Title: D is for Drive (response to the third alphabet challenge)

Author: kingmissy

Subject: Lee goes for a very early morning drive with a female companion

Rating: G

Disclaimer: Characters belong to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Productions. I just play with them, without getting paid for it.

Warning: None

Timing: After the end of the show

Genre: VSS

Feedback: Please! On list or off are equally fine. Suggestions on major points and criticism are even more welcomed than references to small points and praise. Everything I write is a work in progress.
Please do me the favor of considering yourself my beta on the fly and send it on!

Archive: smkfanfic and with Teddy Stetson's fictive aunts. Others please ask.

Notes: A story detail (Lee's first word) is borrowed, with the author's permission, from Ann's excellent story, "Before the First Time," archived at Blue Boxers and Beyond. The description of Jenny's behavior is based on observations of a child that I know and on Ann Cronin's discussion of her daughter in the article "Asynchronous Parenting."

Thanks: to Lindsey, Jacqueline, Chris, and Ann for their helpful comments. Special thanks to Kim, the wizard of oomph, for adding so much, and to Vikki, whose expert knowledge about infants spared me from making Jenny Stetson's infant development completely and embarrassingly anomalous.


Lee Stetson groggily stirred at the sound of his daughter's plaintive wail coming through the baby monitor. Amanda shifted in his arms and sighed wearily, then moved to get out of bed. "I'll get her," she announced, stifling a yawn.

Lee kissed the back of his wife's neck and murmured, "Sleep; I'll do it. It's my turn, anyway." Reluctantly abandoning the warmth of the comforter and Amanda's body, he struggled to wake up as he stepped into a pair of sweatpants and shrugged on a sweatshirt.

By the time he reached the nursery, his daughter's cries had escalated to insistent shrieks. Lee wondered if he had put his own parents through countless sleepless nights. He had a feeling that he had, and silently thanked them for putting up with him.

As much as he adored his daughter, Lee recognized that Jennifer was not what would be considered an "easy" baby. During Amanda's pregnancy, he had dutifully read several books about infancy, child development, and early parenting. Whatever expectations the authors of those books had instilled in his mind, Jenny had quickly and thoroughly shattered. She spent far more time awake than the so- called experts had predicted. She actively fought against sleep, and she usually ended up passing out from sheer exhaustion.

While the authorities advocated limiting stimuli to calm an infant, Jenny instantly responded with rage to any reduction of light, sights, or sounds. While other infants gently waved their arms and legs in the air, Jenny squirmed and writhed, while observing everything around her with a startling intensity. The pediatrician termed the child "hyper-alert" and "precocious."

In his own mind, though, Lee thought of his daughter as a strong-willed person with a very low boredom threshold, an abundance of energy, and a distinct lack of tolerance for the limited mobility experienced by babies.

Jenny was, naturally, unable to move about with much independence, but she was already highly skilled at coercing others into doing her bidding. Although Lee seldom had time to go running anymore, he was definitely getting more exercise from walking, bouncing, rocking, and lifting his daughter than he'd ever gotten before she was born. Fortunately, she had come into a household containing two parents, a live-in grandmother, and two teenage brothers. A single parent, Lee thought, would probably have gone deaf, dropped dead of exhaustion, or gone insane before Jenny had mastered a vigorous crawl.

Leaning over the crib, Lee looked down on his small daughter and felt his heart warm at the sight of her. Gently, he scooped her up into his arms. "What is it this time, beautiful?" he asked her in a soothing voice. "Are you hungry, wet, or just bored?" As soon as he picked her up, Jenny's raging screams gave way to a few hiccuping gasps, and then she quieted. A quick check confirmed that her diaper was dry. He held a pacifier against her lips, but she indignantly spat it away. That, and the fact that Amanda had breastfed her less than an hour ago, confirmed that hunger wasn't the problem, either. No, Miss Jennifer Stetson had decided that
4:00 a.m. was a perfectly good time to be awake and alert. The collection of busy boxes and other infantile amusements fastened around her crib simply wasn't holding her attention. She wanted, no, she demanded, to be on the move.

Wearily, Lee rubbed his eyes and considered his options. He could spend hours pacing, singing every song he knew, and talking to his daughter, wearing down carpets that were already becoming threadbare due to this now-familiar routine. Or, he could take her for a drive.

Deciding on the latter option as the most acceptable for both of them, Lee cradled his daughter carefully in one arm and gathered warm garments for her with his free hand. Softly singing "Happy Trails to You" and making goofy faces at her, he managed to keep her mind off her discomfort as he dressed her in additional layers of clothing. In fact, she seemed to sense that she'd once again gotten her way, and cooed and gurgled happily at him the entire time.

Moving quietly, he tiptoed downstairs, carefully positioning Jenny so that she would have the clear view that she demanded of the world. At the foot of the stairs, Lee toed into a pair of shoes and scrawled a note for Amanda on the whiteboard in the dark entryway. He scooped up his key ring and Jenny's car seat, and headed out the front door into the chilly pre-dawn air.

Lee stepped in front of his car with Jenny happily wiggling and gurgling in his arms. While Amanda insisted that Jenny's apparent preference for the passenger seat of the Corvette over the back seat of the Wagoneer was simply due to her father's good mood when he drove the 'Vette, Lee was certain that his daughter had inherited her old man's unparalleled good taste in cars. He had no doubt at all that Jenny could discern the difference between the rattling of the oversized sedan and the smooth motion of the sleek sports car. He wondered if Jenny's first word would be 'car,' as his mother had
reported about him in her diary. 'No,' Lee decided, concentrating on keeping a firm hold on his energetically squirming offspring, 'Jenny will probably start with a verb.' His bet would be on the word 'Go!'

After carefully fastening his daughter into her infant car seat, Lee slipped into the driver's side of the car and slid a cassette entitled "The Gentle Side of John Coltrane" into the tape player. He remembered telling Amanda, when his Porsche had careened down the side of a cliff, that you didn't love a car, but you sure did get attached to it. Since the birth of his demanding daughter, Lee had found a whole new reason for being attached to the Corvette.

"Ready, kiddo?" Lee asked, glancing across at his daughter as he headed the car down the driveway. In response, Jenny crowed with delight, her hazel eyes dancing. "I suppose by the time you're three, you're gonna want to drive this thing," he teased whimsically. He lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper and added, "If you don't tell your mom, we could discuss the terms."

Jenny squealed eagerly. Smiling in amusement, Lee turned off onto the dirt road in front of their house and drove off into the night.