Story Thirteen - Catatonic
"A mission?" Regris's tail swished against the floor. "When and how long?"
"In a quintant and it's for a couple of movements," Antok replied, his claws itching to pull his son into his arms. "The information is crucial to our cause. I thought you should know, but at least you will have the rest of the pack. Then, you and I will spend time together when I get back."
"And you'll stay safe?"
Antok couldn't take it any longer. He swept Regris into his arms and wrapped his tail around his waist. Regris whimpered. "I'm going to miss you. I shouldn't be this much of a wreck, but I am."
Antok rumbled and scooped up his kit. He carried him to the familial nest, where Krolia was waiting. It was like she knew that Regris was going to be an emotional wreck when he received the news. She reached out her arms for him, and he slipped out of his Dad's arms and into his mom's. He snuggled against her with a whine. She rumbled to him, easing his distress. Regris fell into an uneasy sleep, allowing Antok to leave but not without a measure of guilt for causing his kit distress. He hadn't been away from his kit for any long length of time. The longest was a quintant, but this was two movements. He just hoped these next two movements would fly by.
It had been a movement since Antok had left on his mission. The entire pack ended up sleeping together after a couple of quintants, trying to ease the pain the absence of the largest of their pack caused.
However, after the fifth quintant, Regris had a nightmare that Antok got caught and was being tortured like he had been. The nightmare left the eldest kit almost catatonic. He barely reacted to
anything and only ate and drank if his mother forced him to. His lethargy worried his family, especially his siblings. In fact, his siblings decided to talk to their mom.
"Mom, is it possible to contact Antok while he's on his mission?" Lotor asked.
"I'm afraid not, kit."
"Is Regris going to be okay?" Acxa questioned, little tears pricking the corners of her eyes, which were mirrored in her twin's.
Krolia purred to not just her twins, but all four of the gathered kits. "He will be. We just have to keep on eye on him and make sure he doesn't neglect himself."
"What can we do?" Keith inquired.
"Just keep up with what you've been doing. Maybe he'll surface from this depression he's sunk in to."
"Regris, do you wanna go play?" Keith asked.
Regris barely registered that his youngest brother asked him a question. Keith couldn't stand seeing his eldest brother so empathetic towards almost everything. He whined at Regris's lack of a response, tears slipping down his cheeks.
Strangely, Regris's head shot up at Keith's whine. "Keith?"
Keith looked at his brother, whose voice he hadn't heard in a couple of quintants. Seeing his brother looking at him caused Keith to tuck himself against his brother, unable to stop his tears.
Regris wrapped his tail around one of Keith's legs, not sure what had upset his youngest brother. He tried to think of what had happened over the past two quintants, but, for some reason, it was all a blur. He carded his claws through Keith's hair, trying to calm him.
Fortunately, it was near dinnertime, and Krolia was on her way to the nest with some food and drink for her eldest, hoping to be able to entice him to eat and drink. She entered the nest room and almost dropped the tray she carried. However, she was able to set the tray down before she entered the nest. She rumbled to her eldest and youngest kits, trying to figure out what happened.
Regris looked up at his mom. "I don't know what happened. He whined and then started crying."
Krolia slid Keith onto her lap, grooming his hair. It didn't take too long before Keith calmed down. Krolia nosed her youngest's temple. "Keith? What happened, kit?"
"Regris hadn't reacted to me, and I couldn't stand it anymore."
Regris let out a confused chirp. He couldn't remember the past two quintants. Krolia smiled at her eldest. "You have been near catatonic for the past two quintants. This is the first time you have responded to any of your siblings during that time."
Regris couldn't believe it, but his mom wouldn't lie to him, not about something like that. He came closer and nuzzled his brother. "I'm sorry, Keith. I just couldn't handle Dad being gone. I just wish he was back already."
"I know, Regris, but you're not alone. Your whole pack is with you."
Krolia watched as her two kits tried to comfort one another and nodded to herself. She snagged her data pad and sent a message to the rest of the adults in her pack, which read 'Dinner in the nest. Please bring a plate for me and Keith.'
Setting her data pad aside, she dragged her two kits closer to her and tucked them against her side, purring to them as they waited for the rest of the pack to join them. It didn't take long before the door to the nest room opened and her other three kits crowded around their siblings, overjoyed that their eldest brother seemed to be okay. Thace handed her a plate before settling down himself, Ulaz doing the same for Keith. They all ate in silence, just enjoying each other's company.
When dinner was done, Krolia tugged Regris and Keith back against her, one on each side. Grooming Regris's headfur, she said between licks, "It might be a good idea for at least you two to go to bed early."
"Will you stay, Mom?" Regris asked, his purr coming through.
"Of course, my kit. I'll always be here for you." Krolia continued grooming her eldest kit's headfur as he and his brother fell asleep.
It was the most vivid dream Regris had had since his childhood torture nightmares ended. He dreamed that Antok was back and was curled around him. He could feel his tail around his waist and his body heat against his back. He purred in his sleep, unaware at that moment that it was no dream. His dad had finished his mission early and returned home to his son.