Handle With Care   1572.03.01*  
Written By: Angie Cousins
(2010 May/June Fic Trade) As the arrival of his first cub approaches, Leather realizes that he has more nerves than he thought.
Posted: 07/27/10      [13 Comments]
 

With a faint sigh, Leather lifted his attention from the bits of hide in front of him. It was just as well, he thought. They had been fighting his will almost since the moons rose and now, looking out the doorway of his den, he saw that the faint light of morning had appeared. An entire night wasted, he thought, and the unexpected tickle of annoyance that accompanied the concept made him frown. Deliberately, he set down the final piece and rocked back. Dropping his hands behind him and bracing his arms, he leaned backwards onto the prop and tilted his chin up to stretch the tension from his neck.

As he sat for a moment in the early pre-dawn quiet and savored the easing of muscles long held tight, something else began to intrude upon his consciousness and Leather found himself frowning again. His gaze moved towards the world outside again. Then, not finding whatever it was that bothered him, he shifted inwards and studied the den surrounding him. Nothing appeared out of place - all of his scraps in a tidy pile, his pots carefully lined up on a shelf shaped as a favor by Cedarwing, his tools in a long reed basket, the sleeping furs... Leather started at that and blinked himself back into the Now.

That was what was missing. Gritting his teeth a bit to force down a sub-vocal growl, he clambered to his feet and strode outside. **Stormdancer?** he lock-sent, managing only through practice and will to make it into a question and not a demand. As it was, he knew a bit too much worry bled through into the name but there was nothing he could do about that. Besides, he had every right to be worried. It was not unusual for his lifemate to disappear for a night, returning from some chore or whim-based journey. Stormdancer would have her way, whether he would or no. He had long since accepted this quirk of hers, a consequence of loving the free-spirited elf.

Patience was a virtue and he truly wanted her happiness but... By the two moons, the female was nearly to the birthing time! Was she trying to put him in the river so soon already?

Feeling his heartbeat pick up, Leather crossed the central circle and headed for his lifemate's favorite tree. Hopefully, she had just drifted off to sleep in the sheltering branches. Though that alone was enough to make him worry more; her favorite branches for napping tended to be high above the ground. This thought brought him to the tree faster than anything before. He peered up into the thick canopy of green leaves. **Stormdancer? My love?** He felt the hopeful plea winding through the call and embraced it, pushing it out harder towards her, wherever she was.

"You needn't shout. I'm right here." Her mouth pulled into a tight little frown, the dark-haired glider emerged from behind the tree. "Didn't you smell me?"

Leather whipped around, staring before he finally shrugged. His shoulders then dropped in clear relief and he smiled crookedly. "Where were you?" was on the tip of his tongue but he allowed it to fade away in her presence. Instead, he held out a hand to her. "I missed you," he answered.

An immediate change swept over her face and she laughed, rolling her eyes as she accepted his hand. "You were busy with your leathers," she pointed out, "and I'm not a cripple. I needed to get out of the den." Her free hand indicated the surrounding trees vaguely. "It was cramped and I'm nearly ready to jump out of my skin. Everything is too... too much, in case you haven't noticed."

He tilted his head a bit as if honestly trying to understand her. Of course, he had noticed her tension and the High Ones knew she had snapped his head off more than once of late. Was he truly so rock-headed, though, that he put it all down to her usual temper and restless nature? **But the cub...**

Stormdancer smiled more at that and used their linked hands to draw him closer. **The cub is the reason, Kygir. She wants to be out and about.** Her free hand drifted to rest over the full swell of her stomach and she grimaced. **As do I.**

**I understand now.** With a sympathetic smile, Leather opened his mind and heart to her, impressions of warmth and safety winding through everything. **I'm sorry but I worry. You and our cub...** He sank to his knees before her, hands moving to curve along the swell of her stomach as if he could cup the life within her. Then he leaned forward, mouth close to the soft fabric and hidden warmth. His lips moved nearly soundless but the sincerity in the words bled through their bond.

She shivered, dropping her hands to cover his and her chin lowered, eyes closing. "What... What are you telling her?"

Leather looked up at his lifemate and grinned whitely, mischief now in his eyes, replacing the earlier worry. "That's between me and our daughter, my love." His hands slid over her stomach again as he stood and tangled his fingers with hers. **Come to bed,** came the lock-send and, with a smile, she allowed him to lead.

Just this once.

by Megan

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