OK, now I am defending Daisy. She was hard to defend, as the Erins told us her story. But I found a way.

I am not a whole cat. Twice I have been betrayed, by Smoky and Spiderleg. As for Cloudtail...

I wasn't betrayed. I knew that now. I was just refused.

I loved Cloudtail. He was just so kind to me, easily the most accepting cat. He was the remedy.

Smoky had done the ultimate. He had kits with me. Yet he had watched me leave without even a goodbye.

Then I had found Cloudtail. Brave, kind, tough. He and I had come from the same roots, and the first time I met him, I had no idea he was taken.

I let myself love him. I let myself go in too far, believe that it would grow. Is there any harm in loving someone? I didn't know about him and Brightheart. Until I met Whitewing.

*********

I was in the nursery, feeding the newly named Berrykit, Hazelkit, and Mousekit.

Then a cat walked in. " Hi I'm Whitepaw. How are you settling in?"

" Fine. Your clan is wonderful to me. I have never been out in the wild, but it seems to suit me."

" That's good. How are your kits?"

" Even better than I am. They're going to grow up as forest cats. I don't even think I'll tell them where they really come from."

" It can't hurt, as long as no one picks on them. My father thought he was forestborn too, but Firestar told him his roots when he realized he was being scorned."

"Oh. Who was this cat?" It would be nice to know someone else like me.

She answered nonchalantly. " Cloudtail. How much more moss would you like?"

My heart seemed like it had stopped. Cloudtail was Whitepaw's father? I decided to act calm. " Just a little. I don't really mind being on dirt. Who's your mother? "

" Brightheart." Than she ran off to fetch the moss.

That deformed cat was Cloudtail's mate? She was a good cat, she had been considerate to me. She hadn't even flinched when I had yelped at the sight of her. But if Cloudtail was her mate...

No. I would not be mad. It's not Cloudtail's fault he has a mate. What hurt most was it proved how understanding he was to all. I loved him even more, knowing his love was beyond my reach.

I felt like my leg had been chopped off. No, that the support that stood in for my leg was gone. Smoky's rejection had chopped it off.

I had been leaning towards something that wasn't there. When Berrykit injured his tail, I fell.

***********

We had been at the barn for a day. Smoky was listening, amused, to Mousekit. Floss was lying next to me.

" How did you like the forest?"

" I loved it, but when Berrykit injured his tail, I decided that it wasn't safe."

She looked at me.

" Daisy, that's not an answer. What's going on?"

" Nothing. I just decided that it was safer to hide them here."

" Daisy..."

" All right! I was in love!"

" In love?"

" Yes, with a cat called Cloudtail. When Smoky rejected me, I went looking for a cat to cure that. I tried Cloudtail, and I fell in love. But then I found out that he had a mate."

Floss sighed. " That is terrible."

" Yes. Cloudtail was my support."

" Like a leg that had been chopped off?"

Floss knew me well. I decided to tell her everything. At the end, she smiled.

" You may have lost a leg, but you still have three. Learn to use those three, and it will hurt less. Maybe someday you'll find another leg."

" What are my three legs?"

She looked at the kits gamboling around Smoky. " I think you know."

********

I did find another leg. Spiderleg. He ran away. The third time that I have lost a leg.

But I have learned. I have leaned on my three legs. Berrynose, Mousewhisker, and Hazeltail.

I have observed Lionblaze and Hazeltail together. I hope he does not leave her like Smoky and Spiderleg left me.

Cloudtail?

Cloudtail had a mate before me. I must forget him.

But I can't. Somedays I can even compliment him without any hurting. Other days, it seems like the wind is calling, Cloudtail, Cloudtail.

I admit, I sometimes fantasize that Brightheart has died in a tragic accident and he needs comforting.

But I cannot have him. I must accept that and move on. I must find my other leg. And if I can't, I'll lean on three.

Even more than I fantasize about Cloudtail, I remember my first days, when I was whole, living with Smoky and Floss in the barn, our stomachs full and our nests warm even in winter.

Since then I have endured snow as it is rather than simply watching it fall outside. I have lived, loved, nurtured, mourned. I am whole no longer. But I have become smarter, known more, than my naive, sheltered self at the barn. ThunderClan, even with it's stings and falls, has changed me. I feel bigger now, wiser, better.

Good bye Cloudtail. Thank you for being my leg. I'll never be the same again.

And I am glad for that.

I know, not my best work. But I had a hard time figuring out the ending.

I am not sorry that I defended Daisy. I really believe that this is what happened, although probably not in the same way. I don't know how she found out that Cloudtail had a mate. Like in Heart's Desire, flame all you want. I don't care.