Eyebrows raised, Foxtail twisted from her position behind a convenient boulder to look over her shoulder at Beetle. The other elf gave her a crooked smile in reply but, before she could whisper anything as an excuse or explanation, another sneeze exploded from her and she clamped both hands over her nose. Hazel eyes wide, she shook her head even as she kept both hands over the lower half of her face. She shrank into a smaller crouched knot beneath the snow-dusted pine tree that served as her own camouflage. **Sorry. How loud was that?**
Foxtail’s hand came up to muffle a snicker. **Very loud. Notch Loud. Getting sick?**
Beetle nodded morosely. Then she moved her hands and dragged her nose along the heavy leather of her coat-sleeve. She was not dripping yet but her head was already starting to feel the funny thickness that signalled a good winter cold. Guilt and a sort of sheepish annoyance bled through to her fellow word-hunter but Foxtail only tipped her head to one side before she dropped her hand to reveal a crooked little smile in response to Beetle’s emotions. That drew a mirroring smile from Beetle and, glancing at the other members of their party, she quietly crept towards the redhead. “I thought I was going to outrun it,” she whispered almost directly into Foxtail’s ear. “But I guess not. Now I’m going to be sniffling and sneezing until we get back home.” She sighed. “But that’s not even really the worse part.”
Foxtail’s smile faded and a frown appeared in the wake of Beetle’s dismay. “Why? What is worse than being sick?”
“... Admitting to Willow that she was right.”
Foxtail’s resulting laugh drew glares from the other word-hunters but the redhead showed no remorse and merely shared a sunny grin with them. Then she turned back to her friend and, low-voiced, answered, “I can see how that would be the absolute worst. Willow really likes being right and it takes an oak’s age before she lets it go when she is. Especially if you’re wrong.” She patted Beetle on the shoulder and offered an exaggerated look of sympathy. “She only just stopped telling me about how right she was when I was a bratty little cub.”
“Oh, you were never that bad…” Beetle stopped and muffled a giggle at the immediate raised eyebrow her instinctive argument produced. “All right, yes. You were sometimes pretty bad but it’s not right to keep bringing it up. Not with you doing everything you’ve been doing.”
“Eh, I don’t mind. It’s Willow.” Foxtail shrugged before slipping an arm around Beetle’s shoulders for a quick hug. “But she’s still going to smirk at you, you know, for being right. Except she’ll probably also bring you soup and tuck the furs around you and fret until she remembers that she can just heal you with a touch.”
“Which she’ll do,” the two elf maidens finished in sing-song whispers before grinning at each other, bright with conspiracy and humor.
“I don’t know why you didn’t listen to me. I told you that you were getting sick but you still insisted on going out with the word-hunters.” Willow huffed in annoyance while she puttered around her den, gathering all of the warmest furs and pillows she could find. Then she dumped them into the bed bowl — mostly on top of her red-nosed and sheepish lovemate by way of further underlining her displeasure. “If you had stayed home, you would not have gotten any worse and I wouldn’t have to heal you because you know I am going to do just that. I am not going to spend the day being woken up by your sneezes.”
Beetle stayed meekly quiet in the face of Willow’s scolding. When the bedding rained down on her head, she accepted it and waited until gravity had started shifting things before she reached up and tugged them down further. The heavy, warm furs pooled around her in the smooth-shaped bowl. She sniffled but managed to stifle an impending sneeze as she tucked the blankets around her. Then she smiled faintly and tugged one up high enough to drape over her shoulders. Willow glanced back at her, caught the smile, and sighed. Beetle immediately wiped the look from her face, instead regarding the redhead with solemn eyes.
“You don’t—” Shaking her head, Willow tried to hide her own smile. “Nothing I say is going to make a difference, is it?” she asked. “You would have gone out even if you were sneezing your head off and coughing so hard it hurt.”
“Of course not.” Beetle’s smile returned and she tugged the fur more firmly around her shoulders. “If I was making that much noise, I never would go and put the others at risk of being discovered.”
“You little stink!” Willow laughed despite her lingering aggravation and crossed the den to kneel beside Beetle. Reaching out, she adjusted the lay of the fur and then moved to cup her lovemate’s face. “Why do you have to show good sense only when it suits you?” she asked, voice colored with wry amusement now.
Beetle shrugged beneath her makeshift cloak and let her eyes drift closed as she leaned into Willowís touch. “I don’t know,” she admitted softly. “It just comes and goes when it does but I know my duty to the tribe and I really like word-hunting. It’s like discovering new experiments all of the time. Being sick enough to mess up the word hunts, though — Well, that just isn’t smart.”
“And coming home worn out is?” Willow leaned forward and nuzzled her forehead to Beetle’s. “Remember how you used to say I was the reckless one. When did that change?”
“It hasn’t. Not really.” Beetle snaked a hand out from beneath the fur and reached up to take one of Willow’s, lacing their fingers together. “You’re still my rock-headed love, Willow. Still as full of tricks as ever but — Well, you choose when you let those out. Me? I just get caught up in learning. Just like before.” She paused, fought back a sneeze by wrinkling her nose, and then quickly added in a whisper, “And, alright, I can admit it just this once. You were right.”
Willow pulled back slightly, just enough for Beetle to see her wide, white grin. “What was that? I didn’t hear what you said.”
“I said...” Suddenly, Beetle's eyes widened and she brought her free hand up, shaking loose her other hand from Willow's, and cupped both over her mouth and nose just in time to catch an enormous sneeze. “Ah-CHOO!”
“Oh, Beetle —” Sighing so as not to giggle, Willow crawled into the bed-bowl with her lovemate, pulled the furs around both of them, and slipped her hands beneath to touch skin. The warmth of her healing made Beetle sigh and the word-hunter snuggled in while giving a sheepish grin of her own. “What am I going to do with you?”