Joker

Running…running…I have to keep running….

The she-cat's paws pounded on the forest floor, but her heart pounded louder, drowning out all other sounds.

She could still hear the voices exclaiming at her revelation, doubting, until the real culprit stood up and confirmed the truth: she had given birth to halfClan kits, completely breaking the warrior code.

The she-cat lashed her tail. What ignorance! How could she trample on the warrior code like that? I don't feel WindClan, even if I have my father's pelt!

Even StarClan itself had showed it to be true: the she-cat's brother had received a dream in which their father was revealed.

But it was all prophesied! the she-cat thought despairingly. StarClan wanted her to break the warrior code!

I can't be part of my Clan anymore, not now, she decided miserably. I've done so much wrong—even my birth was forbidden. I killed a cat. I lied and snuck around behind everyone's backs.

How could StarClan pick me?

A part of her snickered at her thought. StarClan won't want you anymore, it said. You murderer.

He had to die! she protested. He was going to ruin everything!

But you did what he was going to do.

Frustrated and nearing desperation, she swerved suddenly to avoid a bramble bush. Bramble. The word left a foul aftertaste. He's not my father. Leafpool is. I bet Jayfeather will be the Clan's medicine cat now, after she broke both the warrior code and the medicine cat code.

Lionblaze and Jayfeather were probably following her. For once in her life, she was guiltily glad for her brother's blindness. Lionblaze would be forced to keep his pace once they reached unfamiliar land. She was nearly out of ThunderClan territory; she should lose them then.

But I have to keep running.

Her paws worked steadily beneath her, every pawstep putting more distance between her and the Clans.

She almost stumbled in relief over the ThunderClan border marks. This was the last time she would be in ThunderClan for a long time, she hoped. Still, she ran and ran until ThunderClan scent faded. She came to a clumsy stop.

Her head spun. Night had long since passed and faded into dawn. She wanted no more than a mouse to suddenly die at her paws and a mossy nest fully prepared for a good sleep.

But things don't work like that when you're independent. She inhaled deeply, soothing her heaving chest. She was surprised at the strong scent of mouse. The area also smelled of cat, but it seemed faint. She followed her nose to a pile of leaves beneath a bush. Two dead mice, their blood no longer warm, were there. Out of habit, she thanked StarClan before pawing them out of the leaf pile. She quickly demolished the first one and started on the second. Her stomach cramped suddenly, and she swallowed hard before putting the half-eaten mouse back in the leaf pile. She could come back to it later.

She spotted a nearby puddle and lapped thirstily. Full of mouse meat and water, she opened her mouth in a gaping yawn. Fatigue dragged at her tired muscles and made her mind fuzzy. She curled up in the leaf pile, almost squashing the mouse, and fell fast asleep.

A~K~Q~J

Hollyleaf awoke to a sound. It was very subtle and, at first, she thought she had imagined it. She strained her ears, listening intently.

For several heartbeats there was only the whispering night wind in the trees. Hollyleaf had just begun to relax when it came again. It was a soft sound, the noise of a cat padding through the forest. A brush against a bush. The nearly inaudible crushing of grass beneath paws. The occasional deep breath to assess nearby scents.

She was not alone.

Her heart began to beat faster as the noises grew louder. She tasted the air and scented the same cat she had noticed earlier. No doubt she was trespassing. She leapt to her paws and, with one last check on the cat's location, set off in the opposite direction.

She kept going for a ways until she smelled a strong scent of cat from ahead. This was the border, her nose told her, the barrier between this cat's territory and the land beyond. She quickened her pace until she was running through the dark forest. She hurtled across the border with a loud "Thank StarClan!"

Her exclamation died in her throat as she surveyed her new location. Those may have been scent marks, but they were certainly not a border between two territories.

A huge stone Twoleg nest was a tree-length or so inside the scent marks. Her lip curled as she realized she was a tail-length from one mark. She sniffed at it, her mind not wanting to believe what her nose told her.

I have to be sure.

She padded cautiously up to the Twoleg nest. Then she froze.

Was it her imagination, or were there pawsteps behind her matching her pace?

She sped up, and the noises behind her did so as well.

She began to run. To her dismay, the sounds kept pace and seemed to be gaining on her.

Panic gripped her, and she ran faster, stumbling over stones that could have been avoided. Her paws burned and her chest heaved.

What if it's a warrior of LionClan? What if it's a huge mean tomcat? StarClan help me!

As she neared the Twoleg nest, she noticed that the large wood door seemed to be firmly shut. She screwed up her face at this rush of terror.

I don't want to meet him again, not now!

Was she still being followed? Were those pawsteps or her own thudding heartbeats?

She did not want to stop and find out.

As she neared the door of the Twoleg nest, it creaked open.

Oh, StarClan….

A tall Twoleg was at the door. It was unlike any Hollyleaf had ever seen, with a long white pelt and fur on its head bluer than Jayfeather's eyes.

What scared Hollyleaf about this Twoleg was that it seemed almost unreal. It was not trying to grab Hollyleaf; in fact, it seemed to be ignoring her. Or was it expecting her…?

Hollyleaf hesitated at the entrance to the nest. She felt that she should go in, but all of her instincts told her not to. She had a moment of uncertainty that only increased when the Twoleg spoke in rasping, heavily accented Cat.

"The master is expecting you."

Hollyleaf's fur bushed out, but she nodded at the Twoleg before creeping by it. She jumped when the door slammed shut behind her. The Twoleg went in front of her and beckoned with one hairless paw.

"Come."

She followed the Twoleg through what could only be described as huge tunnels, twisting and turning back on themselves. Her mind seemed to be playing tricks on her. At times she felt that the floor slanted downward, other times the Twoleg was the size of a shrew, and at one time she imagined a female Twoleg kit with yellow fur on its head running by.

By the end of the long walk everything was back to normal, but Hollyleaf's head was spinning. The blue-furred Twoleg looked down at her with eyes blue as the sky but far emptier.

"The master is expecting you," it repeated, pushing open another door. The scent of the cat she had been trying to avoid was just ahead.

Trust your nose, Hollyleaf growled to herself. One of Brackenfur's first lessons. A thorn pierced her heart as she remembered her old mentor, but she angrily banished the Clans from her mind.

"Go," the Twoleg insisted, gesturing at the open door. Hollyleaf gave it a long look, pitying the mentally weak Twoleg in spite of herself. She nodded at it and went in with utmost caution.

The cat sprawled on a wooden Twoleg chair was one she had never wanted to meet again.

"Hello, Hollyleaf."

"You," she spat.

The tortoiseshell-and-white tom leapt off the chair with practiced ease. "It's so good to see you again," Sol purred deceptively.

Hollyleaf hissed.

"I'm glad you agree," he answered mildly. "Thank you, Kaito, you may go."

Hollyleaf turned to follow his gaze. The blue-furred Twoleg nodded and left, closing the door behind it.

"Twolegs are far more interesting than narrow-minded Clan cats would think," Sol began. "They have names, kits, mates, nests, prey...Just far more complicated than cat life."

"Who are you calling narrow-minded?" Hollyleaf growled.

Sol sat on his haunches and lifted a paw, unsheathing his claws to examine them. "Oh, you don't really count anymore. After all, you left the Clans."

"So?" Hollyleaf suddenly felt defensive.

Sol rolled his eyes; Hollyleaf noticed they were yellow, not amber, and had a strip of black fur around them. "I have nothing against what you did," he commented. "In fact, I would have done the same."

"No, you wouldn't have," Hollyleaf retorted fiercely. "You would have manipulated all the Clans to do your filthy bidding."

Sol purred almost mockingly. "I suppose that's how ThunderClan views me now."

"Just me," she spat. "The rest thinks you're a lowdown, good-for-nothing murderer."

Sol tilted his head. "It's a start."

"You're wasting my time," Hollyleaf snapped. "What do you want?"

"I assume you don't mean in general," Sol mewed, "so I'll answer for the moment. I want…."

Hollyleaf held her breath, simmering.

Sol never finished his sentence and instead hopped onto his chair. He grasped a piece of thick, discolored vine between his paws and pulled. Within moments the blue-furred Twoleg entered. He opened a small container he held and laid out five flat white leaves on the table.

"These are called cards," Sol informed her. He pointed with a claw to each one. "Ace, King, Queen, Jack."

"What's this one?" Hollyleaf pointed her nose at the one in the center.

"Joker." Sol's lips curled up in an unnatural smile.

"What—what do you want here? I don't have all day. Honestly, Sol, you have mouse dung for brains."

Sol looked at Hollyleaf pleadingly. "How does one game sound?" he mewed. "Please allow me some of your time. You seem to have a lot of that on your paws."

Hollyleaf snorted. "Just one, but the next time I see you I will personally claw you to pieces."

"Very well." Her statement had seemed to amuse him. "The card you pick will determine your…next action. Do you understand the rules?"

Hollyleaf nodded. "After this, will you let me go?"

Sol smirked. "Why do you want a favor from me? You don't know what you're getting yourself into….Now examine the cards carefully."

Hollyleaf scanned the cards on the table, looking left to right. The one he had called "Ace" had a cat on it that strongly resembled Firestar. The "King" had Lionblaze; "Queen" had Hollyleaf; "Jack" had Jayfeather; and "Joker" had Sol himself. Hollyleaf curled her lip as she studied the images. The Joker seemed particularly repulsive, with an image of Sol holding a heart symbol and a sharp thing resembling a claw.

"Time's up."

The cards turned over at Sol's voice. He pointed at them as they moved.

"Now pick," he instructed after they had come to a stop.

Hollyleaf's tail twitched uneasily. She knew that the "next move" would not be something good, no matter what she picked. Tentatively she reached a paw to the center one.

Sol's face broke into a wide, sharp-toothed grin. "On my part, good choice. For you, nice try."

The card rose up on its own and settled next to Sol. As it floated, Hollyleaf could compare the images on them; they were nearly the same. Hollyleaf had picked the Joker.

10~9~8~7

"Get up," Sol commanded. Hollyleaf leapt down from the chair, too stunned by the card to care about Sol's bossiness. What would happen to her? Why had she ever left ThunderClan?

As Sol got down from his chair and unsheathed his claws, Hollyleaf broke down. "Please don't do this to me," she begged. "I'll do anything—almost anything! Please, Sol!"

Sol tilted his head. "Maybe…."

Hollyleaf's spirits lifted.

"…Not," he finished.

That was it for Hollyleaf. "No!" she shrieked. "Please! I'll do whatever you want!" She flinched as her vision blurred. Sol, however, stayed perfectly clear. She felt a rush of negative emotions: depression, hatred, confusion, panic, anxiety, pain, horror, fear, envy, grief. Why did I ever live?

As she struggled with her tumult of emotions, her gaze locked with Sol's. For a heartbeat, the tom smiled. Then Hollyleaf sank into dizzying darkness.

6~5~4~3

Sol gazed at the unconscious she-cat in front of him and allowed himself a moment of satisfaction. But he could not relax now, not when he had just started.

He padded to the still black form and pressed his nose against her chest (they're cats!). He could feel her heart beating, slowing down from the sudden terror.

Now for the fun part.

He glanced up and down her before starting. Her tail and ears twitched, and her eyes flickered beneath her eyelids. She was unconscious and probably not enjoying it, but she was alive.

Good.

He pressed his nose to her chest again and breathed deeply. Then he backed up as a small, red heart floated out of her black fur and landed neatly in Sol's outstretched paw.

Very good.

"Hollyleaf," he called softly.

There was a moment of utter silence. Without looking away from Hollyleaf, he knew Kaito was watching, silently contemplating this turn of events. Sol recalled playing a similar game with the Twoleg, many seasons ago. He had waited patiently for Sol to return from his wanderings. Now Sol hoped he would not try to save the she-cat.

"Hollyleaf," he repeated.

Hollyleaf stirred. Her eyes opened haltingly, as if trying to fight what Sol had done. You can't fight this, my dear Hollyleaf.

Hollyleaf's eyes were fully open now. Her green eyes were darkened, and the pupils were completely dilated.

"Hello, master," she said in a monotone.

Sol's eyes gleamed. "Hello, servant. What is my name?"

"Master Sol," she intoned.

"Do you remember anything?"

"What is there to remember?"

Sol purred. "Thank you. Your answers are satisfactory to me."

"I am glad to have pleased my master," she replied. "I await your command."

"Come with me," he instructed, leading her to the window. She sat on her haunches and gazed dully out into the night.

"Servant Kaito," Sol called, "open this window."

"As you command, master," Kaito answered in his husky accent, pulling open the window with ease.

"Have you done this before?" Sol asked.

"M-many times, master," Kaito replied stutteringly.

"Not you, fool!" Sol spat. "I'm talking to the she-cat."

"My apologies, master," Kaito said, subdued. "If there is nothing else that you command, I shall be going to my room."

"Very well, servant," Sol answered impatiently. Kaito bowed from the waist and departed. Sol's tail twitched. Kaito had been growing more and more independent as more cats came.

He redirected his attention to Hollyleaf. "Have you done this before?"

"No, master."

"Do you know what we are going to do?"

"No, master."

Sol's ear twitched. "We're going to have some fun. Twine your tail with mine."

If this had been the Hollyleaf Sol was familiar with, she would have deemed him crazy. But she did so without any sign of emotion.

"Let's go," Sol instructed. "Jump."

"Yes, master."

Sol plunged into the cool night with the black she-cat just behind him. She did not twine her tail tightly, as if she was nervous, or loosely, as if she would rather fall than twine tails with Sol. But he didn't mind. For these few heartbeats, Hollyleaf was his.

Sol closed his eyes, elated. Though he knew what the real circumstances were, he liked pretending that his servants had spent time with him willingly. And window-jumping was his favorite activity; there weren't many Clan cats who agreed with that.

"Look," he prompted her, pointing his nose at the edge of the forest. A pond was just beyond it, its water turned dark blue in the night. The sea of trees blended into the darkness. "Do you like it?"

"What is there to like about a pond, master?"

Sol pushed down impatience. "This way."

Together they swooped around the top of the house. A jutting spire gave thrill to the peaceful flight. Sol dodged it, purposefully waiting until it brushed his whiskers, but Hollyleaf swerved with little effort.

"Are you enjoying the night air?" he asked.

"Refreshing, master, though the breeze is cold up here."

"It'll keep you awake," he offered.

"Yes, master, but one needs a good night's sleep to perform at his or her highest level of activity."

Sol stifled a snort. Hollyleaf was more eloquent than he was. No, that wasn't true. She was just using eloquence to annoy him.

"What did you think about Kaito?" he attempted.

"Why must I care about what Twolegs think, master?"

Sol huffed. "Your fur shimmers nicely in the moonlight."

Hollyleaf barely glanced at her flanks. "It's a trick of the light, master."

"Let's land," Sol decided. His paws touched the wooden roof, and he pressed down, bringing Hollyleaf with him. She untwined her tail from his. Sol turned around and gazed into her blank, half-closed green eyes. My need's at a fever pitch, he realized. I hope yours isn't outlandish.

"What do you want, Hollyleaf?"

"I suppose you are referring to the current moment, master," she said. "I want…." Her eyes opened slightly, as if she was either confused or thinking back on her now-fuzzy past. "I want to get off of master's roof," she answered finally.

Sol sighed. "Very well." He glanced down off the roof and paused before leaping onto a ledge built right outside a window. This was the same window he had leapt out of with Hollyleaf a bit earlier. He peered through the glass. Kaito was nowhere to be seen. Sol's claws twitched, but his anger did not last. Kaito reentered the room and hurriedly pulled open the window.

"Welcome back, master," he rasped.

"Thank you, servant," Sol replied impatiently. "Come on, Hollyleaf."

Hollyleaf leapt down from the roof and landed just behind Sol on the ledge. They jumped through the open window and landed on a carpet, where Hollyleaf sat on her haunches and began to lick one paw, wiping it over her windblown whiskers.

Sol took a deep breath and watched Hollyleaf groom herself. He hated to admit it, even to himself, but he found himself attracted to the intelligent black she-cat. She hated him to the core, yes, but that made her even more beautiful.

I'm sorry.

Once she had finished, Sol waved his tail. "Come on, Hollyleaf."

"Yes, master."

He led her across the room and pointed his tail at a spot in front of the couch. "You must be tired," he murmured. "Sit there. Relax."

"Yes, master. Thank you, master." She settled herself by the couch, tucking her paws beneath her. Her eyes closed halfway and stayed there; the dull expression in them showed total unawareness.

I'm sorry, my love.

Sol padded over to his chair and scored his claws down one leg. Then he returned to the semi-unconscious she-cat by the sofa. His nose felt warm; this was normal, he knew. He pressed his muzzle into the side of Hollyleaf's neck. The warmth faded from his nose into the black fur. He stepped back, gazing at her expectantly.

Hollyleaf's ear flicked slightly.

No.

There was no change. He had to carry through.

If you make it to StarClan, forgive me.

Sol raised one paw, claws unsheathed. He knew where he would strike: one firm blow across her neck.

He pulled the paw up higher and stared at Hollyleaf. He felt his tail trembling.

Why must I do this?

He took a deep breath to steady himself.

I must.

He closed his eyes and prepared to end Hollyleaf's life. Squeezing his eyes shut, he licked his lips and brought down the paw.

"Joker…."

He stopped short. His eyes flew open; his claws were a whisker from Hollyleaf's neck. Had she spoken?

Yes, she had; Sol had recognized her voice. It had a bit more life in it; had the restoration worked that quickly? Or had he stalled for too long?

Hollyleaf coughed weakly. Then her eyes flickered open, sparkling green and full of life.

Hollyleaf shook her head. "Sol? W-what's going on?"

Sol closed his eyes, a purr rumbling in his throat. "Nothing, my love."

"'My love?'" Hollyleaf echoed. "I never knew…knew that there was another side to you, Sol."

"I've been dead for so long," Sol whispered. "Dead to love."

Hollyleaf blinked slowly. "All you needed was someone to love?"

"That, and ultimate control!"

The two cats turned their heads to see Kaito at the entrance with a knife in his paw. He gripped it tightly, his eyes blazing.

"I've had enough of this, Sol!" he shouted. "I want to leave. I'm sick of speaking Cat. I'm sick of being your humble servant. And I want to go home!" He locked eyes with Hollyleaf. "Leave," he urged her. "Sol won't really love you; he'll use you for his own purposes. Don't think he's forgotten your Clans!"

2~JOKER

Hollyleaf leapt to her paws at Kaito's words. She looked at Sol. Uncertainty glimmered in his yellow eyes; or were they amber again? Maybe it was her imagination….

"Go!" Kaito repeated. He pointed the sharp thing at Sol. "She has a future; do you?"

"Do you?" Sol retorted.

"Yes." Kaito's reply was steady and certain. "I have a future with my friends and fans to sing for them."

Hollyleaf began to back away.

"Don't let her get away!" Sol growled, as if forgetting that Kaito was no longer on his side. Sol leapt at Hollyleaf, pinning her to the ground. Hollyleaf could have struggled away from the weaker cat, but the madness and confusion in his eyes scared her. His ears were flattened, and drool was at his lips.

"You're not leaving here," he snarled, raising a clawed paw.

Suddenly two Twoleg paws wrapped around Sol. He squawked as he was lifted in the air by the female Twoleg kit she had seen before.

The corners of Kaito's lips turned up in a smile. "Good job, Rin," he praised her. She did the same mouth-gesture that Kaito had done and gripped the struggling tomcat more tightly.

They're like mentor and apprentice, Hollyleaf noticed. Maybe Twolegs aren't just big, bumbling creatures.

"Go," Rin called, avoiding Sol's swiping claws. Hollyleaf took a step backwards, then ran as fast as she could in the opposite direction, deeper into the house.

She swerved around imaginary obstacles, panting. What had happened while she was unconscious? Her muscles and lungs ached already.

"This way," a raspy Twoleg voice instructed. She found herself at the paws of another yellow-furred Twoleg kit, this one a male. He picked up Hollyleaf with rough paws and deposited her on a ledge by a square hole in the wall. Window, her mind decided, though she was unsure how she knew.

"What about Sol?" Hollyleaf protested.

The Twoleg kit looked uncomfortable. "Kaito and Rin," he offered.

Hollyleaf tried to satisfy herself with that answer. "Thank you," she said, nuzzling the Twoleg kit's paw. He stroked her head, and she allowed herself to be comforted by this gesture before she backed away and leapt into the night.

As she ran from the house, the first rays of sunlight broke through the night. She was momentarily blinded by the brightness, and in that moment of darkness, an agonized yowl rang from the house.

Sol's getting what he deserves, Hollyleaf concluded with a satisfied flick of her tail. Never manipulate what you cannot control. I hope those Twolegs find their home. They're not so bad after all…but I can never trust Sol. If we meet again, you will pay.

{-|-}

Note to Warriors fans: This story is based on a song, "Joker," in which someone is living in a house in the middle of the woods, a girl runs to the house, they play a card game, she picks the Joker, he takes her feelings, they fly around, he returns her feelings, he tries to stab her but can't, he almost does, she says "joker," he's like OHMYGOSH YOU'RE ALIVE, they run away together, they live happily ever after in the woods. Not exactly as the story went, but could Hollyleaf really live happily ever after with Sol? Kaito, Rin, and the unnamed Twoleg are Vocaloid characters.

Note to Vocaloid fans: I sort of combined the Miku and Gakupo versions of the song, with the video but the male singer. Gakupo was the original singer of the song, so yeah. And yes, that was Len at the end.

Note to readers: I didn't exactly edit it before posting, because I was so eager to get it up. Constructive criticism appreciated. PLEASE REVIEW!

~Mothstar