Morningside Cuesta ii. nine lives
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#1
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Open to anyone at the den (Khoe, Dauntless, Lavender). It'll be archived on the 11th, if no one responds.
They're all small again. Four girls and two boys tumble in the grass. "Shara, leave Rushi alone. Dawn, Mir, don't play too rough." He knows the drill; the kids don't mean to, but they're always causing trouble. All he can do is smile while a coal-dark boy comforts his painted sister while the two greyling girls and their earthen brother continue to wreck havoc. He'll have to do something about that, but for now, his attention is drawn to his little red.

"Wasn't I enough?" she asks.

He shakes his head. "It's not about enough, Greeneyes."

"Well, what's it about, then?"


He pulls her aside and opens his mouth, but no words come out of it. Little red presses on - "Why'd you give me up?"

stop —

 "Do you think of me as your uncle, Addie?"

She looks at him like she knows a secret that he could never comprehend.

"Do you think of me as your niece?"

"There is no end to what I think of you."


stop —

He sleeps beside his wife, three young cubs sprawled out around them. Grey light filters through the canopy above them, and he can hear someone drawing nearer. He lifts his head to give his daughter a sleepy smile. "That time already?"

"Yeah, c'mon. This moose isn't gonna hunt itself."

"Moose are too big for these kids. Are you sure - "

"I've got them, Day. Go with your daughter." He turns to smile at his pretty wife, secure in knowing the cubs would be safe with her.

"Thanks, Greeneyes. We'll see you tonight."

stop —

"You said you'd never leave me. You said you'd always want me around."

"I still do. Nothing's changed."

"Everything has changed."


stop —

Sometimes, it is impossible not to see how beautiful she's become. He stares until she must feel his eyes burning into her, but he can't seem to tear his gaze away. There are others around them, he shouldn't be looking like this -

She looks at him and his heart stops, and he knows that it has never been a secret.

stop —

They stand beside Steady's body, in a sea of pain with no shore in sight. She says, "I have lost it all; I have given up everything for you."

There are no words for him. He can only stand beside her, as he has always done. She leans against him, damp earth mingling with hard stone - he never knows which one of them will yield, and which one will be the rock.

stop —

she laughs, head thrown back, free and unattainable

stop —

Greeneyes. Adeline. "Addie, Addie, Addie."

stop —

Day drew in an unsteady breath, still murmuring through his fitful sleep. One paw twitched uneasily, as if he were running, in his dreams. "Addie, no... 'm sorry... don't go..."
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Lavender lay beside her father as he kicked about in his sleep. His movements hadn't disturbed her for a little while until one of his paws managed to kick across the top of her head. It swiped her ears and she fell away, it hurt a little (which was a lot in the mind of a newborn) but she would be alright. She rolled over onto her side and let out a ear deafening screech. She flailed her little paws in the air and allowed the screech to trail off into a howl and then a wail. She wanted her parents attention, their help. Her head was hurting and she'd fallen away from her father's side, and was now flailing in what felt like nothing to her. She was falling and she couldn't get up.
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#3
She just listened.

Khoe sat in the darkness, ignoring the wails of her children and the kicking of her mate and just listened.

Addie, he cried out, and both times a ball the size of her patience swelled up in her throat. And yet still, Khoe just listened. She was angry, but only for a second. Then she was sad — plain and dull; there was no room for embellishments. But, when it all came to a close, she was just numb.

Khoe had never been a fool. She knew that Grayday belonged to someone else, no matter how much of him she was allowed to borrow. Still, she tried to convince herself that he did love her, and that when he gazed at her with that expectant look, he wasn't thinking of someone else. 

Not even Lavender's shriek was enough to bring her back to reality. It was the realization that Grayday had brought that pain to their daughter, and the protectiveness that came out of her. Grayday, she whispered, then Grayday, was half-growled a bit louder. Khoe sighed and managed to lift her head from where it rested against the floor of the den, then moved a step forward to grab Arushi and pull her into her forepaws. She hushed the wailing girl, using her tongue to gently groom the fur beneath her chin, then placing her back at her side to rest.
 
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#4
Grayday just twitched once; it was a pretty small movement
It was his daughter's wailing that woke him. Grayday sat up, letting out a huff of nervous breath, trying to pinpoint the origin of the cry. He could tell their voices apart, by now, and knew that it was Lavender that was crying, but he couldn't see through his sleep-muddled eyes. An ear flapped in Khoe's direction as he realized she'd called his name, but his nose sought ought the very angry form of his daughter.

"Rushi? Wha - " A wide yawn punctuated the sentence - "What happened?"

He yawned again, more firmly this time, and managed to clear his head. A few rapid blinks adjusted his eyes to the darkness of the den, and as he met Khoe's green glower over his daughter's body, vague bits and pieces started to come back to him from his dream.
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#5
Khoe searched for the right words to say but nothing seemed to fit. She had fooled herself into thinking that Grayday was hers now, but she knew deep down that it would never be true. And perhaps she was overreacting (that was most likely the case, all things provided), but something in her nearly screamed that something was off.

It had been weeks, months even, since Adeline had left, so why was he so conveniently having dreams about her right after his venture away from home? The way Khoe saw it, there were only two possibilities; Grayday had either seen her while he was away (in which case, it must have been a damn good visit for him to be having dreams about her) or he’d never stopped thinking of her. For a moment, Khoe was unsure which answer hurt more.

You kicked her, she replied coolly, her voice as hard as stone and her glare even harder.
 
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Grayday blinked back at her, guilt punching a hole through his chest. “I kicked her?” he repeated, aghast. “Is she okay? I normally wake up if I move. Damn it - ” His eyes were glued to Lavender’s tiny form. “I’m so sorry, ‘Rushi.”

Shaken, the male turned his gaze back to his mate, waiting to hear the verdict. It couldn’t have been hard, could it? Had he really hurt her? Would she be okay?

He felt like crawling into a hole. Already, he’d woken feeling guilty about how badly he’d failed Adeline, and now this. What was wrong with him?
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Khoe continued staring on at Grayday, her eyes piercing as deeply as they could. She ignored his questions, and instead turned her attention to Lavender. The poor girl was still upset, and rightly so! Anyone would have been distraught if they’d been kicked awake in the middle of the night. For a second, Khoe wished that Lav was able to see who the perpetrator had been.

How did you sleep? she asked, though her tone was almost mocking; she wanted him to lie. She wished with every bitter bone in her body that he would make up some dream to cover up the ugly truth -- he’d been having an affair and Khoe had been too preoccupied to notice. That had to be the answer, right? All she ever dreamed about was her mate and the love that she felt for him, so it only made sense that the same was true for him.
 
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#8
Hadn’t she heard him? Panic began to fester in the pit of his stomach. There was something about her tone, the look in her eyes - as if she was accusing him of something, as if she’d never forgive him. It was like something straight out of his nightmares.

“Did I hurt her?” he demanded, still straining to see the girl through the veil of darkness. What if she was dying? It would be his fault. It would be just like he always dreaded, and Khoe would leave him and she’d take Easy and Dauntless with her.
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#9
Did I hurt her?

Khoe snorted and looked away from him, so as to hide the ironic laugh bubbling in her throat. It was strange how even amidst so much rage and hurt, she could find the air to laugh. The sound was meant to be taken as an insult; it was meant to confuse and belittle him. There was no joy behind it.

What did you dream about? she asked, It must’ve been a trip. There was a small lilt at the end of the statement, though her voice was beginning to ball up. Her throat felt like it might collapse under the weight of her own emotions, but still she pressed on. I want to hear about it.
 
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His heart was pounding in his ears, but finally, he understood. This was still a dream, right? His dreams never made sense, and this didn’t either. But he’d never known when he was dreaming, before, and there was a terrible sense of reality, here.

"You’re scaring me, Khoe," he said quietly. "I don’t understand. I don’t - " I don’t remember, he’d been about to say, but abruptly, he did, and for a moment, his face went slack as he thought back with fascination to the strange scenes and flashes that’d plagued him all night. Greeneyes. Adeline. Addie.

“This is our daughter, and you need to tell me right now if she’s okay,” said Grayday, his voice venomous. Part of him wanted to go on, to reassure her that they would talk about this, but only once he’d heard about their daughter’s health - but fury was building, forming a blockade in his throat. How could she be so petty? Didn’t she see that there were more important thing going on?
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She’s fine, seethed Khoe in response to Grayday’s harsh commands. Although none of her wanted to submit to him, there was something about his voice that reminded her of her first mate, and before common sense kicked in, she was actually afraid. Of course, that only lasted a moment, as Khoe realized that she had power now, too.

She was the mother to his children, and their lives depended on her.

Dark thoughts began racing through her mind, ranging from an escape plan to leave the pups behind in the night, to refusing them and denying them the way that her mother denied most of her weaker pups during her fertile years. Now, she said after sucking in a deep breath, I want you to tell me about the dream.
 
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#12
As soon as the words came out of her mouth, his whole body seemed to relax. A long breath tumbled out of his mouth, and he shut his eyes and tilted back his head, thanking the Cat and Calf that nothing had happened, that she would be okay. He knew that his god was not always merciful, and he knew that he had more strikes against him than others. Perhaps more than most.

He was still angry. He was still trying to understand why Khoe had refused to answer him, why she hadn’t been as worried about their daughter as him. He wanted to argue more, but the dream had been unsettling - they almost always were - and part of him wanted to talk about it, even though he didn’t want to act like he was okay with what she’d done.

The male gazed at her for a moment, weighing his options, before letting out another sigh. “It was weird,” he began, looking down at his paws. “It started off, and the kids were all tiny again. You must’ve been out, ‘cause it was just me with all six. They were causin’ trouble, Addie was playing by herself. Or sitting by herself, I guess. And I turned to her, and she said - ”

He screwed his eyes closed, trying to remember, but found himself drawing a blank. Looking back at Khoe, he simply shook his head. “She was mad at me. She’s always mad at me, in my dreams.”
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#13
It was all Khoe could do to not stand and leave the den right then and there. Gods know if she had left when she had the chance, she might not have turned back until she was too far away for it to matter. She took a deep breath and swallowed the outburst at her lips.
You’re lying to me, she whimpered, her voice cracking halfway through. It was said so matter-of-factly that even she was surprised. Khoe had always been taught to hold her tongue, and yet it was something that she’d never been able to do.

I-I know you’re lying. Now her voice was soft and low, so much so that one would’ve had to have strained to have heard it. She sucked in a deep breath and turned away, staring out of the entrance for a moment before refocusing. I heard you call out to her, in your sleep. Khoe refused to be second-class to a wolfess that’d left her mate. She refused to feel below a woman with her own dreams because of what Grayday thought he wanted.

This was his chance to fix what had been destroyed, but everyone knows you can’t fix a castle with glue sticks.
 
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#14
Day stared back at her, somewhat aghast. “I’m not,” he told her, wondering why she thought this. “It was - I remember that part, and then there were flashes of other things. One where we were standing, and we were looking at Steady’s body... and one where we were sleeping with these three, and Dawn came to get me for a hunt.” His brow furrowed again, at this. There’d been something strange about that part, but he couldn’t quite recall what it was. “Before I woke up, she was... she was laughing, I think. But she was going away, too. I was telling her to stop. And that I was sorry.”

He was still confused about the more middle parts of the dream. Sometimes, there hadn’t been words at all; just strange feelings and the ominous cloud of guilt that always hung over him, in his sleep. “What’s wrong, Khoe?” he asked finally, unable to decide if he was more irritated or concerned by her arguments.
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#15
What’s wrong Khoe?

She took a deep breath and let it brew before responding. There were too many things that she wanted to say, but also never enough. You keep chasing her, she whispered, finally speaking it into existence. Have you been seeing her since she left? Her voice had begun to pick up some bass, though it was still weak and plagued by emotional breaks.

What am I not giving you? What more do you need from me? Khoe thought that, not only was it cruel of Grayday to have these hidden feelings, but that it was unfair. She didn’t get to love anyone else the way that she loved him; he was the end all to her affection, and yet he still couldn’t find it in himself to give her the one thing she needed -- him.
 
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He could only stare at her as he spoke, his emotions flickering rapidly from sympathy to anger to guilt. Only when he’d worked through each one did he speak, having swallowed back his pride. “I haven’t seen her at all,” he replied, his voice quiet and reedy. “I haven’t looked for her. I don’t mean to be chasin’ her. I don’t like to dream about her.”

It was strange to look at Khoe’s face and know that his love for Adeline had never been a secret - not from her. He wondered if he should bother trying to tell her that it wasn’t what she thought, that she didn’t have to worry, that Adeline was like his own child in all the ways he cared about. But Day didn’t think she’d believe him, and sometimes, he wasn’t sure he believed himself.

“There was nothin’ goin’ on between us, Khoe. You can believe that, or you can tell me I’m lying. That’s up to you. But when Adeline left,” he said, his eyes fixed on a point somewhere over his mate’s shoulder, “do you know what she said to me?” It still hurt to think the words, and to realize that it’d never been a secret from her, either. How bad did I hurt you? he thought. “She said - ‘you can’t have both’. And I let her go, and I came home.”

He made himself look at her, then. “I don’t mean to hurt you, Khoe. This isn’t something I can control. But I need you to believe that you’re important to me, and that I care about you, and that I’m trying my best. I need you to believe that I’m not goin’ anywhere - not for nothin’, and not for her. Can you believe that? Can that be enough for you?”
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#17
Can I be enough for you? She told you that you couldn’t have both and yet you still can’t let her go, can you? No matter how sincere he was, Khoe couldn’t hear anything but deceit pouring from his mouth. You know, she said, that cynical laugh slowly returning, I’m trying my best, too. I’m trying to feel like there’s something genuine here. I’m trying to feel like you love me the way that I love you, but it’s hard when you sit in the den and fantasize about other women with your family sleeping beside you.

Khoe looked at Grayday and sighed, both from exasperation and pure disappointment. Though, she was much less disappointed in him than she was in herself; she should have known better than to give herself so wholly and so quickly. She knew that she would stay up the rest of the night, fuming with fury, and then she would have to find it in herself to let the grudge fade with the morning sun.

But even when Khoe forgave, she never forgot, and this would be no exception.
 
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“It’s not about enough!” he said, the words erupting before he could stop them. He hadn’t yelled, but he’d spoken louder than he’d meant to. “It’s not - it wasn’t supposed to be like this, okay? Don’t you - I raised that girl, Akuti. I fed her and protected her, and I watched her skip around that mountain, watched her grow - ”

His voice broke, and he hung his head even as he pushed himself to his paws. The den was too small for all these feelings; the walls seemed to be closing in on him.

He slipped out of the den, but remained near the entrance, blood rushing past his ears. “I was supposed to be her uncle, and she made me choose. I think about her every day, just like I think about Sunny. I’m not fantasizing. I’m worried. Her father just died, and I was all she had left. I thought she’d go to Easthollow, but she’s not there. I don’t think she even stopped there.”

The words poured out of him, months of worry, of nightmares. He paced back and forth, too agitated to be still, unable to catch his breath. It didn’t take long for his steam to run out, though, and he stood staring up at the baleful white ghost that was the moon.
“Mostly, I dream that she’s a baby again, and while my back is turned - she dies.”

He shook his head, anger fading. “I am trying. Does it seem like I’m not there for you? Does it seem like I don’t care, or like I wish I was somewhere else? I love you, Khoe, but it’s not gonna stop the nightmares. If you want, I’ll sleep somewhere else.”
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#19
Do you?

Unlike before, when her cold words were fueled by wrath, she had nothing left in her but hurt. I think...I think maybe that’s a good idea, she sighed as she watched his frame move from one position to another. She needed to think and she knew that he did, too. For the sake of the pups, she wouldn’t leave him with the haste that she might have early on when they would get together and break apart with almost every meal.

Now, they had to think about something bigger than themselves.
 
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“I do,” he replied, the words coming out almost before he knew they were true. How could I not? He wanted to say, but when he thought about it, he realized it was pretty clear why not - at least to her. He wondered why she never woke up when he had nightmare about her, about losing her, about her leaving him the same as Addie did.

“I dream about you, too, you know,” he said in a low voice. “I dream about... about you bein’ gone one day, and I chase you, too. I don’t mean to be cold to you, ‘Kuti. I don’t mean to push you away. I’m tryin’. Can you tell me you believe that?”

He settled down outside the den, knowing he wouldn’t be getting any more sleep that night. He’d sworn when he left Easthollow that he wouldn’t live in anger any more, and the rest of the night would be spent trying to live up to that promise.
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#21
I know that you're trying, Khoe managed, but sometimes trying isn't good enough. Trying meant something when they didn't know one another; it mattered when all they had between them was a needy infatuation. But now that they had children to take care of, trying wouldn't cut it. Grayday needed to make the concious decision to do, and to stop using the excuse that he was trying before anything he said began to hold weight again. 

Something in the back her mind begged her to invite him back inside and apologize, but she ignored it with all of her might. Khoe stood and nuzzled all of the pups into the middle of the den, then turned to face Grayday and meet his gaze with a pleading look. They sat in silence for only a moment before Khoe lay back down in the entrance, her body acting as a shield from the outside world to the infants beside her.
 
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Grayday let out a long, slow breath, as if he could push away all his anger with the air from his chest. He didn't understand this woman - she didn't seem like the same Akuti that he'd begun to fall for so quickly. That woman would never have held his children hostage, mocked him with her eyes and words. That woman would have listened to him, would have cared that he was hurting. He'd thought he could confide in her, but it looked like that was out of the question.

"Well what more do you want me to do, Khoe?" he asked her, turning his head away when she came out of the den. He couldn't even look at her right then; he didn't want to associate the anger he was feeling with the sight of her, nor did he want to acknowledge that the Akuti he'd known and the Khoe that he'd seen tonight were the same. "What am I not giving you? You say trying's not enough, but you know what I hear? I'm not enough."

The words came out rough and bitter, and he was sorely hoping she couldn't see the tears in his eyes. It sounds like you've got a choice to make, he wanted to say, but he wasn't going to give her an ultimatum. He wasn't going to remind her that she could leave, because he didn't think he'd make it through that, and more importantly, he wasn't sure his infant children would. Hell, he wasn't even sure Dawn would, at this point.

"I've been up front with you, Khoe. I told you I was broken, but I like to think I've been doing okay. I'm not falling apart, I'm not moping around - I hunt, I protect you, and I've been with you all through this. I thought we were happy - I've been happy. But apparently, you're not. So does that sound like I'm not doing enough, or does that sound like I'm just not enough, period?"

He shook his head, anger burning in his gut once more, and squeezed his eyes shut to keep more tears from falling.
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#23
Fuck, Grayday, Khoe whispered, her voice sharp and poignant, Just fuck.

Grayday was more than enough. He was right; he was a provider and a protecter, and whenever he was needed, he was there. And for most of it, she had been over the moon with joy. It wasn't that she wasn't happy or that she was unfulfilled, but the issue was that she was afraid. Grayday's outburst hadn't done much to resolve that issue, either.

I'm — I'm scared. I'm scared that one day you're going to realize that I can't do for you whatever it was Adeline did. I heard the way that you talked about her, even when you were talking to me. And even when you didn't think I noticed her scent in your fur, I did. 

That's why I'm pushing you away; if one of us is going to leave, it won't be me. 
 
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#24
Grayday's jaw was wired shut. He didn't have it in him to tell her he'd always, always known that it wouldn't be the same. Of course she couldn't give him what Addie had. He'd never love her that way. And he'd thought - he'd thought she understood that. He thought that, when she told him she wanted his children, that that was why she hadn't asked for more - it seemed that she'd just thought his undying love was just part of the deal.

He didn't have the heart to tell her. If she didn't understand already, Day saw no use in trying to explain that loving Adeline had been a part of him long before he and Khoe had met, or that it would continue be long after the girl walked out of his life. It wouldn't help either of them, especially not in this state.

He finally looked at her, then - really looked at her. Her pretty face, those deep green eyes (and it was funny how he never thought of Adeline when he saw those eyes - only when he couldn't see them), the graceful point of her ears. He looked at her and saw the same Akuti whose heart he broke back at Easthollow, and he realized he wasn't the only one who had a good reason not to trust.

"C'mere," he said softly, shifting slightly to accomodate her, should she answer his beckoning. He made sure his voice was not a command; not even a request. He spoke the word like a cease fire, a peace offering.
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#25
They were stuck in a deadlock for what felt like forever. No words, no sounds; there was nothing but the heavy, broken breaths between them. He called for her, and she actually considered listening; she stood and moved her first paw before freezing and squinting her eyes to get one last look at him. She bit at the inside of her cheek and pulled back, shaking her head in a silent refusal. She couldn't afford to be vulnerable anymore, at least not now. Goodnight, she whispered and turned back around to climb back down into the den.

Khoe took a deep breath and lay down in the crook just beneath the opening, then snuggled each of the three infants into her side. She lifted her head and thought to peer back over the edge, just to see if Grayday was still standing there, waiting. But instead, she stretched out her forearms and relaxed in a poor attempt to fall back asleep.