literature

bitter, foolish gifts

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Winter Eskpeditions | Kindness


The cemetery, for all his years of being “alive” now, never quite stopped being creepy to Aeolus. It was a comforting place, of course, at least in concept. Knowing his family was buried somewhere beside each other, that his mother rests quiet and warm beneath the ground where she’s long since decayed and been taken. But pieces of him are still nervous. Frightened of that old woman who’d caught him one night, a gun in her hand as she aimed it for him. Frightened of the sounds of things long dead and haunting his every thought being made a reality, seeing how they’d flood his vision and send him rushing away from the lit candles of his mother’s resting place.


He loathed them both for a long time, actually. That old woman, and that ghost. But in the end, for the ghost at least, he settled far quicker.


Protective, that’s what she was. A protective soul who snapped her fangs and cared little for the weak willed minds of humanity, not after the filth they’d bring to her home and the disrespect they’d treat the place with. She kept things safe, that was her utmost goal for it in the end. The easy explanation for her actions, anyway. Keeping things safe, keeping them from breaking because some half-wit decided it’d be funny to break into the morgue.


At the end of the day, she’s unsettling, sure. Beatrice always comments how she creeps her out, and Hayes has a mild gripe with her it seems. Lux tries to be nice, but doesn’t visit often. The general consensus is she makes their nerves feel frayed, her cats too watchful and herself too sharp.


But Aeolus knows better.

Or, more actually, he stopped caring after she transformed him, they bickered and fought, and then settled into their own skins again.

So to him? She’s nothing more than-


‘Hey, shitty grim reaper!’


The cemetery doesn’t answer him aside from a small gust of wind, the breeze shaking skeletal branches and overgrown vines that refused to wither away in the winter. There’s still snow everywhere, the holidays a few days past and his companions no longer with any gifts to spare. It’s all been handed out, their trinkets given away and houses cluttered even more. But she didn’t show up. She didn’t get a gift. And that doesn’t sit right with him.


‘I know you can hear me,’ Aeolus calls out, snow crunching under his shaking weight as he wanders through the place. The cold feels aching on his joints, wrapping around them and faintly cutting skin, but he pushes forward as is. With a goal in mind, a bit of frigid winds and old snow won’t stop him. ‘C’mon, I go out of my way to visit and you don’t even show yourself? I knew you were a terrible death dealer, but at least be a good host!’


‘And what if I don’t have a good guest?’


A cat rushes beneath his feet, quick and purring as it nearly makes Aeolus trip trying to not step on it. He whips his head around, watching the night made creature and how it fades through the air, like a glimpse into a galaxy so far off from this place. Glowing eyes stare back at him, and he can only scoff at the sight.

‘That was a cheap shot.’

Another wispy cat darts at him, this one pouncing on his shoulders and leaving him grunting as it rushes away. Starry talons dig into fur and then grave stones, trailing tails flickering as they almost seem to snicker.

‘That one was even worse.’


When he feels the chill of stars, he actually leans back out of the way this time with a scoff. The final cat hisses in upset, kicking him in the chest as it jumps away towards its companions.


The three perch on graves not their own, glaring, flickering in their existence.


‘Well, you came in uninvited and unwanted,’ she calls out, sounding so bitterly amused. ‘Figured you could use the lesson in waiting for your knock to be answered.’


It doesn’t take long to find her, even in this dimly lit place and the dark, dead looking trees. Aeolus has long since learned the way of seeking night stained furs and pale magnolia petals, no matter how long it might take. And when he does find her, he can’t help but huff at just how hidden away and tucked against old wood she is.

‘Hiding from me now?’ Aeolus steps forward, sitting himself at the base of the tree and craning his neck back to look at her. A fleeting prayer is sent that she doesn’t jump on him. God, he doesn’t need claw marks today. ‘I thought we were friends, you hag,’


‘Friends? You belittle me.’ Mara stretches out, tail flicking irritably behind her and her claws extending further. Maybe threatening, if she wasn’t just some frigid kitten. ‘You’re entertainment, at best. Don’t act so high and mighty, boy.’

‘So cruel to me.’

‘Grow up.’


He can’t help it, the snort that leaves him. It fizzles with static, and he wishes he could properly roll his eyes at her. Ever the bastard really, even after so many years of knowing one another. But honestly? Even with her snappy nature and quips, it was a welcomed thing.

She doesn’t hold back because he was shaky or known before. She doesn’t hold back just because he’s something she created.

He bothers her, and she bothers him. They snap at one another, bicker, fight. At the end of the day, she gave him a choice to be made, to stick around. And now, he’s giving her a choice to tell him to leave or not.


‘What ever happened to the kind grim reaper who said I was annoying in my own skull, hm?’

‘She died ages ago, and she was never a grim reaper.’

‘She died? How’d that happen?’

‘I buried her alive for the dreadful mistake of ever letting you live.’


Again, he can’t help but laugh. A proper one this time, his eyes crinkling as he shakes his head. What a mess. Truly, he shouldn’t be surprised he’s met with nothing but a snappy attitude here. Even if he’s got good intentions, she isn’t exactly big for company that keeps talking, and he enjoys annoying her to a bitter end. She made him after all, and then just left him in that damn station with no more answers besides his three questions until he sought her out himself. He’s got a right to bother her till they turn to nothing more than a fickle memory.


… And besides.


He owes her today.


‘Oh, wonderful.

Mara sighs above, the hiss of a sound enough to startle Aeolus out of his thinking. He glances up, watching how that faux feline jumps from branch to branch, dropping herself low on the tree. Space is given, the old spirit stepping away with a slight groan of his joints, and the spry one in return perches on a gravestone much like her fellow companions. Who’re still staring at him, unfortunately.


‘What’s got you coming to my level, hm?’ Aeolus tilts his head. ‘Can’t say I’m upset, my neck was getting a cramp.’

‘You’ve got that look on your face,’ she snips. ‘When you’re thinking, and typically about something not great.’

‘You pay attention to me?’ He gives her a look akin to a smirk, leaning towards her. ‘That’s so sweet, reaper.’


Mara hisses then, swatting her claws at him and striking him lightly on the top of his muzzle. It doesn’t hurt, not outside of an almost ticklish sting. He snickers with it, and he knows that she’s aware those pale little talons have done nothing. Her ears flick back as she glares, and he has to physically stop himself from cackling in her face. God, she just looks like some stupid kitten who got its favorite toy taken. Adorable.


‘You’re awful, the creator snaps, voice crackling at the edges. She turns away, tail flicking hard as her night-like coat shimmers. Her muscles stretch, claws kneading into stone. ‘Why do I bother- You’re nothing but a useless and bitter old--’


‘Mara.’


She pauses, half ready to jump away from him, yet she stops anyway. Her false ear twitches back to the voice, pale eyes squinting at him with a glare that rarely leaves, and only grows worse.

Aeolus stares back at her, expression fond, and aged.


‘... What.’

The foul spirit raises her head, straightening her posture some. Petals flicker off her form, falling to the ground beneath them. He’s faintly reminded of the ripples they’d made so long ago.

‘What do you need, Aeolus.’


He makes a low hum, the sound tired and frail. When did he get so exhausted all of a sudden? Bittersweet memories, he supposes.


‘I don’t need anything,’ Aeolus corrects, turning away from her. ‘I just wanted to give you something. Can’t have you running off if I want that, hm?’


The feline makes a soft hum, the sound wispy and a little disinterested, but she isn’t leaving. She’s actually staying, her claws clutching at cracked stone and her tail idly waving behind her. Almost regal, how she sits, and it’s,,, a little funny to put into perspective. She’s some silky looking night entity, her coat that of stardust and cosmos, and her eyes something of horrors only your worst nightmares could imagine. Eldritch deities shoved into a narrow, slim little cat-like form.


And here he is. Haggard, aged, static at the edges.


Still, he lifts the gift with a magic he rarely uses, and though it gives him a headache, the item lifts anyway. It floats between them, dangling in the open air of the cemetery and swaying in the snowy wind.


Mara stares at it, silent.


‘... You’re giving me,,, a necklace?’

‘It was my mother’s.’


She looks to him then, squinting.


‘I know it isn’t much, and I know you probably don’t even want it,’ Aeolus breathes, the energy from before gone. His voice is coated with an odd radio static, and his gaze is heavy yet distant. He doesn’t look at her, eyes glued to the item at hand. ‘But you protected her for years. You guarded her grave, ensured it wasn’t touched or harmed by some idiot teen or someone with a grudge. She was a kind woman, and though I couldn’t visit her often, it’s nice to know you were there instead.’

‘I didn’t protect her, Mara states, stressing the figure. She kneads at the stone, the sound a little soothing as her claws scrape. ‘I was just-’

‘-doing your job,’ he finishes. ‘I know, Mara. I know.’


They both fall quiet then, gazes locked on the item in question. It’s nothing fancy. A simple thread, with a key, locket, and ring hanging from it. A wedding ring.


‘I know it wasn’t her you were protecting,’ Aeolus starts again, voice a little quieter. ‘And I know you never knew her, and never cared. But the fact you still protected her at all, and the fact she was safe with you around, even by proxy, is something I never really thanked you for.’


Strange, to thank the protector for protecting.


‘She always liked cats,’ he hums. ‘And I think, if she met you, she would’ve at least found something good to talk about. And she would’ve been grateful for all the work you’ve done over these years, keeping this place from being destroyed, and the respect you’ve paid it.’


Aeolus looks to Mara then, head twinging at the base of his skull as he moves it forward. It lays gently on the gravestone, hooking slightly, and the spirit tucks her claw around the thread to keep it from falling to the ground.


‘Why me?’

She looks up at him, ears tilting back.

‘Why not someone like your niece?’


‘Because I care about you,’ he states, as if it’s the most simple thing in the world. His eyes crinkle a bit with a tired smile, and he tilts his head like he’s speaking to Beatrice from years ago, when she’d ask the most foolish questions with such obvious answers in line.


‘I care that you’ve stuck around this long. I care that you go out of your way to do things for this place, and that you respect the people who’ve died here. I care that you exist. Because without you, this place would have rotted, and been ruined by so many people who forgot what it means to let the dead lie peacefully.’


He bows his head, a faint hum echoing from his form.


‘So thank you, Mara. For all the good you’ve done for this place, even in your bitter ways.’


Thank you for keeping everyone he loved safe. Thank you for remembering them in the most simple of ways.

Thank you for visiting them when he can’t bring himself the courage to do so.

Thank you for everything.


Aeolus stands, joins and false bones creaking, and he raises his head. She’s still staring at him, silent, eyes piercing. If it were any other time, he might question her. Might poke and prod, see what’s going on inside that little head of yours. What comebacks she might be cooking up, what memories, what ideas.


But not today.


Today, he turns on his heel, and with snow crunching under his feeble weight, leaves that cemetery contently.


‘Happy holidays, Mars.’


A magnolia petal flutters into view, a gust of wind sending some flying into the snow alongside brittle ivy leaves.


‘... Happy holidays. You bitter fool.’

on crunch time with some final ideas lmao, but hey they're being made :]

pardon to dinstraction for stealing your nasty cat as usual


---

45(wc: 2,272) 5(event) 10(other) 20(interact) 5(elemental) 1(small swarm) 5(personal) 16(storyteller) || 107 AP Mara, owned by din 22.5(wc: 2,272) 2(event) 5(elemental) 1(small swarm) 12(storyteller) || 42.5 GP


Aeolus 22.5(wc: 2,272) 2(event) 12(storyteller) || 36.5 GP

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