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The travel to the Glen had taken a bit longer than it normally would- but it was through thick snow, and with heavy footfalls that they travelled, taking breaks so that their injured, recovering muscles could handle the journey. He hated leaving his family behind, in the wake of Primrose's death; but he also had a duty to the pack that he had been away from for almost three weeks now. His packmates were owed news, and were owed another wolf capable of picking up the pieces from where things had been torn apart. 

It was mid morning by the time Bronco and @Fennec arrived at the Glen, and he meandered along the borders for a moment or two to see who had been by. It pulled at his heartstrings to notice that there were scents missing. He cast a longing glance toward Moonspear, its peak lost in the low-lying clouds, the way a mother might turn and hide her tear-stained face. He huffed softly, and tilted his head back to call out, informing the Glen that he was back, though his voice faltered. Indecision and grief had made their journey a fairly silent one. He had a lot of choices to weigh out, and grief had stolen a good amount of vigor from him but every now and again, he would catch sight of Fennec travelling along at his side, and the mere sight of her helped lift some of his pain. 

He reached out to touch his muzzle to her shoulder, and heaved a heavy exhale. "Let's find @Meerkat first," He said in a low, quiet voice. If he knew his sister well, she likely would have heard his call, and begun making her way toward him, so he didn't suspect it would take long for them to be reunited again.
she can prob be skipped at any point in this thread <3 but I'll hop in here and there where it feels right to

Bronco had been quiet and Fennec let him.  Honestly, she was just thrilled to be invited along.  This wasn't quite a trip to someplace new and exciting, but that didn't matter so much as the company and the fact that he wanted her there.  She didn't mind the silence.

As they arrived, though, she did feel a bit out of place.  She ruffed up her fur against the cold with a light shiver, then stretched her shoulders gently.  Fortunately the infection seemed to have faded away, and the skin felt tight in a healing way vs the slightly inflamed way it had previously.  She had caught it pretty damn early.

Fennec couldn't see his expression, but she could sense the lackluster manner that he moved with.  Tempted to crack something to lighten the mood, instead Fennec stayed silent for once.  It had been a while since she was back here and she hardly knew any of the number they'd lost... outside of Leta.  That one hurt, much as she wouldn't admit it.

She didn't respond until he commented.  Yeah,  she responded, listening for any sign of their sister approaching.  Betting you don't have to stand on border protocol.  She'd follow close when he did, fur brushing his habitually.  If anyone needed help, they'd likely be further in as well... she didn't know if their healer was still around, but recent times had shown, sometimes two sets of paws was better than one.
The sound of Bronco's voice made Meerkat's heart leap, only to drop like a stone. She blinked several times—her eyes were painfully dry from staring off into space the last little while—and then slowly picked up her feet. Every step worked some of the stiffness from her muscles after a morning hunched in one spot, lost in her thoughts. Her heart continued to flip and flop in her chest, vacillating between gladness upon Bronco's return and dismay over the fresh slew of bad news she would have to dump on him.

Plus, there was the uncertainty of what she should say about @Atlas. Meerkat herself didn't know where they stood, following that emotional whirlwind of an evening. Several fitful sleeps and lots of emotive processing left her very aware that they'd made a mistake. She never should've said those words, not in that particular mindset. And even though she wanted to stand by them now that her head was a little clearer, come what may, Meerkat had to admit she didn't think she was equipped to support him right now. In fact, she was rethinking her entire life's calling and future, following that fateful night.

Meerkat felt adrift as she reached the borders and saw not just her brother but her sister as well. She was still reeling from all the deaths, including the ones she'd have to inform Bronco of now: Osiris and Leta. Swallowing thickly, she plodded closer to them, drawing in a deep breath and starting with, "I'm so glad you're back." She wanted to throw herself at him but Meerkat minded his injuries and checked herself. At least she didn't feel like she was going to cry. She was almost sure she'd completely run out of tears at this point.
"No," He agreed with Fennec, though it still felt somewhat odd for him to simply cross back into the packlands that were, in all the right regards, still his home. His mother had delivered the message that he'd been injured, and Meerkat had gone back so he was certain that his leaders knew he would be back, but had needed time to heal. If he'd inspected the borders more closely he might have noticed there was a scent he didn't recognize, but he did not fear hostility from any new members simply because the Glen had established itself as a primarily peaceful pack, with two sister-packs. 

So he'd move forward slowly, not wanting to wander too far from where he'd howled in case he missed Meerkat- but even before he could see her, he could smell her scent on the wind as she approached, so he felt no need to rush. Perhaps if he could only slow time down, maybe he'd have another moment or two before he had to tell her...

Time wouldn't heed his plea, though, and Meerkat appeared through the lightly forested distance and came toward them. She didn't run or bound as she might normally would have, and he suspected she was still carrying a heavy heart after losing Desdemona and Toad. Her greeting expressed relief, and he moved forward to greet her by pressing his chest gently against hers and drawing her in with a gentle nudge of his chin. "Meerkat," He said, as he pulled back. He began to struggle, visibly, with the heart-wrenching message he was entitled to deliver to his younger sister. He glanced back at Fennec, before he lowered his head and confessed. "I have some-" And he had to draw in another, shaky breath. "Really, bad news." He wanted to break it as gently as possible- but found it impossible to do. "It's Primrose, Meerk." He pursed his lips, but they jigged at the corners, and he couldn't utter it- but he gave a stiff nod. He knew she'd have questions- he just needed a moment to hold his breath to keep himself from falling apart again.
She realized she hadn't acknowledged Fennec beyond a look which her sister wouldn't even see. "It's good to see you too," Meerkat said belatedly, the memory of their recent nighttime talk flitting through her head and leaving behind a touch of warmth despite everything. Her focus then shifted back to her brother as he said her name, her heart clenching in her chest at the tone of his voice.

Her lips parted, a sense of alarm flashing through her body and setting it to trembling slightly as he managed a few more words. Meerkat wanted to tell him to stop talking as fear swallowed her. Who was it now? Towhee? Phox? Niamh? Who else had fallen victim to this seemingly endless string of suffering and tragedy, leaving the rest of them behind to shatter apart with no hope of ever really picking up all the pieces and putting them right again?

She swallowed when he whispered Primrose's name. He didn't even have to say the words outright, the implication was clear: Prim was gone. Meerkat let out a breath as relief flooded her. She felt horrible by the next heartbeat, cringing inwardly at her own involuntary response. Maybe all the prior deaths had desensitized her or messed with her ability to process further tragedy. But she was not as deeply attached to Prim as to others, something which was both a godsend and a shame in this moment.

Meerkat continued shivering, feeling weak. She sank to her haunches, thinking of how her little brother's life had been cut even shorter than Toad's. She waited to see if the overpowering grief would come, with it the tears, but the moments ticked past and she could only breathe shakily into the heavy silence.
Fennec didn't respond to Meerkat's greeting, mainly because she guessed she was being ignored for the moment and that was totally fine by her.  She did find it weird that Meerkat chose to say it like that to Bronco (sounded a little passive aggressive?) but emotions were running high.  She hadn't seen her younger sister look her way when she said it.

Fennec waited quietly while Bronco dropped the news about Prim. Of all the kids, he was the one she knew the least... and she didn't know any of them well.  Only Alyx now, in a way... bonded by the same kind of irate restlessness and refusal to take any kind of slight reasonably.

Primrose had been different... wildly different.  She mourned him the same way she did the others, with a quiet unwillingness to entirely face their absence as anything but normal.  Out of sight, out of mind.  She turned her head, listening out of habit for anyone or anything that might be around.  But there was a distracted air to it.... despite hanging back, she was listening to every word they said.
It was obvious by Meerkat's reaction that she was quite shaken by the news. He reached out to touch his nose to her cheek, and he could feel her struggling with her emotions. Like her, he was at a loss for how to process the death of their little brother, and the others who had also perished within the past month. He stayed close, allowing her several minutes to breathe, and sink against him if she wanted to. He was silent for some time, until he eventually reached up to run his muzzle over the top of her head. He stood up, and shook his pelt out. "Let's go find a place to rest," He said, his voice a bit hoarse. He didn't want to draw attention to the fact that it wasn't likely safe along the borders, given the fact there were other predators lurking in the wilds lately- but he felt it was smart nonetheless not to delay too long just in case.
The cool press of his nose made Meerkat look at him, their eyes connecting briefly before she pressed closer, hiding her face between Bronco's neck and shoulder. They held onto one another for a while, until his grizzled chin brushed the furs on top of her head and he suggested they find somewhere to rest.

"Wait," she whispered, wishing with all her might she didn't have to do this. But they needed to know. "It wasn't just Toad and Desdemona. There were others killed, after I left." She took a shaky breath. "Osiris. Leta. Some others, from Easthollow."

She looked down at her feet, gathering strength for the final bit of bad news. When Meerkat raised her gaze again, it was wet. "And..." Even though Atlas wasn't dead, this part turned out to be the hardest for her to say. "I fucked up." She was pretty sure she'd never said "fuck" before, yet there was no other way to convey the gravity of the situation.
Fennec had already heard of the others (somehow.... I referenced it above for some reason so we are sticking with it!) but it still hurt to hear, especially accompanied by the anguish in her little sister's voice.  She'd heard Bronco move in to comfort her, so simply directed her attention down, muzzle tipping towards the snow as an unreadable tenseness overtook her features.

They'd lost so many members.  Osiris was a heavy blow to the pack, but many of the others had served as it's initial spine.  They still had Antares and Atlas, plus Meerkat and now Bronco, but... who else?  Charles was in the Caldera now.

Fennec was apprehensive as Meerkat started in on the next bit.  She didn't know what Meerkat thought she'd done, but was it really worse than all the shit that had happened around them?  Did it even rate talking about right now, or feeling bad over?  The curse slipped right through unnoticed, though she might look back later and be glad for it.  There was too much going on in her mind right now for her to make note of it when it was typically a feature of her own conversation.
"Wait, Os-" Bronco's voice cut off when he was informed about the others. Osiris and Leta as well. That made four from what he knew- Toad and Desdemona had perished as well, and he had yet to find out about Keres. He was blindsided by the news, which meant that their home in the Glen was potentially threatened, given the death of their alpha. His heart sank, and he felt himself gritting his teeth to keep his jaw steady. His pulse quickened when Meerkat admitted something else- something that made his gaze narrow and he pulled back slightly, so that he could better enquire with his gaze. "What do you mean?" He asked, dreading what other news she might have.
She didn't mean to leave them on tenterhooks. Her lips parted to elaborate when Bronco pressed, "What do you mean?" Meerkat's eyes cut between his face and Fennec's, noting the lines etched in each. She wanted to come clean to them, though at the last second, she decided she wouldn't mention the marital exchange.

"Before I found out about Osiris and Leta, I tried to get Atlas to show me where they'd buried Toad and Desdemona. I didn't mean to but I..." Her voice went a little thick thanks to a lump in her throat. "I caused him to have some kind of breakdown. He ran off and he hasn't been seen since. I don't think..." She took a shaky breath. "I don't think he's coming back. And it's my fault."

A hot tear squeezed from the corner of her eye, wobbling before trickling down her cheek. Meerkat found she couldn't look either one in the face now, her snout turning downward to point at her toes. More tears slipped free, gliding down her muzzle to plunk silently in the snow.
Fennec was a silent observer up until the point where Meerkat blamed herself for Atlas leaving.  Then she snorted, rather audibly and a little callously.  It was clear her sister was broken up, but she was also, well.... really fucking wrong.  And a little dumb.

It isn't your fault he decided to leave.  He's obviously too chicken shit to stick around.  You couldn't stop him from going, believe me.  she knew.  From a lot of experience, and her tone was clear that she figured Meerkat and Bronco both would take her meaning.

It was harsh, and probably ill timed, but Meerkat was crying over someone who didn't deserve it.  Fennec couldn't help but point it out, though she braced for the reaction her words might get from both sources.
His instinct, naturally, was to coddle Meerkat- and to try and rationalize what had happened  but to be honest, it made him upset to see that Atlas had broken his sister's heart. While he could empathize somewhat with Altas having a meltdown- Bronco too had lost a brother- but he would have expected someone in a leadership position to be better about handling themselves in a stressful situation. She looked at the ground as though she was ashamed, and he heaved a heavy sigh. 

Fennec offered her insight, and he was inclined to agree with her. "This is not your fault, Meerk," He said, reaching out to nuzzle the spot between her ears. "He's...Going through a lot right now and sometimes...Wolves just need to get away, and Fennec's right. If someone has to go away for a bit, you can't just...Stop them." He said. He didn't look at Fennec, as it was still hard for him to reckon with her decisions to leave- but in the end, things had worked out, it seemed. She'd had some time away, to herself, and she had come home once she'd been found. He hoped Atlas might do the same- though he would in no way be eager to let Meerkat forgive him so quickly. 

"C'mon, let's..Get somewhere to rest. I need to speak to Antares sometime soon," He said.
It hurt to hear Fennec's take especially, since it was very frank. She wanted to leap to Atlas's defense. But her lips pursed and, deep down, she acknowledged the point her sister made. She appreciated the bluntness too, how irrefutably Fen insisted Meerkat wasn't at fault. Bronco corroborated her and her older siblings' reassurances did quell some of her guilt, though not all. It would not be resolved so easily.

Bronco urged the two young women to accompany him somewhere to rest. Meerkat said nothing as she fell into step with them, though she made a point to bump into each in silent thanks. As they trudged elsewhere, she thought about telling them about her impromptu marriage proposal after all. But in the end, Meerkat decided that unless Atlas returned, she would never breathe a word about it.
last for me!

To Fennec's immense surprise, neither of them came to any kind of defense.  She was glad for it, especially when Bronco agreed with the sentiment and didn't try to unharshen the blow.  She wasn't proud of it, but she knew in a way how Atlas felt.  Leaving was easier, but either he'd come back or he wouldn't.  Meerkat trying to make that decision for him wouldn't have done him any favors.

It had been a lucky break, Meerkat finding her.  But she'd already made the decision to come home at the time, at least the way she remembered it.  If she hadn't, she'd have told Meerkat to let them know she was fine where she was.

Fennec trailed silently after too, there for support, but hanging back anytime it seemed the two of them wanted to chat about what had happened.  She had her own grief to process, in her own way, but it still felt different from theirs, and she felt a little odd (not for the first time) trying to fit herself into whatever bond Bronco and Meerkat had.