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The Future Comes Alive
It has been fascinating to watch Glinda's body change with Delia's growth. All the clichés have applied; the odd food cravings, the disrupted sleep patterns, erratic hormones, etc.
Don't even get me started about the sorcery locks I've had to put on her…
Thankfully we're pretty well evenly matched in power and can cancel one another out if we must. Just as she occasionally must rein in my temper, I must periodically do the same for her. It's been an exhausting and exhilarating mental chess match since the transition between winter and spring when the pregnancy finally happened. Her moods are like the changing winds of winter, erratic and utterly unpredictable, but always fun to ride.
However if not for Missus Pew and the others, I would have gone stark raving mad. Not to mention gotten nothing done in over nine months!
The political-based paperwork really is not my strength and I rarely deal with it anymore as that's what Ary and the diplomatic corps are for. However, sometimes it's a necessary evil. Today, I cannot concentrate, despite Glinda holed up moodily in our rooms. There is a powerful headache building behind my eyes, like electricity before a lightning strike.
I really should have seen it coming. Really, I should have.
Kayen skitters on the hardwood floor outside my office, grabbing the doorframe to halt her fall, scrabbling at the door knob. It's amusing to see her so completely discombobulated and I grin.
My stomach drops out at my pal's wild smile and urgent gesturing to get my fanny in motion. Today I'm glad I'm in my old comfortable boots, because at least I can take the corners more gracefully than Kay's wool slippers. I even manage to beat her long legs up the stairs and into the suite, briefly sticking my tongue out at her squawk of outrage before ducking inside.
"Brat," she grumbles with no tooth as she catches up, but I'm already at Glinda's side, ignoring everything else.
"There you are," my wife grumbles, one arm slung protectively over her distended belly as she toddles awkwardly on Missus Pew's arm. I immediately take the matron's place and press kisses to the blonde ringlets. "I believe that our little precious is in a hurry all of the sudden."
There is no mistaking the growling annoyance and sarcasm, but I wisely choke down my amusement and instead concentrate on checking the wards surrounding the rooms. No need for Glinda to try and tear the building apart while in the grips of birthing contractions.
Speaking of which… she hisses and stops her slow pacing, her body vibrating in a completely peculiar manner, like a shudder of cold from crown to toes, and the most amazing sound echoes up deep from within her small body. There's no word, just an animal-like huff of sound that speaks far more eloquently than words. The feral energy transfers from her to me and my body shudders in sympathy.
The wards vibrate in my mind where they are centered, echoed in the magical barriers around us, and Chackle is allowed through along with her nearly-grown son. They greet me, but I have attention only for what hangs from Tolo's mouth.
"Oh bless you, Tolo," I whisper and retrieve the offered circlet to press it over my skull, drinking in the additional power and focus that washes over me. I have never put a specific magical intent in the circlet like the portable hole, but it has adapted itself to my needs over the last year. It's an invaluable tool and allows me to concentrate on Glinda, not maintaining the wards. Cupping the young Cheetah's cheek, I smile lovingly at him. "You're a lifesaver, little brother."
Clearly embarrassed and pleased by the sentiment, Tolo puffs up importantly like the adolescent that he is. "Mother knew that I would be the fastest. So I'm to be the runner for the others, so that they know what's happening."
"Good man," I compliment, but all other conversation is forgotten as another contraction hits and Glinda makes that noise again. "Go tell them it's happening. Go!"
And the boy is gone with a speed impressive even for him.
Oh, some part of me understood the inevitability of this whole pregnancy process, sure. But the sensation of my body no longer being quite my own is like nothing I could imagine. I can't even be embarrassed or even care that Chackle and Missus Pew are stripping me from the waist down, Kayen scooping up my swollen body to deposit me on that bizarre birthing-chair contraption. All I care about is the pressure in my guts and Elphie's hand crushed in mine.
Some part of me feels the shift in magical energies as Elphie gets the circlet on and reinforcements arrive on the outside of the wards, Madame Stalia no doubt. Time and perceptions are blurry, the part of me that is more than just animal fading away with the destiny of this moment with my daughter.
Elphaba is right here with me, pressed to my shoulder and arm, both hands around mine, her breath on my scalp, hot and cool by turns. Within and without, she surrounds me, calms me, supporting this earthquake, this firestorm of pain and pressure, drawing away all but the feral calm that grips me.
It could be moments or lifetimes.
I know I'm howling like an animal, the whole of the structure around us fighting to keep me contained, Elphie's bared teeth pressed hard against my skull, determined to be my rock in this flood.
And it breaks like a flood, exploding over the land with devastating energy and power, forever altering me.
My scream is echoed back.
Slowly, the flood recedes back, my body's terrain feeling the changes, becoming aware of itself again. The pressure is waning, pain and exhaustion pulsing through me, being gently drawn away by my beloved, just as she is pressing kisses to take the heat from my cheeks.
"That was amazing," Elphie finally breathes, kissing me softly and I open my eyes to focus on her beautiful, dark gaze.
"Is it over?"
My weak voice earns chuckles and I'm aware of movement, Missus Pew tying a bit of string tight to the rope of umbilical cord from the wriggling bundle in Kay's hands that I can't quite make out, then Chackle's sharp teeth severing the cord neatly.
Then, none of that matters as Kay approaches, though all I see is her cradling hands, and passes to my weakened arms, propped up by Elphie's strong hand, the new life we have waited so long to meet.
Sunlight pours into the room as the curtains are pulled away and I note the baby reacts as well, cringing from the brightness. Tiny fists rub at her wrinkled face, pawing at the silky cheeks the color of green apple skins. Breathing out something incoherent, Elphie reaches out a single finger, her darker green elegant in contrast to this new child's paler echo. The fists lash out with surprising dexterity to latch on, her tiny voice mewing, the crystal blue eyes fluttering fully open to regard us both soberly.
"Oh Glin," Elphie whispers in awe, "She's perfect."
The eyes so like my own flicker from my gaze to Elphie's and back again, just as fascinated with us as we are with her.
"Hello Delia," I murmur and a smile quirks over the tiny face at my voice. "We've been waiting for you for a long time."
Our voices are enough to break through her staring and she tugs weakly at Elphie's finger, whining expressively.
"She's hungry, poppets," Missus Pew says gently, startling us both. I'd completely forgotten they were here! Elphie chuckles and gently retrieves her trapped finger to pull the laces on my abused nightgown loose.
"And the mundane reasserts itself again," she mutters in mock sarcasm I only note distantly, completely enraptured with Delia. Even Kay sliding strong arms under my knees and behind my back to carefully pick me up and transfer me to the bed barely registers on my perceptions. A swollen breast has escaped as Kay ducks away and Elphie slips into the bed to press herself along my side and stroke Delia's wild tuft of inky hair.
"You'll have to coach her through her first feeds," Missus Pew's voice coaxes and I'm dimly aware of the others moving about in the room. Tucking Delia's head up a bit closer to my upper arm gets her close enough that Elphie can reach over and get the soft little mouth where she needs to be. The sensation is altogether different from Elphie's mouth and the tiny little nose wrinkles in annoyance, Delia's soft voice grumbling. Then everything falls into place as I feel the pressure in my breast alter, fluids being drawn off by the suddenly busy little mouth.
Immediately, her tiny body slows and stills, her face becoming utterly peaceful, her little spring grass hands flexing gently against my pale skin. I don't even try to stop the tears, only turning away from the miraculous sight to bury my face in Elphie's thick mane.
Child Of Mine
They're not tears of distress, but just another form of release from the intensity of this event. My eyes have hardly been dry all afternoon. The birth has gone extraordinarily well, particularly since this is a first time and Glinda is so physically small. But, like the whole pregnancy, things have gone just about perfect.
Like any warm-blooded pup, no matter how they might be shaped, this one understands how to suckle very quickly. This activity is the center of her universe and her entire little body is focused on the task. Glinda grows heavier and heavier against my skull and shoulder, her breath easing into sleep.
The sudden appearance of Missus Pew and Chackle startles me into looking up at them. "She'll need to switch sides, Elphaba," the elder smiles and reaches down to expertly pluck up Delia's tiny body, the baby squawking in outrage at the jostling. Glinda jerks awake and I automatically calm her.
"Shh, it's okay, My Sweet. We're just shifting her."
"Mmm hmm," she hums trustingly and once more sags into me as Delia is settled again to drain the other breast, calming instantly.
"Smart child," Missus Pew compliments, caressing the inky hair and giving me a smile. "You'll watch over them?"
I nod absently.
"Good. Their safety is in your hands now. I'll be seated over there by the fire with Chackle for a bit in case we're needed."
Grabbing the woman's hand as she begins to retreat, I smile tearfully up at her. "Thank you," is all can force past the lump in my throat.
"Child, you both are like daughters to me. And this little one will fit right in. Relax and soak it all up now." Then she surprises me by leaning over to press a kiss to my forehead, then one to Glinda's sweaty curls before retreating.
As the minutes tick by, Delia's busy feeding slows, the clockwork flexing of her strong little jaw winding down. Eventually she drops off mid-suck, completely limp on her mother's chest. Good thing too, because I'm getting a crick in my neck the way Glinda is leaning so heavily on me.
"They're out," I say quietly into the dimming room and my companions come over quietly to scoop up Delia's little body and take her to the other side of the room. That leaves me to coax Glinda to lie flat, tucking her in, stroking her face and curls to soothe her back to healing sleep. Pressing a soft kiss to her relaxed lips, I stare for a long moment at this dear love of mine. "I love you. You were terrific."
She mumbles something and tries to scoot closer, wincing even in sleep.
"She's sore," Chackle says quietly and levers herself on gentle paws placed on the edge of the bed. "Birthing is hard work."
Feeling dense and a little stupid, I restrain from slapping my own forehead and carefully shimmy away from Glinda's loose hold. There are fewer needs for my healing skills anymore, though I donate my time and energies to anyone that can get my attention and needs it. The words to the healing spells are rote now, barely requiring even minimum thought, more body memory than anything else. Breathing over the stressed muscles and tissues of my wife's body, I trace her outline through the blankets, listening to her moan softly before falling completely limp and restful.
"Good girl," Chackle smiles at me and I move to stand and stretch. "Would you like to hold your daughter?"
In Missus Pew's arms is little Delia, still sound sleep, dressed in her fuzzy white sleeper with patterns of animal tracks stitched into it in bright colors. "Just make sure to support her head and you'll be fine," the matron advises me and carefully hands over the innocent life to be snuggled close to my body.
I'm in awe of her.
Seeing the near-adult that this baby will become had not prepared me for this moment. To see her, hold her in parental adoration, watch her peaceful face, has altered me fundamentally.
Jerking awake, I'm dizzily disoriented for a long moment. But, no, this is my bed, my room, the smells here familiar and welcome. Then I realize why I feel so odd.
I'm sleeping on my side.
Being so hugely pregnant has completely ruined my favorite sleeping position. Raising my head confirms my hazy memories of the birth, despite the utter lack of pain and fatigue in my body.
In the glow of the rising sun through the window, Elphie cradles baby Delia, perched on the strong green forearms so that they can watch each other. Delia sucks on one fist and watches her Mimi with rapt attention. I can only do the same, because…
Because Elphie is singing.
Soft and surprisingly lovely, her sweet voice fills the cozy room, a simple wordless tune that means nothing and everything.
Then, as though still attuned to my body, Delia jerks like a hiccup and I can see her bright eyes shifting in my direction.
"What's that, Fae-girl?" Elphie smiles at the infant, who waves her arms and squeals happily. "Your mama is awake? Are you sure? Or is that just your tummy talking?"
Just the suggestion makes my chest ache and I roll out of bed to stretch luxuriously. "I feel surprisingly wonderful." Barefoot, I pad over to my girls, stripping the dirty nightgown over my head. "Do I have you to thank for that?"
Accepting my loving kiss, Elphie grins when I let her breathe again. "No. Chackle."
Delia rests quietly on Elphie's crossed knees, held carefully in those competent hands and I smile at her and stroke the soft head. "Hey you, my sweet thing. You look like you had a nice night with your Mimi. Did she eat?"
"Yes. Twice in fact. You slept right through it."
"You let me sleep? Elphie!"
"Darling, you needed it. I might be able to heal your pain, but not your fatigue. You have a whole lifetime with this cub. Including now, if her chattering indicates that she's once again voracious."
Carefully balancing the baby on one outstretched forearm, cradling the tiny skull in her palm, Elphie grabs me and tugs me into her lap. "We'll squish you!" I object, but don't fight her.
"Squish away, my love. I have no desire to be separated from either of you right now. Probably not for a good, long time." In a dexterous motion, Delia is deposited on my torso and Elphie reaches back over her head to grab the throw blanket that decorates the back of the overstuffed chair we now crowd and drapes it over my nakedness.
Once Delia finds a nipple, she settles in, making pleased noises deep in her throat and I can't help but smile in total adoration. The contrast and completion of our mixed skin tones awes me, the emerald and pale of my love and I mixed to the lovely palate of this new life. Fingers twined, Elphie and I shelter this much anticipated change in our lives, utterly content with the world.
"Glinda, my darling?" Elphie purrs against my scalp and I shiver in pleasure.
"Happy day after Winter Solstice."
To Be Continued…