in case of fire, break the glass [p. little wolf]

╰☆☆ The night is middle-aged, with a swollen moon and a breeze a bit too brisk for greenleaf. Blaise sits, pressed against the glass coating of his windowpane, and stares into the silver spackle of stars above him. His nest is silent but for the humming of his housefolk's machines and a faint sound of snoring from one their bedroom.

He has never gone beyond the cluster of housefolk nests before. He has never wanted to do such a thing. The other cats in his neighborhood have spoken of ferals living wild in the forest, but he somewhat doubts their claims about cannibalism. One of the neighbors is a particularly imaginative youngster--one who listens to a few too many scary tales, Blaise thinks with a wry smile.

The window is open just a crack at the bottom. Blaise lowers his face to it, scents the warm, heady night air, and makes up his mind. He won't go far, after all. He'll make it back before the sky is lightening, in time for his bowl to be refilled. No one will ever know anything had happened.

As soon as his paws touch the cobblestone, a thrill shoots through him. Exhilaration. Freedom. Crickets and cicadas sing, the birds of the dark. He makes his way past the nest, the garden, the fences, until his paws touch a soft forest floor littered with pine needles.

He lowers his face to them and sniffs; their spice clings to the insides of his nose. Blaise glances around, picks a random direction, and begins to pad along. He is absorbed in taking in the sights and sounds, the new fresh scents, and does not notice when the grass becomes soft beneath his paws.

Blaise makes an interesting sight, on the border between the pine trees and the marsh. A hulking pale cat, fiery and silver with the moon behind him, collar cinched around his neck. He is completely unaware of what may lurk beyond.

Little Wolf had never stopped to consider what her life would be like under different circumstances. She liked that she had the freedom to come and go as she pleased, though she knew she would always return to the camp tucked away in the marshes. It was where her family was, after all. No, simply, she just liked to wander, to feel the grass between her toes instead of wet mud, to see things she had not yet seen or to just get away. Tonight it was the latter.

The moon light does little to illuminate her pelt, which blends into the darkness around her. In fact, it helps her slip through the shadows as she makes her way through the marshes. She knows she’s not supposed to be going to the old territory, not anymore. Though that land did used to belong to her group, it was someone else’s now. She wasn’t going to hunt though, and she hoped she could pass through quietly.

What she really wanted to see was the twoleg place. It was where most of the members who had taken up residence among the pines were from, or at least that’s what she had been told. She was curious, what had been so awful about the place that they had come from that they had to take a part of her home? She wanted to see it for herself, to understand where they had come from.

Tonight, though, she wouldn’t make it past the boundary that now separated her from her goal. She stops short as she spots an unfamiliar figure. A stranger, a cat she has never met before. She wants to turn around and leave it be, to pretend she never saw him, but then her eyes catch something gleaming in the moon-light. Metal. A collar. She had heard that some of the kittypets wore them. Maybe he was a part of the group of them who had settled here?

Her curiosity overruled her introverted nature and she stepped out of where she had crouched down to hide, to him it would look like she came out of nowhere, so good she was at blending in with the shadows. “You’re uh- you’re not supposed to be here” she says, though her tone isn’t unfriendly and she looks upon him with curiosity shining in her bright green eyes.

As she waits for him to reply, she takes the opportunity to look him over. He was a handsome tom, she couldn’t deny that, his coat looked so soft, so clean. It made her suddenly feel a little self conscious. What must she look like to this stranger? Feral and unkempt she was certain. She hasn’t been keeping up with grooming as much as she should be lately.
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╰☆☆ A feline voice startles him out of his reverie. He freezes in place, one paw poised in the air. Nervous blue eyes dart from shadow to shadow, tree to tree. Where was the other feline?

He almost has to squint to see her as she emerges from the darkness. Her coat is black as a night sky on a full moon, and she's small, but tightly built, compact. It's clear to him that she must be a feral cat. Her fur, while mostly clean, is not as immaculately groomed as his--something only a housefolk's constant brushing and trimming can achieve--and her scent is strange, like mud and cedar and spice.

His tail curls, and he takes a tentative step backwards. He wonders if she can scent his fear. He's never come face to face with a wild cat before, and now, the stupid stories he's heard in his garden--they crash into his brain like so many marbles.

"I--I'm not?" He frowns, glances around again. What does she mean, he's not supposed to be here? "Is... does this land belong to someone?" The concept is strange to him. He'd thought the forest full of roguish ferals who all live alone, fight for their own survival. Is she saying this place belongs to her?

Blaise forces himself to meet her gaze. He has to look down at her to do so; though she's certainly more athletic than he, her height falls short of his. Her eyes hold no malice; they are curious, impressively green in the moonlight.

He exhales, almost imperceptibly. She doesn't seem hostile, at least. If this land does belong to her and she does not welcome outsiders, she may even let him leave. He'll have to bank on it, he supposes.
‘does this land belong to someone?’ His words prompt to sigh to escape her jaws and to cast her eyes to the ground. She remembers a time when she could come and go to from the marshes to the forest whenever she pleased, but now there was another group who lived there, one who did not take kindly to cats where she was from coming into the forest.

“I don’t suppose it does, but some cats may not take kindly to you being here” she says, directing a pointed look to the collar strapped around his throat. “Are you with Rain or are you uh- do you live with a - what do you call it?” For a moment the word escapes her. Those strange creatures, who have no fur except on the top of their heads and walk upright on their - two legs! That was the word she was looking for “do you live with the twolegs?” She asks quickly, before she can forget again.

She knows that usually a stranger entering their hunting grounds would be a cause for any other cat to be alarmed but really? One look at the guy and she can tell he’s no threat and besides, there’s something fascinating about him, she finds she has the urge to get to know him, to ask him more about what it’s like? Was it awful to live among creatures he does not share a language with? What do kittypets eat if not mice or rats or birds? All these questions swirling in her mind and she hopes that maybe he’ll indulge her, that he’ll answer them.

╰☆☆ Something crosses over the pretty features of her face when he asks her if the hunting grounds belong to someone. She sighs, eyes drifting to the earth. Blaise tilts his head, some of the tension draining from his body. She's troubled, he thinks. He wants to ask questions... but would it be rude? Even to a feral cat, he would not dream of being impolite.

When she explains that some cats may not take kindly to his presence, her eyes fasten onto the collar on his neck. He raises an amber-colored forepaw and brushes it against the brown leather. They don't like those of us who live with housefolk, he thinks, though it makes little sense to him. Aren't they all just cats? What harm is he doing by being here?

The small black she-cat calls his housefolk 'Twolegs.' He smiles. It's a funny word, but he supposes it makes sense. They do only walk on two legs. Blaise nods at her. "Yes, I do. They are kind to me. They're..." He pauses, wondering if she would understand what he's about to say next. "They're the only family I have, really," he admits.

But now it's his turn, as long as she doesn't mind him inquiring. Blaise takes a single step closer to her. "And you... you live in this forest? Do you live alone?" She did mention other cats. Perhaps they live in colonies. He's heard of such things, like strays in the city streets, but it seems odd to him that so many cats would deign to live out here when there are willing housefolk so close by.

He realizes he's forgotten his manners after a heartbeat. He bows his head to the black forest-dweller. "I'm sorry, I've forgotten to introduce myself. I'm Blaise. What are you called?" He wouldn't have her thinking him impolite. That wouldn't do.
It is a surprise to hear that this toms twolegs were kind to him. She had known a couple of cats who had been captured by the strange creatures once, they had come back telling tales of being confined in a tiny den and getting poked with something that made them fall asleep, when they had woken up the twolegs had taken a chunk from their ears and their ability to have children. It’s especially sad when that cat wants to be a parent but cannot because of what twolegs had done to them. She had, for her whole life, thought of twolegs as monstrous creatures and she regards the tom with reserved skepticism. He didn’t look like a tortured animal though, and he certainly wasn’t so arrogant like the other kittypets that resided among the pines.

She’s equally surprised when she hears that the twolegs are his only family, she cannot imagine, having such a big family as she did, being without. She almost opens her mouth to ask where his parents are, his brothers and sisters, but refrains out of fear of being rude. Not all cats could be as lucky as she had been. “No I don’t live alone” she admits to his inquiry with a shrug. “I live with my family” she speaks the last word quietly, hoping to spare his feelings by saying such a word so openly, it felt bad saying it and thinking he had only twolegs for company, creatures that he could not converse with or share tongues with.

She is glad when he changes the subject, introducing himself as Blaise and a smile tugs on the corners of her lips. To her its fitting, she hears it as Blaze, not knowing any better and instantly a small flame is brought to mind. Yes, it was quite fitting indeed. “My name is Little Wolf” she says, dipping her head politely in formal greeting. “So tell me Blaise” she says, trying to figure out why she can’t quite keep her eyes off this tom, why she was even talking to him in the first place, and why it seemed as if she didn’t want him to leave. “What brings you so far from your home?” Genuine curiosity leads her to this question and she tilts her head ever so slightly as she asks

╰☆☆ Little Wolf. One of the strangest names he's ever heard, though he can't say why. Housefolk tend to give his kind either simple, nonsensical names or completely bizarre ones that are beyond interpretation. He's met plenty of felines with the latter sort. But Little Wolf! It's a name that betrays the wildness of her background. Despite the almost sweet, demure look of her face and features, Blaise is reminded sharply that she's feral.

But it's not a deterrent. He does not run, has no instinct to walk away from her. She tells him she lives with her family. His eyes sparkle with his curiosity. Real family, not the sort he's cobbled together over the years. He wonders idly if it's any different, to be surrounded by blood kin.

"So tell me Blaise." The way she says his name causes him to tense. There's nothing particularly strange about it, but it catches him off guard nonetheless. "What brings you so far from your home?"

"Good question," he says. "I-- I've never been this far away before. But I just had a feeling tonight. That I wanted to be under the moon." He smiles bashfully, ducks his head. "Do you ever feel like that? Maybe it's silly. I guess... you're always under the moon." He laughs a little.