The reintroduction of sex provided Mias with his vice, making life in the village possible for him to continue with. He still complained, but Elle theorized he feared any stress may once again cause impotency. She certainly didn’t predict penis problems would be the solution to getting him to open up and talk about the harsher points of life, but she was grateful for the opportunity it provided, and secretly happy to know how fiercely he desired her without the command of his lower brain.
However, the flattery was short lived when he tried to be a little to helpful with family planning by renaming her period and ovulation days with crass, non-vaginal sex options. Elle’d keep her calendar to herself after that discussion, to which he was actually a bit upset by. When prompted, his answer was surprisingly considerate.
“I ought to know. It’s just as much my responsibility as it yours if you get pregnant, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but ‘Fellatio Friday’ is not going to become a thing no matter how much you beg me,” she stood firm on this.
He pouted for a moment before leaning his forehead against his propped up hands. “I’m utterly terrified of you having a baby…”
“…Because of your mother?” She asked cautiously.
“That’s part of it. It’s dangerous – you could die, the baby could die, but it’s not just that… even if we wanted to become parents, my family isn’t going to let us raise it on our own and I don’t mean in the supportive way. You won’t want to bring up a child in the same shadows I was reared in, and frankly, neither would I, but if ours is the only heir, you see how complicated things could get, don’t you?”
“Yes, and I’m totally fine with not having any right now, but it irritates me to think they have any say over what grows in my uterus solely because you’re the father.”
“I know it sounds bad, but being raised collectively did have its advantages for many generations – and need I remind you the mother was committed to the family as well.”
“But that’s not the case with either of us. I don’t think they’d harm a baby, but… I know there’s a better life I can give them, even if it’s a poorer one.”
“Which is why we can’t have any yet, not until I at least have my powers back or some sort of understanding with Durias. You’ll want to raise them the way you want and given how well I turned out, I think that it’s best,” he said with a tiny smirk.
“Oh, you turned out alright,” Elle smiled and lightly punched his shoulder as she stepped behind him.
“Alright? Darling, I’m fabulous,” he said as she reached around his neck and rested her head against his shoulder.
“You’re already such a good daddy,” she teased.
“Just because I’m considerate of the future does not have any bearing on my ability to parent a child, and I am by no means ready, so will you please let me track your menstruation?”
“It still seems like something a creepy stalker would do,” Elle noted, before remembering Mias did fit that profile.
“If you don’t tell me, I’m simply going to have to try and have sex with you everyday,” he warned, turning in his chair to latch onto her and bring her onto his lap.
“And everyday I’ll tell you ‘no’,” Elle poked a finger to the tip of his nose.
“You won’t be uninterested all the time,” he grinned knowingly. “The desire will build – the temptation will be too great and you’ll be clawing my trousers down in desperation.”
“Will you at least have the sense to shut up when that happens?” She asked with a sly smile as her finger slid down to trace his lips.
Mias promptly tensed up in surprise and slowly nodded his head.
She couldn’t help but crack a light laugh before replacing her finger with her lips, kissing him firmly and shutting them both up for a few moments. An odd conversation to be had was finally over, and with a responsible mindset now in place, the future of their marriage was at least in their control – for the time being.
The dwindling warm days of what Elle assumed to be October passed rather quickly in her opinion. The time for wearing a cape to work, and needing both hood and gloves past sunset came and left her both excited and concerned for the coming winter. It was all still new to her when she reminded herself she hadn’t even been with Mias a full year yet. So much had happened since that spring day that at times it didn’t seem real. It made her once again wonder what would happen when life slowed down for the two of them. Not that they disliked their peaceful and quiet existence as newlyweds in a small village, but deep down both of them knew it was never to be a permanent life and the wondering when it would all change again every once and a while crept up on them.
And yet it was so easily chased away regardless of who raised the issue first, the other always bending to console and comfort as need be, assuring both of them they’d deal with it when the time came. It was nothing they would prepare for any more than they could an accident at work, which coincidentally became their next endeavor when Rhodemon and Finn carried home a limping Mias to concerned Elle.
“What happened?!” Were the first words out of her mouth as she helped the men seat him down on the bed. His foot was already bandaged and elevated, but the strained expression on Mias’ face had her far more panicked than the others.
“He was foolin’ around and backed into the lumber wagon, knocking one heavy log right onto his foot,” Rhod explained.
“Fooling around?” Elle’s concerned abated and she scowled at Mias. “What. Did. You. Do?”
“It was quite funny actually. He can do a great impression of Kay,” Finn said in Mias’ defense, but gained no sympathy from Elle.
“Sorry,” Mias said meekly, knowing that face meant he was in far more trouble with her than his employer.
“You idiot,” Elle heaved with a sigh and massaged her brow. Had he got into an accident that was not a result of stupidity, she might be more tentative, but this was hardly a convenient time for either of them to be laid up.
“We set him straight away, but the pain is pro’bly settin’ in now,” Rhod told her as Elle escorted the two to the door.
“I’ll take care of him. Thanks for bringing him home,” she smiled politely, but was eager to shuffle them out so she could vent her true feelings.
The moment Mias heard the door closed, he gulped and eyed his approaching wife like she was his executioner. Sure enough, she had her arms crossed and her brow furrowed.
“Are you alright?’ She asked first, still keeping an upset frown.
“It hurts like hell, but I’ll live…” He told her.
“I never pegged you for a comedian,” she exhaled out a bit of anger, moving her hands to her hips. “You weren’t caught, were you?”
“No, he was off with the other group ahead of us, and my entertaining performance was more impromptu than planned. He’d been bitching about the cold when he’s the one who forgot his damn gloves. I swear he leaves his genitals at home as well because the man has no balls.”
Elle couldn’t resist giggling at that observation and resigned her scowl in favor of something more relaxed. “Tell me again how you managed to hurt yourself?”
“I was making the others laugh, and I guess I got carried away…” he admitted with an embarrassed blush, knowing full well this was his ego’s fault.
“How bad is it? Don’t you need to see a doctor to fix such things?” Elle asked, eyeing his right foot.
“I’m pretty well versed with treating numerous injuries as you know, but Thom, the man who handles the horses, has a skill with setting breaks – usually for animals, but he’s mending the men before,” he finished his sentence before hissing through his teeth. “It’s really hurting now… can you get me something?”
“Medicine or alcohol?” Elle asked as she stepped into the kitchen area to pull which ever he specified from its respective cupboard.
“Alcohol, please,” he groaned as he dropped onto his back.
Elle rolled her eyes and shook her head a little, but brought him an entire bottle of whiskey with the knowledge he’d want most of it anyway. “Drink as you need it, but don’t make it a habit.”
“I have no intention,” he said before uncorking the bottle and downing a fourth of it immediately.
“I mean it Mias,” she scolded.
“Mm, I won’t,” he assured her as he lowered the bottle from his lips and set it on the nightstand while he removed his work coat. “Um, could you…?”
“Yes, dear,” she said with clear demeaning attitude as she took it and hung it up on its hook near the door.
“I know you hate doting on me, but it’s not like I did this on purpose.”
“It’s not that,” she told him as she returned to his side. “If I could just stay home and take care of you, I would, but now this is going to mean my working more for a few weeks and then who’s here to look after you?”
“I’m not unable to get around and do things,” he reminded her. “I’ll be alright on my own when you go to work.”
“You say that, but I know the moment you stop feeling pain you’ll be hobbling around trying to do something you shouldn’t,” she eyed him knowingly. “Am I wrong?”
“No, you’re not…” he averted his eyes with a guilty expression.
Elle heaved a sigh. “I suppose it’s a good thing that I’ve been working as long as I have already then. I’ll go into town right now and ask Morwen if I can have a few days off to make sure I can trust you on your own. Maybe even bring you some whittling to do – we lost a few spoons and bowls with the harvest crowd.”
She would have gone on detailing her new plan of action had he not leaned against her shoulder and smiled up at her.
“…What?” She wondered if the liquor had taken its toll already.
“I love you,” he told her, smiling wider.
Her alone expression asked ‘why’. He always picked the oddest times to tell her that, but he didn’t elaborate on what she’d said this time to earn the words.
And perhaps she didn’t need to, she thought as she set out for the pub dressed in her cape and gloves and moving quickly to out run the cold. The reasons why mattered very little compared to his feelings for her. He loved her, even when she was holding him accountable and refusing to dote on him completely – actions she thought that might view her as a rather cold, uncaring wife, but she knew better than to baby Mias even when he was injured. It’d be just like him to feign an illness or injury all to earn some affection from her if he thought he could, but he knew better by now.
Her days at home with him weren’t exactly peaceful what with him moaning and complaining mostly about not being able to walk anywhere and despite having the use of his hands now realized how much simple movement such as sweeping a broom across the floor relied on him having two feet on the ground. He was not happy, and worst of all, incredibly bored. Only so many spoons and bowls could be whittled and even then his skill wasn’t improving very much, leading to more complaining.
“How can a man’s foot be his life?!” He whined from the rug in front of the fireplace.
“Mias, remember what stress does to you,” Elle reminded him.
“This break in no way prohibits sex,” he reminded her.
“Yes, but if you keep whining, who knows when your body will shut down on you again. It’s not going to help you, and I didn’t stay home to listen to you complain all day.”
He responded with another long groan.
“Have you been drinking the milk Finn and Talia brought you? The calcium will help heal you faster.”
“I can only drink so much of it… and I prefer the whiskey.”
“I know,” Elle said from the kitchen as she went about gathering a stack of books from a secret storage area she had in one of the lower cupboards Mias rarely went through. She made sure to purchase a good few from one of the vendors that had passed through during the harvest, but was waiting for the right occasion to give them to him. Given how busy he’d been, he wouldn’t have had the time, but now seemed to be the ideal moment – although she wished it could have been over something more meaningful, but she didn’t think even Mias could top the gift of her wedding ring so now was as good a time as any.
“You’re still going back to work tomorrow…?” He asked, his voice sounding sad.
“Mhm, I know we’re stable financially for now, but we don’t want to fall behind on rent. This isn’t the ideal season to be evicted in after all and who knows what else might happen before spring?” She carried on their conversation normally as she gathered the nine worn volumes into her arms and carried them over to him.
“I promise I’ll be exceeding careful when I go back to—” He stopped talking when she saw him standing over him with the large stack. His initial thought was she was going to drop them on him before he realized they hadn’t had any books in the house before. “What’s this?”
“They’re for you,” she said as she placed the stack next to him and sat down beside them. “Um, I know they’re very old and beat up… and of course I don’t know if they’re any good, but reading something is better than nothing right now, isn’t it?”
Mias sat himself up with more help from his arms than his legs and took the first book off the top. The title wasn’t even visible on the old leather and he had to open it to the first few pages to assess its contents.
“I figured novels would be more fun, so that’s what they all are – the merchant I bought them from had very few non-fictional ones that I figured you wouldn’t find interesting,” Elle explained. “But I read a few of the titles and skimmed a few paragraphs here and there, so I hoped they’d be… tolerable.”
“I can’t say either,” Mias admitted. “I don’t recognize the title or the author, yet they’re very old…”
“I know,” Elle lamented, knowing her thoughtfulness clearly fell short. “But I guess that’s why they’re cheaply sold. Most are used for kindling in winter, or so he told me. Some might even be missing pages, but I picked out the best ones I could.”
“I’ll read them,” he told her, half of his mouth curling into a smirk. “Are you hiding any other presents for me?”
Elle giggled and shook her head. “No, just these.”
She felt his hand brace the back of her head and promptly felt his lips pressing against hers. It was a good kiss too, not one of those simple pecks they exchanged rather often now, but a slower one, a passionate one, a kiss that left her blushing and hot beneath her dress.
“Did I… really deserve that?” She asked shyly.
“You deserve a lot more,” he told her, moving his head down to her neck.
“Mias…” she felt her skin prickle and sucked in her lower lip before breathing in deeply and turning to kiss him in return, gently, but firmly as she snuggled up to him to feel his warmth.
It felt so wonderful, his love for her… and her feelings for him, feelings that had never really left her heart, but were still trying to break free from the lies and betrayal. In her mind, it was still premature for her to say those three words to him, but more and more it seemed like something natural to say to him, like ‘good morning’ or ‘have a good day at work’. She ought to tell him, but for whatever reason it never came out. Perhaps she was still scared, or maybe internally she wanted a better moment for it, or possibly it was simply better never to say it to him. This was Mias after all…
A knock at the Dormans’ residence a few days later led to Mias limping to answer it, and much to his shock met with four sets of wide eyes gazing up at him, the smallest of which belonged to Haddie, but the messy haired housewife looked tired as well as desperate with her glistening eyes.
“Haddie, what is it? Is Rhodemon alright?” Mias asked, assuming something regarding her husband would be the only reason for her and her brood of youngsters to visit.
“He’s fine, at work as always,” Haddie said, adjusting the baby in her arms. “But I have a huge favor to ask of you.”
“…Yes?” Mias asked hesitantly.
I just received word my mother in the town over is sick and while I would take them with me if I could, the ride’s much easier if it’s just me. I’d ask one of the other women, but they’re all busy enough with their own children and housework, and with Morwen spending more time working herself, I don’t really have anyone else I trust to look after them.”
“I-I don’t know anything about children,” which was sort of a lie, rather he had no idea how he’d keep the older ones entertained. A baby was simple enough: put down for a nap and have it stay put, but Rhodemon often told tales of his destructive toddlers.
“Please? They’re not unruly children, just… energetic,” Haddie’s tired expression was desperately trying to sell him on the idea, and Mias cursed his empathy for taking pity on her and agreeing.
“Alright, I guess if it’s for the day. Elle will be back before it’s late anyway…”
“Thank you!” Haddie expressed great relief as she passed her infant into his arms along with a satchel of childcare items, and shooed her toddlers into the house. “You two behave for Mr. Dormans. He’s hurt his foot.”
“’Kay,” the two little voices answered as they busied themselves by exploring their new surroundings.
“If I don’t come pick them up, Rhod will,” Haddie told Mias as she stepped away from the door. “Thank you so much, Mias!”
“U-Uh, s-sure!” Mias replied nervously as he watched her cape disappear down the road. He stepped back into the house and shut the door, just as a chair toppled over with loud clatter that of course started the baby fussing and the toddlers running for cover. “Hey! You two get over here, now!”
The oldest, a boy halfway to the age of three with blonde hair and big brown eyes, and his sister, a girl a year younger with curlier brown hair like her mother and lighter, vibrant brown eyes slowly peaked their heads out around from the table.
“Ben, Caitlyn,” he spoke their names and they seemed surprised that he knew them. “Come here.”
The boy bravely stepped forward while his sister hid behind him, clinging to his cape as they slowly crossed the room to Mias who was busy rocking the baby to quiet him down again.
“I ask that you not make a mess of my house, is that clear? I’m assuming your mother packed you some toys so you’ll sit on the rug and not move from there, got it?”
“That’s borin’,” Ben said.
“Borin’!” Caitlyn repeated, obviously in her parrot stage where most of her talking was done by repeating others.
“I want mum.”
“Well too bad, we’re stuck with each other. If you want this to be over without incident, I suggest you do as I tell you.”
“Why?” Ben asked.
“Because I’m the adult and your mum left me in charge.”
Mias rolled his eyes in annoyance. “Listen kid, that’s how it is. I’m not particularly patient with whelps either, so you’ve been warned.”
The two toddlers exchanged confused glances before their eyes wandered elsewhere.
“Wha da?” Caitlyn asked, pointing intensely at Mias’ bandaged foot.
“I fractured a few bones in my foot,” he explained, but clearly neither sibling understood. “Er, it’s to make it feel better.”
They seemed to comprehend that explanation better, but had no further interest in it once he answered.
Deciding there was little he could do aside from monitor the two to make sure they weren’t getting into anything dangerous, he slowly dragged himself to a chair by the fire to adjust the weight in his arms. For a baby that was less than two months old, he was already a heavy little thing.
“You… are round,” Mias told him as he tested the babe’s squishiness by lightly poking his finger into his cheek, which the infant allowed without fuss. He hadn’t held a baby since Marius was born, and even then the actual time he spent with his baby brother didn’t amount to much knowledge when it came to child care, but he knew enough to support the head properly and keep the rocking gentle.
Another crash from the kitchen had Mias turning his head to find the two toddlers opening cupboards and pulling out pots and pans.
“Stay outta there!” He barked.
“‘Kay!” He heard them answer, but further rattling around indicated he hadn’t been heeded, and then there was a moment of silence. Suspicious silence.
“What are you two doing now?!” Mias called, wondering if he was better off just leaving the baby on the bed in order to wrangle the toddlers, but then they appeared, the boy slowly waddling toward him with his sister padding behind. “…What?”
“…I pooped,” Ben admitted, tugging at his trousers.
“Pooped!” Caitlyn exclaimed with more excitement than was necessary.
Mias opened his mouth to say something, but there were no words to express the godly intervention he desired. This was going to be a loooong day.
Elle had gone to work early that day to make the most of the light hours so she could be home before dusk. There wasn’t a whole lot of cooking and cleaning to do at the pub, but that opened time for Morwen to teach her recipes again and with Mias laid up at home, Elle made good on her word to bake a cake, although it was more a sweet bread and not very sugary, she assumed a more mild flavor would suit his pallet anyway, and paired nicely with the right liquor, it would probably taste even better.
However, she wasn’t expecting to return home to a disaster: the entire room was a mess from the bed to the kitchen. A baby lay on its back on a blanket on the bed surrounded by a fortress of pillows and cushions while a distraught Mias was trying to dry off a wriggly and wet toddler from the wash tub in the kitchen. She was speechless, forgetting to announce she was home, but still catching the attention of the eldest sibling who quickly ran over to her.
“…Hello,” Elle said slowly as she tried to put two and two together. It didn’t take long for her to realize they must be Rhod and Haddie’s brood, but as to why they were here and bringing Mias close to tears was another question. “Mias…?”
“Welcome home,” he turned his head back towards her, his expression pleading for help as he tried to keep hold of Caitlyn.
“DOWN!!” She insisted.
“You’re still wet!” Mias tried to reason with her with no success.
“Oh dear,” Elle said to herself as she hung up her cloak and set her basket on the table before hurrying to his side to grab the girl. “This is Caitlyn, right?”
“Yes. Would you please take her?”
“What makes you think I’m going to be any better at this?” She asked, but was able to wrap the towel around her like a burrito thanks to Mias already having somewhat of a hold on her. “Got her!”
Caitlyn continued to voice her protests with babble as Elle took full hold of her and Mias dried off her hair and tiny torso.
“You wouldn’t believe the things that come out of this one…” Mias said in a moment of horrific reflection.
“Why don’t you go sit down?” Elle told him with a kind smile as she brushed away a few tuffs of stray hair from his face.
“Thank you…” He said, grabbing Ben on his way over to his chair because the boy was standing on one of the table chairs, preparing to invade Elle’s basket. “Don’t you dare.”
“I was just lookin’!” The boy argued back, but was powerless to break free even from a tired Mias.
It didn’t Elle all that long to clothe the girl and bring her back towards the fireplace. The girl had finally stopped putting up a struggle and was nestling against Elle to prepare to sleep.
“Oh sure, now she falls asleep,” Mias said in spite, being sure to keep an eye on Ben as he played with a little wooden wagon and horse on the floor. “She was barely down for fifteen minutes this afternoon for a nap.”
“She must have been excited,” Elle suggested. “I take it Haddie needed a sitter?”
“Yes, something about her mother in the next town being unwell and no one else being able, or willing, to take them.”
“Ah, so it just for the day?”
“She’d either be back to get them or Rhod will.”
Elle laid the girl out on their bed to let her sleep properly and of course was drawn to check on the baby who still had his eyes awake and made a little coo when he saw her. She immediately picked him up and cradled him in her arms to allow Caitlyn full use of the bed while she took a chair to get a good look at the latest addition to their friends’ family. “He’s so cute.”
“And oddly the best behaved despite being the youngest.”
“Babies aren’t that difficult really. It’s once they start moving that there’s trouble,” Elle giggled as she admired his big baby blue eyes. “He hasn’t been christened yet, right?”
“No, and from what I hear they’re still debating the name.”
“Hm,” Elle smiled warmly, watching the babe take a tight hold of one of her fingers. “Aww…!”
“Elle…” Mias said her name with warning.
“Oh, don’t be so paranoid,” Elle tutted him before turning her attention back to the baby. “You have to be affectionate with them so they grow up to form good relationships with people, yes you do.”
The baby let out a happy sounding ‘ah’ and shook Elle’s finger as she continued to cradle him.
“Aren’t you just precious?” She beamed.
Her fawning words annoyed Mias at first, maybe even raised a bit of jealously towards the babe for so easily enchanting her, but what was odd about the whole situation were wandering thoughts of the future, and in it, Elle was holding his child. A scene he scolded his mind for producing and wondered if a punch to the testicles would stop the procreating urge, but he sat quietly with his thoughts still, watching her.
“Hm?” Elle looked over to him when she detected his gaze. The baby had fallen asleep against her breast and his big brother was also out for the count on the rug, a toy horse still clutched in his hand.
“Is this what it’ll be like someday?” He asked honestly.
Elle smiled. “I don’t know if I’d want three in three years, but I think I’d like two; a boy and girl – not that I have a preference. It’s not something I’ve had much cause to think about. In my world, there isn’t a rush to get married and have babies at a young age anymore. Lots of women wait until their 30s, so I assumed that’s when I’d have mine – provided I found a husband.”
“And you already have the best,” Mias grinned confidently. “But I don’t want to be pushing 40 and just starting with an infant.”
“Like you’d do any of the work anyway,” Elle flatly judged.
“I’m serious,” he said firmly. “And why wouldn’t I take care of my child? As much as I love myself and you, any life we create together I’m doomed to spoil rotten.”
“Aw, careful Mias, you’re exciting my ovaries,” Elle giggled softly.
“Then calm them as I am not still not ready or willing to share you with anyone else,” he said after getting up from his chair, limping past Ben, and bending down over Elle to kiss her. “You forgot that when you came in.”
“So I did,” she smiled and puckered her lips again to give him a proper homecoming kiss, making the entire scene of their one room cottage the picture of familial bliss, but they both were rather relieved when both Haddie and Rhodemon arrived to take the three sleepy children home that night and could sleep peacefully through the night without interruption.