Newt peeked through the bushes toward Beetle, who slumped at the base of a mourningtree listlessly picking at the bark and placing it into a pouch. She looked miserable. Newt could relate. Since coming out of wrapstuff, he'd had his moments of misery. Losing a loved one, or loved ones, didn't feel very good. Newt thought Beetle was lucky, though. Willow was only shunned, not dead. They would see and touch and talk and laugh again.
Still, it had to be hard on her. Caring as he did about those around him, Newt hesitantly made his way toward Beetle. He didn't know if she would welcome him or not. They hadn't had a lot of time together since his unwrapping - she had usually been out with the human word-hunters, and when she was close by, she had spent a lot of time teaching others what she had learned. The pack of word-hunters wasn't leaving anytime soon, though. Not, at least, until after Brightwood's Howl. So that would give him some time to know his near-sister a little better.
She didn't look up as he grew closer. She didn't say anything, either. Newt took it as permission to remain, and he sat down next to her but with his back against the tree. She paused what she was doing and looked at him. She had been crying. Newt watched as Beetle wiped the tears from her face and took a deep breath. She gave a sort of half-smile, then leaned back and rested on her forearms, looking at him.
They sat silently like that for a while, until a mosquito interrupted them by landing on Beetle's nose. She swatted at it, then sat up. She looked at Newt, then asked, "Did you come here just to sit and look at me, or did you have something on your mind?"
Her tone was not as harsh as the words sounded, so he didn't take offense. "No... I, well, I... never had a sister before," he confided.
Beetle nodded. "I know." She thought a moment, and then added, "I'm sorry I haven't been here a whole lot to get to know you. You seem like a nice cub."
Newt snorted. "That's what your father said."
It was Beetle's turn to snort, but it was muffled, and she turned away.
Newt was confused. "Did I say something wrong?" he asked.
Beetle shook her head. "No... you didn't. You weren't in the den when Father talked with me earlier."
Greenweave had taken Newt fishing almost as soon as he had woken up. Hearing that Cloudfern had talked with Beetle made Newt wonder if Cloudfern and Greenweave had wanted him away from the conversation. "What about?"
Beetle sighed. "Willow."
Newt nodded, encouraging Beetle go on.
"Look at me... confiding in a cub," she whispered as if to herself.
Newt felt pride that someone would confide in him. He knew how to keep secrets. He wouldn't talk about it with anyone else. Not Fadestar, not Crackle. Not even Otter, who was one of Beetle's brothers. "It's all right," he assured her. "I won't tell anyone else."
"I know you won't," Beetle responded. "I heard stories about how honest you were, and how you wanted things to be fair. But that's not why I'm going to tell you. I'm going to tell you because I think it could affect you."
Newt was nervous now. "What do you mean?"
Beetle put a hand out to him to reassure him. She explained, "I haven't been sleeping in my den anyway, but when I stopped in to get supplies out of my den, Father called me in to talk with him. We talked about the fact that Willow and I had made up, just as he had told me we would. And as happy as he was for me, what he said next was a shock. He asked me not to have Willow into my own den. My den! He said that he couldn't stand the thought of having her so close. And as much as he loves me and wants me to be happy, he asked... well, demanded, really, that I respect him enough to heed his request."
Newt was shocked. He knew Cloudfern had been angry at Willow when she unwrapped Brightwood. In fact, Newt had been angry, too. He had secretly harbored a hope that he could be one of those in the room when Brightwood was unwrapped, and that chance had been taken from him. But as angry as he was about how it had happened, he was also happy that Brightwood, and her baby, were both safe now. And that Farscout was happy again. But for Cloudfern to ask Beetle not to have Willow in her den just because of its proximity... Newt shuddered. "I'm... sorry," Newt said.
Beetle looked down, tears falling again. "Father's never been so angry, and I don't even know the half of it, I think. I think having my aunt unwrapped brought back a lot of terrible memories for him. Willow acted so fast, he wasn't ready for it. And now... what if he doesn't ever forgive her? I know he will, but right now, it seems like he won't."
Newt began putting things together in his mind. "You don't want to be somewhere Willow's not welcome, do you?"
Beetle looked at him, her eyes lighting up at his understanding. "You're right. No matter how wrong she might have been, she is still Willow. She's still my lovemate. She's still my friend, and she's a part of our tribe. She belongs. And so, while Father remains so angry at her, I will not tree there."
Newt asked the question, "How does all of this affect me?"
Beetle smiled at him. "Well, since Greenweave and my father have adopted you, and you live with them, their tensions are going to affect you, even if you don't realize it." Pausing in the conversation, Beetle peeled another strip of bark from the mourning tree and set it in the pile beside her. "You know, Newt, I haven't had a lot of time to spend with you, between being away with the word-hunters, and being busy when I'm back," she said apologetically.
It was Newt's turn to smile. "We'll just have to make time, then!"
She looked at him, her face quizzical. "I think, Newt, that you have something in mind, or you might not be here right now."
He felt a flush rising up his neck. There was something he wanted, but he had been more concerned for Beetle than he had for his own requests.
"Well?" she asked.
Newt smiled. "I need help with something. Sunlight used to make a cream that helped me not burn so fast. Your fatherís been making it for me since I was unwrapped, but I'd... well, I'd like you to try and make something even better."
Beetle perked up, sat a little straighter, and smiled at him. "Why didn't you say so before?"
"We haven't had time before."
"Oh. That's right. You're right. We will just have to make time from now on!" She ruffled his hair. "You know, Newt, I'm usually not that great with cubs. I'm not as playful as some. But I have had some practice as a sister. And I'm happy to have another brother. Thanks for listening, little brother."
"Anytime," he grinned. He decided he was definitely going to enjoy having an older sister.