Keep It in the Family
The fact that his first grandchild was to be born seven months into his eldest daughter's marriage to the Prince of Starkhaven was not lost on Malcolm Hawke. In fact, he had planned on being very direct with his highness, a scowl coloring his features as he stalked through the hallways of Arrow's Rest. Servants scattered, fleeing the static that leapt from him in visible sparks.
Sebastian had been prepared, however.
A tumbler of Antivan brandy was thrust into Malcolm's hand and he was seated before the fire, the prince standing before him, ever the penitent son-in-law. The sight of his daughter, glowing with happiness and swollen with child, had done much for his temper as well. He had conjured a wisp of spellpower to aid him as he laid his hands on Celeste's stomach, giving a small, choked noise as he felt a little foot give a powerful kick. Celeste started, wincing in discomfort.
"Now you've got him started." She pressed hands to her belly, crooning as she rubbed soothing palms across her stomach. "He's active now."
"Are you so sure it's a boy, Punkin?" He hadn't been able to tell with the brief contact.
"Mothers know these things." She gave a cryptic smile, looking much as Leandra had when pregnant with Celeste. It was amazing and humbling that such things passed through blood. He kissed her cheek, drawing her close and marveling at the glow of health about his daughter. Sebastian doted on his wife, fetching her things and spending every moment of his spare time with her in arms' length. It cooled Malcolm's ire somewhat to see Sebastian so besotted with his daughter. He would never admit it out loud, but Sebastian reminded him much of himself when his own children were born.
Malcolm decided to stay for the remainder of her term, knowing that she had, at best, another month. It turned out to be a wise decision on his part, for she had gone into labor while they were sitting down for tea in the garden. He helped her upstairs, snapping at servants and Sebastian alike to get out of his way if they weren't going to help. Ensconced in the soft sheets of her bed, he tended to his daughter, smoothing away her sweaty hair from her forehead and sending a page boy off for cool water and a towel. Sebastian hovered in the door as Bethany pushed past him, Anders pulling the worried father away from the birthing chamber as Malcolm and Bethany began the long process of helping Celeste through her labor.
He walked with his daughter leaning against him, up and down the chamber. She shuffled with tentative steps, her hand against her belly as she winced from the contractions rippling through her.
Malcolm had birthed his own children, and he would help his daughter do the same. He'd always believed in keeping it in the family, and now Bethany swabbed Celeste's forehead with a damp cloth and held her hand, the contractions coming in intermediate bursts. His daughter was no longer serene, howling in pain and snarling invectives against Sebastian that, had her husband been around to hear them, would have made the poor man pale. It warmed Malcolm's heart a little to hear them.
He still hadn't forgiven Sebastian for throwing up on his favorite pair of boots – well, if he were honest, they were his only pair of boots, but they were still his favorite pair.
Almost a whole day passed by as his daughter struggled through her labor, Bethany and Malcolm offering encouragement and advice as she worked through her contractions, sweat staining her shift with the effort of birthing her child. She was in no danger, both of her family members trained healers – the birth was just exhausting. Malcolm encouraged her to stand up and lean against him, feet spread as she rocked back and forth. Bethany rubbed her back and pressed cooling cloths against her sister's forehead.
They did what they could, soothing the ache with tendrils of magic, afraid of doing too much lest they complicate the birthing process. Anders poked his head in once or twice, passing off poultices and numbing draughts to help with the pain as well as more water and fresh towels. At one point, Celeste stopped moving, burying her face in his shoulder.
"I can't do this, daddy," she said, her voice trembling with exhaustion. He brushed away sweaty hair and kissed her forehead.
"You're going to have to, Punkin. You can't very well tell him to stop now."
Something soon changed in Celeste's stance, and Malcolm knew that the baby was done warning the world it was coming. Urging his daughter to settle on her hands and knees onto the sheets prepared for the event, he tucked pillows around her and spread a fresh sheet over her waist, gentle hands prepared to catch. Bethany encouraged her sister with shouts of 'Push!', but it was unneeded. A squalling baby boy was delivered without much preamble, sliding into Malcolm's waiting hands. He lifted his grandson, tying off and snipping the cord with a sterile pair of shears, Bethany all ready with a clean towel to bathe her nephew for the first time.
There was a problem, however. Malcolm turned just in time to see his daughter arch her back as she knelt on the pallet, a fresh contraction passing through her as she screamed. He dove for the sheets, Bethany moving away with his screaming grandson. His suspicions were correct as a second head slid into his waiting grasp. He knew that there had been something amiss when he'd probed her belly before with his magic, and why he couldn't get a bead on the gender of the baby. A girl this time, as bright red as her brother and squalling hard, entered the world right behind him.
He washed the little girl clean himself, crooning to her as he wrapped her in a swaddling blanket. Her mother was feeding her brother, and the babe quieted in his arms, looking up at him with the largest pair of dark blue eyes he'd ever seen. A shock of his own ruddy hair topped the crown of her head, just like her brother's, and it curled as it dried. In that moment, she wrapped her tiny fingers around his heart and squeezed hard. Malcolm wasn't sure she'd ever let go.
He held his granddaughter as his grandson nursed; Celeste winced with the initial contact, but calming when Malcolm swapped them when the boy finished his meal. Celeste finished her delivery, Anders rushing in to help Bethany take care of the afterbirth. He was settled in a chair beside the bed as Anders and Bethany rushed about, Celeste sinking to her side in her fatigue as the afterbirth made its messy entrance. She was filthy, tired, and sore, but Malcolm imagined that once she saw the sweet faces of her children without the haze of pain she would do it all again in a heartbeat.
A copper tub was being filled as Bethany helped her into it. She bathed her sister as Anders cleared the soiled sheets from the room, Celeste's eyes always on the bundles in Malcolm's arms. She was helped from the tub, dried, and settled in bed before Malcolm handed them over, regardless of her protests. She settled the children in her arms, relaxing against the pillows at last.
Celeste looked up at him, exhausted. "Well, you did say we should keep it in the family. Twins are the best way to do that."
He gave a small chuckle as he handed the baby girl to her mother. "I did, at that. No wonder I couldn't tell. We were both right."
Malcolm took the full baby boy, already asleep even as Anders and Bethany were helping to get Celeste settled and full of food of her own. He wondered if the newest twins would take after their aunt and uncle, diverse in their skills, or if they would both be barren of the gift of magic. Sebastian would have his hands full if both showed signs, but that was a worry far in the future. Let their father have his happiness now.
"Hello, Sprout," he said, settling into the chair next to the bed with his sleeping grandson, careful to stay within sight of his mother. "I imagine you and I will be getting to know each other better soon."
Celeste was eating, popping cubes of cheese into her mouth as her daughter nursed. Sebastian finally poked his head around the door, paling at the glare she leveled his way. He swallowed, his eyes fixated on the bundles in Malcolm's hands and the one latched to her breast. He moved into the room on rather shaky legs, settling himself on the bed out of reach of his wife. Malcolm had to wonder if he had heard the curses leveled in his direction.
"Twins?" The question was shaky, a gesture of peace between them.
"Yes, Sebastian, I birthed twins. If you ever come near me again, I will see to it that you are castrated."
Malcolm gave a guffaw, adjusting the blankets around Sprout's face as he rose and moved around the bed. "I wondered if those threats were serious."
Sebastian swallowed again, shifting off the bed and stumbling to a chair, just in case. He sat back, trying to stifle the pleased grin that was threatening to crack his face in two as Malcolm presented his son to him. Broad, sun-browned hands reached out with a tentative look into his father-in-law's face, the older man's nod stilling the trembling in the square-tipped fingers as father held his son for the first time. He adjusted his hold as instructed, marveling at his son's sleeping face.
"He has such tiny fingers…" he said, his voice choking up. Malcolm rolled his eyes. New fathers.
"Of course he does, dolt. All parts of a baby are tiny." Malcolm settled himself into his chair again as his granddaughter nursed. "Have you ideas for names, Punkin?"
Sebastian was too infatuated with his son to notice his opinion hadn't been asked. Celeste shook her head, rolling her eyes at her besotted husband. "Andrew for my son, I think. And…Leandra for my baby girl."
Malcolm nodded, his smile tightening at the mention of her mother. It was a good name. "It fits the little sweetheart, that's for certain."
He already felt the spark of overprotective need surge through him, just as he had felt when his own children were born. Malcolm Hawke was the first person to hold his grandchildren, and he would die to see them safe. He decided to stick close, at least for a year or so.
It would prove to be another of his very good ideas.
Things became rather tense for Malcolm over the first seven months after the twins' birth. It had become a sort of maniacal game of keep-away for Sebastian, Bethany, and Celeste, one to which he was not invited. If someone wasn't holding Leandra, she was being fed. Andrew was being doted on by his father when Leandra was being fed, or being cooed at by Bethany. If one of the three didn't have them, they were napping, and woe betide anyone who attempted to interrupt their naps, even him. Malcolm despaired of getting any time with his grandchildren by himself, and so he took measures into his own hands.
While he waited, he carved the twins a large cradle, somewhere they could sleep together without one crowding the other. He spent a lot of time working the wood smooth with his hands, a touch of magical heat added to his hands to aid the warping process. He sanded, painted, and lacquered it, all the while sending longing glances at his daughter and grandchildren. At last, the cradle was finished, trimmed with soft cloth in red and blue embroidered with the crossed arrows of Starkhaven. It was just in time for the next phase of the twin's rearing, where they began sleeping in the nursery with a wetnurse close at hand. The two cradles that had been prepared were forgone in favor of the larger double cradle he had fashioned.
He sat up reading in the library until late in the evening, biding his time until their mother and father retired before creeping down the hallway. He felt a bit like a burglar doing this, even with the green wisp of spellpower over his shoulder to light his way. He decided that drastic times called for drastic measures, nudging open the door to the nursery and poking his head around the jamb.
The twins slept in sound harmony, little breaths in and out as he crept across the floor. The green wisp hovered above the cradle, illuminating the ruddy hair. Both had the beginnings of their father's nose and his bright blue eyes, but the hair – that bred true. He stroked a gentle finger along the downy crown of Andrew's head, before the scrape of something outside the window made him freeze.
Instinct kicked in, and he doused the wisp, plunging the room in darkness. He waited, his breath forced quiet as the blood pounded in his ears. Long minutes passed, and then the doors to the balcony opened, silent in the darkness as a dark figure stole across the floor to the cradle where he waited. His hands flexed, but he kept still, waiting for his chance.
The gleam of a knife in the moonlight as it was unsheathed decided him. He exploded into motion, driving a magically augmented fist into the man's throat, causing him to double over. He jerked the knife away, bending the wrist back in a painful wrench that drew a pained wheeze from the man. He crabwalked him back out onto the balcony, lifting him high in the moonlight with his spellpowered strength. The would-be assassin's eyes rolled in terror as Malcolm dangled him over the three story drop, booted feet kicking in helplessness as he scrabbled for purchase.
"Who sent you?" Malcolm growled. The choking noises meant he had crushed the man's larynx. He sighed in irritation at himself and sent a wisp of healing magic through his fingers to the throat, opening and healing it enough for the attacker to speak.
"C-crows…" Malcolm shook him again, bobbling him over the balcony with frightening strength. A strangled gasp made him stop, bringing the assassin nose to nose again.
"Mages in power. No one likes the thought of that. It was a contract." Malcolm grabbed his throat, and he began to scream, a thin wail that was loud enough to cause worry. He limned the man's forehead with a paralysis glyph. The screaming stopped as his vocal cords froze. His eyes were locked on Malcolm, rounded in fear as the mage lifted him close for a final time.
"Shh, you'll wake the babies."
Malcolm released the assassin, letting him drop in silence to his death as he turned to check that his grandchildren still slept. It seemed that the Crows needed a lesson in leaving the Vael family – his family – alone.
He would set out in the morning.
For now, though, he conjured another wisp of spellpower and gazed down at his newest family members, watching over them while they slept.
A/N: More Malcolm for you all, although it turned a little dark there at the end. You do not fuck with Malcolm's family - ever. Another kinkmeme request, although I think some of you are posting prompts simply to bait me. I...might have an idea for a sequel to this one, but only a vague one that needs to be put on the back burner. I also learned far too much about childbirth today. D: I am now terrified of having children. As always, thanks for sticking around, Constant Readers!