The docks were busy.
Twolegs were wandering back and forth, yowling to each other. A boat was being tied to one of the docks, more Twolegs stepping off of it, bringing with them nets full of fish. Some of them had strange gems or metals in one of their ears, and others were staring out at the golden horizon and mewing to each other. A cat stepped off of the boat after the larger creatures, weaving his way confidently around their paws and legs. Despite all the activity, the sun was only just beginning to rise.
Two kittens, larger than what their age usually offered, stared at the commotion with wide, pale yellow eyes. One was a she-kit, her pelt a dark gray color with white flecks mixed into the fur — like snow falling onto a Thunderpath, their mother told them once (though, she didn't know what a Thunderpath was). Her tufted ears and tail tip were pale gray. The tom was only slightly larger than his sister, and most of his pelt was pale gray. His chest, belly, and one of his hindpaws were white, and he had thick, darker stripes across shoulders, back and crooked tail.
A Twoleg kit spotted them and pointed them out to an older one, pulling at one of their pelts and gesturing to them with one of their strange paws. The older Twoleg pulled a fish out of the net it was carrying with some effort before giving it to the younger, who preceded to rush toward them. The kittens blinked up at the creature curiously, but their curiosity was forgotten in favor of hunger once the fish was set down in front of them. The kittens leapt for you, digging their teeth into the meat and enjoying the flavor coating their tongues. Neither knew exactly what kind of fish it was, but the tomkit was sure that he could show whatever parts of it remained to their mother later, who would identify it for them.
"Shove off, Foam," the she-kit demanded, nudging her brother out of the way none-too-gently with a shoulder. "They were obviously giving the fish to me."
"It was not!" Foam argued, eyes narrowed. "It gave it to both of us, Ocean!"
"It was!" Ocean argued around a mouthful of fish. She swallowed her mouthful before she opened her jaws to continue.
"It's for both of you," a kind, amused voice mewed from above them. Both kits turned their heads to look up at the she-cat; her pelt was fluffy, with a snow-white chest, belly, and paws, and the rest of her fur was pale gray. Like the tomkit, her tail was crooked, but unlike him, her eyes were green. The tom wondered how and why the Twolegs had given her the name 'Iceberg' — she didn't look very much like ice at all. "Now share it, like you were meant to," she purred.
Foam blinked up at her. "What kind of fish is it, Mama?"
Iceberg hummed, leaning forward to inspect it. "It looks like an opaleye, to me." The she-cat brushed her crooked tail over one of her son's ears. "You have to learn these things, Foam. Current can already name most of the fish the Twolegs catch."
Ocean scoffed, rolling her eyes. "He's a tom," she complained. "Of course he's fish-brained."
"Hey," Iceberg scolded gently, "be nice."
Foam narrowed his eyes at her, ears flat against his head in obvious offense. "You can't name them, either," he pointed out. Ocean hissed at him.
"Hey," Iceberg repeated, tone more sharp. Both kits quieted. "Now finish up your fish and let's go wake up Current. I'm going to teach you three to swim today."
The tom brightened, dipping his head and wolfing down as much of the fish as fast as he could. He could feel his sister next to him, but he didn't care — he was learning to swim today! How could he be mad when he was going to learn to do something that looked so fun?
Foam finished the fish first, bounding past Ocean and surging forward to go find Current. He assumed that she was still lounging in their family's nest, in the little den that the Twolegs had made for all the cats to sleep in. He bounded inside the room, pausing for a heartbeat to drink in the smells of so many different cats.
The area was full of baskets made of hard plastic and were kept comfortable with towels, pillows, and worn-out blankets. Families tended to sleep together, as it was with Foam's family. The young tom padded passed the baskets until he'd found the one he slept in. He hefted himself onto his hindpaws, placing his forepaws on the lip of the basket as he looked down at his sister.
Current was a tabby. Most of her stripes were dark gray, and the rest was a paler gray. Unlike her siblings and mother, she had no white in her pelt. Like Ocean, the she-kit's plumy tail was straight, and was curled around her muzzle comfortably. She was only slightly smaller than the tom's other sister — a difference that most wouldn't notice unless they paid close attention to the two kits' sizes, like Foam had. It was important, after all, for him to know he was bigger than them.
"Current!" Foam mewed. "Wake up!"
Current opened one green eye halfway before she let out a whine, closing it again.
"Mama's gonna teach us to swim today!"
Current let out a louder, longer whine before she opened her eyes. She got to her paws, arching her back in a long, languid stretch as she let out a yawn that was just as long. Drowsily, she leapt out of the basket and landed easily next to her brother, who dropped back onto all four paws once she was at his side.
"Where's Mama and Ocean?" Current asked sleepily.
"I'll show you!" Foam meowed. He turned and trotted back through the maze of nests and to the docks, leading the way toward his mother and other sister. When they reached them, they found them still sitting near the fish him and Ocean had shared. Iceberg lifted her head, smiling as her kits approached her.
"Do you want some breakfast, Current?" the she-cat asked, pushing the remains of the opaleye toward her daughter with a paw.
Current nodded her head, dipping her head to wolf down the remains of the fish. Foam stared at her, silently urging her to go faster. She didn't. When she finally was done, she sat up and lifted a paw to clean her whiskers dutifully.
"Can we go now?" Ocean whined.
Iceberg let out an amused purr. "Yes, we can go now." She rose to her paws and padded through the docks, finally stopping at a part of them that had very little Twoleg activity. Her kits trotted after her, excitement on their faces. The queen stopped at the edge of the dock she'd chosen.
"If you can run, you can swim," Iceberg began. She turned her head, looking from kit to kit with sharp eyes. "However, swimming isn't exactly like running. Your legs should move slower and stronger, and you keep your chin up." Gracefully, the she-cat slid into the water, powerful strokes of her legs sending her into controlled circles. Foam noticed that while she held her head high, water still lapped at the fur of her chin.
"Ocean, you come in first," their mother called.
The kit looked concerned all of a sudden, her pale yellow eyes going wide. "But..."
Iceberg chuckled. "I'll be right next to you, I promise."
Nervously, Ocean got to her paws and jumped into the water, disappearing under the surface. After a moment, she resurfaced, sputtering, and Iceberg smiled at her.
"Good job!" she praised. Ocean offered a shaky smile in return.
Foam watched as the larger she-cat instructed her daughter on the right way to swim until the kit was swimming in small, confident circles. Ocean was exchanged for Current, who had a bit more trouble picking it up than her sister, but still became just as strong a swimmer. While he was waiting for his turn, he turned his head to look at his shoulder and at the ruffled fur Ocean had given him when she nudged him. With a look of disgust on his face, he quickly flattened the fur with a few quick strokes of his tongue.
"Foam," Iceberg mewed as Current pulled herself back onto the docks, shaking out her pelt and sending droplets of water everywhere (much to her siblings' obvious displeasure), "it's your turn."
Foam happily jumped into the water, but found himself sinking. Ocean and Current had found their way back to the surface so easily — what was he doing wrong? He tried to move his body, but the movements were slow, restricted by the water. He squeezed his eyes shut as he felt the sting of salt in them, thinking back on what Iceberg had told them.
Your legs should move slower and stronger, and you keep your chin up.
Foam lifted his head, feeling himself float upwards naturally. Once his head broke the surface, he took in a deep breath of air, blinking his eyes open.
Ocean snickered at him. "Took you a while." Current glanced at her sister out of the corner of her eye, but she didn't argue.
"Shut up," Foam grumbled at her.
"He did just fine," Iceberg meowed from her place farther in the ocean. "Now move your legs, Foam."
The tom complied, moving his legs in slow, strong strokes, like his mother had told him to. Despite following her orders, he wasn't moving as fast as his sisters had been.
"You can move your legs faster," Iceberg told him. "But not too fast, or else you'll tire yourself out."
Foam nodded, quickly complying. He started to go faster, easily catching up with his mother's speed, and he grinned as he glided smoothly through the water. "I'm swimming," he cheered, "I'm swimming!"
He turned his head to see that another, younger she-kit had joined his sisters. She was much smaller than the other two she-kits, and her pelt was white with black spots dotting across her back, sides, and belly. On her tail, legs, chest, and face, the black spots turned into markings far more similar to a tabby's stripes. Her blue eyes were wide as she looked at him, before turning her gaze to the kits next to her. "Isn't Foam a great swimmer?" she asked them.
Current shrugged. "I guess."
Ocean puffed out her chest pridefully. "Not as good as me!"
"Ignore Amunet," Iceberg murmured to him. "Focus on your practice."
Foam nodded his head, a grin on his face as he continued to swim alongside his mother. Iceberg stopped in place, treading water as her son continued swimming in his circles. Out of the corner of his eye, Foam could see her gaze turn to the golden horizon, her eyes narrowed. "Remember, you three," she meowed, "that you can't swim when it's going to storm."
"How will we know when it's gonna storm?" Current asked.
"There's a rhyme we use," Iceberg meowed, starting to swim again. She easily caught up to the tomkit. "Red sky at night, sailor's delight. Red sky at morning, sailor's warning."
"What's a sailor?" Foam and Ocean asked in harmony. The siblings turned their heads to glare at each other.
"We're sailors," their mother answered, amused. "Now keep swimming, Foam."
Amunet trotted alongside him as they made their way through the docks, heading toward the den full of basket-nests.
"I hope I'll be as good a swimmer as you are," she mewed.
"I'm sure you will be!" Foam told her, flicking his tail behind her. "Your fur isn't as thick as mine, so you might even be better."
The she-kit blinked up at him, her eyes shining. "You think so?"
Foam hummed enthusiastically, nodding his head. He waved his tail in greeting to another cat that was passing by him, offering a smile with the action. The cat returned his smile, dipping her head to him briefly before she continued on her way. "Less stuff weighing you down should make you faster!"
Amunet let out a purr. "I can't wait to learn how to swim."
"Maybe you should ask your mama about it," Foam suggested.
"I will!" the kit mewed, nodding frantically. "I'll do it right now! Bye, Foam!" She sped off, bounding off back the way they had come.
He watched as she weaved around Twolegs before he continued forward, sniffing around to find a scent trail for his mother or Current — he didn't feel like spending time with Ocean, and he wasn't sure if he ever would. Finally, Foam caught onto his sister's scent.
Unfortunately, it wasn't Current's.
He padded after it anyways; maybe, this time, Ocean would be nice to him.
He padded passed Twolegs and a few other cats (all of which he smiled and waved his tail at), his ears perked and listening attentively to the comforting laps of the ocean's waves under the wooden boards and on the poles supporting them. He paused for a heartbeat, taking a deep breath of salty ocean air; he couldn't imagine living anywhere else — not that he could even imagine anywhere else in the first place. Something bumped into him, and he almost fell into the water. The thing let out a scoff.
"Oh, it's you," Ocean complained. Foam turned his head to look at her, sticking out his tongue. She returned the gesture before she suddenly brightened. "Iceberg's gonna teach us to fish! Come on come on come on!" Before he could respond, she turned and ran back the way she had come. Foam quickly followed after her, excitement thrumming through him.
Ocean led the way through the docks until they found Iceberg and Current seated next to the water, a warm smile on their mother's muzzle and a concentrated expression on their sister's face. She was watching the water with narrowed eyes, her paw hovering above the surface and ready to strike. Iceberg looked over her shoulder, purring at the sight of her other two kits. "Be quiet and let your sister concentrate," she mewed, "then I'll teach you two." She turned her head to look back at her daughter. Foam and Ocean glanced at each other before they both fell into sloppy crouches and made their way forward, being as silent as they could. As they got closer, Foam realized it didn't matter — Current was too focused to pay any attention to the sounds they might have made.
A she-cat flashed her paw forward suddenly, claws flashing in the light of the sun. She flung a fish onto the wooden boards of the dock, dipping her head to kill it with a quick bite between the back of its head and the fin on its back. She sat back on her haunches proudly, looking up at her mother with a small smile on her face. Iceberg purred loudly, dipping her head to lick Current between the ears. "Good job," she praised. "Your first catch!"
"A sculpin, Current meowed, chin lifted in pride.
"A sculpin," Iceberg agreed, sounding just as proud. She licked her between the ears again before turning her head to look at her other kits. "Okay, you two, come over here."
Dutifully, the two rose to her paws. Current scooted over to make room, pulling her sculpin along with her with a forepaw. Ocean and Foam sat down on either side of their mother, crouching beside her like they had seen Current do.
"Fishing is an art of patience," Iceberg explained. "As long as you can keep still but be fast, and can keep your shadow off of the water, you'll be fine. Watch." The she-cat let a paw hover over the waves, her eyes narrow as she watched them. Suddenly, she struck, flinging a fish out of the water and onto the docks. Foam watched as it flopped on the wooden boards, trying to get back into the water, but it stopped moving when Iceberg dipped her head and bit down on it.
The she-cat lifted her head, looking between her son and daughter. "Do you know what kind of fish this is?"
"A clingfish," Ocean answered quickly.
"That's right," Iceberg mewed with a nod of her head. "Now it's your turn to try."
Ocean nodded her head, letting her paw hover above the water. She watched the water with narrowed eyes, and eventually, flashed her paw forwards; Foam could see her paw brush against something reflective in the water, but she didn't manage to pull it out.
"That's okay," their mother assured. "Try again; the fish won't be going anywhere."
Ocean took a deep breath, but did as she was told. With a focused look on her face, she let her paw hover over the water again. For a long while she was still and silent, but then she moved quickly, almost making Foam jump from how sudden it was. A fish was flopping on the docks before he knew it, and was quickly killed by his sister's teeth.
"Good job!" Iceberg praised, licking her between the ears, just like she had done for Current.
"It's a prickleback," Ocean purred.
Foam narrowed his eyes at the fish. "No, it's not," he meowed. "It's a specklefin."
"Foam's right," Iceberg mewed. "It's a specklefin — and it's his turn."
Ocean glared at him. He ignored it, turning to the water and hovering a paw over the waves, like his littermates had done before him. He watched for a passing fish, or reflecting scales. When he finally saw what he was looking for, he struck, but it slipped out of his grip. Determined not to lose his first catch, Foam stuck his other paw in the water, his claws snagging onto the fish. He leg out a cheer, but when he felt himself start to slide into the water, his cheer quickly turned into a yelp. Teeth dug into his scruff, pulling him back onto the boards.
Iceberg was purring her amusement, and behind her, Ocean was snickering behind her. Current was sniffing at his catch, which was weakly flopping around on the dock — after she gave him a glance and he gave her a nod of approval, she delivered a killing bite. "It wasn't as clean as you want it to be," Iceberg meowed, "but it was a catch. Good job." She licked her son between the ears. "Try again, and try and make it cleaner this time."
Foam nodded, turning back to the water.
"Oh, and Ocean?" their mother mewed, her voice nothing less than teasing, "That is a prickleback."
The boat in front of them was far bigger up close. Iceberg had never allowed them to be near the massive things, saying that they were too young, but today they were going to be on them.
"Go on, Current," Iceberg told her daughter. "it looks big, but it's just one leap."
Current nodded her head. She sucked in a deep breath before leaping across the gap between the dock and the boat, lashing her tail for balance behind her once she landed. Ocean followed after her, wriggling her haunches before she jumped and nearly stumbling when she landed.
Foam looked down at the water between the boat and the dock — sure, he knew how to swim, but the thought of falling still made him nervous. He took in a deep breath before he crouched, tensing his muscles and leaping across the gap. He landed easily, and a moment later he heard his mother land on the boat behind him, a purr rumbling in her throat.
"Good job, all of you," she praised while a Twoleg avoided the family. Foam looked around in awe, his eyes wide and moving from place to place. He looked from the front of the boat to the back of it; from one Twoleg to another; from a strangle pile of things to a strange crate of things. He turned his head to look at his mother as she sniffed at the air. "We're leaving soon. Come on, this way."
Iceberg led the way toward the front of the ship, carefully weaving around Twolegs and their strange objects. Foam looked around in wonder as he trailed after her and his sisters, nearly bumping into Ocean when they suddenly stopped. The dark gray-and-white kit looked over her shoulder, yellow eyes narrowed as she hissed at him. Foam narrowed his eyes back but he didn't respond, instead watching as Iceberg leapt onto the banister. She flicked her crooked tail, inviting her kits to join her. After a moment of hesitation, Foam did so and sat net to her. Current followed in their pawsteps and sat on his other side.
The water stretched out as far as the eye could see. The water was blue and full of waves, but he couldn't see how deep it was or how far off into the distance it went; he could only see waves on the horizon, and he guessed that the water went on and on for a much larger distance than what he could see. It was endless, and he couldn't see if there were any fish below the surface of the water from where he was, because he was too high up to check for any. Curiously, he looked up at his mother.
"How big is the ocean?"
"Bigger than we can imagine."
He almost jumped at a loud, rumbling sound from the back of the boat. He looked over his shoulder to find the source of it, but couldn't find anything, only seeing Twolegs standing near the banister of the boat. They were mewing to each other and looking out over the ocean around them. The boat started moving slowly, pulling away from the familiar docks and bringing them into the unknown. Sea air slapped him in the face as the boat sped up, and he opened it jaws to taste it. Against his tongue, it was salty and cold.
"Can we fish here?" Current had to yowl to be heard over the wind.
"No," Iceberg answered, just as loud. "That's the Twolegs' job, today."
Foam took in a deep breath of ocean air, feeling it combing through his pelt, making his eyes narrow and his ears flatten against the force of the wind. He decided that he liked sitting on the boat, watching as the ocean passed by him. He wondered what it would feel like to be sitting there alone, even if he did like being accompanied by his family.
When the boat finally did stop, he turned his eyes toward where they had come from, but he couldn't see the Docks. Just to be sure, he looked all around him, but he couldn't see anything in the distance. At an exclamation from Ocean, he lifted his head to look at the sky and spotted a large, white-feathered bird that soared above his head.
"I thought birds lived on land," Current meowed, tilting her head.
"Some do," Iceberg informed. "That's a seabird."
"Can we catch those, like fish?" Foam asked — how different would a bird taste from a fish?
His mother shook her head. "No. Sailors believe that seabirds are sailors who have died, and it's bad luck to harm one of them."
Ocean folded one ear backwards in confusion. "But we're cats," she meowed. "Not birds."
"We're cats now," Iceberg meowed with a chuckle. "When we die, we'll become seabirds."
"There are birds on land, though," Foam meowed. "Can we eat those?"
"Yes, you can," Iceberg answered with a nod. Then she added, amused, "As long as you can catch them, of course."
"We could!" Ocean defended.
"I'm sure you could," the older cat purred, curling her crooked tail around her daughter. "With practice, of course."
Ocean scrunched up her nose. "I don't like practice," she complained. "It's boring."
"Practice is how we get better!" Foam mewed cheerily. Iceberg nodded her head in agreement.
"Even if you don't practice," Iceberg purred, "I'm sure that all of you will be able to catch anything you want."
Amunet was growing up, he realized.
She was still just as cheery and excitable as she always had been, offering praise and support whether it was needed or not, and was still the sweetest cat that Foam had ever known. But she was growing up all the same, much like his littermates had been. He was still larger than her, of course, and had even become the largest of his littermates by far (he was now practically as large as Iceberg was, and she promised that he'd someday be bigger than her).
Amunet had grown out of her kit fur, and now had a sleek and silk-soft pelt. Her eyes had fully changed from their kitten blue to their true shade of the color, one that reminded him of the Ocean below their paws, and she possessed long legs and a smile that could make any potential suitor's heart melt. She wasn't a pretty kitten now, but a beautiful she-cat — even gorgeous, as Foam liked to compliment her with often. Despite her newly-acquired looks, Foam felt no attraction to her himself, only seeing her as the closest and most important friend he had.
Amunet smiled at him as the two padded along the docks. "So," she meowed, "I heard that you're gonna go on a boat by yourself soon?"
Foam nodded his head. "That's what Mom said," he mewed. "I'm not sure if I'm ready for it, though."
The she-cat tilted her head at him. "What do you mean?"
The larger of the two sighed. "I've only been on a boat a few times," he told her. "And that was with Mom and my sisters. I don't even know what I'm supposed to do there!"
For a few moments, Amunet was silent, before she knocked her shoulder against his gently. "Be good luck," she joked. "That's what cats are for, right?"
Foam nodded his agreement. He could remember the lesson where Iceberg had taught her kits what cats were here for well, when she'd sat the barely three-moon-old kits down on a crate and told them that cats were a sign of good fortune on all waters. He tilted his head up, looking up at the cloudy sky far above their heads. "I'm still worried, though," he admitted.
"Why?" Amunet asked, tilting her head. "There isn't a reason to be, is there?"
"Right," Foam confirmed. "I just... I've got a bad feeling, that's all."
"If anyone has no reason to worry ever, then it's you," the she-cat told him, giving him a small but warm smile. "You're Foam, after all."
The tom laughed, the sound devolving into a purr easily. "Thanks, Amunet," he meowed, leaning over to give her a quick lick on her ear.
"No problem," Amunet purred, swishing her tail.
Foam tilted his head. "Anything you're worrying about?" he questioned.
Amunet laughed. "You're too nice for your own good."
"A character flaw," Foam agreed with a grin.
Amunet shook her head. "I'm fine," she assured. After a few moments of comfortable silence, the smaller cat spoke. "What do you think about a fishing contest? Whoever catches less has to suck up to Ocean for the day."
"We don't have a lot of the day left," the larger commented, pointing with his muzzle toward the golden clouds that revealed that the sun was setting.
Foam narrowed his eyes playfully. "You're on."
The two took off running towards their favorite fishing spot. Neither noticed the pigeon over head flying farther and farther into the sky above the ocean.
When Foam jumped onto the boat, he stumbled and landed on his left side. Ocean laughed at him, Current winced, and Iceberg asked if he was okay. He assured her that he was, and proved it by sticking his tongue out at Ocean before padding deeper onto the boat.
The sky above the horizon was red as blood.
The tom coughed as the waves pushed him forwards, spitting water out of his jaws. His claws dug into the wood he was clinging to so hard that his forepaws ached. He felt his hindpaws brush against sand, and he lifted up his head as much as he could — he just felt so tired. He pushed himself forward, but collapsed before he reached the dry, black sand in front of him. Half his body lay soaked on the beach, while the other half lay in the waves. Too hungry, thirsty, and exhausted to pull himself any further, he fell asleep where he was.
He dreamed of the ocean breeze combing through his fur as he stood atop a rock, watching the waves crash against the massive stone. With every wave, he saw fire. With every sniff of salt, he tasted the tang of smoke on his tongue. As the sun rose above the horizon, turning the fiery waves of his dream ocean a brighter orange, he heard the sound of a voice yelling and screaming.
For a while, the rock in his dream was moving under him, as if taking him somewhere new, but the scenery around him didn’t change. He still saw fire in the waves and smelled smoke in the salt.
The rock went still.
Slowly, he came to awareness. He heard two different sets of pawsteps, meaning that there must have been two cats around him. He smelled wet sand, sea salt, and aster. Where am I? He wondered, too wary to open his eyes and too tired to move.
One of the sets of pawsteps approached him before fading away again. He caught the familiar scent of wet moss, and the tom threw caution to the wind and snapped his eyes open. He cradled the ball of moss with both paws as he lapped the moisture from it, as if it was his most treasured possession.
“Well, I guess there’s no need for that now,” a voice mused.
The tom lifted his head, looking at the speaker. Her pelt was tortoiseshell, but instead of the usual black undercoat, it was blue. Patches of white mixed in seamlessly with the fur. Her eyes were a pale blue, mixing well with her blue-gray coat. She was fairly muscular, but had no scars on her, making him wonder how she’d got the muscle in the first place. At her paws were leaves with white veins in them; he didn’t know what they were called or what they were used for.
“Hi!” the tom mewed, offering a tiny wave of his tail. “Who are you?”
“My name is Pebblenose,” the cat introduced, flicking one of her ears. “You’re in my den. Do you think you can sit up?”
He nodded his head, starting to sit up. A rush of dizziness hit him, as if he had been dazed by a particularly strong blow. He closed his eyes, waiting for the feeling to end. When it did finally stop, he continued sitting up, his pace much slower than it had been.
Pebblenose frowned. “You must be nauseous,” she mewed. “Drink some more from that moss, I’ll fetch you some herbs.” She turned, disappearing to another part of the den without waiting for him to respond.
“Uh…” he began, watching the she-cat leave, “okay.” He dipped his head, continuing to drink from the moss as he had been ordered to do. His ears perked when he heard her return.
“Here,” Pebblenose mumbled around a leaf-wrap, before she set the bundle in front of him. When she unwrapped it, the tom blinked at the red berries she had revealed. “Eat these. They’ll help with the nausea.”
His nose twitched as he sniffed at the berries, then lapped up a few of them. “What are they?” he asked as he chewed.
“Chokeberries.” The tortoiseshell sat down, curling her tail around her paws. “Don’t worry, they don’t actually make you choke. That’s just what they’re called.”
The tom nodded his head, lapping up the rest of the berries. He chewed quickly before swallowing them, doing his best to ignore the taste. He could feel more than see as Pebblenose looked him over.
“How are you feeling?” she asked. “Gleampaw told me he found you washed up on the shore?”
He was surprised for a heartbeat before he nodded. “Oh, right, that happened,” he mewed, mostly to himself, before he looked back at Pebblenose. “Hungry,” he told her.
She let out a huff of amusement, a small smile spreading across her muzzle. “Well, we have plenty of prey,” she mewed. “Do you prefer birds or fish?”
He narrowed his eyes in thought, thinking for a few moments too long to be deliberating on which one was his favorite. “I don’t know,” he finally replied.
Pebblenose hummed. “I’ll just fetch you the first thing I see, then,” she mewed as she rose to her paws. “I’ll be right back. Don’t touch anything while I’m out.” She turned and slipped out of the den.
He watched as the she-cat left, looking down at himself. His eyes widened in horror — his fur was soggy in some places and dry in others, some parts of it sticking up and others lying flat against his skin; and was that sand ? He shuddered, setting to work on cleaning his mess of a pelt, but not having the time to finish before Pebblenose returned. She set a fish in front of him — specklefin, he recognized. His belly grumbled, reminding him just how hungry he was. He sat there for a heartbeat, staring at the fish. He wanted clean his pelt, but that could wait until after he’d eaten. It wasn’t like cats would just wander inside the den, right? “Thank you, Pebblenose!” he meowed happily, dipping his head to take a bite of the fish.
The tortoiseshell offered a small smile in return. “You’re welcome,” she mewed. She was silent for a moment before she continued “I don’t think I got your name.”
The tom swallowed his mouthful of specklefin, looking back up at the she-cat. Again, his eyes narrowed in thought — too long to be deciding if he could trust a cat with his name. “I don’t remember it,” he meowed slowly, confused.
Pebblenose frowned again. “Well, that does complicate things,” she murmured, half under her breath but loud and clear enough for him to hear her. “Uh... is there anything you’d like to be called?”
The tom hummed as he thought. He could be called Beach, since that was what he was washed up on, or Wash on that train of thought, but neither of the ideas sat well with him. Maybe Fire, because— he pushed the thought from his mind before he even had the time to consider it. He thought about the driftwood he’d been clinging to, the driftwood that had probably saved his life; not that he could remember if it actually had or not. “Drift,” he finally meowed. “I like Drift.”
“Drift,” Pebblenose echoed, nodding her head. “That’s that, then. Welcome to WaveClan, Drift.”