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@Kukulkan - if/when you have time.

It had warmed up a little bit in the past few days, with the snow turning to slush and then to icy rain. The sky looked as if it had been bruised; it was streaked with cobalt and blushing purple-grey. The ground was layered in soft new powder, although none of this touched upon her little body. Ibis had been carefully placed beneath some aspen trees, her body protected by roots, and when the world chilled again and the snowfall began anew, someone had opted to dig out a small den for her; that was where she sat now, warm and safe and guarded by her beloved druids.

Sometimes they left gifts for her, or prayers. Someone had tucked a fresh animal skin against the earthen floor of the den. Bundles of flowers lined the entry and some were frozen, others a touch withered since their picking. The smells were rich despite the season and filled the den with a floral aroma - perhaps this permeated her sleep, perhaps not. The point was that Ibis was cared for and loved despite her sleep. Despite all of these offerings her body had begun to slim down - she had been asleep too long without food - so that the tiny bird of a girl appeared to become further diminished. This, no doubt, would worry her little self-made family.

Perhaps it was the flowers - perhaps it was the dire situation of her body, this tiny vessel being eaten away by time. Whatever the reason, the girl was drawn from her sleep gradually. On the first day there was no change in her except the increase in her heart rate and breathing; the next day, a twitch - but nobody was visiting then, and so it went without notice. It wasn't until twilight of the following night that Ibis woke with a start; her eyes flying open, crystalline blue but fogged by confusion and hampered further by a pounding ache to her head, neck, and eyes. The hunger was so strong within her belly that she felt nothing, having surpassed beyond it.

As she stared out of her hovel of dirt (her potential grave) she stared at the dark shapes of the trees, the reaching branches that crowned her periphery, and saw the glimmering of stars beginning to surface.
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The days passed slowly, being alone.

It was as though a weight were wrapped around his wrists, his ankles, with each step he took. As though each movement required a great deal of thought and concentration before it could be acted upon. As though the sense of purpose, the drive, were dwindling, smothering, and he felt himself aimless.

The most he could do was bring the sleeping stargazer little reminders, for himself as well as her, that she was surrounded by life. That death could not seize her yet - that K would not let death seize her. His tall form walked with a somber gait, tail limp and head hung as the most delicate of frozen flowers were secured gently in his lips. It had taken a great deal of care to find these, to dig through the snow and nose it aside so they could be pulled up undisturbed. Unbroken.

The chill of the open winter night sky left him on his usual route to where she lay, a sleeping silhouette that left a haunting chill every time he saw her. To see such lack of life in someone who had carried so much life in her. Except...

This time when he looked into the shadows, when his head dipped to leave her another frozen blossom, it wasn't nothingness he saw. Nor lifelessness. He saw those two eyes, wide, twinkling, staring out. Disbelief left him momentarily stunned, the flowers dropping from his maw from the stupor.

And then he snapped back.

"IBIS!!!" He leapt forward, instantly crouching so as to crawl gracelessly, hesitantly, down the small entrance, as though he feared going too fast might make this all a lie. Forepaws, too large for such a small, occupied enclosure, tread carefully as he arched his neck forward, taking in the scent of... life. Tears welled in his eyes but that anxiety, that dread that this could all be wrong, false, it forced him to hold it all in.

"Are... are ya... okay?" Alive?

These lands seemed to stifle fairytale endings, leaving the boy with nothing.
Could it be he still had something left to cling to after all?

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The sky transitioned in color, becoming a rich plum with embers of warmth threading behind the black shapes of the trees; she watched this without focus, too distracted by the pounding in her head and stiffness of the rest of her enfeebled body. The warmth of the little den was a comfort. She wanted to draw her little legs in close but the slightest movement felt like a huge strain, so she didn't manage to move at all - just watch, silent and sleepy, until a dark figure materialized. The slanting glow of twilight caught upon Kukulkan's face and silhouetted him with a near-angelic glow; Ibis blinked, and it felt like her lids were made of sandpaper. He was closer with every heart beat, calling out to her in an earth-shattering voice that made her wince; her little ears flipped back, her eyes shut temporarily. There wasn't much relief to be found in that moment.

She wasn't afraid of him, though. He could have been anyone — or anything. A monster from her nightmares keeping her hostage; her darling brother returned from an adventure; someone new to save her. It didn't take much for Ibis to recognize his voice though, although it was more exasperated and excited than she'd ever heard from Kukulkan before. His bulk eclipsed the den's narrow mouth and she was briefly shadowed in darkness, but when he pulled back a ways and the light could linger, she saw him. The pale markings of his face; his unruly dark fluff. A tiny smile creased her face.

I... she sighed, the sound croaking out of her dry mouth. Thirsty. H..hungry. A hard swallow. She wants to stand up and seek him out in the growing dark, nest against the warmth of him; touch-starved and confused. Before long Ibis was frowning and staring at him, but the expression melted from her face as she dropped her chin to her crossed forelimbs, looking like she was about to fall asleep again.
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A wince from the tiny form and K shrunk back instantly, his voice seeming to disappear far down his throat, so far he feared he might never speak again. But his voice, it had been too loud, that much was obvious. Now. He should have known better, but the impulse, the surprise, the ecstatic nature of the moment had been too much. It had slipped, inevitably.

"oh shit shit shit, shhh shhh i'ma so sorry ibis i'ma sorry" he whispered so faintly the musk of the den could have easily swallowed those words whole. But he coiled himself up and wiggled further into the den, gently and cautiously nudging his maw towards her, scared to even touch the scruff of her fur but desperate for the confirmation of this reality.

Then the one thing that could brighten his day, that could banish even the heaviest, most potent of shadows from his heart.
She smiled, ever so faintly. Ever so fragile and delicate.

K held his breath, as though the slightest exhale could risk blowing away this happiness.

As she spoke he felt his heart shatter and sink, his mind still overwhelmed by the elation of her revival, but the pity of hearing that rasp, of seeing her frailty in person. Gently K would extend his neck a bit further, trying hard not to smother her but instead tenderly nuzzling her cheek, the side of her nape. He wished it was purely selfless, to give her some contact comfort, but truth held firm that he needed it just as much.

"of course, of course," he murmured softly, fully, tenderly into her fur before pulling back and seeing a depth of sadness in her eyes. Before watching as she shakily let herself down again, which struck a panic within him instantly.

"please, don't fall 'sleep again ibis. i.. i.." he shifted to make room to look behind him, his mind racing, flurried, trying to piece together the way to fix this. To fix everything. "i'ma be back, i'ma get you somethin', i'ma fix you." His voice was gentle but heavy in its pleading, "pls don' fall 'sleep again..."

I won't be able to take it again.

And with one quick but significant lick of a kiss on her forehead, with one last deep breath taking in her - heartbreaking foul - scent one more time, he squinted from the hesitation as he began to backwards-wiggle out of the den. Once exited, he'd quickly kick his legs into a full sprint, seeking out the cached remains of his meager hunt from the morning prior.

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His begging, heartfelt as it was, was also incredibly pathetic. The fear behind his words was stronger than anything and kept her on-edge, hyperfocused in her fragile state. She couldn't sleep even if she had wanted to (and wouldn't for a while yet, thanks to that coma). His insistent tone was grating to her ears. Ibis' eyes fluttered open.

She lifted her head up just a smidge as Kukulkan began to press in to the den with his too-big body; there wasn't room enough for both of them in this tiny space, and she couldn't accommodate him even if she had wanted to, so everything was awkward and stressful. Until he began to affectionately touch upon her narrow shoulders, her neck, her cheek - and the kiss to her forehead, that drew a contented little sigh from her. As strenuous as this predicament was for her, Ibis was just as touch-starved as the pirate. She could not fight back as he came close; his warmth was like a blanket, each touch electrifying, and then he was drawing back -- Ibis having forgotten her own words and her physical needs for the briefest of blessed moments.

When he was gone, she missed him -- that warmth, that closeness, all of it. The cold drifted in to the hollow where she lay. He had crushed the flowers lovingly placed around her by Reiko, and the pelt that had been laid down upon the floor was torn along the edge, frayed by his hasty movements to kiss at her and then depart. Time ebbed on, but for Ibis it crawled, and she could not stop the pounding pain of her starvation. She watched the colors morph beyond the trees until his dark shape returned along the fringe of her vision, and she smiled meekly in his direction.
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His search was as hasty as it was efficient, his scattered mind quickly narrowing its focus down to his memories from earlier in the day when he'd managed to catch and - much to his curiosity's dismay - killed a couple distracted squirrels for a snack. Only one remained, secured away in a frozen cache, and it thankfully wasn't too far away.

All in all he had found it, retrieved it, and was on his way back to the den within five or ten minutes, nothing on his mind except for upping his haste, his urgency.

But the colors of the day had already begun to shift by the time he made it back to Ibis, his shadow leading his form to the narrow entrance to where she lay. The shredded remains of one fat squirrel in his jaws, covered in snow, K crouched and carefully weaseled his way into the entrance, using his large form to essentially plug the chill of winter out. With the greatest of care, he'd drop and nudge the meager meal closer to Ibis, exhaling softly onto it so as to loosen the snow, to make it more palatable.

"it... it ain't much but--" It's something. Careful, heartfelt whispers, hoping to soothe, "i'll get ya some water somehow, but try'an lick th' snow." K would be sure to stay here, hoping his larger form and superior health would ensure maximum heat insulation so she needn't worry about the chill.

For now he could only watch, his simple offers made and his anticipation growing, though he did his best to bury it under one of his typical smiles. He had questions to ask. Stories to tell. But were any of them appropriate now? How could he know?

How could he know what this situation warranted at all?

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He deposited a frozen mound of something by the den's entrance. She sniffed at it softly, finding the stale scents and the chill emanating from the remains to be a queer thing to experience; but her belly moaned, and she hastily grabbed for it and pulled it close. Good thing she did that too, because Kukulkan began to wedge himself in that same opening. The eclipse of his body reminded Ibis of the sensation one has when falling asleep: the gradual slipping-away of awareness, the grey and the dark. She tensed and cuddled the frozen squirrel close until the apex of his movement and when the darkness settled around her, so too came the warmth from his burly body. The familiar smell of him, the timbre of his voice. She relaxed as much as she could thereafter, basking in the growing warmth within the den, and bent to inspect the squirrel.

With the scant light gathering in odd shapes where his body did not cover the entirety of the opening, Ibis could discern the quality of the squirrel, but more importantly she could see the shape of Kukulkan's face and the glimmering worry in his eyes. She tried to smile a little bit bigger, a little bit softer, and with her sombre little voice she says, It's perfect, thank you.

There was no need for him to be so afraid. She was awake now - in poor condition of course, but that was to be expected after being asleep for so long. Had he cared for her this entire time? Ibis tried not to think about all that she had missed during her slumber; she did not fully understand what had happened to her, and could not remember in any detail the moments leading up to her collapse, except for the warmth of a body and the comfort of a masculine figure upon the edge of the claim. In the moment, she forgot all about Tuathal's involvement (and the body they had found) and mentally replaced him with Kukulkan. Her protector.

The girl began to pick at the squirrel, then. Bird-like as always, peeling limbs from where they'd collected and frozen against the curvature of the belly. Cracked the base of the tail and separated it. Frost-bitten though the morsel was, any meal was a good meal for a wolf. Ibis carefully pulled the squirrel to pieces and began to crunch through the tiny bones thereafter, swallowing some parts whole, until only the spinal column and head were left behind.