July 20, 2016 by Lyn
She leads a lonely life
When she woke up late in the morning light
And the day had just begun
She opened up her eyes and thought
Oh what a morning
First Saturday in April 2, 2000
The boy had his father’s eyes. Boy, although he was an Adult now, with his Name and his weapons and, like his brother, his mission.
He bowed low over Shahin’s hand, the scales running down his neck and back glittering dangerously. She half-expected him, even now, to bite her. “With your blessing?”
“Always with my blessing.” He’d grown into a handsome, sharp, poisonous man. None of them had expected different from that, considering his genes. But he was her son, genetics be damned. “Come back to us when you can.”
“Be there when I come back.” Now he grinned, and his smile was his mother’s smile. “Take care of my kids for me, Mom?”
“We will.” The boys watched him wide-eyed, little copies of their father, their grandfather, their great-grandfather. Shahin pulled them to her, and watched her son walk off to battle.
She woke to Xaviera’s whimpering. The girl was sitting up, looking a little green around the gills. “No,” she whispered. “Oh, departed gods, no.”
“Come on,” Shahin murmured. She levered herself out of bed and offered her Kept both hands. “Bathroom?”
“I… okay?” She followed blindly, horror twisting her face.
She hadn’t been a child in what seemed like forever. Watching the kids playing hurt, deep in a place she thought she’d sealed off. She watched them anyway, the three of them playing in Maureen’s yard with all the others. She wasn’t the only one standing by the fence. There was always someone else. But she might be the only one here by some sort of choice.
“You’re leaving them.” She didn’t turn to look at the speaker. She might slap them if she did that.
“I never asked for then. They’re better off with someone who did.”
“Pregnant?” Shahin asked, when they were alone in the bathroom. The color leeching from her Kept’s face was all the answer she needed.
“No, no, no.” Xav sat down with a thump on the toilet. “This isn’t fair. This isn’t okay. This isn’t right. I had my two. I did my time. You didn’t sell me to Tolly.” She poked her stomach unhappily. “I had my two,” she repeated.
“I know.” She sat down on the edge of the tub and took both of Xav’s hands in hers. “I wish I had something to blame this on other than blind stupidity,” she sighed. Could it be mind control? Could there be a block in place about pregnancy? Kai might know.
“I know I’m not bright, but I’m not that stupid,” Xaviera complained, pulling in on herself.
“No, no, not you.” She was so over-sensitive. Shahin wondered if there was a way to fix that. “Us, Xav, Emrys and I. We should have thought of the consequences before we started sleeping with you.”
“Too late now.” She poked at her belly again wistfully. “I’d finally gotten myself back in shape. Are you and Master still going to like me when I’m all fat?”
Shahin smirked at her. “Do you think he doesn’t like me, now that I’m all fat?” she asked, teasing gently to cover her sudden bout of insecurity. Past six months pregnant, she was vividly aware of the swelling of her waistline, as well as everything else.
“You’re his wife.” Xaviera made it sound complimentary and dismissive all at once. “You don’t have to be pretty, you just have to be…” she wiggled her fingers. “Mage-y. Or whatever it is he likes. Spooky.”
“Spooky.” Shahin shook her head. “Thanks.”
Xaviera was lost in her own despair, oblivious to Shahin’s distress. “I hate being pregnant. The swollen feet, it’s hard to do anything, and then…” She looked up in wide-eyed horror. “Will you two get another pet, then, when I’m too fat?”
Gods, I hope not. “Of course not, sweetie.” I hope we’ve gotten around to freeing you by then, too. She took her Kept’s hands and rubbed them gently. “We’ll take care of you.”
“Having a secret confab without me?” Emrys slipped into the bathroom, smirking as if he was joking. Shahin knew that expression well, and wondered if they were going to have an argument.
“Xav wasn’t feeling well, and we didn’t want to wake you.”
“The bed got cold. Is everything all right?” His eyebrows were telling a different story from his voice. Did he really think they were keeping secrets?
Well, to be fair, you are keeping secrets. “Xav’s pregnant, or we think she is.”
“Oh.” His expression shut down for a moment, the way he sometimes did when he was surprised, not giving anything away. Then a smile cracked across his face. “Really? Idu Tlacatl Xaviera oro’Emrys et Shahin… yes, yes she is. I think another son.”
“At least someone’s happy about it.” Xav’s misery seemed to be outweighing her normal need-to-please.
“Of course I’m happy, Xav. Babies are a good thing.” Emrys gathered their Kept into a reassuring hug, leaving Shahin struggling with jealousy, confusion, and a slow, sinking realization.
That’s his second child. If he doesn’t need another child, where does that leave me? She reached out to join the hug, not only to comfort poor Xav, but to steady herself.
“There’s nothing wrong with us both having three, either.” She didn’t have any sort of telepathy with Emrys, nothing more than an emotional connection and a vague sense when he was feeling strongly. But his voice in her head rang clear as a church bell. Her head shot up to stare at him, but he was looking at the top of Xaviera’s head, cuddling her protectively.
She swallowed another surge of jealousy – he could, she presumed, feel her emotions as much as she could feel his – and thought about what she’d heard. Three. Both of them having three.
“Of course I want children with you. We’re married, we’re bound forever. I wouldn’t abandon you just because another woman is carrying my son.” His voice was still proud every time he said “my son,” but he sounded just as proud when speaking of their son. “And if you really want, I won’t begrudge you another child of your own, too. I’m leaving you alone here for a year, after all.” His eyes flared a little bit; she didn’t need to read his mind to know how little he liked that idea. “Any child born to us is our child, right?”
“Any child born to us is our child.” The words were perfect in her mind, so she spoke them aloud. Emrys’s head shot up, and then he nodded, slowly.
“We’ll take care of you,” he reassured Xaviera, “and we’ll take care of your baby.”
“I don’t want it,” she mumbled. “I never asked for babies.”
“I know,” Shahin soothed, “we know. And I’m sorry. We didn’t mean to get you pregnant, hon.” They’d never thought about it, at all. It really could be mind control.
“But now I’ve got it.” Xaviera frowned down at her stomach. “And now I have to deal with it, and carry it, and get fat and ugly and swollen and nobody will want me.”
“Now, now, sweetie.” Shahin stroked her hair, hoping to soothe her. “We’ll take care of you, and we’ll take care of your baby. We’ll raise him for you.”
“Can you just take it now?” she whimpered. “Get rid of it?”
“Xav, you can’t talk like that.” Emrys was frowning, scowling really. “We’ll take care of you. We’ll take care of the baby. Shahin’s right; we’ll raise him with the rest of our kids, it’s okay. But it’s Addergoole, you know you can’t… can’t talk like that.” There was enough distress pushing at him that Shahin could feel it pulsing through the bond. She squeezed his hand reassuringly, and squeezed Xav’s with her other hand.
“We’ll get through this. It’ll be fine, Xav. It will all be okay.”
“Long time.” The rangy warrior bore little resemblance to the woman they’d once Owned; then again, none of them looked much like they had in school.
“Ages.” They hadn’t seen each other since school. That was a world away, a lifetime away. Two generations away. Shahin squeezed her grandson’s hand. “What brings you here?”
Her shrug was a sinuous motion, so much more snake-like than Shahin remembered her, so much more dangerous. “I heard my grandkids were starting school. I thought I’d stop in, give them a gift.”
“A gift.” Shahin tensed. Was this old vengeance come home to roost? “What sort of gift, Xaviera?”
The woman held out two wooden blades, carefully not pointing them. “Don’t worry, Mistress. I’ve never forgotten my place.”
The painful part was, there was no irony in the woman’s voice.
She bowed again, and stepped back. “Your kids need weapons. Not just at school, but out there in the world. It’s what I can do for my blood.”
“Thank you.” She kept her hand on the boy’s back reassuringly as his grandmother passed him a rowan knife, the blade backed with steel.
“Thank you…” he offered…
“du’Snakeskin. Use it well.” Her smile, when she chose to show it, was nothing short of terrifying. “You’re going to need it.”
Shahin smiled at Xaviera and kissed her forehead. If Regine was going to breed an army, she didn’t see any reason why she and Emrys shouldn’t do the same. They were going to need them all.