The clock mocked him from the bedside table. It was a godforsaken hour and yet he was blinking away sleep. The cause for his early awakening was the empty sheets next to him. A certain dark haired wild woman of his was supposed to be here, fast asleep.
Ben ran his hand over his face with a sigh. During the day, they were both so busy that they barely had time to eat. In the evening, she was supposed to be his and at night, she was supposed to sleep.
It was the system they had developed since they had moved past friendship. What had started out over a rocky hunt for a manticore had turned into him helping her with her sanctuary and training the very creatures he used to be hired to kill. He still hunted. Only now, he only hunted those that were a danger to human populations.
Pearl may love all creatures, from the hellhounds to the sphinx that scared him every single time it decided to stop by the house, but she did eventually give on the fact that not all the beasts were like those she looked after. They never sold the pelts or bones of the ones they did have to kill, they lugged the body back to the sanctuary and let nature take its course.
He actually liked the change and he found learning about the actual habits of the creatures fascinating. Pearl, despite her initial wariness and mistrust, had been thrilled to share.
But hunting wasn’t his only job. Making sure the woman took care of herself was harder than anything he had ever done.
Muttering under his breath, he draped their blanket over his arm and went off to find her. It had been like this for the past week. He’d wake up in the middle of the night to find her missing and she’d be in the same place each time.
Leaning on the doorframe of the living room, now affectionately termed the birthing room, he felt a smile tug at his lips. She was such a hellion sometimes but then she turned around and got up every night to watch a little egg. It was almost as cute as it was frustrating.
“You’re a like a new mother,” he chuckled, making his way over to her. “You get up every night to check on your baby as if it’s going anywhere.”
“I don’t want to miss anything.” Pearl tilted her head back to look up at him and wrinkled her nose at his smile. Her exhaustion was getting to her. Usually, she would’ve at least swatted at him for teasing her over the egg.
“You need sleep.”
“I need to watch over the egg.”
“Pearl, you cannot function like this.”
“Go back to bed, Ben.” Her gaze switched pointedly back towards the fireplace. It was his dismissal and he knew it. Unfortunately for her, he had already planned on that. He unfurled the blanket and wrapped it around himself before settling down against the couch behind her.
Ignoring her protests, he drew her further away from the fireplace and against his chest. Once the blanket was draped around her as well, he rested his chin on the top of her head. He wasn’t going to get to sleep knowing she was sitting out here in the cold. She knew that he didn’t like it but she kept trying to do it anyway.
The fireplace, though lit, didn’t give off any heat. In the middle of the flames sat the very egg that she had come to watch over every night. The egg soaked up all the heat from the flames, making it glow a deep red, and keeping the living room chilly.
“You really don’t have to stay.” The tone of her voice had quieted and was laced with sleepiness. She had shifted against him to be more comfortable but wasn’t fighting against him or the warmth he provided.
Forcing himself to hold back a snort, he pressed a kiss into her hair. “I do. Who else is going to keep you warm and take a turn watching the egg?” Though he had been nice, she didn’t bother to hold back her own snort. “Get some sleep. I will wake you up if anything happens.”
“Promise?” She sounded so much like a little kid that he chuckled.
“Of course,” he drew the blankets tighter around them before turning his gaze towards the flames. “You won’t miss the birth of your Phoenix.”
Whatever she had tried to say after that was lost to her sleepy haze and he smiled again. It was the only way he could get her to sleep for the last week. Not the best place but he wasn’t going to complain about getting to hold her for a few hours without one creature or another demanding her attention.
A sharp cracking noise startled Ben back into awareness. Realizing that he had fallen asleep filled him with guilt. He had promised Pearl that he’d watch the egg for her. She was still asleep but that didn’t change anything.
The cracking noise filled the room again and his eyes shot towards the fireplace. The flames were much higher they should have been when there weren’t any large logs left to feed the fire. But that wasn’t the important thing.
In the center, the egg was wiggling. The cracks that were appearing on the edge of the egg told him what had made the noise that woke him. He may have fallen asleep but neither of them missed anything important.
“Pearl,” he gently shook her. She wasn’t the easy one to wake up in the morning but she’d want to see this. “Pearl, it’s hatching.”
Hatching seemed to be the key word of the morning. Her head popped up, jarring his chin and she was scrambling away to get as close to the fireplace as she dared. An actual hatching of a phoenix was rare, as they were reborn from ashes after their bodies died, so the information they could find on it was sketchy. The flames were required but neither of them knew if the fire would spread as the little bird came from its shell.
Rubbing his jaw, he tossed the blanket back onto the couch and crouched down next to her. Her excitement was contagious and within a few moments, his grin matched hers as they watched the egg.
The cracks continued to form, mostly at the top of the egg, and he feared for a moment that the egg would tumble off the grate that had held it secure among the logs. Grabbing a few more pieces of wood from the stack he had kept close by, he risked burns by situating them around to stabilize the area.
Once his arm was free, the flames crackled higher and ate away at the logs. The added strength of the flames seemed to give strength to the bird within the egg. The wiggling became more insistent and a small beak poked out a small piece of the egg.
“Oooohh! Did you see that! It has a gold beak!” Pearl cooed, edging closer to try and get a better look. He had to hold an arm out to keep her from getting much closer. The wood had made the flames unpredictable.
Though she didn’t like it, Pearl stopped inching forward. Together they watched as the pieces of egg fell away. Eventually a little head poked out. It was probably one of the ugliest things he’d ever seen but Pearl was cooing over it regardless.
“Give it time. He’ll grow feathers and then he’ll be the most beautiful thing in this sanctuary.” Pearl laughed, leaning into his side while the baby phoenix worked its way out of the rest of the shell. There was a red and gold on the baby’s body, what he assumed was the start of the very feathers that she was talking about.
Looking over at Pearl again, her eyes glowing in the light of the fire and her hair in wild disarray, he had to disagree with her. “He won’t be the most beautiful thing here.” He murmured, smiling to himself as she looked up at him in confusion.
“Shh. He’s almost free.”
And here’s another one!! Yumboes was really difficult but I have the next couple planned out so they should come quicker. Hopefully.
Next Creature: Roc