This isn't exactly a sequel to Seven White Flowers, but more of a brief look into the lives of Tom and Jonathan at a later point. Hope you'll enjoy it. As usual your thoughts and comments are always welcome to

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The Eighth Flower
by Winter

There was something about chopping wood that always made him feel at peace with the world. Something about the flexing of the muscles in his arms, his back and his legs, something about the swooshing of the axe through the air and the dull thud of steel meeting wood, and wood giving way. Something, maybe the repetitiveness of the motions or the physical exertion, maybe the wind and the summer sun on his bare, furry chest, calmed the fluctuating turmoil inside Tom's mind. At times like this, alone outside the house with nothing but hard work for company, he could almost find some of the words he had lost. Long ago, it had been frustrating to be so near, yet still so far, but nowadays he found it relaxing. These moments of quiet more than compensated for when things got bad.

He heard the first bouts of twittering laughter long before the patter of tiny naked feet against grass. A smile spread across Tom's lips, yet he did not pause in his work. Instead, he remained inside his tranquillity until a crystal clear voice spoke the word that meant him. One of the very few he could still hear and understand. Setting the axe down, the large wolf paused for a second to wipe sweat out of his face fur, then sank to his knees. Instantly, a small body leapt into his arms. The fox kit greeted him in their own special way, by rubbing his tiny palm over Tom's muzzle, then kiss his cheek. He returned the greeting, then set the boy down.

Immediately, a stream of chatter ensued, accompanied by gestures and hand signs that made Tom think of children playing. Of balls being kicked across a lawn and of running and wrestling, of tumbling over and over in the forever joy of childhood. He smiled and tousled the little one's hair, then placed his hand on his own chest, just above his heart, and touched the ring on his finger. New words and signs brought the image of a small house standing at the edge of a vast field to Tom's mind. And by the house, figures moved. Two adult foxes, and a tall, lanky rabbit, all entertaining a tiny wolf boy who kept running from one to the other. He signed for his kit to wait, then hurried inside his own house to wash off the worst of his sweat. A while later the two of them set off towards the field, the kit riding on Tom's broad shoulders.

He didn't know where the kit had come from, or why his birth parents no longer cared for him, but this didn't matter to Tom. The kit lived with them now, with him and his Jonathan. His beloved fox husband. They were the boy's parents now, and Tom never went one day without blessing this good fortune. How life had been before, when it was only him and Jonathan, he barely cared to remember. The kit had a name, of course, just like everyone and everything else, but Tom could not form this specific name-word in his mind. He knew it if he heard it spoken, but could not repeat it back. Instead, he thought of other things when he thought about the kit. Of dew that sparkled on blades of grass in the morning sun, just like the kit's large green eyes, of cool water soothing sore muscles just like the kit's presence soothed his mind. Of the song of tiny bells that sounded just like the laughter of angels, of the scent of the sweetest flowers from the boy's bright red fur. Most of all, he saw the image of the most rare flower he had ever seen, the glimmering white silverstar that he had given Jonathan the day he proposed to him. Only, he had an even more invaluable flower now. He grabbed one of the tiny feet that hung down over his chest and tickled it, setting off a chorus of crystal bells. Flower seemed an unsuitable name for a boy, though, and silver was just a colour among many. So to himself, Tom thought of the kit as his Starflower. The one precious jewel in the universe that shone just as bright as his Jonathan.

After a short walk they rounded the outskirts of a forest, the very edge of Jonathan's family's estate, and they could now see the house. It belonged to Jonathan's younger brother, who lived there with his rabbit husband and their wolf son. Starflower's best friend. A sweet and gentle pup that was always on the move, always on his way here and there like a fickle breeze. Summerwind, was Tom's image-name for him. Starflower and Summerwind, the best of friends, just like he and Jonathan had been back in the days before they got married. Before their friendship forever deepened into love.

Starflower jumped down from his shoulder and pulled at his hand, eager to get to his father, uncles and friend, but Tom held him back and gestured towards the forest. Puzzled, the kit followed him along the fence that marked out James's and Eric's land. They stopped a bit away from the house, and crouched low behind the fence so they could not be seen. Tom pointed through a gap, and Starflower giggled as he understood. From around the corner of the house they could hear voices, but they kept quiet as mice as they crept through the gap and slowly sneaked up towards the house. Starflower had a hard time controlling his laughter, but managed to keep silent. They were close now, very close. Just then, Jonathan walked around the corner, and Tom let out a deep growl as he pounced. With a yell of fear, the fox fell to the ground with his lupine lover on top of him. Starflower shrieked with laughter, and was joined by Summerwind as they attacked the two adults.

Once everything had calmed down James brought them all milk and cookies, and they sat down in front of the house. Eric, who was quite handy, had built a small patio, where they had a hammock, a picnic table and a small sofa. The hosts sat in the hammock, gently rocking it back and forth, while the guests filled the sofa. It was definitely not an unusual sight. Even before their adopted sons had come along, the two couples had been frequent guests at each other's houses. The bond between them had always been strong; during the stormy beginning of Tom's and Jonathan's relationship James had been one of their strongest supporters, and even more so after the terrible injury that had robbed Tom of the gift of language. James and Eric had been wed to each other a few years after that, and they had settled in as neighbours. With the seemingly inevitable friendship of their sons, the bond was now stronger than ever.

Once the milk and cookies were gone, the boys rushed off to play while the adults remained seated. Jonathan seemed to float into his mate's lap, and Tom put his long, muscular arms around his waist and pulled him close. The others were talking, but even though he liked the sound of their voices Tom soon let them drift out of into the periphery of his mind. Instead he centred on his Jonathan, on how good the small, warm body felt there in his lap, on the intoxicating scent of his husband's fur that he somehow never could feel enough. Slowly, subtly at first, he began to let his fingers roam over Jonathans back. From the dark brown ponytail down to the rim of his shorts, then back up again, this time underneath the shirt. Meanwhile, he gently nuzzled the side of Jonathan's head, breathing in deeply through his nose to get even more of that scent he craved so. Before long, the fox began pressing back against him, conversation interrupted by occasional gasps and moans, even a high-pitched yelp as Tom's tongue toyed with his ear. Not long after that, the talking died down. Over in the hammock, Tom saw when he glanced up briefly, James had found his way into Eric's lap, and they too were nuzzling and caressing each other. Growling impatiently at the sudden pause, Jonathan nimbly shifted his seat so that they came face-to-face. Large green eyes beamed at Tom for a couple of seconds, then closed as they met in a passionate kiss.

Before either couple became too involved in each other, though, the two youngsters returned and demanded attention. They were yipping with excitement, tails wagging furiously as Starflower showed them all a small frog he had caught. The tiny amphibian did not enjoy being the centre of attention, however, but leapt out of the young fox's hands and found itself a safe haven underneath the patio. The boys tried to find it again, but gave up as James led them into the house. They soon returned with refilled glasses and another plateful of cookies, the frog all forgotten. Eric wrapped his arms around his husband and pulled him back into his lap, and the conversation picked up as if it had never been interrupted. Summerwind looked from his own parents to his friends' and back again. As if he felt left out without cradling a fox of his own, he grabbed Starflower and sat down on the sofa with the smaller boy in his lap. Tom smiled at the sight and ran his fingers lightly over Jonathans chest. Memories of his own young love for his fox stirred inside him, and he found himself longing for the evening to come. His body began to react, and a slight shift and soft push backwards from the body in his lap told him that Jonathan had noticed, and agreed. After that, he did not even try to listen to the others' voices.

The boys decided to spend the night at Starflower's house, so as the sun started to sink in the west they got up to leave. Tom noticed the eager, almost hungry look that James gave Eric as they said good night. It seemed that his brother-in-law was up to naughty things tonight. He quenched the images that popped up before his inner eye, but they immediately returned even stronger. Now though, starring himself and Jonathan. Grinning widely at what might come later, he returned to the present and joined the other three to go back home. After a few paces, he reached down and picked up his son, then took off running. Starflower screamed with laughter as he placed the boy on his shoulders, and soon spurred him on to run even faster.

After darkness had fallen, and long after the children had gone to bed, Tom got up from the living room couch and stretched, yawning widely. He and Jonathan had spent a couple of hours in front of the fireplace, doing little more than holding each other. Every now and then one of them had stolen a kiss, and they had occasionally talked with their usual signs and touches. Eventually, what started back at James's and Eric's house had been continued, and the lustful tension had become unbearable. Tom smiled to himself. It would be a long night. They made sure that the fire could burn out safely, then made their way upstairs to check on the two boys. During the evening giggles and laughter had been heard from up there now and then, but nothing that merited interference. And for the last hour or so it had been quiet. Summerwind was sleeping peacefully on his back, with Starflower snoozing quietly on his outstretched arm, pressed closely to his side. They had kicked off their blanket, so Tom gently tucked them in again, then they took turns kissing both boys' cheeks. At the fleeting touch, the two of them unconsciously moved even closer, and Starflower nuzzled his friend's neck, purring softly in his sleep. Tom nearly broke out laughing as Jonathan first rubbed his wedding ring, then touched the blanket covering the boys. Maybe it was true. Images of the flowers he had given Jonathan as he proposed to him sprang to his mind. Maybe someday soon their little Starflower would get flowers of his own. But that was for the future to decide. Tom forced his mind to stay in the present as he followed his husband back downstairs to the master bedroom.

Hours later, Tom still lay awake, gently hugging the bushy fox tail that lay draped across his chest. He was tired, close to exhausted, but sleep kept eluding him. Thoughts and memories, images and smells all danced behind his closed eyelids. Most of them centred on Jonathan, and on their love and their life together. It had been many years now. Many excellent years, and many more were to come. And whatever the future now might hold for his son, he would do his best to make it good. Jonathan stirred beside him, but did not wake. Tom kissed the side of his face, and the touch sent him back to deep sleep. Yawning, Tom thought about the shortly coming dawn, and the two tiny bodies that would soon be bouncing around on the bed in order to wake them up, demanding attention and breakfast. It would not be an easy start to the new day, but the night had been more than worth it. He yawned again, and this time he felt sleep finally overtaking him. And in his dreams, too, Jonathan was waiting for him with open arms that he willingly fell into.