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syncopation


a one-shot by stork


enjoy <3


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preface

syncopation;
noun; a temporary displacement of the regular metrical accent in music caused typically by stressing the weak beat.

syncopation

I used to know someone. We met as part of pure accident; we were never supposed to know each other for more than a moment.

But she was different.

I was unusual. I was never one for romanticism, unlike the rest of my Clan. They used to call me Maplepaw the Weird when I was an apprentice. I would craft my own way. Everyone wanted me to stay the same.

I was different, wanting to stray off the line all my Clanmates were on. My father, Quailheart, still gives me the stink eye every time I approach him. He will never be proud of me, I know. He'll always be more proud of Jackalpaw and Galepaw than me. Even if Galepaw is a medicine cat.

My mother, Moonwhisper, wasn't proud of me either. Even worse, she was deputy, and still is. No way was she going to sponsor her weird child to deputyship. She and I had a poor relationship when I was just a kit, and it's stayed the same since then.

Now, as for the rogue, I met her when I was an apprentice. Regretfully, Quailheart was my mentor, and he'd just let me go. He wasn't going to care if I died. I think I never cared for him as my mentor either.

I was hunting the same rabbit she was, and she had me pinned while the rabbit ran off. "Clan cat, huh...?"

She had me pinned hard, and she blinked once. Her fur was pure black, with eyes as bright as the sun itself. A sunlit child cast in a shadow's disguise. "Well, are you gonna do anything?"

Her eyes were bright, but not wide. "Maybe. That rabbit was mine."

She rolled her eyes. "Nah, that was totally mine. Name's Senka." She unsheathed her claws. "That'll make you do something."

"Of course it will, it hurts." I leaned my weight to one side, throwing her off. "Maplepaw."

She narrowed her eyes and nearly blended in with the shadows of the setting sun. "How close are you to warriorhood?"

I stared her in the eye. "Probably a few days if they'll let me."

She cocked her head. "Let you?"

"Yeah. I'm a bit peculiar to them."

"Well, everyone's peculiar to me, Maplepaw." She smiled. "Including you, and including me."

She approached me. "Sorry to have disturbed you. Maybe we'll run into each other at some point. Who knows. Good to meet you, Maplepaw. See you soon."

"See you soon, I guess... Senka." She gave me a nod and vanished into the bushes.

I didn't see her for a while after that.

*

When Galepaw approached me, I was nervous. She gave me an anxious moan and took me out to the woods. She let out a sigh and gave me a look that was a sad sort of happy. "You know Blazewhisker... right? That warrior, who's close to me since kithood. Well..."

"G-G-Galepaw, please don't tell me..."

"Yeah." She pawed at the ground. "...sorry. I know this shouldn't be happening." Her ears twitched. "I mean, I'm a medicine cat. I shouldn't be doing this. I'm like that medicine cat from the old Clans! That one who had to fake that they were her sister's!" She shook her head. "StarClan, why... Maplebreeze."

"W-What?! Do as they did... back then? You know if they find out, they'll kill you." She sighed. "I can't do that. I can't."

She let out a sigh. "Guess I may as well die before then."

"But they'll figure you out."

"No... they won't."

She took me back to camp. The sunset was approaching, and she cleared her throat. "Clanmates! Maplebreeze and I are going on a mission."

"What mission?"

"Maplebreeze has had a dream about a danger to this Clan. As she may need healing, I am going with her. As for when we will be back... we do not know. It may be a moon, it may be two, we don’t know. But we will be back, and hopefully..." Her voice shook for a mere second. "...it'll be soon."

I remember them cheering for us - no, not for me, for Galepaw. Nobody knew her secret but me.

We left as soon as possible, and almost immediately Galepaw's stride rose and she and I were son running, as far away as we could get, before we had to stop. Unlike her, I probably still could've gone on - but Galepaw, in her state, was tired before we got too far away.

This... this was where I met Senka. The sunset was still occurring. I wondered briefly if we would see her appear.

"Galepaw..."

"Maplebreeze." She cast a tired look my direction. "I'm... really upset that I can't stay there. In ForestClan. And also that I dragged you into this mess."

Oh Galepaw... "Hey, sorry isn't gonna make a difference. We're here now. I'm here now." I let out a sigh at that - I was thinking about Senka. "I'm just glad you came to me. Even after you and Jackalclaw and Mother and Father called me names."

She flattened her ears. "Yeah, sorry for that. You're definitely unusual, Maplebreeze, but you're still my sister. And only an unusual cat would understand this dilemma."

We waited until night fell before we made refuge. I knew she was tired; I was nearly tempted to see how she was doing even right then.

She and I finally found a spot under the bushes. "This looks... somewhat comfortable." Her eyes went dark for a mere moment. "Find some moss, will you?"

I nodded and slipped off. As I stepped out, I heard a movement. "So you've returned."

"Senka!" I met her gaze immediately. "Hey. Been a while. I'm out here with my sister."

"I overheard. She's pregnant, isn't she? It's not like an apprentice to be pregnant when she's still that young."

She's been listening in! Maplebreeze, you fool... "She's as old as I am. If she's really honest, I'll bet she's due in a moon."

"You're almost two years now if I remember correctly." She slipped out of the shade of the tree. "As am I."

She caught my gaze. "You want to chase another hare? First one to catch two mice and two rabbits wins the other's catch as well as their own."

Her sunlit eyes were warm. "Sure. Galepaw and I could both use some anyway."

We hunted about until moonhigh, where she and I met.

"Your catch?"

"Two mice, a shrew, a mole, and two rabbits."

Senka smiled. "More than me. I've only got two birds." She let out a breath. "Guess you win. I'm gonna go to my home - as should you. Your sister is probably worried about you."

"She probably is."

"It was good to see you, Maplebreeze."

*

Galepaw had a pleasant look on her face when I returned. "Nice catch."

"I guess..." I remembered the expression Senka had; the way her brows furrowed despite the smile in her eyes, the way her tail lashed against the ground. "How are you feeling?"

"Tired... as usual, for now."

I nudged one of the rabbits towards her, and she shifted before taking a bite. "Hey, uh, Maplebreeze... I just wanted to apologize."

"Hm?"

"Jackalclaw and I were... very mean to you. And he still is." She sighed. "You were always odd to us. Never did we think about how much it may have harmed you. Ever." Her eyes were full of anguish. "I know you're different than us, Maplebreeze. I know you're different from all of us in ForestClan." She closed her eyes. "You being different should have never made us act differently, and yet we saw you as weird and bullied you." Her tone shifted. "You probably hate me."

"Galepaw..." I didn't know what to say. "I - I don't hate you as much as I hate Jackalclaw and Quailheart." She stared at me, her face crumpling. "Your bullying... It did harm me. More than I want to admit." I settled on the ground towards her. "I hid from you and Quailheart and Jackalclaw for as long as I could. And I met someone... who I trust very much. They are not a lover." I said the statement before she could open her mouth. "But they are someone I trust and trust with my life."

She smiled sadly. "I hope they treat you right, unlike I did." She took a glance at her stomach, which, I noted, had started to swell with her kits. "I'm going to teach them. Teach them that they shouldn't treat their siblings wrong."

I nodded. "Alright, Galepaw. I'm gonna sleep pretty soon - as should you."

It was good to see you, Maplebreeze.

*

A few days before Galepaw had her kits, I saw Senka again.

The sunset was the prettiest it'd ever been, and I watched it from the edge of the forest, at the top of a hill, where I could see it at its finest. I didn't hear her behind me, and she slunk up. "Another sunset, and another appearance by yours truly."

She started chuckling beside me. "Hahaha, I got you again..." She slipped next to me, settling herself by my side. "Look at you, scaredy cat. Watching the sunset again." Her tail moved over mine. "Your calico fur is actually looking great under this light. Really brings out the oranges."

"Senka, why do you keep finding me?"

"Finding you?" Her sunlit eyes turned towards me. "Because... well, Maplebreeze, I like you. You're unique. You're an individual."

"An individual?"

"Mhmm." She sneezed. "I love those who are different. You're more notable than anyone because you're the only one who stands out to me."

"Senka..." She blinked. "Why do you only appear during sunset?"

She went silent. "I'm... what you all may call... cursed." She shifted closer to me. "If I see someone I love any time during the day, I'll be burned alive."

What? "How does that even -"

"It's something that runs in my family. My mother, when she was pregnant with me, never loved my father in the way he did. So she was never burned." She sighed. "It is a curse that has passed through my blood. That's why my blood, if you ever see it, will appear to be black and bright yellow, merged together like vines overtaking walls." She stared at the sunset. "What my mother told me was that someone who lived underneath us - no, not within the ground, but within the foretold molten core itself - had bitten an ancestor. Upon doing so, it slipped away. As for why it bit my ancestor... we don't know."

"Oh... Senka..."

"Maplebreeze, it is not your fault this happened." She wrapped her tail over my back. "And because I do enjoy you, I must be mindful."

Oh. "Senka." She flicked her tailtip. "If you're saying that... do I fit in there? That - love category?"

She went silent. "I guess. I care about you; maybe not in the love fashion though. I don't want to risk it." The sun was behind the mountains by now. "Your sister's probably given birth if she's not close."

"Why are you changing the subject?" I was honest with myself in that moment. I did definitely think about Senka a lot. "I... well, I do return those feelings to you."

Senka's eyes went wide with a sense of misunderstanding. "You, returning my feelings? That's insane. I can't believe that.." She sighed and chuckled nervously. "You don't know how many cats - how many she-cats in particular - who've said that and only meant it as friends."

As... friends? "Senka, I-"

She continued to chuckle. "Hah, and - and you'll still leave... just like they all have." She took a breath. "I've never had someone ever return my feelings. That's why so many of them have left. They always leave after I tell them the curse... because they're scared." She sighed, her tone changing. "They're scared of me. They're so scared of me because they think I'll kill them if they're near me during the day."

I gave her a distraught look. "Senka, I'm sorry." Galepaw came to my mind - oh no, oh no. "Senka... I won't do that to you."

"Are you sure?" She gave me a concerned stare. "Y-You won't - you won't..." She shifted her position. "Maplebreeze... thank you."

She rested her head on my shoulder, and my ears burned. "I-I-I need to see my sister."

She raised her head. "Oh, sorry... I know." She shifted. "Come see me before you and Galepaw leave... or maybe call me over when they're born?"

"Sure." I felt her warmth shift away. "I'll come see you."

"It was good to see you and talk to you, Maplebreeze. I hope we can see each other again."

*

When I got back, Galepaw was in pain.

"Took you long enough to come back." She let out a sigh. "You saw someone?"

"Yeah, that someone I keep seeing..." I settled near her. "Seems as though it's happening."

"Oh, of course..." She winced. "Stay with me, Maplebreeze..."

I sat with her as she started screaming a few minutes afterward. The sound made me so upset, her shrill wail haunted me.

I watched the moon as she panted beside me, and as the sun rose, I heard her gasp my name. "Maplebreeze, I... I don't know if I can do this, Maplebreeze..."

I glanced in her direction, and beside her laid two kits - a silver kit, like her, and a ginger tabby, like Blazewhisker. She was tired, and I got scared immediately. "Gale-"

"Maplebreeze... take them. Those two. Sunkit and Moonkit." She sighed. "I can tell this isn't ending well - and for that, I say goodbye."

It was one of the worst days of my life.

*

"Senka!"

I called out for her as the sun shone above my calico fur. "Senka!"

I was sure she could hear me; this was the area she usually hung around in anyway, and I had Sunkit and Moonkit with me - but their poor souls weren't going to last long if I couldn't take them back.

I heard rustling in the bushes, then remembered; if Senka was around me during the day, she'd die. Literally. I really don't want to see what she would look like in that state...

Sunkit and Moonkit wailed, and I let out a sigh and grabbed them both. Galepaw... they live for you.

When I entered ForestClan territory, I slowed my pace; if I was found, someone could've assumed they were mine. That's what I told her I wouldn't do.

I could hear Jackalclaw's voice, and decided I'd let him find me - and of course, he did. "Where's Galepaw?"

"Dead. We ran into a badger on our way home... and she was killed before I could save her." I had to lie - no way was he going to figure out that Sunkit and Moonkit were her kits, and I swore to myself, at that moment, that I would never speak of Senka, nor the curse she carried. "These two - they're newborn. Galepaw and I found their mother dead. We didn't know how she died, but we presumed it was blood loss."

His eyes narrowed. "Take them and give them to Fallowtail. She's expecting; she'll take them in." Below my gaze, I knew his claws had unsheathed. "Why didn't you save Galepaw? She was going to be the next medicine cat."

I sighed and glared at him. "Just shut up, Jackalclaw. Seriously, I had to run to save these two and myself." I knew I had blood on my fur - I ran into a thornbush on my way back. "Also, the badger didn't get to hurt me much, and nor did it hurt these two. Galepaw thought they should be named Sunkit and Moonkit."

He growled audibly, but didn't bother to argue with me. Instead, he turned and flicked his tail for me to follow them.

We entered ForestClan's camp, and immediately the apprentices jumped me, asking where Galepaw was and what had happened. Jackalclaw took it in his honor to report to Splashstar, our leader, and I suddenly noticed a lack of Moonwhisper. "Where's Mother?"

"Plagued with disease in the medicine den. Go talk to Yarrowmint."

I dropped Sunkit and Moonkit off before stepping in. The orange tabby glanced up from her work and came to greet me. "You're injured! Where's Galepaw?"

"Died to a badger." She gasped beside me, and Moonwhisper, sprawled out in a nest, broke out into a coughing fit. "She did it for me."

"Galepaw would've wanted that..." she breathed, and my mother stared her green eyes at me.

"Maplebreeze," she growled. "I always thought I'd see Galepaw instead of you in my final moments." She chuckled to herself. "Jackalclaw's going to be deputy. I know that. But I don't give you enough credit."

I could hear Galepaw speaking the same words as she did. "You're unique, Maplebreeze. You're different and it makes you strong, probably stronger than most of us." She sneezed, and Yarrowmint, beside me, froze up. "I always saw you as weird, but it was because of your father... everyone did. I'm sorry.." It made me upset when I could see Galepaw's silver fur next to her, and I thought Yarrowmint could see her too - she gasped beside me. "See you, Maplebreeze. Keep being unique."

This was the second cat I'd watched die that day, and I had panicked - oh no oh no oh no oh no. Yarrowmint had to hold me down and shoved herbs in my mouth, knowing that it was poor for me to be in the panicked state I was in.

"Maplebreeze - Maplebreeze, breathe!" She stared me in the eyes, and I thought of Senka right then. "Sorry. Someone I once knew had your condition, where they'd panic in stressful situations." She let out a worried sigh. "We'll bury her, and then tell the news to the Clan."

From the moment she broke the news, I knew I wouldn't be seen the same way. Suspiciously going off with Galepaw? Watching my mother die in front of me? Maybe I've got some curse too...

Jackalclaw blamed me for both deaths almost immediately, and following Moonwhisper's death, Splashstar called the Clan together.

"Clanmates, we grieve for the loss of our deputy, Moonwhisper." She let the silence echo for a moment. "Moonwhisper placed her utmost trust in me to guide her and this Clan from the moment we met, as kits. It was my entire plan to bring her along with me if we ever made it up the ranks." I could hear the utter sadness in her voice. "But now I must announce a deputy in her place."

"She wanted this as much as anyone, and not just because this cat was her kit." It wouldn't be me. I knew it. "The new deputy... will be Jackalclaw."

The cats around me cheered as Jackalclaw faked a surprised glance at Quailheart. He passed me quickly, giving an extra shove on the shoulder as he went by. Splashstar's eyes narrowed at me afterward.

Upon arrival, the cats cheered - but I didn't. The last thing I wanted was my bully of a brother to be bossing me around every day.

Throughout the night, I thought about Senka.

*

...And we're back to the present.

It's been moons since I last saw her, and Sunkit and Moonkit have gone from kits to apprentices to near warriors. I got Sunpaw and Blazewhisker got Moonpaw. Sunpaw, today, follows in tail as I lead him out for his final assessment.

"Alright. I want you to get prey from three areas." He stares up at me, eyes wide. "One, near the mountains. It'll smell like marigold down there, because that's where all the marigolds grow. Another, near the Twoleg den. Catmint grows there, and it'll smell minty and strong. The third... you'll know when you find it. It smells like fresh basil. Bring proof of all and you pass."

He nods to me. "Three, two, one... go! Get going, you have until twilight!"

I decide quickly I'll follow him around, so I follow his scent. He's going to the mountains first; the marigold is small but wafty. He stops by the marigold patch, which is a bright, distinct yellow, with deep green underneath. He's hunting a hare...

A shadow-colored figure jumps right as he does, and I resist the urge to intervene. Sunpaw needs to learn how to deal with rogues on his own. "Oh, another Clan cat... you remind me of one I saw months ago."

"Wh-Who are you?!" He stammers; he's always been a little anxiety-ridden. "W-Why are you here?"

"Hunting, of course. You're either a warrior or nearly one, right?" She stares at him. I know who she is.

His fur rises despite his stammering - just as I taught him to. "I'm a warrior! I won't let you steal from ForestClan!"

She shrugs and rolls her eyes. "You kind of just lost your prey there, kid." She angles her gaze at the marigold patch, and her yellow eyes meet mine. "Is there someone else hiding there?"

Sunpaw's eyes widen with fear. "Unless it's Maplebreeze..."

I slip out of the bushes at his statement. "Leave him alone, Senka. He's my apprentice and you're interfering with our assessment."

Her eyes go soft but immediately harden as soon as she realizes what's going on. "Sorry, Maplebreeze. I'll make sure to not disturb him." The apprentice burrows his head into my back as she gives me an anguished look turning away.

"Sunpaw." I nudge him forward with my tail. "Look, I'm sorry that had to happen. Hunt the other two pieces of prey." His eyes are wide with shock and surprise. "I'll get one here, and you can claim it as your own." He nods and runs off.

I wait until he's gone before I stare into the bushes. "It's been a while, hasn't it, Maplebreeze?" She shifts out of the bushes. "Settled down with someone yet?"

"Nope." She blinks at me. "But I have my apprentice - Sunpaw." She looks like she's waiting for me to say something. "He's Galepaw's son."

"So she did die..." She presses against my side. "I was going to tell you... I can hear Jackalclaw and Quailheart out here every day. They're planning something terrible."

"Terrible?"

"They're thinking about killing someone. It's a she-cat - I know that." Senka's eyes fall. "I'm worried it's maybe two she-cats - and I think one is you."

She sighs. "Maplebreeze... Sorry. I'm holding you up. But." She stops me before I can leave. "I'll keep listening."

I nod, and she slips back into the bushes.

*

Sunpaw and Moonpaw both pass their ceremonies with ease, and Blazewhisker smiles at Moonpaw as she becomes Moonfrost, and as Sunpaw becomes Sunflash, the ex-apprentice approaches me with joy in his eyes. "Thanks for teaching me, Maplebreeze!"

Jackalclaw and Quailheart mutter to each other while Sunflash and Moonfrost turn to thank Splashstar. The leader returns the compliment, and the siblings smile to each other.

She is alone. The Clan has disbanded post-ceremony. Quailheart and Jackalclaw are heading to her den...

They're gonna kill her...! Senka was right! I let the thoughts escape but don't react. I can't conclude until they call it together - Jackalclaw, you fat piece of rat dung, I'm gonna kill you if you killed her.

The Clan does their usual antics for the evening. Still nobody has come from the leader's den. Yarrowmint calls me inside as the sun rises on the next day.

"I had a terrible dream, Maplebreeze. Your brother and father killed Splashstar. Things like that... are usually bad omens. I want to warn her-"

"She's already dead." The medicine cat gasped. "Neither Jackalclaw or Quailheart have returned since their statement of asking Splashstar about the future. It would not surprise me if your dream was a night too late."

"Is this what Galepaw meant?"

"What?"

"Is this what Galepaw meant when she said there was a danger coming to our Clan? When you all went off?" Her eyes are wide with anxiety. "Was - was there something else?!"

I need to tell her the truth. I can almost hear Galepaw in my ear. Yeah, you should tell her. "Yarrowmint. She lied to you."

She gasps. "Wait - what?!"

"She left and took me with her because she was pregnant with Sunflash and Moonfrost. She died giving birth - I couldn't save her. I tried. I really did, Yarrowmint." She lets out a breath. "I think Quailheart and Jackalclaw were going to kill us all - and I think she knew about it." I paused for a moment. "I think that's why she allowed herself to become pregnant - because they'd delay it if they couldn't kill us all."

"Do they know of this?"

"Not at all." She sighs in relief. "I have an idea."

*

Yarrowmint and I wait in the bushes behind camp for Jackalclaw and Quailheart.

"Are you sure you can do this, Yarrowmint?"

"I'll back you up. Seriously. And if not - I told Sunflash and Moonfrost they'd get extra prey if they helped me out. I said it was a surprise, but they'll know." She whispers the words to not let anyone hear us.

Jackalclaw finally emerges from Splashstar's den. "Cats of ForestClan! Splashstar has been killed by illness, and therefore I am your leader. I will soon be Jackalstar!" The cats cheer, and Quailheart drags Splashstar's body out. "We will mourn Splashstar, and then I will bury her. Has anyone seen Yarrowmint?"

The medicine cat shoves me. "You've got to do this, now! Sunflash and Moonfrost will help you."

I nod to her. "See you soon."

Jackalclaw barely gets to see me before I pin him down and rake my claws on his fur. He throws me off almost immediately, and snarls at me before flicking his tail for Quailheart to kill me. He charges at me, and within a moment, I'm already down. My father's back at his son's side. Sunflash and Moonfrost are frozen below him, and Yarrowmint, from the bushes, watches another corner of camp.

Jackalclaw readies a charge, and as he approaches, I close my eyes tightly.

But they never hit.

I open my eyes to see the brightest flash I've ever seen. "Maplebreeze... Maplebreeze! I'm so sorry... s-s-see you later... this hurts..."

Senka!! She sacrificed herself for me - of course she'd do that! "I love you, Maplebreeze... that's why this is happening. It hurts so much..."

I can't see Jackalclaw or Quailheart. After several minutes, the flash finally fades. Three cats lay motionless.

I care about one.

Yarrowmint dashes to Senka immediately, checking her. "Jackalclaw and Quailheart are both dead. This rogue - her name is Senka - is barely alive." Senka's black-and-yellow blood smears from an open wound on her side. "I will treat her. As for leader... my dreams have stated that Maplebreeze is rightful leader."

Cats will believe her any day. They turn to me, confused. "Maplebreeze, when will you go? You should rest. Who will be your deputy?"

I want to answer them all, but for now... "Firstly. My deputy is Blazewhisker." I stare down at them. "However. Since I must get my lives, I will first allow Blazewhisker as temporary leader, with Sunflash and Moonfrost sharing deputy roles."

Blazewhisker smiles at me. Sunflash and Moonfrost blink and rub together. "When Yarrowmint stops taking care of Senka and I, we will both go."

*

I'm Maplestar. Leader of ForestClan.

It's been a few weeks since Senka nearly died. She's barely woken up, and Yarrowmint is concerned she'll actually die.

I step in the medicine den. "Senka... wake up..."

Yarrowmint sighs. "I'm afraid she's almost dead. I have been for weeks."

Senka, from underneath her, shifts. "Maplebreeze...?"

"Senka!" I sit next to her. "It's Maplestar now."

"Maplestar... heh." She blinks. "I'm not burning right now. Why am I not dead? I knew I was going to die when I did that... why am I not dead?"

"I don't know."

"I can't feel it anymore. It doesn't hurt." She shifts. "Time to recover, I guess."

"You've been in a coma-like state for weeks. Do it already," I joke, and she laughs.

"Give me some time." She smiles weakly and closes her eyes.

*

I told you at the beginning that I used to know someone.

I still know her.

She calls me out of camp, utter pride in her eyes. "Maplestar... I love you."

"So do I." I press against her side, and she purrs. "Guess this makes it official."

"We liked each other in secret for two years. It's been official." Her sunlit eyes shine. "By the way, I don't think I told you... I don't think I'm afflicted with that curse anymore."

"I knew that the moment you opened your eyes to ask me why you hadn't died."

"Heh." She flicks her tail. "Let's get going. You have a Clan to lead."

She and I enter camp, and I immediately spot Yarrowmint and her new apprentice, Yewpaw, making a run for the nursery. There are only two queens for the time being, one being Moonfrost. She lays outside the nursery and stands when Senka and I enter. "Hey Maplestar, how's Senka been? She's been quiet when she's not around you."

The black she-cat slips around me and mutters to her, "Sure I'm quiet, but I'll be more social once I get accustomed to life here." Moonfrost nods. "I'm here for Maplestar. Soon, I'll be here for everyone."

The gray queen nods, and she follows in foot with me until we reach the ledge.

Quickly, I call the Clan together. Since Blazewhisker was killed, the only cat I trusted more than him was Sunflash, who's been sharing the role with Moonfrost after I trusted them both at the beginning. "Moonfrost has been working hard despite her pregnancy, but she has informed me that her kits are due very soon and she needs to conserve her energy." She nods at me from below, and Sunflash cheers for her. "I have one more announcement."

"Senka, the black she-cat beside me, saved us all when she sacrificed herself to stop my brother and father after they killed Splashstar." She glances at me. My heart warms as her gaze softens. "She nearly died due to that, and she has recovered well." She moves her tail under mine. "Senka and I have also become mates."

Some gasp, but most just nod patiently. "Senka's rather shy and quiet like I was before Galepaw and I left. I want everyone to treat her like any other cat here."

I see nodding heads in the crowd, and I dismiss the Clan and sit beside Senka, watching Moonfrost slip in the nursery. Yewpaw pokes his head out and nods at me, mouthing the number of kits for the other queen - four.

"Maplebreeze." I glance at her. "I know that's not your name, but I really do like calling you that." She chuckles. "I just wanted to thank you for allowing me to stay here. It's been great knowing you. May we all have prosperous years ahead."

Thanks for letting me stay, Maplebreeze.

fin

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