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He found her beyond Easthollow, beyond the river with its polished stones, beyond the rows and rows of aspen trees they had once loved to lose themselves in. In the oblivion of time and all of its passing, he might have even believed that time had been easier back then, when they were younger and ignorant to the world's inevitable grief. But time had never been easy, and though life carried on in Easthollow in some semblance of a way, they would only continue to pile their losses beneath the eyes of the heavens and the long shadows of the standing stones.

But where his family came to gather to romanticize their fallen, he found Arlette always grieved away. Her trail, always leading to the dimly lit forest of Fox's Glade. Foreboding, and heavy; these once ordinary trees creaked in a framework of something sacred now, something Merrit could not quite place, but imagined his sister might have found herself privy to. Perhaps she simply sought this place as an escape from prying eyes, but perhaps there was something deeper to learn.

He would not know until they spoke, so when he caught sight of her stark familiarity tangled within the spindling reaches of dusk, he offered up a single note in clear question to her: may I sit with you tonight?
Arlette had never really believed in the stones, and especially when her connection with her mother soured she felt less inclined to be around the stones. Her mother was always there it seemed. Now her brother died, the girl just felt like she was suffocating in Easthollow. She rushed out of the territory as soon as she could. The girl could blindly navigate to Kaito's grave. He was buried by the tree next to the stream. It was the same tree where Kaito had been bumping his head to the branches. Arlette always sat on the other side of the stream, just like how they met. How she wanted to protect Leta from him. How silly.

Her ear twitched when the male approached her. It was her brother. She disliked that he approached her from the the wrong side, her ugly side. Now she couldn't hide it away. Still the female dipped her head that he was allowed to sit by her. The girl just looked ahead, towards the base of the tree where he was buried with their children. She inhaled softly. "You have probably many questions," she commented. Basically telling him to be out with his questions. Because she didn't really know where to start and what he wanted to know.
Merrit noticed a shift in her, the slightest wave of displeasure. A pain kicked in the space beneath his sternum; he found little reason for her aversion except that, perhaps, she really was upset by him. He wouldn't have blamed her. Like Clay, and Keen, he, too, had run away and left her.

That feeling of being punched in the gut lingered even when she conceded to his approach, but his face revealed next to nothing of the uncertainty and hurt he felt. Experience and mistakes had trained him to keep his cards close to his chest so that at times, even he couldn't read them. As much as Clary had tried to teach him otherwise, he'd accepted that was one thing they would always disagree on.

Yet he wasn't averse to hearing the hearts of others, especially of the ones he loved. Merrit settled next to his sister at her invitation, unknowingly on the side she had grown to loathe. Her face, though disfigured, was still his sisters; he knew her soul, and he would always find her beautiful.

At her statement, silence claimed him. Contemplative, and full. His mind was much too loud, and quiet all the same, filled with murmurings too deep for words. He had so much to ask and knew very little of where to start, so he drew his gaze with hers to watch the trees across the river, and how they speckled the water with tears of autumn leaves.

The world was sad. He felt the heaviness greater than before. "Why do you come here?" he settled on at last.
Arlette was unaware of the discomfort she gave her brother and even if she had, the male assumed. With that assumption he hurt himself. Arlette found him difficult to read. Merrit had grown, she wasn't as familiar with him as she had been before. But she didn't blame him. In fact, she applauded him for getting out of Easthollow when he could. She had tried to be the perfect daughter for years, and one mistake had made her mother into a tyrant.

At first, she felt like it was a mistake. Not anymore. She knew the unconditional love she was missing now Kaito was gone. That had not been a mistake. Ever. After a moment of silence Merrit formed his question. Just one. "This is the exact spot I met my mate on a brisk winter day. I startled him and he hit that low hanging branch. It was full of snow and he was showered with the icy cold snow that came off it." She commented. She still couldn't believe it. She had startled him. Arlette often felt as dangerous as a rabbit. A brief light touched her eyes before it died out. The hope vanished. Kaito was no more, as was her infectious smile. "Now he lies there, buried, with our still born pups," she finished and swallowed thickly. Sh knew she dropped a bombshell on Merrit. She couldn't help to have tears well up in her eyes but she angrily blinked them away.

Of course, he wouldn't leave Merrit hanging with those words. The story was unfinished. "His name was Kaito. He died protecting aunt Nanook, her pups, and me from a cougar. You already know the ending of that fight," she stated solemnly. A shaky sigh name from her, then her eyes were cast to Merrit. "That night, probably because the stress of losing Kaito, I gave birth to our two stillborn pups," she added quietly. She cast her eyed down, but it was not in sadness. Her face was distorted in anger. She gritted her jaw, thinking of their hypocrite of a mother. She blamed Valette for losing her babies, not the cougar.
Apologies for taking forever <3 Hope you're still good to keep going!

He listened quietly, and without visible judgment. Inwardly, he reeled. A mate? Stillborn pups? Merrit had not fancied to imagine many things when he had seen the scars on Arlette's face. There were many evils who would think to mar a wolf as kind and beautiful as soul as she. He saw the tears - or more, her violent blink to thrust them away. He blinked, troubled beneath the soft furrow of his brow.

Her tale brought an understanding. Clary had been right. No matter how far he removed himself from Easthollow, different troubles would find his family, even if he spared them from the ones he drew away by his absence. Could he have helped defend this Kaito, if he had been there the day the cougar had struck? Could he have given himself in place of the man, or in place of Nanook? He would have been far less of a loss.

"Arlette..." I am sorry, his silence spoke. Merrit felt the anger reeling from his sister, and he felt that familiar fire stoke through his blood and prickle his chest with a butterfly of heat. But the flames were only as thick as he would let them be; he let the flame flicker into some forlorn corner of his heart -- still there, but contained -- and he folded himself to the ground and reached his muzzle forward. He tapped the ground with the tip of his nose. "Did you name them?" he asked, "The children you buried?"

Arlette watched Merrit's reaction. She was glad that there was no judgement, unlike her mother had done all that time. That was what she was the angriest about, how her mother, who she had on a pedestal had treated her. Arlette shook her head in anger. "No, it was too painful to name team. I was mourning," she commented. Though secretly she had. It was not that she thought about pup 1 or pup 2. They had names but she would keep those names for herself, as something she had Kaito had together.

'That is not all," she stated then and casted her red eyes at her brother. "You should have seen mother when she found out. Frankly, us having pups had been an accident. He hadn't really planned, but when mother found out I went behind her back she treated my like trash," Arlette scowled. "All those years of being loyal to the pack, not heading out on my own, never setting a foot wrong. It didn't matter. Mother hated me. She ignored me or made hurtful comments at me, and then after the cougar attack she could be nice again. Clearly out of guilt. I don't need her pity," she huffed at her brother.

"Wait till you do something wrong, you will see mother's real face," Arlette warned. "I don't deserve to be treated like that. I've had enough." It was in this moment she was more than ready to leave, there was nothing here for her except Kaito's deceased body and it wasn't really that he could do anything for her now he passed. She had been held back long enough by this.

He sympathized with her, even when Arlette's words dripped bitter from her mouth. Scathing against their mother -- accusations Merrit found hard to accept, considering his sister's thick emotion.

She's overreacting, he thought to himself, though outwardly he remained impassive. His mother had only ever loved them, cared for them, best she could... and had he not toed the line, so many times more?

If she thinks of Arlette as nothing more than trash, imagine what she thinks of you.

The words were quiet, penetrating; he did not fully register that he had thought them, but they nestled themselves into some lonely crook of his mind and stayed there, sitting like a funnel spider at the mouth of his webbed cocoon.

He didn't argue against her. Instead, he latched onto the most tangible piece of the words she offered: I've had enough.

"Where will you go?" He had never thought Arlette as living anywhere but Easthollow. She had been the one to hold on, even after Stark had gone. But now the brightness of their haven had faded to something cracked and blurred at the edges; bleached, as by the sun. A hazy remnant of better days that had fled a long time ago.
She didn't got any confirmation from her brother that he experienced the same. Then again, how could he? She felt that Merrit always had been the favorite. She didn't resent him for it. But she had stayed for her mother and then to be treated like that after an accident. She just had enough. Merrit only asked her one think. She thought about it. "I don't know," she spoke at first.

Though she kind of had an idea for it. 'I might find a pack that needs me, a healer. I think I would like that. Or a pack where I can learn from an experienced healer. I did make some friends so I might visit them too. In the Canyon," she stated. She then paused. "Don't tell mother." she added, with a bit of a bite. She didn't need her to know where she went, or that she left. She was going to tell her mother that she would go and find Oryx.