Tyler and I were back in front of the Swag Pag's house in twenty minutes. I padded into the grove of trees where I'd left my clothes, panting with exhaustion. After the gray haired man had left us, I'd ran all the way home at a dead sprint. Even Tyler, who was more used to this than me, was out of breath when he sat down behind the cover of the trees.
Finally, I made my way to my clothes, and Tyler turned his head to look away. I shifted back into my human form, spitting Blister out onto the ground, and got dressed as quickly as I could before collapsing onto my backside, sitting back against a tree. My breaths still came in ragged gasps, but the long run was only half the reason why. I could still feel that guy's eyes boring into my skull… into my soul.
In front of me, Tyler's fur shrank into his skin, and he stood up on two legs. I looked at the ground between my knees, but looked back up at him when he said my name.
“Who was that?" he asked, his voice sounding concerned. He didn't seem to care about being naked in front of me, so I looked straight into his eyes and didn't look away.
“I don't know," I answered. “I've never seen him before."
“He knew who you were," Tyler said as he reached down to pick up his clothes. I kept my eyes locked to his. “He was there waiting for you."
I hesitated, and then nodded. “I don't know how he knew I was going to be there, but I've never seen him before in my life, I swear."
Tyler paused for a second before pulling his shirt over his head, and I finally let myself look away from his eyes. “He was a werewolf too," he said at last in a quiet voice.
To my surprise, I realized I had already known this. I'd known he wasn't human without even having to think about it. It was like comparing a chimpanzee to a person- they might have had the same basic shape, but they were impossible to confuse. Well, impossible for me at least.
“I don't think he followed us back," I said.
Tyler shook his head. “No, he didn't." He turned to me and raised an eyebrow. “Are you…"
“Yes," I snapped, getting to my feet. “I'm sure I have no idea who he is!"
“All right," Tyler finally accepted my word. “We should get inside before D.K. finds out we're gone."
He led the way back to the house, and I knelt down to pick up Blister. A little bit of dirt had gotten onto him, so I brushed it off and then hurried after Tyler. Luckily for us, D.K. and Kaylie were both still in their room, but the noises from before were gone. Tyler closed the door behind us with a soft click.
“Thank you," I whispered before heading back to my room. I couldn't have been sure, but I almost thought I heard him whisper back, “You're welcome."
I crept as silently into my room as I could, and sighed with relief when I saw Kimberly curled up in the corner, still fast asleep. Or so I thought.
“You were gone for a long time," she said the moment I sat down, her eyes snapping open to look at me.
“I- I'm sorry," I spluttered, caught off guard.
“Where were you?" she asked, sitting up. Her voice didn't sound accusing, or even curious. She legitimately sounded as if she had been scared while I was gone.
“Sweetie, I wouldn't just abandon you here," I told her gently.
Kimberly hugged her knees to herself, but I noticed how she stuck her nose in the air, sniffing for something.
“I smell something," she said slowly. “It smells like… food."
Aw, crap! She could still smell the rabbit on my breath. I'd thought washing off at the river would have been enough to get rid of the scent, but obviously I'd been wrong.
“Where did you go?" she demanded again, more forcefully this time.
“I had to get something," I told her. Blister was sitting on the floor, hidden behind my leg. Kimberly hadn't noticed yet. Before she could ask any more questions, I pulled the stuffed cat out and showed it to her. Kimberly's eyes went wide the moment she saw it, and her complaints stopped.
“His name is Blister," I told her, holding the toy out to her. “I had to go find him."
She stared at Blister, and I saw her fingers twitching with the urge to grab him.
“Take him," I said with a smile. “He used to be my friend. Now he can be yours."
Kimberly needed no further encouragement. Her hand shot out like a whip, yanking Blister away so energetically I thought she would rip the fabric. For a minute she sat there, holding him at arm's length in front of her, and I realized she was crying.
“Kimberly," I said in dismay, getting up to go to her, “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…"
Before I could finish, she turned her red rimmed eyes to me and clutched the stuffed animal to her chest.
“Thanks," she whispered.
I sat back down, a warm feeling spreading through my chest as I watched Kimberly try to go back to sleep, never once letting go of Blister. I smiled as her eyes closed, and felt tears begin to sting my own eyes. I'd made her happy. Even if she hadn't smiled, even if she still hated my guts, going and getting that cat had made her happy.
Suddenly, I didn't care if D.K. found out that I'd left or not. It had been the right thing to do, and it was worth whatever he decided to do to me.
NEXT TIME: Aaaw, that’s sweet! Too bad nothing good ever lasts for these two. There's a price to pay for living with the Swag Pag. If Amber wants to stay there, she's gonna have to work for it.