A/N: Welcome to the Book of 100 Pairings, my newest story on fanfiction! It will contain, hopefully, 100 oneshots, each on a different pairing from the Warriors series. A new one will come out each Saturday. And you, faithful reviewers, will get to pick which pairings I do my next chapters on. I'll take the suggestion of the first person to review telling me what pairing to do next. It's simple; just tell me the pairing and whose POV it should be on. I've done the first one on JayxBriar, since I luv them together! ~3
"Jayfeather, I want to be your apprentice."
That's the first thing I heard when I padded into my den one warm greenleaf morning. I stared slack-jawed in the general direction from which the proclamation had issued. "What?" I asked, even though I very well knew what Briarlight had said.
"Jayfeather, I want to be your apprentice," she repeated firmly, and I could imagine the dark brown she-cat lifting her head defiantly, green eyes flashing.
I was dumbfounded. Of course, my first reaction was hostility. "What do you mean you want to be my apprentice?" I burst out, with an edge to my tone.
"I mean I want to be your apprentice," she meowed a third time, and there was a hint of steel in the regularly bright and cheerful she-cat's voice.
I hissed, my tail lashing with frustration. This was going nowhere. "Why?" I asked, stalling.
"I can finally be useful," she defended herself. "I can finally help the Clan, be worth the prey I eat. And I already know so many herbs and what to do with them, please, Jayfeather, I'm practically your apprentice already!"
I turned away, my mind whirling, sightless blue eyes stretched wide. She must have been thinking about this for a long time; her argument was all thought out. And was it just me, or had she been unusually quiet lately? "Jayfeather!" Briarlight pleaded.
"Hush," I ordered.
"But - "
I lashed my tail definitively, and I could feel anger and disappointment pulsing from the crippled she-cat.
"I think you should do it," Firestar meowed.
"What?" I exclaimed. "But - how will she even make it to the Moonpool? She's crippled!"
"If you won't take her on, she might as well retire to the elder's den," Firestar pointed out seriously. "And doesn't she help you out in the den a lot already?"
"But - " I clamped my jaws shut. "I'll think about it," I muttered, stalking back to my den.
But as I laid in my nest, Briarlight's sleeping form only a tail-length or so away, I started thinking. I supposed Firestar was right, about her retiring. And the bright, intelligent young she-cat was a big help - though I could manage on my own, I reminded myself - and as much as I hated to admit it, she was nice company to have around. I listened to the deep, slightly rasping noise of the crippled she-cat's breathing. I hope she isn't catching a cough, I found myself thinking. Besides, she had wanted it so much; I could hear it in the tone of her mew, feel the eagerness pulsing off of her pelt. All she truly wanted was to help her Clan, to feel useful.
Alright, I thought reluctantly. I'll do it. For Briarlight.
When we announced it to the Clan, they erupted in a frenzy of excited yowls, happiness spiraling from the crowd of cats cheering "Briarlight! Briarlight!" Millie's eyes were filled with tears, and Graystripe gave his daughter a lick between the ears. Bumblestripe wound around her ecstatically, while Blossomfall added her half-hearted yowl - probably praying Millie wouldn't fuss over Briarlight even more now. Pride and pure happiness flooded from Briarlight's pelt; she'd insisted on dragging herself into camp. As I stood beside her, I realized I wasn't quite so reluctant about taking her on as I'd thought.
At the next half-moon, we set out. In the end we had to agree that a blind tom and a paralyzed she-cat could not get to the Moonpool on their own, so I reluctantly agreed to allow Bumblestripe to come along and help me get Briarlight all the way there (he was more than happy to help).
Briarlight was ecstatic, but she had no idea of the challenge that laid ahead. The crippled she-cat, with a great effort and lots of cheering from Bumblestripe, managed to get herself halfway to the WindClan border, where she lay winded, unable to drag herself another foot. Then Bumblestripe and I both took up her scruff, him helping me guide her the rest of the way. We were met warmly by Mothwing, Willowshine, and Littlecloud, who were shocked to see the paralyzed she-cat all the way out there, not to mention that Bumblestripe was tagging along. However, they were delighted and amazed - if a little doubtful - once they learned she was becoming my apprentice.
By now, Briarlight was more rested. She began determinedly dragging herself up the path toward the Moonpool, and I couldn't help but find myself admiring the determined, spunky, optimistic young she-cat. However, she barely made it a fourth of the way before Bumblestripe and I had to take up her scruff again. It took longer than usual, and it was a bit of a challenge, but we finally made it all the way to the Moonpool, with Briarlight alternating between dragging herself and being carried.
Once we arrived, Bumblestripe took a respectful stance at the entrance. Briarlight whispered, "It's beautiful," as soon as she saw the Moonpool, a bit of weariness tinging her mew. She had made the last segment of the journey herself, and now she dragged herself down to the pebbly shore, awe, excitement, and anticipation sparking off of her pelt.
I took my position in front of her, fixing my sightless eyes were I guessed her head was. I took a deep breath, dredging up the ceremony words in my mind, and it suddenly hit me what a big responsibility I was taking on. For a moment I felt a stab of panic, knowing what was ahead; then I calmed myself, knowing everyone was waiting. "Briarlight," I began, "is it your wish to enter the mysteries of StarClan as a medicine cat?"
"It is," Briarlight replied, a slight tremor in her joyful mew.
"Then come forward." I heard Briarlight dragging herself forward until I could sense her, feel her breath, barely a mouselength from my face. I directed my eyes upward, imagining a swath of stars in the night sky, even though I couldn't see them. "Warriors of StarClan, I present you with this apprentice. Although she was once a warrior, she has now chosen the path of a medicine cat. Grant her your wisdom and insight so that she may understand your ways and heal ThunderClan in accordance with your will."
Briarlight's breath became warmer as she leaned up toward me; I touched my nose with hers and she swiftly licked my shoulder. "I accept you, Briarlight, as the medicine cat apprentice of ThunderClan," I announced softly.
"Th-Thank you," Briarlight mewed, her voice shaking. "Thank you, Jayfeather."
"Congratulations, Briarlight!" Willowshine mewed warmly, padding forward to nudge the young she-cat.
"Welcome to your life as a medicine cat," Mothwing meowed, and Kestrelflight and Littlecloud moved up to offer their congratulations. Bumblestripe didn't speak, but I could sense pride and happiness flowing from his post at the entrance.
Once they had finished, Briarlight moved forward to lap up a few mouthfuls of the Moonpool's water, her belly fur scraping on the damp gravel. Exciement and joy radiated from her, and as I joined her by the Pool, I couldn't help but slow my breathing to hers and prepare to walk in her dreams.
The next thing I knew I was in StarClan's territories, blinking a the lush, brightly colored forest around me. I slid under a bush as Briarlight padded into a view. Wait - padded? Her back legs were working, completely under her control, instead of dragging limply behind her.
"I - I can walk!" she meowed, her voice trembling with joy. The dark brown she-cat began frolicking like a kit, kicking her legs out behind her, speeding in circles around a tree. I had to stifle a mrrow of amusement.
"Briarlight." It was a warm mew, one I knew well. Spottedleaf walked into my vision, her beautifully dappled pelt seeming to shift. She was followed by Yellowfang, whose dark gray coat was as matted as ever, and Bluestar, who held herself regally among the pale green ferns.
"I can walk!" she repeated, but her voice trailed off as she stared in awe at the three star-swathed she-cats in front of her.
"Yes." It was Bluestar this time. "In StarClan, impediments are healed. You can walk in our hunting grounds, as Jayfeather can see." Her eyes darted to my hiding place, as though she could sense me crouching there; a twinge of annoyance went through me.
Briarlight stared, mewing softly, "You're Bluestar, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am," the bluish-gray leader meowed, sounding faintly amused. "And these are Spottedleaf and Yellowfang." She flicked her tail at her contemporaries.
"Wow," Briarlight whispered. "I've heard nursery stories about you!"
"Your path as a medicine cat will not be easy," Spottedleaf warned her. "But we welcome you to the mysteries of StarClan."
"I can finally be useful," Briarlight mewed.
"Good luck, kit," Yellowfang added gruffly.
They spoke a bit longer, but soon the dream began to shimmer, swirling apart around me.
The next thing I knew, I was blinking awake with darkness swept across my vision once more. "Oh, Jayfeather, it was wonderful!" I jumped as Briarlight's voice sounded directly next to me. "I met Bluestar, and Yellowfang, and - "
"Shh!" I hissed. "You're not supposed to tell anyone about your dreams, remember?"
"Oh, yeah." Briarlight was quieted for a moment; then I heard a scraping sound as she began to drag herself toward the entrance. On the way back, Briarlight chatted happily with Willowshine and Kestrelflight, with Bumblestripe inserting a comment occasionally. However, she was more tired on the way back, and had to take breaks of being carried more often. Once we reached the WindClan border, Kestrelflight, Willowshine, and Mothwing headed back to their homes, while Littlecloud walked with us a bit further.
Briarlight was exhausted as we neared the camp, but she insisted on dragging herself through the camp's entrance. At this time of night, most cats were asleep, but the cat on guard - who just so happened to be Graystripe - welcomed his daughter warmly. Briarlight was practically asleep on her paws, though, so Bumblestripe and I had to take her the rest of the way up to my den - which was now hers as well, I realized. I bade farewell to Bumblestripe as I helped his half-asleep sister the rest of the way into her nest.
She dropped into sleep almost immediately, while I curled up in my nest a tail-length or so away from her. As I listened to her slow, deep breathing, I felt an unexpected rush of affection for this cheerful and determined young she-cat. She was crippled, yet she stayed optimistic through all of it. And I realized that, through all of the moons, she had been my friend. And... maybe a little more than a friend? I didn't know.
I leaned forward, whispering gently in her ear, "Sweet dreams, Briarlight." Then I turned away, resting my muzzle on my paws once more.