Call It "Motherly Instincts"
Description: There were only so many things that could go wrong for the mission, one of which was not calculated until it had already happened. After Chief takes a blow from an odd gun-like machine for the Arbiter, he's turned into a tiny baby, and needs time before he returns back to his normal age; but that's okay, because the Arbiter seems to have gotten attached to him... even if he is a worthless demon.
A/N: Please oh please R it would really make my day!
It was just like any other mission, that's what Keyes had promised the Arbiter and Master Chief ten seconds before they were hurled into battle. In short, it wasn't like any other mission. Arbiter now stood tall above a motionless Master Chief, who was seemingly dead, laid flat on his back after being hit full force in the chest by an odd beam rifle, which seemed oddly different from the usual beam rifles. Arbiter rubbed a hand over his own armored chest, feeling where the beam had meant to hit, but Chief had seen the shot as it was fired and had taken the hit for Arbiter, pushing the Sangheili out of the way.
Master Chief had been hit without mercy, being tossed backwards and through two thick trees before he skidded in the dirt and landed heavily on his back, now unmoving on the hard, cold ground. Arbiter stared at Chief, not really knowing how to feel. Should he be sorry? No; the Demon had been a fool, taking a hit like that and expecting to survive. Should Arbiter feel remorse? Of course; the Demon had once been Arbiter's sworn enemy, but had recently proven himself to be a truly noble and powerful partner in the field of battle.
Just as Arbiter was ready to call in for someone to help collect the body, Chief moved, at least, his chest bounced a bit. The Arbiter's eyes widened as he knelt down, staring intently at Chief's chest plate armor. "Demon?" He asked, poking at the armor carefully. "Are you alive?"
There was a high-pitched whine, followed by a loud struggle from Chief. Thinking the Chief was in danger, Arbiter yanked off Chief's chest plate, only to come across a rather... odd sight. "Demon?" He asked, staring down at the two year old human before him oddly. "Is that truly you?"
The little boy stared at Arbiter, still wearing the helmet, but the rest of his tiny body was covered by a massive, grey T-shirt. "Dada?" The baby asked, making grabby hands at the Arbiter. "Up!"
Arbiter looked completely shocked, he'd never seen a human baby before. Sure, he had heard of them and had once seen a picture or two of them, but never a real one up close before. Chief was about the size of an average infant, seeing as he had been experimented on when he had gotten a bit older, so none of his SPARTAN abilities had yet to kick in. Chief seemed amazed by the Arbiter, and although his helmet covered his small head, he still stared idly up at the Sangheili.
After a few moments more, Arbiter easily picked up the baby, who was barely bigger than his four-fingered hand. "Demon... how has this happened?" He asked, but knew he wouldn't get an answer. "... I'll call for assistance." He decided, yanking out his communicator quickly, a hotline straight to Rtas 'Vadumee. "Rtas, I need an immediate pick-up!"
"What's wrong?" Rtas asked, his voice sounding just a bit worried for the Arbiter. "Is the Demon alive?"
"Yes... I think? Just get over here!" Arbiter yelled, slamming off the communicator with a huff. Today was not his day.
Apparently, the yelling wasn't a good thing in Chief's mind, considering that the infant immediately began sobbing as loudly as possible. Arbiter sighed, hanging his head as he held the tiny human baby.
Today was truly not his day.
"Is this some kinda sick joke?" Johnson asked angrily, staring at the tiny baby in Arbiter's arms with a questioning gaze. "I never took Chief for being a jokester."
"I assure you human, this is by no means one of your human 'jokes'." Arbiter said, holding the child close to himself. "I found the Demon within this condition, and have no way to fix him."
Keyes sighed, giving the tiny baby a long look before her brow furrowed. "Why is his helmet still on?" She asked, looking a tad concerned. "That could hurt him."
Arbiter nodded in acceptance, making a move to remove the helmet, but Chief let out a loud and tear filled whine, holding onto the helmet with his tiny hands aggressively. "No!" He whined, holding on tightly to the piece of armor.
"Looks like a bit of Chief is still in there." Johnson said, chuckling at the look on Arbiter's face.
Keyes nodded in agreement. "We'll have to wait for results. Until he either changes back on his own or we find a cure, we're stuck with a tiny version of the Chief." She explained, making a move to grab the baby. "I'll take ca-"
Arbiter growled at her, making everyone around step back in surprise, heck, even Arbiter seemed confused. "I... apologize, I do not know why I reacted in such a manner."
Rtas, who had been watching from a distance, stood beside the Arbiter, eying how the baby had let go his helmet and was now clinging to Arbiter. "I believe you've become attached, Arbiter."
"Excuse me?" Johnson asked, raising an eyebrow at the two Sangheili before him. "You telling me that the Arbiter here is Chief's new mother?"
"I... do not understand the term 'mother'." Arbiter deadpanned, looking as confused as the rest of the marines.
Keyes sighed, rubbing her temple. "Mother is the term we use for female humans with offspring... I'm sure there's one for Elites too."
"I see." Arbiter said, puffing up his chest a bit as he tried to look taller. "I'm honored to have such a title of an offspring's caretaker. Such a role is well respected and appreciated among my people."
It took everything in the space marines and Johnson not to die laughing, struggling violently to cover their mouths and not laugh at the Arbiter, who had no idea that the term had been meant as an insult somewhat from Johnson. Keyes rolled her eyes, not as amused as the other men in the room. But still... there was the matter of getting the Chief from Arbiter, which apparently wasn't an option if the Arbiter had really gotten 'attached' to him, as Rtas had put it. However, Keyes had no way of knowing if attached was the same in terms for Elites as it was for human beings of Earth. After a moment, she sighed in defeat, turning away from the Elites.
"Just... don't hurt him. We have no idea if it's reversible or not. Until further notice, I suppose it wouldn't hurt too much if the Elites watched the Chief... at least until everything is sorted out." Keyes decided, receiving a few worried looks from her subordinates, to which she smirked. "Hey, if you have a problem with it, you try and take Chief from the Arbiter." With that, she left.
Johnson and the marines exchanged a few glances, most pointed towards Arbiter and the five other Sangheili surrounding him. With a few sighs, everyone left, deciding that no one was willing to tangle with a bunch of Elites.
"Please, cease your crying, Demon." Arbiter ordered softly, rocking the tiny Chief as he attempted to calm him down.
"Have you tried calling him John?" Johnson asked, raising an eyebrow at the Elite before him.
Arbiter looked puzzled before looking down at Chief, clearing his throat. "John." He said quietly, rocking the baby a bit more. "John, cease your tears."
Soon, Chief calmed down, staring at Arbiter curiously once more. The Arbiter sighed a breath of relief, giving Johnson an odd look. "Why did the name affect him in such a way?" He asked.
"It's his name, dumbass." Johnson said bluntly, walking away as he popped in a cigar. "I think you should feed him soon... or change him, whatever works."
Arbiter gave John a long look, locking eyes with the baby. "De- John, tell me, what is it you need from me?"
John was dead quiet, tilting his head in thought as he stared right back at the Arbiter, helmet still covering his head securely. Arbiter sighed loudly, slapping down in a seat in the mess hall as he contemplated what to do. He couldn't go on any missions, a battle was no place for an infant, and for reasons beyond Arbiter's control, he didn't want to leave the child's side. Arbiter gazed at the other Sangheili, a few of which had made friends with the humans and were apparently talking on and on about home life. When one marine mentioned he had a child, Arbiter shot up, hoping to get advice from the man.
Strolling over to him, Arbiter gazed down at the man, who he briefly remembered was the smallest in his squad. "Human, tell me, what must I do to care for the Demon?" He asked, holding out John expectantly.
The man stared, eyes wide with fright. "I... um... maybe give him a bath, I dunno!" He yelled, ducking away from the monster of a Sangheili that was the Arbiter.
"How?" Arbiter asked, looking perplexed.
The man soon calmed down a bit more, quickly realizing that the Arbiter didn't intend to eat his insides or anything like that. "Well, you've got to get a bath set up. Just use hot water in a tub or sink, he isn't big enough to be in a tub yet though, so- hey, where are you going?" He asked, watching the Arbiter run off with John, apparently knowing what to do.
Ten minutes later and Arbiter was alone with John in the showers. He had dragged in an old tub after locating it inside the compound, and was now without his armor in the full tub, holding John to his chest as he tried washing the poor child off. He had managed to somehow talk John into giving up the helmet, and was now witness to the child's ivy colored eyes and bright brown hair. John was still, apparently calmed by the water, and allowed the Sangheili to gently wash him off. The Arbiter sighed as he finally stopped, simply resting in the comfortable water.
"I hope that you return to normal soon, Demon." Arbiter mumbled, sounding tired and exhausted from dealing with a baby for the last five hours. "How those human 'mothers' deal with this, I'll never know."
John simply tilted his head, as he seemed to do a lot when it involved the Arbiter. "Papa." He said, pointing at the Arbiter blankly.
"I do not understand." Arbiter stated, giving John a weird look. "I do not understand alot of the things you tell me, Demon. You say all of these things... I wish I understood."
"Papa!" John said louder, suddenly hugging Arbiter's hand tightly, seeing as he couldn't do much in his current position.
Arbiter sighed, smiling almost at the tiny human. "I guess I don't need to understand everything..." He whispered to himself, watching as John poked curiously at his mandibles. "Curious, aren't you, Demon?" He inquired, still watching as John investigated the appendages.
After awhile, Arbiter finally got out, drying them both off before getting himself and John dressed. Afterwards, he left the showers, hoping to get something to eat for the duo.
The barracks were silent as Arbiter slept soundly, John curled into a ball in his arms as the Sangheili slept on his back, his breathing even and calm. However, after multiple whimpers from John, Arbiter shot up, calming down once he was sure that no one was attacking the fort. Looking down in his arms, Arbiter was surprised to find that whatever technology that had been used on John was slowly wearing off, allowing Chief to now be the age of about seven by Arbiter's guess. He sat the boy up, looking into Chief's ivy colored eyes.
"What's wrong, Demon?" He asked, facing the small boy.
"Nightmares." John muttered, scotching in closer to Arbiter, he sounded like he was trying to hide just how scared he had been. "Can't sleep."
Arbiter nodded, adjusting himself to leave more room for the now bigger child. "Sleep will come, Demon. For now, relax your mind, rest will come to you faster this way." He suggested, relaxing his own body a bit as an example.
John tried to curl himself like Arbiter, but sadly, he wasn't as bending as the older man. "'Kay." He said after a bit, resting his head against the Arbiter's chest softly. "Goodnight, Arby."
"Don't call me that." Arbiter ordered, but his words fell on deaf ears, seeing as John had already snoozed off. "Young Demon... let's hope you return to your normal self soon, I do not know how much longer I can take this strangeness."
The next morning, the Arbiter found that Master Chief had disappeared, no longer serving as a small body of warmth on his chest. He bolted up at once, mandibles wiggling a bit as he smelled around, attempting to catch the Demon's scent. The other Elites watched curiously, one of the females snickering (That was the best way to describe it in human terms) and rolling over, already used to 'odd behavior' ever since they had teamed up with the humans. The Arbiter searched frantically, looking under beds and turning tables over. No luck.
"I think he left." One of the younger Sangheili said, pointing at the open barrack door cautiously. "Perhaps he required food?"
The Arbiter nodded his thanks, taking off out of the room, only to collide into Keyes. He stopped, helping the young captain to her feet. "My apologies, captain; I was searching for the Demon."
"I know." Keyes said dryly, rubbing her head after her little collision. "He's somewhere around here; Johnson saw him a few minutes ago. We've estimated that Chief's about eight or nine right now, he might be trying to play with you or something; be careful though, he only remembers so much."
"Understood, captain." The Arbiter said, nodding before taking off to find the tiny boy.
It only took about ten minutes for the Arbiter to track Chief down, this was only possible due to several marines running to see 'the show', as well as the Arbiter following the sound of a child's laughter. He soon entered the marines barracks; a tattered and beaten up little place that seemed rather unhealthy to be in, but was the best anyone could do at the moment. The Arbiter followed a few marines, soon coming to a rather... odd sight.
The Chief, who was proudly re-wearing his old SPARTAN-II helmet, was swinging upside-down from one of the many hanging lights from the top of the compound. He was quite high, and if he fell, he'd surely parish. Instincts kicked in and the Arbiter dashed towards the highest area he could find, only managing to get about half way up to the endangered child. He bit back a sigh, watching the boy swing around with cautious eyes.
"Demon!" He shouted, voice the smallest bit frantic. "Get down from there; you will not survive that fall!"
"All the more reason to hold on!" Chief sassed back, giggling as he swung back and forth at a dangerous pace.
The Arbiter shook his head, glaring at the boy. "Release yourself from that light or so help me, I will go up there after you!"
"Logistically speaking; that's implausible." Chief stated proudly.
The Arbiter would've raised an eyebrow if he had one. "And why is that so, Demon?"
"Well, considering the only way I managed to get up here was by snagging by old SPARTAN boots and grenade hopping up here, using the boots to block me from exploding... your chances of getting up here are pretty slim, Arby." Chief explained.
One of the marines whistled. "Smart kid." He muttered under his breath, tipping his helmet up to get a better look at the small boy. "Yeah, he's not coming down unless we either A, throw shit at him; or B, convince him to jump off."
The Arbiter contemplated what to do, eyes every so often checking to see that the lines were strong... wait, of course! He pulled out his Covenant Carbine, aiming it directly at the swinging ropes... he'd get a good shot if he needed it. "I am giving you one final warning, Demon; come down from there before I shoot you down myself."
Chief grinned, stopping his swinging to bend his back forward a bit, arms slung lazily between his legs as he tilted his head, his form taking on a questioning and cocky posture. "Try me." He dared.
"Very well, Demon." The Arbiter decided, firing at one of the cords with ease.
It snapped at once, catching Chief completely off balance; but even in the form/mind set of a small child, Chief was still quite skilled. He wretched around in the air as he just started to fall, grabbing onto the remaining cord mid-air. He looked a bit startled, holding on with both hands, shaking only slightly. The Arbiter shot down the other cord without a second thought, watching as Chief fell, hurtling towards an almost certain death.
"He's not gonna make it!"
"Keyes ain't gonna like this..."
"Take a picture!"
Without a second though, the Arbiter jumped out, easily catching the small boy and curling up in a ball, back facing the ground; with his back armor, the most damage he could get was a downed shield and maybe a broken rib, but nothing more than that. The crash that sounded afterwards was mind numbing, making everything sudden go very slowly. As the dust settled from the impact, the Arbiter stood up, the Chief curled up and crying in his arms.
The marines all relaxed, glad to see that neither were hurt by the dangerous fall. Chief slowly calmed down, suddenly realizing that any silly business wasn't about to go well when it came to the Arbiter. The Arbiter soon set Chief down, checking the small boy over for any injuries; he seemed fine apart from his visor now being cracked quite a bit, but it was nothing a little bit of repairs couldn't solve. The boy still seemed shaky, but he would be fine; he would grow up to be Master Chief after all.
Four hours, one semi-awkward shower, five bathroom breaks, and ten snacks had done nothing to assist in changing Chief back into an adult once more; yet it had been at the very least confirmed that it was reversible, seeing as he was slowly aging more and more.
But that wasn't the problem.
The problem was that Truth had decided to attack, and nearly everyone was dead.
God, why had the Arbiter trusted those marines to watch Chief for a minute, why hadn't he just brought Chief with him to training, why hadn't Chief told Arbiter that he wanted to come? Too many questions, not enough time to answer all of them. So, the Arbiter ran, he ran and ran through the burning underground compound, trying to find the small teenager (He had come to the age of twelve or thirteen by now) without getting killed. But such a task was very difficult giving the circumstances.
As the minutes ticked by, the Arbiter started to panic, fearing the worst. He needed to get out; if he died then there was no way the Elites would continue working with the humans. But Chief... he could still be alive; the chances were slim, once again, given the circumstances, but there was still a chance. The Arbiter looked around himself, seeing only fire and destruction, hearing only death and horror; could Chief really survive this, as only a small child?
Well, people always did say Chief was lucky.
The Arbiter more or less said Hell to it, taking off further into the horrible remains of the compound, not at all giving up on the SPARTAN. He ran, dear God, he ran and ran to find that damned child, who he now had found himself to be attached to. A few days ago, he hardly gave a damn about Master Chief, but now... things had changed quite a bit, hadn't they? And so, the Arbiter kept going, not caring if he might just die trying to find a corpse.
Only a few minutes more and the Arbiter finally found Master Chief, but the boy was in a rather big pickle. The other marines, who had been teaching Chief a new card trick, seeing as his younger self loved magic tricks, were now dead on the floor, some horrible killed with even more crushed by a caved in part of the underground compound. Chief was trapped under a fallen, iron pillar; the boy was attempting to pull himself out by some magical force, but such a task was, at best, hopeless.
After all, he didn't have his SPARTAN strength back yet.
The Arbiter jumped over a burning barrel, soon kneeling down beside the fallen child, trying to lift the pillar off of the teenager's legs. "It's no use, Arby." Chief grit out, teeth clenching at the pain in his leg, tears trailing down his face underneath the helmet. "Get out of here; I'll be okay."
"I am not leaving you to die, Demon." The Arbiter stated harshly, wincing as he kept trying at lifting that pillar, but it was so heavy. "I refuse to allow you to die alone."
"I'm not alone; you're here, right?" Chief said, a bit of his child innocence showing. "I've always got you."
The Arbiter was tempted to smile, if only to help numb the unbearable pain the boy must be in, but he did not, instead, he kept heaving until he had it lifted up a bit, if only the smallest bit. "Run!" He ordered.
Chief did as he was told, pulling his legs out at warp speed, panting as soon as he was alright. As he stood, he grimaced, but pushed the Arbiter away when he tried to help him steady himself. "I'm okay." Chief assured the other, smiling a fake smile behind his visor. "Let's go."
The Arbiter nodded, but suddenly tossed Chief onto his shoulders, letting the teenager ride piggyback. "You will not mention this to any being, Demon." He ordered sternly.
"As long as you don't tell anyone I get nightmares." Chief stated, arms securing themselves around the Arbiter's neck. "Ready?"
"Ready." The Arbiter said, running out of the burning room faster than God. "Do not worry, Demon; you will return to the form of a SPARTAN in good time, as the medical staff have promised."
"I know," Chief said, smiling a bit as he rested himself against the Arbiter. "I've got you, right?"
The Arbiter nodded in agreement. "Correct, Demon." He said, dashing down corridor after corridor. "You will always have me."
A/N: Ended rather abruptly, but I loved this one; the Arbiter is so fucking funny to write for, it's ridiculous. Please R&R!