Redhawk Caldera Warp 1.9.
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All Welcome 
Somehow, they made it to the den where @Alyx and @Bronco convalesced under the care of @Eljay and @Fennec. Meerkat didn't appear to be physically hurt but it seemed like a good place to take her nonetheless. Towhee was absolutely bewildered by her state, though that didn't stop her maternal instincts from kicking into overdrive. She pressed close to the tearful girl, brushing the snow off her head and shoulders once they were inside and then pulling her into a hug.

The Sovereign didn't fully understand what was going on with her, something about a bear eating a toad or an eagle eating eyeballs. Maybe both. Meerkat wasn't particularly coherent and it was hard to read someone's lips when they were blubbering. Towhee didn't hold it against her, of course, though she did hope to suss out the whole story at some point. Meerkat was okay but she'd obviously witnessed something horrific, which made Towhee worry about the fireflies.

She glanced at the ceaseless snowfall, which nixed any thought about going to check on them. Besides, she was needed here. -Shhh. Rest,- she gently commanded Meerkat, coaxing her to curl up on the floor beside her dozing siblings. Bronco would surely be happy to see her, Alyx too, but all of them needed to rest right now. The Sovereign's heart lurched painfully as she surveyed the three of them lying there, each of them broken by the cruel hands of the wilds.

Towhee turned away, moving to keep vigil in the doorway, her mind whirling with the snow.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Sometimes he slept, and sometimes he was in an odd, in-between state, likely caused in part by whatever edible roots and herbs he was given to take that made him feel distant and woozy. He grasped at thoughts but often found himself either falling short of realizing what he was thinking about, or choosing a thought and hyper-fixating on it. When he was disturbed by another presence in the den, or awakened for a check or to be prompted to eat, he'd be only partially aware of his surroundings and comply, before drifting back into the haze again. With his eyes still swollen shut from the open welts that split in four claw marks across his head, there wasn't much for him to see. Only at times was he coherent to know he was in a den, and feel a bit of panic settle in, which he would suffer in silence. Fortunately- those moments didn't last long. Like most other thoughts that drifted through his mind, few things seemed to catch and stick. 

He shared warmth almost all the time- at times, he was even flanked on both sides. He stirred gently when he felt another wolf brush against him, settling amongst them. Towhee's scent wasn't a surprise to him whatsoever, but there was something about Meerkat's scent that unsettled him. Why was it that his thoughts chose to hone in on her presence? They shared a den together on the mountain. It didn't make sense that he'd only now noticed her scent as being somewhat different, until he realized that she was the only one who was out of place. Aside from himself, of course- but he'd almost forgotten that he belonged in the Glen over the past couple days. Being immersed in scents from his childhood had quickly settled him back into the comfortable notion that he was at home amongst family. 

Slowly he came to the realization that Meerkat was the anomaly simply because she didn't live on the Caldera. He tried to open his eyes but to no avail, so he reached out, sniffing the air and wavering his muzzle from side to side as though trying to pinpoint her exact location, before he began to shuffle toward her.
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For a while, she simply gazed out at the snowstorm, lost in her thoughts. She hadn't given much thought to the encroaching mating season these past few days, what with everything going on, despite being nigh obsessed with it prior to that. Now she left her mind drift in that direction, for a distraction if nothing else. But it only made her heavy heart sink even deeper. If her heat did come on soon, she couldn't exactly leave in good conscience. Even if her pack mates—including the visiting fireflies—didn't need her, it would be dumb as hell to go looking for fuck buddies in a goddamn blizzard.

Sighing, Towhee surfaced from her thoughts long enough to glance backward at the three resting invalids. Bronco had roused, sniffing in Meerkat's direction. The Sovereign maintained her post, watching her daughter's eyes slowly open as she scooted toward her older brother. Both of Meerkat's forepaws came forward to clutch at one of Bronco's as her gaze settled on his face. Even from over here beside the door, Towhee could see the way Meerkat's own face crumpled as she beheld Bronco's wounds. She couldn't hear the sobs that wrenched from her daughter, though she could see the way they shook Meerkat's pale shoulders.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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HAAAAAAA

While she didn't have the energy or coordination to hunt something down, Niamh had stashed a number of small meals away and while it pained her to do so- she dug one up and carried it with her toward where she knew her children (no longer children) were being tended to. The gash on her right foreleg continued to weep every now and again when she pivoted the wrong way, so she did what she could to keep her weight off of it. She'd need for it to heal completely if she wanted to be useful. She couldn't imagine how much it would suck to be as heavily pregnant and overdue as she'd been last year, with one leg out of commission. 

She flicked her ears forward in interest when she noticed Towhee sitting outside the den and she felt a pang of concern for a moment- but over the stiff, frozen rabbit she noticed that a pair of tracks led up to the den, and that one of those sets of tracks belonged to Meerkat. Niamh still wasn't entirely sure what had happened in the Glen and what had sent Meerkat skittering to the Caldera, traumatized. But she wasn't keen on pressing the matter- not while she would also likely be devastated by how close Bronco, Fennec and Alyx had come to being killed by a cougar. 

She nodded at Towhee and dropped the rabbit to the ground. She sat, then, so she could take some of the pressyre off her forelimb, before she decided it was best simply to slide down to the ground and lay, like a sphynx, in the snow. She looked up at Towhee with a tired, concerned expression that spoke to how overwhelmed she felt. From within the den, sobbing. Meerkat's voice. "Well." She said, softly, silently hoping that Towhee would find some sort of a conversation started, amongst the many things they had to figure out.

Within the den, Bronco found his sister, and curled alongside her, feeling her paws grasp at one of his, and hearing her sob. Oblivious to the wreckage that had befallen the Glen, he murmured something soft and assuring- no more than a non-sensical whisper- and welcomed her to snuggle in next to him with a slight tilt of his head.
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She resisted the impulse to move closer, letting Meerkat seek and find comfort in her brother instead. She wondered if Meerkat would try to tell him what afflicted her, if Towhee might glean more details. But the two of them simply nuzzled closer, Meerkat still grasping Bronco and crying. As far as she could tell from back here, her daughter didn't attempt to speak. Her teary eyes shuttered again. That was good. She should really try to get some sleep, they both should. Maybe when they woke, she would be able to better relay her story.

Movement made the Sovereign turn to apprehend the figure approaching what she'd come to think of as the hospital wing. It was Niamh, with food. Towhee watched as the Regent set down the carcass and then sprawled in the snow, her orange gaze settling on the woman's wounds. She frowned. Fennec had given her some details, yet Towhee didn't know the full story and wasn't sure she wanted to know right now. She had maxed out her bandwidth for this stuff.

Letting out a low breath, Towhee decided to stretch out beside her best friend. "Fuck," was her response to Niamh's dry, "Well." Her lip twitched at the corner, faintly.
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"Right?!" Her response was immediate; and while it wasn't exactly a precise topic starter, Towhee's statement precisely paraphrased all of the milling thoughts circling through Niamh's head. She groaned slightly as she shifted her weight, allowing her to sink a bit into the snow, in a Niamh-shaped divet. She glanced over Towhee's shoulder into the darkness of the den, though she couldn't make out any forms. Meerkat sounded miserable, still, but she thought her voice sounded a bit more faint. 

She brought her gaze back and stared out into the woods, though her eyes were drawn inevitably back to the deep red gash that made her leg look so ugly. It was even swollen in a way that made her look as though she had a second knee, which was even more disgusting. At least her swollen eye was on the side of her face that wasn't pointed toward Towhee, so she could at least look half pretty, with one side of her face. She'd turn her muzzle back toward Towhee to speak, though, as she knew it would be both awkward and painful to use ptero. "I'm proud of them," She said, "But...Fuck." She reiterated, shaking her head. "I think I thought if we fought all the nightmares in the world, they wouldn't have to." She admitted. They'd fought off so many threats before- they'd chased off usurpers, turncoats and murderers...But it seemed the world had not finished with them yet.
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Just a cameo because I like to always add to my characters' personal drama!

Alyx slipped in and out of sleep while her body fought tooth and nail through the aftermath of the cougar's attack. Although it hadn't hit anything major, she'd lost a fair amount of blood and the soft tissue of her neck was shredded and raw. Her immune system had kicked into overdrive and she'd developed a fever overnight—luckily, the howling gale and plummeting temperatures would help with that. She was far from out of the woods, but she came to now and again, and so long as the fever didn't get too high, she would live.

Her dreams were bizarre and filled with terrifying imagery. Usually she was driven awake by something jarring happening in them. Today, it was the feeling of her lungs filling as a huge cat held her head underwater. She woke silently, with not even a gasp, and cracked her eyes open. Fire rushed through her veins, and she couldn't have moved even if she wanted to. The pain made sure of that.

The first thing she saw was a creamy brown coat that was so similar to the cougar's, it made her heart rate accelerate until she felt like she was suffocating and it was thrumming painfully in her torn throat. Recognition followed slowly, and then something cold and venomous.

How sweet for Bronco and Meerkat to be cuddling while I'm left alone, like always, she thought sourly. Once more, Alyx began projecting every bad emotion she'd ever had onto Meerkat, as she had since having her wish to go to Rusalka denied. She should have felt bad for blaming Meerkat for everything that had gone wrong for her recently, but she didn't. Meerkat had left and yet here she was, enjoying every comfort here that should have been Alyx's, and they were all lucky that she was too weak to say or do anything about it. Towma might've thrown her from Redhawk Caldera herself if she could tell them all how she felt.

She closed her eyes queasily and drifted back into another uneasy sleep, one where she dreamt of bashing Meerkat's face repeatedly against the same tree she'd been pinned to.
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The Sovereign chewed the inside of her cheek pensively, saying nothing to Niamh's remarks. She glanced back at the trio again, in time to catch what looked like some restless shuffling from Alyx. But she went still again. The other two looked like they'd fallen asleep—cried herself to sleep, in Meerkat's case. Even in slumber, her face looked wretched, though her unconscious grimace paled in comparison to her siblings' more corporeal wounds.

Turning around to face Niamh again, Towhee wasn't sure what to say about any of it. It was strange to think that all their kids were in the same place for once. It might've been a joyful observation, if half of them weren't maimed. She supposed she should be thankful that Fennec wasn't in worse shape; that Meerkat's affliction at least wasn't life-threatening; and that Fig, Nellie, Prim and Q were intact.

After several moments of silence, Towhee stretched out a toe to tap gently against the stiff rabbit carcass. "Should we try waking them soon, make sure they're eating?" she wondered. She wasn't a medic, nor was Niamh. Maybe they should wait until Eljay or Fen stopped by. Towhee shook her head and switched gears abruptly, saying, "I don't know if you caught anything she said when she first showed up but I got something about a bear. Do you think there was an attack at the glen too? What're the odds? A cougar here, a bear there...?"
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Niamh had begun to sift through various thoughts in her mind when Towhee spoke, suggesting they wake the kids, but Niamh shook her head. She, personally, loathed being awakened when she was napping. "I think let them sleep a bit. I'll try an' thaw this thing out a bit." She said, realizing that that might be a better idea than trying to feed them something hard and frozen. She pulled the carcass toward her and stuffed it in under her belly, and settled back down over it, covering it completely as she did so. That fact made her frown. Her middle wasn't the same as it used to be. She used to have a nice trim line to her waist, but now...It seemed she'd been switched from being a show hen to being nothing more than one with a belly designed to carry puppies and thaw out frozen meals. 

By the time she had the rabbit carcass stuffed underneath her where it might warm up a bit, Towhee'd begun to ask her questions about a 'her' that had showed up and it took Niamh a moment to register that she was talking about Meerkat. She needed to pay attention to her friend, rather than mourn the loss of her waistline. "Not sure. I thought first she'd mistaken my howl, and thought that I'd said 'bear' not 'cougar' But she was way too upset for that to have been all it was." She admitted. "It'd be too much of a coincidence, wouldn't it?" She asked. For a cougar to have attacked the Caldera and a bear to have attacked the Glen the next day? Incredulous. "Bears're supposed to be asleep, anyway, aren't they? 'Specially with this weather- I think there's a storm coming." She said. "She seemed really rattled." It was an understatement, of course. Meerkat was devastated. So there was a possibility, she dreaded, that something had happened in the Glen.
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Of course, Towhee couldn't hear a word Niamh said, though she listened astutely with her eyes as her friend opined about the goings-on lately. She didn't know what triggered it but she suddenly realized something: all their children weren't here. Fig and Phox were still on their little foray and hadn’t Primrose said something about visiting a friend—or had he said family...?—a few days back? Wait, hadn't he actually mentioned the Frosthawks? Or was she pulling that out of her ass? Her stomach clenched a little as she tried to recall details. Towhee couldn't quite remember. Maybe Niamh would know?

"Should we be worried about Prim? What if he tries to come back and gets caught in a snowstorm?" Not to mention all the aggressive apex predators that were at large. "Fuck," she repeated her earlier epithet. She'd really taken solace in the thought that all the kids were in one place, safe here at the caldera, and now that was pretty well shot. At least Fig was with his dad, so Towhee didn't worry much there. But Prim...
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She shuffled her weight a bit, trying to get a bit more comfortable while laying on top of the frozen rabbit, but her ears flicked forward at the mention of her sweet son's name. Prim...Why was Towhee asking her where Prim was- was he not in the packlands? Or had he gone on a trip somewhere? She hadn't taken direct notice of him or his absence since the cougar attack. He was a lovely boy, and she absolutely adored him- but she did sometimes zone out when he went on with his stories, only adding an occasional nod or hum to let him know she was 'listening.' Niamh wasn't a good listener- but she also didn't like to admit it. It was quite possible he'd mentioned going off to visit a friend, and she'd likely have replied with something along the lines of yes dear, that sounds lovely. Realizing now that Towhee seemed to know more about where her son had gone off to than she did, she felt guilty; but she wasn't about to admit it or show it. She was reassured that at least Towhee seemed to know where he was. Niamh had been too preoccupied not only with the cougar attack, but with the fact that she'd finally gotten revenge on Kiwi. 

"Primrose gets distracted so easily, I think it's just going to become a 'thing' where it takes him a bit longer to come back whenever he goes somewhere." She admitted. "He'll tell stories to a listening ear until the herds migrate back." Her son could charm snowflakes into becoming petals if he wanted to. She also figured that while Primrose might not have known well enough not to travel during a snowstorm, then whoever he was with would keep him safe. 

Still- she didn't enjoy the little bit of shame she felt, realizing that in all the commotion, she'd potentially lost track of her son. She hated the thought that she'd potentially lost sight of him the same way the pack had lost track of Alyx during the deluge. She also didn't like the very real idea that Towhee had presented that he might get lost in the storm, if he was away- so she sought to redirect their discussion, so she might not get forced to admit that she didn't actually know where Prim was. And with a topic jump like the one she had, she doubted Towhee would bring Prim up again. 

"I wasn't sure how to bring this up," She said, haltingly. This wasn't much easier than it was, admitting that she had no clue where Primrose was. "But the wolf that I fought with- it's the same one that attacked Fennec." She said. That was a start, at least.
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The Regent didn't seem overly concerned about her son, so Towhee took her cue and quelled her inner fretting. Surely he would turn up soon, Phox and Fig too. She frowned. She didn't envy any of them, coming back to this shit show. Her brother and son would probably beat themselves up about it too, especially since they'd been gone longer than they'd predicted they would be.

Well, she didn't have the bandwidth to worry about their feelings right now either. Towhee met the change of subject with a series of blinks. Had Fennec mentioned that? Had she even known herself? It was then that Towhee realized she was getting situations mixed up in her head, because some part of her had definitely assumed Niamh had gotten those wounds during the cougar encounter, despite knowing better. What the fuck was wrong with her brain today? Then again, everything was chaos lately.

"Wait, what? Tell me the whole story."
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Towhee's surprise at least told Niamh that there was a possibility Fennec had done as she'd asked, and had kept that tidbit of information to herself. Either that, or Fennec had told Towhee, but had also told Towhee to act surprised if Niamh brought it up. Fennec was smart enough to pull something like that off- but Towhee's surprise seemed so genuine, she was inclined to believe that her secrets had remained safe. And it was likely best that she brought this up, rather than simply waiting for Phox to come back. There would be so much to tell him when he did...

Her Sovereign had asked for the whole story- so Niamh repositioned herself slightly so she could face Towhee a bit better. Given the fact she'd been told to keep her leg as still as possible, she didn't want to sign, but wanted to make sure that Towhee caught everything she had to say. She had no idea how much Fennec had told Towhee, either- so she'd need to try to be concise and clear. "Fennec went out to get herbs for Bronco and Alyx after the cougar attack, and met a lone wolf who asked her questions about the Caldera. She asked her if we were strong, like, if we were prepared for winter, and then she attacked Fennec." She said. "Fennec pinned her and left." She couldn't help but feel ridiculously proud that Fennec had managed to wipe the ground with Kiwi. "I was on my way back from the Glen, and I found her tracks. I didn't know she'd attacked Fennec, at that point, but...I hunted her down, because..." She could feel the joints in her neck stiffening. "It was Kiwi."
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The information Niamh provided lined up with what Fennec had told her. As Towhee listened in her way, she realized she'd really gotten her wires crossed here. Her eyes fell again to the woman's wounds, actually paying attention this time, lifting in time to catch the words, "I hunted her down, because... it was Kiwi."

Her eyebrows raised as her brain tried to make sense of this newest piece of information. She hadn't thought about Kiwi in ages. She had never had much to do with her niece, though she did remember vaguely disliking her attitude. Considering Towhee could barely make sense of recent news, she didn't bother trying to reflect on details. And if she knew about the connection between Kiwi and Colt's death, the Sovereign didn't presently remember it.

With that said, Towhee didn't bat an eyelash or question the execution, at least until Niamh's words landed. It made sense to her that the Regent would eliminate the one threat she could, after all the attacks they'd suffered lately, but if she wasn't avenging Fennec, then Towhee had to wonder, "Wait, why? Not that I have a problem with it, after what she did to Fen, but..." Her orange eyes blinked, head tilting, sensing that she was definitely missing something here.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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Why? Niamh's ears turned back suddenly in disdain and surprise. Suddenly, telling Towhee what she'd done didn't seem like such a good idea. She'd assumed that Towhee might take her side, all things considered, and it struck her as being quite strange that she didn't already know why Niamh would have tracked Kiwi down. "What do you mean, -why-?" She said, straining herself just enough to half-sign the question she repeated. Had Towhee forgiven Kiwi completely for what she'd done to Colt? Or had she not forgiven, but forgotten? 

She felt suddenly irritated that Towhee questioned her reasoning. It wasn't possible that she was the only one who had kept Kiwi as a target. In a few months it would be two years since Colt's death, but that had not served to ease Niamh's need for revenge. Maybe Towhee had forgotten about Colt, given the fact that Niamh was now mates with her brother. Towhee'd never really liked Colt, from what she could remember- she'd even kicked Niamh out of a pack because of him. But she still felt that she owed it to Colt to get revenge, even if it wasn't what he would have wanted. It's what she wanted him to want for her, so she'd done it. 

Still, for whatever reason, Towhee seemed to be oblivious to all of that. And Niamh'd been asked a question, so she'd answer it, though her patience was strained. If she wasn't so sore on her leg, she might've come up with an excuse and wandered off to cool down elsewhere. "That bitch killed Colt. So I killed her back," She answered coldly.
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Yes, she'd missed something crucial, if Niamh's reaction was any indication. Towhee's ears swept back, wondering just what she was forgetting and hoping the Regent would simply remind her of it. Niamh didn't disappoint her in that regard, though there was a lot of emotion brewing on her face by the time she spat out the words.

Oh, the Sovereign thought dumbly. Right. How could she have forgotten that detail? Of course, the day Niamh had arrived with the news, Towhee had mostly focused on other aspects of what Colt's death meant, particularly Niamh herself and her kids. As she thought back, she sort of remembered thinking that it wasn't worth trying to hunt down Kiwi for her crime, since the dead never seemed to stay dead. Well, she hoped she was wrong in the here and now.

"I'm sorry, Niamh, I forgot." A lot had happened between then and now, especially lately, but Towhee didn't want to make excuses and said as much. "I have no excuse. But," she continued in the same breath, "I absolutely think you did the right thing, for what it's worth." She wondered what Niamh had done with the body but decided not to ask. Surely Niamh had gotten the job done and she didn't dare infer otherwise right now.
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It irked Niamh that Towhee had simply forgotten about the circumstances of her first mate's death. Her apology was acknowledged with a nod, but not necessarily accepted. Niamh was too proud of a creature to let go of an insult quickly, let alone something that really stung. It wasn't something she figured she had any right to hold against Towhee for forever, but...She felt entitled to be pissed off for a little while, at least. 

But the olive branch Towhee wisely chose to extend in the wake of her memory fumble did serve to placate Niamh a bit, and she nodded with a growl. Kiwi had had a spark- and that sort of spark could either be guided into something useful, or turn itself into an inferno, and Niamh had overpowered her for the sake of revenge while also taking out a potential threat to their pack. She still had no idea how she felt about having killed another wolf. 

"Your daughter's a badass, by the way. Fennec." It was as close as Niamh could come to offering Towhee at least a bit of a break, for the harm she hadn't intended to cause. "She pinned the impudent bitch to the ground." She said. She paused a moment, in consideration. It still seemed like it was a bit too soon to be giving Towhee a compliment, after she'd forgotten about the circumstances of Colt's death, but...She earned it, regardless. And Niamh cared too deeply for her friend to begrudge her without also being able to appreciate her. "You're a good Mom."
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"Yeah," Towhee breathed, totally in agreement there, "she is." But then Niamh tacked on something else, which earned a furrowed brow. Maybe that was true, though the only one who deserved credit here was Fennec. And it was hard to accept such a compliment right now, when she'd just proved a moment ago to be a pretty terrible friend.

She glanced over at Meerkat, who'd apparently cried herself to sleep. Towhee frowned, then looked back to Niamh. "I think I'm gonna go over there and try to catch a nap myself. Maybe some sleep will help my dumb fucking brain." She smiled crookedly, slowly pushing to stand. A foreleg reached out to gently touch Niamh's shoulder, a silent gesture of apology and friendship, before she sidled deeper into the cave to curl up beside Meerkat.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.
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She was relieved that for once, things didn't seem to escalate. She'd chosen a different route this time, and had forced herself to be a bit less reactive, though her injured leg was likely owed all the credit for stopping her from simply stomping off. She felt a bit of relief when Towhee said something that came across as an additional apology- or at least, an acknowledgement that she needed to get some rest in order to think and remember properly. That would suffice for now, though she still felt a bit heartsore. She didn't move to reciprocate Towhee's nudge, but then again, she didn't want to flex her leg, either. So she simply nodded, and shuffled so that she could curl up against the wind, keep the rabbit thawing in close to her belly, and get a bit of rest herself just outside the mouth of the den.