I wake up sweaty and far too warm. Nanook is sprawled, belly up, on my chest. I’m afraid if I move he’ll wake up too.
“Hmmm, Mika.” I can feel the words coming from Otsu, more than hear them. His body vibrates with his speech. I can feel that through my back and head as I’m resting against his side.
“Morning Otsu.” I whisper.
“About earlier. I should tell you…” He rumbles under my back.
I know what he’s going to say. I’m not as stupid as people think. I don’t want him to say that. He deserves to be happy, and I can’t provide that for him. So I interrupt him.
“Hm?” He doesn’t move, but I can feel him getting tense.
“You’re a really good friend. I don’t ever want to do anything to jeopardize that.” I think that’s how Randi told me to do it. Randi seems really good with men.
We sit in silence for a while.
I need to verify something, despite all of this. “Other people can’t talk to you?”
“Other bearfolk can understand bearspeak, but it’s crude. Humes, not at all.” His voice is deep and reverberating.
I see. So that is why people didn’t talk to him in the caravan. I’ve followed the roots, though. I understand how this happened. He saw I had a bearfolk cub, and realized how that happened. He thought we could be happy because I was able to do that. Males are much the same, regardless of race. Just looking for the means to degeneracy.
I like Otsu, a lot. More than I’ve ever liked anyone else. But I still remember that cursed time. They held me down, those men and my mother. They said only a void could do this. A normal hume would die. They had no choice, they said, since a bearfolk female couldn’t be captured alive. That it would be over quickly. It wasn’t quick enough.
I thought I would die many times that cycle. It was so painful. In the end, I did wish I had died. Even after the arbitrator came and took me away, I still wished I had died. It wasn’t until much later, when I saw Otsu pulling my cart, that I realized maybe there was some good in this world, with bearfolk. If a bearfolk male could be helpful to those around him, maybe other bearfolk could be good as well. Maybe my child could be kind. Nanook could grow up to be a great person.
I can’t let Otsu ruin my view of himself. He is such a loyal friend; I can’t lose him and I don’t want him to change. I don’t know that I can go on with Nanook, if Otsu isn’t here. But if Otsu wants more than what I can give him…then I can’t be with him. I don’t know what to do, but keep things as they are.
“Hmm.” He grumbles ambiguously.
“You’re coming with Nanook and myself to be a good friend, right? We’re really relying on you.” Don’t leave us. Please. I have nothing to give you, but don’t leave us. I need you.
He huffs, and pushes me off. I grab Nanook, and cradle him on the floor. Otsu ambles out the door, grumbling something incoherent.
What have I done?
I hold Nanook tight. I can feel tears coming down my cheeks, they start dripping onto his fur. Nanook, what have I done?
Something brushes my shoulder, and I jump slightly, startled. Dubhe wraps her arms around me and Nanook, in a giant hug. I can’t see her face.
“Dubhe, I – *hic*.” I can’t finish my sentence; my throat is tight, and my chest hurts. Why did I do that? Otsu, come back. Please.
“Shhh, we heard, it’ll be fine, hun. We heard. Don’t worry.” She comforts me with a hug, bringing me and Nanook into her chest. She is warm, and her fur is so soft.
As I sob, she reaffirms: “We are here for you, don’t worry. You can raise Nanook alongside our children.” As she repeats calming words, she gently pats my hair.
I’m so sorry Otsu. I’m so sorry. Please come back!
“Shhh, hun, we are here, there is nothing to worry about.”
Author’s Note: Thanks for the support! I am in your care! 1 Chapter a week for a while.