do i have to walk on water? / moth

╰☆☆ Blazing eyes search the swamp shadows with piercing fire. A shadow made fur and flesh separates from the murky dark, creeping on silent, stealthy feet. Moonlight leaks through the thick canopy of leaves above, illuminating flecks of golden spattered across black pelt as well as the slumped body of a marsh toad.

Flicker's mind is empty. Instinct is the only thing driving her muscles into movement. The toad emits an eerie croak as if to warn lurking predators away.

It's futile. She leaps, clearing the muck gracefully, and her jaws find the bloated, wart-studded neck. In a single bite, the creature goes limp in her mouth. She lets it fall and gives it a satisfied smirk.

"Serves ya right for being so slow," she mutters, batting the bit of prey with an idle paw.

Her senses flood back to her, along with the thoughts her hunt had meant to suppress. Thoughts of the conflict brewing between her group and the kittypets infesting the forest.

There are still no doubts in Flicker's mind. If they don't act, don't fight back, they'll be driven out of their own home. Made to starve. She narrows her eyes and bats the toad again, this time a bit harder.

It lands with a soft thump a few feet away. She prepares to retrieve it, but is alerted by the shifting of the undergrowth in front of her.


Emerging from the undergrowth, Moth shoots a glance between the toad and Flicker. "From the sound of it, I was under the impression you had already made your catch." She teased with a snort. "Though I must have been mistaken, as you wouldn't be batting it around like a kit with a moss ball." She picked up the prey between her jaws and carried it over to the other molly, dropping it at her paws. It was a good catch, not be wasted. Especially with their current troubles. Troubles they needed to discuss.

Her ear flicked.

She had been avoiding the conversation. It felt it like a lost cause to try and convince Flicker. Still, the sooner she got it out of the way, the sooner she could move forward. A sigh fell from her. "This can't keep going on." She began, giving the tortie opposite her a look. "This is the only prey I've seen all day. There are too many cats on this territory and everyone knows it." Her tail lashed. "Their solution just appears to be 'let's kill each other until it's not a problem anymore."

Their gazes met. Another sigh pulled itself from deep in her chest, long and slow. "I'm leaving Flicker, soon." She admitted, trying not to feel the guilt that bubbled up at the words. "I'm not sticking around for this mess, and you shouldn't either. Come with me."
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╰☆☆ The tortoiseshell's eyes light up at the gray femme's appearance from the brush. She snorts goodnaturedly at her friend, who deigns to bring the battered frog to her paws. "Lighten up, will ya?" She sees Moth's ear flick, the troubled look that falls over her features.

"This can't keep going on." Flicker is no fool. She knows what Moth is referring to, even before she begins to elaborate. The scarcity of prey. The way her groupmates' pelts have become almost dull, the way their ribs are beginning to reveal themselves. Flicker has never seen cats go hungry in greenleaf.

Her tail lashes with annoyance. "So what is the solution? Let ourselves get driven away by kittypets getting fat off of our mice?"

Moth's eyes meet her own for a moment. Flicker feels a cloud of dread begin to descend upon her, darkening all in its path and threatening to burst. "I'm leaving Flicker, soon."

"So I guess you are just gonna let yourself get run off," she mutters. Anger lights inside of her chest, if only to mask the predominant emotion she's feeling. Hurt. Pain. The overwhelming, soul-shaking fear that Moth is abandoning her.

"I'm not sticking around for this mess, and you shouldn't either. Come with me."

Flicker's gaze falls to her black paws. To the frog between them. Her heart begins to ache. "I can't leave," she says. "Briar and them... they need me. Need you." She doesn't say it, but a thought flies through her head, a jagged one: I need you too.

She flexes her claws in the soft earth, leaving rivets. "Don't leave me," she says. "You're braver than this. Better than this. I know you are, because you're my friend. My best friend. You... you aren't a coward." She lifts pleading flame-colored eyes back to Moth's, and waits to see what the gray femme will say.

From the first, she had known how this would go. Could have almost predicted Flicker's every word verbatim before they had been spoken. It was not often she avoided a conversation, but it was hard to have one whose outcome seemed so predetermined. Still, she could not well leave without a word, without so much as extending an offer. Even a doomed one. She had taken all the time she could spare trying to spare herself for the response she knew she would receive.

And oh, how she had failed.

Her claws dug into the dirt as the words found her ears, her brow knit itself into knots, and her jaw clenched so hard she thought it might pop out of place. It took her what felt like an eternity to pull her voice back out from where it'd crawled down into her chest to hide.

"They don't need us." Moth insisted firmly, reasonably. Her voice barely held level. "We cannot win a war for them. Besides, as thankful as I am to them for what they have done, we do no owe them anything. We did our part for the group as much as any other, we have no responsibility to throw ourselves between a dogs jaws for its sake."

There, all the cold logic and reason she had thought up for this very confrontation thrown to the wind in a moment. How much more defenseless she felt now that it was all said. How meaningless all her words sounded to her own ears.

Don't leave me.

"Then don't make me!" her voice broke, finally, now that all her prepared speeches were spent. Her ears flattened back at the sound, as the dam broke. This was what she was afraid of. What she had tried to protect herself from.

Flicker was the only one that might actually convince her to stay.

"It has nothing to do with cowardice," she pleaded, trying fruitlessly to find wisdom again. There are just some fights not worth winning. I have no doubts we will win, half their number are worm brained kittypets who have spent barely a moon under the trees. But it will be a fight." Her eyes narrowed as it all played out in her mind. "If they meant to back down they would have done so already. If we wish to push them out we will have to fight them all the way back into their own dens and, however inept, a cornered animal is still a cornered animal."

What a horrible, bloody image her imagination painted. Of claws and teeth clashing beneath the shade of tall pines. It sent shivers down her spine. "What use have I for a victory that one of us might not live to see?" the question fell from her tongue hollowly. It was a diluted version of her real fear. A victory bought by Flicker's broken body. "Don't ask me to fight for that. Don't ask me to stay."

╰☆☆ Flicker hates how reasonable Moth sounds. "I do owe Briar," she says. "I owe them just like I owe you." She sighs, small body sagging with the weight of all she's feeling.

A speckled kit had wandered past fuming asphalt once, stumbled into bog water and emerged covered in slime and trembling with cold and fear. Starvation. Guilt.

She glances around her, the memories like frost in her fur. She shudders. "This is our home. We gotta fight for it, right?"

Moth is not a coward. Flicker knows this, regrets even putting the words into the air. She's imagining the two of them corpses, staring sightlessly into a red sky.

"I won't let anything happen to you," she says. It's not a pledge or a dedication or anything. It's just fact to her. "You don't fight, then. You stay somewhere safe, and I'll... come get you. When it's over. When we can live here again without worrying about food or fighting." She nods, as though she's come up with a reasonable plan.

"You don't owe me anything." Moth insisted, scoffing at the thought. Normally she would jump upon such a chance to joke at her friend's expense, but not now. Her heart was too heavy for levity. "We've looked out for each other. You've done as much for me as I have you."

Home. How uncomfortably that word sat in her mind. It was true enough, but she didn't want it to be. That word tied her to the place and its problems. Kept her from just flying free of all the mess she saw on the horizon. When she was young, she didn't have a home. She was a wanderer, staying only as long as it benefited her. That was always how she had liked to think of herself. It just so happened this place had suited her needs longer than most.

Now though, she had spent most of her life in this camp, and what did that make it if not her home? It would be a lie to say it didn't pain her to abandon it, but the alternative was just so much worse. She couldn't say that though, so she just looked away.

It was naive and kind, the idea that Flicker would protect her. The idea that either of them could keep each other safe through something like this. The idea that came next was somehow even worse though.

A paw came down to bop the other molly on the head, abet lightly. "You have swamp water between your ears if you think I'm gonna do that." She chided, her eyes narrowed. "What if something happened to you, huh? Then when you didn't come to get me I'd know that- that-" Her eyes squeeze close. She can't bring herself to say it.

Flicker was more right than she knew when she called her a coward. It's not the fight she is afraid of though. If she has to leave without her friend, than she doesn't want to know how it turns out. Doesn't want to risk learning that she left the younger molly behind to die.

╰☆☆ You don't owe me anything. She doesn't know if that's true. If it weren't for Moth, she would not have accepted the marsh as her new home. And oh, it hadn't been easy for the gray she-cat. Not by a long shot. Flicker had been horrible, abrasive, hostile, violent even sometimes. A kit without family. A kit without anything to lose.

"You know that's not true," she says simply. She loves Moth, but has she done anything but cause her friend grief? A touch of guilt lurches in the tortoiseshell's chest, but she brushes it away.

The guilt is replaced by shock as Moth brings a paw down onto her skull. It's not a heavy blow, but Flicker isn't expecting it. She blinks wide orange eyes at her companion, one on each side of the offending forepaw. "Cheap shot," she says, and grins. "C'mon, you gotta have more faith in me than that. I'm gonna give those kittypets a fight they won't soon forget."

She can see the pain in her friend's eyes, though, and Flicker ducks out from under the paw that rests on her head. She touches the soft black tip of her tail to Moth's flank. "Nothing will happen to me, and nothing will happen to you. We've been through it all together. And it'll be that way forever."

She looks her friend square in the eyes. "Promise." The seriousness leaves her, and she reaches out with a forepaw to bop Moth on the head. "That's what you get!" She dances away, anticipating a returning blow.

Her ear flicked at Flicker's instance that she did owe her something. She didn't get it. They looked after each other, that was how it worked. It had nothing to do with owing anyone anything. Though, reluctantly, she let it drop. There were more important things to discuss.

But this wasn't a discussion, there is no reason. It was an appeal to the heart not the head, and it was working. Moth feels her touch a tail to her flank, watches her jump about, and listens to her assure her with such certainty that everything will be alright. Because they have both been alright up to now, and that's how it will surely stay.

It is a child's logic.

Because Flicker is still a child.

That's the thought that breaks Moth's heart. Makes her realize she can't leave her behind to march to war alone. She didn't have it in her. Resignation sinks into her bones. She feels it in every part of her body, and it feels like digging her own grave. But if it was a grave beside Flicker's than perhaps that was okay. Either she would see her friend through this, or she would keep her company as they died along side each other.

"Alright-" She said softly. Her voice broke. She cleared her throat. "Alright, you win. I'll stay. You're right, we can do this."

It was the cruelest lie she'd ever told.
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