Do you have to let it linger?
Quote:It's morning in Saint John, and the snow is letting up.
Your character feels a prickling sensation on the back of their neck. A cougar stalks them from the quiet.

Winter clasped over the land like a passionate lover, unwilling to let go. Larka's paws kissed the frozen earth, unable to sustain life as it had during the warmer months. Her breath billowed into vapour as she knelt to examine a rubbish pile, hoping to find something of use. Her scouting was interrupted by the girl's curiosity - junk glittered beneath pale sunlight held a splendour to it as though it were fabled buried treasure. Larka's haphazard tracks spoke of her waning attention as she followed after a bird she had seen winging past, or an interesting plant still clinging to life despite the chill.

Her typical dresses were unsuitable for the weather, the wind a constant threat as it threatened to snatch at the fabric. Larka had opted for a practical shirt and pants that were too wide for her insubstantial waist; a more discerning Luperci would have scoffed at the threadbare quality of the garments, yet to the girl, they were strange in their luxury.

A sound of disappointment left her lips as her search came up empty. All she had seen so far had been broken things and objects whose purpose was undefined. Perhaps John was faring better. The mention of his name made Larka smile, but her features were tinged with bitterness. She had smelt women on him; males loved to pursue female prey. She was no stranger to that fact and yet, it opened up fresh pain all the same.

Why? Larka couldn’t find the answer. Nor could she keep avoiding John for the rest of her life. If John would not make the first move, then it fell to her to take the bull by its horns. Even if she were crushed by the sheer weight of the task, it would be worth it in the end.

Larka stilled and glanced about her suddenly. Her ears perched forward and flicked back as she tried to determine the source of her discomfort. A heaviness prickled down her spine as fear-dilated eyes swept over her surroundings. The snow perfectly silenced the world, reminding the coydog of how lonely the streets really were. “J-John?”
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Whisper breath billowed from his mouth, and though it were freezing cold outside, inside of his parka he was warm from the energy he spent.

During the night a tree had fallen, as Alonso kindly let him know.

So with his trusty steel headed axe, he had trudged out through the snow, leaving a trail in his wake, to the spot where Alonso had told him the tree lay, right across the main path. Amazing.

Though he did have to admit to himself, at least it wouldn't take so much energy to drag back to Charmingtown with the mule, as it was just down the road a ways. As much as he could, he shoved all of the encroaching thoughts away, as he did every day, though they still circled, snarling like scavengers at a guarded kill. He was the rotting carcass, and what was left of his pride warded them off, only just.

Hefting his axe, he managed to get the spindly tree cut into sections. During a break, was when he head his voice, waving gently on the breeze.

Stiffening, he turned about himself, looking for her. She shouldn't talk to him, be associated with him, not really. She should fade into this collection of mostly good and honest folk and forget he existed. The broken down, shredded person that he was, with barely nothing left to him except self hatred and bitterness.

Still, he couldn't stop himself,

"Larka?" He called into the wilderness, holding onto his axe securely, she sounded scared. But then, she always sounded scared.

Padding through the snow, he felt it, the creeping sensation, and there he saw her, around the other side of the tree.

"There y'are." He rasped, green eyes sweeping about them for the thing he knew was there but couldn't see. John paused himself in the motion of reaching out to touch her, his hand curling into a fist, and then settling back down to his side.

"Ah'm jest choppin' sum wood, ov'r here." He gestured with his muzzle, back the way he'd come.

John’s voice was a blessing in the emptiness. Larka still could not see what had frightened her, yet her instincts urged caution. Long ears twitched as they followed the sound of footsteps, as her nostrils took in his scent. A genuine smile touched her face as Larka’s eyes sought the comforting greens of John. She stumbled towards him yet stilled as she watched the emotions pass over the man. The girl could have rushed over to his side if she was not so frightened; of him, of herself and of whatever it was drove her impulsively to hide.

Her senses sharpened briefly as adrenaline washed across her body. Larka was aware of the hairs rising against her neck and spine, of the frost that edged the rubbish strewn around them. Of how John’s hand extended to her, the fingers curling and falling to his side limply. Larka exhaled a trembling breath, following the direction of the man’s head as he gestured behind him.

“I do not feel safe here.” The girl dipped her head and ran the short distance to John’s side. Her long fingers clutched at the fabric of her pants as she shook her head. “I feel like I’m being watched. Let’s go back to where you were working.”

Larka followed John’s prints with visible tension in the set of her shoulders. She followed the scent of fresh timber until she found his work-space and collapsed onto the first overturned log. She took a moment to collect her thoughts, fidgeting as the raw edges of her emotions drained away. Larka was silent as she watched John appear from beneath her lashes, not trusting herself to speak. “Am I just being silly? It was probably nothing and I am fearful of my own shadow.”

A laugh that lacked warmth left the girl’s lips as she huddled further into her layers. “I will not stay here long enough to disturb your work, John.”
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There would have been a time, not so long ago, that she would have run to him and buried her face against his arm, wrapped her fingers into his own. This trust was gone. She didn't do so now, and it was a searing pain in his chest. Not that he deserved such a fragile gift. It could only be broken in his clumsy fingers.

John stood straight and stiff, her trembling breath was echoed by his own, losing precious heat to the frigid air in a plethora of wispy cloud.

"Alrighty." He spoke with numb lips. Surprised she'd come so close to him at all.

A year. No - over a year, she'd been free for, since that day they'd walked away from the Twisted Root, her all wrapped up in his clothing and him freezing his nuts off in the glacial darkness. He led her back to the hacked apart tree and Larka settled down onto an upturned log. She had every god damned reason to be fearful.

"Yeah, there's sumthin' here, watchin'. Probably a cat, they like t'stalk." He spoke, as if he had any authority, but it was the only thing he could think of that stalked two luperci. Most things left them alone in their own territory. Turning to the ominously quiet trees, John bared his teeth and rumbled a soft, quiet warning in his chest at whatever was out there.

It let whatever was hunting them know that they'd been noticed.

"Oh.. dun't y'worry nothin', yer not disturbin' me." The lines of his mouth were tugged downwards that she'd say such a thing. But then, thing's hadn't been right between them since that night in the tent when he'd woken to... yeah no, not going there.

John turned away to snatch his axe up from where he'd left it. Breathing out a deep sigh, wanting to say so many things to her. His words were worthless though, all of his promises had broken, and he was left to desperately clutch at the shattered glass of them, letting them slice into his palms over and over.

With head bowed, Larka’s auburn hair veiled her face from view. Yet her ears picked up on his hurried breaths and a seed of guilt nestled in her chest. She had done this, hadn’t she? Pushing into the man’s personal space and digging up painful memories simply by being here. She should make an excuse to leave - John would understand why. Larka turned sorrowful eyes upward, an apology held tightly between her teeth when John spoke. She cast her gaze downward with furrowed brows. How could she give up when he was trying to mend the bridge between them?

The young woman nodded at his observations on the stalker’s identity. A fellow Luperci would have to be brave or reckless to hide nearby a pack’s territory without announcing themselves. Larka started as John rumbled a growl in the treeline’s direction. Why hadn’t she thought to do that? She was a coyote and a predator at heart; both facts which had been smoothed over by years of grooming, she reminded herself.

John assured her she wasn’t troubling him. She noticed the hard lines of a frown as he uttered those words; perhaps the same flint-edged shame cut into John’s sides too. Larka rubbed her hands together in her lap as she wondered what to say. “I will let the others know about the cat when we get home.”

He turned away and picked up his axe with a long expulsion of air. Some canines said things were better left unsaid but Larka didn’t agree. She could be the one to break the silence and try to heal the pain. She took a steadying breath and lifted her head as she spoke, “John, it’s not your fault. What happened… was a mistake on both our parts. I apologise for hurting you.”

“I’m scared of losing you. Without you John, I would still be…” Larka swallowed the lump in her throat, a whimper escaping her lips. “You know. And yet, we’ve behaved like strangers to each other for much too long. Talk to me please.”
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Her voice was so gentle, like a whisper of wind in the buttercups. He wanted to sit and hear it for forever. He didn't deserve what he wanted though. Self doubt was a sea he sailed alone, and it hurt so much. Each and every time he breathed in was a strike against him, rolling like thunder in his ears.

John nodded jerkily, having almost immediately forgotten the cat.

His chest hurt. The words were burning, unspoken, on his tongue. He couldn't shame her, not like that. Not by comparison, not in comparison.

The voice was different, so different and this was the only thing that didn't hurt. At least, not in that way, it hurt in other, new ways instead. Christ, he was such a wretched, damned creature.

"John, it's not your fault."

John choked on his tongue.

Oh holy Christ, he couldn't do this, not now.

They were ringing in his ears, church bells, they melody decrying what was to happen. He didn't want any of it. There was no happy ending for him, only a cold, shallow grave.

When he turned to her, an look at her with her head all raised and lookin' at him directly, his eyes were ringed in white and whaled.


And fuck him if his hands weren't sweating and shaking like some spotty, snotty teen with his first crush.

"Larka..." He managed to croak out, his voice barely a hoarse, broken whisper,

"Y'ain't hurt me..."

What a bastard he'd been, shoving her away without an explanation, without a hint of reason for it. She continued and he closed his eyes, letting go of his axe, it hit the ground with a muffled thud.

He couldn't tell her, if he did and then she'd hate him.... and then she'd hate him and would seek out better company than his own miserable, broken self. Green popped back open, red-rimmed and tired. He was so tired.

Less a controlled motion, but more that his legs gave the fuck out and he planted himself in the dirt there right in front of her, on his knees. That's right, beg forgiveness, you fuck. He stared at the ground, at her small feet.

"I..." God, his throat was tight, maybe he'd suffocate to death.

John sucked in a breath and exhaled it in a heavy, shaking rush of air. Now he could look up, at her concerned, worried face. Could he stand to see the same twisted look of disgust float across her fair features.

Burning the bridge could only condemn him, and would raise her up. Letting go of his selfishness was so hard, and so easy at the same time. Like cutting off a finger, easy to do if you could get over the mental hang ups.

"Y'look so much like her. M'daughter." He managed to wheeze through the stiffness of his lips. Cold, cold and dense, like quicksand.

"She was jest like you, small, t'same colors, same hair. But her eyes, they was green. Like m'own." Like his Mama.

"I saw you dancin' in that place, an' I thought you was her." The 'but you weren't' lingered there unsaid. He didn't rush to explain that he'd have saved her anyways, he wanted her to hate him, so there was no explanations to come forwards.

His silence stretched.

He wanted though... and that desire was an anathema to his determined plans. It weren't something he could stand, not again, he was too weak. He was too weak and too covetous, and too selfish, and he couldn't fucking do it. He couldn't do it, and he hated himself in her place. He couldn't batter her fragile strength to shards.

You bastard, you selfish, motherfucking bastard.

John took hold of her hand, and held it within his own larger one, not tightly, she could pull away if she wanted.

"But you was so small an' scairt. I- I couldn't leave you there with them fuckers. T'be fondled and raped." Pain lashed, quick-flash across his lined, tired face.

"So I decided there t'bring y'with me. I reckoned maybe one day you wouldn't be quite so scairt anymore." His fingers were shaking in her own, he swallowed the lump of self loathing in his throat and felt it slide hotly all the way down and land with a heavy tightening dead into his guts.

Larka watched John closely. He seemed so fragile in this moment that she longed to hold him. To whisper reassurances in his ears and stroke his hair. His hands trembled in the manner of the drunks she’d danced for in the bar. John was not like those men. The woman held herself back from offering comfort; sometimes allowing the other to have space to work through their pain was better. Green eyes closed, and his fingers lost their grip of the axe. Larka jumped at the sound, so loud in the silence of their private world.

White-tipped fingers grasped at the rough fabric of her trousers, curling and uncurling the material. Amber gaze met his greens as John opened his eyes. Larka noticed the reddish cast in the whites, and how it aged him. How old was the Winthrop man, anyway? It didn’t matter in the end. Silence stretched between the two, occasionally interrupted by John’s rasping speech and breath. Yet still, she was patient.

When John’s revelation came, it hit her with the force of a wave. “D-Daughter?” Less than a whisper. Larka leaned forwards on the palms of her hands as she listened. John had a daughter, somewhere; so every time he looked at the woman he was pierced anew by the memories of his child.

"I saw you dancin' in that place, an' I thought you was her."

His words lingered in the air long after he’d spoken them. Larka licked her lips, her mouth suddenly dry.

She held back her anger, the impulse to scream at John and bear her teeth. Instead, her claws pushed through her fingertips and curled into the soft flesh of her pads. The feel of John’s hand taking hers gently stilled the violence. Larka expelled a breath, finally meeting his eyes as he spoke about his reasons for saving her. The woman looked at her hand entwined with John’s larger ones - she wasn’t sure if her hands shook or his any more. “John… I’m not afraid of you. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever learn to love and trust again. I must be able to if I have learned to do these things with you.”

“Your daughter, what is her name?” Larka squeezed his hand gently, silently imply 'it’s ok, I’m here'.

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