After a few days the snow faded away, leaving you feeling a little silly. It was still cold, but warm enough for your foals to play in the grass while you watched. Not at all what meanie Needle had described. You had a few nice bright times of grazing and playing, occasionally taking another mouthful of leaves into the nummie pile just in case before the snow returned. When it came back it came back hard. Your foals were enamored with it, watching the fluffy flakes fall while you sat nervously behind them. It felt like it never stopped, slowly building up around the entrance to the pipe and eventually almost entirely blocking it. You had to dig a tunnel out into the snow for everyone to make good poopies.
“Babbeh am cowd, mummah.” Your grey baby said again, her new teeth chattering.
“Mummah kno, mummah so sowwy.” You gave her a light kiss on top of her head and pulled her in closer. Her blue brother was tucked under you, shivering as well. You looked to the entrance to your den, hoping their orange brother would be back soon. At first when he tried to leave you protested but he returned with another little dead monster, something for him to eat. You understood now. All your babies had weaned, including him, but he couldn’t eat acorns and leaves like you and your foals. You had initially all been eating from the nummie pile, but watching how quickly it dwindled you decided that you would forage for food anyway. Your orange baby was quite warm and did a wonderful job of keeping his siblings warm while you did, you just had to make sure he got his time to get food as well. You wished you could protect him as well, but you couldn’t kill squeaky monsters like him. All you could do was hope for his safe return.
“Brrt!” A noise came from outside. Your orange baby entered, shaking the snow from his fluff and dropped a chunk of meat and fur down in the dead leaves.
“Guud babbeh, mummah su happy yu bak.” He head butted you, and you gave him a quick hug. He didn’t like long hugs, but when he shoved his head into you like this it meant he wanted one and you were happy to provide. “Mummah gu get nummies nao. Wub babbehs, stay in nestie.” Your babies nodded. You knew you didn’t need to tell them, they barely had the energy to talk anymore. Your poor babies. This is not how you wanted them to spend the days, huddled in the dry leaves, trying not to rattle their new teeth out of their little mouths. You hoped the cold time would pass soon, and they could get back to playing and growing big and strong.
Gritting your teeth, you stepped out into the cold. You used to feel a sharp pain in your ears the moment you went out, but now you didn’t feel them at all. Your hooves and nose hurt badly though, and you tried to keep your mouth shut to keep the cold from hurting your teeth and tongue. You had worn a small path into the snow leading to the small tree place, the snow packed to hard ice beneath your hooves. It was built up over your shoulders, making travel outside your little path nearly impossible.
Slowly and laboriously you made your way to the tree place. There were still small patches of bare ground under the pine trees, and you took a moment in one to shake the snow from your fluff. You knew there wasn’t much here, every day it was harder and harder to find something edible. The pointy leaves on the pine trees were somewhat edible, but they hurt your mouth and tummy. You would return if nothing else was available. You started to dig into the frozen leaf litter, searching for any left over acorns. There was none left the last time you looked, or the time before that one, or the time before that, but it still felt worth your aching hooves digging into the frosty leaves and pine needles.
“Nee nummies… pwease…” You muttered. You were worried, very worried about the amount you had stored. All that was left were a few balls of moss, dry and grey. With a heavy sigh you turned back to the pine trees. Pointy nummies again.
As you chewed the bitter spikes you lamented your situation. Why did it have to get so cold? Why right now? If your foals were bigger when the cold time started, you could have had their help getting food. Sure, they would have been eating more but maybe you would have gotten more. If you had more warning you could have found a warmer home as well. The pipe was lined with frost on the inside, the only thing it protected you from was the harsh wind. You choked down a sob, thinking of your poor, cold foals. They couldn’t run and play, they couldn’t learn and grow… this was no way for a foalhood to go. You had hoped your foals would have a better life than you, despite everything.
You ripped off a small branch of pine needles, taking it with you as you trudged back to your den. You didn’t want them to eat pointy nummies, but it was better than nothing. You didn’t want to be reduced to eating the leaf litter you used as bedding either, you were sure that without it your family would freeze to death at night.
“Mummah bak.” You said, dragging the branch in behind you. None of your foals replied, but the orange baby lifted his head and blinked as you set it in the nummie pile. “Cowd times end soon, babbehs. Be wawm again, hab pway in gwassies.” You added yourself to the fluff pile, laying opposite from the orange baby and trying to cover as much of them as you could with your body. You had no idea how his short, striped fluff did such a better job at keeping him warm. Maybe, being whatever he was, he was just warmer than the average fluffy.
“Heloooo? Anyone here?” a voice called from outside. A human voice, it sounded friendly.
“Stay quiet, babbehs. Hooman nu huwt if nu kno fwuffies hewe.” You suppressed the urge to run to the voice, holding your quivering babies back as well. Humans were dangerous. You had seen the carnage left behind, the mutilated corpses of grown fluffies and babies alike.
“I have sketti here if any fluffy wants it… I’m sure you’re hungry!” The voice called again.
“S-s-s-s-sketti?!” Your blue baby chattered, trying to wriggle out from under you.
“Nu!” You whispered firmly. “Nu hab sketti, onwy huwties.” You said, more to remind yourself than him. You had no idea what sketti was, but the word made your mouth water. It was something wonderful, you were sure, but you were also sure that nothing good would come of approaching a human. Your mummah told you that humans only ever gave hurties, no matter what they said.
“You in here??” You watched in horror as a hand entered the pipe. Your orange baby jumped to his feet, tail poofed up and ears flattened.
“Nu! Stay wif mummah!” You cried as he lept over you, pouncing on the hand with a battle cry.
“OW THE FUCK?!” The voice yelled, slamming your orange baby into the side of the pipe. It pulled out quickly, boo-boo juice dripping on to the leaves. “A fucking cat?!”
“Owange babbeh!” You called out to him as he stood again. “Hab huwties?!”
He hissed his reply, positioning himself in front of you and his siblings.
“Nu babbeh! Wet mummah pwotec!” You tried to reason with him. “Yu am babbeh, Mummah am Mummah! Cum bak!”
He ignored you, tail swishing angrily. Before you could drag him back a strange object entered the pipe, a long stick with a loop of wire around the end. He slapped at it, growling.
“Owange babbeh cum back wite nao!”
The wire looped around his neck and pulled tight. Your orange baby flailed on the end of the stick, kicking leaves and dirt in every direction as it began to drag him out of your den.
“NUUUU! NU TAEK!!” You lept after him, hooves just missing his tail as he was pulled away. “MUMMAH CUMIN BABBEH!” You scrambled after him.
“Gotcha!” You saw the human lift him into the air as he struggled. “You’re a live one! I was told there were fluffies here, but it was just- huh?” She was cut off as you slammed into her leggie.
“YU GIB BABBEH BAK TU MUMMAH WITE NAO!” You pummled your hooves into her as hard as you could. “WITE NAO WITE NAO WITE NAO!”
“Ah, there she is!” The human, unbothered by your attack, shoved your orange baby into a sorry box and pulled the stick back out as she shut the door. “I’m sorry, I can’t give your baby back.”
“MUMMAH HEWP!” You darted between her legs and slammed your hooves into the box. “NO WOWWY BABBEH MUMMAH HEW- EEEEEEE!” You were suddenly lifted by your scruff, scardie pee-pee trailing behind you.
“Calm down girl, calm down.” The human held you at eye level.
“Wet… wet mummah gu…” This was as close as you had ever been to a human, you had no idea they were this big.
She smiled at you. “No can do. But I wasn’t lying about the sketti, I do have some if you want it.”
… Sketti did sound good. The pointy nummies never seemed to fill you up, it might be nice to have some real, warm food. Maybe… Some sketti and then you could convince the lady to let you go?
Your orange baby made a low, sad wail from his sorry box, and you shook your head. What were you thinking? “Nu, gib babbeh and gu way!” You puffed your cheeks at the human lady. You had a duty to your foals first.
“I can’t give you the baby the monster ate, I’m sorry. Do you have other babies in there? I have enough sketti for them too.”
Monster? The only monster here was her. “Nu wan sketti, wan babbeh!”
The lady put her hand on her hip, frowning at you. “You know, I thought you’d be a little more grateful that I saved you and your babies. Cats are dangerous to fluffies, especially when they’re hungry.”
“Nu sabe! Taek babbeh!!” What was this lady talking about?! You flailed in her grasp. “Gib babbeh bak or get wowstest huwties!”
“Ah. Yeah okay, I was hoping to not have to reach in there again, but if you won’t work with me I’ll go check myself.”
She grabbed another sorry box from the back of her monster. You tried to hold on to the edge but she was stronger and shoved you in. You fell into the bottom with a thud and watched the door slam shut, defeated.
“Nu huwt babbehs! Nu gwabby stick!!” You cried.
“The grabby stick isn’t for fluffies, I promise.” She set you in the back of the monster, bending down to pick up your orange baby’s sorry box.
“WIAW! Yu gwab owange babbeh wif gwabby stick!!”
“… What? No, I grabbed the…” The lady looked into the sorry box she was holding. “Orange…Is… Is this your orange baby?” She asked softly.
“YUS! WET GU!” You slammed your hooves against the mesh door, tears rolling down your cheeks. “MUMMAH WUB OWANGE BABBEH!”
“You… What?” She set the other sorry box down next to you, and you could just see his frightened eyes through the holes on the side. “No, he ate your baby, right? That’s what you mean, the monster has your baby inside him?”
“Nu am munstah!” You cried, trying to shove your hoof through the opening to comfort him. “Am mummah’s babbeh!”
“…We are talking about the pointy eared one, right? The one with the long tail?”
You snorted. Humans ask dumb questions. “Owange babbeh hab pointy eaws and wong taiw bu am guud babbeh.”
The lady stood there for a moment, staring at you. “I… Have never even heard of this before…”
“Mummah hewe babbeh, be otay, mummah pwomise.” You tried to sound convincing. You didn’t know what this lady would do to you or your foals.
“Okay so,” The lady leaned down to talk to you. “I’m from a place that takes care of fluffies. I’m sorry I scared you, I thought your… orange baby… was a monster that was hurting you.” She looked confused, but not malicious. “I have food and warm places to sleep, all the sketti you can eat. I promise, no one is going to hurt you.”
You squinted, trying to get a read on her. You didn’t trust her, not at all. But your babies were cold, and you were running out of food… “Wha wady wan?”
“Nothing! Just to talk right now, okay?” She sat down on the end of the monster. “Do you have other babies in that pipe?” You hesitated, unsure if you should say anything. “I don’t want to hurt them, I promise. I want to bring you all somewhere safe and I don’t want to have to use the grabby stick on them. I can’t reach all the way in there though.”
“…Mummah hab twee babbehs. Nu wan get tho.”
The lady smiled. “How about I give you some food, see if that will help.”
She opened a round container and set it in front of you, opening the sorry box. You slowly crept out, keeping your eyes on her until the smell hit you. Savory, sweet, tickling the back of your brain in ways you never thought possible, you were face down in the sketti before you could even think. It was everything you imagined, the warmth filled your mouth and worked its way down to your belly before it spread out into the rest of your body. Tears flowed openly, happy sobs escaped you between bites. You didn’t stop until the can was licked clean.
“It’s good, huh? I’ve eaten this stuff too, when I was homeless like you.” The lady said.
“Wady hab no homesie?” You asked, sitting down across from her.
“I do now, but I didn’t always. My mummah wasn’t as good as you.”
“Das saddie.” You looked her over again. She didn’t have the cruel glint in her eye most of the other humans you dealt with did. None of them ever gave you sketti either.
“You’re a really good mummah, taking in this kitty- your orange baby. I can help you take care of your other babies, too! It must be hard finding them food out here.” You nodded. The lady continued, “and they must be cold, huh?”
“Yus, babbehs awe cowd…” You looked back towards your burrow. They must be freezing without you or their brother to keep them warm.
“It’s warm where we’re going. There will be more sketti there too. If you get them out for me we can get going!” She smiled widely at you.
This lady felt nice. She gave you the best nummies, and sounded friendly instead of mean. You werent sure you believed her about your orange baby… but it was cold. “Otay wady.”
“Good girl! Let’s hurry, it’s way too cold out here for fluffy babies.” She reached for you, and you lifted your hooves instinctively to be picked up. She held you against her chest and walked over to your den, moving quicker than you ever thought possible! “I’ll be right back with a carrier big enough for all of you, okay? Blankets too.”
“Tankoo, wady.” You waddled into your den, seeing your foals shivering in the leaves. “Babbehs cum wif mummah, hooman wady nice.”
“B-b-b-buh mummah s-s-s-s-”
You cut your blue baby off, “Mummah nu kno wady nice. Hab nummies, wawmies. Cum wif mummah.” He slowly waddled over to you, his sister struggling to move behind him. You carried her as best you could, holding her scruff while her leggies stumbled under her.
“Oh she’s not looking too good. I’ll drive quick, okay?” The nice lady said as you settled your foals in the blanket.
“Nice wady bwing owange babbeh?” You asked, settling yourself between your foals.
“Ehhhh… Listen, he bit me once and I don’t really want to get bit again. I’ll bring him into the cab with us, but he’s gonna be in his carrier until he calms down, okay?”
“Otay.” You held your grey baby tightly as she set you in the monster. It was blissfully warm inside, soft music was playing as well. You snuggled your foals, hoping you made the right choice.
“Here he is! Rowdy boy.” She set the shaking sorry box next to yours. Your orange baby wailed, a long, sad noise.
“Nu wowwy babbeh! Mummah hewe!” He settled down, you could see his bright eyes turn to you through the holes in the side of the box. “Wady am nice! Nu biteys!”
“You really are his mummah, huh?” The lady chuckled. “I’ll call this in and we’ll be on our way. Can’t wait to see the guys get a load of this!”
“Lotus, you have visitors!” A voice called into the room.
You gasped, untangling yourself from the kitty wrapped around you. He made a small unhappy noise, and you giggled. “Sowwy Mandawin, nappy time obah. Babbehs hewe!” He made a sleepy noise as he stood and stretched his back.
The door to the saferoom opened and your foals tumbled into the room, one of the shelter ladies following behind them.
“Babies!!” You called, holding your hooves open for their hugs. They dove into you, sending you tumbling back into the blanket pile.
You are now Lotus, the resident office fluffy of the Hooves and Hearts shelter. The lady really was a nice lady, she took you to the most wonderful place. No one was hungry or cold or hurting here, every fluffy had everything they could possibly need. Lots of people wanted to ask you questions, where you got your orange baby, why you kept him, at first you thought you were in trouble! But they assured you that you did a very good thing, a very nice thing, and they just wanted to know about it. They even gave him a name, Mandarin!
This was a place for fluffies to find mommies and daddies, and your babies did! They had a mommy and a daddy that were brother and sister too! They named your grey baby Sofie and your blue baby Skye! You were so sad when they left, but so happy for them too. Their mommy and daddy promised that they would come to visit often, and they did!
“Mandawin!” Your blue baby wriggled out of your grasp, running to his brother. “Skye miss yu!”
Mandarin replied in the form of a full body tackle, and Skye giggled as they tumbled across the plush floor.
“Mummah, Sofie hab guud ting!” Sofie squealed. “Bwuddah gun be daddeh!”
“Babbeh hab spechow fwend?! Why nu cum meet mummah?!”
Skye’s voice was muffled by Mandarin laying on top of him. “Aww… Skye wan teww mummah!”
“Sowwy!” Sofie giggled. “So cited! Widdow mummah gun gu to cowwege soon, take Sofie wif! Mummah’s Mummah say den hab woom fo get bwuddah spechow fwend!”
“Mummah so happy! Babbehs gun be so pwetty!!” You cheered.
“Speaking of babies,” The shelter lady said, handing you a small blanket bundle. “Pip is done with the vet!”
“Pip?” Sofie asked. “Wha am Pip?”
You smiled as you peeled back the blanket to reveal the tiny brown kitten. “Am babbeh bwuddah.”
“BWUDDAH!” Skye yelled, running over.
“Am so widdwe!” Sofie said. “Mandawin dat widdwe?”
“Yus, yu and bwuddah tuu!” You set him against your teat and he started nursing, little paws kneading furiously.
“Nuu!” Skye said, puffing out his chest. “Skye nebah dat widdwe! Awways big fwuffy!”
Pip had been given to you by the shelter ladies, they said there were lots of little babies like him that needed mummahs. Kitties, they called them. You were told that you were such a good mummah that you were going to stay here forever, to raise lonely little babies and teach other fluffies how to be a good mummah. You were given the name Lotus and a lovely little saferoom to stay in and raise more good babies in. You got to have sketti every few bright times, you had the most wonderful toys to play with, and you had so many friends to play with!
“Hewwo bwuddah!” Sofie said, gently petting him with a hoof. “Am Sofie! Am sissy!”
“Am Skye!” Skye added, crouching down to get a better look at him. “Pip am stwipy wike bwuddah!”
Your foals told their tiny brother how much they loved him while you watched him nurse, feeling his little claws prick your skin and knowing that wherever this little baby ended up, he would be loved and cared for as well as you were now.