Just in Thyme you are restless in the night
Hawk. He stared mindlessly at a map trying to figure out where could be Hawk. A park? A road? He had to widen his horizons a bit to find Hawknell.

Now he had to find some plant place involving time. Scanned through a catalog of places that might involve clocks or watches. Then plants that might...have time in the name? He found thyme and when said aloud it sounded very much the same to him.

He sat on the information for a few days. Unsure of what to expect or what to say. Intentionally took a long way around to avoid driving through Rice Bluff. Which was not cost effective when he had to be mindful of spending money on things like gas, but he figured traveling by wolf would not be a good look today.

He wiped his sweaty palms against the knees of his jeans before he exited his car. Made his way inside with about all of the confidence of a stick before he looked around. Very...unsure of all of this.
You never knew when some rando you talked to shifted would show up. And, for the most part, you didn't know who they were when they arrived.

Enough days had passed that it wasn't top of mind for Abraham, who was right now standing behind the counter peeling labels off of jars. Because.

He'd put on a larger sizes label meant for a larger sized jar, and now he had to suffer scraping sticky paper off with his fingernails as punishment.

When someone walked in, he smiled and gave an automatic "Let me know if I can help you find anything."

Then went back to scraping and wishing he hasn't clipped his nails down so low.
This did not feel like the kind of place one came to discuss Loner Kings and offers of control. It felt...very public. He didn’t need a key or code to get in and the man who greeted him did so like he would any patron. Julian realized he did not have a backup plan if this went wrong and he looked like a crazy person to the people working.

Hesitantly he drifted towards were the man was. Didn’t have enough brain cells to put all the possible clues together here. The feeling, the smell, all of it was foreign to him. Easily chalked up to nerves.

"I, uh, was told I could find someone here?"
Someone? Something? Find someone-

The jaguar clued him in quick. Wolf stink. Not very strong. Also kind of looked like hell. Abraham put the jar down, smearing tacky sticker residue onto his pants as his expression changed into a real person smile as opposed to a customer service face.

"Oh, hey. I'm, uh- I'm Abraham. The... guy you met."

"Guy" was a general term for a fat sausage jaguar.

"We can talk upstairs, if you're alright with that. It's private."
Abraham. The guy he met.

He had met a cat named Bram. Bram...Abraham? He supposed as animals that made sense. It wasn’t like he was really whatever awful sound he had croaked out.

"Yeah, yes. That, um, would be better." He felt very much like he would crawl out of his skin if he stood around down here much longer. Too public, too many ways for everything to go wrong again.
It wasn't hard to miss that kind of nervousness. Abraham nodded.

"Gimme just a sec," he said, then headed to the front of the store to swap the sign around for a handy "OUT FOR LUNCH" note before locking the door. "It's just us right now. Two other people might come in, but they're both weres. We own this place so, uh. It's no big deal."

As if all three of them owned it. They kind of did. Abraham sought to lead "Jool" (what was his actual name?) up a small, twisting staircase up to the greenhouse on the rooftop. It was the kind of place Abraham always found more chill, anyway. Cat liked plants.
He stood in place like he had grown here, rooted to the spot. The man hung something on the window before he spoke with words that felt promising and also...mildly alarming. Although most things felt like that to Julian.

"So, um, is this...your group place?" Three weres owned it and this dude had called himself a King if he recalled correctly. Just sort of gave him reason to be ready to bolt if this ended up looking like another pack situation.
He laughed breathily at that question, feet clanging up the stairs, opening the door to the garden and sucking in that humid plant air. Felt like home to a jaguar.

"Nah. Just three weres who happen to know each other. Not really group people. I know a wolf group in Rice Bluff that might be able to help you, though."

Abraham kindly held the door open for the wolf henceforth known as Jool until he figured out the kid's actual name. And boy, he seemed like a kid, too. Who turned people that young? Fuckheads, was all Abraham could figure.
He followed easily, not entirely sure just where they were headed to. That was what happened when you were enveloped by a panic brain instead of something more rational. Only remembered what he needed to, got rid of what he didn't.

Although it felt like he forgot everything when the man reached the end of his words. He moved through the door without word or thought for it. Felt hot and sweaty all of a sudden. Was that from himself or the humid air?

"They can't help me and I can't be there." Said more in a strained, anxious way than any sort of factual statement. Maybe they could have helped him had he been better. He was not. That was partially why he was here, though.

"I...don't think I'm group people either." He admitted as he clenched and released his fists in a repetitive way. Hopefully that would put the brakes on shoving him with another pack of wolves.
Ooookay. Someone had a fucking history here. Abraham's mind raced immediately. Who ran the wolves now? What were they like? Had they turned this kid and then kicked him out?

"It's cool," he said. A few stools sat scattered around the greenhouse, and Abraham sought to find one to rest his ass on. "They didn't do something shitty to you, did they? I haven't known anyone there in a while."

Maybe Jool didn't want to talk about it, but it felt worth trying to check in on first.
There was that deep built-in sensation to make himself small. Sink to the floor and whine for forgiveness for it. It had become a cycle that never ended. Especially here presented with the question.

"The prince outed himself to a task force." Admitted very softly like anyone else might be listening. Perhaps he shouldn't have even been saying any of this. Not his to share, but it was the truth. It was why he had fallen here at big cat paws in a search for something.

"I, uh, I didn't want to stick around. Y'know? N-not even my family knows and if someone comes look—" A sharp inhale. Worked up over it all enough for those sweet thoughts of leaving to reemerge.

"I left." He had pulled the cord when paranoia had peeked.
Holy fucking shit. It was a feat of will that he didn't say that out loud. But his eyebrows definitely rose, the surprise obvious.

"Christ," he breathed. Note to self: text Asha and tell her everything.

"I'd be freaked out too. We, uh. We keep our heads down here so. You're good. Did one of them turn you in the first place?"

Told the fucking task force. What the fuck. He wondered why.
It was all he wanted. To keep his head down. Be left alone, don't be looked at. Get by even if it was by the skin of his teeth.

He didn't need to thrive. Just wanted to survive.

"No." He reassured the man with a thin lipped look on his face. "Ran into one when I was still, um, not remembering stuff?" Which really had not been all that long ago.
In retrospect, it was lucky that Jool was remembering shit at all when they met. That whole dumb animal conversation could have been wiped clean at the end of the night.

Abraham nodded.

"Alright. Well. However I can help. I've been at this for a while but had a pretty stupid start, so."

He sighed.

"Where you at right now? You working, living with anyone?"
Any solidarity he might have felt for stupid starts, was washed away by deep shame. He had really fucked up the last few weeks. Sort of lost everything and had been prepared to keep thieving as a wolf.

"No." A slight shake of his head as he felt some extra heat in his cheeks. Likely colored pink by such a thing. "To both. I was, uh, living out in the fringes." Keyword was. He didn't really have any plans of returning to his old place.

"I was..." He felt stupid even as he considered his next words. "Was prepared to just...be a wolf for a while?"
Boy. Good fucking thing Abraham was catching this now before this kid ended up half a wolf all the time.

It was hard to miss that glow of embarrassment. Abraham shook his head, trying to dismiss it.

"There's a hotel for people like us. I stayed there when I had a... cop scare, couple years ago. It's cheap, and if you can't afford it, I bet they'd let you stay anyway. Maybe even make some cash or something there."

Had to be a lot of rookie weres who couldn't afford to live anywhere else.

"I can even drive you there after we talk, if you want."
"That would be really nice." He could figure out his own car situation later, but honestly didn't trust his almost empty tank to get him anywhere! Really poor planning skills! Maybe it would get towed away and be one less possession to worry about. Except. Then he'd probably have fines to pay and it would just be a bigger pain.

"What, um, do we talk about?" They hadn't really discussed control yet but he sort of figured it would just...happen? Come up naturally? He was not overly familiar with how much the title of King meant here. Especially if there was no actual group.
In a way, finding people who were worse at conversation than he was was almost a kindness. Because Abraham felt like more of an expert!

"What do you want to know?" he asked. Their last conversation was a little blurry. "What's hardest for you right now?"

Probably everything, he figured.
"Um. Well." Found his own seat to settle in before his knees buckled beneath him. Just needed to be off his feet for a moment.

There was a lot he could have gone for, but decided to start simple. "How did you...talk so well?" Even if most of it had still been, y'know, cat influenced. Abraham had undoubtedly done a better job than Julian Jool.
Of all questions, he didn't expect that one. Abraham huff laughed, running a hand through his hair. Scratching the back of his head a little.

"Practice. But it sucks. The cat hates doing it, so I have to fight to make it happen. But I've spent time by myself just... shifted, making dumb vowel sounds and shit."

Ayyyy eeee eyyyyee ohhhh youuuuu and sometimes why were you like this, Abraham.
"Do you think it could be like trained?" He asked with a slight tilted of his head. "I just was thinking that I'm a, y'know', oversized dog? People train dogs."

It was not the best reasoning but it felt like a creative step towards being better when he was by himself.
Hey. That was a good sign. He smiled.

"Honestly, it's a little like that. Like a... canine handler or something. You'll both do better when you work together."

Abraham and the jaguar were pretty on the same page now, but it hadn't always been that way. Which was hard to imagine now. What did they used to brain fight about?


"Having a safe place to stay and having good meals goes a long way, too."
Work together.

He hadn't done that a whole lot and when he'd done it recently it had all been selfish acts. Bolted from the pack and stole from a scary fast cat. At least the latter had landed him in a good spot right now.

"Hope so." He admitted with a little bit of a worried smile.

It crossed his mind to maybe ask about...vibe he got from the guy. Different than anything he had felt around the wolves. Maybe it was rude to ask? So he'd settle for...oh, introduction. He'd been too swallowed by nerves to do so downstairs.

"Julian, by the way." Offered with a hand extended.
A smile still felt like progress. Also, Julian made a lot more sense than Jool! He leaned in for the handshake and told his cat not to come in spitting and slapping just to be a fucking prick. And thankfully, it didn't, taking the touch as an opportunity to snort but not snarl.

"I'm real glad you made your way here," he said. "Being on your own sucks. Being in a group that doesn't work for you sucks. But when it doesn't feel like your life is on fire all the time, it's easier to find a middle ground."

And that's what those early days had been. On fire all the fucking time, fighting Wallace for his own steak in his own house.
There was admittedly very little interest from Julian's brain dog. Which was a relief because he always felt very ready to split at the seams!

He also had not been on his own long enough to determine how much it sucked. A bit too lucky to have been scooped up by a helpful cat. A cat that Julian was still keenly aware could have, well, done some pretty unsavory things. It was no grand secret that neither him or the beast fought very well. Fleeing would always be better than a fight.

"What's like...your middle ground?" He didn't really know what to do or what to strive for. Seemed best to ask the dude who must have had it at least a little bit together. A lot more together than Julian.
Good question. He shrugged a little.

"Having were friends. But not getting all up into groups. I think it's important to have people like us around. Just helps you feel more okay. Connect and all that."

Abraham considered the idea of early life without Wallace around. Would have been messy as fuck.

"You know any other weres?"
So...Julian was not off to a good start. He hadn't know anyone outside of the pack. The jackal that had ruined his night didn't count either. Really he felt like he only knew one person now. This kind dude who apparently turned into a big cat.

"Um, just you now, really." He answered with a slight grimace. Mildly aware that that was a lot of pressure to put on one person.
Ouch. Been there, though.

"I started with just a tiger I barely knew, so. You're good doing about the same," he said. "I know a were-fox, not far from your age. Not a group guy either. I could introduce him to you, if you're down for that."

Jamaal wasn't the most social guy, he knew. But Jamaal was also a good kid, and maybe he could be a little more relatable for Julian than a giant graying jaguar guy. (Which made it sound like Abraham himself was giant but whatever. Combined.)
A tiger was more than Julian ever wanted to meet. This dude had been a big enough cat. Thanks!

Although...a fox sounded promising. At least closer to the language of Julian's beast, or so he figured. "If he doesn't mind?" Which was to say Julian was interested but did not wish to overstep any boundaries in connections.

Granted he imagined he would not be meeting many people until he figured things out. Scrubbed himself clean, found better outfits in what he had left and maybe actually had somewhere to sleep that wasn't a forest floor.
"I'll ask," he said. "But I bet he won't."

Abraham had questions, but they were mostly nosy bullshit. How long ago did you get turned. Where. By who. Have you eaten anyone that you remember!

"You got any were questions I can answer for you? Don't know if whoever bit you taught you much."
"I, uh, had a mentor but things fell apart there." He admitted in soft tones. No disdain really just...it was a fact. Then Julian had been passed along to the prince and had failed to make a connection there.

Now he was here. With a cat that was much kinder than he deserved.

His brain had started with one question but it had drifted around and became another question. "Have you ever seen anyone..." Cleared his throat slightly and shifted a bit in his own seat. "They shift on two? Legs." Liza had done so at the pack hunt.

Julian had also received a healthy dose of affection from Dakila when the prince had been in that form, but Julian had not been capable of remembering.
That was sad.

It was sad when a group didn't work. He knew it because he'd destroyed one group and left another. People like Julian were left behind when things didn't work.

One of many reasons Abraham preferred life solo. It felt like he could do more, in a way.

The question caught him off guard.

"Yeah," he chuckled. "You'll be able to do it when you're strong enough. I don't like it as much as four legs. Feels weird. But it's pretty cool."
Julian would never do such a thing.

He had not once wanted this life. Never dreamed of being a person tied to the moon and bound to a different form when things fell apart. Why would he walk around on two legs in such an awful form? He did not want to sink further into the role of werewolf.

"Okay. Cool." Nodded his head a bit and sucked in a deep breath of air. "How far is this place to stay?" Honestly a bit too tired and empty in the head to think of better questions right now.
That was an easy question to answer, at least.

"Right across the river," he said. "If you want, I can get you there now. Stop for some fast food on the way."

Because being a were was being hungry, always, and being fed was the easiest step toward ensuring any stressful interaction didn't go poorly.
It sounded nice. All of it.

"I'd like that." A weak smile, but genuine at least. Ready to follow after the older cat.

Was talking to him easier because he didn't feel inclined to connect on that weird beast level? A little bit.
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