Hawkfire slowly awoke, then shot her eyes wide open as she remembered what happened right before she fell asleep. She jumped out of her nest and turned around, only to find Spottedfire nest empty, and cold. Sighing with relief, Hawkfire turned toward the den entrance and found herself nose to nose with the mangy fur ball Spottedfire.

Hawkfire felt a growl rising in her throat, furious that he would even show his face to her right after the incident. "How could you?" she said in a low, harsh voice.

Spottedfire looked confused, making her more furious. "How could I what? What did I do?"

"You know exactly what. Last night, you cuddled up to me, risking our secret getting out. The very first night, you go and-"

"It's not what you think." Spottedfire interrupted. "I thought you might have been cold, since it is Leaf-bare, and it was really cold last night."

Hawkfire felt bad that she accused him of something before he had a chance to tell her what it really meant. "I'm sorry. I didn't know about that"

Spottedfire looked at her sympathetically and put his tail on her shoulder to comfort her. "It's ok. I know that you didn't know, and I was prepared for you to misunderstand."

Hawkfire flinch at the last of his words. She drew away and looked at him. "We can't hide it if you don't cooperate.

"Hawkfire! Sunhigh patrol!" Wishingheart's voice sounded from outside the den.

Hawkfire walked through the den entrance, smoothing the side of Spottedfire's pelt as she went. Spottedfire purred at the comfort, and she knew he forgave her for bursting on him. "Coming! See ya', Spottedfire."

"See ya'. And good luck." Spottedfire said as he walked out after her. He went to the fresh kill pile, grabbing a mouse and trotting back to the entrance of the den, sitting down to eat.

As Hawkfire walked out of the den completely, she noticed that it had snowed in the night. Wow, she thought. It really was cold last night. Hawkfire walked over to the patrol and saw Wildpaw with Skywater, Wishingheart, and Poppyfrost. Hawkfire trotted over next to Wildpaw and stood, pelts brushing, listening to Wishinghearts instructions.

"I want to go around the ShadowClan border for now, but be careful." Wishingheart said. "ShadowClan has been crossing the border lately, and I just want to check it out. If we run into trouble, Wildpaw, you must come back and warn Firestar. Alright then, let's go everyone!" Just before they left the entrance, Wishingheart signaled for the patrol to go to the top of the hollow. As Hawkfire began to walk with patrol, Wishingheart signaled with her tail for Hawkfire to come over. "Hawkfire, you didn't sit on guard duty like you were suppose to last night, and the camp was left unguarded. Do you know how bad that could have turned out?" Her voice was soft but stern.

Hawkfire suddenly felt furious at herself for not thinking about it. "Yes, and I'm sorry, but I was exhausted last night and hadn't had a nap the whole day. I had forgotten, and I know I will be punished for it."

Amusement glittered in the deputy's eyes, and then she began to speak. "I am glad you understand that you must be punished for something you did wrong, so I will not punish you now. I will do so when we get back."

Relief filled Hawkfire as Wishingheart spoke. "Thank you."

Wishingheart then walked up to the rest of the patrol and swept them up with a twirl of her tail and headed out.

As they went on, Hawkfire began to let her thoughts drift and began to wonder when Wildpaw would get her warrior name. "Hey, Wildpaw." she whispered. "Has your mentor said anything about you getting an assessment lately?"

Wildpaw didn't speak for a second, as if she was in thought, then said, "No. Has she said anything to you?" The type of question in her voice made Hawkfire wonder if she thought that she was holding back information from her.

"No. I was just wondering if you would join me any time soon, that's all." Hawkfire suddenly began to think about Spottedfire, and began to feel fuzzy inside. "Have you noticed anything different about Spottedfire, Wildpaw?"

Wildpaw looked at her confused, then her expression cleared into understanding. "Oh, you mean because of Lionpaw's death? No, not really." Hawkfire felt relieved that no one noticed anything about her and Spottedfire.

The leafless trees that surrounded them were suddenly interesting to Hawkfire, and her gaze drifted on down to the path they were on, snow on each side of it. For a moment, she closed her eyes, imagining only her and Spottedfire walking down the path in the beginning of Leafbare as the trees were rustled by the wind, making the different colored leaves fall down on them as they walked. She sighed, blinking open her eyes. She felt unhappy all of a sudden that she was keeping secrets from her best friend. "Wildpaw, I have to tell you something. I'm not quite sure how to put it, so I'll just say it how it is. I'm in love with Spottedfire. I just need you to keep it down for now, ok?"

For a moment, Wildpaw looked as if she would burst out yowling in shock, her eyes wide. Then she calmed and began, "You are? Is that why you asked me that question earlier?"

"No, well, not at first, but I wanted to tell you because I thought I would be able to trust you."

"Well, you thought right. Don't worry. Your secret's safe with me."

Hawkfire felt relieved to have a friend as good as her to be able to trust when she needed to talk to someone about something important. "Thanks, Wildpaw. I knew I could count on you to keep my secrets."

~&~

As the patrol reached the ShadowClan border, Wishingheart stopped suddenly. "Wait here," she began, "and I'll go check first. I want to make sure there isn't anyone waiting to ambush us. Some of those ShadowClan warriors can get quite aggressive when it comes to territory and prey. In the meantime, watch my back."

As she crept out of the bushes, Hawkfire put all senses on alert and was extremely alert of every movement or sound she saw or heard. In fact, she so keen on watching her deputy that when Wildpaw started to whisper something in her ear, she jumped so high she might have touched StarClan if it weren't for the branch that had hit her head in mid-air. Upon landing and rubbing her paw on her head, she looked up and noticed that every other cat besides Wildpaw had jumped back and was staring at Hawkfire with fear in each of their trembling gazes, all directed at her. She then looked at the deputy, once slowly walking along the border and sniffing, now staring at her in surprise and interest, obvious fear and shock quickly leaving her eyes.

"What was that all about?" Skywater asked.

Hawkfire glanced quickly at Wildpaw, who shook her head, telling her that she would accept the consequences, and then began to explain what the incident implied.

After Hawkfire explained the situation at paw, Skywater replied with a soft voice. "I understand that Wildpaw is quite talkative, but you usually aren't that frightened, Hawkfire. Is their something on your mind, or is something bothering you?"

Something was bothering her, a bit, but that wasn't why she was so jumpy. "Just concentrating on Wishingheart's safety." She said truthfully. "It's important, you know, and when I concentrate on things really hard, I usually get jumpy, that's all."

Skywater looked sympathetically at her and spoke in a kind voice. "Alright, then, I'll leave it at that."

Hawkfire, guessing that the conversation was over, looked back at Wishingheart and crouched back into the bushes. She knew the reason why Skywater was so nice to her. Skywater was an older apprentice when she was apprenticed, but they made good friends during the two weeks they were together in the den, and Skywater had shown her everything in the camp and which den was which. They had had good times together, until he was made a warrior the second week, and their dens were separated. Eventually, the two friends grew apart in time because they didn't talk as much, even if they tried to. But then Lionpaw came, and she felt different about him, which took her spare time away by staring at the yellow-pelted warrior, now in the ranks of StarClan.

"Hey, Hawkfire, come on! Stop sitting there and daydreaming, and hurry up! We're leaving you!" The yell from Wishingheart made her jump, again, but not as high.

"Coming!" Hawkfire yelled back, running to the patrol. I really must stop the daydreaming, she thought, or one day, I really will get left behind! When she got back, she saw that everyone was waiting for her. How embarrassing.

Wishingheart positioned herself to where she could address the patrol. "We're going to finish our patrol, since it seems that ShadowClan have stayed away today, and mark our borders extra sharp. Then we'll head back to camp and I'll report to Firestar."

~&~

When the patrol got back to camp, it seemed as though it were filled with discussion, and not the good kind. Every face looked worried, and a cat raced over to Wishingheart, obviously distressed. Hawkfire realized after closer inspection that it was Firetooth.

"Wishingheart," he exclaimed, "it's Firestar!"

Wishingheart's eyes grew very wide at the mention of his name mixed with worry around the Clan. She had a large amount of fear in her voice when she spoke. "Tell me when we get to his den." After that, she was suddenly racing across the clearing toward Firestar's den.

Next, the patrol split as fast as mice and hurried to talk to their buddies and friends among the Clan.

When Hawkfire took in the scene before her eyes, she saw Spottedfire running as fast to her as she ever saw him run. His eyes were as large as the full moon. "Hawkfire-!"

"I know," she said, interrupting him, "I can guess it." Hawkfire had already guessed what was happening. Firestar was old, so it was very likely that it would happen.

"So, you think it'll happen?" Spottedfire replied.

Before Hawkfire could reply back, someone called for a Clan meeting from the Highledge. Hawkfire recognized the voice as Wishingheart's, and Hawkfire knew what was coming.

"Cat's of the Clan," Wishingheart began, "I have grave news for you all. Although I am aware most of you know, some of you may not. It is true that Firestar..." She was fading into grief, Hawkfire could hear and see, and Hawkfire looked into Wishingheart's eyes just before she lowered her head. Hawkfire breathed out in shock and her throat closed up, while her eyes grew so wide they might have popped out. Her heart felt as though it were being squeezed so hard it would burst as her chest tightened up until it felt like she would die of the pain she saw in Wishingheart's dark, purple eyes. There was no mistaking her next words. Wishingheart began to speak, clearly not holding the grief back in her voice. "Firestar is on his last life now, and he is a strong-hearted cat, but Jayfeather has no herbs that can give him his lives back. Firestar will be joining the ranks of StarClan tonight."

Shocked gasps filled the air with yowls of pain. Some cats shouted "Why Firestar?" or "It can't be!" while others said "Why must Firestar die now?".

Then, one voice towered over the rest as a she-cat yowled "Are StarClan so cruel as to kill our leader now? Why must they torture us?" The clearing fell silent at this.

Wishingheart was clearly shocked at the accusation when she spoke. "How could you blame StarClan, when they are wiser than us, Foxpelt? StarClan knows what they're doing when they take a life." After that, Wishingheart walked back into the leader's den, signaling with her tail that she wanted no more of the discussion.

After a short period of time, Wishingheart came out of the den, misery casing her face all together. She didn't bother announcing another Clan meeting, since everyone was already there. "Firestar is now with StarClan," she announced, "and I will make my trip to the moonpool tomorrow." She had clearly dreaded the words she said just then. "Until then," she continued, "I shall appoint a new deputy incase something happens. I thought long and hard during my time in the den, and have gone over every cat with careful thought. I have chosen Nightwhisker."

Nightwhisker was a black cat with long hair and dark-blue eyes. He clearly was the right choice. He was very loyal and kind hearted.

Wishingheart gave time for the shocked warrior to realize what had just happened, and for others to congratulate him in mummers, and then she spoke again. "You will have plenty of time to tell him you're happy when I'm done. For now, we must discuss the situation at paw. Firestar will be brought out by his two daughters, Squirelflight and Leafpool, so you all can sit vigil for him. Also, tomorrow is a gathering and I want all of you to all get enough rest and have time to think about all the deaths of these past few days." At that, she swept her tail, indicating that the meeting was over.

Hawkfire was about to run to Wildpaw, when she heard Foxpelt talking very carefully and quietly. Hawkfire melted into the shadows of a den and listened in cautiously.

"...so I want you two to come with me while I stalk her to the moonpool, ok?" Foxpelt said. "When we get there, I'll give the signal to attack..."

Hawkfire wasn't listening after what she just heard. Her heart was pounding in her throat and her ears were beginning to throb from the blood pulsating in them. Oh StarClan, she thought, what should I do? Then, the answer from them couldn't have been clearer. The idea popped into her mind the second she asked for help. Why don't I think more often? I'll just tell Wishingheart.

~&~

Hawkfire had told Wishingheart of Foxpelt's scheme the minute they had left the area near her hiding place.

"What?!" Wishingheart replied. She was quiet for a minute, and then spoke again. "Hawkfire, do I mean a lot as leader to you?"

"Yes." Hawkfire answered. The question confused her, but she answered anyway.

"Then, since you know Foxpelt's sent more than anyone else, can you accompany me and Nightwhisker to the moonpool?"

"Y-Yes!" Hawkfire stammered. Wow! I get to go with a leader to moonpool as she gets her nine lives!

"Ok, then you may come with."

~&~

Wildpaw was looking sad as Hawkfire was leaving. "But it's just not fair you get to go on such an occasion when there isn't anything you have that's allowing you!" Wildpaw whined.

"Well, I'll tell you all about it when I come back, ok? Would that cheer you up?" Hawkfire replied.

"Yeah, I guess."

"Hawkfire, Nightwhisker, lets go!" Wishingheart sounded from the entrance of the hollow.

Hawkfire raced up to her quickly. "I'm here," she said, "and I'm ready to go now." The three headed out of camp and towards the moonpool.