Just because Nightcloud loves Crowfeather is no reason to hate her.

You are three moons old, and you tussle with him, paws batting as the two of you roll over and over. Your mothers watch in amusement, and even the serious warriors smile indulgently as they step over you on their way through camp. You don't know it, but they are whispering about you, already naming the kits they are sure you will have with him when you grow up. And that is fine. You are loving friends, and nothing more matters. You pin him to the ground and the two of you laugh with exhilaration and the bright, innocent love of kithood.

You are six moons old, and you are standing with him and his siblings at your naming ceremony, calling out the loudest for him and hearing him do the same for you. You are apprentices, nervous but endlessly anticipatory of what the rest of your life will bring. You glance at each other in the moonlight, and share a glowing smile that says everything.

You are eight moons old, and you two are sharing tongues together. You stay calm, but you are burning up within because Hazepaw has looked at you. And Crowpaw notices, but instead of throwing out a barbed comment, as he often does, he shares a knowing look with you, and you are filled with a rush of affection for him, because he knows you as well as you know yourself, maybe better. And you know that he will never betray or hurt you, that he will always be there for you.

But then he isn't- he is gone, and no one knows what has happened to him. You can't believe that he would abandon his Clan, but there is no other explanation for his absence, just as there is no one like him there for you. So you turn to Hazepaw, but there is nothing between you, not the endless love you had imagined as a young apprentice, not the passion you had at least assumed would fill the gap in your heart that aches with every breathe you take. You wonder if there really is such thing as love, and if so whether you will ever find it.

He is back, but he is not the proud, upright apprentice you remember from before. Instead, he is bowed and broken by the death of a she-cat now gone. And you cannot help him, because a wall has grown up in his absence, a wall of missed feelings. You try to comfort him, but despite your care he is dying, dying like the forest around you as your whole life comes to pieces around him and his message of despair. Soon, you know, you will leave the place of your happy kithood behind for a place that can only hold more heartbreak. And you know you will leave his soul behind you too, and that all that will be left is this shell of a cat. So you hold him and tell him that it will be all right, your empty words echoing across the desolate fields, because you know that he has changed and that you will never really know him again.

You travel across the wide world with him, through Twolegplaces and mountains where his grief threatens to overwhelm him as he crouches beside a waterfall of endless, crashing rainbows. You walk beside him every step of the way, your flanks brushing his as you silently try to let him know that you are there for him, that you can listen if he needs to talk or cry. But he is beyond you, and he just shakes his head and walks away, you leaping after him. Eventually you give up, and walk alone, leaving him to his friends from the journey, who now know him better than you do. It hurts you.

You shout the loudest at his warrior ceremony, wishing that he had been there for yours. You stand up to those who insult him, you do every you can to be there for him, knowing all the time that it can never be enough. But it is worth all the work to see a spark of the old Crowpaw blink in his sad eyes, and you think hopefully that maybe he will recover after all.

He seems happy enough when he helps you to settle into your new home, and you allow yourself to believe that this is a fresh start for him as well as the Clan. At his insistence you keep your distances, covering for him as he spends more and more time out 'hunting.' You only approach him at night, sleeping beside him as you try to transfer all your love through your warm fur against his. You see that he seems to be healing, but you do not try to rekindle the embers of your lost friendship. That sort of complete openess is impossible now, as adults with responsibilities riding on you.

Then he disappears again, and you don't know what to think. Will he be better or worse when he comes home again? Will he come home again? You and his family no longer are enough to tie him to this existence. Maybe he has simply thrown himself into the lake. Your heart sings as he returns, and you are untouchable in battle as you fight. How can badgers stand against this rush of joy, that your Crowfeather has returned?

You don't really know how to feel when you hear about his elicit romance with the ThunderClan medicine cat. You are glad that she was able to help him through everything, but you feel hurt that she did for him what you could not, that all your support was swept away, tiny in the force of her love. And though you stopped believing in love long ago, you can almost believe that that was what he had shared with her.

He is more touchy and irritable now, but he functions and that is the best that can be expected of him, really. You watch, torn, as he is belittled, or worse, ignored by your Clanmatres, and it breaks your heart. Once, you would have thrown yourself between him and them, uncaring about the consequences, but now you know he wouldn't want that. And somehow, you can't bring yourself to sacrifice all for a cat who left you for another.

But one night, when everyone else has gone to sleep and everything is still as glass, you see him. He does not scream, or whisper their names, but a single tear trickles down his cheek and catches in his whiskers like a bead of moonlight, and you know that he cannot go on much longer like this.

So in the morning, you take him as your mate. You do the one thing that hurts you the most, and show the Clan his loyalty, show him the cat who has always tried to be there for him. You stay beside him when it is proper to do so, and show him affection when it is necessary. You bear his son and listen to him, night after night as he talks to them in his sleep, and hear their names slip like cool water through his parched lips- Feathertail, Leafpool. You know that you are not them, that you are just Nightcloud, and you try to believe that it doesn't matter or hurt. You decided long ago that there was no such thing as real love, but sometimes his sleeping voice makes you wonder, and then it hurts all the more that you know such affections can never be felt for you.

Well, that turned out different than expected, and I'm not sure how much, I like the ending, but whatever. Review with feedback, sympathies, comments, and/or wild rants on how much you hate her. Just let me know how you feel, and if possible how I can make this better.

-Stardawn, Nightcloud sympathizer extrordinare.