by Wendy Darling (Wiebke)
About half-way through writing Breeding Discontent, I got an idea for a sub-plot that could development regarding Lisia and Cobweb and although it was somewhat explored within the story itself, that was just the beginning. This is the story of what happened after.
Alternate Universe Note
This story was written when Breeding Discontent existed as an online fan fiction novel, essentially a draft. It was also written prior to the publication of Wraiths of Will and Pleasure and any new Wraeththu novels. Because of this, it’s become an “alternate universe” fic that’s not entirely consistent, and in fact contradicts, what is now “canon.”
Cobweb, Lisia (original character from BD), Swift, Seel, harlings at Forever, harling and hara at Harling Gardens, former breeding facility staff.
Containers spoilers for Bewitchments of Love and Hate (Book 2) and Fulfilments of Fate and Desire (Book 3) in the Wraeththu trilogy.
Sequels & Tie-Ins
After this story, I couldn’t resist doing another sequel, so there’s also Perennials to read! There’s also Not Far From the Tree, which focuses on Pansea and Ivy.
Morro, the night shift housekeeper, opened the door and immediately Cobweb stepped inside and set the stack of packages down on the entryway table.
For most of the afternoon he’d been out shopping in the Galhea markets. Much of what he’d been looking for he’d found easily, but two or three items had required more vigorous hunting and he’d worried he’d be returning to Forever too late. Not only did he want to have a bit of time to rest before dinner, but given present circumstances, being away from the house for any length of time made him nervous.
Fortunately he’d managed to find the items in question — except for the pearl buttons, which would have to wait — and make it back well before sunset. And since no servants had come running to him upon arrival, he knew that nothing had happened and everything was in order.
“Lisia is still upstairs,” Morro reported. “Would you like me to help you with these packages?”
Cobweb eyed the unwieldy pile of bags and boxes, which he’d brought from town on his horse, filling the saddlebags and straps. “Yes, I’d appreciate some help getting them up the stairs. As for bringing them in the room, I’ll do that myself.”
“Very well,” Morro replied agreeably. They each scooped up an armful and headed up the stairs. Cobweb felt the comforting presence of Forever around him. Although the house was quiet and empty, Swift and family being out of town, lately it had been the scene of so many pleasant days that contentment hung in the air like an invisible vapor.
At the top of the stairs Cobweb thanked Morro and accepted the rest of the delivery, balancing the pile against his body. He crept down the hallway toward the bedroom and poking his head inside, caught a glimpse of Lisia unawares — exactly what he’d been hoping for.
Nestled in the window seat, Lisia was leaning his head against the glass, gazing out into the backyard, his face relaxed, his eyes dreamy. His hands rested in his lap amidst the blanket he’d been knitting for the past week. Lovely soft gray wool, it was something Lisia hoped to finish in time for the harling on the way.
Slipping through the door, Cobweb quietly set the pile of packages down on the bed. Lisia immediately looked over, smiling brightly. “Ah, you’re back!” His hands went back to his knitting, picking up the needles and taking up the yarn.
“Yes, and I found everything you wanted,” Cobweb responded. “All the different types of yarn and thread, the fabric, the hats and socks and the needles. The only thing I couldn’t find was the buttons, but I can find those later, I’m sure.”
“That’s fine,” Lisia said in a voice that showed he was feeling rather dreamy and languid. Cobweb sauntered over and began to rub his lover’s shoulders.
“Thank you, dear.” Still working the wool, Lisia pressed himself against the ministering hands like a cat wanting to be scratched. “Mmmm, that feels good.”
Cobweb stepped back and looked Lisia in the face, which was happy and still serene although, as expected, a bit tired.
“How are you feeling today?” he asked, picking up the completed section of the blanket and admiring Lisia’s work. Like all his other pieces, it was of intricate design, produced as it was by someone who’d spent years honing his craft.
“Oh, fine. I was just knitting and then… I started daydreaming.” Lisia smiled and, dispensing with the needles, reached out to catch Cobweb’s hand. “About our son.”
Cobweb tugged on the hand and Lisia allowed himself to be pulled into a standing position, dropping the blanket onto the cushion. “Really? What exactly were you thinking?” Cobweb asked.
“Just… well, I was wondering what he’ll look like,” Lisia explained as he walked over to the bed and sat down. “You know, just what color eyes, his hair, who he will take after.” He straightened out his blouse, which revealed the thickness of his waist. Phlaar had estimated the birth would come in the next two to three days.
“Maybe dark hair with a blond streak, huh, Stripe?” Cobweb joked. He leaned over to kiss Lisia on the cheek. Stripe had once been Lisia’s teasing nickname among his peers at the breeding facility; now it was an endearment he’d grown fond of, at least when Cobweb used it.
Lisia kicked off his shoes and moved to lie down. Looking up at the ceiling, he returned to his thoughts of daydreaming. “I just don’t know, Cobweb. It’s all so strange. I mean, I’ve never thought of these things before — what the harling will look like.”
Cobweb picked up on his meaning at once. “Because you were never allowed to see them?”
Lisia nodded, his head against the pillow. “Not even the pearls. I used to think about them a lot, especially the first few, but eventually I had to give up imagining. I knew I wouldn’t ever get to see them.” His bittersweet tone was unmistakable and for a moment his thoughts drifted back to those darker times. Then a smile washed back onto his face and he patted his abdomen. “This is so very different.”
“Well, that’s the idea, isn’t it?” Cobweb asked, settling into the space at the end of the bed by Lisia’s feet. “Starting our own little family.”
Lisia reached out and took Cobweb’s hand. Cobweb was strongly aware of his happiness, feeling it through their bond, but any stranger could have seen it. “It’s wonderful,” Lisia sighed contentedly. “I never thought I could have a family. It’s just like I always dreamed, back when I would dream. I’m living in a house, soon I’ll have my own child who I can actually see and care for as my own, and most marvelous of all, I’m consort to–”
“You’re not my consort, Lisia!” Cobweb interrupted, gently taking hold of Lisia’s feet. “You’re my lover.” He squeezed the arch on one foot, then the other. “Equal, remember?”
Pushing back against the pillows, Lisia sat up. “I remember. You know what I mean, though.”
“Yes, Lis.” Cobweb stood. “Now let’s see about going downstairs for dinner. Yarrow should have it ready by now, as it’s nearly dark.”
“Mmmmm, another of his wonderful soups?” Lisia asked, slipping off the bed and stepping into his shoes. “I loved that soup last night. Soup’s really the best thing for me to eat, you know — easiest for me to digest.”
Cobweb took his lover’s hand and gave it an affectionate squeeze. “Yes, Doctor, you’ve mentioned it a time or two.”
Lisia laughed softly as they walked around the bed towards the door. “Am I that bad? Repeating myself?”
“No, no, it’s just funny. I’m sure you know what you’re talking about,” Cobweb assured. When it came to hosting, there were few hara more expert than Lisia, who had birthed 24 in only six years.
As they passed through the doorway, Lisia paused and put his hand on the door frame.
“What is it?” Cobweb asked, reading the discomfort flickering across the hostling’s face.
Lisia dropped his hand and shrugged. “Oh, nothing, just my back. It’s just a little backache.” He moved down the hallway.
“Swift had that,” Cobweb pointed out. “Remember? I thought it was because the pearl was so large.”
They descended the staircase together, Lisia slightly ahead. “Oh, it’s possible, I suppose, although it’s not always just the size of the pearl. It’s a combination of things. I always found hosting in winter caused it; sitting around so much, catching chill.”
“Hmmmm, that makes sense… but you haven’t been ‘sitting around’ very much, at least up until a few days ago.” Cobweb argued. Before his son and son-in-law had left on a visit to Immanion, Lisia had been up and about playing with their two-year-old harling on a regular basis.
“I suppose it’s all relative,” Lisia reflected. “The first few years I hosted, we never had to work much at all except for helping out with other hostlings’ births, so usually it wasn’t too uncomfortable. Later on when things got desperate I had to do a lot more work. Then I’d get backaches from working in the fields, digging ditches.”
Lisia’s eyes had grown dark as he recalled the painful memories. He had nearly miscarried his last pearl from being forced into strenuous labor half-way through his term.
“Anyway, back to my point, I think this backache comes from sitting all day knitting. That and perhaps the chill by that window.” He sat down at the table. “If it weren’t so cold and growing dark, I’d suggest we go walking.” He paused for a moment, obviously considering the possibilities. “Maybe we could do some dancing tonight,” he suggested.
Cobweb had to laugh. “Dancing? Lisia, you truly are unique. But we can dance if you like.”
“Thanks.” It turned out he was thanking both Cobweb and the servant who set down the bowl of soup before him. “After dinner?”
“After dinner.” Cobweb nodded and gave the servant a few instructions. “And I’ll give you a nice hot bath and then a healing back rub,” he promised.
“Good,” Lisia pronounced, “because I want to get rid of this ache before morning. The birth will be tomorrow.”
Cobweb stopped eating. “Phlaar said two to three days.”
Lisia helped himself to another spoonful of soup before replying. “Well, I know better than Phlaar. It will be tomorrow.” He noted Cobweb’s skeptical expression and added, “I have a feeling.”
Cobweb smiled, conceding Lisia’s intuition was probably worth trusting. “Ah, a feeling. And what else, pray tell, do you have feelings about?”
“Oh, I’m also sure Phlaar won’t make it in time,” he said, his hand unconsciously rubbing his abdomen. “It will probably be very quick.”
“I can imagine, given your experience. I suppose it will be like Seel’s,” Cobweb guessed. “His was only 15 minutes.”
Lisia snorted and shook his head. “15 minutes? No, I mean faster. Probably. Maybe five minutes. My last few almost fell out — be ready.” His look went serious. “And please, until then, don’t leave me alone.”
“I won’t,” Cobweb vowed. “I promise.”
“Good, because I want you to be there. For our son.” He extended his hand across the table, taking Cobweb’s hand. “And for me.”