A father's Love
Warriors doesn't belong to me.
Nightstar ran his tongue through his black chest-fur a few more times, before deeming himself cleaned up enough. The leader of ThunderClan was about to get up and check on his clan, when he saw a shadow near the den-entrance. He froze. He was about to call out to whoever it was, when the visitor beat him to it. A meowed greeting rang through his ears and he relaxed and settled down again.
He'd recognize Fireheart's voice anywhere. At times he still wondered how he'd gotten the idea for his son's name.
It fit, no doubt, but it had come to him almost too easily. The same had happened with the names for Bluefur, Whitestorm, Sandstorm, Greystripe, Silverstream, Ravenflight, Hollyleaf and Dustpelt. Shaking his head, Nightstar chased the thoughts away for later contemplation and answered: "Come in." Fireheart strode into his den slowly. He seemed nervous, something Nightstar hated to see on any of his cats, most importantly his family. Sitting a little straighter, he greeted warmly: "Fireheart, what may I do for you."
He watched carefully how Fireheart's tail twitched and the nervous aura around him strengthened. Then the ginger tom took a deep breath, his eyes closing, before he opened them and locked them on Nightstar's. For a heartbeat the black tom wondered if others felt just as vulnerable under his own emerald gaze when he had something important to tell. Oh he knew the expression on Fireheart's face all too well.
"Father there is something you need to know..." He trailed off, obviously unsure how to continue.
Nightstar watched his son closely. There was something…different about him. The ginger tom didn't look like a new warrior at all. No, he looked so much more experienced right now…and no warrior had a posture that straight. That posture was used by clan-leaders and at times their deputies. Fireheart shouldn't even be able to pull this off.
"Fireheart?", prompted the black tom.
Emerald met emerald once more. Nightstar had never seen the younger tom look this troubled and nervous. He'd always seemed rather aloof compared to other cats his age. No, compared to other cats in general.
"Son?", prompted the black Tom.
Fireheart blinked, then shook his head and stated: "My apologize…I just…I don't know how to tell you…it was easier with the others…they stumbled over this, we never actually tried to tell someone about this. I know not how to start and I know not how you will react. I…No, I don't wish to hurt you but you need to know so-"
"Fireheart!" The younger tom broke off his rambling at Nightstar's call and the black tom padded up to his son. He'd never seen him looking this worked up. "You need not be nervous Fireheart. You know you can tell me anything, right?"
It pained Nightstar to actually see Fireheart hesitated, until the ginger tom finally admitted: "This is so much bigger than you can imagine. I do not wish to hurt you with what you need to know." More than a little confused, Nightstar tilted his head, before he moved to his son's side and gently pushed him deeper into the den. Fireheart glanced at him surprised, but followed the movement and let Nightstar sit him down in the nest.
The black tom sat down next to him and prompted: "Now, you were about tell me something if I recall right."
At this Fireheart actually smiled a little, before his features cleared of any emotion and he swiftly shot out: "I'm not who you think I am."
Nightstar blinked and looked him. "Pardon me?"
"I…I am not…who you think I am…at least not completely."
"Then who are you?" Nightstar decided to humour the young tom for now.
"You wouldn't believe me." Never before had the black tom seen his soon look so unsure of himself.
"Try it", challenged the black tom.
Fireheart looked up at him, his eyes shining with a wisdom that wasn't completely foreign to Nightstar, but completely wrong in the eyes of such a young warrior. "I am…I was born your son…I will not deny that…but I was someone else before…and I still am, in some way", Fireheart struggled for words, "It's…hard to explain." Nightstar was getting worried now. Should he order his son Splashwhisker now or let him speak his part? "Don't put me off as insane yet, please."
The vulnerability in Fireheart's voice shocked the black tom. He looked back at his son, who held himself with strength, pride and wisdom, yet was nervous, pained and scared out of his mind.
"Who were you then?" Nightstar didn't understand why he continued to humour his son like this. He should be dragging him to Splashwhisker right now.
"Before getting reborn as your son you mean?", asked the ginger tom, causing Nightstar's heart to skip a beat, "Back there I was someone else. Back there I had a different name. Back there I was Firestar, also a leader of ThunderClan and I went down in the greatest battle the clans ever faced. A battle only WindClan truly remembers by now." He lowered his head, his ears dropping. "We fought for so much, fought for so long and now the clans have forgotten, have forgotten about what we had to pay to gain their freedom."
Nightstar knew his eyes were impossibly wide by now, but he didn't think he could be blamed. Who wouldn't react with shock when their son reveals to them to apparently be the rebirth of a clan-leader. Nightstar didn't know how long he stared, but a soft sigh snapped him out of his shock and he looked at Fireheart clearly once more.
The ginger tom rose up, his head lowered in defeat. "It is alright. I did not expect you to believe me", whispered the tom, then he made his way out of the den. Of course he didn't believe it! It was utterly impossible…or was it?
Nightstar was well aware that he was dreaming. After all it was only nearing the end of leaf-bare and the trees surrounding him had leaves you only saw in the middle of green-leaf. A soft rustle caught his attention and a delicious scent reached him. Instinctively he fell into a crouch, before he leaped at the mouse. Suddenly the bushes rustled and the mouse rushed off.
Nightstar spun around, to gasp, his eyes going wide. A regal dark-brown tabby tom with amber eyes stood in front of him. "St-Stormwing?", questioned the leader. At this the other tom's eyes flashed amused and he shook his head. Only now Nightstar saw the starlight that clung to his fur.
No", answered the tabby. "Though he is related to me, I am not one of your warriors. My name is Bramblestar and I'm one of ThunderClans former leaders." Nightstar stared wide-eyed at that, then he crouched down, hoping he hadn't offended the StarClan warrior by not realising where he came from before. He heard a soft sigh, then the tom spoke. "Please stand up, this behaviour of all of you is just getting us to feel embarrassed."
That confused Nightstar and with a tilted head he asked: "So, cats didn't do that in the past? Giving you respect?"
"Respect yes", answered Bramblestar and sat down, completely at ease with the situation, "But they bent their head and didn't crouch down like they fear we'll eat them if they don't."
Nightstar was well aware that he was still staring at the other leader, but it took him a few more heartbeats before he could shake himself back to focus and ask: "So, why are you here?"
Bramblestar curled his tail around his paws and said: "I'm here against the will of most StarClan cats", Nightstar blinked surprised, drawing a smirk from the tabby, "Nightstar, those ten kits that will be apprentices soon, they weren't born on the same day for nothing. But you have to look clearly. Will it really do any good to the clan to give it ten new apprentices on one day?"
That question hit deeply, though he knew the answer very well. That and the bright amber gaze that remained upon him unnerved him greatly. "No", admitted the leader finally, "I…I just didn't want to leave any kit out."
Bramblestar purred at this and answered: "You don't have to, but watch the kits carefully the next few days, then you'll see which are the most ready and which might still need time. I have the good feeling they'll understand." ThunderClan's former leader stood up and turned to go. Then he suddenly stopped, as if he'd just remembered something. "And Nightstar", called the tabby over his shoulder finally.
"Yes?", asked Nightstar.
"While you watch them, you might see that one of them is destined to walk a different path." With that Bramblestar disappeared in the bushes and Nightstar awoke with a start.
End of Flashback
And this was not the only unusual dream he'd had. It had only been the starting one. Not to mention all the different signs that indeed did point to what Fireheart had told him. The young skill of those ten warriors that had been born on the same day. A StarClan cat visiting him although he hadn't made any move to go to the Moonpool. The constant cover Reed-…
Nightstar's eyes widened.
Reedheart, Splashwhisker and Sapphirefur!
They'd constantly had excuses when just one of those ten had been absent. "My apologize…I just…I don't know how to tell you…it was easier with the others…they stumbled over this, we never actually tried to tell someone about this. I know not how to start and I know not how you will react. I…No, I don't wish to hurt you but you need to know so-" Did that mean what he thought it did? Had those three stumbled over the truth by themselves. But what was the truth? Could it really be that his first-born son used to be a leader of ThunderClan in a former life? There was only one way to find out.
Steeling his resolve, Nightstar straightened up and strode out of his den. He surveyed the camp from the top of the cliff, to narrow his eyes. Splashwhisker and Reedheart crouched near the former's den, talking animatedly with each other. Nightstar remembered the time where the two had barely interacted all too well. It was only another change that hinted that Fireheart might as well have been completely honest and serious about the subject.
Swerving his gaze around, he soon found his other sons' familiar pelts. The two had their heads close together, hissing with each other and shooting worried glances at the camp-entrance. Dustpelt was nearby, also watching the camp-entrance worriedly. Had Fireheart run out after coming from his den? If so, had he gone alone? Nightstar hoped not.
Slowly Nightstar made his way down the cliff, staying in the shadows as much as possible. He had the feeling he'd get more information by listening in than asking. It was a rather dirty trick, but he was beyond that worry, far beyond it. And so, the second he reached even ground, he shot off into a bush and used their cover to sneak up on his senior warrior and medicine cat.
"…believe it still", rumbled Reedheart's voice.
"It is understandable", argued Splashwhisker. "They knew they took a risk in trying to tell him. And with us it was different. We saw Fireheart getting attacked."
Nightstar's heart skipped another beat.
"Define saw", stated Reedheart dryly, a mirthless chuckle spilling from him.
"You know what I mean. We saw Sandstorm helping them. They had time to show us the truth. With Thunder vouching for them, we didn't have much of a choice to not believe them." Suddenly he winced.
"What's wrong?", asked Reedheart.
"It's nothing…just…Sapphirefur", Nightstar, just like Reedheart, winced now too, but Splashwhisker already continued: "She was the first of us to accept who Fireheart used to bit, but it didn't dither her a bit. If anything, it made her more determined to be a good mentor to him."
Reedheart blinked rapidly a few times, but nodded and asked: "Do you think she would still be around had she not known?" Splashwhisker shrugged at that and Reedheart continued: "I guess you're right. Though she definitely wouldn't have climbed up the cliff in the first place had she not known."
"You can't know that. You know how she was. She could've seen him and simply went there to get an apprentice down from the cliff. Fireheart and Bluefur told us in enough detail how ruthless he really is." Nightstar tilted his head, wondering who they were talking about.
Reedheart's eyes darkened dangerously and he was about to respond, when Rivertail's voice rang through the air. "Reedheart! Gather the apprentices and another warrior. I want you and the other to assess their hunting-skills on a patrol." Reedheart got up immediately, nodded to Splashwhisker and stalked off to Eagleflight, before they got Cloudpaw and Stripepaw and left.
Splashwhisker looked after them, before he suddenly spun his head around and stated: "I know you're there Nightstar, come out please."
Hiding his shock at being found out as well as he could, the leader straightened up and stalked to his medicine cat. "Gathering information", asked the medicine cat once Nightstar was next to him.
"And if I am?", asked the black tom.
"Nothing, I'm just wondering if I actually told Fireheart the truth before he stormed out."
Blinking he focused on the grey tom and asked: "What?"
"After he came out of your den Nightstar. We all could see it hadn't gone well. I don't know what you two said in there and that's alright, it's between you, but…I've known him for a while now Nightstar. The him that was a clan-leader for a long time, the him that was an experienced warrior and didn't hesitate to lead his clan against impossible odds if it meant doing the right thing…but I never saw him so distraught…or Bluefur looking so guilty. Apparently Sandstorm and a few of the others saw him a little similar to how he was today once and Bluefur was the reason for it. Anyhow, I told him it would be alright, that you would not proclaim him insane immediately and try to gather information first."
Splashwhisker looked sad now. "He tried to believe me, I could see that. But the fact who he once was taken aside Nightstar, he is still your son. You have his loyalty, trust and, most importantly, love. Your distrust hurt him deeply."
Nightstar scanned the tom next to him, then stated: "There is more to it than you are saying." Splashwhisker nodded.
"There is, but it is not my place to tell. Firestar", Nightstar couldn't supress a small wince at that name, "never had an easy life Nightstar. And what I can tell you is, he never had parents to look up to and you have been there for his whole life in this time. Having you and Lionclaw around him was one of the things that were so incredible new to him, that he got attached to you stronger than most other kits are." Splashwhisker rose up and turned around. "Don't hurt him anymore Nightstar. Let him explain things to you, maybe even show you and make your decision then, please."
And he was gone.
Nightstar stared after the grey tom for a while, then smelled two other cats. His head snapped to the source so fast his heard his neck crack slightly, but he couldn't get himself to care.
Greystripe and Ravenflight stood nearby, looking terribly unsure, before the black tom finally moved forward slowly, stopping only a tail-length from his leader. Nightstar stared into the other's yellow eyes for a while, before Ravenflight finally asked: "This has shaken you up very much, hasn't it?" Nightstar blinked, which was obviously answer enough for the two young toms.
Greystripe came closer now, but compared to Ravenflight right now, he looked his age. His eyes glittered slightly and he pleaded: "Go after him, please."
"What?", asked the leader, taken aback. Greystripe looked more pained than he'd ever seen him and Ravenflight elaborated: "Fireheart, he means Fireheart. Sandstorm followed him for now, but what he needs most now is you simply being there and showing him that you don't hate him."
"Hate him?", hissed the leader in shock. "How could I ever hate him?!"
Both toms winced and Greystripe admitted: "Fireheart…didn't have it easy the first time around. But…he needs to tell you about this by himself. Please, find him and help him. I…the last time I saw him this hurt was when Sapphirefur died."
Nightstar winced now. He remembered how distraught his first-born had been during that time. That he himself had pushed Fireheart into this again now tore at his heart. I might still not fully believe him, thought the black tom, but he is and always will be my son, no matter what. And I will not lose him to my mistakes. Scarpath showed me how much that can hurt.
And he raced off.
A few cats shrieked in surprise when he rushed past them, but he was through the tunnel before anyone could ask what was going on. Opening his jaws, he quickly found his son's trail, which was mixed with Sandstorm's and followed it. It weaved through the trees in a complicated pattern, obviously to throw others off the trail, but in his distress Fireheart had brushed past things far too often, leaving strong scent-marks.
Slowly but steadily the trail grew stronger and stronger and Nightstar realised it led to the Moonpool. Not too far from the actual path, the scent was even stronger, indicating Fireheart had stopped here for a while. His and Sandstorm's scents were all over the small clearing and it took Nightstar a while to find out where it continued. It surprised him that now the trail was made up only off Fireheart's scent. Sandstorm's led away into another direction.
"Fix this, please."
Nightstar spun around, to find the pale-ginger she-cat standing behind him, two mice next to her. Her green eyes were filled with an agonising combination of love and pain and Nightstar could only imagine what she was going through. If Fireheart's words rang true, then this she-cat must've been his mate for a long time, but even if they weren't, he hadn't seen such a pure and powerful love as between those two for a long time. Slowly nodding his head, he gave the silent promise to do as she asked. Sandstorm relaxed a little and picked up her pray, before running off.
The more he saw and heard, the more possible Fireheart's words seemed, although his whole being wished to deny it. Shaking his head, he started following his son's trail once more and soon found him. The sight was heart breaking.
Fireheart crouched in the branches of a tree that had already lost all of its leaves. His tail hung down and his head was lowered. Something icy clenched around Nightstar's heart and a wave of regret hit him. Whether or not Fireheart was honest, Splashwhisker, Ravenflight and Greystripe definitely had been. He could almost taste the fire-coloured tom's pain.
As silent as he could, he scaled the tree and walked along a branch to settle down next to his son. The second he sat, Fireheart spoke up already "Why are you here?" The flat tone of voice the young tom had used sent another icy spasm through the leader.
"I'm here because you need me", answered Nightstar truthfully. Fireheart stared at him confused and Nightstar shifter closer, locking eyes with him.
"I may not be sure what to make of your words yet, but you are my son Fireheart, and you always will be. And I have not been the father I should have been." He placed his nose on his son's forehead and added: "Please, don't put me through what I did to my own father. I'm not as strong as Scarpath. I couldn't take you leaving me, no matter if your brother's are still here."
He pulled his head back when he felt his son shaking. Concerned he watched how his sons whole body shook. "Fireheart." The only answer he got was the ginger tom scurrying closer until he was pressed tightly against his father, his face buried in his father's chest. Nightstar stared down at the young tom that usually displayed such strength and independence.
"But the fact who he once was taken aside Nightstar, he is still your son. You have his loyalty, trust and, most importantly, love. Your distrust hurt him deeply … never had an easy life Nightstar. And what I can tell you is, he never had parents to look up to and you have been there for his whole life in this time. Having you and Lionclaw around him was one of the things that were so incredible new to him, that he got attached to you stronger than most other kits are." Splashwhisker was obviously right.
Mindful off his son's fragile state right now, he slowly moved to a different position, curling around the ginger tom as well as he could considering how much he'd grown since the last time they had done this. But it worked and calmed Fireheart down. After a long while, sun high had passed already, Fireheart finally calmed down and lifted his head from Nightstar's chest.
The two looked out over the forest. Nightstar remained silent. He would let Fireheart talk when he was ready.
It took a little longer, but then the ginger tom finally started to talk. It was no more than a whisper, but Nightstar heard him no less. "One would think I'd be above this. Above being so dependable I mean. I never really had my parents in my first life. I never needed them, their approval and their love. They…just weren't there."
Nightstar remained silent, before he whispered: "Everything in me struggles to deny everything I heard today…but I cannot not believe you. I know you to well for that. It matters not who you once were Fireheart. You are and will always be my son to me."
Another shudder worked its way through the smaller tom and whispered: "This is what I meant. I never needed anyone to tell me this to feel complete."
At this the black-furred tom frowned and curled a little tighter around his son. "Then you never really experienced your parents' love before Fireheart. Tell me, were you a father before this?" A nod. "Then you should understand how I feel about you and you should be able to tell if your kits needed your attention as much as you need it now. You need this attention, this love, now because now you know it's there for you want it. If your parents before were not there for you, you never had any reason to want love. One cannot miss what they never had." Nightstar locked eyes with Fireheart. "I can tell that there was a lot that shook you up badly lately. And knowing that either Lionclaw or I could help you by making you feel loved and wanted awakened the need for love on not one, but of two lives in you. A need you didn't give into, a need you pushed away, because you didn't know what it was in the first place."
Fireheart stared at him wide-eyed, before understanding slowly filtered into his expression and it became calmer. His emerald eyes lost the troubled glace, but didn't return to the emptiness he'd seen already either. He looked just calm, content even. His tense muscles slowly relaxed and he leaned into the older tom.
Nightstar readily provided the comfort the ginger tom needed. He could ask his questions later, could debate later and could ask for a proof later. Right now his son needed him in a way no one had ever needed him in before.