In the Woods with Nothing to Say

[p] - Milos

POSTED: Wed Apr 03, 2019 3:47 pm

Walker finished brushing Lady down and put a blanket over her. While spring had arrived, the nights were still cold here, and without a stable, the blanket was essential. Walker knew he should be excited, that him and Milos together was all he’d wanted for a long time, but the southerner felt trepidation whenever he looked at Milos. His brother shouldn’t be here, his mind had been broken, again. The last thing Walker wanted was to regain his mum only to lose Milos. How had everything become so complicated? There should be jokes and easy conversation, but the pair had remained silent for most of the day, each trapped in their own thoughts. Once again a place Walker had thought would become home had been torn away from him, and on top of that, a Luperci that he’d loved…The southerner shook his head and trudged back to the fire he’d banked. Milos sat with his back to a tree, his eyes half closed. Walker said nothing, just began to cook a meal for the two of them. There was no smile on the steel eyed luperci’s face, just a frown of concentration.

The stew cooking over the fire, Walker sat down and unfurled the piece of paper, looking at the scratches and notations on it. As he looked at it Sladjana’s face swam into his mind’s eye. Her warm and comforting Embraces, her gentle words and her calming manner. No matter how cruel or how horrible the situation on the estate became, she had felt like a rock. Walker had tied his soul, perhaps foolishly, to three people, Chaska, Milos and Sladjana. Somehow, one by one, his sire had managed to separate him from all of them, and Walker’s world had crumbled. Finally, he had found Milos once again, and his heart had nearly burst. Now he could almost taste Sladjana’s closeness, but he was also scared that his eagerness would make him do something rash or stupid. Now there was another concern. Milos’ haunted expression and quiet mumbles in his sleep. His brother had suffered and should be with his real family, not dragged on something like this, but here they were. His gaze rose up and Walker looked back at Milos.

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POSTED: Sun Apr 07, 2019 9:52 pm

They had walked far from St. John's Chokehold, where the Shoal had set up camp for many months now, and the silence stretched long and taught between them all the while. Lost in his thoughts and in his memories, Milos had been nearly catatonic. It had only been a few weeks between his return and his departure and, in that short span of time, so awfully much had been revealed: Krokar was destroyed, Willow had returned, Logan had left, Bramble had become a grown man, Eliza had changed in some way he couldn't quite identify.

And then there were his revelations: he was cautious, he was uneasy, he was altogether paranoid.. There were times where he felt immensely happy, and yet trembled with the fear of retribution; where he listened intently to the story of a loved one, and yet felt drawn toward the imaginary sounds of an intruder; where he knew he was safe at home, and yet believed he was a danger to everyone he knew.

There seemed to be no escape from his thoughts.

Sitting with his back against the cold, hard, rough surface of a tree, Milos lowered his eyelids and stared out into the dimming atmosphere while Walker moved about around him. Flickering with a cheerfulness that the aging Parhelion had felt less frequently in recent times, the fire drew his eyes to its dance. Degaré had had a flame not unlike this one, that night they shared after Otilie's torturous death, and Milos' mind was lost to those memories for a long time until the smell of the stew shifted something from within.

Blinking, he flickered his eyes from the flames to the figure nearby and found that his brother was watching him. Milos looked quickly away, embarrassed, and cleared his throat. "Smells good," he said, lifting his eyes again to his brother's face. He let the silence stretch between them a while before Milos lifted his hands and combed his fingers through his greying mane slowly. "Kodi," he began, his tortured mind telling him now was the best time to bring this up. ""M sorry, Kodi. Ya had a good place'n Krokar'n now it's gone."

Slowly, Milos lowered his head into his hands. Gone. "Bad luck's what I outta be." Staring at his feet, the fallen Captain breathed in the late winter air and was silent for a while. "Maybe I shoudn't've come." Maybe, he though bitterly, he should have walked into the sea and disappeared beneath the waves. What was he doing here?

[WC — 431]

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Luperci Mate to Eliza but you'd become my candle in the dark
the sun still rises
even through the rain

POSTED: Sat Apr 20, 2019 6:03 pm

As Milos broke the silence the two had both lived in for the last couple of nights, Walker didn’t look up. Instead he kept his eyes on the paper, folding it up neatly and placing it back into his pocket, before drawing his gaze back up towards his brother.

”Well ain’ y’ full o’ self-pity o’er there.” Walker said, his tone not unkind, the easy grin appearing on his lips. ”Y’ claimin’ it’s y’ fault Krokar got gone? ‘cause that sounds pretty big headed o’ y’.”

Walker watched his brother for a moment, seeing the grey that had crept into his pelt, and wondering when that had happened. Life had changed so much, what had happened to all those years?

”Y’ don’ need to be sorry Milos, ah told y’ before, e’eryone leaves. Ah learned that a long time ago. Ah am sorry that y’ and y’ family lost y’ home though. Y’ got it good Milos, y’ have a new family, one that loves y’ and will always be there for y’, I’ve seen the way that fiery Liz looks at y’.”

Walker stood up, squatting by the fire, and tasting the stew, before scooping some into a couple of improvised bowls. He came over and sat down beside Milos, holding out one of them.

”If it makes y’ feel any better.” Walker paused, wondering if he should really reveal what he was about to say, but with a snorted sigh, he continued ”Ah spent all those years wishin’ to be shot o’ the estate, and when ah finally got out, ah’ve spent all ma time wishin’ah’d never left.”

Walker shrugged as though it wasn’t a big deal, taking a mouthful of stew he paused for a moment, but as he swallowed he continued.

”If y’ wanna go back Milos, ah ain’t gonna think any less o’ y’. Y’ got a family waitin’ back home, an’ ah don’ wanna be the one who tore that apart, not even for a little bit. Before y’ go though, would y’ tell me…What happened t’ y’ after Krokar?”

Walker had always been good at getting information out of people. It was how he operated, dealing in knowledge. However, trying those tricks on Milos seemed a horrible invasion, so the southerner had opted for the direct approach.

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POSTED: Sat May 04, 2019 9:59 pm

"Folk relied on me," he replied quietly, his eyes still on his toes. "An' I wasn't there." Flashes of that dreadful night flickered behind his eyes like lightning: Daisy's crumpled body when Degaré slammed into her; masks illuminated in the glow of flames; the ominous chorus of chanting; smells of fire and fear and frenzy. Milos closed his eyes and drew in a gasp of breath sharply.

If he had known then how much worse it would get, would he have taken a greater stand while Krokar burned? Would it have mattered?

E'eryone leaves. Milos looked up quickly, something strange and misplaced pinching at his face. Anger? Frustration? Injustice? Shame? Regret? It was impossible for the man himself to identify what emotion rippled in his chest when he said, "It wasn't m' choice." Not this time. But as the agitation cooled and the gloom returned, doubt latched onto his thoughts again with tenacity. Except that it was, wasn't it? He had chosen Daisy's life over the lives of his pack members.

In his moment of paternal responsibility, the needs of the one – his beloved little girl – outweighed the needs of the many.

Walker was right: he had left.

It was the snorted sigh that drew Milos back out of his thoughts and into the present day. "Ya wish you were back there?" he asked with gently furrowed brows, confusion and curiosity in his eyes.

But then Walker had carried on like he hadn't just said something crazy and Milos was momentarily distracted. "No," he said at length, glancing at the flames. "They're out there, waitin'. Watchin'. Best I stay away." His voice was growing distant as he stared unblinkingly at the rhythm of the fire.

It was a long time before Milos spoke again. "Things were okay for a while," he began, the firelight licking his greying face. "'Til they took Daisy away from me. Didn't know... Didn't know where she was'r what they were doin' t' her, but they said she'd be okay." He felt a ripple of anxiety shudder down his body. "Jus' had t' do as they said."

And so his story came out, all at once in a frenzied sort of way, as though the words had been dying to see the light of day for ages, but had been held back and locked away. "Lookin' for someone," he said. "Degaré'n Talbot were." Milos tried to say her name but it came out as a pained whine and he fell silent again for several beats. Giving up, he cleared his throat and continued. "A... a woman. Made me help 'em. And then I founder 'er."

Milos was trembling gently by this point, his eyes still fixed on the flickering fire. "She'd got 'er leg trapped. And I-I... She trusted me." Bringing his hands to his head, the fallen Captain clutched at his mane with his fingers. "Daisy..." he breathed. "I had Daisy t' think 'bout. They'd kill 'er. They'd... So I called for 'em, Degaré'n Talbot, an' they came."

A violent tremor rippled through his body. "I tried t' stop 'im, I tried t'– but they... I..." The look of betrayal on Otilie's face that last time she looked at him flashed in his mind and Milos choked on a sob. "Made me watch." He could imagine feeling Talbot's cruel claws digging into his scalp again as he held his head in place. "Had to watch. A long time." This last sentence was almost a whisper.

"Otilie," he managed at last, finally lifting his tearful eyes to Walker's face. "Her name was Otilie."

[WC — 618]

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Luperci Mate to Eliza but you'd become my candle in the dark
the sun still rises
even through the rain

POSTED: Thu May 16, 2019 11:07 am

Walker sat silently, his gaze watching as his brother told his story. It was halting and filled with an agonised emotion, but at least the former captain had forgotten Walker’s previous words. The southerner’s gaze remained kind and patient, there was no judgement in his eyes, what right did he have to do that? Besides, Walker loved his brother too much to think that the older male was anything but kind. Of course, he could ignore Milos’ words and just explain that everybody leaves was a statement of fact, not a seeking of blame attribution.

How many times had Walker let other’s talk? How many times had he held them, kissed them, until they spilled their secrets, all the while whispering reassuring words of comfort, or condolence? How many times had he played the understanding friend. As he watched Milos, his mind heard the story and presented him with exactly the right words to say. How to hold Milos, how to handle him, and it made the southerner sick. Without his clever words though, and well practised routines, he was flying blind. Walker watched as his brother’s ears drooped, the grief in Milos face, and the unconscious washing of his hands. Walker took a deep breathing, letting it out slowly, before he began to speak.

”Y’ know Mils, y’ problem is y’ heart’s too big. Y’ve been put int’ more impossible positions than many folk are in a lifetime. Y’ made the choices y’ knew were right, for you an’ y’ family. Ain’ know blood on y’ hands that weren’t put there by those who took y’ and threatened Daisy. O’course, ain’ really much ah can say t’ convince y’ otherwise, y’re a stubborn ass. F’r what it’s worth, ah don’ think any less o’ y’, an’ I reckon the memory o’ what happened is ‘nough to keep y’ awake at night, without y’ beatin’ y’self up about it as well.”

Walker had rejected all of his clever words, and his speech sounded clumsy and amateurish to his ears, but he was pretty sure it was genuine, his own words, not trained banter.

Once again the southerner fell silent, a story of his own coming to mind. A game of cards, a young cocky shit, not a bad person, just at the wrong table, when Walker had wanted something. Walker’s quick hands had slipped something to the unknowing youth, it was quickly found by the other players. Walker could still see the youth’s broken form, eyes open, bleeding into the dirt, but the southerner had got what he needed, and that night had managed to comfort someone else, while his mind never stopped seeing the life he’d helped to end.

”There’re monsters in this world” Walker said, thinking of himself as he spoke of Milos’s kidnappers. ”Don’ deserve t’ be part o’ this world. They see love an’ replace it with hate, or know jus’ how to exploit it.”

For the first time in a long while, the face of that dead youth flashed up in his mind once again. There had been no one there to grieve over him, no parents, or siblings, just a youth trying to make it, and look tough.

”We all need t’ make choices Milos, weren’t it mum that said, we jus’ gotta hope we make more o’ the kind we can live with, and chalk up the rest as experience. Reckon if y’ don’ let go o’ some o’ those choices, them grey streaks gonna take over completely.”

Walker felt himself falling back into the clever mimic, even the smile made a brief appearance as he spoke.

”ah love y’ Milos, y’ family loves y’, and they’re alive ‘cause o’ y’. None o’ that is gonna change.”

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POSTED: Fri May 17, 2019 11:50 am

It felt to Milos like a long time after the final notes of Otilie's name were carried away into the surrounding night before the silence was broken again by Walker's deep sigh. Unblinkingly, the fallen Captain listened as his brother's voice spilled out of his mouth and offered words of genuine reassurance. There was no clever banter or playful gibes hidden within those words, and Milos felt a chiming from deep within the intricate webs of trauma and shame that suggested to him how important this moment was. For Walker; no, for Kodiak.

His brother had built a wall around his heart to protect it from enduring any more pain and heartache it had already experienced so many years ago. Walker had become Kodiak's bodyguard; a suit of armor his brother wore to keep everyone at arms length and to prevent the penetration of attachment. That distant chiming from deep within made Milos wonder if this was a turning point for Kodi.

Milos remained silent, listening and wondering and feeling all the while Kodiak continued to talk – about monsters, about choices, about love. He considered their mother's words – the woman who had taken them in during their darkest moment and embraced them as her children – and felt something shift gently within him. It was this woman they were going to rescue. Of this choice at least, Milos felt certain it was right.

"Reckon you're right," he conceded quietly. "How's 'bout you, Kodi?" he asked softly, finally tearing his eyes away from the fire to glance into his brother's face. The dancing of the firelight flickered within sunny eyes that were shimmering with emotion. "What choices've you made ya still gotta let go?" Milos thought that there was still an awful lot about his brother he still didn't know, and now, with just the two of them sharing a journey to rescue their adoptive mother, felt like the best time to find out.

[WC — 332]

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Luperci Mate to Eliza but you'd become my candle in the dark
the sun still rises
even through the rain

POSTED: Thu May 30, 2019 4:45 pm

So often, all anyone cared to talk about was themselves. Walker had spent years teasing the information he wanted out of other Luperci, all the while letting them believe a friendship was being formed. He’d made a life out of appearing genuine, a rowdy lover of life who was incorrigible and spat in the face of authority. Walker was a good listener, a great trickster and always a willing shoulder to lean on. He was a perfectly sculpted character, protecting a slave who had fought and riled against his shackles, always being beaten down, only to stand up and ask for more, until his weakness had been found. Family, his desperation to reconcile with his birth mother, and his love of his adoptive family. How expertly they’d been played against him, delivering a blow to the young luperci’s psyche, that he had fled from the pain of. Walker had woken in that dim, dark and stifling room alone, surrounded by strangers, the only whiff of familiarity the lingering, but fading scent of his brother. Walker had known then that Milos wouldn’t return. Tears had wanted to come, but he held them back, feeling the ache in his chest growing, swelling so strongly he though it would burst, but he swallowed the pain, and learned, if not to live, then at least, to survive.

Now his brother had turned his question against him. Not out of any duplicity or desire to gain an advantage but out of genuine concern. Out of instinct the smile flashed and Walker shook his head, raising his hands.

”Ah a gentlemen never kisses and tells, but sometimes you just get an itch right?”

Walker’s mind knew that Milos was uncomfortable with sex, it had presented him with the options and the phrase that would cause awkwardness in his brother and kill the conversation, the verbal thrust that Walker needed to reset the direction of the conversation. Walker stood up, moving away from his brother, as if needing the space for what he wanted to say, or perhaps to stand a little in the shadows to hide himself in them. Walker’s smile turned into a thoughtful look, and he rubbed his neck, loosening the muscles there.

”I wish ah’d not been so desperate for ma mum to accept me. Ah was such an idiot. Ah had you Chaska, Sladjana, ever’one, but when she took an interest me…”

He shook his head in the shadows.

”Some part o’ me knew it was a trap, but ah was so desperate for it t’ be true….Ah went all in Milos, and the house won, it always wins. Ma life fell apart, because the person folk should be able to trust, betrayed me. Ah thought she could o’ come with us and ah told her ‘bout the plans we had. Ah’m responsible for all the folk I cared about, dying.”

Walker felt his chest constrict painfully, and in the darkness he shook, but after a moment he regained himself.

”Don’t reckon any o’ your choices could match that one. You were made t’ do stuff, that ain’t an reason ah can claim. Ah was jus’ an idiot, and ain’ no defence for stupidity. Ah’m pretty sure Kodiak died back in the estate Milos, saving Sladjana, well that’s just a way o’ trying to clear up his mess.”

Walker went silent again, and when he moved more into the light his smile was back.

”So yeah, ah gotta bunch, but ah’m livin’ with mine. You, well you ain’ got nothin’ t’ be blamed for. Y’ situation was impossible. ‘sides, ah’ve seen the way y’ family looks at y’, ain’t nothin’ y’ do gonna make ‘em change their mind that y’ the best thing t’ e’er happen to ‘em. Damnit Milos, y’ can see it in Liz’s eyes when she looks at y’.”

Walker did have on other regret. He regretted letting Fin wheedle his way into his heart. The whole exercise had start with a punch, it had meant to be nothing more than a way to pass the time, and somehow, Fin had held him close, and Walker had enjoyed the feeling, he had relaxed. Walker couldn’t help but remember fondly when the silvery furred Cormier had been awake, the first time Walker had a nightmare in front of him, there had been no questions, Fin had just laid there, awake while Walker had fallen asleep again.

Straightening, Walker shook his head.

”We should probably talk about the plan.”

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POSTED: Tue Jun 04, 2019 5:48 pm

Milos held his gaze – his bright, shimmering, aching gaze – against his companion's grinning face several wordless beats before he allowed it to tumble down and away again. In the flash of that smile and the nature of that response, he knew that Kodiak was gone again – retreating back beyond the wall and allowing Walker's protective armor to deflect the assault of Milos' heartfelt question.

He had expected too much too soon, the fallen Captain thought as he trained his darkened stare at his feet. They had come a long way, the adoptive brothers had, since their reunion so many seasons ago. But there were many hurdles yet to clear, and many obstacles yet to cross. It couldn't be easy, after all, to put your trust again in someone who had abandoned you.

Despite the innuendo that Walker had laced none-too-subtly in his quip, it was not, for once, discomfort with physical relations that drew his eyes downwards. Rather, it was remorse; it was disappointment; it was perturbation. "Reckon ya do," he replied quietly, his voice tired. There was no energy left in the broken wolfdog with which to fight; to rally; to appeal.

He sensed, rather than saw, Walker rise and shift away from him and, though he knew there would be little to see, Milos lifted his eyes anyway. Shifting gently, the Bullhead moved as though to acknowledge his brother's exit but froze when he slate-eyed wolfdog looked his way again.

When he opened his mouth, it was Kodiak's words that spilled out.

"Kodi..." Milos began, a sad sigh passing between his lips. He rested his forearms heavily on his thighs, his posture sagging, but Kodiak continued before he could say more.

"Ma life fell apart, because the person folk should be able to trust, betrayed me." Though he knew Kodi was talking about the woman who had given birth to him, Milos flinched. There were other reasons why Kodiak's life had unraveled, and other folks who had betrayed his trust.

Milos swallowed, looking up again. "Kodi," he said again, louder this time. "Ya were only a kid. Chaska'n me... We never should'a put all that weight on your shoulders." He shook his head and took in a slow, sad, swollen breath, releasing it in a burst of air after holding it a beat. "An' I never should'a left ya there, back then. I weren't made t' do that; that was only... was only..." Milos shook his dark, greying head, unable to give it a name; an excuse. "A mistake."

It was a while before the fallen Captain lifted his heavy head again and saw, with some dismay, that Walker appeared to be back, his teeth glinting in the firelight. "En't gonna accept that," he said slowly, furrowing his ivory brows slightly as he looked into Walker's lit face. There was a hint of something – determination or ferocity or grit – that glowed dully in his amber eyes. "That Kodiak's dead'n gone with th' Estate. He's still in there. He's still there." His voice trailed off.

Thinking about his family hurt, but it also grounded him. There were people he needed to return to who, despite all that had happened and all that he had done, for better and for worse, still loved and trusted him. Milos said nothing to this, though his heart felt marginally lighter and his resolve to return unscathed was fiercer.

"Reckon we should," he said, feeling a little less gloomy now. Milo lifted his eyes and waited, hoping that whatever plan they came up with, it would see them successful.

[WC — 614]

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Luperci Mate to Eliza but you'd become my candle in the dark
the sun still rises
even through the rain

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