Therianthropy: After Burdened

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Talking Helps: Evan

Could he be any more of a self-centered jerk! He’d even invited me out last time, but oh no, this time it was to dangerous?! I scowled heavily at the door, already planning on just waiting five minutes and then leaving anyways, Chase wasn’t the boss of me!

The only reason I’d gone along so far with him and Fiona acting as my ‘guardians’ was because they’d let me do whatever I wanted so far, but I was not going to stand by and let Chase tell me I couldn’t leave until he got back.

I waited till the count of ten, marched to the door, then hesitated with a sigh, and padded over to Ben’s laptop. I opened it and brought up his notepad, quickly typing in the message in all caps that I was just getting some air and not to freak out. There, at least I’d left them a message so he couldn’t be that pissed.

I went back to the door again, but this time it opened of its own accord and Fiona poked her head inside, her eyes landing on me in surprise. “Oh” she murmured “did Chase leave already?”

“Yeah” I grouched “thought you would have gone along with everyone else.”

She gave me a small smile, her eyes flickering to the open laptop and easily reading the message before coming back to rest on me. “Don’t be too harsh on him, he gets into these paranoid ‘the world’s out to get me’ phases. It’ll pass if we actually go more than one town without running into Hunters. You really freaked us out last time with that stunt you pulled.”

I gave a heavy sigh, but didn’t argue the point, instead I walked back over to the bed, flopped down and deleted my message before shutting the whole thing down with a defiant cross of my arms at the end for good measure.

Fiona smiled at me, then wandered inside and sat on the bed next to me, glancing around, for the remote it seemed, as she began to ask “seen anything good on-

“Did you want to talk about it?”

She froze in place, then tried to give me a blank look, she’d been really pushing lately how nonchalant she could be in the face of everyone since Twin Falls, but I’d waited long enough. It was obvious she hadn’t been sleeping, though she somehow continued managing to do her hair and makeup every morning. I could see through that pretty easily, and I didn’t want to watch another friend fall. So before she could protest there was nothing to talk about, I followed up “I know you’ve been having nightmares.”

She huffed and began curling her index finger through one of her curls, before muttering “how did you know?”

“Experience” I shrugged, choosing not to elaborate but then remaining in silence in hopes she would.

Fiona watched me carefully for several long moments before she sighed deeply, murmuring “most day’s I’m fine, it’s like a bad dream. We were only there for about two day’s after all.”

“Judging from where you were taken though, you were held captive for almost four. That’ll do something to anybody” I gently added, still trying my very best not to spoke her away.

She reacted instead by deflecting, which I guess was better than running and screaming from the room. “You never did tell us how long you were in there for.”

I chewed on that for a moment before admitting “I don’t know for sure, I was held in a testing facility like you until they realized what I could turn into, then they had me moved. I wasn’t keeping good track of time even before I got caught, so it’s hard to say.”

We lapsed into another bout of silence, but it wasn’t awkward, at least not for me. I’d grown up in a fairly quiet house, background noise only common to me around school. Sure me and my best friend had spent plenty of time out of the house causing our own noise, but even then we’d had long bouts of silence between us just listening to nothing and everything. Also, reading my fantasy novels all the time came with seeking out long periods of privacy.

Maybe it wasn’t the same for her, maybe she thought it was getting awkward, or she really wanted someone to confide in that wasn’t her boyfriend, either way she blurted clearly without thinking her words first “I have flashbacks when people touch me.” She drew her knees to her chest again, wrapping her arms tight around them like she was trying to cocoon herself and pressed on even more quietly, though I got the feeling she was quickly losing her nerve. “It’s the worst in the dark, but lately any casual brush of the skin sends me reeling. That’s what happened that day on the sidewalk, some girl walked passed me a little too closely, skin crossed, and I started sprouting feathers and screaming. Chase reacted as fast as I did before he even understood why, I’m sorry for what I caused.” By the end she was practically mouthing the words.

“Don’t apologize” I said at once. “You’ve nothing to be sorry for. You didn’t do it on purpose, it wasn’t something you could control. Would you expect me to apologize if I lost control in the streets?”

Her dark brown eyes looked like they had fracture marks leading into the pupils, she kept blinking sluggishly like any second her weariness was going to win out and she’d fall right where she was off to sleep. I remembered how liberating it could feel to finally get something off your chest, and wondered if she’d really been holding all of that in for weeks, and now all those restless nights would be crashing back in on her. I’d almost forgotten I was expecting an answer when she sighed back “no, guess not. Thanks Evan.”

“Any time,” I smiled right back, feeling an almost forgotten warmth coursing through me as I smiled back.

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