23. Flowers

How could he?

Mallory found herself accidentally ripping the fabric in her aggravation, instead of her nimble fingers slipping between the threads to coax them apart. Dethreading like this was the best way to get workable string, that wasn’t too thick for their delicate skin. Coarse fabric might be fine for humans, with their impervious skin, but it would chafe a person Mallory’s size.

Walt had the audacity to tell her that she needed to stay in the house. As though he couldn’t stay home for once and watch their toddling daughter, only just now taking her first steps.

Bree sat to the side on the floor, enthralled with the fabric toy Mallory had made for her. She hefted it up with a quiet squeal of enjoyment, her mouth widening in a toothy grin. She already had all her front teeth, and the back ones were starting to peek out.

It wasn’t that Mallory didn’t love spending time at home with her daughter. It was the fact that Walt always wanted to keep her inside. He never brought home the right colors for fabric, and she just wanted a chance to go out searching for herself. She could always just leave one night, she supposed, but that wasn’t fair to anyone. At least she knew that Walt was going to be out. He would fret if she vanished, but they couldn’t leave their daughter alone to search.

A scraping sound came from the entrance to their small home under the floorboards, and Mallory glanced up. Walt could be seen coming in with a sheepish look on his face. His hands were tucked behind his back.

Mallory stuck her nose up and turned back to her fabric.

She did her best to ignore him as he came over to her, one hand gently stroking down her back. He gave her neck a kiss, and she tried to squirm away, refusing to let him win his way back so easily.

“I thought things over,” Walt whispered, and that caught her attention. His voice was truly contrite.

She turned to him to grace him with a raised eyebrow and a severe look on her face.

Walt knelt down, his right hand still behind his back. “I talked to Katrine,” he said honestly, but continued before she could berate him for going to her best friend behind her back. “She is going to watch Bree for us tomorrow, so we can go out.” He gave her a hesitant, hopeful smile, pulling his hand from behind his back to reveal a purple snapdragon.

Mallory gasped in surprise as her hands flew to her mouth. The scent that washed over her meant it was a real flower, carefully gathered from outside where the motel they made their home in planted its gardens.

She took it carefully, stroking the soft surface of the flower petal.

“I don’t want to keep you locked up inside,” Walt said, his blue eyes full of remorse. “I just don’t want the humans finding you. You don’t even have a way to defend yourself! I need you – we need you. So… I’m sorry?”

Mallory sighed, and wrapped her arms around him to forgive him. She planted a soft kiss on his lips before nuzzling into the crook of his neck. “So where are we going while Kat watches Bree?” she asked, a pleased smile on her face.

Walt put two hands on her shoulders, pushing her away so they could look into each other’s eyes. “I was thinking we could spend some time under the overhang,” he said, his eyes glittering with mischief.

The overhang was one of three places in the motel that they could actually sit outside and watch the world pass them by. Fresh air, the wind on their faces, and enough cover to keep out of sight of any birds of prey that might hover around. Too high up for the humans on the ground to see them. There was another place Walt knew of, one he hadn’t shown her, that he used for his leatherwork. He would stretch out the hides of any rats he found and killed in the motel and leave them to tan.

They’d lived there since before it was a motel, back when Trails West was simply a bed and breakfast. Walt knew the layout of the place better than anyone alive, better than even the humans. He knew where to tap into the water so no one would notice, he knew (and had built, as the humans built) many ways in and out of the rooms near where they lived.

“That sounds wonderful,” Mallory said, leaning her head against his chest and listening to his heart beat. It helped calm her, and took away the rest of her anger from earlier.

Bree giggled over in her place on the floor, and tossed her fabric up.

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