Day 009: Better Than My Instincts
Summary: Bright and early in time to catch the Dawn Chorus, a pair of Delinquents on opposite sides of the Ark's Rebel and Loyalist divide set out on a hunt in the woods. Things get very personal, very fast.
Date: 14 May 2016
Related: Follows At Least We Have Berries and The Brawl With It All
Cassandra Faolan 

Forests Around Camp

This forest is a mingling of hardwoods and temperate evergreens, with towering oaks and cedars mixed with slender alders. The ground is covered in grassy mosses and thick ferns — some with sharp, sword-like leaves and others with tight spiraled stems that unfurl toward the crowded canopy. Beyond the trees and ferns, the forest also hosts arching, moss-draped vine maples and flowering blackberry bushes as just some of its flora occupants.

Toward the west, the forest begins to break as the mountains climb, revealing meadow balds and the broad web of the divided Potomac.

9 Days After Landing

It's early, twilight barely receding as dawn throws its kaleidoscope of light across the east. Already the weather is warm, the skies clearing of the last remnants of hazy cloud cover. It's a spring morning of the kind nobody from the Ark has ever experienced before Earth. Even if he hadn't been plagued by an inability to properly sleep since he'd lost it at the rescue, he'd want to wake up every morning early just to be able to see it. He sits on a stub of an old tree just outside of the camp, his knees up against his chest, his chin on his knees, his arms slung around his feet. He watches the dawn by himself. Above his right shoulder rises his grounder sword, and his spear's leaning against the stub. The sound of birds waking up is filling the forest. He has a plan of going out on a hunt, but for the time being he's still content just enjoying the dawn, and thinking (something that looks conspicuously like brooding). Idly he rubs at his left arm and the five lines he's cut into it.

It's not unusual for the Earth-lover that is Cassandra Bonheur to set out from camp early, before the other delinquents have deigned to rouse themselves from their beauty sleep (if indeed that it may be called, for if anything, they seem to look worse each morning than the prior night). But it is unusual for her to do so as sluggishly as she does now, with dark circles under her eyes and an oily sheen indicating that rather than having woken up bright and early, she has simply yet to go to bed. She may not be the stealthiest thief at camp, but she knows how to tread quietly, and today it does not show. Her approach is preceded by the sound of a branch snapping under her ripe, muddy heel, followed by a soft curse-word. When she comes upon Faolan seated on his stump, she turns to look at him with mute, sleepless surprise, pausing a moment before she asks, "Keeping watch?"

"What's the point of being a Guard if not to guard?" Faolan asks her with the shadow of a self-ironic grin playing against the corner of his mouth. He turns his head just enough to give her an askance look out of the corner of his eye. "You look like shit." Well that's charming, ain't it? On retrospect he catches all the ways that bit of bluntness might go wrong, so he clears his voice and rubs a hand through his short cropped dark hair. "That's to say, uh, you know, relatively speaking. Normally you're uh, pretty and now, not that you aren't, it's just.." He trails off. "Anyway! Was thinking of going on a hunt as soon as I had enough light. I probably ate more than my share yesterday."

"Thanks," says Cass, ticking her chin Faolan's way to return his comment in the tone of a compliment. "I think you always look like shit." Water off a duck's back. She doesn't look wounded by his assessment, but she does wait in expectant silence to let him tie himself up in knots trying to rectify it. It's only then that she resumes walking. "You're not a Guard, either. We don't have a Guard." She comes to a stop a short way ahead, and evidently not trusting him to do his duty, turns her head this way this way and that to survey the trees in search of any warning signs that Grounders (or worse, Arkers) may be lurking hereabouts.

"I am, though," Faolan replies as he slowly unravels from his knot, and slips off the weathered and rotting stump. He picks up his spear casually. "I mean, to myself I am still a guard. I know, yeah, they kicked me out and I deserved it. Doubt they'd even want me back even when they come down, but that's okay. Some things don't deserve forgiveness. And I know the 100 don't think they need a guard, though they're fucking wrong. Doesn't mean I gotta stop doing the things I ought to do, though." He rolls his shoulder in a languid shrug. "See anything?"

<FS3> Cassandra rolls Survival: Good Success.
<FS3> Faolan rolls Survival: Success.

Using the same strategy as before, Cassandra remains quiet while Faolan defends his and the other ex-Cs' purpose, allowing him to speak without interruption, and hopefully therefore to speak more. She's a good listener; sometimes eerily so. "Nope," she eventually admits. She has never seen a single Grounder in the trees, but that isn't going to stop her from looking. They're bound to be out there; they're just a lot better at this game than she is. After a short lull of silence between the two, she turns back to look over her shoulder and says, "Hear something, though."

He steps up next to her, wearing a thoughtful expression, eyes squinting just a little bit. He tilts his head, trying to listen for what she's hearing. The weight of him leans against his spear. "Uh… I… think… something." But he's totally unsure. He looks at her for further explanation.

"Dawn Chorus," says Cassie, and she even gives Faolan a tight-lipped smile, which is by far one of the best things she can manage that doesn't fall under the categories of 'cheeky grin', 'smirk' or 'mockery'. It lights up her whole sleepless and oily face. One needn't be an Earth Skills expert to hear what she's talking about; the birdsong is especially raucous at this hour of the day, just as the chirping little things start to rouse and before they've allowed morning malaise to settle in. "I'm counting… robin;" a pause; "Sparrow and…" Another pause. "Warbler. And you hear that choking sound?" This time when she pauses, she holds up her finger at one call that is not like the others, and indeed sounds like a human baby's quiet, high-pitched, hacking sobs. "THAT… I think… I may be wrong… Yeah, that chirping bit? I think that may just be a pheasant. They're edible."

"Pheasant." That's the important one obviously to Faolan's mind. Screw the pretty birds and their singing if he can't eat them. He scratches at his jaw thoughtfully. "You wanna go see if we can't bag ourselves a fezzy?" Because he's sort of already forgotten what it was she called it. He makes his spear do a little twirl. Sure, he's not all that good (any good) at throwing, but he's strong enough that he kills stuff usually if he hits. "Sounds kinda creepy, though." The sound of the pheasant. HE has indeed linked it to a baby's hacking sobs. He grimaces.

Cassandra gives Faolan a slightly funny look when he twirls his spear, but nods her head. "Sure," she says. "You do the killing. I'll do the tracking and then stand way back. OK?" There is a machete at her hip, but apparently she doesn't intend to use it. That's what Muscle are for, after all, and by the greenish tint along the blade, its role thus far has been for chopping vegetation. "Also don't get mad if we lose them. Seriously. You're kind of scary when you do that."

"People get mad all the time," Faolan mutters defensively. "Anyway, I wasn't really mad last time. I was just… well, it felt like fucking Morgan was doing it on purpose." Grumble, growl, a toss of his head, before he breathes in and says in a bit calmer a voice: "I got over it. I'm not some kind of psychopath, okay? I'm not." His eyes follow the lines of her machete. He says: "Gonna dull your blade." But he leaves it with that comment, and just gestures her to take the lead since she said she would.

How dare Faolan criticise Cassandra's blade-keeping skills. Apparently, this offends her more than his earlier comment that she looks like shit, and she opens her mouth to argue until he gestures for her to take the lead. She then zips it and turns on her heel to lead away, though there's now a notable huffiness to her stride. "Didn't say you were a psychopath," she eventually bites back. "Might be better if you were. Like Asher."

He squints at her back as he tries to figure out why it's suddenly so full of outrage. He decides it's a girl thing, and shrugs his shoulders and just follows on after her. As usual he moves with an effortless sort of grace, light on his feet, relaxed, but still with the sense of contained power ready to be unleashed. "Yeah, he is a psychopath. Why'd that be better?" There's judgement in his voice, an ex-C's sense of superiority over criminal scum. Especially unrepentant criminal scum.

"Because then you wouldn't beat yourself up," Cassandra explains. "Asher doesn't lose his shit. You killed your girlfriend. You're a crime-of-passion kind of guy. Be less passionate!" She keeps her back to him as she sasses those sore spots, perfectly aware that he has the pointy end of a spear aimed right at it. She must really have a death wish, or maybe she just likes pushing his buttons. Psychopath.

His voice seethes of barely contained darkness when Cassandra mentions his dead girlfriend. It's an effort not to roar it, not to let the rage seep into him fully. He hisses: "It wasn't a crime of passion. It was an accident. They said," because he can't remember it, "that it was an accidental discharge. Not a crime of passion. Not a fucking… that… thing!" He's stopped, so as she walks his voice gets further and further away. The grip of his spear is in preparation to strike. "Anyway, everybody… loses… their shit, occasionally."

Cassandra isn't of a mind to wait on Faolan to keep up, because she's pissed (though less than he is) and wants him to trip over the roots, mounds and briars she deftly steps around and over. The faster she makes him walk, the more likely he is to lose his footing. It takes her a while, therefore, to realise he's falling too far behind, and to likewise stop some way away. By then her silhouette's half hidden behind some foliage. "I don't," she calls out, at risk of chasing away any nearby quarry. "You know what I did when I got handed a crapsack in life? I got over it. And then I found a way to build my life around that crapsack in a calm, reasonable manner." She's lying, which is nothing new, except this time she's lying to herself. Everyone has seen her lose her shit down in the Skybox, starting fights with people twice her size and experience, even his fellow ex-Cs and getting beaten down for her trouble. There's a reason she was placed in Solitary for nearly a year; and though her initial crime of theft may not have been so severe, there is no way that, given her bad behaviour, attitude and temper in confinement, she would have seen a favourable result in her appeal on the Ark, had she not been sent down here to Earth.

"Bullshit," Faolan answers. As if it to make a purposeful mockery of all her carefully laid plans to get bush-whipped by every piece of foliage in the woods, he alternately dips, jumps, sidesteps and effortlessly bullies through it all like he's not done anything else his whole life. Ask him to calculate trajectories and expect him to draw a blank, but after just a week and a half on Earth, even if he was never an Earth Skill nerd, he's making himself at home. He's by her side again.

"You get in more fights and trouble than I do. I bet you've hurt more people than I ever did, aside from the Grounders. And…" Jane, of course.

He'd gotten in a couple of fights once in the Skybox; a stick up his ass ex-C was an immediate target to anyone who had a beef. With numbers against him he didn't get away scott free, but they'd soon started leaving him alone once his mad rage started showing itself. He didn't pick fights himself. Before he was thrown in the Skybox, he might've had a temper occasionally, but it'd never been like this. Not like it was now.

"Yeah, alright, perhaps I lost it a bit," just a bit? "On the Grounders. But they'd taken our people. They'd made us their victims, helpless, standing on the river and watching them mock us. And yea, it felt good to get even, to not have to run away like a coward," because that had gnawed at him, especially being the one to have driven everybody to run rather than pointlessly fight, "to fight back. It felt good. So what? Like that makes me some kind of monster. You killed, too."

"You don't know shit," Cassandra snaps. Her temper's reaching Faolan degrees of rage — and yes, that ought to be a scale. When her fist curls at her side, we know how this story ends, and were this the Skybox, she'd likely have thrown a punch by now. But he's holding a spear, they're in the middle of the already dangerous forest, and she's perhaps not as suicidal as she appears. "I killed to survive. I had never done that before. I have never done anything for any reason other than to survive, but you wouldn't know that, because you're a stuck-up-your arse meatcase who thinks he's still a Guard, thinks he still gets to police people for surviving while he gets a free ride on Kane's cock." She clenches her teeth, taking her cues, even unknowingly, from the territorial, terrestrial wildlife she's so fond of. "What's your excuse, ex-C?"

"I know you're a thief, Boner, who gets in trouble everywhere she fucking goes," Faolan snarls back at her, an annoyed grimace on his face. He glares at their surroundings, not so much looking for tracks as he is trying to avoid getting ambushed. He also keeps an eye on her, just in case she does something criminally insane. 'Cause criminals. "And you're a liar. I don't know if you're lying to me or to yourself, but your pants are on fucking fire." He blows out an angry snort. "What I fucking want, is for us to do more than survive, for the Ark to finally come home, and for us all to live without having to be assholes to each other all the time. Up on the Ark, the rules were there because we were on the brink of extinction surviving hand-to-hand. Here it doesn't have to be like that. At least it didn't have to, until the Grounders appeared."

Cassie might just be criminally insane. She laughs, which is always a bad sign, but it's more of an amused exhale as she finally turns her head away from him. "You're so full of shit it's a wonder your eyes aren't brown," she tells him. She too keeps attention on her surroundings, although her purposes are for their hunt rather than avoiding being the hunted. The bird-calls in their immediate surroundings have started to die down, leaving only a few stray chirps and distant croons. "You don't even know what you're talking about. What do you think is going to happen when the Ark comes down? You get your position back, but what about the rest of us?" She steps back, arms outstretched, and tilts her head to the canopies. "Don't you see where we are? We're on Earth. We're free. We are doing more than surviving. This is the dream, the dream our species has had for generations. And we finally get to live it! You want to bring the Ark down here? To run our lives again, ruin it?" When she finally looks back down towards him, she smiles. "Fuck you."

"I'm not getting my position back," Faolan growls back at her with a glower. He steps towards her as she stares up at the canopies. "I'm at peace with that." Which isn't entirely true, if the bitterness in his tone is anything to go by. "Just like I was at peace with being floated. I deserved it. Most of us deserved it, some more and some less, but I sure as fuck did. You think I want the Ark down here so that I'll be on top of the food chain? That's not it. I want it down so that you, us, everybody, aren't scratching out a survival. This… we barely have enough to eat. What if people start getting sick? What if the Grounders attack? What if winter hits and we just slowly starve to death? We need the Ark. But it won't be the Ark, because the rules will change. What was acceptable up there, it isn't down here anymore. You've tasted freedom, you don't think they'll taste that freedom as well? They're not your enemies. We need them to have lives that are about more than day-to-day survival, because that is not freedom. That's just being slaves in a different way. And unlike on the Ark? If you don't like it, you can always just walk away. Do you understand what that means, Cassandra? It's no longer possible for the Council to rule like the did, just like it isn't necessary for them to, either."

Cassandra's smile wavers when Faolan approaches, and more-so when he relays his peace with the notion of being floated; the uncomfortable truth that many of them did, indeed, deserve it. But if she contains even a shred of remorse for her crimes, there's none now in her retort — so much so that it would be easy to believe she's being forcefully remorseless, shedding all personal responsibility to replace it with a child-like glee in the error of her ways. Her posture is proud as a peacock, her eyes full of mirth. "I don't care if people get sick. I don't care if people starve. They're not my people. I can find my own damn pheasants, and it's by my grace that I even let you join me." While she takes an initial step back at his step forward, she corrects that now and makes the same move, shoulders bunched in an effort to seem taller and more intimidating. Hey, it works on bears. "There is no one on the Ark that gives a shit about me. They all showed their true colours the second I —" There's a halt in her voice, as she catches herself about to say something she shouldn't before recalibrating. "Got caught for my black market scheme. I was just doing what I had to to survive. So why don't you run along and go talk to your parents or whoever else you have waiting to fawn over you on that corpse's dumb-fucking radio? I can bring these pheasants in all on my own."

"My mother's dead," Faolan tells her, "floated for treason. My dad's an asshole who hated my guts for not living up to his expectations, and I wouldn't piss on him to put him out." It hurts to say it, because he is Faolan's father despite everything, and there's a child-like need to have that approval and love despite all his bubbling resentments, too. "The friends I had were also… also Jane's friends," he swallows, "and they all hate me, and that's okay." He drops his spear, reaching towards her with his hands instead. No sign of being intimidated. Then again he's one of the bigger kids in camp. One for each shoulder, his eyes intent on her. There is sincerity in that stare, rather than the anger of earlier.

"There is nobody up there who'd be happy that I was still alive. And that's fine. I still want them to survive, I still want you all to survive, and thrive, and humanity to claw its way back from this shit. Because it's the right thing to do. Because I'd rather be that guy. Better than being some psychopath, better than being in it for myself, because heh," a bit of that crazy is seeping in, black self-loathing bubbling to the surface along with a bit of manic, "anyone who thinks I am is missing the point. Why would I wanna fucking wanna reward myself after what I did?"

"You're just lashing out because you got hurt. You're not damned. You can still have it all back if you wanna."

One second passes. Two. Maybe three. How long can she take this? It's a test of her own willpower, and one which she fully intends to fail, even if it takes her a millisecond too long to process and come around to it. Those hands on her shoulders aren't staying there, and she eventually ducks, fuming, to slip out from under his arms and put as much distance between them as she can in three seconds flat and a brisk step in the space of each.

"Fine. You're the good guy? That's fine by me. I honestly don't care how much you want to posture and pretend, and I'll even play along, ex-C, if it makes you happy." She jabs her fingers at him through the air, her tone turning an octave shrill. "But unlike you, I don't pretend to myself. And that's the only difference between us, you know? Because from how I hear tell it, you ran same as me when those Grounders showed up, only you didn't do it until you were sure everyone else could see you plain as day make it seem like you weren't going to. Wash your hands of personal responsibility, right? I don't judge you for that because that's smart. That's survival instinct. But I don't want your pathetic sympathy, either, when you're everything you're calling me. Save it for your own pity-parties rather than projecting. You need it. I don't."

"I'm not the good guy. I'm just trying to be better than my instincts. You should give it a go sometime," Faolan says. He grinds his teeth, annoyed and frustrated by having everything thrown back at him. "Perhaps you'll find its more satisfying than being a damn bitch." He scowls and picks up his spear again.

"I made everybody run, yeah. As a group, nobody abandoned," except for the people who had been, of course. "That was tactical. We withdrew because there was nothing to gain from fighting them there. We'd have all died or been taken prisoners, and who'd come at our rescue then?" He shrugs. He affects casualness, even as fumes at the memory. Knowing something is right doesn't make the memory any more shaming. "That wasn't survival instinct. That was just doing what had to be done, because someone had to."

Being called 'a damn bitch' seems to have a better effect on Cassandra than Faolan's attempts to humanise and empathise with her. Sliding back into familiar territory, she starts to calm down, and even stop being such a damn bitch. She still throws his scowl right back at him, but at least she lowers her voice again and looks him in the eye. "Call it what you want. We're the same." A pause, and then she adds, "I think we've scared all the pheasants away."

Faolan is still wearing his scowl, and looks for a moment like he wants to continue to argue when she says that they're the same. His whole body language says that they're not! But with a slump of his shoulders, and a reevaluation of just how well arguing with her so far has gone, well, he lets it be. These thoughts can be read on his face. He's always been a bit of an open book. "I guess we go back, then."

Cassandra pauses. Time to be difficult again: "You can go back," she challenges, staring. She, apparently, has every intention of staying here and finding those damn pheasants.

Eyeroll. A very loud and very clear eyeroll as he meets her stare head-first. He gestures impatiently with his hand and his spear, a 'if you're going to go find us the damn pheasants then GO FIND THEM' kind of deal. He stays silent and glum and frowning at her.

<FS3> Cassandra rolls Survival: Great Success.

Cassandra returns that eyeroll with as much attitude as she can muster, and a fair bit of mockery. Finally she relents, and starts back off into the trees in the direction of where those plump, tone-deaf birds were last heard crowing. Unfortunately, the two have spent so much time and energy arguing that not only have they managed to quiet all the nearby birds, but that morning malaise those who paid attention in Earth Skills know about has started to settle in. As they proceed onwards, even quiet as mice, it becomes clear that the Dawn Chorus has ended, and stray bird-calls are now as sparse as they are during any other time of day; audible and even pleasant, but hardly ideal for intensive tracking. What they do come across is a mound of upturned earth. She stops in her tracks and turns to stare at him, wide-eyed, glancing between the soil where she stands and those blue eyes of his. It looks like some large animal has been rooting and digging here, or ripped a chunk out of even ground to create an unnatural pile. Not far in the distance, the sound of stomping feet can be heard.

That she can't actually find them any pheasant shouldn't please him, but on some contrary level it does. If she ever glances back over her shoulder at him as he stalks silently with her, she'll have found those blue eyes watching her back with a 'where's the fucking pheasants?' expectation in them. Though he has spent considerable time in the forest since they landed, he's still not a ninja. Silent, getting better at it, but only so much. For now he still counts as much on power and speed in the moment of discovery to carry the day.

"What is it?" he whispers, up close, his lips all but against her ear and the breath of it spilling into her skin. He frowns down at the marks, kneeling, then turns towards the sound of the stomping feet. He hasn't come across these tracks in any of his hunts.

The tracks that Cassie finds are not in immediate eyesight; but this nerd knows that there's more than one way to spot signs of an animal's passage, with clear prints being only one indicator. She leaps on down to the base of the upturned mound, and there ahead the hoof-marks themselves can be seen. They resemble the deer-prints the pair found yesterday, but are rounder and squat, with the two halves of the hoof pointing outwards rather than inwards. The deep press they've left in the ground, coupled by how far they are apart, shows this is a very heavy animal. She does not immediately answer Faolan's question, instead raising a finger to her lips for silence, and then pointing ahead to where a black shape can, with great difficulty, be made out amid the trees. It lifts its snout and swings its head this way and that before burrowing its nose back in the dirt where, rooting around, it now reveals itself as the culprit of their disturbed path. Finally turning back to him, Cassandra leans in to cup her hand and whisper in his ear, "Think you can take that thing down with your spear?"

<FS3> Faolan rolls Stealth: Good Success.
<FS3> Cassandra rolls Stealth: Good Success.

He forgets that a petty part of him wanted her to fail to find their prey. Mocking expression is transformed to focus, his lips pursing into a compressed and thin hard line. He follows her pointing, squinting through the beams of morning light shooting down through the canopy light spears of light. Through them specks of hazy dust and pollen and fluttering insects stream. His breath catches. "Fuck… yeah," he tells her in hushed excitement. The only problem is getting close. He uses his hands rather than talking any more, directing a path from tree to tree, avoiding their scent getting blown into the animal's direction. It can work. He starts to move, bleeding into every crevice, making use of every shadow, avoiding every dangerous stick. Closer, closer. Hardly breathing, he's so focused. The beast becomes clearer, something huge and with tusks. It doesn't look like the pink lil' pigs in the children's tale his mum read him on the tab.

Earth has a funny effect on people; it causes their memories to grow addled. Because while Faolan forgets how much he wanted Cassandra to fail and embarrass herself, she forgets for the moment how much she wanted to see him trip over the underbrush and fall on his face. In a great moment of unity, she suddenly finds herself wishing him well, believing in his power to persevere against all odds as he crawls through the forest, step by step bringing himself closer to that pig. And contrary to her stated lack of interest in killing anything today, she opts not to let him fend for himself against this beast, and she too creeps up into the fray. Machete drawn, she circles around as he directs, striving to corner the beast from the opposite end. She may not be Muscle, but if her skill against fellow Homo sapiens are any indication, intimidation is certainly within her capabilities.

<FS3> Faolan rolls Melee: Good Success.

Its like fire in his eyes, the excitement. He glances over his shoulder at her, to share that silent moment of communion between two people experiencing something awesome even if they moments ago were busy loathing each other. White teeth shine in a bright boyish grin, and he winks at her. Then his attention is back on the hog. He licks his lips, sucking up a deep breath, preparing himself. Muscles coil and define against his arms and neck and back, and then he's leaping over the fallen log he'd taken cover by, rushing forward in a powerful surge of motion. Five strides, and then the spear is going and without even a hint of awareness of just how dangerous it is to injure a hog that can gut you up completely, he thrusts. It goes true, impaling itself in the hog. It wrenches the spear out of his hands, huffing and puffing, and eying him with murder. Two steps… and then it collapses.

"Shit," he pants out. He starts laughing, a delighted river of pure I'm-alive-and-awesome joy.

Cassandra resists the urge to roll her eyes again at Faolan's wink. She wants to encourage the poor boy, and clearly it's worked, because before she can even blink, the ex-C is suddenly leaping through the air, rushing towards the black-haired fiend. It squeals. Loudly. She rushes to his aid, machete raised to help corner it and cut off its escape, but she needn't even plunge her blade towards its flank before a spray of blood is spitting her way, and the stampeding creature's cries of pain are echoing around the woods. More hoof-beats can be heard in the distance, likely its nearby kin, but they are moving swiftly away from where they heard sounds of danger. Her breath catches in her throat when she watches a tusk swing his way, but before she knows it, the beast has collapsed. For a moment her jaw remains agape, and then as it stops moving, she lifts up her Grounder-made sword to pump through the air and let out a mouthed but excited, 'Yes!'

Faolan drops down onto his ass, all the tension and energy of the moments preceding the kill leaving him utterly exhausted, like someone just cut his strings. He flops backwards, arms spreading out angel-wing like, and stares up through the leaf ceiling. "We," he declares, "are fucking awesome. FUCKING AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWESOME!" And his voice carries off into the distance, and he doesn't care, just soaking in the moment.

It's only later that he realizes: "Shit, this is gonna be a bitch to get all the way back to camp."

Finally, breaking out of her tensions and reservations towards Faolan, Cassie starts to laugh with joy. "Not it!" she cries. "You're carrying that thing. Better get used to it, Muscle." She grins, then steps forward to circle the pig, lowering her machete back to her side. "Is it dead?" she wonders, uncertain. Her eyes are wide as she stares down at the animal's, having never been this close to a corpse this fresh before, aside from during their encounter with the Grounders. She roams its great big black-haired flank with her eyes, settling on its belly and then the fresh mud beneath the hooves that gave it away.

"Nuh uh. We'll tie its feet to my spear and each carry a side!" Faolan blinks, then looks at the collapsed boar. "I think so?" But from his tone he's realizing that he probably should've checked to make sure. So he rolls over and gets to his feet, then shuffles to the carcass to check for a pulse. No pulse. "Yeah, it's dead." His hand moves over the rough and bristle back of it. It's still warm. "It's not as nice to touch as the deer." He tilts his head and leans over to look at its tusked face. "Kinda ugly, too. But at least it doesn't have two faces."

As she watches Faolan reach over to press his fingers into the dead pig's neck and check its pulse, she draws back her lips with apparent disgust. "It tastes better," she says. "Than the deer, I mean. Fat. Really soft." She remains unkeen at the prospect of helping him haul this thing back to camp, but since there looks to be no other option, she relents. "Got some rope?" Even as she asks, her eyes start roaming the surrounding area for anything they might use in a pinch.

"I know. I ate so much of it last night I almost puked on the way to the pod," Faolan admits sheepishly. Didn't get that sort of spread on the Ark. The memory of the drop sours his elation a little bit, but he brushes past it. "Anyway, yeah. I got some." He hadn't even thought about the need the first time he went hunting. He's learning, though. From his little grounder carry bag he produces some. Tearing the spear out causes more blood to leak down to the ground, making wetter mud out of it. He gets some on his hands, and on his shoe, but he doesn't seem to care much. Instead he starts to quite business-like tie the hog's feet to the spear. "Meat and berries forever. Oh, and nuts. Think that'll cover my nutritional needs?"

"This is probably going to actually give you cancer, but I don't think you'll live that long," offers Cassandra, the ever-inspiring fount of knowledge. Really, who among the Hundred expects to live to a hundred? Not her, and armed with the memories of yesterday's feast, there's no going back on the discovery that pork is delicious. So she steps back while he ropes up the pig's legs, though the sight of yet more blood visibly makes her squeamish, and sees her wrinkling her nose.

"Eh." That's what Faolan thinks of cancer. He finishes up, fumbling just a little bit on some of the knots, even if his hands are quick and agile. Tying up boars isn't anything he's done before. "I wanna try seafood, too. I don't know what caviar is, or what it looks like, but I read it was the bomb. I bet I could spear it." A cockiness in the statement, the boy still suffused with the pride of the kill. He catches the look she gives the blood, and sees it now on his hands, too. He wipes himself off against his pants self-consciously, even if moments ago he couldn't have cared less. "You wanna take a moment?" There's no judgement or mockery in his tone.

"It's fine," Cassandra lies, tone nonchalant. The very fact he's noticed her being anything other than an unfeeling, cold-hearted bitch strengthens her resolve, and sees her features straighten out into a mask of stoicism. Pshk, blood? Ain't no biggy. The indomitable Grounder-killer circles around to the pig's feet once Faolan has finished the task, where she makes a point of looming impassively overhead even if she still won't touch the thing. "I take front shoulder, you take back?"

She says it's okay, and Faolan doesn't challenge it, even if he gives her a skeptical 'why do you bother' look. Then he just lets a dismissive shrug roll off his wide shoulder, telling her without words it's none of his business anyway. "Sure, if you wanna go first, go first. You ready?" While he bends down to pick up his side of the spear. It's a heavy boar, but he lifts it without even a grunt of strain. Since he's damn tall, the spear doesn't rest evenly and the weight of the boar slides down towards her, too.

<FS3> Cassandra rolls Brawn+brawn: Failure.
<FS3> Faolan rolls Brawn+brawn: Good Success.

The tracker is as ready as she'll ever be, which is to say: not at all. In her estimation, it was a wise choice to make sure that Faolan ends up being the one stuck with the rear-end of that hog, but what she didn't account for is just how uncomfortable the sense of having the thing's damned head, and eyes, and the stench of its muddy breath right up against her back would be. She puts on a brave face, which he can't even see with her back to him — and this also serves her just as well. But there is a reason, beyond mental discomfort with carrying a corpse, that Cassandra did not volunteer for this task, which is that she is painfully aware of just how scrawny she is. She hauls the thing up onto her shoulder, arm muscles bulging with visible strain, and soldiers on back to camp… for about two or three minutes, before she stumbles forward underneath the great boar's weight, and the spear it's bound to slides down to fall atop her back.

"Umph," comes the sound of her pain, and her knees send up a cloud of dust as they hit the ground.

His first reaction is instinctual; he laughs. It bubbles up despite his attempts to quiet it down, and said attempts only help extend it. "Uh," he says a little later, clearing his throat and biting down on his grin. "You okay?" Slowly he lowers the spear on his side, alleviating the pressure against her back. He offers her his hand to help her back up. "I guess I could carry it myself. Uh, with a lot of stops to rest. I mean.." before he knows it, he's chuckling. "Ahem. Yeah."

<FS3> Cassandra rolls Brawn+brawn: Good Success.

Faolan's laughter is utterly unhelpful towards making Cassandra feels better, and so she's understandably snappy when he leans down to offer his hand. "Gee, y'think?" she exclaims, but she does reach out to grasp his palm and accept his help in hauling her up to her feet. She stands up and dusts herself off while staring daggers down into the hog, but ultimately realises there's simply no way even the muscular ex-C can haul the thing on his back. With a sigh, she suggests, "Let's try switching sides. You carry low, I'll carry high."

With plenty of stops to rest all the same, their second attempt does, eventually, prove more fruitful. They carry their quarry back to camp, with Cassandra having learned to experience the discomfort of both ends of a pig pressed to her shoulder with more familiarity than she'd ever intended. But she does, at least, gain some sense of camaraderie with the ex-C she is in all other respects pitted against, and makes this known with a polite nod of her head once they part.

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