Gladefall would be a good deputy. Although Swanfeather didn't know him very well, he had Twistedstar's - and by extension, Nightstar's - trust, and that was all he needed to know.

    The warrior's ears perked up as the new leader mentioned the patrols. Although he burned with curiosity to go to BloodClan, he knew it wasn't his place as one of the younger warriors. Besides, the chance to see Smokehaze and Rosebriar set his heart pounding excitedly. "I'll go to WindClan!" He piped up quickly. His ears immediately flattened a little at the sound of his voice sounding out in the otherwise quiet crowd, and the tom was hit with a pang of self-consciousness. Yeah, sound a little more enthusiastic, mouse-brain. "Th-That is, if it's okay," he stuttered out quickly. Ugh, he sounded like an apprentice. Since when was he nervous speaking in front of his own clan mates?

    Swan was relieved to hear that he'd be welcome on the patrol, even if he didn't know the other cats very well. He chuckled with along with Heronswoop, happy to know that she wasn't the best land hunter either. At least if he messed up in front of her it wouldn't be completely embarrassing. "I can't catch birds either," he admitted. "I always miss the pounce." He padded by the calico's side as the group slipped out of camp. "I can't wait to fish in the river again. I feel like half a warrior, now that I'm bringing back way less fresh-kill than I used to." He was joking, but there was some truth there too. Guilt pricked at his fur whenever he brought his meager catches back to camp. Though he knew it was irrational, he could never shake the feeling that if he was just a better warrior, then maybe RiverClan wouldn't be slowly starving before him.

    At Nightfall's sudden appearance, Swanfeather only gently shook his head. He didn't like always saying no to the poor kit, but this was different from a little adventure to the reeds outside the camp. The patrol was going to the edge of the territory, and it was just too dangerous for her to be out there with them. "No, Nightfall. Stay in the camp. I'll be back soon, okay?" He said gently to the kit, giving her a quick lick before nudging her back in the direction of the clearing.

    "Sometimes I feel like I'm becoming a father to her..." he murmured as the patrol got further out from the camp, to no one in particular. He cared about Nightfall, but the idea that he was taking on that kind of responsibility set his heart racing anxiously. Forcing his thoughts to return to hunting, he turned to Heronswoop, amber eyes suddenly lighting up with an idea. "Hey, maybe we can work together! That's how ThunderClan catches squirrels and stuff, right? One cat scares it, then the other goes for the kill... something like that. I don't know, maybe we'll have better luck hunting if we try their technique?" He regarded the she-cat with a bright grin, suddenly excited to try out something new.

    im still figuring out his character, but i've decided that when he's around kits swan's adventureness becomes more Responsible Dad Friend, but he's not super good at it. ie he'll be kind of discouraging of ocean sneaking out but also not very good at stopping her and will probably forget that he's supposed to be responsible after a little bit.

    i'd make a thread but im a little swamped rn, but ill be super happy to join in if you can get one started :)) i love ocean and i think swan will too

    yooo uhh since me n night retconned swan as night's adopted lil bro, and especially now that she's gonna be in the med den for a while.. maybe they could have a family relationship instead of him going total absentee uncle on ocean?

    swan is v chill n laid back so he'd really like ocean's high energy. the few things that get him fired are up are debate (politics) and adventurous/thrill seeking nonsense.

    i cant think of anything specific rn but lemme know what you think!! i think it could be fun :)

    Seeing Finchpaw's unwavering brightness, the worried, slightly pitying look that Swan had unconsciously taken on melted away. It was replaced by the lazy half-grin that usually occupied his features.

    He bounded up the tree after them, his powerful strides and strong grip making quick work of the low branches. He knew he hadn't been invited, was maybe even unwelcome as an intrusive, mothering figure. But darn it, Nightfall was still a kit, if one clearly predisposed to climbing. And Finchpaw's clawless paws wouldn't be able to drag her weight up if she slipped. He was going to follow them to every branch whether they liked it or not.

    Swan flinched a little at how directly Nightfall addressed Finch's disability. Hell, he could only just barely muster a sense of tact and diplomacy on the best of days, and even he would have been a little more discreet about it. But that was the nature of kithood, he supposed. And her tone had been kind.

    The tom's amber eyes focused on Finchpaw, watching the pair from his spot at the base of the tree. The medic apprentice had already seemed a little out of it when she first arrived -- hopefully she wouldn't be discouraged by Nightfall's first comment. He was ready to step in should the situation need defusing, but hoped he wouldn't. Conflict resolution really wasn't one of his strong suits. And besides, the warrior didn't know if he would be able to bear seeing Finchpaw's feelings be hurt.

    "Wait up! I'm coming!" Swanfeather panted as he bounded after the patrol, catching up just as they were leaving the camp. Heronswoop, Toadjump, Berylbreeze, and Beewing padded together in a group -- all cats he didn't know very well. It was the perfect chance to make some new friends.

    Although Swanfeather had probably spent more time hunting than he ever had since the river was poisoned, he just couldn't quite get the hang of it. Day-long expeditions saw him returning to camp with only a mouse or two, maybe a little more if he had been lucky. He was just too unwieldy; his wide, clumsy paws found every twig to snap underfoot and his fur got tangled in every thorn he brushed by. And he especially didn't have the fluid agility needed to bring down a bird or chase after a squirrel through the undergrowth. Why did the river have to get poisoned? He thought grumpily. Fishing is so much easier...

    But maybe one of these cats could teach him a thing or two. StarClan knew he needed the help. "Hey," he greeted the others, a little out of breath from his mad sprint across the camp. "Are any of you good hunters? I could really use some tips."

    //hrrnnnghh swan is too THICC to hunt mice

    Swanfeather took in Bumble's words with interest. Although he knew that groups other than the Clans had their own way of running things, he had never actually heard any of their ways of living described in detail. It all sounded so fascinating, and the thought of adventure always tugged at his paws to find new cats and live new experiences. Maybe one day, when he was older and RiverClan was doing well, he would visit the Tribe in their far-off mountains.

    For now though, he responded to the Tribe cat with quiet expressions of acknowledgement, soft "hmm"s and "oh"s filling the gaps between Bumble's sentences. As he and Heronswoop reached the camp, he was about to call out Nightstar's name before realizing that she was too sick to attend to her duties. The deputy, a cat Swanfeather hadn't spoken much with, was now taking over her responsibilities.

    "Twistedtail?" He called into the clearing. "The stoneteller of the Tribe of Rushing Water is here to see you."


    Swanfeather nodded. There wasn't much else he could say. It was clear that a meeting like this one was unlikely to happen again, but he was glad that it had.

    "I'll see you around then, I guess," he said with another gentle smile. With that he dipped his head in goodbye and turned, making his way back through the marshes and fields back to camp. It all felt a little bittersweet, but he didn't want to dwell on that for now.

    Letting out a deep sigh as he walked, a hint of a smile tugged at the warrior's mouth. Today had been a better day than he had been expecting. Even if he never saw her again, this one chance encounter had helped him, somehow.

    Get some water for the kits, he reminded himself. And with that, his thoughts of Smokehaze were replaced by all the responsibilities and anxieties that swirled in his mind night and day. Maybe he would think of her again some time, but for now he had other things to worry about.

    //aaaa i love smoke <33 sorry if i rushed the thread a little, i sometimes do that by accident with these long-form interaction/development things... anyways, swan is dumb and catches (shallow) feelings way to easily so he might be thinkn' of her for a bit (which should very much be unrequited, he's just an idiot). also there might be a minigathering coming up w/ wc + rc involved so maybe it would be cool if they had a random interaction there? idk. lmk if you want them to have another thread any time, but for now thanks for doing this one!! it was a lot of fun, i hope you and smoke enjoyed it too <3333

    The tom flattened his ears, a little embarrassed at Smokehaze's half-suppressed laughter. StarClan, I'm not an apprentice. I should just come right out and say it if I want to see her again.

    But she surprised him by asking first. Do you want to meet again? The words echoed through his ears. Of course! He wanted to say. But where? When? They had their own lives, their own responsibilities, no way to communicate outside of a chance encounter like this one. But it had felt so good to talk to her, with no worries about all the moving parts and interconnected webs of in-clan friendships. He hadn't needed to worry about impressing her.

    Swanfeather grinned. "I think that would be fun," he stuttered out quickly. "O-only if you want to, though." She had to, right? Why else would she offer? He trailed off for a moment, trying to think of how to arrange another meeting. "Um, I guess I might patrol the border around here during the evenings when I can... Oh, and RiverClan will be sending a patrol to speak with Lizardstar at some point," he tossed the ideas out as he thought of them, eager to find an idea that would work. He shifted restlessly, caught between wanting to stay and knowing that he should probably be getting back to camp as soon as possible. Bring some water back for the kits, he noted to himself. As his time with Smokehaze reached its conclusion, the tide of swirling thoughts was beginning to rise once again.

    Swanfeather stretched out on the grass, letting the sound of the waterfall fill his mind. He looked out over WindClan with a half-lidded gaze, blinking slowly as he swept the moors, before returning to watch the water again. As he did his eyes flickered over Smokehaze, and he thought he saw a smile creep to her mouth for the briefest of moments before disappearing again under that impassive mask. A smile came to his face as well as he closed his eyes and rested his chin on his paws.

    Her voice was quiet when she spoke, almost getting lost in the rushing of the water around them. Despite his appearance of being asleep, his ears perked up. The warrior wondered if she was talking to him or herself. Maybe it was both. But she spoke evenly, with wisdom and honesty; it was a far cry from her earlier fumbling for words. He considered what she said, letting the words wash over his anxious tangles of thoughts. He didn't respond. He somehow knew she would understand that he was not rejecting her words, but silently acknowledging their truth.

    There were clearly depths hidden beneath Smokehaze's stony visage. He wished he had the time to explore them, to sit here in serenity for moons with the warm breeze in his fur and the waterfall crashing in his ears, her quiet presence beside him. But just as she said, nothing could stay the same forever.

    Slowly rising to his paws, Swanfeather stretched his limbs, feeling the warmth of the sun on his pelt. He wasn't sure exactly how much time he had spent here, but he knew he had to head back to camp soon and return to his responsibilities. Thank you, he wanted to say to Smokehaze. But what he was thanking her for, he couldn't quite put into words. Instead, he met her gaze and gave her a slight smile.

    "I liked just... spending this time here with you today. It was really nice." Simple. To the point. The only way he knew how to be, when it came to things like this. "But I think it's about time for me to start heading home." He wanted to ask if he could find her at the Gathering before remembering that RiverClan would not be attending. He shuffled his paws uncertainly. Was there any way he would see her again? He didn't want this to be the last time they met.

    Swanfeather was quick to respond to Pearlgaze's bright grin with one of his own. He wasn't much for special occasions, but his simple words to the new warrior expressed everything he wanted to say. "I'm really proud of you, Pearlgaze. You'll make a great warrior." He gave the siamese an affectionate nudge before turning back to face the fallen log, listening intently for what Nightstar had to say next.

    Swanfeather had been idly watching Pearlgaze and Nightfall while he tucked in to a mouse in a shaded corner of the camp. He was glad to see the two initially getting along, but Nightfall's body language had started to suggest that the strong-tempered kit was getting irritated. Maybe Pearlgaze could use a helping paw with Nightfall. Although the warrior had never considered himself very good with kits, the little black molly seemed to have taken a liking to him.

    Quickly finishing his meal, Swanfeather trotted over to the tree where the pair were practicing climbing. He thought Pearlgaze had done a good job at letting Nightfall "teach" her, but something about it had clearly rubbed the kit the wrong way. Time to lighten the mood.

    "Hey," he called up the tree, grinning. "Are you two pretending to be squirrels?"

    awww :c i'll miss you north!! thanks for being so welcoming and a great leader :)

    i hope everything goes well for you irl and you stay healthy!! take care of yourself bud ;) that reminds me, i should probably get out of my chair more often, the bone hurting juice is kicking in...

    anyways, have fun out there in the real world <333

    swan and her could be friends if you like! he really likes fiery, aggressive types because he's a lot more chill and passive, so he would love being around her energy.

    maybe they could do something that shows off their difference in personalities, like being stuck on with a chore together, fighting off an aggressive loner/kittypet, going on a border patrol... idk! :D

    Clutching soaked moss in his jaws, Swanfeather padded into the camp on the heels of Nightstar and Heronswoop. Finding the pond hadn't soothed his anxieties at all - it was just a temporary solution to a much bigger problem. Hopefully, they wouldn't get complacent and Nightstar would start a search for something more permanent soon.

    For now, he had to remain hopeful. Being miserable would only drag others down too, and it certainly wouldn't make the river clean again. Dropping the moss, he greeted Nightfall with a chuckle, giving the kit a reassuring lick between the ears to calm her down. "Take some," he said as he gently redirected her running charge, gesturing with his nose towards the moss. "Kits need clean water more than anybody in the camp."

    He glanced up at Pearlpaw once Nightfall started to lap the water. "We found a small pond. It's not ideal, but it'll be enough for now." He kept his voice upbeat, but inwardly he cringed a little at the thought of what would happen a moon or two from now, when the pond would eventually run dry.

    All of a sudden, Smokehaze was speaking in full sentences. Her blank face had broken into shock, then... something harder to read. But it wasn't the empty, emotionless mask she had been wearing a few seconds earlier, and that surprised Swanfeather. Although he had just met this cat, he got the feeling that she wasn't one to display emotion very easily.

    He wasn't sure exactly how he felt about her. A few moments ago she had been nothing but a curiosity, something strange to gawk at and prod. But this sudden shift in her attitude stirred something in the tom. She was his innermost anxieties personified. As he started to understand her, Swanfeather felt a pang of empathy for the black she-cat. He wanted to pry further, ask more questions; about her, about WindClan... but he decided not to pressure her for now.

    The tom's ear flicked away a buzzing bee as he observed the churning water. The sounds and smells here relaxed his tense muscles and cleared his mind. With just Smokehaze and the crashing of the waterfall in his consciousness, the thoughts of death and war and BloodClan dissolved away.

    His yellow gaze glanced up at her. "I understand if you have things to do," he said quietly. "But I was going to stay for a bit to watch the waterfall. It's so calm here and things at camp are just... overwhelming right now. I'd like it if you joined me." He offered a shy smile. "Not that you have to, of course."