Written by Freefootgirl

As she sat by the edge of the small river that ran near the Father Tree, Moonshade thought. The rhythm of her hands scraping the pelt in front of her comforted her, and though the smell of the dead deer might have bothered the other elves, it did not bother Moonshade in the least. In fact, this is where she felt most comfortable; alone with her thoughts. She dipped her bare feet in the cool water and sighed as beams of moonlight played over the stream.

Moonshade’s heart ached. For some time now she had sat and waited as the other elves, her friends and family, started their own families. With wistful eyes she watched them, and the desire to feel her own cub growing in her belly grew more and more profound. More and more time she spent alone, quietly wishing for something that seemed forever just out of her reach.

Leaves rustled behind, and Moonshade whipped her head around to look behind her. She sniffed the air cautiously for a whiff of who was lurking behind her. But she was upwind, and therefore was surprised when Strongbow stepped out of the darkness. Moonshade looked at him, not saying anything. The silent archer was a source of ambivalence to Moonshade. For one thing, she had never known someone as cold and hard and quiet as he, but on the other hand, she herself had been called cold and quiet. He was a fierce protector of his family and holt.

Moonshade raised her eyebrows at him, silently inquiring what he wanted.

Strongbow’s dark eyes pierced hers. **Bearclaw wants everyone at the holt**, he sent to her. **We’re gathering there to talk about the humans**

And without another word, Strongbow turned on his heel and silently walked away. Moonshade snorted. Bearclaw had become increasingly worried about the humans, but Moonshade had never seen how these stupid and ignorant creatures could endanger the elves.

With a sigh, she stood up, gathering the pelt and her knife, and walked back to the holt.

“The humans might-”

“When you have made an actual decision about the humans, Bearclaw, please tell us. Otherwise, you are wasting our time,” Moonshade interrupted her chief sharply. The tribe fell silent.

He stared at her, his dark eyes surprised at her outburst.

Might, should, could, maybe, possibly, Moonshade was sick and tired of hearing those words.

Raising her eyebrows, she quietly gathered her pelt and her knife, and, turning her back on her tribe, walked toward the river.

Meanwhile the tribe once again began talking, all at once, about the humans, and possible solutions to make them go away.

When she got to the river, she sat down once more, and gave a long sigh. Those chattering ravvits, she thought with annoyance. Maybe if they stopped talking and started thinking they could think up a solution to the humans.

Moonshade scraped the pelt in front of her furiously, her strokes growing faster and faster.

The leaves rustled near her, and she scented Strongbow. “What is it this time?” she asked crisply. Why am I being so rude? Moonshade asked herself. He hasn’t done anything.

Strongbow didn’t answer for a moment. He sat down beside her, and took the pelt from her. He smoothed it under his hands. **What are you making?** he inquired.

**A shawl for Brownberry** Moonshade replied, her mood softening slightly.

Strongbow looked at her for a moment, then a corner of his lip curled up slightly in what might be considered a half-smile.

In a sudden burst of skyfire, rain poured down. Moonshade quickly tucked the pelt under her so it wouldn’t get wet. It was as sudden as it was powerful. The rain beat down like hundreds of streams being poured from the sky.

Moonshade’s lip wavered slightly, and a tear, mixing with the rain, slid down her cheek. She wiped it away angrily. By the High Ones, what am I crying over? Moonshade thought to herself. A cub isn’t worth this much fuss, she attempted to convince herself. She stared determinedly out into the dense rain.

So they sat, Strongbow and Moonshade, quietly, as the rain beat down around them, and the moons shone high above them.

The next day Moonshade woke in her den to the sound of crickets chirping. She raised her arms over her head, yawning. The air seemed crisper, fresher, and more welcoming. The wind, without a hint of bitter cold, ruffled her hair. Moonshade smiled. She herself felt better than yesterday. She still longed for a cub, but now. She was ready for whatever came her way.

Stay in the Now, Moonshade, she told herself. Whatever happens will happen. and whatever doesn’t. won’t.

And with that, she let loose a loud, long howl.

Treestump tousled Moonshade’s hair fondly. “I’m glad you’re feeling better,” he said with a chuckle. “Why, your mood the other day was as dark as those storm clouds!”

Moonshade gave him a warm smile, hugged him, and extricated herself from the conversation.

It was true that she was feeling better, but still, she was not in the mood to be coddled. She took her knife and the warm brown hide once again, to sit by the stream and work.

Her bare feet silently padded the still-damp grass. She settled herself on the ground, her back against a tree. There she began cutting fringes on the hide.

Once again, moments after she had arrived, Strongbow arrived, situating himself on the other side of the stream. He chewed a piece of grass and watched her, his expression, as usual, somber.

**You’re like my shadow,** Moonshade sent to him, with a hint of amusement.

He looked at her for a moment, his gaze still grave. **Does it bother you?** he asked.

**No,** she replied. It truly didn’t. His presence didn’t impede upon her working, or her enjoying the silence, the aloneness.

**Are you still working on Brownberry’s shawl?** Strongbow inquired.

Moonshade was surprised. Strongbow, even when he felt like communicating, only “spoke” a couple of lines before he retreated into silence. **Yes,** she told him. **Almost done,** she added.

**It looks.** Strongbow sent, **.nice.** His expression was unreadable.

Once again, Moonshade was surprised. **Thank you,** She sent, and then they lapsed into silence. It was not an uncomfortable silence, or a wary silence, but a comfortable silence.

Days passed, weeks, as the two sat, each day, at that stream. Sometimes they spoke. Sometimes they didn’t. It didn’t matter. They both, whether they showed it or not, enjoyed the time they spent together.

**What do you think looks better?** Moonshade asked Strongbow. **The black laces with the top or the shoes? Pike said he didn’t care, but.** She raised her eyebrows.

Strongbow didn’t answer, but he shrugged his shoulders.

Moonshade, not rebuffed in the least, continued comparing the choices on the dirt in front of her.

She was making an outfit for Pike, who, being a growing elf, had grown out of his old clothes. The season had changed, fall coming and summer fading. Moonshade and Strongbow, despite beliefs to the contrary, were not lovemates. They only shared their love of peace, quiet, and nature with each other.

Suddenly, Strongbow, gazing at Moonshade quietly, with neither enmity not love, gave a start. He fell into the stream, at his back, with a large *SPLOOSH*.

Moonshade jerked her head up from her work. “Strongbow?” she said. **Strongbow?** “What are-”

**Eyrn?** A tousled, wet, confused head popped out of the stream to look Moonshade, bending over the stream, in the eye.

Her mouth curved into a pink ‘o’. **Wyl?** She felt dazed. Recognition? No. It couldn’t be. It was! **Recognition!** She sent, and her heart gave a swoop**

Moonshade bent down and gripped Strongbow’s arm to tow him out of the stream. Instead she slipped off the bank next to Strongbow. The river was up to their shoulders. Strongbow, in response, did not speak or send, but from his eyes dripped one tear, which made it’s way down his cheek.

Moonshade looked at him, startled. **Wyl, you’re crying-?**

Strongbow didn’t answer, but his normally expressionless face seemed friendlier than she had ever seen it before. He wiped away the tear, and as they stood together in the middle of the stream, her head rested on his shoulder.

Later, wrapped in each other’s embrace, Moonshade and Strongbow fell asleep. It was so good to know that someone loved you. so good to know that someone was indescribable. Waking up only slightly, Strongbow pressed a gentle kiss on his lifemate’s forehead. High above them, the crescent moon shone brightly.