SIXTEEN//RAVENFLIGHT

There's a part of me I can't get back

A little girl grew up too fast

I shake Artic out of his stupor once again. “Stop doing that,” I command, “we need to focus if we’re going to get this done.”

“Do we want to get it done?” He asks absentmindedly, his eyes out of focus, “I mean she won’t want to come back…”

His pain goes deeper than that, I realize. I’ve never been good at reading cats, but Artic goes easily to me, for some reason. “We have to do this,” I tell him, “for her sake and for ours. Who knows what she’s doing, and if it’s right for her. You made her stable, and in return, she made you stable.”

His brilliant blue eyes find mine. “You’re what makes me stable,” he manages a small smile, “Gwyn…”

“I know you’re hurting,” I whisper as I draw closer. I’m faintly aware of the other fly warriors hovering by, but I go on, “but this is for the better. Gwyn doesn’t belong with the Raiders and you know it. They’ve hurt her-”

“They didn’t hurt her,” he snaps, drawing away from me, “IceClan did.” He always says something else but stops himself before turning away.

I take a step back. I know what he was going to say. I hurt Gwyn more than anything else. “I want to tell her I’m sorry,” I admit, “but I can’t. But if we find her, I have a chance to relieve myself of this burden. She shouldn’t have to live with the knowledge that I caused her parents’ deaths.”

Sootflight and Mintsplash exchange confused glances. Whiteflame promptly ignores us. Artic tenses. “This isn’t me accusing you,” he mumbles.

“And this is me trying to apologize,” I retort, “Artic, you can’t just act as if Gwyn no longer matters to you. Whether you like it or not-”

“Who says I ever had to like what we do?” The tom whirls around, his eyes flaring angrily, “Do you think I’ve enjoyed doing what I’ve been trying to do? Do you know how it feels to always be the outsider?”

My eyes widen in hurt. “Artic-”

“You don’t,” he says roughly, “you don’t because you have your own family here.”

Anger flashes through me and I flatten my ears. “You have a family here too!” I shout, not sure why I’m raising my voice, “Do you really think we, as fly warriors, feel welcome everywhere?”

The white tom is already walking away. I stare after him, my heart shattering slightly. I start to go after him but Sootflight stops me. “Leave him be,” the tom says gently, “he needs some space and time. We need to focus on our plans to find Gwyn.”

I take a deep breath and nod as Artic’s white pelt disappears into the undergrowth. I turn and glance at the others. They look up at me, sympathy painted on their faces. I swallow and erase the look of pain off my face and mew grimly. “We have work to do.”

~

By the end of the day, we don’t have a clue where Gwyn could be. Only Artic knew her and he was gone. A familiar ache settles in but I shove it away quickly before I fell into that pit of despair once more. I had to be stronger than this.

“What are we going to do?” Mintsplash asks, standing farther than she usually stands. Her eyes are still muted and I feel a pang of guilt. Another mistake I can’t fix. “We don’t have any clues to help us.”

I ponder over every option we have. “We’ll head for the Raiders’ border,” I decide, “that’s where Gwyn would have most likely went.”

They all nod and we settle in for the night. I pray that Artic will return by morning and help guide us.

~

“Mother,” I whisper sadly, standing in the corner of the den where the others wouldn’t hear me, “I miss you. I wish you never let me go. I don’t want to be a fly warrior anymore. I want to be with you.” A tear slips down my face.

The shuffle of paws alert me. I jerk my head up to see Aspenpaw staring at me. “What’s wrong, Ravenpaw?” I hear him murmur, “Can’t sleep?”

I gulp and he draws closer. “Ravenpaw?” His soft yellow eyes are full of compassion and warmth. A bolt of pain flashes through my dream and for a second, I’m Ravenflight and I remember that Aspenpelt is dead. The dream slides back in and Aspenpaw is staring at me with those eyes once more.

“I’m okay,” I tell him, but just as I say it, a sob bubbles from my chest.

Aspenpaw scoots over so he’s sitting next to me and curls his tail around me. “Don’t cry,” he mutters, “why are you crying?”

“My mother,” I tell him, “I miss her.”

Aspenpaw frowns. I know he constantly wakes up at night to ache for the parents he never knew, but he didn’t understand this kind of pain. “How was your mother like?” He decided to settle for, his eyes filled with curiosity.

I blink. “She was...kind and caring to me. She told me of adventures of cats outside of IceClan and always assured me that we would never be touched by war. When IceClan came for me, she told me to be brave.”

“Well are you?” Aspenpaw’s eyes shine.

“Am I what?”

“Are you being brave,” the brown tom tips his head, “for your mother I mean. Are you doing what she asked you to do?”

I gulp. “I don’t know,” I whisper, “I feel like I’m failing her. I don’t want to fail her.”

Aspenpaw places his paw on mine. “You’re not,” he murmurs, smiling a bit, “now come on, let’s go sleep so we can train tomorrow and show Blackthorn that we’re the best fly warriors he has.”

I smile too, “Okay,” and then I added with a quiet whisper, “thanks.”

Aspenpaw doesn’t hear the last part but when we curl up in our nests, a feeling of calmness comes over me and the dream fades away.

~

I wake up and find that dawn is just around the corner. I rise from my nest and head out of the tiny camp we had made and stare off towards the Raiders’ border.

And as I stand there, feeling utterly alone, I realize that what Artic was right. I do have a family here but am I part of it?

No. A small voice tells me.

My heart aches for something I haven’t had since I was three moons old: a family I lost to the war.

I cry for everything that has gone wrong. I cry for my parents, Artic’s parents, and I cry mostly for Gwyn’s parents.

All it took was once, I'll never be the same

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