(Ed. Note: This story takes place soon after, and quotes lines from, "Taste of Love)".)
Honey came to awareness after a day of peaceful, dreamless slumber. She snuggled into Blacksnake’s warmth beside her and listened to the sound of his breathing. She wasn’t in a hurry to get up, so she lay there reflecting on the most recent hunt with the elf beside her, as well as many others over the turns of seasons since he had first taken her on a hunt. There had been many, and each time out hunting with him, or with True Edge or any other hunter, served her well in keeping her in the Now, as well as giving her a sense of accomplishment. She had five gold earrings reflecting the biggest of those kills, and today, she needed to see if Goldspice could pierce her ear with the sixth.
Honey smiled at the thought. The hunt she and Blacksnake had gone on had been something she had really needed after a painful conversation she'd had with Newt. Thoughts of that conversation saddened her, because her young uncle’s words had shot directly into the core of her issues with Greenweave.
‘My issues,’ she thought. ‘Not his. They are my own, and I have inflicted them on him, Cloudfern, and so many others since my unwrapping.’
“They were supposed to stick together. They did love each other,” Newt had insisted.
Honey and Greenweave had loved one another, too, before. Memories of how he had been there when she was unwrapped surfaced. Something she had not considered before came to mind. Despite the choice he had made to be with Cloudfern, he had been there for her unwrapping to welcome her. And he had never gloated about his choice. He hadn’t felt guilty — nor should he have. His preference for Cloudfern, Honey finally realized, had not meant a lack of love for her.
That thought pained her. She who had thought she understood love, and who had sought after it for so much of her life, had not ever really loved freely. Nor had she ever loved without expecting something of the other — except, sometimes with her daughter. When Dreamflight was still Goldfinch.
She had told Newt, “Many things can wear out love between elves and turn it sour, like when you leave a sweet wine in the boiling summer sun.” She’d also compared love to fruit, which can rot. He had rejected both comparisons, pointing out that elves might reconcile. And then he had voiced his fear, that he would lose his second family. He had asked her to try and be friends with her Recognized again. She’d run.
When she’d stopped running, she found Blacksnake and asked him to go for a hunt with her. It had been a successful one, and now that she lay there, she knew it had been successful in another way, too.
Somehow over the many seasons since her unwrapping, Honey had realized that love came in many different forms. She laughed at herself, inwardly, for not realizing this sooner. She cringed at the memories of times when she had tried to force the feelings with one elf or another. Whispersilk’s death, she knew, had been a turning point in many ways — the time spent in Windburn’s den caring for Cinder, but also for her chief, had shown her that she could care for others without expecting something in return. Hunting with Blacksnake, and sleeping with him, had proven that physical intimacy didn’t have to lead to lifemating, lovemating, or any other commitment.
She was happy. For herself, and even for Greenweave. She knew that her good spirits might not last if she continued to lay there thinking, and Honey didn’t trust herself not to overthink her way into a foul or self-pitying mood. She knew that would only lead her into despair over what she had lost long ago instead of confidence in what she now had. The huntress wanted to move forward, today. And she knew what she had to do.
Sucking in a breath, Honey quietly worked her way out from under the furs and out of the bedbowl. She dressed as quickly as she could, being careful not to make too much noise — she didn’t want to disturb Blacksnake’s slumber. Once dressed, she slid out of the den. Once outside, Honey purposefully made her way to a familiar place — Greenweave’s favorite net-mending site. It was still early in the spring, but the weather was unseasonably warm, so she hoped she would find him there. Moving quickly, with determination, she tried not to rehearse what she would say, what needed saying, and tried not to panic. She was tired of making a fool of herself over Greenweave’s choice. It was time to really turn things around, to get back some dignity.
She paused. Honey also knew she wanted to do it without showing throat. She wasn’t going to apologize for her behaviors. When she had acted poorly, she’d had her reasons. Though she could now see clearly, she was not going to apologize for how she had seen things in the past. It was time to move forward. As she neared the river, the sounds of others playing brought her to a halt. This wasn’t something she could do with others watching.
Or was it?
She’d been breathing again until this moment. Now, that breath was held in a moment of indecision. To move forward, or to turn back? The indecision was broken when Greenweave appeared, walking from the river on the path back to the Dentrees, moving straight toward her. When their eyes met, he halted, a wary look crossing his face.
Honey hated that she was the reason for that look. They had been friends, lovers, lifemates! once. His smile used to be the sunshine in her day. Now, his smile brightened another's day; there were no more smiles for her. Only a wary, guarded look of mistrust.
He should be wary, she reminded herself. She had given him no reason not to be. No wonder he prefers Cloudfern! The thought flashed across her mind before she could stop it, and she closed her eyes tightly, wrestling with herself. He wouldn't need to be wary if he'd honored his commitment to never leave came the old thought, a bad habit. Then, she chased it away with the new one, He made a decision. Move forward, Honey!
Greenweave took a tentative step as if he was going to continue walking and pass her by. She held a hand up to stop him, then began. Locksending was the only way she could say what had to be said because she didn't want others to know how vulnerable she felt. **Arn,** she offered tentatively, the name being shared without enmity, only regret. **peace?** she questioned, adding, **in the same tribe, not fighting.** Then, swallowing hard, she offered her concession, **I don’t think this is how either of us imagined things would turn out. happy for you because you are happy**
She waited for a response, for an opening up from her Recognized. And if she didn’t get one, she willed herself to maintain her dignity. She had done her part, first in placing the tension between them, and now, in taking a step toward peace.
Greenweave nodded slowly, then sent his agreement, **peace.** It was all he offered for now, and it was a test of sorts, to see if she really meant what she had offered and asked for. He made no move toward her, but neither did he walk away.
Honey nodded, offering a slight smile. When he offered a smile in return, she felt for that moment that the sun had come out from behind the clouds. Then, without further discussion, the huntress gently walked past her Recognized and toward the river, looking to join the others in the fun. As she neared the river, her smiled brightened, her heart lighter because of the step she had finally taken.