Beast Mode Validly existential lion ostensibly steps toward experience retention

this is starting here but then i'll move it because i'm an admin and can do whatever i want also it's the full moon

Abraham had gone with McDonald's. It was a safe option and reliably fast. Left with two fat paper bags of burgers and chicken nuggets. Skipped the fries, favoring protein this time of the month. The car itself was loaded up with his usual shift kit, though that something he didn't keep out of the car ever.

Really inexperienced weres were tough. They slept the whole fucking night, and he was left with the option of carrying a blanket wrapped but otherwise nude acquaintance to the car or freezing his ass off for ten hours.

The dream was to maybe, just maybe, lead them back toward the car by the end of the night. Carrying someone fifteen feet to throw them in the back seat was a lot less violating than dragging them a mile and a half.

Not to mention how exhausting the latter was. He was strong, but far from tireless, especially after his own shift.

Anyway. These were all worries for later. Had to keep himself cheerful for right now, which was frankly a challenge enough in itself. The jaguar wanted out, Abraham wanted to let the jaguar out, blah blah. Get it over with. He parked outside the gym and sent a text over to Jimmy. Abraham would be biting into a quarter-pounder without cheese when the kid arrived to the car. He spoke through it, a pile of beef patty and bun crammed into his left cheek as a sliver of onion fell onto the unwrapped paper in his lap.

"You can set 'em on the floor or hold 'em," he said, referring with a belated wave to the two bags of food.

Hmm, Jimmy was tall. He'd leave the gangly guy to figure out if he could fit two large bags of McDonald's around his legs.
He'd been ready.

Punctuality wasn't, like, a natural strength or whatever. To some extent a pretty heavily scheduled childhood—games and practice and everything—had kept him on track, but into and out of college it'd collapsed a bit. Usually Jimmy was either too excited about something to wait or too relaxed to show up on time.

But this was important. Really important. Like, he wanted to say he'd been trying to get a handle on this for a long time, but really he'd just been trying to... like, find a way out of it. A way back. Hoping against hope that despite everything he could find some secret... he dee kay, magical loophole or whatever to undo everything.

And maybe part of that had been important grieving for his life lost or something. But it wasn't really helping anymore. If it ever did.


Jimmy came trotting out as soon as the text hit and he registered it wasn't a cancellation. He was grinning bigger than he felt, but only a little bigger. The good outweighed the dread.

"Cool," he chirped back, maneuvering without too much effort into the passenger seat and accepting his fate of holding the two bags. "Cool cool cool. Anything claimed?" He peered within after getting his seatbelt situated.
Jimmy mirrored back the enthusiasm, and it was a good start. (If he was being honest, Jimmy was more enthusiastic, but there was only so excited Abraham could appear to be about anything.)

"Take whatever speaks to you," he said. The cat his head was less eager to share, and he recalled once fighting Wallace for his own steak. But things were largely under control these days. Cat squabbles kept internal. "Pretty much everything's better on the full moon if I'm eating, in my experience."

And so he crammed the remaining third of the burger into his mouth precariously, crumpled the paper in his lap to jam into an empty cup holder, which was both more and less polite than flinging it into the bag full of food. Took a second to chew before he continued, releasing the brake to get them rolling.

"How're you feeling?"
With the neglected lion this close to the surface, the difficulty of none of either bags' contents speaking to him was pretty well nullified and stuff. It smelled weird, but meaty enough to be appetizing. Pulling out and open a box of nuggets, they seemed handy for carrying on a conversation while eating.

The impulse to shrug and say fine was swallowed with the first bit of crispy chicken. Don't be that guy, kid. "We're doing... alright," he settled on thoughtfully. "Kinda nervous, like, obvs I guess. I still..." Frowning while he chewed, he glanced out the window before looking back. "Worry the lion'll just try and eat anybody? Everybody. Were or no."

The heavy pregaming would probably help with that. "But you seem, I dee kay, like you'll be able to deal with that." Like Asha had. He didn't understand it, really, but it was more than just a similar scent. Similar vibes they each gave off. Of like, serious power. More than he'd ever felt with the lions. Or he thought so. It was hard to compare without a side by side.
It was a thoughtful answer, and it gave Abraham room to work. The worries were legitimate. Jimmy seemed like a nice kid, but there was every possibility he did not house a nice lion. Were there "nice" wild lions, really? Not outside of Disney.

I dee kay, Abraham.

"There's nothing Lion You will get up to that I haven't seen before, if it helps," he said. "I haven't run into people out where I've shifted. I think, thankfully, they get not to mess around on the full moon anymore."

At least don't mess around in a deeply wooded area after dark on the full moon.

"As far as me and you, we might spat a little. But that's okay and part of it all. Thankfully I turn into a pretty damn big cat, so it'll be hard for you to bully me too much."

Jaguars were bigger than lions, right? He was going to pretend that's what he knew the facts to be.
Vague nods came back as he chewed. The lion hunger pressed close to the surface as he sky dimmed, and Jimmy'd kinda accidentally shoved half a dozen nuggets into his mouth in quick succession.

"Mmhmmph," he managed, smiling as best he could with bursting cheeks. Chew chew chew, swallow half of it all. Cool. "Yeah, 'sthe hope." Chew chew swallow. "I don't think he... I, am really into bullying but..."

He pulled another nugget but held off on tossing it down his throat. "Like, kinda got told the lions just all piled together? But then with Asha—uh, I was shifted for our first meeting, so then I guess she shifted and I only really like, met met her later—my face was all jacked up after. So I guess we fought and stuff."

Shrugging, he chomped on the last nugget. That box's last, anyway. "Just mean, yeah, it helps. Thanks."
Oh. Huh. That was informative. Hearing Jimmy chewing while he spoke gave Abraham food jealousy, so he reached out a hand but decided not to actually go for either of the hands, cutting in with a quiet "burger me" as he listened otherwise.

Asha ending up in a claws-out incident was not surprising in the slightest. It was just her way. Though he couldn't claim he wasn't similar when he did lean into his impulses. Jaguars were not friendly animals, even to each other.

"She and I clawed each other up a lot in the early days," he said. Assuming he'd been granted a burger, he'd start unwrapping it in his lap, one hand still on the steering wheel. Eating while driving was not typically his thing, but full moon times called for full moon measures.

"I might have accidentally taught her cat wrong while I was figuring my own shit out," he said. And. You know what, maybe not the topic to go down into, Abraham, because you were definitely saying you'd turned her after doing a whole bit about how involuntary turnings are bad the other day. Distraction! "You want to try some yoga before we shift? Once we hike out there."

Hey look, Jimmy, yoga!
In the worst of circumstances Jimbo tried really hard to be accommodating. All things considered, this was a long ways off from the worst. So yeah, he absolutely snagged a burger for Abraham. And listened in turn.

He did think about what was said, fights between big cats. But suspicious digging wasn't really his bag, so the thoughts skewed more towards gratitude that his lion adored Ingrid's. Weird layered uncomfortable gratitude, like most feelings about Ingrid.

But it was different. Ingrid seemed to have a solid hold on hers, able to speak and like, be really deliberate in her lion form. Really deliberate. So. Sounded like Abraham was kinda new while coaching Asha through. Maybe they'd been turned by the same... Or...

Yoga! Pulling out a burger for himself too—it had vegetables!—he nodded fiercely. "Yeah dude, totes. If you think we'll have time."

Unwrapping his, he held off on the chomp. "Um..." This was important. Don't be weird, kid. "I don't wanna, like, get crazy gushy or whatev, make things uncomfortable, but like..." Deep breath. "I really appreciate this. Like a lot."
They'd have time or Jimmy would shift into a lion mid pose and it would be about the same, he figured. Either way worked out about the same to Abraham.

So he nodded, bringing the burger up to take a careful driving bite just as Jimmy fell into gratitude. And, honestly, it was welcome. Abraham didn't need an hour of praise to remind himself why this shit was important, but a few words went a long way.

Having conveniently finished chewing during the talk, he returned the burger to its paper on his lap. Licked ketchup off the space between his middle and index finger.

"I'm happy to help," he said. "Really. I had a tiger who helped me out when I had a rough start. Took me out for shifts and saved me from- I dunno. Something ugly."

Likely very, very ugly.

"I don't really do the whole group thing. It's not for me. But this kind of thing- it sort of scratches that itch. Gives like, uh."

How to say this. Abraham wasn't the best at verbalizing feelings.

"More meaning to having gotten turned into a jaguar out of nowhere a few years ago."

tw: vague talk of self harm

Oh man. Oh man. There wasn't a lot that he loved more than, like, finding some point of deep connection with someone. Empathy was kinda a talent, but also kinda a skill, yeah? Like, something to be practiced and improved, and sometimes it took work to find it with some people. Effort and intent and stuff.

And then sometimes someone you barely knew said something that just spoke so clearly to your soul.

"That's- Man, yeah. Yeah." Heavy exhale, but with a faint smile. "Like, I feel that. I think I'm..." Not like... It wasn't identical, he knew. But between the serious disillusionment, disenchantment, dis-whatever-school-of-magic-ment Jimmy had with the lion group, the sort of support and meaning he'd only just begun to find with others... Katniss big time, Mateo kinda, now Abraham in a super focused way. Just... And then wanting to be that support to others...

Inarticulate frenzy brain, boi.

But another breath, a lifting of his food, then realization he shouldn't talk through a faceful of burger—seriously, who'd do that?—had him settling into an idea of what to say. "Something similar is why I wanna... why I can't just be mad, you know? At my sire or whatever." That wasn't right. "I mean, I can. I could. But it's... Like I think it's as much for me as her, you know? I need-"

Kid bit his lip. This... might... be cruising into TMI territory. But they were gonna strip in the woods, so like... "Aiight so like I kinda... hit a dark, like, brainspace along the way with this. Like if I'm such a threat, such a risk of actually murdering people I love... maybe it'd be just, like, objectively better to... remove myself from the equation. And stuff." Again his gaze darted out the window.

"So the idea that I can still... like, that I can do anything to make life a little less bad for someone. Even someone who..." Head shake. "It helps push that away, you know?"

Jimmy finally looked back at the night's benefactor, having been kinda staring everywhere else while he spoke "I just mean, I get it, the want to make it mean something. And I big admire it."

Chomp the burger. Didn't you just tell yourself, aloud, not to make it awkward? Buddy...
That was (among many other areas) where Abraham and Jimmy differed. He could help lions and foxes and wolves and still be ready to terrorize Lexus with every bit of jaguar ugliness he had if she ever showed up in his life again. There were plenty of better people out there he could give his time to, if that was his goal.

Unsurprisingly in retrospect, Jimmy ran into what Abraham was pretty sure to be a familiar theme in were life, if not one discussed very often. In the early days, the only way out felt like the most permanent option. There was nothing like that feeling of being a danger beyond your own control. How many times had he wrecked his own house just trying to keep himself and everyone else safe. And then there was Asha. Turning her, and then she...

She found what happened when you didn't stay home all the time. He didn't blame her, because of course, staying home forever set the animal off, too. Fucking nightmare.

Ultimately, Jimmy's point was that finding meaning was important, which was more profound than Abraham had initially meant his own words to be. But it was true. It gave Abraham, this Abraham who could still potentially turn into an out of control animal, a reason to be here when the math otherwise added up to the world being more dangerous for it. He realized he hadn't been around someone this new, who'd had this hard a time, in a while.

Jimmy's perspective was... useful. A reminder. But in general, he seemed to be a kid who did a lot of thinking about his place in the world, something Abraham had abandoned on and off in the last few years. Here came the part Abraham was less good at. Expressing approval without sounding like he was doing some kind of "you can do anything you set your mind to, Jimmy!" bullshit. Maybe Jimmy would be into that. It was hard for Abraham to leave his own feelings about that kind of shit.

"I think, uh. A lot of us go through that kind of... 'well, maybe it's better if I'm not around at all' feeling. I don't think it gets talked about very much, which I guess only adds to it." Wasn't that the story of mental health in general, huh.

"I'm not going to pretend I know you really well. But. I know it took you all of a minute to figure out some of my shit at the gym and try to help with it. So I think you've..."

Hand wave. All of this was not Abraham's expertise. He picked up the burger, eyes excessively on the road as a way to keep from having to look at Jimmy while he figured these sentences out. Didn't go for the food until after his next bit, at least.

"You're already on that path. We'll get you the lion experience to get there."
It was... Man, like, there'd been a weird combo reassurance/discouragement when they'd first met, had their winding conversation. Reassurance that his feelings and situation weren't crazy abnormal as turnings went, so he super wasn't alone. Discouragement because his feelings and situation weren't crazy abnormal as turnings went, so that he'd gone so long with so little progress was... kinda pathetic.

It wasn't as layered now. Now it was just... It was good to not be alone. Good to know he wasn't, like, emotionally pitiful to have had these thoughts. To have these thoughts. And fight against them the only way he knew how.

He wasn't weak.

Jimmy nodded. A couple times at first, then several more in rapid succession. Taking a fresh burger bite, he chewed quickly while looking out the window again. Or towards the window, blinking too much to really be looking at anything. Chewed quickly and swallowed, then gave a big sniff.

"Cool." Two more nods. "Cool cool cool. Thanks."
Yeah. Feel it out, kid. Abraham had sure cried more after being turned than before!

"Cool," he echoed back, but nice. It provided a moment for him to eat and focus on where they were going. The drive there always felt brief, the drive back extraordinarily long.

This would be good. He had a capable handle on the jaguar, and a fresh lion couldn't outsmart him, in the end. If he had to go half man and climb up a tree, he could do that. (Maybe.)

Logistics when he wasn't shifting with someone experienced were a whole game of mental gymnastics. Trying to figure out what he needed to ask, what could be assumed. "Hey, is it okay if I drag your naked ass potentially up to a mile, or will you wake up really shook?"

"I'm getting us there early enough so we have some time to find a spot and not feel rushed," he said. You never fucked around on the full moon, because if your car broke down in the middle of the city, your sorry ass was still shifting. "Maybe we can try, uh. Yoga or whatever for..."


"How long do you do yoga at a time?"
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