The continuation of The Beastie Story.
Content warnings: dehumanization (literally), torture, captivity, more torture, humiliation, loss of self, semi-starvation and food-based torture. Off of this prompt.
And, since he identifies himself, The Man in this is Nathan from Lightning in Autumn (also, for those that follow us on Masto/Discord, what Cal means every time he says “Nathan!” since there’s a very long-running story we’re working on…)
His left rear paw hurt badly, and he was pretty sure that some of the bones in his left front paw were broken. He had gotten the hang of all of the basic things — running, walking, drinking, hunting — but that did nothing for the fact that he had no idea where he was, had no idea where he was running to, and was pretty sure he was sick with some sort of — he didn’t want to think about that.
He kept moving, both because he had no idea what else to do and because it seemed to be an instinct. Go where there’s food. Don’t stay too long where there’s other predators. Move at night; sleep during the day.
He’d gotten in a fight with a wolf pack — that was what had happened to his rear paw, he was pretty sure. He’d had to move on quickly, and he was finding it harder and harder to do so.
He found a clean pool of water and lapped at it, letting the water slide down his throat, relishing the flavor of it. If he lapped quickly, he didn’t have to see his reflection. If he moved on just as quickly, he wouldn’t risk running into a bigger — or more numerous — predator again.
“Oh, hello there. Easy, easy.” The voice was coming from the other side of the little pond. The beastie looked up slowly — a man. A — he sniffed the air — a clean man, carrying weapons but not drawing them. “Oh, shit, you’re hurt, aren’t you? Okay, let me see. I patch you up, you don’t rip my throat out. Do we have a deal?”
What could he say? The beastie nodded.
The man murmured words that hurt the back of the beast’s mind, like he ought to be able to say them. He opened his mouth, but all that came out was some sort of yowl.
“Damnit. Wait. You nodded. If you understand me, tap the ground twice with your left front paw.”
His left front paw was injured. He tilted his head and held it up for the man to see.
“Shit. Right front?”
He tapped the ground impatiently twice with his uninjured paw.
“Okay, okay, well…” This time, the Working used different words and the beast found himself howling loudly along with him.
And then — then the pain stopped, at least the paws. The man frowned and did another set of Workings The beast managed to only whimper this time.
“Someone did this to you. And you ate something pretty bad, too. That’s gonna take time.” The man considered him. “Do I have your word that, uh — as long as I do you no harm, you will do none to me? And allowing that healing may hurt you but is not intended as harm.”
The beastie tilted his head to the side. That was many words, more than anyone had asked of him in a while. Slowly, he nodded, and felt the promise take hold.
The man raised an eyebrow. “Good. You’re fae. That makes a lot of things less awkward. Okay, ah. Can you climb a tree?”
The beastie flexed his paws. They were better now. Slowly, he nodded.”
“That’s very good. My camp is thirty feet up a tree that way.”
Camp. Tree. The beastie tilted his head. He was camping up a tree?
“Generally keeps me safe. Most people don’t look up. Come on. If your belly is still humanoid, I should be able to feed you from my stocks.”
The beastie, used to obedience, followed along as the man led the way to a tree, a big one almost pressed against another almost-as-big-one, and muttered a Working that brought down a ladder. The beastie looked at the ladder, looked at the man, and looked up.
It hurt his eyes, but if he squinted, he could see where the platform was cleverly hidden. He thought a little more of this random man for the camouflage.
“Give me about three minutes once I get up there. I don’t normally make the platforms big enough for two. Then come on up.” He moved up the rope ladder in a way that looked free and beautiful. The beastie rolled his shoulders and wondered why he found that movement so appealing.
Three minutes was not a sort of time thing he was used to gauging anymore. The beastie paced and paced until the voice came from above.
“All right. Come on up.”
He didn’t bother with the ladder, simply climbing the tree. When his paws were uninjured, they were built for this sort of thing.
Several body-lengths up, he clambered onto a platform – no, actually a three-sided room, easily big enough for him and the man, with a roof over it high enough up that the man could stand up.
The man, however, was squatting by a camp stove, working on cooking something. “Make yourself comfortable. This will take a little while, and I want to eat before I work any more on you. Ah.” He tilted his head and studied the beastie. “Do I have your permission to do Workings on you? Tlacatl Workings?”
The beastie nodded very slowly. Part of his mind remembered those things. Part of his mind was screaming run away.
“Tlacatl Workings;” that had been, in the very broadest sense of the word, what she had done to him. She had stretched and bent and shaped his body, his tlacatl.
He hadn’t thought she had shaped his mind at all, but sometimes it was hard to keep human-shaped thoughts in this beast-shaped mind.
He sat down on his haunches and waited, watching. The man tossed a bunch of different things into the pan but, as he went, the smell told the beastie that, whatever it was, it was going to be delicious.
“Someone did this to you, right?” The man looked over the beast. “Oh, my name is Nathan, although I don’t imagine your mouth can make that sound right now.”
“Na-a-a,” tried the beastie. He cringed back. She had punished him for anything that sounded at all like he was trying to make speech.
“Good try.” Nathan smiled broadly at him. “I’m going to call you Kit, for now, is that okay? You look most like something between a cat and a fox….”
The beastie nodded. He was pretty sure he’d had another name, but he liked Kit better than beastie.
“Good. Good, okay, the food is almost done. Let’s see. I’m going to move my bedroll over here, and then I’ll give you one of my blankets- no?”
The beastie – Kit – was shaking his head no. He turned around twice and laid down on the wood of the platform with an obvious and, he hoped, happy-sounding sigh.
“All right, all right. If you want to sleep on the wood, that’s fine. You do have fur. I mean, the whole thing as a whole is a bit of a mess, but the fur might be nice on days like-”
The man stopped as if someone had stopped him mid-sentence. Kit tilted his head and, after a moment, made an inquisitive noise.
He sounded, he was a little surprised to note, like a cat. A very friendly cat.
The man – Nathan, Nathan – reached over and petted between Kit’s ears before coloring a bit. “I talk too much. Sometimes I – I have to remind myself to shut up for a bit, that’s all.”
Kit was a little rusty on body language of people who weren’t psychopaths, but he had a feeling that his rescuer wasn’t telling him the whole truth. He headbutted Nathan’s leg lightly.
“Easy, easy. Don’t knock me off the platform, okay? I can’t heal you if I spend all my energy healing me.” Nathan patted the top of Kit’s head again. Kit found that he liked it – the comfort, the feeling, the human (humanoid, sort of, some part of him snarked) touch.
He sat near Nathan and didn’t headbutt him again as the man finished making dinner. After a while, he was surprised to find that he was purring. He hadn’t even known that he could purr.
“You’re quite a nice kitty. But I bet you’d like to be a person again, wouldn’t you?”
Kit nodded. He would like – he would like to be able to talk again. “Ye-ee-eh,” he managed, and leaned back again, trying not to wince.
Nathan patted his head and carefully petted down the back of his head, stopping when he reached the collar. “Would you like this off?”
Kit started to nod and then froze. Slowly, he shook his head no. No, not right now, he didn’t.
Nathan shifted so he could look Kit in the eyes. “You’re sure?”
Kit nodded. He was sure. While he was here – while he was here, he wanted the collar. He didn’t know quite why. He couldn’t really explain it. But he wanted the collar to stay.
“All right, Kit. Okay.” He dished out some sort of grain-and-meat thing into two bowls, one large enough for Kit to get his muzzle into. “I imagine spoons are a little tricky with those paws.”
Kit sniffed the food and then very carefully, very gently headbutted Nathan’s side in thanks. Then he tilted his head to the food and started eating.
He hadn’t eaten anything this tasty in – he really couldn’t remember how long. Even if his memories of his time before he was a beastie weren’t a mess, he could not remember tasty food, good food, food like this. Not with someone sometimes petting him behind the ears. Not with the amused delousing Working he heard Nathan send over both of them. Not with the lack of any scolding at all.
He was sleepy when the food was in his belly, and he curled up with his head almost on the man’s lap. Almost.
“Hey. Hey, if you want to sleep close or use me as a pillow, that’s fine. Just don’t bite, all right?”
Kit looked up at him. He seemed to be sincere. There didn’t appear to be a trap involved. He nodded, and snuggled up against the man. He gave off a lot of heat; She had said as much. He would be nice for the man to sleep against.
“In the morning, we’ll see what we can do for starters on healing you. But first – first let’s get some sleep.”
Kit was fine with that. He sighed happily. Nothing hurt. His belly was full. He snuggled against the man and slept.Want more?