it had been two weeks since the departure of skywhisper and his apprentice lilypaw for gorgeclan's camp. for the young tom, newly named spiderfrost, he had not known what to expect expect that the cats around him would be relying on not only him, but flickerfrost and featherpaw. a nervous swallow clenched his throat as he seemed to hover over the stock pile of herbs that they had left, recalling his assistance in getting what the two absent medicine cat's needed to the border. now, looking back, he almost wished he had tagged along - for he felt a stranger with each of the cat's already in a solid role with their own respective mentor. he could not lie, in the last 5-6 moons since the disappearance of his own mentor there was a sense of pride, a humble humility and more.
he was grateful for flickerfrost and skywhisper to step in and assist him in what minor training he required, and now, he stood before them a full fledged medicine cat. but now was not the time for him to dally, with a huff, he turned to observe the den, noting that both featherpaw and flickerfrost had been absent for a few hours, perhaps out gathering herbs or perhaps they were tending to the last of the whitecough victims. leafbare had not been kind to them, and had he his wish, he would have ventured to the quarantined camp, tending to the sick and likely willing to embrace death. however he had been told he would not go, but when he had seen the other two off, a part of him was relief and it must have been the swelling in his chest when he glanced at the medicine cat's apprentice beside him.
featherpaw. the she-cat caused his heart to squeeze, and while he knew it was but a simple attraction to the pretty young she-cat, he admired her strength, mind and willpower. she had been a grounding stone in his life when he emerged into the medicine cat meeting for the first time, alone and broken, frighten even. while he had also met her many times before the merge, the fact that the merge brought them into the same den - his den - caused his skin to burn red with embarrassment. he had, had even had a few apprentices help him tidy the den prior to their arrival because of his disorganization and worry cased his heart to squeeze.
but now, he shook his head, she is simply off limits, even from harmless flirting. he stood, his back hind leg only protesting mildly as he took note of the lower levels of moss, and with a huff he exited his den. he took note of an apprentice - so rare these days - and meowed in a gruff and rather rude tone; "if flickerfrost or featherpaw question where i might be, let them know i am gathering moss among other things." before he turned fully, his long black tail flicking in annoyance as he exited the camp, his paws carrying him as fast as his mangled leg would allow him. each step carried him closer to the mossy clearing and after what felt like hours, but was definitely less, he arrived.
he paused, settling into the damp moss, taking in a deep breath and looked towards the sky. "what else would must you burden us with?" he meowed, refusing to let go of the blue skies above him
Truly, Featherpaw felt a little alien, in this world now. And yet...it was not the same kind of displacement she had felt before. She would not say she felt like she belonged, not really, yet part of her felt more content than she had ever been. Throughout all the fear and chaos, a weight had been lifted off the young healer's shoulders that she had never thought to imagine life without. Truth truly was the the lessening of that burden, no matter how hard it was to give. It was the first step, she supposed, to healing. For once those closest to her could understand, could help.
Many would say by this point she should no longer be Featherpaw. Truly, though, she did not mind the lack of promotion. She was still healing...much like those she treated. Featherpaw was in no rush for the responsibility the older cats around her held, for what was forced upon the shoulders of Spiderfrost with the absence of his own mentor. No, she was not ready for such a change yet...there was still much she needed to learn, about healing and about herself.
She was a little more confident now, efficient in how she organized the herbs she had collected. No longer did Flickerfrost seem to feel the need to monitor her every need...yet she still hovered there sometimes, like her apprentice might just drift away again, curl back into that shell she and Littlebird had been trying so hard to break her out of. Maybe she, too, was holding off that new responsibility for her own reasons, to keep a closer eye, a reason to protect.
Featherpaw smiled at the thought as she nudged the last berry into place. She had been scared of her mentor, she could admit that. Yet now that she knew what caring was...well, she had started to realize that the great lack of it within her clan was largely in her head. Everyone just showed it differently, because no one was totally in control. She was still learning, truly, but she no longer let herself expect the worst.
She wanted to give everyone the chance they gave her.
That chance would start with Spiderfrost. There was still a certain distance between him and the other medicine cats, she felt, and she wanted to try and close that gap. His transition to a full medicine cat had not been easy, and definitely too soon. Of course Skywhisper and Flickerfrost had done all they could to help him, but Featherpaw could feel something off there.
So, as an apprentice told her where to find him the moment she left their shared den, Featherpaw gave him a soft smile and headed off into the territory. Perhaps helping him out would be a good first step. He always seemed to be distancing himself, much like she used to...but he was different. Sometimes she wondered what went on in his head whenever he isolated himself. Probably all the pressure, she supposed. Sometimes it seemed easier to be alone, even if they were only fooling themselves.
Catching his voice ahead, softer than usual, Featherpaw paused. Part of her thought perhaps it was wrong to listen in, that maybe it was just better to leave him be after all. She shook that thought away, however. No, she needed to stop hesitating every time it came to talking to someone. She was getting better at it, sure, but she still found herself faltering each time.
Pushing herself on, Featherpaw brushed past a dew-covered bush and stepped into the mossy clearing, letting the sun dapple her fur as she glanced toward the raven tom. "Hey," she mewed, a little quieter than a greeting ought to be before she willed herself on, feeling the need to explain her presence. "I thought you might like some help...or company, maybe."
Featherpaw shifted her paws awkwardly, tail flicking in nervous habit behind her. Sure, she was no longer stuttering and tripping over her words, or cowering beneath a nearby bush as she forced herself to say anything. Yet it was still a challenge to keep her nerves under control sometimes, and the fact that everyone was combined now only made her feel that much more out of place. Yet still, she was getting better, right? She could hold onto that hope, that one day she would have nothing to fear at all.
his eyes still cast towards the endless sky as his mind raced through wonders of thoughts, occurrences that could possibly derail the endless sea of worries and tidings that the oneclan brought for him. standing alone, even in this open field, his home, made him realize just how isolated they all were. would they ever go back to their three clans - could he go back? his mind knew that he would, almost certainly, return in isolation to his own clan with little to no thought. but his heart of course sang a different tune - one of utter distort and pain, of a loneliness he was certain he had not experience since jaypeck and his mother passed away.
it was almost unsettling the way he did not notice the tell all signs of another approaching. had he been a warrior he would have been extremely ashamed of himself, but even now as a medicine cat he knew he should be more alert, perhaps even more so as he was a victim of a surprise attack no less. amber eyes flickered across the sky more thoroughly, unaware of the sound of paws crunching behind him, or of a pelt brushing against any grass leading to the mossy cleaning. her mew sounded like thunder to his ears, sending a jolt of lightning through his body as those wide amber eyes cut through the clearing to the she-cat that had emerged.
featherpaw. a part of him felt sour with the thought of her name on his mind. she had long since deserved the naming ceremony, and to have her sitting as a paw still caused his heart to sink. 'perhaps it is was for the better, it retains order.' his thoughts slunk in desperately, trying to wash away the sourness that her name brought, but also the warmth that had exploded in the middle of his chest. while not unwelcome to his overloaded mind, he knew that it was so unlike the wwave of emotion or warmth he felt when gazing upon the sisters; snapefire and fishleap. she offered help or company and for a moment spiderfrost had half a mind to send her away. 'does she think me a burden too, that i can not help the clan alone?'
"i thought flickerfrost was taking you out later."
his face scrunched up in annoyance at his own misguided attempt at a greeting. his mind lacked the strength to even think properly because the she-cat was before him. sighing, a deep breath in through his nose and out through his mouth, he tried again. his voice was a bit gentler, not as gruff or rough as it had been before. "i mean... well," his meow trailed off embarrassingly fast as his head sank between his shoulders in annoyance at himself. "hi." came the rather rough and rushed answered to her greeting, before he shifted awkwardly in his position. hind leg that had been mangled from the fox attack stretch out to the side as he attempted to cover the imperfection with his fluffy tail.
"i was just gathering moss, perhaps horsetail if i dared to wander that far," he meowed offhandedly, looking towards the horizon instead of the pretty little she-cat before him. his skin flushed hot with embarrassment, something he thought he would never feel around her or any she-cat since taking his oath and faith with the stars. "i guess you can tag along."
spiderfrost Well she's still doubtful but I'm proud of my child <3
He did not seem quite so pleased to find company, and Featherpaw had to stop herself from instinctively flinching at his response. It was silly, she knew that. Not everyone who did not want her company meant her any harm. If anything, she ought to know by now that no one in this clan really meant her any harm. It was just...hard to remember sometimes, that things were different here. Besides, she already knew that Spiderfrost was stubborn, just like Flickerfrost. Not to mention to imply someone could not collect moss alone must seem rather insulting. Did he...think she was insulting him?
"Yeah, she is..." Featherpaw admitted softly, tail flicking anxiously as she tried not to notice the way he hid his injured leg. He probably did think she was insulting him. Of course she never meant to, its not like she thought he was anywhere near incapable - he had trained as a warrior before too, and here he stood as a full medicine cat, surely that made him far more capable than she could ever be. Yet, she would want to be assured that, so, maybe it was best to do so for him too. "But I don't really have much to do before then, and you're always alone so I thought...maybe you'd like some company? Its fine if you don't, I just-"
Featherpaw cut herself off, pelt warming considerably as she set her ears back toward her skull. "Sorry." Here Spiderfrost was just minding his own business doing his duties, and she came along and rambled the poor tom's ears off. Really, perhaps this sliver of self-confidence she was growing was not so great after all. She had simply gone from barely talking at all and stuttering over what little she said, to talking far too much and over-explaining every little intention. Flickerfrost was right, she really did need to find a balance. Or just zip it sometimes.
He was not looking at her now, gaze pinned to the horizon instead. At least it gave the molly a moment to relax.
Taking a breath to settle herself, she pricked her ears delicately to catch his words. Moss and Horsetail. Well, that was certain to be far less difficult then whatever Flickerfrost would be having her do later. She enjoyed gathering things, really. It was soothing to be out in the forest with the solidarity of knowing what she was looking for and where she would find it. Of course, it was harder now that she was in unfamiliar territory...but it still gave her a sense of home that staying in camp just could not offer.
A soft smile touched her maw as he finally gave her allowance to join him. She liked to think it was less reluctant than he made it sound. As close as they were in age and position, and the hardships they had both seen no matter how different...she still held on to the hope that they could be friends. She felt more comfortable with him then most her age - though maybe that was because he was not a warrior. There was bound to be something reassuring to cat cat frightened of conflict, to be found in an oath swearing against violence.
At least, that was what made most sense to her. Though she was working on her warrior friends too. Like Dawnfire, even if his boundless energy was overwhelming at times. Spiderfrost was a lot quieter, more contained. She could relax a little more with that.
"I would love to," she offered, hoping to cement to the tom that she was not making her offer for any kind of pity or doubt toward him and his abilities. Taking a few steps closer, Featherpaw padded into the clearing of moss and cast a glance up at the sky. It looked just the same, even beneath unfamiliar trees. She did not cast her gaze back to Spiderfrost - really she needed to stop that habit of constantly looking over her shoulder - but she did cast her ears in his direction. "If you're sure you wouldn't mind."
his eyes flicked back to the she-cat, wondering what was on the young she-cat's mind. he had his own thoughts, having long since been forced into the solitude of his mind that his warrior training would have never allowed him to do. swallowing nervously, the black tom rose to his paws, his mangled leg swinging out from under him as he straighten, his body screaming every inch of pride and confidence, but he knew deep down he was feeling the insecurity of his younger moons. he tried to remain as upright as he could, but his body leaned more heavily on one side.
she stated she would love to come along with him, and he could not help but feel a bit better knowing that someone else was with him out in the territory. he could recall the times of being but an apprentice, with his warrior guide who would not allow him out of their sight. he recalled it being for his protection, but he knew they must have been keeping an eye on him to make sure he too, did not go missing. her movements caused him to still his thoughts as she moved into the clearing more fully, and his breath sucked in deeply.
"i truly do not mind, featherpaw." he meowed as calmly as he could, despite his slight worry that he was making her do what she did not truly want to do. moving forward, his mangled leg dragged against the ground uselessly, pull up moss with it also like he had intended to do such an act. "look," he meowed almost awkwardly, his eyes cast to the sky again as if searching them for some strength, before he turned to look back at the pretty young she-cat. "i know it might not seem it, but i am glad you and flickerfrost decided to stay behind." his voice was firm, confident in it's truth, although he left out the desire he had felt to leave and be in lilypaw, or even lilypaw and skywhisper's place. he began to meow, rambling in a sense.
"ok, let's get started, the elder's den needed more moss, as did the nursery. i am not sure if we should collect enough to leave at the border for skywhisper..."
He did not mind. Or at least, he certainly sounded convincing enough to draw a smile to the young molly's face. Perhaps a few moons ago she would have doubted it anyway, no matter how certain someone sounded...but she was getting better with that. She believed him...and even if she did not, there was hardly any point to arguing it when she would rather continue with them getting along. So, she blinked a warm thanks to the tom before setting her gaze around the clearing in search of a nice dry patch of moss.
She noticed the way his leg dragged - she always looked when someone spoke to her, even for just the briefest of moments at the quietest of words, so how could she not? However, she did not let her gaze linger on it for long. It was not as though she saw him as less than for his injury - far from it, truly. However, just because she knew how she thought did not mean he did. She figured he was rather conscious of it, the way he tended to adjust and hide it like he did, so if she let her attention be drawn to it it might just make him uncomfortable. She would rather avoid that, though she was not sure if consciously trying not to look at his injury was really doing much better.
Really there was little else she could think to do.
So, it was a bit of a relief when his voice caught her ears again, drawing her attention to the conversation at present instead. It was much easier to focus on that. Well, most of the time anyway. Sometimes cats insisted on asking questions she could not answer or prying a little further than she was comfortable with...but Flickerfrost was usually there to make them back off anyway, usually under the guise that that were distracting her apprentice from working efficiently, but Featherpaw had a feeling it was because she cared. It seemed as though they were getting along far better than before Featherpaw had told the truth...yet neither had really changed all that much. Perhaps that was not entirely true, though.
Featherpaw offered Spiderfrost a warm smile, dismissing her distraction as she nodded. It was a kind thing of him to say for certain, considering he was a lot like Flickerfrost in not being much for feelings. Though, he seemed quite aware of that too, something she noted from his wording. "I'm glad you stayed with us too," Featherpaw returned honestly. Perhaps she might have said more, but Spiderfrost was already going on, and Featherpaw was content to lapse back into her more comfortable state of silence.
She wished none of them had to go, truly...yet she could not imagine the poor sick cats being left to their own devices. She just had to hope for the best, and continue helping them as much as she could from a distance too. She did not doubt she was the only one wishing there was another way...but every suffering cat deserved help, no matter the risk of it spreading. This was the best way to manage that. Yet it certainly did not make it much easier to accept.
Moss gathering would be a good distraction, though. Not to mention another way to help out - without being able to hunt or fight, Featherpaw was quite willing to take any opportunity she could get to make things easier on those who had so much more to deal with. She was one of three medicine cats within three groups reduced to the numbers of one...it was not as though she had a heavy workload with her duties alone. Not like Skywhisper or the warriors were bound to have.
"I think we should," Featherpaw decided, allowing her glance to linger briefly toward Gorgeclan. It was not so much that she missed that place...even with the time she spent there, the closest to a real life she had really experienced, it had never truly felt like home to her. Truly, it was the cats that mattered anyway. Perhaps not all of them were here but...she was not alone, not anymore. A soft kind of peace washed over her at the thought, and she glanced back to Spiderfrost with bright eyes as she set about digging up some moss. "I'm sure he could use the help, and honestly its nice to get out of camp for a little longer."