(This story is a part of the "Wrapstuffed Tribemembers are Healed and Rejoin the Tribe" and the "Fadestar emerges from wrapstuff, and Aftermath" storylines -- see listings for related stories.)
It was dark, warm, peaceful.
Fadestar didn’t know she had lain there, enveloped in that sense of peace and security, for turns, and had she known, she wouldn’t have cared. In this safe place, the knowledge that her father had just died was just an annoying pinprick in her mind. Here, it didn’t matter that she was always tired, always weak.
She just was. It was like she was in the perfect dream.
That is, until the day things changed. Suddenly that safe place... shifted... somehow. The peaceful darkness lifted, and a cold breeze chased the familiar warmth she knew away. Her chest felt heavy, and she felt the raging fever taunting her brain. Fear sprouted in the back of her mind like a quickly-growing vine. She sucked in a deep breath – which made her feel like she was drowning – and she wanted to scream.
A presence touched hers, then, soothing her mind. **Comfort, peace. Calm, like gently flowing streams. You are safe. Don’t be afraid. I want to help you.**
It frightened her terribly, and Fadestar wanted to wail, but the soothing mental voice calmed her. Though she couldn't place whom it belonged to right away, she couldn't do anything else other than trust it. She wanted to gasp, for breathing, for relief, but felt that she didn't need to at the same time. The mental voice carried her away; not to sleep, but to a different feeling than before.
The cub trusted in the assuring sendings, because what she was promised was something she had wanted to hear for so long. She tried to send out, but didn't know if she reached anyone, because her mind was foggy with sleep.
She was answered by the same soothing, calm mind-touch that had greeted her before. **Relax. You need only let me do what I need to do, nothing more. Won't let anything hurt you. Will take away what is hurting you now.**
And, with that sending, came something... else. Something more soothing. Something that seemed to take that pressure in her chest away and made her breathing easier as time passed. It washed over her like gentle waves, each pass slowly taking away what seemed to make her sick, and replacing it with something that made her feel stronger and stronger.
And, then, a strange musing. A mind-touch revealed that something else had been discovered that wasn't right, but could be made right. Something Fadestar registered as vaguely having to do with her heart...
**Better?** the mind-voice asked again, after some time.
Yes, it felt better. Fadestar clung onto the voice in her head, tried to answer, didn't want her to go away now that the the pain slowly left her body, and she imagined herself being stronger than ever before. The cub sighed softly, trying to grasp a sense of reality, but this fuzziness was comfortable at the same time. It wasn't hard to relax under the soothing voice and the equally soothing feeling that took away the tiredness she had experienced, which included the barrier that had always forced her to slow down. Her father would be so happy...
**Father?** she sent, but something was off, and the heaviness around her heart that had just vanished was replaced with another sort of hurt.
The mind-voice must have heard the sending. There were no words in response, but a quick, perhaps unintentional, send of **Sadness, sorry, one hurt I can't help fix. Wish I could...**
That was when the soothing haze seemed to melt away, like the way fog burned off on a damp, sunny day. Darkness became brighter, her eyes opened, and vague shapes began to come into focus. Warm hands that had been on her chest, over her heart, were removed, and that part of her skin felt chilly.
“She's waking up.” The voice that spoke aloud sounded just like the one in her head, but a lot more...tired? “She is safe.”
Then, one shape – the shape the voice belonged to – moved away, and another one came closer.
**Father can't be here right now,** came a new sending, one full of love, affection, and familiarity. Fadestar blinked, trying to focus, and when her eyes finally cooperated, her sister, Kestrel, was kneeling next to her.
Kestrel seemed to hesitate to touch her, and though Fadestar wanted to reach for her, her limbs seemed heavy and she felt tired, even though she just woke up. The sendings she had received only heartbeats before lingered in her head, until she fully remembered why her father couldn't be here.
"Father," she wailed, making an effort to get up, but Kestrel didn't let her and gently pushed her back in the remains of the wrapstuff. Quickly, the elder grabbed a soft sleeping fur and draped it over the cub's body.
"Rest, little sister," Kestrel whispered, but Fadestar couldn't help the tears from leaving her eyes and rolling over her cheeks.
"Father!" she cried out again, her thin body shaking and shivering while she tried to raise her hands to stop Kestrel from coming closer. "I want Father!"
And, Kestrel didn't press to try and touch Fadestar. Instead, she leaned back, which made Fadestar feel a little less afraid. Then, Kestrel sent. **Oh, cub, If I could bring Father back to be with you here, I would. But I can't. And it hurts me that I can't. I don't want to see you sad like this.** She moved closer – but not too close, and there were tears in her eyes. Nevertheless, Fadestar remained ready to push her sister away again. **You have people right here who care about you, love you, and want you to be safe and happy. Know this.**
Fadestar blinked again, and as tears ran from her eyes, other faces behind Kestrel's came into focus. She saw Chief Windburn, and Snowfall... and who was the elf with the beard near her? Was it True Edge? For only a moment confused, she gaped at True Edge, then closed her eyes, shook her head in disbelief and opened them again, hoping the distorted image would have disappeared... but he still had facefur. A sob escaped from her throat, as she used her sleeve to wipe the tears away, which only helped a short moment.
She felt the pain and knew Kestrel was right, and instantly, True Edge's beard was no longer important. Her father was dead, they had told her so. Before she fell asleep. Fadestar vividly remembered the words with which they had told her, but she had refused to believe they were true.
"Sister?" Kestrel tried when Fadestar didn't answer, but the cub just raised her hands a bit more to keep her away.
"He left me," Fadestar nearly whispered. Her father had been the only person she could truly depend on. He knew she wasn't strong, and he'd never made fun of her. What was she going to do now? Grey eyes flashed back to the female who was so close. Her elder sister.
"He LEFT me!"
**He didn't, little sister,** Kestrel replied. She had switched to sending, and was trying to be soothing in her mind-voice. Kestrel continued, **If he could be with you now, he would be--**
**No!** Fadestar's sending made it clear that she didn't want to hear any more. She was here; her father was not. She was abandoned. The others here might care for her, but they were not him.
Kestrel sat back and folded her hands in her lap, making no more move to try and be of comfort. Snowfall and True Edge stepped forward, but Fadestar would have nothing to do with them, either.
“Leave me alone!” she shouted.
True Edge started to speak, but a well-placed hand from Snowfall, holding him back, changed his mind, at least for now. Fadestar could tell the white-haired elder was keeping herself in check, too.
Fadestar's eyes flashed toward the other person on the room and suddenly remembered the comforting voice from before. Was that Willow? Had it been her voice? Had Willow healed her? The confusing moment only lasted a heartbeat, before Fadestar turned her back to the others, sobbing softly. The mental voice had promised it wouldn't hurt, but it did. It hurt so much. She wrapped her arms around herself for some comfort, but when Kestrel moved closer once more, she snapped: "Go away!"
Kestrel turned to the others in the room. She sent something to them – Fadestar could sense that much. True Edge went to the corner and helped the exhausted-looking Willow to her feet, and then he, Willow, Windburn and Snowfall left the den, leaving Kestrel and Fadestar alone.
**I won't leave you, little sister,** Kestrel sent softly. There was patience, love, and determination rippling underneath like the strong, unmovable current of a river. **I'll let you sit there if you would like. I'll let you cry until your heart feels better, but I won't leave you. Even if I have to sit here eight eights of days until you feel better, I'll be here by your side. Father wouldn't want you to be alone. He would want someone to be with you, to care for you, and that is what I am going to do.**
Fadestar didn't reply. For someone who had just woke up, she felt extremely exhausted. She stared into the darkness of one of the corners of the den and wondered if there ever was a darker place than that. A shiver ran through her body, as she secretly wished there wasn't. Whatever she had said, she was somewhat glad that Kestrel had made her promise to stick by her side. She wanted to be alone, but she was scared at the same time.
And Fadestar knew Kestrel's words were true, because she had sent them. The cub closed her grey eyes, sighing softly.
And Kestrel didn't press. The elder didn't say a word. But she also kept her promise – she didn't leave.