(This story is part of the ”Romance between One-Leg and Doeskin” storyline – see listing for related stories.)
The taut feel of new leather not yet worn in tickled Doeskin’s legs. She slipped quietly though the trees to her destination. She so loved looking at the stars, and her favorite clearing in the woods was as good a place as any to while away hours doing so. But that was not what the tanner came looking for today. The recent New Green, all of it spent with a former lover, had been… invigorating. She wanted more. She wanted to try again.
Axehand lay shirtless in the moonslight, his mighty chest rippled with muscle and vitality. He was lying on his back, shaggy head resting on folded arms, just off center of the clearing’s wide-open space. There was no indication that he’d sensed her presence thus far. So why not go all the way?
She snuck up from behind him, and pounced.
But when she landed, he wasn’t there! Bare, silver-tinged grass was waiting for her instead. As she came down upon it, a burly arm swooped down and pinned her in place.
“Redmane’s Rump! Such a rude interruption!” joked the red-maned hunter. “The Clumsy Bird might have caught himself a Blind Fish this time if you hadn’t gone and made all that badger-baiting racket.”
“Never going to happen. One friend always warns the other.” She wriggled free, quite aware that he was letting her. A good part of her would have liked to stay wrapped in those arms, but she wasn’t just here for another roll in the grass. She picked herself up, sniffing around for a way to guide the conversation back to the words she had prepared. “I just came by to visit my old friends in the sky… and to congratulate you.”
Hands on hips, Axehand grinned wide and proud. “Oh? On what? My latest come-from-behind victory at Taal? The reckless act of true heroism that earned me my name? My storied prowess as a tireless explorer of the female body?”
She laughed, and blushed. “Flash, actually. All grown up and out of your den, earlier than most. You did quite well by her… even if she did inherit your lungs and the constant need to use them to their fullest. A fine father you’ve been, and are.”
“Oh, yes, I know.” He grinned. “Best job I’ve ever done, and I’ve mastered a few.”
Doeskin rolled her eyes. Even Axehand didn’t boast this much. Now she knew he was playing with her, filling the air with hogwash until she came to her point. “I’ve been talking with Tallow of late. Says she’s all packed up and ready to move back where she was five hands of turns ago.” Trepidation slipped into her voice as she continued. “I said I thought it was a bit off, you two splitting off so soon after Flash grabbed that open den for herself. But Tallow says there are no ill feelings between you two…” She let the last word trail off, its pitch raised almost to that of a question.
Axehand simply shrugged. “And why should there be? We knew when we met eyes that it wasn’t going to last. We had some fun, we did right by our she-cub, and now it’s done.”
Doeskin breathed out her relief through her nose. Axehand’s big eyebrows shot up as the swatches she was dropping knitted together for him. Aha! She’d managed to surprise him, she would press the advantage. “I think you did right by yourself, too, more than you know. I am a gambler, you know. You got me hooked on that pastime. Remember?” Fair trade for getting him to look up at the sky every once in a while. It was a habit she was glad he’d kept. Or had he suddenly felt reason to pick it up again? As for other habits… “Right now I’m betting you’ve learned a thing or two about living with another elf.”
She’d moved closer to him, and so did he now. Close enough that the scent of him sent a thrill up her nose. “Such as?” he asked, gently ticking the nape of her neck.
”Such as…” she giggled, “how to live with another elf. How to not come stomp-footing into the den all hours of the day, bellowing to no one at all until everyone in it— and the rest of the tree-- is wide-awake… Not always snatch the last mouthful of wine… Not think you can win an argument by shouting it to death… Not shake off mud and kill-blood inside like a wet wolf right next to a clean set of clothes…”
He cleared his throat. “Never going to live that down, am I?” Doeskin shook her head. “Not at all. I still have the pillow I made from what could be salvaged of that tunic.”
“That I won’t take any batdung over,” he countered, his smile smaller, his posture just a little bit rigid. “You could have saved that whole Preserver-poked pile of pigskin if you wanted to. Or is it too much to hope you’ve learned how to live with something that’s less than perfect? Not always hunt for faults and how to cut-and-stitch every last one into something passable?”
Oh, dung. She’d stepped in it. “I have, truly!” She reached out to him, put a hand on his shoulder and let it slide slowly down his arm, a gesture of reassurance. “Getting to know your daughter has, I think, helped me to understand you a bit better, how I could have done better myself. I’d like to think I’ve done some growing up too. I was joking about the tunic, you know?”
He took her hand, and squeezed. “I’m still standing here, aren’t I? And I have a fair idea now of what you came to ask.” He leaned into her, his smile back full and bright. “So get on with it.”
“I want to try again. You, me, one den.” The last time, the two of them hadn't lasted a moon. The two of them had barely got out alive. “I bet we can make it work this time.”
“I might just take that wager.” The hunter drew her hand up to his chest. She could feel the pace of his heartbeats. “What is your ante, pet?”
This was it; the moment she had prepared for, the scene and words she had needed a place to put. She pushed against his chest, and took a few steps back. Then the amorous tanner spread her arms and wiggled her hips in a melodramatic show of self-presentation. “My dear Axehand, the ‘prize’ is standing before you.”
Axehand blinked, and threw his head back in a fit of laugher so thunderous it sent some birds racing out of the trees. That got Doeskin started laughing, and they stood there laughing at each other. Axehand regained his composure and moved to close the distance, “Self-confidence. I like that in a denmate.”
“Lovemate,” she corrected. ”When I wager, I play for keeeeeeeeeeeps.” She felt air whip around her ears as she was picked up and twirled in a circle. Soon as her feet touched the ground, Axehand was on his knees, nibbling on her exposed belly.
Between quickening breaths she asked, “May I take that as a ‘yes’?”
The answer she received was a sloppy “Mmm hmm” amid more nibbles, and the phip! phip! phip! sound of the crisscrossed ties in her breeches being roughly pulled away. She felt some of the conforming leather around her hips give way.
She slapped his head playfully. “Careful! These are new leathers! I need them!”
Vibrant blue eyes peeked up from between her breasts, as hungry fingers pulled her breeches—and loincloth!— sliding down her legs. “Not tonight you won’t!”