Cloudfern knew he was grinning, most likely in the moonstruck way of a cub with his first crush, but he couldn't help it. Lovemate, kept popping up at the back of his mind, as if the word were an excited bond-friend who wanted you to come play.
Raven was buried deep under the cover of their furs and seemed like he could sleep until the moons reached their highest point. Cloudfern had taken a peek or two under the furs, just to get a glimpse of his face, but only peeks. Moonstruck cub or no, there were some limits to what he'd put Raven through in the cold of winter.
It wasn't the first time Cloudfern had seen Raven asleep — far from the first time they'd woken up in the same furs — but that one word made this time ever so different and new.
I wonder what Aunt Sunlight will think of this. The thought held no worry, merely curiosity. Raven and Sunlight might be Recognized, but they'd never been lovemates, much less lifemates. And it wasn't as if Finch was a cub they needed to care for together anymore. When Finch had gotten old enough to get her own den, many many turns ago, Raven and Sunlight had gone their separate ways too.
She'll probably just say 'finally' and collect on some bet or other. The thought made Cloudfern chuckle. I wonder who'll collect the biggest winnings. One-Leg, presumably. He seems to have the best of luck when it comes to guessing these sort of things.
"What are you laughing at this early in the evening?" came Raven's voice from the depths of the furs. "Has the sun even set?"
Cloudfern lifted the edge of one of the furs and grinned down at Raven, who didn't look too disgruntled at being woken. "Have a pleasant sleep?"
A smile that could have been called serene if not for the twinkle in the eyes above it commanded Raven's lips. "Yes, though I must say the moments right before it were even more pleasant."
Cloudfern rolled his eyes at the teasing tone of Raven's words. "Ah, so I'm a little better than sleep. That's good to know."
"I hold my lovemate to high standards, as I'm sure you understand." No elf should have been allowed to look so calm and unfazed when saying something so ridiculous.
Cloudfern resisted the urge to ruffle Raven's hair or tickle him — anything to make him react and acknowledge how silly he was being. Well, both of them were being. The distraction of that word again, leaving Raven's lips, helped.
"I do think the sun has set," Cloudfern said, cuddling closer to Raven. The den was as warm as it would get during the white cold and he'd spent enough time not under the furs.
Forehead to forehead they just lay there, listening to each other breathing.
But as with all winter evenings, no elf could stay in the furs forever. Cloudfern nuzzled Raven's cheek, then said: "Ready to face the rest of the tribe?"
It was Raven's turn to chuckle. "You make it sound so dramatic."
"Look at this way," Cloudfern said as he pushed aside the furs, making both of them shiver. "We're preparing ourselves for being badgered by curious tribemates while trying to keep warm in the Gathering Den. And we'll have to go outside, into that lovely snowy weather, to get to said badgering."
"I see your point." Another chuckle broke free from Raven's lips. Quick as a startled fish he was out of the furs and pulling on his clothes. "At least we'll know who won what bets. Should relieve some of their winter boredom, don't you think?"
"You really think so, lovemate?" Cloudfern asked, and he knew his grin must have been a goofy one.
The answering smile Raven gave him was one of the widest Cloudfern had ever seen him wear. "I do…lovemate."
Hand in hand they opened the door-hide and made their way out into the crisp winter evening.