Honey liked things perfect.
She liked her den kept orderly, and her clothing neat. She despaired of her unruly hair, and liked to cut it short to tame it. She always kept her knife blade knapped sharp, because she wanted every cut she took with it to be as clean as possible. Even when arguing, she liked to hone her words for the greatest effect, and practiced things she might say beforehand; she didn't scatter insulting things about indiscriminately like Flash used to and simply hope that one of them struck a nerve.
Honey paused, her spear half-raised in one hand. It had been seasons since she had thought about her half-sister. How long had Flash been dead? Honey tried to figure it, watching with most of her attention on a lazy shadow that could be a fish coming closer into the shallows where the fisher waited.
Finch had died last fall, and Leather had died three turns of the seasons before that. Fadestar had been put in wrapstuff shortly after, the poor, fragile cub. Mouse would be eleven this season - he was still young enough to count the years eagerly, and Flash had died well before the Recognition that created him. Silvermane had been born after Flash died; so too had Beetle? Silvermane was already a grown huntress, and Beetle must be forty turns of the seasons at least.
Math and counting had never been strong skills for Honey, and she abandoned the train of thought for more careful consideration of the shadow in the flowing water. It was past the spring salmon runs and before the fall runs, and too late in the day for good line-fishing -- the sun was already tickling the treetops, but a patient spearfisher could get a few trout for a late dinner. The shadow was definitely a fish, and a very large one, at that, swirling slowly in the shadows. She waited patiently for it to come within range, imagining her triumphant return to the Holt with this prize.
"Honey! Are you ready to go back to the Holt?"
Honey just kept herself from startling and frightening her prey away. **Hush!** she told Greenweave firmly. She glanced at the bank where he stood; he was just noticing the shadow she was waiting for. She noticed that he had several good-sized fish on his loop, and she had a twinge of shame for the single, skimpy fish she had caught that evening. It made her more determined to catch this one.
**It's a big one,** he said, mindvoice sheepish for his spoken words and hopeful for her.
**As big as I am,** Honey agreed. It was closer now, just barely out of range. An impatient cub might have tried for it already, but she waited. Even with a good strike of the spear... **I might need your help with this one,** she admitted to Greenweave.
His answer contained no words, just excited agreement. There was no sense of desire for the glory of the catch, only affectionate willingness to help a tribemate, and Honey felt a twinge of guilt for her competitiveness. He stayed on the bank, carefully out of the way and mindful of the noise and sharp movements he might make, but ready to leap in at the right moment.
Honey sucked in her breath as it came into range - it was not, as she had expected, an early season silver salmon, but a very late, very large Elder salmon. The Elders were the finest of the salmon, and this was the largest one that Honey had ever seen. It might be as big as both she and Greenweave together! She grinned and struck.
It was a good hit, but a large fish, and one strike was not enough to tame it. The spear was stuck, so Honey let go of it to lunge bodily after the fish while Greenweave came splashing in behind her to help.
Even with hands and stone knives, the wounded fish held the advantage. It gave no purchase, and leapt and wriggled and used the watery environment to its advantage, thrashing and thrusting away. It managed to knock Honey back, and dragged Greenweave under the water with it momentarily, before it escaped upstream in a wild panic that knocked the spear off on a low-lying branch. Greenweave came to the surface spluttering, and caught the spear as it floated past, staggering with the current to where Honey was trying to get her feet under her again.
"We lost it!" Honey wailed, torn between laughter and tears. The vision of her perfect return to the Holt with the giant fish was shattered.
"But what a story to tell," Greenweave comforted her, easy, infectious laughter at his mouth. He offered a hand to help her up. "I've never seen one that big! And what a battle!"
Honey took his hand, grateful for his sunny outlook, and the world went away. The laughter she had caught from him stilled on her lips and turned into desire. Greenweave dropped her spear, and fumbled to catch it again before it had floated past, while Honey still stared in surprise.
There were no words in the sending between them, and none were needed. Each soul was laid bare to the other, and Honey drank in all of the shock and lust and uncertainty that suffused him. He wasn't sure that this was what she wanted, but it so utterly was. The rest of the Holt tended to tease her for her romantic notions of love, but what could be better than Recognizing her closest agemate, fellow fisher and soft-hearted friend.
He had recently lovemated with Cloudfern, Honey remembered, but it didnít make her so much as hesitate. In that moment, at that time, she knew that there was only Honey for Greenweave, and that was all she had ever wanted. He would leave Cloudfern for her, she knew, and she was sure that they would be happy together.
"This will be perfect," she told him out loud, as they staggered from the water up the bank to find a place - any place - to slake the need that was consuming them. "It will be perfect."