Redhawk Caldera Wanna try to paint the world in a new way
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#1
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no rush on this <3 work focus isn't coming today

It was long past time for Bridget to seek out @Sorana too. They'd spent time but just as she had with Teya, Bridget hadn't spoken as she should with her about Reyes. Maybe it wasn't her job, but by now she knew Teya well enough to know someone needed to. She suspected that Teya would likely hide from it rather than risk what the conversation might bring.

When she found her, Bridget sat down quietly beside and looked around. Then she smiled.

Hey, ladybug. Let's talk. It didn't matter what about. Something was keeping her quiet and whatever was on her mind, Bridget wanted to hear about it.
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#2
There was a young buck scraping the last of the velvet cover from his antlers. Sorana watched, fascinated, how he rubbed them against trees and wondered if it hurt. She likened it to scraping her claws against a hard surface and concluded that it was likely painless, but uncomfortable.

That was when Bridget came up beside her. The buck was far enough away that the presence of two calm wolves did not drive him off completely, but his ears flickered nervously to and fro and he stamped one hoof when he caught the scent of them. Sorana unconsciously mimicked him, tilting her ears forward, then back, before finally swiveling the one closest to Bridget in her aunt's direction.

She felt a swooping in her belly when Bridget said she wanted to talk. Sorana didn't have serious talks very often, but she knew those words usually meant something specific was coming. Her voice was already uncertain when she asked, what d'you wanna talk about?

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Bridget smiled when she asked, then turned so that she was watching the deer too. Sometimes it was easier when no one was watching.

I know something's wrong. You don't have to talk to me if you don't want to, but if there's something you think I can help with, I'd love to listen. And I can try my best. At least then you won't have to keep it all to yourself.

She knew it was more than some might put on someone Sorana's age, but Bridget also knew how smart the girl was. If she tried to guess, or start the conversation herself, chances are she'd get it wrong and wind up going the wrong direction. She knew whatever was going on had to do with Reyes disappearing (obviously) and her parents' previous troubles, but she wasn't about to assume she could solve things for her with a few reassurances.

Nothing was ever that easy. She just hoped that Sorana would let her in.
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Sora was right to be nervous about this talk, what with Bridget peeling back the veil she sought to hide her misery under like it was nothing. She chewed her lip and fought back the sheen of tears that threatened to blur her vision. She wasn't sure whether to be frightened about being found out or relieved that someone had noticed.

It's just, she mumbled, scuffing her paw over the ground and swallowing back the burning sensation that was overtaking her throat, Daddy left and now mama's hanging out with some... guy all the time, whose name she was well aware of, but reducing him to "some guy" made it feel less frightening, even though her voice trembled when she said it, like he's never coming back, and he probably isn't, and I know it's all my fault and everyone would be better off without me and I don't know what to do.

She sniffled and shook, refusing to look at Bridget.

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Bridget wondered what would be better... the truth as Bridget saw it, or to let her believe her dad had left and was safe somewhere else. She didn't move closer, but she shifted some, opening up the possibility for Sorana to come to her if she wanted.

I don't think your daddy left. He wouldn't have left you behind on purpose. Not without saying why. He loved you way too much for that. Bridget chose honesty, as usual. But that doesn't mean he's gone for good. I was gone for a while, but I made it back as soon as I could. And I'm sure he will too.

Now she looked at Sorana, understanding and concern in her expression. He definitely didn't leave because of you. And when he does come back, he will still be your daddy. Even if your mom is happier with someone else. It still wasn't easy to say, but for Sorana it was certainly true. None of this was her fault, and Teya's choices didn't need to affect her views on her family at all. She could see Bronco as a second father eventually.... or she could choose not to. Neither would displace Reyes.
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He did leave! Sorana insisted, fat tears welling and sliding down her face as she swallowed back a hiccough. Maybe he hadn't left on purpose, but he had left. She couldn't understand what in the world was more important than being here with her and her mom — such was the self-centered mind of a child.

He and mama fought all the time and then I tried to swim across the lake and then he left, she choked out. And even if he d-does come back, he'll be replaced, and then he'll just leave again! And she would be stuck here with her mom, who was happier with someone else, who would have babies she was happier with than Sorana, and she would be abandoned again.

That felt like an inevitability to Sorana, and no amount of comforting could make her think otherwise, and the thought of it reduced her to wailing, because her parents fought all the time and probably had never loved each other and probably never wanted her in the first place. Teya would want new babies with her stupid new boyfriend, she felt, if Teya was happier with him, and they would be better in every way than she was.

She wished she'd never been born.

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Ahhhh, damn. She couldn't leave it with that. As Sorana started to cry harder, Bridget moved to pull her close. She wasn't about to let her cry without someone there to cry into. She'd hold her unless she pulled away.

I know it doesn't feel like it, bug, but there's a big difference between choosing to leave and being unable to come home. She didn't blame Sorana for being angry, and she wouldn't tell her she was wrong for it. Whether he wanted to or not, Reyes had left her. Until he came back, she didn't have her daddy, and that hurt in a way nothing could fix.

None of this was your fault. Reyes went to go see his family on the coast, not because of you, but because he missed them. She didn't know that for sure but it was easy to assume. Bridget would give him all the credit in the world if it meant his daughter didn't blame herself. A lot of things could have kept him. But your daddy is strong and he loves you. He will be back. He'd better be.

It had been a long time. She'd been gone for months. He'd disappeared too completely for her to believe he was dead.

You won't replace him, I know that. Your mom and your dad fought, but they both love you. That's why they only fought each other. I know that doesn't make it better, or easier, but that isn't your fault either. I promise. Sometimes, even when we love each other, we just need different things. She didn't know if Sorana would understand. Younger wolves were harder because they took so many things on themselves, unable to see how adults could make mistakes so much worse than their own. Sorana believed so completely that her parents were perfect, she'd somehow managed to pull all of the blame for Teya and for Reyes into her own doing.

She needed to know it wasn't her fault.
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Sorana sobbed. It cut off her voice when she tried to protest that Teya was giving Reyes no home to return to by moving on to another man. She didn't feel that she alone was reason for him to stay.

She had always felt happy with her mom, but she was older now. Teya had never spoken of Reyes, the fights, or her feelings, but Sora could see the lines of misery drawn in her mother's face. They were the same as the lines cut through Sora's heart.

They melted away when Teya spent time with Bronco, and Sora knew he made her happy. That should have been enough for any child who loved their parent, but Sorana had been abandoned by her father and feared nothing in the world more than losing her mother. Bronco was a threat.

As soon as they had children together, Bronco would want his elevated in Teya's eyes. He would chase Sora away from her mother to establish his own offspring. They would make the lines melt from Teya's face in a way Sora never had, because they were Bronco's and she was Reyes'.

And Teya did not love Reyes. N-n-no they don't, she stammered through tears, unsure really what she was responding to. W-why can't I h-h-have a normal f-f-am—

Her words broke off and Sorana wept, leaning into Bridget's embrace, and wondered whether it would be best to remove herself from her mother's side before she was forcibly removed. All of Bridget's soothing words went largely uncomprehended; she was too wrapped up in her imaginary scenario to truly hear them, though they would stay with her and maybe make their impact later when she calmed down.

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Sorana's sobs were heartbreaking. Bridget didn't know how to address them entirely. She had no way of knowing what the individual parts were that made up her base worries, her fear of replacement or her thoughts about leaving first. All she could do for a moment was hold her and try and be there.

There isn't any such thing as a normal family. Bridget leaned down to brush some of the tears aside, though she knew more would just come and replace them. I know what you mean, but every family has hard times. And every family is different. Even Maia and Eljay... they had to raise Ibis' children, after their mother died and their daddy disappeared. But that didn't mean they didn't love those children just as much. And Ani. They love her too, right? Family is big and complicated, but no matter what, it supports and cares about each other the best way it can. You have me, and the rest of Brecheliant too. So does your mom.

It was hard to put into words exactly what she wanted to say, but she hoped some part of it helped.

Family doesn't always have to live together, or look like one certain thing. All they have to do is love you, and have you love them. Bridget didn't have the most standard definition of the word, maybe, but hers was bound to be complicated. She would never have the default 'mate with kids' portrait that other women sought out. No matter what she did, she'd have to forge her own happiness and what that end dream looked like.

What are some things you're worried about? If it was Reyes not coming home, there wasn't much Bridget could do. If it involved Teya, or Bronco, or any other number of things, there was a slight chance she could.
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It felt good to be held. It felt good to cry her heart out. Sorana had been trying to suppress her pain and misery so long that being alone with those feelings was the norm for her. She could scarcely remember what being truly happy felt like, but the relief she felt in Bridget's comfort surely came close.

It wouldn't solve her problems. It wouldn't make Bronco disappear and it wouldn't bring Reyes back, and it wouldn't make her parents love each other, but the release felt good right now.

It was a long while before her sobs softened and she caught her breath enough to form words between sniffles. Bridget wanted to know what she was worried about. No doubt her auntie would reassure her about each thing she brought up, but the comfort of that reassurance, while temporary, might be enough to stop the terrible spiral of her thoughts.

So she answered as best she could.

That daddy is dead, she whispered. Or that he's not and isn't coming home on purpose. That mama will be happier with new babies than she is with me because they're not daddy's. That... That he'll chase me away from mama so there's no competition. There wasn't even any evidence Teya and Bronco had plans to have kids, but that was how it worked in Sora's head. Brecheliant only had two couples, if you counted Reyes and Teya, and both of them had kids, so surely that was what Bronco and Teya would do too.

She trembled and sniffled before adding, innocently enough, but with weight to make it clear how far her psyche had slipped, that everyone w-would just be happier if I never existed.

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Bridget let Sorana finish, patiently waiting while she cried, then while she tried to sort out exactly what it was she was feeling upset about. It wasn't an easy thing for anyone to pin down, let alone someone dealing with a situation as complicated as this one.

The fears about Reyes she'd guessed, but the ones that came after were entirely new. They caught her by surprise but also made perfect sense. Of course she'd be worried about getting left behind by her mom too. Especially with the addition of a new courtship in the mix.

She could relate, in a way. It wasn't the same but she'd felt left behind since the day she came back. The only difference, and the thing that probably made it easier, was that it actually was her fault. Not in a way that meant she'd done anything wrong... but in a way that made it impossible to put the blame on anyone else too.

Your daddy is strong. And if he's alive, then he's trying to come home. He helped me back, when I was stuck and wasn't able to come myself. If he needs it, I promise I'll help him too. She had searched everywhere she could think of with no luck, but she still kept her eyes open anytime she left. Hopefully one day he'd send word. If not, eventually she might assume the worst. She was willing to give it some time before she lost hope.

And if he ever tried it, he'd be the one leaving. Not you. Bridget smiled at her, but she was absolutely willing to back up the words. She didn't think Bronco would drive a wedge between Sorana and Teya, but if he thought of trying, Bridget wouldn't hesitate to get involved.

I think, personally, the pack would be a whole lot worse without you here. Teya feels the same way, I'm sure, but if you are scared about it, I would talk to her. She couldn't set those fears to rest herself because anything she said would likely just sound patronizing. Teya was the one whose reassurance would be the key, and she hoped desperately that at some point the two would sit down and talk.

But any kids she might decide to have, they won't just be hers. They'll be yours too. Your brothers and sisters. You'll get to play with them, and teach them, and be there for them to talk to about the things it's hard to talk to parents about. You don't have to consider Bronco your dad if you don't want to, ever. That's up to you. But they are your family, and you have a right to be there, no matter how much it might feel like you don't.

That was a lot. Bronco might not thank her for the reassurance, but hopefully he would understand, even if Sorana never came around. He would need to. Bridget was quiet after all of that, hoping some amount of it helped even a little bit to allay parts of that fear.
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#12
Sorana listened, in between gulping breaths and sniffles. Bridget promised she would help Reyes if she could, and that settled some of Sora's worry, although in the back of her mind, she was all mixed up on if she even wanted him to come back. Of course, on some level she wanted him safe and back with her — she was a daddy's girl and was desperate to have him back — but on another, Sora hated Reyes for leaving at all.

But it would be better than if he was permanently gone, wouldn't it? Or would it be worse because there would be even more tension between him and Teya with Bronco around? Thinking about it too much made her feel sick.

She hiccoughed and dropped her head to rub the side of her muzzle against the side of her leg. Bridget made a lot of good points, especially when she said any children Teya had would also be hers. Sora hadn't thought of it that way. The fact remained they would be more Bronco's than hers, but maybe she would have some ground to push back if he tried to sully her relationship with her mom over it.

Really? she asked quietly. But w-what if he does and mama picks him over me? That seemed a likely possibility when Bronco made her so happy and Sora felt like she was just a blight on both Teya's life and Brecheliant as a whole.

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#13
Bridget let her collect herself for a moment. She still seemed upset but at least wasn't inconsolable anymore. Internally she was torn between a desire to hold Sorana's confidence and a desire to tell Teya that she needed to talk to her daughter. Why hadn't she already?! Reyes had been gone months.

Then you tell me and we will set things straight together, Bridget said with a small smile. Then she wiped some of the tears herself. Teya wouldn't let that happen. But even if she didn't stop it, I promise I would. I'd chase him away before he ever got the chance to replace you. He wouldn't be able to do it, anyway. You're one of a kind, ladybug, and I love you way too much to ever be okay with someone else. It made sense that Sorana didn't see love that way but it also hurt Bridget's heart to hear it. Love wasn't replaceable like that.

For Teya, it was.. The thought cut. She and Reyes had both been replaced with something simpler, but Sorana had only seen the one. Bridget would never tell her about the second. There was a small blessing she could find in it; would they be having this conversation if she were in Bronco's place?