We were dreamers not so long ago
#1
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Blackjack snuffled for dry, tasteless grass in the soft, cold snow, the flakes tickling his nostrils and collecting on the bristly whiskers of his chin. Evelyn watched him without seeing him, her thoughts occupied as she sat in the back of their wagon. Bent against the pervasive cold, the waif-like coyote had her hood drawn and her shawl pulled tightly around her shoulders. She knew now what she had assumed back when their wagon had broken down those number of weeks ago.


This place was more of a wasteland than Rattler's Gulch. At least, it was for now.


Evenlyn brushed the knuckle of an index finger against her nose, wiping away snot, and rested her chin atop her crooked thumb. Unpleasant as this climate was, they could adapt. If there was anything they did best, it was that. And, with perhaps only a little trial and error, they might even be able to do better than that.


In a rare show of optimism, the fire-kissed coyote managed a subtle smile and considered what life would be like for them if things were different; if they weren't in constant danger of persecution. They could find their footing here, distilling their moonshine and trading it for goods beyond what it was worth. They could be comfortable. They could do more than just survive – they could thrive.


She blew out a sigh, that marginal smile disappearing with her breath. Shifting her weight against the floor of their wagon, her discomfort transcended beyond the cold. Unless the snow and the ice and the blistering cold could freeze the hellfire that chased them, what good did it do to hope and dream. They would have to keep moving. Wouldn't they?


Staring at her muscular steed, Evelyn sat silently with her thoughts and wondered what they should do while, outside, winter cloaked the world in darkness.


[WC — 315]


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#2
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And the stars will be your eyes, And the wind will be my hands

He would take the blistering heat over this hellish cold any day, at any point - how that group of other coyotes had managed here, he was entirely uncertain, but he was a sniffling mess, not that the Reverend or the Vicar fared better. The Vicar, the poor thing, must've had it the worst - sure, Santiago's joints ached worse than age, and that shoulder of his detested and creaked at the chilly bite of winter, but at least he didn't have terrible burns to worry over.

Pallid, green eyes watched her, stooped over in that wagon, while he took a break in trying to set up their ramshackle settlement which comprised of a couple of tents, and the sudden lack of assistance in setting up did not go unnoticed by the blonde Calhoun, who drew his lips tight and gave a low grunt, passing his bright eyes up to Santiago. Slacker.

"Gimme a minute, Reverend," the silvery man interrupted, putting up a hand to quell his surly companion, and he meandered through the drifting snow to the wagon, and pulled out of the thick leather of his jacket to drape it on her shoulders.

"You need more blankets?" he murmured, looking back into their cart, but nothing useful was there. "We've got to go get food - ah - soon, but... Don't want you gettin' chilly, you know."

Santiago shrugged. Cleared his throat. "Ain't like I need so many layers, out trying to lay traps, and all. We'll be able to get set up here, for now. Drum up some business, maybe!"


TUCHES
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#3
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There was a great deal that Evelyn felt, though she did her best to suggest to her companions – and the world beyond – that she felt nothing. It was easier, she had realized early in her life, to pretend that feelings were nothing and that it was better, easier, to live as though nothing and nobody mattered.


But sometimes, ever so infrequently, someone came along and messed it all up.


There was a stirring outside the wagon and the voices that filtered into her scarred ears drew her eyes outwards. Without meaning to, Evelyn met Santiago's dull yellow eyes and was annoyed to see that he had peeled away the jacket he wore with every intention of draping it over her own bowed, narrow shoulders. "No," she lied flatly. What good would it have done her to say that she did? It wasn't like they had any more blankets to use.


But because Santiago was Santiago, or maybe because he hadn't heard her, he carried on talking anyhow and Evelyn couldn't deny how positively divine his warmth felt when, against an emotionless glower, he settled the heavy jacket over her shoulders and let it wrap around her small body. "Mmnh," she murmured, acting irritated to hide the fact that she felt a great deal of gratitude towards her friend.


"Be awful stupid if you caught your death out there," she said at last, the closest thing to a thank you that Santiago was likely to receive. "How many you got left?" Trapping was useful, allowing them to tend to other matters while the prey came to them, but it didn't always pan out. It could be better, and safer, than hunting though, and Evelyn found this preferable for her boys than the latter. But there were other options – options that even The Vicar could manage – and she liked Santiago's idea of drumming up business.


Though she didn't smile, there was an agreeable look on her face that wasn't there before. Now he was talking. "Won't be hard," she said. "Already got ideas." Evelyn wrapped herself more snugly in Santiago's jacket and looked past him into the ivory cold. "You get cold out there and find you need some warmin' up," she began, shifting her amber eye to his face again. "You just get your dumb ass back here an' I'll tell 'em to you."


OOC: oh hoho

[WC — 404]


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#4
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And the stars will be your eyes, And the wind will be my hands

If he said he wasn't aware of his effect, he would've been lying.

However, such a sentiment, it usually went hand-in-hand with the features, the aspect, of a ladykiller - someone who knew how to woo, how to throw glances at the fairer sex and effortlessly, without fail, the willowy things would fall over themselves for the benefit of knowing him.

Evelyn was no waif.

And, all the same, Santiago was none of those things. Getting dragged behind a horse had such a way on one's face.

No, in her instance, he knew, for certain, that he wormed beneath her skin, and prickly manners - but it delighted him nonetheless, whenever he saw her chilly and grim features crack a little with what he knew to be warmth, just beneath the surface. At one point, he thought he overheard Calhoun teasing Evelyn about it - called her a morosexual. The silvery man was more than happy to be the moron, if that were the case.

Of course, he knew boundaries; she was a creature with a sharp wit and a sharper tongue, who did not take kindly to things like romance or wooing, and to his knowledge, never had. He savored the platonic intimacy all the same.

"Oh, say, got about four snares. Should be easy to hide 'em," he started, flatly, though the pallid gold-green of his eyes never strayed from The Vicar's surly, fire-kissed mask, when she went on about her ideas.

"What, you're just gonna leave me in suspense? You minx, Miss Escuella -" Santiago shook his head, clicked his tongue. "You know that now I've gotta hear what you got in mind? Surely, you got a role for me to play?"


oh you curmudgeonly woman, you set my heart on fire
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#5
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Theirs was a long and extensive history, filled with the usual adventures and lessons that are often shared between childhood friends and remembered with fondness and nostalgia in the wake of devastation that time wreaks upon all. There was a difference, though. Evelyn shifted her eyes over Santiago's busted face, stoic and indifferent despite the stirrings of endearment she felt in the depths of her heart, and allowed her head to indulge in the foolishness of sentiment. But for only a moment. She did not have time for such things, not even while she sat here, wrapped in her friend's warm jacket, and did nothing.


Romance and courtship was for morons and Evelyn Escuella was no moron.


Still, as she looked upon her friend and traced the lines of his scars with her single fiery eye, she considered the nature of their shared past and identified this difference with a subtle clenching of her jaws that defined her modest masseter muscles. Luckier canines were born, raised, and buried with care and love, leaving behind a legacy that would outlive them for generations. Neither Evelyn nor Santiago were luckier canines, but the mutual trauma and tragedy that they had – and still – endured had indelibly adhered them together forever.


A brief twitch at the corner of Evelyn's mouth was the only evidence that she found this outcome acceptable.


"Four, huh?" she responded, her eyes gazing steady at the cold beyond for a moment while she considered this. "Prey here ain't no different than back home?" she wondered, looking back into her friend's face.


She managed, barely, to coax her lips out of the full-on grin she felt in her soul at Santiago's response. Oh, how that feeling of control she had desperately longed for after all these agonizing miles energized her. Offering an indifferent shrug, she said, "Heck. Our dear Reverend ought to have no trouble with the snares." Then, scooting marginally, her rump feeling the wood beneath with a sensation of comfort despite the roughness of its cold surface, Evelyn held her eyes steadily against Santiago's face. Despite the lack of warmth or open invitation she exuded, it was her unique way of offering her friend a spot next to her.


"Folk here ain't got nothin' in th' way of what we got," she began, one corner of her lips curling despite herself. "Not so far as I've seen. Suppose I could swindle a few for better goods?" Lifting her eyes, she paused to hear his opinion on the matter, though she reserved the right – as she always did – to politely decline it. "Could use help scoutin' out them as would be most likely t' trade," she added generously.


OOC: >:}

[WC — 458]


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#6
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And the stars will be your eyes, And the wind will be my hands

Finding a woman who was as in touch and attuned to the natural salt that same had made this earth, and all the same ruined every field it touched, was a rare find indeed.

Evelyn was just that - bitter, caustic, dry - a brushfire, untamed and surly and ready to take on anything, anyone, and engulf it whole; It was easy to underestimate her, with diminutive stature, half blind; she made herself small physically, but her ambition far outgrew her form some time ago. She was strong. She was enduring. Maybe a little bit fickle.

But Santiago would be damned if he didn't respect the hell out of Evelyn Escuella.

"Mm, I reckon that no one, no where, got what we got," he agreed, and idly rubbed at the bottom of his jaw with his fingers, jutting it out mildly to itch a scratch. "Miss Escuella, you could swindle the fleas off a horse. There's no doubt you'd be able to work that silver tongue of yours, we'd be walking out of town looking like royalty."

His cocoa lips twitched upward, and those eyes slipped to her, small, perceptively, and took his seat next to her. "I'd love to get the lay of the land. After all, if we could find some of that Juniper here, it'd make a good contribution to our still, don't you think?" With only minor hesitance, did a hand raise, and come to rest on her shoulder, rubbing a little warmth into chilled bones. "Where you thinking of heading first?"

Sometimes, he still saw the girl back home there, with two fire-stone eyes and a head full of thick, blonde hair, with a scowl that could strike fear into snakes, and a smile that did the same. He let loose a soft chuckle, and kept that thought to himself.


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#7
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If she was a brushfire, prepared to engulf that innumerable tinder without a second thought or a backwards glance, then the man before her was no less than the rain that tempered her. Rain could be a welcome thing, with its life-giving, thirst-quenching, heat-soothing qualities, or it could be something to fear and to avoid. Washouts, deluges, floods; there were disasters and miseries yet that water could uphold, in spite of the seemingly soft and innocent way it could conduct itself.


Oh, no. To underestimate the rains was as foolish as it was to underestimate the flames.


Santiago's fingers drew her eyes upwards, watching as he rubbed and scratched at the scraggly fur at his chin. Without saying as much, Evelyn thought that he was damned straight he was right. With their mash from the west and the moonshine that they had been able to distill from that, Santiago was onto something. Their concoction, as far as she was concerned, was as strange and interesting to the canines of those brutal, bitter place as it would be to see breasts on a pronghorn.


Looking sidelong at her cohort, she gave him a measured glance that flashed with appreciation, despite her lack of a smile or bright-eyed look. "Best not forget it, neither," she reminded him with a receptive intonation, narrowly leaving out Mr. Tejada from her better judgement.


Santiago had a way about him that both soothed and frenzied her. Aside from her brother, Calhoun, he was her greatest confidant and friend. Blinking, she adjusted that thought. No, Santiago was probably greater, even, that her own brother. She and Cal had been through a great deal – particularly after the loss of their ranch, their brother, and their parents – but it took a another soul – close, but not family – with a similar, but different, experience to make Evelyn feel genuinely understood.


Lifting her eyes to his face and catching sight of the way his lips twitched upwards, the woman considered him silently and with only a long, unblinking look up at him. She was considering what he was suggesting, though the look of her expression might have been taken as disbelief and disregard by a canine of lesser knowledge of her personality. "Mm," she murmured, the only evidence that she offered, for a hot minute, that agreed with him was a twitch at the corners of her lips. "Folk might think it more... authentic," she replied, though what "authentic" meant to these Luperci was yet to be discovered. "Have you or Cal asked around?"


Considering his question, The Vicar shifted her eyes away from his ruined face and looked into the distant beyond. All white and dead and still, this place was. If it wasn't so godlessly cold, she might like it. "Up 'round th' bay," she said at last, looking into Santiago's scarred face again. "There are folk who keep stalls up that way, sellin' shit an' such. Might be worth it t' start there." After a pause, Evelyn looked back into Santiago's face and asked, "'Less you got other ideas?"


[WC — 519]


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#8
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And the stars will be your eyes, And the wind will be my hands

"Thinking we should find somethin' medicinal in taste, n' all, for producing shine that don't just taste like liquid fire." Santiago was reasoning, mostly to himself, his mind percolating ideas for mashes, future blends, trying to think up what they could produce. Her words, the aching lilt of them, pulled him back, and he studied Evelyn as she looked out to the landscape.

Truth be told, he just studied her often. Maybe he liked looking at her, reading little ticks and lines - It was hard to discern what she was thinking, at any given time. Maybe one day, he'd unravel her code fully - maybe he'd be able to see whatever ran through her head that even less people knew, or saw. But the Vicar was callous even before her scars.

"Don't really have much intel to go off of," Santiago answered slowly. "Not sure I'm ready to start workin' words with locals yet - I have been seeing a lot of wolves up here."

Where as Evelyn was a difficult read, Santiago was a much more expressive man, and his expression visibly tightened and went hard at the thought. There wasn't a place, anywhere, to get away from them, it seemed. "I don't trust quite like that yet. But I'll find more folks, see if we can drum up trade, short term an' maybe a few more solid leads."

His hand found her shoulder, fingers firmly curling over that slim angle and giving a reassuring squeeze. "We aren't going to freeze up here if I can help it, Miss Escuella. I know I'm... No leader, really, but dammit, we are gonna make somethin' of ourselves yet."


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#9
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Mister Tejada could act a damned fool sometimes, but hell if there weren't smarts in that thick skull of his. Agreeable to this thought of his, Evelyn felt the thin line of her lips twist crookedly into a small and sinister smile. "I reckon that ain't a bad idea," she admitted. Sometimes it was difficult to offer credit where credit was due. To the embattled woman, this had a way of suggesting weakness, of opening her up to vulnerability.


But this was Santiago, and while she didn't always feel resilient enough to open herself up to even him, The Vicar was feeling particularly... warm today.


She was initially disappointed with his lack of intel, her eyes hardening and her face tightening in minuscule margins, but her subtle facial changes softened again when he mentioned seeing a lot of wolves about. She wrinkled the bridge of her nose slightly, the ripples of fur and flesh soft and wide. "Damned shame," she muttered in a tone that suggested disgust. For her part, Evelyn had been keeping around their wagon until she had more of an idea for the land and its blatant lack of support for the creatures that eked out a living here.


Soon, though, she knew, they would have to do something to keep themselves alive. Which was why this conversation was so important.


With a short, firm nod, Evelyn glanced out at the barren landscape and glowered at its hateful appearance. She blinked when Santiago's hand cupped her sharp shoulder and offered it a squeeze, but she didn't take her eyes off of the scenery until she spoke. When she found his face again, there was determination in her eyes. "You're damned right we are, Mister Tejada," she almost purred as she scooted her little body nearer his solid frame and attempted to surreptitiously tuck herself under his arm.


[WC — 316]


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#10
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And the stars will be your eyes, And the wind will be my hands

He'd not been born a leader by any means - Santiago was a loaf, through-and-through; a laze-about on his parent's ranch, a disappointment to the Gulch, and a passable idea-man with the posse. By all means, he had simply inherited the position by necessity, rather than desire; he was far better company than to be the man with the plan, much less the man with the responsibility to be the man with the plan - but he had it none the less.

Even if it was to just keep the trio of them safe, and running, and keep them fed and warm to wait out winter's passing. It was a hard time going, but it was going nonetheless while he attempted to fit into a role never quite meant for him; it had cost O'Malley his life, after all, but things actually seemed to take a turn for the better.

He'd been looking out to Blackjack's winter-heavy shape, pushing that muzzle through the snow, when the small, huddled shape of the Vicar shuffled up beneath the curve of his arm and nestled into his ribs, where he held her shape securely. Ruined lips ticked upwards into the ghost of a smile, and he leaned his head in, careful, to prop his cheek against her hood gentle-like.

And for a brief moment, things didn't seem so terrible.


we can end it here? Wink
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