Slipping passed the guards weren’t very hard. Everyone was so busy with their own problems, their own lives. Problems that were partly Erythreus´ fault. Some of his decisions had lead to the fall of Skye and many of the guards death. It was years ago but since then things had only gone south. The aliward and their guards found a home in Evermore where the supernaturals activity seemed to thrive and the peace hanging on a loose thread. The moody aspect isolated himself more and more feeling that his presence only burdened. The people he called his family suddenly felt like acquaintances and his duties that hadn’t been very joyful to begin with felt undoable.

The faint ghost with its empty judge eyes stared at the aspect of death, as it had done the last few days. Ery couldn’t seem to keep up the barriers to keep him from seeing the souls of the dead still seeking redemption. ”Go away” the giant harshly muttered trying to wave it away but without success. From a by stander the beardy male must look like he had one to many mumbling and gesturing to himself like a crazy person. None dared to say anything tho and he still had ladies throwing themselves at him if he was in that mood. One night stands had lost its charm but relations were even worse. Memories of his last still hurt to thing of threatening to tear a big hole in his heart if he gave it too much thought.

The blonde drowned the last of his booze, which didn’t exactly help with keeping the ghosts away rather the opposite, before throwing some money on the table and leaving the bar before any of the guards released he wasn’t in his room mopping  or whatever they believed he did in there. However he wasn’t ready to go home just yet. The only thing awaiting him was his messy room and more booze. So he found himself wandering around aimlessly around with the ghosts as his only company buzzing around his head making it hard for him to concentrate. ”Hey leave me alone I can’t help you” The aspect had come to an alleyway and heard footsteps approaching causing a sigh to slipp out, but it was a familiar face that had caught up to him. ”So you found me Dom, Points to you I guess. Sorry for going out unannounced … again” he chuckled a stiff joyless sound. 

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Dominic had been laying in bed awake for hours. The familiar pieces of wood that made up his ceiling was his constant bedfellow as he noted the many grains and splits of the wood which were known to him now while his eyes followed their lines in restlessness. He was worried about his friend. Dom knew the symptoms of spiraling as he himself lost his way plenty of times in his life and by sheer luck was someone able to pull him back before completely losing it for good. Lately though, when wasn't he worried about someone else he cared for? It was like the world was testing him and the people he knew to see if this would be the moment they all broke. 

When the sun finally cascaded across the bed, the therian opened his eyes. There was no sleep to be had and he was done trying. Dominic went into the connecting bathroom in his room and turned on the shower, standing under the hot water with his eyes closed. He was worn. His body was aching for rest, but as per usual, it would have to power through like always with constant insertions of caffeine, adrenaline, and willpower to keep going. He hoped maybe the aspect in the next room had better luck than he did then.

After more than thirty minutes in the shower, Dom forced himself out. He dried off and grabbed one of his many band tees and jeans which lay crumpled in the clean clothes of the hamper that he still hadn't put away. Rubbing the towel through his hair before tossing it on the bed, he opened the door to the room and made his way to the open space for the rest of the home. First coffee. Maybe some food. Then the rest of the day ahead. Dominic only hoped Ery would still be up to see Lucien and maybe get a handle on what was going on with his abilities. 

Erythreus couldn’t remember the last time he´d gotten a full night of sleep. When had sleep become the enemy?  Or truthfully it wasn’t sleeping that was the issue it was letting his guard down and being swamped by things he wanted to avoid. Avoiding the ghosts who once were his allies was the thing keeping him up, dwelling in self-pity and guilt for what he had and had not done. His womanizer period had thee same explanation. Company helped keeping the spirits away. Many didn’t show if there was others around. Erythreus had never had a hard time finding women willing to spend the night with him even tho he wasn’t the most fancy looking man.

Usually the aliward of death was a considerate friend, at least when you´d won him over and shown him that you were one to count on. However lately Erythreus had been too deep down his own rabbit hole to be able take in anyone else’s feelings. It had made him a lousy friend. When his Dom had stopped nagging him to do something it had been a relief at first before it. Had turned to anger why didn’t his closest friend see how bad he felt. He never realized that Dom had problems of his own keeping them appart. He should have guessed it though the terrain had never let him down before. He was a better friend than he deserved. And so the guilt began again at least no souls had decided to bother him yet.

Hours passed and Ery fell in and out of sleep. He heard when Dominic woke up and took a shower. ”Morning” he muttered as his friend walked passed him to go to the kitchen. He already regretted his promise to tag along and meet Lucien but would do it to get his friendship with Dom back on track. ”When do we leave?”

Dom rolled over in the bed and glanced at the empty space beside him for a few moments. Always the reminder of being alone which made him sigh and turn over to his back to stare at the familiar roof above him. The sunlight was spilling into the room and breaking through the shadows within, flooding the end of the bed and onto the bathroom door as an invitation to get up and be somewhat normal. 

Dragging himself from the comfort of the sheets, the therian pushed open the door and gripped either side of the sink to look at himself in the mirror. He looked tired. That was pretty much the norm for him though. He felt exactly as he looked too. It was mostly just robotic as he grabbed his toothbrush and brushed his teeth, gargling longer to be rid of the alcohol that was undoubtedly lingering on his breath from the night before. He turned to face the shower and lifted his arm slightly to take a sniff of himself, realizing it was definitely needed. "Goddamn, Howlett."

He rubbed at his eyes for a moment to help wake himself up. Reaching for the faucet, he turned the water on for the shower and then glanced out the window which faced the back of the cabin. There the river was steady and rather welcoming in the brightening daylight. Dominic hummed to himself as an idea formed before he turned off the water and headed back out into the living room.

Ery seemed to be asleep on the couch which he thought was at least a good sign. Hopefully it was more than just a few hours, but he went into the kitchen to start up the coffee as quietly as he could, anyway. He gripped a some of the mugs from the cabinet and placed them down before going back into the hall closet and grabbing a couple of towels. If there was anything that made him feel a little bit better for a few fleeting moments besides food, sex, and booze, it was being outside. Now he just had to wait as patiently as possible for his charge to wake up

It felt strange waking up in a place that resembled a home. Erythreus own room at the manor was more like a dungeon and hadn’t been cleaned for months. It was where he woke up most days, after dragging himself home or being dragged by some unfortunate guard being assigned tracking him down and making sure he came home. It had been Dominics mission as his closest guard. Not a very hard job in the beginning as they spent most nights together at his club or out on a mission. Every now and then the aspect woke up at a woman’s residence but he tended to avoid choosing to hook up with girls who cared about interiors.

The cabin was comforting. Maybe it was because he wasn’t alone. Solitariness was both a blessing and curse. You didn’t have any expectations to meet when you isolated yourself. No one to disappoint. The bearded giant felt like it was all he did now days, let people down. And that’s why he  had stopped trying. However having no one to rely on also had its price.

A ghost, the same as yesterday appeared making him go wide awake. ”I still can’t help you you know at least now I am trying” Erythreus said sighing meeting the spirits accusing eyes. He didn’t have any new clothes to put on as he hadn’t planned to be caught and kidnaped by his friend. He tried to straighten some wrinkles at least before walking to the kitchen and pouring himself some water. ”DOOM” He called when he didn’t see the aliward guard. 

Slinging the towels over his shoulder, Dom's ears twitched slightly as he heard movement coming from the other room. It seemed Erythreus was stirring from what he hoped was a somewhat decent sleep. He went to shut the closet door, but slowed the motion as the aspect's voice broke in the quiet. It seemed he was talking to one of the spirits that lingered on to him, though it least it was a statement that sounded more promising. He was trying. That's all anyone could ask of him, but Dom knew it wasn't all on Ery either. There was something else happening in Evermore that was causing the aspects to lose touch with their elements.

He let out a long breath through his nose and closed the door. "Yeah, I'm here!" he called back, walking through to the open space again where he saw his friend getting a glass of water. This made him scoff, a smirk forming, as he went to pull open a junk drawer with all the various things someone couldn't find a proper home for. The bottle of pills was near the front for good reason and he pulled it out, shaking the contents within as in invitation before tossing it to Ery. "For the pain," he said lowly, grabbing one of the mugs and pouring himself coffee. "Well.. some of the pain." He looked sideways to the aspect knowingly and sipped the hot liquid. 

After a brief pause, Dominic clapped the other man on the shoulder and nodded for him to follow. "Come on. We could use a refresh. You stink as much as I do." His teasing grin remained while he headed towards the back door, grabbing a pair of swim trunks off a nearby hook, and tossed them and one of the towels at Erythreus.

One thing Dom would never get tired of was the view. It was one of the reasons he put up shop in Therian Woods compared to the chaos that was the manor. Living with that many others was never going to work for him. The expansive river remained calm as he headed towards the shoreline where he had a couple of wooden Adirondack chairs set up which he slung his towel over the back of and placed his coffee down on the arm. After removing his shirt, he didn't bother testing the water because he already knew it was going to be jarring. Instead, he turned to face Ery with a wagging finger. "Don't say it's cold. It's refreshing." With a couple of quick breaths, jumps in place, and shaking of limbs, he gave a loud whoop before sprinting towards the river and diving in.

At first when Ery´s powers had stopped working he hadn’t thought much of it. A one time thing he had believe. Maybe the soul he’d been trying to ship over to the other realm wasn’t ready to let go yet. That happened from time to time as annoying as it was and had been one of his favorite things during his glory days as an aspect before the isle of Skye fell and his depression hit.  A time long before his drunken days and self-isolation, before he became the bitter broody man he was now. Eons of time ago. It felt meaningful to help those spirits pass  on to the other side.  Give them a reason to cut the last strings to their earth life and find a way to reassure them that the world will keep spinning without them.

However he’d been neglecting his duties for a long time due to his own personal shit. Souls were  lining up, and he wasn’t as patient as he used to be in finding the things that the soul needed to find peace. When he had turned into the red dragon he became to travel through dimensions and escort the ghosts to their new world and he couldn´t pass through the veil separating the dimensions. He had tried again a few hours later and then everything was fine but it wasn’t a one time incident. It started happening more often than not until he couldn’t get a single soul to pass. Creating chaos in this world and among the ghosts. The self loathing male had believed it was his own fault a punishment for not taking his role seriously the last years. It was nothing he wanted up for display so he became more withdrawn from his friends and family. They probably thought it was due to his recent break up and had their own problems to deal with.

Ery caught the bottle of pills and put it down on the counter. ”Thanks but they’re not very effective” Even tho he had a human body it didn’t respond very well to human medicine and products. Alcohol being an exception, he just needed a little more than the average human to feel it. Hence why he provided himself with it through out the day for the effect not to wear off.

”Didn’t you just shower?” Erythreus said sourly, raising an eyebrow as he received the swimming trunks and the towel from Dominic. He slowly followed the therian out the door and towards the river. Apparently he thought it was a good idea to freeze his ass off and get a pneumonia. ”Thought we were going to see Lucian and try to find Sio or discuss my failures as an aspect not have a sleepover endplay around in the river” Erythreus shouted as Dom hit the water splashing him. He stood hesitantly at the shoreline not very excited to go in himself. 

The water was frigid as expected, sending the icy shock through his system, but it was just what he needed. Something to shock his body and make him feel alive. Breaking the surface he looked back at Erythreus who bore resemblance to a cranky kid that wasn't getting his way. "No, I didn't just shower," Dominic replied with a huff of annoyance to him. He shot back a mocking glare towards the aspect, shaking his head with a smirk. "I don't know if you forgot, but last night you weren't exactly in the best smelling of places when I found you. You don't smell like anything that is normally associated with pleasant and it offends the senses, man." Dom's teasing made his grin widen. "No reason to have Lucien fall victim to your funk, now come on."

The therian folded his arms over his chest in their mocking standoff. "Come on. Come ooooon. Let's go!" He splashed more of the water towards him. "You're either getting in this river or you're walking back to the manor, cause you're not taking any of my babies," he snorted, looking over to his truck and bikes. "Don't even think about it... I'll fight you, aspect of doom or not. I will drag your ass in here." 

Dom sighed as his friend was clearly in a depressive headspace still, his tone turning more compassionate then. "It'll be a good reset from last night. We'll get some grub, then head over to the lodge or manor, and see if that stiff poindexter is there to help you out. You wanna drink yourself into oblivion afterwards, fine. I'm there with you. I'm always there for you," he emphasized, making sure Ery could see his conviction. "But at least let's not look like shit when we do. You can do me this one favor so your siblings and the others that care about you aren't drowning in worry when they see you again." His playful gist came back then. "You'll make me look bad otherwise and I like my job. Even if it is taking care of you."

The river wasn’t very tempting. The aspect wasn’t a fan of cold showers and baths. He’d experienced enough of them before modern water systems were invented. The selective supernatural preferred hot tubs. He sighed as the insults started flying around. ”How rude” Erythreus muttered sourly to himself. ”It wasn’t as you found me in a dumpster” He stated rolling his eyes at Dom.

”Hey stop that” Ery grounded jumping back as Dominic sent another splash his way. He glared murderously at his so called friend. Not very amused by his recent idiocy. In their glory days they would laugh together at the latest crazy idea or happening in their eventful lives. However now it only felt annoying as if the therian wanted to stall him. But why? He had even stronger reason to wanting to get on the road to localize his better half. ”Or I could just turn in to my dragon form and fly or get Bexley to portal me out of here” It was empty threats the aspect of death knew that his guardian was aware of that as well. He was in no shape to transform and couldn’t risk to be seen.

”Damn it’s freezing cold how are you not an ice cube yet” The blonde exclaimed after dipping a toe into the water. ”As you’ve been the past months you mean” Erythreus couldn’t help but bitterly taunt the lack of presence the two had had in each others lives lately. ”This is my usual look” Ery gestured to his dingy figure. ”I think they would be more shocked and worried to see me cleaned up” With that the stubborn aspect jumped into the water. ”Oh for heavens sake” Erytheus swore shivering. 

Dominic only stood there with his arms crossed and a shit-eating grin as he watched his friend bitch and moan. He was clearly portraying to the aspect that he wasn't going to give in to all his complaining. Even with the jab that came his way about not being around in the last weeks. It wasn't exactly like he had a choice in the matter at times. The Ailwards had him out looking, constantly searching, for more clues to whatever the hell was happening in Evermore that ripped open realms and caused people to go missing. That... or he was searching for her.

A single brow rose high as he watched Erythreus begin his tentative walk into the water. "You're only making it worse on yourself." The corners of his lips pulled up higher into a smirk as he finally watched the aspect take the plunge and as expected, instantly complained when he broke the surface again. Dom laughed. He couldn't help it. This all powerful being next to him being cranky and shivering was such a contrast to the eyes. In fact, he laughed so hard, his abs hurt. He couldn't remember the last time he really laughed like that when the circumstances of his life wouldn't allow for it.

"Don't be a baby," he said, smiling to him. "It's good for you, whether you like it or not. It'll wake you up. Dampen the hangover a little. Even for cosmic entities such as your stick-up-the-ass self. Plus, I'll buy later for humoring me." He nodded his head out in the general direction of the river. "Take a few deep breaths. Clear your head. Have a couple laps. That's it. You can do it, pretty boy." Dominic fell back into the water then to intentionally splash Ery before swimming out deeper into the river and letting the cold seep through his body, to the aches that weren't just physical.

”I really must find better friends” Erythreus muttered sourly to himself as he started to swim. ”What a meaningless waste of time” he continued to complain while finding a steady pace. Unlike the the therian guard it wasn’t a way of exercising he appreciated. Actually he didn’t enjoy most forms working out but especially not swimming in a cold river early in the morning. It could´ve been fun if Ery had been pushing someone else into the water, standing in the sidelines. Dom seemed to enjoy himself though and even if he was slightly annoyed with his absent friend he was glad that the hardworking guard could ease his burdens even if just for a couple of minutes.

After a few laps the aspects body had acclimated to the water. ”Okay now I’ve played along with your morning gymnastics” The impatient male said getting back up to the riverbank drying himself with the towel Dominic had thrown him before. The aliward aspect had always been an impatient person. Even tho he had eternity waiting and see how things played along had never been his strong suit. Maybe that’s where his relations had gone wrong. Whenever he caught feelings he’d always thrown his whole heart into it almost smothering his partner with love and demanding the same in return. In his work with guiding the souls back to the death realm he was forced to have a little more patience, and as his mind wandered there another ghost showed. Erythreus ignored it and continued to try to get Dom to reveal his grand plan. ”Let get things moving shall we?” The blonde demanded.

Dominic broke the surface, watching as the aspect made his way from the water. He grinned wryly as the other male reached for the towel to quickly dry off. At least Erythreus looked a little more awake now. At least he felt something different for those few minutes than nothingness.

Dom's eyes rolled at the other's comment, before gliding in slowly from the river to join. The change in temperature from the water to the shoreline made him bounce to stay warm as he moved alongside his friend. He leaned in pointedly towards Ery and sniffed. "Well, at least you smell better," he teased, grinning for a moment. He bent over at the waist and swung his wet hair towards the aspect in nothing but deliberate intention before hurrying to the house to change as he would no doubt be chased by more complaints at his back if not by a physical object being hurled his way from the forest floor.

______________

Some few minutes later and he was pulling a black Metallica tee over his head which draped just below his belt and over the slightly baggy work cargos he favored. Reaching for a black hair tie, Dominic pulled his still slightly damp locks back into a bun behind his head, a few of the smaller strands sliding forward over his face as he bent down to tie his worn boots.

Passing from the bedroom and out into the mostly open concept space of his cabin, he could see Ery already outside and dressed in the outfit he'd found him in the previous night. A sigh pressed through his nose in preparation for whatever this day may yield, good or bad. Given the luck the ailwards were being blessed with lately, he wasn't exactly hopeful. 

Dominic twirled the keys around his finger as the door shut behind him. His rusted and beat up truck sat unassumingly, but it had gotten him through some of the worst times in his life. Even more, he had some great memories attached to her too as his eyes lingered for a moment on the bed which was now full of tools and wood, but had housed a blanket and a love that was no longer with him on plenty of occasions. 

"Ready?" he questioned to break the thought, giving a glance across the hood towards Erythreus as he pulled open the door of the vehicle and slid into the driver's seat. "I want greasy diner food, but since you are my guest," he started, giving a slight and mocking bow towards his friend, "you get to choose."

Erythreus had lived through many years of cold with only fur from animals and fires to keep him warm. He’d lived many of his valkyr years up north with snow most of the year surrounded by reindeers. He hadn’t been as sensitive to temperature back then, and nowadays comfort had really grown on him even tho he wasn’t a very modern man. The aspect continued to shiver as he waited for Dom to get up. ”You could’ve just given me some deodorant or offered a WARM shower” Ery snorted his teeth chattering from the cold.  ”You’re going to give me a cold” The brody male exclaimed trying to jump away from the water splashing from his friends hair.

They wandered back to the cabin in silence. Or at least they didn’t talk to each other. Ery´s world was never silent. There were always voices blabbing in the back of his head. Unless he dulled them temporary with booze, and then his own mistakes and shortcomings took over to haunt him. The haunted aspect was sure his guard had thoughts and decisions of his own nagging him. All thinking creatures had more or less some were just better at letting it go, and most didn’t have the burden and dissatisfaction of a realm on their shoulders.

After dressing in yesterdays outfit. He hadn’t planned to be dragged to Dom´s. However he had never cared much about what he wore anyways. It was just necessary to wear something functional. Most of his wardrobe was black and either as old as him or gifts from the rest of his family.

”You don’t think it’s a bit early for dinner? Shouldn’t we just go to Lucien and try to resolve our problems?” Erythreus asked. Wondering why Dominic tried to post pone it with both bathing and now dining. His friend was usually never afraid to run head first into dangerous situations to save the ones he cared about. Was he worried to get saddening news about Siobhan?  Or was he just overthinking as usual.

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