Starving

Cherry Hill 
#1
Outfit. Open!


She needed to get out of the city. It was too loud, too suffocating and too toxic for her right now. So instead of jogging through the packed streets, she decided to run to Cherry Hill, around the park and back. Just getting out to getting out of her small loft was refreshing. She breathed in deeply, loving the energy this new life gave her, though it came with constantly being restless.

And hungry.

God, she was hungry. She just a small power snack before she left, some celery sticks and a protein drink. Nothing unusual. Certainly more than she normally ate. But she was still hungry. She didn’t know exactly how to deal with this life, but she was trying. She just didn’t know how much harder she could try without loosing herself completely. She stopped jogging, pausing near the bench as a series of images flashed before her eyes, too quick for her to notice any of them, her stomach growling in irritation.

Fine. She would just make the trek home. Besides... she glanced at her Apple Watch... seven miles had to be enough. She didn’t even feel tired, just irritated, hungry and a little tingly, but that was all. Yeah. She’d just go home. She stepped away from the bench, walking a few steps as she re-adjusting her running time, her green eyes downcast to her watch, her heart suddenly feeling like it was pounding.
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#2


 That, was most definitely a cheetah. She knew it just like you knew the smell of a fire - immediate and hard to shake. But it was more than that really, a feeling that prickled along the back of her neck and radiated outward. So rare was it that they came to her, that she wasn't so stupid as to slight opportunity. Instead, she finished the email she had been working on and pardoned herself from the gallery for a bit. The whole process of staying human and tracking down another animal was still a pain, but this wasn't her first rodeo and like most things, it got easier with experience.

 In the very least, it was moments such as these where she was grateful she had not been set with the task of overlooking a far larger territory. It didn't take too much extra fuss to scour Belle Vista, and thankfully she did not have to set herself to that task for very long at all. A park, a (seemingly) new beast from the feel of it, and the gentle urge of her own thoughts to approach slowly and respectfully - it reminded her in a way of Charlie, but decidedly not.

 "Afternoon." She kept more than an arm's distance away, an added precaution as she offered a smile and the slightest wave of just her fingers. "Good day for it, before it gets too unbearably cold ..." Casual, sociable - they could ease into the rest.
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#3
She could feel that thing getting closer and closer to the surface. She really needed to eat something. At least, that was what she thought it wanted. The images in her head flashed by again and she nearly stumbled. Her green eyes bleeding into gray. But she didn’t know. Freya had never seen them change. She reached up to touch her pounding head just as a woman stopped in front of her. Dammit. She was NOT in the mood to talk to anyone at that particular moment. She nearly bared her teeth at her, but managed to look up, her gray eyes shining as she attempted to muddle through what she was saying.

"I’m sorry. What?" she said... more like grunted. She blinked rapidly, one hand still reaching up to her temple to try and ease her headache, her stomach commanding she move. "I can’t..." she swallowed, her stomach growling. Move along, lady, she thought, the only thing she could hear was the pounding of her heart in her ears and the smell of food wafting on the air. Was that food? No... that was... humans. She swallowed.
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#4
 She'd sensed a degree of uneasy from the get-go, but from her first-hand experience alone ... coming in on the attack rarely did any good. It made people panic, suddenly being smothered. But the fact of the matter was that there was no way in hell she was going to allow this girl to start convulsing on her park pavement and turning into a cheetah in broad daylight.

 "Breathe in, slow and deep - try to level yourself." Soft-spoken as she moved in, turned to walk beside the girl. "Keep your head down, your eyes change when you're like this and if anyone sees that and gets riled up that'll make it worse." She looked about as she spoke, casual as she moved in near enough. It was an active choice, allowing her own beast up enough to headbutt just on the other side of her control.

 Not enough to be a threat, just a long shadow and the familiarity of something similar but remarkably stronger. "I'm not going to hurt you, I'm trying to keep you from ruining your life. Walk with me, please." She took one small and cautious step.
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#5
That thing inside now her seemed to like this other woman’s presence, but that didn’t mean that it was any more controlled. If anything, it became more excited as she spoke. Freya looked up at the woman with wide gray eyes, barely comprehending what was being said. She could feel the pain along her limbs, but they stayed intact.

Breathe. Keep her eyes down. She did so, part of her more than happy to obey this woman, but another part of her wandering who the hell she was. She breathed through her nose, tilting her head down and tried to walk forward. She needed to get out of here. She couldn’t hurt these people. That thought only intensified her fear. She was nothing more than a savage.

She breathed deeply, the beast on what she would have considered the edge. Her hunger driving her. She followed the woman, trying to stay upright though the pain intensified. "Who’re you?" she said in between gritted teeth.
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#6
 She kept her own beast close, kept the girl in the shadow of it and willed her to keep the cheetah down as best she could. Calm. She focused on the word, the air needed to keep it real and possible despite all else. A good few years down the line, but she still remembered that much intimately - the value of having some experienced and relatable figure to ease the still torn parts, still raw and animal.

 "Yana Novik - I own an art gallery not terribly far from here, yourself?" She glanced over from the corner of her eye, played it off as interest even if she was secretly assessing. "You live around these parts, I assume?"
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#7
She definitely should have eaten something a little more hardier when before she left. Now her stomach felt like an endless pit and she was stuck. Out here. In the middle of Belle Vista. Why did she have to leave? She was restless. Starving and pretty scared at the moment. She was used to eating like a human. But she wasn’t any more and she had to get used to that fact.

She took a deep breath, exhaling through her parted lips as she did so, her gray eyes flickering upward to watch where she was going. Though the presence of this other woman calmed her in a way, she still couldn’t hide the fact that she needed to get out. This pace wasn’t slow fast enough. Still, she focused on the sound of the other woman’s voice, her head shaking to tell her she didn’t. "Freya," she said through gritted teeth. "Everlynne." She was just out for a jog.

And this woman couldn’t do anything to help her. She was awful at using these newfound abilities. Just awful at everything right now. Pain radiated up her spine, shaking her head again. The could not happen. Not here. Not now. Not ever. "Please. I have to go," she said, her voice nearly sounding distorted. She forced her legs to move, nearly stumbling as she attempted to run away. Toward the nearest alley. Somewhere where she could just breathe and get away from everything.
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#8
 It was important information to have of course, but hardly the elephant in the room where the shitshow at hand was concerned. Freya Everlynne - a nice name, and one she would like to familiarize herself with, should life take them that way. But the fact remained that she had a group to protect, and come hell or high water, there would be no Were's shifting in midday on her watch.

 Not yet able to make that bridge to control her beast, it was a matter of negotiating, for the time being, a hard thing to do where a still wild animal was concerned. If that didn't work, ... well, she didn't want to think of what she might have to do if that didn't work. She allowed the girl to pull ahead the slightest bit, kept close enough to maintain even some tepid and unofficial connection, to stay on the radar.

 "Head down, breathe in and breathe out - do not let yourself get in your own head. There is nothing fighting you, it's all you. You just need to learn to live cohesively." She kept more or less to the mouth of the ally, let her voice stay low but still audible for sensitive ears. "I'm going to ask you to take a gamble for me - but I swear to you it's a trust fall that'll pay off. Come with me? It's only a few blocks, we'll get you fed and if you lose the fight we have a space for that too."
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#9
The dice say that she does not loose it


She couldn't do this. Or maybe she could, but that woman kept following her, staying a step behind. She glanced back, her heart rate shooting upward. Why couldn't she just go away. It wasn't like she knew the lady. She exposed her teeth in a smile that was more animal than human. The beast wanting to getting out. To break away and to feed than anything else.

She didn't want to negotiate. Didn't want to reason. She just wanted it all to go away. She needed it to go away so that she could get back to her life. She had one. You know. She used to go out nearly every weekend and yet, she stayed inside now. Scared of what could happen to those around her. She tried to keep it happy, fed, exhausted. But it wasn't like she was walking a fucking dog.

She grit her teeth, pacing in the quiet space of the alley, though she blocked in with the woman there. If she needed to, she could push the woman out of the way. That was possible right? She wasn't trapped. She didn't have the strength for this. Or maybe she did? She too a deep breath, stopping and placing her hands on the brick building next to her, letting the cool surface calm her frayed nerves. She looked at the woman, a subtle nod given. She would follow.
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#10
 She was quiet as she waited for some sort of acknowledgement or response, smart enough to know not to pester a new Were in crisis. The nod made her head tilt, a faint flash of a smile before she motioned for the girl to follow and kept along the trail and back towards home away from home. "I'm like you." Waiting until they were at a lull, not too many passerby's surrounding them before she would even brush the surface of that matter.

 "I didn't do this to you." Best to get that out of the way, just in case this girl was at all like Charlie and didn't know the who or why of her condition. "But I help people like us get their shit together - find the balance. This isn't a sales pitch by the way, you don't pay me."
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#11
She listened, though the bounding in her ears didn't cease. Her gray eyes followed the woman as she walked ahead of her. Like her? So a beast. An animal. Or... she didn't even know what she was. She clenched her jaw. Yes, she could smell the other woman now and the animal within liked it, reached for it. It was an odd feeling, but something she was quickly getting used to.

"What am I?" she asked, her words short and clipped as she focused on anything other than the feeling of her bones possibly snapping at any minute. "I'm hungry..." she said, catching a whiff of something that smelled absolutely divine. Her mouth watered just thinking about it. Her fingers balled into fists, nails biting into her palms as she tried to focus.
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#12
 She would not be touching that one until they were both in the car, seat belts buckled and pulling from the faded lines of her spot and towards Work Release. "You're a shifter, a Were - like the tiger on the news last year." Her fingers tapped the top of the wheel, something to distract the both of them as she kept her eyes forward and her posture rigid.

 "You're no tiger though, you're a cheetah." She glanced over to see how the other woman was handling it, went back to the task at hand. "There's a good number of us, we look out for one another - help each other through the hard times."
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#13
She knew she was a Were. A shifter. Whatever they wanted to call it, but the animal? She fingered with the strap across her chest, the other reaching to roll the window down. She felt trapped in the vehicle and the window eased that feeling. She looked over at the woman as she continued, her eyes in between grey and green. A cheetah? No wander the thing wishing seemed more sassy, upbeat and restless. Cheetah.

It was one piece of the puzzle and she nodded, turning her attention to the front windshield. It was a lot to process, but she had been dealing with this for months now. She could now put a name to it. At Yana’s next comment Freya snorted, turning toward her. "Like some sort of AA group?" she said, her voice boardering on sarcasm. Perhaps, by the best way to go about it but she. Oils to help it. Where was this group when she was changed in the first place? She took a deep breath. "How many is a ‘good number of us?’"
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#14
 "Mm," The question of how many gave her pause, a lot like giving out pertinent information with nothing definite to gain from it. "Let's just say more than three but less than ten." It was best to leave it at that until she had some better sense of the girl anyway. "I don't want to leave you in the dark but I don't really know anything about you and I'm obligated to protect them." Even Isolde, off on her own and stubbornly silent - though she supposed that was more of a desire than an obligation, a personal interest.

 "We keep a low profile, obviously - the last thing we need is to be on the news." Especially not now, after everything they had endured over the year and all the changes to come. "I suppose it's like an AA group in some ways, particularly for those who are new and struggling." She resisted the very real impulse to glance over pointedly. "I think it's more like a family, really. It's not all doom and gloom, even if it feels like it might be right now."
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#15
The more she listened the calmer she became. Reason came back and for a moment, she wanted to slap herself for getting into a car with a stranger. Still, that something within her liked it. Well, cheetah. It was a cheetah. And she supposed it was a she just like her. It honestly felt like a whole other being with her own wants and desires and Freya just wasn’t on the same page.

Freya nodded, taking it all in. It sounded like she had a choice to make... though it was easy to assume this group was like a normal animal unit. There probably was a pecking order and she’d probably be on the bottom. the lowest of the low. An omega of sorts. She sighed. This was a lot to take in, but she had it coming. "Can I meet them?" she asked, turning toward the woman. She wanted to meet them. "You know, before I make any decisions. As you can imagine this has kind of thrown my whole life out of wack. I think it’s already been a few months. I know I need help. I’ve been having too many....blackouts...lately."
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#16
 "Of course you can meet them." It felt like a raw deal, telling her it was not a viable option but expecting her to sign her name one way or the other. "You shift every full moon no matter what you do - well ..." She supposed if Avery had made it through as many as she had, with enough feverish determination, perhaps - but that was logistics to a hairsplitting degree that she didn't feel like Freya needed or necessarily wanted just yet. "In special circumstances, with enough people rallying around them, some Were's can manage it once in a while. But, for someone so new and without a support system," No offense, Freya, "every moon."

 And they were treading water then, wading into all the nasty business that tended to leave an offending taste in the mouths of new Were's. "You shift when you're hungry, threatened, stressed, if you're emotional, and if someone surprises you - it's a mess. It will be a mess for some time." She glanced over, relaxed a bit in the sense that they were peeling back branches, coming out of the thick of the woods and inching further from trouble.

 "We'll fix it though, should you find you want to spend time with us ... we'll help you find your new normal." She drummed her fingers, turned the corner - half on autopilot. "Do you have any idea how or who you were infected by?"
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#17
Typical. Funny how almost all the myths about Weres weren’t really myths. A small smile was given at that. This would be forever. She didn’t know how she was going to manage this, especially with the job she had. Thankfully, her boss knew she cared about the story and let her work from some remote location... AKA “the field.” Most of the time she stayed at home where no one or nothing could upset her.

Which made sense. So any time she was under emotion stress. Great. Just fantastic. She frowned, turning toward Yana as if to ask her if she were serious. Of course she was. This didn’t seem like a joking matter and Freya was no fool. She shook her head, sighing deeply and shifting her weight to sit closer toward the window, her knees facing toward the center counsel.

"No. I just remember chasing a story, about Weres. I didn’t know about them then, I just had some sort of hunch that there were others beyond humans in existence. I followed some prints in the forest and I was attacked from behind," She had the claw marks down her back as proof. "I didn’t even see anything. I think the only reason I’m alive is that I had pepper spray. I turned around and blindly sprayed." She laughed, the sound breathy as if she were reliving that moment.

She had run back to her vehicle then, assuming the creature had been too preaccupied with cleaning out it’s eyes to give chase. She drove to the hospital, but by the time she arrived, her wounds had been healing. A couple of days later, the news broke out about that tiger. "I assumed it was a tiger," she said quietly, but not out of fear. What was done was done and she had tried to move on, to figure out her new life but it hadn’t been going too well. Every time she got upset, she changed, and lost time. Thankfully, most times were in the safety of her own home.

"Where are you taking me?" she asked, her grey eyes finally starting to turn green from the inside out. She could still feel the cheetah there, just under the surface, seemingly content to be in this woman’s presence. She felt more at peace now than she ever had.
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#18
 "Probably. There is a pretty staunch policy that's shared between species: turn or kill." It felt like less of an issue now, though she would still dig her heels in if any of their own were to reveal themselves and try to do nothing about it. "I'd wager it's for the best that you got out when you did." She rolled her shoulders, smirked at the question as she weaved her way into the familiar network of streets. "Work Release. It's an art gallery, but we do have a little boutique of sorts as well."

 She stole another glance at a red light, shrugged and did not speak until they were moving again. "We have space built upstairs, should one of our need to hang low. Besides, it's a decent employment opportunity for those among us who need to reassess their careers. Sort of hard to be a butcher and a new Were at once, as you might imagine."
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#19
That’s probably why they were able to keep their secret for so long. The journalist in her wanted to know more, wanted to find out the good, the bad and the ugly about what she was. Not so she could broadcast it to the world, but simply because of who she was. This would be her new way of life and if she were to enjoy this single life she had, then she better well learn everything about it.

"I’ve heard of it. Cordova Times did a little feature on it when it first opened," she said, just now putting the two pieces together. "Sounds like a little safe haven," she said matter-of-factory. She didn’t expect Yana to answer it, thankful for the silence between them earlier. It helped her sort through her thoughts, the cheetah still just below the surface, clawing at her skin. Although content, she was ready to make herself known.

That had been the case with Alice, the poor human girl she almost changed in front of right in the heart of Cordova. If only that guy hadn’t shoved that door in her face causing her nose to bleed. She had just made it home where she changed and trashed her loft. Again. "Have you ever killed anyone?" She couldn’t help but ask, wondering if this was normal in the beginning to feel so ... shifty all the time. When she became hungry, she started looking at anything that had flesh and blood as meat. Was that normal? Was it normal to feel so comfortable in a strangers’ presence?
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#20
 If nothing else, she supposed there was something refreshing about how this one seemed to settle right in. "Ever? Yes." No point in lying about it, nothing incriminating about just that one-word answer as long as she was smart enough to keep it that way. "But if we all handle this wisely until you're more in charge, than hopefully, that won't ever become your answer as well."

 She stopped in front of the gallery, her standard reserved spot near the side entrance. "Ready?" Apparently, she was, making the choice not to wait as she pushed open the door and stretched before finding the correct key on the ring. "I'm not positive as to who's in right now, but you'll at least want to meet Mathis. Think of him as ... vice president?" Back to speaking in analogies and grey areas.
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#21
Freya chewed on the inside of her cheek, the action alone causing the cheetah within to scratch and claw at her, begging to play and feast. However, there was no food and her stomach still complained, loudly and off-key. She supposed anything was possible considered how much time she lost. No matter how hard to she tried to recall what happened when she changed, she couldn't. But it sounded like with time, she would be able to remember.

She reached up and absently straightened her pony-tail, her scent now mixed with sweat from her workout and something else. She couldn't place it, but she was as ready as she was ever going to be. She nodded, once, her hand gripping the handle of the door a little tighter than necessary before opening it. A vice president. So like a Beta. Did cheetah's even have rankings like wolves. Was that even a thing in the Were world? "You don't have to be gentle with me. I can handle it," she said as she stepped onto the curb, looking up at the building before seeking Yana out.

She had a couple of months to accept this already. She did what little research she could on her own and by now, she accepted it. Besides, it would seem that she no longer had to watch what she ate in order to stay fit. She was already loosing too much weight, her clothes loosely hanging onto her hips. Thankfully, she was wearing spandex today and didn't have to worry about anything possibly falling down. She couldn't afford to loose more weight.

Freya listened to the seemingly loud jingle of keys as Yana sought to open the door. She took that time to continue to survey her surroundings, her partially grey eyes taking everything in.
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#22
 Not worth the possible mounting of stress, she grinned at the idea of approaching her with kid gloves. She supposed she had to a degree, but her subtlety about matters involving homicide was a bit more self-serving than all of that. Still, she unlocked the door and held it for Freya, nodded her head to wordlessly urge the other cheetah to come on in. The same sense of ownership that coated Belle Vista like a sheer blanket was almost more concentrated here, focused.

"If you'd like to follow me upstairs I'm sure we can piece together something for you to gnaw on in the meantime."
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#23
She looked up at the building, her cheetah finding some comfort in the fact that another of its kind could be there. She let her arms hang loosely to her sinds, her bare stomach catching the cool fall air, but it did nothing to each the ache of hunger within.

Food.

Her cheetah pushed her forward, it’s main concern food. Freya could see the pictures of meat flash before her, as if they were her own. The strange itchy feeling was still there as her animal was close to the surface. Waiting. The promise of a change obvious if there was no food. She looked toward Yana, her head tilting to the side as if to say “after you.” The human side of her couldn’t shake how feline the motion felt. Still. She was hungry.
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