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How Sammy Met Andee

A gay jaunt into the memories of how Sirca's favorite couple came to be, as transcribed by CrossroadsPony

Verse 1 | Verse 2 | Verse 3 | Verse 4 | Verse 5 | Verse 6 | Verse 7 | Verse 8 | Verse 9 | Verse 10 | Verse 11

Verse 12 | Verse 13 | Verse 14 | Verse 15 | Verse 16 | Verse 17 | Verse 18 | Verse 19 | Verse 20

Verse 20: Hey Sunshine

"Bullshit, bat, your fast-talkin' might work on the two-bit hoopies crawlin' around in the mud, but I know hot air when I feel it blowin' across my ass."

Andee wrinkled his muzzle and threw his arms irritably toward the monster of a chupa standing behind the sharp-tongued woman, doubling as both intimidation and a shield from the setting sun as his massive frame cast a dark shadow across the small group. "Oh, what the shit?! Now it's okay for her to friggin' curse?!?"

"We're in a private settin'," Miss Sov replied briskly before flashing a wan smile. "Means I can let my mane down."

She wasn't wrong. The last-minute nature of Andee's request for a meeting had come with a few conditions, most of which put the bat-and-rebel duo at a disadvantage. Miss Sov didn't have her usual pack of goons hovering around them, as there hadn't been room for more than two additional hoopsters in the small speedboat they'd taken out to meet Andee and Samael on the Vossler Sea. But they were still backup in addition to her behemoth husband, while Andee had only his fearless redneck with no equivalent means of rapid escape -- their meeting place was the deck of the goddamn sailboat that he and Samael had used to reach the agreed-upon coordinates.

"Well then, I'm gonna fuckin' talk the way I fuckin' like," Andee retorted as he strutted in a small circle in front of the hoop leader, a gentle breeze ruffling his wings while the heavy sail danced slowly at their backs. "And I ain't kissin' your ass or blowin' any fuckin' hot air up there, woman! This info is legit!"

"Private setting also means we can sink a coupla yappy mongrels and no one would even notice," Michael Sov growled as he reached into his jacket. Andee smirked and caught a flash of Samael's hand shifting to his own waistband, holding up a wing before either of them could grip into anything regretful.

"Aw, calm ya fuckin' tits, ya giant junkyard dog," Andee grumbled before flipping his nose ring in Miss Sov's direction. "You think I'd call you assholes up if I didn't have somethin' good? This ain't no second-hand info, neither; me and Fiffy dug this shit up ourselves!" He dropped his hands to his hips with a smug grin. "And you can't fuckin' tell me you ain't been makin' good use of those access cards. I listen to the fuckin' bands, been a whole buncha break-ins to big-time banks 'n armories that the House strangely can't get no leads on. Wonder why that is, huh?"

He felt Samael relaxing behind him and smiled to himself. He was truly starting to appreciate the puppy's ability as an emotional barometer. Wasn't more than a moment or two that passed before Miss Sov's sour expression smoothed, even as she gave an apathetic shrug.

"That deal's been closed and done, Andee -- you've gotten your reward and the two'a you been granted partnership. Don't knock on no doors you ain't got the key for," she responded flatly before her eyes flicked to Samael. Andee masked his grimace in anticipation. The stupid midget hadn't been so keen on this idea, and the last thing he needed was for the bastard's moral compass to steer them away from their treasure. "You both got the gift of a silver-tongue, but only one'a you knows what real loyalty is."

Andee flinched but kept his maw shut. Another test from this clever cunt. He only gave her a dour look before glancing over his shoulder expectantly. Samael's eyes were there to meet him, and the bat scowled at the turbulent blue seas that crashed upon his shores, a harsh contrast to the calm waters surrounding their impromptu meeting.

He grit his teeth and dug his claws into his palms, regretting the decision to even bring this dumb son-of-a-bitch -- he could have convinced Sov by himself, and he sure as shit didn't need Samael's protection. These assholes wouldn't dare to touch him, not with the kind of benefits they could provide each other. No, the only mistake here was having Samael tag along, and now he was gonna ruin the--

His furious thoughts fizzled into muted surprise as he watched the hesitation in Samael's gaze shift slowly to one of adoration. One of trust.

Every negative emotion dissipated as Andee reveled in the silent supplication.

The stout rebel squirmed and shifted his weight for a second, his tail flicking to one side in a motion that Andee was learning to watch for. But he eventually nodded and lifted his eyes to Miss Sov while tipping his muzzle downward in respect. "Andee's got the right of it, ma'am. We ain't went down there fer no day-hike, we was lookin' fer artifacts. An'...we found some. We..." He chewed on the inside of his cheek, but another glance down to Andee assuaged whatever misgivings might have been bothering Nelson's good little soldier as he continued slowly: "We found some ol' computer equipment down 'ere, too. Recovered a,, hard-data."

"'Hard drive', ya dumbass," Andee corrected while giving Samael a wink and then looking triumphantly back toward Miss Sov. "See! I ain't no fuckin' liar!"

"Sounds like you fed 'im the script before we got here," Miss Sov replied drolly. "And I don't think you cut the pieces up small enough."

Andee twitched and opened his maw to ready a sharp retort, then paused when Samael took a step closer, his hand brushing gently against the bat's ear. "Sorry, ma'am," the rebel chuckled. "I ain't too good with them technological terms." Andee crossed his arms confidently while maintaining the cool grin; he heard the mask Samael slid into place, a delight to behold when it wasn't being used against him. "All we did was dig it up, let the smarter folks take a peep inside. And hoo boy, lemme tell ya -- I might not be no rocket scientologist, but what we saw in that li'l driver-thing had to be some kinda crazy House secret project! Weren't like nothin' I ever seent before!"

Honesty oozed from Samael's voice like a rich nectar, and Miss Sov was the greedy hummingbird swooping in to partake. Andee loved and hated the reminder of just how goddamn well Samael's talents meshed with his own. "That the Mother Cat's truth?" she demanded, even as her eyes gleamed eagerly. "Like I said -- ya both got slick jaws." She held out a hand with a haughty grin. "Let me have my people take a look. Guarantee I got better equipment and better crew who could really pull it apart..."

Andee could all but feel Samael bristling at the slight against his stupid, chubby nerd boyfriend, snorting and swiftly waving an arm again before he could say something idiotic. "Feh, you've met Nelson -- you think she's gonna let us walk around with somethin' that hot?! Puh-leeze!" he scoffed. "But we got access to it, not to mention a few fine little numbers we brought up outta that ice alongside it!"

She lowered her hand while narrowing her periwinkle stare into a laser-like beam that locked onto the bat. "Do ya now? And where, pray tell, are ya keepin' this precious cargo? Last I heard you didn't even trust your own people back in your home town..."

Andee squinted back at her before smirking and puffing his chest out. "You think I ain't gonna make use of the fuckin' safest base across all the Movement? I got a place so far inside Nelson's stronghold that you'd hafta grind her cooch just to find the fuckin' door!"

Miss Sov raised an eyebrow but lifted a hand before her brainless lunk of a husband could snarl. "Maybe you ain't as dumb as you look," she replied churlishly. "Must be nice havin' a trophy wife livin' inside a rebel base. Just about untouchable, ain't it?"

The bat opened his muzzle but a low drawl replied first.

"Just about."

Andee resisted making a face at Samael's uninvited response, though the words came out so calmly that he wasn't about to complain. Miss Sov glowered over at the squat chupa before smiling briefly back down at Andee. "Two'a you haven't let us down yet. I'm willin' to take it on good faith. I'll look forward to whatever else you find out...and to sweeten the pot, I'm gonna call you up on a gig we're plannin' in a week or so. Gonna have a heist we could use an extra man on." She paused and smirked at Samael. "Or at least half'a one." Andee flattened his expression while Samael only gave his usual lopsided grin. Miss Sov spun on a heel as Michael moved automatically to help her hop back onto their speedboat. "Keep up the good word, boyos. You ain't dealin' with no two-buck swamp-suckers anymore, Andee -- you stay smart and it'll work out for us both."

Andee lobbed a sour expression at her back, leaving his dumbass partner to offer the cheery smile and wave as the four hoopsters sped off toward the distant Honkal shores.

"That fuckin' bitch really startin' to get on my nerves with her snarky-ass mouth," he muttered.

He flinched at Samael's hand gripping tenderly into his shoulder, though the soothing baritone of the chupa's laugh melted some of the ice despite his best efforts. "I think maybe yer jus' mad that someone else c'n sling as much sass as you, hon!" Andee rolled his eyes. "And uh...what was all that 'bout havin' a spot at Sidewinder? Y'know I got yer back, but I ain't exactly got no secret safe in my room or nothin'..."

"Yeah, no shit, your 'room' don't even got a fuckin' door, and you can't hide nothin' under that shitty bed-nest 'cept the jizz you somehow missed lickin' up," Andee retorted while flitting out of the way so Samael could yank up the anchor and steer them back toward the frozen cliffs. "Eh, so I bluffed a little...but that don't mean we ain't in serious need of settin' up a little somethin'-somethin'!" Samael tilted his head curiously and Andee grinned back while hopping onto the mainstay and gesturing broadly with his wings. "Look, maybe I don't mind givin' ya fuckin' fellow dumbass rebels a peep show now and then...but sometimes I want a little fuckin' privacy!"

Samael's delighted coo certainly didn't sound like a protest. "I'm down fer that!" He then paused and scratched at his head before lifting a finger. "Oooh, and you need a place to stash some of yer loot, too!"

"Our loot, Fiffy," Andee corrected with a warmer smile than he intended. "Look, we're runnin' serious business now. My apartment's great 'n all, but it's already pretty fuckin' packed! Plus if I gotta keep comin' out here to visit your ass, then...we needs ourselves a fuckin' hideaway, 'cause I ain't always in the mood to play no fuckin' social games."

"Sheeeit, you ain't almost never in the mood," Samael replied cheekily before beaming enormously. "But it's jus' what we talked 'bout after the Himroc! Fuck yeah, I think I know just the place fer our li'l love-nest, too!! It's warm 'n wet, just the way ya like it!"

Andee snorted and squinted down at his partner from the wooden beam. "Love-nest, god, ya such a fuckin' fruitcake...but yeah, yeah, then put ya ass to some good use instead of usin' it to cradle dick, get that shit set up and I'll bring us a li'l care package from Xulod to make it cozy."

Samael nodded brightly, then tipped a more careful smile toward the bat. "Hey, so...I actually got the next day or so off, more or less. Nelson don't want me runnin' nowhere too far while she 'n Trevor keep pickin' through that data."

"Good, you can get started on makin' me a vault," Andee answered dismissively as he glided down from the sail to perch near the rudder. "Don't want yo fuckin' Momma to know about it, anyhow, the nosy bitch."

Samael laughed and stepped closer with the same cautious smile. "Actually, um...I was wonderin' -- you wanna come with me out to Sampi?"

Andee pursed his lips. "We's already goin' there, dumbass, or didja forget that's where ya fuckin' base is?"

The rebel chortled easily and eased a bit closer still. "Naw, naw, I mean...I mean Sampi, uh. Out to my caves. Where I was raised 'n stuff."

Memories of a tender promise reared in Andee's head and he cursed himself for the moment of weakness. "Why'd I wanna do that? I got caves'a my own -- and from ya own words, they's way better'n yours!"

Samael reached out to gently stroke one of his ears and the bat fought every single instinct to close his eyes happily. "Aww, mah li'l jungle-hawk...c'mon, said the next time we had some time off--"

Andee pulled back just enough for his ear to flick free, huffing and flapping his wings once. "Eh, we had some fuckin' free time right after Highguard when you was in ya cast...and then when I fucked ya all over that ladder...and when me 'n Mutt ran our li'l train on ya." He grinned haughtily. "You wasn't whinin' about visiting your nasty old caves then."

The chupa wavered for a beat, then pressed forward with that goddamn perseverance Andee still didn't know how to feel about. "Them li'l trips wasn't no more'n a couple periods long. We got time for a proper visit, now."

Andee chewed on his lip as he narrowed his eyes. One final round in the chamber. "We coulda gone while you was off gettin' the ruff fucked outta you by York."

Samael froze...but then set himself and reached out to grasp into both of Andee's shoulders. The bat wanted to tear away, rip himself out of the vulnerability, yet something in Samael's eyes forced him to suffer the unwelcome affection. "I ain't makin' no more excuses for that. An' if you wanna talk about it, or...or jus' get mad at me some more, I'm here for it," he murmured. "But...I ain't been to see my tribe in over a year and. And I really want you to go with me."

This motherfucker's backbone had truly straightened ever since he'd showed up at Andee's door with those stupid red rocks. He made a note to address it later.

Andee sucked on his teeth before sighing loudly and peeling Samael's fingers from his shoulder. "Fuckin'...fine, fine, fuck me, whatever...I been meanin' to find out if all this incest bullshit is for real or not, anyway."

Samael squealed excitedly and wrapped him in a tight hug as the bat's eyes bulged and he flailed wildly against him "Thank you so much, hon! I gotta truck we c'n use and everything!"

"Fuckin' fantastic," Andee wheezed into his shoulder as he planted his feet against his partner's stomach and tried to shove away. "Now put me down, goddammit, so I can find some fuckin' barbecue sauce for ya fuckin' family to use when they try to cook me up or some shit..."

"Oh, I already got the perfect one fer you, sugar-flaps -- sweet 'n spicy!"

"I fuckin' hate you, Fiffy..."

"So the parent-folk, they's responsible fer most'a the small stuff, yeah? Any kinda decision that's gonna affect the kids 'n shit...but the council, them's the elders an' they's in charge of stuff like...y'know, how far our borders is, an' when do we change up our huntin' area. They's also the ones who get the final say on whether or not someone's maturity test is passed, an'--"

Andee screwed up his muzzle as the seventh explanation continued to not answer any of his goddamn questions. "What the fuck kinda crazy incest-soup is you motherfuckers makin' out here?!" he interjected as he flung his arms wide, one wing smacking against the window in protest of the gentle flurries drifting past the pickup truck as it carved a path through the tundra. "All I asked is who the fuck your fuckin' chief is! Whose dick do I gotta suck if I want the inside line on any new Xulod-Redneck trade deals?!"

Samael giggled and smiled affectionately at his companion, making Andee scowl that much harder. "We ain't got no chief, sweetie-pie! Plus some'a the elders ain't even got no dicks, so I'm not sure what yer gonna grind them sexy li'l buck-teeth on, anyhow!"

Andee's eyes bulged. "You tellin' me not only do you not got no fuckin' leader, but ya little old-ass, crusty-ass orgy ring at the top'a the ladder got broads in it, too!?"

Samael grinned crookedly across the cab again as he rested an arm over the steering wheel. "Shit, hon, I ain't never heard you tell Nelson she can't do what she do just 'cause she's got girly-parts!"

"I still ain't convinced she got them parts," Andee grumbled, thrusting a finger against Samael's chest to add: "And same goes for fuckin' Miss Sov! And keep ya eyes on the fuckin' drive, too! I don't wanna end up stranded in some frozen-ass jizz-cave like York and the bitchy squirrel!"

The chupa laughed again while waving off Andee and gazing through the windshield again. "Y'all jungle-folk is!"

"The word's 'misogynist' and we ain't misogynistical," Andee grumbled while crossing his arms. "Women just ain't made to do certain shit, just like mens ain't, neither!"

Samael's grin curled into delighted territory. "Sheeeit, House says men ain't s'posed to suck no dick, but I think I do a'right..."

Andee failed to hide his bemused grin in return. "Aw, fuck off, Fiffy...anyway, don't change the goddamn fact that you and you's backwards-ass tribe got some fucked up ideas of how to run a joint. How's the fuck anyone get nothin' done if there ain't no big boss at the top?!"

Samael shrugged before reaching over and dragging Andee across the center console before he could protest, pulling him securely to his side. "I 'unno! We make it work, though, pack's always been kinda like...well. Like a big ol' family!"

"Yeah, ya bald, stumpy, blue-dicked ass is proof of just how much family there is," Andee grumbled while folding his arms even more securely around himself. But it was hard to deny that Samael's body provided some welcome warmth to combat the biting cold that the semi-functional heaters of the truck failed to beat back. He sighed and squirmed a bit closer before glancing up. Samael, the weird jackass, still had no shirt...but even he'd looped a thick scarf around his neck before they'd started the journey into the heart of Sampi. "Christ, do all you fuckin' tundra-tufts go shirtless out here? My beautiful bat-dick's 'boutta freeze off, and I got more fuzz than most of us motherfuckers!"

"Haw, we's just used to it," Samael reasoned before winking. "Good few of my people do go topless, though, yup. Even some'a the ladies!"

Andee groaned and shoved at him, though he couldn't help his own entertained snicker as Samael tittered away. "Now I know ya fuckin' lyin' -- you woulda left home even earlier if ya hadda stare at some fuckin' bare-ass tiddies growin' up..."

"Earlier than I already did," Samael replied, his tone finally softening a bit as a different kind of smile drifted into place. Andee looked up at him again and bit the inside of his muzzle but remained silent. "Sometimes I wonder how many'a them elders knew...knew what Tracer was, um..."

Andee frowned and settled against Samael while staring through the snow-specked windshield. He'd had his chance to try and push the chupa away when he'd first learned the truth of his relationship with Tracer. But he'd decided to wander right into that giant fucking chasm and now there wasn't an easy way out. "Feh. Maybe they did. Maybe they let ya go anyway 'cause they ain't wanted your short-ass genes gettin' spilled back into the family stew." He hunched his shoulders and then tacked on in a low mumble: "Their fuckin' loss."

He felt the warmth from Samael's grateful smile as the arm around his shoulders squeezed him tenderly. "I ain't mad 'bout where I ended up," he replied quietly.

Andee huffed and reached up to tug down on the brim of his cap. "Yeah, well I'm mad about where we's going, so shaddup 'n get us there already, get this redneck reunion done with..."

"...I don't see no fuckin' cave, Fiffy."

He glanced over to see a bright grin on his companion's features as the chupa tossed the loose end of the scarf over a shoulder. "That's 'cause we's all outta road, sweet-thing! Gotta go on foot for the last bit."

Andee's expression flattened and he shoved a finger toward the windshield. "Motherfucker, we ain't had no road to begin with! This is an off-road truck!"

Samael's toothy smile didn't waver as he opened the truck door and hopped out with a cackle, landing in freshly-fallen snow that nearly went past his shins. "Yeah, but we's all outta off-road, too! C'mon, ain't too far from here, I promise!" He shuffled over to the bed of the pickup, pulling back the canvas and then extricating his bright-red guitar from where he'd tucked it among the emergency supplies.

Andee made a horrible face at the brisk blast of air that flooded the cab, immediately curling his wings around himself once more. "Fuckin' hell, I thought it was bad on top'a Sidewinder," he complained, shivering and glaring out of the truck as Samael slid an arm through the strap of his guitar, then shifted it around so it rested snugly against his back. "Why the fuck did you bring that thing again?"

"My people love music! An' I wanna show off the awesome gift my awesome bat-friend got me!" Samael sang out while beaming brightly at him.

Andee found it difficult to be pissed off about that. Luckily he had other things to be pissed off about instead. "Ugh. The fuck you smilin' about?"

"Snow's stopped fallin', the sun's..." Samael paused and squinted up at the overcast skies before firing a pair of finger-guns. "Well at least it stopped snowin'! It's a gorgeous Sampi day, and there ain't no better way to spend it than a li'l hike with my favorite li'l fruit-bat!"

"I'mma gut you and use you as a fuckin' parka, you keep bein' so fuckin' happy," Andee growled. But when Samael maintained the cheerful expression and offered a hand, Andee had little recourse beyond a long, annoyed sigh and reaching out so the dumb puppy could pull him out of the cab and into a whole new level of regret.

"Oh f-f-fuckin' hell," he stammered as the frigid temperatures immediately enveloped his slender frame while his legs sunk almost entirely into the snow. "Nope, nope, nope, what the fuck, who lives out here?!" he shouted, turning around to scramble back into the truck, only to be thwarted as Samael slammed the door shut and quickly pranced out of reach. "Fiffy, goddammit, l-l-lemme back in!"

"C'mon, hon, you'll warm up if you start movin'!" Samael called back as his tail piercing jangled joyfully. "It ain't even that windy today!"

Andee stared at the chupa as he bounced impatiently at the heavy treeline that had halted their vehicular progress, slowly rubbing a hand at his face. "Oh my g-god, I'm gonna f-f-freeze to death and the only witness gonna b-be a retarded snow-dwarf who won't even be able to spell out nothin' on my f-fuckin' shrine-stone..."

"I'll draw you up a real nice dick on it, though!" Samael replied earnestly. "Let's go, let's go!"

Andee groaned again and then grimaced as he unfurled his wings, flapping them a few times in the bitter cold. "Swear to god, I'mma stab him, I'mma stab him right in his fuckin' ass," he muttered to himself before throwing himself awkwardly out of the snowdrift and lifting his shivering body into the air. His eyes bulged at the numbing chill that raced over his wings but he did his best to shove past it as he flit messily toward the chupa. "Lead the fuckin' way, then, b-before I turn into a f-fuh-fuckin' batsicle!"

"Mmm, wouldn't mind slurpin' on that for a nice li'l treat!" Samael teased, his eyes locked on Andee as the mumbling bat beat his wings rapidly and turned a few circles above the chupa's head. "Warm you right up, I bet..."

"Ain't no li'l treat last time I checked," Andee shot back, making a face as the thick cloud of his own breath washed over him. "F-fuck, it's cold...I might take your horny ass up on that, christ..."

Samael chuckled and cocked his head up to his partner. "Ain't no struggle fer me to carry you, hon!"

"Fuh-fuh-fuck th-that!" Andee spat out even as he stole a look at the chupa's ample chest fur. "I ain't no bitch, and I gotta be able to get away if your duh-dumbass family thinks you's br-br-bringin' m-me as a m-meal!"

Samael let out another affectionate laugh while twisting around to jog toward into the overgrown forest, leaving Andee and his stubborn pride to pursue with his dignity intact and his extremities numb.

But after thirty or forty minutes of flying through the bitter air, Andee's pride begged for surrender and the bat had been forced to grit his teeth and angle himself down toward his partner. Fortunately, Samael wasn't making a concerted effort to get the shit slapped out of him, only smiling quietly and unwrapping his scarf for Andee to hurriedly bundle himself in as he planted himself atop the chupa's broad shoulders. He hunched over Samael's head while soothing his wounded ego with a near-endless barrage of complaints about the worst territory on Sirca and why it needed to be carved out of the ring and flung into the sun.

It was impossible to not be at least quietly impressed by Samael's conditioning, though, as he continued at his cheerful trot for another half-hour despite trouncing through snow that sometimes reached his hips. The chupa remained silent for the most part, apparently entertained enough by Andee's continuous bitch-fest. But it wasn't until even the jangle of his tail piercing stopped ringing out that the bat frowned and leaned down to peer into his companion's eyes. "You havin' some kinda snow-stroke, Fiffy? You ain't said shit for --"

He blinked and stumbled into speechlessness when Samael only raised a fist. Part of him wanted to tear into the asshole for daring to cut him off, but the rest of him was curious by the squared-up stance he could feel Samael settling into beneath him. The bat tilted his head slightly while Samael kept moving forward at a casual stride before he reached down surreptitiously to scoop some snow into a hand. "The fuh--"

"Ahead 'n to the left. Got one at our back, too," Samael remarked with a sly smile. Andee immediately frowned as his ears swiveled -- he hadn't detected a damn thing.

"You chewin' some snatch? I ain't hear shiii--yeep!" Andee yelped, cut off from his own indignation as Samael suddenly twisted around and lobbed a packed ball of snow behind them. He clung to Samael's head and stared in confusion as the projectile smacked into a near-invisible figure pressed against a tree, its target squawking in shock.

Andee turned his bewildered attention ahead again as Samael batted at a nearby drift with his tail to send a plume of powder and crystals into the air, then squatted low and moved with terrifying ease through the snow toward a thicket of white-frosted trees. The bat could do little more than simply be part of the action as he watched a second interloper lean out to squint at the cloud of disturbed snow, turning their head a moment too late to see Samael approaching from behind and pouncing at them with a grin.

Andee wrapped his arms tighter around his partner's skull with a shout of protest as they tackled into the stranger. Samael laughed while shoving the other chupa's head down into the snow, bounding away just as swiftly to land in a crouch several feet away.

The first lurker stumbled toward them while rubbing the remnants of the snowball from their features, cursing loudly as Andee spotted a longbow in their other hand. Andee frowned and ducked down closer to his partner's hunched form while whispering frantically: "Fiffy, what the fuck?!"

"Goddammit, Samael, that's how you get yerself shot, you tiny sumbitch!" the bow-wielding chupa bellowed, even as they grinned through the white powder dusting their muzzle. "The fuck you doin' back here?!"

Andee studied the figure for a moment, realizing after a second or two that they appeared to be a female. She looped the bow around her arm while smirking at the two and crossing frighteningly muscular arms over her chest. She wore some kind of cloak made from what appeared to be off-white hides -- no doubt the reason she'd blended into the snow, especially considering the near-jet-black fur that covered her broad body.

...Andee hated to admit how impressed he was with Samael's performance, since he'd neither smelled nor heard the two scouts. A little bit of him was annoyed since there was no fuckin' way no stupid chupa had better senses than a bat...but he also supposed Samael was back in his element. He'd shown a sliver of these talents when he'd tracked down those bastards at Highguard, after all, and it made sense they'd be on full display out here in Buttfuck, Nowhere.

His attention shifted to their second stalker when they pushed themselves out of the snow with a muffled laugh, brushing at their own features while a pair of eyes nearly as blue as Samael's twinkled in entertainment. "Shrimp! Yer back! An'...holy shit, did you have a kid?!?"

Andee was distracted from the size of the other chupa -- the brown-furred bastard had to be nearly as huge as York -- to try and figure out what the guy meant. What the fuck did he mean, kid?

"Yeah, what the hell, we thought you left 'cause you ran after seein' Sara's cooch and ain't never stopped runnin'!" the female cackled. "Never 'spected you'd comin' bouncin' back with a pup on yer back!"

Andee blanched at the realization, promptly throwing his wings wide with an indignant huff. "Ay, ya assholes, I ain't no fuckin' smelly chupa-runt!!"

The male interloper gawked and flailed backward, his arms windmilling in an unsuccessful attempt to stop himself from tumbling back into a pile of snow. "M-M-Mother Sirca!" he cried out as the female stared stupidly as well, her jaw hanging open. "It's a fuckin'...fuckin'...what the fuck is it?!"

Samael beamed and grasped into both of Andee's thighs while puffing his chest out proudly. "I want y'all to meet Andee! He's a real-live-walkin'-talkin' bat!!"

Andee glowered past the scarf that half-covered his features, a bolt of self-consciousness running through him. Yeah, this was about what he was expecting.

"Whuh...where's he from?" the female sputtered as she leaned closer with her eyes wide. "Izze some kin'a House experiment?!"

"I ain't come outta no fuckin' test-tube!" Andee shouted as he scrunched down against Samael's skull. "And I sure as fuck ain't come from no cold motherfuckin' shit-hole like this!"

Samael's fingers squeezed gently into his legs and Andee loathed the way it helped calm his nerves, even if he continued to grumble into the scarf while flicking his eyes between the two bug-eyed chupas. "Aw, Andee's just as natural as me 'n you!" Samael chided before he trotted forward and extended a hand to his fallen packmate with a wink. "He even comes from caves like ours, too!"

"Ain't nothin' like yours, ya fuckin' rednecks, they's fuckin' warm and they's got at least seventy-percent less inbreeding," Andee muttered darkly while watching warily as the speechless brown chupa eventually gripped into Samael's arm so that his smaller tribesman could yank him out of the snow.

"Well, I'll be gawddamned, cuz, I ain't never thought you'd actually see all this crazy shit leavin' home, we'd all thought you'da gotten yer ass smoked by now with that damn ol' rebellion!" the male babbled as he peered down at the two. Andee leaned slightly away with a grimace before flattening his ears as the woman stepped closer to examine him.

But she only put her hands on her hips with a cheery smile a moment later. "Azzy ain't lyin', how much shit you seen since the last time you came by these parts? Last time you were here tellin' tales, ain't had nothin' to say about no bats, just a whole buncha changin' hearts 'n minds and suckin' dicks 'n ass!" she exclaimed before tipping her head toward Andee. "It's a pleasure to meet ya, little fella -- any friend'a Samael's welcome here!"

Andee only glared back at her before rearing back in shock as 'Azzy' suddenly scooped them both into a huge hug, shoving his muzzle against Samael's and then licking furiously at his maw and throat. "I've missed you so much, Shrimp!!"

"Ayo, what the fuck!?" Andee yelled, shoving uselessly at the other chupa's head and finally managing to beat him back with a foot. "How many clingy-ass old boyfriends you got around here, Fiffy?!"

Samael giggled and threw an arm around his packmate's waist while winking up at Andee. "Shit, hon, he ain't no ex! This here's Azazel -- he's one'a my cousins." Azazel waved with a toothy grin as Samael gestured to the female chupa. "An' Jo's my sister! Ah think..."

Jo laughed and shrugged easily at Andee's bewildered features. "Sheeeeeit, Mama Cass swears up 'n down we both came outta her, even if Mama Lailah always treated you best."

"Aw fuck, there better not be a fuckin' test on this stupid-ass family shrub," Andee groaned as he dropped his muzzle atop Samael's head. "And if that's how you cuzzins greet each other out here, I think I already answered the goddamn question I came out here for..."

His partner only chortled again and rubbed along the bat's thigh while smiling up at the two tribe members. "Nice try sneakin' up on me, you two -- if we's done tryna beat ol' Shroom at his own games, we'd best get headin' to the Womb, 'cause my li'l bat-friend here's in need of a nice fire!"

Jo moved to throw her arm around Samael's shoulders, though she pulled back when Andee snarled automatically at the contact. She offered a crooked grin as Andee squinted up at her. "Hot damn, this one's a li'l jack-knife, ain't he?" She winked. "Seems perfect for Samael."

"He sure is," Samael chirped with a warm smile that Andee pretended to ignore while scowling into the scarf and then turning his moody gaze toward Azazel.

"Bullshit aside," Andee uttered, "did you 'n Sammy ever fuck? I need to know if all this fuckin' incest is just a joke or not!"

Azazel's grin provided whatever extra sunlight the cloudy skies couldn't. "Haw, guess you gonna hafta find out fer yerself, Andee!" He laughed and jogged ahead before tossing his arms wide and spinning back toward them. "Welcome to Sampi!"

If Andee was hoping to avoid any kind of spotlight, he had sorely misjudged the social nature of these redneck fucks.

Azazel had run ahead as soon as they'd reached the cave entrance, which Andee saw as a relief to be free of his endless rambling; the big asshole talked almost as much as Samael. Jo had been firing off her own inquiries, but she at least knew to shut up now and then. She'd even been mostly silent as they strode through the entryway of the caves, allowing Samael to be the one to happily explain things.

"So we gotta few caves 'round this area -- they's connected in some places, but this one..." He paused with a smile as he placed his hand on a smoothed rock wall that had a series of names carved into it. "We call this one 'Womb'. It's kinda like the center of our li'l joint out here."

"Womb's a fuckin' stupid name," Andee mumbled. "Shoulda called it 'Heart', then. Or Shutco..."

Samael smiled tenderly over his shoulder again. "Aww, yer so good with words, hon..."

"Ah, shaddup..." Andee nonetheless felt himself relaxing slightly as the air temperature rose swiftly with each step they took into the winding passage. He was almost disappointed that electric lights were strung up every so often to illuminate the path...but was also admittedly satisfied when he spied a multitude of torches arranged in a flickering display over what must have been the main entrance. "Heh. There's that tribal shit," he chuckled, even if a note of affection slid into his words.

But the tension he'd hesitantly allowed to ease instantly snapped back when they stepped past the fiery threshold and were greeted by at least twenty or thirty chupas. His eyes bulged and he shrank against Samael's skull as Azazel danced around on his toes at the front of the crowd while throwing his arms toward the duo. "Look, everyone, look, look!!"

A massive hand clapped between Samael's shoulderblades, making Andee jump as Jo's voice boomed out as well: "Our li'l border-breaker's come back home!"

The bat shot her a nasty look before wrinkling his muzzle as the crowd of chupas surged forward eagerly. Samael kept one hand wrapped reassuringly around his shin, which was the only reason he didn't fling himself into the air to escape the onslaught of curious coos and inquisitive stares.

"Samael's back!"

"What's it like out 'ere, who's winnin' the gat-dang war?!?"

"Holy shit, Azzy weren't lyin', that there's a real bat-person!"

"Fuckin' hell, lookit his ears!"

"I ain't see no tail, neither!!"

Andee grit his teeth, digging his talons into Samael's shoulders as his heart thudded uncomfortably against the back of his partner's skull. "Tell 'em to fuck off, Fiffy!" he growled low in his throat. "I ain't no fuckin' museum display..."

Andee was forced to appreciate Samael when his stumpy companion swiftly threw his arms out even while smiling warmly. "Whoa, whoa, y'all calm down, now, y'hear?! We was jus' in a truck for 'bout ten hours, an' we's cold 'n tired as shit!"

"Bullshit, like you ain't wantin' to hunker down on someone's dick already!" one of the grinning chupas jeered. "Since when are you a fan of some personal goddamn space??"

Andee stiffened up but Samael was slick as ever, reaching out to lightly slap his packmate's chest. "I'll get to the dickin', but you gotta at least let us warm up, get a li'l summin' to drink 'fore you start mobbin' us for stories 'n strip-teases!"

"I can't believe bats is real!" another tribe member exclaimed, leaning way past Andee's threshold to stare at his piercings. "Lookit that big ol' cute nose!"

"Back the fuck off!" Andee barked, surprising the huge chupa into stumbling away with a wide-eyed stare. His eyes flicked to a few other chupas who took a few steps backward while several others regarded him with confused frowns. Not that he gave a fuck -- he wasn't some cuddly motherfucker like all these thin-blooded bastards.

"We jus' ain't never thought there was nothin' else on Sirca 'sides our kind!" a younger female explained as she tilted her head to study Andee's wings. The bat scowled at her from his perch on Samael, but was saved from another biting retort as an elderly tribesman pushed through the crowd and clucked his tongue in admonishment.

"You young'ins show Brother Samael's guest some respect now, hear? We don't get visitors often but that ain't no damn excuse to act like a buncha savages!" A few of the gawking chupas shrunk back sheepishly as the one who'd spoken last rubbed the back of her head lamely.

"Well...we ain't never learned 'bout no other talkin' critters," she mumbled.

The elder smiled bemusedly. "We live a sheltered life, don't we? Who knows what wonders Sirca keeps tucked away in 'er distant corners? You tellin' me you know every square meter of our own lands, let alone the whole damn ring?"

She blinked and then shifted her weight awkwardly. "Erm...I s'pose not..."

Andee watched the old chupa warily, unsure if he was grateful or perturbed. He was dressed in a loose-fitting vest and ragged jeans, far from the appearance Andee would have expected from any sort of leader-figure. The elder's features curled into a crinkled smile before his pale green eyes shifted to the duo. "Good to see you 'round these parts again, li'l roamer. We're mighty glad the destroyers ain't made you another one'a the ring's scars."

Samael put a fist to his chest and bowed his head respectfully. "Only earned s'more of my own, sir. I ain't done fightin' yet."

"An' I wager you ain't never gonna be," he chuckled before reaching a gnarled hand out toward Andee's shoulder. Andee made a face and shifted out of reach, leaving the elder looking somewhere between surprised and annoyed. "Heh, well now I see why yer with our wayward son," he remarked. "Wasn't never gonna be no friendly soul young Samael would find so allurin'."

Andee pursed his lips and ignored the pleading look Samael gave to him. "I'm cold, I'm tired'a bein' ogled and I'm fuckin' cold," he replied bluntly. "Bein' polite ain't exactly at the top'a my priority list right now, ya old bastard."

"Andee..." Samael whispered with wide eyes. "Th-that's--"

"Hush, Samael," the elder chided as he regarded Andee with the same half-smile. "He's still our guest, an' he ain't wrong -- got the whole pack starin' at him like he's Mama Lilith's latest carvin'. Let's get y'all warmed up, then figure out what we're gonna do for a feast."

Andee blinked. "Whaddya mean, feast?" he demanded suspiciously as he tightened his grip around Samael's head.

"One of our wildest children done come back for a visit -- you think we ain't gonna celebrate?" the older chupa answered with a grin. "Now, then. Since they don't teach yer folk common courtesy wherever you's from, m'honored li'l guest, I'll make the introductions. I'm Elder Zebulon."

"Don't call him 'Zeb', he'll whoop yer ass!" Jo whispered from behind as Andee snorted to himself.

Zebulon squinted over at her, then grunted while gesturing around himself. "I'm too goddamn old to go callin' out every other kinfolk, but I'm sure they can handle it themselves. What do we call you, young'in?"

Andee glowered at the crowd but eventually grumbled and unwound enough of the scarf so that his features became more visible. "Name's Andee -- but I ain't no kid, and I ain't none'a ya's brother, neither!"

"Do you belong to Samael?" one of them inquired. Samael winced but it wasn't enough to stop Andee from snarling and shoving a finger toward the curious chupa.

"I don't fuckin' belong to no one!" Andee seethed before flattening his ears at the wave of uncomfortable looks, shifting his feet on his partner's shoulder and adding in a disconsolate voice: "If anythin', this dumb midget belongs to me."

Azazel bounced closer while waggling his eyebrows. "That seems 'bout right!! Shrimp always was a rebel, we all figgered he needed someone to whip his ass into line!"

Samael laughed and tossed a slight smile up to Andee before winking at his packmate. "You know that's right -- an' don't make no mistakes, Andee does a fine job of keepin' me on a leash!"

Zebulon cleared his throat loudly as the excited chatter began to rise again. "We have a feast to prepare for! Y'all get yer asses in gear and let our guests catch a li'l warmth!" He glanced down at them and let an amused snort through his nostrils as the majority of the crowd scrambled off in different directions, speaking in a lower voice to the pair. "I'm sure the parents gonna be happy to see you...and the Council ain't gonna let you slide back out without a word, neither."

"Heh, wouldn't dream of it!" Samael replied with a sheepish grin, rubbing at his chest as Zebulon grunted, then turned to meander down one of the many hallways leading out of the entrance chamber.

Andee at last exhaled and all but collapsed atop Samael's skull. "Fuck wasn't lyin' about bein' from a fuckin' pack, Fiffy...what the fuck..."

His partner chuckled softly and reached up to stroke soothingly over a leg. "Aw ain't seen shit. But don' worry, I c'n already tell they love you! Yer like a real celibatery!"

"'Celebrity', ya dumbass -- ain't neither one of us fuckin' celibate, that's for fuckin' sure," Andee muttered before rubbing at one of his ears and glaring around at the several chupas still peering owlishly at them from various corners of the chamber. "Ugh, the old bastard said somethin' 'bout a fire...why the fuck ain't we in front of it yet?!"

Samael laughed and turned to trot down a passageway marked with several stuffed and mounted creatures Andee assumed were native to Sampi. "C'mon, then -- I'll take ya past the tradin' posts 'n we'll cozy up next to one'a the prayer flames! They ain't gonna be too busy right now."

"Good, 'cause I gotta few goddamn prayers of my own to make..."

Samael hadn't just been polite when he'd told Andee what a wonder Xulod was to him -- 'Womb' wasn't exactly a thrumming urban center by any means. It had neither the size nor prestige nor populace of Xulod...hell, the fact both towns were located in caves might have been where any similarities abruptly ended.

The majority of Xulod's infrastructure existed in the massive central chamber, with some of their constructions easily twenty or thirty stories tall. The thriving underground city hosted most of the population and all the various districts in one enormous place, meaning the bustling crowds were a near-constant presence except during their periods of rest. Andee hadn't really ever given the layout of his home much thought as most of the other major bat towns had been built around the same idea.

By comparison, Womb was laid out as a series of small, interconnected caverns, none of which sported any buildings that were more than three levels high. Many of the caves didn't even have any sort of manufactured structure, existing only as a natural space that had been hollowed out and smoothed over the years to add to the complex subterranean network. Andee lost count of the number of chambers they wandered past, the duo poking their heads into several small but cozy offshoots that provided areas for food preparation, sleeping, medical treatment and spirits knew what else.

A combination of ancient, blueish lights and oil-powered torches provided illumination, which had none of the bright, pastel glow Andee was used to. He'd also realized there were no natural shafts of sunlight streaming into any of the caves they passed through...though he guessed that was likely for the best, considering the freezing temperatures outside. He was surprised, though -- even if Xulod had some of its own fire-lit torches scattered across the city, there was something deeply intimate about the dancing flames that followed their shadows throughout the roughshod passages.

They'd gone through training spaces, a rounded amphitheater, a few dining areas, and the 'legendary' trading posts, which...holy shit. Andee suddenly understood why Samael had been speechless at the sight of Xulod's marketplace and why he'd been so delighted even just strolling past the countless merchants and storefronts. Womb's commercial district was, in a word, lacking.

Three structures stood clustered together, each one offering a variety of mostly trinkets and 'luxuries' from outside the caves. According to Samael, one aspect of these caves that did stand in solidarity with Xulod was the lack of any real monetary system -- the pack simply bartered with each other for what they wanted. Things like food, drink, clothing, tools and supplies were freely available for them all. But if you wanted one of those fancy toasters, or maybe a rare collection of magazines, you went to the trading post.

Andee almost felt sorry for his sheltered redneck. Certainly explained a lot about why he still had so much to learn about Sirca...and why he was so terrible about understanding the importance of keeping your possessions locked the fuck up.

They were now sprawled out in front of a fireplace...and not just some backwoods facsimile of one, but a real fireplace. The chimney was built right into the rock wall, and the hearth was made of smooth, polished stones that were warmed by the flames, making them surprisingly pleasant to lay upon. Andee had allowed Samael to curl around his back with one arm resting across the bat's chest as the two relaxed on their sides and waited for the last of the chill to be chased out of their bones.

"Man, no wonder you left home, Fiffy. Between them douchey elders 'n the fact this place looks like an advertisement for life before sliced bread...I don't know how the rest'a these motherfuckers can stand it!"

"Awww, these caves ain't so bad," Samael murmured as he nuzzled into Andee's cap. "An' the Council's purdy nice, actually -- ol' Zeb's jus' one'a the strict ones. He plays a mean accordion, too, you gotta get his approval if ya wanna perform at any'a the gatherin's."

"Well, then you better rock that guitar so good his saggy-ass balls drop outta them ratty old jeans he was wearin'," Andee huffed, causing Samael to giggle away into the back of his skull. "Elder, my ass -- he looked like a fuckin' homeless vet o'er in Omegrad, ain't got no motherfuckin' class..." He grunted and then gently elbowed his partner's stomach. "And where's all ya ninety-three moms 'n dads? I thought you was gonna get swallowed up in some redneck-comin'-back-home orgy by now..."

"Oh, now you wanna have yerself a proper Womb welcome wagon?" Samael chortled while squeezing his companion lightly and earning another sharp elbow. "Don' worry, hon, everyone's gonna be real excited to meet ya at the gatherin'!" Andee's scowl became further entrenched on his muzzle. "An' I think we ain't seen the parent-folk yet 'cause they's probably doin' the periodical lessons with the kids."

"Swear to god, if one'a yo mommas or daddies taught you how to suck dick, I'mma lose my shit..."

"I thought that was what my cousins was for," Samael teased as his fingers roamed across Andee's chest and drifted beneath the hem of his half-poncho. "But naw, naw -- that's jus' where we did all our life-skill-learnin'', uh..." Andee felt him push his muzzle sheepishly into one of his ears. "Where. We's s'posed to', too. Guess I didn't do so good there, though an', um. An' maybe left a li'l too early..."

It was a strange sensation to feel Samael's ego deflating for a reason other than recognizing what a whore he was, or cowering in fear of Andee's honed tongue. The bat frowned into the fire while stroking a finger along the back of Samael's wrist.

"Ay, I...I know I call yous a fuckin' moron all the time, but..." He ran his tongue along his front teeth and then flicked an ear against Samael's maw. "These is ya fuckin' people. They ain't gonna judge you like the rest'a Sirca." He knew he'd only promised to come on this journey, not to reassure Samael, not to agree to any stupid shit as a result of being in his homeland. God, though, did it feel good to have that familiar confidence return in full force. Felt even better when Andee was the reason for it. "Don't be a bitch, actin' all ashamed of how you got raised. did good after your slow ass learned how shit happens in Xulod. So don't fuck me outta seein' how ya redneck life works out here, eh?"

He had a feeling he'd regret the words, but it was worth having Samael's inner flame expand to a compassionate blaze, warmer against Andee's back than the roaring hearth before them. Samael held his small body a bit tighter and Andee closed his eyes as he permitted himself the temporary bliss. No one would be able to accuse him of not making an attempt, at least.

But their unwinding was cut short as the approaching sound of countless paws scampering across stone pricked Andee's ears and brought a frown to his features. He lifted his head a few seconds before Samael did the same, then widened his eyes at the sight of at least a dozen children pouring into the chamber. Their eager features were illuminated by the multiple fires and Andee saw a pack of tiny, slobbering Samaels rushing toward them, his instincts screaming at him to scrabble hurriedly out of his partner's embrace.


"Sammy the Reb's back!"

"Lookit his frien', he's got wings!!"

Andee made a horrible face and quickly took to the air to perch atop the mantle, his eyes glowering first at the circle of prepubescent chupas before flicking to the seven or eight adults who strode in afterward.

"Ayyy, lookit how tall y'all grown!" Samael cackled as he jumped to his feet, sweeping two of the children into his arms as a third promptly leaped onto his back. "Oh lawd, Gabby, yer gonna be as big as Azzy!"

"Whoa, look, Sammy got a new burn! It's huge!"

The pipsqueak on his back quickly clambered up to his shoulders while staring awkwardly down behind them as Samael chuckled and spun around to show off the crossed sword and pistol tattoo that had been seared above the base of his tail. "Ain't it sweet?!" the rebel announced proudly. "You know where I got it?!"

The green-furred child clinging to his skull bounced excitedly. "Was it wit' the Movement?!"

"Nope!" Samael turned his bright gaze up to Andee's morbid features. "It was in a bat-town!" The gaggle of children all gasped and whipped their eyes to Andee as well, who winced back against the chimney with an even more discomfited expression. "That's where mah partner's from! His name's Andee an' he lives way o'er in Lactan, all up in the jungle!"

Whatever sharp-tongued response Andee hoped to give was smothered by the older chupas moving forward to embrace Samael in a group hug. "I knew you'd manage to come back lookin' even crazier than last time!" one of the women exclaimed.

"Little Samael, it's so good to see you!" another one cried out, scooping up Samael and the three children clinging to him for a bone-crushing embrace that easily lifted them all from the ground.

Andee was grateful he'd escaped the fate as Samael giggled and leaned up to lap affectionately at the enormous chupa's muzzle. "Mama Cass! Didja see my boyfriend?!" he exclaimed, turning his eyes once again to Andee.

'Mama Cass' set Samael down after a moment, all three pups still clinging to his burly frame as the towering female smiled with intrigue at the bat. "Mah goodness, ain't you a fascinatin' sight! Come on down, let us have a good look at ya!"

"No fuckin' chance," Andee growled as he folded his wings more stubbornly around himself, earning a bemused smile from Cass.

"Purdy sure y'all owe me a week'a chores," one of the adult men teased, patting Samael's back a few times. "Ain't I said our li'l runt's gonna end up layin' claim to someone even stranger than him?" He threw his head back with a raucous laugh, a series of gold studs glinting from where they lined his eyebrows.

"Ay, Papa, that ain't nice!" Samael protested, even as he smiled happily.

Andee glared at what he assumed was only one of Samael's numerous 'daddies', unable to stop himself from hopping forward to the edge of the mantle so he could thrust a wing forward. "You best get it straight, Fiffy ain't laid claim to shit! He's lucky my people didn't fuckin' stab his ass when he stumbled into our woods!"

A different 'mother' stepped forward with a warm smile. "Then it sounds like your people got plenty in common with ours." She tilted her head to examine him more closely, though at least it didn't feel like she was sizing him up for a taxidermy session. One of the children scrambled up over her back so she could also peer owlishly at Andee over a shoulder. "Samael always had a way with makin' friends. Feels appropriate he'd find himself befriendin' a whole new race."

"Is we gonna have us a race?!" the child inquired brightly, her voice immediately making Andee lean away with a scowl. "I beat Cammy to the fishin' hole jus' yesterday!"

"No, li'l Chaz -- when Mama says a 'race' like that, she means a whole kinda people." Her eyes went back to Andee with a maternal tenderness that managed to blanket the bat's sarcastic response. "Sirca an' all her spirits didn't make the ring just for our kind. She's far too beautiful for only one people -- your brother Sammy found some other folks who live on her, too. This fella here's one'a them."

The child's expression turned to wonderment. "Oh wow! You live on the ring, too?!"

Andee sucked on his teeth but withheld the acerbic reply, if only for the idiotically-loving gaze Samael hadn't stopped pouring over him. "My people live under it, 'cause your people tend to freak out when they see somethin' that ain't chupa!"

"That don't surprise me," the black-furred woman replied with a soft cluck. "That's why we don't mess with no outsiders, sweetie, not 'til we get a chance to know 'em." Andee frowned darkly but her eyes went back to him with the same kindness. "But this little feller ain't no outsider. He's Samael's partner, so he's one of us, too."

"That's the last thing I wanna be," Andee muttered, earning a laugh from a few of the adults.

"I'm Lailah," she chuckled while quickly gesturing to her cohorts. "That there's Daniel, Jera, Ariel, Cass, Gabe 'n Michael. We're some'a Samael's parents."

"I ain't lookin' for seventeen new in-laws," Andee replied dryly before he sighed and shuffled his feet, practically hearing Juwo's scolding in the back of his thoughts. "I'm Andee. From somewhere a lot warmer than this joint." He caught a glimpse of one of the runts reaching out to poke Samael's guitar where it was leaning against the wall. "Ay! And I'm the one who got Sammy that thing, too, so hands off!!" he barked, making the young chupa stare up and quickly shuffle backward.

Cass chortled. "Spirits have mercy, that's a gorgeous five-string! Matches our li'l Samael's soul just right!" Samael beamed proudly again and Andee sighed at the sight of what was now four children clinging to his companion's stocky frame. "Well, it's about time for the kids to go nap...two'a you stayin' through the next rest, at least, right?"

Andee not-so-secretly preened when Samael promptly looked to him for the answer -- at least the dumb redneck remembered who was still driving this fuck-bus. "Heh, Fiffy been humpin' my leg for the last two, three weeks to come out this way...guess we'll at least stay a couple periods before leavin' this frozen bunghole behind..."

One of the parents -- maybe Gabe? -- made a strange sound, like someone mimicking a laugh. The others all turned toward him as he began to gesture with his hands, pointing first to Andee and then motioning to the sides of his head before imitating the act of wrapping a scarf around his neck. It took Andee a few seconds to realize the scarred chupa was communicating non-verbally, bolstered by the way Samael laughed brightly and looked toward the bat again.

"Yer right, Papa Gabe! I been tellin' him he needs to get some cold-weather wear, he's a chilly li'l snowball e'ry time he comes 'n visits me out by them ice-cliffs!"

Andee groaned but had his protest steamrolled by Cass scooping two of the children off of Samael's shoulders to hold securely to her bosom. "I was jus' thinkin' the same thing! I bet li'l Samael keeps him plenty toasty when they's together, but imagine how cold the poor li'l thing must be flyin' out here!" She winked at Andee, then curled her thick tail around Samael's waist with a warm smile down to their visiting son. "But in that case, we'd better find you two a spot to snooze away from these li'l screamin' pups!"

Samael blanched and then turned wide eyes back to Andee, which made the bat frown in confusion. The rebel lifted one of the children he still held in his arms to rub his muzzle awkwardly against the top of their head. "Uh...we got, um. We got rooms or summin' ain't bein' used that we could warm up fer later, maybe get a few pillows 'n blankets in?"

"Nonsense! Nothin' warmer than sleepin' with the pack!" the parent named Michael responded cheerily, scooping up a few of the pups himself while grinning between the two. "You c'n go with the other adults, don't worry 'bout scarin' no kids!"

Andee's bewilderment only grew as he stared blankly at Samael for an explanation. His partner cleared his throat sheepishly and then looked back at his family. "Um, ain't like they don't got group sleepin' o'er in Andee's caves, but uh...Andee, he...he kinda got himself a private home, an'--"

"You have your own cave!?" one of the older children exclaimed, gawking at Andee. "Are you like an elder?!"

"Sammy wishes I was," Andee grumbled.

"Outsiders are amazing!" a different child announced, only to shrink back when Cass uncurled her tail from Samael's waist to smack the offending pup.

"What'd Mama Lailah tell ya 'bout Andee, honeychild? Samael brought 'im here, an' he's a part'a the pack now. His people do things a little different, is all!"

Samael smiled weakly at Andee again as if anticipating a verbal assault. "Uh, we...we got. Shared chambers. Parents 'n kids sleep together, adults 'n anyone who's passed their trials sleep together...only a few folks got their own spaces 'round here. B-but we can --"

He was cut off by Andee huffing loudly. He regretted the words he was saying, but there they were, falling out of his damn mouth anyway. "Like they said...I. We ain't outsiders. I can deal with ya weird back-country orgies, I ain't no goddamn prude..."

Samael's sudden, enormous smile was worth the discomfort. "Aww, hon...i-if...if yer sure, then--"

"Bah, it's fine, you big-footed bastards can't see for shit in the dark, no how," Andee conceded. He found a small smirk settling into place a few seconds later. "Besides, I remember how much you liked givin' that li'l window-show..."

To see Samael twist a paw with such raw bashfulness was nirvana; Andee had to struggle to not lick his lips eagerly at the entreated gaze flooding from his enamored redneck's eyes. Their silent, erotic exchange was cut short, however, when Lailah nudged Samael with her hip as she shifted an almost-too-amused look between the partners. "You're joinin' the hunt for the feast, Samael...right?"

Samael blinked and Andee hated to watch those hungry eyes tear away from their greedy target. He took a moment to breathe deeply and recompose himself, shoving the physical yearning away to instead scowl at the matron's words. "Wait...hunt?"

"Heh, figured you woulda known what a fine hunter Samael is, li'l fella, considerin' the prize he got with you," teased the father with the gold studs -- he must have been Daniel. Andee's expression soured once more. "I think we still got his old bow 'round here, somewhere..."

Samael perked up. "Oh hell yeah! It's been a hot minute since I slung me some arrows!" he exclaimed before beaming up at Andee. "You gonna come with, sweetie?"

Andee's flattened brows must have been an obvious answer, considering Samael's crestfallen features...except then Cass grinned broadly and strode forward. "He can stay back here with us, and we'll get him all measured up proper-like for some warmer clothes!"

Andee's eyes widened a bit and he quickly leaped from the mantle to avoid the gaggle of parents, landing once more on the safety of Samael's shoulders. "You know what, I ain't never seen no hunt -- I'mma go with Sammy and you weird bastards can just make some edumacated guesses!" He wrinkled his muzzle at the multitude of faces both mature and prepubescent smiling brightly at the way he was perched on Samael, quickly hunkering himself down and slapping the back of his companion's skull irritably. "C'mon, Fiffy, let's go stash that guitar so I can go freeze my ass off watchin' you chase down some fuckin' ice-goats or whatever the hell you inbred rednecks eat..."

"He's mine."

Andee bristled and a snarl bubbled up from his throat.

But Samael's attention wasn't on him. Andee's hackles lowered as he frowned and then squinted into the powder-coated treeline. Yet again, he didn't detect shit, but somehow--

"Aw fuck, I see 'im...yeah, he's all yours," Jo murmured glumly. Andee glanced back to watch Samael's sister gesture to the other four members of the hunting party as the group crouched low and fell silent. Andee scowled and stared ahead once more, then finally glimpsed the sway of, not branches. He could just make out the shape of bone-white antlers moving about, at least fifty meters from their vantage point.

Andee set his jaw and pulled down the brim of his cap. He almost didn't feel the freezing temperatures anymore, only a numbness that extended into his self-consciousness. He supposed the reversal should have been expected, though; Samael had been a useless, gawking anchor during his first few days in Xulod. Plus this was just some stupid hunt. Nothing Andee cared about.

"You really expect me to believe you're gonna hit that fucker with an arrow from here?" Andee snorted, wrinkling his muzzle as Samael reached back over a shoulder for some uninvited affection or another. He realized a moment too late, however, that the chupa was aiming for the quiver he'd slung across his back, and Andee awkwardly slid a wing down to grab an arrow for his companion.

But Samael had already plucked one free, his focus locked fully forward even as Andee caught a sly smile and a playful whisper: "I'd say yer gonna owe me dinner, hon...'cept I'm 'bout to fetch it right here 'n now."

Andee nearly barked out a laugh, if only to ensure Samael's cockiness would be toppled when his prey bolted. But he managed to restrain himself to only a huff while shoving the arrow he'd retrieved back into the quiver. "Yeah, yeah, I'm watchin', asshole..."

For all his grumpiness, Andee couldn't help observing raptly as Samael deftly nocked the arrow and then drew back on the taut string of the wooden weapon. Andee didn't know shit about bows, but as his eyes traveled the length of Samael's bent arm, he could imagine that the hunting implement must have taken considerable strength to pull back, since the rebel's musculature bulged with the effort. He found his lower lip moving beneath his front teeth and he closed his talons a bit harder around Samael's thick shoulders, feeling the controlled tension throughout his partner's powerful frame.

A ragged breath trickled out of his muzzle, and Samael followed suit with a far calmer exhalation. Andee didn't even see a plume of steam leave the chupa's jaws before the bow whickered softly as Samael released the arrow.

Andee's eyes flicked to the hand-carved projectile as it sliced effortlessly through the frigid air, piercing neatly through a cluster of branches before slamming home into the neck of the barely-visible deer. The snow from the branches dropped a moment later in time with Andee's jaw, his eyes widening in disbelief at the sight of Samael's target bleating a weak cry and then collapsing.

He gave his own gasp of surprise when Samael suddenly lunged out of hiding while slipping the bow over his arm as he became a grey streak through the snowy forest. Andee couldn't even form a stuttering curse, let alone a demand for what the fuck Samael was doing. It took all his concentration just to cling to his companion, no more than a hapless passenger upon the locomotive that moved through the underbrush on whispering paws.

His eyes caught the glint of steel and his unspoken inquiry was answered by the hunting knife that must have jumped from Samael's supply pouch into his grip. Andee could see the deer just ahead, its slender legs still kicking weakly in its death throes as they raced toward it. Samael dropped to his knees a few meters away, sliding smoothly up to his quarry and burying the blade without hesitation between the buck's ribs. Andee tasted blood as his teeth drove into his lip, his talons clenching into his partner's shoulders while he watched the life gallop swiftly from the creature's eyes.

His throat was dry and he could hear the thunderous roar of his heartbeat in his ears, drowning out the prayer Samael murmured as he pulled the knife out of the deer and pressed his forehead to its lifeless skull. Arousal and inadequacy shouted at Andee in equal measure, his breaths growing shorter as he trembled against the back of Samael's head. The cacophony built higher and louder, threatening to overtake his senses--

"You a'right, hon? Sorry if I went a li'l quick, there, I didn't want this fella sufferin'..."

Andee blinked and shook his head violently, then stared down at the tender azure gaze more dangerous than any one of his own self-deprecations. "Y-Yeah...yeah, it's. It's fine, Fiffy." He swallowed and then forced a smirk, even if he knew Samael would likely see through it. "You really get into this primitive redneck shit, don'tcha?"

Samael chuckled and reached a hand back to stroke along Andee's arm, sending an unwilling shiver down his spine. "You don't look like you hate it none too much yer--"

"Praise the damn spirits, Shroom still got it!" Jo interjected as she and the others tromped toward them with a gallery of delighted grins. "Fuck me sideways -- I hope you count yer blessin's, bat, 'cause yer man knows how to provide!"

Andee's confused enticement flew to roiling vexation with all the swiftness of being fired from Samael's bow. "Don't fuckin' tell me --"

"Shit, Sammy, size'a this thing plus all the other two-bit critters we caught so far should be plenty!" another one of the hunters exclaimed happily. "We can head on back early!"

Andee glowered in frustration, but couldn't get in another word before Jo slapped Samael on the back and startled him into the air. "That's our tiny li'l rebel! He don't just break tradition, he remakes it! Or he jus' wants to get back to the caves so he c'n get his li'l bat all liquored up 'n loose, ain't that right?!?"

Andee wrinkled his muzzle as he shivered once in midair, then snorted. "Yanno what? It's fuckin' cold and you fuckers don't never shut up -- some of that paint-strippin' shit you assholes make in a jar sounds real fuckin' good right about now, knock my ass out 'til this goddamn redneck party starts," Andee grumbled before trying not to stare covetously when Samael hefted the massive buck out of the snow and slung it across his shoulders. Andee nearly bit his lip again, forcing out a scoff while flitting in a circle above the chupas. "At least ya back to doin' what you did best in Xulod, too: haulin' heavy shit. Now someone lead the way back before my ass freezes more than even what ya shitty jet-fuel moonshine can melt!"

"One shot, one shot an' ol' Shroom had it down! Twelve-pointer, too!"

"Thirteen!" Azazel corrected with a gleeful look in their direction as he held out his jar of liquor for Samael to automatically tap his own against, the cousins grinning at one another. "I counted 'em myself 'fore it went to the spit! That shit's gonna be tasty as hell!"

Andee didn't blame his dumb, inbred redneck for the egotistical puff of his muscular form. He supposed it was better to have a perch that people envied, doing his best to clutch into those emotions as he shifted his weight atop Samael's shoulders.

"What can I say?!" Samael exclaimed, pausing long enough to offer the jar up to Andee. The bat scowled but snatched it up wordlessly as Samael smiled and then took his guitar in both hands again so he could continue tuning it. "Y'all was always tellin' me I was too small to do nothin' big! Hurt mah feelings, I spent a lotta time out in them woods cryin'. Helped get me a close connection to nature 'n shit!"

"Yeah, as long as it doesn't involve climbin' any trees!" another of his cousins or brothers or second-uncles crowed, sending a wave of raucous laughter through the crowd. "I still cain't believe you claimed yerself a man with wings!"

Andee stiffened up but soothed the verbiage through a haughty thrust of his chest. "It ain't my fault Fiffy's got good taste! Maybe I'll finally get him over that stupid fear!"

"Or maybe you just like how stiff yer man's fear-boners are!" Jo shot back with a toothy grin. "Must feel good havin' somethin' you can actually humble this cocky li'l shrimp with!"

Andee smirked even as he slumped a bit against Samael's skull, distracting his annoyance with a long guzzle of the potent moonshine. His perch was starting to feel a lot like a pedestal, something only meant to show off some glittering trophy.

The bat's eyes flicked over to another pack member who'd circled around to their backs to admire Samael's tattoo. Apparently his 'fuck off' expressions hadn't been turned up high enough.

Abba...Abbalon? Abbadon? God, these rednecks had stupid fuckin' names -- whatever this guy was called, he let out a low whistle before flicking a claw into Samael's tail piercing. "I see you spreadin' our ways out beyond our borders!" Andee made a face, but couldn't help noticing the pair of rings decorating the guy's brows. Samael hadn't been exaggerating about the commonness of body art among the pack's ranks.

"Sheeeit, I tell ya what! We ain't the only ones who know how to decorate ourselves all purdy-like -- them bats do it even better, I think!" Samael explained cheerfully. Andee would have felt a swell of pride if it wasn't for the way everyone gazed curiously at him again. His nose-ring suddenly felt the size of a dinner plate. "I actually got that one o'er in Xulod! Andee's friend did it, he's a badass artist in all kindsa ways!!" Samael strummed his guitar once and then beamed up at his partner again. "Me 'n Andee designed it together, very first day we met! You 'member that, hon?"

"Grhmpf." The noncommittal answer was chased with a glower aimed at the next chupa that piped up.

"So your bat got you that guitar, too?!"

There it was again. Samael's bat. That's all he was to these people. Samael's little companion, Samael's fetching catch, no different from that fucking snow-deer., even worse, because that fucking snow-deer had a purpose here.

"He sure did!" Samael sang out, even if Andee heard the way his voice drooped a bit. Andee knew it was his fault and he didn't give a fuck. This was the Samael show, the puppy could fake a smile for his dumb family. "Oh man, we gotta have us a jam tonight! Y'all shoulda seen the show we put on in Xulod -- it's called the Himroc, an' I think we played front'a six, seven-hundred bats, at least!"

"You left Womb before you could even count to twenty, how the hell did you organize anythin' beyond just puttin' yer pants on the right way!?" Azazel jeered.

Samael guffawed. "Oh, lawd, I sure as hell ain't done it alone -- me 'n Andee spent a week convincin' his people to let some'a our people join!" He smiled hopefully up at his partner again, but Andee only grunted and took another long drink of the moonshine. It at least gave him enough of a buzz to allow a loose shrug to roll off his shoulders.

"Feh, ya slow-brained redneck family don't wanna hear about that shit, bet they think it's fuckin' boring -- they probably wanna know about how you stole the fuckin' show on the stage," he grumbled.

He wasn't sure if he meant it as an insult or a genuine compliment. He wasn't blind to the hypocrisy, remembering all too well how he'd, demanded that Samael show some pride for his talents. But that had been in Xulod, where everyone knew Samael was his fiffy, where everyone understood that Andee wasn't some useless piece of baggage. Where he wasn't subjected to a fucking gallery of bewildered stares and fascinated gawking.

"--an' we had 'em on their feet the whole time!" Samael's drawl filtered back in through Andee's hazy senses. "It was one'a the most magical nights of my life, y'all, hands down..."

The affectionate blue eyes that once more lifted up to him nearly bowled Andee off his partner's shoulders. It had been a magical night. It had been a magical night because they'd bucked an age-old tradition and brought two divided cultures a bit closer, because they'd worked hard, together, because they'd busted their asses. Together. There was a lot they'd already accomplished together; hell, there was a lot they could still do together. They made a good team on the surface.

But what they'd shared afterward in Andee's apartment, what they'd shared several times since then...those were just the lucky products of an ugly equation that made no sense, that somehow kept churning out pleasant answers because they were both too fucking stupid to pick up a calculator. Or maybe they were just too afraid to see the flaws in the formula, to find all the mistakes that every other fucking person on the ring could see plain as day.

Jo's grinning features swam through Andee's vision as she leaned forward among the tightly-packed crowd surrounding them. "And what, dearest li'l brother, made that night so fantastic, eh? You really kick that much ass on the guitar?"

Andee already knew Samael's answer as he chewed on the inside of his cheek. He slammed back the last of the moonshine and then smacked his lips loudly to draw the pack's attention. "He means me. Ya dumb midget brother who left his fuckin' caves too fuckin' early to be out in the real world found me." He swayed atop Samael's broad shoulders, the inebriation speaking for him. "He's too fuckin'...fuckin' stupid to see what all'a you see. I ain't no fuckin' chupa, I ain't no fuckin' loyal pack-member, I ain't even no real fuckin' rebel..."

Samael set down his guitar with a concerned frown, twisting his head around to look up at Andee more directly.

A tipsy Azazel spoke first, however. " whassat make you, then, Andee?"

"Aww, Andee don't mean none'a that," Samael murmured, lifting a hand to close gently around one of the bat's shins. "He's the best thing ever happened to me."

Andee grit his teeth and closed his eyes, but could still feel Samael's eyes, could still feel the eyes of every shitty chupa in this shitty cave judging the unnatural pairing before them. And it was saying something for these fucking hicks to find something wonder they were all treating him like Samael's leatherbound trophy.

"He's smart 'n he's cute 'n he's real determined an'...he's the best partner a guy could ever ask for, 'cause..."

Andee's eyes slowly opened and he looked down into the overwhelming gaze of his greatest mistake.

"He's mine."

The fragile glass separating Andee's emotions shattered, and his terrified, furious rage exploded free. "I ain't ya fuckin' property, Samael!" he shouted in his own tongue, yanking out of his partner's grasp and kicking violently off the rebel's shoulders. Blood was flung free from his talons, splattering Samael's paralyzed features as the bat launched himself into the air. "You motherfuckers c'n have 'im back!" he snapped in common, his words slurring as heavily as his vision.

"Andee, w-wait, I ain't mean it like that!" Samael cried out, leaping to his feet as his guitar skittered out of his lap to thud to the stone ground. He reached desperately for the bat but Andee flattened his ears and beat his wings hard to push himself higher, narrowly avoiding the grey streak. "Andee, hon, please!"

Andee twisted around with a shaky breath, seeing only an endless blur of mortified faces, judgmental faces, cruel faces. A distant torch illuminated a tunnel at the back of the room and he flit toward it, bouncing off the rocky ceiling as he did so. He heard the shocked murmurs, followed by the shuffle of paws, and he glanced back to see Samael through the fog, his short, stout frame clambering past his packmates in an attempt to chase after his quarry.

Andee's eyes widened in dread at the tear-filled eyes locked onto him. He remembered the panic of Samael hanging by a thread, the unwelcome sense of having so much to lose, of having his whole world threatened by a single, pointless death.


No, he wasn't strong enough.

But before Samael could try to again clutch into the zigzagging bat, the chupa was wrapped up in a tight embrace as Lailah materialized behind him. Samael struggled vainly, clawing at the air, kicking wildly in protest of the arms that held him securely. Andee stared into the horrified eyes one more time before choking down his own frightened sob and ordering himself to disappear down the passage as the voice of Samael's mother drifted after him.

"Let him go, child. Let him go..."

It was the best advice that fucking bastard would ever hear.

Red vs Blue © Rooster Teeth. Halo © 343 Industries. Concept by Myshu, assisted by The Department of Chupapology.

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