Redhawk Caldera WSS: Prologue
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All Welcome 
The skies had begun to turn tumtultuous and dark, but Bronco was no naturalist and therefore, passed it off as yet another grey, wintery day. The clouds boiled as they spilled across the sky from the North, but the wind had yet to catch up; thus far, it was simply ushering its companions forward so that they might make the landscape just a bit darker; literal foreshadowing. But it was still only mid-morning by the time Bronco reached the borders and caught sight of a blonde figure marking the territory borders with deft kicks of her hind feet, and he sighed. Well, there was no avoiding her now, she'd already caught sight of him. 

But fortunately, she was content just to give him a quick greeting, only ask a few dull questions, before she went on to resume her border patrol. She had business to attend to, and he'd managed to appease her by saying that he hoped to spend some time with his siblings. He knew any mention of Fennec would raise an eyebrow and encourage more questions so he omitted any mention of her name. He felt a bit guilty about it, but figured his Mom probably already knew that he was here to see her, as well. He asked her where he might find a cache, as travelling made him hungry. His mother snorted and flattened her ears in response, before she strutted off in a huff. That pleased him a bit; he knew his mother was protective of food. But he'd be able to find a cache on his own, or perhaps hunt something down while he was there. Travelling made him hungry. 

So he meandered up the slope toward where the earth levelled out at the top of the broad, bowl-shaped mouth of the extinct volcano. If Bronco knew what a volcano was, and that he was now wandering past the teeth of one, he probably would have freaked out and left, such is why ignorance is bliss. He was interested in tracking his siblings down, to see what they were up to, and if they had any plans for their impending ascension into adulthood. So, he meandered through the Caldera, head down and tail swinging as he attempted to track one of his family members down, now that he'd already left the most stressful one to patrol the borders.
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Hunting solo was better than hunting with packmates. There was no need to share the spoils, no discrepancy in skill sets to work through, and, most importantly, no voices flinging criticism at her when she really messed up. Alyx limped lightly through the pines, scowling at the ground as she worked her way up toward the lake, where she hoped to soak her sore paw. One slip on a patch of ice while chasing down a rabbit and she'd gone and sprained the damn thing, and now she'd have to rest it for a couple days before she could return to practicing.

She was surprised when she arrived at the water's edge and spotted the burly, gold-chased brown form of her brother moving along the slope from afar. She hadn't seen Bronco in... Well, since he'd left. Maybe in passing at best, but that was all. The cold lump of resentment that found its way into her chest when her parents denied her the right to leave and expand her horizons the way they'd let Meerkat go rose suddenly into her throat. She'd almost forgotten that before that, she resented Bronco for leaving her after promising to be there for her.

As she wasn't turning out to be the most forgiving of wolves, and certainly not mature enough yet to bury the hatchet first, Alyx opted to pretend she hadn't noticed him and continued down to the lake, thrusting her paw into the freezing water and hissing at the cold bite of it.
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Yesssss <3

Bronco wasn't the most observant wolf in the world, so he'd managed to travel almost all the way to the banks of the lake before he looked up when a subtle and brief flicker of movement caught his attention in the corner of his eye. He looked up, surprised and a bit ashamed that he'd been focusing more on his sense of smell than his sense of sight, but pricked his ears with delight when he recognized the form of his sister near the lake's edge, albeit 40 or 50 metres away. 

Despite the distance, there was a fairly telling sign of which of the twins he'd spotted. He hadn't heard her before seeing her, which was a partial clue- but the way the young woman grimaced as she put her paw into the water was a dead giveaway. Only one of his sisters would have looked so disgusted upon stepping into water, while the other would have been ankle deep in muddy algae-blooms without any hesitance. 

He uttered a happy bark and pranced toward her, quite pleased that he'd managed to find one of the wolves he'd been looking for so soon after coming to the Caldera. "Well lookit you, Princess," He crooned as he approached. "Jeez- I dunno if I can call you just a princess anymore Alyx; you're practically a queen already!" He said.
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Yup, she thought when she heard Bronco's bark, here he comes, like he never left you and then failed to care enough to come back. It wasn't that she liked being a sullen little brat—in fact, it was downright exhausting and left her feeling even shittier most of the time—but she also didn't like feeling like she wasn't important to anyone, and struggled with controlling her reactions to that.

Luckily, Bronco had a lot more tact than their mother, and a better sense of what appealed to his little sister, even if they hadn't seen each other since she was very young. He opened up with a compliment, and how could she stay mad at that? As moody as she'd become since her parents rejected her proposal, holding grudges didn't come naturally to her. The lump of resentment softened a little.

You're the only one who thinks so, but thanks, she quipped back, wagging her tail slowly and swallowing the edge that wanted to creep into her tone when she added, what're you doing here?
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He chuckled softly at her comment, and reached out to gently nuzzle the golden-tinged fur at the top of her head, which highlighted her brow as neatly as a crown might. "That's 'cause pretty much everyone else is a loser," He commented snidely, though there was nothing but warmth in his eyes when he looked at his little sister. She'd grown so much, and it saddened him...Knowing that he had, indeed, been away and had missed so much of her life. He wished that he'd said something, explained things to Alyx, Quetzal and Primrose but...He hadn't wanted to ruin their childhood by telling them that their mother was actually a terrible person. While he resented his mother, he cared enough for his younger siblings that he'd tried to stay away from colouring their relationships, in hopes that perhaps things would work out better for this generation. 

Her question surprised him, and left his posture to slip slowly to one of a fairly ashamed wolf. She shouldn't have had to ask that question- but he hadn't exactly done his best to establish the fact that he still thought of his siblings very, very often, and that he cared about them greatly. But thoughts couldn't reach across the distance and hold them tight when they needed to be consoled, or listen to them when they needed someone to talk to. "I wanted to see you. Sure, I wanna see the others too, but," He said, and it felt wretched to admit just how disappointed he was with himself. He knew, as a proud creature, Alyx would be more keen to know how he felt about her, in particular, rather than in the family as a whole. "I've missed too much," He said. After all, he no longer needed to lower his gaze to look at his younger siblings. He couldn't just grab them with one paw and pull them close, or outrun them at a trot. Now, perhaps, she was old enough that he could speak more openly about why he'd left. 

He sighed. "I'm sorry I've been away so much, but I hope you understand...That I couldn't stay." He said slowly. "And I couldn't really tell you why I left. Not really." He said.
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She thought she knew the answer—he was here for Fennec or Fig or Niamh, not his afterthought younger siblings—but that wasn't what he said at all, and it surprised her. Alyx was old enough now to know that he was probably just saying that because it's what she wanted to hear, but if there was even a sliver of truth to it, she appreciated it. In some ways, she still looked up to her older siblings in ways she didn't look up to her mother, and wasn't sure about looking up to her father, so any little bit of care from them was difficult to ignore.

Yup. You have. She wasn't going to sugar coat that, at least. Alyx wasn't going to pretend it was okay that he'd just up and left them without any explanation to follow Meerkat to Moonmoon Mountain, and sadly, she was more like her mother than she realized when it came to smoothing things like this over. She just didn't do it. She was enough like Phox not to be overly scathing about it, at least, although when he said he had to go, she couldn't help but snort.

We know why you went. Meerkat's the best, blahblah, everyone's favourite, blahblahblah, Meerkat has no one and needed you more than us, blahblah, best bro 2020. Over and out. You could have at least said a proper goodbye after promising to be here and then breaking it. She didn't mean to shame him, but that was simply the narrative she'd been told or at least the one she'd constructed from the bits and pieces she'd been told, and it still stunk that he hadn't been much of a brother about it. Instead there'd just been a brief congregation with Meerkat and that was that. He'd visited, but not really for them.
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It weighed on him to attend to one responsibility, knowing all the while that in doing so, he'd be neglecting another. And he'd made choices on his own, so it wasn't as though he had been forced into a situation which had taken him away from his younger siblings. When he had visited on a monthly basis with Meerkat, those visits hadn't been long- and he hadn't always been able to track down each of his younger siblings. Over time, it got more and more difficult to do so, simply because the more time passed, the more he became aware of how he was failing them, and how they were growing up without him. He'd wanted to be a good big brother, and most of the time he was able to tell himself that he was a good big brother- but as Alyx would soon point out, he hadn't been a good big brother to all of his siblings, equally. 

He could tell she was spiteful, and that she wasn't going to simply tiptoe about it. He knew he wouldn't enjoy this conversation, but the fact that they were able to have it at all was better than nothing, or so he thought. It was a way for him to settle a debt he owed; Alyx had every right to ream him out for not being there. And she was right- he had promised her he would be her knight in shining armour and then...Then, he'd left. She wouldn't have been privy to any of the arguments he'd had with their mother. She wouldn't have seen Niamh pin him to the ground by his throat, choking him until he wet himself. But she still had every right to be upset with him not only for leaving, but for not offering a proper explanation, and for not even asking her how she felt about it. 

He'd done what he'd had to do; and it'd been more for himself than even for Meerkat, but escorting Meerkat had been a welcome and noble enough excuse, but not any more. 

So he listened patiently while she enlightened him about how she felt. He was surprised to hear so much spite directed toward Meerkat, whether it was because she was jealous Bronco had gone with her, or for other reasons, he wasn't sure. Was that the only reason she resented Meerkat so much, and thought that everyone thought Meerkat was the best, or did she have other reasons as well? He could have argued perfectly valid points, in order to rebuke her for saying such things, as he knew that Towhee, Niamh and Phox all loved- and doted upon- all the children equally (or so he thought). But this wasn't his podium, and he felt it best if Alyx was allowed to make herself heard. It sounded like she had plenty pent up. 

So he nodded quietly, solemnly, while he puzzled out what to say. He didn't want to contradict anything she'd said- though he did honestly think the whole "Meerkat's everyone's favourite" thing was confusing, because he had no idea where that notion came from. He hoped it wasn't simply because he'd chosen to leave with her, but he also didn't like to think that anyone else in the pack wanted to nurture that belief. That wasn't fair to Prim, Quetzal or Alyx to feel as though they were loved any less than Meerkat. "I should have," He said, addressing the one thing he felt he could take full responsibility for. "You're right. But...Can I tell you the real reason why I left?" He asked, a bit timidly. It wasn't something he liked to admit- but he felt that by now, his sister had a right to know.
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If he had shared any of his points, Alyx would know he wasn't entirely wrong—Phox and Towhee did their best to dote on their children equally, but Niamh had clear favourites, and Alyx felt like she ranked lowest on that list by a mile. She doubted Primrose had ever been called a baby even though he still had his fairy tales in his head, and surely Quetzal hadn't, either. Towhee and Phox did their best... But then she would point out that Meerkat was afforded opportunities that none of the other children were allowed, even when they asked for it, and the real root of her resentment for Meerkat would be unearthed: she was jealous, but not because Bronco had gone with her.

Because Alyx had not been allowed to do what Meerkat had at a younger age, and was forced to stay here, where she felt more and more caged.

But she was no mind reader, and Bronco offered no counterpoints, only solemn nods. It was refreshing, actually, for someone to listen without trying to convince her that she was wrong. She'd felt the same when speaking to Fennec, and being heard like that meant a lot to her. She raised her brows and pulled her paw out of the water when he suggested there was a different reason for his departure. She placed it gingerly on the ground, wincing at the ache that radiated out from her ankle. The water had helped with the throbbing, at least. There's another?
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While he could feel his heartbeat beginning to thud rapidly against his chest in anticipation of finally telling Alyx why he'd left, and potentially put at least some of her resentment to rest, he was completely distracted from the topic when she pulled her paw from the water and set it down- gingerly. He studied her features and his eyes narrowed in concern when she winced. While he'd been prepared to deliver probably one of the most poignant explanations of his life- it was forgotten completely in an instant when he saw that she was in pain. 

"Wait, What happened?" He asked, the fur at the back of his neck lifting slightly, as he immediately shifted into protective mode. "Is your foot okay? What happened" He asked urgently, leaning forward and angling his head to briefly glance at the offending ankle before his concerned, hyper-focused gaze returned to her face, reading her expression to see if she was holding anything back. 

While he had left the pack, travelled many miles and spent many months away from her, all it took was a simple wince for him to naturally resume his role as her knight in shining armour.
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Likewise, Alyx noticed that she was holding her breath while she waited for the real reason behind Bronco's departure. She was already leafing through possibilities, including some love interest of his at Moonspear or him feeling like he didn't have any friends that weren't family, friends who liked him for who he was, like she often did. As far as she knew, he had a great relationship with all three of the leaders, so it couldn't be anything like her current feelings. She anticipated something positive, actually, and found herself a tiny bit annoyed when he completely changed the subject instead.

She understood why, of course. She just couldn't hide what she was feeling. It's nothing, she insisted, waving away his concern with a toss of her head. Just slipped on some ice while hunting earlier. It'll be fine in a couple days. She hoped. She wasn't exactly a medic. If it didn't get better on its own, she'd get it looked at, but she didn't want anyone thinking she wasn't perfectly capable. She wanted her mother to find out least of all, and if she went to Eljay, he would definitely tell her. Ever since Niamh called her a baby, Alyx assumed the Regent would take any opportunity to remind her that she was pathetic, and she wanted none of it.

So?
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He squinted a bit, as though trying to squeeze the truth out of her, which she then supplied a moment later. His brow relaxed, and he sighed softly when she explained, and though he still frowned a bit, he was glad that it was likely something that could be fixed with a bit of time and rest, like a sprain. He didn't figure he'd need to tell her to go see Fennec, and while it was his natural instinct to express sympathy over her pain, he felt that right now, she probably didn't want to hear it. "Yowch," He said, then. "That reminds me-" He said, lifting up his own paw to show her the claw he'd broken a week earlier. The claw from one of his outer toes had been cracked, and still hung off at an odd angle, having not fallen off yet. "I did this last week. Pretty gnarly, eh?" He said with a chuckle, knowing exactly how well that might go over...But it was kind of nice to have found something to cut through the tension. He set his paw back down, and drew in a breath when Alyx steered the topic back to something much more difficult to talk about. 

"Well," He began, haltingly at first. "Honestly, I would've loved to stay here, and be with you, Prim and Quetzal as you grew up. I was...I never really was sure how to feel about Mom having a new mate, after my Dad died," he admitted, and realized with a pause that he'd probably never spoken of Colt to any of his younger siblings. They hadn't asked- and he hadn't told them anything. It was something Niamh would have told them, but she, like Bronco, could hardly bear to speak of Colt's death. "But I was really excited to have younger siblings. I loved you guys before you were born," He said. Aside, to himself, he came to a quiet realization- he'd started loving his siblings around the same time he'd stopped loving his mother.

"This is...Probably going to...I dunno. And I don't want to change your feelings about her, or anything, but...Mom and I...We really, really don't get along. We had a fight, when you were young, a really bad one. So...As soon as I got the chance to get away from her...I took it." He admitted. "It wasn't favouritism, Alyx. I wasn't choosing Meerkat over you guys, and I hope you believe that. I just had to get away from her. I'm sorry." He murmured. Then he paused. He should be so skeptical, or so critical of his mother, but now that he thought about it, he had to wonder, and had to ask. "Has she...Treated you guys okay?" He ventured tentatively.
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Ewww, exclaimed Alyx, recoiling slightly when Bronco dangled his gnarly-ass toenail in her face. That was so disgusting. How does that even happen? She only asked because she wanted to know how to avoid the same fate, not because she really cared. She was still kind of bitter about him leaving, so she couldn't give the impression that she cared too much, even if he seemed regretful right now.

Bronco had a lot to say about how he would have loved to be here. The longer he talked about it, the lower Alyx's brows went. It was all well and good to talk about how much he loved them and was excited for them and wished he'd been around, but he'd left anyway. If anything, claiming he loved them so much and wanted to be there while also turning his back on them dug the knife a little deeper. She almost cut in to ask why he'd left, then, what was more important than that, but she reminded herself that he was getting to that.

Then he dropped the bomb: he'd left to get away from Niamh. Alyx stared for a moment, flabbergasted, and then she laughed. It was a cruel and low laugh. Wow, she said, and he might think at first that she was judging him for running away from his mom with the way she said it, but then she added, so it's not just me, then.

He wanted to know how she treated them? I think she loves Rosie more than me and Q. I mean, I dunno, maybe she's nice to Q but she treats me like crap. I'm pretty sure she doesn't like me and would rather I wasn't here. That was a huge exaggeration. She didn't know that for sure, and Niamh hadn't done anything to give her that idea besides calling her a baby. It was just a feeling that Alyx had cultivated between her mother's distance and the insults.

Which is funny, 'cause, like, I asked if I could go live with Rusalka because I have lots of friends there. Okay, so... One, but maybe Chacal and Solaire were her friends, too. She just didn't care about them like she did Val. I asked if I could go and be like an ambassador, like how Meerkat is, and mom was all, ugh, but they tried to kill me once, like I was asking her to go live there or something, but they were really nice to me, and maybe I could've made the relationship better. And now it was just pouring out, because she'd found a kindred spirit in Bronco and that felt so good. It felt like when Fennec validated her, but even better. I got kind of mad and lost my shit a bit and called her a bitch and dad pinned me and they all said I couldn't go, so whatever. She could've got rid of me then. We moved here. I started hunting lots, and mom didn't even notice. She just came along one day like oh, you going for a hunter trade? But I got that already. I told her she'd know that if she spent more time with me and she just called me a baby and then pretended to want to hunt with me, but I'm pretty sure she would've just called me more names if I didn't do good enough. She makes me feel like crap when she's the one who doesn't like me.
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Her laughter caused him to cringe slightly. Perhaps that was why he hadn't admitted to many that he'd left at least in part because he needed an excuse to get him away from Niamh. He knew Fennec had gone up against his mother before, and that she knew a bit about how he felt about Niamh as well, but it was different, admitting their rift to his younger siblings. But when her next question came, he jerked his head back in surprise. "Oh, fuck." He sighed. So Niamh hadn't been easier on her next batch of kids. How many of her childrens' lives would she ruin? With Alyx now also spiteful of their mother, that made three of them- three out of six. 

He hadn't been around to see how Niamh interacted with the others for long enough- nor had he been back often enough to catch them together. He'd spent more time trying to find his siblings, and simultaneously avoiding his mother, so naturally, he'd had no idea that she might have been choosing favourites and treating her children unfairly. He felt certain that it had something to do with their personalities; Primrose was a fair and gentle child, always eager to please; probably the easiest for Niamh to handle because he'd do what she wanted him to do. Quetzal was boisterous, but playful and could still be directed with the right sort of encouragement. Alyx was strong-willed, intelligent and confident- and when she felt things were unfair, it was likely because they were. 

The issue about her going to Rusalka sounded like it might have been more complex than what he was being told, but he thought he understood enough of it to figure that Alyx was likely still being somewhat punished for having gotten lost (which hadn't exactly been her fault), and discouraged from becoming an ambassador because of a grudge held by their mother. "It sounds like things have been pretty unfair," He said. Niamh obviously hadn't put in a good effort in fixing things with Alyx, either, if she'd been calling her names. "Listen. What do you wanna do?" He asked. "Like- if Mom couldn't have a say in what you did, what would you do?" He asked.
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She bobbed her head unhappily. Alyx certainly felt like she was being treated unfairly. Maybe she was, and maybe she wasn't. Maybe she was taking things more personally than they were intended, and maybe she was simply too young and full of herself to see the differences in Meerkat's situation and her own. All she (thought she) knew was that Niamh didn't like her and she would never be allowed to do anything she wanted for as long as she was here with her mother.

Which made Bronco's question easy to answer. I'd already have left, she admitted. I have no friends here and obviously she doesn't like me, so what's the point of living here? It sucks. Quetzal and Rosie didn't count as friends, because they were her siblings. She knew she could go to the Frosthawks for a little while and make friends there, but they were still all relatives. She wanted to make her own friends on her own terms, friends that loved her for her, not because of her mom and dad.

I'm getting outta here as soon as I can. Fennec already told me I can just decide to go and they can't do anything about it. I'm just waiting for a good moment to tell them. And I don't want things to be weird if I visit later, but I think mom will make sure I feel like crap about it no matter what I do.
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His little sister, formerly a little princess, had grown to be quiet an independent creature, who now sought a realm of her own, it seemed. And he couldn't blame her- life under their mother's thumb was stifling and miserable at best, and having also left the pack to find happiness, he could understand why Alyx would want to do so as well. It sounded as though she already had some plans in mind, but was simply trying to figure out how to leave without burning the bridges she left behind. It made him happy to know that she did intend to visit again. 

She'd spoken to Fennec- which made him smile faintly. He got the impression that Alyx probably liked Fennec, considering the fact that she'd given Alyx the validation she'd sought. But he couldn't help but feel just a little bit upset as well, that Fennec was apparently telling their younger siblings that it was fine to go off on their own. Running away never solved problems completely. 

"Where are you thinking of going?" He asked. Of course, she was old enough to roam without a direction- but he was a fairly protective brother, and like any other, he wasn't quite ready to see her simply leave without knowing where she might end up. He wanted his siblings to be close so that he could see them when he visited, and know that they were safe. He felt he had a duty to them- but that in being distant, he'd failed them while they'd grown up. "You'll come back and visit me, right?" He asked.
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Dunno, she said with a shrug. It likely wasn't what he wanted to hear, but before he could offer to take her back to Firefly Glen with him, she added, I wanna go catch up with my friends at Rusalka. Val was here for a while but someone came to get him and bring him home. I guess they live somewhere along the coast now. She wasn't privy to a lot of the details, but how hard could it be to find someone if she at least knew they were by the ocean? She just had to find the ocean, then she'd definitely be able to find Val. At least, that's what she thought.

Guess I'll figure it out after that. But I'll definitely visit. Maybe at the Glen. You could show me around, she suggested. Somehow, mentions of Moonspear and the Glen was a little less irksome now that she knew Bronco had left because he felt the same way she did. She still didn't want to go live there with them and be a third wheel to their undoubtedly perfect brother-sister relationship, but she could stop by for a day or two. I dunno when I'll visit here again. I wanna visit Towma and dad lots, but mom might make it suck.
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It encouraged him to know that she was at least willing to give him an idea of where she wanted to go. It would bring him a bit of peace of mind knowing that he could go and visit her, and that she might be in the company of wolves who would not only have her back, but make her happy. She mentioned a name- one that was only vaguely familiar to Bronco, who wondered if Val was the kid that his Mom had taken in a while ago...But for some reason, the name didn't ring a bell. He'd thought the kid his Mom had found had had a longer name- but perhaps Val was a nickname. He was somewhat aware of his mother's grudges, but paid them little mind. He preferred to make judgements for himself, so that he could forge his own relationships and alliances. 

Still- he'd try to remember that name, so he might have another reference. He was also curious to see exactly what Alyx thought of this Val, and if he should be worried about another younger sister who had a crush. "The coast is kind of nice," He replied, remembering the few times he'd been out that way. There had been so many smells along the coast, and different things to see- if he hadn't been so home-bound, he might have spent more time out there. If Alyx chose to live out that way, it would give him an excuse to go and see the seashore more often. 

He smiled softly. "I'd like that." Of course he would love having Alyx come to visit him; and he would be happy to show her around, and introduce her to his packmates as well. She might find a friend there, or she might simply enjoy having a bit of time away from the Caldera, and all the feelings that came with it. The biggest one seemed to be the feuds they both shared with their mother. "She doesn't run your life. She might think she does, but she doesn't. She can't tell you what to do anymore, you just have to....Do what you want. And she'll have to deal with it."
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Yeah, well, Alyx sighed, maybe she doesn't run it, but she could still make it hell whenever I come here. She wasn't aware of just how far away the coast was, but maybe the inability to do quick, unplanned visits would make her less frequent ones more pleasant.

How do you deal with her when you visit? she wondered. If Bronco felt so strongly about Niamh that he also needed to get out, she imagined there must be no small amount of resentment there. How did he deal with it, and how did she treat him? It would make it easier for her to plan her own visits if she knew what she was getting into.
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#19
He shrugged lightly. Their mother certainly had a knack of making life miserable, even with boundaries being set. He'd thought that things might improve once he'd left the pack- but even when he visited, he learned quickly that it was best to avoid her. She took everything too seriously, judged everything he did, and couldn't playfight or spar without turning into a wild beast and nearly suffocating him. 

"Honestly?" He asked, as though asking Alyx if she wanted the cold, hard truth. "I avoid her, or keep conversations short. But...It gets easier. She and Phox are going to have more kids this year- and when they do, she'll...Probably just...Kind of forget about us a bit, and focus on ruining their lives instead." He admitted. It was half painful to admit that life had gotten a bit easier for him when the younger litter had come along- because it meant that his mother's love was deciduous. But he gave Alyx a faint smile. "That's sort of what happened when you came along," He said, reaching out to touch her cheek with his nose affectionately. He was grateful that Primrose, Alyx, Quetzal and Meerkat had come into his life not just because his mother was more busy with them- but because he absolutely adored his younger siblings. "Things'll get better. And if she doesn't fuck off and leave you alone, then you can choose to have nothing to do with her. That's what Nellie did," He said.
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#20
She bobbed her head thoughtfully, surveying the sky beyond Bronco's shoulder while he spoke. Those dark clouds were getting awfully close. Probably best that they seek cover just in case it was a wicked storm on the way, and with her leg, it would be slow going. Wanna walk? she suggested when a break in conversation presented itself, gesturing toward the forest. The trees would offer some protection if things did get hairy.

I don't want her to ruin their lives, she admitted, having never considered what would come next. She was selfish enough that she hadn't thought of younger siblings until now. It was inevitable that Phox and Niamh would have another litter. Suddenly, a cold lump settled in her ribs.

D'you think I should stay and make sure she doesn't? Truthfully, the idea didn't appeal to her much. No one had stayed to stop Niamh from affecting her second litter, so did she really owe it to her younger siblings? While she was sure she would love them as much as Bronco loved her and her littermates, Alyx sincerely doubted that she would be able to protect them from Niamh's mothering tactics. Not without sacrificing her own well-being, and she couldn't see that being worth it.

She hadn't changed much from when Bronco asked if she would save her family from a mud monster, and she had cheerfully said she would abandon them all to save herself.
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#21
He nodded, and moved to walk alongside his sister as they made their way through the Caldera. He'd taken notice, with every visit, how much she'd grown- but it still surprised him to see her now shoulder-to-shoulder with him, when he remembered her so fondly as little more than a pawful of fluff. He'd cherish those memories, but at times like this, when they spoke about her future plans, he had to remind herself that those were memories- and that his sister wasn't a child anymore. 

It surprised him slightly to hear that she felt some obligation to their future siblings, but he shook his head. "Don't worry about them- they'll have Phox an' Towhee, and me too. They'll be fine." He said. He wouldn't want Alyx to avoid living out her dreams for the sake of children who had plenty of caregivers. "If Mom does get crazy, one of these days I'll just flat-out knock her on her ass. Maybe that'll take her down a peg or two," He said with a dry laugh. Of course, the idea of even trying to engage his mother in a scuffle again terrified him; he knew she would stop at no lengths to win any fight she was in.
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#22
Bronco was right. While Alyx didn't get along very well with her birth mother, she did have a pretty good relationship with Towhee and Phox. She hoped her younger siblings would be able to find solace in those relationships as well... And if they couldn't, then they would simply leave the way all the others had before them. Unbeknownst to either of them, in a few months' time, the only Redhawk of their generation who didn't have plans for leaving their natal pack would be dead.

She wondered if her parents would ever recognize the pattern and work to make home a more welcoming and comfortable place for the youths, but dispersal was the lot of most wolves. Not all of them had left because they couldn't stand their mom, although Niamh in particular had driven off at least half her children. She'd just point out she's a leader and how dare you, and anyway, Towma and dad will come running to support her.

Snow began to fall, slow at first, but within minutes the forest was swallowed by the fury of the flakes. Wow, exclaimed Alyx, that was fast. D'you wanna go take a nap somewhere? I can't see a thing. Waiting out the snow seemed smart, although this was just the tip of the winter storm iceberg.
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#23
While Alyx seemed to have lost some faith in Towhee and Phox, and their potential to use their opinions to force Niamh into submission, Bronco still felt as though eventually, they too might tire of enabling her. He felt that her bad habits were something that she hid from them as much as possible- or perhaps she was simply able to justify her actions enough so that they believed her. But one day, he felt certain he'd catch her in a bad situation, and he might be able to get Phox and Towhee to see who it was they appointed as Regent- and that she shouldn't be trusted with the authority she thirsted for. 

"Never know," He responded, with a shrug. "Maybe I'll knock her on her ass and they'll make me a Regent and demote her." He said, with a light-hearted chuckle. "Then I'll make it an order that you come back an' visit every now and again, and teach the kids how to crank Mom's nerves as much as possible, as punishment for her being such a dick to you." It was a ridiculous notion- but it was kind of fun to imagine such silly possibilities. 

He hadn't been terribly bothered by the snow- it accumulated on his thick pelt without melting and making him uncomfortable, but when he looked over to see that Alyx herself had begun to pick up a good inch of snow along her back, he chuckled. He brushed his muzzle along her spine to shove the fluffy snowflakes off, and nodded. "Yeah. I think I know a place over this way that we can bunker down in, out of the snow," He said. If Bronco was good for anything, it was finding good places to take naps in. He had several nap-sites plotted out all through the Caldera.
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#24
Can probably fade with your next one, if you like, and have a newer one soon when things settle down from the landslide!

She giggled, a bubbly little bell tinkle, and smirked at her brother. You'd be a better Regent. Maybe I'd stay if it was you instead of her. She could deal with her mom being a cow to her if that was just their mother-daughter relationship, because deep down, she knew she was partly responsible. But Niamh being her leader on top of it, and the expectation that she was owed respect for that fact alone, no matter how shitty a parent she was, made it untenable for Alyx.

Not to mention how her mind kept wandering to Valravn and what he was doing and how much better she felt when he was around. She had convinced herself that was the cherry on top rather than the mysterious bottom of the iceberg, but she might one day look back on this moment and realize she'd been head over heels for the mere idea of a boy and found other excuses to pursue that, including sabotaging her relationship with her mom after not getting her way.

That had been a bit of a joke, she understood, but she meant it completely. While she was still a little tweaked about Bronco leaving, she had always thought he would make a great leader, if anyone bothered to open their eyes and see the value in him. And, like any great leader, he already had a place in mind for their nap. Lead on, Regent, she teased, sticking out her tongue and giving her snow-ridden pelt a shake.
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#25
I would be super happy to have another thread; you are wonderful to write with, and I absolutely love these two together :)  Hit me up whenever you'd like!

"Awww," He murmured, touched by the vote of confidence. He wasn't exactly sure he was the perfect fit for leadership- he considered himself to be much more of a follower than a leader, and felt a lot more comfortable when he simply got to support others. He potentially could have made a wonderful advisor, with a bit more experience and a few more years under his belt in such a position, but leading as a Regent, he knew, would leave him with so many questions about morals. He'd bombarded Wraen and Hydra and Towhee with questions about being a leader, and making choices- and wasn't sure he'd learned enough from his own experiences yet to take on such a role. But- it meant a lot to him to hear his sister admit that she might stick around if he was in charge. 

Then again- being a better leader than Niamh wasn't exactly too lofty of a goal. He could manage that in a heartbeat, he figured. 

He grinned, and nodded- glad to see that she was happy to joke around with him again. It was quite a relief, that they could have a talk and take their tension level down from what it had been. It was proof of how mature they'd both become over the past year, and probably a hallmark of the relationship they had which had the potential to become more and more open, honest and secure over the years to come. He led her to his closest nap-spot, so they could wait out the snowfall together, oblivious of how much more proverbial storms were yet to head their way.