private everybody's fool

He feels like he's dying but he supposes he technically is. Death is inevitable. It comes for everyone at some points, always lingering in the background and waiting patiently for its time to shine. But really he feels the headache pounding like an arrow through his head his throat, enough to wake him from his light doze at the edge of the camp, enough to bring him to his paws. He can't sleep anyways, waiting for their dappled leader to return at any moment. Smokethroat never feared death before but he's aware of it, notices it out of the corner of his eye every so often, catches it waiting for him at the end of treacherous paths and looks all too disappointed when he walks right by. One day he'll stop moving, accept the hand reaching for him, place a paw in Death's grip and let it walk him away to something else. Something, he hoped, was better.

But today is not that day, he's not dying. He just feels like he is, just feels the burden of life as he slowly ambles along to the edge of the camp and further, deeper into the territory, to where the river gives it's quiet humming like a mother soothing her kit. It's there where the dark tom takes a seat, close to the shore where the water could gently touch his paws as it swept by. It's dark, he is but one of many shadows here.

Insomnia was a plague, it lined the insides of his lungs and coated his eyes in a shield of restlessness. He could never close them long, could never allow himself the peace of rest and when he did it was an inky black pit that he fell until morning. Dreamless, empty, for the most part. He had his fair share of nightmares, and knew others did as well. Like twisted beasts of the sea they hid just under the surface where none could see them, but occasionally a fin or head would pop up; visible for a split second, before diving back down and out of sight. Lurkers, stalkers. There was no getting rid of them so you just had to cope, learn to accept that every so often one would grab you and drag you down. You'd struggle, suffocate, but in the end they let you go.

The aftermath of the day felt like fire inside him, he felt his throat tighten at the thought of it.

He was a stray ember caught in the wind, a blemish of sparking flames. Pain and he were old friends. For long they walked side by side, paw by paw.
He knew it and it knew him. Inside and out, from tail tip to nose. He could trace the lines of every scar and still feel the burning sensation that lingered with old wounds.
With his eyes closed he let the feelings of hopelessness bask over him. Despite each bruise, each scar, each bright drop of blood on the earthy floor, he never once allowed the despair to enter his mind. Pain was temporary, sorrow lingered for ages like a stain.
So he grit his teeth and pushed through it. It didn't matter how many times others raised their claws to him. Didn't matter the words spat into his face. If he existed purely as the punching bag for the worst of them to the most broken of them then so be it. He was king of his own command, lost adrift in a sea of possibilities and he chose here.

He had to be better for RiverClan.



Word gets around like wildfire and despite Coast not being in camp when the announcement was made, they'd figured out what had happened not even an hour later. The news came like a lightning bolt and had shocked him, surprised, everyone spoke of him coming back. Coast knew miracles were hard to come by, but why? Why would they cling so desperately for hope? She doesn't, hasn't heard of Starclan. A bunch of star cats, what a sham.

Hes on his hourly walk, the air in the camp nowadays just suffocating and she breathes in the fresh air like a drug. A plumed tail curls over her back and she rounds a bend in the river, scrunching up her nose at what she saw. "Hello wildfire, what brings you here dearest?" he meows in a trill as always, cocking his head in curiosity as he approaches, sitting down besides him. They study his face with an ever present grin, noting the tense jaw, the way he seemed out of it.

"Bad day, huh?" she asks, voice a little gentle as they thump their tail on the ground near their paws. They do not speak of Cicada, have a feeling that was what was bringing this forth, she assumes being a lead warrior is a lot of work, stress. "Do you want to go for a swim? The river is chill this time of day." he suggests with a brightened smile once more, rising to her paws with a small sea shanty hum beginning in her throat.

The approach of pawsteps had his ears flattening, it was the nonchalance with which they sat down so suddenly next to him that made him decide not just get up and move somewhere else.
Smokethroat turned to glance at the other briefly, orange eyes narrowing at the question.
He was here for space, peace of mind, he found neither it seemed.
Bad day did not even begin to explain how much he just simply wanted to curl into a ball and not exist any longer, but that was the weak path out of his troubles and he’d not be so stupid as to dwell on it.
“Suppose you could say that.” Was his reply, bereft of any real emotion of feelings to indicate much more than annoyance. When Coast rose suddenly with the sort of eagerness he expected from apprentices and kits and not a grown cat he was briefly taken off-guard. A swim?
He’d been considering it. The river was a second pelt to him, he took comfort in it's presence whether just being idly by or within those watery depths. He answered the question in his usual silent way, rising awkwardly to stand before taking a few steps forward into the water where he paused for a moment to look back. Something said was lingering in his thoughts.

“...why do you call me that?” He asks suddenly, Coast very clearly knows his name and is choosing not to use it for whatever reason. When he hears ‘Wildfire’ he’s reminded of his loner born name and has mixed feelings. He never disliked Ember, it was a name that served him well for the time he had it, but like with the new forming of a clan he had become a new cat and thus a new moniker. Or so he was trying. Old habits were hard to fight, every day he faced the clan and resisted the urge to flee back into the forest to be alone.
A small part of him wanted to add on ‘and don’t call me dearest’ but was it really a battle he wanted to have right now? It was just one of those words he heard cats here often use as endearments to their clanmates. Like ‘honey’ or ‘love’ or whatever…


Her tail twitches in response and for a second his eyes narrow and his smile tips as if he were looking straight through Smokethroat, a strained hum leaving their mouth. A scary expression for those that have not seen Coast without his signature smile, but its fleeting and he smiles once more. "Suppose so, suppose so~" she sings back in a slight mocking tone, though he catches himself quite quickly and only offers a grin instead of a sorry. "Suppose Mr. Lead Warrior is having a rough time over recent events?" he guesses in another sing-song tone, shrugging their shoulders upward quite dramatically.

Then he asks why she calls him that and she blinks. No one has questioned his nicknames before, what a pleasant surprise! "Your eyes. A brilliant shade of orange on a black pelt, shines through like a wildfire in the night air. Or should I call you Smoky instead?" a small tease as he flicks his tail over his back in a friendly manner. "Now come on and let the river soak your worries away, dearest." he invites as he wades deeper, a sigh of content leaving his mouth as water rushes around his shoulders.

He stays there like that for a couple moments before an ear twitches and they swivel their head around to look at him. "Do not fret, the stars will always have a place for you, no matter what path you take." its a reassuring tone that does not quite often leave his mouth, last used to comfort little Ocean Star.

His words are repeated in a sing-song hum, Smokethroat met that shift in expression with his own of uncertainty.
Were they picking on him or simply teasing in the way Willowroot often did; without malicious intent and in a friendly manner.

Wildfire. Well, it made sense with that context. He had briefly wondered if it was a jab at his temper which he felt was rather restrained lately. A loose ember that could catch and spread across the forest in a deadly plume of light.
His nose wrinkled as the other continued, testing another name on him that was once again not what he was actually called.
What was the point of a warrior's name if he was to be called sickeningly cute nicknames instead in the end? Was the symbolism only surface level? Did he have to just wear it and not accomadate. A part of him wanted to call out in annoyance that his name was 'Smokethroat' but he honestly wasn't sure if he cared or if he was being a little more prickly due to recent events. Things this trivial shouldn't bother him. But Cicadastar gave him this name...
Maybe he had a small attachment to it.

Treading along further into the water he felt himself instinctively relaxing the deeper it got until he was neck deep and his paws just barely touched the pebbled riverbed below, the talk of stars was surprising and he wondered if Coast was familiar with StarClan. Surely they had heard enough of it given he was here for some time already, but to talk of stars so lightly meant they had some kind of understanding. Or perhaps the cats of the greater water source that Willowroot and her siblings claimed to come from also had their own legends and afterlife. The sky did, after all, expand across the entire world without stopping.
" speak very confidently for a cat who is not so..." Smokethroat closed his eyes, tried to think of a word to describe what he was getting at without being too sharp or possibly rude, "...not so serious." Nonchalant? Carefree? Imagine having the boldness to assume things would be better but not the capacity for steely discussions and strict regime. It was strange to him...