(This story is a sequel to ”About Fairness”.)
Newt closed his eyes and leaned forward slightly, resting his weight on his right hand pressed against the rough bark of the tree. He stayed like that for several seconds, breathing heavily from exertion. It had been countless years, most of them Newt had slept through in his Preserver-silk coccoon, since he and his brother Birdcatcher had raced together here. Although many turns of the seasons had passed, Newt could almost imagine his brother's scent as if Birdcatcher were standing right there next to him.
"Didn't I tell you?" his brother would be saying now, his steps making almost inaudible sounds on the forest floor just behind his little brother. "See, you run a lot faster now that your legs have gotten so much longer."
The next breath Newt tried to suck in caught in his throat, and tears leaked out through closed eyes and down the sides of his face. He focused, and was able to steady his breathing again, reaching up with his left fist to roughly wipe the tears away, in a gesture he'd used far more often after being unwrapped than he had before entering his coccoon.
Newt and Birdcatcher had raced together to this old cedar tree several times, so long ago, and since Newt had first called him on it, Birdcatcher had never once let him win again. They had both been looking forward to the time when Newt would be old and fast enough to beat his brother fairly, but that opportunity had been cut short -- until now.
Even though his brother wasn't still by his side, and though he could never be sure, Newt had a fairly good idea that he had just run faster than his brother used to. No one was around, and no one had seen him do it, but Newt had, he thought, run faster than his brother's best. It felt good, to be able to remember Birdcatcher with this almost odd gesture.
"Thank you," Newt whispered, opening his eyes with a small smile. "Thanks for giving your best, and giving me that to set myself against now that I don't have you anymore."