Smurfs Forever Chapter 17: Loss
Vexy pushed open the doors of the mess hall. Blacksmith was on her heels. They were greeted with the usual place settings and tables full of food. “Huh. Well, at least we’ll get to eat.”
Fryer peeked out of the kitchen. He pushed all the way through the doors with Chef and Baker right behind him. “Mais, I knew I smurfed talkin. Cho! Where is everysmurf?”
“Everyone’s out looking for Grouchy.” Vexy wasn’t that surprised that the kitchen crowd had been left in the dark. Sometimes smurfs seemed to get blinders on tasks. “The stork that delivered Baby came back. It had a letter that demanded we return her, so Grouchy kidnapped her and ran off into the forest. Papa wanted everyone to help look.”
There was a moment of stunned silence before the cajun smurf blurted “Dit mon la verite’! Smurf me da truf!”
“It is unfortunately truth.” Blacksmith rumbled.
“So we are essere del gato.” Chef scowled as he pulled off his cooking apron. “This smurfs of nothing but trouble. And the food will get cold!”
“So we’re smurfing to help look then?” Baker asked, doffing his oven mitts.
Vexy smiled slyly. “You could. Or you could protest and have a nice quiet lunch with me and Blacky here.”
The three culinary males looked surprised before having mixed reactions. Fryer laughed. “Cho! Dat sounds smurfy chere.”
Chef scowled first at the female then at the frycook. “It is unsmurfy to go against Papa’s wishes.”
Baker looked apprehensive, but nodded along with the head of the kitchen. “We should smurf as he asks, Vexy.”
The former naughtie shrugged. “I’m not your boss. But you’re not mine. Last I checked we’re all adults here. So I’m staying.”
Fryer smacked his fist into his hand. “For true dat’s what I’m gonna smurf!”
Chef shook his head and motioned for Baker to follow him. The bread maker glanced back at them as the pair pushed open the double doors. The three smurfs sat at a table. They served themselves and the clink of cutlery on porcelain echoed.
“Seems eerie, to be smurfing meal in such quiet.” The metalworker observed.
“He-he! Dat’s what it’s like to smurf around ‘ere after de odder smurfs leave.” Fryer commented with a shrug. There were many times he’d eaten in an empty hall.
The doors swung open and Alchemist took three steps into the mess hall before stopping. The potion maker looked around, perplexed. “The one day I resmurf to eat lunch… Where is everysmurf?"
Before Vexy could launch into a repeat telling of current events, Greedy burst through the doors and almost hit the potioneer. His brilliant grin faltered just before Medic ran into him, giggling. The two lovers took stock of the nearly empty room.
“Gre-gre! Dere you are!” Fryer called out happily. “Cho-ee! Deys some bad bad smurfs afoot, for true! Smurf down you tree an’ we smurf you in."
It fell to Vexy to recount what happened. “The stork that delivered Baby came back with a letter that said there was a mistake and we have to give her back. Papa wants to give her up, so Grouchy took her into the forest.”
“Frost and fire! That's insane!” The former dryad said angrily. “Is that how things're done 'round here?!”
The black haired female arched a brow at the males. Medic caught on and looked at them expectantly.
“Truf is, we don't know oursmurfs.” Fryer explained. “Dere was dat time de stork lost one, but dis is de first time one got smurfed back, yeah?”
“Well what do yer history books say?” The healer asked.
“We do not have history books. Our people were smurfed down to Papa’s parents from what he has smurfed us. From all he knows. It is mystery I would be liking to solve.” Stared hard at his bread before regarding the females. “But I do not have any clue how to smurf it or where to begin.”
Vexy waved her hand at the door. “So why didn't anyone chase the stork back? Or send a l--”
The doors swung open wide and Vanity strolled into the hall leading his smurffriend and Sassette. “And that darling, is how to smurf an entrance.”
Mirror waved at the seated smurfs. “Look! We have more smurfs for the tea party."
The redheaded smurfling skipped along with her sitters. Her hair was braided and damp and her clothes were spotless. “I thought all the other smurfs were out in the forest.”
Vexy smirked. “We don't think it's right. So we're not looking.” She glanced at Greedy, Medic, and Alchemist to make sure she was speaking for all of them. The two males nodded.
“Dang right.” The healer added with conviction.
The smurfling gasped. “See! It wasn't just you two!”
The identical smurfs exchanged smug glances. Vanity pulled out a chair for the smurfling. “Farmer wanted to help search, so we volunteered to smurf an eye on Sassette. Now darling, sit. A gentlesmurf holds a chair out for a Smurfette.”
“Mais, de time we lost de smurfling, dat stork smurfed a week. You tink Grouchy prepared to smurf dat long?” Fryer passed the basket of bread to the redhead.
“Probably not.” Mirror frowned with a familiar moue of distaste. “We might need to smurf looking for him to give him necessities.”
“Maybe we could get onna them birds ready ta follow that stork out too. We follow it back ta wherever and ask what's going on. Where ya’ll 're from.” Medic picked up her cup and drank.
Sassette piped up. “Why don't we just go ask Mother Nature? Farmer said she lives close by.”
The males paused their actions and looked at the smurfling in surprise. Blacksmith slammed his fist on the table and the others jumped. “Is smurfy idea!”
“Let's go after we eat!” Greedy suggested.
“Dat reminds me Gre-gre. You smurfed breakfast!” Fryer leaned towards his friend. The plump smurf colored and spread jam on his bread.
Medic grinned mischievously. “We were workin up an appetite.”
Alchemist laughed. Around him the other adults caught on.
The dapper smurf gasped. “Now none of that!”
Mirror dabbed at the corners of his mouth and cut off Sassette with a cookie. “Perhaps we should smurf out what we’ll ask Mother Nature.”
“And who she is.” Vexy added.
The group left the mess hall and headed into the forest. Both Fryer and Blacksmith knew the whereabouts of the immortal and led the way. It was a half-hour hike into the deepest part of the forest.
Mother Nature's house seemed to breathe like a living thing. The former naughtie broke away from the others to knock. She used the heel of her fist to make the loudest sound she could. After the smurfette lost patience she knocked again.
“I don't smurf she's home.” Alchemist shook his head. He pointed to a window slightly ajar. “Let's go smurf her a note.”
The house was sloped and covered with moss and clover. The smurfs easily scaled the greenery to the sill. Vexy pushed the window further open. They spotted and headed for a writing desk. The former naughtie jumped from the floor to the chair then to the desk. Alchemist and Blacksmith helped with the inkwell. Mirror, Sassette, Medic, and Greedy held down the paper as Vexy penned the note.
To Mother Nature,
We have some urgent questions that need answered and may help us solve a mystery. We would love to speak with you at your earliest convenience.
The group weighed the page down with a decorative stone. Vanity hummed his approval. “To the point but it smurfs one’s interest. Where did you learn to smurf so cordially?”
“I did most of Gargamel's business correspondence before he got a secretary.” The black haired female shrugged. “I got pretty good at politely telling people to take a hike too.”
The group left the way they’d came and hiked back to the village.
Grouchy awoke to whimpering sometime in the night. Half asleep, he sat up and groped for the smurfberries. In the waning half moonlight he saw a shadow above the little bed of grasses.
A shadow that was many times larger than him.
A shadow that was lifting up with Baby.
He was on his feet with a stick in hand before his mind caught up to what was happening. It was a large grey wolf. It held baby gently between her teeth by the smurfling’s diaper. Baby made an annoyed sound.
But the wolf’s tail wagged. The canine didn’t quite bark, letting out a low ‘buuf’ as if in greeting.
Grouchy squinted in the dark. It was a she-wolf, her underline was swollen with milk. Then he noticed the patch of baldness around her left leg just above the paw. It was a female wolf that Natural had rescued and had spent three seasons just outside the village. She -what was her name, something fang according to Nat- had almost lost that paw after it had been caught in an iron trap. He dropped the stick. “I don’t resmurf your name, but I remember you.”
The she-wolf wagged her tail again then took a few steps towards the deadfall. She stopped and looked pointedly at the smurf. The grump got the picture and trotted after her. She led him into the tangle of branches and logs where she’d made a good den for her three pups. The wolf settled down and put a whimpering baby next to her own squirming, whimpering babies. Led by instinct, the four little ones each made their way to a teat and started to suckle.
The smurf looked gratefully at the canine. “Thank you.” He followed up with a scratch behind the ear that he recalled she --Smallfang!-- liked.
Smallfang trapped him between her paws and licked his face before squashing him under her chin. The grump protested and struggled before he found a comfortable position where he could see Baby. He watched the child drink her fill and curl up into a small dogpile.
He wasn’t sure when he fell asleep. The ornery smurf awoke sometime in the night to the pups eating. Baby was awake but seemed more interested in one of the pup’s tails, holding it firmly in her little fist. He picked himself up and took the smurfling into his arms. They lay back against their furry friend and drifted off into slumber again.
The two smurfs woke up at intervals but slept in late. Grouchy’s stomach growled, reminding him he hadn't eaten since breakfast the previous morning. He ate a few smurfberries to calm his stomach. The grump considered his situation. They had a good shelter, plenty of water, and he even had a little bit of help and company. Food and keeping an eye out for other smurfs seemed to be their only concern.
He watched Baby slowly elbow crawl after a pup. Was it just a day or two ago that the smurfling couldn't crawl at all? He smiled, pride for the little smurfette welling up in his chest. The ornery smurf lay belly down a few paces away from the child and caught her attention. She redoubled her efforts, reaching him with a happy gurgle. The smurf laughed and picked her up, rolling over onto his back to play stork again.
She babbled excitedly then drooled right in his eye.
Grouchy made a sound halfway between a laugh and a disgusted groan. He had to lay the smurfling down to rub his eye clear. He laughed. “At least nosmurf was around to see that.”
The smurf spent the next few hours both caring for the child between feedings and making a better basket. On a whim he made a simple sling to tuck under baby which he hoped would help. Once he felt ready, he gathered the child, bag, and basket up and headed out across the log to forage.
Baby quickly fell asleep, slumping against him. The sling took most of her weight and he only had to hold her steady. If he added another strand of grass to the sling he could actually free up both arms. He told himself he’d do it once they got back to the den. The smurf kept an ear out for footfalls and hid twice from bird shadows.
He worked to fill the basket with smurfberries. Baby woke up before he was done and began making faces of concentration. The ornery smurf made a face of his own. He knew what that look meant. Another smelly didey change. He pulled down a leaf and lay Baby down, pulling out the needed items while the child finished. Once she had a fresh didey on, he rolled up the used one in the leaf. He’d have to wash their clothes today.
He looked at the sky to gage the time and realized the sun had been covered by clouds. Dark clouds. “Smurf it all, not rain.” He groaned.
With an urgency he filled his basket. Fat droplets began hitting the ground as he finished. The smurf plucked leaves to protect them from the water and hurried back to the den. It was a downpour by the time they reached the shelter of the deadfall.
Grouchy ran into the den, dripping wet. He checked the smurfling over and found her mostly in the same state. He sat his gear down and changed the baby again. Then dirty clothes were piled up as he prepared to go wash them. “Stay here with Smallfang, Baby. I’ll just smurf outside for a bit.”
It was miserable weather to scrub clothes. He couldn’t get any more soaked if he jumped into the river along with the laundry. The smurf finished with the chore and wrung the clothes out as best he could. Carrying them into the den on a leaf, he draped them over a few small twigs where he hoped they’d dry. After wringing out his hat, the grump put his hands on his hips and smirked. Not bad for a half day’s work.
He watched Baby nursing again. Now if only the stork would leave. But the smurf felt as though things would turn out smurfy in the end.
Azzy lost the preoccupation with Gargamel’s death as she crept slowly towards a rabbit. It hopped and turned, chewing on grass as it watched her warily. It struck her again just how trusting animals were of smurfs. She grinned toothily.
At the edge of the clearing, Hunter gripped his bow. “She's not. Surely she’s not smurfing to…”
Tracker cringed. “Probably.” But the woodsmurf smelled rain. This was the last hunt. They watched the former feline pounce and stab the rabbit. It let out a squeal of pain and rolled along the ground. Worried about the redhead he bolted from their hiding place and raced to the thrashing rodent. When he got there he found the his mate struggling to get the dying rabbit off of her.
She looked at him, exhilarated. It took Hunter coming over and helping the woodsmurf to get the animal off the former feline. Once she got up, the smurfette grabbed tracker into a hug and growled.
“I could just…” She said, trailing off and finishing her sentence with a searing kiss.
From the way she kissed him, Tracker began to feel the urge too. With a significant amount of effort, he pulled back. “We have to wait. The rabbit.”
There were a lot of reasons to keep their focus. The rabbit was only the most pressing. For a moment the female looked like she was going to kiss him again.
Azzy huffed and turned to gaze proudly at her kill. She had several scrapes and probably some bruises from the tussle but the smurfette was exhilarated. She threw her arms out wide. “Just look at it!”
“We are smurfing at it.” Hunter said with amusement. “It may be better to cook it now, rabbit is a very smurfticular meat.”
Tracker nodded, trying to switch his mind back out of spring fever mode. He dug into his backpack to get his knife. “Let’s start skinning, then we can smurf the fire."
“Ja Ven.” Hunter answered cheerfully. Both smurfs walked Azzy through the process. She’d seen the process before when Tracker took the hide from the stoat, though due to the size of the rabbit it was too much for a single smurf to handle. She was happy to help cut the meat. Her cuts were a bit messy but she was able to keep the heart for herself.
The trio moved the cuts away from the carcass and into the woods. Tracker nodded at the small stack of leaf wrapped meat. “Now we start smurfing a fire pit and gather wood.”
“Take the pit, Ven. We will smurf the wood.” Hunter motioned for Azzy to follow him. The former feline raised an eyebrow but followed out of curiosity. Almost immediately the male began to gather sticks.
The archer had an armful before he spoke his mind. “I must smurf you a question, Dame. If Gargamel had not been smurfed, and smurfed you to join him… who would you choose, Tracker or the human?”
The smurfette snorted. “Probably join Gargamel under the condition I could keep Tracker safe.” Then she’d get to have both, of course.
Hunter looked at her skeptically. “You realize Tracker would not smurf for that? The rest of us would still be in danger. Ven would not abandon his family so easily.”
“Then that makes two of us.” Azzy snapped as she picked up a stick. Then she realized what she’d said. “He was family.” She murmured, surprised. That was why she’d gotten so upset.
The bowmurf saw the female’s expression turn to melancholy. “I did not mean to upset you, Dame. I wanted to smurf out your intentions. Tracker is my closest brother, my Ven ...my best friend. I do not wish for him to be hurt.” He explained quietly.
“I liked things better when I could just live for now.” The former feline grouched. “I’m not trying to hurt him. But I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
“That is smurfy enough.” Hunter smiled. He lapsed into silence as he gathered wood. Azzy was thankful that the smurf didn't continue asking difficult questions.
Tracker looked at the pair as they returned. He’d cleared a large area and lined a circle within with rocks. Together they carefully lay the wood to build a cone. The smallest twigs were in the center and the largest sticks made up the outer wall. Nestled in the center were dry grasses, the starter. It took Tracker a few strikes of steel on Flint to get the fire started.
Once the flames had caught onto the wood, the trio started cooking the meat. Tracker eyed the sky warily. “I hope we can smurf everything before the rain starts."
Huntress tilted her head. “What about instead of one circle we made a line?” She swept her hand out from the fire. “It’d take more wood but we could put a lot more meat to the flame that way.”
Hunter raised a brow. “That is a smurftastic idea. Let’s get smurfing!”
The former feline preened. She strutted towards a bush to gather more wood. “That’s me, Azzy the problem solver.”
It was simple work to use a stick to move the rocks and add more into a long column, then build the fire across. The plan worked. By the time the droplets began to sizzle as they struck the fire all the rabbit had been wrapped and packaged into three large packs.
“We’ll travel until nightfall. It’s going to smurf a wet time.” Tracker held a leaf over his and Azzy’s heads with the help of his stick. He glanced at the redhead. She looked miserable. It couldn’t be helped.
The wind picked up shortly before nightfall, tossing rain at all angles and soaking them through. Using hand signals, the two males decided to seek out one of the local caves for the night. Hunter led them uphill, knowing the heavy rain could easily flood out lower areas. Their shelter for the night was a small cave that was shallow enough to be just out of the rain in the back. It was good, there wouldn’t be any animals coming out in the night or early morning to surprise them.
The pair of males took out dry clothes. The bowsmurf colored when he realized Tracker handed the smurfette his second pair of dry leggings. He spun in place, facing away from the female who’d already been peeling off her top. “Ah! We should… should probably smurf around.”
The redhead rolled her eyes but turned around. “I’ve never understood that weirdness about clothes or no clothes.”
Tracker chuckled, moving between the two. He’d dressed and undressed in front of them both and did so then. “It’s more of something most like to smurf private, Azzy."
“It is an intimate thing to smurf. I’ve only just met you, Dame.” He peeled off his own wet clothes and pulled on the dry ones as fast as he could.
“Hm. Well you might have to get used to it. I don’t have a top.” The former feline grouched. “And I’m not keeping this wet thing on. It’s bad enough I have to show my belly off to everything I walk towards and get that annoying breeze. I’m not staying wet.”
Hunter tried to will the heat away from his cheeks. He had an idea and scooped up his pack, pulling out another set of pants and holding them out. “Would these smurf in place of a top? They could be tied up, perhaps.”
“Smurfy idea, old boy!” The woodsmurf praised as he took the offered garment and helped his mate get more comfortable. They ate and settled down into a deep rain induced sleep.
The morning dawned still raining and the trio packed up and started out again. They made it to the village by midday. Tracker frowned as they approached. “There’s a lot of smurfs about in the rain.”
Hunter looked and raised a brow. “Very odd. Something must be smurfening."
Curiosity and concern hastened their steps until they were hustling across the bridge. It took only a moment for smurfs to recognize the hunting party. Shouts of “Tracker! It’s Tracker!” seemed to echo as they ran to him.
The crowd all spoke at once, a garbled message with the words looking, Grouchy, and Baby being the most common words. Tracker tried to make sense of it but the panicked smurfs were shouting over one another. The woodsmurf waved his hands. “One smurf at a time!”
The din continued until both Hunter whistled and Azzy roared “Shut up!” at the same time.
“Grouchy’s smurfed off into the forest with Baby!” Farmer shouted after the others fell silent. Immediately the smurfs started talking at once again.
Tracker’s brow furrowed. A search and possible rescue then. All business, he shouldered off his pack and started untying the package of rabbit. Hunter took the meat with a nod and then looked surprised when the redhead sat her package at his feet.
“Right. On it!” The woodsmurf shouted. With that most of the smurfs quieted. He motioned to the agricultural smurf and headed off in the direction of his house. “Farmer, fill me in while I smurf ready.”
“While we get ready.” Huntress kept pace with them. She grinned at her mate then preened at his pleased expression.
“The stork who smurfed Baby to us came back with a letter that smurfed there was a mistake. We have to smurf her back to them, but Grouchy ran off with Baby into the forest.” Farmer stopped alongside the bloodhound smurf as he stumbled and turned.
Tracker stared with his mouth agape. “...Did I smurf you correctly? We’re to return the smurfling?”
Farmer looked sadly at the ground and nodded. “Unfortunately.”
“Did the mother want her back or something? How does that stork thing even work?” Azzy looked back and forth between the two males.
The woodsmurf took a breath and tried to reorder his thoughts. The anger that was rising against the unfairness of the situation had to be put aside. “I don’t think anysmurf knows. We just get a smurfling on nights of the blue moon. I can resmurf Papa wondering to himself about the how and why. But now… This has never smurfened, and I was around to help search for the lost one.”
His mate looked ready to start another line of questioning but he held up his hand. “That’s a tale for another time. Right now we need to smurf Grouchy and Baby. Even if they’re fine, they need to be found.”
Leaving Farmer behind, the pair trotted to Tracker’s house. As soon as they were inside the female started pulling off her wet clothes. “So one of you guys got lost? Was it Glasses… uh, Brainy?”
The male shook his head as he tossed two raincloaks onto the bed. “We never found the smurfling. The stork showed up with an empty blanket. No matter where we smurfed, I couldn’t catch any scent. We searched for a week before the bird smurfed off to wherever it was from. After that though, the babies were smurfed in baskets.”
“If I could talk to animals like that one smurf could, I’d be annoying it right about now. Maybe it’d get mad and let something slip.” The former feline had opened up his wardrobe and pulled on one of his nightshirts. She twisted one side until it bunched up at the waist and tied it in a knot so the normally knee length shirt was now to her hips. She sighed happily. “This shirt is mine now. It even smells like you.”
Tracker looked at the female and stopped to appreciate the view. She still hadn’t put on anything but the shirt. “... Could you smurf me some pants, Azzy?”
She turned and grabbed two pairs then tossed one at the woodsmurf. Obliviously she started pulling on her own. “So where are we gonna start looking?”
“Hm?” The male asked distractedly. “Oh! Yes, at Grouchy’s house. He would probably smurf there before leaving. Unfortunately, the rain may have smurfed the trail completely.” He was confident in his skills, but there were limits to them. It was then he remembered to change.
“When we find them, what then? If I’d claimed a baby I’d fight to keep it.” She’d heard humans talk about taking kittens and drowning them because they were unwanted. She was glad Gargamel only grumbled and complained about the added burden. He wasn’t one to kill a kitten.
“To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d smurf them up to the village.” Tracker murmured. “But I do want to smurf that they’re well.”
Azzy grinned. “Fine by me, let’s pack some of those nasty cubes just in case.”
Less than a quarter hour later, the pair were headed back across the bridge.
The rain kept coming down throughout the day. Grouchy resorted to making a small camp fire just inside the dry line of the den in order to dry Baby’s diapers. His own damp clothes were becoming itchy, but he didn’t have anything else to wear. The mother wolf eyed the fire warily and seemed agitated. It made the ornery smurf feel a bit guilty for making Smallfang uncomfortable. He scratched her behind the ear. “It’ll just be a little bit longer, once these smurf dry I’ll put it out.”
True to his word, once the diapers were repacked -save one that went on Baby- he scooped damp sand onto the small fire and stirred it with a stick for good measure. The wolf settled down and fed her pups and Baby. Grouchy leaned against the canine, scratching her ear as his mind wandered.
He still couldn’t understand why Papa agreed to give Baby back. If the stork had come back for any of them would he have done the same? Had he done the same? While he didn't think so, the smurf’s eyes widened. The thought was disturbing. The grump looked at the smurfling, belly fat from plenty of food and falling asleep beside a wolf pup. Maybe it was different when there were so many smurflings. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. There was only one smurfling now. His smurfling. Admitting that, even to himself, seemed like he was breaking some rule.
Well, he was already breaking rules, wasn’t he?
With all the rain the evening became chilly, evidenced by the occasional breeze that blew into the den as the storm wore on. Grouchy curled around Baby and Smallfang curled around her pups and them. During one of the nursing wake ups, the smurf became aware of his stomach again. He needed to remember to eat. After a small snack they settled down again.
Smallfang left in the morning, even with the rain still pouring down. The ornery smurf hoped she’d find some food for herself too. Grouchy spent the time playing or tending to the smurfling. He settled her down for a nap, leaning against a log.
The grump blinked awake at Baby’s hungry noise. He’d fallen asleep. The light was dim. Somehow they had napped away the afternoon. The smurf rubbed his face.
Baby whined and gummed her hand. The ornery smurf rolled and braced himself with his free hand. Standing with the child tucked to his side, he took a step and gasped.
His foot sank into water ankle deep.
He looked around for Smallfang and the pups, spotting just one sleeping in the dry spot against the log. He sloshed over to where his things lay on another log. He sat the smurfling down and pulled on the bag and sling. Baby was placed into her carrier, whining loudly now.
“It’ll be smurfy, Baby.” The grump soothed. He looked worriedly at the darkened entry. The water was too deep to get through without swimming. Then there was the puppy. It was the right thing to do to help Smallfang’s baby when she’d helped his.
The water was nearly to the wolf pup by the time he waded back. The water was rising faster than he thought. He pulled the canine up onto the log as Baby started to cry.
They were safe for the moment. He pulled out a smurfberry and crushed it as best he could. The smurfling didn't seem to mind, eagerly gumming the food. He half carried, half dragged the pup across the log to reach a higher one.
He looked up, planning a route through the branches. There were a few places that looked slick with wet. He would have to be careful. His gut clenched. He hefted the pup again.
Splashing startled him and he pulled both babies tighter to his chest. Smallfang waded in, nose working as she sought out her last pup. He gently lowered the little wolf down beside him. “Smallfang!”
The she-wolf turned and focused on him. She splashed her front paws excitedly. The pup whined, prompting it's mother to pick it up. Grouchy climbed onto her back. He clung to the wet fur and kept his firm hold on Baby.
The wolf waded out of the den, water coming up to her chest. She searched along the edge of the island where a log had laid just moments before. The water was high enough that the wood had washed away. She circled anxiously before stopping away from the crossing.
Grouchy felt the beast under him tense and did the same. With a rearing start, Smallfang darted forward and jumped the distance between the two banks. The group landed hard. Grouchy lost his grip on the wet fur and went flying. He curled protectively around the smurfling just before he landed.
The world was a spiraling blur. They came to a stop with the male curled on his side. In the dim light he could see Baby’s chest rise and fall. Her eyes were wide.
“I’ve got you.” The grump murmured, relieved.
Lightening flashed and was followed so closely by a crack of thunder that the smurf felt the pressure in his nose. Baby started to wail. He got them off the ground and pointedly ignored the throbbing in his right hip and shoulder. He rocked the child and made shushing sounds until she calmed down.
“Smallfang!” The smurf yelled out into the dark. He called and looked. The thunder must have scared her off. He sighed and started looking around for shelter. Anything to get Baby out of this rain. He picked a direction and started walking, holding the child close. He found a small overhang and blocked the smurfling from the wind and rain. Baby rubbed her face against his chest as she snuggled close. The smurf frowned. She was probably cold and definitely soaked through. He shouldered off his backpack. There was a large gash on the bottom and the pack was empty. His heart sank. He dropped the pack and let it lay as he thought.
The caves. If he could make it back to the caves they’d have a dry place to wait out the storm. He shielded the child as best he could, oriented himself, and ran.
The rain pelted him. He curled over as best he could, but Baby still began to cry. The grouch shushed between lungfuls of air. “We just need to smurf to the caves.”
In a way, it was safer running at night in the rain. The predators that would normally be out were riding through the storm in dens and burrows. Lightening flashed, causing a glowing effect in his vision. The thunder followed after and the smurfling added a frightened higher pitched wail to her cries. “Not safe enough.” He growled to himself.
There seemed to be no shelter in sight and the wind was picking up. Come on. A rabbit hole would do in this weather! No matter how he shushed, how he carried the child she cried. Guilt gnawed at him. She wouldn’t be crying if he hadn’t run away with her.
He found another small overhang to huddle under and was finally able to quiet the smurfling. Baby was shivering. He didn’t have anything dry to change her into. “One more try. We’ll smurf it. Just hang on, Baby.”
He adjusted the sling, pulled the child close, and ran again.
Some two dozen strides down the path the world lit up and the crash of thunder was so close it seemed to happen along with the flash. His ears popped. Grouchy blinked and shook his head to try and clear the spots before his eyes. A loud groaning of wood and shadow moving on his right urged him to run. He barely made it clear of the tree, wood crashing down and hitting hard enough to stagger him from the impact.
Baby started crying again.
Even if I make it to the cave, I don’t have anything. I can’t do this to her. He looked at the child, warmth that wasn’t rain starting to trickle down his cheeks. He swallowed. “I’ll keep you safe baby… even from me.”
He turned and ran in the direction of the village.
It was the second night in a row that Papa had spent without sleep. While he trusted Grouchy’s survival skills, he knew firsthand how difficult it was to look after a smurfling alone. And with the storm? The old smurf looked out the window. In the square of light only the streaks of rain could be seen.
He hoped they were safe.
The older smurf felt both restless and exhausted. Papa forced himself to move, refreshing himself for the day ahead. He’d heard from Brainy that Tracker had returned and left quickly. Would the stork leave today if they couldn't be found? It seemed unlikely. When the smurfling was lost the bird had stayed for eight days.
The ache of loss gave him pause. Over a century ago and he still grieved. The sky had started to lighten when he looked out the window again. The red clad smurf frowned. He was putting Grouchy through the same heartache, if not worse considering his grumpy son had bonded so closely with the smurfling.
But if he were to anger whoever was sending the smurflings, would they retaliate somehow? Papa sighed. Once when he was in his late second century, spring had hit in such a way that he’d wondered if he could have children. Spells had indicated that it couldn't happen naturally without a female of his species. This may be the only way for most of his sons to be fathers.
He wasn't sure which course would be the best for his children. Listen to the stork and they’d lose Baby. Demand to keep her and the mysterious smurfling providers could do any number of things. He desperately wanted more information. There was no way to get it, with no tomes on the subject and a tight lipped-er, beaked- stork.
A glance out the window showed that it was light enough to feign that he'd just woken up. The village leader left his home, glad the rain had slowed to a misty drizzle. The stork was perched on the well, head tucked under his wing.
“Good morning, stork!” The elder said loudly. The annoyed look the bird gave him had him smiling. “We’ll begin our search again right after breakfast.”
The avian clicked his beak and motioned his head towards the bridge. Even without Natural, Papa could tell the bird was demanding they start now. The bearded Smurf shook his head. “I’m sorry but my smurfs will search far better with a full stomach than if they were hungry. Are you hungry? Perhaps we could--”
The stork cut him off, fanning his wings out and stepping off the well. He snapped his bill at the blue fey and hissed. The white haired Smurf stood his ground and crossed his arms. “If I resmurf correctly, this was your mistake. We're doing what we can to help but you're going to have to smurf patient.”
The sun rose and burned away the mist, leaving the sky clear and the ground soaked. Smurfs congregated around the well before the elder waved them on. “Go smurf something to eat. We’ll restart the search afterward.”
Papa took a step in the direction of the mess hall. Shouts and excitement rose up from behind him. The bearded smurf turned to look. Grouchy was crossing the bridge carrying Baby.
Relief and elation swept through him. Papa trotted towards the duo. Then he saw his son’s face. The grump’s features were etched with despair. The elder slowed to a walk. Around him the younger smurfs ran, crowding the ornery kidnapper and the smurfling. The red clad leader approached through the crowd.
Grouchy held Baby close, ignoring the barrage of questions from his brothers. He spotted Papa and shoulders slumped. The older smurf held out his hands. The smurfs quieted as grump hesitated.
“I know, Grouchy. But it's for the best.” Papa prompted gently. Baby made a disgruntled sound.
He held on to the child a moment longer before passing her over. His voice cracked as he said, “I hate giving up!”
Time seemed to fly as the smurfs changed, fed, and checked to make sure she was in good health. Soon they tucked Baby into her basket. Those closest to the child crowded around to say their goodbyes.
Papa watched Grouchy lean over the basket. The grump pulled off his hat and gave it to the child. The other smurfs stared as the ornery smurf murmured something to the smurfling. Even though the old Smurf was standing close he couldn't make out what was said.
The stork bent and took the basket in his bill. With a jump and powerful downbeat of wings the bird was off. Smurfs shouted more farewells. Papa watched until it was out of sight. Both Vanity and Smurfette began sobbing. The elder Smurf looked around for Grouchy.
The smurf was gone.
Grouchy slammed the door to his house. He couldn't settle on one emotion. Guilt. Anger. Sadness. Pain. He leaned against the door and slid down.
He tried to memorize the child's features, burn them into his mind. She reached for him. The smurf swallowed. She needed something of his to remember him by. With nothing else to give, he pulled off his hat and put it in her outstretched hand. Baby looked at it with interest, closing her other chubby fist on the cloth. She pulled it to her face and made a happy gurgle.
“Stay safe Baby… I love you.” The ornery smurf murmured.
The bird broke the moment by scooping up the basket. He didn't watch them leave. He couldn’t watch them leave. Heading to his house instead, he glared down any smurf who dared to so much as look at him on the way.
The dam broke at the memory and Grouchy began to weep. Before he could calm himself, there was a knock at the door. He elbowed the door angrily. “Go away!”
“Grouchy.” It was Papa. “Please, I'd like to smurf to you for a moment.”
In a rage he shot to his feet and stomped to his bed. He sat on it with both arms folded. “No!"
The Elder politely knocked once more. “Grouchy, I know you're feeling unsmurfy, but--”
The ornery smurf scooped up his alarm clock from the nightstand and hurtled it at the door. It struck with a crash and off key chime of bells and then hit the floor with a metallic sound as the face came off and gears scattered. He bellowed, “GO AWAY!”
There was a long stretch of silence. Had Papa given up already? Then he heard his father's muffled voice. “Whenever you're ready to smurf about it, I’ll listen. Even in the middle of the night.”
The grump stood there, hands clenching the edge of his nightstand until his knuckles started to ache. He wanted to pick it up and hurtle it at the door too. Even if his adoptive father had already left. If he started with that he was sure he wouldn’t stop until all of his furniture was in splinters. The smurf let go of the nightstand with effort. Standing up, he crossed the room to his armour and opened it. He took out another hat and pulled it over his head.
It would be nice to bathe. But then he’d probably have to interact with somesmurf along the way. He changed instead. Crossing his room once more he curled up on top of the covers on his side. Wallowing in his mire of negative emotions, the smurf fought to sleep. He was exhausted but he couldn’t escape his waking mind.
A rapping broke him from his battle. Anger surged again. Was Papa still standing outside? He snarled as he got up and stormed to the door. He flung it wide open with an enraged, “Really?!”
Vexy tilted her head. Her eyes searched his face. “Yes really.”
Without thinking the smurf reached out and pulled the brunette inside. He slammed the door. “I tried.” He murmured.
She hugged him and he clung to her. “I stalled as long as I could. There were nine of us who didn’t search at all. I…” She trailed off when a sob escaped him. When she started again, her voice shook. “I’m sorry.”
If it had been anyone else, he’d have snapped something hurtful. Screamed. Tossed them bodily out. Instead the ornery smurf let go and cried with sobs that shook his body. Through it all, she held him.