It had been a long night. He'd been out hours now, mostly due to the loner that had stopped him while he'd gone out walking to clear his head. After that heated encounter he just wanted a moment with his mate. Just a short scrap of her time to talk to her, to feel loved again if just for a little while. So he'd asked her to walk with him, to come to the creek so they could talk. About many things. About the loner, about the kit now grown to apprentice and her future, about them as a couple. He needed to feel part of her life, he loved Firestar with all his heart and soul, why couldn't they be happy? Why couldn't she make time for him? Did other mates of leaders have this problem? He didn't know, and didn't think it appropriate to ask.
As they walked on he felt steadily more relaxed. The loner hadn't followed them, he'd been watching to make sure. Perhaps now was a good time to simply talk to his beloved Firestar. "Are you alright?"
Hellion OOC : Sorry for the short, its been a long day of posts.
Firestar was still a little anxious considering the interaction with the loner, but she hid it well. The last thing she wanted was to worry Russetfall. At his request to walk with him before going back to camp, Firestar nodded with a smile. She missed her mate and while they often shared a den together, it wasn't the same. Firestar rarely got to just sit with him and remind herself why she loved him. Walking beside him, she stole upward glances, him being the taller cat.
Despite being older than her, Firestar was glad that he hadn't brought up joining the elder's den to her. She wouldn't know what to do with herself. Russetfall would always be a warrior, her most trusted warrior even before Redscar.
While she had chosen Redscar to be her deputy, she had considered Russetfall for the job but realized she wouldn't want to risk his safety. Russetfall was safer that way. Firestar needed him to be safe and she was openly concerned about it. Sometimes more than her own.
Distracted for a moment, Firestar barely managed to hear his question. Turning her ears, then shifting her gaze toward him she exhaled loudly.
"I'm fine, I was a little nervous that he would try to attack us, but I don't think he'd be that mouse-brained," Firestar answered finding themselves a place to sit.
"Are you okay? I was worried about you when I went to my den and you weren't there," She told him, sitting beside him and gently leaning against him. The benefits of being smaller than him was that he was easy to feel protected when sitting beside him. She loved that about him, how safe she felt.
"I'm twice his size. Even loners aren't that stupid." And even an aged warrior was more than a match for a skinny loner. His fur bristled slightly in memory, but at her question he settled down, looking briefly at the sky before turning his attention to his mate. He was checking the time. No reason to keep her out all night if he could help it. Firestar needed her rest, after all, with all the demands there were for her time. He settled himself before answering.
"I'm fine. More aggravated than anything." A frown marred his handsome features as he considered things. "He's so young, so unbelievably reckless." He let out a breath. There was much to say about the entire situation, and he still wanted to give his heart something to hold onto for awhile. Who knew how long it would be before he was able to speak with her again, to have her attention on him alone?
"I know the rules are in place for a reason, but..." He looked at her. "He sounded more like a parent than a sibling. As a father it killed me to hear him talk about digging his paws raw in the snow thinking she was dead. For a mistake that, were he a clan-cat, would have been avoided. I just wonder how long he's been on his own without anyone to teach him what he needs to survive." He shrugged. "If he were nicer I'd try and teach him how to get on better and see if he would be able to eventually join the clan. As it stands I think he'd shred me if I tried." He would have liked the small family to stay together, but given Shadow's temperment that was impossible.
The aged tom looked back to the sky. "Its been awhile since we've been out together, hasn't it Firestar?"
Firestar let slip a short laugh. It was easier when she was around Russetfall to revert back a slightly more playful nature. She didn't have to mantain a certain dignity around him, he loved her no matter what. While she wouldn't have said it allowed nor would she want pointless fighting, Firestar couldn't help but picture Russetfall defending her and taking on the loner. She was ceratin his muscles would ripple, something she admired even as his apprenitce.
She noted that he looked up to the sky. For a moment she wondered if he was looking for a family member in the sky. Firestar often sought to look at the stars and wonder about her mother. Their relationship had been tiring, to say the least.
Hearing Russetfall's reply about how he felt, had Firestar nodding along. She agreed. Shadow was reckless and possibly a danger to her Clan. She'd talk with Brightpool first thing and discuss with Redscar about upping patrols to keep the loner out of their territory.
However, as she planned her next course of action Firestar couldn't help but feel guilty. She had been strict with the tom and didn't feel pity for him. Perhaps it was her way not to feel bad for loners. If every loner came into the clan, what would be left? Pushing aside the purist thought, Firestar had to make herself recognize that all cats had come from somewhere else. What made them LightingClan was their loyalty, not their blood.
Pressing even more into his frame, Firestar reminded herself of his scent, not that she'd ever forgotten it. But it was something silly that only even sillier she-cats did when they first fell in love. While it had been moons since they declared themselves mates, Firestar still felt a certain underlying rush of giddiness when she thought of Russetfall, the love for him was never gone from her heart, just push aside by her head. His question was an added reminder of what he had given up to be with her. She had to admit to herself it probably wasn't very easy and a darker part of herself wondered if he regretted staying with her.
"It has been far too long. I miss our talks and our walks. I'm sorry that I'm always busy," She meowed before tilting her head up to nuzzle at his neck. It was meant to be comforting and loving, but Firestar felt like it was just cobweb over an old wound. She had pushed him aside from many moons and even if they still loved each other, no words could heal the hurt.
He rubbed his head against the top of her sas she pressed against him, though the action seemed almost pointless. He was deeply heartsick, and wondered if she even loved him anymore. The clan was more important than everything; than him, than their now grown kits, everything. But he accepted whatever scraps of attention she'd give him because he loved her still. They'd come so far together, and it was his wish that they go forward together until StarClan called each of them away.
"Its okay, I understand." No, it wasn't okay. It really wasn't okay, and saying it was burned inside his chest almost as though it were a lie. It wasn't okay, and he didn't understand. She was almost a stranger to him, and did she even notice how much he butted heads with their headstrong son? He spent all his time with his grown offspring, trying to help them with their lives, trying to remain part of their lives while their mother drifted steadily further out of reach.
These dark thoughts didn't reach his features, and he remained the dutiful mate, kind and generous and understanding even as his spirit felt shredded. Why? Why was it so hard for her to take even one day to be with her family, to be with him? She'd given everything to the clan, so what was left for the one that loved her most?
Hellion OOC : Sorry for the delay, but this saves Firestar if she needed it for check.
A purr warmed her throat as he rubbed his head against hers. If she could she'd stay like that forever, wrapped up in his love. She heard his words but had a hard time believing them. She knew if their rank dynamics were reversed she'd be jealous of his dedication.
However, Firestar was going to embrace the moment between them instead of pointing out that she didn't believe his words.
Tucking even closer against him, her tongue poked out to lick at the fur she had access to. It was a soothing gesture, one that hadn't gotten to indulge in besides a few quick sessions of grooming before they started the day.
"Russetfall, you know I love you right." The words did seem to come out of nowhere, but in fact they were rooted in her earlier concern. The feeling he wasn't telling her the full truth of his feelings. Perhaps if pointed out the tension in a casual way, he'd tell her the full truth. She didn't stop her grooming but she did slow down, so she could hear his answer.
Then why, if he knew it, had his chest become tight at her words and a burning started in his eyes. He felt as though she were lying to him, even with the grooming she was doing and the cuddling they were engaging in. An act between two cats that had been together for so long that it was second nature. But did it mean anything to her anymore?
To the outside, for Firestar, he remained as ever calm and deeply in love with his mate. But that tranquil shell cracked some with a strangled sound that escaped his carefully held control. Just that, just a sound that marked a soul deep despair that he dare not show to his mate.
He put his gaze to the sky, and pretended he hadn't just done that. "StarClan has a plan for each of us, don't they?" He didn't know why he was asking her, but as someone that had always believed deeply in the path of StarClan and that those that came before went there as they passed he had to say something. Anything to not address that he was coming apart inside.
Firestar grew gradually more and more concern. Russetfall was there, but at the same time he wasn't. He felt tail lengths away and the calico she-cat didn't understand why. She did admit that things hadn't always been easy for the two of them, but they would always be okay in the end. They made it this far, right?
A wave of confusion overcame the leader as Russetfall brought up StarClan. What brought that on? She wondered. Was he getting dreams from StarClan? A warning? Something he needed to tell her.
Leaning back slightly the smaller cat, looked at him with sweet amber glazed eyes. "I hope so. I think StarClan has a plan for each of us but it's up to us to decide to follow or take a different route," Firestar answered, letting a purr warm her throat and escape easily to his ears.
"Russetfall, sweetheart, is something wrong?" She asked him her head titlting slightly.
She had no idea, did she? And he simply didn't have the heart to tell her. Not now. "Nothing's wrong. I'm just tired." Which he was, but it was a sort of weariness that sleep wasn't going to fix. Time was now against them. She was leader, and him? He was an afterthought. History would note him only as the cat that was a leader's mate, nothing more. That was okay, he didn't expect to be remembered. The only ones that he wanted to remember him were those that came from him. His kits, grandkits should any come, his mate. They were who mattered, his family.
And that family was slowly drifting apart. It didn't help matters any that what little time Firestar did have was divided further because she had a brother that was pretty much a useless waste of prey. Wildstripe was a cat that remained a warrior by the grace of his sister, not his own merrit. He'd been the cause of one of her lives being lost, of two she-cats dying because he couldn't see to help them.
He felt hatred burn through him at the thought. If it didn't go against the Code, he'd have killed him by now. Not something he wanted to bring up to Firestar. She'd probably skin him.
Firestar at first wanted to question his notion of being tired. Since when did Russetfall get tired? Perhaps his age had caught up with him, not that she'd ever judge. He was over eighty moons and while she hated the idea of him retiring. She knew it was something he'd need to consider. However, she kept her mouth shut about the idea and instead focused on him.
The smell of his fur, the press of his rising and falling chest. The comfort he provided was all she could ever ask for. Russetfall was her rock and if he did go to the elder's den she wasn't sure what would happen. Who else could she turn to? Redscar was a good deputy but Russetfall knew her train of thought. For a brief and fleeting moment, Firestar regretted choosing the young orange tom. But when she realized the risk she'd be taking, Firestar was glad of her choice.
A deputy only rose to power when their leader died or retired and a leader often outlived at least one deputy. Firestar feared the idea of outliving Russetfall, a fear second to outliving her kits. She wanted to be dead and buried before either of her kits joined the earth.
Flicking her ears as a small breeze tickled them. She titled her head back up to Russetfall, moving enough to be able to lick his cheek. She realized in the shred of silence between them that she had put so much on hold. Her rank in LightingClan and extended lives would make growing old with him difficult. Something that hadn't crossed her mind until she was confronted with the truth that he was indeed getting older. "Thank you for staying close to me. For letting me lead LightingClan. I couldn't do without you," She told him before again nuzzling his cheek, a purr rumbling again in her chest.
"Where else would I go? I love you Firestar, time hasn't changed that one absolute truth." And in this he looked down into her eyes, held her gaze. It was the most sacred thing he held; how much he loved her. How deeply devoted he was to his mate and to his family. Family came before clan, no matter what anyone else said.
He tried not to think about the fact that she'd outlive him, that there was no way he'd survive alongside her for the entire duration of her lives. Leaders lived longer, could have their do-overs again and again until they burned through their lives. StarClan was both cruel and kind to those that lead the paths of the clans.
Russetfall's heart wasn't cold to his mate, he just felt neglected, drifting, like part of himself was missing. And the longer she was leader the deeper that pain became. There was no way she'd ever step down, so it was a pain he'd deal with until he died. Or became so heartbroken she finally noticed despite how he put on a strong front for her.
As his words travelled to her ears, she noticed it. The shimmer of pain in his voice. How his words felt almost broken. Had loving her done that to him? Had she driven Russetfall into a chevice, where he didn't think he hadn't anywhere else to go. Internal turmoil started to bubble as Firestar took ins his words.
"I'm happy you have stayed but you don't have to..." She replied back her voice trailing off for a moment. Realizing that the rest were caught in her throat. Speaking to him about matters of her heart was like pulling a dozen thorns from her paws. The pain almost endless.
"I love you with all my heart. I love you more than all the stars in StarClan, but I don't want you to feel like you are stuck," She added after a moment. Forcing the words even if they came out rushed and shakey. She didn't want Russetfall to suffer and knowing that he probably was, made her entire body ache. She was realizing now that she had been cruel to him. Made him walk behind her as she pushed forth and abandoned her duties as a mate and sometimes as a mother to lead her clan.
"I just want you to be happy. You deserve that," She added and as the words left her they sounded flat. Like she was mentally preparing for the worst. If Russetfall wanted a chance to leave this was it, she just prayed she hadn't ruined everything yet. That they still had time to fix things.