So short, that I'm almost embarrassed to post it. I just wanted to (sort of) clear up and explain.

Epilogue: Life, For Its Own Sake

Tracy Island, early morning-

Baby noises woke him up; cooing and babbling sounds as determined as a songbird's dawn tune-up. The woman beside him lay half curled in a sleepy-warm tangle of sheets and spilt hair. Asleep, or pretending to be. But it was his turn to go fetch their child.

Outside, glimpsed through partly-drawn curtains and elegant French doors, a balconied terrace lay rose-gold and dripping from a very wet evening, before. Looked like they were going to be in for a much better day, though he'd have to check the FAA weather reports to be sure. Maybe later.

He kissed his wife's bare shoulder, then got up and stood looking outside, reflexively sorting through the day's upcoming minutiae. There was a great deal of work to do, but it hadn't reclaimed him quite yet. Setting the mental checklist aside, he stretched to full height and scratched his ribs; a somewhat-mussed vision in bright red 'remove before flight' boxer shorts. (Next visiting the lavatory, as full bladders and oral hygiene wait for no man.)

Afterward, he acceded to the baby's increasingly fussy demands and went into the next room; padding barefoot and quiet, yawning once or twice. The baby's response was a happily frenzied flailing of clenched fists and kicking feet, combined with widened blue eyes and a big, toothless smile.

Despite a certain, very characteristic, morning-duty smell, he returned the smile. Potty training clearly lay some while in the future. So, he made a few general comments along the "Nice to see you, too," line, thrust a mobile full of dangling farm animals aside, and set to work.

"Junior-Tracy cleaning service, coming right up," he announced, lifting her from the cot and getting sloppily gnawed on, in the process. Part of a father's job was protection and permanence. He felt that most keenly when holding her like this; when he was still the strongest, tallest, most amazing person in her unfolding universe.

Under the supervision of a curious cat, he changed her diaper, pointing out (whilst expertly dabbing, cleansing and wrapping) that soiled bottoms were for amateurs, and that she really ought to get herself together. Didn't impress her. Not a bit. All she did was gurgle and beam, batting at the cat's lazily-switching tail, and the shower of small, sparkling motes which her father's activity had set drifting through powder-scented air. Because, after all, daddy was here, breakfast on its way, and all was right with the world.

Personal cleanliness seen to, he next scooped the child off her pastel changing table and held her against his chest and left shoulder. Got drooled and gummed on, again, as he headed back into the suite's big, airy bedroom, rubbing her terry-clothed back. Few things were as enthusiastically messy as an infant, and he'd long since resigned himself to looking and smelling like a chew-toy.

His wife had dropped her pretense at sleep and sat up, by now; propped on a stack of white pillows (his own among them). He gave her baby and kisses together, watching as mother and daughter locked eyes and sealed out the world. (Even him and the cat, which had settled before the doors in a pool of sunlight, and commenced languidly bathing.) She breast-fed their baby for quite awhile, humming little bits of song until the tiny scrap of girl at last sighed and slackened her avid grip; sleepy, warm and contented… with no hangover to bother about, later. (Which would certainly not have been the case had he drunk himself insensible… But nobody said life was fair.)

Very carefully, his wife shifted her garment to cover herself. Then she looked up at him and smiled.

"Take her?" she whispered. "I've got to go, before something ruptures."

He nodded, arranged himself on the bed, and took back their milk-replete infant, his wife's long hair briefly teasing at his shoulder and face as she rose. Love is made up of little things. Contentment, of his awareness that those things existed, and how much they mattered. And… just for that moment… he couldn't have asked for much else.