Honey sighed impatiently as she stared at the entrance to her den. Where was that healer, anyway? She should have been there, made Honey's milk come in, and have been gone by now. Were I the healer, Honey thought to herself, I certainly wouldn't keep people waiting like this.
She folded her arms across her chest and leaned back into the furs she'd piled up on her bedbowl for the purposes of sitting upright. She'd make certain that Willow knew her displeasure at being kept waiting when the healer finally did arrive. She did her best to wear her finest, most well-crafted scowl.
Admittedly, deep down inside, she felt more nervous than impatient. However, she wasn't about to admit that to anyone, including her brother Thornbow, who had offered to keep her company when the healer came. She'd shooed him away, however, saying she didn't need to be cubsat when the healer brought in her milk. After all, the tribe was depending on her to help nurse little Cinder since Whispersilk had been so tragically killed. When Windburn had asked her if she would help take some of the nursing pressures off snappish Quick Fang, Honey had readily accepted, despite the fact that it would be Willow who would have to bring her milk in. Honey could face Willow alone.
There was no love between Honey and the healer. Even though it had been just over one full turn of the seasons since Honey had been brought out of wrapstuff, Honey still reminded the healer any chance she got that it was Willow's fault she had to endure this torturous experience that was nothing as she had remembered it from before. Everything she knew had been completely ruined while she slept. Everything. If she hadn't been healed, awakened, she'd still be sleeping and content with her own wonderful memories from her past.
Shortly after she was brought back to the tribe, Honey noticed with some pleasure that Willow's hackles would go up whenever the topic of Honey's healing was raised. Their back and forth had even resulted in Willow playing the most horrible of pranks on Honey and that, too, Honey would not forget. Nor would she forgive. Not even as the seasons wore on.
And it didn't help that Willow's attitude toward her became more and more cool as time passed. Anymore, it seemed that Willow would rather treat her as if she didn't exist. Why, even the other day, as Honey sat outside the Child Tree, Willow had returned with baskets full of beesweets. Even though Honey would have loved some, she knew better than to ask for any. Instead, as the healer walked past her to give the food to others, Honey just stared daggers at Willow. Willow, the coward, refused to even look her in the eye; she merely turned her head away and just kept on walking without any kind of acknowledgment.
Honey sighed again. She knew Willow was being late now on purpose. She knew that Willow was just trying to get her nerves up and then make this milk-coming-in-process just as painful as it could possibly be. She knew that, someday, Willow was going to seek revenge against her instead of silently letting barbs and jabs roll off her back like a well-oiled duck would let the rain. And this today would be the perfect time for such revenge, when Honey was helpless and had no choice but to be subjected to Willow's abilities.
That thought set Honey's nerves on edge. She glanced at the entryway once again. Maybe she was foolish not to let Thornbow stay with her today. Perhaps her brother was still around the Holt and she could send for him before Willow arrived.
But no sooner had that thought crossed her mind than Willow and her lovemate Beetle ducked into the den. Beetle settled herself out of the way, near the den's opening. Willow, wordlessly and coldly, let herself inside and walked over to Honey's bedbowl. She took a seat on the lip of it without even asking permission.
Honey tried to deflect her nervousness by reveling in the fact that, unlike her, Willow needed support during this time. She had to bring Beetle for assurance, when Honey herself had chosen to be strong, alone. The smallest of smirks crossed her lips.
The expression was small, but noticeable enough to make Willow's brows lower. A frown crossed the healer's face, but, surprisingly, she didn't lash out. Instead, she said, If you could take off your shirt and lay on your stomach, I can get this over with.
Oh, so that's it? Honey asked, displeased that there wasn't more ceremony than that. After all, this was no small feat for which she was volunteering!
You don't want me here any more than I want to be here, Willow said. At least she spoke the truth! So if you could just please do as I ask, I can get started and we can be out of each other's hair sooner rather than later.
Honey, annoyed at Willow's cool response, turned away and took off her shirt. She laid herself down on her bed in the most dramatic fashion she could, then folded her arms up close to her side. This was it. Soon the discomfort would begin, she was sure of it. She closed her eyes, gritted her teeth, and braced herself. All right, I'm ready.
She kept expecting a burst of pain. A cold touch. Anything. But nothing happened. After long moments of more nothing passed, Honey cracked open her eyes. Willow was sitting next to her, smirking.
Behind her, Beetle could hardly contain the amused look on her face. The young elf put a hand over her mouth and tried, but failed, to squelch a snort.
What's wrong with you? Honey uttered with a snarl upon her lips.
Willow couldn't help but chuckle. You look like I'm about to beat you. She arched an eyebrow. You don't really think I'd hurt you, do you?
Honey squeezed her hands into fists, and a hurt look crossed her face. She felt like she could cry. She didn't know how to answer. On the one hand, she didn't want to admit she was feeling weakness when it came to Willow, her rival. On the other hand, she didn't want Willow to think she could get away with plotting something against her!
But Willow leaned in before Honey had a chance to say anything. That annoyingly-cock-sure smile was still on her face. She said, I won't, and then placed her hands on Honey's back. Not even a moment later, Willow began to rub her skin, and a warm, golden glow surrounded them both.
And it felt... good. Soothing. Like a mother's gentle caress. Like the soft touch of a lover. Like the caring embrace of a friend. There was no malice. There was no pain.
Honey relaxed and closed her eyes. She felt the milk begin to come in. It felt just like it did when her little Goldfinch was born, and oh, that brought back memories. Good memories of her young daughter and what it had been like to rock her little one in her arms and to feed and soothe and comfort such a sweet child. A smile crept upon her lips.
Those memories those feelings of peace, contentment, and happiness had been so elusive ever since she had been unwrapped. She wondered, had she ever really been able to find them since she had been awakened and healed? Even lately, when her hunting had started to become more successful, she didn't think she had ever felt quite as happy as she did those turns ago when she held Goldfinch in her arms. She held onto these memories, these feelings, not knowing how long they would last, afraid that they would be snatched away from her all too soon. A sigh this time one of contentment escaped her lips.
Honey didn't realize that Willow had finished; that the healer had stood and was turning, with Beetle, to leave. The blonde-haired elf opened her eyes just in time to see Willow duck out and Beetle follow. Honey propped herself up on her arms and looked down at her breasts. They were full; a little drop of milk was oozing from her left nipple. She was ready to go and feed Cinder to help him. To nourish and comfort him just as she had done with her own child those many turns of the seasons ago.
The essence of those good memories welled up again, and lingered. It was at that moment, she realized she really was glad she was alive. She was glad she had been healed, even though the times after that had been rough. She smiled. Whether knowingly or not, Willow had given her a gift.
And it dawned on her that, perhaps, she had treated Willow unfairly all this time.
She lay there for a while to savor those thoughts and feelings, but finally rose when Snowfall sent to ask if she was ready for a feeding. Cinder had just awakened from a nap and was hungry. Honey replied in the affirmative. She was more than ready. Quickly, she pulled on her shirt and headed out toward Windburn's den, where Snowfall and Cinder would be waiting.
On her way to the Mother Tree, she saw Willow and Beetle sitting in the Holt's clearing. Beetle was lying with her head in Willow's lap, and the healer was twirling a finger through the curls of her lovemate's hair. For a moment, Willow looked up and over at Honey. Their eyes briefly met.
And Honey smiled. **Thank you for making my milk come in,** she sent. And then, she quickly added, **And thank you for healing me, too.**
Honey could see Willow was taken aback at the unexpected gesture, but then a hint of a smile crossed the healer's lips. Feeling all was now settled, Honey continued on. She had a hungry cub to feed.