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Sticky Hands

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[Incredible art done by @tradeofalljax!!]

Claude carefully slid the glass bottle of milk into the simmering water, Byleth watching closely, sitting a few feet away on the counter. Her little legs were curled in, pads of her cloth-cloaked feet pressed together. She waggled her arms a little, watching Claude dip the bottle in, watching her out of the corner of his eye to make sure she didn’t move any closer to the heat. 

The kitchen staff bustled behind him, preparing breakfast for the guards and castle staff, but they gave Claude and Byleth a wide berth, leaving the entire stovetop and a large stretch of counter space for them to use, even if it was unnecessary. Still, Claude was grateful for the peace. He knew he could have the staff warm Byleth’s milk for her, but he preferred to do it himself, preferred to test the milk on his own wrist. Not that he didn’t trust the staff in particular, he just didn’t trust anyone when it came to his girl. Except Dimitri.

Once the bottle was settled and all that was left was to wait, Claude moved over to Byleth and took her wiggling hands, her fingers immediately wrapping in fists around his thumbs. He squeezed them gently.

“You ready for breakfast, baby girl?” he said, then rubbed her right palm, one brow raised. “Are your hands sticky? How are your hands sticky, By? You haven’t even touched anything.”

He let go of her hands and grabbed a wet rag from the sink beside him, wringing it out before taking each of her hands and rubbing them down.

“Why are those hands so sticky, huh?” he cooed, his voice going deeper. “Where’d you get the sticky from, silly girl? What’ve you been sticking those widdle hands in, huh?”

Byleth stared at him in her wide eyed way, her head just slightly tilted. Claude brought her hands together and made them clap, his own eyes wide, mouth open.

“Wah! Clap those little sticky hands! Clap your hands, By!” he said, gasping dramatically with every clap.

Her lips spread into a smile and she started to bounce, kicking her little legs.

“Ap! Ap!” she babbled.

“Clap! Clap! That’s right!” Claude said, tapping her hands together. “And now for a biiig smooch!”

He leaned in and kissed her on the nose and she giggled, kicking her feet harder now. Claude let go of her hands and picked her up under the arms, bringing her to his face to blow raspberries against her tummy, and she squealed with delight.

“We’re gonna get you some yummy breakfast as soon as Daddy wakes up, okay? And you’re gonna get your yummy milk as soon as Papa’s done warming it up. Does that sound good?”

“Ap! Ap!” Byleth said, her gummy grin making Claude’s heart swell.

He moved her down and cradled her with one arm against his chest, then moved to take the milk out and test it against his wrist, and when he determined it was warm enough but not too hot, he poured it into a baby bottle and attached the nipple cap for her.

“Milk time, milk time, milk time for baby By!” he sang, kissing her fluffy blue hair as he turned to leave the kitchen.

As he looked up from Byleth, he stopped in his tracks at Dimitri standing in the doorway, leaning on the frame, a broad smile on his face, and Claude’s face warmed.

“Mornin’ Mitya,” he said. “You’re just in time for milk time.”

Dimitri chuckled. “So it would seem. Shall we go to the dining room then?”

Claude looked down at Byleth. “What do you think, By? Dining room?”

“Ap!” she said, clapping her hands together.

“Dining room it is,” Claude said.