I don't know how to explain this feeling, but I miss you. And the fact that you won't see this doesn't change that.
"Aquapaw, I'm home."
But as the black she-cat with radiant green eyes faded away from me, to be replaced with sunlight-the darkest kind of sunlight I had ever felt, I realized it was wrong. She wasn't home. She was still gone. Missing. She wasn't going to return.
It was just a dream...
But it had been more. It had been more than a dream. It had been excitement, it had been memories, it had been marvelous, undeniable hope. And then it had been crushed.
The warm, wet leaves of new-leaf felt soft under my pads, as I waked along, my heart thumping softly, along the same beat as my steady pawsteps. The wind was blowing through my fur, giving it a more appealing look that its generally dull, gray and flat mess of flat hair.
Something was feeling right.
I couldn't quite put my paw on it, but as I continued along, there was this warm feeling of anticipation inside of me. I wasn't exactly sure what it was for but it was there. And I appreciated it.
So, I added a little skip to my walking as I continued to stroll along. It was the day after I had received one of those horrid dreams and Hawkpaw and I had agreed to get to the bottom of it.
We still weren't sure how to approach it; friends, Bramblestar, Razorfang, Mintpaw, one of the senior warriors, or even perhaps asking StarClan...
None of them seemed ideal to us.
So we had agreed that we would wait until a better idea reached us, until we could figure out what could be behind these dreams and if, they could even be stopped.
I was a little scared, if one had to be honest. The shivers that had crept up my back were not to be forgotten. The snapping of bones, the cold breath against my neck. The vision of bloody bodies free of the scars of battle. I wasn't even frightened-I was terrified.
Suddenly, I could have sworn I heard a twig snap behind me. I whirled around expecting to find a squirrel but rather facing nothing.
"Hello?" I called. Most cats were in camp now, eating. I had just gone out for a walk to clear my mind and get some much-needed peace after the dream, "Anyone here?"
At first there was nothing.
Then, a tender, soft voice called through the bushes. It sounded a little familiar to me, although I couldn't exactly put my paws onto it.
"Aquapaw? Is that you?"
"Whose there?" I eyes the rattling bushes, where the voice had errupted from suspiciously, gently sliding my claws out, and barring my teeth, not at all to be disappointed by a FireClan intruder to shred-even in this mentality.
"It's me," A figure stepped out of the bushes. One with a sleek, slimming, black pelt. One with bright green eyes that held joy and laughter that I remembered from them. One with the ability to instantly send my claws back into their sheathe.
I stared at the lithe cat in front of me, shaking my head in disbelief, widening my eyes as I watched her, my heart beat suddenly increasing.
So much for getting some peace.
"Are you...?" I shifted from paw to paw, giving her a sideways glance, "Real?"
"I'm real," She whispered, taking a step forward, "Ask me anything you want, Aquapaw. I can answer them all for you. I will answer them all for you."
"Who killed Star during the final battle against StarClan and FireClan combined?"
"Which apprentices were the first to take the shame walk?"
"You, Ashpaw, Rainpaw, and I," Nightpaw replied, her voice steady, "We had gone to save Silverpaw and Rainheart followed us the whole way. When she said she was proud we thought we were off the hook, but she punished us anyways."
I refused to believe the she-cat across from me quite yet, "Who was it taken captive by Star when she said we could go if one of us agreed to stay."
"Your mentors name?"
"Riverclaw." A look of pain flashed across her face.
"What is it that you have been attempting to convince all of the apprentices that Hawkstar does collect, despite the fact that you have no prood?"
I paused in my tracks, glancing at the black she-cat one more time. I hadn't been willing to believe it-it had just seemed to good to be true, but here she was...
But you disappeared a whole moon ago," I whispered, "Right after the big battle. You never came back-no one ever found and traces of you or your body." Suddenly I was angered, "Where were you? Do you have any idea what you put the Clan through?"
"I can't explain that now," Nightpaw sighed, "And I'm sorry, Aquapaw, but I can't return. Not yet. I still have... things I have to do."
"Then why did you come back here? Why did you..." I trailed off, glancing at her, curiously before sighing. "Why am I getting mad at you now. I never thought I'd see you again, and now that I do... I'm just yelling at you."
"It's alright," Nightpaw claimed, walking up to me and giving me a friendly look lick she did back when she was still around.
"I've missed you," I whispered, my voice low.
"I've missed you too," Nightpaw replied, smiling and I laughed gently.
We were both silent for a moment, an awkward, but beautiful kind of silence in which I could feel her again. She was there. Nightpaw was there. She was really there.
"This feels like a dream," I whispered.
"To me as well," Her smile grew larger, before she paused, "So... do you guys still go on wild adventures? I assume you haven't changed that much since I left."
"Of course," I rolled my eyes.
"Would you mind taking me on one with you?"
Something was off. Something felt off. But I couldn't bring myself to care-not at the moment. I would worry about the issue later.
At the moment I had Nightpaw. And nothing else could matter more.
"Sure, where are you thinking?" I gave her a curious, hopeful glance.
Forget about something feeling wrong. As soon as Nightpaw and were there, sneaking through FireClan territory teogether, crawling along, careful not to make any noises everything felt right.
And then, reading my thoughts, Nightpaw gave me a soft smile, "This feels so good-to be here again. Doing something stupid with you by my side."
"I know what you mean," I replied, sharing the feeling.
We continued to creep through FireClan together. Even though I was newly reunited with Nightpaw, I was still getting the usual rush of an adventure.
"Do you hear that?" Nightpaw whispered, tapping my shoulder lightly with her tail. I strained my ear, to hear a few FireClan warriors talking a little further off.
"I could have sworn there was a WaterClan scent on the border and it was very fresh," A FireClan cat was hissing, "I know there is."
Nightpaw and I, changed direction so we were steering in the other direction, walking further away from the angry FireClan warriors who were conversing.
"What do we do now?" I questioned.
"I want real proof Hawkstar collects kit whiskers," Nightpaw whispered, and I gave her a curious look, although the idea was warming.
"Let's do it."
"Do I have to?" Nightpaw wrinkled her nose, before sighing and rolling into the pile of fox-dung, looking uncomfortable as she did so. Once she was out she let out an exaggerated cough and I braced myself to do the same.
It was stinky, and terrible, but I couldn't say I didn't enjoy it. It was a beautifully sharp memory of the time Rainheart had assigned us to a shame walk.
Given the choice I would continue to roll in that pile of dung, Nightpaw by my side, for a whole moon.
"Alright, so I don't think these disguises are good enough," I commented, "Not mine at least. Maybe they will have forgotten you but FireClan and I have a very personal grudge."
"I'll cause a distraction then," I offered and Nightpaw offered me a wide grin. There was something a little strange about her but it was still Nightpaw.
Even as I reminded myself of it, it was just so impossible to believe.
"Alright," I grinned, "I cause the commotion by running into the camp. I won't attack someone, I guess, unless I'm jumped on, but I'll just stroll in I suppose, and try to start a food fight or something before the recognize me."
"Sounds like a plan," Nightpaw's eyes were laughing wildly, and I was sure that my own were a reflection of hers. I really had missed her. I had missed this.
"Whoops! I exclaimed, as I tossed three pieces of prey in opposite directions, hitting three different cats who looked up in surprise. Had it been WaterClan there would be a joke, an apology, and a warning at the worst. But this was FireClan, cats didn't just let things go.
Within moments camp had erupted into chaos, and I was quickly ale to slip out of the fight, as feathers, fluff, blood, teeth, claws and the guts of prey was flying all over the clearing.
Even for FireClan, I was surprised.
Nightpaw was waiting for me at the entrance to Hawkstar's den, a wide smile on her face. We'd been inside the den before but then everything had been so much more grave. We had to save Mistypaw. Now, it was going to be fun-we would give Hawkstar a few nips and grab his collection of kit whiskers-if he did have one.
"I'll fight him," I claimed, "You look for the kit whiskers."
She twitched in amusement, "Sounds good!"
Suddenly Hawkstar bit into my shoulder and I let out a small yelp, before kicking her off me using my hindlegs, watching as she flew across her den.
"What are you doing here?" She hissed, "FireClan has left you in peace ever since the incident with StarClan," Her voice was hoarse with anger.
"Because you've never attacked WaterClan with no good reason," I replied sarcastically with a hiss, buying time for Nightpaw who was still searching.
"Is this an attack by WaterClan or a stupid group of apprentices," She narrowed her eyes, "I'm pretty sure Bramblestar is smarter than this."
"It's not by WaterClan," I claimed, "It's just, uh... we, uh..." I glanced at Nightpaw frantically who was still glancing about.
"What?" Hawkstar snapped sharply. I glanced up again and Nightpaw gave me a quick nod.
"Uh, nothing," I quickly whispered, "I just remember and I, uh, have an assessment I have to catch up to. So I'll, um, see you around Hawkstar! It was nice talking to you!"
And before she could compose herself Nightpaw and I were both dashing out of the den, and then out of the clearing, which was still in the middle of their petty food fight, sprinting out of camp.
Glancing at Nightpaw, I felt a laugh stuck in my throat.
I've missed her.
We stopped at the border to WaterClan, laughing as we crossed it, my insides feeling warm like they hadn't in so many long moons.
"Do you have the whiskers?" I questioned.
She held her paw out, and I examined the several sets of whiskers lying in her paws, as my jaw opened in absolute surprise. I had never really thought she collected it whiskers.
"I told you," She smiled.
"Wait," I frowned, noticing as the smile gently began to fade, "Are you leaving now, Nightpaw? To finish your unsettled business."
She nodded slowly.
"Please, Nightpaw, no!" I shrieked, feeling my voice growing thin, "You can't leave me again. Today I realized just how much I missed you and-"
"Aquapaw," Her voice was soft, "I have to go now. But I won't really be gone. I never was..."
It was more than the brightness of the sunlight that hurt my eyes. It was the realization that it had all been a dream. A good dream, but a terrible one at that.
What kind of monster could give me the hope that...
I let out a loud gasp, and buried my face in my paws, feeling gentle tears squeezing out of my eyes. I didn't even care which of the apprentices saw me anymore.
"Nightpaw," I whispered into my paws, feeling the pain eating up my insides, "I miss you so much. I miss you so so much..."
Glancing up from my paws wet from tears, I turned to glance up at the sun, thinking back to my dream the previous night. Comparing them. Wondering which was worse.
It wasn't hard to decide.
I guess a broken fantasy hurts more than an expected tradgedy...