(Note: based on an idea by Leonie J. and Melanie D.)
Sparrows were hard to see amid the brown and gold leaves, but Dreamflight had heard one, and she wanted to get close enough to really have a conversation with it. She scooted across the branch she was sitting on, careful not to make any sound that would startle the little bird, when Newt interrupted her concentration, **Can you see one?**
Groaning inwardly, Dreamflight stopped moving across the branch and resignedly rested her head against the rough bark of the tree. He’d caught up to her again. For a sweet moment she’d been able to forget that tonight was the night she’d taken Newt with her. When dusk had fallen she’d picked him up, waiting at a safe distance until Greenweave and Cloudfern had finished fussing over him and his tender skin. Seeing that, Dreamflight almost had changed her mind again and searched for an excuse to delay the bird-calling lesson for another few days. But in the end, she knew the lad was almost unnervingly determined to have her teach him, as he proved again by still trailing after her, even though she had done her best to lose him. Any other cub might have had the mercy to give up at this point.
She had to admit, though, it wasn’t that bad to have him along. He was a quiet cub and he drank everything she said from her lips. When was the last time someone had listened to her so carefully? The thought of just being a little nicer had crossed her mind often, but whenever she tried, the image of Greenweave tugging at the boy's hood and smiling at him with fatherly love popped up and she found herself unable and unwilling to do so.
Realizing she hadn’t answered Newt yet and feeling his pinkish blue eyes on her waiting for her confirmation, she looked down at her little follower. Dreamflight didn’t trust herself to send with her feelings so conflicted, so she gave him a nod and signalled for him to join her. With an eager smile, Newt followed and made his way up the tree. When he reached her and sat safely next to her, Dreamflight pointed out the sparrow’s nest in the next tree over.
For a while, they sat in silence, watching the bird cleaning herself and puffing her brindled feather coat. She chirped a few times, then Dreamflight sent, **Try talking with her.**
Something about Newt’s demeanor let her know that he was nervous. He hesitated, but then moved his hands toward his mouth. Dreamflight watched closely, how he prepared his call and sent before he started: **Wait.** She scooted closer to readjust his hands, then nodded after checking again. **Now try.**
The sound that came out when he blew was not what she had hoped for, but it wasn’t too far off. He had been practicing, Dreamflight noticed. She could tell he was a willing and eager student. It could be a lot of fun to teach him — maybe. She corrected his hand placement once more and told him to try again.
This time Newt’s call went way off. Dreamflight flinched at the sharp note and so did the sparrow before it gave an angry chirp, darted at them and then flew off. With a sigh Dreamflight looked after her. Newt gave her an apologetic look, but she shrugged it off, and flipped to where she was dangling from the tree by her arms. It didn’t bother her as much as she’d have guessed. After all, she had been prepared to lose a few opportunities to talk to the birds herself and the quicker Newt got tired of scaring off birds the sooner they would be back at the Dentrees. Dropping to the ground she sent: **Keep up! I know where we can find another!**
She didn’t wait to watch Newt scramble down, but instead walked determinedly and quickly toward the next location she had spotted a nest while gathering the other day.
**Dreamflight, wait!** Newt sent after her but she didn’t stop.
**Come on, Newt. Don’t drag your feet. It’s not that far and we don’t have much time,** she urged him. Though part of her really wanted to help him learn, the other part of her still resented him. She was still wrestling with herself from earlier in the night, and she needed the space provided by her head start to think. Newt wasn’t a bad cub, but admitting it was hard. She needed to be angry with him, or at least she thought so. Rushing when she knew Newt had a hard time to keep up with her wasn’t nice, but it was the nicest way to at least give her the illusion of space.
A crack and a startled yelp broke in on her ever-circling thoughts.
Dreamflight had spun around and was running back before the image of Newt’s small body hitting the forest floor registered in her mind. Her eyes widened. “Newt!” she cried and all thoughts about how to handle the cub in her life were momentarily forgotten. She was at his side in an instant and worrying over him as he dazedly pushed himself up, his arms shaking. “Are you all right?” she asked.
Dreamflight chided herself for even asking as she noticed how unsteady he was, even just sitting up, and that he was even paler than usual. A thin line of fresh blood ran over his forehead. With a shaking hand she brushed his white bangs back and examined the wound on his forehead; It seemed to be nothing grave, but enough to make her worry.
“By the stars,” Dreamflight muttered to herself, feeling numb from her own shock. “Newt?” she asked and lifted the lad’s chin carefully. “Newt? Can you hear me?”
The boy looked at her through glassy eyes, unable to focus, but he gave a mumbling sound that seemed to mean ‘yes’. Dreamflight was at a loss for a moment but relieved that he was at least responsive. “Newt,” she started over and held two fingers up in front of him. “Listen. Can you tell me how many fingers you see?”
She watched him fighting to find words and the way he narrowed his eyes was already the answer to what she feared. He must have hit his head hard.
“They’re so blurry…” he finally answered in a small voice. “Everything is spinning.”
Dreamflight gritted her teeth and then looked around as if someone would pop up to help her just by wishing hard enough for it. The golden-haired weaver tried to push back her own shock and think. She had to call for Willow. Maybe he was just in shock over the fall but she wasn’t willing to take the risk of being wrong about that. She knew the bump to his head might be more serious — that he could have a concussion.
“Hey,” she said, rubbing his back gently. “I am going to call for Willow, alright? I need you to talk to me until she is here. Can you do that?” Her heart was beating fast. It fluttered in her chest like a small bird tangled in a net. The thought that something serious had happened to Newt hit home harder than she had thought possible. Hastily, she reached out for the healer, hoping Willow was close enough to be with them soon. Her send was acknowledged a heartbeat later.
“I’m dizzy,” Newt said, and his eyes started to shimmer with wetness. “I want my mom.”
Dreamflight felt even more helpless and a little guilty. The sad truth that Lacewing wasn’t able to come and comfort her son caught up to her and it felt as if someone had slapped her over the head with her own self-pity. She sat here with a cub who had lost far, far more than she had, and who needed as much love and comfort as he could get to work through this hard fate, and what had she done so far? She had held a childish grudge against Newt for trying to fill the empty spot where his family had been with the comfort and warmth her father was willing to give. The feeling of how unfair that was had nagged on her for a while, but now it was overtaking her. If something bad happened to him she knew she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself.
She kept rubbing his back while they waited, feeling the occasional sob shaking Newt’s body. **I’m sorry, Newt,** she said, her sending carrying more than sympathy for his pain. It carried all the guilt and sorrow she felt towards him. If he caught it, he didn’t react to it. Was it too late to apologize? She couldn’t wallow in more self pity now. Newt needed someone right now and she was the only one here. Pushing away her own feelings she tried to encourage him to keep talking to her. When that failed she started to ask questions about the birds they had encountered today. That seemed to work. He hesitantly answered and not always correctly, but it didn’t matter as long as he was distracted and kept talking.
Hopefully Willow would arrive soon.
The weaver’s head whipped around when she felt the familiar touch of Willow’s and Beetle’s joined mind. She looked in the direction the sending came from and relief flooded her when she saw Willow and her lovemate breaking through the shrubs with Sky and Rooter.
“We’re here!” she called, waving her hand. Not that it was necessary. Willow had spotted them already and was urging Sky towards them. She slid from her wolf-friend's back when she was close enough, kneeling down before the pale boy. Beetle joined just a heartbeat later her face equally pale with worry. “What happened?” she asked, frowning at the minor wound on Newt’s forehead.
Dreamflight pulled back to give the healer room to do what she had to do. “He fell from the tree and hit his head,” she answered, her voice rough. “He's dizzy and…”
Willow gave her a short look but didn’t say anything, just nodded and reached out to let her magic sense and fix whatever damage she could find.
Beetle dropped to her knees where Dreamflight had sat just a moment ago and started to soothe the cub with a soft, sweet voice while Willow worked. Unlike Dreamflight herself, Beetle seemed to find just the right words to reach Newt and calm his upset sobs down.
Silently she watched as the warm golden glow from Willow’s hands wove the torn skin on Newt’s forehead together until only the thin line of already dried blood reminded of the injury. The sobs died down and Newt relaxed, surrounded by the warmth of the healer’s magic.
It took a load off Dreamflight’s mind to know he’d be all right. And once the relief kicked in and her panic and sorrow melted, there was room for new thoughts. Newt had gotten hurt while out with her — while trying to keep up with her. It had been her responsibility to make sure that something like this didn’t happen.
What would her father and Cloudfern say? A fresh wave of guilt and her own fear ran through her. She had rushed Newt to get this trip over with. So, was it her fault? Did it matter? She was sure her father and Cloudfern would think so, regardless.
But she hadn’t wanted this to happen! All she had wanted was to have a little space for herself, but that was no excuse for what had happened.
Dreamflight felt numb again. All she could do was stare at the scene before her, the thought that it was her doing that had caused this was creeping into her mind and dug its sharp claws into her. Words were spoken but they all seemed far away from her at the moment.
Finally the glow faded and Willow leaned back, catching her breath, while Beetle carefully helped Newt up, who instantly wrapped his arms around her neck. Tried and exhausted, he snuggled into Beetle’s form. On top of the guilt, Dreamflight also felt a pang of regret and envy toward her friend and the cub she held. Their affection seemed to come so easily.
The weaver tensed when she realized Beetle was talking to her. “I’ll take Newt home. Willow healed him, but he’ll need to rest. And so should Willow. Will you come with us?” her friend asked.
“N—No,” Dreamflight hastily answered and wrapped her arms around herself as if she was cold. “I—I will come later. He’s in good hands with you and Willow,” she added, unable to look at Beetle or Willow, but she could have sworn she felt their reproachful eyes on her.
Willow said nothing as she summoned Sky and wearily mounted her wolf-friend to head back to the Holt. Beetle lingered longer. “Are you sure you won’t come back with us?" she asked.
Dreamflight nodded and avoided meeting her gaze. She listened as Beetle, Willow and Newt rode back toward the Dentrees. She had been left behind. Just as she had thought she wanted it.
Dreamflight had wandered aimlessly until the sun had started to rise over the treetops. She had avoided going back until she was sure everyone had gone to sleep. The last thing she wanted was to run into her father or Cloudfern or anyone else who could blame her for Newt’s accident. Unfortunately she couldn’t run from herself.
Newt deserved so much better than she had offered him, she thought. He had done nothing but try to befriend her and all she had done was to push him away. She couldn’t wrap her head around it. When had she become like this? When had she turned into this mean, unfriendly elf who would push away an orphaned cub like this? She didn’t like this side of herself. And more so, she didn’t want to be this way. But did it matter now? After what had happened, was it too late to change?
Tired and worn she made her way up the Father Tree as quietly as possible to get to her den without waking anyone. Once in, she crawled into her furs, not bothering to strip out of her clothes, and let her tears flow freely. How could she expect forgiveness, when she couldn’t forgive herself?
Dreamflight woke from her uneasy sleep when she heard someone trying and failing to sneak into her den. Her cheeks felt sore and raw from the tears which hadn’t stopped until she had fallen asleep. She felt as if a bear had chewed her up and spit her into her sleeping furs when he was done with what was left of her.
Still half asleep, Dreamflight raised her head and saw a wisp of white hair against the darkness, followed by two pinkish blue eyes that looked her over curiously. “Are you awake?” the owner of said eyes asked in a hushed voice.
“Newt?” she asked quizzically, genuinely surprised to see the cub here.
“Mm-hm.” Newt nodded and crawled over to her side. “I waited all night for you to come back. And then I had to wait until Greenweave and Cloudfern fell asleep,” he told her in a secretive whisper, before he looked over his shoulder as if they could get caught any moment. When nothing happened, he sat down next to her bedbowl.
“They aren’t going to be happy with me. Willow said she helped my head but I should rest. Just to be safe. I guess climbing up to the top of the Dentree would upset them, but I feel fine and I can climb just fine. Besides, it’s the Father Tree. I climbed up and down here so often I could do it in my sleep,” he chirped as chattily as a sparrow in mating season.
“What are you doing here?” Dreamflight was at a loss of what to say. Furthermore she felt as if she had to chide the young boy for going against Willow’s advice. What if he had fallen from the tree because he still felt exhausted?
“I had to come and see you. To see if you are all right,” Newt answered, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. “You didn’t come back with us,” he added sadly.
Dreamflight sighed and sat up. He’d worried for her. It was equally sweet as cruel. Newt was such a thoughtful kid and seemed to really, really care for her. It made her feel more of a stinkbear than she already did.
“I didn’t think you would want to see me after what happened,” she admitted.
Newt tilted his head and frowned as if he had to put together the pieces. “That I fell out of the tree?” he asked. “But that’s not your fault. It was an accident,” he declared without the hint of a doubt. “Everyone knows that.”
Dreamflight gave him a skeptical look. She was sure someone would blame her for it. She was about to say so when Newt went on, “That’s not the first time I’ve fallen out of a tree. It happened a lot when I went to watch birds with Birdcatcher,” he explained. “One time I broke my wrist after the fall and Birdcatcher looked just as worried as you did today.”
The weaver narrowed her eyes at him and considered his words. “And no one was angry with him when it happened?” she asked.
“Oh yes, mother and father were, but only for a moment. They all know such things happen. And neither Greenweave nor Cloudfern are angry with you. I told them they shouldn’t and that you were very nice when you waited with me for Willow.”
It was hard to believe that, but as much as Dreamflight looked for the snag here she couldn’t find one. Brushing back her messy hair, she took a deep breath. She thought about all that had happened in the last few hours, especially how afraid she had been for Newt and how she had caught herself thinking about how she never would be able to forgive herself for being mean to him if something worse had happened.
She tried to find words to apologize for her behavior — to apologize for everything! — but she wasn't sure there were words to make up for it. Before she could get lost in her circling thoughts, Newt put his hand over hers.
“We didn't get to finish our lesson yesterday,” he said regretfully.
Dreamflight stopped short and blinked at him. There was another chance for her to make up for her ugly behavior. Maybe not all of it, but it was a start. Her lips turned into a warm smile. “We can go today, at dusk, if father and Cloudfern will allow it,” she offered.
Newt gave her a bright smile, and reached up to hug her. She hugged him back. This time, she really was looking forward to the trip. And this time she would do far, far better.