The quarrelsome chirps reached their peak when the little brown sparrows clustered around the crumbs of old honeycake Dreamflight and Newt had scattered across the barren ground. With mild amusement, the blonde weaver watched how two of the little feathered creatures shrieked at each other, flapping their wings in what was a threatening gesture to signal the opponent to stay out of their way. Her eyes followed their little dance, noticing they were so caught up in fighting that they forgot to pick up their meal.
Watching them eased her mind and helped her to get completely lost in the image of the clustered songbirds. Newt sat next to her, his hood pulled deeply into his face, protecting him from the dim daylight. He’d dragged her out of her den earlier to join him watching the sparrows’ quarrel, offering a distraction and some time sharing their mutual hobby. She’d gladly agreed to do so, though she noticed his attention wasn’t on the birds all the time. Now and then, when he felt like she might not notice, his pale eyes flashed over into her direction, as if he was making sure she’d not fall over or something like that. As soon as she looked at him, his eyes would search for the birds again.
For a while she said nothing about it, simply enjoying their shared pastime, but finally she managed to catch his eyes while he was looking towards her. He almost jumped but tried to play it off with one of his sweetest smiles.
“I’m sorry,” he offered. “I guess I still need to make sure you’re all right.”
Dreamflight smiled back and reached to the back of her head where she’d hit it hard enough to knock the memory out of her mind. “I’m good, Newt. Really,” she replied. “Willow made sure of it.” ‘And so did mother,’ she thought to herself.
He measured her thoughtfully for a while longer but finally looked at their flock of little sparrows again. “I was really scared for you,” he admitted softly. Something he didn’t have to do. It was hard to imagine otherwise. “And I’m glad you’re yourself again,” he added and reached over to pull her in a brief, one-armed hug. “You are, right?”
Dreamflight leaned into the simple affectionate gesture for a moment. “Yes, I am,” she stated simply, but her mind leaped from the comforting and reassuring words to a question that sat in her side like a thorn: Was her father glad she was herself again as well? She recalled the short encounter she’d had with him a few days ago and how much it had upset her. The one question was soon followed by a flock of other questions, old and painful ones.
Dreamflight was about to slip into the dark spot in her heart. Unwilling to let this happen, her hand searched for the crystal from Beetle that she carried in her pocket. She clung to it, rubbing her thumb over the smooth surface, searching for the Now of the wolf.
Next to her, Newt tilted his head not unlike one of the curious sparrows they were here to watch. “Are you sure?” he asked, reaching for her hand. She barely could meet his gaze. The last thing she wanted was to burden Newt with her sorrows. In her mind he still was the little boy who’d come out of wrapstuff, even though she knew he barely was a cub anymore.
“Dreamflight?” Newt asked, pressing for a straight answer in the gentlest way. Like Beetle, he had developed the talent to find the right tone of voice to get through to her.
“It’s nothing, really,” she tried to deflect his concern. “I’m just thinking too much again.” Hoping to distract him enough with it, she pulled the crystal out of her pocket to show it to Newt. “Look what Beetle gave me. Isn’t it pretty?”
“It is,” Newt agreed with a nod. “What is it for?”
“Huh?” Dreamflight stammered, his question not expected.
“Well, did she just give it to you? Or did she have a reason,” he prompted.
Dreamflight looked at the gift in her hand and pondered the answer. “She said it’s a token I should use to practice staying in the Now.”
“Oh,” Newt said and nodded. “That’s a very nice gift.”
Dreamflight agreed, and for a moment it seemed that she had successfully distracted her adopted brother — but only for a moment.
“You said you think too much. What’s keeping your mind so busy?” he asked, just a heartbeat after she’d found pleasure in her success.
The weaver heaved a deep sigh, considering the idea of opening up to Newt. His steady, unmoving gaze told her he wouldn’t let her off the hook so easily, and maybe it was better to get this over with. She loved Newt, but sometimes he could be a pest. ‘Like a real little brother,’ she added in her thoughts, and it made her smile a little.
Shrugging her shoulders, Dreamflight tried to answer in a way that would sate his curiosity but not drag herself back into her dark thoughts. “I was just wondering if others are as happy as you are to have me back to normal.”
Newt fell silent and looked back at the sparrows, thinking about what she just had said. “I can’t imagine anyone would have liked it if you stayed in the mind of a cub,” he said.
Again Dreamflight shrugged, feeling her inner walls rise. “Maybe not.” Inwardly she cringed; it sounded way too defensive. No wonder Newt picked up on it.
“You wonder about Greenweave, right?” he asked, right on target. The pale youngster might be a miss with the bow, but when it came to such things his aim was true.
“Really, it’s nothing,” she assured him, trying to sound as sincere as possible.
The younger elf bit his bottom lip and wrung his hands in his lap. “It can’t be nothing if it makes you look so sad,” he pointed out.
“You probably wouldn’t understand it, Newt. Please don’t worry about it?” It was her last try to finally get away from the unpleasant topic. She felt the twitch in her body, the urge to just storm off, but a part of her didn’t want to run.
“I... no, I guess I can’t understand it. Not really,” he admitted. “But maybe I could if you explained it to me? I probably would understand it better if you tried.”
“Why would you want that?” she asked, truly amazed by his persistence.
Now it was his turn to shrug. “Because I care for you and want to be able to understand what troubles you.”
Dreamflight thought about it. She didn't want to make a big deal of it or worry him, but it seemed he already worried himself with it.
”I think he was happier when I was his little daughter again,” she confessed and pulled her legs close. “Now that I'm my old self again, he's probably disappointed. I'm sure he would have preferred it if I still was Goldfinch.”
“How do you know?” Newt asked.
“Huh?” Dreamflight hadn’t anticipated this question. To her it was all so obvious. “What do you mean?“
“I mean, did you ever ask him about it? Or talk with him about it?” Newt countered.
“As you may have noticed, we don’t talk about such things,” she said, again feeling she sounded too defensive.
Newt nodded, looking sad. She knew it was hard on him to sit between them; he’d made it clear before. “I know what happened between you, him and Honey. Greenweave told me about it because he wanted me to know why things were as tense as they are. But he never gave me the impression he was happy that you turned away from him. It’s quite the opposite, actually.”
“Oh? Then why did he never try to convince me otherwise?” Dreamflight huffed. Her mood kept slipping into anger and annoyance. Before things could turn even more tense, she got to her feet. The flock of sparrows spread in hectic flapping at the sudden movement. She needed to get away from this topic. It still hurt to contemplate how little her father seemed to care. “You don’t understand. How could you?”
Before she could run off, however, Newt grabbed her hand and held to it firmly. “Maybe I understand better than you think,” he said. This made Dreamflight stop, and she looked at her foster brother with impatience but also curiosity.
Newt took a deep, shaky breath and switched to sending. **After I woke up, I wanted to know what happened to my family. It was painful to learn they died, even more painful to know they fought so much after I was wrapped.** His mental voice was filled with sadness, regret and pain. Dreamflight’s posture softened at that. She had heard the stories. Of course she had, but she never had talked to him about it.
“But that’s not the same, Newt,” she said.
“No, it isn’t, but let me explain what I mean,” he pleaded.
Dramflight sighed softly at it but sat down again. “Fine. Explain.”
For a moment there was a grin on Newt’s face as if he was proud of himself to be able to hold her back, but it soon made room for a more sober and sorrowful expression. “I asked about everyone and how they ... left us. I learned about Mother falling out of the Dentrees and breaking her neck. I learned about Glint – Tossfur – being gored by a stag and Birdcatcher dying in the forest fire. Each time, Snowfall made sure someone was there with me when she told the story and each time she made sure I never heard more than I could handle at once, even if I begged her for more.” He smiled at the memory, even if it was a sad smile. “I also learned how Strand and Turtle died, and each death left me sobbing in someone’s arms, mostly Greenweave’s and Cloudfern’s but also Farscout’s and Honey’s. But by far what hit me the most was to learn how my father Turtle died,” he admitted. “I wasn’t just sad. I was angry.”
“Why?” Dreamflight asked, putting a hand over his to give him some comfort. She knew this story as well. Her great-grandfather had been found stung to death by bees, not long after Lacewing’s death.
“Because ... because it felt as if he’d given up after Mother died,” Newt said firmly, looking at his friend and sister at heart. “They told me he withdrew himself from everyone, was swallowed by his grief and sadness, and then he was found dead. They said the grief over Mother’s loss had driven him mad, but I couldn’t stop asking myself: Why weren’t Glint... sorry, Tossfur, Birdcatcher and I enough to keep him going? Why did he choose to get wrapped up in his sadness rather than wait for me? Didn’t he know I needed him?” He was clearly still hurt by the loss, so Dreamflight quickly pulled him close and squeezed him. He rewarded her gesture with a grateful smile and relaxing a little; when he spoke again, his voice was still sad, but calmer: “That day, Greenweave, Cloudfern and Farscout were with me. They all assured me that Turtle’s decision had nothing to do with me or his love for me. They said he was mad with grief and sadness and he couldn’t think straight, and they pointed out to me that it wasn't even clear he was looking to die or if he was just unlucky in the end.”
“That’s sad, Newt, and I feel with you,” Dreamflight said and meant it. She felt for her friend and his loss. Of course she could understand why the circumstances around Turtle’s death made him ask these questions. He was not the first child to face them after someone had lost their Recognized. “But it’s still not the same as with Father and I. He wasn’t driven crazy with grief over Mother when he left me,” she added.
“Yes, I know,” Newt agreed and leaned into her. “But, you see. I wished I could ask Turtle about it, hear it from him that he didn’t leave me because he didn’t love me enough to overcome his grief. I wish I could look him into the eyes and hear him say these words instead of having them told to me.”
The blonde weaver sighed sadly. She knew where this was going, and sure as the moons followed the sun, Newt looked up at her, translucent eyes shining wetly. “You can ask Greenweave,” he said. “You still can talk to him and ask.”
Dreamflight felt how she became restless, upset even, and she realized she was scared by this possibility. Scared to hear her father confirm what she feared the most. It was one thing to assume he didn’t care for her, but another to know it. “I can’t,” she said.
“Why not?” Newt pressed.
“What if I’m right and you’re wrong?” she asked bluntly. “What if I missed the chance and even if he still loved me for a while, it is too late to rekindle it now?”
“What if I’m right and you’re wrong?” he asked back. “If you’re right, then it’ll hurt, yes, but if I’m right you’re hurting now and all for nothing.”
Deep down, Dreamflight knew there was truth to his words. She did hurt now. Even trying to stay in the Now she felt that the pain was in the Now just as much. The past, initial wound had healed somewhat, but these questions still lingered and made it almost impossible to heal the wounds completely. It was her own fear that kept her from trying to mend them and the wish that someone would come along and fix things for her. But no one did come, or rather she’d sent them all away when they had tried after it had happened, claiming no one understood her pain.
Dreamflight loosened her grip around Newt and rubbed her eyes. She felt lost and helpless, caught in her own cocoon of fear, anger and grief with no idea how to break free from it. It was somewhat comical that it was Newt, someone who literally had been in a cocoon for so long, who offered her a way out. She felt him rising, and when she opened her eyes he held his hand towards her.
“If you want, I’ll come with you and we can ask him together,” he said.
Dreamflight stared at his hand. Again someone offered her help and support in her pain but this time she wouldn’t push it away. She took a deep breath and took his hand, firmly and with new courage. This time she wouldn’t run away.
“Alright,” she said, pulling herself to her feet. “Let’s go.”
They found Greenweave a little while later, checking on some shellfish traps along Laughing Creek. He seemed engrossed in his task but Dreamflight noticed the easy smile he usually wore when following his duties was missing. Oh, there was a smile, but it seemed blemished with something she couldn’t put her finger on.
Drawing closer to him, the weaver felt herself getting restless again. It wasn’t as if she’d never passed by her father or even had talked to him in passing, but there was a difference between polite chit-chat and what Newt had pulled her here to do now. Almost unwillingly, she turned to move back but a pale, firm hand held her back. Looking over to Newt, she saw his steady, questioning look.
**Do you really want to go?** he asked. His sending offered her the way out if she really didn’t feel ready for this, but it also held the hope that she’d not run off.
**No,** she answered and knew it was true. Her eyes fixated on Greenweave who now had caught wind of their presence and looked at the both of them curiously. Before he could ask, Dreamflight made a few determined steps towards him, closing at least the physical distance between them.
Her demeanor appeared to throw him off a bit, but he stood up and kept eye contact with her.
“Newt. Dreamflight. Were you looking for me?” Greenweave asked, wiping his hands dry on his pants. Again Dreamflight noticed something about him seemed off, but right now it wasn’t as important as what she had to say. Once the decision to stay and talk had been made, Dreamflight wanted to get it over with.
“Yes,” she said, lifting her chin as if to challenge him. “We were.”
She felt Newt squeezing her hand as if to remind her that this wasn’t about seeking a fight but making peace. Dreamflight did her best to relax her tensed shoulders and gratefully squeezed his hand in return. Then she did what she came for and opened her mind to her father, careful not to include Newt to spare him what could be painful.
**Father, I want to know.** Her sending was filled to the brim with pain and a feeling of insecurity. All that had bundled up in her soul seemed to shoot out right now. **Were you happier when I was Goldfinch again? Did your love for me disappear when I went back to beingDreamflight?** She felt her eyes burning with tears, and it got worse when her father just stared at her as if she had slapped him in the face. She had to force herself not to look away and fight against the pain and fear that rose with the question and more so the answers yet to come.
After what seemed like an eternity, he finally answered, his own sending rippled like someone had thrown a pebble into a still lake. His warm brown eyes held a sadness she hadn’t expected but Dreamflight still wasn’t sure if this sadness wasn’t meant for the loss of his little girl-cub. **I never stopped loving my daughter,** he answered, and there was truth in his words. Still Dreamflight felt it wasn’t the answer she needed.
**Then why did you care so much more when I didn’t remember who I was?** she asked.
He cast his eyes down and gave a sad chuckle. **Because you let me,** he answered. **I wanted to talk to you afterwards but you kept avoiding me and I didn't want to pressure you.**
At that Dreamflight was taken aback for a moment. There was a longing in his sending she hadn’t been prepared for. Regret, hope and the same shadow of doubt she knew from herself, even a well-guarded fear not to be welcome.
**You never tried to fight for me. You never...** she cut herself off when he looked her into the eyes with new found courage, something she also recognized from herself.
**I never meant to make you feel this way. I’m sorry that you do,** he sent. It was as if he dwelled over old memories just as much as she did. **I knew you were upset with me but I never knew you doubted my love. All I wanted was to give you time, Dreamflight. I thought it was what you wanted.**
She felt even more regret, even if her father tried to hide it away as he usually did, but it was good to feel it. Dreamflight’s shoulders slumped and her grip around Newt’s hand loosened a little. She only now noticed that he’d reached for Greenweave’s hand as well, holding it as if he was the physical representation of the mental link between them. His face showed his concern clearly when he looked back and forth between them. Dreamflight gave Newt a short smile and squeezed his hand once more as if to reassure him.
A memory tucked away between lots of other painful memories surfaced. She saw herself pushing her father away, the day he’d moved out of their den and into Cloudfern’s, yelling at him to leave her alone. It was painful, still, but the anger had faded, and she could see things clearer now.
**I can see how you’d get that idea,** she admitted. **I made a mistake. I was wrong.**
This time, Greenweave’s smile was more genuine, and he brushed a loose blonde strand of hair out of her face. It was something he hadn’t done in ages, and it felt a little awkward, she noticed, with a sting in her heart.
**We both made mistakes,** he answered her sending. It was clear that in no way he meant his decision to go back to Cloudfern and seek his own way to find true happiness with him. This would have been enough to raise Dreamflight’s hackles again if not for the true mistake he meant: Leaving her hurt and full of doubt.
She needed a moment to process this. It woke so many conflicting emotions but now she felt strong enough to tell the old pain from what was important now. He didn’t scold her for her feelings or try to explain himself and his decision again. No. Greenweave met her in the Now, and she wanted to do the same.
**Can we just get over this horrible miscommunication and start over again? Both of us? Like adults? ** she asked, hoping, wishing for him to take her up on the offer. There was still doubt lingering, fear that made her hold her breath as she waited for his answer.
**Of course,** he answered. **We can start over from where we stand now.**
Dreamflight felt as much relief in his thoughts as she felt herself. Though there was more. The knowledge that it wouldn’t be easy for either of them and it wasn’t done with this one heart-to-heart. They truly had to start over, get to know each other again and rebuild trust on both sides. But Dreamflight was glad her father didn’t rub it in and trusted her to know.
Silence fell over them, and Dreamflight felt exhausted, like after a long day of pulling in nets.
“I still have a few traps to check. Care to join me?” Greenweave asked softly. Nevertheless, the sound of his voice outside of sending startled his daughter.
It took a moment for his words to sink in, and then she had to think them over. She’d really have liked to withdraw and digest what just had happened. The feeling that this was just the first step on a very long and sometimes rocky way was very present in her mind, and the thought only was enough to make her feel heavy and drained. But she didn't want to push her father back again, and so she nodded.
“I’d like that.” As soon as she’d said it, she knew she meant it. “But only for a bit. I’m really tired right now.”
Her father nodded understandingly. “It’s only a handful left anyway,” he said, then looked from his daughter to his son at heart, who nodded to the unasked question with a wide smile.
Despite everything, Dreamflight was relieved she would not be alone with her father yet and they would have Newt to make the situation less awkward. Waving for them to follow, Greenweave moved back towards the water to look for the signs the fishers put down to mark where they had set their traps. Newt was about to follow him when Dreamflight caught his arm and held him back. Her adopted brother stopped and looked at her in mild confusion.
“What’s the matter, Dreamflight? Changed your mind?” he asked, a hint of concern in his voice.
Dreamflight herself had her eyes on her father for a few more moments, then turned to Newt. Firmly she gripped his hand and shook her head. “No, I didn’t,” she assured him which made him sigh in relief. “I think Father and I can start over again. It won’t be easy, but this is a start.”
“I’m happy to hear that,” Newt said, sounding every bit the cub she still saw in him. His cheerfulness was infectious, and she had to smile.
“Thank you,” Dreamflight said softly.
“What for? I didn’t do much,” he answered with his wide, optimistic smile. **That was all your doing, I only dragged you to him.**
Deramflight couldn’t help but laugh at that. Considering how hard she had dug her heels in the ground, she thought he underestimated what kind of effort that had been. She kissed him on the forehead before stepping beside him. “Come on now, before Father has cleared all the traps by himself.”
“And we wouldn’t want that.” Newt grinned. “I personally happen to like being pinched in the finger by a clawfish,” he added, wiggling his pale fingers.
Dreamflight caught one of them and gently pulled at it. “Oh, you’re sooo tough, aren’t you?” she teased.
A gentle, sending pulse from Greenweave interrupted them, asking what took them so long.
“Coming!” both called up to their father at the same time.