Al moved off the path and sank down with a sigh as soon as Mishka announced it was break time. He pulled off his pack after he’d settled on the ground. A bit harder to manage, but he’d been more eager to sit than get it off his back. Especially as sitting meant getting the weight off his feet and having the ground hold up the bag for him. He was never one to refuse an opportunity to rest when it was offered. Certainly not after hiking for a few days. Then, comfortable enough that he didn’t bother looking for anywhere else to move to, he pulled out a water bottle and took a long gulp as he watched the girl unharness her bear. Ha, unharness a bear. He never would have thought he’d think those two words together. Then again, he never would have thought his friend would wind up naming a bear Mister because it wandered into town and talked in her head.
Never expected to hear a birdbrain in his head either…
Sh-! He didn’t even have time to think the curse before a shadow and rush of wings resulted in a heavy bird on his head. Whose beak was dangerously close to his eyes. Toc only opened it to kark at him, and then gurgled her amusement before she hopped to the ground and started eyeing that bear. Bird. She looked back at him, tilting her head. ~Aarrrrrr?~ Toc bird. He spelled her name as he thought it, obligingly being more polite as she seemed to be requesting, and the feather duster condescended to turn fully around. She even hopped closer as he felt another tinge of amusement at his haphazard insults. Apparently, she saw him as a tree-nest. So they were even as far as that went.
He grinned back at her, unconsciously smoothing the beard that no doubt gave the bird that impression, and then went back to his original reason for calling her back, setting aside the water bottle so he could. He was aware that he didn’t need to sign at her to be understood, and Toc had made it abundantly clear that she couldn’t actually understand ASL by nipping his fingers once or twice, but he’d yet to convince himself that he was exactly the same level of crazy thinking at a bird without signing as while signing. And it was probably going to take a few more conversations yet.
You leave Mister alone. He hurt you he. No?
~Rrrrghk. No. Bear try, Toc fly.~
He snorted at the rhyme, and she clacked her beak at him, fluffing up her feathers. ~Raghk! Fun!~
Ok, ok. He just didn’t want her to get hurt. And he definitely didn’t want her to keep on antagonising a large beast whose company circumstances had forced him to keep. Fun…
She turned back to what she’d been doing, flapped her wings and flew onto the bear’s back. Ordinarily, she would not have been quite so brave. But she’d never been fearful of most predators, merely properly cautious. They could kill her after all, but most usually weren’t interesting. That cat though, that cat… She did not like. And while she enjoyed irritating Mister, every one of her interactions with the bobcat could be interpreted as hostile.
Al watched her pace down the bear’s spine with what seemed determined purpose, for all a raven’s rolling gait wasn’t exactly meant for marching. She bobbed her head at the wildcat and croaked something that sounded halfway between a death rattle and a threat. And was just tensing to take off again when a new disturbance completely distracted her. Al couldn’t imagine any of them could have ignored it…
The boy was shouting and crabbing about as though he meant to try climbing a tree backwards. And the ensuing racket, which Al could only assume was him talking to his weasel about whatever had just happened, continued to grow. And now… they were throwing things. The man sighed and let his head fall into his hand, rubbing at his temples, as he tried to decide if interfering would be a good or bad idea. Toc seemed to think it similar to the racket of a squabbling jay, and thus amusing, but not worth her time. What was more interesting was the dead bird lying near Nathan.
While Al couldn’t say a dead anything held the same interest for him, he decided the bird might be in the right this time and left boy and weasel to figure things out on their own. Though he did wince at the sudden crack when the iced over bird hit the tree branch. But instead of trying to tell the youth that calming down was a good idea, he turned to Mishka instead. She’d been resting her eyes earlier, but just now, he didn’t think she could possibly not have looked for herself. He raised an eyebrow at her, then lifted the other to join it as he began his question. Are children always so loud? I forget I.
Toc gurgled what sounded suspiciously like a chuckle as she drifted over to the feathered icecube and pecked at it. It was her opinion that chicks were usually louder, more often. What concerned her, however, was that this particular chick had made a perfectly good meal too solid to eat. A few more disappointed pecks, however, and she already had a solution. Picking the bird up by a foot, she flap-hopped back to Al, wisely avoiding any route that might take her near the bear again, and set the bird in his lap. The man looked at it, then at her, and then grimaced at Mishka. He’d been trying to have a conversation, or well, he’d actually wanted an answer to that question. He knew Nathan wasn’t extremely young, but given as he and Toc were the oldest here, and Nathan had just blown up at a little weasel…
He picked the dead bird up and looked at it, impressed despite himself at the skill it would take to catch the flighty little songbirds and, also despite himself, at the ice now coating its feathers. He was far less impressed about being Toc’s solution. He did, however, think he knew what she wanted. He just wasn’t sure if he really wanted to try. It didn’t seem like he should have to. After all, how did the scavengers eat their meat in winter? Toc pecked him, he hissed at her, dropping the bird and pulling his fingers out of her reach and sucking at the blood that beaded up. She’d gone through the skin again, not a bad cut, but he preferred it when she didn’t do that. Who wouldn’t?
Toc, however, wasn’t concerned by minor wounds to her human. He was tough, and he would heal, so long as he could still move, he was all right. But if he didn’t want to get rid of the ice for her, she would find someone else. Picking the bird up again she shifted it farther into her beak and hopped away. She drifted past Mishka and, with a new surge of inspiration, headed towards the cat girl. The closer she came, the slower the bird got and the more her feathers fluffed out around her throat. Even if the cat was not nearby, she would be wary. Still, she wanted her meal now, and while frozen meat was a challenge, iced over meat was much harder to deal with. If no one could help her, however, she’d just put in on Al’s bag. It would travel with them.