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This is a Pride Month challenge fanfiction written by Stone. I originally wanted it just for that, but now I’m super proud of it, and may or may not have a sequel (Probably not).

Blurb - Smokepaw has had feelings for his best friend, Fernpaw, for a short while now, but with apprentice duties and new frost appearing on the ground, he feels like all the pressure is too much. The problem is, Fernpaw seems to like Rosepaw, as he spends a lot of time with her. Will the worst Greencough season their clan has seen change everything?

Prologue

“Something is coming. I can feel it. The sky is nervous, the trees are on edge.” Pigeontail broke off, looked up at the sky, and a foreshadowing, knowing look spread across her face. She was receiving a prophecy from Starclan. Just then, a cloud in the sky seemed to vanish. Pigeontail came back to reality and looked to her leader.

“Greencough is coming and Starclan can do nothing to stop it. We must prepare.” Pigeontail rushed to her den, overreacting as she did sometimes. The Clan leader followed slowly, and leaped up onto his den, carved out by a stream that flowed many seasons ago. He called the words of summoning,

“All cats old enough to catch their own prey, join beneath me.” As all cats flowed out of their dens, he yelled the news, his gaze floating over every cat as he continued.

“Starclan has warned us of a plague of Greencough this Leaf-bare. I want every cat to collect whatever herbs Pigeontail needs, and I want all cats to mentally and physically prepare for sickness. Pigeontail, tell all cats what you want them to find. You will travel to each clan and tell them all we know.”

“But I-” Deerstar didn’t need to say anything. He just looked at back at Pigeontail and the authority in his gaze silenced her.

Chapter One

Smokepaw yawned as he heaved himself out of his nest. He was usually one of the first cats in the camp to be up. He loved the cool, crisp autumn air, but hated what it foreshadowed. Starvation and death, sickness and desperation. He shook his head to shoo those thoughts away.

Smokepaw decided he would start early in his apprentice duties. Yesterday, Elkstar told him he’d need to reinforce the den, so he walked towards the guards, and simply whispered,

“Early start.” Duskwind nodded his head politely and stepped back to let him through. He knew the way to the best brambles the forest had to offer;the leaning oak. He took a heavy branch, making sure not to cut his mouth on the thorns, and dragged it all the way to camp.

After three or four of these trips, most of the cats in camp had awoken and gone about their daily business, and Fernpaw, his long-time best friend, head butted him in the shoulder.

“How’d you carry all these?” He said with mock awe. Smokepaw swatted him in the ear lightly.

“With super strength. Now, help me put them on the apprentice den.” They dragged the brambles to the den and began their job.

After Sunhigh, both Smokepaw and Fernpaw lay down on rocks, out of breath and hot. Smokepaw gazed at Fernpaw, knowing that their “more than friendship” would be frowned upon by tradition. He snapped back to his thoughts and sighed. They could never be together. Fernpaw only thought of him as a friend.

Chapter Two

That day, Smokepaw woke up later, seemingly because of the work he did the day before. Fluffpelt, the deputy, called him from his den and said,

“Would you go hunting with Blacknose? You can bring a friend if you want.”He said. Smokepaw nodded and called over Fernpaw. He scampered to Smokepaw and asked,

“What’re we doing, lazy?”

“Hunting, and you’re coming with.”

They padded out into the forest, thick with prey before leaf-bare, and caught multiple pieces of prey each.

“This will double the food stock!” Blacknose exclaimed. She’d caught more pieces than either of them. They headed back to camp, and received plenty of awed stares. In their moment of pride, Pigeontail, the medicine cat, rushed out of the den and announced,

“Bluewing has whitecough!”

This sent some cats into despair, because Whitecough leads to Greencough, which can mean death. Hoping that the elder was alright, Pigeontail left camp to go find the essential herbs for treating these conditions. While that was happening, Fernpaw had slipped away to “hang out” with Rosepaw. He knew he shouldn’t, but he felt jealous of Rosepaw nonetheless.

Smokepaw just needed to accept that he wasn’t attracted to she-cats, and no toms seemed to like him. I shouldn’t be thinking about love as an apprentice. Nobody should be.

He wasn’t trying to discourage himself, so much as distract himself from Fernpaw and Rosepaw. The gathering was tonight, his last gathering as an Apprentice. He should be excited, not sad. He could think about a mate when he really needed one.

He took a vole from the fresh-kill pile, and went to give it to the elders, hoping to get a story out of them.

Chapter Three

Now there were three cats in the Medicine den. Two had whitecough. One had Greencough. They were being treated, yet nothing seemed to happen. Smokepaw, along with Fernpaw, Rosepaw and Heronpaw would receive their warrior names the next day. They’d all been chosen to go to the gathering.

Now on the way, Smokepaw hopped to catch up with Heronpaw. Heronpaw was a shy, yet kind apprentice. A little younger than Smokepaw, but not enough to matter.

"Hey, Heronpaw." Smokepaw said, not wanting to alarm the jumpy cat.

"Hey, Smokepaw," Heronpaw didn't sound happy at all.

"What's wrong?"

"Grasstail has Greencough."

"Oh." Smokepaw was no longer excited, he just felt bad for Heronpaw. His last gathering as an Apprentice, and his mother had Greencough. Fox-dung. I would hate for that to happen. Fernpaw had left Rosepaw, so Smokepaw strolled over to him.

"Grasstail has Greencough,"

"Ugh, that would be terrible," he replied.

The Gathering was normal; Windclan had one less elder and three more kits, ShadowClan had a weird Twoleg object and a new apprentice, Thunderclan had thick prey in the forest and another elder, and Smokepaw's clan had four about-to-be warriors. There were no tensions between the clans at the moment, yet all clans had at least one Greencough case.

Smokepaw had to sleep well that night, because the next day was a big day, and that night would be a very long night.

Chapter Four

On his big day, his mother woke him up just before sunhigh, as his ceremony was then, and tried to make his fur lay down. He let her make him look nice, and when she was done, Smokepaw had a little time to waste.

When it was time, Deerstar leaped up onto the Tree Trunk and called a meeting. When all of the cats were finally listening, the ceremony began.

“I, Deerstar, leader of Riverclan, call upon my warrior ancestors to look down on this apprentice. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as a warrior in their turn. Smokepaw, do you promise to uphold the warrior code and to protect and defend your Clan, even at the cost of your life?”

Smokepaw took a deep, meaningful breath.

“I-I do.”

“Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior name. Smokepaw, from this moment you will be known as Smokewind. StarClan honors your honesty and your dedication, and we welcome you as a full warrior of Riverclan.”

Smokewind walked, nervously, up to Deerstar. He rested his muzzle on Smokepaw’s head, and Smokewind licked Deerstar’s shoulder. He stepped back into the crowd, and the ceremony was repeated again, three more times for three different apprentices.

By the time he was done, the clan had four more warriors

Smokewind, Ferntail, Rosethorn and Heronwing.

Chapter Five

The Greencough was getting worse. Now a sixth of the cats in the territories had caught it. The leaders had agreed to move all of the sick cats to a sheltered spot just outside of Riverclan territory. Even though many cats had the sickness, none had died.

Smokewind was on dawn patrol with Spottedfur, Mapleclaw, and her apprentice, Oakpaw. Both warriors were older and more experienced than him. Luckily, the patrol didn’t run into any trouble. If they had, Smokewind might’ve fallen asleep.

They returned to camp, and while the other three cats reported to Deerstar, Smokewind flopped down in his nest by his friends.

When he finally woke up, past sunhigh, Ferntail greeted him.

“Lazy’s finally up, huh?” He chuckled.

“Lazy was on dawn patrol after his vigil, mousebrain.” Ferntail smiled

“Let’s go hunting!” He said innocently.

Don’t make me do this. Anything else.

They went hunting. Smokewind caught more prey than Ferntail.

“Ha! Lazy caught more prey than youuu!”

Ferntail looked down in mock shame, and they padded back to camp with their prey and dropped it on the pile. Soon after, Deerstar called a clan meeting.

“As you all know, Greencough has spread across the territories like it never has before. We had to put the sick cats in...quarantine. I just want you all to know that you must hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. That is all I have to say.”

Chapter Six

There had been a death. And another. And they just kept coming. The usual herbs did nothing. This wasn’t Greencough.

Heronwing’s Mother had died. It was even more depressing now that they couldn’t mourn the body, only the spirit. When a cat was gone, you never saw them again. He now shivered in his sleep, never getting a peaceful moment.

Smokewind and Ferntail were walking through the forest, talking. Ferntail ran ahead and found something weird.

“Ew! What is that?” Ferntail scrunched up his face and ran back to Smokewind.

“Come look!” Smokewind got up and jogged over to where Ferntail was pointing. He choked on the stench. He looked under a leaf, and what he saw amazed him. Ferntail’s dung. He smirked.

“This is the best you can do? You don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into.” He wasn’t sure Ferntail could hear him, as he was rolling around on the ground, laughing, thinking his prank was hilarious.

When he composed himself, Smokewind suggested that they head back and hunt on the way. They eventually caught a squirrel and a vole, and were praised at camp.

Unfortunately, there was bad news. Deerstar was finishing up a meeting, and the last words he said were,

“Gatherings are canceled.”

Smokewind’s jaw dropped. Had a gathering ever been canceled before? He didn’t think so. These were new times they were heading into. He hoped every cat could be prepared.

Chapter Seven

Smokewind had slept well, hoping he’d be chosen for his first gathering as a warrior, but was reminded of the fact that there would be no more gatherings until this mess was sorted out.

Already not having a great day, His mother called him over to the stump where she was sitting.

“Smokewind, I know you wanted to go hunting, but the clan leaders have implemented a new rule, that cats can only hunt for their family members, and when hunting, cats must soak their paws in a stream between each catch.”

Foxdung! I was going to catch a lot of prey. Smokewind growled. He nuzzled his mother and went over to break the news to his friends.

He thought they took it surprisingly well. He couldn’t help but feel a surge of sympathy for Heronwing. His mother was old, but strong. She shouldn‘t have died.

Smokewind was reluctant to only catch prey for his mother, but if he wanted to hunt, it was what he had to do. He soaked his paws in a stream, and it made hunting significantly harder, but he still managed to catch a Vole for his mother and a squirrel for him.

Chapter Eight

All of the clans we’re having trouble getting on. Now almost half the cats in camp were - he shuddered - Quarantined. Since this was a different type of Greencough, the traditional herbs did not help. There were now almost half of the total clan cats that are sick.

“It feels like some of me is missing, now that Rosethorn is sick,” Ferntail sighed.

Smokewind felt a growl rising inside of him. He fought to stifle it. The clans were in the middle of a plague, and he was worrying about who his crush liked. One of his best friends was violently ill, and he was worrying about himself.

“Yeah, We’re four, not three and a sick cat.” Smokewind replied.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. He scolded himself.

Smokewind decided he should hunt himself some prey. It didn’t take him long, and he had wanted something to do, so he gnawed on the squirrel he had caught. He arrived back at camp and the Thunderclan Medicine cat burst into camp.

“I’ve found a cure for the plague!”

All of the cats looked at Currytail now.

Their Medicine cat ran over to Currytail, and Smokewind decided he should leave this to the medicine cats. He set down his squirrel and curled his tail over his nose.

Chapter Nine

He couldn’t sleep. It felt like moons since day had turned into night. He was tired, but felt a little bit better. He went for a walk in the woods.

Eventually, he came upon Ferntail, sitting in a rock, ears down from the rain.

“Couldn’t sleep?” He asked sympathetically.

“Yeah,” came the late reply.

“You know,” Ferntail heaved a deep sigh.

“With Rosethorn and now my mother ill, you and Heronwing are really the only ones I can talk to. And Heronwing, he’s just...different. Not bad, but if you need someone to confide in, his attitude might not make you feel better.”

This wasn’t Ferntail, he never acted like this. Smokewind sat beside him, but immediately jumped away, as if he was wary of Ferntail.

“What is it?” He questioned, not moving.

“You-your b-breath...you’re wheezing. Your eyes are wet, and you keep sniffling. Your ears are filled with wax!” He paced around, panicked.

“F-Ferntail, I think you have the disease. We need to get back to camp. You need to get back to camp now.”

Ferntail, now as panicked as Smokewind. He sprinted towards camp, Smokewind following, but he couldn’t make it. Smokewind had to support his shoulder all the way back to camp. The medicine cats had immediately rushed him to the Riverclan camp with all the others, as that was where massive clumps of the new herb were growing.

Smokewind was given poppyseeds, so he could sleep until he was called for patrol.

Chapter Ten

Smokewind paced in his dreams, always having nightmares of cats dying or him being the only healthy cat. He woke up some nights, sweating, panting as if he’d just run from the lake to the horseplace and back.

He was worried about all of the cats who were sick, but the cat who he worried about most was Ferntail. He may never find another cat who he could trust as much as Ferntail. Plus...he wanted to be with Ferntail. Ferntail may not have known his secret, but Smokewind was sure he wouldn’t treat him any differently.

“Smokewind!” Blacknose was calling him.

“Come to the training hollow with Mousepaw and I. I need to assess you, and you could help me train him.”

Smokewind didn’t even need to hear it all, he skittered right over to Blacknose.

Finally, something to do!

When they arrived at the training hollow, they had to wait for the small apprentice to catch up. Blacknose wanted to teach some moves to Mousepaw, and then send him back to camp so she could assess Smokewind. Blacknose stepped out of the way, and the training session began.

“Okay, Mousepaw, attack me.”

The apprentice sprung straight at Smokewind’s head, but he ducked and the apprentice went sailing into the undergrowth.

“Surprise is the warrior’s greatest weapon. Don’t look right where you’re going to attack; the enemy will react quickly.”

Mousepaw looked at his head once again, but this time he dove under Smokewind’s paws. He leaped up, turned around in the air, and landed with all four paws on top of the apprentice.

“You need to use your size and speed to your advantage. I’m much bigger and heavier than you, so I will easily overpower you.”

Blacknose stepped into the arena.

“That’s enough for today. Go back to camp, Mousepaw, and work on what Smokewind taught you.”

She paused, and waited for Mousepaw to leave.

“You can defeat an apprentice, but what about a real warrior?”

Chapter Eleven

Before Blacknose even got to strike, Smokewind sat up.

“Do you hear that?” He didn’t wait for a reply.

“We need to go to the Windclan border now! I’ll fetch cats from camp!”

Smokewind raced back to camp.

“We’re fighting Windclan. I don‘t know how many, but it sounds like we’re losing.”

Without checking to see if any cats were following, he sped away from camp. Eventually, he looked back and saw a patrol of six or seven cats following him. He relaxed a little. When the fighting cats came into view, he saw some of his own cats limping away.

Have they brought their entire camp?

Deerstar sped ahead of him and yelled,

“Stop!” Nothing happened, so he yelled louder. “Stop!”

The cats broke away from eachother, panting.

“What is this? Why are Windclan on our territory? Please explain, Stonestar.”

Stonestar replied in his low, gravelly voice,

“All of the rabbits on the moor are sick. We need different prey to hunt.”

Without warning, he sprang at Deerstar, and the fighting continued. Smokewind spotted a tan warrior. Duskpelt! Smokewind had the high ground, so he leaped onto the cat’s back, clawing his ears. Duskpelt retaliated, crushing Smokewind by flipping over. He then tried to jump on Smokewind’s belly, but Smokewind caught him with his front paws and clawed his belly with the back ones.

Chapter Twelve

The Riverclan warriors had fought back hard, driving Windclan back into their own territory. They had retreated, but still sat on the border. Stonestar was furious.

“How dare you refuse to help my clan? If you didn’t hear me before, our prey is dying.” Deerstar thought hard.

“Fine. We will take in elders, queens and kits. Warriors must stay. Try Thunderclan, they’ve always accepted cats.” Stonestar took a step forward, as if he was going to fight Deerstar again, but then realized what a mouse-brained move that would be; if he attacked, Deerstar may not take in any cats. Stonestar dipped his head, and his elders stepped across first. Then the kits, then the queens.

Smokewind was playing with a few of the kits when Blacknose strolled over to him again.

“Just can’t keep away, can you?” He mewed humorously.

“I don‘t believe I need to assess your fighting skills, but since some of our kits need mentors, I want to know how you’ll do training an apprentice. Come help me train Mousepaw again.”

Smokewind followed her and her apprentice to the training hollow. Mousepaw seemed excited to have Smokewind mentoring him again.

“Okay, Mousepaw. Has Blacknose taught you the hunting crouch yet?” He shook his head.

“Alright, can you copy me?” He squatted down in the perfect hunting crouch. Mousepaw, on the other hand, didn’t. Smokewind walked over and corrected Mousepaw gently. If this was what being a mentor was all about, he wanted to mentor every kit in the clan. He loved it.

Chapter Thirteen

Days later, three kits, Peachkit, Treekit, and Leafkit were ready to be apprenticed. He had been selected to mentor Peachkit.

As Deerstar leaped onto the Tree Trunk, Smokewind was glowing with pride.

“Peachkit, Treekit, Leafkit, you have reached the age of six moons, and it is time for you to be apprenticed. Peachkit, from this day on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Peachpaw. Your mentor will be Smokewind. I hope Smokewind will pass down all of his clever thinking and hunting skills on to you.”

Now addressing Smokewind, he continued.

“Smokewind, you are ready to take on an apprentice. You have received excellent training from Barknose and you have shown yourself to be honest and dedicated to your work. You will be the mentor of Peachpaw and I expect you to pass on all you know to her.”

His body was near shaking with pride, but Peachpaw could see it in his eyes; he wanted to be the best mentor he could. They touched noses. She was going to be a pawful, he could tell from her late kithood, but he knew she’d turn into a great warrior.

Deerstar waited for the cheers to die down, and continued.

“Treekit, from this day on, you will be called Treepaw. Your mentor will be Watertail. I know she will pass down all of her fighting skills on to you. She has had an apprentice before, so she knows the do’s and do not’s of being a mentor.”

All of the cats now turned to look at Watertail.

“Watertail. You are ready to take on yet another apprentice. You have receive excellent training from Thrushtail, who is, sadly, not with us anymore, and have shown yourself to be loyal and skillful, and I know you will be a great mentor to Treekit.”

They touched noses, and cheers erupted from the crowd once again.

“Leafkit,” Deerstar continued.

“You will now be known as Leafpaw. Until you receive your warrior name, you must train under the teachings of your mentor, Heronwing. I hope he will pass down his thinking skills and tactics to you. He has shown himself to be shy, yet genius, and he will teach you all he knows.

Addressing the third and final mentor, Deerstar concluded.

“Heronwing, you are ready for your first apprentice. You have recieved excellent training from Blacknose, and have shown yourself to be smart and loyal. I know you will be the best mentor possible for Leafkit.”

Deerstar sat back and the celebration began.

“Peachpaw! Treepaw! Leafpaw!” The cats chanted. He sat back, knowing that the next day would certainly be an experience.

Chapter Fourteen

With Windclan cats in the camp, the apprentice ceremony felt a little awkward, but Smokewind was sure the kits didn’t care. Peachpaw was creeping up on him, heading towards his tail. As she braced, ready to pounce, he launched himself into the air, and came down a whisker-length from Peachpaw’s nose.

Peachpaw squealed in alarm, then eventually settled down.

Smokewind chuckled. “Your hunting technique was all wrong. Your tail was waving in the air, so anything could detect you, your front legs were splayed out, and your belly fur wasn’t anywhere even near the ground.”

Peachpaw sat up, and licked her chest fur self-consciously, not because she had been criticized, but because she had done it all wrong.

“Heronwing,” Smokewind called, “Get Watertail and let’s explore the territory.”

Smokewind waited until eventually they popped out of their dens, and Smokewind routinely let the older cat pass him, and take the lead. She hesitated.

“You know Smokewind,” she paused. “If you’re going to lead patrols one day, you need to start doing it. Take the lead.”

Smokewind shot Heronwing a glance, and he shrugged.

“O-okay.” He replied. The patrol left camp, heading towards the sandy clearing. They made it around to the Windclan side, and caught a whiff of a patrol of cats. They smelled like Thunderclan.

“Intruders!” Smokewind yelled. Before he could get over there, he had a reply.

“No!” Came a distant voice. “It’s Ferntail and other recovered cats!” Smokewind slowed down, making his fur lie flat, and when he was back with Watertail, she shot him an amused glance.

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