your sorrow, your beauty, your war || aftermath

Sep 11, 2022

➵ Morning sun filters in, just the slightest rays gracing a blue-streaked form. It's dark in the medicine den, reeds tightly woven and mud packed into crevices, shadows broken only by what makes it through the entrance.

He bled through his bandages in the night, cobwebs on his shoulder soaked red, but it's slowed to a stop by now.

The news has almost certainly made its way through camp—anyone who didn't witness his stumbling bloody homecoming will likely hear about it the moment they're awake. The vicious hound's scent still lingers on his fur, damning evidence of last night's hell; Clearsight lies slumped in his nest, position unchanged from the moment he collapsed here last night, once Coast and Smokethroat had gotten him safely home.

The pounding of his head wakes him. Slowly Clearsight blinks, sunlight gold eyes glossy with sleep. This isn't the warriors' den, he thinks first–where's Clayfur, he thinks second—oh, he thinks at last, remembering.

Well. Fucking StarClan. He does not want to do that again.

He squeezes his eyes shut in a preemptive wince, aching muscles rippling beneath blue tabby fur in an attempt to rise before he gives in and slumps back against the moss. Stars almighty, that hurts. His chest aches, bruised lungs protesting every breath he draws, and an excruciating cough spits blood onto his paws.

Clearsight stares down at the red spatter.


He's... seen cats cough blood before, after injuries like that—his mind flashes back to the shattering impact, heavy paws on his back slamming him into the ground. He knows they die often as not.

He shuts his eyes and takes another painful breath—tries to start grooming the blood from his paws and can't manage that, either, his injured shoulder screaming if he moves his head just wrong.

& we've all got battle scars ✗

It’s a gentle morning, one wherein Clay is awoken softly, slowly. He’s the type to wake in stages, sluggish in his fight against the sleep that tries to drag him back under. He rouses after a few moments though, giving a massive yawn as he rolls over onto his side.

It isn’t until he blinks fully to awareness that he realizes he’s cold. There’s no familiar fur beneath his head, or tucked against his side, or pressed into his neck. And from the feeling of it, there hasn’t been one for a while. Clearsight is gone.

Clay tries not to be hurt that his warrior has left his side at some point during the night—surely there’s a reason, and Clearsight didn’t just abandon him. Maybe Clayfur was kicking in his sleep again, or mumbling unintelligible words that scared the whirlpool-pelted tom away. Maybe one of Clearsight’s other friends needed his help with something, or wanted him to sleep beside them last night.

He pulls himself to his paws, easier now that he’s snapped into wakefulness. He shouldn’t be so worried, he thinks. Surely there’s a good, safe reason that Clearsight is gone, and he hasn’t just been snatched away by twolegs in the middle of the night. But panic has taken over and he can practically feel his heart beating out of his chest, rabbit-paced against his ribcage.

The first warrior he spots is immediately harassed. He’s in their face, eyes wide and panicked, paws unable to keep still. "Where is he—Clearsight? Please." As soon as he gets his answer, the muddy brown tabby moves so quickly he doesn’t even have time to thank the poor warrior.

He rushes into the medicine den expecting the worst. The last time he’d been in here was for Ashpaw, and he’d been okay then, even if he’d been swimming in a sea of worry. Now, it feels like he’s drowning in it.

The sight of his love coughing up blood only heightens his worry, and Clayfur bounds to his side without thinking. He doesn’t touch, too afraid of what it means that Clear is spitting out blood, and instead lowers himself to a crouch before the other tom. "Honey—oh stars, what happened? Who did this?" There’s a pause as the helplessness of the situation truly sinks in. If he had been with Clearsight, if he had just stayed awake, if he had just woken up whenever the tom had left…

Maybe this would never have happened in the first place. Clay knows he can’t logically blame himself, but he’s always had problems with assigning blame. And this? The only cat around to blame for this is himself. He’s supposed to be a warrior, supposed to protect his clanmates and those he cares about.

He’s failed at the one thing he’s even decent at. How can he… how can he call himself a warrior? How can he look into eyes that hold the sunrise and not feel the sting of not being good enough?

This isn’t about you, he spits to himself, shaking his head. This is his fault, so he needs to fix it.

He thinks about seeking out Beesong, telling the medic to fix him, but it looks like the cinnamon tabby has already tried. "Why didn’t anyone wake me up," He murmurs, sniffling back the horrendous noise that wants to break from his chest. Clearsight is so clearly injured, it feels like Clay’s heart might shatter just looking at him. "Is there… anything that I can do?"

➵ And then Clayfur is there, soft brown fur not pressed up against his—hesitant, resting just out of reach. But the scent of him alone feels like safety, and Clearsight lets his eyes fall shut, a heavy sigh falling from his lips. Once again the breath is painful.

"Clay," he says, tears of relief in his eyes. He searches for words and doesn't find them, just glad the man is here. Waking up alone, once his default, has become something cold and unsettling.

He leans closer to Clayfur, a gesture meant to invite contact—he's bruised and bloody and it'll probably hurt but he doesn't care. He wants that weight and warmth against him. Wants to lose himself in Clay's presence as he so often does.

"The twolegs," comes his hoarse reply as to who. "Their hound. It..."

Pinned him. Dug its claws in and held him down while he waited to die. Clearsight blinks back the memories, grounding himself in this moment—Clayfur's scent and Clayfur's voice, soft moss bedding blood-spattered but safe. It's over now, he tells himself.

"It did a number on me. Smokethroat and Coast got me out of there before—"

He cuts off, not knowing what the end of that sentence would be. Before it could come back and tear him to pieces properly? Before some other predator could stumble upon the easy pickings he'd become?

He lifts his aching head, turning his neck slowly and carefully, raising sun-gold eyes to meet hazel. And stars above, Clayfur looks a wreck. Guilt seizes him, and he aims to shift closer, wanting to press against the man.

"Hey, I'm alright," he says, and he hopes he isn't lying. "I'll be alright. I'm safe now."

"Is there anything I can do?" Clay asks, and Clearsight thinks he feels his heart break.

"You're here," he says, stretching his neck to touch his nose to Clayfur's cheek, offering soft affectionate licks. "That's... that's all I could want."

Tears sting sunlight eyes, and his gaze flicks over the anxious form of the man he loves so dearly, blue tabby tail coming to rest against Clayfur's flank.

"Stay," he says.

Nearly begs, if he's honest.

Before RiverClan he was not the kind of man to beg. He was colder than this; he was unshakeable. And now he is different. Coast's little nickname might be more accurate than he's wanted to admit—he thinks of Willowroot, Cicadastar, little Gillpaw.

A lover indeed.

& we've all got battle scars ✗

He's tired.

The young apprentice had sat outside of the medicine den all night as his mentor laid within it, as if such a small thing could protect the den - and furthermore, Clearsight - from harm's way. Not once did Gillpaw move away from the place in which he sat guard, sorrow-filled gaze staring forward as he watched for Clearsight's attacker to make its way into camp.

And, not once has he slept throughout the night that followed, images of havoc ripping through the camp whirling through his mind. Concern for his mentor stayed at the forefront. His mentor, who was supposed to stay his mentor until he became a warrior, though, with such horrific injuries, Gillpaw couldn't help but fear his apprenticeship would have to be carried out by someone else. It's a fear that causes such a painful twist in his chest - he didn't want anyone else to train him! He wanted Clearsight and Clearsight only! How could he ever go on without his mentor there to watch him grow into a warrior?

Tired eyes begin to grow heavy as his mind continues to speed along, though rest does not come. No, a rush of fur makes its way past him, causing the black and white tom to look up with wide eyes.


Oh, stars. He forgot to wake Clayfur.

He should've... He should've woken him, should've let him know. But, in the midst of it all, it must have slipped his mind. The two warriors seemed to be close, after all. Gillpaw should have told him, too. Guilt begins to rise within the kit - what would've happened, if Clearsight hadn't made it? If Clayfur learned far too late?

Clearsight... Clearsight had made it through the night, right?

The young apprentice hesitates for a moment. Perhaps he should check? Maybe Clearsight would be glad to see both Clayfur and him?

Gillpaw turns, taking a single step into the medicine den. The sight of his mentor... It somehow looks worse than it did the night before. Bloodstained cobwebs and crimson splattering the floor all cause alarm in Gillpaw's mind. Was Clearsight going to make it through this?

"C-Clearsight...?" he squeaks out from the entrance, eyes wide as he looks at the injured warrior. He's awake and speaking - that had to be a good sign, right? Surely, he was going to be okay, after all?

He had to be. Gillpaw couldn't lose him too.
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The blue-furred tom leans just a bit closer to him, and brown-flecked eyes widen slightly. The concerned expression on his face only carves its lines deeper as his love begins to speak. He listens patiently, trying not to let

"Damned twolegs…" he mutters, jaw clenched. He knows there’s nothing that he—or anyone else—could have done to prevent Clearsight’s injuries, because as far as Clay knows, facing a dog is an experience that almost always ends with a fate worse than the stormy-blue warrior’s. But the guilt won’t leave him. "I’m so glad they saved you. I… I was still sleeping. I didn’t even wake up." Honey-golden eyes finally meet his own, and Clay’s breath hitches.

It’s almost too much, to look the man he loves in the eyes when Clayfur has failed him so.

He blinks rapidly as the warrior reassured him that he’s safe. It feels a bit childish, that Clay is the one being comforted right now. "I’m sorry," he breathes, scooting closer to the other tom. He’s careful not to lean any significant weight onto Clearsight, doesn’t want to injure him further, but he presses as close as he dares. He doesn’t want to risk letting him go again. "Of course I’m here. Of course I’ll stay. I’m," he coughs out a wet laugh, "I’m never leaving your side again. You’re stuck with me until you’re better, and even longer after that."

He can’t believe just how much he feels for this man. He’s had the thought before, but this. This is different. Seeing him injured, knowing that given the choice he would trade places with Clearsight in an instant, it only solidifies what he’s suspected for a while now.

I’ve fallen in love again.

The familiar voice of Gillpaw draws him from the world-tilting thought, and he raises his head to offer the child a wobbly, genuine smile. How can anyone smile at a time like this? There’s something wrong with him. There must be something wrong with him. Something fundamentally broken deep down inside that allows him to smile—and mean it—even while Clearsight lies beside him, wrecked from injuries from that wretched hound. If only Clay had been with him!

The burden of blame settles solidly upon mud-striped shoulders; he can’t shake it, no matter how hard he tries. It’s all that he can do not to wallow in it. "Gillpaw," he greets, voice low in a feeble attempt to disguise just how shaky it is. He doesn’t ask his warrior whether he wants to see the apprentice; he assumes that Clearsight will be cheered by the sight of the child he’s taken under his wing. "Come on, get over here. Don’t be a stranger." Clay pats the ground in front of them with a white paw, a request.