All characters are the property of Kaori Naruse. I claim none, I merely borrow them and take them to yummy shoes sales and put them through the horror of finding the perfect strappy sandal.
Nighttime was so quiet, and so very, very still.
Or at least it was, until a baby’s piercing cry shook the air.
Hayate begrudgingly allowed himself to be pulled back to wakefulness at the sound of the scream. Sometimes he wondered exactly how Sasame could handle those super ears of his. But now was not the time for such musings. He was already awake, so he might as well go take care of it.
That idea came into jeopardy when he felt his wife stir beside him. She moaned somewhat unhappily at the notion of being woken up—yet again—to go take care of the baby. Well, no sense in both of them getting up when one would suffice.
He patted her back soothingly through the bedclothes. “You stay. I’ll take care of her this time.” There was a mumble, and Himeno promptly stopped moving. Hayate stayed in bed long enough to give her a chaste kiss on the cheek before slipping out from under the covers into the chilly night air. His slippers firmly on his feet and his robe tied firmly around him for warmth, he made his way down the hall to their daughter’s room.
Little Sakura was waving her tiny little fists in the air and crying for attention. Hayate moved right to her cradle and scooped her up. “Shh, shh, Daddy’s here.” He felt a bit silly, but it made sense. “Now what’s the matter, Hime?” Hime, he always called her. Princess. Just like her mother.
Well, technically her mother was still Tulip-Head…but that wasn’t important right now.
Even at her very young age—she was only two months old—she was already showing signs that she was going to wind up to be a lot like her mother. He had been holding her, and all of a sudden, that little fist had started waving at him with a vengeance. She was a strong little girl—she was definitely going to prove herself her mother’s daughter.
Himeno…she had taken to motherhood with a passion. That was her nature, though. And she was proving to be amazing at it. Hayate could only assume that it was a natural aptitude or some base intuition, that maternal instinct he had always heard so much about.
Hayate himself sometimes felt bewildered. He had known that a baby required a great deal of work to properly care for, but at times he just felt so lost. He loved his daughter dearly, and would gladly do anything to help out. But all to often, while Himeno bustled about, seemingly doing eight different things at once—he swore that she could grow extra arms—he just sort of…stared.
But it was at moments like these, with his infant daughter cradled against his shoulder, that he was reminded just how lucky he really was. Sometimes at night, he would go to the baby’s room just so he could spend a bit of time alone with his baby girl, the doting father he wasn’t always quite sure how to be.
Sakura was still squirming and whimpering just a bit, and he patted her back, making shushing noises. He briefly wondered what his fellow Leafe Knights would have said if they had seen their fearless leader walking around his daughter’s room, holding her and speaking in gibberish. He was certain that Mannen would have had some wisecrack to make. But the others—Goh and Kei—probably would have been surprised to see him openly being so gentle. It wasn’t usually his style, really—he had always been a bit more on the brusque side.
Sasame, on the other hand, understood. He was busy with his own duties as father and husband since Takako had given birth to their first child, a boy. There was already a small bet going around between the other Knights as to whether not Sasame and Hayate would have joint grandchildren one day.
Hayate sighed. He enjoyed these moments so much. But he wistfully knew that someday the baby in his arms would grow up, first to a little girl, then to a teenager, and finally a woman, an adult. Perhaps it was that he was a first-time father, but he felt so very sentimental about the girl they had named Sakura.
But for the moment, at least, he could feel like he really was the luckiest man in the world.
For the moment, life was beautiful.
Now feeling her breathing steady and even out, he inched back towards the crib, and ever so gently lowered Sakura back to the mattress; with a now-practiced ease, he pulled one of the many baby blankets they had received as gifts over the tiny form. This done, he stood and just looked at her.
He was fully alert, though, and prepared to drop to the floor if need be. If Sakura looked up and saw him, she wouldn’t go back to sleep again until he had comforted her once again. It was almost a running joke between Hayate and Himeno that if they saw their daughter’s head start to lift, they had to hit the deck as fast as possible, and on more than one occasion, do a sort of army crawl out of the room.
But Sakura didn’t move, and so he was free to simply stand there.
Once upon a time, he had promised his life to Himeno as one of her seven Leafe Knights, to teach her to use her powers, protect her from the attacks of demon larvae, and help her to fight Fenrir and the Princess of Disaster.
After the battle—after Fenrir’s defeat and Himeno’s resurrection at the touch of his lips—he had once again promised his life to Himeno, but in a different way. A contract signed during a ceremony that was a physical manifestation of a love that went far beyond the simple words love and honor.
And now, many months later, he had promised his life to another person as well—a tiny, defenseless little girl. A life he had helped create, the result of his love for his princess.
He was lucky, he realized. He had two princesses.
Hayate lingered for one moment more, watching the baby sleep. But then sleep began tugging at his eyelids as well. With a slight twinge of sadness at having to leave this peaceful scene, he turned and left Sakura to her slumber; he gently closed the door and moved down the hall to his and Himeno’s room to seek his own bed. He was exhausted.
Years of working as a Leafe Knight made it easy for him to move noiselessly, and he was certain that he hadn’t disturbed his sleeping wife as he closed their door and slipped into bed.
Well, he was sure until she rolled over and wrapped her arms around him, letting her head lull sleepily against his chest. Instinctively, his arms slipped around her in response. It wasn’t until that moment that Hayate realized he was a bit chilled, and she was so very warm.
“’vrything okay?” she murmured sleepily.
“Everything’s fine,” he whispered, shifting a bit for comfort. “Go back to sleep.”
“Mmm…kay…” she yawned. “G’night…love you…”
He smiled and sighed. “I love you, too.”
Holding his beloved wife safely and protectively in his arms, Hayate was soon lost to slumber.
For the moment, life was beautiful.PS. Sort of a follow-up to the previous two (Mad Dash and Something in White). Not really aiming for continuity in these things, but it was just what made the most sense to me at the time. The army-crawl thing is actually based on something my mother told me she had to do when I was a baby.
So there you have it, another Kiss. Whee!!! Hope y’all are enjoying the series—thanks, and much love!!!