(This story is a sequel to "Newborn Dreams" and is a part of the ”Trying to have a child outside of Recognition” storyline - see list for related stories..)
It was an odd feeling for Kestrel to be both looking forward to something and apprehensive about it at the same time. She leaned against the wall of the den as she worked idly on one of her carvings. She was deep in thought, her eyes occasionally glancing over at Snowfall, who was tidying up and doing general busy work. Kestrel recognized her behavior for what it was though; an attempt to stay busy and not think too much on what was to come.
Outside the den she could hear the chipping sounds of True Edge working on a stone tool. Of the three of them he had said the least about all of this. Later in the evening Willow would be here and they would try to make a cub. It was the first time in ages that such a thing had been attempted with the aid of a healer. Though he had agreed to them trying in this manner, Kestrel realized that out of all of them it probably took the most nerve from him. True Edge was still not entirely comfortable with healers in general or Willow in particular.
“You’re still nervous,” Snowfall said, interrupting Kestrel’s thoughts.
“Not so much nervous as I am uneasy,” Kestrel admitted. “I mean, it’s nothing we haven’t done many times before, but it’s still... so different.”
Snowfall nodded as she offered an encouraging smile. She too appeared to be a bit apprehensive but she seemed to be handling it a bit better. After all, the healer in question wasn’t her granddaughter!
“Has True Edge said anything to you, Snowfall? It’s not like him to not share his opinion, especially about something important. Is he nervous?”
The younger elf seemed to consider her answer for a moment but her voice held conviction when she spoke. “I don’t think he is nervous like you mean. From what he has shared of his thoughts it seems he has been thinking more about Whitestag and Quick Fang tonight. He wants another cub almost as much as he wants us to be happy.”
Kestrel considered that for a moment, her face registering a hint of surprise from her lovemate’s words. Before she could reply, though, she became aware of other voices outside and then the fact that the noise of True Edge’s work had stopped. An instant later his mental voice rang out to both of them.
**Willow is here. She asks if we are ready. Shall I bring her up?**
Kestrel felt her stomach jump, and from the look on Snowfall’s face, knew her lovemate felt it, too. They had been talking about this night for more than a full turn of the seasons. Willow had agreed to it the previous summer. Word-hunts, and regular hunts had made the timing difficult at best, but now... for the first time in a while, the three of them were together. The past few nights had been tender between them, and passionate. Now, they were ready - and it was time for Willow to try what they had only dreamed about until now.
Kestrel swallowed, then nodded to Snowfall, who returned the send to her lifemate, **Yes.**
As they waited for True Edge and Willow, Kestrel felt her heart rate accelerating by the moment. It was almost the same feeling she’d had, so very long ago, when she had approached joining for the first time. She’d had many rolls in the furs, had shared herself with so many - but never like this. Moments later they were joined by True Edge and Willow.
Kestrel wondered whether the anxiety each elf was experiencing would make the task harder. True Edge, Snowfall and Kestrel were not ashamed of their love, and often had witnesses to the consummation of it given the close nature of the Holt. This was the first time, though, that someone would be watching in this way... and it was a new experience for them all. From the corner of her eye Kestrel could see True Edge take a drink from a skin that held some of Starskimmer’s best wine.
“We’re being silly,” he said after a moment and then took another drink.
Willow reached out and took the wine from him, then took several gulps of the brew. Moments later, she nodded. “This is what you all want, isn’t it?” The question was asked with some uncertainty. “All I’ll be doing is lending my magic to your own efforts. I... can’t promise anything, but I’ll try. All you three have to do is what you normally would.”
It even sounded clumsy to say. Making love wasn’t a chore, but at the moment it felt a little like one. Kestrel bit her lip and said nothing. There was a big difference between planning something and actually going through with it. High Ones, but this was her own granddaughter who was watching, even participating in a way, by adding her magic to their passion. Nothing like this had been done since the early days of the tribe -- except for one success by Owl, just before his death, and that was something that none of them wanted to think about too closely
From across the room Snowfall looked uncertain too, but also steadfast in her determination.
“You remember the first night we joined so long ago,” she said softly to Kestrel. “We didn’t care who saw or what they thought.”
Her attentions turned to True Edge then, as she held out her arms to the both of them, beckoning them closer. “And when we Recognized the second time... you remember One-Leg outside yelling his encouragement... among other things.”
Both he and Kestrel smiled. One-Leg was one randy old elf and was fond of critiquing the performance of others if he thought he could get a rise out of them.
“Willow being here makes no difference, my loves. She is trying to help, you know.” Snowfall stood there between the two desires of her heart, holding onto each fiercely. Kestrel and True Edge looked first to her and then to each other.
Finally Kestrel nodded toward her granddaughter. “Willow, how should we start?”
Willow seemed slightly taken aback by the question, and she stood silently for a moment. Then, shrugging, she said, “I guess just try to forget that I’m even here. I’ll try to use my powers to mask my presence some. You may feel my hand on your back from time to time, but if you can, ignore me. Just think about each other, the way you normally would.” With that, Willow took a deep breath, trying to calm herself before quietly taking a seat near the lovemates’ bedbowl. She leaned back against the wall, her eyes gently closing.
Kestrel found herself grateful for her granddaughter’s suggestion, and for the discretion she was showing in allowing the lovemates to take their time. She smiled, at first to herself, and then at Snowfall and True Edge. Knowing that one of them would have to make the first move, Kestrel deftly undid the ties that held Snowfall’s shirt up, and watched with open admiration as it fell to the ground. Kestrel shared her admiration in a lock-send between herself and the lifemates with her, then added, **Clothing will only hinder us...**
True Edge grinned, returning the sentiment, and soon, their clothes were in piles on the floor, and the trio was locked in an embrace.
No one in the room knew just how much time had passed when the three elders lay spent in each other’s arms. It had been easy enough to forget Willow was there while her powers were focused on helping them do so, but now that it was all over, her presence crept back into Kestrel’s mind.
Her granddaughter seemed to be deep in thought. Not wanting to disturb her yet, Kestrel threw a questioning glance at her lovemates, as if to say, “Do you feel anything different?” Both shook their heads; the joining had felt much like any other. None of them were even sure if anything was supposed to feel different. Both Kestrel and Snowfall knew what Recognition felt like -- after Recognition, they had felt sure of success, but they hadn't been sure if they should expect to feel the same thing this time.
“Willow?” Snowfall said gently, rousing the healer from her thoughts. From the young elf’s guarded expression, Kestrel had the feeling that she already knew the outcome of the experiment. Still, Willow placed one hand on Snowfall’s stomach and the other on Kestrel’s, concentrating. The tell-tale glow of Willow’s powers shone for several minutes. At last, she let out a sigh, slumping back, and the glow disappeared.
“There isn’t anything there. I couldn’t make it happen,” Willow told them wearily. Disappointment was apparent on her face. Willow added, “It’s hard not knowing what I’m looking for. It might take a while to figure that out.”
The elders, too, felt some disappointment, but this was a possibility that they all had prepared themselves for. For a young healer with perhaps some overconfidence in her powers, the feeling was much greater.
“Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re still learning,” Kestrel said, smiling in hopes of consoling her granddaughter.
"And there will be other chances,” True Edge chimed in unexpectedly. “You can’t expect something like this to go exactly as planned the very first time you try.”
Willow nodded. “I’m willing to keep trying.”
“Not tonight,” Snowfall said gently. “You need some rest.”
Kestrel looked closer at Willow. Signs of the strain she had put herself under were starting to show. “Do you need help getting back to your den?” she offered to her granddaugther.
Willow shook her head. “I... should be all right.” She tried to stand, but wobbled, and sat back on the floor. She looked up, surprised. “Maybe... I do. I didn’t expect to feel like this - maybe more time passed than I expected.”
Kestrel was about to offer to help her granddaughter when, suddenly, One-Leg’s voice came bellowing through the leather den flap. “Do you all mind some company?”
His request was followed by action, and soon, One-Leg stood in the doorway, one arm around Starskimmer, who was only scantily clad, and the other hand holding a wineskin. “You all sounded like you were having so much fun, we decided to have some of our own. Then Starskimmer suggested we join you all - if you’ll have us.”
Starskimmer started to move toward where True Edge stood, the look in her eyes conveying her intent. Then, she stopped and turned to face Willow. “Willow?” she asked, her voice low, sultry, and slurred.
Willow looked to Kestrel, and Kestrel knew she was wondering how to explain her presence in the den. Aside from Windburn, Beetle, and Fadestar, the trio had not made their plans or intent known to others. They had agreed to wait until they had tried a few times before telling the rest of the tribe.
Snowfall stepped forward to try explaining when Starskimmer bust out laughing. “Really?” She looked to Snowfall, Kestrel, and True Edge and asked, “Did it work?”
Willow’s face flushed. For a moment, Kestrel wondered whether her granddaughter had told the breweress about the plans to try helping to make a cub. Then she remembered Willow talking to her about some of the conversations she had had with Starskimmer, and how she had asked for details about what Otter's mother remembered about when he had been conceived. Starskimmer was the only living female who had had a child born outside of Recognition. She would have had no more idea than anyone else in the tribe of how or why it had happened that one time out of all the many, many joinings she had enjoyed over her long life, but Willow had thought there might be some clue in what she remembered. Unfortunately, not even Willow's healing powers had detected any hint, not this long after the fact. Still, Starskimmer must have pieced it together
“Did what work?” One-Leg asked.
A sending passed between Starskimmer and One-Leg, and suddenly One-Leg bust out laughing, too. “You three? A baby?” With that, he let out a short howl of drunken joy. “Well? How did it go?”
Willow shook her head.
One-Leg moved toward the healer and patted her shoulder, then helped her to stand. Willow almost fell over, but caught herself, then excused herself and wearily made her way out of the den. Kestrel was about to step to her granddaughter’s aid when she saw Beetle coming up the stairs. Whether Willow had sent for her or Beetle just had good timing was unclear - either way, Kestrel felt better knowing that Willow wasn’t alone.
Once the healer was gone, One-Leg stepped next to Starskimmer and pinched her, causing her to jump. “Maybe we should practice with them? Help them get ready for their next try with Willow?”
Starskimmer nodded wholeheartedly, then turned back to True Edge and put her arms around him, pulling him close. He looked over Starskimmer’s shoulder to his lifemate and lovemate,, who smiled and nodded their consent. Kestrel grinned and, tired though she was, pulled her lovemate and One-Leg into an embrace.
Now that the first attempt was over, it was time to just have fun.