Snatched: The Story of Snowkit

Snowkit was always assumed dead by ThunderClan. But what if he wasn't? What if StarClan took him away from the Clan that would have never given him a chance? What if he had a greater destiny than anyone in ThunderClan could have believed?


19. Love

Within just a few days, Snowpaw was well enough to move around the den. Frostpaw was a loyal visitor, bringing him prey that she had caught while out with Slate or her brothers. Cricketpaw visited occasionally too, sometimes with Angel; the two shy cats had taken a shine to each other. Moss came to check on Snowpaw's wounds every once and awhile, but most of the time, he was alone. Snowpaw grew restless, and had to make up games to keep himself occupied, such as batting a ball of moss around, or trying to name all of the herbs in the den. These soon grew tiring, however, and so when Moss finally told him he could leave the den, Snowpaw leaped at the chance.

He left the den as quickly as he could, ignoring the throbbing pain as he felt the warm sunshine on his face. Snowpaw couldn't help but let out a long, low purr deep in his throat. He drank in the scents of camp as the wind caressed his fur, smelling his Clanmates, the forest, prey waiting just beyond the entrance to camp. He wanted to be in the forest so badly that it almost hurt, but he knew Moss wouldn't allow it.

"It's a beautiful day," Moss remarked, pressing her pelt against his in case he needed support. Snowpaw simply nodded, overcome by the blue sky, green leaves, brown earth, and the dazzling scent of freedom.

"Snowpaw!" Frostpaw exclaimed, running towards him. "You're out!" She nuzzled his muzzle. "I guess we can't play any games yet," she said ruefully, "but I'm sure you've missed everyone, right? Cricketpaw's missed you too, and I think Rainpaw has too…although it's hard to tell, he's always with Otter. I told him yesterday if he liked Otter so much, they should just become mates already!" Frostpaw let out an amused purr, and Snowpaw joined her, laughing at the somewhat-arrogant Rainpaw.

"Why don't you go rest in the shade over there?" Moss suggested, flicking her tail towards one of the crumbling walls. Snowpaw took her advice, padding towards the wall and lying down in the shadows, his face contorting a bit as pain sparked up his back.

"Still hurts a lot, doesn't it?" Frostpaw asked, sitting down beside him. "You'll be better soon, though, right?"

Snowpaw nodded. "The pain gets easier every day. I'd gladly do it again, to make sure we have our home back."

"Snowpaw!" Cricketpaw greeted him, entering camp with a squirrel clamped in his jaws. "Look what I got!" Cricketpaw laid his squirrel down in front of Snowpaw.

"It's huge!" Snowpaw cried with amazement.

"I caught it in a tree," Cricketpaw purred, pride obvious in his voice.

"It was a stunning leap," Tabby said, padding alongside her apprentice. "I was very impressed."

"It was so cool!" Kit exclaimed, and Snowpaw was surprised to see both Kit and Angel trailing after Tabby.

"You two were with them?" Snowpaw asked in surprise. Both kits nodded.

"They haven't been training much, mostly watching," Tabby informed the white apprentices. "Kit will be an apprentice soon enough, with Angel following in his pawsteps. They'll both make great warriors."

Kit beamed at the praise, and even timid Angel looked pleased.

"Great," Snowpaw said, smiling at Angel warmly. She smiled shyly back.

"Snowpaw!" Frostpaw's nudge made Snowpaw turn just as Lightning called his name. "I need to speak with you," Lightning mouthed, flicking his tail towards his den. Snowpaw nodded quickly, rising to his paws without thinking. He winced, and Frostpaw rose as well, supporting him. The two of them walked to Lightning's den together; Snowpaw entered and laid down, tucking his paws beneath him.

"See you in a bit," Frostpaw whispered, before padding out of the den.

"What do you need to talk to me about?" Snowpaw asked, resting his tail on Lightning's side. He couldn't help but feel nervous; even now, moons after he joined the Clan, Lightning still intimidated him.

"Clan cats have Clan names, correct?" Lightning asked. "And the leader has 'star' at the end of his name?"

Snowpaw nodded.

"When do we get the Clan names?" Lightning. "And when do I get my nine lives?"

"When we become a Clan and we are assured that the gathered cats are ready to truly be warriors at heart, then we give them names," Snowpaw said. "Leaders aren't as easy; to take the name 'star', you'll need to speak with StarClan," Snowpaw explained. "You get your nine lives there, and everything." Snowpaw expected for Lightning to impatiently lash his tail, but the golden tabby remained calm.

"How do I speak to them?" Lightning asked. Snowpaw shuffled his paws.

"I don't exactly know," he admitted. "They come to me in my dreams; I guess you'll just have to wait for them to come to you."

"And when can I give our cats warrior names?"

"When we know they are ready to become warriors," Snowpaw said simply. "When I'm better, we can do an assessment on them, warriors and apprentices alike."

"An assessment?" Lightning asked keenly, and Snowpaw quickly explained.

"We can tell the apprentices they're being assessed as they would in a Clan, and then we can watch the warriors in secret later, on patrols or something. We'll see how they interact with each other, whether they obey the warrior code, that sort of thing."

Lightning considered the idea for a time, and finally nodded. "I think that would be a good idea," he said. "It would be interesting to see them when they aren't being watched…however, about StarClan; that does worry me. What if they don't contact me? What if they think someone else would be a better leader?"

"You're the best leader," Snowpaw replied, with warmth in his voice. "You brought Mud, Slate, Tabby, and Gleam and her kits together with you and Moss before a Clan was even thought of. They came to you for a reason. And you were the reason that Gale, Bree, and Otter chose to join us, and why Wander sent us the kits. Cats trust you and believe in you, and you're a good leader. Remember the battle with the Pride? You wouldn't let any cat take your territory away!"

"You fought well in the battle also," Lightning said. Snowpaw noticed a somewhat anxious look in the tabby's amber eyes, and suddenly he understood: Lightning was afraid that StarClan would choose Snowpaw over him!

"You don't have to worry about StarClan choosing me. My paws are set on the path to becoming a medicine cat," Snowpaw said firmly. "StarClan will contact you when you are ready."

Lightning dipped his head. "Thank you," he rumbled, and his voice seemed somewhat easier, more relaxed, as his anxieties passed. "How long until we can conduct the assessments?"

"Tomorrow would be great for the apprentices; it's up to their mentors to judge them, not me. But for watching the patrols…three days, I think. My back should be healed enough by then."

Lightning nodded, and touched Snowpaw's nose with his flank. "Thank you," he said quietly, before brushing past Snowpaw out of the den. Snowpaw blinked, and then realized he had been dismissed. He padded out of the den to find Frostpaw waiting for him.

"Well?" she demanded.

"He just wanted to talk to me about some…things," Snowpaw said. "Medicine cat-leader things."

"Anything about the apprentices?" Frostpaw pressed. Snowpaw looked away, not wanting to give the assessments away, but Frostpaw knew him to well. "What is it?"

Snowpaw shook his head. "I can't tell you."

Frostpaw cocked her head to one side, and simply stared at him pleadingly. Snowpaw tried to look away, but found himself drawn to her emerald-sapphire eyes. He felt a warm prickling under his pelt.

"Assessments," he blurted. "Your mentors will be assessing you tomorrow. Lightning's telling them now." Frostpaw turned, and spotted Lightning saying something to Mud softly.

"What does that mean?" she asked curiously. "What are assessments?"

"Your mentors see your progress, by watching you hunt in secret," Snowpaw explained. "They decide your weaknesses and strengths, what you need to improve, how close you are to being a warrior, that kind of thing."

Frostpaw's eyes glowed. "Do you think I'm ready to be a warrior?" she purred.

No, Snowpaw's mind said, but his heart got the best of him. "Maybe."

Frostpaw pressed her pelt against his, and again Snowpaw's fur seemed to grow warmer. Frostpaw licked his muzzle and then bounced away, probably to tell her brothers. Or, maybe she'd just tell Cricketpaw and let Rainpaw find out on his own.

Snowpaw touched his tail to his muzzle. It seemed to tingle underneath his touch.

"Snowpaw!" Frostpaw's shout shattered his dreams. Snowpaw blinked up at her. She had both paws pressed against his shoulders. "We're getting ready to go on our assessment!" she purred. "Wish me luck!"

"All the luck in the forest," Snowpaw said, turning his head to nip at her paw playfully. He was surprised the motion didn't hurt; he really was healing.

"Thanks!" Frostpaw chirped, before hurrying off so she wouldn't be left behind. Snowpaw yawned, and considered going back to sleep, but it seemed like a waste. He was full of energy; he wanted to run, leap, and pounce. He knew he wouldn't be able to just yet, but he could still walk around.

Two days, and then I can help with assessments, he thought. I should work to make sure I can keep up with the patrols!

He padded out of the den, stretching gingerly in the sunlight before glancing around. Most of the other cats were either watching their apprentices or out on a hunting patrol. The camp was almost completely deserted. Snowpaw decided to walk around the edge of camp a few times, just to warm up a bit. He padded to one of the stone walls, and began walking.

After going around three times, he found himself feeling a bit tired. This was worrying; how would he keep up with the patrols later? I have to keep up! He thought, and forced himself to walk around four more times before stopping for a brief rest. I have today, tomorrow, and the day after before I go on patrol, he thought. I have to make every moment count, so I can keep up with them!

While he waited for the apprentices to come back, Snowpaw continued walking, even bursting into a short sprint before stopping after the pain became too great for him to continue. He finally sat down under the shade again, resting, his snow-white pelt rising and falling rapidly as he caught his breath.

A flurry of activity caused Snowpaw to turn his head. He saw a golden flash race out of the nursery, leaping up at a leaf that was dancing on the breeze. Snowpaw blinked in surprise, unsure as to who this kit was, until he saw Moss's familiar green eyes in the kit's golden face. Sorrelkit! he realized. My, how she's grown!

Willowkit was slower to follow; her golden eyes looked beautiful against her wispy silver-gray fur. She stepped gingerly and timidly over the smooth ground. Her shoulders were hunched slightly, betraying anxiety. Her sister expressed none of this anxiety, bouncing around with her prized leaf in her jaws. Snowpaw found himself smiling. How old are they? he wondered. They must be getting close to what...two moons? How they've grown! They won't be able to talk yet, but that'll come soon...and from the look of Sorrelkit, she'll be full of questions. Poor Moss! Snowpaw's whiskers twitched at the very idea.

"Hey," he called, beckoning the kits with a flick of his tail. Willowkit looked startled, surprised at his presence, but Sorrelkit looked delighted. Sorrelkit padded over to him, and after a slight hesitation, Willowkit followed.

"Who're you?" Sorrelkit asked curiously, cocking her head to one side. Snowpaw brushed her muzzle with his tail.

"Don't you remember?" Snowpaw purred. "I was there when you were born, after all."

Sorrelkit blinked at him, bemused.

"My name is Snowpaw; Moss adopted me when I came here," Snowpaw explained. "I'm sort of her apprentice; I helped with her kitting."

"So you're our brother!" Sorrelkit exclaimed. "Cool! I always wanted a big brother!" She glanced at Willowkit. "No offense."

Willowkit simply shook her head.

"Where'd you come from?" Sorrelkit enquired.

"The sky," Snowpaw mewed. Sorrelkit looked even more puzzled than before."Sit down," Snowpaw laughed, "and I'll tell you a story...."

A little after sunhigh, the apprentices and mentors returned. Cricketpaw looked glum; apparently he had tried catching another squirrel, but this one had gotten away from him.

"The squirrel probably knew you'd get him with a giant leap the way you did with the other one," Rainpaw said, pressing his pelt against his brother's. Cricketpaw nodded.

"At least you caught that vole," Frostpaw purred. "It's pretty big!"

Really, the vole was about average-sized, but Tabby was nodding to make Cricketpaw feel better,

"I caught a pigeon!" Frostpaw purred, showing her catch to Snowpaw proudly. "Slate said I caught it really well!"

"Yeah, well, I caught a crow," Rainpaw boasted. "The stupid thing was too busy eating crowfood to see me coming!"

"It was very smart to use the crowfood's stench to hide your own scent," Mud admitted.

"So, everyone did really well?" Snowpaw asked, and all three mentors nodded. "Great!"

"How close are we to becoming warriors, then?" Rainpaw asked.

"Apprentices become warriors after roughly six moons of training," Snowpaw explained. "You guys have been training for about two."

Frostpaw looked disappointed. "We've still got a long way to go."

"If we train harder, though, we can become warriors early, right?" Cricketpaw asked, hope in his voice. Snowpaw nodded.

"Why don't you put your catches on the fresh-kill pile?" Tabby asked, flicking her tail towards it. "Mud and I will go get our own prey." Mud and Tabby padded off together, leaving Snowpaw feeling disappointed; he had been hoping to speak to Tabby and her problem with Slate, to see if it was getting any better.

However, Snowpaw realized with a burst of intuition, it wasn't Tabby with the problem. She loved Slate, and Slate loved her back but wouldn't be her mate. It was Slate that Snowpaw really needed to talk to.

"Slate," Snowpaw purred warmly, "mind if I share prey with you?"

Slate looked surprised, but shrugged. Snowpaw grabbed a mouse from the fresh-kill pile, and padded back to Slate, dropping it in front of the gray tabby. The two of them began to eat. After a few mouthfuls, Snowpaw paused, chewing thoughtfully.

"How are you and Tabby?" he asked. Slate looked up, appearing startled.

"We're...fine," he said, but there was hesitation in his deep voice-rumbles.

"Really?" Snowpaw asked innocently. "It seems like you two haven't been together very much, lately."

Again, Slate looked surprised. "I've just been busy," he mumbled into his prey. Snowpaw nodded, and they continued to eat. Snowpaw realized he was getting nowhere, and so he decided to take a risk.

"Tabby loves you," he blurted. This time when Slate looked up, there was surprise mixed with something else - anger? - in his eyes.

"Who told you that?" he growled. Snowpaw met his gaze firmly.

"She did."

Slate's ears flattened. "She just thinks she is. She isn't really. She'll find a young tom and settle down with him and be happy. She doesn't need me."

"She does need you," Snowpaw insisted. "She loves you. She told me, in the city. She was heartbroken that you were staying behind, away from her."

"I did it to protect her," Slate said. "She can find another tom. What about Gale? Or Otter?"

"I don't think Gale is right for her," Snowpaw said, thinking of the havoc that would be wrought if Tabby fell in love with Frostpaw's father, "and you and I both know Otter isn't. He's too lazy, too arrogant. Tabby needs someone mature and you."

"I'm only mature because I'm old," Slate said. He looked as if he was going to take another bite of the mouse, only to realize that there was nothing edible left. Slate started to rise to his paws.

"Stay," Snowpaw said firmly. "We need to talk, Slate. Why are you hurting Tabby this way? She's my friend. She loves you, and hiding with Moss didn't change that. If you don't care about her, then—"

"Don't even suggest that I don't care about her!" Slate spat. Several heads turned towards them. Slate glanced at them, before sitting down again. "I care about her more than you could understand," he growled in a lower tone.

"Then why won't you tell her? Why won't you make her happy?"

"Because I can't! She doesn't deserve me, I'm too old for her! Cats in the wild don't live very long, if you haven't noticed. We'd have what, a few years together, and then I'd die and leave her all alone? I can't do that, it would destroy her!"

"Better to destroy her after several happy years, than to destroy her with no love at all," Snowpaw said softly. "She isn't just going to get over you, you know. She loves you, she wants to be with you, and she doesn't care that you're older. And besides, where I used to live we didn't cast out or kill elders; they lived in the Clan with honor. You're not that old, Slate, you've got a pawful of good years left before that happens. You've got plenty of time and so does Tabby, and she wants to spend it with you."

"If she stays with me, she'll never have her own kits," Slate said.

"I don't think she cares."

Slate simply stared at Snowpaw for a moment, almost as if he was bewildered by something. "When did this happen? When did you change from a little kit to a mature cat?"

Snowpaw blinked slowly. "I don't know."

Slate's head turned slightly, as Tabby and Mud returned, prey clutched in their jaws. There was a gentleness in Slate's green eyes as he gazed at Tabby, only for the look to change to jealousy as Tabby and Mud sat down together to share tongues while they ate.

"You love her too," Snowpaw said gently, "and when you die, you'll go to StarClan; you can wait for her there. When she joins you, you two can walk the skies together forever."

Slate tore his gaze away from Tabby, to look at Snowpaw. "Really? We walk the skies when we die?"

"If you're a Clan cat at heart, then yes," Snowpaw replied. The news seemed to shake Slate; Snowpaw knew the feeling. After the white she-cat joined him in his dreams and had proved once and for all that StarClan was real, the possibility of having forever to be with his family and loved ones had seemed amazing.

"I love her," Slate said softly, staring down at his dark gray paws. "How do I tell her?"

Snowpaw blinked at him warmly. "She already knows," he purred, "but taking a walk in the forest to confirm it wouldn't hurt."

Slate stared at Snowpaw for a moment, and then seemed to steel himself, for his rose to his paws. He padded over to Mud and Tabby, saying something softly. Tabby looked surprised, and a brief flash of happiness darted over her face, before disappearing. She simply nodded coolly and followed Slate out of camp. Snowpaw's blue eyes tracked their movements, but once they disappeared, he looked away; as badly as he wanted to follow them and make sure everything turned out okay, it wasn't his place.

Snowpaw instead directed his attention to Gale, who had just entered the camp. Had Gale and Gleam spoken? Snowpaw wasn't sure; he hadn't been able to observe the Clan and its happenings from inside the medicine den. He frowned, and looked for Gleam; if they were together or doing something besides ignoring each other, then he would know for sure. Gleam was nowhere to be seen, however, and Snowpaw contented himself by watching Gale instead. The golden tom settled down with a piece of prey, only to have Sorrelkit and Willowkit attack him; Sorrelkit attacking his face, Willowkit timidly pawing his tail. Snowpaw felt a flash of fear – would Gale retaliate?

Gale rose to his paws, and Snowpaw tensed, but it was unneeded. Gale simply batted Sorrelkit on her side with one golden paw, sending Sorrelkit sprawling. She sprang to her feet instantly, and was not hurt, but Willowkit took the opportunity to leap on Gale's back. Instead of flinging her off, Gale crumpled to the ground, moaning.

Gale yowled something, but from the glitter in his blue eyes, Snowpaw knew it was only in play. His protests seemed to hearten Willowkit and make her braver, for she nipped his ear playfully.

"Get him! Get him!" Snowpaw read Sorrelkit's mouth.

A black blur raced forward from the nursery suddenly, as Kit plowed into Gale's side. It wasn't nearly enough of a blow to make the golden tom falter, but Gale acted as if Kit had knocked him over. Gale fell on his side and Willowkit sprang off as Kit pawed Gale's belly playfully. Gale yowled something else, before collapsing as if he was dead. Kit put his forepaw's on Gale's side, his mouth forming a triumphant cry, while Sorrelkit bounced around with excitement. Willowkit seemed to glow for a moment, before her expression became one of concern, and she nosed Gale's flank with her nose. The golden warrior suddenly came alive, springing out of Kit's grasp and turning on the kits with a grin. Willowkit looked delighted that her friend was alright, and she rubbed her muzzle against one of his forepaws, probably purring. Sorrelkit nosed Kit's side, commending him for his bravery, and Gale said something softly to the three kits; congratulating them of their fighting prowess, perhaps. Snowpaw found himself smiling.

Slate and Tabby did not return until late the next day; Moss had fretted over them, but Snowpaw had convinced her that they would be fine. They certainly were; Tabby positively radiated happiness, and Slate had a look of pride in his green eyes as he entwined his tail with Tabby's. As they passed the medicine den, the entrance of which Snowpaw was waiting at, Tabby flashing him a smile and Slate gave him a nod as the two of them settled down to enjoy a few bites of prey together. A purr rumbled in Snowpaw's throat, and his heart swelled at the thought of Tabby and Slate, together forever in the skies.

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