(This story is part of the "Learning the Humans' Language" storyline -- see the listing for more related stories.)
“It’s cold,” Rainpace grumbled as he moved beneath the furs, looking for a more comfortable position.
Beetle shifted in her sleep, fitting herself around him once he settled. Evervale, however, was wide awake. “It’s winter,” she said plainly. “It’s supposed to be cold.”
“I know that,” he responded. “But it’s colder than usual — and we’re not at the Holt. Back at the Holt, I’d be in the den with Chicory, Glow, Sleuth and Bristlepelt. We’d be snuggling — and we’d be warm.”
“Sleuth, Rooter, and Halfmoon are out with One-Leg, Longtooth, Brightwood, and Redbrush. They’re hunting. They were nice enough to let us sleep for a while, though with your grumbling, I don’t think we’ll get any. At least Beetle is able to sleep — we should send, though, if we don’t want to wake her.”
**They should be back by now,** Rainpace sent, an undercurrent of worry to his mind-touch.
**Maybe the storm grew too heavy — I can’t see anything through the snow.** Evervale shared what she had seen — white, and more white — when she’d tried peering through one of the small air holes in the den she and Brightwood had shaped a few moon-cycles ago in preparation for winter word-hunts.
**They would have sent to us, wouldn’t they?** he asked.
**Let’s send to them – if they’re in range, they’ll answer.**
Both Evervale and Rainpace joined minds and sent, together searching for One-Leg, Brightwood and the wolves. Their send was received. Brightwood’s response confirmed Evervale’s deduction that the storm had stopped them, that Brightwood, One-Leg and the wolves were now in a cave, waiting for the weather to break. They had found little on the hunt, but they had eaten, and were now piled together with the wolves, trying to keep warm.
**We should have gone with them,** Rainpace grumbled. **At least then, we’d be warmer, and have something in our bellies.**
Evervale, who was trying to stay calm and positive, reminded him, **The storm came on us too quickly — and rather than have all of us out there, we all decided that it would be better for the three of us to stay behind. We will be fine — we won’t freeze to death, and the storm won’t last forever.**
“Hmph,” Rainpace responded, shivering.
**Take your clothes off,** Evervale said decisively.
**What? You want to join or something? As cold as it is?** Rainpace asked incredulously.
**No… well, maybe, but not right now. You and I both know that it’s easier to get warm without our clothes on. Beetle seems warm, but I bet all three of us would all be warmer if we were skin to skin beneath these furs.**
Rainpace nodded, then sent, as if to himself, **I should have thought of that.** He sat up, moving the furs, and creating a draft.
The sudden gust of cold and a laugh from Evervale woke Beetle, who opened her eyes and noted that the other two were removing their clothes. Groggily, she did the same. Once her clothes were off, Beetle shivered and reached to pull the furs closer to herself. “Brrr.”
“My sentiments exactly,” Rainpace said, though his tone was not as sour as before. “Come closer, you two,” he said as he slid back beneath the furs, putting an arm around each female and pulling them to himself. “We might as well warm each other up.”
“Now, you’re making some sense,” Evervale said cheerily. “There’s nothing better to do right now!”
Beetle murmured her assent, and soon their little den was warm again.