Yellow Pages Belay or Delay
Emily was on the phone with Natalie, he could hear, but he decided to not eavesdrop. He'd send Natalie a text when Emily was done, but for now... it felt wrong to leave Katya out of it. She was as closely knit to the pack as any pack member, beyond the new wolves.

hey katya, i don't know if word's gotten to you yet or not, but em and i made the decision to leave the pack.
i know how fast news travels, so i just wanted to tell you directly. em's on the phone with nat right now.
don't know if you'll get that audience, if you're still up for a spar
That answered her question about who Natalie was on the phone with.

yeah what’s going on man
i don’t get it
been thinking in circles about it, but at the base it's about tomás going public with the stf and the way we found out
been trying to get comfortable with it for a while, but i just can't
Katya felt like that shit was so far in the past now—done and dusted—but maybe that wasn’t the same for everyone. Why?

what part of it can’t you get comfortable with?
a lot of things. being public with the task force. if this was one person, fine, but this is... dozens? he can't control what they do. i don't trust them. his trust in his boss isn't one i share. a few days before he came clean, he got evasive with me when i was asking about the vampire involved in this, then the way he blindsided us with it, so just... unease. threat perception.
a whole mess of personal reasons. i like the pack, we're not unfriendly, tomás and i are still sorting out the gym for the move, but i need to put some distance between me and the pack if they're okay with a liability like that
Lots to read. She went through it properly, tempering her mood.

Dakila, evasive? That just didn’t sound like him. He could be easy to misunderstand because he wasn’t like, the most proactive. She knew that firsthand. She knew he was bad at following up on things too, but at the same time, he was always the first to jump to help. So in Katya’s head, that balanced out.

You took the good bits from the people you loved. Nobody was fucking perfect.

okay but max. nothing’s come up since he’s told his work has it?? because if nothing’s come up, if i’m going to be totally honest, leaving sounds like a paranoid decision??
you’re literally suggesting he’s deliberately endangering not just every single wolf but every single were we know
and you’re both my friends but like, this shit doesn’t happen overnight. nobody gave dakila a manual. he’s come so far man. leaving the pack, blindsiding him back, and then also making him fully accountable is absolutely going to fuck him up max and i’m sorry but that is not fair
God, this was awkward over text.

i think his choice endangered us and i said as much to him when it happened, but i recognise he thought it was the only choice he could make.
this is about me, not him. i can't trust who he's trusting. he's your friend, i get it, but if i'm going to be in a pack i need to be sure about it. i'm not. for as long as i've been in the pack, tomás has generally been competent, but i wouldn't call us good friends
there's been a few clashes and miscommunications, i've never managed to get through to him like you and nat seem to do. i'm not going to hang on when it's not the right place for me.
Okay. Fine? He was an adult who could make his own choices, and Katya was apparently delusional enough that she’d thought him and Dakila got along better than they did. But... literally none of that addressed why Dakila had to hit her and Natalie up, asking for crumbs about why they’d split.

Was it worth pushing, though. Was it. Katya flicked up and down their texts, and Max just sounded fucking done. Over it.

She responded chiefly to his last sentence.

so what are you gonna do?

Were her friends leaving town to escape the cops? What the flying fuck was their plan.
At least Katya was leaving it at that. The whole thing was getting a little more dramatic than he'd wanted, still surprised Tomás had apparently thought everything was fine. Max had told him; don't leave. Step down. The challenge had been pulled back, but that had been another one of their fumbles. Different wavelengths.

we're gonna live life, what else are we supposed to do?
we've already moved out of the bluff, months ago. emily's building her career back up. somewhere else, since tomás ordered her to give up her old job

God, that was still galling, the way it had gone down. Max wished he'd fucking argued against it, let her take leave, let her learn control, don't ruin everything she'd built up to. But Emily was handling it, she was moving on. Max wanted to move on, but reiterating it was just dredging it up.

i'm finishing my degree, might get a job as an EMT. quote shakespeare at concussed people
All this drama and not giving anyone a heads up to live life the same? If Katya didn’t know Max better, she would’ve thought he had a vendetta.

Actually. Did he have a vendetta? How much did she know someone who apparently just acted on their own whims. He said this was about him and like, yeah. That was obvious, dude. Everything was about you.

A rise in Natalie’s voice from the other room caused her to flinch, wolf agitated.


A long pause to process.

i still think this way out is very fucked up of you both
i get what it means to make decisions in your own self interest, and that’s totally fucking cool, go you, but you’ve missed the mark by letting it sit like this
if you can’t see that then i don’t really know what to say to you
Max wanted to be angry, but he just felt exhausted. Everyone had different ideas of what was going on, what their intentions had been. He'd tried to explain but clearly it was missing the mark.

Maybe he couldn't do this over text. He swiped his finger over the call button.

Having finished up on the call with Emily and not really wanting to wait in a whole different room, Natalie walked quietly to the kitchen. There was the general sense and look of upset and she had to wonder what was going on or how much of her conversation had been heard, if it was even that.

"Emily wants to say she's sorry for not saying anything... she should be calling you later.... Are you okay?"
Two cities away, after pulling herself out of a momentary funk, Emily would wander in to find Max. She knew it was not alright, but didn’t have the words to ask. Instead she just curled up near to him as she could, quietly supportive and alert.

There wasn’t any mistaking the mood in this corner of their home as anything but bleak. A half-devoured pack of beef sticks was resting on the counter, bag torn open the wrong way with a couple sticks having rolled out. Maybe the only sense that there was something akin to bad mojo floating around, was the little bit of wild in Katya’s eyes as she locked onto Natalie.

”Yeah,” she replied, but she sounded confused. Say sorry to her? Her phone buzzed a few more times. ”Max,” Katya finally signalled with a point to her phone screen, hitting to answer with a heavy frown in place.

What’s up.

She reached for Natalie’s hand, seeking to soothe her wolf back down her chest.
The phone was dialling as Emily came in, settling down next to him and he lifted an arm automatically to let her settle against his side. He didn't say anything, waiting for the call to connect or to just ring on, depending on what mood Katya was in.

Then she answered and offered what felt like a little too casual what's up for the trend of the conversation, even if the tone didn't match.


He said it, punctuated with a sigh. He couldn't help sounding tired.

I can promise you that we didn't plan for it to end like it did. Our plan was to tell him, talk it out, have time to explain it to the others, at least. I wasn't exactly expecting him to growl at us like we were throwing accusations his way. We just wanted to leave, Katya, and we were telling him first.

He made a frustrated noise, leaning his head back and resisting the urge to thump it against the backrest of the couch. Was it because they wanted to leave? People left packs all the time, things changed, people moved on. Liza did, Jane did. Julian did, with a bang, sure, but Max had hoped going to Tomás would prevent that fucking bang from going off. Fucking naive, hadn't he learnt Tomás always dug his heels in? And that's exactly why he'd always felt so helpless.

My way or nothing.

Please, because I'm going crazy wondering if I'm missing some gigantic bit of context, what's fucked up here?

He couldn't help going a little plaintive as he asked. There were so many assumptions he could make, but which one was the right one?
Natalie looked across Katya's face, noticing the small mess on the counter, before back at the confused tone. The phone ringing stalled any further conversation and the mention as to who had her awkwardly hanging there, not sure if she should give space or not. "Oh." Katya reaching for her hand as the call was taken answered the question though and she squeezed back, wolf pressing itself against the other once more and seeking to give and receive comfort, a tongue swiping out to lick to a plush ear.
Growl? What. Like, literally stand there and human growl. She tucked that away in her head.


Okay, she could elaborate.

What’s fucked up is he didn’t see it coming. What’s fucked up is he had to hit me and Natalie up, and we didn’t know any better either. It sounds like you both totally stripped him from having the choice to make things better, or at least come to terms with it, in which case I’d fucking growl too.

What did a friend even mean to Max? If Dakila wasn’t one, did that mean Katya wasn’t? Did that mean he’d just like, dispose of her randomly in the same way? Because she wasn’t here for that.

Actually, I am growling.
Emily was sitting close enough to eavesdrop, but it was not difficult when you could hear a pin drop across a room.

She tilted her head back, let that thought percolate. For probably the first time in a very long time she felt quiet, settled. Enough to decide that Katya had a point. It felt pretty shitty to have the phrasing just... thrown back at them—Emily guessed she didn’t believe them—but she figured it wasn’t fair to Dakila to have done what they’d done. In the same vein, it remained unfair that he’d sprung the reveal on them as well. Stripped of choice in either direction—even if the man offered to step down it was still a decision made under duress. Who backed their people into a corner like that?

Clumsy as she had been, it was better that they all parted ways. Emily wasn’t certain how she could ever express how desperate she’d been to get away from the whole confusing hierarchy and pack authority Dakila represented but it was a feeling that revealed itself in the aftermath now that relief settled in.

She felt bad Max was dealing with Katya’s outpouring of grief with them. She’d been the one to blow her top off and he’d followed. Leaning in, she slung an arm across his middle and hugged herself close, supportive of him and letting the wolves tangle. "That’s on me." She muttered quietly, regretfully.

Sorry about the way it went but not sorry about being away.
So that's how they'd found out. Yeah, that was fucked up, not at all how Max had imagined or wanted it to go down.

Emily spoke and Max was distracted from his answer, tilting his head to tuck his nose into Emily's hair. He couldn't deny what Emily was saying, but he also couldn't blame her. "I understand," he muttered back, shifting his head enough to settle a kiss to her forehead before pulling back enough to speak. Physical affection an old go-to for comfort. Maybe nonsensical, but he did understand.

Okay, yeah. I didn't know he asked you guys why. I can't deny that's fucked up.

Say it how it is. The best-laid plans of mice and men, as it went, it hadn't survived when they'd been in the room and told him. He tilted his head forward, head a little bowed, speaking evenly and trying to be clear, but he knew he probably sounded tired. Couldn't help it.

We thought he'd had it on his mind, Katya, just like us. Others have left, we just looked at it as... us being the next to go.
Katya seemed to be having the exact same conversation on how Emily and Max hadn’t let any of them know before they’d just gone and left from what she pieced together. If Dakila hadn’t been shocked at the way things had played out, she’d be surprised. You couldn’t just guess people knew things and felt a certain way and then be affronted when it turned out they didn’t at all know and were now asking questions while feeling even a bit slighted.

That unsettled fluttering in her stomach wouldn’t back down. A lot of this hurt would’ve been avoided if the two had simply talked about misgivings, especially if it had been bothering them for months. What was the point of being friends or pack if you didn’t reach out to work stuff out or simply vented? Were there any other reasons to have those connections if it wasn’t to care for each other in some way?

Natalie listened to Katya’s reply, found it inline with hers, but the muted response through the phone from Max had her face pulling into a mix of confusion and frustration, turning to look at it sharply as if to see him right there. What was messed up about Dakila reaching out to figure out if they knew anything if the people leaving hadn’t said as much as a peep until making that choice? It made perfect sense to her. What didn’t make sense was them having to learn after the fact, from the way the bonds had severed, to a questioning text when, honestly, there had been more than enough time to bring this up before making the final decision. Natalie had already had this conversation with Emily and begged her to talk to Max about it because she was going to go nuts if now Katya was forced to have to explain the same thing. How could both Emily and Max be so blind? The wolf rubbed her face against the floor in frustration, paws pulling at a long snout, tail fluffed.
She stared back at Natalie's sharpened gaze as Max and--Emily? Logically--exchanged brief words, feeling kind of fucking vexed that all she was getting on the other end of the line was tired. She felt that this warranted more. Better.

Her hand squeezed Natalie's when her wolf didn't come back for more snuffles, skin growing clammy for it.

How... was he meant to have it on his mind.

Katya eased her tone just slightly in favour of sounding completely dumbfounded. She explained from her perspective. Not Dakila's--she wasn't his saint. From her perspective of when she'd last seen them all together.

You came to our house for Thanksgiving. We fucking... we fucking joked about him being an elf. Like.

At a loss, she released a laugh, desperate and short. What the fuck.
Did Katya expect them to have a go at Dakila over Thanksgiving? Emily had to tilt her head in confusion at that.

Even if she hadn’t been at the end, Emily had figured they could still be amiable and leave, couldn’t they?

This was all getting terribly muddled—it felt like they could mea culpa until the cows came home and it wouldn’t matter. Thing was, Emily wasn’t sure which part they were meant to apologize for anymore.
Max couldn't help but frown, confused. Genuinely confused. What had Katya been told about what had happened when Tomás had broken the news to them? That they'd all sat down all calm and talked it out?

Katya... did you expect us to ruin Thanksgiving by talking about how his choice to expose himself made us feel unsafe on our own territory? He already knew we weren't happy with him doing it. We had a wolf walk out, I wanted him to step down, I challenged him. Does that sound like we were okay with what he did?

Moving into tired and into... frustrated. Why couldn't they understand that this had been a problem, but they'd kept it to themselves because they didn't want to get into an argument about Tomás choice. He'd done it. There wasn't a way to fix it.

I didn't go through with the challenge because it wouldn't fix anything, it'd just make everything worse. I didn't want to implode the pack just because I felt he'd fucked up and it took me a while to realise I didn't see him as my king after that. We waited because the pack was just us; Emily, Nat, him, and I. That's just enough for the pack magic. How would it look if we just let it all collapse? We wanted the pack to be stable before we left, let things settle.
It was absolutely too many words and ideas to focus on. She wasn't talking about a challenge.


She said to all of it.

No, I wouldn't expect you to ruin Thanksgiving. But if I didn't trust someone or if I had reservations that were this hardcore, I wouldn't fake getting along with them. I wouldn't come to shit like Thanksgiving. That's deceitful. Not just to him, but to us. How can I trust you if you act one way and then do another.
Fake getting along with them? Max hadn't faked anything, he'd been perfectly pleasant because that's how you fucking acted around people.

I didn't fake anything, Katya! I'm not going to act the asshole just because I have doubts, I wanted us to get along. That's why we went to him first, to make sure he was the first to know! We told him we still wanted to help him out, when he gets hostile on us, again, I'm not going to sit there and pretend that isn't a huge fucking problem!

He knew he sounded angry, frustrated, voice raised because he felt like he going crazy with all of this. He'd wanted to not make this personal, but this was fucking personal now.

Trust me or not, that's your choice, but I'm done being yanked around by his selective mood swings. I watched him tear into Emily when she was new and fucking scared, right after she'd been attacked by a fucking wolf. Attacked by me. I'm going to regret letting that happen until I fucking die, I'm not going to sit here and listen to you call me a liar.

He closed his eyes, bracing himself, tempted to just hang up. Fuck!
Emily drew in a breath, bracing against the hot wave of anger that washed over her. She didn’t like Katya’s accusation any more than Max did but it meant nothing to her. It wasn’t the truth and it all seemed to be said in fear and anger.

What did leave her feeling a little hollowed out was the way Max’s regret resurface. It was strange to hear it, she wasn’t certain why, but it left her feeling awkwardly twisted. They all had very different perceptions of what happened that day but it made sense when it came to trauma.

Emily straightened and eased the phone out of her angry mate’s hand.

Katya, hey-

Very gently, since she was still feeling awfully raw from the talk with Natalie. She’d wait a tick to make sure she was heard.
Natalie squeezed back on Katya’s hand, a string of grounding to hold back too

So they’d been just waiting for other wolves to join. Maybe, it was meant to be nice but it made her sick. They had had so much time to talk about it, about how they’d felt drifted enough to leave at a moment’s notice as soon as another wolf showed up, and just decided to stay quiet. It didn’t have to be Thanksgiving, there were so many days between that and now and before. The way Katya put it gave words to the complicated thought about it, it was lying by omission wasn't it? Dakila had been a call away. They'd been right there.

There was suddenly shouting on the other end of the line at the accusation, flipping it all to Dakila, muddling up the point and with it a familiar pushing from her wolf as it scrambled to fix this whole night for them arose. They needed to break this down to simple body language and get the message out, all too clearly shown in her mind and Natalie pushed it back as best she could, accusatory tones a backdrop to racing, very wolf thoughts. Very probably not good if she shifted in the kitchen, thoughts.

An unsteady breath escaped and a vibrant green gaze blinked towards her friend in apology before she let Katya’s hand drop after another squeeze. "Sorry," she mouthed. Sort of dazed with pushing things back in her head, trying to stop the way her blood sung, she began walking out of the kitchen and into the hall. It was probably best if she went to her room, but Natalie didn’t want to leave Katya completely by herself so to the living room it was, far enough where the other end of the phone line couldn’t be heard and with it the determination that her wolf could just bully through the screen.
He wasn’t going to act the asshole because he had doubts, but he was going to act the asshole who didn’t give a heads up? Who joked along, made a dude think he was his friend?

Yeah, no. No. That wasn’t how it worked. That was the textbook definition of fake.

It was also so abundantly clear that Max didn’t get her point. He kept going back on other things. Giving his grudge bigger and badder reasons she wasn’t asking about.

Katya didn’t give a single fuck if he stayed in the pack or left. Katya didn’t give a single fuck if his reasons for leaving were justified or not. What she had said, in text and in words, was that it was wrong to not communicate what he’d literally just communicated to her so simply: that they’d been planning to leave as soon as the pack stabilised.

Like, holy fuck. Did he not get how not telling Dakila that until the very last moment looked deceitful? Was he that tactless, or was he just too preoccupied painting Dakila with the darkest brush?

A green-eyed Natalie reluctantly released her, and Katya opened her mouth to snarl an answer out, before she caught it at the change of voice. Did Max just- Literally. Pussy.

Katya was also raw, but in a different way. Fresh like the glistening pink of a graze. She said nothing, only breathing a loud and increasingly testy exhale through her nose by way of greeting, brain packed with a summer’s worth of late night cicadas when it came to growls and sharp teeth.

Fucking fight her, Kuryakin.
"Emily!" He protested, loudly, but let her take the phone because he wasn't going to fight with her too. The better option, to him snarling down a phone. Still, he muttered a petulant, "I was talking."

He took a breath, trying to calm down, knowing the anger wasn't at Emily, or the other two, it was at the utter inability to understand why they kept thinking they should've said anything, while they were still figuring it out themselves. Not that it mattered, ultimately, they'd settled on leaving. They'd set out to get the information out there as best they could, but that went wrong almost immediately.

He rose, body tense, but knowing he had control. There would be no shift unless he wanted one. He roughly pulled a hand through his hair, stepping away from where Emily was sat to pace the living room. This time, he was conscious of his reactions, containing the roiling energy rather than lashing out like he'd done when he'd felt frustrations climb the first time.
To his protest, she simply offered a gentle hand squeeze, a thin smile. Apologetic but not truly. Emily wasn’t about to let his and Katya’s fiery personalities clash so much that they burnt everything they’d all built to cinders. He rose from the couch, away from her, and Emily heard the exhale on the other side, fuzzing out the receiver with its strength. She felt strung out between these two. Where was poor Natalie?

Watching him pace and feeling the anger both was too much. Maybe he was strong enough to push back against the wolf, but pale purple quickly filtered through her irises. The wolf was confused though. Why why why was everyone she loved fighting?

Emily knew what they’d done wrong, the wolf did not. The struggle. Before Emily answered she stood as well, reached out to brush a hand over Max’s shoulder. "Go cool off." she told him firmly. "Kill the the spider plant again, it’s getting unruly."

Then, whatever he decided to do, she slid the balcony door aside and stepped out into the cool air. God she needed that, before the wolf came tearing out. Her hands were shaking a little. She shut the door behind her.

Fact was, Katya could’ve hung up on that outburst. She didn’t and for that Emily was grateful. It was more than they deserved at the moment.

Katya, I’m sorry. We’re sorry. Natalie called, explained and we talked, but- I- I wanted to tell you myself. I’m sorry we kept you both out of the loop, we didn’t even think- we just got so caught up in our own heads, working ourselves up to this. Just- Sorry. There are no excuses for it.

She had reasons, not excuses, but they weren’t relevant right now. Not when nobody was hearing each other. Even then, she could see where the discussions dead-ended.

Listen- Can we see you guys soon? In person? I owe Nat a hug and you and Max can have a proper go at each other, I don’t care, whatever you want. Just give us a chance to fix this.
So the phone wasn’t taken by choice.

Either way, this was so fucking hard. Managing emotions when someone else popped off first was like, immensely grating, and having a wolf caged within her skin only made it all the more aggravating. It took every fucking fibre to cool herself, and as Emily exchanged some more words with Max, Katya attempted to gain some sense of that emotional balance by grinding her teeth. She was sweating. Literally sweating.

Then Emily was back to talking to her. Apologising, saying there were no excuses. She seemed to get why this was so jarring, at least more than Max.

Not right now. Like... yes, of course.

Katya attempted to reason, not shooting anyone down.

But I think we need some time to process. It feels a lot like a loss. A big loss.

Not to her, but to Natalie, who felt like she couldn’t stop things from changing within the pack? Undeniably, Katya thought.
Yes, of course.

Emily breathed out, a little teary with it. There was... a lot there. Just. Even if it was not right now. ‘Yes, of course.’

What had she ever done to deserve good friends like this? This phone call felt like the highest stakes thing she’d done all day and she’d exploded in the face of a wolf king earlier.

Yeah, that’s for the best. Get some distance.

She wondered what the loss was. It couldn’t be the pack, Katya wasn’t part of the pack. That meant she might be proving Natalie right. It wasn’t about the pack, it was about trust. She didn’t feel bad about leaving. She couldn’t even pretend to feel bad. But this! God. God, she’d fucked up.

Whenever you’re ready.
Stuffing her face against the couch as she balled up seemed the current best way in trying to put down a wolf that wanted to claw right out that second. Breathing deeply, she tried to wrest control back, the vibration in Natalie’s pocket signifying there was some kind of group message going on that normally would’ve had a response from her immediately, but not this time. It was something to respond to when words made sense again and emojis were more than just colors.

The tones from the kitchen seemed less intense than before and she let out a huge exhale. Maybe she should’ve grabbed some of those meat sticks from the counter before ducking out. Too late now.
Max didn't have it in him to laugh at Emily's joke, a huffed breath the only thing he managed as he leant into Emily's hand. Then she was moving away and he knew why, even if distance wouldn't really muffle the matebond. He let her go, willing enough to let her take it off his hands, especially since she didn't seem to be giving him a choice in the matter.

Knowing he had to settle his bristling before he regretted anything else, Max did go deal with the spider plant, but not to accidentally smash its pot like last time. He focused in on the task of pruning the little inside garden they had going on. Anything to distract himself from the muddled thoughts running through his mind, Emily's emotions coming in through the bond, and smashing his head against the choice of leaving the pack again.

He was stubbornly digging his heels in about that, whatever they thought. Whatever disaster the end result had been, that he was sorry for, but Max wasn't convinced he owed it to them to have bared his soul beforehand. It had felt right to go to Tomás first, make sure he knew first - had they wanted to be the first step instead?

Rather than get caught up in it, he shook his head and forcefully pushed it aside.
Cool, Emily got it. She just got it. Katya didn't need to repeat the same thing over in different words.


She paused for a long moment, head running low on the things that made it productive and human. It was still cicadas up there.

I'm gonna... go. Talk in a bit though.

And if that was that, Katya would hang up after goodbyes were said. She dragged her feet out of the kitchen and towards the dining room, peering out to witness Natalie... literally balled up on the couch. Katya chose against approaching. They'd already hugged it out, held it out, and sometimes not doing anything was the best thing to do.

So she stopped to rest against the kitchen's doorframe, trying hard not to slump. "We should go shift," Katya offered.
That was it. For now. And that was just fine—it was all too much for one day.

The promises to talk soon were, well, promising! But if the contention came down to whether or not it was right to leave, she thought they might never be able to see eye to eye. She didn’t think it was though.

Yeah. Talk in a bit.

It was a relief to get off the phone. Emily sat alone with her thoughts for a few minutes, watching cars pass on the quiet street below. The wolf was a knot in her chest. It felt a little risky going back inside, while she could still feel Max’s angry thoughts marching through her own skull. Shifter-risky. Pop out of her own skin with fur and teeth risky. Maybe they could load up in the car, go out for their own shift.

She exhaled and went back inside.
A few more snippets of words from the kitchen were had and then the sudden quiet registered, an air of finality that held the residents of the home in its grasp. Maybe, the phone call had finally ended?

The sound of footsteps approaching were tracked, a heavy gaze on her that had Natalie’s neck prickling. Katya’s voice broke the space and she tried hard to wrest meaning back into it. They should. Go shift. They should go shift. Oh... Slowly, Natalie uncurled herself in answer, feeling shaky and moving to go find and slip on her jacket and shoes. Maybe, once the wolves had a chance to stretch they could think about starting to put things back on track, but till then this was the best thing to do for them it looked like.
Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)