He paused on the threshold, suddenly unsure if he should proceed. He had never seen one up close before, and the small form lying in her mother's lap seemed so small and frail, especially compared to infants of his own species. As he watched, one impossibly tiny hand stretched up from within the blankets and Helen, her face radiant in a rare moment of unguarded happiness, held her finger out for her daughter's seeking grasp. Long moments passed as he considered whether he should step forward with the tea service or leave the two their privacy, but the doctor had ordered him to bring her refreshment, and so eventually, still hesitant to disturb, he coughed discreetly from his place at the door.
Helen looked up and smiled warmly at him. "Please, come in."
"I.. Uh.. Didn't want to disturb…"
"No. It's quite alright. I've been expecting you. Doctor's orders, and all that."
"He said you should eat."
"And James is absolutely correct. If you would…?" she asked, motioning towards the empty space in the bed next to her.
He stepped forward, gently setting the tray down in the spot indicated while keeping a careful eye on the now sleeping child to ensure she was not disturbed. Helen must have followed his gaze, for she lifted her daughter towards him. "Would you like to hold her while I eat?"
"I… Uh…" The thought terrified him. The child seemed so breakable.
Helen smiled at his hesitation, and, as if reading his mind, observed, "She won't break. I promise."
He wasn't so sure, but he couldn't resist the pleading look on Helen's face. At his reluctant nod, she leaned forward and gently set the child into his outstretched arms. "Make sure to support her here... And here…" she instructed, carefully positioning the child before sinking back against her pillows.
Which left him standing there next to the bed, hardly daring to breathe lest he disturb the tiny infant nearly lost in his massive embrace. A child who, despite her mother's reassurances, still appeared as breakable as the finest china. He had never felt so large and clumsy in his life.
Then as he watched, a slight shudder passed through the sleeping form and her eyes opened, hazy blue newborn eyes seeking and finding his own. And in her gaze - for the first time in as long as he could remember - he found neither fear nor curiosity. Interest nor alarm. Instead, he saw absolute trust. Absolute faith. Absolute acceptance. This child, this brand new human being free from preconceptions and prejudice, saw him, and not simply the creature he appeared to others.
And in that moment he knew the child and her mother's instincts were correct. She was not breakable, and, in his arms, she was absolutely safe.
He walked as softly and quietly as he could, careful not to wake the child or her mother. Bending down, he placed the small object he carried next to the child sleeping peacefully in her cradle. The Hachi doll, made for him by his own mother to ward off the demons of the forest, was one of the few items he had taken with him upon leaving his home and people so many years before. It would now protect this child as it had once protected him.
He gently reached down, stroking the child's smooth cheek with his own coarse, hairy finger and she shifted slightly at the touch; he imagined he could almost see her smile. The small totem, made of twigs and string, would protect her. And so would he. For as long as he was able.