She was pregnant again. Rubbing her belly, she made her way to the stove to get dinner ready. This would be Andrei’s second child and she was desperately hoping for a boy. Even though he treated David like his own, she wanted to give him a son of his own. It had taken eight years for her to conceive their first child together and she had been disappointed to discover it was a girl. Although, he seemed to be overjoyed at Charlotte’s birth and doted on the little girl. Now two years later, she was getting a second chance.
Hearing the door slam shut, she knew her son was home from school. “Hello Mama!”
“Hello David, how was school?”
“It was okay, we are learning about the Spanish Wars.”
“That sounds interesting. You can sit at the table to do your homework and then you can tell me about the Wars.”
David grinned, “Yes Mama.”
Hearing the door slam shut again, she looked up from her half cooked meal to find Cwen standing in the kitchen, breathing in deeply.
“You smell like your father.” Cwen sniffed David once more before moving further into the room and looking at Rebecca. “My, you’ve done quite well for yourself in the last ten years.”
Rebecca straightened herself and met the other woman’s gaze. “I would like to think so. What do you want?”
Smiling Cwen said, “I was in town and heard about an up and coming family that had just moved into the largest home the town folk had ever seen. I thought I’d come check in on the family. Imagine my surprise when I smelled you.”
Gritting her teeth to keep from showing her anger, Rebecca repeated. “What do you want, Cwen?”
Before she could reply, Cwen’s head whipped around and her eyes widened. A few seconds later, Andrei walked in with Charlotte in his arms. They’d been playing outside. Andrei’s laughter stopped suddenly when he caught sight of Cwen.
“David, take your sister upstairs,” he said.
“But Papa, I’m not done with my homework.” David protested.
“Now, son. No arguments.” He handed the toddler over to the boy and waited until they left the room. Walking over to Rebecca, he asked softly, “Are you alright?”
She nodded, grateful to have him by her side.
“Well this is just pathetic. You couldn’t find your own mate, so you stole your brother’s?” Cwen looked from Andrei to Rebecca. “And you just moved right along after he died, didn’t you?”
“Did you come here for a reason, Cwen?” Andrei growled.
“Just passing through and once I scented her, I became curious. I had no idea you were here too. I barely caught your scent until you walked in the door.”
“I have not been changing.”
Raising an eyebrow, Cwen waved towards Rebecca. “Because of this little chit? That is stupid and dangerous and lets other wolves think they can take your territory. What is it about this woman that makes men act so foolishly?”
“You are not welcome here!” Rebecca hissed.
“Really is that any way to treat a guest? Regardless, I did not plan to stay. One question for you though, does your son ever ask you about his father?”
Rebecca stiffened. “Why would he? Andrei is right here.”
At that Cwen laughed, “Please, you may be able to deceive those dumb humans in town but I knew the moment I saw him, smelled his scent, whose son he is. And it is not Andrei.”
There was a gasp at the door to the kitchen and David ran out. “You’re lying! Papa is my father,” he shouted.
“No, he is not” Cwen replied, viciously. “Your father was a real man who made a stupid mistake and died because of it. This person you call “papa” stepped in and took everything that was his, including you.”
“ENOUGH!” Andrei yelled. Rebecca had never seen him so angry. “Get out now, Cwen.”
The she-wolf bristled, “I am still the wulfric of your pack. This boy is legally mine to do with as I please. Do not overstep, or your fate will match your brother’s.”
“Is that a threat?” Andrei took a step towards her.
“No, it’s merely a warning. Your brother overstepped. He thought he could tell me what to do and he died because of it.”
Rebecca’s eyes widened. Cwen had killed Connor and by the look of calm acceptance on Andrei’s face, he’d known she’d done it all along. What kind of monsters killed their own kind?! And now she wanted her son!
“He is not yours. My brother was exiled and Rebecca was never pack. You have no claim over him. Now get out.” The last he said with a soft growl.
Furious, she shot a last look of hatred at Rebecca and slammed the door shut behind her.
David ran to his mother. “It’s not true. It can’t be true. She’s just a mean, stupid lady. Right Mama?” He looked up at her, unshed tears in his eyes. She looked up at Andrei, silently pleading for help. What could she say to this little boy to make him understand?
Andrei sighed, “David, come here a minute.”
The boy looked at him but instead of moving towards Andrei, stepped closer to his mother. Andrei held his hand out to him.
David stood up straighter, “It’s true then. You are not my father.” It wasn’t a question, but Andrei nodded anyway.
Shoulders dropping, David walked out of the kitchen without another word and Rebecca felt her heart break at the look of loss on the boy’s face.
As Rebecca’s pregnancy progressed, a rift began to form between David and Andrei. More and more David wanted to know about Connor. What he looked like, how he spoke, his favorite things. And as the boy asked his questions, Rebecca started to remember all the reasons why she’d loved her husband. Which, in turn, created a rift between her and Andrei. So much of what happened to her was not of her own choosing – had she ever really had a say?
“A penny for your thoughts,” Andrei said, startling her out of them completely. He was such a good man, yet here she was, wondering if falling in love with him had been the right decision.
She smiled, “I was thinking about you actually.”
“Really? What about?” He smiled and sat down beside her.
“I was thinking how great of a father you are.”
At those words, his smile slipped from his lips. “I don’t know if David would agree with you.”
“David is just a little boy who is hurting. He will come around. You’ll see.”
Once upon a time, a fairy by the name of Siobhan was born. She was a good baby and loved nothing more than to laugh. Her mother, Queen Bedelia, was a great warrior and her father, Lord Bryan was the king of all the Seelie. Siobhan grew up to be beautiful, bold, and brave, but she was not wise. Like all young fairies, she was mischievous and loved to play practical jokes on other Fae and especially on humans.
“Siobhan,” her mother would say, “you must be careful when playing your tricks. They will backfire on you one day.”
“Oh mother,” Siobhan would reply, “I am a Seelie princess. I am beautiful, bold, and brave. I will fight my way through any attack and charm my way out of any harm.”
Queen Bedelia shook her head sadly at her headstrong daughter. “That you may be able to do, my dear, but you would not need to if you used your head.”
Siobhan would smile her pretty smile and flit away.
Rebecca closed the book and looked over at her son, “That’s enough for tonight. You have fifteen more minutes and then the light goes off, understood?” She stood up and kissed his forehead.
Walking towards the door, she turned off the wall lights, leaving only his bedside lamp on. She knew he wouldn’t listen, but she was too tired to argue. It was a Saturday night, so no harm would come of him reading for a little longer.
“Yes?” She said, turning back toward him.
“Why do you read that story to us so much?”
“It was my favorite growing up. I’m hoping one day it will be yours too.”
“I think Siobhan was stupid to give up her heart.”
“We all make mistakes David but everyone deserves forgiveness. It can make such a huge difference in someone’s life and it costs us nothing.”
He looked at her for a moment and then said, “Goodnight mama.”
“Goodnight, my love.” She walked out of the room, perhaps things would get better.
The baby was coming and he was stuck outside. Becca had insisted on a midwife and the old hag had kicked him out of his own bedroom!
Pacing back and forth in the hallway, Andrei cringed when he heard her screaming. He did not do well with patience. And it was not as if he’d never seen the birth of one of his children, he’d delivered the first two on his own, for Christ’s sake!
Walking back toward the bedroom, he looked up and saw David. The boy looked worse than Andrei felt. The last time his mother went through this he’d been eight and a neighbor had kept him at their home for the night. David had refused to leave this time. And with the tension between the two of them, Andrei had not wanted to push.
“She will be alright; it was like this with you and your sister.” He tried to reassure the boy. David said nothing, just continued to stare at the door.
They heard the cry at the same time – it was finally over. Andrei rushed to the door, but before he could open it, the old midwife walked out. “You have a son,” she said.
Andrei felt the tears sliding down his cheeks before he even realized he was crying. “How is Rebecca?”
A low moan brought his head up and he looked at the bedroom door. He walked past David, who was scowling and the midwife, who had started to protest once she realized his destination, and walked through the bedroom door to get to his wife.
She lay on their bed, looking pale but happy. She smiled when she saw him. He’d missed that smile. She had been melancholy since Cwen told David the truth about his father. The boy was deeply hurt and took it out on his mother the most. He did not yell or throw tantrums, but he’d been taciturn and only conversed with her when he had a question about Connor. It had started to wear her down.
He walked over to her and bent to kiss her forehead. “Another boy, Rebecca. I’m starting to feel like a king.” He smiled when she laughed.
“With David…” She didn’t finish her thought, but she didn’t have to. He knew what she was thinking. He was losing his eldest to his dead brother. “I want to name him Andrei.”
Picking up the sleeping baby, he shook his head. “I already have a son named after me, let’s name this one Nathaniel. For your grandfather.”
“Nathaniel. Yes, I like that.” She started to say something else, but a look of pain crossed her face and she cried out instead. At the sharp noise, the baby woke up and started wailing. “Give him to –” Again, she cried out and the midwife was suddenly there, shooing him out of the room.
He looked back at Rebecca before walking through the door, “I love you.” She did not respond and he didn’t know if she even heard him. The midwife once again shooed him out and he went this time, the infant still snuggled in his arms.
Rebecca was dead. He looked out the window at a snow covered world. Everything looked so calm – just then, a fire truck rolled by, sirens blaring. How apropos, his life had become that truck, careening through a world that had no idea of the turmoil in his soul. She’d had a rupture and died from the blood loss. She’d never even gotten a chance to hold their son.
He’d buried her next to his brother. There was a kind of poetic justice about that. The two people he loved most in the world had met each other first, after all. It was only right they be buried side by side.
Now Andrei had three children to look after, two were babies and the oldest wanted nothing to do with him. Nathaniel was supposed to be a fresh start for them; instead he’d been the harbinger of death.
He looked down at the baby, sleeping peacefully in his arms, the first time in days. He turned away from the window and placed the baby in his crib. There was too much to do and not enough time.
Andrei was in such grief, the witch’s moon was upon them before he realized or could prepare David for it. The autumn before, the boy had been sick with a mysterious illness and he knew it was the body’s way of warning of an impending Change. He’d plan to sit down with David and explain the changes he must be going through – the hot flashes, the sudden increase of body hair, the odd cravings for bloody meat and the sensory overload. All things that a full bred cub would know meant the Change was coming, but he and Rebecca had thought they had time. But their time had run out.
So it was no surprise when he found himself at the graveyard, standing above Rebecca’s fresh grave, howling at the moon. He hadn’t even fully turned to a wolf! He had no recollection of how he got there or of even Changing. Sinking to his knees, he howled again, ending in a choked sob.
“Rebecca…please come back to us – to me. I can’t do this on my own. I need you.” He lay there, calling out for his mate, howling his grief to the moon. He didn’t know how long he might have stayed that way, not caring who heard, if it hadn’t been for a tentative response.
He rose quickly. He’d forgotten about the children – about David! Running as fast as he could, he made his way through the outskirts of town. He’d already wondered about aimlessly, he could only hope that instinctively, he’d stayed in the shadows and away from the general masses. The last thing he needed was for one of these humans to get spooked and start looking for wolves in the forest, especially not with his son unable to control his change.
He finally made his way to the back of his house and sniffed the air. David.
“David!” He shouted the boy’s name, searching for any sign of movement. From the corner of his eye, he saw a shape crawling out of the igloo David had built the morning Rebecca died. He’d been so excited about the snow, watching him work had brought a smile to Andrei’s face. Now it felt like providence. David had hid in the igloo once the transformation started, effectively protecting him from prying eyes.
Turning around, he rushed to his son’s side. “David, thank God you’re alright!”
“Wot’s hoppenin’ to meh? Wot am I?”
“It’s okay. You’re going to be okay.” David hadn’t fully Changed either. Was this a by-product of him only being half wolf?
“Oh my God! I’m not humon! Stay awoy from meh!”
“Calm down David. You have to stay calm. Everything will be okay and I will explain. Let’s go inside.”
He must have been in shock, because David let Andrei lead him inside without much fuss.
After checking on Charlotte and Nathaniel, Andrei sat next to a terrified looking David. He was just relieved that the boy was still sitting where he’d left him and sat there for a while, just breathing and waiting for some of that terror emanating from his son to dissipate.
When he finally seemed to have calmed down a bit, Andrei started to speak. He started from the beginning, what they were, who their pack were, what happened to Connor. Never once did David interrupt him and he kept glancing over to make sure he was being understood. David would just stare back at him and wait for him to continue.
By the end of the night, Andrei had told his son everything he needed to know and then some. When the sun started to rise, he stopped speaking and looked at David again. “Do you have any questions?”
“Ore your children like meh?”
Andrei cringed, he didn’t know. Usually, the change happened during puberty. David was still a little young for that, not yet twelve. Apparently that rule didn’t pertain to half breeds.
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Ow do I change bock?”
Andrei showed him. The process was supposed to be quick and painless, but they spent over an hour at it, during which David cried out more than once. The process was not painless for him. In the end, David lay curled in a ball on the living room floor.
He bent down to lift him up, but David slapped his hand away. “Don’t touch me! I’m fine.”
Backing off, he sat back down and waited.
David stood up and balled his fists; Andrei knew an argument was coming. “I want to go back. Mama is dead now, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t accept me back. Cwen said that was where I belonged.”
Andrei sighed. “No, David. We are not going back there.”
Instead of responding, he just stared, then turned and limped to his room. Andrei watched him go with a sinking heart. That had not gone well at all.
The next morning, Andrei peeked into David’s room. He already knew he would find it empty, but he’d hoped…
His son had left and as much as he wanted to go and bring him back home, he couldn’t leave the others. At least he felt confident about where the boy had gone. He sat in Rebecca’s rocking chair and thought of his family.