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Just Kidding

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The first summer they spend together is mild and pleasant, a long season of constant joyous mating, making up for time wasted. The first fall is hectic and tumultuous with the rush to find a decent cave, and the move that followed. The first winter starts out beautifully, a few gentle snows, a warm hearth, and a satyr fixated on his beginning family.

But by the tail-end of winter, it’s been snowing for ages and they’ve never had any visitors and he’s read all the books they have at least twice. Charles is bored.

And fat. He’s very fat, and very bored, and both of those facts are very much Erik’s fault.

He hefts himself up from the bedding, dislodging Erik’s leg.

“Hmmph,” Erik murmurs, scarcely awake enough to say that much. Lucky bastard, Charles grumbles to himself. His own sleep is interrupted about seven times a night, always for the same reason, and he has to stand up on hooves that can barely hold his weight.  

Erik doesn’t look like he’s about to topple over. Erik gets to sleep. Erik still has a waist—a ridiculous one at that. Charles spends about two seconds glaring at Erik’s back, the slim curve of his torso and the graceful length of his tail. Charles doesn't even think his own tail is there any longer. It's surely been consumed by blubber by now.

Outside their den it's freezing, frost thick on the ground. He trots quickly behind the little rocky outcrop Erik marks every morning, and squats. It’s a struggle to bend down, every single time he needs to go. He’s not as limber as he was without the belly, and the thought irritates him. Pregnancy has made him adopt a waddling gait, and leaning back while walking in deference to the shift in his gravity has been torture on his spine. Shivering, Charles nuzzles deeper into the scarf he has twined over his neck, saturated with his and Erik’s scents. Not wanting a rear end full of slush, he gets up carefully, and stamps the snow off his hooves when he gets back to the den.

Erik barely stirs when he returns, and Charles huffs, tossing an ear in annoyance. Now that his bladder’s empty, other needs have become more apparent. There’s more than enough food to last them the winter, but Charles is hungry for something he can’t eat.

He wants Erik’s fist in him and he wants it now.

His mate reacts automatically to him shuffling back to the nest, making space even though the bedding is large enough for four. Charles feels like he may be fat enough for two, so Erik’s foresight in a large nest is truly wonderful. He cuddles up to the satyr, pressing bodily up against him and burying his nose in Erik’s underarm where the musk is strong. One of his favorite positions to sleep in is laying with his head pillowed by Erik’s bicep, caged in by both scent and strong limbs, the kids between them and protected by both of their backs.

“Erik,” he murmurs, nipping at his mate’s chin, fingers curling around the end of the satyr’s beard. Charles has more hair as a faun, but it’s softer, finer; more for insulating a body that moves less and less as pregnancy progresses. Satyrs have no need for thick, downy hair, but many choose to grow long beards by the time winter arrives and lop it off by spring. It all boils down to practicality. In spring the bucks run wild with rut and cross horns, and long beards prove to be more of a weakness than anything, allowing a satyr to be yanked around by the chin. There’s no such danger in the winter, when everyone is cooped up inside. It’s cold besides, and Charles finds that he likes how it looks, thick over Erik’s mouth and chin.

“Erik,” he whines a little this time, his hand petting over the fur of the satyr’s chest. It’s the dead of the night, not that in winter it’s any different from the day, but his mate should be a little more sensitive to Charles’s needs than this. Charles nuzzles against the base of Erik’s neck with his cheeks, careful not to catch skin with his horns. His hand trails down past the satyr’s navel to where his cock is sheathed, limp and sleeping and deliciously warm in his hand.

Erik stirs, then, with a stretch and a murmur and the slightest tilt of his hips toward Charles’s hands. When Charles glances up, though, he’s still very much asleep.

Ridiculous, Charles thinks, it's not as if satyrs hibernate. He squeezes gently, reaches down to cup Erik’s heavy balls, brushing through the fur between his thighs. Erik's cock is thickening, and Charles shifts his bulk backward, wanting to watch. Even if a prick is completely superfluous to what Charles needs—he still loves it when Erik takes him that way, rutting like a buck in season even when his mate is enormous and long overdue, but lately Charles is always craving the stretch of a fist—it makes him wet, watching this. The sheath fills, tip dilating slowly wider until the blood-red length of Erik’s cock begins to emerge.

Licking his lips, Charles pumps firmly, needing the sight of Erik’s full erection huge and bright against the dark of fur. And that, of course, is when he hears Erik laugh.

“Couldn’t wait til I’m up,” Erik says, voice husky with sleep. He doesn’t sound particularly put out, though, and he reaches down to pet the fat curve of Charles’s flank.

Being caught staring makes Charles blush, but otherwise he’s not in the least ashamed. Hefting himself close again, he butts his head at Erik playfully. “Up is exactly what I’m trying for, darling,” he purrs.

Erik huffs like he doesn’t secretly adore Charles’s sense of humor.

“I see that,” he says. His cock is half out now, and Charles has shifted his grip up to circle the sensitive tip of his sheath, a tight channel for Erik’s prick to slide into. Charles smiles up at him, and licks his lips again, this time for show.

“Erik,” Charles begs again. Now that Erik’s decided to join the party, he might as well ask properly. He rubs his cheek against Erik’s chest and flags his tail. “I need your hand.”

Charles hears Erik’s breath catch, like he’s startled.

He shouldn’t be. For the last few days, Charles is constantly asking for this. It was good before, the pressure of Erik’s fist always leaves him trembling and his fur soaked, but now it’s like his body needs it. His hips feel loose, like his pelvis is opening. Which is actually what’s going on, of course.

The hand on his flank tightens, and Charles pulls at Erik. It’s been ages since Charles could lay flat, but Erik’s had that long to get used to fucking and fisting Charles from the side or behind. “Now,” he demands, and Erik lets out a breathless laugh.

“Greedy little doe,” he growls as Charles tugs him over to straddle his thick legs. He leans over, caging Charles between his arms, and Charles bleats with excitement. Erik thrusts once, smearing his cock against Charles’s gravid stomach, and his nostrils flare.

“If you tease me, I’ll sit on you,” Charles demands, and Erik smirks and nips at his shoulder.

“You’ll get what you want,” Erik says. He strokes one hand in a possessive sweep down Charles’s side, staring down at all the new curves on his mate. “First, though, let me scent.”

Sighing, Charles nods.

Less and less does that mean Erik’s about to mark him. To Charles’s dismay, it’s been days since Erik did more than waste his urine on a couple of stupid rocks. Satyrs get like that, so Charles has heard, near birthing. They’re no less territorial, but once a faun is nesting that territory shifts from “mate” to “mate and the whole damn cave.” And they get like Erik is now, obsessed with the pure smell of milk and slick faun.

Erik kisses him, deep and hungry, before he starts nosing downward. Jaw to neck to collarbone, Erik breathes him in, and Charles holds patiently still. It’s a little dull, honestly—a lot dull, compared to the whole fisting thing—but it’s sweet. Many fauns complain about it, but Charles has never minded his mate’s tidbitting.

Particularly since Erik makes it worth his while. Quickly on to Charles’s chest, Erik takes in a long breath, and bites at the full weight of Charles’s right breast.

“Oh,” Charles bleats out. Like everything else, his breasts have just been getting heavier and heavier, painfully full as he stores up for his kid’s first meal. It’s bizarre to think just last spring, he hardly had them at all.

Under Erik’s attention, he starts leaking. Like most fauns, Charles has been lactating for the last months of pregnancy, and he’s used to the way that makes Erik wild. Groaning at the sight, Erik pinches at his left nipple, tugs to get a spray of milk. Against his thigh, Charles can feel Erik’s gone fully erect, he’s thrusting as he turns his head to suckle greedily at Charles’s breast.

It feels heavenly. Charles rarely ruins the furs of the nest with his milk anymore, since Erik’s always wanting. Usually Charles would let Erik drain his teats, but right now the thought is annoying. After Erik’s had only one swallow, Charles grabs at his horns and shoves him off, and when Erik looks up in confusion Charles bares his teeth.

“Charles?” Erik asks, clearly at a loss. To be fair, his own actions are strange to Charles himself, but he just shakes his head and dismisses it. It’s been way too long since Charles has had to wait for Erik’s fist, after all.

“Go on, finish up,” he grumbles, dislodging Erik as he lifts one thigh.

For a second, it seems like Erik’s about to argue. But he seems to shake it off, as well, before kissing down over Charles’s belly and lower.

Once Erik’s settled between his legs, Charles moves his thighs wider, exposing his cunt as much as he’s able. Erik groans, a low, helpless noise. Charles can’t see over his stomach, but he moans as he feels Erik’s fingers against him, spreading his labia.

The first pass of Erik’s tongue makes him whine. Erik flicks over his clit, and Charles almost starts begging him to eat him out seriously, none of this teasing—but Erik’s just as quickly sniffing at him.

And sniffing.

It’s not like Erik hasn’t scented him like this before, but it’s just going on for an awkward amount of time. Flustered, Charles feels his face go red as Erik keeps at it, and he’s about to say something when Erik sits up suddenly.

There’s a worried look on his face.

“Charles,” he says, and then it’s like he’s at a loss for words.

Charles raises an eyebrow.

“You’re, uhm,” Erik starts, frowning down. “Are you okay?”

Huffing, Charles nudges at him with one hoof.

No,” he says, “because you’re not fisting me. Now, come along, let’s get on.”

If anything, Erik looks panicked.

“I can’t! Charles, you’re—you’re kidding.”

“I am most certainly not,” Charles grumbles. “I’ve been asking nicely and—”

“No, not that. I mean, you’re kidding kidding. I can’t fist you, there’s,” Erik trails off, sounding desperate, “well, the kids.”

Charles blinks, staring at him. While Charles did know of fauns in his herd that claimed their mates knew it was time for labor long before they did, the idea seemed fanciful.

And that’s still what Charles thinks now. Erik may believe he scents something, but if Charles were about to push out what feels like a yearling, he’d know.

“Erik, I’m most certainly not doing that sort of kidding, either. So,” he says, grabbing at Erik’s wrist, “let’s. Please?”

It takes a lot of coaxing, but Erik finally acquiesces, lured by Charles’ large blue eyes and encouraging murmuring. It’s worth having to appease his ridiculous mate when he can finally bear down on Erik’s fist like the most unholy ecstasy.

“Oh, yes, darling, yes,” Charles shamelessly bleats out his pleasure, moving his leg so that Erik has something to rut to. His teats throb, although they aren’t leaking anymore, even if they do feel heavy and full.

There’s something else too, although Charles isn’t entirely sure what’s happening. Everything feels vague, his thoughts taking on a floating quality. He just loves what fisting does to him, stretched out and at his most vulnerable. It’s almost spiritual how every fiber of his being lights up under Erik’s ardent attention, and he feels even closer to his mate, stuffed full and bared open. He trusts that Erik won’t hurt him, and that’s the headiest feeling of all—all his life Charles has been told that it would be the greatest joy to find a satyr to mate and kid with, and Erik is a perfect fit.

Definitely a perfect fit, Charles thinks dazedly as Erik thumbs his clit and draws Charles into a long orgasm. He’s not quite sure when the fist had slipped out and Erik’s cock has pushed in, but he does remember reaching up to squeeze at his mate’s shoulders, watching the strain of his neck as he kept his weight off Charles and into the arms he was using to push himself above the faun. He’s being careful, but he’s not denying himself either, and before long his hips are flexing, pushing his seed into Charles’ cunt and splashing against his womb.

It gets Charles hot, to think that he’s mated a satyr so randy and virile he’s being fucked this late into pregnancy. His hands reach out and squeeze at Erik’s furred arse, keeping him deep inside him.

“Charles?” Erik pants, sounding alarmed.

“F...Fuck,” Charles bites his lip as a rippling pain seizes his abdomen.

“Charles! What is it?”

“It’s nothing,” Charles attempts to dismiss it, keeping Erik in place with his hooves instead of his hands and rubbing over the taut skin of his belly. “I’m fine.”

“You didn’t sound fine. I really do think you’re kidding.”

“You’ll know for sure if I start screaming at you, silly buck.”

“I should still get off you.”

“Stay,” Charles whines, and Erik frowns at him, but he doesn’t say no, shifting his weight from his arms over Charles to sitting at his heels. He makes small thrusts that Charles likes, the rocking motion lulling the faun into some strange half-sleep. Truth be told, Charles has been experiencing strange little twinges in his stomach the past few days, which he’s heard is normal. It’s happened a few other times during his pregnancy, too. He remembers panicking the first time it happened, when his belly was barely round, thinking that he’d harmed his goatlings in some way. They had remained there, however, healthy and growing as far as Erik could smell.

After a while, Charles wakes up as another pain wraps around his womb.

Erik might be right after all.

His mate is still fucking him, although it’s slow and leisurely. Sometime ago he had shifted them to their sides for comfort, and Charles is grateful that he’s already in bed otherwise he would have crumpled to his knees for how strong this contraction is becoming.

“Charles? Are you alright?”

He swallows as Erik’s hand covers his navel.

“The kids are coming,” he says matter-of-factly. Erik gently knocks his forehead against his nape.

“I told you so.”

Once Erik disentangles them, Charles reaches down to touch himself, feeling out the slick soft flesh that will soon be a passage for his kids. It doesn’t feel any larger than usual, and he’s suddenly worried how they’re going to be born through such a small opening.

“Don’t get up, Charles.”

“I’m fine,” he tells Erik curtly, feeling short-tempered at being told what to do. The older fauns had told them that labor would last like a little eternity and that he probably shouldn’t kill a tidbitting mate (no matter how much he wanted to).

Erik brings him a wooden cup filled with water, one of the first things he’d carved for them once they’d found this den. It’s cold enough that Charles can literally feel it traveling down his stomach and he shivers a little, letting out whine and huddling down onto the bedding to wait out the next contraction.

“Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“You can stand back and stop hovering,” Charles flicks an ear in annoyance. “Maybe heat up some water and prepare the swaddling.”

With Erik sufficiently distracted, Charles is free to pick at the bedding, arranging it this way and that. His and Erik’s scents are saturated in the furs and the various soft cloths they’d collected over the seasons; it will be a place of comfort for their goatlings, the first true home they’ll know. As such, it has to be made perfectly. It’s a little difficult to move around of course, but Charles could suffer a little discomfort knowing that the furs are sufficiently packed down and everything is in place.

Another contraction hits. Charles bleats helplessly, and Erik abandons whatever it is he’s doing to run to his side.

“Erik,” he pants, “I may start screaming at you sooner than later.”

“Scream as much as you want, my love.”

Charles shifts from position to position on the nest—first on his back, then on his side, and finally on his hands and knees where he can feel gravity help open him up. He can literally feel his slick matting down his fur, a steady trickle in preparation for the birth. He snaps his teeth at Erik when he tries to get closer, growling through the pain. Only when a contraction's done will he reach out for the satyr, seeking comfort where he can.

The first thing Erik does is to wipe his face with a damp rag, cleaning him up and cooling him down. Erik’s nerves aren’t doing much to keep Charles calm, but between the contractions it’s nice to be held. He breathes through the current one, Erik’s hand on his flank, before going to lean against against him.

It’s been been hours since the pains began, and they’re now happening with less and less time in between. He rests his head and chest against Erik’s lap, soaking up the massage, nuzzling into the scent of Erik’s fur. The satyr is raking his nails down Charles’ back from nape to tailbone soothingly. Charles reacts with a slight arch of his spine, his tail flagging up.

“Really? Now?”

“Can you check? If the kid is there?”

Charles would do it himself, but his own arm can only stretch so much. He’s sure Erik knows what the inside of his cunt feels like better than he does, anyway. It does feel… significantly looser than when Erik first fisted him. He waits patiently as Erik gently feels around for the neck of his womb. It doesn’t feel any particular different, some vague pressure that isn’t in any way painful, so he’s not quite sure what Erik finds when his hand withdraws, wet with natural lubricant.

“Not long now, Charles.”

As if to reiterate, a contraction seizes his abdomen. Charles bleats into Erik’s thigh, almost sobbing with it. He can hear Erik murmuring soothing platitudes above him, but it’s only when Erik’s thumb hooks into the spot inside of him that the pain becomes mixed with pleasure. His other fingers comb through Charles’ fur and fondle his clit. The faun rocks against him, trying to lose himself in the rhythm when his womb seizes again.

The need to push is becoming harder and harder to ignore. Charles grunts and bears down, and it really helps that Erik is making circling motions with his fingers, the movement slick and soothing. Everything else about this labor feels difficult and drawn out. His back hurts from curving into this position, and his knees are trembling like they can’t hold his weight anymore. Still, he rocks back and forth, back and forth with Erik’s guidance. It’s like fucking, only with the added burden of having to deliver a heavy weight from his belly. Even with his discomfort, it’s arousing, and he bleats softly.

Erik rubs at his clit unfailingly, leans over to kiss at his shoulders.

“You’re incredible,” he says. It sounds like he’s genuinely impressed by how Charles is bearing labor and at the same time he’s bemused at how Charles keeps flagging his tail. Erik slides his fingertips back to thrust gently into Charles’s loose hole.

Panting, Charles uses the rocking sway of his body to fuck himself on Erik’s hand. The nearly-constant contractions are painful and severe, and the ripples that flex up from his cunt to his womb when he comes—they provide the slightest but most delicious relief.

“Come on, Charles,” Erik murmurs, soft enough it’s hard to hear him over the wet squelch of his fingers, “come for me, beautiful dam.”

“Oh,” Charles whines, clenching his hands against Erik’s thighs. Another little burst of slick gushes down on the already-damp bedding between his legs, and he cries out when the tense-and-release of orgasm builds into a full contraction. “Erik!” he bleats, sharp and panicked.

It felt like—like something moved in him, and the pain’s suddenly just that much worse. Erik startles, hugging Charles with his free hand and nosing at his ear. The only reason he doesn’t pull out his fingers is because Charles has clamped around him too tightly.

“Erik, Erik… I have to push,” he sobs, and Erik nips softly at his nape, a nervous attempt to calm his mate.

“Hold on, let me—”

Erik adjusts to where he can get his whole hand in Charles again. The pressure is intolerable now, he’s already too full. He breathes deep, in and out through his nose, as Erik prods gingerly. Again, Charles can’t tell what it is Erik’s feeling in there, but whatever it is makes Erik’s breath catch and his hand withdraw suddenly.

“All right,” Erik says. He sounds terrified, not at all the satyr Charles once watched pin a buck nearly twice his size. “On the next one, okay? Push hard.”

Charles snorts, dismissively. “I know, I told you I would,” he grumbles. As if a satyr would know anything about kidding. Erik pets him a few more times, carelessly wiping slick all through the fur of his spine and tail, while Charles rocks back and forth, waiting for his womb to seize again.

“I should move,” Erik says, nervously. He shifts underneath Charles, before pausing. “Unless you need me here?”

Still easing his weight back and forth, Charles thinks of it a second. He’d like to keep Erik where he is, with the comforting scent of his fur shoved right up against Charles’s face. And while he knows that Erik wants to be behind him to ease the goatlings out, to catch their young as they come into the world, there’s really no danger if he stays put. The nest is soft and densely packed with furs, built perfectly for a birthing faun. And Charles isn’t a weak human. Fauns have been birthing alone—or near enough to it, with only the dubious support of a clueless satyr—for time immemorial. The babies would be completely safe just being born out onto the bedding, but with Erik’s tension and worry…

Charles sighs, butting his head lightly against Erik’s stomach.

“Go on,” he says, trying not to laugh when Erik eases from beneath him and basically runs to crouch behind his upraised arse. Sometimes it’s just best to indulge the tidbitting, he thinks, making himself comfortable draped against the side of the nest. And none too soon—almost immediately, he’s clutching desperately at the heaped furs and the straw-packed pillows he’d sewn this fall.

Bleating again, he can scarcely feel Erik’s hands, rubbing firmly on his lower back as he strains through the contraction. All the muscles of his body are worn, but now he has to push with serious purpose. He can’t even breathe, he’s just grunting deeply as he shoves and shoves, trying to get the kid out.

“Good,” Erik murmurs, like he’s actually helping. His hands move around to steady Charles’s firm, contracted belly. “Push hard.”

“What—” Charles gasps, straining for air as he bears down, “what in all hells do you think I’m doing?!”

Erik replies in a shaky sort of laugh, and he shifts again, one hand pressed cautiously at Charles’s clit. The pressure inside him now is agony.

“I think you’re doing great, that’s what,” he says, and Charles starts crying as the pressure surges and breaks.

“Oh,” Erik whispers. His hand is trembling where it braces at Charles’s stretched cunt, and wherever he’s got his other hand now, Charles can’t feel it. Quietly, he can hear Erik murmuring soft praise to the old gods and—to him?

“Erik?” he manages through his tears. The contraction’s over, but it feels like he’s split open, and he can’t even turn to look. His heart pounds in exhaustion and fear—is the faunling there? Why can’t he hear them bleating?

“Shh, it’s okay. It’s okay, Charles, gods—you’ve got one more push, you’re doing so well, the head’s already out, I’ve got you—” Erik rambles, clearly trying to sound less panicked than he is, and Charles gasps in as much air as he can before another cramp shoots through his body, making his back and stomach tense.

He huffs and strains, all his muscles working to get the kid out. Erik makes an uneasy noise, but all Charles can concentrate on is yelling through the long painful stretch and the sudden wet give, and when it’s over he can hear it, a riot of tiny angry bleats.

Charles slumps on his side, panting as he twists to see. The kid is wrapped up in a pelt already, and Erik’s holding on so gently. He looks as if he’s trying not to cry, and Charles wipes at his own face, watching as Erik cradles the youngling gently in the crook of one arm so he can slice through the cord with the knife he’d carved just for this day.

He can’t believe it.

“A faunling,” Erik says, passing the bundle over when Charles reaches for them. He doesn’t need to say, the position of the tiny horn-buds gives that away immediately, but—Charles beams, holding his little faun, laughing when they stop fussing the minute they’re near his chest.

“Welcome,” he whispers, kissing the still-wet crown of their head. The faunling blinks up at him, dark-eyed and adorably serious. Charles unwraps the fur a little now that the faunling is warm on his skin, to look at them properly.

He won’t know if the faun is a boy or a girl until it’s old enough to say, maybe two or three years from now. But they’re absolutely perfect, a beautiful little faunling with reddish-brown fur a few shades darker than his own, their hooves still white with the soft coverings of a newborn. Charles strokes a finger down the delicate downy fur of their spine to their tiny nub of a tail. Perfect, he thinks again. It’s unbelievable that something so perfect and complete—a faun!—came out of him, and he sighs with contentment as the faunling noses at his breast.

Now that the pains of labor have abated, he’s all too aware of how his teats ache. They feel full to bursting, agonizingly heavy. He’s glad—he does want his little one to have as much milk as he can make—but it’s a joyous release when the faunling finally bites down and starts feeding, bleating soft and quiet through their little nose as the thin first milk lets down. Charles bleats back, warm and utterly content, and when he feels Erik get close he bares his teeth lazily.

It’s a primal instinct, one that makes a lot more sense now that Charles actually knows what’s going on. Earlier when he pushed Erik off his breast, he’d been confused, but every faun knows how important it is to guard food for their younglings. Satyrs can be so greedy, they love nothing more than a faun dripping fertility and the taste of a bred faun’s milk, so it’s natural for a faun to fight off their mate after giving birth.

Erik raises his hands, and Charles frowns at him suspiciously. He feels a little guilty—Erik’s a doting mate, he probably just wants a closer look at their new youngling—but he can’t fight instinct.

“I’m not after that,” Erik promises. He moves cautiously, giving Charles time to react if he needs. Another cramp ripples through his stomach, and he winces.

Though he surely notices, Erik doesn’t try to reach out for him, wary of Charles’s new-dam instincts. “I still need to check for—see how you’re doing.”

It’s true, his stomach still looks rounded and firm enough for a second kid. Charles curls protectively around his nursing faunling and nods.

Kneeling behind him, Erik cups a hand over Charles’s belly, and pushes down, feeling out his womb. The pressure makes Charles wince as it sets off another sharp contraction.

Erik murmurs in apology.

“You’re going to have to start pushing again.”

Now that he’s done it once, Charles definitely doesn’t want to go through it again, especially not with a little one in his arms. He bleats with distress, and Erik knees back so he’s right between Charles’s legs again, kissing the inside of one wet thigh.

“It’ll be easier,” Erik swears, as if he knows anything about it. He licks at the tender over-stretched flesh of Charles’s cunt, soothing and gentle. “You did so well, just a few more good pushes.”

It feels shockingly good for Erik to be sucking at him right now, careless about the blood and mess of birth, and while his first-born is feeding. Charles groans and grinds down, blushing at how obscene this feels, only to cry out again when his womb cramps up.

These contractions do feel stronger, twice as intense. It doesn’t even feel like he needs to get up on his knees for this, it’s as if his whole body tensing along with his womb.

It goes that way, the older dams told him when he first started growing truly large. Nursing the first will help ease out the second and third, they said, and he nearly sobs at the thought he might have to do this yet again.

Erik sits up, supporting his upstretched thigh with one hand and encouraging him to bear down. He does, feeling at odds cradling his faunling so gently while every other part of his body is fighting and straining. It only takes two good pushes before Erik’s grinning, and saying “good, Charles, keep going,” and Charles sits up to watch over the swell of his stomach.

Between his legs, Erik’s cupping the head of his second youngling. Grinning through his exhausted tears, Charles gives it his all. He pushes with what strength he has left, and watches, sobbing as their kid is born into Erik’s hands.

Though this one’s slick with gore so it’s harder to tell the exact color, it’s pale-furred and has the whip-like tail of a tiny satyr. There’s no crying until Erik wraps them up in another soft pelt to rub the mess away, which makes the little thing scream out. Charles slumps back, far too tired to do anything more than reach vaguely for his satyrling.

Erik huffs, but he puts the little one right on Charles’s chest after he cuts the cord. Yawning, Charles relaxes into a haze as the satyrling starts to nurse, totally spent. Erik feels out his stomach again, but he doesn’t seem to find any kids, thank the gods. He settles behind Charles, his one hand staying cupped around Charles’s shrinking abdomen, humming quiet and sweet to his new family.

Charles dozes for a long while, lulled by Erik’s warmth against his back and his younglings sleeping against his skin. He nearly dozes through the smaller cramps of afterbirth and Erik carefully handling him when that's done, the gentle way he grooms his fur clean.

The den is warm and so peaceful after the commotion of labor. The twins nose at his skin, waking him for food, and he turns to get them comfortably supported on his chest. Belatedly, he notices the enticing smell of spices and Erik’s absence and the wooden cup at his side, refilled. Sprawled against the pillows, he waits for the twins to eat their fill before dealing with his own needs. The little ones are comfortably swaddled up on his lap when he bolts down the water, still parched from his long trial. Sniffing, he looks around the den. There’s still dried blood and slick on the furs beneath him, though it’s clear Erik’s tried to clean the worst of it. Over the fire, a pot is simmering, the scent of the meat strange but the herbs familiar and delicious. Erik’s nowhere to be seen, but Charles doubts he got far. He stays seated, admiring the tiny bundles on his lap, letting his stomach growl as he waits for Erik to return.

Predictably, he isn’t long. A few moments later, Erik enters the den, stomping the snow from his hooves. He’s got his bow and a fresh-killed winter goose, and he grins and all but runs to Charles’s side when he sees his mate awake.

“You look well,” Erik says, leaning in to kiss his cheek. Charles smiles and tilts his head to kiss Erik in return before admiring the goose.

“I’m feeling better,” he admits. “But look at you, that thing’s massive. Hunting for your younglings when they’re not off the breast?”

Erik noses at the base of one of his horns, scenting. “I’ve got to make sure their dam is fed, don’t I? Well enough to make plenty of—ow,” he yelps, pulling his hand back from Charles’s breast to rub at the bite on his shoulder.

“Behave yourself,” Charles warns. Erik looks suitably chagrined, at least, and Charles lets it go to glance over at the steaming pot. “Now, you were saying about feeding me up—”

Standing, Erik balances the goose over his arm so he can take the wooden cup from Charles. “Yes, my liege,” he says, walking back to the main part of the den. Quickly, he puts the goose aside and hangs up his bow, before refilling Charles’s water and ladling some of the stew into a rough-carved bowl.

Charles perks up, watching him approach with the food. It’s still curious, but he’s starving and it’s not like—

“Eat up, it’s special for you. It’ll get your strength back up, help with the milk.”

wait.

Charles stares down at the bowl, then back up at Erik’s face, frowning. He’s still got the twins cradled in his arms, he was about to hand them over to Erik to get some food down, but now that he’s realizing what it is he’s being fed he’s not so sure.

“Erik,” he says, glaring suspiciously at the offered food. There’s nothing overtly strange about it. It just looks like stew, chopped winter roots and small chunks of meat, but he’s had enough of an education in first-time birthing to know what’s in that mid-winter stew all satyrs wind up cooking for their tired mates. It doesn’t help at all, knowing all the older dams say it really is good for energy and bringing the milk in. “This isn’t what I think. Right?”

Erik gives him a look, like he’s confused as to why Charles is so unsettled.

“I don’t know, what do you think it is? Human? No such luck, it’s just the usual. Come on, eat up, you know it’ll make you feel better yet.”

Sighing, Charles balances the twins, wondering if he can get out of this somehow. Erik sets the bowl in front of him, and kneels to sit at his side.

The chunks in the stew look ominous.

“It came out of me!” he tries, desperately. Reaching over for the twins, Erik laughs. He’s very gentle, and they don’t wake as he cuddles them close.

“You’ve never had much problem with that where I’m concerned,” he says.

Huffing, Charles reluctantly picks up the bowl. “Don’t be obtuse. You know that’s different.” Getting marked or having Erik come on him, that’s one thing.

Eating his own afterbirth? His nose wrinkles, and he swats Erik away when he nuzzles his ear.

“Love, it’s not so bad.”

“You tried it?” he asks, raising an eyebrow. Traditionally, that’s not done. It’s forbidden, only to be eaten by the new dam, but—Charles can’t help feeling reassured by the hesitant shrug Erik gives him in return.

“How else would I season a meal,” he grumbles, and Charles grins. Out of everything he’d expected in his mate, there’s always a few surprises—how much pride he takes in cooking, or how sweet he looks, cradling their young.

“Well, then,” Charles says, picking up the bowl,  “to good health and family.”