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    version 22: awakening


    LILLIANA -- Year 206


    "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

    It's Time // Castile
    He had exploded when he'd left Venus. Every muscle had vibrated with the need to shift, and for once he'd not fought it. It was so much easier just to give in, and let the rampant beast within take control for a while. 

    There was a tree deep in the forest now that had been reduced to smoking kindling. His clawmarks etched the snowand surrounding trees as he'd worn himself out, singed trunks smoking lightly into the milky grey sky overhead. 

    He'd pressed the rigid line of his face into a mostly undamaged tree, trying and failing to crush the thoughts still reeling through his head. He'd fucked up. He'd never fucked up this badly before, and as tempting as it was to blame his brother for his long absence, he wasn't sure it was an argument he could stand on. 

    He knew who he could talk to. Who had dealt with this exact situation, and probably knew better how to handle it. But there was a certain amount of pride involved, and Tana struggled to put it aside. Instead, he took to the sky again, wheeling on the updrafts until he felt ready to face things. 

    He didn't bother to shift right away when he found his sire in his land. The painted stallion was not difficult to find for those who dared to look for him, and Tana had recognized his scent as soon as it had emerged. His reptilian body flattened to the ground as he landed, as underthreatening a position as he could manage while not exposing himself. Moments later, bone and tendon popped and snapped in painful symphony while the equine fought for dominance. 

    The pale stallion looked at his elder without hope. It had all gone wrong. Everything upon his return had been a disaster, and his recent conversation with Venus had been nothing but the cherry on top of his screwed up sundae. He didn't think this had a chance of going much better. 

    He also didn't feel like bothering with niceties. It wasn't like they'd ever come between the draconic pair before, so why start now? Instead, he exhaled a steadying gust of charred air before letting his smoke roughened voice into the space between. 

    It was impossible to make eye contact while he spoke, instead he focused on a few scrubby trees over Castile's shoulder. "We... We were mistakes, weren't we. Raul and I. We weren't supposed to happen." He stated tightly, already confident he knew the answer. Not only were they mistakes, they weren't even wanted after the fact. Their own mother had struggled with anything like love, especially after she'd been taken. As for the dark stallion on front of him... Well. He was a stranger. That was the truth. Neither of them had made much effort to know one smoother past their initial meetings. Tana suspected feelings like the ones he was currently swamped with had much to do with that, on top of his own adolescent temper.

    He figure the answer must be pretty similar to the one begging to be acknowledged in the back of his own mind. Yes, they had been mistakes. And they were the reason he was now tied to a mare he was pretty sure he'd never loved, and now wasn't sure he even liked. He'd been reckless, true to form. Now he had to pay. 

    and underneath the layers, I find myself asking what's left
    a hollowed out form, the skeleton of a ghost, the pitiful echo of what once was
    Black smoke billows from Castile’s nostrils, engulfing his sharply-edged face as his eyes lift toward the sky. It’s impossible to miss his draconic sun spiraling among the clouds. Like Sabra, his coat catches the light with an opalescent sheen that has always clawed at his instincts. There’s a gravitational pull – or once was – to horde the beauty in the world, but Castile has since succumbed to herding his own family underneath his wings. They are his treasures.

    The twins had been no different, but they’ve always groped for independence and space from their own father. While it buried a knife into the King’s heart, he learned to accept it. His attempts at reconciliation were futile and his efforts exhausted. He cannot force them to remain so close as their siblings.

    But that doesn’t mean he will disregard them when they arrive at his doorstep.

    Castile meets his son when he alights. Every crack and tear of bone and muscle ripples familiarity. It’s a daily routine, to rip his body apart between shifts so that he can taste the freedom of what his alter self provides. He patiently waits, a pause marked by silence until Santana dives into conversation without so much as a hello. Emotions wrack through the body of his son as crude assumptions shadow his voice. Underneath an unruly forelock, Castile’s eyebrow lifts. His mismatched gaze sweeps back and forth and his expression remains stoic and unreadable. Even the rhythm of his heart remains steady while underneath the spotlight.

    Again – still – he waits.

    Santana is done, staring at him now expectantly and no longer at the shrubbery in the background. Enough time passes that it seems like Castile will not even answer, but when the single word rises from the crypts of his soul, it bleeds with blunt sincerity. ”No.” It hangs idle between them, unsupported by more until the seconds trickle into minutes. ”You and your brother weren’t – aren’t – mistakes. None of my children are mistakes.” As a breeze tousles his locks, his furrowed brows now become visible, hooding his stare with mild irritation. ”You come into my home to assume shit like that?” There is no way to mask the edge of his tone, and it’s too late to take it back. Straightening himself, Castile swallows the aggravation and searches Santana’s eyes for something more – a reason why – before finally, casually, asking, ”What happened that you’re asking this?” He imagines there is a root cause to all of this, a reason that fire burns through his son’s core beneath the winter sun.


    He groaned and dug a hoof into the dirt. A mirthless smile stretched his lips. This was just his day to say the wrong things. At the warning in his father's voice, the younger stallion's ears tipped backward, but he held fast. He'd overstepped. 

    "Old habits die hard, I guess." He admitted. It wasn't quite an apology, but as close as he was getting currently. There was so much going on, and the rebellious teenager he'd been last time he'd seen his sire still colored his thoughts. 

    He'd wanted his family to be a place of safety and comfort. It was as much as any child asked. But his mother had been a prickly and eventually unstable presence in their lives. On the flipside, what little time he'd spent with Castile had been riddled with tension. For the longest time, his one reliable companion had been his twin. They had always been able to trust each other, until recently. Now, even that relationship was in shambles. 

    Finally meeting the elders' equally mismatched gaze, he let the truth be known. "I don't know if you remember Venus? You met briefly, same day you met me." He paused, but it was too late to quit now. "Anyway. History repeats itself. I just found out that I have two now-grown children by her." His eyes darkened, still feeling the turmoil of that discovery. It had shaken him to his core. 

    "You say we are not mistakes. But that's what it feels like I've made. Maybe not that they exist, but that I've neglected them so long. I'm not certain that Venus is willing for me to meet them, and even if she is-" he swallowed dryly. "-even if she is, you and I know well enough that there's little chance for them to want anything to do with me." 

    His entire body quivered. As hot as he was, he couldn't feel it. "I've misjudged you, I think. I... I apologize, for that." He breathed, hardly louder than whispering. It was as hard a thing as he'd admitted all day, and there seemed to be plenty of contenders for that designation. 

    and underneath the layers, I find myself asking what's left
    a hollowed out form, the skeleton of a ghost, the pitiful echo of what once was
    When did he become a father? A grandfather?

    The years have slipped through his grasp like grains of sand. It doesn’t stop, it doesn’t slow down. He thought of mother and father, of newborn Isobell, but then he blinked and suddenly had grandchildren. And now more, he considers with an incline of his baroque head as his eyes trace along the uncomfortable lines deepening Santana’s brow. Joy flickers across him and rises like the tide, but it ebbs quickly to follow the sharply edged comment. History repeats itself. A wrench in his gut berths a frown that lasts for a few heartbeats. A better sense of himself surfaces and Castile swallows the bitterness lingering at the back of his mouth.

    It’s always painful to relive his mistakes, to face his neglectful years. ”I’m sure you didn’t intend to abandon her with your children,” he remarks as a distance haze glosses over his eyes, remembering how his heart shattered into millions of pieces years ago. ”As long as it wasn’t planned. You obviously regret it and you grieve over having missed that time with them as I had,” he wanted to see the twins scamper at their mother’s side, to watch them develop from newborns to weanlings to yearlings. Missed opportunities punctured through him like a polished knife. ”But you learn from it. You do better. You give them the choice to have you in their lives and remind them that you’ll be there for them no matter what. You show, not tell, them how much they mean to you.” Castile slowly blinks and dances his metallic eyes back to his son, allowing the revelation to sink into his pores and encase his regretful heart.

    Castile doesn’t need to say it – to verbally admit the love he possesses for his sons – because it shows in his openness to always accept them, in his frantic search for them when the world crumbled beneath the oppressive plague, and in the warmth of his advising voice. It surfaces in his gentle forgiveness. ”You did, but I didn’t set myself up for success with you and your brother. I always hated myself for having disappeared when you and your siblings were born…” a sighing breath tumbles from his lips as he tries to again push away the painful memories.



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