“For the last time young lady, I told you clean up this mess!”
A Lizardman stood in the doorway of the kitchen, a spoon held in her hands like the hilt of a sword as she glared down at the little girl before her. The scaled monster was about 6’ft tall with brilliant green scales on her arms, legs, and tail, with long brown hair that she kept in a simple pony tail. She wore a white apron, functional, but inelegant, and covered in flour smudges and sauce stains. She would have to put it in with the rest of the laundry later tonight.
The focus of her attention was a little girl, who couldn’t have been more than 6 years old, sitting in a pile of blocks and crayons, which were scattered all over the carpet. Here and there some of the crayons were melted and the blocks scorched by some heat, but the girl paid it no mind as she glared right back at the matronly figure before her.
“Make me!” Challenges the little girl. Sparks of fire jet from around her brilliant red eyes, their black sclera eating the light.
She was a hellhound, or perhaps a Hellpuppy, covered in shaggy brown-black fur over her dark skin. She wore a simple little blouse and shorts, disdaining the dresses she was constantly subjected to wearing. Her tail swished angrily as she gripped a crayon in her hand, the heat from her melting it slightly.
The Lizardman narrowed her eyes and took in a deep breath. “I will count to three, and if you don’t clean up this mess…”
“Then what? You’ll punish me? Make me do more of your stupid sword training?”
The Lizardman closed her eyes and grit her teeth. “One….”
The little Hellpuppy pouted and crossed her arms. “You can’t tame a hellhound!”
“I don’t have to listen to you!”
“You’re not my real mom!”
The Lizardman’s eyes snapped open wide and she looked down at the pouting Hellpuppy, who had sparks dancing around her eyes. She floundered for words, her mouth gaping open and the Hellpuppy picked herself up and stamped the floor before screaming, “I hate this family!”
The older monster gripped the wooden spoon so hard that it started to splinter. “Go to your room, right now.”
The Hellpuppy’s eye fire flared. She stomped again and growled, before turning away and running up the stairs, an audible slamming noise echoing through the two story household as her door was firmly shut, leaving an ominous silence punctuated by muffled screams of childish rage.
The Lizardman stared up towards the second story blankly before looking at her shaking hands and seeing that she had snapped the spoon clean in half. She sighed and put the pieces in her pocket. That’s the third one this week, dear would not be happy.
A short while later the door to the household clicked as the bolts were methodically unlocked. The door swung inward and on the other side stood a tall man in a business suit, suitcase in hand. He takes in a deep breath and entered through the portal, setting his suitcase down and closing the door behind him.
“Honey, I’m home!” He shouts absentmindedly as he takes his coat off and loosens his tie. What a day at work, those TPS reports were killer, but it paid for his peaceful suburban lifestyle, so he wasn’t one to knock it too much.
He looked about when he received no reply and he slowly moved to into the living room, eyes scanning everywhere. Usually his wife greeted him when he came home, and he knew she was here since her car was in the driveway, but he always seemed to revert back to his days in the marines when he felt something was wrong. Slowly, he crept into the living room and froze when he saw his wife, sitting on the floor stacking blocks.
“Lynn? Honey?” He asked, worried.
She looked up at him, her eyes glossy with a thin rim of tears. She quickly looked away, wiping at her eyes before she glanced back at him, smiling weakly
“Oh! Oh, hello dear, I didn’t hear you come in.”
The husband walked up and sat down next to her, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, what’s wrong?” He looked at the pile of blocks and melted crayons and sighed. “You had another fight with Belle?”
Lynn nodded her head slowly, expression defeated. “I just asked her clean up the blocks. I didn’t think it was too much to ask.”
The man pulled her into an embrace and she melted into his arms, nestling her head onto his shoulder, and feeling his body heat permeate into her scales. It was always so calming to be held by his muscular body, like nothing else in the world mattered. She couldn’t help but close her eyes however and whisper, “I just don’t know what to do with her anymore Stephen.”
Stephen gently started to stoke her hair as he looked up at the ceiling. “Hey now, we’ve only been her parents for a few months, there’s bound to be some growing pains, especially since the way her mother…” He trailed off, remembering the story that the adoption agent told them when they were looking at her case. Her birth mother was killed in a car accident two years ago and the poor girl had sat in the orphanage at only 4 years old, never making any friends and always causing trouble.
Lynn shuddered and he could feel her pull tightly as she embraced him. “Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a mother. I mean, maybe it was a sign when the doctor’s told me that I can’t…”
Stephen pulled her away and stared straight into her tear-filled eyes. “Don’t you ever say that. Don’t you ever say that you’re not a good mother. Yes, we may not be able to have kids of our own, but damnit Lynn, you’re a wonderful mother.”
Her eyes started to fill with tears anew and she gripped at Stephen’s shirt, pressing her face into his chest, and soaking his clothing with her tears.
“Then why do I always argue with her? I just want her to love me! I… I don’t want her hate me! I can’t stand it!”
He gripped her tight and started rocking back and forth, doing his best to calm her down. “Shhh… Lynn, shhh. It’s alright, it’s alright.”
“N..no! It’s not alright! I try and I try and she just keeps fighting me! Every time she says she hates me it breaks my heart a little bit more! I don’t know how much longer I can do this!”
Stephen let her cry on his chest as he continued to hold her and rock her gently. When her cries became soft sobs he kissed her on the head and whispered, “Do you remember when we first met?”
She choked up, coughing. “What? Why would you bring that up?…”
“I remember it fondly.” He continued, smiling, “I remember being a corporal, deployed overseas. It was a routine mission, and our squad successfully rescued a little town from a group of extremists.” He nuzzled her head. “And would you believe it? Some Lizardman saw me take down a combatant in CQC and decided to challenge me to a duel right then and there.”
She choked again, laughing. “Y..you were terrible with a sword.”
“Ah, but I still managed to beat her using only my combat knife when that outdated bar of steel broke. And would you believe it, that firecracker followed me around, hanging about the base and getting caught by the MP’s trying to sneak in and find me.”
She sniffled, laughing harder. “I seem to recall you turning down my proposal while I was in holding.”
“Ah, but she was persistent, following me home even, never taking no for an answer, and one day I just took a chance.” He looked down at Lynn and hugged her gently. “And I never regretted my decision.”
She laughed, her chuckles punctuated by little sobs. She said nothing, but merely held onto him as he rocked back and forth. They stayed like this for a long while before she sighed and pulled off him, wiping at her eyes with a smile.
“Thank you dear, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“You’d probably still be in holding.”
She smirked and punched his arm before looking to the second floor and sighing. “I still don’t know what to do about her. Every time I ask her to do something, she just yells about how you can’t tame a hellhound and storms off.”
“Well, it is part of their culture you know. Not even the gods are supposed to tame them, and I bet her mother instilled some of this into her. It’s probably some of the only memories she has of her.”
“Then what do I do?”
Stephen poked her forehead and smiled, “You’re thinking like a Lizardman. Strict and unyielding, trying to raise her into a perfect little warrior. Be a little flexible with her and she’ll come around.”
He raised a finger, “I know how persistent you can be.”
She smiled again and kissed him gently on the lips before pulling away and standing up. “Fair enough. Alright, I need to finish dinner.”
He smiled and stood up also, dusting himself off. “I think I’ll get changed and then go have a little talk with her, okay?”
She nodded and hugged him before heading back into the kitchen. She forgot to mention the spoon, but oh well. He’d find out eventually.
A short while later, Stephen stood in front of a wooden door decorated in crayon drawings of hellhounds lighting stuff on fire and flowers, which was an odd dichotomy, but hey, he was just human. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door gently.
“Belle? Can I come in?”
A rustling noise was heard behind the door followed by a muffled, “I don’t want to talk to anyone!”
Stephen put his head against the door and sighed, “Belle, honey, it’s me, Stephen. I’m not mad at you, I just want to talk to you abit.”
There’s a pause before Belle cautiously asked, “You’re not mad?”
“Not at all.”
Silence permeated the space before the soft sound of paws on the floor is heard, followed by a low clicking noise and the door swinging slowly open to reveal a pouting Hellpuppy, looking down to the side.
Stephen looked into the room and grimaced when he saw the drawers and tables knocked over, a busted lamp, and part of her pink bed sheets scorched. Well this was certainly going to cut into his bonus.
He gently dropped to his knees, about eye level with the girl and smiled. “Good evening there princess, may I enter your castle?”
She continued to pout, looking away from him as she mumbled, “I guess…”
He smiled wider and stood up as she walked to her bed and hopped on, holding a stuffed bear. Stephen slowly sat down next to her and leaned back on the plush little twin bed. He didn’t say anything, letting Belle feel more comfortable as she squeezed the mildly burned little bear.
“Why does Lynn hate me?…”
Stephen blinked, a little taken aback by the question. “Belle, she doesn’t hate you, why would you think that?”
“Because she’s always so mean to me…”
“What does she do?”
Belle looked away, pouting more. “She always makes me practice the dumb sword and yells at me when I mess up. Then she yells at me when I’m playing, and when I don’t eat my vegetables, and…and… She’s just a big meanie!”
Stephen shook his head and placed a hand between Belle’s ears, causing them to perk up, her eyes shifting to him. He started to rub her hair, feeling the warmth that always pervaded her little figure.
“Did you know that Lynn was a champion sword fighter?” Asked Stephen.
“She used to go all around the world, fighting people, polishing her skills, and getting into all sorts of trouble.” He smirked fondly as he recounts the stories of his wife’s former glories. “You could say that no one could tame her, in a way.”
Belle sniffled, “Like… Like a hellhound?”
“Just like a hellhound.”
“But… But she’s so strict and mean!”
“Well, that’s because her mother had to be hard on her, or she wouldn’t grow up big and strong like she is now.” He rubbed one of the Hellpuppy’s ears and she giggled some. “Everything she does, she does because she thinks it’s best to help you grow up into a strong, beautiful young woman.”
Belle snuffled, wiping her nose on the bear. “E…even eating my vegetables?”
Stephen chuckled, “Especially eating your vegetables. They’ll make you a big, strong hellhound someday.”
“Really? Like… Like my…” She started to break into tears again and Stephen held her close, petting her head.
“Shhh, shhh now. Everything is fine. I know you miss your mother and father, I know it hurts still, and it will always hurt, but both Lynn and I are here for you.” He kissed her hair and sighed. “We may not be related by blood, but honey, we love you. To us, it doesn’t matter, you’re our daughter and we’d do anything for you.”
The little girl broke down into furious sobbing now, dropping the bear and clutching her new father’s shirt, soaking him for the second time in one hour. But he didn’t care, he just gently rocked the little Hellpuppy, his daughter, gently in his arms until she fell asleep from the crying.
The Lizardman looked down at the Hellpuppy, who was dragging her foot nervously as she shifted to holding one arm in an awkward pose. It was a few hours after the incident earlier and both of the monsters still had puffy eyes from their crying. Lynn was resting on the couch and she shifted to attention when the little puppy walked up, Stephen standing behind her, gently putting a hand on Belle’s shoulder for support.
Belle bit her lip and glanced at Stephen before looking back at Lynn. “Uh…uhm… I just wanted to say uhm… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to say I hate you.” She looked away before squeezing her arm harder.
“I was wondering uhm… Could I call you… Mom?”
Lynn’s eyes go wide and a fresh stream of tears appeared, causing her to put a hand to her mouth. She choked up and nodded, pushing herself up from the couch to kneel down in front of the Hellpuppy and embrace her tightly. The little girl returned the hug and they both started crying again.
“I’m… So… Sorry! I promise not to c..call you a meanie anymore!” Wailed Belle as she held her Lizardman mother tightly. Lynn shook her head and pressed into the warm little girl, kissing her head.
“And I promise not to be so harsh on you, oh Belle, I love you.”
“I love you too mom!” Belle said, laughter hiccuping through her sobs.
Stephen smiled and wipes a tear from his cheek before kneeling down and embracing the two most important women in his life. They all stayed like that for some time, and they knew that things may still be rocky ahead, but they were family, regardless of their species, and family is more than just blood: it’s love.