Claws And Effect 

He was ravenous. Hours of hunting and nothing seemed enough to fill his belly. All the good little prey animals had fled into safer places when the weather had taken a turn in the last week, and though the sun was warm overhead for the moment in the afternoon hours, his small paws were cold. The fox was tired and cranky, and he knew his time wasn't much longer. He'd already been out for hours, since the mid-morning, and with how little he was getting for fuel, he wasn't going to be able to maintain control for long.

So, small amount of desperation as he roved around the back of a place that smelled heavily of domesticated animals. He was hungry enough that he sincerely would have considered attacking one if they hadn't all been locked away inside, and he slunk around the peeling exterior with a grumble on his fox face and a--

Wait, pause, was that movement?

It was!

A rat disappeared underneath a dilapidated wooden back step, and the fox bolted after it, slamming his muzzle up under the gap of the steps that he couldn't quite weasel under himself. Sweeping his paw underneath, he found what the rat had been after--little bits of kibble, stale and scattered in the dirt beneath the gapped wood.

These were tempting, too, and while he snarled softly for the rat to either flush it out or entice it to fight back, he pulled dirty dog food out from beneath the stoop and into his mouth all at once.

Crunch, growl, tail lash.


It was weird. Coming to get her last paycheck and having all the dogs and cats that once loved her look at her with fear and disgust. She could feel the animal within her rumbling, uneasy with every step. That too, was a weird feeling. She hadn't quiet gotten used to the bear that was just under the skin. It was a part of her but not. She sighed and moved away from the cages, doing one final walk through before she said good bye to this place forever. It was sad. Really,

Just thinking about it caused her eyes to fill with tears. She ducked her head, taking one of the doors out the back so no one could see her. She didn't want to leave. This job had been one of the better things happening into her life, and then it was changed by a cliff falling away and Cliff (funny, ha ha) nearly tearing her apart in bear form. It had been a couple of months, but this change was still new. She still had to kick her sister out of their small studio apartment. It wasn't like she could afford to live somewhere else with all that stripper money Estella was bringing in.

Riley wiped at her tears as the door closed behind her, the small crunch crunch sounds causing her to pause and look up. There were no animals out here, not with how cold it was. A small growl followed a crunch causing her to step away from the door. Another animal? She leaned down. "Oh" she said, putting her hands on her knees but not daring to reach toward the small creature. Weird for that type of fox to be in the mountains of Colorado. Maybe he escaped from the zoo?

"Here there little guy. Whatcha doing?" she said quietly, her voice welcoming. "Do you need something to eat?" She took out a protein bar peanut butter and opened the wrapper, offering it to him. There wasn't something quite right about him but she couldn't place it. This new, sensitive nose was foreign to her. This new world.... it was strange so it didn't even cross her mind that this was a fellow Were. Even with his size being larger than a normal swift fox. Maybe he was mixed with coyote or something.

The voice startled him, focused as he'd been on the rat, and with a wily twist of his body, the swift darted back from the step he'd been digging under, leaped a couple of feet in the air, and landed hard. Legs spread, he stared at the woman for a moment, brain catching up with what she'd said. Friendly tones and kind words--an offering.

But it didn't take more than a second for him to latch onto something distasteful--were. A weaker presence than some, nothing to fear, but something that Romeo himself was instantly and inherently wary of. On principle alone he should have denied the food, taking no charity from his own terrible kind. But...

Hunger clawed at him from the inside, and he was animal enough to ignore his very human misgivings. Tentatively, he took a couple of steps towards the young woman, his mouth parting as he stretched his neck and very gingerly reached out to take the food from her, as if she would reach out to grab his ruff the moment he did so.

She was shocked when he took a step toward her. Wary as he was, she was still shocked she wasn't met with pointy teeth, a growl and a hateful stare like the other animals of the shelter. It lifted her heart some. Maybe not all animals hated her. If she had been a cat, she would have been purring.

As it were, she crouched down on the step, not moving as he tentatively reached out to take the bar from her. She smiled, "There's a good boy. I'm not going to hurt you," she said in her annoying doggy voice. She put the wrapper in her pocket, her blue eyes watching him and wondering if he would actually each the peanut butter bar or if he would discard it for the rat that she could hear scurrying about.

Still, she didn't smell the shifter in him, ignorant to the telltale signs of another Were. If she had to wager, her hearing was better than her smell. Unless it were honey. Was that natural? Then again, she was a bear. "Do you want some more? I think that's all I have. Let me check...." She slowly moved her bag around to check the contents inside.

She was talking to him in a way that the slightly more human part of himself didn't care much for, but that the fox itself found oddly cheering. She didn't mean any harm, and peanut butter was an awesome flavor, even if he would have preferred it if she had been offering up the soft, warm belly of a rabbit. He fell back a step as soon as he had it in his mouth and squatted warily on his haunches as he bolted down the compressed bar with such speed it was like he expected it to grow legs and run away.

The girl was going back into her bag, presumably for more, and he nudged his nose a little closer again--his body language still very much ready to bolt, but his golden eyes fixated on her eagerly. Better than the kibble--easier than the rat.

"Thanks," the fox said, preemptively, as if that would summon another bit of food into her possession.

She loved the quiet munching of the coyote-fox, sifting through her small bag to find another one. She was aware that he moved closer, but she didn't act any differently. She wasn't afraid, just happy that an animal wasn't trying to eat her because of what she was. That was... until he said something. The fox. She stopped, looking up at him with wide, blue eyes.

"W-what?" she asked, shaking her head. There was no one else out here and the sound was gruff. Like it didn't quite work with his body. "Y-you just talked!" she said in hushed tones, her body still frozen with her hand mid-way into her bag. She took that moment to take a big healthy sniff. It smelled like dog. Kinda. But.... she blinked, trying to sort through her jumbled thoughts.

"Are you a.... you're a .... you're like me....." She sat on the steps, her legs suddenly feeling week, words failing her. All she did was stare at his large, cute ears, his warm, golden eyes. That would... explain the size, right? "Um... you're still hungry?"

It had been a foolish slip--some unwanted mingling of human mind with fox. Should have kept his yap shut, really, but too late to take it back now. With her general presence and her reaction, he was going to take a wild guess--she was brand new to this, and the only thing he hated more than a nosy were was a clueless one.

His tongue flicked over his nose as he stared at her as she was dumbfounded. No comment on how long it had taken her to figure it out, but it was clear he wasn't going to prance about and baby her--and that included giving her answers to the obvious.

What the wily little fox saw, however, was an opportunity. "Go inside, get more," he insisted briskly by way of answer.

There was no real recognition from him. No acknowledgement. Riley was still getting over the fact that her was some sort of Were. A fox? I mean, he looked like a Swift fox but he could really be some sort of Coyote??? She couldn’t tell from the scent alone. As all she could smell was canine. She frowned, her brow furrowing as she tried to figure it out. Cliff had said that they were different than their animal counterparts... bigger. However that worked she had to get used to meeting other shifters.

He was cute at least. Get more, she looked back at the door wondering if she should even head back in. The animals hated her. She looked back at him and stood, pointing a finger at him. "Fine. You’re lucky you’re cute," she said, attempting to sound stern but some of that “good doggie” voice couldn’t help but come through. She turned to open the screen door and walked in, letting it slam shut behind her. She went directly to the staff fridge, sifting through it. The shelter was busy today, customers wanting to adopt animals as gifts for the upcoming holidays.

She grabbed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and shut it, heading back out, thankfully avoiding people and other animals. She unwrapped the plastic wrapping and plopped back down on the stair, offering it to the fox. "Here ya go you cute little fox. Coyote, or whatever you are. Why are you... like this anyway? Why not be, you know, human?"

Romeo did not care for being called cute, but the fox thought it was just fine. So he twisted back onto his haunches in some sort of reluctant pleasure as she was obedient to his wishes. He sat there, eyes trained on the door, waiting for her return. And when she came back, she did not disappoint. Though he much would have preferred something meatier, the scent of peanut butter had a strange appeal and anything to fill the black hole that was his gut would be more than what he had.

She called him cute again, so he snatched the sandwich from her hand perhaps a little more abruptly than strictly necessary. Turning so his profile was facing her, he choked it down for a moment before he had to realize he needed to slow or he was literally going to choke on the sweet, sticky mess. When he could, he cleared his mouth with a few hard swallows and sighed, looking at her from the corner of his eye.

"Fox," he assured, both loathing of this fact and very proud. Do no mistake him for anything else, even as he so desperately wished to be human and nothing more. "Sometimes you must be what you are inside."

Romeo hated the words out of his own mouth.

He snatched the sandwich away, nicking her finger in the process. She frowned, refraining from jerking her hand back to her chest. It only stung a little. "Ouch. You didn’t have to snatch it," she said, following up with a quiet laugh so not to make him upset. She could feel the bear grumble in agreement, not realizing her eyes were half pink.

A fox then. She wrapped her arms around her knees, fighting off the chilly air as she watched him devour the sandwich. She didn’t know what he meant by that last statement. So he wanted to be a fox? She couldn’t tell, his voice was all gravely and distorted. She didn’t know if she’d like being a bear. She couldn’t remember anything about the time she was changed. "So, um, do you need a lift somewhere or do you prefer to walk?"

The fox was unrepentant, and as he licked his whiskers clean, her offer came unexpected to his keen ears.

Well, he had a few options. Walking was one of them--to at least get somewhere safe to hole up and shift back. Then came the awkward life of getting back home after having lost everything. Going anywhere with her would mean leaving his car in Ravenswood until he could come back to get it, and it also meant taking more charity from a were, which was a concept he felt grinding upon his pride like bad sandpaper.

But. Well...

"Larkspur?" he questioned, wondering if it would be too far out of her way.

At this point, even the free-spirited fox was not against the notion of going back to four too-familiar walls. It would be warm there, and safe, and he'd break out again soon enough.

She bit her lip, watching his cute ears flicker. She probably hadn’t seen anything this cute in a while. Maybe that was why he was so grumpy with her.

Riley felt the bear retreated, realizing there was no immediate threat. Her eyes returning to their normal icy blue without her knowing. She smiled at the fox. Giving a small nod.

She supposed she could drive him there. It wasn’t like she had anywhere else to go. Besides, it’s be comforting to have the company. "I can do that. Come on, I’ll get you out of here. I’ll even let you ride in the front seat."

She offered him a small smile before standing and unlocking the gated exit, waving him through to lead him to her old, bear up Jeep. "Im Riley, by the way. What’s your name, Fox?"

If she weren't doing him a huge favor he might have nipped at her for suggesting he would ride anywhere but the front seat. Appearances aside, he wasn't an animal. He would not be trussed up in the back seat with a harness and offered a cup of whipped cream from the starbucks drive through.

Instead, he was silent as he weaved after her, through the gate and to her vehicle. If she would open the door for him, he'd hop inside with all the grace of the cat that he most certainly was not. A normal fox could have made that jump--for a superpowered were it was nothing. Either way, there was a long pause between her question and his answer that made it seem, for those moments, like he might not answer at all.

The fox had no name. Romeo wasn't feeling like associating his own name with this particular furry form, and so... a compromise. "Cane."

A long-dead persona he'd used on a few operations. Easy to respond to naturally even if it wasn't anything like the truth.

She smiled as he followed her, seemingly less inclined to speak to her than before. She opened the passenger door, the hinges squeaking as she did so, closing it o oh when he was settled inside.

She rushed to the other side. Almost as if he was going to tear up her interior with his sharp claws. As she opened her door, his inclosed scent was stronger and she paused before hopping in and closing the door. She turned the key, her faulty engine starting up easily for once before cranking up the heat.

Riley had to remind herself that he was a Were and not just a fox. Especially when she nearly jumped at his voice. She looked over at him, blinking away her surprise. "Nice to meet you, Cane," she said lightly before easing into traffic, heading toward the highway.

She glanced in her rear view mirror, noticing the bed roll and packed duffle bags in the back. She slept in her vehicle most night before... the change. she eyed the fox carefully, biting her lip. "There might be some more food in the back. I don’t know what you’ll find, but there could be something there if you’re still hungry."

Was he still hungry? Certainly. But unless she had several voles or a plump rabbit in back, he was sated enough to mind himself, for now. Maybe in a few he'd take her up on that.

Instead, drawn to warmth from the vents, he put his front paws on the dashboard, skinny body stretched over the gap between seat and windshield so he could look out the front.

Even the fox wasn't fussed by a car ride. The vehicle was terrible when compared with his own luxury ride, but... the scent coming from the vents as the engine warmed up was oddly appealing.

Not one to offer information even at the best of times in a needless fashion, he settled for another "Thank you."

Silence fell between them. Riley only getting nervous that the fox leaned into her dash. If she were in an accident, he would go right through the windshield. She bit her lip to keep from telling him to get back. He was a Were, not a dog or some wild animal. He seemed pretty aware, as opposed to how she was in animal form.

She turned onto the on ramp of the interstate, her old Jeep struggling to get to speed but finally getting there. She merged into a lane, checking to make sure it was empty. He was a fox of few words and she didn’t really know what to say to him. Especially knowing there was a human in there somewhere. What if he was some creepy old dude? "So where am I going once I get there?"

She was quiet as they rode along towards Larkspur. Grateful for that, he focused on the vibrations of the vehicle and the warmth of the air up the fur of his belly. Saw the cars move past and knew that even if anyone saw him, they'd only get a glimpse and likely think him an odd dog. Little to be concerned over, and he could feel himself getting somewhat sleepy for the ride.

But no, he had to stay awake, lest he shift back and give this young woman more to worry about than he was willing to let her deal with.

As they got onto more and more familiar roads, he finally sat back from the dashboard and relaxed, though his head remained up and his eyes vigilant.

Unable to form the more complex thought of his address at the moment, and not really looking to get dropped off there beside, he said, "I'll tell you when to stop. Go west."

If he could get within a couple of miles of home, he felt confident in navigating himself back.

She followed the flow of traffic, her Jeep making odd noises here and there but nothing that concerned Riley too much. Her Jeep was very... opinionated and until she heard a particular squeal coupled with a crunching sound, they would be fine.

She scrunched her nose up, looking toward the sky. Unfortunately, the tall buildings around her were not helping with her sense of direction. "I'm sorry. I'm bad with those types of directions unless I'm outside the city...." she admitted, feeling her cheeks turn red from embarrassment.

It was then that she noticed she was heading West on the interstate and shook her head. Sometimes... she just wasn't all that smart. "Nevermind," she muttered, falling silent once more. If he could pretend he hadn't hear that, then that would be great.

When she said she was bad at directions, he turned his head to stare at her, but it seemed she realized quickly how foolish it was, really. His tail flicked, but he said nothing to it, not about to mock her but equally unlikely to reassure her, either. His ears shifted back a moment and he peered out the window again, gauging, waiting.

"Open your window," he requested after a few minutes more. Ridiculous thing to ask for, really, considering how chill it was outside.

She frowned, quickly glancing over at the fox and gripping the steering wheel. She wasn’t the world’s best driver either. Honestly, Riley couldn’t think of one thing she was actually good at. Besides, I’d this fox thought he was going to hang out her window like a dog, he’d better think again.

"I can’t unless you want me to lean across the seat and risk getting into an accident," she said, her voice quiet compared to the rumbling of the engine. "I can roll mine down, but that would require you to practically sit on my lap... and huh, I don’t think you’d want to do that." because he was also a human. And he could be some weird creeper dude.

She looked pointedly at her manual windows, wondering if a fox could somehow roll it down without fingers. She wasn’t about to tell him a flat “no.” Riley suspected he wouldn’t take that very well either. I mean, the least he could do was say “please.”

He continued to look at her. Repeated. "Open your window."

Romeo absolutely should have said 'please' at this point, but the point was, he wanted the window down, and the driver's side would do just fine for his purposes. Don't ask questions.

She frowned at him, her forehead crinkling with disapproval as she looked over at him. Was he serious? He. Puking be serious. She stared him down as much as she could before hugging and looking back out at the window. She reached down to unroll her window, the glass squeaking the whole way down. She winced, but she hoped that his ears hurt too.

"You’re the rudest, cutest little fox I know," she grumbled, stopping as the window got half way down, cold hair blasting her face and making her shiver. The bear beneath her skin rumbled in slight irritation, her blue eyes narrowing toward the furry creature. "There. I hope you’re happy."

Her compliance settled him some, and his own ears pinned--first at the noise, and then at the blast of the cold. Contrary to how his demand might have made it seem, he did not enjoy the cold very much at all.

Having had enough of being called cute for one day--or the rest of the year--he stood and observed the scene around them as they drove. And as soon as there was a moment where they slowed, he didn't even wait for the jeep to stop entirely. A quick leap and he made a beeline for the open window. Without so much as stepping on her lap, he cleared her and leapt out.

If she didn't make a grab for him, he'd land on the road and double back for the shoulder.

Thankfully, the fox didn't sit on her lap and throw his head out the window with his tongue out. He just kind of sat there, seemingly surveying the road. She turned the bend, changing lanes to get off at the Larkspur exit.

He jumped then, right in front of her. She slammed on the breaks, her old Jeep making some whining sound as the fox went through the window, landing on the pavement. She wiped at her face, a few stray strands of fur clinging to her chap stick.

"Ohmygosh. Ohmygosh. OHMYGOOSSSHHH," she said over and over again as she swirled to the shoulder and looked in her rear view mirror. He seemed okay, At least from the tiny view she had, not daring get out as cars zipped past her. Was he okay? Did he need her to go get him? Was he going to come back?

The landing was a bit rough but he was nothing if not graceful on four paws, and he had a strange amount of practice with dodging vehicles. He took off on the shoulder, not so much as glancing back. He was on his own now, and he knew he could get home now that she'd gotten him this far.

Thanking her probably would have been appropriate. Even so much as warning her that this was his departure would have been appreciated. But in the end, he cared little for her and owed her little--after all, she'd offered.

So he'd find a barrier to hop and disappeared. Hopefully she was smart enough to sort out any problems in the wake of his abrupt exit.

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