15: Childish Delight
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Luca was fortunately blissfully unaware of where his parents ended up that morning or he'd have been more than a little distracted for his test.  Luca seemed to have a knack for subconsciously ignoring certain information. Of course the clothes that Galen was currently holding out for him to change into were another of those things he'd happily forgotten until now.

Donovan couldn't decide, that little blue suit with the tiny shorts would certainly make his baby look all serious and cute, but that brightly coloured set that brought to mind flowers and sunrise matched Luca's cheerful personality.  Donovan was helplessly thinking in spirals, each outfit looked as adorable as the next. Galen rolled his eyes and picked the green blouse and white shorts, after he got sick of waiting around as Donovan stood motionlessly staring at the different outfits with a serious look on his face.  Luca, who thought they were all equally bad, just resigned himself to whatever and reluctantly got dressed. Luca concluded that maybe not being able to eat breakfast this morning was for the best. The thought of wearing that getup out in public increased the churning of his stomach. 

The family of three walked down the street with Luca in the middle.  Galen and Donovan each holding one of his hands. Luca stared at his toes a faint blush on his cheeks feeling especially silly in his getup.  Donovan's calloused and ruff hand engulfed Luca's. There was just the right amount of pressure that Luca felt secure. Galen's hand was smaller than Donovan's, Luca's hand didn't disappear into his in the same way but the gentle warmth and firmness that Luca had come to expect from Galen expressed themselves through his hand.  The loving smiles Galen occasionally sent his way helped as well.

Luca continued to grumble internally at his outfit, though the direction of his complaints had shifted.  Although Both of his parents were also dressed up for the occasion, Luca glowered as he studied them and noted that their clothes weren't anywhere near as ridiculous as his. 

Donovan was decked out entirely in black.  The clothes did appear to be surprisingly well tailored.  With an asymmetrical jacket that went down to mid thigh. Diamond shaped, onyx buttons closed the jacket on a slight angle from top left to bottom right.  Some sort of detailed stitching made a pattern across the jacket. Luca couldn't quite figure out if it was an actual picture or just a pattern though as the relief was done in black thread which was only visible as the light occasionally caught it at a different angle to the rest of the garment.  The pants were fitted, showing of Donovan's well shaped legs and they tucked into slick leather boots that came to mid calf.

Galen's outfit was of a much looser design. He was wearing loose slacks and a long sleeve top.  The top had just three round, grey, buttons at the top. All three of which were done up so the shirt came up all the way and circled his neck.  Luca felt his neck constricting just thinking about wearing a collar that high. The whole outfit was predominantly sky blue. There was a white, swirling, thread relief around the collar of the shirt and at the bottoms of the sleeves and pants.  The whole outfit sort of reminded him of some Asian style outfits he'd seen. Not that Luca had ever really paid much attention to clothing styles before. With all the blue and the swirling white patterns the whole outfit reminded Luca of a clear blue sky and a few white puffy clouds.  On the whole it gave a much more refreshing vibe than Donovan's outfit.  

Luca gripped internally, why do they get to look respectable and I have to wear all these excessive frills,  Luca looked down with distaste. Heaving a sigh Luca blew out his discontent at the outfit.  I'm technically still just a recently hatched cub, I guess there's no real harm in wearing this. Luca determinedly set his jaw.  I just have to make sure I'm present when they buy me clothes from now on.

Luca relaxed his shoulders a bit and swung his hands, and by extension his parents, feeling slightly better after that decision.  Watching the entwined hands swing back and forth, Luca couldn't quite resist the tickle of delight bubbling up at the way they swung back and forth, back and forth.  Whimsically, without any preamble and no warning to his parents. Luca suddenly kicked his feet off the ground and swung.

Galen immediately stumbled . Fortunately Donovan had the strength and reflexes of a big, black cat, and managed to hold Luca with the one hand.  With the quick help Galen barely managing to catch himself from falling sideways. Luca quickly put his feet down, his head hung contritely, shoulders slumped with regret. A softly mumbled "Sorry," escaped his lips. His ears flopped over sadly and his tail dragged on the ground despondently.

Why did I even do that just now? I acted just like a thoughtless little kid! If i'd just taken a second I'd have realised it wasn't going to work.  Self reproach at his own lack of consideration and a childlike disappointment that the trick didn't work, blended together into a nasty concoction. The bitter combination almost brought tears to his eyes, but the weeks of meditation and anima control paid off as he finally managed to control his overactive tear ducts.

Galen couldn't bear to see his cute little cub so distraught, especially not today.  Of course his precious cub was excited. He had every right to be as today was an important milestone in every beastman's life. Galen gently stroked Luca's drooping head and scratched him behind the ears.

"Don't be upset love, you can try again if you want, I was just a little unprepared that's all."  Galen smiled as he discreetly rubbed his waist.

Luca's previous childish excitement drowned in a swamp of embarrassment and shame.  His parents treating him like a playful little cub, something that he couldn't deny considering his precious actions, made the embarrassment unbearable. 

Donovan and Galen looked at Luca with concern as his ears and tail remained joyless.  A stark contrast to his usual energetic, bubbly behaviour. 

"Luca it's really okay, do you want to try again?"  Galen gently encouraged their little bean to be playful but his words seemed to fall on deaf ears as Luca body language continued to radiate dejection.  Panic began to flutter at the base of Galen's throat. Surely their little bundle of joy wasn't going to stay depressed all day. This was supposed to be a day of joy and celebration.  Was it his fault? Just cause he had a little fun with his husband earlier he disappointed his cub so badly on his special day. Galen's steps slowed, his hand holding Luca's loosening. His free hand hovering hesitantly above Luca's head.  

Before Galen had the chance to straighten out his panicked thoughts Luca's hand was tugged out of his loosened grip.  

Donovan manoeuvred his hold like he'd done it a million times.  With precision and speed that spoke of a practiced ease. He quickly stood behind his forward facing, dispirited cub, grasping his hands with a monotone "hold on," he lifted him off the ground swinging him outward. 

Luca's miserable mood was shattered by the sudden shift in elevation. His cat instincts took over and he reflexively gripped tight to his father's hands. His legs dangling free in the air as it rushed by. House quickly fell away to the open sky, his heartbeat rising with his vision. His blood pumping in his ear's Luca just barely caught the calm "Feet down," from his father and hurried to obey.

Feet now firmly planted on the ground again his mind had a chance to catch up with what happened.  He went to glare at his father but as he turned his head he caught sight of his dad staring in consternation his hands outstretched in an aborted motion to stop Donovan.  Galen's contorted expression of worry and a hint of an erupting fury in the glare turned on Donovan, finally breaking the last string of confused shame that tied down Luca's mood.  Uncontrollable giggle's popped out of Luca as the remaining traces of adrenaline chased off the bad mood.  

Looking at the sunny little cub who was bent over in a fit of giggles, his tail and ears back to being boisterous, Galen uncomfortably swallowed down his rising tirade.  He sighed away the last of his irritation at his mate's reckless behaviour. Well he's happy again, i suppose that's the main thing.  

After Luca's laughter subsided the three carried on.  Luca still hung his head with a blush on his cheeks thinking of his antics but a childish joy kept the corners of his mouth turning upwards. His tail and ears happily expressing his real mood so his parents weren't concerned by his interest in his own feet.

When they arrived at the church Luca was struck by the grand appearance of the building.   In actuality the Church wasn't one building so much as several linked buildings sprawled over a large area. However the outside buildings were joined in such a way, that the only entrance appeared to be the one at the front where all the families were gathered expectantly. 

The vine walls and hallways spread out across the grounds. Roofs of individual buildings sprouted out of the vine walls sporadically,  like freshly sprouting flowers with petals still closed. Luca was stuck between admiring the building he had been too shocked to properly take in when he first arrived in this world, and relief that he wasn't the only ridiculously dressed child. Luca commiserated with the other children in silence, wondering if the parents had considered it some kind of competition to see who could embarrass their child the most.

In order to protect his eyes from the outfits, each more garish than the last, Luca directed his eye's up towards the Church and took in its splendour.  Once he got past the building materials Luca couldn't help but see similarities to some architectural styles from earth, especially the dome roofs. If those earth buildings had been grown from plants and were a mixture of various shades  of green, pink, and orange. The vine walls were a vibrant green that slowly changed to a dusty pink that then transitioned into a bright sunset orange as the tops of the domes slightly opened as if a flower shyly opening its petals.

While Luca was taking in the building. Boris, the bear beastman butcher, who processed the prey Donovan brought in, strode up to where the family of three was standing.  Just outside the church and a little away from the gathering of other families. Trailing behind him, with hunched shoulders and hesitant steps, a shy little bear cub beastman hurried to keep up with his father.

"Your cub's ready for the evaluation too huh," Boris boomed out while still walking towards them. His cub had to take several hurried steps for every one of his fathers.

He slapped Donovan on the back without a care as soon as he got close enough.  "Good deer you brought in last time," He eyed Luca critically, "Sure he's up for it? He's awfully scrawny, and pretty newly hatched right?"

"Yes, he's a quick learner, and he does meet the age requirements."  Galen flung out almost defensively. He sported a strained smile, his ears still ringing a little from the boisterous greeting. 

"Good for you lad," Luca felt his knees start to buckle as the overwhelming beastman patted him on the shoulder.  Galen quickly grabbed Luca out of Boris's way and smiled down at the cub cautiously poking his head out from behind his father's back. 

"This must be Joshua.  He already looks just like you." 

Boris barked a laugh, his hands on his hips . Luca was seriously worried his voice might bring the buildings down. 

Galen and Boris continued trading compliments of their own children as if trying to one up each other. Galen seemed to be taking it as some strange type of competition, Boris seemed more like the type who was just painfully honest.

The slightly charged conversation was interrupted by the dramatic opening of the church doors.  It wasn't just them, all conversation died off as the church doors rose into the top of the door frame like a curtain rising for the first act of a play. Fascinated Luca watched on as the door scrunched itself up at the top of the opening, without any obvious assistance.  Slowly revealing the priest who stood in the centre of the doorway. 

It was finally time for the test to begin. 

 

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