The Thunderclan Eight (TTE) is an AU Warriors Fanfiction created by Winterwhisper. It is the second book in The Stories of Eight series, while being the first one written. It takes place around the events of TAQ and AVOS, but has different aspects and events, and is not like the books. It has no real plot, besides an insight and development on eight different cats in ThunderClan, all that deal with their own personal, relational, and physical battles. It was finished on August 29, 2016. It's a comedy/romance/drama with eight chapters.
ThunderClan. In front of him, was none other then ThunderClan.
Spikefur stood in front of a poky thorn entrance, and before him, was an overwhelming mass of cats, rock, prey, and business.
It seemed like hundreds of cats swarmed around. Milling about, talking to one another, gossiping and preaching.
"Come on, buddy, let's go see Bramblestar." A shoulder shoved into Spikefur's flank and he whipped around to growl at the two guards leading him into this jumble of action called a camp. One of them, who Spikefur knew as Cloudtail, sneered at him and they pushed him along into the throng of movement. He was dragged along, cats cast glances at him and murmured in low voices when he went by. They passed the fresh-kill pile, full of prey, and headed straight for a den caved into the rock.
It would be Sundown soon, the light was still there, but slowly casting long shadows over the clearing and on the rock.
Pelts blurred by. Some were brown, some white, but one stood out to Spikefur. A cream coloured she-cat was next to a gray and white Tom, standing by a lengthy den Spikefur suspected as the Warriors' den. She was very pretty, and looked young and kind. I might have a shot with her...
Suddenly Spikefur's legs were hit with pain, and he tumbled to the dusty, rocky ground, muzzle first. "Watch it!" he hissed at the two guards. "This body is valued!"
Cloudtail leaned forward. "Why? Shadowclan cat."
"Come on, Cloudtail. Leave the kid alone. Let's just take him to Bramblestar and go hunting, alright?" The other guard swayed Cloudtail.
"Fine, Brackenfur," he said, leaning back down to Spikefur. "Stay way out of trouble, or you'll see my claws."
He stalked off. Brackenfur gave Spikefur one more glance and Spikefur nodded, thanking him for getting Cloudtail off his back. Then he ran off. Finally away from the mousebrained guard.
Spikefur got back to his paws and looked around. No cat was coming to get him, so he stayed there awkwardly. What would he do?
The clearing was all rock, bush, ferns and nature, dens encased in the sides. Two young apprentices were playing near the top of the little gorge. One, a ginger she-cat, swiped at a little Tom who looked tiny and harmless. The Tom balanced precariously near the edge. Spikefur widened his eyes when the Tom shook a little, almost falling off the ledge.
"Sparkpaw! Alderpaw! What in the name of Starclan are you doing? Get down from there at once!" A ginger she-cat yowled from beside Spikefur, startling him. She looked a lot like the young she-cat at the top, fighting, and Spikefur guessed she was their mother.
Once the two cats scrambled away, listening to their mother, the she-cat turned to Spikefur with a little sigh.
"Hello. I'm Squirrelflight, the deputy and mother of those two rascals, as you may have guessed." She spoke in an icy tone but couldn't hide her love for them.
"Well I am Spikefur, a...former Shadowclan warrior. I... would like to speak to your leader about joining Thunderclan. Where is he?"
Squirrelflight paused, eyeing him up and down. He tried to make a squinty-eye, handsome look, but he feared he looked constipated or insane.
"Bramblestar is out hunting. You'll have to wait. In the meantime, tell me why you want to join Thunderclan?" She waited for his answer. Suddenly, a black shape slid out from behind the Squirrelflight, and a pretty black she-cat slumped down between the two.
"Yes," the she-cat meowed, "why do you want to be in Thunderclan?" She gasped dramatically. "You want to invade! This is all a ruse! Squirrelflight, we must gather the clan at once! Invasion, invasion!"
"Calm down Hollytuft! He is not invading and I know it. If he came here to kill us, I'd be dead already. Now stop making a scene, and go do something. And stop eavesdropping on me!"
Hollytuft grumbled and stalked off, bumping Spikefur's shoulder purposefully and giving him a look on the way. She growled, "I got my eye on you..."
"You'll like the view."
She rolled her eyes. As she moved off, Spikefur couldn't help but cast glances at her shape trailing along.
When he turned back to Squirrelflight, she was also rolling her eyes. Behind her, the camp entrance shook and a patrol of cats stepped out. Bramblestar was here. Finally.
It would actually be scary, talking to the leader in the new Clan. Everything was already breathtakingly confusing and fast-paced, and now speaking to more cats and learning MILLIONS of new names seemed like such a BORING task. I can do it. I've always been strong.
The patrol split up, and a large dark brown Tom rushed over to the spot where the two of them were.
"Ah, I see we have a visitor. Cloudtail warned me about you, young one. Come, let's go discuss in my den." Bramblestar gave a warm look, almost welcoming. He padded up a rock part and onto a big ledge, then into a den. Squirrelflight ushered Spikefur next, and he scrambled up along with her on his tail.
"So, you want to join Thunderclan." Bramblestar meowed as he settled down in his nest, inside the den. Spikefur rested on his paws near the entrance, with Squirrelflight on his side. "May I ask why? What about your time with Shadowclan?"
Spikefur took a deep breath, ready to explain. "Look, Bramblestar, I recently got into some...trouble... in Shadowclan, and I was kicked out after some other things. I wandered around the territories a bit, not knowing what to do. Eventually, I decided to move into another Clan. Thunderclan was closest, and I hoped it would be filled with nice cats. So I came here. Good enough for you?"
A sudden impulse to act strong and masculine caused Spikefur to lay down on his back and stretch out, acting like he didn't care. Take that, leader. No one rules me. I just want to get by and do nothing. Duh. —Spikefur'stypical train of thought.
"What exactly did you do?" Squirrelflight asked from his side.
He turned. "Uh, that's not important. But I didn't kill anyone! My claws are too nice for that mess, heh."
Bramblestar beckoned Squirrelflight over, after hearing the confession. They talked for what felt like MOONS, and Spikefur was about ready to rip their heads off and yowl, "HURRY UP."
Eventually, Bramblestar and Squirrelflight turned away. "We have reached our decision." Spikefur got to his paws slowly, and lean forward. He already started planning ahead, if Bramblestar said no. I'll go to Riverclan, maybe. But, ew, fish-eaters? I'll make do... On my own.
"Yes, we will welcome you into Thunderclan."
"YEAH! Woohoo! I knew it! Don't worry, I'll be such a perfect member, you don't even know! Oh yeah!" Spikefur danced a little jig and leaped around the den happily. He didn't care if he was immature. It's only rules.
He noticed both of them unable to hold back a smile. But right away, Bramblestar moved on. "I will hold the ceremony now, okay? I want to get you settled in as soon as possible. Tomorrow, I'll get a big patrol of all new cats to show you around and do some hunting, and you can meet lots of cats. Welcome to your new Clan."
He didn't give Spikefur time to even reply, as he beckoned him and Squirrelflight out of the den. Spikefur tumbled out, very unprofessionally, but jumped back to his feet and looked around like nothing happened. Too cool for anything. But, pfft, that makes me sound like an apprentice loser. I'm not. Never was!
Bramblestar led him to a large rock. He leaped on top, and motioned with his tail for Spikefur to join him. Squirrelflight sat below the rock, watching.
The sky was dark now, and stars started peaking out into the sky, in the faded moonlight.
"Any cat old enough to catch their own prey, gather beneath the Highledge for a Clan meeting!" Proper leader words. Nothing special.
Cats started to crowd around. Spikefur felt all their gazes bear into his pelt, but he resisted his self-consciousness and held his head high and back straight. They're just focusing on how nice you look, he reassured himself. It was the truth. He knew it.
"Today, a new member will be joining us. Spikefur, formerly of Shadowclan, will now be known as a Thunderclan warrior. He is a warrior already, but I expect you ALL to respect him and show him kindness, and help him around the new territory."
Pause. Then cheering. "Spikefur! Spikefur!" Now this is what I'm talkin' about! He relished in their cheers.
The mini gathering ended as quickly as it started. Cats already started breaking up. Spikefur stayed his ground, waiting for Bramblestar to turn and tell him where to go and what to do.
"I need a volunteer to help show Spikefur the Warriors den." Bramblestar called out into the night air, breath billowing out in smoke-like clouds. Instantly, a cream she-cat raced up.
"I'll do it!" she volunteered.
Spikefur instantly recognized her as the she-cat he saw earlier, on his way into camp.
Yes! Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes! It's her. Now I can put the REAL moves on.
Bramblestar turned to him and gave a little nod, and Spikefur leaped down from the Highledge EVER SO POWERFULLY and landed by the she-cat. Bramblestar mewed a bit more, some stuff about "have a good sleep!" and "see you tomorrow!"
Spikefur totally wasn't listening.
The she-cat started padding along, and Spikefur raced after her. "Hey," he mewed in as deep of a voice as possible. "I'm Spikefur. Shadowclan. Really strong warrior, you know. What's your name...B-Beautiful?" He added the name on the end as a desperate attempt at like, you know, classy but sexy, super awesome tom. He cursed himself if it sounded cheap or not. And, like, attractive enough.
"Well, hiya, powerful warrior!"
Ew. She's weird. Good thing she's pretty. Make a note to never put her into a mocking or joking situation again...
"Anyways, I'm Rosepetal. Now, this is the Warriors den," she flicked her tail at the den looming in front of them. Woven twigs, stems, ferns, branches and other forest items. Spikefur suddenly realized when he went hunting tomorrow, it would be so much different, in the forest. But, of course he'd adapt naturally. He was good at hunting EVERYWHERE, probably.
"Well, hello Rosepetal. Thanks for the tour." He winked.
She didn't even LOOK at him. Cheap.
"We're not done yet. I have to show you your nest." She moved forward without his response. More figure-watching for him.
Hard to get —I like it.
He squeezed into the den, instantly looking at all the little nests scattered around on the ground. The night sky was barely visible above the den roof of leaves and twigs.
Rosepetal stepped around the nests with quite nice grace, and went to the very back of the den. She arrived from a little nest in the very back corner.
"Well, here's your nest. On the outside, as a new warrior. Mine is just over there, on the other side."
Spikefur was not impressed. "Ok first of all, honey, why am I at the VERY BACK, with the FARTHEST spot? Huh? I deserve better. Secondly, is there any way I could shift my nest closer to...'that' side? Your side?" He gave his undoubtedly-seductive grin.
She suddenly whipped around and stepped forward, shoving her muzzle in his face. Her eyes, very quite pretty. Spikefur lost his other thoughts...
"Let's get this straight: You. Are. Not. Allowed. To. Hit on me! Noooooo sir. You stay your respectable distance, mister powerful first-class warrior, and I'll keep mine. No lovey contact or any of that dung. Thanks. Now goodnight."
She gave him a sarcastic wink and brushed past him, out of the den. He found himself breathing her scent, which is NOT CREEPY AT ALL —BE QUIET.
Hmm, this hard to get thing is pretty cute...and her sassy side and kind side and —wow, she has so many sides. But I'll get her. Spikefur ALWAYS gets the she-cat. You hear me ladies? I'm here.
With that, he went to his awful little nest in the corner and plopped into it. He would need sleep if he was going to bring out his big game, tomorrow.
I'm not giving up, Rosepetal.
The next morning was one big disaster to get out of the Warriors den.
Spikefur arose from his little nest, surprised he had an okay sleep in the godforsaken den. He realized he woke up at the perfect time, ready for the dawn hunting patrol.
So he set out to cross the den.
It wasn't that easy, though.
First, a little group of cats all crowded together, sleeping in nests and some out of. Spikefur grumbled and tried to tiptoe around. When he felt something soft beneath him he tried to leap forward, but tripped on the fluffy thing.
"Watch where you're going!" A cat named mewed when Spikefur landed on his tail.
"Well maybe if you took up less room, then I wouldn't have to!" he snapped back.
He continued forward.
A few scattered cats were in the middle. He wove through, now relaxing at the ease. He didn't pay attention after it became easy. Wrong move.
Oops! he thought, stepping on Cloudtail's paws.
"Learn to control your paws," Cloudtail mumbled. He curled back into his nest.
"Be quiet, I'm new here!"
More stepping forward, more crushing tails and fur and legs.
He whipped around. "Sorry. But maybe if your paw wasn't so completely obese then I could move!"
Finally, he could see the little entrance. He didn't know how long he took, or if the others were waiting, but it wasn't his fault. Thunderclan cats are all so fat and stretchy! And besides, the others can wait. It'll make it all the more better when I show up. He smiled to himself, agreeing with himself.
Outside the den, the morning was bright. It was a little frosty, with the early Newleaf, but there was no mud or muck or anything gross to damage Spikefur's precious fur and face.
"WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?" A voice screeched from the group of cats standing by the entrance. A black she-cat slid out from the group of murmuring, waiting cats.
"I was trying to get out of that wretched den! There's too many of you," he retorted.
Hollytuft rushed up to him and glared him in the eye. "Or maybe you could be trying to get out here faster! We were waiting a few minutes."
"OH NOOOOO. Not a few extra minutes! That'll kill your perfect record, won't it, precious suck-up."
"You did not just say that. He did not just say that!" Hollytuft turned around dramatically to the approaching group of cats.
"Whatever, let's just go already, Hollytuft. I wanna hunt."
"Do you mean you want to hunt?" She turned back around to him, and the cats made a little group around. Spikefur spotted out the little brown Tom... Alderpaw was it? The weakling? Yeah, him.
And...no, yes, it was! Rosepetal! Yes! I can try again...
Hollytuft didn't wait for an answer. She beckoned the others and they shuffled after her. Spikefur stayed behind for a second.
He started jumping up and down, doing his happy jig again. I get another shot!
Suddenly a head poked back out the entrance. A brown shape slid back in, catching Spikefur off guard while he danced.
"Uh, Spikefur. What are you doing...? Are you coming?" It was Alderpaw.
"Yes. Shush. I'm coming buddy!" he meowed, racing over to the shy Tom. He rested his tail on his shoulder like a brother to his younger sibling. "So, you're Alderpaw? How do you like apprentice training?"
He steered the subject away from his weird movements. No one needed to know.
"Ye-yes, I'm Alderpaw. I like it, it's not bad. Molewhisker is good. He's on this patrol too, which, by the way, we should be on. Ooh, imagine a life with no patrols or fighting..."
Did this cat ever stop talking and start being normal? Now he went into some fantasy in his mind. Whatever, he's young and dumb and hormonal.
"Uh. Sure. Oh, and if you ever mention my dance to anyone ever, I'll break your fangs and snap your legs. Ok? Good." Spikefur winked at the haunted Alderpaw who started to shake, and then raced off to catch up to the patrol.
Hunting was good. And so was Rosepetal. She hunted with grace, and looked perfect when she stretched her muscles and leaped. The only problem was, some other needy mousebrain named Dewnose was on their patrol, and he was ALWAYS crowding around Rosepetal.
Spikefur watched him help her hunt, talk to her, make weird shy movements (there couldn't be TWO Alderpaw's in this Clan!) and basically just float around her like a lost kit. Jeez, dude, she doesn't want it. Get away and let the boss try. He felt a prick of...jealousy? Envy? No, don't be stupid Spikefur. You never get jealous. You're great.
It was obvious, though, Rosepetal didn't like it. She seemed too concentrated on hunting, and when she murmured to him only HE ever laughed. She just smiled. Although he had this big, toothy smile that glowed. Ugly. Smiling sucks. She should have booted him out by now. Why did Spikefur have to have boundaries and not that dumb wannabe!
"Hey, you should be hunting. Now." It wasn't Hollytuft wanting order and perfection. It was Alderpaw's mentor, Molewhisker. Spikefur met him as the patrol had cast out. He was gruff, deep voice, no emotions, muscle-filled robot with no smiles. Typical boring, stone-cold Thunderclan warrior.
And then he must have been a TERRIBLE mentor, because Alderpaw could not hunt or fight or barely even speak words without dying from shyness. Like, get a voice! And a life!
"Fine, Molewhisker. I'll go ask Rosepetal where the good hunting spots are."
"I know where some are."
He had to think quickly. "But oh nooooo I am already walking towards her. Look, look! Oh no, I'm almost there. Well, I guess I have to ask her. Darn!" He slowly moved.
He was only a tail-length away.
He gave one last messed up look then raced off toward Rosepetal and Dew-whatever.
The two were both stalking different animals on either side of a small, grassy clearing.
Spikefur, driven by annoyance at Dew-nobody, crashed straight through the ferns in a loud huff. "Oh no I scared your prey away, that must suck! Sorry Dew...nosey."
He looked up to the spot where Spikefur arrived. The sunny beams fell down onto his gray and white fur. "Don't worry. It's ok. I'll find another one!"
OH MY STARCLAN. Learn to feel anger and actual emotions, weirdo.
Dewnose padded over (like a loser) to Rosepetal, who was still focused on her prey in the bushes. Suddenly, she leapt forward into the branches gracefully, and returned with a mouse in her jaws.
Dewnose whispered something in her ear.
Spikefur sat watching by his entrance. Oh please, whispering is SO lame. Just yell it to her. Get the point across.
Then he stepped back. They brushed muzzles. Pfft. Dewnose raced off out of the ferns and went to hunt somewhere else —where he actually was wanted!
Spikefur took his chance immediately. "Hey, Rosepetal, I was going to as--"
"NOPE. No, I said no flirting or hitting on me. Don't even talk. Ok, Spikefur? I'm not interested."
"Oh come on, judgey. I was going to ask for the good hunting places. Calm your fur." He frowned. Why would she go all open and expose her everything to Dew-no-life, and then reject Spikefur. Wrong choice.
"Anywhere. Look for food. Now go."
"Ok, no. That's it's! What does he have that is soooooooo perfect that I don't?! I'm stronger, smarter, better looking. And, please, look at--"
"What are you talking about?! Dewnose is my FRIEND. And maybe if you weren't so desperate to get love from me or use me for nothing, you could be my friend too."
"Oh don't get all mushy crap on me. I know you love him. Why? Huh! Why!?"
She stepped forward and he recoiled a little but puffed his chest out. "He's a friend if I say so! You don't decide who I love. Now I'm going to hunt alone."
"Fine, leave. I don't care. But then tell me, why did you so eagerly volunteer to help me around last night, huh? You like me, too."
She started to move slowly away, and Spikefur turned as she went.
"Oh please, you can only hope. I did it because I'm nice and wanted to help the new guy. Besides, governments are awful. Aren't they? I mean, I like Bramblestar and all, but..." She trailed off when Spikefur looked confused.
"You're weird. I have no clue what you're talking about."
"Sometimes I go on rants about the things I care for! Like she-cat empowerment, I love my mother for her choices, and also... Hey! I'm NOT weird!" She looked so genuinely offended it was just gross.
"NUH-UH. You only dream."
"You have lots to say about what I dream."
"Be quiet! Now, I'm leaving! Don't hit on me, follow me, judge, stalk, or decide who I like. Just leave me be, and go hit on some other pretty cats to get your fill. Goodbye, Spikefur. You're not a good cat."
He would never admit it, but that actually hurt him. Watching her race off, her last words stinging, made him rethink his choices.
Can I fit in here...? This is my new home. I have to. Can't let some crazed she-cat tell me I'm bad or messed. She's the one missing out.
Pushing the thoughts far, far away, he reassured himself as usual as he padded away, going to finish the hunting session and return to camp to think. But this couldn't be shaken off so easily.
It stayed with him for days.
But he went on, still pushing himself to believe he belonged and was perfect.
I'm wanted by every she-cat. I matter. Duh. Everyone likes me. She's messed. I won't explain why I ever got kicked out. I'll stay in this personality. I'm fine how I am, forever!
I'm never changing my ways.
But even that was hard to believe right now.
Later that day, he returned back to camp with two voles. He rested by the fresh-kill pile with a wren, and met more of the new clanmates.
There was Lilyheart. She was a kind, loving mother to three kits. She also had a hilarious sassy side which Spikefur enjoyed.
There was Brackenfur, who, just like before, was kind and quiet and respectable, even if he was pretty old.
Leafpool and Jayfeather, the calm and grumpy medicine cats.
Daisy, Millie, Graystripe, Sandstorm, soon Spikefur felt he knew the whole clan. He had clashed with Berrynose and Sorrelstripe, but that hardly mattered.
And as he lay there, alone with his prey, he couldn't help but hope he would like Thunderclan. He already started to settle in.
Maybe he could adapt to being here. Maybe he would LIKE Thunderclan.
And maybe, hopefully, he would be able to keep his ways and still be an accepted Thunderclan warrior.
"Ok, ok we get it! You hate governments, love she-cat empowerment, hate that mates have to do with life or some nonsense, love gay, and have opinions on EVERYTHING. Can we please move on, I don't have much time before the kits need attention."
Rosepetal and Lilyheart sat a few tail-lengths away from the fresh-kill pile, gossiping and catching up on life. Rosepetal had already turn the discussion into a mini protest.
"Fine, Lilyheart," she meowed reluctantly with a small frown. "Let's go then." Rosepetal leapt to her paws and stretched.
"What are you doing...?" Lilyheart looked skeptical.
Rosepetal didn't reply as she turned around and meandered across camp to the exit.
Lilyheart wailed behind her. "Oh nooooo! I'm so sorry Rosepetal! Wait for me!" She got to her paws and hared after, catching up behind Rosepetal as she dodged a few Warriors. "I guess I'll just leave my kits all alone while I disappear...yeah."
Rosepetal glanced back at her and decided what to do out in camp. <em> Hmm. I guess hunting. </em>
Suddenly, a brown shape passed by. Spikefur looked at Rosepetal as he returned to camp with a squirrel in his jaws.
She glared back, lifting her chin and not speaking.
Lilyheart mewed from behind her, "ooh, he's cute, you two have a thing already? That was quick! YOU GOT MOVES GIRL."
Rosepetal couldn't help but smiling infuriatingly at Lilyheart's weird sassy side. She was a mother to three and a kind mate, very loyal to her Clan, but once you got to know her she could be a hilarious friend with more than one side.
"No we do not have a 'thing!'" Rosepetal mumbled back and slipped out of camp through the entrance. Lilyheart waddled after. Sometimes Lilyheart could just be so immature and funny, and even downright weird. "He is some desperate jerk who thinks he can get his way at everything!"
Lilyheart made a sassy 'oooooooooh snap!' noise and then replied. Rosepetal sniffed for scents, still listening.
"It sounds like you talk from experience. And he seems like a nice Tom, even if he is a bit cocky. But what Tom isn't!"
Fernsong, Brakcenfur, Dewnose... Alderpaw. Rosepetal thought of the young, shy, awkward Tom who she loved to bits. She also remembered that later in the day she promised to help him clean out the elders bedding. After he became an apprentice, Rosepetal saw the difference in him and tried to be his friend. She had come to learn and like his personality, and help him in situations he just didn't know how to handle. I can teach him that acceptance and being different is good! Go power! No one rules us! That was usually how she thought, but a little bit more practical.
"You're right. You always are. Now, should we hunt already! It's almost Sunhigh." Rosepetal steered the subject away from toms and love. That was her least favorite topic. I wish I was gay or bisexual, then I wouldn't have to worry about dumb toms hitting on me.
Lilyheart mad a mocking shocked face. "Oh! Hunting! THAAAATTTSSS WHAT WE'RE DOING. Oh yeah that wasn't needed to know when you mysteriously led me out of camp and left my kits and then snapped at me for NOT DOING SOMETHING I DIDN'T KNOW I SUPPOSED TO DO!"
Rosepetal just laughed and admired her perfect ability to joke, but then also be patient and calm. She didn't think she could ever be that flexible.
"Let's just hunt already." She padded off into the ferns.
"She is one unique girl..." Lilyheart mumbled under her breath, still audible, and slowly followed along.
After a successful bout of hunting, Rosepetal returned to camp with a shrew and two mice. Lilyheart had done nothing the whole time but gossip and moon over her mate, Snowbush, and blab about nonsense. Rosepetal laughed to herself when thinking, How was she ever a successful warrior? And it's no surprise she's younger than me.
Lilyheart padded along quietly until they squeezed through the thorn entrance side-by-side and entered the camp. It was a little past Sunhigh, and cats were milling about doing their business. Some napped in the sun, some ate fresh-kill, and the medicine cats were sorting rancid-smelling herbs outside their den.
Rosepetal took one more glance around then moved to the prey pile to deposit her caches.
She saw Alderpaw curled up inside a bush by the apprentices den, his head snapping side to side. Sparkpaw sniffed around on the side of the den, calling, "Alderpaw! Where are you! Get out here you squirrel-face!"
Rosepetal thought with a smile: Alderpaw, what a weirdo.
She hustled over, nodding at Snowbush and Lilyheart who had sat down together beside a stretching Dovewing.
Alderpaw looked up sharply when she plopped down in front of the bush. "What on earth are you doing now, you awkward turkey."
He stared, wide-eyed. "I-I'm hiding from Sparkpaw. I don't want to play. And what's a turkey...?"
Rosepetal sighed. I still wonder if he's a kit.
"Sparkpaw!" she called over to the side of the den. "Alderpaw doesn't want to play, go find something else to do."
She heard grumbles and then nothing. Rosepetal turned to a wary Alderpaw. "See, all you have to do is ask and stand up for yourself."
"Ok, well are we going to the elders den? I have other things to do you know. I HAVE A LIFE!" she joked.
He gave a little awkward laugh and slid out of the bush, nodding. She gestured for him to lead the way and he basically bowed. "Oh my Starclan you are so weird."
He didn't say anything as he brushed past the dens, heading along to the right one. A few cats padded by, meandering along in the fading sunlight as they talked with eachother and shared tongues. Sorrelstripe and Bumblestripe looked cozy. Molewhisker was glaring at Spikefur as he boasted about something over a rabbit they shared. Of course it's about him, she thought and rolled her eyes.
Rosepetal mimed the young apprentice as they walked along, looking at each den to find the right one. Eventually they did, in what felt like moons.
Alderpaw squeezed in sideways, and Rosepetal plopped in after him.
Rosepetal laughed at the crazy elders. She and Alderpaw moved into view—or at least view if any of these oldies could see—and Graystripe fumbled to his paws from across the den.
"Who's that? Alderpaw? Who's with you...?" He squinted at Rosepetal, only making her hold back another laugh.
"It's me, Rosepetal," she meowed.
"We-we've come to check you guys for ticks..." Alderpaw glanced around nervously.
Sandstorm laughed from her little nest. "Well don't be shy! Come on in. There's one on my shoulder AND I CAN FEEL IT BUT IT WON'T. GO. AWAY." Rosepetal rolled her eyes at Alderpaw's flinch.
"I'll go grab the mouse bile," she meowed as she turned out of the den. Scanning the camp outside, she looked overtop of heads and fur and found the medicine den. She hurried over and padded inside.
"Uh, Leafpool, Jayfeather, I've come for mouse bile." She waited for a reply.
"WHO IS IT. I'M BUSY GET IT YOURSELF."
"Rosepetal. And I don't even know where it is Jayfeather!"
"Then find it!" he snapped back.
"WHY DON'T YOU?" she raised her voice.
"I'M BUSY WITH THIS SQUIRMING WORM."
Oh dear Starclan...
She padded closer and laughed for what felt like thousandth time today—it was a good day so far—as she watched Jayfeather try to stick a poultice onto a scratch on Briarlight's leg while she resisted and nipped at him.
"Stop moving!" he yelled at her.
"No! Stop being all mediciney!" She rolled around back and forth and waddled away from him. Rosepetal loved the show and didn't want to disturb them, so she searched the supply for the mouse bile. Eventually she found a disgusting smelling substance and slapped it onto a leaf. She turned out of the den.
Muffled grunting sounds. Then: "FOR WHAT!?"
A smile plastered onto her lips. "Whatever," and she padded out of the den and back into the busy clearing. In these Newleaf days, it was always busy around camp.
She stuck to the trail along the dens, familiar with the scents and sounds of her camp. She was so used to it, and sometimes forgot she was much older than some of her friends. Though she seemed much, <em> much </em> more mature than Spikefur. Right?
She approached the den carefully, making sure she didn't drop the bundle. Or get it into my mouth. Eek.
"Ok, I'm back. I've got the stuff." Somehow...that doesn't sound right. Like some lethal death berries for crazed addicts.
Alderpaw rushed into view. "Oh good... Now we can start. And get this over with. They...they're scary, Rosepetal. But I like Graystripe and Purdy."
Rosepetal gave him a grin and ushered him along, preparing the bundle. Hmm, he only mentioned the toms. SHE-CAT EMPOWERMENT. I might have to give him a lesson on all the right beliefs.
"Ok, let's get this started," she meowed as she rubbed the gross mess onto her paws. Alderpaw smeared some on, and they worked away at the elders until Sundown.
Rosepetal ran down to the small stream on Thunderclan territory after she finished to wash her paws. Alderpaw went the other way, to find a puddle instead. She gave them a good wash, recoiling from the smell and making scrunched up faces. Finally she finished dealing with the putrid substance and worked her way back to camp.
She went through the entrance, taking in the fresh scent of camp again, and clearing her nose from the after-smell.
She saw Fernsong and Alderpaw stroll by together, Alderpaw ducking his head and making his awkward 'I-can't-make-dirt-normally-so-I-have-problems' face. But, he was smiling. Naturally.
Rosepetal picked a hare from the fresh-kill pile and sat down. Almost instantly, a irritatingly familiar pelt flashed in front and looked down at her.
"What. Do. You. Want. Spikefur?"
He smiled and she cursed herself for staring at him, mesmerized. Just look away, Rosepetal. And you have someone else you could stare at all day...
"Woah, woah, I just wanted to talk. You may have said no flirting, but—"
She growled. "You're literally flirting with me RIGHT now. Get out. Just leave. You won't get me or even sway me. MY LIFE IS FINE WITHOUT YOU IN IT."
He broke a little. "BUT IMAGINE HOW MUCH BETTER IT WOULD BE WITH ME IN IT!" he screeched, then tried to recoup and save everything with a smile. It just didn't work.
"Yeah, not much better," she snapped back.
"I hate you."
"The feeling's mutual."
"Whatever. I'm still not done." He gave a glare then stalked off. She didn't DARE look at him as he went.
"Well I'm looking forward to when you are," she called out to him as he disappeared. She turned back to her prey, which was larger than she remembered, but she didn't even have a CHANCE before Hollytuft scrambled over and stopped her.
"ROSEPETAL ROSEPETAL ROSEPETAL ROSEPETAL ROSEPETAL," then a long gaaaaaaaaasssssp. "ROSEPETAL ROSEPETAL ROSEPETAL!"
"WHAT OH MY GOD?!"
"How much prey did you catch today? We had a bit leftover, which was good I mean! But we could cut back so we don't waste, I'm all about the practical ways and ways to make things better, you know."
Have you ever stopped to think, maybe they don't make it better BUT SO MUCH HARDER? Rosepetal retorted in her head.
"Hollytuft, did you really have to scream and scare the bejesus out of me just to ask how much prey I caught?"
"Well, yeah, duh. It worked. And that WAS what I was doing..."
"Ughhhhhhh. Ok, I don't know, about three? Now can you leave? I'm hungry."
She ignored the question. "What were they? I bet Squirrels, no...RABBITS!"
"Hollytuft, that doesn't even matter, now LEAVE! I'm HUNGRY!"
"Sheesh, fine, I'll go find BRACKENFUR. He'll be nicer..." She raced off and Rosepetal sighed happily.
She sat for a while, thinking, then suddenly a whitish-gray shape passed her eye and settled down next to her. She was about to curse how many cats wanted her, but then saw him. Dewnose. Her pelt tingled.
"Hi. I just got back from patrol. Could we share that, or were you planning on stuffing yourself to the limit like yesterday?" He smiled. She melted.
The memories of the day before came back.
She sits down on a small rock outside of camp. "I'm still hungry! That race literally starved me!"
He nods and rolls his eyes, that perfect smile that could make any she-cat's legs turn to jelly. She remembered that smile earlier. They had finished their hunting, when Spikefur RUDELY challenged him and interrupted in everything. She had to yell at Spikefur and set his flirty mind straight.
Now he comes back with two mice stuffed into his mouth. She laughs at his giant facial expression and how he plops the prey down and heaves his chest, taking a deep breath. He always was so funny to her.
After they eat all the prey they could, she and him start heading back to camp. The sky is dark but beautiful. Stars twinkle. He moves along gracefully, looking a little awkward being so close to her. She feels natural.
They get back to camp. She has to find Hollytuft. He needs to find Sorrelstripe. They part ways, but not before sharing one more glance.
"Oh no, we'll share it. I couldn't eat that much. Look at me!"
"Gladly." Dewnose turned his head away and crumples up in an adorable ball of embarassment. Her pelt grew hot.
Rosepetal took a bite of the prey, then shoved it over to him. They took turns eating, and eventually a conversation bloomed.
"So, I have to go on a three-day expedition tomorrow."
That caught her attention. She immediately looked up. Worry grew in her eyes and chest. "Is everything ok?"
He saves everything with a laugh. "Yeah, Bramblestar just wants us to investigate the abandoned Twoleg den. He says they may be working over there, and we have to look. Badgers may be around too."
Please don't go... I'll miss you. I'm already so worried. Rosepetal's mind generated what she didn't have the courage to say.
"It-it sounds risky. Please stay safe, I-I don't want you getting hurt. Not one scratch."
He touched noses with her and the world lights up into brilliant colors. Rosepetal smiled.
"Don't worry, I would hate if I got hurt too. I wouldn't see you as much."
"Yeah, well, I care about you. Like, a LOT." She winced at how cheesy she sounded. In these moments, she forgot all her high-end beliefs and thoughts about mates, and only hoped for more time. With him. "And I never want to lose you to badgers or barns or Twolegs or—"
"Rosepetal calm down! I'm not going anywhere."
She was about to meow, "or another she-cat..."
Dewnose continues on his sentence. "Not anywhere, but to my nest." He stood up suddenly. He leaned down and rested his muzzle on her forehead. "Goodnight, Rosepetal."
And then he's off.
Rosepetal is left to sit there and dream, ponder, fantasize, think and love.
"Goodnight Dewnose," she whispered into the cold dark.
Rosepetal's dreams were filled with happiness. Good thoughts. She no longer angered at Spikefur's irritableness, stopped worrying about Alderpaw's way in life, Hollytuft yelling at her, Lilyheart losing her mate—
She only danced freely in starry territory, dreaming of cats she loved, of her good life and fortune. Even I her dreams, Jayfeather called out: "YOU FORGOT TO RETURN THE LEFTOVER BILE YOU MOUSEBRAIN!"
She probably even smiled in her dreams. Her belly full and warm, her body comfortable in its nest, and no annoying Spikefur trying to cozy up to her. She was accepted in her Clan and valued to some cats, she had use. She mattered. All good.
Alderpaw and Sparkpaw faced each other, standing amongst a group of ready cats near the thorn entrance.
It was time.
The three-day expedition patrol was leaving. Alderpaw still was unsure of why they had to go, but he made up reasons in his head that all played out okay. That was normal of him. And it helped so he didn’t get so confused by things.
Blossomfall, Brightheart, Berrynose, Dewnose, Sparkpaw and Thornclaw. All six of them giving up their warm nests and easy prey to go help their Clan out far, at the edge of the territory, exploring some recent issues. Or Alderpaw thought so.
I wish I could be that brave…
“It’s time. We must go now, day will approach soon.” Thornclaw padded up to the ring of cats, nodding at the leaving members. All were saying goodbye to their friends and families and loves ones. Squirrelflight and Bramblestar had already whined and fussed over Sparkpaw, and now returned to their duties, watching over the Clan.
Most cats were just waking up now, after dawn. Sorrelstripe, Birchfall, Whitewing had volunteered for the dawn patrol, to go along to the edge of the border with the expedition cats, making sure they got there safe.
Alderpaw remembered Hollytuft going along with them at the last minute, yowling out, “for my Clan and for the freedom of everyone!”
Spikefur grumbled as he had padded out of the den, saying, “be quiet! You sound like a ditzy Twoleg!”
Alderpaw, watching as he had padded over to the group of cats, made a little laugh. Sparkpaw bounded up and said he looked like “an insane fish!”
Now, everyone had calmed down, and Alderpaw gave one last goodbye to his sister as she padded out of the thorn entrance. The last expedition cat to leave. It was a bit sudden and scary, but Alderpaw knew she was going for the good of everyone.
The dawn patrol hurried along, and soon enough the camp was quiet and still, with an awkward silence.
Alderpaw set in his spot for a while. His pelt felt hot and uncomfortable as he thought about cats watching him, or mocking him.
But, with a deep breath and refresh, he knew he should stop being so self conscious and stop worrying… so he padded back to his den, across camp, trying not to look at the cats who glanced at him.
There he is.
Fernsong crossed the clearing as Alderpaw watched from slightly outside the apprentices den. Alderpaw had time off, and training wasn’t until later, on the dusk hunting patrol.
Fernsong stopped at the Warriors den, meowing to his sister, Sorrelstripe, and Alderpaw continued to watch.
He’s so nice…and unique.
Suddenly Fernsong turned, finishing his conversation with Sorrelstripe. He looked directly at Alderpaw, who jumped, caught off guard. How would he react?
Fernsong padded up with a smile; Alderpaw tried to hide under the little scraggly bush beside him, but failed miserably.
“Hey Alderpaw… I saw you here and wondered if you wanted to… go for a walk?”
Alderpaw gulped. “I-I-I…hi.”
Fernsong squinted and laughed, leaning down to Alderpaw who was still crouching like a tiny kitten. “Is that a yes or no…?” Suddenly his faced turned different, and he frowned with wide eyes. “I mean if you want of course! If not,,that’s ok. I’m not forcing you or anything, just, like—”
“Uh, yeah, sure.” Alderpaw cut him off and winced, instantly fearing he was being rude or too talky. He always did something wrong…
Fernsong laughed when Alderpaw’s fur bristled, after hearing Fernsong shout “great” a little too loud.
“I’ll be at the entrance waiting…whenever you’re ready, Alder.” A wink, then silence.
Oh my Starclan he called me Alder is that good? Did I do something wrong oh no aaaaaahhhhh I’m so stupid why can’t I talk why is he looking at me…
In the ramblings in his head, Alderpaw realized he hadn’t responded, and Fernsong was looking at him as if he lost his eyes and brain to a badger kit. Typical.
“Oh, y-yeah, that works!” He tried to give a smile, but if it was too big and forced he may have looked demented…
Fernsong nodded cheerfully and padded off, towards the entrance. His tail waved slowly and he went peacefully, while Alderpaw didn’t move an inch from his spot.
Alderpaw tried to turn away from watching his figure go, but was WAYYYYY TOO DEEP in his thoughts to notice.
He sighed, getting ready for what was to come, and pushed to his paws to follow.
Alderpaw ducked his head shyly as he padded up to the entrance. Fernsong was there, smiling, and looked warm and open. Alderpaw appreciated kind cats. Was he one?
“Shall we go then? I already have a route laid out…unless, you wanted to make one yourself? Oh no am I being to bossy!? Sorrrrrryyyyy.”
“NO-NO-NO-No-no-no-no-NO it’s okay, don’t worry.” Alderpaw stuttered, not wanting Fernsong to feel awkward. Anything he did would, frankly, be better than anything Alderpaw could do.
“Okay. Okay great. You’re so kind, Alder.”
He-he-he did it again OH STARCLAN HOW DO I REACT. Alderpaw’s mind screamed at him. Was he always going to act so weird in front of Fernsong?
“Okay, let’s go.” A smile.
Alderpaw basically slapped himself in his head as he quickly waddled away and out through the entrance. Could he be any more stupid and rude?
I’m a literal disgrace. I can’t imagine what mother and father think of me.
Fernsong, of course, had acted joyous and happy even after Alderpaw’s rude departure. Was there any time he was actually mad?
Like, great Starclan.
“So first I thought we could go down to the lake and walk along the sand? I always found it nice there.”
Alderpaw jumped at Fernsong’s voice in his ear. He had caught up fast, and just snuck up behind while Alderpaw cleared a rotting log and jumped past some oak trees. Fernsong was sneaky and smart–no doubt a good warrior.
“Oh! Yeah…sure, that’ll be fun.” Alderpaw stumbled on some twigs, unready for being so close and in private with a cat in one space. He had a,ways been bad at speaking, and being social.
At least it was with someone he trusted and…. respected.
Fernsong nodded and raced off in a heartbeat, surprising Alderpaw, off-guard. Gathering his breath, Alderpaw sped off after his friend, passing trees and leaves and fresh smells.
It was so familiarly comfortable, all the bright plants and objects. Alderpaw was at least very grateful to have the greatest territory of all the Clans. Sleeping in the open or eating frogs seemed…Unearthly!
Fernsong turned a corner up ahead, and Alderpaw followed. He detected a few sand grains beneath his paws, and knew they were close. This was going to be…well, at least a step for Alderpaw. But maybe that was a good thing.
Taking a step in life can almost never be a bad thing. You might not necessarily always succeed in that step, but trying is better than failing by giving up.
Alderpaw realized this, as he padded slowly down the sand with Fernsong. It was warm beneath paw, and an overall peaceful experience. Alderpaw couldn’t help but cast glances at Fernsong every few seconds, all the battling thoughts in his head holding him back.
Fernsong was so much taller, faster, more coordinated and….better looking.
But Fernsong just smiled, and pulled ahead across the sand, getting closer to the dew-tinged grass. Alderpaw felt tingle sin his body–they were walking side by side, having a good time, and Fernsong was a good cat.
This moment was almost perfect.
Its nice to have a…friend.
Then Fernsong stopped. Alderpaw fretted…if this moment was done, would there ever be another like it? It was too great. And Fernsong looked like the new type of friend as he gazed at Alderpaw kindly from his spot on the grass-and-sand mixture.
“It’s past Sunhigh….I think it’s time I go. I’m sorry, Alderpaw.”
No. Oh Starclan no. I was having such a good time, and I didn’t feel like such a failure in the last part. Was it my fault? What did I screw up now… Alderpaw had a variety of intriguing thoughts, but the only one that mattered was the one about how Fernsong felt.
“I’m sorry. I promised Hollytuft I would hunt with her… And I even like this moment a lot. Tell you what, what if I make it up to you tomorrow. What if we…go for another walk? This time around the Shadowclan border….just a thought.”
Alderpaw was stunned. This cat was able to make him feel sad, surprised happy and confused all in one walk. He must have been powerful…
It feels like he has power over me–thought erased. Alderpaw winced.
“Su-sure. That’s o…kay. S-see you tomorow…Fernsong”
Alderpaw praised when the awkward goodbye didn’t last long. Fernsong rushed off in a line through the sand, disappearing into the plant-filled territory. Alderpaw watched him go, an unknown feeling tugging at his heart.
And he ambled his way back, too, quite slowly. He already had enough excitement to feel good for tomorrow. His one true friend, taking Alderpaw out to have fun again.
How long will this go on? Is it…wrong?
He frowned, shuffling away into the woods.
The light shimmered down as he crossed the stream, leaping over, heart beating.
Fronds flickered in the slight wind, and the sky was turning darker as clouds rolled in, but Alderpaw tried not to worry if a storm was coming.
He exchanged quick glances with the bird above him, who kept flying along at Alderpaw’s pace. The whole time as he continued to travel through trees and brush, into new territory, he kept repeating his worry in his head: please don’t poop, please don’t poop, please don’t poop on me, bird…
If he got slimy dirt all over his face from above, how would Needlepaw react? Besides the obvious laugh and snort and mockery, which set off Alderpaw to laugh and just another weird moment.
“WHATAREYOUDOING?” A new voice blasted out as it jumped down directly in front of Alderpaw’s face.
“OH MY LORD AHH!” Alderpaw’s chest heaved and he plopped to the ground, scared out of his entire mind.
“Ha! Got ya, you wimpy cow.” Needlepaw’s face now appeared on the cat, and her correct body, not a black blur THAT SCARED THE BEJESUS out of Alderpaw.
“What are you doing? Why… Why did you scare me?” Alderpaw glared at her laughing face.
They were in a little patch of rock in Shadowclan territory. Alderpaw usually met Needlepaw past, here, but she probably came rushing closer to give him a heart attack.
It was pretty normal to him, meeting with Needlepaw. They had started this tradition after they met one night, at a gathering. They had become friends, and Alderpaw felt a BIT more natural around her. There was nothing odd going on here, just normal business.
“It was funny, lighten up toady. Now, what should we do today? How about something you like, since I beat you in everything. Just kidding.” She blabbed and blabbed and didn’t stop talking, so eventually Alderpaw had to cut in. He smiled; she was always so different.
Needlepaw looked at him with the most deranged and unattached, surprised face. “Talk. Talk. TALK?!?!?! Are you some little apprentice girl crushing on boys now?!
Part of it might be true… Alderpaw realized. It was too much too think about right now, and would probably kill the mood more, after his suggestion (if that was even possible). So he shoved the thought away and focused on making his entire life not look like an awkward joke in front of Needlepaw.
“No, well, FINE WHY DON-DON’T YOU JUST PICK SOMETHING THEN.” Alderpaw’s eyes darted back and forth. The ground was cold beneath, but nothing was an uncomfortable as this. He thought.
“Oh my Starclan you’re just terrible. Okay, let’s see. Hmm hmm hmm…”
“Um da dum um hum….how about…….uhhhhhh….”
Alderpaw waited longer.
“Oh, yeah. How about, weeeeeeeee—”
Alderpaw did not wait. “JUST PICK. THE FREAKING. THING.”
Needlepaw glared. “….PESSIMIST!”
She laughed and stumbled off, disappearing into the bushes and dark trees. “HEEHEEEHEEEHEEHAHA.”
Alderpaw blinked like nothing was reality, then ambled after her with a crooked grin. One unique she-cat…that’s for SURE.
The day continued on with Alderpaw’s normal routines and adventures, until it slowly drew to a close. He and Sparkpaw had had a great time, playing tag and gossiping and other fun activities. Usually Alderpaw felt awkward around cats, and around Fernsong he was a…wreck. And the around Sparkpaw he was more open, normal, and more like himself.
Still stutter-y and insane, but like himself.
Alderpaw purred at the thought, as he traced his way back how he came. Over the stream, watch the grass, look behind. It was like this every time he went to Sparkpaw, and came back.
He was now grateful, these moons later, that Sparkpaw had been on the journey with him. They lost Sandstrom, true, but they worked together well. And found Twigkit and Violetkit, who later grew up and moved to Windclan.
Alderpaw crashed into a low-hanging branch and wounded himself. He tumbled to the ground and made a face. “W-w-when did THAT GET THERE!”
He grumbled and got to his paws, feeling sore already. All his thoughts about these cats, he begun to lose attention the treks world and what was in front of him. He ran straight into a tree, was he even looking at where he was going anymore?
No. What. Definitely not. Where am I?
He looked out across the landscape behind him. It was bumpy, filled with long grass and tussocks, and had trees dotting the area. Was this the Windclan border?
“HUUUUUUUUUUH?!” Alderpaw flicked glances around. The modo was dark, and something seemed wrong.
It just hit him as he sensed the shape slinking behind. Moving close, ready to strike.
He spun, searching for the face of this voice he heard.
And it was behind him, with a confused and surprised, almost scared look. It checked his eyes, then took a step back. It was dirty and had matted fur, with worry lines on its face. It was a cat.
It was Sparkpaw.
“S-S-Sparkp-p-p wha-wha why…?” Alderpaw stuttered and mumbled, confused at the outline of his sister’s light ginger pelt against the dark trees. The sun started to tumble down the scarlet sky behind her, casting endless shade around the ferny clearing.
“What are you doing here! What’s happening! You-you have to go! Now.” Sparkpaw spoke quickly and urgently, already sounding Alderpaw back with her fretting.
There was little time to process anything. “What? Go? Huh? What’s happening, Sparkpaw.”
She drew in a gasping breath and mumbled out: “it’s an attack they just came we’re all hurt we can’t hold much longer run Alderpaw run!”
“Who–what attacked you?! Are you okay!”
She finally stopped shaking enough to explain in the small amount of time. “The rogues, they’re angry. Blossomfall and Berrynose are hurt, everyone is fighting. We need help, NOW. We need you, Alderpaw.”
His eyes widened and his mouth gaped. Oh no! An attack? We’re Blossomfall and Berrynose okay? Why did he stumble into this confusing mess right now?? What was HAPPENING!? “What….what.”
“Go, Alderpaw. Get a patrol. Please. We’re dying out here. We need you.”
And he couldn’t ignore that.
Not even stopping to let her say anything more, or to fully process things, Alderpaw shook his pelt and pushed his legs forward. He bolted through the forest, hopefully going the right way.
He ran and ran, soon picking up so much speed that it felt like he was flying. And his breathing: in. Out. In. Out.
Past the ferns and fox-scents, past the sunny snake dens, Alderpaw ran as fast as he could, soon feeling the full impression of the situation. He had to go. Fast, now.
So that’s why it was one of the worst possible thing sin that exact moment, when his sister and Clan needed him most, to have stumbled across a jutting rock and losing his balance. Crashing to the ground. Smacking his head. Closing his eyes.
Everything went black.
By the time he awoke, he didn’t know if he was completely out of time, or still in luck. He didn’t move for a while, just lay there with his eyes open and his mind slowly whirling.
Eventually, he regained enough consciousness to remember what was going on, and what the trouble was.
Sparkpaw. Thunderclan. Rogue battle. Oh god.
He slowly, sorely, pulled his head up first. Alderpaw then lifted his legs, paws, torso, hindquarters. He groaned through each movement, and his groggy mind had spots of dizziness. It was pain. Bad pain.
One step, two, Alderpaw stumbled over a pile of twigs. He padded over grass blades with wobbly legs, and slowly made his way back. It hurt too much, but with the weight of six clanmates on his back, Alderpaw pushed through everything. Maybe it was his chance to do good and not mess up.
Although he already tripped, probably causing two more deaths from the group.
Pushing even harder, Alderpaw ran and sprinted until he could see even the faintest outline of the Thunderclan camp. It was there. He was close.
Forgetting all pain the last few fox-lengths, Alderpaw burst through the CAMO entrance, panting and gasping.
Instantly, his mother ran up with a few other Warriors.
“Alderpaw! Oh my Starclan. What happened, where were you?” Squirrelflight began licking Aldepraw’s fur and cleaning him up. He turned away and spoke in a fast, serious tone. “Mother, I nee-need Warriors. A pa…trol. Mom, it’s Sparkpaw.”
He took a breath. “They are under attack. Windclan border. The whole group is in danger.” Alderpaw’s head went lightheaded, and he tumbled down after the last few words.
Squirrelflight looked terrified. But she knew. Understood.
Nodding swiftly, she called to the group of peering Warriors behind her, and started to bolt off in the direction Alderpaw came from.
He sighed, and began walking the opposite way. To get away from this surprising trouble would be nice.
But then, as Alderpaw turned back to give one last glance, he recognized the fast-moving and lithe shape. Fernsong.
They both stared, for the smallest moment, until Fernsong disappeared out of Alderpaw’s sight, and into danger’s.
(I recommend you read Chapter 2 quickly to review before reading this).
THE THUNDERCLAN EIGHT
Danger filled the sky like a choking mist, blotting out any happiness or fresh air. Hollytuft watched the patrol race off, through the entrance and into the swaying trees. Why wasn’t she with them? The Clan? Oh horse honkey!
It was scary, the random fight that just sprung up. The patrol was out there to investigate, not lead an attack. Were they okay? Maybe Hollytuft could help them…
She needed to help her Clan. She needed to help her Clan. She did.
Repeated, inside her mind. Hollytuft padded closer to the entrance and looked out blankly. What was going on? Under attack? That little shrivelhead tom Alderpaw…came rushing in all huffy and puffy, scared out of his mind. He just yelled at them all that the group at the edge of the territory–Blossomfall, Berrygrump and others–were under attack and injured, with little to no chance of fighting back on their own.
Squirrelflight, Dovewing, Brackenfur, Snowbush and Ivypool all set off right away. Fernsong tagged along, and Hollytuft had seen that look. She noticed.
Alderpaw and him. Sad eyes. Worry. Fear. They shared something, or something had just happened. Hmm… There was something definitely there.
But what was going on…?
Hollytuft, as usual, had to inspect. Turning away from the entrance, she stared around the camp for the stuttery Tom. Most Warriors were out and padding around, some debating and worrying, others casting confused glances. Bramblestar had just returned now, and was being explained of the situation by several eccentric kits and Lilyheart. Cloudtail and Brightheart, her parents, were speaking to her sister. She never spoke to them much. They all had it heir separate lives, and treated each other like normal Warriors. And…Hollytuft was okay with that?
Was that a question?
She broke her thoughts as she spotted the little mouse. In a bush by the apprentices den–wait. In a bush?!
Hollytuft peered closer and started speeding towards him, Alderpaw flicked his head side to side, but he looked surprisingly comfortable…in a bush. Somehow he dodged the poky branches and bright leaves. And he almost looked…comfortable. Well, as comfortable as that small tom could be.
She bounded up to him.
“AAA!” Alderpaw saw her as she was flung beside the bush, and he burrowed his head into his paws like a snarling dog was attacking.
PHYSCO WEIRDO FRETTING APPRENTICE!
“Calm down screechy, I’m just here to talk. But firstly, why are you in a bush?” A long gasp escaped her throat. “OH MY GOD. WHAT DO YOU SEE. GHOSTS? TERRORISTS?”
Alderpaw’s fur bristled. “S-S-stop shouting!”
Hollytuft gave an offended look. “Why don’t you stop SPEAKING LIKE A MOUSE’S CHILD!”
He flattened his ears, and slowly crawled out of the bushes. So…what did you want?”
“Uhh…” Alderpaw tilted his head in confusion.
Hollytuft thought of what to say. She wanted to know the connection with Alderpaw and Fernsong, but she didn’t want everyone else to hear if Alder admitted something…embarassing. She wanted to know about her brother’s life, so she at least showed SOME care for him. She wasn’t suuuuuch a rude cat. God.
Swiftly, she shoved Alderpaw into the den behind, ignoring his protestant meows as he back-rolled over some nests. “Quiet Kitty!” she hissed.
“Owwww,” Alderpaw groaned as he regained his footing and stood up in front of Hollytuft, eyes closed in pain. The den was darker than outside, and smelled a bit musty, old and gross. Hollytuft frowned.
“Okay. Look. I want to know EVERYTHING about you and Fernsong. I see those looks, and the chemistry, and you two would be soooo cute together. I am totally fine with him being gay. I am not judgemental. So, spill the beans.”
“What are beans…?”
Alderpaw’s eyes widened in a small bout of fear, and he continued on to explain as he stuttered. “Well…it’s-it’s nothing. We’re friends and we…care about each other. I was just…worried…when he went off t-to fight.”
“TELL ME. HE’S MY BROTHER, AND I HAVE SOME TYPE OF RIGHT OR SOMETHING TO KNOW. GO.”
Hollytuft thought for a moment. I need to get this information. One way or another. I’ll have to pry it out of him…
“WHAT WHAT WHAT WHAT did you do today? Tell me NOW!” Hollytuft tried to make her face look as angry as possibly. Scaring the duckling even worse could possibly help…
“Okay okay… Well. We went for a walk. On the beach…that’s all.”
“AAAHH okay. I knew we it. There’s something there. He likes you! Do you like him?”
There was a silence. Awkwardness. And Alderpaw looked almost like…he just got something revealed. Was he confused?! About what?
“Y-you can’t like another Tom…”
And that’s where Hollytuft figured it out. Alderpaw grew up believing otherwise, and now that these unexpected feelings hit, he doesn’t to know what to do with them. But I can’t let him go on denying his identity! She sighed.
“You’re wrong, Alderpaw. Cats can love who they want. Tom and she-cat are just words, useless ones, at that. Your heart loves what it loves. And right now, it wants Fernsong. A Tom. And that’s perfectly normal, and you need to know you don’t have to be shy about it. If others don’t accept it, then THEY are the ones with something unusual. Okay…?”
He was stunned. And he should be, a whole new group of information about something completely alien. Loving a boy?! Impossible!!
“I-I never knew you cared about this stuff…you always seemed like just a…a…”
She looked at him, her paws resting on the crackling, dried leaves of the den. “A what? Be honest. I won’t spaz.”
“A…mindless drone of the Clan that was so ditty, useless and bouncy she only cared about how well she looked in front of the others.” Alderpaw shut his mouth quickly.
“WOAH! WOAH. YOU HAVE AN BRUTALLY HONEST AND AWESOME SIDE. USE IT MORE…” They both laughed sharing that moment. She continued meowing, “but you’re right. That sometimes becomes me…and I don’t even want it like that. I’m bubbly, bouncy and weird, but I need to learn that my Clan isn’t the most guarded and godly thing in this forest. And see, that’s where being honest to myself and letting my body tell me what’s right comes in. Take a hint.”
Feeling happy with their conclusion, Hollytuft escaped the den, feeling the urge to give Alderpaw his privacy to develop the new thoughts. It was… A lot. She needed to let him learn. To be unique and true to himself. And how to deal with Fernsong when…
He came back.
The day dragged on, and most cats were obviously worried for the patrol. No one had returned yet. Had they been fighting all this time?
Hollytuft was now examining a squirrel by the fresh kill pile. She tried to take her mind off everything. Worry gnawed at her easily, like a tick against bare skin.
Eventually happy with the raggedy old choice, she dragged the squirrel over to a spot beside Lilyheart and plopped down. She cleared her throat. “It’s been a bit of a depressing day! I mean, like, we all stopped hunting! We need to keep going! They can handle the situation.” What am I even saying…
Lilyheart glared at her. “Not now, Hollytuft. I know you’re obsessed with traditions an order, but we’re all rightfully worried. My kits are starting to see everything… I don’t want them to be exposed to this type of sadness yet. And Snowbush…”
He had gone with them. Hollytuft remembering them touch noses, Lilyheart with a tear on her cheek, then Snowbush being ripped away into battle, his current whereabouts or safety unknown…
She was right. The poor kits couldn’t know. I always have to ramble. Stupid brain… Why do I think I can say what I want? Besides, not everything has to ALWAYS be the right way… “Just shut up Hollytuft.” She whispered inaudibly to herself.
It truly hurt her to say that. It was like everything she knew had just been disapproved. But if she kept acting like it, she knew, she’d be hated.
If she wasn’t enough already.
“You’re right. Sorry…” It was a bit challenging to admit…but necessary.
“S’ok dear.” Lilyheart smiled, and the two tied up the jagged ends of the small debate. It was ended, bring a fresh beginning of friendship.
Today would definitely have a happy ending.
Hollytuft bent her head to finish eating her scrawny squirrel, finding she ate much more now.
Which was surprising. She usually paced herself, the same amount each day. She never really knew how skinny it made her. Her mother had gotten very angst you when she said she could see Hollytuft’s ribs. Hollytuft always threw it aside, making it into no big deal. She has to be skinny and lithe to serve her Clan!
But no. That was wrong. Skinny didn’t matter. What mattered was her actions…her heart.
Lilyheart, gobbling up the last of her prey, got to her paws and stretched. “I’ve got to go. The kits will be up and bouncing and energetic soon. It’s so tiring being a mother some days…”
Hollytuft could hear the fatigue in her voice. But also the loads of love in the words kits and mother, and Hollytuft knew Lilyheart was one of the most caring cats there was. Definitely.
And she was right about kits.
They both nodded, and Lilyheart padded away slowly. Hollytuft was alone for hardly a minute before Rosepetal came up, fuming and angry, and started ranting in the second. Hollytuft couldn’t even stop her.
“OH. MY. GODDDD!!! THAT LITTLE…LITTLE RAT, FAT UGLY EVIL STUPID AWFUL UGH. WHY CAN’T HE LEAVE ME ALONE. HE IS NOT HOT, AND I DON’T WANT HIM. CAN’T HE SEE ME AND DEWNOSE? GOD. JEEZ. HECK.” Rosepetal let the fury out, drawing in harsh breaths and letting her fur stand on end. Hollytuft just sat, munching away calmly, almost like a disinterested cow.
It was Spikefur. Obvious. Those two were always babbling and arguing and making scenes. Hollytuft couldn’t help thinking get a den already.
It was obvious there was something between them. Why not embrace it?
Oh right. A stupid love triangle. Dewnose and Rosepetal and Spikefur. Why wouldn’t Spikefur just give up? Always do determined and obnoxious and irritating. Odd enough, he was basically a part of the Clan now. It was normal to have his Great Awful Majesty III prancing around and demanding things. He and Berrynose could get along.
If Berrynose gets back from the fight in one piece…
“Look. Just ignore him, and he’ll go away. Giving him the attention he wants is what makes him follow you around. Hang out with who you want, serve your Clan well, and do your best at whatever you do, and that’s how you can win. Besides, once Dewnose comes back, you guys can show him the business.”
Rosepetal looked almost stunned. Shocked. Why?
“Wow…Hollytuft. I never knew you were that smart or helpful. You’re usually just bat-crap crazy! But this you…I like this you. Good advice. Thanks.”
“Well, I seem to be giving a lot of good advice today. Surprisingly.” Hollytuft lightly chuckled, and Rosepetal smiled. It was nice to have everyone like you. Comforting, and making others smile was like…awesome. “And besides. You and Dewnose are super cuuuuute together EEEEEEEEE!” Hollytuft fangirled.
Rosepetal blushed, or whatever cats’ did, and looked down shyly. “Yeah…well, he’s great. And I can’t wait for him to get back. He’ll have so many stories to tell…..I’m so worried. I’m planning on telling him when he gets back…that I love him. I want a life with him and I know it.”
Hollytuft just felt warmed. They had true love. He thought she was perfect, she thought the same of him. “And you guys have had so much time together. You grew up together, and will be the perfect couple.”
Rosepetal laughed nervously. “Ah…thanks Hollytuft. You’re not as bad as everyone says. We could hangout sometime. Maybe me, you and Lilyheart could have a ladies’ walk.”
Hollytuft nodded. “I would love that.”
Rosepetal gave one last happy look, then got to her paws and started to leave.
And Hollytuft knew she had to change her attitude and actions as soon as possible, if she wanted anyone in the Clan to ever like her.
By evening, most of the Clan was in worry for the patrol. Hollytuft had talked to many cats before than, and started to realize even more how much more people enjoyed her when she acted kinder. Less orderly. Less of a perfectionist.
She and e others all lined up before the entrance. Seconds, minutes, hours passed as each member just stared and waited, a gnawing at their mind.
It was like that, all up to when the first sounds were heard.
Pounding paws, heavy panting, scattered voices. In one big rush, a whole cavalry of cats came bursting through the entrance, stumbling into camp with gasps.
Berrynose, Blossomfall…Sparkpaw! Snowbush!
Hollytuft smiled. They made it! Alderpaw and Lilyheart could be reunited with their loved, and all the others too.
Hollytuft counted each one as they streamed in, instantly rushing up to their friends and family, giving reassuring licks and smiles. Jayfeather and Leafpool rushed over and began to work one by one.
It was over. The long wait, the suspense, the fear. All the battling–it was over.
They were safe. It was a time to cheer. Be filled with joy. Let the moonlight dance along their pelts as they celebrated the survival. Celebrated their lives.
They all had their lives but one.
Hollytuft counted again. Ivypool, Dovewing…
Hollytuft exclaimed and sprung over to her brother, not speaking as she rested her head on his sagging shoulder. She looked past him, hearing his unsteady breathing. He was safe. He wasn’t gone. Safe.
And then she saw.
Squirrelflight and Brackenfur silenced the whole Clan with their slow steps into the chaos. Heads down, muscles burning, they gently released an object from their shoulders onto the barren, dusty ground. Bramblestar had rushed over and now stared.
Squirrelflight looked up.
“Bramblestar…W-We all made it… All of us…but Dewnose.” The whisper.
No explanation needed. Just the news. Dead.
Then came the screams.
They pulsed around the camp, sending off eerie shocks filled with depression. A vibrating shaped flung itself through the crowd and tumbled over beside Dewnose frantically.
Hollytuft hung her head and whimpered. Everything was wrong…
And she felt the tears quicken as she realized what today was for them.
Rosepetal and him seeing each other after a few days. It probably felt like forever.
And that’s why Rsoepetal wanted to announce her love for him. She wanted a life for him, and wanted it right when he got back.
They were going to have a family.
Rosepetal stared at the body–broken and bruised–while gasping and shaking. She didn’t get air into her system. She didn’t stand still. She was broken completely.
Rosepetal started to shake worse, and the tears already ambled down her soft cheek. A cheek Dewnose would never touch or rest his head against again.
She knelt down slowly, the whole Clan gathering around her to watch in sorrow, and rested her chin on Dewnose’s twisted head in return. Oh Starclan….no…
And Hollytuft watched her look–with pain, loss, and the overwhelming love– at Dewnose’s fading eyes.
Or, eye. A mangled and bloody whole remained where Dewnose’s left eye would have been. Gouged out and thrown away it’s existence was now.
And Rosepetal staring, trying to find any amount of hope in the remaining colorful eye of her only true love. All the time they spent together. Training, helping, growing up with one another.
Falling in love.
Gone. Right away. Pulled away violently with Dewnose’s scratched form.
It was indescribable how it would feel for her.
“NO! NO STARCLAN NO! PLEASE.” Rosepetal desperately screamed at the sky for a wish.
But none came.
Rosepetal bent down once more and put her mouth to Dewnose’s scarred forehead. “I love you…” She whispered as she shook and gasped.
She would not recover for too long of a time.
So the Clan stayed, in a group of one, circling the girl and her dead soulmate until the moon reached its peak. Night fell, and morning waited, bring a dreary air that seemed to gather around the bodies of two.
He stood in the darkness, watching shadows cast their marks over the two cold bodies in the clearing.
Fernsong closed his eyes in pain, trying to not imagine all that had happened. The battle….the blood….the death.
And now he was in a circle, with the whole Clan, watching the aftershocks of that shocking bloodbath. While Rosepetal sobbed over the mangled bones of her once-loved, Cloudtail held Brightheart’s face on his shoulder as she whimpered. His eyes were shiny as he watched, rigidly.
“I’m so sorry. We tried our hardest. We just couldn’t save everyone.” Squirrelflight was the first one to speak. The dark mist floated around her, with hints of orange and blue. Morning would be here right away. Night had passed peacefully–besides the loss.
But no cat was be able to sleep.
Bramblestar paused for moments, then turned to Squirrelflight. She looked at him anxiously. He spoke in a low baritone voice. “It wasn’t your fault. You tried, and I know it. The life of being a warrior will involve death, and we will all learn to deal with it.”
But then Rosepetal whipped her head up from her mourning, tears stinging her eyes and cheeks and running down her nose. She looked ragged and torn…understandably.
“NO!” she snarled viciously. “I WILL NEVER GET OVER THIS. YOU DID THIS, SQUIRRELFLIGHT. YOU FAILED.” She shook her head angrily and returned to grieving. Squirrelflight drew backed, obviously shocked and hurt. Her fur pricked. Fernsong felt shivers on his spine.
He stepped in, speaking quietly. “D-don’t worry….she isn’t thinking straight from the depression. She doesn’t mean that…” He almost expected her to fling around and snarl at him too.
But she didn’t, she kept her head down to pay her respects, and soon enough others joined her.
Ambermoon stumbled over and dipped her head sadly; rocks skittered underpaw. Snowbush was reuniting with his kits and mate, one of the few happy moments at the time. But he noticed the others dragging themselves over to say goodbye, and he did so with Lilyheart. They twined their tails and closed their eyes to Dewnose in farewell.
The kits didn’t know the kind of sadness they would grow up into, in this cat vs. cat world.
At last, the other Warriors–friends and all– all had their turn. Fernsong saw his sisters Hollytuft and Sorrelstripe go, and gave a swift nod to them. Bramblestar and Squirrelflight padded up with the senior Warriors, the fading starlight grasping their pelts.
Eventually, most cats went, and it was down to the young Warriors and apprentices.
Sparkpaw padded up and shook her head in regret. She must have been tired and exhausted, probably not even holding enough strength to stand and say goodbye. Fernsong knew how it felt…his wounds still felt fresh after he returned.
A few more cats went, each one feeling more tragedy than the last.
And then it was Fernsong. Had everyone else gone?
They were staring at him expectantly.
He stuttered under his breath. Then, he noticed, the quiet little guy looking around nervously. “Alderpaw.”
Alderpaw’s ears pricked up to Fernsong’s voice, and he looked over soon.
Fernsong padded over and smiled weakly and ushered the hilarious tom to go to the body. He would go too. They would go together.
And somehow that felt completely natural.
The two ambled over in the eyes of many cats, and rowed down to a stop at the fallen body. Rosepetal was still there, in a broken-down position beside Dewnose’s back-end.
Fernsong closed his eyes and said goodbye. He heard Alderpaw’s whimper beside him, and something in his mind just pricked.
He rested his head on Alderpaw’s shoulder murmured any encouraging words, then the two slowly padded away. There was no meowing from cats or squealing from kits. Just an uncomfortable, painful slience that lasted until the elders were prepared.
Jayfeather sprinkled the herbs necessary for death ceremonies on Dewnose’s bent body, and carefully avoided Rosepetal, who hadn’t moved. No one could see her face or hear her voice, but everyone knew she was hurting.
Purdy, Graystripe and Millie slowly ambled over and croaked sadly, then they, along with Cloudtail and Brightheart–still mourning– carried the body away from Rosepetal. She screamed and reached out her paw in a grasping attempt to bring back her loved one.
He didn’t come back.
Most cats had broken up and started murmuring to each other in groups after the body and its carriers disappeared through the thorny, shadowy entrance.
Squirrelflight had dragged herself over to Bramblestar, who sat by his den, and became to explain what all happened in more detail. She started shaking and her eyes filled with tears. Fernsong felt pained and creeped out watching the strong and sassy deputy break down, and wanted her only to recover. Bramblestar must have felt the same, as he directed her up into his den to be in peace and ordered Cherryfall to bring up a vole.
Fernsong turned away and watched Alderpaw speak to his sister, Sparkpaw. He was in shock, and he looked just as confused. Alderpaw was never almighty and strong.
But Fernsong didn’t mind.
He almost respected it.
Unknowing of what to do, Fernsong went to the fresh-kill pile to think about things. He wanted to take his mind off things…
But it ever seemed to work.
The memories were trapped in the prison of his mind, circling and calling out as if telling him to remember them. They didn’t want to be freed. They wanted to taunt him.
He shook his head and bit into a mouse. This day was dark, gloomy and filled with sorrow. It pretty much couldn’t get worse. Every cat was affected, and the kits seemed so tired and uneventful.
Nothing was the same.
“I know it’s hard to get over.” A new voice rang out beside Fernsong. He looked up drearily and saw his sister, Sorrelstripe.
“Yeah…” Was all Fernsong could muster. The ground felt freezing underpaw and his mind felt like a throbbing, spiky icicle.
“You look tired and beaten. Go get some rest. You must have done a lot in the battle.” Sorrelstripe gave a caring look, rested her tail on Fernsong’s shoulder, and went away from the short visit.
Fernsong was stuck in a haze.
He completely forgot about it. Forgot that it happened, forgot that it killed Dewnose.
He even forgot he was there.
So much was pounding his mind and body, he didn’t even have a chance to review what he had been through. The fighting, the screeches, the blood…
And the scars on his pelt and neck.
He felt along his fur with his sheathed paw. Where are they?!
He just felt a sticky paste that smelled of herbs plastered on top. The medicine cats had treated and fixed him, just like all the other cats.
But when?! He recalled nothing.
Everything was just so confusing now.
The small shape slipped through his claws and burrowed into a pile of fallen leaves. Fernsong cursed and felt around beneath the cracking objects for the wiggly mouse, but felt nothing but dirt and shame.
He was doing worse in everything.
Earlier, after the silence of the burial and sadness of the day, Fernsong had to take his mind off things. Spikefur and Molewhisker and a few other Warriors were training battle moves in the sandy clearing of Thunderclan territory. Fernsong had padded up, and he now recalled all the memories as he sat there in the forest.
He watches them with a dreary interest, padding forward into the low-shining light. “H-hi…” He stutters. He pauses.
Who knows what to say now?
Every time he looks at someone, even just a kit or elder not related to Dewnose, he thinks of the dead tom. It’s a recurring nightmare in the daylight.
Spikefur raises his fur above his eye, peering at Fernsong suspiciously.
Fernsong looks back, seeing into Spikefur’s true thoughts. He’s scared. Sad. Confused.
Just like us all, Fernsong thinks.
There is a little silence, but then Molewhisker steps in with his gruff demeanour and meows. “What would you like, Fernsong?”
“I need to do something. I need my mind off things.”
There is a look passed between the three of us as a chilly wind picks up, brushing the leaves and rattling the trees.
Fernsong sighed and sat down, feeling gritty pine needles and dirt beneath him.
All he was doing is moping, thinking, and being unproductive. What even was there to do otherwise?
How even could he get cheered up?
He thought of the answer even before he asked himself the question. What could make him feel better? Who could help him get over anything? Who could he never get tired of?
Who did he truly love?
He’s barely gotten into camp when the meeting was called. All twelve of them, those who fought in the battle, Bramblestar wanted to know everything–the full story.
Fernsong just caught the mistake as he started to go over, through the wind.
And after every meow of a cat, every movement or action, Fernsong had flashbacks to the vicious attacks. He thought about the attacking rogues…who they were, how they started fighting–everything.
He padded over beside Blossomfall, following a shivering Sparkpaw and slowgoing Berrynose. He barely noticed Brightheart was not there.
Fernsong understood why.
Bramblestar cleared his throat, standing protectively beside Squirrelflight in front of his den and shooing away bystanders, and then got out his words.
“I called you here to tell me about the battle. I know it was all devastating for you all, and it’s still fresh in your mind from hours ago, but I would appreciate the intel. Now…how did…the war…start?”
He is running at a frantic high-speed, crashing through branches and ignoring the whipping wind. He runs like a pack of hungry wolves with the four others, worry and excitement clouding his mind.
But then he breaks through a barrier of holly bush and sees what he didn’t expect.
There is blood. Lots of it. Everywhere. On the cracked, eroded rocks and trees. On the rough and uneven battleground. On the angry, swiping cats dancing around their opponent, waiting to strike.
On every single claw.
And there is action at every corner of the area, one or two rogues battling with a Thunderclan member, pushing them back or swiping at their vital areas.
Dewnose and Thornclaw have it the worst.
They fight back to back against four surrounding rogues with evil glints in their eyes. Fernsong, standing there in shock and awe, shakes his head when he sees one of them licking their lips.
It’s just like a cruel game to them?
Squirrelflight and Ivypool have already ran over to Brightheart, who was being pushed down and beaten by a scarred, ugly, hefty she-cat with shaggy fur. Sparkpaw faces off with a younger cat–small enough to be a kit–and seems to be doing enough to stay alive.
But what kind of standard is that?
He finally snaps from his shock, also interrupting the confused state of mind of Dovewing. They share the slightest look–one full of fear, worry, anger and resent–and then they break apart.
Going their separate ways to fight in the reckless war.
“It was awful. Hurtful. Scary. I never want that again…I still want to be a warrior, but not if every battle is like that.” Sparkpaw has a trickle of tears run down her cheek as she spat out the words carefully. All eleven of the others looked at her daringly, and Ivypool rested her tail on her shoulder.
“I agree,” Ivypool meowed. “This was bad. Not as bad as the Dark Forest, but terrible enough for just a normal battle for the rogues.”
“Yeah,” Squirrelflight mumbled. Bramblestar looked around, concerned, but let the confessions of the traumatized cats continue.
“They’re right,” Berrynose grumbled. “There was like a whole big fat horde of rogues, and they all seemed so angry for nothing. What if they attack us??!”
Fernsong let out a small gasp at the new possibility.
He swipes upward, feeling his spiky claws connect with a hardened jaw. The tom flies backwards onto the ground, then rolled to his side in pain, growling. Fernsong feels the smallest victory for about a second, but then a lumbering shape crashes into him, and both felines go tumbling downwards.
A massive Tom steps forward from a group of snarling rogues, and Fernsong knows he was the one who threw the shape.
He doesn’t look down to see what it was, but instead rises up to fight his best with the help of the gathering warriors who could still move.
Fernsong felt the tear on his eyelid, and he shivered in depression.
The body, the heavy shape that crashed into him without moving.
It was a dead, bloody, ripped apart Dewnose.
And he didn’t even use the tiniest, point one percent of energy he had in his head to turn and look. Just look.
Fernsong turned his head and vomited on the pale brown, rocky ground, gathering gasps and worry-full attention.
“Oh my god Fernsong! Are you okay?” Sparkpaw shrieked.
“I…I’m fine.” He muttered, wiping his mouth with his paw swiftly. “It’s just all that’s happened, and rethinking the battle…”
Bramblestar, Squirrelflight and Brackenfur nodded, like they understood from the old days when gruesome skirmishes happened.
“Well…anyways.” Dovewing meowed awkwardly.
Squirrelflight spoke right away, almost interrupting her. “There was a lot of cats. So many rogues and too much blood. We faced off everyone, and knocked them down for them to rise back up. It was awful. Blossomfall and Berrynose almost killed themselves too…”
Bramblestar sighed wearily and slumped. “I’m glad you’re all okay…and that no other cat had to die. Now, I want you all to go to Leafpool and Jayfeather right away for one more checkup. And then heave a long, good night’s rest, and you will have as many days as you need to recover. Thank you, for everything. Fighting for your Clan, respecting Dewnose, and helping me get knowledge of what Thunderclan is in for. Have a swell night.”
The cats broke apart, some whispering about battles to each other, but Fernsong turned away to go to the medicine den. His stomach still felt uneasy and queasy.
He dragged his tired legs over across the camp. The sky was dark now, shadows floating through the air. The trees swayed and rocks gathered a sullen coldness. It was a ghost town out in the open, most cats were moping in their dens with puffy eyes. Fernsong felt like doing the same.
He respected the medicine cats for working through this.
“Hey, uh, Leafpool.” He meowed as he stumbled into the den, sore and aching.
Jayfeather popped his head up and frowned. “Ahem, child.”
Fernsong laughed and choked straight after. His throat was dry and sore, and he hadn’t laughed in what seemed like ages. It hurt, almost, like a guilty pleasure.
“Sorry, Jayfeather. Ahem…. HELLO!!” His throat hurt more now, following his joke, and Jayfeather just turned away, grumbling.
Leafpool padded over and smiled weakly. “Hello, Fernsong, what can I do for you.”
“Uh…well. Bramblestar told us to come here for a check-up after the battle…and I threw up a few seconds ago.”
Jayfeather appeared again in a flash, ready for comedic relief. “Well you’re just straightforward, aren’t ya? ‘I threw up.'”
Fernsong grinned back, and turned over to Leafpool. She began gathering herbs, and he went more into the centre of the den to give her room to treat him. She worked swiftly, and he let out soothed groans every time he felt the cool paste she rubbed into his scratches and scars.
After she finished and washed her paws off in the little water pool, she gave him a few poppy seeds for sleeping later.
Then, as he turned out of the den, she meowed to him one last thing.
“Be careful, Fernsong, and always listen to your heart.”
And the next mission he was going on was all about his heart.
“All cats old enough to catch their own prey gather beneath the highrock for a meeting!” Bramblestar called out across the clearing. It was late at night, and most cats padded out of their dens groggy and confused.
“What’s this about?! Graystripe meowed sleepily.
“It’s something I have wanted to do ever since this whole battle started and ended.”
Fernsong listened from his spot beside the bush in front of the apprentice’s den. Beside him sat his best friend, of course, Alderpaw.
“Seeing the bravery of these two cats has made me realize what great Warriors they would be. They both helped the Clan out in the recent time of need, and me and my deputy both couldn’t be more grateful.”
Fernsong gasped. “Oh…my…”
“Alderpaw and Sparkpaw, please come up here.”
Fernsong let out a little excited squeal, embarrassing himself. Beside him, Alderpaw ducked into the bush awkwardly. He shoved a paw onto his back and pulled him out with a laugh. “Come on. It’s time for you to get your name!”
Alderpaw looked at him with a hilarious scared, confused and cold glare and Fernsong just laughed sadly. He’s just…perfect.
Alderpaw ducked his head away from the cheering cats staring at him, while, Sparkpaw had a forced smile on her face as she padded up confidently. It was too soon after the death, everyone was still a bit riled up. But a good thing was definitely needed.
“Alderpaw, Sparkpaw. I know now is a bit early, but this could be done at any time, and right now we need something happy. You are both loyal, smart, and talented in your own ways. Starclan, this apprentice has trained well, and I hope you believe she deserves to be a warrior. Sparkpaw, do you promise to hold fight for your Clan proudly and serve us well, and respect Starclan and their noble code?
“I do,” she meowed with a small smile.
“Then by the powers of Starclan, I now announce you as Sparkdawn. May you be loved by Starclan and live a long, prosperous life.”
There were a few small cheers and whoops, and Alderpaw nodded at his sister without looking up from his dumbfounded position of awkwardness.
But then he was called on.
“Alderpaw, do you promise to fight for your Clan, even if it leads to your death, and respect Starclan and their noble code?”
He took a deep breath, and Fernsong watched intently with pleasure and love. He was joyful, and couldn’t wait until he could get alone with the new warrior…
“I…I…” Alderpaw started.
Come on Alder, you can do it. You can do anything.
You’re amazing, Alderpaw.
“Then by the powers of Starclan in me, I now announce you as new warrior of this Clan…”
Fernsong’s heart fluttered.
“Sparkdawn! Alderheart! Sparkdawn! Alderheart!” The Clan cheered as well as it could in these times of mixed emotions, and the two Warriors had bright smiles on their faces that lit up the night sky.
What a beautiful name, Fernsong thought.
And he waited, right beside the bush, in the darkness of the night, for his beloved warrior to come to him.
He had something he wanted to say.
The stars lit up the sky and shined on the open clearing as Fernsong padded up to him.
This was it.
It was time to tell him.
The two of them. Alone in the clearing on a beautiful starry night. The perfect time, the open moment all to themselves. No one could stop them…
Alderheart, the handsome new warrior padded up to Fernsong’s face and smiled. “Hey… So I guess I’m a warrior now?”
Fernsong grinned awkwardly. “Yeah… We can hunt together and go on patrols and be in the same den and…”
Alderheart knew what he was thinking. Great minds thought alike. “We never finished our walk. The lake is calm and quiet, the sand is…soft…and the stars are out.”
Fernsong looked at him. He looked back.
And this time, Alderheart led him towards the beach. Through the trees and around bushes, eventually feeling the squishy sand underpaw. The moon shone brightly above, casting Alderheart’s perfect shadow on the waves of the lake in the night.
Fernsong suddenly smirked mischievously. “Um… OH MY GOD ALDER THERE'S BIRD POOP ALL OVER YOUR HEAD!!”
Alderheart’s eyes widened and he jumped. “WHAT WHAT AAA GET IT OUT GET IT OUT OH MY GOD I HAVE TETANUS!” He gasped, trying to catch his breath.
“Sheesh, I was just kidding.”
Alderheart gave a mock glare, and looked just as beautiful as always.
Fernsong looked up. “You’re gonna be a great warrior. I’m glad you are my friend. And there is something I’ve been meaning to tell you.”
“Alderheart, ever since we became good friends…best friends…I knew we had a-a connection. Um…I’ve never felt like I knew someone so well, and I definitely know you are one great cat.”
“Uh…um…well…wow…” Alderheart mumbled and looked up, his fur ruffled in the wind. His eyes were bright and perfect.
This was it. Literally. After so many moons, so many moments and conversations and walks together, Fernsong was ready for Alderheart. He wanted him. Needed him. He loved him.
And there would be cats against. Cats thinking they were weird and could never have a real life.
But throw all the rabbit poop on those cats, Fernsong loved Alderheart and would do anything necessary for him.
“What I’m saying, Alder… Alderpa– uh I mean Adder–Alderheart.”
He laughed, and it made Fernsong’s whole year. It was a perfect laugh, for a perfect cat, for a perfect moment.
Now Alderheart interrupted. “Look, I feel the same. I never knew about my, uh, feelings, but Hollytuft helped me. And now that I’m a warrior I know fro sure. I’m glad you are the first cat I talk to after the ceremony. I know what I have to say.”
Fernsong was done waiting. “Alderheart. You’re the most handsome–hot, too–smart, funny, unique and great cat I have ever known. And I truly know, that in my heart, I…I… I–”
“I love you Fernsong!”
A stunned silence. The quiet waves crashing onto the beach. The tilting night sky with glittering lights. The wind, the fur.
Fernsong’s mouth gaped. He never expected this in his whole lifetime. And now all he could think of was how brave this cat was, and how much more he loved him. He never knew his heart could be filled with such joy.
“I love you so much, Alderheart. I really do. I want a life with you, no other cat.”
He agreed, and turned on his heels in the tiny rocks. Fernsong did the same, and they both sat, side-by-side, looking out onto the dark horizon of the shimmering lake under the shaded sky.
“But there is so much sadness. So much death, and I don’t want these things to happen. I don’t know if I can get through them on my own, and then I won’t be good enough for you,” Fernsong felt little tears in his eyes coming on. He looked at his love, who opened his mouth.
But silence. A long lasting, comforting, loving look between the two. And then came the whisper.
The Clan had started to recover over the next moon.
Some still recovered in their dens, struck by fear and shock, calming themselves to the best of their abilities, while a few worked themselves hard to keep their Clan strong.
Molewhisker was one of those few.
Each day he had his routine–set up so he could help others when they needed it–which consisted of morning hunting, a break around Sunhigh in camp to eat and rest and meow, and then patrols and any other jobs to help rebuild and reconcile.
Of course Spikefur was always hanging around him, pesky and buzzing like a talkative bee. Molewhisker wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of him, but they grew closer and now had a sort of system going.
He had to keep Spikefur in line when it came to Rosepetal. She and Dewnose’s family took it the worst, and going into detail would just break any heart.
Alderheart and Sparkdawn were working into their places, continuing on well as new Warriors. Fernsong and Alderheart had announced their love, and that was the talk of the camp for a while. They had a few supporters–Hollytuft, Daisy, family, friends–but then many senior Warriors were skeptical. Thornclaw and Berrynose were the worst: treating the two like rotted meat, disrespectful and aggresive, while Bramblestar seemed a bit passive.
Molewhisker didn’t know where he stood. It was there choice, and they seemed in love. And Alderheart was his former apprentice, they knew each other and got along. Of course Molewhisker should support him. But…
He didn’t focus on it.
Molewhisker turned from his scanning of the camp–checking to see how things were going, which as always much needed– and stared out into the forest. More hunting, more Clan-serving. He couldn’t get bored of it. It was his job.
He grunted grumpily and lumbered off into the forest.
He was almost there, SO CLOSE, when the annoying, always-following voice sounded by his ear. “MOLEWHISKERRER YOU LOOK LIKE A BIG ELEPHANTO!”
He sighed and Spikefur snorted, bouncing up like the leader of the whole forest. “Heyyyyy. Are we going hunting again?”
Molewhisker moved on forward, trying to ignore Spikefur until he went away.
But his awful stalker-ness was always there, and he was right up against Molewhisker like a immature kit.
“I am going hunting…you are staying here to…I’m not sure, go hit on some she-cat who hates you anyways.” Molewhisker snapped and tried to make more turns in the leafy areas to get away.
“Ugh, I am WAY better than that! Besiiiiides, we’re buddieeeees, man.”
“What in Starclan’s name is a ‘man?'” Molewhisker frowned.
“Look, we all know I am with you all the time because I have SUCH a kind heart to always help the old and boring, I’m like your own little best friend.” Spikefur lifted his chin, oddly proud.
“NUH-uh-uh!” Molewhisker stopped and poked Spikefur in the chest. “YOU follow ME around because YOU have NO friends and EVERYONE hates you and I AM the only one who can moderately TOLERATE you. Annnnnd this way you actually do something useful, even if you are terrible at hunting.”
Spikefur made an ugly, wide-eyed, gaping-mouthed face and turned away in a huff.
“You look like a petty, pretty pink she-cat when you do that.” Molewhisker snorted and chuckled deeply, still facing towards the tall oak trees and sun.
Spikefur mumbled profanity and curses as he stalked away, and Mokewhisker shook his fur with a grin, with the feeling he won.
Now it was time to hunt. There was barely a quarter-moon left of Greenleaf, and soon Leafbare would strike with its frosty winds and freezing ice.
The Clan had to make the best of it. Depression and darkness had hit, and those who were able to go out and help had to get all the resources they needed before the worst season came to the forest.
Leafbare was always the saddest of them all.
He stared at her without knowing he was, and didn’t mind it at all.
“Jeez, Molewhisker, are you two going to have this creepy stalkers-in-love romance going on for the whole year? Why don’t you just make it official already?”
Molewhisker shook his head and turned away, a little confused, but something in his chest feeling warm.
Lilyheart was standing there with a big smile, her kits bouncing around her like energetic flies.
“Wha…what? I have no idea what you mean, Lilyheart. Briarlight is just very strong ad I respect her…and I was interested in how she got around all day with her legs…like that.”
“Mmmmmhmmmm,” Lilyheart shook her head and padded closer to him, nuzzling his cheek. This type of kindness was welcome these days, as leafbare was just a paw-step away. “There is definitely something WITH you two! You say you just “ADMIRE” her, but I know the way you look at her. And the way she watches you when you pace around camp. It’s just like me and Snowbush…the starts of young love.”
“Aren’t I older than you?”
“Who knows, and don’t change the subject.”
He tried to desperately. He didn’t know why every cat thought they had a thing…Briarlight was just an interesting she-cat and–
“You’re staring at her from the corner of your eye AGAIN!” Lilyheart chirped gleefully. She bounced up and down like an overexcited, sugar-high apprentice. “Go ask her to share some prey with you! You could get this official.”
“No, no, no no. I don’t love Briarlight or ever will, I’m fine on my own and will just serve my Clan well. I might find my mate eventually, but it won’t. Be. Her.”
Molewhisker padded away from Lilyheart, not in anger or madness, but because he was embarassed to the core and didn’t want to continue on that subject.
Why did every cat think they were in love? She rarely talked to him, and when she did she seemed shy and much-too-smiley and…
She probably had a crush on him.
He was heading toward her.
“Oh, uh, hi Molewhisker!” Briarlight meowed cheerily.
“Nuhoooooooope!” Molewhisker mumbled and turned away awkwardly, stepping towards the clearing like a goon.
And he could hear her giggle from behind him.
He sighed, ears drooping, and turned back to her, padding up. Her legs were jutted out behind her unevenly, and it looked difficult to keep upright. Was it wrong to feel admiration for a cat who had to struggle with this everyday, when he just had to hunt and fight?
“Uh…whaddya want.” He grumbled to her gruffly. He looked down, barely catching the twinkle in her eye.
“Um…well. Hi! We don’t really speak much…how are you doing after…you know.”
“Oh…I’m fine.” He coughed. “Thanksforasking.” Another cough. “What-what about you?”
She was stricken back, but looked oddly pleased.
“You’re so kind for asking. I am alright…but no one seems to talk to me much. I’m a bit lonely.” She stared off, genuine sad, and Molewhisker hated the pang in his heart of stupiduglyawful sympathy.
“Mm, I get what you mean. I only have that everlasting troll called Spikefur to keep me company, and I rarely talk to my friends. Fernsong and Alderheart are busy with their love, Rosepetal is grieving, Lilyheart is with Snowbush and I can never find Hollytuft.” He rambled on about his problems, also hating how open he felt to speak. He tried to pry away and just walk past her rudely…but he couldn’t.
“Oh…I see. Yeah, my friends are all doing stuff too. I’m jus trying to help Jayfeather and Leafpool or the elders.”
There was a completely awkward silence. Molewhisker was looking down the whole time.
And when he looked up, their eyes met for the first time in a long time.
He quickly turned away with his heart beating faster. “Um well by okay you’re lonely get better soon see ya around bye.” He waddled off swiftly.
He hated how he pricked his ears back to hear her laugh again.
He had taken his prey to his nest without knowing why.
It wasn’t like Molewhisker wanted privacy, he was fine eating anywhere.
But he just didn’t want to see her. It was an odd reason, a rude one, too. But he felt like he could think here better. After how he left her, and how he felt around Briarlight, it would be too embarrassing to run into each other again.
He only ate half of his squirrel, his large appetitive surprisingly gone. His thoughts drifted to staying away from her, how to go on the next few moons.
It was odd to make a plan to stay way from somebody.
Why was she so special?
Molewhisker grunted and sighed and snorted and huffed and puffed and fell over into his next, collapsing into the warmth all at once.
Everything was just so confusing and tiring, he just wanted for this weird feeling in his chest to be gone. But how?
The patrol Molewhisker went on was so much less cringe-worthy and embarassing. He had finally got together with Hollytuft–who seemed to have a change of heart a moon ago, and was now tolerable and fun–and Alderheart and Fernsong. Spikefur tagged along last minute, much to everyone’s dismay.
It was a simple border check, nothing interesting happened, and no one wanted it to. The battle a whole moon ago was enough. Peace was welcomed.
At some points, Molewhisker wanted to yell at Fernsong and Alderheart to keep the adultery TO A MINIMUM. He didn’t feel grossed out by them…but watching two cats in love made him think and want…her.
He shook his head and coughed, trying every single way to get her out of his mind. Repeating: Go away go away go away I don’t want you go away Briarlight. Speaking random junk to get his mind off her: “So the moon is bright and cows are mooing and I feel like eating a plump piranha and mymomismakingSTIR-FRYANDIREALLYDONTWANTYOUINMYHEAD!”
Fernsong and Alderheart kept moving on, meowing in each other’s ears and resting on each other’ shoulders.
Spikefur was watching Hollytuft’s rear end, disgustingly.
Hollytuft was running over, worriedly. “Are you OKAY Molewhisker! Sheesh, you scared the meowsers out of me with your weird ramblings. What are you thinking about?”
“NOTYOU!” He screeched and took of down the borderline, running past the grass and tussocks to get back to camp as possible as he could.
He needed to speak to Lilyheart.
He scrambled into camp and looked around wildly for her. His normal temper of calmness and grouchiness was gone, now it was just a high-stakes freak out session.
“Oh my stars. Molewhisker… are you okay? You look like you have seen a thousand BADGERS!”
He stumbled up to Lilyheart, who was rushing over in the clearing. Several cats were staring, but Lilyheart sent her mate and kits to go shoo them away. This was between them, and Molewhisker felt like it was important. He couldn’t go on in his day without speaking to her like this.
“LILYHEARTI NEEEEEEED YOURHELPI KEEEEEEEP THINKINGABOUTHERANDITISJUSTAAAAA!” He hyperventilated, eyes rolling around in his head as he ran around in frantic circles. He felt insane.
“MOLEWHISKER! Just calm down and take seven deep breaths, and then–”
Molewhisker flipped out again and continued to his crazy freakish methods. She was engulfing his mind and controlling it, she was there, she was everywhere.
“Yes,” Lilyheart purred with surprising calmness, and he listened to her. After the second one his heart rate already started descending. It was working.
After he finished them, he stared up at her with teary eyes. “Thank you… I feel so embarrassed. I’m like an overreacting girl. I never acted like this and never thought I would…I don’t know what’s happening to me.”
She tilted her head in an “awwweee” gesture and spoke in a motherly voice, one that was about to crack like watching your kit grow up. “Your heart is lovesick, honey.” She meowed straightforward.
He didn’t know how to react, jut that he didn’t like what it was doing to him. “It just feels like when I talked to her for the first time in a while, every emotion in my body flared up and went KABOOM MABOOM PEW!”
“Yes, that’s lovesick, Molewhisker. I had that when I first met Snowbush.”
Perfect timing, as Snowbush just padded up to the two now and touched noses with Lilyneart lovingly. Molewhisker’s heart felt pained watching them, and he imagined doing that same thing with Briarlight. Gahhhhhhh! he screamed inwardly.
“She’s right, Molewhisker. You will feel this way forever unless you tell her how you feel.” Snowbush dipped his head, and he and Lilyheart padded away together, with their tails twined and their kits scrambling around them.
Molewhisker was left there, confused and excited, thinking of her and only her.
He didn’t know when he would announce what he felt.
It was empty and shadowed in the clearing when she first arrived beside him.
Molewhisker had been able to calm himself down enough to even look at her. Most Warriors had gone to bed at Moonhigh, but Molewhisker sat out here, in the vast openness, and thought.
He thought it would just be him for the whole night, there in the misty darkness. But then she padded up beside him as he lay there on his pass, staring ahead with open eyes.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she meowed in her juvenile yet pretty voice. The more Molewhisker tried to avoid her, the more things he found about her that were attracting.
“Oh, yeah, me neither. Sometimes I like it out here when it’s dark and quiet…I find it easy to relax.”
His gruffness was gone. At this moment, he realized he just felt open. Ready to show himself to a cat.
And the mystery of his love sickness was easily solved. When he was with her, he wasn’t just crazy and lovestruck, but he more cherished the moments with her and felt like he wanted more. And then when he was away from her, all that sickness and gnawing feeling of missing her kicked in.
“I guess we think the same.” She winked. “May I sit with you?”
“I don’t care, I’m not leader of this place.” His defensiveness came back. The closer she got the worse he got awkward.
“Ha, I guess you aren’t.” She managed to turn every rude thing into a beautiful joke.
“So…” Molewhisker started. He was beside her, she was beside him, a few pine-needle-lengths and their pelts would be brushing.
“Hmm. I guess we could just enjoy the peacefulness, while it lasts, right?” Briarlight suggested.
She doesn’t want to talk to you, idiot, Molewhisker scolded himself. He frowned again and tensed up.
“Teehee! I’m just kidding, that would be soooooo BORING! What should we talk about?”
And for the first time since he was with her, Molewhisker laughed a true, heartfelt laugh. It was just an uplifting message to his heart, and even Briarlight brightened up a bit.
“So I guess the Clan is doing better now? We all had a moon to heal, and now most of us are starting to get back on track to our routines again. Have…you?” This was the best he could do. He would try anything to get her to stay here longer with him, and for once, he was accepting that. He felt something for her, not just admiration or respect, but something much more. Something…like–
“Yeah of course! I have gotten back to the chores of helping the medicine cats and elders…like I said earlier, and now I’m visiting the queens often!” Briarlight smiled wonderfully and looked at him, then meowed even more. Every word she spoke was just hypnotical, her voice and features the key. “But it’s mostly all thanks to Warriors like you. You stayed strong and worked through it all even when a tragedy happened, and were respectful through it to. I have so much respect for you, Molewhisker, and I really fell like…” She didn’t finish as she burst into his chest and wrapped her paws around his neck in a hug. Forgetting her back legs couldn’t be used, Molewhisker didn’t hold on tight and dropped her, causing them both to tumble down in a jumble of whiskers and limbs and protestant meows.
When Molewhisker’s head stopped spinning with stars, he blinked a few times then looked ahead.
Their pelts were brushing close together and she was looking at him warmly.
He quickly scrambled up to his feet and yelled at himself. “Uhhhhhh sorry, sorry Briarlight, gosh I’m so sorry I’m so stupid. Sorry I’m sorry do you need help? Sorry.”
And he listened thoroughly, and then he joined in, chuckling along with her chiming voice.
But then she scowled, and Molewhisker’s heart broke in two. “What’s wrong, are you okay? What did I say? I’m so sorry!”
“No…it’s not you…it’s just…” She glanced back at her rear end, and when Molewhisker followed her gaze he immediately felt ashamed and disgusted with himself.
But that was what he was always going to do. He…felt for her, and just like Lilyheart said, that awful lovesickness would never go away unless he dealt with it. She was here,beside him, and he was there, too. Now was the perfect chance. Finally take hold of the moment and make it official. “Briarlight…I, I think I l–”
“Molewhisker…I think my legs fell asleep. I…can’t get up.”
His jaw and dropped as he studied each of her paws and her worried expression. “Oh…that’s not swell. Should I go get Leafpool or Jayfeather or your mother or–”
“No…I don’t want to wake them. You’ll just have to help me, Molewhisker. Please.”
He couldn’t ignore an innocent plea for help. Whatever weird action he would have to do to help her, he would do it. “S-sure…uh, of course I’ll help you.”
Her grin returned.
But what he was expecting was ten times less awkward, embarassing, weird, messed up and creepy then what she meowed.
“Okay…so I need you to grab hold of my hindquarters with your two front paws and pull upwards, and then I will launch myself up with my front paws. O-okay?” She commanded.
His face screwed up, contorted, and he stuttered. “Umm…uh…I…yeah…uh…sure…uh…okay.”
He slowly moved over to behind her, then glanced down at her haunches. “So, like should I, like, just…grab them on the sides and, like, like…”
“Yeah, I mean I guess that could work…”
The air was just piercing Molewhisker’s fur in every spot with embarassment. He scrunched up his nose and rolled his eyes when he grabbed the sides of her rear-end, the most annoying feeling pricking his heart. He was an awkward mess.
“Uh…okay, I’ll pull up now.”
Molewhisker heaved up in one big might, wanting to get it over with as soon as possible. They both grunted, and she kept moving her front paws to keep her balance. Molewhisker steadied her, and she finally regained her footing and stabilized.
“Wow, uh that was weird.” She said bluntly.
Molewhisker laughed breathlessly. “Yeah, very.”
“I’m sorry, Molewhisker, I really am.” She spat out angrily at herself. “My stupid injuries ruin everything, I shouldn’t even be here, I’m so dumb and–”
“No!” He roared ferociously. “You almost-sacrificing yourself to get something for an elder was the bravest thing I ever heard about. You are so strong and resilient to be able to move around every day, and I know it’s not easy. That’s why I respect you, Briarlight, that’s why I…I…L-like how you are so strong…”
He made no sense, he couldn’t do it. Such. A. Coward.
“Thank you, so so much, Molewhisker. This means a lot to me and I’m glad you are my friend, and I know you always will be. Goodnight.”
With that, Briarlight dragged herself strongly all the way to the Warriors den, and Molewhisker was left to watch her go, still standing there in the shaded clearing where they just spent most of the night…together.
Sleep did not come easily that night, it was more of a tortured struggle of over excitement and paranoia.
Briarlight knew something happening between them, and the growing warmth in her body when she saw him was increasing.
“But it won’t work, my injuries ruin everything.” She murmured to herself, head resting on her paws. Just seconds ago she and him were in an awkward situation, causing him to touch awkward places to help and her to feel awkward with her legs.
“He’ll never love me. I can just keep doing my jobs and he can find someone else.”
She sighed and rolled onto her back, staring up into the leafy and scratchy roof overhead, with the faint undertones of shiny stars piercing through. She rarely slept in the medicine den anymore, but after what had gone on out there and what was said, she wanted to find the nearest shelter and just collapse there, thinking endlessly.
“I just want to sleep, maybe in the morning things won’t be so rushed.”
“Can you SHUT. UP. ALREADY??!” The new hissing voice of Jayfeather echoed through the den, rousing Leafpool awake and causing Briarlight to have a sudden heart attack. “I DON’T CARE WHAT MENTAL DISEASE YOU HAVE THAT MAKES YOU BLAB TO YOURSELF ABOUT SLEEP, but I want to SLEEP and you’re being an irritating FROGFACE. SO SHUT UP. Right now! Shush.”
Jayfeather grumbled and was scolded by Leafpool, but fluffed his pelt down and sank into his nest grumpily.
Briarlight snickered, heart already mending and gaining light. Suddenly feeling a rush of peace and drowsiness, she grabbed the opportunity and closed her eyes, waiting for sleep.
She just wanted things to go back to normal, before she ruined them.
The next morning was gray and dreary, worsening as the day continued, almost hinting at trouble.
But Briarlight was busy controlling her own incidents to worry.
Everything just got worse at each point. Spotting him trolling around the camp gave her a nostalgic worry, and when he glanced over at her every time she just gave up on life continuously.
Avoiding love was difficult.
“WHY ARE THINGS SO HARD?!” She growled.
“You want your jaws and claws to be squishy skin stuff?” He joked lowly as he padded up behind her.
Every muscle and bone locked up in an uncomfortable prison, sweat already bubbling under her fur.
He was so perfect that it was terrible.
Turning around slowly, Briarlight sighed.
“Hey…Molewhisker.” She said without looking up.
“Is something wrong?” He grumbled, a serious tone taking over. Briarlight always liked lightheartedness and the true colors of cats, and Molewhisker was always a hidden softie waiting for someone to release him from his shell.
She had done it.
And it destroyed each barrier and belief she knew about herself.
“Nothing, it’s just stupid dramatic stuff.”
“Tell me, we can be honest with each other.”
“We’ve only spoken ONCE in the last moon and you already want to stalk and love me??!!” Briarlight screeched and instantly regretted everything.
His ears flattened and a sour look adjusted on his face.
Molewhisker whipped around and stalked off, leaving behind a broken Briarlight, hanging on the razor’s edge.
I ruined everything like I always do. Even when my legs worked I was still a bad cat, and all these determinations and hopes I’ve had all these years…
“Are just lies.” She finished, a tear on the barrier of her eyelid.
Briarlight rested her head on her front paws, watching the scene with a sad smile.
Lilyheart groomed her kit, staring down at her tiny face.
“GO TO BED.”
“No.” Leafkit chirped.
“I’m not tired.”
“You should be!”
“I’m not though.”
“I will force your eyes shut MYSELF, unless you skidaddle your bum in there, Leafkit.” Lilyheart threatened.
“Go ahead and try you badger-belly.” Leafkit sassed and waddled away into the den proudly.
Briarlight withheld a painful laugh.
Leafbare was too painful.
She gathered her feeble strength and rose to her paws, the typical pains shooting up her spine for a moment, then fading.
Bringing more depressing reminders.
I just want to be happy…
She shook her head and harrumphed, returning to her brooding. She knew she was being useless and, honestly, a bit histrionic. She was alive, many cats couldn’t say that (because they were dead…duh).
But what else was there to do? Spikefur and Rosepetal had their bottled up love, Fernsong, Alderheart, Hollytuft with their new news. Molewhisker…content with all his perfection and value, probably.
“And me, with all me ugly injuries and whiny depression.”
“It’s time to give you one heck of a pep talk,” a new voice suggested. Briarlight looked up at the mangled sight of Rosepetal, with red eyes and patchy fur, croaky voice.
Yet she was still prettier than Briarlight would ever be.
“Look. You risked your life long ago just to do a kind deed for a cat. It went wrong, and now you have that “oh so terrible” mess dragging behind you. Right? That’s what it feels like. A burden and mocking object.”
Rosepetal’s voice grew stronger, steadier. She stared down at Briarlight, who now couldn’t keep the look going on.
The clearing was all to them, yet Rosepetal still shoved Briarlight roughly out of the entrance. She led her to a secluded area, light rising around branches and weaving through leaves.
A short silence came and went, then Rosepetal continued. Briarlight stiffened.
“You’re wrong. The accident behind you is what makes you stronger, it makes you you. You think about it now, how terrible it is, but you don’t realize. We have it easy, sometimes we even turn selfish and don’t realize how life is so good with no problems. You worked to be where you ar,e you pushed yourself on. And for that you have tens of cats who RESPECT you, Briarlight. Your legs don’t define who you are. How you go on with them is what does. And as far as anyone can see, you made them look like normal. Heck, you even have Molewhisker drooling after you, Briarlight. Nothing is wrong! Don’t think it is, just do what you do and life will fall out in front of you. Okay?”
She took moments to process. Briarlight relaxed her muscles, drinking in the words of her friend, mind changing.
She was right.
Injuries can knock you down, but what doesn’t kill you makes you STRONGER. She could love and fight and fall and rise just like any other cat. If she lived this long, something must be right.
“Thank you, Rosepetal…so much. I feel the same way about you. You are so strong to go on without…uh…”
“Yes.” Rosepetal nodded, agreeing, turning away slowly. “I guess I am. I guess it’s time heal. Thank you too, Briarlight.”
She was gone.
Briarlight stood alone between snowy rocks and frosted forest, tail still.
And yet she felt normal.
Her breath made wisps of cold in the air, a repeating notion that was almost soothing.
But what she was about to do was NOT soothing, not at all.
The camp was full, cats moving back and forth to warm up, get their joints alive. Warriors returned from patrols, the borders reported to be calm, the prey reported to be enough to live off of.ii
While leafbare was a devastating season, the start so far had been well. Briarlight always loved the snow, the way it felt on her paws, the way her back legs could finally feel something.
Her legs weren’t the only things with feelings. Her heart boomed. Almost loud enough to echo around the camp, it’s tempo only rose when her goal came strolling into camp, limp squirrel in jaws, soft fur covered in white flecks.
His perfection glowed, blinding her eyes, shining bright. His eyes flickered around, and the moment they landed on her she crumpled onto the ground, freaking.
“I have to, I can’t, you must. He’s here, I am too. I don’t want him to be but I do. I’m not ready, yes you are, just go up and tell him, Briarlight. But HOW?”
How could she do something so nerve-wracking…so…so hard and complicated and dangerous and teetering and–
Each time she thought of it more, her chance fell farther away. Either she waited, longer, pushing off her feelings longer until each season passed. Or, she just DID it. Padded up, got it over with, face the consequences after.
She did what she always did. After her perfect talk with Rosepetal. She felt like she could do ANYTHING. Talking to Molewhisker, telling him how she felt? Easy! In her imagination it fit together easily, things went on plan, she felt good doing it.
Reality is different, and seeing it, Briarlight flipped. Completely different, completely freaky.
The camp was packed. Rosepetal and Lilyheart stared at her, flicking their eyes over to him, a signal. On the other side, Alderheart and Fernsong nodded, care in their eyes. Spikefur kept pushing Molewhisker in her direction, Hollytuft distracted him–
Rosepetal set up an entire scene.
In a flash, the entire Clan steeped to the sides. Spikefur heaved Molewhisker into the circle, a ring of smiling cats trapping them.
The snow littered the empty ground.
Briarlight and Molewhsiker faced each other, alone in the circle, tons of eyes on them, though.
This was completely set up. Rosepetal got the entire Clan to be a part of their love story. She changed the game for Briarlight and him.
Though this was truly the most horrific moment ever conceived in history, Briarlight couldn’t be grateful or surprised enough.
“I….hi, Molewhisker.” She stammered, clueless of words and stuck.
“Hey…” His awkwardness fell.
The Clan watched in giddy excitement, drinking in every emotion, waiting for the announcement.
“This is kinda embarassing,” Briarlight put, blushing.
“Yeah. It’s scary.” His gruff voice went.
They stared at each other, awkward, embarrassed, unable of what to do at all. It was a circle, they were in the arena. Not a battle; unexpressed love.
Briarlight had had many struggles for a while. For the last few moons she’d been back and forth, trying to accept herself, trying to go on with life with injuries and no love.
She found Molewhisker.
Things got harder, confusing, and a lot more depressing. Ups and downs were often, and so many insecurities piled above.
And yet he showed her kindess. Yet he LOVED her.
He respected her for who she was. She may still be unconfident, but he was all the confidence and love she would ever need.
And she HAD to be ready.
“Molewhisker. We can’t go on like this. It’ll wear us both down. I know you’re tough and, and this is hard. So I have to come out and say this first…”
He didn’t blurt it out dramatically, his confession of affection, like all the romantic stories Briarlight had heard. He didn’t rush to her paws and nuzzle her bravely.
He just stood, cold-faced, still, and unimaginably beautiful.
“Molewhisker. I love—”
And then the yowling went.
Piercing, hounding howls that echoed through camp. Cats gasped and shocked themselves. Briarlight and Molewhisker quietly stepped to each other, conversation lost, dramatic moment ended.
And in a flash, just like that, everything begun.
The biggest battle in moons started.
Rogues that were white, brown, tabby, silver, tall, skinny, ragged.
Rogues that were fluffy, haunting, dangerous, vicious, creepy.
Rogues flooded in through the trees, dumping down past the rocks. They enclosed the whole area, like a humongous swarm of bugs trapping their food.
ThunderClan stood, shocked to the bone, as hundreds of rogues tore into the camp, snarling and fierce.
The most unexpected horror to be appear, right in the middle of their home.
Rosepetal had gathered everyone. No patrols were out, no guards set–
And the attackers had taken their moment.
All at once, the battle started, and the violence and gore pursued.
“The rogues have returned!”
“It’s another battle, they found us!”
“They’ve come for revenge, since last time.”
Everyone was right.
The rogues had already been in one battle, and even then they had almost won. They’d killed Dewnose…they were still vicious. Now, their second chance had come. They gathered members and trained and were more dangerous than ever before.
Stay strong, ThunderClan. Briarlight prayed.
She was flung against Mokewhisker as a barreling Tom came towards them. She looked into his eyes once, melted, then he surged up past her.
The Tom and Molewhisker crashed into each other, bundles of fur and claws.
Briarlight screamed and dragged herself to the edge of camp. She was in the very middle, surrounded by war and torture. She couldn’t fight, she couldn’t help, so she had to run.
Leafpool and Jayfeather were wavering by the medicine den, Lionblaze grappling a mighty she-cat beyond them. They beckoned her frantically, and as Briarlight dragged herself over swiftly, she gazed at the battle.
The rogues were plenty. They surged up in waves of anger, while the Warriors were all put up to guard. Squirrelflight and Bramblestar were holding down two rogues by the entrance, daringly trying to win the skirmish. Hollytuft and Bumblestripe fought beside each other, with unexpected ease. Ivypool and Dovewing worked together as sisters, struggling against three slender loners.
And Molewhisker. All by himself, he faced off against two huge toms. Briarlight gasped in horror, reaching out her paws as if to grab him in her palms and pull him back to her.
It failed. He fought, strongly and bravely, but was getting more overrun by the second. Thornclaw and Berrynose tried to race over, but were pinned down harshly.
The camp was in utter chaos, shredded fur and blood already scattered every, dens coming crashing down.
She was in a messy tear-state by the time she reached the medicine cats. They shoved her into the den. It was almost instantly quieter than the shrieks outside.
Daisy and Lilyheart and the kits huddled in the corner, shaking. Briarlight stared at them.
Lilyheart stumbled up to her in a loving motion when she saw her facial expression.
“Oh honey, I’m so sorry!” Lilyheart apologized. “I know you two were just about to make it official. It was the perfect moment. I’m so sorry it got…ruined.” Thinking about the battle shook her, making her colder easily. Briarlight hugged her with her forepaws tightly, warming her.
The kits huddled in the corner, whimpering.
“T-thanks, Lily. It’s okay…I just want this to end.” It had only barely started, yet it was at its worst peak. “When it does we’ll be fine. It…it’ll be done soon.”
She was talking to herself, as Lilyheart had shuffled over to her kits.
Briarlight turned, dazed, and slumped into the nest. The screeching outside grew louder and harsher, bringing more tears and sorrow to her.
Battles were awful, and Molewhisker was stuck in the middle of one.
Everything is going to ruin… She cried in her head, and curled into a shivering ball by the water pool, desperately trying to blot out the screams beyond.
A lanky Tom crept into the den a few minutes later, smiling terrifyingly.
The kits cried, while Lilyheart and Daisy shielded them with fear.
Jayfeather instantly leapt out, crashing into the Tom with a cry. The Tom, much more skilled in combat, rolled the blind Tom over, striking his claws across his belly.
“Jayfeather!” Briarlight screamed, as the Tom opened his jaws to bite–
Leafpool delivered a giant smash across his forehead, claws out, knocking him out cold.
She sighed and slouched down beside Jayfeather, who was moaning in agony.
“I-I-Leafpool are you, are you okay. Uh, Daisy, no. I…” Briarlight whipped back and forth frantically, shrieking, puzzled. What could she do? She was so useless!
She inwardly cried to herself, desperately racing to find herbs that could heal Jayfeather’s wound.
Luckily, the beautiful Leadpool lifted herself up and grabbed cobwebs and a few leaves. Briarlight desperately helped her down, legs straining, paws burning.
Leafpool went to work quickly while Briarlight viewed outside in horror.
The battle was still going, but much slower. Cats threw swipes with ache and tire.
ThunderClan was harrowingly fighting, trying their best. Soon enough many rogues fled, but there were still enough to keep every cat busy. The unimaginable pain shot through every cats body, the strain taking over as they ducked and struck and leapt.
While Briarlight freakishly stared around for one cat.
And with a sudden, whistle-high shriek, she found Molewhisker’s body slumped on the ground, still.
The whole battle stopped for a moment, stared, searching the body with confusion.
Then they resumed.
Briarlight dragged herself out of the den uncontrollably. She sobbed as she pulled herself, racing, each step another transport into agony.
When she reached his battered shape, she let out multiple howls of pain, and flopped down beside him.
Briarlight collapsed to the ground with shaky tears and aching bones. She cried beside him, willing him to move, yet he did not. She called out for the medicine cats, expecting it to be lost in the cacophony. His condition was unstable, but his bravery was astounding.
Briarlight lay there with no regrets, only hoping for his health. She could be killed in a second, but all she cared for was him. He HAD to survive.
Briarlight looked up in terror, examining what lengths the battle had climbed to now.
And it was silent.
The last squad of rogues ambled out through the entrance. Cats limped to their paws, staring around at each other, then down to the wailing Briarlight. They all quieted, scared that her love was dead. They had our all that effort into the mass event for the two lovers, all for them to be broken apart.
“He…he’s alive,” Briarlight croaked.
And they all began to breathe again.
The senior warriors took charge, gathering the hiding cats from their den and comforting them. They sent cats with enough strength to gather water and prey and make sure the rogues had left.
Blossomfall and Whitewing ran to the medicine den, screaming for the medics. Cherryfall huddled with her family over her brother.
Briarlight stared over, fearing for the loss of Jayfeather, when the grumpy medicine cat stumbled out of the den beside Leafpool.
She breathed in relief and collapsed beside Molewhisker again, now crying tears of happiness.
The battle was cruel. Demanding, treacherous, horrifying and brutal.
But somehow, ThunderClan would survive.
Briarlight eventually regained herself, drawing herself to her paws as Leafpool and Jayfeather dragged Molewhisker to their den.
Lilyheart was okay. Her kits were breathing. Her mate was standing.
Alderheart and Fernsong were grasping each other in fear, love and honesty.
Rosepetal and Spikefur were meowing to each other, wide-eyed and pained. Yet they did not argue.
Hollytuft stared around, and suddenly her eyes caught something. Tears welled, fur pricked.
Briarlight follows her gaze across the beaten camp, and then heard the crying.
Squirrelflight sat, broken, over the body of a dark shape.
Her tears fell onto the corpse of Bramblestar.
Shock rippled through the cats, followed by pierces of sadness. Bramblestar had been a good and fair leader, always doing what was right for his Clan.
But in Clan life, battles happened. And some could be brutal.
He died serving ThunderClan, and wouldn’t be forgotten.
Briarlight helped prepare his burial ceremony right away.
It went quick, as cats were tired. The medicine cats sprinkled herbs on the leader’s body, then hauled him out to camp. The Elders mournfully grabbed his body, carrying him out through the dim entrance as the Clan yowled their goodbye’s.
They all let Squirrelflight stay alone with his grave.
The processing and rightful grieving for him would come later, when the chaos had fully resided.
Just as everyone was about to start the cleaning and mending, the next fallen body was found, plastered in the Warriors den with blood.
Snowbush mourned her raggedly. First his brother, then his sister. His family would have a dark future, but maybe brightened by his wonderful mate and kits.
The ceremony also went quick, but the sadness only toppled.
Briarlight watched cats then get to work. Repairing, discussing, healing. They all joined together as one to heal and move on. Scouts were out all around camp, after having been cured by the very tired Leafpool and Jayfeather.
And while Briarlight could have helped, could have done something since she hadn’t been in the battle, she only became selfish.
Greedily, she waited, loitering outside the medicine cats den in wait for her love.
This time, she would tell him completely.
The senior Warriors gathered to discuss.
The leader was gone, and they had barely gotten Squirrelflight to ask her questions.
She had swiftly dropped out of position to elder. Long moons of grieving would be needed, and the Clan had to keep going sturdily.
With everything rushing by so fast, it wasn’t long before a Briarlight watched Thornclaw and Dovewing leap to the highrock for announcements.
“Dear Clan,” Dovewing started. “We have been shamed by war. Two of our beloved cats have perished, but that does not mean we must give up. ThunderClan is strong, and we must continue to fight and thrive. The senior Warriors have quickly decided, we do need a new leader. Now. We will mourn the loss of Bramblestar and the retirement of Squirrelflight. But now, we need a new head of our Clan…”
Thornclaw stepped up, raising his voice. “Cats of ThunderClan, we have decided that the new leader of ThunderClan must be a cat with strength.”
Suddenly, Ivypool leapt up to the rock. She took over strongly.
“We need a cat who believes in themselves. Someone who refused to be a cat other then who they were in any time. A cat who could accept who they were and what was around them, and could always be brave and loyal for their home. That is why,”
“We have chosen Fernsong.”
Alderheart and Fernsong glared at each other for a second, trying to figure out what it meant.
They saw all eyes on them.
And they exploded.
The two mates giddily leapt up and jumped like young kits, screeching and blowing up, then eventually Fernsong took to the stage responsively.
“Oh…em gee. Thank you, Ivypool, that meant a lot. I will proudly lead my Clan, though I do not have good experience. I promise I shall try my best for all of you, you all are my home. Thanks.”
He receded down, meowing that he needed time to think for deputy.
Briarlight already knew who it would be.
She waited. Her heart pounded, her ears pricked and everything was tense. Cats milled around, a few moans sounding. Fernsong was with the senior Warriors, while everyone else patched up dens and things.
Briarlight smelled the tinge of blood in the air, waiting outside the medicine den impatiently. She waited, waited, forever, not moving or twisting or yelling or anything. She silently watched the aftermath and the cleanup of the ambush. The slow bouts of sorrow that came from grieving cats.
She watched and waited, when finally–
Leafpool exited the den, staring stone-cold. The outside noise collapsed. The moment fixed in.
“Y-yes…is he okay? Leafpool, is he alright?!” Her heart was a cannon, her mind pulsing.
Leafpool paused, thinking, killing Briarlight with every second.
“Yes. He’s going to make a full recovery.”
And the world spun again.
She rushed, sliding past Leafpool, barging into the den and going straight towards Molewhisker.
He’s okay…he’s okay! Molewhisker’s okay; the Clan is okay, I am okay!
She paused, light hitting her face.
Molewhisker stared up at her, smiling, beneath her paws.
She was okay.
Leafpool, Jayfeather and Briarlight all worked together to slowly help Molewhisker pad out of the den. He was ragged, with many wounds and dull eyes, but yet he was still handsome and strong.
He glared at everyone confusedly when Fernsong padded up to him.
“Molewhisker. You are so brave and resilient to have almost died for your Clan. That kind of strength is needed for our Clan…”
“Bramblestar would want experienced cats to manage our Clan. I am not biased, I see the truth about you.”
“As new leader of ThunderClan, I happily declare that you, Molewhisker, will be my new deputy!”
He grunted again.
Everyone laughed and cheered, their happy voices mixing into the cloud of the sky.
Briarlight rested her head on Molewhisker’s shoulder, staring out ahead last the camp.
Out there, and in the camp, she could see futures.
Whether more cats died and fell or more battles happened, things would turn out okay. And she could finally be herself when that happened.
As the day came to a close, and night slowly descended, Briarlight whispered into Molewhisker’s ear:
Eventually, he knew he couldn’t wait for life to come wobbling to him–he would have to jump at it. He would have to live.
“When I first joined, I felt awkward and alone. My best action was to try and get girls, or even just to act like a total fox-heart to make myself recognized and known. This didn’t work, and now I’m only glad you all still tolerate me. I won’t ever change who I am or how I act, but maybe I can dim it down so I’m even more tolerable, and maybe you all will become even better friends of mine.”
Spikefur sighed and smiled at himself, making faces. “Man, I’m so great sometimes, when I try.” He knew everyone was already going to just love him, his good-guy kindness crap and bleh was such an attraction.
“Were you performing a cheesy speech in front of a tree?”
Spikefur whipped around, on-end, to face his stalker-lady.
Rosepetal–a mess of puffy eyes and matted fur and melancholy gestures–was watching him closely, a laugh bubbling in her throat.
“Ohhhhhhhh shutupyabearflubber!” Spikefur cursed and started to pad away, deeper into the forest with the white piles of snow, trying to get away from stupid Rosepetal and stupid awkwardness and STUFF.
“Don’t worry, I’ve done it too. I’m glad I finally know what you think.”
Rosepetal croaked as she hobbled up to his side. Generally curious–and wanting cold, sweet, embarrassing revenge–he stopped abruptly–almost tripping her, and spun around to glare.
“So you’re actually alive now. How come, what happened to grieving for lover-Dew??” He snarled and plopped down on a particularly dry spot on the dying grass.
“L-Leafpool and Jayfeather said I should get out more and start to reconcile. I was wandering out here and I found you being a crazy inflated turkey-brain.” She gave a weak smile and rested down on her paws. She still looked pretty–even when depressed and deprived.
But Spikefur was totally over her.
“Cool. Then go reconcile elsewhere. You never liked me anyways.”
He huffed and turned around dramatically, revealing his hindquarters to blot her view and crowd her face.
“Ugh, MOVE!” She half-meowed, half-chuckled.
Spikefur was not smiling. He only thought it was good she was happy again.
“Well, I’m going to a place I like. I have a certain speech you RUDELY RUINED that I must tell my friends. Come or don’t, I don’t care. BYE!”
He stormed off down to the lakeshore, not looking behind to watch her or stopping to wait.
He needed to leap into life and devour it whole.
So it pained him to need her to come in order to do so.
It pained him to love her.
Rosepetal tilted her head with a dry grin, odd feelings in her. After over a moon of being in her den–darkness striking from every corner–it felt odd to be out in the bright light and the happy jokes and the…the real world.
I hope this makes you happy, Dewnose…
She paused and looked up to the sky, paw struck out in an attempt to grasp it vainly.
He was so close, yet so, so far.
But she had to start reviving.
“We’ll talk soon…” She murmured, then ambled down through the muddy dirt-and-ice path to find Spikefur and her friends.
It had been so long since everything happened–he joined, she rejected him…
So many moments that later branched out to gain her new friends, see and feel new things. In a way, him advancing only brought her and Dewnose together more. It had gotten her so many caring friends and made her laugh and truly opened her up to the world.
And she could never thank him enough, for reuniting her and her love before he fell, and for actually molding her into the cat she had wanted to be from the start.
“I-I-I’m glad you’re so HAPPY that I TRIPPED and FAILED, Fernstar.”
Alderheart–dripping head to toe in gooey mud–cowered at the rolling-on-the-ground-and-laughing Fernstar, who barely gathered enough breaths to live.
Though things had changed and many responsibilities had come, they still were as in love as always, Clan power couple or not.
Climbing onto the ledge where he stood seconds ago, Alderheart shook out his fur into the hidden pool below.
“It just COULDN’T have been you that fell in. I finally groomed myself enough to loo-look decent!” Alderheart meowed quietly as he rubbed leaves between his fur in attempt at cleaning, mumbling.
Fernstar recovered enough to speak. Laughter-tears struck his eyes, but he still looked heavenly. Alderheart was glad for his life with him–mud-falls and accidents and embarrassments or not.
“You look decent every second, Alderheart.” The handsome leader purred.
“Ughhhh. D-do you have to be so handsome and perfect with EVERY SENTENCE. Can you…uh…l-like, die already?”
He laughed shyly and stepped over to his mate, nuzzling his chin. Always so much taller and stronger, yet he made Alderheart feel like a good cat in every way.
“Anyways, when do you think we should head over to the beach. Spikefur is probably waiting, I’m guessing.” Fernstar questioned. White-gray skylight illuminated his fur and the slight breeze swayed it. “I can’t believe he still made me do this even though I’m leader,” a chuckle.
Alderheart felt a tinge of sorrow. He would miss his father for many moons. Bramblestar was always one of a kind…
Alderheart glanced in his eyes. “We can go whenever. But it’s gonna be kinda hard to..uh…focus on what he is saying. It’s the same place where we went on that walk and kinda fell in love.”
“I was in love with you the fi–”
“First time I saw you,” Alderheart interrupted with an eye-roll. “Yeah, I know, cheesyface. And I feel the same, but our love, I don’t know, ‘strengthened,’ when we went there. In any words, we got to where we are now from that place, and now we’re going back. For something else important. Maybe Hollytuft can have ou–”
“Speak of the angelic devil,” Fernstar added with a smile as the two began to pad down a pathway to the lake.
Hollytuft was waddling furiously to catch up to them as they departed.
And they both smiled, thinking of the same thing.
“Being big is KILLING ME these days, toms,” Hollytuft frowned as she panted and padded up to them. They all resumed heading down the twisty dirt path, the water scent surrounding them from the breeze.
Her weight drained the energy from her legs, already causing her to tire. She glared at her brother and his mate lightheartedly, and they both chuckled then thanked her.
“You better be happy, this is killing me. It’s so uncomfy, especially at night. Now, can you find something for ME TO EAT?! What if…WHAT IF A TERRORIST ROGUE MEOW CAT ATTACKS AND I’M TOO WEAK AND LUMPY TO DEFEND EVERYTHING!”
Fernstar volunteered instantly and rolled his eyes at Hollytuft’s joke, then nuzzled Alderheart’s cheek quickly. He rushed off into the bushes to find a mouse or something. Alderheart and Hollytuft, left alone, paced slowly in the awkward silence.
“He’s a good leader to still do the things us Warriors do.”
“I’d like to thank you, Hollytuft.”
“You have like seventy billion times.”
Alderheart’s brow softened and his look became sincere. He and Fernstar were always so mushy and caring when it came to this stuff. It reinforced Hollytuft’s hopes that they would be good mentors and teachers to the young.
“I c-can’t enough…though. How much pain and work you will have to endure just…so we can be happy and have a life together. I-I know you hate all this squishy-pishy lovey stuff, but you’re going to hear a lot of it. Fro-from both of us.” He rested his tail on her shoulder. The feeling of the hidden sun springing away from its cloudy captors to shine the last of its light, before it disappeared, was only captured in Hollytuft’s heart, along with everything her friend had said.
“Yeah…well don’t just thank me,” Hollytuft started as she craned her neck sideways to spot her brother come running back with a mouse dangling from his jaws, fortunately. She continued on.
“This is not just a partnership, but a group effort. You two are great for breaking boundaries down and doing things other cats could never even consider with their poopy-pea-sized brains. Being a gay leader and to be that respected is good for him, and you to stand by him. And Sorrelstripe,” she nodded at Fernstar and clawed the mouse through the dirt closer to her, “she’s been such a great caretaker and fussed over me. And of course, this wouldn’t be possible for you two if Bumblestripe hadn’t been so kind and agreed.”
“Yeah,” they both agreed.
“Hmmph. Uhhhhhhhhhhaaaaaaaannnyyyywwysssss, maybe we could stop stalling with our love poem rant-sessions and actually go listen to something meaningful? Spikefur’s still waiting for us, and after all he’s done I’m ready to hear an apology.”
“You know that you’re starting to turn into him, a little…” Fernstar stuck his tongue out, sneering, while Alderheart gasped. Hollytuft laughed greatly.
She WACKED her brother angrily on the head and stomped off, belly heavy beneath her. Glancing behind her, she saw Fernstar staring after her with a comical and worried expression on his face.
“I can’t believe our kits are going to grow up with her as their surrogate mother!” he exclaimed.
Alderheart just shrugged.
The rest of them were waiting silently by the beach, each comfortably lined up by each other in a pose of friendship. Smiling, Fernstar and Alderheart joined each of them, greetings and nods passing around.
In a circle of sand horribly drawn out, Spikefur stood rigidly on a flat rock, rolling his eyes at every one of them.
“You took so long! Next time, hurry up! This is important, FYI.” He snapped, then regained himself with a slow breath.
“I’ve never seen him do that,” Alderheart commented.
“Maybe he’s having a stroke!” Hollytuft whispered.
Fernstar shook his head, delighted. “Well, I am quite busy these days, Spikefur.” He protested.
“SHUT UP.” Spikefur scolded, then opened his eyes and glared at them all. “I’m ready to begin. Don’t talk or you’ll be demolished.”
They all giggled, memories whirling and smiles joining.
In the first time in…ever…Fernstar witnessed the true power of friendship. Of his friends, all together, all moderately happy. All finally who they wanted to be.
And though he had jobs and responsibilities and was treated more differently and pampered then he had ever been…he still felt calm. The last few moons were great for adjusting, and he’d settled into his role well.
“I know I’m not usually one to be all mushy or deep,” Spikefur started, “but I have needed to say this for a while.”
“Get on with it!” Molewhisker grumbled, sitting with Briarlight by an oak branch. Their tails were twined. Molewhisker had been a great deputy, so great Fernstar couldn’t have been prouder. His Clan was safe, and thriving, and had finally finished their mourning for the two dead members in the last battle.
“Look. I know I’ve not always been the best guy. I know I can be ruthless, demanding and greedy. I know I’m not a good cat. But ever since I joined ThunderClan, ever since I met you guys, I’ve felt different. I’ve hidden my feelings and acted the same, but I truly feel like I belong here. I feel like I can call this my new home, and call you all my family. I’m not only changing, but I’m growing, and I hope I can keep the bond I have with y’all for the rest of my time. I know I have a lot more to say, but you all suck rabbits and I forgot. The only other thing…is the reason I came here in the first place. It all started with me being a selfish, greedy cat. I…I cheated. I had something, quite serious, with Cloverfoot. And when we were just about to become mates, she…found out I was with another cat. Furzepelt, from WindClan. My life fell apart after that, I was just too stupid. ShadowClan kicked me out, and the first place I came was here, I search of some new home. Not something that smells like old farty fish or musty breeze, but something familiar in nice. I got a home I loved, here in ThunderClan.”
The stunned silence lasted.
Fernstar gaped, a happy feeling spreading across his chest.
He didn’t know how to express what he felt at Spikefur’s revelation. How much he could do for someone, or for someone to like him.
He made a mistake, yes. What he did to Cloverfoot was wrong, but he learned from it.
He had finally become a part of the Clan, and everyone could grow even closer.
The world really was a good place.
Seconds later, the moons of hidden feelings an surpressed revelations begun.
Molewhisker stood with Briarlight, purring, and watched as Rosepetal went.
“Spikefur, I’m so glad you settled in. From the moment you joined, yes, I hated you. You were annoying and I couldn’t stand you, but even then, I knew you would fit in. And now I’ve seen so many layers of you. While we haven’t talked a lot in the last few moons, I can see a whole new side of you. A side I could grow used to…”
Leaving cats to speculate for a moment–Lilyheart and Briarlight giddily whispering to each other–Rosepetal waited then continued.
“I loved Dewnose. I really did. And when he died I felt nothing would ever work again. I felt the world had ended and I would never, ever recover. You helped me. All of you helped me, and now I couldn’t be more thankful. I will forever miss him, and remember him, but I know it’s time to move on with a fresh start.”
Turning to Spikefur, leaving every cat hanging from a cliff, she whispered.
“I love you, Spikefur. And while we may fight and argue all the time, I don’t think I could have this life without you. I truly…love you.”
A short pause. The waves rippling with a fresh, tangy breeze. The trees brightening, the cats smiling.
“DARN RIGHT YOU DO!” Spikefur blasted, lunging over into Rosepetal in a grappling hug. Everyone laughed, cheering and happy, the moment perfect. “I promise I’ll never do to you what I did to Cloverfoot. You’re a lard-chunk I could actually, and do, love.”
After the unimaginable hype calmed down, Alderheart slowly padded over I’m front of everyone. Shyly, he looked down at his paws and spoke. While he would always maintain his cute awkwardness, he had grown more comfortable recently. Molewhisker was proud of his former apprentice.
“I-I’ll always be shy, that’s inevitable. But…you all helped me. I don’t, don’t really know what to say. Just thank you. Hollytuft and Rosepetal, you encouraged me to be who I was and find myself.”
The two she-cats purred beside each other.
“–Spikefur, you toughened me up. The fear you installed with your monstrosity only made me build.”
Spikefur smugly flicked his tail.
“Molewhisker, you were an amazing and encouraging mentor. I know you will serve our Clan well as deputy. Briarlight and Lilyheart… I-I don’t really know you two, but I know you’ll be just as nice as everyone e-else.”
The three of them dipped their heads. Molewhisker’s voice cracked as he meowed his thanks, proudness sweeping him. His Clan was really his Clan, and he was more glad than ever he loved here.
“And Fernstar. I knew always that you would be s-special to me. I…I just didn’t recognize it. I, I, I’m glad I finally accepted you into my life. You will forever be my love.”
The drama aside, the two mates purred and nuzzled each other, bouts of love and joy casting above everyone. Their little sandy alcove only became comfiest, soothing sounds overcoming. No cats bothered, nothing disturbed, it was just a peaceful moment between the eight friends.
“Alderheart you’re perfect! I always knew I was gay, but I didn’t know I would fall so hard for you.” Fernstar cheered and bounced around excitedly.
“What a MATURE leader,” Hollytuft muttered. She glanced down at her belly with a chuckle, obviously thinking of her upcoming kits for her brother.
“I’m glad to be doing this for you,” she meowed.
“It’s great you are,” Briarlight complimented. Fernstar continued:
“Molewhisker, I know completely you will be an amazing deputy and loving mate to Briarlight. Spikefur and Rosepetal, you both made me laugh in dark times, and I know you’ll be great together.”
Molewhisker brightened even more. At first, when his wounds had been fresh and painful, he felt everything would be hard. He has thought that being a deputy was an unwanted challenge.
But then Briarlight. Beautiful Briarlight to guide him through. And all of his friends and family to encourage him.
The two new mates smiled, Spikefur grumbling some snarky comment.
“Lilyheart, you were always like a second mother to me. I think you are to everyone, you oldie!”
Lilyheart snorted with laughter.
“And Briarlight. You’re the newest edition to our group, and one of the most lively. You’re brave and strong, and I know I’ll learn to love you. And I promise I will watch over all of you equally, and always do my best to be a good leader. I can’t express how much I love you all without being even MORE cheesy…I–”
“THEN SIT DOWN!” Spikefur ordered.
Fernstar dipped his head to the edgy warrior, returning to lay with his mate with a grin.
And now, Molewhisker had what he wanted to say. He always had it, but it was only now it came to light.
He cleared his throat and spoke.
“I may be gruff, I may be sturdy and cold, but I do have feelings.” Molewhisker started quietly. Briarlight quietly paraded him on, a perfect cheerleader.
She felt like saying something. She felt like hugging him, introducing herself to everyone although she already knew them. This was the first friend gathering for the eight of them–and her first ever– but it was perfect. Next it was her turn.
But she wasn’t scared. Not self-conscious or worried. She was ready.
“Being with the seven of you, those feelings were shown. I used to hide them under my voice, but I can’t no longer.” Molewhisker nodded. “Spikefur, you were my annoyance and tolerance. Your awfulness showed me how to deal with cats in this world.”
A very shady glare for that one.
“Rosepetal, you wee my vibrancy and liveliness. You made me more cat, more of an actual thing. Alderheart, my wisdom and learning. Teaching you gave me experience I needed to live. Fernstar, you were surprise and joy. When you chose me as your deputy I was so surprised. Honestly, I wasn’t ready, but you made me have to be.”
Each cat responded with comfort, pleasure and ease. Complete relaxation was key for this moment. It was what brought all the open speeches and feelings. It was perfect.
“Hollytuft, you were ‘yikes’ and freshness. You were something all new, and seeing how you changed encouraged me to, too. Lilyheart, you were, as said, a mother to me. You were caring and kindness and motherly sass.”
She jumped with laughter and rested her tail on his shoulder. “My God, Moley, you’re too great. I’m happy to be a mother to you. And a mother to those of you older than me. I guess I’m mature in some world.”
“Briarlight. You were love and openness. I know for sure you are meant for me, and I, I can’t be more grateful. I love you, and I hope you’ll teach me more to your exciting personality.”
Briarlight giggled. How it felt to be with him, after weeks of debating and horror. It was worth it. Totally worth it to have someone so great alongside. And her newfound friends, an added bonus. Now, she would talk.
“Thank you. Thank you so much, Molewhisker. I love you, too, beyond conceivable. I’d like to thank you all as a whole. Because you accepted me. Just like Spikefur, I had problems of my own, but the seven of you all helped. I was in doubt, but you saved me. My legs have always been a problem in my life, a real nuisance. I never thought I could have a family or people who cared for me. I was wrong. Cats as caring and accepting as you were still out there, and I’m so glad I found that.”
That was all.
Briarlight collapsed onto the sand by a mossy log, grateful. Cats thanked her and meowed to her and she proudly joined.
Her home was here, in ThunderClan.
Last but not least, Lilyheart scrambled on top of the flat rock.
She scanned everyone.
Her friends, those she taught and those she learned from. I may act as their mother, but I really feel like I’m close to them as buddies.
“I have nothing to say. All I have to say is shown in my action, not my words. I may be a talker, but not for emotions. I give not take, and that’s what I learned from you all. I do not have a speech ready to thank you for separate,e beautiful things. I don’t have random points to make to lighten the mood. All I have is my thanks, to those who fought in the first battle, for protecting my mate. And you all who treat my kits wonderfully. I could thank you, but not for things you’ve done to jus try self. For what you’ve done to my life.”
As quick as she started, Lilyheart finished. She went up there unprepared, unknowing of what to say.
So she said what she didn’t know what to say.
And it turned out well. Each cat was still as peaceful and perfect as ever, and she bustled in beside of them to squeeze in a line.
Peace had arrived.
Times were rough. And then times were good.
There were ups and downs in life. There were struggles and procrastination, self-acceptance and respect.
Life was jam-packed with so many things to do and say and feel. And through it all, these eight cats experienced everything.
They had seen beautiful and horrific things. They had thrived and sunken. Saw new life, death, saving and crying.
They had lived.
And now, peace was due for a visit.
So, concluding the session of emotions and trust, they all grasped each other in love.
The ThunderClan Eight strung themselves out, a line of love and battles.
They sat, in a group of one, and watched as the sun rose over the horizon and exploded into the sky with streaks of vivid colour.
The idea for this was very loosely based off the television show, Community, where a wacky band of people who are all different go through adventures and events at a community college, each with their own personality and life. Some personalities were based off the characters, others were created.
The territory is the lake, and each Clan is where they should be and all is calm at the moment and like normal warrior life.