Fire and Shadow

AU. Rusty has been adopted not by ThunderClan...but ShadowClan!

https://www.fanfiction.net/s/4992672/1/Fire-and-Shadow

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18. Chapter Eighteen

Leafbare soon came in full force. Snow fell as prey soon became scarce; hibernating deep below ground. The river froze over. Onewhisker felt miserable, knowing his clan was out in the cold; away from home.

Firefang continued Gorsepaw's training during the day, even as he fretted on how to broach the fact that he was really a WindClan cat. And at night...at night Firefang tossed and turned in his sleep, safe and cozy from the rain outside. All he could see in his dreams were Mistyfoot's beautiful blue eyes...he couldn't get the RiverClan she-cat out of his mind. All the next day she occupied his thoughts.

He was soon drive to distraction. When he was on patrol he almost stepped on a snake—fortunately it was a harmless grass snake. Firefang was so distracted during Gorsepaw's session that the young apprentice actually managed to sneak up and tackle the ShadowClan warrior; this was the point of the exercise but while good, Gorsepaw shouldn't have been able to succeed so easily.

Finally, the orange tabby could take no more. As night began to fall one day, Firefang went off to the RiverClan border, a mouse in his mouth.

The night felt warm as Leafbare had begun to lose its grip on the forest...Firefang purred in relief. Perhaps the warmer weather would make things easier for RiverClan.

But his hopes were dashed as he approached the river, as he heard a roaring sound. It filled Firefang's ears, making them stand up to try to pinpoint the source. He started running through the bushes until he came to the edge of the river. Stopping short Firefang's jaw dropped, leaving the mouse on the bank of the river, which was gushing and roaring with water from last night's rain.

The river was flooding!

Firefang looked appalled. "What happened to RiverClan? To Mistyfoot?" He looked around, trying to think of a way to cross to check up on them. Then he heard a weak, mewling cry. It was a kit...no, kits! He saw them in the water, washed away by the flood. One was gray, the other black. Both of them were so small they were probably still suckling from their mother. The two kits were balanced precariously on a mat of debris and twigs, wailing for help.

Firefang leaped into the river. He gasped with shock, not at the cold but at the strength of the current. Kicking his legs, the ShadowClan cat propelled himself over to the mat and gently started nudging it over to the RiverClan bank of the river, hoping it wouldn't break.

He winced as the water swelled, getting in his eyes and up his nose. Firefang coughed and sputtered. The water tasted foul. "Only a little further...just a foxlength or so..."

But just as he reached the riverbank, the mat began to break up. With a wailing mewl, the gray kit was plunged into the water. "Foxdung!" Firefang quickly pushed what was left of the mat and with it, the black kit, onto the bank. Then he turned and went after the other kit.

The current pulled at the gray kit, who was too young and weak to keep his head above water. Firefang opened his mouth and plunged his face into the water; closing his jaws when he felt the kit in his mouth. Kicking with all his strength, he broke the surface of the water with a gasp; the kit in his mouth. With what little strength he had remaining, Firefang managed to flop onto the river bank.

Panting in exhaustion, he managed to crawl out of the river. The two kits sat mewling, wet and cold on the river bank. Firefang went up to them and licked their fur the wrong way, keeping them warm. He smelled their scent, despite the river washing much of it away. "RiverClan. Thank StarClan we're on the right side of the river."

Firefang began nudging the two kits towards the RiverClan camp. He winced when he realized what a slow going it would be. The two kits were cold and he couldn't carry them both. Firefang lifted his head and sniffed. He scented a RiverClan patrol heading his way!

Soon enough, the RiverClan deputy Leopardfur and a trio of RiverClan warriors: Blackclaw, Whiteclaw, and Stonefur appeared.

"What's this?" Leopardfur demanded, surprised at seeing Firefang again. Her fur bristled as her ears flattened against her head.

"Why are you trespassing on our territory?" Blackclaw demanded, snarling.

Firefang didn't respond to their hostile tone. Quietly, he mewed. "I'm not trespassing. I pulled two of your kits out of the river and wanted to bring them home."

Stonefur came forward and sniffed the two kits. "It's true! They're Mistyfoot's missing kits!" He exclaimed, his eyes wide. Firefang needed every bit of his ShadowClan resolve to keep from stiffening or betraying what he was thinking. He knew Mistyfoot had kits of course, but didn't think that they would be these two...and he couldn't let the patrol know that he was friends with Mistyfoot.

Leopardfur relaxed. Though she did find it odd that the very same cat who had once asked Mistyfoot about the battle of Sunningrocks would be the very same cat to save her kits. "How do we know you saved the kits?" She asked, tilting her head. "You might have been trying to steal them." Leopardfur's tone did not match the hostility of the question.

Firefang shook his head, relying on simple logic. "No cat from ShadowClan tried to steal your kits when we could walk across the river on the ice. Why do you think we'd try it now? I nearly drowned!"

Hissing angrily, Blackclaw stepped forward, practically shoving his face into Firefang's. Leopardfur called him off. "Blackclaw! Back off! We'll let him explain himself to Crookedstar, and see if he believes him."

"All right." The orange warrior nodded. "I just hope your Clan leader can see the truth when it's in front of his nose."

Leopardfur made no response. With a flick of her tail she directed Blackclaw and Whiteclaw to each pick up one of the kits and nodded for Firefang to follow her, flanked by Stonefur.

When they reached the island where the RiverClan cats had their camp, they found a wide, racing channel of water seperating it from the ridge of dry ground. The island was abandoned. Leopardfur's eyes widened.

"The water has risen since we left camp!" She meowed with a groan.

"Leopardfur! Up here!" Looking up where the yowl came from, Firefang saw a slope where the RiverClan leader, Crookedstar sat; his pelt soaked. Firefang and the RiverClan patrol made their way up the slope.

"What happened?" Leopardfur demanded.

"The camp is flooded. We've had to move up here." He meowed flatly. He grew more animate when he saw Firefang. "And what have you brought us? A ShadowClan spy? As if we didn't have enough trouble!"

"He found Mistyfoot's kits." Leopardfur explained. "He claims he pulled them out of the river." Firefang nodded in confirmation as other RiverClan cats gathered around them.

"I don't believe a word of it!" Blackclaw spat. "You can't trust a ShadowClan cat."

Crookedstar's eyes narrowed. "Mistyfoot's kits went missing when the camp was flooded. How do you come to have them?"

Exhausted, tired, and sopping wet; Firefang's usual reserve failed him. "I flew across the river." He meowed in sarcasm as a gray cat ducked inside the bushes.

A moment later Mistyfoot broke out of the bushes and raced over. "My kits! Where are my kits?" She crouched over and started licking her kits furiously, her tail protectively wrapped around them as if in fear that some cat would try to steal them. The RiverClan medicine cat, Mudfur, crouched beside her to inspect the kits. Stonefur pressed against Mistyfoot, mewling comfortably against her.

"Tell us what happened." Crookedstar meowed to Firefang. Blackclaw spat. Firefang quickly related what had happened at the river. When he got to the part about saving the gray kit from the water, Blackclaw spat.

"Since when do ShadowClan cats risk their lives for us?" He demanded.

"Quiet, Blackclaw! Let him speak. If he's lying, we'll find out soon enough."

"He's not lying." Mistyfoot spoke up. "Why should ShadowClan steal kits when all the Clans are finding it hard to feed themselves?" Firefang had to hide a wince. The fact was that ShadowClan HAD stolen a kit, his own apprentice.

The gray cat who had fetched Mistyfoot, Silverstream, nodded. "Firefang's story makes sense. We had to abandon the camp and shelter in these bushes when the water started to rise again. When we came to move Mistyfoot's kits, we could find only two of them. The other two were missing. They must have been swept along in the river to where you found them."

"In that case, we're grateful to you." Crookedstar said begrudgingly, hating to be in the debt of ShadowClan.

"Yes, without you, my kits would have died." Mistyfoot mewed her eyes glowing softly with gratitude.

Firefang's eyes softened as he looked back. "Is there anything I can do for you?" Firefang asked, then quickly turned his head, as if his question had been directed to RiverClan as a whole rather than Mistyfoot in particular. Firefang noticed that the RiverClan cats were all wet through, and the fur clinging to their bodies showed they were skinnier than ever. In Greenleaf, the Twolegs had scared away or stolen much of their prey, with more being taken by ShadowClan. During Leafbare there wouldn't have been Twolegs, but the frozen river would've made it impossible to fish. Now that Leafbare was over, the thaw hadn't brought badly needed food, but a flood that had driven them out of their camp.

"If you can't go back to your camp, and if prey's scarce because of the flood and--" He began before being aprubtly cut off by Crookedstar.

"We need no help from ShadowClan." Crookedstar spat. "RiverClan cats can look after themselves."

"Don't be such a fool." Spat a gray RiverClan elder, Graypool. "You're too proud for your own good. How can we feed ourselves, even with the thaw? There are no fish to eat. The river's practically poisoned; you know it is."

Firefang was shocked. Graypool explained. "It's all the fault of the Twolegs. Last newleaf, the river was clean and full of fish. Now it's filthy with Twoleg rubbish from their camp."

"And all the fish are poisoned." Mudfur added. "Cats who eat them fall ill. I've treated more cats for bellyaches this leaf-bare than in all the time since I've been the medicine cat." As he looked around, the RiverClan cats looked down or away; as if they couldn't bare admitting to and outsider the depth of their trouble. Firefang shared their pain, as his clan was partially responsible for aggravating this problem.

"Then let me help." He urged. "I'll catch prey for you in my territory and bring it to you, until the floods have gone and the river is clean."

"Would you really do this for us?" Crookedstar looked at him suspiciously. "When your Clan stole prey from mine last newleaf?"

"Yes." Firefang said evenly.

Some RiverClan cats murmured, looking to one another. Crookedstar paused, then yielded. "Then the Clan thanks you. None of my cats will challenge you in our territory until the floods go down and we can return to our camp. But after that, we will fend for ourselves once again."

Firefang dipped his head in acknowledgment. "I will show him to the border." Mistyfoot offered. "Silverstream, could you bring my kits back with the others?"

"Of course." She nodded. Mistyfoot escorted Firefang from the makeshift RiverClan camp to Fourtrees, and beyond it; ShadowClan territory.

She stopped and sat at the border of RiverClan territory. "I want to thank you again for what you're doing for my Clan....and for me." She mewed gently. "My kits owe you their lives. I won't forget this."

"Anything...for you." Firefang replied, his voice wavering. Mistyfoot padded over, her cheek brushing against Firefang's own, their whiskers touching.

"I...I've never known a cat like you."

Firefang's tail gently intertwined itself with hers. "I haven't either..." Mistyfoot purred, rubbing her the top of her head against the orange warriors cheek. Firefang's purrs merged with hers as he rubbed his cheek against her head, his flank against hers...he could feel her heartbeat.

"...I—I have something to tell you." She admitted after a minute. "Firefang, I asked my mother, Graypool, about what my father said at Sunningrocks about Stonefur."

"Hmm?" Firefang mewed distractedly. "About no ThunderClan cat ever harming him?"

"Yes..." Mistyfoot took a deep breath and looked Firefang square in the eye. "Graypool told me...she said that she wasn't really my mother." Mistyfoot's voice trembled. "S-she said my mother...my real mother...is Bluestar, the leader of ThunderClan. I'm half-ThunderClan."

Firefang was stunned. "I—I didn't imagine..."

"I didn't either." Mistyfoot mewled, rubbing her head against Firefang's chest. "I—I haven't even told Stonefur yet. How could I? I just...I'm so confused."

"It's okay." Firefang licked her cheek comfortingly. "You are still Mistyfoot of RiverClan...the greatest cat I know."

"It gets even more confusing...my friend Silverstream is, well, she's been seeing a ThunderClan cat; Graystripe. Ravenwing's friend." She added parenthetically. "I've tried talking Silverstream out of it...but how can I now, knowing what I know?"

Firefang didn't say a word. He just wrapped his tail around Mistyfoot, gently nuzzling her; licking her face. Mistyfoot rubbed herself against Firefang as the two cats kept each other warm as the sun rose. The two cats lay beside one another, purring contentedly...and from the bushes, sat Blackfoot, watching it all.

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