Episode 9, Season 3 of Home. Enjoy and please tell me what you think :)

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To Darky

Our friendship is a reality as well :)

The Reality

The Clan was staring at us intently-to an extend that it was almost creepy as soon as we reached the entrance of camp. Several had jumped to their paws, and were paddling towards us. I braced myself for a long list of questions I would have to either fend off or answer.

Bramblestar flicked her tail at us, indicating for us to pull to a halt.

"Don't answer any questions," She whispered, "I'm going to talk to Razorfang first-get his advice on the safest way to address this issue and put the solution our favorite voice suggested to work."

"How many ways are there?" Darkpaw whispered curiously, "I don't see anything we could do besides sleeping or coming out and..."

"It's confusing," Bramblestar claimed, "For all of us. We'll probably have to call the senior users together for a meeting," She glanced at Darkpaw and I, "Until then, I want you to ensure that no cat falls asleep. You two have been given permission to enter whichever den you please, and smack and claw at whoever necessary, given your claws are sheathed, to wake them up."

She must have seen the looks on our face because she smiled, "No smacking your friends unless they really are about to fall asleep-remember, I'm counting on you."

Those last words brought a new inspiration to me, and I straightened my back, prepared to prove myself to the Clan again. Not for the first time in a long time I found my thoughts wondering to finally becoming a warrior.

I can't wait for that day.

By now Razorfang had scared all the cats away from the clearing, forcing them to flee back into their nests. I figured that as soon as I entered my den I would be questioned relentlessly.

I can't tell them though I reminded myself. The thought of lying or hiding something this important from my friends disturbed me but I knew I had no other choice.

Bramblestar flicked her tail at us and Darkpaw and I scampered towards our den.

"After we quickly come up with some excuse for the other apprentices, why don't we take rotations," I offered, "So we can patrol all the dens at once."

"Alright," Darkpaw nodded, "I'll start with the queens, then move to the apprentices, warriors, elders and then Mintpaw who will be the medicine cat's den. You can go the opposite way."

I nodded, as we skidded to a halt before our den. There was a moment of hesitation and I could feel the eyes of all my friends on me as Darkpaw and I slowly entered the apprentice den.

And then the questions began.

"What happened?"

"Did StarClan speak to you?"

"Do you know what happened?"

"Are we doomed?"

"Is it not as big of a deal as we all thought-that's what I've been trying to convince everyone else but they are all being silly and keep exaggerating."

"Do you two even know or was it just Bramblestar and she never even told you guys what she saw because you are only apprentices?

I winced at the last one, before regaining myself and clearing my throat. The apprentices took no hint, and kept asking questions. I gave Darkpaw a sideways glance, and she shrugged, although I could detect mild amusement in her eyes mixed with something else...

Figuring her emotions were none of my business I sucked in a deep breath.

"For StarClan's sake!" I shouted, loud as I could and the den slowly began to quiet, "Wow, seriously. I think Shimmerbreze died because we were a Clan far too noisy and the spirits all got upset that we were disturbing their peace and decided to take one of us as a warning!"

The apprentices seemed surprised that I could make such a disrespectful comment about my mentor but I knew it had been my only resort. They couldn't know-not until Bramblestar was ready to announce it.

"Anyways," Darkpaw coughed, "None of you are to sleep until Bramblestar is done meeting with the senior warriors and they come to some sort of conclusion. If you do, or are about to, we have the right to smack or poke you awake. We will be weaving between the dens keeping cats awake and you guys aren't to protest to this," There was a tense moment of silence, "Understood?"

There was a mumbled response and the two of us glanced about for a moment. A loud question rung through my ears, coming from Thunderpaw, which I chose to ignore.

"What is there to discuss?"

"Us apprentices wouldn't know of such things," I coughed, "And it's not any of our business." So the last part was a lie, but I was getting desperate, "Now Darkpaw and I have to attend to our duties."

And without waiting to be asked anything else the two of us had dashed out, not in the mood to lie or evade giving answers the other apprentices deserved to know.

I understood the reasons for silence but that didn't mean I wished there could have been some way to remain honest to my friends about what we knew.

I flicked my tail at Darkpaw and was soon heading off to the medicine cat's den. Mintpaw was working their silently, shuffling through herbs. I could detect paranoia as she breathed quickly.

"Hey, Mintpaw," I whispered entering the den.

Her head shot up suddenly, and she exhaled slowly when she realized it was me, a look of relief registering across her face.

"Are you... alright?" I questioned, "You look really shaken, Mintpaw." I hesitated for a moment, "It's going to be alright, you know, Bramblestar and the senior warriors are coming up with a solution as we speak."

"I know, I know," She sighed, still sorting through herbs at a rapid pace, "But if any cat dies a good part of the blame should rightfully fall upon me. I have to make sure..."

"Hey," I paddled up to her, giving her a soft lick, "You're just an apprentice, Mintpaw, you're still learning. No one could blame you if you didn't manage to create a miracle."

"Being an apprentice doesn't matter in situations as grave as this one," She whispered, her eyes dulling, "I've never been there, trying to save them, before when a cat died; -Shimmerbreeze was already dead by the time she came to camp. I don't know how I would react if I did..."

"It wouldn't be your fault," I repeated. Mintpaw shrugged hesitantly, as though she were trying to get herself to believe that as well. I sighed, looking down at my paws.

"The Clan is lucky to have you," I promised her as I turned around, "By the way, I'll be popping up every now and then, making sure you're awake, as Bramblestar requested I do."

"Alright!" She chirped, and I could tell she was attempting to shove back her grave, fatalistic, mood from only a few moments before. She paused for a moment, "Hey, Aquapaw, do you know what Bramblestar was told at the MoonPool?"

I hesitated for a moment, but only a moment before I shook my head, "No idea, Mintpaw."

The medicine cat smiled, "Thanks," She whispered, and I shrugged.

"No problem."

It would have been a lie to say I didn't feel horribly guilty.

The warriors weren't as happy with being forced awake by an apprentice. I got a lot of snappy remarks, all of which I countered by saying I had Bramblestar's permission.

I wasn't sure how many of them believed me, but they must have all decided it wasn't worth the risk of being wrong and disturbing Bramblestar without any good reason.

"What are you doing in here?" Amberclaw hissed as I prodded him awake. I was surprised he wasn't at the meeting with Bramblestar but decided not to make any remarks about that.

You are each having monsters eating you from within...

I shook my head, furiously, trying to shake the thought out, but I couldn't do so before a striking question hit me a little too sharply.

What's the thing taking me down from my insides?

The thought was disturbing. I didn't want to think about what made me feel insecure, wrong, mistaken about something... I didn't want to have to search through me to find a problem to address.

But that was what had brought us to this point, wasn't it?

Darkpaw and I ran into each other as we were switching between the apprentice den and the warriors den. She gave me a long glance I couldn't read, as I approached her.

"How was it?" I questioned, "Were the apprentices really bothersome about it all? I know most of them would almost kill to get some answers."

"For a moment I thought they would," I glanced at her face, looking for any signs of amusement but only found a solid, dreadful look.

"What's wrong?" I questioned.

She hesitated, glancing about and then sighed, shaking her head back and forth shamefully. I watched, both curious and worried for my friend.

"I don't like lying," She whispered, "I know Bramblestar asked us to, and I know why, and I know what could happen if I told them but..."

"You can't," I urged her, "It shouldn't be much longer before Bramblestar is done with her meeting and then she will come out and tell us all."

"Still," She whispered, "Lying makes me feel..."

"I know," I promised her, "But-"

"You don't really know, though," Darkpaw shrugged, "You're lying all the time, Aquapaw. To sneak out, to have an adventure, to get yourself in trouble. But lying... it really troubles me."

"It's for a good cause," I told her, "Just remind yourself of that. You're doing this for your Clan-it's for an important reason and you have no good reason to be ashamed of that."

She nodded, as though she was beginning to convince herself and I smiled.

"The meeting should be done soon," I promised her, glancing the leader's den where the conversation was taking place and I sucked in a deep breath, "Really, really soon."

"...the voice than told us that we had to defeat an enemy we couldn't see-something that was rotting us each from the insides. A fear, or something that had been bothering us for a while now..."

"Darkpaw!" I hissed as I entered the apprentice den. It was dark outside, and we were making our possibly fifth lap by now. I was growing tired of keeping cats awake; I could hardly stay up myself, but I kept reminding myself that it was for the Clan. To avenge my mentor.

She whirled around and her face went a reddish color.

"Darkpaw," I repeated, "You weren't supposed to tell."

"I-I-I couldn't help myself. I'm sorry," Her voice has no regret and she's looking happier, freer than I'd ever seen her looking before, during that day.

I glanced about the apprentice den, to realize that they had all been listening to what Darkpaw had been saying. I held back an inward groan.

"Aquapaw..." Snowpaw took a hesitant step forward, "From what I've understood, Darkpaw hasn't necessarily done a bad thing. She's defeated the one thing that was really bothering her..."

There was a moment during which I took in what she said. And during which I realized she was correct.

I turned to Darkpaw, grinning, "Congratulations!" I purred, before pausing, "But it still was..."

"Sometimes," It was Snowpaw speaking again, "The right thing to do doesn't always seem like the good thing to do." There was a tense pause. "That's the reality."

"The Clan will take turns," Bramblestar announced, "The kits are at no risk, but we will begin with the elders and queens. If needed they will be awoken by Razorfang, Mintpaw and a group of cats they will choose to assist them. After them we will continue with Razorang and Mintpaw, then the apprentices, then I, Redpoppy and Wetstream shall sleep and then the warriors. Once we are all done we can finally return to normal."

The last word sounded pleasant.

The apprentices were all pretending to be surprised for Darkpaw's sake and I was proud of them. Proud of Darkpaw. She had been the first among the apprentices to defeat the enemy within...

And she had been able to do it while wide awake.

She's already won. I thought.

As if on cue, Bramblestar added, with such assurance that made me sure we wouldn't lose; "We will win."

Please, StarClan.

But StarClan wasn't to help us anymore. This was now our fight-as individuals, as a Clan and as a home.

The end

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