What he was doing at that instant went against what every nerve in his body wanted him to do. He had been involved with childbirths before, twice; the first, a Tethe'alla Chosen who was stillborn and the second, a woman on a pilgrimage he happened to be escorting went unexpectantly into labor. It wasn't as if it was he had no experience in the subject.
He had never, however, been involved in the child birth of his own child, who was apparently breech.
His hand tightened instinctually on the arm of the chair he was currently seated on as Anna let out another blood-curdling scream; he stood and moved to the other room when that wordless scream melted into his name. The old man grabbed his wrist before he managed to get through the door. "She knows what she is doing," he said kindly, but firmly. "Let her care for your wife."
"She just called for me," he replied, trying to keep his agitation under control. "Let me go to her!"
"You were kicked out for a reason," the little man insisted. "You will panic; we've seen it hundreds of times."
I will -not- panic! Kratos thought, wincing at another shriek. He could put a stop to Anna's pain, make it easier on her, but that would require revealing his identity to the man and the midwife, and alerting all of Cruxis as to their location, something he could not risk. He stared at the door between him and Anna, then shook the little man's hand off him and began pacing restlessly. He had been removed from Anna's room when it became apparent the child was breech; he supposed out of fear he would panic, as the man insisted.
Kratos ceased his pacing when the screaming did, abruptly; then, seconds later, a tiny, fragile wail replaced the noise. His angelic hearing also picked up a sound somewhere between a sob and a laugh.
The man went into the birthing room for several minutes; Kratos seated himself back on the chair he occupied before and held his head in his hands, fighting to regain control of his breath. He had only just realized he was vacillating between holding it and hyperventilating. Perhaps he was panicked. It was an interesting sensation that he hadn't felt in several centuries, if not millenia, and an uncomfortable sensation at that.
The midwife exited the room after a while, holding a blue bundle. "Congratulations," she said with a soft smile. "You have a son."
I have a son. He was oddly disturbed that he was completely numb to this fact as he stared at the blanket in the woman's hands. There was a baby in there. And it was his. And he didn't care. "How is Anna?"
"She sleeps. It was a hard labor; she is exhausted." She shifted the bundle slightly in her arms. "Would you like to hold him?"
Kratos shook his head. Children didn't like him. Which was perfectly fine with him, as he didn't like children. The few times he found himself caring for one, he barely made it out of the situation without murdering them. The midwife frowned at him, disapproving; "What if I drop him?" he commented off-hand, knowing perfectly well he wouldn't drop him.
"All new fathers have that fear," she laughed. Father. "If that's the only reason, I'll keep my hands under him as well, until you have the hang of it."
I don't want to hold the baby. I want to see my wife. He couldn't think of another feasible excuse not to take the child, and stood, holding his arms out, bracing himself, fear replacing panic. He's been alive fifteen minutes and you're afraid of him? What's -wrong- with you, Aurion? The midwife very gingerly placed the bundle in his arms, not quite taking her hands away from the newborn. Okay. I'm holding him. Nothing's changed. The midwife reached up and pushed the blanket down, revealing a tiny red, sleeping face and one hand balled up in a fist. Still nothing.
"He looks like you."
"He does not."
"Yes, he does. You'll see when he opens his eyes."
Kratos snorted. "Infants are mostly blind for the first month of life."
The midwife raised her eyebrows. "Yes, but that doesn't mean they don't open their eyes."
Kratos glared at her for making him hold this thing in the first place, and looked back down at it, picking out every little flaw he could find. Why am I doing this? Heartless bastard... He shifted the bundle in his arms to free a hand, very gently touching the tiny hand with one finger; he watched in fascination as child's fingers opened and then closed around his finger, gripping as tight as his newborn muscles would allow. The tiny fingers didn't quite make it all the way around his; his breath caught in his throat and his heart started pounding. My...
The baby yawned, half-opened his eyes and examined his father's own for a few seconds before squirming deeper in the blankets, yawning again, and falling right back to sleep. My son...
He suddenly sat back down in the chair blinking back tears as he laughed and gently tried to pull his finger free of his son's grasp. "He's strong," he gasped softly as he failed to. He knew he could, but he didn't want to wake the baby again. He couldn't believe what had just happened. In the two seconds their eyes met, this tiny thing had rendered him completely defenseless, totally helpless.
He had never been so completely at the mercy of another before.
"Have you named him?" The midwife asked.
Kratos tore his eyes from the infant for a second. "We named her," he replied with a slight laugh. "We were both sure of a daughter... I don't want to name him without speaking with Anna first."
She smiled. "That's fine. I'll leave you two alone."
He wanted to ask her to take the boy from him- Kratos was shaking- but he couldn't bring himself to, instead nodding wordlessly, and allowing the tears to come freely as soon as she left the room, cradling the infant against his chest. It dawned on him that he had only confirmed the number of fingers on one hand; carefully, so as to not wake the baby, he fished around the blanket for his other hand, then his feet. Satisfied at ten fingers and ten toes, he relaxed and began softly singing a lullaby in the angelic language.
The lullaby ended and Kratos just rocked him, pondering names. He found himself thinking of other people's names, ceasing his thoughts when he reached Yuan and Mithos. Better leave this part to Anna...
He was disturbed by a knock on the door to the room; startled, he glanced out a window quickly before quietly calling out his assent to enter. It was pitch black outside. How long had he been sitting there? The warmth in his chest and gut suddenly went cold upon seeing the newcomer and he stood suddenly, narrowing his eyes. "Yuan."
"You say that as if I'm poisonous," the blue-haired Seraph replied evenly.
"You are," Kratos clipped. "How did Yggdrasill find us?"
"He didn't. I did."
"He sent you!"
Yuan nodded. "He did, but I have no intention of carrying out his orders." He took two tentative steps forward. "May I see her?"
"Him," Kratos corrected, tightening his embrace around his child protectively; the boy squeaked and started crying in protest. Kratos blanched and immediately loosened his grip, reaching up to stroke the child's face to calm him.
Yuan held his position. "I don't think I've ever seen you so protective of someone before, not even Anna."
Kratos glanced up at him. "I don't think I've ever been a father before," he retorted, his voice suddenly gentle.
"Fair enough. Kratos, the only reason I didn't reject this assignment is because I'm the only one I know won't blow the whistle on you. We used to be almost brothers; I don't know if that still means anything to you," he said quietly, shaking his head, "but it still means a lot to me."
Kratos looked from the helpless being in his arms to his former friend and back, then motioned for Yuan to approach them. Yuan made no attempt to hide his relief as he stepped forward and Kratos held the infant out slightly, giving Yuan a clear view. Yuan smiled. "He looks just like you."
"If I am red and wrinkled up, then yes."
Yuan rolled his eyes. "You know all newborns are ugly."
"If you call my son ugly again, Yuan, I'll make sure you know what ugly is every time you look in a mirror," Kratos replied sourly, bringing the child back to his chest.
"I didn't call your son ugly. I called all newborns ugly," Yuan chuckled. "What's his name?"
"If he had been the gender we predicted, his name would be Lucia. However, as he is not the gender we predicted, and I seem to be very poor at picking names, he is 'Baby' until Anna wakes and can name him."
Yuan snorted to hide a laugh and turned, shaking his head in amusement. "Thank you, Kratos. I should be going; I have enough information for my report-"
"Yuan!" Kratos snarled in a dangerous tone. "I swear if you-"
"You do realize this conversation never happened. In fact, Hima was all but abandoned, as usual. I was completely unable to locate you."
"... Thank you..." Kratos said, placated and embarrassed about his outburst.
"Thank you," Yuan replied over his shoulder. "He is beautiful. Keep him safe; perhaps he will be able to accomplish what we are not."
Kratos watched his old friend leave, and seated himself again. He knew what Yuan referred to; perhaps he was right. This little boy was powerful. It wasn't often that Kratos was completely defenseless against someone.