“You don’t look happy about the card,” the badger said as he peeked over my shoulder. “Did they misspell something? They’re still only kits, you know.”
I traced a finger across the sparkles and macaroni glued to construction paper: a typical arts and crafts project for young ones. There actually was an error on the inside of the card, right where they had signed their names and traced outlines of their little paws: “We love you and ‘apreciate’ all you do”. Probably written by Cleetus, since his vocabulary was developing nicely.
But harping on the spelling error would derail this conversation into tedious territory. What was bothering me was the thought behind the card. I closed it and read the front out loud. “Happy Mother’s Day.”
“They brought it home on Friday and saved it until this morning to show you,” Bruce said. “They talked about making breakfast for you too, but I didn’t think I’d be awake early enough to watch them, and last time…well, it still smells like smoke, from last time they tried to make something. And I knew you’d be upset if we made a big deal about it. Honestly, would you have been happier if I told them to just throw it in the trash and not bother?”
I almost said “Yes” but I knew I only felt that way because I was mad. “I’m not their mother, though! We’re their dads.”
The badger laughed. “Who IS their mother, then? It sure as hell isn’t me!” Leaning against my back, he reached over my shoulder and flicked my wattles.
I angrily ground my beak and started at the card until I could no longer bear it. “Mother!” I spat the word. “We’re both their dads. We’ve talked about this--NUMEROUS times!
“Yes, yes, yes.” He fondled my comb a bit, and traced along the side of the card. “Though I seem to remember having the more traditionally masculine role in all this. Remember?” He nipped my comb, which always gets to me.
I reached up and rubbed his chin. "No...how could I forget." My tail rattled a bit and I smiled in spite of myself.
He continued. “You’re the one who plopped ‘em out, sat on them, and started feeding them after they busted out of their shells.” He stood up, making a face. “I shouldn’t have brought that last part up, that was disgusting.”
“Sympathetic nausea,” I said. “Though I told you, it wasn’t really throwing up, it was just ground up dinner from my crop. You could have done it, if you’d chewed up the food enough and--”
“You’re gonna make me copiously and violently sick.”
I spun the card around and sighed. “I don’t know why it bothers me so much, honestly. You’re right about all of that. I know it.”
“But you like us to remember you’re a guy,” Bruce said as he nipped my comb. “Well, sometimes. I was kinda hoping you’d feel like a bottom type of guy, tonight.”
“Mmmmmaybe,” I said, and squawked as he bit my comb again.
“Go say goodnight to them, and tell them thank you,” Bruce said as he swatted my scaly tail.
Moving through the tunnel to their chamber quietly, I peeked my head around the corner and through the small curtain they had insisted on hanging up “for privacy”. Seeing as how they fought with each other and came running to us, having a barrier that kept them all gathered together with us shut out seemed ineffective, but sometimes their thought processes were a mystery to me.
Celeste and Cletus were curled up next to each other, snoring. Francis and Elisha were sprawled out, bellies up, feet tucked in. I brushed across their noses with the feathers on my wrists, and they wrinkled up their badger snouts and yawned.
Their fangs were coming in nicely. I’ll admit that when they hatched, I’d been disappointed at how much like little badger kits and how unlike me they had looked, at least unless you looked really, really closely.
But then I had no fond recollections of my looks as a youngster. They could all almost pass for badgers, taking after Bruce as they did. So being honest with myself, this was just another thing I could choose to be upset about out of stubbornness, or choose to see the silver lining. My own appearance hadn’t done much for me until the petrification abilities appeared.
They probably weren’t going to get that unusual, dangerous glare, but they definitely had some potent venom just like their…their mom.
I clucked softly and they turned in their sleep, crawling unconsciously toward me. So I crouched down and made a big arc with my tail just like I did while I was incubating them. One, two, three, four…
“Did you like your card, dad?” Bruce junior was sitting up in the dark, leaning against the side of the burrow. “I tried to tell them at school that it’d make you mad, but they made us make a card. They even made Jim the weasel make a card, and his mom doesn’t live with him anymore.” He yawned, crawled up with his siblings and rested his head on my tail. “They made us make it.”
I covered his eyes and leaned over him, brushing the top of my beak back and forth across his cheek and shoulder. First egg laid, first of the clutch who hatched; leave it to Bruce junior to stay up and watch the others drift off to sleep. “Of course I liked it,” I clucked. “I’m proud of all of you. But you misspelled ‘Appreciate’, you know.”
There was a long sigh, but no answer; he was asleep. “One, two, three, four, five little badgerlisks, but count them after they hatch,” I sang softly--something I hadn’t sang to them for two years now. I brooded over my chicks until Bruce came looking for me, and with a bit of help I carefully extricated myself and bedded down for the night next to their dad.
Thanks to the great artist Id. from FurAffinity for the cover art!
Did you ever have to make a Mother's Day card in elementary school as an arts and crafts activity? What if your mom isn't exactly your mom?
A sort of extension on the part of mpreg that I haven't seen too many folks talk about: parenting!