November. The symbolically christened Autumn, Phase Two began with an icy wind knocking and rattling against Lukan’s bedroom window. The otter had decided to stay the night over and was unusually happy to be sleeping on the floor next to Lukan’s bed. Lukan had no idea why the otter was willing to subject himself to something as uncomfortable as that. Lukan groaned sleepily as the wind knocked on his window and woke him up. How can this be? The building was only six years old; there is no way the window was that loose? But it wasn’t, for Lukan recognized a loud, daunting howl that always permeated at the ends of the year. Ugh. It was five in the goddamn morning! Lukan tried to block it out with his pillow, but that barely worked at all. What the hell… The bad winds don’t usually come until around his birthday, mid December. Were they early this year and was mother nature eager to begin the second, cold and dead second phase of Lukan’ favorite season? Lukan hoped it wasn’t.. It usually hinted at a terrible winter. Lukan could barely even hear the breathing of his sleeping friend; it was that loud. And how the hell did the mustelid even sleep through that anyways, on the hard floor no less!? Lukan envied the otter’s sleeping capabilities.
Lukan looked down, over the edge of his bed to look at the otter. Yep. Sound asleep. Head laying on its side, poking from one of his blankets. Lukan remembered probably too clearly how Klaus admired how they smelled just like the raccoon. This otter… seemed to really get his kicks out of flustering the raccoon. Lukan wondered if that was just in his personality? The otter’s mouth was slightly open. The otter looked oddly cute in this state. No not oddly, but very, Lukan acknowledged. Lukan looked over towards the end of the otter’s makeshift bed and saw that his long and slender tail was poking from the other end. Looking at it made Lukan’s heart thump somewhat louder in his chest. What. But why? Lukan shook his head and laid it down back onto his pillow, hoping to catch more sleep.
Lukan found himself lying, wide awake thanks to the moving air despite how tired he was, for four more hours. Yeah, this made him angry. And that anger kept him awake even more. Which in turn, made him more furious. Lukan hated vicious cycles like these. And that. Made him even madder… Lukan hoped he would not snap at the otter when he woke up soon.
Lukan was left with his thoughts again. Lukan both loved and hated that. He loved how many ideas it gave him, and how he could think about life and what to do next with it. Although he hated it for the emotions it filled him with. He hated how little his life had become because of dropping out of college, and that his life was more than likely doomed to monotony for good. Lukan did love staying in his comfort zone and rut of a life, but even he had to admit some things had to change. Namely, moving out of Lilac Grove for starters. But how? When? And where to? So many questions and so few answers, and even more possibilities for those answers. Lukan had no idea where to begin.
At around 9:30, the otter began stirring awake, the wind still as loud and strong as ever. “Ugh, who the fuck is at the door…? Kandice…! Tell the trick or treaters it’s too late for… for candy…” Klaus snored groggily. Lukan suppressed a giggle, but the otter wasn’t done yet. “And tell that asshole of a wolf... to stop howling. The moon wasn’t even… even full tonight.” Lukan began to wonder if this is something the otter does a lot. But then the otter said something that sent chills through Lukan’s spine, causing him to forget his anger and exhaustion. “Oh Lukan… Lukan you… Tell you that you, I… Need to know… Everything.”
Lukan immediately debated if he should confront Klaus on this matter because he had no idea what in the hell he was meaning. No. It had to be him just being indiscriminate and unaware of his actions in his sleep, right? Yeah it had to be considering his former statements. Lukan decided it best to dismiss it, but he knew it would stick in his mind, making him wish he never heard it.
“Lukan? Are you okay? You look like you saw a ghost,” came the otter’s tired and rough voice. Lukan shook his head and found himself looking right into an abyssal sea of emerald thoughts and emotions once again. The otter yawned, closing them briefly.
“Um, yeah.. Yeah I’m fine, Klaus,” Lukan said completely unconvincingly.
“Heh, well last night was Halloween after all,” Klaus shrugged. “Though you don’t seem fine at all,” he tilted his head in concern.
Lukan tried to assure his best friend. “No, I’m alright! Just slept really badly because of the stupid wind!” he insisted.
Klaus looked past him to the window above Lukan’s bed. “Oh yeah, it’s really blowing out there. Well, that’s Lilac Grove for you. Always windy as fuck.” The otter yawned again.
Lukan pouted. “And I have to go to work today. I don’t want to walk in that shit!” he complained. Even though he was more or less used to having to for most of his life. Today really wouldn’t be that different, and it was a far cry from how it was in the dead of winter. With snow and ice. And it being much colder. So incredibly vile and disgusting… Lukan dreaded that.
Klaus shrugged. “I can drop you off if you like. I have a truck. Well, we’ll have to walk back to my place so I can get to it of course, but it’s a lot closer than that supermarket!”
“You would do that for someone like me?” Lukan prompted.
“What do you mean by someone like you? You’re an awesome coon, and you know it!” Klaus assured him.
With the Halloween make-up starting to flake off of Lukan’s face, any blushing would become much more obvious for the otter to see. Lukan evasively looked away. “I-I hesitate to agree with that,” he said softly.
“Seriously Lukan, I am glad you’re my friend. Especially after what happened with me and Platt,” Klaus pressed, sounding much more serious. The otter jumped up and hugged the raccoon again. “You really are a great creature, okay?”
Lukan’s signature nature of fumbling for words shone once again. “B-but I did what any good creature should do though..?” he stammered in modest.
“Come on Lukan, you sell yourself too short. I envy the girl… or guy… who would get to date you,” Klaus winked.
Lukan shook his head, speaking his thoughts before he could think of them. “I don’t even know if I am gay or straight or whatever. I don’t really care for relationships, I’ll be honest. So I never really cared about sexual orientation at all.” Lukan felt he said more than he needed to here. Why was that?
Klaus scowled. “It’s because of you being all alone inside that coon shell of yours, I assume. I-I will be honest… I don’t know if I want to break you out of that particular piece of your coon shell…” he looked past Lukan and out the window again.
That’s the third time the otter has mentioned his “coon shell”. Lukan could not take not knowing what he meant by that anymore. “Klaus.” He hesitated. “What do you mean by my coon shell, anyways?”
Klaus dipped his head and shook it. “I thought it would be obvious? I am trying to break you out of your introversion, at least just a little bit, and get you out in the world a little more. Be more open to me, your mom, to others. Meet more creatures and try new things! Or at least I was gonna in the future... But I admittedly am not good at that myself. I dunno where to begin helping you,” he chuckled nervously.
“O-oh,” Lukan said. So this otter wants to drag him out of the rut and comfort zone of his empty life. Lukan was both daunted and curious about this prospect. “I see… I have always been happy with my life, to be honest,” Lukan said.
Klaus smiled. “Are you sure? Ever have that feeling that something was missing? That the puzzle is incomplete? That your painting of a life could use a few more brush strokes of this or that?” Why was he getting all metaphorical now? It was starting to make Lukan feel more and more uneasy. But the more Lukan thought…
“I-I guess so…” he admitted. “B-but I never really thought much of it. A-as I think this is the best my life can get, really…” he added.
“How could you be sure of that? And if you think something IS missing… Then you are not truly happy with your life at all,” Klaus said softly. “But.. if you are to seek out what might be missing, then pay attention to everything you do. Because if you aren’t careful with the decisions you make in that endeavor, be prepared to have your life potentially screwed over.” There was a very icy cold chill in the otter’s voice just then. Cold enough to freeze the air in Lukan’s lungs completely solid.
“K-Klaus?” Lukan prompted shakily.
The otter’s voice was now quavering with sadness. “B-because… I-I totally fucked up my entire life when I chose to be with Platt, especially to move here to Lilac Grove. I fucked up so bad,” he sounded on the verge of sobbing now. Lukan could only close in on the otter to hug him.
“Shh… Klaus. Stop. Stop talking about that right now. I don’t want you to be hurt by these memories. So please don’t recite them for me. Not until you are actually ready, okay? Life moves on. We can rebuild it.” Even though Lukan was not sure how true that actually was.
“I... “ Klaus stopped in his tracks. “Then I should go back to Rosethorn then. I feel the longer I stay here, the more damage is done,” he said flatly.
Lukan shook his head. “How do you know things will be good again when you do? Look, my life was at one point destroyed in a place called Bright. But I did not rebuild my life where I lived before that. I did that here, in Lilac Grove.” Lukan was well over a quadrillion percent sure that that was not what was needed to be said at all.
“Bright? That’s ten miles from Rosethorn..” Klaus noted. “When were you there?”
Lukan, somewhat relieved the subject was at least a bit changed, replied, “Eight years ago.”
Klaus nodded. “I would be in seventh grade then. Three years before I met Platt. Wow. Time flies, doesn’t it? Hm… Isn’t this a part of your story, though?”
Lukan felt his fur bristle at the realization. “Yeah it is. But I won’t say too much more yet. But I wanted you to know that I’ve been there too, where I thought my life was in a state of probable disrepair. Guess we might end up storytelling piece by piece,” he added jokingly.
“I would not be surprised in that happened,” Klaus said as he shifted out of his makeshift bed, revealing that the otter slept in just his underwear, a pair of black boxer briefs. Lukan knew he did too, even in the dead of winter, but... This was the first time that Lukan got a better look at the otter’s slender and sleek body. It was toned, but not quite athletic. It was long, tan, and handsome alright, especially the otter’s lighter shaded underbelly. Lukan barely felt himself staring. “Lukan?” The otter’s voice snapped him out of it.
Lukan shook his head violently, trying to clear it. What was that?! “Oh, sorry Klaus. I often drift off when I am tired. Fucking wind,” he added, hoping to change the subject back onto the wind. But it did not seem to work.
“Well, you seemed to have been staring right at me,” Klaus noted. “How embarrassing,” he said, covering himself up a bit. There was a noticeable blush on his face.
Lukan successfully thought of a comeback. He treasured that moment. “Oh? Then maybe the otter should think about that when he was flattering this raccoon with his looks then.”
Klaus blushed deeper and threw his pillow at Lukan. It hit Lukan on the muzzle before bouncing to the floor at their paws. “You cheeky coon! Okay, now we’re even then! But I guess that means you’re gay?” he added with a smirk that caused Lukan’s already bristling fur to do so even more.
“Wh-what? No it does not!” he voiced defiantly yet uneasily. “I told you it was because I was tired, okay?” Lukan realized that he was probably being too defensive. Yes it was true that he was staring at the otter’s body, but it was absolutely untrue that he did so because he was gay! Sexual orientation? What’s that? As far as Lukan was concerned and how much he cared, he was asexual. Hell. Anti-sexual! So what did it matter?!
“Lukan, are you getting worked up over this? If so then… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you angry,” Klaus looked at him in concern.
Lukan took a deep breath. God dammit. And he had hoped he wouldn’t snap at the otter exactly like this when he woke up in this mood. “No, I’m sorry Klaus. I’m sure it was just a joke. I’m not great at picking up on those.”
Klaus took a soft hold of the raccoon’s arm. “This is another reason to get you out of that coon shell I suppose,” he said softly.
“Well good luck, because this coon shell is thick and hard to crack,” Lukan said, half grumpily, half teasingly. This made it sound incomprehensibly awkward to him. He almost wished he did not say it.
“Bring it on,” Klaus said tauntingly. “Well, anyways, when do you work?”
“Two o’ clock. I only work half days and stuff, so I’ll be off at like 6:30,” Lukan replied. “Yeah part time is super part time.” Not that Lukan needed to work very much. He was pretty much chipping in a little bit for bills and saving up what he could.
Klaus nodded. “Alrighty then! What to do until then?” he asked.
It was right then that Lukan realized… “I have no fucking idea! I never have company over at all!” he exclaimed, wide-eyed.
Klaus chuckled. “What? Not even any multiplayer video games at least?”
“Actually I do have some thank you very much!” Lukan exclaimed indignantly “...That I would play with my mom whenever she wanted to as well which is… pretty much never,” he added disappointedly.
“Are you sure you aren’t a lonely coon?” Klaus asked, tilting his head.
Lukan shook his head. “This is the closest I have ever gotten to being lonely, is wishing I had someone to play these games with. Other than that, I am perfectly content with my coon shell,” he said certainly.
“Well…” Klaus placed a paw on Lukan’s shoulder and back. “You got me now, so.. How about it?”
Lukan smirked. “Oh. You’re on!”
The pair of them then proceeded to spend the rest of the morning playing what Lukan had to offer. Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros, mainly, as Lukan wasn’t the type of guy who was ever into any violent games like first person shooters. Lukan just thought they all looked the same and just weren’t interesting to him.
Lukan was astonished at how good at the games Klaus was. Of course the raccoon trounced the otter almost each and every time, but damn did that otter frequently get close? Even edging out the raccoon entirely every now and then.
But in the end, the raccoon kept winning. And winning. And winning. “H-hey no fair!” Klaus exclaimed at his 37th loss. “I keep getting distracted by how handsome this raccoon next to me is!” What? Is he really doing this again? Lukan was beginning to adapt to the otter’s flattering excuses.
“Or maybe it’s because this procyon is better than you!” Lukan stuck out his tongue playfully.
Klaus tilted his head. “If so, then you are only just, by just a strand of fur, I swear!” he pinched two of his fingers so close together without touching just to demonstrate his point. “I swear I’ll kick your ringed tail before you know it!”
Lukan laughed. “Oh yeah? We’ll see about that.”
“Well anyways, it’s already one in the afternoon,” Klaus noted. “We should probably get you to work here soon.”
Lukan looked up at the clock above the television and practically yelped. It did indeed read two minutes past one o’ clock. “Holy shit! I did not even notice the time at all!” Lukan exclaimed. Well, at least just in case of days such as these, Lukan always made sure he had his work clothes on, even at home before leaving for work. Lukan was not even paying attention to Klaus when he was dressing. He was almost certain Klaus was giving him an eye filled payback from earlier. Lukan still could not comprehend how that actually happened.
The temperature outside when the two creatures had exited the building was, perfectly summed up in one word. Frigid. More so than usual because the wind made it that much more unbearable. Lukan absolutely loved the cold, but the second the wind shows up and becomes as strong as it was at that moment, he’d do what he could to not have to put up with it. Ahh gotta enjoy Autumn Phase 2 indeed.
He shivered as they crossed the street towards the neighborhood Klaus mentioned he lived it. The area was so weird… On one side of that road is the neighborhood, but on the other was just Lukan’s apartment complex, and nothing else. Just empty field on either side, and then a middle school several hundred yards on a hill to the south. Lukan could vaguely remember going there… “Klaus let’s cuddle up for warmth!” he said to the otter half jokingly.
Klaus looked over to the raccoon. “Okay!” Lukan practically squawked like a bird when the otter suddenly squeezed him hard. He held him in a death grip position for several seconds, causing Lukan to fear his bones may crack. Then when Klaus released him, Lukan was left shaking even more than what the cold had made him.
“Wh-what the hell? I said cuddle, not crush me you silly otter..!” Lukan exclaimed.
“I just wanted to give my coon friend a biiiiiiig hug!” Klaus replied cheerfully.
“Yeah or beak my arms,” Lukan replied. “That didn’t exactly warm me up though, you silly creature!” he added as he shivered again.
“Sorry, I just like giving hugs is all,” Klaus said sheepishly. “Well there it is, my house, and my truck in front of it.” And Klaus pointed to it. Lukan couldn’t believe when he saw the relatively small one story house. It looked so out of place compared to the two story modest homes that surrounded it. Did an architect fuck up or something? And then he saw the otter’s truck. It looked old and overused, and had rusting and peeling paint in the most hideous shade of yellow anyone can imagine. Klaus looked a little pained when he presented his commodities. “Uh, yeah… I know it looks bad but… The cost of moving from Rosethorn fucked us over pretty good, even now. A-all that for…” he stopped. “Nothing.”
Lukan patted the otter on the back. Seemed the otter needed more time for his heart to recuperate. “Don’t worry about it too much Klaus. Focus on what you want to do now.”
“I do have a few ideas on what I want. I just am not sure,” Klaus said rather cryptically. But before Lukan could comment, Klaus whisked him by the arm and led him to the truck, citing the raccoon’s potential tardiness to work. Klaus hastily opened the door for Lukan to clamber inside. The thing was so far off the ground, Lukan wondered if it was a vintage monster truck or something of the sort; the procyon found it difficult to get his short body inside. Once inside the vehicle, Lukan was hit by an overwhelming scent. It was all too familiar, as it was Klaus’s scent blown up to a much bigger scale. Lukan found it hard to not become intoxicated by it, as it overwhelmed his senses, but in such a welcoming way that Lukan could not resist. What was this? Lukan could feel his heart racing in his chest. It was like some kind of pheromone. A drug, even. Lukan couldn’t fight his mind anymore; he knew exactly what was happening now. He was growing more attached to the otter. More comfortable around him. Happier to be in his presence than to be alone. How? Lukan never experienced friendship like this in years. It was a familiar feeling and much more nostalgic.
“We’re here. ...Lukan.” The otter’s voice jolted Lukan back to reality. He hadn’t even realized that his mind had wandered off again. How did his mind even wander with the way the wind was rattling the old truck windows?! He shook it. “Lukan, I am beginning to worry about you,” Klaus looked at him in concern. “Are you sure everything is alright?”
Lukan wasn’t even sure what he should say now because he knew that if he had tried to say that everything was fine, he would be met with the otter’s skepticism. However, if he told the otter that they weren’t, the creature would grill him. Lukan simply shrugged, not saying a single word at all. Klaus also did not say a word. He just stared at the raccoon with those huge emeralds in his face. Lukan tried not to blush in embarrassment. “I guess…” Lukan started. The otter’s gaze intensified, unnerving Lukan further. “Since everything is so different now…” he wasn’t sure what he was even saying let alone how to continue whatever thought he was having.
“It’s uh… about me being in your life, isn’t it?” Klaus prompted. He seemed somewhat hurt. “I mean I guess I did just insert myself into your life, but if you really don’t like that, I will leave you alone…”
“N-no! It’s not that at all!” Lukan exclaimed. He immediately knew he shot down the otter’s theory a little too overzealously.
Klaus looked at the raccoon incredulously. “Th-then what is it? Mustelid wants to know! Is it to do with your coon shell?” Lukan felt Klaus added that as a joke. Or so he hoped.
“I-I don’t know. I can’t think straight,” Lukan was at least somewhat okay with admitting that. What harm can that cause?
“I can tell that it’s because of me that that is the case, Lukan. I just wish I knew exactly why?” Damn. The otter has figured out too much. Lukan hated talking about how he felt!
Lukan sighed. “I-I… I have to think. I’ll talk to you when I get off of work…” Lukan quickly equivocated and jumped out of the truck, immediately feeling his head clear more significantly once he was out of the otter’s scent. He had second thoughts about being so evasive when he saw the otter’s sad face as he prepared to close the door behind him. Seeing the otter look so disappointed and down infected Lukan with the same viral sadness. But the procyon was just too unsure of what to even say. He stood there looking at the otter’s shining gemstone eyes for a few moments. He couldn’t even bring himself to apologize as he closed the truck door behind him, and turned slowly to face his place of employment. Oh what a work day this was going to be. But Lukan’s thoughts never wandered to that idea. They stayed firmly on the otter. His thoughts always seemed to remain on the otter. Lukan hoped quite dearly that the otter wasn’t going to hate him after this. He hoped they will still be friends. A hope that Lukan has only ever had a few seldom times. It was upon such a realization that Lukan had began to wonder. Was this otter, or more specifically a friend like this otter, exactly what he was missing in life all along?