It had been a difficult thing, hiding her kits in a hollow log while she hunted nearby, but it was the safest thing for them. She couldn't hunt with them hiding under her belly or following in her wake. One risked them being hurt by the prey itself and the other meant they were likely to chase off the prey. She had to feed them, had to feed herself as well, so she'd hidden them as best she could and gone off. She could see the log from where she was stalking for prey, so that was reassuring at least. The log was butted up against a large rock and was about as safe as she could have made them.
The last few hours had been hard on her. She'd gone into 'clan' territory and found herself in the position of dealing with the local clan. One of them anyway. She had so much to think about, but for now she was hunting for her kits.
Tag : Phoenix Note : Sorry for the shortness, I have a headache.
Finch did not like rain. It slipped and slid down the mountainside and into the valley, turning the well-worn paths into tiny waterfalls and streams. In the colder weather, the moisture hung in the air, a thick blanket of wetness that permeated everything and left everyone with that discomforting feeling of dampness in their bones. It was unpleasant, and he would like for nothing more to do than remain curled up in his little nook, protected in his comfortable nest of moss and fur and surrounded by his feathers. But hunger had driven him from his shelter, gnawing at him relentlessly until he was on his paws and off in search of prey. He knew that he had better enjoy his relative success while he still could, before the lower temperatures would drive everything underground.
That was how he found himself along this clan’s border. He had yet to explore the forested area, but it had seemed rather promising. Indeed, it had not been long before his efforts paid off, and he had been prepared to turn around and head home – home, it was odd to think of his little den as such, and he had no idea when he had started calling it that – with a full stomach when a faint noise caught his attention. The brown tom froze. An ear flicked. He heard it again, and his eyes narrowed slightly as he turned to face the direction from which it had come. Scenting the air, he reconfirmed that he was as alone as he had thought, but then, he knew, the damp air after a rainfall always had that overpowering scent of freshness that blotted out everything else. The fur on his spine prickled, and the more he thought about it, the more he thought he felt eyes digging holes into the back of his head. It would be better to investigate, he decided, than be taken by surprise.
It was the autumn now, after all, and cats were beginning to hunger.
There was a fallen log nearby that looked as though it could hide a cat or two, and the loner directed his cautious steps toward the landmark with his senses on high alert. As he drew close, he became aware of a fresh scent that lingered about the place, and it was with a racing heart and adrenaline rushing through his veins that he took a moment to gather himself before rounding the corner – only to come face to face with a pair of kittens tucked safely within the interior of the log. The sight had him pausing uncertainly. He had no experience with cats younger than himself. He did not know what to do with the little balls of fur who gazed so innocently up at him, and he had no means of ensuring their survival. The smart decision would be to leave. Cats so young would not have survived long on their own without someone to care for them, and that someone was likely in the vicinity. Wise cats knew to never step between a mother and her offspring, by accident or not. Yes, he should leave.
But those insidious questions had him pausing, staring at their small gray bodies. What if they were alone? What if they had been left here for dead, abandoned in the face of the impending winter by a feline who was more pragmatic than emotional? He couldn’t simply walk away with a good conscience, never knowing if he had left innocent lives to die alone. But he also couldn’t take them with him. A gut feeling told him that they were too young to eat prey, and as a tom, he could not sustain them for the months it would be until they began eating solid food. Would a merciful cat simply end it here for them? Starvation was neither fast nor painless. Finch did not know, so torn with indecision, he remained there, eyes on the kittens at his paws and heart in his throat.
i loved and i loved and i lost you and it hurts like hell
She had just caught a rather fat rabbit when her gaze went back to the log for the umpteenth time. She had only looked away long enough to grab the rabbit, and what she saw near her kits made her heart fall into her stomach. A tom, a stranger, was close to her precious kittens. The young queen dropped her kill and bolted, leaping over a low bush and shoving at the tom to get him away from the log and her kits. "Back up!" She bellowed at him, puffing up and hissing as her delicate frame heaved with exertion. The kits mewled at her, wondering what was going on for sure. "Quiet, hide." She told them, knowing they wouldn't have given themselves away. No, this was her fault for going so far from them even for so short a time. They could have been...have been...pain lanced through her and she had to push it aside. They were alive, she'd made it in time, that was all that mattered.
Her rear end was pressed against the opening of the log. Now, if he wanted to get to her kits, he'd have to go through her first. "Who are you, what do you want?" Her tone was frigid, her fur standing on end and prepared to fight to the death if she had to. "These are my kits." She'd been alone for so long that now she trusted no one near her kits, no one but her could protect them from the dangerous world they were born into. She had only herself until their little bodies grew big and strong, until she could teach them to hunt and provide for themselves. Only then would it be safe to stop protecting them.
Monfeather's eyes were narrowed at the stranger even as she took his measure. She couldn't take an adult tom-cat, she already knew that. She wasn't strong enough, not after the trip here and with leaf-bare coming. She needed to get a cache of food ready and prepare herself for lean times to come. The kits would survive, even if she had to force herself to go into frozen water in search of fish. Desperation would motivate her, she only prayed she didn't get sick from the entire thing. Who would protect her kits if she were to become sick? Who would make sure they ate and didn't get what she'd caught too? They couldn't do it for themselves?
And she was about to panic, and took a deep breath to keep it from happening. They were fine and she had more immediate problems than the oncoming winter. "Speak stranger."
How much time had passed since he had last set eyes on such small creatures? It felt like a lifetime, and it had certainly not been after StoneClan had returned to their home in the valley. He had been such a young cat then, as innocent as the bundles of fur curled peacefully at his paws. So much had happened since then, and with an aching heart, he recalled deeply buried memories, ones whose contents were too painful to completely consider. To feel the warmth of another curled beside him on those cold lonely nights, to feel needed by a companion, to wake to the steady breathing of a den mate – the yearning for the return of such experiences tugged at his heart strings. If life were kind to these kits, never would they be lacking in anything. But he knew nature was not a forgiving master, and to think of the inevitable pain that would one day shatter such blissful innocence was nothing short of depressing. With these heavy thoughts on his mind, he decided that perhaps he ought to take these tiny creatures to the clan that was nearby. They would be far more equipped to care for young cats than he.
And suddenly, out of nowhere, a snarl split the silence, and he turned just in time to see a flash of gray fur – Jay? (though later he acknowledged what he had not had time to consider in that brief instant, which was that Jay would never attack him) – before he was shoved to the side. Legs buckled under the unexpected force, and he fell away in something that was half a flinch and half a stumble. Fur bristling in surprise and pulse racing, he scrambled to his paws, pale green eyes wide as he looked around for his attacker before, fully expecting to feel the fire of sharp claws rake down his back, he managed to stagger out of reach. By the time he turned to face her, she had done the same, standing with her back pressed defensively against the log. Here was the kits’ mother, the loner realized. She had not been far at all, perhaps no more than a few tail lengths away, hidden by the thick foliage and undergrowth of the forest.
He was foolish to have approached such vulnerable kits, even if he had done so with good intentions. The she-cat was young, younger even than him, but there was no mistaking the fire in her eyes. Here stood a loner fully accustomed to taking care of not only herself but also the tiny lives that depended on her for protection and comfort. No hesitation lingered in her gaze as she demanded of him his name and purpose, and Finch could not deny the curl of fear that gathered in his gut. If he could not convince her that he meant no harm, if it came to blows, he was not so confident in his ability to get away unscathed. He had nothing to fight for, nothing to lose, whereas she had everything to lose and more than enough spirit to ensure that it did not happen. Though she undoubtedly felt the weight of the world on her shoulders, she bore it well and seemed to lack the exhaustion that made his limbs heavy. There was something admirable in that.
”Finch,” He replied, voice wary even as he tried to convey that he had not meant to intrude, that his singular aim was to now leave her to her hunting. He could find somewhere else to find prey. ”I was going to help. I did – do – not want to hurt you or your kits, and I didn’t know if they belonged to anyone.” In preparation for the worst, he took another step back, for he would not blame her if she remained unconvinced of his good intentions. He did not have the social graces that Jay had inherited. Please believe me.
i loved and i loved and i lost you and it hurts like hell
She took a deep breath and let it out, allowing her fur to settle down properly even as her ears remained lain back against her skull and her body poised in defense. If he'd wanted to attack he he could have done so already. He was older, probably stronger, and she was weak still. This settled her decision. She would be going to the nests of TreeClan as Lionstar had offered her. She had thought they would be fine, but her 'sleep on it' thought had been shattered by this loner showing up. Her nest wasn't safe, her kits weren't safe. So, to the nests of TreeClan it was. At least until it got warm again, then she'd reevaluate.
Moonfeather chose to accept the tom at his word, easing down slowly while still staring at him. "Are you a Clan cat?" She didn't know, had no way of knowing what the difference between a Clan cat and a local loner would be. But he'd said he wasn't intending them harm, and since he hadn't yet attacked she felt that she could believe him. For now at least.
"I am Moonfeather, these are my kits. I appreciate your concern on their behalf." She sighed and her ears slowly unflattened. "I left dinner over in the glade." Her ears flicked again. "Its a fat rabbit, if you want to stay for dinner." She didn't usually invite strangers, but this tom seemed like he could use a good meal and she was a nurturing she-cat at heart. Besides, he could have killed her kits before she reached them and did not. A show of good faith wouldn't do any harm.
Much to his relief, the she-cat seemed to believe him, and though the guarded caution of the loner remained in the air, the most volatile moment appeared to have passed. Finch remained where he was even as own heartbeat began to return to normal, watching her carefully. An ear flicked, and he shook his head. ”No, I’m not.” He was, however, slightly more familiar with the clan cats and their ways than other warriors. Part of his childhood had been spent among StoneClan – when they had taken refuge with MountainClan – and he had vague memories of warmth and strong bonds between the cats, even as they recovered from their wounds and nursed their injured pride.
The loner she-cat introduced herself as Moonfeather, and he inclined his head slightly. Then she invited him to dinner. Finch froze. The prospect of sharing prey with someone was a pleasant one. It felt like a lifetime had passed since he ate his prey at anything speed other than as fast as possible. He had not had a companion with whom he could enjoy a meal in such a long time, and for one brief moment, he was sorely tempted. Then his eyes strayed to her kits. She was a young mother, and she had two other mouths to feed. She needed every bite of that rabbit she could get, and it wasn’t fair of him to take what he was perfectly capable of attaining for himself. And, if he was honest with himself, he was not inclined to spend any more time than necessary in the presence of the she-cat. She seemed polite enough, kind enough, but her attack (and he didn’t blame her for defending her kits, not when he would have done the same thing to protect his loved ones) had unearthed loosely buried memories. Instinct and the fear that nipped at him had the loner wanting to retreat to the relative safety of his solitude once more.
”I’m all set,” Finch declined the offer, backing away slightly. ”Thanks, but I have to go.” He thought that she probably really wanted him there just about as much he wanted to be there – not at all. It was for the better that he leave the small family in peace; there would be prey somewhere else.
i loved and i loved and i lost you and it hurts like hell