noun, plural /əˈfe(ə)r/
1: an event or sequence of events of a specified kind or that has previously been referred to
2: a love affair
♔ we were hooked when we woke,
we had arms for each other,
but I yearned to resume,
my dreams of another ♔
- Roman Payne
Seething under her pelt, Goldflower stormed into her private bedchamber and flung herself down onto the soft, inviting grasses of her nest. For several seconds, she just lay there, facedown, burying her trouble in the comfort of the plush bedding beneath her.
But she couldn't stay like that for long.
Sooner or later, her racing mind caught up to her.
And it brought many images with her, images she'd rather not envision.
Sunstar. Not the distant, work-absorbed Sunstar like he'd been lately. Sunstar when she'd first met him, back when he still went by his original warrior name, Tigerstripe. Back when their love meant something, when she meant something to him.
Now all he cared about was being leader of SunClan.
And then there was Firemask, with his deep russet-brown pelt, steady voice, and kind brown eyes.
So good to her, always there for her.
How could she not fall for him?
And she'd fallen for him in a way she hadn't fallen in a long, long time. Truly in love with him, the way she'd loved Sunstar/Tigerstripe once upon a time.
She didn't love Sunstar like that. Hadn't loved him like that for a while now.
Only she'd been too cowardly and in denial to admit it.
Honestly, what could she have said? Could she have said that the very leader of SunClan himself wasn't good enough for her? They had a son, for crying out loud- that would be unacceptable.
Stormpaw. Her son. Her and Sunstar's son.
He was far more like Sunstar than her. They had the same determination, the same ridiculous stubbornness.
The same cruel habit of wounding cats with their words, and never realizing how much they hurt others.
How much they hurt her.
Despicable. He'd called her despicable, and before that, he'd called her a disgrace(which she'd returned back to him, but still). Not to mention, he'd brought that bedraggled, messy Déclassé cat into their home.
Perhaps she'd been rude too. Actually, scratch that, she had been rude.
What else to do?
Oh, Stormpaw, her troubled son. Even though he'd never believe her if she said it aloud, she did long to help him. She longed to quiet the impetuous, untameable sea inside him, whose waves he drowned in himself. She wanted to be the mother he needed, someone who could listen to his problems and soothe him. He was a special tom, reckless and insensitive and heartbreaking and bold. Untouchable. She'd never been able to touch him, touch his heart, not once in her life.
Maybe it was the same way with Sunstar. Even when they'd been in the throes of their relationship, the golden days, had he ever even truly loved her?
Or had she just always been a substitute for him? Something to fill a void in his heart till he acquired his dream of leading SunClan.
Eyes smarting with unshed tears, Goldflower sat up in her nest, gazing sadly about the confines of her bedchamber.
She had everything. Everything.
So why did she, day in and day out, feel so empty?
♔ ♔ ♔
Her name was Featherpaw.
Wow, that had taken a while for her to admit to him, hadn't it? Stormpaw had never met someone so odd. One moment she was a little spitfire of rude words and yelling, and the next she was gazing down at him with a winsome sort of gentleness, and touching her nose to his forehead as if he were a little kit.
And he'd told her about his mother's affair. He wasn't sure exactly why. It wasn't like she could understand it, or anything.
Maybe he'd just wanted to tell someone, anyone at all?
Or maybe it was just something about Featherpaw that made him trust her- despite all the cruel words they'd exchanged.
After all, he was heading back to her den. To stay the night. And though he'd told her that it was just because he really hated his mother and didn't want to be at home with her, that wasn't exactly true...
Intriguing. He found Featherpaw intriguing.
Few cats intrigued Stormpaw(most annoyed and bothered him), and he found himself unable to let go of this one quite yet.
Of course, she annoyed and bothered him too. Very much so.
Ugh, his thinking was going in circles now. He decided to just stop it. Thinking never got anyone anywhere anyway.
"It's getting dark outside." Featherpaw's voice was small and soft in the twilit air.
"Yep." His words were muffled slightly by the mouse he held in his jaws; the rest of the prey was stuffed into a grass pouch he carried around his neck. For some strange reason, Featherpaw had found the concept of grass-pouches insanely clever; he didn't quite understand this fascination, as they'd been a piece of technology he'd utilized his entire life to carry all sorts of things.
He made a mental note to give her a grass pouch as a gift. StarClan knew she needed it, if she had to make the journey to and back from Main every single day.
"Thanks again. For the prey, and for helping me to carry it back-"
"Stop thanking me," he interrupted. "Need I remind you that I'm getting something out of this too?"
She chuckled. "My mother will have a heart attack when she realizes Sunstar's son is coming to visit."
"Eh, tell her she doesn't really have to worry. I'll be comfortable just about anywhere."
Dubiously, she shook her head. "I don't really believe that- wait till you see my den in Déclassé. It's really tiny; most of the time we just sleep in one big furry heap in a corner. Although that's also to help ward off the chills."
Stormpaw shrugged. "I can deal."
"Again- you say that now. But you're a spoiled Riche brat; no way are you going to be fine with sleeping on our dirt floor with my three younger siblings snoring in your ears. You'll probably turn tail and run back to your home, with your dear private bedchamber," she smirked.
For a second, he just studied her, not sure if she meant to be offensive in a mean way or if she was just kidding. Her face betrayed nothing, so he shrugged and decided to take it as a gentle teasing. "Yeah right. I may be Riche, but I'm tough."
Almost loftily, she gave him another doubtful glance. "We'll see about that."
"Yes," he said, lifting his chin and glaring at her. "I guess they will."
They continued their trek into Déclassé in silence.
So much silence, in fact, that when Featherpaw next spoke, it nearly scared him out of his fur. "We're almost there. My den's nestled on the other side of that hill."
The "hill" she referred to was really no more than a shallow mound of dirt sloping up from the grass, and Stormpaw fought the urge to pull a face at it. He'd promised not to complain, hadn't he? Besides, he wasn't in the mood to be murdered, and he knew Featherpaw wouldn't hesitate to brutally slit his throat and leave his body for the vultures if he was rude about her home.
Letting her lead the way, the gray tom followed behind as she stopped in front of a narrow, dirt-fringed opening that was cut into the side of the hill. "Dewpool?" she called softly into the cave. "It's me, Featherpaw. And I have... a visitor with me."
Soft stirrings of fur brushing fur and quiet pawsteps came from within the den, and seconds later a pale she-cat stepped out of the den and into the early moonlight. Stormpaw was taken aback at how much Featherpaw and her mother looked alike; they could be replicas of each other, with the same ash-and-snow tabby fur and round green eyes.
"Hello," he said politely, to the haggard Dewpool. "I'm Stormpaw."
It took a moment for his name to register, but when it did, her jaw dropped a little, parting to reveal a flash of pink. "S-Stormpaw? As in Sunstar's son?"
Featherpaw seemed puzzled by the fact that her mother recognized the name. "Wait, are you famous or something?" she asked Stormpaw. "Was I stupid for not realizing who you were instantly?"
"No, but you are stupid," he assured her, before remembering Dewpool and ducking his head in embarassment. Probably not the best way to make a good impression.
Luckily, Dewpool hardly seemed to notice. Turning to her daughter with a completely bewildered expression, she said, "Featherpaw, would you care to explain why the heir of SunClan is standing in front of our den?"
"Oh, certainly!" Featherpaw exclaimed in an overly-false smile. Stormpaw found himself fighting to hide a smile as she continued, "You see, it's a rather long story that began when he ran into me and made me drop all my roses. 'Twas tragic, actually."
Interesting. Featherpaw seemed to be shy most of the time, but apparently there were two things that brought out her sassier side. Her family, and him.
Actually, he more brought out her murderous side, but...
"This sounds like a long, winded story that I'm going to need to sit down for," Dewpool sighed, obviously familiar with her daughter's theatrics. "Come on inside. Both of you."
As they ducked into the den, Stormpaw found his vision eclipsed by darkness; it took a moment for his eyes to adjust and make out dim shapes. When he was able to see reasonably though, he nearly ran into a wall- a wall he hadn't been expecting to be there. Why were the walls so close together?
Oh. In a few seconds, he got his explanation.
Everything was close together. The den was tiny.
If Dewpool and Featherpaw knew what he was thinking, which they most likely did, neither one acknowledged it- though Featherpaw gave him a sort of rueful glance that he couldn't quite decipher. Instead, both she-cats made their way over to the far side of the petite den, bending over a furry mound that soon revealed itself to be composed of three separate individuals; three kits.
"Stormpaw, meet my little brothers and sister: Daykit, Nightkit, and Morningkit," Featherpaw said, and whatever shame she seemed to have possessed over her living space evaporated. The pride in her voice over her siblings was evident, tangible.
Each kit matched their name perfectly: Daykit was a pale orange tabby, the color of the afternoon sun, Nightkit was midnight black, and Morningkit was a soft gray-blue, the color of the sky right before the sunrise.