Lisa Frank

Work Release 

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

First class, first success.

Giving up on the high school for the rest of the school year had been a hard decision, but the more he'd gotten into this life, the more Charlie realized that a few months off wasn't going to cut it. He had hope, maybe, that after the summer was done, he'd be able to justify the risks. Maybe he'd have to forgo junior varsity stuff. Maybe teacher driver's ed was out of the books forever. But he could go back to the classroom life eventually. He'd been assured many times that this got easier, eventually.

But Yana, god bless her, had given him some solace. With his hiatus from the school official, income was still a necessity, and so she had given him more than he'd honestly expected from her. An art class for kids after school? He'd practically jumped at the chance for it. And doing it here, where Yana could check on him and Timeshare was kept relatively placid in the presence of his kin, he was pretty confident he wouldn't eat anyone.

Today! He hadn't! A small class of about six kids had been just right. They were younger than he was used to, but that made them more endearing. They also didn't have the stubborn tempers slightly older children might have exhibited. And it also meant that they absolutely did not care that he was pretty much learning right alongside them. Charlie had never thought himself an artist, but honestly he felt like the tree he'd done today for the kids to follow along with looked pretty legit.

You know, compared to the work of six and seven year olds.

They had all gone off with their parents in the end and he was left to clean up on his own. It felt good to have something to do, and he reminded himself to thank Yana again. He took to wiping down a particularly colorful patch of table where one little girl had gotten particularly zealous with purple and red.

Had to admit, though. Purple and red trees were pretty clever. She'd been quite proud of herself.

All in all, a pleasant mood to be in while he put everything away.

After the initial turbulence of settling back in with Allegra now sharing his home, Mathis thought it best to return to work as soon as possible. Familiar routine would ease his mind and body alike. Some sort of rhythm to fall into throughout the day, so that he could allow himself to rest.

Allegra was safe at home, and more than capable of handling herself. If something came up, she would call him, and he was only a short distance away. Living with a newly transitioning Were was, to say the very least, trying. It was not as if he was unaccustomed to interacting with newer cheetahs. It was his duty to the Coalition. But being constantly in the company of one did cause problems in the way of exciting his own cheetah. It was more of a struggle to keep the beasts’ head down. The cat was inspired by Allegra’s, which was largely in control of whatever she did. Mathis’ however, had come to work in tandem with the man. There was a great deal of compromise from both parties, and the lines were beginning to become more muddled the longer he spent with Allegra.

He would have to simply realign.

His lesson today had been full to capacity. There were many people that he often saw in his classes whom were glad to see him back after such a lengthy hiatus. Mathis was glad to see them, as well, for most were elderly patients of a nearby assisted living place, whom attended his pottery classes for enrichment.

By the time he had cleaned up his studio and stripped himself of the smock he wore, the class in the room a few doors down had finished. He knew of those one; a painting exercise for children. His interest, of course, was in whom was teaching it. It was impossible not to sense a new cheetah on the grounds, Yana had mentioned a new addition. Charlie, if he remembered correctly. It was only fitting he paid him a visit.

So, as he came near the door, Mathis paused to rap on it with a knuckle, his head tilted in to better listen for a voice inside.

New weres were funny.

If you define funny as 'easily startled and able to do serious harm over the dumbest of things!'

Thankfully, Charlie had a good handle on this. After the doorbell incident and all he'd at least started to learn how to bring Timeshare down off of the initial teeth-baring sensation of adrenaline that came with the unexpected.

A knock on the door of the room he currently occupied qualified as 'unexpected.' The cheetah got that weird metaphysical sensation of a tail/ruff fluffing, and he stood up a little too abruptly from where he'd been scrubbing a slightly dried spot of paint, turning towards the door with his eyes flicking abruptly to white.

"Yo!" he called, going for greeting even while he sounded taken off guard, a little tight around the edges. Senses immediately narrowing on the source of the sound, he picked up on a cheetah close by and reminded himself that, no, no, it was fine, there was no reason to freak out. He was in good company.

Probably just someone coming to tell him to hurry up so they could set up for an evening class or something. Paws would not aid in this request.

Mathis heard the tell-tale sound of someone jerking in surprise, then a slightly off kilter voice. With his brow furrowed, Mathis opened the door and stepped inside, a soft smile on his lips. "Sorry to have startled, I am coming to ask if you are needing help." He appraised the New cheetah with a warmth he reserved for his charges. Voice steady, pleasant, but not condescending. The man was middle aged, with a friendly face. As he made his way further inside the room, Mathis' smile broadened. "I am Mathis. You are Charlie, sì? Yana told me of you."

Charlie straightened up as best he could as the new face came into the room. Accented uh... Italian? Cheetah? Yup, new one to him. Yana had mentioned that there were more than had just been around that one day he'd come in, so... not too surprising. Then again, everything felt like a surprise these days, so the whole idea of being surprised was getting a bit... diluted.

"You're fine," he insisted even while still shaking off the unwelcome advances of fight or flight. "And yeah, uh, Charlie. Is me. It's good to meet you, Mathis, I'm uh... sorry, crap with words these days. Thinking too fast to keep up with the talking." That was a good enough excuse, anyway. The cheetah that he shared brainpower with didn't really think in the same way, but he swore the cat took up some of his synapses.

He offered a hand, but not before he'd wiped it off on his pants just in case his cleaning efforts had left any residue. "Good to meet you, Mathis. If you're offering to help with some cleanup. Well. A half-dozen kidlets do know how to make one unmistakable mess."

<3 <3 <3

Mathis' lips twitched at the man's rambling, a soft hum of a chuckle escaping his closed smile. His hand extended to shake Charlie's and when their palms met, the beast within him moved to bump his shoulder to the stranger's. Pale eyes flickered to a nearby table that was still scattered with stray paint marks in the shape of small fingers. "Looks like they had fun none-the-less." Mathis mused, and moved to retrieve a rag and cleaning solution from a storage rack behind the desk at the head of the room.

"You are liking it, then? Your class? The Coalition?" He prompted as he moved to spray down the table.

Calm, cool, collected. Charlie wondered if there was ever going to be a point where he felt as normal as Mathis managed to look. Just, oh yeah, we're cheetahs, getting all cuddling in a way we can feel even if we can't actually see these spotty beasts right now, no big deal, I'll help you clean up finger paint...

Timeshare, young as he was, was very very very interested in the new cheetah. As a result, Charlie watched Mathis move across the room with more attentiveness than was really necessary. Even as he moved back to the table he'd been cleaning up, he was watching the man. He kind of... walked into a child's chair as a result of this, but the physical upset was minimal and with a huff he pushed it back under the table. Kid chairs were basically knee-high monstrosities. Easier to avoid when kids were actually in them.

"Yeah!" he ultimately responded, probably sounding a little too cheery, like a man who was clinging to every silver threaded bit of a unicorn's mane over here. "I mean. It's not what I'm used to, but it's close enough. I like the kids and Yana has been... really helpful about everything. And the Coalition is a thing."

He didn't mean for it to sound the way it did, but he was still wrapping his brain around it.

The paint diffused into a multicolored puddle as he sprayed it, and he paused a moment to allow it to dissolve before wiping it. ”Yana is a helpful Queen. Consider yourself lucky to have found your way to her.” He said simply as he bent to run the rag over the puddle.

”The Coalition will be something you will be needing to get accustomed to.” His eyes flickered up to the man who’s gaze he had felt lingering. ”What is it you are used to? What did you do before teaching these classes?”

"More like lucky she found me," he admitted with a grimace at the table as he cleaned it. He still did find himself wondering at times what would have happened to him if Yana hadn't found him wandering the streets in Larkspur in his post-shift idiocy. He'd definitely still be incredibly confused, that's for certain. And absolutely without a job if he'd had any sense.

Speaking of.

"Oh, uh, I'm--was--a physics teacher at the high school in Larkspur. So like, older kids than this. But I guess that doesn't go so well with the whole... needing to not stress out and bite anyone. I've taken the rest of the school year off, so... Hopefully things'll look better in the fall."

Fingers crossed.

In the end, their paths had crossed, and that was where the fortune was. Mathis straightened up from wiping the low table, and moved to align the chairs. Charlie had been a physics teacher, but for children much older than this. He could see how the transition would be jarring. From Angular Momentum to... paintings of trees.

"Mm, it is wise to have taken a break. I understand teaching high school aged children is no easy task." Mathis collected the paint spattered cups in which dirty water sat, still there from where the children had dipped their brushes to clean them for the next color. He strode toward the large sink at the back of the room to empty them as he spoke. "It does get easier, though. You will only be needing to try and understand your animal more. It must be communication, yes? Though sometimes it will feel like negotiation." He chuckled as he poured the brown water down the drain.

"Not easy in the least, but I do love it," Charlie replied, thinking fondly of it. Some teachers burned out after years and years at it, but honestly? He'd never regretted it, even when curriculum and federal standards had put a chokehold on certain aspects. They'd still been able to do the egg drop project off of the roof of the school ever year, and that was always, always a winner, so who could complain too much?

Mathis, a lot like Yana, promised to at least some cautious degree that things would get easier.

"Yana said it was like a... a timeshare," he said, and with a bit of a chuckle he admitted. "I've started calling him Timeshare, actually. The, uh, cheetah, I mean. It's really friggin' weird, though, knowing he's there but not really... knowing him? You know what I'm saying?" Of course he did. Mathis had been through all of this and probably more. Definitely more.

"He likes eating the stuff in my fridge. And uh, the fridge itself, a bit."

He supposed in another life, he would have quite liked to be a teacher. His mother had been an incredible one. There were definitely similarities in what he did for the Coalition, though there was not specific curriculum for teaching a New Were.

Mathis busied himself with scrubbing the cups with a sponge. His lips quirked in a smile and he sent a glance over his shoulder at Charlie. ”I suppose that is a good way to look at it.”

With a more sheepish smirk, he added. ”I often refer to mine as Gattino. Kitten.” He sought to clarify the word immediately to avoid confusion.

Charlie, for his inexperience, seemed to be doing well enough coping with it. It was natural to feel unfamiliar with the needs and desires of the cheetah, but Charlie seemed to be fairing well in giving it what it needed. It never did well to try and fight it.

”I do know that feeling. Big appetites, those cats. And so needy.” His tongue clicked against the roof of his mouth as he turned, a cup and a rag from the shelf above in his hand. He busied himself with drying it as he regarded Charlie with a shrug. ”So long as you do not give in to its predatory needs completely, you will be fine.” The thoughts were always there. Seeing any weak or injured creature would trigger it without fail. It was something that one had to come to understand and overcome.

Goodness this guy was really... Italian? Charlie wasn't exactly a linguist but he was pretty sure he knew Italian when he heard it. Gattino sounded Italian. It was also really weirdly nice to know that he wasn't the only one giving the soul-sucking cat a name. Made him wonder if the animals had their own names... Like, obviously they didn't use words in the way that people did, but did they have identifiers for others? For themselves?

Curiosity for questions he'd probably never have answers for chewed at him.

Predatory thoughts, though...

Charlie laughed weakly. "Yeah... sort of figured it'd be best to not go around a bunch of mouthy teenagers. When I was.... well, after I was bitten but before the first shift. I was still teaching. I thought a lot about putting a pencil through one kid's hand?" He shivered just thinking about it now. "I mean, obviously I didn't. But I guess not putting that temptation there now that I can grow some serious canines... uh, yeah."

Another reason he was glad that Yana had found him. He probably wouldn't have considered going on leave without her direction.

Of the many things that could plausibly set off a new were shift, he supposed mouthy, rambunctious teenagers was high on that list. Mathis stifled a chuckle at the thought, since putting a pencil through a child's hand was no laughing matter. Still, there was a lingering smile on his lips that Charlie would have to accredit to simply being a permanent feature. Some might have raised the question about Charlie dealing with smaller children, if he was so constantly on the edge. Mathis, however, had no doubt that if Charlie became stressed, Yana or another Coalition member would be nearby to assist. "It is smart to keep your distance for now. Do not worry, though. One day you will be able to go back."

He finished his drying and turned to replace the cups in a cupboard nearby. Over his shoulder, he continued. "Until then, I hope you do not feel ashamed in asking for help with anything. I am here if you need guidance for handling that Timeshare of yours."

Everyone here so far had been so reassuring. Charlie did his best to believe it, even if right now when his shifts were pure blackouts and the simplest thing could put fur on his hands... it was definitely hard to see that light at the end of the tunnel. But something about Mathis made him seem like a credible source. Like, Charlie didn't need to know this man had been around a while to feel it.


The offer of help had Charlie brightening a bit again as he leaned across the table to press the rag over the lip of it and get every inch of the previously paint-spattered surface.

"Between you and Yana, how could I lose?" he said, looking warmly across the way at the other man. "I guess I"m a bit curious, though. How often to new ones of us turn up? Doesn't seem like often but it wasn't like it was hard to..." he paused uncertain on how he'd been choosing for formulate that sentence.

"Well, didn't take too much to turn me into one, I guess is what I'm saying."

Mathis returned the smile with a reflection of Charlie's warmth, a soft laugh sweeping through his nose. Charlie had much more strength than he gave himself credit for; it was not hard to tell. To be able to have a more or less positive outlook on the situation despite having to give up his job... Coming to terms with becoming a Were took more than understanding what was physically happening to your body. It was finding it within yourself to embrace it, and do what it took to continue a healthy life.

Mathis mulled over Charlie's question for a long moment. "Hmm, I believe you are the first in a good few months. I suspect there are many more of us after the broadcast." After a moment's hesitation, Mathis prompted. "Is that how it happened for you, Charlie? Or was it a... er, isolated instance?" He supposed that would be a good enough phrase to use.

First in a few months, likely more after the broadcast... Yeah, made sense. If Yana hadn't found him he would have still been wandering out there totally clueless in Larkspur without any guidance. He was willing to believe that there were more like him that just weren't found or were keeping their distance or... whatever.

He felt mighty lucky and he knew he owed Yana very much for it.

"Yeah. I mean, broadcast, yeah. I don't remember a lot of it, honestly. I was pretty, uhhh... well, I'd been drinking that night and maybe that's a small mercy. I mostly just remember spots and then for some reason I didn't need to go the hospital when I was pretty sure I should have. You know?"

He eyed Mathis a little curiously, wondering how a guy like him got bitten. Didn't seem like the sort who would attract trouble and all.

His experience, whilst unpleasant, was likely the most merciful. He had the comfort of not remembering much of it, where Mathis could recall in full detail his own attack. "I am glad, in the very least, you made it out alive. It will not be easy, but you will come to accept that the pros often outweigh the cons."

Charlie was a little skeptical, but trying to argue the point seemed like it might be a akin to arguing with a parent on parenting when you yourself were not a parent. Just like. A long way of saying Mathis clearly had experience.

"I'll take your word for it," Charlie said with a slightly winced smile. "I'll try not to tap out the hard way before I realize what you're on about."

With a reassuring smile, Mathis moved to grip Charlie's shoulder. "I will leave you to finish up. But please do not hesitate to contact me for assistance, sì?" He would wait for confirmation before nodding once, then turning to take his leave.

These cheetah people were like... stupid nice.

He was glad they were. Honestly. Nothing at all like what the movies or news would have you believe about animal-shifting folks.

"You got it," he assured Mathis with a soft grin, then watched him go.

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