Burning Rubber Fastcar
Was Shane gonna be a dick and fail to show? That was the question of the night as the clock struck 6:57. Asha fucked around on her phone and waited to find out, watching every so often as other cars sped around the dirt track. Could normal people even see through the dirt clouds? Normal people eyes seemed like a liability, more she thought about it. Also, these cars all looked like they were about two turns from falling apart. Like, they looked like they were made of cardboard at best.

Strange and gaudy, but at least she could say she'd been here.
Been a few years. More than a few. Hadn't actually been out this way in close to twenty. Had ridden before as a kid. Twelve. Birthday present. Exciting day, real enjoyable. Expected this would be less so.

Even without having been to the track itself in a long while, trips to Las Almas were common enough Shane knew the timeframe it'd take. Traffic wasn't ever enough out here to impact the travel time, so he'd left with confidence that he'd arrive within five minutes till go time. Ended up with two by the time he'd parked and made his way to the stands. Asha was easy to pick out. Asha was always easy to pick out. Fair handful of reasons.

Hold tight to tradition, what comfort he could find in the uncertainty of how this'd go. "Asha, how're you now?"
There he was, point to him. Her lips pulled to a one sided smirk and she made a little noise and a shrug. "Good, n' you?"

You don't fuck with tradition. Even if he'd fucked with tradition before by being a dick.
Good start. Shane nodded and gave a little shrug. "Not so bad."

Bit wary yet, arms crossing over his chest. But no sense tip-toeing around things. "There another black-footed cat in your care?" Suspected that's what this was about. Suspected it ought be.
See, that? That was a point against Shane. It was like he was so desperate for the delivery of what was increasingly apparent was his mistake that he couldn't even stand to just shoot the shit with her. Literally not even a fucking minute in each other's company, no asking after others in their life or this or that other thing they knew about. No concern or interest in catching up. Like that was all she was, a fucking post office mailbox. Here's your fuckup, buddy! Nice seeing you!

Like she hadn't been the first person to take care of him and teach him how to handle what he was after he shifted in her bar. But it wouldn't even be the first time he'd completely disregarded her.

Discarded, maybe.

Asha slipped her phone in her pocket and bit back the urge to glare at for how disrespectful she found him. On what grounds? What exactly had she done other than ask him to be honest? Was she not owed that much?

She took an inhale, lips moving in search of the right thing to ask here. Pettily, she wanted to be the better person and ask about Hope. About his farm. About his other cats. About if he still liked working at the Cove (though that sounded like a threat, now that she thought about it).

None of that happened.

"Am I a friend to you, Shane?"

What did friendship even mean to him?
Mmm. Third time he'd point-blank asked what the deal was with this black footed cat he was supposedly responsible for—was responsible for—and the third time she'd acted like he hadn't said a thing. Kay.

What she asked in return... felt bit like a trap. Like anything he said was wrong. Stared at her a bit, face stuck in that thoughtful frown, teetering on the tip of confusion way it usually was for the past year or so.

"Sometimes," he finally settled on, misunderstanding the question—because of fucking course he did—as did she behave as a friend to him. "Sometimes seems you're just lookin' for a reason to kick me in the dick."

Crude, but they'd seen each other naked and everything; wasn't really in him to mince words anymore.
Kick him in the dick. Was... like. Was that what Asha was, really? Just a... bad friend. Someone who just acted like she wanted to kick him in the dick. Maybe she had wanted to trap him into a confession, but by all rights, Oliver had been her friend before he was some cat's abandoned victim.

She leaned against the railing, measuring her response physically. Didn't want to burst out, like she often did. Her heart felt a little heavy, being told she was only "sometimes" a friend.

Asha blinked; felt like her eyes stung a little, and she'd lay blame for it on the dust in the air. Fine little particle. Surely they reached this far. Sure.

She'd come in feeling a whole type of way, a whole talk she'd wanted to have, but he'd come and deflated it all with his answer. Sometimes. Maybe... everyone thought the same.

Just answer the fucking question.

"Okay. There's no black-footed cat. I changed him to a jaguar."

She waved a hand. There was his answer.
Didn't know what he expected. Starting maybe around their first Zipper's encounter he'd come to realize he had no capacity to predict her. That burst, maybe. Bracing for it anyway. Felt like he'd been on the back foot with her for a while. Maybe he'd withdrawn a bit on account of that. Maybe just because that was how he did, hiding from the world on his farm most of the time.

Maybe he was just shit at figuring out where they stood, how this was supposed to look after things got serious with Hope. What was right, where proper boundaries lay. Maybe it was easier to pull away entirely. Reason he'd not connected with many people in life, likely.

Whatever the case, squinted in predictable confusion at what words came back at him. Changed into a jaguar? "Didn't, uh..." Shook his head, made a shrug by tightening his folded arms. "Didn't know that could happen." Course he didn't. Still so fuckin' ignorant.

Wait, though... Arms falling away from each other, Shane's hands came to his hips as something struck him. The squint intensified. "Fuck was this all about then?" If there was no cat... Was she asking him to foster a jag? Was he still... Fuck, what were his responsibilities here now? How had this suddenly gotten more complicated?
She was not surprised he didn't know.

His next move was to get offended though, and maybe he had some minor right to. After all, why was she trying to corner him into a confession if, surprise surprise, it was actually no longer his concern? How dare she.

"I met that man... several months before all this. I consider him a friend. So. When we ran into each other, and he's showing all the signs of an infection, but no idea what it all meant, I knew someone else had changed him and then left him with no explanation. No support system. He was just supposed to figure it out on his own. And that is wrong to me, to do that to someone. Probably one of the highest wrongs there is."

A deep breath. Getting to her point, but could Shane of all people not understand that? Had he too not been abandoned by whoever had attacked him? He certainly didn't fucking know what he was doing when they'd met.

"He told me it was a cat. Small, greyish. I figured it was what you were. I wanted to know if you knew who it was. I asked you because I wanted to figure out if it was you and I was going to have another lesson to teach you about being a were, or someone you knew and you could pass it on to them. Or if it was just some random asshole going around changing people and running off, and we could figure them out together."

Instead he'd gotten nasty and defensive and downright disrespectful.

"I don't let people fuck with my friends. But also, yeah. Someone left him behind, and I was there to pick him up. Took a chance on switching him to jaguar instead, so he could at least be part of a group with experience. And it worked."
For all his faults, Shane wasn't one to interrupt. Fuckin' impolite. It was such a relief when things were laid out clearly for him anyway. Didn't want to go discouraging that just because he was pissy. Little hunch that had crept into his shoulder gradually dipped away, and the hands at his hips slid forward until he just had his thumbs hooked through the front belt loops of his jeans.

Highest wrongs there is. Yeh. Did recall she'd been awful pissed at Parker back before he even knew who Parker was. Didn't ever plan on introducing them, likely on account of that very thing.

Shoulders continued their sag as she went on, sinking below the normal resting height. Fuck. Alright.

"Kay." Then a stupid pause. Faint nod. "Kay. Was me. Full moon. Dainty Bird parkin' lot. Dumb fuckin'..." Cat. Cat was him, though. Gave a shrug. "Went back next day. No sign. Staff didn't... Fella wasn't a regular."

And... that was it. Felt like a real shallow explanation now. Hadn't known how else to track a fella he'd seen once as a cat. Just hoped it hadn't... taken or suchlike. But now...

There was a relief in him owning up to it, finally.

And like. What the fuck, Shane. He should have known better. He really should have known better. (Though for some reason, she'd thought this had happened at The Picnic. Had Oliver said that or had she just made that detail up?)

But also, he was being an adult, finally. Thank fuck.

She stared at her hands, the way they gripped each other, really she wasn't even all that mad. All she wanted was this at this point. Honesty.

And maybe, another thing too.

"You're stronger than you were the last time I yelled at you for not listening to me," she huffed a little. Not looking at him. Just at her hands. Unfurling the ugly silverburned one a little, to ponder it some.

"I'm guessing that... I must have forgotten to tell you not to do any shifts in places where people are. To go far away from town to do them. Or maybe I did, and you forgot. I say the whole new were shpiel so many times that I forget what I've said and what I haven't to whoever I'm trying to help. And then sometimes, they ignore me anyway." Until they were standing there, saying "fuck."

Anyway. Asha wasn't yelling. She was sort of just tired by it all. Tired of grown adults not taking her seriously and making stupid mistakes.

Stupid gaudy cars zipped along the track.

"This won't happen again. I am trusting you. As a friend."
Stronger, yeh. After this last moon that was real apparent. Though he wasn't sure when it had happened. Put him in mind of something he'd almost started to bring up a while back. Wasn't the moment for it now.

"Ain't no one forgot," he muttered sourly. Not her when explaining how dangerous he could be despite his size. Not him with the shift location. Wanted to go on, explain he'd shifted at home but cat had wanted to run. Hadn't known the terrain from that perspective. Hadn't realized where they were headed. Full moon. Wasn't thinking like a person. Just a cat. Cat that smelled chicken. Wanted chicken. Got real bitchy with claws and teeth in order to get it.

Whole thing felt like an excuse though. Shitty excuse. Hows and whys that didn't change that it had been his mistake. And someone else paying for it.

Shook his head. "Won't happen again," he echoed. Wouldn't shift without Hope again. Not on a moon, when cat felt extra wild. Likely Hope and Parker and Suri each time now. Hoped as much. Keep each other occupied.

Wanted to ask about that thing. Felt he ought ask about the cat jaguar man. Just looked at her, though, gaze trailing from her hands to her face and lingering there. Didn't realize it, couldn't, but had a miserable little thought real close to what Nika'd thought with him. Seemed Asha was always seeing him at his worst. When he'd fucked up. Maybe why it felt like most of what he got from her was annoyance and disapproval. Kick in the dick. 'Cause just happened to be what he was calling for every time they crossed paths anymore.

She didn't know if he really wanted to stick around her, in the silence that followed. She had gotten the stupid tickets for the drive-around, but maybe it wasn't a good idea to do it.

Folding her arms, she rested her chin on them and stared outwardly.

"How's your cats?"
Still just watched her, standing with his slumped shoulders and loop hooked thumbs. Shrugged again, like it was his answer for everything. "Not so bad. We're figurin' it out. Gettin' full used to each other n' suchlike. Shifted together. Preparation for groupin'."

Which... Maybe the right moment. Felt like a shit one, given everything. The sad, hurt uncertainty drifting between them. Thought he might've fucked up again with that answer. Knew it wasn't a real kind thing to say, but... Mmm. Feelings and talking about them was such a pain in the ass.

"Toward, uh... Interest of protectin' 'em, got a favor to ask." Grimaced. "Know this ain't a great time for that, but..." Shrugged again.
Grouping, right. Of course. Natural. She wondered who would lead, and if it was him, she hoped he might trust her enough someday to ask her advice about that sort of thing. Unless he had someone else in the group who knew what they were doing.

Anyway, he did have a favor. If nothing else, she was a good were politician to ask favors of.

"Sure." Inviting him to talk.
"Kay, well..." Predictable start. "Got in a scrap- Uh, Zipper's scrap. With Nika. Last month. Tried to... Well, like, fight for real. Or somethin' close to it. Didn't quite work out..." This wasn't the point. Five seconds in and he was already off track.

"Uh, anyway, was hopin' you might be willin'... Don't know if you remember, but had said I had somethin' to talk about back..." Shit, when was that? some new were had walked into the Cove and he'd clumsily tried to get her signed up and been rescued by Asha showing up but then just... finished his shift and left. Fuck.

Just out with it, bud. "Well, like, need practice gettin' to where I can fight a gal if... Like if a vampire threatens the other cats or suchlike..." This had been weighing on him, and saying it aloud sounded exactly as stupid as he'd thought it would.
Not at all the favor she expected. Shane, asking her for a fight.

She snorted a little, amused. But also, hell yeah, she wouldn't mind a throwdown.

"Yeah. Call me up whenever. As long as I don't have anything going on, I'm down. Wanna do it somewhere with less people, though. No holds barred. Maybe like... well I think there's some kind of abandoned ghost town around here somewhere? Or maybe somewhere in your neck of the woods."
Seemed amenable. He'd had the thought that might be she'd see it as a fine opportunity tog et aggression out or suchlike, but hadn't wanted to get his hopes too high. Still, seemed amenable. Kay. He nodded to her suggestions.

"Yeh, figured the farm. Ain't somewhere folk're likely to wander by accident Barn's got room." He could clear out anything in there he badly wanted not broken. Bit of risk there. And maybe with other things. But manageable. Shouldn't be a problem.

"Thanks," he tacked on, rigid and flat but sincere.
Farm wasn't as fun as a ghost town, but maybe she could just check it out on her own. Asha threw up a thumbs up.

Maybe better if they didn't chance a shift in a car here. They weren't the ones driving, after all.
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