Leafpool’s eyes traced over the horizon as the dawn’s sun began warming her face. ThunderClan had finally begun adjusting properly into their new home, peace settling easily across the four clans for the first time since the territories around the lake had been settled. Leafpool took in a deep breath, fresh air filling her senses and lifting her spirits. The calm was a welcome change after many moons of endless struggle.
Light clicks along the stone ground of the camp grew louder as they approached the tabby, and she turned to see Hawkfrost striding over. The tom’s fur was much silkier than it had been two moons prior to when he joined ThunderClan, but he was still battered with scars from his father. His legs were wrapped in various leaves, mostly Chervil. He moved to sit beside the smaller cat, a gentle smile plastered to his muzzle. “Nice morning,” he said with a voice just above a mumble.
Leafpool nodded. “Indeed. How was your sleep last night?” Her tone was as gentle as she could make it, hoping to bring ease to the newcomer. Tigerstar had continued to bring Hawkfrost into the dark forest at night and batter and bruise him until he woke up from the pain of fresh scars.
“Same. I got none.” There was a deep growl in Hawkfrost’s voice, but Leafpool knew it wasn’t directed at her. He was hurting both physically and mentally.
“I’m sorry…” she muttered. “Are your cuts okay?”
“Cinderpelt added some… oh, whatever it’s called… the green plant. Stopped the pain.”
Leafpool snickered, covering her muzzle with a paw. “Most plants are green. I think she added some nettle leaves.”
Silence settled between the two, but it was nice. Leafpool had to admit, despite who he used to be she found comfort in being near him. His scary presence had died nearly the moment Firestar announced his joining to the clan. Hawkfrost had always been sweet to Leafpool, even during their ever so brief interactions as apprentices. His sister was a close friend of hers, and so they’d often share warm hellos at gatherings or borders.
“I need to head out and gather some more poppy seeds. Would you like to come with me?” Leafpool asked. She turned her gaze up to the tom and took note of how his eyes were half-lidded. He was tired. Hopefully, a walk would calm his nerves and convince him to take a nap. He nodded, standing and stepping back a little as if to say ‘lead the way.’ He hadn’t left the camp much and wasn’t medically fit to really learn how ThunderClan worked or the way their territory laid out. The medicine cat began stepping down the pile of rocks that lead to the lush forest.
Birds were beginning to chirp as they awoke and Leafpool basked in the sound. She loved birdsong, it was so innocent. They were just making noise for the sake of it. Nothing malicious. Just beautiful. Her gaze turned to Hawkfrost who was looking from tree to tree wildly, and something in the medicine cat began to warm. The way his ice-blue eyes lit up, his pelt flat and unthreatening. It was hard to believe only a short time ago she’d seen him standing over her father’s body, threatening to kill him. But these days, Leafpool thought, everything seems unreal.
The two cats emerged from the tree cover and onto the abandoned dirt thunderpath. It felt strange underfoot to Leafpool, but Hawkfrost strolled across like it was nothing. Must remind him of the sand alongside the riverbank. The tom didn’t look at all like the other RiverClan cats, unlike his sister whose body shape was just as sleek as the others. Hawkfrost was bulky, fur occasionally spiking out at its ends. He had taller, sharper ears. He certainly took after his father’s ThunderClan build. Firestar had told her, alongside Cinderpelt and Brambleclaw, that he hoped that would help Hawkfrost settle in easier. Hopefully, Brambleclaw can convince him to feel more comfortable outside of the medicine den soon.
Leafpool’s ears shot up as she heard a familiar laugh not far off and her heart warmed, her paws running off towards the sound without even thinking. After a few moments, she could hear Hawkfrost follow.
A streak of ginger was just barely caught, followed by a flash of deep gray. Leafpool’s whiskers twitched happily as she bounded up to the border with WindClan. She craned her head up and finally caught sight of her sister. Squirrelflight had moved to WindClan a while back so she and Crowfeather could remain mates. It had been hard for the two sisters to separate, but Leafpool knew it was for the best. Squirrelflight was unhappy under the expectations of their father, and her life in WindClan with her mate had proven to be healthier.
It didn’t take long for Squirrelflight to realize who was watching her, and she bounded over excitedly. The two sisters collided, both purring loudly. “How have you been!” Squirrelflight squeaked out, green eyes wide and shining.
“I’ve been great. Things have been calm in ThunderClan.” Leafpool’s heart fluttered as she saw her sister’s joy. Her eyes moved over to watch as Crowfeather strolled up, brushing against Squirrelflight and curling into her fur. “What about the two of you?”
The two mates glanced at each other, grinning. “Well…” Crowfeather started.
“I’m expecting!” Squirrelfight exclaimed, tail lashing behind her gleefully.
Leafpool’s eyes widened. “That’s… amazing! Congratulations!”
The three cats spoke a while longer, Hawkfrost eventually engaging in the friendly chat. After some time, they split and as Leafpool watched her sister walk off, the former lightness in her heart began to drop. “She’s happy,” Leafpool said aloud as she turned her back to the border. A light bump against her shoulder alerted the medicine cat that she’d said it for Hawkfrost to hear. The darker tabby’s eyes were full of sympathy. “You miss her a lot huh?”
Leafpool nodded, paws feeling like weights the farther they walked away from WindClan’s territory. “I’m glad she’s in a better home with someone who loves her but…”
“But it’s not the same without her,” Hawkfrost finished for Leafpool. She stared up at him and realized he knew what she was feeling. He was missing Mothwing. Although he had Brambleclaw for family in ThunderClan, it must have been hard for him to leave behind his littermate. “At least she’s only a border away. I’m sure everything will be okay someday.”
Silence yet again came crashing down on the two. Left alone to her thoughts, Leafpool grew fidgety. Something felt off. She was comfortable and felt safe, but there was a new air to the silence as she continued to glance at and away from Hawkfrost. The warrior was staring straight ahead, stride sturdy and powerful. His eyes were bright and beautiful. Her heart skipped a beat at the thought that quickly ran across her mind.
She was thankful for Hawkfrost’s sudden stop in movement, pulling her from her mind. “Is everything okay?”
Hawkfrost grinned and hunkered down into a hunter’s crouch. Leafpool followed where his gaze rested and saw a mouse sitting peacefully amongst the distant grass. Leafpool moved down to hide, not wanting to scare off the prey. There were a few beats of stillness before the warrior took off running, his legs taking large lunges. The mouse eventually caught onto the hunter approaching and took off into a scurry, vanishing into the forest. Hawkfrost vanished not long after and Leafpool stood, waiting to see if there was any reason to follow.
Everything seemed fine until there was a loud yowl and birds took off from the trees in every direction. The medicine cat quickly began tracking down Hawkfrost, and eventually rounded a corner to see the tom laying on the ground, rubbing his head. He was up against a tree trunk, leaning into a mouse hole.
The picture became clear as Leafpool approached and she couldn’t help herself from breaking into a fit of laughter. Hawkfrost’s ears fell back and he glared at her. “Oh shut it, I’m not used to forest hunting,” he said. His words carried no maliciousness and Leafpool continued to laugh as she walked up.
“I can certainly tell. Perhaps you should tell Brambleclaw you’re going to need some serious hunting training from him.”
“Utter a word of this to my brother and I swear I’ll…” Hawkfrost stood as he spoke but didn’t finish his half-hearted threat. He shook his body and winced, head lowering and eyes straining shut. “I didn’t even catch the mouse. Some help I am,” he growled.
Leafpool finally stifled her laugher and let out a sympathetic purr. “It’s fine. Prey seems plentiful this season, one mouse won’t be detrimental. Now come on, we should get back and make sure you didn’t hit your head too hard.”
“What about the poppy seeds?”
“Nevermind that, I can head out later and gather them. My patients come first.”
That made Hawkfrost smile and he began walking back to camp. Leafpool felt something flutter in her chest at the sight of his smile this time. Then the realization hit. She looked up to a branch where two finches sang to each other, huddled together. More realization. Leafpool finally had a name for the odd feeling that had been encroaching on her all day. She loved birdsong and thought it was beautiful. But for the first time ever, she loved someone even more. And he’s just as beautiful.