swampyyy's cauldron
rating: 0+x

Peace rarely came to the woods. The wilds were filled with old military bunkers with AI’s permanently set on defensive-mode, undetonated ordinance, and- of course- the megafauna. Any pockets of peace where these things weren’t common were typically already filled with buds of civilization or in the process of being exploited best for human life. Quiet is something that is rare to come across.

Morgen had known the woods for a while, and knew where the quiet spots were.

Morgen liked to use these spots to get away from everyone for a break; Devoney liked to tag along to smoke.

Devoney knew Morgen hated smoke, but they both enjoyed the peace. Besides, Devoney never left her trash in the woods, and had some weird method for making sure that Morgen didn’t smell the smoke- so, in Morgen’s eyes, she could tag along.

“How’re things going with Damien?” Morgen quizzed while poking around at some mushrooms on the ground, trying to get a peak at their mycelium without disturbing them too much.

Devoney finished her drag and took a second to release the smoke; “He cheated on me” she said with contempt.

Morgen sighed. It was always like this- thankfully Dev was strong, but Morgen still worried for her. “You’ve gotta pick better dudes,”

Devoney snorted, “It’s not my fault everyone’s sweet at first and ends up being a huge dickweed.”

Morgen puffed out her cheeks, “Maybe you just- have to consider people more before you give yourself to them,”

Devoney took another drag, “I don’t know,” she sighed; Devoney laughed, “Maybe I can find someone for you?”

Morgen crouched back to her mushrooms, “Please, there’s no good guys at the campus”

Devoney shrugged, “Doesn’t have to be a guy.”

Morgen stopped.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Why not take another girl out? That’s a thing, right?”

“I mean-” Morgen kept staring down at the mushrooms. A starchy fruit was a few feet away- by now it was teeming with bugs, all trying to break the skin of the plant. Morgen sighed, “Could I really?” She stood up and started walking down towards a nearby creek, Devoney following a little behind. Morgen kicked up some dirt, “Now that I think of it, it might be better or something… still, there’s no one that really stands out…”

There was Dori who was cool, but was she really like, date-cool? Who else did Morgen even know? She wasn’t just gonna approach some girl that looks pretty and ask her out- god, imagine the nightmares after that. What if she asks someone out and they don’t give her the chance? Had she even thought of dating before?

“That’s why I’d help!” Devoney suddenly piped, keeping pace. She threw her burnt-out trash into a bottle; “You’d tell me a girl you like, and I’ll like- subtly interview them; see if they’re single, if they’re bi or lez or something else, and see if they like you!”

“What’s ‘bi or lez’ mean?”

Devoney chuckled a little, wiping her hair back behind her ear, “Like, sexuality- what they like.”

“Oh!” Morgen looked to the ground in realization, before scratching at her neck, “Like, when all those guys…”

“Yes.” Devoney said, “What all those *assholes* called you.”

Morgen chuckled painfully- second grade, when she wore a skirt to school for the first time. “Yeah…” Great memories.

Morgen felt a hand touch her back and rub a little. “They’re not still bothering you anymore, right?”

“No,” Morgen lied.

Devoney had said a few weeks ago that she’d “deal with them”- people no longer whisper whenever she enters the room, but she still catches some of the guys staring at her behind her back.

Morgen must’ve shown her distress. She felt Dev’s hand touch her shoulder-blades and start rubbing as they walked. They stopped at a nearby log and sat down, and Devoney kept rubbing her back, occasionally stopping to pull a loose hair from Morgen’s head. “You’ve got twigs in your hair dude,” Devoney said quietly as she started pulling at stronger strands of Morgen’s hair, “Did you bring your brush?”

Morgen reached into her bag and pushed aside her vial of insulin and pulled out an old hairbrush Devoney had given her years ago. Dev took it and started brushing out Morgen’s hair- she kept talking as she worked, but Morgen was looking at the horizon. They had stopped on a wooded slope, and the trees parted a little ways off to make the sun visible- if a little shaded behind the clouds. It was… maybe 4 pm? That didn’t matter- Morgen closed her eyes and tried to relax.

Bird calls were going off in the distance- little songbirds chirping from high up in their nests before the last rays of sunlight would’ve drowned them away. Apparently at some point in history, the birds would migrate south for winter, but that time was long gone- what with the seas being dangerous now. It didn’t matter much, just meant Morgen would still be able to hear them once autumn passes. Devoney was still brushing, but was just doing it automatically at that point.

“Did you hear?” Devoney asked.

“What?”

“Apparently on other planets, their suns aren’t that big.” Dev said with increasing intensity, “Some aren’t even yellow!”

Morgen chuckled, “Yeah… did you know the sun is pink down in Baon?”

Devoney stopped brushing and squeaked in excitement, “Really?”

“Yeah!” Morgen explained, “Apparently it has something to do with the air there- some chemical they keep releasing…”

“It would be sick to go there one day…”

“Yeah, it sounds really pretty…” It probably wouldn’t happen. Baon has been under wraps since before either of them were born, but who knows where being a pilot could take her?

Morgen and Devoney sat there a while, the birds softly chirping in the distance, and the wind carrying the cooling breeze of early-autumn. Devoney would occasionally break the silence and ask Morgen a question- did you see the latest episode on the CK network? Oh! How’s your dog doing? What songbird did that just come from? What bug is that?! Is that berry poisonous?

Morgen had an answer for most of the questions regarding the woods. She could usually give a long explanation on them too- she loved explaining this kind of stuff, and Devoney listened well. Even when she started going on tangents about other subjects in the process, Devoney would just stare with fascination.

It wasn’t until the woods got weirdly silent they realized they lost track of time. The sun was dipping below the horizon, the temperature was dropping, and the songbirds songs were quickly going quiet. They started hurrying back to town- Morgen walked at a semi-quick pace through the brush and Dev ran along the side, stopping to balance herself along a log or climb over some rocks.

Suddenly, Devoney slipped a little on a log- “Careful!” Morgen called out a bit concerned but somewhat sarcastically.

“Don’t worry, I’m fine!” Devoney called back.

Morgen just shook her head and smiled before feeling her foot catch on something.

Morgen tumbled forwards and yelped, throwing her arms in front of herself to try and catch herself

In a flash, she had stopped. Devoney had sprinted over and grabbed her shirt as she fell- Morgen stumbled and almost fell again, but Devoney held tighter, putting her arm around her chest- however, it didn’t save Morgen’s glasses from flying off..

“So what was that about falling?” Devoney asked. Her smugness was so tangible Morgen didn’t even need to see her face to know she was smiling.

“Th-thanks,” Morgen breathed out- her heart racing.

“Oh shit,” Devoney suddenly piped, “your glasses…” Devoney let go of Morgen, releasing the pressure on her chest.

Morgen stood there, barely able to see in the growing darkness. She could make-out Devoney wipe away her bangs and reposition her glasses. “They’re, um…”

Morgen could only see through one lens- the other was still blurry; her lens was broken. Devoney stood there with a crooked grin, holding her chin. “At least they still look cute,” she chuckled, “You okay?”

Morgen’s heart was still racing. Her stomach suddenly felt tingly and numb. She looked down and saw what she tripped on- a Night Violet-Vine, its little buds opening up slowly as the sun set. Morgen locked eyes with Devoney, and her mouth dropped dumbly. She felt her face flush.

“If you couldn’t see that root then you certainly can’t now…” Devoney commented. Morgen just pursed her lips and nodded. It completely slipped her mind to correct her that it was a vine, not a root.

“Well, here-” Devoney wrapped her fingers around Morgen’s hand, “I’ll walk you home!” She suddenly tugged and they were off.

Devoney pulled Morgen as she walked at first, but slowed her pace as Morgen was comfortable; Morgen kept trying to say something but felt the words get stuck in her throat and escape as still air or just faint whispers. They walked through the woods- Devoney kept talking, speaking over the crunching of leaves with her cheery voice. Morgen didn’t exactly feel the cold anymore- it was more like, an internal cold?If that made sense at all. It certainly didn't to her.

Devoney deftly stepped through the foliage, occasionally warning Morgen of an upcoming root or stump, and looking back at Morgen with her chocolate eyes to see if she was still alright- Morgen would just swallow and smile awkwardly, and Devoney would grin and look back. She can barely remember when they stopped in front of Morgen’s house.

Devoney bit her tongue a little and played around with Morgen’s bangs for a second- “That should hide the missing lens- if you don’t have any spares… try to pretend you don’t know how they broke or something and get a fix later,” Devoney pulled away and Morgen nodded again, “Alright- see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah,”

Devoney smiled again and started running towards her own house, “Okay; Good night!”

Morgen stood there for a moment- “Y-you too!” she called out; “Ah- It was a vine, not a root!” she quickly added towards the darkness. After another second, she put her key in the door and walked in, wondering why her heart was still beating so fast.

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