Sunlight trickled through the window as the night retreated. Porter grunted, rubbed his eyes and began to stretch. A hand pressed itself to his chest and he let out a deep, contented sigh. He turned to his side and peered through his groggy fog. A pair of warm brown eyes peered back at him, and a soft smile brightened his face.
"Good morning, beautiful..." he mumbled as the hand left his chest and caressed his hair.
A soft, voice responded, "It is now that you're finally awake!"
He mumbled something about yesterday's long workday, and the voice continued, "Excuses, excuses! All that time sleeping and not loving on me. Unforgivable!"
Porter chuckled, rubbed the last of his grogginess from his eyes, and Blanche's form came into focus. Her face held an exaggerated pout, and he raised a hand, trailing a finger across her warm cheek. She huffed, but the pout broke into a smile.
"Oh, you're lucky you're so cute. I suppose I'll let it slide this once, but don't think that sweet face of yours will get you out of trouble forever!"
"It won't?" Porter asked, feigning a look of shock, "But it's all I have going for me, my love!"
Blanche pressed her forehead to his and whispered, "I suppose you have a little more going for you..."
Her hand passed over his hip and delivered a soft, teasing pinch to his backside. Porter's eyes widened for a moment. He chuckled and wrapped his arms around Blanche, pulling her closer. She nuzzled his cheek, and left a soft kiss before touching her nose to his. Porter's eyes closed as he pressed his lips to hers. He could feel her smile through the kiss, and he drew a long breath in, taking in as much of the moment as possible. Their lips parted, and suddenly, the world shook.
Porter's eyes shot open. The room was dark, the pillow beside him was cold.
"Blanche..?" he called out instinctively, in more of a plea than a question.
The silence thickened, and he hated himself for disturbing it. Realization hit, and Porter sank back into his pillow. A giant, invisible weight curled up on his chest, crushing him, smothering him. He could barely breathe, and he hoped the darkness would just take him already. He turned onto his side, trying to shake the weight off, but the pressure only increased. It would not be pushed aside so easily. Porter's eyes wandered over the empty space in his bed and he scooped up the spare pillow. He pressed his face into it, searching for any trace of her. Hope faded into grief as he realized her scent was long gone. Invisible claws gripped Porter's entire chest and squeezed. Tears welled up. Through gritted teeth he choked them back. As the overwhelming pain in his chest faded into a dull ache, Porter stared off into the darkness until he fell into a dull, shallow sleep.
Sunlight trickled through the window.
Porter grumbled and rubbed his eyes. He turned onto his back and sighed. His body was heavy, as if each limb was made of cement, but he knew he couldn't handle staying in his bed for long. With a dutiful lunge he pulled himself into a sitting position and swung his legs off the edge of the bed. His motions were robotic and heavy. Porter leaned over a pile of laundry and dragged some work clothes from it. After pulling them on he made his way to the kitchen. The sunlight was blocked out by a small curtain in front of the window. He rummaged through the dishes, glanced into the pantry more out of habit than desire, and shook his head.
A cruel voice whispered, "What's the point?"
Porter didn't have the strength to argue with it this morning. He left the dark kitchen without making breakfast and made his way to the front door. His boots had been sloppily kicked off the night before and they had smeared mud on the floor. He kicked at the dried dirt and turned a blind eye. Once his boots were on Porter headed off to work.
The docks were a short walk from his house. He didn't remember the walk, only that he had arrived at his station. He could hear the voices of his coworkers, but deciphering their words required too much energy. The smell of the sea brought him into the present for a moment, and the brief clarity allowed a voice to break through.
"'Ey, Porter? Rough night, eh?"
A surge of contempt at being addressed flashed through him, and he struggled to subdue it.
"Yeah, yeah, couldn't sleep well, lumpy old bed..." he grumbled.
"Again? Seems that bed is more trouble than it's worth. Time to get a new one!" the voice responded.
With a heavy nod, he tipped a barrel over. There was no motivation to link the voice to a face, let alone respond. With a grunt he shoved the barrel, and it began to roll up towards a fishing boat in waiting. The rest of the day blurred into itself. Fish were counted, ship logs were collected, and he finally came back to the present when a sharp whistle cut through the air. The docks buzzed with excitement as everyone wrapped up their tasks for the day and made their way to leave.
Porter looked out towards the sea and sighed. He closed his eyes, and when he opened them, he was close to his front door. He didn't remember his feet carrying him home, but he had no complaints. A few more steps brought him close enough to turn the handle. He stared down at it, hesitant to touch it. His mind searched for any distraction, any excuse to be anywhere but here, and it latched into the sound of a nearby zoa call. Porter attempted to gather his strength but realized the call didn't sound like anything he was familiar with.
He turned away from the door and tilted his head to try to get a better grasp on the peculiar sound. It was raspy, desperate, and sounded close to the ground. He wondered what could make such a hideous noise. Porter walked around to the back of his house, and a careless step caused a twig to snap under his boot. The cry stopped for a moment. He froze, and held his breath. After a moment it picked up again, desperate as ever. He hunched over, and crept towards a large, hollow stump.
Porter cautiously knelt down and peeked over the wooden rim. His eyes widened as the remnants of a nest came into view. A very small creature was the source of the hideous rasping noise. It's eyes were closed, and it's beak was wide open. It called out to something familiar in Porter, and he turned away.
"Surely your mother will be back any moment now..." he reasoned more to himself than to the tiny creature.
Porter reluctantly rose to his feet and walked back towards his house. He pushed the door open, kicked off his boots, and drowned out the sounds of the baby by busying himself with dinner preparations. Once his stew was on the stove and simmering, he pushed back the curtains of his kitchen window. The brilliance of the sunset filled the kitchen and he squinted through the light. He could make out the nest, but no parental figure seemed interested in visiting it. His brow furrowed with worry, but he shook it off and went back to the stove to check on dinner.
Daylight faded into dusk. Porter finished his bowl of stew and packaged the rest up for leftovers. His gaze was drawn to his now-open window and he marveled at the starlight pouring through. A weak, rasping cry tugged at his attention, and a breath caught in his chest. There was still no sign of any parent. Logic and emotion began to wrestle each other in his head, but ultimately the cries became the only argument he could hear. Without further thought, he slid his old fashioned gauntlet over his arm and activated the flashlight function.
A weak beam of light illuminated the short walk to the stump. The cries had stopped, and when he peered over the edge he noticed the tiny zoa was curled into a ball. A stiff wind nudged him closer, and he curled his hand over the zoa to keep the brunt of the gust off of it. His hand hovered for a moment, and then settled onto the little creature. It felt cool, and didn't respond. Porter drew his hand away in surprise and struggled with a lump in his throat.
"Aww, c'mon... Little Prowl barely had a chance." he whispered to no one in particular.
The grief he had been holding back throughout the day surged to the surface and Porter squeezed his eyes shut in a futile attempt to keep it at bay.
"Well, life is like that sometimes," his voice was low, heavy with defeat, "but the least I can do is give you a good sendoff."
The light of his gauntlet flooded the nest as he scooped up the baby Prowl. He held it close to his chest and headed back inside. Porter gingerly placed it onto a dishtowel near his stove and went to find a nicer cloth. It didn't take long to find a suitable cloth for the baby, and his shovel would be in the small shed out back. He sighed, grabbed a lightweight chair, and dragged it into the kitchen.
Porter placed the chair near the tiny figure and collapsed into it. He looked down into his hands and tried his best to find some last words for the Prowl.
"Look, I don't know what to say other than I'm sorry little guy. I hope you're in a better place now, warm and well fed." he mumbled his sentiments as best he could, but he was cut off by what he swore was a small movement.
His gaze snapped onto the baby, and he held his breath in anticipation of any sign of hope. After a few seconds he slowly let out a sad sigh and brought a finger up to the Prowl's little front claws. It barely had nails, but they were already razor sharp. Porter caressed it's front legs with a single finger, and was surprised at how soft the tiny feathers on it were.
With care he let his finger trace along the baby's wing. While the downy feathers on it's body were soft and fluffy, the feathers of it's wings were held in waxy-feeling cases, barely poking out of the skin. It's short, stubby tail was also covered in soft down, and was curled up against it's body. Porter brought his finger to the Prowl's face, and stroked it's smooth, hooked beak. It's head moved with Porter's strokes. His fingernail accidentally ran along the side of the baby's beak, and it's eyes fluttered.
Porter froze, his eyes wide. He cautiously brought his fingernail to the side of the baby's beak again, and the moment he touched along the edge, the baby's eyes opened slightly. It let out a raspy whisper, and tried to open it's beak a little. Porter flew off of the chair, knocking it backwards. He bolted into his bedroom and grabbed a small box. With a swift motion he dumped the contents haphazardly onto his bed and ran back into the kitchen.
"Uh, oh, right, soft thing!" he blurted, and ran back into his bedroom.
Though his selection was poor, he was able to settle on one of his old shirts. He brought it back into the kitchen and lined the box with it. Through quickened, anxious breath, Porter scooped up the baby, careful to support it as best he could. He placed it into the box and placed his makeshift nest closer to the stove.
"Food, right, food! What do Prowl's eat... Meat eaters, fish?" he swore under his breath and tapped against his gauntlet impatiently.
A rather flat voice asked him what he required, and he was quick to blurt out, "Fish! No, uh, no, what I mean is, ugh!"
The voice didn't respond, and Porter took a deep breath. "What is a Prowl's diet?" he asked in as steady a voice he could muster.
The gauntlet let off a soft glow, indicating that it was thinking. Once it settled on an answer, it replied, "The Prowl, native to Uros, is a carnivore and has been observed catching fish and smaller zoa for nourishment."
"Thank you gauntlet, now, who do I contact if I found a baby Prowl?"
Once again the gauntlet indicated that it was searching for answers. "The Prowl rehabilitation facility closest to you is in Uros and has closed for the season."
Porter grumbled. "Call the facility. Uh, please."
The gauntlet began to play a soft song, and Porter walked into his pantry. He ignored the root vegetables and dried meat, and opened his ice chest. A few cleaned fish were in there and he pulled one out to begin thawing, just in case. The music stopped, and the gauntlet asked Porter if he would like to leave a message. He indicated he would.
"Hello, this is Porter speaking, uh, I found a baby Prowl in a stump out back, no parents visited or anything like that. It's very small, I took it inside to warm it up, I don't know what to do from here and any advice would be appreciated. I'll call back tomorrow if it makes it through the night, or you could call me anytime. Thanks."
He tapped his gauntlet to end the message, and it made a clicking sound to indicate it had done so. Without hesitation he turned his attention to the frozen fish in his hand and began to run it under some cool water. when the edges had softened, he placed it on a plate, and picked a few thawed chunks away from the frozen center.
After washing his hands he brought the plate over to his stove. Porter placed the plate on top to start warming the pieces and the bit of water they were in, and nudged the side of the Prowl's beak with his fingernail. The response he got was much more lively now that the baby had warmed up a bit. It opened it's beak, let out a small, raspy cry, and actively seemed to search the air for food.
Porter gasped in delight and reached over for the plate. He took a small chunk of fish, dabbed it in the water, and held it close to the baby's beak. The Prowl tapped it's beak against it, but didn't seem to quite understand the mechanics of how to get the food in. Porter, happy to assist, opened the baby's beak slightly and placed the fish in. The baby began to bob it's head fiercely. Porter pulled his hand back in surprise, but within a second the piece of fish was gone.
Delighted, Porter grabbed a second piece and continued until the Prowl had a sizable bulge in it's crop. The baby cried for a few moments after he stopped offering food, but quickly settled into a heavy sleep. It's wings relaxed and spread over it's body, and it's tail curled against it's clawed hind legs.
"Good thing I have the day off tomorrow..." he whispered.
Porter cleaned up as he could while being quiet and finished by picking his chair off the ground. Exhausted, he sat down and rested his head back. He watched the Prowl's breathing for a while before his eyes began to grow heavy.
"Hey, you showed some real persey- persy-verance today..." he chuckled, catching his errors.
"Persy-verance, that isn't a word, is it? But it's got a ring to it..." Porter trailed off for a moment, slipping in and out of sleep.
"Percy-verance. I hope to see you tomorrow Percy. Gunna have a lo- a lot more feeding to do..."
Porter's breathing grew deep, and Percy's wings fluttered gently as they both got some much needed sleep.