(This story is part of the "Consequences of Willow's Rogue Healing" storyline -- see the listing for more related stories.)
“There you are.”
Willow addressed the lump beneath the furs in her bed-bowl that she knew to be Beetle, but the bed-lump did not respond. That was odd, because Beetle was not asleep. Willow knew the sound of her lovemate's slumber, and all the hallmarks of it were missing: the soft, rhythmic breathing, a relaxed posture. Besides, it was much too hot to be buried under so many furs.
“I've been looking all over for you,” the healer said then, even though she knew Beetle knew she had been. Willow had even sent and knew Beetle had received it, but there had been no reply. There was no response to what Willow had just said, either, save for a silence that worried Willow more and more as moments passed.
Willow frowned and sat down on the edge of the bed-bowl. Beetle didn't move. This wasn't behavior Willow had witnessed from Beetle at all before. Silence stretched uncomfortably, and the healer started to wonder if her lovemate just wanted to be left alone, for whatever reason. That troubled Willow deeply. Why was Beetle acting so strangely?
“Why are you angry at me?” Willow finally blurted. That had to be the reason for this silent treatment. It seemed like there were quite a few of her tribemates who were still angry with her over too-recent events.
A reply, finally. One that was still heavy with tears that had been spent a short time prior. “I'm not.”
“Then what?” Even though Beetle said she wasn't angry at Willow, it was hard to believe she was telling the truth. “I've been looking all over for you since I got back from the bee-trees, and you've been ignoring me.”
There was silence again from usually-talkative Beetle, and Willow started to wonder if maybe her own bad habits involving communication had rubbed off on her lovemate. She pressed again, this time in a sending full of love and concern. **What then? What's wrong? Something's got you all upset. Tell me. Please. You're worrying me.**
“Father,” came the blurted response. “I tried to talk to him about you again. I thought that maybe, since the shunning, he-- but no,” The admission was followed by a ragged intake of breath that Willow worried might be another precursor to tears. That's all Beetle said, but she didn't have to say anything else. Willow could gather what had happened from those words alone: Beetle had talked to Cloudfern, hoping he'd rethink his stance on letting Willow be near after the all-too-recent and wrongful unwrapping of Brightwood, but he'd said no, and probably more than that. Earning trust and forgiveness back from Cloudfern was proving to be difficult, even though Brightwood – Cloudfern's sister – and Willow had become fast friends.
Willow stared at the tell-tale place where Beetle lay, not quite sure what to say. She knew why Beetle had been unresponsive to her earlier requests; her lovemate had been upset, and hadn't wanted to confide something to Willow that would more than likely upset Willow, too. That touched the healer, because she knew Beetle was worried that she had gone through enough of late as it was, and was trying to protect her.
But Beetle had been correct. Willow didn't like to hear that her lovemate and Cloudfern had another disagreement over her comings and goings. It bothered the healer to know that she was the root of this issue that bothered Beetle so much, and that her actions had partly caused Beetle's current misery.
She also knew well that Beetle didn't want to hear that self-blame, or that excuse.
Willow frowned and let out a soft sigh – one she was certain Beetle wouldn't hear – and leaned back.
Willow wasn't sure if there was anything she could say at all to make Beetle feel better at the moment. Maybe it would just be best to leave and let Beetle sort out what she needed to sort out. How many times had she, in similar situations, asked Beetle to do just that?
But Beetle never had.
She turned and stared at the bed-lump again, and knew in her heart that leaving was out of the question.
Instead, she turned sideways and leaned against her fur-swaddled lovemate, and then reached up to peel back the furs that were covering Beetle's face.
Beetle was facing away from her, toward the den's wall, and continued to stare straight ahead when the covers were removed. She made no effort to look at Willow, but that didn't stop the healer from leaning down close to Beetle's ear and whispering, “It's too hot to have all those blankets over your head.”
Beetle's lip began to tremble threateningly. Beetle bit it to make it stop.
Willow pulled the bedfurs back the rest of the way and climbed into the bed-bowl to snuggle in behind her lovemate. She draped an arm over Beetle's middle, and then pulled her close. When she nuzzled the back of Beetle's neck in an attempt to comfort her, she felt Beetle's body shake with fresh sobs that nearly broke Willow's heart.
It made her panic for a brief, brief moment, until a distant memory tickled her mind from long, long ago – one of a comforting embrace, and of a quiet song that someone had whispered in her ear.
Willow was not really a singer. She usually avoided taking part in tribal songs unless she was pressured to do so. Sometimes, very rarely, she'd make up a funny joke-song to rattle off to poke fun at someone, but usually she left singing to others who were better at it. Leave carrying a tune to Moss, who could sing sweetly enough to calm even the most troubled of thoughts.
But, for some reason – she wasn't quite sure why – she sang now. Her voice was quiet, lest someone outside the tree-den hear. It was unsteady, and sometimes the notes she wanted to sing seemed a little out of reach, but she did her best to find the tune and the words – words that came from her heart – that she wanted Beetle to hear: that she was sorry she'd put Beetle into this situation, that it was Beetle who saw the best in her, and who made her strive to be her best, and that Beetle was not only a lovemate, but also one of her best friends.
When Willow's song ended, and her quavering voice fell still, Willow felt Beetle's hand search out hers. Their fingers met and intertwined, and Beetle settled back against Willow's body. It seemed like the tension that had been in her lovemate's frame before was gone.
There was a stretch of quiet, but, eventually, Beetle spoke.
“You have a nice voice,” she whispered. “I've never heard you sing like that before.” Her voice sounded much less strained and heavy.
Willow smiled relievedly into her lovemate's hair. “Haven't had to before.”
“It was nice.” Beetle sat up and turned over so she could nestle her head against Willow's chest, beneath her chin. Willow wrapped her arms around Beetle protectively and held her through the subsequent silence until peaceful, deep breathing told Willow that Beetle had fallen asleep.
As Willow lay listening to her lovemate's breathing, she softly hummed a couple of lines of the song to herself. It might not have made the underlying problem go away, but it had made Beetle feel better and start acting more like herself. Willow would work on whatever she had to do to make Cloudfern come around later.
She chuckled to herself as she mused that she was pretty sure she wouldn't resort to a song to do that.