Eons Ago


Late afternoon and he was about as far out as he could comfortably bring himself to go, already thoughts on his mind of turning around and going back home.

But the tiger bid him to stay a moment, and he was a bit afraid if he defied that simple wish he was liable to end up stripes out and up this particular shit creek without even a shit paddle.

Wallace had a long list of things he'd neglected. Topping it out was Reina. He had... literally no idea what had happened to her. She had dropped off the face of the planet at some point he couldn't even pinpoint now, and in his own state of avoidance and general selfishness, he'd not noticed until it was far too late to be proactive about it.

Maybe he should have brought Felix out on this... but some things you just do alone. Reina had always felt like his responsibility, something he had to try and take care of on his own. Maybe it was penance, maybe he was wrong, but he was still alone as he stood just into the woods on the side of the road near the spot where they'd first gathered to shift with a brand new tiger moons and moons ago.

Earlier in the day he'd gone to her apartment he'd last known about. Not the one in the Cordova--they never went to Cordova anymore--but the one she'd taken up after Christmas. But she hadn't been seen there in weeks, according to her landlord and... It was puzzling. Troubling. He'd thought for certain she would have just holed up again like she was prone to do. He understood that sensation.

But now it just seemed like she'd... vanished.

This had sparked a renewed worry in Hobbes, and since then it had been a bit of a search. Not that they knew where to search, really. Wallace didn't know where Reina went when she needed to blow off steam. Maybe she'd left town. Gone to live with family. Did she have family? Did she have friends?

Wallace began to think he should get Andy in on this. File a missing were report with were cop, maybe. But Wallace was a terrible investigator on his own. He kept Felix updated so she wouldn't worry, but continued to insist on handling this. Not that there was much to handle. All he really found himself doing was going to the spots he associated with the woman. The diner they'd stopped at on the way to her first shift. Then... well, here. The afternoon light was a little too warm and the tiger was restless enough that Wallace was almost certainly permanently violet-eyed right now. He tested the air and shook his head at himself.

What was he even doing out here? Tempting a shift of his own, undoubtedly.

It wouldn’t take long for Wallace’s beast to find a friend; dear Hobbes knew a playmate when he scented one after all, even if that playmate had been away for some months. Elephants notwithstanding, metaphysical cats were known to have some of the greatest memories in the ghost animal kingdom.

Reina had no idea whether that was actually true, of course. As far as she was aware, no hierarchy of spirit beasts existed as to memory or anything else for that matter. The wild parts of a shifter didn’t much care for contemporary hierarchies – they only had eyes for companions and mates, predators and prey.

Reina had not spoken to Wallace in months. She had not spoken to anyone in months, but Wallace stood out amongst the set of ‘everyone’ as someone she probably should have at least called before she decided to disappear off of the face of the earth. Ah, well – regrets were for folks who hadn’t sprouted fangs and tufts of downy fur between her clawlike fingers.

Luminescent green eyes peered out from the brush at the edge of the clearing. "Wallace," she breathed, loud enough for he and anyone else who might be about to hear her raspy, bellowing voice. "You’re looking well. What are you doing here? We're not close to a moon."

Okay, okay. So he was basically wound up like a top most days anyway. Today was particularly that way, and so at the unexpected sound of a voice--her voice, he noted, in spite of its rough quality--he felt the tiger shove harder at the boundary that separated feline from reality. It manifested in a gasp and an uncomfortable twist of his hand.

Just one, even as he spun to find the source of the voice and the scent he knew well but not nearly so well as he wanted to. There was no sire bond, no inherent draw to her any more than any other tiger as tigers went, but... as a person, as a human, Wallace had developed a reluctant but nonetheless impossible to escape feeling of responsibility.

He'd told her they would try harder to be friends. Look at them now, though.

Clutching the hand that threatened to become more of a shift than just a gnarl of curling claws with his other hand, he saw her and managed a few steps before he had to stop in concern that if he kept walking it would manifest in a different sort of forward momentum. He'd barely really registered her words, but got enough to question, "Why are you?" in a tone that wasn't meant to be harsh at all but certainly did not come across gently as he restrained the metaphysical presence of an 800 lb cat.

"Complicated question," Reina replied. "Ready for a complicated answer?" She stepped forwards, beyond the underbrush, and pushed her oversized hood down off of her head. The same shock of ebon waves bounded about her face, though the face itself had grown more angular, more feral. Lips parted at their apex in a vaguely feline fashion, and wicked fangs poked out from behind lips that were too short to cover them entirely. Clawed fingers withdrew from pockets, giving Wallace a wry little five-bladed wave.

The eyes, of course, were the easiest thing to notice. Shifters found themselves overcome by their inner beasts' inclinations on a somewhat regular basis, so the color wasn't so unusual. It was the consistency, though, that proved jarring -- the composition, with the cats-eye pupils and he vibrant reflective colors that could never belong on something entirely human.

"The tiger got fed up with me," she said, her voice low but bold and open. "Decided to run out here for a few weeks. When I came to, I was like his. Crazy shit, huh?"

He'd nodded at her, of course, prepared to hear her out. But that nod was a lie. He was not ready for this complicated answer. Not at all. The sight of her was alarming and even his tiger seemed to be taken aback. Not at all in the way that stories of hybrids would. This wasn't... that. In his gut, he knew it wasn't possible because Reina wasn't in a state to manage such a feat.

This was... something else. And absolutely news to a man who had been a were for way too long now.

He gaped at her, because what else was he supposed to. Though he still had claws of his own poking into his palm, a little tickle of fur up his forearm, he at least seemed to have not lost his grip entirely on the animal. Maybe it was because Hobbes was just as jaw-dropped, his own guard down, able to be wrestled to at least a standstill.

He stared at her, wondering if that would make any sense of this, but it didn't. Reina was, straight up, undeniably feline in spite of the fact that her cat seemed otherwise behind its metaphysical wall. "Crazy... hardly covers it," he managed, but only just, finally daring a few more steps. He wasn't even going to think about the chances of him finding her here like this, or maybe the implications of her hanging out around their first co-shift spot, but...

"Shit, Reina, why didn't you tell anyone?"

Why hadn't she reached out for help? Was this permanent?

A hissing sort of laugh that sounded more like the rumbling bellow of a great cat than anything else echoed through the clearing. "Because I'm a coward, I suppose, as well as a fool. I didn't want anyone seeing me like this. I figured it would go away on its own." A somber shake of the head followed. "No such luck. It's been a few weeks. Got worse after the full moon; at first it was just the eyes. But the tiger kept coming out to play."

Reina took a deep breath to center herself -- her raging emotions that were beating desperately against the enforced apathy that she had so painstakingly instilled. "The first time through was for three straight days," she said. "Then two, then one, then two, then five. Then finally a full week. It got worse every time. I lost control. Couldn't shift back." A shrug of narrow shoulders. "And when I did, well -- each time I had a new little reminder to mark my morbid progress. So how could I tell anyone? This is -- I can't just walk back into town like nothing happened."

It would have been terribly hypocritical for him to get on her case for being a coward.

And he knew what it was like to not feel like you were allowed out into public. But her case was... a lot stronger.

The tiger was the one to break from the shock first, and as a result he moved towards her with intent to touch, lifting his own (mercifully temporarily) questionable hand to touch at her shoulder, his eyes wide and nearly as unnatural as hers right now as he searched her face. "Reina, we would have helped you, I--" he broke himself off, knowing none of what was on the forefront of his mind was going to help.

And maybe she would swipe him across the face for it, but Hobbes insisted--tigers needed tigers, and Reina deserved a damn hug, so he would attempt to drag her into a flustered embrace.

Reina's tiger tensed, hackles raised in panic as she was suddenly approached. Panic! Run! Fight! Do -- something!

But the woman grit her teeth and bore it. She had to -- she couldn't afford to alienate one of the only people to come looking for her. She stood there like a plank of wood as Wallace pulled her into an embrace. She sniffled.

"Wanna hear something pitiful?" she inquires. "These eyes don't like crying for emotional reasons. Trust me, I've had plenty of opportunities to try." Her posture shifts; tentative arms wrap around Wallace's waist. "I'm sorry for worrying you. I -- I should have called. I scared a lot of people."

That was like... amazingly depressing. Pitiful was probably the right word, and he mulled on it, not about to force this contact for long, but relaxing a little himself when she reciprocated just the tiniest bit. She was just... feral now. Even her tiger felt a little different. Hobbes could feel it and it was undeniable, but maybe it was just paranoid lonliness rearing its ugly head. Fixable...

Even if maybe her more physical features might not be. Worry ate at him already, wondering if they could find a solution.

Then she was apologizing and her was stepping back--the threat of shift still there, but backing off--and holding her at arm's length.

"No, it's okay. I should have gone looking for you weeks ago. But I've been so wrapped up in my own shit, it's just..."

Other than Felix he honestly wondered sometimes if he had anyone left who really knew him at all and still wanted to stick around. Too much a liability, not reliable enough for it.

Reina shook her head. "It is what it is," she said, with finality. "I can't live out here forever. My tiger certainly can, but I can't. I'm going to start looking for places in the weirder parts of town..." She wasn't about to mention her vampire friend or her recent foray into town. It had proven fairly uneventful, but it would be better to keep the aftermath that way. Regardless of this group of vampires' opinions towards shifters, she didn't want to force too much -- lest it become a very quick and messy case of that one song by The Who.

Meet the new clutch, same as the old clutch.

The woman shivered. She wasn't cold -- far from it, with how hot she ran these days. But she couldn't help but fear for the portents of the future. "How's Nove? How are you?"

"You need any help with that?" was his immediate and most sincere offer. He didn't have a lot going for himself or anyone else these days. But he still had money and some connections and there was plenty he could do without venturing out past his comfort zones... right?

Still. He couldn't baby Reina, and she probably didn't want to be. He'd tried his hardest to help her in the past, but she'd still ended up here. Some friend he was.

He couldn't stop looking at her eyes, really, and then pound of his own heart just needed to chill. He retreated enough to let them both breathe, then shook his head. "Nove is super great, as ever. I am... less than great. If we're throwing open the vulnerabilities over here." Not that Reina had a lot of choice. Her own terrible time was manifested by canines no one could hope to miss if they had eyes.

"You probably missed it, but my friends, Abraham, Asha... you remember them?" Surely she did, she'd had the worst time of it with them and he still wasn't sure how to reconcile that other than coming to the obvious conclusion that it was way too far in the past and buried under other problems to fuss over. "Well, Asha ended up on tv as a jaguar in Larkspur with poor fucking Abraham trying to chase her down and they've been in hiding since and I just... I guess it reminds me of my own fuck ups cause I haven't left the house much since then."

Fun. Times.

"Hey, Wallace." A clawed hand reached up, finding its way to a point of purchase atop the dark-haired man's head. It was a strange sort of gesture -- certainly not the first one that most folks went to for comforting purposes -- but then, Reina was a strange cat.

"We got dealt a shitty hand. All of us, in one way or another. Cordova's not designed for folks like us, that's just the way it is." She sighed and shook her head, two sets of eyelids closing for a long moment. "The secret's out, right? Maybe it's time that we stopped playing victim. Maybe it's time we smiled for the camera." Flourescent eyes opened once more to meet Wallace's own. There burned an unexpected fire of intention; the sort that appeared behind the gaze of a woman who had been beaten down for perhaps a moment too long.

"I suppose what I'm saying is that it's not your fault," she said. "It's not their fault, either. Or mine. It's nobody's fault. The world just has to adjust -- or, maybe, we need to demand that they do so."

Reina was, as he was reminded now, a strange paragon for justice.

It was what had landed her in such hot water with him in the first place. Interrogating him about polar bears, of all things. Making him feel cornered enough to leave, to go, for Felix to realize something was up, lead her down an alley...

For all Reina talked of no blame, it really felt like trails all lead somewhere, and they always had some choice in which ones they put foot on.

But with the tiger so close up to the surface, he found comfort in her odd gesture, almost more than her words, even if it was clear from the way he met her eyes now that he was most certainly listening. If anyone could say they were having a worse time of it than he was... Well, just look at her. Much as he didn't think anything was horrific about it--surprising, but not horrific--he knew that there were... a lot of people out there who would point and shiver and say monster in the sort of tones that could make it true.

All of the above stilled him, and he was quiet a moment before he wondered... "What do we do?"

Because... what if Reina had the answers he hadn't been able to grasp for himself? What if her tragedy was the one that broke that invisible wall?

Reina huffed and pressed her forehead against Wallace's. "No idea." Her hands found her pockets again, so that their only point of contact lay upon their brows. It was intimate, certainly, but not the sort of intimacy you would expect from a romantic interest. Rather, it felt somewhat wild -- like an acknowledgement of closeness between beasts, made manifest through their human keepers.

"Figure we've got two options. Keep living on the fringe -- maybe leave, if that's our prerogative -- or walk up the steps of city hall and pull my hood down. Give a few news stations a call. Bite the bullet and offer the interview of a lifetime." She cracked a fanged smile. "Not hard to give 'em proof at this point, you know? This works a lot better than risking a full shift. 'course, they'd probably just send in the riot squad and have me locked in a zoo somewhere..." She sighed. Her forehead burned with the typical 'fever' of a were.

"I dunno. That's probably a really fucking stupid idea," she said. "But I don't have the luxury of passing anymore. I don't get to walk around and play human, so -- I figure I either guilt society into accepting us or I fuck off to the jungle somewhere."

When it came down to it, their only honest connection as people was through the two Siberian cats that prowled their minds. And Wallace's own... well. He was right up on the cusp, barely held back, which made the very feline contact feel very appropriate. Made the cat want to push the envelope a little more, an incoherent growl to wanting to be something more four-legged.

Tension between the man and the beast was pretty impressive, and unfortunately pretty easily twanged upon. A shudder rippled through him as she laid out her options, her ideas. The cry for secrecy battled with the idea that... "You can't leave," he insisted, voice strained as he battled himself and began to lose somehow on both sides. "You don't deserve--" And he cut himself off with a soft gasp and a hand up to her face--or really, it was still nearly half a paw at this point, and he realized as much and pulled away and turned his back to her.

Because fuck it all, he wasn't sure he was going to be able to keep kitty back any more. Hobbes wanted to check on his progeny with his own eyes, and the idea of such a reveal really crushed in on the anxiety that Wallace harbored, even as he almost wanted to encourage it. A giant 'fuck it' to everything that had been completely awful about this entire year.

"I think I need to sit down," he said as he found a tree to put his hand against, all before a twist and snap in his knee had him dropping to his knees and with the haste too familiar to any were he was trying to at least get his shoes off. There was a cat coming and he didn't have much say in that anymore, even if he was stupidly dragging out the process by pretending this was totally not happening...

"Shh, it's okay. I've got you both." Reina's hands pressed against Wallace's shoulders and back as she helped him lower himself down to the leafy underbrush of the clearing. All things considered, this was as good a place as any for an accidental shift; and while she did feel a twinge of regret and shame about her very appearance forcing such an endeavor, her tiger couldn't help but gloat. It all came back to the beasts in the end; the humans were simply tenants in a land of metaphysical inevitability.

She drew wicked claws across the reinforced stitches that held the seams of Wallace's tee shirt together, allowing the garment to split and shred before his tiger even forced it to so so. It was easier that way, after all. Her hands struggled more with the buttons on his denim jeans, but eventually those, too, were solved.

"Want me to come with?" she growled; her cat was impatient, as well, though Reina found that its greater purchase upon her humanity made resisting the allure of a full shift marginally easier. "Or is half cat good enough for Hobbes?" followed by another "Shhh... It's okay. You're okay. Let it out. Let him out. All is well."

It was a familiar mantra at this point. She had spent enough dark nights repeating it to herself.

Shifting was perpetually some sort of awkward hellscape, unnatural and yet normal. After this long, almost nothing about it was a surprise, but it never felt right. He both wished Reina wasn't here to witness this, but also was absurdly grateful for her presence. For her foresight to help him out. If he hadn't been in the haze of agony that came with a shift that was being actively--and somewhat involuntarily--fought, he might have been self conscious about her essentially undressing him, but it did make the whole process a merciful fraction easier.

Stress shifts, even when you kinda saw them coming, were just kinda fucking scary.

He half-heard Reina's question, but he couldn't manage words right then and just shook his head. An attempt to tell her that she was fine either way, not his call. Hers. Hobbes could deal, he demanded nothing of her and he focused on her voice until the moment most of the way through where the tiger took greater hold of the reigns. Mostly striped and nearly all animal, he twisted onto his back and reached for the life-abused woman to drag her down into an feline furry chest, to clutch onto her even as the shift finished up.

Reina's new feline enhancements conveyed a number of physical benefits. Being able to tell a fully grown tiger that she did not really want to snuggle, however, was not one of them. The woman was dragged downwards and into the massive paws of the recently shifted Hobbes.

A strangled laugh escaped her lips as she was pulled down into the grasp of the massive jungle cat. Her arms wrapped around his big barrel chest as she clung for dear life; claws draw blood as they sliced through her clothing and skin alike, though the pain went largely ignored. This should have been horrifying -- but for now, it felt nice. It was human -- and feline -- contact, and that was enough.

Reina buried her face in the tiger's chest. "Well hello, there," she laughed, nuzzling close so that her voice was muffled and rumbled through the creature's chest. "Haven't seen you in a while. I hope you don't mind if I stay like this -- I'm a little nervous to let other Reina out, lest I end up with a tail."

The shift finished up within the next several seconds, leaving the massive feline the sole physical remainder of the man and beast's shared existence. Left the cat to note the fresh scent of blood that he'd caused in careless grabbing, to sniff and to rumble what... may have been something of a laugh. Perhaps human enough for that, or maybe it was just a noise.

Either way, the cat saw Reina as kin, with or without a tail, and he kept her close enough to groom her hair in two harsh licks before he was releasing her and trying to roll--with or without her--to his feet, shuffling on top of the remnants of clothing as he tested out the freedom he'd snatched from the jaws of stress.

Reina couldn't help but chuckle. The wounds inflicted by the tiger's claws had already begun to seal and heal -- such was the life of the shifter. She stared up from her position on the ground as the tiger loomed overhead; her hair stood on end from the keen, rough licks. It would be a horrifying, life-threatening sight for near anyone else -- a massive apex predator looming, the scent of blood fresh in the air. But for Reina, it was familiar. Endearing, even.

"Feeling a bit better, big guy?" she asked, reaching out to scratch behind the massive creature's ears. "I hope so. It's easier if we just embrace it, yeah? Catharsis is better than crisis."

They'd come a very long way from the day where he'd been chased by her into an alley, helped his girlfriend corner her, and then eaten her entire arm.

Now, unless she did something frightfully stupid to piss off a cat that was difficult to piss off, she was as safe with him as if he was a house cat--with perhaps overzealous claws when it came to affection. Short of being smothered to death by 800 lbs of world's-largest-cat, killing Reina was simply out of the question.

Nope, part of the reason for this shift was the fact that she needed to stay. He needed her to stay. Wallace nor Hobbes could stand the idea of their kin being chased from town forever by their own distressed state of existence. If it could happen to her, it could happen to him, and he... looked across to where he was practically eye level with her and watched her feline gaze as she spoke.

Rumbling in a distress that wasn't quite gone, but felt muted by the release of energy that came with any necessary shift, he lowered his head and butted against her torso. Then, pushing into her and then turning away to rub his side against her, he started off into the trees.

Well, that left Reina's options pretty narrow. Sure, she had eyes and claws -- but there was only one form of her that was going to be able to keep up with Wallace on four legs, and it involved getting naked.

The tigress was all too pleased at this revelation; it had become the more common expression between the two of them, after all, which made for a rather grumpy kitty whenever she was forced back into the metaphysical background. Reina had barely gotten her sweatshirt off when her ribs cracked and snapped, her newfound barrel chest splitting the seams on her bra.

Reina swore loudly, speeding her shedding of clothes even as the transformation continued. Soon enough, the tiger remained amidst a pile of hastily deposited clothes; she roared with jubilant victory as her hind legs shot her into the forest like a cannonball after her sire.

He'd set off at a walk, hearing the telltale signs of a shift behind him, but in this current state, he didn't worry too much. Instead, he took his time clawing a tree while listening to dredges of human distress. Familiar enough that he wouldn't go rushing back, more eager to just have her join him. The more human side was somewhat regretful to give Reina reason to feel like she should shift, but the tiger was happy to not be alone so...

No fuss. He paused to sniff his handiwork of a well marked, bark-crumbled tree, then set off again when he heard her paws hitting the ground from the direction he'd come. Immediately springing into a run at her roar, feeling emboldened by it, he longed for a hunt, and he longed to do it with her, if only to prove that she was not alone.

No more distress. No more falling apart at the seams. The tiger population of Mountainside had had more than enough of that.

It didn't take long to catch the scent of deer on the summer wind. There were more shifters now than ever -- and that meant fewer deer to go around. Still, even the sparsest and scarcest prey could be tracked, and tigers were excellent trackers.

Reina butted her head firmly against Wallace's flank before gesturing with her catlike eyes towards the north. The intention was clear. They would stalk through the underbrush and find themselves a meal fit for the monarchs of the jungle.

...Sure, the jungle in this case happened to be a sparse smattering of mountainside hardwoods, and the prey in question was not exactly dangerous jungle quarry. But it was close enough. Reina crouched low and began to push herself forwards against the ground.

It was a little difficult to sneak when you were the biggest cat subspecies in the world. Made worse by unnatural tiger terrain and the fact that they were half again bigger than their wild counterpart. But despite being a terrible homebody as a human person, Hobbes had eight years of stalking practice under his claws, and in spite of his nearly eight hundred pounds of fur and flesh, he was practically silent as they crept together through the trees.

Soft breaths, mouth open to pull in all the air he could as he sought the faintest traces of things edible, growing inevitably closer to things that had started out far away. There were two of them, and that might require more than a gangly deer, unless there was a group, but...

After a while, his gait slowed even more, his ears cupping, twisting, his head moving as he sniffed, whiskers curling.

Elk. A treasure among the brittle, grassy hues of your average deer. Violet eyes turned curiously towards the other tiger, as if seeking her approval.

Reina was certainly the competitive type. Her tiger was all too happy to play into those particular urges on the best of days -- today, however, the need for companionship (and perhaps a selfish desire to be hunted for) drove the tigress' instinct even further than the usual competitive edge. The great beast gestured with her round, large head towards the source of the maddening prey scent. The elk was Hobbes' to claim, if he was able to do so.

Still, she wasn't about to deny the possibility of smugly offered support. She lowered herself down onto the ground, front legs crossed in an almost prim fascimile of content patience. The message was clear: I'll be right here if you need me. Please, take your time.

Hobbes huffed at his companion, her attitude. His little self-reminder that he'd made her and so he had no room to complain about the way she was. Still, as he turned away he made a point of flicking his tail across her face before he slunk off into the underbrush, winding low around trees and aiming to put himself in a spot where drawing closer would not alarm the animal with his exotic scent.

Sometimes he wondered, though, if not being indigenous to the area gave him an edge. The confusion such an unnatural apex scent must give off had to tie up the legs of a panicked animal, right?

He was good at catching big game. He had a lot of practice in it over the years. And there was so little that could outrun a hungry weretiger.

The elk was ahead, moving through the trees. Alert, but still oblivious to what was on its trail. And so with silent pawsteps, slow and patient, ambush predator to the end, the tiger moved up, closer and closer, laser focused.

This seemed easy. Too easy. Reina's tiger didn't come out for food -- though food would be a pleasant consequence of what she actually sought. No, the massive she-cat sought entertainment more than anything at this particular moment.

Unfortunately, entertainment wasn't the sort of thing that one was inclined to get in this situation. Certainly, an elk was a formidable foe; any natural predator in Mountainside would struggle with such a majestic beast. These tigers, though, were anything but natural -- Hobbes would make short work of that elk as soon as he set upon it.

And so, as Hobbes stalked through the underbrush, Reina's tiger could not help but bellow. It was a loud, commanding, fearsome sound that would surely send shivers down the spines of any prey animal -- and, more importantly, energy directly to their legs.

Run, tiger, run.

He was close, so close, and it was just as the muscles in his legs were bunching for a spring, a sound shook the air around them. Startled himself, the larger male tiger sat stunned for a moment as his companion sabotaged him. But the elk was not so slow to act, launching out of the area it had stopped to graze with all the speed being very motivated could afford it.

But the pause from the siberian did not last long. The elk had a head start, but the flash of stripes was hot on its tail, the coil of legs springing him forward and snapping a sapling that he sideswiped too hard. Laser focus targeted once again, the elk ran and darted and weaved, taking shortcuts that the tiger was too large to slip through, but never quite shaking him.

No reason to be silent any more, the tiger tore after his intended meal, panting and fluid.

Ah, yes, there it was! The thrill of the hunt; what would have once been a mere iota of excitement had been extended into a pleasureful, engaging chase. Reina's beast leaped from her haunches with a single, great force of effort -- and then she, too, was running through the forest at breakneck speed.

She did not urge herself to catch up with Hobbes, or to hunt the beast herself; no, this would be his kill. She merely wished to keep pace, to watch the events as they unfolded. It was far more entertaining and engaging when she could feel the rush of adrenaline coursing through her own veins; like the secondhand experience of a guilt-free drug.

She provided Hobbes with a halting roar of encouragement. He'd need to run faster, leap farther, and kill more efficiently if he wanted to impress her.

He twisted through a gap that had been nearly too narrow, caught on his hips a little, had him breaking branches rather than darting past them. The elk knew the area well, and Hobbes had a feeling that in spite of his incredibly superior speed, he may just loose the smaller creature if he wasn't careful. But he saw his chance before long when the elk had to turn a sharp left in order to avoid a thicket of impassable brush, and he leapt, swiping at the ungulate.

The elk flipped, hooves over antlers, awkward and ungainly, but the tiger's momentum carried him too far and into said thicket, tripping him up just long enough for a elk who had been gouged on the flank by knife-like claws to stumbled, crying out, back to its shaking legs. Bleeding, it began to limp away as fast as it could while the feline disentangled himself from the clutches of a patch of burrs.

Well, now, that was a shame. Sport was all well and good, but Reina's tiger wasn't about to let a kill stagger away wounded but alive. The great tigress leapt from the underbrush with a feral yowl, claws outstretched and fangs bared and glinting in the domineering moonlight.

The elk stood no chance, hobbled as it was. The full weight of the great cat came crashing down upon the wounded game, causing its quivering cervine legs to crumple beneath it. Reina's teeth sank into the neck of the great horned beast, prompting a pained and desperate bleat to escape its muzzle. That proved to be the last sound the creature would ever make; with a mighty yank, Reina reared backwards, her jaws carrying the entirety of the creature's thick neck into the air and separating the damaged segments of its spine from each other.

The death was immediate; the beast crumpled into lifeless inaction on the ground beneath the bloodied tiger. Satisfied, Reina padded over to the bramble bush, staring in amusement at poor old Hobbes.

Disentangling himself, the larger feline stopped to look at the flash of movement that was the tigress taking the elk out. Hobbes huffed, the kill essentially stolen, the sensation of that only worked because I hurt it first filtering through his feline pride. But soon he was back to pulling himself from the brush, ears flat and eyes sharp as he looked past Reina to the dead elk.

He wanted to eat that, but he also... had a thorn in his paw. And all over his left flank, brambles. So with a grumble of distaste, he got far enough away from his trap of underbrush and sat down, first to chew the pokies from his paw-pad, his tail flicking back and forth in subtle irritation at how that had gone.

Reina's beast can't help but churr in amusement at her companion's apparent misfortune. Somebody had attempted to bite off more than they could chew, it seemed. Still, Reina was a merciful and affectionate tigress -- even if her human side was decidedly not. The great beast lumbered towards Hobbes' striped flank, a rough tongue reaching out to repeatedly lap at the mangled fur that covered it.

It was slow work, and the burrs weren't particularly pleasant upon the tigress' tongue, but the progress was resolute in its progression. Reina settled down, meal forgotten for the time as she set about the task of ensuring that dear Hobbes could move about unimpeded.

It was unpleasant. Kind of her, but the whole thing was not exactly an enjoyable grooming session. While he let her work on his flank, he managed to clean out his paws as a few had also gotten between his toes. Then a few more down his chest--tiny little things that just irritated his sensitive coat. He was a wildcat, to be certain, but one that was very much a pushover. Some tiger--probably Reina, honestly--might have charged through that bramble patch like champion, but Hobbes was a lot fussier.

So... yeah. He growled and grumbled the whole time, but eventually the last lick was taken and he found his feet with another flick of his tail, and a glance to his current companion.

Before he promptly moved to the carcass, because he was wretchedly starving.

Reina let the tiger flee to his prize. She would take her share soon enough; for now, she had to lick the earth and grass for a while so as to dislodge those pesky spurs that yet resolutely clung to her tongue. It had been a productive night beneath the autumn moon; it gave both tiger and woman pause, such as they were still separate entities. Perhaps, she thought, a life of solitude was not entirely suitable. Perhaps she should return toward society after all.

Later, if asked his opinion... Wallace would certainly agree that Reina didn't deserve to live out here, hidden away. Though it didn't look it as much as it once had, she was just as much a person as the rest of them.

Hobbes sat close to the warm kill, consuming with idle satisfaction and taking down great chunks to fill his belly. Perhaps sometime soon, the entire not-an-ambush could do a run together, again. An idle thought as he felt like this would be made better only if Felix was here, too...

Boy, did he have news for her when he got home, really.

But for now, he'd found Reina, and that was more than he'd had before.

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