Breathing Home

by Hope

Happy birthday, Pearl-o.

His nose is full of smells. The black air rolling off of the dancing red and orange, the dark stuff under his feet all rich and brown, and the people; red-haired soft is sweet and smooth, gold-haired rough is sharp and salty. He bumps and bounces, something scratchy wrapped around his shoulders, and he's not used to that. All that feel of arms around him, texture and heat, voices and light, it's jarring to go from dark and senseless and quiet to chaos. It's a lot, crashing down again and again, and when another jolt rattles through him, he sits up. Not in the greenbrown smelling field, but in a bed, and he feels something wet and cool spreading beneath him.

Pajamas clinging to him, he slides out of damp sheets, rubbing his heels against the floor to test it before standing up. Unsteady on his feet, he bumps against the dresser, shivering as he reaches up with both hands to turn the knob. He can see in the dark, clear outlines of furniture and toys surrounding him, but he still hesitates before going in search of red-haired soft. There's so much empty space, in his room, in the hall, and his body feels like it's been abandoned. Hanging onto the door frame, he sticks his head out and looks down the hall, trying to make all the space go away so he doesn't have to walk out into it.

Something's squeezing in his throat, and in his chest- something thick and salty that makes it hard to breathe. His arms want to wrap up around him, his legs want him to sit and press his back into a corner. Sensing something right about that, being closed up tight and motionless, with just a whisper of something in his ears, he has to yank himself into the hall. It's not far, but he can't go fast. Careful steps, because the floor doesn't feel certain. He's fallen down the stairs twice now; he's suspicious of his feet on the flat expanses of floor that surround him.

Leaning his shoulder against the wall, he takes careful steps. He's wet and cold, but he stops at the top of the stairs. A hint of dinner still hangs in the air, savory smells that linger, and that makes him feel a little better about being in the hall. Dinner and breakfast and lunch are warm things, they taste good, and redhaired soft smiles when she shows him how to use the spoon again. She wraps her fingers around his, molding his them around the metal until it warms. When he has it right, she puts her hands together under her chin and watches until he gets a taste, and then she cheers. She laughs. Red-haired soft is beautiful, she talks to him in her low voice, adda adda adda - he doesn't understand, but he likes the sounds and the way she makes them.

He presses tight to the wall, slipping past the open mouth of the stairs. Bumping his way to the door that hides red-haired soft and gold-haired rough in a bed of their own, he pushes it open slowly. This room has smells too, body-scents rubbed together, the greasy-thin slick of the cream red-haired soft rubs into her elbows, and something sweet and waxy, with a trace of burnt beneath it. That's closer to red-haired soft's side of the bed, and he follows it, scuffing his feet across the carpet until they tingle with heat.

When he puts his hand on her cheek, her eyes open wide. It only takes a second for them to focus, and then the ginger slashes above them tilt up in the middle. She adda adda addas at him, cupping his face in her hands as she looks him over. He can't explain, but she finds the wet stain on his pajamas on her own, murmuring a quiet adda, and slipping out of bed to pick him up. When she carries him, he can press his face against her shoulder, squeeze his eyes closed, and breathe. She sways when she walks, and whispers in his ear- the motion and quiet so familiar he almost falls asleep before she gets him to the bathroom.

She washes and dries him, singing quietly, talking quietly, smiling between words and hugging him tight when he wraps his arms around her neck and doesn't let go. Another trip down the hall, but this time it goes too fast. Curled up, tight and safe against her, a memory voice laces through the sleepy haze in his head: the planet earth, also known as Terra, Erde, Gaia, will soon be your home. It is approximately four point eight billion years old, and it consists mainly of oxygen, silicon, iron, carbon...

Home is wrapped up tight in the dark, a single, whispering voice and rocking, swaying, constant motion. It wasn't falling, or walking through hot, furrowed ground, or breathing roasted smells, or suddenly seeing things, shapes, colors, faces. Redhaired soft understood the moment she saw him. She took him in strong arms that held fast, and held tighter when gold-haired rough made nervous sounds and looked away. She understands that, helping him into clean, dry pajamas, and keeping him close in the loop of her arm as she changes his sheets.

Tucking him in, she smooths his hair back, and kisses his forehead. He watches her eyes, shiny wet and watching him, until he can't keep his open anymore. Even after he makes it dark, she doesn't go, her weight pulling the edge of the bed down as she rubs his cheek and coos adda adda adda at him. One sound, over and over again, soothing him back to sleep, he shapes his lips the way he's seen her do, and murmurs it back. "Ma."

It makes her happy, so it must mean home.

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