"Catch, Applekit!" The orange tabby cried as he kicked the piece of bark to his similar-looking sister.

The smaller tabby leaped up and caught it between her paws, clamping her teeth down on it and biting its 'throat', giving it a few shakes for good luck.

"Ha!" She cried triumphantly. "That's what you get, you mangy fox, for trying to mess with PineClan!" She kicked the murdered scrap of tree bark away in mock disgust.

The plaything landed a few inches away from their jet-black sister, who jumped in the air and squeaked in surprise.

"Stupid curs!" She spat at the other two kits.

Their mother slid out of the nursery in time to catch her daughter's curse. She swatted the kit over the ear, causing her to yelp.

"Nightkit! We don't use language like that, especially not to your own siblings! Apologize to Applekit and Whisperkit." Lightpelt ordered.

Nightkit scuffed her paw across the dirt, sniffing. "Sorry." She mumbled half-heartedly.

"You don't sound sorry." The orange tabby tom replied.

"You always throw things at me or trample me playing your stupid games!" Nightkit retorted bitterly.

"Well you never play with us!" Applekit argued.

Nightkit started to reply but was cut of by a sniffle and then, "Ah-ah-tchoo!"

Lightpelt swept her tail around her black kit and turned back to the other two. "Your sister is sick." She reminded them harshly. "Go play where you aren't bothering her. She can't get better having bits of bark throw in her face every heartbeat."

"She's been sick for, like, moons!" Applekit squeaked. "When will she get better already? She sneezes in her sleep and it's annoying."

Nightkit tried to say something but was once again cut of by a huge sneeze, and then another and another.

"She'll get better when she gets better." Lightpelt said tautly. "Now go play somewhere else." With that she led her black kitten back into the nursery.

Applekit rolled her eyes and shoved her brother. "Hey, Whisperkit. Let's go to the fresh-kill pile. Maybe if there's no warriors there we can get a real victim, not a stupid piece of tree bark." Her pale golden eyes sparkled mischievously.
Whisperkit gave her a toothy grin and they both scampered ahead to get themselves in as much trouble as they desired.


Back in the nursery, Lightpelt sighed as she settled Nightkit down into the pathetically thin nest. It was only mid-Leaffall, but the frost had already come, and several times the clan would wake up to find the entire territory dusted in snow. There was scarcely any moss to be found, and what they could find was frost-bitten and wet with snow-melt.

Nightkit gave a weak sniffle and a loud sneeze before sighing and slipping into an uncomfortable sleep, shivering all the while. Her glossy black fur was concerningly thin, her pink skin showing through the light covering of black fuzz.

Lightpelt resisted the urge to call for Bouncefoot, knowing the blue-furred medicine cat would not be able to do anything for her other than give her a sip of water and a poppy seed or two. He had some herbs, but not many, and he had already given her a few. The rest had to be conserved for the graver sicknesses Leafbare would bring.

When they had been born, all three kits were healthy and strong. When she finally awoke the day after kitting them, she had a vague remembrance of the pugna talk the night before, and while she wasn't sure if it had been real or a dream, she named the powerful tom Whisperkit, clinging to a shred of hope that Greystar would never choose a pugna with such a weak name.

Whisperkit's nearly-identical sister was named after her grandfather, Lightpelt's mate's father, who had died two years ago from a Greencough outbreak. So far, Applekit was showing to be a spunky and lively cat, even if she was the smallest, and she was strong-willed and a bit sly. Lightpelt pitied whoever her poor mentor would be!

Nightkit had shown all the characteristics of growing up to be a good cat. She was large, though not as large as Whisperkit, and her legs had been becoming long and lithe. She was talkative and curious.

But then, when she was scarcely two moons old and had only been out of the nursery three times, the sickness struck. It started with just a few coughs and a stray sniffle here and there, which was hardly rare in the chilly weather. Bouncefoot had given her a scrap of tansy and that was that.

But it wasn't. For a quearter-moon, the symptoms were gone. Nightkit led a normal, mischievous kit life. Then, suddenly, it was back. This time, the sniffling increased, and the coughs, while not coming as often, sounded raw and painful. And now she would break into sneezing fits as well, sometimes for so long that she was panting when they ended.

Lightpelt tried not to panic. Maybe it was allergies. She removed the moss from the den and replaced it with foxgrass, the long brown grass that grew in the fields, desperately hoping that would fix it. It didn't. The sneezing and sniffing continued, and now she shivered, too, because foxgrass was hardly warm. The moss was replaced and Lightpelt felt free to panic at that point.

Nightkit sniffled again and sneezed in her sleep, "Ah-tchoo!" Lightpelt padded over and stroked the kit's flank, murmuring soft reassurances. "You'll be okay. It's okay."

It's okay.


[Author's Note: Next chapter up soon. Please review; I love feedback.]