Lake Rodney life on the road
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#1
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it had been some days since the trio had departed from the plateau, grayday's worried gaze cast over them as they left. so far, they had visited one pack, with another one soon to come. @Dawn had thought that a third existed, south in the fen, but had returned from there with nothing; no wolves inhabited that place, now.

but they forged on, hunting as they went and roaming quickly through the valley. a sense of urgency was constant; they needed to get back to morningside before winter, both for their own well-being and for the sake of serving their pack. plus, if they away for much longer, grayday's anxiety would start to crescendo--and the older male was stressed enough as it was.

a few mornings after departing moonspear, aditya found himself on the shores of a vast, blue lake, extending almost as far as the eye could see. it was quiet and calm here; he could see fish beneath the cerulean surface, lit by the sunny late autumn sky above, and he heard the scurrying of various wildlife through the trees overhead.

for now, he relaxed, sitting on his haunches and watching the small waves lap onto the beach. so different from the tumultuous sea at the coast, smashing against the cliffs with brute force. he had lived by the ocean for the majority of his life, but he was finding inland life much more to his liking.
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She cracked the bone between her teeth, gnawing on the splintered edges thoughtfully. She had told the duo upon returning what the girl had said, stripped down to the basics. They'd visit this Redhawk next, and then head home. She was somewhat disappointed that they would only visit two packs, but she supposed that they had gained valuable knowledge regarding the relations in the valley. 

Abruptly she stood, dropping the bone at her paws and making her way towards Aditya, dropping onto her haunches beside him. Her gaze drifted briefly to what lay before them; beautiful calm and lapping waves; before settling back on the man. "could we talk? for a little bit?" She asked, not wanting to disturb the man's apparent peace but wanting to get things off her mind all the same.
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his ears perked up as dawn approached, not in the least bit disappointed that she had come to break the silence. he nodded at her question, curling his long tail around his forepaws. "absolutely. what's on your mind?"

with the pace they had set throughout the trip, aditya hadn't had much time to talk to dawn. even when there was an opportunity, there was no solitude; pema was ever-present. he was quite fond of the healer, but there were times when he wished he could just be alone with his prospective love interest.

perhaps this was what this conversation was about. feeling as though jaws squeezed his heart, adi shoved down the panic at the thought that this could be her time to gently let him down.
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He didn't seem much disturbed by her presence, and she smiled sheepishly. "you know, I didn't quite believe you when you said war. it seemed like something that only happens in stories." She sighed, smile fading. "but that girl - Alya - she said there's been stuff going on all over the valley. kidnappings, attacks. and packs here are preparing for war...where does that leave Morningside? we aren't fighters."  Worry creased her brow, and she rambled a bit as she regarded Aditya.
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his brow furrowed. kidnappings? attacks? he had enjoyed a peaceful time in teekon so far, but perhaps things were different in other parts of the land. "did she say where this was happening?" aditya asked, his tone sharp with worry.

he thought of grayday's pups, of the members of morningside left behind. he wondered if the alpha knew about these stories. whether they should race back to the plateau to warn grayday, to prepare for the worst.

"if we're far enough away, it might not even affect us," he reasoned, murmuring almost as if to himself. his golden eyes flashed to dawn, taking in her lovely face. "where?"
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Aditya didn't seem to mind her rambling, rather, he leaned in, obviously concerned as she was. "I don't know for certain. But Alya - she mentioned teaming up with Redhawk. Which makes me think they were affected by attacks, but Moonspear has beef too. I'm not sure how far it stretches."  To his reassurance, she dipped her head in agreement. "I know, but I can't stand them not knowing what we do now." 

She shifted, thinking. The pack was large; they'd be able to withstand some small threat. Besides, gaining knowledge was important, especially if Pema's skills might be in demand. "by her direction, I think it's east of here, close to the range. the flatlands." She'd have been much happier if they'd been further away, but the distance between them was still surmountable. Morningside wasn't well known, yet, according to the interactions she'd had.
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the flatlands were vast, and her explanation wasn't suitable enough for his liking, but he let it go. from her tone, it seemed the threat was close enough to be a small bother but far enough away for at least relative comfort on the plateau.

"of course, we should tell your father," he said, with a nod. "he needs to know. but as far as getting involved. . ."

aditya looked up at dawn with a frown. "i don't know if you've seen wolves die by violence. i have. whatever terrible things this pack has done. . .we can't risk our own by taking a moral stand." his gaze snapped over the horizon, to patches of dark forest; perhaps they lived somewhere there? "until they are at our doorstep, we cannot act. doing so would be rash."

even as he spoke, his stomach churned. if the day came that they arrived at morningside's territory. . .  he did not want to entertain the thought of his new family, which he had found so short a time ago, being ripped apart by savages.
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Any lightness vanished from her expression when Aditya spoke of dying by violence, and Dawn was silent. Sometimes, she felt sheltered, by the perfect pack she was destined to lead and the removal of violence from her life. Still when Aditya spoke of not standing for moral righteousness, her stomach twisted.  "if we cannot stand for righteousness, what do we stand for?" But she sighed, gaze finding the water before her. "still, I understand. Morningside won't insert itself into a conflict they have no place in, especially where we could lose so much." 

 "I don't want to wait in ignorance. I want more knowledge, about them, where they are." she didn't quite put words to what she was implying, but a trip to the area of Blackfeather had been weighing in her mind. She wanted more than vague directions and words; she wanted to see the place for herself.
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what in hell was she implying. . .that she pay these wolves a visit?! grayday would have his head if aditya sat idly back and let his daughter into a den of monsters. without volition, his fur bristled, and he shook his head quickly.

"absolutely not," he snapped, hoping she realized his anger was more worry than anything. "we need to return home once we visit all the packs your father has told you about." with a sigh, he relaxed, and gave her an apologetic look.

"if it's information you want, then let me retrieve it," aditya said softly. "morningside cannot spare you, nor pema. let us go home, first, then i will go."
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Her gaze sparked angrily, and she stated flatly, "you cannot decide that for me"  She did not take kindly to anyone restraining her movements, and even her own father's rules were sometimes bent or twisted. Her hawk-like gaze relaxed in the slightest when he offered a silent apology, tension deflating. She sighed, apologetic in turn; she knew that it was not out of spite that he said what he did. She dipped her head, getting home was more important.

Her gaze narrowed again, and she was quick to reply; "no. if the pack cannot spare Pema or me, it can't spare you. we're equals."  She regarded him as if she dared him to challenge that sentiment, one she firmly believed. She wasn't sure if she was willing to give up her original plan, but she certainly wouldn't have Aditya thinking himself lesser.
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he had the decency to look abashed at her retort, and nodded. "you're right, i cannot make any decisions for you," he responded. "i can only give my advice. and that advice involves keeping you--keeping all of us--away from whatever evil lies south."

she mentioned that they were equals, and he smiled, though biting back a response. equality was not what this was all about. dawn was an ambassador, true, but also the heir to leadership after grayday had passed on. pema had knowledge of medicine, healing. . .invaluable to morningside.

it wasn't as if aditya thought himself invaluable, only that he excelled at travel, and information-gathering. . .and wasn't the future leader of the pack.

"you and i both know that your father would have a fit if you were to go near these wolves," he said finally, after a beat of silence. "i can find out what you need to know. . .and grayday will worry for me much less than he'd worry for you."
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She chewed her lip as he made her see that as much as they were equals, still they were not. "are you not one of us?"  The rhetorical question was a weak argument, and she sighed, forepaw bouncing up and down subtle, as it often did when she was stressed. She peered at him sideways, admitting finally,  "I can't stop you from doing it. It'll be invaluable information, and you're capable...still, if you get hurt or some crap, I swear, I'll-" She huffed, turning her gaze back towards the water. Threatening him wasn't the best way to go around telling him she worried. Even though, up to this point, she had been adamantly not-a-worrier.

 "I care about you, ok?"  First, she had assumed it to be a friendship, but she couldn't find herself caring about Pema, or Kieran, or Sunny, even, in the way she cared for him. She eyed him sideways again, ready to abort her mission immediately if something went wrong.
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despite the serious tone of the conversation, he smiled, giving her a gentle look as she gazed over the water. she was beautiful, especially out here in the wild. the journey suited her, giving her already lean muscles more definition and a fresh glow to her eyes.

"hey," he said, trying to get her to look back to him. "it's not that i'm just worried about what grayday will think or do, although that's a little part of it. i care about you, too." he swallowed, licking his lips nervously before continuing. "morningside can't lose you, it's true. but i can't lose you, either."

aditya shrugged, as though to himself. "i suppose it's chivalry on my part. you'd do just as good a job--probably better--scouting down there as i would, and i have just as much of a chance to get hurt as you would. but still. . ." his throat clenched suddenly in fear. "to lose you would devastate me."
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She turned her gaze to him somewhat reluctantly, listening silently as he spoke. She blinked when he finished -  it would devastate me. She was silent a long moment, then carefully leaned toward him and touching her muzzle to his shoulder, collecting her thoughts. "I don't know what you are to me, Adi. but whatever it is; I care for you in a way that's different, somehow." Her words were soft as she withdrew, heart flip-flopping in her chest like some sort of dying fish.  

She made an odd rumbling sound in her chest, something between happiness and nervousness. Adi was like her father, but not. With Grayday, she could speak openly and freely, and could let her pride falter. With Aditya, there existed that same sort of trust, but also a desire for something more, something closer.
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he could feel his heart thudding heavily in his chest, and knew that she probably could hear it, too. nevertheless, his face split into an ecstatic grin. and to think, at the beginning of this conversation, he thought she was going to shoot him down!

aditya drew close to dawn and pressed his nose to her cheek, letting it linger there as he took in her earthy scent and the feel of her plush fur against his muzzle. how nice she felt against him! he then rested his head in the crook of her neck, a small sigh escaping him.

"i know what you are to me," he murmured, breath stirring her fur. "i have plenty of friends. pema, catori, grayday. and you're my friend, too. but you're more than that." he laughed quietly, thinking suddenly of a memory from long ago. "someone once told me 'pyaar dosti hai.' 'love is friendship.' and maybe that's true, but none of my friends make me feel like you do."
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She blinked her eyes closed as he touched her in turn, warm shivers moving down her spine. She was completely still, caught up in the wonder of this thing. Is this what her father felt? What had had him mate with her mother, mate with Khoe? Perhaps, she felt now, she understood why he had done it. His head moved, and she leaned against it lightly, humming softly deep in her chest.

He spoke, and his words were like honey, sweet and sticky and drawing her into this feeling. She didn't open her eyes, far too content, but replied softly still. "I want this. I want us, Adi." They paled in comparison to Adi's own lyrical words, but they were honest, and for Dawn, all he needed.
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i want this. i want us.

and how long had it been since he had heard those words from a woman? he had had his little loves here and there, all of them now buried in the past. then had wandered alone for a while, before washing up on teekon.

all of those couplings seemed so aimless compared to what he felt for dawn now. aditya felt grounded in her embrace, secure in her warmth. they had a home together, and the prospect of a future. a loving family already, with--hopefully--more members to come. he had always been so reckless with girls, but now. . .now it was time to grow up.

"i want this, too," he said simply, curling his banner tail around her back haunches. the threat from the southern pack still weighed heavy on his mind, but the fear had largely subsided, and he did not speak of them again.
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She sighed happily, curling herself around Adi, saying only, "good"  She lapsed into silence then, save for the humming that sounded remarkably like a minute purr. It was quite obvious that here she was content, clinging to the feeling of the moment as she focused on the familiar scent of Adi, here completely and totally at ease. Until the last vestiges of the feeling left her, she would remain motionless, only peeling herself away some time later.