to have another?”

“No,” he shook his head immediately. “No, it does not.”

April laughed, hugging her daughter tightly. True, hanging out with her friends was great every once in a while, but she’d never trade hanging out with her kids for anything in the world.

Chapter Text

As far as April was concerned, each one of her children was developing at a normal, healthy rate. They all started crawling at about the same age. They took well to solids around the same time when it came to trying something other than breastmilk. They all got their first tooth at nine months old. She and Andy both agreed that they were doing great.

It wasn’t until Melody’s first birthday came and went that April started to get concerned about her youngest child.

The little girl was perfect in every way. She had gorgeous black hair. Deep brown eyes that matched her mother’s. She was tiny, petite, and she smiled for her parents and her parents alone. April wouldn’t have thought much about it had Melody’s pediatrician not brought it up during the little girl’s one-year check up.

April came home that afternoon with a heavy feeling in her stomach. She carried her daughter into the house, the little girl clinging to her mother’s neck tightly, still not totally over the fact that a complete stranger had poked and prodded her like that.

Andy must have heard them come home, because his heavy footsteps came bounding down the steps once April closed the front door behind her.

“Honey?” he called.

“Yeah,” she said, tossing her keys into the bowl by the door. “Down here…”

Andy smiled when he saw his girls. “Hey, there you are!” he grinned, pulling April into a hug. Melody detached from her mother to reach out for Andy, who scooped her into his big arms happily. “Hey little girl!” he kissed her head. Melody tucked her face into his neck and slowly sucked her thumb. “I just put your big sis down for her nap.” Andy’s smile faded when he saw his wife’s face. He looked at April warily. “What’s wrong? Did something happen at the appointment?”

“It’s just…” April sighed. She couldn’t get it out of her head. “Andy, do you think it’s weird that Melody hasn’t started talking yet?”

Andy blinked a few times, idly rubbing Melody’s back as he swayed a little on the spot. “No… Why?”

“Her doctor was concerned that she hasn’t tried to say anything yet. I didn’t think it was such a big deal until she asked about the other kids, and both Jack and Allie were at least saying a few words by now.”

Andy looked at her. “Yeah, but Jack didn’t say ‘dada’ until his first birthday, remember?”

“I know,” April nodded, “but Jack was making all kinds of sounds for months before that,” she said. “Allie too, and she started saying ‘dada’ and ‘mama’ by the time she was eight months old. The pediatrician mentioned speech therapy and everything…”

“Woah, woah,” Andy shook his head. “She doesn’t need therapy, babe,” he said. “She’s just fine. She’ll talk when she’s ready.”

April knew Andy was right and she shouldn’t worry about this. Her daughter was perfect in every way. She was fine, and she would talk when she was ready. Still, she couldn’t help but feel concerned. Andy pulled her in for a kiss, rubbing her shoulder comfortingly.

“C’mon,” he said. “Let’s put this little princess down for her nap, and maybe mommy and daddy can have some alone time…”

April pushed the worry to the back of her head. Her daughter was just fine. The pediatrician was just being extra cautious.

 

“Leslie?”

April spent her lunch break in her office the following afternoon. Not that she typically did anything in the first place…usually she walked the grounds outside her building or made the occasional trip to the cafe down the street to get something to eat. Today, her lunch was forgotten as she heard her friend pick up on the other end of the line.

“April!” Leslie said brightly. “To what do I owe the pleasure of this phone call?”

April bit her lip and took a breath before continuing. “I just had a random question for you.”

“Okay,” Leslie sounded intrigued. “What’s up?”

“What did the triplets first start talking?”

Leslie paused, and April wondered if she should have bothered to open up this topic of discussion with Leslie in the first place.

“Oh, let’s see,” the other woman took a deep breath. “Stephen and Wesley both started talking around nine months old…that is, they starting saying things like ‘dada’ and ‘mama’ and ‘uh-oh,’ stuff like that. Sonia started a little while after that…she was nearly ten months old.”

April felt a weight drop into her stomach, but she tried to ignore it. “Oh…”

“Yeah, they were pretty early talkers,” Leslie went on. “Why do you ask?”

“It’s nothing,” April said quickly. “I was just wondering.”

“You sure?” Leslie sounded unconvinced. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, of course,” April lied.

“Okay,” Leslie said. “Is that it?”

“Yup.”

“Oh, well, okay,” Leslie said. “I’m happy you called, April. You know I always love hearing your lovely voice! Come visit soon, okay?”

“Okay…well, thanks,” April smiled, despite her previous worries. “I’ll talk to you soon.”

 

April watched her children play after dinner as she sat cuddled against Andy’s chest on the couch. Jack was building with some legos, while Allie was busy rearranging the furniture in her doll house. Melody watched them quietly, her large eyes following their every move. In her arms she clutched her stuffed dog. She was rarely without it. The only thing that could ever calm her aside from that old, threadbare thing was being in the arms of her parents.

“Allie?” April looked at the three-year-old. “Maybe you can give Melly one of your dolls so she can play with you?”

“No, I can’t,” Allie said matter-of-factly.

“Why not?” April asked.

“Cuz,” the little girl shrugged.

“I think your sister wants to play with you,” April prodded.

“Nah, she likes to watch,” Allie shook her head. “Every time I try to play with her she moves away. See?” she pointed to Melody, who blinked and crawled further away from her sister and closer to the couch where her parents sat.

April looked at Andy, who only gave her a “don’t worry about it” glance in return, but she could tell he was starting to wonder about it himself. “Baby,” she looked at her daughter, “do you want to come up here with mama and dada?”

Melody only smiled at her parents, her little gums shining pink with their two tiny teeth on the bottom. Then, slowly, she crawled toward the couch and lifted her arms.

April scooped her up immediately, pulling her into the little space between herself and Andy. “There we go,” she whispered. “Better?”

Melody shoved her finger in her mouth and cuddled closer, her eyes fixed on her older brother and sister still playing happily on the rug.

“You’ve gotta stop worrying, honey,” Andy whispered. “You’re starting to make me worry now…”

“It’s just…what if there’s something wrong with her?” April said softly. “What if she’s too shy, and it’s effecting her like this? She could barely stand it when the doctor was examining her.“

“There’s nothing wrong with being shy,” Andy said, matter-of-factly. “You know that, babe.”

“Yes, I get that, but I don’t want her to grow up with some sort of anxiety or something because she’s too afraid to use her voice or interact with people.”

Andy looked at her lovingly, and she could tell he was reading her mind. She didn’t want any of her children to have to deal with the things she dealt with growing up. The teasing from other kids. The adults who didn’t understand her need to be alone, or to stay silent while everyone else was raising their hand. Being the little girl in elementary school who was actually very smart but lacking in social skills and participation points. She didn’t want that for Melody, and now that’s all she could imagine happening.

“Sweetheart,” Andy looked her straight in the eyes, “I know. It’s okay, I promise. Melody is just fine. She’s beautiful, she’s smart—just like her mama—and she’s going to be okay.”

Melody yawned, her mouth stretching wide. She looked at her parents with sleepy eyes.

“Bedtime, I think,” Andy grinned.

“Yeah,” April sighed. “Jack, Allie, c’mon…bed.”

 

April and Andy were only in bed for fifteen minutes when their door slowly pushed itself open. At first she thought Jack or Allie had gotten out of bed and needed something, which was often the case. Then, April could hear the tiny padded footsteps and the telltale drag of that stuffed dog along the carpet. She sat up sharply, Andy’s arm sliding off her side like a heavy weight.

Melody was staring at her, her eyes filled with tears from some sort of nightmare. She’d somehow managed to climb out of her crib, and that alone was enough to shock April out of any bleary-eyed sleep that had been moments away from taking over. She reached for her glasses on the bedside table and put them on.

“Andy,” April nudged him hard, and he sat up quickly, rubbing his eyes.

“What?” He yawned wide, scratching his beard. When he saw their daughter standing there sucking her thumb, he gasped. “Holy…babe, she’s out of her crib. How…but…what?”

“She must have climbed out,” April chuckled. “C’mere baby,” she reached out for the toddler and Melody eagerly hurried forward. “Did you have a bad dream?”

Melody snuggled into her mother’s arms. April ran a hand through her little black curls.

“Wow,” Andy still couldn’t believe it. “Looks like someone is ready for a big girl bed, huh?”

April smiled, kissing her daughter on the head. “Jack and Allie certainly didn’t know how to do that.”

“Nope,” Andy settled back down under the covers. “Do you want sleep with mommy and daddy, munchkin?”

Melody was already drifting. Her eyes were heavy, and the grip on her stuffed dog was slowly loosening as she leaned against April’s chest.

“I think she does.” April adjusted them so Melody was securely snuggled between them, her little hands balled into fists against her father’s shoulder. “You’re right, babe,” April whispered.

“About what?” Andy asked, sleepily.

“She’s just fine.”

She was. Melody was going to talk when she was ready. She was healthy and smart and kind, and that’s all they could ask for. When the time came for her to find her voice, no matter when that may be, April would be waiting with open arms, just like always.

Chapter Text

“I think we have a pretty clear winner,” Andy said, standing back with his arms crossed. “I don’t think there’s any debate, right honey?”

The six carved pumpkins were lined up on the kitchen counter, all of them glowing from within by candlelight, all of them different. The Ludgate-Dwyer family had made it a contest this year, and all of them got really into it.

Not to mention, April had decided that the “winner” would get to choose the movie for the night. It was too good an opportunity to miss.

“No way,” April shook her head, playfully elbowing her husband in the side. “Mine is the best.” She pointed to the witch’s creepy, old, wrinkled face she’d carved into the orange flesh. “Yours is a happy face, Andy…I thought we were supposed to make them scary?”

“You’re both wrong,” Jack said, the sixteen-year-old smiling confidently. “No one can beat a zombie pumpkin.” He pointed to the top, which he’d arranged so the seeds and pulp were overflowing from the hole. “See? Its even got brains.”

“Jack, that’s so typical,” Allie shook her head. “It’s boring, and you know it.”

“Oh, like a cat-face pumpkin is so much cleverer?”

“Hey,” the thirteen-year-old said, “it is too! Daddy told me mine was awesome!”

“Daddy told all of us that our pumpkins were awesome,” Melody rolled her eyes, while Andy nodded in agreement. “None of you did a pumpkin like mine, though.”

“Yeah, what exactly is yours?” Allie asked, squinting at it.

“It’s a guitar!” she put her hands on her hips, very much like her mother.

“Suck up,” Jack laughed. “Of course Dad is gonna like yours if you put a guitar on it! Lame choice for a pumpkin.”

“Jack,” April said sternly, giving him that look that could silence any of the kids in a heartbeat. “Your sister is not a suck up.” April didn’t tolerate any of her children making fun of each other. It was one of her most important rules.

“Shut up, Jack!” Melody said angrily. “Yours is gross…no one cares about zombies!”

“Mom does!”

“Okay, okay,” Andy said. “I think we can settle this one way.” He looked around the room, confused. “Where’s Emma?”

“She was working on her pumpkin in the living room,” Melody said.

Emma was too young to use a knife by herself, but she refused to accept help from her parents. Instead, claiming she had a better idea, she’d gone off on her own and hadn’t reappeared since. Now, she arrived from the living room carrying her pumpkin.

Her parents and siblings stared at the little seven-year-old as she carefully lifted her pumpkin up to sit with the others. She struggled, wobbling a bit, until her father chuckled and helped her by lifting her in the air.

“Emma,” April laughed, staring at the girl’s beautiful creation. “That’s amazing!”

Whereas everyone else had carved their pumpkin in the traditional way, Emma chose to paint hers. It was a beautifully done image of herself, smiling wide, all the details of her face obvious in each brushstroke. April always knew she was the most artistically inclined of the family, but it was almost as though she was seeing her daughter’s true talent for the first time.

“Honey,” Andy said, awestruck. “This is amazing,” he smiled, lifting her for a kiss on the cheek.

“Well,” Jack sighed. “Guess we have a winner.”

“Yup,” Allie nodded.

“Yeah,” Melody shrugged, but hugged her younger sister tightly. “Can you paint of picture of me too, someday?”

“I won?” the little girl said, looking at her family like she couldn’t believe it. She wasn’t used to winning much, especially with three older siblings who could do so much more than her because of their older ages.

“You won, munchkin,” April smiled, hugging her daughter along with Andy. “Definitely deserved, too.”

“Absolutely,” Andy nodded.

 

Emma did in fact pick the movie when the time came…and promptly fell asleep about twenty minutes into it. As April hugged her youngest close to her, wrapping her in the giant shared blanket, she made a mental note to do stuff like this more often. It would have to be one of their new Halloween traditions, for sure.

Chapter Text

“Babe, the sweets are meant to be for the trick or treaters.”

Andy sighed when he saw the nearly empty bowl by the door, containing the remains of what was once an assorted bunch of chocolates and candies that would make any kid happy. Now, all that was left were April’s least favorite things.

April peeked into the front hallway from the living room, their two-year-old in her arms. Jack stared at his father curiously, unsure where this conversation was going. “I know that, babe,” she shrugged, resting her free hand on her protruding baby belly.

“Then why do you keep eating them?”

“Are you going to tell a pregnant woman she can’t have candy?”

“No way! I’d never do that to you, honey. It’s just that we won’t get any kids if they think our house gives out sucky candy…”

“Who cares?” April rolled her eyes. “They’re not six months pregnant.”

“I should hope not…” Andy said. “Anyway, Leslie and Ben should be here soon. We still have a birthday to celebrate!” He winked at Jack.

“And trick or treating to do,” April added, setting Jack down to play.

“Remember babe,” Andy said softly, once Jack was out of earshot. “We can totally eat most of Jack’s candy later…he won’t know the difference.”

April grabbed him by the collar of his flannel and pulled him forward for a kiss. When they broke apart, she was giving him that stare he simply adored. “Sexy, smart and sneaky,” she chuckled. “I knew I married the right guy.”

“Totally did,” Andy nodded.

Chapter Text

April knew she was in the wrong almost instantly. Watching her husband’s shoulders slump as he walked away, up the stairs and out of sight, was almost too much for her to take. She didn’t mean to snap at him, but it was happening more and more lately, and she guessed Andy had finally reached his breaking point. She certainly didn’t realize how much this pregnancy was going to mess with her emotions until it did.

She took a deep breath and counted to thirty in her head, before she slowly followed him up the stairs to their room. She found the door closed, which it almost never was.

“Andy?” She knocked once, no answer. “Babe, I’m coming in.”

He was facing the opposite wall, lying on his side. April crawled up onto the bed and slid over to him, reaching out hesitantly until her hand came to rest on his upper arm.

“Hey,” she whispered. “Honey, talk to me…”

“You don’t wanna talk to me, though,” he said softly. “I mean, it’s cool…I understand, I think…”

April rolled her eyes. She honestly didn’t mean it, but sometimes enough was enough. For the last week, Andy had been talking constantly about all the things they were going to do in the next few months to get ready for the baby. The baby that was barely two months old inside her, who April didn’t even know existed until two weeks previous. It was too early, too risky to plan like that, and she needed him to stop before something happened and they got both their hopes up for nothing.

“Andy,” she said, rubbing his arm, “it’s not that I don’t want to talk to you. That’s not it at all, okay? Don’t ever think that. I’m just scared, okay?”

He rolled over to face her, his green eyes sad. “Why? What are you scared of?”

“I’m scared that…I dunno, that this is too good to be true or something, and it’s so early… The doctor said that a lot can happen in the first three months…”

“Baby, nothing’s gonna happen to our kid,” Andy said reassuringly. “I promise, I’m going to take care of you and make sure you take it easy. If you let me, I mean,” he added quickly. “I’m just…I’m really excited! You have no idea how much I wanted this and now it’s finally happening—“

“I do know,” April said. “Believe me, it took me a while to realize it, but I wanted this too. I’m just as excited as you.”

“Really?” His eyes lit up.

“Uh-huh,” she nodded. Then, she leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on the lips. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to push you away.”

“Don’t apologize,” he said, rubbing his nose against her cheek.

April giggled softly, his facial hair tickling her face in the best way. Then, she pulled him in for a better kiss. “I love you, and I love our little alien baby too.”

“You mean our little raspberry?” Andy chuckled. “The website said the baby’s the size of a raspberry right now.”

“Yes,” April grinned. “Our raspberry, even though that’s totally too cute for my taste. I prefer alien baby…or demon child. Take your pick.”

Andy smiled wide. “I love you both,” he placed his hand on her flat belly, “no matter what we call him…or her.”

“Works for me,” she leaned in, all previous discussion forgotten.

Chapter Text

What are you thankful for?

The question plays over and over in Andy’s head, but the answer is an easy one.

He lays in bed next to the two most important people in his life, his wife and child. April sleeps peacefully beside him, their one-year-old curled up snugly against her chest, his little hands clenched into fists held tightly under his chin.

Andy smiles, running one finger down April’s cheek to push away a wayward strand of hair. Then he tugs the blanket up over them just a little more, just enough to keep them warm. Upon further inspection, he realizes that in one of Jack’s fists is the corner of April’s sleeve, his security in his mother’s closeness.

It’s hard to describe that much happiness in words, but Andy never tries to. He looks at them, a smile on his face, and thinks about how now, he can honestly and truly say that April has never looked more beautiful. Sure, he says that a lot. But there is something so pure in this moment, something so amazing, that he knows it’s got to be true.

He slides closer to them, his long arm stretching across to April’s waist. They have no where to be. April wanted to spend this holiday at home, just the three of them. He wholeheartedly agreed with her.

He closes his eyes and drifts off to sleep, the promise of the amazing day they’d have never far from his mind.

Chapter Text

Kissing your newborn goodbye shouldn’t have been that tough. Especially if you’re only going to be gone for a few hours. You shouldn’t expect to be reduced to a sobbing mess while your husband lead you to the car, but that’s the way it went for April Ludgate-Dwyer regardless.

The night had been planned far too long in advance for a couple who hated to plan. Leslie was summoned to their home on a cold Saturday night in early December. Andy dressed up, or rather, put on something other than jeans and flannel, while April opted for a black dress she saved for such occasions. She was shocked to discover that she still fit in it, even after gaining a fair amount of pregnancy weight.

Jack had been asleep against her chest, dozed off after nursing like he often did. Andy had to all but take the sleeping baby from his emotional wife and hand him off to Leslie in order to get April out the door.

“I promise, everything will be fine,” Leslie assured them, one hand on the doorknob as she saw them off. “Go out and have fun! You two deserve it.”

April was still red-eyed and sniffly, which Andy was shocked about only because she never let Leslie see her that emotional. The doctor said this could happen, so he just went with it without question.

“C’mon honey,” he said, taking her gently by the elbow. “We’re gonna have an awesome time, just you and me.”

It had been nearly six weeks since Jack was born, and they hadn’t had any time to themselves since then. Of course, Andy wouldn’t change it for the world. He loved his new life and he loved his wife and son more than life itself, but he’d be lying if he said he didn’t miss spending some alone time with his wife. Every night she was exhausted—and rightly so—and she’d often fall asleep after nursing their son and putting him to bed. Jack was adorable, but he was a handful who didn’t like to nap or sit still for very long, so they were rarely alone together anymore.

“What if he needs me?” April said softly, with one last look toward the front door as it closed with a soft snap.

Andy held the car door open for her. “He’s sleeping,” Andy said soothingly. “Leslie’s got three kids, babe…she knows what to do if he wakes up.”

“We’ve never been away from him before.”

“There was gonna come a time that we had to be,” Andy said, staring the car. “Why not now?”

 

The restaurant was crowded. It was fancy, or at least the type of place that didn’t serve things like nachos and burgers. Leslie had made the reservation for them as part of her “Dwyer Babysitting Bonus” as she liked to call it.

Andy watched his wife across the table. She had bags under her eyes that the makeup couldn’t hide, but she was still beautiful. She would always be beautiful to him.

“You look amazing,” he said.

“Thank you,” she smiled. “You don’t look so bad yourself, Dwyer.”

“Well, it really feels funny wearing my fancy shoes like this,” he indicated his dress shoes, “but it’s kinda cool.”

“You think everything is okay at home?” she asked, glancing at her phone.

“I do,” Andy nodded. “I think everything is perfectly fine.”

“I’m sorry babe,” April sighed suddenly, rolling her eyes.

“For what?”

“For constantly freaking out about our kid. For not giving you enough attention these past couple of months,” she sipped her water. “I know I’ve been…you know…really involved with Jack and I’m always falling asleep—“

“Honey, it’s okay—“

“I’m just so tired and then I get grouchy—“

“Baby,” he said, taking her hands across the table. “You don’t have to apologize to me! Jack is the most amazing thing to ever happen to us! You never apologize for being a super awesome mom!”

April smiled. “Really? You think I’m a super awesome mom?”

“The best,” Andy said.

The waiter brought them menus, and they glanced over them quickly, still holding hands. After a few moments silence, they looked up at each other at the exact same moment.

“Babe,” April said.

“Hm?”

“This place blows.”

Andy laughed out loud. He was thinking the same thing. “Yeah…kinda does.”

“Leslie already paid for our meal,” April sighed. “We can’t just leave.”

“Well, maybe we can make the most of it?”

“Maybe,” April tapped her chin with her finger. “Maybe this place is the exact type of establishment that Janet Snakehole might meet a Mr. Burt Macklin to discuss important business matters…”

Andy smiled. Why didn’t he think of that? “Macklin comes here often,” he said, affecting his voice with a deep rumble. “Fancy seeing you here, Ms. Snakehole.”

“Macklin,” April purred, her voice silky. “You should know by now that I can’t be bought with fancy dinners.”

“Who says I’m buying you dinner?” he said, straightening in his seat. “I thought we were here to discuss the matter of the stolen diamonds.”

“Oh…that silly little issue,” she laughed. “Can’t we just enjoy a nice evening, Macklin? I promise I’ll make it worth your while later…”

Andy grinned, just as the waiter arrived to pour them some wine. He was sure she would.

 

After their meal, which wasn’t as bad as they’d anticipated, they walked hand in hand along the shops outside the restaurant. Roleplaying forgotten, April leaned into his shoulder as they passed the windows decorated for the upcoming holidays.

“That was fun,” she said, as Andy rubbed her hand to keep it warm. We haven’t had a meal sitting down in…”

“Weeks?” he offered with a laugh.

“Just about,” she chuckled. “I’m super glad we did this, babe.”

“Me too,” he said. Then, he pulled her into him and kissed her beneath the light of a nearby Christmas tree. It would seem like some ridiculous scene out of a movie had anyone been watching them. Andy loved it.

When they broke apart, April bit her lip and stared at him with large, soft eyes. “I forgot how awesome it is just hanging out like this. I kinda forgot what it was like before Jack.”

Andy knew what she meant. They always said your life would never be the same once you have kids, and since Jack had been born their lives had been an incredible whirlwind of activity.

“Well, sometimes it’s good to remember,” he said.

“Yeah,” April nodded.

They walked for a little while longer, always hand in hand. Eventually it grew colder and Andy checked his watch. “You wanna head home, babe?” It was only nine o’clock, and Leslie had told them to stay out as late as they wanted, but he figured she probably wanted to get back to Jack. This was the longest she’d been away from him since he was born.

“Not yet,” she said. “Can we go get coffee or something?”

“Of course we can!” Andy said excitedly. “We can do whatever you want.”

April didn’t say anything else, but she kept smiling as they walked together in the cold breeze. They felt like newlyweds again, and even though they were anything but, that spark that made their relationship what it was seemed to flare back up and remind them exactly what it was that made them fall in love in the first place.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, when April had a moment to lose herself in thought, she wondered to herself how her husband could turn her on so damn easily.

Seriously, she knew everything about him at this point. Every contour of his body, every line in his face. She knew all too intimately every bit of muscle and fat on his perfect figure, the power in his arms and legs, the soft fluff of his hair and scrape of his beard. All those parts of him did wonderful, amazing things to her that made her blush thinking about him. Yet there was one thing that did her in above all else, and that was seeing him be a father.

That, and taking charge in any type of situation, of course.

“Jack!” She heard Andy yell out for their son, who was standing on the pitcher’s mound of the baseball field. “Buddy, pay attention!”

“Sorry,” the ten-year-old called back.

“Guys,” Andy raised his arms in confusion, before adjusting his own baseball cap. “What’s the deal here? What’s wrong? Bring it in.” He gestured for the team to come to the home base.

April watched him talking to them. Sure, they weren’t playing their best today. They were all a little exhausted. Baseball season had been a busy one this year, and it was finally winding down. They only had two more games to play.

Andy had signed on to be their coach right away, to Jack’s delight. Andy’s too, to be honest. He loved sports, loved that Jack was into sports too, and any excuse to coach while hanging out with his own kid was the best scenario he could ask for. Not to mention, April loved watching him. Loved it.

She waited on the bleachers, simultaneously keeping an eye on her daughters who were all busying themselves with various activities beside her. Some of the other baseball moms and dads were scattered around, but April wasn’t paying them any attention. She only had eyes for her husband.

Soon enough, the team dispersed back onto the field and the practice resumed. April watched Andy bark orders and strategy to the kids, and all it did was drive her wild. He was made to be a dad and April loved that she could be the one to give him that. She could watch him with their own children all day and it would make her the happiest she’d ever been.

“Okay guys,” Andy called. “Nice job! That’s more like it! Good!”

Right now, April sat patiently. She wanted to grab Andy and push him on top of the dugout bench and have her way with him, but that would be highly inappropriate. So she had no choice but to wait.

 

“Oh, babe,” Andy groaned, wiping the sweat off his forehead once they’d returned home later that evening. “I’m exhausted…that was brutal.”

“Mhm,” April nodded, leading him upstairs once she made sure the kids were seated in front of the TV, eyes glued to a movie she was sure would be long enough. Sometimes parenting was exhausting, and damn it, she just wanted a half hour alone with her husband, okay?

“I mean, the kids did great, but I can tell the whole season is really catching up to them.”

“Right.” She was barely listening to the words he was saying.

“I’m so sore,” Andy whined. “I didn’t think coaching would make me feel like such an old guy.”

“You’re not old,” April said, leading him to their bedroom. Once inside, she closed the door and immediately pushed him down on to their bed.

“Um,” he blinked. “Babe?”

“Shh,” she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. “No talking…”

“What’s gotten into you?” Andy laughed as April shimmied out of her jeans and hastily went for his belt.

“Well, you, in a few seconds—“

“April,” his eyes went wide. “Is everything okay?”

April rolled her eyes. Sometimes she wished he’d ask less questions when it came to these things. Typically he went for it, but sometimes she felt like she had to explain everything and now was certainly not the time. “Andy,” she sighed. “You’re like…the best dad in the world. You’re hot as hell and you make me happy. I love you and I wanna screw you right now,” she bit her lip and shrugged. “Is that cool?”

Andy opened his mouth and closed it. Instead, he just nodded frantically.

“Okay then,” she grinned, sliding into his lap. “No more questions.”

Chapter Text

April heard wrong. She must have. Otherwise, it didn’t make sense. She stared at her husband with her head tilted to the side as Andy stood there, holding the telephone out for her.

“Babe?” he said, watching her. “You gonna take the phone, or what?”

“Did you say your mom wants to talk to me?”

“Yeah,” Andy looked confused. “Want me to tell her you’ll call her back?”

Abby Dwyer was a busy woman for her age. She was retired, in her seventies, and still found the time to help take care of Andy’s numerous nieces and nephews from his six older brothers. She had never moved out of Pawnee, having lived there her whole life, and suffice to say she never really had much of an opportunity to spend time with her youngest daughter-in-law. So it was a shock to April that she had bothered to call her out of the blue one Saturday morning in the first place.

“Okay,” April shrugged, taking the phone. “What does she—?”

“I’m gonna go make some hot cocoa for Jack and Allie,” Andy said quickly, ushering the kids out of the living room. “Give you some privacy, okay?”

“Okay, but—“

“Great babe, love you,” Andy said in a hurry. “C’mon munchkins,” he took his children by the hands and led them away, kissing his wife on the cheek as he passed her.

April felt weird as she watched them go. Hesitantly, she brought the phone to her ear. “Hello?”

“Hello dear,” Abby said. “Is this a bad time?”

“No,” April said. “It’s not…it’s just, um…what’s going on?”

“I wanted to call and see how you were doing.”

How I’m doing? April rolled her eyes. To be honest? Not well…especially after you lose your baby four months into your pregnancy. That’s how she was doing. It sucked. Life sucked at the moment and April hated almost everyone in it.

Sure, there had been a momentary period after she had come home from the hospital where she felt like she might just be able to move on. She had spent enough time away from home to appreciate just how much she already had in life. She had finally come to terms with the notion that maybe another child just wasn’t in the cards for their family, and she would be okay with that.

Then, one morning she just wasn’t okay. She was horrible. All of it came rushing back, and suddenly the reality of the child she had lost and the idea of what could have been was hurting her more than the initial miscarriage ever had.

“I’m okay,” she lied. “How are you?”

“You’re okay?” Abby scoffed. “No, you’re not, dear.”

“Of course I am,” April said, slightly annoyed. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“Because you lost a child.”

The words stung more than April cared to admit. “Yes, I’m aware of that, thanks for the reminder.” She didn’t mean to be so cold to her mother-in-law, but this conversation was far from anything she wanted at the moment.

“April,” Abby sighed. “Andy told me you’ve haven’t been doing well.”

“Andy doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” April lied again. “There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m not supposed to have any more kids, okay? It’s fine. I love the two I have and that’s enough.”

“It’s hard,” Abby said. “It’s incredibly painful.”

“How do you know?” April said, her voice a whisper now. “How does anyone even think they know how this feels?” She took a deep, shaky breath. “No one does, okay?”

“I had two miscarriages before Andy was born,” Abby said softly. “One right after the other.”

Abby’s words caught April off guard. She didn’t know that. She wasn’t even sure Andy knew that. “I’m sorry,” she bit her lip. “I didn’t know.”

“Yes, well, sometimes the doctors know what they’re talking about when they warn you about having more children. I didn’t listen to them, though.”

“Yeah,” April said. “You didn’t listen, but then you had Andy, so…it worked out for you.”

“Yes, true,” Abby said. “I didn’t listen, and if I had had either of those children I would have stopped and never had Andy, my wonderful son, your loving husband, and you wouldn’t have either of those beautiful babies you have now. Everything, as much as it can be terrible sometimes, happens for a reason.”

April sighed. “I don’t understand this reason, though,” she said. “I don’t understand it, and I hate it.”

“I know,” Abby said. “It’s terrible, it’s true…but you are a strong, capable woman and mother, and you and my son will get through this.”

April sniffed, clearing her throat. “Thank you.”

“I’ll let you go, dear,” Abby said. “Give my babies a kiss for me.”

“I will.”

“And you make sure you call me whenever you need me,” Abby added. “I know I’m not your mother, but you’re still my daughter-in-law…my favorite one, too, and that’s saying something.”

April laughed softly. “Okay,” she said, smiling. “I promise, I will.”

She wasn’t exactly sure how she’d done it, but Abigail Dwyer had made her feel better about things in five minutes that she had in an entire month, and that was saying something. From that point on, April knew she had to make a point to call her more often. After all, she never realized just how close Andy had been to never existing in the first place, and that…well, April didn’t like to think about that.

Chapter Text

If there was one thing Andy learned very quickly once you have kids, it was that they can get sick. A lot—like, an incredibly crazy amount of times—once they start going to school. When Jack started preschool, he got sick his first week. Nothing major, but Andy distinctly remembered him running a fever and developing a cough serious enough to pull him out for a couple of days. The same was true for Allie, and then Melody a couple of years after that.

The thing he didn’t realize was that once one kid is sick, it doesn’t take long for the entire house to become sick. Andy wasn’t sure how, but he’d managed to remain the only healthy person in the house.

“Daddy!” Melody wailed, her little voice calling out to him from the upstairs bathroom where she’d been sitting in front of the toilet for five minutes now. She’d been throwing up, and he had to leave her to run to Jack’s room, where the seven-year-old had yet to take his medicine.

“I’m coming honey,” Andy called, running a hand through his messy, unwashed hair. He hadn’t had a moment to himself in two days now. Showering had been out of the question because he never seemed to take a break. “Jack,” he turned his attention back to his son. “Buddy, you have to take your medicine.”

“It’s gross!” Jack said, his arms crossed in defiance. “I’m not taking it. It looks like throw-up.”

“Jack," Andy said sternly, “you won’t get better if you don’t take it. C’mon, it’s the doctor’s orders.”

“No!” Jack shook his head.

“Daddy!”

Andy craned his neck toward the door and quickly back at Jack. “Listen, I’m gonna go help your sister. When I come back that medicine better be gone.” God, he sucked at trying to be stern sometimes. He sprinted out the door to the bathroom down the hall. Inside, Melody was bawling, her pajamas covered in vomit. “Honey,” Andy said soothingly, kneeling beside her, “what happened?”

“I frew up,” she said, her eyes red and wet.

“Baby, did you miss the toilet?”

“Y-yes,” she erupted in fresh sobs, and Andy helped her remove her soiled pajamas as he cleaned her face with a damp cloth.

“It’s okay baby,” he said softly. “Everyone does it sometimes…c’mon, let’s get you some new pajamas.”

“Want mama,” she sniffed, rubbing her eyes.

“I know,” he said. “C’mon, I can bring you to mama’s room, okay?”

“Yeah,” she said, clutching his neck as he lifted her. As he passed by Jack’s room he shouted, “Jack, take the medicine!”

 

April was lying in bed, pale and miserable-looking. His wife had never been lucky when it came to sickness, and the stomach bug that was circulating throughout the family had hit her with a vengeance. Add that to the morning sickness from being two months pregnant with their fourth, and it was the perfect storm of discomfort.

“Babe,” Andy said, as Melody slid from his grasp and immediately snuggled into bed with her mother. “How’re you feeling? Did the medicine help at all?”

“Not really,” she groaned, sipping the ginger ale by her bedside.

“You wanna try eating some crackers?” He pushed some hair behind her ear.

“No,” April shook her head, running her fingers through Melody’s dark curls as the three-year-old cuddled her side. “I’m not hungry.” She sighed. “What about Jack? Did he take his medicine?”

“No,” Andy grumbled, rolling his eyes.

“Andy, he needs to—“

“I know, I know,” Andy sighed. “I’m trying, honey.”

April’s eyes softened and she reached for his hand. “I know you are, babe,” she said. “I’m sorry, I know I’m no help—“

“No, April, don’t apologize. You’re sick, it’s okay—“

“Daddy?” Andy spun around, and Allie was in the doorway. She’d just woken up too early from her nap and was rubbing her eyes sleepily. “I’m hungry…”

“Okay baby,” Andy said. “Daddy’s gonna get you some food in one minute…I just need to check your brother—“

“My tummy still hurts,” Allie said, climbing into her parents’ bed to join her mother and sister.

“It’s okay,” April soothed. “C’mon, we can rest together…”

“I want something to eat—“

“Dad!” Jack yelled from his room. “I need you! DAD!”

For a moment, Andy thought he just might lose it. Not because he didn’t love his family, because he did, more than anything. Anyone who disputed that was insane and he’d fight them. No, it was because he simply felt like he was about to drop from exhaustion and he wasn’t sure how much more he had left in him. He could see April looking at him out of the corner of his eye.

“Andy?” April narrowed her eyes. “Honey…”

Maybe it was her voice that brought him back to reality. He’d never really know. But Andy shook his head, assured April he was fine, took a breath, and hurried back to Jack’s room.

“What’s up, big man?” Andy asked. Jack had tears in his eyes, which was rare for him. He never liked to let people see him shed a tear, similar to his mother. Immediately, Andy was by his side. “Hey,” Andy said softly. “What’s wrong?”

“Dad,” Jack sniffled, “I think I had an accident…”

Andy glanced down at the bed, where sure enough, the dirty sheets were obvious. All three kids had been having problems in that area since they got sick. Just another unfortunate side effect of the stomach virus.

“Hey,” Andy said, rubbing his son’s back. “Listen, don’t you worry about it, okay? It happens, and we’re going to take care of it.”

“The girls are gonna laugh at me—“

“No, they’re not,” Andy said. “They don’t need to know a thing about this.” He helped Jack out of bed and led him to the bathroom to clean him up. “Promise.”

Jack nodded shakily, taking his father’s hand, something he hadn’t done in a while now. Andy gripped it firmly, giving a reassuring squeeze.

 

Once Jack was cleaned up and redressed, tucked back into bed and given some crackers to settle his stomach, Andy went back to check on the girls. His own stomach was rumbling since he hadn’t eaten all day, and he was so sleepy he could drop at any moment.

Inside his room, both girls were asleep cuddled up on either side of their mother, while April scrolled on her phone. When she heard him enter, she looked up.

“Hey,” she said, sitting up as best she could without waking the girls. “Jack okay?”

“He’s fine,” Andy nodded. “Just had a little issue, but I took care of it.”

“You’re the best daddy, you know that?” April reached for his hand. “Thank you so much for everything you’ve done for us. I know this situation has sucked for the last few days.”

“That’s what I do,” Andy said, smiling dispute the suddenly uneasy feeling in his gut. “I take care of my family who I love more than anything,” he added with a smile. “You feeling all right, babe?”

“Feeling much better,” she nodded. “I’ll be fine for a while. Why don’t you rest a bit?”

“Yeah,” Andy yawned. “Think I will…” He collapsed into bed, squeezing himself in next to Melody, who was asleep between them. “Let me know if you need anything, honey,” he mumbled.

“I need you,” she sighed.

“I’m here,” he smiled against the pillow.

“Not close enough,” April said. “Here…” She carefully lifted Melody in her arms.

“Babe, let me—“

“I got her,” April waved him off. She placed her daughter next to Allie and scooted closer to Andy, immediately curling against him. “Mmm,” she hummed, taking a deep breath. “Finally…”

Andy wrapped her in his arms. He felt his eyes get heavy and they began to droop, the soft feeling of April running her fingers through his hair lulling him to sleep. Later, even after Jack tiptoed out of his own room to sneak into bed with the rest of his family, Andy felt like he could sleep for a year.

 

The next morning, Andy woke up completely nauseous. The only thing that made it worth it all was the fact that April and the kids felt fine again, each of them insisting he lay back in bed and let them take care of him the way he took care of them.

Sometimes, Andy loved his family so much he literally wanted to cry. Right then was definitely one of those times.

Chapter Text

December 24, 2027

There was more than a little frost glistening in the windowpane, catching the shine of moonlight in the cloudless sky. It was cold, dark and windy, each breeze picking up a handful of snow particles and swirling them against the house on the quiet street.

Inside the largest bedroom in that house, it was anything but. Buried deep beneath the covers of the large bed, snuggled and tangled up in her husband’s arms, April Ludgate recovered from a busy Christmas Eve filled with family and friends, something she never realized how much she would enjoy until she had it.

Andy’s beard tickled the back of her neck, each exhale a mixture of warmth and the faint smell of peppermint. Every once in a while he would squeeze her hand, which was clutched in his own, to remind her that he was still awake.

“What?” she asked sleepily, after he did this for the third time.

“Nothing,” he whispered.

“Dude,” her voice was low and scratchy, sore from all the talking all night long, all the calling out to their children to keep them from getting into mischief while they had guests over. “What is it?” She turned to face him, the smile on her face obvious in the dark. She needed him to know that she wasn’t annoyed, not at all.

“Really, it’s nothing,” he shrugged. “Just like holding your hand babe,” he yawned wide, pulling her closer to his chest as he did so. “What a fun night, huh?”

“Yeah,” she grinned. It was. Leslie, Ben and the triplets had joined them for dinner. Leslie made a fabulous dessert and they had hot chocolate, all the things that April might have found lame in a past life but delighted in now simply because of the joy it brought her children. Now, all the kids were in bed and fast asleep. The presents were set under their tree. She and Andy could finally relax. It was all she had been waiting for.

“Tomorrow’s gonna be crazy too,” Andy said. “I’m super glad we’re staying home this year.”
“Me too,” April said.

“Hey,” he chuckled. “D’you think our baby knows it’s Christmas tomorrow?” He glanced down at her belly, his hand brushing against her delicately.

“Between you telling him or her every other night and Jack and Allie reading books to my stomach, I think our kid’s got a pretty good idea.” April reached for him, caressing his cheek and behind his ears.

“Good,” Andy said. “That’s what I hoped.”

It had been an absolutely horrific year for the both of them. April would never forget that past February, their loss and pain at the hands of a devastating bout of the flu and a miscarriage they never saw coming. It was hard, but now they were given a second chance.

Andy wanted to do everything in his power to make it easy for April. He didn’t want her to travel if she could avoid it, and that meant staying local for the holidays and avoiding heading back to Pawnee. She was still five months from her due date, but that didn’t stop him from worrying. After all, this was precisely the point that her previous pregnancy had ended so terribly.

“I just…” April sighed, pressing her forehead against his chin. The miscarriage was something she thought about every day. It was never far from her mind, no matter how hard she tried to forget.

“What?”

“I don’t know. It’s nothing, don’t worry.”

Andy seemed to be reading her mind. He leaned in to kiss her forehead. “You’re doing so amazing babe,” he said. “You’re incredible.”

He always told her things like that. Sometimes April didn’t even know what it was she was supposed to have done to deserve his never ending praise, but he kept giving it nonetheless.

“Am I, though?” she looked at him.

“Of course you are,” Andy said, aghast. “You absolutely are.”

“I keep thinking I’m going to mess this up,” she whispered.

“Mess what up?”

“This,” she gestured to her belly. “I’m…I’ve just been thinking about all the things that could go wrong again.”

“No,” Andy shook his head. “No babe, everything is gonna be fine.”

“You’re right, I know you are,” she said. “Still, it’s just…everything just feels so right, right now. I don’t want anything to screw that feeling up.”

“Nothing will,” Andy said. “I promise.” He pulled the blanket tighter around them. “You should probably get some sleep, though. You’re overthinking things a bit,” he laughed.

Andy was ultimately right. April closed her eyes, cuddling against him. Sleep overtook her in a matter of minutes.

 

The following morning was one she wouldn’t soon forget. Between Jack and Allie’s excitement that Santa had come and eaten the cookies and milk, the many presents under the tree and the joy with which they opened each and every one, and Andy’s strong arm around her as they watched their children happily from the couch, April couldn’t help but marvel at her life. It was pretty awesome.

Chapter Text

Somewhere between the shrieking laughter and shuffling feet of her children running around the house, April heard the doorbell ring. It was merely another knife in her brain, already pounding with a migraine and awash with the guilt she’d been feeling for a month now. Guilt that she knew was a result of her seemingly constant annoyance at her husband’s sudden urge to do absolutely anything and everything for her over the past nine months of her fourth and final pregnancy.

She loved Andy more than words. She loved him as a husband, as a father, and as a person in general, and she knew how lucky she was. Maybe it was because she felt bigger and heavier now than she’d had with the previous three pregnancies. This one had certainly been her hardest by far, but she attributed that to her age. She knew something had changed, knew her body felt different, and for a while she thought she was going through early menopause, something that depressed her just as much as it frightened her. Forty-four was a risk, she knew. It had taken them long enough to conceive this time, and April had nearly given up before that amazing day when she went for a routine checkup and walked out of it with the knowledge that she was pregnant again.

Since that day, Andy had been attentive to the point of frustration. He never let her get up for anything, insisted on bringing her anything she needed whether it be while she was on the couch, in bed, or even one time in the shower. She had asked him on several occasions to dial it back a bit, to remind him that she wasn’t bedridden or an old lady who couldn’t fend for herself, but he still didn’t seem to get it.

Now, she grunted and grumbled as she made her way to the front door, calling out to the kids to calm down a bit even though she knew her command was falling on deaf ears. When she swung the door open, she wasn’t surprised to see Leslie. She was surprised to see who Leslie had brought with her, however.

“What’s Man Perkins doing here?” April asked immediately, once Leslie had hurried forward to wrap her old friend in a hug. Now that Leslie was Governor of Indiana, she spent far less time in Washington DC. Since Ann had moved back to Pawnee, she was around far more often than ever, and the two best friends were closer than they’d ever been once again.

“Nice to see you too, April,” Ann said, smiling pleasantly. True, even if April didn’t exactly hate Ann anymore, she couldn’t pass up an opportunity to throw the occasional insult her way. It made her feel normal again.

“Well, it’s been so long since we’ve all gotten together, so I figured why not bring her along for our lunch date? Is that okay with you?” Leslie beamed at April before hurrying off to kiss the kids hello, leaving April and Ann in uncomfortable silence. Ann looked April up and down before handing her three small gift bags.

“What are these?” April asked, eying them. “Did you bring us drugs again, Ann? I told you, we don’t do that stuff—“

“Haha, very funny,” Ann rolled her eyes. “They’re gifts for the kids.”

“Thank you,” April gave her a half-hearted grin before ushering her to the little dining room table and taking a seat, taking the weight off her stomach as she sighed with relief.

“Are you okay?” Ann asked, eying her. “You must be nearly there, huh? When is your due date?”

“I’m fine,” April shrugged. “I’m due in two weeks.”

“Two weeks?” Ann’s eyes widened. “You’re here alone with three kids and you’re due in two weeks? Where the hell is Andy?”

April glared at Ann. If she was in any way trying to belittle her husband’s parenting skills, Ann was about to have a huge problem on her hands. April was grumpy enough as it was without people throwing digs at her family. “He’s at the store getting me some ginger ale.”

“Oh,” That seemed to satisfy Ann enough. “Okay.” She looked around awkwardly, the two of them waiting for Leslie’s return. She glanced over at April again. “How has pregnancy been this time around?”

“Fine.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“Yup.”

Ann shifted uncomfortably. It had been a while since they’d seen each other. “You guys must be excited. Another Dwyer baby running around—“

“The baby can’t run, Ann,” April sighed. “It’s a baby.”

“Right,” Ann nodded knowingly, pursing her lips. “So…how’s Andy doing, then?”

“He’s amazing,” April grumbled. “Doesn’t let me lift a damn finger.” Her words came out harsher than she’d intended. Ann didn’t miss the sting in her voice. “Always following me around…insists on helping me up and down and doing all the errands…it’s fantastic.”

“Is everything…okay between you guys?” Ann narrowed her eyes. “You don’t seem all that happy about it.”

“Of course it is,” April glared. “Why?”

“You seem a bit frustrated.”

April hated when Ann—or anyone, for that matter—tried to act like they could read her. Only Andy could really do that. “Well, of course I am,” she bit back. “Look at me. I’m huge.”

“Yeah, I understand,” Ann nodded. “But it seems like the whole Andy thing is making you upset. Is it?”

“Is it what?” April put a hand on her belly, where a harsh round of kicks started up courtesy of the baby within.

“Is it bothering you or making you upset that you feel like you can’t do anything without Andy hovering?”

April bit her lip. From the other room, she could hear Leslie pretending to be shocked at how strong Jack’s handshake was, while Melody tugged at her other hand to see her newest stuffed animal. “I love Andy,” she said softly.

“I know you do,” Ann said, smiling. “He’s a good guy.”

“Sometimes,” April sighed, “I just wish he’d give me some space. I don’t know why he’s like this right now.” She paused, watching and waiting for Ann to reply. The other woman only stared and nodded, so April continued. “When I was pregnant with Jack, I expected it, you know? We were new parents and we had no idea how to take care of a baby, and I was scared and nervous and excited all at once, and I didn’t mind when Andy did everything for me. Now I’ve done this three damn times, and I’m tired. I love him so much, but I need him to give me some space.” She closed her eyes and felt that guilt nagging at her again. When she opened them, Ann was still staring.

“You know,” Ann started, “when I was pregnant with Oliver, Chris drove me insane.”

April sat up a little. “Well, I’m not surprised. He’s annoying.”

“This was an entirely different type of annoying,” Ann shook her head. “I wanted to punch him in the face.”

“Harsh,” April nodded appreciatively. “I like it.”

“Well, long story short, I talked to him about it and he changed. That aside, I knew that he was only doing it because he loved me and loved our baby, and he wanted to make sure I was taken care of. I know Andy is the same, and I know that if you talked to him and told him what’s bothering you, I’m sure he’d understand.”

April sighed, flashing Ann a half-smile. By now, Leslie had been standing silently in the entryway between the dining room and kitchen, listening to her two friends speaking with near-tears in her eyes.

“Leslie,” April rolled her eyes. “Stop lurking.”

“Sorry,” Leslie said quickly. “That was just…a beautiful moment between you two and I didn’t want to ruin it—“

“Moment’s over,” April tried to stand up, holding the edge of the table to help her along. “You two want something to drink?”

“I’ll get it,” Leslie darted forward, but Ann held her back by the wrist.

“No, I think April’s got it,” Ann gave Leslie a knowing glance. Leslie sat down, while April took out three glasses and some lemonade from the fridge.

As April was pouring, the front door opened and all three children started yelling. Andy’s joyous laugh could be heard ringing through the house. When he stepped into the kitchen, he smiled in surprise to see his old friends.

“Woah, hey guys!” Andy said happily. “Totally forgot you were coming over today! Wait, were you always coming over today, or—”

“I was,” Leslie said. “But I brought Ann as a special surprise.”

“Lame surprise,” April deadpanned, carrying the tray of lemonades to the table.

“Woah, woah, babe,” Andy made to take the tray from her. “I got it.”

April caught Ann’s glance and subtle nod, and April turned back to her husband. “Honey, it’s fine,” she held the tray firmly. “I got it, okay?” She gave him a soft smile, gently tugging the tray from his grip. Andy looked a little confused, but he let go all the same.

Ann smiled at April and winked.

 

Long after their friends left and the kids went to bed, April would stay up with Andy and talk to him, just as Ann had suggested. She’d make sure to tell him how amazing he was, how caring he was, all the truths that needed to be said along with all the things she’d been feeling lately. It was only fair to him, to her, and to their marriage. She knew her husband, and she knew he would understand and love her no matter what.

Sometimes Ann might be right, and April learned that it was okay when she was. After all, Leslie had remained friends with her for all these years. That had to count for something.

Chapter Text

“Daddyyyy! Daddy, can we please get some candy? Pretty please?”

Andy looked up from the back of the cereal box. He’d been distracted by one of the colorful designs. This one in particular had a map that the kids were supposed to follow, leading to buried treasure. In any normal person’s eye, it was a maze. Still, Andy loved cereal boxes, especially when they were fun. He smiled and tossed it in the shopping cart. “What’s that, honey?”

“Candy,” Allie said, holding up a little plastic baggie with the treat within. “It’s a ring pop. Can I have one?”

“Me too!” Melody said, her little hands digging through the box of other flavors. “I want a blue one.”

“Girls,” Andy said, looking around for where April and the other two kids had gone too. There was no sign of them nearby, “I mean, your mom might get mad if we get even more candy. You both still have so much left over in your Christmas stockings.”

These days, with four growing kids, they went through food pretty quickly. Shopping trips were sometimes long and boring, and they often needed a lot of items. Andy and April liked to split the job up. It was a very adult thing to do, making it boring in April’s eye, but it worked.

“But we don’t have ring pops,” Allie said, her green eyes filled with the same excitement Andy had seen in photos of himself at that age, and still now to this day. “Please?”

Andy picked up one of the little candies and stared at it. A long time ago, he gave one of these to April. That was a special day for sure. It’s not every day you ask the love of your life to marry you by holding out a half-eaten ring pop. He smiled fondly at the memory, remembering the way he slipped the sticky red candy with a yellow plastic ring onto April’s finger.

“Daddy?” Melody tapped him on the arm. He’d zoned out again, lost in the memory.

“Huh?” Andy blinked and put the candy down.

“I said, can we please get one if we pick one for Jack and Emma too?”

“Emma’s too small for candy,” Andy said knowingly. “But I’ll tell you what. Let’s get one for Jack and for your mom too, that way we can all have some and no one will feel left out.”

“Yay!” Both girls cheered, digging eagerly through the box for more of them. Andy watched happily, just as April came around the corner with the second shopping cart. Emma sat in the front part, sipping her cup of milk. Jack stood at his mother’s side, bored looking, his hands in his pockets.

“All set?” April asked, looking at the two girls and Andy. “C’mon, I need to get out of this store. There’s only so much food shopping I can take before I want to murder someone.”

“Yeah,” Andy nodded. “Um, we’re gonna get some candy too, okay?”

“Andy—“

“Babe,” Andy held up the treat, his smile wide. He watched as April’s eyes changed, comprehending exactly what the thing was. At once, he knew she was back in that same memory he’d been thinking of only a moment before. “The girls wanted a ring pop. How can I say no?”

April bit her lip. “Fine,” she rolled her eyes. “One each…”

“One for you, Mama,” Melody said, handing April one.

“Thank you, baby,” April smiled. “I don’t need one, though—“

“It was Daddy’s idea.”

April looked up at him, smiling.

Andy pulled his wife against his side and kissed the top of her head. Giving April that pop all those years ago was still the best decision he ever made.

Chapter Text

“Mama?”

The little voice woke Andy up at nearly five in the morning. He blinked the sleep out of his eyes and turned on the bedside lamp, sitting up slowly. Melody was by April’s side of the bed, her little hands pulling at the sheets.

It was normal for her to come into their room like this. Melody often had nightmares, and all it usually took was a few cuddles from her mom and dad before she was fast asleep. Then Andy would carry her back to her own room, but he’d be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy cuddling with his kids. It was honestly the best.

“Sweetheart?” Andy whispered, careful not to wake an exhausted, sleeping April beside him. “Why are you up? Did you have a bad dream?”

The four-year-old looked at her father before she turned back to April. She didn’t reply, only continued tugging at the sheet.

“Honey,” Andy reached over April for Melody’s hand, “c’mon, you’re gonna wake mama up. Daddy can help you—“

“No,” Melody shook her head. “I want mama.”

Andy sat back. It wasn't like Melody to turn him away. Sure, sometimes when the kids were sad or sick or scared, they gravitated toward their mother’s arms, but always to his right after.

“Baby, mama’s very tired,” Andy said, trying to explain April’s pregnancy exhaustion without really explaining it. She needs to rest, but you can come with daddy—“

“No! I want mama!” Melody screeched now, stomping her little foot and dropping her stuffed animal. Andy sat back, surprised. The noise must have gotten to April. She groaned and opened her eyes.

“What’s wrong?” She yawned, blinking in the light of Andy’s lamp. “Andy? Why are you up?”

“Mommy!” Melody broke into a smile. “Can I come sleep with you?”

April looked down and noticed her daughter standing there, shuffling her tiny feet. Andy knew April was too tired to argue. As expected, she nodded sleepily.

“Sure baby,” April yawned again. “C’mon, come up between us.”

Andy moved over, waiting for Melody to take her usual place between them like she usually did when she came into their bed. Instead, she shook her head and hopped up in front of April, cuddling against her chest. April was too exhausted to notice, and drifted off almost immediately when Melody was settled, leaving Andy hurt and bewildered as to why his youngest suddenly wanted nothing to do with him.

 

“April?” Andy placed a bowl of cereal down in front of his wife as she got the kids’ lunches ready for school the next morning. “I wanted to ask you something.”

“Sure,” April said, not looking up. “What’s up?” She zipped up the lunch bags one by one and turned to face him once that was done.

“Well, it’s...uh…kinda dumb, I guess.”

“Okay,” April narrowed her eyes.

“I feel like…I dunno…like Melody kinda hates me all of a sudden.”

April scoffed immediately. “Andy, what the hell would make you think something like that? Our kids love you! You know that. You’re some kind of super-dad to them.”

“Yeah, but not to Melody…not lately, anyway,” he shrugged. “The other night she wouldn’t come near me. She wouldn’t even look at me. Then this morning when I went to get her up from bed, she shook her head and didn’t move until she heard you coming upstairs.”

April looked at him. “That could just be some odd coincidence.”

“Then when I brought her breakfast, she wouldn’t eat it,” Andy went on. “She shook her head and said no.”

He wasn’t going to pretend that it didn’t sting just a little bit. April was right in that all the kids loved him. Jack, Allie and Melody were his pride and joy, but Melody had always been his baby. She was a daddy’s girl through and through since the day she was born. She never hesitated to run to his arms for comfort and safety, and he loved it.

April frowned. She looked down at the counter and back at Andy, rolling her lips the way she so often did when she was unsure or just didn’t quite know what to say.

“Melly?” April called. “Baby, come here, please.”

Melody hurried over from the living room, dressed for school with a wide smile on her face. Andy couldn’t help but smile when he saw her. She was the spitting image of her mother. His little mini-April he’d always dreamed they’d have.

“Yeah mama?” she said.

“Honey, daddy’s gonna take you to school today,” April said, kindly but firmly. “Okay? Won’t that be fun?”

At once, the smile disappeared from Melody’s face. “No,” she shook her head. “I want you to take me,” she said.

“Why not daddy?”

“I want you,” she said firmly. “Not daddy!”

Andy’s heart sank. April was watching him, he saw the look of confusion on her face and how much she felt bad for him. She knew how much this was affecting him.

“Well, it’s going to be daddy, baby. I’m sorry, but mama has to go to her office early.”

Melody’s face scrunched up like she was going to cry. April looked at Andy quickly and he moved forward, getting down on one knee to his daughter’s height.

“Honey,” he said slowly. “What’s wrong?”

“I just want mama,” Melody said, her eyes filled with tears.

“Can’t I help you?” he asked warily. “Daddy knows how to help too.” He took her hands in his and started to pull her forward for a hug.

“No!” she pushed against him with her little palms and ran away, out of the kitchen. Andy stared, his eyes wide, nearly as wet as his daughter’s now.

“Honey,” April walked over to him and gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “It’s just a phase.”

“Yeah,” Andy nodded quickly. “Right. Just a phase…” He stood and wiped his eyes with his sleeve.

“I’ll take her to school,” April said. “You take Jack and Allie. I’ll try to talk to her alone and see what’s up.”

 

April pulled into the parking lot of the elementary school. Fortunately for their family, Melody’s preschool was a separate building that was still attached the main school, so they didn’t have to go far. With Jack in third grade and Allie in first, they were often running all over the place.

They parked, and Melody shifted in her booster seat, waiting for her mother to give her the okay to unbuckle her seat belt. Instead, April turned to face her daughter.

“Baby,” she said slowly. “Can I ask you a question?”

“Okay,” Melody said.

“Why haven’t you let daddy spend any time with you lately? You really hurt his feelings this morning.”

Melody frowned and bit her tiny lower lip the same way April always did. April had to suppress and grin. “I dunno,” she shrugged.

“Has something or someone at school been bothering you?” April asked, narrowing her eyes. “Is there something I need to talk to your teacher about?”

“No.”

“Did daddy do something to make you upset?” April continued. Melody didn't say anything. Instead, she crossed her arms and frowned. April knew she was getting warmer. “Honey?”

“Daddy made you have ‘nother baby,” Melody mumbled.

“What?”

“Jack said mommies and daddies are why we have babies,” Melody said. “He said that if daddy didn’t help, there wouldn’t be ‘nother baby.”

April wasn’t expecting that. She knew Andy had given Jack a shorthand version of “the talk” recently. He and April both felt it was important, but more so because Jack had somehow stumbled onto a rather inappropriate website and they had needed to do some damage control.

Caught off guard, she stared at her daughter with her mouth open for a bit, until she came to her senses again. Without a word, she motioned for Melody to unbuckle herself and climb into the passenger seat.

“Baby,” April said softly. “It’s not daddy’s fault that we’re having another baby. In fact, it isn’t anyone’s fault at all. We wanted another baby. This is a good thing.”

“No, it’s not,” Melody said.

“Why not?”

“I already told you,” Melody said. “I don’t want ‘nother baby.”

April sighed. Melody wasn’t enthusiastic, to say the least, when they told the kids they’d be having another sibling. Melody was used to being the baby and April couldn’t fault her for that. She knew how to play to her father’s emotions and use her status to get what she wanted, whether it be more television time or some sweets at the store. She was afraid of losing that love, and suddenly it all made sense.

“Melody,” April said, making sure to speak very clearly, “you know that no matter what, daddy and I love you so much. You’re always going to be our baby, just like Jack and Allie will always be our babies.”

Melody sniffed and shook her head. “Daddy isn’t gonna like me anymore.”

“That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard,” April said, using her fingertip to press her daughter lightly on the tip of her nose. “And I’ve heard a lot of silly things.”

“What if he doesn’t?”

“Baby, your daddy loves you more than anything in the world.”

“More than cake?”

“Way, way more than cake!” April grinned. “That’s never going to change just because you have a baby brother or sister. Think of all the fun you’ll get to have teaching them all the amazing things you know! All your favorite stories and all your favorite shows. Being a big sister is great.”

“Like you and Aunt Nat?” Melody asked.

“Yes, exactly,” April nodded. “I love being a big sister. You know who else does?”

“Who?”

“Allie,” April said. “When she found out she was going to be a big sister, she was so, so happy. Jack too, but he’s a boy. Sometimes boys are a little different about these things, but he was still excited too.”

“Boys are yucky,” Melody said firmly.

“The worst,” April scrunched up her nose and laughed. Melody giggled along with her. “I promise, you’re going to be just fine.”

“I don’t want daddy to feel bad,” Melody said softly, after the both of them sat for another moment.

“Well, maybe tonight you should talk to him,” April said. “I think he would like that.”

Melody looked at her mother and smiled.

 

Andy had been nervous all afternoon. Immediately after April had dropped Melody off, she called him and told him the whole story. At first he didn’t know what to think, because honestly he wasn’t expecting his kid to be mad that he’d had a part in getting her mother pregnant. That was stuff that April was supposed to talk to the girls about when they were much, much older, preferably when he was out of the house and out of earshot for miles.

When she had told him that she fully expected Melody to come around that afternoon, he had gotten his hopes up. It did little to make him feel better, but it certainly helped. They’d made a plan: Andy was going to pick up Melody and take her out for ice cream, while April took the older kids out to do something else. That way, he and Melody could talk it out. At least if things went terribly wrong there was still ice cream involved.

When he arrived at the classroom to pick her up, he got the usual whispers amongst the other students of, “That’s Johnny Karate!” and “Woah, so cool!” as he signed her out and collected her backpack from the coat rack.

“Hey munchkin,” he smiled, when she met him in the doorway.

“Hi daddy,” she said, running forward and hugging him around his middle.

Andy hadn’t been expecting that. In fact, he nearly got way too emotional right there in the hallway. It wouldn’t have been good for the other kids to see Johnny Karate cry, so he held it in best he could. “You wanna go get some ice cream?” he asked, getting down to her level and returning her hug.

“Uh-huh,” she nodded, grabbing his hand and holding on tight.

“Awesome,” he took a shaky breath. “Let’s go.”

“Daddy?” she said, once they were at the car.

“Yeah baby?”

“I’m sorry…and…um…I love you.”

“I love you too, honey,” he said, his heart full. “I love you very, very much.”

Chapter Text

After Dr. Saperstein walked away from the little recovery room, Andy hurried to return to his exhausted wife. He was pretty sure April hadn’t heard the part where he pretty much threatened the doctor to change Jack’s official birth time, but then again he was pretty sure she’d be cool with it. She loved when he did stuff like that. He found her nearly asleep, facing the little hospital basinet where their son—Jack, Andy thought with pride—slept on.

He was so incredibly proud of her. She was the real rockstar of the family. Andy had felt helpless as she went through the pain of a drug-free delivery. Sure, he could hold her hand and stay by her side, but in comparison she did all the work. Nine long months of it, plus another day of labor to bring Jack into the world. He loved her so much it actually hurt.

He thought about crawling up next to her, but he didn’t want to disturb her. She earned this rest and a million others. Instead, he was about to sit down in the chair beside the bed, when she called him.

“Andy,” she mumbled, her eyes closed.

“Yeah babe?”

“Come up here with me,” her voice was slurred and sleepy.

“Okay,” Andy said. He kicked his sneakers off and lay behind her, resting his chin over her shoulder. April reached around for his hand and he took hers immediately.

“We did it,” she smiled, eyes twitching behind their lids.

“I didn't do anything,” Andy shrugged. “You did all the work. You’re amazing.”

“You helped,” she corrected him. “I could never have done this without you.” She yawned wide and let out a deep sigh.

“Rest honey,” Andy whispered. “I’m here if Jack needs something.”

“You don’t have boobs,” April chuckled.

“That’s true,” Andy nodded thoughtfully. “But I think he’ll be fine for a little while before his next meal.”

April rolled over and faced him, smushing her forehead against his chest. “I love you,” she slurred, sleep taking over.

“Love ya too,” Andy answered immediately.

“Kiss me,” her voice was hoarse and exhausted.

Andy didn’t need telling twice. He kissed her softly. Her lips were so warm and perfect. Then, just as they broke apart, she drifted off. Andy pulled her closer and watched Jack over her shoulder. Life had never felt so perfect.

Chapter Text

April never liked to admit she was getting older. It was always a fact with her. She never talked about certain things, and her age was one of them. Andy knew this (even though she never hesitated to let him know how sexy he was with a graying beard and hair) and he never brought it up. Then again, there was something incredibly satisfying about being middle-aged parents and having the house completely to themselves for the first time in forever. Those moments were few and far between these days, and April relished them when they happened.

“So,” Andy’s speech was slurred as he held the fancy crystal glass filled half-way with his third shot of whisky. “W-where are the kids again?” He chuckled and stared at April with large, green eyes and a seemingly permanent smile on his face.

“Andy,” April laughed along with him, her own words jumbling in her brain on the way to her mouth. She stood between his legs as he perched on a counter stool, her arms around his neck. Her own empty glass sat on the counter beside them. “You’re supposed to know these things.”

“Oh, right,” Andy nodded. “Right…”

“Anyway,” April leaned forward into his chest. “Jack’s at Rob’s house, Allie and Melody are out with friends, and Emma is sleeping over Katie’s house.”

“So what you’re saying is,” Andy grinned, his hand moving to playfully squeeze her thigh, “we have the house to ourselves—“

“—For at least a few more hours,” April nodded. “That’s right.”

“Awesome,” he leaned in and pulled her forward at the same time, and their lips met in an aggressive kiss. April cupped his cheeks, raking her fingers over his ears and through the curls at the back of his head.

Just as Andy had managed to tug at the strings of her pajama pants, they heard the front door open and close and several male voices talking and laughing loudly. They broke apart with a start, the both of them looking at the other with open-mouthed confusion.

“I thought you said—“ Andy began.

“I did—“

“Then why—?”

“Mom? Dad?” Jack called out to them from the front hallway. “You home?”

“We’re in the kitchen,” Andy responded, right before April smacked his shoulder and shushed him loudly. “Shit…sorry.”

Jack appeared in the kitchen entryway. He looked at his parents suspiciously, eyeing Andy’s hands on April’s lower back, his ruffled hair, then finally at the fancy bottle of whisky and the two empty glasses. He rolled his eyes the exact way his mother did.

“C’mon, really?” he said, throwing his hands up. “You’ve gotta do this now? My friends are here!”

“You said you were going to Rob’s house!” April lifted her arms in a shrug. “Why are you back already?”

“I sent you both a text saying we changed plans and were coming here instead,” Jack groaned, rubbing his forehead. “Didn’t you get it?”

His parents looked at each other. April bit her lip. She hadn’t checked her phone in the last half hour. She knew she should have, knew she was a mother first and foremost, but the alcohol had clouded her brain.

“Sorry,” April said, staring at her seventeen-year-old with a faint hint of embarrassment in herself. “We must’ve missed it…”

“Okay whatever,” Jack said. “We’re gonna go down to the basement and play video games.”

“Sounds awesome!” Andy said cheerily, before hiccuping. “Can I come?”

“Andy!” April groaned. “No!”

“You guys are so drunk,” Jack smirked and shook his head. “Okay, well—“

“Hey, Jack, man, you got any food? I’m starving…” Two of Jack’s friends entered the kitchen and stopped abruptly when they saw Andy and April.

“Oh, hey Mr. and Mrs. Dwyer,” Rob, who was one of Jack’s football teammates, said.

“Hey,” April waved halfheartedly. “Um…don’t mind us. We’re just leaving.”

“Yeah,” Andy nodded in agreement and tried to stand up off the stool. He wobbled on the spot before April pushed him back down. “Thanks honey,” he said.

“You guys just get your food and…um…it’ll be like we’re not even here,” April said.

“Except we totally are,” Andy chuckled, reaching his hand around her waist and holding her. His other hand went to her cheek.

“Andy,” April smiled, trying to shrug him off but failing. Honestly, she enjoyed the way he was holding her, but part of her knew she was about ten seconds away from mortifying her son—again. “C’mon, let’s go upstairs and watch boring adult television.”

“Right,” Andy said, standing up straight now. His hands slid down to April’s hips and he pulled her in for a kiss that lasted way, way too long.

Jack made a disgusted sound. “Oh my God, stop!” he yelled.

April pulled away from Andy and stared at the teenagers all looking at the two of them with huge eyes and mouthes open. Rob was looking at Andy with straight-up admiration, and the other two were staring fixedly at April’s face like they’d never seen a grown woman before in their lives.

“Oh my God, buddy… We’re so sorry,” Andy said sheepishly. “C’mon babe,” he pulled April by the hand. “We’re goin’ now…promise…”

“Please do,” Jack grumbled, watching as his parents left the kitchen and started to stumble up the stairs to their room.

“That was embarrassing,” Andy chuckled, once the two of them were safely contained behind the closed bedroom door. “Jack’s never gonna let us live this down.”

“He should’ve stayed at Rob’s house,” April rolled her eyes. Her buzz was wearing off and now she was getting more irritated than anything. Well, so much for some adult fun that evening.

“So, like, should we go get the girls once this stuff wears off?” Andy asked, clearly not over his drunken state yet. “Are we supposed to pick them up?”

“No,” April lay back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. “Their friends’ parents are bringing them home a little later. We probably shouldn’t be drunk when they get back, either.”

“Good call,” Andy yawned. “That doesn’t mean you and I can’t mess around a bit, though…” He wiggled his eyebrows at her. “I mean, we’re upstairs…”

“Yeah?”

“They say the best way to burn off the alcohol is to be active,” Andy said.

“Who says that?” April laughed.

“I dunno,” Andy shrugged. “Me, I guess.”

April bit the inside of her cheek and thought about it. True, Jack and his friends wouldn’t come within twenty feet of the staircase if they knew his parents were upstairs. They were, in all likelihood, in the basement consumed by video games by now. She rolled over on top of Andy and grinned.

“Yeah,” she nodded. “You’re totally right.”

Chapter Text

The solace of a bedroom with its door closed was the only real escape these days. No one can bother you once you’ve tucked yourself away. No one can walk up to you and start talking without a knock to request entrance, which could be denied if you so chose. Brothers with their loud teammates and older sisters with gossipy best friends couldn’t annoy you. Even little sisters and their childish questions. Melody loved her bedroom because it was the one place she felt safest.

Unfortunately, Melody had to share her space with Emma. Such was the plight of the two youngest siblings. Luckily it didn’t really matter, because Emma didn’t really spend a lot of time in there. Melody couldn’t blame her. She wouldn’t want to live with herself either.

Now, she leaned back against her comforter and hugged a pillow to her chest. Nothing could make this day any worse than it already was. School had sucked, but that was nothing new. It was always the worst. How many different ways could she try to see the bright side of it all? Melody had begged to be homeschooled on numerous occasions to no such avail. Today was just another day of crushing, overwhelming doubt and dread that wouldn’t let up. Now, Mom and Dad were fighting and it was all her fault.

 

It had started innocently enough. Melody got through her Friday, really only looking forward to her music class where she at least felt like she fit in. That stuff came naturally to her. She ignored the usual girls and their usual whispers behind her back, remarking on something stupid like her hair, or how she liked to wear big sweatshirts and jeans instead of short skirts and tight shirts. It wasn’t until the afternoon arrived that things started to take a turn for the worse.

Dad picked her up from school at the usual time. Melody hated the bus and avoided taking it whenever she could, and when he wasn’t working in his studio or making a special Jonny Karate appearance, her dad was happy to oblige when she texted him asking for a ride. Jack was away at college and Allie was most likely getting a ride from one of her friends, so they had time to kill before the elementary school let out and Emma was picked up.

They decided to go to their favorite coffee place, which was a little cafe just outside the city. It was quiet and warm, and sometimes live bands would play on the corner stage. Melody loved it there. It was the only place aside from her own home where she felt truly comfortable. She could stay for hours if her parents would let her. One time, she brought her best friend Sam with her, but Sam didn’t enjoy it as much. Now she typically only came with her dad. He bought two coffees with extra whipped cream and two chocolate chip muffins, and they sat together to enjoy the music.

“You know your ma doesn’t like you drinking so much coffee,” Andy said, grinning as he took a sip.

“I like coffee,” Melody said, savoring the flavor of french vanilla, “and mom should talk. She drinks more coffee than anyone.”

“That’s true,” Andy said. “I won’t tell her if you won’t.” He smiled at her, the lines near his eyes more pronounced than ever when he did.

“She’ll find out anyway,” Melody shrugged.

“Also true,” he chuckled.

They sat in silence for a while, listening as a young man with an acoustic guitar tried his hardest to play a Tom Petty song Melody had heard a many times before, except this guy wasn’t anywhere near the real thing. Her dad seemed to feel the same, based on the way he was watching the young man with his jaw clenched tight.

“Well,” Andy sighed, once the musician had left the stage to polite applause, “you can’t say he didn’t give it a good try.” He ran a hand through his graying facial hair. “Sometimes you either got it or you don’t.”

Daddy “had it” and Melody liked to think she did too. Whenever he would let her play one of his guitars, he always listened and smiled, occasionally making adjustments to the position of her hands and commenting on the notes she was playing.

“Daddy?”

Andy looked at her, one eyebrow raised. Melody could tell he’d noticed her hesitation. She proceeded with caution.

“Can I ask you something?” She couldn’t think of a better place to ask her question. This was their place, hers and her dad’s. This cafe wouldn’t let her down even if her dad didn’t go for her idea.

“Of course sweetheart,” Andy said. “You can ask me anything, always, you know that.” Then, he cleared his throat and furrowed his eyebrows. “Is something wrong?”

Melody took a breath. Her heart was pounding so fast. “You’ve got to promise not to say anything to Mama unless I tell you to, okay?”

“Oh…kay,” he said slowly. Now her father looked downright uncomfortable. He leaned forward in his chair a little. “Honey, what’s going on?”

“I…um…okay, so this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now. I’ve given it a lot of thought, so I don’t want you to think I’m just coming up with this randomly.”

“Okay,” he chuckled nervously. “Sweetheart, you’re scaring your old man.”

“I want to be put on anxiety medication,” Melody said quickly. The moment the words came out of her mouth, she felt a million times lighter. It was like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Like saying the words made them and her situation all the more real, and suddenly a solution seemed to be in sight.

Her father looked at her, a long and hard stare. His eyes were a little sad, but more concerned than anything. “Melody,” he said slowly, “can I ask why you think you need medication?”

She knew he’d ask this, knew he might try to talk her out of it. “Dad, before you say anything else—“

“This is a serious thing, sweetie,” he said staring at her. “It’s not something you just start out of the blue—“

“Daddy,” she cut in, trying to get him to listen. “It’s not out of the blue. I’ve felt like…I dunno, like I’ve needed this for a long time. I just don’t feel right. I don’t feel like I think I should.”

“Melly—“

“Please?”

Andy took a deep breath. “You’re only fourteen.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I don’t like this idea,” he said. “I don’t like the thought of you changing your personality with pills when you don’t even really know who you are yet. Honey, you’re a kid. You’ve barely seen what the world is like.”

“Yes, which is exactly why I need this,” she said. She tried her best to make sure he understood. “Daddy, I’m afraid of the world. I can’t function the way Jack, Allie or Emma can. I don’t even look like them, which doesn’t help.”

“You look like Jack, though!”

“Jack’s a boy,” Melody rolled her eyes.

“It’s okay that you don’t look like your sisters, honey,” Andy said kindly. “I love all of you equally, but you’re my special girl. You look just like your mama, and that’s something to be proud of. Your mama’s beautiful!”

Melody shook her head. “My hair and eyes are dark and Allie’s and Emma’s aren’t. They have these pretty green eyes and gold hair and they’re so beautiful.”

“Did someone tell you you’re not beautiful?” Andy said, suddenly angry. “Because if they did, I’ll—“

“No,” Melody sighed. “Daddy, it’s not just about that. It’s just a small part. There’s more important things. Every single day is miserable for me because I can’t concentrate on the important things. I’m too busy thinking about what could go wrong.”

“Baby, why can’t you talk to me or your ma about these things?” he said softly. “You know we’re always here for you.”

“I know you are,” she said, wrapping her fingers around her coffee cup for additional warmth. “But sometimes I need to make sure I can handle things myself. I need to know that I can.”

 

That was earlier. Now, she listened as her parents fought in their bedroom behind closed doors. A single tear rolled down her cheek.

Maybe if she tried talking to them together again? It had seemed like a good idea to bring it up when they were both in the kitchen. Fresh from the coffee shop, Melody had waited until Emma had gone upstairs and her mom was back from work. In hindsight, maybe that wasn’t the best time after all. Her dad had been hovering behind her when she approached the subject just as she’d done earlier with him. To both Melody and her dad’s surprise, her mom had a different reaction. Their opinions on the matter had clashed to the point of uncomfortable silence all throughout dinner and into the night.

She had to get them to stop arguing. They never fought, and now they were yelling at each other because of her. She slid out of the blankets and walked slowly down the hall, stopping just outside their door.

“She’s fourteen years old!” her dad shouted. “She’s too young for that! Pills? April, you seriously want our baby girl to rely on medication to get through life?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Her mother shouted back, her voice rising with every word. “What the hell is wrong with getting help? She’s not a child, Andy! She’s in high school! She’s having trouble—“

“She doesn’t know what she needs!” he replied. “She thinks she needs this but what she needs is for us to help her through it!”

“Maybe she doesn’t want our help?” April said. “Maybe she wants to have some type of control over her emotions!”

“That’s insane,” Andy said.

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Her mother’s voice was angry now. “You know who you sound like? My fucking parents.”

“April—“

“No, you do!” she said. “You sound just like them. Trying to sweep all my issues under the rug and hope they just go away.”

“I never said that!”

“Well, by not doing anything you might as well be!”

“That’s insane,” Andy said again. “You’re being insane.”

“Don’t ever fucking tell me I’m being insane, Andy!” April choked out, her words catching in her throat.

“That’s not…ugh, fucking hell, April…”

“So all the shit I told you I went through as a kid,” she said. “All those times I told you about when I wished I’d had a parent to help me the way we could help Melody, you were just agreeing with me to agree with me?”

“No!”

“You obviously don’t feel the same way, so why pretend?”

“That’s not what I’m saying!”

“Then I really have no idea what you’re saying.”

A door opened. April’s voice was getting louder and closer. Melody hurried back to her room, lest she be caught eavesdropping, and slipped back into bed. Then, the bedroom door slammed. Melody listened as her mother’s footsteps got louder and louder coming down the hall until they stopped outside the bedroom door. Then, a quiet knock.

“Yeah?” Melody said in a small voice.

“Can I come in?”

“Sure.”

Her mother opened the door and stepped inside. Her face was red and streaked with tears that she hastily tried to wipe on her sleeves. “Hey…”

“Hi Mama,” Melody whispered. “Sorry I made you and Daddy have a fight.”

“No, hun,” April shook her head. “It’s not because of you.”

“Yeah it is,” Melody laughed miserably. “Daddy’s right…maybe I should just…deal with it.”

April crossed the room in several quick steps and hugged her daughter, holding her tight. Melody returned the embrace, slowly at first, until she was holding her mother tighter than she had since she could remember doing as a kid, until they broke apart and sat next to each other on the bed.

“Baby, that’s not what your dad wants. Not at all,” April said. “He just wants you to be happy and healthy and…you. He’s afraid you might change if you start to take something.”

“Yeah, but what if it’s something that’s going to help me?” she said. “What if it makes me happier?”

“Then that’s all that matters,” April smiled, tucking some hair behind Melody’s ear. “See, your daddy doesn’t understand. He’s never had to deal with this type of stuff.”

“Right,” Melody nodded. It was true. She’d never known her dad to be sad about things. From what she was told, he was always this way even before he met her mother. He was an eternal optimist, and it’s something that stuck with him even now. “He’s lucky. Just like Jack and Allie and Emma.”

“Maybe,” her mother looked at her thoughtfully. “It’s okay to be different, baby.”

Melody shrugged. “It’s easier to be the same.”

“Easier, yes,” April nodded. “Boring, though? Definitely,” she added.

“Daddy’s not boring though,” Melody frowned. Her father was like the least boring person alive. He was a goofball who sometimes forgot to tie his shoes or that his glasses were on top of his head, but he was the best.

“Of course he’s not boring,” April said quickly. “Do you think I’d have married him if he was?”

“No?”

“No,” her mother sighed, leaning back against the headboard of the bed. “I know how hard high school can be. Believe me, I do.”

“It sucks,” Melody mumbled. “I hate it.”

“I did too,” April said. “But you have to get through it...and when it’s all over you’ll move on and do great things, leaving all the stupid people behind.”

Melody shrugged. “That time can’t come soon enough.”

“Listen,” April said, reaching for Melody’s hand. “We’re going to make an appointment with your doctor next week and see what she says. We’re going to figure this out. I promise.”

Melody felt that weight in her chest again, the one that had been such a presence in her life for as long as she could remember. It was getting lighter again. “What about Daddy?”

“I’ll talk to him,” April said.

“I don’t want you to fight anymore,” Melody said. “That fight was my fault.”

Her mother looked weary. “You heard that?”

“Well, yeah,” Melody admitted, looking away. “I was at the door for a little bit of it.”

April groaned. “Honey, I didn’t want you to hear that.”

“It’s okay,” Melody shrugged.

“No, it isn’t,” April said. “You know I love your daddy very much, right?”

“Yeah, of course you do.”

“Sometimes we fight. It’s okay if we do.”

“Mom, I’m not seven.”

“I know,” April grinned a little. “It’s just that we don’t like to fight, and when we do, we especially don’t want you guys to hear us.”

Melody nodded. Her mother pulled her into a sideways hug, resting her chin on Melody’s head.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?”

“Does it get any easier?”

“Does what?”

“Life?”

April kissed her daughter’s head. “Yeah, it does,” she said softly. “Not all at once, though…and not right away. But it does. The important thing is that you have the ones you love to help you through it.”

Melody thought about that for a while. She certainly had people who loved her.

A knock made the both of them look toward the door.

“Come in,” Melody said softly.

Her father stuck his head in the crack, his eyes sad as he looked at his wife and daughter across the room. He cleared his throat awkwardly.

“Uh…hey,” he said. “Can I come in, or…should I come back?”

“That’s up to Melly,” April said softly.

Andy nodded and looked at his daughter.

Melody smiled and gestured for her dad to come in. “Sure Daddy,” she nodded.

Andy shuffled inside and took a seat at Melody’s desk awkwardly. He shuffled his feet, looking unsure where to start.

Melody took matters into her own hands first. “I want you guys to stop fighting.” She wasn’t going to tell them anything until their issue was resolved.

Andy looked at April and quickly looked away. April averted her own eyes, instead focusing on her daughter.

“Honey, it’s okay,” April started.

“Mama, we just talked about this,” Melody said seriously.

“Your ma and I are gonna be just fine,” her dad said. “We wanna talk about you. Plus, she knows that your dad can be a bit of an idiot...and she’s usually right.”

Melody saw her mom smile ever so slightly. “Okay,” Melody replied. “Well, Mama said we’re gonna talk to the doctor said next week...about me.”

“Sure, honey,” Andy nodded. “That’s fine.”

“Then we’ll go from there,” Melody shrugged. “Is that okay?”

“It’s more than okay,” Andy said.

“Will you both come with me?”

“That’s a given,” her mom said. “As long as your want us there.”

“Of course we will,” her dad said immediately. “In the meantime, I want to ask you if there’s anything that you want to tell your ma and me. If there’s anything bothering you that you think we might be able to help you with...y’know, as your mom and dad.”

Melody thought about it. There wasn’t really anything that she could think of that would only take a little while to talk about. Most of the stuff she dealt with would take a lot longer.

“Anything at all,” April said gently. “We’re here to listen to you.”

Melody bit her lip. “I don’t want to bother you guys,” she said.

“Honey, that’s the last thing you’ll be doing,” Andy said.

“You can tell us anything,” April said.

Melody’s chest felt tight. Kind of like the way she used to get when she was a kid. “You have a little while?”

Her parents looked at each other. “We have all night,” Andy said, smiling.

Melody took a deep breath. Then, she started to talk.

Chapter Text

Andy heard the front door open and close from all the way in Jack’s nursery. The little four-month-old within had just curled up for a nap after his latest bottle, wrapped in his sleep sack and cozy warm. Andy felt like he could use a good nap himself, but he was more concerned with why April was home early.

“Babe?” He hurried down the stairs and met her in the front hallway, where she was slowly kicking off her heels. “What are you doing home?”

“I feel sick,” she groaned, coughing a bit as she slouched over. “I left early. I’ve been feeling lousy all day.”

Andy accepted her into his open arms without a second thought, pressing his chin against her forehead. “Wow honey, you’re super warm,” he said.

“Mmm,” April hummed, leaning into his embrace.

April never did well with sickness, and the last thing Andy wanted was for her to come down with the flu again. “C’mon,” Andy lifted her carefully, bridal style, and headed for the stairs.

“No,” April mumbled, her eyes closed. “I’ve gotta feed Jack…”

“He’s all set,” Andy said proudly. “He’s fast asleep after a super yummy bottle. He should be down for a little bit.”

“You’re the best dad,” April said softly, pressing her head against his chest. Her eyes were closed.

“Well, you’re the best mom for pumping all that milk for Jack,” Andy said. When she wasn’t breastfeeding Jack herself, April made sure to keep the freezer stocked so Andy could give Jack bottles while she was at work and also take over some of the night feedings so April could get some rest. Now that she’d gone back to work, it was more important than ever. “Now you need to rest though.”

“Okay,” she whispered, running her fingers over his flannel.

Andy brought her upstairs and helped her shed her work clothes. He tucked her in bed, brought her some water and cough medicine, and slipped under the covers beside her.

“C’mere babe,” he said, pulling her against him. “Time for you to get some sleep.”

“Babe, I love you,” she whispered. “You’re so smart.” She was already dozing off, her limbs getting limper against him and her breaths deeper.

Andy smiled to himself. The amount of times he’d said those exact words to her was impossible to count. Now, he was going to take care of his sick wife. After all April had done for him and Jack, she deserved the entire world.

Chapter Text

Spring was playing tricks on them, or so it seemed. One minute it was mild and sunny, flowers peeking through the grass and birds in the trees. The next it was freezing with frost dusting the leaves, which was rare for DC in the first place.

Andy watched his eldest daughter from his spot on the bleachers, the bright red uniforms of her high school lacrosse team standing out amongst the dull green grass, which was still trying to perk up in the cool, unseasonable weather. Melody sat huddled beside him, an open book in her lap. He grinned as he watched her. She showed as little interest in sports as her mother did, but was enough of a team player to come and support her siblings whenever they had a game.

A particularly frigid blast of air hit them, whipping Melody’s hair against Andy’s ear. She shivered, still engrossed in her book.

“Whatcha reading, honey?” Andy asked.

“Just a dumb book,” Melody shrugged, not looking up.

“Oh,” he replied. A cheer from the bleachers made Andy look up. The other team scored a goal. No matter, Allie’s team was ahead. “Cool…” Them they both watched as Allie now scored a goal, to the immense cheers of her teammates and the other parents in the audience. Andy stood and pumped both fists in the air, a triumphant gleam in his eyes.

Andy was immensely proud of his children no matter what, but he got a special joy whenever he was able to watch them play sports. He was in his element, and sharing that with his children was just amazing.

“God Dad,” Melody shook her head, grinning at him. “Don’t be so dorky.”

“Sorry hun,” he chuckled. “Can’t help myself.” Andy sat back down and looked around. Nearby, a few older boys—seniors by the look of them—were watching Melody from the top row of bleachers. Andy recognized that stare…typical of teens. Yet watching them stare at his daughter like that, his baby, with some strange lusty gleam, made his blood boil. He shot them a death glare, one April would be proud of, and wrapped a protective arm over her shoulder. Their smiles faded at once and they shuffled away awkwardly.

“Daddy,” Melody looked up, resting her head against his shoulder.

“Hmm?”

“Do you care that I don’t play a sport like Jack and Allie?”

Andy frowned. “Baby, of course I don’t care. You don’t have to play sports unless you want to.”

Melody shrugged. “Just checking…”

“Don’t ever worry about that,” Andy added, kissing her head.

“Good…because I kind of hate sports,” she chuckled.

“Don’t worry,” Andy laughed. “So does your ma.”

Melody looked at him and smiled. It was truly one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

Chapter Text

April’s side of the bed was cool when Andy’s hand reached over, expecting to press into her warm skin early in the morning like he did every day. Needless to say, he was surprised when all he felt was the sheets. April didn’t often get up before him, especially these days when he tried to maintain some type of workout routine and went for an early morning run. On a weekend though? This was strange. He stretched, ran a hand through his mess of hair and unshaven face, and yawned.

He found her in the kitchen, back facing him, washing something in the sink. She was slightly swaying on her feet, as though she was listening to some sort of song that only she could hear. The best part of all, the part that always made him smile, was that she wore one of his old t-shirts and nothing else. The thing came down to nearly her knees. He stood there for a while, leaning against the wall and smiling while he watched her. When April turned around, she jumped.

“Oh my God Andy,” she breathed deep, grabbing the counter. “You can’t sneak up on me like that!”

“Morning babe,” he said, immediately opening his arms for her, into which she ran. “Sorry, but you looked too adorable to disturb.”

“All that working out is making you light on your feet,” April mumbled, smushing her face against his chest. Andy wrapped his arms around her. “You’re not as loud as you used to be.”

“Burt Macklin was trained to move like the wind,” Andy said softly, kissing her head.

“Anyway, good morning,” April smiled. “Hope you don’t mind me borrowing your shirt.”

“Never do,” Andy said, reaching for a coffee mug.

April smiled as she went back to her business at the sink. Andy watched her, loving how incredibly happy she looked right then. In fact, she’d looked happier than he’d seen her in a long time. Since just after the holidays, April had a certain way about her that was as beautiful as ever. A certain glow that was obvious to anyone who looked at her. Andy didn’t really understand how those things worked, but she was happy, he was happy, and it was all he could do not to pull her close to him at every moment and just enjoy the feeling of her holding onto him.

“Breakfast?” April asked, pointing to the pan of sausage and bacon she’d cooked for him. That came as a shock as well. April hated cooking.

“You made this?” Andy asked, looking at her with wide eyes.

“Uh-huh,” April said, setting down a plate for him. “I have no idea what’s gotten into me, so don’t ask,” she said. “Just wanted to cook you breakfast. Figured that you must be hungry after last night,” she turned to him with a wild gleam in her eyes.

“I definitely am,” Andy said. But he didn’t sit down. Instead, he pulled her over to him with a gentle tug and spun her forward so he could kiss her properly. Her soapy hands tangled in his hair and he could feel her smile against his lips.

All that mattered to Andy in this life was that April was happy…that and nothing else. If he could keep her smiling, he would consider it a job well done. If he could keep her safe, he’d never feel like a failure. She was his number one and that would never change, and right now, her smile from ear to ear as they held each other in the kitchen was worth all the riches in the world.

Chapter Text

If April had a rock, she’s surely throw it at the bedroom mirror. It was honestly the only way she could get over the fact that she looked like…this. Ugh, she was disgusted with herself. This wasn’t how she was supposed to look. Right? This wasn’t her. This was…someone else.

The dress she was supposed to be wearing was strewn across the bed, still on its hanger. She walked around the room in panties and a bra that was too small for her thanks to her new role as a mother, something she still couldn’t get used to in her head no matter how many times she said the word. Not that she didn’t love her son, because anyone who tried to say she didn’t would likely get their hands and feet chopped off with the nearest sharp object.

As if on cue, she could hear Jack crying from his nursery and the sing-song voice of her husband calling out to him. Her boobs ached at the thought. It had been two months and they were still sore thanks to some pretty serious gums and a strong newborn grip on Jack’s part. Strangely enough, Andy loved them, but she was constantly leaking all over her clothes. It wasn't exactly sexy.

When Andy entered the bedroom with the baby, he looked April up and down quickly, confused. “Honey, um…why aren’t you dressed?” Andy was ready to go. He wore a new tux, a tie that brought out the green in his eyes, and freshly shined dress shoes. He looked amazing. “Not that I don’t like seeing you like this, because you look smoking hot…like holy crap, April.”

“Stop,” April rolled her eyes. “Stop lying.”

Andy opened his mouth, unsure what to say. Jack squirmed in his arms, eager for food. “Well, first of all, the little guy is hungry,” Andy said, handing Jack over carefully. “Second, how could you even think something like that?”

April took Jack into her arms with a smile, rubbing his tiny, button nose with the tip of her finger. She would never tire of staring into those two, dark little eyes. She sat back against the pillows and pulled her bra down enough for Jack to eat. Only then did she address Andy’s questioning look. “Andy, I just feel shitty and my skin is all saggy—“

“You just had a baby, babe,” Andy said. “You look more beautiful than ever.”

April rolled her eyes. “That’s nice of you to say, but it’s not true.” She still hadn’t lost all of the pregnancy weight that she’d gained, not that there was a ton of it in the first place, but there was fat in places she wasn’t used to. She didn’t fit into things like she did before and her dress felt tight in places she never thought it possibly could. April was never curvy in the first place, but her body felt foreign to her at the moment and it was doing weird things to her mind. Yes, she was nourishing a tiny human and that automatically made her physically different from before, but she needed to feel up to par mentally as well to make sure she was healthy enough and Jack was getting what he needed. At least that’s what the doctor had told them.

“Honey, d’you wanna talk about it?” Andy took a seat next to her, leaning his head against hers as Jack ate.

“Not really,” April sighed.

“Do you not want to go tonight?” Andy asked. “We can totally skip it.”

April had considered it. It was some dumb gala that Leslie and Ben had invited them to. It wasn’t like they hadn’t been to a ton of these things before, and it was always a good excuse for some free food and drinks. She shrugged, more unsure than ever.

“If you want to stay home, we can call the sitter and tell her never mind.” Andy reached for her free hand, the one that wasn’t stroking Jack’s tiny head. “Babe, you know that you look incredible, right? You know I don’t care if you gained some weight or that you have stretch marks…right?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Okay,” Andy nodded. “You’re the most beautiful woman ever. I know I tell you all the time, and I mean it every single time I say it. Now you’re a mom to the greatest kid in the world, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more in love with you…like, ever.”

April rolled her lips and smiled. “I know.”

“Good,” Andy leaned in and kissed her cheek. Together, they watched Jack for several minutes. Then Andy sat up and rubbed her shoulder. “I’m gonna call Leslie and Ben and tell them we can’t make it.”

“Andy—“

“I’d much rather stay home with you guys,” he said, smiling. “It’s just a stupid gala.”

April watched as he slid off the bed and disappeared to find his phone. She glanced down at Jack, who continued to eat happily and stretch his little limbs against her chest. April smiled. She was different now. She should probably get used to it.

Chapter Text

I swear babe, if I have to go to one more meeting today, I’m gonna murder someone…

April groaned as she stared at the text. With an annoyed sigh, she hit the send button. Andy was probably too busy feeding the kids lunch at this point, so she doubted he’d be anywhere near his phone to bother with a reply. What would he be able to do anyway? He couldn’t exactly drop everything and swoop in to rescue her from her job. She was complaining. She supposed she should be grateful.

As expected, ten more minutes when by and no response ever came. Right about now, Jack and Allie were probably insisting on peanut butter and jelly for the tenth time that week, while Melody refused to eat anything with jelly and Emma threw her vegetables across the room. As frustrating as all that could be, April missed it terribly. Weekends were truly a blessing.

She stared at the various photos on her desk, all of them of Andy and the kids. Andy holding a three year old Jack on one shoulder while the little boy proudly held a Colts football high above his head. Another of Allie and Melody trying their best to bake a birthday cake for Andy, the both of them covered in white flour up to their shoulders with cake batter splattering every surface. A newer one of Andy holding Emma, the two of them fast asleep on the couch while the one-year-old dozed on his huge chest. Finally, one of her and Andy taken years ago when they’d first moved to DC. It was old, and they'd both gained a significant amount of gray hair since then, but she always loved it.

All of the photos were important to her, and right now all they did was make her emotional. She wanted to go home.

 

By the time April walked through the front door, she felt like she’d been gone a year. All four children hurried over to her (in Emma’s case, crawled) to greet her, while an exhausted-looking Andy smiled from a few feet away.

“I missed you guys so much,” she said, hugging them and kissing their heads one by one. Emma tugged at April’s blouse insistently, demanding to be picked up. “Ugh, this day couldn’t have ended quickly enough.”

“We missed Mommy too, right guys?” Andy said, yawning wide. “You all kept your old man pretty busy today.”

“Why d’you have to work, mama?” Melody asked, frowning.

“I have to baby,” April said. “I just have to.” She wasn’t up for explaining the purpose of money to her kid at the moment. Hopefully this answer would be good enough for now.

“Wish you didn’t,” Melody added.

“I know,” April stood up and let herself fall into Andy’s open arms with an exhausted sigh.

“We have the weekend though,” Jack piped up. “Can we do something awesome?”

“As long as I’m spending it with you five, I don’t care what we do,” April said.

“Ice cream?” Allie suggested.

“No, pizza,” Jack said.

“Ice cream and pizza?” Andy suggested.

“Yes!”

“Who says we’ve got to wait until tomorrow?” April said, turning quickly to kiss Andy on the cheek. “Ice cream and pizza tonight sounds good to me.”

Seriously, seeing the smiles on their faces was worth it all.

Chapter Text

“Andy, why did I sign up for this?”

A massive pile of papers manages to slide off the bed with a rustling thump, as April groans and places her forehead in her hands. The clock on the bedside ticks ever closer to midnight, and she’s no closer to finishing her project than she was three hours ago when she’d started.

Beside her, clearly exhausted, is Andy. On his back with one arm draped over his eyes, he lets out a snore. April nudges him roughly on the shoulder and he wakes with a start.

“W-wha?” he yawns. “Huh? What’s up babe?”

“Babe,” April draws out the syllable, “I need you.”

Blinking himself awake, Andy reaches out and pulls her over by the waist with one massive hand. “Okay, yeah, I’m totally awake…let’s do it—“

“No!” April smacks his hand away frustratedly. "That's not what I meant!”

“Oh,” Andy nods and yawns again. “Right.”

April sighs. “I have to finish organizing this stupid PTA event for Jack’s class and I hate it. I should never have signed up for this.”

Andy looks at her thoughtfully, his shoulders slumped. April knows he can’t really do anything more than hear her complains out, but still, having someone to complain to helps.

“I know sweetheart,” Andy says comfortingly, sliding close enough to wrap an arm around her shoulder and kiss the side of her head. “C’mon, show me how I can help.”

“Well, you’re already doing the Johnny Karate performance, which is a huge help in itself,” April says, tossing a folder to the side. “The school will love it. Not to mention, the fact that you’re doing it for free when you should be getting paid is a huge bonus for them.”

“Uh-huh,” Andy says. “I’m actually really looking forward to it.” He smiles fondly, lost in thought. “Man, it’s been a while since Johnny Karate’s had a show.”

“I know, babe,” April smiles, taking a moment to rub his cheek. “Thank you again for doing that for me.”

“Honey, you don’t ever have to thank me for something like that,” Andy says frowning.

“I know,” April nods. “Now I just need someone to volunteer for the bake sale and raffle…”

“Can we get Leslie to help out?” Andy says, suddenly wide-eyed. “She loves this type of stuff. She’s also pretty awesome at baking.”

“No, she’s busy being Governor,” April says, groaning again. “Plus, I can bake just fine.”

“I know,” Andy nods. “You make some kick-ass cookies.”

April shoves the rest of the folders to the floor and turns to rest against Andy’s chest, annoyed at everything now and exhausted beyond belief. “Forget it. I quit.”

“Honey,” Andy says, rubbing her shoulder as April lies against him. “You’re not quitting.”

“Yes, I am,” she says into his chest.

“You really want to see the look on Jack’s face when you tell him you don’t want to do this anymore?” Andy says, and April snaps her head back up and glares at him. “Because I sure as hell don’t.”

Using the threat of their son’s disappointed look to nudge her into following through? That’s a low blow, and Andy knows it. April has to admire his sneakiness. “Not fair,” she grumbles.

“Just saying,” Andy shrugs. “Jack would be so bummed out.”

April bites her lip and stares at her husband. He’s right of course. He usually is. “Fine,” she says. “You’re right, I have to follow through with this.”

“You’re going to throw the best elementary school event in the entire history of school events,” Andy says, his smile wide. “Everyone is gonna look at you and say, ‘That’s Jack Ludgate-Dwyer’s mom, and she kicks ass!’”

April smiles. Andy always knows just what to say. Plus, what does she care what the other mothers think of her efforts? As long as Jack and the other kids have a good time, that’s all that matters.

April knows what kind of people she’s dealing with. The judgmental, gossipy type, who can’t wait to criticize given the opportunity. Just last week one of the other parents at Jack's school had the audacity to make a comment on Andy’s parenting skills, unaware that April overheard all of it, while she and Andy were picking Jack and Allie up. April chewed her out, not only in front of the woman’s equally nasty friend, but a couple of teachers and other parents as well. It was awesome, it felt great, and April walked away with the biggest smile on her face.

“I think,” Andy says, reaching for the comforter and pulling it over the both of them, “we should stop here for the night and pick this up tomorrow.” He turns the bedside lamp off and presses a kiss to April’s forehead.

“Yeah,” April yawns. “Sounds good.” Honestly, she needed more sleep. She nuzzles closer to her husband and closes her eyes. Tomorrow would be a different day and another opportunity for her to get the ball rolling.

“Tomorrow might be easier,” Andy adds, yawning too.

“Let’s hope so,” April says. “I can’t bear the thought of Jack’s disappointed face.”

“Babe, I don’t think anyone can.”

Chapter Text

“Babe, I swear to God if you don’t pick up your phone I’m going to kill you,” April grumbled angrily, as the voicemail greeting on Andy’s phone greeted her for the fifth time that afternoon. She rested one hand on her growing belly, leaned back in her office chair and groaned. She hung up. It was a lost cause.

If it weren’t for the little baby currently taking up residence in her abdomen, April wouldn’t worry too much about the pains. She’s had bad cramps before, and she’d already had her appendix out. Now she was actually on the brink of a full-on panic because the pains were getting steadily worse and she couldn’t get in touch with her husband.

So, with a few quick words to her boss about her situation—thankfully the people April worked for at the Foundation were beyond accommodating—she took off early to the little music studio Andy had found a part-time gig at giving guitar lessons a few times a week. The man at the counter, Joe, greeted her like usual.

“Hey April,” he grunted, nose buried behind his computer screen.

“Have you seen Andy?” April asked.

“He’s just finishing up in the back with a student,” Joe replied, still not looking up. If April wasn’t so used to his aloof behavior, she might be annoyed.

“I need to talk to him,” she said. “Can you find him for me?”

Joe looked up at her quickly, his eyes lingering for half a second on her stomach. “Everything okay?”

“I just need him,” April sighed. “Please go get him.”

“Sure…”

The old man disappeared into the back room and April busied herself by taking the little business cards on the front desk and shuffling them like a deck of cards, her hands too nervous to sit still. Barely a minute later, Andy came around from the backroom.

“Honey!” His smile was wide when he saw her, immediately coming forward to pull her into an embrace. April put out a hand and stopped him, his arms outstretched, pressing her palm to his chest and holding it firm. Andy’s smile faded. “What’s wrong?”

“Why haven’t you been answering your phone?” April asked. “I’ve been calling you like a million times!” She could feel her emotions starting to boil below the surface of her calm. She blamed it on the hormones.

“Oh, shit…” Andy smacked his forehead with his own hand. “Babe, I’m so sorry! I accidentally left my phone at home today and forgot about it.”

“Andy!” April removed her hand and crossed her arms. “You have to be more careful! You can’t do that stuff anymore!”

“I’m so sorry sweetheart,” he said sincerely, staring at the ground.

“I’m super pregnant and serious stuff can happen!” April knew he was truly sorry. There was no denying that. Still, at this point she needed him to hear her out for her own relief.
“Are you okay? Why’d you leave work?” Andy looked at her, his eyes searching her up and down.

“I don’t know if I’m okay!” April said, tears leaking out of the corners of her eyes now. Seriously, she was never this much of a crier before she got pregnant. “I’ve been having pains all day and they’re getting worse.”

Andy glanced down at her stomach and his expression turned serious. His mouth was tight as he took her hands in his. “We gotta go to the doctor,” he said softly. April knew how much this baby meant to him. It wasn’t like she didn’t feel the same way, but unlike Andy, it had taken her long enough to agree to it in the first place.

“Andy…”

“It’s okay,” he said quickly. “C’mere babe, I’m sorry I was so careless.” He pulled her in for a hug, and this time April melted into his arms. “Let me go finish up quick and I’ll be right out, okay?”

“What if there’s a problem?” April called out to him before he went back. “What are we gonna do?”

“We’ll be fine,” Andy said confidently. “I know we will. We’ll work through it, okay?”

April bit her lip. “Okay. Hurry.”

 

“That’s it? False contractions?”

April stared at her obstetrician with narrow eyes. After rushing to the doctor’s office and having to wait for longer than the two of them cared to, April was checked out and given the okay to go back home. Her baby was in no danger. That news was as much of a comfort as she could have asked for.

Andy had held her hand the entire time, his face trying to hide how nervous April actually knew he was. She could feel him let out a sigh of relief when the doctor told her the news, and his grip on her fingers had lessened considerably.

“That’s it,” her doctor nodded. “It’s quite common at this point in the third trimester. I suggest you just go home and rest.”

“Will do,” Andy said, helping April to sit up and climb down from the examination chair. “C’mon honey…”

 

The car ride home was a quiet once. It wasn’t until they were through the door that either of them really spoke again. Andy pulled her into his arms for another hug, resting his chin on her head.

“I’m sorry babe,” he whispered. “I don’t know how many times I can say it to make up for it.”

April sighed. She pressed her forehead against his neck and didn’t say anything for a while.

That afternoon she’d actually been pretty terrified. She was new at this, and no matter how many times she can ask Leslie (or even, on one rare occasion, the she-beast Ann Perkins) the questions involving growing a human, nothing could really prepare her for what she was going to go through. She only hoped that the situation had scared Andy enough into remembering his phone everywhere he went form this point on. What if it had been real labor? Or worse?

“Wanna go take a nap?” Andy asked, after a while.

“Mhm,” she hummed.

“C’mon,” he said, as he led her upstairs. The two of them fell into bed, exhausted from everything and the worrying that had consumed them for the past few hours. April lay with Andy pressed up against her back, a pillow under her stomach for support and Andy’s arm under her head. She felt safe, and it was within that safety that she was able to drift off and rest.

Chapter Text

“Mama! Mama look what I can do!” Jack tried in vain to get his mother’s attention. He was waving his arms high above his head as he climbed up on the back of the couch and tried to balance, wobbling a bit here and there. “Mama!”

April could hear his voice. She was busy focused on the golden curls on the back of Allie’s head as the toddler dozed lazily in her mother’s arms, occasionally sipping the milk in her cup when she wasn’t busy falling asleep. They huddled on the floor opposite the couch, blankets all around.

“Why won’t you look?” Jack shouted, his voice trailing off in a whine now, until he lost his balance and tumbled forward onto the cushions. Only then did April seem to realize what was happening and her head shot up.

“Jack!” she scolded. “What did I tell you about doing that?”

“I wanted you to look…” her son said sadly, sitting upright once again before flopping himself against the arm of the couch. “You won’t pay any ‘tention to me…”

April’s frown faltered for a second and then her face softened. “I’m sorry baby,” she said. “I didn’t mean to not pay attention, I just…” Just what? Can’t stop thinking about what? April froze again. Slowly, she looked at the clock. It was one-thirty in the afternoon. Just about time for the kids to nap.

Nap… April could use a good long nap and maybe she’d stop thinking about it. She shifted on the rug and Allie groaned in her sleep, the noise more like a tiny squeak. April winced. She still had some pain in her lower abdomen that just wouldn’t go away, even after all this time. Maybe it wasn’t even real. Maybe she was imagining it. Wouldn’t it be nice if I was imagining all of it?

“Mama why’d you stop?” Jack asked, climbing down from the couch and hurrying over to sit next to April and Allie. He looked at her expectantly.

Stop what?

“What?” April looked down at Jack, forgetting what she was even saying in the first place. His large, brown eyes were concerned. Within the shape of his face she saw Andy, that same look her husband got whenever he was worried about something “I…I’m sorry baby, your mama’s not feeling right today.”

“Oh.”

“C’mon,” she stood up, lifting Allie with her. “Nap time.” She reached for Jack’s hand and he took it.

“Do I have to?”

“Yes,” April said firmly, smiling at him anyway.

“Can’t I stay with you?”

“No,” April shook her head. “Mama’s gonna nap too, I think, so I won’t be doing anything fun.”

Jack grumbled, but followed her footsteps to the stairs anyway.

“Dad will be home this afternoon,” April said, once she tucked Allie into bed. “I’m sure he’ll have something fun planned. But you won’t be able to have any fun if you don’t rest.”

“Okay,” Jack sighed. April watched him climb into his own bed and burrow beneath the covers. He looked at his mother, his little head with his messy black hair sticking out against the pillows. “Not a long nap, okay?”

April smiled and kissed his head. “We’ll see.” She closed his bedroom door behind her.

Immediately, she leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes, inhaling deep. In and out, in and out, one breath after the other. She rested her palm against her stomach without thinking, forgetting for a moment the absence of the rounded bump that had begun to take shape and was now gone.

Fuck.

April could feel the heat in her eyes and the lump in her throat, all too familiar these last several weeks. It never seemed to go away. With quick footsteps, she rushed into her own bedroom, passing the spare room in the process, and immediately curled up into bed, her body shaking. She rolled over onto Andy’s side just to be around his scent. It was the most she could do at the moment while he was out of town for the day, a few hour’s drive away for a Saturday birthday gig to bring Johnny Karate out once more.

Andy had told her he would stay home with her and the kids. Told her he could skip the gig and eat the monetary loss if it meant April would feel better and not think too much about the thoughts she was trying to avoid, which had been invading her brain more and more over the past month. She told him no. She told him to do the gig, because that would mean things were well on their way to being normal again.

She was wrong.

Thoughts consumed her as she tried to sleep. None of them were welcome. In fact, all of them made her entirely miserable.

You were pregnant and now you’re not. You were having a girl.

April rolled over and buried her face in the pillow.

You can’t have any more kids. This is bound to happen again. Why did you even try in the first place? It’s not going to happen because if it does, it will end the same way for you. Andy will hate you and he’ll leave, because he’s not going to want to go through this again. Who would?

It wasn’t like they’d been trying for another baby, because she honestly wasn’t in the mood to think about it right now, but it wasn’t like they’d tried to avoid it, either. They were throwing caution to the wind and just seeing what happened. So far, nothing, and she was relieved. It was mostly for Andy’s sake anyway.

You’re not even good at taking care of the kids you have now, so no use trying for a third. Consider this a sign.

April’s chest felt tight now. Her breaths were quicker and more shallow. She felt dizzy, like she was going to throw up. She didn’t know what else to do.

Her phone rang and it was Leslie. Her face lit up above the screen in a hologram like it so often did these past few weeks. Leslie had called her every day since it had happened, checking on her both at home and work to make sure she was okay. The older woman would surely worry that April wasn’t going to answer, but truth be told she honestly didn’t want to talk to her right now. The only person she wanted was Andy, and he was hours away.

The phone stopped ringing after a minute or so, and April started to cry.

 

She dreamed about her nameless baby. It was always the same dream, always in the hospital. She would wake up in bed because she heard crying. The little bassinet was always placed right near her, the crying growing louder and louder with each passing second, and April would look inside, her chest full of joy at the prospect of seeing her daughter. Only thing was, the bassinet was empty. The crying would only get louder. April would panic and Andy would come into the room in a hurry, his eyes red from seemingly endless tears as he stared at her in horror. Then, the dream would come to an abrupt stop and she would wake up shaking and covered in sweat.

 

It was Allie’s crying that woke April, merging with the wailing of the phantom baby in her nightmare. The bed was damp where her head had been lying and the sheets felt clammy from sweat. She stood on shaky legs, trying to will herself to walk the short distance to her daughter’s room and take care of her like she was supposed to.

You’re supposed to. You’re a mom and you need to act like one, not this crying mess of a person.

Jack was up now too, calling for her. It was all too overwhelming, too much at once. The echo of failure never seemed to be far from her ears lately.

“I’m coming honey,” April called, gathering Allie up first.

The little girl reached for April immediately, clinging to her, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes with a tiny fist. April pressed a kiss to her head as she went to get Jack.

“Mama,” Jack yawned sleepily. “Is Daddy Home yet?”

“Not yet baby,” April said, trying to breath normally in the wake of her vivid dream. “Soon, okay?”

“Okay. Can we have snack now?”

April nodded. She got them seated at the counter, prepared them each a snack, and watched them closely from the living room while she dialed Andy’s number on her phone. It rang three times before he picked up.

“Hi babe,” came Andy’s cheerful voice from the other end. Just hearing him made April’s heart skip a little bit, the tiniest bit of relief flooding her.

“Andy?” Her voice was trembling.

“April?” Andy’s voice was low now. “Are you okay? What’s wrong? What happened?” He was worried. All he usually had to do was hear her voice to know if something was up.

“Andy, I need you to come home.”

“I’m on my way already—April—what’s wrong? Are the kids okay?”

“Yeah, they’re fine, I just...I need you to come home.”

“Honey what’s wrong?”

April didn’t know how to explain herself. Andy knew just what to do when she got like this. All he had to do was look at her and he knew how to make her feel better.

“I was thinking about the baby again,” she muttered, checking to make sure Jack and Allie were okay. She could hear Andy sigh over the phone. “Andy…I can’t stop thinking about it.”

“I know,” Andy said softly.

“I hate this,” April muttered, catching her breath. “I fucking hate this so much, Andy.”

“Baby, I know...”

“Are you almost home?”

“I’m about an hour away,” Andy said. “I’ll get there as fast as I can, okay?”

“Okay,” April sighed, wiping away her tears with her palms.

“Where are the kids?” Andy asked, his voice firm and reassuring.

“Having a snack,” April said softly. “They don’t…they can’t tell something’s wrong."

“Okay. Just put a movie on and relax with them on the couch and I’ll be there before you know it. I’m talking lightening fast, okay?”

“Yeah…I love you,” April said, closing her eyes and breathing steadily.

“I love you too,” Andy replied, “so much.”

 

The hour dragged on. It felt like the longest wait of April’s life, and she practically leapt out of her seat when she heard Andy’s key in the lock. Jack and Allie were both engrossed in the movie, slouched together on the couch in an almost comatose stare. As soon as Andy walked in, he ran to meet April half way. She flung herself into his arms and broke down.

“Hey,” Andy said, pressing his face into her hair. “It’s okay, honey.”

She didn’t say anything for a long while, instead wrapping her arms tightly around him and breathing until her heart wasn’t pounding so hard against his chest. Eventually Jack and Allie noticed his arrival and ran toward him, screaming happily. Andy gently let go of April and bent down to hug his children, kissing both of them on the head.

“Dad,” Jack said immediately, his little face suddenly turned to a frown. “Mama’s upset.”

April looked at Andy quickly and back at Jack. “No, no baby, I’m fine.”

“I heard you crying a’fore,” he said, looking up at her.

Andy pulled Jack in for another hug, while Allie tugged insistently at his elbow, eager for his attention. April kneeled down beside the rest of her family, her hands in her lap and looking ashamed.

“Jack,” Andy began, “your mama’s fine, she’s just feeling a little sad. It’s okay to feel sad sometimes, right?”

The four-year-old nodded. “Uh-huh…but I’m still sad ‘bout the baby too.”

April and Andy looked at each other, both at a loss for words. Then, April leaned forward and ran a hand through her son’s hair, smiling despite the pit she felt in her stomach since she’d woken up that morning. Her son was far too intuitive for his own good, and she absolutely loved that about him.

April nodded, rolling her lips. “I know, buddy.”

“But we’re still together,” Jack said, seriously, his eyebrows furrowed.

“Yeah,” April nodded. “We are.”

 

“Why does this still hurt?” April whispered against Andy’s neck, hours later once the house was dark and the kids were asleep. They lay in bed holding each other. Andy’s fingers trailed up and down April’s arm, pressing kiss after kiss to her forehead.

The rest of their afternoon had been a subdued affair. Andy joined them to finish the movie on the couch, and they ordered some pizza for dinner. Then, to the delight of both Jack and Allie, Andy put on their own Johnny Karate performance in the living room while April watched from the couch, clutching the pillows to her chest. It managed to take her mind off things for a little while at least, which was good. Now, in the silence of their bedroom, it all came rushing back, and even with her husband there beside her she couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“I think it’s always gonna hurt, babe,” Andy replied. He moved to face her, the warmth of his palm cupping her cheek.

April looked up at him. “I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop dreaming about it.” She sat up and leaned on her elbow, reaching out to play with his hair. “I thought this was going to get better and I feel like it’s only getting worse.”

“I know,” Andy sighed. “I think about almost every day too.” He leaned forward against her touch. “It’s gonna get better, babe. I know it will.”

“When?”

Andy shrugged. “I don’t know,” he sighed. “I do know we have the two best kids around, though, and that’s never gonna change.”

April smiled. There was still one thing bothering her, though.

“In the dreams, I keep seeing your face,” April said slowly. “How disappointed you are in me, how upset you are because of everything that happened.”

Andy looked at her, his eyebrows furrowed together. “We’ve talked about this, babe.”

“I just don’t want you to think—“

“April,” Andy said, “I don’t want to interrupt you but I gotta. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s not true.”

“Andy—“

“I would never ever blame you for anything,” he said firmly. “Never, okay?”

April leaned forward to kiss him softly. She nodded. “Okay.”

“Okay.” Andy pulled her back down to rest on his chest, tucking one arm behind his head and the other around her shoulder. “Whether we have any more kids or not, I couldn’t be happier with our life,” he added. “This is just…one of those rough patches.”

“Mhm,” April hummed. “I feel like a shitty mom, though.”

“What?”

“I feel like…Jack and Allie deserve better than me,” April said softly. “I can’t even keep it together when I get like this.”

“April Ludgate-Dwyer,” Andy said, “you aren’t the one who’s supposed to say dumb things, that’s my job.”

April bit back a laugh. “Still—“

“Still nothing,” Andy said. “Don’t ever think that, okay?”

April traced the line of Andy’s chest with her finger, her eyes meeting his briefly. “How is it you always know just what to say?”

Andy shrugged. “I’d be a pretty terrible husband if I couldn’t make my own wife feel better,” he chuckled.

“You’re the best husband ever,” she mumbled. For the first time that day, she was starting to feel better. The exhaustion, however, was hitting her like a wave. She yawned. “Thank you for rushing home for me.”

“I’d do absolutely anything for you, babe, you know that.”

She knew he would. He always would.

Chapter Text

Leslie was overflowing with emotions again, and it was barely the afternoon. She seriously didn’t think she get ever get any happier when it came to the achievements of her closest friends, but she was proven time and time again that she was wrong, and it was an amazing feeling.

Well, was this really an achievement? A milestone? She thought about it as she carried her godson in her arms, all the way into the hospital and into the elevator that would bring them to the delivery ward.

Yes, she’d decided. This was certainly an achievement. Another baby to love, another godchild—possibly, well, probably—for her and Ben to dote on. Her own children were too old now for things like cuddles and bedtimes stories, so Leslie was going to cherish being a godmother to the newest members of the team.

“Mama, Dada,” Jack Ludgate-Dwyer said, looking at Leslie with eyes that so resembled his mother, Leslie was surprised he didn’t roll them and scoff at her.

“That’s right,” Leslie said, as they stepped off the elevator. “We’re gonna go see your mommy and daddy and meet your new sister!”

The two-year-old looked at her curiously. Leslie wasn’t quite sure how this meeting was going to pan out. One of the great thing about having triplets had been that there was no jealously amongst the three of them. They were born together, raised at the same time, and they each understood what it meant to have siblings from day one. She only hoped that Andy and April had worked out a plan.

They arrived at the door, which was slightly open. Leslie knocked softly once and let herself in.

April was resting in the hospital bed, clutching a little bundle wrapped in a blanket. A pink hat was sticking out of the top of it. She looked exhausted but happy, her hair uncombed and her face a little pale. Andy was laying right behind her, one arm draped over her with his hand over her stomach. His chin rested on her shoulder as they both stared at their new daughter with all the love in the world. It was almost the exact same way Leslie had found them when they had Jack two years prior, only this time they looked less shellshocked. This time they were used to a newborn and all the amazing things it would bring them.

When he saw Leslie and his son, Andy’s face lit up. April glanced up too, her smile wider than ever.

“Mama!” Jack shrieked happily, squirming to get away from Leslie and into his mother’s arms.

“Hey buddy!” Andy said happily, sitting up to greet them.

“Somebody’s excited to meet his sister!” Leslie said, transferring Jack to Andy’s arms as she approached the bed. Andy hugged his son.

“Jack,” he said, his voice soft. “We want you to meet someone super special.”

“Mama?” Jack reached for April.

“Hi baby,” April reached out for him, her fingers grasping his small hand. “Come here, okay? You need to be very careful.”

Andy placed Jack on the mattress next to April. Jack looked at both of his parents curiously, then at the bundle of blanket in his mother’s arms.

“Baby,” Jack said immediately.

Leslie let out a sigh. At least they’d prepped him like they said they would.

“That’s right Jack, it’s a baby,” April said softly. “This is your sister, Allie.”

“Short for Alexandra the Great,” Andy said proudly.

Jack looked at his sister. “Baby,” he repeated, pointing to her.

Andy ruffled Jack’s hair with his hand. “She’s awesome, isn’t she buddy?”

“Mine?” Jack said, looking at Andy.

“Ours,” April said. “She’s our new baby, all three of us.”

“Oh my gosh, this moment is amazing,” Leslie wiped away some tears. She’d been thinking about this exact moment all day yesterday and all night since April had gone into labor. Hastily she whipped out her phone and took some pictures, because she knew for a fact Andy and April hadn’t bothered to take any. Once that was done, she hurried forward to take a look for herself.

The tiny baby was beautiful. Her face was all scrunched up, but right away Leslie could see some of Andy’s features. His mouth, his eyes, his nose. Allie barely had any hair, where Jack had a good amount right from the beginning.

“You guys, she’s beautiful,” Leslie whispered. “I’m so happy for you.”

“Thanks Leslie!” Andy beamed.

“Yeah, thanks I guess,” April rolled her eyes, smiling.

“You’re gonna be so, so happy.”

 

Leslie was just getting out of a meeting when her phone buzzed in her pocket. She saw Andy’s face lighting up, and honestly if it had been anyone else she would have let it go to voicemail simply because of how swamped she was at the moment. If Andy was calling, he either needed something important, he was lost, or there was something wrong with April, and all three of those scenarios were serious. Sprinting to her next meeting, she answered.

“Hello?”

“Leslie?”

“Andy,” Leslie sighed, pausing to grab some coffee from a coffee cart, because she needed a boost. “What’s up? Is everything okay?”

“I dunno,” Andy said, and in the background Leslie could hear Allie wailing and April’s voice trying to sooth her.

“Okay,” Leslie stopped. The meeting would have to wait. “Tell me what’s going on.”

“It’s Jack,” Andy said softly. “He’s upset and April and I don’t know how to make him feel better.”

“Upset about what?”

“Allie,” Andy said.

“Oh,” Leslie understood almost immediately. “I see.”

“Yeah,” Andy went on. “At first he was like he was in the hospital, you know? Kinda curious and happy and just, y’know, his usual self…now it’s been a week and he won’t go near her, he cries all the time, and he constantly wants our attention.”

“Andy—“

“It’s eating me up, Leslie,” Andy said, sounding miserable. “I don’t want him to think we don’t love him anymore—“

“Andy, Andy—“ Leslie cut him off. “Jack would never think that!”

“What do we do?” In the background Leslie could hear April calling for Andy. “Oh shit,” Andy groaned. “Listen, April doesn’t know I’m calling you. She’ll get mad because she’ll think that I think she can’t handle the kids on her own—“

“Andy, listen to me,” Leslie said. “This is normal, okay? I mean, I can’t tell you from experience because I had three at once, but,” she sighed, “there’s been plenty of times when the triplets were seeking attention over each other and Ben and I had to deal with it.”

“How did you deal with it?”

“Spend some time with him alone. Take him out for some father-son bonding. Or take the baby for a few hours and have April go out with Jack for a bit. Jack just needs to be reassured that you guys haven’t forgotten about him.”

“We haven’t though!”

“Andy, of course you haven’t,” Leslie said gently. “But Jack is two. He doesn’t know that.”

“Right,” Andy took a deep breath, and then Leslie could hear April calling for him again.

“You’d better go,” Leslie said.

“Yeah…thanks so much Leslie,” Andy said. “You’re the best.”

“Good luck,” she said. “Let me know how it goes.”

 

Two weeks later, Leslie got a text from April. It had no words, just a picture of Jack and Allie together. Allie was being held in what appeared to be Andy’s arms, and Jack, off to the side, was leaning over and pressing the softest kiss to the baby’s head. Beneath the picture were two words:

Thank you.

Leslie took a deep breath and smiled.

Chapter Text

Honestly, April could die like this and be happy. In bed with Andy, his hands running over every inch of her skin, squeezing, caressing, loving her. It was insane from the beginning how incredible their love life was. How perfect it had always been. Over the years it had only gotten better and still now after years together and three children (and one on the way) they couldn’t get enough of each other.

Carefully, Andy rolled April onto her back and kissed up her neck, biting and sucking on her skin. Each nip sent a million nerves into overdrive and April arched up against him.

“Love you,” Andy mumbled, grazing April’s jaw with his teeth.

“Love you too,” she moaned softly.

His hand drifted over her belly, fingertips brushing the skin there where it was rounded now. Andy was always a handsy guy when it came to April’s body, but whenever she was pregnant he was practically a cave man. If she thought her own sex drive was crazy, Andy’s desire was even stronger. It was one of those weird, primal things, but she enjoyed it immensely.

“You are so,” Andy sucked on her collarbone, “so fucking beautiful,” he growled against her. “My wife is so beautiful…”

“You…uh-huh,” April breathed, at a loss for words.

Andy grinned against her skin, and before long April felt those teeth scraping against her once again.

At some point they fell into bed, exhausted, the both of them smiling.

 

“Oh my God!”

April’s yell must have been loud. It was certainly enough to make Andy hurry into the bathroom in a panic, his feel sliding on the rug and nearly tripping him in the process. Grabbing onto the doorframe, he looked up at her, out of breath.

“Babe!” he panted, clutching his chest. “What’s wrong? Are you okay? It is the baby?” He hurried forward and reached for her, resting one hand on her shoulder and the other on her belly. “Should we go to the hospital?”

“Andy, no!” April said, her eyes wide as she stared up at him. “It’s not the baby!” She gestured to her neck with a wave of her hand. “Look at me!”

“At what?” Andy looked confused.

“My skin,” April groaned, putting her face in her hands. “Andy, I have bite marks all over me!”

Andy looked at her as April turned to look in the mirror. All over her neck were reddish bite marks and indentations of teeth, places where Andy worshipped her with his mouth the night before that had all blossomed into rather noticeable bruises overnight.

“I have a meeting at Jack’s school tonight,” April said, shaking her head. “I can’t go looking like this!”

“Babe,” Andy said softly, “I’m sorry…I thought…I thought you were kinda enjoying it.” He looked at her awkwardly.

April backtracked immediately. “Andy no,” she said quickly, tugging his hand toward her. “I did, I really did,” she sighed. “I just didn’t realize, um, y’know,” she gestured to her skin feebly. “I didn’t think.”

“I think you look beautiful,” Andy offered, leaning in to press a kiss to her lips. “So beautiful,” he whispered. “All I see when I look at you is how much I love you.”

“Andy,” April closed her eyes and tried to ignore the pounding of her heart. “Not now, okay? I can’t focus with you looking at me like that.”

“Sorry,” he said quick. “It’s just…damn, April, I can’t get enough of you.”

“Babe,” April ran a hand over her neck, thumb pressing against the bruised skin, “what am I supposed to do about this?”

“Uh,” Andy scratched his neck, “a scarf?”

April groaned. A scarf in May would look weird for sure, but since when has April ever cared about being weird?

 

“Mom,” Jack said softly, half an hour later during breakfast, “what happened to you?”

April looked at her son. He was staring at her with wide eyes. “What d’you mean, buddy?”

Jack touched his own neck. “Your skin…it’s all red.”

Andy looked up sharply from helping Melody cut up her food. April met his stare.

“It’s nothing, Jack,” April shook her head and continued to pack her bag for work. “Don’t worry about it.” She hiked the scarf she’d put on a little higher around her neck.

“Are you allergic to something, Mama?” Allie asked. “Jessica in my school ate a strawberry the other day and her skin looked like that too.”

“No,” April bit her lip. “I think I just—“

“Did you get bit by something?” Jack asked, clearly not satisfied with his mother’s non-answer.

April sighed. “I guess you could say that.”

“Must have been a huge bug,” Jack went on.

“It was,” April glared at Andy over the counter.

Andy cleared his throat pointedly. “Your mom’s gonna be fine,” he said cheerfully. “Don’t worry about it, I’m sure the bug bit her because he loved her skin so much. Kinda like when you get a mosquito bite.”

“Yuck,” Melody said, sticking out her tongue. “I hate ‘squitos.”

“Yeah,” Allie nodded in agreement.

“The point is,” April said quickly, “I’m totally fine. Okay? Eat your cereal.”

From over the table, Andy mouthed a silent “I’m sorry.”

 

“April, is something wrong?”

It was Margie, the most annoying mother in the PTA. She was looking at April smugly as the small group of them tried to plan the end of the year fundraiser to raise money for the new school year in the fall. From her chair, April could see the woman eyeing April’s neck. There was no denying that the scarf was doing a terrible job.

April had managed to hide her problem easy enough at work all day. She had her own office and she happened to catch a rare break where she didn’t have to meet any clients face-to-face that day, so she was able to stay out of view and avoid questions. Now her luck had run out.

“What do you mean, Margaret?” April asked, her voice falsely sugar-sweet. She refused to call that woman Margie.

“I mean you’ve been tugging at that scarf all meeting,” the woman said, fake smile and all. It was no secret that April and Margie didn’t like each other, to say the least. “Why don’t you take it off? It’s a little hot for that.”

April clenched her fists under the table. “No, I think I’m fine,” she said. “I’m a little cold.”

“I see,” Margie replied. “I was just wondering if it had to do with the fact that you’ve got red marks all over you,” she added in a whisper. “I can imagine they must be unsightly. I’d want to cover them up too, if I were you.”

April looked up sharply. Margie was staring at her like she’d just solved a particularly difficult puzzle and was eager to collect a prize. This woman lived for embarrassing others whom she deemed “lesser” than herself, and she’d been on a mission to put April down from the day April had sighed up for the PTA.

“Well,” April said, trying to keep her calm. “Actually, it does have to do with the red marks.”

The other women at the table had fallen silent. They were all staring at April and Margie awkwardly.

“Oh?”

“Yes,” April nodded, letting out a dramatic sigh. “You see, last night Andy and I had such wild, crazy sex that things got a bit…extreme.”

Margie’s smile disappeared in an instant. The other women were staring at April with looks of mixed admiration and shock.

“Mhm,” April went on. “You see, I didn’t want to make it too obvious because I didn’t want to rub it into your face too much.”

“Rub what into my face?” Margie said, looking confused now.

April chuckled. “Just the fact that my husband is just…so damn incredible. I didn’t want to make you feel bad or anything. I know how much you wish he was yours.”

Now there were audible gasps coming from the others. Margie looked scandalized.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said defensively.

“Oh,” April shrugged. “I just assumed, since every time he’s around you’re staring at his ass. I get it, he’s sexy.”

“April—“

“So since it doesn’t bother you,” April tugged the scarf off, “I guess I don’t need this anymore.”

Margie didn’t say a word for the rest of the meeting, and thirty minutes later she left the table without a word.

 

Andy was waiting with the kids to pick April up after the meeting. As the other women filed out, some threw glances his way. Others gave April a smile as they passed. A select few even managed to sneak a look at Andy’s backside to see if April meant what she said.

April met him with open arms and a soft kiss. “Hey babe,” she smiled. “Missed you.”

“Hi honey,” Andy put his arm around her. “How did it go?”

“Pretty good,” April said. “We got a lot done. C’mon, I’m starving.” She reached for Allie’s hand while Melody took Andy’s.

“Hey,” Andy looked at her. “What happened to your scarf?”

“Don’t need it,” April shrugged.

“You said that—“

“Andy, don’t worry about what I said,” April smiled. “C’mon, let’s go get dinner.”

“Pizza!” Jack pumped his fist in the air, taking his mother’s free hand.

“Hey,” Andy whispered, as the little family walked to their car. “I don’t want to seem weird, but…why are all these women staring?”

“Well,” April said, “I think they’re all admiring the view.”

Andy looked confused. April laughed and nudged him with her shoulder. She’d fill him in later that night. Much later, though, because they had plans first.

Chapter Text

“She hates me.”

“Honey…”

“Andy, she fucking hates me right now, and no matter what I say she won’t listen to me.”

April ran a hand across both eyes, wiping away tears. She'd been fine, stoic, holding her ground, that is until her youngest daughter uttered those three words that no parent wants to hear, the ones that will rip your heart out in three-seconds flat.

I hate you.

Andy wrapped his arms around his wife, letting her cry a little against his chest. April buried her face, used his shirt like a tissue and took solace in the strength of his arms…well, whatever strength he could muster at the moment, which terrifyingly wasn’t enough right now. To make matters worse, when she hugged him tighter he let out a little groan, a little exhale of breath like that one act was too much.

“Babe,” April’s breath hitched. “You should sit down.”

“I’m fine,” Andy said, as he rested his cheek against her head.

“No,” April shook her head. “The doctor said—“

“The doctor said I need to take it easy,” Andy said gently, “not that I have to be sitting down every second of the day.”

April choked back another sob and hugged him harder.

Their world had been rocked in a span of one week. The heart attack had come out of no where, simply while Andy had been out raking leaves in the backyard. No one was home except for Emma, and she was listening to music, totally unaware of what was happening for at least a few minutes before she found her father collapsed in the backyard. When April had gotten the phone call at work, she felt like she’d been shot, like all the breath had been taken out of her. She hadn’t driven that fast in a long time, breaking all kinds of laws in the process before she made it to the hospital and demanded to see her husband. Thankfully it hadn’t been as serious as it could have been, there was no surgery involved, but it was enough to terrify her—and their children—to no end. Jack, Allie, and Melody had all raced home as fast as they could to be with their family.

Emma had ridden in the ambulance with her father, holding his hand with tears in her eyes the entire time. When April met her in the emergency room, she could hardly get two words out of her sobbing daughter.

“Andy,” April sniffed, “she thinks I’m a monster.”

“You’re not, though,” Andy whispered. “Of course you’re not, honey. She was scared.”

“We were all scared, okay?” April looked at him. “That doesn’t give her the right to be acting the way she has been—“

“April, she thinks it’s her fault.”

“I know, but—“

“I asked her if she wanted to help me with the leaves and she refused,” Andy shrugged, taking April’s hands in his and staring at her solemnly. “I’m not gonna blame her, she’s a kid. Of course she’d rather be doing other things than yard work. But sweetheart, she thinks that if she’d just helped me, this never would’ve happened.”

“Maybe it wouldn’t have,” April said bitterly, averting her eyes.

April wasn’t going to blame her own daughter, not at all. This was in no way Emma’s fault. Yet Andy shouldn’t have been doing all that yard work by himself. He wasn’t as young as he used to be, and with the three older kids away at school—or in Jack’s case, the NFL—there wasn’t anyone else to lend a hand. That left Emma and April.

“April, if it wasn’t the leaves, it would have been something else—“

“Andy,” April tore away from him, angry now, “don’t say that, okay? No, maybe it wouldn’t have been something else! Maybe you’d have been fucking fine! I told you not to—I told you not to try and do all that by yourself! I told you we could hire someone to do it.” Andy had originally told her he wasn’t going to pay some kid to do what he could still accomplish on his own. April knew that deep down it made him feel too old to admit something like that would be better.

Andy looked at her sadly, and April felt a million pangs of guilt in her gut. First she lashed out at her daughter, to some extent, and now she was doing the same to Andy. If she should get mad at anyone, it should be at herself.

The thing was, maybe if April didn’t work so much, she could have been home with them. Maybe things would have been different. Maybe she could have helped. It had happened on a Saturday afternoon and April had a huge project to work on, so she’d only planned on being at the office for a couple of hours that day…

“Baby, I’m sorry,” April said immediately, taking his hand again. “I’m sorry, I had no right to—“

“It’s okay,” Andy smiled at her, the lines around his eyes more pronounced than ever. “It’s fine, all right? I promise. I love you, you didn’t say anything wrong.”

April rolled her lips, trying to organize her thoughts. It was too much, and that overwhelming hatred of herself was making a reappearance, bubbling up in her stomach like the past. “You have no idea how scared I was, Andy,” she said, finally. “I thought you were dying.” The thought alone…well, she didn’t want to think about it.

“I wasn’t,” he replied, his voice soft too.

“I know, but…a fucking heart attack, babe.”

It didn’t seem real. Not Andy…he wasn’t supposed to ever worry about these things. He’d gotten fit and healthy, and yeah, maybe he was on the chubbier side once more in his old age, and maybe he didn’t work out as much as he used to anymore, but this wasn’t supposed to happen to him. He didn’t deserve it.

“C’mere,” he said, guiding her over to the living room couch. “It’s okay, April…it’s okay.”

She curled up against him with her head on his chest, drawing her feet up against her stomach. Andy’s fingers twirled a loose piece of her hair as he stared ahead. They sat silently, watching the same spot above the television mounted to the wall.

“I’m going to take some time out of work,” April said, finally.

“You don’t have to,” Andy said.

“I already told my boss,” April said, reaching for his free hand in his lap. “Two weeks off. I’ve been working there long enough…I think I deserve it.”

Andy smiled. “You do.”

“I just want to be here for you,” April said. “For you and for Emma, and maybe the kids can come home for a weekend like old times.”

“That sounds perfect.”

April slid her hand up his chest, resting her palm above his heart. She could feel it beating.

“Andy?”

“Yeah?”

“Promise me you’re not going to leave me.”

“I won’t,” he whispered.

“Ever.”

“Never.”

April nodded. It was all she could—all she would—accept. She slowly rubbed that spot on his chest until the sky grew dark outside and time ceased to matter.

Chapter Text

Leslie and Ben had barely walked through the front door, and already April was calling out instructions to them in her haste to leave. She was desperate. She needed this. It had been a rough week. She promised herself she would explain to them later…if she had time.

“The kids are fed—“

“Okay—“

“They can watch TV for a bit—“

“Sure!”

“No more candy today, they’ve already had too much—“

“April, can you slow down for a minute?” Leslie looked at her friend with worried eyes. “Take a breath!”

“No time, Leslie,” April shook her head. “Andy and I have that important appointment to get to.” Gently, she pushed Andy toward the exit with her hands on his back. Her giant husband fumbled to get into his shoes, nearly sending the both of them stumbling.

“Is everything okay?” Ben asked nervously, looking at Leslie momentarily, then back at Andy and April.

“Are you already pregnant again?” Leslie asked, half worried and half excited at the possibility. “Allie’s only a year old—“

“No!” April rolled her eyes. “God, no…” She tapped her foot impatiently as Andy finished lacing up his sneakers.

“Well, then you’re sure everything is okay?” Ben asked again, not totally believing them by the look on his face.

“We’re fine!” Andy yelled, a little too loudly as he stood up straight. “All fine…we just gotta go,” he took April’s hand. “C’mon babe—“

“We’ll be back in like two hours,” April said, guiding Andy out the door and ignoring the concerned looks on their friends’ faces. “Just…get the kids ready for bed by eight and we’ll be home like right after that!”

The front door closed behind them, and the two of them sprinted to their car parked in the driveway. Andy opened the door, April nearly leapt inside, and Andy joined her in the back seat before slamming the door closed behind him.

Silence. They couldn’t even hear the crickets outside. It was, for lack of a better word, amazing.

The two of them looked at each other. April cracked a smile, and Andy matched it with his lopsided grin, before they collapsed against each other—and the seat—absolutely exhausted.

“I thought this moment would never come,” Andy sighed, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles.

“Yeah, me either,” April groaned, pressing herself against her husband, trying to get comfortable in the cramped space. “This week has been…just…”

“Hellish?” Andy offered, rubbing her shoulder comfortingly.

“Fucking terrible,” April nodded.

It wasn’t that they necessarily wanted to get away from their children. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Andy and April loved Jack and Allie with all their hearts. They’d do anything for them and treasured all the moments they shared together as a family. But for some reason unknown to either of them, the past week had been nothing but a mess of tears and tantrums, too much work and not enough sleep, and snippy, forced conversations that sent the two of them to bed more angry than relaxed way more often than they’d have liked. Frankly, the both of them needed to reset for a little while or risk losing their sanity.

“I’m sorry I’ve been such a dick lately, honey,” Andy said softly, running a hand through his hair. “I just…I dunno, I think I’m burnt out. Chasing around a three-year-old and a one-year-old all day isn’t as easy as I thought it would be.”

“I know,” April said, understanding completely. She hadn’t exactly been the most pleasant person to be around during the last several days either. “I’m sorry too. Sorry I didn’t have more patience with you or the kids.”

“I just miss having you and me time like this,” Andy said, staring back toward the house. Inside, the lights were starting to come on one by one as the sun went down, enveloping the street in darkness. “I don’t know when the last time we had a minute to ourselves was.”

“Like this?” April looked at him. “Too long.” She rested her head on his chest. Thank goodness they’d opted for a larger car since the kids were born. The backseat made for a roomier place to sit, especially for someone with Andy’s size.

“I can’t even remember the last time we had sex—“

“Over a week ago,” April answered for him. Not like she had been keeping track, or anything…

“Seriously? That sucks,” Andy groaned.

“Tell me about it…”

“We can’t let this happen too much,” Andy said, looking at her seriously. April knew he was right. It wasn’t healthy for their relationship. It wasn’t healthy period.

“You’re right, babe,” April nodded. “We won’t. We’re gonna figure out how to make the schedule work for all of us.”

“If it means we need to give Leslie and Ben a call like this every once in a while…”

“Then that’s what we’ll do,” April smiled and leaned up to kiss him.

Andy held the kiss, pulling her on top of him. “How long do we have ’til we gotta go back?”

“Like an hour and a half,” April grinned. “Plenty of time, I think, for what I have in mind.”

“C’mon,” Andy climbed—with a good amount of effort—into the front seat and helped April do the same. “I know a kick-ass park we can go make out in.”

“Score,” April kissed him on the cheek, lacing her fingers with his as they started to drive.

“Hey, d’you think anyone will see us if we…y’know,” Andy wiggled his eyebrows at her.

“Only one way to find out,” April shrugged. “Worth the risk, I think.”

“Definitely,” Andy pulled their clasped hands to his lips. They both looked at each other and smiled.

Chapter Text

There are those moments in every parent’s life where they’re just so damn proud of their child, whether it be because of an accomplishment, an act of kindness, or something similar. When the child does something on their own for the first time, learns to read or tie their shoe or ride a bike without training wheels, it feels like the greatest moment ever.

Or in Jack Ludgate-Dwyer’s case, when he learns to spell way earlier than both his parents thought him capable.

April swore they would laugh about this later in life, or on the opposite end use it to embarrass their son to no end in front of his friends in the kindest way possible. Either way, she was sure the horror she’d felt when he picked up on her previously unnoticed hints to Andy about their adult activities was all too real in the moment…and she’d rather forget it entirely.

“Oh, sweetheart,” Andy looked over at Allie’s chocolate sundae masterpiece as the little girl added an unhealthy amount of whipped cream. “That looks incredible!”

“You want some ice cream with that whipped cream?” April chuckled, walking around the table to assist Melody with her own sundae. At two years old, her youngest wasn’t as into the creating portion of the fun. She’d rather just eat it.

“This is the way I make ‘em,” Allie said confidently, not looking up for an instant, green eyes locked onto her aim. “Can I have the M&Ms, Jack?”

“Sure,” Jack tossed the little bag of colorful chocolates over to his sister, admiring his own strawberry and vanilla masterpiece. “Needs more chocolate sauce,” he mumbled to himself, sitting up higher on his knees.

“Mama, you gonna make one?” Allie asked.

“No,” April shook her head. “I’ll sneak a bit of yours, though,” she smiled, taking a spoonful of her daughter’s sundae. “Mmm,” April exaggerated the sound, closing her eyes in delight. “So, so good! Best sundae I’ve ever had.”

“What about mine?” Jack looked up expectantly.

Andy tasted Jack’s, making the same satisfied noise as April. “So good, buddy! Hard to tell which one is tastier. I think you both win.”

“Mine?” Melody looked up at everyone. Her face was covered in syrup and ice cream and her hands were a chocolatey mess.

“Woah, okay,” April ran over, hastily wiping Melody’s hands on a napkin. “Yours looks amazing too, honey…let’s try to eat this thing before it gets everywhere.”

“Ya know, you used to not care about making a mess, babe,” Andy smirked at her, shaking his head. “You used to tell me, ‘the messier, the better…’”

“Well, that was before I had three distinct messes to clean up every single night of every single day,” she replied, glaring at him with those eyes that could kill. “Plus, if you want to put the kids to B-E-D so we can go to B-E-D, and you can have your special treat, then I suggest you help me clean—“

“Why are you guys going to bed?” Jack asked suddenly, not looking up as he ate. “What treat? Why does dad get to have a special treat in bed? I thought we weren’t allowed to eat in bed?”

April froze in her tracks, as did Andy. The two parents looked at each other with wide eyes. Now, awaiting an answer, Jack looked up.

“What was that, buddy?” Andy asked, clearly understanding what the boy had said but trying to act like he hadn’t.

“I said, why does dad get a special treat instead of ice cream, and why does he get to eat it in bed?”

April dropped the spoon she was holding and fumbled to retrieve it, hiding her reddening face in the process. Andy was already starting to sweat.

“I just, uh,” April looked everywhere but at Jack. “I meant—“

“Wait, what treat?” Allie asked, now looking up at both of them. “Jack, what d’you mean?”

“I dunno,” Jack shrugged. “That’s what I’m trying to find out.”

April needed to take charge of this situation before it got out of control. There was no way she was having that conversation with her children now.

“First of all,” she said, looking at Jack, “awesome job spelling and recognizing the word, Jack. Dad and I are super proud of you, right Andy?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, super proud!”

“Second, what I meant was that dad is gonna have some ice cream too,” April invented wildly. “He’s gonna have his when you guys go to bed.”

“Why?”

“It’s grown up ice cream,” Andy cut in. “Just for grown ups.”

Jack and Allie looked unconvinced, yet intrigued. Melody yawned wide, bored of the entire conversation.

“How is it different?” Jack asked, clearly not letting up until he got the answer he was looking for.

“It…just is,” April said, exasperated on the inside and ready to run away and hide to escape. “It tastes super gross, too.”

“I dunno, I think it tastes pretty good,” Andy chuckled, eyeing April sneakily. She gave him a swift kick under the table. “Ow! I mean, yeah, so gross…”

“Now that I think of it,” April muttered, looking at Andy specifically as she spoke, “we just might be out of daddy’s special ice cream. He’s gonna have to wait a few days before he can have more.”

“That’s weird,” Jack frowned.

“Super weird,” Andy nodded, silently pleading with April on the side. She decided to let him sweat it out a bit. “You’ll understand someday, though.”

“Uh-huh,” April nodded. “So why don’t you guys finish those up so we can have baths and bed, okay? Then maybe tomorrow we can practice spelling even more words, like T-R-O-U-B-L-E and C-E-L-I-B-A-T-E,” she said, looking specifically at Andy as she spoke.

Andy’s eyes were wide, but he didn’t make any more jokes after that.

 

“I knew you weren’t really gonna deny me my special treat,” Andy said, much later that evening, on his back in bed and breathing heavily.

Beside him, breathing just as hard, April lay there with the blanket around her middle, her hair a tangled mess. “I almost did.”

Almost being the key word. She wasn’t about to deny him something she wanted just as bad. Of course, she wasn’t going to tell Andy that.

“Our kid is like,” Andy panted, closing his eyes tight for a moment, “super smart.”

“He is,” April nodded. “I’m so proud of him.”

“Uh-huh,” Andy rolled over and tugged April against him, nuzzling into her back and ready to fall asleep.

“You know what this means, right?” April asked, as she closed her eyes.

“What?”

“I’m gonna have to find a new way to talk in code to you, at least when Jack’s in the room.”

“Yeah,” Andy nodded. “The other two still have a while before they can spell.”

April laughed softly. They’d dodged a bullet on this one, that was certain.

Chapter Text

One of the first things April had told Andy when they’d found out they were having a baby was that she didn’t need to read any of Leslie’s baby books. It was something she flat out refused to do, because according to April information like that was something you didn’t need to learn in a book. It was supposed to be natural, or something like that. Andy figured that since she was the one having the baby, she could make those decisions for herself.

As the pregnancy went on, April changed her tune. Five months in, and little stack of books had appeared by her bedside. Andy never once teased her about it. As far as he was concerned, April could do whatever she needed to in order to feel secure about all of this. He wanted her to be happy and cared for, and to feel safe. He couldn’t stress enough the importance of her feeling safe. It had taken her long enough to want a baby in the first place. She deserved anything in the entire world for what she was doing.

They lay in bed one night, the both of them propped up against the pillows. Andy stared at her with a smile on his face, watching as she rested one of those books on her belly and held his hand beneath the sheets. Every once in a while she’d brush her thumb against his skin, not really noticing that she was doing it in the first place. It made him smile every single time. He was trying to busy himself with a magazine, but he kept getting distracted by his wife’s beauty. It happened more often than not. She was gorgeous. Could anyone really blame him?

“Ugh, babe, listen to this,” she said, not taking her eyes off the book. “Some women save the placenta.”

“Gross,” Andy made a face. “To do what?”

“To store it…or, oh God, some women eat it…”

“Okay, that’s disgusting,” Andy made a gagging sound. “You’re not gonna…uh…do that, right?”

“No,” April looked at him with a wicked grin. “Maybe I’ll ask if we can take it home so we can put it in a glass jar on the fireplace? Freak people out?”

Andy laughed nervously. Sometimes he couldn’t tell if April was kidding or not. When it came to gross stuff, she usually wasn’t. He really hoped she was.

“Either way, it’s gonna be—“ she stopped mid-sentence, and Andy felt her squeeze his hand. Her eyes were wide.

“April,” he looked at her. “Are you okay, honey?”

She didn’t say anything, and for a moment Andy was about to jump up and call 9-1-1 because the first thing that came to mind was that there was something wrong with the baby. Then April smiled and Andy felt a wave of relief crash over him. If she was smiling that meant everything was okay. Everything was going to be okay.

“Andy,” she said softly, and raised his hand to her belly. She flattened his palm against her and waited. Andy looked at her, unsure what to do.

Then he felt it. A hard kick, right near his fingers. He looked up at her, his smile surely wide enough that his cheeks were hurting. “Oh my God,” he said, amazed. “Was that—?”

“Uh-huh,” April nodded, resting her own hand on top of his. She rolled her lips and together they waited, until another kick pushed against his palm.

There are some things you remember for the rest of your life. For Andy, this would always be one of them.

“Babe,” he whispered, because his voice was failing him, “that’s our baby…”

“Yeah,” she smiled at him, that beautiful, genuinely happy smile, and he wanted to pull her into his arms and kiss her like he’d never kissed her before. She had never looked so beautiful to him, or so happy. She was glowing in every sense of the word, and Andy didn’t think he had ever loved her so much in his entire life.

Then the kicking stopped, and Andy slid his hand off her belly and entwined his fingers with hers again.

“C’mere,” he pulled her against him, resting her weight on his chest. He kissed her forehead and her lips over and over. “I love you so much.”

“Love you too,” she whispered.

“Has the baby ever kicked like that before?” he asked.

“No,” April shook her head. “Never like that. Little flutters, but…that’s it.”

“This is gonna be the most amazing baby in the world,” Andy added, placing his hand on her belly once more. “I just know it.”

“I know,” April chuckled. She snuggled against him, adjusting so she was comfortable. Since she’d actually started getting bigger, that usually meant with her back pressed against his. It was fine, since they typically slept that way anyway.

For most of the night, Andy kept his hand protectively over her. He wanted to feel those kicks every single time. He wanted to know that their baby was with them, wanted to feel the presence of the little life they’d made together out of love for each other. He wanted their baby to somehow, someway, know his or her father was there and would never leave. He wanted April to know he loved her so much it hurt.

He wanted so, so much for the three of them, and even if it took everything he had, Andy would make sure of all of it. Everything was going to be okay.

Chapter Text

Almost home, almost home, almost home...

April kept repeating the words to herself like a mantra the entire time the plane was in its decent. It had been a tough, long flight. A long few days, in fact, to be away from her husband and her baby. It was her first big work trip since she’d returned from maternity leave, and she was terrified that Jack, barely six months old, would hate her for leaving him, or worse, forget who she was.

Once they were safely landed at the airport she scrambled off the plane and barreled through the people surrounding her. She didn’t need to wait for a bag, it had been a short enough trip that a single carry-on would do. Now she just had to find Andy.

April scanned the heads in the crowd. She knew he’d be around somewhere. Andy always promised to be there before she landed. Always, every single time... She searched for his tall form, his mess of curly hair, his mile-wide smile.

“April!”

April whipped her head around. That was definitely his voice. She looked behind her and she could see Andy making his way over, supporting Jack in his little strap-on chest carrier. Immense relief flooded her at once. She ran toward them, barreling past the other flyers without looking twice.

“Oh my God,” April groaned, meeting Andy’s embrace in the only way she could while he supported their son. “Babe...” She kissed Andy softly once, then once more again before leaning in to remove Jack from the harness and take him into her arms. She hugged and kissed him all over his little head, while Jack merely stared at her with dark eyes. “Hi baby, hi...”

“We missed you,” Andy whispered softly, stroking April’s hair as she fussed over their son.

“I missed you both so much,” she replied, rubbing Jack’s cheek with the pad of her finger. Jack gripped her shirt with his tiny fat fist. “Did you miss mama, baby?” she whispered. She kissed Jack’s nose, eliciting a tiny giggle from him. Then he yawned, suddenly sleepy, nuzzling against her shoulder.

“C’mon,” Andy said, taking April’s luggage and shouldering it on one strong arm. The other he wrapped around his wife’s shoulders. “Let’s get you home.”

“I can’t wait,” she murmured. She rubbed Jack’s back as they walked, the baby far too exhausted to stay awake and promptly dozing on April’s shoulder. His fist still clenched her shirt for dear life.

It had sucked being away so long. Not just because she missed her boys, that was a given, but because she had been terrified of going on this trip from the very beginning. No matter how many times she told herself she’d be okay, the thought that something could happen to her while she was away leaving Jack and Andy alone…well, it kept her up most nights the entire week before the trip.

Andy led them back to the car. They buckled Jack in and April collapsed into the front seat with a heavy sigh. Once Andy was inside and closed the door, it was finally just the three of them again. He looked at her with soft eyes.

“Ready to go home?” he asked.

“More than ever,” April said.

“Awesome,” he leaned in and kissed her cheek, before starting the car and heading for home.

They were finally together again.

Chapter Text

There was nothing as comfortable as waking up on a lazy Saturday morning and not having to really wake up at all. Staying in bed all day was the best thing in the world, and for once in April’s adult life, her real, going-to-work-every-day-and-earning-a-living adult life, she had a very reasonable excuse to sleep until noon if she wanted.

The little demon-child in her belly gave a great kick, jolting her eyes awake in the most abrupt fashion. Her back was killing her. There weren’t many practical positions for her to sleep this late in the pregnancy that didn’t result in a sleepless night, so oftentimes April found herself on her side with Andy spooning her from behind. This morning, she woke with her head pressed into his chest and her belly against his stomach, while Andy kept his arm stretched across her as always. She swore he thought something might happen to her if he didn’t...it was sweet and ridiculous all at once.

Now she stretched her arms out, her balled fists brushing past Andy’s shoulders, and she yawned. Andy groaned beside her, his mouth twitching. His eyes stayed tightly closed.

“Morning,” April whispered, pressing a soft kiss to his lips.

“Mmhm,” Andy hummed, not really making any effort to move aside from pulling April closer.

April grinned and with some effort, flipped around, pressing her back into his chest. She felt Andy’s hand resting on her belly. At the foot of the bed, Champion dozed on and off, his tail wagging a little every time one of his humans made a move.

“I’m so tired, Andy,” April sighed, closing her eyes. “I wanna stay in bed all day.”

“Sure sweetheart,” Andy whispered. His mouth was half covered by the pillow. “Anything, hun...whatever you want.”

“Will you stay in bed with me?” she asked.

Andy yawned, his body stiffening beside April’s as he stretched. He was always so damn warm. It made for the most comfortable sleep April had ever known. “I can’t baby...I’ve got that Johnny Karate show his afternoon.”

“Ugh, can’t you skip it?” she asked, even though April knew he couldn’t. With the baby on the way, Andy was pulling in extra gigs whenever he could to save up some extra cash. It was the practical thing to do, and since moving to DC and starting their new life, April found she had a whole lot more patience for being practical.

“I promise I’ll stay in bed until then,” Andy kissed he back of her head. “Deal?”

“Sure,” April said. She yawned again and snuggled against him even closer. Her eyelids felt heavy. At some point she would have to eat something, but right now she was content.

 

It took a great deal of will power for Andy to pull himself out of that bed. April was sleeping like an angel. A beautiful, perfect, pregnant angel, and Andy couldn’t stop staring at her and smiling. She was always so tired these days. It was October and they only had another month or so to go before the baby arrived, and the both of them couldn’t be more excited. Even if it meant April spent most of her free time sleeping. Andy was just fine with that if it meant she felt good and was happy.

He got up, showered and packed up his guitar. Then he made April a sandwich, just to make sure she was taken care of while he was gone. He put it on a dish, covered it with plastic wrap, and placed it on the table next to the bed for when she was hungry. With a quick kiss to her forehead, he headed out.

 

It felt like no time at all before Andy was back. The gig was an easy one. Three hundred dollars for an hour’s worth of playing was pretty damn good. It certainly helped that since his show had become so popular all those years back, he was able to up his rate. Even more so since he was technically “retired” as a children’s performer these days and whatever parties he performed at were special and rare. So, walking back into the house, Andy sorta felt like a superhero. He was pretty damn proud of himself.

April was still no where to be found, so he assumed she was still fast asleep. He climbed the stairs quietly and peeked into their room. Sure enough, April was sprawled out on the bed, snoring lightly. Champion was lying pressed up against her back. Andy was pleased to see the sandwich had been eaten.

“Hey Champ,” Andy said, peeling off his shirt and unbuckling his jeans. He was pretty exhausted now and couldn’t wait to fall back into bed with his wife. “Move over, buddy. I wanna get back in bed with mom.”

Champion merely looked up at Andy with his large brown eyes. He wagged his tail a little but refused to move.

“Hey,” Andy whispered. “C’mon Champion, I’m tired. Move over.” Andy reached over to gently push Champion out of the way, but to his shock, the dog let out a low warning growl. Andy pulled his hand away. Champion stood on the bed, stretched and turned around, before he lay down again and rested his head on April’s side.

Andy was at a loss for words. Champion rarely ever growled at him for real. Usually it was when they were playing tug-of-war with a chew toy. However, he had noticed in the past several months how much more attached Champion had become around April. He followed her everywhere and looked up at anyone who came too close when they went on walks. In a way, Andy was proud of him for helping to protect April and the baby. So yeah, maybe it was kinda cool after all.

“Fine,” Andy sighed. “You win.” He climbed into bed on Champion’s other side and tried to get comfortable without April next to him. It was difficult, but it would have to do. “I promise I won’t leave mom alone when she’s sleeping again, okay?”

Champion seemed to accept that. He wagged his tail a bit and let out a sigh.

Andy chuckled softly. He was going to have to tell April about that one. Champion may be old, and Andy didn’t like to think about that, but he still did his best to be the dog world champion. Andy didn’t think that would ever change. He was their first baby, and he always would be.

Chapter Text

April Ludgate had come a long way since her days of riding a lawn mower through a Nordstrom store, let alone posting a video about it on the internet. As she soon came to realize during her adult life, that shit was permanent and somehow, someway, someone would always have a copy of it.

As she grew, she used social media less and less. Gryzzl made it nearly impossible to keep anything private when it came to Pawnee, so things like Facebook and Twitter were rendered pretty useless compared to the new tech giant and everyone seemed to know everyone’s business. It creeped her out to say the least. She was starting to understand some of the reasons Ron Swanson was the way he was.

Andy was a different story. He loved to share things with others. Especially if it involved their children and their accomplishments.

“Babe,” he said, on the couch with her one night while Jack and Allie played on the floor. April was nursing Melody on the opposite end of the couch. “Guess what?”

“Hm?” April didn’t look up as she stroked the dark curls on Melody’s head.

“Everyone loves the pictures of me and Jack from our fishing trip,” he said proudly, holding his phone out for her to see.

April only nodded. “That’s great babe,” she smiled a little.

“Yeah,” Andy swiped through some pictures with his finger. “I love sharing pictures.”

“Yeah, I know,” April said softly.

Andy looked at her. “You don’t seem so excited about it.”

April shrugged, adjusting herself so she was more comfortable. “I dunno, Andy, I just don’t like when people know our business.”

Only certain people were allowed to know anything about their family. Leslie, Ron, Donna, Tom…pretty much anyone from Parks except for Ann Perkins. Her sister Natalie, and occasionally her parents, but that was it. Oh, and Orin, but he didn’t use social media.

“Yeah, but it’s not like it’s all strangers that I’m showing. It’s only people we know,” Andy said. “You know I would never share that stuff with random people.”

“I know, I know…”

“It would be cool if you used your profile once in a while, honey,” Andy said. “Wouldn’t it be cute if we commented on each other’s stuff once in a while?” He looked at her with a goofy smile, wiggling his eyebrows playfully.

“Ew, no,” April scrunched up her nose. “Andy, that’s what lame couples do!” It was true. Whenever she would take a moment to actually log on, it was always these dumb comments back and forth between couples and friends. Leslie and Ben were actually the worst culprits, and it made her stomach roll.

Andy looked disappointed. Slowly he put the phone away and cuddled closer to April and Melody, leaning his chin on her shoulder to watch the baby nurse like he so often did. April used to think it was weird that he liked to watch with Jack. Now, two kids later, she found it oddly comforting.

 

Hours later, April found herself in the same exact situation. Nursing her daughter (seriously, her boobs were taking a huge hit these days) in the living room while her family slept on, she didn’t know what else to do to pass the time except scroll through her phone.

There were a couple of work e-mails that she’d saved for the following morning, half a dozen texts from Leslie that had come in around eight at night about some obscure book that April just ‘had to read!’ when she got the chance. Not interested in either of those things at the moment, April checked Andy’s Gryzzl feed to see what pictures he was talking about.

Sure enough, there were about a dozen photos of Andy and Jack’s fishing outing. Comments and likes were all over the photos, some of them from Andy’s old friends who April only knew by sight, others by mutual friends they’d gotten to know together over the years. Leslie’s name and face were, of course, everywhere.

April smiled as she swiped through the photos of her husband and son. Jack proudly holding up his own little fish on the line. Andy reeling in his own line with an excited look on his face. A selfie that the two of them took with goofy faces and the giant lake stretched out behind them.

She scrolled further down his feed until more photos turned up. Allie holding Melody on the couch, her middle child’s eyes shining happily and her little hands gripping the blanket that held her little sister. April sprawled out on the couch with Melody sleeping on her chest. Jack holding Andy’s acoustic guitar in his lap, the instrument far too large for him. Then there was another one of April that Andy must have taken when she wasn’t looking. She was wearing her glasses that she didn’t like to wear in public while she sat at the dining room table, hunched over a book and a cup of coffee. She remembered that day well. It was their first morning in a long time that the kids had slept in and she and Andy had an entire hour to themselves where they could just relax, the two of them. She looked exhausted and worn, but her face was happy. Under the photo was the caption, ‘My beautiful wife’ followed by five heart emojis.

Without another thought, April touched the little comment button below the photo, opening up her own text box to reply. Three simple words were all she needed. I love you, she typed beneath the photo. The look on Andy’s face when he saw the comment in the morning was going to be totally worth it.

She loved him. She loved their family. She loved the life they’d made for themselves. Andy obviously did too, and he was proud to show them off to the world. Maybe she could learn to do the same once in a while, if it made Andy happy at least.

April smiled, putting the phone down just as Melody was finished. Gathering herself up, April carried the now-sleeping baby back to the nursery. She couldn’t wait to cuddle up with her husband again.

Chapter Text

“Tell me again, babe…”

April’s voice comes out harsh against Andy’s neck. It’s all she can do to hold herself up in his arms, exhausted and ready to pass out. She just needs to hear it one more time.

“I fucking love you,” Andy growls against her, kissing her hard on the mouth until her lips actually hurt. His hands cup her cheeks and move down to her waist, while his mouth alternates between bites and kisses down her neck. “I’m so damn lucky to have you.”

April could die like this and be happy. Alone in some dinky little closet at Leslie and Ben’s place, the sounds of the party rage around them—if you can call it that…Ben and Leslie aren’t exactly the raging type—while April and Andy had stolen away for some privacy. It was long, long overdue. April hadn’t wanted to come out in the first place.

“I love you,” April whispers, grabbing his curls. She lets out a loud whine as Andy’s mouth makes contact with the skin below her collarbone, right in the plunging neckline of her dress.

They were technically finished. Andy’s pants were already zipped back up, but he was just as energized as before. He didn’t seem at all tired. At least April had a reason for her exhaustion, these days. Almost as though he could read her mind, Andy’s hand brushes over her stomach. He smiles against her skin.

“I’m so happy,” he mumbles, kissing her belly through her dress.

It had only been two weeks since they’d found out, and Andy still couldn’t stop touching April’s stomach every chance he got. It was like his little method of protection. His way of showing the tiny life taking shape that he was there. He was present. April loved him for that. Loves him now, and always.

“Me too,” April sighs. She plays with his hair for a little while. The curls are soothing between her fingers.

They'd been in the closet for a while now. Surely someone was bound to notice their absence. Yet, April had been more comfortable in that tiny little space than she had at the entire party. She just wanted to go home with her husband. These silly DC house gatherings weren’t her style at all. The only good thing about this particular one was that some of the old Parks crew had shown up.

“Hey,” Andy pulls aside the front of her dress to get at the skin underneath, “you okay?” He kisses the side of her breast, easily accessible in her gown, and she sighs.

“Yeah,” she assures him. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

“Okay,” he kisses her again, and continues to kiss her all over. Every bit of skin he can find, he kisses.

“Mhm,” April nods and closes her eyes.

A loud knock on the door startles the both of them, and Andy jumps up. Hastily, he tucks his shirt back into his pants and lifts April off the little ledge she’s perched on.

“Andy?” It’s Ann’s voice. “April? Are you guys in there?”

“Damn it Ann,” April hisses and rolls her eyes.

“No,” Andy replies loudly, without thinking, and April groans.

“You guys,” Ann lets out an audible sigh. “Get out of there! We’ve been looking for you both for fifteen minutes!”

“Leave us alone,” April growls.

“We’re about to have dessert,” Ann says. “C’mon…”

In the dim light, Andy looks down at April and smiles. That same crooked smile that somehow always reaches his ears. It makes her knees feel weak half the time.

“Wanna go home?” Andy offers.

“Don’t you want dessert?” April looks up at him.

“Nah,” Andy shakes his head. “I can go without.”

“But they’re serving that awesome cake you kept talking about!” April says. “You haven’t stopped talking about it since you got here!”

Andy shrugs. “It’s no big deal.” April wraps her arms around him. Andy holds her, resting his chin on her head.

“Plus,” he says slowly, “I already snuck a piece when no one was looking.”

“Andy!”

“What?” He chuckles.

April only shakes her head. There was never a dull moment when Andy Dwyer was your husband. Even after being married all these years. Most people would assume things got dull, or stale. Never would things ever get that way. April loves him even more now than she ever did before.

“Okay,” she nods, squeezing his hand. “Let’s go.”

Chapter Text

It was a long drive back to Pawnee. By the time their car arrived at the little cabin in the woods that April flat out refused to sell, even after all these years, everyone was dying to stretch their legs. They could probably have flown, but where was the road trip fun in that?

Andy immediately began removing luggage from the trunk. Four children under the age of ten made for a lot of packing. While he busied himself with that, Jack and Allie let Snowcone out to run around. The Siberian husky took off in circles around the small property, sniffing at every tree and wagging his tail. He seemed just as happy as they did to be free of the small confines of the car.

“You good babe?” Andy asked, slamming the trunk closed before he started bringing everything inside. “Need me to grab anything else?”

April removed Emma’s car seat. The tiny infant was barely a month old, fast asleep. Four-year-old Melody stood quietly by her mother’s legs, clutching her stuffed dog in her arms. She looked around the place, obviously a little timid, with wide eyes.

“Yeah, I’m good,” April said, looking around to make sure her older children were in plain sight. “Let’s get everything unpacked and then we’ll figure out dinner.”

Andy nodded and got back to his work. April glanced around the front yard. Everything was exactly as it had been since the last time they’d been here, over a year ago now. Even after all these years, April couldn’t let this place go. Part of it was out of pure convenience. They never had to worry about a place to stay when they decided to visit their old home. Another, quieter reason, was that it was like having a little piece of Pawnee that was just theirs. Even if they didn’t live in Indiana anymore, they’d always have a place to call home. It was a sugary sweet thought, the type that might make someone like Leslie cry out of happiness, but it was true. April wouldn’t ever sell this cabin if she could avoid it. Plus, it used to be Ron’s, and she almost felt like she’d be betraying him if she unloaded it on some underserving losers who would tear it down, or worse—ruin it with trendy decorations.

This particular visit served several purposes. Emma had yet to meet her grandparents, so there was that. They were there for an entire week, so at least two days would be dedicated to visiting their families. Another would be for visiting Ron, Diane and their kids, who April actually missed a whole hell of a lot.

Also, summer was winding down. Soon the kids would be back at school, and they still hadn’t taken a real vacation what with Emma’s birth and everything that came with it. April was exhausted, but in the best way. She was looking forward to spending a week alone with her family and there was no better place to do it.

“Mom, we’re hungry,” Jack and Allie came running up, Snowcone padding up behind them with a giant stick in his mouth. Somehow, the kids were already dirty.

“Okay,” April smiled and ran her hand through Jack’s dark hair. “C’mon, I think dad’s gonna get the grill going.”

Jack and Allie raced to the cabin, both of them trying to see who could reach the front door first. In her carrier, Emma started to fuss. April took Melody by the hand, lifted the carseat with her other arm, and headed after them.

 

“What’re you thinking about, honey?” Andy whispered.

The sun was almost down. April leaned back into Andy’s chest as they sat on the porch swing, enjoying the peace and quiet that had finally fallen after all four kids had fallen asleep for the night. Her husband rocked them slowly, one foot on the ground for leverage, the other propped on the railing in front of them. April wrapped herself in one of Andy’s flannels, secure in his strong arms.

“Nothing really,” she shrugged. There was the loud sound of crickets chirping around them. April’s voice was barely audible over the weird squeaks. “You?”

“Just about how awesome this is,” Andy said, letting his fingers play with her hair. “This week is gonna be so cool. I can’t wait to take the kids fishing tomorrow.”

April smiled. “Jack’s been talking about it all week,” she pointed out. “He can’t wait.”

“I’m really glad we were able to do this,” Andy said. “It’s been so long since we were home.”

Andy always did that. He always referred to Pawnee as home, even if they hadn’t lived there in nearly fifteen years. Even though only one out of their four children had been born there, and it was merely by chance. It wasn’t annoying, per se, but it always made April feel slightly guilty. Even if they’d had the conversation a million times, Andy reminding her that moving to DC with her all those years back was the best decision they could have made, she still wondered if deep down he’d have chosen to stay if he could’ve. Then she remembers that she was crazy for doubting him, and all was well and they were exactly where they should be. DC was their home now, just as Pawnee would always be home too.

“I know.”

Andy sighed and pulled April a little closer. “I just feel really, really good babe.”

“That’s awesome honey,” April smiled, looking up at him. “I’m glad you do.”

“With Emma here and everything, you know,” he looked at her, “I know this past month has been crazy and everything, but our family finally feels complete. Like, I’m just so freaking happy, April.”

April wasn’t sure how else to respond to that, other than to kiss him softly. She cupped his cheek, bruising her fingers against his ear. When they broke apart, she was smiling at him.

“I know,” she whispered, “me too, Andy.”

Andy pulled her back in, meeting her lips again. Neither of them heard the screen door open and close until a little voice interrupted them.

“Mama,” Melody squeaked.

They broke apart, and both turned to see Melody standing just outside the door, looking bleary-eyed.

“What’s up, cupcake?” Andy asked.

“I can’t sleep here,” Melody said. “It’s scary.”

April glanced at Andy, who gave her a knowing look. Sure enough, the both of them had predicted something like this. Melody wasn’t exactly easy when it came to changes, and with Emma’s birth and the entire nine months before that, she’d been needier than ever. All three older kids were camped out in the spare room (an addition that Ron had built several years back, just for them). They had two sets of bunkbeds to keep them comfortable, which Jack and Allie took to immediately, both of them fighting over who got to sleep on the top bunk until April reminded them that there were two of them.

“C’mon up,” April patted her lap.

Melody ran forward and seated herself between her parents, leaning onto April’s chest where she curled up with her toy.

“It’s not so scary,” April said softly, stroking the girl’s hair. “Daddy and I used to come here all the time before you guys were born.”

“Yeah honey,” Andy said. “It’s so cool! It’s just like we’re camping, but only inside!”

Melody shrugged. “It’s dark and the woods make weird noises.”

“Those are crickets,” Andy chuckled. “They can’t hurt you.”

“You wanna sleep in our bed tonight, baby?” April asked, ignoring the look Andy gave her immediately after. She only rolled her eyes at him. It wasn’t like he was gonna get any anyway. She had a six-week recovery after Emma’s birth, much to Andy’s dismay.

“Uh-huh,” Melody nodded.

“Okay, it’s settled,” April kissed Melody’s head. “Just this first night, okay? That way you can see how not scary it is.”

 

Sometime around three o’clock in the morning, April woke up suddenly. There wasn’t anything wrong, she was feeling fine. Emma was still fast asleep in the basinet they’d brought with them right beside the bed. Melody was wedged against her side, right between her and Andy, her little hands curled up tight against April’s chest.

April sat up a little and squinted in the dark. Once her eyes adjusted, she smiled at the sight in front of her. Jack and Allie had snuck into the room at some point in the night. Allie was between Melody and Andy, snuggled against her father’s backside. Jack was laying horizontally across the foot of the bed, and curled up next to him was Snowcone, who lifted his head curiously when he heard April moving around. The entire family was in the room together, taking up an incredibly uncomfortable about of space, yet April had never felt more comfortable in her life.

She glanced over at Andy, fast asleep. His ever-handsome face was worn and tired, but not once, not for a single moment, did he ever look unhappy.

This was perfect. The rest of their vacation looked pretty damn promising too.

Chapter Text

It was all April could do not to reach out and shove the nurse into the wall. The poor woman was only doing her job, and April knew and respected that, but the Jack’s shrill wail was doing terrible things to her brain. Her baby boy was crying out for her, and April had to stand by and watch. It was too much.

Damn these hormones and that motherly instinct to protect that she’d always heard about but never fully understood. The same instinct that made her want to body slam the woman for doing what she was supposed to do, which in this case was give Jack his routine vaccinations that every single baby is expected to get at his or her two-month checkup.

“Andy,” April groaned, burying her face in her husband’s shoulder.

Andy wrapped an arm around her and pulled her against him, where she hid her face because she couldn’t watch their son red-faced and crying, tears streaming down his round little cheeks as he looked around for his parents.

“One more,” the nurse said kindly, giving Andy and April a sympathetic look, one that says, don’t worry, this happens all the time. Then another pinch, more screaming and wailing, and Jack was done. “All done…good job, honey,” the nurse said to Jack, as she administered a tiny bandage on each chubby thigh.

No sooner had she put the second one on him than April scooped her son up into her arms and kissed his head, whispering soft things to him. He continued to wail, but April’s presence was enough to calm him down to only a fraction of the sound he was making before. Andy stood by them, his arm still protectively tight around his wife and son.

“All done, baby,” April soothed, bouncing Jack a little in her arms.

“You’re a champ, buddy,” Andy whispered.

“He’s all set,” the nurse said to them. “Just make sure to check out when you leave and make his four-month appointment on the way out.”

April was barely listening. All she wanted to do was get her son home where he belonged.

 

“How’s he doing?” Andy asked, later that night.

April hadn’t put Jack down all afternoon. When he wasn’t sleeping, she wore him in his sling. She’d checked his temperature all day, fearful he might develop a fever or some other reaction to the shots. He was cranky and sleepy, but that was to be expected. Still, April didn’t want to be far if he needed her. She couldn’t get the image of him crying like that out of her head.

“He’s okay,” April said, running the tip of her finger from Jack’s nose to his cheek. “He’s my tough boy…tougher than his mom, anyway.”

“Aw honey,” Andy smiled, sinking into the cushion beside her. He kissed her cheek. “I know it was hard watching him get those shots, but he needs em’ and he’s gonna be just fine.”

“I know.”

“Want me to take over for a bit? You can take a rest.”

April shook her head. She was exhausted and a nap would actually be pretty amazing, but Jack was more important than that. “I’m okay.”

“Okay,” Andy scooted low in the seat and tugged April so she was leaning into him. “You’re the best mom ever. Did you know that?”

April chuckled. “I wish.”

“You are,” Andy said firmly. “Totally are.”

“Thanks babe,” April yawned, as Jack squirmed in her arms. “Maybe next time won’t be as hard.” She still had two months to prepare herself. She just wasn’t gonna think much about it until then.

“Probably not,” Andy said. “I thought you were gonna beat up that nurse today for sure.”

“I did too,” April grinned.

“Well, at least we avoided that,” Andy laughed. “Still, you’re a super awesomesauce mom, honey.”

Yeah, April thought. She kinda was.

Chapter Text

Each day was supposed to be getting easier, but April wasn’t really sure what that meant. Easier in what way? Was she supposed to move on just like that? Was she supposed to forget what had happened and hope for the best?

No, of course not, her doctor had told her. Everyone grieves differently. Everyone takes time and time is always different for everyone.

April wasn’t satisfied with that answer. She wanted to move on. It was easier to remind herself that the possibility that they were going to have another child had come and gone. She was sick of feeling this way. Sadness was bad. Depression was worse.

Andy was amazing. He always placed her needs ahead of his own, even if he felt like shit…which he often did lately. A small part of him was still blaming himself. He wasn’t having an easy time. He was suffering, just like April was. The only difference was how he handled it. Where April would lash out, Andy would withdraw.

Leslie took Jack and Allie more often over the past few weeks. They’d sleep over her house and she would distract them with fun things like baking and cartoons and activities with her much-older children, who were always so good to the kids. They were doing all the things that April should be doing with them but couldn’t find the strength to right now. In losing the baby, she was retroactively losing the ability to mother anyone at all. It was so unfair to them, it made her feel sick. Sadness was bad. Depression was worse. Guilt was the worst.

 

Andy didn’t handle it well. After Ron found him at the bar that evening a few weeks back, he vowed he would be there for his family from that point forward. Well, he was. That was something he made sure of. It didn’t stop the feeling of agony in his chest, though. The horror of finding his wife on the hospital floor bleeding all over herself wouldn’t soon leave his memory. The knowledge that there wouldn’t be a third child, at least the one they had hoped for, was eating away at him every damn day.

April was distant. She would come to him for comfort, and he would give it willingly in whatever form that may be, whether some quiet whispers as they held each other under the covers, or harsh moans against the other’s neck. At night she would cuddle as close as possible, and he would hold her for hours on end and they would wake up in almost the exact same position as before. But the life in her eyes had been dulled. They weren’t as vibrant or bright as usual. There was no color in her face. She’d lost weight and her appetite was minimal. He was so worried about her.

He missed his kids. Most days, if he wasn’t working, he would be home with them and they’d play together like always. They’d color and sing songs and go to the park to play. Lately though, he felt like they were feeding off his and April’s emotions. Jack was subdued and Allie was moody. As a result, Leslie would take them so they could forget about the dark cloud that had been floating over their family for the past month. Andy wished he knew how long that cloud was going to last. He was afraid it was going to turn into a storm if they let it.

 

“Where are the kids?” Andy asked, late one Saturday morning when he woke to a quiet, empty house. He didn’t even realize that he’d slept in. It was after eleven, and the last time he’d slept that late on a weekend was before they had kids.

April was on the couch, not showered or dressed but still in the pajamas from the night before. Her untouched breakfast sat on the counter next to a cold cup of coffee.

“Leslie took them to the movies,” April said dully, her eyes unfocused as she stared at the screen. “Then they’re going out to lunch.”

Andy groaned, scratched his facial hair with a yawn. “Again?”

April looked at him sharply. Her eyes were cold. “Yeah, Andy, again,” she scoffed. “Is that a problem?”

There it was, that anger. It was bubbling just below the surface lately.

“I’m just wondering,” Andy said softly. “It’s just…I didn’t get to see them this morning. I didn’t know they were going.”

“You were sleeping,” April said, turning back to the television. “We didn’t want to wake you.”

Andy sighed. He didn’t want to argue. Truthfully he had hoped to spend all day with Jack and Allie to make up for all the time they’d spent getting over everything.

“Okay, sure,” he said. “Thanks babe.” He went to pour himself a cup of coffee before he realized the entire pot was cold. It was from the day before. Apparently April hadn’t realized it either. He dumped it out to make a fresh pot. “You wanna go for a walk?” he offered, although he already knew what her answer was going to be.

April shook her head and didn’t look at him.

Andy nodded. “Okay.” Inside, his heart was breaking. The doctor warned that this might happen. “Maybe later?”

“I’ve got that doctor’s appointment later, remember?”

Right, he thought. The check up to see how she was recovering. Special Saturday office hours to accommodate April’s work schedule. He wasn’t looking forward to it.

“Oh, duh,” Andy chuckled dryly. “I almost forgot.”

“Lucky you,” April mumbled. “I haven’t.” She rubbed her tired eyes.

“I’m sure it’s gonna be fine,” Andy offered. “They just wanna make sure you’re okay, babe—“

“I’m gonna go back to bed,” April announced suddenly, standing up. “I’m not hungry right now.”

“Sure honey,” Andy said softly. “Whatever you need to do, okay?”

“I just need a second to be alone, please.” April hugged her arms to her chest and shivered in the early morning air. “That’s what I need.”

 

How was it possible to feel like such a terrible person? April wondered. Was it normal to lash out at the one person who was always there for her, one hundred and ten percent of the time? Was she going to drive him away? Why did she need to be this way?

She passed her home office on the second floor, the room that was originally going to become a new nursery. She hadn’t gone inside it since the incident. One of these days, they would get around to cleaning it up again.

 

“Andy?”

Andy looked up from the couch. April was back. She stood by the living room, still in the same pajamas as earlier. He had been staring at the screen with a blank expression, the same commercials playing over and over.

“Yeah babe? What’s up?” He sat up a little. “You need me for something?”

April chewed on her lip a bit. She looked uncertain, fiddling with the laces of her pajama pants. “I just…I wanted to make sure you were okay,” she said. “I can’t really sleep.”

“I—I’m okay,” he said. “I mean, I guess I am. Are you?”

“No,” April shook her head, and her lip wobbled. “I’m not okay, Andy.”

Just like that, his heart broke all over again. He sat up and beckoned her to come over. April hurried forward and fell into his arms.

“We’re gonna be okay, April,” he whispered, kissing her head. “This totally sucks right now, and I know it feels like, y’know, we’re never gonna be happy again and all that, but…we’re gonna get over this, okay?”

April nodded, letting Andy comfort her. At least she wasn’t lashing out at him. This was a step in the right direction.

 

The examination room was cold and depressing. April sat there in the stupid hospital gown, waiting for the doctor to arrive. She felt vulnerable, even if she’d been in this exact position numerous times before. To her right, Andy stood and stroked her back, softly humming some random song.

Dr. Eckhardt was right on time. She entered the room with her usual kind smile and a clipboard in hands. They exchanged the typical questions and answers and she checked April’s blood pressure and temperature.

“How are you, Andy?” Dr. Eckhardt asked, as April stepped on the scale to be weighed. “You doing okay? Eating and sleeping?”

Andy shrugged. “As good as I can be,” he said.

“Mhm,” the doctor nodded. Then she looked at the scale and then at April and frowned. “Have you been eating, April?”

“Yeah, of course I have,” April lied. She didn’t feel like getting into it again. Not today when she already woke up feeling like shit. “Like always.”

“Babe,” Andy started, but stopped when April glared at him. She knew he was a terrible liar, but she didn’t need him to get involved right now. She wanted to be in and out and get home as quick as humanly possible.

“You’ve lost five pounds,” Dr. Eckhardt said. “You shouldn’t be losing any more weight. It’s not good for you.”

“I’m fine,” April said stiffly. “Really, I feel fine.”

“You are definitely underweight,” Dr. Eckhardt plowed on. “You need to eat more.”

“That’s what I’ve been telling her,” Andy said softly. “She won’t listen to me, though.”

The doctor made some notes on her chart. Meanwhile, April was staring daggers at her husband, hoping he might be able to read her mind. What the fuck, Andy? Whose side are you on?

“April, I know it’s hard.” Dr. Eckhardt put down her notes. “You need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. This isn’t a good situation for anyone, I’m well aware, but you have two other children who need their mom—“

“Right babe,” Andy said, jumping on the chance to speak, trying to sound comforting. “We can try to—“

“I lost the baby,” April interrupted them both, her voice rising considerably. “I did! Not you! You have no idea how I’m feeling.” She was looking at the doctor when she spoke, but part of it was directed at Andy too. She knew she had no right to say these things to him, but it helped in the moment to get it all out. She couldn’t bare to look at the disappointment in his eyes, though, so she didn’t. “Just give me my stupid exam so I can go home.”

“April,” Andy mumbled. “Babe, she just wants to help you. I just want to help you.”

“I don’t want help, I want to go home! God, why is that so hard to understand?” April scoffed. “I’ve been in and out of this stupid office for a month straight and I’m sick of it.”

Dr. Eckhardt sighed. “Okay April,” she said. “I understand. I’ll finish up here and I’ll send you home.”

“Thank you,” April grumbled.

“But,” Dr. Eckhardt looked at Andy as she spoke, then at April, “I’m putting you on bedrest for the rest of the weekend. I want you back here next Friday, and if your weight isn’t up by then I’m admitting you to the hospital.”

“Fine, I don’t care,” April rolled her eyes. She needed to get the hell out of there.

 

Andy was silent on the ride home. April stared out the window, watching the shapes and colors of the other passing cars blur into a stream of movement. She wanted to apologize to him, to let him know what she said in the doctor’s office was uncalled for and untrue, but she couldn’t seem to make her voice work.

Instead, he reached out and held her hand. Just a slight squeeze of her fingers to let her know he was there. He didn’t even look at her, but he didn’t need to. That one movement alone nearly made her break into a sobbing fit. Her emotions were so out of whack.

 

When they got home, April went straight up to bed. She slipped out of her clothes and crawled beneath the covers in her underwear, covering herself with the comforter. She wanted to hide from the world.

There was still a couple of hours before Leslie would bring the kids back. Maybe she could rest a bit so she’d look less like a sleep-deprived ghost and more like the mother they deserved.

Andy poked his head in the door not long after, just as she knew he would. She could hear his footsteps approaching and the weight shift on the mattress as he sat down.

“April,” he mumbled, laying a hand on her side beneath the sheet, “we’re gonna be okay.”

She didn’t say anything.

“This is normal, right?” Andy said. “I mean, everyone is telling me that we’re, uh, we’re supposed to feel this way. Like, lost and stuff. I guess. I dunno though, it really doesn’t feel right to me.”

April heard the strain in his voice. Like he was holding back from crying.

“I don’t want our kids to see us like this anymore,” Andy went on. “They don’t deserve it. They should have two parents who love them no matter what instead of two parents who keep thinking about something that already happened that we can’t do anything about.” He rubbed his eyes. “I mean, yeah, it would have been so awesome to have another baby. It would have been the best. But it’s not happening right now. Maybe not ever, but that’s okay, right? I mean, the important thing is how we have two awesome kids who love us and we love them. I still think we’re a pretty kick-ass family.” He slipped off his shoes. “I don’t like seeing you like this, April,” he whispered. “You’re scaring me. You’re not eating…you’re wasting away. You’re not sleeping either. I can feel you tossing and turning at night. I just want you to be healthy, okay? Because…because if anything happened to you, I don’t know how I would deal with it.” He sniffed a couple of times, trying to catch his breath.

April wiped at her own eyes. Sometimes Andy was so smart. Occasionally he would say things that would floor her, make her realize how ridiculous, or stubborn, or selfish she was being. She loved him because of who he was and how he always had that innate ability to pull her back down to reason. She may not be acting selfish, but she was certainly being stubborn. He didn’t deserve that and neither did Jack or Allie.

She turned to face him, and Andy met her eyes for the first time in hours. “You’re right babe,” she said, reaching for his hand. “You’re right, and…I’m sorry for how I’ve been acting."

“April, it’s okay. I’ve been acting weird too.”

“It’s not okay.” She shook her head. “Not when we have two kids who need us. You’re absolutely right and I should have listened to you sooner.”

Andy took a deep, shuddering breath. His eyes were wet. April beckoned for him to lie down with her. She pulled him down so his head was resting on her chest and she worked her fingers into his hair, gently playing with his curls.

“We’re gonna pull ourselves back together,” she whispered.

“Okay.” Andy nodded. He tried to hold in his heavy, shaking breaths.

“It’s okay, babe,” April said. His hair was so soft. She let her fingers wander. It seemed to be calming him down at least. “You and I are fine. We’re all gonna be okay.”

 

It felt so good to let that all out. Andy still felt pretty miserable, but at least he could do it in the arms of his wife as opposed to alone. They fell asleep together, and quite honestly it was the most relief he’d felt in weeks. A huge, heavy weight had disappeared, one of guilt and sadness that had absolutely sucked.

Leslie brought the kids back in the late afternoon. Both April and Andy were there to greet them at the door, pulling them into big bear hugs and lots of kisses. They assured Leslie that they would be spending the rest of the weekend with them, no babysitting necessary, and she left with a smile on her face and relief in her eyes.

They made tacos for dinner and had ice cream for dessert, and after all of it they piled into the big bed upstairs to watch a movie.

Andy kept his eyes on April all night. She was smiling, she looked happy, and she even ate a good amount of dinner, which was the biggest relief of all.

 

That night, they made love for the first time in over two weeks. It was soft and slow, April sitting in Andy’s lap as she rocked against him. Andy covered her in soft kisses the entire time, letting the moment wash over him without thinking of anything other than her. The way her body molded to his. The flowery scent of her hair and the smoothness of her skin. He held her hips as she moved, her cute little moans matched by his soft grunts. He felt rejuvenated. Then, April shuddered in his lap. Forehead pressed against the side of his neck, she let it wash over her. Andy’s hands were on her back, gently riding up and down, pressing into her spine as he caught his own breath.

Once they’d finished, they both fell against the sheets in each other’s arms. Andy didn’t want to be apart from her, not even for a second.

 

“I love you,” April whispered.

“I love you too,” Andy replied.

“I’m so tired,” April chuckled, resting her head on his shoulder. She wanted to fall asleep like that, against Andy’s heavy torso and surrounded by pillows. April had never felt like she needed rest more in her entire life. It had been such a long day. It honestly felt more like a lifetime had passed since she’d woken up that morning.

“Can we have another family day tomorrow?” April asked, yawning wide. “Maybe do something fun with the kids again?” She hadn’t been able to get over how happy their children had been all evening. The little things like that can really knock some sense into a person.

“Totally can,” Andy said enthusiastically. “Whatever you want, babe.”

“That’s what I want,” she said. “As long as it’s the four of us, that’s all that really matters.”

“You’re still gonna rest, though. Right?” He looked at her nervously.

“Sure babe,” April cupped his cheek. “I promise I’ll rest.” Andy looked immediately relieved.

“Maybe on Sunday I’ll clean up the spare room,” Andy said. “I’ll get your stuff back in there so you can have your home office back.”

“No,” April shook her head. “I don’t want to turn it back into an office.”

Andy looked puzzled. “Why not?”

“I want to save it. We might need it again.”

She watched as Andy tried to figure out what she meant. Then, his face lit up and he smiled wide.

“Really?”

“Yeah,” April shrugged. “Maybe…I don’t know.”

They’d talked briefly about someday trying for another child. Of course, only once they were both up to the idea and emotionally ready. April hadn’t wanted to bring it up if she could avoid it, but now seemed like the right time.

“Whatever happens,” Andy said, kissing her, “is gonna be the best. I love you so much.”

“I love you too Andy,” April said. She leaned into him and closed her eyes. “I love you so, so much."

Chapter Text

“Mom?”

There was so much commotion in the house that April almost didn’t hear her son calling her. A hungry baby in one arm, a needy four-year-old attached to her leg, a husband off running errands to lighten her load, and still, April felt like everything was closing in on her. She needed to get a hold on things.

“Yes, baby?” April smiled weakly at Jack, patting Emma on the back as she shuffled into the kitchen. “What’s up? Melody—” April looked down at her daughter who was clutching the corner of April’s shirt. “Honey, you need to let mama move around—“

“Mom, let me feed Emma,” Jack said. “I can help.”

April looked at him, surprised. Jack didn’t usually volunteer to give Emma a bottle. Allie would always jump to the occasion eagerly and Melody did once or twice, but Jack was fine watching from a distance most times.

“You…want to feed her?” April smiled.

“Yeah,” Jack nodded. “I wanna help.”

It was one of those little moments where, if April really thought about it, she could easily break down into happy tears. Those sugary-sweet moments that she never liked to talk about around anyone else but Andy, the ones she would hold close to her heart and think about whenever she needed to feel happy. She didn’t know what she did to deserve such an incredible family.

“Okay baby,” April said. “Let me get her bottle ready, okay? You get comfy on the couch and then I’ll hand her to you.”

Jack nodded and took a seat. April carefully placed Emma in Jack’s outstretched arms, the little newborn squirming and cooing softly.

“Hi Emmy,” Jack said, smiling at his sister. “I’m gonna feed you, ‘kay?”

April prepared a bottle, while Melody seized the opportunity to have her mother to herself for a moment by helping her, following her like a shadow.

“Tilt it up, just like I showed you,” April said softly, handing Jack the bottle. Jack nodded. “She’s a fast drinker, but make sure to stop and burp her. You think you can do that, honey?”

“Yeah ma,” Jack said, nodding.

“Thank you.” April kissed his head, her chest light and heart full as she took the opportunity to get dinner prepared. “Melly, you wanna help me make tacos for dinner?”

“Yes, mommy,” Melody said, nodding enthusiastically.

“Great,” April smiled. “Daddy and Allie should be back soon, then we’ll all have dinner.” April started gathering things from the fridge. “How’s it going, Jack?” She looked over her shoulder.

Jack was staring at his little sister, grinning. “She’s great, mom,” he said. “She’s drinkin’ the whole thing!”

“I’m so proud of you,” April said, more to herself than anyone. “You’re doing awesome.”

“She’s so small,” Jack said. He’d only really held Emma a few times since she was born, but whenever he did April was reminded how big their nine year difference actually was. Jack was already tall for his age, but holding the tiny baby in his arms reminded April just how quickly her son was growing up. He was as kind and gentle as his father, but he had April’s fire. He was a fierce protector of his younger sisters, and now Emma was part of that group too. April knew her youngest girl would always have her big brother to look up to.

The sound of Andy’s arrival made them all look toward the door. Allie came bounding in, a grocery bag on each arm—the light ones, of course—followed closely by Andy with the rest.

“Hey babe,” Andy kissed April’s cheek and then Melody’s head as he dropped the bags onto the counter. “Where’s the little peanut?”

April nodded toward the couch. Jack glanced up to give his father a nod before focusing on Emma again. Andy grinned.

“Aw, I wanna feed her!” Allie said immediately. “Mommy, can I?”

“It’s Jack’s turn right now, baby,” April said kindly. “Next time, okay?”

Andy was watching with admiration. His eyes were shining in the way that they always did when he was happy, the way April had fallen so in love with over the years.

“Did you ask him to?” Andy whispered, helping April set the plates.

“No, he asked,” she said. “He saw how busy I was and he wanted to help.”

Andy’s chest swelled with pride. April’s heart felt like it was going to burst. Thank goodness no one else was around to see her face, because she couldn’t stop smiling.

“We’ve got the best kids ever,” Andy said softly, wrapping his arms around April from behind. He rested his chin on her shoulder and they watched Jack. “This is…y’know, one of those moments, babe.”

“Hmm?”

“Proud dad moment,” Andy said happily. “Really, really proud.”

April chuckled, turning her head so she could kiss Andy’s cheek. “He learned from the best,” she whispered.

“Yeah, you’re awesome, honey,” Andy said.

“No,” April rolled her eyes, smiling. “I mean you!”

“Me?” Andy laughed. “I doubt it.”

“Andy! Look at our kid right now and tell me he’s not as sweet and caring as his father!”

“Maybe,” Andy said, lifting Melody—who had been hovering near his legs—into his arms. “But I think we’re both pretty awesome parents.”

April hugged him. “Yeah, you’re right. We’re awesome.” She laughed softly, kissing Melody’s cheek. “Right baby?”

“Uh-huh,” Melody nodded, leaning her head on her father’s shoulder. Her eyes looked heavy as she yawned.

“Moooom!”

Andy and April turned their full attention back to Jack. The nine-year-old was wincing, carefully holding Emma at arm’s length.

“She smells!” Jack groaned. “Come get her!”

April grinned at Andy before striding forward to take Emma. “Okay, well, I guess we’ll work on the diaper thing. That comes next.”

“Good plan, babe,” Andy laughed. “That might take a while, though.”

Chapter Text

April certainly never imagined herself to be back at a college graduation as a near middle-aged woman, yet here she was. She hadn’t planned on attending anything like this until her own children made it absolutely, unavoidably necessary, and fortunately for her, all four of them were still a long, long way off from any thing of the sort.

No, this was different. She had a good reason to be there with her husband by her side and the old Parks crew in the seats surrounding them.

Out of habit, she checked her phone. There were no texts from her mom, so the kids must be fine. April wasn’t exactly keen on leaving their children with her aging parents, who certainly weren’t used to keeping up with a twelve, ten, seven and four-year-old all at once. Anyone else who could possibly babysit was sitting there with them, so they didn’t have many options.

Sensing her nerves, Andy leaned over and whispered in her ear. April’s hand in his felt warm and secure, and he gave it a little squeeze. “They’re fine, sweetheart,” he said softly. “Stop worrying.”

“I’m not,” April said, returning Andy’s squeeze.

“You are."

April turned to look at him. The years had certainly been kind to Andy. His hair was streaked with silver, little flecks of white and gray intermingled with the lighter brown of his youth. The same pattern was in his facial hair, which accentuated his strong jawline. He was handsome as ever, even with more lines in his face and a little less strength in his bones. After all these years, she loved him more than ever.

“I’ll be fine,” April whispered.

If it weren’t for the fact that Leslie was like family to them, April wouldn’t have made the trip to Pawnee. If it were anyone else, she wouldn’t have allowed the kids to miss a few days of school, nor herself a few days of work, to drive back to Indiana. It simply wasn’t something she did for people. No one else deserved it.

Leslie wasn’t just people, though. She would never be labeled as an ordinary person in April’s eyes. She was more than a friend to them. More than family, even. She was a rare mixture of both who resided in her own category entirely.

April could trust Leslie with her life, with Andy’s, and easily with any of her children’s. April could call Leslie when she was upset, or sad, or depressed. When she was happy, or scared, or nervous about something. When she was having problems with the kids, when she was unsure about her role in life, or when she needed advice as a mother, or as a wife. Leslie was just always there for her. So, she would be there for Leslie. No questions asked.

April had lost track of how many times Leslie had said she was proud of her over the years. One thing April always regretted was never telling Leslie how proud April was of her. Because she certainly was proud. More than ever, watching her boss, her confidante, her friend, giving a speech to these young men and women who were about to start their careers out in the world, April had never been prouder to be part of Leslie’s team.

“Leslie’s doing awesome, isn’t she?” Andy smiled, his green eyes focused on the podium.

“Mhm,” April nodded. “She always loved this type of stuff.”

“She deserves it,” Andy added, in an even softer voice.

“Yeah, she does.” April smiled and leaned over to kiss his cheek. She deserves everything.

Leslie finished her speech. The auditorium erupted into thunderous applause. April, Andy and the rest of their crew stood up, Andy cheering loudly over the new graduates. They all let out a sympathetic groan when a library was dedicated in Leslie’s honor. That seemed to be the only downside to this whole thing.

“We’re gonna meet up with her, right babe?” Andy said, standing and stretching beside her.

“I think we’re all headed to JJ’s after this,” Ben piped up, never taking his eyes off his wife as Leslie shook hands with everyone on stage.

“Sweet,” Andy grinned. “Babe, you hear that? JJ’s!”

“I’m buying,” Ron said gruffly. “I expect to see all of you there.”

April nodded, taking Andy’s hand again. She wouldn’t miss any part of this day. Together, they followed the rest of their team as they made their way out of the building and into the sunshine.

Chapter Text

No matter how many times April offered, Tom refused to stay at the Ludgate-Dwyer house for his visit to DC. He and Lucy had booked a room at some fancy hotel in the middle of the city, and April was just fine with that. She was only trying to be nice…and maybe, just maybe, she wanted to watch Tom squirm a bit because he just wasn’t equipped to dealing with children. Old habits die hard, she supposed.

In the long run, it was probably better. It wasn’t like they had the room, and the kids would have to bunk up even more to free up a bedroom. All four of them groaned and grumbled when the idea was brought up, until April had to silence them with a look that usually did the trick.

“I still can’t believe you two have four kids,” Tom said, shaking his head. The four adults were seated in the dining room, sharing a variety of take out foods including, but not limited to, pizza, Chinese, and Mexican. April wasn’t sure what Tom wanted and she certainly didn’t feel like trying to prepare something for someone with such specific tastes, so Andy suggested they get a whole bunch of things. Not surprising, it proved to be one of his many wonderful ideas.

“Well,” April grinned, “I still can’t believe you have none.”

“Haha,” Tom rolled his eyes. “Funny, April…truly funny…”

“Thanks for having us over,” Lucy said, sipping her wine. “It’s awesome to see you guys again. Your kids are pretty cute.”

“Aw, thanks!” Andy was beaming.

Fourteen year old Jack was on his third slice of pizza. He stayed mostly quiet, shooting a look back and forth whenever one of the adults would say something. He was already taller than Tom was, something April loved pointing out to their old friend. Unlike Ben and even Ron, Tom didn’t want to be called <>Uncle. In fact, he even tried to shop around the title of Mr. Haverford before April shut that down quickly enough.

“So, you play football, huh?” Tom said, glancing at Jack. “Not surprised.”

“He does,” Andy said proudly. “First freshman in a long time to make the varsity team at his high school. It’s awesome right?”

Lucy nodded politely while Tom mumbled his agreement. April smiled, pushing some hair behind her son’s ear.

“Mom, c’mon,” Jack shrugged her off. “I’m too old for you to be fixing my hair.”

“Never,” April leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek, which Jack hastily wiped off before leaving the table with an angsty groan.

“One boy and three girls,” Tom chuckled. “Andy, my man, how do you keep up with that?”

“With what?”

“A house full of women?”

Andy shrugged. “It’s easy, Tom. I can’t explain it. It’s just…it’s easy.”

“Guess I’ll never know,” Tom said. “I give you guys lots of credit though. I’m impressed.”

“You should be,” April said darkly, smiling at the same time because of course she was joking…the years didn’t put a damper on her urge to tease the old Parks crew. “How’s life in Pawnee?”

“Oh, pretty good,” Tom said. “You know… same old stuff. Garry is still Mayor.”

“Ugh,” April rolled her eyes. “Thank God we don’t live there.”

“Ron and Diane and the kids are doing fine. Ivy just got engaged—“

“We heard,” April said. Indeed, they had. Leslie had sent them a group text message as soon as she found out, which is to say, two days ago.

“Ann and Chris are still around too.”

“Ugh,” April groaned again, louder this time.

“That’s about it,” Tom said. “Lucy and I are going on a month long vacation to Europe in a week, which is pretty baller if I do say so myself.”

“Wow,” Andy marveled. “Dude, that’s awesome!”

“Yeah,” Lucy said. “We’re pretty excited about it.”

“The things you can do when you don’t have kids,” Tom said, giving an exaggerated sigh. “Something you two don’t have the pleasure of knowing.” Then, just as quickly, he looked embarrassed. “Oh, shit guys, sorry, that’s not what I meant.”

“Tom, seriously?” Lucy scoffed.

April was so caught off guard, she wasn’t sure what to say at first. “It’s fine,” she grumbled. “We’re used to Tom saying dumb things, remember?” She looked at Andy quickly. Her husband was stony faced, looking at Tom with a strange expression in his eyes. It was close to anger, but there was something else there too. She couldn’t quite place it.

“Daddy,” Emma shuffled over to them, yawning wide. She reached her arms up for Andy to scoop her up, which he did gladly. April was grateful for the momentary distraction in the form of her children.

“What’s up, buttercup?” He kissed her cheek. “Ready for bed?”

“Uh-huh,” she yawned again.

“I think it’s time,” April said, glancing at the clock. The kids were already up past their usual bedtimes anyway. Jack and Allie were given more freedom simply because they were older, but Melody and Emma had a stricter schedule to stick to. “Melly? Ready for bed?”

“No!” Melody called from the living room, where April could hear her playing some chords on her mini-guitar.

“Bed time,” Andy called, lifting Emma up and tossing her in the air once, to delighted squeals from the little girl. “I’ll get them ready, babe.”

“Thank you.” April smiled and planted a kiss on Emma’s cheek, then Melody’s, who followed her father and younger sister to the stairs.

Tom watched them go, silent for a long time until they were out of sight. Then he took a deep breath and shook his head.

“What?” April looked at him.

“It’s just…I never would’ve imagined the two of you like this.”

“Like what?”

Tom shrugged. “I don’t know…parents? A house full of kids? It’s just…so different.”

“There’s nothing wrong with it,” April frowned.

“No, of course there isn’t,” Tom said quickly. “I didn’t mean what I said before and I’m really happy for you and my man Andy, but…wow, I’m just surprised.”

 

Andy was silent as April changed into her pajamas that night. Even after all these years, she was still more comfortable in one of Andy’s old shirts. She stared at him as she slipped into bed, only reaching for him when he didn’t respond to her movement.

“Hey,” she said softly, caressing his cheek. “Babe, you okay?”

Andy looked at her quickly, as though he’d just realized she was there. “Huh?”

“I asked if you were okay,” April said, worrying a bit now. “You’ve been acting weird since dinner.”

Andy shrugged. “Yeah, I mean, I guess I am…”

“Then why are you acting like this?” she asked.

“Like what?”

“Off.” April scooted closer and wrapped her arm around his torso. She kissed his cheek and rubbed his arm. “Talk to me.”

Andy sat silently for a moment. April could feel him breathing next to her, deep steady breaths. Just as she was about to leave him alone to his thoughts—she was pretty exhausted and just wanted to sleep—he spoke.

“I don’t regret a thing, April,” he said softly.

“What are you talking about?”

“I don’t care that we’ve never been able to take a big fancy trip to Utah like Tom—“

“Europe—“

“That’s what I meant,” Andy said quickly. “I don’t care that I don’t make as much money as him and I’m not a famous writer who made a book about my failures and made a lot of money off of it.“

“Andy, of course not—“

“I love our life,” Andy said firmly, looking her in the eyes. “I wouldn’t trade it for all the fun stuff in the world, because to me our life is fun. It’s super fun.”

“Andy…”

“I just…I feel bad because I can’t give you all the things Tom goes on and on about, and I know you’re not the type of person who needs that stuff—“

“Andy, stop right there,” April said. “I don’t regret anything. I don’t want Tom’s life.”

They stared at each other, Andy’s eyes darting between April’s and the floor.

“Tom shouldn’t have said that thing,” Andy said, finally. “What he said about being able to do that stuff because he doesn’t have kids…he didn’t need to…it doesn’t matter.”

“No, he shouldn’t have, and I let him have it after all the kids went to bed,” April said. Truly she had. She’d cornered him in the kitchen and made him apologize again. She knew there was nothing wrong with choosing a life without children. Nothing at all, in fact, she was close to choosing that life for herself. But the way Tom went about it, well, that was another story. Especially in front of Andy, whose children were his entire life.

“I wasn’t even that angry at him,” Andy went on. “I actually felt sorry for him. Sorry because he’ll never know what an awesome life we have.”

“Andy, listen to me,” April said, looking at him. “I know. I know, and I agree with you. I wouldn’t change a thing about our life. I love it.” Andy smiled at her. April leaned in to kiss him, and it wasn’t much longer before she felt his strong arms wrap around her waist. “I love you so much,” April whispered. “I love our kids so much. I love our life so much.”

Andy kept kissing her, over and over between her words. April knew Andy already understood how she felt, but she also knew he loved to hear it.

“I know, babe,” Andy said softly. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. You and the kids,” he added.

April smiled, pulling him back down against the mattress with her. Immediately, she snuggled against his chest.

“I love you,” he whispered.

“I love you too, Andy.” No matter how many times they said it to each other, it was different and special each time. Even after all these years.

“Thank you for my awesome life.” His voice was drowsy now, but he never stopped gripping her hand, not once, even as they fell into a deep sleep.

Chapter Text

It was the little voice that woke April, just like most nights. The tiny little yell, faint behind closed doors but strong enough over the monitor to wake her and Andy from their deep sleep. April sat up groggily and looked around.

“Honey…” Andy’s voice was soft and raspy. “Come back to bed. She’ll be fine.”

It was Emma. Lately she’d been waking far too early in the morning, even before the sun was fully up. Asking for her mama in her tiny little wail, April could just imagine the thick tears that cascaded down her daughter’s cheeks until someone went to go get her.

“Andy,” April said miserably. “Listen to her. I have to go get her.”

“April, I thought we’re supposed to try and let her cry it out?”

“I know, Andy, but it’s hard, okay?” April sniffed, feeling herself get overly emotional. Her hormones were out of control lately as her body tried to shift back to the way it used to be. Back before she was pregnant, before she gave her boobs over to breastfeeding four children over the past eleven years.

Emma was two now. April had weaned her three older children each at around one year old, give or take a few months, but Emma was different. Something had made April want to keep going, to hold onto this little joy of an experience for as long as she could. Probably because she knew this was it. There would be no more children after this. She was done, and rightly so. She was too old to have anymore and after it took so long to conceive Emma in the first place, they weren’t going to risk it. Andy would happily have twelve kids if April agreed to it, but this would have to be it.

“I know, honey,” Andy said soothingly. “I’m sorry…if you want to go get her, go. It’s not my decision, it’s yours.”

“I know,” April rubbed her eyes. Emma’s wails were getting louder, and soon she’d wake the other kids if April didn’t stop her. “Let me go get her and I’ll deal with it after, okay?”

Andy nodded, letting his head fall back against the pillow.

 

April swayed back and forth slowly as Emma nursed. The toddler gripped April’s shirt in one hand and lay there against April, half asleep. April wasn’t going to deny that it was incredibly uncomfortable. Emma’s size and weight weren’t that of a baby anymore. She knew she had to stop, but it was just so damn hard.

“You’ve gotta get back to bed, baby,” April said softly, stroking the two-year-old’s head. “You’ve gotta sleep.”

Even Leslie had chimed in on the matter, pointing out one day while visiting that April seemed exhausted and down about something, prodding until April divulged her entire dilemma just as she knew she would. Leslie had a way of drawing your problems out of you and immediately trying to solve them.

“It’s perfectly normal,” Leslie had said kindly. “Some babies nurse until they’re three.”

“Leslie, that’s insane,” April had rolled her eyes. “I’m not nursing my kid that long.”

“I’m not saying you should,” Leslie said, placing a cup of coffee in front of April and gently pushing it toward her. “But I think maybe you’re making this more difficult on yourself than it needs to be.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means that this is probably harder on you,” Leslie sighed, “than it is on Emma.”

She was right of course. It was incredibly hard.

 

“Honey, you look exhausted,” Andy said the following morning. He placed some toast in front of her. “You shouldn’t have gotten up.”

“Andy,” April rubbed her forehead. Her boobs were sore and her head was pounding. “I really, really don’t want to hear this right now. Okay?”

Andy nodded and didn’t say another word about it. April knew it was killing him to keep quiet, but he’d do as she asked until he was certain she was causing more harm to herself than good.

The bus had already come and gone for the older kids, leaving April to get ready for work in peace and Andy to tend to Emma. When their youngest passed by the kitchen on her way to the living room, she smiled at her parents and garbled something unintelligible before looking to see where she’d left her favorite stuffed animal.

“She doesn’t need me anymore, Andy,” April sobbed suddenly, the outburst catching her off guard. Andy too, judging by the way he jumped when she cried out. Tears were falling fast down her cheeks. “She doesn’t need me anymore, and soon she’s gonna be on the bus with the kids, and she’s gonna forget all about me—“

“Woah, woah woah,” Andy chuckled softly, coming around the counter to get eye-level with April. He stroked her hair back and tilted her chin up to face him. “Babe, that’s not true at all! C’mon now, that’s dumb. You know it’s not true.”

April could only let out these shuddering breaths as she tried to compose herself. Andy hastily wiped her tears away with his thumb. “Y-yes i-it is,” she moaned. “L-Leslie’s right…this is h-harder on m-me.”

“Oh, babe,” Andy hugged her. “Shh, c’mon, it’s okay.” April only cried harder against his chest. “Okay, maybe you should call out of work today. Okay? You wanna do that?” April nodded against him. “Okay, good plan.” He kissed her forehead. “It’s okay.”

 

Once she’d calmed down a bit, April curled up against Andy on the couch. Emma was napping, so they had about two hours to themselves. It turned out that calling out of work was the best idea. April didn’t stop crying for at least a half hour more, prompting Emma to scurry over several times to pat her mother on the knee in some form of comfort.

“Listen,” Andy said, weaving his fingers through her hair. It was soothing, and he must have known it, because he didn’t stop. “April, this whole thing is your decision, you know that right?” April nodded. “I know the idea of Emma growing up is making you sad. Believe me, it makes me kinda sad too. She’s our baby and there aren’t any more after her.” April let out a little whine. “But just think of all the awesome stuff we have to look forward to with her! Her first real sentences…potty training…starting school. You get the idea.”

“Yeah,” April said softly. He was right of course. There was still a lot to look forward to.

“So much fun stuff is ahead babe. And I know you want her to stay little and you like nursing her and all that, but there’s nothing wrong with stopping. You’ll be less exhausted and I’m pretty sure your boobs will feel good again.”

April let out a dry chuckle. He was right about that too. These days, Andy was lucky if he could cop a feel every now and then without hurting her. “Why do you always know what to say to make me feel better?”

“I think I’d be a pretty lousy husband if I didn’t, right babe?”

April twisted in his arms to look at him. “Good answer,” she sniffed, biting back a smile. “I love you.” She pushed his curls behind his ears, cupping his cheek.

“Love you too.” He let her fall asleep against him. It was just what she needed.

 

The following night, April let Emma cry. It was heartbreaking and even Andy started to crack a few times, but ultimately she self-soothed and fell back to sleep. Each night it got easier, until Emma didn’t wake up at all asking for her mother. That part honestly hurt the most.

Each time she felt depressed about it, April tried to remember what Andy said. They had so much more to look forward to. This was still just the beginning of some pretty amazing things.

Chapter Text

The clock chimed an ominous note. It echoed in the hallway like the calling of some distant voice, reminding those inside that the night was coming to an end, that all the occupants should be safely inside. Almost all of them were.

“Damn it, where are you?” April’s voice was an angry whisper, checking the backlit screen of her phone again and again.

She paced the front hall of their home, occasionally peeking out the front window and looking into the dark, deserted street they lived on. No one was around, aside from a car parked in front of the neighbor’s house two yards over. She bit her nails, something she hadn’t done since she was a kid. It was her only way of dealing with the nerves right now. If she didn’t, she just might scream instead.

It was five minutes after eleven, and April was so not ready to tell Andy that Melody wasn’t home yet, that she’d broken curfew or that April couldn’t get in touch with her. She was too busy freaking out by herself to bring him into the mix.

Currently her husband was knocked out cold in bed, zonked on some flu medicine that exhausted him to the point of near comatose. Andy was a heavy sleeper anyway, so combined with the power of the drugs he was like an immovable boulder as he slept. Otherwise, April knew he’d be on the couch, waiting to hear the front door open, never sleeping a wink until his baby girl was home safe.

Should April worry just yet, though? It was only five minutes. Yet when April thought about it, none of their children—with the exception of Jack once or twice in his teens—had ever missed curfew. Especially not Melody…she didn’t even like going out late as it was. She was sixteen years old and had only a couple of close friends she’d ever shown any interest in doing anything with, and they knew Andy’s rules just as much as Melody did. They would never keep her out late like this, but hadn’t they all gone out together that night? That’s what Melody told her parents, anyway.

The hands on the clock crept ever onward, and still no sign of her. It was nearly quarter past, and now April was actually scared something had happened. Why wasn’t Melody answering her phone? She knew better than this!

Where are you?!?!?!?! The text message was followed by a dozen angry emojis. April was desperate.

For a moment, she thought about waking Jack up. Their eldest had surprised them by flying home from college for the weekend. April didn’t kid herself and pretend it was anything other than so Jack could do his laundry and eat a decent meal, but she liked to think that he wanted to see his family for a bit too. If she woke Jack up, then maybe April wouldn’t have to wake Andy.

“Ugh,” April groaned. She was just about to head upstairs when a sudden thought struck her. She rushed back to the window and eyed the car parked down the street. There was something odd about it. She’d never seen it before.

It was a random thought. A wild guess. But April put on her jacket and walked out the front door, sprinting to the white little car and pressing her face right up against the window without a second thought.

There, in the front passenger seat, was Melody. Only she wasn’t alone. She was passionately making out with a boy who April had never met, let alone seen before. They were so into it that they didn’t notice the frenzied woman watching with her mouth hanging open, her adrenaline pumping because thank God she’d found her daughter, but at the same time there was going to be hell to pay. April pounded on the window with her fist. The two occupants of the car broke apart in a terrified rush.

“Mom?” April saw Melody mouth her name through the window, the terrified boy beside her staring wide-eyed.

“Out.” April’s voice was a strained growl. Melody hung her head, her face reddening even behind the black curls obscuring the sides of her face, and got out. April tapped on the window so the other boy lowered it. “Do you know what time it is?” April asked, narrowing her eyes.

“Mom, I’m so sorry—“

“Shh,” April cut Melody off. She didn’t want to hear excuses just then. “Well?” She glared at the boy. He was fairly handsome. He had black hair like Melody’s with deep, blue eyes. He reminded April of a youthful Chris Traeger, if she were to guess what Chris had looked like in his youth. Somehow that made it worse.

“Mrs. Dwyer,” he started, “I’m so sorry. We lost track of time, and—“

“Really?” April mock gasped. “Funny, your car seems to have a perfectly working clock right there,” April indicated the bright screen of the digital clock.

“I thought curfew was eleven?” The boy looked at Melody, his face all kinds of confused.

“It is!” Melody looked at her mother. “Mom, it’s only ten-thirty.”

“Check again,” April said thinly.

The boy in the car looked at his cell phone and his eyes went wide, before he held it out for Melody to see. “Shit,” he mumbled.

Melody glanced at the time and frowned, as though there was no way it could be right, then at her own phone, and her face paled when she realized it was dead. “Oh no,” she mumbled, running her hand over her face.

“Oh, yes,” April laughed humorlessly. “Inside,” she pointed to the house, “now.”

“I’m sorry,” Melody said, first to her mother, then to the boy in the car. “Mom, this is Nick—“

“I think we’ll have to save the introductions for another time,” April said, taking her daughter’s hand and pointing back toward the house. “Unless of course you want your father to meet Nick too. I can go wake him up.”

“Bye Mrs. Dwyer,” Nick said immediately, starting the engine. He looked more than eager to be getting away from the situation. “Bye Mel…”

“Bye,” Melody said softly, watching as the car sped away. Once he was gone, she turned to her mother with tears in her eyes. “Mom I’m so sorry, I swear, I didn’t realize—“

“Do you have any idea how terrified I was that something happened to you?” April said, tugging Melody’s arm as they walked back to the house. “I was this close to waking up your brother—“

“Mom—“

“Thank God your dad’s out cold.” April led the way to the front door, pushing it open softly so as not to make a sound. “We’re going to have a long talk about this tomorrow morning.”

“Please,” Melody looked at April pleadingly, her brown eyes wide and tearful. “Please don’t tell dad.”

“Tell me what?”

April and Melody spun around, and there was Andy, coming out of the kitchen with a glass of water in one hand, looking entirely groggy and confused all at once. He wore boxers and a long t-shirt, and his hair was a mess.

“Shit,” Melody cursed under her breath.

“Honey?” Andy looked at Melody, then April. “What’s going on?”

“We were…um,” April tried to think quickly, but it was no good. As aloof as Andy could be most of the time, when it came to his intuition about those he loved, he was always spot on. He looked at Melody, fully dressed for a night out, her purse in hand. Then he looked at April, clad in pajamas and clutching her cell phone like her life depended on it.

“What’s going on?” Andy blinked, repeating himself. “Did you just get home?” He looked at his daughter, his eyes suddenly worried.

“Babe,” April started slowly, reaching out to put a soothing hand on his arm. “It’s okay. Nothing happened. Go back to bed.”

“Did Melody just—“ he looked at the clock. “It’s eleven-thirty!” he said, realization hitting him. “Melody, you know curfew is eleven.” Andy seemed hurt. He obviously thought his daughter knew better. So did April.

“I know dad.”

“Where were you?”

“I-I was out,” she said softly, then, “with a friend.”

“Who?”

“Andy,” April said. “C’mon, it does’t matter…it’s late, and you’re sick, and I’m exhausted. She’s home now, and we’ll talk about this in the morning.” She tried to push him toward the stairs, but Andy didn’t budge.

“Dad, I—“

A thunderous sound could be heard from the staircase, as Jack pummeled down the steps three at a time. He didn’t seem to realize what was going on.

“Melody, I swear, if you don’t answer your phone—I am seriously gonna kick that guy’s ass if—“ Jack stopped short at the bottom of the stairs, his body frozen in movement when he saw his family gathered in the living room. One arm was halfway into his jacket, the other holding his phone to his ear, and he was still dressed for bed underneath

“Jack?” April looked at her son with wide eyes.

“Jack!” Melody shot him a pointed look.

“Mel,” Jack’s mouth opened and closed, reminding April of the way Andy used to make that same face on occasion. “Hi, uh…you’re home? I mean, you’re home!” He laughed awkwardly. “Okay, well, I’m gonna go back to bed now.”

“Hold it.” Andy’s voice was firm. “What guy?”

“You knew?” April looked at her son.

“You were out with a guy?”

April sighed. This was all going so smoothly, and then Andy decided the one time he was gonna wake up from one of his deep sleeps was when his kid broke curfew.

It was gonna be a long night.

Chapter Text

The terrible sound of puke hitting the toilet bowl makes Andy wince. It’s been like that all morning, ever since April woke him way earlier than anyone should ever be up, only for her to run to the bathroom where she’s been camped out on the floor ever since. Andy hates seeing her like this, sick and hurting, but unlike a stomach flu or food poisoning, there isn’t anything he can do to make her better. All he can really do is be there for her.

He hurries up the stairs with a can of ginger ale and some crackers. April hasn’t eaten all day, but this meager offering is the least he can do. It just might stay down this time if she tries to eat again. Especially, Andy figures, since her stomach is pretty much empty by now. It’s gotta be.

“Honey,” he said softly, pushing the door open to find her curled around the toilet, her head resting on the cool porcelain rim. “I brought you something.”

“I’m dying,” April croaks out, her eyes half-closed as she struggles to sit up. The way she looks at Andy nearly breaks him. He can’t help but feel guilty. After all, he was the one who put the kid in her in the first place.

“Shh, you’re not dying babe,” he says, getting to his knees beside her. Gently, he pries her from the toilet and pulls her into his arms, kissing her forehead. Her strength is gone. “The doctor said this might happen, remember?”

“Mhm,” she groans, adjusting so she can lean on him.

“I brought you some crackers,” Andy says. “The ones you love, the real crunchy ones with lots of salt.”

“No thanks,” April shakes her head slowly.

“Cookie, you’ve gotta eat.”

“Not hungry…”

Andy rubs April’s back in slow, steady circles, just the way she likes, and sighs. He could let her stay here on the cold, hard floor, where she’s apparently comfortable. Or, he could do what his brain was telling him to do. This was no place for his beautiful wife and their baby to try and feel better.

Adjusting the both of them so he has a firm grip beneath April’s legs, Andy lifts her into the air and carries her to their room.

“Andy,” April mumbles. “I’m just gonna puke again. Then you’re gonna have to change the sheets…and…the bed will smell…”

“I don’t think you will,” Andy shakes his head. “There’s nothing else in there, which is why you’ve gotta eat and rest up.” April let out some type of noise, but to Andy it sounded like an agreement. Close enough.

He lays her on the bed and tucks her in, carefully adjusting her pillows. “Okay, I’m gonna go get your ginger ale and those crackers.”

“No,” April reaches out and grabs Andy’s wrist. Her grip is weak, but Andy recognizes that desperation. “Stay with me, please.”

“I’ll be right back, I promise!” Andy kisses her palm.

April shakes her head, tears gather in the corner of her eyes and she looks at him with that silent desperation that levels him instantly. “Please.”

Andy swallows and nods, a man unable to deny his wife anything. “Okay baby,” he whispers. He walks around the side of the bed and slides in next to her, cuddling up against her back. Immediately, April lets out a sigh of relief and relaxes against him.

“Thank you,” she breathes out.

Andy rubs her arms, kisses her head. “Don’t thank me, I’m just taking care of you. You’re the one having the baby.”

April chuckles dryly, her eyes closed. “Yeah, that’s true.”

“It’s gonna be an awesome baby, babe,” Andy smiles. “I can’t wait. I’m so excited.”

“I know,” April nods, groaning a bit, “me too, Andy…once I stop puking, I’ll be really excited too.”

“I love you.”

“Love you too.”

As April falls asleep, Andy lets his palm drift over to her stomach. They were only about six weeks into what was going to be a long nine months, but Andy would be there for April every step of the way. It was the very least he could do.

Chapter Text

It started with a tiny sneeze.

April heard it from all the way down the hall, her senses increased tenfold since becoming a mother. It might as well have been as loud as a gunshot. In an instant, she went from curled up against Andy’s warm chest to hovering over the crib in Jack’s nursery.

The little four-month-old stared up at his mother with curious eyes, before his little mouth morphed into a wide smile at the sight of her. He babbled something softly, waving chubby arms up in the air.

“Hi my love,” April whispered, gently lifting her son into her arms. Jack nuzzled her shirt, before another sneeze, followed by the slightest of coughs. At once, April’s heart sank.

Jack hadn’t had a cold before. April wasn’t sure how to react, other than worry instantly and hug him tighter against her. She felt his forehead, and he wasn’t too warm. But his nose was runny and his eyes were watery, and he sneezed a third time right after that.

Just as April was about to call for Andy, her fears getting the best of her, she heard his clumsy footsteps racing down the hall from their bedroom. He skidded to a halt in front of Jack’s room, his hair a mess, clad in boxer briefs.

“April,” he looked at her sleepily. “Where’d you go? One minute I was super warm and comfy and the next I was hugging your pillow thinking it was you.” Andy scratched his side and yawned. Then he noticed Jack, and his face split into a huge grin. “Hey buddy!”

“Andy,” April said softly, “I think Jack’s sick.”

“What?” Andy’s eyebrows furrowed. “Why d’you think that?”

“He keeps sneezing and his nose is runny.”

Andy frowned. “Is he eating?”

“I haven’t tried feeding him yet.” April carried Jack to the rocking chair and lifted her shirt to nurse. Luckily Jack had no problem with his appetite. April sighed, relieved.

“Want me to call the doctor?” Andy said softly, rubbing April’s shoulder.

“Yes,” April said, not taking her eyes of Jack once. “Please, babe, that would be super helpful.”

“No problem, honey…” With a kiss to April’s head, he was off.

April stroked Jack’s cheek as he nursed, rocking slowly. She was going to need to call out of work too. There was no way she was going to leave her baby alone like this.

 

The doctor told them that this was normal. She told them that babies get several colds a year, and unless he was burning up there was no reason to take him in or to worry. All they had to do was keep an eye on him, keep feeding him when he was hungry, and make sure he got plenty of rest.

The advice certainly relieved the both of them, but April was still worried. Why was she so worried?

The three of them were relaxing in bed, Jack lying on his stomach between Andy and April as he drifted off. April kept one hand protectively over his tiny back, while Andy stretched a long arm over the both of them to rest his palm on April’s side.

Every once in a while, Jack would let out a wet little cough, nearly shaking himself awake, and April’s eyes would dart back to him.

“He’s okay, babe.”

“I know," April mumbled, stroking Jack’s hair. Andy grinned, eyeing his wife with that little stare that told her he was bursting to say something but wasn’t sure if he should. “What?” She half expected him to say something ridiculous. You never knew with Andy.

“You’re so beautiful, and you’re so worried about our kid,” Andy began. “Don’t get me wrong, I am too,” he added, when April looked at him and frowned. “But I just…I’m so in love with you babe…and seeing you like this—“

“Like what?” April’s frown disappeared and she looked more curious than anything.

“Like a mother,” Andy shrugged. “You were so worried about becoming a mom, and now you’re like the most amazing, most perfect, more gorgeous mother in the world. Jack is so lucky.”

April could feel her face warming up. If Jack wasn’t sick—or sleeping between them—she’d roll on top of her husband and never stop kissing him. Instead, she bit her lip and looked at him with soft, lidded eyes.

“I love you,” she whispered, as Jack yawned.

“Love you too,” Andy replied immediately. “And I love you too, Jack,” he added.

 

It was evening when April realized something. Jack hadn’t coughed all afternoon.

She looked over to the living room rug where Andy was lying on his back next to their son. Jack was fascinated with one of his floor toys, the colorful rings and rattles suspended over him on his activity mat.

“Check it out, buddy,” Andy said excitedly, as Jack kicked at one of the hanging rattles. “This one makes an awesome sound. Ooh, nice kick!”

“Andy?” April smiled.

“Yeah babe?”

“Have you heard Jack cough at all?”

Andy shook his head. “Nope! All clear.”

April relaxed, shutting her laptop. She’d taken a few minutes to reply to some work e-mails, but she couldn’t tear herself away from Jack for long. She joined her boys on the rug. Jack giggled out loud when he saw her.

“I think he’s fine,” Andy said happily. “Look at him. He’s having an awesome time, babe!”

“Yeah,” April nodded. “You’re right.”

“Good job, mommy,” Andy leaned over to kiss her cheek. “First cold: nailed it.”

April laughed, pulling him in for a deeper kiss. “Good job yourself,” she said.

Andy was right though. First cold was over, but there were many more sure to come. At least this one had taken the edge off.

Chapter Text

Being back in Pawnee for an extra long weekend had been one of the most eventful things that had happened to April in a while. Eventful in a physical sense, because frankly she was exhausted these days, and there had been so much to do as it was. Eventful emotionally because of the very reason they were there in the first place. Whenever they made the trip to return to their hometown it was usually for a very specific reason, so it wasn’t just for the fun of it. Or perhaps this time it was. April was getting a strange thrill out of this trip and she was surprisingly okay with it.

The day was warm for May. Together, April walked hand in hand with Andy up the path past the entrance to the Pawnee National Park. The trees hummed with various insects and the wind whipped at their clothes and April’s hair, but the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. For someone who used to hate the outdoors, April was actually really enjoying being there. Part of it could have been how hard Leslie had had to fight to get it built.

They passed the first cabin, just a little ways from the entrance. It was where the park rangers station was located, a place for information and brochures for those who wanted to explore the vast woods and the first and last checkpoint on your way in and out. They kept going, though, because this wasn’t the place.

“You feeling okay, babe?” Andy asked, glancing at April warily. “You want some water?” He stopped to rummage in the small pack he was carrying to pull out a water bottle, offering it to his wife.

April smiled. She was fine. They’d barely been walking for five minutes. She didn’t need to stop for a break or anything, but the worry in Andy’s eyes was too sweet to brush off. She nodded and took a long sip, until his face relaxed and he smiled at her once more.

“Thanks,” she said, tugging Andy down for a quick peck on the lips. When they broke apart he was staring at her with that dumb, awestruck look. She loved it.

“Anytime,” he said, reaching for her hand again. Then they started back along the path to Ron Swanson’s cabin. “You’ll let me know if you want a piggyback ride, right?”

“Don’t I always?”

“Yeah, I know you do, honey.”

Their lives had changed dramatically in the last few months. Ways in which April would never have imagined, at least not for her. She certainly wasn’t complaining.

 

The cabin loomed large in front of them. It was only about another five minute walk from the ranger station, but it was far more secluded, surrounded by a crop of trees and just by the edge of the lake. Ron had decided when he took the job that he didn’t want to be as accessible to be located right at the entrance, so he built an entirely new cabin further inwards. His rangers sometimes came and went, but for the most part it was him and his solitude, just the way he liked it.

“Here we are,” Andy looked up, eagerly bouncing on the balls of his feet as he walked like an excited child. “He’s gonna be so surprised!”

“You think?” April said. “I mean, since when has Ron really gotten excited about anything aside from woodworking and Lagavulin?”

“Of course he will be!” Andy looked at her. “Ron loves us.”

Deep down, April was nervous. Nervous, but excited, because Ron was only the third person to know their news. First had been Leslie and Ben the day before, and tomorrow would be her parents and Natalie, then the final day of their visit would be as many of Andy’s brothers as they could reach and his mother. She knew Ron would be happy for them. Why wouldn’t he be? But there was still that same nagging nerve she’d felt the day she told Ron they were moving to DC.

Andy knocked once, his knuckles tapping out some random pattern of sounds on the door. There was a long pause, and a gruff voice answered them.

“Come in,” it said.

Andy pushed open the door, with April right behind him. “Ron!” he yelled happily.

Ron Swanson’s eyes widened. Seated behind his desk, moments ago it seemed he had been carving something out of wood, judging by the pile of wood scrapings on his desk and the large carving knife in his right hand. When he saw them, he stood.

“Andrew,” he said, and for a moment April was sure she saw a smile beneath his mustache, “April.”

“Hey,” April said dully, stepping beside Andy and gripping his large hand.

Andy didn’t wait for Ron to come all the way around the desk before he rushed forward to envelope the older man in a bone-crushing hug. Ron grunted a bit, but ultimately did his best to reciprocate by lifting cautious arms to pat Andy on the back.

“We missed you!” Andy said, beaming.

“I’ll admit, it’s a nice surprise to see the both of you,” Ron nodded, clearing his throat. If April didn’t know any better, she would say his voice caught in his throat.

“You too,” April said. She meant it.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Ron asked, gesturing to the large, familiar wooden chairs in front of the desk. “Leslie didn’t tell me you were back in Pawnee.”

“We just got here yesterday,” Andy said, sitting down. “We wanted to surprise you.”

“I see.”

For a moment, April thought about just sitting in Andy’s lap. Then she thought better of it and took the other seat.

“How’s work?” April asked, looking around the cabin. “It must be awesome to not have to see people every day…just hanging out in the middle of the woods.”

“I’ll admit, it’s preferable,” Ron nodded. “My rangers handle a lot of the face-to-face interactions, and they report to me if necessary. Usually they’re capable without me.”

“Sweet,” Andy bobbed his head. “Sounds awesome.”

April could feel a knot in her stomach. She had the urge to blurt out their news, to get it over with, but something else was telling her to wait, to be patient, to take it easy.

“How’s Washington DC?” Ron asked, looking pointedly at April.

“It’s fine,” she shrugged. “Hot all the time, but work’s good and I’m really enjoying what I do.”

“Good,” Ron grumbled.

“How are Diane and the kids?”

“I’m pleased to say they’re all doing well,” Ron said, gesturing to a framed photo on his desk. It was the only new item on there. The rest of his things were the exact same items he used to keep on his desk in Pawnee. It actually made April’s heart ache a little, a feeling of nostalgia.

“Nice,” Andy said cheerily, eyeing the subjects in the photo with fondness.

“Well,” Ron sighed, “you both know I’m not one for smalltalk, so let’s mark this occasion with a drink.” He opened his desk drawer and produced a bottle of Lagavulin and three glasses. They hit the top of the desk with a clink.

April glanced at Andy quickly, and he smiled. Ron was just about to pour the third glass when April held out her hand. “I’m good, Ron,” she said softly.

“No?” Ron looked at her curiously.

“No,” April shook her head. “I’ll pass.”

Ron squinted, before turning his gaze to Andy, who could barely contain himself. He was bouncing in his chair, his cheeks were turning pink because he couldn’t stop smiling, and he was squeezing April’s hand so hard she almost had to pull away.

Then, Ron’s mustache twitched and he smiled. “You have something to tell me?”

April lowered her gaze and smiled softly, then glanced at Andy. He nodded at her immediately.

“We’re having a baby,” April said softly, “or whatever,” she added, trying to buffer the emotional outburst she was seconds away from having.

“My wife’s pregnant!” Andy shouted, kissing April’s hand. “We’re having a baby, Ron!”

Ron was staring at the both of them with something like admiration his eyes. Admiration and pride. He leaned forward in his chair a little and smiled.

“Congratulations, you two,” he said stiffly, clearing his throat again. He handed Andy his glass and the two men clinked them together. “To the future Ludgate-Dwyer,” he added.

April watched as they sipped the amber liquid, the both of them practiced in its bite by now.

“I’m assuming Leslie had a fit when you told her to keep this a secret?” Ron said, smirking knowingly.

“She did,” April nodded. “We told her and Ben yesterday.”

“She almost called you on the spot,” Andy said. “But we wanted to tell you in person.”

There it was again, that look of pride on Ron’s face. He nodded silently.

“We’re due in November,” April said, even though Ron didn’t ask. “We don’t wanna find out what we’re having. It’s gonna be a surprise, because that’s what Andy wanted.”

“That’s really good news, you two,” Ron said. “I’m glad things are going well. I always knew you two were solid.” He took another sip of whisky. “You’re doing fine, then?” He looked at April.

“Yeah,” she replied. “I’m tired a lot and hungry all the time, but I’m good.”

“I don’t even need to question whether or not you’re taking good care of her, son,” Ron looked pointedly at Andy. “No doubt you’re doing everything a husband and soon-to-be father should do.”

Andy sat up proudly, his back straightening as he met Ron’s stare. “Absolutely, Ron.”

“Good.”

“He’s perfect,” April said, rubbing Andy’s hand with her thumb. Because he was. He was everything she thought he would be and so much more. It transcended being an amazing husband at this point. Something had switched on in Andy when they found out they were having a baby. It was something so strong and unexplainable, but all April knew was that he was everything to her and there was no one else in the world she would rather go through this terrifying, amazing, new journey with. She knew she didn’t need to say these things out loud, because Andy already knew them. He looked at her with so much love in his eyes that it made her stomach hurt.

Ron finished his whisky and poured himself another before offering the bottle to Andy. “How long are you two in town for?”

“Two more days,” April said. “Then we’re driving back.”

“I see,” Ron nodded. He studied the label on the glass bottle when Andy handed it back to him for a few quiet moments. “I don’t say this often, but…don’t be strangers. I hope I can see you two again before you welcome this baby into the world.”

“Dude, of course we will,” Andy promised. “We’ll be back soon.”

“Y’know,” April shrugged. “You can always visit DC.”

“Not much of a fan,” Ron chuckled. “But maybe I can make an exception.” He looked at the both of them and nodded.

April smiled. Now all of this finally felt right.

 

It was early one morning in the middle of August. The shrill beep of some sort of large truck backing up floated through the open window. April rolled over in bed, hot, sticky, and annoyed. Her stomach was propped up beneath a pillow, the growing bump feeling more cumbersome than ever. She was about to get up and slam the window closed, maybe scream at the truck driver a little, when Andy called her from downstairs.

“Babe! Come down! Hurry!”

Grudgingly, April sat up and inched her way out of bed. She took her time, because whatever had gotten Andy so excited could certainly wait this early on a Saturday morning. Down the stairs, past the living room, Andy was waiting by the open front door. When he saw her, he gestured her over.

“Babe, babe! C’mere, look!”

“Andy, what is this?” She rubbed her eyes sleepily.

“Just look.” He held her shoulders and turned her forward.

April looked up. Two tall men were lifting a beautiful oak crib out of the back of the truck. They carried it up the walkway, pausing in front of Andy and April.

“Are you Mr. and Mrs. Dwyer?” one of them asked.

“Y-yeah,” April replied. She couldn’t take her eyes off the crib. It was ornately carved, the beautiful wood shining in the light of the sun. She could smell the freshly cut pieces. “What is this?”

“Special orders to deliver this,” the other one said. “The maker didn’t want it sent by plane.”

Andy looked at April, beaming. She reached for his hand.

“Where do you want this?”

April honestly wanted to cry. It was really hard to hold it in like this. So, without a word, she led the two men into the house, directing them into the second bedroom where their child’s nursery was slowly coming together. It seemed all the more real now, and somehow, April had never felt more ready.

Chapter Text

It was nearly eight o’clock in the Ludgate-Dwyer household on the last day of September, one of the busiest nights of the year. Andy had brought up all the boxes from the basement. They’d gone to the local farm to get as many pumpkins as Jack’s little red wagon would carry. The house was finally ready.

It was about to be October, and they couldn’t be more excited.

“Andy, is that everything?” April asked, appraising the living room with a satisfied smile. There were at least ten pumpkins. One on each windowsill, two in front of the fireplace, one on each end table. Fall garland was hanging on the wall and over the mantle where the Christmas stockings usually belonged at the end of the year. Fake spiderwebs covered every surface.

“That’s everything, babe,” Andy said proudly, looking around the house fondly. “We did good this year.”

“We did,” April pulled him in for a kiss.

There was only one thing missing, and that was their nearly four year old son. Last April had seen him, Jack had gone looking for his favorite pair of halloween pajamas. That was nearly ten minutes ago.

“Babe,” April looked around. “Where did Jack go? Did you see him come back down?”

“Uh…no,” Andy frowned. “Lemme check on him.” As he made his way to the stairs, a tiny, shrill yell pierced the air, followed quickly by Andy’s own fabricated yell of fright.

April hurried around the corner and immediately smiled. Jack stood at the bottom of the stairs, wrapped in what looked like several rolls of toilet paper and a black witch’s hat that he’d found in one of the boxes. Hunched over, he had a scowl on his face with his arms lifted high over his head. Andy was on the floor in front of him, covering his eyes and pretending to shake.

“Oh no!” April gasped. “W-what is this?” She pretended to back away as Jack momentarily grinned, before resuming his scary face once more.

“I’m here to eat your brains!” Jack said, his voice as low and rumbling as he could make it.

“You’re a monster!” Andy shouted, pointing a trembling finger at his son. “Honey, our boy is a monster!”

“No, daddy,” Jack whispered. “I’m a mummy zombie witch!”

“Oh, sorry buddy,” Andy chuckled. “Honey!” He turned to April again. “Our son is a mummy zombie witch!”

“What are we gonna do?” April let out a muffled yell, careful not to wake a sleeping Allie upstairs.

“How do we stop you from eating us?” Andy sat up on his knees facing Jack. “What can we do? Please don’t eat us!”

“I won’t eat you,” Jack crossed his arms, “but only if you give me some cookies!”

April chuckled, but quickly covered her mouth. Andy glanced at her.

“What d’you think, babe?” he asked. “Think some cookies will do the trick? I really don’t wanna get eaten.”

Jack looked from his mother to his father excitedly. April suppressed another laugh. God, she loved her boys so much…

“What choice do we have?” She sighed dramatically. “I really don’t want to get eaten. Cookies it is!”

“Phew!” Andy laughed. He stood up, taking Jack’s hand. “C’mon, mummy zombie witch…can I join you?”

“Sure daddy,” Jack nodded.

April watched the two of them round the corner to the kitchen. Her heart felt so full, she couldn’t stop herself from smiling even after they’d both disappeared from sight.

She loved this time of year so much.

Chapter Text

“Okay,” Andy paced around the living room, breathing hard. “Let me get this straight…”

Melody sat on the couch, staring at the ground. Beside her, Jack leaned back on the cushions, staring at the ceiling. He looked like he regretted getting involved in the first place.

April sighed. This would have been so much easier if Andy had stayed in his typical coma-like sleep. “Babe,” she sighed, “can we do this in the morning? It’s so late and you’re still sick.” Not to mention, she was exhausted herself from staying up and worrying.

“No!” Andy shook his head. “Honey, we have to handle this now.” He turned to his daughter. “Melly, you were out with a boy and you didn’t tell me. Then you come home late. You know the rules.”

“I know, dad—“

“I just…I can’t believe you of all people would do this.” Andy sneezed loudly. If he wasn’t so sick, he might be more intimidating. This was almost comical.

“It’s not a big deal,” Melody tried to plead, but the look April gave her was enough to shut her up.

“And Jack,” Andy turned to their son. “You were covering for her?”

Jack sighed and shrugged his shoulders. “I was trying to help. I was actually gonna go kick that guy’s ass if she wasn’t home soon, so I think you guys should be thanking me.”

April shook her head. “Really, Jack?”

“Thanks a lot,” Melody muttered, shooting Jack a look. “You were supposed to be the lookout.”

“Hey, you were supposed to be home on time!” Jack sat up. “Remember?”

“Who is this guy?” Andy asked. “Do we know him?”

“His name is Nick,” Jack said. “He’s a senior…I think he’s on the baseball team or something.”

“Jack, shut up!” Melody yelled now, throwing one of the pillows at him. She looked at her parents pleadingly. “Can you just punish me already? I just want to go to bed. I’m sorry I broke curfew, Daddy,” she looked at Andy specifically. “You can ground me if you want.” Her brown eyes were large as she blinked at him.

April had to admire her daughter’s effort. Her girls always knew how to keep Andy wrapped around their fingers, specifically when trying to avoid punishment.

“Well, um…” Andy looked at April, his frown suddenly gone. It was working. “I mean, she said she’s sorry, right babe?”

“Andy!” April shook her head. “That’s not how this works, and you know it.”

“If I remember correctly,” Jack interrupted, “all those times I broke curfew I was punished.”

“Jack, just go to bed,” April sighed. “We’ll talk to you about this tomorrow.”

Their eldest stood up and stretched, yawning wide. “Sounds good to me.” He tossed the pillow back at Melody. “Tell Nick that he better not bring you home late again, or else.”

“Just go,” April said again. Deep down, she was beyond grateful that her son was so protective of his sisters. Now wasn’t exactly the time to bring that up, though. She turned back to Melody and Andy.

“Mama, I’m sorry,” Melody said. “Really, I am. I didn’t know how late it was. I swear.”

April almost let her get away with it. Almost, and not totally, because she wasn’t going to forget that dread she felt. That worry that something could have happened, that fear that she might never see her daughter again. Maybe they were irrational, but it didn’t matter. In the moment, it had all felt too real. And now it was pretty obvious that Andy was going to be useless in the punishment department. “One week,” April said, finally. “Grounded. Now go to bed.”

Andy sighed, obviously exhausted. He nodded. “Your mom is right. I think that’s fair.”

Melody took a deep breath. Slowly, she stood and trudged up the stairs, not looking back at either of them. April watched her go, until she felt Andy’s arm wrap around her shoulder, pulling her into him.

“That was the right call, babe,” he said softly. “If I wasn’t feeling so lousy I’d be more clearheaded about this whole thing.”

“It’s fine,” April said. “She’s good at batting those eyes at you, though. Knows how to get you to cave.”

“Yeah, I’ve gotta be better about that,” Andy sighed.

“C’mon,” April said. “Let’s get you back to bed. I’ll talk to her again in the morning.”

“And I’ll talk to Jack.”

“About what?” April looked at him.

“Well, about how covering for your sister without telling us isn’t helping, but being an awesome big brother and worrying about her is pretty great.”

April smiled. No one told them having kids was going to be easy, but she liked to think that they’d done a pretty awesome job so far.