the word fell from her lips and she stared at the male in horror, disbelief. no, no, this can't be happening. nightstar, he couldn't be gone. she needed him, now more than ever. she needed his smile and his eyes and their late night walks. he couldn't just be gone, he couldn't have left her. but lionsighted, lionstar, whatever, he had no reason to lie to her.
tears welled in her eyes and she bit back a scream of frustration and anger. he was her everything, and he was just... gone. her eyes slid shut and a long minute passed before she let out a slow breath, eyes opening and shifting between the pair. "they tried to kill me. the rogues who took me, they tried to kill me over and over again. and every time they did, i kept fighting because i could come home to him, but he's- he's not here." she sucked in a sharp breath, steadied herself for a moment, managed to cast a weak smile at jaggedpaw, then glanced back to the male. "well... i'm back, i guess. maybe one day he'll come back too. until then, though, i suppose i'll go back to being a dutiful warrior." she didn't expect to be deputy again, and she certainly wasn't going back to the life of a loner. her clan was all she had left now, wasn't it?
join. something about that word rubbed her wrong. she didn't have to join, who did he think she was? did he forget? no, no, he knew her name all right. she'd fought for this clan, nearly died for them time and time again. she had a mate here, children here - maybe she wasn't born into a clan, but she'd be damned if anyone called her less than a warrior for it. she fought twice as hard as any of them for her life, for her world.
"i'm not here to join, lionsighted." she told him with a light laugh, trying not to show how bothered that accusation made her. "i never left. i'm just- i'm just coming home. where's nightstar? i've missed him. and our- our children, where are they?" she craned her neck, the tall feline peering behind the male, curious for the approach of her family. surely they'd come, right? they'd catch her scent, come running, welcome her home with open arms?
they'd broken her body, but not her. months on end, she'd been ruined. her bones had been broken, her body beaten, her blood spilled, but she stayed strong. every time it hurt, every time she thought she was going to die, she remembered him. her night, her piller, her confidant. she thought about her children, waiting for her, needing their mother. these thoughts got her through every claw, every tooth, every night without food and day without water. the promise of seeing them one day, however slim the chance, it was something for her. it was everything.
if only she knew, maybe she would have given up, she would have given in. if only she knew that everything she'd ever loved was gone, and all that remained beyond this border were friends who'd moved on after nearly three seasons. maybe giving in to the pain, the dark, the everything would have been easier. but she didn't know, and that was the saving grace.
the former deputy stood at the border of shadowclan, ginger fur recently cleaned, moss colored eyes watching the space around her eagerly, hopefully. had her mate moved on? she prayed not. her children - oh, they must be nearly grown by now. would they remember their mother? would they understand why she was gone, understand why she'd been fighting for so long? she prayed they would. she needed her family back, her life back.
her daughters scream could wake sweetrose from the dead. and, in fact, it just about did.
the deputy had been exhausted. sneaking off to the den she shared with her mate for just a few winks of sleep, she'd slowly been lulled out of consciousness and...
the faintest of wails sent the new mother bolting upwards, eyes wide. scrabbling to her paws, a little more clumsy than usual, the deputy hauled ass out of the den and the camp, following her daughters voice. she's okay, she's okay. it wasn't deathwish, it wasn't deathwish. she kept telling herself these things as she forced her way through the forest, a look of horror on her face upon regarding her kitten.
"orangekit!" she whispered, full of fear, panic as she stared at kitten. "RIDDLE! SOMEONE GET RIDDLE!" she howled, imagining the worst.
she was feeling drained. playing doting deputy, doting mother, it took a lot out of her. as much as she loved what she did, it was... it was hard. she and nightstar hadn't spent much time together, and he'd always been her crutch. he made it all feel less... heavy.
with the camp quiet, their children fast asleep, the world seemingly abandoned - sweetrose stole a few moments to slip into their den, eyeing her mate. giving him a small, warm, familiar smile, sweetrose approached him on silent, tentative paws. "hey night." she greeted, voice low, soft.
the deputy was close behind her mate, mossy eyes focused on the stranger. they were still allies with bloodclan, even just barely. would bloodclan send a spy? or perhaps this male genuinely wanted to join - if so, he was bad at first impressions.
sweetrose was silet, eyes shifting to nightstar, waiting for a response.
the horror on the deputys face was nothing compared to the horror in her chest. "hemlock!" sweetrose shouted, rushing to her son immediately and moving to lift him by the scruff and move him even further from the berry.
"don't ever touch those. one little lick and you'll die the most painful death imaginable." she told him, ears flat and worry in her eyes.