Chapter 1

Brambleclaw's eyes swept the wreckage and ruin that was once ThunderClan camp. The badgers had torn the camp and the Clan itself to tattered shreds, leaving the earth stained with blood and tears. But he was a ThunderClan warrior, he reminded himself sharply. He had to be strong, and help put the pieces back together. For his Clan, and more importantly, for Squirrelflight.

He caught a glimpse of Stormfur out of the corner of his eye, dragging damaged thorns from the entrance to camp. He took a step towards his old friend, but felt painful hunger claw at his belly. He glanced guiltily at the fresh-kill pile. He knew he shouldn't eat until the rest of the Clan had, but his head was spinning, and concluded he'd be of no use unless he ate something.

He padded slowly over to the fresh-kill pile and crouched down to eat a small mouse from the edge of the pile. He devoured it quickly, almost in one complete bite, and it didn't do much to ease his hunger. But his conscience refused him any more prey, so he made his way over to Stormfur to help him with the thorns.

What seemed like moons later but in reality was merely an hour, the thorns were cleared and Stormfur disappeared into the warriors den. Brambleclaw had no idea how thirsty he was until a piece of soaked moss was placed in front of his face, and he turned to see a pair of warm green eyes gazing at him intently.

The young warrior found himself chilled yet heating up at the same time in Squirrelflight's presence. A hot shiver rolled down his spine. "Drink," she meowed softly, her gentle voice soothing his ears. "You need it."

When he had gratefully squeezed every drop of water from the moss, Squirrelflight picked up the damp greenery and dabbed it daintily on his shoulder wound. With all the reparations and his piercing hunger, he'd completely forgotten the blood dripping from his numb shoulder.

"You should get Cinderp - Leafpool to look at that," Squirrelflight advised. Her eyes dropped at the near-mention of their beloved dead medicine cat's name.

"Thanks," meowed Brambleclaw. He studied the warmth and kindness radiating from her and glowing in her eyes, a stark contrast to the tension and anger she'd expressed for him before the battle. He paused, but then continued firmly. "Listen, Squirrelflight, I'm sorry, for everything -"

"I know," she whispered.

Brambleclaw's head swam. His heart soared at the simple closeness of her body, and that familiar chill tumbled through his limbs as she brushed his flank. "Squirrelflight, you and I -"

"I'm sorry, Brambleclaw." Her voice was filled with unexpected sorrow, but lacked any trace of regret. "I value your friendship, I really do. But... I've chosen to be with Ashfur."

They say that in some extreme injuries, like a skull-crushing rock or a claw slicing through the throat, that it takes a moment for the pain to register. The victim blinks once, twice, and then finally the brain recognizes the injury and sends the poor cat sprawling forward in unbearable agony.

Brambleclaw opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out - he didn't believe it, couldn't believe it, wouldn't believe it - but then finally the tidal wave looming above his head crashed down on him. He felt himself drowning and choked for breath, but the world had suddenly become devoid of air. Or if the air was present, the oxygen that had once fed him life was now sucking it from his very limbs.


Her voice seemed distant, as if she were in another universe. He was suddenly afraid that if he reached forward to touch her she wouldn't be there, and his paw would pass right through as though she were merely a ghost hovering on the wind, haunting him.

"Brambleclaw, are you alright?"

He didn't know how, but somehow the words scrambled in his brain found their way to his lips. "Y-yeah. I'll be fine," he forced out. Before he knew it, his numb legs were carrying him in the direction of the warriors den, his wet amber eyes unseeing.

Squirrelflight watched him go with a fierce pain in her heart, as if Brambleclaw's spirit was clawing her soul out from within. She hadn't wanted to hurt him. She genuinely valued his friendship, but was afraid she'd just lost it forever.

She swallowed the lump of sorrow forming in her throat. There was one thing she could do to make herself feel better, and that was finish what she started.

She had to find Ashfur.


Brightheart daintily laid cobwebs across Ashfur's injured side. The fur had been torn right off his flank, leaving a section of raw, bloody flesh. He winced and flinched as the one-eyed she-cat dabbed marigold leaves on the tender skin.

"To prevent infection," she meowed soothingly. "Just a moment longer, Ashfur. Hang in there."

When she was finally finished, the young warrior pulled himself to his paws. He immediately felt himself swaying and losing his balance, and his side burned as if it had caught fire. He barred his teeth and hissed in pain, but just when he thought he was going to fall over, a comforting presence steadied him from the side.

"Ashfur, are you okay?" It was Squirrelflight. Oh thank StarClan, it was Squirrelflight. There was no cat living or dead Ashfur would rather have had at his side just then. She let him lean on her, taking his weight upon herself as he steadied his weary, torn paws.

"I'm fine," he meowed finally, after a moment of composing himself.

"Yeah right." Squirrelflight and Brightheart exchanged amused glances as they spoke at the same time. "Get some rest, Ashfur," Brightheart mewed sympathetically. "Try not to move as much in the next few days. Be good, and maybe this lovely she-cat will help you to the den."

"Oh, I don't know." Squirrelflight's eyes sparkled in the sunlight, ginger tail waving playfully. "He'll have to be very good."

"C'mon, I'm injured!" Ashfur gave her a wide-eyed, pleading look she couldn't resist.

"Hmm... alright." Ashfur yipped triumphantly at his victory. "But you need to help me," Squirrelflight added sternly. "I'm not dragging your sorry tail back without any help whatsoever."

"Agreed." He leaned heavily on her as she started walking, trying to keep in step. They fell into a companionable silence, with Squirrelflight's presence acting as a natural painkiller for the gray-furred warrior. After the silence had stretched on to long for her liking, Squirrelflight broke it.

"Hey, Ashfur," she began cautiously.

"Yeah?" His eyes remained focused ahead as he tried not to trip over a root or misplaced stick, but his ears were all hers.

"Did you ever... consider..."

"We could be more than just friends," he completed.

Squirrelflight's fur prickled with excitement. His simple soft mew had been the final piece to her puzzle, completing the sentence she had so longed to hear him utter. She had known that he would accept and agree - she had seen the look in his eyes every time they fell on her, heard the tone of his voice every time he spoke of her, but there was that shred of doubt at the back of her mind that just needed to be erased. Now it was gone. Her heart soared into the mountains, and she suddenly felt light enough to fly like a leaf on the wind.

"Yeah," she whispered. "We could be more than just friends."

And in that moment, she knew she'd done the right thing. The decision that had agonized her for months no longer weighed on her mind. She had loved Brambleclaw, but in a different way. She had forgiven him for everything he'd done to her in the past few moons, and despite it still loved him dearly as a friend and companion, but not as the cat she truly wanted to be with forever. There was a special place in her heart reserved for that cat - and that cat was Ashfur.

She felt her tail entwining with his, soft gray fur against her fiery ginger, and looked into his eyes. The depths of his warm cerulean blue eyes could have gone on forever. It reminded her of the sun-drown-place, with the endless expanse of deep blue water lapping at the soft sands and the bright sun shimmering on the horizon.

She didn't notice the irony.

In fact, she didn't notice anything other than her lover at her side - not even Brambleclaw's cold amber eyes burning into their backs.

A/N: This story is AU from the beginning of Sunset. The Power of Three does not and will not exist. Some events and objects will be canon, but most will not.

BramblexSquirrel lovers and Ashfur haters: Hate me all you want. Send me hatemail. Flame. But I'll keep writing, because admit it, AshxSquirrel is so much fun.