Moon woke beside Elemental, and it formed a purr in his throat to see his mate, snoring softly, with her paw over her nose. He nudged her affectionately and she opened one silver-blue eye to look at him.
“Good morning.” She purred sleepily.
“Hi.” Moon chuckled. “You up for a morning hunt?”
Elemental yawned. “Sure.”
They both padded out of the caves together and emerged into the frosty morning.
“It’s almost cold this morning.” Elemental snorted.
“Yeah.” Moon agreed. “Winter’s getting closer.”
“I agree.” Moon and Elemental turned to see Jade padding out of the caves. “Do you mind if I come with you guys?” She asked. “I could do with a hunt.”
Moon shrugged. “Sure.” He meowed. The three of them set off into the forest. Moon took the lead, searching for prey, while Elemental and Jade chatted behind him.
“You know, I’m so happy you and Moon are mates.” Jade was saying to Elemental.
“Well, I’m pretty happy about it too.” Elemental chuckled.
“I just always knew you guys liked each other though. It was all I could do not to force you guys together.” Jade laughed.
“Enough talk about me and Moon though, what about you and Cody?” Elemental asked.
Jade let out a happy sigh. “He’s so sweet.” She purred. “I couldn’t ask for a better mate.”
Moon couldn’t resist smiling. Most other male cats would have been disgusted at the idea of their sisters having mates, but Moon was glad that Jade and Cody were together. Cody was his best friend and he knew he would treat Jade well.
Spotting a mouse in the leaves, Moon signalled to Elemental and Jade with his tail. The two she-cats crept around the bushes and waited at separate places, while Moon began to stalk the mouse from behind. He crept towards it carefully, then leaped, landing just behind it. The mouse squealed in terror and shot off towards the bushes where Elemental and Jade were hiding. Moon watched as both of the she-cats dove towards it. Unfortunately, they were both a split-second too late and the mouse ran straight past them. Jade sped off after it and Moon and Elemental followed, the trees blurring around them as they ran through the trees.
Suddenly, Jade dropped to the ground with a yowl. Moon dashed up to her in alarm.
“What’s wrong?” Elemental asked, coming up beside him.
“My…my kits! I think they’re coming!” Jade screeched, her eyes wide with pain.
“Kits? What-when did-what?” Moon was completely confused, his alarm growing.
“They weren’t supposed to come for another month.” Jade gasped. “I was going to tell you…” She trailed off and let out another yowl of agony.
Elemental turned to Moon, urgency in her eyes. “Get help!” She yowled.
Moon nodded quickly and dashed back towards the caves, his heart thudding with fear, knowing full well how dangerous it was for kits to be born early. He burst into the clearing, but no cat was out and he ran into the caves, yowling as loudly as I could, “Help! Jade’s kits are coming, we need help!”
The first cat to come out was Cody, his fur on end and his eyes wide with alarm. “Now?” He gasped. “But this is way too early!”
The rest of the cats poured out after them and Moon led the way back through the forest to where Elemental was with Jade. Moon felt a stab of fear when he saw the blood on the grass.
Cody immediately rushed to Jade’s side and covered her face in soothing licks. Moon could see he was trying not to panic.
Splash pushed her way through the crowd and stood beside Moon. “Everyone but Cody and Tyger, get back to the caves.” She ordered. “Jade needs space.” The rest of the cats, Elemental included, bean to walk back, but Moon stayed back, and he noticed that Hayley did too.
“Please let us stay.” Moon begged Splash. “She’s our sister we want to be here for her.”
Splash nodded. “Okay, but be ready to run back to the caves and get supplies if they’re needed.”
Jade was still screeching in pain, writhing in the grass. Moon’s claws worked in and out of the dirt in fear for his sister. Neither Splash’s nor Zowie’s kitting had been like this, so he knew something was very wrong. The scent of blood hit his nose and he tried not to panic, for everyone’s sake.
“Cody, help me!” Jade screamed, tears flooding from her eyes and she reached her paw towards him. “It hurts so much!”
“Hold on Jade, just hold on.” Cody soothed, fear trembling in his voice.
Splash was stroking Jade’s flank with her tail. “Just keep going Jade, you’re doing fine.” For all the leader’s calm words, there was a spark of fear in her eyes that she wouldn’t voice. “Moon.” Moon jumped as she spoke to him. “You and Hayley go back to the caves and get me some raspberry leaves. Do you know what they look like?”
Moon nodded tightly, then he and Hayley dashed off through the forest. Back at the caves, Zowie was waiting for them.
“Is everything okay?” She asked, her blue eye shining with worry for her daughter
“We need raspberry leaves.” Hayley told her, clearly avoiding the question.
Zowie nodded, dashed into the caves, and then reappeared with the leaves between her jaws. Taking them from her, Moon and Hayley sped back to Jade and passed them to Splash.
“Will she be okay?” Moon whispered to Splash as his leader crushed up the leaves.
Splash sighed, her deep green eyes anxious. “I don’t know Moon. She’s a strong young cat, but…I’ve never dealt with this before.” She shook her head in despair and whispered words under her breath that Moon barely caught. “It’s times like this that I need Camille and Coal.”
A loud wail of pain made both cats snap their attention back to Jade. Splash shoved the raspberry leaves to her and ordered her to swallow them. Jade weakly did as she was told, then yowled again. Moon saw a powerful ripple pass through her body. Jade screeched again and Moon heard a cry of triumph from Splash. The leader bent down and grabbed something in her mouth and passed it to Moon.
“Lick its fur the wrong way.” She told him. Moon obediently bent down and began licking the kit’s wet black fur so that it spiked up. He felt a wave of affection as he realized that this little she-kit was his niece.
“The next one’s here.” Splash announced. She passed this one to Tyger, who licked it the same way as Moon had licked the one he had.
“Come one Jade.” Cody was murmuring to his mate. “Just one more to go, I know you can do it.”
Jade yowled in agony again, her whole body stiffening as she struggled to push out the final kit. With one last screech, Jade relaxed and Moon saw the last kit slip out. Splash took this one, nipping open the sac and starting to lick it, but Moon noticed with growing dread that this one was not responding. The look Splash gave him confirmed his fears. This kit was never going to take its first breath.
Moon watched Splash take the kit away, and then he picked up the kit he had and laid it beside his sister’s belly and Tyger did the same. The two kits began to suckle, but Moon didn’t think Jade had even noticed. He watched as Cody nudged her, urging her to look at their kits. Jade shifted her head and barely managed to lift it, but stared at her kits with love in her gray-green eyes. Cody pressed his muzzle against hers and purred deeply enough for Moon to hear. Tyger licked his daughter’s ears affectionately.
Then Jade laid her head down again and Moon felt a rush of alarm. He turned to Splash, who had returned from burying the dead kit. “Is she okay?”
Splash nodded, her eyes warm. “She’ll be fine. She just needs a lot of rest.” She stood up. “Come on.” She ordered. “Let’s get them to the nursing cave.” Cody and Splash carried the kits, while Tyger, Moon and Hayley helped Jade walk back. When they returned, Zowie rushed up to Jade.
“Jade!” She gasped. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine…” Jade rasped.
“Why didn’t you say you were expecting kits?” Zowie continued. “You should have been in the nursing caves, resting. Do you know how worried I was?” For all her scolding, Zowie’s eye shone with love and relief as she ushered her daughter away. As they left, Elemental came rushing out. “Did it go okay?” She asked.
“Yes.” Moon purred. “They’ve got two kits and Jade’s very weak, but she’ll live.”
Elemental let out a sigh of relief. “That’s good news.” She purred.
Moon pressed his muzzle against hers. “Yes, it is.” He agreed. He couldn’t imagine life to be any more perfect than it was now.