(This story is a part of the "Wrapstuffed Tribemembers are Healed and Rejoin the Tribe" and the "Newt emerges from wrapstuff, and Aftermath" storylines -- see listings for related stories.)
Out of habit Otter tiptoed into the wrapstuff den. He was no little cub anymore, but somehow he couldn't help it and walked in there with great respect. When he had been younger, he had spent time here and fantasized about the little lad in the silken cocoon.
Otter looked around and felt a shiver running down his spine. Two spots were empty now. Honey and Fadestar were free and trying to adjust to their new tribe. To see them, especially Fadestar, struggle with her unwrapping had reminded him of Newt. Not that he ever had forgotten him, but all his dreaming of a male playmate had faded when he had grown older. Now the idea of Newt was getting real again.
It hadn't occurred to him when he had been healed by Willow. It hadn't occurred to him when Honey had come back, but with Fadestar it had hit him. Newt was going to come back and he'd need a friend.
Still feeling uneasy down here, Otter sat down next to the cocoon he knew was Newt's. Tentatively, he ran a hand over the cocoon and held it against one of the hand prints on the side. His hand had grown since he had been here the last time.
Clearing his throat, Otter looked at the silken binding as if he was expecting it to open itself and reveal Newt stretching and yawning as if waking up from a long nap. Of course that didn't happen. Otter's cheeks turned slightly pink when he realized how silly that idea was after all. Crackle would laugh at him.
“Sorry I wasn't here for some time," he started in a low voice. "But I never really did forget you, so don't be mad at me, all right?"
It was harder to talk to a non-responding bundle of Preserver silk now than it had been back then. Otter drew a deep breath, glad his lungs worked right again. He had feared he never would be able to breathe freely after the lung-rot had showed up.
The dark-haired youth scooted closer to the cocoon, hoping it would make it easier. "They say you will come back to us next," he informed the boy inside the websilk. "Greenweave and Cloudfern will take you in. They are both very nice. … I think Greenweave is really looking forward to seeing you," he added. Blinking, he waited for the small mental voice he had imagined to be Newt's in his earlier years. He at least had the idea of it again. He wondered if the boy sounded anything like he imagined, and his heart jumped a little when he realized again that soon he'd find out.
“Well," he said again. "I know you will have a hard time, though. Fadestar is very confused and lost, and so is Honey. I can imagine you will be too." He nodded to himself. "But you don't have to be afraid. I'm older now. I can watch out and help you if you want."
Otter rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. He wondered if Newt even would want to be his friend. He felt the old, long-forgotten longing rise again. A friend near his age, even if he was now more than a hand of years older than the other boy. A male friend who loved the water like he did and who was born outside of Recognition like him!
The young elf moved to lay his ear on the cocoon, hoping to hear anything inside.
"Eeeeeek!" a cry of alarm rang in Otter's ears. Dewdrop flew into view, putting itself between the pair, frantically waving its hands. "No no no! Trouble-Splash Highthing no touch!" A nervous look was on its face.
Otter backed again and rolled his eyes. “I won’t hurt it,” he promised, but didn’t try to lean on it again. How could he hear Newt’s voice anyway with a Preserver near and fussing?
Instead he laid his hand on the spot he guessed Newt’s head was, checking with Dewdrop if it was all right, but the Preserver just sat and had a close eye on his hand. After this was settled he focused back on his one-sided talk.
"You know, Cloudfern Recognized my mother and maybe he's my sire. Maybe…" he muttered and waited again for any sign that Newt understood him. "Somehow… when he takes care of you that would make you my brother, wouldn't it?" Greenweave was an optional father as well, he knew, but somehow the connection through the plantshaper seemed stronger since he shared soul-names with Otter’s mother.
The silence fell over the den and Otter could hear the chirping of crickets outside. His eyes wandered over the painted walls and the other elves left in here. Soon Newt would switch this unreal world with the real one, and Otter knew how lost he felt at some times and he never had slept that long. He tried to imagine how it felt to wake up and find everything had changed. Honey and Fadestar both had reacted in their own ways.
His mother’s sending cut his thoughts off and he yanked himself upward. He answered her with a short mental touch. She was calling him to help with the fishing nets, and Otter sighed. He got up, but couldn’t help turning a last time to the silken cocoon. He laid a hand on the end he suspected was Newt's head.
“Don’t be afraid. Whenever you are confused and lost, I will be there as your brother and take care of you. I promise!" he said and gave a firm nod. "Your brother and your friend."
Still waiting for any kind of answer, he stood there for a while just watching, but nothing happened. Another sending from his mother finally got him to drag himself out of the wrapstuff den. Heading up the stairs, he sent back to Starskimmer: **Coming. Just had to do something very important first!**