Dirty Paws

Avondale 
#1
Outfit
Dated for 1/10, sometime in the early evening.


Parker did not want to do this. She wanted to stay in her home and never come out on the day after the full moon. But she had made the promise to do it, she had told Clavin and Adina that she would lead them. Or, try to. To find him. To face him, and check, and see if she had truly ruined someones life in the way hers had been ruined. It made her want to shift and run into the forest, never return to a life with two feet and hands and a face to stare at in the mirror and acknowledge. It helped that the Full Moon was passed, that the cat was lulled into a false sense of peace. It wouldn't last, she knew, but at least she could avoid shifting on the car ride out.

The drive was difficult. She had to reach into her memory to recall where she had gone, what turns she had taken, what off road she had used to carry her into the wilderness. Biting her lip raw, Parker instructed Calvin as he drove, peering from the window with stitched brows. "Um. I think a left here." She said of an upcoming dirt road. She was almost certain this was the one she had taken before parking and setting off. She knew she had not been shifted for long before she found the coop. There was sure to be a more direct way to the man's homestead, but she only knew the one she took through the woods. Or, at least, she did hope she could remember it. What would she do if she couldn't? Would they be wandering for hours? Would Calvin and Adina thing she was doing it on purpose? She didn't want to find him, but she didn't want to make this harder for anyone, either. Parker had to trust her gut, which she did not do very often.


@Adina and @Calvin for now, eventually @Shane

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#2


 She felt a little like a child being toted along to a family outing, quiet in the backseat. Content to listen and take in what she could of their surroundings. At least it seemed quiet, at least it wasn't ... ah fuck, this was bad. Not so bad that she couldn't maintain her nonchalant pokerface for Parker's benefit, but there was no fooling Calvin. Surely he felt it, the weight of doubt and unease about being out in the middle of nowhere searching for ... someone. A guy, who maybe was important for their purposes and maybe wasn't at all.

 She leaned her head back, frowned to herself as she looked at the shoulder of one and then the other. If Calvin looked back into the rearview, to try to soften the blow, she'd flick him off.
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#3
 Cranky that he’d spent another moon separated from the group to accommodate his antisocial mistake, Calvin was reluctant to go poking around for another potentially taciturn infant. But he knew that if Parker’s scratch had stuck they had an obligation to find the sorry son of a bitch and give him the missing jigsaw pieces.

 He followed Parker’s directions, turning Rusty as she advised. The air inside the truck was congested with anticipation. There was an unpleasant dread wafting from the back and while it did little to smooth his own fraying nerves, he had to admire Adina’s commitment to surface-level apathy. For a woman who appeared unfazed by the world, she felt a far more than she let on.

 Meeting her gaze in the rearview, the middle finger made him smile, even as they pulled up to a suspect looking homestead. "This the place?"
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#4
Parker was hard pressed to be soothed, even by the presence of two more capable, and familiar cats. People she had come to be comfortable with, Calvin especially someone she was fond of. It did little to quell the anxiety that choked like thorns in her chest, and she found herself digging a nail into her palm as the road turned bumpy and gurgled beneath them. Or, maybe, there was some part of her being soothed, and she just could not realize it over the noise of her own panic. Maybe without them, she would be shifting. Though, she knew for certain that she would not be doing this without them.

When her attention was prompted to turn to the small home nestled among the rugged landscape, she took in a steadying breath. A long, considerate look, eyes squinted as she tried to remember. It was different in the day, with no snow, and through the lens of a human's eye. But, after a moment, she spotted a familiar structure. The coop. Was it empty? Hard to tell from here. "It is." Parker confirmed, feeling as though she were checking off a box that tied her into a contract she immediately wanted out of.
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#5
 It was very small potatoes at least, nothing that suggested that the owner would be someone with a lot of power and sway and a clean-cut path to trouble for the lot of them. Something silver to focus on when she leaned forward and looked it over. And despite the fact that they were absolutely moving as a group, she waited only until Calvin slowed to a barely-there crawl before she turned and went to head out the back of the truck.

"Maybe we don't all storm the door at once." Unsure who'd be the best fit to spearhead that particular nastygram, the whole lot of them ... well, probably not entirely comforting in their own ways.
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#6
 Calvin sidled up to the same side of the truck Parker and Adina had gotten out of. Hands on his hips, his weight jutted to one side in a triangular pose, gaze scanning over the modest property. "We gonna draw straws er what?" A joke. He wasn't going to make Parker do anything she was uncomfortable with, knowing she was already well outside of her comfort zone.

 He turned to Adina. "You wanna be the Avon lady er shall I?"
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#7
Breathe, Parker. Breathe. She took in steady, calming breaths, blinking against moisture that threatened the edges of her eyelids. This was going to be alright. Calvin and Adina would handle it, and she would be protected. Maybe he wouldn't even turn out to be anything at all, and she would be able to rest easy tonight. If that wasn't the case, then she was preparing to look the man in the face, and acknowledge that she'd stolen his humanity from him. How was she supposed to not- breathe.

The truck was stopping. Her companions were getting out. She followed out of practiced obedience, boots crunching on the dirt as she moved to linger near the pair of them. They would not go all at once. And while Calvin was merely joking, the idea of being the one sent to the door made her stomach twist. Thankfully, he turned the job over to Adina or himself, depending on what Adina chose. Parker swallowed heavily, and moved to press herself against the side of the truck, thankful for a hard surface to keep herself grounded against, discouraging an outright flee.
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#8
 She wasn't the best at delivering heartfelt apologies or sitting someone down who didn't know a hole in the ground from their asshole. But Calvin was, ... Calvin - and while she had a great deal of affection for him because of that, it wasn't to say that he was necessarily appropriate for something like, well, this. Then there was the matter of Parker, who while brave in her own right looked seconds from throwing up, shitting, or possibly just bursting into fur and scampering off.

 Parker, understandably, would probably find more comfort in having Calvin in arms reach as opposed to her. So, the logical conclusion was that she would march up to the door and knock and see what came sniffing.

Great.

 "I'll go, keep Parker company and I'll call - well, you'll know if I need you." A proper pain in the ass until the rare moment where it wasn't. She didn't offer any affection, tried not to make a fuss about it. Turning around and starting up and to the door, determined not to let herself get too planned out and in her own head about this as she reached out to knock three times in rapid succession.
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#9
 He'd know, but that didn't make him feel any better about watching her head up to a house of a man with a fondness for fire arms. "Be careful, Dina." Body as tense as a taught wire, though he did his best not to show it for Parker's sake.

 Turning to the younger woman, he held out his arm, offering a one-sided hug. He didn't ask how she was, sure that she was miserable. "S'gonna be alright, Parks." His beast did what he could not, wrapping his larger form around the she-cat, grooming dutifully. "Whatever happens, it'll be alright."
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#10
Off Adina went, to potentially deliver the news that 'that girl right there by the truck is the one that ruined your life.' She swallowed tightly, and blinked tearfulness from her eyes as Calvin wrapped her up against him. Her cat pushed into his, all but clinging. She did the same. Her eyes focused on the gravelly earth before her, and not on the house as she waited with held breath for the sound of a door opening.
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#11
It was an old joke. Every time you get in the tub, knock at the door. Or phone rings? Whichever. Phone didn't ring, though, and unannounced visitors weren't really a thing anymore. Not out here, so knocks definitely didn't come around every time he took a shower. It was actually a bit alarming. Was it...? Had something come through on those tests? Shit. Killed the water. Grabbed a towel. Quick rub down to avoid tracking water everywhere, then wrap it around his hips, tuck in a corner. Get to the upstairs hall window, push the curtain a little ways aside, take a peek.

Was that... an RV? What was it doing out on his land? Tourists hoping they could hook up electricity or some- No, wait. He'd been to the food rally, mostly by accident, a couple months back. Couldn't say if that one had been there, but it was definitely a food truck. Well that... No, what? That only raised more questions. And looked like a couple people outside it? Maybe... No. No fucking clue. Brow creased low in utter consternation, Shane moved to hurry down the stairs. Should get dressed, but would take a minute or two. Let them know he'd heard, was coming. Figure out what this even was. Dressed after.

Hurried to the door, feeling he'd already taken a bit longer than seemed polite. Though, pretty good excuse would be readily apparent. "How-" he'd barely begun upon opening the door, when the scent and sight hit. Didn't really even see the woman. Just the golden-eyed cat. Gold. Not... Okay, first thing processed. "Oh," came verbal acknowledgment that his brain still worked. His own green-eyed little shit-head thought maybe he recognized another pattern. Another like him arriving near nightfall. Food hadn't been prepared though. Maybe meant to go hunt for it? Priorities though. His territory. Had to make that clear.

Cat let out a low warning growl, while Shane muttered, "Aw fuck."
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#12
 Credit where credit was due, fresh from the Were-womb or not, the little shit had a chip on one tiny fur-covered shoulder. A trait that would perhaps do them no favors then and there, but she could appreciate at a distance. Still, for all of his metaphysical blustering, her own beast raised and puffed up as best it could - loomed big and stiff.

 "Aw fuck is right, someone screwed the pooch on you." Confident he could piece that much together based on the greeting she'd received. "Adina, and I'm not your momma before you ask." She looked just past his shoulder, tried to make out what she could before she stepped to the side so that he might get a look at the other two.

"And you're ...?"
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#13
It didn't take long before she heard the sound of the door opening. And despite herself, she glanced up. A man had opened the door, nude save for a towel, and regarded Adina was a bristling confusion. Parker didn't need more than a glance to confirm it. He was a cat. And she had done it. She felt like she had swallowed glass. Everything in her was repulsed by the idea that she had done it.

The cat tensed and crouched against the wave of negative emotion. She felt like she could vomit. It was helpful that it was so soon after the moon. She was glad she had suggested it. Still, there was a temptation to let the cat take her, let herself run into the woods and never be seen again. Stunned and pale, Parker did nothing but stare unseeingly at the man in the doorway, before her vision was blurred by a welling of tears.
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#14
"Mmm," the man echoed the cat, folding his arms over his chest and maintaining a steady frown. Cat itself continued to posture, ears low and eyes narrowed. But for all that, there was some level of relief it was another of its own ilk. A larger predator, the threat posed by that, it would've been scrabbling for control immediately, intent to flee or die fighting. A smaller predator that it could clearly see—and it insisted, despite the nearly tangible power disparity, win against—was not cause for the same level of alarm. Though this one seemed less inclined to understand her place than the last that had traipsed through.

"Shane," he answered tersely, glancing from her to the other folk out by the truck. Couldn't... Still hard for him to be conclusive at this distance, not that used to this. Two jaguars was the only chance he'd gotten to deal with more than one other shifter person at a time, and that had gotten pretty different from sniffing out a stranger. Get better in time, probably. For now he just assumed they were... maybe not the same, but likely. Had something of a suspicion this was Hope's group. How many tiny African wildcats could there be running about rural Colorado?

"Wasn't gonna." Gaze, still a steady blue, returned to the woman on his doorstep. "Did, uh..." Grimaced. "Can I help you with somethin', Adina?" Tone did not suggest an eagerness to help. And the name pronunciation was a little off. Probably not deliberately.
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#15
 Shane didn't know how to say Adina, pass it on. She clenched her teeth a little, stole a glance over her shoulder to Calvin and Parker before she focused her eyes on Shane's once more. "If you wouldn't mind grabbing some pants, I was hoping to talk - real brief, just didn't want to think you were sent up the reeds Moses style."

 When it seemed like he didn't have a shotgun in hand and a jittery look in his eye, she slipped her hands into her pockets. " The other two are my friends, like us. They can come too or they can hang back - whatever's more comfortable for you. I just heard through the grapevine that you were a little trigger happy and didn't really want to have to grow back a hand today."
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#16
Did... Would a hand grow back? Not the focus, Shane. Looked again to the two out beyond the way. Back to her. Frown deepened, but he gave a slight nod. "Kay." Pointed out toward the truck she'd presumably arrived in. "End of the laneway, don't come up the property. Be right out." And he'd turn away, closing the door in the process assuming nothing stopped him. Impolite, he knew. But fuck, what was he supposed to do, invite them all in? She'd all but confirmed they were the ones. Well, one of them was the one. Guy was maybe Calvin. Think...

Wait, shit. Adina. Hope had said the name back when she'd come by on what had totally ended up a second date. Kay. Yep. Was them. Swallowing, he'd tromp up the stairs to dress.
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#17
 Well, it seemed like going inside to see Shane's Rae Dunn collection would need to wait until her next social call. Fair, considering she'd probably tell a whole strange group to fuck right off if they came knocking on her door like some sort of lackluster publishers clearing house for bad news. "Got it." Murmured more or less to herself as he shut the door on her.

 "His name's Shane, he's a cat, he's coming out to talk to us once he puts his pants on." She murmured it as she neared, absently jingled her keys in her pocket. " We'll see, but however this goes - it'll be alright, Parker."
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#18
 Calvin heard and saw the entire exchange, but nodded as Adina came over to expand on it in case anything was missed. His grip around Parker tightened into a firm but gentle squeeze, rubbing up and down her arm as if she could brush away her anxiety like he would the cold.

 Gazing over Adina's shoulders to the cabin, he sniffed. "Don't think he's gonna leg it outta window do ya?" Or maybe he'd return with his gun.
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#19
She heard it all, flinched at Adina's joking claim that she wasn't this man's "mama." The idea that she, Parker, was struck a chord in her that twisted her stomach threateningly. She was pale, and unresponsive to Calvin's comforting aside from a tense purring from the cat that was bolstered up against his. Shane. His name was Shane, and he was not happy to see them. She could imagine it was overwhelming. Could imagine how startling it was, to not know what you were, then be greeted by three of your own kind. She knew, because she had lived it months ago. First Suri, then Adina and Calvin in Suri's apartment after she had shifted in the book store. Except, Shane had done nothing wrong, here. He was the victim. And she, once again, was the one that made a mistake.

Her heart hammered in her throat as she watched the door shut, then she blinked hot tears away to focus on Adina. He would get dressed, then come to meet them. No matter what, it was going to be fine. Parker knew that tone. She used that tone. It was the type you used when you were reassuring someone that their dead loved one was always going to be with them, in their hearts, looking down from Heaven. It was a pleasantry, something you had to say even if you didn't believe it. And, even if you did believe it, how could anyone really know if it was true?

Sniffing sharply, Parker bit at her lip and moved to palm at the wetness of her eyes. A tight swallow, and she took in another breath before nodding. Okay. Okay. Breathe, handle this. How would Shane feel when he walked out here, and discovered that the one who turned him was a sniffling, weepy little girl? Parker did not cry. She had not, truly, since the time she had had the tea that made her high. Calvin had been there for her then. She pressed against him firmly. He was here, Adina was, too. They were not turning her out for making a mistake. It would be alright.
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#20
Motions were stiffer than usual. Mechanical. What was he feeling? What was he supposed to be feeling? Hadn't expected this confrontation. Well, sort of had. Imagined it once or twice. Generally ended with whatever dumb fuck showed up getting a damn near broken jaw. But, well, had been a woman at the door. So. And she wasn't the one anyway. "Mmm," he repeated, staring down into his underwear drawer. Didn't know how to deal with this. Wanted to just ignore it, but couldn't do. Deal with what's in front of you. Bit his lip. Popped his neck. Nothing for it.

Wouldn't delay. Less than a minute later wool socked feet were stomping heavily back down the stairs. Jeans. Blue and black flannel tucked in. Pause at the door to pull his boots on, give them a hasty tying. Slow exhale. Fuck.

Opened the door, stepped out. Pulled it shut behind, none too gently. Barely eyed the three as he approached, footsteps a bit plodding but even. Glanced to Adina first. One he knew, sort of. One he knew wasn't the one, anyway. Drifted to the man next. Calvin, maybe. Hoped not. Hoped it was the blue-eyed son of a... Mmm. Nope. Could see the stocky little cat inside now. Didn't know what to call those eyes, but sure weren't blue. Shit. Maybe they weren't here. Hope had said a few others, pretty sure. Maybe the one had turned him wasn't...

Looked to the third. Girl, and looked it. Taller than Adina, but looked younger all the same. Almost childlike. Maybe had to do with some lingering moisture about the eyes. Maybe not. Didn't look at her long. Clearly uncomfortable that one, which only made Shane more uncomfortable himself. And.

Fuck. Even not looking at the girl anymore, could still see that cat. Had been dark. Cold. Middle of the night and he'd been sleepy. Hard not to recognize, though. Maybe wrong, but... Fuck.

"Kay, well..." Shane stared at the truck as he spoke, disinterested in meeting anyone's gaze. Crossed his arms over his chest again as he finally came to a stop, maybe a yard and a half away from the nearest of them. Particularly avoided a second glance at the girl. For all the good that did. Stowaway was only too eager to keep feeding images. Three others like him? Three?! One in his territory was an intruder to be examined and warned. Three was an invasion. Ears were immediately folded back, teeth bared as a series of low, angry yowls began. Shane spoke over them. Barely. "Here. So." Shrugged. Wait and see what they had to say.
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