when all else fails
He could handle this; if he couldn’t last a day and a half with his nephew, how could he ever last if he had children of his own?
“Remember, his diapers are in his bag and he eats every few hours – but make sure that you feed him the bananas mushed up because he doesn’t have teeth yet, and then –“
“Pen, I got this,” James replied, juggling his nephew on his hip and balancing a diaper bag on his other shoulder. “What’s he allergic to, again?”
When she gaped at him, he laughed. “I’m just joking. Don’t worry, I can handle him. It’s only for two days, I’m sure that he’ll be fine.”
She looked at him dubiously, and he rolled his eyes in return, beginning to close the door. “Go do whatever you need to do at Mum’s. Eddie will be fine.”
Her last protests were drowned out with the closing of the door and his shout that they would be alright, before James turned to his nephew, who was sucking on his thumb. “Eddie,” he said evenly, “you won’t give me much trouble, will you?”
Eddie said nothing, which reassured James slightly, even if the boy hadn’t even learned to talk yet. He was only in charge of looking after Eddie for a weekend. Freya was mostly out on field work, which had irked her because she wanted to look after her godson, but James sort of liked getting to spend some time on his own with his nephew. Besides, he hadn’t got many chances to babysit when he was younger, so he was grateful for this opportunity to learn.
Unsure of what to do with babies, he carefully sat Eddie down on the sofa, propping him up on the back of it. Maybe Freya was right and the couch really was uncomfortable, because the second that James placed the baby down, he began wailing.
“Alright, alright, what’s up? Do you need a diaper change?” He began to tug on Eddie’s diaper to check, but the baby himself swatted him in the face and continued crying.
“Alright, food, then. Let’s go.” James scooped up the child and led him to the kitchen, where he placed him on a chair and then immediately conjured up a seat to work as a high chair. After strapping Eddie in and putting a bib around his neck, James rummaged through the pantry and emerged with a banana, which he chopped up into a bowl and mashed with a spoon.
He dragged a chair in front of the makeshift high chair and sat down, swirling his spoon around the bowl before emerging with a spoonful. “Okay, little man, time for,” he chanced a glance at the clock, “er, very late lunch or very early dinner.” He turned back to the baby and moved the spoon closer to his mouth.
Eddie stopped crying long enough to press his lips together, refusing to open them even when Jem poked his spoon gently at the baby’s lips. “Eddie!” He sighed and then picked up the spoon again, mimicking airplane noises with his lips as he drove the spoon closer again. No luck. The same occurrence happened when he tried to imitate train noises and even monkey noises, which shocked him because he thought that he’d gotten quite good at the last one.
“You’re not hungry. Fine,” James said, finally stepping back and placing the bowl on the counter. When he stepped away, the baby began to cry again, and the man cursed under his breath, taking Eddie out of the high chair and swinging him on his hip.
“If you’re not hungry and you’re not in need of a diaper change, what do you want?” he moaned aloud.
Eddie continued bawling, but finally, his uncle could make out something that actually made sense, “Mama!”
The blonde man sighed and tried to think of a way to explain to an infant that his mother was away and wouldn’t be back until the end of the next day, but he couldn’t think of a way to that would make Eddie stop crying – until, at least, he grabbed a family picture off of a nearby table. Penelope was at least three years younger in it, but he was able to quiet the infant by going, “Look, there’s your Mum!”
This made Eddie stop crying long enough to hold the picture frame and stare at it. Cautiously, as if he was holding his dog instead of his nephew, James placed him down onto the couch again and let him sit for a few moments as he grabbed the phone and began to dial in the number of his mother’s house, before he quickly stopped. He could handle this; if he couldn’t last a day and a half with his nephew, how could he ever last if he had children of his own? Reluctantly, he placed the phone back down and moved over toward his nephew to take a careful seat beside him.
Eventually, Eddie handed him back the picture frame and began staring at him, so James concluded that he was bored, and that was probably what the source of the crying was. He took back the picture frame and placed it down and, before the baby could start crying , he said, “Let’s go do something fun!”
Of course, this involved him placing Eddie beside Brutus, and the dog eagerly jumped onto the boy’s lap and began licking his face. At first, the boy was caught off guard, but he began giggling, which relieved James, who had been scared that he’d begin to cry again.
Soon enough, even this got boring, and the boy was still neither in need of a diaper change or something to eat. James, however, was – in need of something to eat, that was.
Placing the baby back into the high chair, he dragged him toward the counter and tried to teach him how to make a sandwich – and then immediately realized that he’d handed a baby a knife and took it away at once. Instead, James handed Eddie a potato to play with while he made himself a sandwich, and after realizing that Eddie had placed the potato into his mouth, the Unspeakable was neither angry nor disgusted, but impressed.
“You like potatoes?” He bent down to Eddie’s level, “I knew that we had to be related somehow!”
This was clearly a cue that he needed to make Eddie mashed potatoes for dinner (it was on the list of foods that Penelope had pre-approved and left him with). James eagerly began to boil a few potatoes on the stove, and turned on the wireless to entertain his nephew.
After a dinner that they both enjoyed (even if James was slightly sour that he had to throw out the one potato that Eddie had sucked on), Eddie needed a diaper change, and the man was glad that he finally had done something right in babysitting. Pen was going to be so proud when she got back to pick up her son and see how well James had done in babysitting.
That was what he had thought until that night, at least, when Eddie’s shrill cries interrupted him from his sleep. James Major had always been an incredibly deep sleeper, and to have his nephew’s voice break through that reverie and wake him up in confusion left him disoriented as he stumbled into the guest room, where he’d placed Eddie on the bed, surrounded by rows of pillows to keep him from falling off.
“What’s up? Diaper change?” He picked up Eddie and gingerly sniffed his diaper. To his relief, that wasn’t the case, but that also confused him again as he tried to figure out what was wrong.
It wasn’t that Eddie was hungry, either, and even waking up Brutus and trying to get the boy to play with his sleepy dog didn’t work either, so it couldn’t be boredom. In desperation, James had even held up the family picture in front of Eddie again so that he could see his mother, but this didn’t help as much this time.
James had finally taken to digging through the diaper bag and emerged with a sealed plastic envelope labeled ‘for emergencies’. “What’s this?” he asked aloud, if only to make sure that Eddie was still aware that he wasn’t alone in the room. James tore open the package in his violent, sleep-deprived way, and then sparkles burst from the pouch and rained down over the two of them.
Eddie stopped crying and began to giggle, and although James was grumpy and covered in glitter, he was relieved. It only lasted for about a minute, until Eddie’s fascination with the glitter seemed to wear off and he began bawling again, and James wanted nothing more than to get back to sleep, but he obligingly picked up his nephew and headed back downstairs.
“You want something else fun? Alright, I’ll read you,” his eyes skimmed his uni books, and he picked up Othello eagerly, “This is a fun one. You won’t get bored.”
To his confusion, less than five minutes after James began reading aloud to Eddie, the boy stopped crying and fell straight back to sleep. Too exhausted to move, James fell asleep there too.
They were both awoken by knocking at the door the next morning, and Eddie didn’t even cry, just blinked in sleepy confusion as his uncle sighed and opened the door, balancing the baby on his hip.
Penelope was there, and he blinked surprised blue eyes at her. “What are you doing? I thought you weren’t going to be back until tonight?”
“Mum’s thing finished up early, and I thought that I might as well get home to Eddie as soon as possible,” she replied quickly, and then held out her hands, so James placed the baby into her arms.
The little jerk actually giggled at her, in sharp contrast to his general wails of the day before when James picked him up, and the man found himself scowling absently.
“Is that glitter in your hair?” Penelope asked suddenly.
“No,” James declared.
In response, Pen reached out to brush some out of his hair. “Are those mashed potatoes on Eddie’s cheek? Were you reading him Shakespeare?” she asked, evidently trying to put all the pieces together from the two of them.
He shrugged off her queries. “I’ll get the diaper bag.” James disappeared and returned a moment later with it, packing up the last of the diapers that he’d accidentally scattered in his sleepy haste the night before.
“So, how was properly babysitting your nephew for the first time?” Penelope asked as she lifted the diaper bag onto her shoulder. “Think you can do it again?”
James stared at her. “Might want to ask Rob first,” he deadpanned.
“And pack more glitter next time?” Pen replied, quirking an eyebrow.
James scoffed at her and turned to his nephew, “It’s okay, little man. I’ll save you from the glitter and make you learn to love Shakespeare next time.”
Penelope laughed and turned. “It’s a long shot,” she called over her shoulder.
“I’ll try anyway!” James called back before he shut the door and collapsed against it in exhaustion.