(This story is related to "The birth of Suddendusk & Quick Fang's child" - see listing for more related stories.)
With a dubious expression, Quick Fang regarded the cub sleeping in her arms. The labor had been easy, far easier than the pregnancy itself with its attendant body changes and unaccustomed lethargy, but now she was at a loss for what came next. The cub was so small, not likely to be doing anything interesting for a while, but she found herself decidedly reluctant to be parted from him. He was hers in the same way her wolf-friend was — a mutual claim that bordered on ownership but never crossed the line into something that made her feel caged.
The feeling had been unexpected but familiar enough that she moved past any discomfort through pure instinct. She knew Suddendusk felt it, too, when he did not correct her for growling at Starskimmer when the midwife moved to take the cub for cleaning. Only a sharp glance from Windburn silenced the reaction and she sullenly handed over her child for inspection. Nonetheless, she fretted until he was back in her arms. She knew Windburn would never risk the cub's well-being just as she knew he was chief-wolf and must be obeyed... Still, both the wolf and the elf within her spirit resisted the separation, however temporary.
Now, though, she stared at the cub and wondered what to do next. No one else was around to poke or prod or make suggestions. She was alone for the first time in a handful of moons, a somewhat startling realization. She had finally managed to chase Crackle from the den with Evervale’s help and their father, her Recognized, had returned to some of his duties. Starskimmer had made it perfectly clear that she was not to even consider hunting for a number of moons and, disappointingly, both Windburn and Suddendusk supported this order. Clearly, she needed time to recover and the cub would need a lot of care so it had not been a complete surprise. Still...
Quick Fang wrinkled her nose. Those were future thoughts — the sort of thing that Suddendusk excelled at and she hated. What was the point in worrying over things that might or might not happen like a favorite bone? Things happened whether you planned for them or not. It was just the way of the world. The wolves knew this and were happier for it. Or, at least, she thought so.
Shifting the precious bundle to lie more fully in the crook of one arm, she used her newly free hand to adjust the furs wrapped tightly around him before extending a finger to poke at his nose. Starskimmer said he had his sire’s nose but Quick Fang could not see it. It was his nose and only his. Tiny little nose. Tiny little everything. It had been a while since the tribe had any cubs and it was easy to forget how small and helpless they could be. Small wonder she growled, then. Her new cub needed protection until he could growl for himself. She hoped he would learn soon.
Hope. She again wrinkled her nose but then settled back into the fur-lined bed bowl, nesting without conscious thought and drawing the warmth around both her and the cub. Hope and the future and plans. Recognizing Suddendusk made her have thoughts like these, she found, and she could not say she particularly enjoyed the change. On the other hand, there was the hope that, in spending time with her, he would forget to think so much. Quick Fang had no intention of raising her cub to be ignorant of the Way. It was so much simpler and it was not as if it had done her any harm, had it?
A faint smile touched her lips as her child shifted in her hold, yawning and pulling a small hand from amongst the enshrouding furs in order to plug his mouth and suck noisily. Absently, she rocked him a bit from side to side, a low hum coming from the back of her throat in soothing, tuneless song. He settled and sighed around the mouthful of fist. Rill, she thought. My little Bron..
When she reached out with her mind in a lazy sending, she found nothing but fluff and haze and a sense of sleepiness. A tired snicker of her own greeted the discovery and she closed her eyes as she relaxed even further into the comfort of their bed. Maybe he was too little to share properly but he could listen. Allowing herself to drowse now, Quick Fang provided her precious new cub with some of her favorite things. Things she hoped he would like, too. The bright moon silvering the trees, reflecting off the river. The scent of prey on the night breeze. Running fast and far, moving unseen until the right moment. Blood in her mouth, howling triumph.
A lingering smile on her face, Quick Fang drifted off into dreams, indulging in the side she thought she had almost none of. In her arms, long moments later, Rill began to stir.
Being a mother was hard.