The Werewolves' Story
Healer and Hunter: Chapter Sixteen
Disturbing as it was, and as much as she hated to admit it,
Thonyn couldn't help but note that Rythri made a charming wolf. He bounded
around excitedly-- puppy-like and all together immature, but damned cute,
anyway-- nuzzled and licked with a simple affection that his anari-self
apparently didn't feel comfortable enough to show-- not that Thonyn wanted
nuzzles and licks and affection, of course-- growled protectively whenever
anything seemed likely to threaten her or the priest-- as if she needed
protecting, much less from tree-cats or stiff winds!
He wasn't supposed to be charming. He was feral, for gods' sakes, and she hated that. There was a brain inside his skull, when he was himself, a brain capable of intelligent conversation, clever strategy, and being her equal rather than her over-protective pet. She did not bond to get a pet, dammit, no matter how charming a pet he was. It made her irritable.
So when Rythri came charging back from an energetic run ahead and made yet another attempt to bowl her over and engage her in a lick-filled wrestling match, she side-stepped at the last minute and gave him a vicious swat on the rump. With a startled yelp and his tail tucked between his legs, he galloped away again. Zzandoren made a sound like a smothered chuckle, and Ronan rolled his eyes. That made her even more irritable.
::Hey, at least he likes me,:: she shot privately at Ronan. He had no right to judge her or her choice of bond, just as she'd told Rythri the day before, and he was a safer target to growl at than Zzandoren. She knew better than to do more than glare at the priest, even after just a day and a half on Kynn. He was the unchallenged leader here, particularly in her bond's eyes, and she wasn't about to be the first challenger. Not now.
Her sharp comment made Ronan look away and focus on the path in front of them, and she wished she hadn't said it. ::I'm sorry,:: she told him, still keeping the conversation between the two of them. Zzandoren was uncomfortable enough with Ronan without being reminded by someone else that they weren't the best pairing to come out of that hatching. From what she could gather, actually, they were closer to the worst-matched pairing, and that confused her. Even if she and Rythri weren't the best, there was the potential that they could be very good, someday. If they both worked at it. There didn't seem to be any kind of future between Ronan and Zzandoren, no matter how hard they worked at it, not if either one of them wanted to be happy, and therein lay Thonyn's confusion.
So she added to her apology the question that had been bothering her ever since she'd seen the bonding: ::But it's true. Why did you even pick him, Ronan? You could tell you're too different....::
Ronan's answer wasn't hesitant, but defensive. ::We're not too different. We're just-- different.::
::You know what I mean, Ronan,:: she told him shortly. ::He's a healer, and peaceful, and likes a quiet life. You're a warrior, hot-headed, and you want as many battles as you can fit into each day as you can get. You're not only opposites in personality, neither of you can stand the lifestyle that the other wants. How did you ever think you could make something like that work?::
::Just because he's dull as dirt sometimes doesn't mean I don't like him,:: Ronan answered, his mindvoice very small and quiet and uncharacteristically unsure. ::He's a good guy, and he means well, and he's-- relaxing, I guess. He was the only one in there who worked even a little.::
Thonyn eyed him. ::You think you can convince him to give up healing for a living and take up a battle standard, or something?:: she asked dubiously.
::No,:: he answered pointedly, looking at her now, ::I did not enter into a bond expecting to change anyone.::
Baring her teeth at him, Thonyn changed the subject back to him. That's what they were talking about, not her and Rythri. That was just between her and Rythri. ::So what are you planning to do, then?::
Ronan's shoulder hitched, wing going with it, in a half-hearted shrug. ::Don't know yet. Probably leave.... Just come by when his moon is full or when I really feel like I want to see him.::
::You really think you can be happy with that?::
::It could be worse. I could not have a bond, at all.::
::I don't see why you bothered, anyway,:: Thonyn said. ::That's not a bond, that's-- that's a mockery of a bond.::
::Like bonding someone because you want to make them more civilized isn't a mockery, too,:: he sneered back.
::Shut up. You know it's not like that.::
::Sure, Thonyn. You keep telling yourself that.::
::And you keep telling yourself you can make this travesty with Zzandorn work,:: Thonyn snapped back.
Now they were actually growling at each other, and Zzandoren couldn't not notice. "Everything all right?" he asked warily, looking between them.
::Fine,:: Ronan said shortly before Thonyn could even decide what to tell him. He looked away from her, and even drifted over to Zzandoren's opposite side, putting the poor priest between the two of them.
::Fine,:: Thonyn was forced to mutter, back. Better that than to try to explain and make him feel badly. She did add in a private but still confused comment to Ronan, though, ::At least you could make an effort to be nice to him... he's being really good about bonding someone who doesn't seem like he respects him, you know.::
::Could you just give it a rest already?:: Ronan demanded sulkily. ::If you're so worried about him, maybe you should have bonded him. He's the one who actually wants to stop acting like a wolf, after all.::
Thonyn peered around Zzandoren at Ronan. ::He does?::
::No, I'm lying just to make you angry with me. Of course he does. He's a rational human being, you know; pure instinct bothers him almost as much as it does you.::
::And Rythri isn't, is that what you're saying?:: It took effort to keep her anger down so it wouldn't catch Zzandoren's attention again.
::I'm not saying anything about your wolf,:: Ronan said. ::He's not my bond, after all. If anyone knows him, it would be you, wouldn't it?::
This time Thonyn made an effort not to rise to the bait: she knew Ronan when he was still in the shell, just like she was, and she knew he was just taking out his frustration on her. That didn't make her like it any more, but she tried to keep from getting angry, back, and making things worse. Just what scrappy, belligerent Ronan saw in mild-mannered Zzandoren, she had no idea. ::So you think you'll leave, huh?:: she said, going back to something more pertinent.
::Probably... maybe... I don't know, all right? Can you please just drop it and leave me alone?::
Well, since he said please. Thonyn had incoming again, anyway: Rythri came trotting back, tail high again, huge ears perked, and looking rather like he wanted to pounce her again. Damn him for being such a charming animal, anyway. She still liked him intelligent and sentient better.
They'd have to work on that.