(This story is part of the "Wrapstuffed Tribemembers - Background" series of stories -- see listing for related stories.)
Cloudfern had woken early; he could tell from the red-tinged rays of the sun peeking around the edges of the windbreak strung across the entrance to the den he shared with Greenweave. He decided that he could afford to stay in the furs a bit longer before venturing out. Spring though it was, the air was still chilly enough to bring the newness of the season to mind. He squeezed his eyes shut against the light and rolled over, extending one arm in a languid stretch to embrace the warm body at his side. When his hand encountered only a cool, Greenweave-shaped hollow in the bedfurs, however, Cloudfern opened his eyes again, a curl of confusion entering his sleep-fuzzed mind as he groped at the empty spot.
**Spirit.** The aging she-wolf opened one pale eye to regard her bond. **Where's Greenweave?**
Spirit yawned, hid her face beneath her tail again, and sent back an image of Greenweave, clad in his winter tunic, slipping quietly out of the den.
“I figured that part out myself.” Cloudfern hesitated a moment longer, trying to tamp down the unease welling up within him. If Greenweave had been gone long enough for his side of the bed to grow cold, he hadn't just left the den to lift a leg. Though the winter snows were gone, there was still too much chill in the air for his easily-chilled lovemate to want to be outdoors longer than need be. Had he gone to check the state of the river and met with misfortune? A bear still lean from winter or an ill-tempered grazer?
Humans shouldn't be anywhere near the Holt. They couldn't be. But they'd gotten so close, so fast down by the willows on the day they'd murdered Beetle's wolf. Greenweave could get so lost in his thoughts sometimes; what if he'd strayed farther than he meant to? What if...?
**Greenweave?** More of his budding fear went through the send that he would have liked, but Cloudfern didn't care.
**What's wrong?** His lovemate's return-send was instant and weighted with concern.
**Where are you? Are you all right?**
**Cloudfern, I'm fine. I'll come to you. Are you still in the den?**
**I'll be right there.**
Cloudfern flopped back down into his furs, relieved and feeling a fool. Worse than a fool, a scared cub sending for comfort on the heels of bad dreams. Except he didn't even have the bad dreams to blame it on this time. A tiny smile sprouted on Cloudfern's lips despite his mood – a lovemate was better than childhood toys or even Spirit for warding off nightmares.
The hide across the den's entrance stirred. Cloudfern glanced down the length of his own body, squinting against the sunlight as he viewed Greenweave's entrance over the covered lump of his own feet.
Greenweave offered him one of his gentle smiles as he unbelted his tunic and shrugged it off.
“Sorry to worry you. I thought you'd sleep until at least dusk.” He had a bundle of red-stained wrapstuff under one arm. Cloudfern's nose twitched at the scent of fresh, bloody fish, his stomach chiming in with an accompanying gurgle of interest.
“I might have if I'd woken to everything the same as when I fell asleep instead of being left here all by myself.” He stretched lazily and sat up, leaning back against the wall at the head of their bed. The two of them had lined the walls of the den with straw-stuffed hides as insulation against winter, using Cloudfern's plantshaping abilities to secure them. The hides kept the den snug in the coldest weather and was certainly more pleasant to rest against than bare wood, but after a whole winter of use, they lent the den a musty smell. One more reason to look forward to warmer weather and the seasonal airing of their shared home. “Where have you been? Raiding the storage dens?”
“The salmon won't be far off now, so I went to untangle some nets while I turned some thoughts over.” Greenweave set his bundle at the foot of the bed and and stripped down to the skin. His brown hair seemed even darker than usual against his sun-starved skin and he burrowed beneath the furs at once to cuddle with Cloudfern. Cloudfern went to him happily, though he yipped protest at his lovemate's cold feet and chilled hands.
“Then,” Greenweave went on, reaching down to retrieve the wrapstuff, “I thought I'd like some fresh salmon before the fishing runs start and we all get sick of the sight, smell, and taste of them.”
“You'd better be willing to share. You owe me.”
“Absolutely.” Greenweave spread the cut wrapstuff across his lap, revealing a good-sized fish already gutted, scaled and beheaded. Cloudfern licked his lips unconsciously at the sight of the rosy flesh, squirming a bit closer as Greenweave reached for the knife tucked in with the fish. Fresh meat on a lazy evening seemed like a very good way to start the day indeed. Greenweave laughed at his eagerness and deftly sliced a delicate fillet for him. The slab of meat was nearly translucent, even in the dim light.
**So what did you have to think about that was so private that you had to take yourself and your thoughts out of the den?** Cloudfern teased, chewing contentedly.
Greenweave hesitated in mid-cut.
“Willow,” he said at last. “If she's going to be all right in the long term. What her powers mean for us.”
Cloudfern's appetite vanished. It was a struggle to swallow the last bite of fish and that good, fresh meat sat in his belly like the cold, sodden clay of the river. He'd known that this had to happen some day, that a healer would come to the tribe and restore those consigned to the timeless dreaming of wrapstuff. Young Fletcher. Brightwood, his own dear sister, with her unborn child. Honey, Greenweave's Recognized, the reason he and Cloudfern had first parted all those years ago.
Cloudfern let out a small, tight breath that he hadn't realized he'd held back. It was nearly painful to speak the next word.
“Honey.” He forced himself to take another breath, this one deeper. Calming. “I don't blame you. It's good that you'll be able to restore your family. Dreamflight may finally...”
Cloudfern blinked at the new strip of fish suddenly dangling before his nose.
**Beloved...** The sincerity in that sending did more to soothe Cloudfern's mind than any deep breathing could. **If you're not going to put your mouth to better use, you might as well keep eating.**
Greenweave's amused tone and broadening smile were almost enough to tempt Cloudfern into smacking his lovemate across the face with breakfast. He took the fish anyway.
“You can talk,” he grumble-growled around a mouthful. He swallowed. “You're not the one who has to worry about being left again.”
Greenweave's smile faded and he leaned in to nuzzle Cloudfern's throat, an intimate, reassuring gesture. His words were a ticklish warmth against Cloudfern's skin.
“You don't need to worry about that anymore. You haven't for a long time. I've chewed that bone through to the marrow and buried it deep. Honey and I...we didn't do each other any good and neither of us would admit to it. Too stubborn and too ashamed, I guess. Dreamflight was all the good to come out of that union and I sometimes wonder if didn't do her more harm than good showing her a happy lie all that time. It will be good to see Honey among the waking again, but I will not be leaving you.”
Cloudfern shuddered minutely as a tension that had lurked under his skin for so many seasons evaporated.
“Then what...?” he whispered.
Greenweave lifted his head and kissed him with an apologetic tenderness before settling at his side again.
“Newt,” Greenweave whispered back. “My father used to take me with him to see the cocoons, to talk to him, to send to him. He'd share his memories of his young, spirit-strong brother with me and it seemed as if I were always waiting to finally meet him. But...after a time, I guess I stopped thinking that way. There didn't seem to be any point to it. But now Willow...” The fisher sliced busily at his prize for a few moments, piling thin strips of fish atop each other. “Willow could wake him him up, but to what? A world without mother, father, or siblings. Not even the same chief. Just a nephew older than he is.
“I was thinking...that a cub not only needs a tribe to belong to, but people who belong to him. A family. I'd like to be that for Newt, if he'll have me. And...” Greenweave finally set the knife down and turned his gaze up away from his work, meeting Cloudfern's curious noon-sky eyes with his own deep brown ones. “Well, if there's one thing being a father did teach me, it's that two pairs of hands make for an easier job raising cubs than one. I'd...like you to be part of a family with me, Cloudfern. Even if Newt doesn't want to be with us, I want to be with you. Always.”
It took Cloudfern a moment to process just what was being asked of him.
**Arn. I am Arn.**
As easily as that, Greenweave had lain himself bare, heart, spirit, and soul, offering Cloudfern everything that he was: a gentleness persistant as the river current, his craving for touch warm as firelight, regrets that had broken his heart as winter ice cracks the most stubborn stone. All that was Greenweave was Arn.
Cloudfern twined his fingers with Greenweave's without thinking, reaching for an anchor in what seemed like free fall. It was so much, so fast...
...and there was no reason to hold back any longer.
**I am Pryn.** Sunlight and sharpness in equal measure, magic threading through his soul like ivy, a loss as deep as the roots of the Dentrees themselves. Pryn.
They shared each other for an eternal moment, then Cloudfern opened his eyes to behold his lifemate.
“I'll have to shape another sleeping nook in here,” he murmured. “Three elves, two wolves. It'll be a cozy fit.”
Greenweave squeezed his hand as they rested brow to brow.