So the two winners are...
I tried to do it as good as I could, though I'm open to suggestions on how it could be better, hope you like it.
Warriors doesn't belong to me.
"I was born a kittypet."
For a long moment, Nightstar could merely blink in confusion. What?
But then the ginger warrior's words started to make a kind of sense to him. And then finally, once they registered fully, he blinked one more time. What? That couldn't be, it wasn't possible…or was it? No! Of course it isn't!
Nightstar shook his head wildly, before he finally growled out: "This is not exactly the right time for joking." It just couldn't be. Sure, he himself had kittypet-roots, but his father was still a ThunderClan cat, he had warrior blood. But a pure kittypet not only joining a clan but becoming its leader? Preposterous!
He watched how the other's emerald eyes flashed with hurt for a second at his proclamation, before they narrowed dangerously, disfiguring the claw marks over his left eye greatly.
At this point Nightstar finally took the chance and gave the leader his son used to be a quick once over. He hadn't really gotten the chance to yet. His fur was still from the same burning ginger and his eyes held same emerald colour, but that was where the similarities ended already.
It was easy to see he was a lot older than Fireheart was now when he joined StarClan. And for all Nightstar knew he could've been a lot older than he appeared to be now. Furthermore, while his fur had started to cover the majority of the many scars that littered Fireheart's side since his apprenticeship, this tom had but one large scar that went over his entire flank. Also, one of his ears was torn and of course there were the three claw-marks that went from his forehead, over his left eye, to the left cheek. He was taller as well, easily towering over Nightstar and, like he'd seen it with StarClan cats already, his fur and eyes sparkled with stars.
"You think I am joking?"
The other's deep voice was naught but a soft growl, but it still sent a shudder down the black tom's spine. He had to tread carefully. The tom he was facing right now was not his son, but a powerful warrior with a lot more experience than Nightstar himself had. Yet he gathered himself and answered sharply: "Of course you are. You have to be! There is no possible way what you say could be true. You need to have warrior blood to be a warrior."
An amused yet pained expression passed over the other's features before he chuckled: "I remember those words well. When I first entered the old forest as an only six moons old kittypet, not understanding in the slightest the danger I was putting myself in, Greystripe used those very same words to argue Bluestar out of letting me join ThunderClan." His eyes darkened and he whispered: "It still is like it was then. Too much warrior blood has been spilled lately. Maybe the need for something new, the same need Bluestar believed was there when she gave me the offer that changed my entire life, is back again."
Nightstar was silent. His thoughts raced around in his head, shock, disbelieve, confusion and other emotions warring to dominate. The way the other talked made it hard for him not to believe him, but it just couldn't be, or could it? No, there was no possible way for it to be true.
"Still not believing me?", asked the ginger tom softly. Nightstar's head shot up, emerald locking with emerald once more. "Very well. Why do you think I was as upset as I was when I found you rejecting Scarpath merely based on what kind of life your mother led?" That accusation hit deep.
Nightstar had wondered since long just why his son had reacted the way he did. So much anger had been rather unfitting for a small apprentice and even more unfitting for his personality. Although, Nightstar thought, if he is telling the truth, he must've had to face such accusations rather often…Wait, am I really starting to believe him?
"I shouldn't have gotten as upset as I did", continued the ginger tom, "I admit that. But in my first life, up until becoming leader of ThunderClan, and at times even afterwards, I had to prove myself worthy of being a part of ThunderClan and its leader." Nightstar tried to say something, he really did, but all he could do was stare, his thoughts rushing through his head like a pack of wild dogs was chasing them.
"StarClan above, Sandstorm calm down." Bluefur raised her head from where she lay near the warriors' den and looked over to where Sandstorm had been pacing. Greystripe stood nearby, looking rather exasperated. "Fireheart will be fine", added the grey tom.
"How can you be so sure", hissed the pale ginger she-cat back. "You didn't see him out there. It was terrible."
"Nightstar is going to resolve things Sandstorm, I'm sure of it. But you need to calm down, your pacing is making us all edgy", soothed Ravenflight and stepped towards them. "Warriors once before or not, Nightstar is Fireheart's father as much as he's mine and Greystripe's. So please calm down."
Bluefur watched carefully how Sandstorm's bristled shoulder-fur slowly lay flat again and the she-at heaved a heavy sigh. Then she turned away and stalked out of camp. Bluefur sighed by herself. Fireheart's behaviour once he'd left Nightstar's den had shaken them all. The ginger tom was strong and full of spirit in all he did. Bluefur herself could only remember him looking like this once, twice at most, during her time as ThunderClan leader. One of those being when she'd accused of being just as much of a traitor as Tigerstar was.
Her heart clenched painfully at the memory of his shocked face and despair filled eyes. At least her losing faith in her clan like she had had done one good thing, because had she not she might have…exiled the ginger tom for what he'd done. Of course, he'd gone behind her back and against her orders, but in the end it had been for the best and turned out well.
A shudder ran through the bluish-grey she-cat and she shook her head, trying to dispel the memories.
But how could she when guilt about some of her actions during the darkest time of her leadership still clung to her heart.
Firestar had been ThunderClan's leader long before he'd gained his name and lies. Bluefur had all but abandoned her latest apprentice. The tom who, while she hadn't allowed herself to show it, had become a surrogate son for her. She even had announced him deputy too late, making it even harder than it had already been for the former kittypet. But somehow he'd fought through and had never given up, even on her, even after she'd technically screamed to his face that he was just like Tigerstar, that he was nothing but a traitor.
StarClan what had happened?
How could she have done that?
"Stop thinking about it!" The sharp meow ripped her from her memories and she blinked a few times before her vision cleared enough to make out Whitestorm, who towered in front of her.
"Stop thinking about what?", asked the she-cat confused and sat up.
Her former nephew huffed slightly before he answered: "The last moons of your leadership Bluefur, stop thinking about them." Now I could read it in your face", explained the white tom. "I remember the despair that was on your face all too well. It's the same I used to see when both of us still resided with StarClan and you remembered these times." Now his eyes softened and he almost begged: "Stop doing this to yourself, please. If not for your own well-being than for all of us."
Bluestar twitched her whiskers and pushed: "All of you?" Whitestorm nodded over to where Silverstream led Hollyleaf, Dustpelt and Ravenflight out of the camp.
"All of us. The second we awoke here you and Fireheart instinctively resumed your old roles as our leaders Bluefur. And like in our life, the rest of us will follow you without question. Since this morning Fireheart wasn't in any state to lead us and I don't know how he is faring right now, which is why we all instinctively turn to you to keep us strong and together."
Bluefur nodded, understanding which instincts Whitestorm tried to put in words, then argued: "What about you and Greystripe?" Now it was the white tom's turn to look confused. "You two used to be Firestar's deputies", elaborated the she-cat.
Realisation flashed through the other's eyes and he answered: "We were, and were you or Fireheart incapable of leading us through wounds and illness, we would take charge but…aside of Fireheart none of us know how to take command while knowing the actual leader is actually still capable of leading in some ways…"
He trailed off and Bluefur bit back a wince while she watched how Whitestorm tilted his head, trying to find a way to explain what he meant better. Shaking herself strongly Bluefur rose up and gently touched her tailtip against the other's shoulder. Sand-coloured eyes met blue and she answered: "I understand what you mean Whitestorm."
At those words the white tom relaxed slightly, then both looked up. Rivertail jumped towards them and asked: "Would you two mind taking the apprentices for a hunt near the WindClan border? I know you just became warriors yesterday, but their mentors and most other cats are busy right now and they started messing around too much for my liking."
Bluefur twitched her whiskers in surprise. An apprentice could mess around too much for Rivertail's liking? That was new. Normally the light-grey deputy was rather lenient when it came to bored apprentices. "We don't mind at all Rivertail", assured the she-cat quickly. Whitestorm next to her nodded and the deputy gave a relieved smile before he bounded off.
"Apprentices can mess around too much for Rivertail's liking", questioned Whitestorm once the deputy was out of earshot.
Bluestar chuckled and answered: "I know, I thought the same. Now come." She strolled over to the apprentice den where Stripepaw and Cloudpaw tussled happily. "Stripepaw, Cloudpaw", called the bluish-grey she-cat the two apprentices she had shared a den with just a night ago.
The two broke apart with identical grins and called: "Hey Bluefur."
"Rivertail wants me and Whitestorm to take you out hunting."
"But", complained Cloudpaw. "Reedheart and Eagleflight already assessed us today and they said we can do what we want now!"
Bluefur smirked in amusement and argued: "Well, Rivertail is our deputy, so as long as Nightstar doesn't argue against it or is out, as it is the case right now, he has command and you two obviously have more than enough energy to go hunting once more today. Come on." She heard both apprentices groan, but they dutifully followed her to the tunnel that led out of the camp where Whitestorm was waiting.
"What's with the long faces?", asked the white to once he caught sight of the two apprentice's expression.
"They'd rather stay here and cause more trouble", answered Bluefur with a shrug.
"So merely the same as with every normal apprentice." The bluish-grey she-cat didn't miss the emphasis he put on 'normal' and chuckled in response, before tensing her muscles and then sprinting out of the camp. Whitestorm, Cloudpaw and Stripepaw followed close behind. It didn't take long to reach a small clearing near the border and Bluefur turned to the two apprentices.
"Now, I'm fairly certain Whitestorm and I don't need to keep constant watch over you and you're old enough to hunt properly by yourself." Bluefur had intentionally worded her sentence like she did to rile them up a little and prompt them to proving themselves. It appeared as if it had worked since both huffed annoyed and spun around, dashing off.
Whitestorm behind her purred amused, then asked: "Last to catch three pieces of prey carries two of the other's catches home?"
Bluefur turned her head to find a familiar glimmer of mischief in his eyes. Snowfur. A short pang hit her heart at the memory of her late sister, but it was gone quickly enough and she grinned: "Gladly." And she was off again. She heard Whitestorm disappearing in another direction and soon enough she was surrounded by brambles.
Not many cats dared to hunt here considering the thorns made it rather hard, but that was also why the prey was a lot less careful here. Ducking down low, Bluefur soundlessly crept over the ground, her ears, eyes and nose scanning for any sign of potential prey. It didn't take long for her to spot a starling. The bird was picking in the ground, searching for food by itself.
Taking a deep breath, Bluefur shifted slowly, brining herself into the correct hunting crouch, before she carefully made her way around the brambles. She sent a silent prayer to StarClan to thank them for the fact that no wind was blowing right now. Suddenly the starling raised its head and Bluefur froze, but soon its attention returned to the forest floor, allowing the she-cat to creep closer. When only one tail-length lay between her and the bird she pushed forward, easily pinning the bird down and ending its life with a quick bite. Picking it up she buried it underneath a bramble bush and moved on.
Near the end of the bushes she found a mouse. Once again falling into the correct crouch she crept up to the rodent, when a few bushes rustled. The mouse squeaked and disappeared in a whole. With a hiss Bluefur shot up and spun around. Without thought she leaped into the bushes, toppling over whoever had scared her prey away. The one gave a startled cry, but was pinned down no less.
That was when she realised just who she'd pinned down.
"Fireheart", exclaimed the she-cat and climbed off of her fellow warrior.
The ginger tom pushed himself up and shook his fur. "What was that for?"
"You scared my prey away", answered the bluish-grey she-cat answered simply.
Fireheart sighed in annoyance at that and said: "Sorry. I was in my thoughts."
"Because we were having a rather interesting discussion", answered a third voice. Bluefur's head shot up and she gasped surprised when she saw Nightstar padding up to them. The black-furred leader, as well as his ginger-furred son, looked both a lot more at ease than they had this morning, which Bluefur took as a good sign.
"Everything is cleared up then?", asked the she-cat, her gaze switching between the two toms.
Fireheart smiled at that and nodded, before he stated: "Well, getting Nightstar to accept the fact that I used to be a kittypet took a while, but yes, everything is cleared up."
Nightstar twitched his tail and whiskers in slight irritation and argued: "One cannot really blame me when you consider everything that happened today." He shook his head in disbelieving amusement.
"No, no I can't", agreed the ginger tom. Then he suddenly became serious, his green eyes flickered back to Bluefur and he said: "If you see one of the others or Reedheart or Splashwhisker before me, today at sunset on the clearing near the mossy hollow, we have a lot to discuss."cat stepped a bit back and thought, Much to discuss is an understatement.
She bit back a smile though when she caught sight of Nightstar. The black tom's eyes flashed in a mixture or pride und a little unease. It was understandable of course. Today the black leader had to learn to accept that not just one of his sons, but all of his sons, were older and more experienced than him, but Fireheart being a former leader and kittypet as well. Not a day one would expect when waking up in the morning.
The two toms nodded their goodbyes and started walking off, Nightstar asking a question about the old forest, which Fireheart answered readily.
Bluefur smiled after them. The anxiety in her heart that had appeared when Fireheart had fled the camp this morning had finally disappeared, leaving her with a sense of calm. That was, of course, until Whitestorm's dare came back to her. With a gasp she leaped back into the undergrowth and quickly caught two mice, before dashing back to the clearing where the two warriors had stopped with Cloudpaw and Stripepaw. She leaped out of the bushes only a few heartbeats before Whitestorm did, both carrying three pieces of prey each.
Purring in amusement she set the starling and mice down and asked: "What does that count as?"
"Draw?", offered the white tom with a shrug. Before Bluefur could give her answer the bushes to her right rustled and Cloudpaw and Stripepaw leaped out. Cloudpaw carried a rather big shrew while Stripepaw had two small birds. "Nice catches", complemented Whitestorm warmly. Both apprentices grinned at them through their prey and actually waited while Bluefur and Whitestorm picked their own prey back up. Then the group turned and slowly made their way back to camp.
While walking Bluefur slowed down a little more. Whitestorm, understanding what it meant, copied her and the two let Cloudpaw and Stripepaw take the lead. The second the apprentices were out of earshot, at least if you only talked silently, Whitestorm gave Bluefur and questioning glance.
The bluish grey she-cat, carefully and as clearly as possible, muttered the events of her meeting with Fireheart and Nightstar to him around her prey, also Fireheart's call for a meeting at the mossy hollow. Once she was done Whitestorm nodded, his eyes flashing with no small amount of triumph.
Bluefur bit back a chuckle, but couldn't deny that she felt triumphant by herself. She and Whitestorm had been of those that had, together with Fireheart, been for letting someone else in on their secret from the very beginning and while the start had been rather rocky, it seemed Nightstar had once again proven he was a worthy leader of ThunderClan. Because he'd bravely pushed through whatever had been thrown at him when discovering the truth.
Yeah, I'm mean, cutting it off in the middle of Nightstar's internal debate just like that, but I still have plans for the remainder of Nightstar's and Firestar's conversation, so bear with me please.