Doctor Snake lay coiled around Fluffin, who wept silently, nervously stroking his brown velvet ears. "But why do I need it?", Fluffin whined, for the fourth time.
Doctor Snake sighed wearily. "Little friend, if i give you a nip now, you'll be strong enough to survive a real bite. Now Fluffin I don't want to rush you, but I do have other patients to see", Doctor Snake flexed his long belly around the young brown rabbit and shook his rattly tail. "Relax, little rabbit, it won't hurt a bit"
The snake aimed carefully and with lightning quickness, struck towards Fluffin. The terrified brown rabbit was faster, though, and so the snake's sharp hollow teeth pierced his own long cool back instead of soft warm skin. Doctor Snake shrieked. His powerful tail jerked in one direction and his head in the other and the end result was an upset physician with a broken tooth.
"You said it wouldn't hurt!" sobbed a very betrayed Fluffin.
"Anything worth having hurts, rabbit!", hissed the bleeding and agitated snake, his back flexing rhythmically to loosen the sharp half tooth that had lodged under a shiny black scale. "Nothing is free in this life!"
Fluffin puffed up his small tan chest, "That's not true, Doctor Snake", he hopped nearer, "love doesn't hurt, my mother is worth having and she doesn't hurt, a warm burrow and sunshine don't cost anything!"
The old snake chuckled, his temper relieved. "You're very young, Fluffin, you haven't had to pay. Love is loss, yours or anothers', it matters very little. You will lose your mother one day, or she will lose you, and pain will cover the debt. A warm burrow is labor, and the exposure of a bright and sunny day is a risky thing for delicious little balls of fluff and meat", The old snake winked. "You'll long for a tougher hyde when the debt comes due for some goodness you used up with no care for economy or restraint, I can thicken it now if you like?"
"If I have to pay eventually, wouldn't it be better to wait? Why pay twice? Why hurt twice?" But the little rabbit had begun to doubt his resolve, Doctor Snake spoke with the authority of age, and Fluffin had been raised to respect his elders. He was horrified that he'd caused the snake to bite himself and chip a tooth, and relieved that the old snake didn't seem to be too upset over the loss. Fluffin hopped closer and offered to help remove the half tooth.
"Yes, thank you, Fluffin, that would be most appreciated" The snake grinned broadly, his remaining white tooth glinting in the sun as its broken twin dripped yellowy liquid onto his curled lower lip. "Just be careful", he warned. "There is still venom in the tooth."
Fluffin began to work the sharp white shard back and forth while Doctor Snake grunted lightly through the pain. "Can't you die from your bite?" he asked and then thought better, "But I suppose you can't be hurt by your own poison."
The old snake shook his head. "At this moment, the venom is streaking through my blood and weakening me. But I am too strong, I'm much larger than you. While my own poison can certainly kill me, it is very good poison after all, it would take far more than that pitiful dose. What is in that half tooth would barely be enough for you."
The rabbit removed his paws from the tooth and looked at it much more appreciatively. "I will be careful."
And he was. In a very short time, the little brown rabbit had removed the tooth and held it gingerly in his paw, unsure of how to proceed.
"It is better to pay ahead of time," the snake told the young rabbit, who had already forgotten what he'd asked. "If you build up a tolerance for pain, you pay less for each struggle and loss over time", the patient doctor explained.
"But why hurt at all?", the snake's response had reminded the young rabbit of his central point. "Why should I get used to loss? Why should I get used to pain? Why not avoid them both altogether?" Fluffin's chest puffed out once more, he had the old rattlesnake over a barrel this time!
The snake smiled sadly again, "Oh young Fluffin. Like it or not, you'll run towards pain. Your fast little legs will rush you to comfort, and love, and the warmth of the sun, the most costly things won't have to find you. Again and again, you will find them."
Fluffin thought for a moment, and then lightly scraped his own hyde with the small poison tooth.