Therianthropy: After Burdened

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Peace Never Lasts: Evan

Later than expected, we pulled into another hotel in the Moscow that wasn’t in Russia late afternoon, and things were about the same with our little group. We hadn’t really talked much past the most casual of conversations, clearly their first outings hadn’t gone over well. The tight cramped spaces of the car weren’t really helping anyone’s mood either. We were holed up in another motel right off the highway, much to Chase’s displeasure.

“How come we’re not putting ourselves up in the Ritz or something, it’s not like we’re paying for this out of pocket?” He grumbled from what I’d already claimed as my bed. I knew why he’d really come in here, and it wasn’t to complain, but I stalled him by pointing out, “for the same reason you guys are hunting rather than going and buying lobster every night. Just because it’s not our money doesn’t mean we should go crazy.”

He rolled his eyes and grumbled about me being a conservative before he asked what he really wanted, “so you coming out with me and Fi tonight? Or you going to hole up in here again and keep reading your books.”

“Actually I finished the one I brought,” I shrugged, rubbing absently at my eyes at the late night and slight car sickness that was the backlash of that. “Think I’m going to wander around town and look for a library.”

“We’re not really going to be here long enough for you to finish anything,” Ben warned, without looking up from his laptop.

I hesitated, not having actually expected anyone to question this, so I came up short. I really wanted to get out on my own though so I threw out, “still, think I’ll go and check it out.”

Chase could tell I wasn’t saying something, but the quirk of his lips meant he thought it was funnier that I was trying then anything. Ben either didn’t notice, or didn’t care, because neither said anything as I waved and headed out.

I met my sister in the Library. Well, sister in that we’d known each other our whole lives but there was no romantic feelings between us, but for some unexplainable reason that didn’t compute with most people, and we’d been calling each other siblings most of our life anyways since neither of us had real ones, so the term stuck.

Her dark golden choppy hair barely graced the shoulders of her brown jean jacket, and she was leaning against a bookshelf as she was rummaging through a book on sign language with complete disinterest as I whispered, “hey Tawney.”

She didn’t even flinch, responding back without looking, “bout time you showed up, I got so bored I started looking around.”

“Oh the horror,” I snickered as I walked away and went to find my own preferences. She followed at her own pace and by the time she caught up I’d found a new piece that I happily tucked under my arm and began walking up to the front desk instead. She hung back as I falsified a new card for me and we walked out into the daylight again before she said, “you really going to steal that, because I note you didn’t put the name of that motel.”

“I’ll return it eventually,” I hedged, gripping my book a little tighter. “I get bored out on the road.”

“Is this going to be a recurring thing,” she persisted, now starting to smirk. “I know for a fact you can barely read the words, and you’re eventually going to have collected more books than clothes in that bag.”

“I’ll leave it in a motel room, maybe they’ll get it sent back here,” I brushed off, as I crammed my book into my backpack, ignoring that she was probably right.

We turned down the next street before I demanded, “what do you care anyways? I think thievery is the least criminal thing you’ve been up to lately.”

“What can I say,” she tried to brush off, though her hand started going up to brush non existent bangs from her face. “For a zombie, I got pretty busy.”

I clipped my mouth shut, but awkward silence had never been our thing, so I made sure to order my answer before slowly saying, “you ah, ever going to tell me what happened? Have I not apologized enough yet to get that answer?”

Her answer came out clearly rehearsed. “I’ll tell you when you tell me what happened to you.”

That kept us both silent for another block before I changed the subject. “What are the odds you can put your newfound skills into filching me some eyewear then? Or do you only pickpocket for cheap things now?”

“Touché,” she nodded, before pausing like she’d just remembered something and slung her own bag off her shoulders, now rummaging through it. “Oh hey, the eye fairy got you a present,” she explained before I could ask, tossing a small case towards me.

I caught it on reflex, it fit easily into my hand and I saw it was a plain gray glasses case. I cracked it open and found an exact replica of my old pair of wire rimmed glasses inside. The only reason I knew it wasn’t the same ones, was because the right side nose piece wasn’t half cracked off. I couldn’t help but laugh as I put them on and the world finally came into the proper focus. “Thank you,” I grinned, considering giving her a hug despite the protest she’d give. “You don’t know how much of a headache I’ve had for months.”

She rolled her eyes with good nature as she pointed out, “maybe if you weren’t trying to read those books pressed against your nose, you know it puts extra strain on you.”

Ignoring that I instead demanded, “how did you even get these, I didn’t even know you knew my prescription.”

“I know a guy,” she said carelessly, giving me a sly grin for the snort I couldn’t help.

I would have persisted, and she would have told me, if the screaming hadn’t started.

We sprinted to the street where people were running around screaming, and black vans were cording off both ends trying to get people out of the way of the predator locked in combat in the middle of the street.

Some people loved the cry of a wolf’s howl, claiming it to be a lonely, yet peaceful noise. A Cougar’s roar was the exact opposite of that. It sent shivers rolling up my spine, his golden fur only making that awful noise more of a contrast as a paw larger than my own hand with glistening claws on the end slashed at a man who was jabbing a garden hoe at him, his deep golden fur straining against three other men who were trying to hold a loop over his neck strangling off another snarl.

A Lyre was fluttering madly just above, occasionally dive bombing down and clearly looking to peck someone’s eyes out, but making no real progress as she immediately swooped up and back out of the way of the furious crowd. She wasn’t a particularly remarkable bird, hardly two feet total with dark brown plumage, but stood out in sharp contrast against the sky the louder she screeched, maybe crying for help, maybe yelling encouragement at Chase. I wasn’t sure, as it’s not like we could understand each other like that.

My mind was definitely not processing at full even as I began to transform, wondering about everything else later like how the hell they’d gotten themselves into this mess.

A hand lashed out and grabbed hold of my wrist, which was already pulling taught with thick gray new skin, making the sensation of human skin all the more shocking but the voice was as familiar as it was mutinous as she hissed in my ear “are you crazy, you can’t go out there, you’ll never change in time to help!”

“The Hunters are going to be here any minute” I hissed, my voice already coming out garbled. “I’m not going to let them get sent back there!”

“You’re going to get sent with them you idiot!”

At least a portion of our argument was cut off by the howling of wolves, which echoed all around making it sound like there were a dozen in waiting instead of the two that revealed themselves. The larger one with bark brown fur came charging in and tackled the three men with such force they all went rolling away, releasing the Cougar with enough momentum that he finally lunged onto his pray with such force that I heard the snap of ribs from all the way back here.

The slighter, silver gray one was charging at the onlookers, playing a dangerous game of keep away but clearly keeping attention on her and also dispersing the crowd now that even more predators had arrived. The people in the streets responded, and were even more panicked at the sudden arrival, but all four of them were still trapped. I was still going to go out there and help, when Tawny grabbed hold of my arm even tighter, and slung it over her shoulders, pulling me along and hissing “you want to help, let’s give them an escape route.”

I wasn’t happy, but I backed down and put on the show that she was leaning against me more heavily then she needed to, though the charade was helped along by her limp. My clothes had been stretched two sizes too big, but I still hadn’t been able to pull off my transformation enough that they actually ripped, which was the irritated expression the man in the truck saw as we came hobbling towards them.

“Hey kids, you okay” he called, getting out of the driver’s seat, still throwing panicked looks behind us as he croaked “come no, get in the car, we’ll keep them pinned down here until-”

Tawny cut him off by using her left leg to lash out and kick him in the junk and causing him to double over in shock before her elbow smacked down on the back of his neck and he hit the ground completely. He wasn’t knocked out, but it was easy then to walk over him. I jogged around to the passenger side as Tawny climbed in the front seat, not bothering to adjust anything as she reached and managed to put the car in drive as we sped off up the road. I kept my eyes on the rearview mirror, then decided to heck with that and twisted around in the seat to look behind me and see that all four of them were following after us.

Releasing a shaky breath, I sank down into my seat, my eyes now scanning every turn off as I whispered “I could have done it.”

“I know you could have” she said complacently, practically having to stand to keep her feet on the pedals and drive the seat was so far back, but her tone suggested this was a regular Sunday to her. “I’ve seen you practicing, and you’re getting faster all the time, but aren’t you the one always saying fighting isn’t always the answer.”

“But it is an answer” I gave her response back to her without her usual sarcastic tone, still to on edge that we were going to be caught up to by Hunters any moment.

She gave a light smile as she spun the van hard enough to tip us over, whether it was luck or she actually had some skill we managed to remain on all fours as she shot us towards an on ramp for the highway.

“We can’t leave town yet” I protested, glancing behind me and realizing that the four of them had vanished at some point, “Ben’s still here.” He was most likely still at the hotel, with no idea what was going on.

The sound of brakes squealing was loud enough to leave a ringing later as she careened the car into a ditch on the side of the road, the van coming to a stop as she finally sat back and glared at me, before shrugging and saying “fine, I filled my quota of saving your ass for the day.”

“Don’t be like that” I groaned.

She rolled her eyes but left the engine running as she climbed out, turning back and saying “I’ll catch up with you, just text me and let me know the next town you wind up in.”

I wanted to protest and have a repetitive argument that we’d already had months ago, but then she was jogging away. I slid over, and properly adjusted the seat for me before turning the car around and heading back.

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