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Note Edit

This fic has been discontinued. I will leave it up for people to read, but I will no longer update it. Thanks to everyone who read the fic. You guys mean the world :)

Love,

Cyp

Synopsis Edit

"You only have one life to live. Why live it feeling suffocated?"

ThunderClan blames Blossomfall for a crime she never committed. With Blossomfall's mistreatment growing worse by the day, she longs for escape. Blossomfall meets Ivy, an enigmatic rogue running from a vague tormentor. Blosomfall is enthralled with this fetching fugitive. When Blossomfall runs away with Ivy, she discovers that Ivy lives a life far more dangerous than Blossomfall thought.

And Blossomfall, always eager for the truth, learns that some things are best left unsaid.

Chapter 1 Edit

One minute into the Gathering, and I'm already the talk of the clans.

"Don't sit next to Blossomfall, sweetie.  She's a bad cat."

"I always knew ThunderClan was soft, but I never knew they would harbor a murderer!  Especially since she killed the leader's daughter!

"If ThunderClan doesn't get rid of her soon, then we should do it ourselves!"

I want to scream at them, and ask why they are so blind to the truth.  But if I were them, I would think I was a murderer too.  They found me in a murderer's position.  I had been standing over Squirrelflight's dead body with blood on my paws.

When Firestar found me, he didn't know that my paws were bloody because I was trying to stop the bleeding.  He didn't know that we had been attacked by two strangers, one to hold me down and the other to do the deed.

I never saw the life drain out of Squirrelflight's body.  I was too focused on the tom holding me down, with icy blue eyes and a mass of scar tissue at his throat.

Firestar didn't know any of this.

All he knew was that his daughter was dead, and he needed someone to blame.

That's where the scar under my right eye comes from, a permanent reminder that Firestar is not all peaceful negotiations and bright smiles.

I tried to tell them the truth.  My father, who has been caught having an affair with a dead RiverClan darling, believed me.  My crippled sister believed me.  My brother believed me.

My mother, Millie, did not.

"You are not my daughter, Blossomfall.  You are nothing but a worthless scum.  You are a mistake."

That's where the nick in my ear comes from, a monument to a mother's rage.

Firestar was going to kill me.  Everyone was going to kill me.  But Graystripe had argued with Firestar for three long hours.

Within those three hours, Jayfeather and Lionblaze had managed to corner me and force-feed me yarrow until my vomit had turned into blood, because somewhere in Jayfeather's sick mind came the idea to "purge the evil from me".

When Firestar emerged with my father and my fate, he said I could stay.

I don't know if he was doing me a favor or doling out a punishment, because I still face abuse from my clan.  Just this morning I was attacked by Berrynose.  I thought he was going to kill me, but he let me leave at the last second.

Bumblestripe touches my shoulder with his tail tip.  "Don't listen to them," he says.  "You and I know the truth."

It helps, knowing I have someone on my side.  For all he knows, I could have killed Squirrelflight.  He wasn't there, but he trusts me.  He has enough faith in my conscience to know that I would never premeditate a killing.

"Hey, Bumblestripe!"  Tigerheart howls as he dashes towards us.  He doesn't even notice me.  His eyes belong to my brother.  Bumblestripe immediately tenses up.

"He- hey Tigerheart!" he stutters.  "It's been a while.  How are you?"

Tigerheart shrugs, and I try to ignore the fact that he refuses to look at me.

"I'm good," he says, and his eyes take on a teasing glint.  "Although, I would be a lot better if I could see you more often."

Bumblestripe's eyes dart around like trapped birds.

"Great StarClan Tigerheart!" he titters, flustered.  "You make it sound like a forbidden romance!"

Tigerheart looks crestfallen and he says:

"Yeah, like that would ever happen."

They are both silent for what seems like hours.

"The forbidden love rule is stupid anyways," I blurt, trying to control the awkwardness.  "I mean, can you really stop love?"

Tigerheart jumps as if I were a bloodthirsty  dog, lying in wait behind him.

"Hi Blossomfall," he says in a cautious, emotionless voice as if I would claw his eyes out if he said the wrong thing.

"Hey," I say, equally monotone.

"Blossomfall, get away from them."

I freeze.

Millie.

I slowly look over my shoulder to see Millie cast Tigerheart a disgusted glance.  "I'm very sorry if these two were pestering you," she says, cocking her head and giving a false smile.  "They can be such bothers."

Bumblestripe and I flinch. We both love our mother, but Millie likes to forget that she has three kits, not one.  Ever since I "killed" Squirrelflight and Bumblestripe sides with me, Millie has gone from ignoring us to hating us.  The only cat she seems to care about anymore is Briarlight, who believes me in the night but blames me in the light.

"Don't worry!" Tigerheart says, rushing his words.  "We were just chatting."

Millie rolls her eyes.  Her murderous daughter and coconspirator of a son?  Just chatting?

"Just stay with your own clan," Millie grunts to Tigerheart, and I have to resist telling her that staying with our own clan defeats the point of a Gathering.

"I was just leaving," Tigerheart says stiffly, casting Bumblestripe an apologetic look before running off.

"Why do you have to be like that?" Bumblestripe snaps, which is rare for him.  Bumblestripe is always the pacifist, the peacemaker.

"Don't talk to me like that!" Millie shoots back.  "Briarlight is the only sane one in the bunch, isn't she?"

"Millie, stop."

Whitewing appears behind us, her omnipresent kindness dampening the escalating anger.  "You should be thankful for your kits," she chides as her eyes take on a sad, wistful look.  "You never know when you might lose them."

This shuts us all up.  Many moons ago, Whitewing's kits were stolen.  They never caught the culprit.

We are silent for the rest of the Gathering.  Kits in WindClan.  Prey in RiverClan.  New apprentices in ShadowClan.

Thankfully, there is no more mention of me.

Soon enough, I find my paws taking me home, along with the rest of ThunderClan.  Whitewing pauses, and her eyes widen with an emotion I cannot place.  Birchfall approaches her, nudging her shoulder gently.

"Are you okay?" he asks.

Whitewing squeezes her eyes shut, taking deep, shuddering breaths.

"I'm fine," she whispers.  "It was just a few memories crawling up my nose."

They forget about it, but I feel like I'm being watched.  There is a rustle in the bushes behind me.

Someone is there.

I slip behind the bushes in a single fluid motion.

Sitting in a patch of grass, eating a mouse, is a silver tabby with scars running down her body.  Her are a deep, dark blue, like a midnight sky without stars.

"Who are you?" I say.  "What are you doing on Clan territory?"

"Eating a mouse," the tabby replies.  "That is, until you interrupted me."

There is no whine, no annoying stint to her voice.  Just truth.

"Er, not to be rude, but could you eat elsewhere?  Some cats don't treat strangers kindly."

"Could I stay for a night?" she asks.  "I'm tired of sleepy in Twoleg alleys filled to the brim with leery toms."

I cock my head.  "Don't you have a home?"

"No, I can't stay in one place for too long."

"Why not?"

"I'm running."

"Where?"

"Away.  I needed escape."

"From who?"

"Bad cats."

"Why are they looking for you?"

The tabby narrows her eyes.  "Why would you need to know?"

"Because you could stay here," I suggest.  "My clan takes in anyone.  We can protect you from whoever's chasing you.

She shakes her head.  "I would rather not get anyone else involved with my problems.  Just forget you saw me, okay?"

"Sorry, but I can't."

The she-cat gives me a long, hard stare, like she is picking me apart piece by piece.  She pulls back my skin, my muscles, draining by blood and dissecting my skeleton, turning me inside out.

It make me uncomfortable.

"Who are you, anyways?" she asks, looking like she could burst into tears or break into laughter at any second.

"B-Blossomfall," I say, suddenly afraid.

She smiles, and I release the breath I never knew I was holding.

"I'm Ivy."

"Well," I shift into a more comfortable position.  "You can tell me what ever you want.  Believe me, I know what it's like to want to escape."

Ivy's ears perk up.  "Really?"

"Yeah," I sigh, slouching.  "Everyone blames me for killing someone I never killed.  I wish Firestar had exiled me instead of letting me stay.  I want to leave."

"Then leave."

The sentence leaves us both silent.

Ivy shrugs.  "It's what I did."

My mind is flooding with excuses, despite the fact that leaving the clan sounds like a perfect solution to my problems.

"I have a brother," I sputter.  "He's brave and kind and he stand up for me.  I have a sister too, and she-she's-"

My tone turns dark and angry and I spit, "She's a coward."

Ivy nods.  "I have a sister too.  She's the pretty one, the special one.  It took a lot of hard work to get out of her shadow."

My burst of anger leaves me, and I regret what I said about Briarlight.  "I love my sister, though.  I can't leave."

Ivy flicks her tail.  "Listen, Blossomfall.  Before you are anyone's sister or daughter or whatever, you are your own cat.  You come first.  If leaving will make you feel better, then get out."

Ivy is challenging the rules I live by, the only rules I have ever known.  The Clan is everything.  Live for your clan.  Fight for your clan.  The clan eats first.  Die for your clan.

But her proposition was enticing.

"Would you let me come with you?"  I say, hope coating my voice.

Ivy shuts down.  "Like I said before, I don't want to involve other cats with my problems."

Ivy has sparked a fire within me.  Leaving.  How has it never occurred to me before?  And if I went with Ivy, I wouldn't be alone!  I can't let this opportunity slip past me.

"I've been trained to hunt and fight!" I argue.  "I can help you!  Two is better than one.  Besides, don't you ever get lonely?"

"I do," Ivy admits.  "You aren't going to let this go, are you?"

"Nope!"

Ivy sighs, laying down.  "Fine.  Company would be nice.  Be here by sunrise, and you can come with me."

Tomorrow?  That seems too soon.  "Hey, no need to be so hasty!"

Ivy chuckles.  "I leave tomorrow, with or without you."

Briarlight is to scared to support me.  Bumblestripe might miss me for a bit, but he'll get over it.  The same goes for Graystripe.  Everyone else hates me.

Take it or leave it.

"Well I'm coming," I proclaim.  "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Okay, Blossomfall.  Goodnight."

Ivy closes her eyes, and I pad back to camp for what might be the last time, feeling lighter than ever.

I am going to trust a fugitive stranger and leave everything I have ever known behind.  It sounds ridiculous, and it is.  But you only have one life to live.  Why live it feeling suffocated?

I have nothing to lose.

Chapter 2 Edit

This is a bad idea. A really bad idea.

I rush back towards the Warriors den. What was I thinking? Running away? Stupid, stupid, stupid! I don’t even know Ivy that well!

No. It is a good idea. A really good idea.

I storm out of the Warriors den. I’m tired of living like this! If my clan won’t believe the truth, than good riddance.

No, no, no! I can’t do this.

I pace back to the den.

Run, Blossomfall. Run for your own sake.

I race out.

Stay here, idiot.

You only live once.

Logic.

Freedom.

There I am, standing in the middle of the camp, absolutely torn. If I wait much longer, Ivy will leave without me.

There is a rustle in the gorse. I squeak, and duck behind a bush.

Bumblestripe staggers into the camp, looking tired and elated and guilty and vivacious all at the same time. Why wasn’t he at camp?

Bumblestripe yawns, crawling into the Warriors den.

Maybe it would be best if I stay.

“Hey!” Bumblestripe calls. “Dawn patrol!”

Never mind. With only a second to think before the Warriors den empties, I run through the gorse tunnel and away from my old life.

Goodbye, ThunderClan.

Goodbye, Bumblestripe.

Brother.

***

“I honestly didn’t think you would come,” Ivy remarks when I find her. She doesn’t look tired at all, as if she is used to not sleeping.

“Why not?” I ask, flicking my tail.

“Oh I don’t know,” Ivy says, shrugging. “Maybe it’s because you just met me. Or because you made the decision to leave everything behind because of a stranger’s suggestion. You know, little things.”

“Are you going to make me regret this decision every other second?”

“I’m just pointing out the truth.”

“Sure,” I grunt. “So, where are we going?”

“I came in through the old road,” Ivy says. “So we should go out through that moor area.”

I cock my head. “What is a road?”

“It’s a long, flat, grey thing that smells like death and buzzard bile.”

“You mean the Thunderpath?”

“Sure.”

Ivy starts walking towards WindClan territory. “C’mon then.”

I follow her over the faint-scented border. The wind weaves through my fur, chilling me bone deep. The heather tickles my legs.

I can’t stand it.

Leaving. Leaving. Leaving. Leaving. Leaving. Get out. Get out. Get out. Get out. I want to go home. Home. Home. Home. Don’t turn back. Keep moving. Keep moving.

Nausea dances in my stomach. I’m lightheaded.

I break into a run, leaving Ivy in the dust. Much to my surprise, she doesn’t miss a beat, and speeds up to match my pace.

“What are you doing?” she calls, over the amplified wind and my pounding heart.

“Getting out of here!” I reply. I start laughing. I probably sound crazy to Ivy.

Ivy, the stranger.

I am crazy.

“I bet I can beat you out of the territory!” I shout.

An inkling of a smile crawls onto Ivy’s face. Her eyes glint with competition.

“Oh, can you?”

“Yeah!”

“You’re on!”

Ivy accelerates, passing me up with ease. My eyes widen with shock. How can she run that fast? I run faster, and my paws sound like thunder. My breathing gets harder and my legs burn, but Ivy remains nothing my a figure ahead of me.

“Hey! What are you doing on WindClan territory?”

Ivy stops abruptly, but I pummel forward. I nearly knock her over. We both locate the source of the voice.

Two silhouettes come into view, slowly taking on color and form until I can recognize Breezepelt and Heathertail.

Ivy and Breezepelt lock eyes, and I can see recognition flash in both.

Heathertail glares at both of us warily. “What are you doing here, Blossomfall?” she asks. “And who is this?”

Breezepelt and Ivy were still in the midst of a staring contest, each daring the other to speak first.

“Breezepelt, do you know her?” Heathertail says, flicking her tail.

Ivy transforms. She bats her eyes and smiles, giving off an utterly cheeky laugh.

“Why, of course I know him!” she exclaims in a twangy, airy accent. “I was crossin’ through that forest over there, when this she-cat told me I couldn’t!”

Ivy winks at me, and I play along.

“Yes, I’m sorry I’m on WinClan territory,” I say. “But this she-cat said she was meeting someone. She told me that he was in WindClan, and that he would explain everything.”

Ivy nods, giggling. “Now tell ’em, Breezepelt. I don’t mean any harm.”

I’m certain they have met each other before, by this point.

Heathertail intervenes, looking disgruntled. “What exactly are you meeting up for?”

Ivy paws Breezepelt’s nose playfully. “Oh, you know. Things.”

“Things?”

Ivy sighs, looking doe eyed and woozy. “We’re in love.”

It takes all of my willpower to not burst into laughter.

Heathertail turns to Breezepelt, and in a dangerously quiet voice, says, “Breezepelt. What is she talking about!"

Ivy pouts. “Why? What’s wrong with it?”

“I’m his mate!” Heathertail shouts, grinding her teeth.

Ivy gasps. “His mate! He never told me he had a mate! My, my, sweetheart, I’m so sorry! If I had known he had a mate!”

Ivy shoves her paw in Breezepelt’s face, pushing him to the ground. “You lying little scoundrel!” she shrieks. “You’re a no good player!”

Ivy turns around, and sits down with a dainty ‘hmph’.

I cough to hide my laughter.

Breezepelt is utterly confused. “Heathertail, she’s lying! I don’t know what she’s talking about! She’s crazy!”

Heathertail is shaking with rage. “Like father, like son,” she spits, and then she turns around and stalks off.

Breezepelt glares murder at Ivy and I, before bounding away to catch up with her.

I burst into laughter. It consumes me, spreading heat to my face and weakening my muscles. I collapse. “That was hilarious!” I exclaim between giggles.

Ivy laughs a bit too. “I’m surprised that worked out so well. I mean, I’ve always been good at pretending, but she believed me!”

“Where do you know him from?” I wheeze.

Ivy sobers up. “We used to work together.”

“What kind of work did you do?” I ask. She runs like a hare. She knows Breezepelt. She can weave a facade like a spider weaves its web.

“Eh,” she sighs. “It was kind of like being a warrior.”

I get up, and we start walking again. “How did you learn to act like that?” I say.

“The trick is to lie,” Ivy replies as we step over the WindClan border, truly leaving home behind. “You have to be a good liar. Essentially, all acting is lying, to both yourself and your audience. Convince yourself that you are someone else, and they will believe you. Back there, I wasn’t just pretending to be Dawn. I became Dawn.”

“You name your disguises?”

“I give them a past too. It adds to the realism. I have Dawn, Shade-”

“Who’s Shade?”

“Shade used to be Maple, an ambitious she-cat with a bright future. But then her kits drowned and her mate blamed her, so she became Shade. Shade is a vengeful, envious cat. The kind of cat you would tell kits about to get them to behave. ‘Listen to your mother, or Shade is going to come get you’.”

I mock grimace. The moor has given way to a flowery field, dotted with trees.

“Ouch,” I say. “Do you have any more?”

Ivy nods. “A bunch. Lilac, Rose, Sky and Hazel, as well as others. Listing them would take too much time. It’s a good rule as a rogue to have a lot of personas.”

Rule One of the Runaway Code: Become someone else.

The sun climbs as we walk on. I can see a sprawling Twolegplace getting larger and larger. It smells of smoke and rot.

A tiny thought tugs at the corners of my mind.

“If you have so many guises,” I say. “How do I trust you? Is Ivy even your real name? Are you lying to me?”

“Yes, it’s my real name,” Ivy confirms.

“Swear?”

“Swear.”

“To be honest, you are one of the few cats who actually knows my real name.”

My stomach tingles, feeling special. “Why would you tell me?”

“I don’t know. Usually when I do something stupid like that, I do it under another name.”

“Let’s do it.”

“What?”

I gesture towards the Twolegplace. “Let’s go and do something so utterly stupid under another persona,”-my stomach grumbles- “and we should eat while we’re at it.”

Ivy shakes her head. “No, Blossomfall. I have to keep running. They’ll find me if I stay in one place for too long.”

“We have already travelled, and we can travel some more. Come on, Ivy!”

Ivy rolls her eyes. “Fine,” she grumbles. “But nothing too stupid. Like a level 6 stupid at most.”

“On a scale of 1 to 5, sure!”

“Why am I even listening to you?”

I shut her up with a playful nudge.

We pad towards the Twolegplace, grinning like starstruck fools, about to do something we might regret

Chapter 3 Edit

The Twolegplace looks lively but reeks of death.  Two legs bustle about, completely content with the two cats weaving between their feet.

"What are you even planning to do?" Ivy grumbles as she dodges a Twoleg paw.

I shrug.  "I live in the moment.  But let's hunt first."

Ivy licks her lips.  "I hope we can find mice."

"Why?"

"Mice are my favorite prey.  But I'm a terrible hunter, so I never catch them."

I lead Ivy into a long, narrow alley.  I find a spot, covered by a strange light brown material.

"Wait here," I say, winking.

Ivy rolls her eyes.  "Oh no.  What is it now?"

"I'm going to catch you a mouse!" I exclaim with a big goofy grin on my face.

Ivy rushes forward.  "I can catch my own mouse!" she snaps.

I gently push her back under the brown board.  "I never said you couldn't," I explain.  "I want to catch you a mouse because I want to."

Ivy sits down with a huff.  "Are you sure you can catch one?"

I laugh.  "We ea- ate mice all the time in ThunderClan!"

Ate.  Past tense.  I am not part of ThunderClan anymore.

"Really?" says Ivy.  "Mice are usually a delicacy where I'm from."

"What did you eat?"

"Pigeons.  Crows.  Rats if we were starving.  My sister was a great hunter.  It was like she could hear prey from a mile away.  She liked to catch mice for me."

I shudder.  "Life without mice is not a true life.  Now stay here so I can hunt."

"Alright.  Be quick."

I pad away.  The mice are harder to find than I would expect.  However, pigeons are everywhere.  They crowd around Twolegs.  They rest on top of Twoleg dens.  They are rats with wings, swooping through the sky.

Eventually I find a mouse, scurrying around in the shadows.  It is plump and covered in gray fuzz.  It finds a crumb and nibbles on it.  I see the chance and take it, leaping into the mouse and killing it with a single bite.  I also catch one of the pigeons.

Twolegs crowd around me as I pad back to the alley.  A small one with wispy blond fur on its head even tries chasing me, but a bigger one holds it back.

Great StarClan!  Is hunting really that death-defying to Twolegs?

Ivy is still sitting taut, her eyes on guard when I return.  I place the mouse at her paws eloquently.

"That was quick," Ivy remarks.  She digs into the mouse like she hasn't eaten in weeks.

She looks up, and I realize I'm staring.  "Not everyone can eat elegantly," Ivy grumbles.

I laugh, and eat my pigeon just as messily.

Our enjoyment is short lived.

Two burly cats approach us.  Two are toms, the other is a she-cat.  Lush fur covers their plump bodies.  They smell of sweat and sickness.

"Did you find that on our territory?" the tortoiseshell she-cat sneers, gesturing towards my pigeon.

Ivy stops eating, and she analyzes the strangers.

"Yes." I respond.  "Is that a problem?"

"You bet it is," the grey tom sneers.  "Nobody steals food from us."

I groan.  Petty food squabbles are supposed to stay within the clans!

"Look," I say through gritted teeth.  "We're just going to eat, and then we will leave.  Okay?"

"No," the third tom, a brown tabby, says.  "Don't you know who we are?"

I glance at Ivy, because she seems to know everyone.  Ivy shrugs.

"No," she says nonchalantly.  "Although you do remind me of the thousands of stupid rogues who think they run the world."

The tabby looks ready to pummel Ivy, but the she-cat holds him back.  The grey tom takes my pigeon and Ivy's mouse.

"Fine," the she-cat spits.  "We'll let you off easy.  But don't cross us again."

The trio bounds off with our food.

I don't care about the pigeon.  I'm just upset they took Ivy's mouse.

A scrawny cat crawls out from behind us.  "They do that to us all the time," he says in a frail voice.  "They make us hunt for them but we can never eat or leave."

An equally frail she-cat follows.  "You two should get out of here, before it's too late."

Have they been watching us this whole time?

Ivy gets up.  "Come on, Blossomfall.  Let's go."

I shake my head.  "We can't just leave!" I say, flicking my tail towards the starving cats.  "We need to help!"

"That's ridiculous," Ivy grumbles.  "They aren't our problem."

"Well, we did come here to do something ridiculous."

"We don't need to endanger ourselves over two cats."

"There's more than just us," the tom interjects.  "We have an entire camp."

"See!  I'm going to help them Ivy, with or without you."

Ivy glances at the strangers, and then back at me.

"Fine," she relents, turning towards the starving cats.  "Where did they go?  And where is your camp?"

"If you exit the alley, turn right, and go behind the big white den, you'll see our camp," says the she-cat.  "I can lead you to theirs.  They have massive piles of prey, some are rotting."

"We can go now!" I exclaim.

"We go by night," Ivy corrects.  "We're less likely to be seen, and we can get more prey out."

I close my eyes and nod.  "Right.  I'm Blossomfall, by the way.  The smart one is Ivy."

So much for aliases.

"I'm Bay," says the tom.  "And this is Azalea."

"You can rest at our camp," Azalea adds.

"That would be great, thank you," I say, bowing my head respectfully.

We pad out of the alley and into their camp.  It's a haggard place, made of dens I could knock down with my paws.  Dozens of scrawny cats move in and out of the camp with heavy eyelids.

"StarClan," I whisper, horrified.  Ivy tries hard to look unfazed.

"You're right," Ivy whispers.  "We need to help them."

Five kits storm towards us in a flurry of fluff.  The attack Bay, causing him to smile.

"You're back!" a calico squeals, pattering Bay's ears.  "You'rebackyou'rebackyou'reback!"

Bay chuckles.  "I wasn't gone that long."

A russet she-kit climbs off of Bay's back and approaches me and Ivy.  "Who are you?" she asks.

"This is Ivy and Blossomfall," says Azalea.  "They're going to help us get some prey."

The hyper calico bounces over next to the russet.  "Prey? Yay! CanIhelpcanIhelpcanIhelp?"

I expect Ivy to answer, but she is frozen, looking awkward.  "No," I say.  "Only older cats."

A crowd of big eyes and jutting bones has gathered around us.

When it seems the entire camp is listening, I begin.  "Hello.  I'm Blossomfall, and this is my friend Ivy."

Ivy nods in acknowledgement.

"We were told that a group of jerks is forcing you to hunt for them while starving you at the same time," I continue, getting a few grunts of anger from the crowd.  "And I think that's absolute fox-dung!  So tonight, Ivy and I are going to steal their prey along with anyone who's willing!"

I expect cheers of victory and hope.  All I hear is dead silence.  My cheeks burn.  Bay and Azalea look ready to speak up, but one look over my shoulder and they go silent.

A wizened elder makes his way to the front of the crowd.  His eyes are a blue that have seen generations, and his paws bend at unnatural angles.

"What do you want from us?" he asks with an accusing glare.  His words hiss, as if he were a snake.

"We just want to help!" I say, trying hard not to snap.

"Help, help." the elder mutters.  "I've seen your types before.  The runaways.  You know which kind of cats run, don't you?"

"Rain, please," Bay interjects, but Rain doesn't seem to hear her.

"Guilty cats," Rain spits.  "Only guilty cats run.  What are you running from?  Why would fugitives help us?"

"We aren't guilty of anything," Ivy says, dangerously quiet.

Rain throws his head back and laughs.  "I've seen you here before, Ivy.  I know exactly who you are underneath all of those expert guises.  You are a liar."

"Hey," I say, stepping between them.  "If you don't want our help, we can leave."

"No!" Azalea cries.  "I'm going to have kits and I don't want them to live like this.  Please.  You have to help us."

"Right," I say.  "Surely you must be tired of living like this?  Trusting a stranger might be hard, but it's worth it.  Let us help you.  If not for yourself, then for someone else.  For family.  For the love of StarClan, do it for Azalea's kits!"

"I'll help!" a tom on the cusp of adulthood with a cracking voice shouts.

"As will I!" says an older she-cat.

"Count me in!"

"For the kits!"

Affirmations fill the air.  The cats' faces fill with smiles.

All except Rain.

He stalks over to me.  "I wouldn't trust Ivy if I were you," he snarls, drawing in close so I can smell his rancid breath.  "She does not speak the truth."

"Don't speak badly about Ivy," I snap.  "She's going to help lead you out of starvation and all you can do is sit here and complain!"

Rain chuckles dryly.  "Let her lies soothe you, then.  But when the truth bites, don't say I didn't warn you."

The cheers outnumber his scowl.  Talks of invasion at nightfall.  Final liberation.

Rain turns around and walks away.

It is only then I notice the grotesque scars covering his back.

Chapter 4 Edit

Nightfall, and I’m going to liberate starving cats. Nightfall, and I have been here before, Rain was right. Nightfall, and I pray nobody else recognizes me.

“What was Rain talking about?” Blossomfall murmurs as we walk to the other camp.

“He’s crazy,” I assert. “I’ve never seen him before.”

“He knew your name.”

Fox-dung. Lying becomes hard when you finally find someone you don’t want to lie to. “Maybe he heard you say it earlier.”

“I don’t think so, Ivy. What’s going on?”

“Can we just focus on the task ahead of us?”

“Stop dancing around the question.”

“Stop questioning. I’ve known you for what, a day or two?”

“Some cats can form some sort of emotional bond in that time,” Blossomfall grumbles. She shoots me a dirty look and sulks off.

I can’t hide the truth forever. Not from her.

“We’re here,” Bay whispers. I already know that. I can smell the piles of rotting mice.

Blossomfall is still. Dead still. I peek past the barrier and into the camp. There are two toms, a silver tabby and a tom with amber eyes.

“It’s my brother,” Blossomfall says, dumbfounded. “My brother, Bumblestripe, and Tigerheart.”

The toms are talking to an invisible cat. I crane my neck and move right to get a better look. There was an unfamiliar sandy she-cat, and-

Dove. Fluffy gray fur, blue eyes with veins of green and gold. Panic builds in my chest. What is she doing here? She’s unscarred, so they didn’t hurt her. That means she’s still working with them. They’re out for me, I’m not just paranoid.

“Change of plans!” Blossomfall says, softly but powerfully so the crowd can hear her. “I’m going to distract the cats in there, while you sneak the prey back to your camp!”

“I’m coming with you,” I reply. “The gray she-cat is my sister.”

“Fine,” Blossomfall hisses. “Let’s go.”

We push through the barrier. All cats whip around to face us, and not the prey piles.

“Do you know them?” the unfamiliar she-cat growls.

“My sister,” Dove and Bumblestripe say in unison, shocked.

Dove runs to me and touches her nose to mine. “Ivy!”

The toms are in deep conversation with Blossomfall. The she-cat is watching us. We just have to talk long enough for prey to be stolen.

I don’t have time for warm welcomes. “Is anyone with you?” I snap.

Dove draws back, hurt shining in her big eyes. “N-No. They sent me to look for you.”

“Tell them you never found me.”

Dove gasps. “But that’s lying to them! They’re like family, I would never lie to family.”

I gag. Family? She thinks of them as family? “Dove, they’re con artists and scammers. Murderers and thieves.”

“And you aren’t?”

I bite my lip. Dove always knows what to say, without having to fake it. It’s like she can hear thoughts, hear things from miles away. My eyes flash over Dove’s shoulder, to the prey pile. There’s a stream of cats, lighter than the snow, taking prey piece by piece.

“They brainwashed us,” I press. “They have been lying to us our entire lives. I wouldn’t even be surprised if they were lying about finding us abandoned. I bet they kidnapped us as kits!”

“That’s not true!” Dove says. “If you come back now, I can keep them from hurting you.”

“I’m not going back.”

“Come on, Ivy. If you don’t go with me, someone worse is going to find you.”

Dove is a sweet she-cat. Milky voice, doe eyes, fur softer than swan feathers. She has this laugh that rings, a laugh you don’t forget. You don’t draw blood from her, just honey. All she had to do was flash a smile, maybe coo a few words, and her job was done.

When I was little, barely out of kithood, I stormed up to Hawkfrost and asked him why I wasn’t as pretty as Dove, why things didn’t come as easy. He chuckled and bent down to reach my height. It covered the scars on his neck from when he cheated death. He told me I was beautiful, but in a different, darker way. I had a forest of evergreens in my mouth. He called me Foxglove, Nightshade, Calla Lily. His little Poison Ivy. Others’ blood looked good on me.

“They won’t find me,” I say.

Dove looks down. “I wouldn’t be so sure.”

Shock makes me slack-jawed. “They’re here?”

“No,” Dove mutters. She has always been a terrible liar.

“Who is it?” I hiss. “Ashfur? Reed? Sparrow? Hawkfrost?”

“Hawkfrost. He isn’t here now, but he’s trailing me.”

“Dove!” I screech. “How could you-”

“What are you doing?” the sandy cat yowls. Bay’s group freezes. We have been caught.

The she-cat dove into the dens, screaming, “Get up! They’re rebelling against us!”

The dark tom, Tigerheart, bolted up from Bumblestripe’s ear. “Rebelling? Why would they rebel?”

“They caught all of this prey, but they get none!” Blossomfall snarls.

Bumblestripe turns to the she-cat. “Honey! You said you and your group caught this prey!”

Honey was too busy rallying her comrades. Cats were flooding out of the den, a river of pelts. This was going to be a bloodbath.

“Don’t retreat!” Blossomfall commands. “Fight back! We outnumber them!”

“Blossomfall!” I hiss. “They’ll die!”

“They’ll win,” she shoots back. “Have some faith, and help!”

How much should I tell her, and how much should I omit, to get her to stop being angry?

Yowls fill the air. Dove is nowhere to be seen. It’s an absolute riot. I flinch as claws dig into my shoulders.

“How does it feel, Ivy?”

I freeze. It’s not an enemy, it’s Rain. He’s strong, but I’m stronger. I throw him off.

“Rain,” I say. “I’m sorry, but I’m not that cat anymore?”

“Really?” he growls. “You were going to kill me if they hadn’t stopped you.”

He lunges at me again, but I dodge. No one here can match my combat expertise, drilled into me since kithood. “Rain, I’m sorry. Truly.”

“Liar!” he shrieks. Dodge, dodge, defend. I don’t want to hurt him more than I already have.

“Azalea!” Bay shouts. “What are you doing here? The kits! It isn’t safe!”

“I’m barely pregnant,” she replies, pushing a cat off her. “I want to help!”

Bay helps her up. “Don’t die, okay?”

Bumblestripe, Blossomfall, and Tigerheart are side by side, taking down cats left and right. They fight just like Hawkfrost, like Clan cats.

I dash away before Rain can attack again. There’s a cat behind one of our toms, the one with the cracking voice. I slam the attacker’s nose into the dirt. He looks up at me with all-too-familiar gray eyes.

“You again!” Storm laughs. “That Ivy chick! Don’t you think you’re fighting on the wrong side?”

I kick him in the stomach. “Don’t call me chick.”

When Storm regains his breath, he wheezes, “Sure, chick.”

I kick him again. The tom with the crackling voice holds me back. “He’s had enough.”

Enough. There was never enough for me. I wanted to do things, go places. Hawkfrost would always tell me ambition isn’t a dirty word. Always go for the throat.

I back away, nodding at the tom.

“Azalea!”

Bay’s voice is barely there but booming, drowning in grief. I don’t want to look, but my traitorous eyes find her bloody body and hollow eyes.

She and her kits are dead, and Honey is standing over her body.

I don’t feel anything. I was trained to look death in the eye and smile. I’m a good girl, I do what I’m told.

Bay screams, and launches himself at Honey. Grief versus training, rage versus a killer. I’ve seen this scenario too many times. In each one, I was the murderer.

We’re all staring as they brawl, but nobody does anything. Bay isn’t winning, in fact, he’s on the ground and Honey is about to end him.

Go for the throat.

I pummel Honey before Bay stops breathing, and in one, swift, motion, I bite her throat and kill her. It’s so simple. I’ve never understood dramatic battles, as if you and the opponent would somehow make peace. Battles are a matter of blood and having a body at your feet.

Blood. I can taste Honey’s blood, metal in my mouth. It’s a taste that welcomes me like a home.

“The chick’s still got the ruthless streak,” Storm muses. “It never really leaves ya.”

Everyone is frozen. A tom rushes to the front and leans over Honey’s body, whispering, “No, no, no.”

“Take your prey,” the tom spits. “Just take it and leave!”

“You just killed their best fighter within a second,” Blossomfall whispers. “H-ho- Ivy, look out!”

Claws run down my flank. Rain’s eyes are mad with vengeance. “Of course she killed her! She’s evil!”

Years of training floods into me. Instinct takes over, and I have a single thought: if someone attacks you, don’t ever let them get back up.

I fling Rain into the dirt, but I don’t stop there. I run my claws across his eyes, red erupts on blue. My hind paws rake across his exposed stomach, again and again and again until he stops thrashing.

It’s silent. Dead silent, and I’m thankful Dove isn’t here. Dove isn’t here but Blossomfall is, and she is horrified.

She marches right up to me. “Tell me everything, right now!”

“Blossom-”

“I said now!”

“Dove and I grew up with killers, and I ran away!”

Blossomfall sheathes and unsheathes her claws, digging them into the soil. “Tell. Me. Everything.”

My stomach constricts and my throat tightens. “I can’t,” I choke. If she knew. If she knew she would kill me. “I just can’t.”

“B-But.” Blossomfall’s eyes harden, she flattens her ears. “Fine. If you can’t tell me anything, then you can go back to being lonely.”

She turns to her brother. “I’m not coming back to ThunderClan, but I would rather die than spend another second in her presence. I’m glad I could help with the prey, but I’m done here.”

Blossomfall touches her nose to Bumblestripe’s, one last time, whispering, “Goodbye.”

She runs, and a part of me runs with her.

I don’t stay to bury Azalea. I don’t stay for the feast. I leave as soon as possible, and they’re glad to see me go. No one wants to harbor a killer.

Rain, who I hurt twice. Storm was right, ruthlessness is not something you leave behind. Rain. Rain. Rain.

I’m so sorry.

***

Many moons earlier

“So,” says Storm. “She’s the one I’ve heard so much about?”

Hawkfrost nods, smiling at me. Dove always said he was scary and had a constant scowl, but he always smiled and laughed around me. “She’s my protege. Absolutely flawless.”

“Ivy,” I introduce. “Nice to meet you.”

“Storm, master of this little operation.”

“Little,” I agree. “But effective.”

Storm winks at me. “You’re sister doesn’t happen to be with you, right? I’ve heard she’s to die for.”

Yes. She does the charming, and I cause the dying. With toms, it’s always about Dove. Is your sister free tonight? Does your sister have a mate? Do you think you could introduce me to your sister?

“Dove isn’t here,” I reply tautly.

“That’s too bad,” Storm drawls. “You’re not hideous though…”

Back at home, if you dropped any sort of innuendo at me, you would find yourself on the floor, apologizing. Don’t objectify me, I’m not here for your pleasure. Nobody messed with me, because the risk was greater than the reward.

“No,” Hawkfrost hisses, glaring at Storm. “We have to leave first thing in the morning.”

There was also the matter of Hawkfrost. He had never come outright and said, ‘I love you’, so we weren’t mates, but he was close with me and only me, and he was possessive. Dove saw him as a gruff father-figure, so I doubt she knew about him being so flirtatious.

It’s true that he practically raised me, and he’s old enough to be my parent, but since when has that mattered? At the time, being with him felt exhilarating, heated.

“Alright,” Storm says, backing off. “I was just kidding. Besides, you’re supposed to be real scary, so I’d rather not.”

A blue-eyed tom pushes his way through the barrier and drops a vole into the prey pile.

“What’s his name?” asks Hawkfrost, lowering his voice.

Storm glances over at the tom. “Him? That’s Rain.”

Rain turns around to exit. Hawkfrost nods at me. “You know what to do.”

I throw myself on top of Rain and run my claws down his back. He shrieks and screams, “What did I do? Stop! Please!”

“That’s enough,” Hawkfrost says. Rain’s back is a bloody mess. He dashes away.

“Dang,” Storm murmurs. “You’re terrifying.”

Hawkfrost licks the blood off my paws, smirking.

“Flawless.”

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