This was a scene I wrote for the novel Veggie Burgers to Go before I wrote the actual novel.
A really random idea came to me, and I blurted it out before I could stop myself. “What if we had a child?”
“Werewolves have some magic, but not that much,” he said in a teasing tone.
I swatted his leg. “I’m serious. We could adopt, maybe. Or even have a surrogate mother.” One of my former lover Jerry’s friends had done that with his partner. They’d become the parents of a baby girl carried by one of the partner’s cousins.
“Kyle.” Tobias took my hand and brought it to his cheek. “I love you, and if we had children it would be wonderful. But you may have noticed that there are no children in the pack?”
“Yeah.” The fact hadn’t really registered on me until now. In our pack, we had only the eleven adults. I wasn’t very familiar with any other packs, but I didn’t recall seeing any kids hanging around during the times I’d visited City Pack territory.
“Female shifters can’t bear children.” Tobias lay beside me, still holding my hand against his face. “They can become pregnant. If anything, I think shifters are more fertile than regular humans. But the fetus can’t survive the shifting.” He paused and swallowed hard. “Except once, that I know of. One of the women in my first pack became pregnant and managed to carry the child almost to term.”
He shuddered, which gave me a pretty big clue that things hadn’t been quite right with that baby. “What happened?”
“The baby—it looked like it had been crushed. I don’t know how else to describe it.” He closed his eyes, then shook his head and opened them again. “Everything was shaped wrong. It couldn’t even suck, because its mouth wasn’t formed correctly. The doctors told Sheila and her mate that even if the baby survived, it would never have any kind of life. For a few days, they kept it on IV feedings, then Sheila and her mate decided to end the feedings. They didn’t want their child to suffer. It died the day the IV came out.”
I didn’t even want to think about what the child might have looked like. The revulsion on Tobias’s face was enough for me. The way he’d told his story irked me, though. “Was the baby a boy or girl?”
“You kept saying ‘it.’ Whatever the child looked like, and whether he survived or not, he was still a living being.” I didn’t know why Tobias’s use of “it” bothered me so much. Referring to a baby with a pronoun generally reserved for things just seemed wrong.
“You’re right,” he said quietly. “He. They named him Joshua. Joshua only lived four days. He was born four weeks early. That’s the only case I know where a shifter’s baby has survived long enough to be born at all. Usually pregnant females miscarry during or immediately after their first shift.”
“That’s awful.” It explained why there didn’t seem to be any children among the packs. I could only imagine how hard it was for the women to know they would never have children. “I didn’t mean we should use a werewolf as a surrogate. I meant a human woman.”
“You don’t understand.” He looked into my eyes, and his brown eyes were wet. “There are no shifter babies. Males have impregnated human females before, and the babies have lived and grown up. They’re always human. I don’t know why. I guess whatever causes us to be shifters isn’t carried in the genes.”
“We could raise a human child,” I argued.
He shook his head. “It wouldn’t be safe, Kyle. Remember what I told you when we first got together?”
I remembered all too well. He’d tried to talk me out of becoming his lover because other packs might see it as a sign of weakness on his part, and because they might harm me to get to him.
The same thing they might do if we had a child.
“We could keep him or her safe somehow. Have guards or something.” I had no idea why it had suddenly become so important to me to have a child with Tobias, but something inside me wanted it so desperately I was almost in tears.
“And what if one of the pack accidentally attacked him or her in shifted form?” Tobias said. “God, Kyle, what if you or I did? There’s no way to keep a child safe among a pack of werewolves. The males who have children either leave the pack to stay with the children’s mothers, or leave the mothers to stay with the pack. The kids don’t live with the pack. Ever.”
I pulled my hand free of his and turned away from him. Kids had never been high on my priority list. I’d even laughed at Jerry’s friends when they’d had their daughter. I tolerated children, but I hadn’t been a big fan of them.
Now, after spending the day playing with my nieces and nephew, I wanted a child. I wanted to build a family with the man I loved. The impulse made no sense to me at all, but I desperately wanted it.
And it would never happen.