Searching, Neroon's gaze wandered through the dense maze of trees. His step became halting. Not because of the uneven ground littered with wet leaves, no, he didn't want to miss what he had been coming for.
And suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he was able to discern some movements between the ancient trunks and tangled bushes.
It was him.
The dark uniform had made him almost invisible among the colours of the hibernating wood.
Still, the only sound was the occasional drip of water on the ground from a slight drizzle and the occasional shift of leaves against each other. Marcus' movements didn't disturb this natural pattern in the slightest.
And suddenly - like a wild animal that had noticed the appearance of an unknown presence - Marcus had halted his actions, arms frozen in the last position, only head and eyes moving until they found the reason for the disturbance.
While he kept walking, Neroon cast an occasional glance in Marcus' direction, giving the Human a chance to either pretend they hadn't seen each other or to vanish seemingly unnoticed.
But Marcus' eyes had caught Neroon's presence in a mesh of curiosity although he had resumed his former actions of roaming through the underbrush, selecting and picking twigs from bushes.
Assured that his presence was not entirely unwelcome, Neroon in turn caught Marcus' gaze.
He received a small incline of the head in acknowledgement, which he returned politely on the outward. But inward he felt encouraged and more pleased than he had thought.
Their voices, when they finally met, were strangely muted by the blanket of leaves, just as the light was muted by clouds obscuring the low-travelling winter sun.
Although Neroon had been looking for Marcus, the tense atmosphere of the forest didn't encourage the instigation of conversation. Marcus didn't seem to mind the quiet but simply fell into step with him.
In continued silence they walked on the leave-hidden trail, crossed a small wooden bridge where their way was joined by a slow, clear-watered brook until their path made a slight curve. Eventually, they left water and trees behind and stepped out of the forest.
The rain had stopped and the sun had succeeded to break through the clouds in a last valiant effort of her day.
Neroon felt his face involuntarily move into a smile and he turned towards his companion. As it proved, just in time for an auspicious observation: like a mebel shaking the wetness out of the fur, Marcus seemed to shrug off the dampness of the forest and soak in the last warming sunrays; his eyes were closed and he smiled.
Neroon's heart made a jump. This expression - although it was totally different - instantly reminded him of another time, but then the same face had been distorted by pain and exhaustion. Nothing was disguising the beautiful look of peacefulness and simple joy this time.
When Marcus opened his eyes again, his gaze fell directly on Neroon. Only then did Neroon realize that he had been staring at Marcus, and that Marcus must have noticed. But instead of receiving the teasing remark of a sharp tongue and mind, he was gifted with another smile.
And a wink?