SINCE THE FLOOD [ willow tree family ]

( ) the mossy willow has gotten crowded all of a sudden. caraway remembers vaguely a time when it was only two felines curled beneath the roots, then joined by a smaller but no less loved third. for moons they've lived this way, striking off on their own during the day but always returning to the den by nightfall. it is the way of the river, they often say- everything returns on the tide. two became three, and just recently, three became four with the addition of the half drowned kit whom caraway had rescued. it has taken some getting used to, this new crowded space, but cara doesn't think they'd change it for the world.

a soft yawn splits their jaws as they sit, basking in the sun on a low branch of the willow. somewhere nearby, their kid plays, and cara can vaguely see the child out of the corner of their eye. below, somewhere in the reeds and rushes, are the other two of their family. or, perhaps not. from what cara understands, raccoon has been tempted over a border into the clan they have all sworn not to join. they recall the fury buck carried herself with when she stalked back to the den one night, spitting about traitors. they've seen rac since then, but don't quite know how to act. today they've called a meeting of the family, hoping to settle things. a clan would be safer for boar to live in, but they know the child won't go without them.

/sorry for the short intro i'm on mobile rn

There has been a slight twist in her heart since the introduction of the third, youngest of all. her gait is slow, relaxed, a head low as she comes from the overgrown brush. settling beside caraway in silence, a wistful glaze in faraway eyes. she hasn't been too active in the child's life, perhaps she was a coward. there are just some things buck can't get over. the figure of a child playing not too far off, it takes little effort to replace the frame of boar with someone else.

it takes an effort to pull away, turning to settle her attention on caraway. it was no secret to the family that buck was furious with raccoon, she is sure that the entire forest heard of her ramblings on a family traitor. very little does buck ever regret her words, but she can feel herself grow hot under her wispy pelt after all she had said. she loves raccoon, but the world is slipping away from her. buck can feel the tear as her claws try to hold on desperately to a life that is fleeting.

she hates it. she hates that colony. she hates them for stealing her life away. she hates how raccoon joined so easily. her heart is breaking and she has no way to repair it.

The call from their family was a half welcomed half fearful thing. They'd loved to see Caraway, Buck and now Boar and spend the day together like nothing had changed. Like a whole colony hadn't uprooted what they called home and tore the family apart at the seams it felt like. Buck of course was furious with them, why shouldn't she be? They had basically abandonded their family, but Buck had to understand the reason behind it right? That it was either join this group or be chased from their home all together, and Raccoon couldn't bare to part with the river. Couldn't bare to learn a whole new place in the world when everything they had had lied right here in the river territory.

Black paws moved across the dry ground, it had been a rather hot day, and orange eyes flicked around as if Buck was going to ambush them. Or something was out to get them and tear them down because of their choice to join Riverclan. Even though this path was familiar, Raccoon felt like a stranger. Felt like they where tresspassing on land that no longer belonged to them, and they slow their pace with a hard swallow. A memory danced by of little kitten Raccoon playing amongst the reeds while Buck watched idly on, and Caraway egged them on in chasing their own tail.

Was it all different now? Were these cats they called family no longer accepting to them? No, that wouldn't be right- they had been so supportive of them in their endeavors. From when Raccoon had come out as transgender, when they first found the group and everything in between. Would they be so readily able to just throw them aside? Because of their desire to stay in the river territory? They hadn't wanted to join Riverclan, but it was better than wondering if Cicada was going to chase them out or not.

"Bucks going to have my pelt for her nest," They muttered softly, ears flattening to their head as they moved along the path once more. Paws hesitant and slow as they came to the clearing they knew like the back of their paw. On the other side of the border of Riverclan, reed and willows aplenty, and the family scents drifted up their nose. They could already feel the tears starting to well in their eyes but they decided to snuff it down as much as they could. It would be okay, it had to be okay.

Raccoon pushed through a reed bush and into the little opening that they have called home since they were a kitten. Ever since Buck had found them and Serenity at the edge of the territory, abandoned and hungry. Boar was off to the side of two familiar shapes just playing about in the clearing like they had use to do. Black legs shook a bit as they stood there, then approached the two older cats with their head lowered, "I'm here," They meekly spoke and glanced from their paws to Caraway and Buck. Then back down at the ground in almost shame, ready for a verbal lashing.

After everything thst has happened the child has been quiet. Lurking along in the clearing and attempting to catch the small grasses that she sees upon the ground. Clumsy overly large paws pounce and attempt to slam down on them as she stays in a small world all of her own. But every now and then she looks up to make sure that Caraway is near, a certain anxious feeling creeping up along her spine. It's always there but it comes forth sharply when she thinks she's been left behind. Being introduced to other cats makes her stay quiet and she wiggles her rump before launching herself forward. Kicking up dirt she is about to start nibbling on the grass when she hears a voice and she turns her acidic gaze towards the other. Her head tilts and she lightly rubs at her face before she frowns a little. She knows little about the situation that is going on and slowly she gets up and makes her way toward the other cats.

Dipping her head she moves to attempt to bury herself against Caraway and eyes the other two with a curious gaze. She isn't sure what this is about but she wants to know she supposes. After all this is home now, Caraway is nice and she thinks of her as her new parent.
( ) a soft noise escapes rubbery lips as buck settles near. the smokey muzzle will attempt to reach out and offer the other a friendly nuzzle, although verdant eyes flicker with worry. how can it be that only a moon ago they had been living peacefully in the willow, their only worries about what time their family would come home. now the territory rings with new voices and odd scents. their little group is being torn at the seams even as they add another member. nothing makes sense anymore. "let rac explain themself, okay love?" the words are spoken hesitantly, as if worried about potential lashing anger. cicada's statement comes back to them as they hear reeds rustle and recognize the black and white pelt of their sibling. i can't promise forever, but you and your family are welcome in riverclan. just those words had soothed so many anxieties. the tom had seemed sure about it, even as he explained his reasoning. stars, she hopes buck will not hate her after this little meeting.

"rac," they begin, but pause, swallowing. a glance at buck and then the trotting of tiny paws interrupts whatever they might have said next. the littlest member of the family arrives, bundling immediately into caraway's side, and whiskers twitch with loving amusement. "hi, little love." they murmur, wrapping their tail around the child protectively. with boar settled against them, the tall smoke femme clears their throat, teeth worrying their lip. "i think we all know why we're here," the opening line seems cheap and too formal for this meeting, but through all the changes, it's hard to tell what the dynamic even is anymore. "okay. um, this is difficult. but i have some things to say. i love all of you so much. you're my family no matter what. but, i spoke to cicada, riverclan's leader." they swallow hard, breath hitching. "i asked him if riverclan took kits. and he said yes. but he also said that we were all welcome in the clan, if we wanted to join."

shame wells in their chest but they press on, eyes on the grass at their paws now. "i think a clan would make a better life for boar. and i think that boar needs me." the final words are bitten out in little pieces, as if the feline is testing them on their tongue to see how they feel. "i don't want to leave the river, but eventually the clan is going to take more territory. the willow is going to be theirs. i can't bare to part with any of you. rac, you've already joined. but buck," and now they glance up, eyes pleading, thoughts swirling with unshed emotion. "i don't think we can live like this anymore. i think things have changed. i think we need to leave or join. and i'm not going to leave." tufted ears flatten, feathery tail curling tighter around the child at their side. "i don't know what to do."