Wolf RPG

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@Kynareth Deagon @Mal but welcome to others too. please allow malia to post first <3
forward dated to 2/18. if that doesn't work for everyone, let me know and we can figure something else out
set for early evening 9F, clear

The journey to her old forest had not been easy. She was edgy and anxious the entire time. Half way to their destination, she had woken with a nausea like none she had ever felt; it left a constant burning in the back of her throat and never seemed to resolve. She hadn't even been able to eat very much of whatever they had managed to catch. She hadn't slept very well because when she closed her eyes, she couldn't stop wondering how things would go. For hours, she would lay awake as her mind came up with scenario after scenario—all the worst possible outcomes had drifted through her mind over and over. She didn't know how to shut it off. She was worried about what Mal would say and how angry he would be. She had played out what she would say in her head multiple times a day, sometimes until the words lost all meaning. The worry, lack of sleep, and never-ending nausea had made her quiet and moody. She tried not to take it out on Ky, but had snapped at him a couple times over something stupid and then immediately apologized. She was worried about him too—she knew this was more dangerous for him than anyone else, and she worried she might not be able to protect him. She would try her hardest to keep things civil, though.

From the time they had woken this morning and all the way here, she hadn't said much at all. Her stomach was bothering her even more today, and her chest was tight with nerves and dread. She wished things were different. She wished they could all just figure out a way to coexist and things with her and Mal could be like they were. But she wasn't stupid; she knew that was impossible. This would likely be the last time she ever saw Mal, and that broke her heart most of all. He had been her family when she felt she had no one who understood her. She had flourished and led beside him. But she was different now—stronger. Too much had happened for her to be the Simmik she used to be; that version of herself was dead.

As they drew close to the border, she walked so close to Ky that their sides touched as they moved. She stopped just outside the territory and offered a gentle, reassuring nip to her mate's jaw. Then she drew in a deep breath, lifted her muzzle up, and called for her friend.
Their trio there was fairly uneventful. Besides Simmik’s pretty language when she would occasionally snap at him. It made the trip more fun if anything. Kynareth only brushes off her cutting remarks with either a polite nod or a small smile. Knows that truly the pale wolf doesn’t mean what she says. 

Yet, besides his desire carry on conversation with Simmik, the journey was long and cold. Now he finds himself on a much more precarious situation. At his enemies doorstep. Though Kynareth doesn’t really consider the packs in the surrounding area dire enemies, he knows their ire towards him and what he’s done. Accompanied by the assumption that he kidnapped her. That doesn’t make anything better even though he technically did.

He doesn’t let any useless thoughts cloud his mind as he feels a touch to his jaw. A howl follows beautifully right after. The Grandmaster smiles. The action devious and rich with sick pleasure. Simmik is his now and he’s excited to soak in the reactions of her old pack members. 

Though as soon as anyone arrived, Kynareth would be seen valiantly standing beside Simmik. Massive head held comfortably high, hawkish gold eyes following each and every one of their movement. The desire to smirk pulls at his lips maliciously, he can’t help it. He would stay stoic and silent, his love’s shadow — her guardian.
I plan on keeping up but if it calls for me being skipped feel free!

Her time here was limited, she knew this now. After her conversation it was made clear she was unhappy in this pack, had been for some time and she only remained out of a sense of obligation. She would either stay until the members dwindled down enough that they would be forced to disburse or move into another group or she would stay until the ranks grew so that her prescene would be unneeded.

So for now whilst she remained, Vallkyrie did her duties as ever. With the storms finally settled she went back to hunting her starving people. Her thin frame was no longer of a runner's build, but a hungry animal, focusing her energy on tending to the remaining members and only eating enough herself to keep going.

And there, with a hate clutched in her jaws, she saw Simmik. Simmik...very close up against the man whom had been thought to of kidnapped her. The very man Simmik had wanted to tear into bits when Kyr and she had ran into him on their scouting mission once before.

The hare in her jaws fell with a thump against the cold, hard earth and she found herself quickly moving into Simmik and the Saint Leader's direction. Whist Mal had been endlessly worried, whilst their pack was suffering, she had all the while been perfectly fine, plump and healthy. The Archer woman seethed with rage, a newfound coldness being found in her icy pale gaze.

Alive and quite well I see. She spoke to her former snowy Beta, eyes hard on her as they shot to the Saint Lead. And here we thought you'd never willing abandon your pack like everyone else...
The howl was a relief, a spark of hope that maybe things could work out in the end. He'd dropped his patrol and practically flew through the forest, thinking maybe this was all over. Things could get back to how they should be. He had so much to say to her, so much to mourn, to apologize for. And as he crashed through the trees and popped into view, for that brief second he did look happy -- maybe with a small slice of world-weariness, but it was honest and true.

But spotting the wolf standing next to her, his joy evaporated and the weight of the world came crashing back. He stumbled to a somewhat dazed stop. Donovan. What? Did he think that Mal had captured one of his wolves and was here to trade? Here to gloat? Certainly he wasn't here for anything good. The whiplash of the quick end to all things positive mixed with the anguish that had been lagging behind his shadow, percolating into a venomous, seething hatred that was the most spirit he'd had in the last year, and no less honest than his happiness moments before. It took a second before he stalked forward again with purpose, coming up near Kyr (though he'd missed what she'd said). Mal's now-unkempt fur stood on end, the tall, aggressive stance, ears forward, tail arced above his back -- the whole nine yards of an alpha not only defending his turf but also his people (which included Simmik, of course) -- his spearlike glare bored into the creature that dared to show his face this side of the mountains. He had a death wish, didn't he? But Mal's metamorphosis  probably made him not much like the wolf Simmik had last seen, but his ire was never at her, it was laser focused at the waste of air next to her. He needed to free her, and Donovan needed to go take a quick walk into a long and agonizing death -- a sarlacc pit would be just fine.

Mal was a man who had been pushed well past his limits by the events of the last few months. He was well beyond angry, he had not a joke in his soul, zero patience, and he had not much else to lose. It wasn't hard to miss the cold snarl that filtered just beneath his voice, or the tense line of his lips that didn't cover his teeth that well. He left no room for question, loud, direct, terse, So you brought her home. Now turn and leave before someone gets nasty while you still able to do so. It's not a request. He wasn't even worth a sarcastic "thanks for bringing her home," as even that was too much credit. Honestly, the only thing that probably kept Mal from likely getting himself killed was the fact that he was sure that Donovan would have no qualms killing Simmik if he even tried.

And he would be very adamant about him leaving, just for future reference. Donovan tries to say more than a small handful of words? He was gonna get interrupted by a steadfastly booming "LEAVE." Simmik goes past a sentence and a half or so while that freak still stood there? He'd even interrupt her with a "HE LEAVES." Repeat as necessary to get the point across. Donovan was a danger to them all and Mal was taking no chances. He had nothing to say as long as their enemy was in earshot.
skippable unless directly addressed!

like mal, cam felt hope surge up within him at the howl. perhaps it really would be that easy. he'd expected to fight for simmik, vie to get his old packmate back. now it seemed that she had fallen right back into their laps where she belonged. he raced from his place deep in the forest, careened wildly through the trees, tongue lolling.

but hope these days died quickly. through the foliage, he could see simmik just ahead—but also that big man, leader of the saints, the one who had stopped him and the pale giantess in the swamp. his stomach plummeted, and his heart began to race.

cam had lied about his home to the man, fearing he could put neverwinter in danger. but that didn't matter now, he supposed. donovan, or whatever his name was, had found them, and had simmik in tow. and the dynamic between them felt. . .off. not one of captor and captive, but—god only knew what. but it wasn't good; he knew that much.

he remained a little ways behind the pair of mal and kyr, black pelt blending so seamlessly into the shadows that only a pair of glittering emerald eyes within the evergreen belied his presence.
if everyone is okay with it, i was thinking we have a 48 hour skip rule to keep things moving

She searched the trees for Mal's form, gaze immediately tracking any movement. But the form she saw first was too dark to be Mal; she instantly recognized Vallkyrie. Simmik's eyes followed the hare as it fell to the ground and then whipped back up to study her old packmate's face. Her expression was cold and angry, matching the words she offered as she stopped in front of them. They had been struggling, that much she could see by the other woman's thin form. But how was that her fault? She was one wolf; they didn't depend on her that much. The winter had been difficult for everyone, and she could not be blamed for that. Still, she couldn't help the stab of guilt in her chest. Her jaw tightened, and she lifted her chin and she leveled Vallkyrie with her own icy stare. Her words hurt, but she refused to let her see that.

She opened her mouth to speak, but the words died in her throat as Mal appeared. She saw his relief suddenly turn into anger; it was palpable. He looked rough, and that hurt more than anything else so far. He had been struggling, too, and it made her heart ache. She suddenly wished she hadn't come here. He was better off thinking she was dead than to have to hear what she had was going to tell him. His words left no room for debate—he wanted Ky gone. She shifted one step towards her friend. Mal, she said first, the word just as stern as his were, but with a hint of pleading. I need to— she was cut off by his booming request—HE LEAVES. Her jaw tightened, and she stiffened. She took another step towards him, even as she felt his anger deep in her heart. Let me tal— she was interrupted again. She snarled and raised her voice. ENOUGH she boomed in return, authority in her voice. Her tail raised raised and her ears flattened. He stays. Now, Let me explain. She stared Mal down, shifting so that she was standing between Ky and and the neverwinter forest wolves. She caught Cam's scent on the frigid breeze, but she couldn't place his position. She remained on high alert, ready to shift into action if needed; she hoped it wouldn't be, though, and she could at least be given the chance to speak.
Kynareth’s like a statue beside her, sturdy and unmoving as he watches her confront her demons. He leans closer to her, hoping to ground her with his presence. To remind Simmik of her unwavering strength. Yet, all in the same motion he’s watching a dark form approach. It’s definitely not Mal and when he recognizes this woman as the one he’d met with Simmik so long ago he almost wants to laugh.

It takes everything within his being not to say some dumb shit when her cutting words are directed with malice towards Simmik. A quick thought of Don’t talk to my fucking wife like that. flits through his mind with a dark glare in his gaze. 

Still, the thought doesn’t cease when the man of the hour finally arrives. The Grandmaster’s head raises casually as his mottled grey form nears. Sidling closer to himself rather than Simmik, it makes his spine prickle with irritation. The feeling only increases when he’s spitting out his next words. 

Don’t do it. Kynareth tells himself. Making sure he’s keeping his maw nice and shut for Simmik. He wants so bad to snap back with his usual caustic wit, but alas he cannot. Not unless he wants to fuck it all up for her.

Unable to help the way his brow line twitches when he interrupts her with a booming voice. How childish. Kynareth hums internally. Not moving from his place beside his love even at the alpha’s threatening words. He would’ve barked out a harsh laugh if he was allowed. Instead, hawkish eyes move watch Mal with an easy, unimpressed, but casual expression. Careful not to put too much confidence or attitude in his stance or he might find himself offending the forest dwelling alpha.
But one wolf? If Vallkyrie could have read the woman's mind, she'd of scoffed. She'd of been further enraged. It was true, still, she was but one wolf...but she had also been their Beta. Had been their top Guardian. Had also been deep friends with Mal, whom searched endlessly for her. Who planned a raid to claim her back and risk the lives of all those involved- for her. But one wolf could mean so much to not only a singular wolf but an entire pack. One wolf could make do so much and much Simmik had done and much she had failed to do.

A figure lingered behind Vallkyrie though who she paid little heed to even more so now as Mal came to stand at her side, just as angry, if not more so, as Vallkyrie's self.

A spat quickly begins, Mal commanding that the Saint Leader leave his border so that he could speak to Simmik freely and without prying eyes and ears of a wolf known to be an enemy of the entire region. She objects, her allegiance to the stripped half-breed clearly outweighing that of the man she once called friend and leader. Even so far as to go to an agressive and dominant display over the forest Alpha. Protective of him, in her stance and it is so obviously clear that Simmik was no longer the Beta of Neverwinter they had loved and missed.

The Archer woman says no more. Not yet. After all, it was a conversation needed be said and done between Simmik and Mal and so the huntress would let that be so. Instead her attention lingers predominately on Kynareth, waiting to see how long he could hold back his arrogant, smart-mouth whilst on enemy territory.
Mal didn't take his eyes off Donovan. But his lip twitched as Simmik tried to interrupt him right back. This was wrong. What had the freak done to Simmik? He couldn't stop to think about it, standing his ground, same atittude as before, No. He doesn't. He is our enemy, he enunciated clearly. That was your decision and one I continue to stand by. He and his goons have done nothing but show that's what they wanna be since then -- hell, him being here proves he kidnapped you! He's a danger to everyone! We have nothing to say to say in the presence of someone who'd smile at being called a monster. Mal regarded him as one might had they been offered a chunk of horribly rotten meat while being told it was fresh. A slight tilt of his head -- a very watered-down version of what he might have done had he not been focused on making sure that it was completely and utterly clear there was to be no harm caused to his pack or his people today. So c'mon. We'll go get something to eat and catch up, meanwhile he can go walk off somewhere else and stay out of our lives. Mal wanted Donovan to just disappear, ne'er to be seen again. This was supposed to be a happy time -- and he wanted to be happy but how could that ever happen with that freak lurking about? Figures that it'd get ruined by a face he was hoping would have gotten chewed off by now.
To her surprise, Ky had kept quiet through everything. Not that she didn't trust him, but she knew it must be difficult for him to say nothing while she argued with Mal over how things were going to go. But he stayed her silent guardian, at her side, watching for the moment he would need to jump in. So far, she had managed to somewhat handle things, kind of. Mal wasn't budging and neither had she, but that meant no one was really getting anywhere. She didn't blame him for being angry; she had told him Ky and the saints were their enemies, but that was before—before she realized who she was, before she realized the depth of her feelings for the wolf at her side. She had been gone for months, and she knew he had been worried, and now she showed up with the very man that she had claimed they couldn't trust. She knew how it looked, but she just wanted a chance to explain everything. Mal still wouldn't be happy, she was fairly sure, but at least he would know she was okay. She was better. Stronger.

She stared at Mal for a few moments, not saying anything. Then she drew in a long breath through her nose and released it slowly through her mouth. Her stomach churned uncomfortably, but she ignored it. Mal, please, she said, her voice much softer than it had been. I just want to talk. Ky won't do anything if you guys can promise the same. Her expression was pained. She felt like she was being torn in half between her old life and her new one. Please, she offered again, hoping to sway him away from his anger a little, at least enough to be up for listening to her. She didn't want to send Ky away, she felt like it would mean she was choosing Mal over him when there was actually no one she was more loyal to than her mate.
Kyn remains silent. He almost wants to offer to walk just so the two stop arguing. A humorous I’ll be outside when you’re finished, honey. wanting to sneak past his lips. He wants this god forsaken interaction to hurry up just he doesn’t have to stare at the scowling faces of the pack before him. Yet, his pride tells him to stand tall beside her; to not relent to Mal’s desire for Kynareth to fuck off somewhere else. 

Truly he does contemplate for a moment while Simmik pleads for her friend to allow her a chance to explain. It’s borderline painful to stay silent while they go in circles and the brindle male wants to roll his eyes. He doesn’t of course.

Diligently making his final decision, he only sighs quietly and shifts his weight impatiently. Eyes flicking to the two before him. Ears forward and listening intently he shakes his pelt of the snow that’s gathered on it and continues on. He won’t be moving anytime soon. Though, if they continue arguing Donovan will probably take the hint and wait on the outside of the territory just for his and Simmik’s sake. This is taking too long.
just a cameo/skippable unless addressed : )

It had been some time, but Caerus recognized that voice. After returning to Neverwinter from his expedition, life had been quiet for the young doctor- quiet and cold, with the pack's shrinking size and the deteriorating remnants of his father's happiness. 

He was a little late to the call, but curious nonetheless, making his way across the forest until he came upon the scene. Dad, in full dominant stance. Simmik- Simmik! He briefly recalled the times they had spent together when he was growing up, some of his earliest memories. And now, she stood beside the wolfdog that Caerus could only assume was Donovan. He didn't know every detail but Dad had talked about this guy- they didn't like him. And it wasn't a good sign that Simmik randomly dissapeared, and came back with him, but wasn't already adjusting back into home. Though the young man felt he was missing some information, he hung hesitantly behind Mal- a quizzical look on his face towards Simmik, simply confused. Why wasn't she coming back home? Why did Dad look pissed? He tilted his ears forward, barely noticing Val and Cam.
Permission was given to skip Kyr!

Just want to talk? Uhh. That shouldn't be what she's here for. She should be here to stay. What the hell was he holding over her? It certainly wasn't gonna make him lower his guard -- if anything, it raised it more. But what she said next wasn't what he was expecting. She didn't trust them? Had she forgotten who she was talking to? Who she was standing next to in comparison? The monster here had stripes, not spots. Mal should have gone and tried to rescue her earlier -- he didn't want to think about what horrors she must have been subject to in order to warp her perspective as it apparently had been.

But that was finally when his gaze finally shifted to Simmik in silence for a moment, a little insulted if anything, You've been with him too long if you're thinking we're the bad guys here. And I say again, I'm not talking for reasons mentioned. His gaze slid back to the one in question, He leaves, all of us can stop worrying he's gonna hurt someone here and then we can. Did she expect Mal to now just totally accept Donovan's presence just like that? Because that was not gonna happen. He'd done too many bad things and Mal was really not at the mood to have that sneering maniac judging them either.
She was irritated at the thought of sending Ky away. It felt wrong—like she was betraying him. But she could tell this was just going to continue going around in circles unless one of them gave into the demands of the other. She sighed and shook her head. Fine, she said coldly. I'll be the adult here. She turned to her mate and reached up to briefly touch her nose to his jaw. Go wait for me away from the borders, she told him, her displeasure with that plan, clear in her expression. I'll be okay.

Assuming he did as she asked, she waited until he was a safe distance away before turning to Mal. Can we talk now? she asked him calmly. She glanced to Caerus, offering him a dip of her head in greeting. Then she looked back to Mal. Preferably without an audience. With how things had gone so far, she had a feeling he wasn't going to take her news very well at all.
Kyn has been a good boy. Waaayyyy too good. His ear twitches in irritation at the piebald males words. He finds himself immaturely imitating him in his head, but internally laughing nonetheless. It almost brings a smile to his face but he’s quick to hide it when Simmik speaks once more. 

Fine, I’ll be the adult here. She says, obviously bothered by what she has to do next. Truly she’s right. It does seem the whole wanting him to leave thing is childish. So her next words don’t surprise him at all and he finally lets his lips curl into a smile. 

It’s a mischievous one and he nods down to Simmik. When her nose touches his jaw he only briefly looks down to her before quickly bumping his massive head softly to her own.

“I’ll wait outside, meet me there when you’re done, darling.” He hums rather sweetly down to her. What she probably doesn’t see is Kyn’s eyes flicking up to Mal’s own as he turns his back on them and begins to walk out. His gaze on the Merle man is brief, but it was laughing at him. Full of mirth and sarcasm, pride and spite. He doesn’t look back as he makes his way out to wait by their borders. Simmik would be fine, he knew that.
The back and forth went on, Simmik pleading with Mal to let the stripped wolf stay, whilst Mal commanded he not and for obvious good reason. Friend or not now to Simmik, this did not mean that the Saints wolf was now a friend of theirs by default. He was their enemy and should be treated as such, despite the fact that Simmik now held feelings for the man at her side. She was in the wrong here. She was the traitor to this pack.

Black muzzle crinkled and lip quivering, she watches as Simmik and her new found lover share a small manner of affection before he is dismissed and despite the mocking glint in his wild yellow gaze, he does so quietly. After all, surely to Kynareth, the battle had already been won here- Simmik now was one of their own. An obvious case of Stockholm syndrome, Vallkyrie couldn’t help but snort. To Simmik's words, stating she wanted to speak with Mal without an audience, Kyr could feel bile rising in her throat. After her agruing so much to be allowed the Saint leader to stay, now she would be hypocritical herself and try to have them leave?

She was mistaken. This was their land, their home. If Mal so wished to lead her away, Vallkyrie would not follow but alas, she sat her happy little ass down right then and there. She did not bother to address the presence of their former Beta any longer. Icy eyes only watched out beyond the borders of her home and unto the open grounds beyond, to the large silhouette of the Saint's lead. The huntress would not let him out of her sight if she could help it.
What had he done to her? All of this seemed so twisted and strange. She'd be the adult? Somehow that striped freak had really done a number on her head. Why hadn't Moonspear actually stepped up like they kind of were acting like they were gonna? Mal had waited because he'd trusted them, and they had done nothing. And now this was the result. He had brainwashed her -- or something. Because that Simmik, of all people, would never be affectionate to someone who was known to attack women -- it made no sense. He'd broken her somehow. And apparently, that slimeball knew it from that look.

Oh but he thought it was funny? Mal took a couple of stiff steps after him but wasn't going to chase. Mal had definitely made the right decision. That creature was a menace to anything that wanted peace. Aside from a particularly deadly glare Donovan's way, when he finally looked back to Simmik, a mix of frustrated and confused, wanting to be happy she was here and ok but things had gone plenty sideways, But you were gonna let that sneering rapist stay? Did you forget about the whole 'he kidnapped you' thing? And what he's done to other people? What's going on, Simmik? Why should I send them away? -- This is your home, your family. A look to Kyr (who didn't seem interested in leaving) and a glance to Caerus to see if he had things to say too. He hadn't seen Cam. What was going on?
She supposed she wasn't surprised that he wasn't going to appease her in any way. She had known he was going to be angry, and he had a right to be. And since she just wanted to get this over with, she decided she was just going to speak freely in front of whoever wanted to listen. 

As for her husband's past: she had let it all go. It was part of who he was, and now that her eyes were opened to how much easier life was when you weren't weighed down by guilt and ghosts of the past, she decided she very much liked his vicious side. It wouldn't make sense to Mal—he was too good—she didn't fit in his life anymore. 

I'm not here to justify my actions. I only wanted to let you know that I'm okay. I want to be with Kynareth, she told him. We are married and— she paused, her tail flicking against her hocks as she decided if she wanted to tell him the rest. But, she was no coward, not anymore. I'm pregnant; they're his. I'm going to stay with the Saints and raise our children there. That is where I belong now. I'm not the same Simmik you knew before. Her face was cold and expressionless as she spoke. She ignored the other members of the forest and focused only on Mal. She was only here because, deep down, she still loved him, and she wanted him to have some peace of mind that she was alive and well. And before you start spiraling away in your mind, none of this is your fault. It was what needed to happen. I'm stronger now. This is who I'm meant to be. She fell silent then and watched Mal's expression as she waited for him to speak.
His stomach twisted as she talked, and honestly only some of it stuck in his brain, the rest was immediately boxed up for later because he just could not deal with it all. He swayed in place, trying to keep from just walking away, being sick, something, but the only way Mal could do so was focusing in on the uncompromising truth, But can you justify his? What about helping to hunt down and end the guy who attacked Liliana, huh? Is that now forgivable to you? I can't understand why you of all wolves would want to be anywhere near a wolf who you know is such a monster to women let alone-- He cut off, shook his head. The whole thing was making him queasy, he couldn't think too deep into it it was too much, His existence puts you in danger. The wolves he keeps company of put you in danger. You know they like attacking people unprovoked -- hell, you read me the riot act because Hua took one of their deserters in and then this is your choice? It doesn't make any sense why you'd just go along with it! How could Simmik think this was totally ok and normal? It wasn't. That should be obvious. And there was no way he was just gonna be like "oh, yeah, that's just how it is."

How could she be doing this? Nothing about it is stronger. Deciding to give up on what's right and joining in on their corruption isn't strength. It's the opposite -- it's weakness, emptiness, and -- Again he cut off, this time before he said something he'd regret if he continued down that same vein. This was all his fault. He didn't do enough. You're under his paw -- he abducted you, kept you there, and then showed up here over your shoulder to make sure that we all knew you were his property instead of the independent wolf we all love. You're far better and stronger than him, but he's making you his shadow. It was the only way the pieces could possibly fit together -- whether she realized it or not, she was letting him control her, corrupt her. He was the one making the choices, not Simmik herself. It wasn't right.

But the frustration and anger also turned mournful, I'm sorry that you were left there -- everything I tried, none of it worked. You didn't deserve this fate. I did fail you. And now she was going to just abandon him like every other wolf in his life? But somehow this was far worse than the others. Probably the combination of who it was, and why -- and how callous she was being about it all. She was really going to say this with Donovan lurking over her shoulder the whole time? God, maybe he should have stayed so Mal could have projectile-vomited right in his face.

Why was it too much for the world to let him live happily with his best friend? Why was this happening to him? Who was next? Aibreann? Caerus? Hua? This was supposed to be a joyful meeting, but that emotion had been so instantly fleeting that it had basically not existed. The void it left was immensely painful in many ways.
he could have never predicted the turn of the conversation. relief flooded over him when the big wolf finally stepped back and away, but whatever ease he felt was soon dashed to bits by simmik's revelation. his jaw fell open, and he finally emerged from the thicket, emerald gaze burning into hers.

he didn't speak. he couldn't speak. all he could do was stare at her, agape, while mal angrily shot back.

how could she have done this? how could she have found love in that awful man?

cam's eyes flickered to kynareth for a moment, and he shuddered in revulsion. looked back at simmik. he felt tears well up. he couldn't breathe. he had trusted her. he would have done anything to get her back—would have given his life to return the beta to her rightful place at neverwinter forest.

and he would have died in vain.

in the midst of his alpha male's reply, he wheeled and pushed through the bushes, back into the forest, enraged. if he were to stay, he would say (or do) something he'd regret. he wished he could remember simmik how he'd known her:

loyal. true. unsullied.

instead, it was yet another betrayal, and the anger he already felt at his father's reappearance was still more compounded by this latest development. he would throw himself upon the earth in the rendezvous, teeth gritted, a furious sob bursting up his throat and out his lips at the injustice of it all.

exeunt cam
She knew he would be mad. She knew he would ask questions. She knew it would hurt. What she didn't know was how angry it would make her. Suddenly, she wanted to shout back at Mal, tell him to take his judgment somewhere else. But she didn't; she kept her emotions in check, much more able to do that now that she was stronger—she was stronger, regardless of what Mal thought. 

She let him spout his angry questions, one accusation after another; all the while, her face remained blank. When he was done, she focused first on the little jab at her not going after her attacker. I will still help you kill that piece of shit; whenever you're ready, just let me know. None of this means we can't be friends, Mal. You're the one turning this into more than it needs to be. The words were lacking any of her normal passion as she kept up her mask to keep Mal from knowing anything about how she was feeling. She believed the words, of course, but she hated how upset he was. She wished they could all just coexist. And his existence doesn't put me in danger. He would never let anything happen to me; I've witnessed it with my own eyes. He had saved her from the bear, saved her brother from getting mauled by the pack, and he remained steadfast at her side, lovingly giving her whatever she asked for. But Mal would never see that side of him, few did, and so they would never understand why she chose him over everything else in her life, even after everything that had happened between them. 

It is not weakness to finally stop drowning in my past, she told him, losing her cool for a split second. He didn't know the darkness she had lived with before, no one did. That darkness was all but gone now, leaving her to be more than a damaged wolf, stumbling around, trying to figure out what life was after trauma. And I am not under his paw, she said, shaking her head. I'm not his shadow. I'm more independent than I've ever been, and Kynareth would never do anything to get in the way of that. He likes my strength.

Stop it, Mal, she said when he went on to blame himself. There is nothing to save me from. I want to be with Kynareth, and there's nothing you could have done about it. Of course, she had been abducted, but she wasn't going to give Mal that fuel. She would protect her husband. She understood now why he had done it, and she didn't hold it against him, nor would she let anyone else.
Cam barging off into the forest was a distant echo, barely registered. What happened to his friend? Seriously, this wasn't Simmik, And yet the man you're with did the same thing to someone else's daughter! It's unforgivable. Period. Maybe you get a free pass but I doubt he'd hesitate to do something to us if you wouldn't find out. And somewhere out there is at least one father who wants that guy's head removed from his shoulders just like I do that other guy. That's some danger right there without getting into anything else he's done. How could she sleep with a rapist, let alone want to carry his children? How did that not absolutely horrify her? How did he not get his balls ripped off? The only answer was brainwashing. It just wasn't something a reasonable person would do.

And I'm the one turning it into something it didn't need to be? You know how much we'd been through before he abducted you, he'd keep repeating that point, since for some reason Simmik seemed to be tricked into thinking it was totes ok to do for some bizarre reason, and it's not like that just went and stopped after. We've lost too much -- I can't have wolves who'd be happy to try to do more harm anywhere near my family. You are supposed to be part of my family. How does that work when he's leering over your shoulder thinking suffering is funny? Because that was painful. The wedge between them was put there by Simmik and it was pretty stripey looking. 

Sure, he was angry, but at some point the anguish of it all was the thing that dominated. She was hurting him with her certainty that somehow she was in the right -- she wasn't. Everything she'd done seemed like it was designed to hurt him -- bringing a monster to their door, trying to make it so there was no room to question things that were obviously wrong. Was she going out of her way to be cruel? Was that what she wanted? Stop? I can't -- I offered you anything, everything, you know I'd do anything to help you -- I'd have died for you. And now you're with your own kidnapper, an admitted rapist, just like that. And somehow you expect me to be totally ok with it? I sure must have done something wrong for that to be your response because I sure as hell don't understand. It's wrong. Backwards. And that was the thing that hurt the most. As far as Mal knew he had done everything right and now he was being abandoned by a wolf he considered his best friend and sister as she ran off into the arms of an undeniable monster. And that was supposed to be ok. Abandoned again. Like always. And she, like so many others, seemed to be totally ok with doing that.
Simmik had complete faith in Kynareth—faith that he would keep his promises, and faith that he would never lie to her. So she shook her head at Mal's accusation. No. He has already agreed not to hurt you, and I trust him to keep his word to me. Her expression remained cold as she fought off the guilt that beat at her protective walls. I am perfectly capable of handling whatever comes our way, and like I said before, he is no danger to me.

She tightened her jaws as he continued, the words sitting in her heart, heavy and searing like volcanic rock. They had been through a lot—she was supposed to be a part of his family; it was all too much. She didn't need this breaking her secretly still fragile armor. She had only started to form it as a way to protect her not so thick skin—especially where Mal was involved. 

On some level, she had always know Mal would die for her because she felt the same way and still did. Hearing him say it out loud was the final straw; the words cracked her icy exterior. Her face fell as tears threatened, stinging the corners of her eyes. She was sound in her decision, but she hated that it hurt Mal. The hurt was palpable and overwhelming. She wanted to reach out and comfort him, but she knew she couldn't. I'm sorry, Mal, she said softly. I never meant to hurt you. She gave a shaky sigh. But this is just how it has to be now.
She might have complete faith, Mal had zero. Donovan was a monster. End of story. A flock of gnats was worth more than the striped creature's word. And do you think he told his minions that? Sure didn't seem like it if they're trying to cause trouble with everyone they meet. And what about everyone else I know? What about them being safe? He isn't some normal person who'll act in the spirit of a promise -- again, kidnapper, rapist, keeps a pile of freaks around that want to chew on strangers. Maybe he's so damn obsessed with you he really isn't a danger just to you, but he is to all of us. I don't know how you can't see that. Brainwashed.

But then, there was a crack -- a small piece of the Simmik he knew shining through. Of course it was through sadness -- Neverwinter was far more familiar with that emotion as of late -- but she was still there, and that was the important part. Somehow, sadness brought hope sometimes, apparently. He stayed where he was but leaned forward slightly, trying to offer her a smile if he could manage. It was Simmik -- he at least wanted to be happy she was safe. It doesn't have to be. You can stay here -- you should stay. You always have a place with me. Because Mal was not willing to just brush her off, to suddenly lock her out of her life. Mal was a far better wolf than Donovan -- did he need to prove it? It should be obvious. He knew Simmik was good, he hoped that she could see that, that whatever corruption that Donovan had started trying to to fool her with wasn't her path. There were better things out there. She had to see that.
His arguments were all the same—mistakes from Ky's past that Simmik had forgiven. It was easy for Mal to dwell in them, though; he didn't know Ky like she did—no one did. That was part of her draw to him. She could see him for who he was and he could see the same in her. She knew it wasn't something she would be able to make her friends see, nor would she try and force it. I'm not going to be able to make you see things any differently. None of that stuff matters anymore. She loved him and was stronger with him—that was all that mattered.

The familiarity of Mal and the direction the conversation had gone made her heart hurt—it clenched painfully in her chest, and she had to close her eyes for a moment. She wished there was some way she could make everyone happy, but that was impossible; she wasn't stupid or naive enough to believe otherwise. I can't, she told him when she was finally able to look at him again. I'm pregnant, and I want to be with Ky, she told him softly. But I still love you, Mal. I still want to be your friend. Was there anyway she could have both of them in her life?
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