It was a cold leaf-bare morning that saw the small cat hunched outside the apprentice's den, his fur fluffed up against the chill. His amber eyes were narrowed to glittering slits, and were fixed on a single warrior, and his claws were sliding in and out of sight, tearing up the frost-encrusted earth beneath his paws.
That warrior was a black tom with a chestnut-colored underbelly. And he was the focus of the unadulterated fury raging through the apprentice's body.
That tom was the apprentice's father. And the she-cat with said warrior was not the apprentice's mother!
The young apprentice, by name Toadpaw, turned to look at the speaker. She was a beautiful she-cat, with silky cream-colored fur, just like their mother's. "Good morning, Rosepaw," he mewed.
"Why aren't you in the den? You'll freeze out here."
Toadpaw couldn't help the upward quirk of his lips. Rosepaw didn't know how much she sounded like their mother at times. "I was just…thinking," he replied. He sighed and looked away. "Why do you think Daisy fell in love with Spiderleg? I mean…he obviously doesn't even care about her…or us."Rosepaw's blue eyes glinted with sorrow as she followed her brother's gaze to where Spiderleg was sharing tongues with Whitewing, who was due to bear Birchfall's kits soon. "I don't know," she whispered.
"It's not fair," Toadpaw growled, his claws sinking deep into the soil. He glared at Spiderleg, who finally seemed to realize he was being watched and turned to meet his son's eyes.
The black cat's honey-colored eyes, identical in shape and color to Toadpaw's own in every way, widened in surprise as the dark brown apprentice aimed a snarl his way.
"I hate him," Toadpaw whispered, breaking the stare and closing his eyes as tears slipped down his cheeks.
Rosepaw pushed her muzzle into her brother's dark fur, silently comforting him. She would never say it out loud, Toadpaw realized, but she hated their sire as well.
"Toadfur! Rosepelt! Toadfur! Rosepelt!"
The chant rose around the two newly named warriors, welcoming them fully despite their kittypet heritage. Firestar had lost his last life in the last moon before Toadfur had been named a warrior, but Bramblestar was just as good, if not better, at leading and keeping the Clan together. He understood the viewpoints of every cat, and worked to compromise when there were arguments in the Clan.
As Toadfur scanned the crowd, he noticed his half brothers and sister, Hazeltail, Mousewhisker, and Berrynose looking at then with pride, and Daisy's eyes full of tearful happiness.
But Spiderleg, his father, had turned away and was chatting with Birchfall.
Resentment burned in Toadfur's stomach, making him want to hiss and spit and tear at the dark warrior's pelt.
Rosepelt touched her nose to his shoulder, calming and comforting him. He closed his eyes and heaved a sigh. He'll never care about us, so stop acknowledging his presence, he counseled himself, before he turned away.
Toadfur swallowed his anger. Well, he tried to. But that…that…creature was talking to his mother! How dare he?! He had no right!
Daisy clearly thought so, too. She ignored Spiderleg until he tried to catch her attention by nudging her lightly, at which point she spun around and snarled loudly enough for Toadfur to hear:
"You had your chance to talk, Spiderleg, and you gave it away! You had the chance to be a father who had a loving mate and kits who looked up to you, but you turned away from that too! I refuse to have any more kits with you, because you'll only run off with another she-cat once they're born, just like you did with Rosepelt and Toadfur!"
Toadfur watched as she snatched up a plump vole and whisked off to the nursery, her tail bristling, and couldn't hold in a rather nasty smirk. He padded up to the fresh-kill pile, shouldering Spiderleg out of the way and picked up a robin.
"What's your problem?" Spiderleg snarled.
Toadfur just narrowed his eyes and curled his lip, before he stalked away. He'd never explain himself to his father, so long as he continued to act the way he did.
Several moons passed, and life continued as normal. Spiderleg was forced to retire to the elder's den after his leg was broken in three places and his shoulder badly injured from falling down the small but steep cliff next to the lakeshore.
Toadfur knew Daisy never visited her once-mate, but he knew that Rosepelt was the one to take their father fresh-kill every day. So he made a decision. He stood, and feeling the eyes of his sister on his back, padded across the camp to where the elders had their den.
He sighed quietly. There was Spiderleg, sitting in the back of the den, alone. Padding forward silently, he studied his father. He looked…defeated. His bad leg was stretched out in him, and he was curled up loosely.
This was Toadfur's chance. He cocked his head and began to speak, watching as Spiderleg's ears pricked and the black-furred head turned.
"Hey Dad," Toadfur mewed, "I'm speaking to you, not to tell you that I still hate you. Just to ask you how you feel. And how we fell apart, how this fell apart."
Spiderleg didn't seem to have an answer. He just stared as Toadfur kept talking, amber eyes—identical to his son's—staring right at the dark brown warrior.
"Are you happy out there in this great wide world?" Toadfur went on quietly. "Do you think about your son? Do you miss your little girl? When you lay your head down, how do you sleep at night? Do you even wonder if we're alright?"
"Of course I—"
Toadfur glared at him to shut him up. What the black cat had been
about to say was a lie. He pushed on ruthlessly: "But
we're alright, we're alright... It's been a long hard road without
you by my side. Why weren't you there all the nights that we cried?
You broke my mother's heart; you broke your children for life. It's
not okay, but we're all right.
"But we're alright, we're alright... It's been a long hard road without you by my side. Why weren't you there all the nights that we cried? You broke my mother's heart; you broke your children for life. It's not okay, but we're all right."
Spiderleg started to
interrupt again, but Toadfur unsheathed his claws as a warning, and
he shut up. He didn't want to hear his father's voice, he wanted
to get his point across.
"I remember the days you were a hero in my eyes, but those are just a long lost memory of mine. I spent so many years learning how to survive, now I'm speaking just to let you know I'm still alive."
"Okay, I get it," Spiderleg snarled, flattening his battle-torn ears. "You're alive, my daughter's alive, and Daisy's alive. And I'm an insensitive piece of fox-dung who left my mate and kits! Now leave!"
She's NOT your
mate! Toadfur thought angrily, but he pushed on: "The
days I spent so cold; so hungry, were full of hate; I was so angry.
The scars run deep inside this battered body, there's things I'll
take to my grave, but I'm okay, I'm okay. It's been a long hard road
without you by my side. Why weren't you there all the nights that we
cried? You broke my mother's heart; you broke your children for life.
It's not okay, but we're alright. I remember the days you were a hero
in my eyes, but those are just a long lost memory of mine. Now I'm
speaking just to let you know I'm still alive, and I'm still alive.
"The days I spent so cold; so hungry, were full of hate; I was so angry. The scars run deep inside this battered body, there's things I'll take to my grave, but I'm okay, I'm okay. It's been a long hard road without you by my side. Why weren't you there all the nights that we cried? You broke my mother's heart; you broke your children for life. It's not okay, but we're alright. I remember the days you were a hero in my eyes, but those are just a long lost memory of mine. Now I'm speaking just to let you know I'm still alive, and I'm still alive."
"I know that!" Spiderleg spat. He struggled to his paws and limped toward the young warrior on three legs, unable to even use the fourth. "I know you're alive, I know I hurt you all! But the fact is I never intended to have kits with Daisy! I didn't love her! We just got carried away one night, and one thing led to another!"
Toadfur laughed harshly. "That doesn't mean it didn't happen, dear father," he snarled coldly. "That doesn't change the fact that you broke Daisy's heart!" He lowered his voice and murmured, "But sometimes I forgive, and this time I'll admit…that I miss you."
Spiderleg paused. "…What?"
"Said I miss you. Hey, Dad…"
With that, Toadfur turned and left the den, never noticing the single tear that slipped down his father's cheek.