No one owns it yet

Avondale Woods 

And that was ultimately why Asha was up here instead of the sanctuary. She just hoped it would go okay.

Food and changes of clothes and blankets and stuff had been packed, and she was prepared to carry most of it once they parked and the hike began. This was happening during the daytime too, because it was cold and at night it would only be colder.

The full moon was close, but it was not today at least. The cat put a million rat hunting images in her head but Asha was going to do everything in her power not to give in to that urge. As much control as she felt, she would need to apply every bit of it here.

Asha felt a little off, stiff kind of. Maybe worry about how things would go, Yue wasn't sure. They were doing this, shifting together. Up in Avondale where the whole mess had happened. But they weren't at costco, instead headed up into the wilderness. She would hop out of the car and take a deep breath of air letting it fill her lungs. It was sweet, filled with pine. Good thing she hadn't worn a dress, opting instead for some sweats and a large shirt the same ones from watching Tarzan in. She didn't own a lot of sweats.

The air was cold and her breath came out in little puffs, and although she felt a little cold it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Feeling far more chipper then she had in a while she gave Asha a loopy grin. She snatched up one of the bags holding out her hand as if to ask if she could hold the other woman's.

"Bit cold but it sure is nice out here."

Sweet, and the mood improvement was a huge plus. She held Yue's hand, happy to let the warmth flow between them.

"Isn't it?" she asked. "Avondale is usually like. Shitty in my head. But places like this are nice."

She squeezed and chased away thoughts about how she'd wanted to form a group here once. There were traces of scents here and there, but no one would really try to set up here. Or... would they?


Asha took Yue's hand and there was that moment where skin touched skin. Warmth sliding into her fingers. There was a little jolt in her mind though she wasn't sure what it was, romantic interest maybe? Butterflies in the stomach? She did think Asha was really good looking, with super kissable lips. But well they were living together as friends so she shouldn't be feeling this way.

Coulding stop a little blush from coloring her cheeks though. Her stomach gave a little lurch and the hairs on her neck raised as if something, some six sense, was screaming about danger. There wasn't any danger here and she pushed it away figuring it was just the cold.

"Sure doesn't look shitty. Is it like the bad part of town?"

That might explain the rude woman who had been the start to the mess. And who Yue privately would really like to actually punch if they met again.

"Ehhh. There's like... a little ghost town and some sleazy motel around Avondale. And there were rumors of not good vampires too a while ago too. Just not great overall."

A soft shrug. The cat really was looking forward to this rat coming out.

For. Fun. Safe fun?

Maybe. Not maybe— yes. Asha held to Yue's hand with firmness and thought about how she was friends with a bear and that bear had never done anything to her.

Don't be a fucking asshole, cat. Just don't. Please.

She was, as ever, unaware of Yue's buried interests.

A ghost town? Her eyes lit up. Halloween had already passed and she honestly hadn't been paying much attention during that time. But she just loved the idea of ghosts, there were far to many gothic novels with that theme. But the talk of vampires edged the excitement down a little. Bad vampires so no going to haunted town at night. What a let down.

"Are there a lot of vampires in mountainside?"

It reminded her of the messages with Ash, about lavender heights and the like.

"Oh. You know that friend the one who I worked with in Lavender heights who has an ability? I told her about the vampires and she said they can turn into animals."

She asked a question, and then gave a little more. Asha nodded, realizing she'd forgotten that bit of information even though it was ingrained.

"She's correct. Birds, bats, dogs, and cats. If you ever catch the smell of something rotting, that's a vampire. You'll be able to pick it up now with the help of your animal. Don't make eye contact with any of them — they can fuck with your head and force you to do things."

Don't make eye contact and they smelled like rot. Those were things she could let Ash know well maybe not the smell part. It sounded pretty gross all around, being a vampire sure didn't sound fun. No wonder some of them were nasty.

"Okay I'll keep a nose out for any bad smells. Doesn't sound like I want to run into any of them."

She gave Asha'a hand a light squeeze feeling that jolt spread over her skin. It was a little exhilirating, like swinging to high and then jumping. She use to do that a lot in elementry. Had scrapped her knees really bad and got stuck with indoor recess for a week afterwards. It was worth it though. And even with the pit of her stomach giving that turn as if something bad, was going to happen, she still enjoyed the moment.

Yue was good at listening. Asha only hoped that would make it easier for her to listen to what the rat attempted to tell her going forward.

She smiled and managed her own cat's excitement more or less. No hunting.

Eventually, they would hike far enough — at least an hour's time — that Asha stopped and set the bags down. "So. This is the part that sucks, especially since it's so cold now. But you sorta wanna make sure that all the clothes you care about come off, and then you just... embrace the shift. The pain. The turnover. All of that. But it sometimes can be tricky, especially when you're still fresh to it all."


"Or wait. Actually, if you get smaller with your shift then you don't have to take your stuff off, I think."

That would make a lot of sense actually.

Anyway, she looked to Yue to see if she'd try to shift.

Woah. Hold up. Get naked. IN FRONT OF ASHA?! Her face flushed a bright red at the thought. Was this a friend thing? Did friends undress in front of each other? Was that okay even though she was lesbian?! So many questions. Not the thing they had come up here for though.

Calm down Yue.

She shoved her hands over her face trying not to think about Asha. Embrace the shift, what ever that meant.

After a few minutes the blush receded and she was left standing there feeling kind of stupid. What was she even suppose to do? How did one embrace shifting? She tried to think back to the store to the pain, the anger.

A sort of thrumming ached in her hands and legs. With a painful, sickening crack her shoulder wrenched out of place. And she screamed.

It came easier for Yue than Asha might have expected, missing the meaning of the quiet blushing. The cat insisted on busting out but they had plenty of time! They were so fast! New weres took forever compared to them! Chill!

"Breathe—" she offered. "Allow it to happen. Expect that it'll hurt."

Shitty, but true.

She started removing her own clothes because she would get bigger and she was most certainly not interested in destroying her things.

Asha kept an eye on Yue in the meantime, making sure to take in her scent. The rat would undoubtedly attempt to flee her, and she would need to keep on its trail.

Asha's words, voice, scent all of it held little meaning at the moment. Everything was pain, hot, prickling, bursting, and wrenching pain. Bones grinded against each other. Joints snapped out of place. She hit the ground hard as knees stopped being knees. She twisted and shook in the dirt, instinct screaming to run away from the pain. But she couldn't and the movement added to the pain.

The air was full of her cries thought they hardly registered in her ears.

She was dying. Dying. Dying.

Asha wanted to comfort, to say something above the screaming that would convince Yue to curb it, to grit her breaking teeth against it.

But that wasn't something she could rush. It came with time, with accepting the pain, with learning how to mute herself through as much of it as possible. Often times, Asha still cried out. It was only that it was over with faster that it became some version of easier.

At the very least, she would soon knock out. Asha shivered in the cold and begun her own shift, skeleton breaking violently as her skin wrinkled and thickened and stretched and furred itself.

She would be a jaguar just before Yue's rat was completed.

She existed only in the pain, until with the last breaking of bone her human mind was able to sink into the dark depths and a new more scared one emerged. The rat would stand and shake the last tingles of pain out of it's fur clad self.

Cold. Fur thick, wooly. Smells. Many smells. Button nose twitched and head lowered to the ground.

Thick big smell of bad thing. Bad thing of fur. Beady eyes would catch sight of golden hues and russets. BAD!

Thing that tore with teeth and claws. Sharp big bady.

With loud squeaks and a fast beating heart she would scamper back, nose twitching furiously. Get away. Had to run. Fast. Run.

Blindly she would turn in some random direction and full out run still squeaking like mad.

Okay. She'd tried to appear not threatening but the rat saw a threat and she couldn't blame her. So. Asha huffed through gigantic nostrils as the rodent took off. Whatever she did, she just could not lose the scent.

The jaguar REALLY wanted to chase but they could not do that. Absolutely not. She just kept her head low and plodded along after.

But they were very hungry, too :(

Later, maybe, when the rat tired herself out.

She ran and ran, squeaked and gave little half cries but still the big bad followed. Tiny paws grew tired and heavy. Breaths came out fast. Heart thudded. Couldn't stop. Bad thing get her. Chew and gnash wooly good fur.

Eventually paws could not carry on and she keeled over panting heavily. Awaiting the inevitable chomp of teeth on little legs.

Run. Get away. Bad.

Whining now she tried to drag tired small body underneath a bush.

Asha didn't run after the rat. Only kept on the trail. It was a while before she finally saw the rat had tuckered herself out.

That was for the best. She stopped several yards away, lying down there, trying not to freak ger out.

It was a good thing she was as strong and in control as she was. The cat wanted to pounce, but they would be kind. Just. Be kind. Not food. Friend.

Instead she lay there on her belly and watched to be sure the rodent didn't scurry off again.

Heaving breaths. Tight chest. Paws dragging through snow. There the safety of the bush. She hunched in the greens. Wooly good fur bristled. Big bad out there. Smell of its teeth.

She sat there frozen in place for a while not daring to move.

Hunger. Smell of ferns, barks, grass. Big bad. Gone?

A little black nose would stick out from the foliage of the bush and sniff. Soon it would be followed by a head and beady eyes would look around.

Big Bad!

The sight of gold fur made the head shoot back. And she was still again for another long while.

When hunger could not be ignored the small head would once again come out of the bush. Eyes stared at the Big bad and with slow steps she would step out of the bush. Ready to dart back at any signs of movement.

There would be no movement. Asha could read enough of animal behavior to see that the rat was fearful, and she needed to remain extremely, extremely still.

Or, well, her tail did twitch a little. But Asha was still in command. So she waited, hoping the rat would manage to feel better about it.

There was no flurry of teeth on good wooly fur. Big bad stayed still. Tiny paws would tread carefully and small nose would lower just a little to sniff at the ground. Still keeping eyes on Big bad she would tread along following her nose to a chestnut that had fallen sometime ago. This she picked up with her front paws and attempt to nibble at. It wasn't great, hurt her teeth. And she abandoned it in search of something else.

She watched her skittering around, eyes trained on her small legs as they held up a greater woolier body.

Asha would not move until it appeared the rat might wander out of sight. Then she would rise, and again slowly follow, tiny ears flipping and rotating to keep track of sound and nose huffing to keep track of scent.

She would need to eat at some point, but it was difficult to trust the rat wouldn't just utterly disappear entirely.

She didn't notice Big Bad following, far to caught up in trying to find food. There was an abundance of bugs, flies especially as the weather had turned cold enough to make them try and find warmth, but not cold enough to kill them off. She grabbed at them with paws, darting fast. Flies were ripped between strong front teeth and she swallowed their legs. It would take a lot to fill her up, but when she had eaten more then enough for the night she would settle down beneath another bush, burrowing into the leaves.

By the time Yue's rat had filled up, Asha's cat was very, very hungry. If they couldn't have the rat, they needed other sustenance, stat.

So, marking where she settled, she veered off and away, looking to kill something substantial for herself.

It would be managed a little over a half hour later, and she would be seen dragging a wild coyote carcass back.

After the rat had settle down the shift hissed through small bones, breaking, snapping, wrenching. By the time the jaguar came back dragging a meal a very naked and fast asleep Yue was laid out half in the bush half out. She would remain this way for a very long while.

Convenient, actually. Asha nosed at her to be sure she was out (as if she didn't know how weaker were shifts worked), and then dragged the dead dog closer. This so she could lay next to Yue's comatose body while she slept, provide warmth.

The coming winter was absolutely going to fucking suck.

Once she was done, it was Yue's turn to be dragged. Asha would attempt to do this nicely, but. Anyway, she was out cold and she'd heal fast enough from any scratches the ground gave her, so. Big sorries but it would be okay!

They were eventually back at their things, Asha shifted back, and she'd dress Yue too. And — very important, she carried her back to the car. And then she had to hike back alone and grab the rest of their stuff.

Yue's eight hours of coma would be up once they were already home, and she'd wake tucked and dressed and pretty much free of forest debris. Asha would be passed out on the couch, exhausted, but the cat would keep her alert to any movement out of the room.

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