Moonspear money on the dash
Sun Mote Copse
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#1
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A pleasant breeze blustered against Meerkat as she picked her way down the mountainside, searching for her mother’s scent. Had Towhee returned yet? Yes! She picked up her trail near the foot of the mountain and followed it as it led her in a southerly direction. She idly wondered why her mom hadn’t gone straight to the rendezvous site.

She saw a figure in the distance, bent over one of the mountain’s many springs. Perhaps she had only just gotten back. Meerkat hastened toward Towhee, a smile on her lips and limbs already haphazardly signing a greeting.

Timestamp: June 14.
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#2
Towhee finished her drink and wiped at her mouth, turning toward a movement in the distance. She blinked and then smiled a little tiredly as Meerkat approached, clumsily signing “hello.” Towhee’s muscles were twitching with fatigue but she returned the gesture.

-“Hey, you have impeccable timing. I just got back maybe five, ten minutes ago?”- Towhee said, brow suddenly furrowing as she wondered why Meerkat sought her so urgently. -“Is everything alright here…?”-
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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Oh, yeah! Meerkat immediately replied, signing along as well as she could, which wasn’t very. Everything’s fine. I just wanted to make sure you’d gotten back alright. How was your trip? How’s Caracal’s family?

She thought about taking a seat to show her mom that she had her full attention. But Meerkat thought Towhee might want to start making her way up to see her youngest two. She motioned at her inquisitively, prepared to do whatever her mother preferred.
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#4
Towhee looked upward and then back to Meerkat’s face, shaking her head as she said, -“How are they? I’ll make my way up there soon. I traveled all night, so I’m a little tired and need to take a rest for a few. Want to sit?”-

They dropped into seated positions almost simultaneously. Towhee’s body ached a little from all that walking. She had gone further than planned, though she had no regrets. In fact, the whole foray had given her a lot of food for thought…

-“Heda had four. They’re all doing well, except maybe for the parents themselves. They look completely strung out. It’ll get better for them but… four is hard.”- She paused. -“They have strange names, let’s see if I can remember them correctly. Um, Malakai… Simon… Judah… and Tina? Something like that,”- she mused with a snort.

There was the added leg to her journey and she would get to that. But Towhee’s lips pressed together in contemplative silence as she recollected her trip aloud. The island was such an incredible place, yet she worried that her son and his wife didn’t have a proper support system in place. She’d tried to help out while she was there but she couldn’t stay as long as she would have liked.

That made her think of a root she’d recently discovered in the back of her mind. It went deep and Towhee was in the process of slowly unearthing it. Soreness aside, she had enjoyed the liberty of traveling, particularly all on her own. It was also nice to visit with her kids and grandkids, of course. There were so many of them now, they could and would never live altogether in the same place. Towhee wished there was some way she could be in more than one place at a time.

She tucked that thought aside for the moment and asked, -“So, have you thought more about the copse?”-
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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#5
Meerkat’s eyes widened when Towhee told her about Caracal’s four children. That was a large first litter! She knew he and Heda would make great parents, though it was no wonder they were exhausted. She wished she could help—and perhaps she could carve out time for a visit, sometime—but there was only so much they could do from their mountain village.

I can’t believe they didn’t stick to the family naming traditions! Meerkat remarked with a fond smile. But good for them. I’m so glad they’re doing well enough, considering.

A brief silence ensued. It was the companionable sort. Meerkat tipped her head into another lick of wind, then returned her attention to Towhee’s face. Her mother looked deep in thought for a moment. She waited her out.

We’ve discussed it a little, though life is so busy, especially with all these little kids running around everywhere, Meerkat quipped. It’s definitely on the table for someday, though we’re in no rush. She paused, then asked, Is that what were you thinking about, just now? It looked serious, she observed, playfully mimicking Towhee’s thoughtful expression.
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#6
Towhee nodded, a little relieved that she and Njord weren’t rushing off into the sunset. But one day, those two might settle in the copse, spreading out the growing family even more. It was one of those things that had its good and bad parts, a thought which made her murmur and shift her aching weight.

-“No, I…”- She had meant to tell Meerkat about her side trip to the vale but instead found herself skipping ahead and saying, -“With everyone I care about spread out so much—you guys; your dad and the kiddos; Fen and Killer; Caracal and co out on the island; Jackie back in the vale; Fig somewhere around here, etc—it makes me think. I wish I could live with all of you at once. Of course, that’s impossible. But…”-
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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Her face quickly slid into a more open expression as she listened to her mother think out loud. Meerkat’s mind started whirling, already trying to guess what Towhee was about to say. Her stomach sank a little as she realized their days living in the same place were probably numbered, one way or the other.

But…? she prompted gently, brow knitting slightly as she reached out to touch her mother’s arm, simply seeking connection.
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#8
She had intended to talk to Phox about this first, especially because he wasn’t just her co-parent these days, he was in many ways as close as she would ever get to a life partner. But Towhee didn’t mind talking to Meerkat. She was a counselor, after all, and maybe she could give her mother some honest feedback about this idea that had taken root and begun growing in the deeps of her mind.

-“I was thinking, maybe when Sable and Jr are a little older, I might…”- Towhee paused, trying to come up with the right word. -“Drift.”- Her white-streaked shoulders rose and fell. -“Rather than live in any one place, I could cycle between all your families. I know it sounds like a rough lifestyle, especially for somebody my age, but every time I think about it, I…”- She exhaled, trying again to put words to something difficult to describe to herself, much less anybody else. -“I feel at peace with it?”-
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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Her paw remained on her mother’s foreleg, even as it pumped up and down with Towhee’s signing. Her eyes remained riveted upon the older woman’s face as she confessed to what was on her mind. Her brows raised a little, truly caught by surprise. Her stomach still felt heavy as she weighed this concept for a moment.

You mean, you wouldn’t pick your favorite child and just live with them? Meerkat joshed, then grew more serious as she gently asked, You wouldn’t want someplace to call home? With an ulaq and…

Towhee hadn’t chosen an ulaq, she remembered as she slid her paw away. Meerkat wondered if her mom was having trouble adjusting to life on the mountainside. She thought about encouraging her to stick around a while longer, see if the dust settled and she felt more at home here. A lot of her family was here, after all.

But then, she and Njord were talking about moving to the copse. Meerkat hadn’t made any assumptions about who might come with them, aside from the girls. Maybe the idea of moving again so soon had triggered Towhee somehow, even though it had sort of been her idea. Meerkat chewed at her bottom lip thoughtfully.

Towhee hadn’t said anything yet, perhaps waiting for her to complete her thought, so Meerkat finished, I mean, you’re right, it would take some adjustments. But it’s not like any of us would let you starve or go without a warm place to rest. If that’s what you really want, I fully believe you could make it work, mom.

She reached out again, her paw resting now on Towhee’s shoulder as she noticed for the first time that the pale streaks there were not so defined these days, white hairs now salting the pepper of the Redhawk’s dark coat. Meerkat drew in a breath and voiced some additional questions that came to mind.

When would this happen? Would dad go with you?
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#10
She didn’t need an ulaq. Towhee knew she couldn’t possibly predict the future but she knew she would never take another mate. Quite possibly, she was done having children too. She’d thought these things before, though Towhee could feel it in her bones this time around. Her kids were having kids now and some of their kids could have kids. They could carry on the family legacy and let her weird old uterus go into retirement. It was kind of fitting, actually, to think Towhee Jr might be her last.

A small smile flitted across her face at Meerkat’s reassurance. No, she knew her family would never leave her out in the cold if she needed them. It would be weird to spend time in a pack’s territory if she didn’t belong to it, though she’d come a long way in getting over that hangup. There was part of her that honestly thrilled at the thought of camping out the way her family had done between Epoch and Moonspear, just without all the grief and trauma.

-“Not right away or anything. When the kids are older,”- Towhee repeated. -“I figure the pack might need the room, once Sialuk’s litter is born. And as for your dad, he would be welcome. And I’d never tell them ‘no’ if the littles wanted to stick with me, though I’d remind all three of them that there’s a lot of stability and support in a pack. I won’t let anyone—myself included—make this decision lightly.”-
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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It was honestly pragmatic, even if Towhee’s age did give Meerkat pause. She knew all about traveling, of course, and could help prepare her mom for that sort of lifestyle. And it wouldn’t be fraught, like many of Meerkat’s trips of yore, wandering the map in search of one wayward loved one or another. It would sort of be the opposite, in a way, and she could actually see the appeal in a rotation like that.

Meerkat gave her mom’s shoulder a squeeze and let go again, saying, I know. And I understand too, I think. Drifting can be a lot of fun, if it’s for good reasons. And I’m sure we’ll all appreciate getting to see you on a fairly regular basis too, she continued, voice lowering even though Towhee wouldn’t know it, even if I’ll miss having you all to myself.

There was a bittersweet light in her eyes as she caught Towhee’s eye and grinned. She would support this endeavor, if her mom decided it was what she wanted. In the meantime, she would savor the fact that they would live in the same village at least a little while longer, no matter what.

Come on, let’s go see your kids. They’re just fine, by the way, but I’m sure they’ve been missing you.
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#12
She knew Meerkat never would’ve shot down her idea out of hand, though it was still nice to know it didn’t come across as batshit insane. Towhee drew in a breath, trapping it in her chest, and felt that sense of peaceful resolution beating in her blood. She still wasn’t fully decided, though this felt like a solid step toward closing one chapter of her life and beginning another. Hell, maybe she was even finishing one book and starting its sequel.

Meerkat’s invitation scattered her musings like the pages of said novels in the bracing wind pressing down from the cold mountaintop. Towhee nodded and stood, bellyful of water sloshing a bit, bones and muscles groaning a little. But as soon as they were underway, the kinks worked themselves out. Though still tired, the thought of seeing her kids—and maybe a brighter future too—put a little wind in her sails.
-Signing.- | "Speaking." | -"Signing & speaking."- | "Mouthing (inaudible)." | Thoughts.

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