[P] I've got life
For San/Casimir, set May 7
(314) | NPCs: | Optime |

This was perhaps Azalea at her lowest.

The kind of anxiety that simply made one uncomfortable and overly conscious of the task at hand coursed through her as she peered down at the carnage. If. . . if she was very careful. . . then she could probably salvage it. She lifted her knife and got to work.

Carving off the terribly burnt pieces, Azalea wondered why it was that things had turned out like this. Where had she gone wrong? She had seen Casimir do this countless times, and she’d been confident in her ability to—at the very least—copy him. But every step of the way, something awful had happened. She almost felt cursed. ”I swear, I have never done so terribly with fish.” Azalea reassured Casimir, watching from behind her as she pushed aside the blackened pieces that she’d shaved off.

Pressing at what remained with the flat of the knife and wincing at the blood that seemed almost to gush out, Azalea frowned. ”I feel. . . like this isn’t finished. Would it be alright to put it back? How do I not burn it though? What if I chop it into strips and put the strips on sticks to roast, like I do with fish? At least then I can avoid burning it.” The musings went on and on, and whenever Casimir seemed ready to advise her, Azalea lifted a hand and gestured for him to stay his suggestions. ”I’m gonna figure this out on my own, Casimir! Just watch me!”

What remained at the end of her stubborn experimentation was thoroughly over-cooked and unflavored meat. Plating it with intense hesitation, Azalea grimaced as she handed Casimir a plate. ”Thank you for watching the puppies. Sorry about. . . all of everything on this plate. I swear I really am better at cooking fish. I’ll prove it to you tomorrow.”
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

Azalea's decision to make the family meal was final.

His first reaction was apprehension, but after she set about the task with the seriousness of a seasoned chef, Casimir found himself moved by the gesture. Lyra never once offered to cook, and his siblings certainly didn't care for the activity either. But here Azalea was, determined to make dinner, even as the forces of the universe conspired against her.

This caused him great anxiety initially, especially when plumes of black smoke erupted from the hearth and caused a great uproar from the children, but by the end it seemed that Azalea had righted course. Maybe. It was hard to tell with the charred scent in his nose.

"Okay, okay, I'm watching," He laughed, sufficiently warded away by her waving. Just as he said this, a Sundew-shaped blur began climbing onto an armchair. From the seat, she wriggled her bum, as if readying to jump, and Casimir dove to catch her. "Woah there, kiddo," He juggled her up to his shoulder. At two moons, she was mostly fluff and paws, and might've been fine from that height, but Casimir hadn't wanted to risk it. Her whines were preciously tiny. "Okay, Sundew and I are both watching," he called to Azalea.

There was more banging and muttering from the kitchen space, and Sundew's little ears bounced up and back in time with his own. Eventually she asked to play again, and Casimir returned her to the pen they'd erected in the center of the room. Indigo was somehow fast asleep, and the other two were tussling. Between these two options, Sundew trundled over to her sleeping sibling and pounced.

Casimir stole the moment to pester his wife again, and was sad to find that she was finally done. He'd been having fun.

The plate looked more appetizing than the flaking black nub in its center, if only because he recognized it. If he hadn't known what the meat was beforehand, he never would've guessed venison.

"Wow, that's um...I'm speechless, Azalea," He said, seating himself carefully at the table. He tried to tear his eyes away from the alien life form on his plate. "No one's ever um, cooked for me before. Thank you. I bet it's delicious."
(—) | NPCs: Sundew Eternity
(438) | NPCs: | Optime |

Azalea tried not to feel anything at the sight of Casimir playing with Sundew. Tried to ignore the warm familial happiness that seemed to flow through her body almost against her will. Like honey warmed by the summer sun, hot and fluid, soon enough there wasn't a part of her that wasn't alive with that energy—both calm and pleased as well as excited and flushed. "Yes, just watch and learn." There was a hint of good-natured sarcasm in her voice, for already Azalea knew that she would be spending the evening attempting to salvage dinner.

By the time she'd finished, she was genuinely disappointed with herself. "Urgh, Cas, no." She groaned, his response making her almost depressed. "It's disgusting, don't bother with it. I'll get better though, and then you won't always be the one cooking. But honestly—we'd be better off eating the raw meat left over." Azalea surveyed the dish with a disgusted expression before poking at it with her knife. A black flake fell off onto the plate. "I think. . . I think the fire was too hot for this one. Perhaps I shouldn't have refused your assistance, Cas." Azalea conceded with a grin.

Their relationship had been. . . a little strange since the night Azalea had proposed turning it romantic. It was a strange ask for a wife to make of her husband, she thought, and one that still felt both unnatural and like their only path forward.

Even now, as she sat beside him and reached for his hand—somewhat slowly but with only a touch of hesitation—once more she felt both the conflicting emotions that seemed to live constantly within her these days. When her fingers touched the back of his hand—grasping it within her own experimentally—a pang of grief struck her when the familiar feelings of excitement and shock failed to run up her body as they so often had for Sólveig.

"Perhaps you could teach me?" The question was raised in the lazy way that suggested that Azalea had other things on her mind. She was no longer giving her full attention to the conversation, though she wouldn't reject a lesson in cooking from Casimir, who she thought was quite the professional.

Experiment finished, she released his hand to allow him to eat, using her own to cup her head in her hands and watch. Azalea herself was unwilling to subject herself to such a torture, and instead watched eagerly—wondering if perhaps there was a chance it was any good despite all of the. . . char.
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

His ears flattened apprehensively. Despite the unfortunate outcome, Casimir truly was grateful that Azalea had made the effort.

Both in the kitchen, and in their marital situation.

Maybe they had their backs against the wall. Maybe he didn’t feel good about any of it, at all. But at the end of the day, they had become good friends, and he did love her for that. Maybe that was enough.

“You don’t have to be so hard on yourself, Azalea,” He tried to be cheery. The levity came easier as the children grew, and Casimir found his footing on the kind of fullness that Lilia brought to her household. “Sometimes these things, um, blacken on the outside, and it brings out the um, flavor…inside. I’ll look,” With this, he drew a knife through the center. The meat had some promising give, but when the piece at last sawed apart, they saw that the morsel had been thoroughly, undeniably roasted.

“That’s actually impressive,” he said, without lying. He was astonished. “I’ve never been able to burn anything all the way through. How did you get the fire that hot?”

Her hand wrapped within his own, and for this gesture, he managed to finally look away from the catastrophe. He blinked up at her, realizing that her attention was somewhere far away from there.

“Teach you to…make it less hot?” He ventured. She didn’t seem to notice. “Just off the top of my head, add water.”

The bad joke drifted past her. Her hand slipped from his.

Casimir wondered if he might say something else, chase her back to this world. That was the kind of thing a real husband might do.

Part of him knew where she went; it was the same place he drifted to in his heart at the rosy brush of dawn.

Instead, he took a tentative bite of the meat, because he was in fact very hungry. Right away, the charred flakes assailed the back of his throat, and he began coughing.

“It’s so good,” he wheezed, pounding at his chest. “Really, um…smokey?”
(—) | NPCs:
he's not even a real dad but the dad joke power has been bestowed
(414) | NPCs: Sundew Eternity | Optime |

Lip curling away from her teeth in disgust as Casimir cut into the meat, Azalea considered how she could prevent such a thing from happening in the future and what exactly had gone wrong this time. "I will be as harsh on myself as I want to be. This is fit only for Tak, the terror." Though she did not voice her thoughts on the god, it was clear from her expression and the heavy tsk that echoed through the room that she had little good to say of him. Azalea held her tongue only to prevent him from manifesting before them and retaliating.

His question fell upon distant ears, and she processed his words and the joke slowly as she sorted out her own thoughts. It was not often that Azalea sank into her own mind these days—distracted and busy as she was by her family, and all together much happier than she had been in a long while—but she was grateful that Casimir did not seem to hold it against her when she did. Besides, it was never for too long. Blinking herself out of her reverie and smiling, Azalea shook her head at Casimir in a too-late reaction to his joke.

"Ok, point out the obv—oh my fucking. . . Casimir, why would you actually eat that?" Interrupting herself in horror as Casimir bit into the strip of blackened meat, Azalea leaned forward and pushed his bowl of water closer to him. "I know you want to be supportive and all, but that's going too far. I'm fine, this isn't a blow to my ego."

Even as she spoke, though, giggles began to rise deep in her belly and despite her best efforts to push them down and away, her next words died as the giggles won out and she keeled over with laughter. "Cas! That was so dumb, I'm sorry! What did it taste like? How terrible was it, scale of one to ten? One is the best, ten is the worst thing you've ever had."

The puppies—surprised into stillness by her laughter—began to play once more again, but Azalea heard Sundew say quietly, "Fucking." Turning around in her seat to look at them, she attempted to morph her shocked expression into a stern one, before bursting into laughter once more and giving up, turning back to face Casimir and shrugging.
[Image: i4sQXcG.png]

His wife was determined to cast her efforts in judgment, and Casimir found himself in the old familiar position of accepting these terms. He supposed that is what made women like Azalea and Lyra so great. They saw how the world fit together, and could easily identify what didn’t belong. If left to him, he would think that everything had its place, even a charred hock of meat.

Casimir tried his very best not to show just how much pain he was in, and gave up when she pushed the healing salve of water in his direction. As he drank with infinite gratitude, a man in a desert blessed by rainfall, he found that her laughter was rewarding too.

“Uh,” he started, rubbing at his teary, red-rimmed eyes. He sat back just as Sundew repeated a word with surprising accuracy. They shared a moment, two parents tense with realization, and then Azalea’s giggles brought him back to the present. He was surprised to find himself huffing a laugh.

“A five. Honestly. If you, um, take away ten first,” It was his roundabout way of saying that it was beyond terrible.

“But only because I wasn’t ready for the ashy parts to, um, attack the back of my throat. I’m prepared now.” He reached for a piece again, and offered it up to her. “Here, try it with me. It’s not that bad. It kind of leaves this…aftertaste? Like the ghost of the meat is haunting my mouth, telling me what could’ve been.” This he meant for fun, and was unable to tame a soft grin from forming on his face.
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