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Vigil

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The first night they brought Iris home from the hospital, Gladiolus honestly wasn't sure what to make of her. He wasn't sure what to make of anything. All the housekeepers and staff were frenzied, preparing her room and the rest of the residence to welcome her. His parents were busy, too, going to retrieve his sister and bring her home safely from the hospital.

So he hadn't bothered thinking much of it. Gladiolus instead made himself scarce, staying out of everyone's way and perfecting his swordsmanship in the backyard. Gladiolus had only needed practice weapons when he started at the customary age of six; the following year he'd advanced to the real thing. Now at eight-years-old, honing his skills was often therapeutic for him. He went through the motions almost on autopilot while his house was turned upside down.

When Iris started wailing at two in the morning, then Gladiolus came to a decision. And it was that little sisters, his in particular, could be super annoying. In their great big residence, why did his room have to be right across from hers? Iris' crying startled him awake in the middle of the night. Feeling rather put out he stormed into her nursery.

He stared down at Iris in her crib. It was white and painted with her namesake, the unit far too large for her infant body. Gladiolus rested his arms on the railing and frowned down at her. "Why are you crying? There's no reason to be scared. I'm here and won't let anything happen to you."

At Gladiolus' words, or maybe just surprised at hearing his voice, her howling tapered off into more of an agitated gurgling. Iris' russet eyes blinked up at him and her tiny arms waved in the air.

"Gladio? What are you doing up at this late hour?" Raising his chin off his arms, Gladiolus saw their father shadowed in the entrance to his sister's bedroom. He looked tired, which wasn't anything new. Their father always looked tired when he came home from the Citadel, just in varying degrees of severity.

"I figured something frightened Iris, so I came to check it out. I don't see anything, though. So I have no idea what's her problem," Gladiolus confessed.

"Ah." Their father joined Gladiolus at his side, watching Iris for a moment. Seeing him stand over her, Iris' ministrations increased. If Clarus hadn't decided to pick her up, it was very likely that another screaming fit was imminent. Somehow, against him she looked even more impossibly small. Their father's bicep was larger than her whole body.

She was born with a full head of hair, light enough to be almost red. When Gladiolus went to brush some strands out of her face, Iris grabbed his thumb. All her tiny fingers barely wrapped around the single digit. When Gladiolus waggled it, her grip was relentless and unyielding. He might have been sort of impressed with that.

"It would seem our presence has soothed her, whatever the case may have been," their father murmured.

"You think so?" he asked.

"Yes. You were much the same way. Your mother and I would take turns reading to you at night, until you fell asleep."

Gladiolus frowned, not wanting to admit how much he remembered that. He'd loved it when he got to choose the next written adventure, sometimes getting to stay up extra late if they were close to reaching a conclusion. Their mother used to do special voices for all the characters.

Then Clarus was called away to conduct his duty more and more often, and their mother with him. Sometimes Jared would offer to help and read to him, but it hadn't felt the same. Gradually, Gladiolus had stopped expecting the pastime. He missed those books, and he missed the quality time with his parents.

Although, Gladiolus was a big brother now, as he'd been reminded for the months leading up to Iris' day of birth. Maybe he could be the one to entertain her in their parents' stead, so she would always have someone to help her sleep at night.

"Hey dad?"

"Yes, son?" he asked.

"Do you think she'd like it if I picked out a bedtime story for her? If it worked on me, then I'm okay reading to her," Gladiolus suggested.

"If you'd like. There should be a small collection on the middle shelf over there," their father said, after a minute pause. While Gladiolus approached the designated bookcase and perused the collection (and recognized some of his old favorites), Clarus surprisingly did not set Iris back in her crib and leave. Instead he took up a position on the window seat. Their father cradled Iris with one arm, making room for Gladiolus to sit in his lap and against his chest, nestled into his other arm.

"Beauty and the Beast, eh?" their father said.

"It's a classic," he grumbled, and opened the book up to the introduction page. Gladiolus started reading aloud, pleased when his sister quieted down. Even after she dozed off, Gladiolus kept going, until he too fell asleep.

The next morning, their mother found all three of them passed out and cuddling by the window.