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More Than Just Wolves

 
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Seren Lowell
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:35 am    Post subject: More Than Just Wolves Reply with quote

Strangely, autumn was always a busy time for Lowell Photography. Autumn and spring were when people chose to get formal photographs taken of various family members and groups, a popular time and theme for baby photos as well. Seren loved her job, but not when she had four clients' pictures to edit at the end of a long day.

It was quiet for the moment, with Dorian at the theater, practicing for the next show, but due home any minute. The only sound was the regular tick-tick-tick of the mantle clock, at least until the sound of footsteps and muted voices was heard approaching the house.

It wasn't unusual for Dorian to bring friends home from the theater, but Seren raised her head as she noted the cadence of the voices. They were familiar, urging her to sniff the air hopefully as though expecting the clue of their scent to reach her before Dorian got the door open.

There was laughter and joy in the sound of those voices, growing more distinct as they drew closer. The sound of a key was heard turning in the lock, and the door opened with a murmured, "Shhh," followed by a girlish giggle. And then,

"Seren! I'm home!" called a voice she recognized as belonging to her husband.

"No ***, Sherlock!" she called back to her husband and mate, laughing as she saved her work. Then she caught a whiff of who else was with him, and quite suddenly she was up on her feet, rushing out of the living room to pounce on their guests with open arms. "You're here! Why didn't you tell me you were coming?"

Delilah was the first to laugh, her eyes bright at Seren's welcome, hugging her back. "It wouldn't be a surprise if we told you!" she pointed out.

"They showed up at the theater and insisted I bring them home with me to see you," Dorian explained, his face bright with joy at the unexpected arrival of old friends. "Shouldn't you still be touring?" he asked them both.

Kit grinned, already lounging comfortably against the wall as he watched his own wife hugging and giggling with Dorian's. "We're getting a little old to constantly be on the road," he admitted with a wry shrug. "Besides, 'Lilah's getting too fat for her costumes."

Seren squeezed Delilah happily, her jaw dropping at Kit's comment. "Rude!"

Delilah audibly gasped and turned to playfully swat Kit's arm. "I am not fat!" she retorted, looking slightly insulted. "I'm pregnant ... with your child!" she added, poking a fingernail at him, accusingly.

He chuckled, catching her hand to draw her fingers to his lips for a soft kiss. "But you make adorable faces when I say it wrong," he pointed out cheerfully.

Seren flickered a glance at Dorian - some things never changed.

"Says the man who just called his wife fat," Delilah pouted, whether that was one of the supposedly adorable faces her husband was so fond of or not.

Dorian laughed, meeting Seren's gaze. "Never call a woman fat, if you know what's good for you, Kit," he admonished his friend with a pat on the back.

"Thank you, Dorian. You are so lucky to have him, Seren. At least, someone knows how to be a gentleman," Delilah said with a sniff, though they all knew she was only pretending to be angry.

"Aren't you the one who said sex is always better when it's make-up sex?" Seren asked Delilah laughingly. "If anything, Kit's clearly just trying to give you an amazing sex life by being a pig-headed rude-boy."

Kit raised his brows. "Since when am I pig-headed?" he protested, looking to Dorian for support. "I think your wife has bad opinions about your friends, Dorky-man."

"Don't look so insulted, Kit. All women find men to be pig-headed. Some just more than others," he told his friend with another consoling pat to his back. "Anyway, this calls for a celebration, don't you think?" he asked, smiling expectantly at his wife and friends.

Delilah raised a hand in protest. "Nothing for me. I'm drinking for two these days," she said, rubbing a hand across her belly to prove her point.

Seren giggled, taking Delilah by the hand. "I have blue raspberry tea," she told her friend. "It's yummy, and Demi swore by it for avoiding heartburn when she was pregnant. Come inside, make yourselves comfortable. You're staying the night?"

"If you'll have us," Delilah replied, unabashedly. "It has been too long since we have seen both of you, and I'm tired of the road," she confessed, letting Seren lead her inside.

Dorian waited for them both to step inside before closing the door behind them. "You're staying the night. No arguments," he insisted.

"Of course we'll have you," Seren insisted, drawing Delilah into the kitchen and settling her at the table.

Kit paused to lift the bags in from the porch before Dorian shut the door. "It is never going to cease to amaze me that you can accurately predict how she'll react to anything," he muttered to his friend.

"Delilah or Seren?" Dorian muttered uncertainly. He had actually known Kit and Delilah longer than Seren, so he knew them all pretty well - longer and better than he knew his own twin brother.

"Your wife, not mine," Kit chuckled. "Delilah's impossible to predict on a given day unless you know what mood she's in. I don't have to drink this tea stuff as well, do I?"

Dorian chuckled, both at Kit's answer and his mention of tea. "Not unless you want to," he assured his friend. "Come in and make yourself comfortable. Mi casa, su casa, or however it goes."

"If this is our house, too, does that mean we get the big bedroom?" Kit asked cheekily, and spluttered as a damp towel spun across the kitchen to splat against his face. "I forgot her hearing."

Dorian laughed. "I'd say you got your answer," he said. "How long are you planning on staying in the city?" he asked, considering Delilah's condition. He led the way toward the kitchen, where he had a small stash of liquor stowed away in a cabinet for a special occasion.

"Tell you the truth, we're looking to settle down," Kit admitted, tossing the towel back with a grin before moving to follow Dorian out of the kitchen. "Thinking about starting up as acting coaches, that kind of thing."

"Really?" Dorian asked, arching a curious brow, halting at a cupboard and taking out a bottle containing some amber-colored liquid and two glasses, assuming both ladies preferred tea. "I didn't think you two would ever settle down," he said, though his friends had mulled it over a time or two in the past.

"It's been in the air since you left the troop," Kit said with a shrug. "We never thought you'd settle down anywhere, and here you are, married and responsible, holding down a steady job that pays stupidly well. And we're gonna be parents. It doesn't seem right to take a kid on tour." He smirked. "Besides, 'Lilah's gonna start nesting soon, and I kind of want her to have an actual nest of her own, you know?"
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Seren Lowell
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dorian opened the bottle and generously filled two glasses before handing one to his friend. "I won't argue with that. We've missed you. It will be good to have friends nearby, and I'm sure you won't have much trouble finding a source of income," he said, lightly tapping his glass to Kit's. "Congratulations. It's about time!" he said with a grin.

"Anyway, you made it look easy," Kit added, clinking his glass to Dorian's with a chuckle. "I'm blaming you."

Dorian frowned just a little. While he might have made getting married and settling down look easy, having a family had proven a little more difficult, and he wasn't sure why. It sure wasn't from lack of trying. A lot had happened since they'd last seen their friends, but apparently, starting a family wasn't part of it. "If you say so," he murmured in reply before taking a sip of his drink.

Kit might have been as human as they come, but he didn't miss the frown on his friend's face, or the sense of defeated worry that flickered from him for a moment. "All right, spill it," he said, drawing Dorian away from the kitchen door. "What's eating at you?"

"Nothing," Dorian said with a shrug, even as he was drawn away from the kitchen with a conspiratorial murmur from his friend. "It's just ... Seren and I ... We've been trying and ..." He shrugged again, more disappointed for Seren than himself, though they both wanted children. They seemed to be surrounded by children, and now even Kit and Delilah were starting a family, while Seren and Dorian were still childless.

"Yeah, but it's different for wolves, isn't it?" Kit asked curiously. "I mean, Seren's brother is a wolf, but his mate is a tiger, so they're not really a good comparison. I don't know how it all works, but you're mated, right? It'll happen."

"I suppose it will. It's not for lack of trying," Dorian said. It was more a matter of timing, since Seren was only able to conceive a few times a year. If they were human, they'd probably have had a child by now. Then again, once it did happen, they'd likely have a multiple birth. "Demi and Neville have three," he confessed, trying to hide his disappointment. "And Marissa and Emrys have twins." Neither couple seemed to have any problem conceiving.

Kit raised a brow. "And how many are you hoping for - five?" he asked. Unlike Dorian, he thought he could make a guess as to why it was taking time for them to conceive. The brother and the brother-in-law had, apparently, taken the three days off every single time and indulged. Kit knew Dorian and Seren wouldn't do that unless they could guarantee they weren't letting anyone down.

"Honestly, at this point, I'd be happy with one," Dorian said, as quietly as he could. He glanced toward the kitchen, in hopes Seren wouldn't overhear. "I can be patient, but I'm worried about Seren," he confessed further. "We've been talking about starting a family for almost a year now. I wonder if there's something wrong with me," he said, though there was no reason to believe that. On the other hand, he had been sick for a long time before she'd turned him. Maybe that had something to do with it.

"Well, you only get a chance to try it, what, four times a year?" Kit said, tilting his head above his glass. "Some humans take years to conceive, and we're not restricted like that. Maybe give it until the next time around, Dorian, before you start worrying about it. Okay?"

"Yeah, okay," Dorian agreed, though he was mostly saying that to change the subject, rather than actually agreeing to take Kit's advice. He was going to worry; how could he not?

Kit's eyes narrowed, bu he let it go. Dorian would talk about it when he was ready to, probably to Delilah, rather than himself. "So ... any ideas where we should start looking for somewhere to live?"

"That depends on where you want to live," Dorian said, pushing aside his worries about Seren for the moment to focus on his friends. "It shouldn't be too hard finding a place. I assume you're thinking house, not apartment," he said, before taking another swig from the glass. It took a lot these days to make Dorian drunk, the wolf's blood that flowed through his veins making him far stronger than an ordinary human.

"A house would be ideal, but we're not exactly swimming in money," Kit pointed out awkwardly. "We haven't really had a chance to look at the real estate prices in the city. What'd be ideal would be to get a house on this street with you guys."

"There's no rush," Dorian assured his friend. "You're more than welcome to stay here for now. We can look into housing in the morning," he said, confident they'd find something the other couple could afford. He and Seren weren't made of money either, but they managed well enough.

"I appreciate it, Dorian," Kit nodded to him gratefully. "We'll pull our weight while we're here, too. I know this is a busy season for your girl, and you're back in the new season at the Shanachie, too."

"Nonsense," Dorian said, assuming they'd clean up after themselves, and that was really all that was required. "Though neither of us will argue if you and 'Lilah want to cook," he added with a grin.

"You miss the food of the road, Dorky-man?" Kit teased his friend cheerfully, raising his glass in a toast to him. "Doesn't Seren let you eat cold hot dogs anymore?"

Dorian laughed. "That is not what I mean, and you know it," he said, raising his glass to clink it against Kit's. "I'm happy for you both. It's about time," he added, still grinning.

Kit's smile faded just a little. "To be honest, we should have come back sooner," he admitted. "Two months is not long enough to find a home and settle into it, and that's relying on her not to have a premature birth."

"Dude, this is Rhy'Din. Nothing is impossible," Dorian reminded his friend, as if he needed reminding. "Maybe you should talk to Mataya. If anyone in this town would be able to help, it's her," he suggested.

"Really?" Kit didn't look convinced. "I mean ... we've never worked for her. I think the last time I spoke to her was when we improv'd that scene about the made-up feud between Starlight and the Shanachie." He considered this. "Actually, no, that is the only time I've ever spoken to the woman. And I called her an egotistical power-hound. In character, but still ..."

Dorian couldn't help but chuckle, both at the memory and the realization that his friend might be a little intimidated by the very un-intimidating Ms. De Luca. "Kit, she owns the Shanachie. Who better to talk to about the prospect of tutoring actors?" he pointed out.

"No, I get that, I do," Kit insisted, nodding while somehow seeming to back away mentally. "She's just ... Dude, she's done the fame thing, and the success thing, and she has a whole theater to look after. Why is she gonna care about me and 'Lilah?"

"Because she cares about people, especially fellow actors," Dorian told him, realizing his friend might be a little too proud to ask for help. "Just take my word for it. I'll go along, if you want. Re-introduce you. But I'm pretty sure once she realizes you and 'Lilah are looking to settle down and are looking for work, she'll be only too happy to help. Besides, in a way, you'd be helping her by training new blood for the theater. Maybe that's your angle."

"I guess there's no harm in asking," Kit conceded, although he was clearly having issues with asking for help at all. "Just ... don't tell 'Lilah until after we've talked to your boss? I don't want to get her hopes up over nothing."

"Kit, I'm telling you, she's gonna help. She helped me, she helped Neville. Can you think of anyone else who'd keep someone employed who needs nights off whenever the moons are full?" he pointed out.

Kit shrugged. "I don't know how it works in the city," he pointed out. "We've been on tour for the last decade." And that was the real issue, wasn't it? Neither one of them really knew what was involved in setting up a permanent home.
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Seren Lowell
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"You must have saved some money by now," Dorian said, not quite asking. There were ways around that, too, but it really depended on whether they were looking to rent or buy.

"Some," his friend said worriedly. "I don't think it's enough. We might be able to put down a deposit to rent somewhere for a while - maybe use that time to get settled and start really saving up?"

Dorian frowned, looking concerned, but confident they'd sort the situation out. "Don't worry, okay? You have a place to stay for now. Things will work out," he assured his friend, having to believe that. He thought maybe they could have planned better, but sometimes things just happened.

And he knew his wife well enough to know that if Delilah expressed the same concerns, Seren would have the same reassurance ready for her. As it was, Seren was demonstrating her favorite thing about the tea.

"Watch," she told Delilah, adding one squirt of lemon juice. The blue tea turned purple before their eyes.

"That's amazing!" Delilah remarked, clearly amused, if not amazed. "But how does it taste?" she asked. After all, the fact that it changed color didn't matter much if it didn't taste good.

"It still tastes of raspberry," Seren promised her. "We can add honey if you want it a bit sweeter, but that's the only color change." She grinned, pouring a fresh cup for herself.

"Hmm," Delilah murmured as she took a small sip of the tea. "It could use a little sugar or honey," she said, setting the cup back down. She glanced over at the other room where the men had sequestered themselves, a worried frown on her face. "What do you think they're talking about?"

Seren glanced toward the living room as she added a small spoon of honey to Delilah's cup. "Do you want me to guess, or would you like me to ... tune in?" she asked innocently. They both knew their respective men would tell them about the conversation later, anyway.

Delilah arched a delicately-shaped brow at her friend. "Can you do that?" she asked, curiously. Not that she wanted her to spy on the men, but she hadn't realized what kind of abilities were part of being a lycanthrope.

"Sort of?" Seren shrugged, smiling as she sat down with her friend. "It's something mated couples can do. There's a bond that's created between us, and if you get your mind right and concentate, it can be like telepathy."

"But wouldn't he know?" Delilah asked further, as she lifted her cup for another sip of tea, this time sweetened with a bit of honey. "Oh, that's lovely," she murmured in appreciation.

"Oh, he probably would," the redhead nodded easily. "It's not like spying would be. Why, are you worried that Kit's keeping something from you?"

"No," Delilah said, not sounding all that sure with herself. "Not exactly. I mean ... Ever since I got pregnant," she said, laying a hand against her swollen belly. "He's worried about the baby. He keeps telling me that life on the road is no place for a family."

"What about you?" Seren asked her gently. "What do you think about it?" Kit and Delilah always seemed so well put together, but she'd been privileged to be invited into their circle of friendship with her own husband. Privileged to see the occasional cracks.

"I think it's a little late to take it back," Delilah said, not that either of them would want to. "Gypsies raise families on the road," she pointed out, not that either of them wanted to do that either. "Things will work out. They have to."

"They will," Seren promised her. "If it's money that's worrying you both, we can arrange a sort of a loan. I know you wouldn't like it to just be given the money."

"I'm not as worried about a place to live as I am about work. I'm going to have a baby, Seren. There's not much I can do right now. We've been talking about tutoring actors or maybe opening an acting school, but where do we start?" Delilah explained, sighing as one hand moved over her belly. "I'm tired of the road," she confessed. "Our lives have changed. It's time we settle down and make a home and a family."

"You go and talk to Mataya De Luca," Seren told her firmly. "Seriously, she'll have ideas. Even if it's temporary for the time being, even if all it is is getting you and Kit to cover the Saturday morning club thing she set up a few years back, it'll be something. A start."

"Mataya? The woman who owns the Shanachie?" Delilah asked, recognizing the name, though they only met a time or two. "Kit could easily get a job acting. He's so talented, but we've been wanting to retire from the stage and do something behind the scenes. We'd both love to teach. Do you really think that's something she might be interested in?"

"Yeah, I think she might be." Seren sat back with a faint smile. "There's no real provision for training in the city. It takes talent to get on the stage, because no one is getting the training here, and getting to any of the Earths and back is a little complex just to get a diploma."

"But there are schools here, aren't there? Or classes, at least?" Delilah asked. Though she was a Rhy'Din native, she hadn't been born in the city and hadn't spent a lot of time there, except when they were passing through.

"I think Bristle Crios does a performing arts course, but I couldn't say for sure." Seren shrugged. "Another reason to talk to Mataya about it. There aren't any specialized schools for the dramatic arts that I know of."

"Do you think she'd see us?" Delilah asked, feeling a little more hopeful now - excited even. She was trying to remain optimistic about their prospects in Rhy'Din, but change was a scary thing, especially when they'd been on the road together for so long.

"Yeah, I really do. She got you guys set up in the Shanachie amphitheater when you were here last, remember? And insisted on paying for your advertising and headshots." Seren chuckled - it was hard for most people to realize just how generous some of Rhy'Din's prominant business-people were.

Delilah smiled at the mention of that. "I remember." She reached over and gave Seren's hand a squeeze. "Thank you, Seren. Kit and I really do appreciate the help, even if he's too proud to say so," she added with a smirk.

"Well, it's what you do for family, isn't it?" Seren smiled back at her, squeezing her hand in return. "Besides, we've missed you guys. It's always good to see you."

"I have never had a sister," Delilah confessed with a smile, hoping Seren got the hint. "Lots of brothers, but no sister!" she added, laughing.

"Well, so long as you're happy to have a wolf for a sister, I'm very happy to fill that role," Seren promised her in amusement. "And maybe one day soon, you'll be an auntie, too."

"So long as you do not make me a wolf," Delilah said, half-joking. She had a feeling neither Dorian nor Seren had any intention of doing such a thing, but the thought of it scared her a little. Her smile faded, a concerned look on her face. "Have you and Dorian been trying?" she asked curiously.

Seren's smile faded as she nodded - not unhappily, exactly, but not brimming with excitement, either. "I've been in heat three times this year, and still nothing," she said regretfully. "Maybe there's something wrong with me. Marissa and Demi had no trouble at all."

"Marissa and Demi are not wolves," Delilah pointed out, though she wasn't sure if that made any difference. She didn't know them very well, only what Dorian and Seren had told her of them. "So, is it more like the way wolves ... mate than humans?" she asked, curiously, unsure if she was using the right word.
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Seren Lowell
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"We can have sex as often as we like, but unless I'm in heat, there's no chance of conceiving," Seren explained. "It's a little more like wolves, I guess. What worries me is that maybe I'm not going through heat correctly. I've only been shifting for a few years - I was born defective."

"Defective?" Delilah echoed, a puzzled look on her face. Dorian had told her a little about what had happened and why Seren had turned him, but he hadn't told her much about Seren's past.

Seren sighed softly, looking down at her cup. "My ... family, I suppose you'd call them, were very focused on keeping the bloodline pure," she explained quietly. "That resulted in a lot of inbreeding. Until a few years ago, I had never been a wolf. I was a werewolf, but I didn't shift. Not even my mind was effected by the moon. My brother is the one who turned Dorian. Dorian is the one who kick-started my shifts by biting me. But I might be too damaged from birth to be able to conceive, and I have no idea how to tell him that."

Delilah's mouth formed a silent, "Oh," followed by a frown. She gave Seren's hand another squeeze, feeling just a little guilty for her own good luck at getting pregnant so easily. "I'm sorry, Seren. I had no idea." That obviously wasn't the story Dorian had given them, but she understood why he hadn't. "Have you seen a doctor?" she asked, though she wasn't sure if there were doctors who treated pregnant lycans or not. This was Rhy'Din, though, and it stood to reason that there were ... somewhere.

Seren's smile was grateful as she squeezed back. "I wouldn't know where to start," she admitted. "I mean, there are lycan-trained doctors in the city, but I haven't needed to go to one since I started shifting." She tilted her head toward Delilah curiously. "You knew Marissa was pregnant before any of us did. How?"

Delilah frowned thoughtfully. Seren had trusted her with a secret; the least Delilah could do was trust Seren with one of hers. "It is old magic. Tribal magic," she confessed. There was no reason to keep quiet about it when Kit and Dorian already knew. It was time Seren knew, too.

Seren's smile flickered briefly, and she leaned a little closer, breathing deeply against the side of Delilah's neck. "You're not entirely human," she said, in tone of delight. "How did I miss that?"

Delilah shrugged, an almost shy smile on her face. "My great great great grandmother was from an old tribe that no longer exists here on Rhy'Din. I do not know much more than that, but I do know that I inherited a few unusual abilities."

"Lilah ... three nights out of every twenty-eight, I run around on four legs, tortured by the nagging feeling I should be wearing three bras," Seren pointed out to her with a grin. "Your secret is safe with me."

"A wolf wearing three bras would certainly be a sight," Delilah remarked with a teasing grin. She quickly sobering with a sigh, knowing Seren was right. "It is not a secret so much as there is just not much to tell," she admitted.

"You're family, 'Lilah," Seren reminded her affectionately. "I was just wondering ... how soon can you tell if someone's expecting?"

"I'm not sure," Delilah replied. She'd only done it a few times, and though those women had not yet been showing, it had seemed obvious enough to her. "It's hard to explain. It's more a ... a feeling than anything else." She considered a moment and then inched closer, lifting her hand above Seren's waist. "May I?"

"Of course." Seren was hardly going to say no. "My last heat ended about a week ago," she confided softly. "It might be too soon even for you. "

"Oh! That is soon," Delilah said, reaching over to rest a very gentle hand against the flat of Seren's abdomen. Even if she was pregnant, she couldn't be more than a week or so. Delilah closed her eyes, as though she was deep in concentration. She remained like that for a few minutes before opening her eyes with a sad smile and shake of her head. "If there is something there, it is too soon even for me to tell, Seren. I'm sorry. But if you are, you will know soon enough."

Seren nodded, hiding her disappointment behind her warm smile. "It doesn't hurt to ask," she said softly. "Thank you. I guess it's just a waiting game. I don't want to risk doing any damage if there is something happening in there right now."

"Seren, even if you cannot have a child of your own, there are other options," she told her friend, taking her hand between hers, her expression one not of pity or even sympathy, so much as compassion and friendship. She knew it was probably little comfort when the other woman was so eager to be with child, but at least, it was something.

"I know. And we've only been trying for a year." Seren shrugged, letting out a soft sigh. "It's just ... hard, you know? We're surrounded by children. Emrys has twins, Neville has triplets; you and Kit are expecting - which is wonderful. I don't resent any of you for it, I'm truly happy for you. I just don't want to be the barren aunt forever."

"Well, perhaps I can help a little, if you don't mind drinking strange concoctions and doing silly rituals late at night," Delilah said, wanting to help, if she could. "It is not magic exactly, but my mother and my grandmother before her swore by it. Why do you think I have so many brothers?" she added with a bit of a chuckle.

"Hey, if they work, they're not silly," Seren pointed out with a smile. "At this point, I'd appreciate all the help I can get. I mean, Marissa tried, but I'm pure wolf with inbred DNA. My kids won't be inbred, but my family's bigotry is holding me back here."

"Perhaps you just need a little push," Delilah said. It was a good thing she was mating with Dorian, who presumably had no such problems with inbreeding. "There are ways to make you more fertile."

"There are?" Seren already looked lost. She'd never been particularly at home in the mystical side of things, far more a modern, practical sort.

"Mmhm," Delilah confirmed with a smile and a nod of her head. "It will take me a few days to gather what I need. We can try a few things, too, to see if you are with child," she said. "Do not lose hope, Seren," she told her, giving her hand another squeeze. "I will do what I can."

"Just don't push yourself on my account," Seren told her firmly, reaching over to hug her friend tight for a moment. "You and this little one are far more important than my insecurities right now." Her palm rubbed gently over the crown of Delilah's bump.

"You are important, too, Seren," Delilah said, smiling as the little one inside her rewarded her friend with a little kick to let her know she was there. Yes, she. Delilah was fairly certain they were having a girl.

"Oh, hi, little one!" Easily distracted by the gentle kick against her palm, Seren bent down and kissed Delilah's bump, rubbing again as she straightened before taking her hand back. "I'm full grown and I can last another few years without being instantly rewarded," she told her friend fondly. "You've got two months. You are definitely the priority here."

"I hardly think it will take years," Delilah gently assured her friend. "I will tell you a secret if you promise not to tell Kit," she said, lowering her voice and leaning close.

"My lips are sealed," Seren promised instinctively, leaning in closer herself. Her eyes sparkled excitedly - despite her own quiet upsets, Seren was remarkably difficult to keep down for long.

"I have not told Kit, but I believe we are having a daughter," she whispered, setting a finger against her lips to indicate it was a secret. She only hoped Kit would not be disappointed, but she did not think so.

"Oh, how wonderful!" Squealing, Seren threw her arms around Delilah, hugging her once again. "Oh, she is going to be so blessed with you two for parents. I promise, lips sealed, not a word."
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Delilah hugged her friend back, laughing. If that squeal didn't draw the mens' attention, nothing would. So much for secrets. "Your time will come, Seren. I know it!" she told her, feeling it in her bones and hoping it wasn't just wishful thinking.

"Eventually." Seren grinned as she drew back. "But before any of that happens ... I have to feed you guys, so!" She turned to her fridge and pulled it open. "How do you feel about chicken and bacon pasta bake?"

"Sounds delicious. What can I do to help?" Delilah asked, her mouth practically watering at the sound of the word "bacon".

Seren caught the interest in one of those words, and chuckled, pulling the packet of chicken breast from the fridge. "Bite-sized pieces, and brown them on all sides on the stove top," she instructed cheerfully.

"But what about the bacon?" Delilah asked, pushing herself to her feet to take the packet of chicken and looking just a little disappointed. She needed no convincing about the bacon.

Seren laughed. "The bacon goes on top twenty minutes before the bake comes out of the oven," she told her friend. "I promise, I'm not just dangling bacon to get you interested. It will happen."

"I trust you. I will take your word for it," Delilah said, smiling warmly at her friend. Trust was not something she gave easily or quickly, and it was a testament to Seren that she had earned Delilah's trust and friendship.

"Oh, I'm very trustworthy," Seren teased her, putting the pasta on to simmer away and partially cook while she worked on the sauce. "It's the canine side of me. I am very good at being a certain man's best friend."

Delilah went about cooking the chicken while Seren took care of the pasta and sauce. "How do you feel about having two best friends?" she asked tentatively, a small hopeful smile on her face. After all, she'd been on the road for years and had no friends here in Rhy'Din other than Dorian and a few acquaintances.

Glancing up from her stirring of the thickening sauce, Seren let her expression relax into an easy smile. "How do you feel about being a sister?" she countered gently. "You are going to stay close, aren't you?"

"A sister?" Delilah echoed, looking pleased, her smile warming for the other woman. "If you are asking if I'd like to be your sister, I would be pleased and honored," she replied.

"Good. Because you're stuck with me." Seren grinned over at her. "How's the chicken coming along?"

Delilah knew that Seren had a sister-in-law via her brother's marriage, but she was more than happy to share. "It's getting there! I'm just glad it doesn't make me nauseous anymore."

"You could have said before I put you on chicken detail!" Seren laughed, rolling her eyes at the other woman. On a whim, she threw some broccoli into a pan to par-boil while they waited for the pasta and chicken to finish up.

"Oh, it's been months since I've been nauseous," Delilah explained, turning the chicken so that it cooked evenly. "You haven't been nauseous, have you, Seren?" she asked, curiously, though even if she was pregnant, it might be too soon for that.

"No more than usual," was Seren's practical answer. "But I always feel slightly sick when I'm in the dark room. The chemicals give me a headache after a while." She shrugged, smiling. "If I am, we'll know within a couple of weeks."

Delilah's smile faded, a worried look on her face. "What chemicals?" she asked, wondering if they could be having an effect on Seren's ability to conceive or if they might harm her offspring once she was with child.

"It's the ammonium in the fixer," Seren told her, unaware that Delilah was worrying about her again. "I don't spend much time in the dark room, thankfully. Almost everything is digital these days."

"I am not a doctor, but I not sure you should be exposed to that while you are pregnant, Seren," Delilah confessed, not bothering to ask whether it might impede her getting pregnant. She didn't want to scare the woman, after all, but it might be worth looking into.

"We don't use formaldehyde any more," the werewolf said defensively, moving to drain the pasta and broccoli over the sink. "Do you think I should talk to a doctor about the chemicals I work with?"

Delilah shrugged as she turned the chicken one last time. "I do not think it would hurt to know, but I would not panic either. How does the saying go? Better safe than sorry?" she asked. "What do you want me to do with this chicken?" she asked, quickly changing the subject.

"You are probably right," Seren admitted ruefully. She glanced over at the pan. "Oh ... drop it in here and mix it together with the pasta and sauce and broccoli?" she asked. "I need to find my stoneware dish for baking it in."

"How long will it take to bake?" Delilah asked curiously. It had been a long time since she'd cooked a real meal like this one, but she was looking forward to doing so again once she and Kit found a place of their own.

"About forty minutes," Seren told her. "Halfway through, we'll uncover it and put the bacon on top." She rose from her rummaging with her chosen dish, setting it on the counter beside Delilah to fill when she was ready. "I've got some fresh bread baked today, too. Getting vegetables into Dorian is hard work sometimes - the inner wolf tends to turn its nose up at anything green."

Delilah smiled. "He's never liked veggies much," she admitted, realizing suddenly how long she'd known him and how much she'd missed him. "He is like a brother to me, you know, Seren," she said, though she figured the other woman had guessed that already.

"I know." Seren paused, laying her hand gently against Delilah's back. "We're family, all of us. And if your heating goes out in winter, just give us a call, because snuggling with wolves is the best way to stay warm."

"You promise you won't eat us?" Delilah teased, a sidelong smile at Seren as she spooned the chicken out of one pan and into another.

The redhead laughed, rolling her eyes. "Only if you ask very nicely and promise not to give us heartburn," she countered impishly, bending to set the oven temperature.

"It will be nice to have a home and some friends," Delilah said, smiling at the thought of it. "I am hoping we can find something close by," she said, though she wasn't entirely sure how they were going to pay for it yet.

"You will. I have a very good feeling." Of course Seren had a good feeling - if Delilah didn't talk to Mataya De Luca, then she would on her friends' behalf.

"I know it won't be easy," Delilah admitted, but then something worthwhile was rarely easy. "We are hoping to teach acting classes. Did I mention that already?" she asked, uncertainly.

"Yeah, you did." Seren winked at her cheerfully, covering the dish with foil before sliding it into the oven. "Which is why you need to talk to Mataya. Even if she isn't planning on opening some kind of school, she would definitely be happy to back one."
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"But she hardly knows us, Seren," Delilah pointed out, though Mataya certainly knew Dorian, as he was employed with the theater group. "What makes you think she'll help?" she asked, uncertainly.

"Because it's what she does," Seren told her gently. "Look, she knows you well enough - she'll remember you. She's pretty protective about performers in Rhy'Din - any performer. If you need help, she'll give you the help you need, no questions asked. There's a reason why her cast, crew, and front of house staff are so loyal to the Shanachie."

"We would appreciate the help," Delilah admitted, though it was hard asking for it. The couple had their pride; after all, they'd been on their own a long time already, just not settled.

Seren considered her for a moment. "You know ... me and Dorian could do the asking," she offered quietly. "I know it's difficult. If we could, we'd help out ourselves. But I don't think you want us asking our brothers and their wives for this kind of help, do you?"

"Thank you, Seren, but I think this is something we must do ourselves," Delilah said, regarding employment. "But if you and Dorian want to help us find a house somewhere nearby, we would be very grateful for the help. We are hoping to find someplace nearby, so we are close, but not too close."

"So ... not next door, then?" The smile could have been a tease or an honest enquiry - with Seren, it was sometimes difficult to tell.

"That might be a little too close, don't you think?" Delilah asked, as though she was testing to see what Seren thought. She wanted them to be friends and she wanted to live close by, but not so close that they got on each other's nerves.

Of course, there was no such thing as too close when it came to wolves. They were pack animals, after all, and a fair amount of that had seeped through into the werewolf strain that had birthed Seren and Emrys. "Lilah ... if I could, I'd have everyone I consider family living under the same roof," she told Delilah honestly. "It's a pack thing. You're part of my pack, I want you close."

"How close?" Delilah asked, with a teasing gleam in her eyes as she hip-bumped Seren - no easy feat seven months pregnant. But the teasing expression didn't last, turning suddenly serious. "I am truly honored to be your friend, Seren. And I have never seen Dorian happier."

"Oh, darlin', if I hadn't sniffed Dorian first, I'd have married you," Seren teased her impishly, laughing again as she wrapped an arm about Delilah's waist. "I'm glad he's happy. And I'm so pleased you're settling down nearby."

Delilah laughed at that, loud enough for the men to hear them and possibly wonder what they were laughing about. "You're sweet, but I think Kit might have had something to say about that," she teased back, smooching Seren's cheek just because. "But yet, I am happy, too. Don't despair, sweetling. I see a child in your future, and it is not one of ours," she said with another flash of mischief in her eyes.

"I hope you're right," Seren murmured, glancing up as she heard movement in the room beyond. "Sit down," she murmured. "Otherwise your mate is going to get shirty with me for making you do the cooking." She flashed Delilah a wide grin.

Delilah giggled very girlishly. "He'll get over it," she said, absently rubbing her belly as she reclaimed her seat and trying but failing to look innocent as the men rejoined them.

"What's going on in here?" Dorian asked as he reappeared near the kitchen. "Something smells good!"

"About half an hour to dinner," Seren informed Dorian innocently.

Kit leaned around the door behind his friend, focusing on his own wife with a grin. "I know that look," he said ominously. "Have you been telling Seren naughty secrets again?"

"Oh, yes, darling, but they will only benefit Dorian in the long run," Delilah teased back, not budging from her chair now that she was in it. She wasn't lazy by any means, but she had spent enough time on her feet for one day. "And what have you two been chatting about?" she asked, knowing her husband well enough to know that their conversation hadn't been all innocent either.

"Lego," Kit informed her with deadpan mischief, moving to sit down and drag her feet up into his lap.

"Oh, really?" Seren's brows rose with cheeky interest. "Planning on building a house completely out of Lego, hmm?"

"That would be a feat," Delilah remarked, eying her husband suspiciously, the trace of a smile at her lips. She knew him so well she could almost read his thoughts without asking.

"We were talking about finding you a house somewhere nearby," Dorian chimed in.

"What a coincidence," Seren murmured through her smile, nudging Dorian toward the cutlery drawer as she pulled plates from the cupboard. Setting the table early, perhaps, but it was something to do.

Dorian got the hint, moving toward the cutlery drawer to count out enough forks and knives for the four of them. "I also suggested they talk to Mataya about a job," he said, not realizing the conversation in the living room had almost echoed that of the kitchen.

"Did you now?" Seren threw a grin over to Delilah. "So did I," she told Dorian. "I offered to do the asking for them, but I got shut down."

Kit glanced at Delilah. "So what do you think?" he asked warily.

"I think if we are going to live here, we are going to have to find a way to support ourselves, and the Shanachie seems a good place to start," Delilah said, though she got the feeling Kit was not asking so much what she thought about the prospect as what she sensed was part of their future.

They knew each other well enough to be able to have that conversation without making it blatantly obvious. Kit nodded thoughtfully. "Then I guess we're making an appointment to see Ms. De Luca."

In truth, if Delilah hadn't felt they had a chance at a successful future here in the city, she would never have suggested they settle here. More often than not, her feelings were spot on, though nothing about the future was ever set in stone. "I guess we are," she said, with a smile and a knowing look at her husband.

Seren nudged Dorian, grinning. "Looks like the pack is getting bigger again, Fido," she teased her husband, pulling the bake out of the oven to cover it in bacon for the last sprint of cooking.

Dorian only grinned and muttered a "Woof", which sounded far more human than canine and definitely not lupine. Delilah's foot twitched in Kit's lap, teasing his upper thigh while Seren and Dorian weren't looking.

Seren let out a low laugh, turning to look at Delilah with a wicked glimmer in her eyes. "You know we can smell arousal, right?" she pointed out to her friend impishly. She didn't usually tell people just how sensitive a werewolf's nose was, but Delilah smelled mischievous on top of everything else.

"You must be smelling Kit then," Delilah accused playfully. "I'm seven months pregnant!" she reminded them with a laugh, as if that might stop her from indulging her husband in a little hanky panky.

Kit laughed indignantly. "Don't believe it, she's hornier than ever," he told their friends, bracing to protect himself from the foot poke he knew was coming for that one.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"And who benefits from this horniness, my love?" Delilah asked her husband, her foot poised near a very sensitive part of his anatomy. From the look on her face, you'd think she was asking a very serious question.

"Oh, me." He nodded enthusiastically, his face splitting into an affectionate grin. "Very much so."

"Gods, you're worse than us!" Seren laughed, setting a jug and glasses on the table.

"Do you know how long I have been waiting for this man to gather the courage to tell me he loves me?" Delilah pointed out, her foot not moving from the spot, but relaxing a little. Oh, yes, she had known for a long time before Kit had dared tell her of his feelings.

Dorian barked a laugh. "I've known for years!"

"I was there for the big moment," Seren giggled cheerfully.

Kit rolled his eyes at Delilah. "You weren't exactly encouraging me," he pointed out. "I seem to recall any number of conversations where you asked me for advice on how to seduce Dorian."

"Yes, and as I recall, you were not very helpful," Delilah countered, that impish gleam in her eyes again. "Dorian, do you remember the time we pretended to be having sex together, and Kit wouldn't speak to either of us for three days?" she asked with a smirk.

Dorian chuckled. "He may not have spoken to you for three days. He wouldn't speak to me for a month!" he reminded her.

Kit raised mournful eyes to Seren. "And she wonders why it took me so long to put a ring on it," he said with exaggerated weariness.

Seren snorted with laughter. "Oh, shush," she told them. "You're all as bad as each other."

"It is true," Delilah said, looking to Seren with a soft smile. "You must forgive us, Seren. We have known each other a long time, but you are one of us now. We are part of the same family, yes?" She already knew the answer to that question, since Seren had already named them part of their pack, but perhaps Kit needed to hear it, too.

"Definitely," Seren agreed fervently.

Kit blinked in surprise, glancing first to Dorian, then to Delilah. He hadn't expected Seren to take so easily to becoming one of them, assuming she would be awkward and on the outside for at least a little while longer.

It was Seren's turn now to receive that knowing, impish grin from Delilah, as if the two women knew something the men didn't. Delilah had accepted Seren into their little clan as easily as Seren had accepted Delilah, perhaps both needing another female in their lives.

"I hope you still feel the same when we're fighting over bathroom rights," Dorian teased.

"I have an advantage there," Seren insisted with a grin. "I bite."

Kit goggled. "She ... she doesn't, does she?" he asked Dorian in concern. "I'm about to be a father, I can't handle having a tail as well."

Dorian laughed at Kit's nervousness, feigned or otherwise. "Don't worry. We leave the house when the moons are full, and we have a rule about not biting our friends," he assured the other man. Or at least, not unless there was a very good reason for it.

"Oh. Great!" Kit chuckled, though there was more relief in him than he would have liked them to know about. He was just a little wary of living with werewolves, even if they were his closest friend and said friend's mate.

"You will just have to trust us, Kit," Dorian said. Or find another place to live, but he didn't come right out and say that.

"Nonsense," Delilah scolded them both. "We are friends. Everything will be fine," she said, directing that mostly at Kit.

"No, I trust you, I do," Kit promised fiercely, meeting Delilah's eyes with something that might have been pleading for a moment. He didn't like to admit that wariness.

Seren's smile faded for a split second, recognising the familiar uncertainty of a human in close proximity to a werewolf. He'd either get over it, or find somewhere else to live.

Dorian slapped Kit on the shoulder, like they were old friends, which they were. "Stop worrying, Kit. It's not like the movies, I promise you," he assured his friend. There was much he could explain about being a werewolf, if Kit wanted to know, but there was really no need to worry. He and Seren had learned from Emrys everything they needed to know, so as not to endanger their friends' lives.

"So ... can we watch you change sometime?" Kit asked curiously. At least he was brave enough to consider that, rather than stay scared of not knowing.

Seren glanced at Dorian. "We can visit once we've shifted," she suggested. "But I don't think it would be a good idea to watch the shift. It looks and sounds much worse than it is."

"After we've hunted, maybe," Dorian added. It was probably tempting fate to to visit their friends before that, even if they were in control of their lupine forms. They were both fairly new to shifting still, and Dorian wasn't sure he trusted himself completely until he'd hunted.

"What do you hunt?" Delilah asked, curious but without Kit's nervousness.

"Deer," Seren told her with a smile. "There are a few herds that circle the land outside the city. One deer does both of us for the whole shift at full moons."

For wolves, it wasn't just about eating meat, but about the need to hunt and interact as a pack. There was far more to being a wolf than merely getting a meal. "Do you hunt with your brother?" Delilah asked further, now that they had broached the subject. "Seren's brother, I mean," she clarified. She wasn't sure whether tigers and wolves would or even could come together as a pack, though she knew Dorian and Neville were related by blood and Emrys was married to a weretiger. It seemed all very complicated to someone who was mostly human.

Kit blinked - he'd forgotten that the pack was a little bit bigger than just these two.

"All six of us," Seren nodded with a smile. "We leave the babies in Marissa and Emrys' cabin, and go back regularly to make sure the cubs and pups are all right. It's a pack thing."

"That is very different from the movies," Delilah agreed, though when had movies - Earth-made or otherwise - ever been accurate?

"I'm not sure it would work, except that we're family," Dorian pointed out.

"How do the ... children care for themselves when their parents are hunting?" Delilah asked further.
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

"We baby-proofed the cabin," Seren chuckled warmly. "And when they're mobile, we're going to have to take turns in staying with them just to keep an eye. Think about how wolves do it - it's pretty much the same thing."

"How do wolves do it?" Delilah asked, a small smirk on her face at the phrasing, though she wasn't referring to sex. What did she know about wolves, after all. What little she knew came from them.

Kit snorted with laughter, earning himself a gentle slap around the back of the head from Seren. She rolled her eyes at the pair of them.

"One or two adults stay in the den while the others hunt, and the pups get first dibs on the prey," she informed them. "Obviously we don't have to drag the prey back for the cubs and pups because they're human-shaped and will be until they hit puberty, but we take it in turns to stay back and to hunt."

"I'm not sure I understand," said Delilah, looking confusedly from one to the other. "Do the pups share the prey or do they not?" she asked, looking mostly to Seren for an answer, since she seemed to be doing most of the explaining, Dorian remaining suspiciously quiet.

"No, they don't." Seren smiled gently. "We'll teach them how to hunt when they start to shift, but that won't be for years yet."

Kit nodded slowly. "Well ... we could look after the babies for you guys," he offered, without thinking. "You know, so you can do the born to be wild thing."

Delilah rewarded her husband with a proud, pleased smile. "Yes, we could," she confirmed, though they'd be having one of them own in a few months. "Though I'm not sure how we will handle ... how many of them are there now?" she asked, having lost count.

"Five." Seren grinned, her eyes sparkling. "Three boys, two girls." She glanced at Dorian in amusement. It had been very funny watching Neville and Demi work out how to handle triplets.

"Not so many then," Delilah remarked, but then she had come from a large family. Five seemed like nothing compared to eight, though there were no multiple births among her siblings.

"Five babies all at once?" Dorian reminded her with a grin. "Do you know what it is like when they are wanting to eat all at once?"

"Six, when yours is born," Seren added cheerfully.

Kit looked defensive. "If you can handle it, so can we," he insisted, then looked guiltily at Delilah. "That is, if you think we can, love."

Delilah smirked at her husband's sudden submissiveness. "Oh, I am eager to see you juggling three of the little darlings at once," she admitted. Kit was a talented actor, but he had never been very good at juggling.

"We'll suggest it to the others," Seren told them, rising to open the oven. "Dinner's ready. Babe, can you grab the bread?" She flashed Dorian a warm smile as she pulled the dish from the oven, steaming and heavenly-scented with bacon.

"Oh, that smells delicious!" Delilah said, her mouth watering and her stomach growling in anticipation.

"Yes, ma'am!" Dorian replied, moving to fetch the bread and the butter. He had yet to say so, but it was kind of nice having their friends there, so long as they didn't stay so long as to get on each other's nerves.

With the prospect of Kit and Delilah settling down nearby, there was a high probability of this becoming a very regular occurrence, and it was something Seren was only too happy to contemplate. After all ... who said that a pack had to only have animals in it?
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