Red

The Last Time | The Lucky One | All Too Well | Red | State of Grace | Everything Has Changed | Starlight | I Almost Do | Twenty-Two | Treacherous | I Knew You Were Trouble | We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together | Stay Stay Stay | Holy Ground | Sad Beautiful Tragic | Begin Again

Part of the Songfic Series

OA is Taylor Swift 

Written by Red

State of Grace

I'm walking fast through the traffic lights

Busy streets and busy lives

The camp was abuzz with life.

Kits scampered around their mothers' feet, weaving between the legs of wariors trotting from the woodpile to the half-built dens, climbing over the steadily-rising flanks of drowsy elders. Sick or injured cats hobbled into the warm patches of sunlight to rest out of the cool shade of the medicine den, while the medicine cat and her apprentice tended to them. Apprentices returned, bouncing with joy, after a successful assessment, while their mentors followed at a slower pace, looking amused. 

"Redpoppy, give us a paw with the repairs!" a loud yell fractures the monotone hum of workers, and a brown tabby pushes her way through. "Get some brambles from the stack, please." I nodded, grabbing a long tangle of the thorns just as Bramblepath had instructed, and followed her over to the half-assembled dens.

And all we know, is touch and go

We are alone with our changing minds

I began to weave the brambles in with the rest surrounding the den, soon falling into the groove of work. The repetition was lulling, and I felt myself drifting off. We worked tirelessly, our paws intertwining the brambles so they fit smoothly in with the others, erecting a den out of a pile of scraps. Bramblepath was helping too, helping the warriors and supervising and assisting wherever there was a mistake. 

A tail around my shoulders hauled me from my reverie, and I looked up to see Stormfall giving me a lick on my cheek. "Hey," he said brightly, standing back to observe our work. His golden fur was a tangle of thorns, leaves, and herbs, and though his eyes drooped in exhaustion, he still managed to look cheerful. 

"Hello," I replied, purring. 

Hearing his name called for more work, Stormfall flicked his tail affectionately over my ear and whisked off. Enjoyably busy and still slightly euphoric, I returned to my work, trying to keep a blush rising to my cheeks as all of my friends around me cooed. 

We fall in love 'til it hurts or bleeds or fades in time

And I never (never) saw you coming

Twilight fell, and still the Clan worked, chatting as the moon cast the camp into a pool of light. We laughed together, listening to the elders' stories over the rustle of our paws, remembering the times when we were kits and we heard the same stories from our own elders. Every kit is bathed in moonlight, with an expression of enrapturement on every face. It was blissful ignorance when we were like this - I'm sure Bramblepath, Stargaze, Wetstream and Sunmark can agree - and it's even more perfect seeing new kits, new lives, being able to mimic something we missed so dearly. 

"Maybe someday, we'll have little Stormfalls sitting there," I purred, looking over my shoulder. Stormfall sat behind me, smiling at the multi-colored scraps of fur, sitting obediently in front of the elders, awe-struck at every harrowing tale. 

"I hope so," Stormfall agreed. "Little Redpoppys too though." He gestured at the small kit - one of Rainsplash's lot, I presume - sitting calmly and quietly amongst his siblings and denmates. His fur was as red as my own, and I grinned. 

And I'll never (ever) be the same

You come around and the armor falls

Bramblepath, Stargaze and I were up late in our nests, whispering and giggling in the corner. We had received numerous light-hearted glares - for the most part, everyone was still up and about in the camp, even though it was almost moonhigh - but we continued to chat and laugh even as cats began to filter into the den. Stargaze was snoring and Bramblepath drifting off by the time Stormfall padded into the den, eyes still twinkling and a laugh bubbling from his throat.

Behind him, Sunleaf was purring, wrapping her tail around his and pressing up against him. Her own eyes were filled with affection, and she was clearly enjoying Stormfall's company. Stormfall had always been the most social of cats, but I tried to stifle the feeling that this was more than just social

Stifling said feeling was difficult, however, when Stormfall curled up beside Sunleaf, abandoning his nest beside mine. I squirmed about, rearranging myself so I was facing my friends with my back towards Stormfall, and was greeted by two pairs of identical, wide eyes. They quailed beneath my own awkward, shifting gaze, and I curld tighter around myself, struggling to keep warm without someone beside me. 

Pierce the room like a cannon ball

Now all we know is don't let go

Sleep finally came after much tossing, turning, and rolling, but I was awoken what seemed to be only moments later by a loud, rusty purr. Blearily, I blinked open my eyes to see my actions being mimicked by drowsy cats all around the den, awoken by the noise of a she-cat's loud, tinkling laugh. Sunleaf, golden form trembling with laughter, was close to rolling about her nest with the hilarity, as Stormfall just sat by sheepishly, flicking his tail and looking apologetic. 

"Shut up," someone snarled. "We're trying to sleep here." I couldn't help but agree.

Dissatisfied with the knowledge that once I was woken up in the morning, I would not be able to return to the blissful ignorance known as sleep, I hauled myself tiredly out of my nest, brushing past Stormfall and Sunleaf with a quiet growl. Stormfall looked slightly ashamed, but Sunleaf just shot me a cocky smirk, and I struggled to keep from clawing her ears off. 

"Redpoppy?" Bramblepath called from across the clearing. "Hunting patrol all right with you?" I nodded, and she let me go out by myself, making me promise I'd not come back until I had enough prey to provide a meal for her and myself. 

We are alone, just you and me

Up in your room and our slates are clean

Pawsteps behind me make me flinch, but I keep my gaze trained on the hyperactive squirrel bouncing about in front of me. Sliding forwards, paws pressed against the mossy forest floor, I kept my eyes trained on the prey in front of me - a fat enough bit of fresh-kill to feed the a queen and supply enough milk for her kits. Above me, a pair of birds called warnings to each other, distracting me but not the squirrel. With a growing sense of satisfaction, I crept closer, and closer; I could almost taste the prey in my mouth as I would carry it back to camp--

Somewhere behind me, a twig snapped and the squirrel bolted off. All that was left of what would have been fresh-kill was a small pile of nuts. Spinning furiously on my heel, I came face to face with a startled Stormfall.

Instantly, my temper flared and I felt anger bubbling up in my throat. Anger not only at the lost kill, but at the tom who said he loved me then went canoodling with another. It was only a moment before the fury boiled over, and so I turned and began to retreat. It was the touch of his tail on my shoulder, however, that set me off, and without preamble I was snarling, "That could have fed Rainsplash and given her enough milk for her kits! You ruined it, you mouse-brain! I can't believe it, you just have to ruin everything, don't you? First our StarClan-forsaken relationship, then something I'm trying to do for the good of the Clan!"

Just twin fire signs, four blue eyes

So you were never a saint

We then assumed the positions we would unknowingly occupy until sunhigh that day, both of us gazing moodily off in opposite directions. Stormfall answered my tirade only with silence, his namesake storm-colored eyes brooding and dark as he wordlessly accepted my flood of anger. Neither of us said anything until the sun was at its highest point in the landscape of blue. Though I had said no more than four seconds, Stormfall took heed of all of the unsaid words that came between us - my fury at his canoodling with the brazen Sunleaf, unquenched rage - and possibly a smidgeon of jealosy - at that outgoing personality that had she-cats falling head-over-heels for him.

"I'm only feline," he breathed, as the sun began its steady descent towards the horizon and our ancestors began to crawl from their shadowy nests. That was all he said, three words, until nightfall came to bathe us in darkness and whisper unsaid affections.

So he was, indeed, only feline. He was only a cat, just as we all were. He was no superhero, or Twoleg, or monster with extraordinary capabilities. He was the same as the rest of us, and I suppose it was foolish of me to ever imagine he was anything greater. I can't quench my envy, but at the same time, nor can he cease that lovely outgoing persona I fell in love with.

And I’ve loved in shades of wrong

We learn to live with the pain

Without even needing to confirm our actions, we shared a glance and stood up in synchrony. Accidentally, my furry tail brushed his and we both drew back, sheepish. Things weren't quite the same between us, I could acknowledge that much. As our paws treaded the well-worn path from the riverside to the camp, images of the old Stormfall raced through my mind - the one who frolicked around in wildflower meadows, tossing up colorful petals and rolling in the mess. The Stormfall who would wrap his tail around my shoulders and purr, rubbing his face against my cheek even if my eyes were too wet to appreciate it.

I guess this is the Stormfall I'll be living with, I repeated to myself. A grouchy Stormfall who gives his heart to another is better than no Stormfall at all

Entering the camp, life had returned to yesterday's state of activity, kits meowing and prancing about; queens scolding kits without paying attention to which ones were theirs; warriors bustling to and fro with leaves and vines trailing from their jaws; the elders stretched out on rocks, lazing about in the dyiing rays of the sun. The flurry of life nearly made me forget my predicament as I got swept up in it all, soon finding myself separated from Stormfall and working side-by-side with my friends.

Mosaic broken hearts

But this love is brave and wild

"Hey Redpoppy," Bramblepath mewed cheerfully to my left, while Stargaze let out a throaty purr on my right. Sunmark and Wetstream lined up to Bramblepath's other side, vaguely aware of my presence, while Nightshimmer and Rainsplash were herding their kits away from the workers.

"Hi," I said, my voice slightly constricted. Despite the rhythmic work of my paws, I had let my gaze wander and it had come to rest on a sight I would rather not see, especially in light of recent moments. Stormfall had his cheek pressed up against Sunleaf's, and the two were sunbathing beside the elders - clearly not engaged in the Clan effort - mooning over the tiny, plump kits waddling out of the nursery for the first time, shepherded by their mother, Gingerstripe. 

Noticing my reluctance and catching site of the lovestruck pair herself, Stargaze pressed up against me. "Don't worry about them," she said softly, "let them be the way they are. Stormfall was always a bit of a...foxdun--fox-brain anyway." She put a paw teasingly over her mouth. "We're in the presence of kits," she added in a fake whisper, gesturing at the little cats toddling away from their mother.

And I never (never) saw you coming

And I'll never (ever) be the same

Saying good night to my friends as they retired to the warriors' den, I continued working. Though my claws snagged on the woven brambles and twigs scraped my flanks, I pressed on. The leaves, vines, mud, and twigs slowly began to sculpt the den, sending it rising towards the trees. Though our aim was not to squeeze cats on top of each other in the den, height made an impact on the space envisioned. Our so our head architect, Forestheart, had told us, his eyes sparkling as he described the wonders that would take place.

"Hey," a soft voice said beside me. Nearly pricking myself in my hase to turn, I scowled into Stormfall's face.

I fought the immature urge to turn around and ignore him, to keep my focus trained purely on the work in front of me, designed only to distract me instead of serve as a punishment. "Redpoppy," Stormfall continued in a low voice, "I'm sorry, honestly. I don't know what you want me to say. I'm sorry that I'm just...the way I am. But I love you, and if you want me to change, I will. I'll do whatever it takes to earn your love back."

This is a state of grace

This is the worthwhile fight

Until that moment, that personal sacrifice, the moment beginning with undertones of rage and ending with ones of resignment, I hadn't realized how much Stormfall truly did love me. Call me sappy, but it was a sort of epiphany - a tom so willing to change for me - and so openly admitting it - was not something you came across every sunrise. My friends would call it fate, I would call it luck.

And so I let out a purr, my affection rusty from disuse, and pressed up against the golden tom. "I would never want you to change, not for me," I murmured, dropping my paws from the den.

It was then that I followed Stormfall into the warriors' den, past an expectant Sunleaf and to the warmest spot, the back corner of the den. We curled up in our respective nests, Stormfall's bushy tail spilling onto my moss. Playfully, I flicked him away, suppressing a laugh at the mock hurt lingering in his eyes. He let out a quiet purr, the sort that of laugh that the cats in the vicinity admire you for instead of hissing at you to shut up.

Love is a ruthless game

Unless you play it good and right

The night passed quickly and uneventfully, the majority of the warriors waking up refreshed (quite the contrary from the previous morning) and ready to dive into the day's work. Stormfall and I stretched before padding out of the den, and as we passed a snarling and bristling Sunleaf, I did my best to smile politely and ignore the envy-green she-cat. I loved Stormfall, he loved me, and at the moment, I could really care less what anybody else thought. Sunleaf had done her part in this game, sent me back to the start, but I had caught up quickly and fairly, and now the reward was mine.

To be quite honest, I could imagine no better reward than spending the remainder of my life with Stormfall - reliving the moments when I woke just a smidge before him, my eyes opening to his half-closed eyelids and the slow rise and fall of his flanks. 

I suppose, though, I had earned it. Dealing with all of Sunleaf's dung, keeping my head even when she dangled her budding relationship with my own love right in front of my face. I played fair; in this game - this game I had won - she was the cheater. And cheaters were always apprehended. Apprehended and punished, and usually the one on the receiving end received some sort of reimbursement.

These are the hands of fate

You're my Achilles heel

The camp was slowly waking up, kits beginning to peep out from the silence of the nursery, blinking open tired eyes and welcoming a new day with tongues hanging out and cheerful giggles. Their mothers poked their heads out after them, wrapping fluffy tails around the tiny creatures as if trying to cushion them from the real world. The elders began to crawl from their nests, heading towards the sun-warmed rocks for another day of pleasant, lazy reminiscing and basking in their retirement. 

I shot a sideways glance at Stormfall. As cliche as it might sound - and believe me, cliche was not usually my thing -I couldn't help but melt at the sight of him. He had treated me like dung fairly often in the past, but if what we had now was love, it really was worth going weak at the knees whenever I saw him, knowing that he was mine.

Forestheart was perched on a rock, grooming himself beside Bramblepath. Rainsplash shepherded her kits out into the sunlight, leaving Nightshimmer's bunch behind with their dozing mother. Perhaps some day, I would be leaving the nursery with a few bundles of fur, heading into the light towards those who could teach them their own history, and that of their ancestors'. But for now, I was content with being with Stormfall, just being with him.

This is the golden age of something good and right and real

And I never (never) saw you coming

And so this was how StarClan would have it.

Stormfall and I padded out of the camp after a swift nod from Forestheart, plunging into the lush verdancy with our jaws parted to taste the air. I caught the scent of a couple of shrews and a variety of other rodents, but a nudge from Stormfall directed me to a plump hare; the prey had strayed from its usual territory out on the moors and had somehow wandered into the forest to look for food of its own. A swift bite to the neck would teach it and its brethren to stick to their territory, for if they didn't, they would all suffer the same fate - a final resting place in the stomachs of ThunderClan.

Beside me, Stormfall gave me a nudge with his nose, and I let out a burst of laughter, nearly tripping over the hare lying at my paws. With a flurry of wings, birds took off from the trees around us. We shared a sheepish smile, but I let out a purr and flicked his ear with my tail. 

Nothing could be better.

And I'll never (ever) be the same

And I never (never) saw you coming

Despite our noise level, the calls of the forest resumed as we dragged the hare towards camp. Stormfall broke away to chase after a vole, coming back with a mouthful of rodents. He grinned, sending the prey swinging, and I had to let  out a quiet chuckle. Shouldering me playfully aside, he took off at a trot back towards camp. I called a challenge after him, putting on a burst of speed and racing to the thorny tunnel entrance as he slowed down behind me. 

Just as I was about to step into camp, he pushed me aside and lunged in front of me. His back legs getting tangled with my front, however, caused the both of us to fall into a tangled heap at the feet of a drowsy Nightshimmer. Her kits instantly began to clamber over us, earning a scolding from their mother, but Stormfall and I just shared a smile. The fresh-kill sat in the dust a few mouse-lengths away, and so, seeing her kits weren't moving any time soon, Nightshimmer picked up the prey and dropped it at the fresh-kill pile, gesturing wordlessly to Stormfall and me. Forestheart laughed.

The rest of the Clan emerged from their dens at the feast laid out before them; combined with the remains of Bramblepath and Braveheart's hunt, the entire Clan could be fed.

And I'll never (ever) be the same

This is a state of grace

While Stormfall teased the kits with the small voles, I hefted the hare onto my back and stumbled towards the elders' spot on the rocks. They wearily raised their heads at my approach, then all were up and on their paws at the sight of prey. It only took a moment for the hare to be devoured, and I had to hold back a smile as I bowed my head respectfully and returned to the pile, ready to dole out the rest of the food per Forestheart's giddily-given instructions from his perch.

Laughter filled the camp as everyone settled down with prey filling their bellies. I couldn't help but grin now; it was so nice seeing everyone get along. Even Sunleaf looked mildly happy, cozying up to Goldenpelt. The tom seemed vaguely repulsed by Sunleaf's advances, but must have noticed the sudden change in attitude and decided to go with it. Forestheart and Bramblepath were talking beneath the Highrock, heads bent together and smiles gracing both of the warriors' faces. They both laughed, clearly not consulting about battle plans or anything that would put a damper on the infectiously bright mood of the entire Clan. Even Coldfoot - usually so grim - looked decidedly cheerful for a change. 

"If only it could always be this way," I sighed to Stormfall, resting my head on his shoulder. He purred sadly, flicking my ear with his tail. 

This is the worthwhile fight

Love is a ruthless game

"It will," he whispered, letting his eyes rove over the chatting Clan. The kits, full after a good meal, rolled around on bloated bellies, batting tiredly at each other in a drowsy version of play-fighting. Most of the warriors were talking, boasting, or else dozing in the bright light of the sun. Retreating to their previous positions, the elders had begun to snooze, bathed in sunlight, and even the queens began to look a bit exhausted, herding their kits back into the den for a nice long nap that was well-deserving of the entire Clan.

"Someday," Stormfall continued, "you'll be herding our kits back into the nursery as Rainsplash's lot come trotting into camp with prey-filled jaws. Even further into the future, the both of us will lie beside each other on the sunning rocks as elders, purring about the good days of old."

I cocked my head, images flooding my mind. I could picture tiny versions of myself, with bushy red fur and Stormfall's bright blue eyes, and mirror images of him - golden-brown tabbies with green eyes, tumbling about with tiny, thorn-sharp claws outstretched. Pouncing on their father's tail, being fawned over by the entire Clan. And then fast forward to when Stormfall and I had gray in our muzzles and shot throughout our fur, and we would be basking in the light of the sun, on the rocks. 

Unless you play it good and right

"Someday," I promised.

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