Episode 4, Season 1 of War.
There's a certain, unavoidable part of life when your parents will sit you down and attempt to explain to you (in a totally non-embarrassing fashion) about kits. Usually at this point you will try to run away, but since your parents were once apprentices and are familiar with the fleeing patterns of a young cat trying to avoid the most awkward conversation of their lives, they will catch you rather quickly.
And then they'll tell you. About the wonders of love and how when a she-cat and a tom love each other very very much...
Well yeah, stuff happens.
All of this is running through my head when I'm crouched low on the forest floor, covered in mud, getting pricked by a bush, and whispering, "Come here little kit!" like some kind of creeper.
The kit in question is a dark tabby with sky blue eyes and I'm not sure if it's a tom or a she-cat, but it's mewling and its eyes are wide with terror. I sit up and sigh. The kit is obviously afraid of me, what am I doing? But I can't just leave it here...
"Brookfall!" I look up, expecting to see golden eyes and a dark pelt, but instead am perhaps not-so-pleasantly surprised with Oakclaw's loud call, "Brookfall, where are you?"
"Here," I meow sheepishly, well aware of the burrs in my pelt the twig on my head. Oakclaw stops and eyes me with amusement. He's definitely cute, there's no denying it- golden fur and playful eyes. But underneath is an arrogant sexist tom who is particularly good at fighting and knows it. Besides, I prefer darker pelted toms. Whose names rhyme with Horsehur.
"What are you- is that a kit?" he peers under the bush and suddenly retracts with a yelp, "StarClan's kits that bush is prickly!"
I smack him with my paw, "Shush, don't let the kit here you cursing like that!"
He snorts, "It won't remember anything, it's just a dumb kit."
"River!" the kit has begun squeaking, "River! Pine!"
I peer under the bush again, "Hey little...um...kit. It's okay, why don't you come out and we can go find your parents!"
"River!" the kit wails, "Pine!"
"Is that your mom and dad?" I ask helplessly. The kit just wails louder. I sigh and turn to Oakclaw, "Where's Gorsefur? And the rest of them?"
"Back at the camp site," he nods in the direction, "They noticed you were missing and sent me to come find you."
I feel a stab of disappointment that Gorsefur didn't come look for me himself when I see something out of the corner of my eye. I turn and look around, alert, "Did you see that?"
There it is again! I say so and Oakclaw narrows his eyes and attempts to focus. A few moments pass and he turns back to me, "Brookfall, there's nothing the-"
He lets out a gasp of shock as a gray streak falls out a tree and hits him on the back.
"River!" the kit shouts happily.
"Oakclaw!" I take a step towards him only to be knocked down myself. I wriggle over to stare into the leaf green eyes of a brown apprentice-aged tom. Pine?
I try to claw out, not putting much force behind the blow, only to have the tom dart around me. "Come here you little-" my breath is knocked out again as more weight drops on top of me. I fall to the ground, struggling to get up, but more and more weight presses down on me. I turn my head to the left and see Oakclaw struggling under a writhing mass of...apprentices?
I hiss and bat at the apprentices who dodge my blows and continue to wear me down. Oakclaw’s letting out muffled curses and I can’t turn to see how he’s doing because there’s too many little cats. I have to be careful not to hit to hard or scratch them because they’re practically kittens, but they have no such qualms. Blood runs through my fur and I wonder what I’m supposed to do, bleed to death to keep my ethics? Apparently yes.
There’s a rustle in the bushes and all I can think is Oh StarClan, more of them…
And then a silver tabby head pokes out. “Silverflower!” I shriek happily, only to get pulled back down to the ground by the smaller cats.
“Brookefall? Oakclaw? What are you doing?” She notices the tiny cats, seemingly for the first time and the blood on our pelts. Her expression grows stony and her fur puffs out, “Stop that this instant!”
Amazingly, the young cats pause in their battle against us. They look at Silverflower with wide eyes and she steps forward, tail lashing.
“What do you think you’re doing? Where are your parents? You’re going to be in so much trouble when they find out that you’ve been harassing members of the Army!”
The kit from earlier bursts into tears and Silverflower shoots a glare at it, “Oh hush! Look at what you’ve been doing! What in StarClan possessed you to attack two cats who were only trying to help?”
“We thought they were taking Sky…” Pine meows shamefully.
“Well I can tell you that they weren’t. This was childish and cruel and I want all of you to apologize. This instant!”
The apprentices turn towards the general direction of where Oakclaw and I lay in a heap and mutter various apologies.
“Good,” Silverflower seems satisfied. “Now, where are your parents?”
“Not here,” River meows. Her gray fur is sleek and she barely looks like she’s been in a scuffle. It’s like looking at a young Silverflower. “FireClan took them.”
Silverflower’s eyes widen and she starts cooing, “Oh you poor things!” The angry mother-like she-cat from before has vanished.
Sometimes, I do not understand the universe.
Oakclaw gets to his feet and mutters something about getting the others. He avoids eye contact with any of us on his way out and I can’t help but snort a little. Just because I was getting beaten up by the same kits he was doesn’t make it any less funny.
“Well this won’t do,” Silverflower is continuing. "We'll have to send word back to Main Camp and get a squad to escort you there."
"What?" Pine squawks, "I don't want to go to live at Main! We like it here!"
None of the others respond and one of the younger cats raises a paw. "Can you get our parents back?"
I get up and share a glance with Silverflower. Badgerstrike has commands that he won't tell us about, which seem to be taking precedence. But can't we try and help out some poor kits?
"We'll try," Silverflower meows. The kits seem appeased and a moment later, the rest of my squad bursts through the bushes. Badgerstrike is in the lead followed by an anxious looking Gorsefur. Shadowsong and Oakclaw follow, Oakclaw looking ruffled and Shadowsong looking particularly entertained. Adderscar, the last member, is no where to be seen.
"Where's the shrimp?" Silverflower asks.
"Heading to Main to tell them about this situation." Badgerstrike responds. He turns to me, "I can't believe that you two got creamed by a bunch of kits. What kind of warriors are you?!"
"At least they're okay," Gorsefur soothes, warm golden eyes meeting mine.
"You make it sound like they just got out of a battle," Shadowsong snorts. She shoots a glance at Oakclaw with an expression I can't quite fathom, then turns to the kits. "Alright, which one of you beat him up? I want to thank you!"
There are a few squeaks and Oakclaw shoves her. But he's purring and seems more like himself then before.
"Do you have a camp?" Gorsefur is asking River and Pine.
Apparently pleased to be treated like a warrior and not like a kit, Pine shakes his head, "No, we just move wherever there's prey."
"Alright," Gorsefur nods, "Then we'll wait here for Adderscar and the other squad to get back."
The older cats all sit and when Pine and River approach us eagerly, Silverflower shoos them away, "Go to bed!"
"Nasty little things," Oakclaw meows.
"Come on," Silverflower purrs, "Have you never wanted kits?"
Something flickers in Oakclaw's eyes, but then it's gone. "What? I owe it to the she-cats to stay available!" He tries to wrap his tail around Shadowsong and she shoves him off, laughing.
"Would you want kits?" I ask Silverflower curiously.
She nods, "After I find the perfect tom, we're going to settle down and have two litters." she wrinkles her nose, "Once I'm done with this awful Army stint of course."
"What about you Brookfall?" Gorsefur's eyes are unreadable and I feel the tips of my ears go hot.
"I never really thought about it. I mean, we're all a little young..."
"No fun!" Oakclaw shouts from where he's getting pummeled by Shadowsong. I purr.
"Okay, fine." I think, "I guess I always just...assumed I'd have kits. And besides that, I never gave it much thought."
"I'm just glad Adderscar isn't here," Gorsefur grins, "He'd probably tell us exactly how illogical it is for us all to have perfectly healthy kits and great relationships." We all laugh.
Shadowsong and Oakclaw rejoin us at the circle and I look over. Shadowsong's eyes glow in the light, a shade darker then Gorsefur's. The first time I saw her I had wondered if they were related. Oakclaw's more normal amber eyes are twinkling as well. In a way that makes me look at the two for a moment and...no. What am I thinking? Shadowsong and Oakclaw? Not in a million years.
The idea of that both makes me incredibly uncomfortable and happily hopeful as well as gives me a terrible urge to laugh. I turn back to the others and catch Gorsefur's eye. He looks away, embarrassed. I look down at the ground too, but my heart pounds.
He was looking at me.
"Well I'd never want kits." Shadowsong says, "I want to be a warrior all my life."
"Plus, you'd probably eat them anyways," Oakclaw points out reasonably. And then they're at it again. Silverflower grooms and I can't help thinking how great a mother she would make- patient but also surprisingly scary when necessary. Badgerstrike I could see telling the kits war stories in the elders' den, but I'm not sure if he would ever have kits of his own.
I sneak a look at Gorsefur and he's still staring at the ground. I pad over to him, "Hey."
"Hey," he purrs and my heart flutters. Just a little.
"The kits want us to find their parents," I tell him.
He sighs and looks up at the stars. Maybe praying to StarClan. "I know. And I want to. But this mission..." he shakes his head, "It's important. And I don't think Badgerstrike or Main will let us go off on a wild goose chase."
"But it's not a wild goose chase!" I retort.
"I know that. But they don't. And that's what worries me." He looks so torn I feel bad for snapping at him. It can't be easy being second, being forced to carry out orders you don't agree with. I press against him comfortingly and he turns and looks at me. "Thanks."
"No problem," I meow. Sparks trail from his fur to mine and I feel giddy with the joy of being here and the joy of being with him and the joy of helping a bunch of brutal kits who almost killed me.
"Would you want kits?" I ask after a while.
He smiles, "Yeah. But I also want to keep fighting...I just want to...save the world. You know?"
I nodded. "Well, if it helps, I think you'd make a great father."
He purrs, "And you'd make a great mother."
The awkwardness of the fact we're complimenting each others parenting skills is overshadowed by the fact I'm still pressed against him.
As if he can read my mind, he stands, "I should probably go to bed..." He nods a good night and pads over to take a nest close to where the kits huddle.
I purr and head off to my own nest. Not failing to notice that Oakclaw and Shadowsong have taken a position on a rock by the river and are talking. Probably insulting each other, but still. I stifle a laugh and head to bed.