Second Born by Lawenta
Characters: Rannon, Isokell, Karaon, Meimere
Summary: Following the birth of his daughter, Rannon reflects on the bewildering joy and dread of having his own family.
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Isokell with a newborn in her arms was much quieter than her usual unbreakable self. Wrapped around the small bundle of new life, nose buried in a tuft of still-wet hair.
He wondered if the little one smelled the same as Karaon had.
He resisted the urge to clear his throat. Karaon, under the hand settled on his shoulder, strained forward in barely contained curiosity.
“Isokell. Karaon is here.“
The smile she turned their way was bright and brittle around the edges.
“Karaon. Come. Meet your sister.“
The boy tiptoed to the bed and leaned forward, studying the new addition.
A lesser man would maybe be jealous, but there was nothing but pure smitten wonder in Karaon’s voice as he whispered, “She’s so tiny!“
Isokell lifted her free hand and found his hair, then his back. Karaon clearly took it as an invitation, because he kicked off his slippers and crawled under her arm. The baby fussed a little, then quieted when Isokell hummed to her, but she didn’t stop squirming. A tiny foot made its way from the bundle. It looked disproportionally narrow and long, the same Rylerion’s once was until he took on a little fat. Rannon couldn’t help but wonder whether it was a family resemblance, or all newborns looked like this.
He should have learned about newborns before he was presented with his own.
The flare of panic was brief and mercilessly suppressed like all the ones before it, but Isokell turned to him all the same, showing a smile that was far too knowing.
“Will you join us, my love?“
He shouldn’t even be here. This wasn’t what his life was supposed to be like, with a loving wife pale but swiftly recovering, a son whose generosity he couldn’t take the least credit for, and a daughter so new and fragile he barely dared to breathe around her.
He had a daughter. One he’ll have the chance to raise from the beginning, to give her everything a child deserved from her father.
To ruin her if he makes a mistake.
Isokell’s smile softened. There would probably be some gentle teasing if they were alone, but she wasn’t in the habit of revealing his weaknesses in front of Karaon.
In front of their children, now.
Of course, it was prudent not to let her wait, and he owed her his support, too. The first time he was let into the room, he barely took the time to see for himself that both she and his daughter were as healthy as reported before he excused himself to go for Karaon. Which, he maintained, was the right thing to do: the boy insisted on waiting for the birth since the evening, only to fall asleep shortly before dawn. They let him sleep while his sister was born with the rising sun, but he wouldn’t forgive them if they let him sleep any longer.
It still took conscious effort to make his body move towards the bed, and he half-knelt, half sat on the edge, by Isokell’s side.
“Father, look! Isn’t she tiny?“
“Yes. Yes, she is.“
A second too narrow foot joined the first on its uncoordinated struggle to get out of the bundle. For an utterly nonsensical instant, he was overcome with warring urges to wrap her back up for warmth, and not cover any part of her, ever, lest it seems he finds her any other but perfect.
Karaon just tickled the foot, giggled, and then stuffed the loosened corner of fabric where it belonged.
Right. It wasn’t supposed to be that hard.
Isokell shifted under the covers, rested her knee against his side, and drew Karaon a little tighter to herself.
He laid a hand against her thigh and squeezed – a wordless reassurance, because he wasn’t in the habit of revealing her weaknesses, either.
I’m here. This time, we are all here.
Isokell buried her face back into the bundle.
Their daughter, oblivious to the moment, kicked a foot free again, and began to whimper.