“I won you this” Axel murmured softly as he held out a fluffy light brown teddy bear holding a pink heart.
“But you won” Kiimi sniffed fearfully as she shrank back confused and suspicious.
“For you. So you always remember that I love my little sister” Axel smiled broadly, shooting me a panicked glance as she burst into fits of sobs.
I smiled reassuringly as she hopped off my lap and hugged him tightly. Atani and Darrow frowned concerned as they came back carrying trays off food, relaxing slightly as they saw me relaxed despite Kiimi crying.
“What happened?” Atani fussed panicked
“I have big brother” Kiimi gasped between heartbroken sobs as she continued to cling to Axel as he hugged her protectively.
“And parents too. Prudey is like a daughter to us, just like you are too. We’ll always be here for you” Darrow stated proudly, thumping he chest in the dwarven sign of solidarity.
Kiimi stared at them surprised, glancing to me frightened.
“It’s true Kiimi-cub. We’re a family” I smiled reassuringly as I grasped Darrow’s hand warmly, Atani sniffing at relieved tears.
Kiimi suddenly flung herself at Atani, desperate for motherly affection. Atani laughed warmly, wiping at tears as she pulled her up onto her lap and began rocking her tenderly just like I always did. I was relieved when Kiimi took the sweet pastry Darrow offered, only flinching a little bit as I passed one to Axel. Despite how my heart still raced, I found myself feeling safe and happy for the first time in years. And yet I couldn’t shake the niggling feeling that things were just beginning and that more was waiting just round the bend. Like a storm waiting to break.