Sleeping Through the Revolution

Lia was, as it happened, really bad at checking the news. She was also incredibly fond of late afternoon naps – the girl had learned from a young age to grab sleep when she needed it, and that habit had persisted and even grown further with the introduction of an inner beast who was equally, if not moreso, fond of the casual early evening slumber.

So when Lia’s phone went off about six and a half minutes prior to the time when she had asked her alarm to rouse her, the young coyote’s first reaction was one of frustration. Who on earth was messaging her? She was, surely, the least important person on the planet. What occasion could any of the four or five people with her recently acquired cell phone number possibly have to—

Oh. That didn’t sound good.

Lia rubbed the sleep from her eyes, glancing around the room in search of the television remote. It was all the way across the room, though, and Lia -really- didn’t want to get out of bed.

I’m fine. Been asleep. Did something happen?

Amalia shot a quick text back towards her sire before flopping back on the bed.

"Alex texted," she said with enough volume to wake up the other napping resident of the one-room apartment. "I think something’s up. What does your fancy smartphone say?"

Jo groaned as she sat up to fulfill Lia's request. She spent a frustrating minute digging through the blankets to find her phone, and finally located it, wedged underneath her pillow. She swiped to the "news and interests" and—

well shit. That didn't bode well.

"Weres outed," she said after a long moment of flicking down the list of articles, digesting and piecing what each headline shouted (because who actually reads the articles?). "Something about a tiger eating someone in public."

Jo offered Lia the phone so she could read for herself. She stood and paced to the other side of their admittedly tiny apartment. Silver bled into her eyes as she let her beast ride close to the surface—all the better to focus and formulate.

What dipshit had shifted in public? For decades (at the very least; she'd never met anyone who could recite a longer lineage than their sire and their sire's sire) they'd kept their existence out of the public eye. And it was blown, just like that. In the worst way possible! By eating people!

Cordova had apparently seen its fair share of riots when vampires came out, and that had been planned! Diplomatic, even! Jo didn't know what kind of backlash to anticipate, but she figured it would not be as pleasant as last time.

"Alright, we're going camping," Jo declared. "Where's Alex? Is she safe?" She mentally ran through the list of coyotes; Benjamin seemed seasoned enough, but she had no idea about Kai. Not that the woman would appreciate Jo's concern anyway.

"What?!" Lia paled at the news, instantly turning and burying her face in her pillow in an attempt at hiding the instant shift of color that overtook her eyes. "Fuuuuuuuck. What sort of moron decides to just go and fucking EAT PEOPLE?!"

The room was spinning around Lia, but she managed to hold on for now. It honestly didn’t really feel real; Jo’s apartment was well-insulated, at least, so everything was relatively quiet. If Lia hadn’t decided to check her text messages, the pair wouldn’t have even known that something was wrong.

"I think Alex is safe," she said. "She didn’t really give me any details in the text, but it wasn’t a ‘help me’ sort of text. She just seemed concerned."

She stood up out of bed, garbed in a too-big shirt and oversized boxers that the impossibly thin coyote positively swam in. Hazily, she reached for the duffel bag that she kept at the side of the bed. Within it was, without exaggeration, everything that Lia owned. She pulled her dinky little gas station phone charger out of the outlet that hid behind the night stand and chucked it into the duffle bag, too.

"Well, I’m done packing," she groaned. "Do you see my pants anywhere?"

Honestly, the whole ‘wake up, we have to move’ thing was nothing new to Lia. She was a seasoned pro at this sort of thing, though never quite for this reason.

Jo grabbed yesterday's clothes from where she'd discarded them beside the bed. "Yeah, they were buried under mine," she said, and tossed Lia's pants onto the bed.

She dressed quickly, throwing on jeans and a thin white button-up, and though she wasn't quite as efficient as Lia, it took only a couple minutes to round up most of her belongings. Jo stepped back to survey the room, checking for anything missed.

"Well, I can't say I'll be too put out if our apartment gets broken into," Jo remarked. The only things left were the TV (a cheap thing, scavenged from the side of the road where someone had put it out for the garbage collectors), a few pairs of clothes, and some odds-and-ends Jo had picked up.

She eyed Lia. "You good? We don't want to tack coyotes onto those headlines." All the more reason to just get the hell out of town, where they could all stress shift at their leisure without slaughtering anyone and making national headlines. "We can take a breather if you need it."

"I’m okay," Lia responded, despite her current status as ‘decidedly not okay’. Luckily for the state of the apartment, the girl was still a bit too sleepy and disbelieving to feel the full weight of the news blast that Jo had divulged. That, combined with a short but full life spent staying still and calm in times of personal crisis, made the situation a tad easier to deal with for the new were than it would have been otherwise.

Lia pulled her pants up over her bony, angular hips, fastening the button and smoothing out the denim with a quick motion before reaching for her oversized sweatshirt that was currently strewn and draped over half of the nightstand. "Alright, I’m good," she said, pulling a beanie over her head.

"Are we driving?" Lia inquired, before adding: "Dooo you own a car? I don’t think you own a car. So I guess we’re not driving."

Jo laughed at Lia's question and follow up remarks. "Yes I have a car," she said with a friendly roll of her eyes. "A truck. Remember, that first full moon?" She trailed off, pursing her lips to the side in thought. "Yeah I guess you had more important things going on then."

She gave Lia a once-over before deciding that if Lia could act more together than she felt, then that was together enough. "Alright, let's roll." She grabbed her duffel bag by its tattered handle and then the pup's as well, wedging that one under her arm. Neither was particular heavy, considering their meager possessions.

Jo exited the apartment first, her desire to scope out the scene outweighing her desire to be a gentleman, and waited for Lia to follow her before locking the door. And then double-checking that it locked. And then triple-checking that it locked.

She walked close beside Lia as they made their way to the truck, and she reached out to briefly press a hand between Lia's shoulder blades before dropping it almost immediately. Nope. Nope, too friendly, she thought to herself, or maybe to the whining animal inside of her. It was a hard distinction to make nowadays.

"And here she is," Jo introduced her truck, an old but well-maintained beast. She clambered into the driver's seat and shoved a pile of blankets behind the seats to make room for Lia.

Lia was dumb. She had seen this truck before. Admittedly, she had been busy shapeshifting into a ravenous monster for the first time, but she should have remembered. It was a really cool truck.

The auburn-haired coyote clambered into the passenger seat without much ado at all. Despite everything, she was still exhausted; idly, she wondered if sleep debt really did stretch out over months and years.

Lia reached back into the rear of the cab almost as soon as Jo had made the attempt to clear out the space in the front for Lia to sit there. She snatched one of the blankets from the relocated pile and promptly wrapped herself up within it. "Mind if I use this," she asked belatedly, resting her head on the reclined seat back and doing her best to ignore the existence of seat belts.

She was being a bit petulent, sure; but Lia felt safe with Jo. It was an unfamiliar but utterly appreciated feeling, and she wasn't about to look a gift friend in the mouth.

Jo quirked an eyebrow at Lia. "Do you want a pillow too, princess?" she asked, grinning toothily. Without waiting for an answer, she twisted around to paw through the tangle of stuff behind the seat and came back up with a plain white pillow. She tossed it onto the pup's lap.

"I figure we'll cut around the city and head out to the Red Rock area," Jo began, more thinking out loud than for Lia's benefit, "maybe toward that defunct mine we used that one full moon. Just give the city a couple days to work out its shit, y'know." She turned on the truck and eased out of her parking spot. Driving was the only thing she did carefully—she might not bat an eye at fist-fighting a vampire, but she wasn't about to fuck with a seventeen ton hunk of metal. "Unless you have a better idea. I just want you away from this shit." Had Jo been on her own, she wouldn't even get out of bed for this; but she also didn't involuntarily shift at every slamming door. (Okay that was an exaggeration, but Jo had dealt with new coyotes like that and wasn't about to take any chances.)

They didn't exactly live in the nicest of areas, to put it lightly, but the practical mob was kind of unusual. Further down the narrow road that Jo pulled out onto was a group of people, armed with literal torches and pitchforks. It was the middle of the fucking day, what did they have lit torches for? And what kind of rednecks kept pitchforks in the middle of the city?

"Hoooo boy," Jo said in a long exhalation. "We're off to a good start."

Lia happily snuggled up against the pillow, perfectly content to take advantage of every creature comfort that she was offered. Sure, there were things like decorum and politeness that existed and were probably useful tools to know -- but Lia had never found much application for them at all. It was easier to just behave honestly.

She did, however, have a sense of courtesy. "Thanks," she said through gritted teeth. Though her eyes were closed and from the outside she was a picture of cute if misplaced comfort, it was clear that the woman was just barely hanging on by a thread. Her eyes were shut, more than anything else, to avoid looking at anything that might send her careening over the proverbial ledge.

"Whatever works for you," she replied, and then added quietly: "Sorry to be a burden." It wasn't like she had asked to have a nigh uncontrollable desert dog shoved within her metaphysical being, but intentioned or not being a liability because of it was incredibly frustrating.

Lia didn't comment on the mobs; mostly because she didn't see them. Certainly she heard them; it wasn't hard to make out the panicked cries and angry rallying shouts with easy particularity thanks to her enhanced senses. Lia had, however, become quite adept at ignoring things over the course of her life. This was just another day in paradise.

The mob blocked most of the road, and there wasn't enough room for Jo to turn around her boat of a truck. The other direction was a dead end anyway. She dropped one hand from the steering wheel to rest it on the closest bit of Lia that she could reach, a light touch to keep them both anchored.

The crowd didn't disperse as she continued toward them, and when she slowed to a stop a few feet away, they closed in around the front of the truck. Angry-faced demonstrators shouted in voices that all blurred together and slammed their fists against the hood of the truck, taking out some rather misplaced anger on the pair of women and their poor truck. Is it really misplaced if we are actually weres? Still, it didn't seem terribly productive.

"If one of those pitchforks scratches my fucking paint," Jo muttered. She took her foot off the break, letting the vehicle nose forward. A couple people stood in front of the truck, determined to bar their way, but ultimately staggered away when metal bumped up against them.

The last of the group parted in their wake, and then the truck was clear. Jo accelerated in a rush to put some distance between them and the literal fucking mob. She waited until the torches and pitchforks were specks in her rearview mirror before declaring, "Aaand we're good."

The sounds of the riot were swelling all around the car. Lia could hear everything -- from the voices to the footsteps to the gentle scraping of the side of a torch along the edge of the vehicle's truck bed. It was maddening, and terrifying, and--

The joints in Lia's knees and elbows popped and cracked angrily. Gnarled, clawed hands grasped at Jo's, desperately craving the calming touch in a last-ditch effort to get herself under control.

"Hurry, please," she growled through teeth gritted via a combination of the pain required to hold the shift at bay and the sheer willpower it took to do so. "Need quiet, and soon."

"Hey," Jo murmured soothingly, squeezing one of Lia's deformed hands. "We're all good. We're through the worst of it. You're doing so good; better than I did when I was new."

Jo drover faster than she would normally as she weaved through the maze of side streets, avoiding the main roads and the noise that would accompany them. The city gradually fell away. Tall apartment buildings were replaced by squat and hunched houses, and then those gave way to empty highway as they broke through Cordova proper. "We're home free," she informed Lia softly, which was more or less true. They still had a good fifteen or so minutes before they reached Red Rock and the middle of nowhere, but for now, they were at least on the edge of nowhere. At least nowhere enough that a random coyote wouldn't set off alarms.

Jo's words made a world of difference. The gnarled joints remained taut for the time being, but did not progress further; the woman's fingers stopped just short of becoming outright claws (though her thumbs had managed to slide backwards down the length of her forearms, creating a rather bizarre sight).

"I've got this," she said, "but it's gonna happen eventually. Just. Tell me when it's okay so I don't freak out where anyone can see me."

Lia had wrapped the blanket in her free hand, using the tangled mess to pull the cloth down over her head. Everything was sirens and shrieks and the faraway crackle of burning fire. It reminded Lia of her many other escapes from dangerous cities. This time, though, was different; she was attempting to flee from something within herself as much as she was anything else.

Jo drove a careful four miles per hour over the speed limit. It would be a disaster if they got pulled over now, though ideally all of the police were busy with the, y'know, were-tiger issue. Still, it was better to be careful, as long as Lia was vaguely in control.

Now that they were out of Cordova, Jo navigated purely on half-remembered landmarks and muscle memory. She'd spent a while roughing it in Red Rock—there were a lot of tucked-away spots where she could park her truck for a night and sleep relatively safe—but she'd never come in from this direction. She took a couple of turns at random before finally recognizing the rough, gravel road that lead back to the defunct mine. The truck bounced and jerked as she coasted down its length and rounded the long curve that spilled out into the dusty clearing.

"Alright, we're here," Jo said softly to Lia. She turned the truck off and hastened out of it and to the passenger side. Her truck had seen its fair share of shifts, but she'd really rather not have to patch the upholstery again. She pulled the passenger door open and waited for Lia to stir from her blanket burrow.

Lia wasted no time in tumbling out of the passenger seat, blankets and all.

It was a good thing that she didn't believe in seatbelts; it would have been far more difficult for the girl to properly escape the confines of the truck if it had been fastened properly. Instead, she was able to fall hard onto the ground some feet below, bones crunching and snapping unpleasantly as the skinny girl essentially landed on her neck, breaking it.

Not that it mattered too much; Lia was in the process of shattering and reforging every bone in her body. This was, in many ways, a routine now (albeit a decidedly unpleasant one). Lia made little attempt to resist the shift now that they were out in the wilderness, content to let her consciousness slowly but surely fade away as the coyote assumed total dominance.

The sandy-furred dog whined anxiously, curled there in the dust at Jo's feet.

Well, that was one way to get out of the car. Jo dropped down onto her knees and hovered beside Lia, wishing she could help but knowing she couldn't. She averted her eyes as the pup changed; watching someone else shift always felt like intruding on a private moment.

Her own beast rose up in response to Lia's, pressing at that thin membrane between body and minds, but Jo wasn't ready to shift. Not until she made sure Lia was okay, and locked up the truck, and scouted out the rest of the location. In compromise, she let her coyote bleed into the forefront of her mind, and her eyes shone silver with it.

Lia lay still as the last of the transformation ebbed away. Jo sat back on her haunches and reached out to lightly rest one hand on the coyote's back, fur warm beneath her touch. "I can't say that was the most graceful shift," she teased in a soft voice, "but you did good. Leagues better than a certain tiger. C'mon, up and at 'em."

The coyote growled in frustrated response to Jo's teasing. It wasn't a terribly threatening sound, though; more of a bemused grumble than anything else. The creature didn't much care for intuiting human speech, though she understood the tone of her packmate well enough even if she hadn't bothered to sprout her fur yet.

The touch, however, was a most welcome distraction from the painful aftermath of the hard-earned shift. The coyote reveled in it for a long moment before righting itself, ensuring that her paws were properly located under her body before stepping forward and headbutting Jo's pelvis with a fair amount of force.

It was an affectionate, if a tad aggressive, gesture; Jo was, truly, the only other coyote that Amalia's own coyote so enjoyed. The others, despite their similarity, seemed so distant; but Jo had always been kind to her, even after she shifted. That was enough of a reason for her to demonstrate her playful fondness.

Jo laughed boisterously when Lia butted up against her. "You're gonna bowl me over," she protested with a wide grin. She scratched the coyote roughly behind her ear before standing back up.

She took a moment to survey the area. It was quiet, and the air was still, and it smelled a little like rain, though the skies were mostly clear. No tire tracks marked the dusty earth, so Jo was comfortable assuming no one had been there in a week or so; since whenever it last rained. "I'll join you in a sec," she offered distractedly, though she knew there was probably very little of Lia in there right now. "You don't have thumbs anymore, so someone's gotta get our shit squared away,"

She leaned into the truck and began pulling things out—the two duffel bags they had packed, a third pre-packed bag that she kept in the truck for emergencies, a pile of blankets and two pillows—until her arms were overflowing. She dropped the mountain of stuff into the truck bed, which was empty but for a couple dry leaves that had drifted into it. Jo normally slept across the bench seat, but if the weather held out, it'd be much roomier to make a nest in the bed of the truck. She spread out the blankets and arranged things into some semblance of order before deciding that was good enough.

Jo stripped in short order. She bundled her clothes back into the truck, and as she turned back around to face outward, she let that metaphysical gate slip out of place. Shifting never got less painful, but it did become shorter and easier to tune out. She doubled over as a kind of agonizing pressure built in her chest, and then slowly sunk to her knees while her bones cracked and popped out of place. This definitely wasn't her most graceful shift, but at least it was quick. A little less than a minute later, she stood and shook out her fur.

At last.

Lia’s beast churred and yipped and yowled in exultation as Jo’s canine counterpart finally emerged. The smaller coyote quite literally bounced about with two quick hops, prompting a small dust cloud to emerge around her.

A moment later, she was on her; she leaped forwards with the express intent of showing Jo just how readily she could bowl the larger coyote over if she was so inclined. Her muzzle went straight for her ears and the nape of her neck, her playful intent clear as she dipped and ducked about to encourage equal levels of revelry from her friend.

Sure, the world was falling apart around the pair of coyotes; but Lia’s beast was far too naïve to care, and Lia herself was far too ensconced within the dominant consciousness of her coyote to affect much of a sense of worry. For now, merriment was the main objective; coyotes couldn’t concern themselves with the trials and tribulations of the humans that surrounded them.

Jo flopped to the earth beneath Lia's weight, yipping in indignation belied by her tail beat back and forth in the dust. Little teeth needling her ears and ruff, she twisted around to nip at the other coyote in playful retaliation. Incorrigible pup!

She wormed around so she lay on her back with her legs drawn up and hind paws pressing into Lia's belly. Jo rolled suddenly, leveraging her greater weight to trap Lia beneath her—but only for a moment. She batted one paw at the pup's nose and then released her, skipping backward to give her space.

Part of Jo's head still churned, worrying at the current events. Weres outed. Tigers run amok. Riots and pitchforks and torches, oh my. But the larger part of her melded to her beast and its simple urges and instincts and desires. There'd be time to think later.

Incorrigible indeed. Still, the pup knew when to abide by her relative place in things. The nips and bites subsided, but not before Jo’s beast asserted her size. For a moment, the fear of being trapped – of having overstepped, and incurred a price for it – wormed its way into the younger beast’s mind, prompting a quiet whine that lasted only as long as it took for Jo to spring backwards into the dust.

Lia was still young; she did not have the luxury of choosing how much of herself that she gave to her beast. Tonight, though, that may well have been for the best; the world was better off forgotten on this particular evening. It was a far more enticing venture to simply venture out into the dust and dirt of this spry winter evening – to run and bark and yip and play and sleep through the nightmare that was unfolding some miles away.

Lia’s beast grinned across the way at Jo’s, waiting a long moment as her eyes conveyed a message; catch me if you can. and with that, she was off into the night.

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