(Ed. Note: The first scene is a sequel to the last scene in the story ”Changing Ways”.)
A hot summer night — the first fair one after a few that had been windy and wet — was not Pathmark’s preference for a visit to the near hot-springs. It seemed counter-intuitive to him, and he found himself wishing he were back at the Holt’s River. His irritation was compounded by the fact that he should be enjoying the company of his lovemates — and was instead very distracted by his lovemaking with Fadestar two nights prior.
Memories of hushed sounds, of tentative exploration, wide gray eyes, contented smiles, and the cuddling afterward interrupted his thoughts with each empty moment, and it was hard to follow Evervale and Longshot’s conversation with him. He knew they sensed his distraction, but he didn’t really want to talk about it. Though they could tell he’d been with her when he returned to their shared den, they didn’t realize how affected he had been.
“Pathmark, are you even listening?” Evervale asked, her voice light and teasing.
Longshot joined in, splashing some of the hot water with him, “I don’t think he is, dear one. He has been rather distracted.”
Pathmark groaned, then waded toward the edge of the pool, pressed his palms against a rock and pushed himself up and out of the water, using the grunt with the effort to mask his groan. Turning to sit and face them, he admitted, “Yes, I’m distracted.”
“But… you don’t want to talk about it?” Longshot offered.
“Mmmm… not really. Not yet, anyway. I’m sorry,” Pathmark said, grateful for the understanding he saw in both his lovemates' eyes.
Evervale swam over, then rested her arms on the rock next to him, placing her head between them and turning it so that she could see him. “You know we’re here for you when you do want to talk about it.”
He smiled at her with genuine affection and nodded. He thought of the seasons spent with his lovemates, and of the love they shared. Then another memory of the night with Fadestar interrupted his thoughts, and he wondered why he was so distracted by her. It wasn’t like he hadn’t been with others during his time in the three-mating, or even over the span of his life so far… what was it about Fadestar that captivated him? And how would it affect things with Evervale and Longshot? And did he want it to?
Evervale pushed back and lay floating faceup, looking at the night sky. Longshot got out of the water next to Pathmark and sat there, looking at Evervale. Pathmark pushed aside thoughts of Fadestar and grinned at Longshot. Then he sent to him, **Should we get her?** referring to their lovemate, suggesting an attack.
The grin that followed was all the answer needed, and together, Pathmark and Longshot slid into the water and moved in synchrony toward Evervale. They proceeded to submerge her, then began tickling and playing until the three elves were entangled in one anothers’ embrace, and enjoying the evening in another way.
At that moment, Pathmark was no longer distracted.
“Grandmother?” Pathmark called, pushing aside the leather covering of the door to the den she shared with her lovemates.
“Pathmark, she’s not here right now,” Fadestar said from her bedbowl.
He had momentarily forgotten that she had moved back in with her sister, True Edge and Snowfall, but her presence, and that of a second bedbowl reminded him. She was just waking up, and her disheveled appearance was so appealing he wanted to join her there, but stopped himself. He could feel the pink rising in his cheeks though, and coughed in a meager attempt to cover his attraction toward her.
“Do you know where she’s gone?” he asked.
“She said she was going to meet up with True Edge and Snowfall in the Great Meadow. Sounded like they just wanted a chance to stretch their legs before the storms hit. Colder weather is coming, you know,” she said casually.
Pathmark marvelled that Fadestar seemed to have no awareness of the storm the sight of her had caused to spin within him, but he managed to gain hold of his thoughts and feelings and started to duck out. “I’ll just go, then. I’m sorry if I woke you.”
Fadestar laughed, and the sound thrilled him. “They’re… probably gone for a little while, if you’d like to stay?” she asked shyly.
He wanted nothing more than to take her up on the offer and jump into the bedbowl and under the furs with her, but thoughts of why he had sought Kestrel had not quite flown away. Though he wasn’t ready for a roll in the furs at the moment, he wasn’t inclined to leave, either. Fadestar meant so much more to him than just a roll in the furs; he wanted to be close to her and to spend time with her. Pathmark stepped back from the den’s door and turned again to face the one whose company he found so interesting. He couldn’t help but once again notice her loveliness, but he wanted more out of their time together.
Taking the few steps toward her, he said, “Do you want to see what I found while I was out?”
When she nodded, he sat on the edge of the bedbowl and reached into his sack. He pulled out two bones he had picked up, and handed one over. She took it and looked at him questioningly. Quietly, he said, “Maybe we could carve them together? Make toys for the babies — for when they’re a little older. What do you think?”
She smiled at him brightly, and his heart was warmed to see her as enthusiastic as he felt. She said, “I think it’s a wonderful idea, and I’m happy to help! Thanks for thinking of me and wanting to include me. When do you want to start?”
He grinned at her. “How about tonight?”
It had been a long, cold night, and Pathmark and Brightwood had stopped for the morning, hoping to catch some sleep, to eat, and to warm up. From scouting with the tall elf in the past, Pathmark knew his companion would be happy to share furs with him, both for pleasure and practicality.
An unexpected send from Fadestar diverted his attention. She was approaching, and shared that she’d brought some fresh kill — winter rabbit — to share with them. Brightwood’s eyes brightened at the thought of fresh meat, while Pathmark’s brightened at the thought of seeing and talking with Fadestar.
By the time she arrived, Brightwood had shaped a resting place into a hollow tree. It was dry and provided shelter from the cold. Fadestar glided down from above the trees and sent, **I knew you two weren’t too far out. I thought some fresh meat might help you on your way!**
Brightwood responded cheerily, “That it will. Meat is always welcome. I’m going to scout this area one last time — you two relax in there, and I’ll be back for the food.” Then, the tall plantshaper turned, winked at Pathmark, and strode off.
Pathmark felt himself blush at the wink, but blinked back in return and faced Fadestar with an expectant smile, asking, “How’re Grandmother and Snowfall? And how’re Spark and Flicker?”
Fadestar laughed, “I knew you’d want to know. They are doing well, and True Edge has, thankfully, relaxed a little now that the cubs are both here. It’s been tiring, though, with the cubs waking up at all hours — I can’t help with nursing them, but I do try to help as much as I can. Thankfully we have Cloudfern, Brightwood, and Evervale helping to keep the moss growing.”
Pathmark chuckled, sitting against the hollowed tree and motioning for Fadestar to join him as she talked. She knelt and began unpacking the food she had brought, handing him some, and taking some for herself. They ate for a moment in silence, and Pathmark noted how easy and comfortable it was to just be together with her. While they ate, he studied her, noting how delicate she seemed, and marveling at how strong he knew she was. She wouldn’t be scouting much more — now that his grandmother had given birth, Fadestar would be taking on the role of ensuring communication was kept open between the scouts and the Holt, and acting as a relay for those up at Bluestone Cave. It was a big responsibility, but it was one she seemed to have accepted with grace.
As if noticing his attention was fixed on her, Fadestar looked down, then after a moment, looked back at him. “I bet it’s harder for you to be scouting right now, knowing that you have a new uncle at the Holt.”
He was grateful for being able to keep the conversation lighter, avoiding some of the unspoken tension that seemed to be between them. “I’ve always liked cubs, but Flicker is special. So is Spark. I don’t think I realized how much I missed the closeness of actual family. For so long it’s been just Willow, Grandmother, and I. Now there are these two cubs, and I want to be part of their lives so much; it’s one of the things I look forward to getting back to the most when I’m out here scouting.”
“I understand that,” Fadestar said, a smile on her face.
At that moment, Brightwood returned. Pathmark was grateful when the plantshaper sat next to Fadestar and grabbed at the meat. “Thanks for bringing this for us, Fadestar. Any news from the Holt?”
Fadestar shook her head. “Not really. I just thought you both might like some food, and I know how scouting goes — sometimes it’s nice to see another face. I’m also supposed to see if there’s any news for the Holt?”
Brightwood shook her head. “No, thankfully.”
Pathmark agreed. “Happily, there is no news to share. You’re staying a while, though?”
Fadestar nodded. “I’ll stay today, and probably tomorrow, but then I’ll head back to the Holt to relay that there’s been nothing out of the ordinary.” She shivered and pulled her cloak closer.
At that, Brightwood said, “Enough talk. Let’s get under the furs and keep each other warm.”
Pathmark felt his stomach flutter and heart rate quicken. He joined Brightwood in laying out the furs, then began removing his clothing. When he glanced, Fadestar was following suit, and he watched in open appreciation.
As the three of them began pulling the furs over their bodies, Pathmark thought to himself that between Brightwood and Fadestar, he was about to have the best “rest” while scouting ever. He also wondered to himself about where his feelings for Fadestar might lead. At that moment, his thoughts were distracted as the two ladies pulled him down and snuggled in. A wonderful “rest” to be had indeed.