Deep Blue Sky

North Glenn 
Saturday, November 10th
outfit plus jeans and hiking boots~
@Yana Novik

He'd meet her in the parking lot.

Incorrigible of him, perhaps, but Levka didn't trust Yana to not try and coerce him into staying in if she came inside to fetch him. It would be tempting, no doubt, to stay where it would be comfortable and private and they could maybe, really, catch up and put some paint on their freshly mended bridges. But winter put a certain life into him that summer had evaporated, and with the promise of real snow tonight, he couldn't help himself. He needed out. If she hated today, he'd spare her from outings into deeper snow later in the month that he'd surely take at least on his own, but he had to at least try.

The sky was bright and clear at this particular hour, which only made things more cold. Up at this elevation, it was practically bitter. A couple more weeks and the only people coming up this way would be those keen on fresh powder and hot cocoa.

Speaking of which, a couple of thermoses of the stuff were in his pack, along with water and a bit of food, and a rolled blanket. Simple provisions for a simple hike, really, but it would be quickly evident that he did not go out into these things unprepared. For all he--and she, despite all her likely complaining--was able to survive in the wild with nary a thing to his name besides his beast and some experience, there was some sanity in taking to the outdoors like a person rather than an animal.

So he waited, sat on the hood of his own car much like the last time she'd found him, but this time watching the entrance to the lot so that she couldn't stand a chance of sneaking up on him.

Outfit plus jeans and boots.

 Really, nothing was set in stone as to what they would be doing with their day - sure, he said he wanted to go hiking and she had agreed to it. But until she had one foot and then the other on the trail itself, that wasn't really something she was concerned about. In the meantime, she'd pool her energy into keeping him inside, even if that meant making it into a game or - her face fell, but she kept her cursing inside her own head when she turned into the parking lot and caught sight of him.

 Like a child or a beloved pet at the door, wiggling as he waited - ready to launch headfirst into the wilderness as if it weren't his own backyard. She exhaled, tried to rally what excitement she could before pushing open the car door and stretching. She pocketed her keys, grabbed her pack and swung it over one shoulder before she moved to join him.

 "Do you care to hear a secret, Levka?" She didn't care to wait to see if he did - instead dropping the smile as she stopped close enough to bump her legs into his. "It's cold."

Well, she certainly came prepared! He lit up even more as she approached, staying where he was only by virtue of the fact that he needed to lure her over here in the first place. Easy. Some of the hesitation from their last few engagements seemed to have gone by the wayside, and as she offered her 'secret' to him, he laughed lightly.

"Is it? I did not seem to notice." And with that, he reached over her, aiming to pull her into his chest because it was definitely decidedly warmer there, and hopefully she would find less to complain about for a moment.

"Another secret," he muttered to her. "It has warmed up since I texted you."

She would have balked at the climate of his bedroom this morning and it was a real shame she hadn't been there.

 No fussing about the hug, letting herself be roped in and wrapping her arms around his middle as she laid the side of her face against his chest and watched her breath turn to smoke as she sighed heavily. "Has it?" It had, of course - but still, she dug her nails into his sides by way of punishment.

 "If I get sick, I'm going to kill you." Obviously she wouldn't but that was beside the point as she straightened up and pulled down her hat further to cover her ears.

She could claw at him all she wanted--a few harsh fingers were well worth enjoying this weather and encouraging her to do the same. There was something unbelievably appealing about her breath misting on the air. Almost more potent on creatures like them, as warm as they ran. She straightened up and he moved his hands to her shoulders, then her chin with one for a moment. Just looked at her for one bright-eyed moment, then he was standing up without mind of her personal space, wheeling her around towards the passenger side of his car.

Opening her door could have been mistaken as chivalrous, but really it was an insistent ushering. "You can be in charge of the heater on the way to trailhead. No complaining," Insisting would only go so far, though, knowing her. "You get sick, I will take full responsibility."

A couple seconds, and he'd join her in his spot in the driver's seat, rubbing his hands briskly together a moment before he stuck the key in the ignition.

 As soon as he turned the key she reached out and dialed the heat to high for the sole sake of being spiteful and proving a point. She pushed the air as far as she could, reaching out after a moment and turning the vents towards him when the heat became stifling. "Don't tell me what to do." And it definitely wasn't a whine because that would constitute as unqueenly behavior from one such as herself.

 After a while it was too much to bear even for her, a short-lived form of spitefulness as she quickly turned the knob back down to something manageable. "Now that I know how you'll make me endure winter I'll see to it we make summer that much more miserable for you next year."

The heat was atrocious. There was a temptation to roll down the window in turn, really test who could win the temperature wars, but the idea of half his face being hot and the other not was somehow even less appealing that bearing the heater for as long as Yana could stand it. Thankfully, petty gestures only lasted so long today, and he breathed a very short sigh of relief as the heat relented.

He sometimes missed the old volkswagen, if only for the fact that its heater had been absolute trash. The audi was almost too nice for him.

"What, you do not like seeing me enjoy myself?" he asked, knowing he was just asking for it taking it this way. But in a way, he rather missed the harmless barbs without the needling doubt of how much she did or did not mean it.

He turned them off of the main road already, to a side track that took them deeper into the forest while still being (mostly) paved.

 "Oh, of course not." Her voice lifted the slightest bit, hardly missing a beat as he calmly set them up and she readily knocked it all backdown. "When you're in your element you get all smiley, it's horrid." But in lieu of all that they were coming up from, it didn't sit right to throw insult (however fake) and leave it like that. And so she reached over, flicked up in the upper arm and give the smallest grimace of a smile before she returned her attention to trying to predict the winding road ahead of them.

"It's just a pity that outside of being judgemental with me, your interests are awful."

He would continue to be horrid, unable to stop this particular mood that had taken him and not caring to try. All smiles as he leaned a bit back into his seat and in towards her, one hand on the wheel while he gave her a sidelong glance.

"I am interested in you and you are not awful," he pointed out, eyes scanning the treeline for the marker for the particular trail he wanted. There were a few good ones out this way, but he was going for one in particular that was both simple but rewarding. It was cold enough that making her mountain climb probably wouldn't turn her around on this mountaineering business.

An incline to keep them warm and a view to make it seem like they'd gone somewhere--he knew just the place, of course.

 That merited a scoff, the slightest little sound of apparent protest. "I know of a good few people who would argue otherwise." Some dead, some living - none of whom present and accounted for in her life any longer. "Mountaineering is awful at face value - nothing about this sounds pleasant. I'm awful on the inside." And even as she said it, she reached over to pinch his arm with just the very tips of her fingers.

Nothing about this sounded pleasant!? He was offended! But also not offended because he continued to be so into this that he would have happily dragged her bodily from the car when the time came and not missed a beat.

Spotting the sign that read 'Kensington Falls', worn and faded by rather legible otherwise, he paused to turn left and instead sat there a moment and snapped his teeth briefly at her for the pinch. "You are not," he countered firmly. "Those who think so simply do not know what amazing is even if it hits them in the face."

And then they turned off into the narrow entrance of the pine needle covered parking pad. Enough room for maybe a dozen cars, no lines. Only one other car out here--surprising that anyone was on the trail at all, really. Wouldn't deter him, though, from backing the audi into a spot while eying Yana and daring her to try and argue with his opinion of her.

 Her elbow found a perch on the sill of the passenger window when he took to scolding her as if she were a worrisome child, smiling behind the fingers to pressed to her lips as she watched him from the corner of her eye. "Soft." Even as she said it, reaching out to give his hand a squeeze just as he finished parking.

 Reluctant to get out but eager to adjust and get the worst of it over and done with, she pushed open the door and pulled up the zipper of her coat higher still. He knew the worst of it by then, the things she had done and that she had not - if he wanted to insist she was no worse for it, it was flattering enough that she wouldn't argue.

Soft was a word he was growing less and less offended by, and as he put his heels to the pavement just outside the car, his bag reclaimed from the back seat, all he could think was she was not putting up near as much a fuss as he'd feared. Well fear was maybe the wrong word, but anticipated. Didn't even have to coax her from the rather warm car and out into the biting air.

Wasn't even going to mock her or try and draw complaints from her for now, though. As soon as the car was locked up, he offered her his hand, to tug her in close to the warmth of his side and lead her out of the tiny lot and to a set of overrun stone steps that would take them up to the trail. Worn by feet over the summer, by time the coming snow melted there would be a need to wear it all down again.

Keep moving and no one would freeze up, he was certain.

"So I was thinking," he prompted to attain her curiosity, and left it there as he glanced at her, still as bright-eyed as he had been when she'd found him waiting for her at the lodge.

 It was easy to hone in on the little bit of skin-to-skin contact, the relative comfort of his hand in hers versus more or less everything else. With her free hand, she pulled up the hood of her jacket to block the worst of the wind. "You were?" She let go just enough to turn her hold the slightest bit, lace her fingers with his. "I do so love it when you take the time to do that ..."

"Замолчи," he said without tones of offense, stifling the laugh that came with his upbeat mood in tandem with her poking fun. He shoved his shoulder to hers enough to push her a little, but kept her hand. Tugging her back to him after a moment, he pocketed both her hand and his wound together into the confines of his coat. If nothing else, that bit of them would be warm. It would also be difficult for her to wrestle away from.

Honestly, he thought about a lot of things. There was plenty he could have said after such a leading beginning. From the practical to the wildly fanciful daydreams--some of it would be kept to himself, for now, but the point was that there was no lack of thoughts.

"What if we, come spring maybe, do a joint hunt? Yours and mine--or at least the ones who would be interested."

"Shut up."


 "You shut up." Juvenile as it was, immediate as she came back to knock into him in turn and squeezed his hand as if to reiterate that it was all in good fun. "Most of mine would be interested." An immediate response, grateful at least that he would pitch the idea as a springtime endeavor and not something immediate. With all that they had going on in their personal affairs, she doubted Mathis or Isolde would be particularly interested in frolicking through the snow with a bunch of bears.

"When it warms, let's do it - not now, you'd have an unfair advantage in the hunt."

Most of hers would be interested--and he imagined most of his would be, as well. Though the bears did not often make a point of hunting together, it was the sort of bonding experience they needed more of. Just meant a bit of work, to sate everyone's needs. And the cheetahs were welcome to the scraps. This, the sort of tease that he didn't say out loud but did think to himself with a smile.

"What, do your cats get all slippery in the snow?" A better track for derisive comments, if only because it had the amusing mental image to go with it. "Bit like stilts on ice?"

 "Hardly." There was venom there, even if it wasn't the violent sort - the slightest hitch to her tone as she knocked her hip into his a bit more pointedly. "It's just that if we go in the spring I get to look back and fondly watch as you try to follow in my footsteps like a wise amateur." Not so quick to allow that to slide, the idea that they were domesticated and finicky ... even if winter was absolutely miserable.

He bit his tongue to try and kill the smile, but it was a battle.

"Hmm, I suppose I do look forward to watching you run, even if it must be from behind."

It was no small part of his musings--wondering how their nature of give and take would operate when they were both beastly creatures. He'd dealt with her cat precisely once, and while he trusted her regardless of form, he was curious about that potential edge. Just no whistling at her--he'd remember.

"You tell me when it is warm enough for you to get traction and I will hustle the bears."

The path wound up among the trees, little spots and patches of snow that had just barely stuck in the shadows and crevices. If it snowed tonight, he'd be back out on his own on similar trails just to enjoy it.

 Her posture straightened, shooting him a look at the friendly reassurance of sorts that felt oddly pleasant considering they were just wrapping up a spree of telling one another to shut up. "March, once the last of the frost should be behind us - if we're going to have the disadvantage of being away from home, we're at least going to have the comfort of the terrain." Able to see it from a mile away, the potential for this to become a contest.

 She minded her footing, avoided ice and snow and turned to briefly press the tip of her nose to his arm when it felt particularly cold. "We should make a game of it, perhaps."

March seemed altogether too far and too close. This would be a fun event, but entertaining the idea of the snow being gone before it had really even arrived was a bummer. Yana didn't need to love the snow, but it was one of the few things Levka actively looked forward to as a 'future event' in the broad sense of the world. Very much a man of the now--but it could always stand to be snowing, couldn't it?

But he was getting his way today, and in turn she could have her way in a few months. If they hadn't been actively moving up a trail, he would have been doing more to keep her warm, bu the hadn't brought her out to this specific trail just to torture her.

"Hm... what fashion of game? It must be fair--if you just make it a race there will be complaints."

 "Of course not, you're a sore loser and if it were a contest of speed you wouldn't even have the illusion of possible victory." She scoffed as if the idea itself was completely and totally absurd. "I was thinking perhaps we could compare what we take down - make a meal of it after, assuming we have any table scraps for you when all is said and done." The occasional blow of the wind that made the chill that much worse, making it harder to want to soften herself.

Another scoff, which she likely wanted in the first place. "If you are thinking that is a contest you will win, you have never met a hungry and motivated bear."

They'd terrorize a whole swath of forest with such a contest. "But we must do it. It will be good to have friendly strife." If nothing else, a good outlet, and a better bonding experience than more mundane options.

"I think I know just the area for this." He knew the Glenn better and better these days. Knew the remote dale that would be teeming with life come March. Found it on a shift a while back, much like he'd found the waterfall he was taking her on towards today.

A little bit of pride in his territory, he supposed.

 "Do you?" It was said like an uneasy question as if she had a healthy degree of doubt and was content to just entertain him for the time being. "Well, next time you're in Belle Vista I can show you the best spot for a good seafood paella in town." She kept her voice forward, tried to sound serious even as she made light of her largely different terrain.

"Regardless, it's a date."

He began to wonder if he was going to need to threaten to put her in the waterfall when they got there. He wouldn't actually do it--even he wouldn't exactly enjoy hiking back down wet and cold and he dared to believe it would be unforgivable to Yana... but all the same, it was a threat worth grumbling at her for all her shade.

All this talk of food was making him hungry, too.

"It is a date, indeed," he agreed, taking heart in the fact that they could still confidently do such things.

Tugging on her hand, he urged their shared pace up. They had some ground to cover, and the faster they moved, the warmer she would be and the sooner he could take her back home to try and convince her to stay in the Glenn today longer than the hike would demand.

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