Friend Or Foe
"Duskwatcher! Calm down!"
That was Bluebird.
There was a kind of franticness to the tom's tone that made me realize how much it really affected him, seeing his popular, put-together brother like this. Maybe it bruised his ego, or maybe it just shook him up. I wasn't sure. Either way, he looked nearly as close to losing it as Duskwatcher was.
"MURDER THE ROGUES! MURDERERS MUST BE KILLED!" Duskwatcher squalled, not even seeming to know he was making no sense.
Oakstar looked grim. He waited till Lionpatch had taken the injured Blossompaw into the medicine cat's den, and till the kits had all been ushered inside. Then, placing one paw on Bluebird's shoulder, he addressed Duskwatcher calmly. "Duskwatcher, we will certainly deal with the rogues, but-"
"Oh forget it," Bluebird snapped bitterly. "He doesn't understand. He's flipping insane." And the tom stalked away.
Duskwatcher blinked, as if coming to. "Sorry, Oakstar," he muttered.
Looking extremely concerned, Oakstar patted him. "It's okay, Duskwatcher. Why don't you go into the warriors' den and relax for a bit."
The tom padded away, leaving all of us gawking after him. "That was... um... oh StarClan. What on earth was that?" Minkpaw said, shaking her head slowly.
"Beats me." Specklepaw shrugged his shoulders.
Not in the mood to sit around and gossip, I mewed, "Will you guys tell me if Blossompaw is okay?"
"Sure, but where are you-" Daisypaw began, but I'd already leaped up and dashed out of the camp.
Bluebird's trail was easy to pick up. It looked like he'd just crashed headlong through the woods without making any attempt to cover up his tracks. I followed the trail doggedly, though I knew he might not be so pleased to have my company anyway. When I finally found him, it was in a small woodsy cove at the border of SpringClan territory. He was sitting hunched over, with his back to me. I took a step forward, wincing as a twig let out a sharp crackle under my paws. Bluebird turned around and let his eyes rest on me, but there was no reaction in his face. No anger that I'd followed him, but no trace of happiness either.
No audible response, just a short nod.
"That was rough, back there."
"Yeah," he said, his voice raspy.
I took a seat a good distance across from him, not daring to push my luck by getting closer. "You okay?"
A cynical smile crossed his face. "Heck no. I think I'm more insane than Duskwatcher."
Taking a deep breath, I hoped I could field this one without making him angry. "He's your brother, you know." Bluebird tensed, his body going rigid. "I know it's hard to accept how he is now, but you can't just... it's not right to call him insane. He needs time to grieve. To get over it. He's not used to bad things happening to him." I couldn't resist adding, "Neither are you, it seems."
Anger flashed across his features. "What do you know about brothers?"
That was low. But I couldn't hold it against him, could I?
"Not much," I admitted. "But these rules apply to all family."
Of course, I had no real blood family alive now either. But I had Ivyrose, Goldenburst, and Daisypaw, didn't I? Would he go there? Would he point out my lack of relations?
No, he didn't. Even in his bad mood, he was too much of a gentleman to do that.
"Maybe they do, and maybe I overreacted," Bluebird said with a heavy sigh. "But it doesn't help that it takes an apprentice to tell me that." He gave me an amused, joking glance.
I return the humorous grin, but inside I'm seething. An apprentice? Is that all he sees me as?
"If I don't get so mad at him, maybe I can rehabilitate Duskwatcher. Get him to how he was, as fast as possible."
Uh oh. "I don't think that's a good idea. He needs time, Bluebird."
Suddenly, the blue-gray tom leaped to his feet. "How do you know what he needs? I'm his brother! I'm the only family he has left, and vice versa! I can't lose him to that kind of mindset. Okay? You don't get it, apprentice. So please just stay out of it." He turned and raced away.
Apprentice. He called me apprentice. Not even Breezepaw. Just apprentice.
Furious at everything and anything, I stomped away.
"No good, stupid, idiotic, know-it-all, rabbit-nosed, bucktoothed, mouse-brained, feather-minded, pompous, arrogant, snooty JERK!" I raged to myself as I climbed up High-Rock(the territory one, not the one in camp). "I was only trying to help!"
So what if we didn't know each other that well? Even if I had been being nosy to try to comfort him, he didn't have to be so rude about things!
Or... was I just reacting this way because for the first time I realized who I was to him. He was a full-grown warrior, a popular and handsome one at that. And I was only a nobody apprentice who had apparently stalked him.
Speaking of stalking.
Up ahead, I spotted a lean black cat sprawled out on the rocks. His gaze fixed on me, and he got up and stretched as I came closer. I stopped instantly. Ryan. What the heck was he doing here?
"Will you stop following me around?" I screeched, in no mood to play games.
He shrugged. "Sorry."
Fury pumped through my veins. "Do you have an actual purpose to be here? Or is it just your hobby to stalk me? Because if so, let me warn you that I can and will kick your sorry tail off this rock right now."
Almost taken aback at first, his whiskers twitched and he resumed his usual aggravatingly cool persona. "Lily, Chamomile and I are here to corrupt your young mind again."
"First of all, you look to be my age, so I don't have a 'young mind' to you. Second of all, where are your two girlfriends then?"
"Sisters," he corrected.
Now that took me by surprise. "But you guys don't look anything alike."
His smirk grew wider. "It's my good looks- but don't tell them I said that. And to answer your question, they were here, but they went off to hunt. Also, we're not stalking you in particular, at least not this time. We know this is a popular apprentice hangout, for you fools to run up and down your so-called High-Rock till you plummet to your death."
Indignantly, I snapped, "We have good balance! We would never-"
Fate chose that moment to dislodge a sizable stone from under my paw, ironically. I let out an ungainly shriek as my back legs shout out from under me. Still, I would've easily been able to pull myself up from there, if my chin hadn't hit the stone so hard. The pain lancing through my jaw made me see stars, and I grabbed for a hold too late. There was nothing to hold onto. My front paws slipped and slid over smooth rock, having missed the grip.
I was falling. Falling off High-Rock.
No. No, I wasn't falling. Not anymore.
"You... are... the clumsiest cat in the world," Ryan puffed, his voice muffled by my neck-scruff in his jaws.
Panic made me incapable of saying anything in an understandable language.
Already, I could feel my loose fur slipping out of Ryan's jaw. I had to get a grip - literally - before he couldn't hold me up anymore. "Hang on!" I yelled, or rather pleaded. Using all my strength, I swung inwards, towards High-Rock.
Two things happened as a result of this. One, I smashed my face against the rock and blood spewed out of my nose. Two, my front paws got a good pawhold, and I pulled myself up beside Ryan, safe and sound. Other than my nosebleed, that is.
"Are you okay?" he said, having the common courtesy to look the least bit concerned.
"Yeah," I said sheepishly, wiping my nose with a paw that came away streaked red. Nasty. Yuck. "I guess that wasn't the best way to prove my climbing skills, was it? But I don't usually fall."
With a good-natured shrug, Ryan said, "I usually have that effect on she-cats."
Humorously, I added, "Only they topple off rocks to get away from you." Glancing around, I frowned. "Didn't you say your sisters were supposed to be here?"
Unconcerned, he shrugged. "Maybe they're having a good hunt. How should I know? Oh, and by the way, you owe me. You know, because I saved your life."
My eyes rolled around. "I would not have died falling off of High-Rock."
"You know, you haven't even said thank you," he said, spitting my fur out of his mouth.
I blushed. "Thanks. And what do I owe you then?"
His face turned serious. "You have to let me try to convince you. Convince you that SpringClan... well, that it sucks."
That was a laughable idea, and I had no problem telling him so. "I could subject you to the guilt treatment," he pointed out. "About how I saved you from death or maiming or whatever. But that wouldn't be very chivalrous now, would it?"
"Because you're so chivalrous," I guffawed.
Without warning, he asked, "What were you so mad about?"
"When you were climbing up here. You looked pretty darn angry at the world. Who or what got you so mad? Was it us rogues, or..."
Just an idiotic, stuck-up, stupid- I cut short my stream of insults and said, "Oh. Nothing. No one."
Skeptically, he nodded. "Okay then. So you just woke up today and decided that you were going to curse out High-Rock, because, you know, why not?"
I gave him an innocent look. "Yeah. Obviously."
Lifting his head, he said, "I should probably go find Lily and Cammy- Chamomile, that is. But before I do... Breezepaw, you can't just tell me SpringClan is good because you were born there. That's exactly what we're saying. That's the only reason you're loyal to there. Why you can't see it's wrong. It's not right to hog up territory like that, to look down on other cats because they aren't so-called warriors. You can't just wrap yourself up in your Clan's little world and hide behind it forever."
"Hiding?" I snapped. "My Clanmates are my world! Sure, there might be other problems around, but it's not my duty to take care of them. I know that sounds cold-hearted, but if I'm out there saving the day and being a hero, who's feeding the kits? Who's keeping the elders company? Who's helping Lionpatch with his herbs? We're a team. A big family. The warrior code is our backbone, and you and your stupid rogues will never change that."
He glared at me. "Biased old badger."
Angrily, I returned the insult with pleasure. "Smelly annoying bird-brain."
Unexpectedly, he laughed. "We're really getting nowhere. I guess I'll see you around then, Breezepaw. Oh, and one more thing. Don't let your Clanmates sleep too lightly. Because-"
Clanmates. Blossompaw. Suddenly I was so angry - mostly with myself - that I couldn't think straight. How could I have just spoken to him like it was a regular day, when one of his friends had injured Blossompaw? What if it was him who hurt her? How could I have just-
"Breezepaw? What are you-"
That was all Ryan had time to say before I shoved him off the outcrop of rock. He let out a screech as he landed on a lower portion of rock, staring up at me with shocked eyes. "What has gotten into you? I save you from falling and you shove me off High-Rock?"
"That's what you get," I hissed vehemently, "for hurting Blossompaw."
Something registered in his eyes. "You mean the cat they-"
"Was it you?" I snapped. "Did you hurt her? Claw her? Because she could be dying right now, and..." Here I stopped, not trusting my voice any longer.
"What? No. I'm just a messenger, I swear."
"Well, you support the group that did that to Blossompaw," I said adamantly.
Exasperated, Ryan shook his head. "There's a lot more to it than that. If your friend is that seriously hurt... that wasn't supposed to happen. They didn't tell us anything like that."
Suspicious, I inquired, "Who's they?"
"The leaders. The ones who send us messengers out."
This was news to me. "I was under the impression that you were high up in your group."
Flushing, he glanced at his paws. "Well, you were right about one thing- I am about your age. They don't give higher positions to us until we're older."
Throwing my paws in the air, I snapped, "Then that's practically like a Clan!"
Eyes flaming, he shook his head. "No it's not. We're just united under one cause- bring the Clans down." Taking a step towards me, he said, "Will you please meet me here tomorrow? I have some stuff I'd like to tell you, about our cause. I don't have time now, since I have to go find my sisters, but... you owe me."
Knowing I'd regret it, I mewed, "Fine."
"Good," he said with a smile. "See you later!"
I watched him bound away, cursed Bluebird out a couple of more times, and headed home.
"Breezepaw! Thank goodness!" Both Minkpaw and Daisypaw yelled this as I entered the apprentices' den, but for different reasons, it seemed.
"She's driving me absolutely nuts with her nonstop moaning and groaning over toms," hissed Minkpaw. "It's your turn to listen to her. I'm out of here." The brown she-cat marched out of the den and disappeared.
Turning to Daisypaw, I blinked. "What's going on?"
My friend sniffed in a superior way, saying, "I don't know what Minkpaw is making a fuss about. I was merely-"
She sighed. "I dumped Specklepaw."
Now that was a shocker. "Why? You guys looked so happy together just... this morning." Briefly, I recalled what Minkpaw had said to me, about how there was something wrong in their relationship. Had she been right? Did she, tomboy as she was, know more about relationships than me? Or was I just dumb as a post.
There was a sudden icy layer over Daisypaw's demeanor, which I found puzzling. Usually, she'd be ranting to me about how much she hated Specklepaw, but now it was like she didn't even want to talk to me. "See you later, Breezepaw," she said coldly, getting up.
Too confused to stop her, I sighed and threw myself into my nest. It had been a long day, and I was ready to just relax.
Oh, if only I'd known what I was in store for tomorrow.