A gentle breeze swirled around ThunderClan camp, bouncing off of the stone walls and causing stray leaves to spin and twist through the air like panicked birds. Clan cats carried on with their day, some going out on patrol, others eating fresh-kill, watching with amused glances as the kits scuffled in the dirt together.
“Get out of our camp, ShadowClan filth!” Larkkit growled as he slammed into the side of Leafkit, his sister.
Twigkit watched her foster kin play-fighting, her gray tail fluffing up defensively. “Don’t say that!” she protested. “Violetkit is in ShadowClan and she’s not filthy!”
Blossomfall watched the kits fondly for a moment before turning to Ivypool, who was laid out on her side next to the she-cat. “Aren’t they cute? I’d like to have kits some day, wouldn’t you?”
“Not really,” Ivypool retorted, her eyes closed. “They squeal far too much for my patience.”
“I’m sure it’s all more endearing when they’re your own,” Dovewing, who was sitting nearby with Bumblestripe, meowed.
Bumblestripe purred. “Well, we’ll find out eventually, won’t we?” The two young cats shared a long look of amusement and devotion, broken when Dovewing turned to glare at her sister after Ivypool let out a snort.
The four young warriors continued on with their business, not noticing the dark brown she-cat watching near the entrance of the medicine cat den, her blue eyes wistful. Briarlight sighed as she watched her siblings and their mates talk amongst each other about the future – a future, it seemed, that would quickly leave her in the dust.
“Why don’t you go join them?” the she-cat flicked her ears and Jayfeather walked up, finished with tending to Graystripe in the elder’s den. “Some conversation will do you some good.”
“A conversation, sure,” Briarlight replied, “but not their conversation. They’re talking about kits.” She glanced back at her hind legs, paralyzed and splayed out behind her. “I don’t know how much I would be able to contribute.”
Jayfeather rubbed his paw against his ear, dislodging a stubborn piece of moss that had somehow made its way there. “Surely they won’t stick to that topic for long.” His voice was unsympathetic.
“And what will they move on to? Mates? Apprentices? Battles? I doubt I’ll be able to include anything of substance unless they get so bored, they move on to the weather.”
The medicine cat rolled his eyes, sparking Briarlight’s annoyance. “So you’re in one of your moods again, then?”
“If I have ‘moods’, then it’s only because I spend so much of my time around you,” she retorted. “Misery loves company.” She narrowed her eyes when Jayfeather let out a huff of laughter. “Oh, so you think that’s funny?”
“Maybe I do,” he shot back. Shifting his paws, he laid next to Briarlight, angling his ears in the direction of the four cats she had been watching. “I understand how you feel. When Cinderheart found out she was having kits, Lionblaze wouldn’t shut up about it. ‘Jayfeather, you won’t understand until you’ve had your own!’ Didn’t even realize what he was saying until he said it. Stupid furball.”
“But you have an apprentice, so you at least know what that’s like.”
Jayfeather sighed irritably. “You’ve met my mother. I’m just as much an apprentice as Alderpaw is to her, now that she’s decided to be a medicine cat again.”
A comfortable silence settled between the two. Briarlight watched Bumblestripe and Dovewing head towards the camp entrance, their tails twined together. “Do you wish you could?” she blurted out.
“Wish I could what?” Jayfeather tilted his head.
She scuffed the dirt with her front paws, strangely uncomfortable to continue the conversation with the tom. “You know…” her voice trailed off.
“No, Briarlight, actually I don’t know. I’m not a mind reader. Anymore.”
Briarlight felt a twinge of amusement at his sarcastic response, but it was immediately shoved down by anxiety as she deliberated whether or not she truly wanted to ask him such a personal question. Finally, she sucked in a breath and said, “Do you wish you could have that life? A life where you would be allowed a mate and kits.”
Jayfeather caught her by surprise when he didn’t immediately shoot back with a sarcastic response. Instead, he lowered his head, clearly deliberating his answer. Was that sadness that Briarlight could see in his eyes? Is there a cat out there that Jayfeather loves? She thought, alarmed.
“Sometimes,” he finally confessed. “Love is a powerful bond to share with someone and I am occasionally envious of cats who get that opportunity.” He rested his chin on his paws. “Then again, I’ve seen the pain it’s caused – especially for Leafpool and my family. I doubt I could risk putting cats through that, especially my own kits.” His sightless eyes trailed over into her direction. “Do you?”
Briarlight nodded. “I do,” she mewed quietly.
“There is nothing any medicine cat can do to bring back your ability to have kits, but you could still have a mate.”
She shook her head, sadness igniting her chest. “No ThunderClan cat is interested in being mates with someone who can barely walk. Besides, there isn’t a cat who would take a mate knowing from the beginning that they can’t raise kits with them.”
“Ivypool and Blossomfall did just that,” Jayfeather countered.
“Don’t speak too soon. I’d bet my life that Blossomfall is working out a way to take Twigkit from Lilyheart.”
Jayfeather chuckled, lifting Briarlight’s spirits ever so slightly. The two stopped speaking again and Briarlight watched as her companion rolled onto his side, sunning himself. He looked content – something that no one could ever describe him as very often. The she-cat felt a rush of affection for the gray tabby. He had always been there for her, determined to see her live a full life, regardless of her injuries. She, on the other hand, was privy to a side of him not many in the Clan got to see – his demeanor when he was working alone in his den, no emergency or injury disturbing him or his thoughts.
“I suppose we’ll have to be miserable, mate-less cats together,” Jayfeather mused.
“Perhaps,” Briarlight began tentatively. “Perhaps not.” She stared at him, somewhat comforted that he couldn’t see her warm expression. “Maybe I just need a cat who not only doesn’t want kits, but can see past my broken spine.” She watched as Jayfeather rolled back onto his stomach. “Or maybe I need a cat who isn’t supposed to have kits and can’t see at all.”
There was a tense silence as Jayfeather kept his head facing forward. After what seemed like hours, he slowly moved his tail until it was placed over the she-cat’s. As they laid there together, Briarlight's heart soared.