Silky looked apologetic as the baby wriggled and whimpered in her arms. Tiny leaf-green pupils glowed in the dark.
"Already?" mumbled Chise, and glanced at the clock. It had been about half an hour; but it certainly didn't feel like it.
She struggled into a sitting position, and started to swing her legs over the side of the bed, but Silky gently halted her, one-handed, and restacked the pillows behind her into a back rest. Gratefully, she sank against it, and opened her arms to her whimpering daughter.
Latching her on again was a bit difficult, especially in the dark and with an impatient, hungry baby, but she managed eventually. Silky had disappeared.
The baby's frantic, demanding nursing finally slowed and steadied, her little glowing pupils wandering all over Chise's face before finally meeting her eyes.
"Hi," Chise whispered. She stroked the downy neck with a gentle finger, and a tiny, slightly pointy hand grasped it tightly. Chise smiled, brushing her thumb over the tiny fingers. "I'm your Mum. I'm Chise."
She was so tiny. Elias was so large that Chise had been slightly worried about how big his babies might be; but she was... tiny. Chise couldn't think of any better word. 'Little' and 'small' weren't inaccurate, but applied to all babies. 'Delicate' didn't feel right for someone so fluffy. Tiny. She was fluffy, tiny, and adorable.
Chise pressed a gentle kiss to the end of her snout, and adjusted the blanket around her. In the soft moonlight filtering through the curtain, it was hard to see precisely where the white blanket ended and her daughter began, except for her lovely green eyes. Those were dimming now, as her nursing tapered off, only to start up again fitfully for another few moments. She was falling asleep.
Chise looked up as Silky quietly crept in and placed a tall glass of milk and a plate of cheese and sliced apple on her bedside table. "Thank you, Silky," she whispered.
The brownie held her arms out to take the baby back, but Chise shook her head slightly. "I think I'd like to snuggle her a little while longer." Silky nodded, and settled back into the rocking chair as Chise leaned back into the pillows, closing her eyes to the gentle creak of the chair. She barely even noticed, sometime later, when Silky eased the baby out of her slackening arms and tucked her properly back in.
The next few days passed by in a blur. Chise was exhausted from waking up every few hours to nurse; but the household managed to sort out a sort of rhythm soon enough.
"You really don't need to be up with us every time she wakes up," Chise said, rubbing at her eyes one-handed as the baby nuzzled at her chest again. "You should get some sleep."
"I know," Elias murmured, shifting her slightly to rest more comfortably against his side, and resting his jaw on her shoulder to peer down at their daughter. "But I can't feed her, and it doesn't seem fair that you should be the only one who has to keep waking up. So you feed her, and I change her when you're done, and we're both useful."
Chise nuzzled his cheek. "Do you not feel useful? You are, you know."
Elias made a considering noise. "I am glad to hear it; but I am also fully aware that until now, you have been the one doing all the work of making her. And even now, anyone else could take my place. I myself am not needed, not the way you are. I can change her and cuddle her; but I can't feed her. My presence is not required. So I choose to be here with you both."
"You are required! You're her father!"
"I sired her; but after that…" He sighed. "I appreciate it, but you do not need to console me. I am merely stating a fact. If something had happened to you, she would not exist. If you left now, she would starve. If I had vanished… nothing would have changed."
"Everything would change!" Chise cried out, a bit too loudly, and the baby whimpered a protest, wiggling with an angry kick. "Shh, shh, I'm sorry; it's okay, Little Girl, shh, shh…" She rocked the baby for a minute, settling her down again, before continuing, much more softly, "Everything would change, Elias. You are not so easily replaced! Don't think that you are. Don't you dare think that for one minute." She paused, looking lovingly down at their daughter. "Without you, neither of us would be here. And I mean that very literally."
Elias huffed, and started to protest, but she cut him off. "Even with this! Even with her. You have been my rock, Elias. You have given me so much love and support throughout it all. You give her so much love. Don't think that it doesn't count just because you weren't physically attached to her." She paused to snuggle back against him, and give him another loving nuzzle. "Do you want to feed her?"
Elias grunted. "I can form breasts; but I doubt very much that I could produce milk."
Chise laughed. "That's not what I meant. We do have a breast pump and bottles, you know."
Elias cocked his head. "But I thought that you weren't supposed to give breastfed babies bottles?"
"No, the book said that you didn't want to do it right away; but it's been a few days, and she's gotten pretty good at nursing. Now that she knows how, giving her a bottle shouldn't be a problem. And of course, it'd be breast milk either way."
"Are… are you sure?"
"I'll double-check the book if you like, but yes, I'm sure."
Elias was silent for a long moment. "Will using the pump hurt?"
"No, I very much doubt it." Chise smiled. "It doesn't even have teeth."
"Then… if she's done, I will change her. And perhaps… perhaps, later, when you're more rested, I could try to give her a bottle?"
"I think she would like that very much."
"She looks like a dandelion puff," Ruth grinned, as he gently stroked the soft white fluff. She grabbed his hand, guiding it closer for careful investigation and a thorough sniff, before digging in her tiny claws and giving his finger an experimental chew. "Ouch! —More prickly, though," he added, wincing, as he tried to extricate his hand without hurting her.
"Well, she is the Thorn Mage's daughter," Chise said apologetically, stepping back a bit, to keep him out of her reach.
"Well, to be fair, she's less thorny, more just prickly. A prickly dandelion."
"A downy thistle, perhaps," Elias interjected, settling into his chair and patting his lap for his wife.
"Azami," Chise smiled, as Elias lifted her, and the baby in her arms, into his lap. Elias cocked his head in inquiry.
"Azami," she repeated. "It's a very pretty Japanese flower name. Very feminine. It means 'thistle,' or the flower of a thistle."
"Azami..." Elias turned the word over in his mouth. "Thistle. The prickly, lovely little thistle-flower."
"The pouffy little thistle-down," added Ruth.
"What do you think?" Chise asked, looking up at Elias. "Is it a good name?"
Elias gently stroked the white down of his daughter's head, his pupils curving into his smile. "It is." He leaned over Chise's shoulder to give her a small lick. "It is a very good name.
"Welcome home, Thistle."
A/N: To those of you who celebrate it, Merry Christmas!
And to those of you who don't, Happy Hump-day! :D
And now you know why this fic is called "Thistle"! :D It's been killing me to not give it away in a chat or a post somewhere. XD
Still not the end! Look for another chapter in the next little while. Sorry this one is a bit shorter again, but I wanted to get it out for you guys today. Happy Holidays! :)