Stretched out along a sturdy branch, Foxtail stared up at the sparkling stars in the deep darkness above her. The night had come clear with the fresh scents of buds and life, the Long Cold quickly fading into the past of everyone’s mind. New Green had arrived in all its glory. Soon the rivers would be full and the fields full of new growth. The future shone as bright as the full moons. The future. She wrinkled her nose at the concept that had become more familiar but still seemed strange. Was this part of growing up then? Was this going to be her life now that her plots had become habit?
Well, sometime-habit. She smiled to herself and cocked an ear for the busy noises below as the rest of her tribe bustled about with their chores and duties, freed from dens and ready to accomplish the things that had fallen by the wayside. She, on the other hand, planned on spending at least a little bit of time up in the high branches, doing nothing more strenuous than chasing her own thoughts.
A slow smile curved her lips as the activity below shifted and almost everyone dispersed to other locales. Quiet settled back into the cool stillness, voices fading into the distance, a lone howl signalling a wolf-bond calling for rider. One very recognizable figure below lingered in the cleared area, though, and Foxtail shifted position so she could better watch the pale-haired elf wander over to the Father Tree and rest a hand against the rough bark. She watched, leaning even further over her branch. To her mild surprise, nothing happened. The other elf remained frozen and thoughtful as if time hiccuped and stopped. That was no fun at all. Pursing her lips, Foxtail gave a low whistle that stretched out before slipping into a neat little warble at the end. It wasn’t nearly as nice a piece of work as others could do, she thought critically, a bit weak at the end note but not too shabby, considering.
Besides, it achieved the desired effect and soon she was grinning down into Newt’s moon-pale face. Foxtail detached a hand from the branch beneath her and gave a cheerful wave. **Up to trouble, cub?** Before he could answer the usual tease, though, she had already swung herself upwards and had begun the long slither and slide back to the ground.
Newt waited until the chief’s daughter landed, both feet flat and firm on the packed earth, before he crossed to her with a crooked smile on his face. “You keep calling me cub,” he pointed out good-naturedly, “but I’m plenty old enough to be on my own. Cloudfern’s sent me out into the forest alone to gather his herbs more than once.”
“How far out, though?” Before he could answer, Foxtail reached out with a finger to press against his nose. He was right, she knew, and he was growing quite nicely but... That was hardly the point of the nickname, anyway. When Newt widened his eyes and stood straighter, very nearly pulling away from her, she lifted a fiery eyebrow and took a step closer. Something about him seemed ever so slightly different and, after a slow start to the strange friendship many seasons ago, Foxtail felt properly confident in her knowledge of the younger elf. She leaned further into his personal space, head tipping to the side as she put a some consideration into the problem at hand.
Something was definitely a bit different. The way held himself, his height, his gestures. He had never drawn away from her touch before, after all, something Foxtail took shameless advantage of in her greedy need for physical contact. There was some tension in his slim frame now but... A teasing wind danced past them and her nostrils flared as his scent carried to her. Ah. So that was it.
Newt crossed his eyes finally to look at her finger and she grinned almost wolfishly, all sharp white teeth. “Never mind,” she murmured. Bringing her hand away, Foxtail watched his body relax once more. His reaction amused her and, without thinking too hard about it, she stepped to his side and slung an arm about his neck. “So he’s sending you out for his herbs now? Because it looked like you were taking root there right alongside the Father Tree if you ask me.”
“No, I was just... thinking.”
“That’s no fun.” A sudden idea sprang to her mind and Foxtail tipped her head to one side, her temple resting against his. Her smile grew as she felt Newt’s arm slip around her waist in response for the expected cuddle. She leaned into his hold as if to test his growing strength before turning to give him an expectant sidelong glance.
He waited a beat and then took the bait with a hopeful, little smile of his own. “Do you have a better idea?”
**I do.** She squirmed out of his hold but quickly snatched up his hand and wove her fingers through his. She gave an insistent, playful tug. **Come on. I’ll show you.**
“See? Isn’t this much nicer than standing around thinking?” Spreading her arms wide to indicate the view, Foxtail twisted to look over her shoulder at the younger elf and her smile invited only agreement. He took the cue and stepped forward to stand at her side. A gentle curve of his mouth reassured her, as he studied the picturesque greenery and the secluded pool of crystalline water glinting in the bright moonlight.
When her arm slid around his waist and he felt her weight lean gently against him, all he seemed able to do was return the gesture. She realized with a bit of surprise that he really was nearly the same height as her; the seasons had allowed for enough growth spurts that her head only tilted the smallest degree to rest her temple against his hair. Without thinking, Newt took a deep breath but it released on a stutter as her scent flooded his nostrils. In an attempt to cover his noticeable reaction, he gave a little shrug. “It’s pretty,” he answered. “But shouldn’t we be doing our work instead of...”
Her laugh interrupted him and Foxtail squirmed out of his hold before dancing back a couple of steps. “We’re allowed to take breaks, you know,” she said merrily. “You always do more than your fair share of work, cub. Greenweave and Cloudfern are completely proud papas over you.” Suddenly, she came back into his personal space and looped her arms around his neck. Leaning in, she pressed her nose to his in an affectionate nuzzle. He nearly went cross-eyed trying to keep his attention focused on her mischievous grin. “And you have to admit that I’ve been working my tail off, too,” she added with a giggle. “How many times did you find me in the storage dens or with the stinky old dyes? And even Father says I’m doing my bit with the word-hunters.”
Newt managed a nod even as the motion rubbed their noses again. He smiled, though, and relaxed again. “So what you’re saying is that you and I are both such good cubs,” he dared to use her teasing pet name for him inclusively and was rewarded with another soft giggle, “that we should laze around now?”
“Mmm, exactly. Now you’re getting the idea. I knew you were a clever one. Good to see you’re learning some things from me, too. You’ll have to be sure to tell my father what a good influence I am on you, hmm?” The redhead stepped away suddenly and left him off balance. She reached out to steady him with a hand to his shoulder but said nothing about his unusual lack of grace, just smiling. “Up for a swim?”
Before he could answer, though, Foxtail was already shucking off her leathers. He stared stupidly for long moments until, naked as the day she was born, his friend paused in folding her clothing neatly and tilted her head at him, one delicate eyebrow cocked in clear amusement. Giving himself a shake, New quickly began skinning out of his own leathers. He kept his eyes downwards as he worked and seemed determined to ignore the faint pink racing up his cheeks.
She noticed and, unseen, a wickedly amused little smile curled her lips. Since working out the signs in her own mind, Newt’s behavior had become increasingly adorable and ridiculous. He really was a completely different sort of elf, an entirely new sort of friend. Not even Rainpace in his role as Papa and Responsible Male radiated such painful wariness to her often mischievous presence. Even with those days long behind her. Mostly.
She watched him for a moment longer while he attempted to find somewhere to store his clothing without risking a glance upwards. Laughing under her breath, she reached out to wrap fingers around his wrist. He looked up instinctively and a renewed pink flush suffused his cheeks. She took his folded clothing from him gently. “Go on in, cub,” she urged. “I’ll put these up with mine. There’s a hollow tree up this bank that I know of.” She winked. “Just me, too, so no one will be finding our things for a bit of mischief and we can take our time swimming.” The idea of someone pranking them made his eyes go wide and she had to look away to keep from laughing out loud.
When she turned to do as promised, though, she felt his eyes linger on her and she smirked again. Deliberately, she waited until she heard a splash before she finished tucking away their leathers, spending time beforehand fussing with the clothing and crouching and stretching. Ah, there he went, safely into the water. Confident that she had dragged him this far and that the rest was up to him and his desires, Foxtail stood at the water’s edge and surveyed everything around and beyond her carefully submerged friend. The moonlight glittered on the gently shifting surface, tiny waves and ripples caused by night-dwelling things coming for drinks. It turned Newt’s hair an even brighter silver and cast dramatic shadows along his cheeks. He wasn’t so handsome as an elf like Notch or Thornbow perhaps but he was striking and she knew from personal experience how sweet and soft he could be.
She smiled and closed her eyes. She inhaled deeply. The air was full of wet green things, growing things, living things. She could smell the damp earth and it thrilled through her like a physical sensation. This turn of time always struck her as the best. Everything was fresh and new and nothing was ever boring. She listened to the sounds that surrounded their little get-away and she heard the things that did not make sounds. Beneath the faint trill of night birds, a wolf howling in the distance, the wind through the grass... She heard the absolute stillness of Newt.
Without a word, the redhead reopened her eyes and lowered herself into the water. She watched as Newt glanced over at her and promptly twisted away to swim another lap at the far edge of the narrow pool. He seemed determined to avoid her while they were in this state. Hilarious, considering how he was an elf she could always count on when she needed a simple cuddle. Rolling her eyes, she took a lungful of air and sank beneath the surface. She would relax that elf one way or another. Even if it half-drowned him.
Given the immense holler he gave as he went down, her hands on his shoulders, she momentarily feared the drowning might become a fact as his open mouth filled.
Diving beneath the water, Foxtail slipped her arms around Newt’s torso and dragged him spluttering to the surface. “Oh, shards, I’m sorry. I didn’t think you’d go down like that. I should’ve splashed more or I don’t know something but I just wanted to tease you because you’re being a silly cub and you should just ask and... Oh, shards!”
Apologies poured fast and furious from her as she pulled him towards shore. The momentary fear grew to a distressingly real one as Newt showed no resistance to her rough handling or her outpouring of words. She felt her face flush, then pale. Though her wet curls were plastered over her face, obscuring her vision, she refused to spare a hand to push at them. Instead she focused on his weight in her arms and locksent to him. If his breath was stolen by the water enough that he couldn’t answer, he could use his mind. She hoped. **Please, please, please... Newt... Newt.**
With brute force, she managed to get his unresisting body onto the bank. Clambering up beside him, she chafed fingers over his cheeks and chest. **Newt!**
**You’re so loud.**
His returned locksend sounded breathless and she sat back hard on her heels, toppling onto her backside in relief. Newt coughed but there was definitely a bit of laughter to the noise. Then he struggled to sit upright. The laughter bubbled up again, though, and he only made it partway, weight supported on braced arms, before he sank back with another coughing fit shaking him. This time, Foxtail didn’t feel quite so worried. In fact, she felt the flickers of her skyfire temper flare but she forced herself to exhale without a word. Then she waited, watching him with narrowed green eyes.
Her silence cut through his coughs and Newt stilled, hand over his mouth. He turned his head and regarded her for a moment. Dropping his hand, he then twisted until he could roll onto his hip and face her head on. Studying the unusually still look on her face despite the lingering pink in her cheeks, Newt bit his lower lip before lowering his gaze to stare at her collarbones, a clear offering of submission to her anger. He looked about ready to show throat in a minute if his ill-conceived joke had her so upset. “... I’m sorry.”
“You know...” Foxtail shifted forward to rest on her knees and noticed how he continued to hold still, clearly waiting and increasingly guilty. She forced her own smile down. The little tail-twister! It took everything within not to burst into laughter and pounce him out of pure joy that he could let loose of his good behaviors and play a prank — even if it was the sort of prank she never expected from him.
And one she hoped he would never use again on anyone else. She still felt her heart thudding in her chest from the lingering adrenaline and every inch of her body twitched for action.
A slow smile appeared on her lips, a thought occurring to her. Surely she was the only one he would try such a thing on. It kind of made her extra special. Newt flicked a glance up at her face from beneath his pale lashes and swallowed noticeably before dropping his eyes again. He dropped lower, though, and a rush of blood touched his cheeks. “You know,” she repeated and her voice had a low purr to it this time. “You’re lucky I’m here and you pranked me instead of someone else. Can’t you just imagine it?”
She wriggled a little closer. He looked up at her fully and no longer pretended coyness as his eyes widened, all sorts of thoughts clearly running through his head. She knew, sure as shells, that he was imagining the reaction of his adopted fathers or her own father or Blacksnake. Elves that he would never dare tease in such a manner. Taking advantage of his distraction, Foxtail squirmed right up next to him, her thigh against his hip. Then she leaned over him to settle her hand on the ground beside his opposite shoulder. Her dripping red curls fell down to form a curtain around their faces and her smile glinted sharp and white in the increased dimness. **You’ll give yourself a headache if you do, cub, so don’t.**
There was an audible catch in his breathing and she held very, very still above him. A hint of her huntress instinct directed her to the silence of a deep-woods trail as he threatened to turn skittish again. Aside from her thigh to his hip, none of her skin touched his and the water from her hair slowed to the occasional droplet on his chest. She tilted her head, smile gentling. He relaxed and his breathing slowed until he returned her smile crookedly. **Better?**
Newt nodded. He stared up at her for another few heartbeats and then, ever so slowly, he moved one of his hands up to wrap fingers around her wrist. She shifted her weight to lift pressure from the supporting arm and watched with amused interest when he gently tugged upwards. The adjustment allowed him room and time and he lifted her hand from the ground and moved it, settling it atop his chest. Then he looked up at her with wary eyes.
Foxtail bit her tongue hard to keep from asking. She couldn’t. There were rules and even she balked at pushing past them. Besides, she thought, it would do him good to ask. So, despite her instincts whispering for more, all she gave him was another sweet smile and a slight spreading of her hand.
His heartbeat thudded beneath her palm but, to her admiration, Newt kept his breathing steady. He remained silent, though, not even a send. Just pure quiet and stillness as he stared up at her, the question waiting behind his silvered-moonlight eyes. She tipped her head again finally and lifted an eyebrow in equally wordless communication. Then she opened her mind ever so slightly to brush his. **Curiousity gentleness warmth amusement... slight impatience.**
With a sudden hard swallow, Newt slid his hand up her lean muscled arm until his fingers traced along her collarbone and upwards to find the pulse at the side of her neck. Her expression did not change but she let her chin lift, exposing more of her throat to him. Despite the flickers of sensation from his hesitant touch, so different than all of the others between them, Foxtail kept her breathing slow and shallow.
**Please. Foxtail, I want to know...**
His abrupt send, layered with confusion and want and uncertainty and a dozen other things that she simply could not be bothered to translate... It all caused her to catch her breath and she brought her free hand up to cover the hand at her throat. She pressed him closer for an instant and then tangled her fingers in his and brought the complicated hold up to her face. She half-closed her eyes, watching him, as she nuzzled into their combined grip. The she drew away slightly but her head turned so her warm breath ghosted over his knuckles. **Yes, Newt?**
He drew a deep breath, closed his eyes, and seemed to spend a handful of heartbeats having a detailed argument with himself. Foxtail waited, her own skin crawling now with the lingering tease of closeness. If her friend’s internal dialogue didn’t stop soon and end on the right note, she thought, she was going to have to abandon any hope of helping him... And go howling for someone less green.
Notch was always good for... Oh. Oh.
Foxtail gasped as she felt the hesitant brush of teeth against a knuckle and her focus latched onto the younger elf beneath her. He held their joined hands to his mouth now, stolen control in the wake of her dream-gathering, and he watched her back with nervous slyness. She rewarded his bravery with a grin before lowering her body closer to his. “Sometimes you’ve gotta ask before you get, sweetling,” she purred.
As if that was the permission he needed, the redhead suddenly found herself shoved upright and back. However, she was not left alone as Newt followed the motion and sat up so they were left face to face once more. She grinned at him, noting the new look in his eyes. Deliberately, she pursed her lips to kill the anticipatory edge of her smile and shook her hand from his. Then, eyes still on his, she shifted until she could rock back from her knees onto the balls of her feet with easy, practiced grace. A huntress with new prey that was more than willing. She flowed to her feet.
Stretching, Foxtail’s lean body formed a taut, bowed arch and she felt his eyes follow her movement. He sent freely now, though, completely unguarded, and she closed her eyes as she savored the rolling sensations of want curiosity hunger that she suspected he only half knew he was sharing. If she hadn’t already been considering his slim frame with hungry intention, the shared mind touches would have directed her accordingly. Fortunately for his ego and her pleasure, the thought of sharing furs with her young friend already existed -- a hard idea to shake once the changed scent and its meaning touched her consciousness back at the Dentrees.
She held out an inviting hand.
No hesitation showed in Newt’s movements now as he surged to his feet and took her hand. He gave a little tug then, experimental and intent. Quite willing to play along, she let the pull upset her balance and she tumbled towards him. With a soft gasp of alarm, Newt quickly opened his stance wide to catch her. The noise caught in the back of his throat when her naked skin pressed against his and melted into a faint whimper, deepening as she rewarded his bravery with a delicate nuzzle to the hollow of his throat. His arms tightened around her instinctively.
**Well, Newt?** She settled her head against his shoulder, making herself almost small and girlish against his overheating body. One of her hands slid over his chest while the other moved to his waist, moving until her arm was looped lazily around him. Listening to his shallow breathing in the sudden quiet, she waited.
**Show me. Please.** His hand edged down her back, fingers following her spine until she shuddered. He paused at the small of her back for a moment and then, swallowing audibly, he lowered his hand to cup her backside. He dropped his head to bury his face in her wealth of red curls. **Please?** The second please came burdened with the tangle of emotions but his hold on her never wavered. The nervous hesitation faded behind the growing hope and want. He risked pulling her body even closer until everything was warm, still-damp skin.
Her teeth nipped, gentle and fond, at his throat. **Yes.** Then, carefully, Foxtail drew away and took his hand in hers, fingers lacing firmly. Her warm smile drew out his own answering one and her green eyes glittered with suppressed eagerness. Without another word or send, she turned and led him towards the green-sheltered hollow tree which housed their clothing, spread around by inviting moss.
They had all night, after all, and Newt had a lot to experience before the two moons set... Before Foxtail took him back to her own den, as she somehow knew she would, to cuddle warm and sweet and safe at the end of it all.