Episode One, Season Four, of Beauty.
She stared at the wall, waiting for time to pass. With her mission accomplished – with or without Redstar’s approval – Scarlet had nothing to do but wait for Whiteflicker and Redstar to dispatch her once more.
There was a thin line, she realized, between betrayal and trust.
She was sure she had crossed it.
“Scarletflame,” the scarred she-cat glanced up to see Flareheart enter the den, “Redstar says she might have a mission for you soon.”
“That’s wonderful,” Scarlet murmured, trying to look slightly upbeat.
The heir of the throne peered at her. “Are you alright?” She asked. Never had Flareheart heard the she-cat ever sound more concerned, “Is Whiteflicker treating you alright?”
“She hasn’t even come into this den after we…completed our last mission. I’m not sure what to expect from her.” Scarlet said bitterly, “I’m caged up even after what I’ve done. Surely I’ve proved myself enough?”
Flareheart pursed her lips. Her eyes looked sympathetic. “Redstar will never trust you, don’t you realize that, Scarletflame?”
Scarlet glanced up, her blue eyes pained. Flareheart shook her head. “You were our prisoner, Scarletflame. You had been Cherrypaw, the one apprentice we found responsible for aiding the raid with the rebels.”
“Cherrypaw is dead,” Scarlet snapped, “I shouldn’t have to prove that I’m no longer with the rebels.”
Flareheart leaned forward so her next words were only caught by Scarlet’s ears. “When I’m leader of FireClan, when you help me achieve my final goal, I will make you my advisor. You will have everything you want.”
The princess stepped back, “I promise.”
But even as she leaves, Scarlet wished things hadn’t gone done to this.
“Cherrypaw!” Gingerpaw smiled at her, bright green eyes glowing in the sunlight, “Do you want to go hunting with me?”
Cherrypaw shot to her paws. “Sure!”
They padded side by side, their pelts close to touching. “You know,” Cherrypaw said shyly, “I love hunting with you. As much as I love the rest of our group, hunting with you make me happier than I could ever be.”
Gingerpaw was purring. “I think I could make your life happier.”
The orange she-cat’s eyes widened and Gingerpaw led to her a hidden clearing. “Just for me and you,” she whispered.
Cherrypaw gazed into Gingerpaw’s green eyes. “What are you doing?”
The ginger tabby let out a breath, “Cherrypaw, I…I like you.”
Involuntarily, Cherrypaw felt her head tip up towards Gingerpaw. “You do?” She felt her joy bubble out of her, “I really like you too.”
Gingerpaw shot her a coy smile and she leaned down and touched her nose to Cherrypaw’s. Cherrypaw felt the world dissolve around her and she leaned into the touch. Gingerpaw was right. Everything was better like this.
“Scarletflame, I see you’re still awake,” a sly voice shook her out of her stupor. Scarlet glanced up and stiffened when she saw Whiteflicker slip into the den.
Scarlet held herself still as Whiteflicker drew closer, her sweet scent making Scarlet’s tongue curl. “Tell me, who told you to reveal your position to Amberfrost’s squad and lead Flareheart to them?”
She stayed silent.
“Was it Flareheart?” Whiteflicker sneered, “When did you take orders from the princess herself? Surely Redstar’s word is law?”
“Redstar did not say not to do so,” Scarlet mumbled, “I didn’t break the law.”
Pain flared up in her cheek and Whiteflicker’s paw came away covered in blood. Her blood. The welt on her cheek throbbed but Scarlet ignored the pain. She had trained herself to ignore these treatments by the white she-cat as any weakness would mean more pain.
“Redstar is having a talk with Flareheart right now about obedience, but I suppose we were going to arrest them soon anyways. They were running out of excuses and Redstar was tired of them trying to twist the game in their favor.”
Scarlet loosened her shoulders by a fraction and Whiteflicker smirked. “Afraid of the consequences? Don’t be. After all, Flareheart will be dutifully punished for directly disobeying her mother’s orders. As your princess, you should have followed her orders anyways.”
Scarlet kept her gaze down and bit back the words she wanted to say. Whiteflicker spun on her heel and began to stalk outside.
She paused at the entrance. “Prepare yourself; Redstar will have a new mission for you soon enough.”
And then she was gone.
Scarlet slumped in her prison, wondering – not for the first time – if what she had done had been the right thing to do.
Koya was fed up with Shadowfang. “Your top squad just got captured by the Beauty and you have no plans to retrieve them?” He arched an eyebrow at Shadowfang, “If you have been paying attention to the war, you would realize losing Amberfrost and her squad would mean our demise.”
“Who died and made you in charge?” The general snorted, “You’re just like Rainstorm, pesky and in my way. What do you have with the squad anyways?”
“I know they’re your best chance at beating Redstar,” Koya tipped his head, “Don’t tell me you don’t care about beating the Beauty System.”
“I can win with or without that one squad,” Shadowfang said stiffly, “We are strong enough after all.”
Koya laughed sharply and the general glared at him. “How dare you laugh?”
“I laugh because you are so naïve. Winning this war will take more than pure strength and numbers. You will need to use your brain. This is a game of wits, not brute strength.” Koya moved towards the entrance, “Though if we’re going by brute strength we would still lose.”
He padded outside and a gray she-cat is waiting for him. “Did you change his mind?” Rainstorm asked, a desperate light in her eyes.
“He’s as stubborn as ever,” Koya shook his head, “I will take matters in my own paws then.”
“And what is that?” Rainstorm padded after him.
Koya glanced down at her. She was interesting; she was connected to Amberfrost’s squad but not with them at all. Another reason to get them back from Redstar’s clutches. “I’ll take the battle to their stronghold,” his mouth quirked upwards, “I’ll go find them myselves.”
“Bet you can’t catch me!” Gingerpaw shouted gleefully, her green eyes glittering with obvious happiness. She raced around the bend of the river with Cherrypaw hard on her tail.
Gingerpaw skidded in the mud, stumbling slightly before catching her balance. Cherrypaw took the chance to leap, overshooting it and landing in the stream with a huge splash.
For a moment she was blinded, coughing and spluttering. Strong paws grabbed her and dragged her out of the stream. Gingerpaw’s amused but beautiful face popped up, “You’d be great at fishing,” she laughed.
Cherrypaw found it in her to smile back, purring along with the ginger she-cat. Being with Gingerpaw made her so happy, it made her forget the Beauty and the many weights on her soul from being in the Beauty.
It made her forget that the world needed saving because she herself was being saved by Gingerpaw.
Gingerpaw tenderly touched her nose to Cherrypaw’s and the orange she-cat felt a burst of happiness. “I love you,” she whispered, “I’ll always love you.”
Gingerpaw hushed her with another touch. When she finally drew away, Gingerpaw was glowing. “Oh Cherrypaw…”
She didn’t say anything more, but Cherrypaw knew what she had been thinking. Beauty cats were forbidden to love, and even if this love was different, it was still love. It would never be tolerated.
But Cherrypaw didn’t care anymore. Right now, all she wanted was to stay in this moment forever, frozen in time, with her pelt pressed against Gingerpaw, her nose touching hers.
This moment was hers forever.
Scarlet knew it was her fault that her world was crumbling around her, but what she missed the most was Gingerpaw.
Bright-eyed, ever so perfect, and beautiful Gingerpaw.
If Scarlet had the choice, she would remain as Cherrypaw and stay nine moons old forever, her heart sealed with one she-cat forever. She would stay with Gingerpaw in time forever and not have to worry about the world and everyone in it.
It was a selfish wish, but Scarlet didn’t care anymore. She had made so many mistakes in her life she often wondered if Gingerpaw was here, if she would still love her after all her faults.
The love-struck part of Scarlet said yes, because love was forever. Gingerpaw would never hate her, despite all her actions, despite what she had done to Amberfrost and her friends.
But the logical part of Scarlet said no, because after all these betrayals, Gingerpaw wouldn’t know who she was anymore. She wasn’t the innocent Cherrypaw who enjoyed the tiny moments they had outside of training. She was Scarlet – or Scarletflame, take your pick – the ruthless servant of the Beauty and Whiteflicker’s pet prisoner.
Sometimes Scarlet wondered if Cherrypaw was even close to being alive in her.
She lay down, closing her tired eyes and rested her mind. No point in berating herself over and over for what she did; it was too late now anyways.
She had to focus on the goal in mind, to help Flareheart achieve whatever the princess wanted to. When Flareheart had the throne, she would reward Scarlet, and her suffering would stop.
It would all stop.
But even Scarlet knew it was all fake.