(Ed. Note: Coyote is a former name of Notch’s, and Brook was the cubname of Nightstorm.)
“She's looking at you!”
Though Rainpace wasn't looking at Coyote, he could tell his best friend had a grin on his face. However, he didn't even bother a glance across the clearing in between the Dentrees at the one who had so obviously attracted Coyote's attention.
“Brook's smiling at you!” Coyote blurted then, and gave Rainpace an elbow to the ribs. “C'mon, aren't you even going to look up at her?”
Rainpace shook his head and kept his gaze locked on the sinew he was braiding into a rope to use on a snare. “Nope.” He heard his best friend groan in response, and could practically see Coyote rolling his eyes. But Rainpace was getting irritated. This wasn't the first time Coyote had teased him over his insecurity about girls, and he was getting tired of it. He wasn't going to give in to another of his friend's pranks at his expense!
Coyote was such a natural when it came to attracting the opposite sex. He was a charmer; he knew just the right things to say to make a girl smile or giggle. He was like a sugartree getting ready to shed its leaves in the autumn – it was really hard not to notice him, and he cast a big shadow.
Rainpace, on the other hand, felt he didn't have that charm himself. He didn't have that kind of luck with girls. He told himself what Coyote was telling him now couldn't possibly be true, and kept his eyes on his work as he tied off the end of the rope. “If she's smiling, she's obviously smiling at you, because who could resist 'the lone wolf?'” Rainpace finally asked, snidely using a nickname Coyote had recently bestowed upon himself.
Coyote blew a raspberry at that. “She wants you to look at her, rock-head! If you keep ignoring her, she's going to think you're not interested. C'mon!”
For whatever reason, those words made Rainpace think. What if Coyote wasn't pulling his leg? What if he was telling him the truth and Brook was interested? She had been lurking nearby over the past few days whenever they had been around the Holt. There were times Rainpace had even spied the young, black-haired girl lingering when he, Coyote, and Willow had gone to the river to gather smooth rocks for their sling pouches. Rainpace knew she was interested in someone, but just assumed his best friend was the natural target of the black-haired elf's affection.
But... he had heard soft footsteps trailing him a couple of evenings ago when he had started off to check his trap lines. It could have been Brook following him. He never saw her... but it could have been her. But why would she want to be with him when she could have Coyote? Amongst the tribe his friend had a pretty good reputation by now. Why would she possibly want him to be her first?
… not that he would mind if she wanted him to be her first.
At that moment, he dared himself to look up. If Brook was smiling at him like Coyote had insisted, he decided he would readily admit he had been wrong. He cast a sidelong, half-annoyed glare over at Coyote and looked across the Dentree clearing.
Brook wasn't even there. However, her sisters, Whispersilk and Snowfall, were and they giggled when Rainpace glanced in their direction. They were laughing at him!
That was it! He'd been made into a joke for the last time! Frustration boiled over, and Rainpace slugged Coyote on the arm in order to vent his sudden anger. “That wasn't even funny!” he growled, both at his friend and at anyone else who thought this was a laughing matter. He started to push himself to his feet so he could get away from Coyote and to somewhere where he could nurse his injured pride, when he felt his hat lift right off his head.
“I— uh— I....” He gazed upward at Brook, who was perched on the fallen tree he had been using as a backrest, but he couldn't bring himself to speak.
“Birds snatch your tongue?” Coyote teased, giving the now-gaping Rainpace another elbow to the ribs.
“I should be angry at you, Rainpace!” Brook said, though she sounded anything but. “I've been trying everything over the past two hands of days to get you to notice me, but you acted like I wasn't even there.” She twirled Rainpace's hat around her index finger. “So, I finally decided if you weren't going to notice me, I was going to have to make you notice me.”
Rainpace blinked. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Coyote had been right! Brook was interested! Brook was interested in him!
Coyote snorted, “You certainly have his attention now. C'mon, Rainpace, are you going to say anything, or not?”
Rainpace felt his cheeks flush slightly, but he finally managed to find his tongue. He cleared his throat and pushed himself to his feet. “Brook, would you like to go for a walk with me?”
“I thought you'd never ask,” came her quick reply. She beamed as she held his hat out to him.
Rainpace took his hat, then extended a hand toward Brook. She slipped her hand in his. As they both walked into the woods, Rainpace thought he could hear Coyote, Snowfall, and Whispersilk laughing behind him, but he didn't care. He smiled widely.
Brook could have chosen anyone, but she had chosen him!