Short Form RP  isn't it lovely (maeva/sterling)
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sterling. he/him
Almost Sparkles
Packmate
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#1

*takes place some place between inaria + gemini

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STERLING
Finally, a change of pace. The mass exodus of puppies stirred his interest and the idea of meeting an entire new population of strangers excited him. Would they all smell of the purple flower crown woman? He wondered if their territory would be nearly as magnificent as his homes.
His mother had told them all to stay by their supervisors as they made their way to foreign lands, but the deviant little brat Sterling was left him wandering off on his own, away from the strung out pack of children. He sniffed around, his eyes lazily scanning the new environment for anything of particular interest. Nothing. It was literally the same as Gemini except maybe a few more trees.
Finally, something entirely new caught his eye. It was a girl, close in age to himself, alone in the woods. Just like he'd been. He crept up to her and flickered that black tongue over his maw like a snake.
"Anyone ever tell you not to wander alone in the woods?" They told me. 5 minutes ago. Are you afraid?

MAEVA
Her mother only ever said to be careful  —  to come home before dark and to steer away from any others with brilliant red tattoos. They were simple instructions, given by a tired woman who both could not shepherd  so many children with only one other adult to help and did not know how to. And so the babes wandered and returned, navigating the ancient woodland surrounding their mother's willow tree with practiced ease. Maeva knew this land better than anything else. She knew the nooks and crannies, the tangled paths and patches of open fields.  She knew where the wildlife wandered, where the deer liked to graze and where a little warren of rabbits lived by an old hollowed oak tree. So when a band of strangers traveled through the lands the girl wandered so much, she knew, and watched them from afar. Mother said to be careful, to stay out of sight.

But she wanted to remember these strangers. If only just their faces. And this one—  well, he was just a boy. Young, like her. Anyone ever tell you not to wander alone in the woods? He asked, and Maeva smiled in response. "The woods is my home." She answered simply, moving forward without a trace of hesitation or fear. He had interesting eyes, mismatched like much of her family's, but still incredibly striking. They were memorable features. Her smile softened, an incredibly fond expression upon her face, it was an odd look to be pointed at a complete stranger. "Do you have a name?" She asked gently, leaning forward so that her nose was mere inches from the boy's.

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STERLING
The girl smiled blithely, and he stared blankly in response. As she began to move towards him, though, he hesitated. His personal bubble was larger than most, and when violated he became extremely uncomfortable. He noticed his twitch would get worse in certain situations, both uncomfortable and annoyance played into it. He blinked twice and flicked his tail behind him, but he let her move close to him.
"I've never met anyone who lives in the wild." He pondered. The Inarians weren't considered wild, were they? No... no mother wouldn't let all her babies go somewhere as dangerous as the wild. Where mothers eat their children if they aren't strong enough.
"Sterling." He said flatly, and moments went by before he realized the polite thing to say was, "What's yours?" Do wild girls even have names?

MAEVA
She had never considered herself to live in the wild, it was not a word she ever thought to use to describe the ancient forest where her family resided. Home was home, and that was all she ever thought of it as. "Define the wild." Maeva challenged, her airy voice light and teasing. Was wild lawless? Because her mother had rules. Was wild without borders? Because her mother made sure to let no strangers step too close to their willow tree. Was wild vicious? Dangerous? Strange? Her head tilted to the side with obvious inquiry, wavy gray bangs framing her soft spotted features.

"Sterling..." The gray girl repeated his name, hummed it like a song, granted it a unique melody. Just for him. "I will remember it. I will remember you, I promise." A strange vow, but she offered it as though it was the most obvious thing to do. "My name is Maeva, though my mother calls me Mae-Mae, and the rest of my family calls me Mae. I wonder if nicknames are easier to remember, they are a token of affection, after all." She pondered aloud with a light chiming laugh. With a hum, the girl moved past Sterling, her wispy tail beckoning for him to follow. "Walk with me, if you would like. There is an old elk dying by the pine grove, I am to sing him a lullaby today."

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STERLING
Outside of Gemini, his babysitters would say. The lawless animals who roamed freely -- the ones who would probably attack Gaven mistaking him for a meal. He was so much more than that... But the wild wolves wouldn't understand. They wouldn't care. Would Sterling ever eat Gaven, though? Probably
"You get to do as you please. Roam where ever you want. My mother confined the children to a cornered off part of our territory. For protection, because she was afraid. But I don't like being told what to do." Hence why he already wandered off from the troop of Geminis heading to the party. He would get a scolding for this later, but he dismissed it. No matter how dire the situation, the words of his babysitters fell on deaf ears.
He withheld the savage part, simply because this girl was no barbarian. She was Mae-mae, a girl with a sing song voice and eyes like the fairy pools. "I remember everything," He said rather absentmindedly. "Mae" he liked that name.
She moved like a cloud past him, towards the pine grove. The silver boy hesitantly turned to where he knew his party was, but followed her anyway. He'd catch up to them later, no? How could he miss the opportunity to watch a giant beast fall victim to a slow death? He could help... speed the process. He walked with a spring in his step beside Maeva.
"Why do you sing to it?"

MAEVA
To do what one wants, to roam where they would like and to live without walls. Maeva supposed his definition for wild could fit… But it didn’t sit right with her. Not entirely. ”I call that free.” She hummed with a flick of feathery ears. Her family, they were free. They would wander, surely, but no matter how far they travelled they would remember the ancient willow tree and the smells of home. At least Maeva always would. ”Why is your mother afraid?” She asked softly. Was her own mother ever afraid? Maeva didn’t think so. Perhaps sad. Melancholy was always settling in those sea green eyes when she sang to her children. There was something wistful in her voice when she called her Mae-Mae. Maeva knew there was something her mother held inside, some knowledge she held, hidden away from her children. Perhaps that’s what made her sad.

Perhaps that’s what made Sterling’s mother afraid.
She smiles as he says her name, and the grey fae-like child trusts him to remember it.

”I sing to distract him and ease his passing. Something familiar – I have heard one sing to a fawn before, their voices are deeper and slower than wolf songs. Like rumbling thunder.” Maeva explained easily. Soon enough she led her companion to the pine grove, and near the center lay a great aged elk, its breath rattling in heavy heaves. ”I do not know his name, so I call him Pine. His herd left him yesterday, he cannot keep up with them anymore. He will die soon.” Gesturing Sterling to her side, the grey girl would sit beside the felled beast, dipping her head and releasing a low chuffing noise that she had heard the elk make before. It sighed in return, and Maeva smiled softly, mismatched eyes meeting Sterling’s.

”Would you like to sing as well? He will remember your voice, I am sure.”



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STERLING
"A group of wild wolves murdered my brother. So she doesn't let children anywhere near the borders anymore." Here he was, alone with a wild girl, making the same trek his brother once made before he was slaughtered. He smiled disturbingly, cursed black teeth exposed and glinting in the morning light. "We hung the murderers skulls on the wall that bars us from the borders." A grim reminder of an angry king -- a heartbroken sister.
He'd never heard an elk sing. He'd heard it scream as dozens of wolves trashed about into its belly and throat, but never a melody like the one Mae was singing. He sat beside her observantly.
"Why not put it out of its misery? It's suffering. It's herd left it to die. We should kill it." Certainly, the elk would never forget the terrorizing child's voice, but he would not sing for it. He sniffed near the elk's mouth, a flash of teeth poking from blackened lips.  Oh how he wanted to drive his claw into the eye of this magnificent beast. Maybe make an incision where the throat meets the chin, see how long it would take to bleed out? Certainly longer than his rat friends. Maybe even longer than a wolf.
He coughed in discomfort and drew away from the elk.
"You have a pretty voice, though." If he were dying, he supposed her melancholy song would be an acceptable eulogy.

MAEVA
Maeva watched him quietly as he spoke of his brother. It was such a pragmatic manner of speaking, as though he read from a textbook -- except for his smile. She made note of the black teeth, something she had never seen before, but it was not unsettling. It was a smile, no matter how sharp and dark, and so the girl leaned forward and returned it in kind, revealing pearly whites in soft smile of her own. "I wonder if that is the price we pay for loving and thinking the way we do." Sterling's mother's fear and her own mother's sorrow, Maeva idly wondered it it was worth it. Maybe someday she'd find out.

"Is he suffering?" The girl murmured, her voice thoughtful, and mismatched eyes of purple and sea foam narrowed, focusing upon Sterling's face. Her tone was challenging once more, lacking the earlier teasing but gentle and soft nonetheless. "How do you suppose we do it?" She tossed the ball flippantly into his court, use your words, I want to hear it. What was going on behind those fascinating eyes? What was Sterling thinking? Feeling?  He drew away from Pine as though uncomfortable. Did the death frighten him? Was he disturbed at the idea of watching the elk slowly heave its lasts breaths? She wondered if the boy would share.

Maeva allowed her soft song to fade into the quiet morning, a fond expression across her soft spotted features as she looked at Sterling after his compliment. Sometimes others found her voice to be haunting, often too eerie in her song choices. "I would like to sing for you too sometime, if you would like. I sing lullabies, to help my siblings sleep. My mother and father too, sometimes."


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STERLING
Maeva smiled back at him. Not in horror, nor disgust, nor fear. A simple curl of the lips followed by her sweet sing-song voice, and he thought then: she was perhaps too kind for her own good. What if he'd been a murderous little beast? Would she smile at him then?  He smirked, but hid it under the cover of his hair. Here she stood, smiling, singing, completely oblivious to the boy's disturbing habits. Perhaps he was the wild one after all, barbaric and then some. His smile faded as he turned to face Mae once again, pupils narrowed to mere slits.
"The whites of his eyes are red with fear. He's been laying here since, you said yesterday? Alone. Dying. Waiting for predators like us to finish him off," He cradled the outline of the elk's chin with his paw, claws raking against his skin.
How do you suppose we do it? He grinned inwardly. He could think of hundreds of ways to end the creature's life. But they wouldn't necessarily put it out of it's misery. No, it would suffer greatly at the boy's silvery hands. I want to see what's inside of it.
"I could get a rock. A big rock. And smash it's head in like a crab. That's how we used to crush their shells for meat" He paused, glazed over eyes moving to the dull ones of the elk. Or I could split him open and watch his innards ooze from the slice in his belly. His eye twitched violently. If only the girl weren't here... he could perform as many experiments as he liked.
"I would like that. I think you should sing to him while we kill him. Maybe it'll distract him from the pain." Because hell, it was gunna hurt a lot.

MAEVA
he remained sitting beside him, her expression serene as though listening to a fairy tale and not the boy's description of how to kill the dying elk. The girl tilted her head and hummed, removing her gaze from Sterling to settle upon Pine. He still breathed slowly with gasping breaths. Sterling's words were truthful, the elk was afraid. But Maeva also knew that it was also delirious in its old age. It barely knew what was going on anymore.

But Sterling clearly was on to something, he wanted something here.  Who was she to stop him? She could at least ensure the dying elk would be treated kindly in its final moments. "Do you want him to hurt?" She asked, her tone a clandestine whisper. "Is it really ending his suffering by causing worse misery?" And then smiled that fond smile once more, shaking her head a little -- not in disgust or fear or horror. Just a small shake of her head, as though amused by his words. "You are very funny, Sterling." Standing up, the girl brushed past him and left -- but only for a few heartbeats before returning with white flowers held delicately in her jaws. They held a strong aroma. Distinct and sickly sweet.

Maeva dropped the bundle by the boy's feet, peering up at him through wavy bangs. "Valerian root will make him sleep, then he will not feel pain." Mother had used the root for restless nights before when there were no poppy seeds to be found. "Once he is asleep you can end his suffering." And an after thought, because the boy had said he would like it -- "And I will sing for you."

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STERLING
I don't care if he hurts. I want to hurt him. He was always quick to ignore any and all consequences, no? But before she spoke, he would've never considered the pain it would cause the crumbling old elk. Only the satisfaction it would bring him, and the possibility of examining the corpse afterwards. "After the first hit, he wouldn't feel a thing. It'd knock him unconscious and..." He stopped, saving the girl the gruesome details. But he could go on. And on and on and on.
She smiled, and she called him funny. He felt the shadow of a smile creep onto his thin, scarred up lips. He was funny? His pupils widened in delight. Maeva spoke of herbs unfamiliar to him, but knowledge he can bring back and tell Harriette. As she began walking away suddenly, he felt a tug to follow, but resisted. Perhaps while she was leaving -- he could.... find that rock...
For a moment, he wondered what the inside of her head looked like. What color would she bleed?

"You're very kind to something so insignificant as an elk. Why are you kind to them? We tear their herds apart and eat their babies. It's prey."

MAEVA
"But the first hit would hurt nonetheless." Maeva hummed simply, "And if it did not knock him unconscious immediately he would bleed and twitch. He would probably scream too. The second hit would smash his skull in, probably. And he would see it coming. He might not pass out then, either. The third would do the trick and smash his brain efficiently. But he would still twitch." Her soft smile melted to a calm neutral expression, and the girl sat in momentary silence as she chewed the root and force fed Pine his medicine. Once. Twice. A third dose until she was satisfied he had consumed enough. It wouldn't be long not before he was lulled to sleep.

"I tried it once. On a fawn. Her back was broken and infected. It did not work the way I wanted it to. Her name was Vivi." Mismatched eyes closed, remembering the small creature's face and glazed brown eyes. It had screamed so loudly -- "So I wait and sing until they die instead. Sometimes I give them herbs, if they are in pain."

And the gray girl began to hum, low and deep like rumbling thunder and rolling waves. Maeva sang until Pine drifted to sleep, and continued even a few minutes after. "It is not kindness, nor is he insignificant." A dappled paw lovingly brushed across the slumbering animal's cheek. "It is life. I love it everything about it. I think it is all very beautiful, and I want to remember it." Maeva sighed then, moving away from the elk with a kiss to his nose. "He will not feel anything. You can kill him now. if you want." Because someone who cared about ending Pine's suffering would not question her supposed kindness and call it insignificant.

She smiled gently, leaning toward Sterling to press her cold nose to his cheek. "I know you are curious, Sterling."

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STERLING
Annoyance crept up into his skull and clamped onto his eyes. He twitched for a few moments, hiding his face behind his hair until the movements subsided. "I suppose my way is more efficient on rats. They're easy to crush, even with your paw" He flashed that wicked little grin at her once more, and watched as she chewed up the root assiduously and fed it to the dying elk. She was very careful in her movements, so not to startle the beast more than it probably was. Poor thing. Poor, old, dying thing. It'll be over soon. His hands rattled with anticipatio.
Her hum lulled the beast to sleep, and Sterling watched as she stroked it's face gently. She spoke elegantly, and Sterling couldn't help but to notice the stark dichotomy between the two. They way she felt about life, he felt about death. The way blood ran cold as a heart stopped pumping it hot through veins, the way eyes lull in and out of consciousness before finally accepting death. It was beautiful. Where there was life, death always followed.

He'd remember this. He remembers everything.

He waited for her go ahead, followed by a cold touch to his pristine fur. It sent dizzying chills through his face. He didn't move, instead just followed her with his eyes. His pupils narrowed, and he blinked. Once, twice, three times, allowing the strange feeling to settle in his body before moving. But, after a few moments, he found his rock. It had a sharp edge and he carried it to the sleeping elk.
He pulled his arms behind him, carrying the heavy rock with it, and swung down onto the elk using the sheer weight of it for momentum. The rock landed its mark on one of the antlers, but it didn't break off. He repeated this until the antler finally broke, and Sterling gripped the massive appendage in his mouth. Finally, he took the antlers and used one of the sharpest points to drive into the elk's throat.
Blood spurted and gurgled from the opening, but it was clean. Besides, he wanted it's brain to study.
"Have you ever seen inside someone's head before?" He grinned. Oh Serrate, if only you knew what was wrong with your son!!

MAEVA
She wondered is the ice kissed boy had a habit of killing things -- was he fascinated by it? Or thrilled by the idea of taking life. The thought almost made her frown, her purple and seafoam eyes momentarily sad as she gazed upon him. But Sterling was a predator, as was she. Perhaps it was only natural -- or at least only natural for him. Maeva could not fault him for that. So instead she offered a wistful smile, nodding in acknowledgement. "The smaller the animal, the more delicate they are." She mused airily. "But plants are more delicate than animals. They are beautiful when they wilt." She gently drew a dappled paw over the petals of leftover valerian, watching as some of the white petals fell off and clung to her toes.

Maeva watched closely as Sterling moved, her voice raising into her lulling song, keeping in tune with each beat of rock against antler. She continued unwaveringly, calm eyes watching as the curious boy wielded the detached antler as a weapon. The antler was swung in a clean arc, her song quieting as it whipped through the air and buried deep into Pine's neck. And then her low hum continued. Soft and slow until Sterling turned to address her with black teeth glinting in a his sharp grin.

And like before, she returned it with her soft smile.

"I have not. Are you going to show me?"

Sterling's life was filled with curiosity it seemed -- was that what his life was for? To learn, to know, to discover? Her expression grew fond once more. Oh did Maeva love the living things she met.

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STERLING
"We have vast fields of wildflowers in my home. They were covered in snow but, but after the thaw they bloomed in a week-- " He paused, realizing he was rambling. They truly were gorgeous, though. At the end of the summer, most would experience their decay -- and gemini would be shrouded in a graveyard of wilted flowers. "I like flowers. They smell.. nice."


She was still smiling after the deed had been done while blood was still geysering through the incision. He reluctantly placed his hand over the fallen petals on Maeva's paws and moved them gently towards the corpse. Blood quickly tainted the purity of the petals, but they would serve as a gift to the fallen beast. "I'm sure you lived a good life, Pine. You'll serve a greater purpose in death so that I, Sterling, can show my new friend what a brain looks like." A joke, right? That's how humor worked? Regardless, he gave Maeva a slightly-less-atrocious smile. He was beginning to feel less uncomfortable around her, and something else swelled in his head. Kind...ness? Perhaps? Consideration for others? Morality? No, probably not. But he would embrace it for the sake of his friend.

"I... don't have to show you. If you don't want. You might think it's gross. I think it's cool. I dunno. I do it with my rats sometimes... but they're smaller, and more delicate. So their skulls are easier to crack with rocks."

MAEVA
"My mother plants many flowers near my home. We have many gardens -- perhaps you may visit some day. I would like to see your wildflower fields as well." The ancient willow where Maeva grew up was surrounded by hundreds of flowers and herbs, her mother tended to them tenderly, and often encouraged her children to learn the craft as well. Gardening is in our blood her mother had murmured once. She wondered what traditions were in Sterling's family. Was it dissecting animals? Learning how the body worked the way she learned how plants did?

Mismatched eyes watched the boy move small white petals into the pooling scarlet, and with a hum she joined him in paying the small tribute. Her dappled paws pushed the remaining petals and flowers closer to Pine, not at all minding as her own paws stained red. She giggled lightly at Sterling's attempt at a joke, returning his smile just as she always seemed to do. "For knowledge." Maeva offered gently. "We will learn much from you, and your remains will nurture the life of this forest. Thank you, Pine."

The forest child tilted her head at Sterling, a puzzled look crossing over her speckled features as he seemed to... hesitate. Withdraw even. "We are friends, you said so yourself." She hummed, the word friend sounding strange to her fluffy ears. She only had her siblings to call friends, and the countless deceased animals and plants she had sung lullabies to. Leaning forward once more to press her nose lightly to his cheek, right below that unique shadowy eye. "Of course I am interested in your interests, silly Sterling." The boy had sat with her while she sang to Pine, after all. It only made sense to indulge in what he wanted to do.

After all, Sterling was more likely to remember Pine if he learned from him. "Is this what you love to do in life? I told you, I love life. I will love yours too."

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STERLING
She gave him the go ahead, and his brain began moving a thousand different directions. But the way she said friend made him smile. Yes, they were friends. They were each others first friends! Other than siblings! But did he really consider any of his siblings his friends anyway...? Hm. Thoughts for another time. He finally gets to divulge in a creature thrice size of him -- it's body still warm and fresh with red blood unlike his cold, wintery rats -- this was more important.

He broke off one of the points of the felled antlers and sharpened it quickly with his rock. She spoke while he began, her sing song voice cradling those fox like ears and it delighted him. "I'm not sure what I love. Simple things bore me. My siblings are simple. I don't like to play with the rest of them, I like to play games like this--" He began forcibly scraping away the elk's hair between the two antlers with his sharpened tool, then looked back at Maeva with a sparkle in his eye. "I like to learn things, all things, and you learn from experience." He labored away at the area of hair until it was shredded for the most part, revealing a discolored patch of dark skin. He sliced away at the skin, peeling away layers of tissue until he reached bone. It took him about 5 minutes, but he hummed while he worked.

"Mother doesn't love this. I'm glad you can appreciate it, Maeva."
He kept his work hurried along, excited to show Maeva the treasure within the skull. "What do you love to do, out here in the wild?" He offered a cheeky smile. He still liked the way wild sounded. Mysterious and dangerous.

MAEVA
The fond smile only grew warmer at the sight of Sterling's apparent delight. He seemed to bloom beneath her acceptance of his interest, quickly and expertly peeling away at Pine's body. He said he didn't know what he loved, but to Maeva, it seemed that this work -- this learning -- was what he loved. "To live is to learn." She hummed in soft agreement, life itself was an experience, wasn't it? But he spoke of simple things that bored him. What were simple things? Maeva couldn't think of any. "Anything can be complex if you look closely enough." There was so much to learn, even from the smallest of things.

As he sliced and peeled away, the gray girl moved closer to peer at his work, "I like to learn too." Her voice chimed lightly, mismatched gaze memorizing every well practiced slice he made. This wasn't something she would ever do -- but to live was to experience.

"Maybe it scares her."
Maeva hummed, her gentle voice almost sympathetic. "Sometimes people do not like to learn." She certainly knew some of her siblings were content with life the way it was, having no drive to venture further. But that was okay -- their lives had their own intricacies that the girl admired.

She offered a teasing grin to match his cheeky expression, briefly turning away from his work to nip gently at a fox-like ear. "In the wild." Her airy voice lilted with hints of teasing snark. "I love to watch the other creatures and plants living their lives. Learn how they behave. The songs they sing. I like to sing to travelers of all kind. Living and dying." She paused, humming with contemplation., there was something new to add to her list.

"I love meeting you." It felt nice to have a friend.

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STERLING
"Tag, tag is too simple. That's all they like to play. Or hide and seek in the castle. I can smell them a mile away, it's always the same, boring thing." He mumbled on as he worked, his hands working with the precision of a doctor. A baby doctor, that is.
But he stopped for a moment and scratched his chin with the bloodied end of the antler. "Though I suppose you learn to outrun others in tag. And how to hide well from hide and seek. Either way, my brothers and sisters are terrible at both." He returned to his tedious work while she watched from beside him. His tail may have even wagged once or twice while the two sat and worked and observed.

Why would it scare her?
It's only natural, they were predators after all. Maybe, just maybe.... it was because one day her silver streaked son would turn into a vicious little murderer. He'd be the one to pluck brothers from the borders and rip into them messy, messy quarters. But maybe deer and rats would keep him satisfied.

A playful nip drew him from his work, and his hands froze for a moment. His dark eye twitched nervously as he felt heat rising into his otherwise cold face. He sighed quickly then reached for his rock and used it as a hammer, the sharpened antler as a chisel, to crack open the skull like a crab. It was much harder than a crab's soft shell, but after a few minutes he managed to crack open a rectangle of bone and he peeled it back to reveal the soft, gelatinous features of the brain. He sniffed it, cat-like pupils widening in excitement. He pulled back from the cornered piece of exposed tissue, inviting Mae to take a closer look.

"I'm glad I met you, Mae. You're very interesting."
you aren't afraid of me -- and perhaps that's all he'd been looking for all along. Acceptance, and she gave him just that.


MAEVA
"Then teach them." She answered airily. It was simple, really. "You can make the game more complicated. Fun for you. And they get the game they are familiar with." The girl grinned, but her expression slowly turned a bit wistful, and almost lonely. "If your mother was not afraid, we could visit and play together." But would a fearful mother allow a girl from the wild to visit? Maeva didn't find it likely.

He froze momentarily at her nip -- the gray girl found it odd how he seemed hesitant in the face of her touches. Her own family was incredibly physically affectionate. It was as natural to her as breathing. "Do you not like it?" Maeva questioned softly. "Being touched." The thought made her a bit... sad? But she offered her fond smile anyways. Perhaps in his life, Sterling steered away from physical contact. "I apologize. I will be careful not to, if you do not like it." Her gray body shifted just a few inches away to give him space should he desire it.

Maeva peered curiously at the gelatinous tissue -- it looked so alien in comparison to the meat she typically ate. "It looks so fragile, no wonder why it is surrounded by bone. Do you want to expose more of it?" The gray haired girl peered at her friend curiously, wondering what he would enjoy. "I wonder if we can take it out, Sterling." And carefully the girl would watch his expression, wondering if his face would light up with life and excitement -- no matter how subtle. Maeva wanted to see.

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STERLING
"They don't like my rules. Say I play unfair, but I just outsmart them every time." He scoffed confidently. He knew he was more capable than most of his dull siblings, but suppose it was a matter of perspective. They didn't like to try as many things as he did -- but their dear, dangerously curious brother just liked to experiment and experience life, no?

He looked to his feet, then back to Mae's enthralled mismatched eyes. "My mom loves children. I'm sure she'd let you come over for a play date. Supposedly, there's a giant ancient elk that wanders my home. Ten times the size of Pine. We could try finding him and dig into his brain!" He smiled, laughed a little even, a foreign sound he'd scarcely heard. It was harsh, but it wasn't forced. It faded as she spoke again, though.

"Ah," for once, he was at a loss for words. The rambling boy, full to the brim with random and useless knowledge, didn't know what to say. He'd never been one for physical encounters unless they were violent. Tender embraces were saved for his mother only, and he flinched when any of his siblings tried touching him. But he liked the way her nose felt against his cold cheeks.

"Maybe not. But it's okay,"
As she inched away from him, he inched awkwardly toward her. "Thank you for being respectful." Her words delighted him and he immediately began working on scraping off more hair from the head. "It's going to be a crude incision, but I'll try." He ran his black tongue over his white muzzle and furiously went back to work. He took the rock and bashed the other antler until it too cracked off the skull. He made his way to the eyes next, and used his makeshift knife-antler to dig out the soft organ from it's socket. It wasn't very clean, but it sure as fuck was cool.

He observed the details of the eye, mostly all smooshed from having to carve out the eye with basically a stick. He brought it up to the light and towards Mae,
where she could observe it more closely.

"I dare you to eat it." He whispered with a wicked grin. Unsurprisingly, the boy actually loved eating eye balls. They squished around in his mouth until they popped like grapes and oozed a tasty, filmy liquid.

MAEVA

Maeva tilted her head and pondered for a moment. It would be nice to have play dates. Perhaps her mother would allow it too, her brothers might be a bit insistent on interrogating her new friend though. "I would love that." She offered him a grin, mismatched eyes widening with delight at the sudden laugh. It was nice -- and she couldn't help but release a soft chime of her own light laugh as well. "We would need to find it first. I would love to meet it -- we could learn a lot from something ancient." She wondered if it would be as large and old as her family's willow tree. If it was as old as the land itself. What a life something so grand must have lived! She yearned to see it.

His awkward shuffle closer did not go unnoticed by the gray girl, and she hummed with a hint of delight at him, mismatched gaze peering teasingly at him through dark wavy locks. How he behaved now seemed so different from how he was initially -- it was as though some veil  blank neutrality lifted and revealed a curious boy full of life. Maeva couldn't help but wonder why he kept it hidden. Was it because of his mother's fear? He had said she didn't like the things he loved. That his siblings didn't either.

That felt... Maeva didn't like the thought -- she preferred him full of life and wonder.

She leaned forward to express interest in his work, murmuring hums here and there.  Her nose scrunches as he digs out the eye. It looks softer, far more fragile now that it's out in the open. "Eat it?" She hummed curiously. "You have to eat the other one, then." Without further hesitation, Maeva plucked the jelly-like organ delicately from the antler-knife. Instead of rolling it around her tongue, she cast Sterling a grin with it carefully held between her front teeth, and then she squished it -- face scrunching at the unfamiliar texture. Tongue lapped at the oozing jelly, one bloodied paw raising to swipe the remainder off her chin before demurely licking that clean as well. It wasn't the most sophisticated or lady-like display, but Maeva released a laugh of delight, fascinated by the new experience.

[Image: etkri_1_2_by_murdermuffin666-dc1vp5r.png]
STERLING
"It could just be a wives tale, though. There are lots of those in Gemini. " He kept picking away at skin and muscle fibers until he asked, "Do you believe in ghosts?" He wasn't sure he had. But with all the stories in the hauntingly beautiful territory of Gemini, it was hard not to wonder. Could things like that exist? "If they did, I'm sure Pine would come back to haunt us." He smiled, but it was a weak smile. That wouldn't be a very comforting thought. All the things the boy killed, coming back to haunt him in his lab and sinking their ghastly claws into his nightmares.

She plucked the juicy organ in between her jaws and popped it like a grape. He chuckled once more in delight, hoping she would laugh along with him. He hadn't thought twice about the grossness of her actions but instead relished it. She truly was different. He'd liked the time they'd spend together very much. He was lost in the loveliness of her face until he finally realized she spoke and the boy blinked a few times, realizing his prolonged stare. Instead of apologizing, like he wanted to, he grinned with a laugh trapped behind it. He wormed the other eye out and held it over his head, dropping it into his mouth like a slithering fish. He crushed the organ with his molars and watched as a spray of juice exploded from the eye. He gnawed on it like a slimy grape until it was soft enough to swallow.

"I always eat the eyes first" He spun the antler around in his hand before returned back to the skull. "Will you sing some more?" It took him another ten minutes to repeat the process and reveal more gushy brains, and he'd look back to her with a stoic face. "With my rats, I usually like to poke them in the spine with my instruments to watch them twitch after they die. They're like my puppets! But I'm not sure if it'll work the same as Pine." He cupped his chin once more, then scraped one of his claws against the large revealed section of brain.

"Do you wanna try taking it out? We might need to slice it in half to scoop out the sections, but the brain is pretty tasty too. We could gobble him up. Eat all of his knowledge from life!"


MAEVA
"I think most tales have some truth to them." Maeva hummed thoughtfully, tilting her head to consider his question about ghosts. She had never really thought about ghosts before -- she had never seen one before. "I believe in souls. I think we exist even without our bodies. Is that the same as ghosts?" Mismatched eyes curiously examined that weak smile, idly wondering what could possibly be so bad about Pine coming back to visit them. Maeva certainly wouldn't mind, she'd want the great elk to know he wasn't forgotten, that she would remember him always. "I would not mind if he visited me, but I believe he has better things to do in death. He would much rather move on, perhaps live a new life. Maybe as a pine tree here." The girl smiled whimsically. It would be nice, to live many lives.

The gray girl laughed as he ate the eye, reveling in his obvious enjoyment. He asked her to sing some more, and Maeva readily swept them into a new song -- it was more melodic this time, a song her mother would sometimes sing as Maeva and her siblings played in the gardens. Soon enough her song lulled to silence as Sterling finished his work, and the girl leaned closer to get a better look. "Pine might be too big for that." She agreed, and then curiously "I wonder why they twitch when you poke their spine." It must be similar to how Vivi couldn't walk with her broken back. The spine seemed very important.
"May I?" With a gesture toward his antler-like, the girl would carefully take it from him, gingerly holding it and using the sharp tool to split the soft flesh in half. "Is this okay? It would be disrespectful not to eat anything." Maeva hummed in agreement, "You should bring some of the meat to your family. It would be nice to make sure as much of him goes on to nurture more lives." The girl then would return try to scoop one half out, her nose scrunching in concentration. It was rather difficult. After a moment, she would turn back to Sterling with a small chiming laugh, handing his tool back to him. "You are more skilled at it." Clearly the boy had practiced -- and Maeva would rather watch him enjoy himself.

[Image: etkri_1_2_by_murdermuffin666-dc1vp5r.png]
STERLING
Where exactly did ghosts fit in the realm of science? Where did souls belong in their anatomy? In their brains, in their hearts, in their eyes? It just didn't seem practical to him. Whenever his siblings spoke of ghosts wandered aimlessly around Gemini, he never believed them. It would be an interesting sight, though. As would the giant elk. Or the giant orca, cat, serpent, eel... the myths were endless. But they were intriguing nonetheless. Whoever weaved these intricate stories had quite the imagination.

"We're nothing without a brain. Once we die, our existence ceases to.. exist. That's how I see it, at least. That's why I think ghosts.. and spirits, they're mere tales. But... I think our conscience, that's the equivalent to a soul. Though I still think it dies with our physical bodies" He rambled on, considering truly what reality they faced after the final curtains closed. Would he fear death? No. It would be the most peaceful sleep he'd ever encounter.

Her enchanting voice filled fox liked ears once more, and helped move his work along. He hadn't realized how long ago he'd strayed from the troop. But her voice drowned out his concerns.

Her next question roused a smile, and he withdrew the antler from his work and jabbed the bloodied sharpened towards Maeva's eye. He'd stop short, of course, and he was hoping she'd jump back in fear. "Reflexes. They originate in the spine, it's central for movement. That's why Vivi couldn't walk anymore when she had an infection there." He allow Mae to take the antler from him and begin her own curious incisions.

"My family is too far ahead to carry mouthfuls back with me, I'd assume. The meat would get soggy and melt in my mouth." He made a face, sticking his black tongue through exposed teeth. She handed him the antler back, but he hesitated. "I... I should probably get back. My family might get worried, we're traveling to another pack for a celebration." He sat silent for a moment, not wanting to leave his new and only friend.

"If... if it's not far.... you should come with! It's a party for puppies, so we could... we could make a bunch of new friends!"

MAEVA
Her head remained tilted as she considered his words, dark loose curls falling from her speckled face. "I hope there is more after death." The girl settled on after a moment. "It would be a shame to permanently leave all this behind." She gestured fondly at the pine grove surrounding them, the fallen petals turned crimson, Pine, Sterling, herself. It was all so pretty. It would be nice to come back to it all.

"I like to believe that so long as it is remembered, a part lives on."

Instinctively, Maeva flinched from the sudden movement close to her eye -- the sea foam and purple shades blown wide. However, fear did not cross her speckled features, and instead bloomed an expression of fascination and awe. Was this knowledge what defined Sterling's life? She held the information that he passed on to her close to her heart, it was like having a piece of his life to forever join her own. What a special thing that was.

His invitation was unexpected, and Maeva pondered it for a few heartbeats. Her siblings and father were more likely to worry than her mother -- but her family knew by now that Maeva always made her way back home. She finally settled on, offering Sterling a fond smile. The girl didn't want to leave her friend either -- there was more to see with Sterling, she just knew it. Tilting her head back to the sky, Maeva released a song to the sky, allowing the wind to carry her voice to her mother's willow tree. A brief I'll be back, as she always did when she would spend the night away from home. Her mother never sang back, but Maeva was certain she had heard her.  Her siblings were likely to come find Pine, anyways. She was sure he'd be in good hands then. "If you are sure I will not be a burden, then I would love to come for a little while."  She wanted to meet Sterling's people -- perhaps they'd be as lively as he was.

"We should clean off first." Maeva giggled, gesturing toward their bloodied paws and Sterling's chin. Leaning forward, the gray forest child would peer at him with wavy bangs framing soft features, "May I?" And if he allowed her to, she would help tidy his silvery fur and hair, pressing her nose briefly to his muzzle when finished before tending to her paws.


[Image: etkri_1_2_by_murdermuffin666-dc1vp5r.png]
STERLING
He would be okay with a dreamless slumber, but for a girl who loved and admired the beauty of the world around her, he understood. For once, he considered someone else's opinion, because for once; that person's opinion mattered to him. It would be nice, to live in field of wildflowers for the rest of his life. Absorbing their scents and drifting away on the breeze... but it would bore him eventually.

Her eyes filled with wonder as he drew the blade an inch from her eye -- not entirely the expression he'd hoped but a reaction nonetheless. She still didn't fear the boy.. She was a trusting little girl. Dangerously so, perhaps, but this little boy would never hurt her. She had nothing to fear.(edited)

She sang her farewells to her family, leaving a beautiful note ringing in the air. "No. You're not a burden." He looked at her, his smile fading into a once again blank expression. His eyes weren't as sharp, though. And his voice was lighter than before.

Mae moved closer to him, but he hadn't retreated from her touch. His eye may have quivered, but he remained still so she could fix the boy's appearance. He
allowed thick lashes to guard half lidded eyes, so that she may not have noticed him staring at the opposing mismatched eyes before him. Her hair fell delicately across the features of her face and cupped them perfectly. A near immaculate specimen. One worthy enough to be studied, certainly.

His icy cold nose felt the gentle warmth of her own, and he allowed it to rest there for a moment, before pulling away quietly.

"Try to keep up, we're a ways behind." He'd wait for her to finish cleaning off, then he'd motion for her to follow with a flick of a feathery tail. "The pack we're going to is called Inaria. We'll just have to follow everyone's scent. They won't notice my absence, I have 13 littermates. I'm not sure how many other olders ones there are, though... But I think they'd all adore you."

MAEVA

She gave a teasing grin, pink tongue poking out from between pearly white teeth. "Keeping up will not be an issue." The gray girl was used to traveling rather far from home by now. Quickly, she tidied up her paws, making sure not a fleck of Pine's blood remained before nodding to Sterling for him to lead the way.

Her friend had a large family -- Maeva tried to imagine having older siblings as well as her twelve littermates. The thought seemed nice, and the gray girl wondered what they'd all be like. She was eager to find out. You are not easy to miss, Sterling." She teased fondly, certain that his family would notice if he was gone. That was what families did, after all. "I hope they like me. It is alright if they do not, though. I already enjoy your company." She hummed softly. The idea of friends were nice, they they weren't really necessary. Maeva would remember them with or without the mantle of friendship.

"Would you like me to sing again?" And if so she would sing as they made their way back to Sterling's family, humming a new melody, just for her first friend.

[Image: etkri_1_2_by_murdermuffin666-dc1vp5r.png]
STERLING
For some reason, he hoped they didn't like her. They were all more charismatic than him, funnier, kinder, he knew this well but never tried to change it. By the first month of his life he'd known there was something... different about him. But he'd learned to embrace it and appreciate his differences. They didn't appreciate it, though.

But Mae did, and to the silver boy; his first friend's acceptance was enough.

"I'd like that" He blinked slowly, three times, watching the grey dappled girl's curls bounce in the light of dawn. A specimen indeed.

He'd hum along to her hauntingly beautiful melody, a childlike smile playing on his scarred lips. He made his first friend.



[Image: j5e351f.png]
strange omens gather at the end of the wood
profile. played by Emily. pinterest.

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