There was a lot that went into raising kits to be blades, and none of it was particularly easy (in fact the easiest part was probably the beginning few phoebs when kits required near-constant attention, but didn’t do much.) It also happened to be significantly harder to raise the kits on the base because each and every one of them had been rescued from abandonment (whether intentional or not.) Kits that were abandoned anytime during their childhood grew up with some pretty crippling side effects, ones that were especially hard to work through when their caregivers were involved in an intergalactic war and had other important duties.
One of the worst side effects of abandonment was extreme separation anxiety involving a kit’s main caregiver. The babies remembered the cold, hungry, scary time before their rescue and developed a horrible fear of it happening again. Considering the line of work they were expected to grow up to be a part of, separation anxiety was not something that could go untreated. It took quite a while to deal with correctly too, so the process began early in a kit’s life.
Normally, a kit would begin to start therapy once they could no longer fit in their caregiver’s pouch, and therefore couldn’t be brought on a mission. (The blades realized it was not exactly smart to bring babies on missions, but they wouldn’t get in the way and they needed to stay with their caregiver. Also, kits who were abandoned multiple times usually died from stress or from refusing food, so it wasn’t likely a kit would survive after the death of their caregiver anyway.) Kits grew too big for a pouch around the time when they began learning to walk and talk, so they were considered toddlers (despite only being about two decaphoebs old.)
The transition from always clinging to their caregiver to having to be away from them for hours at a time was a difficult one for most kits. In the very beginning, the kits believed their caregiver had left for good and would cry the entire time they were away, refusing comfort and food and sleep. Thankfully, a skilled temporary caregiver could coax even the most stubborn kit into eating and sleeping, but to make sure nothing went wrong, blades responsible for kits that were still extremely anxious were never given missions that lasted more than several hours.
When it came time for Keith’s first time being away from Kolivan, the kit did not take it well. He’d been left with Antok, Kolivan’s right-hand man, someone who the kit had become acquainted with before and liked quite well. Leaving kits with someone that wasn’t a total stranger made the separation a little easier, giving the babies some comfort of familiarity. Other than his familiarity with Keith, Antok was a great caregiver. He didn’t have a kit at the moment- his last charge was transferred somewhere else a decaphoeb after Keith was found- but he’d fostered several and was experienced to say the least.
Kolivan left after he’d settled Keith down for a nap, choosing to wrap him in a soft blanket while cuddling a small stuffed animal as to not wake him up when he left. He handed the bundle off to Antok in his room and exited quietly, albeit with a moment of hesitation that all caregivers tended to have when they had to part with their young. He wouldn’t be gone long- his first time away would only be a max of five hours- but to him and Keith it would feel like days.
The lights were kept dimmed in Anton’s room, and Keith was laid down on the bed with a comforter covering his still little form, giving a false sense that he was napping in his caregiver’s bed while the Galra was showering or doing something else. It was a little mean to trick the baby like that, but it was good to make the separation feel shorter than it really was so the poor thing didn’t have to panic as long.
Keith’s nap lasted two hours, and after he woke up he was quiet and content for another ten or so minutes before he began chirping and whimpering for attention. Antok, who was laying on the bed next to the kit’s covered form, pulled back the comforter and lifted the baby onto his chest, leaving him in his tight wrap of blankets; the pressure and the scent of his caregiver would comfort him a bit. The Galra gently rubbed the base of the kit’s ears while he looked around, giving him the attention he wanted.
Keith looked a little dazed after being pulled out of his dark cocoon under the comforter, his little nose twitching at the scent of an adult that wasn’t his caregiver. His eyes seemed to adjust after a moment and he turned his head to look around the room, searching for Kolivan when he couldn’t hear or smell the Galra’s presence. It took less than a second for the kit to notice his caregiver was nowhere to be seen, his little eyes quickly filling with tears as he looked back to Antok with a wide, frightened gaze.
The big Galra gently trilled to the baby, his efforts going in vain as he began to wail. His ears drooped away from Antok’s gentle touch as he lifted up his voice in a frantic sob, a sound similar to the ones he’d made the day Kolivan rescued him. His small eyes screwed shut and his little body grew tense with his cries.
Antok felt simultaneous understanding and sadness at the sight, having been through this same scenario before with quite a few other kits, both as the temporary watchguard and as the worried caregiver away on a mission, but also knowing that he unfortunately could do little to soothe the kit’s distress. Sometimes, when they were a little farther along in therapy, kits could be distracted with games or with toys, but even then they never forgot why they were crying and what they were mourning. They would just stop crying as hard for a little while.
“I know, kit.” The Galra soothed, softly running his thumb over the seam between the baby’s ear and his head in an offer of comfort. Keith, unsurprisingly, ducked away from it and curled into his blanket pile a little more, rejecting the Galra’s attempt to care for him. It was common for kits to react in this way, since they thought their caregiver was gone, but didn’t want another, so they rejected any Galra that could potentially take up the role.
Antok didn’t ignore the baby even as he himself was ignored, knowing that doing so was quite possibly the worst thing he could do for the child. Even if the kit didn’t want his affection or his care, he still needed to feel comfortable and could not get lonely, otherwise his anxiety would worsen instead of slowly get better. He had to realize everything would be okay even if Kolivan wasn’t there, so that meant, ideally, he should be comfortable and happy.
Speaking of care, it had been a few hours since the kit’s last feeding, which meant it was time for him to be stimulated and fed again. The baby wouldn’t willingly accept a feeding from his temporary caregiver, even if he wasn’t a stranger, but with Antok’s experience, he was confident he could get the child to eat.
First, though, was a potty break. The Galra sat up and laid Keith down in his lap, then gently unwrapped the kit from his swaddle. The lack of warmth and pressure instantly made the boy even more upset, but it unfortunately had to be done. Antok picked the kit up again in his hands, carefully supporting his head and back, then began to stimulate him.
The baby kicked out fussily and squirmed like any kit would, still crying at the top of his lungs for his caregiver. His arms were still wrapped around his wolf plushie for comfort, which was good for Antok, otherwise he would have two small paws batting unhappily at eyes. After a moment the boy stopped kicking and laid still, letting the adult finish his job.
As soon as Keith was clean, the Galra wrapped him in his blanket again, though it did little to quiet his cries. The poor kit was going to be hoarse after this.
“Let’s see if you’ll eat.” Antok hummed, rubbing the baby’s ears to comfort him. He grabbed the small bottle of milk Kolivan left for his charge and held it in his hand for a few moments, warming it up a more acceptable temperature. Then, he offered it to the kit to see if he would take it.
The boy turned away and closed his mouth, which was unsurprising, but the adult gently nudged him, not giving up so easily. He expertly wiggled the teat of the bottle between the baby’s lip and gum and squeezed a small amount of milk into his mouth to encourage him to latch on. The kit’s cries quieted for a moment as he instinctively swallowed the food, but he still didn’t seem interested in the bottle.
Antok patiently squeezed more milk out of the bottle and wiggled the teat farther into the baby’s mouth. This time, when Keith swallowed his tongue found the teat and he suckled without thinking, allowing his temporary caregiver to properly give him the rest of it without a fight.
Now that the kit was nursing, he was mostly quiet. He found the taste of his primary caregiver’s milk comforting, if his dropping eyes were anything to go by. The Galra knew his peace wouldn’t last once he was done with the bottle, so he pulled back the comforter, laid the baby on the bed, and covered him with the thick blanket. Hopefully he would take a nap. At the boy’s age, he could still easily fall asleep with a feeding, and as long as he wasn’t reminded that the adult sitting beside him was someone besides Kolivan, he was almost guaranteed to sleep.
Five dobashes passed by quietly, so the man lifted the comforter just enough for him to see the kit asleep, still nursing on his bottle. It was empty, but there was no harm in letting him keep it; baby bottles were designed to keep kits from swallowing air.
Antok lowered the blanket and carefully laid down again, grabbing his tablet for something to do. Hopefully the kit would sleep until Kolivan was back.
Several hours later, a quiet knock came at the door. Antok carefully got up so as to not disturb the kit and opened the door with a smile on his face.
“Welcome back leader.” The taller of the two Galra greeted, stepping aside to let the other into the room. “Keith is asleep on the bed.” He said proudly.
Kolivan noticeably relaxed and sighed in relief. He clapped Antok on the shoulder and squeezed. “Thank you. I knew it would be best to leave him with you.”
“You’re welcome. Now go spend some time with your kit. I’ll watch the base.” Antok said, patting his leader on the back.
He didn’t need to be told twice. The blade went over to the bed and pulled back to covers, then lifted his still sleeping kit into his arms. He left just as quickly, eager to get changed into a more suitable outfit for a kit to climb around on.
Kolivan laid Keith down in his own bed while he got changed. He picked a soft fabric shirt for the kit, something that would be comfortable and easy to climb around on.
A sleepy chirp came from the bed as his baby started to wake up from his nap. The Galra quickly went over to him, excited to say hello to his child now that he was awake.
The kit didn’t notice right away that the adult that leaned over his was his caregiver, but once he did, he squealed loudly. He reached up with his paws for the man and Kolivan immediately complied, lifting the kit to his chest. Keith dug his claws into the shirt his caregiver was wearing and climbed up to his shoulder to tug and bite his ear playfully.
Kolivan laughed at the sudden tugging on his ear. “Well hello to you too.” He chuckled, ghosting his claws over the child’s belly. The boy squealed happily and wiggled, then went right back to chewing on his caregiver’s ear.
The Galra let him for a moment before he pulled the baby away to do the same thing to him. He pulled his lips over his teeth to protect the kit’s fragile skin, then pretended to chomp on both of his ears. Keith laughed and batted at Kolivan’s face as if to push him away, but the adult easily resisted. Keith squealed loudly when his caregiver continued with the play biting, so the man finally stopped and pulled away. The baby laughed and kicked his legs, still giggly from the play fighting.
Kolivan smiled fondly and held his child while the boy calmed down. It had been a long time since he experienced being away from one of his kits and he was enjoying the feeling of being back with his little one.
Eventually, Keith relaxed out of his excited state and laid calmly in his caregiver’s palms. He grabbed one of the Galra’s fingers and tried pulling it towards his mouth, but Kolivan gently moved it away. “That’s not a teat.” The man chuckled.
Knowing the kit was hungry, he quickly stimulated him and sat down on the bed with the boy in his lap. The baby eagerly leaned forward and latched onto one of his caregiver’s teats, kneading beside his latch to get the milk flowing.
Kolivan leaned back as his kit nursed and covered the small child’s back with one of his paws to keep him warm. The boy snuggled closer in response and looked up at his caregiver with happy eyes. The Galra smiled and returned his gaze fondly.
They were both happy to be back together.