June 25, 2019 at 4:41 pm #1836
It was absolutely humiliating to have been forced into submission by Hollowflame, and it had taken a bit for Tawnypainter to recover. He had hidden himself away at a darker corner of camp, isolating himself more than he had been as of late while he cleaned his pelt. He’d grown obsessive with it, grooming himself long after the stain of blood and stench of shame had been washed away. He’d lost track of time, finding it much later in the day when he finally snapped back to the present.
He’d spent his time brooding, of course. He’d called himself every name he could think of, ranging from the innocent mousebrain to the much harsher worthless. He’d hurt Saplingskies again, and this time he was the only one to blame. He’d spoken without thinking, and he’s landed himself in trouble once more.
He couldn’t ever just stop and think before he acted, could he?
And so, with a heavy air, the painted tom stood and made his way to the medicine cat’s den. He had some explaining to do, and plenty of apologizing was due. He owed Saplingskies that, at least. He came to the entrance of the other tom’s den, taking a deep breath to steel himself before he entered. His eyes ran over the inside of the den, searching for Saplingskies.
He seemed to be doing this often now, his voice ringing out with a small, “Saplingskies, can we talk?” He’d said this exact same thing not long ago. How many more times was he going to mess up?June 25, 2019 at 6:02 pm #1838
Saplingskies was in the back of his den, quietly conversing with a chocolate calico she-cat. His mother, Briarfeather, had come to get the full story, and she was not happy. At the sound of the deputy’s voice, her head snapped in his direction, orange eyes narrowing dangerously as she glared at the painted tom. He was lucky that she was in no shape to rip his tail off, because she really wanted to. She slowly rose to her paws and stalked towards the exit, pausing for a brief moment to speak to the offending tom.
“Choose the words that you’re about to say to my son very carefully, Tawnypainter.” She growled coldly, flexing her claws before pushing past him and exiting the den.
Saplingskies didn’t look at Tawnypainter. He simply turned to his herbs, a low growl rumbling in his throat “Unless you’re injured, ill, or literally about to drop dead, go away. I’m busy,” he grumbled, lashing his tail. “I have a lot to do and I have no time for games.”June 25, 2019 at 6:28 pm #1840
Briarfeather was just as prickly as her name implied, her tone as scathing as her glare was. Again Tawnypainter was left in a position where he couldn’t fight back, simply giving a sigh– he’d been doing that a lot lately, too– and murmuring, “Yes, Briarfeather.” He stepped to the side to allow her room to pass, not wishing to have any part in accusations he’d held her up in the den, or even that he’d made it difficult for her to leave. He already had a burning scratch at his brow from Hollowflame, and he didn’t want to lose an eye by the tom.
His brows furrowed as Saplingskies tried to shoo him off, but he wasn’t going to leave before he’d said what he’d come to say. “I might drop dead if you don’t just listen for a minute,” he retorted, stepping forward, further into the den. “I’m not here to play any games, I promise,” he vowed, his ears flattening to his skull.
“Listen, I’m not the smartest tom, okay? I say things as soon as they come into my mind, and a lot of the time it gets me in trouble. I was surprised and my mouth reacted before my brain could; I don’t…” He didn’t what? He could feel dread pooling in his stomach as he forced out the words he’d been fighting.
“You have to understand, I lived my whole life believing I was only interested in she-cats– convincing myself. I don’t know why I’m feeling these things.” He was growing frustrated with himself now. “StarClan’s kits, Saplingskies; it wasn’t too many seasons ago I took a tom as my mate. Do you think I would’ve done that if I wasn’t… If I didn’t…” He growled deeply, unable to make himself say it.June 26, 2019 at 5:02 pm #1864
Saplingskies shut his eyes tightly as Tawnypainter spoke, a heavy sigh escaping him as he turned towards the deputy. He rose a paw to scrub at his face before slowly opening his eyes.
“Why me?” He asked simply, bright blue eyes staring right into the deputy’s green. “Why am I the one you choose to hurt and embarrass all the time? I forgive you for one thing, then you immediately turn around and do something to upset me again! My mother and father make a big deal about how you’re so much older than me, but you don’t act like a senior warrior. You’re like an apprentice, making the same mistakes over and over again, hoping for a different outcome!” The medicine cat’s claws flexed and his gaze fell to the floor. “I like toms and she-cats, but you don’t see me throwing myself at every cat I make eye contact with,” he grumbled, taking a jab at Tawnypainter’s way of flirting with seemingly everything that moves.
He finally looked back up at the deputy, eyes narrowing. “Did you give that other tom such a hard time? I want to love you and be close to you, but you make it so difficult for me!”June 26, 2019 at 6:37 pm #1867
Saplingskies’s words stung. There was nothing to argue; everything he said was true. “I don’t mean to hurt you,” he breathed, desperation entering his eyes. He felt as though his chest was going to cave in, guilt swamping him. His ears flattened to his skull as he simply accepted the scolding.
He flinched as Saplingskies mentioned his endless flirting, having been unaware that there was any problem with it. In his eyes, flirting was harmless; it wasn’t as though he was sharing his nest with any of the cats he’d been friendly with, after all. But if the other tom saw issue in it, then he’d have no choice but to refrain from it. Through his entire warrior life, flirting had been such a massive part of his identity. What was he, if not the smooth-talking tom?
“I didn’t know you had a problem with it,” he defended himself, “But I’ll stop. All you have to do is tell me when you don’t want me to do something, Saplingskies. I don’t want to hurt you.”
At the retort about Starlingflight, Tawnypainter felt his stomach tie in a knot. “Yes,” he admitted. “I gave him a hard time about everything. He died telling me he forgave me for something I’d done.” He swallowed hard, turning his eyes to the floor of the den. He had quite the track record, he was coming to realize.
“I am difficult, but I’m trying.”June 27, 2019 at 11:14 pm #1884
Saplingskies listened quietly as Tawnypainter defended himself. As he spoke about the deceased tom he had taken for a mate, Saplingskies felt torn. On one paw, he was still angry at Tawnypainter. But on the other, he had always been an empathetic and compassionate tom, so he wanted to comfort the deputy. He stared at the deputy for a moment before stepping forward to briefly press his muzzle into the bigger tom’s shoulder.
Soon, he backed away to stare dead in the deputy’s eyes once again. “Tawnypainter, I am going to ask you two questions. If you answer me truthfully, I will forgive you. If you lie to me, I will find out at some point and it will not be good for you. I will only forgive you if you are completely honest and open with me.” After giving his warning, he sat down and curled his tail neatly around his paws, never taking his freezing gaze off the painted tom.
He took a deep breath, then began. “Are you attracted to toms?” before the deputy could answer, Saplingskies raised his tail to silence him “I am not asking if you are attracted exclusively to toms. It’s okay to be attracted to both. I am myself. This is a safe space. You can tell me the truth.” He blinked slowly before asking his second question.
“Do you really love me?”June 27, 2019 at 11:58 pm #1885
If all he had to do was answer two simple questions, Tawnypainter was sure he had a chance of fixing things with Saplingskies. How hard could it be? He was being given an easy out to the mess he’d made, and he was planning to take full advantage of it. What Saplingskies first asked, however, caused the tom to start, lips parting as though to protest before they snapped shut once more at the silencing gesture the medicine cat offered.
Both? In all these seasons, Tawnypainter had never once considered the possibility he could be attracted to both toms and she-cats. He could’ve sworn the grinding of his thoughts spinning over themselves was audible, the roar of blood rushing behind his ears only exacerbating the smallness he was now feeling. What did Saplingskies expect him to say? What was the right answer?
The truth, he silently scolded himself. But what was the truth? He had to dig deep within himself in search of the answer. He’d fallen in love with Starlingflight, had taken the tom as his mate. And now he found himself in love with another tom. He’d always just ignored the labels, refusing to define himself in a way that didn’t sound right to him. His identity was centered on his relationship with she-cats; it had been for as long as he could remember.
And yet, he knew what his answer was. It nearly killed him to speak. “Yes, I am.” His world came crashing down around him. Who was he? He only just barely managed to not look as lost as he felt.
Saplingskies’s next question was much easier to answer, and didn’t hold the soul-crushing weight of his last admittance. “Of course I love you; I wouldn’t have said it if I didn’t mean it,” he responded, though his voice was small. He turned his eyes to his paws, not sure what to really do with himself now. What would be expected of him? He needed something to distract him from the questions swimming in his thoughts.
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