one: wishes and cubs

He wakes up in a haze of complete contentment. His mate, Onyx, is spooned up against his back with his nose in his hair and his breath warm on the smaller Kindred's scalp, snoring lightly in his sleep. Sineult remembers with a smile how flustered Onyx got when his then twelve year old mate first informed him that he snored. Over the years, though, Sineult has gotten used to the noise, even come to need it for the feeling of familiarity and safety that it gives. Strange how small things like that are the most comforting to a person.

So now he is officially sixteen and he and his mate have been together for four years. It had been days after their first meeting when Sineult had finally realized that his twelfth birthday had come and gone in a dark alley somewhere close to his brother-in-law Jade's favorite hunting grounds. That hadn't been one of the best birthdays of Sineult's life, but what had come out of it was far better than any gifts he could ever have imagined on his own-last night not the least of it.

He smiles to himself as he remembers, trying hard to recapture every stray second of feeling, sound, sight, and taste. There will be other nights like that, Sineult knows, but there will never, ever be one just exactly the same, and so he has to store the memories up carefully and not lose them. Stuff like that is the quickest to slip away; things like his mother's face, the sounds of his brother's first wail. There are times when he wishes he could remember those things the way Onyx remembers his da and father. Sineult's mate isn't stingy with his memories, especially not once he'd learned that Sineult loves to listen to stories about his foster family, and so the half-Kindred has heard many things about Jade and Onyx's childhood and their late parents.

Zephyr Irasle-Curan met his 'wife', Summer Jerta-Durnal, much the same way that Sineult and Onyx met. They had been mates six years when Onyx and Jade Trys-Curan were born. (At first Sineult had been confused by the hyphenated names, but then Onyx had gotten Jade to explain the mechanics of Kindred naming ceremonies. It seems that a Kindred's middle name is made a part of their surname and that all the members of a litter are given the same middle name, as a way to identify not only which family you belong to, but also which litter within the family. It's still kind of confusing, but he does get the idea.) The whole family, or pack as the Kindred call it, had lived across the street from Spruce's family in the suburbs of the very same city that Sineult lives in now with Onyx, Jade, and Spruce. Their parents had been very good friends, and the cubs had all grown up together, but after Spruce's older brothers started to get married and move into their mates' homes, they had all drifted apart. Jade and Onyx's parents were gone by then. Summer and Zephyr had gone out one night during the Change and never come back. Onyx and his brother still don't know what happened to them, but by now everyone asumes that they must be dead.

Sineult wonders briefly why Spruce never talks about his family. Surely they must be important to him; they are blood kin after all, and that has to mean something. Which brings him again to the subject of cubs.

Sineult has always wanted cubs of his own, and he knows that Onyx wants some too. Now that he's old enough to have one, it sounds like a better idea than ever. He can only hope that his heritage hasn't harmed his cub-bearing abilities. That's another of the things that Onyx thinks he's kept from his mate, but Sineult is sharper than he seems, so there are very few things that Onyx and Jade can actually cover up. He dug the info out before long: all the possible small incompatibilities and problems that could result from the joining of a Kindred and a human. Sineult might be barren for all they know, or incapable of carrying a cub to term, or just unable to produce one that isn't defective in some way. He doesn't think he'll be able to stand it if he can't ever have a cub, or even worse if he does and it ends up hurt or disabled like that.

But that's a worry for another time. Growing up in a city like this has taught him above all that worrying is best done when needed, and no more than that. Dwelling on something that can't be helped only drives you crazy. Besides which-he giggles to himself while peeking out from under the edge of the sheet at his sleeping mate-today he's going job-hunting. He hasn't told Onyx about it. After all, worrying only drives you crazy, and you can't worry over what you don't know. Right?

Breakfast was bright, bouncy, and rushed-in other words, just like every morning with Sineult in the house. Hints kept dropping at something that Sineult was doing after they had eaten, but pinning Onyx's springy mate down long enough to get the full story out of him was too hard to even attempt on a Saturday morning, so the elder Kindred didn't bother. Sineult had had permission to come and go as he liked for several years already and hadn't gotten into trouble yet, which led Onyx to believe that he most likely wouldn't feel the need to start now. Prying wasn't Onyx's strong point, and besides, Sineult was as good at hiding things as a cat with kittens. Onyx would never find out until Sineult wanted him to.

"Jade and Spruce are coming over after lunch," Onyx reminded his flitting mate as breakfast drew to a close. "Try not to stray too far from home, alright?"

"I 'member," Sineult replied absently, piling the dishes in the tiny sink to soak and grabbing the wet dishrag to wipe the table top. "'M not goin' too far, s' don' worry, huh?"

"Alright then. Just be back by noon, please, so I know you're okay." Onyx stood, dropping a kiss on Sineult's blond head as he went past again. "I'll be right here all morning if you need me."

"Y're too jumpy," Sineult admonished, twisting his fingers into his mate's fiery hair long enough to get a proper kiss. "Do my dishes for me?"

"Oh, alright," Onyx in mock annoyance, stealing a third kiss. "Just don't expect them to be clean! I'm not so good at it." He released the young Kindred reluctantly and sat back down to finish his breakfast, watching Sineult dart to and fro between the bedroom and the kitchen in an effort to complete the morning cleaning, minus the dishes, before leaving. He finally had to shoo his energetic mate out the door just in order to keep the room from spinning with the sixteen year old's frantic speed.

True to his word, Sineult arrived home, flushed and panting, at three minutes to noon. Jade and his spouse hadn't gotten in yet, so Sineult set to making coffee and catching his breath while Onyx made lunch and tried insinuating information out of him.

As usual, it didn't work. In the half-hour between Sineult's return and Spruce's knock on the door, Onyx had earned no more of an understanding on the subject of Sineult's covert morning activities than he had started out with. He answered the door with a short sigh, leaving a giggling, still secretive mate behind him to put away the lunch things and pour out coffee.

The look on his brother's face when he opened the door was enough to completely sour his day. He leaned one elbow up against the doorpost and tried to be tolerant. "Don't tell me you have a secret too, Jade."

Jade recognized the long-suffering expression his twin was giving him and smirked. "Of course. What has your small consort done this time?"

"Take 'small' back, or y'll ge' no coffee!" Sineult threatened loudly from the kitchen. There was the slight clanking sound of cups, and then he emerged drying his hands on his shirt. "'ll give it t' the sink!"

"But you are small!" Jade protested in an attempt to save his coffee from the drain. "Smaller than me, anyway."

Sineult pouted slightly, unable to argue with the logic. "Tha's no fair!" But he hugged Jade anyway.

By the time he had ushered them all into the living room and brought out the four steaming cups, it had become quite obvious that something was up with Jade and his mate. For one thing, they kept sneaking knowing glances with each other and then grinning like a pair of fools; for another, Spruce looked like he was going to burst with nervousness, which was never a good sign. Jade just seemed like he had drunk a little bit too much coffee already. Onyx thought briefly about dumping his twin's cup after all, but after a review of the notion he decided that it probably wouldn't help anything, so he sat still and tried to practice patience.

"So..." Jade said finally, gulping coffee. "Well, Spruce and I have something to tell you. Although I'm guessing you already know that so I should really be getting on to the telling..." He giggled suddenly. "Gods, I'm nervous. Spruce, please you do it?" He tossed pitiful eyes in his mate's direction. Spruce shook his head flatly.

"Nope, I'm not doing it. I've got a cool, calm reputation to keep, remember?"

"Jus' spit it out real quick," Sineult suggested, leaning forward in anticipation. "Maybe it'll be easier."

Jade made a small whimpering sound in the back of his throat and clutched his coffee mug like a lifeline. "I can't." But then he took a deep, cleansing sigh and plunged ahead anyway. "Oh, alright. I'm pregnant."