Title: Welcome Hearsay
Summary: A trip back from Thorn Valley brings welcome news to the Brisby widow and a little hint at feelings between two good friends. Hinted Jeremy/Brisby, because it's so undervalued and not considered. One-shot.
Disclaimer: I make no money writing this and own no part of the license and owners agreement to it. Do not sue me.
Warning: Could be seen as inter-species relations between the two main players here and there but that's about it.
Dedication: This was written for the only person who reviewed my last NIMH fic, as a sort of piece of gratitude. Nobody else agreed that this could be a possible pairing, but I don't mind. This could be seen as friendship or romance; it's really up to the reader.
Winters in the middle of a field meant for mixed tall vegetables and squashes were always cold, and bitter and biting. Until Jeremy had met Mrs. Brisby, he had often spent his time in the woods trying to find empty holes in trees that woodpeckers had once used. Now that he knew the lady mouse and they were close friends, she often invited him to stay with her in her home, near the fire.
He hoped to do so tonight as he flew through the air, wings as close to his body as they could be and still remain in the air. Though, with the way the winds were picking up and the snow and frost were smacking into him with enough force to remove one of those giant steel birds humans traveled in from the friendly skies, he highly doubted the close wings to his body would keep out frostbite.
He was just returning, again, for the third time this month, from Thorn Valley to visit the Brisby children and bring their letters to the widow Brisby. The letters were clutched in his right foot, tight and safe and attached to a long blue thread in case the wind picked up and he let go for a moment too long. They would tell in written word what Jeremy had seen with his own eyes, but that was fine as he would probably just fall asleep the minute he got to the Brisby home.
Jenny and Timmy were having Mrs. Brisby's first grandchildren, finally. Jenny would give birth to them by first thaw and Theresa and Cynthia had made themselves available for midwives to the headstrong mouse that had married their younger brother. Martin, finding he wasn't very good a match for the guardsmice, was taking up science with Mr. Ages and doing quite well for himself, but he would not be looking for a mate for a while.
Jeremy felt a little guilty, but he was glad to be away from the shining utopia of mice and rats for miles around. Being there, he was always stopping himself from questioning Justin the "leader of the rats" about exactly why he hadn't put up Mrs. Brisby among the statues of Johnathan and Timmy so long after the events that had lead to the rat's escape from the Fitzgibbons farm and reaching of Thorn Valley. The crow always wondered why they hadn't made a statue of her right off, and why the children stilldidn't know that the kind widow was the reason the rats hadn't been annihilated. It sort of rubbed him the wrong way that they worshipped the memory of a dead mouse who was, yes, a good friend to the rats of NIMH and had, yes, gotten them out of that death-pit, but Mrs. Brisby was still alive; someone should talk about the good she did in the course of three days compared to Johnathan's years and months.
Jeremy shook the thoughts away as he finally caught sight of the farm of the Fitzgibbons and then, finally, the stone in the garden.
A heavy, angry feeling gust of winter wind caught its strength and weight against a sudden onrush of Jeremy's wings. He found himself calling out a little shriek as he spun three times backwards and off kilter in the air before righting himself. The letters tied to him, he had let go for a second, but, quickly and thanks to the thread, they were back in his grip and he made a vertical swoop toward the stone that lasted no more than twenty seconds.
His wings spread wide to stop himself and he circled the stone twice before he landed in front of the entrance that allowed him inside.
The jittery black crow shook himself three times, trying to dislodge the frost and frozen bits of ice and snow that had caught on him during flight, not wanting to drag it into the warm house and leave what would later become puddles that Miss Bris' would have to clean up because of his clumsiness. That done and giving himself a once-over, he pecked the doorway once, twice, thrice.
After counting to seven like he usually did after knocking, quietly licking the inside of his beak (there was some debris that he'd had to spit out on the journey and was glad to find that they hadn't stuck), he shifted downward as the door opened and he was met with Mrs. Brisby. A relieved look was along her face that made him—for reasons he was started to recognize but mostly ignored because she was the best friend he had (and he didn't want to mess that up)—blush just above his beak, below the ridges of his eyes. A large quilt by mouse standards was in her arms and she stepped aside for the bird to come inside. For which he was quite quick in doing so more snow didn't stick to him.
"Oh, I was wondering when you were going to get here," she fussed over him, quickly untying the letters from him and draping the quilt—made in part of farmer's old glove and pieces of a horse blanket that Jeremy had brought her in pieces last winter—over his back as he gratefully took his usual spot next to the fire, shivering with a smile.
"Sorry to worry you, Miss Bris'," Jeremy rattled out, one wing lifting helpfully so she could put the letters on her table and go about putting the kettle on for tea, "That morning fog was a real problem. It hailed on the way here, too. Didn't mean to worry you."
"You said that already, Jeremy," Mrs. Brisby smiled, adding water to her kettle and setting it onto the lever sticking out of the fireplace. "Anyway, how were the children?"
"Aren't you going to read the letters to find out?"
"Perhaps. Later," she stated, using her little hands to tighten the quilt around him and, much to his surprise, got herself a quilt from where she had been sitting by the fire herself, shifting her back into his feather fluffy chest, "Though, I'd much rather hear it from you. My eyes aren't what they used to be, after all."
"Ah, don't worry about that, Miss Bris'," the large, gangly crow smiled, balking his figure a little more backwards so she fit perfectly underneath the blue string he wore as a collar, her head a well enough fit against his collar bone, "You can still read better than I can."
This was true, but she took his mind off of that quickly enough.
"So, how is Martin doing with the guardmice?"
"Uh," he hesitated a moment, but found the words after another moment or so looking into the fire at the boiling kettle of tea, "Well, he didn't think it was a right fit. He's working with Mr. Ages now in the science wing. They're working on something to make the food cultivation go more smoothly in the rice paddies or something."
Mrs. Brisby didn't look sure that she liked that Martin was working with science when it had ended rather badly for him in NIMH, Jeremy could tell, but she just nodded, eyes closed and waited for him to continue.
"The girls are doing pretty good for themselves, too," he rambled on, "They're both working on medical, baby stuff. Not sure what it's called."
"I think it's called maternity medicine." She didn't sound quite so sure, but didn't make any other comment on it as the kettle started screaming.
Mrs. Brisby lopped upwards out of her own quilt and Jeremy found that, strangely, he missed the touch, but sated himself with watching her retrieve the kettle from the orange and yellow flames and bring it over to the table. It was amazing that she was so quick to grab for the large bowl that would serve as his own cup and her own cup that was less than a forth of the bowl's size. It was a little like watching a butterfly move from buttercup to buttercup and then off again to where it had come. Quite lovely, really.
Making sure her hands were out of the danger of being burned in case she was surprised by his next statement, Jeremy continued about Timmy and Jenny.
"Oh, and you're gonna be a grandma by this spring."
He was right to wait. She spun away from the dishes, the kettle and the scalding hot tea and looked at him with supreme surprise. Her mouth hung open, ears erect in case she'd heard him wrong and her tail was ramrod straight, whiskers out-turned as well.
Jeremy grinned so wide he felt as if his beak would crack in half, "That's right. Jenny and Timmy are having babies. Mr. Ages said he couldn't quite tell how many this early in the pregnancy, but he thinks there's at least two of the little things wiggling around in her tummy. Congratulations Miss Bris'!"
Her eyes widened and, though he thought—and was right to as she had done so before—she wasn't going to start crying in joy, instead she leapt into the air and attached herself like a second limb around his neck in a tight hug. She was laughing so hard that her arms vibrated around his throat and he ended up hugging her around her waist to hold her up so she wouldn't accidentally strangle him in her joy.
If anyone walked in—a thing Auntie Shrew had been prone to do before her passing a year ago—they would have no doubt taken a step backwards at the very odd sight on the display of the two of them in a tight, cackling embrace. A tiny lady mouse and a hyperactive crow.
"Oh, babies! Really, Jeremy; you're sure?"
"'Course I'm sure," Jeremy boasted, leaning a little too far back and he ended up lying down with Mrs. Brisby on his chest with a gleeful expression never leaving her face.
The lady mouse folded her arms and perched her head on them so she was looking Jeremy in the eyes, the both of them seeming like lunatics, but not minding at all as she played with the thread around his neck and thought aloud, "Do you suppose I should leave for there to help with the poor dear? This is her first time, after all."
"Eh," Jeremy shrugged, the idea of Mrs. Brisby leaving her home, the one she'd saved—the one the lot of Thorn Valley didn't know about or appreciate—to save her children, not sitting well with him, "I think Mrs. McBride is pretty on top of it. But, I could take you there before the time comes if you like."
Those little hands that he felt as affectionate for as the whole of Mrs. Brisby herself skimmed over each other and then, like both of her arms as she got a little, tired look on her face, splayed out and she relaxed, still smiling; closing her eyes in a dreamy expression, "Hm, no. I think you've had enough flying for the winter. We'll leave before she delivers; I don't want you flying out there in the chill again so soon…"
She looked like she was going to continue with that line of objections, but, much to his own tired happiness, she yawned and just sort of curled up in a ball on his chest. The top of her head rested on that tuft of feathers that he used to raise whenever he got into a tizzy with others birds over ladies, but in recent years had simply just been there to preen and clean and keep for comfort's sake. Her breathing quickly evened out and, very absently, he carefully brought the quilt he was lying atop, out from under him and placed it over them both.
Her tail lapped against his stomach and he fell asleep to her breathing and the feel of the fire far enough from his feet to be comfortable and not be at risk of catching fire.