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The Festival Family

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The Festival Family

Post by Michael DeathFlame on Tue Dec 20, 2016 4:18 pm

The Festival Family
A Collection of Short Stories

Hello! To anyone who overhead my frantic rambling about trying to pump out some writing before Christmas... well, this is it. With the conclusion of Unbroken and beginning of IR2 growing nearer, I've been getting a stronger and stronger desire to have something to bridge the gap between the two RPGs. I really fell in love with the Vride siblings, and I wanted to see just a little more of them as they continued to grow and mature. I also thought it'd be nice to see the Row in a happier light, especially after the depression and emotional scarring that took place in Unbroken. To appease these desires, I decided to write five short stories, each one taking place at different Christmases Gaius Festivals throughout the years. At the moment there is no schedule for when each story will be released; most of that depends on how annoying my concussion is going to be.

Here's a brief synopsis of the five stories:

Spoiler:

Yup, you know what that means. Yutasha fluff. So much Yutasha fluff. That doesn't make up everything, of course; since all of these stories are written from Yupik's point of view, there are references to his stay with Amanda, particularly in the second story, so yeah, obvious warning about that. But yeah, the majority of this is ship fluff to bridge that gap. So if you're not into that... I'm sorry xD

One final note before we get started. Since I included characters that do not belong to me, these stories are not canon. Still, if there's anything that happens that seriously bothers, please let me know so that I can change that.

Anyways, enough talking. Time for the stories!

~*~701 AW~*~

Through the wall of freezing rain, I can’t make out my sister too well. But the weather’s definitely not loud enough to completely block out her complaining. “You know, Ciel’s a real dick,” she snaps from my right, and I can’t just see her tugging her hood tighter over her frozen face. “It was peachy-keen out, what, a few hours ago, not even? Sunshine and rainbows for days. But the second the hoverboard breaks down, bam, clouds and rain. Just our fucking luck, you know?”

Miranda’s head turns just a bit from in front of us, making it easier to hear her over the wind. “I thought you were the one who hated flying?”

“Yeah sure, but you know what else isn’t fun? Freezing your ass off!” She huffs out a mouthful of steam, shooting up through the rain. “Spirits, I’m hungry. Gentry better have a shit-ton of food.”

Hopefully a lot of warm food. I pull my hands under the cover of my coat, rubbing them together to get as much heat going as I can. After walking through this storm for the past… I don’t know, for the past while, I’m starting to think more about warmth than food right about now.

“Look on the bright side. You only have nine fingers and eight toes. That means you have three fewer cold digits than everyone else.” I roll my eyes, deciding not to get into a conversation with Them; I don’t want to get in a bad mood. I mean, sure, it’s cold, and yeah, I really wish we didn’t have to walk the last bit of this trip, but there’re worse things in the world.  

Besides, it’s what we got ahead of us that really counts, and no amount of rain can ruin that. “It can’t be too much farther, right?” I squint through the rain. “I mean, I think I see some light up ahead. Gentry said she had festival lights set up, right?”

Miranda doesn’t say anything, answering instead with a raised hand. A second later she’s got a small ball of light glowing above our heads, making everything a small bit easier to see. Sure enough, up ahead I can just make out a string of red and green lights. “Thank the spirits,” Miranda mumbles under her breath, still keeping the light going above us. “That looks a little closer than a quarter of a mile. Let’s-” Before she ever gets the chance to finish Sierra bolts past her, shooting up chunks of mud as she makes a mad dash for the house. “Oh, son of a…” Miranda smacks at her coat, pushing some of the mud off her legs. “Your sister is an idiot.”

“No argument there.” The two of us start after her, jogging behind at a steady pace. The footing isn’t too great, with the rain and all, but the road gets better and better the more we run. I start getting a better look at the house the closer we get there. Man, they went hardcore. The house is all decked out with nice looking lights, covering the walls, the deck, even the sides of the roof. In all my years, I’ve never seen a house this lit up for the Gaius Festival.

We’re almost there when the door to the house bursts open. “HEY GUYS!” Even though I feel like I’m going to lose another finger or toe, I can’t help but smile as Gentry strides out the open the door. Sierra’s the first one to make it to the deck, so she’s the first one to get tackle-hugged by Gentry. “I heard about the hoverboard! Jeez, I’m sorry you guys had to make the rest of it on foot!”

“What, you thought some rain was gonna stop us?” my sister says with a snort. “We went up against way worse shit with the Row, remember?” By the time the two separate Miranda and I make it to the deck, gratefully hopping under the shelter of the deck. “Everyone else made it, right? Where’s your hubby, hiding?”

“That would be correct.” Elias sticks his head out from the side of the door, quickly looking between the four of us. “You’re all drenched to the bone, and I’d prefer not to get a soggy hug from Ms. Vride.”

Oh, you shouldn’t’ve said that. Sure enough, a grin spreads across my sister’s face. “Oh come on, you didn’t miss me? Get over here, you freaking nerd!”

“Wha-No! No!” Elias bolts for the stairs as Sierra leaps past the three of us, leaving us laughing alone on the deck. So Elias is still Elias and Sierra is still Sierra. At least some things never change.

Gentry shakes her head and then heads for the door, waving at us to follow. “You guys must be freezing! Come on, we got some hot chocolate going. Dinner’s not gonna be ready for a bit, so you guys have some time to dry off and stuff.” She closes the door behind us, and we’re greeted with a sweet, sweet rush of warm air. “All the empty rooms are upstairs, so get yourself comfortable. We got three great days ahead of us.”

“Yeah, that’s for sure,” I say with a smile. Already I’m seeing some familiar faces going in between rooms, hear familiar voices shouting and laughing somewhere else in the house. Before, when we first got the invitation from Gentry, I wasn’t sure how many of our old friends from the Row were going to show up. Sure, we haven’t seen everyone in a while, but I know people like to celebrate with their family and stuff. I figured that a few people’d come and that’d be it. By the sounds of it, though, most of the old Row is already here. Hopefully Sierra doesn’t get into a fight with anyone. I made her promise that she wouldn’t start a scene, but… well, it’s Sierra, so a fight is always a possibility, I guess.

For now I’m not too worried about my sister; last I saw her she was still chasing after Elias, so she should be occupied for at least a little while. Even if she wasn’t, I have my mind on someone else. Miranda goes upstairs to drop off her stuff, but I’m walking through the kitchen area, dripping wet and freezing, eyes scanning through the crowd-

There. I actually stop in the middle of the hallway, eyes glued to the brunette girl talking to the blonde boy in the other room. Because… oh my spirits, she looks amazing. I don’t know what she did to her hair, maybe nothing at all, I don’t know, but somehow it just, it just glows in a way I never thought anything could. It falls in perfect little curls, resting against the back of a red dress that I didn’t even know she owned. For a few seconds she doesn’t notice me staring, just keeps talking to Aster. But after a bit she turns her head and her eyes light up from the smile on her face. She says one last thing to Aster, waves a good-bye, and then makes the quick track over to where I’m still frozen-still.

Start talking, nitwit. “Hey,” I breathe out, my own smile growing to match hers. “You, uh, you, you look… you look beautiful.”

Natasha giggles as color starts rushing to my face again. “Thanks. You look… well, you look pretty cold.”

“Y-yeah, you’re right on that,” I say, rubbing the back of my head. “Kind of got caught in a bit of a storm, not a lot of fun. I’d, uh, I’d hug you, but I wouldn’t want to get you wet or anything.”

“Well, why don’t we get you dried off then?” Her fingers slip easily through mine. “Gods, you are cold. Come on, let’s get you upstairs.” I don’t object as Natasha tugs me right back through the crowd, leading me upstairs and into what must be her room. She already has a towel pulled out from one of the closets. “Here,” she says, plopping the towel on my head and rubbing it through my mop of hair.

I laugh under at her efforts, taking a few steps back. “I’m good, I’m good.” I take the towel myself, rubbing off the rest of my face as I let my bag and coat slip to the floor. Some of the rain got through my heavy coat, but my shirt underneath it held up well enough. “I don’t think I’m going to get much drier than this for a bit. So if you, uh, want to-” Before I’m even finished she’s already wrapped around me, but I’m not complaining at all. I rest my chin on her shoulder, run a hand through her hair, and just close my eyes for a second. “Hey.”

“Hey.” After a quick squeeze she pulls back a bit. She opens her mouth to say something, but her eyes settle on something behind me, stopping her. “What’s that there in your bag?”

“Huh?” I glance down at the ground, trying to figure out what- “Oh, I’m an idiot.” Most of it’s still wrapped in the plastic bags I stuffed it in back home, but a corner of the frame is sticking out of a rip in the bags, showing a small corner of the drawing. “That was, uh, you weren’t supposed to see that until tomorrow.” I bite my lip, scratching the back of my head. “I was gonna wrap that earlier today, but I got stuck up trying to make the cookies for tonight and it just-”

“Hey, don’t worry about it.” Her shoulders come up in a quick shrug. “The festival’s tomorrow. If you want, we could just give each other our gifts now.”

“You wouldn’t, uh, you wouldn’t be upset or anything about not getting stuff tomorrow?”

“No, silly,” she says with a playful shove. “It’s from you, that’s what matters.”

“O-Okay.” I still feel stupid and embarrassed about her seeing her gift now, but I try not to think about it too much. She has a point; it’s from each other, so even if it’s one day early, that’s not too bad, right? I bend down, gently prying the rest of the frame out from the tangle of plastic. “So, uh, I haven’t been practicing too much, so I mean, it’s not too great, but I just wanted to have something to, you know, look back at and remember and stuff.”

Finally I manage to get the entire frame out and hand it to her. Inside’s a picture (obviously), but not the kind that you’d get from a camera or something. The past few months I’ve been drawing more and more, unlocking some old muscle memory that one of the past Keepers must’ve had before me. I’ve been working on it bit by bit, so I tried to do a colored in one for Natasha. It’s a picture from when we went on our first date or, at least, the first time we went on a dinner date. I don’t have to try too hard to remember just how nervous I was through the whole thing, even though we’d been dating at that point for a bit. We were still sitting down at the table and I wanted to hug her or kiss her or something but, you know, you can’t do that from the opposite end of a table. So, well, I just kind of picked up her hand and kissed that instead. I felt like an awkward moron, but it made her happy, at least. I tried to capture that moment as best as I could with this picture.

“Wait, you… you actually drew this?” Natasha raises a hand to her mouth, but it doesn’t completely hide the smile spreading across her face. “Yupik, are you kidding me? This is amazing!” For the second time in the past minute she wraps her arms around me in a tight hug. “Oh, thank you Yupik.” I don’t say anything, just hug her back and grin to myself.

She pulls away, keeping the picture close to her chest. “Alright, time for your present.” With two quick strides she’s over by her bed, rummaging quickly her own backpack before pulling out a bundled wrap. “Just watch out with unwrapping it. It’s a bit fragile on the inside.” I nod, carefully working away at the web of clear tape keeping the thing together. After working at it for a few seconds I manage to work out a big enough hole, allowing me to pull out the thing from inside.

It brings a smile to my face real quick. It’s a necklace, a normal chain on the inside, I think. But the entire thing is covered with beautiful looking seashells, all smooth and strong and different colors. The shell in the middle’s the biggest, a big half-circle yellow-colored one… and I’m pretty sure I recognize it. “Are these, are they all-”

“From Makota? Yeah. I figured you’d want to have something from our first go there, something to remember it by. A nice good-luck charm, too.”

“Yeah, yeah I bet.” I look up from the necklace, beaming at her. “Natasha, this is perfect.” A quiet falls between the two of us as we just look at each other. Nothing happens, but all at once I feel like my chest swell up with happiness and love and warmth and all the sudden I don’t feel cold at all. When our eyes connect I get the idea that she’s feeling the same things, and then almost in unison we move towards each other and her lips send a jolt down my entire body. For a good, long second we just stay like that before I pull away, another blush creeping its way up my face. “Happy Gaius Festival… Eve, I guess.”

“Happy Gaius Festival Eve,” she says right back, and leans forward again-

“Mhmmm.” Both of us jump back at the third voice. Oh, spirits why. A very wet and unhappy Elias is standing by the door, looking between the two of us. “I apologize for interrupting, but dinner’s about to be served.”

“Oh, uh, yeah, got it,” I mumble back, the red in my face tripling in size. Elias nods slowly before moving away, leaving us alone in the room to laugh an awkward laugh together. Honestly, that's a pretty fitting start to the Festival, I guess.


Last edited by Michael DeathFlame on Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:59 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: The Festival Family

Post by WritingBookworm on Tue Dec 20, 2016 9:01 pm

Okay but THE DRAWING THOUGH

Loved it, can't wait for more. Very Happy

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Re: The Festival Family

Post by Michael DeathFlame on Fri Jan 06, 2017 6:52 pm

~*~702 AW~*~


I really hope no one else needs too much tape for wrapping anything because, well, I kind of used a lot. I didn’t even have too many present to wrap or anything like that… I just apparently suck at getting presents together. It’s not like we ever did it too much when we were kids, between being with the tribe and then being on our own. I’ve kind of become famous with the rest of the gang at this point for handing out presents encased with unnecessary pounds of tape around it, and by the looks of it, I’m going to keep that reputation for this year. I write Elias’s name on one corner of the thing before putting it under my bed with the other presents I’d be giving out tomorrow. Well, at least the gifts themselves are nice, I think. They’ll just have to work a bit longer to actually get them. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, I guess.

I stand up from my crouched position, stretching out the achiness in my back. I can still hear everyone talking downstairs, so that probably means I haven’t missed dinner yet. I haven’t got too much of a chance to talk to everyone, not yet, at least. For the first part of the day I was helping out with cooking and preparing everything, and then after that I had to finish up the gifts that I, once again, left off until the day before the festival. Yeah, I got to see one or two faces around, but for the most part I’ve been either in my room or in the kitchen.

Still, I saw enough to know that we don’t have as many people here as we did last year. There’s still a lot of people here, yeah, and we’re still going to have a blast, but people are starting to break away. And I mean, I get that. You know, people have lives outside of us, obviously, and people might want to spend time with other people outside of the Row when the festival comes around.

“Or they just came to the conclusion that you and the rest of your gang aren’t important to them anymore.

That’s not true.

“You know We’re right.”
I don’t say anything back to that, because… it’s sad, and scary, too. I always thought that I found a new family when I joined the Row. I thought I finally found something rooted and committed, something that I could stay in and be happy in and never have to worry about losing anyone ever again. But after everything that happened in Ald Ruhn… well, yeah.

I shake my head, trying to laugh a bit to myself. Come on, come on, stop it. A bunch of people are downstairs and they’re all here to celebrate the holiday together. No point in fretting over the people who didn’t come. No point in listening to stupid juns who never say anything helpful anyway.

“We only tell the truth. You’re just not listening.”

Yeah, well, I’m starting to get better and better at not listening, and I’m really glad I am.
My head perks up all the sudden, and I realize something that I’d been missing something the entire time. I don’t know for how long, but the voices downstairs have definitely started to die down, being replaced instead by clinking plates and utensil. Shoot, shoot shoot shoot. Dinner’s starting. I guess I am getting better at not listening. I bolt out of my room, go down the steps two at a time, and turn right into the dining room right before everyone starts getting into the meal.

For some reason, the entire room just goes dead silent the second I step in. Spirits, did I do something? Am I really, really late? I look around at the blank faces, a bright scarlet moving its way up my face. “I, uh, sorry for taking so long. I, uh, I kind of just lost track of, of time.” I look around the table at everyone here, just now noticing some empty seats. “Where’s, where’s Sierra and Natasha?”

“They’ll be here soon,” Aster says with a smile that comes nowhere close to his eyes. “Come on. Sit down.”

Something’s really weird. Even if it wasn’t this quiet, even if Aster didn’t seem so detached, there’s just something… off, just, like, something that I really can’t put a word. I don’t know if I did something, if something’d just happen or… I don’t know, just something. Well, I mean, I don’t want to just ask, so… well, I guess I just roll with it? I really don’t have much more of a choice. “Okay, yeah, yeah.” I move uneasily past a few people, making my way over to one of the empty chairs. “I’m sorry, again, about being late, I ju-”

I hear the chair shoot out from behind me, feel someone grab me by the hair, and-

A scream rips right through my body when the knife pierces straight through my lower back. All at once I’m on the ground, blood seeping everywhere and my legs shutting down and looking up-

My head snaps back as Gentry’s foot smacks straight into my nose, crushing it in and there’s more blood and what the hell is going on, what’s going on what did I do what did I do what did I-

“Hold him down!” I’m not sure who yelled it, but just like that I feel a bunch of hands slamming my arms down above my head, feel my shirt and pants and hair tear off me, hear myself begging them to stop, begging them to tell me what I did, what’s going on, why are they hurting me-

“Stop!” The command breaks through everything, freezing the room over. Relief gushes into my chest as Natasha rushes forward, her eyes deep with hurt and worry. “Oh gods, oh no, Yupik, are you okay?”

I open my mouth to tell her no, no I’m not okay, my back is bleeding and I can’t feel my legs and my nose is broken and my body hurts and I’m getting cold, but nothing comes out. Instead the relief from before hardens and shatters inside me as she steps over me, her own eyes suddenly going cold. “Na-Natash-” The blood from my nose is filling my mouth and suddenly I can’t breathe, and Natasha’s bending over me and the room is getting smaller and a smile spreads across her face-

Except it’s not Natasha’s face anymore.

“Don’t squirm so much, Yupik Vride,” Amanda purrs, and all at once she’s attacking me and grabbing me and screaming my name and holding me down and the walls are getting tighter and she’s screaming my name and I don’t want it I don’t want it I DON’T-

The world gets blacker and the kitchen disappears but I still can’t breathe and she’s still holding me down and she’s still saying my name and I try to roll off my bed, try to find Mortalsbane so I can stab her or me and just end-

Wait, my bed?

For a second I stop and try to focus even though the walls are still squashing my throat and even though I still feel like I’m drowning, I try to at least keep my eyes open and figure out what’s going on. At first I still see her, still see Amanda and hear her laughing at me, but after a few seconds her voice goes softer and the evil in her face disappears and I’m left staring at Natasha again. “Yupik? Yupik, it’s me. You’re alright. It’s just me, just me. It’s okay.”

I don’t feel okay though. My entire body is just, it’s just shaking, and my heart is still beating a mile a minute, and I still feel like the entire room is just caving in on top of me, like Amanda’s reaching through the darkness and the walls and squeezing my lungs, leaving me gasping, crying, weak just like the days in the ca-cave when sh-sh-she-

I curl into myself, shove my face into a pillow, and let out the sob that’s been building up inside me since I got stabbed. I’m okay, she’s right, none of that happened, my friends didn’t hurt me, Natasha didn’t hurt me, and Amanda’s gone, she’s not here, she’s not. But knowing it’s not real doesn’t actually make it feel not real. I feel hurt and so, so, so afraid, even though we’ll be celebrating tomorrow, even though I have all of my friends, even though Natasha is sitting next to me and rubbing my back, even now, when I’m supposed to feel happy…

You’re a joke, and a pitiful one at that. Look at you, sniveling at Natasha’s feet like a child who didn’t get his toy. What are you crying about? About something that happened more than three years ago? You couldn’t stop her from taking your seed, and now you can’t stop her from tormenting you. You’re not just a disgrace to the Keepers, you’re a sorry excuse for a man. You like this, don’t you? Feeling sorry for yourself? Did you like it when Amanda played around with you too? You’re disgusting.

When’s Natasha going to find all this out? When’s she going to find out you’re not worth a fraction of the affection she has for you? How long do you think it’ll take before she leaves you because of it?


No. No, that’s not what I think. That’s not true. That’s just… that’s all Them, They’re the ones saying it, not me.

“Even you must realize that’s a pitiful lie.”

For once, They’re absolutely right.

I force myself to stop shaking as much as I am, taking long, deep breathes in and then push them out as quick as I can. I can still feel the bed bending a bit where Natasha’s sitting, can still feel her hand running up and down my back, can still hear her whispering, “You’re alright, I promise. I love you. You’re-”

“How?”

“How? How what?”

“How can you love me?”

She doesn’t say anything. “That’s because she doesn’t have an answer.” The longer she doesn’t say anything, the longer I start agreeing with Them. Maybe at first, when we first started dating, she love me. But after three years of dealing with this, after seeing me break down over a nightmare, there’s just no way-

I flinch back when her hand suddenly moves to my shoulder because I know she’s going to start talking now and I don’t want to hear her because I know she’ll say she doesn’t, she stopped a long time ago and she’s leaving and… and then she starts talking. “Because you never quit on me.” I pull my head a bit out from my pillow, trying my best to see her through all my tears. I can’t make out her face too well, but I can feel her rubbing my arm and I can hear her whisper to me, “Even when I messed up, even when I couldn’t find any good in me, you always found it. Whenever I felt worthless or terrible you’d hug me anyway and love me, no matter what.” I don’t see it, but I can hear her swallow, hear the small tremble in her voice. “You never gave up on me. So I’m not giving up on you. Ever.”

I don’t deserve you. I never did and I never will. Still, she’s here, with me, and she’s not leaving, not now, at least. I still feel sick and out of breath, but slowly the walls start moving away, my body stops shaking so much, and instead of feeling scared of her touch it grows warmer, gentler, calmer. For a minute I just breathe, just focus on taking in big breaths and letting them ease out.

I try to force myself back to sleep, so that she can go back to bed and I can go back to whatever dream I have waiting for me next. But even though I feel less anxious now, something still feels off, like that last panic attack shook something loose deep inside me. I roll from my side to my back, fully turning my head up to look at Natasha. “You don’t have to stay. I’ll… I’ll be okay.”

For a second she stops rubbing my shoulder, just looking at me instead. “I know I don’t have to. But do you want me to?”

“Your bitch humors you. What will she do next for you, feed you from a bottle?”

I look away from her, staring down at me feet instead. “…Please.”

Neither of us say anything after that. Natasha slides easily next to me, letting my head rest against her chest as she gingerly moves her fingers through my hair. I latch on to her, tightly, at first, but slowly force my arms to relax, even if it’s only a bit. My insides are still quivering, my heart’s still going, and there’s still that tiny lump in the back of my throat, a lump that could explode at any second and bring on another crying fit.

No, no, no. No more crying. You’ve already ruined her night, don’t ruin it anymore.

“You’ve already ruined the poor bitch’s life. How will being slightly less pathetic right now make up for that?”

…Shut up.
I bury my head back into her, nestling myself between her chest and her arm. Even though I’ve barely slept, I know I’m not going to sleep anytime soon. I listen to her heartbeat instead, trying to force my own to beat like that, to be as slow as that. It doesn’t work, but it’s still calming, in a way.  

It’s only a little calming, though. It doesn’t change what happened, doesn’t change what’ll happen from here on out. It doesn’t change the fact that she has Pansa and I have Them. It doesn’t change how much pain she’ll go through just because she’s with me. It doesn’t change that she’d be better off without me.

But it also doesn’t change the fact she’s here, that she’s not leaving, that she’s here and with me and somehow, somehow she still loves me. She still loves me. She still loves me.

I still feel weak, still feel scared, still feel like my insides are caught in a storm and sooner or later I’ll start drowning again. But through it all I hold onto her, hold onto her and her love like it’s my last lifeline. And so long as I live I hope I never let go.


Last edited by Michael DeathFlame on Sun Mar 05, 2017 4:47 pm; edited 5 times in total

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Re: The Festival Family

Post by Michael DeathFlame on Sun Jan 22, 2017 4:41 pm

Sorry this one took longer to get out... I had to rewrite it a tad because, well, it had a character in it who is no longer alive xD Also, once again, emphasis on this not being canon (unless everyone wants it to be). You'll see why I said that again.

~*~703 AW~*~


Through the entire night I didn’t look at the clock once. I figured that if I knew just how much time was ticking away, I’d get even more worked up about not being able to fall asleep, making sleeping even more impossible than it already is. Please just let me fall asleep, even if it’s just for an hour or two. I really don’t want to accidentally doze off during present time and miss it. As always, the spirits aren’t too helpful. Even though I didn’t know what the time was exactly through the night, I had a pretty good idea just how close I was getting to morning. When the sun finally started creeping in through the window, I just kind of gave up. Guess I’ll just have to keep myself up, then.

I dry my face off in the bathroom, rubbing over my eyes a few extra times with the towel to get them open and blinking. Everything just feels kind of feels… I don’t know, almost not real, like I actually did fall asleep and now I’m in a weird dream-world. “You would know a thing or two about dream-worlds, wouldn’t you?”

Not that kind of dream-world. Shut up.
Not sleeping is already making today difficult, so I’m sure as heck not letting Them mess it up. Sure, I’ve said that before, about how I’d just ignore Them and go about my own business, and yeah, most of the time I fail at that, or at least, I kind of fail a little bit. But when I say I’m not going to let Them spoil anything about today, I really, really mean it. Because-

A knock at the door jars me out of my sleepy thoughts, and in doing so I nearly drop the towel in the toilet. “You done in there? Hurry up, I gotta piss.”

“Happy Gaius Festival to you too, Sierra.” I go to turn the doorknob, but instead grab the towel-rack instead. Nice job there, Yupik. I let out a low laugh as I actually manage to open the door this time.

As always, my sister’s bed hair is something to marvel at. But even she looks better than I do, and by the way her eyes kind of bugged out, I think she agrees with me. “Are you hungover? What happened to not drinking?”

“Not hungover. Just didn’t sleep.” I lumber my way passed her, plopping down on the floor. After tossing and turning in my bed for the past eight hours, I’m kind of done sitting on it for now. “Just couldn’t stop thinking about stuff. I went downstairs for some hot chocolate to keep me awake, but I’m still pretty wiped.”

“Yeah, you sure as shit look it.” Leaning against the door, Sierra looks me up and down. “You’re still going through with it then?” I nod. “Nervous?” I get a laugh in before she shakes her head. “Sorry, yeah, that was a dumb question.” She shoves her hands in her pocket and bites her lip, probably trying to think of something to say. “Uh, if I see you start falling asleep or something downstairs, I’ll smack you or something, okay?”

“Or you could, you know, tap me on the shoulder or something, like a normal person.”

“How about I just scream in your ear?”

“That also wouldn’t be much fun.”

“Well, I think it would be fun.”

How’re we twins? Still, I can’t help but laugh a bit. “Thanks for the help, I guess.”

“Anytime, buddy.” With that the door closes shut. I lean my head back against the wall, closing my eyes for a second. For the millionth time I go through the whole thing from start to finish, quietly mouthing it all. For the billionth time I go through it again, piece by piece, wondering if something sounds too general or too weird or too stupid. After a while I just stop, opening my eyes again. No point in trying to make it too perfect, I guess. No matter what I’ll probably mess up somewhere anyway. If anything, getting more stressed about everything’ll probably just make it worse. So let’s stop thinking about it altogether, right?

Yeah, easier said than done. I let out a low sigh and push myself back up onto my aching legs. Alright. Let’s start waking up, then. I wobble over to the window, throw the drapes to the side, and then immediately shut my eyes at the blaring light. Slowly, I let my eyes squint open again, forcing myself to see through the light. After the initial blast, the world outside starts coming together. The snow that came down two days ago is still on the ground, covering everything in sight for the next few miles. The branches of the willow trees hang over the shoveled patio, weighed down by the snow coating it above. The pond off to the side is still frozen, something probably won’t change for the next few months. All in all, it’s definitely a beautiful, white Gaius Festival, that’s for sure; I was worried it’d all melt away or something before today. I have one thing going my way now, at least.

A few seconds later, I hear a pair of footsteps coming over to our door, then a knock. “Yeah, come in.” I rub my eyes over again as the door opens, blinking a few times to get past the sleepy-fuzziness.

Gentry’s head peaks its way through the crack between the now-open door and the doorframe. “Hey, you guys ready? I think we’re going to start opening presents soon.” Her eyes jump away from me, flicking through the rest of the room. “Where’d Sierra run off to?”

Immediately there’s a loud response from behind the door to the bathroom. “She ran to the bathroom to piss!” The toilet flushes right after, followed quickly by the opening of the bathroom door. She looks a little more awake than she did before she went in, but her hair is still something special. “Hey, I need a woman’s opinion. You think I look too stupid to be in front of other people?”

Gentry smiles, but takes a second before she says anything back. “I mean, you don’t smell, so I guess you’re fine.”

Man, talk about low standards. My sister doesn’t seem to mind though. “Sweet. Yupik’s just gotta try to make himself look pretty or something, then we’ll be right down.” Gentry nods at that, slipping her head out and starts her way downstairs. “You don’t have anything else to do except get dressed, right? I figured you didn’t, but if you need time, I can just go down and let everyone know you’ll be there in a bit.”    

I shrug, taking one more glance out the window. “No, no, I’m good. Like you said, just got to, you know, get dressed into some actual clothes.” I scratch nervously at the back of my head. “You don’t think this is a bad idea, right? You don’t think I’m really screwing things up or anything like that, right?”

The face she makes at me is an answer by itself, but she talks anyway. “Are you kidding me? No way. You’re not screwing up anything.” She tilts her head my way. “You’re not thinking about going back on it now, are you?”

“No, no, no, not at all.” I bite my lip, conceding. “Okay, well, maybe a little, but, like, not seriously thinking about it or anything. Just, you know, nerves. I guess.” I press my hands together, letting out another long, slow breath. It doesn’t do anything to calm me down, though. “I don’t know. I just… I don’t know.”

Sierra tentatively walks over my way, stopping by the side of my chair. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, I really do think this’ll go just fine. You guys got something real special, Yupik. I don’t think anything’ll ever change that. Well, unless you, like, become some massive douche or something like that. That probably wouldn’t go over great.”

“I guess so.” Her saying all that doesn’t make me feel any less nervous, but it makes me feel a bit better, in a different way.  I look up at her, offering a small smile. “Thanks.”

“Don’t sweat it.” She pats me once on the shoulder, shooting back a smile of her own. “So, let’s go down there and get this show on the road, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” I push myself back to my feet. Well, here we go. I start hearing the excited chatter from downstairs the second we leave our room. Sure, there aren’t nearly as many people here as there was the first year or two, but still, the morning of the festival tends to be a little loud and noisy no matter how many people are around. Sierra goes down the stairs ahead of me, giving me another second or two to gather myself before I start down towards the loft.

“Hey, there they are!” Aster’s voice booms over everyone else’s. It looks like everyone who came for the holiday is in this room, all crammed on the assortment of couches and chairs in front of the tree. “So, we ready to get going or what?”

Just about everyone yells out their approval, but I don’t pay too close attention to who says what exactly; I’ve got my eyes locked on Natasha. Like just about everyone else, she’s still in her pair of black pajamas, still has her hair a little out of place. I don’t care at all, though; she could be caked in mud and junk and I’d still think she looked amazing. The small smile she flashes me makes my insides melt into goo, like it always does. But seeing her also jacks my heartrate up even higher than it already was. Just relax. Remember what Sierra said. Nothing bad’s going to happen.

I tiptoe my way through the tangle of legs and bodies over to the armchair she’s sitting on. “So this chair’s taken, huh?”

“I think there’s room enough for two.” My stupid smile gets even bigger and stupider at that. With a little bit of shuffling and wiggling I manage to fit myself on the chair, wrapping my left arm around her shoulders as she lays her legs across my lap. When she looks up at me, though, a bit of worry crosses across her face. “You look a bit tired. Is everything okay?”

I really hope it is. “Yeah, yeah, totally, yeah. Just didn’t sleep well last night, is all. Just, uh, restless, you know? From all the cooking and stuff.” I rub my thumb gingerly over her cheek, pulling my smile back up. “I’m just happy to spend another festival with you.”

I can see her thoughts flashing behind her brown eyes, considering whether or not she should be worried about me seeming tired. In the end, though, she smiles back and folds her hand up against mine. “Yeah, definitely.” She leans her head against mine as people start going through the pile of presents under the tree.

I try to force myself to pay attention. For one, today’s supposed to be a fun one for everyone, you know, all about being together and celebrating together. These are the people that I really care about, the family that Sierra and me were looking for ever since we left our village. I want to be with them and celebrate every step of the way. And also, well, it’d be a nice way to distract my nervous energy. And there are some things that definitely distract me for a bit. Like seeing Gentry get a pistol that only shoots ketchup and then immediately firing it into Elias’s unexpecting face. Or seeing Sierra give Miranda a new staff to “give the stick up her ass more company,” as she worded it. I do the best I can to be there in the moment, to put every ounce of my attention on what’s going on right in front of me.

I can’t do it completely, though. No matter what’s going on, no matter if it’s someone else getting a gift or me getting one, what’s coming next constantly blares in the back of my mind. Chaos isn’t helping too much either; I try not to listen to Them, but Their voice is just as loud. Natasha’s seems to notice. She doesn’t say anything, but she keeps giving me a concerned look out of the corner of her eye every once in a while.

By the time things start wrapping up, I’m actually kind of afraid I’m going to have a heart attack. I do my best to keep my face as relaxed as possible as Sierra crawls through the piles of ripped wrapping paper, grabbing the last present from under the tree. “I can’t read, but I’m pretty sure this one’s from Yupik to Natasha.” It’s a miracle I catch the rectangular thing when my sister throws it to me. “Happy Gaius Festival, love birds.”

I barely hear the chorus of “Aww” over the blood rushing through my ear. Alright, alright, alright. Here goes nothing. I smile shakily, handing the wrapped box to her. I don’t say anything as she starts tearing away at the wrapping, partially because I’ll be talking a lot in a bit anyway, but mostly because I don’t trust my voice too much right about now. After tossing the torn paper away, she opens the flip of the box, revealing a simple blindfold with a messaged scrawled across it. “‘Put me on,’” she reads before looking up at me with question marks bouncing behind her eyes. “Wait, I’m confused. What’s going on?”

Way more than you’re expecting, that’s for sure. “Well, this isn’t, this isn’t your present, obviously. I mean, it’s for you, duh, but, uh, you’ll put these on, and then I’ll, well, lead you, I guess, to your actual present. Yeah?”

“…Alright.” After a nervous laugh she gets to her feet, letting me stand as she slips the blindfold over her eyes. “Alright. I can’t see anything. That’s good, right?”

“Yeah, yeah, definitely, definitely good.” I move my hand back and forth in front of her face silently; no reaction. I look over at Gentry, opening my mouth to ask if everything’s good to go, but before I even say anything she gives me a very excited thumbs-up.

Holy holy holy shit. I’m crazy. This is stupid. Here’s your last chance to chicken out, Yupik. You can always just say you lost her present and then get her something else in a few days. Not too late to turn back. I don’t seriously think about that. I mean, yeah, it definitely flashes through my head, but I don’t take it seriously. I might be nervous, but deep down, I know that this is the right thing to do.

At least, I really, really hope it is.

I reach down and wrap my shaking fingers through hers, slowly guiding her through the room. “So, uh, just as a head’s up, we’re gonna go outside for a bit of this. It won’t be long or anything, your slippers and your pajamas’ll do fine enough, but I just wanted to, you know, let you know.”

“Alright.” She turns her head back behind us, blindly facing our group of friends as they creep along on our tail. “Is everyone following us? What’s going on?”

“Uh, no, no I don’t think so. I mean, uh, well a few of them, I guess.” Smooth. “And I can’t tell you what’s going on because, you know, it’s a surprise and all.”

“Is everything alright? You seem pretty nervous.”

I give the most unconvincing “relaxed” laugh in the history of everything. “No way, it’s the Gaius Festival. There’s no time to be nervous. Right? Besides, when am I ever nervous?”

“Well… a lot, actually.”

“Uh, yeah, fair point.” We’re at the back door now. “Alright, we’re gonna go outside now. You ready?” She gives another nod. “Alright. Here we go, then.”

There’s a rush of chilly air at the open of the door, and for the first time since last night, I feel absolutely awake. Thankfully, in the past hour or so since I looked outside, the snow hasn’t gone up and disappeared, and the trail I shoveled out last night is still here, making our walk in our slippers not agonizingly cold. Everyone else files out behind us, but I don’t pay attention to them at all. I keep my eyes on Natasha, careful not to accidentally lead her into a pile of snow as we slowly make our way to te frozen lake. Keep yourself occupied. Don’t let your heart explode. Talk, darn it, talk! “So, uh, you have any guesses about what you’re getting?”

“Um… no, not really. Is it big or something? Is that why we’re coming outside?”

“Well… no, it’s not big. Like, not big in size, I mean, but like, big as in… well, never mind, you’ll see. Any other guesses?”

I can see Natasha’s eyebrows crease together under her blindfold. “Honestly, no, not really.”

“Alright. Alright, at least it’ll be a surprise then.” I look away from Natasha for a second, looking up at the spot that’s getting closer and closer with every step. I talked to Gentry about this weeks ago, making sure everything could be set up to make this thing work. I didn’t have anything to decorate this place to make it look pretty, but thankfully, Gentry’s pretty loaded, so that was never a problem. Even though it’s daytime, the lights weaving in and out of the trees still shine well enough, starting at our sides on the path and then arching themselves in a semicircle around the patch near the pond we’re heading to. More lights float a few feet above our head, suspended by some sort of magic-tech that I’ve never even heard of before. Still, the best part of it all is the lake itself; honestly, with this here, we almost didn’t need the decorations. The lake just goes out forever, a single, unbroken sheet of twinkling ice surrounded on all sides by unmoving, white trees.

For the past few months I was really going back and forth between doing it here or at Makota. Sure, Makota means a lot to the both of us, and it’s definitely beautiful, maybe even more beautiful than here. But as today got closer and closer, I decided here’d be the better place. Makota might be a special place for the two of us, but nothing’s more special than being around our friends. To share this moment with all of them… that’s what I wanted, more than anything.

Now all I have to do is… well, actually do it.

I squeeze her hand, mostly to stop my own from shaking so badly. “Al-Alright, we’re here. We can stop now.” We come to a stop right by the edge of the lake and just stand there for a few seconds. Alright. Alright, you got this Yupik, you got this. I palm quickly at my right pocket, trying to move my freezing fingers around the necklace Natasha gave me at our first fesitval together. Please please please don’t tell me I dropped it somewhere or something.

Natasha tilts her head a bit once I shove my full hand into my pocket. “Is that… is that your necklace? I didn’t see you wearing it.”

“Yeah, yeah it is, actually, yeah.” I jam my fingers past it, prodding, searching- there. Relief blossoms deep in my gut before immediately morphing back into frantic butterflies. Come on. Come on, you got this, you do, come on. “I, uh, I brought it with me. For, for good luck.”

“Wait, good luck? What’s going on?”

“You, uh, trust me, you’ll, you’ll know real soon, I promise.” I bite into my free hand, like I’m trying to suck the nervousness out of me. It doesn’t work. “I just, I wanted to give you something that would, that would show how much you mean to me, you know? I mean, yeah, every gift I’ve ever given you, I always put my heart and soul into it, you know that. But I, well, I think this gift means a lot more. It’s not just the thing I’m giving you, it’s the, the promise, I guess, the promise that goes along with it.

“If I could, I’d promise that everything from here on out will be perfect. But, I mean, you and me, we both know that nothing’s ever going to be perfect. I wish it could be, but it can’t.” I pull the box out from my pocket, gripping it as tight as I can as my heart somehow beats even faster than before. “I’m not promising that everything’ll be perfect. What I am promising, though… I’m promising that no matter what happens next, no matter, I’ll… I’ll be here, with you. Always.” I loosen my grip on the box just a bit, quickly flipping it open to be sure it’s still there. It is. I close back up, look at Natasha, and take in the longest breath of my life. “O-Okay. Alright. You can take off the blindfold now.”

When her eyes open again the wind stops blowing, the cold disappears, and the world just stops moving for a few seconds. I look straight ahead, right at her face, right into the eyes of Natasha Reaves. In those eyes I’ve seen anger and sorrow and compassion and joy and love and everything else in between. In those eyes I’ve watched her fight and learn and grow into the woman I love more than anything.

And all at once, for the first time since I thought about doing this, a total calmness floods over me. Because right now, in this moment, in this short, fleeting moment, I know, I just know that this was all supposed to happen. Neither of us are perfect; we know each other too well to understand that. And I don’t think we’ll ever be perfect.

But she’s perfect for me. And nothing’ll ever change that.

“I’ll be… I’ll be here, with you. And I want to be there forever.” My face almost isn’t big enough to hold my entire smile as I get down on one knee and hold up the ring.

“Natasha Reaves, will you marry me?”

For a half-second, neither of us move. Natasha’s gaze fixes on the box in my hand before shooting back up to my face, her own eyes flashing with so many emotions in such a short period of time that they all just kind of blend together. She’s still holding the blindfold, her hand floating by the side of her open mouth. And even though it’s freezing out and I’m barely wearing anything, sweat’s dribbling down my spine like it never has before but I force myself to stay still, force myself to keep my eyes on her and pray to the spirits that I didn’t just seriou-

A choked squeak breaks the silence, and the stillness shatters along with it as Natasha half-hugs, half-tackles me to the ground. I lose my balance and fall over on my back, my shirt immediately soaking in the snow on the ground but I pay no attention to that. Because Natasha’s hugging me and she’s smiling the biggest smile I’ve ever seen and she’s whispering, “Yes.”

All my nervousness from before and fears for the future melt away like the snow on the ground. Because when I cup her face in my hands and kiss her, kiss my partner, my soulmate, my girlfriend, my Natasha, and now, finally, my fiancé, nothing else matters. It happened, it finally actually happened, after everything, all the pain and hardships and struggles, it happened.

After all that, we’ll actually get our happy ending. Just her and me, together, like how it’s supposed to be. Whatever comes next, it doesn’t matter.

So long as I’m at her side and she’s by mine, there’s nothing we can’t do.


Last edited by Michael DeathFlame on Thu May 11, 2017 4:00 pm; edited 3 times in total

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Re: The Festival Family

Post by WritingBookworm on Sun Jan 22, 2017 8:26 pm

"And there are some things that definitely distract me for a bit. Like seeing Gentry get a pistol that only shoots ketchup and then immediately firing it into Elias’s unexpecting face."

Still freaking love that, by the way. And the proposal. And basically the entire thing.

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Re: The Festival Family

Post by Michael DeathFlame on Fri Jan 27, 2017 3:56 pm

*Flees back to fluff writing to escape the depression of Anaphora*

~*~705 AW~*~


“Your wife is dead. Your child is gone. You should start looking for another mate, boy; We believe your days are numbered.”

I doubt both of those things very, very much.

“Really? Where’s your bitch, then?”

She’s pregnant. She’s probably doing… I don’t know, pregnant things.

“What a well-articulated answer. It seems some things never change. You’ll always be an awkward little shit, your sister will never touch another man’s manhood, and your bitch will always run into some kind of trouble.”

Two of those things aren’t real problems, and the other one’s not a problem right now. She’s been upstairs for, what, five, six minutes?

“And it’s impossible for something terrible to happen within the span of five minutes?”

…Well, no, but… no, stop it. I’m not getting worried over something stupid, not when there are so many other legitimately worrisome things to be get worked up about. I don’t know why I even bother talking to You anymore.

“Because you’re an idiot, that’s why.”

Fair enough… damn it, no, I’m not going to get worried about her. She’s fine. She’s absolutely fine, so don’t you dare-


“Yupik?”

I actually jump out of the chair, head whipping to the right at the sudden noise, ready to lash out if… if it was necessary, but it’s not, definitely not. Gentry’s taken a few steps back, standing a few feet away from me now. She’s keeping her face pretty controlled, only showing slight worry, but I have a feeling my jumpiness did a lot more than worry her a second ago. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you. Are you okay?”

A small bit of red rushes to my face, but not too much. I’m embarrassed, sure, but I’m more confused than anything. We’re the only ones in the room now, just the two of us, the only thing keeping us company being the torn wrapping paper on the ground. I can hear voices somewhere else in the house, off in one of the other rooms on the first floor; by the sounds of it, everyone else moved to the dining room. They were just here a second ago. They couldn’t’ve left so quickly. What the heck’s going on?

“If We had to guess, We’d say you’ve finally gone insane. We give you credit for lasting this long.”

I’m not going crazy, I’m just-
I shake my head, blinking a few times. “Sorry. Uh, sorry for jumping like that, I was... sleeping.” I know that’s the lamest lie I’ve ever told, but right now I don’t care too much. “Sorry, sorry. Jumpy, I guess.” I look around the room again, scratching at the back of my head. “So, uh, what happened? Did you guys stop early?”

There’s a little more worry on Gentry’s face now, and it takes her a second before she starts talking again. “No, we finished with the presents a bit ago. We’re getting brunch set up now.” The hint of a frown spreads across her face. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

No clue. “Yeah, yeah, sorry, don’t worry about it. Just, you know, crazy holidays and all.” I bring my hand down from my head, rubbing my elbow now instead. “So is everyone in the kitchen, then? Did Natasha come down yet?”

“No, she’s still upstairs in your room, I think. Why?”

“Still dying in your room, she means.”

Pretty sure that’s not what she means.
“How long’s that been?”

“Um… half an hour, maybe more.” She tilts her head to the side. “Are you sure everything’s okay?”

“No, no you’re not alright.”

Yes, yes I am. And she’s okay too, so stop it.
“Yeah, yeah everything’s fine. Just curious, is all.” The last part’s definitely not a lie. Natasha’s definitely been getting super pregnant, so it’s not like taking a breather is too weird or out of the ordinary. Still, listening to Chaos talk for the past… well, for the past half hour, apparently, it’s making me feel a little edgy. It’s stupid, I know, but I just want to see her to be sure everything’s fine. “I’ll go up there, figure out if she’s coming down to eat at some point. You don’t need to wait for either of us, though.”

“Got it.” She doesn’t make a move to leave, though, and sure enough she starts talking again. “How’re you guys doing, anyway? You know, with the baby coming. I’ve tried to talk to Natasha about it but… well, things have been busy. How’s she doing?”

“Oh… well, you know, she’s doing just fine. It’s really hard on her body because… well, pregnancy, but we’re both pretty excited. Nothing too much to complain about.” I smile a bit at that. “Well, I guess that’s easy for me to say. Overall, though, things are going pretty well.”

“Okay.” Gentry nods slowly at that, but she’s raising her eyebrows too, so I’m not sure if she totally buys what I’m saying. “So outside of the physical side effects, everything’s going smooth and steady? Really?”

I suck my lips a bit into my mouth, glancing back down to the ground. Maybe Natasha didn’t talk to her about it because she’d be… I don’t know, embarrassed about it, or something like that. But I don’t want to flat-out lie to Gentry’s face, especially not after she called me out about it. After a second I decide to do a little bit of both. “Well… it’s not perfect, obviously. You know, the baby’s something like, I don’t know, twelve weeks away. It’s, well, a little scary, for… a lot of reasons. You know, first kid, and… yeah, just a lot.” I laugh a bit, even though talking about this stuff is never too funny. “Things’ll be fine, though. It’ll be hard, but I know it’ll be worth it, you know?”

That answer seems to satisfy Gentry a little more. Once I’m done talking she smiles. “That’s good. I’m glad you guys seem happy.” Her eyes move away from my face for a moment, not really focusing on anything in particular. There’s silence for a second or two. “I give you guys a lot of credit, especially Natasha. If I got pregnant now…” She laughs too, but hers seems a bit more genuine than mine. “Boy, I’d flip.”

She focuses her eyes again, this time taking a quick peak down the hallway. From what I can hear, it sounds like everyone’s still pretty occupied with each other in the other room. “And I mean, I don’t mean that as a shot at Elias, no way. I don’t mean it like that. But being a parent now… I mean, being in the Row, being a teenager, that almost feels like yesterday, you know what I mean? We spent so much time fighting and running with the Row that we never really got a chance to go around N’al Ren, without having to worry about who was trying to kill us. Going from that to being parents so fast… you don’t mind that, at all? Being responsible for a kid soon?”

Man, Gentry, this is a lot deeper than I thought it was going. I don’t answer back quickly, mostly because I have no idea what to say to that. “I mean…” My hands finds its way back up to my head, this time rubbing over the tiny bit of stubble on my chin. “I mean, I know it’s a big thing, you know, having a kid, it’s not easy or anything, I get that. But… well, we’ll be together, so, we’ll be ready, or at least, as ready as we can be.” It’s not completely true, but it’s definitely not completely wrong, either. “We fought against people like Fe and Antivoleus. Figure we can handle a baby, right?”

“Yeah,” Gentry says with a smile, “yeah, I know you guys will.” She reaches out, giving me a pat on the shoulder before withdrawing. “Sorry, I’m holding you up. Go check on your wife.”

“Oh yeah, uh, right. Yeah.” It’s not that I forgot about Natasha, obviously. It’d be pretty bad if I forgot about my wife. But talking to Gentry about the baby and Chaos being annoying derailed my train of thought a bit. “Yeah, I’ll go up then. Uh, like I said, you don’t have to wait for us or anything. It’s not like we’ll be starving today or anything.”

“Oh yeah, that’s for sure.” She turns with me as I start walking towards the stairs, branching off towards the den as I start making my way up. “Don’t let her work herself up either. If she needs the rest, let her rest. I don’t want her to be stressed out on the Gaius Festival.”

“Will do, thanks.” Gentry’s so nice. Sierra and me were lucky to find her and Natasha first. I mean, everyone on the Row was great… well, mostly everyone, I guess. But either way, I’m really glad we got close to Gentry and Elias and Natasha… and Ebony, too.

It doesn’t take long to figure out that Natasha’s in our room; all the lounges and common rooms are empty. Hopefully she’s not throwing up in the bathroom. I was hoping she got over the morning sickness hump. When I get to our door, though, I can’t hear anything from inside… I can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

I keep my voice and my knock as quiet as possible, calling quietly, “Natasha?” No response. I try again, whispering slightly louder, “Hey, it’s Yupik. You in there?” Still no response. “Alright. I’m coming in, okay?” I turn the doorknob slowly, push the door open a crack, and then slip into the room before closing the door behind me.

The room’s a bit messier since we woke up this morning. Shelf draws are out and leaning open, some of our bags have had a little more rummaging through, and some clothes lie on the ground in front of the bed. Those are the things that I half-notice before I focus on Natasha. She’s here, alright, and now I get why she’s been up here so long. She’s lying on our bed now, the clothes she was wearing before scattered around the base of the bed, her body wrapped in a tight-looking fetal position. Considering that she didn’t even bother changing into pajamas or even pulling the covers over her, it looks like she just plopped in bed and fell right asleep. At least she’s sleeping, I guess. If she passed out that quickly she definitely needs it.

Even in her sleep, though, she doesn’t look all that restful. Obviously sleeping is a heck of a lot better than not sleeping… but even now, she still looks worried. The rise and fall of her chest seems to be going at a faster pace, quicker than it usually goes. I can’t see her face too well, not through that curtain of hair, but her face seems distressed and tight. Her body isn’t much better; her knees are tucked squarely against the bulge in her belly, with both arms wrapped around that. It doesn’t really look like she’s sleeping; if anything, it looks like she’s doing everything she can to shield the baby with her body. Spirits, Natasha. You don’t look good.

I don’t say that out loud, obviously. Even if she wasn’t asleep, I don’t think she’d like to hear that. I tiptoe over to our bed, slowly and carefully sitting down next to her. As much as I’d like to rub her arm or something like that, I don’t want to wake her up either, and I feel like a cold hand against her skin might do that. So instead I grab one of the blankets at the edge of the bed, slowly pulling it up and over her-

The second the blanket touches down on her shoulder her eyes snap open, her head immediately whipping towards me as she propels herself up. “Hey!” I raise my hands as fast as I can in front of me, trying to keep my voice as calm as possible. “Hey, it’s me. You’re alright, you hear? You’re alright, it’s Yupik.”

Her eyes have a frantic edge to them for another half second before the realization starts crossing her face. Now on her knees, she reaches behind her for a moment, pressing her hand up against something before slowly sinking back down. “Did I fall asleep?” I give a short nod. “How long?”

“Not too long, don’t worry. Gentry said you could take as much time as you need.” I put my hands back down on the bed, watching as Natasha slowly eases her way back into reality. I don’t bother asking if she was having a bad dream; after all the nightmares I’ve had, I don’t really press anyone on that. “Did you come up here trying to sleep, or did it just kind of happen that way?”

She doesn’t respond immediately. Instead she just looks down at her stomach for a second, her lips pressed together tightly before saying, “It just kind of happened that way.” Based on the way she’s saying that, she doesn’t seem too happy about it. “I didn’t sleep too well last night. The baby kept…” When she waves her hand in a circle around her belly, it almost looks like it’s trembling a bit. “She kept moving. That’s happened before, but not this much. It was a bit…” She stops, pursing her lips again. “…Disconcerting, I guess. Downstairs, this morning, I was tired, but I thought I just needed to close my eyes for a few minutes.” She laughs, but the smile doesn’t really reach her eyes. “But my body seemed to have other plans.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I bet.” Somewhere, deep, deep in my memories, a small part of me relates to that. At least, one of the past Keepers could relate to that. I try not to pay too much attention to that, though, because I don’t even have those body parts and that’s kind of weird to think about. “I’m sorry you didn’t sleep great last night. I wish you didn’t have to, well, deal with that now, or, you know, ever.” I nudge over a little bit, placing my hands tenderly on her shoulders. She’s tense. She’s really tense. I rub my thumbs lightly through her muscle, trying to massage at least a little bit of the tension out. “Is there anything I can do? To make you feel better?”

Her shoulders rise in a curt shrug. “I don’t think there’s anything else you can do. It’s not like you can make me less pregnant.” She lets out an exasperated huff before leaning back into the bed, landing softly on her back. “There isn’t much more time left, though. Only three months to go. I won’t have to wait much longer.”

“Yeah. Yeah, we won’t.” I lie down next to her, propping my head up with one hand as I rub her belly with the other. When she first started showing it was definitely weird to see; before she got pregnant, I don’t think Natasha had a single bit of fat on her entire body. Outside of it looking out of place, though… I mean, it’s going to change everything, isn’t? Our future, the life the two of us are going to live, it’s all going to change with that growing little bump. There’s a baby in there. Not just any baby, our baby.

“More specifically, the baby We may take next, if Amanda’s bastard dies before you do.”

No, no, shut up, no.
“Well, like you said, you’re almost there. Just a little more than ten weeks, right? She’ll be up and out into the real world by then.” I guess the baby likes the sound of that, because right when I’m done talking I feel something move under my hand. I can’t tell what it is, an arm or a leg or whatever, but still, just feeling that lights a smile across my face. “Spirits, that does feel weird.”

“You’re telling me.” Natasha’s smiling too, but there’s something else behind her smile that I can’t really put a finger on. It might just be because she’s tired, or because she looks paler than usual. I don’t know, maybe I’m just going crazy. But I just feel like something’s off about it.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” I slide my hand down from her belly, resting it on top of one of hers. “Outside of being tired and all. Did something happen in the past few days or something?” She just shakes her head. “…Alright. If you don’t want to talk about it, I get that, I was just, I don’t know, just-”

“No, it’s fine. Talking is fine.” She doesn’t seem fine, though. She uses her free hand to hastily push some of her hair out of her face before looking up at the ceiling blankly. Her face seems controlled, but just like before, I can tell there’s something else going on behind that blankness. For a few seconds she just looks up, face unmoving before she starts talking again. “I’m worried about the baby coming. I know we’ve known for a few months now, but it’s really starting to feel real now.” She closes her eyes. “I don’t feel ready.”

I nod at that. “Okay. I mean, that makes sense. But, well, I don’t think anyone’s ever ready, you know? At least, not ever completely, one hundred percent ready. It’ll be really tough… like, really tough, but everyone else manages it. So I think-”

“Not everyone else ‘manages it,’” she snaps. The edge in her voice flashes across her face before it fades back away. “I’m sorry. Yupik, I…” She slips her hand out from mine as she rubs both of hers across her face. “I’m… I’m scared. Everyone keeps telling me how excited they are to see the new baby and how great and amazing it’s going to be. Everyone seems so happy about it but I’m…” She takes in a shaky breath. “I’m not ready. I’m not ready to be a mother.”

“Your bitch is smarter than you. At least she’s figured out that one of you will probably lose control and blow up your precious kiddie. We eagerly await to see that.”

You will
never hurt any of our children. And Pansa won’t either. I focus more on Natasha, though. She’s a lot more important than Chaos ever will be. “I’m, well, I feel like that too, sometimes. About not being ready to be a dad, I mean. It’s definitely a scary thing, thinking about having a kid to raise on your own all at once. But… I mean, we’ve gone through so much together already. We’ve gotten a lot thrown at us, but we still made it through okay, because we had each other and we worked together. I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon.”

“Yeah, we did.” It looks like she’s about to smile, but it disappears before it ever makes it to her face. “Except most of the time, I made it by fighting.” She laughs, but it’s a dry and sad laugh. “They taught me how to do that really well. I got really good at hurting people. Really good at killing people, too.”

I don’t even ask who “they” is. I have a bad feeling I know who she’s talking about. “I… I don’t think fighting with… well, I don’t think fighting in general’ll make you a bad parent or anything. You’ve always been so good to us. And I really think you’ll be a good mom, too.”

“Well at least one of us thinks that.” The silence sits heavily between the both of us. Spirits, I didn’t know she was torn up about this. I mean, I knew she was nervous, obviously, but not this way. How long’s she been thinking about this? Is that keeping her up at night too, this whole time? I don’t know. All I know is that I feel terribly for her.

I bite my lip, chewing at it like I’m trying to work up the right words to say. “The both of us… we’ve seen a lot of bad things. And we’ve both been… hurt, badly, in different ways.” I look down at my hands, watching my thumb rub mindlessly against the stump that used to be my pinky finger. “I don’t think that’ll make us bad parents, though. We… the both of us, we’ve seen people who’re supposed to love each other, we’ve seen them treat each other badly, terribly.” Caria

I close my eyes for a second, letting all the pain and remorse that comes with that name pass through me. “But just because we saw that, that doesn’t mean we’ll turn into that. We see that, and we say, ‘My partner’ll never have to deal with that,’ or ‘My kid’ll never go through that,’ you know?” I reach out, resting my hand on her belly again. “We’ll take good care of her. She’ll be lucky to have a mom like you. I know it.” Right when I finish, I feel her flutter again under my fingers, bringing a smile back to my face. “She knows it too, I guess.”

Natasha smiles back, and this time it seems a little freer than before. “Well, I suppose two beats one.” She leans her head back again, placing her own hand over mine. “For the record, I think you’ll be a great dad too. The baby may never forgive you if she gets your hair, though.”

“I thought you said being a ginger wasn’t so awful?” I scoot myself over a little closer to her so that I’m right up against her. “Besides, redheads can still date beautiful people. If her father could do it, she can too.”

“Mm. Fair point.” She rolls her head over my way, so that her face takes up just about everything I can see. I don’t know if she feels completely confident about being a mom yet. I don’t know if she’ll still be worried the closer it gets to the baby’s birth. One thing I do know, though, is that right now, in this small moment right here, she really is happy. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” I reach over, planting a small kiss on the tip of her nose. “And we can stay up here as long as you need too. You can go back to sleep, if you want. Whatever you need.”

“I know.” Her belly speaks up again, but this time it’s her stomach that grumbles, not the baby. “I’m actually starting to get really hungry, though. Brunch is starting to sound pretty good to me.” She slips her hand through mine again. “…We can stay up here a little bit longer, though.”

My smiles get even bigger and goofier. “That… that sounds absolutely perfect to me.”

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Michael DeathFlame
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Re: The Festival Family

Post by Michael DeathFlame on Sun Mar 05, 2017 4:11 pm

Had to make up for all the depression in Unbroken. Here's the final story!

~*~706 AW~*~


How did we ever manage to get through the festival those first few years? There’s less than ten of us here altogether, and even now it’s a lot of work. How did we do this for a few dozen people? It’s been so many years now, with so much happening in between now and then, that I honestly can’t remember too well. I know it’s a lot easier now than it used to be, but still, it’s a good amount of work. Getting all the food ready ahead of time, decorating the house, cleaning up after opening presents, and then obviously cleaning up after all the food. Washing dishes isn’t hard work by any stretch of the imagination, but it still takes time to clean all the food off, get everything dried, and store the leftover food for later.

But I don’t mind doing it one bit. I never thought I’d say it, but cleaning up after everything, it’s almost kind of relaxing, at this point. The past nine months have been exciting, with a new adventure coming to life at the start of every new day. It’s definitely changed my life in a way that I never thought it could, and honestly, it’s been the best nine months of my life.

But it’s also been crazy, totally, completely crazy. It’s been a little better the past few months, because Ebbie finally started to sleep better (and thank the spirits for that, because if she didn’t, I think I’d be dead right now). But still… spirits, it’s been so much. Even with Miranda and Sierra living close enough to help out from time to time, it’s just so much. I knew it would be a lot going into it, but I really had no idea what Natasha and I were walking into. That doesn’t mean I’d take it back if I could, no way, absolutely not. The week or two I got off from work to spend with Ebbie after she was born was the best of my life, and I'm pretty sure I cried for at least half an hour the first day I had to leave home again and go back to work. It’s just… it’s just a lot, happening all the time.

So just being in the kitchen, by myself, doing this easy, quiet work, it’s kind of nice. Just me, the dishes, and my thoughts. “And Us.”

Well yeah, it can’t ever be completely perfect.
I don’t bother listening to Them, not now. Even if I didn’t have Chaos in my head, being a new parent can be pretty stressful. Even when I’m not around Ebbie, my mind’s always going back to her, wondering how she’s doing, if she’s okay, if someone’s doing something that might hurt her. Chaos doesn’t really help with that. But for once, I’m not worried about her. She’s in the den with everyone else, with the people I trust the most in the world. I know they’re taking care of her.

So when I finish putting all the dishes away, I don’t walk out of the kitchen immediately. Instead I plop down in one of the chairs by the counter top, grab a chocolate chip cookie, and close my eyes. I don’t want to fall asleep; last night was actually a pretty good night, so I don’t need that. I do it more so to just unwind, to just let my heart rate go down and zone out.

Or at least, I try to zone out. Is it bad that I really like stepping away from the baby like this? Does that make me a bad parent? I feel like Dad never did something like this when I was a kid, except when Chaos really started to get to him. Do other dads step back like this? I feel like they don’t. Does Ebbie know that I enjoy stepping out sometimes like this? I mean she’s a baby, sure, but I feel like babies know a lot more than we give them credit. If she knows that now will she hate me when she grows up?

I smile thinly to myself, pressing my hands against my face. It’s like Chaos doesn’t even need to be there, sometimes. Sure, sometimes They do whisper a thing or two about what I’m doing wrong, what that’ll mean down the line, stuff like that. But usually it’s just me, with Ebbie, at least. I know Natasha does it, too, with the whole questioning and doubting stuff. That makes me feel a little better, I guess; knowing that I’m not the only one who’s constantly worried about screwing up is a little reassuring, sometimes.

I lean away from the counter top, opening my eyes again. I have a feeling that doubting is never gonna go away. At least, not anytime soon. I’ve seconded guessed just about everything I’ve ever done, with only a few, rare exceptions. Being a parent isn’t going to stop that… if anything, it’ll make it happen even more often.

“Just wait until your bitch shoots out another one. It’ll double your chances of doing something horrendously terrible.”

Not even going to think about. Worrying about one baby is enough work.
Speaking of which, things are starting to get a bit too quiet for my liking. Even though I know absolutely nothing is going wrong in the other room, not seeing Ebbie is freaking me out, for some reason, like the longer I stay in here the worse it’s getting in there. This is not a good recipe for me ever getting any decent rest. Still, with my worrying getting more and more prominent the longer I stay in here, the less and less this feels like resting.  

I stand up with a groan, wiping my hands against my pants as if it’s signaling the end of my break. Time to see what’s going on in the den. Noises from the den reach my ears the second I leave the kitchen. Although not quite as loud as earlier this morning, it’s still pretty loud. I don’t hear Ebbie crying, though, so that’s a good thing.

When I make the turn in I stop for a second, just stand in the middle of the doorway and take everything in. Sierra’s fiercely arguing over something with Elias, and with how quickly and loudly my sister’s talking, I really have no idea what they’re talking about. Natasha and Aster are further away, both seated at a couch in the corner talking to each other. Natasha’s eyes flicker over to me for a second, smiling my way before returning her attention back to Aster. At least, I think she’s looking at him. She’s definitely talking with Aster, but it almost looks like Natasha’s eyes flicker away from him every few seconds, constantly focusing on something on the other side of the room.

It doesn’t take rocket science to figure out that something is Ebbie, though by the looks of it, she’s just fine. I’m not even a little surprised when I see the baby propped up on Gentry’s legs, still all in red from her pajamas to her overlarge Santa hat, laughing up at Gentry and Miranda as the two entertain her with as many weird faces they can think of.

I always figured Gentry’d be good with kids; outside of just having that kind of personality, I think she almost exploded when she found out that Natasha was pregnant. Miranda, though, that was a real surprise. She’s a great person, obviously, but I just never thought that she’d be the kind of person who’d love being around little kids all day. She’s proved me wrong a thousand times over, though, because she loves Ebbie, and Ebbie absolutely adores her too.

I smile a bit to myself, leaning against the door frame for another second or two. One thing’s for sure. She’s going to grow up surrounded by people who love her. That’s not something everyone gets as a kid. Sierra and me didn’t really have that, and for a long time Natasha didn’t either. Fe and Arker are gone. Antivoleus is gone. N’al Ren’s finally at peace. And our baby’s going to grow up around an incredible family.

Maybe we really did make a difference.


Chaos has something else to say about that, but I tune Them out for now. I move away from my spot at the door, weaving my way past the other tables and chairs to plump down on the couch next to Gentry. “I’m surprised you guys haven’t tried kidnapping her yet or something.”

A mischievous-looking smile spreads across Gentry’s face. “Don’t give me ideas. Your kid is too cute.” She turns her attention back to Ebbie, her grin growing bigger. “You hear that? You’re too cute! Stop being cute!” When Ebbie just laughs at her Gentry pokes her in the ribs, which of course just makes her laugh harder. “What are you doing? Stop it! You’re killing me! Noooo!”  With a dramatic scream Gentry leans back into the couch, her tongue lolling limply out of her mouth. After a second Ebbie goes in to explore, scooting herself forward just enough to plant one hand on Gentry’s chest, the other one exploring her still face. “Mine!” With a sudden energy Gentry swoops back up, wrapping both arms around and squeezing her tight to her chest. “Sorry Yupik, you’re not getting her back. Say goodbye to your daughter.”

“I, uh, no, I’m not okay with that. I don’t think Natasha’ll be either.” At the sound of my voice Ebbie turns her head towards me, babbling happily from the confines of Gentry’s grip. “You look a little stuck there, Pumpkin. Don’t worry, Daddy’ll save you.” I reach over, gently grabbing her from under the arms and lifting her up so that she’s eye-level with me. “Your Aunt Gentry’s right about you, though. You make Daddy smile too much.” Ebbie squeaks in response, doing her best to keep the Santa hat out of her eyes as she smiles back at me. “Alright, alright, you win. Get over here.” I pull her in close and let her lie on my chest, planting a quick kiss between her eyes.

Miranda watches on, a smile on her face that only comes out when she’s with Ebbie. As Ebbie rests her chin down against my chest Miranda’s eyes flicker back up at me. “Did you give yourself a time to lay low in the kitchen? You weren’t in there for too long. You know you don’t have to be constantly going, right? Especially not now. It’s the holidays; take some time to yourself. The new father deserves any free time he can get.”

“Free time? What’re you talking about? Never heard of it.” I smile to myself, absentmindedly rubbing my thumb against Ebbie’s back. “Don’t worry about me or anything like that. I actually got some good sleep last night for a change, so I mean, I have that going for me today.”

“One night of sleep doesn’t make up for nine months of work.” Miranda pauses long enough to take a sip from her tea cup, her smile melting down to something evoking concern. “Raising children is difficult enough by itself. Doing that alongside hosting a jun is in even more so.”

“At least one of your friends has a head attached to her shoulders. A second of slipped concentration from you or your bitch could send your world up in flames. The both of you have done that plenty of times in the past. What’s stopping either one of you from hurting you precious little girl?”

You better stop right there or I swear to the spirits I’ll-

“What? You’ll do what to Us, boy? Nothing. You have nothing to threaten Us with, nothing to hurt Us with. All you have are words. And what do We have? Enough power to end this miserable world several times over. Certainly enough power to spread your daughter’s brains against a wall.”

Shut your FUCKING-
I force myself to take in a gathering breath, doing my best to cut off whatever mental tirade I was about to throw at Them. This is what They want. They can only hurt her if I let Them. And I’m never giving Them that chance. I lick my lips, aware of the looks I’m getting from Gentry and Miranda right now. Ebbie might be too occupied with my shirt to notice anything, but the other two definitely did.

What was Miranda even talking to me about? My mind scrambles frantically for the last bit of what she said. “Uh… well, yeah, but the both of us, we’re doing good.” I try my best to sound as casual as possible, trying to sound like I didn’t just scream at a voice in my head for the past… well, however many seconds that was. “You know, it’s a lot, yeah, but it’s not work, really. At least, I don’t see it that way at all. It’s just like helping out your friend, or your girlfriend or your wife, or anything like that. It’s a lot, but I love it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, for sure.”

I’m pretty impressed with myself for pulling that out of my brain after spacing out before, but Gentry and Miranda don’t seem as impressed. The two share a glance at each other before Gentry speaks up. “Well, I’m glad you see it that way. But either way, you’re still on your feet all the time. No matter what you’re doing, if you do it that long, it’s still a lot.” She crosses her legs underneath her, looking back down at Ebbie. “I know I’ve been moving around a lot lately, but if I’m ever in town, Elias and I could always babysit for a day or two, or whatever you and Natasha want. I’m sure you two’d love to have some time to just be by yourself and relax.”

You know, I definitely wouldn’t mind some alone-time again. Not one bit. I tuck my chin so that my head’s behind Ebbie’s, pretending to wipe something off her cheek to hide the blush that quickly runs up my neck from that last thought. “Yeah, uh, no doubt there, yeah. And thanks, I really appreciate it, I mean it. Thanks. I’ll really keep that in mind.” I peek out from behind Ebbie’s head, content with the lack of red on my face now. “Speaking of moving around, how’s it been going? See anything really crazy since the last time we met?”

My little episode with Chaos is mostly forgotten as we keep talking. I don’t really keep any solid track of time, instead just letting myself get wrapped up in our small circle. Even though I’ve loved being with Natasha and Ebbie, I almost kind of forgot what it was like to be around my friends like this, being able to talk about other things. Especially with someone like Gentry talking, it’s not that tough to keep the conversation going. I never really realized until now, but I do kind of miss this. When you become a parent, you don’t really get this all too often. I wonder-

“Yupik?”

I jump a little at the new voice, but I recognize her instantly. I lean my head back against the couch, looking straight up at Natasha. “Yeah? Yeah, what’s up?”

“Nap time’s getting close. We should start trying to get her down now.” Wait, really? I turn quickly over to the large clock on the other side of the room, shocked to see how quickly time had moved on while I was talking. When I look back down at Ebbie, it becomes pretty obvious that she agrees with Natasha too. She’s not getting fussy, not yet, but she’s definitely quieted down a lot from before. The baby that’d been energetic and loud as ever has gone just about completely quiet, two fingers curled inside her mouth, big brown eyes staring sleepily right back at me.

“Yeah, yeah, someone’s starting to look a little tired, huh?” I stand up back on my feet slowly, holding Ebbie gently against the space between my shoulder and chest. “We’ll be back... eventually.” I love Ebbie to death, but spirits is she bad at napping, or staying still, or anything like that, really. I’m hoping that being around everyone for so long today’ll have tired her out, but it may still take ages anyway.

Neither of us say anything as we make our way out of the room, and it stays that way a bit after. I can feel Natasha looking at me out of the corner of my eye, and I have a feeling- “How’re you doing? You seemed a little shaken up for a bit back there.”

It’s not funny or nice to talk about, but still, I still smile a bit at that. I don’t think anything ever goes by her without her noticing, especially not when it comes to me or Ebbie. “Yeah, I’m fine now, and I was fine then, too.” I keep my voice soft and quiet because of the aforementioned baby. “Just… you know, spaced out. Nothing terrible. Really.” I stop for a second, letting Natasha move up the stairs as I tip-toe up behind her. “How’re you doing?”

“Doing fine. Just tired.” She turns around, and even though the bags under her eyes are as bit darker and rounder than normal, they still move quickly as ever. I follow them, settling back down on the baby in my arms. Yeah. Yeah, you’re definitely ready to sleep. Normally when I’m holding her for as long as I have been she’ll start to get antsy, but the only thing that’s moving now are her eyes. She’s not looking at either of us, just kind of looking up and out at nothing, her mouth still sucking away at those two fingers. The skin around her eyes is starting to get a bit pink and every time she blinks it takes just a little bit longer for her eyes to flick back up again. Natasha and me don’t say anything else to each other once we make it up the second floor; we don’t need anything else keeping her awake.

I wince every time the floor creaks or the door squeaks, but none of it seems to have much of an effect on her. Natasha closes the door behind me as I sit into the rocking chair. She’s not going to fall asleep any time soon if she’s not moving, and I’m kind of too tired to walk up and down the stairs for, well, for however long it takes for her to fall asleep. Either way, though, it doesn’t seem like it’s making much of a difference, because after a minute or two the quiet of the room is broken by groggy, frustrated whimpering. “Oh, come on,” I whisper, patting her on the back. “Now, you’re okay, you’re…” Nope, not okay. She’s just getting fussier, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon.

Natasha’s up to my right in a second, and she bends over the chair towards us. “Here, let me have her.” I have no problem handing Ebbie off to her, and I stay there in the chair as she walks back and forth across the room. For a few minutes nothing seems to change, and I’m just about to get up and offer to hold her again when she starts calming down. I didn’t hear it at first, not with the talking downstairs, but as Natasha moves around the bed heading my way I hear it well enough. It’s soft, barely even there, but it’s there, and Ebbie’s staring straight at Natasha as the song soothes out.

“Goodnight my angel,
Time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day
I think you know what you’ve been asking me
I think you know what I’ve been trying to say.”

There’s a soft smile on Natasha’s face, a deep one, one that goes all the way from her heart to her face.

“And like a boat out on the ocean
I’m rocking you to sleep
The water's dark
And deep inside this ancient heart
You’ll always be a part of me.”

I’ve never heard this song before. We’ve gone through so many different songs at this point that I thought I knew them all. This one, though, is new, and I have no idea where she got it from. Outside of not knowing it, though, there’s something different about this song. There’s this sort of peacefulness about Natasha. It might just be me being exhausted, but there’s a sort of gentle power behind her voice and face and eyes.  I watch, almost as memorized as Ebbie, as she keeps her way around the room, stroking the back of our baby’s head as the words keep coming.

“Goodnight my angel,
Now it’s time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry
And if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart
There will always be a part of me.”

Ebbie’s lips curl up just a bit, and the coo that comes out of her turns all of my insides into mush. By the way Natasha’s entire face lights up, I feel like the same’s true for her too.

“I promised I would never leave you
Then you should always know
Wherever you may go
No matter where you are
I never will be far away.”

All at once there’s a lump the size of an egg sitting in my throat, so quick and so strong that I almost gasp. I look down as I choke it down as memories explode in my head, my father’s memories of us, of him watching my mother sing to me and Sierra, before everything happened, before Chaos came into our lives and shook it all up, back when it was just the four of us and all we had to worry about was loving each other. The same’s going to happen. Ebbie’ll grow up and I won’t be able to protect her anymore and Natasha and I’ll get old and one day we’ll say good-bye and there won’t ever be another hello.

All of this goes through my head in less than a second, but when I look up again Natasha’s standing right in front of me again. Our eyes only meet for a moment, but there’s this flash of understanding between the both of us, and I know she’s thinking the same thing I am. She turns around and then slowly, quietly she leans back, lying her back against my chest and resting down on my lap. Over her shoulder I can see Ebbie’s head resting right underneath Natasha’s arm, eyes closed, face completely relaxed. Natasha keeps stroking down the length of our baby’s back as the final words come out in a half-whisper.

“Someday we’ll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die
That’s how you
And I
Will be.”

As her lips finish the last bit of the song she leans forward just a bit, planting a small kiss in Ebbie’s mat of hair before leaning her head against my shoulder.

I feel the tears drip down my face, hear Chaos mocking me in the back of my head, but I couldn’t care less about either of the two. Because they’re not sad tears, not completely. I don’t know what comes after this, how Ebbie’ll grow up, how many children we’ll have and what it’ll all be like.

What I do know, though, is that when I reach around and hold the both of them, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. I wind my fingers through hers, resting my fingertips against the gentle rise and fall of Ebbie’s breathing. I lean back and just take it all in, feel Natasha and Ebbie’s hearts beat against me, see the way the three of us sink deeper into each other, listen to the last words of the lullaby over and over again in my mind. “Someday we’ll all be gone. But lullabies go on and on. They never die. That’s how you and I will be.”

I brush my lips gently against Natasha’s cheek before I rest my head against hers. I love you both. I always will. Now and forever. I close my eyes and hold onto my wife and my baby and rock back and forth, back and forth, and just smile as everything melts into one, perfect, unending dream.

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