Disclaimer: not mine the end.

Warnings: Mild ACiT spoilers. Italic sections refer to past events. I'm a little concerned about whether Kaden and Alister seem in character, but since this takes place before the disaster that sends them towards their respective fates, I feel I can take a little liberty.

Comments are always welcome.


By, Nicole Silverwolf

'Joy is not in things, it is in us.'
-Richard Wagner

Twenty steps, turn, twenty steps, turn, and he was losing count of how many times this routine was being repeated.

"Kaden, I could be wrong about this; but I'm pretty sure that pacing...isn't going to help."

There was a mutinous glare from bright green eyes before the Lombax returned to striding the length of the stark waiting room. Alister had expected no less from his best friend and now an expectant father.

He'd never seen the other Lombax so panicked before. And that was saying something considering they had survived the great war and childhoods filled with foolish dares, and death defying stunts.

"I feel useless," Kaden growled.

"I know you do, but they know what they're doing. Have some faith in them."

Mid-morning and the interruption from dreary council activities had come with an innocuous looking note.

Kaden had dropped what he'd been working on, stood in a daze, activated hoverboots and shot from the room; all without a word. While they had mutually agreed hoverbooting in the council was disruptive both he and Kaden did it often enough to enrage the elders. Neither of them had outgrown the rebelliousness that had marked their youth.

The dazed silence and panicked exit tugged at Alister though. Something was wrong.

Apologizing for them both, he'd shot after the shorter Lombax. Catching up had been difficult with Kaden's nearly full two minute lead. But he'd managed it, taking a few risky jumps he'd barely cleared. A cart filled with fruit would never be the same again.

His friend had known he was approaching; years of hoverbooting together allowed their instincts for each other to effortlessly blend their movements. Kaden made space for both of them.

"It's the baby," Kaden responded tersely to the furrowed brows and concern etched on Alister's face.

Realization dawned on his face and in tandem they shot forward even faster.

They'd been here for a few hours now. After filling out appropriate files and a brief update from a triage nurse, Alister and Kaden had been left to wait. A doctor in white scrubs, mask still bent over the bridge of his nose came through the doors a few moments after circuit forty-two had been completed. Kaden was on him before he had time to finish scanning the room.

"Is my wife alright? What about the baby? Can I see them? Are they alright?" The words were strung together so that only an expert would be able to separate them into actual questions. Fortunately for the doctor, this was not the first frantic father he'd dealt with.

"Your son is fine Kaden, your wife as well," he assured and then repeated himself when it actually seemed like it might get through to the Lombax.

The young man sagged and almost fell over in relief. Alister grabbed his elbow and most of his weight in the process. Bright green met warm orange brown. "Kaden?" he asked carefully. They'd been friends, as close as family since childhood.

"Alister...I'm a dad..." he breathed. Somehow all the preparation before this point coalesced from some far off idea to concrete reality. He honestly looked a little terrified.

Settling his friend on his feet firmly Alister was sincere and supportive. How could a best friend be anything else? "You're going to be a great father Kaden. I know it."

The doctor had been standing to the side peeling out of some of his protective medical gear. He approached in the pause with a warm smile.

"Would you like to see them? They're out of the OR now."

Nodding and then stepping forward with eager eyes Kaden found his balance. "Of course."

Alister watched him heading towards sliding doors with a faint smile. He turned to head out home; likely Kaden would spend the night here with his wife and new son. There'd be time to visit with the newest member of their family in the coming weeks and months.

"Alister? Where are you going?" was shouted across the murmur quiet waiting room. Heads turned to him, and he looked back in confusion. What did Kaden mean? His intent seemed obvious.

"C'mon! You'd think I'd leave my best pal out here alone?" he smiled with an open palm and warm eyes extended in the slightly elder's direction.

Alister walked back in an overwhelmed daze till Kaden shook his shoulder firmly. His grin matched Kaden's in the unspoken moment.

They wound their way through the identical halls of the hospital, sure that they would never find their way back. Following the doctor's distinctive black ears was their easiest marker. He wove expertly past nurses, attendants, doctors, and personnel that Kaden and Alister couldn't even fathom the need for.

The door was innocuous and plain, a number at Alister's eye level shaded in white.

"Kaden," an exhausted female's voice murmured as the young man rushed the bed. Joy tinged it, relief too that she had Kaden, her partner in everything, back at her side. Sweat matted fur clumped around her forehead, monitors snaked from the bed, and an IV pick in the back of her hand trailed back to a bag tinged red with platelets and plasma. Proof that while everyone was doing well now, it had not been without complications.

And tucked in her arms was an almost painfully tiny bundle. Swaddled in a warm blue blanket was the smallest child that either Kaden and Alister had ever seen. His eyes were still closed, fur wet and it was clear that to Kaden his son was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. Enthralled was only the first adjective that came to mind.

Murmured conversation passed between husband, wife and newly minted parents. Alister stood back, intensely aware of his intrusion on such a private family moment. The two of them were pressed forehead to forehead, eyes only for each other and then down to the tiny addition they'd brought into the world.

A moment worthy of capturing on holo but Alister didn't want to disturb them even that much.

Kaden was gently being handed the little boy, fur as golden as his own. He was careful to the point of treating the child like fragile glass. But the smile radiating from his face was amazingly bright.

Alister couldn't help the soft smile that came to his features. He hadn't been exaggerating when he'd reassured Kaden that he would be a great father. Of the two of them, Kaden had always looked out for them both. Backing carefully towards the door Alister did his best to be unobtrusive. The elder would come back later, when his two friends had a chance to enjoy their son.

Leave it to them to see him before he could make a clean getaway.

"Alister, thanks for making sure Kaden didn't do anything rash," a wise and almost joking female voice chided the two partners in crime.

Caught mid-escape he nodded shrewdly. Rarely did things make it past her. "It was my pleasure Amelia, you know how he can get. Nearly took out the doctor when we got here."

Kaden glanced up with an annoyed pout from his enthralled detail cataloguing. "Hey," he accused faintly before smiling at his two oldest friends.

"He's beautiful," Alister congratulated as he gently took Amelia's hand and dwarfed it within his own.

Suddenly his best friend was at his side, carefully supporting the baby's head and reaching to gently put him in Alister's arms. Panic lit his face and Kaden smirked for all of a second before sobering to help his best friend take on the burden.

The boy was extraordinarily small. It was clear why the doctors had been concerned. He was tiny and to Alister's untrained eyes looked far too much like those Lombaxes born so early they needed to be hooked to machines to keep them alive. But there was also an air of determination about him, recognizable even though he'd been a part of their world for only a few hours.

'A fighter this one's gonna be,' he thought as he carefully traced the hairs on the tip of bright gold ears.

Feeling him breathe was a wonder he'd never really considered before about anyone. But holding this tiny bundle he was aware of all those circadian rhythms that even now their science could not exactly replicate.

"We want you to be his Patronus, Alister," Kaden interrupted his musings. More statement than question as Kaden was prone to present any idea. Patronus was a formal term; the direct translation was protector. It was an honor bestowed typically on uncles and other family members. They were second parents, guides, mentors and important in a child's life.

The shock on his features was apparent, and he thought for a moment that Kaden must have been talking to someone else. But aside from himself they were alone in the room.

"Kaden...I..." Alister stumbled over what should be said.

"You're my closest friend Alister. My brother in everything except genetics. I couldn't ask for anyone who I'd rather have as a second parent." A large hand gripped his arm just above the elbow.

He glanced aside to meet Amelia's ecstatic grin and down to the closed eyes and fingers that barely spanned the length of his knuckle. There was nothing he could have said to get out of it then.

"I would be honored, to take that title more than any other Kaden," Alister promised sincerely. And it was true that he would value that above the generalship or the elder position given to him by the Center for Advanced Lombax Research.

Gently handing back the bundle to Amelia, he thanked her with the most sincere tone he could muster through the strong emotions unexpectedly thrust on him. The hug he grabbed Kaden into was crushing in its strength and just as equally returned.


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Thanks for reading!