Loose Ends

By MaxCale

Romance

Lions, Tigers & Bears, Oh My!

Ricky woke up in a good mood. He was going to spend his afternoon with Amy and their son and he couldn't think of anything else he'd rather be doing today after work. As he went about his weekend routine of getting himself and John ready and fed he kept wondering how to figure out what Amy found romantic today. He still had no idea how to do it as he dropped John off at his mom's and headed to work but he was still in a good mood.

Ben picked up on this as he noticed Ricky had a little more pep in his step today and kept smiling. The image of Ricky with his family, with Amy and John, replayed in Ben's head for a moment before he snapped himself out of it. It still stung a little that Ricky now had nothing keeping him from getting even closer to Amy, but Ben decided he needed to focus on Adrian and their unborn child instead of making himself unhappy by dwelling on Amy and Ricky. Ricky could tell that something was on Ben's mind because he noticed that Ben seemed a little distracted and down today. He decided not to ask him about it. He and Ben hadn't quite restored their friendship yet so Ricky opted to just leave well enough alone unless Ben approached him about whatever was on his mind. Soon enough their workday was over and Ricky showered and changed before heading to pick up John. He decided to take John to the park for a little while before his nap since the weather was so nice.

Amy had spent her morning sleeping in and then tidying up around the house. Her room was a lot easier to clean now that there was less stuff in it and so she decided to really clean the boys' room as well. She smiled as she started sorting John and Robbie's toys into their respective toy boxes, amused at how well John got along with his uncle. She finished up and started a load of laundry. She came back into the kitchen and saw Ashley fixing herself some soup.

"Hey."

"Hey."

"So what are you up to today?" Amy asked her sister. Ashley shrugged.

"Just bummin' around the house for a bit. I might go read a book at the park later or something. You?"

"Ricky and I are taking John to the zoo after his nap. We haven't done a lot with just the three of us so we're gonna try and change that."

"Bring me back something."

"From the zoo?"

"What's wrong with souvenirs from the zoo?" Amy chuckled.

"Nothing I guess. What do you want?" Ashley shrugged again as she sat at the kitchen able to eat her soup.

"Surprise me." Amy shook her head in amusement and went upstairs to bum around on her computer until the laundry needed to be put in the dryer. She finished drying, folding and putting away two loads of laundry before it was time to head over to Ricky's. She arrived just as Ricky finished packing John's bag so they could head out.

"Hey," he greeted her after opening the door at her knock.

"Hey. All ready to go?" He nodded and locked the door behind him. He handed her John' stroller and they made their way downstairs. They all got into his car and made the short trip to the zoo. Ricky buckled John into his stroller as Amy placed his diaper bag in the basket below his seat. Ricky paid for their admission into the zoo and they were off. They decided to skip the sea life exhibits since Amy had taken John to the aquarium several days ago and instead headed straight for the children's zoo so John could interact with the animals. John kept swiveling his head around to see everything as Amy unbuckled him from his stroller and held his hand as they walked into the contact yard.

"Oooooooo," John said as he spotted a sheep and tugged away from his mother. Amy let him walk over to it and pet it.

"Be gentle, John," Amy cooed to him with a smile. She spotted a baby pygmy goat and pointed it out. "Look over there, John," she said while pointing at the little goat. "See the little goat?" John looked where she was pointing and smiled when he saw it too. He turned to Ricky.

"Dada, baby!" he informed him while pointing where Amy had been pointing. Ricky smiled at his son and nodded, letting John know he'd seen it too. Ten minutes later they were making their way towards the aviary enclosures to watch the birds fly about.

"Birdies, mommy!" he told her. Amy couldn't help but smile at his enthusiasm.

"Yep. Lots of birdies." A woman standing a few feet away from her with two children of her own giggled at the pure joy on John's face. John looked over Amy's shoulder and saw a turtle splash in some water. He pointed in its direction and Amy turned in the same direction. Seeing the splash, Amy and Ricky headed towards the amphibian area. John was craning his neck to try and see so Ricky took John and placed him on his shoulders. John squealed with glee when he was finally able to see the turtles better.

"Lookie, lookie!" he cried out with excitement, causing both of his parents to smile. "Mommy, lookie!"

"I see them, sweetie," she assured him.

"What animal is that, John?" Ricky asked him.

"Turdle!"

"That's right, buddy." John smiled and turned his attention back to the water. Two turtles were playing some type of tag and John laughed at their antics. Amy thought it was a Kodak moment and snapped a picture. After a few minutes they headed towards the snack bar area to use the restrooms and change John's diaper. When Amy emerged from the ladies' room she found Ricky and John seated at the snack area. He handed her a Snapple iced tea and hot dog after she sat down. She gave him a questioning look.

"John wanted a snack so we might as well join him," he told her. Amy smiled and ate her snack while John finished his animal crackers and juice.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked Ricky, reaching in her purse for her wallet.

"Don't worry about it; my treat."

"Thanks."

"You're welcome."

They finished their snack and Amy stopped at the gift shop to buy Ashley a souvenir before she suggested they head back towards the aviary and visit the butterfly enclosure. They made their way over and an employee informed them about the enclosure.

"Hello and welcome to the butterfly enclosure. You're about to be surrounded by live butterflies so there are several precautions we ask you all to take. 1) Please be gentle with our little friends. If they land on you don't brush them off harshly. 2) Please no flash photography as it can momentarily disorient the butterflies. 3) Before exiting the enclosure at the other end you will be asked to wait in a small holding room where a zoo employee will inspect your attire and bags to ensure none of our little friends are trying to go home with you. Any questions?" Amy and Ricky shook their heads and the employee opened the door for them. They passed through a small room, another holding room no doubt, before opening a door and walking into the enclosure itself. Amy gasped. The room was at least twenty feet tall with trees, plants and flowers all over the room. It gave the appearance that you had just walked into an actual forest; there was even a stream running throughout the room with a small waterfall. The glass of the ceiling let in the sunlight but somehow the room didn't feel overly hot or stuffy like a greenhouse. And the cheery on top was the thousands of butterflies fluttering around and resting among the flowers. Ricky watched Amy's face literally light up at the sight. He knew she liked butterflies but the look of childlike wonder and awe on her face at that moment told him that she didn't just like them-she loved them. John was a little nervous with so many butterflies flying around and snuggled into Amy's side for comfort. She turned to face him and kissed his forehead.

"It's alright, sweetie, they won't hurt you. Butterflies are small, and pretty, and gentle. You don't have to be afraid," she gently told him with a smile. Ricky took out his digital camera and started recording Amy interacting with the butterflies. John flinched when a butterfly came too close to his face and Amy held him a little tighter and rubbed his back to comfort him. She put her hand out to touch a monarch butterfly that was resting on a nearby bush when another one chose that moment to land on her hand. She giggled and slowly brought it a little closer to John. His curiosity got the better of him and he leaned forward to look at it more closely.

"See, John. The butterflies won't hurt you. Isn't it pretty?" John tentatively reached out a finger to touch it and managed to stroke one of its wings before it flew away. John's mouth opened in awe as his eyes followed its flight until it disappeared into a tree. He giggled and Amy laughed as well. They walked around slowly, stopping to let John look at any butterfly he saw and pointed out resting on a rock, flower, or tree branch. Amy and John were lost in their own little world for several minutes and Ricky just smiled as he continued recording them. They reached an area with tall grass and lots of flowers that had a sign letting them know they could lie down in the grass and watch the butterflies if they chose to. Amy put John down and took his hand as they walked into the grass. They sat down and watched butterflies flutter around them, landing on flowers or tall blades of grass before fluttering away. A rather large Red Admiral butterfly caught John's attention and he gasped before looking around for his daddy. Ricky was actually sitting right behind him, still recording.

"Dadda! Lookie!" he cried with excitement.

"I see it, buddy. It's pretty, huh?" John nodded and turned back to watch the butterfly. Ricky looked over at Amy and found her smiling at him and he could see nothing but peace and happiness in her eyes.

"Awwwwwwww," John suddenly cried, causing his parents to break eye contact and look at him. Apparently the Red Admiral had had enough of a rest and decided to flutter off.

"It's okay, John. There are still lots of butterflies around. Look," she told him while pointing at a Tiger Swallow that was fluttering in front of them. John put his hands down in front of him and leaned towards the butterfly as he watched it, a look of amazement and wonder on his face. Another Kodak moment Ricky thought as he snapped a picture of his son enraptured with a butterfly in front of him while his mother smiled next to him and pointed at it. As he looked at the faces of the two most important people in his life it hit him. Amy has a genuine love of butterflies. Whatever I do to let her know I appreciate her needs to involve or include these little guys. John crawled over to a nearby lilac bush to get a closer look at an Orange Sulphur butterfly and his parents just giggled at the sight of their son slowly crawling up to a butterfly and just staring at it. Ricky checked his watch and saw that it was close to closing time.

"We need to start heading out," he told Amy as he stood up. He offered her his hand to help her to her feet and she took it. She scooped up John and they made their way towards the exit at the other end of the enclosure. John began to fuss and pout when he realized they were leaving.

"We can come back another time, John. The butterflies will still be here," Amy assured him. He wasn't appeased and continued fussing. They waited as the zoo employee inspected their clothes and bags for stowaway butterflies and then Amy buckled John into his stroller. If he was going to start acting fussy then he could do it from his stroller. He whined as Ricky pushed the stroller out of the zoo and into the parking lot but decided to stop whining and just pout when neither of his parents acknowledged his whining. The drive back to Ricky's apartment was comfortably silent, Amy checking on John in the rear view mirror every so often. His grumpy mood had passed by the time they got back. Amy carried John's stroller up the stairs while Ricky carried John and his bag. As soon as Ricky opened the door and set John down he scurried over to his toys. Amy set the stroller down just inside the door.

"This was fun."

"I agree."

"Well, see you tomorrow night." Amy turned to leave and Ricky blanched. He didn't want Amy to go just yet.

"Stay for dinner."

"I can't." Ricky gave her a look that asked her to explain and she chuckled, remembering that so far the solution to rebuilding trust seemed to be family meals. "My parents feel that a good way to start rebuilding our family is to have dinner together every night, except Wednesdays when I'll be eating dinner with you or course." Ricky chuckled, realizing as Amy had that family dinners seemed to be the theme of the summer.

"Alright. Then I guess I'll see you tomorrow night."

"Yeah." She turned towards John. "Bye bye, John. Mommy will see you tomorrow."

"Bye, mommy!" She turned back towards Ricky.

"Bye, Ricky."

"Bye, Amy. Drive safe." She nodded and headed down the stairs. Ricky closed and secured the door with a sigh. Their afternoon together had been fun and relaxing. Sharing their son's joy and laughter like they had on his first birthday was nice. A touch of sadness washed over Ricky. I wish the day didn't have to end though he thought as he placed John in his play pen so he could prepare dinner.

Upon arriving home Amy went in search of Ashley. She found her sister in the living room watching some show about dolphins on the discovery channel while Robbie played on the floor nearby. He was the first to spot Amy.

"Amy!"

"Hi, Robbie! Whatcha doin'?" He held up his toy boat as though that was all the answer he needed to give and Amy just chuckled. "Hey, Ash. Got ya something." She held out a plastic bag towards her sister with the Los Angeles Zoo logo on it. Ashley smiled and took the bag from her. She pulled out her gift and burst into laughter, catching Robbie's attention. She continued chuckling as she held up a stuffed kangaroo with the words 'The Zoo's Really Hoppin' stitched into its pouch; Robbie went back to playing with his boat.

"Cute. Thanks, Ames." Ashley hugged her sister as George came into the living room.

"What was so funny in here?" Ashley held up her kangaroo and George gave her a quizzical look before looking at Amy with a look that asked for an explanation because he was obviously missing something. Amy giggled.

"I told Ash Ricky and I were taking John to the zoo today and she asked me to get her something."

"From the zoo?"

"Yes, from the zoo," the sisters said in unison. They made eye contact briefly before both saying "Jinx!" They dissolved into fits of giggles and George rolled his eyes at them but the girls could tell from his smile that he wasn't really irritated with their juvenile behavior. George was glad to see his girls getting along like sisters, even if it was due to something as juvenile as speaking in unison. Things are getting better around here he thought to himself as he headed into the kitchen to see if Anne needed any help with dinner.

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