Title: 20 Questions
Author: Jo Slater
Summary: The twins have a few questions over the months before Little Brother arrives.
Genre: Humor/General (Otherwise known as complete fluff)
Time: February (three months after Blessed) to June.
Note: As always, all conversations are held in Elvish unless stated otherwise.
A big thanks to all my readers in the Haldir/Ashk stories. I really love writing them, and you guys make it worth wild. I enjoyed writing this story, so I hope all of you enjoy it as well. Thanks so much for everything!
"Stop playing with your food, Ana," I admonished gently as Ana was attempting to build something with her bread.
She put the food down immediately and looked at me. "Sorry, Ada."
"Ama, Uncle Orophin says Little Brother will have hair like us, not like Ada. Is that true?" Onduras spoke up a bit loudly.
Ashk turned to look at him from the kitchener. "Um...Yes, dear. Most likely."
I glanced at Onduras as he made a face of complete thought. His hair was still tussled from sleep and his morning meal remained untouched.
"Ama, Uncle Orophin says Little Brother will have Elf ears, not human ears. Is that true, too?" he asked then and I smiled, glancing towards the kitchener.
"Yes, dear. That's true," Ashk called back.
"Eat your meal, Onduras," I interrupted, pointing to his plate with a fork.
He looked at me briefly before focusing on his food.
However, Ana was now interested in the conversation. "Why don't we look like the other Elflings?" she asked.
"You look like Lord Elrond and his children," I told her.
"Why do they look different then, too?" she asked with a frown pulling at her young face as Ashk came back to the table.
I chewed on the inside of my cheek for a moment before tilting my head. "You all look a bit different because you have the blood of men in your heart," I told her.
"Where'd we get that from?" Onduras piped in.
I smiled at him. "Your Ama."
Ana immediately made a face. "Ama is not a man, Ada!"
I laughed, so did Ashk, and yet the children remained utterly serious.
"Well, she's not! Gronig is a man. She looks nothing like him!" Moriana exclaimed, naming her favorite human of Celebruim for example.
"Ama is a woman, Ana. Her race, humans, are also known as Men just as the male of their kind," I said slowly. "Just like how you are an Elf, but you are an Elleth, you see?"
She obviously didn't as she stared at me as though I had grown a spare head. I looked at Ashk, hoping she would intervene, and yet she was watching the exchange in glee.
"But, if we are Elves and Men - What are we really?" Onduras asked.
I fell silent and Ashk and I glanced at each other. They had never brought this up before and we hadn't exactly thought about how we would handle such direct questions.
I cleared my throat then. "You are…" I paused briefly. "Half Elves, just as Lord Elrond is."
The two stared at me a moment longer before seeming as though they were pacified enough to continue eating. With a baffled shake of my head, I took my drink before I saw Ana look up at me again.
I sighed. "Yes, Ana?"
"Kali is bringing a baby like Ama," she informed me.
I frowned immediately. "What?"
Ana nodded her head with enthusiasm. "I dreamed about it. Kali is bringing Black a baby."
"What!" I jolted, my knee hitting the table and rattling everything. Ashk casually held her glass still and peered at me. "Kali is a war horse, not a cursed brood mare!" I hissed at her.
Ashk only smiled. "You can always take Black to the borders when Kali is too heavy with foal," she told me, her smile forming into a grin of utter delight. She knew very well I would sooner hang myself than trust Black on the borders.
I looked back to my daughter. "Are you certain?"
Ana gave me a look that clearly screamed I shouldn't second guess her.
"Great," I muttered even as my family laughed.
"Can you feel him?" I asked as Onduras suddenly pulled his hand away from my stomach, a stricken look on his face.
"What is that?" he demanded, forcing his father and I both to erupt with laughter.
"It's the babe," I told him, taking his little hand again and placing it on my stomach where his brother was currently kicking enough to race a horse across Rohan. "He's moving," I told him as my son remained rigid as he felt the tiny life inside me.
Ana stood from her father's lap to stand on the bench and peer at my belly.
"What's he doing?" she asked, the sunlight streaming on her dark hair in the gardens we sat in.
"He's kicking," I told her.
"Does it hurt?"
"No," I told her, ignoring the occasional discomfort as pain.
Onduras drew away, peering at my stomach before his father's hand replaced his small one.
My son looked at me with a critical eye. "Were we ever in there?"
I laughed. "Yes, you were."
"At the same time?"
"At the same time," I told him with a nod.
"Did we kick?" Ana asked, leaning on me.
I smiled at her. "All the time," I replied, tweaking her nose between my fingers briefly.
Onduras, however, was still looking more than baffled and confused. He looked at my stomach and then to my face many times before he huffed a giant breath. "Well, how did he get in there?" he demanded.
Haldir and I immediately looked at each other, smothering our laughter before it could come out.
"Well..." I started before pausing.
"That is a story for another time," his father intervened.
Onduras frowned. "Did you swallow him?"
I yelped in laughter before clearing my throat. "Um - No, dear, I didn't."
"Uncle Orophin says babies come when Ellith and Ellyn play in bed," Ana informed us to our own horror.
"Ama is not an Elleth, Ana," Onduras replied with a roll of his bright eyes.
Ana frowned and looked at me expectantly.
"Don't listen to your uncles," Haldir said then, removing his hand from our now still son and taking Ana into his arms. "They don't know what they are talking about."
"But, Uncle Rumil said you are afraid of cows, Ada. You are not, are you?"
"Co– No, Ana," Haldir said, a frustrated look on his face. "I am not afraid of cows."
"I said so," Ana added smugly.
Haldir and I shared a look over their heads, Haldir already telling me how swiftly he would beat both his kin.
"Oh, we're not going through this again. Put that down," my sister demanded, pointing at me with a wooden spoon.
"It is a bag of vegetables!" I exclaimed, rather annoyed with her, Haldir, his brothers', and Litia's constant nagging.
Big Ana glared at me, flicking the spoon as though she would hit me with it.
I dropped the bag with a scowl. "You can be banned from this forest, you know," I warned. Ana laughed as she turned back to the soup she was making.
"I am not so sure. I do believe I could talk Rumil into letting me in even if I did have to tackle the Moose."
I grimaced. "Don't call him that," I admonished. I hated it that she and Haldir still did not get along as well as they should. I truly thought when she showed up at the wedding two years ago – after his invite – everything would have been better.
Yet, in her two visits since, it was quite obvious I was wrong.
Ana shrugged, tasting the soup and motioning me towards her. I tasted the soup as well, nodding my head as my stomach growled and I glared down at the minor mountain.
Ana laughed before the twins came stampeding into the kitchener.
"Ama!" Onduras cried at the top of his lungs, making me cringe and turn to face him immediately. He pointed at Ana. "She sa-says that Little Brother will come out your belly button!"
My eyes widened and my sister burst into laughter.
"Where on earth did you hear that?" I asked, looking at my daughter.
She shrugged. "Where else would he come out?"
My mind went blank and I blinked a time or two before my sister spoke up.
"Onduras, since you are so upset, where do you think your brother is coming from?" she asked and I immediately glared at her.
"Umm..." Onduras shifted his weight slightly. "Ama's mouth?"
I snorted in laughter.
"No, dear. Not my mouth and not my belly button either."
Both children frowned deeply.
"Then where?" Moriana demanded.
My sister and I glanced at each other before Ana turned to the twins. "A big bird brings him," she told them. "One day Ama will wake up without her belly and a big bird will come and bring him to you."
They both looked at her with equally as bemused looks before peering at me.
I shrugged and nodded. "Yes, that is how it goes. A big...bird."
"An Eagle? Uncle Rumil say– "
"What did Ada tell you about Uncle Rumil's stories?" I interrupted.
Onduras grinned. "Not to believe them."
"That's right. Now go play."
The twins immediately turned and ran off in glee and my sister and I could only giggle between ourselves.
"A big bird?" I demanded. "Where did you come up with that?"
"That's what Mama told me when I was little and you were on the way," Ana said. "It scarred me for life, but it worked for the time being."
I laughed at her, unable to picture my sister anything but all-knowing and composed.
It was nearly early morning as I pushed back through the door to my family's home. I was tired - exhausted - and yet I trekked inside with a rumpled tunic and hair nothing less than askew.
Ashk immediately came from the hall, tip toeing so the children did not hear her.
For her, I provided what was in my grasp and she gave a muted squeal of glee as she clamped my face between her hands, giving a rewarding kiss.
She turned away much too fast and I nearly lost my balance while she took the cream-melon from my hand and turned towards the kitchener.
This was not the first time I had ventured from the bedroom and from home in the middle of the night for one sort of food or another. Luckily, tonight happened to be a common fruit that I found at my brothers' home.
However, having interrupted my youngest brother in his own nighttime ventures was not something I wanted to do again.
Ashk gave a satisfied sigh as she took a cut slice of the fruit and ate it in silence. I smiled, moving towards her and cornering her against the counter, not daring to say anything least I would wake the twins with their keen hearing.
She provided a piece of the fruit to my lips as a smile curved her own.
I choked on the fruit briefly before managing to swallow and turn around.
Ana was obviously baffled that I revealed her mother as I did so. However, her momentary confusion dwindled away much to my relief, and she put her hands to her hips.
"When are you going to have a baby, Ada?"
Ashk immediately shuddered with hysteric, silent laughter into my back and I barely - barely - managed to keep control on my own laughter.
"Uh- " I stumbled over my words, no thanks to my wife, and I cleared my throat. "Adas do not have babies, Ana," I told her. She frowned in question. "Only Amas can bring babies home." My hand reached casually down, pinching Ashk's thigh in attempt to make her stop her muted laughter.
It didn't help and she only pushed harder into my back to muffle herself.
I grimaced. "Why do we not talk about this in the morn, my girl? I will be able to explain it then." With any luck she would forget this entire conversation by dawn.
Ana peered at me a long moment before she huffed out a sigh and walked back to her bedroom alone. Only when I heard the wood creak under her light weight on the bed did I turn around to see Ashk literally in tears among her laughter.
"You're no help at all," I hissed at her, my face feeling hot as I tried desperately not to laugh with her. However, my daughter's question had struck an absurd cord of hilarity in both of us and all we managed to do was muffle each other.
"How do they come up with questions like that?" Ashk giggled.
I shook my head. "Rumil and Orophin probably give them ideas."
Ashk snorted with laughter.
"I am a bit concerned with your size," Erestal, the healer, said slowly. He glanced warily at Haldir before looking back at me. "With the information you both have told me since the last births, I have good reason."
I frowned slightly, and I only vaguely remembered the actual events of the twins' delivery. Most of it was marred to a blur with exhaustion and hazed with a pain I could not now recall, but I well knew it was there.
"But this isn't my first child," I argued as though that would prove something. "Surely it's different this time."
The healer tilted his fair colored head. "That is what I am hoping for. However, you have a very small frame, Ashk, and that makes human deliveries a bit of a problem." He glanced to my right, seeing my husband, and pursed his lips. "Sometimes," he added hastily.
I glanced to Haldir and knew exactly why the healer was apparently nervous. Haldir's steaming stare was unnerving for any living creature.
"I merely want you to be prepared, my dear," Erestal said, his hand falling over mine with a gentle squeeze. "Should the Lady of Light be about as she was during your first pregnancy, I am certain there is nothing to worry about."
I forced a smile before slowly drawing my hand away from his, finding more reassuring comfort in the grasp of my husband.
"Under the circumstances, Ashk, I am sure I am worrying over nothing at all," Erestal told me seriously. "You have yet another month or more. I do command you rest as much as possible. …And don't think I'm not seeing you frolicking around as you do," he warned, but a smile claimed his face.
I smiled dimly in return. "Oh, with two children, I don't have much of a choice."
He laughed, standing from the chair he sat in. Haldir stood as well, his hand guiding me to the same as he and the healer exchanged goodbyes. I said my own before we left the open-aired flet Erestal was usually found in.
Descending the stairs, we were both quiet. My hands had instinctively found their way to my round stomach as my thoughts swirled.
Childbirth was always dangerous, I reminded myself. And in the company of Elves, I had no reason to be worried for the sake of my son or myself. No reason whatsoever.
"Everything will be fine, Ashk," Haldir told me softly as we stepped onto the forest floor. I flashed a smile at him.
"I know," I replied, but even to me my voice was airless.
He gave me a reassuring look as his arm slid around my waist, keeping me close to him where I found comfort for my ridiculous worries.
And yet, I could not help but notice that Haldir was rigid and his pace was slow.
We went to the flet Rumil and Orophin shared - not without the occasional issue - and the children came running out as soon as the door opened.
Litia stood in the doorway, much to my surprise and glee.
"Hello, lovely," she greeted with a beaming, perfect smile as she kissed my cheek. "How are things?" She completely ignored Haldir as she ushered me inside.
"Fine, fine," I told her, startled when Orophin suddenly came from around the corner only to present me with a basket full of turtles.
"Your daughter," he provided, glancing towards Moriana who was beaming in her father's arms.
I lifted a hand, idly scratching at my head. "At least it's not the butterflies like last time," I managed to say.
Orophin gave me a look. "I am still finding them in wardrobes, thank you," he grumbled, moving by me towards the door with his basket full of turtles.
"Yes, well, we are still dealing with monsters under the bed," Haldir informed him, covering his daughter's ears as he whispered the words.
"Ada, I can still hear you," Ana said, tapping against her father's hands.
The four of us laughed as Onduras plucked a turtle from the basket and held the animal out to examine it. It blinked its tiny eyes slowly and opened its mouth as if to yawn.
Onduras made a face. "I asked for lizards, Sister," he informed Ana with a skeptical look.
"No lizards!" Rumil cried from somewhere in the back.
Once we had managed to leave the flet of Haldir's brothers, the four - or five - of us strolled towards home. Onduras had all but climbed up his father to sit proudly on his broad shoulders while Ana walked between us, one hand in each of ours.
Onduras sighed heavily, his elbows plopping on his father's head as he leaned his chin into his hands. "When is Little Brother coming? We've been waiting forever."
I laughed. "A little longer, dear. July."
"That's next month," Ana pipped up, surprising me even as I smiled down at her.
"That's right, Ana," Haldir doted, swinging her between us once as she giggled.
"Then he plays with us?" Onduras said, perked by the idea.
"Um...No, not quite," I told him only to see my son frown in disappointment before I reached to him and tweaked his cheek between pinched fingers. "Don't rush so. Your brother will come soon enough."
Ana tugged on my hand and her father's. "Then we will have a big family. Ada, Moss needs a big family, too."
"No. No he doesn't," Haldir replied.
"But he's lonely, Ada."
"How could he be? He has all of us," I told her. Ana sighed before she noticed that we were passing the western stables.
"Black!" she cried, spotting the horse in the corral and ripping out of our grasp. The ebony colored horse jolted in shock, his eyes widening before he spotted Ana. Immediately he moved to the fence, leaning against it dangerously to stretch his nose towards her.
"Ana, don't go running to that horse," Haldir scolded.
Our daughter slowed but still reached for Black's dark muzzle. He whickered softly as Haldir passed Onduras to the forest floor and quickly moved to his daughter. I shook my head. Black would sooner dive off a cliff before he would ever hurt Ana of all people. His recognition and love for her was almost unhuman.
As I let Onduras join his father and sister, I watched from a distance.
My child moved inside me, swirling butterflies into my chest and making me smile. It was baffling, and wonderful, to think that another child would join us soon. And, I was now forcing myself to be certain, everything would be fine. He would be as perfect as his siblings; healthy and happy.
Casually I joined my family as Ana patted Black's broad head. Kali leaned close, looking for attention as well and I smiled at her wide belly.
Ana suddenly frowned. "Ama, is Kali's babe going to be brought by a bird, too?" she asked, peering at me.
I could only laugh. "Yes, Ana. Kali's babe will be brought by an even bigger bird than the one that brings your brother."
"Like an Eagle?" Onduras asked.
"Perhaps," I told him as seriously as I could. The Elfling grinned, climbing on the corral to pet Kali as well.
I smiled at the warm sight of my family. My family which, I mused, would become a little bigger in only a few short weeks.
- - -
As I said, fluff. Those kids are just too cute to write with. And, I know all of us have had some experience with a child that has twenty questions every time we see them.
Thanks for the steady support! The next installment should be up within a week.