All she could think about was how much she wished that she had put this off until the next day.
Unable to sleep, she had tossed and turned all night long, waking up Scratch a few times in the process. Every time she drifted off into a light slumber, she was plagued with images of that tom discreetly slicing down her mother's throat.
And every time, she snapped awake, the leaves of the bush seemed like grasping tendrils, waiting to smother her. She tried to dismiss her kit-like fears and just go back to sleep, but whenever she did that, the cycle repeated again.
So now she found herself trudging along the last filthy streets of Twolegplace when the sun was just peeking over the horizon. She let out a yawn. Then tripped over her own paws in tiredness.
"Come on Lily," Scratch grouched, helping her up.
Shaking herself off, she replied.
"Don't even use those names anymore. They were just what BloodClan used to strip us of our true identities. From now on, we're Susan and Jacques again."
Jacques didn't seem in a mood to fight it. He didn't quite agree either.
There seemed to be a low hum in the air, almost like a drone of bees, except more screeching and metallic. It gave her the shivers.
Her eyes grew damp, as she arrived at the place that she believed used to be the four trees, where the legendary battle took place. All those deaths...
It took until sundown to reach the edge of the territories, where the terrain grew rocky and more barren. The pair decided to stop for the night, under an overhanging rock. There wasn't much of a threat anymore now that they were all alone, so there was no need to worry for once.
As Susan drifted off into the first good sleep in days, she knew that now they were really moving away from their old home, out on an adventure.
Much to her pleasure, Jacques didn't wake her up at the crack of dawn like she was expecting. It was nice to be able to sleep in, especially when Jacques was already up and had already hunted. It was a nice surprise, because she even woke up to the morning gloom already rolling away.
All he was able to catch was a couple of mice, but it filled her all the same. Only if there were a good water source... she just chewed the grass to help, even though most of it was dry and brittle.
But as they began their tiring journey, she wished that the clouds had stayed. As they slowly padded across the soft yellow fields, sun beat down on them. Susan's mouth felt as parched as the ground beneath her paws, her fur nearly dripping with perspiration.
"Can we stop?" Jacques whined, trying to bounce into her shade.
With one swift movement, she leaped away, leaving him to stand in the baking sun.
"No, we should be able to cover a lot of ground by today. So keep going. I'm just as tired as you are."
Jacques mumbled curses that Susan pretended she didn't hear, and loped after her.
They didn't go far, before a wooden post blocked their way, linking a fence together that twisted around a field full of strange animals she had never seen before.
They looked like fluffy white clouds, but they reeked worse than anything she ever smelled before, even the dumpsters at her old home. They seemed rather large too.
"Are you sure this is safe?" Jacques whispered.
She rolled her eyes, mostly at the fact that he had taken the effort to whisper. "Yeah, I'm sure it will be fine. But you can never know. Let me check it out a bit more."
Gingerly, she took a few steps into the field. Nothing happened. But what if they raged whenever someone came close? They couldn't risk that!
Okay. Get a grip. That's just plain ridiculous.
"Come on, Jacques! It's safe!" she yowled over her shoulder, just hoping she was right. He padded after, and side by side, they journeyed across the field together.
As they got closer, she realized that the animals' faces were blank and stupid, so there was nothing to worry about. Just the awful stench.
After they were able to stroll through the unknown animals with no danger, it was still a relief to wriggle under the fence and relax in the cool, refreshing shade of a dying tree.
It was only the fifth day, and it seemed like they were traveling forever. Even though it wasn't long since they left. But everything seemed to be such a big blur of time and emotion, that it was hard to make out.
So she surprised herself with a feeling of home, as the Twolegplace rose over the horizon, outlined against the blue dusk.
Just like home.
Despite all the experience they had in their old one.
"Can we stop?" Jacques whined, "Just to sleep? For this once?"
Susan had to agree. Her legs felt heavy, and her pads were sore from the rough terrain and crackly grass.
"Yeah. But let's find somewhere in the Twolegplace." So her paws guided her to a place that she knew very well. An alley. Not hard to find, even in an unfamiliar Twolegplace.
To her delight, she spotted a huge box, leaning against the alley wall. The perfect shelter, perfect place to sleep.
But as they came closer, they realized that it already seemed inhabited. A tom stood before it, knawing on a bone.
As soon as they were close enough to be standing before him, Susan could make out all of his features. He had a coat that was such a pale gray that it seemed white, especially in the dirty shine of a nearby street light.
He looked up. Strangely, one of his eyes was green, the other a amber-hazel color. A long, jagged scar stretched across the green one.
"Well you don't seem like you're from around here," he remarked.
"No, we're not," Susan mewed, "We've been journeying."
"I do enjoy a good story," he murmured warily.
"Look. We don't want story time," Jacques growled, "We just want a place to sleep and information."
Susan cringed at her brother's statement. The last part seemed so dumb.
But when she thought of it for a moment, she realized it could be good. Information. An asset to them.
"Speaking of which, could you tell us anything about a large group of cats, possibly passing by here?"
"I suppose I could."
She groaned. Just like this cat to withhold all the information from her.
"What about this," she proposed, "We tell you our story, and you tell us what we need to know."
So Susan began, with the tales of her kithood, Jacques chipping in every now and then to help, whether she liked it or not.
They ended with their arrival at the very place they were standing. Susan prided herself in not crying through the whole thing.
"That was a very interesting story," he mewed. Susan twitched in frustration. It was like their whole miserable lives were just a show for his amusement.
She cleared her throat.
He spoke. "The Clans are beginning to pass the other side of Twolegplace, heading towards the mountains. Been rumored all around here."
Dipping her head, she mewed, "Thank you." They tried to get around him into the box.
"A place to sleep wasn't a part of the deal," he snickered. Susan was about to rake her claws over his ear, when he stepped aside, allowing them to sleep as well. As soon as they squashed in on the rags coating the bottom of the box, he flumped in too, not realizing that Susan still had her right eye open. His odd eyes now looked tired and sad. Pity washed through her, even though she had no idea about his ordeals. At all.Waking up in the morning, she realized that her leg was jammed up against the side of the box in an attempt to give the others some room. How she regretted it now, her leg all stiff and sore. An unattractive crack was heard as she took it down.
She head a purr of amusement.
Standing there, was the weird-eyed white tom from the night before.
Susan rolled her eyes. "Creeper."
His expression fell. "Sorry for not really introducing myself last night. My name is Flick." He came a few steps forward. Right away, she noticed a little fling of his paw as he walked. Hence the name Flick, she figured.
"Where's my brother?" she questioned. If this was in her old Twolegplace home, he would guess that something terrible had happened to Jacques. But here... there was a much friendlier aura, something that was hard to find.
"He's out hunting. Said he'd catch something special."
"Oh and I suppose he'll be serving you too," she snorted, putting up her old guard.
"No need to be hostile," he scoffed, stepping away slowly, no longer as friendly.
"Hunting," she sniffed, turning around. "Hunting in a Twolegplace. Ha."
Instead, she went for a tour of the whole place, and compared it to her old home. There were much less Twolegs blundering around, making it safer for her to travel. There were more smaller Twoleg nests as well, and more plants. Also, the mountains rose up into her view, always peeking up in the distance for her to see.
Much nicer. Much more relaxing. Less scuffles.
But at the end of her walk, it was still just a Twolegplace, filthy and dirty.
Susan didn't like to be proven wrong, so when she came back to see Jacques and Flick knawing on a mouse, she was embarrassed, surprised, but still hungry.
"Hi," she greeted them. Limp on the earth was a vole, still warm, even if one side of it was dirty from being sprawled onto the earth. Graciously, she dug in."I've decided something," Flick mewed, "I can be your guide through Twolegplace. You said you needed to get through, right?"
"Yeah, we do," Susan pointed out, a bit sharper than needed, "But we never asked for your help. This is a mission for just me and Jacques."
"Wouldn't be any good if you got lost."
Gosh, I hate this cat.
But he was persistent. "Come on, I just want to be helpful. I miss the company of other cats."
Sympathy washed into her, making her oblige. "Fine." Jacques just nodded.
"Okay, so we will have to start before sunhigh, or else the Twolegs will be all buzzing around and such. We take a break then."
Good to know.
As soon as they set out, she instantly realized that they did not need a guide. It was easy. Just move forward, until something was in your way, then move around it and forward again. But she had to admit... Flick was good company. For reasons she couldn't admit to herself.
All she saw in his face was Spike.
The lame jokes, the sweet demeanor, how easily he got attached. All the traits of the cat who met an untimely death in that pound. He even had the white pelt. Just those eyes... the weird colors, the strange scar. Admittedly, Susan liked him.
"But when I walked around the corner, I realized that Jack, the tom I met earlier, had disappeared!" Flick was explaining as he walked backwards.
Nostalgia jerked at her.
Then he tripped over a crack in the pavement, nearly falling over.
This is just too much... what happened to the mysterious cat from last night?
Spike on her mind, she helped him up and followed after.
"Why don't we stop here?" Jacques suggested. The temperatures were rising during the day, and falling when the night came around. Which was greatly irritating, considering it was so hard to find somewhere warm at night.
The little cubby between a tree trunk and a smooth stone was as good as any. Jacques staked his spot first, pressed against the trunk. Susan sighed, and clawed a few palm leaves and weeds to cushion the earth. Susan shivered, as she climbed into the nest, pressing up against her brother. Flick somehow managed to jam into the nest as well.
"Sorry," he mumbled, practically squashing Susan, who was unlucky enough to be in the middle. At least she was warm.
But she couldn't even fall asleep, due to her shivering and the breeze drifting off the mountains. She squeezed herself tighter. Even as she was no longer freezing, she was aware of Flick's pelt pressing close to her.
"Ugh," she groaned, trying to shove him a little bit.
"None of us can sleep," Flick murmured.
Susan gave him the look, but replied. "Yeah. I think I'm going to get out of here and brave the cold."
"Can I come with?"
She was inclined to say no, but she realized that she just didn't want to face the memories of her time in the pound. It would be easier to just get it out of the way now.
Plus, she had been behaving like a real big jerk.
She nodded. "Okay."
As soon as her paw pad touched the sidewalk, it felt like she was stepping on a block of pure ice. She tensed, but didn't want to make a fool of herself in front of Flick. Stepping in awkward little strides, she moved as fast as possible until she could rest on the root of the next tree.
Surprisingly, considering how clumsy Flick was, he was able to maneuver across rather quickly. He leaped up beside her, his fur fluffed out to full extent.
"Cold, isn't it?"
She purred. "You look like a giant fuzzball."
He rolled his eyes. Susan let out a low hiss. He could at least make an attempt to joke. He was less like Spike that she thought.
Before she could stop herself, she blurted out what she had been thinking all day. "You remind me of a cat I used to know."
He seemed a bit taken aback. "What, like with the same markings and everything?" She guessed that he was referring to his scar over his eye.
"Well... sort of," she mewed, "He just didn't have the same eyes and scar and paw flick. He... he died because he was in the pound for too long. I was there with him."
Flick nodded sympathetically. "I see."
They stood in silence. Susan didn't really feel like speaking, her head almost lolling in tiredness.
"I got my scar and paw flick when my Twoleg threw me out."
She was taken aback. Flick, a kittypet?
"Yeah. I lived in a really nice house, really big and a lot of soft carpets and plush pillows. My Twoleg fed me every day, and admittedly, I was a bit overweight."
"Every day, I would climb up the smooth stairs, and onto the balcony to watch the sun rise over the mountains," Flick continued, "It's been a while since I've been loved like I was there."
"Sounds great," Susan lied, not knowing how anyone could stand being cooped up in a Twoleg nest, no matter how nice and comfy it was.
"But one day... things seemed to disappear. All of our luxurious things, my favorite downy chair. The Twoleg... she cried more often, and sometimes I couldn't eat because we had no food. Eventually, my Twoleg had no choice. She threw me out into the streets, with no place to go. I was hungry, and lost. Scared too.
"One day, I was running from a dog that got away from its Twoleg. It was chasing me and I was running as fast as possible, but it was still faster than me. So I took a risky move, and jumped over a large stone, an outcropping that was in the park I was at. But I slipped at the last second, and hurt my paw really badly. The dog was able to give me the scar over my eye, before the Twoleg dragged it away."
He took a deep breath, before continuing on. "Ever since then, I just haven't been the same. Haven't been happy."
"Well I'm sorry," she mewed. His life story was just as bad as hers, if not better, so she had to dig deep into her heart to find sympathy.
"And it's kind of hard for me to say this, but," he continued to drone. If it weren't for the words pulling her in, she would just start daydreaming again.
"Susan... I think I'm falling in love with you."
She snorted. "Is this supposed to be a joke? Cause it's not that funny. You could do better."
"No, it's not a joke," he mewed, just masking his irritation.
In shock, she took a hasty step backawards onto the freezing sidewalk. Susan was repulsed. Not that she disliked him... he would be replacing Spike. That could never happen. And he would just be annoying.
"No. No, I'm not interested," she said coldly.
"But-- what? Is there something wrong with me?" Flick asked.
"No," she mewed, "I'm just not interested in being in a relationship with you. In fact, I think that you can be very shallow at times."
"Shallow?" he blustered.
"Look. I'm not feeling the same, now that you've completely showed me what kind of cat you really are."
"Yeah. A fighter," she declared.
"I'm leaving," he scoffed.
"That's really immature!" she shouted after him, "You were the one that wanted to come in the first place! We didn't need your help anyways!" She stormed off, not seeing if Flick stayed or left.
As she climbed back into their temporary nest, Jacques spoke. "You really thought I was asleep the whole time that was happening?"
"Shut up, Jacques."
It wasn't even hard getting through Twolegplace without the help of Flick. Flick wasn't Spike, and Susan was ready to accept that.
"I think I can see the end of this place," Susan muttered. The houses were thinning out. Eventually, the road turned into dirt, stretching out into the upcoming fields.
It took until sunset for them to walk through the pastures, and look back, no longer seeing the Twolegplace. Before them, they could see a forest, and far away to her left, there was a huge stretch of blue water. They were too far to see the details, but Susan believed that it was the ocean. Back in her old home, there were legends about it, ones that were told to comfort kits in the cold night.
Jacques sniffed. "The Clans are nearby."
Susan hissed in frustration. "That's not good. I think it's best if we're ahead of them. Come on, no stopping until we reach the area ahead of them. I bet my pelt that they're heading for that forest."
"Like the little Clannies that they are," Jacques snorted.
Susan let out a groan, as she saw another field of the fluffy white cloud animals, reeking as ever. She hated crossing their fields, simply because of the smell. At least we know that they're not dangerous.
But there was one thing wrong, she realized, as they were about halfway through the field. A dog was trotting along on the far side of the field, every now and then letting out a little yip or bark. She decided to ignore it, because they would be across in no time.
But another dog came into view, slightly bigger, slavering jaws.
And just like that, they charged after the cloudlike animals.
They weaved through the masses, causing havoc, the animals bleating and darting away.
"Run Susan!" her brother was yowling, "They can crush you!"
She snapped out of her disbelief, and began to dash away from the stampede. Panic raced through her, as she tried to escape what would be death by being stamped into the earth.
Relief washed through her, as she finally reached the other side. For a frantic moment, she thought that Jacques had been lost among the animals, but he emerged soon after her, limping.
"One of their feet grazed my bad leg," he moaned.
"Will you be okay?" Susan mewed, concerned. Despite the BloodClan collar that still hung on his neck, he was still her brother.
That forest was closer to them, their dark, leafy branches stretching up to meet the pale blue sky, emitting the noises of little forest creatures.
Clan scent wafted over the breeze.
"I think that this is the place we're looking for."
Just watching those kits... her heart could melt.
They were too young to really talk or do any serious playing, but they did tumble around between nursery. Such little cute balls of fluff. She broke out purring again.
She could hear Scorch shuffling around a few cat-lengths away, but she wasn't really concerned with him at the moment. Susan was beginning to crawl away, like the little rebel she was. Cupping one paw, she pulled her into her belly again. Jacques just mewled, as Blaze gingerly nipped the moss.
"Aren't they great?" she mewed to Scorch.
He didn't reply for a moment. But eventually, he turned around and spoke. "I wonder what they'll be like when they're older."
"I don't know. But I don't want them to become like those BloodClan ruffians."
Scorch looked at her quizzically. "You're going to have to make them join the BloodClan guard at some point."
Shade shot to her feet. "What?"
"They won't be able to survive, if they're just on the streets. Like it or not, we're going to need Scourge's protection."
"What are you talking about?" she sputtered. "Protected or not, I want them to grow up to be moral, honest cats that are good at heart."
"They can always hang on to that."
Shade felt betrayed. How could Scorch just suggest that she send her kits off, to be torn apart by Scourge and his minions?
"All you care about is the kits now, anyways," he said, his voicing raising to a shout.
"Oh, so this is about you now?" Shade yowled back, "You're selfish! You have to stop just thinking about yourself and think about your kits!"
"What, do you have a better idea of what to do with the kits?" Scorch hissed furiously. His muscles rippled underneath his ginger fur, in anger. His soft, familiar eyes were now ridden with rage.
"Well then," Shade mewed haughtily, "We can raise them with a Twoleg. They'll be well cared for, safe, and they won't be raised as killers!"
She stopped, took a deep breath, and waited for his response. Her kits were now slowly wandering, but her mind was focused on something else.
Scorch threw his comeback at her. "Of course. You and your Twolegs. I know that you would rather be curled up on a Twoleg couch instead of being with me and the kits. Now you want to keep the kits captive in a Twoleg nest... that's beyond reasonable!"
"They aren't captive. They're just being cared for in one place. Loved."
"You know what, Shade," he began to growl, "I'm going to go. This is too hard for me. I can't stand having to deal with a kittypet as a mate, stifling me, not listening to me."
"What, so now I'm labeled as a kittypet? If you hate kittypets so much, why did you love me then?"
He winced at the question, already padding out.
"You were special. But not anymore."
And just over that one, stupid fight, he was gone. Forever.
Shade waited on him for sunrises, all while watching the kits. But he never came.
She had been trod on a little too much, gone through too much pain.
Her heart-- from that moment-- was broken into two lonely pieces.