A Wolf Among The Sheep

Viverescribere

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Luana blinked at Anders' quick, and perhaps even sharp, defence of himself and his actions. She hadn't meant anything by her words, only seeking to reassure her friend. She wanted Anders to be happy and able to do everything she was doing with Tate with Ronan. It was completely unfair that he still felt the need to hide what was truly happening between him and Ronan, and she didn't want that for either of the two men. Nor did she want it for Teddy, who then obviously had to follow her father's ruling and not show Ronan too much attention in public.

On any other occasion, she would have protested and told him she wasn't critiquing him at all. That she simply wanted to ease his anxieties and soothe his worried mind. But after the events of the day, Luana found herself instead remaining silent, tongue-tied by the retorts her friend provided.

The comments about her sitting on Tate's lap and having her arms around him had her quietly withdrawing them, settling her hands into her lap as she realised just how intensely she had embraced her mate. She knew she was allowed to, especially considering they had had apart and with him recently deciding to rekindle their relationship, but hearing it come out of Anders' mouth the way it did... it suddenly made her uncomfortable. Like she ought to be focusing on the more important things - like Tala - instead of remaining in her mate's embrace.

His phrasing also stung, 'shacking up with the pack's alpha', more than she really wished to admit it did. Especially when it wasn't really a luxury at the moment, with people thinking she shouldn't be given a second chance with him.

Eventually, Luana cleared her throat softly and rubbed her hands over her thighs before pushing herself to her feet and therefore out of Tate's lap. "I'm, ah, I'm goin'ta go an' get Tala from Sasha." She told both men, forcing a small smile to her lips, "You... you bring Teddy by when you're, uh, when you're ready, Anders. After dinner, maybe-- or before. Whenever. We can, uh... she can have dinner with us if you wanted to head off sooner."

Briefly, she looked back to Tate, "I'll be... I'll be in the hut with 'er, when dinner's ready." She told him, keeping the smile in place for a little longer before turning and leaving, heading directly for Sasha's hut to collect their pup.
 

potassiumboron

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The reaction to his words didn't make Anders feel great, understandably. He hadn't intended to prick a nerve or deliver what he felt he had to say in a way that came across as not only defensive but unnecessarily mean-spirited - that was the last thing he wanted when things were finally getting back on track for him, if only on an emotional level.

Everything else with the pack might be in a state of uncertainty (what with the oncoming threat of the hunters to worry about) but personally, Anders had never felt as calm as he did now, with the news of Georgia finally off his chest and the concern he had for her now shared amongst family members who would inevitably pitch in to help whenever they were called upon to do so.

He had no reason to disrupt that progress by creating tension with one of the people closest to him, but it appeared as though he had inadvertently managed to do that. He withheld a sigh in case it was misconstrued by Tate, whose narrowed eyes and clenched jaw made it even more difficult to comprehend the hurt he might have caused Luana.

Understandably desperate to avoid a chastisement from his older brother (who naturally wanted to see his daughter and not have to handle more drama with his younger siblings), Anders mumbled an excuse to leave and, without waiting for a response, headed out into the fresh air in search of Ronan.

Given his trepidation about his relationship (a concern that only really existed because of his regrettable tendency to overthink to the point of panic), he perhaps wouldn't approach Ronan in public without needing a good enough reason... but having someone to talk to who he hadn't upset or disappointed in some capacity was a seemingly ever-thinning list.

Granted, he wasn't sure Ronan would remain on that list if he knew that their hand-holding earlier that day wasn't quite the statement of intent Anders had pretended it was; that, instead, he had backtracked in spectacular fashion and no longer considered telling the pack a priority.

Though, for obvious reasons, he was choosing not to volunteer that information just yet.

"Hey," he greeted as casually as he could, taking a seat on the log a little way from the centre of the pack; at a distance from everyone else to make his desire for a little privacy obvious but still close enough to them all to avoid seeming shut-off or rude. He managed a smile across to his mate, knowing that the expression couldn't be construed any other way than friendliness, before setting his hands on his own knees to compose himself.

"You're still comin' to get Georgia with me, ain't 'ya? Teddy's with the twins an' Lu said she'd mind 'er for the night so, uh... you can stay in my hut with me an' Georgia tonight if you wanted? So she can learn that you ain't a threat or anything."
 

Viverescribere

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Ronan glanced up at sound of his mate's voice, smiling in response to seeing him, "Hey." He answered softly, shifting over to make a little more room for him on the log. His eyes ran over Anders' face, studying the male beside him for a moment. While he may not have spent much time, if any really, with him... there was something in his gut telling him something was off. His positioning didn't seem very relaxed, his hands on his knees not the most laid back. But he supposed his mate had had a bit of a day, with them all springing a sort of intervention onto him, confessing to Georgia's discovery, dealing with Tate's wrath and then having to step in before Luana ripped a banished pack member apart.

"Uh, yeah... yeah of course. I'd love to stay with you-- with you both. Anythin' I can do to help. I can only imagine she needs all the support she can get right now." He answered, having remained quiet in his thoughts before realising that Anders was expecting a reply.

After another moment, he slid a little closer, not thinking anything of it after their rather open display earlier in the day. Anders had kissed him, after all. Not in the safety of the hut, but outside, in front of the pack members who had been out by the fire. And he had kissed him again afterwards. Their very open, very public displays of love for one another could not have been denied. So why would he think that Anders would try to hide it all over again now?

"Is everythin' alright? I mean, I know you're worried about Georgia an' probably now worried about Lu an' Tate an' Daisy cause of what happened this afternoon... then there's Teddy an' stuff... Hell, just sayin' it all out loud now I'm realisin' how much you must 'ave goin' on in that head of yours." He chuckled a little, trying to lighten his question, "But, I don't know, Anders... you seem a little more tense than usual."

He hesitated but soon was pressed against his mate's side, placing an arm over his shoulder and reaching for Anders' nearest hand, "You know you got me to share the burden with, right? I mean, you ain't gotta deal with this all on your own anymore. Anythin' you wanna talk about an' stuff, I'm 'ere for you. I'm 'ere to help you through it, like you're 'ere to help me through it." He smiled faintly, giving his mate's hand a squeeze, "You're my mate. We got this together, yeah?"
 

potassiumboron

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The shift from Ronan to get closer to him and the proceeding abundance of affection, whether it be the supportive hand squeeze or arm over his shoulder, was inevitable - but it didn't mean Anders didn't stiffen and feel a wave of almost discomfort run through him. He, of course, enjoyed the close proximity with his mate, particularly when it had been severely lacking in their relationship as a whole with today being the only day where they had really shared anything intimate with one another.

It was just regrettable that it had coincided with another of Anders' overthought periods of worrying. The public kiss and hand-holding earlier that morning meant nothing in his eyes; not when he hadn't officially announced anything to the constantly observant pack. They could assume all they wanted from their body language and physical actions, but assumptions made for awkward environments. It was better to inform them all of what Ronan meant to him, and if they proceeded to gossip about it, at least they would be doing so fully aware that what Anders felt was genuine and special.

Until that happened, he couldn't just ease back and accept the affection; not when he was constantly on edge, peering about to take note of every person glancing in his direction, no doubt taking in the sight and making their own assumptions on what it meant.

"I'm not-- I ain't dealing with it alone, I know I got you an' the others. I mean, maybe not Lu right now 'cos I've been an idiot an' pissed her off, but-- I don't wanna go into that. I'll apologise for it, it ain't that big of a deal," he shrugged, feeling obligated to at least mention the tense interaction if only to avoid a confrontation with Ronan too - he didn't imagine his mate would appreciate finding out about a disagreement between his close friend and his mate at a much later date, especially if he learnt about it from a third party like Tate.

"I ain't more tense than usual anyway, what the fuck does that mean? That I'm normally tense? I ain't being funny, Ronan, but you don't really know me, do you? Not really. You don't know how tense I am normally 'cos we ain't spent that much time together," he continued, the same sharp delivery he had inadvertently adopted with Luana making a return - though he at least caught and recognised it this time, grimacing to himself as he shifted back from Ronan and averted his gaze to his knees.

"Sorry, I-- I just don't feel comfortable with-- all this, y'know? Not yet. The kiss earlier, I meant that, I-- I meant what I said after it too, I just... right now, I can't give any energy towards our relationship. I got Georgia to look after, an' then there's the whole deal with those humans, you'll probably be manpower so you'll be involved in plans to fight 'em off, an'-- y'know, there's just too much going on right now, Ro. I can't focus on you an' I 'cos it just ain't-- it ain't a priority to me."
 

Viverescribere

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As Anders snapped at him, Ronan slowly began to peel away from his mate. The words hurt, and he couldn't deny that they didn't. He was, as Anders in the past had hinted to, a bit of a teddy bear under the hard exterior he presented. So to hear his mate harshly tell him a few truths that Ronan hadn't really wanted to hear, the male pulled his arms and hands back to himself, clearing his throat softly after as he looked towards the fire.

He knew that he didn't know Anders that well, that their time apart had put a dent in their emotional development with one another and hindered any chance of them getting to know one another like mates did. However, the time that they did have, he had learned without a doubt that his mate was a worrier. He knew that Anders was an overthinker and needed reassuring from time to time, but Ronan didn't care about that in the slightest. All he wanted to do was make his mate feel safe and loved.

Instead now he was the one receiving all these mixed messages. One moment Anders wanted them to be together, they were going to announce it and then they could be a family with Teddy. Then the next he wanted to hide it. A few days later, he was kissing him in front of the rest of the pack. And now they were back to Anders pretty much blowing off any sort of relationship they could, or would, have.

While he wanted to be there for Anders, and tell his mate it was all fine and that he understood... the words simply would come to Ronan's lips. Every time he considered saying so, his mouth would just dry up and his tongue would become heavier.

On the third try, Ronan simply closed his mouth and slapped his hands against his thighs, turning his head back to look out onto the fireplace. He cleared his throat, and then his chest, He exhaled heavily afterwards and leaned forward, Anders' words continuing to sting the longer his mate dragged out the explanation.

It certainly didn't fill him with a warm fuzzy feeling to hear his mate tell him that he wasn't a priority. Ronan had been in the same position once before with another male who he thought had understood what it was like and he even wondered would be his mate. He was 17 when he had his heart broken for the first time. Broken and humiliated. And he was starting to feel a little humiliated all over again with Anders' constant yoyoing and not knowing what was going to happen next.

"...I mean, this all sounds like bullshit to me, Anders." Ronan answered bluntly, his voice a little rough as he contained the majority of his emotions, "Complete an' utter bullshit. Like-- you're the one that kissed me first. A-An' the one who made the big gesture in front of everyone else." He snorted, turning his head away from his mate as he attempted to remain composed, a heavy and shaking sigh hinting to the control he was having to maintain.

"Too much goin' on right now-- alrigh', fine. You got too much goin' on, lemme make one thing a lot easier for you. Take me off your plate, 'cause I-- I ain't doin' this back-an'-forth with you no more, Anders. One minute you want the whole world to know, the next you don't, an' then you want people to know again. I-- I ain't doin' this again." He pushed himself to his feet, back tense and a harsh sniff sounding from the man, "I ain't sayin' don't take care of the girl, cause she deserves some help after the fuckin' mess she's been put through, an' I don't care about being a priority. Just... don't act like I am one minute an' then drop me the next 'cause it's all gettin' too much for you, yeah?"

He finally looked to Anders, shoving his hands into his pockets, the emotion still bubbling away underneath the surface, "So you just take care of Georgia tonight. I'll sleep in the hut with Ted. That's one less thin' for you to focus your energy onto." He lingered there for a moment before shrugging passively and leaving the other werewolf on the log, heading to the fire to grab a bowl of food for himself and his daughter.
 

potassiumboron

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Perhaps Anders was anticipating his mate to immediately confirm an agreement; to back him up on his viewpoint and proclaim an understanding for the apparent difficulties he was having in presenting their relationship to the world.

Even if that wasn't the case and he knew he would be met with the same disagreement with the decision that both Luana and Tate had displayed, perhaps he at least thought that Ronan, in an attempt to keep the peace and prevent falling out when they had their family back together again (even if Anders felt uncomfortable enjoying the dynamic in public).

Either way, what was certain was that he hadn't expected his mate in the wat he had, the disbelief unsubtle as it flashed across his features. He was more expressive than some of his siblings were, more incapable of hiding what emotions raged beneath his surface, and now was a perfect example of that as astonishment and hurt mingled together, painfully stinging his expression despite his desperate efforts to pull himself together.

He was naive, a fact he wouldn't even try to argue against given the obviousness of it, but he wasn't so naive that he was oblivious to his flip-flopping, and how confusing and irritating it was to those closest to him - especially Ronan, the main person impacted by them. He knew that openly kissing the man with promises that he was done hiding away was offering him hope, and that ripping it from him by his backtracking and the return of his overthinking and his fear was bound to hurt and humiliate his mate in equal measure.

But he couldn't help how he felt, nor was he going to put himself in an awkward position, one he wasn't comfortable with, just to please him. In an ideal world, he would be able to take the man by the hand and feel confident doing so, but life wasn't that simple, not for Anders at least.

And when there were other matters in his life, like that of Georgia, he couldn't justify putting his energy into a relationship that he already had difficulty -and stress- trying to figure out, at least in terms of displaying it publicly to the pack. The simplest solution, in his eyes, was to ensure that other stresses in his life were quashed and dealt with first, freeing up time whereby he could dedicate himself entirely to the love he had for Ronan.

Evidently, Ronan didn't quite agree with such a mindset.

"You're just gonna fucking walk away then? Abandon the conversation an' just walk off? You're good at that, y'know. Abandoning me. Dunno why I'm surprised," he eventually responded, albeit bitterly as the full force of his anger rose to the surface. He got to his feet quietly, his jaw clenched tightly and his gaze averted elsewhere, knowing eye contact with the other would set him off - whether tearfully or angrily, he didn't know and wasn't prepared to find out.

"Fuck you then. Whatever. If we're over, if you're packin' it in like a goddamn child 'cos I wanted to focus on a kid who needs me 'cos she ain't got nobody else right now, then do it. It ain't like I'm gonna mourn the death of our relationship, Ro. We didn't fuckin' 'ave one to begin with s-so-- so yeah. Fuck you. You're doin' me a favour, I ain't got the energy to deal with-- w-with you throwing a tantrum, so... s-so that's fine by me. Find someone else in this pack to give you all the attention you think you deserve, I ain't gon' be jealous."
 

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Ronan ensured to keep his composure, refusing to allow his emotions the opportunity to overflow. He was trying to be as calm about it as possible, hence his less than emotional response. He had stated his feelings, made it known that he wasn't about to deal with anymore uncertainty in a way that was more logic than emotion. He would continue down that path. There was no point the two of them becoming heated, and if Tate was anything to go off... Ronan knew that Anders would be similar to his brother.

"I literally just fuckin' said I ain't carin' about you goin' off to be with the kid, Anders. So don't go puttin' fuckin' words in my mouth. I'd be there with her myself, with you, if I knew you weren't goin'ta be overthinkin' if people saw us goin' into the hut together-- go on, I dare you to deny you weren't worryin' about that." He held his mate's gaze, a bowl in either hand as he stared the other down.

"I'm abandonin' anythin' that's fuckin' toxic to me-- which is this conversation. You ain't got the energy to deal with me throwin' a-a tantrum, you call it? Well, I ain't dealin' with a replay of the past. I've been 'ere before, Anders. Promised one thin' an' given another time an' fuckin' again. I ain't bein' another fuckin' yoyo for someone to string along again." He placed one of the bowls down on the log, leaning back not long after.

He took in a deep breath, the knuckle of his thumb - which was curved over the top of the bowl intended for Teddy - turning white from the intensity of his grip as he relived some of those painful memories.

"I ain't abandonin' you, Anders. An' I am goin'ta wait until you're finally ready. But until that time comes... I ain't goin'ta be listenin' to any more false promises of bein' together an' hearin' that we'll be tellin' everyone or bein' swayed into believin' that things'll be different with a kiss." Ronan eventually continued, swallowing back the bitterness that had settled on his tongue, "Besides, you're the one who just said you ain't got enough energy to give our relationship-- an' to me, that means me. I'm just doin' you a fuckin' favour, right? Ain't this what you want? One less fuckin' issue to have to consider. Maybe I should fuck off-- clearly you were doin' just fine without me."
 

potassiumboron

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"I said I ain't got energy for us right now. So don't you go twistin' my words neither 'cos I never said I was wanting to take a break; just that I couldn't focus on us for a while. Temporarily. Until shit 'round here settled down. Stop being so fucking precious, Ronan; I ain't gonna drop everything to smooth your ego, 'kay? Not when there's a pup who needs me to look out for 'er," came Anders' (inevitably) heated remark, his hands clutched into fists at his sides. He had no intention or desire to become physical regardless of how visibly tense his body language was becoming - the fists forming at his sides was nothing more than a coping mechanism; the fingernails digging into his palms a reminder to keep himself centred, to focus on the discomfort of that rather than acting in a way that he would come to regret.

Though just hissing with such venom at Ronan within the public setting of the pack was more than enough to regret later on. The only saving grace was the miraculous fact they seemed to be able to keep their voices relatively low, avoiding a public spectacle. Frankly, the pack had had enough of those for one day, and perhaps that fact was somewhere at the back of his mind, allowing him to unconsciously keep his tone as quiet as possible given the heated nature gradually increasing in intensity the longer he considered Ronan's words and reactions.

How they had got the situation they were currently at was bewildering. He could understand Ronan's disappointment and his dissatisfaction with their predicament, but for everything to have deteriorated to such an extent where they were all but threatening to take a break from one another -or even split up entirely- couldn't be described as anything but puzzling... and an extremely unwelcome spanner to the plans of finally being a family.

Though when he was as angered and hurt as he was by the reaction he was faced with, one he couldn't justify, Anders had no desire to back down; not when he felt as strongly as he did about it.

"If you really can't see my reasonin' behind this, then that ain't my fault. So yeah, fuck off for all I care. This situation ain't comparable to your f-fucking ex, is it? I'm supposed to be your mate, you're supposed to understand me, even if I piss you off, you don't-- you don't give in. But whatever, I'm over it. I... I'm fine without you, I ain't reliant on you for shit, so fuck off, sure. I ain't gonna cry over you; I had two whole years of that."

He let the words rest for the briefest of moments, the crackling intensity and the pumping adrenaline within him making him feel like mere words weren't enough to get his message through... though he also knew they had to be; that following any other course of action wasn't appropriate. He blinked hard to avoid any tears slipping out, the harshness of his words, and their blunt delivery, being little more than another defence mechanism - it was easier to hiss at Ronan that he didn't care, that breaking up wouldn't hurt him, than start bawling his eyes out and looking a fool.

He had spent two years crying into his pillow over the other; he wasn't dramatizing matters when he said he was over it.

"...You can go an' talk about me with Luana if you like, I'm sure she has a bone to pick with me too, so enjoy that if you want. I... I'm gonna go an' get Georgia." Anders mumbled, swallowing a lump down in his throat. His daughter's appearance onto the scene alongside the twins who had watched her for the morning was all he needed to get his act together, fiercely wiping his eyes with the back of his hand and turning to make an exit before she could spot him, unable to pretend everything was fine for her benefit; not while his emotions were up in the air and untameable.
 

Viverescribere

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"You wouldn't know if it was comparable-- we hardly know each other, remember? Ain't that what you said?" Ronan threw back, "Fuck's sake, Anders-- I can understand you but that ain't gotta mean I gotta like it an' roll over with every fuckin' decision you make. I'm fed up of hiding who I am! Why can't you understand that. Everyone saw the fuckin' kiss, we might as well just keep actin' like we're together now they've seen that. They didn't fuckin' kick off then, they ain't goin' to if we hold hands or some shit."

Ronan's whole body was beginning to tremble with the pent up anger and frustration and hurt. He wasn't about to cry, unlike Anders, since his reactions were completely different to his mate's. But there was still a tightness to his chest and a lump in his throat that made things like breathing normally difficult.

"Maybe I will-- or with Tate, you know, the brother I fuckin' defended you from this mornin'. Maybe they'll have a better idea of what the fuck is goin' on in your head." He retorted finally, but the words were weaker than before, lacking in the punch that they may have done if the silence hadn't just lengthened between them.

He didn't want to fight with Anders, he didn't want to go on a break or split up. This was his mate. This was someone who was supposed to be paired with him for life, because they were supposed to be perfect for one another. Maybe they had gone too much, too soon. Maybe they should have broken into it easier with one another, or even just set some ground rules. But how could they have known that this explosion of emotion was going to happen? Ronan couldn't have known that Anders was going to yoyo the way he did. And he was frustrated that his mate was angry at him for being upset about it.

Ronan couldn't understand why Anders would have entertained the idea of being with him, and making that announcement, if he knew during all this time he had those worries and anxieties about Georgia in the back of his mind. Why make those promises when he knew he couldn't fulfil them?

"Fine. An' I'll keep away, yeah? Clearly I ain't goin' to be good enough for either of you."

He watched his mate walk away, and only then did his shoulders slouch and head dip as a result. He exhaled heavily and placed the last bowl on the log beside the one he had put down before Anders left, intending to leave it for his mate when he thought he was going to be the one walking away to find Tala. He then sunk down onto the piece of wood himself, placing his elbows on his knees and burying his head into his hands.

"Are, uh, are you alright?"

Ronan glanced up at the sound of Chester's voice, blinking himself out of his thoughts of the interaction he had just had with his mate. His eyes then landed on Teddy and he quickly smiled, reaching out for the little girl to come into his arms, "Yeah, 'course I am."
 

potassiumboron

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"You sure you're alright? 'Cos I ain't being funny, dude, but you look like you've got the whole weight of the world on your shoulders," contributed Lyle as he shoved his hands into his pockets, managing a smile despite the genuine concern that resided within his eyes. He wasn't prone to open, transparent conversations of thoughts and feelings, not when he rarely ever let anything get to him and so often had every little to add to those types of discussions, so while he had come to care about Ronan (as his brother's mate, that made him family), he was hoping that the other would resist delving into what was troubling him to the extent that one of those discussions materialised.

Not because he didn't want to help Ronan through it, but because he wasn't sure how to handle dishing out advice effectively. It was often why he resorted to humour and could be misconstrued as being uncaring or dismissive to others' feelings - humour was a mechanism he used to help himself through awkward situations, even though he knew the negative side of that was being characterised as someone who was unsympathetic, just because he made those jokes to help himself through any awkwardness.

Even if those jokes tended to arise at the worst of times.

"Every one's had their dramas today, huh? Kinda strange not to be the sibling goin' through any turmoil or gettin' yelled at, it's usually me or Chester goin' through that shit," he grinned widely in that attempt to ease the uncomfortable atmosphere; one he hoped would shift once Teddy ran into her father's arms babbling about how fun her morning with her uncles had been, but from Ronan's general body language, it wasn't all that easy for Lyle to delude himself into thinking everything was fine.

With Gio the sole exception, every sibling besides the twins had been involved in some sort of altercation or confrontation: Tate had challenged Luana's attackers, Daisy had become heated in the impassioned defence of Uriel (though much of that had taken place behind closed doors, the initial confrontation had occurred in public, in view of the pack - and Lyle) and now Anders had stormed off after a less than subtle argument with his mate; a fact most of the pack had already picked up on.

It was hard not to when their kiss had been in front of almost each and every single member of the community, after all.

Often used to being the sibling who was told off and chastised (playfully or otherwise), it was a strange situation to comprehend; to know that he, for once, hadn't got under anyone's skin with his stupid jokes or overly loud, extroverted personality. That, in actual fact, he had spent the morning with Chester, the two of them helping out by taking care of Teddy and generally enjoying the hours bonding more with their niece.

"Nah, uh... look, Anders is... temperamental, y'know? Sensitive as shit, too. Gets all up in his head about stuff an' doesn't know how to break out of it. He'll be alrigh'. Whatever you've been arguing about -I ain't gotta know the details, that's your private business, y'know?- it'll be alrigh' once he has time to cool off an'... stop overthinking," he concluded, the advice not being something he was entirely happy with (he often thought he was useless at it, in contrast to Gio or Daisy who were the ones to flock to for guidance) but it felt necessary to cheer Ronan up, if only a little.

"So where's he gone, then? To get that Georgia kid?"
 

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"It's fine. I doubt Anders would appreciate me discussin' anythin' with his family anyways. You know what he's like. Got defensive when we all talked to him this mornin', remember?" Ronan mumbled, picking Teddy up and placing the girl in his lap. He forced a smile onto his expression again as the toddler began rapidly about her day with her uncles and all she had gotten up to with them. He brushed some hair back from her face, strands of which having escaped from the little pigtails that had been styled for her that morning.

After sitting her down besides him and giving her her bowl of food, Ronan glanced back to the twins, the one of which (Lyle, was it?) continued to speak. He exhaled heavily and dropped his gaze back to Teddy, unsure how to even respond to the two before him.

Like he said, he knew that Anders wouldn't be pleased with him babbling about their fight. Considering the other wanted their relationship to be private, he knew he ought to respect those wishes and keep his mouth shut. But it was eating him up, not knowing what was going on and if they had actually just broken up. However, he didn't want to get into all of that in front of Teddy. The kid may just be a kid, but they were smart and knew when stuff was up. Not to mention, he didn't want her to go rambling on to Anders that he had been speaking to her uncles.

"We can talk about it later." He finally answered, keeping his eyes averted, "Now... now ain't the time."

Chester glanced to Lyle, clearly not comfortable with the response they just earned despite Lyle's advice (which was usually hard for his twin to provide, given they weren't exactly the go-tos for any sort of help or support). However, he knew not to push things. It was easy to learn those sort of boundaries when one lived with people like Tate.

"Right... well..." Chester cleared his throat lamely, looking around as if searching for an escape before Lyle asked the next question.

Ronan reached out to gently wipe some stew from Teddy's mouth, nodding as he did so, "Yeah, yeah... he's gone to get the kid. I don't like the idea of 'im goin' out there alone to fetch her, but considerin' what just 'appened... I doubt he wanted me to go there as back-up." He snorted quietly, wiping his thumb on his trouser leg, "An' I think he wants to break her in gently, so I doubt he'd want anyone else there."
 

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With the conversation about Anders (specifically, the issues he and Ronan were having) shut down before it had even really begun, Lyle felt an immediate sense of relief - albeit alongside an equally prominent feeling of disconcertedness. The last thing he wanted was trouble for Anders in a relationship he had spent two whole years longing in silence for; of tormenting himself without anyone he felt he could open up to about it all.

Having been aware throughout most of Anders' teenage years where his romantic interest solely resided, and guessing for the last two years that Ronan was more important to him than he initially had led everyone to believe, all Lyle wanted for his younger brother was a chance to enjoy the family he had silently wished to be apart of for the first real time.

To know that things hadn't quite worked out as well as he and Chester had privately hoped they would was disheartening, and though he knew he was useless at the more open, heartfelt conversations, he was more than happy to lend a ear and offer any advice he could if it in any way helped their predicament.

But having it shut down (albeit for the right reasons given Teddy's presence) made him fall silent again, unknowing how to proceed when everything just felt so... awkward.

"He's been goin' to visit the girl for the last six months alone, right? I'm sure he'll be alrigh'," he offered reassuringly, his gaze returning to the ground as he let the comment settle - hopefully long enough for Ronan to convince himself of that fact. One argument, however bitter, wasn't going to erase the love the other had for Anders, so doing his best to eliminate any fears or concerns he had about the man wandering off to fetch Georgia despite the potential threat of the humans within the woods, seeking to hunt and kill their kind, was something he felt he had to do.

He let the silence continue a beat or two longer before lifting his head up, determined not to dwell too long on conversations that continued to either depress or concern them; it wasn't his style to lend his energy to such topics, preferring to try and lift the mood wherever possible.

"Anyway, you get to spend the night with Teddy an' she'll talk so much that she's bound to distract you from whatever else goin' on in your head. The kid doesn't stop. I thought I was talkative but Teddy? She takes the biscuit," he snorted, shooting the toddler a playful grin when she naturally puffed her cheeks out in (playful) protest. "...Nah, she's been real fun to look after; she always is. I'd wanna look after Tala soon too, so she knows who I am an' all that. I ain't into having kids or anything, it ain't my style, but being the fun uncle? I'm down for that."
 

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Later on that evening, Luana walked across to Tate's hut after a moment of confusion as to why Ronan wasn't with Anders in the family's hut with Georgia. While she knew never to question the man wanting to spend time with his daughter, considering that he could have been helping his mate with another young and frightened pup, Luana would have thought he would have chosen to be with Anders regardless. Especially since Tate and herself were supposed to be babysitting Teddy that night.

"It's just me." She called upon knocking and quietly entering his hut, having thought it a good idea to just have a moment to chat, just the two of them. The day had been highly strung and extremely emotional, and undoubtedly some reassurance or even just company was needed.

"I was going to bring Tala... but given she was about to throw a fit after being told her sleepover with Teddy was cancelled 'cause her Da was around after all... I decided it wasn't a battle I wanted to fight tonight. An' Ronan said he'd happily look after them both."

She moved across the room to collapse into one of his armchairs, groaning softly as the weight was taken off her feet. Her head tipped back, arms propped up on those of the chair, and she breathed a sigh of relief.

It had felt non-stop, ever since that morning when she knew the others had confronted Anders and having to stay out of it, looking after the toddlers in the other hut. Then the altercation with those they had banished from the pack, then Daisy's argument, then Anders' short responses... and finally, to top it all off, Tala's tantrum. Not to mention, Ronan's sullen expression when he thought no one was looking. Clearly something had happened between him and Anders that she didn't know about (and of course she didn't expect to be told about because it was none of her business). But of course she found out, and felt awful for the both of them.

"...Do you think there'll ever come a day where just... everyone's 'appy?" She mused, head still tipped to face up at the ceiling as she kept her eyes closed, "...Just feels like me comin' back's done nothing but caused a bit of chaos an' distrupted everythin', y'know?"

She eventually turned her head to look in his direction, opening one eye to provide him her attention, "S'everythin' alrigh' with Daise now too? Did you speak to her?"
 

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Life as alpha of a thriving pack was never an easy job, but Tate had always known that fact; always prepared himself for the workload that came with the title of leader. He enjoyed the work and the authority that accompanied it, often at his best when he had a plethora of matters to resolve - the feeling of triumph that he felt at the end of another successful day, when he could retreat to his hut and let his muscles and bones relax, was one unlike any other, and he thrived off it. It pushed him to do and be better; to ensure every day that followed ended with a similar success and triumph.

Not once had he returned to his hut and felt quite as exhausted as he did now, having collapsed onto his bed and refused to move since his entrance into his home an hour or two prior. He had undertaken countless tasks as alpha that had exhausted him, of course: from the attack on the human village to tracking down kidnapped members of his pack, he wasn't unused to feelings of tiredness. Hell, it tended to accompany the job, and he would be a fool not to recognise that fact.

Yet, the emotional exhaustion that came with the ordeals that had made up the day was intense, every confrontation or argument having worn him down a little more until, by the time the day started to transition into the evening, he had exhausted every ounce of energy - physically and mentally. There were perhaps more stressful moments he had contended with in his past, more events that had taken more out of him, but it didn't change the fact that he remained laid on his bed, unable to recall a time where he had felt less hopeful about the future of his community, about their happiness going forward, than he did presently.

Granted, Luana's entrance into his home was a reason for him to smile, if only momentarily before she seemed to echo much of his own thoughts regarding the bleakness dominating much of the pack - and the fact Tala wasn't present, as he had been anticipating, only consolidated the downturn of his mood.

Not that it could really go any lower anyway.

He sighed heavily as the words were aired, resting his hands behind his head as he contemplated how to proceed; whether to be blunt and honest, or soften his opinion to offer some optimism.

Eventually, he decided for the former - who else could he be honest with if not his mate?

"I dunno, darlin'. I mean, I'd hope so, y'know? But I ain't gonna promise that that'd be the case. What I can promise you is that I'll do my damned best for the pack - an' for our family. We're gonna be happy at least, I can promise you that - 'cos I sure as hell ain't fucking up an' losing you or Tala. Nah, we'll be alright. The others? I ain't too sure. The only stable couple are Gio and Sasha," he murmured, reflecting on the comment with a pang of sadness, the thought that their youngers were less successful in love only making him frown. He wanted them all to have what he and Gio had - a loving mate and a family, and importantly, a chance to express that happiness.

"Fuck knows what's happenin' with Ronan an' Anders, but Ro's been moping about the place all day. Then the twins are just-- they ain't dating anyone as far as I know. An' then Daisy is-- she's dating that fucking psycho so that's gonna go up in flames one day, ain't it?" He grunted, turning his head to face his mate, not needing to hesitate as he shuffled over in his bed and patted the space beside him encouragingly.

"But she seems alrigh' with me. I said I was gonna give her and Uriel a chance, let 'em do their thing, an' she loved that so... we'll see. They're in the healing hut tonight an' the thought of her with him alone is-- I ain't happy with it, I'll be honest. But she's an adult an' apparently, I gotta let her make her own mistakes, yeah?"
 

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It didn't take much encouraging for Luana to push herself up and out of the chair and move across to join her mate on the bed. She settled down on it with a heavy sigh, eyes closing as she just enjoyed the soft comfort of the bed for a moment before rolling over to face him. Her arm tucked under her head, propping it up slightly, and her knees bent to curl herself into that slight foetal position. Her other hand reached out to rest on his chest, gently moving her fingers back and forth in a light scratching motion.

"Thank fuck the twins aren't datin', I don't think I'd be able to deal with that extra drama." She snorted softly, shaking her head in amusement at the whole situation, "...I just... I can't help but feel awful for Ronan an' Anders. I mean... Ronan said they kissed in front of the whole pack this mornin' - if that ain't tellin' the whole pack about them two, I don't know what is. So I can't.... I can't get my head around why Anders is still holdin' back. Ronan said why but... I just... I just don't get it. He's basically done all the hard work already."

She withdrew her hand for a moment to sweep her fingers through her hair, pushing back some stray strands to keep them from falling into her eyes. With another sigh, albeit a smaller one, she placed her hand back onto his chest, contemplating their family.

"But yea'.... Daise you need to just... let go of, at least for now. She's a big girl, an' tougher than you think. I reckon if he ends up bein' a prick... you'll only have scraps to pick at once she's done with him." Luana smiled faintly, rubbing his chest in what she could only hope was a reassuring manner.

She fell silent for a moment before giving a quiet laugh, "I do feel for Tala... you are going to be such an overbearing, protective dad. She's not going to be able to date until she's 30, is she?" She teased.
 

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"30? I was thinkin' 35 or so, I figure she'd be wise enough to pick a good 'un by then," he snorted in return, an arm lifting and wrapping around his mate's shoulders to bring her in closer to his side and to encourage their close positioning, the affectionateness of which made him smile fondly to himself. They had spent the night sleeping beside one another so the cuddled arrangement wasn't anything new - but after two years without her at his side, in his arms, he had made a promise to himself not to let the moments of affection go unappreciated or unnoticed.

He was going to ensure he acknowledged each and every one of them he and Luana would share, refusing to take them for granted when their two years apart had proven just how much he needed her with him.

How much he needed and craved her presence.

He let a quiet laugh escape him at his own exaggeration, his eyes rolling to himself at the lunacy of it. As uncomfortable as he was about the idea of his daughter growing up, dating and starting her own family one day, given the inevitability of it all, the situation with Daisy had at least proven that being so strict would have its consequences - and he didn't want a repeat of the confrontation with his sister to occur years into the future with Tala.

"Nah, I'll be... protective, but I ain't gon' stop her living her life. Just as long as she doesn't fall for a dickhead, we'll be alrigh'. Same goes for the other kids we have - 'cos we both want more, don't we?" He drawled with an easy grin, turning to his side a little in order to properly face her. The fact the situation with Anders and Ronan was clearly plaguing her wasn't ideal, but he understood it - she had close bonds with both men, had a connection with them individually as well as collectively. Their happiness breaking down before it had really had a chance to flourish was disheartening, so of course he understood why she would hold onto it.

He felt the same way, wanting his youngest brother to be happy and feeling dismayed when that chance of happiness now seemed to be struggling.

"...They'll figure it out, y'know. They have a kid, they'll... work at whatever it is they've got goin' on. If the worst happens an' they don't, they'll still be civil an' all that, for Teddy - but it won't come to that. They're mates, they'll figure this shit out, Lu. I mean, what happened between you and I was way worse an' we got through it, didn't we? We're better for it too, I reckon." Tate continued as he moved a hand to cup her cheek, that contact alone causing his own cheeks to grow a little red; a fact he didn't bother even trying to hide. Not when Luana was his mate and she was entitled to seeing him like that, at his most vulnerable and -admittedly- soppy.

"I love 'ya, y'know. I know you know that, but... I'm gonna make sure to tell you more often, 'cos you probably never heard it enough from me two years ago, did 'ya?"
 

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She didn't hesitate to take his offer of closer contact and a more intimate hold. With no Tala there to interrupt or squeeze between them (not that she didn't love that because she did, she really did), it allowed her the opportunity to peacefully reflect on all she had missed involving Tate over the last two years.

Luana nuzzled her way into his side, resting her head on his one shoulder as her arm slipped completely around him. Her eyes closed as she buried her head further into his chest, a soft, contented sigh escaping her as a result.

His mention of more children had her eyes fluttering open, Luana blinking them open and no even trying to hide the bewilderment on her expression at his question. "You want... you want more?" She repeated, wanting to make sure she heard correctly and that tit wasn't simply a mistake. It did amuse her, this complete change of mind he had regarding his own children ever since Tala came into existence for him. To think that she had been terrified of bringing their daughter to the pack for them to be introduced... to now lay there with her mate planning more...

"Of course I do... I made that clear from the start. A family. Who wouldn't want to have a family? Maybe not one as big as yours... I'm not sure I could go through five more labours." She teased, tilting her head back in order to look up at him with a cheeky smile, "You... you really want more? Are you sure?" She then asked in all seriousness, knowing that she and her mate needed to make that decision.

Him then cupping her cheek led her to also feel her face go warm, but she kept her eyes on him as he held his affectionate gesture. Another thing he had come to surprise her with. He was definitely a man of actions over words prior to their untimely break, and it seemed as though that would continue, but to be at a stage where those affectionate gestures were not going to be hidden away or held back... it felt good.

The colour in her cheeks only darkened at his proclamation of love for her and Luana was forced to avert her eyes for a moment, biting her lower lip as a smile spread across her expression.

"It's always nice to hear..." She chuckled, moving to be the closest she could be to her mate as things seemed to start getting very intimate and amorous, "But I wasn't an angel, Tate.... I probably could have said it more than I did back then." She assured him next, her hand gently rubbing across his chest, "I just... I'm just.... I can't get over that we're.... that this has all happened. From where we were to how are are now... I'm so grateful to you." She answered honestly, gaze flickering over him, "For giving Tala a chance. For giving me a second chance... I'm just so... so happy."
 

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Given his previous reluctance to have children and the fears he had harboured over being able to be an adequate father, Tate could only grin in unsubtle amusement at the reaction his words seemed to have. He knew that his current position on the matter was a far cry away from past beliefs, but Tala had inevitably changed it, her existence proving to him that all the fears he had once held were not only unfounded, but entirely ridiculous. Tala was undoubtedly his world, the love he felt for her often catching him entirely by surprise, so stunned was he by the power behind the emotion.

And knowing he had once been so against the idea of bringing a child into the world, in hindsight, almost horrified him. It had partly led to the breakdown of his relationship, causing Luana not only to leave the pack but to resist returning for two entire years because he had made it so clear, furiously so, that his stance on children was immovable and would never change. He had instilled that fear into his mate of rejection and so knew, deep down, that he had to take blame in her refusal to return.

For not being able to know of his daughter's existence for the first two years of her young life and witnessing each important milestone she accomplished within that time.

But he loved the toddler more than anything else, and the thought of adding to his family and being able to be present throughout each vital moment of their life meant more to him than he properly communicated. Two years ago he had despised the idea of fatherhood; now, he wanted nothing more than to expand on it.

"Course I want more, darlin'. I was a prick in the past, wasn't I? I mean, being a Dad is... it's kinda everythin' to me, I ain't gon' lie. Nothin' really, uh... nothin' would make me happier than us having another little one running 'round the place. Ain't no rush or anythin', obviously. Shit's getting stressful in the pack an' adding to the family right now might not be the best time but-- in the future, I'd love another kid. To actually be by you, helpin' 'ya, 'cos, uh... pregnancy and all that ain't no walk in the park, is it?"

He pressed a kiss to her forehead to capitalise on the intimacy, smiling throughout the kiss at the fact they were on the same page; that they agreed on something so major. In their past, such a discussion would have provoked an argument, with their opinions being so contrasted that confrontation was inevitable - as inevitable as the proceeding anger from Tate and upset at the unfairness of it from Luana.

To finally be moving in the right direction, able to have conversations like mature mates and know that they wouldn't devolve into arguments, wasn't lost on Tate, with the alpha's smile only widening once his mate seemed to confirm his thoughts.

That they were, at long last, happy together.

"Glad you said it 'cos I'd only end up jinxing us," he snorted humouredly, rolling his eyes to assure her of his teasing. "Nah, it's... it ain't come easy, we had to work at it an' go through all that shit, but... it's worked out, ain't it? We're stronger 'cos of it, Lu. An' we ain't ever going back to that bad place, we're a family now an', uh... an' I'm gonna protect that with my life. You an' Tala are everything to me, y'know?"
 

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"...It was your opinion... I... I shouldn't have reacted as emotionally as I did, or said the shit that I had done." She answered softly, "Could we have both handled it better than we did? 'Course we could've. But that... that's all in the past now, an' totally irrelevant considerin' whose in our lives now." She smiled, "But yeah, it definitely ain't a walk in the park. But at least with the next one it apparently gets easier... an' the whole birthin' is quicker."

Her smile only broadened at the kiss to her forehead, her eyes fluttering closed at the gesture. It was such a simple act, but so sweet and genuine that it made her warm all the way down to her toes. They had had time together since he had made his decision to try things again with her, but not without having to focus on something else rather than each other. This was different. Tala was taken care of, the pressing matter of her attackers and Georgia's inclusion in the pack was handled for now. Of course they had the worry of the human village hanging over their heads... but in that moment, in that little bubble where they could just latch on to each other... it didn't seem to matter as much.

"Neither of us are ever goin' to that bad place." She replied, opening her eyes again to look up at him once he had pulled back, "We're goin' to argue at times, I ain't naïve to think that ain't goin'ta ever happen. But you're right, we are stronger... an' I-- I ain't goin' anywhere again. Not willin'ly anyway. I promise."

Her hand moved up from his chest to trail over his shoulder and onto the back of his head, where she gently tangled her fingers into his hair and carefully massaged the spot. It also helped her draw closer, her nose gently brushing against his now with the proximity.

"I know that... I promise I know. It ain't all goin'ta be easy, but I'll always know deep down. I'll never, ever doubt it with Tala. You're-- fuck, Tate. You're so good with her. An' she adores you." She chuckled, "Really... she absolutely adores you. You... you really are just... you're an amazin' dad. I knew you would be before all this, considerin' how good you are with the little ones in the pack. But seein' you with her... seein' you with our daughter..." She trailed off, leaning forward to steal a tentative kiss from him before resting her forehead against his.

Her fingers stilled in his hair, but remained in place, keeping him close to her as she took the time to just take in the moment they were having. "An' I... I feel better now too, knowin' I can... knowin' I can stand up with you, you know? I don't feel like some... imposter. I can hold my own an' actually be... worthy of bein' beside you. I know I got some provin' to do but... but knowin' I can do it all now, that I ain't some little fledgling. I feel a bit more worthy." She admitted, a sheepish smile creeping onto her expression as she closed her eyes, not wanting to see his reaction to her confession, if there even was one.