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  • #5385
    Tawny
    Participant

    Wasn’t it here? StarClan’s kits, where were they? The scent of the ShadowClan camp was stale, telling it had been a hot moment since the tunnel system had been used. After so many moons away, the scents of home were overwhelming. The ache of homesickness from the first days returned with a vengeance, demanding Tawnypainter’s full attention. Maybe he should just check inside one more time? Perhaps he had gotten turned around somehow and had ended up in an unused portion of the tunnel… He pawed at the ground briefly, tears burning in his eyes. Their scent was still all around him, but it wasn’t nearly what it should be surrounding camp.

    Suddenly overwhelmed, the painted tom swatted angrily at the dirt beneath him, digging up a spray of mud and gravel that showered him and dirtied his pelt. “Mouse dung!” he spat, sitting himself down and beginning to clean his fur as he gave in to the tears that had been threatening to break free during his days of travel. It wasn’t enough to pull him from his home, from his Clan, from the tom he loved? It wasn’t enough to strip him of his tomhood, make him entirely useless within this forest? The spiteful, hateful mythical cats in the sky now had to hide his Clan from him when he’d finally found his way back. It was one blow after another, the cage and the sharp pokes and the dizziness when he woke to find himself maimed and everything that had happened to him these past moons… Would he get no relief?

    A soft whimper bubbled at his lips, and in that moment he didn’t much care if somecat happened upon him to hear it. He might even fall in relief if such a thing were to happen; home was right here, and he longed for some sign he wasn’t too late. By StarClan… he just wanted to see somecat familiar.

    #5391
    Hornetstar
    Participant

    HORNETSTAR.

    Going out alone at a time like this, with so much tension between the Clans, was foolish. The golden tom was wholly aware of this, but he needed some alone time. He needed to clear his head, and he needed time away from his Clan. In no way was he running off – that would never be an option, but everything was just so much right now. ShadowClan was still settling into their new camp and getting used to everything, war was on the horizon, Firestar was being an utter ass… Among other things. Things he couldn’t even talk about with others, only Saplingskies. And with how well he got along with the medicine cat, the only option that left was him talking to himself. Talking to himself out loud wasn’t an option, hence the walk.

    Somehow his paws had naturally brought him back to the old ShadowClan camp, a place he hadn’t seemed to have returned to in ages. Even after they had returned to their territory, beginning the process of moving into their new camp, he hadn’t returned here. It was an area that felt full of ghosts, old memories that were painful but some good. Sometimes they even felt too real, like he was living through them again. Like now, as he stood with his eyes closed, he could swear he heard whimpering. But then he came to the sharp realization that he… He didn’t have a memory here that involved whimpering, at least not any he could vividly recall.

    Now on high alert, he moved to the camp’s old entrance, drawing a deep breath and focusing on the scent. What he smelled was familiar, making his heart skip a beat, before he realized something was off. More than the crying and obvious emotional ditress. Tawnypainter didn’t, well, he didn’t smell like a tom anymore. But also not a she-cat, some weird in between. The most pressing thing of all, however, was the presence of Tawnypainter. Understandably, Hornetstar still thought this was some weird hallucination or something at first, blinking furiously a few times before even entertaining the idea this could be real.

    “T-Tawnypainter?” He called hesitantly, green eyes wide as he allowed himself to show his surprise. This was crazy, miraculous. They had thought the previous deputy dead, yet here he sat, crying and breathing! “Is that really you? StarClan,” he cursed, slowly inching closer to the previously missing tom.

    #5396
    Tawny
    Participant

     

    A familiar voice sounded from behind him, and Tawnypainter felt his heart break as his eyes turned to find his leader standing there, seeming even more surprised than he to have stumbled upon him. “Hornetstar,” he breathed, voice trembling. What luck it was that it be this time to find him, when Tawnypainter had never much cared to impress him. He could allow himself to remain vulnerable in his presence; he didn’t need to put on a brave face and explain away his tears. “Where is everycat?” he queried in a small voice, clearly referencing the abandoned camp. “I… I came back here, and you all were gone. I thought— I thought I’d never see any of you again. Where is Saplingskies? Is he okay?” His eyes welled once more with tears as he spoke the tom’s name; his heart ached in a way he was no longer familiar with.

    It was heartbreak, he was sure, but it had been many moons since he had found it gripping his chest.

    #5410
    Hornetstar
    Participant

    HORNETSTAR.

    It really was Tawnypainter, his return the Miracle of miracles. Everyone had thought he had ran off, or that maybe he was dead. Yet here the tom – weird smelling though he was, Hornetstar knew him to be a tom – was, crying like a newborn kitten overwhelmed by confusion. Though he didn’t show it on his face, he felt his heart ache for the older tom, pity flowing through him. What exactly had the missing ex-deputy been up to, all these moons? Certainly not all good things, judging from his smell and current behavior.

    “We had to move camp due to a storm that moved through before Leaf-fall struck. The tunnels flooded and weren’t safe for living in anymore,” he explained lightly, shrugging off Tawnypainter’s pitiful behavior. He didn’t want to rub any salt in the wounds, or slip up and mention the tom’s oddly missing manhood smell. Did that mean…? No, no, Hornetstar didn’t want to think of that. It made his own hurt in an uncomfortable manner.

    At the mention of the medicine cat, he frowned slightly, trying to keep his obvious current distaste for Saplingskies off his face. He probably failed though, extraordinarily annoyed with the other tom these days. “Perhaps running back and forth between here and RiverClan. One can never know when he’ll go as he pleases, these days,” he commented, rolling his bright green eyes. “But enough of that. Let’s get you back to the new camp, yeah? You could probably do with some fresh kill and a soft, clean nest.”

    #5533
    Tawny
    Participant

    He felt relief wash over him as Hornetstar reassured him that the camp were merely moved, though he couldn’t help the way his stomach turned at his leader’s– albeit rather subtle– distaste in hearing Saplingkies’s name. That told Tawnypainter that the squabbling among ranks within the Clan hadn’t magically ended upon his disappearance. Perhaps they just weren’t compatible, any of the three.

    He knew now was not the time to ponder on such things, and he nodded slowly as Hornetstar offered to take him home. He averted his eyes momentarily, pausing before murmuring, “I was desperate to get home, but now I’m not sure I’m ready to face every-cat.” His heart ached with his confession, his tears finally dry but the tightness still there in his throat.

    “Do they hate me?” he asked in a small voice, unable to hide his vulnerability. He feared he was returning to ridicule and disdain; he was the old deputy who had up and left, as far as the Clan knew. They had no way of knowing what he’d been through these months, and he wasn’t going to share those horrors. They were his, and his alone. He’d cling to them; being hated was easier than being pitied.

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