The scent of kin tickled Honey's nose. Kin mixed with the scent of her Recognized and Cloudfern. For a moment it made her stomach twist with anger and hurt but she swallowed it down, stuffed it back deep into a corner where it wouldn't cause her unease.
She put her bow aside and placed the rabbit hides up onto the shelf. The tribe had had Newt long enough into their midst to know some of the pale lad's habits. Honey knew that when he searched out the old den their cocoons had rested in for so long, he was troubled or thinking about something that bothered his young mind.
For a moment she hesitated, expecting Greenweave or Cloudfern to pop up before her nose. But no one came. No one was near, so she sent her steps over to the stairs down.
A shiver ran down her spine. This den caused her troubles. Still. It was the place she had slept and missed loss after loss — ever so painful now. Painful enough to make her eyes pool with tears.
Dreamberry her dear friend — Birdcatcher her beloved father — pain mixed with anger — Greenweave, her soulmate.
Yet she knew an upset grown-up was not what Newt needed and again she hesitated. Was she even the right one to approach Newt now? Yes she was, she decided. He was her relative as much as he was Greenweave's.
She entered the former wrapstuff den, still careful. Her eyes adjusted to the fading moonmoss at the walls. Since this cave was only barely used, the plantshapers didn't bother to regrow and tend it the way they had done before.
Despite the gloomy darkness, she found him soon. Newt's paleness glowed in the darkness. He looked thoughtful, his hands pressed against the hand prints of his mother surrounded by the hands of her mates and her sons.
“What are you doing?” she asked, her voice soft not to startle him.
The pale eyes looked up to hers and he smiled, not startled at all. Most likely he had scented her when she had slowly come closer. “You came,” he said and his smile grew wider. He was growing up. His smile was much more that of an adult than a cub, now. “I wasn't sure you would,” he added and directed his gaze back on his pale hand over the yellow print.
“Why so?” Honey asked and stepped closer, sitting down on the bier.
“Because you hesitated,” Newt said. “I heard you shifting and stopping. I'm glad you came, still.”
Honey felt caught and the urge to defend herself rose. However, before she could, Newt looked back at her, his smile still in place. He didn't blame her.
“I know... Fadestar seems still uneasy down here as well,” he answered her unasked question.
“So you don't?” Honey asked knowing the answer was not that easy.
As expected, Newt shrugged his shoulders. “Yes and no,” he said. “But it's the place I feel closest to my parents,” he whispered. His family’s old den had been taken over by others over time, opened and sealed by plantshapers several times.
Tenderly he stroked over the prints of his family’s hands. “I have the feeling it's here where Mother waited and watched after her spirit left. She never could leave my side when I felt sick,” he said, smiling fondly.
Honey tilted her head. So he searched for solace. She wanted to reach out to him but stopped herself before she could do so, unsure if the touch was wanted. However, her fear turned out to be unfounded. Newt's own pale hand grabbed hers firmly in his own. Honey didn't pull back, but squeezed his hand a little. She knew the pain. One of the prints was her own father’s. Tears seemed to push behind her eyes once more.
“It hurts,” Newt said, his voice a faint whisper now.
“I know,” Honey answered softly.
“No,” Newt said. “I mean... not their loss. Well, yes, that too, but it hurts more to know that they went like they did.” His voice cracked a little and he quickly rubbed his eyes.
“What?” Honey asked, confused. Of course it was never easy to imagine that a life had been cut short by accident or worse. She herself had struggled with one or the other loss over her lifetime, not ready to accept them all like she should have. Others kept saying it was part of the Way but she hated it when they said that. It didn't make it right.
“Snowfall told me,” he finally explained. “She told me what happened between my fathers when mother had gone.” He swallowed hard now.
“Oh,” Honey said softly, not sure what to say to comfort him. A part of her was angry with the elder for telling the lad such a thing, but another part told her that if Newt had asked, he had had the right to know. And Snowfall was not one who would tell such a thing lightly. "I remember. My father told me about it as well." Her heart grew heavy at the thought. Back then when she still had been Trip it had been something she hardly could grasp, either. With her parents and Tossfur and Nettle so loving and devoted to each other it was hard to picture the family they rose from had been torn like this in the end.
“They were supposed to stick together. They did love each other.” Newt insisted. “They should have had been there for each other. Like Glint and Birdcatcher were.” He looked up to Honey and his sad eyes made her feel like crying herself.
“Love...” she started hesitantly. Who was she to talk about love? Her own heart had been shattered too many times. “It's sometimes not that easy,” she said, though she thought it should be. “Many things can wear out love between elves and turn it sour, like when you leave a sweet wine in the boiling summer sun,” she said, and she could taste the sweet wine gone sour on her tongue. She wanted to spit it out but knew the taste would remain.
Newt sobbed. “It shouldn't be like this,” he lamented. “It should stay sweet and dazzling all the time.”
“Yes,” Honey said, unable to hide the bitterness in her own voice. Others might have tried to tell Newt that this was how things were sometimes. That wine eventually would lose its sweetness even if it didn't become sour. Sometimes it became stronger, but other times it just went sour. Starskimmer would tell him, that the mix had to be right. Not too much and not too little of the right ingredients. But Honey didn't say any of this. It wouldn't smooth the pain. It only would raise more questions. "But Newt, you are old enough now to know that things don't always happen as we want or as it should be," she told him, her voice as soft as possible. "I'm sure no one wanted you to hurt about this now, but it happened and now you have to live with it."
The boy rubbed his eyes dry and sighed. “Yes... but even if the love went sour... couldn't they just have stayed friends?” he asked and looked into her green eyes.
Honey felt her throat tightening. This was a question she really felt unsuited to answer. “That's not easy either,” she said. “If done wrong, a lot of pain lays between two lovers. The sweeter it tasted the more disgusting is the bitterness. You wouldn't want to eat rotten fruit, would you?”
Newt sighed. No, of course he would not. No one wanted that. He was silent for a while, eyeing the prints again. His young mind was working under the white wisps of hair. She squeezed his hand, feeling a little guilty for bursting his romantic bubble this early.
When he looked back at her again there as a new glint in his eyes. Almost a challenge.
“But elves are neither fruit nor wine,” he said firmly. “Unlike rotten fruit or sour wine, they can change back. Reconcile.”
Now it was Honey's turn to swallow. She felt as if he was looking right into her. When he grasped both of her hand she almost whined. How often had he tried to step through the net of tangles Greenweave had woven through their once so-sweet family?
“Honey,” he said pleading but determined. “I lost one family. Lost them long before they left me here.”
Her heart started racing and she fought the urge to push him back. “I don't want to see what happened between them.” He shifted uncomfortably and bit his lip. “Honey... I don't ask you to love again. I know now that this is not possible... but could you... all of you just try and be friends again?”
The blond elf pulled back, withdrew herself from her young uncle. “I'm sorry,” she said, “I have to go.”
Go far. Run away from his pleading eyes. She summoned Mooncrier. She couldn't promise this. She didn't want to, either. All she wanted was to go.
Before she knew it she had turned and hurried to the mouth of the den. How pathetic. She was fleeing from a half-grown cub and his wishes. How very, very pathetic. His sending still tickled her mind when she mounted her bond. She didn't want to hurt him. No. But she couldn't tell him what he wanted to hear.