He's stood there for twenty minutes in front of the hospital glass, tears rolling gently down his cheeks. He doesn't know that you've been watching him.

You are reluctant to disturb the obviously profound experience he's having, but you know you won't get any sleep until he's taken care of. Two of them now to worry about, and you want a moment with the littler one before the nurses shoo you away for the night.

"Hey," you say softly, creeping up behind him.

He turns and looks at you, his body less jittery than the strength of his tears suggest it should be. When he answers you, his voice whispers, but holds steady.

"I'm so proud of you," he says, eyes welling up again.

"Uh huh." You join him at the window. "You want to tell me what this is about?"

He chokes on a shaky breath and manages an impish grin. "Would you believe me if I claimed this was just new father jitters?"

You know him better than that. It wouldn't be that simple, would it? "No," you say.

He nods, the puddles in his eyes starting to trickle again. "It IS jitters, though. I'm allowed that, aren't I?"

You reach out a hand for him. "Yeah. You are. And hey, I am too, you know."

"Really? But you…"

"Kick ass, take names and rock hard, yeah. But HE doesn't, does he?"

Again, with the welling up. "No," he manages.

"And that's what has you freaking out right now? That he's ours, and he's here, and he's small and new and helpless?"

"Well, no. I knew that part. But…but it's ME, see. I'm…I look at him, and…well, we both know what's out there, love. What's really out there."

You catch the subtext in his tone and realize just which part of your life it is that's on his mind right now. "But that's the one part of things we CAN protect him from," you say. "Remember? Kicking ass? Taking names?"

"Well, yes. But it will still be out there, you know?"

This is getting just a teeny bit exasperating. Here you have just given birth to his son, and he's having an existential crisis? Of course 'it' would still be OUT there! That's the nature of the universe, isn't it? The good fight, the cosmic balance, no good can exist unless it has an evil to give it a cause? And he thought that by becoming a father, he could change that somehow?

You can't help arching en eye a little. "Yes. And?"

"And I love you so much," he chokes out. "You're so strong, and so capable and so…so perfectly lovely…"

You acknowledge the compliment. "You helped make me that way."

"And still, it touched you, the evil, the horror, the loss…it touches you. You, who is the only girl in all the world with the strength, the power, to…"

"Kick butt and take names, yeah, we've been there already. So, it touches me, and it will touch him. But we'll make him ready, too. That part's not any different for us, you know. All parents do that."

He nods. "He'll never be as innocent as he is right now. I look at him, and I think that nothing I do will ever be enough to keep him that way."

"He doesn't need to stay innocent. He needs to stay loved and he needs to stay good. Everything else, we can work on, the same as other people do."

"We'll never be the same as other people."

"No, we won't. And there are some things we can prepare him for better than they can. And there are other things that will catch us by surprise. That's life, isn't it? All this fighting we do, that's what it's for, no? To protect LIFE, his, theirs, everyones. But especially his. Now, especially his."

He takes a deep breath, and you see that the tears have stopped now. "Our son. I should be enjoying this."


"And I shouldn't be keeping you up to coddle my jitters. You did just give birth, after all."

"Yeah. That too." You look at him again, and you swear you can see him finally relaxing. You can find your own way back to your room. He should be with his son right now.

The end