**You’re doing great, lovemate! Just a little more!**
Taking comfort in the encouragement from her mother, Stormdancer, and her lovemate, Snowdrop, Kestrel kept her mind focused on one thing –bringing her son into the world. She was barely aware of the others in the room eagerly awaiting the new arrival: her father Leather, aunt Frost, and Chieftess Easysinger, among others. The den was dark, and the atmosphere was one of anticipation. Gripping the hands of the two attending her, the glider gave one last push before she was rewarded with the sound she had waited so long to hear: the healthy cry of her newborn child.
“Oh, Kestrel, he’s beautiful,” Snowdrop whispered, stroking the new mother’s hair gently as Stormdancer cleaned his face with a damp cloth.
“He’s the very image of your lifemate and not much of you, that’s certain,” Stormdancer remarked with a slightly teasing grin. As Kestrel gazed at his wide eyes and puff of golden hair, she had to agree. It also reminded her that Boar hadn’t been there to see his son born. The glider smiled slightly; once that would have saddened her, but after nearly two years as his lifemate, she had come to understand his nature...and it hadn’t been easy.
Moon was gone.
After the accident, Kestrel was heartbroken. In over 500 years, she had seen death in many forms, but never had she felt so personally responsible. She had always taken it upon herself to watch over her dear younger sister, even though Moon was certainly an adult. The truth, of course, was that the tuftcat had come upon the hunting party so fast there was nothing anyone could have done, but a mind overtaken by grief is hardly ever rational.
Kestrel’s parents were able to find some relief through the kindness of their tribemates, but the only one who could bring the glider any peace for a while after the accident was Snowdrop. Her lovemate always seemed to know how to ease her worries with just a simple touch or a few calm words. Gradually, all those affected by the loss began to heal, and Kestrel, too, stopped mourning every day. Still, the memory always lingered like a stormcloud in the back of her mind. She declined going on hunts, preferring instead to remain in her den and work on carving her flutes alone. The general consensus of all in the tribe was that she just needed her time, and eventually going on hunts would no longer cause her to remember that day. All, that is, save one, who was too impatient to wait for her to get there.
“Kestrel?” came a harsh voice from outside her den one particular day. “The hunt’s on.”
It was Boar. One who lived in the Now of wolf-thought more than most, he had little use for those who dwelled too much in the past, and his rough manner could often be quite intimidating. Kestrel found herself avoiding him more often than not.
“You can go on without me,” she said, hoping he would leave her be without too much trouble. Instead, to her shock and indignation, he lifted the hide hanging over the entrance to the den and glared at her.
“How long are you going to let down the rest of us this way?” he growled in his husky voice.
“There are plenty of others who can scout. You don’t need me,” she returned, trying to keep a patient tone in her voice even though she felt herself getting annoyed. Why should what he said to her incense her so much, unless...deep down she knew he was right. She began to work more intently on her craft, intending not to lift her head and let her emotions show on her face.
“You’re acting as though you’re the one we lost, not your sister! High Ones, Kestrel, when are you going to start living again?”
The glider felt her fist clenching and unclenching involuntarily. He was insensitive and as stubborn as the animal he was named after...but somehow, his words struck home.
“You wouldn’t understand,” she muttered, nearly inaudible. She stood and walked towards him, intending to shut the hide. “You’ve never cared much for what I do anyway. Why start now?”
Boar was momentarily at a loss for words. Why exactly did he care so much? He had felt almost as if he had to come talk to the elder...but surely that explanation didn’t make that much sense.
“Well, I...” he started, preparing to come up with a plausible excuse.
His words were cut short as both he and the glider realized they were no longer staring into each other’s eyes, but...much, much deeper.
Kestrel took a step back, feeling her body start to tremble. Her head was still reeling with the sensation of what had just happened. High Ones, how could he be the one? She stared at him for a moment, willing him to say something, to acknowledge that he had felt the same thing.
“We can’t lifemate,” he said abruptly, turning his head away. Surprisingly, this time Kestrel was less appalled by his straight-to-the-point statement.
**Because we are too different, Ryn? ** she sent, bringing her hand to his cheek and turning his head so his gaze met hers. She could see in his gray eyes that he, too, felt vulnerable...but he would never admit to that verbally. Different or not, right now the two were feeling the same way.
‘Perhaps there is more to you under the surface than I ever would have thought’.
Feeling as though she were in a trance, Kestrel took the younger elf’s hands in hers and pulled him into her den, closing the hide behind him.
As Kestrel lay in the furs beside the one who she hardly knew, and yet knew more intimately than any other, she realized she had no idea how much time had passed. Had their time together lasted only minutes, or hours? The joining had been so different than anything Kestrel had ever known, much different indeed from joining with her lovemate. She heard rustling beside her, saw Boar gathering his clothing and hastily pulling it back on. She propped herself up on an elbow, watching him for a moment and feeling as though she were seeing him for the first time. Ever since she was a cub, she had always thought that family was extremely important, and that she would lifemate with whoever she Recognized. True, she had never once thought that she might Recognize someone who she hadn’t liked much beforehand, but who was to say that that couldn’t be changed??
“I want to try getting to know you...and maybe lifemating,” she said quickly, steeling herself for his reaction. He turned to look at her, his expression one of confused amusement.
“Listen, I know you don’t care for me very much, and frankly I can’t understand the way you obsess over things for so long. What kind of lifemates would we make?” he responded, shaking his head and continuing to pull on his tunic. The brunette stayed silent for a moment, trying to put into words how she felt.
“Thanks to you, I think I can finally put the accident behind me...for the sake of our cub. And, now that I’ve seen into your soul, I can tell there’s a lot about you that many can’t see. I’ll talk it over with Snowdrop, but I’m sure that she would be happy to give it a try.” Boar cleared his throat awkwardly, and the glider could tell she had made him uncomfortable. He crossed his arms over his chest and appeared to mull over the concept.
“If that is what you wish,” he said in a low voice before reaching the entrance to the den in three strides and letting himself out. Kestrel sighed and hoped she knew what she was getting into. It would be a long while, she knew, before she could truly accept his brash ways. But who knew...maybe, eventually, mere tolerance of him would someday develop into love.
Holding her son to her breast to nurse, Kestrel smiled at the memory of her Recognition. She knew that Boar wanted more than anything to meet his son, but after getting to know him for two years, she now understood that having him in the den for the birth would only have resulted in restlessness and pacing, agitating everyone. Now that the child was here, however, she knew it was time for his father to meet him.
**Lifemate, our son is here.**
Before much time had passed, he was there, flinging aside the hide and bounding into the room. Stormdancer and Snowdrop moved back slightly, letting him kneel before mother and child. Kestrel smiled at him, handing him his son carefully. Yes, he might not have been what she expected in a lifemate, but she had learned to care for him all the same, despite their disagreements. The decision to try to lifemate with him hadn’t been easy, but as she looked into his eyes, full of emotion she rarely ever saw at the sight of the son they created together, she knew she had made the right one.