Original poster
Mia yelped in pain as she slammed into the earth below, tumbling through the dust and weeds. Coughing, she struggled to lift her upper body, with grunts and heavy breaths. She could only watch on as the steam train plowed on ahead, the cars barreling past one by one. Her ticket to the next town, a box car still half open, gradually vanished into the distance - as did the burly worker that was this close to getting her tossed into a cell the next town over. She caught his face in that split second. His stare was frustrated, yet almost astonished by Mia's desperation to escape.

Mia could only imagine how he might've looked at her had she given in to turning.

The huffing and puffing, the rhythmic churning and clanking; both had already left the air. Now there was only silence. Mia's breaths eased up, as did her tensed form. One relieved, yet crestfallen, sigh escaped her as she just sat there, staring at nothing.

... Suddenly, however, she gasped sharply. In a panic, she lifted her cap up to pat her head. "Cadet??" She touched and tugged every inch of her dusty sweater. "Cadet!!"

Finally, he emerged. The snowy white squirrel scampered out from her collar onto her shoulder, greeting her with a chirrup. She immediately swept him into her hands and held him close to her face and neck, eyes shut. The rodent had no objections to this.

"Thank God... Thought I left ya in there, or squished ya, or... somethin'." Another weary sigh deflated out of her, as she gently stroked his diminutive head with a single finger. She placed Cadet down upon one of her legs - but he was quick to scurry back up onto her shoulder, his tiny claws clinging tightly to the wool of her jumper.

A tiny smile grew as she cast him a fond look. "Li'l nutter." Her attention then drifted to their surroundings, finally.

It was... a whole lot of nothing. Grass, weeds, dirt. A few bushes and shrubs, maybe. Not a person or building or anything in sight. The cold autumn wind and a few crows were all she could hear. The sun was just beginning to descend into the horizon. Dusk was on its way.

Mia tightly gripped a strap of her knapsack, her brows knotting together. She'd passed through the country a couple times before, while hopping between villages and hamlets... but there was always a human presence there. A sense of familiarity, and safety. This was just... nowhere.

Slowly, she lifted herself up onto her two legs to get a better look around, adjusting her cap. Cadet was already deeply invested in sniffing the air. It was certainly his first time out in nature, and he seemed to appreciate the fresh air. The air was indeed fresh, a welcome if jarring shift from the constant tinge of carbon in the cities. Yet... Mia couldn't relax too much. She had to get to town, some way or another. She hadn't a map on her, nor even a clue of just where this city was. Any city, for that matter. Her only guide was the railroad tracks. Mia stared long and hard at them, with a hint of reluctance, and sighed inwardly.

"Welp... guess we go on foot from 'ere... I do, anyway. Lucky bloke."

She gave her little friend a wry grin. Tugging her backpack's straps forward with a light bounce, she carried on, preparing herself for a whole lot of walking... until her eyes began to wander. Something astonishing was finally noticed off on the left side of the tracks.

A forest. A huge forest. Ancient-looking trees as tall as skyscrapers. A sea of red and yellow tinged with green pine. Looming trunks and twisting branches. A gateway into dense darkness.

Mia just gaped out into it, entranced and stunned. This was the first forest she'd ever even laid eyes on, before. Seeing so many absolutely immense trees clustered together was almost a shock to the heart. Her hair stood on end in awe and fear. But it triggered another, stranger feeling in her. Her chest begin to feel light, and airy.

She felt drawn to the forest. Almost against her will, her legs slowly carried her towards it. A chorus of birds and insects gradually weaved its way into her ears... which slowly grew out, large and pointed. Her vision began to sharpen, as the vivid colors started to fade to gray. Her nose became overwhelmed with a swarm of new, stimulating scents. She felt her tailbone extend and push against the tiny, near-invisible slit in the rear of her overalls.

Suddenly, Mia stopped herself. The fur and whiskers began to retreat back into her skin. She simply stood there, startled and confused. Her head throbbed a little.

Slowly, she stared back over at the railroad. Then towards the horizon. The sky was already darkening, if subtly.

Mia's gaze returned to the forest. There was a long, hesitant silence... until, her eyes closed. In a gradual rush of sensory stimulation, she allowed herself to turn. Soon, bright yellow eyes lifted open, as the darkness of the woods becoming brighter and clearer. A striped tail had fully emerged behind her, softly swaying.

She took a breath, which entered via a visible cloud of air in the growing chill. With some hesitancy, she began to stride towards the forest. If her feline side was going to continue to be triggered by all of... this... then she might as well enter it fully, at least to stay out of sight. She could stick to the edge to keep an eye on the tracks.

... Just for a little while. Then, she told herself, it was back to following the train tracks.

Cadet climbed up atop Mia's cap, nose wriggling and tail twitching as the two of them entered the darkness.
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Stranger In A Strange Land...

Every cycle in some ways felt better. In other, oh so important ways, worse. Spring is the proper time for things to blossom. Flowers and their pollen, attractive to bees. Birds, and their heartfelt songs of desire. Chirping of crickets, and all that. But on this world, at this time, within a forest about a mile or so from a particular set of train tracks, Pico couldn't help feeling a touch of irony that "Spring"... for him, in the now... just happened to be "Fall". No, Autumn was not the season when his wrists should be itching. His forehead bulge, a-tingle. Definitely not the time for heat in the blood or desires below his tool-belt.

But he'd been through this enough times now to know how things would go. The loneliness. Stiff tail and aching heart, as he walked alone through the universe. Though he presently walked, sans tool-belt and backpack, towards a cold trout-stream. Didn't mind the cold. To bathe in the natural waters, where fish lived and otters played, well.......

A sharp, metallic hiss. Cold shock, followed by relief from the hormonal heat of his growing rut. At least for the moment. Pico understood the benefit of a "cold shower" in his present situation. Rubbed at his prime-hand wrists as the water played over his hide. Washed blood out from under his claws. He then drank from his bathing spot. Rinsed his mouth, then swallowed the taste of blood. No words. No one to talk to. No reason to talk to himself, what with his thoughts being quite enough.


Plans... though all just for the present, since he had no idea what his future would hold here, till time came to move on, again. Each world, almost... almost blending together. Things he couldn't forget, every rut cycle bringing back memories of his friend Benevistol, who had saved his life. And healed the "injury" of circumstance that had before then kept him neuter. Yes, a bit late in life, but puberty was puberty. Much as his heart ached, knowing this Gift... the hope it gave... worth all the pain.

Pico did everything he could to cherish what Life gave, what those few friends he'd met along the way meant to him.

What his parents had given him.

Memories. And Life.

Also practical thoughts, yes. Tasks to be done, like taking his anti-tox meds. Setting up camp, with shelter. Digging a latrine. Hunting. Bathing. He'd already decided to cook what he'd killed, rather than eat it raw. So...

... out of the water. Shake. Stretch. Lick a few choice spots. Then back to camp. Already butchered and set, some now unidentifiable dead animal waited for Pico to arrive, slip torch from tool-belt, and set fire ablaze. Sun, well on its way down. Time to eat. Then time to sleep.

Perchance, to dream.......
Once fully enveloped in the maze of wood and leaves, Mia felt as if she'd entered a dream. Some forgotten dream she may have had ages ago.

Before her, the winding labyrinth of trees stretched out into what seemed like infinity. The cool air became gentle and misty upon her fur. A soundscape of birds, insects and other fauna enveloped her - her ears twisted every which way to pick up on all of it. Within her twitching nose was an entire palette of newfound scents. Soil. Plants. Animals. Life.

Mia could barely describe what she felt, then. It was almost like... being born again. As she took in everything, standing still in enchantment, her eyes grew misty.

She drew further into the forest, the crunching of dead leaves beneath her boots enticing her with each step. Slowly, she removed her cap to let her ears move freely and her hair feel the air. An irrepressible smile grew on her face.

Cadet had not left Mia's side, but he, too, was entranced, stimulated, and overwhelmed. He appeared eager to explore. To run and climb and glide. Mia cast him a smile that burst with energy, and a hint of mischief. Then, she sped off into the woods - in no direction in particular. As swiftly as she could move laden with her knapsack, she glided and leapt over roots, stones and fallen logs. Her chest swelled with almost divine exhiliration. She savored every breath she took. Cadet could only clutch on tightly to her shifting shoulders.

Mia ended her winding sprint in a mound of fallen leaves, leaping straight into them as they flew every which way and clung to every knitted surface of her jumper. Cadet had bounded off before she landed and rolled up on her back onto the base of a tree, breathing heavily with a beaming smile as she gazed up into the canopy. She remained like this for some time.

"... Sorry Cadet," she panted. "I got... carried away..."

A confused-looking Cadet was clinging to the bark of the tree she was against, wriggling his nose at her. Her breath eventually slowed, and she simply lay there, soaking in the sounds and smells. Occasionally she let her eyes shut as she savored the peace, before opening them back up at what little was visible of the darkening sky. Her eyes became slightly wet, but a broad smile remained.

"... I never 'ad any idea what I was missing..." She paused. "... It almost feels like... I'm just meant to be 'ere..."

She relaxed even further, the earth beneath her beginning to feel like a bed... until one particular scent began to stand out to her. Slowly, she came to until she recognized it.

Smoke. Here? Why? It wasn't like the coal smoke of the city. It smelled more like... burning wood?

Mia heaved herself up, eyes searching. She soon spotted a faint, bright light hidden within the treescape... a campfire. Of course. That's what people did in the forest, wasn't it...?

Now with the knowledge that she was not alone, Mia's ectasy gave way to tension and anxiety. However, as much as she wanted to steer clear... she recognized this opportunity. The food she brought with her may not last her the trip, now that she's moving on foot. There had to be something at that campsite that could supplement her stock. Cadet may have found himself surrounded by a smorgasboard - but not so for Mia. And she was not going to resort to... that. She couldn't. Her options were limited.

Reluctantly, she crept towards it, following the scent of smoke. She paused, however, almost alarmed by the harsh crunches her boots were making atop the dead leaves. Mia frowned... she had no choice. Her boots were removed, and went back into her knapsack - as well as the socks beneath them. Only bare, padded paws were in their place.

Tugging her cap back onto her head, ready to cover up if needed, her brow furrowed as she pressed on with silent tread.
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Free Movements...

Ah, yes... free movements.

Soil. Plants. Animals. Life. Pico scented all of that... sensed more. Sight. Touch. Taste. Hearing. Bio-electric energy patterns. He'd taken. And still took in every detail. Predator at his core. Yet civil, for all the wild he kept inside. Free to come. Free to go. Able to take care of himself and his business. Tooth. Claw. Bad-ass, crotch-high toxin factory. With brains.

And other skills.

Presently free and tending his fire. Large, sensitive ears twitching at every snap, every crackle, every pop. Hide warmed by the heat. And fresh meat ready for roasting...

... except for a few small details.

Pico left his fire to tend itself, satisfied in his work. Quickly paced over and "pounced" on his back-pack. Yes, small. Not much room. Enough for someone his size. Room for his med-kit and a few choice supplies, choice amongst those, a few packets of wasabi powder, along with other spices. A small mixer. Just add water! And he would have a good baste/dip. Though tonight, he felt more dip than baste. Bite of hot, roasted meat. Dip claws in sauce. Lick.

A moment, though.

Every time Pico saw the patch on his pack, again, he couldn't fail to remember the arrow that had made said patch necessary. Benevistol. Soya. Dayan and Keraos. Gregor. Kyilla. And the others. Their adventure. Distant friends he would never forget. A demon queen defeated. Cold as it felt this time of year, he didn't need a fire to keep warm. Just memories like these... knowing the lives he'd touched and been touched by, in return. Kept his heart warm...

... but did nothing to help roast and spice his meal.

Tooth to his smile, shine to his eyes. Energy to his movements as he dipped into his supply of fresh water, mixed his dip, then started roasting his prey.......

....... said roasting, an enticing scent added to the smell of burning wood.

....... Pico, alert, but in this moment, spirit so light and bright, he didn't care what might come. Lions. Tigers. Bears. If need be, he could chew anything, from the crotch on up.
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The fire's glow grew brighter and brighter. Mia was getting close. Her steps grew more and more careful, and she tried with all her might to keep the rustling of her pack at a minimum. Slowly, she could start to see a figure come into view, although even with her night-vision they looked hazy. Mia took pause.

They were... short. Very short. A child...? Alone? Out here? She faltered. Desperate as she was she absolutely couldn't nick anything off of a kid. Her hunger began to give way for concern. She had to help them - but how to do that without scaring the pants off them...?

... Although... that new smell now wafting by was outright divine. Mia may have begun to drool a little. Kid was a damn good chef. Maybe they wouldn't mind sharing...?

Eventually, Mia was but thirty feet away from the campsite, which had become obscured by denser and denser foliage. Her nose led the way. She could tell she was real close, now. Squeezing up against a thick oak, she carefully peered out from behind it...

She took in a sharp breath at what she saw. Her fur bristled out from her tail tip right up to her head.

That was no kid.

Immediately, she whipped back behind the oak, eyes bulging and breath tight. What was that?? What was that?! Mia's mind raced about every which way, in a desperate attempt to grasp what she just saw. Was she already losing it out here? Nothing about it even made any sense. It had four arms. Four. Arms. Was it... a monster??

... Monster.

That word had always given Mia pause. She felt a guilty, hypocritical pang in her heart for even thinking of the figure by the fire as one... They had a backpack. Supplies. Cooked their own food.

... Were they... like her?

Mia swallowed, cautiously preparing herself for one more glance... but made one wrong move. One hind paw slipped across the forest floor ever so slightly. Dead leaves crackled loudly. Mia whipped back behind the tree in an instant, heartbeat rising.

Whatever they were, she sure hoped they were like her.
A Monster Is...

Pico had no shoes. No shirt. No pants to scare off. Not that he couldn't be frightened, under the right circumstances. Just... small he may be, but not someone lacking in physical confidence, or physical weapons. And yes again, brains. The most important weapon of all. If his looks made him a monster, so be it. His brains... his heart... his soul... made him something quite different.

Like Mia was quite different. Yes, Mia. Pico didn't know her name, no, but he'd caught her scent in the shift of evening breeze. Could vibrate his seelers, and pick up her bio-electric signature, as if she was prey. Even before the sound of dead leaves crackled into his large, sensitive ears...

... a flick of one in her direction.

... a careful turn of meat. Wouldn't do to let such a minor distraction burn his meal.

Pico remained silent. Tail's tip, a-flick. Primehands tending to roasting duty, subhands, such as they were, tending to his sauce. Idle dip of claw, quick poke at meat, here and there, a little spice for flames to taste. Another dip of claws into leftover water, flick into flames, to kick up some smoky excitement, for added flavor.

His mane fluffed up...

... "Not too good at sneaking, are you, girl...?"

His voice, strong, metallic. Alien. Wild. Bigger than the lungs and throat that brought such words into hearing. A bit of echo, yes. A bit harsh, but not angry. Not violent.

Pico turned his head, cast his eyes towards the oak. And tried not to grin.......
Mia held her breath, not moving a muscle. There was... silence. Only the creatures of dusk and the crackles of the flames.

Said silence was unbearable for Mia. She knew well that her cover was blown. But the stranger did nothing. And Mia, at the moment, preferred to not take the chance to ascertain whether or not they'd tolerate some suspicious little sneak prowling about near their camp - and their meal. She could only wait.

Suddenly, a voice spoke. No. It boomed. Mia's fur puffed out like a chimney brush, her ears flat against her cap. She wasn't even surprised to discover the stranger could talk so much as that they had the absolute wrong voice for their size. Mia could only envision a giant... a giant with his head stuck in a rubbish bin. A giant-sized one.

Yet, the voice's tone didn't sound quite as threatening. Irritable, at best. Maybe... she was safe. After all, she'd discovered something else they have in common - speech.

... This was overwhelming. Earth-shattering to Mia, the more she lingered on it. For the first time in her life, she realized...

It... wasn't just her. She wasn't alone.

Mia stared down at her open paw, pads up. Her gut instinct was to go back to her disguise. Her safe zone. But... what good was that, here? They were... alike.

Mia shut her eyes for a few seconds. She breathed in deeply through her pink nose, to summon up courage. She'd never shown herself like this to anybody before - human or otherwise. But if there had to be a first time, it might as well have been here.

A timid hind paw was the first to ease out from behind the tree. Then an arm. A head. Her twisting tail. Slowly, her form turned to directly face the stranger. Her paws were held up and open in front of her chest in a surrendering gesture. Her wide, frightened yellow eyes gaped down at him, glowing in the fire's light. Her lips hung open, as she found herself frozen before him. Before someone like her. Facing her greatest fear - exposing herself.

She had to force her words from her throat - small, cracking, vulnerable. "... I... I'm sorry."
Force Of Words...

Yes, perhaps a bit irritable. Pico wasn't much for hiding... only when he hunted did he keep concealed, till the final pounce. Much as possible. Otherwise, very much open, physically. And emotionally. Naked in both facets. Open, to a fault. Also a very curious sort. So he watched as Mia came out from behind that oak tree, part by part. Till all of her appeared. No words yet from him. Then timid words from her.

Ears forwards, then back. Head tilt... left, then right. Short, quick twitch of subhand finger claws. Lick, to clean off wasabi and spice. Eyes, very bright and intelligent...

... "No need for sorry, girl." He turned his meat again, almost done, attention turned to the task... "If you are cold. If you are hungry. Come." He couldn't help but grin, couldn't help his interest in this very young, female stranger... "I won't bite." He didn't say he couldn't bite. And said nothing about his claws. Just three simple words to cover everything. To ease her obvious fear.

Voice, also eased, now that she stood in sight, though no less alien in its "accent"......
More silence. Mia was tense all over. She could only stare at the creature as he stared back, and now that she finally got a good look at him she couldn't look away. The shock of meeting somebody like him hadn't been washed away just yet.

He was like... a little dragon, almost. Dragon-y head. Whisker feeler things. Like something from a fairy-tale. He... honestly didn't look too threatening to Mia at all, at a closer glance... but she still had to get used to that extra pair of arms. Impressive claws, too. But, none of that really bothered her too much after looking into his eyes. They were bright, and curious. Rather gentle. Soulful.

In fact, the puppy-like way he was tilting his head at her, he was... kind of cute, honestly. But it really wasn't his physical attributes she was so nervous about, now.

In front of a fellow, probably-friendly non-human or not - exposing herself like this for the first time remained nerve-wracking for Mia. But there was a tiny glimmer of hope in her heart. Hope that was about to be validated.

Mia almost looked more stunned at the little dragon's offer than she was after first laying eyes on him. She needed several seconds to process what she was hearing.

Here she was, fur and whiskers at all. And... she was being invited a seat by a warm fire. Fresh food. Comfort, and safety. Her wide golden eyes stared into the stranger's deliberately. There remained a hint of caution in them, but that sense of hope was growing stronger.

Mia took one slow, careful step forward. Her voice trembled.

"... R... really? Can I...?"
A Good Look...

Yes, Mia got a good look at him. At the same time, Pico got a good look at her. Then looked away. Rubbed again at his primehand wrists. Then checked the doneness of his meat. Deep inhale, slow exhale, chest moving in, out as he breathed. Muscle sliding under hide as he moved. Yes, very much a wild animal, if not for his eyes... which looked back towards Mia as she stammered. Ears twitched. Seelers flicked. A glint of tooth...

... "You stand. You move. I have given you permission. No reason to hesitate."

Pico didn't normally speak in so formal a manner, but for some reason... call it the time of year, call it anticipation of changes to come... in the here and now, with this person he'd just met, it felt right. Child. Female. Him about to turn. This world, new to him. Her, new to him. Her caution... timidity... what he saw in her eyes, in return, perhaps.

Perhaps he'd caught some of that hope, through her shock. Both of them, exposed in different ways.



Yes, that last, very much on Pico's mind, as he held out a primehand, claws up, as ears and seelers swept back over his head.......
It truly was hard for the young werecat to process until it was repeated to her, in different words. That matter-of-fact way the little dragon spoke... it was almost refreshing. And it only increased the impact of the reality of this situation.

Slowly, she drew closer, her eyes darting around between Pico, his dinner, the campsite itself. Her caution was visibly easing up. Now, she seemed more enchanted, than anything, about this encounter. The edges of her lips subtly cracked into a half-smile. Her lowered tail rose - a friendly gesture.

Squirming out of the straps of her pack and placing it aside in no real hurry, Mia carefully set herself down not far away from the stranger - but not too close, either. Her big golden eyes still looked dumbfounded, as she continued to take everything in.

The fire's warmth swept over Mia like a blanket. The garnished meat's insatiable scent lifted her spirits. She felt her muscles relax. Her posture gradually loosened as she leaned over, elbows on her knees, to stare over at Pico. From this close, she could truly feel his gentleness. His honesty. His acceptance. Shyly lowering her head, her smile returned, and grew wider, pushing up her whiskers and flashing a fang or two. Awkwardly crooked, but as warm as the flames. Her striped tail curled in good cheer.

"... Thank you. Hehe." A tiny, sheepish giggle slipped out.

Mia felt as if she were dreaming. Like if she'd stopped to think too much about just what was happening this very moment, she'd completely flip out. So, she held her nerves best she could and just kept things moving. She fidgeted a little as her lips parted and closed, searching for words. She looked about ready to let loose the billions of questions she had upon poor Pico, but settled for something simpler. Mia took in a soft, deep breath and cleared her throat before straightening up a little.

"... I'm, er... Name's Mia. S'a'pleasure." She lifted up her lopsided newsboy cap affably.
Taken In...


Not a word Pico would use to describe himself, should anyone ask. Civilized, yes. A sentient being. At the moment, no reason to release his wild side... beast... monster. But if need be, he would never hesitate to kill... in his own or another's defense. Kill another sentient being, vicious predator unleashed! As easily, as swiftly, as violently as prey. But Mia had just met him.

Gentle, now.

Because Pico chose to be this way. To treat others this way. Until he had very good reason not to. Mia? He couldn't see any present or future need to treat her as a threat. Just watching her through the corner of his eye as he finished roasting his... their meat... well, the more comfortable he felt with his first impressions. The more.......


... "I call myself Picofarad. Pico, for short." No, the irony of his word choice didn't escape him. And given his lack of lopsided newsboy cap, he simply copied her gesture with a ruffle of mane, a slight dip of head as he set the now roasted animal aside, tore off a choice bit with his claws, and offered it to Mia.

Yes, she would have to move closer, if she wanted to claim it. Close enough to touch, close enough, the smell of fresh-roasted meat wouldn't completely cover the scent of well-oiled leather, from Pico's well-oiled hide. Perhaps her feline nose would also catch a bit of his hormonal musk, in the warmth of the fire.......
Pico... Somehow, that was exactly the kind of name Mia would expect this fellow to have.

She giggled, charmed, at his gesture in return. Mia seemed fascinated over every movement he made. His puffed-up mane, his dexterous claws... It was still sinking in for Mia that she'd finally found another.

Her eyes widened as he offered her a bit of meat. Mia stared in near disbelief. Being offered any food was another bizarre new experience for her. A cautious smile grew as she began to scoot closer.

Her nose twitched a little. That was... a pretty funky smell, all of the sudden. Was it... Pico? Mia quickly took back her internal comment. As much as it weirded her out, she wouldn't dare say a thing to such a gentleman.

She lowly took the meat from his hands, giving him another crooked, nervous smile. "... Thanks."

Mia wasted little time in taste-testing. Her eyes widened and fur bristled. Wow. She quickly set to scarfing down the rest, not even bothering to wait 'til she was finished to compliment the chef.

"Blimey, thish ish ace! Never 'ad meat like thish!" She finally swallowed, clearing up her mouth with a grin. "What's your secret??"
Ace Of Spades...

Pico had found so many others... just none of his kind. No others who had survived exile. But he'd found ways to make do. To keep going, in honor of his parents and siblings, past tense. Mia, one of many others he'd met in his life. Though it wasn't often he'd met someone so... like himself, perhaps. Her reactions to him and his actions, telling. Her bio-electric patterns danced in ways that told him stories. Someone not prone to trust. Rejected. Having to fight, perhaps, for what little she had. Like the clothes on her back. Not to mention that squirrel he hadn't failed to notice, that smaller pattern. Scent on her. Sign she cared for something.

Like him, not an easy life.


And also like him, determined to make something of it. No matter what came her way. Yes, her Spirit glowed strong. Even through the hesitation. Part rabbit. Part eagle.

A nod for her thanks...

Another nod for her "ace" compliment, with a slight raise of eyebrow, her enthusiasm at war with her table manners. Not that Pico cared about talking while eating. After all, he never used tableware or napkins. Ate with his mouth open, more often than not. Licked his fingers.......

In fact, Pico couldn't answer her question right away, because he was scarfing down his own choice bit of roasted mammal, predatory teeth on display, claws dipped liberally in spiced wasabi sauce, then licked clean.

Another head tilt, once his mouth was clear. Then...

... "My secret is... nothing." Indeed, he had no secrets in his cooking. Just meat, fire... wasabi, as often as possible. But yes, he had been roasting meat for his meals for quite some time, quite some time! Never undercooked. Never overcooked. Just right. Gourmet chef, if you will. And... "I know good food when I taste it."

A lick between nostrils, as he tore more meat off, and offered it to her, again.......
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Mia blinked, befuddled by Pico's obtuse answer, but chuckled good-naturedly nonetheless. "I'll say. I can never get it quite right meself, but... food is food, either way, I guess. Hehe... A-ah, thank ya." With far less hesitance this time, she gratefully took Pico's second offering.

There remained a bit of an anxious tinge to Mia's voice, however. The amount of questions she had for her new company was almost suffocating. It was all still so hard to grasp. As she chewed - still oblivious to proper table manners - her tail flopped back and forth over the dead leaves. She fidgeted and opened her mouth a few times to no avail, until something finally. awkwardly, crept out.

".. E-erm... so, er.... What... Ahem. W-where're ya... from...?"

A crooked - some might say dopey - grin crossed her furry face. Inside she was vehemently chastizing her choice. So much for subtlety.
Long Way From Home...

Obtuse? Indeed, a minor hobby Pico enjoyed. Only shared in moments such as these. With those he liked. Those he chose to call friend. Though he hadn't called Mia a friend to her face, he'd decided such on first seeing her. Yes, he liked her. Added her to his mental "friend" list. Shared his meat with her by a warm fire as night grew darker and colder. Chewed and swallowed more meat, then dipped claws again in spiced wasabi sauce, and licked them clean.

His own tail remained quite still, as he crouched by the fire

Yes, watching what went through Mia's mind, telegraphed through her actions... her voice... the expressions running over her face. Pico could read her quite easily. And yes, his tail remained quite still. His ears tilted back. Mane ruffled from shoulders to forehead...

... him, trying not to laugh. Though, at her awkward words, a metallic chuckle escaped...

... "Mia..." His wicked toeclaws flexed as he turned, the better to look at her, tail now sweeping sideways a bit, for balance... "I'm a long way from home." Pico had set his fire away from the trees and underbrush, in a small forest clearing, with open sky above. He looked upwards, waved a gesture with his right prime and sub-hands, towards the stars... "A very long way."
Mia's ears fell back in embarrassment at Pico's barely-audible laughter, but she gave a small, bashful smile in turn. She felt ridiculous, but... she was just happy they were already on good enough terms for him to act so casually.

Her smile shrunk as she listened attentively to Pico, ears swerving forward. Wide-eyed, she followed his hand... erm, hands up towards the sky. Mia tilted her head lightly... it must have been really far away, going by that gesture. Another continent? She looked laughably clueless for a while.

... Until she started putting two and two together. Her eyes bulged, pupils dilating in shock.

"... Wait... space?"

Another brief silence, before she abruptly whirled back towards him, leaning closely, her open-mouthed face plastered with awe and disbelief.

"You're from SPACE?!"
Another World...

Pico had lived on Mia's world long enough now to learn quite a few things. One being their lack of experience with extra-terrestrial life. At least in the bigger picture of their society and culture. So, Mia's "shock" wasn't all that surprising. Given what he'd already concluded about Mia's background. Heh... he hadn't been born yesterday, so yes, it didn't require much effort to figure out likely details. If not the first, one of very few to meet someone like him, close enough to find out his origins.

Most on this world would be like Mia on first seeing him... seeing just a monster. A small one, yes, but still.

Pico's nostrils flared, chest expanding with his deep intake of breath, then collapsing with his slow exhale, as his eyes went from sky to fire to the ground between him and her...

... "Another world... around another sun......."

Perhaps Mia would perceive a hint of sadness. Of loss, somewhere. Then Pico turned back to his meat, tore off another chunk, and offered it to her. Perhaps Mia noted he offered her this chunk with a primehand, not with the subhand he'd been dipping and licking.

Mane ruffled again, ears back a bit... head tilted... without further words, he invited more questions.......
Another sun... This was almost more reality-breaking for Mia than meeting another sentient non-human. Did all those adventure novels she'd read have some truth in them...? Here she was, sitting with a genuine space alien.

Mia had to sit for a moment, bulging eyes staring into the fire as its crackles filled the ensuing silence. She broke out of her stunned state just enough to note Pico's next offering. He used a different hand this time... slowly, she took the meat and began nibbling on it, almost numbly.

Her tail began to swish and bristle - not in fear or anger, but excitement. Thrill. It was getting harder and harder to hold back those questions now. An alien... this was bloody amazing!

Her gobsmacked expression carefully gave way to a cautiously eager grin, as her brightening face lit up at Pico. She fidgeted and squirmed about in her barely contained excitement. "E-erm.. s-so-!"

Awkwardly, she stopped herself. Pico's voice echoed in her head. He didn't exactly sound happy about his situation... Mia softened into a frown, wondering just what his story was. He seemed so... wordly, and wise. He must have experienced things Mia couldn't possibly imagine...

Timidly, she spoke again, ears drooping. "... Wh-what brought you 'ere...?" She tried to smile again, hoping to keep things light and comfortable for her new companion.
Situational Awareness...

Awkward, yes. And timid. Yet so alive! Pico rubbed his primehand wrists, just enough to relieve the itch. With the way things were going... with what he saw in her... well, he felt this rut would be quite interesting. Lonely as he'd been, he no longer felt alone. A warmth not of the fire lit within his heart. No, not happy about his situation. Never easy, always to travel, never settled, always searching and never finding...

... well, Mia had found him. Technically speaking.

And yes, having licked the hand previously used to offer meat, medication or not, he'd offered another bite with a "clean" hand. Subhands to feed himself, primehands to feed her. Then her question struck him. He froze. Not out of fear. Or any related emotion. Only because so much had brought him here.

So many memories.

Pico sighed...

... "I wanted to be alone." No, he'd decided, with Mia, to not be obtuse again. Because something had clicked inside. Call it hormones. Call it whatever. He'd made a decision, a very snap decision, that Mia needed more than a friend. He'd seen the light in her eyes. Windows into a person's soul... "Somewhere less... crowded." Yes, a slight hesitation, a change of word... "Being around others when I'm changing is uncomfortable." He tore more meat off the carcass, dipped it quite heavily in wasabi, then ate it. A twitch of hide in response, a shake of head and flick of seelers... "But you came. And I don't want to be alone."

If Mia looked into his alien eyes, perhaps she would see into his soul.......