Chapter 1: downtime
The bags under Tiadrin’s eyes were getting more pronounced by the day. It was so unlike her to admit to being tired. At three months old, Rayla was fussier than ever and she was waking up mum and dad at all hours of the night.
Her cries echoed through the room in the treehouse Tiadrin and Lain shared with Runaan and Ethari. Thankfully, their room was far enough away to stifle any sounds. “Shh shh, Rayla. It’s alright sweetie.” she crooned, as she rocked her gently back and forth. Tiadrin startled a bit when she felt a gentle hand on her back. Lain was out cold and she had slipped out of bed very quietly.
Tiadrin whipped around, nearly whacking Ethari with her elbow. “Tiadrin - it’s the sixth night in a row Rayla’s been refusing to sleep. Let me take a turn. I can see how tired you are. Please.” She tried to refuse, but Ethari had already scooped up Rayla with one arm and begun pushing Tiadrin back towards bed with the other.
She felt a little guilty as she slipped back into bed. However, the exhaustion soon caught hold of her and she snuggled up to Lain before she dozed off.
Runaan woke up rather suddenly and quite confused as to why his husband was not asleep next to him. He strode out of the room with purpose, hoping to catch Ethari before heading out to train. He cherished his lazy mornings with Ethari and was always disheartened when the spot next to him in bed was empty.
He found Ethari rather quickly, lounging in one of the oversized chairs in the treehouse’s interior. Rayla was curled up on his shoulder, sucking her thumb. Of course he was taking care of Rayla, his soft husband was always looking out for others. Ethari’s eyes met his and gave him the purest smile. Runaan still couldn’t help the flushed feeling that this brought to his cheeks. Runaan squeezed Ethari’s shoulder as he walked past to begin preparing breakfast for the three of them.
It had been a long day for all of them. Ethari had just finished his fifth weapons commission of the day, Lain had been taking care of Rayla all afternoon, and Tiadrin and Runaan still had not returned from afternoon training. Rayla’s ears twitched ever so slightly as the three of them heard steps approaching the treehouse. Tiadrin and Runaan ran through the door and raced towards the couch. Runaan beat Tiadrin by a fraction of a second, taking the spot next to Lain. “Just this once,” muttered Tiadrin, annoyed that she still hadn’t caught up to Runaan’s speed again.
Ethari rolled his eyes as Lain playfully laid his head on Runaan’s shoulder. “Hey bro. Did you miss me at assassin training today?” Lain asked.
Runaan sputtered. “Did I what now??”
“You know, miss me. Notice the lack of my presence. Wish I were there.”
It was Tiadrin’s turn to roll her eyes. “You’re so insufferable, Lain.” Runaan nodded in agreement, pointedly ignoring Lain’s questions. Tiadrin shoved Runaan over slightly, making shooing motions with her hands, and proceeded to slide Rayla into her arms.
“And how did my baby girl do this afternoon?”
“Much better than last night. She’s all playful and sweet during the day, but what I wouldn’t give for a full night’s rest.”
Ethari walked into the room and pulled Runaan into a chair with him. He knew that even though Runaan didn’t show it, this was his favorite part of the day - the time they spent together in the evening talking and laughing.
It had been about two years since Tiadrin and Lain had officially moved in with them. The Silvergrove was home to several families and it wasn’t uncommon for close friends to live together. Even then, Tiadrin and Lain were more like family to Runaan and Ethari. When Runaan had first moved to the Silvergrove, they had been so kind to him – too kind. It felt good. Foreign, but good.
Runaan stood up, pulling Ethari with him. “We’ll be right back.”
Lain couldn’t resist the chance to get in a tease. “You know, if you needed some ‘alone time,’ you could at least ask first. We know how lovey dovey you get when you’ve been apart.”
“I DO NOT-” groaned Runaan, as he disappeared into the room after Ethari. For someone who was apparently sleep-deprived, Lain was too good at getting a reaction out of him.
Dinner at the treehouse was Ethari’s favorite moment of the day. He loved sitting around the table with his best friends, smiling and laughing. It felt good to see Tiadrin and Runaan let down their guard a little and just be. He had never felt so at home in a place. He loaded up his plate and passed the bowl of potatoes to Tiadrin, scooting a little closer to Runaan.
“So, Tia,” Ethari asked, “what trouble are you and Lain going to get up to tonight?”
“Other than pummeling you for calling me that?” Tiadrin hated the nickname, but she let Ethari get away with it occasionally. “Considering we have a three month old baby, we’ll be lucky to even get a word in before we crash.”
Ethari laughed. Tiadrin could be so blunt. “Well, lucky for you – Runaan volunteered to take the early morning shift with Rayla.” Runaan glanced at Ethari, knowing he had not agreed to any such thing.
“Uh, yeah, Tiadrin. Ethari and I just want to make sure you and Lain get enough rest.” Tiadrin looked at Runaan suspiciously, noticing the hesitation in his voice, but she didn’t say anything.
“So, I hate to break up this little after dinner party, but the little monster needs bathing.” Lain looked around the room hopefully.
Well, that wasn’t surprising. Amid their chorus of avoidance, Runaan, Ethari, and Tiadrin had quickly vacated the kitchen.
Lain prepared for battle as he carried Rayla toward the bathroom. “Looks like it’s just you and me again, Rayla.”
Chapter 2: unsure
Tiadrin finds out she's expecting a baby.
this got kinda angsty and emotional. just fyi. I'm planning on making a follow-up chapter that's more soft and celebratory where she is further along. thanks for reading!
Tiadrin was not happy about this. It felt like the suckiest news she had ever received. And she had been given some bad news in her life. How - how was she going to be able to chase her dreams now? She felt torn - excited about the possibility and oh so guilty.
How could she have a child when she couldn’t even take care of herself? How could she have a child and love the child so much and then - no, she couldn’t think about that yet. It felt hard to breathe. How was she even going to say this out loud? To Lain? To Runaan? To Ethari? Not a good place for her thoughts to go. Calm. She needed calm.
Going home wasn’t an option. It felt too confined. Too much company. Not enough quiet. Her wandering thoughts took over and before she knew it, she was outside the Silvergrove. It all felt too overwhelming. She wanted to curl in on herself and forget it all. She wanted to think about what carrying a child might be like. Yet she wished it had never happened. She wanted to run and tell Lain, but she didn’t want him to ever know. It felt, well, wrong. Like if she had just planned better she wouldn’t have gotten herself into this mess. Why was she blaming herself? It wasn’t helping the situation. It wouldn’t change anything. The tears started flowing.
“This isn’t like you. What’s going on?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Silence followed. Tiadrin didn’t seem to want to talk and Runaan wasn’t one to push it. They sat in silence, the occasional sob still coming from Tiadrin. At first, Runaan hesitated to look at her, afraid to see the pain in her eyes. He glanced over to her. He could see the hurt there. But he also saw - excitement? fear? No, that wasn’t it. Stars above, why was he so bad at reading emotions?
After some time, he stuck his hand out. “If we’re not going to talk, can I at least walk back home with you? There’s people there that care about you. I care about you.”
She accepted the outstretched hand and slowly pulled herself up. He didn’t let go. It felt… good. The pressure was reassuring. It reminded her that even though she was bearing these heavy thoughts alone, she wasn’t alone. And when she was ready to share, he would be there. They would be there.
Tiadrin’s only thought after getting home was to thank Runaan, then hide. Straight to bed. No conversing; it would only bring tears. She headed straight for her and Lain’s room, bundling herself up in a soft blanket and crawling into bed. The emotional turmoil felt exhausting, but it wouldn’t leave, even as she willed herself to sleep. This wasn’t a problem she could just sleep off.
At some point during the night, Lain joined her. He wrapped his arms around her, hugging her belly. Normally, she would snuggle in and savor his touch, but now, touching her and her child-to-be, it just felt constricting. She couldn’t calm down, couldn’t relax. Her heart was racing. “Tia?” Lain asked sleepily. She tried to ignore him, but he just poked her and gently turned her around to face him. She exhaled a sigh of relief when his hands left her belly. How was she going to explain this all to him?
“I’m just having a moment, ok Lain? Go back to sleep,” Tiadrin whispered.
“Ok, but we’re talking about this in the morning. You don’t have to suffer alone.”
Letting out that secret into the world felt so relieving, yet so unsafe. It made it more real somehow. How she got it past her lips, she didn’t know. Lain’s stunned face came and went without a word. “Is this what’s been upsetting you?” he questioned, looking at her softly. She still found it hard to look him in the eye.
“There’s just so many what if’s, Lain. The dragonguard, my love of fighting, the likelihood of baby not making it, my instability.” Oh no, she could feel the tears coming again. He pulled her close, arms around her back. Her fears were still pressing on her, but she was reminded in that moment that she wasn’t alone. Lain pushed her hair back from her face and pressed his lips to her forehead. “I know it’s a lot to feel. We’re going to take this one day at a time. And we’re going to make it. This child will be so lucky to have you as a mom,” he said, squeezing her just a little closer. It didn’t ease all our fears, but she felt just a little bit lighter. Like she could face tomorrow.
Chapter 3: joy
Tiadrin comes to terms with having a baby. Her three boys are so happy for her.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
After the initial panic, Tiadrin tried her best every day to get used to the idea. Waking up every morning, putting her hand on her belly, and reminding herself ‘I’m having a baby.’ The thought often made her nauseous. It still felt like too much.
Getting up the nerve to tell Runaan and Ethari was so hard. She still felt so much shame. What if they judged her for getting pregnant when she was going to be leaving in a few years? What if they didn’t love her child? She wished her brain would let up for just awhile. Enough to be happy and celebrate with her friends.
Despite all her overthinking, their reaction was a comfort to her. Her good friends were so excited to have a child to spoil and love. Their excitement was contagious. It was comforting. Runaan and Ethari would support her through this. They would love this child. They already did.
Tiadrin’s life changed when she started feeling little flutters in her belly. It felt - exhilarating. In a way she hadn’t expected. She also hadn’t expected to feel this much love. It scared her. Being attached to this new charge felt like a weakness. That didn’t stop her from enthusiastically looking for Lain.
“Lain! Lain!” She yelled. “I just felt our baby move.”
Lain sprinted over to her, a delighted look on his face. “They moved? Our little baby is saying hi?”
Tiadrin wanted to capture that look on his face forever. So full of love and excitement. “Yes,” she said softly.
Lain’s disappointment in not being able to feel the baby move as soon as Tiadrin did was evident. She didn’t miss his downcast eyes as he glanced at her stomach and then back at her. She caught his eye. “Lain, you know you’re still an important part of this. It’s our baby. Not mine. You will get to feel them move soon enough.”
Preparing to have a baby was hard work. There was plenty of room in the treehouse for a new addition, but they still needed new furniture. There were some advantages to living with a craftsman. Tiadrin got strangely teary-eyed when she saw the cradle Ethari had made. “Only the best for my kin,” Ethari had uttered, as he traced his hand along the swirls on the side. Tiadrin wasn’t surprised that he seemed even more excited about that baby than her, but it warmed her just the same.
In the last month leading up to their child’s birth, Tiadrin spoke with the baby a lot. She told them about her fears, about the four loving parents they would have, and about how beautiful the place they lived would be. She knew she would cherish these moments forever. The quietness. The softness. The peace. The anticipation.
Actually giving birth to a baby was like nothing Tiadrin had ever experienced. Sure, she had dealt with pain before, but it was pain that could be helped. This felt raw. She wanted it to be over. Many tears of pain and exhaustion later, a crying baby girl was placed into her arms. Holding her close made Tiadrin feel weak. She whispered a soft “I love you,” pressing her lips to the baby’s forehead. Happy tears trailed down Tiadrin’s face. This was right where she was supposed to be.
ok so I'm in grad school rn and I really need to be devoting my attention to that so I can graduate. I'm still writing as you can see, but it's been much slower.
Thanks for reading this short chapter :) I wanted to get something out!
Chapter 4: return
it's a baby reunion drabble!
hehe look I'm alive!
Ethari never wanted to see his husband’s face looking like that again. Seeing that blank look followed by an expression of intense agony was more than he could bear. He’d seen Runaan walk away from bad injuries without an ounce of acknowledgement on his face, so he knew how bad Runaan must be hurting right now. And what’s worse, he caught similar painful expressions on those of his best friends, Lain and Tiadrin. The relief at finding them had been so short-lived. He was now left with three malnourished, withdrawn, and confused elves to care for. But his own emotional pain didn’t matter now. His friends needed him. His husband needed him.
He scooted over to Runaan, cupping his face gently. “It’s so good to see you again. Everything felt so empty without you.”
Runaan tentatively reached for Ethari’s hand, not sure how to feel. He had trouble grasping what was real and what was not. Was he really here? Was that Tiadrin and Lain laying next to him? The world around him felt like a welcome sight compared to his drab time in the coin. He felt himself tearing up, a little bit ashamed. This wasn’t who he was. Then again, he didn’t know who he was anymore. His eyes wandered over to Ethari, taking in the beautiful sight of his husband.
“I never thought I would see you again. It felt like a fate worse than death.”
Ethari pressed a familiar shaped object into Runaan’s hand. Runaan traced his fingers along the little crescent moon shapes, trembling. “My heart…”
“goes out with this one.” Ethari finished. “And it came back too. I love you so much, Runaan. I missed you.”
Ethari pulled Runaan into his lap, hands still shaking slightly, struggling to believe this was real. Runaan felt weak. But Ethari wrapped his arms around him as tight as he could, resting his head on Runaan’s shoulder. Feeling strength flow into him just from being close to Runaan, he turned his eyes to Lain and Tiadrin. He had so many questions. He decided to start with the most important. “Are you two alright?”
Having the chance to care for Runaan was a privilege. It felt like so long since he had had the chance to tenderly treat Runaan’s injuries while running his hands along his forearms. They were a bit weakened, but the familiar feel persisted.
Ethari raised his fingers to Runaan’s scarred and broken horn, examining it gently. “Does it hurt?”
“I stopped feeling it about a week ago,” Runaan muttered. “I know it’s still sensitive, but…” he trailed off. More than anything, he didn’t want to make Ethari worry more. He couldn’t get the image of Ethari’s sad eyes out of his head when he had first been released from the coin. There was relief there too, but so much worry.
Ethari wondered if he should be more disturbed than this. But all his mind could focus on was the the immense relief he continued to feel at having his husband back safely.
and Tiadrin and Lain, on top of that. It almost felt too good to be true.
They weren’t alright. But they were already looking so much better. Ethari tried to hide his glee when he saw color returning to Tiadrin’s face. He knew any sort of remark of her looking so much better would only spur Tiadrin to needless violence.
“I know you might not be ready to talk about it,” Ethari whispered, “but when you are, I’d really like to know what happened.”
The days came and went as his charges regained their strength. He almost cried of happiness when they were able to take a walk together through the Silvergrove forests. It had felt like so long since he had wandered the shady pathways hand in hand with Runaan, laughing along with Lain and Tiadrin.