Dreamflight and Beetle trudged to the top of Badger Hill. It was early, and they were planning to watch the sunset and then stargaze. Beetle was carrying a skin full of some of her mother’s best wine — a gift from Starskimmer when Beetle told her mother that she was going to try and cheer up Dreamflight.
Dreamflight had been out of sorts since Honey was put into wrapstuff, and she had become worse with time. Now that Greenweave and Cloudfern had renewed their relationship and were even denning together, Dreamflight was often difficult to be around. She was snappy and irritable one moment, then tearful and apologetic the next. Starskimmer had told Beetle that the wine might help Dreamflight to relax, and it was Starskimmer who had suggested the pair go stargazing.
“Why did you have to get me up so early?”
“I wanted to get out of the holt, with the wine, before anyone else decided to tag along,” Beetle responded.
“Why is that?” Dreamflight looked at her friend. “Why shouldn’t anyone else tag along?”
Beetle held up the skin. “Do you really think we want to pass this around so that we only get a few sips? No. I think we want to drink this skin together. The whole thing. Just the two of us. Mother said it’s one of the best brews she’s made in the past few years! We’re lucky to have it.”
“Yes, but it would have been fun to have others around.”
Beetle stopped a moment and asked, “Are you really thinking about what you’re saying? You haven’t been the most pleasant elf recently, to any of us. Do you really want to be around more than just one at a time?”
Dreamflight sighed. “You’re right. I haven’t really been the nicest person to be around lately.”
Beetle smiled. “Well tonight you can just be yourself.”
“…owoooo,” Dreamflight’s song ended with a slurred howl. The sun had set hours ago and Mother Moon was high overhead. She turned her head to look at Beetle, who turned to meet Dreamflight’s gaze. “My head feels heavy,” Dreamflight said, then began laughing.
“You must have had more of Mother’s wine than I did,” Beetle said with a chuckle, happy to see her friend relaxed and happy.
“Nope,” Dreamflight insisted. “Not mo-ore. Just… I’m younger so… you’ve had more wine than I have. It just hitsh me more.” She laughed.
Beetle understood Dreamflight’s drunken logic somehow. ‘Maybe I have had more than I realized.’ She continued looking at Dreamflight, who had returned her gaze to the stars above them. Dreamflight’s eyes seemed more yellow than usual, and it reminded Beetle of a mountain cat. She laughed.
“Whatssso funny, bug?” Dreamflight asked.
Beetle smiled at the nickname. “You are, dreamgirl,” she responded.
“Whatsso funny about me?”
“Nothing, really. Just your eyes — they’re more yellow tonight. They remind me of your mother’s.”
“What?” Dreamflight asked. “Why’d ya havta bring her up?”
“Sorry. I just said your eyes look like hers. What’s wrong with talking about Honey anyway?” Beetle asked without thinking.
“Nothing! Everything!” Dreamflight responded. “I miss her.” Dreamflight sat up, putting her head on her knees. “She’s gone, and I miss her,” she moped.
“She’ll be back someday, Dreamflight. She’s only in wrapstuff!” Beetle said.
Dreamflight lifted up her head and looked at Beetle. “Only in wrapstuff?!”
Beetle’s ears rang a little due the shrill sound that was Dreamflight’s voice. “That’s it. She’s just in wrapstuff. She’ll be out someday. Anyway… that’s no reason to shout at me.”
“Just in wrapstuff?” Dreamflight’s voice was growing louder. “Just in wrapstuff?” She tried getting to her feet and wobbled over. “She’s gone. She won’t be back until who-knows-when.” Pulling herself up to hands and knees, she glared at Beetle. “It’s not like you’d understand. You’re probably on his side anyway.”
Beetle was confused. One moment they were talking about Honey, the next Dreamflight was accusing her of taking sides in a fight Beetle figured she must have missed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Dreamflight, and neither do you. You’re drunk!” ‘So am I,’ she thought.
Dreamflight growled. “You are on his side. I should have known. Mother got wrapped up, and then Father immediately moved in with… with… with that plantshaper father of yours.”
“What’s wrong with my father?” Beetle growled back. She was on all fours now, too. She’d heard from others about some of Dreamflight’s tantrums. She’d planned to bring her friend up to stargaze to give her a break. She hadn’t expected to become a target.
“There’s nothing wrong with my father. Take it back!” Beetle demanded.
“No. Your father stole my father away from me and Mother.” Dreamflight crouched a little, ready to pounce at Beetle. “I bet your father planned it all! It’s his fault Mother’s in wrapstuff… he could have made her better. He just didn’t want to.”
Beetle was furious. “How dare you accuse my father of that sort of deceit? It’s not his fault your mother was so clingy and needy and demanding. Or that your father got away as fast as he could. Who could blame him?”
Dreamflight didn’t respond with words. Instead, she launched herself onto Beetle, grabbing at her and tackling her. “Take. That. Back.”
When Dreamflight pinned her for a moment, it was only by putting Beetle’s shoulders to the ground; her legs were still free. She used that leverage to turn them both, then Beetle was holding down Dreamflight. “No. You’re just like your mother. You try to make everyone around you as miserable as you are!”
Dreamflight screamed, and the power of her drunken rage helped her to push Beetle off of her. Dreamflight rolled, then crawled to attack Beetle. There were no words now. Dreamflight sent all of her rage toward Beetle, and Beetle sent back. They fought. They pulled at one another’s hair, bit at one another, scratched, clawed, kicked, and tumbled. They also stumbled, missed, and came up empty from time to time.
They weren’t certain how long they had fought, and their heads were pounding with the after-effects of the fight and the wine. Exhaustion brought the fight to an end, and they were lying next to one another, breathing heavily.
Dreamflight, without looking toward Beetle, whispered, “I’m sorry.”
Beetle kept her eyes on the stars as well. “Me, too.”
Dreamflight felt that she was going to cry, and she rolled to her side, leaving her back toward Beetle. “Why do I always make a mess of things.”
Beetle turned toward Dreamflight and scooted closer, propping herself on one arm and reaching the other around her friend to pull her close. “It’s all right,” she whispered. “You’re allowed to grieve. And if you sometimes take it out on others, we’ll still be there for you afterward.”
Dreamflight sniffed. “But I was mean. I mean, look at you!”
Beetle smiled, even though her leggings were ripped and her poncho was torn. The bruises were probably getting darker every moment, and she had a few bite marks . “True. I'm a mess, but look at you! I didn’t take it lying down, did I?”
Dreamflight laughed. Her clothes were tattered and she had a few bruises and bloody patches. “No. I guess you didn’t.”
“No one else will, either. We all care about you, Dreamflight. And although only some of the tribe know what you’re experiencing, we do understand that you miss her. I don’t mind if you’re in a bad mood from time to time. And I understand you are upset with my father and yours. You don’t have to pretend around me, all right?”
“Hey,” Dreamflight said wearily to Beetle. “Don’t tell anyone, okay?”
“I’m not sure we can avoid telling them, Dreamflight. Look at us.”
Dreamflight moved a little, then rolled onto her back so she could look Beetle over, then looked at her own bedraggled clothing. “I guess you’re right. But we don’t have to tell them what we said.”
“Or what we sent.” Beetle smiled at Dreamflight. The fight had been good for her friend, for both of them, really. She guessed that some of Dreamflight’s bitterness was gone now. “You feel better now?”
Dreamflight nodded. “Thanks, Beetle. I needed that.”