A/N: My second story for the Warriors Challenge Forum! This one was fun to write, and also is based on the song Ronan by Taylor Swift. That's one of the saddest songs that I've heard lately - though I'm constantly changing my mind on that fact.
"No!" screams Aspenflame, and she flattens her ears against her head. "Don't lie to me!"
"I'm not lying to you," insists Minnowsplash, but his words aren't angry. He holds no grudge against the she-cat standing in his den. Not now, with the news suddenly placed upon her.
Cannot even begin to imagine how she must feel, to know that there is no hope for her kit.
Aspenflame pulls her upper lip back, snarls at the medicine cat. "You are! My baby isn't dying, she can't be!"
"You have to understand that I'm only telling you what I see. Black Cough is a swift killer, Aspenflame." says Minnowsplash. "There is no cure. Hailkit will have joined StarClan by morning."
And those words, they strike Aspenflame harder then any set of claws ever could. As though the fangs of a wolf have sunk into her heart, trying to rip it straight out of her chest. She wants nothing more than to lunge at the grey tom, to make him hurt as she is hurting, but her paws seem frozen in place.
In that instant, she can see it. Every time that her brilliant kit looked up at her, with those bright green eyes that shined with all the love in the world.
She can hear it, paws padding across the floor as Hailkit tried to sneak away from the nursury, desperate to explore the world around her, to find something new to occupy her time.
She can feel it, the soft fur pressed up against her belly, as Hailkit curled up for the night, exhausted from her adventures during the day.
In that instant, Aspenflame's heart breaks and there is no healing it. No herbs that can soothe her sorrow and no words that can ease her pain. So Minnowsplash bows his head and leaves the two she-cats in silence.
Aspenflame stays in the nursury that night, curled around the white form of her daughter. She does not speak to Minnowsplash, does not even look his way, only has eyes and ears and mind and heart for the trembling frame curled up against her belly.
Hailkit is not healthy and it shows. Every breath is a clear struggles and her frame is so small, so gaunt, each hack shakes her to the core.
Aspenflame knows this and still, she prays to every cat in StarClan not to take her little one. As the night passes, she knows that they will not answer her and so she speaks.
"Don't worry, Hailkit, I'm right here." she murmurs, maw mere inches from her daughters face. If she gets sick tonight, at least she will not have to leave her daughter. "Everything will be fine, my darling. You'll see. Any moment now and we'll fly away from here, and you're never -"
Aspenflame's voice broke, breath catching in her chest and throat, strangling her. She closes her eyes, trying her best to fight through the ache in her soul.
Hailkit seems more at peace when she is talking, after all.
So Aspenflame takes in a deep, shaking breath, and starts again. "Soon we're going to fly away from here, into the stars. You're never going to hurt again, Hailkit. I promise, I promise that you won't."
Moments pass, and Aspenflame quits speaking. EVen when the shaking stops and she can no longer hear those wretched wheezes, she talks long into the night until her voice just seems to give out on her and a yowl bubbles from her throat instead.
It is heard all through the camp that night, but no one has the heart to go and try to comfort the queen, because what could be said? Nothing, and so Aspenflame is left on her own, until the yowls will not come either.
"I love you to the moon and back, little one," she whispers, trying to press as close to her still kit as she can, to comprehend that Hailkit is gone and will never be back. "I will always love you, no matter where you are."
And behind her, Minnowsplash hates his job just a little more.