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Like Taking Candy

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Jess is sitting in the middle of the living room with a baby. Like it's perfectly normal. Nick closes the door, drops his keys in the bowl, and clears his throat warily.

"Jess," he says pleasantly. "Why the hell do you have a baby?"

"Oh hey, Nick!" Jess says brightly, and stops pretending to eat the baby's toes long enough to look up at him. "Baby, this is Nick. Nick, this is … Baby."

Nick circles the couch, undoing the buttons on his shirt 'til it hangs open over his undershirt. He flops down on the end of the couch farthest away from Jess and the child thing.

"The baby doesn't have a name?" he asks.

 "I'm thinking of calling her Moonpie," she says thoughtfully. "Or maybe Josephine."

"Jess," he says in his best you're-a-crazy-person-but-I'm-going-to-act-calm voice. "Where'd you get the baby?"

"Nick," she says back, mimicking his tone. "I found her."

The baby has been staring at him silently, sucking on her fist (at least Nick thinks it's a she -- trust Jess to put pink socks on a baby boy to challenge gender binaries or whatever), but now she whimpers and starts to fuss.

"Oh!" Jess says, "I forgot!" She jumps up and thrusts the baby at him.

"No, wait, wha--" Nick says but it's too late, he's already holding her and Jess has dashed over to the kitchen.

"I was making her a bottle," Jess says and grabs something out of the microwave.

"Is that breast milk in our microwave?" Nick says. "Please tell me you didn't just heat breast milk in our microwave."

Jess ignores him and does something inscrutable to the bottle. In his arms the baby twists around to try to see Jess, and then turns back to stare at him. Her hand is super tiny and curled into a fist. He touches it with one finger and then makes a face. Drool. Gross.

"Here," Jess says, suddenly behind him, and scoops up the baby and a throw pillow all in one motion.

"Let's set her up like this," she says and plops the pillow on his lap so it's tilted slightly toward him, and lies the baby down gently on top of the pillow. Turns out she's weirdly good with babies. Typical.

"So first you test the bottle like this," she says, upending the bottle and letting a couple of drops fall on the inside of her wrist. "To make sure it's not too hot or cold."

On his lap the baby kicks against his stomach.

"And then you give it to her, like this," she says, and gets the bottle into his hand before he knows it, and guides it into her mouth.

The baby latches on immediately and starts gulping down the milk faster than he would have expected. She's stopped kicking and instead has made unbreakable eye contact with him while she eats. Drinks. Whatever. He finds himself weirdly unable to look away.

Jess adjusts the angle he's holding the bottle at and then sits back against the arm of the couch, watching them with her head tilted thoughtfully.

"Where did you actually get this baby?" he asks, but more softly.

Jess sighs like he's ruining her fun.

"It's my friend Sasha's sister's. I'm babysitting so they can get mani/pedis. But wouldn't it be better if I just found a baby? And then we had to all bring it up together, like on a sitcom?"

The baby hiccups, but doesn't slow down.

"Winston could teach her a mean free throw," he says. "Schmidt would… teach her terrible pick-up lines?"

"Or worse," Jess says darkly.

She takes a breath like she's about to say something else, but doesn't. Nick almost looks over at her, but he can't tear himself away from these crazy baby eyes, still looking up at him so intently. It's late afternoon, sunlight streaming in through the windows and making the room warm and bright. Nick doesn't say anything and neither does Jess and for a while they just sit there, watching the baby eat.