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by P L Nunn




"He said that? That's what he said, exact words?" Stiles maneuvered his way between Scott and Scott's locker, fixing him with a critical eye.

Like most of their tiffs - - well, at least the ones where it was Scott doing the tiffing - - Scott was over it after a good night's sleep. And when Scott had come by to pick him up for school, there'd been that look in his eyes that just screamed there were things going on inside his head that needed sharing. He just didn't know it yet. It had taken Stiles approximately twenty minutes to get him talking and only that long because clinging to Scott on the way to school on the back of a motor cycle that had seen better days, did not good conversation make. Stiles feared for his life every time he got on the back of that thing, but it was better than riding the bus.

"Yeah. Pretty much."

Scott was also not much for giving detailed descriptions, and for a detail oriented guy, trying to get a cohesive story out of him when he wasn't so keen on discussing the subject was maddening.

"What did he mean, he doesn't mind complications?"

"What did he mean when he said maybe she hasn't moved on?" Scott countered, stuffing a few books into his locker and taking another few out.

Of course that was what Scott was stuck in an infinite loop over. Stiles waved a dismissive hand. Scott and Allison were both idiots as far as he was concerned, he just happened to have a lot more investment in Scott, so he was willing to let it slide with him.

"I mean did she say something to him? Why would he say that?"

"How should I know? She's a girl. Her thought processes are specifically designed to confound and mess with ours. I thought you knew this."

"Apparently, I don't know anything," Scott muttered.

"I'm more curious about what Isaac meant," Stiles went on. "I mean, what guy is happy with the girl he's currently doing still being hung up her ex?"

"There's no doing," Scott reminded him. "He said they haven't yet, remember?"

"Unless," Stiles didn't let Scott's interjection make him miss a beat as they walked towards first period English Lit. "Unless Isaac's got enough screws loose that he's perfectly cool with being the rebound guy. Or - -"

"He doesn't have loose screws, Stiles."

"Or, he's okay with it because its you and he's got a weird thing for you - - mancrush - - wolfcrush? Whatever - - and maybe he's hoping if he plays his cards right he might get a threesome?"

"Ha. Funny." Scott glared, completely unamused by Stiles' skills at theorizing. "He doesn't have a weird thing for me. He's just a little - -"

"Insecure? Prone to random acts of violence? Obsessive-compulsive?"

"Two out of three of those apply to you, too."

"That's just mean."

Scott huffed out a breath. Frustrated. "It doesn't matter. Because as of today, I'm starting fresh. It's not just them. I can't keep tearing myself up. Right?"

"Whatever you say, buddy." Stiles patted him on the back. It sounded great in theory, but he didn't believe it for a second. Allison had this unwitting destructive power to demolish all of Scott's good intentions

The moment she smiled at him, or got up close enough that he could smell her hair, or God forbid touched him - - all that 'fresh start' bull would become structurally unsound and cracks would begin to form in the foundation of Scott's newfound conviction. But who knew, he could be wrong.

And speak of the wrecking ball herself - - Allison and Lydia were in the hall outside English Lit, chatting. They looked up as he and Scott approached, and the first thing Allison did - - of course - - was open her mouth and look like she was about to say something to Scott. Stiles latched hold of Scott's elbow and steered him forcibly past them and into the classroom.

Scott tossed him an irritated look once he'd dropped into his seat, and leaned over and complained. "I said I was starting fresh, not avoiding her altogether."

"Dude. Baby steps."

They both glanced up as Isaac slunk past, heading towards a seat in the back, but it was his usual slink, blithely unconcerned. He half nodded at Scott, ignoring Stiles completely. It was just unnatural for him to be so cool about the whole thing when Scott, who'd gotten pretty good this year at taking things in stride, was practically crawling out of his skin. But then, Scott had a few other nerve-wracking issues he was recovering from so a lot of his agitation was maybe bleed over.

Then he got distracted by Lydia, who had on a long sleeved, short hemmed knit dress that did everything in its power to flatter her curves. When she took her jacket off and he got the full effect, he slouched deeper into his seat and sighed.

She was wearing his Christmas present. He noticed it after a few distracted seconds of staring at her legs.

"Nice boots," he leaned over and remarked.

Lydia glanced his way across the aisle, tilted a foot adorned in a high-heeled ankle boot and shrugged. "They're okay. For knockoffs."

"Yeah, well. I won't tell if you won't."

Her mouth curved.

This semester's English Lit teacher was considerably less dangerous than last semester's had ended up being. A substitute who looked as if being called in full time to fill an empty spot was the bane of his existence. His teaching methods were predictable and boring. As evidenced by the standardized discussion and mini thesis he made them write of the reading they'd done last night. It sucked that the most interesting teachers generally turned out to the psychotic ones.

They got through a mind-numbing discussion of what was supposed to be a modern classic but really seemed more like a torture device for high school students everywhere. Stiles got creatively off track in his mini-thesis, then followed Lydia out into the hall after the bell rang and released them all from literary hell.

"No death dreams," she said before he could open his mouth to broach a topic that had nothing whatsoever to do with that, thank you very much.

"I wasn't gonna ask," he defended himself. Though he was secretly glad that she hadn't had any morbid nightmares involving his impending death. He glanced over her head at Allison and Isaac heading one way down the hall and Scott stopping to talk to Danny in the other direction.

"So, is Allison officially dating Isaac now?"

Lydia lifted a brow, casting him a half glance as he followed her down the hall. "Allison's not dating anyone. You don't have to date to have a good time, you know. Terms like 'dating' and 'boyfriend' and 'relationship' can be so restricting."

"Right. So what's the unrestrictive terminology?"

"Having a good time. I thought I said that."

"Like you're having with Aiden? What is it about wolves, huh? Its like normal, non-monstery guys don't even stand a chance."

This time she stopped and gave him a full on look. For a beat she stared at him, then leaned in and said. "It's the stamina. Stamina matters. And as far as stamina goes, werewolves are very, very good."

He stared at her in horror, his mind going to places that it really didn't need to visit. "Oh god. You so did not need to share that bit of information. My brain's bleeding."

"Then stop asking questions you don't want the answers to." She smiled like the proverbial cat and flounced into her next class.

He stood there staring after her for a moment, until an oversized body interjected itself between him and his view of Lydia's backside. Aiden grinned at him, showing just a little hint of sharpened canines. Just a little bit of proprietary threat going on there, if Stiles was any judge. He wondered if Aiden's ideas about 'relationships' and Lydia's ran along the same lines.

"What? You got a problem?" Stiles couldn't stop his mouth from spouting bravado his body in no way could back up.

Aiden's grin widened, amused. He turned without replying and followed Lydia into the class. Stiles simmered for a moment, before heading for his own next period.

So went the day.

"Allison talked to me," Scott said matter of factly when he sat down across from Stiles at lunch.

Stiles bugged his eyes and zapped Scott with a look that didn't need words to express his volume of frustration.

"All she wanted was to say," Scott cut him off before he could start with the words to go with the look. "Was that she was sorry for biting my head off yesterday."


"And what? I said I understood."

"And you didn't feel the need to bring up what Isaac said?"

Scott gave him a 'don't take me for an idiot' look and Stiles returned it with a 'don't constantly give me reason to' lift of the eyebrow.

Scott stabbed a piece of Salisbury steak with his fork and said huffily. "No. I didn't bring up what Isaac said."

"But you wanted to, didn't you?"

Scott chewed diligently on the gristly piece of rubber that the school cafeteria tried to pass off as meat, then finally relented. "Yeah. I wanted to. But I won't. Unless she does first."

"Really? That's your line in the sand?"

"I don't know why I eat lunch with you."

"Because I'm cheaper than counseling and I don't make you interpret Rorschach cards."


Scott dropped him off at home before heading to work at the animal clinic. It had taken one day of warmer temperatures to melt most of the snow away, leaving everything sort of soggy and brown underneath. He dragged the empty trashcans from the curb and back around behind the house, then went inside to rustle up a snack. There was a message on the machine with the stellar news that his Jeep was ready. His dad had made arrangements with an old friend who owned a scrap yard and did repair work on the side for cheap. The damage hadn't been quite so bad as he'd been led to believe by Dupont. Mostly body work that could be banged out or replaced with used parts.

He did a little celebratory fist pump, then called his dad to see if he could get off work early enough to take him by the scrap yard to pick it up. He couldn't be back among the vehicularly mobile soon enough.

It looked like the new year was starting off with an up note after all.



"Dad, I'm home," Allison called out experimentally after she'd unlocked the door of the condominium she presently called home. Isaac lingered behind her, both of them listening for the response that would either have them going over homework in the living room - - her father's preference for when she brought home boys with tendencies towards lycanthropy - - or well, any boys really, but especially the former - - or if it was safe to venture into her bedroom undisturbed.

There was no answer, and Isaac sort of shrugged and said, 'Nobody's home,' and you learned very quickly to trust werewolf senses in things like this. Her dad was only marginally more okay with Isaac coming over at all, than he had been with Scott. But that might have been because his worldview had shifted somewhat insofar as werewolves were concerned. Not a lot, but a little. It might have also been because he hadn't ever actually caught her in the act of 'making out' with Isaac, and wasn't carrying that mental image around in his head every time he saw him.

Her dad was endearingly, frustratingly protective in some things. It tended to keep her boyfriends on their toes. Not that she'd had a lot of actual boyfriends. It had been hard developing lasting relationships when she'd barely ever stayed in one place long enough to form them. And when you had to sever ties of the heart - even casual ones - it hurt.

"Do you want a soda?" she asked.


She grabbed a couple of cans from the refrigerator and joined him in her room. It was the first time he'd been over in almost a week. Partly because Scott had been freaking out a little bit, spurred by his own experiences and her father's grim knowledge of the man who'd been hunting him, and Isaac's inner wolf had been damned and determined to stick close by. Partly because of that other thing - - the guilt Stiles had stirred with his little chat.

He was sitting cross-legged on the end of her bed, flipping through the chem. Lab assignment booklet with a furrow between his brows. She could have gotten a guaranteed A if she'd partnered up with Lydia, but then Lydia didn't give foot rubs that made her toes curl and her eyes roll back in bliss. Isaac gave exceptional foot jobs.

She sat down next to him, thigh pressed against his, and peered down at the assignment. "Ph in acid based reactions. Fun."

"I can think of better ways to have fun," His nostrils flared a little, scenting her. He was just a little more 'wolf' than Scott had ever been. A little more primal in some things. An odd juxtaposition of careless confidence and desperate need for approval. It was adorable.

She canted her head to smile up at him. "Really? Better than Chemistry homework?"

He slipped his hand into her hair, nuzzling her jaw. The rasp of his tongue felt electric. She let him push her backwards, sideways across the bed

"I'm glad you're okay. You avoiding me all week had me worried."

"I'm okay. I talked with Scott." His hand traveled up her hip, fingers grazing the skin under her shirt.

"You talked with Scott?" She turned her head a little, avoiding his mouth so she could get the question out.

"He talked to me." Isaac mumbled, happy enough with his mouth in the juncture of her neck.

She pushed herself up to her elbows, dislodging him. "About me?"

He sighed, rolling to one side, leaning on an elbow himself. "Yeah."

She leveled a look, wanting more information.

He shrugged. "He said he's cool with it. Mostly. He still loves you."

She opened her mouth, this weird patter of panic fluttering in her stomach, so caught off guard by that coming out of his mouth that she didn't know quite what to say.

She smiled, finally trying to brush it away. "There's a difference between 'love' and 'in-love', you know?"

He shrugged again. "Okay. If you say so. But I'm all right with it, either way."

"What do you mean?"

"You know, that you're not over him either."

She sat up. "I've been over him for a long time."

"That's not what I pick up when you get close to him."

"What you pick up?" She narrowed her eyes, dissecting Isaac's casual words for actual meaning. "Scent? Are you talking about something you're scenting? Like pheromones?"

He nodded and she felt her face redden, half embarrassment, half annoyance. She couldn't be attracted to normal guys. No, she found herself in the company of ones who could hear the sound of her heart from a half-mile away, and pick up the scent of her shampoo before she'd even gotten halfway through the school parking lot. Of course a little chemical excretion was no big deal.

And maybe when she got close to Scott she could help but feel things. A lot of things that made her heart beat a little faster and her mouth go dry. But then what you wanted and what was good for you weren't always the same thing.

"What do you smell when I'm with you," she asked tightly.

"Same thing. Sometimes."

He wasn't being cooperative and she felt the distinct urge to shove him off the bed.

"What do I smell like now?"

He tilted his head, considering. Then ventured. "Pissed off?"

"You think?"

"It doesn't bother me. I told him the same thing."

She clenched her fists. She had to force a few deep breaths to keep from doing something emotional and embarrassing.

"So how much detail did you two talk about this?"

"Not much. He's trying not to think about it."

"Really? And why do you feel the need to be so accommodating? Is it because he's your alpha?" She felt an irrational spike of spite and came through in her tone. But either Isaac didn't notice or didn't care.

"He doesn't think that way, you know."

"But you do."

"Yeah. Just because he doesn't like to admit it, doesn't mean it isn't true."

She pulled the chemistry lab booklet onto her lap, flustered and annoyed. Her hands were shaking just the tiniest bit and she didn't know why. Maybe because Isaac bringing up Scott in the midst of 'fooling around' was simply a pretty effective mood killer.

Isaac sighed and sat up. "So I guess we're doing homework?"

"I guess we are."


Scott had been barely out the door from work and heading towards his bike, when he got the text from Stiles.

Jeep's fixed. Dad's on a call. Shop closes at 8. Pick me up. PLZ!!

Which was how he ended up in a dark junkyard filled with the shadowy figures of mangled vehicles, listening to Stiles bitch about the array of mismatched colors now adorning his jeep. The driver's side door was a faded, much scuffed red and the front side panel an olive green to go with the original blue.

"They couldn't have slapped a coat of paint on?"

The old man who ran the junkyard spat out a glop of pungent chewing tobacco at Stiles feet. The tobacco didn't smell nearly as badly as the grease smeared old mechanic. "You daddy said fix her cheap. I fixed her cheap. Go buy a can of spray paint if you want her painted up pretty."

Stiles made a disgusted face and stepped back. Scott was trying to breathe through his mouth.

"It drives. Your dad paid for it. Stop complaining. He pulled Stiles by the arm away from the old man, who'd had enough of them wasting his time and started ambling back towards the shed that served as his office.

Stiles grumbled a little, but finally relented. "Yeah. I guess. I owe you for bringing me out here."

"Its okay. My first time at a junkyard. It's a learning experience." He waved a hand at the stacks of skeletal car frames.

Stiles grinned at him. "Well damn, you're a cheap date. Let me put at least a little effort into it and spring for pizza."

"In celebration of you having a car again?"

"In celebration of the chances of me dying going drastically down now that I don't have to ride with you to school anymore."

Scott rolled his eyes and suggested. "Magianno's?"

"Meet you there."

Magianno's was in a little strip mall halfway between the suburbs and downtown Beacon Hills. It was close enough to the School that it was a popular high school gathering spot. Coach religiously brought the team here after every home game, win or lose. It didn't hurt that the prices were cheap and the food good.

On a Wednesday night, it was running a little slow, not many patrons, but the smells coming from the kitchen were mouth watering and Scott hadn't eaten since lunch. When they walked inside, they saw Ethan and Danny Mahealani sitting in the back. Stiles immediately gravitated that way, mindless of what he might be intruding upon. But Danny and Ethan seemed genuinely unfazed by the interruption of whatever conversation they'd been in the midst of, when Stiles slipped into the seat across from them.

"Hey guys, what's up? You ordered yet?"

Scott slid in next to Stiles. They had ordered, so Stiles held up an arm to catch the attention of the waitress and called for her to double it.

"I got my Jeep back," Stiles informed them, since practically everyone in school who Stiles had a speaking relationship with had heard about his misery of being without for all of two weeks now.

"That's great. Maybe you should drive safer." Danny, who wasn't in the know about the details of the last 'accident', suggested good-naturedly.

Scott could see Stiles visibly vibrating with the effort to contain the urge to explain in detail that his driving skills or lack thereof had had nothing whatsoever to do with his Jeep getting beat to hell. At least not this last time.

"Yeah, maybe I'll try that this time around, Danny. Avoiding big, furry accidents and all." Was what Stiles finally managed to choke out on a wave of sarcastic frustration.

Danny furrowed his brows, not quite getting that, and Scott kicked Stiles' ankle under the table, then changed the subject. "So you know any of the guys trying out this year?"

"A few," Danny glanced at Ethan with a half smile. "I'm trying to convince Ethan to try out, but he's being stubborn."

Ethan shrugged, one long arm stretched out behind Danny on the back of the seat. "I'm good watching you from the sidelines. Besides, if I tried out, Aiden would too, and he can get a little too competitive."

Which precaution Scott could understand all too well. It was all he could do to keep Isaac from getting out of hand when his blood was up on the field. Worrying about a bigger, more testosterone filled wolf on the team was not a pressure he needed added to his list.

Stiles snorted. "Is that what you call it? I call it being a dick."

Ethan lifted a brow, not offended by that assessment of his brother. Probably well aware of it. But then Ethan was a lot more agreeable than his twin.

It was close after nine by the time they finished up and parted ways, everyone happily stuffed with pizza. He had an English reading assignment to do when he got home, as well as chemistry lab homework, which was going to make for a late night.

"Did you already read that chapter for Mr. Deeds?"

"Yeah, you're gonna hate it," Stiles predicted, in the process of digging keys from his pocket. "See you tomorrow."

He sighed, heading towards his bike, then stopped, a ripple of unease shivering across the back of his neck.

"What?" Stiles asked, poised with one foot in the jeep, one on the ground, staring through the open door at Scott.

It wasn't anything he heard or scented, just an almost palpable disquiet that made him turn and scan the dark strip mall parking lot. And there was nothing there. Just a few empty cars under the one dim lamp pole that actually had a working bulb.

"I dunno. Nothing." He shook his head, trying to shrug it off. All last week he'd been jumping at shadows, so it wasn't an unfamiliar feeling and it was gone now, fading away with the goose pimples it had raised.

Stiles stared at him a moment, narrow eyed, his gaze flitting across the parking lot, tracing the path Scott's had gone.

"'I dunno/nothing' is the sort of answer that makes me crazy," he finally said, a little dryly. Scott's recent issues with anxiety had nothing on Stiles' bouts with it.

"Yeah. I know. Sorry. I'll see you tomorrow at school."




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