"So it's time?" Crookedstar asked.

"Yes," the medicine cat said, her starry pelt rippling in the wind.

Crookedstar felt a tiny pang. He was going to die. But- "It's... all right. I've had a good life. A good nine lives, in fact. I've achieved everything I wanted." Nostalgia crept into the tabby leader's heart. "And there are some old friends I've been longing to see." Including you, Brambleberry.

"Well, come along, then… They're waiting for you."

Crookedstar staggered after the medicine cat, his bones weary. But soon, the elderly cat's exhaustion turned into a youth's energy. The pain of the greencough that afflicted him melted like an iced over river meeting newleaf. Brambleberry led him up, up, up, into the forest in the sky. Then, he saw them. My friends… my family…

Emotion overwhelmed him. "It's just so good to see you all…!"

Then the cat he had missed the most stepped out from the group. "Oh, my love," Willowbreeze whispered. "I've been waiting for you."

Crookedstar nuzzled his mate's cheek. "I love you." Then he looked up at the other cats. Oakheart, Shellheart, Cederpelt, Sedgecreek, Hailstar… There was Silverstream, joy in her lovely eyes! "My daughter!"

"I love you, Father. I'm sorry for the pain I caused you."

"It was forgiven long ago. I'm so glad to see you!"

"And I'm sorry for the pain I caused you, too, Crookedstar," a black and white she-cat said.

"Rainflower?" It was his mother. His mother! "Oh, Rainflower, I forgive you."

"Thank you. I don't deserve it." Rainflower dipped her head, emotion in her eyes. "I just wanted to say… I'm proud of you."

Crookedstar's heart soared.

The first day in StarClan felt like in might have been a mere heartbeat, or many moons. Crookedstar was happier than he ever had been. Sharing tongues with Clan mates, hunting fish that tasted better than any in RiverClan, running across lush fields. Crookedstar laid on the bank by the river, thinking. He had never felt so strong, so content, so… understanding. Everything made sense in the light of his death. He now sympathized with his mother's rejection of him, and Silverstream's betrayal, even though he still recognized them as wrong. All the turmoil, the friction… it made sense now. Crookedstar gazed at his reflection in the quiet stream. His face was youthful again, like when he was a young warrior, and all his scars had vanished. Except... My jaw is still twisted! The brown tom stood up and spotted Brambleberry downstream. He padded across the smooth pebbles toward her.

"Brambleberry?" he said.

"Yes?"

Crookedstar swallowed. "If my scars are healed, if my body is strong, why is my jaw still broken?" he asked. "I mean, this is StarClan. Shouldn't that be made right?"

Brambleberry looked thoughtful. "Crookedstar, your jaw is part of who you are. Think about how much would have changed if you hadn't hurt it. Would you be the same cat?"

The tabby blinked. Would he? He thought about how much his character had changed after he was injured. If he hadn't broken his jaw, he never would have met Fleck or Soot! Would he have tried so hard to earn his Clan mates' approval if he had kept the name Stormkit? And if he hadn't stayed in the nursery for so long, he wouldn't have been so understanding to the kits. He remembered the time he held a Clan meeting just to tell his Clan not to underestimate kits, that they were capable of learning to swim, to fish, and even to fight! And he wouldn't have played with the kits, either, if not for his jaw. He wouldn't have accepted Graystripe into the Clan if he hadn't sympathized with out of place cats. And Crookedstar had known perfectly well that Graystripe wouldn't stay in RiverClan forever… But one of the last things he decided as leader was that RiverClan should try to learn ThunderClan techniques from the gray tomcat. The skills could be passed on to RiverClan apprentices for generations to come. He looked Brambleberry in the eye.

"You're right. Scars from the past make us who we are, testing and strengthening us. I wouldn't change a single trial. Not for all the forest."


That was one of my better stories, I think. Anywho, reviews are greatly appreciated!