Gatherings were great opportunities to mingle among the cats of other Clans; to share news and see how those she'd met before were doing. It was rare for a cat to go hungry in greenleaf, so tempers were often more even in this season than in the ones to come. Usually. It wasn't altogether shocking to see Lionstar and Darkstar, NightClan's new leader, at odds with each other; that rivalry might never die.
All thoughts of the quarreling leaders, though, died as she spotted Aspenfire in the next moment- and whatever decrees from the warrior code she was breaking, she couldn't care; her eyes lit up at the sight of the fluffy black-and-white tom and she padded over to him, just barely managing to hold back the purr of greeting. "Hi, there, stranger. It's good to see you again. How're those swimming lessons coming along- or do you need a few refreshing pointers?"
He had purposefully sat alone. A little ways away from his clanmate, glad to be on his own a little.
The days and weeks spent stealing rushed moments with Ferngaze were waning on him. He hadn't seen her in a couple of days and the loss of her company made him uneasy. Since the rescue and subsequent lessons in swimming, she had quickly become his dearest friend. Only in the quiet of his thought would he admit she was something more.
He spent more time daydreaming then a young kit. A joke young the same aged toms that he often went hunting with. They teased the amber-eyed Aspenfire about having been bit by a lovebug. He'd awkwardly dismiss their claims before insisting on a hunting spot close to water. His paws were gradually getting used to being damp, being soaked didn't bother him as much anymore. He hoped to one day catch a fish, show it off to Ferngaze. If he was lucky he'd see her eyes light up like the first time he swam the short distance without her help.
He heard Lionstar's voice and instantly his ears shifted to attention. The hatred between the two Clans wasn't something he enjoyed. In fact, he feared that the rivalry would result in more death. Yes, he'd defend his Clan to his last breath but he didn't want to over petty threats.
At Lionstar's command, he rose to his paws and prepared to leave when her scent caught his nose. All his attention rerouted to her. Eyes flicking with happiness when he saw her. Her greeting warmed his chest and he returned his own much deeper purr.
"It couldn't hurt to have a refresher now and again," He answered, checking behind him to see his clanmates disappear. He should excuse himself and catch up with them, but as he watched Brushfire's tail disappear into the barrier of the gathering place. He couldn't be bothered. His time better spent in Ferngaze's company.
"How have you been? Congrats on the new kits, will you be a mentor to one?" His question was far from smooth but it remained his attempt at conversation.
Ferngaze's blue eyes shone as Aspenfire spotted her and began to purr, the deep sound rumbling in his chest. She dipped her head in agreement to his question, and though her eyes flicked past as the rest of TreeClan headed away from the clearing, it returned to the black-and-white tom within a second. He had to leave soon, but she could make the most of their short time together. "Now?" she asked, tipping her head toward the river. "Or maybe in a little, once the Clans have returned to their own territories?" Her gaze swept over the crowd of cats, wishing she could chase them all off- hating that she couldn't just press herself against Aspenfire and enjoy the warmth and softness of his pelt.
"I've been well. And yes- I look forward to those kits! I hope to mentor one; Ashflight is a close friend and she helped mentor me, when Rushwhisker was hurt." Aspenfire wouldn't know about that, and honestly Ferngaze didn't want to talk about it. The mention of her former mentor had been unintentional and the pang of misery at his loss was as sharp as the day he'd left. Where was he now? How was he doing? She hadn't seen him since, but maybe Ashflight had?
Shaking herself, Ferngaze forced herself to refocus on the conversation at paw. She didn't want to linger on sad memories, not now. She picked up where she'd left off, hoping Aspenfire wouldn't make mention of her brief silence. "It's up to Silverstar, of course, but perhaps by leaf-fall I'll have an apprentice to bring along to Gatherings."
He saw it, a flicker of saddness at the mention of her mentor Rushwhisker. Aspenfire had been a young warrior when he heard the news of Rushwhisker's exile. Rumors spread quickly and while he hadn't heard the news for himself form Silverstar, the rumors he caught weren't kind. They painted Rushwhisker in a horrible way, naming him murderer and bound for the Dark Forest.
Aspenfire was alarmed to learn the Ferngaze had been mentored by him but not enough to ask. It wasn't his place and he preferred to judge a cat at face value. Not how others expected him to.
Glad she didn't fall into despair, Aspenfire didn't point it out. Instead, he shared in her excitement tail flicking happily at the idea of her being a mentor. While he hadn't thought about mentoring his own apprentice, he knew some cats looked forward to the point. Ambition suited some cats.
"That's amazing! I look forward to hearing that you are a mentor. I'm sure you will be great, you've made me a better swimmer already," He praised, risking a gentle touch of his nose to her cheek. A purr rumbling from his chest.
"I should catch up with the others, but lets meet here in three days, so I can get a refresher," His voice barely above a whisper, the longer he lingered at her side the more looks they got. "I look forward to seeing you again," He added a fleeting touch of his nose to her cheek once more before he turned to leave, disappearing into the brush.