Redsand Canyon Silver screen (shower scene).
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The very first time she’d met @Germanicus, Towhee had admitted something to him. As she sought him now, she wondered if he remembered her awkward slip of the tongue that night. Despite being a bit groggy at the time, she still remembered what he’d said quite clearly: “It is never too late to choose what you desire. Even if it is not something you wished before. We are not static creatures.”

With all the visits from her family members lately—some of them even staying close by—it stirred certain feelings inside the Redhawk. Looking after Mulberry contributed, as did watching Ruenna’s pregnancy progress. She still hadn’t made up her mind. It really wasn’t possible to do that without knowing her options. But she felt it happening inside her: she was starting to lean.

Her paws carried her in a direct line from #1A, across the lobby and toward the palazzo.
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germanicus was not well-versed with the signs of pregnancy.

he found himself more of a guardian around the den he shared with ruenna. in the evenings he attempted to return earlier and often with a meal.

he was departing on one such search when he came across towhee, striding toward their den with purpose. "praefectus," the eagle greeted, turning his steps to match her own. "i was headed to the forest for a hunt. will you join me?"
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It was tempting to peek inside and check on Rue, maybe even talk to her about what was on her mind. But she needed to speak to Germanicus first. All the same, her orange eyes lingered on the doorway for a brief moment, hoping the Matrona was inside, resting comfortably.

She quickly turned her attention to the Imperator as they fell into practiced step with one another, the picture of military cooperation and precision. Sure, she replied, intuiting they would be hunting for his wife. Imperator, she added after a beat, as she did.

As she turned toward the woods to the south, she gathered her thoughts and pondered how to word them. I wanted to talk to you about something, she more or less blurted, all the warning she gave before driving right to the point. If I wanted to have a litter here in Mereo, what, Towhee said, pausing as if rethinking her phrasing, would that look like?
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germanicus was surprised but then he was not. towhee had spoken of her extensive family and now she would see her closest friend bring new life into the world here among the barracks. "i want any children born inside mereo to also be born inside a marriage. it ensures the cooperation of a father who will then show more dedication to his role here."

he wondered if it had been too hasty of him to elevate towhee, but decided not to dwell upon an earlier decision. she was meant for the rank and it for her.

the cool shadows of the warming woodland swallowed them in dappled light. germanicus began to hunt for a trail.
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She would not soon forget Tamar’s explanation of the rules of breeding in Mereo, especially since they flew in the face of what Towhee might’ve called the natural order. She knew, for instance, that her high rank didn’t mean anything, particularly because she would lose it the instant she conceived. She was also aware of the stipulation about marriage, which of course made Towhee want to wrinkle her nose.

But she’d kept an open mind. And now that she’d really carved out her niche and knew how things worked around here, she got the sense that a marriage could be more of a business transaction than anything. Towhee remembered a dismayed Meerkat using those exact words when speaking about her failed relationship with Issorartuyok. Suffice it to say, her approach to partnerships was very different than her daughter’s.

And you would demote me, Towhee said, looking to him for confirmation. Motherhood in Mereo would cost Towhee her independence and her rank. These were the very options she needed to weigh to make an informed decision. Let’s say I married a dude and took up a Plebian rank. Could I still advise and mentor? The title is great and all but it’s the purpose that really means the most to me, she did her best to explain.
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"i would, until such a time as your children were weaned and you wished to return to your military duties." he had left off searching for a moment. the idea of three litters being born in a place where he had not even wanted a single child born perturbed the eagle.

but this was the nature of commoners versus soldiers, was it not?

"yes. i would strongly suggest that you avoid sparring in such a condition, but to hold lectures or gentler training, yes. your ability to teach does not end when you are pregnant."

germanicus wondered if he was compromising too much. but he did not truly believe that he was.
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The demotion would only be temporary, which was reassuring. Towhee had to bite her tongue just a little bit when Germanicus preached to her about how to conduct herself during pregnancy. He meant well, for both mother and children.

Okay, so that’s one half of the logistics, Towhee acknowledged, then there’s the other. Rue is expecting a litter and I assume Tamar and Arsenio will have one too? She glanced at his face. What about Aquene and Kallik? Most of them have been around longer than me, she observed. How did longevity measure up against rank? I only allowed two, maybe three litters when I was a leader, she thought aloud. Things worked differently here but resources were a pretty universal concern.

Speaking of which, she drew in a breath and tipped her snout into the air, testing the breeze. They were getting closer to the tree line now.
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four! "are you aware of something in regards to aquene and kallik that i do not yet know?" germanicus inquired. had there been a development between them? he would not betray the trust of either to formally point out that the pair were lovers, but it bemused him to think that the others saw it as well.

"arsenio did ask after children and i have granted that request for the future."

he was still reeling with the idea of four births inside mereo. each one would bring soldiers but each one would make mereo vulnerable for a time. "in truth, towhee, i had not wanted children born here at all. but with the addition of the plebians, it is not avoidable."

"tamar is rather young. i do not believe she will be — not until the summer." he was growing steadily uncomfortable with their conversation. "if kallik and aquene choose to be married, they will be afforded the same privilege. and now with an alliance between the vale and ourselves, we have more chances for group hunting that will feed us both."
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She didn’t know about the taboo on premarital sex in Mereo, though something about his query made her hesitate. Had Aquene told her about banging Kallik in confidence? Towhee’s brow furrowed as she tried to read Germanicus’s facial expression better. Did he really not know those two were bumping uglies?

Uh, I think they fancy each other, Towhee said lightly. Even if they’re merely flirting—with their genitals—they’re still more established as a pairing, she mentioned, her own face growing contemplative. This is kind of an aside, but with this kind of growth potential, have we considered expanding into a second outpost? Maybe led by Arsenio and Tamar? Or even Kallik and Aquene?

But before Germanicus could even respond to that grandiose idea, Towhee hastened to say, Because I think I may want the opportunity to have kids, but I don’t want to leave Mereo. To speak very frankly, I won’t leave Rue or your kids.
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germanicus harrumphed once to towhee's words. it seemed they were on the same page of a similar chapter and yet unaware. yet the imperator held confidence in high regard. kallik was already angry with him and it would not do more for their relationship to gossip about such a sensitive topic.

towhee continued with passion. he was quiet for a moment. "i had considered an outpost in the vale. but kinfolk is there." and he was a fool, for ruenna had wished to head this mission and he had made the decision after aquene's attack that his wife should not be the one.

it had been selfish. he wondered why he was succumbing to his own thoughts. "but practically, no. i have not considered an outpost. there is much work to be done before i would send a delegation off for claiming. especially not with the potential of so many children born here in the coming months."
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He mentioned an outpost in the vale, which Kinfolk claimed. Towhee knew there were plenty of other territories nearby, at least one or two of which could support a pack. Wasn’t there a hollow a little southeast of here? She would’ve mentioned it, except that Germanicus said something that she had trouble parsing.

But that’s the thing, she countered slowly, you could select a breeding pair before they breed, have them set up shop and organically build the pack from there. Granted, we’d lose two adults, but then we’d have an alliance, a sister pack. That would create a formidable presence here in the Sunspires, especially in combination with Kinfolk. Back in the day, the Redhawks annexed part of the Tuktu and I never felt so… not invincible, exactly, but the peace of mind and feeling of safety was pretty indescribable. Towhee thought the idea had merit, aside from her own ambitions, though she did roll her shoulders and disclaim, It’s up to you, but I think it merits some consideration. This time, there was barely a delay before the, Imperator.

They’d strayed from the original topic a bit and Towhee wasn’t sure where that left her for now. But that was why she’d wanted to start this conversation, to hash it out and understand what choices she could and couldn’t make, the prices she’d have to pay. She pondered everything he’d said so far, even as they plodded beneath the barren treetops, plenty of scents sifting through her nose.
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it was the imperator's turn to hold back his words as towhee explained. "two wolves in a romantic partnership tend to be loyal to one another and plan for the children that they will have. especially two young or lovestruck individuals. that is why i try to dissuade it here. i find it to be a distraction. it is actually the very perfection of a breeding pair that makes them unsuitable for the establishment of another military outpost."

his words were conversational. he enjoyed this discussion. it was one of expansive tactics and the eagle found them useful to the situation of mereo as a whole. "you do not plan to leave, but your objectivity would make you a first choice for the role of creating another outpost, prafectus."

his expression warmed. he found the track of an elk and explored it for a moment, searching for weaknesses in the scent.
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She caught a whiff of elk and immediately discarded it. There was no way the two of them could handle that, not with Towhee’s relative lack of skills. When Germanicus seemed to turn toward the scent, she gave him a look.

Towhee gave him another when he pointed out the obvious. Of course it had crossed her mind, about a split second before she’d sworn her fealty to Rue and her pups.

Only if you let me take Rue and the pups, she offered in knee-jerk reply. She was joking, mostly. If you really thought that was a good idea, I’d definitely be capable, Towhee said a little flippantly. She blew out a breath and said again, But I really don’t want to go anywhere, at least not far…

By the way, for the record, I’d marry a guy but it wouldn’t be a romance. I’m not really the type for that ish… full disclosure. At this point, she had no idea if that was relevant. But Towhee threw it out there anyway.
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"i did not figure you for such, towhee." his tone was amused. "you approached this with a great sense of practicality. any husband you took would naturally be made to fall in line with your aims."

her comment about ruenna and the children made germanicus once more aware of the years in which he had not known his wife. but his praefectus knew these things and spoke intimately of the matrona in a way that the eagle himself had not yet achieved.

he was not certain how to feel about such things. "i did not consider myself romantic or even suitable as a husband." and it was ruenna who had changed this. germanicus was softening in some aspects even if it was not outward.

pheasants had crossed here. their flock seemed more promising.
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Her nostrils flared and she could only think, Damn straight. Her mind might change about children, yet Towhee did not think it ever would in regards to romance. She had not been built for it. She had tried it out and found it didn’t suit her at all. There were many other kinds of relationships Towhee would pour herself into that she considered more valuable.

Huh, well, I guess it’s too bad Rue nabbed you first, else we could’ve had the most loveless marriage in all the land, Towhee cracked with a twitch of her tail. And that made her think of something, a woof of laughter escaping her as she mirthfully asked, You don’t believe in uh—oh, what’s the word?—I forget. Multiple wives. By any chance?
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germanicus found himself surprised and despite the tight rein of control, this flickered behind his eyes. "it is a pagan practice and i am not a pagan." but his mouth twisted wryly. was towhee flirting? he found a quick retreat behind the discovery of small soft feathers and gentle indentations in the ground where the birds had lifted up.

a quick glance around the area showed him a low set of bushes. he inched to the right. this prey had the advantage of flight. they would need to move with precision.
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She had no idea what that word meant, though she was enjoying the spirit of this conversation too much and couldn’t resist exclaiming, I’m sorry, what did you just call me?

It came out so damn loud, it startled some nearby pheasants into flight. Towhee practically pissed herself in surprise, flinching into a crouch. They were so close to the birds—and they were so frantic—that one of them became snared in the shrubbery right next to the wolves’ heads.

In fact, the wing that wasn’t tangled beat Towhee right across the face, causing a cry of, I can’t believe you’ve done this, right before she attempted to clamp her teeth down on the feathery, flailing limb.
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her voice was sharp. the pheasants took wing. to her credit towhee turned swiftly and snapped for the bird. germanicus moved closer to assist, but it was a small creature. she would easily take it. his own jaws flashed and blood welted.

the imperator stood back. the rest of the flighted beasts had taken wing far above his own teeth though he still looked for them. the eagle turned his attention back to towhee and their quarry now. might they continue on in search of more or bring this to the caches?
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LOL, thank you for the kudos.

The damn thing had poked her in the eye. Fury suddenly welled up inside her. Towhee yanked the pheasant out of the branches and literally shook it to death. Then she dropped it unceremoniously, breathing heavily as she looked to Germanicus.

What’s a pagan? Towhee casually queried between pants, pronouncing the word slightly weirdly. With a longer huff, she glanced away and added, Not that I was being serious… There was part of her that honestly liked the idea, though she would never hit on Rue’s man. Besties didn’t do that shit.

Moving her eyes back to the Imperator—and oblivious to his unspoken question about continuing their hunt—she wondered, Who would I even marry, if that was on the table? There’s like… Glaukos. And Maxim. And I’m pretty sure I could be their mother. Maybe even their grandmother.
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:D <3

"years matter little when both are intent upon children. tamar and arsenio come to mind."

he looked with satisfaction at the dead pheasant. "by description a pagan is only someone who does not follow my ways. but in practice they are wild. they subscribe to no hierarchy and no clear binary of marriage. perhaps they have gods as wild as themselves and many of them."

germanicus wondered why she asked.
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He pointed out that age differences didn’t matter much when it came to procreation. Towhee supposed that was true. As long as their respective parts operated, that was all that mattered. As much as she felt opposed to tying herself to someone in that way, Towhee was getting caught up in the idea now. Would it really be that much different than the way she’d handled prior breeding seasons: using the man to conceive but eventually discarding him when he proved to be a deadbeat?

Of course, there was the possibility she could hook up with someone with actual merit, though that made her ponder the candidates again. She couldn’t decide if she loved or hated the idea of Glaukos in that role. He didn’t seem to have much to say to her but, on the plus side, he didn’t seem to have much to say to her.

Germanicus answered her question and Towhee nodded, her mind then wandering to Maxim. He seemed to enjoy her company, sometimes a bit too much. Out of the two, she supposed he would make the more dedicated partner. That didn’t matter much to her, though she could picture him as a father more than Glaukos. There was an impatient hardness to the latter that she didn’t like for someone in a paternal role, not after what Reyes had done.

What if, she said, a paw resting on the dead and slowly flattening bird, and I’m speaking totally hypothetically here, but what if… I took Maxim and started a second outpost? You wouldn’t have to worry about romance distracting me. I could have children, if I wanted. Towhee mused. What would that look like? she echoed her very first words in the conversation.
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"hypothetically speaking, maxim would be well-versed in warfare and able to protect you and the children while you are out of commission." it was implied that he did not believe the young soldier was present yet to be such. and germanicus found it interesting that towhee would say she did not wish to leave and then plot of it aloud in the next. it added to her character as a dedicated if wholly unorthodox individual. 

romance may have not mattered, but biology would ensure that towhee could not protect the budding outpost for a short while. and germanicus was not ready to expand, despite his faith in the praefectus' abilities. sexism was also not a word the eagle had heard before, though he might have agreed with its stamp here in their conversation being reflective of his own notions.

privately the imperator felt as though two women or two men might be more fitted for the task. he would not have expected ruenna to birth their cubs onto hard and unprotected land. it was why he had demurred his answer at the wedding. he had wished to have something practical and built before he accepted. he had wanted something concrete to offer and he expected that maxim in the role of a husband would also want this. 

but these things were private and he did not see the opinion of sharing them. "you would have control over your own ranks, though if you intended to be an outpost of mereo i might insist upon some cohesion between our lands." this was said with another tight expression of amusement.
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Her lips pursed as he entertained her hypothesizing. She tried to picture Maxim attempting to lead a pack and protect children on his own. Towhee frowned. Abruptly, the picture changed. She saw Phox’s face in that role instead. Of course, she would never let her brother knock her up (ugh!) but he’d always been her father figure of choice. And a handy co-leader too, when life wasn’t throwing up all over him.

The Redhawk shook her head, letting out a breath and removing her paw from the squashed pheasant. She was getting ahead of herself, or at the very least, letting her imagination run away with her. Yes, she could theoretically see all of this through, but what about Ruenna?

Hmm, Towhee said vaguely, shaking her head again. We should get this back to your wife. And, she thought aloud, I don’t want to bother her with any of this stuff we’ve talked about, if that’s okay. I don’t want her stressing or thinking I might leave, especially since it’s all totally hypothetical. She looked at his face as if to ask, Right?

Not that she had control over when her season might strike, but Towhee thought maybe they could put a pin in this conversation and revisit it after Rue delivered. Maybe when those little ones arrived, it would really help the Praefectus make up her mind about what was more important to her, at least this time around: having more children or contenting herself to be the kick-ass aunt to Rue’s.
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towhee's expression changed more than once but she remained somehow unreadable to germanicus. but then she was moving along and closing the chapter of their conversation. the eagle was curious but unwilling to press further now, as he also wished to return to ruenna.

"of course," he said without hesitation. it was why he had consulted towhee for military stratagem around ursus rather than bring it to his wife directly. he liked to see the hardworking matrona more at rest. and some growingly insistent part of him was becoming velveteen with hope that in the weeks to come, they might know their future.

"you were headed to our home when i brought us on this hunt. would you like to take it to her?" germanicus inquired. they were close companions and he wished to be gracious.
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Of course she wanted to take it to Ruenna, though Towhee deliberated a moment before deciding, No, you can take it to her. I’ll drop by later, after I’ve processed this conversation a little bit more. Thanks, by the way, for hashing this out with me. It’s good to know what my options are, so I can weigh the pros and cons and all that shit.

Using a paw, she gently pushed the dead pheasant closer to Germanicus and nodded her head, the respectful, Imperator, coming out a lot less like an awkward afterthought this time.
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