Copper   2504.06.15*  
Written By: Whitney Ware
(2010 Summer Time-Jump Fic Contest) Copper is born to Brightwood and Farscout.
Posted: 08/15/10      [13 Comments]
 

Farscout felt his lifemate stir and snapped alert out of an uneasy doze. Brightwood was levering herself out of their bed, awkward in her balance.

“Aya,” Farscout said, reaching at once to support her.

Brightwood jerked her arm out of his hands. “I'm going for a walk,” she announced in a tight voice.

Farscout looked at his lifemate questioningly. Their unborn child was due, and for the last two nights, Brightwood had grown increasingly quiet and remote, restless and unable to sleep. Brightwood returned his gaze, and her expression was defiant. Farscout held her stare, then nodded.

“Just wait for me,” he said, throwing aside his sleeping fur and reaching after his shoulder bag, “before you try those stairs.”

It had been nearly a year since Brightwood had first shaped their den, high up among the limbs of the Mother Tree. As her pregnancy had advanced and the bulk of her child-heavy belly grew more unwieldy, Brightwood had shaped for herself a narrow stairway which wound its way around the trunk of the great hometree. Farscout followed his lifemate down those stairs now, ready to catch her if Brightwood's balance grew uncertain. But his Recognized's steps were steady, and she moved with a determination evident in the stiff line of her shoulders. It was a bright summer morning. Most of the tribe would be abed by now, but Farscout could hear the clang of his sister's hammer from the direction of the craft-dens.

Redbrush came trotting to meet them as they reached the bottom of the stairs. Brightwood fondled her wolf-friend's ears but did not try to mount up. Instead, she turned her face to the east and began to walk.

Farscout fell in step beside her. He shortened his stride to match hers and let Brightwood set their course. When he brushed his Recognized's mind with his own, taking measure of her uncharacteristic silence, Farscout felt Brightwood's focused inward attention. It was wolf-instinct that drove her, he sensed. The elf-side of Brightwood's mind well understood that she had a safe place within the tribe, and knew her kin would only rejoice at a baby's birth. But his Recognized's wolf-side was strongest in crisis, and any smart she-wolf who wasn't the chieftess-wolf did not dare bear pups where the pack's chief-mate could find them, not if she wanted her cubs to survive. So Farscout didn't try to distract his Recognized with questions, and didn't seek to persuade Brightwood from her retreat. He simply settled the wide strap of his bulging carry-sack more comfortably over his shoulder, and followed where his beloved led.

Illustration by Laura M.
It was afternoon by the time they had reached Brightwood's intended destination: her favorite grove, along the banks of Laughing Creek. Once there, she took shelter within the draping limbs of a willow tree where it grew on the bank above the creekbed.

Before leaving their den, Farscout had swept a sleeping fur off of their bed and packed it away with other supplies in his shoulder bag. He pulled that out now, and spread it out on the mossy ground for his lifemate. With a weary sigh, Brightwood sank down gratefully onto it. Her water had broken halfway here; when it had happened, Brightwood had simply squatted beside the deer-path until the flood had passed. Then, still wordless, she had simply started walking again.

Now, Farscout knelt beside his beloved on the sleeping fur. He put aside his bow and his shoulder bag, then pulled a waterskin from the bag. “What can I do to help?” Farscout asked, offering his lifemate the waterskin.

Brightwood had been sitting with her hands pressed against her bulging belly. She reached for the waterskin gratefully and took a deep drink. When she handed the waterskin back, her breath came in short, sharp pants, and her eyes were remote, her attention wholly absorbed with a conversation Farscout could not overhear.

Flea had joined them during their walk, and now she crowded closer, knowing that sometimes a bite of food followed the appearance of the waterskin. Redbrush dived at the other she-wolf and shouldered her away with a snarl and a snap of exposed fangs. Farscout stood and pushed both wolves back, sending firm commands to stay away from Brightwood. Flea retreated to sit down on the creekside, while Redbrush prowled the edges of the boundry Farscout had imaged for her, clearly unsettled by her rider's distant mood and changing scent.

Once the wolves had been sorted out, Farscout returned to his lifemate and settled down behind her. He began to rub her back, kneading the solid columns of muscle along either side of her spine. Brightwood moaned with pleasure, but otherwise remained strangely mute. **That's good,** she finally sent.

**How can I help?** he asked, feeling her stiffen as a contraction rippled through her body.

“Take this off,” Brightwood muttered, trying awkwardly to wrestle with her shift. Farscout helped his lifemate pull the loose tunic off.

**The contractions are coming fast now,** Brightwood sent, her naked skin pale and sweaty. **It won't be long now. Stay with me.**

Farscout crouched behind her and held her; he had been present at his sister Goldspice's birth, he remembered well how it was done. **I'm here, love,** he sent, welcoming her to take of him whatever she needed to see the short, bloody job through. **I'm here.**

She groped for his face and patted his cheek blindly. **Always,** she sent in a moment's distracted pulse, before settling down to the work at hand.

Their daughter arrived with the dusk. She gave a single, angry cry at the shock of the world, and waved tiny fists accusingly as Farscout bathed her with a damp cloth and swaddled her in a snowcat fur before handing her back to her mother.

“She's beautiful,” Brightwood said with contentment. She lay down, resting now that her heavy work was through. Brightwood let the cool air dry her sweaty skin as the child in her arms found a nipple and latched on hungrily. “And she's strong, too!” she laughed in wonder.

Farscout took care of the afterbirth, much to Redbrush and Flea's satisfaction. He washed his hands in the creek, then returned to the shelter of the willow, sitting down at his Recognized's side.

“Look at that fuzz,” Brightwood marveled, stroking Vuna's crown of red-gold hair. “I expected her to have your dark hair, or maybe brown like Beetle or Goldspice's.”

“I expected her to have your pale-gold hair,” Farscout said, watching his lifemate and child with bone-deep joy. “And your beautiful eyes. But her hair is like neither of ours. Skinner was the only elf in my lifetime with shining hair like that.”

Brightwood snorted at the comparison. “Shards, save our kitten here from Skinner's temper,” she said with a roll of her eyes. “Even on the best of days, he was in a mean mood!” Brightwood laughed, then nuzzled her daughter's head. “Skinner did have pretty hair. You remember how disappointed Dove was when Suddendusk was born with that yellow hair – and it all fell out and grew back black? Dove wanted this hair for her cub. Chieftess Foxsly had hair like this. My grandmother must be where Vuna gets it.” She nuzzled her daughter's crown again, drinking in Vuna's milky newborn scent with evident satisfaction. “We do good work together. Our little girl will be a beauty.”

“Like her mother,” Farscout agreed. “Her eyes are not what I expected,” Brightwood continued, tracing the sweep of one newborn ear with a gentle touch. “Not like yours, although they look as pale. Not my eyes. Not like my mother's or father's. I remember Cloudfern's when he was born, and Vuna's are much more violet, less blue. But babies' eyes always change after their first few days. I wonder... what color will they be?”

Farscout watched his lifemate inspect their child's face. He didn't know what color of eyes his daughter's would be. He didn't care. They were simply perfect. Of that, he knew no doubt.

Brightwood nursed their daughter and slept afterwards, more soundly than she hand for many long days. Farscout sat cross-legged beside his lifemate and held their child.

Vuna slept as well, her eyes closed and her small lips occasionally making a sucking motion, as if she were nursing in a dream. Farscout cradled her close and stared at his child, enraptured by the perfection of her. He had expected to love his child from first sight – indeed, he knew he had loved her from the moment of her conception. Yet Vuna's newborn scent was incandescent. It stirred in him something deep and so powerful, he almost felt he were drowning. Crading her small body close, Farscout felt both weak and strong. He felt himself a changed soul – he sensed that was so, in ways he could not yet measure.

Never had there been any creature so tender, so flawless, so helpless. Farscout swore that nothing would be allowed to ever harm this child – not as he lived and breathed. He knew that probably every father felt the same, the first time they held their children. But Farscout could not imagine that any child had ever been more precious, or that any heart could overflow so with such a soul-consuming love as his own did in this moment.

**Little Vuna,** he sent, basking in the wonder of her. Even as she slept, his daughter's mind responded to his like a little flower turning its face toward the sun. Farscout wanted to weep with joy; he wanted to bury his face in the milky-sweet scent of her and breath her in whole; he wanted to raise his voice to the skies and howl out in pride. **I have waited for you for so long. No child has been so wanted, not for as long as I have wanted you. No child has been loved for so long as I have loved you. I do not know what you will need from me in the days ahead, but I know I want to give everything to you. There is nothing I will not do for you, my precious Vuna.

**Oh, my cherished kitten. The world is wide and strange and cruel. I would shelter you from it, if I could – but I sense your mother's courage is in you, there will be no holding you back. But there will be so many important things for you to learn. As I've waited for you, I've watched other fathers raise their cubs. I know how fast the seasons will turn. There will be too few years to give you your wings so that you may fly high and far; too few years to teach you all of the stars that will always guide you true. My precious child. I will not always be able to be here for you. One day, I'll have to say goodbye. And someday, I may not return. That is the Way of things. But I cannot imagine leaving you.**

Vuna smacked her lips in sleep, ignorant of her father's words. He cradled her close and nuzzled her red-gold hair. “I have waited too long for you, my precious one,” Farscout murmured aloud in confession. “I've guarded the tribe and our territory long enough; it's time for someone else to walk those paths now. The tribe will have to depend on another – because I have you now, and I will not leave you. For a few short years, at least, the tribe can spare me. For a few short years, I want to be nothing but your father.”

Vuna's eyes flickered open, and the newborn gave a small, bubbling mew of a sound, as if in agreement. Her father smiled and gently rocked his daughter back to sleep.

Brightwood was ravenous when she woke. She ate all of the dried meat and travel cakes which Farscout had brought, down to the very last crumb. Then she nursed their daughter again, stroking the newborn's shining red-gold hair as she cradled Vuna close.

“She needs a cub-name,” Brightwood said finally, looking up at Farscout; her Recognized was crouched on his haunches nearby, watching with rapt fascination as their daughter fed. “We can't go back to the tribe without giving her a name.”

“Her eyes are violet. And she'll be as beautiful as a flower…” Farscout suggested.

Brightwood laughed and made a face. “Violet? Our cub won't be a weak and wilting flower.” She smiled as she continued to stroke their daughter's hair. “Our girl-cub is strong. Tenacious. She's already proven she's a tough little wolf. Rawhide, maybe?”

It was Farscout's turn to laugh and make a face. “No. Not that. Not for our pretty little kitten. How about Firefly? Her little light shines so.”

Brightwood laughed again and shook her head. “No. I'm not naming our daughter after a glowbug. How about Copper? She's got hair like polished copper. It's a rare metal, we treasure it when we find it. That's a name even your mother would have liked.”

Farscout smiled in amusement at that, but he weighed the flavor of his lifemate's suggestion. “Copper,” he said aloud, savoring it. “Copper.”

Brightwood pressed a kiss against their daughter's head. “Copper,” she said, her voice rich with satisfaction. “Copper. It’s a good enough tribe-name for you, until you should choose one better.”

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