Annie was holding her baby to her chest when Dozer came into their small home. The walls on either side of her were decorated very differently. On her left, the walls were covered with hanging claws and fangs, the natural weapons of beasts that Dozer had crushed. There was even a long, thin scorpion stinger hanging up there, a testament to the variety of creatures that he had killed.
On the right wall were skulls. And each skull had a small crack, a hole, that had been pierced by an arrowhead. While they had been living. The number of skulls was almost double the number of sets of claws and fangs.
Dozer took one look at the stove, where a pot was already bubbling, and said, “You knew I was back.”
Simply nodding, Annie continued to poke her baby’s nose. Delilah seemed to be largely unable to feel it, and just sat there. It was amazing, the way the cartilage of the baby’s nose bent and reformed so easily under the pressure from Annie’s finger. It was still incredible to her that this thing came out of her. And she could easily tell that this little thing was a smashed up and ugly mix of the both of them.
‘Well,’ Annie thought to herself, ‘maybe the ugly part is just Dozer’s half…’
“Stop making that face, the baby isn’t that ugly,” Dozer said simply, going to the pot and picking up the bowl she had set out for him. Annie shot an annoyed glance at his back. This was an increasingly problematic pattern emerging in his behavior; Dozer was becoming almost impossibly good at sensing her emotions, just from looking at her.
It scared her a little. Because it made her feel exposed and out of control. But at the same time…
That’s why they were still together, wasn’t it? Because she loved it more than it scared her. And THAT was what truly made her afraid.
“How did you know?” Dozer asked again, his dark eyes turning to her. Annie grimaced, considering her options. Back in the day, she would have distracted them with sex, to keep him off this scent. Shake her ass or bend over in front of him. But now…
It did seem like her body, only two weeks after the birth, was quickly shedding the weight in everything but her boobs, so she would soon be back to fighting, and just as importantly seducing, shape. However, there was a… something about her now, a hesitation to view herself like that.
It was just hard to think of her body as simply a tool, when she had watched Delilah come from her, fully formed and perfect, if a bit ugly. She was… something absolutely amazing, in a way that the magic and wonder of the System couldn’t equal. This was true creation, and the System might manage it, but the human body was designed for this.
And it wasn’t as if telling him was that much of an issue, it was just…
Annie knew herself, and she knew that she had a tendency to end up with more jealous men. In her mind, it made them much easier to control. Not that Dozer had ever shown any of those habits, much to her surprise, but… she felt a strange reluctance, still. Because this really was intimate in a way that she could never describe to him, to feel the Ghosthound constantly, to feel his subtle influence on her, and know he could feel the same from her.
“...I can sense him.” Still, honesty was best. Annie stopped rocking the baby and stood, walking carefully over towards Dozer, watching him. The real tragedy, she supposed, was that while his ability to read her grew, her own to predict him had practically disappeared.
Dozer simply nodded and continued to eat, so Annie just found herself standing by his shoulder, unsure of what to do, and feeling slightly foolish.
“I… “ But before she could finish what she was saying, Annie looked sharply right. Was it relief that flooded her? Disappointment? A strange excitement? Ever since having the baby, emotions stopped having well defined edges. Instead, they mixed and were mashed together, a blob that resembled each other strongly. Regina said this would pass, but for now… it was incredibly annoying. “We have a guest.”
Dozer nodded, and got up and filled another bowl with the stew, of all things. Annie twisted her mouth and went to the door. When it opened, it revealed the Ghosthound, standing there with serious eyes.
“Mr. Randidly,” Annie said, with a small curtsey, forcing herself to use his name. It wouldn’t due for him to know that just like the rest of them in Donnyton, the reverence she had for him had changed her term of address to the Ghosthound in her mind. That was what he was to her, less a person, and more a force that sent that warm energy, that allowed her to improve so rapidly, even before she got a Class.
After blinking, the Ghosthound smiled. “...hey. I just felt….” he trailed off, and just walked past her into the room. She moved cleanly to the side, curious.
Dozer stood when the Ghosthound entered the room, giving him a short salute, but sat back down when the Ghosthound nodded to him. But the Ghosthound’s attention lay fixed elsewhere…
“You can feel it too, can’t you?” Annie asked softly. She felt Dozer still, looking over at them, wheels turning behind his dark eyes.
The Ghosthound nodded, reaching down with surprising delicacy, his hands hovering about the small baby, fast asleep on the cushion.
“You can pick her up, she sleeps through anything,” Dozer interjected, around a mouthful of stew. The Ghosthound looked up, making eye contact with Dozer. Something seemed to pass between them then, some hidden meaning that Annie couldn’t decipher in their glance. Then they looked away, at the same time, reinforcing the impression that something was going on there.
It made Annie slightly furious, especially because the Ghosthound ignored her question because of it. At the same moment she was thinking that, Dozer gave her a look, that instantly cooled her off and pissed her off more, because he knew EXACTLY where she was at, emotionally.
How the fuck did he do that?!
“Yea… I can feel it…” The Ghosthound said, picking up the child, cradling her carefully in his hands, moving her from one arm to the other. Then with his right hand, he pressed a finger to her nose, in a strange reflection of what Annie had been doing earlier. But whereas that had been a purely physical thing, Annie now felt a strange ripple travel through her, from the connection of energy Delilah had to her, and back through her…
...back to the Ghosthound. The Ghosthound hummed, frowning, as he examined the baby. With the same exaggerated care, he laid Delilah down on the cushion, and took a step back. After looking around, he walked over towards the table, and sat with Dozer, eating quietly. Both men said nothing, simply focusing on the food.
“This is pretty good.” The Ghosthound muttered.
Dozer grunted. “Time at home has forced her to grind Cooking.”
“Small blessings,” Annie said sarcastically, joining the two men at the table. It was a physically intimidating place to be, at the moment. Not only was her man about twice the size of a normal person these days, all rock solid muscle and callous, but the Ghosthound had a strange, athletic grace in the way he moved, that took up more space than he really should. And he was pretty tall and long limbed as well.
So Annie found herself squished at the side of the table, doing her best NOT to think of how the pregnancy had changed her body and made it more awkward, and how while these idiots were out training, she was forced to stay safe, away from danger. Which she understood, and she would never expose Delilah to danger, but…
She wanted to be out there. It was a thrill that before the System, she didn’t know she loved, but…
Almost unconsciously, her eyes rose and scanned the right wall, covered in skulls hit by her arrow. It was… exhilarating to say the least. And now…
While Annie’s thoughts turned morose, the two men finished their meals. Afterwards, the Ghosthound tapped his finger against the wooden table, clearly thinking. Then, with great care, he said, “She’s…. very beautiful. What’s her name?”
To Annie’s delight, even Dozer snorted when he called Delilah beautiful. Well it didn’t matter. There were much better things for a woman to be in this world then beautiful. Annie’s eyes drifted up to the skulls on the walls. “Her name is Delilah.”