Ah, welcome back, young warrior! Are you ready to hear the next chapter of my tail- er tale, I mean. Haha, ignore my humor. I'm rather… odd lately! But this is not a humorous tale, I'm afraid. Listen closely, for the next piece is coming…

As I have already told you, life was going wonderfully. I was shaping into a fine warrior, Ashfur was happy, and our Clan, for the most part, was at peace. But as time went by, I noticed Squirrelflight still wouldn't see that Ashfur wanted more than to just be fellow warriors. It seemed that, no matter how much Ashfur tried to make it clear, she wasn't understanding. This was one such moment.

Ashfur and Squirrelflight sat, side-by-side, sharing a plump mouse. They were speaking in low murmurs and from where I was sitting, I couldn't make out the words. My mentor was happy and smiling, a light glimmering in his eyes that I had never seen before. Squirrelflight took no notice. Her gaze kept wandering all around the clearing, before settling upon the cat that sat, laughing, with Brackenfur and Whitepaw. Bramblecaw. I sighed, was there no hope for Ashfur? He protected her, he defended her, he loved her with every hair on his pelt. I drew in a sharp breath, what if Squirrelflight didn't care about Ashfur at all? What if it was all just an elaborate show to make Brambleclaw jealous and to encourage an apology from the tabby tom? Despite my usual good nature towards Ashfur's friends, a growl rose in my throat. How could Squirrelflight do that? Couldn't she see what she was doing to Ashfur? I had to talk to my mentor! I had to talk to him soon!

----

"Ashfur?" my voice was low and tentative, when I decided it was time for him to know. I was unsure of how to approach the subject.

He was crouched, stalking a blue jay, but his ears pricked towards me when he caught the tint of anxiety in my voice. He sat up, abandoning the prey. "What is it, Birchpaw?" he asked, his eyes dark with concern.

"I…I know how you feel about Squirrelflight," I meowed levelly, meeting his gaze.

He remained still and silent for a moment, then nodded for me to continue.

"She doesn't… she doesn't really love you. She loves Brambleclaw. Squirrelflight just wants to make him jealous and you… you were the easiest target." I flinched, all but expecting a cuff over my ears for my bluntness and disregard for his thoughts and feelings.

Ashfur did nothing, merely sat, finally he meowed. "No, Birchpaw, it only seems that way. Brambleclaw upset her, he hurt her and I came to protect her and love her. Squrrelflight wouldn't love him. She's just afraid of how he might react, so she's afraid to be more than a friend to me." he smiled, believing he had convinced me.

"But-" I was cut off by a flick of his gray tail.

"Thank you for your concern, Birchpaw," Ashfur replied, rising to his feet, "but you have no need to get involved. It is between Squirrelflight and I."

My shoulders sagged, I had tried, but to no avail. The gray warrior couldn't be convinced that the she-cat he loved was only pretending to love him. I sighed, tossing a sideways glance up at my mentor. What could I do? What could anycat do to save him from drowning in his own desire for love.

----

Alas, I could do nothing. And indeed, there was nothing to do. Ashfur drew closer to Squirrelflight grew more open. The Clan knew, Brambleclaw knew and Ashfur's best friend Rainwhisker knew.

"Ashfur," I heard Rainwhisker say to my mentor one soft greenleaf morning, "Be careful where your heart lies. You are sharing her love with another. No matter how hard you try, Squirrelflight will never be just yours." he murmered, leaning in close to Ashfur.

Ashfur shook his head, but the seriousness in his friend's tone made him wonder. I could see it in his eyes, the apprehension, the curiosity. He was thinking, thinking deep. I blinked and padded over to him, knowing what three words would push him over the edge of just considering. I would verbally shove him into the freezing water of confusion. "Brambleclaw is watching." I murmured, brushing past him, "Brambleclaw knows."

----

Sharp mutterings and snarls drew my attention to a bundle of underbrush behind the nursery. I crept closer, listening, "Hawkfrost can't be trusted, Brambleclaw!" Squirrelflight's desperate mew stung my ears. I flinched at Brambleclaw's burning reply, "He's my half-brother! What do you want me to do? Kill him?" the mutters got softer and Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight padded out from the underbrush, both looking weary and tired of fighting. "I give up." Squirrelflight finally meowed, as I slipped out of view just in time not to be caught, "It's not going to work then, you and I? I'll just never mean enough to you. Some cats just mean more to you than me." she growled and padded out. "No, Squirrelflight--wait!" he yowled, "You mean everything to me, Squirrelflight!" Despite my anger at Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight, I pitied them. They were addicted to each other. They couldn't let go. And all the while, the ground under Ashfur's paws was crumbling beneath him. But the danger wasn't over yet. Another threat was coming, a threat beyond compare. It would shift relationships, twist alliances, and for two precious cats, it would be the end of the road.

-cough- I'm getting a bit old for such a tale. But I must finish, I must clean Ashfur's name. The Clan never found out, but Brambleclaw and Squirrelflight assumed it. They shunned him 'till the day he died. And even then, Squirrelflight would not mourn him. He must be saved, he must rest with StarClan in peace.