Jul 8, 2022
the woods shade and cover the two in their journey, the songbirds heavy in their gossip. there's a cool wind, soon the leaves will turn. a far beloved time for buckgait, perhaps because the world was far too beautiful to miss. she's quiet, eyeing the leaves and willing them to start turning their vibrant hues. in step with her companion, the earthen molly has already accepted that lightning is an integral part of her now. a second body. she is still bitter towards cicada, and she knew that there likely would have been better cats to pair her with...but she's a little bit glad it was lightningstone. he's sure and still, a true ward. it's nice to not be alone like she used to be, to not have to be alert to every sound to cross her.

he is still callous, cold, and truly neglectful of emotions when they run high. yet he still sat with her while she had cried and tried his best to console her. something like that is hard to ignore. she bumps against him in an attempt to offset his gait. the silence is pleasant and all, but buck is interested in talking with him now. "y'know, i bet whatever you get, i can catch somethin' fatter." it's something to simply grab his attention. the white stag, something beautiful and as elusive as any ghoul, had been rumored to be in the area. buck has come to see it as good luck and good feasting, perhaps forcing @LIGHTNINGSTONE to hunt in the area with her.

she is primarily a fisher, but when the winters grow too cold and parts of the river freeze, one must become familiar with the land-dwelling creatures who inhabit the territory. she's interested in grabbing a rabbit but doesn't need the larger tom to scare them off with his grimacing features. there's a crack in the short distance, a breaking of wood and she spares a glance toward her companion. seeing if he'll claim this one, while buck searches for another.
Lightningstone is relaxed, a rarity for the tense tom. He seems to constantly be thinking nowadays, contemplating, observing. But today, the chill in the Leaf-fall air brings peace to his whirling mind and he's content padding alongside his assignment with - is that a smile on his face? He truly is in a good mood today!

There is a bump to his shoulder, sending his next step to the side and lop-siding his gait. With a deadpan look in Buckgait's direction, his lips pull into a straight line to show he's unamused, although anyone can see the expression isn't serious. His interactions with the molly have begun to grow from annoyed to teasing and impassive. He quirks a brow in response to her challenge, curled ears pricking as he lets a short hmph of amusement escape. "You may have mastered the waters, river cat, but I've got you beat on land any day," The blue smoke responds with a smirk, whisking his tail through the air.

He hears the crack and his attention is subverted. He meets the mahogany she-cat's gaze briefly before casting a nod towards her, silent communication that he's got this one. He briefly brushes his tail to her flank in a message to go on and hunt on her own while he tracks down the prey before them - water vole, by the smell of it. With that, he disappears into the reeds.
"i'd sure hope so, seeing as one of us has been stuck to land prey for most of their life..." it's a casual jest, something to just further prod at the tom before her. it's called out as he leaves her, and now she feels a bit more minuscule than usual. lightningstone wasn't the tallest tom around, but he had still towered over her. buck wouldn't admit it, but she's claimed his height as her own. the river cat pauses for a second, slightly hesitant to move before she realizes she's acting like a dependent kit. it's embarrassing, so she's quick to storm off to feel like her regular self again.

perhaps she is far too overzealous, desperate to regain the security in herself. she's buck for god's sake! there's nothing better than that. she's the cat who had saved otter and mist from the river, stood her ground against cicada and was willing to die for her land. lightning is just another obstacle in her way. there's a rustle within the tall grasses, and she aims for it. tucked close to the earth before her, gentle in her approach as she tries to find what she's dealing with. she hopes for a rabbit.

what finds her, however, seems to also be hoping for one. a pelt of deep flame, staring at her. the two creatures are both in a slight surprise at seeing each other, but instinct kicks in, and they're both hungry. the two are still, awaiting for the other to make the first move. the beast grows tired of the game and lunges for the molly, who is quick to move out of the way. if she were to have the tails of her clanmates, she's sure that she would've lost it just then. there's a slight thought to call out for lightning, but she's too bull-headed to act on it. they stare at each other again.

it'd be a lie to say she wasn't a bit scared, but buckgait holds her ground. both moving in, trying to intimidate each other. she's scared, and it shows more when there's another quick movement and buck flattens into the ground. at the very least she's quick and agile, but she's on the ground now, and this hunger-fueled animal is crowding her. a claw digs into the snout of the creature to create more distance, there's blood in the air and she's sure lighting has figured out what's happening.
Lightningstone is already returning to the spot where he and Buckgait split off, water vole limp between blood-stained jaws. As he makes his way back, he falters, suddenly overcome with an even stronger stench of blood. He can't tell if it's from his own catch, or somewhere else. Curled ears flick forward; there's a hiss coming from a little ways off and it confirms his fears. Prey forgotten, the slender tom bounds forward, heart pounding as he recognizes the stench of fox. It had found his assignment, it appears.

Bursting from the foliage, the quick-thinking warrior takes in the scene before him. Buckgait is cornered, brought to the ground and playing the defensive as the beast hungrily approaches. With a throaty snarl, his body is thrust between them, messy fur bushed out and fangs bared to the fullest extent. His hazel eyes are narrowed into slits as he meets the beady gaze of the predator, his stance wide and pluming tail held high in the air. You can't have her, crow-breath. The fox seems taken aback by the sudden entry of another cat, but it doesn't hold it back for long. As soon as the red-pelted beast makes a move, Lightningstone deals back-to-back swipes at it's muzzle, claws slicing flesh. He takes a step back to regain his balance, but maintains his protective stance before the she-cat behind him. He's not about to budge.
the energy is slowly drained from buckgait, apathy for her own being filling her. if she must be honest, she had no will to survive. looking upon what could be her death and feeling little in regards to it. little depends upon her, perhaps it had been far too easy to accept her killer due to it. she is tucked in the grass, as if she is but a newborn fawn in the tall fields. the warmth of the sun upon her. what is there to fight, truly?

lightning barrels in, tall above her and dripping with anger. she isn't surprised to see him, but something akin to comfort grows heavy in the barrel of her chest. a fox is smarter enough than to keep challenging, especially with lightningstone's ugly face sneering at the thing. it's simply a battle of confidence now. how willing are you to risk it for another? a creature of solitary seasons does not understand the depth of a bond, but buck doesn't quite understand it much either. it takes little posturing before the beast retreats. now is not the time to take such heavy risks. they all seem to understand the notion.

when the air grows still, uneventful but tense, buck is still staring at the spot the harsh orange canine stood. unknowing of what to say to her ward-turned-savior. she wants to ask why? but knows that the answer will not fulfill her in any way. he would say something that she is his clanmate, or he is under orders. not because he had truly wanted her alive and safe. she doubts anything emotional could come from the man, even if she were to be devoured. there's a heavy breath that leaves the molly, untucking herself from the cradling grasses. there's a light anger brewing under her tongue and behind her canines. wanting to snarl at the very tom who faced a fox due to her incompetence.

"thanks..." it's half-hearted at best, and she does not look upon him. something is wrong with her. buckgait is simply unsure as to what. "we should..probably head back. we'll still come back with some prey." what is there to say to him? what could buckgait ever express to him?

The bristling tom continues to glare at the beast, unrelenting in his ugly snarl and deep growl. Finally, it seems the fox decides the risk just isn't worth taking. It's two on one, now. It turns tail and flees, but Lightningstone doesn't rise from his position until the the filthy red tail has completely disappeared from sight. Curled lips relax and his thick fur begins to lay flat - or, flatter. His pelt always has been rather unruly. With a slight wrinkle still kept to the bridge of his nose, he steadily turns to face Buckgait, hazel eyes finding her smaller form still tucked within the reeds before she begins to get up. He's never seen the wild woman look so...small. It's unsettling, but he doesn't display such emotions on his expressionless face. She utters a half-assed token of gratitude, and all he can do in return is flick a stormy ear. "Don't mention it." They're both uncomfortable, that much is clear. The rage that had bubbled up within him when he'd seen the fox cornering her dies down, and he almost feels embarrassed before he wipes the thought clean from his mind. She's a clanmate, of course he would protect her. It's reason enough. With a shake of his silver mane, he straightens himself strides off in the direction of his dropped vole.