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Under The Tree

After The Storm (ThunderXLily) | Red Mane (LionXRed) | Pride Falls (HailXRain) | Red (LionXRed) | Struggling to Shine (ReedXShimmer) | More coming soon...


Red Mane

This is a collab in between Robo (Redpaw) and Rainy (Lionpaw). Enjoy!


Chapter One

Redpaw:

Driftpaw graciously groomed her pelt beside me while I lapped my tongue over my paw, shifting my dark scarlet pelt ever so slightly.

"Soooo," I grin, as my paws gently touch the sandy base of the apprentice den, "I saw you with Hailpaw the other day? Have you finally found yourself a cat?"

"No," she snarls, "All Hailpaw cares about is that dumb fish in the river. Has no good sense of she-cats and it doesn't look like he has groomed his pelt in a while either. A total no-go."

I nodded, "Smart, sensible and good looking toms are so hard to find these days. Maybe you should look into Thunderpaw. I sort of like him but we could never be together. Our pelts don't look nice beside each other. Too close in color. You'd like nice standing beside him."

"Too nice," she decided, "and energetic. He's not really that cool."

I shrugged, "Your loss, Driftpaw," I claimed.

"Toms again?" A whiny voice complains and I pull my head up to see gray she-cat with wide blue eyes that will never know how to catch a tom.

Fine. I'll admit it. Rainpaw is goodlooking no doubt about it. But she hardly grooms her pelt, and then thinks its okay to be near the prettiest cats in the clan.

The is whiny, noisy, clueless and thinks she is our friend because she constantly is near us, pretending to be all cool. It usually ends with a little feud between us and she goes running into the warriors den to cry to her mother. Okay. Not exactly, but somewhere along those lines.

It actually goes more like this.

"Rainpaw are you a shadow?" I ask her.

"No," she responds rolling her eyes like it would be obvious. The dumb brat never seems to learn her lesson and I grin, excited to trip her up yet again.

"Then why are you lurking?"

Her face turns red, "Am not!" She protests.

Driftpaw and I let out a Mreow of amusement,and she begins to grow angry, her pelt bristling.

"You are the lurkers!" She shrieks, "You always stand around here talking about toms and grooming your pelt for them! But do either of you have a mate? A cat you've found who truly loves you? I didn't think so! Why don't you actually try to get something done for a change?"

She storms off as Driftpaw and I break into a fit of laughter, which echoes across the den.

However, though I may never admit it, what Rainpaw says deeply disturbs me. I know that I could have a Tom by my side by now if I wanted it I just... Don't... Well I do want a tom.

But I want a cat that was meant for me.

And I have yet to find one that came close.

Lionpaw:

I watch with an amused glance as Rainpaw huffs past, her fur so puffed up she looks like a porcupine. "What's got you in a twist?" I call. This is met with an angry hiss. Redpaw again.

I glance towards where she and Driftpaw sit, gossiping and giggling together. A mischievous smile works its way across my face. "Hey girls," I coo, strutting past them and twitching the end of my tail. "How's it going?"

Driftpaw tosses a glance over her shoulder as she grooms her creamy pelt, and her eyes narrow flirtingly. "Hey."

"What do you want?" Redpaw asks, scrunching up her nose at me. I give her an infuriatingly lazy grin. 

"Nothing, gorgeous," I say. "Or not-so-gorgeous. Who dropped a bomb into your fur? It's hideous."

Works like a charm. Her eyes bulge out momentarily, and she hisses, "My fur is fine, which is more then I can say for your brain. Don't you have anything better to do then butt into our conversations?"

"As a matter of fact, consider it an honor-"

"Lionpaw!" I wince and turn to see my mentor, Darkfang, walking towards me, irritation plain on his face. "Just because we don't have training till the evening doesn't mean you have to bother everyone. I taught you to treat your Clanmates better then that."

"But-" I splutter, then fall silent, glowering at him and the two smirking she-cats. "Fine," I snap, stalking out of the camp. I know exactly where I'm going. This'll teach Darkfang! 

Just outside FlameClan's territory, on the side that's not bordered by PetalClan or BirdClan, is a rocky collection of cliffs. Apprentices are strictly forbidden to go anywhere near there, not even on border patrols. I'm not stupid enough to go there just to prove a point, but I am brave enough to go over there and harvest the eggs that birds lay in their nests, which are built against the side of the cliff. Everyone will enjoy them(at least the people who are cool enough to recieve them from me) but no one will have any proof that I went to the cliffs. They can suspect it, but they can't say for sure.

Feeling more self-confident, if that's possible, I strike off at a brisk trot, eating up FlameClan territory with long strides. The cliffs rise up before me like sand-colored claws, and a tingle of anticipation shoots through me. I love the thrill of adventure, and as much fun as it is to do it as a dare with others, nothing beats being on your own, just you against the wild.

Upon reaching the edge of the first cliff, I stare fearlessly down towards the craggy bottom. Okay, maybe not fearlessly, but you know... excitedly. A tad bit nervously. Anxiously. Apprehensively. Scared- Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. I began to back away, but a loose pebble rolled out from under my paw, sending me pitching forward into space. With a wild yowl, I manage to twist myself around in midair and latch onto the edge of the cliff with my front paws. The rest of me hangs helplessly, save a tiny foothold against a small crevice. There's no way I can pull myself up. All I can do is wait for someone to come and see me like this. Great. Why couldn't I have just stayed at camp? No doubt I'll come up with a story to impress the she-cats, but this is still not good for my image, and Rainpaw certainly won't believe me.

Just then my foot slips, and I grit my teeth, hanging on with all my strength. My muscles are starting to ache. Soon, I'll go plummeting to my death. It can't end like this, not for a handsome, amazing tom like me. Can it?

I've really done it now. 


Chapter Two

Redpaw:

Does it sound horrible when I say I was so delighted to see Lionpaw being escorted through camp with a sour look on his face and an extremely angry mentor.

Did I mention his pelt was in a horrible state?

After the way he though he might get away with insulting me before it was perfect. And, of course, I would not let the opportunity slide.

"Hey Lionpaw!" I called.

He didn't look over but I could tell he was listening. No tom can avoid my call. Not even a stuck-up, know-it-all one like Lionpaw.

"Did you fall off a cliff?" I called.

He grunted and continued paddling over to the apprentice den, his mentor keeping a close eye on him.

"He actually did!" Driftpaw was soon by my side, whispering with glee, "He went to grab some eggs for the apprentices, and he slipped by the cliff!"

"Why didn't he fall?" I asked in a shallow voice.

"I think it was brave of him," Driftpaw admits with a shrug, "Not every tom would be as brave as it takes to risk falling off a cliff. And he is quite good-looking to. I'll put him on the list of cats to check out!"

"No... way.." I grumble glaring at her, "If you have any sense you will keep your paws away from that pile of fur. I can not be friend with anyone who is close to him. Look at him! It does't look like he has groomed his fur in a whole sunrise!" I shrieked.

"He almost fell off a cliff," she claims rolling her eyes, before shrugging, "And I haven't decided I like him yet. Just want to see if he is worth liking."

"He's not," I snort, but deep inside I can feel a sinister feeling brewing as much as I hate it. I have to be able to control my emotions and I really don't like the way this one is feeling...

Jealousy?


Lionpaw:

Once I'm done sulking, I push my way out of the apprentice's den, shooting daggerish glares at anyone who dares smirk at me. Darkfang looks up, his gaze half-sympathetic, half-irritated. "We'll get back to training tomorrow," he calls. "Don't think you get away with not doing anything just because you did something feather-brained."

"Okay," I say, rolling my eyes and glancing about the camp. Hailpaw and Thunderpaw are chatting. They're pretty boring, but I don't see any she-cats around, so I pad over. "Hey guys."

Thunderpaw glances up, though he looks kind of distracted. "Hey," he mews.

"No eggs, huh?" teases Hailpaw. I shoot him a glare, forcing a smile.

"Not this time, you greedy-gut." Stretching, I flop down next to them. "So. Talking about pretty she-cats, am I right?"

"No," stammers Hailpaw.

I wink at him. "Oh yeah. I forgot; Rainpaw." He blushes and flicks me on the ear. Turning to Thunderpaw, I say, "How about you? Got your eye on any cute she-cats?"

"Nah," he says, staring at his paws. I don't let it go.

"Driftpaw? Meadowpaw?" 

Hailpaw butts in. "You forgot the most obvious one. Redpaw." He motions with his tail; I look over and see the pretty she-cat emerging with her friends. Though she's surrounded by her friends, she stands out like usual, laughing and chatting like a flower in full-bloom. I shake off the thought. 

"Yeah," I say, though I hadn't planned on including Redpaw in the list. For some reason, I couldn't picture Thunderpaw and her together. Because Thunderpaw was too nice for her. No other reason.

"No thanks," smirks Thunderpaw. "I'm good. Well, see you guys. I'm going out to hunt. We can't all do brave things like jumping off cliffs to get our food."

"Clever!" I call after him as he lopes out of camp. Rainpaw walks past, and I stick out a paw. She stumbles, and whirls on me, eyes blazing.

"What was that for?"

"Nothing," I meow innocently. "Just buying you some time with Hailpaw. You should thank me."

Her gaze flits back and forth between us, as if trying to decide whether to scream or pummel me into the dust. I grin charmingly at her; she might be aggravating, but she is really cute. "Like I would even talk to you without being forced to," she spits.

"Ouch," Hailpaw comments. "I... uh, have to go. I'll see you later Rainpaw." He smiles and vanishes into the apprentice's den. Coward. Ah well. She's mine now.

Turning back to Rainpaw, I begin, "So-"

"Oh look, Rainpaw's finally hit rock-bottom," a cutting voice interrupts me. I turn to see Redpaw and her cronies. The she-cat's amber eyes are glowing as she does her favorite thing; making life miserable for everyone else. "Seriously? Lionpaw?"

Driftpaw rolls her eyes and grins at me, but Redpaw elbows her. I wink back, then say, "Whatever Redpaw. For your information, she did not hit rock-bottom. I-"

"Neither did you. Because your mentor saved you," she smirks. With a flick of her tail, she marches off. I wave a paw at Driftpaw, who giggles before scampering off. Rainpaw sighs and stalks off.

She-cats can be annoying, but I have to admit, Redpaw does spice things up. Much as she bothers me, I'm glad she's in my Clan. 


Chapter Three

Redpaw:

"Hey, Rainpaw!" the apprentice turns around to face me, anger flickering in her gaze.

"What?" she asks, impatiently.

"There is a burr stuck in your pelt!" I exclaimed, "Did you not notice or are you trying to make sure your pelt is in a disastrous state just to get closer to Lionpaw?"

"Hey!" the golden tabby shrieks, "I almost died!"

"You should look good before you die," I snapped loudly, "Last impressions are very important. Not that you would know anything about that."

"Great way to thank me for trying to feed you!" he snapped loudly, "I was trying to be a kind apprentice and help out but all you can think about is how my pelt looked!"

"Your pelt," I hissed, "Is always a priority."

"But we do appreciate your bravery!" Driftpaw exclaimed, purring loudly, "It's great to know FlameClan has such great heroes!"

Lionpaw winked at her and I want to peel her pelt off.

But only because she is giving him confidence. Obviously. Not that I'd ever be jealous of her for receiving more attention than me. And certainly not from Lionpaw.

"Hey, Rainpaw!" I called for the pretty she-cat again.

"What?" she seemed exasperated, "If you want to kill me don't drag it out and get it done with already, please! Do me a favor!"

"I need you to do me a favor," I snapped, "Please rub your pelt against Driftpaw's so that her pelt can get extra-messy too. I'm sorry but since she is my friend I have to root for her in this race."

"No!" she exclaimed before storming off.

"Are you sure you don't want to compete!" he asked flashing me a toothy smile.

For a second I was stunned, before shrugging him off.

"I'm sorry, Lionpaw, but that is a sacrifice I can't make to amuse the audience by giving them a show of how ugly cats and pretty cats can make such good couples when they put their looks aside."

"You can never put look aside," he insists, "Which is why you would compete."

And I agree with him. No! Not about the second part. Only the first part. You can never put looks aside but he certainly does not look good.

No way.

Lionpaw:

Yes! I think as I land on all paws, facing away from Darkfang, before whirling around to meet him again and block his blow. I killed that move!

"Very good Lionpaw," my mentor praises, his ill-temper from yesterday gone. "That was excellent, and great job for not forgetting to turn back around to see what I was up to."

"Yeah," purrs Driftpaw. "Great job." She bats her eyelashes from where Redpaw and she are sitting to the side of the training hollow. I get the feeling that they've only come to check us out, not do any actual work.

"Now," Ashflight says, flicking his tail. "We're going to divide up into partners."

Rainpaw and I exchange glances; we have a long-standing rivalry in wrestling, and relish any opportunity to be opponents, or have a rematch. Not that, uh, any she-cat has ever beat me in fighting. Not at all.

"Rainpaw and Driftpaw," announces Ashflight. The gray she-cat rolls her eyes and glares at Driftpaw. They pad off, in what appears to be a battle of the glaring. It'll probably turn into a battle of insults soon; I doubt any real fight-training will occur.

Darkfang's gaze travels around the other apprentices, and he turns to me. "Lionpaw and..." he pauses, a devilish gleam in his yellow eyes. I feel my stomach twist nervously. "Redpaw."

"What?" she screeches, her fur puffing up. Instantly, she begins to groom it as if her life depends on it.

My thoughts echo her exclamation, but I hide it. "Scared you'll lose so badly?" I smirk. She narrows her eyes and follows me to a corner of the training space.

"Puh-lease," Redpaw says. "Like fighting even matters when you're so pretty."

"If you say so," I say, turning slowly to face her. She looks hilarious, standing there stiffly, in the opposite of a fighting posture. I crouch down, flipping my tail from side to side, and she frowns.

"You look like a dog."

"Let's see if I fight like one." Pausing to gather my haunches beneath me, I spring at her. I have a split second to catch a glimpse of her shocked face before I bowl her over into the sand and we go rolling. Letting out a screech, Redpaw begins pummeling me, her legs going out at crazy angles. I step gently on her paw and pin her down. Her breath comes in hot gasps, and her eyes are flames of anger. Our gazes lock, and for a second I feel a warmth that has nothing to do with where she dealt me a lucky blow or two. 

"Let me up," she hisses. I climb off her and offer a paw. Ignoring it, she gets up and blinks at me, a trace of something else in her face. Then she looks down and gives a very Redpaw-like screech. "MY PELT! GET ME A MEDICINE CAT!"

I watch her run off, an odd smile lingering on my lips. Darkfang turns and winks at me; I turn away, blushing. "Who wants to get beat up next?" I ask.


Chapter Four

Redpaw:

"You are fine, Redpaw," Meadowpaw insisted as I rapidly groomed my pelt.

"I can't let any cat see me like this!" I hissed desperatly, "It looks like I haven't groomed in over an hour. That's unacceptable!"

"That's unacceptable!"Rainpaw mimics me as she walks past. Rolling my eyes I stick my paw out, and she trips over it, being the dumb, blind she-cat that she is.

"Hey!" she whirls around, "What was that for?"

"I didn't do anything," I smirk.

"Hey! Leave her alone!" Hailpaw protests, soon at the side of Rainpaw who gives him a quick and affectionate lick before turning back to glare at me.

"I'll leave you two to yourselves," I smile, "Unless you are so clueless you need me to walk you through every step of your path towards becoming mates."

"WerenotgonnabecomematesRedpaw," Rainpaw muttered her face flushing a reddish color while Hailpaw looked away, suddenly best friends for life Lionpaw.

Lionpaw.

I let out a groan, "I have to go before the beat gets here," I murmured before jumping back to my paws and paddling away, rapidly, my footsteps soft and delicate.

"Hey Redpaw!" he shouted, "What are you running away from? Scared of being beaten up by me again!" he had a victorious smile and although it killed a large part of me to admit it, he looked cute.

As much as I wanted to march away I knew I couldn't let an insult go without being unattended. So I did what any she-cat with the slightest bit of pride would do.

"Shut up, Lionpaw!" I snapped, "At least my pelt actually looks nice!"

And then I stalked off.



Large trees surrounding the landscape...

A tall tree, leaves gently falling from it to gently touch the ground and settle on the grass, as the noise of chattering apprentices grew.

"I bet I can reach the top!" a golden tom exclaimed, his eyes glittering with anticipation, "Then I can see all of the clans are more!"

"Don't be a mouse-brain!" a gorgeous red she-cat snapped, her pelt shinning under the thick light of the autumn sunshine, as the breeze ruffled her fur gently.

"Oh don't worry for me, hun," he winked at her, and she gave him a look of disgust as he pulled into a crouch, "Wish me luck!" he exclaimed.

Moments later he was soaring through the air, his paws gracefully floating from branch to branch, as he rose higher and higher into the afternoon skies.

The ginger she-cat rolled her eyes at him, "He has bees in his brain," she muttered, turning around no longer interested enough to watch the show."

Moments later she whirled around when she heard a loud yowling noise, with pierced her ears, and ran back to the side of her friend who was watching no longer watching the golden tom in awe but was now shrieking in worry, as he hurled through the air his pelt snapping twigs and splicing leaves.

A loud thud emerged as the ginger she-cat looked away in a combined look of horror and sympathy.



Redpaw felt her head slamming out of her nest and her breath grow short, not sure what to make of what she had just seen.

Just a dream... Just a dream... Just a dream...

But so vivid for just a dream.

She felt her heart clogging in worry as her mind replayed her dream and she realized who the cat that had fallen off the tree actually was.

Lionpaw.


Lionpaw:

I flex my claws comfortably into the soft earth, staring up at the warm summer sky. This hunting assessment is going to go well. I just know it.

"Don't run into a fox again, you two," Redpaw calls to me and Hailpaw(It's a long story).

"No need to worry ladies. I won't let this handsome face get a scratch." I flash a smile, then glance at Hailpaw. "I don't really care about you."

"Thanks," he says dryly.

"Okay," meows Darkfang, standing in the middle. "The objective is to catch as much prey as possible by sun-high, while using good technique and making clean kills. Ashflight and I will be watching you while you hunt, so do well all the time; you never know if we're there or not."

"Everyone understand?" Ashflight asks.

We all nod, and I toss in the flippant, "Whatever." I bet I'll catch the most prey anyway. I always do, except for when Rainpaw is hunting, and when we had the fox incident. But this time it's just me, Hailpaw, Redpaw, and Driftpaw. An easy win.

"Okay," Darkfang says. "Go!" 

I go rushing into the forest, ready for whatever the day held for me. If only I knew...


Pouncing on the vole, I grin triumphantly and pad back to the large pile of fresh-kill I've caught. It was a clean kill, but the pile lacks a little something...

Hearing a twitter from overhead, I glance up to see a mother robin land on the branch of a tree up above. She drops a piece of grass into a nest, and then flies off. My keen eyes pick up the glint of white peeping out of the straw nest, and my lips curve into a grin. This is the perfect opportunity to redeem myself for the cliff incident.

Leaping up, I fasten my claws into the bark, ignoring the dry, splintery wood as it scratches against my legs. Angry red welts appear on my forelegs, but I ignore them, my mouth already watering at the taste of eggs. Bracing myself against the tree, I start climbing.

"Lionpaw!" Turning my neck rather painfully, I see Redpaw standing there, a mangled looking squirrel in her jaws. "What are you doing?"

"Chill," I wink at her. "If this wasn't safe, the mentors would've stopped me by now."

She glances about. "They might not be here right now."

"So? I'll be fine. No need to worry about me. Of course, if you pleaded with me and confessed how much you care about me, I might reconsider."

Whatever emotion that had appeared in her face vanished. She gives a dainty sniff. "Fine. Get yourself killed."

"As if," I say, and, pushing away the miniscule feelings of doubt that seeing Redpaw get worried has brought up, I continue climbing. No one tells me what to do.

I reach a branch below the nest. By now the forest floor is far away and Redpaw is just a speck on the ground(I try not to feel happy that she stayed to watch). Still, heights have never bothered me much. Stretching out my paws, I try to snag the nest. My claws swipe an inch below it through thin air; letting out a hiss of frustration, I lean out further. Just a little more...

Suddenly, the branch lurches in the wind, just as I swipe at the nest. The momentum of my leap requires balance the unsteady limb doesn't offer, and suddenly there's nothing beneath me. I have time to give a cry, before I'm hurtling downwards, my death rushing up to meet me. The last thing I spot during the fall is Redpaw's wide eyes.


Chapter Five

Redpaw:

"Hey, Redpaw!" a shrill voice sneered as it reached her way. All of the apprentices turned in the direction of the cat speaking.

"Umm..." Redpaw stuttered for several long moments, "What's wrong Rosepaw?

Rosepaw...

Rosepaw...

Rosepaw...

She was only the prettiest she-cat in the with her creamy pelt, pure white paws and delicate amber eyes. Her thin posture, the way she moved. Everything about her was perfect.

"You look like you fought with a bear!" she snickered, "How long has it been since you last groomed your coat? A moon? A season?" she turned away, "You disgrace FlameClan by walking around like that."

"I'm sorry," Redpaw mumbled, hanging her head softly."



"No," I murmured as I shook my head fiercely, as the loud cry of Lionpaw rang through my ears, '"This isn't the time for memories."

But they came anyways.



"What's wrong, Redpaw?" Cherryheart whispered softly, as her daughter wailed into her fur, "Are your first days of apprenticeship more difficult than you thought? Don't worry, you will get the hang of it soon."

"It's Rosepaw," tears continued to drip down Redpaw's face, "She keeps putting me down and calling me a loser. And I have never done anything to her!"

She broke into another pack of tears.

"Just ignore her," Cherryheart urged, "Don't let her get to you."

"But she does," Redpaw continued to sob, "And I want her to like me. I look up to her, and she keeps pushing me further down, so it's only harder to actually see and follow what she does."

"Find someone better to look up to then," she had murmured, before getting up and gently paddling away from her daughter, after giving her a soft lick.

"There is no one better than her." Redpaw softly murmured.



"Help!" Lionpaw yelped as more twigs snapped and I closed me eyes, not wanting to watch his bloody death, but still trying to block out my past.



"Lionkit, from this moment on, until you receive your warrior name, you will be known as Lionpaw!" thr clan broke into cheers and Rosepaw giggled softly.

"He is cute. I call him!"

Redpaw gently turned her head up to the golden tabby tom. He was good looking, but he already seemed stuck-up, arrogant and self-absorbed.

Yet he was already so popular.



"Hey, Redpaw," Lionpaw grinned, "You have a burr in your coat. Let me get it out for you," he wore a flirty smile and Redpaw quickly snroted.

"I can get it out myself, thank you very much," she crossly replied.

"Well, you just gave up the chance to get close to the most handsome tom in the clan," he replied with a grin, before marching away, leaving Redpaw standing there, furiously, her pelt bristling.

Redpaw suddenly felt herself being shoved aside by something and turned her head up to see Rosepaw glaring at her, "Keeps your filthy paws off him." she snarled.

"I'm not intrested," she replied.

"Don't kid yourself, loser," she had snapper back.

Suddenly, all of the concealed anger from the past few moons seemed to suddenly dump themselves onto her shoulder, "I am not a loser!" she retorted sharply.

"Yes you are," she sneered, her lip curling up, "And you will always remain that way."

"We will see about that," Redpaw whirled around, and stalked back to the apprentice den.



Must... reach... the top... Redpaw panted loudly as she leaped from branch to branch, tears gently slipping from her face as they fell an even larger distance than the one before.

"Hey!" she looked down to see Lionpaw grinning at her.

"What do you want?" she snapped loudly.

"Just watching the show," she replied with a lazy grin.

"It's not a show for you to watch!" she sharply retorted, "Go away! I don't want you here!"

"Am I too handsome for you?" he asked with a grin.

Rolling her eyes at him, she turned away and reached for the next branch when...

It gave way to her weight and suddenly, she was standing over open air.



"Are you okay, Redpaw?" Cherryheart and Lionpaw were standing over her, as she lied in the apprentice den, her head swirlign wildly.

"What happened?" she asked.

"Lionpaw saved you," Cherryheart replied, and Lionpaw grinned.

"Aren't I the sweetest?" he asked.

"Go away," Redpaw batted her paws at him, and he shrugged, giving her a wink before dissapearing through the exit to the den, only to be replaced by Rosepaw.

"Can't even climb a tree?" she had a superior smile on her face, and Cherryheart didn't say anything to her, "Looks like you fell all the way down this time."



"Rosepaw from this moment on, you will be known as Rosewind. StarClan honors your honesty and wits and we welcome you as a full member of the clan!"

Never had the clan cheered louder for a new apprentice than they did at that moment, and when Rosewind finally stepped down from the highrock she surprisingly walked towards Redpaw.

Redpaw winced, waiting to receive more critique on the state of her pelt which she has just groomed.

But instead what she head was, "Your turn."

"Huh?" she turned her head up in surprise.

Rosewind laughed, "I'm surprised you haven't realized by now. Since I have left the apprentice den it is your turn to shine as the new queen."

"But you said I was a loser..."

"You were too dangerous to leave on your own," she replied, "You were a threat and I had to keep pushing you back to the bottom to keep you from reaching me."

"So..."

"It's your turn to shine now, Redpaw. Your turn in the spotlight, where you truly belong."



I forced my eyes back open, as Lionpaw continued to hurl through the air, remembering the time he had saved me, his arrogance and what I had been back then.

But that shouldn't have mattered.

I was the most popular apprentice in my clan, all the toms fell for me, and an apprentice would give anything to be my friend.

But I still wouldn't be here without Lionpaw right now.

Forcing my eyes open I pulled into a crouch, and leaped into the air, grabbing Lionpaw by the scruff, moments before I felt his weight crashing down onto me.

Lionpaw: 

"I'm alive!" I shout in disbelief. "I'm alive!"

A muffled grunt comes from beneath me. "That's great. Do you think you could get off?"

"Sorry," I mutter, helping my savior to her feet. Then I blink in disbelief. "Redpaw?"

"You're welcome," she says testily, trying to stand, then giving a yelp of pain and yanking one forepaw off the ground. Letting out a low moan, she sat down and began licking it furiously.

Concern came in spite of myself; after all, she had just saved my life. I walked over to her. "Are you okay? It looks like your wrist is sprained."

Redpaw grits her teeth. "I'll be fine."

"Yeah, once we get you back to camp," I say. "Echoblaze needs to look at it." Bracing my shoulder against her, I let her lean against me. One look in her face shows me it's killing her to accept help, but I guess the pain must be worse, because she staggers to her feet and lets me support her. 

"Thanks," I mutter into her ear. Redpaw says nothing, apparently lost in thought. Together, we make our way back to camp. 


Once inside the camp, I can see something's up. Ashflight is talking in angry tones with Darkstar, while Flashdust lashes his tail in anger. Thunderpaw is nearby, a sickened look on his face. "What's going on?" I ask, bounding over. Redpaw gives a short scream as she topples over. "Oops," I say sheepishly. "Tell me later."

Ignoring her stream of angry words, I escort Redpaw over to the medicine cat's den. Echoblaze's eyes widen under the streak of white running down her ginger forehed. "What happened?" she asks, racing over to help Redpaw lay down.

"I... fell out of a tree on top of her. Well, she saved me, and then I fell on top of her," I correct myself. Echoblaze appears speechless for a second, then she mutters under her breath and begins gathering herbs.

"Off with you now," she says. "It's only a light sprain; she might even be able to fight tomorrow."

"Fight?" Redpaw says.

At the same time, I say, "Light sprain?" I narrow my eyes, and Redpaw bats her eyelashes at me. Even after saving my life, Redpaw is still Redpaw. "So... she could've walked here by herself?" Hmph. Serves her right that I let her faceplant into the dirt.

Echoblaze doesn't notice. "Yes, fight. There's a battle with PetalClan coming up. Those prey-stealers have crossed the line."

I flatten my ears, blood pumping in anticipation of a fight. "Really? Cool! I mean, we'll crush them!"

Loping out into the camp, I spot Thunderpaw and Hailpaw standing off to the side together. "Hey guys," I say. "So we're really going to fight?"

"Yeah," Thunderpaw says miserably. Hailpaw's blue eyes are sparkling.

"Our first real battle!" he exclaims. "Darkstar says almost all the apprentices are going." Then a sly grin appears on his face. "Looks like Redpaw won't though. What did you do to her?"

"Nothing," I say defensively. "Well, I sort of sat on her after falling through the sky. But that's not the point."

"Falling through the sky? Redpaw saved you?" Hailpaw asks incredulously. I feel my face burn red. 

"There's nothing wrong with that," I mutter. 

He flicks his tail. "No, but it just doesn't strike me as something that happens very often." A mischievous look that I know all too well is on his face. "Wait till everyone else hears about this. Meadowpaw will crack herself open laughing."

"Whatever," I hiss, knowing that nothing I do will stop the blabber-mouth. Strangely, I feel a surge of resentment towards Redpaw. Even when she saves me, she ruins my life. Wow. That's got to take a major talent.

"Lionpaw!" Darkfang calls, checking me over. "You okay for tomorrow?"

"Yeah," I mutter. Cherryheart hurries over, her amber eyes, identical to Redpaw's, filled with worry. "Is she okay? Echoblaze won't let me see her; she says she needs to rest."

"She'll be fine," I promise.

"Thank StarClan," she sighs with relief, padding off to chat with Rosewind and Acornfur. I turn in time to see Rainpaw, cobalt eyes sparkling, walking towards me.

"What do you want?" I hiss.

An innocent, wide-eyed look comes over her. "Oh nothing. Just making sure you don't go climbing any trees; I might have to save you."

I smirk, turning the tables on her. "Jealous that you don't get credit for saving this gorgoeous tom?"

"As if," she says. "Only Redpaw would be dumb enough to do that." But there's a flicker of unease in her eyes, and she gives me a soft smile. "Mouse-brain," is all she says, before padding off. I know she's glad I'm alive.

Spotting Darkstar, I pad over. "Hey Darkstar, am I going to get to fight tomorrow?"

He nods. "This is going to be a huge war. We'll need all the claws and teeth we can get. Rosewind and Ashflight will be leading the apprentices, so follow whatever they say during the battle."

"No problem," I say, only half listening. 

"I mean it. This will be a hard battle; lots of cats will get hurt. But it's nessecary. We have to show those mange-pelt PetalClan cats who's boss."

"Yeah," I agree. "No Clan messes with FlameClan." Giving me a nod of approval, the leader pads back into his den. I glance about the clearing, and spot Redpaw hobbling out of the apprentice's den. There's a slight limp to her step, but she doesn't flinch when her paw touches the ground, and only a thin leaf-wrap shows she's hurt. I grin at her. "How you doing?"

"Fine, no thanks to you. Echoblaze says I can sleep in the apprentice's den tonight, and participate in the battle, as long as I don't go overboard."

Without warning, I step closer, so our pelts are almost brushing. "I really mean it."

"What?" she asks, trying to sound indifferent, but there's a tremor of emotion in her voice.

I bend even lower, gazing into her almond-colored eyes. "Thank you." Then I turn and walk away. If I get killed tomorrow, oh well. But I will protect her; I owe her that much. Gazing off towards the PetalClan border, I hiss fiercely, "Watch out, flower-dancers. We're coming to get you." 


Chapter Six

Redpaw:

"Redpaw you have to pay attention!" Ashflight snapped at me as Thunderpaw bowled me over for the fifth time that day, and I groaned.

"My paw still hurts a little," I protest, "After Lionpaw landed on me," I glare at the golden tom and his head quickly turns to the ground. My stomach churns and I tell myself it's just hunger, "And I am hungry."

"You can eat later," he retorts, "We are heading to battle too soon and all you can think about is your stomach," he frowned, "Thunderpaw can't appear to focus either."

Thunderpaw quickly looked down at his paws, his face flushed and Ashflight sighed, "I'll work with him alone for now. Why don't you go join Lionpaw."

Lionpaw...

I feel something zap through my spine, but quickly shake the quivering feeling off, "Of course," I groan, "Leave me with the fool."

"Redpaw," Ashflight glares and I sigh, "Fine," I march over to where Lionpaw is practicing with Rainpaw and Hollyflight, grooming my fur as I approach.

"Redpaw!" Lionpaw grinned. I was expecting some comment about getting beat up again but he twitched his whiskers and moved aside for me to stand next to him.

Strange.

If he is going to start behaving maybe it was worth twisting my paw to save him.



"Redpaw!" I blink my eyes open to see Driftpaw prodding me, and gently pull myself up to my feet.

"Yes?" I give her a curious glance, "Is something wrong?"

"The battle!" she hissed.

"What?" I glanced at her in confusion, "What about the battle?"

"Its right now," her eyes widened as she shoved me out of my nest, "Rosewind, Lionpaw and Hailpaw are all waiting for you," she claimed.

"Oh," I jumped to my paws, all sleepiness gone, "Good luck!" I give her a quick lick before dashing off.

She wasn't lying; they are all waiting for me with disapproving looks on their faces, which I quickly shrug off as I gently sit down behind Lionpaw.

The wind sends a quick shiver up my back and Lionpaw gives me a look, "Are you scared?" he asked, "Don't worry, with a handsome tom like me to protect you, you will be just fine!"

I rolled my eyes at him, grateful to have a ginger pelt which hid my blush.

Lionpaw:

The last one to arrive is Thunderpaw. His blue eyes are filled with fear as he nods at Ashflight. The dark gray tom frowns.

"Are you okay Thunderpaw? You don't look well enough to fight."

Before Thunderpaw can reply, Darkstar calls, "FlameClan, let's go!" The patrol heads out, and all of the apprentices follow. I pad alongside Redpaw, who is unusually quiet. Beside her, Driftpaw prattles on and on about things completely irrelevent to the fight: her pelt, cute PetalClan toms, and which colors suited her fur-color best. 

Interrupting Driftpaw's epic battle between pink and blue, I say to Redpaw, "Nervous?" Then, to make sure she doesn't think I'm being too geniune, I add, "Because I already told you not to be, with me around."

"Puh-lease," she scoffs, stalking ahead. I grin after her, then glance at Thunderpaw.

"Seriously, are you okay? You look like you're about to be sick."

"I'm fine," he mutters through clenched teeth.

"If you say so."

We hurry to catch up with the rest of the battle patrol. Up ahead, Acornfur and Cherryheart are talking in low tones, and Hailpaw pads next to Darkfang. I approach my mentor; he looks up and smiles welcomingly. "Are you ready for this Lionpaw?"

"You bet!" I exclaim.

His eyes glow. "I know you'll make me proud." Just then, Darkstar halts, his ears flattening. We're at the PetalClan border, and facing us is a long line of PetalClan cats, their pale pelts glowing against the grassy side of their territory. I narrow my eyes. Time to fight. 

"Attack!" Darkstar's cry matches Silverstar's. My Clanmates and I surge forward like a tidal wave, colliding in midair with our enemies. I sink my claws into a PetalClan warrior tom who's much bigger then me. He lands a blow on the side of my head, and I yowl with pain, rolling him face down into the dirt and scratching him hard across the back. I spot Redpaw clawing at a silvery PetalClan apprentice above the eye. The apprentice dives at her, and I shove her out of the way, while Thunderpaw steps in front, giving a gasp of shock. 

"Are you okay?" I ask Redpaw, shaking a clump of torn, bloody fur off my orange fur. 

"Yeah," she says, slamming her hindlegs into a nearby she-cat. "Thanks."

We stare at each other for another second; my pelt grows warm, and I turn away hastily. "Come on. We have to fight."

The battle rages on, with no apparent winner. Blood streams down my pelt, and I'm not sure whether it's mine or someone else's. "Lionpaw!" Rosewind calls, amber eyes wide. "Get out of here! Don't object! This is no place for apprentices."

"Okay," I mutter, dealing my opponent one last hit. Turning to go, I spot Redpaw caught in the middle of the fighting, not having heard Rosewind's command. "Redpaw!" I call. "The apprentices are leaving! Come on!"

She flicks her ears and gallops toward me, panting. I study her frantically; her red pelt makes it hard to distinguish where she is actually wounded. I'm about to lick her on the cheek, where a raw cut is, when I catch myself. What in StarClan am I thinking? My tone suddenly brisk to hide my embarrassment, I snap, "Let's get back to camp."


"No one won," Driftpaw says glumly. 

"We got that," I say irritably, licking a scratch on my shoulder, wincing at the taste of the herbs Echoblaze put on it.

"Would you stop that?" Redpaw snaps. "You're supposed to leave the herbs on so the juices can heal your wound. If you keep licking it, they're going to come off, and it'll get infected."

I raise my eyebrows. "I didn't know you were so concerned about my health and well-being, Redpaw."

For once, the queen of gossip seems speechless. Only for a few seconds, but it shocks me that I can throw her that off balance. "I'm not. I just don't want your disgusting blood all over the apprentice's den tonight."

"Ouch," Thunderpaw says. "Love hurts."

My heart gives a queer leap as I watch Redpaw pad over to the fresh-kill pile, her pelt already groomed and glossy even so shortly after fighting. Then I go over all our fights. Yeah. Love does hurt. Not that this is love. 


Chapter Seven

Redpaw:

"Is Hailpaw okay?" Lionpaw asked Rainpaw gently, as she emerged from the medicine cat den, "He looked like he had some really bad scratches."

"I don't know..." Worry clouded the stubborn she-cats eyes and for the first time in my life I felt a small pang of sympathy for the stuck-up apprentice.

Thunderpaw, however, seemed utterly miserable, and when we asked him what was wrong he would just shrug us off claiming that the battle had tired him, while he hardly had any scratches.

Strange...

"Hey Redpaw," I look up to see Lionpaw glancing at me, "Are you okay? You seem a little... distant today."

"Why would you care?" I snapped, trying to hide the excitement that was swirling around in my stomach at the fact that he actually cared.

Stuck-up, self-centered, bratty Lionpaw care for anyone but himself.

"Go figure."

He seems a little hurt, "I worked hard to make sure you were safe in the battle," he claimed, "I want to make sure that I did a good job as body guard."

"Yeah, whatever," I turn away from his golden eyes.

"Well then," he huffs, "Let's see you running to me for help the next battle."

"There won't be a next battle," I retort.

"Of course there will," Thunderpaw moans miserably, "There always will be more battles. The Clans don't know what peace means."

Lionpaw exchanges a glance with me and I shrug before I have to look into his eyes for another moment, which seem to be distracting me too much for my liking.

What is happening to me?



"I'm still debating Lionpaw," Drfitpaw claims as her gaze drifts up and down surveying all of the toms in the clan, "Hey, where is Hailpaw anyways?"

"Still in the medicine cats den," I replied, glad that the subject was no longer Lionpaw.

As if sensing my thoughts, he entered the apprentice den, but not before stopping to wink at Driftpaw who giggled softly and shoot me a curious glance.

I turned my head away from him, not willing to look him in the face and after what felt like hours, I can feel his gaze drift of my face as he paddled towards Northpaw.

I felt a feeling of relief sweep through my paws as well as the strength of what I know can no longer be denied, as much as I may hate it.

I had a crush on Lionpaw.

Lionpaw:

I yawn, blinking in the early morning sunlight. Rainpaw arches a brow. "Up early for once Lionpaw?"

"Yeah," I say, flicking my ears. "I guess your crazy ways are reflecting back on me."

She shrugs, turning back towards the outside, but I can see worry reflected in her gaze. "Hailpaw will get better," I say comfortingly, touching my nose to her cheek. Just then, I hear a noise behind us, and turn to see Redpaw blinking sleep out of her eyes, which widen in shock when she sees the two of us together. Suddenly, I feel uncomfortable, though I flirt with all kinds of she-cats. I take a step away, though it's no use. Rainpaw has already padded out of the den, throwing me a smile over her shoulder, and Redpaw has turned away, her eyes smoldering and unreadable.

Why should I care? Still, I walk over to her. "Hey Redpaw."

"Lionpaw," she says curtly, her tone surprisingly cold. I open my mouth, but she flicks her tail and stalks off.

Shrugging, I pad outside too, stretching and ignoring the sting of my cuts. The morning patrol has just come back, and hungry cats are eating over by the fresh-kill pile. There is a defeated air about all of us; a dullness in our eyes, the droop of our tails. I spot Rainpaw heading back to the apprentice's den with a shrew, and glance about for Redpaw. She's talking to Driftpaw, her back turned to me, and I feel an empty hollow in the pit of my stomach that doesn't go away, even after I finish off a plump mouse.

Then I shake it off. I'm Lionpaw. No she-cat can ignore me. "Redpaw," I call in a flirting tone. "Want to go hunting with me?"

Her eyes flare up like sparks. "Why?"

"No reason," I shrug. "No need to thank me either." When she doesn't budge, I lower my tone. "Come on."

"Fine," she says, brushing past me. "But only because the Clan needs the fresh-kill." That's the first time I've heard her care about anything but her pelt, but I don't comment. Instead, I follow her, ignoring the shocked look on Driftpaw's face.

"So," I say, trying to start a conversation. "How awkward do you think the next Gathering will be?"

For a second I don't think Redpaw will respond, but then she snorts and says, "I just pity BirdClan. They'll be more out of it then Rainpaw." There's a certain bitterness in her voice, even beyond her usual disdain for the gray apprentice. I blink.

"Yeah, I guess so," I say. "But Rainpaw's okay."

"Rainpaw is not okay. Have you seen her pelt?" she scoffs. I grin at her.

"Jealous?"

"Of what?!" Redpaw whirls to face me, anger lighting up her face. I pause, taken aback by how pretty she looks, with the morning sunlight spilling down onto her. For a second I don't remember what I was saying, or even my name. 

"Of, uh..."

"Never mind," she says. "Let's just hunt."

"Okay," I say dazedly, as she drops into a crouch and begins stalking a starling. What just happened to me? Oh great StarClan. Do I actually like Redpaw?

Shrugging, I continue the hunt, and am satisfied to see that I catch three pieces of prey, while Redpaw only catches one. She sniffs and picks it up, but I interrupt her. "Here," I meow, nosing a fat squirrel towards her. "You can take this back to camp. I can't carry it all anyway."

"Okay," she says, startled. The anger in her eyes vanishes, and she bends down to pick it up, then brushes her shoulder against mine. I stiffen in shock as heat courses through me; I can feel my face going red under my ginger fur. Redpw says no more, just pads ahead of me, leaving me to stagger dreamily after her. Who knew? 

Chapter Eight

Redpaw:

I gently rasped her tongue over her pelt as I worked through the most important task of the day; grooming me pelt, letting my soft caressing licks gently soothe my precious pelt.

Suddenly, a loud group of voices gently approached the apprentice den and soon Lionpaw, Northpaw, Hailpaw, who was just beginning to heal, and Thunderpaw entered the den.

I felt myself suddenly panicking at the sight of Lionpaw. After the battle, my sudden and surprising jealousy and our hunt I can no longer deny the fact that I like him, as annoying of a furball as he may be.

Only StarClan would know why a gorgeous, mature, clever, serious and witty she-cat like me would fall for such a stuck-up, goofy and ridiculously stupid tom like him. Perhaps they decided that he needed a she-cat like me to actually bring some purpose to his life.

But that didn’t stop me from getting insanely embarrassed at the sight of him, followed by a bristle of my pelt when he looked straight pass me and right at...

Driftpaw

She giggled and he gave her a flirty wink, well I felt my paws growing red. I 'never lost, and with an easy target like Lionpaw there was no way I was going to be beaten to anyone. Not a noisy apprentice, not a total flirt and totally not my best friend.

His gaze quickly turned to meet mine though and I quickly looked away from him and back at my pelt. I could feel his gaze resting on mine for a few moments before he turned away, with some reluctance.

He gently turned to Northpaw and the two apprentices began to blabber away again about fighting and catching prey while she resisted the urge to roll her eyes at them.

Toms.

But Thunderpaw was strangely quiet, his eyes were dark and hollow and every step he took appeared to be weary. It was only how Redpaw could imagine herself walking if Lionpaw chose Rainpaw or Driftpaw over him.

But Thunderpaw didn’t like anybody. He was too quiet and kind to fall for one of the popular she-cats or obsess over them. In fact, Redpaw could think of no one fit for him in the clan.

Then what is his problem?

Forcing herself to put it behind, for she was Redpaw and being the queen of gossip she would learn everything, she forced herself to focus on a more urgent problem.

Lionpaw.

Praying to StarClan that her pelt looked good, she rose to her paws and began to gingerly paddle next to the toms, hoping to score some points.


Lionpaw: 

"Seriously Thunderpaw. What's wrong?" I ask again. The golden tabby forces a weak smile. 

"Nothing Lionpaw. I'm fine. I'm just... worried. About Hailpaw, and the Clans."

I'm not satisfied, but for once I don't push it. Instead, I glance about the apprentice's den, looking for Driftpaw; if I really want to get her hooked, I'll have to put a teeny bit of effort into it. Instead, my gaze locks with... Redpaw. I feel my face go scarlet, and I glance away. She looks deflated for an instance, then pads over, her delicate paws making almost no sound as she sits down in front of us, twitching her tail back and forth coyly.

"Hey guys," she purrs. "What you talking 'bout?"

"Not much," Thunderpaw mews bleakly, without bothering to look at her. Redpaw appears a bit miffed, but shakes it off.

"You, Lionpaw?"

I stretch and grin lazily at her, reminding myself that no she-cat, no matter how gorgeous and intelligent, can knock me off my game. "Nothing much. Counting my she-cat followers. Want to join the club?"

Her gaze is completely serious. "I'd rather pluck out my eyeballs and eat them." 

"Nice," I wince. She sighs.

"Your pelt is a mess, you know." Though her look is disapproving, there's something else as she runs me over, something that sends a tingle down my spine.

"I call this the daringly tousled look," I yawn. "Thunderpaw, want to go get some fresh-kill?"

"Sure," he mutters, getting up and following me as I pad outside. We select a squirrel, and I began devouring it. Thunderpaw just stares at it as if he's forgotten what food is. 

"Hello? Aren't you hungry?" I ask, waving a paw in front of his face.

"Nah. Sorry Lionpaw. Catch you later." He heads out of the camp.

"Hey, wait! There's a storm coming in!" I snort; he's already gone. Fine. Let the bozo get caught in the rain. We'll be having a good time partying indoors.


"This sucks."

"Understatement of the year," Driftpaw snarls, running a paw through her silky cream fur. "I can't believe the storm had to come now." She shoots daggerish glares at the sky.

"I know," Redpaw says. "It's doing terrible things to my fur." She licks down a tuft sticking up on her shoulder with a shudder. "I so need a good sun-bath."

"A sun-bath?" I smirk. "What's that?"

"It's good for your pelt," she retorts. "Not that you would know anything about fur-care."

"When you already look this good, you don't need to," I say, gesturing to my orange pelt, which is like fire against the gloomy background. This isn't lost on Redpaw, I'm sure, but she says nothing more about it. I sigh. I'm getting nowhere with her. I used to think I had she-cats all figured out. Not this one. And I'm beginning to wonder if I ever will. 


Chapter Nine

Redpaw:

"Hunting again?" I groaned as Lionpaw led me through bushes, towards the border with PetalClan, "Can't you go hunt with Driftpaw or Rainpaw this time," I sneered as I said their names.

Lionpaw was still such a flirt and the other she-cat didn't know how to keep their paws off my tom. Not that I would ever let them know I liked him.

"Are you jealous?" he grins as we continue to paddle along, light and perfect footsteps matching each other. He is grinning triumphantly and I roll my eyes, "If you like a cat, Lionpaw," I claimed, "You don't go about hanging with other she-cats. They can be viciously jealous."

"So you are jealous," he grinned and I rolled my eyes, hoping that I wasn't blushing.

"I was referring to Driftpaw," I claimed sharply, "Not that your pea-sized head would ever get anything I said without taking the wrong way."

"Oh..." he seemed disappointed for a moment.

"You will never get me to like you," I lied, "I'm interested in someone else."

I can see something flash through his eyes. Disbelief? Pain? Regret? Hope flares in my heart but I quickly pat it down, forcing myself to stay calm around the handsome tom and ignore his deep golden eyes.

"Who?" he asked me, trying to sound eager for gossip. But he couldn't pull it off. Instead he sounded desperate and I wasn't about to let him get away with it.

"Jealous?" I pressed.

"No," he responded with a disdained sniff, "I'm interested in someone else."

I felt wave of affection sweep over me and could hardly keep myself together as his pelt briefly touched against mine, and we stood in silence for a few moments.

"Well?" he asked, "Aren't you going to ask me who?"

"No use," I replied with a shrug, hoping he couldn't hear my heart pounding as fast as it did, "You wouldn't tell me anyways."

"You know me well," he grinned.

"Unfortunately."

We stood in silence for a few moments as my heart began to bruise my chest, its sound echoing loudly through my ears, until I realized that there were two sets of heartbeats. Mine... and his.

Gently, I turned my eyes and they locked with his. We starred at each other for several long moments and my paws felt sharply glued to the ground, as hard as I tried to move them.

"What?" I asked him fiercely as he continue to gaze at me.

His face broke into a deep blush, "I guess there is something I have been meaning to ask you for a while. And please swallow your pride and give me your honest opinion..."


Lionpaw:

"Yes?"

She's staring at me, eyes expectant, but all I can think is: Is she imagining that other tom? And okay, maybe a little, Great StarClan, she's gorgeous.

"Er... Well, I've been meaning to ask you something."

"You said that." Her tone is casual, but I can see something else flickering in her face, and I know I'm not imagining the way her heart is pounding; it sounds just like mine.

I shuffle my paws. What is wrong with me? Taking a deep breath, I remind myself that Redpaw is just another she-cat. And no cat breaks my heart. No cat even owns my heart. Her answer to this question means nothing, almost nothing at all. So why do I feel like some part of me will die if she doesn't say yes? 

"It's just... we've been spending a lot of time together lately."

Her eyes widen slightly, but she says nothing, only makes an impatient gesture to continue. I force myself to look up into her shining amber eyes, alight with all the spirit and vivacity that is Redpaw. "Do you... feel anything for me?"

"Feel anything for you?" Her tone is incredulous, but not disgusted. That's a start.

"Yeah," I mutter. "Like... Do you like me? All joking aside." Redpaw's mouth closes with a snap as she bites off whatever retort she was going to make. I feel like a vunerable kit, waiting for her answer, but it doesn't come. She looks speechless, utterly speechless. Obviously, it's up to me to carry on. "Because, as much as I don't believe it, I like you. A lot. More than," my voice cracks, and I swallow hard before trying again. "More than I ever dreamed I could like a she-cat. Could fall for one."

"Fall for one?" she whispers, her voice oddly quiet and sensitive sounding. She sounds... meek. I feel like wrapping my tail around her light frame, protecting her, and never letting her go. Yeah right. This is still Redpaw, I remind myself. A slow smile ripples across her face, like a flower blooming outwards toward the sun, and every bit as pretty. 

"Good," she says. "Because I would look like such a loser if I was the only one who felt this way."

"Huh?"

She laughs airily, but the next instant she's all serious again, gazing at me with something I'd never expect to see in Redpaw's eyes. "I like you too, silly furball." She gazes at her paws. "Maybe more then like."

"Whoa." Then, "Me too." I sit beside her and do something I'd never have dared to before: press my pelt against her beautiful silky one. She relaxes into me, laying her head on my shoulder.

"You know," I say, rasping my tongue across her cheek. "I can see why you care for your pelt so much. It's really pretty soft."

She laughs. "Flattery already huh?"

"I believe in truth," I proclaim. "Example, Lionpaw, you are dashingly handsome. Why thank you Lionpaw, but I already knew that."

"Don't cheat on me with yourself," she warns, flicking her tail against my shoulder. I grin.

"I don't know... Not many people can resist my charms, but I am strong. And," I add, smiling warmly at her, "with a she-cat like you, I guess I could manage."

"Yes," she says. "You will." And we pad back to camp together, shoulders brushing. All I can think is, this is perfect. But Redpaw and I are like night and day: we both rule our own domains with fierceness. And I can't help wondering, How long can this last? 


Chapter Ten

Redpaw:

"Good morning, Redpaw," I hear a silky voice purring into my ear, their voice a soft rumble as I received a soft, warm and loving lick.

Something I never knew could come from Lionpaw.

"Good morning," I purred softly in reply, patting him lightly with my paws, "Your pelt is mess," I commented disappointingly, pulling myself up to me paws.

"I'm sorry," he purred, "I didn't want to make you get too overwhelmed when you saw how handsome I was with my pelt groomed. I worried that even this may be enough to handle," he gently ruffled his pelt and gazed at me with his eyes. Although I would never admit it, he was telling the truth. His pelt was so cute as shaggy and his eyes were enough beauty for his whole body. I could barely stay standing.

A part of me wanted to confess how much I actually cared for him. He already knew that I liked him, possibly more, but he didn't really know how weak to the bone I felt at the sight of him, or how badly I wanted to rip the pelt of any she-cat he got near.

But I could never admit that. It would be like giving away my insecurities and insecurities would cause me to lose the status I had waited so hard to inherit from Rosewing, who was too overprotective of it, during the time she actually had it. I would relish every second I had left in the spotlight. Not even Lionpaw could take that from me.

I roll my eyes, blocking off my thoughts from the rest of my body, "Let me help your poor pelt," I snapped as I gently approached him. Our eyes locked for a moment before I gently placed my tongue on his pelt and began to groom it as if it were my own.

He let out a soft purr as my tongue worked its way through the knots and clumps of fur that were sticking out on his pelt. It was all I could do not to softly place my head against his back and curl up there, but I forced myself to remain aware of my surroundings and continue.

When I was finally done I took a step back admiring my work; almost losing my heart. I had done a great job and the handsome tom already looked so much cuter than before.

"Hey Lionpaw!" Driftpaw called as he paddled over to the two of us. I gently placed me head against his shoulder and he gave me a soft lick. Driftpaw glance quickly swept between the two of us in confusion.

"Hello Driftpaw," Lionpaw purred in a tone too sweet for my liking.

Driftpaw blinked, completly ignoring me, "How are you Lionpaw?" she purred.

"Handsome," he grinned at her coyly and she blushed. I felt my insides boiling with some sort of rage. I thought he liked me! The two cats continued to chatter away and I felt my anger growing by each moment and Lionpaw continued to flirt with my best friend.

Finally, unable to stand it anymore, I pulled myself away from Lionpaw, and gently paddled over to Northpaw waving my tail at him in greeting, as I felt Lionpaw's gentle gaze boring into me, even throughout his discussion with Driftpaw.

If he wanted to make me desperate, jealous and emotional then he could try.

But two could play at that game.


Lionpaw: 

I try to focus on what Driftpaw is chattering on and on about, but it's hard when I'm much more focused on wondering what on earth that dimwit Northpaw could say to make Redpaw laugh like that. 

With a jolt, I realize she's staring at me; she must have asked me a question. "Sorry, what was that?" I mumble embarrassedly. Driftpaw narrows her eyes crossly, though she's too smitten with me to do much more then that.

"I said, what do you think your warrior name will be?"

"Oh, I don't know," I say nonchalantly. "Maybe Lionclaw? That sounds like a toughie name. Or maybe Darkstar will go for the 'truth' effect, and name me Lionhot, or Lionhandsome."

She gives a tinkling laugh that carries across the clearing, to one pair of ears in particular. Redpaw whirls around at us, catches my eye, then stalks off with Northpaw, their pelts brushing. Feeling my blood simmer, I glance at Ashflight and Skymist, gazing at each other with such dreamy expressions it's almost disgusting. But they're mates, and happy. I thought once I confessed to Redpaw what I felt for her, everything would get better. Now I'm not so sure. Is this how mates are supposed to behave?

My emotions are still raging within, but I put on an indifferent face as Driftpaw asks if I want to go hunting. "Sure," I say. What harm can it do?


"Got it!" I say happily, snagging the thrush out of the sky. Driftpaw watches me with admiring sky-blue eyes, a mouse at her paws.

"Great catch," she exclaims. I puff out my chest with pride and wink at her.

"You know it."

Suddenly, we hear voices. I turn around, recognizing the beautiful laugh I'd know anywhere seconds before Redpaw walks in, Northpaw glued to her side like a pesky burr. Stifling a snarl, I give them a mechanical grin, laying my tail across Driftpaw's flank; she snuggles into my side comfortingly. Redpaw's ears flatten almost imperceptibly, and I try not to feel the tingle in my belly. "Hey," I mew.

"Hey," she replies dryly. Northpaw gives an oblivious smile.

"Nice pile of prey," he comments around the vole in his mouth. I seize the opportunity.

"Why don't you and Driftpaw run and take it back to camp? Redpaw and I will see if we can catch more," I say, trying to hide my desperation for this to work.

"Okay..." he says hesitantly. Driftpaw bats her eyelashes at him, and he grins. "Let's go."

After they've padded off, I turn to Redpaw. For a moment I'm distracted by her glossy red coat, her amber eyes sparkling out at me from under long lashes. I clear my throat and sigh. "We need to talk." 

Chapter Eleven

Redpaw:

"What?" I snapped, maybe a little too harshly. But he deserved it, the way he acted around Driftpaw like that, as if he had just agreed to become mates with her.

"Errr..." he paused for a few moments, shuffling his paws nervously.

"What?" I rolled my eyes at the tom as he stood there dumbly, trying to think of something clever to say. But he wasn't clever in the slightest bit.

He was just a stupid, fowl, flirt who only had a nice pelt and pretty eyes. Great StarClan what did I ever see in a stupid tom like him?

"What?" I snap louder this time, "Is there something you want to tell me."

"I love you," he whispers softly, his golden eyes shimmering softly, reminding me why I had fallen for him in the first place. But then I wondered if he had said these same words to Driftpaw as well.

"I know," I replied coyly, "Everybody does."

"I mean it," he responded gently, and for a moment his eyes seemed sincere and I could feel my heart melting the slightest bit, before I could hear a loud lough from Driftpaw erupting not too far behind us.

"You love everyone," I snorted, before turning around and stalking away while he called my name loudly, before following me as I ran back to camp.



"Lionpaw is so cute," Driftpaw giggled towards Meadowpaw softly while I walked past, Northpaw flanking me gently, the soft white hair on his ears puffing out gently.

I rolled my eyes at Driftpaw. The two of us weren't really friends that much anymore after she mooned over Lionpaw knowing that I disproved.

Some rumors had spread among the apprentices that Lionpaw and I were together and when someone asked I refused to reply, not really sure what the answer was anymore.

"You're looking well," I remarked smugly towards Hailpaw as he emerged from the apprentice den, "You look nice and healthy again."

"Thanks," he grinned softly and I almost felt as if I could detect something more in his smile than one you had because you received a comment from the most popular cat in the clan.

Northpaw shifting uncomfortably but I didn't mind him. I honestly felt nothing for the tom, as handsome as he may be. The only cat I could really think about, even when leaning against his pelt, his tail curled around me was...

I heard a loud laugh erupting from Driftpaw followed by Lionpaw's purr, and rolled my eyes at Northpaw who gave me an amused shrug.

"So how is Rainpaw?" I asked Hailpaw sweetly.

"HowwouldIknow?" His face quickly turned red as Northpaw and I burst into quick laughs, and I felt a pair of golden eyes resting on my fur. But I shrugged them off, as if not even noticing they were there, and gently urged Northpaw to lead me out of camp.

So what if he was undeniably cute and funny, as well as irresistible.

I could be too.

And I would never ever give him the satisfaction of knowing that he mattered enough for me to cling to him in any way that might be desperate.


Lionpaw:

Can I start off for the record by saying that I most certainly do not love everyone? Being loved by a handsome, charming tom like me is not a gift that is doled out frequently. So Redpaw was wrong in the first place, and had no right to stalk off like that.

At least, that's what I tell myself as I glower at her and Northpaw, sharing fresh-kill together with their heads touching. Hailpaw sits nearby, looking uncomfortable and pointedly ignoring Rainpaw, who is much too busy ignoring him ignoring her to notice. Does that make sense? I sigh. I'm beginning to wonder if apprentice love ever works out. Although Thunderpaw seems to be happy enough, wandering about with moony eyes and a starstruck expression on his face. Though I've guessed every she-cat in the Clan, I can't come up with one that I see any sparks with.

"Bye Lionpaw," Driftpaw sighs, rubbing her cheek against mine affectionately. "I have training."

"Bye," I say, waving my tail in farewell as she bounds off, her creamy pelt shining in the sun. And yet, all I can concentrate on is the flash of scarlet I see out of the corner of my eye, and the amusement in Redpaw's glinting amber eyes as she laughs with Northpaw. should be the one making her laugh like that. Not him. But what can I possibly do about it? 

"Lionpaw," Echoblaze calls, her head sticking out of her den. "If you're not busy, could you go gather some comfrey root for me? I'm running low."

"Sure," I mew sulkily. Collecting leaves for the medicine cat? I've hit an all-time low.

Before I can leave though, she glances about once more. "Actually, I'll need some burdock and chervil too. Redpaw, why don't you go with Lionpaw to gather them?"

She looks up, mouth round as an O. "What? I don't know anything about herbs."

While Echoblaze describes each plant in detail to Redpaw, I try to force my pelt not to turn the color of a ripe tomato. Why do we always get lumped together just when things can't get any more awkward between us?

"Well," Redpaw says after the medicine cat is done. "I guess we'd better go." I wince at the ice in her tone.

"Yeah, come on," I say, leading the way out of the den. Birds whistle an annoyingly carefree tune over our heads as we pad as far apart from each other as possible- without getting stuck in a bush. I keep my eye out for any of the aforementioned herbs, though I doubt I'll recognize them if we pass them. And I'm right; it's Redpaw who spots the burdock and harvests the roots. I watch her graceful movements as she digs them up gently with her long legs and clips them up with her fine jaw. She glances up and meets my eyes; I feel a new flood of heat as I realize I was staring.

Trying to cover it up, I say roughly, "You could be a medicine cat." 

"Yeah right," she snorts, her delicate nose quivering as if holding back a sneeze from the roots brushing it. "No toms? No thank you."

I nod sagely. "With a tom like me in their Clan, any she-cat would reach the same conclusion."

"With a tom like you in their Clan, any she-cat would go insane," she retorts hotly.

"Do you think you're crazy, then?" I ask seriously. Unable to help myself, I take a step closer, and our faces are inches apart. Her breathing grows faster as we stare at each other for a long moment. Finally she sighs.

"I don't know. Maybe I am, for falling for a tom like you. Trust me, it won't happen again."

I can't help it; I flinch. "Never?"

Her eyes glimmer with a trace of sadness, but she doesn't respond, only bends her head to pick up the roots and mumbles, "Look for chevril."

"Right," I say, tearing my gaze away from her pelt and rooting through the bushes. A small part of me wonders if we'll ever make up. I try to tell myself it's better this way, that I can't truly love Redpaw, that I'll get over her, but I know deep inside that it's not true. I don't think I'll ever get over her.


"Good training session today," Darkfang tells me. I puff out with pride; my mentor's compliments are hard to earn.

"Thanks," I say. Clearing my throat uncomfortably, I begin, "Darkfang, can I ask you a private question?"

His yellow eyes blink back warmly at me. "Sure Lionpaw. What is it? Wait, let me guess. She-cat troubles."

I flush. "I didn't know I was that obvious."

"I've seen it before," he shrugs. "You and Redpaw huh?" He waves off my protest, and continues, "Don't even bother denying it. I've seen you two together, and quite frankly, you belong that way."

"I don't know," I say. "I think I messed up too badly to be forgiven."

"If she really loves you, she'll come back to you. But," he adds with a wry smile, "It always gains you more points if you're the one who apoligizes first."

"I shouldn't have to," I protest.

"How much are you willing to give up for Redpaw?"

"Everything," I whisper. "Excuse me." I turn and run into the woods. I have to find her, before time runs out.


Chapter Twelve

Redpaw:

"What's wrong, Redpaw?" Rosewind looked up from her piece of prey while I shuffled my paws nervously. Lionpaw was supposed to be out on an assessment with Darkfang.

"I uh..." She stuttered for a moment. This move could be seriously dangerous to her popularity but she would have to risk it for the golden pair of eyes that constantly haunted her mind, "I need advice," she admitted with a shrug before hastily adding, "On toms."

Her eyes twinkled with wild amusement and she purred, "Lionpaw?"

"Yes," I admitted begrudgingly as I looked down at my paws, "We confessed that we have feelings for each other but within a sunrise it all just..."

"Fell apart?" Rosewind offered and Redpaw nodded quickly.

"Have you been devoting to him?" Rosewind asked her softly, "If there is one thing to ruin a relationship it's other cats to get between it."

"Yes but..." I paused, "He started it! I only started to flirt with Northpaw because he wouldn't stop hanging around with Driftpaw!"

"Do you really love him?" she pressed me, and I could tell honesty was the only way out of this situation we had got ourselves into.

"Too much," I felt sharp pain reaching my eyes and I forced back harsh tears.

"Then it shouldn't matter," she softly whispered, "Any cat could tell Lionpaw is still into you, and if you really do love him that much... why does it matter who apologizes?"

"Pride?" I offered.

"Sometimes," she claimed, "You have to set aside your popularity and the fear of what may become of it. Lionpaw is a cat who StarClan obviously intended for you to end up with. The problem is only growing and your tempers are just further escalating as your pride keeps you from sounding too desperate about the other flirting with another cat."

"True," I mumbled, "But then why hasn't he apologized yet if he really loved me?"

"Why haven't you?" She smiled softly and I felt a small bud of hope groaning in my heart as I turned around and raced out of camp without even bothering to thank her.



"Lionpaw's gone," Darkfang admitted as he carried two dead squirrels back to camp.

"Where?" she asked him desperately and he shrugged.

"He's my apprentice, not my son. He did well on his assessment, though, if it makes any difference to you," he offered gently.

"No it doesn't!" Redpaw snapped before turning around and running off again, wondering where in the name of StarClan Lionpaw could be if he wasn't being a goody-two-paws trying to impress him mentor like always.

She found her paws leading her towards the large tree from which she had saved Lionpaw not too long ago. She always considered that the place where she had actually began to develop feelings for him. She just had a feeling, a deep hope, that maybe she might find her tom there.

As she approached the tree, her footsteps getting faster by the moment she could hear loud panting noises and a large feel of relief enveloped her as she realized it belong to Lionpaw.

Reaching the bottom of the tree, she looked up to see Lionpaw, leaping from branch to branch, inching closer to the top by the moment.

He didn't notice me watching him with such a longing in my eyes I knew it would portray me as the ultimate loser. But according to Rosewind that didn't matter right?

Or what if she was still plotting to pull me down?

It couldn't be long before I became a warrior and suddenly I would be a threat all over again, one, as she had stated, that couldn't go unattended.

And what if Lionpaw was her way of getting rid of me before I even reappeared?

But glancing at the golden tom I realized that it didn't matter what he motives had been or why she had said what she did. She had been right. My pride wasn't worth losing him, as self-absorbed as he may be. He was cute, kind and he actually cared for me. He loved me for who I was.

Not because I was popular.

So, gritting my teeth as I realized what a threat it could be to the state of my health, I gently leaped onto the first branch. I wobbled a little at first, before gently jumping onto the next branch.

The wind gently passed through my pelt and I became even more self-conscious than usual about what state it was in, knowing I was about to have the most important tom about my life.

"Lionpaw!" I called, as I quickened my pace, so that I could pass him. But he didn't hear, as he continued to leap and leap until he finally stopped, and gently sat down on a strong sturdy branch.

"Lionpaw!" I shouted again, louder this time. His head snapped away from the forest at which he was gazing and back to me as I nimbly reached the branch he was seated on and paddled towards him.

"Hey, Redpaw!" his face turned red as he looked down and I forced myself to remember Rosewind's words.

"None of us fell this time," I joked softly and he purred gently but cautiously as though he were approaching an enemy cat. Gently I took a few steps closer towards him and placed my pelt against his.

"The only thing prettier than the forest before me," he claimed indicating with his ears to the marvelous view from high up in the tree, "Is you," he paused, "Besides me, of course."

I wanted to give him a witty reply, and pretend like nothing had happened between us, like we could just pick up where we had left off, but the risk of history repeating itself was much too large.

"We need to talk," I claimed softly, breathing in his sweet scent.

"For real this time?" his eyes contained a faint trace of surprise.

"For real this time," I whispered gently touching his cheek softly with my nose before pulling back, "I'll listen to whatever you have to say. But, in return, I want you to listen to me and everything I have to say."


Lionpaw: 

"Okay," I breathe, not daring to take my eyes from her shining face in case she magically disappears; surely such a perfect she-cat can't be real. Can't love me. "Go for it."

She takes a deep breath, staring at her paws, and the ground several feet below. But neither of us pays any attention to the memories of falling. This is our tree now; I can feel it. I shuffle a step closer and smile at her encouragingly; she returns it and starts speaking. "Lionpaw, I don't want it to be this way. With both of us constantly trying to make each other jealous. Because the truth is, I don't care for Northpaw. I've never truly cared for anyone but you."

I stare at her for a moment, lost in her deep eyes. Then I say, "I feel the same way Redpaw. I know I've been a jerk. I'm sorry. But... No amount of Driftpaws could ever come close to you, okay? I can't control the way I feel about you. It just happens. And I don't want it to ever go away now." I touch my nose to her hear, and she leans against me. For once there is no barrier of ice between us, and it feels amazing. Like I've been lost in the dark all this time, and now, suddenly, I've found the light, and the other half of me. Like now I'm complete. Not that I'd ever say that aloud; no matter how much loving Redpaw has changed me, I do have some pride.

"All is forgiven," she says softly into my pelt. "We were meant to be together."

"Agreed," I say, sweeping my tail along her flank. "The two of us have a lot to talk about."

She nods. "We'll make this work Lionpaw. I never thought I could give up anything for a tom. But for you... I would in a heartbeat.'

"I would do the same," I promise. 

Suddenly, Redpaw's eyes stretch wide open. "Look Lionpaw," she whispers, pointing with her tail behind me. Frowning, I turn around, and my jaw drops.

Etched into the rough bark is the face of a lion. That's the only thing it could be; I recognize it from the elder's descriptions of the cats of LionClan. Its mane is chiseled outwards, and made out of a peculiar red wood that I've never seen before. Even though they are wooden, the lion's triangular eyes seem to stare wisely back at us. I blink several times, to make sure I'm not imagining it. "Whoa," I whisper, touching a paw to the carving.

Redpaw smiles, giving me a lick on the cheek. "It's a sign. From StarClan."

"That I look great in a mane?"

"A red mane," she corrects. Pressing her glossy scarlet pelt against mine, she winks. "Red is totally your color."

"Then I'll wear it always," I promise.

"Good," she says, and we touch noses; a burst of electricity runs through me. "I love you, Lionpaw, and you love me." I smile at the confidence with which she says it, as we both know it's true. "And it'll always be like that." 

There's only one thing I can say, with her scent wreathing around me, and the tree waving peacefully beneath us.

"Always."


Epilogue

The territory of FlameClan is a complex place. It has to be, for these fiery cats who hunt among the densest woods and thickets the land has to offer, and who employ the best stalking techniques to catch their prey. FlameClan cats are also known for their temper, and hard-headedness. And... their amazing loyalty.

One of the biggest reminders of this is on a tree, just inside the border. Tall and red, with limbs reaching up into the sky, it has seen many an apprentice tumble from its branches. Yet, somehow, any cat that falls from the tree never dies. And now, the tree belongs to two cats, two cats that no one ever dreamed could come together.

To serve as a reminder of this union, carved deeply into the thick bark, is the form of a lion. Not just any lion. Its mane is thick and fiery crimson, unlike any wood you've ever seen before. It blazes with all the spirit and heart of the cats it was made for. An everlasting symbol of what love can do, even to those of us who never hope to find it. Those of us who endlessly search to no avail. This tree is a reminder that love cannot be found, it finds us, and often in the most unexpected places.

Any cat struggling, or who thinks that they can never forgive their mate for what they did, should come here and marvel at it. Because if these two cats, who fought like fire and ice when thrown together, could find peace, then anyone can.

All you have to do is try.

That's all it takes, for you to take the first step. A lot of times, you'll find that your partner will meet you there. And so, this isn't just a tree, nor is it a coincidence that the image of a lion with a blazing red mane has appeared in the trunk. It was all meant to be, just like the two cats it happened for were meant to be. 

Forever, as long as the wind blows winds of hope and love over FlameClan, and the rest of the world, the tree will guard its treasure. And the lion with the red mane will watch over the forest with all the fierceness that comes when you're together.

That's just how it's meant to be. 

Red Mane

Some things are far too precious

To lose for a drop of pride

Some things which cling to our conscious

Against them, no matter how hard we try

For even the lion of pride and strength

Can't withstand the cry of the red shinning mane

And even the she-cat, whose eyes capture all

Can't defeat the trance of the lion's call

And sometimes, a sacrifice it may take

A great deal of courage, to which many could break

But with the power of lion and the grace of the red

To keep going, they have what it takes

For their heart to find peace

In the most strangest place

A tree with bark as dark as red

Where cats should fall, but never do

Due to the fierce protecter lying above their desend 

A roraing red lion, who hold these lovers close 'till the end

Keeps life  together, by keeping lovers sane

The lion, with the red mane

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