Hello, darkness, my old friend and preferred hair color

Kwik Trip 
#1
outfit, set between 5-8pm


Abraham Barlet was standing in the aisle of Kwik Trip pharmacy staring at an item on the floor.

He'd come here to pick up shaving cream and toothpaste. But as he walked by a shelf, an object seemingly threw itself onto the floor in front of him.

Just For Men Touch of Gray (Leaves A Subtle Touch of Gray for a Subtle Salt and Pepper Look) Black Hair and Beard Dye Lasting Up to Eight Weeks.

A box of that plunged to his feet as a man with utterly unconvincing hair color stared up at him.

In a few days, Abraham would be turning forty. Was this his life, now? Was this a message sent to him from the universe itself?

Holding an empty basket in his hands, eyes wide and green, he stared at it like he was looking into the very heart of human darkness.

Was he blocking the aisle? Probably.

Maybe he'd just stand here for another hour.
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#2
Food was more than just a necessity now, ever since becoming a bear, she was in a constant state of hunger, chowing through food like there was no tomorrow, and somehow still not gaining weight. It was every models dream, all they needed to do was get attacked by some over grown animal and shift ever full moon. Fun.

Stacking her cart high with everything from hot pockets, ding dongs, burgers and Oreos, Natsaha was determined to make this her last trip to the store for atleast the week. Throwing anything that caught her eye into the overstuffed cart, Natasha then noticed a rather delicious looking box of Chicken Biscuit sitting on the top shelf. Being the size of your every day Hobbit, meant that it was definitely out of her reach, forcing said Hobbit to jump up and snag her prize. Only thing was, that in doing so, it sent a box of some unknown product flying to the ground on the other side of the shelf.

Never having been one to just leave a mess she had caused behind, Natasha made her way to the other side, having every intention of picking it up when she noticed a man just staring at the box. Oh god, had it hit him or something?

<b>"Sorry that was my bad."</b> She called, expecting the worse, making her way towards him when she suddenly sensed something a bit different from this man. It wasn't the same as Cliff or the others she had met, but similar in its own way, and while the question appeared on her tongue, she didn't quite voice it in fear of being wrong.
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#3
Look at that man, there on the cover of the box.

He's nameless, this Touch of Gray gentleman. He's in his early forties at the latest, but he's masquerading as someone older than himself. His hair is an unconvincing mix of gray and black, textured like the coat of a beloved family dog. There is nothing subtle about this look, despite the word on the box. Subtle. His skin both is and isn't Photoshopped. His forehead is as smooth as the glassy lakes he loves to fish from. But at the corners of his eyes, and at his cheeks, there are wrinkles. "I'm old," they say. "Just like you." His eyes themselves are a chocolate brown, narrowed, one slightly more than the other. Maybe he's telling an inside joke, a dirty one. The kind that young old men share and laugh at with one another. His nose is slightly hooked at the end, and a little crooked as a whole. It's okay. He's a man's man, handsome but approachable. "You could be me," that nose says. "You are all me." His teeth are white and it isn't convincing, bright enough that the bottoms of each tooth seem to blend together, a haze of brilliant blinding light. The skin at his jaw is strangest of all. There's not a hint of beard growth here, and yet it's dappled with a strange texture, as if there is hair beneath trying to get out, trapped beneath impervious, poreless tanned skin. No darkness can sprout here. Touch of gray. Touch of gray.

"What?"

That was what Abraham said as his eyes snapped up from the box to someone saying something there was an animal smell but mostly he was just very startled.

"What did you say?"
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#4
The man was in a total and complete trance, Natasha staring towards this man who seemed absolutely and completely entranced by this box of mens hair dye. She had to of hit him on the head for him to be that intrigued by the box, and it must of been a lot heavier than she had originally thought, for surely it had hit him hard. Suddenly, there was a snapping of the head, the man finally breaking from whatever he had been stuck in, and finally noticing the girl standing in front of him.

<b>"Sorry, that was my bad."</b> She motioned towards the box before the man, offering an apologetic smile. <b>"Didn't mean to hit you with it or anything."</b>
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#5
Blink blink.

Oh. Oh. Abraham ran a hand through his touch of everything gray hair, moderately embarrassed. Had she... thrown this box at him? Dye your hair, old man.

"No, you- you didn't. Did you... throw it at me? Or-"

Because. He. Was. OLD.

Meanwhile, the jaguar gave a tentative rowly sound, and Abraham slowly began to realize that this woman was... a bear? Definitely smelled like a bear.
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#6
The man seemed to be finally getting it, but his next words shocked Natasha completely, the girl throwing her hands up slightly as her head shook vigorously. <b>"Oh god no."</b> She quickly answered, wondering what sort of girl she came off as for this man to think that, cheeks going red in embarrassment.

<b>"I accidentally knocked it over from the other side when I was reaching for these."</b> Holding the box of Chicken Biscuits up guiltily as she gave the man an apologetic smile. She truly did not wish to come off wrong with someone who was possibly the same as her.

Cliff had said that she would smell the difference, but not see the animal they possessed if they were not a bear like her. She certainly smelled something similar with this man, but perhaps that was just his cologne or something, and it just simply reminded her of home rather than it actually being some sort of Were.
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#7
Everything became much clearer in the seconds to come, and Abraham mostly recovered from his Just For Men induced brain damage.

The chicken biscuits were very disarming. It was hard to feel anything negative about someone sheepishly holding chicken biscuits.

"Oh! Oh. Sorry, I was just- real zoned out."

Because soon he would be forty. Can you imagine forty. No one can because everyone who turns forty dies.

"Do you... by chance know Cliff? Or. Levka."

But hopefully Cliff!
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#8
Thankful that the man didn't seem to upset with her, Natasha threw the Chicken Biscuits behind her shoulder and into the cart behind her, mentally sighing in relief as she did so. It wasn't in her nature to make enemies to say the least. At the mention of Cliff, Natasha visibly brightened, a smile beaming across her face.

<b>"Oh yeah, he's a real good guy."</b> Was it too soon to say they were friends? She had shared a few beers with him, been to his house, and they were alike on a pretty internal level. <b>"He's my friend, you know him?"</b> Of course he did, but like, how did he know him?
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#9
The response was-

It wasn't clear enough. There was a small panic forming in his head. Were they talking about Levka? How cool Levka was?

Or Cliff? Abraham's buddy, Cliff? It... it was probably Levka, given that he'd been mentioned second. But. Okay. Ask, idiot. Use your words.

"Sorry, uh, which was the one you knew? Cliff or Levka?"
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#10
Oops, she had been so excited about the fact that her and the stranger knew a mutual person, that she had completely forgotten that the other man, Levka, had even been mentioned. Running a hand through her hair, another sheepish grin made its way onto her face, embarrassed that she had made a fool of herself for a second time.

<b>"Sorry, Cliff. He helped me out not too long ago."</b>
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#11
Cliff! Everything was okay now!

Abraham brightened visibly.

"Okay, phew! He's- yeah, Cliff's a friend of mine," he said. Sorry that he was being really awkward in front of your bear pal, Cliff.

But sincerely, Cliff was a guy who needed friends. No offense or anything. It just... sucked that he lost most of his bear friends. And Maxine, who Abraham sensed was more than a friend.

"He's a real great guy. You guys do any... uh."

Okay. How to word this. His voice fell.

"Bear... hangouts?"
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#12
There was an audible gasp at the mention of bears, and Natasha felt absolutely giddy at the fact that she had been right about this guy, finding herself leaning a bit closer as her eyes shown with open curiosity. <b>"Ah so you <i>are</i> one."</b> She breathed, smile beaming up towards him, as she nodded at his question, hands clutching one another behind her back.

<b>"Yeah, we had a cook out."</b> She confirmed, before adding a question of her own. <b>"So what are you?"</b> A tiger? A lion? Oh she was just dying from anticipation.
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#13
She was just... lighting up and all that. About both of them being dumb half animals.

That was nice, though, and Abraham found himself glad that this chick had found Cliff and now Cliff had another bear. And a bear who wasn't a bummer.

To the question, Abraham took a quick look around, then leaned in a little conspiratorially.

"Jaguar."

They're fatter than you'd expect. Jaguar facts.
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#14
A jaguar? Natasha's eyes widened to the literal size of moons, because if that wasn't the coolest thing, then she didn't know what was. Bears were a common thing in Colorado, but Jaguars, you could only see them in like the Amazon or something! <b>"Wow, that's a pretty neat animal."</b> She mused, suddenly remembering Cliff mentioning his Jaguar friends.

<b>"You must be who Cliff was talking about then, do you guys have a group?"</b> She didn't really remember him specifying a certain place for them as he had some of the other species.
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#15
Awh shiiiit. Abraham was important enough to be talked about.

(Hopefully nicely.)

"Sort of. There's a lotta... magic bullshit that goes into one. But we've got a bunch of us and we'd eventually like to settle into Belle Vista, I guess."

That still felt far-fetched. Abraham didn't belong somewhere that nice. But the others maybe did. Certainly Frank.

"So. One of these days, maybe."
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#16
That was really... Awesome. The word really didn't do it justice, but Natasha was lacking the right vocabulary to really put what she was feeling into words, and so awesome would just have to do for now.

<b>"Well, I hope it works out then."</b>

A group sounded nice, and with Riley, Indra, Cliff and her all together, she supposed that it was sorta like a group, but the way Cliff talked about it, there was a bit something more to it. He just hadn't really explained it yet, and she was sure it had to do with the North Glenn bears he had warned her to stay away from.

<b>"So, if you don't mind me asking, whats the difference between like an actual group, and just being around a lot of your own kind?"</b> Maybe this guy had the right words.
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#17
Abraham could elaborate. A little, anyway. But...

Maybe standing in this aisle wasn't the place to do it.

"You wanna maybe, uh, step outside? Just don't want any eavesdroppers," he said, a little sheepish but mindful that he couldn't see his surroundings as well in a place with nearly ceiling high shelves. "You can buy your stuff first, I can meet you out there."
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#18
Oops.

<b>"Oh yeah, sorry."</b> She held up an apologetic hand, mentally shaking a finger at herself.

Were things were strictly confidential, and were not be discussed when normal people could hear. You're making newb mistakes Natasha!

<b>"I'll meet you out there, thanks for taking time to teach me."</b> She was honestly surprised at how helpful all the Weres she had met so far had been, although eternally grateful as well.
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#19
Honestly, it was... nice to be helpful to someone who wasn't giving him any shit. This chick seemed genuinely appreciative of all this, and Abraham warmed to that.

"Sure thing," he said, and then as he headed out toward the front of the store, he just... casually left his basket in an aisle somewhere. Because he realized he was supposed to be buying things but had said he'd meet her outside? And?!

Whatever, Abraham.

He fiddled with his phone as he waited outside the store, trying to put together in his own head what he even knew about groups.
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#20
The man was gone and Natasha was left with the strenuous task of checking out. On a normal occasion, it would have perhaps been quicker, but with the appetite of a Were going stronger and stronger with the upcoming full moon, Natasha had packed her basket with practically the whole store, meaning it took just a tad bit longer. She couldnt help but feel for the poor cashier, watching her scan item after item, and wishing she could offer some sort of hand, but as it was, Natasha did not have that sort of authority, and was left just quickly bagging everything and shoving it back into the cart.

By the time they were done, it almost seemed as if there was even more than when she had originally started, bags threatening to spill out as Natasha began to worry if it would all fit in her car. She'd make do somehow though, and with a thanks offered towards the kind cashier, Natasha headed outside, stopping for half a second until her eyes landed on the man.

The man.

She needed a name, thanks.

Walking over, Natasha gave a wave, smile bright, cause hey, he actually waited! <b>"Hey sorry for the wait. I'm Natasha by the way."</b>
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#21
He waited outside for a while, pondering dinner, and also his own mortality.

And then she showed back up, she apparently being "Natasha." Some part of him thought maybe he should offer to help with her groceries but, like. She had were strength and all that.

More content outside of aisles that could hide eavesdroppers, he offered a smile. And his name!

"I'm, uh, Abraham," he said. "So I'm not... a group expert. But. From what I understand, grouping up gives whoever is leading your group the power to... like. Sense if you're okay. Or if there's a problem in your... territory or something. But not right away, sometimes it takes a while."

Magic!!!111
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#22
<b>"Ah.</b>

There was still very little revealed in this statement, and Natasha was beginning to think there was no true fact or science when it came to being a were, and that was frustrating in and of its own as well.

<b>"Seems like all of this Were stuff isn't really black or white."</b> She sighed, a lot of grey going on in there for sure.

<b>So am I apart of Cliffs group?"</b> Was his house like the territory and all that jazz? Could he sense her now?
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#23
"It's a lot of gray," he said. "Drives us all crazy."

Maybe Alina and Avery and Levka and that shitty coyote lady understood all the nuances, but Abraham sure didn't.

"You guys are the same... uh, animal, but it's not an official-"

A customer left the store beside them and he fell quiet until they were out of earshot, watching them leave.

"For official stuff you need to... buy a business or something I guess. It's real nonsense," he said, breathing an exasperated laugh for that last bit. "But he's a good guy. He'll be able to help you even if it's not official."
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#24
They had to buy a business... Wha?

<b>"Well that's certainly different."</b> She murmured, trying so very hard to make sense of something that very clearly made none at all. It was as if she was reading a book with seven different plots going on, and none of them really corresponded with the other, creating just a big jumbled mess of pages and words.

<b>"He's definitely helped me a ton since my meeting him."</b> She nodded, relaxing slightly from her confusion as she looked back towards Abraham.

<b>"Sorry for asking so many questions on our first meeting."</b>
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#25
Different was one word for it. Abraham mostly considered it to be bullshit.

"You don't have to apologize," he said. "There's a lot to learn. I probably would be a lot more knowledgeable now if I'd asked questions earlier on."

Cliff probably knew more than he did.

"How long have you been...?"
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#26
It was no wonder this guy was friends with Cliff, they were like two peas in a pod, and she was finding that she rather liked this particular pod. They could have turned her down, and left her to flounder on her own, but nope, they both answered her questions with more than just kindness, and she really appreciated it. Natasha wasn't the best when it came to floundering after all.

At Abraham's next question, Natasha lifted her head in though, listening to the market door open and close before finally answering. <b>"I'd say a little over a month. I got changed in my first month of coming to America, can you believe that!"</b> It was totally unbelievable in her eyes, as if life was pulling some big joke on her.

<b>"How about you? You on the seven year route like Cliff?"</b>
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#27
God bless America. She was real fresh, but seemed to have her head on straight.

"A little over a year," he said.

And somehow he was stronger than Cliff. And Wallace. It didn't make sense.

"Feel different level of on top of things depending on the day."
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#28
It wasn't quite seven, but still, a year felt like a lifetime in comparison to what she had going on.

<b>"Well, I think that normal with even regular people."</b> Felt weird when she said it, but true none the less. There was nothing normal about being a Were.

<b>"It helps knowing you're not the only one out there."</b>
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#29
"Yeah," he said.

"Yeah."

Abraham briefly looked out to the parking lot, feeling at something like a natural close of conversation.

"Well, it was, uh, nice to meet you. Tell Cliff I said hi. Good luck with everything, you'll be in good company."
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#30
Grabbing her cart once more, Natasha gave a small wave, sensing that it was time for her to go. Plus, she was starting to get really hungry and those Chicken Biscuits were screaming her name.

<b>"It was nice to meet you as well! Good luck with the whole Bella Vista thing, I'll see you around."</b> At least she hoped she would, it was nice meeting other Weres, even if they weren't a cool as bears.

Giving one last final wave, Natasha moved to take the loads of junk to her car, knowing damn well the second she was in the privacy of her own vehicle that she was going to chow down on those delicious crackers of greatness.
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