I Fell In Love With My Apprentice

Chapter 1: A Young Kit and a Senior Warrior

Her pelt is so soft.

Her pulse is so mesmerizing.

Her eyes are so green.

My heart beats faster when I see her.

But she's only seven moons old.

My name is Darkclaw, and the she cat I'm describing is my seven moon old apprentice that was just recently appointed to me. Her name is Lilypaw, and she is the sweetest thing I have ever seen. I love the way her nearly gone kit fur still sticks up. I love the way her eyes blink innocently at me when I look at her. I love how her body is so lithe, so small. I know I'm a little bit older then her ... but it feels so right! I mean, I'm not that old. I'm not some weird elder creeping on the young she cats. I am nearly 30 moons old, also known as almost three years.

But that's not that old, is it?

...

"Has anyone seen Darkclaw?" Lilypaw cried. Moonpaw and Jinglepaw stared at her in confusion.

"Who?" Moonpaw asked at last.

"Darkclaw," Lilypaw snapped. Moonpaw had been an apprentice longer than her yet he still acted dafter then a kit.

"I don't know who that is," Moonpaw said.

"Why do you need to find him?" Jinglepaw asked.

"He told me I had to meet him after dinner," Lilypaw said crossly. "But he didn't tell me where."

"Isn't he like, the deputy?" Jinglepaw asked absentmindedly.

"Yeah," Lilypaw snapped. Jinglepaw and Moonpaw just shrugged.

"Useless," Lilypaw muttered as she walked away. In the back of her mind Lilypaw heard Jinglepaw and Moonpaw start up yet another conversation about mice. Lilypaw was a small cat, just newly apprenticed to the deputy Darkclaw. Lilypaw had a soft chocolate brown pelt with green eyes. She remembered briefly the time she told Darkclaw her pelt made her look like a mud puddle. Darkclaw had replied by telling her she looked like the cutest mud puddle he'd ever seen. That was a nice thing about Darkclaw, he always had something nice to say. He never pushed her too hard with her training, and let her hunt at her own pace. Lilypaw thought he was the nicest deputy the forest had.

"Hey, Lilypaw," Jaystorm called out. Jaystorm was one of Willowclans senior warriors. He was a light yellow cat with brown stripes. Lilypaw really respected him.

"Good evening, Jaystorm," Lilypaw said, trying to sound older than she really was. Jaystorm smiled slightly and flicked an ear. Lilypaw looked down at her paws, suddenly embarrassed she had said 'good evening.'

"Have you eaten dinner yet?" Jaystorm asked.

"No," Lilypaw replied. "I was going to eat after I found Darkclaw. He told me to meet him but I don't know where he is."

"He's over here," Jaystorm beckoned with his head to where a group of warriors were eating their fresh kill. Lilypaw looked on timidly. Sitting in the group was Darkclaw, Talonstrike, Amberpelt and Gingertail.

Also known as the Fearsome Four, the most respected, strongest cats in Willowclan. Darkclaw noticed Lilypaw looking at them and his face broke out into a grin. He beckoned with his tail for her to join. Lilypaw yet again ducked her head. Her thin kit legs were shaking, and her heart raced. Why would the Fearsome four want to sit with a seven moon old kit? Lilypaw thought to herself.

"Come join us," Jaystorm prompted. "We got plenty of fresh kill over there."

Lilypaw could see Moonpaw and Jinglepaw staring at her from where they were sitting. Lilypaw knew she would feel more comfortable around kits her own age, but she nodded her head anyway at Jaystorm. "Okay," she agreed. "I'll come."

When she reached the group, she suddenly felt a wave of awkwardness. The two she-cats, Amberpelt and Gingertail, were staring at her in disgust. Lilypaw forced herself to relax and looked over at her mentor.

"I was looking for you," Lilypaw said, wincing as her voice squeaked like a kits. I am a kit, Lilypaw told herself. So why do I feel ashamed of sounding like one?

"How's it feel to be out of the nursery?" Gingertail sneered meanly. Amberpelt threw her head back and laughed. Lilypaws ears burned hot with embarrassment and she forced herself not to look away.

"It's not that bad, really," Lilypaw whispered, not sure what else to say.

"I wanted to talk to you because I wanted to ask you if you'd like to come on our evening patrol," Darkclaw said kindly. Lilypaw brightened at this. "A hunting patrol or border patrol?" she asked, trying to sound like she knew what was going on. Amberpelt snorted. "A border patrol, stupid," she giggled rudely. "We already went hunting today. Where do you think your dinner came from?"

"Amberpelt," Jaystorm warned quietly. "She was just made an apprentice. She's still learning."

"I may be young but I know how to hunt and fight," Lilypaw said angrily. This resulted in Amberpelt and Gingertail to burst into hysterics.

"Stop being so mean," Darkclaw snapped. "Or go eat somewhere else."

"If someone needs to leave, it's her," Gingertail snapped, jabbing a paw in Lilypaws direction. "She's not part of the Fearsome Four."

"I'll just go," Lilypaw said quietly. She slunk away, with Amberpelt and Gingertail throwing jeers behind her. Darkclaw called for her to come back, but she ignored him. Tears stung her green eyes, and she blinked to force them away.

...

"So what's the deal, Darkclaw?" Amberpelt asked. "Why did you invite your apprentice to sit with us?"

Darkclaw shrugged. "She's cool. She's more mature than the other apprentices."

"Oh, right," Gingertail sneered. "With her cute kit fur sticking up and her rubbery kit claws. Real mature."

"What's with you guys?" Talonstrike spoke angrily. "You've been acting like irritated badgers all evening."

Gingertail shrugged. "I just have no time for kits," she said pointedly.

"You're going to be a terrible mother," Jaystorm muttered.

"Sorry for being mean," Amberpelt said at last, ignoring Jaystorm. "It's just ... I don't understand why Darkclaw needs to always be around his apprentice. Remember when I had an apprentice?"

"I think we all remember when you had an apprentice," Darkclaw said sarcastically. "You worked that poor cat till it was sick."

"It's not my fault she got that cold," Amberpelt said defensively.

"You had her hunting by herself on the coldest day of leaf bare!" Jaystorm cried. "Even I wasn't out in that!"

"Neither was I," Talonstrike nodded grimly. "Everyone was in their nests that day."

"Except for Amberpelts apprentice," Darkclaw said angrily. "The poor thing froze."

"Whatever," Amberpelt muttered. Darkclaw rolled his eyes. "You two stay here," he said to the two cats. "You're both driving me crazy today."

"Yeah, we'll do the patrol ourselves," Jaystorm put in.

"But you already told us we could come!" Gingertail whined.

"I'm the deputy," Darkclaw smiled. "So now I'm telling you that you have both been de-invited from the evening patrol."

Darkclaw, Talonstrike and Jaystorm stood up and proceeded to make their way out of the camp entrance. Darkclaw scanned the clearing for Lilypaw. He spotted her sitting with several other apprentices. Lilypaw must have felt someone watching her, because she looked up abruptly. Darkclaw beckoned her over with his tail. His heart warmed.

He loved the way she smiled when she saw him.