Dog Run pick of the litter
Once upon a time, about seven months ago, Cliff thought about getting a puppy. But now, the days were counting down to when he would be getting a... bear cub instead!

And because the time was coming sooner rather than later, he and Maxine had decided they ought to start seriously thinking about the how, along with the when. It was likely that the birth would go no different than a regular one, but what came after was entirely abnormal. No human doctor could be trusted to care for their baby.

It was scary, telling people outside of their bubble. But Cliff trusted Elijah, and he was their best, if not only, bet to make sure the baby was healthy.

It was pretty cold, but a few patrons still braved the weather to take their dogs out for socialization. Cliff smiled at a big hound laying at the foot of the door on the outdoor patio, stepping over him and into the warmth of the cafe. Eli was here, somewhere, and could probably sense his presence just as much as Cliff could sense his.
He could indeed. And from where he'd been pilfering half a sandwich from the kitchen, Eli emerged when the presence of his fellow territory-king came too close to be mistaken. This was not happenstance, Cliff had come to see him.

So he stepped out with a not-quite smile, eyes bright but mouth refusing to do quite the right things, as was typical with this coyote.

"Well, I haven't seen hide nor hair of you in a while. Began to think I was going to have this whole place to myself."

A hand offered in hello, trying to size up what might be going on just by looking at him. But no, not so much. Maybe it was just a 'been a while' visit. You know, it was probably a good sign they rarely if ever had reason to meet?
Eli was a strange presence in that he wasn't ever overly smiley, but always welcoming. A face you could talk to, but didn't feel the need for exaggerated pleasantry.

Still, Cliff did smile, and rubbed the back of his tattooed neck, "Yeah, we've gone to ground recently. Still here, just a bit smaller, and a lot quieter."
"An impressive feat, considering." Considering they were bears, but Eli wasn't so far into the were lifestyle that he was comfortable just declaring that in his cafe!

"Well, I suppose you want to talk? I was just grabbing myself a bite to eat, could go nab one for you if you wanted to find a little corner of solitude."

If amenable to that, Eli would swan off to go put his paws on food and bring it back.
Well, not so hard when there was four of them, and they kept to the Sanctuary. But he supposed in comparison to another group of bears, who liked to shift openly on ski slopes…

He put it out of his mind, focused on the invitation.

“I won’t turn down food. But I was hoping we could walk and talk, if you don’t mind?” Less chance of eavesdroppers.
"Totally fine by me. The grounds are pretty nice right now." At least when you were a hot-blooded animal person. A light jacket in November, god bless. "I'll be right back." And he'd make it a quick slip to go grab a half sandwich for them each, of a variety that was easy to hold onto while on the move. And finish in like four bites, because what were could hold food and not devour it?

Moving out to the porch to begin their meander, Eli asked, "You been out to Dog Run before? I can't remember."
Nice and agreeable. Cliff accepted the food offered, indiscriminate about taking a bite before even looking at the contents.

When back outside, Cliff took a steadying breath. Alright. He could do this conversation. Thankful that Eli wasn’t rushing to the point, he stuck a hand in a pocket and squinted out over the porch. “Not finished, I don’t think. It’s nice out here.” A lot more socially involved than his place, but they both served their purpose.
"Nice and remote, at that." Sure, closer to other things in this area than they often were at other points in Camp Baron, but clearly Cliff knew the benefit of being well removed from the majority of human civilization.

Okay, walking. Also, eating, knowing that there would be no judgement between them on that matter.

"You been well? Other than hibernating, so to speak."
It was the appeal of setting up in Camp Baron. Everywhere was "out there". There was some comfort in that, when very soon, they would have a lot more of a reason to keep out of the way of the general populace. At least for the time being.

And here they approached the topic. Despite his anxiety surrounding it, he was still happy to speak about it. Smiled, even, as he nodded, "Yeah. Real good, actually. And the reason I made a housecall." He began. Their path took them around the perimeter of the fenced dog run itself. He spied a stray ball, one overshot by a patron whom didn't bother hopping the fence after it. Cliff bent to pick it up in his free hand, cold and splattered with mud, but served as a good tactile distraction.

"Maxine and I are expecting a baby here in a couple of months."
Housecall seemed a very specific choice of words, and so Eli's mind was already opening to where this might go when... it went! Perhaps more directly than he expected, Cliff was not here to ask questions so much as he was here to announce what was already in progress.

Fascinating. The prospect of were pregnancy was not new to Eli, but he'd never seen it actually happen. He hadn't even really let himself believe it, for all he knew that was just him denying the idea of a life he could not hope to have. But Cliff claimed not only to have made it happen, but just a couple of months shy...

He watched the man's face for a moment, trying to decide his own feelings, his own tone. But there was sincerity there when he said, "Congratulations. Fatherhood is a hell of a thing." But he had one intense, immediate question, barring everything Cliff had come here to ask himself.

"How do you manage the whole... well, I assume she can't shift, but I didn't imagine that was possible."
[Congratulations, spoken as if from experience. He hadn't known Elijah had children. He didn't know the man well enough to either know nor ask, really. But whatever his experience with children was, it was clear that it wasn't with Were-born children.

"Thank you." He said, before addressing the question that was surely to be first to anyone's mind.

It was information, he realized, that every Were leader should know. He didn't think his capabilities with taking on Maxine's bear was limited to just their mating bond. He could do it for all of his bears, if the need arose, paternity notwithstanding.

"It's a bit like suppressing a member's shift." He summarized, "But instead of calming their beast down, you just... take it on yourself. I've been shifting like a newbie for the past several months, brain all spilt between my bear and hers. Takes a hell of a toll, but I stay mostly in control."
It was a fair bit of wonder, that answer. Taking someone's bear... coyote... whatever from them? Was there an instinct for that? There were for other situations, he'd found. No one could teach you how to suppress a shift or heal a wound with magic, but when the time came it just made sense. Did taking Maxine's bear into his own body make sense to Cliff?

Eli could not imagine it in a way that helped him come to terms with it, so he just had to accept the facts as what they were.

"Sounds rough. You've not have any problems with stress? For either of you, I guess?"

And then he finished off his sandwich.
Stress. Cliff almost laughed.

"I have about fifty more grey hairs than I used to." He tried for a joke. Finished his own sandwich, and bounced the ball a couple times as they walked. "I'm doing everything I can to keep her happy. But I'll be honest, keeping the Sleuth together in the meantime hasn't been easy. We're making it, but only just." He gave the ball a few contemplative squeezes. He could crush it in his hand so easily. It looked tough, could take some abuse from gnawing and throwing, but ultimately, he had the power to squash it in his palm.
"Imagine the next couple of months can't go fast enough."

He wanted to ask after the sleuth... but it didn't seem like that was the topic here. He hadn't realized they'd been struggling, but then again it wasn't exactly like the band was flourishing, either. Not to say Eli was struggling with that, yet...

"What the plan? When's she due?" He was no obstetrician, but he worked with plenty. Knew the general drill.
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