[P] [m] Little by little

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Quote:For Grievous backdated to around Feb 15th. Sorry about the wait!

The bulging belly of the Arbiter stuck out like a sore thumb in the crowd. However; some part of Aani still wasn’t sure she was pregnant. 

A moment of time- that’s all she wanted from the white male- just a moment. Confirmation and delicate hands that could confirm her daydreams and Edens nightmares. Aani had not known what kind of trauma this cause of the delicate flower girl- Eden- but she didn’t really care either. How could she take the time out of her day to care about someone else besides herself? That was ludicrous. 

Besides, with more mouths to feed in Salsola she would likely need to get this confirmed, so she could figure out anyone else besides her to raise these parasites. 

Children. Even the thought of them crawling inside of her like an inch worm, wiggling and taking her nutrients made her hackles stand on end. Pulling her coat tightly over her stomach and shoulders, Aani had a straight face. Grevious would be able to tell her and give her the all confirmed hope of trapping Eden. In a normal persons mind, this meant good will and good deed. The start of a family. To her? Pawns in a game of chess. Her own personal weapon to use whenever she wanted. 

There was no telling whether these things would even live to make it, but she would make damn sure they at least survived long enough for her to get her way. 

Grevious? She called out, once arriving near the stables. While it wasn’t odd to find him here, it was truly the last place she had seen him. Stepping inside the structure, her feet hit the ground silently, and the sound of her shallow breaths coincided with the snorts of the horses that were stables here, was the only thing she even heard. Wrinkling a nose at the smell in the air, she had to bite her tongue to hide the bile that would come up at any moment. One thing she didn’t like about pregnancy? The fuckin’ smells got to her. Every single one.
As the soon-to-be yearlings settled into their shapes, so too did their colors begin to emerge. Horses had a tendency to change as they aged. Grievous had observed this during his years of work. It was why he now was better able to determined which of the animals had come out looking the way their expectations demanded.

When he returned from watching the little herd graze and play in the snowy field, Grievous dug out a rolled up piece of hide he had been using as a scratch pad. The charcoal markings inside were smudged in several places, but the large, straight text was still readable. Grievous used the stick of charcoal to scratch further notes, but put his tool down when a familiar voice called his name.

He stepped out into the barn's hallway and spotted the blonde lingering near the entrance. She had a strange expression on her face. Unsure as to what would bring Aani back to the barn – imagining it had more to do with her previous inquiries than her present state – the wolf stepped forward to greet her.

“Yes, Arbiter Aani?” Politeness ensured he did not point out her too-casual use of his name. He had known her before her arrival here, and though Aani had never asked for his help, she had reflected well on his first student. Some familiarity was to be expected, and as far as he knew, they were alone.

masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
Thank the Gods for him stepping out and not leaving her to wonder in the area with the nasty beats for too long. Smelly, they were, and it made her nauseous. The children in her stomach kicked a bit, and she made a tender face, before she realized how the Equinest had addressed her, and immediately she felt bad. However, the familiarity between them shouldn’t have been so formal. Giving a quick glance around them, she noted they were- indeed- alone.

Sorry if I’m disturbing you, Equinest. But.... She trailed off just then and went silent, her mind reeling around their first encounters. Grevious has saved her from her own mind thinking it was pregnant and the rape and torture she had been through. Was her mind simply playing tricks on her again? She needed to know, and who else to ask besides Grevious? Eden was completely hindsight to anything. Nothing she said to her would make up for the feeling that Eden was- well feeling.

Her hand settled on her stomach and her lips twitched. A small twisted smile- one of sadness and surprise- came to her face. Grevious I want to be sure. Can you...? The words “confirm” and “pregnancy” felt like aliens on her tongue, so Aani simply flipped her coat open a bit and let the site of the slightly bulging stomach be noticed now. Her lithe frame looked odd with the unfamiliar pups in her womb. Ears tilted on her head, and her salmon-pink eyes tilted towards him, pleading.

Pleading for him to understand why she wasn’t going to ask him how he was, and why it was a curious state to be considered. Especially after their last encounters. I apologize about not asking how you are, I fear as though my mind has been abducted. A gentle smile now, for she was telling the truth. For once.
Grievous' stern expression softened as much as it could when he saw the way her hands moved. When he had first met the girl – very young, alone, and plagued by wicked spirits – she had thought herself carrying child.

Unlike last time, now he saw telling signs. Her belly was just barely larger than it ought to be, but her breasts looked swollen. Even her smell was different. Sometimes a body and mind could fool each other, but Grievous had seen pregnant women before. His wife had carried children. He suspected Aani already knew the truth, but had perhaps convinced herself it was not real. The trauma from her previous false event had been triggered by some black event beyond his knowledge.

A single, unwed woman, Aani had put herself in a very precarious position.

“It's all right,” he reassured the blonde woman. “Come, we can go outside if you'd like. Ah, sit down – here,” Grievous told her as he led the Arbiter to a quiet space behind the barn. He gestured to a small bench, but hurried to pulled a saddle blanket from the tack room for Aani to sit upon. Only once she was settled did he lower himself to a squat, so as to make it easier to examine her without looming overhead.

“When did you first notice this?”
masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
He softened, his eyes and face, seeming to melt whenever her hands revealed the protruding belly.

For some reason, it felt like her mind was playing tricks on her, always trying to convince her something else was going on. Breasts were swollen and tender, the abdomen distended and somewhat “round” in shape. And not to mention the nausea that took place or the constant crave for fresh blood, and jerky. His hands motioned her to follow him- and he led her behind the barn to a safe space. He assured her the entire time- perhaps she had played the victim all too well, even now. The first time they’d met, that was genuine. Now, her winces whenever he motioned above her hair, or head was due to reaction from ill treatment in her past, was still pretty noticeable.

When Grevious places the saddle blanket down, she followed and sat down upon the blanket a gentle sigh escaping her mouth.

Hmm...uh, I think I first noticed the sickness about four weeks ago? Perhaps longer? A nervous chew on her lip was another sign she was uncomfortable with this whole arrangement. Normally, she wouldn’t have minded, but for some reason she felt extremely nervous today. At least, that’s what she would let Grevious believe. A small smile parted her lips and she looked towards him with pink eyes, studying the change on it. Aani knee she was further along than she let on, perhaps she was even a bit behind that- but what she did know what she would be giving birth very soon. Her body told her that all in itself.

Placing her hands on her stomach, she waited.
There were horses that acted the way Aani did sometimes – flighty, nervous things that pinned their ears and tried to hide their heads when hands came near. The worst of these animals became vicious things, biting and kicking at any supposed-threat until it had passed. 

Grievous did not know what the world had been like for Aani before she came to Salsola. From the way she had talked about demons and possession, her physical tells, and the way she seemed so hungry for attention, he could only surmise she had suffered greatly. Eden had done her a mercy in bringing her to a proper healer, and again when he – or she, rather – had invited the blonde back into their home and Familia.

Ignorant of the young woman's promiscuity and addictive behaviors, Grievous wondered the events which might have led Aani to such a state.

“It takes at least two moons before a woman's children arrive,” he explained, unsure if Aani herself knew such a thing. “The sickness you feel is not uncommon. What else have you noticed? Tell me,” he said, and lifted his own hand towards her belly. His movement was slow and cautious, as if she was a nervous animal that might spook (or just as likely bite his fingers), but his intention was clear: “I'd like to feel, to be sure.”

The swell of her belly – firm but not hard – and the barely-there flutter of life within confirmed what his other senses told him.

Grievous expression hardly changed. He had never been an expressive man, but this matter was complicated.

“Aani,” he said. His ringed eyes lifted to her face. “Children are important here. They are a great gift.” He paused and debated how to best phrase what he meant to say. Cruelty would not change the fact that she was pregnant. “But there are ways things are meant to be done.”
masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
Dark hands were placed on her stomach, cautiously waiting. Forever she would be the unwed female who had come to see Grevious in her time of need. Edens brood was within her stomach, pausing and shifting to make herself more comfortable, giving him his time to speak. Two moons? How on Earth was she supposed to remember all that? It had been one moon entirely, perhaps waning onto the second moon. Aani’s face dropped and her expression stilled, nary a word uttered.

Grevious just confirmed her suspicions, as she had already spoken to Eden about such things. A double check and someone who Eden trusted, was enough for her. Her body tensed up, whenever Grevious felt her stomach the sounds and voice of the white wolf- was all but numb to her ears. I’m pregnant. All things would rely on her to keep these...things, alive within her. Her own safety and her own children’s safety remained to be questioned.

Aani looked at his yellow and orange eyes, studying them before she flipped her coat back over her stomach and sat up further. Then she turned her head away from Grevious and looked at the ground. Aani wasn’t at al sad, wasn’t at all upset over the children- over the fact they were brought into this world out of wedlock. No, instead, it was like something was ticking in her mind telling her if she didn’t have them now, then surely she’d be executed and placed on the borders for all to see.

They could be her pawns to use in this game of chess. She put on her facade and gave a weary look to him, before sighing. Loudly, a gentle sadness in her voice. They are the Cleric’s, what am I to do when she will not... her voice actually cracked. Be around me, nor them? It was true, Eden did not want to be around much- perhaps because the poor thing was forced into consummation and then now had living children. But that little secret would remain, throughout the rest of her life.

Pink eyes scanned the horizon looking towards the horses then at her own hands. Aani studied the cream and yellow tinted fur, that blended with her dark brown. The only evidence of dog she had in her, the rest of her was very much so coyote. Glancing at the Equinest again, her eyes brimmed with tears- and something else.
The news surprised Grievous, who stared openly at the blonde woman's weeping face. She was composed enough to keep her cool, but the news was troublesome. Such a high ranking member absconding duty was outrageous. Eden, especially, hardly seemed the type of person to do such a thing. There had been plenty of recent upheaval with the Cleric recently, but to sire children and then deny their existence? Even if Aani had been with other men, the risk of this occurring was too great to ignore.

Bastard children were not new things here. Mateship ensured that the Bambino were provided for and given proper instruction. They had already witnessed one disastrous marriage, and then another, and plenty more had been broken by untimely deaths. Was it failure that frightened the young magician? Or was there more to this story than Grievous knew?

His own devotion to Salsola had him too focused on the faux-pas to delve too deep. Idrieus would have – she had a keen mind and a nose for ends that didn't add up.

Luckily for Aani, the horsemaster overlooked these clues.

“If I were you,” he said lowly, and quite seriously. “I would speak to the Boss.”

He had never been an Arbiter, and his decisions had never been given much weight. What he did know was that the Law had rules. Their enforcement and make was overseen by greater minds than his own.

masks beneath masks until suddenly
the bare bloodless skull
The white brute stared, perhaps he was wondering what ever she might do in this situation. At the mention of Eden, it seemed his interest piqued. The subtle hints she was alerted to in his body language told her perhaps, he pitied her. How interesting.

If not pity, perhaps it was something else she wasn’t aware of. The Cleric’s actions seemed to be taken seriously. If only she had not waited until the children were damn near due, to ask Grevious for assistance. Her tears- fake as could be- aided in and helped considering that she was hormonal as could be. While being fake, they felt too real.

Another thing that annoyed the Aston-D’Noires female, the children would be a hinderance not including her swollen breasts and tender emotions. Where as, before, she could keep all things in line and in check. It seemed as though her future brood, would be more loathed and hated than she had actually thought. Not by the pack- no, no (they would cherish the children, after all they were the future)- but by their own mother.

His words made her look up- tears streaming down her face. She sighed, wiped the tears, and stood up next to the male. Go see Elphaba? Certainly, it could reveal a thicker body into society, and enable the safety of her- and the children. Mainly her.

Offering him a customary Salsolan greeting, she finished by standing arms length away from him and gave a small- if not sad smile. Thank you, Equinest Grevious. I appreciate your assistance in such a... She sighed and held back more tears. Delicate matter. Aani finished, and would give him a small bow at her knee, before walking away from him. As soon as he was out of sight, a devilish grin ensued on her lips.

Oh, what a lovely game to play.

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