Pathmark smiled in relief as he realized that he wasn’t too much farther from home, now. Scouting trips always seemed so much longer to him in the winter, when he was away from the warmth and comforts of his own den that made the cold bearable. He brought up images of Evervale and Longshot in his mind, happy that he would soon be able to snuggle close to them after spending the past couple of weeks with only his wolf-friend for company.
He was startled out of his thoughts when he received an unexpected send from his grandmother. Kestrel was nearby, and when Pathmark answered her with his whereabouts, it didn’t take long before he saw her gliding through the trees toward him. She was another welcome sight, and he quickly pulled her into a hug after she landed on the ground next to Bonetrail.
“Welcome home,” Kestrel said with a smile, and Pathmark could tell there was something different about her. Though she was careful not to give anything away in her expression, she had a certain lightness to her tone that was different than usual, and Pathmark said as much to her.
“Oh, do I?” Kestrel asked with a bit of surprise. “Well, I do have some news that I wanted to tell you.”
“Something that couldn’t wait until I got back home? Not that I’m not grateful for the company,” Pathmark teased.
“Oh, I know you better than that. I figured you would be otherwise occupied the instant you made it home,” Kestrel returned with a grin. Pathmark blushed a little bit at the implication, but he had to admit that she was probably right. And again, she was a welcome sight.
“So what is the news, then? You have me curious,” Pathmark asked as the two of them continued on their way back to the Holt.
“Well...my mates and I decided to try one last time to spark a cub with Willow’s help.”
Pathmark wasn’t surprised at this; he had figured that eventually they would after having some time to recover from the tragedy of losing the first cub. Though if they failed again — well, Pathmark knew there would be no more trying after that.
“And we were successful,” she responded, a smile lighting up her face. Her smile echoed on Pathmark’s own.
“That’s wonderful! Snowfall again?”
Kestrel nodded. “But not only Snowfall.”
Pathmark’s eyes widened, his mouth dropping open. “I can’t believe it!” he said in shock. Pathmark had never doubted his sister’s abilities in the slightest, and he knew there was a lot she was capable of. But never once had he thought that she would succeed in sparking a pregnancy in both Kestrel and Snowfall. Thinking back on it, Pathmark knew that the failure of Snowfall’s first pregnancy had been a huge blow to Willow, and she saw it partially as her own fault. That must have given her the incentive she needed to push her powers to the limit this last time. He wished he could have seen the look on her face when she had realized the miracle she achieved.
Now, Pathmark turned to look at his grandmother’s face. Kestrel’s eyes had a soft shimmer, and her smile was warm and happy. He could sense pure joy in all of her body language. It was a wonderful thing to see; she and her mates were finally getting a baby, and not just one, but two! He couldn’t help but grin. That was indeed news that couldn't wait until he got back home.
Impulsively, he took her hands and squeezed them. **Grandmother, I am so happy for you and your mates!**
Kestrel bent forward and kissed her excited grandson on the cheek. **Thank you, darling.**
**And High Ones willing, everything goes well this time,** he added a bit more solemnly, a tendril of worry creeping into his thoughts. Kestrel nodded.
**Now that we know this won’t be the same as a pregnancy created from Recognition, Willow will be checking both of us as often as possible,** she responded. **It will be a lot of work for her, and a lot of worry for all of us, but if it means we can finally meet the cubs we’ve been dreaming of these past few turns, it will be worth it.**
Pathmark nodded in agreement. He had faith in Willow to see this through to the end.
“You know what? I am happy for myself, too — us, getting a baby!” Pathmark let go of her hands and Bonetrail continued walking while Kestrel glided next to them.
“Us?” Kestrel asked, an indulgent smile on her face.
“You, Willow and me...that’s us.” Pathmark grinned. “It’s a real family project...I would love to be a part, too.”
“And you know I would love that.” Kestrel answered.
“So do you think True Edge will mind if I am going to be around much more often?” Pathmark teased again. “Hmm, but perhaps he would welcome some male support…” he added, winking. “...with both of his mates being pregnant…”
When they arrived at the Holt, Pathmark hopped off Bonetrail’s back and wished his grandmother a good night’s sleep. His eyes followed her as she glided back to her den and they waved at each other before she disappeared. Alone, Pathmark still stared at the point where he last saw Kestrel. This was just...amazing. He couldn’t find the right words to express every emotion he felt at the moment. Surprise. Joy. Happiness. Pride. What would it be like when the baby...no, the babies, were born?
Longshot would be happy to teach some more cubs bow lessons. Evervale would whittle toys for them, little wolves and bears and deer. Fadestar, having said many times how much she would love to be an aunt, would spend time playing games with them and teaching them crafts. Willow, while she didn’t often choose to look after cubs, would take much pride in knowing that she had helped two new lives into the tribe.
As Pathmark was lost in his thoughts of the happy future, he failed to notice two sets of eyes staring at him.
“Hey there!” A voice shouted from above, and seconds later someone threw a fur at him. Confused, Pathmark lifted his head and met the eyes of his lovemates, happy to see Longshot’s big grin and Evervale’s waving hands.
**Love, what’s keeping you?** Evervale asked, and Longshot added, **Just come here immediately, dreamer. We’ve been waiting for you!**
**You won’t believe what I have to tell you!** Pathmark answered and climbed up to their den. He knew that Kestrel and her mates would probably be announcing the news to the whole tribe soon, but he just couldn’t keep this inside until then. The words came tumbling out of his mouth, and the surprised and happy expressions on his lovemates’ faces echoed his own reaction not long ago.
**Oh, Pathmark, how exciting!** Evervale sent, throwing her arms around him as Longshot did the same from the other side. **I can’t wait to have more cubs in the tribe!**
The conversation between the three lingered on a bit more as they readied themselves for bed, topics drifting from the new cubs, to Pathmark’s trip, to what had happened in the Holt while he was gone.
Eventually, the three laid down, tangled up in each others’ arms for warmth as well as closeness, and it wasn’t very long before Pathmark heard the steady breathing of sleep coming from each of his lovemates. Exhausted though he was, he found that he just wasn’t ready yet to drift into slumber, his thoughts wandering once again to the happy news from his grandmother. It was slightly puzzling to him, really, that he should be so excited — while he liked cubs, he had never looked forward to the arrival of any this much.
Finally he came to one conclusion. Besides Willow, Kestrel was his closest relative, the person who had been like a parent to him when Bowflight had been grieving for Pathmark’s mother. Kestrel was family, grandmother, mentor and many other things more for him… and now, perhaps he could be something like this for her new children, too. He could be like a brother — like his father would have been if he were still alive.
Satisfied with this thought, Pathmark closed his eyes and cuddled up to his lovemates. He wasn’t sure how he could wait until the babies were born, but he was going to have to try.