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Translation of words/phrases in the Drow language are included in the footnotes.


"Che?" Drizzt's sudden, questioning call rang out across the clearing, and Cattie-brie jumped. Turning, she saw him at the corner of the house, ax resting atop his shoulder, eyebrow raised. "You're going out?"

It wasn't really a question, she thought, almost feeling Drizzt's eyes skimming over her attire—hooded brown cloak, quiver and bow over her shoulder, and a basket on her arm.

His gaze came to rest on her rounded belly, blooming with the promise of their unborn child. "What do you need? I'll fetch it for you."

Cattie-brie sighed and smiled a bit reluctantly as he started toward her. "I don't need anything, Drizzt. I just need to get out of the house." The bitterly cold winter had lingered longer than usual this year, and this was the first truly warm spring day. As the days drew nearer to when their child would be born, Drizzt had waited on her hand and foot, leaving next to no reason why she should even need to venture outdoors, let alone do any kind of work. Day by day it seemed the four walls of their modest home closed in on her until at last she could stand it no longer. "You know—to be outside in the fresh air. Feel the sun. Maybe collect some pussy willow branches to decorate the table." She blushed. Surely her last reason was silly.

Drizzt's nod seemed reluctant, but then he smiled and reached out with two fingers, caressing the warm spot on her cheekbone. "You have this glow about you today, ussta che."

Cattie-brie smiled too. She lifted a hand and gestured around her. "On a day like this, how could I not?" The song sparrows were chirping happy little tunes in the trees, the snow was all but melted save for a few stubborn drifts near the tree line, and a few blades of green grass were showing their colors, defiantly reclaiming the ground from the frost-killed browns and yellows that predominated nature's carpet beneath their feet.

Drizzt nodded. "It's a good day to be out. I'll come with you." He swung the ax down from his shoulder and leaned it against the house's stout log wall. "I've chopped enough wood for the next fortnight already, and the wood for the cradle is about dry. I'll start setting it together tomorrow."

The mention of the cradle brought a smile to Cattie-brie's face, but it soon vanished. "Actually, I think I'd like to walk alone today," she said carefully.

For a moment, Drizzt's eyebrows knit, and a slight frown creased his mouth. The next moment his expression was neutral, guarded. "I see."

Cattie-brie sighed. "Another time, absolutely. Today, I'd like to be alone."

Her husband nodded once. "I understand."

Was it her imagination, or was there pain in those two words?

"However ... I cannot allow it."

Her eyes widened. "Allow? Drizzt, why on Toril–"

"You know why."

Cattie-brie stared at him for a moment. He had interrupted her, which surprised her greatly. Perhaps she had hurt him. But still, not allow? She narrowed her eyes. "Yer jist sayin' that because I said I don't want ye to come along." As if from a distant place outside of herself, she heard the return of her dwarven accent, the tell-tale sign of her frustration, but this time she didn't care.

Drizzt crossed his arms, lavender eyes gleaming. "I'm saying that because it's dangerous, and you carry our child." He reached out to place a hand on her distended abdomen, but Cattie-brie took a step back.

"Bein' with child don't mean that I can't take care o' meself," she huffed, "and nor do it mean that you can suddenly become like Wulfgar and tell me what I can and cannot do!"

Drizzt's expression was incredulous and hurt at once, as though she'd suddenly struck him.

Cattie‑brie set her jaw. She turned away from him and stomped toward the forest path.

Drizzt caught her arm after only two steps.

"What?" she demanded. "Let go!"

He didn't. "There are more than just angry bears coming out of their dens this afternoon," he said.

Cattie-brie frowned. Was he comparing her to one? She tossed her hair over her shoulder and raised her chin. "I'll be fine," she said. "I have my bow."

"You do." He dropped his hand and sighed. "I'm just trying to protect you," he said more quietly.

"You don't need to," Cattie stated flatly. She walked away.

Drizzt sighed again and watched her go. He closed his eyes momentarily, pushing aside the torrent of emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. Cattie's comparing him to Wulfgar had stung him, deeply so, and he would not allow her comparison to be justified. And yet, something inside of him protested, there was almost no truth in the comparison. They had adventured together, even fought together, for years. And when they had wed, he had vowed to protect her. A vow he had often made to himself in his heart before. The adventures, the battles, the teamwork had continued. He had not made her become someone less than who she was. Deep down he hoped that she had even become something more. Certainly she had in his eyes.

And then they had learned of the child. Drizzt could scarce believe it with their mixed heritage. He had not allowed himself to hope. Even his tough Cattie-brie had wept tears of joy when the dwarven cleric had made her pronouncement, diagnosing his wife's nausea and fatigue as a new life growing within her. Another life Drizzt had silently vowed to protect. He shifted his feet in the muddy soil, staring long at the place where his partner had disappeared into the woods. Then he turned suddenly and hastened to the house where he belted on his scimitars with dexterous fingers. Spring was in the air, and the lean and hungry bears would be out of their dens in search of food, as would the trolls and yeti. Cattie-brie was a good shot with the bow, better than good, but he would never forgive himself if he didn't watch over her now, regardless of what she had said.

The ranger crossed the clearing with swift, sure strides and followed her trail.

A/N: More to come. All reviews appreciated.

Che = love. Used as a term of endearment.

ussta che = my love