[AW] people can never be anything but themselves
Set after these two threads. Jethro is in his lupus form, and in Drifter Bay. Open for one!

“Fuck,” Jethro cursed aloud.

He had left Tiamat behind when they got close to the camp Lotan and Pazuzu had made, and then, cowardly, fled into the night. His body felt jittery and strange. This was normal, he supposed, given that the whole lot of these people from his past had seen fit to emerge all at once. The concept of overload as it applied to him was something Jethro didn't entirely grasp – but he knew that this reunion felt like too much.

Most of the cigarettes he had left were back at La Estrella Roja, though he wasn't sure if that was where he wanted to go. The night should have ended hours ago, but it dragged on, kept alive by all these not-quite-strangers who had seen fit to upset the routine way of living Jethro had become accustomed to. He felt foolish to be so shaken up by things, but those who had been there would understand.

An apocalypse had happened. How could any mortal not be touched by this?

Feeling anxious and eager to be gone, Jethro did the next best thing he could: he shifted down, down, until he was small and fast, and then he began to run.

The coyote cut through the tall grass of the plains with familiar movement, dodging places where sinkholes (mostly made by rabbits and groundhogs) threatened to trip him, following no direct route. He focused only on the space ahead of himself, and for a time, this helped to wash all those churning thoughts from his troubled mind.

The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
hey sup

He should have gone somewhere else.

The other coast, perhaps, since he didn't really believe it existed. But he'd come back to this one, and now where was there to go? He didn't belong with what remained of his family. Even if Vesper and Vicira were still there, they wouldn't have asked him to stay, nor expected him to. And if he couldn't expect that of them, then how could he expect it of anyone? No one cared if he stayed or not.

Kyrios treated the old borders as if they were still there. He paced them sometimes, as if he were still on some long patrol, keeping an eye on things. Sometimes he watched from the trees, as if they were the watch towers that had burned. He recognised some of the tavern's regulars now. Their faces were just something to keep his mind occupied. If someone came with a torch, he supposed he would shoot them, but then what?

He only cared if Jethro and Adina lived on. The rest of them could burn. What did he care? Except that his nephew and niece would probably mourn for their companions and the life they'd scraped together. The comfort of somewhere to belong was not something Kyrios could provide anyone.

If he thought about it too long, his face inevitable twisted into a scowl, and he couldn't have that marring his features, could he? The hybrid trotted his mare through the waking dawn, bow drawn, blue eyes scanning for movement in the ground. He just needed something to keep him busy, as always. With the snow melted, the rabbits had begun to shift back to brown and tan. The morning breeze ruffled the tall grass, but there was something large moving quickly on the horizon.

Kyrios squinted against the rising sun. It didn't seem large enough to be a bear, and wasn't it still too early for them to return? Maybe it was a fawn waiting for its mother. He nudged Zaku slightly, spurring her forward as he brought his bowstring to full draw. They bore down on the creature in the grass and Kyrios was preparing to shoot downwards at nearly point blank when he caught sight of the streak of tan across a muzzle.

"For fuck's sake!" he cursed suddenly, digging his heels into his stirrups to stop his horse from trampling the other coyote. She whinnied loudly in protest and half-reared, then pulled forward to dig her front hooves into the ground next to their would-be quarry. Kyrios forced himself to relax his grip on his arrow even as his back and shoulders tensed. "What are you doing?!" he snarled at the other canine, not realising in the moment who it was.
He must have been gone for hours. It felt like it, with the sun up again – Adina would have been wondering after him, but duty and perhaps something more kept him from abandoning everything again.

Throughout the night he stopped, sought water, and occasionally dozed. His body wouldn't let him stay still for too long, not with nightmares returning and old memories pulled up. He couldn't remember the pain, exactly, but there were phantom feelings attached to his body that made his whole conscious spin off-kilter.

Alcohol or drugs would help, he knew. How long did he have before La Estrella opened? Not long enough, Jethro wagered, and continued his endless, senseless toil so that his body might give out and allow him to rest.

When the horse came charging after him, the coyote realized too late that a rider was urging it towards him. Startled, he jumped aside around the same moment a loud, familiar voice cried out. Jethro scrambled aside, his momentum carrying him into the grass, and avoided the hooves of the mare and – luckily – the sharp tip of the arrow, still held in its creator's hand.

He panted, wide eyed. The shock he felt collided with the ever-growing anxiety, and though his initial response was anger (visible in the way his fur stood up and the sharp display of his teeth), Jethro soon recognized the pale-haired rider.

“Uncle Kyrios?” He called out, lingering away from the stomping hooves of the horse. “I was running – we're you trying to shoot me!?”

The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
"I thought you were a fucking deer!" Kyrios snapped, though his anger fled almost as soon as the words left his mouth and his brain caught up with the situation.

As he processed Jethro's voice and the look in his eyes, his own anxiety spiked, along with frustration and a distant fear. There was a terror there in the younger man that wasn't just from their sudden and near deadly encounter.

Kyrios returned his arrow to its quiver and swung his bow over his arm to hang from his body as he dismounted. He took a moment to rub his horse's nose, trying to calm her even as she continued shifting her feet around nervously, uncertain of their sudden stop. Everyone's heart was racing. He couldn't hear anyone's but his own, but he was sure of it, anyway.

"What happened?" he asked, turning back to the other coyote. "What are you running from?" Blue eyes glanced uncertainly towards the horizon in the direction Jethro had come from. The sun was risen all of a sudden. The sky was clear and the clouds looked gentle. Aside from the swaying of grass, there didn't seem to be any other movement.

"Are you all right?" Kyrios knelt down so they were eye level. Jethro looked exhausted, but he couldn't see any physical injuries.
Jethro opened his mouth to protest that no, he did not look like a fucking deer, but then imagined he might have – he was the same tawny brown, almost. If not for his brighter markings, maybe Kyrios would have shot him in the neck.

That would have been a terrible way to go, but it would have saved him from going back and dealing with everything.

“I'm not – running – from anything,” he explained, and coughed.

The pitch of his voice seemed afflicted by his ragged breathing, but as Jethro regained his breath this steadied. He wasn't bothered by running, usually. It was one of the only things he did for himself that he liked. Sometimes if he smoked too much beforehand he found his stamina disrupted. That was kind of what he felt like now, though the exhaustion was more to blame than his other bad habits.

“I just felt like running,” he said, as if this might explain everything.

After regaining his composure to the best of his ability, the coyote peered up at his uncle. It had been nearly a month since they had seen one another. The sight of him was still new. He didn't look banged up or sickly. Hell, he was probably doing just fine if he was running down food like this.

“What are y-y-,” he tried to finish, but yawned instead.

The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
Kyrios knew the exhilaration of a simple run. There was a special kind of freedom and sense of solitude and calm in movement. They were born with four legs and running was one of the most natural things in the world, a simple reminder that they were strong and fast and independent.

When he'd still had a home, he'd go running as a way not to think when there was nothing else to occupy himself. These days though, running was merely an unpleasant reminder of his age. His senses were still sharp enough, but he wasn't as fast as he used to be and his bones ached on rainy days. Better to shoot things from a perch and rely on his horse to move him around quickly.

Jethro didn't look like he'd been running for the fun of it though.

"All night?" Kyrios asked, furrowing his brow. "You look beat."

The older hybrid had never been one to pry information out of others, but in his experience, most were more eager to share their woes than they'd ever admit. Everyone wanted a listening ear, especially if it was a sympathetic one who had no skin in whatever drama they were caught up in. As a non-participant, Kyrios had been privy to a fair share of salacious secrets over the years. Sometimes they were more terrible than they were scandalous, but it was easier to be filled with other people's secrets than one's own.

He sighed, recomposing himself properly after the burst of anger and surprise. "Do you want a ride back to the village?" he asked. "She can't carry both of us, but I can walk."

They were a fair distance away, but that meant Jethro would have plenty of time to think about whether he wanted to share or not.
Unable to keep up the lie, Jethro exhaled a breathy sigh more flippant than he meant. Most of the time he managed to keep his aloof, serious persona the only one people around him saw. It worked wonders when he was escorting drunks out of the bar, or during times when keeping up a tough front was needed.

He had always been inclined towards this sort of behavior. It was important during and after the war to keep a strong face on, and doubly so after his mother died. There was only so much mourning he could manage when they were starving in fresh air. If his father hadn't been falling away from them there might never have been a need for Jethro (and Adina) to fulfill and fail the role of parent for their younger brother.

Even now, some strange sense of duty kept him here. Jethro had once tried to live an itinerant life, but even that had seen him drawn back to his place of birth.

Could they really escape, even if they tried? Lotan and Pazuzu and now even Tiamat had come back. Marlowe and Adina had come back before them. Even Kyrios had returned, though Jethro did not expect to see him again.

“Yeah,” Jethro answered. “Some stuff came up, and I wanted to just...go,” he admitted.

The coyote blinked the drowsiness and the sun from his eyes.

“I'm okay to walk if you have somewhere else to be,” Jethro went on. He didn't like the idea of becoming a burden. “It's not that far.”

There were, admittedly, at least a half dozen miles or more between their present location and that of the old village. While generally not an exhausting trek, after running practically all night Jethro was feeling the fatigue keenly.
The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
Comfort was not really a thing he knew how to provide. It was not in his power to fix or change most things, so what was there to offer but mere sympathies? Platitudes and empty promises were not things he liked to hear himself, and so he tried not to make others listen to them either. No one wanted to hear about how things would get better from an asshole who'd been lucky enough to coast through life the way he had.

The sentiment wouldn't be sincere anyway. He knew that things didn't always get better.

It was easy for him to listen, though, if someone else wanted to do the talking. Others were often surprised by this because of his shallow presentation, but contrary to what Marlowe would believe, he was actually quite good at knowing when to shut up.

"I never have anywhere to be," he said, settling into a familiar and comfortable grin.

Kyrios straightened and gave Zaku another reassuring pat on the nose. She seemed to have settled again, though her tail still twitched uncertainly. "You don't have to shift if you're too tired, but it's probably more comfortable if you do."

Twice before, Kyrios had needed to "ride" in his four-legged form. Those had been hazardous escape scenarios, of course. Though he could hold onto the reins with his teeth, directing a horse was impossible, and it took an extraordinary amount of effort to stay balanced on a galloping horse. Each occasion ended with him either getting thrown or leaping off his mount in order to avoid being thrown.

Sitting or lying down on a walking horse would probably be much easier, but still, the saddle was made for a two-legged rider.

Even when he hadn't been with a group, Jethro had lived with a sense of purpose in his life. Family had been what given him this direction, and then they had abandoned him he had not known what to do except to try and find them. It had been a selfish decision, really – Inferni, or what was left of it, had needed him. He should have stayed behind and waited.

If he had done that, the same things might have happened. Faith might not have gone to Salsola, but her lover had been there. Would he have done such a thing? Jethro doubted such mercy would have been extended in his direction. He was the son of a Bellator, a true-blooded Lykoi. What remained with him might have been taken.

Would they have burned Inferni's old tome?

Jethro believed so.

He smiled wearily at his uncle and sighed, defeated. “I can change, hold on.”

The whole process took only a few minutes from one shape to another. His between-form made him a wild looking thing, with a thick mane of fur and long legs, and then his shaggy locks grew in fully and spilled across his forehead to an unruly length. He most often kept his hair trimmed short, but it never stayed that way. Without his earrings and his makeup, he looked a lot like his father.

Jethro stretched before he stood. He was tall and despite having a rough-and-tumble life lacked many visible scars. He had always gotten lucky, or had someone standing by to take care of the cuts and scratches he picked up along the way. Used to being without clothes, he wasn't abashed when he stood and faced the other Luperci.

“It cool if I just...hop up?” He asked. “She okay with that?”

The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
Purpose had always been an elusive thing for him, even in his younger days. His sisters had had much stronger opinions and preferences, but he had acted mostly out of convenience, sometimes without consistency. Perhaps this was what had softened others' perception of him -- he'd made trouble, but without malice, and that was an endearing sort of fool that people liked for some reason. Then he had simply grown into the role he thought others expected or wanted, to some degree. Vain and harmless was easy to laugh off.

No one had expectations of him, so he never had expectations for himself, either.

If he thought too long, he would remember that there had always been some measure of discontent. Cartier had quickly overshadowed him, and while Kyrios had never really tried to compete, he had quietly resented him all the way up to his death. Kyrios had never really been happy, but it had been easy enough to pretend -- he hadn't wanted his mothers or siblings to worry, after all. Inferni had seen many wars.

His lifelong purposelessness was of little consequence. And it was easier now, to pretend in memory that those had been better times.

"Yeah," the pale hybrid said. He kept a hand on Zaku's nose and patted her neck with the other. "Just go up slowly and make sure she knows what you're doing. As long as I'm here and you don't surprise her, she'll be okay."

It was rare that there was any reason to let another rider on his horse, but the mare seemed to always remember the training she'd been raised on and tolerated it well enough as long as he was around.
Even without the war, it seemed unlikely that Jethro would have been allowed the sort of lackadaisical, easy life his uncle had lived before the fire. He was the son of a Bellator, and more importantly, the oldest surviving son of his family line. Though Jethro was part of a large consanguineous family (as evidenced by his numerous cousins), the private expectations of his parents had set him on a path destined for conflict.

If anything, the fire and the dissolution of Inferni had prevented him from becoming a soldier.

He was strong and fit in any case, for fighting was a matter of work and play now. The little clubs he and Galilee sometimes sought out didn't prove anything or mean much afterwards, but Jethro liked the sensation of fighting. It helped him feel grounded the same way running did – though the aftermath of these incidents left far worse aches and pains than his long-distance cross-country.

While his uncle kept a hand on the horse, Jethro reached up for the low end of the mare's mane. He gripped this and used it to help hoist himself upright, though a powerful jump did most of the work. His landing was a little heavy, admittedly, and he muttered low apologies to the horse as he readjusted his weight. Jethro was used to his larger, thicker horse, and felt the ridge of Zaku's back more than he might have on Tobias.

The discomfort would help keep him awake, in any case.

Once he was settled, they began making the trek back towards the building now called La Estrella Roja.

“Thank you,” Jethro said. “I would have been all right, but...well, thanks.” He blinked the sleep from his eyes and rubbed at his face with his free hand. His eyes felt itchy. “Guess I interrupted your hunt, huh?”

The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
If his mothers had ever had any hopes for how he'd turn out, he didn't know what they were. After Maeriia left, his only resolve had been to not leave the clan as she had -- not because he resented her for it, but because he wanted there to be balance. Maybe Vicira had thought similarly, but they never talked about it. And in the end, they both left, though Kyrios had broken his unspoken promise first. Their adoptive Inferni siblings had been more loyal than the trueblood Lykois.

When he had first picked up archery, his grandfather had told him to use the skill to protect his clan. By all accounts, he should have been the one to become a soldier. Three wars he'd seen, but it was more that three wars had passed by. Maybe he was lucky that he had never seen action on patrol, or maybe his cowardice had guided him subconsciously away from what he knew would be trouble.

If he had taken that path, he'd have been good at it -- he knew this with an arrogant confidence, but he also knew that Inferni would still have fallen in the end. A competent soldier could not win a war on his own. Clans needed leadership, and that was not a skill he would credit himself with, even in his head.

Zaku shifted her weight around when Jethro climbed into her saddle but made no obvious objections. The younger hybrid had grown to be taller than Kyrios, but he didn't think there was much difference in their weight. The bay mare flicked her tail as they started walking, but seemed to calm with each step.

"An interruption implies that the prior thing was important," Kyrios laughed. "I was just killing time, stretching Zaku's legs, making sure my bowstrings don't get brittle from lack of use. If I sit still for too long, I'll collect dust and start to lose my boyish good looks. I can't inflict such a tragedy on the world."

Though his uncle laughed and talked about the movement of the world in a casual and lighthearted way, Jethro wondered if Kyrios was as removed from it as he seemed.
In the days after Inferni's disbandment, and weeks after the Cartel had formed, there had been no real direction to their movement. Instead, all their energy went haphazard – building a campsite, trying to keep animals, anything that felt productive. Without guidance, they had faltered. Full of anger and a desperate need for vengeance, the remnants of the Clan turned bloodthirsty. 

That night with Boone and Marlowe should have been a warning. Maybe in some way he had sensed it, because they had left not long after. This was all just as well – they did not belong among the northern gang, who was now more strangers than family and sprinkled with a few old enemies to boot.

He imagined his grandmother was dead by now. He didn't bring that up with Kyrios, though. He wasn't sure how the man felt about the old woman. After all this time, Jethro wasn't sure how he felt either.

The war had changed everyone.

“Yeah I guess not,” Jethro agreed. Beneath him, the mare gave a little snort. She was smaller than Tobias and not so round. Given how fast she had come charging after him, Jethro imagined she'd take his heavier-set horse in a race.

“We've been using your bows, by the way,” he added a beat later. “Everyone's given them a go.” They had taken turns shooting at a makeshift target one clear, warm afternoon. Gaston was predictably terrible, while Marlowe made a point to show off his considerable skill. Surprising them all had been Cook – the old man had been a surprisingly good shot. 

“I even got Malik to try it, but I don't think he'll keep up with it. Shooting isn't really his style.” A smile spread across the coyote's face. “He's so good with his music but you give him a weapon and it's like he just got his hands for the first time.”

The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
Responsibility even in its smallest form had always terrified him in some way. The pride that came at successfully completing some assigned task did not balance out the risk of failure and what came with failure. Kyrios had never truly seen the worst of his fears play out in reality, but the illusions and possibilities he conjured up for himself were likely worse, anyway. It was why he couldn't bring himself to actually try harder to find his sister and to confirm, at least, what had befallen his mother.

Leadership was the worst form of responsibility, though, and it was why his lingering near his clan's old territories only prolonged a dead dream. He knew he could never lead a clan. And it was clear enough that no one else currently occupying the land could, or would, either. So what were they all here for? There were a thousand other places they could be. Guilt both spurred him forward and stayed his hand.

Kyrios nodded vaguely as Jethro talked about his bows being put to use, though it occurred to him only in that moment that Marlowe had likely also put his handiwork to use. The idea annoyed him greatly, but he didn't let the scowl cross his face. "I'm glad they're getting use," he said instead, voice still as warm as it'd been.

The younger coyote's tone seemed to change entirely when he brought up Malik though. Covertly, Kyrios glanced at Jethro's face, which was a blithesome smile all of a sudden. Kyrios's grin returned.

"Oh? Sounds like a lucky fellow who can get by without a weapon. Does his siren song convince others to feed and shelter him? I suppose that can be a fair trade, if he's as talented as you say." Honestly, it didn't sound like a bad life. If Kyrios thought he had any such talent, he might have been inspired, really.
In another lifetime, Jethro might have turned out like his uncle – his elder brother would have shouldered the great weight of expectation while he would have been free to explore all paths before him. His father might have still made him into a soldier. Maybe, if things had been different, Antioch wouldn't have started talking to angels.

In his exhaustion, Jethro was less able to keep his normally stoic (if not scowling) mask locked. Instead, mercurial shifts of grand adoration and sleepy daydream made him look far more youthful than his heavy greasepaint and expression often carried.

“He's really good,” the coyote explained. “I heard music before, especially at bars and joints like ours, but the way Malik sings is different. His brother – Cal, Calrian, I don't think you saw him – I guess he did most of the talking and scrapping, if it was needed. They're not...they're not like me,” Jethro's smile turned sad. “That's okay though. The kinda – shit, Cook had a good word for it – grit!, that's it – to deal with all that nasty shit out there. I think he'd fight if he had to,” he went on, entirely unaware he was still rambling on about his secret boyfriend. “But I think he'd get out of most scraps without needing to. Anyway, he's been with everyone even longer than me an' Marlowe, and he's not the wander-off type, so I don't think he'd get into much trouble around here.”

Jethro cast a forlorn glance to the empty sky. “Be nice if the birds stuck around,” he added. The ravens had (mostly) been good when it came to keeping an eye on the goings-on in and around Inferni's territory, but without the steady supply of food from the coyotes the large flock had either scattered or moved on. Both of his parents had once kept company with ravens, though Jethro, fatalistically, imagined they might have died too.
The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
It was always pretty cute: the enthusiastic rambling of a person who obviously loved what they were talking about, even if -- or especially if -- they were unaware of their own jubilation. Kyrios had listened to an obsessive carpenter tell him as very specific opinions about types of wood and an arrogant fisherman explain the specific purposes of different types of nettings. The topics never bored him, exactly, but certainly listening would've been harder if not for the others' clear energy and devotion.

It was different, though, when people talked about other people. Truthfully, Kyrios was a little jealous of the emotion and subtle intensity in his nephew's voice. He didn't think he'd ever really been that passionate about anything, or anyone. Not really.

The coywolf laughed lightly. "Does he know you talk about him like that?" he asked. "No grit, but a lot of charm, huh? He really does sound like a lucky guy, able to get by with just his voice, with you around to protect and provide for him."

And his brother and everyone else, he supposed, but Jethro had mentioned trapping before and was obviously a guard, and it seemed to Kyrios that the other vagrants at the tavern had other jobs already. It was a logical enough conclusion, but the older hybrid winked all the same.

He followed Jethro's gaze to the sky. He had never had any particular fondness for the flock. The birds had tattled on him often enough as a pup, and sometimes he'd felt that Vesper had trusted Stark more than him. This was all his own fault, of course, but still, he had never had any reason to feel endearment towards the corvids. "They'd come back if they thought there was something in it for them, I suppose," he said. "They're easy enough to bribe if you're consistent."
In his sleep-deprived state, Jethro was a lot less concerned about some of the secrets he was holding onto. Something about his uncle's return felt fortuitous, and in some way, the two men clicked.

Marlowe, the next-closest older male relative he was familiar with, had a different sort of charisma – and there was a meanness in him that extended even towards people that were his supposed allies and friends. By and large, Jethro tolerated this. He had endured plenty worse than a few hostile jabs or cruel insults. Besides, how could he just cut ties with someone who had saved his life?

“Maybe,” Jethro mused on the birds. “They were cool.” His parents had both befriended ravens, and Jethro had wanted to do the same. This chance had been taken from him after the Clan begin to splinter. What had happened to Scout and his mother's companion remained a mystery, and one of the many left unsolved in the way of Inferni's destruction.

It was obvious that Jethro was more interested in the other subject of their conversation. His entire energy changed when he talked about Malik.

“Yeah I think so,” he said a little boldly. “He and I get along pretty fine – but don't tell anyone,” Jethro added, though he had not come entirely forward with the extent of his relationship with the bard. “It just...it's new, we're new,” a quiet little laugh escaped his chest. “And I dunno, Adina and Cal might be weird about it.”

A lot of the old doubts still lingered.

Looking for reassurance, Jethro looked to his uncle. The red tattoo on Kyrios' lower back was a familiar sign, and one he took comfort in even after all these years.

“You don't think it's weird, do you?”

The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
Crows were opportunists, like most people. Kyrios generally told himself that he disliked such types, but it was difficult not to count himself among them.

Even though they often purported to have other cares and responsibilities, their foremost priority was always themselves. They lived for their own survival, their own gain, and if they broke a few promises in the name of staying alive, then so be it. There was a simple practicality to this; it was hard to be a paragon of altruism if you were dead. Still, there was a fairy tale sense of nobility in self-sacrifice, and Kyrios had only proven over and over again that he was just a coward.

Who could blame the crows for leaving? He had had many more reasons to stay, but he'd left even before the birds.

The older man looked up curiously as Jethro hurriedly asked for his apparent relationship to be kept secret and chuckled. It felt nostalgic. These were the sort of secrets that Kyrios had never felt mattered. They were things that were obvious to anyone who bothered to pay attention, and those involved would probably know it, too, if they weren't to wrapped up in themselves and their own feelings. Vesper had been like that. The days of harmless clan gossip was a lifetime ago, but there in their little pocket of night, they were time traveling.

"Better to assume they already know," Kyrios said lightly, still grinning. "I'm not sure what there's to be weird about. Calrian doesn't hate you and Adina doesn't hate your boyfriend, right?"

Siblings having relationships was inevitable, after all, and from his perspective, it was doubtful that there was any great dislike between the group, if they all managed to share space in the tavern without overt conflict. But even there was some disapproval, he doubted it'd make much difference. The pairs of siblings all seemed close enough that they'd accept whatever was.

Kyrios had already grown apart from Vicira by the time her relationship with Marlowe became obvious to him, but there was never anything he could have done about it anyway. And at the time, it had been a lot easier to accept -- Marlowe had just been an asshole then, not a traitor. And while Jethro's account of his bard was probably highly suspect, Kyrios preferred to believe that Malik was likely neither.

"Why would I think it's weird?"
“I don't think so. I hope not,” Jethro said, but he didn't really know. It was hard to read his sister – their time apart had put walls between them, and the secrets about those places kept them at a peculiar distance. Though they slept back-to-back and still went about their days like nothing had changed, their happy reunion had become strained. They could go days without speaking or seeing one another much at all. The warming weather and newly formed sprouts led Adina out to look for medicine and Jethro to his traps, his shifts at La Roja, and those few moments he had to himself.

“I mean, we did get into a fight – me and Malik – a while ago, but there was a lot of stuff going on.” Indis' moment of brutality and the death of those two bandits had scarred the Troupe deeply. While other things pulled their people away, that incident had been the catalyst which begun it all.

She was a princess now, he heard, somewhere in the far north. Her family and her people still lived, and had reformed under a new banner.

It was not unlike Inferni, but what his cousins had created was no longer the Clan of old either. They had embraced a lifestyle of a different sort, and a new way of dressing and talking. Jethro had realized when he acquired Jecimiah for Marlowe that the Gang was moving in a direction he could not exist in. There was too much – work and trade and expectations – while here he was free to best decide for himself what he liked.

Malik was becoming a big part of that. Maybe Kyrios was right, and everyone else already knew. Maybe that meant they didn't have to say anything at all.

“I don't know, nevermind,” Jethro said quickly. Kyrios had been raised by two women, and Cartier and Jehan had a family as well. All of that, and still –

“My mom was sometimes...weird, about it,” he added quietly. Versace's faith was complicated. He hadn't fully understood things as a boy, and less still after her death. There were only so many answers in the holy book, and most of them abstracts and metaphors.
The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki

There had been times, of course, when Kyrios had been confronted with others' homophobia, though in general, he liked to think he had earned each punch in the face for a better reason. He wasn't quite masochistic enough to extend his casual flirtations to those he suspected would react poorly, but neither did he always have a good way to tell one way or another.

In their pocket of time travel though, where he could pretend for moments that they were still in the past, it wasn't a consideration he thought much on. If there had been clansmembers that had disapproved of the idea, they did well to keep their mouths shut around him and his family.

Kyrios had bickered often with Versace -- about many things -- but he had never taken her seriously. Maybe he should have, but maybe his dismissiveness had been willful, too. It was easier to get along, even while fighting, when each acted as if their fundamental disagreements were unimportant.

He could only shrug. "She accepted Cartier's relationship, eventually. She'd have accepted yours."

It had been more complicated than that, but while he hadn't been privy to the details, the end result was still mutual co-existence. What else could Versace have done? There had been her book and her faith, but her brother was solid flesh and blood. She could have shunned him, but that would've only hurt them both. Kyrios did not doubt that she would've accepted her son, even if she didn't want to.

"It's always easier to tell the truth," Kyrios said. "Maybe there are some things worth keeping secret, but this isn't one of them. Have disagreements out in the open and they're over with faster."

Most secrets got out, in the end, even the actually important ones. Like most things, Kyrios's allegiance to the truth was only out of convenience, but he was convinced that life would be a lot simpler if more thoughts were spoken out loud.
it was bound to happen eventuality Regderp
we could probably wrap this one up soon, but hey come visit me again cool uncle

It sounded easy enough to believe. He often wondered what his family might have been like – his brother especially. Omar's death had been the first of many catastrophes to befall them. If that was all in God's plan, it meant whatever happened next was part of the plan too. Jethro didn't know if he loved Malik yet, but he had never had a relationship like theirs before either. All his travel and bad company kept him from ever settling down.

He sighed and closed his eyes. The spring air was still cool, and pulled the heat away from his warm body. His fur refused to let most of this go, but the breeze helped a little. There would be water back at the tavern, and then he could sleep. If the horse was a little rounder and fatter, like Tobias, the ride might have eased him into slumber then and there. It was quite risky, in some way, to trust a long-gone relative after so long. The world was dangerous, and plenty of people within it were prone to acts of deception.

Trusting people was hard, but Jethro was trying to do so again. His uncle had proven himself a decent man, if not a good one.

“Yeah, I guess,” he agreed with another wide, toothy yawn. The smoking was starting to stain his teeth. He didn't notice this all that much, having no real reason to look at them. “I'll see what Malik thinks. Their family just showed up, so we need to see what that's all about. Hopefully nothing,” he added.

The smell of smoke and horses soon became apparent on the wind. They were closer to La Estrella Roja now, and familiar stones – huge, ancient landmarks left behind from when the world was much younger – guided the way towards the place he called home.
The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.
Character Wiki | La Estrella Roja | Player Wiki
ya, we can call it good here~!

It was better for him to advise on secrets and truths, too, because he wouldn't have had much to say if Jethro had revealed trouble in the actual relationship. His own romantic aspirations, few as they had been, had always been disappointing affairs. It was easy enough to find fault in himself, but he was content, too, to accept that it was for the best that none of them had worked out. Maybe it was only sour grapes, but Kyrios didn't really feel like he regretted anything. And he didn't mind being alone much, these days.

Other people always brought trouble, and the more relationships they had, the more tangled the web became. Even Jethro was alluding to as much, whether he knew it or not. His uncle didn't know much about the bard and tavernkeep's family, of course, or of all the complexities in the relationships within the group, but it was easy to guess. There were secrets and scandals and things one wished to bury but another wished to dig up afresh. Blood was always on someone's hands, and someone else was always trying to show that to others.

This had been the case in Inferni, too, and it had always brought them trouble.

Small groups weren't small enough, it seemed.

Kyrios had never considered himself principled or good, but he had never liked the problems others created for themselves either. Some days, the silence in the woods was maddening and the imagined conversations he had with his horse didn't help. But it was hard to argue that that wasn't better than having to fight someone else's demons, or their demons' demons.

"Hopefully nothing," Kyrios echoed vaguely.

Forum Jump: