In the last two days, I hadn’t been out of the room. I had barely been out of bed. I was bored out of my mind and whatever residual fear I was harbouring towards Bear had largely been replaced by irritation.
I was starting to feel like veal. I was kept in bed and food kept turning up every few hours. If Martin hadn’t found me some comedy books in the library, I wouldn’t have made it this long.
Things I had learned: The guards had a perfect view of the bed on their patrols. There weren’t any electric lights in the upstairs rooms, so part of why the doors were gone might have been for better light. Bear was still an asshole in that he was clearly working up to sleeping in the bed with me. I was trying to politely suggest that the bed was his and I would be happier sleeping on the floor. He was rather set in the idea that me sleeping on the floor was somewhat offensive to him.
I was currently on the bed with five sleeping little boys all crammed in around me. “This is ridiculous.”
That got the adults attention. I once again wished it was just Harry and Martin and not a collection of four large male orcs in the room with me.
“What is Kari?” Harry asked.
I looked down at Max. “Well, just that you have more kids in your room but the bigger bed is in here.”
Tyler snorted, “Make more kids for you.”
I felt sick and looked away.
That night when Bear was watching me eat supper I hesitantly suggested, “If we cleaned out the walk in closet, it’s big enough to be a nursery. The boys and I could sleep in there. It’s not like the clothes fit either of us anyway.”
Bear considered this for a moment. “Boys sleep there. Kari sleep here.”
I ignored that suggestion and was going to just let it drop.
Bear made a soft growl of frustration.
“I don’t like that the guards can stand in the hallway and watch me sleep. It feels too vulnerable. I’ve known you less than a week. You are scary and I am acutely aware that you can do whatever the hell you like to me. I know it’s a false sense of security, but I sleep better knowing you aren’t too close.”
He didn’t say anything to that.
Christopher had turned up after breakfast, plucked me out of the bed and carried me off without any explanation.
Bear had just let him.
I tried to find out what was going on, but when he didn’t answer me, I just wept. It was some sort of medical. I was stripped then measured, height, weight, the circumference of various body parts. Christopher ran his hands down my back seeming to count my ribs and backbones. He pulled out a fist full of swabs and swabbed my throat, my cheeks, each of my eyes. There were different swabs that went so far up my nose I coughed.
I was very afraid I was about to get a repeat of the pelvic exam, but at least that didn’t happen.
I was given a pair of hospital pajamas.
Then Christopher unwrapped the bandages on my feet. He had a good look at the soles, between my toes and at the healing blisters at where the boots had rubbed on the sides of my feet.
After that, he sat me on a bar stool, liberally smeared my feet in goop and handed me a book on fly fishing, before ignoring me to sew some orcs ear that had been partially bitten off.
As guy with the ear was treated, someone gave me another mug of protein shake.
When both were finished I asked, “Can I go back to Max now? Please?”
Christopher looked at me like he had forgotten I was there.
“You go when Bear come get you.”
That was ominous. “What if he doesn’t?”
Christopher just shrugged.
I spent the rest of the morning learning about how to tie flies. At least it wasn’t a book on tax code.
“When last bleed?”
That got my attention. “What?”
“When last bleed from legs?”
I frowned, “My feet haven’t been bleeding in days.”
Christopher frowned, pulled a medical book off one of his shelves, flipped through it and handed it to me open.
To a page about menstruation.
“Oh. Wow. That’s an awkward question.”
“I don’t know. It’s not like we have calendars in the camps.”
He had all of Cynthia’s paper work on me. Preg = 0 Birth = 0. “A couple of months after Max was born.”
“When milk comes?”
“Yeah. I guess. All of the women lost enough weight that no one is menstruating in the camp any more.”
He didn’t like that last bit, but he made a note about it anyway.
I went back to reading about best to tie flies that will catch fish anywhere in North America and wondering how many people got fish hooks in their fingers trying to make them.
“How often before?”
I looked back up to see him watching me. OK. Time to piss him off. They always got angry when we talked about before. “Before you came I was regular every 29 days.” Yeah, that made him curl up his lips in disgust. “Anything else?”
He narrowed his eyes at me. “How many men?”
“Is that a real question or are you just curious? Because the real question should be do I have any diseases and Cynthia already ran a boat load of tests for that.”
He didn’t ask again.
At lunch, we were each brought a bowl of thick stew. I got another cup of chalky goodness and Bear staring pointedly at me, waiting for me to finish.
When he came over to pick me up, I held up my hands. “Christopher let me walk to the bathroom by myself, so I must be cleared to walk, right?”
There was a rather heated discussion about that in a language I couldn’t understand. Then Bear rewrapped my feet and held out his hand. I wasn’t totally back to normal, but it was much improved. I was still going to need some shoes that actually fit.
Out of the room that had been set up as a doctors’ office, down the hall past the kitchen and up the grand staircase to the second floor. At first glance it looked like the bed was just gone. But once I was inside I realized the king sized bed was gone and a queen sized one had been set up so that it wasn’t as visible from the doorway. The large space where the bed had been was now set up a play space with some blocks and a wooden train set.
Max and the boys were sitting there rolling cars around the track. Someone had found one of those wooden train whistles.
“Aw! That’s nice.”
Bear pulled me to the former walk in closet, that had been stripped of shelves and now housed two toddler beds. It was a perfect little bedroom for the boys.
With no room for me unless I squeezed in with one of them.
My heart rate went up and I sat down on one of the beds. Bear sat on the floor and watched me.
“Listened,” he said softly.
“To most of it, yeah.”
“Yeah you are.”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see him shaking his head. “Not touch.”
I looked over and he held his hands up by his shoulder and pulled them away from me.
“Did Christopher really need to do all of that, or did you just scare the crap out of me to get me out of the room for this?”
He frowned, “Slowly, please.”
“Did Christopher need to do that?”
“What he do?” he didn’t sound pleased.
“Took away my clothes. Measured me, swabbed me. Asked about my sex life.”
Bear’s eyebrows went up at the last one. He cleared his throat, “Tell me?”
“I didn’t tell him, you don’t need to know either. I don’t want to know about yours. I don’t want to need to know about yours. I don’t want-”
“Me,” he finished.
“Anyone!” I snapped.
Fuck. That was the wrong thing to say. He actually perked up a bit at that.
He nodded, “Too small. Wait you bigger.”
I snorted, “I’m fully grown, Bear. I’m not getting any bigger.”
I swallowed, “Is that why Christopher was measuring me? To know when I’m bigger?”
“Do you have any idea how horrible that is?”
“Not bad. Take care. Werk on that.”
“It‘s a bit of an incentive to not eat though, isn’t it? If I know I’m getting raped when I fatten up a bit.”
“No. Kari eat. I not take. Wait til give.”
“You’re gonna be waiting a long time, Bear.”
He just shrugged, “I wait.” Then got up off the floor and left.
I sat in the nursery for a long while until Martin came to find me.
He sat next to me and said softly, “Bear said you asked for this.”
“I did… sort of.”
“We got the big bed. You talked about that, so I thought this was your idea.”
“Yeah. My version didn’t involve me bed sharing with him.”
Martin reached over and rubbed my back. “Kari? He hasn’t hurt you yet. He’s had lots on time. Maybe it’s going to be OK.”
“I hope so.”
Martin nodded, “Do you have any idea how scared we were when the soldiers came into the camp and took us to be ‘mothers’? I fought. We both fought! But all they did was give us our sons back.” Martin took a deep breath and blew it out. “OK, so co-parenting with a bunch of orcs wasn’t how I planned on raising my kids, but they genuinely want what’s best for the boys. I can’t imagine having Bear hurt you ever being seen as what’s best for Max.”
“Maybe,” I conceded.
We all had supper in the park that night. I will admit that when it was time to head back to the room, I needed his help. When it was time for bed, I got the bed. Bear took the floor. I slept with one eye open, but I had three years of practice to get good at that.