Dawnlark Plains when god falls fast asleep
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He felt alone. Somewhere between the shock and grief, the confused scramble to figure out what they would do without Grayday, River had been forgotten. Well, not entirely. His mother cared for him, his siblings existed by his side as they always had— but no one seemed to pay him much attention anymore.
A few days felt such an eternity to the pup. He desperately craved attention even when he received a steady supply— and now, now he felt like he was drowning. His father was gone, his mother not herself, and River found little solace in his equally-affected siblings. Gripped by a melancholy far too heavy for his young age, River crept quietly from the den he shared with his littermates and mother. He wondered if he had done something wrong, remembered the coldness of his father against him; maybe if he hadn't touched him, maybe if he hadn't followed Kitten from the den at all, he would not feel so alone now. Maybe it was a punishment, of sorts? It was certainly an effective one.
Winterbourne's voice is low and raspy due to a throat injury during his childhood, and it can sometimes be difficult to understand him.
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adi had just finished patrolling the borders and was headed back to the den when he saw the little form emerge. picking up his pace into a slow trot, he waltzed over, head cocked in curiosity. it was only when his gaze picked up the solemn look upon river's face did he pull to a slow walk, approaching with a gentle expression of his own.

"mithra," he called softly, ears canted forward. mithra. his uncle had called him that in his youth. the friendly one, the happy one. river had seemed the most buoyant of the trio; now, in the aftermath of grayday's death, it seemed as if all the air had been sucked out of the boy. he gave river's cheek the slightest of nudges with his muzzle. "kaise ho? where are you going?"
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As much as he craved attention, River found himself recoiling from the golden wolf's touch. It was the first time he had ever rejected another— not the last, surely. His lips peeled back briefly, ears slicking to his skull; a seconds-long fear response that melted from his face just as quickly. He lowered himself to the ground and whined, not responding to Aditya's questioning. Everything in his life had been quite suddenly upturned, and he did not yet know how to deal with these emotions. All he knew was nothing felt right at the moment.
Winterbourne's voice is low and raspy due to a throat injury during his childhood, and it can sometimes be difficult to understand him.
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he was surprised--just surprised, not disappointed--at river's response, but he pulled back accordingly, watching as the boy slumped to the ground. slowly, he went down with him, placing his paws side-by-side and looking down at them, keeping the full fire of his gaze from burning into the other. he smiled, then, softly, still staring down.

"when i was a boy, i saw this owl," aditya said. he looked up at river then, eyes gentle. "an owl is a large bird--they rule the sky, flying through the air. so i saw this owl, and his feathers--his pelt--looked a lot like your maa's, but without the orange. he was big and white, with eyes as bright as the sun. he was perched in a tree above the clearing where my den was."

he grinned in remembrance. "that owl. he was always there, calling down to me. hoo, hoo," he vocalized. "who, who. and i thought, well, me. . .that's who, right?" adi laughed. "anyway, every day, i'd wake up, and i'd see the owl, high in the tree. hoo, hoo. hoo, hoo."

"bachcha, look at this," aditya prompted, eyes cutting over as he noticed the totally not a plot device emily placed here feather tucked near the mouth of the den, blowing gently in the wind. it wasn't quite white--more a shade of cream--but it would do. he took it gently in his teeth, resting it at river's paws. "his feathers were much like this. soft, hai na?"
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River was young enough to be free of any expectation, but nonetheless found the golden wolf's response intriguing. Curiosity relaxed him by fractions, and he peered over at Aditya with wide eyes. He was silent, motionless; listening. When the adult placed a feather at his feet, he leaned down to sniff it— then glanced back up expectantly.
Barely half a beat later, the young Corten decided he didn't actually have any misgivings regarding this particular adult. He picked up the feather and crept closer, hoping to worm his way between the golden wolf's paws and tuck himself into his chest. The boy clutched the gift even as he shifted to get comfortable; he was a little stubborn about his chosen spot, with little regard for however much he was jostling Aditya (or possibly ruining his story, who knows) with his actions.
Winterbourne's voice is low and raspy due to a throat injury during his childhood, and it can sometimes be difficult to understand him.
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a warm glow enfolded his heart as river took the feather and burrowed into his embrace. however uncomfortable it was for aditya, it was just as much--if not more so--touching, and he shifted ever so slightly to make sure the child wouldn't cut off the circulation from his toes, at least. he smiled, letting out a breath in a contented sigh.

"one night, i went out, and the owl was gone," aditya explained quietly, mouth shifting in unease as he remembered that turbulent evening. "i looked and looked, but could not find him. and trust me, mithra, he stood out," adi added, nodding down at river. "he was gone. i had no idea where he had gone, and i didn't see him for a while."

he paused, holding his breath, then continued. "one day, several moons later, i was out exploring in the woods when i heard a sound. . ." he dropped his voice low, crooning. "hoo, hoo. hoo, hoo. and i caught a flash of white in the trees.

"throughout my life, i've heard my old friend call out to me. hoo, hoo. hoo, hoo. i've not seen him very well--just glimpses, here and there--but he's been around, calling out. looking after me with those big eyes."
he nosed the feather gently, breath stirring the silky hairs that lined its spiny stem.

"so you see, river. . .the ones we love, they never really leave us. yahaan nahin. . .lekin nahin chala gaya."
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He listened closely, wrapped in the warmth and scent of the golden wolf; quickly he had come to associate it with the soothing sound of his voice, and found himself calmed. Thoughts danced through his head as he listened. Simple ones, perhaps, compared to the worries and musings maturity would bring him. He grasped onto Aditya's words nonetheless, and understood quickly that he spoke of Grayday, if indirectly.
River didn't understand the point though, not really— perhaps he would one day. It made little sense to him to be comforted by a presence just out of reach; what could make the world right when he would never embrace his father again? Nothing, nothing, nothing.
But some things helped. He leaned down to groom Aditya's foreleg, suddenly quite focused on the task. Perhaps it seemed like he had ignored his story entirely, but it was rather the opposite. River could only think to groom the golden wolf to show his appreciation. After a little bit of this, he paused to yawn.
Adi-tya, Ad-eeeeee He yawned again. What had his mother said so lovingly yesterday? I looooooff— No, no, that wasn't it. Loooove! You! That was it!
Winterbourne's voice is low and raspy due to a throat injury during his childhood, and it can sometimes be difficult to understand him.
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*dies*

it was soothing, the little tongue running along his leg, and he was beginning to drift off into a contented stupor when his name was chirped up at him. he grinned down at river, meaning to give him his name back, when the pup voiced something else, too. something he hadn't expected.

aditya swallowed, suddenly overcome by emotion. his breath was hitched, shallow, as he responded, "i love you too, mithra." he hugged the boy close, tucking him into the curve of his neck and chest, the thickest part of his pelt. a downy blanket for the child that had wormed his way into his heart.

"pyaar--that means love, in my mother's language," he explained gently. "never let go of pyaar, bachcha. love is the most important thing." he rested his head next to where the pup lay, feeling sleepy. he wondered if the kid would be amenable to a little nap.
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Though the words had mostly been mimicking his mother, River did know in a way what it meant. He had only ever felt such affection for his parents, for his siblings until now; those were the words he had come to associate with it. To hear it returned from the golden wolf was wonderful— almost as wonderful as when his mother said it, but not quite.
He tucked himself further into the embrace, chewing on Aditya's chest fur contently. River only paused at his explanation; he was quiet for a moment, discreetly spitting the hair from his mouth (he had no regrets, honestly). Pyaar, He repeated quietly when that was done— another word for these feelings.
Adi— River yawned again, mumbling now. Don't... cold. Words were still a little too much effort, and he was tired, but he hoped Aditya knew what he meant (he probably wouldn't, but River of course assumed adults were all knowing). He really didn't want the golden wolf to go wherever his father had gone. He shifted a little more to get comfortable, then; a nap did sound nice.
Winterbourne's voice is low and raspy due to a throat injury during his childhood, and it can sometimes be difficult to understand him.
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he smiled as the little one repeated the word, the expression fading as he went on. don't. cold. he was not all-knowing, in spite of what river might think, and naturally misinterpreted it, cuddling the boy closer. "it's all right, bachcha," aditya murmured, laying his head down so that the pup was curved into his neck. it wasn't comfortable, but he was too tired to care. "i'll keep you warm."

in spite of the warm weather--well, as warm as these plains got, anyway--he did feel a little chilly. but he'd not let the child know that, not in a million years. no, to river, he was warmth, and shelter, and comfort. . .and he'd hold up that image for as long as he possibly could.