sparsenicjade
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Written for Yuletide 2009.

***


Catherine imagines it's a good thing that it took the baby so awfully long to birth itself, as it makes her tears upon the announcement of its sex wholly reasonable. The midwife coos over her, sympathizing with how tired she must be, and certainly, Catherine isn't feeling fit to head into battle, but no worse than she has after a few of said engagements. Sympathy or no, the midwife places the baby in Catherine's arms, and if she feels any relief--she supposes, perhaps, that she does--it is simply because if nothing else, she has her own body back. It is a small victory, but so often victories are.

The baby stops crying for no reason that Catherine can imagine and she considers him. Useless as he is, his mouth is pink and small, and his hand fits into hers with room to spare, and well, he might be said to have his own charms. Catherine says, "I'm quite tired," and gives her son to someone else so that she can pretend to sleep.

*


Tom, of course, is entirely too pleased by this outcome. Catherine is tempted to saddle him with the squalling, still-unnamed mess and see how he feels then about the child's uses. She's sure that in time the baby will come into himself, perhaps follow after Tom in the Navy, or possibly train with the Corps. It isn't as though being male bars him from anything--and that galls, too, but she's used to that, refuses to acknowledge that it so much as twinges anymore--but it doesn't particularly give him worth, either. Tom seems to disagree, but then, Tom is a man. They seem to believe simply coming out with the right parts makes them special.

That said, Tom is overly solicitous of her when he can come to visit them. She imagines that for other women it would make it hard to stay frustrated with him, but Catherine cannot remember a time when she was coddled, and as such, has no particular desire to be so now. It makes her short with him, which only makes him distant and something she would call timid, if only Tom were a different man. He isn't, and she suspects it is simply that he has been raised better than to fight with a woman, but oh, oh how she wishes he would. She wants to yell, to rage, and Lily has already informed her that she is hardly the one who got Catherine into this predicament. (Not for the first time, Catherine wishes dragons' tendency toward irrationality was more similar to humans', but she has been with Lily long enough to know better.)

The whole thing erupts over the stupidest of issues--of course--so entirely mundane and insignificant, Catherine can't even remember half-way into their screaming match what it is they're screaming about. She hates herself a little bit in that moment, because she's never been like this, she's never talked around issues at hand, never been hysterical, never been...this person she is, at this moment.

At some point she starts crying, and it's only frustration, only the nagging emptiness and exhaustion that has haunted her since the birth. It's fine, it's wholly fine, but Tom stops screaming and that just makes it worse. She says, "Don't," terse and tight and so, so mad. "Don't treat me like a woman."

Tom considers her for several moments, his own body wound to the point of stiffness, his eyes oddly soft. Finally he says, carefully, "I am not. I am treating you like my wife."

It shouldn't make any difference--she's never wanted to be anyone's wife, didn't really want it with him, only he had wanted it so, and somehow that had been compelling. Somehow, it is what she needs to hear, though, and she lets him touch her, for the first time in what feels like days. His hand drifts over the exposed skin of her neck and he says, "Cath, Cath."

She admits, "I am no good at this."

He admits, "I suppose that makes two of us."

It's just enough of an apology for her to accept it.

*


Catherine's great-grandmother gave Lily her name. According to Catherine's mother (who had been told by her mother, in turn), it had been a great scandal at the time, naming a dragon as though she were some simple Irish Rose. Her great-grandmother had stood by the name, noting that the flower could adapt to survive nearly anywhere, and had a unique beauty, all of its own. Latin names were all well and good, she had said, but it wouldn't do to pick one just out of tradition, that there were some customs made to be ignored every once in a while.

It is the memory of this that drives her to seek out a compendium of Latin names for flowers. She spends hours pouring over it, driving herself from the temptation to name her child something that translates to "useless." In the end she finds the name not because of its meaning, but rather, because she likes the sound. Lanicera Caprifolium, Latin for honeysuckle, much like the type that grew wild round the dragon keep when she'd been a child, too young even to serve in the Corps. Lance. That will suit nicely, she thinks. Only later does she think to look up the translation.

She laughs upon finding it. It reads, "bonds of love."

*


Command's message arrives before sunrise, but Catherine is awake. Lance has been colicky, and she feels as though it's been a fortnight since her last moment of quality sleep. It's a wonder Catherine's mother didn't simply hand her over to Lily at meal-time.

Catherine waves the courier dragon to the pen, and looks at Lily imploringly. Lily takes over, ushering the new arrival to where he can eat something before being off again. The rider looks at her and says, sympathetically, "It's urgent, Captain."

"Yes, of course." She reads it over, and nearly cries with relief when she sees that there is no question: she must go. No need to feel guilty, it's not her decision, command has demanded that she return; Lily's traits are needed. She folds the paper carefully, handing it back over to the messenger. "We'll need to stop on the way, shortly."

He opens his mouth, but at that moment, Lance starts fussing again, and all the other man can say is, "Yes, Captain."

Tom's mother was somewhat unsure over her son's choice of wife, and a little less pleased than she might have been, but Catherine knows she will take Lance and care for him. She carefully afixes him to her front, the messenger helping her with other preparations. It takes only a little over an hour to have themselves off the ground, and then only another two to make it to Tom's childhood home.

Catherine takes Lance in by herself, leaving the dragons out in pastures not so far that she can't walk from them, but not so close as to be seen her mother-in-law. There is such a thing as consideration, she supposes. Mostly, it's just that she cannot stand people acting as though Lily intends them any harm. They would know if she did.

Catherine explains to her mother-in-law that they are in an emergency of state, and yes, she really must do this, and please, please will she take him. It does not take long for her to prevail. Just her looks--the sight of her trousers--is clearly enough to place doubts in her mother-in-law's mind about Catherine's competency to be raising a child. So be it. She kisses Lance's forehead and warns him, "Be good for your grandmother, little one."

When she walks out of the house, the weight is gone from her front. She is surprised to feel it in other places.


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