Therianthropy: After Burdened

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Unexpected: Al

Tact was not my strong suite, so why I’d been sent out first was beyond me. Boredom was beginning to drown me as well, so I was actually grateful when Chase sighed “how are we supposed to find this guy again? Standing around and waiting for him to pass by feels a little pointless.”

He was slouched against the back of a bench, his eyes casually roaming from person to person, and happening to linger on a few of the more high heeled occupants who walked by.

“Well you were right there beside me, why didn’t you ask for details then” I hissed back watching across the street instead, mostly for the benefit of ignoring him. It seemed obvious to me he loved Fiona, so why he was doing this now was sort of driving me crazy.

“Right, yeah, it’s my fault. Hey, Ben’s the one in charge, he really should have given us more details then ‘go and look for him!’ Does he even realize how many-”

“Over there” I cut him off, straighten up at once and glancing around with far more interest now. Chase shut his trap at once, frowning and clearly trying to take in the secondary level of his environment. Our eyes seemed to lock onto them at the same time, and it wasn’t what we were expecting.

At first I thought we’d got the information wrong, and we were looking for the girl. She was fairly unremarkable on this particular sunny day, her light hair darkened with sweat and tied up in a tail behind her, dressed in a jogger’s outfit, with a black lab padding along at her side. The leash was clearly only there for legal purposes, the dog hardly strayed from her side and seemed to be enjoying the run as much as her.

Our extra sense wasn’t perfectly accurate from this far away, but we were confident we had the right person now as the two of us began casually ambling after the pair, talking lightly about nothing and trying to make it as unobvious as possible that we were following her home. As we trailed after them the sense didn’t go away, so we must have the right girl. She didn’t seem to notice anything, though the dog might have as it began looking our way a few times after the third corner we turned with them, but that wasn’t too weird, animals had an instinctive fear of us. I did ponder at just how clearly wrong Ben’s information was, as we happened across a girl rather than a guy in this city. Of course it was possible he’d moved on ages ago, but the odds of finding someone we weren’t even looking for bothered me.

We ended at the end of the street when she finally stopped herself in front of a nondescript house on the end of a public block. She bent down and unhooked the collar, then straightened up again and wiped a bit of sweat away as she headed towards the door, not seeming to realize her dog had frozen and was glancing back at us again. When she got to the door and did glance back, she called out “Pepper” in a clear, commanding voice, and the dog reacted by bounding up to her happily and waited, tail wagging, until she opened the door and the pair went inside.

“Okay” Chase muttered, finally slipping back into his normal tone “so that’s a little weird.”

I didn’t need to ask what he meant. Most of our kind found the idea of pets an oddity at best, after all being able to turn into an animal yourself made it almost condescending to own one, unless you just planned on buying an easy snack. Perhaps she was a herbivore though, and was simply seeking out some companionship, that wasn’t unheard of, though it made it all the more odd the dog didn’t mind her company.

Still, it wasn’t our business to judge, and we made sure to stay as far away from her house as possible until night had fallen. Then we began a more direct approach to her house. I went over the speech again in my head, determined not to stutter, when the dog came barreling at us from the backyard. The wiring of the gate extended out far enough that the clearly outraged beast had plenty view of us to snap and snarl, and I had no doubt what those deep chested growls and ruffled neck meant. I took an automatic step back in shock though, not from the snapping teeth, but from the overwhelming sense that flooded through me.

Up close the Labrador had a white streak on his breast, all of his feet were white tipped which was easily visible by the fact that he was pouncing against the fence in outrage, and he had light amber eyes flashing in the nearby street lamp. Intelligent eyes.

Chase seemed to realize it at the same time as I did, and we exchanged a stunned look, before Chase muttered “dude, that’s sick.”

My initial thought was to agree with him. This had to be one of the most degrading things I’d ever seen, but it didn’t change our intentions here, so I threw my hands up and exclaimed “whoa, man, we don’t want any trouble. Seriously, we’re just here to talk to you, this hasn’t got anything to do with, err, her.”

At least he stopped trying to beat down his enclosure. The eyes still managed to glint with distrust in the soft streetlights. Chase was quick to agree “really, we just need to talk. We can come back later, just ask you a quick question, we’ll be gone again before you can miss us.”

His nose, which also had a white tip where fur met the soft wet slits, twitched around furiously a few more times before he very obviously nodded. Then he lifted his leg up, pissed on the line of his house and the fence for good measure, and trotted back inside probably through a back doggy door we couldn’t see. We did hear though, as we were turning to walk back up the street, the same female’s voice as before coo to him “and what was all that noise, huh? Did you find a cat back there again? Did you scare it off?”

There was so much obvious affection in the tone I felt almost bad for what we were about to ask him, but Chase derailed me from that by muttering “really, how can he stand that. It’s like the worst invasion of privacy I’ve ever heard of.”

“This coming from the guy who spent the day ogling everything that bounced by.” I muttered before I could stop myself. It really had slipped out, I hadn’t meant to say that, but the words were out before I’d given them permission.

Chase gave me a sideways look, like he was trying to decide if I was being funny or threatening, before seeming to decide on the first and shrugging while saying “it’s not like I followed them home and watched them take a shower though. Seriously man, I knew this one kid in elementary school, he had some kind of dog, and the thing tried to follow me into the bathroom. Can you imagine that? I’ll bet that girl walks around her house in a towel and stuff, I could smell she lived alone, and that guy probably sleeps with her and stuff.”

I wasn’t going to deny the idea bothered me to, but out loud I said “well, it’s none of our business what his reasons are. We’ll go back there when she’s gone to bed, deliver the message, and be on our way.”

He huffed and grumbled a bit more but didn’t protest.

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