A/N: Hiya! Okay, everybody, THORNCLAW4EVS reviewed first, so I took up his (I think his xD) second suggestion, SquirrelxBramble. I'm pretty proud of how it turned out. And in the future guys, please no more slash or OC pairings. ;) I have one question, though: should I take the suggestion of the first NEW review for each chapter, or start going through the older suggestions in order? I'm kind of thinking the second since I'll get more reviews (hehehe) and there will be more chance for new people to get their suggestion taken, but anyway. I'm giving you guys the choice. Enjoy!~
Squirrelflight walked determinedly through the forest, eyes narrowed, each step deliberate as damp ferns splashed rainwater onto her pelt. Inside, her heart was fluttering, and she was trying to keep her paws from shaking. She sniffed the ground, and his familiar scent wreathed around her. He went this way. I know he did. She wound around a tree trunk, jumping over a fallen log; as she continued, her heart pounded faster, and she knew where she was going. Gradually the leafy forest floor changed to pebbles and then to sand as Squirrelflight walked down a gentle slope. And there he was.
Brambleclaw sat on the shore of the lake, his back turned to her and his tail curled around his paws. The sight of his dark tabby pelt and broad shoulders made her heart leap, and her mind whirled. Maybe I should turn back. Maybe I can't do this. Then she took a deep breath, clearing her mind, claws digging into the sand. No. I've waited too long already. I must do this.
She padded down and sat beside him on the damp sand, no more than a tail-length away from him; she fixed her sparkling green eyes on the shining waters of the lake, as Brambleclaw had. "Squirelflight," he meowed. It was not quite cold, but there was no warmth in it either; he said her name indifferently, as though she were any other she-cat in the Clan. She flinched slightly.
"Brambleclaw," she began pleadingly, but she cut off short as his narrowed amber gaze swung around to look her in the eye.
"I've nothing to discuss with you, Squirrelflight," he said coldly, and stood, beginning to walk away.
She almost let him go. She almost let her true love walk away, then and there. But something snapped within her, and her old flame surged up, crackling beneath her pelt. She raced in front of him and yowled out, "But we have so much to discuss! Don't you see, Brambleclaw? By putting it off for so long, we've only dug ourselves deeper into this hole! We have to talk, Brambleclaw. We need to talk." She faced him defiantly, and gone was the quiet, defeated she-cat of the past moons; her green eyes blazed, and it was like looking at the old Squirrelpaw all over again.
Brambleclaw chuckled softly and turned back around, gazing out over the lake again. "You remind me of why I loved you," he replied softly.
Squirrelflight flinched, but she would not back down now. She padded forward, settling beside him again; together, yet still apart. Several long, anxious minutes passed before Brambleclaw meowed calmly, but with the slightest suggestion of a tremor in his mew, "Why, Squirrelflight?"
"I didn't have a choice," the dark ginger she-cat protested.
"Wrong!" Brambleclaw snarled. "You always have a choice. No matter how hopeless it seems, or how trapped you feel, you always have a choice."
Squirrelflight had the feeling that he was talking about more than just her lies, but she mewed softly, "I was only trying to help Leafpool. I was only trying to protect my sister."
"Only trying to protect her?" Brambleclaw was standing now, pacing. "What about me? Did you ever think about me, Squirrelflight?" He thrust his muzzle into her face, barely a mouselength away, but she stood her ground. When he spoke again, his voice was bitter. "No, of course you didn't. You didn't spare a second for anyone other than yourself and your precious sister." He spat the words out like a pieces of rotting crowfood.
"I-I had no idea you felt this way, Brambleclaw," Squirrelflight whispered.
"Maybe you don't know me as well as you thought you did," he responded darkly. "All my life, I've struggled to be trusted. All my life, I've had to fight and claw my way to the top just to gain the trust my Clanmates would automatically give to anyone else in the Clan. Do you think it's been easy being Tigerstar's son?" He took a deep breath, one that shivered slightly. "And then, you lied to me. The one cat I loved most in the wold, telling me she didn't trust me."
Squirrelflight was silent, her mind whirling. She didn't know what to say.
Brambleclaw laughed bitterly. "No, Squirrelflight. It's too late to go back to the way things were. Much too late. I trusted you, and you stabbed me in the back. Things will never be the same between us again."
"Brambleclaw, I never ever meant to hurt you," Squirrelflight mewed softly, her voice shaking. "I never meant to make you feel this way. I - " She paused here, shoving her pride down to the furthest recesses of her mind. "I'm sorry, Brambleclaw. So sorry. I was wrong, and I know that now. I made a huge mistake. I should have known I could have trusted the love of my life." Her voice broke here, and Brambleclaw turned slowly toward her. She could see she had his attention now, could see his guard beginning to lower.
"I know - I know I can't expect you to go right back to the way things were," she went on. "I know I've destroyed what we had. But don't you remember everything we've gone through before? Don't you remember finding Midnight, and the Great Journey?" She lowered her voice now, asking in a bare, broken whisper, "Don't you think you've punished me enough?"
Brambleclaw opened his mouth to speak again, but Squirrelflight cut him off. She knew this was her last chance, her last chance to either win him back or lose him forever. "I've already paid for my crimes. The kits hate me now, and you've shunned me for moons. Half the Clan doesn't even trust me before. I was wrong, and I know that now. I regret my decision every day. Please, Brambleclaw. I - I think - I think the mistrusted ones should stick together."
Brambleclaw stared at her, his amber eyes wide. He opened his mouth to reply and closed it again. Squirrelflight could see him, poised on the edge of a cliff; on the edge of deciding, once and for all, whether to give her one last chance, or bury their love forever. She could see his walls crumbling even as he tried to build them back up, the cold stone walls he'd built up for moons against her coming down around him.
Long, anxious minutes stretched out. Then he extended his nose toward her slowly and whispered, "I missed you. I hated you, but I still missed you."
Tears filled Squirrelflight's eyes as she reached forward until their noses touched, just for a fraction of a second, and she whispered back, "I missed you, too."
Wordlessly, Brambleclaw started up the shore, heading back to camp; Squirrelflight padded after him. They walked together, yet still apart, their pelts separated by a couple of mouselengths. Tension still crackled between them; they weren't back to normal yet, and she still felt awkward beside him. Squirrelflight knew it would be a long, long time before he would fully forgive him, before the scars would heal and he would learn to trust her again. But Squirrelflight had swallowed her pride and opened the door. And that was good enough for her.