She slowly woke up, seeing that it was still dark out. Stretching herself out, she got to her feet and looked around. It seemed that Jonas had gone to sleep and Annie had taken his position, watching the cave entrance. That made sense. They were taking turns sleeping to always keep a watch out.

She shook her head, trying to clear out the residual sleepiness. She didn’t feel like she had slept for all that long. There was a weird mix of wanting to go back to sleep and feeling like she needed to get up warring in her body. It was clear staying awake during the day and falling to sleep at night was going to take some getting used to.

She supposed she didn’t have to change her sleep habits, but it was clear that the thinkers were a type of animal that stayed up during the day, and slept at night. There was no way she was going to sleep away time she could spend interacting with them. Annie was up, so she wanted to be up.

That thought brought to mind one particular interaction that she really didn’t want to have, but needed to happen. No use in putting it off. She decided to go with the best (and really only) plan she’d thought up before she fell asleep, which was to offer up her best shell in way of apology. She had no way of knowing if it would be sufficient. She’d never seen anything like the clothes before in all her explorations, so she worried they were rare and precious. Perhaps much more precious than her most beautiful shells.

She could imagine the armor getting cut off of a thinker-shaped animal of some sort that she hadn’t seen yet but she’d seen nothing like the clothes before. She thought it was some sort of plant or fur? It really was quite unique.

She... was prepared to give up her crystal. If she really had to. If it was needed to make amends.

She would try shells first though.

She grabbed her prettiest one and padded off towards Annie, looking around to try to find the damaged garment in question. It wasn’t by the fire anymore and she had been hoping it'd be around so that she could point at it. That would help make it clear that she was giving the shell as an apology for the damage.

Oh well, she would manage.

She padded around from Annie’s back and into her view. Shadow felt a little relieved to see that Annie had different clothes on now. She hadn’t destroyed her only shirt, she'd had more. Annie jumped a bit upon spotting her.

“Oh, you startled me. You’re a quiet little clothes destroyer aren’t you?”

Annie was smiling.

She doesn’t hate me!

A weight was lifted from her heart, the tension she had been feeling dissipated significantly. There had been a mention of clothes in there though, so Annie was probably aware of the destruction.

Oh! The shirt is on her lap!

She could do the pointing thing now! She pointed at the clothes and made a small whining noise, then set the shell in her front paws, offering it up in apology.

“Aww. Thank you, Shadow. Apology accepted.” Annie took the shell out of Shadow's paws and examined it for a bit.

"This does have a pretty pattern. You sure know how to pick them."

Annie put the shell in a pouch by her side, and then reached down and gave Shadow a rub. She had a moment of curiosity and pointed at the action, then mimed it in the air.

Annie smiled some more. “Petting, it’s called Petting.”

There really is a word for everything.

Shadow felt satisfied that her apology gift had been good enough.

Annie shortly finished with the pets, to Shadow's minor disappointment, and went back to glancing out the cave entrance. But that wasn’t all she did. She’d picked up a little spike that had a... very long piece of fur coming out the back? She was doing something with it and the shirt. Shadow propped her front legs up on the thinker’s thigh to get a better look.

“Oh? Interested in this are you?”

Shadow wasn’t quite sure what had been asked, but the words had the rising tones of a question. She’d picked up on that trend. She took a chance and nodded. She’d picked up on that gesture too, and had gotten more proficient with nods and head shakes last night when Annie had been giving her lots of words for things.

Annie chuckled a bit and shifted her work to give Shadow a better view. Shadow quickly pointed at the spike and the trailing fur, looking for the words for them. Needle, and thread were the terms provided. Annie proceeded to plunge the needle into the garment right near a tear, trailing the thread behind it, before maneuvering it to come back up from the other side. She kept repeating the action. It didn’t take long for Shadow to realize that the action was changing the shirt, slowly closing up the large tear. She could see the line and the little bits of string that were now holding it together.

Her mind was having a whole new upheaval. She was pointing at everything and miming actions, being provided with all sorts of words related to the action.

She’d seen stitching before, on both their armor and clothes, and even the belts and straps and pouches. She’d assumed that all their stuff had just come like that, when they took it off something they killed or cut it off a plant or whatever. It was obvious now that this was not the case.

They had made these things; put them together however they needed to be to work for whatever function they were supposed to fulfill. The objects hadn’t started the way they were.

It makes so much sense.

No wonder she’d never seen anything like the stuff they had. They had created it all with their very useful hands and tools. She’d understood tools a bit from her own experimentation, but she’d never thought she could make things.

The closest she’d ever come was the markings she’d been putting in the dirt. That was a creation in its own way, but not like this.

She stopped her mad dash around Annie, which she’d started when she made her grand discovery, much to Annie’s amusement.

She’d just had another thought. If they made all this stuff for themselves… Couldn’t she make some for herself? Things that fit her? She wouldn’t even know where to start with the clothes, but she could make a strap with a pouch on it, couldn’t she?

She looked down at her forepaws, and compared them with Annie’s hands that were deftly sewing up tears in the mangled shirt. This would be an issue. She wasn’t sure she had the manual dexterity required for the work.

Why can’t you be better at holding things, claws?

She could grab certain things fine, if she didn’t mind damaging them. But she couldn't really manipulate them around or grab things that were too small or hard. It was even more difficult when she didn’t want to scratch it.

Her body really was made for fighting and not much else.

This is really inconvenient.

Perhaps she could make do with her tongue? It was pretty flexible, and now that it wasn’t melting everything it came in contact with, she may be able to use it for finer manipulation?

But maybe she didn’t have to. She still wanted to try of course, but she’d rather have her own straps and pouches first. Maybe she could get Annie to help her?

She made a short huffing sound to get her attention. She had figured out what sounds were better with the thinkers. She’d been making short screeches to get their attention but found that those tended to elicit jumping, frowns,and rubbed ears, so she’d experimented around with different sounds, before settling on a sort of fast exhale of air. She could make a kind of chuffing sound with it that was quieter and much better received by her new companions.

Annie looked up, and Shadow pointed at her belt, and then pointed at her own waist.

“You… want to try wearing my belt?”

Shadow nodded.

“Why not?”

Annie started to take off her belt and Shadow realized the mistake. She quickly chuffed again and shook her head.


Shadow walked around a bit thinking.

How to get this across?

She settled for making a big circle on the ground, and then pointing at Annie’s belt, and then making a smaller circle, and pointing at her own waist again.

Annie watched her as she went about the actions, and came to a conclusion.

“You want a belt that fits you?”

Shadow took a chance and nodded again.

Annie scrunched up her face.

“I’m not sure I can…”

She seemed to be hesitant.

I can trade!

Shadow ran off and started grabbing other cool trinkets from her pile, putting them in front of Annie.

Please I really want pouches!

Annie looked up at the ceiling and put her hands on her face.

“Fine! You win! You’re too cute! I can give you my spare. I’ll just cut it shorter and poke some holes in it.”

Annie got up and put her shirt aside, then walked over to her backpack.

She rummaged around a bit and pulled out another belt.

Shadow started to shake her head again, but Annie just held up a finger and said “Wait.”

Shadow knew that one, so she waited.

What followed was that Annie wrapped the belt around Shadows waist, and made a mark a little way past where the belt started to overlap itself. Annie took a knife to it and cut off the excess, then gouged little holes in the remaining length.

She then fastened the belt around Shadow's waist.

Shadow paid close attention to how the clasp worked, with the belt passing through the hole in the clasp, only for the little metal bar to pass through the hole in the belt, holding it in place. It was a clever little trick, although she had no idea how you would go about making the clasp. ‘Metal’ appeared to be some type of very durable rock, and she couldn’t imagine how it got put into such an intricate state.

She thought she could manage the clasp if she needed to.

Annie stood up.

“Well there you are, a belt of your own.”

Shadow looked up at Annie, big eyes glinting with happiness.

Thank you!

She rubbed herself on a leg in thanks, then checked out her new belt.

It fit her well, but felt a bit… weird. She wasn’t used to having something strapped to her. But no matter. Now she could store all kinds of things in her... non-existent pouches.

Oh. right. I need more than just a belt.

She started to walk over and hesitated.

Annie had already sat back down to start sewing her shirt again.

Maybe not right away…

She decided to wander around for a bit before bothering Annie for more things.


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