(This story is part of the "Consequences of Willow's Rogue Healing" storyline — see the listing for more related stories.)
Cloudfern hadn’t slept well in half a moon-turn. When Brightwood was unwrapped, so many emotions had flooded him — fear, especially. He hadn’t been ready for Brightwood to be unwrapped, and suddenly standing there, helpless as he had been as a child, unable to do anything to help his sister, had affected him. And Brightwood’s scent when the cocoon had been opened brought back more that he was unprepared for — the smell of their father’s blood; the stink of the Fierce Ones. Brightwood’s sudden unwrapping had brought back memories he had tried for over an oak’s age to forget.
Brightwood's unwrapping had brought the gruesome details of that time back upon him. He hadn’t shared them with anyone. Still, Greenweave and Newt, at least, had realized something was wrong. Even while awake, images would flood him and he would become drenched in sweat. Sometimes he would be in a state of panic until Greenweave would find and wrap his arms around him and send his soul-name to him, helping calm him. It was all starting to wear on him.
The teas he had made to help soothe himself were ineffective against the onslaught of the images. Re-experiencing the horror of the Fierce Ones when Brightwood’s cocoon had been opened had been just the beginning of his terrors. They had been compounded by the send-sharing about Owl — the healer who had gone mad.
None of this would have happened if not for Willow. The healer had brought all of this upon him. And, if she followed Owl’s example, could be just as bad — or worse!
When he had first learned that Willow was a healer, hopes for Brightwood’s unwrapping had surfaced — there was joyful expectation. After she had unwrapped Honey, and Newt, and Fadestar, Cloudfern had been even more excited. He had been nervous, too — he had known that his sister’s unwrapping would certainly revive memories he would rather leave buried, but he expected that he and Farscout would be there, together, to face them, and to welcome her back.
But then Fletcher had died. The shock of losing a tribemate had reminded him how much there was to risk. And he hadn’t wanted Willow to risk Brightwood and the baby’s life. Not yet. A decision had been made to wait. For Willow to prove herself, to strengthen herself. And Cloudfern had taken comfort in that, had trusted her to listen to the wishes of those who loved Brightwood most, and if not that, to listen to her chief.
But she hadn’t. The fool had selfishly risked his sister’s, and his future niece or nephew’s life. Yes, the result was that they had Brightwood back, and yes, he was grateful for that. But that wasn't enough to dispel the fears that the healer's actions had created, and despite the tribe's punishment of her, and the elders' attempts to show her why what she had done was wrong, Cloudfern still could not shake those fears. Did she truly understand, or the next time, would she again use her powers against someone's wishes? The thought made him feel helpless — just as helpless as he had when watching her work to heal his sister, and just as helpless as the flood of images of the Fierce Ones did. Like the Fierce Ones, he had learned that the healer could threaten everything Cloudfern held dear. He hated feeling helpless, and feeling that way made him angry.
Greenweave and Newt had already left the den for the night – Cloudfern hadn’t asked where they were going, and Greenweave seemed to have sensed that his lifemate needed some time to himself. He had just dressed when Beetle walked through the den door, bringing a scent from his nightmares with her.
“Willow,” he couldn’t stop himself from growling. Then, addressing his daughter, he spoke through clenched teeth, “Beetle, can’t you wash the stink off yourself before you come through my den?”
His daughter stopped short, her eyes flashing at him. “What. Did. You. Just. Say?” she asked angrily.
He knew she didn’t, couldn’t understand. She had no idea about what he was going through — she hadn’t slept in her den since Brightwood had been unwrapped, so she had no way of knowing that his sleep was so disturbed. Even if she did know about the nightmares, and even though he had tried to tell her why he was upset, she didn’t see things the same way he did. She was just grateful that her aunt was alive and thought that the rest of the tribe should be just as happy. The sending about Owl seemed to have had no impact on her. She just didn’t understand.
Then again, how could she? As much as Cloudfern wanted his daughter to understand, he wouldn’t send to her about it. He didn’t want her to realize the depth of his vulnerability. If he could send to her about it without sharing the whole of his emotions, he would. But he couldn’t. To send it would be to open himself up, to share with his daughter things that made him feel like a helpless child again. And he was her father. He didn’t want her to look at him any other way.
Knowing it would only anger her further, but not stopping himself, he repeated, “Would you please wash the stink off yourself before you come through my den?”
“Which stink is that, Father?” she spat. “The smell of the wolves? The mud? Or maybe the onion grass I gathered earlier? Or maybe it’s the scent of joining? Which stink is it?”
Beetle took a step closer to him, adding, “If you’re referring to my lovemate, you asked that she not come through your den, and that she not be in mine, either — well, she’s not. If her scent is on me, it’s because I’ve been with her. I will not take a dip in the river every time I am around her just so that you can continue being unreasonably angry.”
“Unreasonably angry?” Cloudfern couldn’t keep the shock from his voice.
He took a step toward Beetle, the gap between them closing a little more. He went on, his volume increasing with each word. “Don’t you realize what she did? What she could have done? Brightwood and the baby could have been lost!”
Cloudfern waited for what he had said to sink in. Beetle crossed her arms and looked at him, angry. “They weren’t.”
Cloudfern nodded. “Thank the High Ones, they weren’t,” he agreed. Then he added, “But your lovemate,” he sneered at the word, “risked both their lives with little thought to the rest of the tribe. She was utterly selfish.”
Beetle flinched at his description, and he continued, his voice softer. “Beetle, all I’m asking is some consideration — unless you’re becoming as selfish as she is. Wash off the scent — if you can. I doubt it, because rolling on a riverbank of rotting fish couldn’t mask her scent. But try, won’t you?”
By this time, his daughter was in tears, her face a mix of hurt and anger. He hated seeing her like this — hated that he had pushed her to this, but what could he say? Nothing he said, he guessed, could make it better right now.
Beetle interrupted his thoughts with a send, her mind-voice low, even, and angry, even through the sniffles of her tears. **If that’s how you feel about us, fine. You won’t have to worry about Willow, her scent, or me, your selfish daughter being in close proximity to you any longer. I’ll get Evervale or my aunt — who is alive, thanks to my lovemate - to shape a new den for me when she gets the chance.**
Before he could say anything, Beetle had turned and walked out his den door, heading up the steps, most likely toward Willow’s den. Cloudfern reached out to his daughter, finally sending, though he knew it would reveal more than he had wanted to share with her. Beetle rejected his mind-touch. Cloudfern sighed. He couldn’t stand that he had made his daughter cry, and he was tired of re-living the fear of that long-ago time. Deciding he could not stay in the den a moment longer, and that he was tired of being angry, he summoned Spirit to go for a ride.