Fate and Misfortune

potassiumboron

~I'm drinking coffee on a trampoline~
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After an entire decade by himself, the quiet and the solitude surprisingly didn't translate into loneliness - at least, that was what Lukas preferred to delude himself into believing. He had spent ten years or so with only his own presence for company, taking on the duty of survival without another person at his side to vent to; someone to help alleviate the pressure he held (despite never admitting to himself that it laid in his chest, dragging him down). He would argue that he was all the more better without people around him, their lacking presence meaning he had no distractions; nothing to deter him from the mission of simply surviving in a landscape that was more or less apocalyptic these days, with the scenes humanity had once been used to fifty years prior now decimated at the hands of the unrelenting monsters.

No, his sole desire was to keep surviving; keep pushing forward, and he couldn't do that as effectively if he had people around him, especially those he cared for. The countless losses he had experienced only served as proof for that - when he had his sister with him, when he had his boyfriend at his side, he was vulnerable to distraction, over-confident as a result of their reassurances, blind to the dangers that existed around them. He would bring them back in a heartbeat if he could, of course; he wasn't happy they were dead, but he could at least... accept that it was easier without others to care for. Though he wanted them with him, especially now he was armed with the knowledge of how to survive - specifically having learnt that adopting the mindset he now had had helped massively in the endeavour. Thus, he always regretted not realising it sooner when they were with him. He should have been stoic rather than expressive; subdued instead of lively.

Realistic instead of optimistic.

Perhaps his sister would still be laughing at one of her own ridiculous jokes, perhaps Milo would still take his hand and press a kiss to his knuckles, if he had only realised it all sooner. Instead, it all came to him far too late and now he was alone, forced to continue onward without his loved ones at his side. Time wasn't necessarily a healer when their deaths continued to press themselves onto his mind, continued to infect his thoughts both at day and in his subconscious. He was bitter and furious and no amount of time would ever alleviate the strength of that emotion, but he did what he did with everything else: he buried it deep down, kept it at bay behind self-constructed mental barriers in order to focus on the more pressing matter of living.

As a child, he had constantly been on the move with his family and the group they had aligned themselves to, the mantra being 'strength in numbers'. There was no permanency, no real chance to ever settle and acclimatise to surroundings, the overriding fear of capture having always encouraged them to keep busy, keep on the move. That plan hadn't been adopted by Lukas once the numbers in the group whittled down until he was the sole one left standing - because there wasn't really a need to struggle through harsh conditions when the cabin he had stumbled upon seemed a perfectly suitable place to set up camp on a permanent basis; to call a home. It didn't mean his life was any safer, but he at least had protection from the weather and wasn't immediately visible to rogue monsters lurking the forestland for a meal.

Monsters stumbled upon the once-abandoned cabin in much the same way the then-teenage Lukas had once down. It was naive to believe that he would be able to exist within the cabin and evade the monsters discovering him - but he never fed into that belief. His cabin was his home, his life made a little easier with the benefits it brought, but he was never under any illusion that he would be completely safe. He knew he would have to fight to defend it and himself, hence the years he put into toughening himself up, into finetuning his use of weaponry (both guns and knives and weapons he chiselled down from ordinary items by hand). No fight came without its consequences -the scars covering his body emphasising that- but, ten years on, he was alive and breathing, with several monsters having perished to emphasise his fiery desire to survive.

He had a lot to be proud of (not that he ever let himself celebrate any victory; there was no room for that confidence) but he was only human; he still found himself dwelling on his past at late hours in the middle of the night. He could push it back seconds later, pretend that the loneliness didn't get to him or that the grief he had never properly worked through didn't feel close to suffocating him, but it was always... there. Those feelings and emotions he was determined to pretend he didn't feel, lurking in the back of his mind and springing up when he least wanted them to.

Now was one of those times. Venturing out of his cabin in search of something to catch for that night's meal (ideally, he would find a rabbit and get it cooking alongside the stew he had brewing), Lukas had no time for distractions. He knew he needed to keep his mind clear and be on alert, the sharpened pole gripped tightly in right hand in reminder to himself of that, but then thoughts of Milo sprang up; memories of his boyfriend cracking up hysterically at Lukas' miserable time fishing, every catch he brought to the surface slipping from his hands when he took it from the self-made pole. He could almost hear the other's voice as clear as if Milo was stood beside him as the memory played out, the scene of the other laid out on his back in the grass as he tried to control the fits of laughter coursing through him.

Enough.

That was enough. Lukas, desperately, shook his head as though that would tip the memory from it, his jaw tightening in the continued effort to retrieve some clarity and force away the memory. It was a joyous one, one he would perhaps smile at if circumstances were different - but they weren't. All the memory did was bring him pain and physically ache him, and he didn't want to experience any of that. Not only was it a distraction, but it just reminded him of his loss - and the fact he was alone.

Fighting so hard to push the memories away, Lukas was almost certain that the sight of a body up ahead of him in the snow was a vision; a leftover of the memory that had powerfully overtaken him seconds prior. In fact, he was so certain he was seeing things that he proceeded forward without giving the figure a second glance, keeping his eyes to the ground, ready to narrow in on any prints a rabbit might have left behind. Yet, as he came closer and the figure didn't remove itself from his peripheral vision, he was forced to come to a stop and examine it properly, then drawing the conclusion that the body might be real but it was that of someone who had passed away. The sight might have shocked him as a teenager but it barely registered in his brain these days - he had seen countless corpses in various stages of decomposition during his travels from the cabin in search of food, and though it had haunted him in the early days, he had become so accustomed to it that he was able to flick his eyes at Naveen's body and continue to push forward without it really staying imprinted on his mind.

Until he heard the laboured breaths; the faintest of signs indicating that this was no corpse. This was a living, breathing being who, though clearly in a bad way, was not yet dead.

The gruff man grimaced to himself at that realisation, his back to Naveen as he struggled to come to terms with what to do. Ideally, he would walk away and leave the boy to whatever fate had planned for him, because the last thing Lukas felt he needed was someone else in his cabin. Not only was it a greater risk in terms of attracting monsters to their location but it would also mean his supplies would have to be shared out, more than half being given away if the boy was in a really bad way. So he had to continue to walk forward, didn't he? He had to turn a blind eye to the suffering and prioritise himself; prioritise his survival as he had done for the last decade.

...But Lukas wasn't a bad person. He was sterner these days, unforgiving and grumpy, but cruel? No. Certainly not cruel enough to leave someone behind to die.

"Fuck's sake," he grunted in annoyance once he realised that what he had to do was obvious. He might not be particularly happy about it but he knew he would never forgive himself if he did selfishly wander from Naveen, especially when it was obvious that the other would perish if someone didn't come to his aid - and from what Lukas had discovered the last ten years, he was the only human in the vicinity, others having wandered through and died long before they could reach the safety of the cabin. The hulking figure surveyed the area swiftly before turning to head back to Naveen, turning him over and lifting him up into his arms with ease, the weakly state the other was in immediately tugging at Lukas' sympathy-- before he cut the emotion off, ruthlessly and unrelentingly.

He would help Naveen, get him food and ensure he was warmed up, but that was as far as it would go.

He couldn't afford to get attached; to start to lower his barriers and care for someone again when all that had brought him was grief and heartbreak. No, a few days of helping the other and he could go on his way, and Lukas could, once again, return to his life of solitude.

At least, that was the plan. How successful it would be remained to be seen.
 

saturnia pavonia

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Fantasy, Mystery, Scifi, Romance, Yaoi, Yuri, Horror
How long had it been? Hours? Days? Had it been weeks since Naveen decided to leave the warmth of his home for the frigid winter air? He couldn’t recall, though he knew he could no longer feel his hands under the soaked gloves he had used to catch his fall countless of times over the days. He couldn’t feel anything now that he thought about it, it wasn’t until he felt the cold sting of the snow hit his face that he felt something.

He would be fine, right? If he laid down for just a few minutes, rest his aching body that had pushed itself beyond it’s normal limits for so long, he’d be okay. He hadn’t noticed it, his eye already blurry from exhaustion, but he could hear that it was beginning to snow as the snowflakes tickled his cheeks. It was a sound he enjoyed quite a bit in that moment compared to the pounding in his ears he had to suffer through for what felt like hours now.

The snow was bitter but that initial shock of pain faded and was replaced by comfort when, much like every other part of him, it became numb. He nuzzled his cheek into it, imagining his pillow at home that gave him companionship and comfort more often than not; a friend of sorts, something he knew he could rest his face upon and cry when he was too shy to cry in front of others. He missed the gentle fabric, a rarity reserved only for the most powerful, a fact he was admittedly unaware of. Naveen knew there was nothing else he could do in that moment, knowing that even if he did move he couldn’t. He was weak, and this was just the universe reminding him of that fact. Soon his brother or sister would scoop him up and he would be reprimanded by their mother, the thought made him shiver - or perhaps it was the drop in temperature that came with the approach of nighttime.

His eye was heavy with bags as it tried to scan the scene as to where he unceremoniously had fallen. Everything was in a thin veneer of snow now and, while one hand gripped his cane with the strongest grip he could offer, the other shook as he tried to move closer to something in the distance. He tried to use his cane - a surprisingly modest thing made of lacquered wood with his sister and brother’s names etched on the sides. It was quite old, a relic of the world before his kind made themselves known and took over. It wasn’t much but it was the most important thing to Naveen in that moment.

He knew that if it was another monster he would be eaten in a moment - his mother had told him about how there was some of their kind who refused to come together and instead live with no control, no order. He knew that, even if he somehow had the energy to change his form back, he would still most likely be food - and he couldn’t blame the monster.

Ideally though it would be his family. He could imagine Tiarina ans Garrison scolding him between tears as they carried him back. Exhaustion hit him hard, unable to keep his eye open anymore as his body succumbed, though for Naveen it was an easy drift into sleep. He was with his siblings in their home, enjoying the warmth by the fire with some delicious dinner. The taste of human on his tongue made his dry mouth grow just a hint wet as he pictured an elegant scene before him. He pictured his mother explaining her plans of expansion to him and watching as his brother’s eyes lit up at the idea of battle, imagined offering a meek nod of understanding when he was told to stay far away from the battle.

That’s how their family dinners always ended; with his mother detailing their growing power and inadvertently pushing Naveen to the side. He knew they loved him but his attempts at speaking up were met with waves of their hands. He needn’t be burdened with that sort of thing, his mother would explain to her youngest. No, he was meant to simply observe lest the fear of him becoming sick returned.

Which it did, unfortunately, and with fury. His body was ready to accept death even if he wasn’t but he wasn’t strong enough to fight back anymore. His strained breathing was proof he was alive but for just how much longer? He wouldn’t know. No, he was instead focused on the dream of his siblings lovingly cuddling him and scolding him as he was carried home on his brother’s back, something he had grown fond of doing even if he found it embarrassing. It seemed to repeat; they found him in the snow and would bring him home to their mother often forcing him to his room. A resolve then a reset, though he felt himself pull from his dip into unconsciousness.

Naveen’s whole body shook once in Lukas’ arms, his one hand gripping the cane still as his other gloves hand pressed instinctively against his chest. He was remembering something similar; his mother, cradling him close to her chest when he was young. He remembered crying after falling as a child, he remembered her rocking him until he stopped and treated him with kisses until those cries turned to giggles. Those giggles didn’t come but the tears that stained his cheeks when his eye peeled open, clearly confused to what he was seeing because if he was certain in anything it was the fact he was not walking…. Or was he? He decided it wasn’t worth worrying as he instead closed his eye again and accepted what would come to him.

He just hoped it was safety rather than his doom, and for now he would try and focus as he felt himself slip in and out of consciousness.
 
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potassiumboron

~I'm drinking coffee on a trampoline~
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Genres
Monsters, supernatural, fantasy, romance, criminality, slice-of-life (modern or set in past, usually with some twists)
Ideally, Lukas wouldn't have pulled the other into his arms without first establishing a basic introduction and at least informing Naveen of his intention to help. Hell, just reassuring him that he meant well and that he was no threat would have been a start - as ridiculous and genuinely disbelieving at it was, he had been told countless tales by his parents of humans that refused to work with one another; people who opted to push their fellow kind under the bus if it selfishly ensured their own survival. Often, that meant using others as bait, a form of distraction, as they themselves made distance on the monsters who, naturally, were drawn to the smell of a bleeding human tied up for them to snack upon.

It astounded Lukas that anyone could be so selfishly motivated. He understood desperation better than anyone but to sentence someone to their deaths just to get a headstart ahead of the rogue monsters that prowled the woods? It was a plan he would never adopt himself, however desperate his situation personally became. If he even had that inclination, then Naveen made perfect bait - he wasn't capable of fighting back of defending himself (Lukas could only assume that by looking him over once or twice) so what was really to stop Lukas from tying him to a tree and vanishing in the comfort that the monsters would be preoccupied feasting on his body?

Several things were stopping him. For one, his situation didn't require him to rush off into the woods when he had a stable existence in his cabin, having successfully defended the property for the best part of a decade. Secondly -and most importantly- he didn't harbour that level of cruelty, even if he was desperate for his own self-preservation. No, regardless of how irked he was by the kindness that had overtaken him, he was more likely to lend a hand to those he needed it, including someone like Naveen whose sickliness might end up being a drain on precious resources but... he was in need of help and Lukas was never going to turn a blind eye to that.

Yet, he couldn't do the good thing and assure Naveen of that. He would have to stir him out of his unconsciousness and explain clearly, in spite of the other's inevitable grogginess, that his intentions were pure and good - but having that conversation, potentially a lengthier one than was ideal, out in the open woods was asking for trouble. Wasn't it better to take Naveen into the cabin out of sight and then explain the situation when he awoke in the warmth of some blankets and the comfort of the couch?

That was what Lukas had determined, anyway, the choice made the instant he leant down to lift Naveen into his arms. The short distance back to the cabin was made with haste and without hesitation, where, upon entering, he placed Naveen down on said couch, covered him with the blankets and finally sat back to try and comprehend the fact he had a stranger in his home.

He ran a hand over his face as the enormity of the situation finally sunk in, a few swears slipping past his lips. He didn't regret his decision (if he did, he could just toss Naveen out into the snow while he was still unconscious) but he wasn't blind to the difficulties it would bring him in the short time he assumed the other would be with him. He didn't want to share his time or his presence with anyone after making a deliberate choice to shut himself down and keep everything holed up behind inner-walls - and though he refused the idea of getting close to Naveen in any way, how could he predict that? Sharing his space with someone, even temporarily, ran the risk of those barriers coming down; of vulnerability establishing itself once again and rendering him distracted from assessing the outside threats as effectively as he wanted to.

He wanted to help Naveen, and he was going to regardless - but get close to him? Chat conversationally when it wasn't necessary? No. No, he pointblank told himself he would never do that.

"Oi," he muttered gruffly once any of those fears had been waived aside by his determinism and self-confidence, his eyes now fixed on the stranger intensely. Irked by the continued silence, he raised a foot -his boots tossed carelessly aside once entering the cabin- and gave Naveen's side a nudge, as gentle as he could manage to avoid injuring him further. Exasperatedly sighing when that didn't initially seem to work, he heaved his frame up from the armchair and strolled across to the small cooker in the corner of the cabin that, miraculously, still worked - like the running water, he wasn't sure what the hell he was going to do when it didn't.

Leaving Naveen to rest, he turned his full attention to the boiling broth, made with the few vegetables he could grow in the cabin. It wasn't ideal whenever Winter arrived, the vegetation he usually used for his meals suddenly lacking, but he made it work. Meat would have bulked the meal out more but stumbling upon Naveen had pushed that hunting mission aside - and he wasn't prepared to leave now and have Naveen be left alone, defenceless, if a monster did come creeping by. No, the soup -however watery and bland- would have to suffice until later that day, his broad shoulders sinking a little in that realisation - but he really couldn't afford to be fussy.

His thick Winter jacket tossed back onto the couch, he rolled up the sleeves of his long-sleeved shirt to the elbow and focused solely on the meal, finding that forgetting about Naveen's presence helped relax him; helped him to proceed as he otherwise would without the stress of the new presence in his home troubling him too much. He couldn't ignore him forever but, just for a few minutes, he planned on doing nothing but that.
 

saturnia pavonia

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Oh, Naveen couldn’t resist the immediate warmth that came from the pile of blankets now covering his frame. How could he? He had been in the cold for so long so to have a moment of peace, a moment of sanctuary from the bitter winds? The couch certainly wasn’t his bed and he lacked his favorite pillow but it would take more than a light nudge by a human’s foot to wake him.

He was only human, or at least that was what Lukas thought, he couldn’t deny embracing shelter and sleep, proper bonafide sleep rather than the few minute naps he was able to sneak in during his trek out into the wilderness. While Naveen was deathly still it was clear he was alive by the warmth he radiated and the faintest of snores that could be heard even if the blankets made it hard to see whether his chest was moving. He was safe, or at least he hoped so - he knew for a fact that if his family heard how happy he was to succumb to the safety of a stranger they would be livid, but what else was he to do? This had always been the inevitable, unspoken answer to how the youngest would fight if alone. Simple; he wouldn’t.

He knew his family would say otherwise and perhaps he could get some leverage in his true form by scaring off a human but for how long? How long until they realized it was nothing but a trick? Whoever was attacking him, human or otherwise, would realize that and simply kill him. It was almost easier in his mind just to give up rather than go through the hassle of dealing with an act.

Thinking about it gave him a headache, he preferred to revel in his pleasant dreams instead.

That is, until the faint scent of the soup stirred something. Monsters weren’t exactly the picky type even if his sister had become fascinated with old human recipes. Despite their status their dinner was never fancy; protein with vegetables and carb. Perhaps there were humans that existed still who would scoff at the idea of the weak soup but even in his sickly state did Naveen’s nose wiggle and sniff. His body refused to move from the blankets but his eye did open to peer around the cabin. His vision was blurry and that annoying sound of his heart in his ear returned alongside a splitting headache but his stomach wasn’t subtle in it’s growling after having been empty for as long as it had been.

Turning his head only aggravated that headache more, he noticed, but Naveen had to at least see what was happening. He wasn’t as smart as his sister but he knew to read a room… sort of; he wasn’t in danger given he wasn’t the one in the pot and he could freely move if his body allowed him to, right? His eye, still glazed from exhaustion, took in the flame from the hearth and the cabin itself in the shadows that the warm fire cast. It was… cozy, not a word he would associate with human life. It was reminiscent of his own home in that sense but he forced back his urge to smile. Instead his attention landed on Lukas, or rather the back of said man.

If Lukas wasn’t a fan of silence then he would be very disappointed as Naveen observed, the only sound coming from him being his rattled breathing every now and then. What was he supposed to say? Thank you would most likely be the best idea, but what if it came out sounding stupid? What if he somehow blurted his secret then and there? He could picture it happening somehow, especially when his mind was still a bit foggy. No, he remained quiet for a moment instead and simply… watched, taking note of Lukas’ calloused hands as they worked hard on the soup.

He noticed other things too, little things that helped clear Naveen’s mind a bit; he noticed the other was no longer wearing shoes, for starters. He noticed how much smaller Lukas was without his coat, having -briefly - thought that he was actually a monster from his bulky width whilst wearing the coat. He took note of the other’s messy hair and the way he clenched his jaw before realizing he needed to unclench his own. Naveen took in all of these things before daring to let himself known not by speaking at first but by simply showing he was alive, sitting himself up a bit.

“Um…” Naveen began as his eye avoided the other and he struggled to keep from growing too dizzy. He certainly didn’t want to dry-heave from the sudden nausea so didn’t rush into his words, “… t-thank you.” He murmured, unaware of the human even heard him. “Thank… t-thank you.” He repeated just a hint louder though with no more confidence than before.
 

potassiumboron

~I'm drinking coffee on a trampoline~
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The decision to simply focus on the soup and not dwell on the fact he had Naveen resting on his couch worked far better than he had assumed it would, so much so that, only halfway through the endeavour, he had almost entirely forgotten that the other was present - which helped him to unwind as much as he ever allowed himself to in current times. He was almost always on edge, always prepared to jump to defend himself and the home he had created, but maintaining that level of intensity constantly was unfeasible and -as much as he despised having to admit it- unhealthy. So of course he had times where he was in a more relaxed state of being; when he wasn't piling a magnitude of pressure onto himself, and now just happened to be one of those times, the tension within his body having melted enough for him to enjoy the food-making process as much as he could.

Sure, it was no grand meal, certainly not something he was particularly excited about, but taste was almost irrelevant - and always had been for as long as he had been alive. His grandparents were the last in his family to have had the luxury of preparing meals with a variety of seasonings and flavours; where they could choose each night what they wanted to make, go out shopping for ingredients to create something they fancied. Lukas had never had that option - for as long as he was alive, he had simply eaten what was available, regardless of how it tasted. Food was for energy, for his continued survival, not for taste or deriving some contentment.

But the least he could do was enjoy the process of creating the meal. It helped when he managed to catch a fish or hunt something down, but even lacking the introduction of meat, he still found a rare moment of joy in losing himself to the job of cooking. It was a job he didn't need to think so intensely about, something that didn't bring stress but introduced calm - and it really didn't matter what the meal itself consisted of when the process was always the same; always... enjoyable, given the respite it provided him from his otherwise pressurising life.

That respite was undercut the moment Naveen chose to finally announce he was awake, the tension returning to Lukas' frame as his shoulders tightened and jaw clenched. He might not regret having saved the other but to say this was an ideal scenario for him was far from the truth. Others in his situation might have been overjoyed to find another human (or what they thought was one) amongst the landscape, someone to both find company in and bring on to bolster their defences, but Lukas wasn't. It was easier to be alone, to have only himself to worry about.

To avoid growing close to someone who, he thought, would inevitably be killed before his eyes and leave him with feelings of grief and loss overpowering him all over again.

"Heard you the first time, kid," he responded flatly as he kept his eyes on the soup, convincing himself that the meal needed his undivided attention... rather than him simply avoiding the inevitable in coming face-to-face with Naveen and the responsibility of helping him back to his feet he had chosen to take on. For a few fleeting seconds, he immaturely chose to ignore him and continue stirring the soup, only setting the wooden spoon aside once the atmosphere he was creating became too heavy for him to continue shrugging off.

And so, with a characteristic sigh in exasperation, he turned to face the other at long last, his strong arms coming to cross across his broad chest as he finally gained the chance to properly examine the man he had saved from whatever threat might have killed him off. From the other's slender frame to the cane at his side, Lukas was hit with the realisation that this was someone who was in a far weaker state than he had initially believed; someone who would have probably perished to the weather alone if he was left out in it when it inevitably worsened later on in the day.

Not that it made him relieved to have found Naveen before that occurred. No, he was more irritated than anything, more than aware that Naveen would be more of a strain on his resources, more of a risk to his safety, than he had initially anticipated.

"We don't have to be chums, you got that? I helped you because it's the right, decent thing to do. Doesn't mean we're best friends all of a sudden. Doesn't mean we're gonna be joined hip-to-hip 'cos that shit will get us killed. I don't know who you've been with until now -'cos you've clearly not been alone all this time or you'd be dead by now- but we're not going to have that same relationship. I'm willing to give you a place to stay, get you food and keep you warm - but once you're better, once you're okay, you're gone. Do you understand that? This ain't a permanent deal," he began gruffly, the sternness to his tone unmistakable as he sought to get his point across without emotion. What was the point in delivering the message with any gentleness when that could be taken advantage of later down the line? It might have been harsh to set this intentions out so bluntly, without consideration for the other's wellbeing, but at least it made things clear from the start; made sure, without fail, that nothing about the arrangement could be misconstrued.

Confident that the message had landed, he turned to fill a glass with water before approaching the couch, returning to the armchair once handing the drink across to the other. He wasn't keen on entering a conversation with him that wasn't necessary -not when that risked inadvertently growing closer to him than he wanted- but it made sense to get to know him a little; understand where he came from, what he had been doing, whether he had escaped a monster's clutches. The latter point was perhaps the most pressing, given there was every chance said monster could be tracking after Naveen and stumble upon the cabin at any given moment. If nothing else, Lukas had to be ready and prepared for that invasion.

"...So what happened then? Monster attack?" He continued with the same deadpanned expression, resting back with a leg casually draped across the other. Having assumed that Naveen hadn't been surviving alone for this long (because how could he?), that left the possibility that those he had been with were now dead and lost to him - and Lukas couldn't take in that fact coldly. He wasn't heartless, after all, especially when he knew better than anyone how difficult it was to lose the ones you loved. As such, he opted not to go as hard in on Naveen, at least for a moment.

"You can have some soup, that'll build your strength up. It's nothing special but it'll fill your stomach so that's something, isn't it? But first you'll have to tell me what happened. I need to know if there's one of those monsters out there, following you; I need to be ready if it does find you; to kill it before it can kill us. More you can tell me, the better."
 

saturnia pavonia

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His eye quickly moved away from Lukas, as if Naveen would be reprimanded for just observing the man. Instead he locked eye with his hands once the one carefully rested his cane against the couch.

He peeled off the gloves that, while significantly less soaked, still left his palms feeling wet and gross and for a brief moment he focused on that disgust rather than the sinking dread that came with Lukas’ disregard. He was never the expressive type in his real form given he was merely void bug the same couldn’t be said for his human form as his face scrunched up at the sight and texture of his hands. He wiped his hands off on the blanket after a quick glance back to Lukas to make sure he wasn’t watching before said shaky hands searched his face, inevitably landing on the empty socket before a verbal curse escaped.

Naveen could have sworn he had been wearing it, though his memory was still hazy. It was the one thing that could possibly give him away; give away that he was a pathetic, weak, stupid, little-

He inhaled sharply and exhaled hard, an attempt to calm his own growing nerves. He was actually quite calm, though it could mostly be blamed on just how exhausted his body was. His shaky hands rummaged through his pockets as he tried to ignore the gross texture of his wet coat to stumble upon his eyepatch neatly wrapped inside his breast pocket and while he didn’t smile (it didn’t feel appropriate) he did at least let out a soft sigh of relief as he covered his eye up properly.

Naveen hadn’t expected to be addressed again and it was clear by just how startled her was when finally face-to-face with the human and his eye scanned the other frantically to absorb every ounce of detail he could.

The bags under the other’s eyes, his unshaven beard that reminded him of his brother’s human form, his broad chest and his strong arms that could easily overpower him even if he was in his real form. Silence would follow the other’s initial question as Naveen but hard on the inside of his cheek.

He would insist he was nowhere near as smart as his sister but Naveen had thought about his alibi a few days prior. Should he have come up with one before heading into the wilderness? That’s why he knew he wasn’t as smart as Tiarina; she would have had a whole backstory planned down to the T before dating to step out into the cold and instead it took Naveen three days. The thought made his nose once again scrunch briefly before he turned to look away and grip hard on the frayed edge of a blanket.

“Yes. I was with my family - mother, two siblings. We… um-“ Naveen swallowed, the threat of his notorious stutter arriving. He took a large gulp of the water as a distraction for a moment, “- w-we were, um, w-we were preparing some deer m… my mother caught and t-the blood must have, um… attracted a Momster.” He winced at how poorly he spoke but he knew he had to tell the supposed tragic backstory because fuck did he need that soup.

“I’m, um…. Sick,” he explained and gave a glance to his cane for emphasis, “I’ve always been, I guess. My mother and siblings fought the m-monster off and told me to run. I… I think I’ve been running for a week now. Well, running isn’t the, uh - the best way to describe it,” he tried to weakly tease with a forced smile. “Unless this - that monster is f-fucked up, it wouldn’t have f-followed me for a week, right?”

“… n-now m… may I have the s-soup?” Naveen stuttered out quietly, his stomach growling louder than he could speak. It didn’t look appetizing, it certainly wasn’t a nice roast, but those chopped vegetables and the smell of the broth sure as hell looked good in that moment.

“I’m Navi, by the way.”
 

potassiumboron

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The skittishness and startled reaction did little to assure Lukas that bringing Naveen in out of the cold was going to be without its difficulties. Aside from the resources now having to be split two ways -the soup, for starters, would now be dished out between them both rather than reserved for him and him alone-, there was little chance of Naveen helping out if an attack did ensue. If anything, Lukas had already settled on the assumption that he would be a detriment, scurrying from the trouble rather than standing up to face it - which he couldn't necessarily blame him for. If he was weak and suffered from frequent bouts of sickness, why stand up and fight knowing the chances of success were next to nought?

Yet, all that meant was that Lukas would have to not only fight the monster himself (which he was fine with, having managed to do such a thing for a decade strong) but also keep an eye on Naveen; ensure he wasn't in trouble and come to defend him if he was. Really, it was a distraction he could do without - but there wasn't really another option on the table at the moment other than to accept the detriment now on his plate and learn to cope with it. Sure, he could simply ignore the trouble Naveen might theoretically find himself in if a bulky monster did arrive at the cabin to make a meal of them, but that required him to be selfish to the point of heartless.

And he simply wasn't that way, however often he might wish he was. Without that shred of humanity, he would have been able to leave Navi out in the snow; would have returned home to the soup, all of which would be reserved for him, and able to tackle any threats without the distraction of ensuring the other wasn't a victim to the violence. It would have been simpler on him, made for an easier -if lonelier- life.

But there was no point dwelling on things that hadn't occurred. He had a heart and that was why Navi was sat opposite him, stuttering and stumbling his way through his explanations. It was also why the confessions of a family's sacrifice for their son also cut deep (he wasn't to know they were falsified), given his own history experiencing the same thing. Thought of his father valiantly and bravely throwing himself in the direction of a riotous monster to spare his children came rushing to mind, thoughts he had locked away years prior, and it took every ounce of mental strength he had to force them back into that prison.

Like hell did he need to start bringing up unworked-through grief, especially now of all times. No, he pushed it back where he felt it belonged and readjusted his face into that of stoic flatness, steeling his mind against the emotions that might otherwise rise up again as Naveen continued.

"Looks unlikely it followed you but can't be too careful. You say you're weak, yeah?" He muttered with a glance at the cane in Navi's hand, sucking in a breath as he contemplated his next few words. Despite already having determined the other as a very possible distraction to any theoretical fight that broke out, despite seeing that he had his ailments and problems, what good would it ever do him to rest back and not learn how to defend himself? If he was to head back out into the woods once fully recovered (as Lukas intended to make him do), then surely it was best to arm him with some knowledge on how to fight; on how to hold a weapon and use it against anything that came by with malevolent intent?

Hell, it would help to teach him a few things just in case one monster did come by the cabin. As much of a distraction as Navi could be, it wouldn't hurt to have him team up in such a circumstance; help to outnumber a predator and gain the upperhand of it.

"Weak or fucking not, you don't get to sit back and have me defend the place in your damn honour. You'll pick up a weapon and you'll fucking fight, you got that? You'll have to leave here eventually and you'll be alone until you find your family, so knowing how to defend yourself-- it's important. And 'sides, doesn't matter how small you are or how sick you can get. Everyone's capable of this shit. Everyone has their talents." Lukas assured sternly, making no effort to share his name in return. That only introduced the idea that a bond might form between the two; encouraged an element of familiarity he was dead-set against fostering.

With the pep talk (albeit a stern one) done and out of the way, he pushed himself to his feet to dish out two helpings of the soup, returning to the armchair with his bowl in hand, the other passed across to Navi.

More than content to sit in silence, he began tucking into the soup, happy to just have the chance to fill his stomach and have something hot to enjoy even if it wasn't exactly culinary excellence. Resting his feet on the coffee table, he dared himself to relax a little more as the warmth from the hearth hit him. After a long day of his usual strength training, wood-collecting and then hunting (though the failure of the latter was still resting irritatingly on his mind), his body ached and head thumped - but his posture, resting comfortably in the armchair beside the fireplace, was an illusion of relaxation. He could never truly relax, after all; there was always something on his mind, always something reminding him that relaxation should be solely reserved for sleep.

That, until it was time for bed, he had to always remain on alert. Just in case.
 

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Lukas was met with a blink in shock as Navi watched the human. He was still a bit hazy and his pounding headache made it a bit hard to concentrate but the other’s words definitely stuck out to him because he was now realizing no one had spoken to him like that before.

He was the baby of the family, the one to tend to and the one to traipse around. He sat through many important meetings but he rarely absorbed any information because he knew he wouldn’t be involved in anything because he was the baby. He had always known he was weak but he had hoped he would be treated like another powerful monster even if he wasn’t. To realize just how pathetic he was that his own family was too afraid to even offer a harsh tone let alone criticism. It left Navi in a state of shock for a moment before returning to watch Lukas, his brows now furrowed.

“I don’t want to go back to my family.” He stated clearly, his words genuine. They were quiet but the only other sound in the cabin was the crackling of the fireplace and the sound of snow as it pounded against the ground outside. “I know they’re alive, they’re stronger than me. I-I can’t go back to them though.” He pursed his lips, noting to keep the details light. If there was a small voice in Lukas’ head telling him to toss Naveen out, he was sure that voice wouldn’t be small anymore if he found out the truth. “I… think this is a good opportunity for me. I-I can… I can be a n-new person. I don’t, um, I don’t intend t-to burden you for long, I promise.”

Taking the bowl of soup with shaky hands it was a miracle nothing spilled, instead allowing the monster to chug back the bowl of soup with fervor. He was in a bad way, that was true, but nothing would keep Naveen from chugging down the broth and happily accepting the vegetables. He could use some protein, monsters primarily surviving off meat than anything, but he couldn’t complain. He knew he was taking up half of Lukas’ resources with little to nothing to offer in return after all, and his stomach certainly didn’t disagree with the meal.

Once finished the monster was left breathing heavily after guzzling the soup down in one go. A smile grew - it was a bit off, a bit lopsided as if he had never quite perfected the concept, before resting a hand in his stomach. Though that smile didn’t last long, not when he remembered he would have to learn to fight.

“I’ve tried, b-by the way. Weapons, I mean,” he explained after a beat in silence. “My brother, he’s mastered nearly every-“ he paused for a split second, reminding himself not to say ‘human’ - “weapon my mother has made or found us. I’ve tried to do the same but I c-can’t be on my feet for long. I can try but I… I don’t know if I will be any good. I can try.” He repeated as he forced back the urge to submit. He wanted to be a fighter, he wanted to be able to defend himself and his family and go to war and perhaps he could fool himself now that he was away from every thing that convinced him otherwise but it was hard. His face twisted again before his eye blinking a few times upon realizing.

“… so you won’t give me your name. M-My sister always says ‘don’t t-tell them your name if you don’t h-have to’ so I suppose I broke that rule,” Navi continued with caution. He was never one to speak often but he wanted to prove he was different, that he was getting better without his family. That awkward, unpracticed smile returned. “Can I call you… something? I’m… n-not good with nicknames. I can only come up with ‘Soup’,” he admitted and offered a laugh that soon turned to a harsh cough.
 

potassiumboron

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Having been accustomed to peace and quiet across the ten year period he had only himself for company, the silence being broken by Navi's desire to seemingly continue the conversation going wasn't just mildly irritating; it was infuriating. Unable to disguise that fact, he glared across at the newcomer in response, his jaw tight as he held back the urge to simply tell him to shut the fuck up. He ordinarily wouldn't have held back on the insult, especially when he was keen on enjoying his meal with nothing but the sound of the crackling fire or the snowfall to disturb the silence, but he found his words escaping him when he digested the content of the other's words.

Thus, rather than cutting him off in his own irritation that Navi didn't seem to get the cue to be quiet, he dropped the glare and found himself genuinely confused by the admission, unable to hold the expression of annoyance when surprise unequivocally overrode it. Despite having come to the realisation in recent years that being alone came with its undoubted benefits, he would still bring his loved ones back if that was possible; sacrifice whatever he could to ensure he had decades more to spend with them - especially now he was armed with ten years of knowing how to efficiently take down the monsters and had a stable home sparing him from the conditions outside.

The fact Navi's family were possibly alive out there ought to have meant that the other would take some days to recover before rushing out in pursuit of them-- though evidently, that wasn't the case. Lukas, despite the faint simmering curiosity that rose up, resisted the urge to enquire further, to settle his intrigue before it could grate at him-- because ultimately, he didn't want to probe into Navi's life and learn more about him than was necessary. Learning what skill level he possessed or how capable he was in defending himself was important; understanding his relationship with his mother and his siblings really wasn't.

So, with a little effort, he forced himself to push his curiosity aside and act as though the confession hadn't been uttered.

"If your brother's a master at weapons, he's sure done a shit job in not helping you handle them. Sounds like he gave up on you to me," he continued after several beats of silence, only opting to respond after finishing his soup and setting the bowl aside. He had no desire to rush into answering, in giving the slightest indication that he cared to contribute to the conversation nor that he cared about getting to bond with Navi. If waiting to reply and letting the silence build awkwardly until he did so helped establish those boundaries, so be it - he didn't remotely care too much about being seen as rude or unwelcoming as a result of those choices.

Frankly, it was better to both of them that he was keeping those barriers up.

So he felt no guilt for delivering yet another blunt opinion. He didn't know Navi's relationship to his family (though, based on the other's refusal to find him, he was left to assume it wasn't good) but it didn't stop him from forming an opinion that there had been clear failings on the brother's end - and he wasn't going to zip his mouth shut and keep those opinions to himself.

"You said he's a master. Those were your words. But he couldn't spare the time to get you to have some confidence over handling one? You 'don't know' if you'd be 'any good'? Nah. Your brother should have done a hell of a lot more to make you comfortable. That's on him; not you," he snorted, not in amusement but in genuine disbelief. Lukas' parents might not have ever pushed him as far as he could have gone, having always cared that their children had a semblance of a childhood to look back fondly upon, but they still taught him how to defend himself if he ever needed to; introduced him to the man-made weapons they created and built up his comfort level holding and wielding it offensively.

The fact Navi seemed to adequately lack that knowledge wasn't just unbelievable. It was outrageous.

"I can't promise to teach you everything I know, you won't be here long enough for that, but you can learn a few things off me. Build up some knowledge before you head out again," he continued as he rested his hands behind his head, allowing his eyes to shut so he could fully zone in on the background noise of the nearby flames. Granted, it was a method he adopted to try and avoid having to mention his name, or even offer a nickname as a compromise, though the building tension in what was left unsaid made him sigh out in annoyance.

"Lukas. The name's Lukas-- but don't go thinking that's a victory in favour of friendship. It really ain't. We are not friends. We're nothing but temporary -and reluctant- acquaintances. Don't get it twisted, Navi."
 

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“He’s a master, yes.” Navi stated with the most confidence and clarity so far. It was true, he had seen his brother’s skills from his bedroom window every day and watched as he learned with such finesse. At first he felt jealous but he had grown to instead appreciate and admire his brother’s talent. To hear him slandered by some… some nobody human in the woods led to Navi’s hands to ball up tightly.

He didn’t need to be angry, no one would listen anyway.

With that mantra in the back of his mind, Navi let out a soft sigh as he steadied his breathing. Out of all of the triplets, Navi was notorious for keeping his human form for the longest since there wasn’t much else to do when he was left alone in his room. Nonetheless staying levelheaded certainly couldn’t hurt, even if his own disguise wasn’t likely to slip like it might with the other two. He turned his head away, focusing instead on an aged photo above the hearth of a pond with a paddling of ducks. He was sure whoever had taken it was dead, if not by the hand of his kind then by natural passing. He calmed himself down by focusing on the layer of dust that coated the aged frame as well as the slight cracks in the photo and only once he was able to relax did he return his gaze to the other.

He wanted to scoff at Lukas, tell him how he would be mincemeat if he had that attitude towards his brother… but he didn’t. He reluctantly loosened his tight fists and offered instead a smile, too small in size to see how awkward it could be. A smile of obligation - he may be a monster but he still understood manners.

“Thank you, Lukas.” Navi replied simply before choosing to ease back under the blankets. His stomach was happy and he certainly wasn’t dehydrated but his body was still weak. He pulled the blankets up to his chin, embracing the warmth once again despite his fever that told him to push them all away. No, he would suffer some sweat if it meant he could feel some welcomed weight on him to comfort him when that comfort clearly wouldn’t come from Lukas.

“Goodnight.” He spoke flatly; Navi’s anger may have simmered away but it didn’t mean he couldn’t be petty. Besides, it was what Lukas clearly wanted, right? Quiet? He would give him that quiet as he pressed his face into the old upholstery to let himself rest. He wasn’t sure how he would be come morning but he knew that he would at least have a chance to wake up to warmth rather than sleep in the cold for the first time in over a week.
 

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Lukas took in the obvious anger from ruffled feathers and the flat tone that enveloped his parting words with as close to amusement as he was willing to feel. After all, he hadn't entirely anticipated this sort of response from Navi - both because a) he had the impression he wasn't close to his family so remarking critically on his brother didn't seem like it should be a big deal (not that he would have held his opinion back even if the opposite had been assumed) and b) all he had really seen from him thus far was politeness, friendliness and genuine, honest gratitude.

None of it made Lukas any keener to lower his boundaries and get to know him on a level beyond the surface they were currently at, but even if he had to admit that it was easier to deal with someone who wasn't... well, like him. Someone who was stubborn, defensive, rude and grumpy wouldn't make Lukas' time with them any easier, so sure, as difficult as it was being around someone who was so nice (because the likelihood that he would end up caring for them was heightened as a result), it was, on the whole, less stressful.

Though he couldn't deny the amusement he felt at Navi's muttered goodnight, the reaction being unexpected but incredibly humorous as a result of it.

"Oh, so you're not all sugar and sweetness then, huh? You've got a bite to you beneath that 'butter wouldn't melt' appearance of yours? Good to know. You should have led with that. It's been years since I've had a good argument with someone, had an excuse to be a bitch and throw out some insults," he shot back in return, possibly revealing a little too much information that he would have liked - however lacking in detail it was, just indicating that he had been alone for that long span of time was far too personal a detail to just let out there arbitrarily, but, recognising that, he swiftly moved on before it could be commented on or, ideally, even comprehended.

He pushed himself back up to his feet to clear away the now empty bowls, leaning down on the countertop beside the sink to peek out the blinds and observe, carefully, the scene beyond the cabin. The vast woods outside, in the dim light of the evening, were fortunately void of the monsters, the only sight being the snow falling heavily and covering the land below it. Were it not for the threat of a monster appearing on the horizon and taking note of his face peering out, Lukas would have been quite content to throw back the blinds further and lose himself to the sight - or better yet, open the front door, sit at the entrance and observe it up close, possibly with a mug of hot water and fresh mint in hand to keep him warm.

But that, he realised, was an impossibility - or at least, a risk he wasn't willing to take. No, it was better to deprive himself of the small pleasure and maintain his focus, especially now he wasn't alone. As fraught as the atmosphere was between him and Navi (which, to Lukas, was for the best and not too regrettable), he didn't want to risk bringing a monster to their location and seeing the other get ripped apart like so many people in his life had been. He didn't have to get on with Navi, didn't need a blossoming friendship, for him to want to see the other man safe and alive; to watch him head off in the (hopefully) not too distant future with his health as recovered as it could be, prepared to head out on wherever fate decided to take him,.

Before then, he at least felt it best to teach him a few things, convincing himself that he was doing it solely for the additional defence if they were to be attacked, rather than out of genuine care for the other when he did eventually leave to tackle the world on his own.

"Now I know you're not gonna let your lip tremble and burst into tears at the slightest inconvenience, we can work on a few things tomorrow so you can help out 'round here. Not just if we get attacked but in general - collecting wood, building up core strength and stamina, hunting and preparing food. You're not a pushover, that's obvious - but that means I'm not gonna go easy on you. You don't have the luxury of being tentative, kid. Nobody does. Life's gonna come at you real fast if you think you can survive out there being all reluctant about this shit. So get a good night's sleep. You're gonna need it."

Convinced that his message had been made, and taken in loud and clear, he manoeuvred his way past the couch and towards the makeshift bed in the corner of the living room area: a bundle of blankets and cushions that he had slept upon for years. It wasn't comfortable, nor particularly good for his bones (as his aching back often proved) but he was accustomed to it, opting for it each time over the couch in spite of the latter's comfort and support. No, Navi was welcome to that - Lukas was -and always had been- content with his makeshift bed, settling in the corner with a tired, strained sigh. He knew he had probably sounded harsh in his delivery, the words unrelenting in their warnings and even threats - but what did Navi want? Him to be gentle and not prepare him for surviving out on his own when that time came?

It was better to be harsh and brutal in his honesty, to remind Navi that this wasn't a world where he could continually hide and hope for the best. He actively had to fight, had to learn to defend himself and survive, and if being hard on him helped prepare him for that, Lukas was more than prepared to uphold that trait.
 

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Navi pulled the blankets up further, up to just under his nose, to hide his twisted grimace and raging blush that warmed chis cheeks and made the feeling of being under so many blankets nearly overwhelming. He had thought he had comes to terms with his anger when he realized getting angry led to nothing but Lukas’ words were dangerously close to mocking in Navi’s eyes and he had no back up; no one to stand up for him so he could remain…

Sweetness? Was he really that sweet? He figured he was simply using his manners. He knew the picture other monsters had of his family were of ruthless leaders but then there was him. There was always him, always a second thought to his people. Perhaps he had taken on the sweet persona to counter his family’s, lean into those differences all the more. Was this self-realization? He didn’t like it if it was. For a brief moment, when it was clear Navi’s mind had wandered, that grimace dropped… until he grew angry again when his headache grew worse. A childish huff escaped under those thick blankets before a tired sigh escaped and, much like how he often did with his family, though mostly due to the exhaustion it seemed to be giving him.

“I figured I ought to be nice to the person who saved me from certain death. It’s… it’s called m-manners,” he spoke after a moment of hesitation. His blush raged on under the blankets but he made an effort to turn away, both to avoid sharing glances and to also shyly remove the eyepatch and rest it back in his pocket safely. It was always an insecurity of his, being obvious proof that he was just not good at anything, or as he would tell himself he was at least. Had he managed to keep his human form for a week straight now, even in his unconsciousness? Yes, but his form wasn’t perfect.

He knew that if he spoke again he would only be mocked once again, something he desperately wanted to avoid because while he wasn’t moping about he was already feeling really fucking horrible, emotionally and physically. He might not be the type to ‘let his lip tremble and burst into tears’, that was true, but it didn’t mean he didn’t feel absolutely horrendous even behind a steady expression. He squeezed his eye shut tight once his eyepatch was put away, afraid of saying ‘good night’ again would somehow be used against him so he instead focused on the other’s words as they resonated.

Navi didn’t want to be useless or dead weight, it was why he left his family in the first place, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t scared to hear he would be put to work. He didn’t know just how much he could handle and the idea of pushing himself hard to the point where he has been bed-bound like he had in the past made his stomach churn. He always wanted to wield a sword and act tough but… but could he? Tensed, his body only finally relaxed when he leaned into the exhaustion he knew so well. It helped him fall back to sleep, the familiar quiet breathing returning while he nestled into the blankets with desperation.
 
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The urge to respond to the concluding remark was strong, particularly when he had a wealth of opinions regarding the matter, but Lukas forced himself to bite his tongue as he turned to his side, away from Navi, to try and get some sleep. He wasn't harsh with the other for no reason, feeling more than justified in having adopted the hard outer shell he had now worn for over a decade - his behaviour might not be encouraging or all that likeable, but it was what had helped keep him alive all these years; what had ensured that his focus was maintained and all distractions that could have sprung up in his life were swiftly eliminated.

He didn't enjoy being regarded as someone who was unlikeable, rude and unrelenting, those perceptions of him did sting no matter how much he convinced himself to waive them aside with forced indifference, but it was the best thing to be in the current climate. He didn't expect Navi to understand that immediately -and he probably wouldn't be around him for long enough for that realisation to sink in- but he couldn't waste time trying to enlighten him.

It was a waste of both time and energy to retort to the remark, even if he was entirely convinced that he was in the right; that there was no point clinging to manners and politeness when the world, as it currently was, would never really appreciate it - and all it would do was open a door to emotions and vulnerability that, in Lukas' eyes, were death sentences. Sure, there was time for being charitable, helping out those who needed it - but to go out of his way to be polite? To allow any bond to potentially form through unnecessary conversations, getting to know one another?

He couldn't, and wouldn't, allow himself to engage in it, not when he was certain they, in all their distraction, would end in his -or Navi's- death.

And so he, however rudely, chose not to respond as he shut his mind off and tried to catch a few hours of rest. Inevitably a light sleeper, there was never a worry that he would sleep through a potential attack - he woke to the slightest of noises these days, so the intrusion of a monster of any size was guaranteed to stir him from whatever disturbed slumber he had been under (because not once, not since he was a child, had he truly had a good night's sleep. It was impossible to when things were always so... precarious and tense).

Which was why his eyes shot open at the thud of heavy footsteps, crunching along in the now thick snow, just beyond the cabin. Dismissing the idea that this was a human the moment he took note of the sound of multiple feet moving along, Lukas jumped into action, running purely on adrenaline as he shoved on his shoes and coat, and, as quietly and discreetly as possible, manoeuvred his way in the barely lit cabin to his stash of manmade, self-sharpened weapons - the guns he had found in the cabin had long since run out of ammo and were solely good for warding away any humans that might come by looking to take the house over in their desperation. Just because that scenario had yet to happen didn't mean he hadn't put that plan in place just in case.

No, he had to rely on the knives (both kitchen and hunting varieties) and the various poles or stakes he had personally sharpened to a point himself - but the few monsters he had managed to kill proved that those weapons were far from useless, especially when combined with his training and strength. Reserving the stronger of the weapons for Navi, he approached the couch and wasted little time in stirring him awake, any care to ease him into consciousness lacking when the luxury of time wasn't on their side.

Pressing a finger to his own lips to ensure Navi remained silent, he dared a glance up to ensure they had yet to be intruded before returning to examining the other. Ideally, Navi would be on his feet ready to jump into defence of the property, ready to provide Lukas with the extra manpower he would hardly roll his eyes at-- but he couldn't, and wouldn't, ask that of him just yet; not when he was weak and in the process of recovery. It was one thing nudging him into training, teaching him a few things when he could rest at any time - but throwing him straight into fighting off a monster? Lukas wasn't so dismissive that he would overlook the issues with that.

"There's one of those things outside. I want you to stay here, stay safe-- but if I don't come back, you fight like hell, okay? Here, take these," he murmured as he set two strong, sharp hunting knives down at Navi's side, nodding in further emphasis before rising to his feet. "I'm gonna go out and-- and take the thing down if I can, use element of surprise or something, I'll figure it out. You stay here, keep quiet, and-- and only fight it if it comes in here, if the bastard gets me and I'm down. D'you understand, Navi? You got it, yeah?"
 

saturnia pavonia

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Unlike Lukas, Navi was a very heavy sleeper.

His sister always told him it was because his body needed it; that he needed the rest to function and would wake him up when he was ready and his body certainly needed it given he hadn’t slept more than a few hours the entire week, with the longest being a whole five hours when he found respite within a large fallen log. He had kept himself moving, to where he wasn’t sure - anywhere but his home. Because of that need for sleep and his body having decided the cabin was a safe place, Navi could easily have been mistaken for passing away in his sleep by how he didn’t react.

Though after enough aggressive shaking it seemed to do the trick, the monster in disguise’s eye blinking a bit in confusion. He was having a lovely dream, one where he had set up a life in the cabin with Lukas in an almost adorable domesticated scenario; no monsters, no humans. Hell, it seemed they were the only two creatures still alive on earth. The pleasant dream turned sour when the memory of the harsh words Lukas said seemed to come out of an otherwise kind and welcoming dream-Lukas… and to awake to said man shaking him awake so aggressively only reminded him that what he saw was in fact a dream and nothing more.

Clearly still a bit groggy and hazy, Navi did as told nonetheless and pursed his lips closed as he tried to stand up with the help of his cane. Wobbly at first from a mix of his interrupted sleep and the over-exertion he experienced from a week of walking, he eventually managed to steady himself and watched Lukas. His lips remained pursed but his brows did knit in fear.

Fear that the ‘thing’ Lukas was ready to kill was a member of his family.

“You… you aren’t going to go out there, are you?” He whispered while trying to peek through the window for any sign of familiarity in the monster, but the windows held a layer of ice and snow that Navi couldn’t look past. His gaze then moved to the hunting knives and his hand shook as he took them both, the memory of his siblings’ training making his stomach churn.

On one hand, he was more than impressed and proud of both of them and had recovered from jealousy. On the other, the sight of gore and violence never sat quite right with him. He knew it was just how things were; they needed to hunt for food and fight for protection but he always thought thrrr could be a better way. To be suddenly faced with the idea of not only killing another creature but it being a monster, a monster he may know, filled him with so much anxiety that he was on the brink of a panic attack.

Navi hesitated. He wanted to tell Lukas how it would be better to just let the monster move on when there was no visible human and they could save resources but as stupid as Navi felt most times, he was smart enough to know that he would be scoffed at by his suggestion. He instead remained quiet, his one eye wide as it moved from Lukas to the door and back.

“Please be safe,” he whispered instead as his entire body shook in fear.
 

potassiumboron

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The other's initial reluctance to believe that Lukas was ready and willing to head out into the bitterly cold early morning to take down a monster three times his size was understandable but Lukas found himself wanting to smirk at it at how pure he found it regardless. He didn't offer that expression (now was hardly the time to show a slice of his truer personality) but the thought remained in his head regardless; an opinion on Navi that wasn't as steeped in negativity or indifference as he really would have liked.

Though fortunately, he didn't really have to dwell on acknowledging that more positive outlook when the situation, in all its danger and precariousness, naturally dominated every space within his brain.

"I'm gonna head out there and take it down, yeah. What else am I gonna do? Sit idly and wait for it to stumble in on us, huh? Make a light snack of us before venturing back out and taking down anyone else in the vicinity. Nah, fuck that. Like I told you, this-- it's a goddamn war, Navi. An' we gotta fight 'em. I've taken down a few of those things in my time. I ain't giving it up anytime soon. They'll have to kill me first," he responded with characteristic bluntness, hoping that the hard edge to his voice, the determinism enveloping his words and toughening his tone, would disguise from how genuinely terrified he was at the prospect that his death was potentially just moments away.

He had tried to convince himself that death was nothing to fear; that it was an inevitably that was always going to come to him one day. He just didn't want to enter that stage at the hands -or claws- of the monsters. He had seen loved ones torn apart by them, reduced to nothing but scattered pieces of flesh as they became little more than a meal to a remorseless monster who saw them solely as food-- and like hell did he want to follow the same fate. He would never run from the battle, not when anger and rage at the beasts continually propelled him forward, imbued him with the confidence to take them down whenever they threatened his quiet, rural existence - but that didn't mean he wasn't scared; wasn't terrified that his time might be over.

Because as tough as he made himself out to be, convinced himself he was (and it was true in most aspects), he was always going to harbour that fear; always feel a slither of fear wrap around his ribcage and suffocate his heart.

He just had to fight even harder to overcome it; fight as hard as he could to remind himself that every time he faced one of them, he was doing it to avenge his father, his mother, his sister, Milo.

And now he also had Navi to fight for, to protect. He had never managed to take down a monster and protect his loved ones - but he could at least take one down now and return to Navi, knowing he had spared not only his life but the other's too.

He didn't need to be remotely close to the other man for him to feel that passion, that desire, to fight for his life as well as his own, because, reclusive and stoic as he may currently be, he was still... him; still protective and kind and loving, even if such attributes rarely rose to the surface these days.

Not knowing what words to offer in comfort or support (because admittedly, he felt awkward in vocalising them), he chose to simply provide a nod as he clutched the sharpened pole in his dominant hand. With a slight exhale to psych himself up, he allowed past battles to run through his mind in preparation of what he would face when he stepped over the threshold into the landscape beyond it - and, with that distracting him from his fear, he took the plunge and ventured out, determined that, if this was to be his venture to death, he was going to go out fighting, as hard and as brutal as the monster he was going to face.

Death wasn't on the cards for him anytime soon - at least, certainly not on that day. He didn't escape the battle unwounded but he was at least alive, stumbling back into the cabin and appropriately locking it up behind him after stabbing, slicing, punching and kicking out at the lumbering, dark mass that had loomed ominously, and menacingly, over him, intent on snapping him up between jaws of razor-sharp teeth - but with speed and agility on his side, Lukas had succeeded in bringing the monster down, using the pole to stab viciously at its vulnerabilities until its breathing became laboured... and eventually ceased altogether.

The task was hardly an easy one, and he barely got away without sustaining a more serious injury to his life, but it had culminated in his success, no doubt thanks to years of dedicated training and subsequent other victories in such endeavours. Having dragged the body as far as he was willing to venture -and proceeding to simply push it, with all his strength, off a cliff, it would be a long hour before he returned to the cabin and to Navi.

Breathless from the fight and the journey to dispose of the body, he wasn't able to present a tough, indifferent exterior when every part of his body burned and ached. Thus, unable to care about the vulnerability he was inevitably showing, he collapsed onto a chair at the kitchen table and tossed his coat and shirt aside to tend to his injuries. His muscled body bore the brunt of his years of dealing with monsters, his chest, torso, arms and back displaying the wounds from the battles - ragged scars of varying stages of healing stood prominently out against the pale complexion, the newest addition being the currently open wound across his defined torso. Wincing as he peered down to examine the extent of the damage, the blood made it too difficult to really discern how serious it was and, giving up on even trying, he shakily exhaled a breath and rested against the back of the chair and pressed a tablecloth against it to stem the bleeding.

"...Kitchen drawer-- needle and some thread. Need to-- stitch up the wound. Haven't got anything to disinfect it, don't have that luxury," he mumbled, gesturing broadly to a drawer just beside the sink. Aware he was perhaps a little delirious in his exhaustion and his blood loss, he forced his eyes back open and bravely attempted to remain coherent for Navi's benefit, nodding to offer that needed encouragement.

"I'm good, kid. I'm good. Just fetch the shit and-- and I'll be okay. We're safe and alive, that's-- all that matters. Just get the stuff for me, an' I'll be right as rain. It'll take more than one monster like that to take me down, I promise 'ya."
 

saturnia pavonia

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In the hour of Lukas' absents, every moment was grueling for Navi.

At first it was mainly from the fear as he stood just behind the cabin's door, his free hand shaking as the other supported him up with his cane. How was he supposed to approach the situation if a monster were to step in? Would changing his form do anything to help, or would whoever it was still decide to eat him? His mother had insisted that they were different from the more 'uncivilized' monsters that lurked the outskirts of cities but perhaps it was just his mother being stubborn that they wouldn't join her fleet? Perhaps he could convince the monster to leave him alone - though he knew that Lukas would be absolutely fucked no matter what if he didn't kill the creature.

It was how the world worked, or at least Navi knew that on paper. 'You mustn't let your guard down and ultimately prepare to lose those you love if you fail to protect them', he heard her say to his brother during his training, but Navi had never seen battle and was sheltered from just how bloody and dangerous a fight could be. To be suddenly flung into one while still sick wasn't ideal but he knew there wasn't much of a choice.

A small part of him was regretting leaving the comfort of their home as the minutes became a half hour and his legs began to shake, though not from fear. That small part of him soon vanished when he remembered that he was a burden, a nuisance to an otherwise powerful family. He couldn't even stand for more than half an hour before his legs began to ache. He gritted his teeth and knit his brow, refusing to let himself rest despite so desperately wanting to return to the blankets perhaps out of spite in a way. He wanted to prove to Lukas, to the man who was so rude and cruel in his naïve mind, that he wasn't useless despite his own mind insisting otherwise.

The longer he was alone though, the longer that internal fight continued and a fear began to build. He knew this was how it all worked, that people died every day at the hands of each other, but he didn't want to accept that. He didn't want to accept that he was alone again, not when he had just managed to find some shelter and possible companionship. He would never be able to protect Lukas, most likely not even in his true form; he was weak, pathetic, a waste of resources. He knew Lukas wasn't exactly a big fan of him but he could still sense that feeling of care the human felt and for what? For Navi to fumble a bit and pass out before being a snack for a monster? He could feel himself verging on a panic attack the longer the time went on, the happy chirping of birds as morning steadily approached mixing with the loud pounding in his ears as he struggled to keep himself together.

Navi didn't realize he was crying when Lukas stepped through the threshold, his cheeks stained with tears and dripping down his chin. He was hesitant at first, almost wondering if Lukas had actually returned or if this was a strange figment of his imagination. That hesitation eventually subsided when the pure happiness to see Lukas welled in him and he hobbled as quickly as he could to the kitchen, setting the sharpened knives down. He realized just how hard he had been holding them when his hand momentarily refused to move from the gripped position but he didn't care, not when he was on a mission to grab the needle and thread like promised.

"H-Here," he began quietly before passing over the items, that awkward, not-quite-right smile wide as he tried to wipe way his tears from his one eye. He wanted to hug the other but that hesitation once again twisted in his stomach and he instead chose to finally take a seat at the table himself. "... I thought you hadn't made it, that's - that's a-amazing, Lukas. M-Monsters are some of the... the most powerful a-and trained beings around and, and you beat one? By yourself? That's... u-unbelievable," he praised, though kept his voice quiet as he did so. He took in Lukas' form for the first time now that the pounding in his ears had subsided, unable to hide the grimace he felt upon seeing the wound. It was true, it certainly wasn't going to kill him off the bat but it was pretty nasty nonetheless.

He wanted to appreciate the rest of the form though. The human body was still foreign to him when his family rarely used theirs, so seeing the scars that lined the other's skin like a treasure map was fascinating. Lukas' toned body was also something that surprised the monster and it took everything within him not to reach out and touch the grooves and dips. No, he kept his hands tight on his cane while the blush grew uncontrollably on his cheeks, though he could simply blame the crying and the cold if asked.
 

potassiumboron

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"It's not that impressive-- I've learnt a thing or two over the years. As handy as brute strength is, it's being agile, being... aware, reactive, that helps the most. They don't expect a human to fight them like that, you know? Takes them by surprise, gives me a few seconds of the upperhand, which is when you have to strike 'em where they're vulnerable - the eyes, the soft underbellies, the throat. You know, that sort of thing. It's all stuff you can learn, it's not... unique to me. It's all... teachable," he responded within a minute or two, taking that time to brace himself for the inevitable pain that would come from stitching the wound.

It made him feel queasy just thinking about it, having to tend to his injuries being a recurring event over the last few years but never had he become accustomed to it. In fact, the pain often felt far worse to him than actually receiving the injury at the hand of a monster did, if only because it was exacerbated by his queasiness and general squeamishness over sticking a needle through his own skin over and over again.

But it was an inevitability he had to just accept and face head on, regardless of how uncomfortable it all made him. And so, after distracting himself momentarily by responding to Navi, the longer speech from him merely a tactic to avoid the inevitable for as long as he could, he bit down hard on his bottom lip and prepared the needle and thread, clenching his jaw together once initial contact was made.

To say he handled it gracefully would be a downright lie, the abrupt ferocity of 'fucking hell' escaping through gritted teeth, though he pushed on, afraid that if he stopped even for a second that he would simply chicken out and leave the wound half-stitched. As frightening as facing a looming, monstrous creature was (the frequency of it over the years never made the duty any easier), a small needle was more than enough to equal that fear; to render him shaking and uncomfortable.

Once it was over and the wound stitched, he let out a long sigh in relief and sat back, eyes shut as he fought back the continuing lingering pain as best he could. And yet, even as every muscle burned and throbbed in exhaustion, his chest tight and breaths uneven, the euphoria from the success wasn't something he could ignore or put aside. It wasn't wise to congratulate himself and spare time from his ever-present focus to pat himself on the bac for a job well done, but this was one instance where he felt he couldn't just move on without dwelling on it - not when he had company, someone who could do with reassurances rather than be faced with him returning immediately to dismissing them as thought the last hour or so hadn't happened.

Taking in Navi's tears and reddened cheeks, assuming the latter was a result of the former, he tilted his head up to meet his gaze and, though uncomfortable with the gesture, offered something as close to a smile as he was willing to give.

"I'm okay; we're okay. The thing's gone. I'm alive, you're breathing. We're good, Navi. We're good," reiterated Lukas as he held his breath and sat forward a little, pressing the fabric to the wound to both soak up any residual blood and prevent the wound from being on display, assuming the sight of the injury would only cause Navi distress.

"...I appreciate it. The fact you were worried 'bout me. I won't be stoic and pretend I wasn't worried about you too, but don't go fucking mentioning it too much, got that? And don't read too much into it either. Doesn't mean we're now best buds or anything. It just means that... I'm glad you're safe and unharmed. At least one of us avoided that," he shrugged, determined now to return to his stoicism, his indifference, however difficult it might be to overlook the open declaration that he cared enough about Navi to be relieved that he was safe. Yet, he was happy to ignore that juxtaposition and act as though he hadn't offered a glimpse, however small, of a softer side beneath the bravado.

"Anyway. Can't sit around chatting all damn day. There's work to do," he determinedly began as he shifted himself up from the chair - only to collapse back down with a pained hiss once his injury and its agony prevented him from doing so. "F-Fuck's sake-- do me a favour and fetch me a clean shirt, would 'ya? My stuff's over by bed, just grab any old thing. No point trying t' look all fancy, is there?"
 

saturnia pavonia

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Lukas was right, the sight of the wound did Navi uncomfortable. Beyond uncomfortable for a multitude of reasons.

For starters, it was a wound. It was a hole in which there was blood and flesh and vital human… things. That in itself was disturbing, alongside the clear discomfort it gave the other. While Lukas might think otherwise if he were to Find out his true identity, he didn’t wish harm on the other. No, he didn’t wish harm on anyone - human, monster, animal. No, the idea of harming another creature made his stomach churn.

Which was what made him uncomfortable secondly. Seeing Lukas hurt only reminded him that the man in front of him could have easily been a meal on his plate. His family and troops may have been more sophisticated than most other monsters, having adopted the idea of plates and possibly silverware if they could use it, but it was all the same; human flesh. The difference was that Lukas might have been seasoned with paprika rather then simply torn to shreds. His eye avoided watching the process and instead focused on the sunrise that peeled through the cabin windows , only daring to look back when the other’s wound was covered.

The request for a new shirt was a good distraction as Navi pushed from the chair, though had to sit down briefly when his tired legs protested. His cheeks only grew more red in embarrassment when he had to pause and regain his strength. For what? Standing? … He forced the intrusive thoughts away as he instead focused on steadying himself and walking to the other's bed.

Lukas didn’t quite understand just how weak Navi was, especially when he was as exhausted as he was. He walked slowly towards the bed, leaning heavily on his cane for balance as the boards creaked under him. His joints screamed now the adrenaline of the situation wore off and he felt dizzy but he did as told nonetheless, offering a meek and lopsided smile in sympathy before flopping himself back down. To be watched by a man who managed fo kill his kind - an undeniably difficult feat - struggle to get to the other side of the room felt disgusting, shameful. It was inevitable that Lukas would see the truth, he just wished he was better first.

“Maybe we should both relax for a moment,” he suggested and once again looked away to avoid witnessing the wound, not until he was dressed properly would he offer his gaze. He felt a pit in his stomach form as the silence filled, causing Navi to finally ask, “… if you don’t mind me asking, what did it look like? The monster, I mean. They’re all different and have different skills. Did… this one have a weapon?”
 

potassiumboron

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Lukas wanted to argue ferociously against the suggestion. He didn't want to be seen as weak in any way, having his vulnerability exposed as blatantly as it was, but what choice did he have? He had been injured in the past and knew from that experience that it was best to take his steps carefully, with hesitance, to avoid disrupting the stitches and making his injured state ten times worse than it otherwise was. He had never been particularly thrilled at the idea of taking things at a slower pace than he ordinarily wanted to, but it hadn't been too big of an issue during those past times when he was alone in his cabin, with nobody around to witness him momentarily resorting to taking a backseat to the usual duties delivered with characteristic intensity.

No, now he had Navi to observe his vulnerabilities and that made him want, more than ever, to push past his pain and resume the day's schedule without tentatively moving at a pace suitable for his exhaustion and injuries to cope with.

Yet, just because he wanted that didn't make it at all feasible. Reaching that conclusion after another feeble effort to shift himself up from the chair, he grunted aloud in disgust, in annoyance, before accepting defeat and shrugging petulantly in his incredibly reluctant agreement. Besides, he wasn't blind to the fact that Navi was just as exhausted as he was, the strain he had put on himself throughout the hour being obvious to Lukas as the man silently observed the other - albeit as subtly, and as carefully, as he could. He didn't want to be caught analysing the bad shape Navi was currently in, both because a) he didn't want to make him self-conscious or feel embarrassed for things out of his control and b) he really didn't want to be perceived as caring about him, even if, inarguably, he had to care a little bit.

"What the hell does it matter what sorta monster it was? I didn't stand there, soaking in the little fucking details, Navi. Was a bit more preoccupied trying to save my ass and sticking a damn poker in the thing," he muttered beneath his breath as he inhaled and carefully, without making any abrupt movements, shifted into his new, clean shirt, only visibly relaxing once again once the feat was accomplished and the sharp spikes of pain eased.

Realising the remark was perhaps a bit cutting when Navi was understandably curious (even Lukas couldn't deny his own intrigue over the monsters and their appearances now and then), he set his eyes on him without the usual dismissiveness accompanying it. He wasn't going to break into a smile and share the conversation with any real amicability, but he could at least manage to bite back the irritation and lower the coldness a notch or two.

"...Big. Bigger than me by a fair bit. Tons of eyes, dark red in colour, kinda scaly like a lizard and-- had a few legs, moved about on all of 'em. Scary looking thing. Not the scariest or biggest I've come across, mind. But... still nasty to look at," he eventually murmured in reply, a hand resting back against the wound as it stung and burnt, as if reawakening at the memory of said monster's claws tearing at his flesh. "Didn't have weapons or anything, just-- sharp fucking claws and rows of teeth. More like an animal than anything. I've heard that there are monsters who live in the cities, live like humans used to live before all this shit kicked off, but-- nah. This one wasn't like that. It was... wild, y'know? Rogue. Desperate. Would have torn us to shreds if it'd taken us by surprise."
 

saturnia pavonia

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Fantasy, Mystery, Scifi, Romance, Yaoi, Yuri, Horror
Navi leaned back against the chair to rest his muscles. They screamed at him, yelling in frustration by the monster’s stupidity to go as long as he had out in the wilderness only to be forced out of rest again, for what? A monster? That was an issue with keeping a separate form; your body didn’t quite feel like it was yours, not completely.

It was why Navi’s smiles always held an air of… wrongness to them, like the concept of a smile was foreign in a way. His body felt the same sometimes, like he had slipped into a suit that was a bit too big and a bit too heavy for him. The human clothes didn’t help with that weight, only then taking note that he was still quite bundled up despite the warmth from the cabin’s interior causing him to sweat a bit. He hurriedly shimmied off the winter coat and rested it neatly on the hook of the chair and tossed off his boots, though remained in his button up and sweater vest. The mass the jacket helped build was gone now, exposing Navi’s hunched shoulders and how the sleeves of his shirt were a tad bit too long and covered his palms. They didn’t cover his fingers; long, perfect for piano. He shoved his gloves into the pocket of his coat and once again leaned against the chair with a small, disoriented smile while his brows furrowed in a clear contradiction of emotions.

He couldn’t hide the reassured sigh that escaped after the description of the monster, knowing that his family was safe.

“Mm-My mother has mentioned it, monsters that have… that have evolved more than others. She’s explained how… how it all used to be; h-how monsters would just destroy and kill with no real reason and how some of them s-started to take influence from… us humans. T-That there are some, o-out building armies ‘n s-stuff,” he explained as his brows shifted and his smile softened. He looked away, recalling his mother explain the past and how chaotic it had all been. His mother was different, his mother brought order and plans to expand beyond just hungry, mindless beasts.

In a way he was jealous of the more wild monsters that lived in the wilderness.

“They use weapons, and- and wear clothes sometimes, she says,” he added quickly, curious to see a human’s reaction. Navi knew it would most likely be disgust, that was the general theme humans seemed to portray. “It’s interesting. Scary, b-but interesting.”