June 13, 2019 at 9:04 pm #1374
Tawnypainter was tired of the silence. He was tired of throwing himself into his duties, focusing only on patrols and hunting parties and trying his best to forget what he’d done to Saplingskies. He was sick of avoiding the other tom, of avoiding his confession. He’d always had awful timing; he could never figure out when to just keep his big mouth shut.
And running away wasn’t doing him any good. It was only digging the wound in his heart deeper every time he passed by the one cat he cared so deeply for in this StarClan-forsaken forest. He had clearly not been himself as of late, had been visibly drowning himself in duty to numb the pain he felt. Blazemoon’s death had been traumatic for him; it had broken something in him, not for the first time in his life. This time was different, however. He shouldered all the guilt and blame he was capable of placing for what he didn’t prevent.
It had been so long now… Had it been two moons? It felt like an eternity, and yet still so new he wasn’t sure he could clear the sludge from his lungs and free his heart to beat. But now, with any courage he had been able to muster, Tawnypainter was coming to the entrance of Saplingskies’s den, not in search of physical healing. His wounds had faded with the aid of whatever herbs the medicine cat had dug out for him. It was emotional healing he was seeking; the kind that only more pain could give him. He needed to address what was ailing him. He needed to see Saplingskies, needed to try and make right these weeks of silence.
Stepping inside, soul ragged and raw, the painted tom let his gold-and-green eyes wander the den. “Saplingskies?” he ventured with a voice as small as he felt. “Can… can we talk?June 13, 2019 at 10:00 pm #1375
Saplingskies was tidying up his den, as normal. He was doing… he wasn’t sure if ‘better’ was the right word. Grief and guilt still sat in his heart, and he still saw Blazemoon in his dreams. He was doing… okay. He had to give himself some credit. At least he wasn’t moping around and starving himself anymore. His relationship with Cloudedpaw was slowly getting back to normal as well. The grief-stricken family was slowly recovering. These things took time, after all.
He heard a noise outside his den and, for a moment, believed it was Harepaw, returning from delivering prey to the queens and elders. However, the voice surprised the young tom. For a while, that voice had made him bristle with anger, but that had passed as well. He knew he hadn’t been fair to Tawnypainter. He supposed they both had something they needed to say to each other. Avoiding the issue wouldn’t do either of them any good. He took a deep breath, then slowly let it out.
“Come in, Tawnypainter,” he called back, stepping out from the shadows at the back of the den. “Back here.” He beckoned the deputy forward with a flick of his tail. It was more private at the back of the den.June 13, 2019 at 10:15 pm #1377
Despite his determination to patch things up, it would seem Tawnypainter couldn’t help the sudden wave of anxiety that pulled his stomach from its place and into his paws. He swallowed hard at Saplingskies’s invitation, hesitating but a moment before he passed forward. He kept his eyes averted, ashamed of how he’d been behaving recently. What a way to act, telling some-cat you love them and then avoiding them like they carried some sickness you didn’t want to catch.
If there was any StarClan, they surely weren’t looking down on him now– not that they ever had. As the deputy reached the other tom, he was silent for a moment. What, exactly, was he supposed to say? He hadn’t expected to get this far. If anything, he’d been expecting short, snapping replies and even sharper glances. But Saplingskies seemed… rather calm, given everything.
And as the smooth, oh so debonair tom he was, awkward small talk was all he could manage with a tongue that suddenly felt as leadened as his paws. “I… uh, how’s the weather been treating you? The sunshine helping any?” Oh, the weather. He honestly never ceased to amaze himself at his sheer stupidity. He had asked the medicine cat to have a talk, and all he could think of to say was a comment on the weather.
He breathed a heavy sigh, berating himself silently. “Look, Saplingskies,” he finally decided on, praying he wouldn’t say something stupid again. “I… I know what I said was at the worst possible time. And I really don’t blame you for rejecting it. I don’t have much tact; I’ve never had good timing. But I… I meant it. So do with it what you will; I won’t bring it up again if that’s what you’d like.”
He was staring at his paws, scuffing the right one against the floor of the den. He felt out of place here. He wanted to curl up under a rock and stay there until he was forgotten. Or until he died, which sounded like a much better option than standing here like the socially inept mousescrap he was.June 13, 2019 at 11:29 pm #1381
Saplingskies stared quietly at Tawnypainter, allowing him to speak first. He squinted when Tawnypainter mentioned the weather, tail thumping the ground. However, his expression softened again once the deputy said what was really on his mind. Saplingskies was silent for a moment, then rose to his paws. He moved closer to the other tom, then gently pressed his nose to his cheek. He stayed that way for a few moments before taking a step back and sitting down.
“If I can be honest… I haven’t thought about it much. I’m not supposed to take a mate until Harepaw finishes her training, so I can’t say a definite ‘yes’. But…” He trailed off, feeling his ears get hot. “But I’m not saying no, either. Just… not right now, okay?” He gazed at Tawnypainter before shifting a bit closer.
“I owe you an apology, by the way. You saved Cloudedpaw’s life, and as thanks, I got angry at you for something you couldn’t control, and… I’m sorry. I’m sorry for yelling, and I’m sorry for hitting you. You did all you could do for my sisters, and I’m thankful that Cloudedpaw was able to come back alive that night. She would be dead too if it weren’t for you. Thank you for bringing her home.” He curled his tail around his paws and looked Tawnypainter in the eyes. There was no more anger or bitterness in his gaze, only a barely masked sadness… and something else that couldn’t really be placed.June 13, 2019 at 11:51 pm #1382
Saplingskies was coming closer, and suddenly his nose was touching Tawnypainter’s cheek. It took everything in him to not recoil, or lean into the touch– he wasn’t really sure which. He, instead, remained still, not raising his eyes as the other tom spoke. Why was he doing this? All he was doing was giving hope where none should rightly be. Yet, even with such doubting thoughts, that hope still planted itself deep in Tawnypainter’s heart. Surely if Saplingskies hated him, as he had implied the day Blazemoon had died, he would’ve maintained his rejection?
But then the very event was being spoken of, and the mention of it somewhere other than within his own thoughts seemed to break the painted tom in a way he had been doing his best to prevent. “StarClan’s kits,” he breathed, fighting the hitch in his breath that threatened to throw him into sobs all over again.
“I didn’t mean for her to die, Saplingskies,” he forced out, his paws now trembling. He was always just fine calling himself names and accusing himself internally, but with the fresh wave of guilt and shame that washed over him now he knew he wasn’t quite ready to speak about it. Even so, he couldn’t hold his tongue.
“I’m so sorry… I should’ve been there; if I hadn’t lost track of them, they’d both still be here. Every time I close my eyes I see the look on her face, how afraid she was. All I see is how I failed the one cat I was supposed to protect. I’m a failure as a mentor, and I’m a failure as a tom. She trusted me and I let her down,” he ground through his teeth, struggling to quiet the pounding of his heart behind his ears.
Shut up, he told himself, shut up, stupid!
“I ruined your family; I never meant for her to die…” Through his lapse in composure, he thankfully had avoided tearing up. He supposed self hatred was good for one thing, at least.June 15, 2019 at 12:47 am #1419
Saplingskies inhaled softly, raising his tail to silence the deputy. “She always spoke highly of you. Every evening she would come in here to tell me every single thing the two of you did that day. She thought being the deputy’s apprentice was the coolest thing in the world, and she wanted nothing more than to make you proud. She would hate to hear you talking like that.” The medicine cat closed his eyes, curling his tail tightly around his paws.
“It would have been easy for Blazemoon to just abandon Cloudedpaw and save herself. However, Blazemoon was no coward.” Saplingskies shook his head, feeling tears beginning to well up. “I know it wasn’t the badger she was afraid of, she was afraid for Cloudedpaw. She just wanted Cloudedpaw to be safe. My sister died a warrior, and as much as it hurts, and despite the fact how terribly I miss her begging me to come on hunting patrols with her, I’m so proud of her.” He brought up a paw to dry his eyes, taking a moment to compose himself before looking at the deputy.
“Are you proud of her, Tawnypainter?”June 15, 2019 at 7:01 am #1452
Tawnypainter couldn’t argue with any of what Saplingskies was saying, so he remained silent, simply listening. He had known Blazemoon was always excited to be training, but he hasn’t been aware she’d been so keen on him as her mentor. He’d always assumed she was just happy to train. It left his heart feeling some kind of strange at the thought.
His eyes lowered to the floor of the den, and he breathed a small sigh. It was easy for Saplingskies to comment on the terror in Blazemoon’s eyes when he hadn’t seen it. As much as he knew the little she-cat had been brave in her fight to protect her sister, Tawnypainter had seen first-hand that look in her eyes when she knew she was going to die. But then the medicine cat shifted, and Tawnypainter looked up to see the tears in his eyes.
His own face screwed up in an expression of sympathy and shared misery, and he pressed closer to his companion. He nuzzled the other tom’s cheek, as though to comfort him. “Of course I’m proud of her,” he breathed. “She was a brave, intelligent, selfless cat; she was everything a ShadowClan warrior should be.” She never lived to become one, was still lingering on his tongue, but he didn’t voice it.
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