The first time it had happened, Tansykit had yet to open her eyes. She had nursed rather contently while her mother purred and Tansykit worked her tiny paws into the fur of her belly. Flanking her was three siblings, all equally pleased. As a kitten, Tansykit did not question when those purrs of her mother tapered off, not even when they stopped completely. She made no assumptions and had no thoughts on the matter, only knowing the gentle warmth and love that seemed to come with being so close to her mother.
And then that all went away.
Her mother stood, and Tansykit squalled with the loss of contact. Her mother and the other queens in the nursery exchanged a few quick words that Tansykit couldn't yet understand, and Tansykit found herself at the belly of a cat that was not her mother. Her siblings joined her sides, but a kitten who was not kin of Tansykit crawled over her, nosing her out of her spot. Tansykit turned a half circle, relying only on her nose to find her mother, until the teeth of her not mother gently scruffed her and pulled her back into place. Tansykit let out one last mew, then quieted down and began to nurse.
It was a quarter moon later when Tansykit had seen her mother for the first time. Her eyes had opened and she tottled around the nursery with glee, clamoring over the queens with clumsy steps. They took turns nursing Tansykit along with her siblings, and when they thought she couldn't hear, they exchanged hushed words. Tansykit recognised her mother by smell and bounded for the she-cat, her tail held aloft. One of the queens stood at the sight of Tansykit's mother, bristling.
"'Only going to be gone a moment?' That was a lot longer than a moment." The queen stepped over Tansykit and her siblings, who had all by now swarmed at their mother's feet.
Another piped up, "We were worried sick! You missed them opening their eyes, and they'll be weaned soon."
Her mother crouched defensively over the kit under her belly, as if the angry queens would snatch him away. "I'm back now, alright? I got freaked out it all. It wont happen again."
Quiet settled uneasily over the nursery. Tansykit tried to ignore it in favor of pouncing on her mother's tail, who was waving it playfully. Even hiding it under moss bedding, for Tansykit and her siblings to listen for the rustling and watch for the tiny bump left in the bedding.
Over the next two moons, Tansykit's mother doted on her and her siblings. She didn't spend a single moment away, didn't allow her kits to run and play with the others. Instead demanding that they stay nearby, demanding all of their attention.
"My kit, my kit. My most playful kit." She said to a young tom, with eyes that had went from kitten blue to frost blue.
"My kit, my kit. My most generous kit." She said to the only molly other than Tansykit, who felt herself puff with indignation at the lack of acknowledgement.
"My kit, my kit. My most curious kit." She said to Tansykit's last sibling.
"My kit, my kit. My most beautiful kit." She said to Tansykit. The sun haloed behind her head, gleaming off of her fur and turning her face to shadow. She looked ethereal in the light, and if such a thing found Tansykit beautiful, Tansykit would believe it.
Despite her mother's promises, it happened again. Her mother had been pretending to be a mighty and sneaky fox, attacking the clan. She took wide, exaggerated steps, gnashing her teeth and puffing out her tail. Tansykit, no, Tansyfang, The smartest and bravest of warriors, pounced onto her mother's shoulders and held tight, while her mother tried to shake her off. Lost in the game, Tansykit bit her mother's ear, causing her to yelp and knock Tansykit off with ease.
After that, her mother scolded her, and then for the rest of the evening she was distant again. Looking out into the pine with a far-away look, slow to respond to her name. Ears perked, as if what she was looking for was just out of her hearing range, but if she listened just a little bit closer, she would find it. That night, she was gone. Not from camp, but from the nursery. Slept in the warriors' den, asked to go on hunting patrols. Looked the other way when her kits called out to her.
Life continued in a rather predictable pattern. Tansypaw found herself surprised every time. Her mother hadn't cheered when she had been made an apprentice, but was demanding of her full attention when she was at her first gathering and really just wanted to play whatever game the RiverClan apprentices seemed to be playing. She told Tansypaw endless 'I love you,'s and 'I'm sorry for what happened before, you know it wont happen again, right? right? right? say yes. You know, right? You know? You know?'s
Her siblings stopped talking to their mother, stopped listening. Lonely, beautiful, beautiful, favorite Tansypaw didn't let go. Learned how to navigate confusing conversations. Sometimes, Tansypaw felt like her mother was trying to make Tansypaw say regrettable things, trying to dig out an accidental slip of the tongue. Sometimes, her mother did, and she'd never let it go. With every argument that came with being family, her mother would bring up things that Tansypaw said, that she didn't mean and thought maybe she had been tricked into saying but her mother wouldn't do that, right?
Somewhere halfway through her apprenticeship, Tansypaw learned that her mother did not like being a mother. A long, mostly one sided, rambling conversation, where her mother confessed that even though she loves Tansypaw and her siblings very much, her life has changed since becoming a mother. Changed into something boring, something stressful. She assured Tansypaw that it wasn't her fault, then blamed Tansypaw in the same breath. She said sometimes she fancied a handsome kittypet but she didn't leave, because of Tansypaw, and that Tansypaw should feel grateful that even though she's such a burden on her mother's happiness, her mother didn't leave.
During her vigil, Tansyface thinks. About twisted words, about the whiplash that came from being adored to ignored overnight. Not for the first time, Tansyface felt angry, but for the first time, that anger wasn't washed away by guilt more moments after it's birth. It grew into something that consumed Tansyface, that made her face burn hot and her paws run cold. In the morning, Tansyface confronts her mother,