I lay beside you in the medicine den, leg stiff with rushes and cobwebs. The blood has long since dried, the ache reduced to a numb pulse. Leafpool ordered you to keep me warm in the night so my fever may break.
Your breath is slow and even as you sleep, your tail curled over your muzzle. I can feel your tabby fur against mine, although I can't see it in the darkness. The moonlight splits through a single crack in the wall. Your face is bathed in an eerie, ethereal glow.
I won't say a thing, but there are times I wish we'd fall in love.
- - -
You press your muzzle to my pads and check to see if they're swollen with fever. There is something intangible about your close proximity, something magical about the way you efficiently smooth poultices on my leg. By now, there is more blood, but the numb pulsing is gone, and I can freely move about with only a slight pain.
"Nothing," you report to Leafpool, who is lost in thought on the other side of the den. "You'll be better soon." There is something akin to happiness in your eyes, relief; I'll never understand it, and I don't know if I want to.
It seems silly when I think it now, but for all my bravery, for all my dreams of being a warrior, it'll be a frightening world without you there to make sure I don't fall.
- - -
It's a late night when you prod me awake, despite Leafpool's insistence that you don't bother me. My eyes flutter open to find you silhouetted by the silver light outside, your eyes sightlessly staring down at me. A chill seeps through my bones, and I notice a low mist outside the den.
You shuffle your paws. "It's cold, back there," and with your muzzle you vaguely gesture to the back cave. "Drafts, you know."
I say nothing, as if I cannot be bothered, when there is a cacophony in my chest. You take my silence as a cue and settle next to me in the fresh moss, fur matching fur, warm and contented.
I still say nothing, though I know I cannot sleep now, and from the way your breath stills, I know you are still awake. We lay like that, you and I, a reflection without a reason. There's so many things I could say, questions boiling in my stomach, but I say nothing, and neither do you.
Do you wish we'd fall in love?
If I could ask, you wouldn't answer, would you?
- - -
The sunlight is warm on my fur, and the lake glistens like a million crystals. Beads of water vaporize in the heat, and my leg, a dull throb once more, lays comfortably at my side.
You sit next to me, your ringed tail curled over your paws, looking out over the lake. I wonder if you understand what you've done for me. I'm sure there's a inkling of knowing in that smart brain of yours, an understanding that you've helped. But you cannot possibly comprehend the significance.
I dip my tail into the water at the shore, watching it hiss over the pebbles with disinterest. The sun slides down the horizon, turning the sky several shades of orange, pink, and purple. You look up.
"We should head back." There's a hint of disappointment in your voice, words left unsaid.
I follow your gaze, as Silverpelt dots the sky. "We should."
And yet still, we never move.
- - -
The den is a shadowy place this morning. I can feel it, the sense of foreboding, the sense of loss, for I'm leaving today. I'll be returning to my warrior duties, and you will no longer be my coach. There will be no more swims in the lake, or nights spent curled at each other's side.
There is bitterness in your eyes, and although I know you can't see me, you stare as if I'm forever in your memory. You once asked me, tentatively, what I looked like, long before you confessed you once dreamed of me, helping me in StarClan.
"I'm much like you," I said once. "You're my reflection, only much smaller."
Today, I know why you stare at me in such a way. I suppose this anger is hiding that you'll miss me, even if you have duties to attend to. You watch me as I pad in, my leg no longer a crumpled heap, now just as fit as my others.
Leafpool's eyes are alight with relief and amazement, their amber cores traveling over my leg interestedly. "I'm so pleased," she purrs, pressing her muzzle to mine. "I'll have to tell Firestar the good news."
She slips away, leaving me alone with you, and suffocating me in the thick air.
I smile at you, and yet you cannot see it, I know you feel it. "I suppose this is goodbye, then," I say, a tentative whisper, a hesitant goodbye. "Thank you for everything." I could have said more. Thank you for believing in me. Thank you for saving me.
You grunt. "Not forever, is it?" Even so, I can hear the desperation in your voice; you don't want it to be forever, and neither do I. You hope it's not forever. I wish it isn't forever.
And even though it's untrue, hopeful thinking, I still lie and say, "No, not forever at all."
I can hear the words left unsaid.
I love you.
And though they are never spoken, I can see it in your eyes, privately anguished and distressed: you love me.
And though I will never say it, it still shines there, burns in the deepest places of my heart: I love you, too.