A Wolf Among The Sheep

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While Luana knew she had her parents' pack waiting for her back where they were located, that they were ready and willing to have her lead them either when her parents stepped down or died... it didn't exactly fill her with a sense of relief. She should have been happy that she still had another pack to return to, and that would listen to her and trusted her and believed in her. Who had seen what she had been through the past two years and watched as she developed not just as a werewolf, but as a person and a mother.

Yet... they weren't her real family. Anders, Daisy, Sasha... even Gio and the rest of the siblings... they were her family too. And the idea that they no longer saw her as even above the dirt they walked on... it hurt. It was a lot to take in that she had spent all her time bettering herself, strengthening herself, and preparing herself to be a leader she felt they deserved only to have the door slammed in her face.

There was a bubble of anger, sitting there contentedly in her sternum just waiting to be popped. But it was too protected by the guilt of the pain she had caused to those she had loved. There were a few things now, however, that could break through that wrapping of protection to burst the bubble of frustration and anger. At first it was Tala, the prospect and idea of anyone in the pack she used to think of as family laying a single finger on her daughter. There was also the alpha-driven need to protect Ronan, as a pack mate and a friend. But now there was Daisy. Sasha. Anders. All of them were on her list to protect and defend. And Luana knew she would, even if it meant taking a few hits herself.

"I ain't surprised to hear he works out hard, I mean, the size of him," Lu chuckled faintly, shaking her head in amusement, "It shows, y'know, that you've been working out. I bet Ronan appreciated it too." She teased, nudging him playfully.

It was so easy to fall back into their old habits, their old behaviours. It felt nice, as if everything was normal for a moment. Luana so desperately wanted things to be normal again. That perhaps Tate would come back at any moment and things actually wouldn't be as fraught as they were. But that didn't seem like it would ever be a possibility again.

However she did mean what she said. Seeing Anders with his extra muscle, the more chiselled features... it was like watching her young brother growing up. Because that was what he was like to her, not just a friend, but a brother.

"It might've been a big ask... if I was facin' them alone. But I ain't goin' to be. Besides, this ain't goin' to be about me, this is goin' to be about you. You met your mate, you're getting the chance to actually be with him this time too... whatever you need me to do, Anders, I'm gonna do it, regardless of what them lot think."

She reached out to take his hand, slipping her other hand underneath so both of her enveloped his. "If you want me there, Imma be there, of course I am. I promise."
 

potassiumboron

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"Ronan better appreciate it. Y'know, I think that was a part of the whole intense trainin' thing. Making him realise what he missed out on for two years if he came back. Probably childish of me, I know he'd love me no matter what I looked like, but... I guess I wanted to rub his face in it if he popped back up here one day," he admitted with a faint grin, only now able to analyse his behaviour over the two years with the benefit of hindsight and acknowledge that behind the anger and the pain motivating his workouts, there was a desire present within him to get into the best physical condition he could.

He had always thought that such a desire was solely to take a more active role within the pack. He wasn't a hunter (his attempts at fishing and the subsequent crying that followed was evidence of his inability to kill any creature himself) but he had always envisioned himself doing more than just passively watching on from the sidelines - and if he showed how determined he was and what he could achieve when he put his mind to something, then he knew Tate would help him find something he could do to be a benefit to them all.

Only now did he realise that part of the desire was for Ronan's benefit: to both make him realise what he had missed out on and ensure he didn't go leaving him again. It was stupid, he knew that with the hindsight he had, a laugh leaving him in response to his own motivations.

His smile remained fixed in place as she continued to speak, not so much in derision at himself but softening; becoming warmer in response to the promise he knew she would live up to. She might not have returned in the few months she had promised she would back two years ago, but Anders' trust in her hadn't ebbed. If anything, she was going to ensure her promises had weight now; make sure she didn't offer hope she knew she couldn't fulfil.

And he trusted her completely to be at his side if she said she would be.

"...You know we're gettin' real fuckin' soppy right now, don't you? Not that that's surprising; we always end up having heart-to-hearts and cryin' together, huh?" He snorted as he pulled his hands from hers, only to be able to wrap both his arms around her and hold her in a hug; a final moment of affection before he reluctantly pulled away and shifted himself up from the ground with a sigh; one that was lighter and void of the heaviness that had been in place before his conversations with both his mate and now his best friend.

"C'mon, let's just... sit in the hut, spend some time together. I ain't got anythin' to do around here anyway. Everyone's got their roles an' me being the wimp I am won't go huntin' so I've sorta just been left to... do nothing. Which is fine; means I get to spend all day with you and Ro, if you want me hanging around you guys."
 

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Eyes closed as Anders came in for a final hug, Luana's arms raising to wrap around him in response. She took a deep breath, holding it in briefly as she simply enjoyed the act of affection; one that she didn't actually anticipate ever receiving from Anders ever again. She released him, albeit reluctantly, and followed him with her gaze once she had opened her eyes again and he stood.

Nodding next and standing after him, Luana reached to ruffle his hair with a faint smile, "Thanks, Anders... I-- I don't really know why I'm sayin' thank you exactly but I-- I guess I just... thank you for giving me a second chance." She finally murmured, hand reaching for her arm under her sleeve before she caught herself and simply grasped her wrist instead, "It... it really does mean a lot to me. I know! I know, we said we'd stop bein' soppy but I just want you to at least know how.... grateful I am, y'know, that you're... lettin' me back into your life."

Luana pulled him into one more quick hug before turning and heading to the back door of the hut. Before tears could begin again.

Once inside, she was a little surprised to feel some heat that hadn't been present before, eyes drawn to the fire in the fireplace. For a moment fear filled her body, and fury that Ronan had lit a fire, forgetting for a brief second that the pack now knew they were sticking around.

"Was just gettin' a little chilly. Besides, we still got our clothes to dry-- they... they're still really damp." Ronan explained, almost sheepishly as he saw the panic that flickered across Luana's face.

The young woman relaxed eventually, exhaling heavily and nodded, "No, no. It's-- it was a good call. I just... forgot, sorry." She moved across to the other male, patting his shoulder as she moved passed him to flop onto the bed she had claimed last night.

Ronan's eyes pulled away from Luana, having lingered briefly on her arms in an attempt to see how bad the damage was there, but with the sleeves in the way, there was no way of knowing. Instead, he turned his attention back to his mate, allowing his gaze to linger. A grin slowly pulled at his lip, hands toying with the metal fire poker in habit before he lowered it back into the hold.

His spell of time drinking in Anders' form was interrupted by a throat clearance from Luana, who he reluctantly glanced at with a soft growl rippling through his chest. The woman smirked from where she laid on the bed, hands behind her head.

"Should I leave? I mean, you both got two years worth to catch up on. I can always leave if you both... y'know... need some extra private time. If you're goin' be parents together now, you need to make the most of these sort of times."
 

potassiumboron

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The moment he re-entered the hut that possessed a cosiness to it despite remaining uninhabited for the best part of a decade (though maybe the fire Ronan had started had something to do with that), Anders wasn't entirely capable of keeping his eyes off his mate. After the light teases with Luana outside, his mind was naturally overrun with thoughts of his mate and it took all of one or two seconds before his eyes started to trail shamelessly down Ronan's body.

Anders might be proud of the improvements he had made to his overall fitness (though the additional muscle mass hadn't been the main motivation, he couldn't pretend he didn't feel a flicker of pride when Ronan's eyes strayed longingly down him) but he was far more invested in acknowledging just how strong Ronan had always been; a fact he hadn't really appreciated back two years ago but after so much time apart, he was more determined than ever to do so.

His strengthened desire for his mate probably was a reason for wanting to appreciate every inch of him, but it was long overdue; he couldn't deny the way he felt when he was more or less perfectly obvious on his expression.

He had been so caught up in casually observing his mate that Luana's suggestive remark, obviously calling attention to their unsubtle observations of one another, made him grow flustered in the typical way Anders was known for - his cheeks flushed and he began to nervously wring his hands together as though he had been caught out doing something wrong.

The idea of sex in general didn't make him nervous but the fact it was his first time and knowing how momentous an occasion it would be because of it did unsettle him a little. He didn't want to get in his head about it when he desired nothing more than being with his mate, more than ready to even place his mark upon his neck and consolidate their bond, but it was hard for someone so prone to anxiousness like Anders was to contemplate the idea of being intimate for the first time with his mate without finding themselves caught up in a panic about it.

"I-- no, it's fine, Lu, I mean-- where else would you go? N-Nah, we... we're fine; just lookin', nothin' more than that," he casually grinned as he tried to cool himself down by standing nearby the window - though the fact it was closed to keep the heat in did little to cool his reddened cheeks, the blush itself having crept down his neck.

"We... got time to do... private stuff, right Ro? I mean, I... totally want to, I... wanna mark 'ya an' all that mate stuff, I just-- it'd be my first time an' it obviously means a lot to us both an'-- I just spent two years thinking about what it'd be like, I guess. The fact it's gonna be reality pretty soon is sorta makin' me all sorts of anxious. Is that dumb?"
 

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"Uh-- uh yeah, yeah course we do." Ronan stumbled into his agreement, looking back to where his mate now stood near the window, "Plenty of time, nothin' but it now. This is it now, you're stuck with me." He grinned once he had recovered himself, causing Luana to snort in amusement at the two of them becoming all flustered. She found it cute, watching them both stuttering over their words; not that she was any more experienced than either of them. Tate had been her first, and it wasn't as if they had a lot of time together apart from that one night when he marked her and then the night they gave in to her heat.

"An' when I'm here to visit, I'll be around to babysit Teddy so you can have even more of it." Luana smirked, propping the pillows up so she could sit up against them. Her fingers absently played with the ends of her opposite sleeve, "I can take her and Tala out aaaaaall day so you both can catch up on missed time--"

She squealed as Ronan threw a pillow from the other bed at her, another growl escaping him, more playful this time, "Shut your gob, Lu, honestly." He mumbled, shaking his head in exasperation.

Ronan then moved to pull a chair over to the fireplace, kicking off his shoes and stretching out his legs so the bottom of his feet and his toes were near the fire to warm up. His eyes soon found themselves back on his mate, palms of his hands rubbing against the tops of his thighs as he considered what was just said.

"S-so you want to tell them now? Are-- are we goin' tell them soon?" He questioned, suddenly anxious about the whole affair. Of course he wanted things out in the open, the last time they hid their bond he was forced to leave to avoid suspicion and he didn't want that to ever happen again. But with how negatively his pack reacted when he and Luana arrived back... it just made things feel worse.

"I mean, of course I wanna tell them, Anders. I want nothin' more than that an' I'll happily deal with whatever fuckin' bullshit they try... I just-- I just want you to be happy, s'all. I... don't want you to feel forced into anyone anythin', y'know? I wanna do this, an' be with you an' with Teddy but-- but we can do this at your pace. Just-- just whenever you're ready, okay?"
 

potassiumboron

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Luana's continued teasing might have made him more flustered, inevitably, but it also made Anders grin broadly in satisfaction. He had other friends outside of the two and he had more than enough siblings to guarantee he would never be alone... but he had missed this for two years; just feeling completely at ease and enjoying a laugh. Something so simple brought him so much happiness and the fact he only know realised just how little he had laughed or just felt happy in those past two years did astound him.

But it also made all the more determined to keep the dynamic now he had it back; to ensure that neither Luana nor Ronan were absent from his life ever again. He would fight for them if he had to, knowing now without a doubt that he just couldn't see a future for himself without his mate or his best friend in it.

"I'm gonna tell 'em before you guys leave to go back to the other pack, I know that much. If I don't tell 'em then, I'll never tell 'em. So before you leave-- we'll let them know, Ro. We gotta, right? Or we'll keep pushin' it back an'... it'll become this huge thing between us. You say I can take my time with it but let's face it, if I take a year or two, you're gonna be pissed. So-- there has to be some urgency to show 'ya I'm serious about us. So they'll know before you leave, that's a promise I'm gonna stick to."

There weren't many moments in his life where Anders was so determined but this was one of them, knowing he couldn't afford to be undecided and wary over the issue when such feelings would cause him to push the confession back time and time again - and he didn't want to be at a point in a few years time, still hiding who he was and keeping his relationship with Ronan behind closed doors. As difficult as it might be to face a pack as vocal with their opinions as they were, he knew he had to deal with it and do what he needed to do to be a family.

And he had worked on building his confidence up for two years; it was about time he put that into practise.

"Just-- trust me, I got this. We got this. I spent two years regrettin' not speaking up, Ro; I ain't gonna let another two fly by. An' Lu said she'll be there with us so... I ain't got any reason not to tell people."
 

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"Before we leave to go back...? Anders... you don't... you don't seriously think I'm goin' to be goin' back there now, do ya?" Ronan questioned, looking at his mate in disbelief. He barked a soft, amused laugh, shaking his head at his mate, "I told you, I ain't goin' anywhere. I'm-- I'm stayin' here, with you, with Teddy." He glanced briefly over to Luana, momentarily feeling guilty at the idea of abandoning his friend.

The two of them had supported each other through so much over the past two years, and he was worried about leaving her, especially after everything that had happened and the fact her habits had slowly crept back in. But at the small, fond smile that he saw on Luana's face, Ronan immediately knew that there were no hard feelings. Luana herself knew that she would have made the same decision if she had been in Ronan's position, and there was no way she was going to hate on her friend.

They were two of her best friends, they deserved to be happy. After the hellish two years and all the hurt that had happened... Luana wanted nothing more than for them to be together.

Ronan cleared his throat, averting his gaze from Luana to the floor before it was pulled back up to Anders. He smiled finally and took the few steps across to where his mate stood. He pulled him into an embrace, holding him closely and taking in a deep breath of his mate's scent, which he allowed to fall over him and reassure him. Leaning back, he cupped Anders' cheek and pressed his lips to his, pulling away a few seconds later.

By this point, while ecstatic for the two of them, the scene of two mates displaying love and warmth became too much for Luana, who quietly rolled onto her side with her back facing them. Both to give them some privacy, but also to spare her the heartache, despite it being too late.

Ronan brushed his thumb over Anders cheek before dropping his hand down onto his mate's shoulder, "By the end of the week then... I'll hold you to it."
 

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"I just-- I dunno, I thought you'd wanna ease into life here 'cos-- you know, the pack ain't fond of 'ya either right now and I'd understand if you wanted to go back with Lu an' take your time in movin' here with me," the other admitted as he failed to hide the genuine surprise on his face at Ronan's clear determination to stay put now they had made up. He wanted that more than anything, but he also understood if Ronan had desired to take his time in moving into the pack permanently; ensure that he didn't have to endure the pack's potential backlash to his presence all at once.

But Anders knew he shouldn't have expected anything other than Ronan's desire to remain where he was. If they were going to admit to them all that they were together, the other wasn't then going to just rush off back to his own pack and leave Anders to deal with questions and probable confusion by himself.

He would stay put at his side and face them with him; be that supportive figure that Anders would undoubtedly lead when he was face-to-face with his pack during the toughest moment of his life. He would need Ronan there and evidently, his mate had already considered everything and desired to stay where he now belonged: with Anders and their daughter.

The pack could be confused. They could display judgement and criticise their relationship all they wanted but nothing would alter the love they had for one another, nor disrupt the family unit they were intent on building upon with one another.

And knowing that was all about to happen for the both of them, that they could be open and finally start their lives together... it was hard for Anders to really take it all in without sniffling emotionally to himself.

He managed to counter that emotion eventually in order to spend the next few hours at Ronan's side, soaking in his company in the privacy of the hut - though Teddy had inevitably made her appearance somewhere within that time and so the hours had been spent enjoying the time with his little family all together for the first time. It wasn't hard to explain to the little girl who Ronan was; her admiration for Ronan was so high that hearing he was her father didn't provoke confusion. All it did was cause her excitement to skyrocket and seemingly justified her babbling on until dinnertime about how many fun things she could do with him, like fishing, that she couldn't do with Anders because of his sensitivity.

Luana's presence wasn't a distraction from the family scene because he considered her a part of that family. Anders had no doubt that it was difficult for her observe them happy and content as a family when her own was fractured, seemingly beyond repair, but he didn't want to just... freeze her out, not when Teddy especially seemed eager to get to know the woman who she had been introduced to as another auntie.

After the hours of excitability, the toddler had only just settled down in Anders' arms with tired yawns, her eyelids barely able to remain open. They shot open fully, however, when the door to the little hut opened with Tate returning after a day spent with his own daughter who he carried protectively in his arms.

"She, uh... she's real exhausted," he explained as he shut the door with the sole of his shoe, gently leaning down to place Tala on the bed with a proud smile unsubtly flickering across his expression. He was so caught up in the happiness the day had provided him with that he barely acknowledged the closeness between Ronan and Anders, nor the obvious chemistry bubbling between the two. Instead, he sat back at the table with an exhausted sigh, leaning his head in his hand as he peered towards Luana, hoping their earlier conversation about keeping the peace could remain intact.

"...We went swimmin' and then I took her on a walk in the forest; she was on my back when I shifted, that was pretty fun. I took her to the sacred clearing, told her about my ancestors an' all that. It was... great, I-- thanks for lettin' me take her by myself, Lu. It, uh... means a lot."
 

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As Tate entered the hut with Tala in his arms, Luana was briefly too caught up in the relaxed atmosphere with Ronan and Anders. Everything felt so normal, like things were all well and good and not what they were. It gave her a glimpse into what life could have been like if she hadn't left or had returned earlier like she had promised. Because of that, her broad and warm smile turned up towards the door and onto her former partner, eyes soft with fondness that translated from watching her friends fuss over their daughter to seeing her - former - mate walk in with their own daughter in his arms.

However, the little gremlin in the back of her head was soon reminding her of the truth of her situation. The brightness in her eyes dulled slightly and she was reminded of that emptiness. Tate wasn't hers anymore and she had no right to look at him the way she just did.

She was quick to make sure her eyes remained on Tala as he set the toddler onto the bed, vacating the chair Tate would take up soon after, to go and sit on the edge of the bed. Luana was careful not to move the bed too much, not wishing to disturb the two-year-old as she slept. The smile remained faint on her lips as she stroked Tala's hair, gently teasing strands back from the little one's face, before she leaned down to press a kiss against her temple.

"It was the least I could do," Luana murmured, reluctantly pulling away but ensuring to first cover Tala with a blanket, "I didn't wanna ruin anythin' for either of you. I'm glad you had a good time." She glanced briefly to him only to look away not long after. She walked over to where a jug of water and their glasses from before stood on a bedside table to pour a drink for him.

Lu hesitantly set it down on the table and pushed it across to him, not even sure if he would accept anything from her, despite their words earlier.

"I bet she loved it. I can't imagine she'll wanna talk about anythin' else when she wakes up." She continued, taking a few steps away to stand near the fire place where flames still crackled away, "She uh... she loves our wolf forms. Don't ask me why-- think it's somethin' to do with the 'floofiness', as she puts it."
 

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"The floofiness, huh? That's gotta be it, I ain't ever seen a kid as she was when I shifted. She loved it," he replied as he quietly set his gaze on the glass of water. He didn't want things to be awkward between him and Luana - he didn't necessarily find it in himself to forgive her considering the depth of his hurt and anger, but he wanted to at least exist peacefully when she was in his life; show her that he handle her presence with some level of maturity for Tala's sake.

He might have resentment harboured for her as a result of her decision to remain separated from their pack (she had explained herself but he still had problems with her choices; that was never going to change) but he also wanted to be the father Tala deserved: one that didn't snap and snarl at her mother at every given opportunity.

Even if it hurt, even if it reminded him of what they could be had she not left in the first place, he would put a smile on his face and act like all was swell between them. Even when Tala was asleep and oblivious to the discussion that would take place between her parents, it was important to continue making an effort with Luana.

Children weren't idiots; they could pick up on body language and atmosphere, and the more he snapped at Luana, the more of that negative atmosphere would be created. He didn't want to run the risk of Tala ever calling them out on it and so, even as she dozed, he did his best to accept the situation for what it was and not let it deteriorate into another argument.

If he had promised Tala he was going to do his best for her, then getting on with Luana was part of that deal.

""You 'ad a fun day with Anders and-- this guy then, yeah?" He murmured as he accepted the glass of water after those few seconds of contemplation, smiling even as he made little secret of the fact he hadn't cared too much to remember Ronan's name. He wasn't going to treat him horrendously even if he wasn't necessarily a fan of his, but he wasn't going to make an effort with him either - hence the inability to recall his name or care that much about his unsubtle forgetfulness.
 

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Luana turned her gaze down onto her feet after his response, body leaning against the jutting out frame of the window which sat near the fireplace. Her arms were crossed over her chest, head slightly bowed, hip jutting out as her body weight mainly remained on her one leg, the other bent at the knee. A tense stance, the woman awkward and immediately feeling as though she shouldn't be there. With Anders and Ronan she could forget she wasn't wanted. The same with Daisy and Sasha and Teddy. But the moment Tate walked in the room, it was a different story.

He made little secret of how much he detested her and how much she now disgusted him. No amount of apologising or grovelling would ever change that. No matter how many times she explained what she had done was done as a parent to protect their child, it wouldn't be heard. And she never expected her own reasons of fear would ever be accepted.

Ronan glanced between the two, fidgeting slightly where he sat on the bed with his back resting against the wall behind him. The atmosphere was palpable, and during their time in the hut, just the three of them, he had agreed countless times with Anders that Luana just needed to talk to Tate and to have it out with him completely. To no longer hide any secrets. But his friend had none of it. She knew what reaction she would get if she told Tate she still loved him, still needed him, still wanted him. She knew she would be laughed at. She knew she would get some harsh comment in response when she told him she had trained hard to be the mate he deserved, and the alpha the pack needed. Luana knew she wouldn't be heard if she told him just how inadequate she felt the entire time before she left, incapable and not even a proper werewolf. Inadequate to be a mate or an alpha. And now she was wondering if she was completely inadequate about being a mother.

Her gaze lifted at his blatant disregard for Ronan, frowning lightly as she looked between the male couple on the bed and back to her former partner. Her arms slowly moved from where they were positioned across her chest, to push hands into pockets, the only other movement she made as she watched him.

"Ronan. His name is Ronan." Luana answered calmly, for the sake of a sleeping Tala and a half-awake Teddy. Ronan cleared his throat, noting the jumping muscle in his friend's jaw, "Lu--"

She glanced to him, which caused him to quieten down, before Luana looked back to Tate, "Now-- now I can take you disregardin' me and disrespectin' me, Tate, but you ain't got no reason to be like that with Ronan. He's done nothin' to ya except be an Uncle to your daughter. If you're goin' be civil to me, then you need to extend that to him because I'm tellin' ya for a fact, Tala's goin' notice if her Pa ain't gettin' on with her Uncle too."

Luana knew bringing Tala into the situation might, even if begrudgingly, get Tate to behave, as it were. It didn't take long for her to realise that what Tate would do now would be for his daughter's benefit, and she would see to it he meant it when he said he wanted to be a good father.
 

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"How is me forgetting the guy's name fuckin' disrespectful? Am I supposed to remember that, Lu? 'Cos I really only just properly met the man, it ain't my fault if his name slipped my damn mind, is it? Honestly, if you expect me to recall the name of someone who's mostly inconsequential to me, that's on you; it ain't my fault you thought I'd take him into consideration," he grunted in reply, slightly taken aback by the reprimanding he hadn't quite expected to receive when all he had done was misremember someone's name - or more accurately, forget it entirely.

He could see how that could be disregarding -as his subsequent dismissive explanation served to prove- but he refused to accept that he was being disrespectful when he had no ulterior motive to hurt Ronan; not when he genuinely hadn't recalled his name and didn't really care to apologise for it when it wasn't that big of a deal in his head.

He wouldn't be all that offended if Ronan forget his name and admitted as such aloud - even if he had no doubt heard Tate's name frequently over the two years. In contrast, Tate had no recollection of even really meeting Ronan before so being told he was disrespectful for failing to even know his name did make him smirk in disbelief.

He couldn't really be angry about it when it just made him laugh in how ridiculous the situation was. It was hardly something to get angry about but the sternness on his former girlfriend's face clearly said otherwise.

"Oh god, alright; 'm sorry, Ronan. I'm sorry if your name's pretty fuckin' forgettable to me, I didn't go forgetting it out of malice. I'll remember it in future-- 'ya happy now?" He huffed as he averted his gaze back to Luana, making a point to roll his eyes to really hammer in the fact he thought being chastised was ridiculous when it was over something he saw as pretty minuscule in severity.

"...It's just a respect thing, Tate. Like... I dunno... just don't be a dick to him, he's important to Tala an'... Teddy likes him lots, so..."

"I didn't know you were fuckin' buddies with him," the elder brother commented as he finally turned his attention to the closeness between the other two men, head tilting a little in examination of that proximity. "You know he's the guy that helped kidnap 'ya two years ago, right? The guy you fuckin' punched? I mean, do whatever you want And, but... don't be naive."

"I'm not being naive, he's not a bad guy." Anders stubbornly replied as it was his turn to his roll his eyes. He wanted to go easy on Tate and understand that things were inevitably difficult for him right now with Luana's return, but hearing him be so dismissive towards Ronan was hardly easy. It also didn't fare well for the eventual confession - if he disliked him, there was little chance of that suddenly changing if he knew they were mates. "A-Anyway-- are you comin' out to eat dinner with everyone, Lu? You're... welcome to, y'know. I want you to."
 

Viverescribere

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"Cause I saw that little smile on your mouth, Tate. Smirkin' away when you didn't say his name like it was a funny, clever thing. Dunno why else you'd be smilin', certainly not at the idea of me havin' an enjoyable day." Luana retorted, "An' watch your mouth, Tala might be asleep but Teddy is still half-awake."

She wasn't sure how entirely true that was, but she didn't want him swearing in Tala's presence regardless of if she was sleeping or not anyway. It just welcomed bad habits and a slip up would happen eventually.

A soft grumble echoed from her chest, the growl escaping before she could even halt it at the eye roll he directed towards her. It would be moments like this where he acted petulantly that Luana knew she would struggle. Her guilt would always be there, in the back of her mind, but the strength her wolf possessed now meant the beast wasn't as weak within her. Any shows of disrespect towards her packmates wouldn't be tolerated.

"Ecstatic." Luana muttered dryly, pushing herself away from the fireplace to place herself once more by Tala's bed.

She stayed out of the brother's conversation for a moment, slowly lowering to her knees so she could lean against the side of the bed and cradle an arm around the top of Tala's hair. She stroked fingers through strands of her daughter's slightly-curled locks, eyes closing as she took a deep breath in of her pup's scent. That day had been the first she had ever had been away for Tala from breakfast until dinner. The pup had always been with her in some way or another, even while Luana was training. It had been odd to be separated from the toddler, but she knew she would have to get used to it from now on.

"Technically-- technically I didn't kidnap anyone..." Ronan pointed out, shifting uncomfortably on the bed. He didn't enjoy being the topic of argument between his mate and his mate's sibling, "And-- and I guess some people are just more forgivin' than others. More willin' to forgive and forget." Ronan couldn't help the comment, shrugging nonchalantly but his eyes were averted, unable to meet any gazes with the tension in the room. "That's not naivety. In fact I think that's rather mature."

He could berate Tate when it was them alone, but that was because it was just them two. He could speak his mind without anyone else reacting or getting involved. This time there were many other factors.

Luana froze at Ronan's comment, blinking, and then exhaling heavily with a shake of her head. She raised her head to look at Anders, fingers going back to their movements in Tala's hair, "I... don't think that's a good idea. I can imagine some people are still... takin' it all in..." Luana murmured, grasping the change in subject gratefully, "...and Tala's sleepin'. I-- I think I'll stay in here tonight. It's... been a long day, I don't wanna deal with... that." She confessed, gaze dropping back to the sleeping pup.

Finding out Tate almost killed himself had been a lot to handle and it had drained her of pretty much everything. She already hated herself for that, she didn't need people in the pack reminding her of just how badly they hated her too. Not to mention, she didn't have an appetite. Despite not having eaten all day, Luana lacked the desire to eat anything.

"Unless...?" Luana frowned lightly, peering back up to her friend, uncertain as to if his question was just a casual checking-in to see if she would join the rest of the pack for dinner, or if he wanted her there because he was going to tell them all the truth.
 

potassiumboron

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"Unless what? You either want to go out an' eat with my pack or you don't; there ain't really a third option available to 'ya, Luana. Stop complicating shit," the alpha grunted in barely contained contempt as he rolled his eyes at the fuss he assumed she was making of things, understandably unaware that the hesitation came from a place of care and consideration for Anders and whether this was the moment he was willing to confess everything or not. Being oblivious to that, it was hard for Tate to take Luana's words in as anything other than an unnecessary fuss and, given how irked he now was at being chastised and thereby willing to see the worst in her, a demand for attention.

It wasn't the case, far from it, and he would probably change his mind on the attention-seeking aspect he had childishly decided she was currently presenting, but he wasn't to know the reason behind her words or the glance sent to Anders. That didn't mean he had to call her out on them, but when she had done the same and decided to reprimand him for his forgetfulness and the apparent smirk that had accompanied it, he didn't see anything wrong in returning the favour.

Even if his words possessed a venomous slant to them that hers didn't.

Anders, however, knew precisely what she was hinting at, smiling gratefully across to her in realisation that she was prepared to live by her promise and be at his side when he needed her - even if going out to face the pack was probably the last thing she wanted to do. It was hearing her resistance to do that that caused Anders' guilt to spike a little, unable to contemplate bringing her out to stand by him and putting her through any discomfort. She might have promised him her presence when he called upon her for it, and he would ask her for that favour, but he couldn't do so now; not when everything was still so raw.

He could wait a few days for her to acclimatise to being back amongst the pack and their new opinions of her. Besides, how could he confess anything to anyone when Tate was in such a mood? He wanted his brother's acceptance and he wasn't sure he would even get it if he was in a good mood, so like hell was he about to admit something so personal when Tate was as pissed off as he was.

"I, uh... it's cool if you don't want to eat with us; maybe another time, in a few days?" Anders replied carefully, to both hint at his preferred date to come out and to avoid Tate's suspicion growing and calling them out on information they knew but weren't sharing. Fortunately, the alpha seemed distracted by stoking the fire to even notice the hinted messages, grumbling under his breath as he continued to poke at the fire to give his hands something to do.
 

Viverescribere

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It was difficult to keep herself from reacting to Tate's sharp response, the only suggestion that his words got to her came in the form of her averting her gaze from Anders for a breath or two. It wasn't just the spiteful tone in which his words came drenched in, but also his choice of wording. 'My pack', he had said. At one point it had been considered their pack; she had been so excited and hopeful about what she could do for those that were undoubtedly gathering around the fireplace at that very moment. Yet...

"I ain't that hungry anyways so then yea', I think I'll stay here tonight with Tala. But if-- if you could bring Tala a bowl, I'd be grateful." She finally answered, directing her request to Anders with a forced smile, "Or Daisy, really. Whoever ain't busy." She added the last part pointedly, not wanting to aggravate Tate any more than he already clearly was.

She didn't need him to start on her just because she didn't ask him to bring his daughter food. She also knew he'd potentially be busy that evening, so didn't want to trouble him with such a request.

Not to mention she didn't want her head bitten off for a second time in such quick succession.

Her head turned slightly so she could catch a glimpse at Tate by the fire, fingers trailing over the skin of her lower arm. Abruptly, she looked away and pressed her hands against the bed, knuckles going white with the force, "I still need to have a proper wash too... I ain't had one since we left to come here. I only had a quick one when I got back from my-- run." She glanced to Ronan, hesitating, "Would you be alrigh' to keep an eye on Tala if I went when everyone was eatin'?"

There was a part of her that wanted to go with someone she trusted, if only to feel safer. Luana would have liked to have thought that no one would bring harm to her now with Tate informing them she would be sticking around and being Tala's mother, therefore the mother of their alpha's child... but after their reactions yesterday, Luana couldn't be certain of anything. However, there were two things she was certain of: one, she was stronger and more capable than before; she could defend herself and fight well. And two, she couldn't allow anyone in the pack now to know she harboured the slightest bit of fear toward them.

Ronan frowned, sitting up a little better, "Yeah, course that's fine. But Lu--" She shook her head, understanding the look in his eye that suggested he had the same concerns as she did, "I'd be back before she had to go to bed, I can spend some time with her then. I'd go wash when everyone else's'sleepin' but I don't want her to wake up to me bein' gone and get scared." She bent over to press her lips once more to Tala's head before straightening again.

Reluctantly she turned to face Tate, hands slowly slipping into trouser pockets, "You ought to go get some food-- she takes up just as much of our energy as her own." She said, eyes darting back and forth to his figure, "You-- ah-- you're goin' need to get some grub down your neck for tomorrow if you're a hell's chance of hope in keepin' up with her. B-besides I'm sure... Leah's gotta'be lookin' for you."

It pained her to say such words, a lump forming in her throat that made her almost incapable of adding the final sentence. Her eyes remained at the window as she mentioned the other woman, knowing how incapable she was really at hiding her emotions in any regards to him. Just as she had once been to him, he still was one of her greatest weaknesses.
 

potassiumboron

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Stubbornly refusing to pay any attention to the conversation that proceeded without him, Tate focused his attention instead on the crackling fireplace as though it was the most interesting thing in the room. He didn't want to direct his attention to Ronan and have that gaze misconstrued as a glare of intimidation, nor could he even find comfort in glancing towards his brother when he felt like that wasn't even an avenue he could find support in any more.

The closeness that Anders had had with Luana was always obvious to anyone in the pack and Tate wasn't so stubborn that he expected that bond to remain buried and left to rot, unwelcome and ignored, but he had at least hoped that his younger brother would have his back more than he had. His silence in refusing to even speak up for Tate and come to his defence was deafening. Tate wasn't going to hold a grudge about it nor even bring it up and cause an unnecessary argument... but he did make note of Anders' choice regardless.

His attention only diverted when he heard Luana addressing him specifically, glancing towards her as his mind worked to put together the words that had drifted past without full acknowledgement, and when he had, his lips parted into a faint frown - albeit not one of disgruntlement or annoyance. The mention of Leah was one he knew was bound to hurt her, especially when she was the one to bring it up and have the name leave her lips. For all his anger at Luana, Tate couldn't deny that he would feel hurt if she had found happiness with someone else, but if he had left for two entire years without word on the security of his relationship, he also knew he couldn't harbour resentment if she chose to move on.

"...Leah ain't gonna fuss, she's cool like that; she knows I've been with Tala so she won't go pesterin' me about spendin' time with her. She gets it, that's... the good thing about her. She understands shit better than most people do," he shrugged in response, feeling awkward at having to continue the conversation about Leah but avoiding the topic entirely was childish - she was an important person in his life and she was always going to be around the pack, in full view. He wasn't about to hide his relationship just because it might make Luana a little uncomfortable.

She was the one who left - he didn't have to do her any favours at all.

"I'll... grab some food, yeah. Dase can bring Tala somethin'," he confirmed after a moment of unsubtly awkward silence, forcing a neutral expression onto his face as he reached for the door handle and gave a nod towards Anders, the younger brother reluctantly pulling himself to his feet and heading after the other. "You can come out and eat with us if you change your mind, if Tala wants to. I ain't gonna stop 'ya, Lu."
 

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"I'm glad you're... you're finally happy."

It was the truth, Luana was pleased that her mate was happy. It was that bond, that mate link between them, that had her long for anything that made her mate happy. It was simply painful that she wasn't it. Each time she thought about him being with Leah, whether it be simply put by the fireplace or in the hut or in bed together, it was like a serrated knife was sawing through her chest, cutting deeper and deeper, leaving behind a huge mess.

That feeling was the reason why she avoided looking at him, and why her voice broke halfway through her claim, despite it being sincere.

As Tate reached the door, Luana was quick to take his place at the fireplace, body partially turned so her expression was mostly hidden. She didn't hate Tate for moving on, that was actually the last thing she felt. She stood by her desire to see him enjoying his life in whatever way would best bring him that happiness. However, she was incapable of ignoring the bond she had expected to rekindle upon returning. That innate part of her did hate seeing another touching what was considered to be hers, but Luana knew she had to squash that down. She had caused so much pain to him already, all she could do now was let him be happy. And she couldn't bring him that anymore, that much was obvious.

"I'm fine, honestly. I ain't hungry." She repeated, "I'll-- uh... I'll go bathe while everyone else is busy eatin', Dase brought towels earlier this mornin'." Luana cleared her throat, "Ronan can... can always brin' Tala out if she wants to join. People out there don't have as much of a reason to hate him, they might go easier on him an' Tala."

Luana was also thinking of how it allowed everyone to get an opportunity with each other. Ronan could sit with Anders for dinner with the excuse of allowing Tala time with her cousin Teddy, while also giving Tate more time with his daughter without her there... As much as it pained her to think of it too, it could also be the opportunity needed to introduce Tala to Leah. Although Luana wasn't very eager to hear about 'Dada's friend'. It would just have to be another hard pill to swallow.

"Rest up, I'm sure she'll be beggin' to do more with you tomorrow." Luana added on, a lightness to her voice that rang hollow despite her best intentions. "I'll see ya in the mornin', now, I guess."
 

potassiumboron

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The awkwardness lingering in the room was becoming more painful by the minute, though Tate could hardly just storm out to distinguish it when that felt rude - and as little of an effort he made to hide his annoyance and anger with Luana, he was also determined to try and move forward with her, for Tala's sake.

Storming out of the scene whenever something awkward or emotionally wrought came up into the conversation wasn't going to improve anything between them, with the only way they could ever move forward being to accept that things were different, however hurtful that inevitably was for Luana when the 'different' thing she was having to come to terms with was her mate being with someone that wasn't her.

Similarly, he didn't want to continue to twist the knife into Luana (however inadvertently it was) but he couldn't just ignore talking about Leah and their relationship. If anything, the more they talked openly about the existence of that relationship, the more it could be normalised and recognised - and in time, perhaps it wouldn't be so big of a deal. That was wishful thinking, admittedly, but all Tate could do right now was cling to it.

"...Yeah, well... I am. Happy, I mean. She does a good job at helpin' me with that I guess," he continued with another dismissive shrug, uncomfortable displaying the full emotion despite the other's insistence that she was happy for him. Boasting about his relationship and the love he felt within it wasn't something he wanted to do when everything for Luana was as raw as it was. He could be angry with her, but he wasn't going to go out of his way to be an asshole.

"Yeah, see 'ya in the mornin'-- I'll spend the day with Tala again, she tired me out but... I wouldn't change it for the world, today was fuckin' great," he concluded, happy to leave on a lighter note as he managed a smile and slipped out into the cold, followed quietly by Anders who offered his own smile (one inevitably tinged with sympathy) before leaving himself.
 

Viverescribere

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Luana had allowed herself the briefest of spells of comfort from Roman after the other two men left. The other man pushing himself carefully from the bed to wrap an arm around his friend's shoulder. She didn't bother to reassure him that she was fine because... what would have been the point? They both would have known that wouldn't have been the truth.

Taking a moment to collect herself, she reluctantly pulled herself away and patted Ronan's shoulder, smiling faintly. She was grateful that things were at least on the mend with him and Anders. At least some good had finally come out from them returning to her former pack. Ronan had gotten his mate back, and Luana had her best friend once more at her side.

"I'm a'goin' bathe. " Luana murmured, collecting the towel that was drying on the fire guard. "Just let her know I'll be back if she wakes up. I'm sure Dase'll be here soon with food, or maybe Anders again since Teddy's still passed out here too." She shrugged, throwing the towel over her shoulder.

"Are you-- are you sure you don't want me comin' with you?" Ronan asked, a hand holding his friend's arm to keep her there for a moment, "Maybe it's best just to have someone to watch your back. You never know what could happen, 'specially with some of them as emotional as they were when you turned back up."

She exhaled heavily, free hand running through her hair as she considered his words, "Nah... nah... I'll be fine. I'll be quick." She eventually shook her head, receiving a dubious look in return, "Honestly. I ain't goin' to be hangin' around anyways. I need to be back for Tala."

It was with great reluctance that Ronan allowed his friend to leave the hut without him. Of course she had done so that morning to go for a run after hearing what had happened about Tate, but that was different. She wasn't going to a communal pack spot, nor was she in her more vulnerable human form. Ronan rubbed the back of his neck anxiously, staring at the closed door long after his friend had left.

The creaking of one of the beds had him turning back around to look at the two sleeping girls, smiling a little at the sight before he moved to sit at the table, although pulling his chair a little closer to the fire not long afterwards to get some warmth.
 

potassiumboron

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With his daughter still sleeping peacefully within the hut, Anders had the perfect excuse to head back in once dinner had been prepared. Venturing in without that excuse on hand would have inevitably caused a few people to question why he was so willing to spend time alone in a hut with a man they thought he barely knew, rather than sit with his family and friends. Fortunately, he didn't need to counter such questions when the sight of Anders heading back to the formerly abandoned hut was explained immediately by Teddy's presence within it.

And while she was the reason he had returned, the fact his mate was there too was a particularly nice bonus.

Entering the home as quietly as he could to avoid rudely awakening the two toddlers from their slumber (they would have to stir in order to enjoy dinner but he knew from experience that Teddy didn't take kindly to abrupt awakenings), he shot his mate a smile as he balanced the plates in both hands and used the sole of his boot to shut the door behind him.

"I thought we'd eat in here together, yeah? Just us an' the girls, rather than out there-- I'm not in the mood to deal with Tate's fuckin' attitude right now, he's pissed off with me an'... an' I ain't gonna whine about it, it'll drive me mad," he snorted under his breath when he realised that giving the conversation energy was only going to irk him and that was what he was seeking to avoid. Time with Ronan was something he wanted to take full advantage of while he could - he was determined to reveal their bond to the pack and be fearlessly open in enjoying his company, but doing so would open the questions and judgement from his pack.

Just enjoying time with his mate before that occurred, free of the worries it would cause him, was important, and he wasn't prepared to sour it with grumbles about his older brother's mood.

Kneeling down to gently stir away the toddlers, he took a seat opposite Ronan at the little table once Teddy had properly come around out of her slumber, watching in faint amusement as she whined and grumbled up until noticing the food on the table, her mood switching immediately once her hunger kicked in.

"We can spend some time together tomorrow, if 'ya fancy it? Just you, me an' Teddy - it's kinda long overdue, ain't it?" He continued as his gaze settled on his mate's face. "We could take a walk in the woods, go 'exploring'."