A ginger tom walked down a road filled with twolegs nests on either side on one unusually hot day in leaf-fall. He’d been recently informed that his mate, Nutmeg, had their kits and was on his way to visit them for the first time. Jake was overflowing with excitement, wondering if any will look like him; but at the same time was worried, worried if there had been any complications during the kitting or if the kittens wouldn’t like him.
A smell in the air caused him to pause in alarm; smoke! Looking around he spotted a large pillowing cloud of smoke in the direction of his mate’s twoleg den. Fear filled him, but he pushed forward, forcing himself to race toward the smoke, hoping it wasn’t coming from where he thought it was.
As he rounded a road corner, he came to a dead halt at the sight. Several twoleg dens were on fire, including his mate’s, twolegs were everywhere yowling loudly at each other. Large bright red monsters lined the road, twolegs were holding large floppy tree trunks that sprayed water on the raging flames.
“Nutmeg!” he cried out over the noise as he approached the crowd of gathered twolegs, some holding their cats or gripping the leashes of their dogs, looking for his mate. He spots the Twolegs that owned Nutmeg and moved toward them, feeling relieved. Nutmeg and the kits would be with them. But as he grew closer to them, they had their hands empty and nothing with them. No Nutmeg, no kits. Fear gripped him again. “Nutmeg! Where are you?” he yowled.
“Jake! Jake!” a voice called out his name, catching his attention and he turned toward it. A cat nestled in the arms of her twoleg called to him, her color-pointed fur fluffed up and blue eyes stretched wide.
“Irene!” Jake called back to her as he made his way over to her. “Do you know where Nutmeg and the kits are?” he asked her, hoping she’d tell him that his mate and kits were in a safe place.
Irene’s eyes seemed to stretch further in fear and terror. “I don’t know! No one saw her leave the den; I think she may still be in there!”
His thoughts shuttered to halt and the thunderous sounds all died down to a dull roar as he slowly turned to Nutmeg’s den. The building had the most flames and the water the twolegs were pouring on it were barely making a difference. Without a thought entering his mind and as if his body moved on its own, he hurled himself into a run toward the flames, if anyone called after him he didn't hear it.
Jumping through the open entrance of the flaming twoleg den, his senses came flooding back to him, his body telling him he shouldn’t be here. The heat was unbearable, the smoke choked him, and the light of the flames nearly blinded him with their brightness. The flames, they were everywhere on the ground, climbing up the walls and even on the ceiling.
A cracking noise filled the air, sounding above him. Jake leapt forward, away from the sound and just in time as part of the ceiling above where he had just been standing came crumbling down. The den was falling apart, he had to find Nutmeg before the whole thing comes down. “Nutmeg!” he called out, listening closely in an effort to try to hear her. “Where are you? Nutmeg!” But he heard no answer.
He searched the den, being as quick as he could yet remaining cautious. He’d nearly been through the whole place and he was starting to think she had managed to escape with the kits when he spotted a bundle of fur in a far corner of a black smoke filled room, ignoring cation he ran to her side. “Nutmeg, there you are! We have to get out of here!” he meowed, frantic.
She didn’t answer him. She didn’t even move.
He reached out a paw to prod her.
The push jolted her body out of an curled position and laid further still. She was dead.
“No!” he wailed.
Along belly lay several tiny bodies. Jake began to turn to leave, but tiny cries suddenly filled his ears over the roar of the flames. Looking back at the kits he saw that not all were dead, two were still alive, fighting to breathe.
He picked them up, they were small enough for him to pick them up by their scruffs at the same time. There was only one way out, the way he had come in and didn’t have much time to get them out alive. He had quickly made his way there with no issue, but there they encountered a problem.
The debris that had nearly fallen on him when he first entered was still there, blocking the entrance with a wall of flames. There was no other way out, he would have to jump through the fire to get out.
He backed up to give himself room for a running start. Tucking his head close to his chest, hoping it would help protect the kits at least a little. He took off at a full on sprint, jumping through the wall of flame and out of the burning building. He felt intense heat and pain on his back, the stench of burning fur filled his nose. He was on fire! But he couldn’t stop quite yet, he had to get his kits to safety so he kept running.
He stopped some ways away and after carefully putting down his kits, drops down on the back, rolling in the dirt to extinguish the remaining flames on himself. The kits mewed beside him, tiny voices rough from the smoke. He leaned over them to mew soft words at them. They might be hungry, but he had nothing to give them, but perhaps water could help soothe their irritated throats.
He found a small creek that runs through twoleg place and placed them in the shade of a bush not too far from the creek bank, he was concerned about placing them too close to the creek and them rolling into it, but he didn't want them out of his sight, afraid something else might hurt them. He slipped into the creek water, the cold water cooling his burns. He took some moss growing along the bank and soaked it, coaxing the kits to drink from it.
Jake thought about where to take his kits. His twoleg was the obvious choice, they would take the kits to the vet and get them the care they need, but he’d worry they would be separated from him and who would protect them then? He could try to find a queen to take them in, but he would probably not be wanted to linger. He couldn’t take care of them by himself, plus twoleg place was starting to get dangerous with that stray gang roaming the roads. There was only one place that they could go, where they’d be safe and be able to stay together. He gathered his kits up and headed for the moors, traveling the rest of the day and all night to get there.
He entered WindClan territory at dawn, hoping to come across the friendlier Clan members. As he walked, the kits finally sleeping from exhaustion, he spied a cat up ahead. Cautiously, he headed toward them. The cat turned to see him, the dawn rays catching on their black and white fur.
Talltail! Just the cat he wanted to see. The WindClan tom hurried over to him, joy and confusion in his eyes. “Jake! What are you doing in WindClan territory?” he meowed before noticing the state the kittypet was in. “What happened? Those burns look bad. Are the kits hurt too?”
Jake placed his kits down gently. “There was a fire,” he meowed, his voice hoarse from the smoke he had breathed in. “Their mother is dead and I don't want to leave them. Can you speak to your Clan to take us in, Talltail?”
“I can guarantee that WindClan will take you and your kits in,” the black and white tom said confidently. At Jake’s confused look he meowed, “I’m Tallstar now, WindClan’s leader. Come, I’ll take you to camp and have our medicine cat look you over.”
Jake nodded, feeling so reassured from just the presence of the black and white tom. The Clan leader bent down and took one of the tiny kits by the scuff and beconded Jake to follow with a flick of his tail. The ginger kittypet took the other kit and followed the other tom through a tangle of gorse and into a dip in the moors, WindClan’s cozy camp in the middle of the moors.
They entered one of the burrows and a dark brown tom turned to greet them. “Tallstar,” the tom greeted before turning his gaze on the two kits and Jake. And then everything started to blur together from his exhaustion. The tom, the medicine cat named Barkface, treated the kits the best he could while Tallstar existed the den.
The black and white leader returned with a brown she-cat following him in. “This is Wrenflight, she’s agreed to take the kits in,” he meowed.
The queen turned to look at Jake before looking back at the tiny kits. “What are their names?” she asked the ginger tom.
Everything seemed to grind to a halt just then. Names? He had barely even looked at the kits this whole time, too overwhelmed with concern for their safety to properly look at them. He looked at them now and saw one was a fiery ginger, just like him, and the other was a brown tabby, looking exactly like their mother. “I don’t even know their genders,” he mewed in a breathy whisper.
“The ginger one is a tom and tabby is a she-cat,” Wrenflight informed kindly.
Jake looked at the ginger kit closer, it’s fiery coat bringing to mind the fire he had found them in. He remembered the naming traditions that Tallstar had told him about so long ago and knew that if his son were to fit in he should follow the Clan way. “Firekit for the tom,” he meowed at last. He turned to the she-kit and felt his heart break a little at how similar she was to her late mother. Jake looked up to his friend and asked, “Can you the she-kit?”
Tallstar blinked, not expecting to be ask to name a kit and he looked down at her. “Dawnkit as she came to WindClan at dawn,” he finally said.
Wrenflight nodded and picked up the kits by their scruffs and left the medicine den, leaving the three toms alone.
“You should get some rest as well,” Barkface meowed to Jake.
And just like that the fatigue weighted down on him and it became hard to keep his eyes open. “Come, I’ll let you take my den, I hardly use it anyway,” he heard Tallstar say. Jake followed the other tom out of the medicine den and into a different burrow that housed a single nest of moss and feathers. He collapsed onto it, letting out a sigh of relief. “I’ll leave you to sleep in peace and bring some food for you later.”
“No, stay,” Jake mewed, looking up at his tall friend. His thoughts were suddenly filled with Nutmeg. “I was a horrible mate to her,” he confessed.
When the ginger tom didn’t say anything else, the leader meowed, “Why would you say that? I’m sure you were a great mate to her.”
“No, I wasn’t. She gave me her heart, she loved me so much, but I was unable to do the same,” Jake meowed. An awkward silence enveloped the two. “All the time that I spent with her I kept thinking of someone else, that I wished she was someone else. I wished she was you.” He closed his eyes, not wanting to see Tallstar’s reaction.
There was a weighted pause before, “I never forgot the time we spent together and I often wonder what would happen if I had gone to live with you. I could never take a mate because all I ever think about is you. I loved you, Jake, and I still do.”
Jake opened his eyes and let out a purr that irritated his hoarse throat. “I love you, Tallstar. I'm sorry it took me so long to figure it out.”
“It's alright, let us speak more of this another time. You need to rest,” he meowed trying to sound stern but his meow came out soft and warm. “I’ll come by later with some food and we can figure everything out then.”
Jake laid his head down and quickly fell asleep, having the best sleep he’s had in a very long time.