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Full Version: One Hand, One Heart
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As time passed, Bronco's injuries had healed, and he had begun to resume his border patrols without too much complaining from his shoulder. He couldn't tell if his hearing had changed much, with the loss of one ear, though he felt the cold a bit more now, on that side of his skull, as the cup of his ear could no longer protect his ear canal from the winds. More noticeable still was the absence of several of their packmates, in the wake of the bear attack. The Glen felt quiet, and he felt as though his packmates were distant. They were managing, but it was tough. He felt as though he ought to visit Moonspear as well, to see how they were coping with their losses as well. Meerkat had not yet returned, and he worried for her as well. 

He'd been at the lakeside for a drink when he stepped on something buried beneath the snow at the lake's edge that caught his ankle in an odd way. He stumbled slightly, looking back to see if it was a rock, as it hadn't budged from its place. His jaw dropped open when he saw an unusual, yet familiar, curve peeking out of the snow. 

Once he had satisfied his thirst, he made his way back along the lake's edge until he reached the river and ravine that led back toward Moonspear. He followed it as the walls of the ravine grew, red sandstone contrasting against the white of snow. He made his way to the den that Fennec had made, and tiptoed up the slope toward the den's entrance. He stepped inside, and felt slightly insecure- but he managed. Having spent his recovery in and around a den in he Caldera, his fears had been eased significantly. He turned around, having accomplished what he had come to do- and then stepped outside, tipping his head back to call for @Fennec.
Fennec still held a good deal of affection for the glen, but she found it no longer held the same wonder it had before everything had happened.  Fennec had thought that running away would help her to find her independence, but she hadn't anticipated what that would mean.  Now that she knew what it was like to live without a safety net of family to fall into, her appetite for it was curbed entirely.  The glen was beautiful, but it wasn't home.

She was betting the chances of Bronco coming back to the Caldera with her were pretty damn low at this point.  This place was a mess, and it was home still to both him and Meerkat.  She felt a little guilty hanging out as long as she had (another new feeling, thanks newfound responsibility) but she wasn't willing to just bail on Bronco while he worked through picking up some of what was broken here.  Eljay had things handled back home, no doubt.

So.  What, then?  

Things were simpler when she'd just done what she wanted.  But apparently, taking into consideration what others needed meant she no longer knew what it was she did want.  This wasn't a problem that she was used to having at all, and it contributed to her couple of trips away to the Bramblepoint to think.  She hadn't stayed long either time, but surrounded by only the company of the ravens, she felt like the pressure eased a little.

Fennec was idly chewing over this question, pacing the southeastern border, when Bronco's call met her ears.  She turned and cocked her head, trying to triangulate to a region.  He didn't sound far off, and by the time she'd gotten near, she recognized the area well enough to know exactly where he was.  She felt a mixture of emotions, mostly apprehensive, as she walked up the very familiar path towards the ledge where she'd dug out the cave.  She'd given this place away, put it out of sight and out of mind, and she wasn't sure she wanted to get into all this right now.  Why'd he want to meet here?

She stopped a distance away from where she knew the entrance to be.  More trouble for me to get you out of?  She asked, smirking, but stopping where she was.  There were a number of reasons this place made her uncomfortable; she'd made it a gift to Leta, who now would never get to use it either.  Maybe dens dug by witches weren't meant to be shared.
He waited for her to arrive, and chose to groom himself as he did. While his coat was much thicker in the winter, it was also easier to keep clean as there was no mud or dirt to stain his fur. While he imagined she didn't appreciate the cold, he smiled to himself when he thought of how his two sisters probably felt about the winter. Quetzal probably missed the mud, but Alyx was likely quite pleased that she could stay so squeaky clean. 

He caught sight of Fennec striding toward him, and he rose to his feet, his tail swinging gently at his hocks. He smiled faintly at her question, and stepped aside so she could freely walk in the den. "Yup. There's something in there." He said, hoping to be a bit cryptic at least. He wasn't quite chipper enough to fake a bit of fear in his voice to make her think there might've been something dangerous in the den that he wanted her to take care of- and instead his tone ended up being a bit mischievous. 

The thing he'd tripped over by the lake- that had been partially embedded in the snow and ice- was the coconut shell. He'd pried it out and had gnawed as much of the ice off it as he could, and placed it inside the den for her to find.
Oh.  She couldn't explain why she was so hesitantly freaked about going in there, but it was funny how the tables had turned this time around.  It was almost tempting to decline and just crack a joke about how he could handle it himself, surely.  Big strong guy like him, yeah?  His voice was in no way ominous, so there was nothing to explain the reluctance that was likely clearly visible.

Isn't that more a fighter's job than a medic's?  She asked instead, not leaving, but instead sitting down where she was and letting her face relax into a somewhat coy smile.  She didn't know what his aim was and was thrown off enough to dig her heels in for a time to find out.  She had nothing positive to associate this den to in the least; she'd left that day with the melodramatic intention of never stepping foot in it again.
His loose plan to imply that something too frightening for him to deal with worked, and he felt at least a little bit satisfied that she'd managed to mince the meaning out of his words. Not surprising, considering the fact that he assumed she was better at reading tone than him- and that even subtle hints were possibly more apparent to her. Having gone roughly a week without being able to see, he'd been given a small sample of what it was like to rely only on his hearing. It made him realize how important tone was, and how much he took his vision for granted. 

He gazed at her with a look that was mildly amused, but rich in affection when she asked a question that had an immediate answer. "Good thing you're both, then," He rumbled.
He wasn't going to give her anything, was he?  She was a touch annoyed, though mostly at herself.  This was stupid.  It was a hole in the ground, and pretending that it had any more significance than that was what had kicked off this whole mess to begin with.

Good answer,  she replied, and she walked forwards smoothly, using his presence to determine where the entry to the den was.  She felt her fur prickle as she paused, then stepped down the familiar incline into the hollowed out space, icy dread settling into her gut like lead.  Why the fuck...

She hated this place.  She was surprised by the animosity with which she realized it, but now that she was inside, the feeling that she'd rather be anywhere else tripled.  It wasn't the fact that it was underground.  It wasn't the fact that she'd spend so long working on it.  This place was an open wound in an otherwise pretty solid shell and the reminder of it bothered her more than it reasonably should have.  

She spun around, failing to realize there was an item on the floor.  Look, this place sucks.  The words were stiff and harsh, but rushed too.  Let's go somewhere else. Please?
When she halted, he sensed a spike in her anxiety levels- something that made the fur along the back of his neck bristle. He gazed past her into the den, as though expecting to hear a growl from within, even though he'd been in there only moments ago, and knew that there was no actual danger there. She whirled around and indicated swiftly that she wanted to leave- so he nodded. "Yup," Came his instantaneous response, and he felt guilty for having brought her to the den if it made her feel so dreadful. He had no idea why she felt that way, of course- but he wasn't interested in prolonging her suffering. "Just-" He peeped meekly, and with quick pawsteps he snuck into the den, snatched the coconut shell, and then exited. 

"Le's go," He said, over the shell, and carefully picked his way down the incline toward the bank, before glancing over his shoulder. He could explain about the shell later- but she'd made it distinctly clear that she wanted to get away from the den, and if that was what she wanted, he could do that in a heartbeat.
He didn't ask her to explain, just immediately agreed.  Fennec wouldn't have been able to explain it anyway.  She had no idea why the sudden loathing had set in, or the feeling like she needed to suddenly crawl out of her own fur being inside of here.  It was instantaneous and it was immense, and she barely waited for his okay before she was already leaving.  Her throat clenched as she did, a sudden surge of irritation.  She wasn't afraid, but she was definitely affected, and that made her mad enough that she began to itch for a fight.  Unfortunately Bronco was the only target around, and he hadn't really called her for that.  

It was probably pretty clearly written on just about everything about her that the mood of the moment had gone to shit.  She was quiet as she let him lead the way, but an internal pressure seemed to build up like a silent scream in her mind.  What the fuck is this?

She stopped, abruptly, fur still prickled.  Why did you want to go there? she asked, directly.  There was no accusation, but there was a pointed intensity that probably rang a little off.  She had no idea why the question jumped out as needing asked, or why the answer was so damn important.  This entire thing was weird, but she was rolling with it because there wasn't much else she could do right now.  Short of convincing Bronco to pound her into the dirt, that is... but he didn't fight like his mom, so fat luck on that.
There was something sort of accusatory in her voice. She was tense, and a lot of that translated into her posture, the stiffness of her gait, and in the tone of voice she used when she turned to question him. He'd definitely missed something- and wasn't entirely certain why Fennec now disliked that den so much. He could only assume that she resented it because it had wedged such a divide between them, and perhaps he was wrong in thinking that they had fixed that issue. So he stared at her, a bit puzzled, when she turned on him, but it didn't make him angry. If she never wanted to revisit that den again, he was fine with that. 

He settled the coconut shell onto the ground at her feet, where it made a pleasant, hollow noise. "You can throw that at me, if you want," He said. It didn't exactly answer her question- because he still wasn't sure why the den was such an issue. But he'd promised her before that she could whip the coconut shell at him if she ever got angry at him- and he intended to at least follow through on that offer if necessary. His tail began to wave slowly, as he watched for her reaction- once she realized what he'd found for her.
He didn't answer her question at all, and for a second, she almost did go at him.  It wasn't rational in the least, but for a single instant, she was furious.  Luckily, she wasn't quite crazy enough to follow up on it, and instead she gritted her teeth and internalized it.  That.... would end well, and definitely wouldn't come back to bite them later.

On some level she knew she wasn't mad at him, and that did help.  She felt trapped, cornered, and what about the den had elicited that she couldn't begin to explain to him if she'd wanted to.  There were about a hundred different things it might have been, anyway;  she'd wanted to stay before, and it had been ruined.  She wanted to stay now, and she couldn't.  It was like every time it felt like she was getting close to something, something else came in and fucked it up, and this time was going to be no different.  She was upset, and sad, and furious, and all of it had settled on her the instant she was with him in the space she'd made for them.

Unfortunately, there was no way she'd ever say all that.  She barely knew it as she shoved it under and buried it.

Controlling that meant dipping once more into hiding behind indifference, and she slipped into that as she decided to forget her question and instead poke at whatever it was he'd set down.  She recognized it immediately.  Nice try, but I'm not losing it that quick,  she replied, trying to inject a little humor at least.

Whatever.  It didn't matter.  For a moment, she felt weirdly forlorn... and then she did pick it up, and without knowing where exactly he was, she whipped it in whatever direction  his voice had come from, almost before she knew what she was doing. 

 Psyche, she added a moment after, with a little snort, but something close to a smile.  She did feel slightly better.  She had no idea if she'd successfully hit him, but just chucking it had given a little bit of release.  Hopefully it didn't hurt it... but the thing felt sturdy enough.  Probably only broke if it knocked his thick skull.
He wasn't sure if it helped. He'd hoped for a better reaction than that, so he worried if perhaps he should have given her an answer, rather than trying to change the subject by bringing her attention to the coconut shell. He wasn't sure how well she might have taken the absolute truth of why he'd thought to call her to that den, and he reconsidered his entire angle completely given the fact that she'd clearly not been happy to be back there at all. 

So he was a bit lost in thought when she picked up the coconut, and with a fling of her head sent it flying through the air. He caught him by surprise- but luckily for him, he wouldn't even have to dodge to avoid it. It spun in circles through the air before it plopped down into the snow with a faint thud a bit far off in left field for it to have done him any harm. He snorted before he could help himself; there was no way he could have done any better, even being able to see- the coconut made a bit of an arc in the air due to its shape, so aiming it would've been damn near impossible anyway. Still- it tickled him in such a way that he almost laughed, for the first time in what felt like...Forever. 

So for at least a moment, he forgot the weight he'd been carrying, and with a soft, rumbling growl that lilted with amused laughter, he pounced toward her like a giddy colt.
Something in her had shifted from this, and she could feel it lurking, similar to the feeling she'd gotten a while back.  She should have learned her lesson, but Fennec seemed to have a bad habit of holding onto emotional mines and allowing them to be triggered later, at random, whenever the right moment fell.  Or the wrong moment, depending on how you looked at it?

Anyway, at least Bronco was laughing (kind of).  He wanted to playfully wrestle, she wanted a real spar, but she gave in willingly with the silent promise that she'd find her mom or Niamh at some point when she got home and go flat out.  The thought comforted her despite making her stomach twinge.  He was sad still, right?  Which meant if this cheered him up, she'd play along.

She didn't get out of the way of his pounce, choosing to take whatever move he was making his first.  Whether he chose to take her down into the snow or not, she'd attempt to roll him onto his side.  Normally her go-to was to make a bid for the ears, but with his still healing, she didn't.
It wasn't in Bronco's nature to thirst for a real fight. Spars were fine- but there was a very defined line that he couldn't bring himself to cross- and could only really spar with someone if he felt that they might be mindful of that line as well. Antares had been an excellent sparring partner, and Opalia as well- though she definitely possessed fighting skills that were far superior to his. Fennec on the other hand, he felt had a similar amount of experience as him, simply because they were the same age- and while he knew she possessed enough angst and anger to dive into a real fight, he trusted her far more than he would ever trust his mother. 

She didn't bound away from him which surprised him. He'd not been trying to hide his approach at all, so she would have heard both his playful growls and the crunch of snow beneath his heavy frame as he bounded toward her. He didn't question it- this, to him, was simply an indication that she welcomed the spar and was willing to let him get in close enough that she could grab him and make him regret it. He reared up and tossed a forelimb over her shoulders, using his momentum and weight to pull her to the ground which was soft and cool beneath them. He wasn't terribly quick on his feet, nor was he very agile- but she'd practically invited him to use his best advantages to grab a hold of her and pull her down with him. So while his next move would have been very ineffective in an actual fight, he sought to hang onto her- trying to squeeze her as close as he could as a challenge to see if she could somehow worm her way away from him.
As soon as he got her down, she smirked and shoved, trying to use his shifting weight as a counterbalance to topple him over alongside.  If she could scrabble over, that'd mean she got the pin... even if it wouldn't last long.  Spars were all about the temporary win for her at this point.  She didn't have the forethought yet to ensure she came out on top at the end, nor did she really have the size without doing the actual damage of a fight.  The best she could hope for was to end up on top as many times as she could before he pinned her down... and she was slippery.

Hopefully her aim was true, and the way she sensed him listing was correct.  As soon as he fell she'd be rolling to shift the roles, and then it'd be his turn to manage an upset.
Grabbing a hold of one of his siblings had never been terribly difficult- even when Quetzal had been muddy, and when Alyx had been so quick. But Fennec was a completely different creature, and more like an otter than a wolf when it came to slipping out of his grasp. She was all elbows and knees, and whenever he did try to pull her closer, she became angular and sharp, making it hard for him to keep his grip whenever he winced at one of her edges finding one of his many soft spots. He fell over onto his shoulder when she got him square in the ribs, causing him to cough out a puff of air. Still- when she moved toward him, he probably should have pushed her away- but he didn't. He left himself wide open, reaching for her with his paws even as she moved into a position where she could have him pinned. 

He didn't care about being pinned- he didn't mind at all that she'd managed to flip him over, and stand over him. All he cared about was grabbing her and pulling her as close as he could. It might teach her a lesson that simply pinning him wasn't going to be enough to make him cry uncle.
She heard when she got an impact and felt that familiar victorious pride at having successfully knocked him sideways.  For how well Fennec could lose herself in a spar with Niamh, she also was pretty keen on the difference between a pained sound and a surprised one.  She didn't bother with that when she sparred with Niamh or even her mom, but with Fig and Bronco, things had always been different.

She wasn't expecting him to pull on her.  At first she tried to resist, and she crouched and braced... but then her shoulder protested.  It should have been healed better at that point, but it wasn't all that long ago she'd reopened it and had Reyes help her treat it.  The infection was gone, but it still wasn't up to full capacity.

So it gave out, and instead of standing, Fennec wound up coming to land right on top of him with an oof.  She tried to slow it down best she could and not flatten him, but to be fair, he had kinda brought this on himself.

He was warm though.  For a breather, she stayed where she was, letting the ghost of the pain in her shoulder fade out and enjoying using him as a partial body (heated) pillow.  I feel like that's a pretty rotten move to use, she said wryly, but without moving to get up.  Unless you plan on hugging the next bear you meet into submission.  The idea of it was so ridiculous that she couldn't help nearly laughing, and for a minute, she definitely fully forgot her previous rocky mood.
He chuckled into her fur as he managed to wrangle her close enough for her to realize that this wasn't such a bad thing. She relaxed a bit against him, and made a comment about a bear, which...Made him tense up slightly. He didn't like the idea of crossing paths with a bear- not after one had killed so many of their friends. But he knew Fennec hadn't intended to drag up that memory, so he simply took a moment without answering her, and held her against him. 

And then, a second later- he tensed up suddenly, and rocked to his side as quickly as he could- in an attempt to roll the both of them over, so that he could switch their positions and end up with Fennec on the ground beneath him. It wasn't hit best attempt to pin someone- as she'd already more or less given up on their spar while she'd momentarily snuggled against him, and he was definitely just taking advantage of that situation. 

"Least I don't let my guard down!" He guffawed, and dipped his head down to kiss her cheek before he ambled awkwardly off her, just in case she decided to whip back at him again.
Fennec didn't notice him tense beneath her, and had in fact momentarily forgotten  the bear in the Glen entirely.  In fact, she'd momentarily forgotten they were in the Glen at all.  She'd been tempted to pick cougar, but that had felt a bit too on the nose, and bear had been the natural second after assisting in leading one away.

She was enjoying this and very much did let her guard down (in more ways than one).  Fights with Fig had sometimes ended this way, though he'd been more tolerant of her using him as a pillow when they were younger.  This was different for a number of reasons, but for a second, Fennec was able to relish the feeling of pure thoughtless contentment.  Absolute security wasn't something she was able to feel often.

And then, of course, he ruined it.  She would have been immensely disappointed otherwise, and while she was clearly (and likely visibly, somewhat comically) surprised by being punted over and abruptly pinned, she recovered quickly.  It was her turn to let out an exhale as her (thankfully, nearly fully healed) side hit the snow.

Oh, you're eating snow for that one!  She crowed after him, flinging a pawful of it at random in the direction he was retreating.  Just for good measure, after scrambling to her paws, she flung a couple more.  But she was cackling a little too much to actually aim well, and even if she could see him, likely none of them would have hit.
He grinned. He hadn't necessarily wanted to disrupt their little moment, as he enjoyed any time she would give him where they could simply be close. But he felt that something like this- something that used energy, and that meant a bit of competition, was what Fennec really enjoyed, and it didn't seem like he was wrong. Once she recovered she slapped a pawful of snow at him and he had to bound back to avoid it. he thought for a minute that she might charge him- but she seemed to enjoy flinging snow in random directions instead- so he went with it. 

"Over here!" He called out, before he pounced to the side. "Too slow!" He cawed, before he bounded off to the side again. Fennec was quick to dish out volley after volley of snow so he antagonized her by calling out a variety of shouts including- but not limited to- "Up here! Down low! To your left! NO your other left! And now the other-ffffff" And of course, he was too busy running his mouth to properly dodge all of her snowballs, so when one caught him square in the jaw he hacked and spat. "No fair, there were twigs in that one!" He joked.
She was feeling a bit too lazy at the moment to pursue, and flinging the rather abundant ammo was quite fun, if a bit less satisfying.  If she was actually angry in any capacity, it never would have won out in favor of actually physically shoving his face into the snow... but clearly, she wasn't.  Her mood swing had completely evaporated, sideswiped by the play Bronco had dragged her into.

She tried to follow his taunting and was rewarded, finally, by the muffled sound of snow hitting something that wasn't air.  Bullseye!

It's what you get, taking advantage of a poor girl like that.  Didn't you learn manners?  She asked with a catlike grin.  She didn't believe or mean a single word of that, but if she drew him into conversation, maybe he wouldn't notice she was slowly, casually, edging her way towards him.
He huffed lightly at her retort and rolled his eyes. "Manners?" He asked loudly. "More manners'n you, at least," He said, and stuck out his tongue for good measure even though it wasn't exactly audible. It was the thought that counted and it presented itself in the sass he tried very hard to throw into his voice. 

He was watching her, though, she he noticed the way she moved as she took a few steps toward him. There was something cautious and poised about her movements- and he felt like he was being stalked. "Oh hey- don't think I don't see you doing that," He said, and began to step backwards and away from her. He felt like she was going to do something- and he wanted to be prepared for it.
She couldn't argue with that, mainly because she took the comment as a compliment. She made no secret of the fact that manners ranked pretty low on her list of priorities.  Besides, he'd apparently already caught on.

The fun of the surprise was a little spoiled (thanks, Bronco).  She shouldn't have expected it to work, but she still didn't quite understand the tip offs sight gave and sound didn't.  

Time to switch tactics.

Doing what?  She asked innocently, still moving forward with slow, lazy movements... not unlike a snake, biding it's time for the perfect moment to strike.
Okay. So she'd looked like she might've been sort of stalking him before- but her cheshire question definitely made her look super suspicious, and Bronco laughed- a horseish, nervous sound, as he continued to back away from her the way he might back away from a coiled snake. He didn't want to make any sudden movements. His ears flicked forward and back, uncertain. He didn't want to be backing away from Fennec- preferred for her to be basically as close as possible. But she looked like she intended to trounce him, and trouncing was very different from a snuggle-pounce. 

"Ahuhuh," His voice cracked lightly. Fleetingly, he wondered if she was enjoying making him nervous...She probably was. Well, then that wasn't so bad. He could probably withstand a few tackles, and getting stalked like this, if it really made her happy...But that didn't mean it didn't still make him slightly nervous, not knowing how she'd hit him. "Nuh-uh, you can't play coy, I'm not that dumb, I see what you're doin' I know what you're doin' Fennec, I'm totally onto you-"
Wait, was he actually nervous?  Fennec was thrilled.  She was one hundred percent messing with him at this point, and the implication that he was scared of her probably should have bothered her, but she ate that shit up.  For a girl keenly interested in anything horrifying or strange, she wasn't exactly intimidating to most wolves on sight.

She couldn't stretch it out long, but she didn't need to.  Just long enough to get a good solid sense of where he was.  I have no idea what you're on about,  she said.  As she did, her steps began to fall sideways, taking her into a subtle circling arc.

Oh, she was going to trounce him alright. Just probably not the way he expected it.

From what she could tell, they were in a pretty open space.  After a moment that she let stretch long... she lunged, without warning, towards him.  It probably looked like she was surging forward for a tackle, but she didn't.  As soon as her muzzle brushed his pelt, she whirled and took off in completely the opposite direction.

You're IT!
"Yeah, right, I can tell when you're lying, you know, that ain't gonna work on mUHHHH" She'd stalked him long enough, and moved toward him with the breezy rush of a viper striking out. He flinched, lowered his centre of gravity just in case she was going to try and pummel him to the ground or ran into his ribs- but instead, she merely brushed his shoulder with her muzzle. He blinked in disbelief, and it took him a few moments to realize what she was doing. It'd been too long since he'd played tag and...Too long since he'd simply played. 

So he forgot about what he'd initially called Fennec to meet him for, and fell into run behind her. "You're gonna get it!" He called out, chasing Fennec through the Glen and at least for the moment, forgetting about all the stress they'd been through recently.