[P] Talking Through Glass
#1
WC: 476

With a frown, Notch stared at the handle of one of Auger's knives. It was made of bone, and now it had a whole bunch of marks on it that definitely were not there a few days ago. It took him a few minutes to figure out exactly what the marks were because he was not expecting it. They were teeth marks as though it had been chewed on like a toy. His eyes scanned the blade, which was dull near the handle and showed no signs of having cut whoever chewed on it. Definitely not him, not Asel, and surely it was not Auger. That only left Dynia. When she was very young, she used to chew on anything she could get her mouth on, which Notch knew was normal. They had made sure to keep everything dangerous out of her reach and instead offered her other things to chew on: furs while she still had puppy teeth and puppy jaw strength. Then came sticks when she was old enough not to swallow the bark, and bones when they were able to break them so she could get to the marrow easily.

Dynia had never done something like this and Notch was concerned, especially when combined with the slowly growing patch of missing fur on one of her back legs. At first, Notch thought that maybe she had gotten scratched by something when she was out avoiding Charmingtown because it seemed to have appeared rather suddenly. But then it did not go away. Rather, it spread. He had not gotten a very good look at it, though, to see if her skin in that spot looked okay. It had to be cold, though.

With a sigh, Notch set the knife down on the table and ran a hand through his hair. These were signs of anxiety, but Dynia was not saying anything to them about how she was feeling. If they asked, she claimed that she was fine, and sometimes she really did seem fine. And other times... Notch was not so sure. He still felt helpless about the whole situation and he wished he just knew what to do about it to make it better. He moved to the window and pulled aside the blanket that covered the empty pane to look outside. Auger was supposed to be back soon and Notch knew they had to talk about this and really decide what to do about it. Sure enough, he saw Auger walking towards their house and he dropped the blanket curtain.

"Hey," Notch said as his mate walked inside. He had his arms crossed, and gestured to the knife with a nod. "Found this under a pile of Dynia's sewing stuff earlier." She had been slowly accumulating her own things, some from him and some traded for from loners passing through.
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#2
WC: 461

Auger walked in the door, coming from the stable. He had been doing some of his morning tasks with the horses and checking on the goats. They were healthy now, a far cry from when he and Notch originally found them being hauled along by some loner who was not caring for them. Notch had taken a long time to stop being angry about it, and watching the goats heal and seeing their personalities bloom had helped quite a lot. Hanging onto the anger was not going to help them or do Notch any good and eventually he let it go, though Auger doubted that the loner would ever be forgiven.

"Hm?" He said with a slight frown, walking across the room so he could get a look at his knife. What had it been doing under Dynia's sewing things? He had loaned it to her on occasion so that she could cut thread if she needed to, but being under the pile made it seem like she had been hiding it. It was something she had never done before. When he got to the table, he picked it up and the reason was immediately obvious. It had clearly been chewed on.

Why would she be chewing on it? Auger understood liking to chew on things, but there was an endless amount of sticks that could be found for that purpose. Heck, the knife could have been used to strip the bark off of a larger stick first so it did not pose a risk of cutting her mouth.

"Why would she do this?" Auger wondered out loud and watched Notch shrug. It was more of a rhetorical question than anything since Notch would have, of course, told him a reason if he knew it for sure. "She has been acting a little..." Auger struggled for a good word. "Odd? Lately?" It felt like she was hiding more things from them than just the knife. Conversations with her had gotten shorter, and she was getting a bit more snappish. He knew that adolescents sometimes went through phases like that, but he would have expected it to happen sooner. Then again, her life had not been like a typical puppy's, having lost her mother so young and then being taken in by canines who were complete strangers at the time.

"She's been gone more than usual lately, too," Auger added. He was used to her spending time outside of Charmingtown most days. She had taken off right after eating earlier in the morning like usual. But lately, it seemed like it was even worse than usual. It had to be connected. With a sigh, he set the knife back down and looked at Notch again, feeling a bit helpless.
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#3
WC: 453

"Mhm," Notch hummed his agreement, moving to Auger's side. He leaned against his mate, who wrapped his arm around Notch's back and pulled him in. He wished they knew what to do, but there was also a comfort of sorts in the fact that they were equally clueless. Notch was not the only one without any ideas on how to handle this better. It was just clear that they were not handling it well. If they were, surely Dynia would be recovering better than she was. Notch did not like feeling like they were failing her.

"There's also... well, I'm sure you've noticed it, too," Notch said with a sigh. "That patch of missing fur on her back leg." Auger nodded. "Her paw pads have looked a little raw, too." At first he thought that was maybe because of how much time she was spending running around in the snow now, but combined with the missing fur... they were probably connected. Notch knew that those were signs of anxiety, and it worried him that her anxiety had spiraled to that point without them realizing that it was getting that bad.

Notch sighed and turned towards Auger, wrapping his arms around his mate's waist. They really needed to just start a conversation about it with her, but Notch was worried that it might just make things even worse. Would she think she was being criticized or something? Maybe they should be spending more time with her. Notch had not actually seen her doing the overgrooming and probably chewing on her paw pads, so she was doing that when she was not around them. Being with them would give her less opportunity, right? But would that really be the right thing to do?

"We really need to talk to her," Notch added, looking up at Auger. "We'll have to be careful. Do you think we should ask her about moving, or just start with the fur?" The fur was obvious at this point. She had been able to hide it for a while, but not anymore. Notch thought that Ponti might notice it soon, and anyone else Dynia spent time with. He was a bit surprised that she had not taken to wearing clothes that covered it, although she had mentioned learning how to make a skirt recently. She had been trying to act casually about it, but it was before Notch had first spotted the bare spot, so he had registered her behavior as odd, but had not connected it to anything specific. Instead he had agreed to teach her and they talked about colors for it. He had been excited that she was taking some initiative.
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#4
WC: 458

Absently, Auger ran his hand up and down Notch's back. He wished none of this had happened, and that Dynia could have simply continued living the best childhood that they could give her. No one should have to go through what she has. First losing her mother so young, and then being kidnapped by her father. Auger loved her and was glad to have her with them, but he wished that it had not been at the cost of her mother's life.

"Let's start with the fur," Auger decided and as soon as he said the words, he felt some relief. A good portion of why this was so difficult was the lack of a plan. He did not like the out of control feeling that came without knowing what to do next. Being in control was probably an illusion at best in this kind of situation, but at least it was something, and that was better than the nothing they had a few seconds before.

"I'm betting she won't want to talk to us, though," Auger said. They both needed to be prepared for that and not see it as rejection. It was a defense mechanism, and since he felt like they had failed her in quite a lot over the past few months, he could not blame her if she did not want to confide in them how she was still feeling. Even if some of it was now more obvious with the physical signs that none of them could really deny. It should never have gotten that far, though. He could see now that they should not have just let her go on as if she was fine. She was not fine. He just had not realized how not fine she was until now. And he had a feeling it was even worse still than he thought, and that they could see.

Auger released Notch gently and pulled him to sit down. Their table was low and they sat on the floor at it. Auger kind of wanted a drink to ease his nerves on this, but that was not really a solution. Feeling this way was a direct result of how he had let the situation get to this point, so he deserved the guilt. Her actual kidnapping? The only way to prevent that would have been to give her no freedom, which was the opposite of what they wanted at the time. It still was. But this? Chewing his knife handle and losing fur? Whatever was going on, exactly, they should have noticed it much sooner and done something about it. They had stewed in indecision for far too long and Dynia was the one suffering for it.
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#5
WC: 460

"You're probably right," Notch sighed as he sat with Auger and leaned against him. If Dynia wanted to talk to them, she already would have, right? They were usually pretty open with her about things, and in the days and weeks after they got her back, they had talked about what happened some. Should they have talked about it more? Did they let her lead too much and she thought they did not want to hear about it? Was this one of those times where they just needed to push because they knew best? Except he did not feel like they knew best. He felt like they were adrift and no one knew where they were going.

Dynia probably felt like that, too, and she was supposed to be able to look to them for direction. They really were not great at this were they? Notch ran a hand through his hair, glad that he did not do anything to style it today; it would have been completely undone after the morning he had so far, and it was only going to get worse from here on. Maybe they should get a drink at the Ugly Coyote when the conversation was over. Notch had a feeling they were going to need something to help calm their frazzled nerves.

"It's not really optional for her at this point, at least the fur part. And her paws." It was never fun to be stern or push her to do something she did not want to do. Of course, that was part of being a parent. Sometimes Notch wondered if it was different for canines who were the biological parents of their kids rather than adopted. Generally Dynia was well-behaved, if a bit shy, but every now and then she would have typical youngster tantrums, and once she had shouted that they were not her real Dads. Notch doubted they would be hearing that again, given who her biological father really was. Notch could not imagine that she would want to claim Pirate was her "real" dad at all. Still, it was not going to be a fun conversation for anyone involved.

"We can start with the fur and see how it goes from there," Notch said and he felt Auger nod in agreement. "I suppose it'll have to happen as soon as possible, too. Better to just get it over with, especially since she'll probably be feeling guilty about the knife handle." If she did not feel guilty, she would not have hidden it and acted oddly before leaving. And besides, damaging something that someone else owned was not normal behavior for her now. As a puppy, sure, but that was all pups. Now she knew better.
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#6
WC: 492

"Alright, that sounds like a good plan," Auger said. In other circumstances, he would have been angry about the damage to his knife and there would have been consequences, such as having her help him trade for a new one with some of the things she made. He probably would not have had the heart to make her cover the entire trade, though. Given everything that had happened and was still happening, though? He was far more worried about her than the knife. It seemed like it would still function fine, so it was not a big deal.

He wrapped his arms loosely around Notch, for a moment allowing himself to just enjoy having his mate close to him. They were very busy and did not get as much time together as Auger would have liked. They were supposed to take another trip together during the summer because the one they took the previous winter ended up being a bit of a disaster with Notch being injured. Most of it was spent traveling home while trying to keep him blindfolded because bright light was excruciating. And of course, the white snow made everything even brighter than it would have been when everything was green.

"I suppose she is probably going to be gone for most of the day like usual," Auger sighed. Who knew when she would be back. He wanted to be a united front with Notch when she arrived otherwise they might not be able to start the conversation that was definitely going to happen. He had things he still needed to do, but they were not pressing. A couple horses could use a brush down and he wanted to check some of the walls in the stable. A few areas seemed like they could use a little repair work, so he would have to find someone more capable than him to do that work.

"Maybe I have some time to get a few things done. Were you going to stick around here?" Before they both left for their chores earlier in the morning, Notch had mentioned wanting to spend some time sewing during the afternoon when it was still bright. Sewing by candle light was not great, especially with Dynia being a beginner. Notch just generally did not like doing it and Auger knew he got frustrated much more quickly when he could not see what he was doing.

Even after mentioning the chores, Auger did not move. He honestly did not want to, and Notch had not made any move to stop leaning on him and let him stand up. Well, the work could wait a little while so he could spend time with Notch instead. They needed more time together. He missed Notch a lot during the day, which was a clear sign that they should do more of their work together instead of splitting up like they had been doing for the past week or so.
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#7
WC: 466

"Yeah, I think I'll do the sewing I was talking about earlier," Notch said, although he did not move away from Auger right away. He would always choose cuddling with his mate over sewing or doing anything else, really. Eventually, though, Auger started moving a little and Notch stood up with him. "You're going to stay close?" He asked. That way they could talk as soon as Dynia got back. He did not want to prolong the wait anymore, especially now that they had the beginning of a plan. He just wanted the conversation to be done.

Auger nodded and after a few minutes, he headed out the door and Notch was alone in the house. He got out his sewing things and spread the fabric he was working with out on the table. He was making a shirt for Dynia, although it was meant to be a surprise. He had just told her it was a shirt, but not that it was for her. He hoped she liked it. She had mentioned several times that she liked the fabric when he traded for it, which was why he decided to use it to make something for her.

He had been practicing his sewing enough now that it was almost a meditative thing for him. It required concentration and that meant that his mind could not wander at all or he was likely to stick himself with the needle, and he hated when he did that. Notch still had to consciously make his stitches the same length, although that was getting a bit easier. He thought that eventually he would be able to do that without thinking, the way he had seen some Luperci knitting where it seemed like they were doing it automatically although they were probably counting stitches or whatever in their head the whole time.

Time passed quickly when he was sewing, but he made good progress on the shirt. He thought that it would be done within the next couple of days, and he was able to put most of the scrap fabric aside to make into a blanket at some point. The scraps that were too small or oddly shaped went onto Dynia's pile so she could use them to practice stitching in a straight line or around curves.

He blinked when Auger came back in and looked over to see that the sun was coming in at a different angle now. How much time had passed? He looked down at the fabric and then up at Auger, who had an amused expression on his face. Notch narrowed his eyes at his mate and then stuck his nose in the air, pretending to be offended.

"Shh," Notch pointed at him and then he started putting his supplies away.
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#8
WC: 554

"I didn't say anything," Auger said with a chuckle as he walked further into the house. He carried a bucket of water to refresh the one that they usually kept in the house each day, which he set down next to the doorway. He figured they could start some sort of stew for dinner with some of the meat they kept frozen, buried under the stove. First, though, they would have to have the conversation with Dynia.

Notch seemed playful right now, though, so Auger went with that mood. It was better than worrying or nervousness. He was sure that Notch was feeling that as well, but for now, they could have a little fun. He could see Notch still giving him a joking side-eye so he held his hands up in innocence.

"I didn't!" He insisted.

"It's what you were thinking," Notch said as he finished packing his things away into his sewing bag. Maybe he could find someone to build Notch a box for his supplies instead with little boxes inside to separate the different things. Needles in one spot, spools of thread in another, organized by color. Or something. However Notch wanted to organize his things. It seemed to make sense to keep the fabric in bags, although... Auger looked at an empty space along one of the walls. Shelving might be better. Something to think about once they decided whether they were going to keep living here or outside of Charmingtown.

"And what was I thinking?" Auger asked.

"Something mean," Notch replied, one hip popped out with his hand on it. Auger snorted.

"Yep, that's me," He said and then sat at the table now that it was empty. "Alright, I'm guessing she'll be back soon." He knew that the playful mood could not last forever, and it was probably time to get into the mindset needed to have a difficult conversation. Notch's face sobered as he sat down as well with a nod. "We won't hint at the fur or something; just acknowledge it. No reason to not be straightforward about it."

Dread started to settle in his stomach, making a know of anxiety form. He knew this was going to upset Dynia, which was the last thing he wanted to do, but he did not see a way around it at this point. Maybe if they had done something different sooner. Or maybe not. There was no way for him to know that, so he tried not to worry about it.

He folded his hands on the table and looked up when he heard someone approaching the house. Auger glanced at Notch, who nodded. Asel came into the house first, looked at both of them, and went over to the pile of furs and blankets they slept on and laid down. Dynia stopped in the doorway, looking like she was going to flee.

"Uh," she said, glancing over her shoulder. "Hey." She stepped into the room, apparently deciding that she was not going to bolt. A good decision, and Auger was not surprised. Despite the amount of fear she was feeling lately, Auger knew that she was strong and in the end, she would be able to handle this conversation. Getting through it was going to be the issue.
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