Going out to eat is Loren's idea.

Tobias isn't thrilled with it- he still isn't used to being around people. He still doesn't know how to act around people and he hasn't really done anything to change that in the past few months.

But he agrees.

They have a lot of lost time to make up for.

It occurs to him that eating out with his mother shouldn't be this hard.

It's fortunate that the most recent pictures of him are school pictures from three years ago when he was thirteen.

It's fortunate that, when he gave him the option of morphing back, the Ellimist gave him a morph that aged.

It's fortunate that, when it comes to the Animorph Tobias, people are so caught up on the hawk that they forget about the boy.

Still, instead of a diner, they opt for a deli, grabbing sandwiches they can eat elsewhere rather than eating in at some restaurant and risk recognition.

"Maybe we could find a picnic table?" Loren suggests tentatively.

Tobias' skin prickles when her fingers brush his arm, but the contact is brief, much to his relief.

He knows being touched by your mom is supposed to feel normal, feel good, but he's just… not ready yet.

"I suppose we have a lot to talk about." Loren brings both hands in front of her, clutching the bag strings.

"Yes, I suppose so." Tobias has no idea what he's supposed to do with his hands so he sticks them in his pockets.

Loren gives him a quiet look, one that suggests he's being difficult, even if he doesn't mean to be.

Finally, Loren just sighs and shifts the bag again.

The silence draws on, achingly so, until finally Tobias is the one who has to break it.

"Elfangor." The name brings a familiar shortness of breath. From the way Loren's step falters, he imagines it's gotten the same reaction. "You… you really don't remember anything, do you?"

"Sometimes I remember things," Loren admits. "Little snatches of memories. His voice. Or just… this look in his eyes. But it's always gone before I can fully grasp it. Where do you want to eat?"

"Uh… the woods would be fine."

Maybe it's not a normal place for people to eat their food, but they've all stopped pretending they were normal a long time ago.

Still, he feels momentarily embarrassed when Loren side eyes him curiously, but she doesn't comment on it.


He feels ridiculous when a pressure lifts itself from his chest.

He shouldn't have been this worried about her reaction.

She's his mom and… he's been living as a hawk out in the woods for years now.

Of course it seems a little strange to her.

Of course.

Tobias takes a moment to glance at the watch he's brought with him.

He's got an hour and a half left in morph.

Plenty of time.

And… she can morph now.

He shouldn't forget that.

They can always go flying.

Tobias would be lying if he said he wouldn't prefer that over what they're doing now.