Disclaimer: I do not own the Warriors books or their main characters. Copyright is Erin Hunter.

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One moon had passed since the great battle against the DarkForest cats. One moon since his daughter Hollyleaf was killed. One moon since he had last seen Leafpool, the pretty tabby ThunderClan she-cat that meant more to him than he dared to admit. The past moon was difficult for the lean dark gray tom. Just after the battle, Nightcloud and their son Breezepelt had left WindClan. At first, the Clan believed they were killed during the battle as so many others. Then one of the patrols came back from the RiverClan border and reported to their Clan leader Onestar that the kittypets from the horseplace saw two black cats leaving the territory beside the lake. A search mission was sent out who confirmed that both Nightcloud and Breezepelt had left the territory. Many of his Clanmates blamed him for loosing the two warriors at a time when the Clan needed them most. For a brief moment, Crowfeather thought about going after them, and bringing them back home. But he wasn't sure whether he wanted them to return. Crowfeather and Nightcloud had stopped being mates about a moon before battling against the DarkForest cats. One night, the dark gray tom had a vivid dream about Leafpool and had called out her name. Nightcloud had heard him mutter in his sleep and had clawed his ears. The furious black she-cat would have ripped his fur off, if Breezepelt hadn't stopped his mother and told her he wasn't worth the trouble. Crowfeather wanted to be loyal to WindClan but his love for the pretty ThunderClan she-cat made it difficult.

Crowfeather was drawn to WindClan's border with ThunderClan. ThunderClan, where his two other sons, Lionblaze and Jayfeather, lived; the Clan where their mother Leafpool lived. During every patrol and hunting mission Crowfeather kept scanning the undergrowth hoping to catch a glimmer of them. One time he recognized the golden tabby pelt of Lionblaze hunting in the forest. Another time he spotted Jayfeather busily sniffing at a patch of marigold beside the stream that separates both Clans. The gray tabby was out collecting herbs for his Clan. Crowfeather knew that the ThunderClan cat had special powers given to him from StarClan. He was sure the gray tabby was aware of his presence, but he did not give any notice of it. Jayfeather was ThunderClan's medicine cat ever since his mother Leafpool had to step down. Medicine cats are forbidden from having mates or kits. When the Clans had first settled down by the lake, Crowfeather and Leafpool secretly met beside this stream so they could be together. The two of them even ran away from their Clans, because the warrior code forbids cats from different Clans to fall in love, let alone a medicine cat taking a mate. They returned to their Clans when badgers attacked, and decided not to meet anymore and follow the warrior code.

However, Crowfeather's time with Leafpool did have lingering consequences. When Leafpool had his kits, she was forced to give them away and hide the fact that she had ever kitted. Their kits grew up believing that Leafpool's sister Squirrelflight and her mate Brambleclaw, who had then been ThunderClan's deputy, were their parents. After the truth was revealed, Leafpool lost her calling as a medicine cat and became an ordinary warrior. At first Crowfeather was angry and disappointed that Leafpool had never told him about their kits. But after a while he understood why she did what she did. Lately, Crowfeather had wondered how difficult it must have been for Leafpool seeing her kits grow up into warriors and not being able to show her love for them.

Sighing Crowfeather kept walking along, occasionally renewing the scent line. He didn't see a ThunderClan patrol and his mind was swirling around Leafpool. There was so much unspoken between them. When they decided not to meet anymore, Crowfeather told her she didn't love him enough. Being a medicine cat and serving her Clan was were her heart lay. Back then he had felt empty without her, but saw no hope for them being together. After he returned to WindClan, Crowfeather took Nightcloud as a mate. And although he liked the black she-cat, he never loved her and found it difficult to get along with his son Breezepelt. Crowfeather had convinced himself that Leafpool had no feelings for him, making it easier for him to be with Nightcloud. When he spoke with the pretty ThunderClan cat several moons ago, she told him how much she cared about him. Crowfeather could not forget the sad look in her eyes when she said that. Did she really care about me this much? Every night Leafpool walked in his dreams, her beautiful amber eyes so full of pain of being apart from him. She said she really did love him when they ran away together, and the look in her eyes made him think she still loved him today. Has she never stopped loving me? Did I betray her by taking Nightcloud as mate? He needed to talk to Leafpool. He had to know.

Sighing again, Crowfeather decided to return to camp. There was no point in lingering about any longer. Sunset was not far. Maybe he would catch a rabbit and bring back some fresh-kill. Surely, Onestar would appreciate it and perhaps his Clanmates wouldn't accuse him of being disloyal for once. He tasted the air hoping to scent rabbit. He was lucky. Crowfeather smelled a rabbit and went after it. Being a great hunter, he caught the creature and killed it quickly with a bite to the throat.

Crowfeather carried his fresh-kill back to their camp, which lay among the open hills where heather and gorse bushes grew. He got used to the way his Clanmates treated him, the silence that greeted him whenever he entered the camp. He dropped the rabbit on the fresh-kill pile and sat down to look around. Ashfoot, the deputy who happened to be his mother, was talking to their Clan leader Onestar. They probably discussed the last border patrols, but it has been very quiet. Outside the warriors' den Whitetail and Heathertail were sharing tongues, and out of the corner of his eye Crowfeather saw their medicine cat Kestrelflight hurrying towards the elders' den with a bundle of herbs in his jaw. A couple of apprentices were play-fighting outside their den. The camp looked busy but peaceful. No-one seemed to take any notice of him. He didn't feel hungry and decided to go to his den and get some sleep. Finding his nest he settled down and closed his eyes. At least now I get to see Leafpool again.


Continues soon...