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    version 22: awakening

    COTY

    LILLIANA -- Year 206

    QOTY

    "There is still something of himself - something of the Wolfbane who would always love her - that rallies against the slime. It says, 'lie in the bed you’ve made'. So he gathers the covers and tucks himself in." -- Wolfbane, written by Calcifer


    [private]  i've never fallen from quite this high; Aquaria
    #11
    aquaria
    - THE TIDE IS HIGH, IT'S SINK OR SWIM -


    It felt wonderful to be pressed up against the solid form that was Pteron. He always seemed so much warmer than she was, and she wondered if it had something to do with the difference between scales and hair. She leaned into the embrace comfortably, trying to ignore the pressing knowledge that all of this was borrowed time. 

    The sensation of his lips against the membrane of her fins was a strange one, the pressure of his mouth a dull pressure. He'd always been fascinated by her usual crest; most horses were. Few touched her the way he did though, with such casual interest. As if she were not so very strange as a fish out of water. The winged stallion had grown used to her looks, it seemed. 

    The press of his kiss to her jawline was a heady joy that was only vaguely interrupted by his words. She wanted to keep pretending that this was their reality, yet he kept bringing things back around to the life waiting for him beyond her. He mingled it with praise, and yet-- "Adarra?" She asked, catching on the name, the context. An unsettled frown pulled at her mouth. She had no business feeling jealous. No reason to feel it squeeze her heart with unforgiving aggression as she realized what he was saying. 

    He'd arrived to find her with a child. That he might have one of his own should only be fair, and yet it didn't feel that way. She had found Halcyon. There had been no stallion present when she had taken on his upbringing, or involved in any way with her relationship to the cub. Somehow, she figured that her situation was not a mirror of Pteron's. If he had a child, it would be his. Her reservoir of pity for his situation began to wither as her mind raced ahead with that fact. A child. A wife. As much as he decried the mare, well, he must feel closer to her than he was letting on to her to give her foal. That made his next sentence much more vexing. 

    Her expression turned stormy as he turned from her to observe the tigerling wrestling his catch ashore. The young cat had been working hard at the skill of fishing ever since he'd grown too big for her meager supply of milk and the supplemental coconut water to keep him satisfied. She had helped at first, by herding bass and herring into the shallows of their bay. By now, he had grown as a fisherman, and she felt the glow of pride at his accomplishments. 

    This morning, however, that pride was offset by her newfound irritation at the winged stallion. She'd never felt that emotion in conjunction with him before, though perhaps it was overdue. His reaction to her son's triumph laid her ears across her skull. "Do those look like teeth made for seaweed, or grass for that matter? No. He is a predator, and he can't change that anymore that a shark or an orca can. And I would never ask him to." Her voice came out clipped and rigid. "Grow up, Pteron. Halcyon is a predator, but he knows not to cause unneeded suffering and not to take more than he needs. Maybe he could teach you a thing or two." The look she gave him was hard, her meaning clear. 

    Mouth tight, she strode over to the russet cub tucking into his meal, nuzzling his neck as she tried to ease the harsh emotion balling up in her chest. Hal was teaching her what love felt like. With a swell of sorrow, she was realizing that it was very different from what was between her and Pteron.

    - MY ONLY RIVAL IS WITHIN -


    Pteron
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    #12
    finger trips across my cheek----------------
    ----------------kiss me until i can't speak

    “I wouldn’t want to watch a shark eat its breakfast either.” Pteron replies. “And you don’t know anything about my needs Aquaria,” the stallion growls under his breath, keeping both the sound and the emotion in it from Halcyon as best he can. It is a wasted effort. The tiger cub is far too engrossed in his meal to pay either of the adutls any mind. Mama doesn’t look frightened, and Halcyon knows that she can take care of herself. He hears her mention sharks and orcas, and wonders if perhaps she is telling the stranger how she is much more dangerous than any of them. He forgets this as he tears and swallows, lost in the salmon.

    Meanwhile, Pteron has stepped away from Aquaria... He does not settle for the little distance that she puts between them by striding toward her child, instead choosing to widen it further by walking forward himself. He stops only at the river’s edge, his hooves clicking on the stones. She wants to blame him for unnecessary suffering? For taking more than he needs? Pteron scoffs, and kicks a pebble with one front hoof. It flies a disappointingly short distance and lands in the shallow water with a soft plunk. Pteron stifles a snort, a rather impressive show of restraint for the emotions that course through him.

    He shouldn’t have come here.

    Pteron had known that the moment he’d landed, and yet he’d continued anyway. There was never chance that this trip to Ischia would end well, and that is because it will invariably end. He will either leave and bring dragonfire to the island when his wife finds him, or stay and be hunted down by dragonfire on the island when his wife discovers he is missing. Coming here had been a mistake, and Pteron can’t see any consequence that ends with less than flame and destruction. He’d been selfish, had wanted to forget reality for just a little while. Ischia has always let him do that; the tropical island and Aquaria have always melted his worries away.

    The glance over his shoulder, back at where Halcyon is worrying the silver tail (the only part of the fish he hasn’t consumed) and rolling around on the beach.

    There is no logic to the envy he feels, but such is the way of emotion. Jealously does not need logic to sprout, or to grow in the tobiano stallion at the thought of Halcyon’s father. Aquaria is his. As soon as Pteron recognizes the thought mentally pales. He sounds like Reia, he realizes, primal and animalistic. He’s better than that. He’s made a mistake in coming here, but that does not mean he should make it worse.

    He crosses the swath of riverbank between them, stepping carefully over the stones until he stands on the damp jungle soil once more.

    “I’m sorry,” he says, an apology in his somber tone of voice. “You’re right.”

    “You were right about everything,” Pteron adds, “from the very beginning. I shouldn’t have led you on. I’m sorry about everything.” He wants to reach out again, but knows better. He is weak, and one touch would not be enough. Pteron is so desperate to feel happiness (even temporary happiness) that he is already stretched to his limits. The emotion that he reproduces and reinforces in his own mind is held firmly, but he knows it will spill out if he loses even the slightest focus. “I’ll go, if you want me to.”

    -- pteron --



    Aquaria
    Reply
    #13
    aquaria
    - THE TIDE IS HIGH, IT'S SINK OR SWIM -

    His anger sparked at the volatile emotion being stirred in her own breast. She felt a monsoon building in her head, every feeling withdrawing from her face, the tidal wave incoming. "You're right, I don't. It's not my job to keep tabs on your needs, Pteron. I'm not your wife." Her voice had grown steadily louder as the words flowed off her tongue, the final sentence a snapping of wind.

    She let him step away, needing the space as much as he did. To collect herself and try for some composure. The smell of fish and warm fur wafted against her, scents that had been so ingrained in her life the last few moons. Her child was fed, the only important factor to be considered, what Pteron thought of his diet was irrelevant. 

    Maybe it was grossly optimistic, but she took a mouthful of grass anyway. It wouldn't settle her stomach, as much as she wished it would. Stress eating. She was stress eating, and she was pretty sure it was Pteron's fault. A quiet snort reached her ears, and she answered it with one of her own. 

    He shouldn't have come here. 

    Not if he wasn't prepared to face what was waiting for him. Had he really expected her to put everything on hold for him? That she would be sealed away in time, ready to pick things up right where they had left off as soon as he arrived on her doorstep? That wasn't how it worked, and she felt a thorn of incredulity that he would think that way. It's heartbreaking, the way the simple beauty of their friendship had gotten so twisted around. 

    She hated Reia, a mare she'd never met. Because she was taking for granted the treasure she had in Pteron. And a miserable little piece of her hated Pteron, for loving her only when it was convenient for him. 

    She wasn't sure what would happen when she heard him cross back to her. Her crest fell flat against her neck in anticipation, head rising as the mouthful of grass was hastily swallowed. Her eyes widened in surprise when instead of more growling, an apology feel from the stallion's mouth. He was as taut as tangled seaweed, and she could see regret in his eyes. 

    There was a fragile moment after he spoke. It was the same apology he'd offered her months ago, when she had taken him beneath the sea. She wasn't certain he had meant it then, and even less sure he meant it now. He should go. He should. She almost said as much, but what came out was different. 

    "I don't want you to go." 

    A harsh breath rushed from her lips, an exhale that she hadn't realized she'd been holding back. "I don't want you to go, but I can't... I can't have you looking at me like I've betrayed you somehow. And you can't look at Hal like he's somehow involved." She had never once thought that she would be in the position of the "other woman", yet here they were. His wife might be violent, but he claimed her still. So she could only be his friend. Nothing more. If she told herself that often enough, it would be true.

    - MY ONLY RIVAL IS WITHIN -


    Pteron
    Reply
    #14
    finger trips across my cheek----------------
    ----------------kiss me until i can't speak

    Pteron means each word of his apologies, but that does not change the constant struggle to keep those promises he makes. He’d vowed to be loyal to Reia, and he knows even being on this island is a violation of that trust. But he is happier here than he has ever been with his spouse, and surely that must mean something? Here he doesn’t have to constantly summon happiness to keep himself from falling into the darkness. Here there is brightness and sunshine and joy.

    His gaze flicks to Halcyon, now half-asleep in the warm sun.

    The boy was born the same spring as Adarra, and he’s clearly not reliant on his mother for food anymore. He’s seen his daughter grazing; she too is old enough to be independent. Independent enough that he wouldn’t need to worry about feeding her at least, Adarra is still far from an adult and certainly needs supervision.

    “I’m jealous,” he admits to her. “I know I don’t have any right to be, but that doesn’t change what I feel.” The thought of someone else touching Aquaria is less painful than the image of her accepting it. The corners of her amethyst eyes crinkle in his favorite way when she greets him after time away, and that she might look exactly that way at someone else causes a cold curl in his belly. The boy in Hyaline feels impossibly far away, and Pteron has closed away the half of his heart that has been cold since their meeting in Taiga. No amount of artificial happiness can lighten that weight, and so he chooses simply not to look at it. He is weak in so many ways.

    Once more he looks back at the boy, now belly-up and fast asleep. He is the very image of contentment, and Pteron cannot help but smile. Adarra would like Halcyon, he thinks to himself, the two seem rather alike. He can bring her here too, he knows. They could both come, leave Taiga and Reia behind and make a life here in this tropical paradise. It’s a fantasy, Pteron knows. So to the already impossible image he adds Aegean joining them.

    The speed with which the picture of Aegean playing in the bioluminescent waves with Aquaria changes to something sensual should have been a clue. Taiga’s trees don’t change with the seasons, and he’d left the woods on a day warm enough to be summer. It certainly doesn’t feel like Fall here in Ischia. Pteron shakes away the fantasy. There is no use dwelling on things that cannot be. The violence of that head shake bumps his muzzle briefly against Aquaria’s. He pulls away as quickly as if her skin were fire. But it was not. It had been cool and smooth, her aquatic scales reminiscent of the mother-of-pearl she’d shown him inside a shell beneath the sea. The memory of that entire encounter returns with a rush of heat, and Pteron attempts to take a step away.

    He fails, as he often does.

    “I’ve put you in danger by coming here,” Pteron reminds her. Perhaps that will make her step away, he thinks. Perhaps she’ll put the space between them that he is somehow unable to. “And I won’t ever do it again.”

    He means this just as much as he’d meant his vows to Reia, even if he does not let himself think of the comparison.

    “You deserve so much better than I can give you.” It is not the first time Pteron thought this, and this is not the first kiss he’s tentatively placed on the soft edge of her mouth. “Tell me to stop coming back, and I will.” Tell me to stop, he says, laying the decision squarely at her hooves. He has managed to elicit her temper once already; surely this will be enough for her to lash out and tell him that she hadn’t meant what she says, that she really does want him to leave.

    He tries to memorize the salt taste of her in case this is his last chance. Once more he fails to pull away, though he does fight away the urge to pull her closer. The shift from friends to something more had been as easy for Pteron as breathing. Aquaria is everything he has ever wanted in a companion and a lover. Pteron has closed away his love for Aegean, and in its absence there is room for something else. “Or tell me to stay,” he breathes against her pale cheek, “And I will do my best to deserve you.” His voice quivers, just for a moment, but he catches it and adds: “Even if it means defying a dragon.”

    -- pteron --



    Aquaria
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