The last bit of sunlight faded behind the trunks of the trees. The camp was gradually coming to life. Apprentices were some of the first out and about ready to finish their chores before they could start training. Stormripple joined some of the early risers, having offered to take a couple of apprentices to go hunting.
The entire endeavor went over well and by the time they returned home, the stars are truly started to shine. He dropped off his kill and found himself a place to relax. Thankful the heat of the day had burned off, he was able to sit in the camp clearing and relax. Temptation rose to take a nap but instead, he decided to groom his pelt. It wasn't an easy task given how fluffy his fur stayed. No amount of shedding seemed to help, not that actually complained. Taking pride in his appearance was something he enjoyed, so settled in.
TaxxZeneka SUPER RUSTY WITH STORM I AM SO SORRY I AM TRASH! notes
Crowflame, being assigned for the dusk patrol, had woken refreshed, sleeping away the worst of the heat, sliding from the warriors' den into the cooler air of nightfall. She stretched, grabbed a quick meal, and then trotted after her Clanmates as they headed through the tunnel to the forest beyond.
She returned some time later, sharing a joke with Acorntail as the two entered the camp, but the younger tom split off to dart toward his father; Crowflame's gaze swept the camp and settled on Stormripple, who was in the middle of a grooming session. She padded over, greeting the fluffy tom with a cheery call. "Hi there, Stormripple. Saw you with those apprentices! Did they wear you out?" As energetic as young cats could be, she wouldn't be surprised if they had.
Dropping at his side, Crowflame turned to groom her own coat- not as long as the tom's, but thick enough, especially on her tail. "Maybe next time I can go with you? I'm not that long out of apprenticeship myself, I think I can keep up with a few excited youngsters. What do you think?"
Snakestep had been fortunate enough to sleep in a bit, not assigned to any patrols until later in the night, and when he’d woken he’d gone to the nursery to visit with Applewhisker for a little while. He’d taken to spending more time with her since Briarthroat’s death. It was starting to feel like he really was cursed, like some cats whispered as he passed by. He still remembered the day he heard two of the warriors talking about him, back when he’d still been an apprentice.
“Can you blame a she-cat for abandoning a kit with eyes like blood? That’s a bad omen if I ever saw one. Surely he’s cursed.”
Maybe Scratch had had the right idea. First Honeywhisker had died, then Briarthroat. They had run into Tadpole again only for his brother to completely ignore his existence. He was starting to fear that he would lose everyone that got close to him, but he didn’t have the strength to push them away, the fear only made him cling tighter. He didn’t want to be abandoned by everyone.
As he slipped out of the nursery, he spotted a familiar white pelt across the camp as Crowflame settled beside Stormripple. That all too familiar rush of warmth greeted him upon seeing the she-cat he had been spending more and more time with lately and he started over toward them, plumed tail waving in the air like a banner. “Hey Crowflame, Stormripple. Mind if I join you?” he eyed Stormripple’s thick pelt, which he had been in the middle of grooming, “I can help you, if you’d like.”
He didn’t know Stormripple that well, but sharing tongues was normal in the Clans. It built bonds of familiarity and trust between Clanmates. While part of him wasn’t sure if he should be drawing any more cats close to him, he found he couldn’t help it. Maybe that was part of his curse too.
A particular knot of fur had taken up most of his attention. A thorn had created the tangle, requiring a delicate approach. The last thing he wanted to do was pull out fur. His ears perked mid-extraction to the sound of Crowflame's voice. Ears pitching forward he smiled in greeting. "Nah, it will take more then a few apprentices to wear me out," He boasted, tossing the fluff of his fur a bit. Showing off for his own ego's sake. A storm cloud colored lion.
Not usually the center of attention, despite his best efforts, Stormripple couldn't hide his surprised expression when she sat near him. She continued to talk to him, which made his smile widen. Finally given the attention he sought daily, Stormripple ignored the thorn in his fur to focus on her. "That would be nice, I'm sure they will enjoy getting out of camp regardless of who takes them," He thought about offering to take her tomorrow when he went on a border patrol but stopped at the sound of his voice.
Snakestep joined them, Stormripple couldn't help but beam at all the company. Even if his sudden popularity would be short-lived, Stormripple soaked it up. He nodded his agreement to Snakestep joining him and sharing tongues. "Yeah I'd like that, it sometimes takes forever, especially since I have all these stupid thorns," Pointing with a forepaw to each. "Most annoying thing about having a thick pelt," His comment was more of an internal thought vocalized.
"Crowflame just offered to join me the next time I take the apprentices out, would you be interested? The more the merrier," Cheerful and eager to finally have real friends, Stormripple didn't want to miss out on the chance.
Crowflame purred as Stormripple gave a breezy reply, boasting about his ability to handle the enthusiasm of apprentices without help. With a nod, she accepted his reply that he would appreciate her company the next time they took the apprentices out, and she flipped her tail to rest at her side. "Just let me know, then, and I'll tag along."
Snakestep's arrival was met with open cheer and she shuffled closer to him. "You're always welcome! How have you been tonight, Snakestep? And of course you should come. Three's better than two when it comes to apprentices!" She watched, paws tucked to her chest, as he offered to help Stormripple groom out his pelt, and she blinked as she looked the gray tom over. "Thorns? That won't do- I'll help too."
Less asking than outright going for it, and she leaning over to peer at the tom's thick pelt. Spotting a thorn, she reached over to hook it out with a gentle nip of teeth and then ran her tongue over the spot to smooth the fur down again. "Did you run right through a bramble bush?" she asked him, purring at her tease before continuing the search. "Snakestep's next." Blue eyes gleamed at the albino tom good-naturedly but she didn't stop.