Therianthropy: After Burdened

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Hospital Help: Ben

“Help! Hey, can somebody help me over here!”

“Ah, should you get him, or...” I trailed off, glancing over his shoulder at the teenager on the bed, clutching at his leg.

“Ignore him, I’m trying to,” Dennis rolled his eyes, “he’s been in here twice this week for muscle cramps, when I know damn well he’s just trying to convince me to give him something stronger than a heating pad.” He clucked his tongue in agitation, grumbling, “I seem to have to deal with all the wannabe druggies, but that’s not why you came to see me Benji.”

I only hesitated for another moment before saying, “so, we going to talk?”

“I thought we did,” he shrugged, stuffing his hands in his pockets and smirking at me.

“No,” I corrected as if scolding a two-year-old, “that was you very publicly dragging me out so people would think we talked.”

“Publicly?” He scoffed, “they were two noob’s.”

I sighed and would have continued prying at my case but then a voice said behind me, “ahem, ah, is there a Dennis in here?”

We turned on the spot to find a new face peaking in curiously.

She was the kind of girl that could have been pretty if she tried, but mostly she came across as an orphan wannabe. Though to be fair, who knew how long she’d been on the run before she wound up here like so many others, so maybe she really was. She certainly looked like she’d had a hard time of it, her odd combination of blond and brown hair mixed together giving it an almost gold sheen in the lightning, but it was several different lengths and looked like it had been cut by a five year old; with a too thin face that was still pock marked, though she was clearly phasing out of youth and had to be late teens even if she was barely 5′ even. Her eyes seemed red rimmed, but they remained sharp as the green irises studied the two of us.

Leaning awkwardly against the doorway in a loose hoody that seemed way too hot for the weather outside, plus by her age she should hardly be feeling cold at all unless it was near freezing temperatures, along with very worn, loose pants with sneakers, the heels of which were peeling off. The truly odd part though, was that I couldn’t sense her. That she was a shifter I had no doubts, otherwise she couldn’t have made it on the premises, yet I’d never not sensed anything from another of our kind; but now I was getting absolutely no vibes from her whatsoever.

One glance at Dennis showed his surprise as the same thing must be true for him, but he shook off his shock first and came forward, smiling openly as he said, “that would be me, can I help you?”

“Yeah, my names Tawny, and I was told to come down here for a check-up,” she sighed as if it was the last thing in the world she actually wanted.

“I’ll talk to you later,” I told him with a meaningful look before stepping out and giving them some privacy.

Now officially bored out of my mind, I began wandering the hallways absently and was half considering just splitting again. I couldn’t go back to my old place obviously, but I had registered just before I’d come here for this very reason. I knew I wouldn’t last here long, and no one here was really going to stop me if I made good on that and simply went back to the human’s government and asked for a sanctuary.

Of course, that was guaranteed to make it so I’d never be able to come back again if I wanted to.

Great, so my choices were to either change my name and go to work for some dump praying the human government didn’t realize that I had legalized myself and then gone right back into human populated areas, or live here the rest of my life where I couldn’t stand- “Ben?”

My wandering feet had carried me back to the front entrance, and I was considering going outside to continue my walk around when the sound of my name had me looking around curiously to find, “Shara?”

She gave me a light smile which I was quick to return, more out of shock than anything. Those two had been here nearly two weeks and as far as I knew they’d hardly left the room they’d chosen. Since I’d never exactly been in a grieving process like I knew they were, I’d stayed clear of them, but now that I saw her looking fairly human again with her shoulder-length white blonde hair loosely curled her round face and looking comfortable in hand me down, though still fitting clothes, I was quick to try and make conversation. “Err, how’ve you been?” Then I winced as I realized, okay, bad way to start.

“Alright,” she shrugged though her eyes ghosting to the ceiling implied something her tone didn’t as she said, “everyone’s been really nice.”

I rocked back on my heels with nerves as I cast my mind around for something else before settling on, “um, where’s Al?”

“Went out for some air,” she smiled again, “can’t say I blame him either, we’ve both been feeling a little cooped up. I was actually fixing to go hunt him down, and here we are.”

“Ah,” I finished lamely, considering offering help, and then wondering if I was being pushy. Were we even considered friends really?

Then she surprised me by continuing herself, “so, were you like in trouble for something...or?” She trailed off at the end, looking uncertain herself like she had just been wondering the same thing, and it took a moment for my mind to wander back and think on when she must be talking about.

“Oh, that, haha, no. That was Dennis, he just likes showing off. No, he mostly wanted to yell at me for not having come around recently, we ah, we were old friends when I lived here and we err, reconnected a bit.” I couldn’t help stammering a bit at the end, knowing she probably saw right through how I was half lying, but thankfully she didn’t press it further. We stood there awkwardly for a few moments more before I changed the subject, seeing she was trying to make an effort I decided I could to. “So um, you want some help looking around for him, or?”

“Yes please,” she quickly agreed, and now I could clearly see some relief. “I’ve not a single clue where he went off to, and this place is huge.”

“It’s not so bad once you memorize a few key places,” I promised at once, leading her back into the lined hallway towards the rooms. When she didn’t respond I happily kept up the conversation, “you got most of the bedrooms in one portion, and yeah the hallways leading away from there can get a little maze like, but eventually you’ll stumble outside, and you can always circle back to the front from there and figure out the rest of the way. I think moles were the ones who designed this place there’s so many ends and outs.”

“Yeah, because that’s not confusing at all,” she rolled her eyes. “Why don’t you have ‘you are here’ posters up or something?”

“I, have no idea,” I answered honestly, the idea had never occurred to me. “I promise though, it’s easy once you figure out the ups and downs.”

“Well go on then,” she encouraged when I tried to trail off. “Explain to me these tunnels. You mentioned you’ve got history here, I’m sure that helps.”

Blunt, and clearly trying to keep the conversation off herself. I could respect that. In comparison my problems with the hierarchy of this place seemed rather petty, so I hesitantly explained, “well ah, it helps when you grow up here. Trust me I got turned around a fair few times in my younger years, but since I basically learned to walk down these halls, I kind of have an advantage.” Again I tried to cut myself off there, she wasn’t the only one trying to avoid talking about some memories.

Whether taking the hint or trying to add in as well, she supplied, “can’t imagine what it must have been like growing up in a place like this. I lived in this puny little two bedroom up in New Hampshire most of my life, biggest thing I ever saw was the Statue of Liberty on a family vacation, and we didn’t even go inside Staten Island, just the ferry around it.”

“So what were you doing in suburban Colorado?” I chuckled, the map in my head boggling at the distance. Then I realized what I’d asked, and had inadvertently turned the conversation back towards.

She clearly hesitated several beats to long, but was at least trying to take it in stride as she again flipped the conversation, “ah, it was Al’s doing mostly. I met him on a roadtrip. You know, go cross country before you start your life, well I kind of met him on the way. He was running from something in the opposite direction, we met in the middle and ah, just kind of settled down.” She cleared her throat hard then before blatantly jumping to, “so, what do you do for entertainment around here? You guys somehow haven’t managed to magically create a good cable program out here.”

This was at least casual enough that neither of us could screw it up at least, so I happily launched into a ridiculous amount of details of what I got up to around here. She was definitely entertained by my story about someone I’d once mistaken for a weasel, and that kept us going until we did reach a path leading us outside. From there our conversation about hills was most certainly up.


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