One of those bells that now and then rings

POSTED: Mon Apr 09, 2018 7:31 pm

“Skoll. Skoll.”

The golden male yawned, some drool dribbling down from the corner of his mouth onto the stuffed hide, and stretched. His hands hit the headboard of the bed quickly thanks to his height, and he woke more fully at the pain, shaking his hands. More slowly he became aware of the weight sinking half the bed down, and glanced over to see a black wolf staring at him.

“Heeeey,” Skoll greeted drowsily, then knuckled his eye and sat up. Pushing his sleep-mussed hair out of his face, he looked at Dreyma, who climbed up into the bed with him.

She padded a little circle then flopped down, her limbs shaking a little as she did so. Her bushy tail curled up close to her belly, and her voice wavered. “Are you fully awake?”


Bright green eyes gazed back into his. “You really need to be awake for this, Skoll.”

The odd quality in her voice did wake him a bit more. He shifted his weight and pulled his legs in, sitting tailor style so the wolf had more room to lay on the furs and blankets. He shook his head to clear it and stared at her with a short breath. “What’s up?”

She looked down. Her forepaws were tucked neatly under her chest, like a cat, and she was still half-curled around her tail. Dark ears fanned outward with uncertainty, and her mouth opened and shut a couple times, before she swallowed and met his gaze again.

“I’ve been feeling… off, this past week,” Dreyma said. “No appetite, fatigued too quickly. Muddy and Aysun behave strangely around me. And, I – I’m gaining weight. More than I should for as little as I’m eating.” She flicked her tail away from her stomach, though from the way she was laying or the thickness of her fur it didn’t look different. “I don’t know, I’m… I’m going to ask Abigail, but I think…”

She was taking short little breaths. Her eyes squinted, flicked down.

“Merde,” said Skoll.

“Mm-hmm,” Dreyma responded, a hint of tired mirth touching her lips. “Like I said, I don’t…” She took another sharp breath. “I wish… I wish my mother was here, she would know and she would know what to do if this is really real.”

“So we’re assuming it’s… it’s me who…”

“Who the hell else, Skoll.”

“Yeah. Right.”

Dreyma snorted. She averted her gaze again. After a minute, Skoll reached out to stroke her head, his touch tentative, but she didn’t jerk back. She leaned her cheek against his palm, shutting her eyes. He pet the she-wolf for a few moments, comforting, thinking.

“What would you want to do, if this is real?” he asked.

She opened her eyes and looked out at the window, frowning in thought. “I know the herbalists warn mothers against some plants. Finch knew a lot about poisons, said some plants could induce miscarriages. So if it’s not too late, I could just –”

“No don’t do that–”

The black wolf whipped her head back around to look at him. He had blurted it out too fast, too alarmed, and felt his skin flush. Logic and courtesy for Dreyma fought against that instinctual ball of revulsion in his stomach, and he held a finger up to bid her wait while he got the words out.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, that’s not fair.” He swallowed. “I don’t want – I wouldn’t want that, but – that’s not up to me to decide. I’m sorry.”

Her bristling fur lay down again, and she stared at him thoughtfully. “Do you feel that strongly because they would be yours?” she asked. Her voice was mild, free of judgment, and it made him start to relax in turn.

“Just because they’re – they’re alive.” He cleared his throat and glanced out the window, too. His hands opened and shut, and his chest moved freely, but he remembered: a small weight, a cold little body, rising and falling with each breath, the little muzzles and big ears and thin fur barely covering that cold skeletal form. “And I don’t – I don’t want that on my hands, either,” he said, and looked down at palms that should by all rights be stained red. “I don’t want to cause that.”

“It wouldn’t be your fault.”
Dreyma licked her lips. “Well, I mean, this is half your fault, but that decision – it wouldn’t touch you.”

He dropped a hand to the furs, curled his claws in. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.”
She inched closer and rested her head on his knee, peering up at him. “Your feelings are important to me, too.”

“But if you don’t want this –”

“I don’t. But if you want it, and I feel – I feel safe, and healthy,”
she murmured, “then you should have the chance to…”

“I don’t know if I want it either. I mean, mon Dieu, Galilee will never talk to me again,”
Skoll said, and slapped his forehead with a small bark of laughter. “Your family will hate me.”

“Yeah, well. If they care that much, they can take them. Not like Alessan is gonna make any of his own on his own, so.”

Skoll shook his head. “They’d be my blood. I would… I would take care of them. I would want to, if you had them.”

Dreyma nodded, then said softly, “If it’s really happening.”

He frowned, then glanced at her side. From this angle, he could see how her flank swelled out slightly. Swallowing, he asked, “Can I?” and when she nodded after a pause, he reached out to feel her stomach. It was hot and soft beneath his touch, but nothing else.

In spite of that he felt something catch in his throat.

“Your eye is getting awfully shiny, Skoll Haskel,” Dreyma teased, her chin on his knee and her smile sad.

He didn’t answer that. He withdrew his hand and wiped at his face, then said dully, “Whatever we have would be over, wouldn’t it?”

She hesitated, sucked in air through her teeth, exhaled. “It would be too uncomfortable otherwise, I think. If you want them and I don’t, we couldn’t exactly be a family. I can’t see that for us.”

He nodded. “I guess we’ll have to make the most of the next few weeks, then.”

Her expression softened. “Yeah.”

Skoll said, and leaned back down again. Her smaller form crept up and settled down on top of him, her eyes shut as he stroked her head, the heat of her belly resting against him. Her body rose and fell with each of his breaths.


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