I'm so sorry it's been so long! I have no excuse, other than school, exams and all that fun stuff. But the semester's over now :D So hopefully I'll get in a few more chapters before school starts up again.

Hope you like it :)

Chapter Nineteen

Russetpaw jerked her head up when she heard my voice, green eyes absolutely huge. She was standing over a dead gray cat with distinctive tabby markings, a cat I'd grown to like and consider a friend.

"I-It's n-not what it l-looks like," she stammered, shaking.

"You killed Pouncetail," I spat, my ears flat against my head and claws itching to bury themselves in her traitorous hide. I crouched over Nightkit protectively. "Just like you tried to kill me!"

"Hold on there a second, young'un," Mudfur (a spotted brown elder) said sharply.

Ashtail, a speckled gray tabby tom with blue eyes and the oldest cat in ThunderClan stood up creakily. "Russet has decided where her loyalties lie," he rasped.

Dapplefur, licking Daisykit, nodded at her fellow elder's words. "Pouncetail was taken by surprise by a RiverClan cat," she explained. "Russet fought off his attacker."

Ohhh-kay. And why is that hard to believe? I wonder…I raised a skeptical "eyebrow". And yet, she did have witnesses…Maybe she was telling the truth. I mean, she'd been incredibly freaked out after almost killing me. Judging by that reaction, she'd never try murder again.

It didn't mean I was now her best friend, or that I'd trust her, but maybe she'd turned her messed-up life around.

I picked up Nightkit and padded over (giving Russet a wide berth, just in case) to Dapplefur to set him down by his sister. Dapplefur blinked sympathetically at me.

"I know it's hard to believe," she whispered, "but she really did protect us."

Mudfur, close enough to hear her comment, twitched his ears grouchily. "I could've protected us just fine," he grumbled. "I've still got some good claw swipes left."

Dapplefur rolled her eyes at him, then smiled at me. "I'm so glad you found Nightkit! He wandered off in the chaos when Pouncetail was attacked. Whitefoot went after him…Where is Whitefoot?"

I'd nearly managed to shove that particular subject out of my head, but now it came crashing back. "She's dead," I replied, harsher than I meant to be.

Dapplefur gasped, Mudfur's eyes widened, and Ashtail broke into a coughing fit. Russet…well, it was hard to tell with her. She seemed terrified pretty much every moment nowadays.

"A RiverClan warrior couldn't see at all, and I guess he thought Nightkit was sneaking up on him or something. He was about to swat Nightkit out of the way when Whitefoot got there, but she was too out of shape and he couldn't see and he killed her. He didn't mean to, but he killed her."

"Oh StarClan," Dapplefur whispered. "Poor thing."

"Does Graystorm know?" Ashtail croaked.

I swallowed. "He knows…"

"How is he taking it?"

I hesitated. "Uh…not too well," I confessed.

Mudfur snorted. "Well, it's only to be expected. He loved her."

True. But I dunno if Graystorm going crazy and blaming his kit for Whitefoot's death was 'only to be excepted.'

Mudfur was still waiting impatiently for a response, so I gave a noncommittal shrug.

Suddenly wanting to get away from all the questions, I started to edge towards the ravine. "So, you guys have Nightkit?"

Dapplefur nodded. "Go rejoin the battle."

"Kick their sorry RiverClan tails," Mudfur ordered.

I grinned. "Will do. I'll shred a few pelts just for you, Mudfur."

Sadly, there wasn't much tail-kicking or pelt-shredding to be done. With the arrival of WindClan, RiverClan was pretty much done for and the fighting basically stopped. RiverClan had fled, like the mangy losers they were.

I didn't get close enough to hear the conversation, but it looked like Lighteningstar was thanking Tawnystar for her help and acknowledging that we owed them one.

With a gracious nod, Tawnystar accepted the promise of a favor, and quickly left for home with her warriors.

After calling to the Mudfur and the others up the ravine that it was safe to come back down, I limped slowly the rest of the way, taking my time now that there was nothing to rush for. The leg I almost snapped in half on our mad dash back to camp throbbed angrily…I more or less felt like a walking blob of pain.

I didn't see Graystorm anywhere.

Graystorm – Whitefoot's body.

With a lump in my throat that I couldn't get rid of, I hurried to the edge of camp where Whitefoot had died so I could take her body into the center of camp, like somecat had already done with the other dead warriors.

She deserved all the honors the Clan cats believed in.

Later that night, after the sun had gone down, I still hadn't moved from where I was crouched, next to Whitefoot's cold body. I didn't think I'd ever be able to move again – and it had nothing to do with how stiff my legs were feeling.

I sniffled and tried to keep myself from crying like a baby, but it was hard. Whitefoot was the cat I'd started to view as a mom – something I'd never thought about at Twolegplace, but then wondered about and had just started to find when BAM – gone, just like that. And if I felt this bad, what about Dasiykit and Nightkit, her real kids? And Graystorm, who still hadn't come back yet?

Whitefoot was always so cheerful and nice; what was ThunderClan without her?

The waterworks turned on, and refused to be turned off.

Larchpaw, just free from Brightsong's Treatment of Torture, padded up behind me somewhat hesitantly. I flicked an ear to acknowledge his presence; I didn't feel like talking.

"Mothpaw," he started quietly. "You can't sit there forever."

After a second, I found my voice. "Yes," I snapped. "I can." Yeah, he was trying to be strong and all, but didn't he understand?

Larchpaw blinked, then took another tactic. "You'll feel better once you get some food in you," he suggested.

I narrowed my eyes, but the effect was brutally shattered when I hiccupped. "Don't you (hic) get it (hic)?" I asked desperately. "Whitefoot's dead!"

Larchpaw nodded with a hurt look in his eyes that made me feel guilty. "I get it, Mothpaw, I really do. But we've got to move on eventually"-

Guilty feeling gone.

My head whipped around. "Move (hic) on? And forget about her?" I hissed.

Larchpaw stepped back. "I'm just trying to help," he mumbled.

I sighed, my anger fading. There just wasn't much room in me for strong emotion anymore. "I know, and I appreciate it. But I just need some alone time. Why don't you help Brindlepaw? I think she could use some support, with Pouncefoot's death."

I'd go, but I didn't know how well I could help her, being crushed myself. After the vigil I'd try.

Larchpaw nodded, the hurt look slightly lessened, and padded away, tail drooping. He really was just trying to help, but it wasn't working.

I turned back to Whitefoot and pressed my nose into her cold white fur. She didn't even smell like Whitefoot anymore – Brightsong had rubbed lavender and pine sap onto her fur.

More pawsteps behind me. "Really, just leave me alone, Larchpaw," I mumbled.

"I'm not Larchpaw," Sagepaw's quiet mew said.

"I don't care. Leave me alone."

"You know I'm not gonna do that."


"Nope." Sagepaw settled down next to me, his gray fur brushing mine.

I sniffed again. "Seriously. I don't need help that won't help. Don't waste your time."

Sagepaw ignored that. "You don't have to do it alone, you know."

I didn't know how to answer that. "…No comment," I muttered. I kept my face turned away so he wouldn't see me crying, but Sagepaw could tell.

He licked my ear. "Crying helps. Let it out."

"I'm not gonna be a kit."

"Crying doesn't mean you're being a kit."

I sighed and faced him. "Whitefoot felt like a mom," I admitted. Why I was telling him, I didn't know.

"I know, and you're going to miss her. But you'll see her again," he said between the soothing strokes of his tongue. "And Whitefoot would want you to be happy."

"I know," I mumbled. "It's just hard…"

"And it will be for a while. But it'll get easier."

That's part of why I liked Sagepaw. He told it to me straight off the bat, while at the same time making me feel better. He let me deal with it at my own pace. Larchpaw had tried to get me on my feet again in his own way, but I wasn't Clanborn – I wasn't used to death and destruction and blood. He hadn't let me cope with it myself.

"Thanks, Sagepaw," I told my friend. It didn't quite convey all that I was feeling, but I think he understood.

The morning and afternoon passed with nothing to report, other than Whitefoot's and Pouncefoot's burials. I almost lost it then and there, but I had my friends with me – Brindlepaw (looking crushed, but better; we'd had a good cry session together that had both of us feeling slightly better), Larchpaw, Sagepaw, Shadepaw. Poor Nightkit and Dasiykit didn't understand where their momma was going, which made my heart break that much more.

Graystorm, too, was announced dead; search patrols had been sent out, but they'd found nada. So we took a moment to honor his spirit, as well.

It was the sunset where things started to pick themselves up. After a day of grieving, Lighteningstar started to set the Clan on the plan of moving on.

"Russet has proven her loyalty," he declared. "Russet, you are returned to your place in the Clan, and your training as an apprentice will continue. Russetpaw!"

The Clan let out a few half-hearted cheers, but not all of them believed Russetpaw had really decided she was ThunderClan, and they weren't in the mood for a celebration.

I started to turn back to my nest so I could crash and get a good rest (I'd been too restless to sleep last night) when Lighteningstar waved his tail for silence, instead of hopping off the Highrock and ending the meeting. I bit back a growl; what more was there to say?

Lighteningstar's piercing yellow eyes swept over the crowd, before his gaze landed on me and my friends. "I have one more piece of business to discuss," he continued. "Mothpaw, Brindlepaw, Larchpaw, and Stonepaw have fought as warriors, and it is time for them to become so."

No way…no way…I was getting my warrior name? It would've been nice to receive mine without Stonehead (oops, StonePAW) getting his too, but you can't have everything.

A spark flickered to life in my previously empty-feeling heart. Sagepaw nudged my shoulder with a gleeful grin on his face, and Shadepaw watched us with awe.

"Larchpaw, Mothpaw, Brindlepaw, and Stonepaw," Lighteningstar called, "step forward."

I padded towards the Highrock, flanked by my friends, trembling with excitement and pride - Stonepaw followed behind us with a smug smirk on his face, but I decided to claw it off later; why ruin the moment? I was going to become a warrior!

"Mentors – are they ready to become a full part of the Clan?"

"They are," Barkfang, Brackenfoot, Cloudfur, and Sandclaw replied.

"Then I call upon my warrior ancestors to look down upon these apprentices. They have trained hard to understand the ways of your noble code, and I commend them to you as warriors in their turn. Do you promise to follow the warrior code and defend this Clan, even at the cost of your life?"

"We do," we chorused, Stonepaw repeating after a barely noticeable, millisecond's hesitation. More incentive to watch him – like I needed more.

"Then by the powers of StarClan, I give you your warrior names," Lighteningstar proclaimed with a smile. Larchpaw, from this day forth you will be known as Larchfoot."

Larchfoot smiled, green eyes shining.

"Brindlepaw, from this moment on, you will be known as Brindlefur." Brindlefur beamed happily, almost bouncing with joy.

"Stonepaw, from this moment on, you will be known as Stoneclaw." His smirk grew wider, and he let out a deep, rumbling purr that didn't sound happy - more like triumphant.

"And Mothpaw…" he looked at me with pride in his eyes. I stood up straighter, forgetting about Stonehead; what would my name be?

"From this moment on, you will be known as Mothwing."

Mothwing…I liked it.

No, scratch that – I loved it.

"ThunderClan welcomes you as full warriors!" Lighteningstar declared

This time, the response was much more loud and glad. "Larchfoot! Brindlefur! Stoneclaw! Mothwing!"

Amid the storm of cheers and congratulations (Sagepaw, Brightsong, and Brackenfoot's some of the loudest), for the first time, I felt like I really, truly belonged.

So...was it okay? Good? Bad? Need to be fixed? Review please!