A Wolf Among The Sheep

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A realisation also began to make itself known to Clarissa as she neared the other female alpha, her steps - once full of certainty and strength she knew she had to show - soon slowed and became hesitant. The scent, the one that had been nagging away at her all day, seemed to grow stronger and she soon became nervous about getting closer. Something deep within her knew that it was nothing to be feared, but the unknown was what scared her. She didn't know why this scent was so familiar, or why it made her long to crawl to the female alpha on hands and knees.

The resemblance also caught Clarissa by surprise and her stomach twisted as she wondered if anyone else had noticed. The older woman was of course stronger built, having had years in the life she had and Clarissa only a month into her role. Her time in the human village hadn't been the same life as she would have had if she had grown up with a pack. In the village she had lived a life tending to and mending clothes, earning money for herself and her family that way. She hadn't needed to do any heavy lifting or physical combat. She didn't learn to fight or how to stay alive in a battle. When clearly this older werewolf had based on the strength in her arms and the toned body she held. Clarissa knew she was out of shape by a werewolf's standard, but it wasn't as if she had had much time to train and learn.

Yet despite those differences, it was clear to see their similarity in eyes and hair, the shape of jaw and the proud carry of head.

So when the strong-looking woman began to tear up, Clarissa froze in place. She knelt just before the alpha, distracted by her thoughts as she laid out the paste and bandages ready to be used. Her head snapped up at the tear-choked words, lips parting in bewilderment as she listened to what was said.

Her heart stopped.

This woman, this alpha, from a pack who had threatened to take away her new family, was claiming to be her mother. How was that even possible? How could Clarissa even know it was the truth? No one knew what happened to her, or where she had come from or how she had ended up in the human village. Yet...

"I-- I don't--" She stuttered, completely and utterly lost. Inside herself, Clarissa fought a furious battle. Of head against heart. Knowing it was impossible to believe this woman was telling the truth, but her heart and her instincts screaming out that, in front of her, was her mother.

"I-- I'm-- sorry. I don't-- Lu--Luana? I don't--" She struggled, eyes darting around as she attempted to figure out what to do. The woman was hysterical, and Clarissa knew she wouldn't be able to tend to her wounds now. Not with her desperately trying to get hold of her. "I don't know-- I don't know who... who Luana is." She swallowed hard, trying to strengthen her resolve.

"Look I-- I don't know how you-- you found out. About me. But even by-- by your standards... this is pretty... pretty fucked up. Tryin'ta get me-- tryin'ta get me to think you're my--... my mother... that's just--" Clarissa shoved herself to her feet, abruptly taking a few steps back. However she didn't walk away, something compelling her to stay, eyes that were once averted finally returning to the other woman.

It had been a long morning already, an emotional one where she had had to come to terms with the fact she wouldn't be a mother, then upsetting her mate and having to deal with the guilt of it, and now... to have the alpha of an enemy pack... be her mother?

"How did you know?" Clarissa hastily stepped forward, standing over the injured alpha as her emotions once more began to get the better of her, "How did you know!"
 

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There was possibly nothing more upsetting to Meredith in that moment to have her daughter look her in the face and deny her; to admit openly that she didn't know what was going on, that and her bewildered reaction signalling that she too didn't know who Meredith was, beyond being the alpha of the other pack.

The pain of Clarissa immediately casting the aspersion on her, accusing her of fabricating her public outpouring and visible desperation, was horrendous, the pang of hurt settling deep into Meredith's chest as she sat back against the tree behind her with her mouth opening slightly to refute the other's doubt.

But for a moment, she couldn't find the words to say, so deep was the hurt from the sudden yelling that it rendered her momentarily speechless. Could she blame Luana -or rather, Clarissa as she knew herself to be- from being doubtful of the claims? No, just like she couldn't blame her daughter for harbouring no memory of her mother or that life given just how young she had been when she was unfortunately parted and separated from that life, but it hurt nonetheless.

Especially when she knew without a doubt that Clarissa would be drawn to her scent; render it familiar and comforting despite holding no concrete memory of her mother just yet. She knew that there would be that innate knowledge in her daughter, urging her to believe the words she knew to be true despite the questions and confusion that swarmed her - and her proceeding to just deny that to her face and accusing her of cruelly fabricating such a thing was hurtful.

"...I know because I am your mother, L-Luana. I-- It's not just the physical similarities between us; it's the instinctual bond between y-you and I. The... That never disappears. You-- You feel it too, don't stand before me and deny th-that you-- you don't feel it. Sense that we're of the same blood. I-- I cradled you as a baby; you know my scent, Luana. And I know yours; I always knew it and always will know it. Y-You-- You're my child and I a-am your mother."

She breathed out slowly and carefully to avoid tugging herself fiercely from her ropes and doing herself more damage, the movements she had made thus far to escape them having done little but aggravate her injuries and reopen the wound. The blood staining the white shirt she had been given was unsubtle and the pain visibly caused her to grimace, but it was nothing she couldn't cope with, hence her repeated attempts to loosen the binds around her.

It wasn't helping her injury but she would gladly take on all the pain the world had to offer her if it meant being able to escape her ropes and hold her daughter again; take Clarissa in her arms and never let her go again.

"You-- You need to stop-- you're going to hurt yourself!" attempted Daisy weakly from the side. Naturally, she had fallen silent at the alpha's remarks, shocking her as much as anyone else in the immediate vicinity, though she declined to get herself involved when it felt... too personal. Either the alpha was lying and this was a horrible, cruel attempt to just get to freedom despite the emotional consequences such a lie would have on Clarissa, or she was being serious and every word from her mouth, every tear and every desperate action, was the truth.

Either way, Daisy knew it wasn't her place to speak up and enter the scene until she saw the blood, the healer in her desperately interjecting in an effort to save the other the obvious pain and discomfort the bleeding indicated.

"Let me out of these ropes so I can h-hug my own daughter then," snapped the alpha irritably, that flash of anger disappearing the moment she peered back at Clarissa. "...Let t-them off me, Luana, I... I just-- I just want to hold you c-close, it's been-- I never thought I would see you again, be able to hold you close like a mother should a-always be able to do with their child. Untie me, please..."
 

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"Please stop." Clarissa begged quietly, hands raising to rub over her face. Once they lowered, her eyes darted around to see all those that were turned to face her and the woman before her, watching what was unfolding. Her body tightened at the idea of this being a spectacle, having to clasp and wring her hands together to keep the shaking of her fingers from being visible. "Please stop. This-- this can't be... you can't be..." But it was exactly what the other female alpha thought it to be: while Clarissa struggled to believe that she was being told the truth, her instincts were screaming at her.

The scent was so familiar, gently coaxing out memories that had once been locked away, down within the far depths of her mind. A line of a lullaby. A tender stroke of hair. A soft, musical laugh. A glimpse of little feet as they struggled to walk. Tackling a warm body into a hug. The burying of face into auburn locks. The gentle application of bandage to injured knee.

There was nothing more that Clarissa wanted to do than fall to her hands and knees and crawl to the other woman for them to hold each other close. She wanted to bury her face into the side of her neck, and breath in that comforting and familiar scent that continued to unleash memories one at a time.

But how could she, when this was the woman responsible for kidnapping members of her new family? This alpha, her apparent mother, had hurt her pack and taken away someone Clarissa saw as a brother as well as a best friend.

Shaking fingers raised to press against a trembling lower lip, her eyes focusing back onto the injured woman only to realise her vision had become blurred with tears. What if this was some cruel joke? But then how would this werewolf know the truth about Clarissa?

"I-- I have a birthmark." She started quietly, swallowing thickly, "Somewhere... somewhere on my body. Where is it? And-- and what-- what would you say it looked like?"

The birthmark in question was one that was hidden in a rather intimate spot. It would have merely looked to be on her chest at the age she went missing, but now she had grown it was now place just on the underside of her breast, just under the swell of it. Her... adopted... mother used to joke that it looked like an image of a grizzly bear.

"If-- if you're really my-- my mother... you'd know that... wouldn't you?"
 
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It was clear to Meredith that even if she escaped her bounds, she wasn't going to be welcomed into a hug with open arms by her daughter. As difficult as that news was to digest, the alpha eventually settled back against the trunk of the tree to avoid aggravating her injury unnecessarily - why hurt herself more when it was abundantly clear that she wouldn't be accepted by Clarissa?

Not yet, at least. She had no doubt that the realisation was ready to be accepted at any moment; that her daughter would decline fighting against what was obvious when she had been given the evidence she supposedly needed. Instincts and feelings weren't valid, seemingly. That bewildered Meredith to no end, thinking that the innate pull she felt towards her mother would be enough for Clarissa to run towards her and press inwards into her touch... but she also wasn't going to judge her for needing evidence to support her feelings.

Her daughter had been too young when she disappeared to remember, accurately, her life with her pack. She had spent years upon years living a life she thought had been hers from birth, and even when she realised she hadn't belonged to the human village, there remained a vagueness over her actual origins - and now here was a woman, the rival alpha to her own pack no less, who was claiming those origins; boldly declaring that she was her mother.

It was bound to confuse her, so as painful as it was to have to justify herself and provide irrefutable evidence, she would do so if it made strides towards getting her daughter in her arms and recognising her for who she was: her mother.

"On your chest. Your father used to say that you were his little bear cub because of its shape. We... we both would, in fact. You used to cry about it because you thought it made you different to your friends in the pack but your father-- h-he would tell you that it meant you were a warrior, as strong as a bear. You loved that; you never once cried about it again. You would go to your friends and tell them all that you were going to be the biggest and strongest out of them all; made your Pa real proud. I... I ain't ever seen that man get so darn emotional, the big sap that he is," the woman laughed under her breath at the memory; one that made her smile at how proud it had made her and her mate... though it had always been tinged with sadness. They had never got to witness their daughter grow up and live up to the little boasts she had made as a child, missed out on her becoming the strong adult they knew she was always going to be.

It had become a memory that had only pained them as a result. Meredith had tried countless times to look back on the memories she made with her daughter and be appreciative that she had some to call back on... but inevitably, each one became bittersweet when she realised there were over a decade of memories lost because of their absence from one another. She had clung to the hope of finding Clarissa so they could create more memories together, but it was a hope even she had feared was slipping away from her.

But now here Luana was, stood before her and as strong as she had always imagined her to be.

"...Is that enough for you? Luana-- Clarissa, please-- I am trying t-to hold myself together and respect the fact you aren't convinced but I swear to you, I am no liar. You--You know that, deep down. You're the spitting image of me, darling. You always were; your Pa threw a little strop about it because you came out with my auburn hair, my blue eyes, my smile. I... I am your mother."
 

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At the correct answer she received, it took all of Clarissa's will power to keep herself on her feet. Her knees had gone weak, and longed to give out beneath her, but she couldn't allow that to happen. Even if this was to be an emotional reunion, she had already presented a bad enough image of herself in front of the pack that morning by hurting and insulting Tate. However, that being said, it didn't stop the tears that welled in her eyes from escaping and running down her cheeks.

She instantly squeezed her eyes tightly shut and raised trembling hands upwards to swipe away any drops that remained on her cheeks. Clarissa took in a deep breath, opening her eyes again and turning them skywards in the hope that the action would fend off any further tears that threatened.

"Ge-- get her some tea. An' someone get me a new shirt for-- for-- for my mother."

The claim of the woman being her mother felt foreign and heavy on her tongue, something she never actually expected to say again. While Clarissa had loved her adopted mother, she had, over time, felt some sort of bitterness that she hadn't ever been told that she was just that - adopted. She never expected to call someone her mother ever again. But yet, here she was, doing just that.

Swallowing hard, Clarissa moved forward on shaking legs before slowly kneeling before the woman. There was still a hesitation there, a fear that she had just been manipulated and that this pack had actually done their research. But who else would know about her birthmark? Tate was the only one to see her naked, given her shyness after shifting back from her wolf form. And she knew he would never reveal such secrets to anyone.

However, she allowed her gaze to wander over the older female before her, hands tightly wringing together before they finally lifted.

"You-- you need to stay-- calm, now, o-okay? You've-- you've already done a lot of... damage again. I'm goin' need to take another look at that wound, alrigh'? So please-- please just stop hurtin' yourself." She told her feebly, eyes still flickering over the features before her, noticing the ones that were similar to her own.

Taking a small breath, she reached to untie the rope from the woman's wrists, "What-- what is your name...?"
 

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The breakthrough was always going to be inevitable, Meredith refusing to believe that her daughter could ignore the calling within her, nor the evidence she was handed, for too much longer... though it still brought an emotional smile to her face as Clarissa finally seemed to believe her and accept that sat tied up before her was the mother she had been detached from for more than a decade.

Tears that had built up in the woman's eyes eventually gave way and fell down her cheeks, though she was in no state to particularly care about such an open expression of her emotions when this was the reunion she had always dreamt of. The circumstances were perhaps far from what she had expected but they also didn't matter. If anything, seeing that her daughter was the alpha of a pack, safe and secure amongst those who cared for her, brought the woman joy.

This was a pack she had grown a resentment towards after their attack left members of her own dead, the rest scattered amongst the woods and undoubtedly formulating a plan of their own to retrieve their kidnapped members... but she couldn't despise them now she knew it was her daughter's pack; a place she had become a part of through her bonding to the alpha. Meredith might despise Tate for many reasons, but she couldn't hold a hatred to her daughter's pack; not when she was its alpha. It only brought immense pride to Meredith to see her little girl in such a position of power, leading a pack with the same determination she saw in herself and Clarissa's father.

She broke herself from her thoughts as the other approached to untie her, blinking hard to free her vision from the blurriness caused by the build-up of tears. Just having Clarissa so close to her after so long apart was a feeling that was indescribable, though the scent that filled her nose brought her immense comfort; reminded her of the times when she would tuck her daughter into bed and watch her for a few moments in disbelief that she was her own.

"...Meredith. My name's Meredith," she replied gently, obediently resisting the urge to move. Every instinct told her to do so, to hold her daughter close, but she was willing to oblige with the advice and let her wound be examined first. Only now did the pain hit her, though she held back from displaying that pain expertly - she wasn't going to have her daughter start fretting about her upon their long-awaited reunion, however deep her wound was and how much blood had started to spill from it being reopened.

"And your name-- it's Clarissa now, is it? I... I can call you that. You'll always be Luana to me, but to save confusing you, I... can manage with Clarissa," she smiled as she held back a wince, rolling her wrists with a faint sigh once they were relieved from their bounds. A sympathetic glance was sent in the direction of her pack members but she understood that now wasn't the time to ask them to be released from their own bounds; not when it was a direct disobedience against Tate's orders, and she wasn't going to let her daughter willingly aggravate her mate's anger once again. Not after witnessing the display that morning and how badly it had gone down.

Daisy soon approached with the tea and a clean shirt, offering both across with a wary glance down at Meredith. Understandably, she doubted the other was telling the truth, assuming this was some well-researched plan to take their settlement from them once and for all... but even if she believed that, there was no denying the resemblance between the women, that being the one doubt that lingered in Daisy's head.

"Here's the, uh-- the tea."

"Oh-- thank you," smiled Meredith, having no desire to express anything other than gratitude. It was clear from her observations that the healer meant a lot to her daughter, that there was a bond there, so she wanted to respect that. Besides, Daisy's help in aiding her pack members hadn't gone unnoticed by the alpha, deciding she liked the young girl for that kindness alone. "This... pack. How long have you been here? Is this-- is this where you've been all these years?"
 

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The name Clarissa didn't sound right coming off Meredith's tongue, not now after she had heard Luana being uttered so many times before. That name, the one she had apparently been given at birth by the woman opposite her, felt... right. It seemed to click into place with everything else she had learned about herself, it spoke to her about the real life she should have had. Which was ridiculous, it was just a name. It should be impossible for a name to make someone feel such a way.

However, it was because of those feelings that Clarissa remained silent, torn with how to respond. She ought to say that her name was Clarissa now, and that was how it would stay. But Luana... Luana felt right. It felt like it could offer a whole new life to her. And she so badly wanted to take it.

She smiled quietly to Daisy as the young girl brought the tea and new shirt, busying herself with arranging the paste and the bandages so they were exactly where she needed them to be when it came time for her to tend to... to her moth... to Meredith.

She reached out to gently lift up the hem of the shirt, making sure that if the piece of clothing needed to be peeled away from the wound, then it was done so gently. Clarissa-Luana-Clarissa winced at the sight of the reopened wound and cleared her throat softly, "I'm... ah... I'm goin' to need you to lie down... it... I ain't goin' to be able to do much if you're sat up."

With this new revelation, it felt awkward having to tend to her mother who had received this wound from her pack. Perhaps even someone she considered family, like Gio or Chester or Lyle... maybe even Tate.

Once Meredith had followed her instructions, Clarissa took in a deep breath and began to clean up the wound so she could later put fresh paste and bandages on it.

"I-- I uh... I've only been here for about a month." She answered softly, licking her lips nervously, "I'd... I'd been livin' in a human village, a bit of a walk aways from here. I guess... I guess they found me? After-- after whatever happened? Then uh... then uh, Tate... Tate found me. He'd... He recognised my scent was-- was different, to the humans, y'know? Brought me here... started teachin' me things... I didn't... I've only... I've only been able to shift for the past two weeks."
 

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As Meredith obediently turned to lay on her side, she managed to glance up at her daughter as she worked dutifully on her wound. A part of her was immensely thankful to the humans that had taken her daughter in and raised her for so many years. She had feared that her daughter was dead; that she could have been taken down by another werewolf pack with no morals towards hurting an innocent child, or she had simply fallen into a lake within the forest and drowned. No matter the circumstance, their daughter being dead was a fear that had lingered amongst Meredith and her mate - even if she insisted fiercely that she was alive, she couldn't deny the looming possibility that the contrary was true.

To hear that she had been found and raised by a human family who knew nothing of her history, only knowing that she was a child in need of help... it comforted Meredith. She mourned the lost years without her daughter, and would always lament the loss of time, but knowing that Clarissa had had a comfortable upbringing, where she was well-fed and had experienced a familial, loving environment... that was enough to make her smile and realise that, however horrible the consequences of the disappearance were, at least Clarissa was somewhere being loved and cared for by humans who had no obligation to care for her in that way.

Her happiness did deem a little at the mention of Tate, the grimace on her face being one she could excuse for discomfort at the pain on her side rather than dissatisfaction at her daughter's mate. It wasn't necessarily a choice - that was the mate decided for her, her soulmate who she would love eternally, but Tate was the alpha in charge of the horrible attack on her pack; the deaths of her innocent people who hadn't deserved such a traumatic end to their life.

It was a retaliation against the kidnapping - but she hadn't killed any of his pack. Her intentions to recruit members to her own were good, even if kidnapping probably wasn't the best way to go about it, but to retaliate against that with such extreme violence? To kill when no member of Tate's pack had actually been unnecessarily harmed? It was a horrifying display of violence and cruelty, of indifference to suffering, that Meredith couldn't approve of.

And that man was her daughter's mate. It horrified her, but she didn't want to push her thoughts onto the girl. To her, Clarissa was her baby and she had a right to protect her... but she was just a stranger to her daughter right now. She might have recognised Meredith as her mother, but they were just strangers yet to reconnect and thus, remarks about her mate wouldn't go down well.

"...Tate... that's... your mate, I gather? The alpha? I can't comment on him, I don't know the man, but I can say for certainty that he's strong. I know that firsthand," she laughed under her breath, wincing shortly after at the tenderness of the wound being pressed against. "...He's a good fighter; clearly protects his pack as any good alpha does. I-- I should have been the one to teach you to shift; your father, too. I'm-- I'm sorry we weren't there, Luana-- I know we're not to blame, neither are you, but I... I feel guilty nonetheless. I should have kept a close eye on you; if only I had played with you that day, given you my attention, you-- you wouldn't h-have-- it's no use talking of the past when it can't be changed but I... I'm so sorry, my darling."
 

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"Sorry." Clarissa whispered, voice breaking slightly as the woman winced, a flinch in response occurring. She then fell silent, allowing the woman to continue speaking as she tended to the wound. It was a deep one, nasty at that. An incredibly good bite by whoever did it... but at Meredith's words... it was at the teeth (literally) of her daughter's mate. The thought caused Clarissa to grimace again, the young werewolf soon biting at her lower lip.

"I-- I can't really... talk, about the day I... apparently went missing. I don't... I don't really remember any of it." She confessed, swallowing hard as she moved to begin applying paste now the wound was freshly cleaned, "I don't know... anything... of back then. Just-- just a few thoughts, a few scattered memories." Her eyes raised, hand pausing in the application of the paste, "Maybe... maybe being back with you might... help me unlock a few more."

It was true, being at such a young age when she went missing, Clarissa couldn't remember much, if anything at all, from that time. There were the few that she recalled due to Meredith's scent, but that was a pittance compared to what she could potentially know. It made her feel guilty, despite it not being her fault. That Meredith probably had all these memories of her but she had none of her mother. It also made Clarissa wonder what her life would have been like if she had grown up under Meredith's guidance. Would she have ever met Tate? How strong would she be by now? Would she have been a fierce warrior, a strong fighter, and proud leader?

"There... I can imagine there'll be a lot of 'what ifs' now... but we-- we can't allow that to continue. If... if this is all real... then... then we cannot lose each other again." Clarissa continued quietly, wiping the paste from her fingers and grabbing bandages next, "I'll... I'll speak to... I'll speak to my mate. You're my mother and... and I guess your pack is also mine. We cannot.... we shouldn't be treatin' each other like enemies anymore. It'll be difficult but... but it needs to be that way."
 

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"I never intended to create division amongst the packs. I suppose the methods we chose to adopt weren't... helpful, but we were desperate to replenish our numbers. Desperation leads people to make some unthinkable decisions; ones they might not make under other less pressing circumstances. So if your mate can forgive us, there's nothing I would prioritise more than a peaceful coexistence, Luana-- because you're back in my life and there's no way I'm going to scuttle off now I have you back. I... I can't lose you again; I don't care who stands in my way, you are my daughter, my flesh and blood, and nothing will stop me having you in my life."

The remark was made with the expected confidence of any mother regarding their child, especially one who knew the pain of being absent from them. Having experienced years of that hurt and pain, Meredith wasn't prepared to go through it all again, especially not now she actually knew that her daughter was alive and had a life for herself. She wanted to be part of that, to make new memories and help awaken the old ones; to be the mother she barely had the chance to be. Nothing was going to stop her having that, nor prevent her daughter experiencing it.

But she felt it necessary to make such a promise to Clarissa because of the unlikelihood of Tate's agreement. She hadn't spent too much time in the alpha's company but she hadn't needed more than that to determine that he was stubborn - and so fiercely protective of his pack that he would resort to unthinkable violence to protect them from harm. He had led a gathered army into her settlement, encroaching on the territory with the sole purpose of killing anyone they could; to make the statement that they weren't to be messed with.

Was that alpha really going to sweep aside such anger and disgust towards the other pack just because Meredith happened to be Clarissa's birth mother? Meredith wanted to think so, she was desperate to believe that his love for her daughter trumped his hatred for her pack... but the stubbornness had been clear as day to her. Besides, she had also witnessed the very public disagreement between the two and the unsubtle pain on Tate's expression as a result of his mate's unwelcome airing of their private life. He wasn't going to be easily swayed if he clung to the hurt that her comments that morning had brought on.

"...For what it's worth, you might need to convince him soon. Your father... he was hurt in the attack but not terribly; he'll have gathered the other survivors and... they'll be coming. And your mate initiated the violence first; your father won't hold back in his retaliations. He's a forgiving man, your father, but our pack was... so many people were harmed and hurt. I was badly injured. He won't act with kindness unless-- unless your mate has a change of heart and I'm allowed to... to find your father before the situation worsens beyond repair, my love. I don't want that; I want what you want."
 

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Her body tensed at the prospect of having to speak to Tate about everything that transpired over the course of the last half hour alone. Things had not ended well between them before he left for his hunt, and she doubted he would want to see her after what had gone down between them. She had already planned to simply avoid her mate upon his return, even knowing that she would retreat to the his family's hut to provide him with space she knew he would want. She doubted that even a good hunt would bring him back in a better mood than before.

The muscles in her back were tight as she forced herself to keep her hands loose and soft, so no heavy-handed application of bandage caused her-- Meredith any additional pain.

"I'll see what I can do... I don't-- I don't really know when he'll be returnin' from the hunt. Probably late this afternoon." She murmured, not yet ready to air her thoughts out to a woman who she had only just accepted as her mother. It didn't yet feel right to turn to this woman with all of her problems. She hadn't even spoken to Daisy about the cause of the fight with Tate, and it took a decent amount of conversation before she confessed anything to Anders.

That was the other thing. If Anders was afraid of telling Tate about his mate being from an enemy pack... how the fuck was Tate going to react when Clarissa claimed her mother was the alpha of said pack? That her parents were the alphas, for that matter.

It was about to get real messy, real fucking quickly.

Sighing heavily with that thought, she tied the bandage firmly together and tucked the knot under one of the layers. From there, she leaned forward to gently help Meredith sit back up with some soothing murmurs. However, she didn't pull away immediately afterwards, lingering close due to the continued pull of the familiar scent.

"Will... will he recognise me? Like you did? My... my pa, I mean. You-- you seemed to know immediately but... but if he comes stormin' in to... free you an' your pack members... he might not realise."
 

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Meredith wanted to know everything regarding Clarissa's life, from the village to the few weeks amongst this pack, but she knew not to overwhelm her daughter and expect her to be open and honest with her straight from the off. As eager as she was to pull her into her arms and spend even just a few seconds in that loving embrace, she wanted to respect the other; give her the time she needed to start to reveal information on her own terms.

It was horrendous to have to withhold her instincts in such a way when all she desired was to ease her daughter's clear anxiety by holding her close and soothing her with motherly murmurs... but she didn't want to push her away and make her uncomfortable when she was, by all intents and purposes, a stranger to her at the moment. She knew the importance of letting her daughter have the time she needed to take in the situation and move forward with it when she was ready.

She wasn't going to sit back and act as though she had no connection to Clarissa at all, of course. She wanted to be at her side and at least engage with her, initiate conversations and get to know and spend time with her daughter after so long apart - but all the hugs, kisses and affection she desired to shower her with would have to be postponed until she felt Clarissa would be okay with that. It was natural to want to just hold her close, but if that made her uncomfortable and pushed her away from her, Meredith couldn't risk it - she had spent years without her, after all, so like hell was she going to risk pushing her away now she finally had her back.

It was why she restricted herself from commenting too much about Tate. Though the atmosphere between the mates wasn't particularly light and easy at the moment, that was still her daughter's mate; the man she loved and was bonded to. Criticising him in any manner might not go down too well, even if she had plenty she wanted to say about him and his wrongdoings.

So discussing her mate, Clarissa's father, was a nice distraction, all the trouble clouding her expression fading all at once in the comfort just thinking of her mate brought her.

"Oh, don't underestimate him; your Pa will know you the moment he sets eyes on you, I guarantee that. Not only are you the spitting image of me but... we're your parents; we know you. He'll know who you are. You were just this little thing when we lost you, and now you're a... a grown woman, but he'll recognise his little girl in an instant. Your Pa's a tough man but he's got two soft spots in his life - me and you," she laughed as she eased back against the tree, taking in the neatness of the bandage work with clear pride - and gratitude, as her following smile indicated.

"He'll be coming, I have no doubt about that-- we've been together since we were 15, and not once has he let me down. I just hope that when he does find me, he'll... be greeted without animosity because-- I don't want anymore lives injured, Luana; not now. I... I'm sure your mate is wise enough to know enough blood has been shed, hm?"
 

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Moving to sit cross-legged in front of Meredith, Clarissa listened quietly to what was said about a man who was supposedly her father. Her fingers fidgeted together at the prospect of meeting her Pa, chewing thoughtfully at her lower lip as she lowered her gaze from Meredith. While the woman assured her that he would recognise her, she was slightly worried that he wouldn't. Not to mention, what if he had managed to find the others of his pack and launched an attack, killing members of Clarissa own pack before he got a chance to realise who she was and call it off?

Then there was Tate. Meredith's words regarding Clarissa's mate left the young werewolf raising a thumb to her lips so she could nibble anxiously at the nail. There was no guarantee in what Tate may decide to do. If he came back in as foul a mood with her as he left in, she couldn't imagine he would be willing to listen to her, let alone believe that Meredith was her mother.

She hummed, unconvincingly, in agreement with her Ma, gaze lowering as teeth continued to bite furiously at her thumbnail.

"He killed my entire human village because on of them almost killed his brother." The words slipped out before she could help them, but instead of looking ashamed at her confession, Clarissa kept her gaze lowered, "One your people attacked me, wounded me, and kidnapped one of his brothers. I-- I can't know for sure what he has planned now."

Exhaling heavily, her head lifted to take a quick glance around. Daisy and one or two of the other healers had now moved on to other werewolves they had taken on from the fight. Which was good, because Clarissa needed to make a decision and she couldn't make it knowing others from her own pack were listening near by.

"I... I could let you go. You could take one of your own with you, to find... to find Pa. To keep him from attacking but then you would need to come back, peacefully, so we could... maybe we could... begin again."

It would go against everything Tate wanted her to do. She would be in a lot of trouble. But she knew Tate also wanted answers from the alpha he had managed to capture... and she knew firsthand, after helping him interrogate the one that had hurt her, how things could potentially get. She could sit around and allow that to happen to her own mother.

"But it would have to be soon. Today. Either before he returns from-- from his hunt or... or at night. I could probably get to you this evening... I doubt we'll be sharing a bed tonight."
 

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There wasn't much anyone could really do to improve the opinion Meredith held of Tate. She had no doubt that he had his positive attributes that she hadn't been able to witness, but the negative ones had been so abundant that she couldn't help but let them colour her impression of him entirely. She was an alpha like he was; she knew the pressure the role contained and the innate desire they had to protect their pack at all costs, so she completely understood why he had come searching for the members of his pack that had been taken.

But to do so in such a violent fashion had horrified her - and so hearing that an entire human village had been massacred over the actions of just one man within their community didn't shock her. It ought to, given how extreme such a reaction was, but it didn't. Tate struck her as the sort of alpha who reacted violently and passionately to any threat against them. Sure, having an alpha as passionate about their role was a positive, it encouraged a feeling of security to bloom among the members, but it wasn't particularly... comforting in her eyes.

An alpha had to be strong and protective, but they also needed to have a cool-head; the ability to take a step back when emotions were at their highest in order to determine whether they were making decisions for the right reasons, or whether they were letting their hearts rule their heads. Even in her youth, Meredith had always been capable of this self-awareness, to realise that what she might want to do wasn't to the benefit of her pack.

It struck her that Tate was the opposite; someone who acted based on what he believed to be right rather than consult his pack and realise he was acting on his own high emotions. Massacring an entire human village and launching such a brutal, uncalled for attack on her own pack when they had displayed no violent threat was plenty of evidence for her conclusion.

But it was her daughter's mate. For better or worse, fate had brought them together and determined their souls were meant to be bonded... and so Meredith once again held back her tongue and forced a smile.

"...I don't want to create tension between you and your mate, love, but-- I know where your Pa will be. I know where he'll gather the rest of the pack, I can find him in an hour and be back here before dawn. We can wait until tonight, I'll take Ronan with me; we'll be back and approach peacefully, I promise. Like I said, we... never wanted bloodshed; we never harmed the members from your pack. We would never do that," she promised as she reached out to take Clarissa's hand gently in her own. The contact was minimal in comparison to the hugs she longed to give her daughter, but it was the first real moment of affection she had managed to show her since their realisation that they were related.

This was the first time she had ever expressed a physical show of her love towards her daughter since she was four; since before she had wandered and disappeared from them. It might have been minimal but it immediately made Meredith choke up, tears glistening her eyes as she struggled to hold back another wave of emotion, glancing at their hands with a faint smile.

"You-- you really are all grown up, aren't you? I-- I remember when your hand would fit in mine, you were so tiny a-and-- and small. We'd go collecting mushrooms together, in the forest; you would cling onto my hand a-and-- oh god, don't let me babble, I could go on for hours about all the little things we'd get up to, Luana."
 

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"There's already a tension there." She murmured, shaking her head with a sigh, "Might as well make the most of it now. I can't... I wouldn't be able to let him... interrogate you. I-- I'm really no better than him," she winced at the thought, realising that her words were true. When it came to it, she had been the one to break the bones of the one that had wounded her in order to get information. At the time she had seen it as a small justice to the other werewolf, since she knew that if Tate started, he wouldn't be able to stop. It was clear now he had a track record of that.

Her behaviour was uncalled for, based on what Meredith said. But there was still the fact that her mother's scout had drawn first blood.

"One of yours did hurt me, you know. Got a good bite on the back of my neck; cut up my stomach pretty good. So-- so to us, it didn't seem like our pack members had been taken... peacefully." She confessed, "So you... you might not want to say that to him, or the others, actually. Cause I'm a clear example of what one of your pack did when... when it came to the kidnappin's."

Clarissa began to move, fully intending to continue about her day, but the hand on hers stopped her. So she hesitated, she lingered around the other woman and looked up at her. The warmth on her hand moved up her arm, crawling slowly until it seemed to reach her chest and blossom there.

Instantly, Clarissa leaned forward and pressed her forehead into the other woman's chest. Her eyes closed and she took a deep breath in as that familiar scent enveloped her, pulling her close. Tears began to prick under eyelids and she took in a shuddering, deep breath. After another few seconds, her one arm rose to curl around the back of Meredith's shoulders, hand resting on the other shoulder.

"There'll be plenty of time for you to tell me all the different stories, I'll make sure of it. Tonight... tonight you and-- and Ronan. You'll both get out, but-- but if you're really-- if you're really who you say you are--... you've got to promise you'll come back peacefully. I'm goin' be in so much shit as it is, if you come back lookin' for blood, after everythin' we've said..."
 

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It hadn't been lost on Meredith when her daughter had earlier mentioned that she had been wounded, but it was difficult to imagine anyone in her pack actively going against the message not to physically harm those they attempted to take. Though kidnapping them was wrong in and of itself, the reasoning behind it wasn't necessarily the worst of intentions - they wanted new pack members to replenish their population. There were obviously better ways to about such a mission, but desperate times evidently called for desperate measures.

The main message had been not to harm them unnecessarily. In the tussle, there would undoubtedly be cuts and bruises, perhaps a claw mark here and there, but that was to be expected from an ambushed attack - what wasn't expected, nor approved of, was a vicious attack resulting in deep wounds. She hadn't wanted to believe anyone in her pack would go against their alphas' warnings on the matter but she wasn't going to present doubt when her daughter had told her of the attack.

If she said it happened, then it happened - and it caused a deep frown to grow on the alpha's face as she cast a glance down at the member she already knew was responsible. He had been missing from her pack before Tate's attack, and present here when they arrived, so she naturally assumed that this was the perpetrator that had gone against her and her mate and inflicted unnecessary injuries upon her daughter.

She held back from unleashing her anger on the man, knowing that as angry as she was, now wasn't the time nor place to start reprimanding him. Instead, she took in a deep breath and smiled gently towards Clarissa, taking in the feel of her closeness for as long as she could. It wasn't a sensation she would be able to drink in for too long when the other, as alpha of this pack, had duties to attend to... but while she remained close, Meredith was going to make the most of the proximity with her daughter as she could, inhaling her distinctive scent and letting it bring comfort to her.

"...I promise you, I have no intention of launching an attack. We'll arrive peacefully, Luana; I'm not going to create more difficulty for you, okay? And nor do I really want to create more distress than there needs to be. Your pack is just like ours; a collective of families who... deserve to live without this sort of constant battling and fear. I promise, okay?" She encouraged with a light chuckle, patting her hand once more before forcing herself to relieve herself from that contact, resting her head back against the trunk of the tree.

"Now go and get on with your duties; don't let me stop you-- I'm proud of you, sweetheart."
 

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Exhaling heavily, Clarissa nodded, reluctantly pulling back and away to see the woman properly for a moment once more. If Tate threatened her the way he did just at the mere thought of her giving them more food than he wanted... there was a slight spike of fire of what he would do when he found out she would be the one to have released them from their binds. If he wanted to overpower her, to force her to submit to make a statement in front of the pack... she wouldn't be able to fight it, not physically anyway. She had no knowledge of how to fight in her human or her wolf form.

"No matter what... might happen or what you might see when you come back... I want you to remember what you said, okay? No fighting, no aggression. Just peace." She pressed, still obviously slightly nervous to agreeing to a plan she suggested. Of course it wasn't the concern of what might happen between her and Tate - she knew he would never truly harm her. It was more she was still worried that she may still be being manipulated. She was anxious that this woman had simply guessed right on everything she had said... even though Clarissa knew deep down what the truth was.

Her eyes swept around the area, head turning so she could peer over her shoulder. The rest of the pack had continued after the emotional display, but Clarissa wasn't stupid. If there was one thing she had learned about this pack, it was that they enjoyed whispering and talking about things long after they had happened.

And now she had been at the centre of two dramatic incidents in less than an hour.

"Alright... but... but tonight. You and Ronan..." She was secretly glad her mother had chosen the male, knowing that at least it would keep him out of harm's way for a while too. For Anders' sake. However, she wouldn't be able to tell him that immediately. She loved Anders, but she knew he would be anxious in the lead up to her removing the binds.

"Not a word to your pack though. The less they know the better. In the morning I'll... I'll make sure they aren't taking the brunt of his anger. I'll confess straight away."

Pushing herself to her feet, she took a deep breath and collected the dirty, bloodied bandages to dispose of in the fire, "I'll-- I'll see you then."
 

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Meredith might have a desire to react with the same unflinching violence that had been used to kill innocent members of her pack but she would never allow that desire to grow beyond a fleeting thought. Even if her daughter hadn't pleaded with her and forced her to promise that she would arrive back with her pack peacefully, and encourage her to believe that peace was truly the only path they could take, Meredith just couldn't replicate the horror that had been inflicted upon her pack after witnessing the members in this one enjoying their celebrations last night.

It might have been a horrible celebration, celebrating their success in taking down another pack who had their population decimated further and their innocent members unlawfully killed, but the sight of children dancing with their friends and mates cuddled up in one another's arms beside the fireplace was too sweet to want to see fall to ruins.

Meredith was a tough, seasoned fighter who had hardened over the years since her daughter's disappearance but she had a heart - she could never willingly inflict the sort of violence on another pack that Tate had chosen to inflict on hers. He might have justified it and his pack might have the mindset that allowed them to celebrate such horrors, but it wasn't one Meredith could ever replicate. And Clarissa's plea that she not do that only confounded her decision to stick to peace further.

As she settled back with her tea to try and recover from the pain in her side (and relax herself after such a spike in her emotions), Daisy lifted her head to observe Clarissa approaching the fire. She had witnessed the emotional outburst like most in the pack had, but she had been close enough to hear what it had been about; she had witnessed all the details and observed the emotions on display up close. Thus, she knew that it probably wasn't something that Clarissa wanted to discuss when her thoughts were probably running wild - but she also thought ignoring the situation entirely might make things more awkward, which wasn't ideal either.

"...What are you going to... say to Tate? People are going to gossip; he'll realise something's up," she murmured as quietly as she could manage, carefully disposing of the bandages in the fire and poking them into the heart of the flames with a stick, her nose crinkling at the metallic smell of the blood still clinging to her.

"We... don't need to discuss it but I... don't want him losing his temper with you, or-- or your-- or the other alpha," she continued with a brief glance back at Meredith. The visible similarities were obvious now she knew of the relation between the two women, biting the inside of her cheek as she attempted to cling to the possibility that everything might work out positively for everyone involved, however unlikely the thought might be.

"Just-- I'm here if you need to talk, Clar. I'm not Tate. I'm his sister but-- I'm not going to judge like he does."
 

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Joining the young girl by the fire, Clarissa remained silent as she mulled over the question and the situation she now found herself in. She threw the bloodied bandages in her arms into the fire before folding them across her chest afterwards, allowing herself a moment to just stare mindlessly into the flames.

Exhaling heavily, she finally blinked herself away from her thoughts and glanced across to Daisy. Her eyes lingered on the side of her face before she turned back to look at the flames, watching the stick push the bandages further and further into the pit.

"...I only have to explain myself if he speaks to me. Do you really think he'll wanna talk to me about anything other than the runnin' of the pack after the shit that went down today?" She murmured back, fingers on one hand gently lightly drumming against her upper arm. Silence grew for a moment before she continued, "He's goin' to lose his temper with me one way or another, Dase, no point worryin' about it."

Her eyes then cast themselves across the fire to watch the woman who claimed to be her mother, fingers halting in their drumming. "Either it'll be because I was talkin' to her, because I stink of her, or because I refuse to let him interrogate her. It'll get ugly either way. Just-- make sure you don't get yourself in the middle of it."

At the last comment, she had turned to face Daisy and placed a hand on her shoulder so she would look at her.

Clarissa smiled quietly, and brought the girl in for a brief hug, "Don't go gettin' involved no matter what, alrigh'? That's an order." She added lightly, despite being serious. She didn't want Daisy to go rushing in to defend her depending on how things went when Tate got back and what he decided to do that evening.

"Only get involved if it's to patch one of us up. That's the only allowance. Obviously I know he ain't goin'ta hurt you, but you know how snappy and stubborn he can be. Besides, if he snaps at you because of something I've said or done to piss him off, I'll be pissed at myself and at him even more. If it gets too much, go into the hut-- alrigh'?"
 

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The idea of witnessing her eldest brother losing his temper with Clarissa and being told not to stand in and try to diffuse the situation horrified her, though the stronger she attempted to argue against the other's decision, the more stress she feared she would put on her friend. Evidently, Clarissa had been through enough lately, from the physical pain of her attack and then the heat that had fallen over her, to the pain of arguing with her mate and all the emotions brought on by reuniting with her mother. The latter situation came with pressure too, given Meredith's role in the other pack and what they had been guilty of in kidnapping several members of their pack.

Including Anders, who Tate had massacred an entire human village to avenge. The likelihood of him considering peace with the other pack after what they had done was slim, regardless of the family relations and the strong bond Clarissa had with it.

The moment the alpha returned from his hunt and sought to interrogate his counterpart from the other pack was probably when everything would kick off. Clarissa had made it clear that she wasn't going to let that happen - and why would she? Tate had wanted to kill the last person he had interrogated, been so close to losing his composure that he could have quite literally murdered the man with his bare hands had Clarissa not been at his side to calm him down. She would never allow him to interrogate her mother, a woman she had only just been reunited with, when he had that short of a fuse.

"...I'll try not to get involved, that's as much as I'm willing to promise, Clar. I can't sit back and let him yell at you, embarrass you in front of us, I... I'll try not to get involved but I won't say I promise it," she eventually whispered as she pulled back from the hug, the grimace set deep onto her expression in discomfort at the situation. She longed to just go back to a time when everything was normal. Before animosity settled in, before the trouble, before the tension.

With how stubborn Tate was, she couldn't imagine things returning to normal anytime soon.

"You'd better tell Anders not to get involved then. You-- you know how he is when it comes to you. He-- He attacked Tate that time because he felt like you were pushing him away, so... I... I'd probably tell him not to get involved or he'll... I dunno what he'd do but I know he wouldn't just let Tate yell at 'ya. Anders is the gentlest soul I know but he ain't a baby; he's got the height and speed over Tate. He could hurt 'im real bad if he wanted," she pointed out with a brief glance back at the family hut she shared with most of her brothers, her grimace only deepening in fear of some huge fight kicking off between the people she cared about most in the world.

"I... I'm sure it won't come to that though, right? Tate's... in a bad mood right now but he loves you, Clar. You're mates. He-- He'll understand, right? He'll listen to you and he'll understand-- maybe I'm being optimistic b-but I can't think about things going badly, I-I just... can't do that to myself."