Disclaimer: I'm not one of the Erins. :(
A/N: Hi, guys, this is another idea I got from Kira-QueenofDarkness, so please credit her for the idea! Hope you enjoy!
A wheezing cough echoed around the barn. Barley winced. Each one sounded worse than the last. At this stage of greencough, there was little that he could do, but try to ease the pain. He closed his eyes, trying to hide the grief that clawed at his heart. For Ravenpaw, his best friend, his littermate in all ways but one, was dying.
The greencough had stalked them silently, and by the time Barley had noticed it, it had already pounced, but not on him. Ravenpaw had started coughing about a half-moon ago. Barley hadn't thought much of it then, just assumed it was a brief coughing spell. But then Ravenpaw had begun feeling tired all the time. The other tom had tried to pass it off as nothing, just a little leaf-bare chill. Barley had always been able to see through Ravenpaw and after cuffing him once on the head for being a mouse-brain and not telling him, he raced off to find catmint.
Almost every cat knew the symptoms of greencough, but only the Clans and a few loners knew the cure. A friendly medicine cat passing by had told Barley about the illness and how to use catmint if he ever came down with the deadly sickness. Now, Barley was hoping against hope that the medicine cat had been right. He'd searched from sunrise to sundown, scouring the land, asking every cat he saw, but saw nothing. Whatever catmint was left, had surely been killed by the twolegs and their poison. His paws were weary and his heart heavy by the time he returned to the barn. Ravenpaw had only sighed and closed his eyes. Barley hadn't known what to mew. What do you mew to a dying cat?
Now, Ravenpaw was slipping and Barley had numbed himself to the point where his paws would not move from the black tom's side. Earlier, he had brought Ravenpaw water and what prey he could find. The mouse lay untouched and Ravenpaw had only managed to take a few sips of water before turning away. There was nothing left to do.
Barley hadn't eaten or drank since last sunrise either. He hadn't told Ravenpaw, because he knew that, dying or not, Ravenpaw would force him to eat. So he just sat by his side, letting the waves of his grief and uselessness wash over him. He shifted his paws ever so slightly and Ravenpaw's ears twitched, his eyes opening slowly.
"I'm here, Ravenpaw."
Ravenpaw's amber eyes, so bright still, focused on Barley's.
It wasn't a question. Barley swallowed hard.
Ravenpaw nodded feebly. "Survived Tigerstar and BloodClan to be brought down by a cough. How embarrassing."
"You'll have to spread the word around up there, that they're a bunch of weaklings." Barley's mew was level and calm and it didn't shake once. Barley had accepted that Ravenpaw believed in StarClan, but also had quietly made sure Ravenpaw knew he didn't. They had never discussed it much, they knew they had far too little time for that.
Ravenpaw's amber eyes were now focused intently on Barley's, shining with brightness no illness would ever dull. "I don't want to go to StarClan."
Barley stared at him, taken aback.
"What do you mean, you don't want to go, of course you do-"
"I don't want to go to StarClan if you won't be there with me."
Barley shut his eyes tight, trying to hold back the grief that was threatening to drown him.
"I'll find you, don't worry about that. There's nowhere you can go, I won't be able to find you. We're connected after all."
Ravenpaw snorted softly at their running joke. "Okay."
Barley let out a little sigh and another silence grew between them. Ravenpaw's eyes closed, seemingly dropping into slumber.
"When Firestar came by, he offered to give me my warrior name."
Barley flinched, thinking Ravenpaw had drifted off to sleep. "What?"
Ravenpaw's eyes were still closed. "When they stopped here on their Great Journey. Firestar asked me if I wanted my warrior name."
"What is it?" Barley asked.
"I didn't get it. I turned him down."
Ravenpaw opened his eyes.
"Because, though I believe in StarClan and though I will always miss my Clan and my clanmates, I am no longer a clan cat. That life, as Ravenpaw of ThunderClan, ended a long time ago. I'm Ravenpaw now, just Ravenpaw. And that's all I need."
Ravenpaw watched Barley's face. The black-and-white tom was struggling to keep his emotions in check. "He's a good cat, Firestar." Ravenpaw broke into a fit of coughing. When it subsided, Barley nodded and mewed, " That he is."
Ravenpaw let out a soft, faint purr. Barley knew now, the end was near. And his numbed heart began to thaw.
"You should eat something."
Ravenpaw's breaths became slower and slower. His eyelids flickered. Suddeny, siezed by an unknown urge to mew something, anything at all, Barley meowed, "Ravenpaw, I just wanted to say-"
Ravenpaw's chest stopped moving. His paws stilled and his eyes relaxed.
"-You were my best friend. Always will be."
Barley laid down and touched his nose to Ravenpaw's fur. He looked up at the stars he couldn't see and told them, "Take good care of him, he's a troublemaker." Barley purred, knowing that the black tom would have protested at this. But all too soon, his amusement turned to grief. Bitter, bitter grief.
"I'll find you, wherever you may go. We are connected after all."
And he couldn't see them, but the stars were just beginning to come out, lighting a path for a warrior who had finally come home.
A/N: I miss you, Ravenpaw... Reviews would be appreciated! Again, idea is all Kiras.