Copper Ridge Making a big deal out of the little things
#1

night, jaguar



On the eve of the day before she'd told herself and one other friend that she'd be bravely proposing to Abraham, a jaguar queen had driven far away from her city kingdom of Ridgefield to just about as far as she could convince herself to go. She'd been here before. It was where she'd met Sayed.

Well, she was here again. She'd shifted, too. She was here was because this place was filthy, and abandoned, and terrible, and held sparse memories of where she could actually recall being an awful person.

Asha was in crisis now that it was so close. They were doing so well, and she was doing so well, and they were happy and she was happy. She had told the friends that mattered most about it, outside of the prowl. She had all their blessings and encouragement. She had gotten the rings from Minnie. The date was set. Everything had been planned out so meticulously, and she was even ready to be turned down, but to smile and nod and understand anyway. But now...

Now.

Self-doubt was swallowing her up in the extreme and demanding her to believe that she was not good. She was not good. She was not good enough, or she was just not good. She was a fake, an imposter, and she'd managed to fool everyone and herself, and she shouldn't believe she could be anywhere else but here. And whatever of her was trying to be good and healthy had offered half a thought to the idea of turning to her therapist for support before that old degenerate switch in her brain flipped.

Get high. Get drunk. Shift. Run away. Come back sober and regretful and build back up again and try again another time. But don't tell anyone, God Asha, don't tell anyone.

A jaguar rested in front of an abandoned storefront, glass broken a long time ago and swept away by storms and erosion. Beneath her head, under her drooling mouth, there was a fresh pile of catnip. Her gift to herself — if she was high, after all, then she couldn't be sad. It worked to an extent that was shamefully effective. Lolling from her stomach onto her side, she stared up at the night sky and did not think about the regret that would come later. What was there to think about, with a sight so pretty.
#2
Theo got up to a lot of strange, bothersome things in the name of work. He wouldn't grace this particular endeavour with anything other a string of expletives as he wandered around in the middle of the bloody night. At least he had the fairly warm road leathers shielding him from freezing to death. The sturdy jeans and thick leather jacket were comfortable and warm, Theo bundled up well enough underneath it all as he was working overtime on something that he'd get paid for, sure, but wasn't sure he'd figure out.

Did spirit mediums exist or was he crazy for even thinking about it?

But there was... a sense of something. It was a strange muddle of emotions, similar to whenever he'd have to deal with late night revellers when he'd been a police officer on the street, rather than a detective. Still, not quite. Not a wild, hazy high. It felt muted, as well, like a wall was up between him and whatever he was feeling.

The empath followed the sense, but it didn't become any clearer. Turning a corner, he startled to a stop a few steps away from...

A massive bloody cat. Mountain lion?

"Oh, bloody hell," said the Englishman, sure he was about to be eaten, taking a step back. It felt like a bad idea to run... but if he could get into one of the buildings, maybe.
#3
The best time to approach a giant jaguar was when she was high out of her fucking mind, honestly. But it didn't make her any less able to sense an approach — only to react with appropriate timing.

Paws up, claws only slightly extended, she rubbed the back of her head against the dusty ground below, and offered up a solitary roo, eyes watching him from upside down.

Was that a person? That was a person.

Did she recognize him? Absolutely not.

She'd been drunk out of her mind the first time, to be honest.
#4
The... big cat, mountain lion, something, wasn't doing much. The thing let out a noise that made him want to jerk back, but Theo had more control over his limbs than to go startling like a greenhorn. The beast was... acting a little more docile than he'd expect. Wild animals would at least startle, wouldn't they? This one was just staring him down.

It was a girl, at least. Theo knew enough to make that conclusion, but he'd always associated the females of a species as far more ferocious than the males, especially when it came to the big cat. So possibly a bad thing, but it wasn't really reacting to him in a way that made sense for a wild animal. It was also incredibly large, but Theo wasn't... he didn't know about animals, not unless they dug through trash and knocked his trashcans over.

There was some kind of... plant matter by the giant thing. Had it eaten something bad for it? Might explain the lethargy.

"Uh, hullo there, girl." Maybe it was a... relatively tame escapee from the zoo? Theo didn't step closer, cautious and worried, but having the frame of mind to recognise losing his head might end worse for him. Talking to animals wasn't the worst thing he'd done. "Not feeling too well?"

Ah, bugger. Why was he trying to have a conversation with an... ailing cat?
#5
Not feeling too well, he asked. She blinked to it slowly, twice.

Then she rumbled softly a sound that was almost ponderously slow, but there was little thought behind it. Not that she lacked the capacity to think, but more the will to. No, no, no, no. Thinking was where she didn't want to be.

Petulantly, she thumped onto her side, extending a stubby front leg towards him with blunt and beefy paws. Her face smushed against the dirt, she tipped her head backwards, dragging her cheek along the ground in the process and pulling her lips enough to show the tips of her fangs.

More goofy than fearsome.

Still, her tail curled at the tip, raising off the ground only to softly thwap back down against it. There was where cat brain was, in dangerous playfulness.
#6
Theo hadn't owned a cat. He was a dog person. He liked dogs. Had grown up with an Alsatian called Satchmo and dealt often with the neighbourhood dogs. Dogs were the pet of England, as far as he was concerned. Point was, he only had vague Animal Planet ideas of how big cats behaved and only really knew how annoying the feral cats in the city could be.

It was actually quite disturbing to see a wild animal right in front of you and it wasn't behaving in any typical wild animal type of way, not that he could see. Too relaxed, but a big enough lady that he didn't really want to get closer, but he had to wonder - why the fuck was there a... it couldn't be a mountain lion. With his eyes getting used to the dark and the sight of it, he could see... rosettes? What big cats had rosettes? He only knew about cheetahs. They were small, skinny, and delicate things. They needed therapy dogs, apparently.

The Englishman suppressed a flinch as the big cat moved, onto her side with a worrying loud thud of something with significant weight behind it. He let his eyes follow the big paw as it stretched, taking in how the big cat was moving. That paw looked like it could crush his head and those teeth looked dangerous, even if the big cat looked ridiculous.

Feeling insane, Theo huffed a laugh, eyes following the thump of the tail and the gears of his brain grinding. Cats didn't wag their tails, at least not in the same way dogs did, couldn't figure out what it might mean though. He'd gotten caught up in that Tiger King mess just like everyone else, what had that show said about it? Theo couldn't bloody remember.

The way out was... past the big cat. He still had things to look into, but he could shelve that for when there wasn't something that might try to crack his bones open for marrow hanging around.

"Right," he said, because he'd started a conversation with nothing and felt obligated to finish it. Slowly, he started moving around the big cat, giving it a wide berth, not at all willing to get within paw swiping distance. "You're off your rocker, Hawkins. Leave the beastie alone."

It was a quiet night, so the sound of his shoes disturbing the dirt and gravel as he stepped felt loud. It added another aspect to feel on edge about as he tried not to turn his back on the cat while still going in the right direction. He kept an eye on it too, wondering if he'd regret letting time run away from him this badly.
#7
They were loud. Highs were deeply sensory, and sounds especially had both a magnifying and hypnotizing effect.

But Asha could still figure out that he was trying to leave. And there was a sadness there, which while high was very easy to compound. First sad because her current friend was leaving, then sad because she had a billion other reasons to be sad about herself that were...

... honestly so tiring to deal with.

But it all came forth as she rolled onto her belly, tail curling about her fat thighs, and her face wrinkled into the kind of face one might expect of a cat about to hiss. Instead, though: "Ssssaaaaahhhd."

And now her face was about as mopey and downtrodden as a wild jaguar's face could get.
#8
The Englishman was carefully making his way around the beastie, almost past when she rolled onto her belly in a way that made his stomach plummet and his brain do some quick mental maths on whether or not he had a hope of outrunning a big cat. He froze.

It didn't look like she was about to lunge, but then her muzzle moved like every Animal Planet documentary he'd seen about big cats taking down poor cornered prey and Theo wondered if he'd piss himself before he died.

And then a hiss or a growl didn't come out, just some muddled jumble of vocals that might've been 'sad' if you had a mouth full of mashed potato. And then the face stopped looking scary and just looked sad. Terribly sad. Like those WWF ads that were trying to make you donate money to combat the ever increasing environmental issues threatening animals in the wild, while humans burned down rainforests.

It oddly made Theo feel guilty, which was possibly just an indication that he needed to figure out how to eradicate ads so he could steel his cold heart against things like these.

Theo, because he'd already proven his rational mind had taken a vacation, echoed what he thought he'd heard back. "Sad?"
#9
Sad! Yes. That was what she said. The saddest, highest jungle cat murbled out another rumbled attempt at the word, which sounded more like "Seeehhhhhdddd," and lowered her head to rest on her plump forepaws. :(((

Eyes looking up at him, she blinked slowly, a thin ring of orange around intensely dilated pupils.
#10
How bizarre.

The lowered head and the relative stillness of the big cat made Theo's overactive lizard brain calm down somewhat. Or it was his natural disregard for his own safety kicking in, overriding any sense that told him he shouldn't be entertaining a wild cat in the middle of the night when he was alone and no one knew where he'd gone.

Because he hadn't told his fucking Watson where he was going, thinking he could sort this out right quick! That cast him as Sherlock, but he was increasingly convinced the character had been character assassinated enough through popular media that he felt safe in doing that. Modern Sherlock and himself were equally as full of shit.

Back to the cat. It was looking at him, blinking with pupils blown wide that reminded him of every drunkard he'd had the displeasure of talking to. The ring of orange struck him as strange - was that a natural colour? - but mostly he was thinking about the blown pupils.

"Are you high?" The incredulity, carried somehow even stronger through clipped British tones, belied the fact that he was a man talking to a fucking cat.
#11
Accusation sent her very stupidly tiny ears back against her head, like she was being yelled at. He had frowny man face too. And the kind of accent that suggested he'd rap her paws with a... teacher's pointing stick or whatever. Dilated eyes very wide. Big anxious.

"Nooooooo," she roo'd plaintively, head tipping up and backwards and then she... kept it facing the sky, but turned slightly to the side, gaze askance on him.
#12
Big lass didn't like that. Or so he thought. The ears going back were something of a universal sign in Theo's admittedly limited knowledge of animal body language. His area was his fellow man, not the feline beasties that apparently wandered freely and held stuttery conversations with Englishmen losing their minds.

It sounded like a drawn out no, a denial of his... observation or accusation. Both, knowing him.

Ignoring the part of his head that still had some self-preservation intact, he crouched down, body tensed to run at the first indication of danger, but still. Some attempt at making him seem less threatening, avoid looming, but he didn't think the big cat was especially afraid of him, judging by the peculiar behaviour. He wasn't close to her, by any means, but he didn't think that would matter if she decided she wanted a nibble.

Don't eat him, he's tough and old, bitter in flavour. She'd get indigestion, which would be bad for her.

"I've lost my marbles," murmured quietly, soft and thoughtful, as he let his eyes wander over the feline of unknown provenance. The pattern was dizzying, some manner of camouflage. Beautiful, in that dangerous 'would also kill you' way.
#13
Slowly, he lowered. She was watching him, though her head was comically still oriented to the sky.

Inklings of why Asha was here filtered into her mind, though. She was in danger of losing the high if she drifted towards them, and so she sought not to. Feel the dusty earth beneath paws, rather than awful sad feelings.

She looked down at her paws fast enough to inspire dizziness in herself, and that was almost intentional too. Her claws pressed out of their sheaths and into the dirt, beginning to knead.

"Nuh," she grunted. "S'ooookeyy."

Like she could reassure him or something. Reassure herself.
#14
Theo's eyes caught on the sight of her claws as they came out, kneading the ground. Or digging in? A lot of dangerous signals here and his mind caught on the idea of backing away again, leaving the big cat to her business, but then a grunt, a reassurance.

Animals didn't talk. He could've imagined it was just approximate grunt and growls earlier, but this was a 'no' followed by a drawn out 'it's okay,' muddled through an animal muzzle. Answering him and reassuring him about his sanity.

Not crazy, just dealing with a bloody shifter.

"Ah." A single exhale, realisation and trepidation, even if he kept a stiff upper lip about it. There was a mind in there, but Dagmare had made it clear it wasn't always in control. "You're a shifter. You... having a fun frolic?" The Englishman gestured lazily around them.

Didn't actually look like she was having much fun, but... not a cat expert.
#15
A fun frolic. Fun! Asha was having FUN!....? She grunted again, snorty. It took her a few seconds to figure out if she wanted to say yes to that. It would be a lieeee.

"Nnnn... yeh," she grumbled out unconvincingly. To herself anyway. "Yoo? Hev fuhn frolek."

The dirt was getting deeply raked by this point as a high was tripping towards emotion and frustration.
#16
The Englishman knew a liar when he saw one and the cat wasn't trying to be very convincing. Bad night of some sort. Bad high?

Whatever it was, he didn't like the look of those kneading claws.

But the cat was returning the question to Theo and he saw no reason to not answer it honestly, as crazy as it made him feel. Dagmare had been easier to deal with, human shaped and easy with his words.

"I daresay I'm not, rather furious about being out here actually," he answered, matter-of-fact rather than angry. He'd already covered anger, he was dealing with acceptance now. "But I'll leave you to it, ma'am. Sorry to have disturbed your night." Very polite, like he'd stumbled on someone during a walk out and was extricating himself from an awkward conversation.

Slowly, he moved to rise from his crouch, ignoring how his knees were feeling rusty and creaky from the chill and being locked in position for a bit.
#17
Disturbed. Disturbed?! He hadn't disturbed her. She'd definitely disturbed herself. Stupid stupid stupid... Just run away and be a cat forever, dumb cat girl. >:(

Well, no, she wouldn't.

"Buh," she said her farewell, stopping her raking and plonking sadly back down to her side, smushing her face in the earth she'd gathered up.

It was truly a shame she hadn't recognized him!
#18
Theo resisted the urge to stay with the big cat rolling over like that, looking a little tragic. Dangerous animals were to be avoided and shifters had the additional danger of being bloody gigantic and infectious. So he stuck to his original intent, straighten up and get out. He'd deal with the case in the morning, in the stark light of day.

With how big the county was, he'd likely never meet the strange big cat again, even with her shaped as a human. For the better, he imagined, to keep his shifter acquaintances low. Less secrets for him to keep, even if he was ever so good at keeping them.

So the Englishman walked into the chilly night, making as direct a path back to his motorcycle as he could. No sense in dallying.
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