In celebration of JMS Books 10-year anniversary, I decided to revisit one of my couples in their happily-ever-after. Many people have asked me to write more rabbit shifters like Mattis in 9 Willow Street, and while this isn’t a sequel, it’s at least a glimpse into his and Hannes’ future. Because what better way to celebrate a decade of publishing than with a happy couple and a tiny, one-eared rabbit rascal? 😊
Happy anniversary, JMS Books! Here’s to another 10!
9 Willow Street flash story
“Hey, you’re back!” Mattis’ words are followed by a fond chuckle, and then, “Stop that, you rascal! Quit digging up all our carrots.”
Affection flashes in my chest, deep inside where I feel all Mattis’ emotions these days, after being his heartbound for over two years. And the wave of tenderness that follows, tells me exactly who he’s scolding.
Smiling, I take a last look at the herb beds where I’ve been crawling around for the last couple hours, jump to my feet, and go looking for Mattis and “the rascal.” I find them by the carrots, Mattis trying his hardest to scowl at our little visitor who’s pressed to the ground, his only ear lying flat along his back as he pretends he’s invisible.
I plop down next to Mattis. He turns up his cheek to me, begging for a kiss. I indulge him, brushing my lips over his smooth skin and nuzzle my nose against his temple. With a happy hum, I turn to our little visitor.
The tiny, orphaned rabbit shifter, Vidar, keeps running away from the foster family in Mattis’ old warren he’s placed with, and always ends up here in our garden. Vidar is completely white and born with only one ear. He’s small for his age, and even though he’s reached and passed the age where most rabbits learn to control their shifts, Vidar is still unable to do it. In general, he seems to prefer staying in his rabbit form over his human one.
No one knows what happened to his parents, or even who they are. One day the warren woke up to a scared, sad little kit, who told them his name was Vidar and that he was seven, but then said nothing else. No matter what they do or how they care for him, he doesn’t improve. The only time he’s not silent and tense is when he’s busy digging holes in our garden and leaving teeth marks all over my herbs.
I fling my arm around Mattis’ shoulders and indulge in just being close to him for a moment. But a twitch of the little rabbit body catches my attention.
“Hey, there kiddo. You know he’s not actually mad at you, right?” With a smile, I waggle my eyebrows and rejoice when Vidar’s nose twitches. “He just pretends to be mean when he’s really just a big softie who wants to show you the tastiest carrots.”
Mattis pinches my butt hard, but doesn’t contest my statement.
Vidar slowly relaxes and his ear springs up to full attention.
“Look over there.” I lean forward and point to a random carrot. “That one’s the best, I promise. Go on. Dig it up.”
We both tense with anticipation as Vidar hops once and then waits to see if I’m going to change my mind. When I don’t, he sets off toward the vegetable I pointed out and starts digging with abandon.
Mattis sighs. “And you call me a softie. You hardly let me touch your beloved carrots, and I’m your husband.”
“What can I say, honey? I have a thing for cute, one-eared kits.”
He takes my hand, slides his fingers up my wrist, and rests them against my pulse point, wanting to feel my heartbeat against his skin even though he can sense every emotion I experience through our bond.
We sit cuddled up together and watch Vidar dig up the carrot and promptly devour it. For once, he behaves like a happy carefree kit is supposed to behave, and not the shadow of himself he turns into whenever someone from the warren shows up to collect him…which should be any minute now. They’ve learned where to find him by now.
My chest fills with the longing Mattis always feels when he looks at the little rabbit, and I tighten my grip on my husband, cup his face, and press a kiss to his mouth.
I’ll never grow tired of kissing him. Being with him fills me with great joy, and our connection keeps growing and deepening so that I hardly know what’s me and what’s him anymore. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
When I pull away, he lays his head on my shoulder and we go back to watching the little rascal who’s currently earning his nickname by digging holes in the lawn.
“He looks happy, Hannes.”
“Yeah. God knows he deserves it.”
“Why do we make him go back to the warren when he doesn’t want to be there?”
“Because the elders insist he needs to grow up surrounded by his own kind.”
“I’m his own kind,” Mattis mutters between his teeth, and I’m sure I’m not meant to hear him.
Vidar keeps hopping aimlessly in the grass, stopping here and there to dig a little or munch on something tasty-looking. And then, out of the blue, he leaps straight up and twists in the air before he takes off and races in a wide circle around us, moving faster than I’ve ever seen him do, totally carefree. If rabbits could smile, I’m sure Vidar’s face would be split in two.
Mattis gasps. “Did you see that?”
“I did.” I blink back tears. I’ve never seen the kit express happiness before.
The little rabbit tires out quickly, so he returns to us and flops down on his side by our legs. When I reach out to caress his soft fur, he rubs his chin against my hand—the way Mattis used to do when we first met and I didn’t know he wasn’t an ordinary rabbit—and my heart swells in my chest.
Mattis’ chin wobbles as we both stroke his little body carefully, and soon we have a peacefully sleeping kit before us.
The thought of Vidar returning to the warren churns my stomach. He needs more than they can give him, he needs space and freedom to find peace. He needs a chance to be happy.
We can give him that. I know we can. This old pink house on 9 Willow Street has lots of room for a little rabbit to grow into a well-adjusted shifter. And Nana would have welcomed him with open arms and insisted he stay if she had still been alive. It’s time for me to show some of Nana’s fierceness.
“You know what?” I whisper so I won’t wake up the kit.
Mattis shakes his head.
“I don’t think he should go back. He’s not happy there.”
And then I hear it. It’s like a whisper inside my mind.
Do you mean what I think you mean?
I look at Mattis. My husband, the love of my life. There are stories about heartbound couples being able to communicate telepathically, but this is the first time it’s happened to us.
Or did I only imagine it?
“Yes, I meant what you think I meant.” The specific reply is to test if I actually heard him.
Mattis answers by kissing me. “Thank you,” he says, again and again between kisses.
“They might not let us take him,” I say, knowing how vehemently protective the rabbit shifters are of their secret. And how much they dislike Mattis leaving the warren.
“Oh, they’ll agree. I won’t give up on this, Hannes.”
I know he won’t. Once Mattis has decided on something, he doesn’t give up until he’s gotten what he wants. And what he wants sleeps in front of us.
We seal our agreement with a kiss before going back to stroking the sleeping kit. Our sleeping kit.
Mattis and Vidar and Hannes forever.
We’ll make it happen.
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