Summer Fun, Western Mosswood Fells
Oliver & Shreve enjoy the outdoors, and Shreve has a secret to tell.
It was a hot, humid day outside the Fells. Shreve Fisher and Oliver Flynn picked their way through the forest, seeking out the streams near the waterfalls for the best fish. Oliver had recently been approved by the Zan panda family to open Oliver's dream come true- the Fish & Game Butcher Shoppe. However, they were still very new and had to catch more fish. For now, they were an outdoor shop and had recently enlisted Alphonse Sandeia, the brown tabby cat who was an adept hunter whom they met in the mountain just a previous few weeks after their arrival.
Shreve was nervous. An excellent fisher himself, he wanted more than anything to impress his best friend. Thankfully their new acquaintance Alphonse specialized in game rather than fish. His tail flickered behind him and his mind raced. He simply had to find new large fish for his own scale collection, but also for Oliver! He had also heard that Oliver had hired an otter called Ebb VanDyke.
The grey feline wanted to be better than Ebb at catching fish. He was determined!
"Shreve, are you alright, friend?" asked Oliver as they forged ahead into thicker grasses and plants.
"I-I'm okay," stuttered Shreve, careful not to flick his tail as a nervous reflex.
"Are you sure?" The orange feline frowned. He was so busy navigating the woods with his friend that he remembered that Shreve sometimes was very distant and seemed sad when left alone for long periods of time. But he was hardly like Shreve- in fact, he was a boisterous young cat who prided himself on his ability to make a living with his paws. He had been so happy since they had come to Mosswood Fells and were accepted as residents that he forgot to see how Shreve was.
Guilt and concern tugged at Oliver's heart, knowing how sensitive Shreve could be- but he liked the grey cat's natural tendency to care for others before himself.
"Yeah, I... I..." stammered Shreve, ears flattening back in indecision. How could he put into words and speak them out loud? He wanted to run away. He couldn't lie to his best friend!
Oh, what to do?! wondered Shreve to himself. Just then he paused, recognizing fragrant foliage on the ground. The scent helped him calm down and he plucked some carefully, stalling for time.
"Shreve," said Oliver decisively. That was his business voice; Shreve's skin crawled under his fur; his ears turned red.
"Yes?" the grey cat replied, voice higher than usual.
"I'm really sorry I haven't given you much time to yourself with everything that's been going on. Part of why I took us out fishing today wasn't just for catching more fish to sell to our new community."
Shreve hadn't expected to hear this; he took a step back. "What-"
"I know you like to collect fish scales for your visual catalogue and to write about your adventures reeling them in, and I'm sorry we haven't had time to let you do that," Oliver apologized. "So I'm saying... I'm sorry, you know? I haven't forgotten you even though it looked like I was, what with getting us to be new residents here and all in this new part of Sylvania."
The cat had lost his tongue. Looking down, Shreve could only do what came on instinct to him.
Shreve gave the fragrant flower to Oliver!
"Here, it's for you!" came the words tumbling from Shreve's little white and grey muzzle, before he could stop himself. "I was listening to the skunk family the other day when their shop opened up, and they said there were a lot of plants around here that were good for food. Maybe we could bring this back to your shop and try it out on some fresh fish!"
Oliver's ears turned red this time, notably flustered. "I- why thank you!" he exclaimed. Shreve, he thought in the back of his mind. You're an empathetic cat and you don't lie, but you're secretive. What's going on? I trust you, and I wish I could just tell you to come out of your shell more. I don't know what I can do to help you be a happier cat. How do I ask something like that?
"So..." stalled Oliver, thinking, "you know, we've been traveling all morning looking for the best fishing spots around here. We've seen a few, but we could use a break." The orange cat sniffed the fragrant herb. "You're right- it does smell like it could be a good plant for adding to fish."
A small smile lit up on Shreve's muzzle, but his eyes beamed at the approval his friend had given him. Behind him, his tail rustled in the grass. Back and forth, back and forth. Good, thought Oliver. Things felt more relaxed now.
The sounds of crickets filled the warm summer air; the two cats enjoyed the silence together.
What do I say? wondered each of them for their own reasons.
Shreve decided he could only lose his best friend if he lied. "Oliver, can I tell you something?" he asked, standing up nervously and pacing a bit.
Oliver raised an ear forward. "You know you can, any time. I may be busy with business thoughts in mind all the time, but I'll gladly set that aside for my best friend."
"Would you ... still stay friends with me if I tell you?" Shreve asked, ears flattening against his head. He pulled his whiskers pensively; his tail lashed. Oliver felt sad seeing his friend ask such a thing.
"Why would I stop being friends with you?" the ginger cat inquired.
Shreve looked down at the ground again. "I... I don't want to be alone. I want to be the best fisher in the Fells."
"Is this about Ebb?" Oliver asked. "The otter father knows what he's doing, aye, but you're a fresh-water fisher, and he fishes the western coast of the Fells. I didn't want any difficulties, so I thought I'd ask him in advance before hiring him so you could stay fishing freshwater without competition."
"I-" Shreve stammered, then blinked in surprise. Oliver smiled.
"Was that it?"
"I mean, thank you, but... well that was just part of things on my mind."
"What was the other part?" asked Oliver, surprised.
The grey cat's ears flushed a deep scarlet. "Please... don't think less of me. I want to be by your side!" he blurted. "Please let me be by your side in place of some feline woman in the future. I... I only ever felt eyes for you and as we became best friends it's only deepened. So..." Shreve trailed off, staring hard at the grass in front of him. "Please, could I love you? Could I be loved too? Not just as a friend, but to... nevermind I bet this sounds..."
"It sounds good, although I honestly never thought that love would come to me in the form of someone I've already been friends with," Oliver murmured thoughtfully, tugging his whiskers. "I must admit I never thought about it before."
Shreve bit his lower lip. "I- forget I sa-"
The ginger cat smiled, eyes aglow in the sunset light. "I never said no, did I?" he asked. "If this is how love finds me, then this is how it is."
"I- so I'm okay? I'm not weird or anything?" Shreve asked.
"Maybe just weird for forgetting the small heap of fish scales in your room next to your catalogue. Of all your favoritest things to do, you'd forgotten?" Oliver teased lightly. "C'mon, let's bring home some huge fish. Being nervous doesn't suit you, you know?"
They walked for a while. A large, silver fish flashed under the water near a stream they passed. Not long thereafter, they were laughing.
How could I ever have thought this the hardest thing I've ever done? thought Shreve to himself, floored and grateful for the events of the day. Honesty really was the best way to go, and so was having friendship- and love- in his life. His heart felt lighter than it had in a long while.
Oliver felt the same way. Toting the large flower over his shoulder, he marveled at the day's discoveries.