Pine Peak Sanctuary No Tourists


Before work was afternoon for Zin. She budgeted two hours before her shift at the Gold Rush to scope out this sanctuary. If Katya hadn't led Nicole astray—and Zin had no reason to suspect so—this promised a safe place to shift. Such a place sounded like heaven, yet there was no heaven on earth. There were no safe places to shift, only less dangerous.

Pine Peak Sanctuary wasn't hard to find with GPS. She took the asphalt approach road to the lodge at a crawl, eyes peeled for anything that didn't look right. Her gut said she was stepping on toes here. It was a familiar feeling from the Gold Rush, only more pronounced. She entered the lion's den—or bear's den—as she'd soon come to understand.

Car parked, no one stopped her meander to the lodge. Rich pine and a rustic American aesthetic greeted her. Phone in hand, she ran her fingers along the varnished wood grain; it reminded Zin of a giant log cabin. That feeling of being an interloper churned her gut, yet she held it at bay. Her worry was natural, but she insisted it was misplaced. There was no need to worry, not until someone gave her a reason to.


Natasha had been upstairs when the bear suddenly alerted her to a new presence, an unfamiliar scent trickling through the air that had Natasha's brows furrowing in interest. She'd met quite a few animals during her time here, but this one was definitely not one that she'd ever come across before or even one that had an inkling of familiarity to it. New and foreign, it had Natasha's interest peaking, scurrying out of the room that she'd placed herself in as she peered out over the balcony towards the woman that was producing the scent.

A face that was just as unfamiliar to her, but far from unwelcome.

"Hello!" She'd call across the room, a friendly smile pulling across her face as she hopped her way down the stairs. It wasn't uncommon for others to enter the cabin, but Natasha liked to make a point of greeting them when she was around (especially when they were new). "I don't think we've met before?"
Zin turned to the hello. Sunglasses on her forehead, she pressed her fingers against the metal arm nestled in her hair and craned to see the voice's owner. A moment later, she bound down the stairs to greet her. She smiled herself and took a few steps towards the brunette, meeting her halfway.

With a shake of her head, Zin answered the woman's question. She tried to place the accent; it wasn't American; she knew that much. With a hand pressed to her chest, her grin widened. "I am Tamzin." She took great pains to make a good impression and focused on her English. Zin spoke a little slower for it.

She felt the other within the woman. Her gut said to be careful and Zin powered through her apprehension with a grin. No need to worry, not until this woman gave her a reason to do so. Speaking of, was she in charge, or just another like her looking for a safer place to change?

Phone in her other hand, she gave a nod to their surroundings. "Are you own this place? Or…"
The accent wasn't something that Natasha could place either, had her steps faltering for a second in surprise as her mind whirled to place where exactly it might have come from. Definitely wasn't anything that she was familiar with though, but it was pretty neat to come across someone that might feel just as foreign as she did at times. A sort of kinship was already growing between her and this beautiful woman, she could just feel it!

"Natasha," she would return easily, offering a hand as she came close. "Not exactly the owner, but I am pretty close with him. Did you have some sort of business you wanted to discuss?"
Natasha stepped closer and offered a hand. Zin swapped her phone to her other hand and shook. It was difficult not to tense in the heartbeat it took to know the other woman. Zin had over six inches on Natasha, but in the spaces between, the smaller woman commanded the room. Vast and staggering, powerful, all hooked claws and brown tufts of fur. Zin smiled through her brush with something greater than she was and withdrew her hand.

Feeling like she was on the spot, Zin parsed Natasha's words carefully. She didn't want to get this wrong and ruin Nicole and Valerie's chances. She assumed the burden of both making sure the Sanctuary was all Katya promised and assuring her softshells would be welcome.

It took her a moment before she responded. "Yes." This was business, wasn't it? It felt enough like a negotiation that it made sense to her. Zin moistened her lips, not entirely sure how to start the conversation. She rehearsed enough of the drive over, but English came slowly in the moment.

"A friend tell me of this place… this sanctuary. I am here to look." Zin shrugged her shoulders. "To see if true."
Oh, this was going to be her first official business as a Second of the group. She was quite excited about this, she'd handled Sanctuary business multiple times before this, but often it was in relation to jobs and such, but this had a chance to be more... Maybe?

Or maybe not, apparently, she just wanted to check things out, see if the things she'd been told were true. Simple stuff, and hardly anything truly officially, still she was more than happy to assist. Who better to show someone around the Sanctuary than a bear who spent almost all of her free time in it? The answer was no one.

"Well, I would be more than happy to help you with that." Natasha nodded, allowing her hand to fall back down to her side. "Is there something particular you want to check out?"
Natasha wanted to help her and it made Zin smile. Not that she expected to be stonewalled, but it was a good first step. Zin wanted to see it all and not leave no corner of this place to chance. Her soft shells deserved nothing less. Her gut said she a little danger would harden their shells, make them not as needy. The thought wasn't without merit, but they were so new to this world, and one of them by her own hand. If she could grant them a little security, she had to.

"I want to see the conservatory first." Zin said with a nod.
Well she could certainly assist with that, in fact, she was actually eager to do it. She hadn't exactly gotten a peak inside the building since it had been officially announced as open to the public, busy with other things in life, and so this would offer her the perfect chance to eat her heart out. The building had certainly looked pretty amazing during the production phase, so she could only imagine how much better it looked completed.

"Of course," she agreed, motioning for the woman to follow as she led them back out the cabin.

The request also offered a sort of insight as to what the mystery creature this woman possessed could be, and why exactly it was so foreign to her. "Are you a reptile by chance?" It was the whole reason behind the new building after all.
Zin followed at Natasha's behest. She slid her sunglasses back into place as they left the lodge and matched Natasha's pace.

At the question, Zin gave a quick nod. "Turtle." No reason to hide what she was with this one. Natasha would likely see for herself if the sanctuary held true.
Oooh, that was very different.

Natasha knew very little about turtles outside of what she'd seen in local ponds, and even then that very little. They swam, basked, and ate bugs? Plants? Pond algae? Heck if she knew, she'd definitely never owned a pet turtle before!

Either way, it was big surprise to hear that they could be Weres, just how small were they when shifted?! She had to see it, and instantly she had every intention of getting Tamzin to shift around here one day.

Let the big bear see a turtle Were in person, please!

"Wow, I've never met a turtle before! How long have you been this way?"
The cute sea turtle in Natasha's mind was very different from the carnivorous predator curled around Zin's heart. She only smiled to Natasha's exuberance, then paused at the question. It felt like a lifetime ago. She was still in Ukraine and working towards university. Everything was in flux but steady. Zin saw her life ahead of her and it was good. Her smile turned down at the edges.

"It was maybe ten year ago." She waved aside the years like gnat. None of that was important now. She was here and others relied on her. There was no time to reminisce.
Oh, ten years was quite some time, but Natasha had learned some time ago that not everyone's Were age would fit upon one hand like her own. There were plenty out there that had been experiencing this life for much longer than herself, or even some of the others bears within the group.

"Plenty of time to get lots of experience then." Natasha would hum in response, her steps slowing as they neared the new addition to the Sanctuary.

"And here is the newest highlight of the Sanctuary." A wave of her hand to allow the woman to take the lead in their approach.
Zin chewed on Natasha's singsong reply as they approached the conservatory entrance. They pushed into the humidity of the lush green space. Zin perked up at the gurgle of water from somewhere within. She hastened as they entered, turning on the spot and letting the warmth suffuse each cell of her body.

Zin exhaled a small and happy sound. In her gut, she hadn't realized how much she needed somewhere like this. "It is beautiful." She continued further into the space and brushed her fingers along tropical fronds that lined the pathway.
The first thought that struck Natasha as they entered the building was that the place was warm. A deep contrast between the cold wind that they'd just left behind them, the bear was immediately interested in the foliage, pushing for them to explore a bit deeper.

"They did a really good job on this." Natasha agreed, eyes wide. "Does it call out well to the turtle?" Just because her bear was absolutely loving it, didn't mean that the reptiles would be feeling the same, maybe even this warmer environment still proved too cold for them.
What a curious phrasing. Zin mulled over her response and then nodded slowly. She guessed it appealed to that deeper part of her, but long ago had she abandoned the notion of something else living in her body. She was the turtle and the turtle was she… they just were. It hadn't always been that way, but Zin thought someone like Natasha would feel similar.

"Yes." Agreeing felt the simplest way forward and she dipped behind a tree, running her fingers along the bark. Emerging from the other side she asked, "how does this work? Members only?"
Oh good, then they hadn't underestimated just how much heat was needed for this place, not that she'd played any big parts in setting this up. No, she'd simply played the onlooker as everything had been built from the ground up. Wish she knew who exactly had given this whole idea to Cliff, was pretty dang grateful that they had, because now she was going to get to experience a whole new variety of Were.

"It's totally free, the only thing is that that passcode to the gate changes pretty often." Natasha answered with a shake of her head. "Want to keep non-Weres out so we don't like keeping it too routine up there. We have a sort of text system that will update you with the new code, so if you want to leave your number with me I can get you into that system."

Oh and the cabins!

"We also have a few cabins we just opened up, those you do have to pay for, and is pretty much a space you can rent out for yourself or others."
The sanctuary wasn't just free; it was totally free. Still skeptical to the hook trailing the lure, Zin nodded and kept neutral. She paced the flagstones, loam on the air, and surveyed her would-be domain. Natasha described their security, and that got another nod from Zin. The rotating passkeys seemed like a good idea, and Zin made a note to get Nicole and Valerie's numbers into the system too.

The space was large, but what other cold bloods would she need to share with? Her gut didn't like the idea of sharing. She couldn't smell any others, or their scent too faint. Crouched by the pool, her fingers rippling through the warm water, Zin looked back to Natasha. "How many other reptile make use of this space?"
If only she could offer a confident answer to that question as she had the previous one.

"I'm not entirely sure," an apologetic smiled offered for the pathetic answer. "You're actually only the second reptile that I've had the pleasure of meeting. I don't tend to stick around the houses during the full moon and that's typically when we get the most visitors."
Zin nodded with a small smile for Natasha's confession. She stood and wiped her fingers dry on her jeans. Reptiles were rare. It made Zin and hers somewhat of a novelty, even amongst shifters. She only wanted to know about the competition, but she'd find out one way or another.

But if Zin understood right, Natasha didn't use the sanctuary on the full moon. She drew a pensive expression. Either there was more to the point she didn't understand, or it was a red flag.

"You do not…" Zin pursed her lips and took in their surroundings with a gesture. "Why not?"
"Oh," Natasha would answer, her thumb jerking over her shoulder towards the tree line that surrounded that cabins. "Just since the bear is so big, I tend to go out deeper into the woods. A lot more to keep her occupied out there than there is around this area."
There it was again, that separation. Zin didn't feel comfortable questioning it, there was a chance she misunderstood. Instead, she smiled for Natasha's answer and bobbed her head. Maybe it was all nuance.

"I see." Zin said without conviction, but it assuaged some of her concern about the Sanctuary. Bears were big. She drew closer to Natasha, phone in hand.

"Do I give you my number? Or…?"
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