Redhawk Caldera If heaven is as heaven does then this is hell for sure
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She'd had enough. 

It was a bright day, and there was a clear sky overhead. It might have cheered her up, but the sun failed to clear away the cloud of brewing emotions that had not been dealt with or settled in the wake of the fight. The one who had devastated her and had fractured her leg had also created a fracture in the pack- and while time had served to heal her limb, it had also created more instability in an environment that was already frail enough. Niamh felt certain that Alyx would not return from her trip, and it had also become fairly clear that Eljay, too, had moved on. All that remained were two wolves still new to the pack, a tradesman with what seemed like a chronic case of wanderlust, and the leaders- but only one of them had spent any time with her. 

Towhee was avoiding her completely. If nothing else, her absence relayed a message that was fairly clear- she wanted nothing to do with Niamh, and that she did not approve of the decision Phox had made to kick him out. She hadn't come to apologize for the actions of her mate, and that ruffled the Regent. She had not come to even make sure that Niamh was healing, or to see why the fight had started. She didn't feel much of an explanation was needed anyway- she'd been fairly obvious about how she'd felt about Reyes even siring Towhee's litter, let alone working his way into their family group. 

"I can't do this anymore, @Phox." She confessed. "This has gone on long enough. Avoiding me like she has been? I'm done with it. She doesn't want me here, an' I don't wanna be somewhere I'm not wanted. 'Cause if I'm not wanted, then our kids aren't, either. An' they deserve better'n that." She said.
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He, too, noticed that Towhee and Niamh had spent no time together since he had ousted Reyes. Towhee had her reasons, he was sure, and Niamh was still healing. All the whole, the double Phother tried to keep things together, assuring Niamh everything would be okay if she’d just wait a little longer. But eventually, that wasn’t enough. And what was he to do? What if he had never gotten rid of Reyes? Towhee did not fault him for doing so, and yet no matter what he would have done would have left somebody (or both of them) unhappy.

But I want you here, and they’re my kids, too, he said, feeling that it wouldn’t be enough. And she’ll come around, right? She’s had a rough go of it, and… but he stopped there, anticipating that any plea would just make it harder for whatever choice he had to make. Niamh had already made her choice.
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"Do you know her to be the sort of wolf who 'comes around' easily?" She asked. In her opinion, Towhee had had plenty of time to come around. Now, in choosing to stay away and sulk, she was dividing a pack that was already small enough as it was- and that was wearing on Niamh's nerves. "Fuck's sake. Rough go of it- yeah, well, she's not the only one. You chased out her mate of what- one whole day? I chased off my own mate once, for being a belligerent fuck who hinted I should oust Raven and take over as alpha. But he didn't attack someone, or break someone's leg, or endanger their children." She said. She still believed that chasing Reyes out was the only thing that should have been done- and that Towhee should have realized she'd made a big mistake in choosing to keep someone like that around. 

"She even came to tell me she was banging Reyes within a week of Primrose's death. Is that what someone does when they care about you? 'Cause I don't think so." She snarled, her voice hitching. "I've been through so much bullshit with her. I've hunted down wolves with her, rescued her ass more than once, stood up for her, divorced my mate for her, moved my ass all over the county so she could feel at home somewhere, and tolerated her stomping all over my grief. But this is the last straw." She said. She was quiet for a moment. "I know you're either coming with me, or staying with her. That's your choice."
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He couldn’t bring up Towhee’s lost children, not without her explicit permission, so he didn’t. It hurt to hear his two best friends at odds, even moreso when they were both hurting apart without the support of one another. Towhee hadn’t said a single bad thing about Niamh, at least not that he could remember, and that made it harder. Perhaps this was a long time coming, as they were both hot headed. He had hoped that, with age and their children to look after together, things might get better. Grudges would slide away. They could be the three musketeers again.

And now she made him choose.

It was an impossible choice for the Redhawk. He had left Towhee once before and regretted it with all his being. Niamh was the mother of his children, both present and future.

An ultimatum.

Phox’s gut twisted into a knot, and for the first time in months, he felt the beginnings of a migraine coming on. Apparently, stress was a contributing factor. He felt himself being split in half.

He wondered if Towhee leaving would be any better, but it sure didn’t feel that way. And where would Niamh go? Where would he go? Would Towhee even be able to keep the pack together if he left? And wouldn’t they end up in the same place anyway if that happened.

A stab of pain shot through his head, and he wavered on his legs, trying to ground himself.

I don’t know what to do, he said finally, frowning. I left Towhee before, and I hated myself for it. You’re the mother of my children; my mate, and I’d hate myself not going with you, too.

There was no right answer. None he could give that would satisfy anybody involved. He wanted to split. Run away like he had all those years ago during the war. Instead, he stood there, his head and heart pounding.
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Even though she presented him with a choice, in her heart Niamh knew that it would be impossible for him to choose. She expected him, then, to not choose at all- and to do nothing about it, which might root him to the Caldera. And while she thought at first that she would be able to handle it if he showed any hesitation at all, it ended up hurting her quite a bit. He couldn't make up his mind, and she could see that it pained him. She'd seen the way his face looked before, and assumed that one of his migraines was settling in. She did have a habit of triggering those, whenever they had to talk about something serious. 

She frowned, and fumed. How had Phox dealt with this so well before? How was it that he had managed to weather Primrose's death, and handle Reyes' attack without losing his mind? She and Towhee had been through hell and back, either together or because of other circumstances- and Phox...Well, when he'd been a part of it, he'd remained steady. And while he seemed incapable of making a life-changing decision, something occurred to her. 

"Towhee's unfit as Sovereign." She declared. "She can't see the fault in her mate attacking her Regent? Can't be arsed about the welfare of her packmates, and chooses a mate who attacks pregnant women? Then she is unfit to lead. Our pack is failing, and it needs change. I will stay, if you and I together can take over the Sovereignty of the pack. I can't say she'll abdicate peacefully but...Her rule is over. Whether we stay with the pack, or not."
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;____; evil dice gods

Knowing there was no way that he could choose, and not wanting to put the burden on Niamh or Towhee, Phox reached for a piece of loose bark on a nearby tree.

Bark up, we attempt to pull rank on Towhee. Bark down, I make another choice: stay or leave. Maybe he could do another toss of the bark if that happened. He didn't like the sound of any of these outcomes. It seemed that, no matter what, he was going to be separated from one of his best friends. At least this way, he didn't have to choose. This way, he could leave it up to stupid fate.

Not that it was going to make things any less difficult. Phox picked the bark back up, took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and tossed it into the air. It landed bark down, the smooth surface of the slab of wood staring him in the face.

I won't oust her with you, but I won't stop you if you want to go to her and try, Phox decided.

Again, he lifted the piece of bark, closed his eyes, and tossed it into the air. It landed bark up, meaning that he would stay.

The kids, I—he faltered. But he had two litters to watch out for this year. Not just those of his own blood, but those of Towhee's, too. He'd promised to raise them, just as he'd promised to raise Niamh's. He felt another pulse in his head, this one worse than the last.

I will make it work. I'll live in two places at once if I have to. He was downright determined to make it work.
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he didn't answer. She thought that this was a happy medium, allowing him the chance to stay, and have both Towhee and Niamh in his life - and perhaps step up into a rank that she felt suited him better. but he moved away toward a tree, and used his claws to pry a bit of bark from it. At first, she thought this might be some symbolic action - or that he might attempt to make some sort of pun out of it. Let's em-bark on a new adventure together, or something along those lines. It would have been cheesy, but it would have brought some levity to their situation. Lightened the mood a bit. No other word play came to mind so she wondered what he might be doing until he informed her that he would leave not only his future, but their future, up to chance.

She huffed. "Oh for fuck's-" She began, but he deflect the piece of bark into the air. she didn't watch it fall. Instead, she set her gaze on his face, and noticed something odd. He didn't seem upset, whatsoever, at whatever the outcome had been. That, to her, was enough of a sign that he did, in fact, have an inclination toward one outcome or the other. 

The kids-

"My kids," She spat. He began to flounder with some sort of plea but she shook her head, and stood up, faltering slightly on her injured limb. "You would leave my fate up to chance without even asking what I thought of your little gamble? And you'd leave the fate of the children up to a piece of fucking bark?!" She barked the question at him. She didn't catch the irony, nor had she intended it. "If that's not the most spineless thing I've ever fucking seen then I don't know what the fuck is. You're a coward, Phox," She snarled. "And if you won't lead with me, and you won't go with me, then you can go fuck yourself and the shit-wind you blew in on." She turned, and kicked the piece of bark away with one hind foot- not bothering, again, to see how it might land. She wasn't sure where she was going, but she slowly began to waddle/limp her way away from Phox and all the other insufferable Redhawks.
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Ah, if only she'd known. But Niamh couldn't read minds, and neither could he.

My kids.

Well, perhaps he could have seen that coming, but it didn't rankle him any less. There were few things in this life Phox cared for more deeply than Towhee and Niamh, and those were his children. Figment, Fennec, Meerkat, Alyx, Quetzal, and Primrose meant the world to him. And the umpteen more that would be born this year, both Towhee's and Niamh's, would be no different, he knew.

You left my fate up to chance, Niamh! he yelled, for once in his life. If you think this is spineless, why haven't you gone to Towhee and fucking spoken to her?! Yeah, he was losing it a bit. His head pounded, and he winced, but he didn't stop, instead stepping in front of her, baring his teeth, and feeling his heart race.

You know it isn't fair to make me choose, so why is it unfair to make a piece of bark choose where our children live?

The pain radiated in his head, and he wretched, his tail curling under and his back arching. He knew he shouldn't get worked up like this, but the thought of her taking the children away—he couldn't. Why was she so insistent on hurting him like this?

He couldn't stop her now, laying on the ground as he attempted to calm himself enough so the pain would subside. There was nothing he could do if she wanted to walk away, the children right with her. He had always bent to her, always given into her every wish, but this was the thing that would break them. If she took their children away from him; it would break him.
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Chance? She wasn't sure why he thought that being given a decision to make was taking his choice away. She'd offered three options, and he could have used his own free will to make a decision on his own but instead he'd tossed a piece of bark into the air. 

"Uh, hello- broken leg, remember?" She grumbled, lifting the offending limb as though to remind him. It had set, but was still weak. "Doctor's orders to stay off it until it set sooooo I'm pretty sure that means she shoulda come to see me, if she even gave one shit about me." She huffed. She continued on her way, having made up her mind already. 

She heard him vomit and she paused. She didn't turn to look at him, though.  "Yeah, I'd feel pretty fucking sick if I were you too." She gritted. She trembled lightly, and for the first time she began to realize that there was a possibility that he might not chase her down. She waited one more moment. Something was breaking between them and she could feel it too. Even with her anger burning through the space between them too she felt fear and sadness. "Phox, please," She said. When she would look over her shoulder at him one more time, it was with desperation. "Come with me. Come with us "
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Phox felt betrayed. Niamh had given him a choice, but not really a choice. No matter what he had done or how he had reacted, she would have been angry with him. It felt clear to him now. Maybe he should have seen it long ago, but for her to give up on him after over a year of what felt like a good thing made him feel like complete and utter garbage. To pit him against Towhee felt even worse, a sickening turn of his stomach. And then, to take away the children they were to love and cherish.

He had never intended to take another wife after Camilla, and now he knew Niamh would be his last. One had died and broken him, and Niamh now threw him aside for a grudge. He felt darkness and stone grow in his heart. His warmth and love would be reserved only for his children and Towhee. Those who had not betrayed him.

The Regent lay there, physically unable to go after her even as she called and poked heartless fun at his condition. Even when she pleaded with him immediately after. And if he’d been able to? He didn’t know. What he did know was that she was choosing the unknown over him. She was choosing a grudge against Towhee over him. Niamh was choosing herself.
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He stayed where he was paralyzed by indecision. And if he couldn't choose, then she would do what she did best- and make her own choice, not just for herself but for her children. If the sovereign didn't care at all about her packmates, then it was no place for her children to be raised. 

She continued, traipsing out of the Caldera and away from the place she would never call home again, disappearing into crimson light of the setting sun.
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Incapacitated for several hours, he couldn’t move without feeling nauseated until well past sundown. When he finally managed to make it to his feet, he felt weak, both physically and emotionally. Niamh, with his children, was gone. The Redhawks were dangerously low on bodies, and he felt forced into a situation he couldn’t control.

He found a more comfortable spot to rest, then let himself drift in and out of sleep until sunrise.
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