Ridgefield departures and arrivals
#1
The city was too much for him in a lot of ways. Overwhelmed with sensations that made the dog and man cower as he walked along a sidewalk. He knew what he was here for and where he needed to go. Just a quick trip, he promised himself that. Meet up with Max, touch base and scamper back out to Hawknell.

He slipped inside the restaurant with ease after a quick double check of the address. Eyes scanned the visible parts of the seating area before him, as if it would be a giant wolf in a chair to greet him instead of a man. A...powerful man. Powerful wolf.

Whenever he might have spotted Max, Julian would offer a timid wave and thin smile before he’d approach for a more personal greeting, perhaps. It always stirred some odd feelings being around another wolf.
#2
The Chinese restaurant wasn't crowded at all, most of the tables unoccupied and customers coming in for take-out, quick and brief. So Max had settled in an out of the way corner, but still easy within sight of the door with how small the place was.

Pointlessly, he was looking at the menu. He knew it by heart, but it gave him something to do while he waited for Julian to arrive. It didn't take long, that familiar sense of a wolf nearby, the familiar feeling of Julian in particular. Not so familiar these days, but... well, that was always the case. Too much distance, most of the time, even when they were pack. He regretted letting that happen because he did have a choice, he just made the wrong one.

Looking up, the sight of a timid and nervous looking Julian was also familiar, Max recognising that it must've taken a lot for the kid to do this. He didn't know why, he could just see the signs. Similar, but different, to how he'd acted immediately after coming home, still struggling with civilian life. Still did, with how he dealt with authority and what he expected from authority. He wished he could know why Julian was so jumpy, but it'd felt too invasive to ask.

He did get up from his seat, reaching for Julian to take his hand and pull him into a hug if the kid let him. It was nice to see another wolf, always. Nice to see one that wasn't in the mess Max had managed to kick off in their old pack.

"Julian, hey!"
#3
He softly sunk into the hug as he tended to when it came to Max. Maybe not so quick to grapple the other man or be openly affectionate, but he welcomed it still. The wolf a whole explosion of the things that Julian did not do. Whines and submissive licks. It always embarrassed him to some degree.

"Hey." He hummed softly in response with a timid smile. Once released he would easily settle into his seat. Eyes grazed over the menu before they'd look around the room once more. The place smelled wonderful and was decorated decently enough. Not that he cared about such. It wasn't as if he ate in public places often.

"Ordered yet?" Easy small talk before they dug into each other's lives and the things that happened between encounters.
#4
Max and the wolf that made up his core would always be happy to see Julian, whatever had happened, whatever small little rejections he perceived. The black wolf gave a sedate but no less enthusiastic greeting as Julian met them, the human happy that Julian went into the hug easily. In respect to the kid's usual reticence around physical affection, Max didn't linger in the hug.

Settling back down into his seat, Max glanced around, knowing the familiar face of the usual waiter would probably come over soon. He'd mentioned waiting for someone and with Julian here they'd have some time to decide.

"Nah, waited for you. Don't think I know your tastes when it comes to Chinese." He could've ordered a little bit of everything, but there was something about letting people order their own damn food. "Their soup dumplings are great."

Small talk! At least he knew this conversation wouldn't derail dramatically.
#5
It was all nice.

Everything felt okay and not...forced. He had been invited out for lunch, he had offered to come out this way. Any grand delusions of an ill meeting had not been met yet. They probably wouldn’t be, but he couldn’t help but wither and worry in his own mind.

So he smiled. Shy but toothy and tried to plant some humor in his voice for his words. "Wonder how many dumplings we can order before they ask questions or kick us out." Followed by some awkward laughter because it was sort of a genuine concern?!
#6
Huffing a laugh, Max shook his head very gently, smiling at the joke or possibly serious consideration. Max knew the answer, him and Emily having displayed their monstrous appetites plenty of times.

"They're... used to it," he admitted, ducking his head with another huffed laugh. "Emily and I are on and off regulars here, they've seen us put away a lot of food."

Not regulars enough to make it seem like they ate piles of food each day, but that was a razor sharp edge to balance on. Was the shifter metabolism public knowledge? He knew plenty of humans who put away insane amounts of food, but even they paled in comparison to what a shifter could put away. They did try to not go overboard, of course. There were limits to suspension of disbelief.
#7
On and off regulars was a better title than Julian could hold for anything anywhere. Work didn't count.

"Then I'll...probably order an uncomfortable amount of that." He settled on softly with a smile. He might consider something else but this conversation had given him a sharp craving for dumplings. Maybe he'd get some to go too.

His mind could live in a world of food all day. Except that was not what he was here for. Not entirely.

"How are you?" Always a loaded question because he knew Max had a fair bit of activity in his life and, well, Julian wanted to hear about it.
#8
Shifting his menu to the edge of the table, Max was content to wait for the waiter to come up to them once Julian had taken a proper gander at the menu. He was glancing to the front of the restaurant when Julian spoke. The polite question, far more loaded than Julian possibly expected, made Max huff a small laugh. He wasn't as worked up about it as he had been, especially not talking to Julian. Of all of them, Julian likely understood the most.

Looking back to the younger wolf, he offered him a wry smile.

"Good, better than I was." Being honest about it. He'd felt on edge before this, wallowing in that breach of trust. "I actually left the pack, not so long ago. Just another rogue now."
#9
The words made his heart flutter. Unexplained, really. Perhaps he had just been so convinced that Max would be a pack wolf forever. That any attempt to coax him into rogue ways would be met with humor. Oh, but hadn't it been up for consideration last time? Now it was simply true.

"Oh—I..." It was not embarrassment that gripped him this time, but he did not know what. Perhaps surprise for it.

"How did it go?" Anything other than a bolt out the doors like Julian did had to have gone better.
#10
Max grimaced, inhaling through his teeth in a quiet hiss, lifting his hand in a 50-50 gesture that didn't actually say anything much at all about what had happened. Julian's leaving had possibly gone better simply because he'd gone for a clean break, rather than what had started as an organised approach to opening the subject. Max had to keep reminding him that no plan really survived the execution, but he wished he could've had the hindsight he had now for it.

"Not as well as I'd like. A few assumptions on both sides going on." Max couldn't find blame in any direction for that, it had been tense and nerves had been high with them, closely looking at the reactions they'd get. Tomás keeping his distance and Max's reticence to lay out his dips into hyperarousal both fed into it, along with the fact that they had talked about it, but among themselves. With Julian, in Max's case. "Caught them by surprise, which isn't what I wanted to do. A bit of a fuck-up, need to mend some fences, but... you know, I'm just kind of relieved to be out."

A loose shrug, Max letting out a little sigh as he directed a wry smile in Julian's direction.
#11
Assumptions were the worst perhaps. Julian was someone who frequented assumptions. Both towards others and towards himself. He also imagined some had assumptions towards him. That was the way he was used to. Still it was always sad to hear about them. Especially when someone he cared for dealt with them.

"Maybe...things will be easier with the space?" They had been for Julian. Although he said that as a nervous dog who cowered beneath two powerful cats. So. "I mean. We...mended even with..." A sheepish smile as he looked down for a moment. Not sure where he meant to go with this. Encouragement, maybe?

"Glad that you feel relieved, though." Easier to fall back on that than wade through the complications of mangled relationships.
#12
Leaning back in his seat, Max gave Julian a wry smile. He was right, of course, the hurt feelings–admittedly, the hurt feelings Max had a hard time understanding–would fade in time. Hopefully not only time would help it along, since Max... hadn't wanted to cut them off. Just free himself of the stress point the pack had become with it being exposed. Their leader out, but also information of a pack clearly out there? Told to some vampire cop? Fuck that.

But he was getting caught up in thinking it over again like an obsessive ex-girlfriend and he knew he just had to put it behind him. Focus on sorting things out with Katya, at least, who seemed to have taken it a little more personally than he'd expected.

"Thanks, man. And... it was easy to see you hated it, Julian. What kind of asshole would I be to stay mad at you about that?" He had been, but in hindsight not for leaving the pack. No one but Max had seemed to care. Possibly simply angry at the idea that Max had failed, in some weird interpretation of it. Turned inward rather than outward. "With me, I got caught up in my own head thinking they knew I wasn't happy about what had happened, but it wasn't that simple. Still, in the end, can't say I felt comfortable telling them about it."

Max's fucked up head was his fucked up head. He wasn't going to show them his psych profile to justify his leaving. And he didn't think they deserved to get it, either.
#13
Admittedly, Julian would have accepted everyone being mad at him for eternity. At his lowest lows he felt he still deserved that. Except here he was with Max. Comforting and being comforted. It felt nicer than he wanted to admit. Even the dog in his head was a tornado of pleased emotions. Not so deeply tangled in the human affair side of things.

"It's...like that." A weak smile. "Think I struggled with it too." Mad that no one so deeply felt or saw what he felt. Although he hadn't exactly been so great at opening up to anyone. Perhaps he could herd them away from the tender topic into something more hopeful.

"So, um, what's next?" Had Max found his own version (whatever that would be like) of the haven Julian had?
#14
What next? Max had gotten that question once before, and his answer hadn't seemed to have been acceptable. He couldn't find it in him to care after it was all said and done. What did someone expect from the question other than concrete plans that were forward-minded?

"It's my last semester before I graduate," Max offered out, self-explanatory enough. Finishing his degree had always been a priority, whatever happened around him. It helped that leaving the pack ultimately left little impact on his life, which was the best result after leaving something where he'd been unhappy and uneasy. "Next step is getting that done. Then possibly using my medical training. I've been thinking about finding work as an EMT, maybe get certified as a paramedic."

Unless Julian meant what next, werewolf edition, but that was a simple question as well. With Emily, Max felt steady.

He gave a vague wave into the aether and kept talking. "And as far as all that stuff," with stuff being the ever-present issue of werewolfism, "Em and I were both unhappy with what we had there, so we want to try it on our own for a bit. I know I'll eventually want people around us, but it's something for the future."
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