Therianthropy: After Burdened

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Bat Cave: Fiona

Roadwork ahead of us was slowing down due to traffic, but it wasn’t too much longer we were heading towards our next town.

The van had yet to actually feel cozy, most days I was tempted to fly outside rather than be cramped in here, I usually lost the argument considering the poor weather we’d been driving through so much. Today though it felt like there was an extra layer inside, and it wasn’t hard to guess who it was coming off of.

Evan hadn’t declared his shotgun seat like normal, but instead had slunked off and sat next to the back door. Ben had decided to sit up front instead, but from the way he kept glancing back you could tell he was questioning why as much as the two of us.

Chase had asked Al and Shara what was up between the three of them, but no one had answered. Instead Al drove with a bit more road rage than usual, a feat I wasn’t aware was possible until I saw the dial hadn’t been close the speed limit for the past hour. Great, ontop of everything, we’d be lucky not to get pulled over now.

It was Shara who finally declared a rest stop, but we all got out and stretched around a bit. The air was muggy at best, rain still threatening to pour down any second, the clouds had been covering the sky all day so even though it was well past noon, it felt like it should have been later.

To my surprise, Al and Shara decided they were going to extend our break, calling out to the rest of us they were going to take a quick hunting trip. They disappeared into the foliage before anyone could protest.

Chase watched after them, glanced back inside the gas station where Evan still was, then gave me and Ben a look that spoke volumes of questions.

“You want I should-” Ben asked, gesturing vaguely towards the trees himself. “Maybe you two could talk, whatever, out of him?”

Chase nodded his agreement, leaning back against the van and now watching the double doors expectantly. Ben seemed to think that was a dismissal, and made for the bushes. I hesitated for a moment, glancing between the two, before darting after him. Ben waited until we’d passed into the shadows before saying “You know I usually hunt alone, I don’t need a look out.”

“I know,” I shrugged back, “but we’ve had one too many encounters lately.”

He didn’t argue with me after that, and we traipsed along in silence for a while more. I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what he even ate, weren’t most bears omnivores? Didn’t they live off of fish and berries and stuff? We weren’t likely to be coming across that any time soon, so I don’t know what he was really looking for. Aside from Evan, Ben and I usually transformed the least, as we could live off of most things you’d find in a grocery store just fine. It was the carnivores and herbivores that tended to have the real problems.

The first usually had to buy so much meat to keep up with their metabolism, it was just better for them if they did go out and substitute rabbits and whatever else they could get their claws on locally and then buy the normal amounts of protein from stores.

The second were more forced to live as vegans, not an uncommon life style choice nowadays, but seeing as they also had to eat twice the normal amount of food as the standard human except all through grass or kahle or whatever, they tended to graze just as much as the others hunted.

Poor Evan was in that weird between phase where he was trying to figure out how often he needed to do this, so I did wonder if Chase was actually going to try and talk to him, or take him out into the woods as well and work on his transformations.

Ben seemed to have been less interested in food than I thought, because our quiet feet had dragged us fairly far into the thicket, the trees above us so dense now whatever meager sunlight was there before hardly streamed through. I was just deciding whether I should change myself now and get up in the air to see how far out we were when he spoke up again, “Hey, there’s a cave over there.”

I chuckled lightly as I asked, “hoping to find a relative of yours,” even as I followed him to see him poking his head inside with honest curiosity.

“I just didn’t think they’d have caves so close to a highway,” he pointed out with interest clear in his tones. “Wishing we’d brought Evan with us now, he’d love this.”

We found ourselves at the mouth of a cubby hole more than an outright cave. It was very small and cramped, my head almost brushed the ceiling, so I hesitated slightly before following him in. With the dying light at our back, I inspected the nooks and crannys, and came up satisfied that the place was deserted.

Then I froze, and continued glancing around anyways and asked “Do you hear something? It’s been here since we got here.”

He grinned and pointed up, clearly having noticed them upon first entering.

I certainly hadn’t.

My eyes traveled up to the ceiling, and then I screamed. Loudly. Staggering back so fast I lost my balance and fell flat on my back, startling our current roommates.

There had to be about a hundred of them, if not more, all rustling around and sleeping so tightly packed together you couldn’t make out any individuals. Upon hearing my girly shriek, they all came to as one, fluttering their leathery wings and making a beeline for the entrance.

I continued to scream and scramble back and away until the last little creature had made it’s departure. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a few were still clinging to the ceiling.

Next thing I realized was the laughter bouncing around, and I looked back around to see Ben clutching his sides, most likely from the expression on my face. “I don’t understand people’s fear of bats” he chuckled “they’re like flying puppies.

“They’re rats with wings” I told him with a straight face “and they suck your blood and-”

“No, they don’t” he corrected at once.

I shut my mouth and gave him a very curious look now, waving him to go on, so grinning outright he elaborated “Only three kinds of bats actually drink blood. That’s only three in the 1200 or so species of bats that exist. The other kinds are all omnivores, eating bugs or fruit. Some eat bigger things, sure, but you’re stereotyping the whole lot of them based on movies. Did you know they also hibernate, and-”

“No, why would I know that” I cut him off as I sat up slowly now, curling my knees to my chest and began rocking back and forth with pursed lips for a moment, before nodding and saying “Okay, I’m sorry for saying they’re all evil. They still creep me out when they fly around my head like that though.”

“You turn into a bird” he snorted.

“I don’t flap around people’s heads” I shot back.

“You scared them” he shrugged, taking a seat next to me, still watching the ceiling.

“You’ve been hanging around Evan too much” I muttered, brushing some wet grass that was now clinging to my pants legs off, though I probably looked even worse on my backside. My eyes ghosted back up as well, and I still had to repress a shiver because the ceiling was still moving.

“Er, they’re going to come back right?” I was surprised to hear the note of concern in my own voice “I didn’t scare them away from their baby’s?”

“Nah” he responded at once “you startled them sure, but come sunrise they’ll be back. Probably a little weary of us, but as long as we ignore them they should ignore us.”

I made a humming noise of agreement, now making more of an attempt to brush myself off entirely as I stood up, I didn’t plan on being here that long.

He got up as well, a smile still lingering on his face as he offered “well, that was my fun for the day. Think we should head back?”

“It can’t have even been an hour yet” I thought allowed, trying to gage how long Al and Shara had been out hunting before “It usually takes them at least two for them to come back full.”

“I’m not going back to check on them” Ben shrugged as he began winding back the way we’d come. “They’re big kids, and whatever tiff they had with Evan is between them and Evan. I’m wanting to go back, because it’s going to start raining.”

I was glad he’d been paying attention to such trivial things as what direction we needed to go, because I really hadn’t.

We seemed to make it back even faster than we’d come, but that may have been because we were walking faster, raindrops really were starting to fall down on us halfway there. We got back to see that the two boys were sitting in the back of the van, leaving the doors open and letting water pool on the edges like the idiots they were, but chatting happily enough.

I jogged the rest of the way towards them, shouting “if you let my bag get wet, I’m going to drown you both.”

“Everybody’s stuff is as dry as when you left” Chase shouted back without a drop of concern, though he tried to put on hurt in his face as he added “do you have no faith in me?”

“None whatsoever” I pleasantly informed him, stopping to give him a brief kiss on the cheek even as I went inside just make sure for myself. It was leaning against Ben’s laptop case right where I’d left it behind the driver’s seat, the only droplet of watters getting on it pouring down from my hair now. I only hesitated a few moments before settling down and dragging it towards me, the images still clear as day in my mind as I dug through it until I found my pad and pencil, before sketching out an alive ceiling.

Outside in the downpour, I could hear Ben telling them what we’d been out doing, then Ben followed up by asking Evan “does rain mess with a bat’s echolocation, or would it like make it work even better?”

Chase gave a light snort as he said “even if bats weren’t blind, how does rain ever make anything better?”

I could hear the ‘you’re being an idiot tone’ in Evan’s voice directed at Chase as he corrected “Bats aren’t blind, that’s a common myth. Sure they use echolocation, but they can still see to.” Then he switched back to his calm, more chatty self as he went back to Ben “Actually though, they hate flying in the rain, they probably swarmed back to their cave not long after you guys left.” There was probably a more detailed explanation as to the why’s and how’s, but I caught Ben’s eye for a moment with a look that clearly said ‘told you so’ and he just rolled his eyes.

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