When the Moon, Christmas Countdown Check-In (11 Dec)
Apparently, there’s one good thing about losing internet access for a week: you run out of excuses (both bad and good ones) not to write toward your deadline! :P This teaser goes out with belated birthday wishes for my very dear friend @ghtlovesthg. ❤ If you’re not reading her delicious new AU Cinders, get cracking now!
Weekly Word Count: 6603 (currently on p. 116)
“Shh, sweet boy,” I croon, and inch up his body to tuck his face into the curve of my neck. “Don’t you know how precious you are?”
“Not to you,” he rasps without hesitation. “Every time you give me a gift, or show me a new kind of affection, it’s even harder to believe than before.”
“I brought you a basket of pretty pinecones,” I recall suddenly. “I forgot to give them to you before supper. Would you rather have them than…this?” I wonder softly, combing my fingertips gently against his scalp. “Because that would be okay –”
“Oh Katniss, when will you understand how very precious you are?” he groans, lifting his face to meet my eyes; his own wide and hot and red with tears. “I found your pinecones while I was cleaning up and it was every bit as thrilling as catching you at the chopping block on New Year’s Eve, or finding the shoe and stocking full of treats outside my bedroom door on New Year’s morn. I even told myself those presents weren’t for me so I wouldn’t get my hopes up.
“A basket of pretty pinecones would have been so much more than enough,” he goes on, “and then you shower me with songs and tales and kisses – so many kisses,” he says hoarsely. “You overwhelm me with gifts and affection, both precious beyond measure, and I weep because it’s wonderful and impossible, because I love it and…and I don’t want to lose it,” he concludes, his voice so small and vulnerable that it spurs a prickle of tears in my own eyes. “You make me – make everything – feel so incredibly good, and I cry because I never thought I would have that, or…or even feel that.”
I take his face in my hands and cover every last inch of it with lingering, deliberate kisses. “I hate your sweetheart,” I whisper, kissing the salty corners of his eyes, “if loving her has brought you to this.”
He laughs brokenly in reply. “Oh Katniss, she’s done anything but hurt me,” he says. “She’s a fierce thorned bud that I water with gifts and nourish with the light of my love, and every now and again I get a breath of her petals and am overcome, both by the bliss of the moment and the hope of what more might one day be.”
Still the prince loves his proud rose, I think sadly. But she never knew the pleasure of being tamed, no matter what the fox said, nor would the prince ever truly enjoy the reward of his patience. Not like lush warm fur beneath his hands or a damp snout nosing his ear or a velvet tongue-stroke on his nose.
“You’ll get your rose-bride, little prince,” I promise him, even though it breaks my heart. “But in the meantime, could you be content to play with a tamed fox?”
“I could be content for the rest of my days with a tamed fox,” he whispers, and I cover his mouth with mine before he can add anything to detract from or contradict this golden sliver of hope.
I will make the rest of your days so wonderful, little prince, my still lips promise as they melt against his. I will bring you jewel-bright apples from our tree for your breakfast, ripe wheat from the fields for your luncheoning-bread, and stolen chickens from the farms for the fine fireside supper we shall share. We shall romp and laugh in snowdrifts and cattails and wildflowers alike and I shall perch on your heart and lick your face with joy whenever I triumph over you at our games. We shall be playfellows until you grow lonesome for younglings and then I shall shed my foxskin and become your mate, filling your cold bed with my warmth and love and your house with our merry golden kits.
“Oh, vixen mine,” he whispers against my mouth. “Surely you would rather have a boy-fox to hunt and chase and gambol with you in the woods.”
“On the contrary,” I reply, leaning back to give his nose a tender chiding nip. “I want a goose-boy: a foolish, lonely gander who will tend our nest while I hunt and serve me cozy baked sweets upon my return and wrap me in his golden wings.”
“I can do that,” he promises softly, “all of that,” and curls me snugly to him as proof, tugging us both deeper into the downy hollow of our nest.