(This story is part of the "Wrapstuffed Tribemembers - Background" series of stories -- see listing for related stories.)
Greenweave sighed, turning the boot over in his hands. The pair was rapidly approaching the end of their useful life - so patched and mended that little of the original leather remained. Even the patches were wearing thin, and the stitching that had just failed was only the latest breakdown in a string of such accidents. The fisher tried to remember when Moss had originally made them for him, and couldn't. Ten turns of the seasons? Only five? Greenweave rarely tried to measure time, seeing no point in it. These boots had traveled their useful lifetime, it didn't matter how many years they'd seen.
Greenweave knew that the loss of a pair of boots was not the cause of his melancholy. It had been a dozen days since he'd lost Honey, and it was easier to mark time when it was felt so keenly.
He stripped off the other boot, and one of the laces snapped when he didn't take care with it. It was chilly, still early in spring for going barefoot (though Quick Fang had abandoned her footwear some days previous), but he wouldn't lose any toes to frost on the trot back to the dentrees.
Before he could rise, Moonpaw lifted his head and looked down the well-traveled trail towards the Holt and made a noise of greeting. Windburn, atop Flatpaw, emerged from the greenery and had to stop, as Greenweave's boot failure had come at a location in the path too narrow to get out of the way. Moonpaw got wearily to her old feet to exchange sniffs with Flatpaw, tail low but wagging happily. The higher-ranked wolf allowed the familiarity with tolerance, and Windburn dismounted.
"Those old boots finally gave out?" Greenweave's old boots had been a point of good-natured mockery for some time. Nightstorm had started him a pair, some months ago, but they were still among the chaos of her usual collection of unfinished projects. He'd never been inspired to prod her to finish them - not while these still had useful life in them.
"Nothing lasts forever," Greenweave said with determined cheer. It sounded forced. He got to his feet.
Windburn looked clearly uncomfortable, and the fisher knew why; his chief had always been more surefooted with situations requiring action, not squishy things like grief and loss. Still, he made the effort, coming to stand beside Greenweave.
"You know, it's not permanent," the chief said gruffly. "We'll have a healer again someday."
He wasn't talking about the boots - he was talking about Honey, softly wrapped in preserver silk to keep her fever from killing her. Death was forever. Wrapstuff... there was some hope that is wasn't. Greenweave smiled at him wryly. He was close to an agemate of the chief, and grateful that he'd never had to shoulder so much responsibility. "It's not permanent," he agreed peacefully. Not quite two weeks, and it was still a empty place in his head, and in his furs, where Honey had been for so long. He still reached mentally for her whenever he approached the Holt without her, or came upon one of their favorite fishing places, or something she would like, forgetting that she wouldn't be there.
Windburn clapped him on the shoulders - a gesture that was meant to be comforting but failed.
"You'll be off to paint for a while?" Aside from Honey's near-death, things were peaceful at the Holt, and after a winter cooped up in the dentrees, Greenweave knew that Windburn was itching to get back to his personal project - a mural of artwork on a nearby rockface, just beneath an overhang. The chief didn't like to discuss his urge to create pictorial representations, and considered it a useless pursuit, but it was obviously an easier topic for him than Greenweave's loss, and he seized upon it.
"Yes," he admitted. "Chicory found a new combination of pigments that may be more permanent. Some of the older pieces are fading on the exposed rock, and a lot of it washed off last spring. It's not as protected as the murals in the storage caves." He carefully didn't mention the mural in the wrapstuff room at the base of the den trees - that was a project of hundreds of years now, and begun before Windburn's birth. "I want... I want to make something more permanent." It was more than the elf usually said on the subject.
Greenweave caught himself looking at the bedraggled boots in his hands. "Nothing's really permanent," he said without really thinking. "Even metal. Even stone." He found himself remembering the discovery that one of his favorite fishing rocks had gotten swept away in heavy spring floods. Honey had been with him on that trip.
Windburn made an uncomfortable noise that was meant to be sympathetic and fingered the silver torc around his neck. Greenweave took pity on the chief. "Don't feel bad," he said sincerely. "My artform is hair, and that rarely lasts even an evening of dancing."
Windburn chuckled. Greenweave wiggled his toes; they were going numb in the packed dirt. "Without a healer, frostbite will be pretty near permanent." It was an exaggeration - it wasn't even quite cold enough to see breath in the moonlight, but the point was clear. Windburn swung onto his wolf-friend, and Greenweave edged past to get onto Moonpaw.
**Thanks,** Greenweave sent as they parted ways, and it contained all his affection and gratitude - not just for Windburn's solicitude, but for the Holt's - for the warm, supportive community that Windburn led, and for their efforts at comfort. Honey's state wasn't permanent, as he'd been kindly reminded many times.
In some ways, that made things much worse.