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it would be ancelin's first excursion outside the pack, and he used masquerade's skill to avoid being seen. or so he thought.
the boy would be easy to track as he descended the edge of the rise and found himself in the plains directly south. the great expanse made him feel small, and so he flattened himself against the ground.
but the voles that scurried underfoot had his attention at once, and soon he was pouncing like a smudged little fox, scarfing down his catches with extreme gusto and no situational awareness.
The smell of game drew Atreus to the plain today, unaware that Ancelin would be foraying this far from the rise. All thoughts of feeding himself vanished when he spotted his brother from a distance, obliviously chasing after voles. He considered leaving before Ancelin noticed him, though something made him hesitate: quite possibly his brother’s evident success at catching himself a meal.
when he looked up, atreus was there. "hey!" she shouted, bounding toward his bro. "they're everywhere, dude! don't even have to try really hard to catch one."
his luck had been a fluke: two down out of fifty pounces. but the energy expended was worth it to ancelin. "wanna try?"
Ancelin noticed him. Atreus stiffened, though his brother seemed glad to see him. He bounded over as if the two of them had never had an argument. It had been so long, Atreus realized he felt no more ire toward his sibling. In fact, the warm reception was an unexpectedly humongous relief.

Smiling at Ancelin’s enthusiasm, Atreus nodded without even thinking, then found himself asking, What are?

He looked down at his feet, not sure what to expect. He saw nothing, though now that Atreus was paying attention, he heard scurrying in the grass. He exchanged a glance with his brother, then dropped his muzzle and began sniffing, quickly finding what he took to be a mouse.

Ah! he cried, smacking at it with a paw and missing entirely.
ancelin grabbed for it but the animal was too quick. the boy was not deterred and whirled after another, then leapt for a third. 
he missed those strikes and the next two, but on the last he ground a vole into the earth, and raised a triumphant face, spitting dirt out between his teeth as the tiny creature dangled from his jaws.
Ancelin made a bid for the rodent, reminding Atreus of another time the two of them had chased a mouse together. Unlike that time, his brother didn’t manage to catch this one. Undeterred, he whirled, snapping his jaws until he finally trapped one by the tail.

Atreus snorted at the sight of it, his mouth filling with drool. He was very briefly tempted to dart forward and snatch the vole right out of his sibling’s mouth. He couldn’t remember his last meal. But he didn’t dare upset the equilibrium the two of them had spontaneously struck today.

Good one, he said instead, then decided to mention, A lady named Amalia showed me how to hunt rabbits. You ever tried? I bet we could find some of their burrows on these plains. As he spoke, he scanned the surrounding flatland, drying grass as far as the eye could see.
ancelin was so pleased with himself that he barely noticed atreus' discomfort or hunger. "yeah that sounds good," the boy said. he threw the vole to his brother. "eat it, nerd," snickering, the aspiring hunter set off at a lope, muzzle firmly pressed to the ground.
"where'd you meet amalia?" he mumbled, glancing over his shoulder at his sibling.
Something thumped against his chest before dropping to rest between his forepaws. Atreus blinked down at the vole, then up at his brother’s, “Eat it, nerd.” The casualness of it still took him aback, yet in the best possible way. He smiled as he snatched the tiny carcass off the ground and made quick work of it.

In response to Ancelin’s question, he looked upward in an attempt to orient himself, then motioned vaguely eastward, By a river, that way. There’s a pack living there. It’s called… shoot, I forget, Atreus was forced to admit. He hesitated briefly before adding, She kind of invited me to live there. A breath. I told her I’d think about it.

ancelin wasn't expecting that; it showed in how he looked sharply at his brother. "what!" 
his heart began to race. he thought of his mother. maybe she had gone to live somewhere else too.
"but not really, right?" he laughed. atreus was goofing. look! 
ancelin looked back, and his face fell.

The look on his brother’s face made Atreus hastily emphasize, I told her I’d think about it, that’s all. But after a brief pause, he added, I’m only doing that because you’re the only one who seems to want me around. And I thought…

He didn’t really want to voice what he’d thought, not now. He’d thought they were on the outs too. Clearly, that wasn’t the case. Gazing at his brother now, this single, small exception made up his mind.

Don’t worry, he said on an exhale, I’m not going anywhere. It was just a thought. He waved a paw dismissively, then smiled at his brother and added, Well, do you want me to show you how to hunt rabbits or not?
<3 can keep going or fade!

yeah, but he'd said it. ancelin tried to remember what he could of arielle's face. "good, cuz — cuz i'd have to come get you." yeah. ha. dad had them and they had each other. that was how it was. and it needed to stay.
"yeah! let's do it. they're bigger than these stinky ol voles anyway." he leapt a few feet, then looked back at atreus. "do we have to run a lot? i'm ready."
He smirked at his brother’s playful threat. Or was it more of a promise? Atreus’s face fell when he realized this meant he would need to stay close to the rise indefinitely, unless Ancelin might be willing to go with him elsewhere…

His brother’s voice cut straight through his thoughts. Atreus shook his head and focused on the task at hand. First, they would need to find a warren. Then they would need to choose roles. He already knew he would opt to be the barker, since Ancelin was already proving a more adept hunter.

If it works how it’s s’posed to, you won’t need to run very much, but you’ll definitely have to move fast, Atreus said, motioning for Ancelin to follow as he embarked on a purposeful stride across the plains. Like, really fast.

I want to continue because I don’t know when or if they’ll have another! But it probably makes sense to fade, so feel free. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for them, lol.
wanna do another round? <3

the boy laughed. "i'm very, very fast!" he galloped in a wide circle and moved back to nudge atreus.
the fight was over. he'd all but forgotten it. his brother was important to him, and aside from their father, formed a very important cornerstone to ancelin's life.
he settled now, focused to take the other's lead.
I know you are, Atreus acknowledged with a smirk, fondness in his eyes when Ancelin nudged him.

He strode across the field, head bent low to sniff along the ground. The grass was drying out ahead of winter, though it was still quite thick, making it a bit difficult to navigate in places.

He still hadn’t found any signs of rabbits after a while, though Atreus picked up another scent. He exchanged a glance with his brother, then began slinking more slowly through the dense swards of greenery.

Something jumped out in front of the boys: a young deer! It was no longer a fawn, yet not quite a yearling. It bounded swiftly away and Atreus instinctively gave chase.
he too moved to chase.
he and atreus moved in unison. his long limbs pumped and in memory of the elk herd, how the adults had acted, he swerved to its right shoulder and lunged to bite.
but ancelin did not yet have the weight or the jaw-heft to hold for long; his teeth ached and he was shoved back.
spitting a bit of blood from where the bad blow had split his own lip, he continued to follow, though with less gusto than before.
In his peripheral, Atreus saw his brother lunge, only to fall back. He slowed his own step, turning his head properly to assess Ancelin. He was still running, though there was blood in his mouth. He spat.

Atreus felt riled by the sight and faced forward again, eyes narrowing on the deer. He suddenly pumped his legs harder, keen to avenge Ancelin by putting the prey in its place: dead, on the ground, beneath their teeth and claws.

But, of course, he was neither swift nor an adept hunter. The young ungulate evaded him, springing out of reach and disappearing. It left Atreus no choice but to slow, then stop, panting.

Fuck you, you fucking asshole! he raged futilely at the deer’s hind. I’m going to hunt you down and kill your ass!

Turning and trotting back to Ancelin, he asked, You okay?
ancelin gasped and chuckled a little, then winced at his lip. "yeah, i'm good. got me a little. but no worries, cuz you're gonna kill his ass." he laughed loudly. "we can together."
he spat into the dirt and nudged his brother. "i'm gonna head back." his indigo eyes flicked over atreus. "you coming?"
his taste for hunting was gone. but he wanted to keep hanging with his bro.
Right, Atreus agreed, shooting a squint into the distance before refocusing on his brother, relief mingling with skepticism that Ancelin was actually okay. Yeah, we will.

But when it came to returning to the rise, Atreus couldn’t agree so readily. His body tensed. He wanted to go with his brother, yet he wasn’t quite ready for everything else that entailed, namely an inevitable confrontation with Aventus.

You should go and find someone to take a look at that, he replied, initially dodging the question before reluctantly adding, I’m going to stay here on these plains, hating that he was likely disappointing Ancelin so soon after mending things between them.

Returning Ancelin’s nudge, he quickly promised, I won’t go anywhere, okay? Come find me again, or I’ll call for you soon. He made a point to catch the other boy’s eye. I’m glad we got to hang out today. We’ll do it again soon.
yeah, he was disappointed. but it hurt way less than before, than when he had thought that atreus was about to just up and leave.
there was something off. but ancelin didn't want to think about it. not at all. so he reached out only to "fist-bump" his brother with a rough paw.
"all right," he shouted over his shoulder. "don't be a stranger!"
with a hoot, he set off at a ginger gait, not realizing he would not see atreus again so soon.