Therianthropy: After Burdened

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Attempts to Move On: Shara

Night came, along with the first bit of conversation between us.

Al later asked me if I wanted him to leave me, if I blamed him for his actions in the park and hated him now.

That finally released a bubble of half-hysterical laughter from my throat as I choked out “Me, hate you? I was sure you blamed me, and were going to run off with him just now.” I unnecessarily jerked my head in the direction the man, Ben, had just walked off in.

He gave me a wane smile before whispering “I don’t blame you love. What happened last week was an accident that could happen to anyone. It was my fault for wanting to stay in the city, for not-” I broke him off by leaning forward and pressing his lips firmly to mine.

The kiss lingered even after we broke apart. That kiss was a seal, one that we had shared back when we had gotten married. We would both always blame ourselves for what happened this day, regrets would always linger, but our kiss promised we wouldn’t leave each other without a fight. In that moment, the two of us were prepared to take on the world together.

We took a break not long after that, and after I had put on my own set of clothes, we went more thoroughly through the bags our friend had given us. We discovered a pair of shoes and socks, one extra set of clothes besides what we were wearing, and some basic medical supplies.

After exchanging one more loaded look, we began taking the clothes’ back off, and tucking them neatly away into our bags, then shouldered them properly before changing into our faster forms.

The bags were uncomfortable as we ran on all fours, but necessary. We had to be cautious though. Not only did the Hunter’s know both what I looked like as a human and an animal, and Al at least as a human, but if any random hikers in the area saw two wolves running around with backpacks, they’d know instantly what we were.

Where we were heading I didn’t ask. I still trusted Al, I knew where ever he was leading us was the safest place to be. I had to believe that.

The cold distance I forced myself to keep while remaining an animal came and went.

Al, having seen plenty of corpses in his line of work, had a better grasp on how to deal with death. I envied that, as I spontaneously lost control like a newbie more than once that night. Most times I could sit there for a moment and shutter with renewed grief before forcing myself to move on. Other times I collapsed to the ground, sometimes clutching fistful’s of his fur, sometimes taking comfort in his arms, but always I forced myself to pull back together and keep moving.

I didn’t keep track of how long we traveled, just that mostly we tried staying out of sight as much as possible, so when we came to the edge of a nondescript town, I almost didn’t take notice.

The sun was high in the sky by this time. We were both hot, and hungry, since we hadn’t stopped to hunt this whole time, too afraid of Hunter’s catching up to us. The packs were cumbersome, making our strides uneven, so we weren’t even as far away as I knew Al wanted to be. Being partly to blame for this, what with my sudden bursts back into human, I never made any indication that we needed to stop, so when he did bring me up short my automatic response was to keep going.

Then the scent’s hit me. Gasoline, the sweaty stench of human’s jogging the surrounding walking paths, fast food stations, and house pets were the dominant ones.

The two of us faded back into shadows, and I waited for his cue to begin the transformation back to human. Once his brown skin had replaced fur and we had dressed, we took to the trail and began our entrance into this town. Once we had passed the sign saying what town we were in, I asked “Why did we stop here?”

“Weren’t you listening?” He asked curiously, his eyes still scanning the surrounding buildings. When my silence remained, he continued on “This is where we’re meeting him.”

I nodded silently, more surprised than anything that we were meeting up with him at all. What more could we ask of him? He had already saved our lives and gone out of his way to help us. Suspicion began taking hold of me then, making my mind wander and question ‘Could he possibly be working for the Hunters? It was rare, but not unheard of, that they often coerced our own kind to help bring us in. Or even the Founders? They actually had a name and reputation for dragging in unwitting Shifters.’

Whether Al was thinking the same thing, I didn’t get a chance to ask as he finally seemed to spot the building he was looking for, and grabbed hold of my hand before crossing the street. Our wedding rings pressed tightly together, making my throat nearly close shut in renewed grief as I once again remembered our family of three had been reduced to two.

He dragged me into one of the gas stations, then asked the man behind the counter for a phonebook. After an unconcerned search on the cashier’s part, Al took it and began flipping through. This time I held back asking my question, wondering if it would look suspicious for me to not know why he was doing this, and sincerely wondering if I was just being paranoid.

He found what he wanted quick enough, then handed it back. I paid for some drinks, so that we wouldn’t seem so suspicious just popping in here, before we got back to the street. Once the air conditioning had closed behind us I really did ask, “What was that about? Am I missing something?”

Taking hold of my hand again, he began walking down the street before answering “We made a plan. I guess you really weren’t listening, not that I can blame you. Ben wants to meet up with us again, so he sent us to this town. He told me to get a hold of a phone book, find the first name with the initials AB, and check into the first motel in that phone book under that name. He’d come find us as soon as he registered.”

My mind was buzzing by the end of that, but I cracked open my drink and guzzled it all down before responding. Reacting without thinking had been what had started this whole mess, so I used those second’s to actually consider what I was going to say before I spoke “Are we sure about this Al? I appreciate what he’s done for us, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t find it the least bit odd he’s so willing to help us?”

He grinned down at me, and I almost stopped in the middle of the street as I realized he was still really capable of loving me in that moment. Before now, I hadn’t even fully ridden out the notion that he blamed me, how could he not when I always would? He pulled us up onto the sidewalk, and I was sidetracked at once by his answer “Yes, I’m probably thinking exactly what you are. Is he working for someone? Why is he going so out of his way to help us? We’re being on guard for now love, but were not exactly in a position to turn away help either. Considering we can’t risk using our cards, and we just spent the last of our cash on water.” He finished with a little salute and guzzled down the rest of his own drink, before we passed a trash can on the corner. We both dumped our now empty bottles, and continued our long walk, ignoring the fact that we had been on the move for nearly two days now, and how I had long since stopped feeling sore.

So we kept walking into the future, blind.

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