Part of the Songfic Series
OA is Taylor Swift
Written by Red
All Too Well
I walked through the door with you, the air was cold
But something about it felt like home somehow
The cool breeze buffeted my fluffed out fur as I padded through the leafy tunnel returning to camp, Stormfall right on my paws. Upon entrance to the camp, I bounded down the step-like rocks leading to the floor of the camp, and the mingled scents of my friends drifted around me as they greeted me, Stargaze giving me a playful nudge, accompanied by a weak smile from Sunleaf.
"Redpoppy!" Forestheart's call jerked me out of my conversation, and I trotted over to the dark-furred deputy. "Patrol, please. Gather Sunleaf, Bramblepath, and Stormfall, and circuit the ShadowClan border, all right? Make sure there are none of their warriors snooping about."
I smiled at Bramblepath, and beckoned Sunleaf and Stormfall to follow - the latter breaking apart from their greetings reluctantly. I started a half-hearted conversation with Bramblepath in an attempt to drown out Stormfall and Sunleaf's affectionate conversation behind me, but the both of us soon grew disinterested with talk of prey and the criticizing of other Clans. Hunting with Stormfall had felt like a piece of long-awaited prey being caught, but when he spoke with Sunleaf, that entire feeling dropped through my heart to the forest floor, where it was trampled by Sunleaf's claws.
And I left my scarf there at your sister's house
And you still got it in your drawer even now
As we neared the shore of the river, I recalled the moment a few sunrises back - Stormfall and I, picking our way amongst the wave-smoothed rocks, our paws sinking into the soft, wet sand by the banks. A few shells lay scattered at the water's edge, the current dragging them lazily out of their spots embedded in the sand. Hooking one in my claw, I dragged it towards me, brushing the sand off with my paw. Stormfall had purred, wrapping his tail around my shoulders. "Redpoppy," Bramblepath's mew jerked me out of my reminiscent reverie, and I looked up to see ShadowClan warriors padding towards the riverbank. I flicked my tail at Sunleaf and Stormfall for silence, and Bramblepath and I turned to face off with the ShadowClan cats.
I felt myself slipping back into my memories as Bramblepath snarled at the ShadowClan cats. Stormfall had taken that small shell back to camp, taking care to tuck it into his nest...and as I padded out of the warriors' den this morning, I had seen it, nestled amongst the strips of bracken and the clumps of moss. However much he loved Sunleaf, he was clearly conflicted but--
Bramblepath, once again, hauled me out of my stupor, but this time it wasn't her voice, but her battlecry.
Oh, your sweet disposition and my wide-eyed gaze
We're singing in the car, getting lost Upstate
A dark-furred warrior bowled me over, claws fastened in my shoulder, but even as I fought back with my hindlegs pummeling his soft underbelly, I felt myself succumbing to my own imagination's torrent of memories, whipping around my brain like a roiling storm from beyond the sun-drown-place.
Even as Stormfall rolled past me, grappling with his own opponent, a patchy black-and-white warrior with piercing blue eyes, I felt my attention slipping from the battle. Bramblepath yowled as her own offender raked his claws down her flank, but I was lost in images of Stormfall and I, bounding through the forest, heading towards the outer fringes of Clan territory, bellowing out the words to the old elders' folk-songs, scaring the prey from the trees but really not giving a mouse-tail. Stormfall's bright amber eyes shone at me from beneath a bramble thicket as he jumped out and tackled me, a purr rumbling in his throat, laughter bubbling at his lips when he saw my wide-eyed gaze.
A shriek pierced the air, and I flung the tom off of me with renewed vigor, sending him yowling, into the undergrowth, blood welling from a deep cut along his belly, I spun around and ripped the white she-cat form Sunleaf's shoulders, leaving long, red claw-marks in her back. She gazed at me in a mixture of fear and fury, and tore away after her Clanmate.
Autumn leaves falling down like pieces into place
And I can picture it after all these days
But there were still more cats - I felt myself sinking, not only beneath the onslaught of teeth, claws, and the stench of blood, but back, back into my recollections of the past, my past with Stormfall. I felt curved claws sink into my tail as I was immersed in the memory of Stormfall and I, stumbling through the bright leaf-fall leaves, gathered in bunches upon the ground.
"I love leaf-fall," he had whispered foundly, eyes shining as he gazed up at the sky, stained pink and gold as the sun swept gracefully towards the horizon. Auburn leaves littered the forest floor, and he gave me a slight nudge, sending me stumbling off to the side and into the pile of leaves.
"Stop," I whined, but I gave him a playful purr and sent him sprawling into another pile.With a flick of his tail around my paws, he sent me tumbling into another pile, and we both erupted into laughter, laying in our adjoining nests of gold and red, staring up at the beautiful, empty sky, wishing these days could last forever, instead of being so ephemeral, instead of dissolving so quickly, like snow upon hitting our pelts, instead of slipping through our fingers like fish through our claws.
And I know it's long gone
And that magic's not here no more
Claws raked through my fur, splitting hairs and tearing long scratches in my fur. With a growl of fury, mimicked by my Clanmates around me, fighting for their lives, I used my hindpaws to score my opponent's stomach, feeling my claws pulling soft fur from her skin. The she-cat let out a yowl of pain, wheeling away from me with a murderous glint in her sparking amber eyes. I braced myself for impact, flinging her off of me yet again with a well-aimed jab to the stomach.
Bramblepath was beating back three warriors at a time, while Sunleaf was having a spot of trouble with a particularly stubborn warrior, but Stormfall was nowhere to be found. In the pause in the battle, I searched for him, but as teeth closed around my tail, I was seized once again by the fight.
"Get your paws off of me," I snarled, raking my claws across the face of a ShadowClan cat I recognized as Fleetfoot, a fast-footed white tom known for his knack for weaseling out of incriminating situations. The tom drew back in pain, blood pooling around his eyes like some masochistic parody of tears. I swiped again at him, forcing him back towards the stream, until his paws began to slip and he was scrabbling at the bank, hindlegs dipping into the swirling water.
And I might be okay
But I'm not fine at all
Even as he slid towards the hungry waves, Fleetfoot's eyes were alive with malice, his lips pulling back from his sharp yellow teeth in an ugly leer. "You were always too soft, Redkit. A little tabby she-cat, oh-so-obsessed with Stormfall. As if we couldn't see you mooning after him during Gatherings. Where's he gone now, huh? Where's your wittle Stormfall? Is he hurt? Aw, poor Wedpoppy, it must be so hard for you to fend for yourself for a change huh?"
"Shut up," I hissed, padding stiffly towards him and batting at his paws. He was losing his grip, I could see his claws raking through the grass as he slipped, slowly, into the water, fear finally igniting in his eyes.
"Where's your mate, Redkit? Where's he gone off to? Has he left you all alone? Unprotected? Oh, StarClan, what a blow to the ego, isn't it?" Fleetfoot's smirk spreads across his face at the fury in my own, and with a yowl, I lunge, swiping his paws from the bank and sending him dropping into the water, where the smug look doesn't leave his face as he strikes out strongly for the opposite bank, his paws churning up foamy water, looking like a smug RiverClan cat.
'Cause there we are again on that little town street
You almost ran the red 'cause you were looking over me
"I can run faster than you," he had yowled, his eyes sparkling with mischief as he raced past me, his paws churning up dirt. I scowled at the back of him, his golden tabby tail streaming from behind him, as he tossed a playful glance over his shoulder. "Aw, c'mon Redpoppy!" He slowed to a trot, giving me an incentive to bound ahead, my legs pumping as I struggled to push past him.
As we raced along, weaving through trees, a nasty scent hit my nose and I slowed, paws skidding on the loose soil.
"Stop, Stormfall!" I cried, parting my jaws to scent the air. I had to choke back a laugh at the bewilderment on his face as he wheeled around, his eyes wide, his nose twitching. A smile broke across his face as he loped towards me, and I gasped out, "You were nearing the border with ShadowClan. The river's just up there, see? We wouldn't want you to fall into the river and find it out yourself," I added reprovingly, sounding like one of the older queens, reprimanding a soon-to-be-apprentice.
Wind in my hair, I was there, I remember it all too well
Photo album on the counter, your cheeks were turning red
Claws tore at my flank, and I turned to give my attacker a few scars to remember me by, only to find that Sunleaf was already dealing heavy blows to the tom's ears. I nipped at his paws, blood soon dripping from my jaws. As he scrambled, yowling, into the forest, I gave Sunleaf a blood-stained grin, and she wrinkled her nose before tearing at two more cats. As I turned back to the battle, everything faded, as though a Newleaf fog were creeping in to obscure my memory, and I found myself tossed into the past; Greeneleaf, it was warm...
"Mother," Stormfall had whined. "Don't--" But Hazelheart kept going, her gray eyes shining like morning dew, her skinny dappled body trembling with excitement as she rambled on about Stormfall's kithood.
"Oh, you should have seen him as a kit," she said delightedly, her groomed tail waving. Stormfall blushed, and I just smiled at his mother; poor, old Hazelheart, whose memory was half-gone from age, so proud of her only son's accomplishments, even after the death of his father so early on in his life. "He was such a fighter, such a she-cat's tom too! He loved hanging around Bramblekit and Wetkit and Starkit, but they didn't have eyes for him. Got him down quite a time, they did!"
You used to be a little kid with glasses in a twin-size bed
And your mother's telling stories about you on the tee-ball team
"And do you remember the Kit Patrol?" Hazelheart asked, flicking me with the tip of her tail, beaming. I recalled the small group of kits, a 'select few chosen by the deputy,' to help carry moss and prey to and from the fresh-kill pile. I could remember the tiny golden-brown kit at the head of the group, parading in front with his head held high in pride. "Stormfall was always at the head of that patrol, with his head held high and as proud as a lion. He was so pleased to have been picked by Forestheart!"
"Mom," Stormfall said, wincing. "Please don't tell Red--"
"Ooh--" Hazelheart was already off into another of her fond, cooed tales, and Stormfall shot me an apologetic glance, which I returned with a smile. His own expression morphed into one of fear as claws snagged my pelt and dragged me back to my senses, and even though blood crusted the majority of my body, I heaved my shoulders, flinging the ShadowClan warrior off of my back and raking blindly at his belly. A yowl of pain and hot liquid bubbling around my claws assured me I had found my mark.
You tell me about your past, thinking your future was me
And I know it's long gone
"We can't win," I cried, feeling claws once again dragging at my body, pulling it down into the waiting, open arms of Death. Bramblepath gave me a fleeting glance, her eyes steely with determination, and her message was clear - we may not be able to survive, but we sure as StarClan aren't going to give up now. With a quick nod of assent that felt as though it was rattling my bones, I turned, half-trembling, to the fresh wave of opponents, an endless tide that swept towards me.
"Stormfall," I had said, my eyes grazing his face, a smile curling his lips. I purred, wrapping my tail around his and we rubbed shoulders, a giggle bubbling in my throat.
"There are so many things you don't need to hear - at least not from Hazelheart," he said, laughter clear in his voice. "Things you could hear from me, however, are a different story." I recalled pacing through the forest, sunlight dripping through the green foliage. "When we were kits together - do you remember? We didn't socialize much, but I always remembered you. I saw you, often. Sititng with your mother, helping your father hunt. Being your own Kit Patrol."
And there was nothing else I could do
And I forget about you long enough
But the past was just a fantasy, half-lived in a dreamy, trance-like stupor. The present is reality, and reality is the cruelest of all. Because even as I spun around, my claws extended and tearing at flesh and fur, my Clanmates finally coming in from all directions to aid our battle-weary patrol, I realized there was nothing else I could do to piece back together my relationships. No hope. No future.
"Rainsplash, Wetstream, Stargaze, grab your apprentices and take the formation we're always practicing - straight into the center of their troops. Let's go, go, go!" Forestheart's brisk yowl cut through the air, and already, ShadowClan cats are shying back from our sudden assistants - but very few of them have really left, I realized. All those I fought spun away to claw at Sunleaf or bat at Stormfall - who, speaking of which, still seemed no where to be found - and ShadowClan's numbers seemed to be almost doubling, if anything.
As ShadowClan and ThunderClan swarmed together in a writhing mass of blood, sweat, and bodies, all thoughts vanished from my mind, as instinct took over. ShadowClan hadn't been going easy on us, but they had been hanging back. Now, it was every cat for his or her self, and this was a fight to the death - no matter what the Warrior Code said. We were fighting for our lives, for our territory, and for the future of our Clans.
To forget why I needed to...
'Cause there we are again in the middle of the night
A black shape darted in beside me, dark paws flashing at the oncaming attacker, and I slipped in a glance - Stargaze. Her blue eyes were chips of ice, sharp as flint as she fought to push back the brawny tabby tom swiping at us with hooked claws. I swatted at his muzzle, my claws sinking into soft flesh, and he drew back, letting out a howl of pain. My friend and I hissed, and the tom fled, haring towards ShadowClan territory, screeching like a pack of dogs was on his tail.
I spun around, Stargaze already darting back into the fray, and spotted Sunleaf disappearing in the middle of a writhing mass of cats, both ThunderClan and ShadowClan alike. Her golden pelt flashed, along with the terror in her wide eyes, and heaving a sigh, I - somewhat reluctantly, I hate to admit - plunged towards her, claws flashing and teeth gnashing. I hauled a particularly heavy black she-cat away from Sunleaf's throat, simultaneously kicking a scrawny tom in the belly and sending him howling away. Sunleaf resurfaced, gasping, struggling to fight as her strength ebbed.
The two of us against five others, we were hopeless. Gazing up to the midnight sky, I pleaded for help from StarClan - but I was blessed with only memories of the same sky, smiling down at two lovestruck cats frolicking in a similar grove.
We dance around the kitchen in the refrigerator light
Down the stairs, I was there, I remember it all too well, yeah
We raced along the path, tails streaming out behind us like gold-and-red banners, our ears flat against our heads, the air smoothing our pelts. Stormfall pulled ahead, eyes bright, a laugh bubbling from his throat, but I already felt the burn in my muscles begin to ease as the massive redwood came into view at the end of the trail, and I flung myself ahead, tumbling to a halt at the base of the tree.
"That's not fair," he teased playfully, prodding my shoulder. I just grinned, staggering to my feet.
Moonlight drifted through the trees like a silver canopy, blanketing the foliage and forest floor in a molten, snowy mist, but the two of us charged through the light, grinning like maniacs. As my feet touched are starting point, the rush of the battle surrounded me once more and I was thrown into the claws of the enemy; the past siding with the ShadowClan cats in an effort to push me down and rip life from my body.
Maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much
And maybe this thing was a masterpiece 'til you tore it all up
I slipped in beside Stargaze again, and together our paws flashed at our cowering enemy, as he lunged forward in a last-ditch attempt to hurt one of us - his claws grazed the side of Stargaze's ear but she ducked away the next instant and was standing with her paw on his soft underbelly before he could breathe another word. He turned and fled, tail under his legs. Stargaze and I shared a grin - but in those blue eyes of my best friend's, I thought I caught a flicker of an emotion that salvaged long-forgotten memories from the depths of my mind.
"I don't know what you were thinking!" he yelled, face morphing into a mask of fury. "You could have been hurt! And going around--I just--I don't know!" His tail lashed in anger, and he was breathing heavily, barely taking note of how I had flattened my fur and all but vanished into the hollow tree behind us.
"I wasn't trying to--" I began to stammer, but he cut me off with incoherent curses and shouts. I felt anger bubbling up inside my throat, and in an instant, all fear of this tom and what he could do vanished. "Shut up," I growled, my voice low and deadly. Stormfall's eyes began to bulge, he looked half-mad, but I kept going. "I have done nothing, nothing that any other she-cat wouldn't do. You're too overprotective, and if this is the way our relationship is going to be--if this is the way you're going to treat me--"
Running scared, I was there, I remember it all too well
Hey, you call me up again just to break me like a promise
"No!" Stormfall yowled, his tail and fur fluffed up to twice their size and his eyes blazing like flame. "I will not shut up, I will not let you go!" He looked horrifying, and I felt myself shrinking again, stopping, courage quenched like water thrown over a flame, and I took a hesitant step back into the hollow trunk as Stormfall continued, words tumbling together and forming incoherent sentences, until he was only able to spit one thing out. "You...are...mine..."
And it was then that I snapped - I shoved past him, eyes welling with unspilled tears, and fled, legs burning as I pushed myself harder and harder, anything to get away from the monster behind me, who called after me, voice broken, clearly regreful.
"Redpoppy!" It was a similar voice that brought the battle right back to me, and he was by my side, all traces of anger gone, but fear reflected wide in his eyes. "Sunleaf, she's--" And there it was again. He called me up again, brought up fresh hope, only to crush me like all the promises he'd broken. But of course - it wasn't because he needed my strength, or wanted to see me, it was because he needed another body to lay down to preserve the one he cared about most. Hers.
So casually cruel in the name of being honest
I'm a crumpled up piece of paper lying here
"I'm coming," I whispered raggedly, pulling myself away from the other cats battling, without aid, without extra assistance simply because one cat wanted to preserve their life. I spotted her, cowering against the thick trunk of a redwood, eyes wide with fear, her pelt fluffed up in fear.
Stormfall's eyes were as round as his mate's, thin discs of concern, uncertainty, and worry. He did nothing, however, to stop the burly black tom from swiping at her with unsheathed claws, landing easy blows and drawing scarlet blood, already running in rivulets down Sunleaf's flanks. We both stood frozen for a moment, paralyzed by the fear in Sunleaf's eyes, by the memories threatening to overwhelm me. It was Sunleaf's whimper that spurred me into action, leaping at the tom's back and fastening my claws in his shoulders, yanking him off the cowering she-cat and flinging him across the small alcove, only to climb snarling back to his feet.
Stormfall bowled him over as another cat hauled me to my feet, grabbing the scruff of my neck and shook me. My vision swam as I tumbled to the ground, dizzy and disoriented, my brain a fuzzy, incomprehensible mess. I tried to crawl forwards, towards Stormfall, but he wasn't fighting for me; he was fighting for Sunleaf. StarClan only knows what he would do when faced with the decision of Sunleaf or me.
'Cause I remember it all, all, all... too well
Time won't fly, it's like I'm paralyzed by it
And then there was darkness; black and fuzzy, incoherent. And after the darkness lifted, it was pain. Pain was all I could feel, burning through my limbs and lighting my mind on fire, scorching my vision. I let out a cry, my eyes cracking open, but the light blinded me.
"Stormfall!" His name was ripped from my throat, sending flames shooting through my neck and head, igniting a conflagration along my spine. I could see nothing, only feel the burn of life ebbing from my body, the pain lacerating my entire being. I felt the dust beneath my body clinging to my fur, but I was frozen in this infernal state, my body a burning, blazing mess. I wanted it to end, I wanted him to come, I wanted StarClan to take me from this forsaken place, to release me from my misery.
"I'm here." The whisper sent a shudder rippling through my body, nearly quenching the fire. "Redpoppy, you're going to be all right. Just listen to my voice...don't think about the pain, just follow my voice; imagine my voice is an island and you need to swim to it, all right? You like to swim, don't you, Redpoppy? Just imagine I'm like an island in the river...you're swimming towards me, the water is chilling your body..."
I'd like to be my old self again, but I'm still trying to find it
After plaid shirt days and nights when you made me your own
Stormfall's voice calmed my restless tossing, along with a steady paw on my shoulder to keep me from thrashing. His words, whispered on the stir of a breath, make goosepimples erupt through my arms - and I find it strange, as I sink yet again into the memories, like a drowning cat being subermged in water, that the very cat who caused me to feel such pain is the one who is easing it.
They we were again, bathed in the amber light from the setting sun, our pelts turned to pale blends of gold, pink, and brown, decorated with the swirls of wispy clouds drifting in front of the sun. Our tails were twined, our paws crunching over old, Greenleaf leaves, changed color with the transition of the seasons. Soft, honey-drenched words whispered to each other, but no real meaning carried between them. A simple 'I love you' that meant so much then now held no meaning than any other three words now. 'I love you,' he had said. 'And I never want to leave you.'
And then there were the nights mimicking those, the ones where we sat by the banks of the river, our shoulders touching, Stormfall whispering sweet nothings to the water, where promises would be snapped and washed away by the current. Where the two of us talked, laughed, played and were ourselves, at the peak of our characters...being ourselves, and being together.
Now you mail back my things and I walk home alone
But you keep my old scarf from that very first week
A rhythmic bumping dragged me out of thoughts of the past, the past, that was as deadly as a snake, with fangs dripping poison and coils so large they could squeeze the very life out of the largest cat with claws sharper than flint. The past, threatening to choke me in its scaly grip.
Sunrises later, I woke up, the fire burned out, my body invigorated, things slowly returning to normal. There was no trace of any scent in the moss in my nest, nothing but the sterile normalcy of the medicine den, my new - temporary - home. In the corner, Coldfoot bustled around sorting herbs, heavily perfumed scents already rising from her workplace as she pounded poultices and squeezed out precious juices. At my snuffling, she turned, a pleased expression already in place on her face.
"Ah, you're up," she said briskly, sounding rather cheerful and significantly satisfied. As the medicine cat moved around me, making sure all my vitals were good, I saw through her paws into the warriors' den, empty save for a single golden-brown pelt. A golden-brown pelt with a small white shape pressed up against his back.
'Cause it reminds you of innocence and it smells like me
You can't get rid of it 'cause you remember it all too well, yeah
As Stormfall turned in his nest, he tail swept the shell up close to his face, and he subconsciously wrapped a paw around the small, smooth piece, a smile curling his features. Whether at a dream or at the tiny memento nestled between his paws and his face, only StarClan knows, but he remembered it - and he had yet to give it back as well.
"What's that he's got in his paws?" Coldfoot said, shooting a glance towards the warriors' den.
She sounded disinterested, but I replied regardless. "It's a shell, from the river. Moons ago, we got it, when we went down there together. I didn't realize he still had it, I thought it surely would have been ground to a powder by now...but it's still there. Still strong, still a part of his life, I guess," I mewed, my voice a dry, throaty rasp of a meow. Coldfoot smiled sympathetically.
'Cause there we are again, when I loved you so
Back before you lost the one real thing you've ever known
"You know what they say," she said, looking away and padding back to her herbs, though she gave me a glance over her shoulder to let me know this conversation had yet to end. "The things that mean the most to us will never truly be lost, whether they're thought to be lost to time, or to weather, or to any other natural phenomenon, or even by choice. They live on, perhaps not in physical form, but as the personification of an emotion we hold particularly dear. That shell," she gestured with her tail, "is a remembrance of your love."
"Love," I said softly. "What is love, Coldfoot?"
"Something you've both begun to learn to live without," she replied gravely, shooting me a glance. She returned to her work, putting perhaps a tad more vigor than necessary, and continued even after I tried to interrupt. "You may think he loves another, Redpoppy, but when you've seen as much love as I have...the first love is always the deepest, the truest. No, no kit flings or apprentice romances, but your first as a warrior, the first attraction, the first touch. It's one you'll never forget."
It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well
Wind in my hair, you were there, you remember it all
The medicine cat gave me a smile as she turned back to her work, offering no more words of wisdom for silly old me. But those same words of wisdom had gotten me thinking. Love. Love, love, love. Such a funny word, a word that loses its meaning after meaningless repitions of it. Love. Love, love. Love? Love.
What is love?
Love is the feeling you share with someone. Love is when they return that similar emotion, when they feel it as well. Love is all of the nuzzles, the moonlight strolls doing nothing but talking, the friendly races and the supportive pep talks when one of the pair is feeling down. Love is sticking together after a fight, offering kind words instead of harsh ones mirroring those previously said. Love is when you try to move on...
...but find that you can't.
Down the stairs, you were there, you remember it all
It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well
Because the first love is the deepest. And that's something I'll remember too well.