A quiet November. Just what Lukan wanted to experience, especially after all that has transpired in the previous month. The silence that dominated the month gave Lukan the ability to focus on his future. Raise money to get the hell out of Lilac Grove forever. Despite the slow and steady improvements to Lukan’s sanity, the raccoon couldn’t help but repeat that mission inside his head for nearly every second of every single day. Platt and Klaus had left him alone after their disastrous encounter on Halloween night. Lukan thought that he was going to feel a lot better once they had finally left him alone. In one way, it had. Lukan’s ability to focus was a fruit of that. But at the same time, those two creatures were the only ones he was ever talking to in recent times. Such a thing had made him feel even lonelier. The only creature to talk to anymore was his coworker in Eira Farus Tharo. But due to their work and her unique personality, it was hard to hold a conversation for too long.
As for him and Fidel, the two interstate creatures were getting closer and closer, talking more and more about the things they were bound to do once they were together. There were so many more things to do in Salamander that Lilac Grove would never be able to have, Lukan observed. Maybe a larger city wasn’t going to be so bad? The raccoon hoped that would be the case at least.
The weather was what was absolutely getting worse out of everything. The early parts of the month easily resembled the time of year surrounding Lukan’s birthday as well as Christmas. It felt like Lilac Grove skipped Autumn Phase 2 almost entirely and went straight to winter. This, Lukan did not like in the slightest. It was, however, a bit of a blessing in disguise, as the foreboding season gave Sarah Benka further motivation to find themselves a way out of it. She wanted to escape before the bad weather truly set in, but she and Lukan both woefully knew that would not be even remotely possible. Lukan had also brought to her his serious decision to head to Sun Plateau. But as the days went by, the raccoon noticed more and more disapproval shining in his mother’s eyes. This struck Lukan with heavy foreboding. But he knew that this had to be their destination.
So over a month after the altercation with Klaus and Platt, early into the last month of the year and a mere week before the legendary 21st birthday of Lukas Cyra Benka, he woke to find the window in his bedroom fogged up to the point where nothing could be seen. Even when the procyonid wiped away the condensation, he still could see nothing. It was a complete whiteout outside. The masked face fell. Lukan had work that day. There were plenty of days where Lukan did not want to go into work at all. So many, that Lukan couldn’t count them. But just taking a look outside, or rather, trying to, made this day feel even worse than all of the others by margin so large, that it lies outside the universe, never to actually be seen. The raccoon wondered if his mother was home at all. He wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if she failed to even get the car out of the parking lot.
Lukan got to his paws, and strode to his computer to check up on how powerful the weather’s temper tantrum was being. Lukan’s jaw dropped. It was 10 below zero. Wind chills close to 30 below. Seven inches of snow had already fallen. And there was no end in sight for the day. It was not even officially winter yet, and Lilac Grove already looked as though it was transported straight to Antarctica. No. There was no way. No way in hell he was going to make it to work that day unless the weather pulled a complete 180 within a small number of hours. Admittedly, Lilac Grove has done so before, but Lukan knew his luck would forbid it from happening in his favor. So with that in mind, Lukan wondered what was the point in hoping for something he knew wasn’t going to happen at all?
Lukan sighed as he interally debated with himself on whether he wanted to deal with work that day. He weighed the options. To go to work and become tortured by the weather would further his funds to leave the city that had betrayed him. And to not go would spare his well being but risk the ire of his coworkers and bosses. On top of not having further money. Lukan had to call himself crazy. The bad seemed to outweigh the good if he were to stay behind and sheltered in his cozier-in-comparison home. Lukan let out another sigh. Oh how he missed cuddling up with Klaus when the weather was colder than even he could handle… A violently shaking head later confirmed it. Lukan was going to brave the elements later.
Before doing so, however, Lukan went to check his computer, as per usual, for a response from good ‘ol Fidel Skison. The coyote was acting more skittish than usual as of late, even his messages were. There were more spelling errors and grammatical inconsistencies than the coyote usually had before. They were almost comparable to the otter’s excited response to when Lukan revealed he had been ready to open up. Somehow, Lukan was unable to discern the canine’s words despite that fact.
‘Lukan. I uh… I want to ask you something for such a long time now and I just cannot think of how to even write it out. I don’t think you understand just how much I want to see you. I mean hearing about your story with Klaus, and seeing just what kind of guy you are is just amazing! I just… I am out of things to say and talk about, I’m afraid..”
And that was all he wrote. Lukan was somewhat taken aback by the words the coyote said, but the question he was wanting to ask was nowhere to be seen. Lukan’s response was a simple statement describing his incredulity at the coyote’s unexpected kind words, as well as his probably accidental omission of the question he mentioned. He also threw in the present state of the abhorrent weather just for good measure.
The coyote responded almost immediately. Such a thing was a rarity, so the notification that alerted Lukan to the message’s response almost gave him a heart attack.
‘That’s just vile! Now I cannot wait even more for you to get down here so you can escape that crazy weather! You couldn’t pay me to live there; the desert is my home!
And uh… As for the question, ah fuck it. It’s easier to write it than it is to speak it, that’s for sure. But I was wondering um… when you came down here, would you be interested in having, like, a date together or something. I mean we’re both gay and all and we seem to get along, and Ah forget it. It’s probably a dumb thing to ask, especially right now since well… Everything it seems.’
Lukan had to read the response over a quadrillion times before the message and what was requested within for all of it to sink into his mind. He almost couldn’t believe that Fidel would ask something like this of him! What was his intention? How could anyone develop feelings for someone they never met in person? Such a thing made very little sense to Lukan. Despite the question, Lukan knew he liked the other creature, but on that level? The raccoon shook his head and reread the message for the quadrillion and first time and understood. When they met. As in when they met in person. Suddenly it sounded much more plausible. And suddenly, the word “no” or any other words that denied the affirmative left Lukan’s entirely vocabulary, and the raccoon couldn’t answer in any way other than yes. Lukan’s spirits were raised back up. A new reason to leave Lilac Grove had arisen. No. Not a new one. That reason had always been the same. But something about it had fortified Lukan’s desire to leave Lilac Grove all that much more. This in turn, gave him the fire that he needed in his soul to prevent the bitter conditions on the other side of his walls.
The time that remained between Lukan’s free time and the time for his ultimate meteorological trial waned much more quickly than the raccoon was fond of. Such a thing was unprecedented. Wasn’t it when one waited for something to happen, time seemed to slow down so dramatically that it appeared to have been reversed? What was the deal this time? Lukan, knowing what he did about life itself, guessed it was because of how he was waiting for something utterly dreadful.
So when that time came, Lukan found himself asking himself the same question every single winter- even though it was not even winter yet- why he would subject himself to the elements in such a way with very little clothing designed to help him resist it? When the time had come for Lukan to traverse the travesty of the terrain, the temperatures were not improved. And an additional inch of snow had fallen. The sidewalks were completely indistinguishable from the roads as both were lawyered with a pure white powder, evenly distributed by the soft wind that only added to the pure hell.
Lukan almost recoiled back into the apartment building when he opened the door to the outside world. The shock of the cryogenic air almost made Lukan give up immediately. As Lukan stood in front of the door, whose glass Lukan was surprised wasn’t breaking due to the temperature differences on both sides, Lukan began to wonder just how much worth there was in one day of work. Surely they would understand him calling in on this day, would they not? The raccoon wasn’t so sure, no matter their seemingly lax demeanor. The raccoon shook his head, taking a deep breath. Considering what he was going through in the previous months, weather like this should be trivial. After all, this would be among the last times he would have to put up with it! Lukan said to himself, “Here goes nothing.” before flinging the door open and forcing himself outside.
The first thing that hit was the wind. The second, was the snow, followed ever so closely by the biting temperatures that were fueled by it. Lukan fought back the urge to go back inside as his face was nearly frozen instantly. 30 minutes of this? Lukan knew he was crazy to even consider it. But he simply felt that he had to. Each step was a chore. With the snow having piled up, it tried to stop his leg muscles from taking those steps. Before Lukan even made it into the neighborhood Klaus lived within, the snow was about to become successful, as the raccoon found himself gasping for air. The air served to cool his internal temperature further, like an unwanted side dish to his beloved oxygen. His overactive mind began to contemplate his decision to be out there like that. No. Lukan wanted to be stronger than that. After all, the weather DID in fact deliver upon his love for the cold, even if it did overdo it by an impossibly large margin!
So step by step, Lukan slowly made his way to through the neighborhood where Klaus resided. Lukan began to miss taking the easy rides with Klaus in his truck that much more. Though what were the chances that that hunk of junk could even start, let alone drive in the weather’s act of terrorism? Less than none, if that ever were a possibility. There was no doubt in Lukan’s mind that this particular outing was unequivocally worse than the one the previous year when he went to address Klaus’ uncharacteristically aloof nature.
Lukan wove himself past the otter’s old house. The building was still up for grabs. No surprise. The disheveled building would have issue with this season. Suddenly Lukan wondered the damages of the otter family’s electric bill… and even more so, how much damage it did their already unstable financial situation.
Lukan found himself walking past the adjacent road that led to the otter’s new abode. Lukan did not even look in that direction, knowing exactly what they were doing at the very same time he suffered, both internally, as well as externally. ‘Someday’ was the only word he could tell himself.
Luckily for the raccoon, the closer he got to the other side of the residential spaces where it would abruptly turn to the commercial plaza he was used to, the sidewalk improved in condition. He was almost surprised that there was one under his paws after all! It did not change the buffeting of snow in his face, however. The normally super busy highway that cuts between the houses from the stores was almost entirely dead once Lukan had reached it. He had never seen it so quiet in the middle of the day before. On top of that, half of the vehicles he could see were enormous snow plows, bright yellow lights flashing as they attempted to keep pace with the late autumnal storm.
Lukan crossed the highway with moderate difficulty. The restaurant he used to frequent on his lunch break had only two cars parked around it. The bank across the street appeared to have been shut down. The sign out front, even with it buried in snow, Lukan could tell wasn’t operational. He looked into the restaurant. No lights. What the fuck…? As Lukan crossed in front of more stores before he reached the retail store he was meant to be at, the looks inside of them were the same. Dead quiet. Dark. And seemingly abandoned. What was going on…?
It was at this point, as Lukan crossed into the parking lot that marked the start of his own store’s grounds, that his entire body, especially his colder-than-ice paws began to send sharp, agonizing pain into his mind. The raccoon found it a surprise it took so long for such pain to begin taking over his senses. Was it because that the events as of late were so distracting that even his overactive mind had to pay attention only to them? What truly was going on?
Lukan stumbled to the store with his paws feeling heavy, sold, and almost entirely numb. The raccoon wouldn’t be surprised if there was permanent damage via frostbite down there. He did take a lot of pride in wearing only a hoodie in winter months. Nothing else to help the rest of his body with such conditions. At least in Sun Plateau, weather like this will be a thing of the past.
Lukan tried to take a step inside, but found the automatic doors not budging an inch. He could hear mechanical whirring as if the machine responsible for that action were failing. Frozen shut. Great. Lukan sighed as he made his way to the manual side door that no one ever used. Thankfully the door did budge, but wouldn’t open. Lukan gave a few more tugs before he managed to open it. Inside the true extent of the feeling in his paws was the very first thing he noticed. Not how dark it was inside, since only a handful of lights were working. So it wasn’t as dark as it seemed. The storm was suffocating the power grid. The city was losing power, slowly, but surely. Lukan had never seen anything like this before!
The warmer air inside the building made Lukan physically breathe better. And his almost entirely frozen paws began to regain their feeling. The raccoon began to wonder what would happen first: his paws returning to normal, or the complete blackout of Lilac Grove? He mentally placed his bets on the latter.
Once inside the store properly, the first thing he noticed was how empty it was. The second thing he noticed were the few employees that were likely there merely wandering the store, many of them management. He noticed his boss, Domin, talking to a couple of police officers at the front of the store. Even from several yards away, Lukan could see concern on the dogs’ faces. Domin looked up as Lukan approached.
“L-Lukan?! Wh-what on Earth are you doing here?!” he exclaimed in disbelief. The deer was well aware of the fact that Lukan walked to and from work.
“Sir, I am on the schedule for today,” Lukan explained nonchalantly.
“I mean, yes, this is true, but you really did not have to come. I wish you had a phone so we could easily contact you. We tried calling your mother but…” Then Domin must have realized something that would make him look nothing short of foolish. “Wait. No. We couldn’t. The cell towers are out. This blizzard is bringing the city to its knees. The store is closed since there isn’t enough power. In fact, most of the power we are getting is being used just to keep the place warm.” The deer boss went on further about the extent of the storm and how it was impacting the city. There was a lot of worry in the creature’s voice.
“Jesus,” Lukan breathed. “I had no idea it had gotten that bad.”
“I’m surprised as hell you managed to walk here at all, Lukan,” Domin remarked. “No sensible creature should be out in that mess. Didn’t you even know about this storm?”
“I love the cold, sir. It’s gonna take more than that to stop me,” Lukan tried to be boastful, but he knew deep down the brutal bitter cold did indeed nearly stop him in his tracks. “And yeah, I did hear about a snowstorm coming, but I had no idea it would be this crazy.”
Domin sighed and shook his head. “I don’t think anyone did. Well, I would ask you to go home, but I’m sure I’d be arrested if I tried to say that, haha,” he laughed nervously, obviously making a poor attempt to keep spirits up.
“Only if you forced him to,” one of the officers replied. “The city of Lilac Grove has shut down completely,” he went on. “This store has essentially become a shelter until it blows over and we can restore everything. We’re here to make sure nothing happens.”
Lukan nodded in understanding. “Gotcha.” There was nothing left for the raccoon to do there. So Lukan decided to walk around the dark and gloomy store. The lights flickered every so often as he looked around. He noticed many of the creatures that were in the store were all huddled around the bakery and deli as a source of further warmth. He shook his head and wondered darkly, what would happen if the store would lose total power. What would happen to them then? He also noticed how empty the shelves were throughout the building. Had it been looted? Or did everyone pack away supply in advance? There was no way for Lukan to know for sure despite the evidence pointing to the latter.
Lukan heard a creature behind him gasp. As Lukan swiveled his body to see who it was, he heard the creatures footsteps swiftly turning into a nearby aisle. Lukan barely got a glimpse of the tail of the creature who fled, and felt a harsh pang of recognition. That was…
“Klaus? I know that was you. I recognize that piercing anywhere.” Lukan then heard a yelp and a body hitting the ground a split second later. Lukan sighed deeply, shook his head, and went to help the creature up from off the floor.
“I thought you wanted nothing to do with me,” Klaus said shakily.
Lukan completely ignored the otter’s words. “Came to take shelter from the storm, too huh?”
Klaus looked at Lukan with an expression of pure confusion on his face. “I mean yeah, but.” Klaus did not go on further.
“Shush, you silly creature. Everything is going to be alright.” Even Lukan had no idea why he was speaking in such a way to such a villain in his life. But the anger at him, it wasn’t there anymore.
“S-so you forgive me, then?” Klaus’ eyes sparkled, even in the dim light.
“Not yet,” Lukan said without any control of his voice. “Not yet I don’t, but soon.”
There was even more confusion being written over the otter’s face. “What do you mean by that?”
“When I have the love that you had given once again, I will. But until then… I will continue to hate you with all of my might,” Lukan said calmly. “This, I promise you.”
Tears were now in the otter’s eyes. “O-oh. I-I see. I guess no amount of apologizing will fix anything, will it?”
“Only one thing will, ya know?”
Klaus nodded. “I know exactly what you mean. The worst part about all of this is… well. Exactly what I was afraid of from the very beginning. You’ve become reliant on love. Addicted to it. This was what I was afraid of most since that, that is exactly what led me here.”
“Well, then let’s see where this takes me then,” Lukan responded, knowing exactly as such.
“Wait. Don’t you even care that I did end up poisoning your mind?” Klaus responded.
Lukan shrugged. “I only care about one thing now.”
“This is bad…” Klaus muttered, but not quiet enough for Lukan not to hear it.
“I still got plans to leave Lilac Grove you know. Without you, this time.”
“Seriously?! But where will you go?” Klaus’ eyes widened incredulously.
Lukan shrugged again. “Sun Plateau.”
Klaus raised an eyebrow. “The desert? Why there?”
“Many reasons.” was Lukan’s simple answer.
“Is one of them…?”
“Yep.” Lukan intercepted the otter, knowing exactly what he was going to ask.
“I’m so sorry Lukan. Not just for hooking up with Platt anymore, but… but for this. Now I know just how badly I fucked up.” Klaus seemed like he was about to burst into tears. But Lukan’s demeanor towards did not change.
“Don’t worry Klaus. I will be fine. Not now. And not tomorrow. But someday. Isn’t that what matters? I think Aero taught me something similar to this.” Lukan wasn’t even sure if that was true. Any of it. He didn’t even know where any of what he was saying was coming from. It all felt like instinct. The things he needed to tell Klaus, especially if this was to be his last meeting with the traitorous creature.
“What have I done?” Klaus whispered.
“You’ll be fine too, Klaus,” Lukan said. “You have your reason to be here. To be happy. Now it is my turn, to go find mine. I think this is where we say goodbye, and never meet again. At least, I hope we don’t. I don’t think I have anything else to say.”
“Wait what? But when are you leaving? Not soon I hope!” Klaus exclaimed. “I-I mean, if it’s what you want then…!”
Lukan shook his head. “You’ll know when I am gone, Klaus. And that is simply the fact that you and Platt will be happier. I know I have been bringing you both down. I thought you both deserved it. Well, maybe you DO, but that’s not for me to do now. Not anymore. I’ve got something else waiting for me. And I won’t let my feelings of you or Platt get in the way.” And without much of a warning, Lukan embraced the otter in a soft hug, that the creature hesitantly gave back.
“I-I already miss this so much,” Klaus stammered.
Lukan smiled softly as he released the otter. “Oh don’t worry. I do too.”
And without a word to the otter, Lukan stood up and simply walked away, just as the last of the power went out completely.