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“Alyx?”

“Shhh,” Alyx gently hushed, covering Jas’ mouth with his hand. She wasn’t too thrilled about being shushed but she was going to scare away the surprise if she kept that volume.

Their gazes clashed for a moment and he smiled once she rolled her eyes and nodded. It was hard enough to keep this surprise with their mental bond but he had managed. Despite her pouting, he knew that she was just as excited as he was.

If not for the girls at Jas’s shop helping him, he never would have been able to convince her to take the afternoon off with him. With spring right around the corner, she was busy mending clothes and filling orders for the warmer months. Alyx did what he could to help but he mostly just mixed dyes and did the heavy lifting so the girls could focus on the sewing.

“You have to whisper Jas,” he murmured, removing his hand from her mouth and letting his fingers trail down her arm before lacing their fingers together. His inner Animal was feeling playful. It wasn’t often that he got to visit the denser parts of the city’s protected forest reserves and Jas tolerated him playing in her garden when the urge to shift became too strong.

“Why?” Though it was in his nature to give her whatever she wanted, even if it was only an answer to a question, he shook his head. She pouted but at least she had started to whisper.

Pushing branches out of the way, he led her through thicket and carefully maneuvered her around any particularly dangerous areas. The last thing he wanted was for her to get hurt on a fun trip.

It didn’t take very long until they reached the destination and he motioned for her to sit with him at the edge of the clearing.

“Are you going to tell me what we’re here for now?” She whispered, bumping into him. Her eyes were darting around everywhere, taking in the sights and the different plants. No doubt she was figuring out which ones she could use to make richer dyes.

Knowing that those thoughts would persist for long, he let out a short bark. The sound startled Jas into looking at him again but he was more focused on the cluster of bushes on the other side. An answering growl reverberated from the bush but Alyx smiled and soothed the angry growling with a soothing yip.

“I wanted you to see them.” He whispered, leaning in close to Jas so she could hear him. A sleek red fox came out from the bushes first, her dark eyes studying Jas before moving to Alyx. Though the vixen bared her teeth at him, he only barked again to reassure her.

Once he had pacified the mother, the kits came tumbling out in a bundle of energy and shot in his direction. Because of his shape shifting abilities, he understood most of the yips and barks that followed but he was more amused by Jas’ reaction.

It wasn’t long before one of the kits grew brave enough to leap into her lap. She wasted no time in spoiling it with all kinds of attention. While the vixen watched carefully, all the kits piled on Jas for their share of attention.

“How did you find them?” She giggled out, running her hands through their fluffy tuffs of fur. The smiles and laughter were the very reason for the trip and Alyx swelled with pride that it had worked.

“Had a mock drill up here, ran into the vixen while she was still pregnant. Her mate is gone and so I helped make her a den before I went back down.” His eyes drifted towards the vixen in question and dipped his head. Though his shape was not in an animal form like he had met the fox in, his scent was still the same and she recognized his bark tones. “The girls said that you had mentioned wanting to see some real wild animals.”

“They’re a nosy bunch.” The words were said with a level of fondness that was always there in her tones when she spoke of her coworkers.

“But it was worth it?” Had it been wrong to bring her? There was always the possibility that she was shielding her emotions from him again.

Her smile softened and Alyx relaxed. She was happy; she didn’t smile like that if she wasn’t. This had hadn’t been a mistake. Now all he had to do was make sure that the vixen knew that Jas wasn’t going to steal one of her kits.

___________

SWC stands for Single Word Challenge for anyone who was curious. Right now, Maura is supplying me with words for the next few weeks so these will be done every Sunday. 🙂

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