Yusef's jaws hinged and unhinged, opening and closing in a strange sort of rhythmic pattern as his teeth clicked together over and over and over. His paws twitched, muscles quivering under his skin. Eyes were squeezed shut, nearly-mature body twitching and spazzing in that heavy deep-dream state that only a youth could fully reach. But it wasn't a happy dream of chasing rabbits, oh no. It was a nightmare, full blown. There was no moon in the sky. The stars were falling, one by one, lights flickering out. The ground beneath him quaked and shattered, and he fell, spinning, spiraling out of control, blind and helpless into the abyss as the stars flickered out around him. His mouth tasted of blood and it was not the blood of prey, but his own, pungent and sharp. And then, the glint of teeth in the shadows, even as he tumbled further and further down, and massive, giant jaws burst forth from the darkness and one by one, tore his limbs away from his body and he hit the ground, his eyes blackened, his tongue ripped from his mouth, his breath strangled in his throat and all he could hear again and again was "You will always fail." AND AWAKE. He snapped to attention, head whipping up and jaws snapping at the air in some vain attempt to kill whatever it was that tried to wake him (though really it was only a leaf falling from a tree) and he spun around to his feet, chest heaving, muzzle peeled back into a horrified and infuriated snarl. A scowl crossed the young la's features and finally he shuffled to his feet and began to wander towards the nearby river--yeah. That'd help. Lets go for a swim.
Smug had been resting in the courtyard having completed her morning training. Lazy stretches and a full belly were welcome in the period where she awaited the sleeping bodies to begin stirring around her. Olive eyes were drawn to the spastic movements being made by Yusef while he slept. She had spent many a night caught in the clutches of nightmares to recognize the signs. Head lowered to paws to watch him until finally he jolted awake, snarling and panicked. The two had only really seen each other or conversed in passing, maybe it was time to change that. Pushing herself to her paws, woman shook out her fur then made her way after him where he had disappeared from view. Although fur was already damp, she wouldn't mind a swim at all. "Mind if I join you?" she inquired as frame halted on the rocky shore. Glance was cast about the area before settling back on the lad. He had grown much since their first meeting. Wow... how long had she been with Vechnyy already? Smug remembered when he was just a ball of spitfire learning to mark the territory and calculating her every move.
Vadimir was already at the river, having finished his morning BALL LIFTING. Hungry after his excursion, Tsar decided to try his hand at fishing. Not a hunting skill he was particularly well versed in, but the execution was easy enough that he learned in a timely fashion. Hold still, lunge, bite down, shake, and drop. Repeat! He'd gather himself three lovely silverfinned beauties from the rushing water, laying them all out in a row. Each were gorgeous specimens, and eating all three would just be shameless gluttony. Perhaps he should share? But then the question came down to wh-- and just like that. Two figures were noted, and one scoping squint told him they were just the right dining buddies for his current breakfast plan. Could you have planned a better circumstance? HELL NO! Three short barks would be announced and, if they so chose to join him, he would press the other fish upon them, no questions asked or answered. "Good mornink." Would be the calm, temperate greeting, paw seeking his own fishy once he had delivered the other two theirs. And if by chance either one tried to refuse a fishy? Why. He'd grab that hunk of seafood omlette and try his damndest to forcefeed dem lovely bitches while grinning toothily as if succumbed to dementia. COME ON DOWN TO VAD'S BREAKFAST DINER!!!
Yusef's head was dropped low beneath his shoulders and he walked with the skulking gait of a furious bear, fur ruffled and mottled and bristled as he stalked off towardsthe water, pausing only when Smug cleared her throat and spoke to him. Indeed, when she had come along, he was just a tiny little carefree ball of energy and determination--and two of those things were still true. Simply the 'carefree' part had crumbled with Drak's disappearance, and he had become starkly and suddenly aware that he had responsibilities, desires,jobs, duties, tasks--things he must do if he ever wanted to succeed, if he ever wanted to be respected, if he ever wanted to truly respect himself. Yusef snorted a little, trying to smooth out his gnarled features so that he didn't appear to be angry at Smug,"...Alright." he agreed, gazing at her for only a moment from the corners of hs eyes before he continued his trodding. And then Vadimir's OH SO GODDAMN HAPPY AND CHIPPER voice. "....Mornink, Tsar." he replied, his voice somewhat guarded. AND THEN HE WAS SLAPPED IN THE FACE WITH A FISH. Well. Okay. Maybe eating would help..food usually helped, right? He picked up the fish and then sat down at the rivers edge to begin gnawing at it.
Smug dipped her chin in thanks when he allowed her to remain. Vad's greeting drew her attention to him just in time to see a fish flying at her. Head lifted in the nick of time and the fish slapped her in the chest. Lip curled to reveal incisor at him in a playful scowl before head lowered and nose went about investigating the offered meal. Scooping it between jaws, woman approached closer to the tow males before lowering frame to the ground. "Thank you," she called to Vad while olive eyes glanced up at him. Mmmm yummy yummy in my tummy. Woman dug into her snack while both the others did. She didn't want to intrude on father son bonding time so she would most likely remain quiet unless addressed.
Vadimir snorted in satisfaction when his eccentric meal tossage had panned out just as he'd hoped. One in the face, the other in the chest. BAM, TWO POINTS. Had he not become an alpha, ahh. What a sharp-shooter he would have made amongst the canine world. Goddamn. Smug's reaction was just as he'd expect, and of course Vad would offer her the same, 'dunno wut dat look forrr' look as was their norm. Though, due to recent events. It didn't hold the usual gaiety and charm that it usually did. Too much on the mind. But, thanks to certain elements... that would be sorted out soon. But for the time being, he looked to his son, brow slanted upward to watch his subdued, even grouchy aura waft off him like ten week old gym bag stank. Well then, what was this about? As Vad settled into his meal, he'd continually hold his attention upon the growing lad, before finally deciding to come forth with a comment. "Zomezink ze matter, Yusef?" Even before he deigned to verbally concede to the acknowledgement of his child's outward behavior, Vad knew that this could go in so many different directions. It was always so with their family. Eyes would temporarily dart to Smug, catching her attention if able. In that small space of time he'd impart a silent message, that simply said, 'IT'S ABOUT TO GO DOWN'. Then he'd return all focus on Yus, curious to see how he'd respond. All the while speedily bunching on his fish cause, not to be rude. But he was HUNGREH.
Yusef's jaws were busy at the fish, but he paused when he was asked about his mood. "...I'll be fine." he promised. For multiple reasons. He may have been still been a child but he knew that Vad had been having his own emotional turmoil issues--though not aware Smug had been, too. In any case, Drakov was back and it was not the time for him to try to deign all attention to himself--no, it belonged to the Tsars and Tsarita, it belonged to those of real ranking. His emotional struggles were unimportant to the pack, as long as he did his job and did it well. And so, with this thought, he responded in the way he thought would be best--don't worry about me. "....You try fishing now?" he asked, taking note that he'd never actually seen either of the Tsar's fish, though he and Dermo were practically experts at it. "..Can you feesh?" he asked Smug, trying to keep her in the conversation.
Smug hoped that the Tsar had taken their conversation to heart and either had or would talk to his brother. He needed it, they both did. She was finishing up her meal, tongue swiping along limbs and chest to clear any scales and blood that clung to her fur, when Vad's question had her lifting her head. Eyes first went to Yus as she studied him for reactions to the question. Part of her wanted to reach out and get him to talk to her. She seemed to have that effect on people... Maybe it was her stubbornness hmm? Or her genuine interest in the well-being of the pack, mentally and physically. Others seemed to confide in her against their typical natures shown. But she wouldn't push it, she rarely did, and not in front of his father. Her thoughts were cast back to her conversation with Vad and had head tilting to look at him. Lucky she had since she managed to catch his look. Curiosity peaked in her eyes but she kept her mouth shut and senses alert for what he might have meant. "I've had some practice. Care to train me more in the art?" Visage was one of encouraging smile, hoping to draw the boy out of himself. They needed to spend some time with each other anyways, it was long overdue. She knew that he was skilled in the practice as well and it never hurt to learn. Paws pushed her into a stand and woman approached Yus while jaws parted and aimed to wrap around his in tradition. If he had allowed it, hold would last only a moment before she released and waded into the waters to clean the fishy smell from her pelt.
Vadimir meticulously disassembled his dining arrangement, all the while attentions kept flawlessly trained on Yusef. Though, in quick succession he would gulp down the bones as well... what was the point of picking at it then?! Front paws folded in on each other, tucking beneath his chest as he simply surveyed. His answer was as he'd expected it to be. I mean, you raise somethin'. It'd be mighty tacky to be surprised when they behave how you taught them to! "Zat zo?" He'd ask first, watching for any additional reaction. Calculation, adding, subtraction. Smug's attendance and subsequent foray into uncharted waters earned a brief silence from Vad. Let the two bond before he go crackin' whips and tossing lemon branches. But should a lull in the conversation follow, he'd leap on it and wrangle it into submission before going on to say, "Zo, Yusef, Smug. Vere you two around for Drak's announcementz?" should they have answered, he'd continue. "Are eizer of you excited for vot iz to come, mm? Got any planz in mind?" Even though the question spanned both individuals, it was geared more toward the younger of the two. Smug, Vad already had a good mapping of. Yusef, on the other hand. Was as uncharted as he himself was. Said something when you knew your son, about as well as you knew yourself. That is to say, not very much at all.
Yusef FINISHED HIS FEESH. "..Vat announcement?" No, he hadn't been there! He didn't know! He glanced up as Smug greeted him in proper Vechnyy fashion. "...I zuppose I can teach you some zings.." he agreed after a long moment, hacking up a bone. Stupid fish bones getting stuck in his throat. "..Vat ees exciting?" he asked, attention tilted back towards Vad. "..Are ve goink home?" He didn't like this place. He missed his big stone den in the mountains.
Smug hadn't meant to step on Vad's toes, she just wanted to wash herself. Head dipped under the surface of the water and came back up dripping wet. She shook, sending water flying at the two males ashore before snorting the remaining liquid from nostrils. Attention shifted to the Tsar as his words reached her. Head canted to the side curiously. Had she missed more than what she had already learned. "I know of the scouting parties and that Drakov had wanted me for something so it seemed he didn't know what yet. Was there more I missed?" Gaze shifted to Yus as he posed his question of returning home. Oh that would be nice! It was too warm here and she had a thick coat built for cooler climates. At the same time though... Eyes darkened as thoughts turned to where she had come from which was not too far from the river running near the old den where she had encountered the Tsar for the first time. Frame turned away and she headed a few steps deeper into the water, staring down into the depths a moment before submerging herself once more. She would let them talk while she fought a war within herself in hopes of being able to turn back with quiet composure. Mission accomplished as neutrality set in.
Vadimir looked on, noting that Yusef indeed was in the dark about proceedings that had gone on prior to the now. Welp, time to enlighten! "Az I already told Zod und Nida, Vechnyy haz had far too many come in, zeeking zomezink ve have zat zey feel zey lack. Zomezink ve can give them, complete zem. But many are unvillink to do ze vork. We're weeding zem out by any meanz necessary. Sparz, trainink, grueling tests of strength, determination, courage. If zey are reluctant, crush zem until zey eizer comply, or zey die. Drak vishez for zis und more, to push out und discover all zere iz of our new home, both ze land und it's inhabitants. Find out who are friendly, who are not. Anyvon ve find on our landz not of Vechnyy are to be ran off or keeled, for ve have more zan enough on our pawz vith ze memberz ve have now." He'd fill in on the other details, only to pause when he had a chance to mull over Yus's last query. Hmm.. that was a tough one. "I am not zure, Yus." He answered honestly. After the calamity that forced them to leave, it had dawned on Vad more than once the provocative contemplation of returning home. But pleasing as it might have been... They weren't in a situation where they could make that step yet. Drak wasn't ready for a journey like that, and the pups were too young to be moved over such a large distance. Usually he'd be content with pushing the little buggers. What better way to find out which ones were worth keeping? But Vadi knew that Zod and Nida would be putting all the effort they could to keep all their scallions in good health, which meant they wouldn't be able to fully maximize themselves to the pack as a whole, which made them vulnerable. "... Zomeday, perhapz." He'd murmur slowly. Maybe it was something he and Drak could discuss. The list of things they needed to talk about was becoming a mile long, and still going. "My main reazon for bringing it all up iz zat vith ze squad I intend to lead for our eventual scoutink job... you care to be a Vadimir apart of it?" He was more than old enough, and looked like he was getting right bored with being at home. He was spending more and more time away, and rather than restrict. Vad wished to endorse this and make it into an opportunity. Within every trial, there is boundless possibilities. And so he thoroughly prepared to milk that plump potential teat dry.
Smug The Tsar's full attention had been on his son, leaving her to mull over thoughts undisturbed. She listened as Vadimir talked of the plans for Vechnyy. Woman was pleased that they were not taking in any more strays as well as testing the mettle of the ones they already had. Too many idle bodies about lazing off the food that herself and the more committed members hauled in. Then the mention of returning to their old den and woman turned away. Some day? Would she be ready for that? She was equal parts anxious and excited. Good ole mixed feelings stirring within her once more. Attention was partially caught when Vad mentioned a squad he was putting together, but she stayed absent of the conversation while water lapped at her chest. She idly wondered if she would be invited but Drak's look sent her wondering if he had other plans for her instead. Not like she'd been approached with anything yet. While the two talked, woman waded out deeper into the waters and away from them, crossing the river to the other side without a word. Pulling herself from the frigid river, she shook out her fur and loped away without a parting glance.