Two lonely cats.
One chance meeting.
One true love.
- 1 Blurb
- 2 Chapter One - Jerry -
- 3 Chapter Two - Irisheart -
- 4 Chapter Three - Jerry
- 5 Chapter Four - Irisheart
- 6 Chapter Five - Jerry
- 7 Chapter Six - Irisheart
- 8 Chapter Seven - Jerry
- 9 Chapter Eight - Irisheart
- 10 Chapter Nine - Jerry
- 11 Chapter Ten - Irisheart
- 12 Chapter Eleven - Jerry
- 13 Chapter Twelve - Irisheart
- 14 Chapter Thirteen - Jerry
- 15 Chapter Fourteen - Irisheart
- 16 Chapter Fifteen - Jerry
- 17 Chapter Sixteen - Irisheart
Irisheart has finally achieved her dream: she has left behind her old life as a loner, and become a full member of NightClan. But when she meets a kind, yet mysterious tom called Jerry, all the claws of her past come out to clutch at her. Is one cat really worth her whole life was a warrior? And how much does Jerry really mean to her?
Meanwhile, Jerry has had his own struggles. He's been hurt, loved, and lost. Now, upon meeting Irisheart, he feels found again. She's everything he's ever wanted. But he's thought that before; it only let him down.
How much can two cats risk for each other? And how far will they go to answer these questions?
Chapter One - Jerry -
Jerry sniffed around the alley for some prey. He was very hungry, after all he shared his food with his parents. His parents were old, yet strong, but Jerry hunted for them because that's just what he did out of the goodness of his heart. He was younger than them, stronger than them, and could tolerate the cold more than they could. It would only make sense if he helped them out after the long moons they spent caring for him when he was a kit.
A mouse scrabbled near a wall and he pounced and killed it. The small warm body started to cool instantly in the icy gutter. He picked it up by his tail and headed back to his and his parents' den near a stream in the forest.
I can hunt for a little while longer, he decided. He sniffed the air once more. He smelled a thrush, the stale scent of a vole, and the heavy scent of border markers. His parents told him that strange wild cats lived there as a whole, protecting one another and hunting for each other. It sounded nice, but Jerry was used to his loner life, and he didn't know what the cats would think of him.
Jerry sniffed the air again. He could smell another mouse. He crouched low, narrowing his eyes, watching the scrawny mouse scamper over the frosty ground. It picked up a small seed and started to eat it. Jerry pounced and killed it with a snap of its neck, then lashed the air with a paw and a thrush came down. It flopped to the ground, wailing and bleeding from its wing and Jerry felt a pang of sympathy. He thought that it might have eggs to tend to and a mate to go home to. He wished he could fix it. He picked up the thrush, which whimpered and brought the prey into the den.
"Mom, can you fix the thrush?" Jerry asked setting the bird and the mice down.
"Jerry, why on earth would you want to save a thrush?" his dad asked.
"Because, I thought it might have a mate to find and a nest to go to. I feel like that thrush, too. I feel like that, too. I feel like there is more for me beyond the den where I was born,"
Jerry's mother got out a bunch of herbs and started to work on that poor thrush, meowing, "Jerry, you aren't obligated to stay and look after us. Go live a life."
Jerry felt a rush of excitement, then he meowed, "Yeah, but, I would hate to leave you guys."
"Jerry, we can look after ourselves," his dad meowed.
"Ok," Jerry meowed with a smile, "I will go live! But if you ever need anything just ask."
His mother nodded and nudged the thrush. The thrush hopped on Jerry's shoulder.
Jerry padded out of the den as the thrush flexed his wing. He started looking for a good place to make a den, that was close to his parents, but gave him his space.
He gazed out across the stream and saw a small bit of movement. A patrol of cats emerged and marked the borders. Jerry's eyes fell on a pale gray she-cat with tabby stripes bringing up the rear. He wondered what it was like to be those cats. His eyes locked with the she-cat for a moment, then the patrol disappeared into the forest. Jerry padded away looking for a good denning place. He was happy to be on his own, but his mind wandered to the group of cats. What was it like to be them?
Chapter Two - Irisheart -
The wind ruffled through Irisheart's fur, slicking it down in some places, and ruffling it up in others. She gave it a half-hearted lick, knowing it was no use; her fur had a mind of its own. Giving a shrug, she padded farther away from the camp, lost in her own little world, though this was supposed to be a hunting expedition, as originally intended. Okay, maybe not completely. She had wanted some time to herself, to just get away from it all and relax. And what better way to do that then go on a hunt?
As if in answer, she tripped over a rock, sending a nearby mouse fleeing for cover. Irisheart rolled her eyes and told herself, Get a grip. Waving her tail back and forth, she focused intently on the air around her. What she smelled was the faint scent of prey, and above that... the scent of cat. Fresh, unfamiliar, and close.
She hesitated. The logical thing would be to go back to camp and inform their deputy of what had happened. But she had never been logical. Without wasting another second, Irisheart padded along the scent, not sure what she would find. Not knowing that it was about to change her life.
Emerging onto the edge of a large plain, Irisheart paused, not sure if she should continue. Beyond this wasn't NightClan's territory, but the scent was continuing...
Suddenly, she froze. Was that a cat?
Squinting, she realized it was, a brown tabby tom, heading her way. All her warrior instincts kicked in; she began to growl and claw at the ground, before she realized that his hazel eyes were friendly and warm. Besides that, there was something incredibly nice about him that made her want to protect him, not hurt him. Still, he was an intruder, and she was a Clan cat. She couldn't let him get away with being so close to their territory.
"Who are you?" she snarled. "And what are you doing here?"
He stopped, looking taken aback by her hostility, and she felt a pang of regret that she quickly pushed away.
"I'm Jerry," he said. "And uh... Sorry if I'm not supposed to be here. What's your name?"
Against her will, Irisheart heard herself say, almost like she couldn't help talking to him, "Irisheart. The reason you're not supposed to be here is because this is NightClan's border." When he just stared at her, she added, "My Clan." It felt good to say that.
"Oh. Sorry again. I'm not a Clan cat; I didn't know. I'll go now."
Despite herself, Irisheart said, "No, wait. It's okay. I mean... Do you live around here?"
"Yeah," he said. "I just struck out on my own."
"Cool. So you're a loner?" she asked, trying to hide her disgust of that word. Not that being a loner was always a bad thing, it was just.... her experience as one had scarred her for life. Now any time she heard it, dark memories started crawling up her throat, and she had to struggle internally to push them down.
Jerry nodded, then glanced around. "Listen Irisheart, I know this sounds weird, but do you have some time to talk? I think..." he glanced at his paws, "I'd like to get to know you better."
Irisheart felt torn. Should she go back to camp now? But he seemed so friendly... "Okay," she said, sitting beside him. "Let's talk."
Chapter Three - Jerry
Jerry felt a burst of enthusiasm at talking to this Clan cat.
Her name is Irisheart, he thought, Pretty name.
"I have been wondering about the Clan," Jerry started, "What's it called?"
"NightClan," Irisheart purred, a hint of amusement in her voice.
"Yeah, I've seen groups of cats come by often. I have always wondered what it was like to live in a big group of cats," Jerry meowed.
"Well," Irisheart began with a sigh, "We all live together in a camp with many dens. One is the nursery, where the queens go when they are nursing kits, and the Clans look after them. When the kits are six moons, the move to the apprentices's den and get a mentor to train them while the queens go back to warrior duties. Then, after they have trained for six more moons, or if they show valiance in battle or something, the earn their warrior names. They move to the warriors's den. When a cat is chosen to be deputy and the leader dies, the deputy becomes leader and moves to the leader's den. When cats retire, they move to the elders's den. Then there's the medicine den, where sick or injured cats are cared for by a medicine cat. We share prey and we hunt together. NightClan is united against common enemies. Unfortunately, loners are enemies, but thankfully they took me into the Clan."
Jerry was drinking all this information in and listening whole-heartedly. The Clan sounded wonderful, but would he want to take orders from a leader and give up lots of freedom.
"You were a loner, too?" Jerry asked.
Irisheart nodded, "I didn't like it."
"But didn't you get more freedom as a loner than in the Clan?" Jerry asked.
"Kind of... I had my own name, but I had no problem changing it, and I did roam, but I had no friends. In the Clan, we all care for each other and we take care of the sick and injured. I like it in the Clan. And I'm sure Stormstar would accept you into the Clan, too," Irisheart meowed, shuffling her paws.
"Sounds nice, even though my parents still care for me. I'll think about it," Jerry meowed, "Thanks for your help, Irisheart. Maybe we can meet tomorrow and we can talk some more."
Irisheart's eyes glowed, but she hesitated, "Ok, I would like that."
Jerry grinned, "Thanks!" and gave her a grateful lick before padding back in the direction of his den and the hunting ground near it to catch prey for his parents.
Chapter Four - Irisheart
Irisheart stood still for a little bit, her cheek warm where he had licked her, the rest of her shivering in the cold. Shaking her head slowly, an irrepressible smile forming on her face, she made her way back to camp. Much as she loved her Clanmates, it was nice to speak to someone who knew what her previous life had been, much as she disliked the memories that came washing back with those thoughts. And there was something else about Jerry, something incredibly special-
Glancing to see where the voice had come from, Irisheart spotted a small silver she-cat heading towards her. "Hey Skymist," she purred at her friend.
"Cloudypaw and Splashpaw were too 'busy' to spend time with their dear old mother, so I just went out from a hunt." Her golden eyes softened. "They're not kits anymore."
"No, no they aren't," she agreed. "But you did a great job of raising that. No one could have done better."
Skymist gave her a warm smile, then sniffed her pelt interestedly. "You smell like... another cat. But it's not a NightClan scent."
A blush colored Irisheart's pale cheeks. For some reason she didn't want to give away Jerry's position, even though any other warrior would've, given that he was so close to NightClan territory. But she felt a strange desire to protect him. After all, if she told anyone, they might drive him away, and then she'd never get to see him again, or get to know him better. Irisheart didn't know why that would matter, but it did. "Oh, must've been some odd rogue passing through. I'm sure it's stale now though," she added hastily.
"Right," Skymist said. Then she pricked her ears. "Well, there's Ashflight. Got to go. See you around!"
"See you!" Irisheart waved her tail limply as she watched Skymist race up to her dark gray mate and rub her chin against his. A pang of some queer emotion tugged at her heart as she saw how happy they were together. Could she ever care about a tom that much, to spend her whole life with just that one?
For some reason, an image of Jerry's hazel eyes entered her mind at the instant. Shaking it off, she padded back to the warrior's den. Whitepool, a white she-cat, raised her head and smiled as she entered, nodding a greeting which Irisheart returned as she reached her nest.
At least I get to meet Jerry tomorrow, she thought blissfully as sleep overcame her. That's definitely something to look forward to.
She didn't catch the suspcious pair of eyes on her, or the shadow that melted away, vowing to find out what was going on.
Chapter Five - Jerry
Jerry padded out of his den and stretched, anticipating his meeting with the Clan cat. He wanted to learn all about the Clan, but first, he wanted to hunt and enjoy the morning, and to give some prey to his parents.
He sniffed the air for some prey. The leaf-bare sun glowed on his pelt and warmed in and the thin layer of snow reflected on his hazel eyes. He smelled the crisp, fresh smell of snow, voles, birds, mice, a badger, the NightClan border marks, and a tangy scent he didn't recognize.
I'll have to warn my parents about the badger, he thought. He padded on, along the border of NightClan, hunting, his eyes scanning for prey. He saw a mouse and pounced killing it by snapping its neck.
A chirp above him made him look up and he saw a thrush. It was the trush he had saved. Jerry smiled as he saw it was flying normally again. The bird landed on a limb and jerked his head toward the NightClan border.
Jerry didn't really think much of it and he continued to hunt.
Before long, he had caught two rabbits and two mice plus the one he had caught earlier. He headed in the direction of his parents' den.
"Hey! Jerry!" his dad meowed from his moss as he entered the den.
"Hello, Jerry," his mom called.
"Hi," Jerry meowed, "I brought some prey for you."
"Oh, thank you, Jerry," his mother meowed, "Where are you off to today?"
Jerry sat down and started to groom his pelt, "I'm just going to hang around today. I'm meeting a cat from NightClan. I'm thinking about joining them, but I'm worried about you. By the way, there's a badger around."
"He's grown up so fast," his mother fussed, giving Jerry a lick on the ear, "And you don't have to worry about us. We are still young and strong."
"I suppose your right," Jerry admitted. He waved his tail, "I'm off."
Jerry padded out of the den and sniffed the air again. He had a little time before he was going to meet Irisheart.
A sharp pain seared his paw and he yelped, bringing up his paw. A sharp rock was stuck in his pad. He bounced on his three other paws and he yanked the rock out and gave it a rough lick.
The scents he had earlier were coming back now. The scent he didn't recognize was blood.
NightClan. Blood. Badger.
He broke into a run, ignoring the pain in his paw, diving into the forest across the NightClan border and running. Yowls of cats became louder and filled with pain and fury. One yowl belonged to Irisheart.
Jerry crashed into the clearing. A couple of badgers was fighting so many cats. It looked to him like half the Clan was fighting. He saw Irisheart's silvery fur streak across the clearing and jump onto a badger's back.
The badger threw her off and a few badgers surrounded Irisheart.
"Irisheart!" Jerry whispered, his eyes wide. Anger filled him and he charged at the badgers, ramming one out of the way with his strong shoulders. He turned, clawing the others across the face angrily. He fought with all the strength and fury he could muster.
Jerry shook the blood from his face as the badgers ran off. Irisheart was panting, her violet-blue eyes looking up at him with gratitude and warmth.
He helped Irisheart up and he noticed a cat at the edge of the clearing, merely a shadow, glaring at them suspiciously. He couldn't see who it was though.
So rude, Jerry thought.
Irisheart bounded out of the clearing beckoning Jerry with her tail. He followed her to the pine copse where they sat down and began to talk.
Chapter Six - Irisheart
Not knowing what to say, Irisheart closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the piney air, trying to calm herself down. Her wounds from the badger attack still stung, but she hardly noticed. Jerry had saved her. He had risked his own life for her. The notion made her feel ridiculously happy, like she was walking on clouds.
Opening her eyes, she faced him. He was staring at her with concern, as if still not sure if she would make it. A purr rose in her throat, and she leaned forward and touched her nose to his ear. "I'm fine. Thanks to you."
He blushed modestly and mumbled, "It was nothing. I couldn't let them hurt you."
They gazed at each other for a moment, silence hanging between them like a canyon. Then Irisheart said, "I really am grateful, Jerry. Without you, I wouldn't be alive right now."
"Like I said, it was nothing."
But it was. She stared at him longingly. There was so much she wanted to say, and not enough time to put it into words.
As if to prove that, she heard her Clanmates' voices. "Irisheart! Where are you?"
Guilt coursed through her, and then she felt even more guilty for feeling guilty. Why was it a bad thing to be caught with Jerry? But she knew her Clan wouldn't see it that way. They already doubt me because I used to be a loner. If they catch me talking to another loner, they'll question my loyalty.
A glance into Jerry's warm hazel eyes melted her though. He was almost worth it. Still, she said, "My Clanmates won't like it if they find you here."
He nodded understandingly. "I get it. But... Can we meet tonight?"
She darted forward and licked him on the cheek before she could overthink her reply. "Of course."
Flashing her a heart-wrenchingly sweet smile, Jerry turned and raced away into the trees. Just as he vanished, a head poked into the pine copse. "Irisheart! There you are!"
Turning, she saw Owlmask regarding her with hostility in his green eyes. "Yes?"
"We thought something had happened to you," he said. Suspicion crept into his face. "What are you doing all the way here?"
"I... Just making sure the badger is gone."
He didn't look convinced. "The badger ran the other way, Irisheart."
"Oh," she said lamely.
Suddenly a warm smile appeared on his face, so false it made her want to throw up. He took a step forward and wrapped his tail around her so tightly she could hardly breathe. "Never mind that. We have some time alone. Why not utilize it?"
Strugggling to pull away, Irisheart mewed, "I'd rather just go back to camp and help out with repairs."
"Suit yourself," he snarled, stalking ahead of her.
A troubled feeling settled over Irisheart. What did Owlmask want from her? Did he suspect about Jerry? Casting one last glance over her shoulder, she trotted back to camp.
Chapter Seven - Jerry
Jerry ran along the stream's edge, letting his breath billow out of him like a fluffy cloud, and breathing cold crisp air back in. His wounds from the badgers stung against the cold and he winced, trying to chase the pain away. Some herbs would do him good.
Plus, I have to catch prey for when I meet Irisheart tonight.
He felt his cheeks flush at the thought of her.
Why am I blushing? he asked himself.
He shrugged, but halted as he saw a small, half-withered clump of marigold. He took a few leaves and squeezed the juice onto his wounds before dressing them with cobwebs. As he worked, his thoughts flew elsewhere, back to the battle. Or after it anyway.
Who was that strange cat? In the shadows? He was staring at me, as if I were some rotten prey.
Is it possible he detests loners more than the rest, or maybe the fact that she seems disinterested in the toms of the Clan.
He thought about this and he realized that Irisheart showed no interest in toms...
And a thought wacked him in the side of the head
...Except for me...
Jerry heard his heart pounding in his ears. Could it be possible that Irisheart was crushing on him, and that the rude shadow was jealous? Suspicous maybe?
And could it be possible, that I like her, too. He tried to shake the thought away. His main intentions for talking to a Clan cat was to learn about the Clan and to see if joining it was worth his while.
He looked at the sun, which was just starting to sink on the horizon. It was time to meet Irisheart and to find out more about the Clan and probably make his final decision about joining NightClan, or leaving it forever.
Just the thought of leaving it and made his heart ache a bit. Pushing it aside, he caught some prey. He had caught a fish, a mouse, and a sparrow when he saw a rabbit a bit away. He stalked it slowly, making sure he was in the right position, then he pounced.
His head knocked into something hard and warm and he looked up into the hostile amber eyes of a tom. The tom was obviously not from the Clan, and his gray pelt clung to his scrawny frame.
"Give me this!" the rogue spat, "Or you will die." Then the gray tom laughed, "Who care's, you'll die anyway. Let's battle for this rabbit, to the death."
"Is a rabbit worth death?" Jerry asked, his heart beginning to pound in his chest.
"It is not just a battle for a rabbit," the rogue laughed, "But a battle for honor, too."
"What honor is it, knowing you killed a cat for prey?" Jerry demanded, unsheathing his claws.
"Shut up and fight!"
The gray tom hurled himself at Jerry, his claws outstretched. He swiftly sidestepped, and pounced, pinning him down. The rogue got a paw free and slashed it across his cheek.
Blood oozed from the wound as Jerry stumbled back letting the rogue go. He regained his balance and moved just fast enough for the rgue to come tumbling past him again. He pounced again, this time sinking his claws into the rogue. He snarled, staring into the scared amber eyes of the rogue and was about to do some damage when Irisheart's sweet voice rang in his head.
A warrior does not have to kill to be victorious.
It was the warrior code. "Give me the rabbit, and I'll spare you. Clan cats don't need to kill to win," Jerry meowed.
"Take it!" the tom gasped. Jerry got off the rogue and grabbed the rabbit watching the rogue disappear into the folds of night.
Quickly, he treated his scratch and hurried to the pine copse, where Irisheart was waiting.
"Sorry, I was late. A rogue challenged me for this rabbit," Jerry tilted his head, "He gave me a scratch, but I'm ok now."
Jerry flushed again as Irisheart tenderly licked the scratches, then pulled away, her pelt prickling with embarassment.
"Want to go for a walk?" Jerry asked, "We can talk. And maybe you can show me some warrior techniques in case that happens again."
Chapter Eight - Irisheart
"I have to go now," Jerry mewed regretfully.
Irisheart stopped and gazed at him longingly, her heart aching. She wanted to cry, but she bit back her emotions and said in a steady tone, "Okay. Tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow," he confirmed, licking her cheek tenderly.
A warm feeling shot through Irisheart, warming her up even as she stood there with the cold winds lashing around her. Jerry gave her one last smile before heading off.
"Where were you?"
Irisheart froze. Owlmask's eyes were fixed on her like a pair of lasers. She was paralyzed to the ground, like a deer caught in a monster's path.
"I- I..." she stammered.
He arched one eyebrow mockingly. "Yes?"
When she didn't respond, the tom continued, "A gorgeous she-cat like you shouldn't be out on her own."
Struggling to keep her fur lying flat, Irisheart managed through her rage, "I can take care of myself."
He took a step closer. "I smell strange cats on you."
"It's nothing. If you'll excuse me, I'm tired. I think I'll take a nap." She pushed past him hurriedly, hoping he couldn't smell the fear-scent on her as well. Her heart pounded in her ribcage, and not the pleasant way it did when she saw Jerry. This was out of pure terror. Did he suspect about her meetings with Jerry?
It wasn't too big of a secret that Owlmask liked Irisheart. However, she didn't think the tom liked her for who she was. And she was no beauty, at least not in her opinion. So what did the tom see in her? And how far would he go to make sure she liked him back? Just the thought of being mates with a power-hungry, tempermental tom like Owlmask made her blood curdle.
Speaking of romance... Her face felt warm as she envisioned Jerry's face. Surely they were a little closer than friends now? Yet she couldn't know that he felt the same way. If he just thought of them as friends, and she confessed her feelings for him- which were quite evident by now, so even she couldn't deny them to herself- she might ruin everything.
Weariness crashed over Irisheart like a wave, and she sunk down into her nest, closing her eyes.
I'll worry about all that when I have to. Right now, I just want to enjoy life, and not have to worry about Owlmask's hostility.
I just want' to focus on Jerry.
Chapter Nine - Jerry
Jerry waited, under the tree, for Irisheart. All he had managed to catch was a fish. Last night, he fell into a fitful sleep, and today he was a bit drowsy.
Well, after falling into the stream, I was more awake, he said to himself.
Last night, he was thinking about the Clan, Irisheart, and his past. Realizing his feelings had brought it back up from the pit of buried memories in his mind.
That names sent thorns into his heart, and he felt himself being yanked off his feet by memories and sleep.
Jerry saw himself padding back to his den... No, not his den... but whose?
He got to a bush, a hole dug under it. There was a black she-cat with amber eyes sitting next to it.
"Jerry," the she-cat purred.
"Hi, Ivy!" he meowed, his eyes glittering. Jerry felt sheer joy flood through him at the sight of her, even though the past self was feeling it, not the present self. The present Jerry was horrified.
"Come on in, Jerry," Ivy invited him. Jerry watched as his past self followed Ivy into her den.
He was swirled away and suddenly he was inside the den, in his past self, thinking what his past self was. The den was dimly lit by the sunset and he and Ivy were staring into each other's eyes. Jerry tried to yank his gaze away, but it was no use. He was painfully glued to Ivy's amber gaze.
"I..." he heard himself stammer, "I love you, Ivy."
Jerry wanted to whip his tail over his past self's mouth, but again he couldn't and regret thundered through him.
Ivy gave a cold purr, "I'm flattered, Jerry... but I could never love you. I'm sorry."
Jerry felt thorny bramble tendrils wrap tightly around his heart once again. He heard his breath coming in hard gasps of despair and suddenly his legs were carrying him from the den.
"Jerry!" Ivy called, "Jerry!"
Her voice was like the coldest ice and his legs felt like blocks of mud, but he ran.
"Jerry!" the cold voice repeated, "Jerry!" The voice melted into a sweet warm purr. He felt his emotions flooding back.
His eyes popped open and they met amber eyes, surrounded by black fur.
"Ivy!" he screeched, recoiling, scrambling away.
"Shhhhhhhh," the voice soothed, "It's just me."
Jerry shook the sleep from his eyes and the black fur and amber eyes melted away. In Ivy's place was Irisheart and his heart leaped.
"Oh!" Jerry sighed with relief, "Irisheart!"
His heart leapt as she touched her nose to his, but the brambles around his heart tightened as a reminder of rejection.
"Who is Ivy?" Irisheart asked, pain swelling in her violet-blue eyes.
"I'll tell you later," Jerry murmured.
"Want to go to the waterfall?" Irisheart asked him, "It's very pretty there."
Probably not as pretty as you, he thought, the tendrils tightened sharply around his heart.
"Sure," he meowed.
"So Irisheart," a voice meowed. A strange tom with Clanscent emerged from the bushes.
"Care to tell me what's going on?"
Chapter Ten - Irisheart
Ice flowed through Irisheart's veins, paralyzing her. Slowly, she turned around. Though she had recognized the voice, actually seeing Owlmask was like getting hit in the chest with a ton of bricks. They stared at each other for what could've been seconds or hours; time was meaningless in the face of such a horrifying event.
Jerry's eyes were huge as he stared at the tom. "Irisheart? Do you know this cat?"
"Yes. This is Owlmask." She spat the name out like a curse word.
The tom's eyes glinted dangerously. "Of course she knows me. We're very close."
Stiffening, Jerry turned to her, his eyes filled with hurt. She opened her mouth to explain, but Owlmask continued, "It seems I was right."
Turning back to face him, she said, "Oh yeah? Right about what?"
"You two. Together. It's obvious by the way you look at each other." For a minute, the slightest hint of jealousy entered his voice, but it was quickly replaced by cruelty. "And I'm sure the Clan would love to know."
"No!" She stumbled forward.
"Irisheart?" Jerry sounded shocked. "Why would it be so wrong for them to know?" His voice cracked. "Are you ashamed of me?"
While Owlmask looked on, a sneer on his face, she turned to face Jerry. "No, I-" She hung her head. "It's not that. Of course I'm not ashamed of you. It's just if he tells them, he'll twist the story to make me seem disloyal. He'll make us sound horrible, instead of..." She trailed off, not sure what they really were. Their friendship was beautiful and precious to her, and she longed for it to become more, but she couldn't be sure he felt the same way.
"I get it," he said, sounding relieved. He touched his nose to Irisheart's, then turned to face Owlmask, a snarl on his lips. "No one hurts Irisheart. Got that? We'll tell NightClan when we're ready."
Though she felt incredibly shallow, Irisheart couldn't help noticing how handsome he looked, his muscles rippling under his glossy coat, jaw set with determination. Her heartbeat quickened. Is he really willing to risk this for me? I took a step forward. "Jerry, don't-"
"I have to," he said, eyes blazing.
Across from him, Owlmask looked equally as angry. "You can't stop me from telling the Clan," he snarled, springing at Jerry. The two toms rolled around in the dust. Owlmask was quick and strong, but Jerry was surprisingly agile and skilled for a non-Clan cat. However, they didn't fight it out. Halfway through, Jerry sprang out and reached Irisheart's side, leaving Owlmask crouching in the dust, spitting furiously.
"Come on," he said, linking his tail with hers.
"Where?" she asked, bewildered.
He looked like he had made a hard decision, but knew it was the right one. "To NightClan. I have something I need to do."
Chapter Eleven - Jerry
What are you doing, Jerry! his conscience raged.
What I think is right! his thoughts echoed painfully in his head.
Remember Ivy, what she did to you and how you felt. Remember the last time you took a risk for a she-cat and remember how she acted. Ivy shredded your heart! How can you be sure Irisheart won't do the same?
Because Irisheart is different.
His thoughts left him as he and Irisheart broke throught the entrance of NightClan's camp. The Clan cats gave him strange looks as he and Irisheart ran past. He followed Irisheart to a small den and he called, "Stormstar? Are you in there? I would like to join NightClan."
A gray tabby she-cat with blue eyes came out, authority in her step, "So you want to join NightClan?"
"Yes," Jerry meowed.
"What told you about NightClan?" Stormstar asked, looking at him with a friendly warmth.
"I stumbled upon some Clan cats some day," Jerry shrugged, "And I helped chase off a badger."
"Oh, yes, I've heard of you," Stormstar nodded, "Owlmask told me that you saved Irisheart."
Jerry's blood chilled and he felt Irisheart stiffen, What else did he tell you? He remained silent, but he nodded.
"Why do you want to join the Clan?" Stormstar asked.
"I feel.... bored with my life and I heard about how the cats here live peacefully and how they protect each other and help each other," Jerry meowed, That's sort of the truth.
"Good," Stormstar nodded. She hopped onto a rock and called a Clan meeting. Jerry watched as NightClan pooled together under the rock coming from the clearing, the forest, and the dens.
"Cats of NightClan, a loner, Jerry has come to join us. He will keep his name unless he says otherwise," Stormstar yowled. She looked at Jerry.
He nodded, "I wish to keep my name." Movement in the corner of his vision caught his eye. Owlmask was racing into camp.
"From this day forward, Jerry will no longer be a loner, but a full warrior of NightClan. Welcome, Jerry!"
Jerry gazed at Irisheart, whose eyes were filled with joy. She twined her tail with his and he smiled at her, trying to ignore the sharp pain of his heart as he though of his past. Owlmask looked ready to explode.
Jerry padded over to the fresh-kill pile after the chanting of NightClan died down, grabbing a mouse. Irisheart followed him and they began to share it.
"Who is Ivy?" Irisheart asked again, emotion filling her blue eyes.
"I guess I should tell you this now, since I am within the Clan now," Jerry meowed, nodding his head.
Chapter Twelve - Irisheart
Tucking her tail around her paws, Irisheart waited for Jerry to explain. The mouse lay forgotten; her belly was too clenched with nervousness to eat anyway. Who was this Ivy, exactly?
Jerry had his head tilted to the side, a considering look on his face, as if deciding how much to tell her. Finally, he began.
"Ivy was a really kind cat, always caring for others. She was a loner like me, and we were pretty close. I think you would've liked her."
I doubt that, if you guys were as close as you say, Irisheart thought, but she said nothing, only smiled and beckoned with her tail for Jerry to continue.
"There was a point when I thought I loved her..." Jerry broke off, glancing at her.
She didn't know what to say. What she was hearing shouldn't be that big of a deal, but somehow it was. She sprang to her paws and staggered a few steps away. When she spoke, her voice sounded far away against the blood roaring in her ears. "You... loved her."
"Not anymore. She didn't return my feelings for her."
Irisheart's heart thudded painfully in her chest, but she kept her eyes downcast. "I see."
"Irisheart." Her name sounded so beautiful, coming from his lips. She didn't look at him, but she felt him get up and walk over to her, his sweet scent comforting and steady as it wrapped around her. "I don't love her anymore."
Not trusting herself to reply, she raised her eyes to his. They were shining with emotion, and suddenly the rest of the world faded away, like a protective shield had wrapped itself around them. All she was aware of was Jerry, every part of him, and his eyes on hers. Slowly, her eyelids began to slide closed, and she leaned forward as if bya magic pull. When their noses touched, a current jolted through her body, and she nestled closer against his chest, loving the way her head fit exactly right against his throat.
"I could never love her as much... as much as I love you."
She froze. Had he really said it, or was it all a cruel dream? Hesitantly, she dared to raise her head. "Y- You love me?" Her voice was no more than a whisper.
A purr rose up in her throat, unstoppable in its volume and longevity. "Oh Jerry. I love you too."
He wrapped his tail around her, and she snuggled in, aware of only one blissful thought.
This is the best day ever.
Chapter Thirteen - Jerry
Jerry sighed as he settled into his new nest in the warriors' den next to Irisheart, their fur brushed as he sat down.
Feelings of relief and joy flooded through him as he now knew that she loved him back. For once he was happy, and his heart restored. He fell asleep quickly, not fitfully.
The next morning he woke, staring into Irisheart's face, her eyes fluttered open and the dawn sun gleamed on her silver tabby fur.
"Good morning," he murmured, so as not to wake the other warriors.
"Good morning," Irisheart purred.
"Want to go for a walk?" Jerry asked.
"Sure," Irisheart replied, getting to her paws and grooming herself.
Jerry's heart swelled. He knew she loved him, and he loved her, and now they didn't have to hide it and didn't have to meet in secret.
Once Irisheart was done, Jerry and Irisheart walked to the waterfall, sitting at the water's edge, staring into the shimmering pool of clear liquid and the mist that blurred the sun, cooling their pelts.
He closed his eyes as Irisheart leaned against him, a purr rising in his throat, when he heard the noise of water swishing. He opened his eyes and his gaze met a black she-cat, lapping water from the waterfall. His heart chilled and he caught his breath. This was not a Clan cat.
"Jerry!" Ivy's amber eyes lit up, looking at Jerry, then at Irisheart as if she were invisible, "How are you doing, my love." The last two words were almost and sneer and her eyes were teasing.
"Don't call me that," Jerry snarled, "I feel nothing for you anymore!" He wrapped his tail around Irisheart.
"Might want to reconsider coming back," Ivy purred.
"As if I would!" Jerry hissed, "You tore up my heart, Ivy. And threw it to the foxes! It was a good thing Irisheart came to pick it up and fix it when she did."
Ivy's eyes were steely and Jerry heard a tom cat's mew behind him.
"What are you two doing?" Owlmask snickered, "Oh, Irisheart, did Jerry-werry betray you?" Owlmask slid in next to her, twining his tail with hers.
Jerry swatted him away, "Leave her alone! Let's go Irisheart."
Owlmask shrugged, "I'll stay here and deal with your mate, Jerry." He smiled at Ivy.
Jerry hissed and plunged back into the undergrowth.
"That will never happen again, Irisheart," he promised, "Sorry about that."
Irisheart smiled her sweet smile, "Jerry, back there, you said one of the sweetest things ever said."
Jerry smiled, purring, then they padded back to camp.
"Thank you, Irisheart. It was my pleasure, and it's true."
Chapter Fourteen - Irisheart
Irisheart still felt warm and happy as she curled up in her nest. Jerry's flank brushed hers reassuringly. His soft snores told her he was asleep, but she still felt more secure when he was near her. It was nice to know how willing he was to protect her. No matter Owlmask and Ivy said, she and Jerry were in love. They belonged to each other, and no one could separate them.
Closing her eyes, she drifted off on a cloud of dreamy sleep.
"You can run but you can't hide, Irisheart. We'll find you."
Horror climbed her throat, threatening to erupt in a scream. She cowered in front of the tabby tom before her; he was about three times her size, and still growing. "What do you want from me Owlmask?"
A sinister smile crawled across his face. "I want you, Irisheart. As a mate. That's right. Who cares about things like love? You're mine!"
He lunged for her with outstretched claws. Screaming, Irisheart turned and ran. The landscape around her changed, turning to a dark woods. The trees seemed to reach out spindly branches and clutch at her; her breath was coming fast now, not only because of exertion, but because of fear.
Just when she thought she had lost Owlmask, she slammed into another cat. But it wasn't Owlmask. It was Ivy.
"Jerry is mine!" the she-cat yelled. Her eyes glowed red. "He loved me first, and he'll always love me more. You're second and inferior!"
"No..." moaned Irisheart desperately. Behind her, she heard Owlmask racing towards her back and preparing to attack. Ivy reached out her claws, aiming for Irisheart's throat-
"Irisheart! Are you okay?"
Blinking open her eyes, Irisheart found herself looking into Jerry's warm gaze; it was filled with concern as he wraped his tail around her and pulled her to her paws.
Still panting with terror, she managed to cough, "Nightmare."
"Oh really? What was it about?"
She froze. It was the voice that had haunted her dreams.
Slowly, both of them looked up. Jerry pulled Irisheart closer and licked her on the ear.
"What do you want, Owlmask?"
Chapter Fifteen - Jerry
Jerry's pelt bristled as Owlmask grinned sinisterly, "Well?"
"Just about how you and Ivy were trying to kill me and destroy my relationship with Jerry," Irisheart responded coolly.
"I wouldn't kill you," Owlmask cooed, wrapping his tail around the beautiful silver tabby she-cat that Jerry loved so much, "I would kill Jerry."
Jerry lashed out with a sheathed paw and knocked Owlmask aside, "Quit it, Owlmask. Let's go, Irisheart." He wrapped his tail around her and led her out of the den, enjoying the beautiful weather. Warmth spread through him as Irisheart's fur brushed against his and he licked her ear tenderly.
Owlmask emerged from the den, shaken by the power behind Jerry's blow, "You'll get yours." He strolled off without another word and Jerry rolled his eyes after him.
What's he going to do anyway? Irisheart is mine and there's nothing he can do.
The feel of Irisheart's fur as she bumped against him brought Jerry from his thoughts and he touched his nose to her ear.
"Want to go to the waterfall?" Jerry asked. We can have some peace and quiet there.
"Sure!" Irisheart chirped.
Jerry's eyes glowed and he twined his tail with hers, and he padded out of camp and in the direction of the waterfall.
Once they got there, Jerry stretched out on the warm stones, Irisheart next to him.
As Irisheart gently dozed off on his shoulder, he reflected on the life he used to have and how much better Clan life was.
In my old life, I had a little bit more freedom, but no Clan to protect me. I was also a bit overprotective about my parents, but here I have Irisheart. There's always Owlmask to worry about...
He smiled and gently shook Irisheart awake. She opened one violet-blue eye.
"Irisheart, I've been thinking about my parents a lot, and I think maybe I should tell them where I am and how I'm doing. You could come along. I know they would love you," Jerry gave his mate a lick on the ear.
Irisheart nodded and smiled, "That sounds like a great idea."
Jerry stood up, shook the dust from his pelt, then waited for Irisheart to do the same before bounding towards the stream and crossing it with ease. He beamed as he thought of his parents finally meeting Irisheart. He found their den, which was sheltered by a berry bush, and he squeezed inside.
In the dim dawn light, he couldn't see too well, "Mom! Dad! Are you here?"
Silence met his ears, and his fur prickled.
"Something's wrong," he hissed, "My parents don't go out of the den together, and especially not for this long."
Jerry sniffed the air again to make sure, and sure enough, the scent was stale.
"Where could they be," Irisheart whispered, her eyes wide.
"I know where they are. And you can get them back," a tom's voice sneered.
"On one condition," a she cat's broke in.
Chapter Sixteen - Irisheart
Feeling Jerry tense beside her, Irisheart turned to see the two cats who had spoken, though she already knew who they would be. "Ivy, Owlmask, what are you talking about?" Jerry's voice held more anger then she had ever known her calm, gentle mate possessed.
Ivy twitched her tail sneakily, making Irisheart bristle with annoyance and hatred. "I think you know. We have your parents. You know you love your precious parents more then-"
"- more then anything," Owlmask finished, throwing a meaningful glance at Irisheart.
The tom's evil delight confirmed her suspicions, and his next words were just the final blow: "We have your parents, Jerry. And we'll hurt them. Kill them. What are you gonna do about it?"
Hackles raised, Jerry peeled his lips back, exposing rows of ivory fangs. "Do you really want to know? Give them bkac. Now."
Nonchalantly, Owlmask sauntered up so they were face-to-face. Up close, Irisheart could see that Owlmask was an inch taller than Jerry- but he lacked Jerry's courage, only relying on cunning. She hoped that would be enough to make him back down, but it wasn't. "Jerry, I think you know what I want. Come on. She's standing right there. That's all it would take for you to save your parents lives. That's it. Just say it. Say you give her up."
Her mate's next words warmed Irisheart's heart like nothing ever could.
"Give Irisheart up? You might as well ask me to give up my own heart, Owlmask." The tabby tom curled his tail around her.
For his ears only, she whispered, "Jerry, you know I love you. But I can't let you do this. Your parents need you. They'll die Jerry. I can-" She swallowed back tears. "I can be mates with Owlmask. Just knowing you're happpy is enough."
Fiercely, he whispered back, "No, it's not. I want you to be happy too, Irisheart. Now play along."
Looking up, he mewed, "But I love my parents too. I'll give you a condition. Take me to my parents first. I need to see that they're okay; I think it's plain why I don't trust you."
After exchanging glances with Ivy, Owlmask snarled, "Fine. But no funny stuff."
The four cats fell into a walk. Irisheart gave Jerry a small smile. His returning one was thin and forced.
They weren't in the clear yet. All of them were still in danger.
All Jerry had managed to do was secure one thing.
"Jerry, where are we going? We're out of NightClan territory by now... I'm scared."
"It's okay, Irisheart. We'll make it through this." His soft hazel eyes found hers in the dimming forest light. "Listen, I'm so sorry you got dragged into this. It's not fair and-"
She shook her head. "What are you talking about? This is my fault. If you'd just given me to Owlmask-"
Rage colored his normally calm features. "Give you to him? I wouldn't let you save his life if you begged me. I wouldn't let you touch him! You are not his possession, and you'll never be his!"
The tom's voice had risen audibly in his anger, causing Ivy and Owlmask to look back suspiciously. "No talking," Ivy snarled.
Hoping they hadn't heard what Jerry had said, Irisheart nodded and turned back to her mate. But Jerry was far away, probably desperately wondering how to rescue his parents.
With a sigh, Irisheart realized that her stubborn mate would never give her up to Owlmask. He would keep her till the last second, and then when his parents were killed, she was sure he would die of a broken heart. It wasn't that she doubted his ability to free his parents. It was just... Owlmask and Ivy were so cunning, she was sure honest, good-natured Jerry stood no chance. There was only one answer, and Irisheart was sure that it was the right choice, even if Jerry didn't.
She had to give herself up.