The Picnic but instinct pulls the trigger
#1

outfit
@Nat



Dante almost wished that he hadn't agreed to such a public place. He knew how to speak in code, but he preferred speaking plainly. And what a conspicuous fucking sore thumb he felt like here, with his Harley ill-suited for the coming winter in a parking lot full of fucking Subarus and Toyotas. He pulled his hair free from its ponytail and side-eyed the people around him, finding that, as usual, people were paying him less attention than he thought. Well.

He loitered there, figuring he was a little early, or else Natalie was late. He didn't bother to check the time, only kept his senses peeled for the familiar twinge of wolf, lighting a cigarette to keep himself busy. Kept a lid on his thoughts as well as he could. Didn't do any good to worry over what was coming to bite him in the ass.

Still, they slipped out on him here and there, surprising him. What all did they really need to talk about? What she might be upset about? Dante felt a little stranded. His reasons just sounded like excuses as they tap danced around his conscience. Maybe it would be better to not fucking bother explaining shit at all.
#2

Outfit



Fretting never did much to help anyone, but that’s where Natalie was and found it hard to navigate out of this time. She couldn’t seem to find it in herself to settle after the phone call and it had nearly been impossible to sit still through the morning of the agreed upon day and actually get work done. What did Dante even want coming back here? As far as she was concerned, the man had essentially cut ties with everyone and could’ve easily kept it that way be it for his safety or personal reasons. Still, something had drawn him back even after a whole run from the law deal and for some reason Natalie was part of that equation even though this was the first time she’d heard from him in months.

Now in the parking lot, Natalie could feel that familiar brush of wolf close by, confirming what words already had. Dante was definitely here. He’d wanted to meet with her specifically so, here she was and needed to be to start unraveling a thread of questioning that’d started since hearing his voice on that unknown call.

Taking a breath, she slipped out, the wolf already helping to navigate where to go. Following it with a twinge of reluctant anticipation, the smell of cigarettes wafted over the same moment she landed eyes on the man, the whole biker look the same as ever. The wolf whined.

”Hi,” she spoke up once close enough, a hand bunching in an edge of sweater into the sleeve. ”Long time no see.”
#3
He felt her, too. The dark wolf in his heart lifted his head, watching in tandem with Dante, seeking. He didn't see her immediately - couldn't spot her getting out of her car. Couldn't honestly remember what her car looked like. Then, all of a sudden, there she was. Her hair was maybe a little longer, but she looked much the same. Meek, uncomfortable. She looked smaller than she was as she approached, curled up in her sweater. His gut tied itself into a knot, rock solid.

He crushed the end of the cigarette out on the bottom of his boot. In other company, he might have flicked it out into the asphalt, but. Could probably stand to save as many brownie points here as he could, so he shoved it in his pocket instead.

"No kidding," he returned, gruff but forcing a closed-lipped grin. One tattooed hand gestured to the sprawl of food trucks behind him. "Hungry?"
#4
Cigarette extinguished under boot, the sound of it grinding against asphalt and tread seemed loud between them before words started up. A familiar tone wound into his words, a smile she couldn’t exactly find warmth in tying it together.

She wasn’t hungry in all honesty, but it seemed like the wrong thing to do to turn down the invitation. There were some social things that could be misread as putting a wall up in a conversation without meaning to and this felt like one of those times. ”Sure. Anything you want to try that you’ve missed?”
#5
Dante was, in theory, hungry. He could eat almost any time. Here, his appetite was quiet, but Natalie seemed like she was open to a meal, so. Might as well. There was something symbolic in it, anyway - sharing a meal, breaking bread. It was almost sacred. Try telling that to Judas at the last supper. It was good for the wolves, probably, at any rate.

"Naw. I'll eat anything." Mostly true. He turned some, prepared to walk with her to... some truck or another. "You pick."
#6
Making food decisions was hard and as soon as she was suddenly put in charge, all options sort of drifted out of her brain.

Looking to the line of trucks, she stopped on a brightly colored one. ”How about the grilled cheese place?” Which would hopefully be easy enough to eat.

If he agreed, she’d start walking that way assuming Dante would do so as well.
#7
Grilled cheese. Simple. Small, probably? Something he could force himself to eat. Maybe force wasn't the right word. The wolf would take care of it.

Moving along with her, he pried out of his jacket, finding it was even less tolerable off the bike. He only wore it in case of a crash; the road rash would heal fine. The tattoos would not. He draped it over his arm, considering the girl with a sidelong glance. This was fucking awkward, sure, but... there was a purpose to it. He could work with that. Even if they couldn't really get into the meat of it standing in line. They'd gone this long without talking about it. Could wait a few more minutes.

"You working?" he asked by way of both small talk and a casual touch on her life, hands in his jeans pockets as they came to stand in line. Three people ahead of them. Fucking kill him.
#8
The small walk over to the line was still full of that weird tension in the air which would probably continue to drape over this whole meet. She really disliked the whole feel of it.

Resigning to the small wait, Natalie looked to him at the question, face unable to stop from sliding. ”Yeah, I’m still freelance copywriting.” Had he forgotten? It wasn’t really her life’s calling, but it was fine enough considering teaching was wildly out of possibilities now which the man next to her was partly to blame for. ”Its been an interesting transition.”
#9
Freelance copy writing. Yeah... that. Dante still had no fucking clue what that was. Didn't know what that said about him. He preferred to think maybe he was just more in tune with the wolf than he was with the world. It sounded like some complicated job. Something very adult. Nat probably wasn't at the point where it seemed less important than were shit.

He did remember what she'd been doing before he'd crushed her dreams and her dog in the woods, though.

He grunted again, nodded his head. "Right." Yeah. Okay.

Face stoic and weary, Dante focused his gaze on the back of the head of the person in front of them.
#10
That was a disconnected sort of response and with no follow up it didn’t sit right. Maybe, he had forgotten or maybe he just didn’t care and something sincerely agitated at that, the wolf regarding the other carefully. It might not be as important to him, but it was to her.

Attention eventually going to the way the chipped bits of wood haphazardly splayed against the ground, Natalie’d let the silence deafen them for a moment besides the murmurs of conversation around. It wasn’t her responsibility to fill in the gaps here when he’d made them.

They moved up a space.

Eventually, she'd offer something that wasn't about herself. "This place makes colored sandwiches by the way, even rainbow."
#11
The truth of the matter was, mostly, that Dante had no fucking idea what to say right now. The silence was uncomfortable, stiff and starched. He felt clumsy and oafish, and couldn't even begin to piece together what Natalie was thinking or feeling. It was incredibly hard to be patient. And even then, even with a goal in mind, how to start? Where to pry up the tape?

In his head, the wolf watched its progeny in curious silence. He knew who she was, of course. But he understood the tension just as well, understood that he was an outsider, and that squeezing back in was a delicate puzzle. Better left to human brains, probably.

More small talk. Dante hated it, but if the alternative was this grating quiet, well... he'd be smarter not to let it go on.

"Huh. That's fancy." Engaging! Dipshit. He shifted his weight slightly, peering at the menu. "Wonder if they do deep friend sandwiches and... stuff. How many times you eaten here?"
#12
If they had to ride through small talk, at least it was a topic as simple as food. There wasn’t exactly much worry about stepping in the wrong direction here even if she wished they could actually move on to the questions that could be felt bubbling in her chest and at the tip of the tongue.

”They might,” she hummed at the idea. As for how many times she’d been here, she briefly considered. ”I think about twice, maybe.”
#13
Twice. Alright. Must be decent if she was willing to come back a third time. Dante retracted a hand from his pocket, scratching at his scalp, pulling it over his face, his beard. He stared ahead still, feeling every cell in his body willing these fuckers out of the way. Hurry up, for fuck's sake. How long did it take to make a fucking grilled cheese. Dante took a deep, quiet breath. "Got a usual pick, or gonna try something new?" Chill out, man.
#14
She looked up at the movement, the questioning sending her own gaze to the side of the truck to figure out what to even order. Nothing exactly sounded good, honestly.

”Something new, probably the onion one.” Maybe, she could coax herself to actually eat it if the whole thing tasted like cheesy onion rings.
#15
The onion one. Dante sought it with his gaze, feeling both more tense and more relieved as the customer at the window left, leaving one more shithead between them and sandwiches neither of them actually wanted. "They got one with bologna, huh," he said, half-way thinking out loud. "Think that'll be my guy."
#16
Out of all the options, she hadn’t exactly pegged Dante to go with that one. There wasn’t anything wrong with it, just not expected.

A light smile took to her face at the descriptor. ”Hopefully, its good and they put a lot on there.”
#17
Well. Another funky-ass sandwich with Natalie's seal of approval. He guessed it wasn't... that weird. He made a low sound of acknowledgement, nodding his head. Yep. He'd get that one. Didn't really... know what else to say!

If Natalie made no further attempts at small talk, he would also remain quiet until they reached the window. There, he'd order his stupid grilled bologna sandwich and pull out his wallet, hiking a thumb toward the girl at his side with a, "and whatever she wants."
#18
That seemingly was where the small talk stopped, dried up and leaving the two in a swath of silence for a bit. Natalie looked around them and down at her hands as if it all was suddenly more interesting than the last few minutes.

Finally their turn, she stepped up, a bit surprised at the offer to pay for her. That was nice. Taking that as an invitation, she stepped up closer, attention going to the menu for a second while relaying her order make sure it was right before letting Dante have space again to finish up the transaction.

”Thank you,” was given his way once he was done.
#19
"No problem," came his simple answer. It was nothing, and something at the same time - a fucking drop in a desert-dry bucket of what he ought to have been doing up until this point. A fucking overpriced grilled cheese sandwich. What a great guy.

He felt an itch for another cigarette as they waited for their food, something to do, to keep him busy. He waited with idle hands instead, grateful that it didn't take too long, in the end. When they were burdened with their meager meals, he lead them to a table, purposefully secluded. Settling in, he flipped the container open, considering the buttery bread with less enthusiasm than the wolf in his head felt. It did smell pretty good.

"Guess we got... a lot to talk about," he began tepidly, picking up one triangular half of his sandwich before he set his eyes on the girl. Where the fuck to start.
#20
The wait for the food wasn’t long thankfully. Grateful for the change of pace, but also fighting the very real childish want to just leave, she took her own sandwich, its warmth felt through the bottom of the container, following Dante to a table. They were situated just so that they’d be out of earshot to the normal person, something not missed, but honestly the only way they were going to get through this weird whatever this was was to be able to talk somewhat freely.

Settling into her side, Natalie would open the styrofoam shell, though eyes stayed on Dante at the try to start, expecting something in addition before flitting down eventually to her own sandwich. ”Yeah.” A breath was taken as Natalie felt most, if not all, the words she’d been wanting to say drying up on her tongue. ”Why’d you want to meet up?”
#21
Yeah. Dante grunted something that was almost a laugh, and bit into his sandwich as she started with a question. Why? He wondered if she'd rather they hadn't. Maybe she'd have preferred that he didn't even call her. Could have let the unknown number go to voicemail, heard his voice, and deleted it altogether. He chewed his food and his thoughts for a moment, and mirrored her in looking down at the oozing bread in his hands.

"Well. I was thinking about joining the pack again." He cleared his throat, sniffed. "Got told by a couple people that I oughtta run it by you first." He glanced up at her, expression almost pensive. "Figured you and I got some kind of bad blood." And fuck if most of it wasn't on his hands.
#22
That was one of the scenarios she had considered when he’d called, Dante wanting to join the pack again. But, this wasn’t the same pack he’d left before it'd crumpled into smoke and in a weird way, the wheel of power dynamics had shifted, her having something Dante wanted even though it still felt like the man’s presence was towering. Him reaching out about joining didn’t really make much sense and she frowned for it. Hand reaching for the crust of the too buttery monstrosity, she tore off a piece just for something idle hands could do as her stomach twisted itself into knots.

Who had said that to him? Why was her opinion suddenly in the way of someone joining? What wolves had known he was going to reach out before she had and why hadn’t they told her? It kind of hurt and their assumptions without including her felt invasive, especially considering it wasn’t like she projected her problems loudly. Dante could’ve joined and been at the next meeting and… and, well, she would’ve probably excused herself, maybe even shifted, but that would’ve been the bright neon sign needed for everyone present not whatever it was they thought they had pieced together.

Natalie met his thoughtful gaze with her own, though the mention of bad blood was the direct finger to the ugly that had been allowed to fester from day one and she’d avoided bringing up like the plague. With him being gone, she’d frankly just tried to bury it, but now here it was again, oozing just as ugly. Confront it or let him lead her through it? “They figured or did you,” she questioned steadily, deciding then and there that she'd done enough avoiding on the subject. The question was an important distinction and she wondered if this was the first time he’d ever considered nothing was exactly peachy with them.
#23
What a loaded fucking question. Dante smiled at her almost grimly, feeling both better suited to the grittiness, and utterly unprepared. "Me, and them, I guess. Guess the general consensus is that I shouldn't be in if you don't like it." He held his sandwich still, feeling it give slowly under his fingers, but he didn't go for another bite. "And I don't want you to think I'm here to... kiss your ass so that I can have my spot back or anything." His head shook some. It felt like an important clarification to make. "Because. Shit. I know the way I've treated you isn't, uh. Good. So. You don't owe me anything."
#24
Everyone apparently. Everyone apparently also thought she was the one to make the ultimate decision which was more agency on any of this than could be hoped for, but it was also frustrating. Why that was, she couldn’t exactly place much like this entire interaction. It was like her life was suddenly on hyper-drive with no time to just sit and take a breather and look back to at least ask what exactly had happened.

He wasn’t here to win Natalie over in an effort to buy in on brownie points thought to sway her, admitting in his own words to treating her less than great. The summation was ridiculously minimizing to her experience and it was hard not to have it catch wrong. Really? Out of all the words in the world, that’s what he’d landed on? ”No, I don’t,” she agreed with an edge to it. It felt like her entire body was suddenly bristling, stemming from the wolf, the one he’d made.

”You haven’t even apologized for any of it.” The wadded up greasy bread plopped back into the container, as she tried to puzzle if that's what he was working himself towards.
#25
Well. He'd pissed her off, somehow. Dante froze in his proverbial tracks, uncertain of... what had triggered it, or where to go. It left him feeling defensive in turn, a little on guard for all he knew he'd been the one to fuck up in the first place. Natalie had a right to be pissed, chump, whatever the fuck her reasons were. And maybe, distantly, he was happier to see her be real about it instead of folding in on herself or some shit.

"I know." The response came out curter than he meant it to, and he sighed, lowering his own sandwich to rest in the shell again. He put both of his hands down on the table, gently, inhaling purposefully. Calm. "And I'm sorry. For that. For... attacking you. For the dog. For being a deadbeat and ditcher." All shit he couldn't change, now. So it goes.
#26
That’s not what she had expected. He didn’t try to circumvent or shoot her down, just agreed, though the tone could be better. Natalie waited as he seemed to get himself in order before actually, finally, giving her an apology sorely lacking for a long time. It sincerely sounded real, every part of it addressing her hurt, making Natalie feel seen as her own person for the first time by him, given respect that had been lacking.

That ball in her chest and stomach loosened as if it was a balloon slowly losing tension. Her face skewed, throat threatening to close up after a beat of stunned silence. She swallowed thickly, before responding. ”Thank you.” His actions going forward would determine a lot on if this actually meant much, but for now Natalie would choose to believe him. ”You really hurt me and then you just kept doing it... It's been hard.”
#27
He could sense the change in her. Something emotional. Dante looked down at his sandwich again, quietly uncomfortable. He'd been so justified in everything he'd done, without truly being justified. He'd hurt her, repeatedly, as she said. Done so many fucked up things to her. For a good fucked up time, he'd seen her as little more than some dumb girl that he'd suddenly been put in charge of. Which was on him, even then. Well, fuck you, Dante.

He nodded his head, sniffed idly. "Yeah. I hurt a lot of people, Nat." The sandwich looked unappealing altogether now, bologna grease pooling in yellow oil slicks on the styrofoam. "Alex left me. I hurt her a lot, too." And she'd hurt him a lot, but that wasn't the point, here. Didn't really fucking matter, anymore. Just another one biting the dust. "So." So, uh. Yeah.
#28
It sounded like she had just been part of a pattern, another one of those stains rubbed into a carpet and not even considered until the move out fee kicked in. Maybe Natalie shouldn’t have expected much from someone who’d decided to attack her even though he very well could’ve pulled back, but she had. She always was that person that assumed the best out of anyone regardless of what they’d done and maybe that was stupid in some regard, but it felt disingenuous to her to do anything less.

He’d even hurt Alex and all she could really do was be witness to that confirmation. Natalie knew very little about how their relationship had worked, only that she’d found it much easier to confide in her than him. That they’d broken up had a wave of concern pass through, but if he had hurt her, it was for the best. Seemingly, the coyote had left town completely not much after and Natalie was pretty sure Dante was just one of the cogs in the wheel of reason.

She considered him before a soft breath escaped. ”You need to do better.” A promise to do that would be a good step forward.
#29
Some shitty part of him - and he recognized it, here, at least - would have preferred Natalie to be a soft little pushover. For her to just tell him it was okay, and that she forgave him, so that he didn't have to listen to her talk down to him about doing better. Who was she, some kid, some average wolf, to give him life advice? His first impulse was some snipping remark, and he only just held onto it, fixing her with a tight smile. "Uh. Yeah. I know."

She didn't have to tell him that, but. Shit. Maybe, in the long run, it was better that she did. If he could keep his fucking head on straight, maybe having little Nat tell him he was a piece of shit would be a humbling reminder.
#30
Natalie watched his tight smile that stiff words proceeded to come out of. Dante had to do better and he knew, even with this seemingly just as hard a topic for him. Verbal confirmation checked a box for her and she managed an even, ”Okay,” in response. Fingers toyed at the side of the container, the flimsy cardboard giving and reshaping as it was pulled and let go.
#31
Okay. Okay. Great. Dante nodded in response. Okay? What fucking now? Keep going, he guessed. Searching blindly for the turn he was meant to take here. Words were fucking useless, in the end. A woman could tell you she loved you and still run off with another man. Just an example. Actions mattered.

He cleared his throat, about as interested in his food as Nat seemed to be. "So, uh. Going forward... what do you want? I guess, I mean - what's the best way for me to make amends? Or is that just some shit we gotta... navigate." Again. Actions. Right.
#32
What she wanted was as clear as a new puzzle, the box’s art the final result to be achieved, but the process was a search for where the right pieces needed to go together and they were starting with the edges. Her gaze dropped, trying to think briefly on the options, resulting sincerely in very little. Her face pulled around and Natalie finally just shook her head slowly, looking up.

“It’s going to have to be figured out as we go I think.” He needed to try to be better in action.
#33
She seemed to be able to come up with as much as he could. That left him with just fucking winging it. Dante was good at learning shit the hard way, for what it was worth. He held her gaze for a moment, nodding his head. "A'ight." Communication was not his strong suit. Fun. He cleared his throat, moving along. "How you liking the pack? Lotta changes since, uh. Last time."
#34
She gave the barest of smiles to his agreement, feeling like it’d sunk in with the way he’d looked at her.

With a switch over to the pack, there was a hint of defensiveness to not say anything that she’d ignore, especially since Dante was considering joining while there was that want to have him know how she was doing in life he’d put her into at the end of the day. They were what she had wished the first one had been like even with the twists as of late. Dakila was doing his best as leader, mentor, friend even, balancing on a teeter totter of responsibilities from all sides. Emily and Max were easy to get along with, a duo that tried to do right by everyone and were good solid people, always welcoming and friendly. ”Yeah, there has been, but I really like it,” Natalie began, sincerely meaning so, feeling like she could actually breathe in it. ”Everyone’s easy to get along with and we all have each other’s backs. It just feels… right? If that makes sense.” It probably did, especially to Dante, but were things were still clicking into place for her and sometimes those changes were hard to exactly word when it was more of a feeling than anything else. It was just very apparent how much better she felt in this one, one of those things that hit home once given a voice.
#35
Natalie liked it. Maybe more than her words alone could suggest, but he could see it. He found her feelings of belonging laced into her tone of voice, the thoughtfulness in her speech. They all got along, had a good bond. It made sense. Dante nodded his head a little bit, thoughtful, too. A whole different crew. He felt an itch at the back of his mind, some slowly-warming feeling that he might not fit in. It was hard to put a finger on the reason. Maybe a pack that made soft, sweet Natalie comfortable was too soft for him. They had no vampire ban, at any rate.

Still. If he could just pull his head out of his ass for a second. He glanced at the girl again, considering her, the beast layered beneath her skin. She was growing into the life that she'd been crushed into. Where she had struggled to fill the shape, it seemed now that she was softening to the flow, growing into the acute angles. It didn't have to mean anything about the pack. He'd figure it out, eventually, if he was let in. And if he wasn't, he had reason enough to stick around, to make up for lost time and inflicted wounds. To help Natalie continue on this path that she seemed to be marching along now instead of stumbling.

"Makes sense," he assured her gruffly, still finding little to no appeal in his sandwich. He closed the box slowly, toying with the edges. "'s a good sign. Glad it's working for you."
#36
He did understand as expected, assuring it was a good thing and she truly believed that because out of this new reality of her life, this felt assured and true. It wasn’t scary anymore, but something she clung to with hope. ”Thanks.”

Natalie toyed with the lid of her own box for a moment, a fingernail running against a seam; eating the now cooled grilled cheese would have to happen later, probably, maybe, or Katya could do it for her when it was brought home.

Considering part of why they were here, it felt like the conversation had naturally progressed to the idea of Dante joining again being the next point of action. And while he’d ultimately left the pack last time, theoretically, Dante was able to be here now and it wasn’t exactly fair to bar him out of everything a pack could provide over their own things that needed to be worked through, not if they were to actually start working from here. She was willing to give him that shot. ”I think… if you want to join again, I think that would be okay,” Natalie ventured, considering him.
#37
Silence stretched again, and Dante thumbed at his own idle thoughts, see-sawing over the potential for rejection. In the end, when she did speak up, giving him her tepid little blessing, Dante found he was absolutely not surprised. For all his uncertainty, it would have been a little more stunning if she'd decided right then that, no, she wasn't ready. He couldn't put his finger on why, beyond the idea of Natalie being harsh remaining a hard thing to imagine. Still.

He nodded his head, a little slow still. "'Kay," he offered quietly, feeling his wolf stretch in his head, keen for the next step. "I'll, uh. Get with Dakila about it again. And. If you change your mind, that's alright. Either way. I'll stick around unless you rather I don't." His big shoulders shrugged, feeling like he wasn't fitting in his skin quite right, setting his future in a young woman's hands like a set of expensive keys.
#38
There didn’t seem to be some jump into wrapping things with exuberance, but instead a calm progression. Okay, he’d join. Okay, it’d be better this time as a pack together, hopefully. She wondered how long it’d take for Dakila to welcome him in now that she’d essentially bestowed the key to the gate he’d put her in charge of. Probably, not long? Surprisingly though, Dante was willing to give it back at any point while elaborating that he’d still be here regardless unless it was better not to be in her eyes. That it didn’t have to be a permanent decision helped ease some of the uncertainty in if this was the right thing, it was always hard to know.

Natalie blinked in some surprise, a thoughtful smile growing as she gave a nod. ”I appreciate that.” Her mouth moved around as if to add more, but everything felt sort of not right as a follow up. Resigned, she closed the sandwich box, the slide of cardboard loud to her ears as the tabs locked into place, before cradling the small package between hands.
#39
Well. He wasn't sure how to feel about that - offering a certain brand of impermanence and being met with a smile. Don't think about it too deeply, man. She appreciated it. Maybe that was cause enough for a smile. Dante didn't return it, just nodded his head a little, pursed his mouth. Imitated her in closing his stupid sandwich box. Would probably eat it later.

"Yeah. Um. Anything else you wanna cover?" He eyed her again, uncertainty in his stitched brow. He didn't want her to feel like he was glazing over shit or anything. She'd expressed her hurt, but not at length. Maybe he'd been expecting her to crow about it for a lot longer.
#40
He seemed as unsure as she did on what to do next. Tucking strands of hair back behind an ear, she let out a small breath. There was a lot to cover between them in all honesty, but he’d already apologized in a lump sum, heard her, why harp on anything unless he specifically wanted to use right now, right now to go through every strand, to backtrack in a way she didn’t want to necessarily at the moment? It never did well to dig up everything and lay it all out as a sort of punishment when an apology had already been laid at your feet.

”I guess… I’m just trying to figure out why you’re deciding to stay after finding out that the old pack is gone. You were already on the run.” It was a question out of her mouth before Natalie could think better of it, but she’d seen him leave and then the entire pack collapse in a blink of an eye. If that didn’t make someone nervous about permanence, what wouldn’t? He was hardly staying around for her, so what had him fixated on this place exactly? Maybe, just the ties to people and places she was unaware of. Hopefully, it was nothing that’d cut loose and end up with him running off again without another word. That’d hurt.
#41
A good question, he guessed. He'd been pretty loyal to Alina, once upon a time. Why come back? Why here, and why now? Why didn't he just keep moving along? In a sense, he really didn't have anywhere else to go. Of course, he had an entire fucking map to plod across, if he wanted to, but eventually he'd run out of gas, out of money. He could live out the rest of his days in the body of a wolf and nothing more, if he really had to. But what a lonely existence.

"I dunno," he said slowly, genuinely. He looked at his hands, shrugged his shoulders. "Gotta rebuild somewhere. Might as well be here, I guess."
#42
There wasn’t an exact reason besides familiarity then as well as just the concept of the pack and a thoughtful expression slipped her lips to the side. ”That makes sense.” No one exactly wanted to start from scratch and if she’d been in his shoes, Natalie would’ve done the same.

Taking in a breath, there really wasn’t much else she wanted to cover at the moment unless he had something to ask. ”I think that’s all I had for right now.”
#43
He was glad it did make sense. He wouldn't have known how else to explain it. He grunted softly, shrugged again, nodded his head. Okay. Cool. And for now, that was all Nat had to say about any of it. Okay. Well. Cool.

He drummed his thumbs together a little bit, glanced away, and cleared his throat. "Kay. Well. Got my number now, so... if you need anything, don't be afraid to tell me." Not that Nat really needed him at all. She'd been doing fine without him, and he'd sort of extended the offer already, but might as well hit it one more time.
#44
She watched the thumbs for a second, attention blinking back up towards his gaze at the clearing of a throat. There was the offer again about reaching out if needed and as much as Natalie might’ve clung to it months prior as the only helpline, now it was just a nice sentiment as he wasn’t the first wolf she’d go to anymore unless specifically needing him. ”Thanks, I’ll keep that in mind,” she responded with a grateful smile nonetheless. ”Let me know if you need anything, too.” Dante needing her for anything was really out there, but then again he’d called for this so anything could happen apparently.

After a beat, the conversation felt like it had come to its natural end in all honesty and she shifted in the bench, legs readying to lift her up. ”I think I’m going to head out, I have a few errands to do. Thank you for the lunch.” She lifted up the sandwich box in question into her hand with a bob up in indication. ”And I guess I’ll see you around?”
#45
Ego immediately wondered what the hell he'd need from Natalie. He'd never call her for backup in a fight, as far as he could tell. But it was the thought that counted, and he'd be fucking wiser to keep that in mind. So he just smiled a little, nodded his head, an unspoken acceptance of the offer.

And then, just like that, it was time to tie this up. She had things to do, places to be. Dante considered her with another slow nod, once again catching himself seeing Natalie as a person more than he maybe ever had. Fucked up, probably, but. Refreshing to see the young woman in this light.

"Yeah, no problem. See you around." He lifted his hand in a slight wave, but made no move to leave, himself. He'd let her go and linger there a little while, lighting a cigarette when he was all alone again, ruminating in smoke.
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