Ran hopped along the branch of the fir tree he was watching from, trying to keep his keen little eyes on Mara's slinking form. She was gorgeous in her shape-shifted form, he thought, all silvery grey and black fur, shiny in the moonlight, sinewy and muscular at the same time, a tiny little predator on silent little paws.
He knew the moment of attack was coming. He could see her prey sitting there, unknowing. Mara crept closer, closer, and, just when Ran was certain she would been seen she pounced, quick as lightning, and chaos ensued.
The raccoon whose tail she had just jumped on leaped a good two feet into the air with a raucous chirp that sounded indignant and alarmed at the same time. He landed, twisted, and saw who his attacker was. In an instant his expression, if a raccoon could have expressions, changed to one of playfulness.
Much like a cat himself, the raccoon crouched down, wiggled his behind, and then sprang at Mara with absolutely none of her grace and polish. She dodged easily but a little paw shot out as the raccoon flew by and he grabbed her tail, yanking her unceremoniously with him as he rolled.
When they came up, the raccoon was perched on top of and around Mara, pinning her to the ground. He immediately began to wash her, his tiny little hands smoothing themselves over her face and ears quickly. Mara put up with it for a few seconds and then squirmed out from underneath him.
Ran watched the proceedings with amusement, entertained by the raccoon's actions. Clearly he knew Mara as a playmate - she had said he could be difficult and he wondered if this was what she meant. A raccoon bath wasn't a horrible thing. She might have exaggerated.
Shawe's masked eyes grew round and curious as he shoved his nose at Ran. Mara certainly hadn't exaggerated the little animal's curiosity. He tilted his head sideways, peering at Shawe through one beady little bird-eye. When Shawe reached a paw out to touch Ran Ran pecked at him gently, warning him he had some weapons at his disposal. Shawe pulled his paw back and licked it tenderly, then reached for Ran again.
After a few minutes of pecking and grabbing Shawe finally seemed to decide that Ran wasn't for grabbing. The raccoon turned and bounded off, his shiny fur gleaming in the moonlight.
Ran turned to chirp smugly at Mara. No problem with the raccoon, what had she been all worried about? He hardly managed a squeak when something huge and red filled his vision and there was an impact a lot like being hit by a bus. He was knocked off his tiny little feet and rolled unceremoniously along the ground, bouncing several times before fetching up against the side of the house.
The first thing he saw when his vision cleared was Mara, looking incredibly smug as she sat there with her paws primly tucked beneath her perfectly curled tail.
So when Shawe bounded away Mara simply ignored Ran's 'I told you so' bird face. Thank goodness cats had pretty much one expression, disdain, because in human form she might not have been able to keep a straight face when she saw what was coming. She remembered the red rubber ball... oh yes.
She winced when it hit, though - Shawe had ridiculously good aim for a raccoon. The ball wasn't large but she hadn't really considered it in bird-terms. It was almost as big as Ran and it sent him tumbling, all wings feathers and legs, and then bounced on top of him before rolling away into the neighbor's yard.
Mara trotted over to Ran and sat, watching him, as he looked around. When it appeared he was at least still conscious she stood and nudge him with her nose. He flopped around uselessly for a few moments and she wondered if the impact might have broken a few bones. But he eventually stood up, none too steadily, and croaked something at her that didn't sound too polite.
So worth it.
There was a shadow looming over them now and Ran realized the monster was returning. Bravely he hopped around Mara, putting her between himself and the raccoon. What was it going to be this time? A frisbee? A swimming pool? This raccoon could torture him with any number of harmless toys.
Instead Mara moved aside and Shawe held out a double fistful of something shiny. Ran, interest piqued, peered at it. Nuts and bolts. Freshly washed, apparently, as the raccoon's little human-like hands were dripping wet. Ran poked at the metal bits with his beak. Shawe chirped excitedly and waddled off a bit. Ran looked back at Mara, who had an expression of alarm on her face. However, she too followed.
Slowly, looking back over his shoulder Shawe led them across the lawn to the shed in the neighbor's backyard. He nosed aside a loose board at the corner and managed to squeeze himself through. Mara and Ran, both much smaller than Shawe, wiggled in with ease.
They could hear the raccoon rummaging around in the dark. They looked around until they saw his little black eyes glinting from out of the dark sable mask. Ran hopped toward him and twittered a laugh when he discovered Shawe's 'project.'
He was disassembling the neighbor's lawn mower.
She turned around, preparing to leave - with Shawe's tail between her teeth if she had to - only to cross paths with Ran as he enthusiastically hopped past her to... of course.
He was going to help.
She yowled at him as he flitted up to the panel Shawe had destroyed. Even the raccoon's clever little fingers couldn't quite get in past an assortment of wires and tubing but Ran's sharp beak could. He began to carefully pluck pieces out of the lawn mower, tossing them aside with a flick of his colorful head to a delighted Shawe who greedily gathered them up then waited eagerly for the next piece.
Mara couldn't exactly shift back where she was, or she would have, but the shed was packed full. She'd be jammed between the lawn mower, a weed whacker, and the splintery side of the building if she did, with no way out. Reaching out she batted her paw against Shawe's plump, furry rear end. He glanced at her, shoved her out of the way, and maneuvered so that he was blocking her view.
A jingling sound indicated that Ran had pulled out something potentially important and Mara sighed. She could probably replace the lawn mower - somehow - before the weather warmed enough for the neighbors to need it again. At least Ran and Shawe were bonding.
Wait a minute, that was a very bad thing.
Mara reached out and swiped again, this time catching Shawe's tail in her claws with a soft hiss. The raccoon chirped and turned around again. Mara saw Ran poke his head out from -inside- the mower, a smear of grease over his pointy little face.
Suddenly light flooded the shed from a set of headlights pulling in to her father's driveway. Mara sat up, alarmed, as did Shawe. The raccoon might not have human intelligence but he knew what he wasn't allowed to do and Mara suspected if he were discovered in the neighbor's shed his outdoor privileges would be severely compromised.
Ran twittered a question at them, for they were both scrambling for the loose panel. Shawe practically shoved Mara through but she saw, out of the corner of her eye, his little paw shoot out and grab the bird, who gave a little 'glork' of discomfort as he was rudely yanked out of the lawn mower and unceremoniously bundled against Shawe's chest with the rest of the raccoon's treasures as he scurried from the shed.
He certainly wasn't about to use his abilities on the little creature although he could, of course, extricate himself from the situation. But, like Mara, he realized this little escapade was all in fun. So he went along for the ride as they fled the scene of the crime.
In Mara's father's backyard there was also a shed, this one much neater than the neighbor's. Shawe had dug himself a little hole back behind it, with a little den of sorts that went beneath it but not into it. Here he shoved Ran and the pile of metal bits. Ran tumbled in, hearing someone call Shawe's name, and came to rest with a clank on a pile of nuts and bolts and unidentifiable bits of metal. Quite the treasure trove. He had to wonder how many pieces of machinery the neighbors were going to find broken this spring.
Blending, Ran hopped out of the little den and took to the air, flitting over Mara who was slinking away into the woods. He brushed her nose with his wing-tip, letting her know he was there, before heading up into the branches of the fir tree and settling on one to watch the house.
On the back porch, a tall man with pale hair leaned out of the back door, looking out onto the lawn and calling for Shawe who was bounding over to him enthusiastically. At the man's foot he stopped, sat back on his haunches, and reached up. Obligingly the pale-haired man (Mara's father, obviously) bent and picked the raccoon up, stroking his head gently. As he straightened Ran saw his silvery-grey eyes, exactly like Mara's, before he turned and headed into the house.
Ran chuckled, but he had to wonder when Mara would eventually make herself known. Ran personally thought she was making more of a mess of things by avoiding the inevitable confrontation but what right did he have to say anything at all? He'd made plenty of messes, himself. He understood some of the dynamics in play; he just didn't think any of the parties involved would benefit from keeping each other (and being kept) in the dark.
On the other hand, Mara and Amir had pulled his sorry hide out of a scrape or two when he hadn't been able to work his way out of them himself. So maybe he owed it to her to help her out of this one. If he did, would he lose their friendship? He'd have to think about it long and hard, but he did know that sometimes you had to air a wound out before it could heal, and that meant pulling off the scab and letting it bleed fresh.
((ooc: all out))