Merle had to hand it to the electric-type; that was quite the comeback. He quirked his brow, impressed, as his wolfish grin momentarily gave way for a short chuckle.
“Heh, y’know that ain’t half-bad,” The Direyena offered a quick nod of his broad head, acknowledging the stranger’s wit. Props to ya, Sparky. The Arcanine’s response wasn’t quite as original though did prove equally as entertaining.
"It sure doesn't look to me like we were the ones being pricks, considering the expression of the Gardevoir, I'd say she would be more than happy to have us as allies and you two bugger off."
He could barely contain his growing anger and Merle thought it hilarious. The hound was grinning like a Cheshire, a mischievous spark in his red eyes as his instincts demanded him to pursue this simmering temper as only he knew how.
“Hey, you don’t know what’s going on inside girly’s lil’ head – hell, she could find ol’ Merle quite charmin’. I mean, who could blame ‘er?” He snickered, looking back to give the psychic a roughish wink for emphasis. Still, he was reluctant to keep his eyes off the Arcanine for too long. This guy was a time-bomb and whilst he was more than eager to witness the explosion, he hadn’t any intention of getting caught in the blast.
Daryl remained tense throughout the exchange, body totally motionless save the soft rise and fall of his scraggly chest. However this small indication of life remained invisible, shrouded by the darkness surrounding him to give him the appearance of a blackened statue, with eyes focused, unwavering in their fixation on the two strange canines. The kids were harmless; the psychic and Raichu, perhaps not – but Daryl was forced to prioritise in this situation and recognised the canines as the greater threat, especially with Merle provoking them.
That, and perhaps a small amount of bias infected his judgment of the Arcanine in particular. Daryl had been a bright-eyed pup at the time of his mother’s death – suicide, Merle would vexingly insist – in the midst of a forest-fire. It was unintentional, in fact something he was quietly ashamed of, but he remained wary around creatures of such typing. Not scared, the brothers were fearless – but cautious, even more so than usual.
Still, one thing managed to tear his attention away from the canine. The soft whisperings of the Riolu. It was barely audible, but the Direyena’s sensitive hearing picked up one heart-wrenching sentence.
“The scary dogs will kill me,”
It bothered him, evoking a quiet sense of guilt the canine was reluctant to admit he still possessed. His stony features, well-practiced in the art of deception, betrayed no emotion – nor any indication of hearing the hushed words at all – yet the pain was present, albeit brief and stifled. Daryl knew better than to dwell on something so trivial. It was always the same anyway. Even before the epidemic, the world had sought to isolate the brothers. If strangers didn’t fear them, then they wanted them dead. Friendship was a foreign concept and something the duo had survived just fine without.
He gave a sharp exhale, and with it banished his guilt.
Not my problem.
"I'm not wasting my energy; two scumbags like you taunting children and a woman for seemingly no reason aren't even worth my time,"
Thrilled for an excuse to get his claws dirty, Merle was soon surprised to find that the Arcanine had managed to silence his temper and instead chose to deliver a blunt dismissal. He simply trudged past, seeking to console the Gardevoir and in doing so ignored Merle’s plea for a fight. The Direyena just stood there a moment, staring dumbly into the dark space the fire-type had previously occupied whilst trying to piece together what had gone wrong. I’s sure he’d take the bait… He shook his head, smiling disbelieving to himself before finally shrugging away the failure. You’re losing your touch, Merle.
He would be lying if he said he wasn’t disappointed. Still, Merle had never been one to wallow in self-pity. He was determined for all the wrong reasons and was soon finding the challenge of breaking the mutt a more exciting goal. He had turned to pursue the fire-dog when a familiar snicker from the dark halted him.
“The fuck you think you’re laughing at?” Merle snapped, fangs bared as he re-directed his internal frustration towards Daryl. The younger Direyena was relieved at the stranger’s decision to ignore his brother’s jibes, relaxed enough to permit a fleeting glimpse of an emotion many presume he lacked. Merle’s disappointment – drooped ears and open jaw – was a rare sight, and an expression Daryl found so alien it was unfailingly comical.
“Whatcha think I’m laughing at?” He challenged impishly, savouring Merle’s indignation.
“’Ey, fuck you! Whose side you meant’a be on anyway, huh?” Daryl silenced, affronted to have his loyalty questioned with such venom. Despite all the ups-and-downs of their relationship, they both knew damn well that Daryl’s loyalty was always unfaltering. Merle was his kin – the only bastard he gave two shits about in the whole world – and to have such allegiance quizzed was a slap in the face. It was a low-blow and one that Merle knew would sting.
"I have a feeling that we all have the same goal in mind, yes? These caverns are awfully dark and are not too fun to be in for a long period of time."
The canine Daryl had previously thought a Manectric – revealed instead to be some rare mutation of the species – unwittingly halted the growing hostility between the brothers, providing a distraction that evoked conflicting reactions. Daryl was pleasantly surprised at the stranger’s patience. He was offering a compromise of sorts, a temporary truce between civilization and a couple of hellhounds. It was a second chance.
"How about we all just take a moment to relax eh? No need for things to get heated.”
As distrusting as his instincts demanded, Daryl was working to make an exception for the electric-type. He was rational, offering an escape from confrontation in favour of an unsteady alliance and an opportunity to remedy initial impressions. The Direyena remained guarded as ever, but had relaxed enough to approach. He allowed the dim light to touch his face, illuminating youthful features made haggard by a cruel world. Dark circles lingered beneath not red, but soft, purple eyes, and an ugly scar spanned over the left side of his face – jawline to muzzle, a memento from an abusive trainer. He hesitated before speaking.
“You know the way out of here?” Daryl kept his voice quiet, low and lacking his brother’s mocking tone. He got to the point, blunt but not unkind. He simply failed to understand the concept of small-talk, considering such social constructs as labyrinthine as Meteor Falls itself. Daryl saw only the importance of survival – and right now, the Delectroke appeared capable of aiding it.
Merle, in the meantime, had chosen to ignore the electric-dog’s suggestion of peace and had sought out a second round against the Arcanine’s self-restraint. He barged into conversation between the hero and child-laden damsel, standing uncomfortably close to the former so that thick, matted fur brushed against the canine’s own. Even Merle didn’t want to know what sort of monstrosities were lurking within his coat; the stale smell of blood and dirt left accumulating over the past few months becoming quite overpowering for those unfamiliar with it. Get a good whiff, sonny.
“She’s fine,” Merle spoke when the female did not answer. “Ain’t ya, princess? The nippers too,” He looked from the Arcanine to the makeshift family, noticing that the youngsters were still crying softly to themselves. It was a draining sight, reminding the dark-type of just how much he despised children. He ignored the upset, instead reaffixing his attention on the fire-type. However, his goals had changed in this short space of time.
Survivors were a rarity and Merle, despite his loutish manner, enjoyed the company. He didn’t want to befriend them, but it was something different – a break in the monotonous existence of the epidemic world. In fact, this was the most amount of fun he’d had in weeks. A little bit of eye-candy and a mutt to rub the wrong way - that alone was plenty initiative for the hound to change his approach.
“Look, I ain’t the worst folk to come crawlin’ outta this place,” He started, taking a step back to allow the Arcanine an amount of personal space – a sign of goodwill in his eyes. “I’m alive, healthy, handsome; and I ain’t laid a paw on none of y’all. I was just a lil’ sore with you bargin’ in ‘n all, thinkin’ me some kinda brute,”
“But I think your pal Sparky’s got a point,” He looked back to where Delectroke and Daryl stood, the mischief in his grin stifled into appearing half-kindly. “We folks gotta stick together, play a lil’ happy families to get by,”
“Merle,” Daryl spoke in warning, unsure of what exactly was going on in his brother’s head. One minute he’d been looking for a scrap, the next he was forcing his way into a group – a group that didn’t even exist yet. The younger brother was wary for the strangers’ sake as well as Merle’s own. It’d be easier if they just left. “Mer-“
“Name’s Merle,” His discomfort went ignored as the elder sibling flashed a toothy smile, apparently determined to sustain this new, friendly guise. “This be my baby brother, Daryl. And on behalf of us both, we’re god-awful sorry for spookin’ or insultin’ or whatever we might’ve done to offend y’all,”