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Being back in Indigo Cloud after their long trip to Opal Night was wonderful. Some of it was that the Arbora had done a lot of work while everyone was gone, but Moon knew a lot of it was that he was returning to a place he’d missed, and seeing it in a somewhat more golden light than it strictly deserved, perhaps. Still, everything about it seemed wonderful. It wasn’t so large or elaborate as Opal Night, but everything about it seemed exquisite, perfect, immaculate. Even the stupid garden platforms looked great, to Moon. The Arbora were delighted to see him, the fledglings even more so, and even after that first flush of greetings, the novel feeling persisted: most of the people here were happy to see him, glad he was back. Perhaps more satisfying to his paranoid mind, people were also excited to discover that he did have a prestigious bloodline after all, and his insistence on having chosen to return to Indigo Cloud even despite having better options meant that the court was entertaining offers of alliance and trade with all kinds of other courts that would never have otherwise looked twice at them.

Of course, he spent a great deal of time with Jade in her bower, and he enjoyed that a great deal too. Now that he knew that there was nothing wrong with them that they didn’t have a clutch yet, he could enjoy the whole process a bit more. Up until now, in their relationship, Jade had generally been the instigator, but Moon found himself compelled to be a little more aggressive. Some of it was just pent-up frustration, at first, and having been separated so long. But the reunion sex gave way to more normal sex, and then suddenly Moon’s libido or something came up and made him voracious, in a way he’d never been.

Fortunately, the same impulse seemed to strike Jade. It only happened a few times, over the course of a week or so. Moon was so distracted he could hardly eat, could hardly think; it was like being an adolescent and experiencing puberty all over again. Fortunately it coincided with a number of days where the business of the court was such that they weren’t really missed. And aside from Jade accidentally biting Moon’s shoulder hard enough to break the skin and leave a visible mark on his groundling form, nothing seemed to render it notable to the others.


Moon woke in a strange mood. He was curled around Jade, partly underneath her in the bed in her bower, and he woke with a strange deep need, a weird anxious twist far underneath anything he could consciously make out. He thought it was a misplaced feeling about a call of nature, so he wriggled out of her grasp to go to the latrine, but that didn’t seem to help, and somehow being away from Jade made it worse. So he crawled back into the bower, and she half-woke, enough to pull him back down. He half-expected she’d want sex, since that was basically all they’d been doing lately, but she didn’t, she just pinned him down and nipped his shoulder and slid back off into sleep.

He stayed there, unsleeping, hardly blinking, watching the dawn light gradually lighten the carving on the ceiling. He felt deeply compelled to-- something . He couldn’t tell what.

Jade finally woke, nuzzled affectionately at him, and crawled out of bed. He stayed there, but eventually the strange feeling in his chest propelled him up to go find her.

She hadn’t gone far, had just answered her own call of nature and washed her face and claws, and put on her jewelry, then poked at the heating stones and was clearly making decisions about tea. “Are you hungry?” she asked. “I think I’m hungry.”

“Yeah,” Moon said, and put his clothes on. He followed her down to the greeting hall, where there was food. Eating and drinking didn’t really ease his unsettled feeling. Jade had already planned to go look at something in the lower levels of the tree with the Arbora, some carving project, and Moon had planned to accompany some of the hunters as they followed up with the repairs they’d made to the platforms months before, but when it came time to go their separate ways, Moon felt an inexplicable and deep compulsion not to be separated from Jade.

She noticed his strange hesitation, and stood for a moment looking at him. “Are you all right?”

But there were other people around, watching them. Moon didn’t feel comfortable explaining his strange feeling to her. “I think so,” he said. “I--” He shook his head. “I just had a strange feeling, is all.”

She came back closer to him, looking into his face and touching his cheek with her fingers, delicately, a line between her brows showing her concern. “How strange a feeling?” she asked.

He shook his head slightly, reassured by her closeness, her scent. It was nothing; they’d been parted before, and would be again, but they’d reunite, in a matter of hours at most. It was nothing. “It’s probably fine,” he said.

She frowned. “If you say so,” she said. “You know where I’ll be, if you need me.”

He nodded, managing a smile. She drew the backs of her fingers down his cheek, then turned away. The strange anxious need flared in his chest as she went out into the corridor, but it faded after a difficult few moments, during which Moon managed to shift and fly out to the platform where the hunters were waiting.

He spent the rest of the morning feeling a little bit uneasy, but not unduly so. He was relieved when, at midday, he encountered Chime.

“Have you had any weird feelings lately?” he asked.

Chime chewed thoughtfully on a piece of fruit he’d just taken from one of the plates on the table in the teacher’s hall. “I mean,” he said. “Define weird. Define lately. Or tell me what you’re really asking about.”

“I keep having these… weird stabs of anxiety,” Moon said. “Like something’s not right. Or like I’m supposed to be doing something I’m not.”

“Huh,” Chime said, eyeing him. “No, I’m not getting that.”

It eased throughout the day. By the evening meal, Moon had almost forgotten about it. He went up to Jade’s bower to change his shirt after getting muddy, having left the one he wanted there, and as he went into that room the anxiety hit him like a sack of grain thrown from a great height. He had a sudden, tearingly urgent need to know where Jade was, to be sure she was all right, and it left him breathless.

He managed to change his shirt, but after that he more or less lost his mind, and only came to himself when he’d tracked her down to one of the reading rooms of the mentors’ library, where she was sitting in Arbora form and reading from a book. “What is it?” she asked in some alarm, seeing him.

He belatedly shifted to groundling, and sat down next to her. “Nothing,” he said. “I-- the weird feeling I had this morning came back. I was worried it was something about you. But I was just being irrational. You’re fine.”

“I’m fine,” she agreed. She leaned closer to him, and bit his shoulder gently. “Should I be worried that you’re so nervous about something?”

“I feel better now,” Moon said.

She rolled up the book, reshelved it, and went back up with him. Unlike the last few days, he wasn’t urgently trying to get her into bed, and she didn’t seem in a hurry to get there, eyeing him speculatively but not making anything of it in particular. They sat with Chime and Balm and a few others, drinking tea and listening to Chime read from a book, and all seemed well.

Eventually Jade retired to bed, and Moon went with her. She tugged him close and curled around him, and he nestled into her warmth, but he slept only restlessly, and woke with the same strange feeling.

He paid it less mind today, irritatedly ignoring it when he could, and fighting the urge to constantly run off to see where Jade was. It was strange, but he’d dealt with weirder things.

He went up to his own bower to change clothes, and bathe and wash his clothes while he was there. When he came out, Stone was sitting there, poking at the tea pot.

Moon thought about asking him if he’d felt oddly anxious about anything, but then couldn’t think how to phrase it. Instead he sat down next to Stone, and after a little while, leaned on Stone.

He woke up a little later, surprised at himself; he hadn’t thought he’d fall asleep. Stone was sitting patiently, a hand resting on Moon’s shoulder. Moon sat up blearily. “I didn’t mean to fall asleep on you,” he said.

“Are you not getting enough rest lately?” Stone asked.

Moon yawned widely, stretched, and scratched his scalp. “I thought I was,” he said. “I was all settled in. I guess I didn’t sleep well last night, maybe.”

“Hm,” Stone said. “Did you make a clutch yet?”

Moon yawned again, and shook his head, but then said, “How would I know?” Stone cocked an eyebrow. “I mean, Jade would tell me, that’s how I’d know.”

“I guess you wouldn’t know,” Stone said.

When Moon went back up to the queens’ area, Stone came with him. Moon didn’t think much of it until they encountered Jade, in the sitting area near her bower. Stone stepped into the room with her, looked pleased, and sat down on a cushion, and it was only because Moon was used to watching Stone for clues that he noticed the man’s expression. It also happened to coincide with his own heart-stopping twist of anxious… protectiveness, that was the feeling.

“What’s that look for?” Moon asked. He had a suspicion.

“What look?” Jade glanced at him, then turned her focus to Stone.

Stone raised both eyebrows innocently, but his amused expression quite spoiled his attempted air of detachment. “Congratulations,” he said.