Her arms are empty when she wakes in a room bathed with the silvery twilight of early evening, or perhaps early morning. She can't tell, and knows only that her breasts ache with the urge to feed an infant gone missing. This familiar nightmare fades as she hears the slow, deep breaths of the man beside her.
When she rolls over she sees him lying flat on his back, their two-month old son huddled on his father's chest, riding the swell of Daniel's ribcage with each inhalation. A hand rests lightly on the baby's back, keeping a semi-conscious vigil of warmth, comfort and protection. Vala smiles at how naturally he eased into fatherhood after nine months of spoken and unspoken fretfulness.
Overhearing him tell Jack "I'm scared" had one day changed to telling him "I can't wait". And now they share a higher purpose unique to the both of them, as important as saving galaxies, as intimate as the ecstasy that created new life.
She'd exhausted her last reserves of energy re-settling war refugees from Tegalus who'd been relocated to this New Dakara village, the extra weight of the baby strapped to her back. She suddenly recalls the homeless family sleeping in the next room of their cottage, remembers what she'd said to Daniel: "My mother used to say it's bad luck to sleep with a baby if one is dead tired, sick, or drunk, so here you go, darling." The squirming bundle had just been nursed and in need of burping, and she hadn't cared if the kid spat up all over Pappa; she was effectively asleep before falling onto the pallet.
Gazing all the while at how similar their faces are in sleep, she refrains from removing her son from his perch. He has her nose, his father's pout, and a fuzzy thatch of sandy blond hair not nearly as pale or golden as her mother's had been. Daniel's unshaven scruff doesn't seem to bother the little one tucked under his chin. It's all she can do to resist covering both their faces in kisses. Instead, she scoots into Daniel's side, snuggling into the warmth. He shifts, half-asleep, still balancing the baby on his chest, and wraps an arm around her with the instinctive ease of a man more than content to be a husband again.