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Clan or Freedom

Clan or Freedom

By Bramble

~

A decision must be made...

It's either with others or solo,

Being trapped or feeling open,

With the Clan, or choosing freedom.

~

Breezecloud feels separate from the rest of her Clan, for circumstances beyond her control. She feels trapped in her Clan, but she doesn't want to leave either.

When a rogue comes to ShadeClan, Breezecloud is even more torn. Her choice now beckons her. She has to choose only one: one choice which could change her.

Clan or freedom.

One

~

A struggle with life, to be in control

~

Life is hard.

I've never been the sort of cat that has felt as if she has been given an easy road - because I know I have not. I've suffered so much pain in life: being teased by my Clanmates, and - most notably - death. It makes me feel somewhat... apart from the rest of my Clan.

...However, although I feel detached, there's this aura around me which makes me not want to leave my Clan... I love it too much to do that.

"Breezecloud!"

I suddenly snapped out of my thoughts at once as a sharp voice cut me out of it. Blinking once, then twice to get the small bits of fuzziness that had gone over my eyes, I then turned towards the source of the noise. A dark ginger tom was staring at me, his green eyes narrowed to slits. I wondered why...

"Did you hear what I just said?" The cat spoke again, his voice still sharp, his tail twitching impatiently as he waited for a reply.

I said nothing in response, because I couldn't remember a word that he'd said to me. Probably because my mind was wandering again... like it usually does.

"Well, Breezecloud? I'm waiting for my answer." The cat now sat down in front of me, his fluffy tail now wrapped around his dark, tufted paws.

This was it. I had no idea about what in the name of StarClan that Redflame had said, and that wasn't good at all. Smart work, Breezecloud, I told myself sarcastically as I met the tom's gaze, green now on blue as I stared at him. I knew that I had to say something...

"...You said that I needed to go on the sunhigh hunting patrol, right?" I guessed, as I looked up above me. A clear blue sky loomed above my head, and the sun seemed roughly at its peak. No trees dotted the sky: there were no trees on the marsh, just low-hanging shrubs.

"No, that's not what I said..." I could hear Redflame's voice in the background, but I'd lost concentration on him already. Watching the sky and admiring the scenery now seemed much more appealing to me, and I was going to do that.

I felt something poke into my side, but I ignored it as well, dismissing it for something else. The sky, it was so beautiful... oh, ShadeClan was such a beautiful place to be...

The think that was poking into my side did it twice more, and finally, I looked hazily over in that direction, realizing that this wasn't normal. Something ginger was prodding my side...

"Ouch, Redflame, stop poking me," I mewed slowly, when I finally realized what it was that was poking me. What was he doing that for!?!

"What in the name of StarClan, Breezecloud?" Redflame suddenly hissed at me. He rose to his paws, and took one step forward, his green eyes suddenly menacing. I took one step back in fright, suddenly aware that he was annoyed with me. "You need to concentrate on me. Stop drifting off into your own place, it doesn't help anyone at all."

Thanks a lot for reminding me about that, Redflame, I thought bitterly, twitching my tail in anger. I knew that was my biggest weakness: my lack of concentration on things, no matter when I actually tried. It had delayed my warriorship by two moons because I kept on losing it: it had shunned me from the rest of the cats my age, making me feel miserable.

"Sorry," I mewed hastily, trying to cover up that I was secretly feeling guilty that I'd lost concentration. Ugh, sometimes it feels like I'm not in control of myself! "Now, what was it you were saying to me?"

Redflame looked unconvinced by my apology, but nevertheless what he thought of it, he nodded anyway. "You're going on the sunhigh border patrol, Breezecloud, not the hunting patrol. Silverwhisker's leading it, and Spiderwing, Rushwater, and Patchpaw are already there, waiting for you by the camp entrance." I hesitated, trying to take all this information in, before Redflame interrupted: "Go, Breezecloud! They're waiting!"

Shaking slightly, I nodded, though surprised at Redflame's sudden harshness - the deputy wasn't usually this impatient with other cats! Then I realized, a sudden thought that struck me, and made me swing on my paws in surprise: What if that's true? What if he doesn't like me because of my so-called dreaminess?

That made me extremely worried, and when I finally reached Silverwhisker, these doubts were still ringing in my ears as I approached her, hoping that she wouldn't write me off too. However, the silver she-cat was surprisingly pleasant, and nodded. "Finally, Breezecloud. We're going to the Thunderpath today, to mark the border there. Let's go."

I got that in, and nodded. Silverwhisker and I didn't really talk, but... at least that was nice. I padded out of camp with the rest of the patrol, feeling nervous as I padded along with the rest of the patrol.

However, I knew that I was still the outsider among them - and I knew it when I saw all three of the other cats - Spiderwing, Rushwater, and Patchpaw - staring at me behind my back. I sighed and dipped my head lower, and I heard a loud snigger from Patchpaw behind me which made my heart sink in sadness. And much as I loved being part of a group, it hurt to have cats that were not nice to you, when you'd done nothing wrong...

Maybe they'd change their minds ifthey were me, I thought sadly, as I turned their backs on them and followed the patrol. I wasn't going to lose concentration this time...

...I would make sure of it.


Two

~

Looking at the present, what really is my role

~

To my surprise, I didn't really get distracted on the way to the Thunderpath to mark the border. That cheered me up a little bit, I suppose, made me feel better about myself.

After all, it hurts sometimes, to be the cat who's right in the middle of it all. As far as what I see, none of the other cats have difficulty focusing on things, which makes me curious. How can they do that? How can they not lose concentration, when so much is going on?

Those are the questions that often run through my mind. However, one thing always come back to me - it's not them with the issue. It's me. That's what hurts the most.

"Breezecloud! Pay attention and start marking the border, please."

I sighed softly as I heard my name being called, seeing Silverwhisker gaze in my direction, the she-cat's blue eyes round. I knew what I had done at once... Great, I've just lost concentration again. Yay me.

"Sorry, I'll get straight to it," I mumbled softly, feeling my dark fur prick up slightly in embarrassment. Brushing past Silverwhisker, I ducked down, and started to mark the border. Patchpaw had gone up ahead and had started to mark a section: his mentor must've told him to do that already.

I then started to mark the border, blocking Patchpaw from my vision, and trying to block out the noise from the nearby Thunderpath as well.

It didn't help at all that it had to be there. It was very busy, too - many Twoleg monsters went across that road a day, and often it was very busy. The elders often boasted that in their day, they could cross that Thunderpath - not that they tried now. No cat in ShadeClan dares to cross that Thunderpath, because of the high risk of injury or death.

Flattening my ears, but to not much avail, I marked my scent on a large bush, and then I moved on, trying to look for another obstacle to mark the border with. I was trying not to get distracted... Come on, Breezecloud, stay on task. Mark the border, mark the border... I told myself firmly, in an attempt to do just that.

That was when the noises started.

Barely, over the deafening noises of the monsters rumbling along the Thunderpath, I swore I heard something. It sounded like something that had been trodden on, but it also sounded remotely... feline. I grimaced the first time, ignored it, and got back to scentmarking.

Then I swore I heard it again: another time, then another. Each time I looked up, it became harder and harder to keep on task: I couldn't just ignore it... it was getting too much...

Finally, on the fifth time I heard it, I finally gave up. It was too hard to ignore for any longer.

I sat down, shook my fur, and then gazed over to see what was wrong. It was right there, in front of my nose: where had it come from?

A cat had climbed onto the barrier that separated the two sides of the Thunderpath. I was surprised that any cat would be there at all - after all, who even dares to cross the thing in the first place? - but there it was, clear as day. It had sleek, notably short ginger-and-black fur, and its dark eyes looked glazed over with pain. I was wondering that for a while, but then I noticed: one of the cats' hind legs was hanging behind him limply, useless.

I tilted my head. What's wrong with his leg?

"Breezecloud! What are you doing?" I heard Rushwater's voice this time, and I suddenly paused as I saw the brown tabby approach me, his green eyes dark. "Have you lost concentration a -" He then paused when he saw what I was gazing at. "Oh, what in the name of StarClan?"

"Yeah," I mewed disgruntledly, still not really sure about this whole incident.

Rushwater snorted. "Hmph. I think we might have to do a rescue mission... Where's Silverwhisker?" He then stalked off, leaving me alone again...

"What? A rescue mission?" There was a pause, before something small barrelled right into my side.

I stepped away at once, surprised. "Patchpaw, look where you're going!" I hissed at the apprentice, who had reeled back as soon as he'd banged into me. The mottled black-and-white cat's fur stuck up in all directions, his yellow eyes wide.

"There's a loner cat there," he whispered.

I blinked for a moment, slightly confused, before I realized that Patchpaw had only been an apprentice for two moons, and may not have seen a cat outside of ShadeClan before. "You're not going out there, it's not safe," I mewed firmly, knowing that Patchpaw shouldn't be daring to cross the Thunderpath, especially at his age.

Patchpaw looked disappointed, but his eyes also were alight with a hidden fire with something I couldn't identify. "I want to cross the Thunderpath, though. Swampheart said he did it once as an apprentice, that means I can do it too."

"It's not safe," I repeated, narrowing my eyes. "This is serious, Patchpaw." No way am I going to lose concentration on this! I told myself firmly, trying to boost my spirits. "Besides, you know that Swampheart always makes up lies."

Patchpaw narrowed his eyes. "Whatever: Spiderwing won't care what I do, he never cares about anything." And without a further look, and without looking before he crossed, the tom started to hare across the Thunderpath.

"Patchpaw!" I called, frozen in shock. "Get back here!" I stiffly took a step forward, craning a look to see what the apprentice was doing. I was too scared to run after him, to sacrifice my own life... I wasn't sure what to do. Should I go after him?

I was torn in my mind. But what happens if I die in vain for him?

I was scared, too scared. That was when I decided to stay, and I watched him cross as fast as he could, praying to StarClan that a monster wouldn't hit him.

He was running, yes, but I shuddered in fear. I could feel the ground rumbling: monsters were coming. I could see one coming in at that very moment, right in Patchpaw's way...

I looked to the sky, hoping that Patchpaw would somehow avoid it. Oh, StarClan, don't let it hit him...

But it was too late. There was a soft thump at that very moment, and Patchpaw slumped to the ground at once. The loner in the middle of the Thunderpath stared as the body slid over in his direction, the tom flinching in surprise as it laid to rest. I could see a small trickle of scarlet on one of Patchpaw's legs, too.

That was when I heard Spiderwing's scream:

"Patchpaw! No!" There was a pause, before he turned to me. His green eyes burned, and I flinched.

"Breezecloud, what have you done!? You should have gone after him!"


Three

~

A life consumed with joy and fear

~

My fur felt hot all over, and my head dipped slowly in shame. As I started to tremble, I sank slowly to the ground, feeling completely ashamed as to what I had done.

I'd just left an apprentice to die. I'd overlooked my own responsibilities, and I left Patchpaw to get run over by a monster and die. Great.

By now, the rest of the patrol had come over. Silverwhisker and Rushwater's eyes were round as they stared at the small body that was now in the middle of the Thunderpath, getting trodden on by monster after monster. I couldn't bear to look.

I was too troubled by these thoughts of worry and shame that I never heard anything being talked about by the rest of the patrol. Before I knew it, I smelt their scents fade away, quickly being taken over by the monster's acrid stench, and the Thunderpath. I looked up.

Spiderwing and Rushwater were in the middle of the Thunderpath, trying to help the injured loner cat over the ledge in the middle. Silverwhisker, meanwhile, was there too, but looking for a break in the rush of monsters to retrieve Patchpaw's body.

I turned away again. It hurt to look at the Thunderpath now. It really did, after what I had done.

I felt less loyal to my Clan than ever before. I felt as if I'd betrayed them. I was in too much doubt about myself.

It hurt.

"Hey, Breezecloud, we're back! Come on, let's get going!"

The voice was a loud hiss, and I turned around to see an annoyed Spiderwing, along with the rest of the patrol. His green eyes were narrowed. Patchpaw's body lay on the pale cat's shoulders, and nearby, Rushwater was helping the injured cat by letting him lean on his side.

"'Kay, I'm coming," was the only thing I could say, before I fell back into line, for the dreaded journey back into the camp.

All I wanted to do was to hide away. But I knew that this was not an option.

_ ~ ~ _

The night was somber, and I retreated into the warriors' den for the entire night, trying unsuccessfully to get to sleep. Sobs from cats echoed outside as they mourned for Patchpaw, and I felt guilty.

His death was all my fault.

I don't think I got to sleep until just before dawn: because after the vigil, the first thing I remembered was a bright patch of sunlight filtering in through the den entrance. A few warriors were sleeping: ones that I knew had stayed up all night sitting vigil. Quickly, I stretched, and then darted out.

It was nearly sunhigh.

Camp was mainly deserted: apart from the queens tending to kits, and the rustling of herbs told me that the medicine cat, Lightshade, was at work in her herb store. Feeling too lazy to head out, my gaze strated to the fresh-kill pile. Suddenly, I felt hungry, although I should really do some work.

"That's when I heard a soft mutter: "Is there any warriors in camp? Looks like they've all deserted..." A dark-pointed muzzle peered out of the medicine den, looking around, and then her gaze set on me. I heard a soft snort, and then some muttering.

"Breezecloud," Lightshade murmured after a long pause, looking off to one side. "I suppose you'll have to do." The medicine cat's dark-pointed tail flicked as she beckoned me forward.

Unsteadily, I padded forward, my steps slow and uneven. It felt like forever before I finally reached the den entrance. Is something up?

Usually, the only reason that I would see the medicine cat was to tell Lightshade that something was coming - or, in my younger days, sent over there because of my so-called inattentive behavior. However, by the look in Lightshade's pale eyes, this seemed different.

"That rogue that turned up on the Thunderpath yesterday," Lightshade started, keeping her voice sharp. "I'm keeping him around camp until his leg is a little better - it's broken, but not badly. Can you talk to him a bit? I want him to know a cat around camp apart from me."

I nodded - picturing the black-and-ginger tom on the ledge, his limp back leg trailing behind him. "Yeah, I'll do that..." I mewed. "Where is he?"

"He's just in here," Lightshade relied, turning back into the den. "Smoke! Come and meet Breezecloud. She'll keep you company apart from me, you hear?"

There was a muttering of protest as I heard something slip on the ground.

"You need to be careful..." Lightshade muttered, stalking back into the den without a second glance at me. At this, I guessed that the cat - Smoke - had tripped over... This seemed to regain my interest in the whole situation.

My ears pricked as she emerged a few moments later, Smoke on her heels. The black-and-ginger tom looked more wary than the situation in which I had first seen him yesterday, and he looked strangely smaller. He seemed... somewhat vulnerable.

"This is Breezecloud," Lightshade mewed, evidently talking to Smoke. I watched as she flicked her tail under my nose, feeling slightly invaded in my privacy. "She'll help you around here, you hear?" As Smoke nodded, I saw her shoot a wary glare at me, as if she was wondering if she could really trust me with this. That made me feel angry.

I'm fine! Stop treating me as if... as if I'm an outsider! At once, the feelings about the Clan, all the unease, came back into my mind. Another reason why I feel unwelcome...

"...Breezecloud?"

I heard a soft, deep mew cbehind me, and I turned to see a black-and-ginger cat behind. "Are we going to talk or not?' Smoke's amber eyes were round as he spoke, and at once I snapped back.

"Uh sure." I led him away at once, flicking my tail as I went. This was my chance.

A chance to make an impression on a cat at last.

Four

~

It's also a life of doubt, and of the unknown

~


A half-moon passed, slow as a snail, after the Thunderpath incident and the death of Patchpaw. I still felt extremely guilty for the whole incident, still believing it was all my own fault. The Clan seemed to think the same way - more of them disliked me than ever than before.

Sure, there was the odd cat who said it's wasn't my fault, and that I shouldn't be worrying about the whole incident. However, overall, most cats didn't believe that way, unfortunately for me.

Smoke and I continued to hang out - and these times were the only ones that felt as if they weren't passing slowly. I really liked him. He was quick to notice my tendency to get distracted - but did he put me down for it? No - in fact, he was curious. As I remembered this, a flashback of the moment came up into my mind:

"Is it just how you are, Breezecloud?" Smoke asked, cocking his head to one side. "Is that always how you've been... easily distracted?'

Taking a deep breath, feeling apprehensive of how he may answer, I nodded. "Ever since I can remember. I've never had the focus of other cats... they make me feel like it's a bad thing."

Smoke gave me a sad look. "Sometimes I wonder... why cats have a normal. It's okay to be different, Breezecloud, it really is."

I wasn't convinced by his comment, but it made me feel better. More accepted. However, I still felt empty.

However, none of the ShadeClan cats really liked Smoke, either. Maybe it was because he was a rogue, or whatever. He had said, after all, that once his leg - which the medicine cat had determined broken, but not majorly at all - was a little better, he wouldn't be staying. He said that being a rogue was better for him.

I knew I'd be sad when he left, but for some reason, it didn't feel right. Smoke was the only cat that truly understood me... I needed him.

I really felt like it.

_ ~ ~ _

"Hey, Breezecloud, let me show you something."

I dozed in the warriors' den, having a snooze after evening patrols, when I heard that voice filter into the area where I was sleeping. At once, I recognized the voice, and yawned.

Smoke again. Yay, not an annoying warrior that's come to pester me - for Patchpaw's death, or something.

I blinked open my eyes, and I saw the black-and-ginger tom at the entrance, shadowed my the sunset. His tail flicked to the side once, twice, three times as he waited for me.

"We don't have all day!" Smoke's voice was cheery as I saw his ears flick in my direction. "I, like, need to talk to you."

Sensing a slight note of urgency in Smoke's voice, I got to my paws - tiredly - and padded over to the den entrance, joining the rogue. In welcome, his tail flicked again, before we left the outside of the den.

We then approached the camp entrance. Most of the Clan was eating, and their gazed swiveled in Smoke's and my direction as we went off. My ears flattened in fright: I'd never been the cat for attention, and since Patchpaw's death, more of that had been put on me, which I really disliked.

Life has been terrible since Patchpaw's death... I just feel like running away! I thought angrily, as Smoke and I stepped out onto the marsh.

He led me further out, where the area was wetter, and muddier. It was not an unusual place to go, but warriors avoided it, believing that it wasn't natural to go swimming in the marsh. Usually, I was one of them - but obviously not today.

He led me near the edge. Here, it was very wet, and the water was deep as it led out into an expanse of water. The elders claimed it went on and on, and then it reached the edge of the land and became endless. I never really believed that rumor.

Captivated by the view, I stared. Forgetting the real reason that I was out here, I stared at the beautiful sunset, lost in its beauty. It was very beautiful - the sunsets on the marsh were nice, especially in greenleaf. It was amazing...

"Breezecloud, stop staring! This isn't what I intended!"

Smoke's soft mew snapped me back to attention, and I turned to him, meeting his gaze. Blue against amber... a stunning sight. Opposites, it seemed. Coming together.

"Come on, I wanted to say something," Smoke mewed, his tail flicking. "And I wanted you to be the first to know..." He sighed. "Breezecloud, I'm going to be leaving the Clan for my home in a quarter-moon."

My mouth dropped open. No, Smoke! You can't! I screamed inside my mind, feeling overwhelmed. I dropped slowly to the ground, feeling bad. "No..." I mewed softly under my breath, as I felt myself starting to tremble, in the same way that I had done just a half-moon ago.

Smoke shook his head. "Breezecloud, you always knew that I was going to leave at some point..." he sighed. "...Why are you so upset?"

I avoided Smoke's gaze, looking at the ground. I wasn't really sure what to say... "I... don't want you to leave," I breathed, nearly choking on the last words as I shook my dark head.

"...Let me finish, Breezecloud," Smoke mewed softly, as I felt his tail touch my face, causing me to look back up into his eyes. He sighed again. "...I don't know how you'll react to this..."

I was immediately suspicious. "...S-Smoke, what's going on -"

I never had the time to finish my sentence, as Smoke ended up cutting off what I was going to say. "I was going to say... if you really want to..."

I held my breath in apprehension. What was he going to -

"You can come with me, Breezecloud, if you so wish it."

Five

~

As well as the choices, the choices that define you

~

After Smoke's words, I felt my breath catch in my throat.

He thought of me. I can't believe he thought of me. That was the first thought that ran through my head after those words. For once, I actually felt appreciated for who I was, not put down for it. Maybe being slight different wasn't such a bad thing.

Meeting Smoke's amber gaze, I bowed my head to him. "I am honoured that you thought of me, Smoke... I really am." I spoke the words slowly, thinking over them - I didn't want to give off the fact that so far, I was unsure of what to do at that point. I have time. Time is on my side.

I saw Smoke duck away from me, the black-and-ginger tom looking off to the side. "Breezecloud, you don't need to thank me, you know."

I snorted. "That doesn't mean I can't say thank you, Smoke. I really am thankful, I truly am." There was no point in hiding the truth from Smoke here, though. This was something, at least, that I was sure about. However, the choice loomed over me.

I had a choice now to think over - stick with the Clan, or leave and go with Smoke. That was when it hit me.

If I choose to go with him... this could be my way out. This could be my chance to leave the Clan, find out if the best place for me was outside the borders!

This could be the answer to everything. I could see everything now. Life outside the Clan now seemed much more tempting than it did before. However, I knew this pending decision that had now been forced upon me had to be thought over, and I would need to stop myself from going too fast and making the wrong choice.

"Breezecloud?" A soft voice came from behind me. "Breezecloud, you're getting distracted again."

I jumped as I heard my name, feeling my dark gray fur fluff up as I spun around. Smoke was still watching me, his amber eyes round. At once, I ducked my head. "Sorry! I never realize when -"

Quickly, Smoke cut me off. "It's all right, Breezecloud, calm down. You don't need to apologize." He shook out his fur before continuing: "Now, I'm very honoured about what you've told me so far. You're amazing, Breezecloud, you really are - don't blame yourself for your faults. None of us are perfect." He then took a deep breath. "Now, I'll ask you this now, although I don't think you're ready to make a final decision... will you come with me when I leave the Clan?'

I felt myself inhale, hold my breath once more would have to tell him... I exhaled, slowly, then mewed: "...I'm really unsure at the moment, Smoke. I need time to think and decide."

There was a pause, before I saw Smoke shake his head slowly, the black and ginger patches on his pelt becoming a blur for a moment as he did so, separating again when he stopped. "...I'm not surprised that you're not ready yet. When you're ready, tell me, okay?' A small smile seemed to tiptoe onto his face as he did that, and it made me feel happy as well.

I looked out onto the darkening sky. "...I think we'd better head back, Smoke."

Watching Smoke stare towards the sunset, I saw him nod ever so slightly. "You are right, Breezecloud, as always. Let's go back then, shall we?" I watched him rise to his paws, and then start to turn towards camp.

I was quick to follow. "Don't leave me behind...!" I mewed, as I raced to catch up. Now, after this conversation, I felt much happier than before, more content.

At least one cat accepted me.


Six

~

Choose wisely, don't step too soon

~

A quarter-moon passed, and on the day that Smoke was meant to leave, I still had no idea of what decision I was going to make.

My constantly-wandering mind was definitely unsure. For once, the stuff to do with Smoke actually... was something that I could actually focus on. Usually, with anything else, I'd think about it for a short while, and then something else would grab my attention and I'd think about that. It was... different than what I was used to, being able to focus on something for more than a few moments.

It was also weird. It made me wonder how all the other cats that I've met are all able to keep focus on everything for longer than I do. For me, I wouldn't cope, being like them.

Going back to the point, I couldn't pick a side.

Yes, the Clan had numbers. I wanted that security. However, very few cats in ShadeClan liked me, let alone wanted to be friends. I was a loner.

Then, there was Smoke. He was a friend. He was a cat I could actually trust, compared to everyone else that I knew. However, what would happen to me if something happened to Smoke? I didn't like the aloneness of it.

I was torn, truly torn. I knew... I knew I had to make a choice. A choice between the Clan, or freedom...

...and I was really, really dreading the time when I would have to make it.

~

That morning, he ducked out of camp. He pulled me aside, as dawn was rising over the marshes: bright and colourful as it always was. Smoke's bright gaze was round as we looked out at the marshes together.

My mind was blank. I had no option that I had fully decided on. As a result, I had no idea of where this conversation was going to lead at all... and I knew that I was the cat who would decide that. Great.

Smoke's voice broke the silence: slightly hoarse due to the fact that we'd hardly spoken a word to each other that morning, but still strong like it always was. The black-and-ginger cat looked me in the eye, and sighed. "Breezecloud, it's time for you to choose."

I nodded, breath catching in my throat. I would have to choose... and now, too.

"Will you," Smoke continued, quickly jolting me out of my thoughts before I could start thinking of any, "choose to leave your Clan, or stay?" A pause followed this. "Just remember this, Breezecloud... do what's best for you. Do what your heart says is right. I'll accept your decision."

Even I wasn't sure what my heart wanted. I hesitated, mind-blanking on what choice I should make. But then, right then and suddenly, one choice suddenly stuck out at me.

Finally, I knew what decision I would make.... Opening my mouth, I told him what I had now decided what was the best decision for me. His reaction: a nod, and eyes rounding ever so slightly.

"Are - Are you sure about this, Breezecloud?" Smoke's voice was slow, as if he was unsure of the words.

Dark tabby fur fluffing up, I nodded. "Ye - Yes, Smoke, I think I'm sure about this." Admittedly, I still wasn't sure about it. I did doubt my choice - was it really the right one? Either way, I'd made it, and I'd just have to see how it would pan out now.

I've never done this before. What - what will life be like out there... away from all these cats, away from... ShadeClan?


Seven

~

Sometimes you have to search beyond

~


So later that day, I found myself outside ShadeClan territory - away from my Clan, away from everything that I had ever known. It was just me and Smoke now... out in the wilderness beyond the Clan I had grown up in.

I felt better after making the decision to come with the black-and-ginger cat. As soon as I found myself starting to get more easily distracted again, I knew it. Although not being completely sure on my choice, I had made my mind up now - I couldn't turn back , right? This was an opportunity after all. And it wasn't as if I had any friends - let alone family - back in the Clan where I had spent my entire life.

We'd exited ShadeClan territory earlier in the day: about the time when the sun was reaching its peak in the sky. Smoke and I had slowly - due to the fact that I was getting constantly distracted by every single new thing I saw - made our way away from the territory, sticking close to the Thunderpath which swept the edge of the marshland. There was no denying that the Twoleg monsters that travelled it liked it: there was almost a constant rumbling of them as they swiftly swept past Smoke and I.

That was another reason to continue our journey: to get away from those things. They were, to put it bluntly, most annoying.

As night fell, we left the side of the Thunderpath, much to my relief. Unfortunately, we didn't get too far from it before I got distracted: this time from seeing the half-moon that was fuzzily hanging in the sky, obscured by a pale cloud. Deciding that it wasn't worth heading to far, Smoke decided that we should settle nearby.

That night, I gazed up at the sky, staring up at the misty sky. The clouds that covered it were too pale for it to rain overnight; I could sense that. I then turned away from it, and closing my eyes, I waited for sleep to take me, letting my thoughts wander off as I waited.

They went off to the Clan, and I couldn't help but wonder how they all were. It hurt, deep down, to leave them. Even if they weren't exactly her friends, they were the cats that she'd grown up with, lived with her whole life. And with one choice, she'd decided to leave them, to go with a cat that she'd only just met.

I couldn't help but wonder this: had I really made the right choice?

_ ~ ~ _

It was still cloudy the following morning, and it felt incredibly weird not to be home. I'd lived in ShadeClan all my life... and now, I was out beyond the territory for the first time in my life. It felt weird, and to my surprise, uncomfortable.

That was a thought that had never crossed my mind before. This was a land I didn't know at all. Dread sunk into my stomach: I knew I doubting my decision yet again.

The cloud didn't recede: they seemed to grow more menacing as the day wore on, getting gradually darker and darker. The fact that I knew that it was going to rain at some point - and possibly badly - slipped my mind constantly as something or another distracted me. Smoke and I, apparently, were trying to head towards a more sheltered place because of the rain - but it was hard, considering that the black-and-ginger tom said that the trees on the other side of the Thunderpath had just open space beyond them. He claimed that there was only a line of them, so that Twolegs could keep stuff out of their territory. To add to that, the rest of the area near us was open space - not good at all, especially because of the darkness of the clouds.

We had just diverged from the Thunderpath, heading up a grassy rise, when the rain started to fall. And it wasn't spitting whatsoever - it started pouring down, harder than I had ever seen it do before. Grunting in disgust, I turned to Smoke, who was beside me.

"We need to find shelter," I breathed quickly, causing him to nod.

"We'd better run before this gets any worse." And before I could say anymore, he took off, a gingerish blur in the middle of a gray rainstorm.

And without pausing to think, I took after him, knowing that he was the only cat that I could rely on now.


Eight

~

To search for the place where you truly belong

~

As the night went on, the rain steadily got heavier, and heavier. It was loud, and I got distracted from sleep as a result - I had tried earlier on to get some rest, but to no avail.

We'd managed to find a fairly sheltered dip in the ground, near a steep drop-off. The steep drop-off made me nervous, but Smoke had insisted that we would be fine, so I'd agreed that we'd stay near it. Besides, the rain at that point was hard enough. It was either stay in that dip and get dry, or find another, better dip and potentially get drenched by the rain.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the best of shelters that we had chosen. In this sort of horrid weather, it was getting a little bit leaky, and a few raindrops had gone through the roof. A small puddle had formed in the den as a result, and it was gradually getting bigger. The leak was getting worse, little by little.

I don't know how much longer this shelter's going to last, I thought, shuddering. Maybe Smoke and I should've risked getting our pelts wetter earlier by finding a better place.

Outside, I heard the boom of thunder, and I jumped, hitting my head of the roof of the shelter in alarm - it wasn't very high, the roof. A creaking noise came from the roof afterwards, and I looked up in alarm. To my horror, the leak had become bigger as a result of me hitting it, and now droplets were forming a puddle in the den. Great StarClan, this shelter's not really a good place to be anymore... we've gotta find a better one.

Determined to not lose track of my goal this time - there was no way I could forget it, surely! - I reached a paw over, and touched Smoke, who had been sleeping the whole time. In all honesty, I wasn't sure how he could doze through this loud, terrible weather. "Smoke, wake up," I mewed urgently, nudging him. When he didn't react, I did it again, speaking louder. "Smoke!"

The second time, I did it, it somewhat worked. "Hrrh...?" The ginger-and-black tom started to come to. However, just then, a raindrop came and hit him on the nose, and he finally came back to consciousness. "What...?"

I saw the raindrop falling, and I shuddered. Another leak had started to form, just above where Smoke was sleeping. It definitely wasn't safe now to stay. "Smoke, the shelter's leaking... we've got to move. We can't stay."

Smoke, grumbled. "Oh, great... I can just tell it's gotten worse." At this, the tom hesitated, before he dashed out of the den entrance, which was closer to his end. I watched as he left, and shaking out my dark gray tabby fur, I followed him out.

As soon as I emerged, I felt some of the raindrops touch my fur. They didn't relent, and I felt the coldness of the water soak into my pelt. Ears flattening, I saw Smoke slightly ahead of me. "Breezecloud, come on!"

Hearing his voice, I ran towards him. "I'm coming," I called, paws slipping on the grass as I raced to catch up. This is dangerous, I thought, as I reached his side. Smoke looked drenched: his black-and-ginger fur was clearly soaked. Judging by the cold feeling that seemed to be over my entire body, I was probably soaked as well.

If I was back home with my Clan, I wouldn't be soaked right now. That thought rang through my head with a pang, and my heart ached for ShadeClan in that moment. I tried to shake it away, but it still kept to the back of my mind. This is your home now, Breezecloud. You live in the wild now. Deal with it.

"I have no idea where we are going to go," Smoke breathed, his eyes widening. "It's hard to find a good place here... and it's slippery and starting to flood."

"We should've stayed in the shelter we had," I mewed, blinking as I saw a flash of lightning nearby, flinching at the sound of rolling thunder that followed, shivering at the cold water that seemed to be consuming me and pooling around my paws. "We shouldn't have left it."

Smoke looked annoyed. "We left it now," he mewed flatly. "And it would've fallen apart. It was too fragile." He growled softly, before sighing. "...I don't know what I'm going to do now."

For a moment, I watched Smoke silently in the rain, looking as though he was in despair. I, too, felt upset myself. I was troubled. I had doubted my decision beforehand, to leave ShadeClan... but now, in the light of this situation, I was doubting it even more.

ShadeClan wouldn't have struggled with this. Sure, this was a bad rainful - the worst one that I could remember. However, ShadeClan had strength in numbers: they could do anything, feel more at ease. Out here, with me, there was only Smoke. That, I knew, wasn't the greatest situation to find myself in.

This, and everything that I had seen, made me feel vulnerable. Now, with all my heart, I wished that I had stayed; not decided to leave.

I might've made the wrong decision... I realized, shivering. I think... the decision I should've made was to stay with ShadeClan.

Why did I -

Suddenly, a yowl split the air. Jumping slightly in surprise, my ears swivelled in the direction of the noise. I then turned my head in the same direction. I couldn't see much at all, but I did sense a disturbance where the noise had come from. Then, the noise came again, and I padded over to it in curiosity.

At some points, it was quite slippery, and I felt as though I'd fall over. In others, my feet were submerged in a small puddle. The rain had receded a little bit now, but it was still heavy, and my ears flattened against my skull as I padded through the rain.

Then, I stopped, as I heard the noise get louder. Ahead of me, I could see the steep drop-off, leading to the so-called endless water the elders had mentioned in ShadeClan. Then, I heard the yowl again, and the sound of paws scrabbling to get a grip. "Breezecloud! Save me!"

In horror, I looked down, to see a cat scrambling at the edge of the drop-off.. and I recognized him at once.

Smoke... no!


Nine

~

However, once you find the truth

~

I froze in shock, staring at Smoke in surprise as he tried to gain a grip on the ledge. How did he even get down there!? was the thought that ran though my mind as I stared at the cat, not doing anything to help.

"Do something...!" Smoke called at me again, looking at me desperately as he still attempted to get back onto land. That was when it hit me: I shouldn't be up here doing absolutely nothing. Smoke was my friend - how could I leave him in a situation like this? Lowering myself onto the wet ground, I stretched one of my front legs out.

"Get ahold of this," I told the black-and-ginger cat firmly, bringing my right paw close to his. It was the only thing that I could think of, using myself to help him up... somehow. Whether it would work, I wasn't sure.

In the darkness, I swore I saw some light flicker in Smoke's eyes at this, as he brought his left paw to meet my right, taking it off the ground as it did so. As it closer to mind, I looked away I anticipated him touching it, dreading the strength it would likely take to get him back up.

However, I felt something brush it instead, not something that landed on my paw and stayed there.

Mildly surprised, I looked back over in that direction. Nothing was on my paw, and to make matters worse, Smoke was nowhere to be seen. Rising back onto my paws, I padded a couple of steps forward, taking care not to lose myself over the ledge too. I looked down... to see a small shape bobbing in the water.

Smoke had fallen into the endless water.

Part of me was torn at this point. Deep down, I wanted to throw myself into the endless water as well: so that I could save him. But then... I, too, could've got trapped in the endless water. As a result, I backed off, caring about my own safety.

I don't want to die, I thought, as I turned away, not bearing to look. At once, guilt flooded over me. I'd got distracted earlier, Smoke had wandered over, and slipped over the ledge. I tried to save him, but he slipped, fell to his doom.

I'd just let a second cat die. First Patchpaw, now Smoke... what had I done?

_ ~ ~ _

The rain stopped as the sky started to lighten: however, the clouds still covered up most of the sky, leaving it gray. That morning, I was tired, as I hadn't slept well - especially after what had happened with Smoke. My mind couldn't seem to rest after that. It just couldn't calm down.

There were a few things that cycled through my mind, switching between them. Smoke and Patchpaw, along with guilt, was one. Another was the fact that alone, I felt so vulnerable. The third... was ShadeClan.

There was no denying that the final option was troubling me. The one reason that I had left in the first place was because of Smoke, and now that he was gone I had nothing left for me out there. Secondly, even if I wasn't the most liked cat in ShadeClan - and despite the fact that I felt lonely sometimes - was that I was at least accepted. Looking back, I could see that... they stopped me from getting distracted, they kept me on task.

Now that I was alone, I realized how much they really cared. Those thoughts were what spurred me to look back in the direction that I had came from to get here, that morning, onto ShadeClan's territory. There, alone, I vowed to myself this, speaking it aloud:

"I'm going to return to ShadeClan. That is where I belong, and I know that now... and I won't let that protection go again."

And with that, I smiled to myself, looking at the distance, knowing that I was soon about to start my journey to come home.


Ten

~

You know where you really belong

~


The journey back took longer than it did coming over.

That was what it felt like, anyway. Being along was different - there wasn't company, and I only had myself. Sure, I didn't mind my own company, but... I preferred to have someone there who cared, that was for sure.

I had to spend another night by myself, in a sheltered place I found. It was no longer raining - thank StarClan for that, as after the night before I wasn't sure how well I'd cope. Then, the following morning, I had to travel until just after sunhigh.

That was when I finally arrived back in ShadeClan's borders, to home. As I stepped back into my Clan's borders, I felt so relieved to just to be back there. Now that I was back here, I knew what happened... I knew this area well, that was for sure.

I made a decision. First, I thought the answer was by going solo, by feeling open, by choosing freedom by living outside the Clans. However, once I had made that decision, I realized what was really the right one... that being trapped within borders was the right option for me, with other cats. Choosing the Clan was the right option.

I had to choose between the Clan or freedom, and I chose the Clan.

_ ~ ~ _

It felt weird when I stepped back into the camp after all of that... stuff that had happened over the past few days. It was even more weird to see my Clanmates staring at me in surprise at the camp entrance, staring as me as if I had never existed. Then, there were some mixed reactions as they realized who they were seeing: me.

A few did nothing. A few waved their tails in greeting, looking surprised. However, a few cats came up to greet me.

"Did you decide that being out of the Clan wasn't for you?" Silverwhisker had greeted me with that, and I nodded in response.

"Yeah, there's so much stuff out here... and so much more distracting, too." At the later part of that sentence, I ducked my head in embarrassment, causing a few somewhat amused purrs from other cats.

"What is there even out there?" An apprentice - Waterpaw, who just happened to be Patchpaw's sister - asked me, her blue eyes round. "Breezecloud, can you tell me?"

"I... might?" Now that the gray apprentice mentioned it, there were a lot of memories that I could take from my foray outside of ShadeClan's borders.

There was even a warm comment of Redflame, who was usually so critical of me. "You know, ShadeClan's not the same without you," the deputy mewed to me as he came forward. "Welcome back, Breezecloud."

And with that, and all the "Welcome back!" calls I received from my Clanmates, I decided that maybe I wasn't so detached from the Clan that I thought I had been.

It also affirmed to me my choice. This time, with the reception of my choice, I knew that I had - for sure - made the right decision.

ShadeClan is where I belong. I know that now, I told myself, feeling pleased. I won't forget that.

Ever.


The End.


Author's Note

...eh, this is definitely not my greatest fanfiction in the world (not satisfied with the ending...), but hey I finished this :D

Breezecloud, for sure is my favourite character, and I must say that she was definitely inspired after I read Moth Flight's Vision c; . She's interesting, and I actually wouldn't mind coming back to her again at some point... who knows? :P she's a cool character haha. Chances are, there won't be a sequel to this, but yeah.

Comments are appreciated :D. Please make sure they are constructive comments if you do so, thank you!

Until next time,

so look out down below

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