Here's the second Omen of the Gleeks!
“Hey, Tigerclaw, could I talk to you?” I called to the other warrior, out of breath. We were on a border patrol together, and it was difficult to catch up to his massive strides.
“I know what you want to ask me, Flame Shoe,” he yowled back. “I don’t think any of the Special Guard would want to join Glee Club. They don’t see it as very cool and in style.”
“Can’t I just talk to them myself?” I gasped from lack of air.
“Fine, I’ll set up a time in the training hollow for you to talk to them,” mewed Tigerclaw.
During the Special Guard’s next training session, Tigerclaw told us to gather around, that Fireheart had something to say to us. This should be interesting, I thought, sitting down beside Bramblepaw.
“Hey, guys,” greeted Fireheart. It looked like he was speaking more to me than the other guys, since I was his apprentice. Either way, I was a little embarrassed.
“I’m here to talk to you about something a little different,” he continued. “I want to talk about music. New Directions, the Glee Club, needs toms, and we could use you guys.”
No way, I thought, and I knew the other guys were thinking that, too. When Tigerclaw dismissed us, none of us went up and told Fireheart that we were interested.
After training, I headed towards the waterfall on the north side of the territory. It’s where my friends and I sometimes hang out, but often I like to go there alone and just stand under the waterfall, feeling the cold rush on my pelt. The other guys say I’m crazy, which is why I like to go alone.
When I caught sight of that beautiful pool and the water gushing down, something awakened inside of me. And when I stepped under the water, I started to sing.
Click  to listen to Crowpaw Hudson sing “Can’t Fight This Feeling.”
And right then and there, I could understand why singing was so important to Fireheart. It made you realize the gift in you that you didn’t even know you had. It was the only talent that complete losers had. I didn’t want to join a geeky club, but I didn’t want to make fun of it anymore, either.
After swimming around in the pool, I got out, shook off my fur, and headed back to camp. I swore I could see a flash of orange fur before I left the clearing. And when I got back to camp, there was Fireheart waiting for me, with a leaf filled with poppy seeds.
“You want to tell me how long you’ve been snarfing down poppy seeds?” he snarled.
“What?” I asked in disbelief. “I’ve only had poppy seeds after I’ve gotten injured in battle training, and Spottedleaf told me to eat it.”
“But I found these in your usual nest in the apprentices’ den,” he growled. “And when I asked Spottedleaf, she said she hadn’t given you any.”
I felt my legs tremble. I didn’t even know where those poppy seeds came from, but there was no use arguing against my mentor. I shook my head, not sure what to do.
“Crowpaw, this is serious,” meowed Fireheart sternly. “You could lose your place in the Special Guard or even be exiled from McKinleyClan for this.”
“Just…” I took a deep breath. “Just don’t tell my mom.”
Fireheart seemed to relax a little then. “I see a lot of myself in you, Crowpaw. I know what it’s like to struggle to make good choices, and I don’t want to see you throw away everything you’ve got.”
That really got to me, what Fireheart said, because every day I struggle to make good choices. I struggle with peer pressure and all the stuff the other apprentices have to face. You see, I never knew my father; he died in battle before I even opened my eyes. So my mom, Ashfoot, and I have always been really close. But she’s always been a hard-working warrior and trying to forget what happened to my dad, which I know is hard for her.
The only good time for my mother was when a traveling loner, Pine, passed through McKinleyClan’s territory and stayed with the Clan for a few days. I was only a kit then, and I took to him right away. So did my mom. The best part was that he could sing; that was the first time I really heard music, when he, my mom, and I would be lying outside the nursery on a hot greenleaf day and just singing little tunes he knew. It made me feel alive, joyful, emotional.
It was a sad day when another loner, a she-cat, showed up at camp, and Pine ran off with her. My mom was really tired and depressed for a few days, staying inside the nursery, something she tried to never do very much. I knew at that moment that I would do whatever it took to make my mom proud of me, to show that all her suffering was worth it. That’s really the reason why I joined the Special Guard when I became an apprentice.
“You have two options.” Fireheart’s voice brought me out of my thoughts. “I can tell Onestar about this, and you face whatever punishment he chooses. Or you can join New Directions.”
I must say, I was quite impressed with the new male lead. Normally, I’m not that interested in the Special Guard types, but Crowpaw had the guts to choose New Directions, after all. And he could sing. And he was good-looking as well.
The first rehearsal we had with him was where we sang a duet of “You’re the One That I Want.” In my opinion, it was the best rehearsal yet. We started off on opposite sides of the makeshift “stage” in the dump, formed by dumpsters, and as my solo came up, I showed off my talent of singing and moving at the same time. I harmlessly bumped the other four members out of the way, until finally, I was right next to Crowpaw. He looked pleasantly surprised to see me.
“Oh great StarClan to the no!” That was the only bad part, when Hollypaw interrupted us. “Look, I’m not into this background singing nonsense. I am Beyonce! I am Sasha Fierce!”
“Hollypaw, you could have just let them finish,” groaned Fireheart.
“And it’s the first time we’ve actually been good,” chimed in Stormpaw.
“Alright, Crowpaw is good, I’ll give him that,” admitted Hollypaw reluctantly. “But he better bring it. Now, let’s try that again.”
“Alright, from the top,” chuckled Fireheart.
You wouldn’t believe how glad I was to be out of the nursery on a cool leaf-fall night. The leaves were turning all sorts of shades of red and gold; it was too bad they didn’t stay on too long. Instead, they covered the ground, making it hard to hunt stealthily and leaving the trees bare.
But at least Fireheart was with me. I hadn’t heard anything about that revolting New Directions for days, ever since my mate’s own apprentice joined the club.
“Isn’t this fun?” I meowed excitedly, leaping into a pile of leaves.
“I haven’t been on a night hunt in a while,” he mewed in awe, glancing at the forest around us. “It’s definitely nice.”
“And hopefully, our kits will be able to experience it,” I added.
He nodded. “Yes, if we keep trying, I would definitely want our kits to see this. You know, I wanted to talk to you about something.”
“What?” I asked, brushing the leaves off my fur.
“The Gathering is a few days from now, and since the Twoleg dump is on the edge of the territory, I’ve talked to AdrenalineClan’s Glee Club leader a few times while he was out on border patrols. Their Glee Club, Vocal Adrenaline, is going to host a performance just after the Gathering, so I was going to take New Directions to their camp to watch. Of course, Onestar wants more warriors to go for safety purposes, so I was wondering if you wanted to volunteer.”
“At the Gathering?” I asked in mock surprise. “Fireheart, no. There are other queens in McKinleyClan, and as the head queen, I am responsible for looking after them. And Barley, because you know what trouble he gets into.”
“Sandstorm, explain to me what a head queen is,” he mewed, raising an eyebrow. My, he didn’t know anything, did he? “You haven’t even had one litter yet, and there are she-cats in the Clan that are far older and more experienced than you.”
“Then explain to me why you would want some old soon-to-be elders watch over the Clan’s fertility!” I snarled. “What, do you think they’re prettier than me?”
“What? No!” He gave his paw a lick and rubbed himself behind the ears. “Sandstorm, ever since I started New Directions, it seems like you’ve been trying to discourage me.”
What was he talking about? Well, I sort of knew, but I wasn’t about to admit that.
“Have you ever considered that I want different things that you do?” I meowed slowly, my lower lip trembling. “You know, I understand your interest in these apprentices, Fireheart. You’re trying to relive your own days as an apprentice, back when Glee Club was actually a little decent. But I’m not the little preppy she-cat anymore, and you’re not the pitch-perfect little tom. It’s time to move on, Fireheart. Both of us have to move on.”
I slowly bit into my shrew, shrinking back from Tigerclaw’s rather disgusting eating habits. What was the point of ripping a perfectly good hare to bits strewn across the camp?
“Hey, Spottedleaf, Tigerclaw.” My heart skipped a beat when I heard Fireheart’s voice. I turned around to see him approach the fresh-kill pile.
“I’m sure you’ve heard already that I’m taking New Directions to AdrenalineClan’s camp after the Gathering to watch their Glee Club perform,” he meowed. “I was wondering if you two would like to come with us. Onestar wants at least one other warrior to come, just for safety.”
“I’d be happy to,” I replied almost automatically.
Tigerclaw narrowed his eyes at me for a brief moment, and then turned back to Fireheart. “Sorry, I planned a Special Guard practice after the Gathering. Besides, I’d rather not stay awake all night listening to yowling apprentices. Not my thing.”
I was sharpening my claws on an oak tree when I heard snarling behind me. Glancing around, I saw Tigerclaw screeching at Crowpaw. Not a normal sight, since Crowpaw is the goody-goody of the Special Guard. He’s cool, and he’s my friend, but he’s normally not the one to do something so out of line that he gets growled at by Tigerclaw. That’s often my position.
As the rest of the Special Guard and I headed back to camp, I caught up with Crowpaw. “What did you do to get Tigerclaw mad?”
“Oh, I just need to miss training after the Gathering,” he replied vaguely.
“Why? You never miss training.”
“I have to help my mom out.”
“Your mom? Ashfoot’s one of the toughest she-cats in the Clan.” And good-looking, too, but I wouldn’t mention that to Crowpaw. “Why do you need to help her?”
“She, uh, got injured.”
“What type of injury?”
“Some Twoleg, um, took her to the cutter.”
“Send her my sympathy, man.”
As hard as I had trained in the Special Guard, I was nervous about visiting AdrenalineClan after the Gathering. Not just because we were going to another Clan’s territory; for the entire Gathering, Featherpaw was never more than a mousetail away from me. She was starting to creep me out, especially since she kept trying to dance with me while we sang at Glee rehearsals.
When the Gathering was over and the other McKinleyClan cats headed back home, Fireheart and Spottedleaf, along with a few AdrenalineClan warriors, escorted us to their camp. And for the whole time, Featherpaw was jabbering on about nonsense. It was only when we were about halfway there that I decided to listen to her.
“I think the other club members expect a lot from us,” she was saying. “You’re the male lead, I’m the female lead. It’s only natural that they think of us as a couple.”
“You know, I, um,” I stammered nervously. “I don’t exactly have a mate, since I’m an apprentice, but…there’s a she-cat that I’m kind of together with.”
“Oh,” she mewed, taken aback. “Who’s that?”
“Squirrelpaw,” I purred.
“The head Cheerio named Squirrelpaw?” she gasped. “Leader of the Praise StarClan club?”
“Yep, that’s her. She’s a little picky about her, uh, personal bubble, and she’s constantly reminding me to pray to StarClan, but she’s cool. We’ve been a couple for almost a moon.”
“Well, I suppose that’s alright,” she meowed. “Just so you know, I don’t believe in personal bubbles.”
“Yeah, and I don’t believe in StarClan either.”
“Are you just making that up?”
“Do I need to remind you who my mentor is?”
We arrived at AdrenalineClan’s camp just after moonhigh. It was nice-looking and rather quiet compared to McKinleyClan’s camp. But when our escorts told us we could pick something from the fresh-kill pile, all we found were a couple toads. The apprentices were having a good time and daring each other to eat the amphibians, but I could see from the look on Spottedleaf’s face that she wasn’t going to even touch them.
Suddenly, her eyes lit up. “There’re berries in those bushes!”
In a flash, she sprinted over, picked some berries, and came back, carting the fruit in her mouth. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sight.
As she pushed a few berries towards me, I chuckled, “I haven’t eaten berries since I was an apprentice, and that was because of a dare—everyone thought they were deathberries. But I actually liked them. These aren’t deathberries, are they?”
“Nope.” She licked up one of the berries. “These are juniper. Completely harmless, and delicious.”
“Yeah, Sandstorm’s allergic to these,” I meowed, popping another berry into my mouth.
I stared at her, puzzled.
“Sorry, I mean it’s sweet that you don’t eat something that she’s allergic to.”
“Well, that, and it’s not exactly cool to eat berries. Then again, I was never cool as an apprentice, and we were in love then.”
“So you’ve been together for a long time?”
“Yeah, since we were apprentices. She used to have so much joy, but now…”
Just then, the leader of AdrenalineClan stood on the Highrock and called to gather around.
“Well, we better go,” I meowed hastily, licking up the last of the berries. “You don’t want to hear about my mate and me.”
“Oh, but I do,” she mewed, almost begging, as she trotted beside me towards the Highrock. “I mean, I don’t like it that you have problems, but as a medicine cat, I’m supposed to monitor all sorts of health, and that includes mental health and relationships.”
I nodded, sitting down amongst the other cats. “I see. Here’s the deal: Sandstorm is always pushing me to do better than I am already. It’s getting kind of annoying. I love her, don’t get me wrong, but I want us to be as close as we were when we were apprentices.”
I heard voices behind me and turned to see the apprentices settling behind us.
“Okay, guys,” I began, fully turning around. “Vocal Adrenaline is supposed to be our competition, but I don’t think we have anything to fear. So let’s be a good audience and watch closely.”
“And now, last moon’s Regional champions,” announced the leader, “Vocal Adrenaline!”
Click  to see Vocal Adrenaline perform “Rehab.” No, YouTube does not have the video because of stupid copyright.
“We’re d-d-doomed,” stuttered Mothpaw when the performance was over.
And that pretty much summed it up.
Now I felt supreme defeat as I walked through the tunnel back to camp with the other Glee Club apprentices. I didn’t care that much about the club, but would Fireheart force me to help them beat Vocal Adrenaline? It wasn’t up to me, was it?
“She-cats can’t be cut.”
I gulped and turned around, face-to-face with Bramblepaw, several other members of the Special Guard, and unsheathed claws.
“I asked Darkstripe,” explained Bramblepaw. “The creep’s an expert on that sort of thing. You broke the rules, and for that, you must pay.”
In a tussle of tooth, claw, and fur, I truly was humiliated—beaten by my best friend.
I had planned to sleep in the next morning, because of all the commotion the night before. But then I felt a paw poke me in the back of my head, and I opened my eyes to see Sandstorm in front of me.
“What are you doing in the warriors’ den?” I asked. “Plus, it’s still pretty early. I need some sleep.”
“I’m going to have kits,” she blurted out.
I blinked, thinking she was joking. But no, I knew that look on her face. She was serious.
A purr rumbled in my throat, and I slowly got up and sniffed her belly. There were lives inside of there…my kits. Our kits. I purred with joy, the first time I had done so since…since forever.
I felt like I was floating on air as Sandstorm and I trotted back to the nursery. We were talking about what we were going to name the kits, what they would look like, but mostly just pure nonsense. I didn’t care, though; I was the happiest I had ever been in a long time.
But when we finally ran out of things to say by late morning, and I left the nursery, there were the six New Directions apprentices standing outside.
“You said we were going to have a rehearsal today, Fireheart,” meowed Featherpaw.
“Yeah, we have to practice really hard if we’re going to beat Vocal Adrenaline,” agreed Ravenpaw.
I blinked and took a deep breath. “About that, guys…I don’t think I can be the leader of the club anymore.”
The apprentices looked at each other, too shocked to speak.
Then Hollypaw murmured, “It’s because of Vocal Adrenaline, isn’t it? You don’t think we can beat them. Please, Fireheart, we’ll practice really hard, like Ravenpaw said.”
“No, no, it’s not that at all,” I meowed quickly. “I really have faith in you guys. But I have to focus on the family I have to raise. Don’t worry, I’ll find a wonderful replacement.”
“So, does this mean I don’t have to be in the club anymore?” asked Crowpaw. He was met with glares from the other apprentices.
“Sometimes, when you’re a warrior, you have to make choices,” I explained. “And sometimes the right choice means you have to give things up. One day, you’ll become warriors, too, and understand that. Trust me, I have loved being with you guys.”
“What are you doing with my borage leaves?” I asked, trying to keep my voice calm. I had just entered my den and found Fireheart with several herbs in his mouth. Well, it was Fireheart, but I hate it when cats steal my herbs.
“Oh, I just need to give these to Sandstorm,” he explained, his voice muffled by the herbs in his mouth. “She said you told her these would be good for the kits.”
“Oh, yes,” I remembered with a pang. The last thing the Clan needed was a pregnant queen with constant mood changes. Especially when that queen was Sandstorm, and Fireheart’s mate…
“You may have heard, but I left New Directions a few days ago,” he meowed, placing the herbs gently on the ground (I shuddered, hoping they wouldn’t get too dirty). “I’m going to miss those apprentices. I’ll really only be seeing Crowpaw from now on.”
“I’ve heard.” I nodded, sad to see the forlorn expression on his face. “You know, how about you meet me here tomorrow at sunhigh? I think you need some guidance.”
“I’m going to be a father, Spottedleaf.” His voice had a twinge of a growl. “What I need is more time to care for my family.”
“Please, Fireheart, just meet me here.”
He sighed. “Alright.”
“Why weren’t you at the dump yesterday?”
I jumped, surprised by Featherpaw. I had been about to choose a mouse from the fresh-kill pile when she snuck up on me. She didn’t look too happy.
“Is that still going on?” I asked uncertainly.
“Yes, I’m leader now,” she meowed briskly. “Technically, the position is temporary, but since no warrior has chosen to become leader, I’m afraid it might become permanent.”
Just then, Squirrelpaw and a few of her friends from Cheerios approached the fresh-kill pile.
“Hi, Crowpaw,” greeted Squirrelpaw cheerfully. Then she noticed Featherpaw and hissed, “What are you doing, talking to her?”
“We were just about to go to the training hollow,” Featherpaw lied. “Our mentors noticed that we’re about the same level with blocks, and they want us to train together.”
Squirrelpaw still looked a little unsure, but she shook it off. “Want to go hunting with me later today?”
“That’ll be great,” I purred, watching as she walked away with her friends, who were snickering at Featherpaw.
I turned back to the other she-cat—the psychotic one. “I can’t be in New Directions anymore, it’ll ruin—”
“—your reputation?” she interrupted. “You have a talent, Crowpaw, and you can’t just throw it away.”
“Look, I have to go to practice…” I began to back away.
“It may be cool to listen to your friends on the Special Guard and the Cheerios,” she called after me, “but you’re better than all of them.”
I sprinted the rest of the way to the training hollow. While the other guys were practicing their battle moves, Bramblepaw was waiting for me.
“I want an apology,” I growled, showing him the scars I had received from his attack on me.
“You know I don’t do that sort of thing,” he purred in amusement. “But since it’s you, I’ll say I’m sorry, if I get an explanation.”
“Joining the dumbest group on the face of the planet.”
“Fireheart thought it would be good for my training,” I lied. “But since he’s not the leader anymore, he let me go. Now will you apologize?”
He groaned. “Sure. I’m sorry. And as a welcome back to the world of the normal, I got you a present.”
Bramblepaw and several of my other friends led me over to a hollow log that a bunch of guys were gathered around. I noticed that wailing was coming from it.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“We trapped the wheels runt inside,” explained Bramblepaw, purring. “Hooked one of his wheels to some moss. We’re going to roll it around camp and say it’s a training exercise.”
“Isn’t that a little, um, dangerous?” Normally I wouldn’t care, but I had come to know Ravenpaw, and I was pretty sure this wasn’t a good idea.
“He already has wheels for legs!” meowed Bramblepaw exasperatedly. “Come on, Crowpaw, we saved you the first roll.”
I hesitated for a moment, listening to Ravenpaw’s cries for help. Next thing I knew, I was freeing him from the moss and helping him roll out of the log, panting with my own fright as he thanked me over and over again.
“What in the name of StarClan are you doing?” hissed Bramblepaw. “Why are you helping this piece of crowfood?”
“We’re all pieces of crowfood!” I snarled. “McKinleyClan might be the largest Clan in the forest, but somehow we’re also the one with the most deaths. You know what most of the deaths are? Young warriors and apprentices being reckless and stupid. And yes, some of those cats were or are a part of the Special Guard and the Cheerios. Everyone claims we have a better chance of survival by joining the groups, but we don’t! We become like rocks, not feeling and not caring for anyone but ourselves.”
“So you’re going to quit the Special Guard and join Darkstripe’s Death Row?” growled Bramblepaw.
“No, I’m going to be in the Special Guard and New Directions, because you need me, and so do they.”
And with that, Ravenpaw and I headed back into the tunnel towards camp, Ravenpaw sticking his tongue out as we left.
“Actually, let’s go on a walk,” I meowed.
The two of us carefully maneuvered through the forest, passing by Twolegplace as we did so. And there, in the backyard of some Twoleg’s nest, was Pine, dancing and singing to a song on a Twoleg stereo system. I recognized the song; there was sheet music for it lying around the piano back at camp. I had never given it much thought, but then I remembered how I had helped the rest of New Directions cart the piano back and forth between rehearsals, and how Fireheart told us the story of that first journey the piano made to McKinleyClan’s camp, with Bluestar in the lead and a procession of apprentices following behind. Just like that, a brilliant idea formed in my head.
“Come on, these dance moves aren’t that hard!” I encouraged my fellow New Directions members at the dump. I had been trying to teach them a few dance moves I had learned as a kit, but it wasn’t going so well. Crowpaw, as usual, was absent, and so was Ravenpaw. I had made the mistake to let Thornclaw take a break and sleep while we went to rehearsal, so we had no piano and therefore no music to guide us. Everyone had a general lazy air about them.
Just then, we heard a rolling sound. We turned around and saw Crowpaw, Ravenpaw, Thornclaw, and a few young apprentices carting the piano into the dump with some difficulty. They stopped it right in front of us.
“Okay, guys, you can have all of our fresh-kill,” meowed Crowpaw.
“Awesome!” yowled the young apprentices, scrambling back towards camp.
“I want to apologize,” Crowpaw mewed before any of us could speak. “I don’t want to be the guy who runs around throwing cuckoo eggs at everyone.”
“That was you?” I growled.
“You threw magpie eggs at me,” hissed Stormpaw.
“I’m really sorry,” pleaded Crowpaw.
“You stuck moss to my perfectly groomed fur while I was sleeping.”
“I actually wasn’t there for that, but…look, that’s not who I am. Or who I want to be. I’m tired of that. I want to be here, with you guys. This used to be the lamest thing ever, in my opinion, and maybe it is. But we’re all here for the same reason: we want to be good at something.”
I nodded. For a thick-skull, good-looking member of the Special Guard, he had some wise words.
“We can all contribute to New Directions,” he went on. “Ravenpaw, you remember that short-lived group that made instruments out of Twoleg rubbish? Weren’t you a part of that?”
“I was the leader,” corrected Ravenpaw. “I can definitely get the guys from that and see if we can relive it.”
“Hollypaw, I noticed you always have colorful rags hanging from your tail,” meowed Crowpaw.
Hollypaw waved her tail, which, at that moment, sported an old lime-green washcloth. “These aren’t rags! They’re stylish accessories I find laying around the dump. You want me to find some for you guys to wear?”
“That would be great! And Featherpaw, you can work on the choreography for us.”
I only twitched my whiskers in reply. He was a handsome tom, wasn’t he?
“So what are you doing for us, Jayfeather Timberlake?” asked Hollypaw.
“Me?” mewed Crowpaw. “I’ve got the music.”
“Why’d you want me to come to your den again?” asked Fireheart.
I retrieved the portable video player that another medicine cat had stolen from a Twoleg nest long ago. “I wanted to show you a tape I found lying around here. As medicine cat, I’m assigned to be the keeper of all the tapes from the short-lived Filming Age of McKinleyClan. Hopefully, the reign of terror that cameras brought will never happen again.”
“Well, if this tape you’re showing me is so important,” he chuckled, “it wouldn’t quite be a reign of terror.”
I popped the tape in the video player, and on came the McKinleyClan Glee Club performing at Nationals, the biggest competition for the club, nearly twelve moons ago. I watched Fireheart’s face light up in awe as he watched his own performance—the winning performance.
“I knew halfway through that number that we were going to win,” he meowed, his voice wavering. “I felt, right then, that I was a part of something, that I had a place in this world.” He took a deep breath. “The only time I felt that way since was when Sandstorm told me I was going to be a father.”
I sighed. I had tried; I had really tried.
“No,” he mewed in a final voice, closing the video player. “I have to provide for my family, Spottedleaf.” He got up to leave the den.
“Provide what, exactly?” I asked.
He stopped and stared at me.
“Are you going to teach your kits that being a warrior with no free will is the most important thing in a Clan cat’s life? Or will they learn that a life worth living is a life that’s full of something you’re passionate about?”
I left Spottedleaf’s den with my heart broken in two. I truly had nowhere to turn, nothing to guide me. Could I put a paw in two worlds: carrying out my duty as a warrior and father while living out my dreams? Now, more than ever, I needed new directions.
And then, I heard music.
Click  to watch New Directions perform “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey.
“That was good, guys,” I meowed. “About a nine—we need a ten.”
The apprentices’ eyes were wide when they saw me.
“Does this mean you’re staying?” asked Crowpaw.
“It would kill me for you to win Nationals without me,” I purred. “From the top!”